The Comedy of Error
by Middy Rob

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away (well, it's far away from where I live), there lived an elderly doctor. He was a solitary sort of gentleman, who buried himself in his work as a well-respected London physician. Well, he usually buried himself in his work, but today he was bouncing along in a carriage bound for Cardiff on his way to visit his son. He had sent a letter post haste before departing London, hoping it would reach him in time, and he solemnly recalled the words he had written.

 

Dear Horatio,

I have just received news of your unfortunate accident, and am devastated to hear of your numerous injuries. I have booked passage on the next carriage, and hope to be there by Friday next. I pray that I will not be too late.

I feel compelled at this point to divulge to you a family secret, which I was not intending to tell you until you turned twenty-one, but the thought of losing you has urged me to inform you now. I am not sure how to word this without shocking you, so I will just blurt it out.

When you were born nineteen years ago, your mother actually had twins, both boys. Yes, you had an identical twin brother, minutes younger than you. Even your mother could not tell you apart. Tragically, when you both were only a few months old, we were on our way back to London from Lisbon when our ship was struck by a massive storm just out from Brest. Before the Captain could reduce sail, we crashed into the rocks. Your nanny and your brother were split from us in the panic to reach the life-boats, they having to wait for the next available boat. We never saw them again.

We were picked up by a Navy frigate, but there were rumours your brother's boat was captured by a nearby pirate ship. I searched for many years for his whereabouts, but to no avail. Eventually we gave him a funeral and let him go from our hearts.

In an amazing set of coincidences, there was another set of twin boys on the ship with us, who were also split up during the rescue attempt. One of their boys was in the same life-boat as your brother. We did not know the family, but I believe their name was Styles.

Anyway, I just wanted you to know this before you . . . in case you . . . for your own piece of mind. You were a twin if only for a few months. I am sure you would have loved to have had a twin brother, but by God's will it was not meant to be.

Be strong, my dear son, and I will be with you before you know it.

Your father, Dr. Hornblower

 

 

He surreptitiously wiped a tear from his eye, as the carriage jolted along the rough country road.

* * *

Many miles away, Lt. Horatio Hornblower was sitting up in his hospital bed, trying valiantly to maintain an erect position in his Captain's commanding presence. This was very painful for him however, due to his two broken ribs and his punctured stomach.

"He's very lucky, Captain," the doctor was saying, checking the patient's pulse. "His lung wasn't ruptured after all, and the sword completely missed his vital organs and is healing nicely."

Hornblower's eyes lit at the thought of a possible release. "Does that mean I can return to the Indy, doctor?" Their ship, the Indefatigable, was anchored in the bay, and he was keen to be back on board her.

The Captain raised an eyebrow at him, but there was a glimmer of fatherly concern in his eyes. "You will go nowhere Mr. Hornblower until your injuries are sufficiently healed. The doctor has said he wants to keep you under observation for a further day or two, so this is where you will stay."

Hornblower slumped almost imperceptibly, but stoically replied, "Aye, sir." He had already been confined to bed for a week, and he was insufferably restless.

Pellew continued. "When you are discharged, I will allow you a further week's shore leave to ensure your sound recovery. I fear too soon a journey to the ship will tear you open again. I have booked a room for you in the Regent Hotel, and I will assign Matthews and Styles to tend to your needs."

"Thank you, sir," Hornblower replied half-heartily, as he sarcastically thought, *From one confining bed to another. Great.* Then an idea lifted his spirits, and he voiced it timidly. "Sir, I don't suppose Mr. Kennedy could tend to me as well? He could provide more . . . spirited companionship, and," he nervously stumbled for a plausible reason, "and, he could be the fourth player in our games of whist." He smiled pleadingly at his Captain, hoping for some compassion behind that stern composure.

Pellew stifled a smile, knowing how fond his favoured Lieutenant was of the card- game. He conceded a few friendly games of whist would probably speed his recovery. "Very well. Mr. Kennedy can have a week's leave as well."

"Thank you, sir!" Hornblower replied with unveiled elation.

"But make sure you rest, Mr. Hornblower," Pellew warned. "I want you ready to resume your responsibilities when you report back for duty."

"Aye aye, sir." Hornblower felt much better already.

* * *

Two days later, the alarm was sounding at the county jail, as two inmates were running unnoticed across the outer compound, keeping to the darkened edge of the trees. The hardest part of their escape had been completed, and all they had to do now was make their way undetected to the road. With the speed and agility of men who were used to physical exertion, they quickly scaled the six-foot wall, landed quietly on the other side, and strolled quickly but casually down the street. It wasn't until they were three blocks away that they stopped to catch their breaths.

"Core, tha' was too easy, 'ey boss?" panted the blonde man of solid build, bending over and resting his hands on his knees. He had a large round face and a grin to match.

His offsider was tall and lanky, with dark curly hair accentuating his rugged good looks. Both men were dressed in the standard issue blue prison uniforms, which the dark-haired man eyed in distaste. "Come on," he urged, "we gotta find some clothes or we'll stan' ou' like a wooden leg."

They continued down the street until they came to a public bath- house. This being the ideal place to find a wide range of unattended clothes, they snuck in and helped themselves to shirts, trousers, boots, and even a couple of long navy jackets to ward off the cold. As they quickly dressed, they listened in on some of the bathers' conversations. When they emerged again into the early night air, they looked like any other Englishman on the street.

"We'll 'ave to try an' talk like these 'ere pommies, so as not to give away th' fact that we're escaped pirates," the dark one said in a low voice. "Indeed, Mr. Hornblower. It would be my very great pleasure," bowed the blonde awkwardly. Hornblower laughed and said, "Don't overdo it, Styles. We don't look that much like gentlemen. We'll go for the middle-class accent - not too stuffy." "What ever you say, sir." "That's much better."

As they walked hastily down the street toward the bay, Hornblower reached into the pocket of his jacket and pulled out a thick wallet full of money. "Crikey! We're rich, Styles. Would ya get a load o' all this dough!" "You little beauty! We could buy our own ship, 'stead o' just the passage." "You betcha. Let's go check ou' wha' ships are docked."

When they reached the port, the area was swarming with police, searching with lanterns through the ships and their crew. Hornblower pulled Styles back into the shadows. "We'll have to wait until the heat's off. We'll take cover in that pub we passed up the road." "Righto."

As they turned to enter the pub, they bumped into a couple of exiting naval officers, who apologised and then stopped in surprise. The older one said, "Hello Lt. Hornblower. I didn't recognise you without your hat. Where is it, by the way?"

Hornblower blinked at the man, unable to fathom how he could possibly know his name, but decided to play along. He answered warily, "I, um, forgot to bring it." The officers looked at each other in surprise, and the younger one said, "You can borrow mine if you like - there's quite a few senior officers inside there. I'm only going to my parents' place tonight so I won't be needing it, but can you return it to me in the morning?"

Hornblower looked at Styles and smiled. He liked the idea of wearing an officer's hat. "Why not?" he shrugged, and placed the hat on his head. He liked the way it felt; it made him feel important. He led Styles into the crowded building, and headed for the bar, as the two officers frowned at each other before walking on.

As the disguised escapees passed another group of naval officers who were sitting around a table, one of them, Lt. Bracegirdle, waved to them and said, "Hello, Mr. Hornblower. What are you doing here? I thought you were still in hospital."

*Again?* Hornblower thought. *The hat must be confusing them.* "I'm feeling fine," he mumbled, and quickly led the way to a table at the far side of the room, and ordered two large pitchers of beer from the waitress.

Bracegirdle and the other officers were intrigued by Hornblower's behaviour, especially since he usually detested beer. They also couldn't understand why he would be drinking with First Mate Styles, who wasn't even an officer. They decided to keep an eye on them.

After another two rounds of beer were polished off, Hornblower and Styles succumbed to the elation of their freedom and the effects of the alcohol, and started singing bawdy pirate songs and swaying from side to side in their seats with mugs raised; until they realised everyone in the bar was staring at them, slack-jawed. They suddenly decided they had better leave, and when the focus of everyone's attention was no longer on them, they surreptitiously headed through the crowd for the door.

Bracegirdle spotted their hasty departure and intercepted them before the door. "Mr. Hornblower," he said sternly, "would you kindly explain your uncouth behaviour."

Hornblower smiled through his blurry vision, and replied, "Yesh shir!" Then he slapped his hand to his hat in a sloppy salute and bolted out the door past a group of entering officers, with Styles close on his heals. Bracegirdle attempted to give chase but the officers delayed his exit through the door, so all he could do was watch in astonishment as the two men darted down the street. Puzzled by their bizarre conduct, he returned to his seat, vowing to catch up with them on the morrow.

Two blocks away, Hornblower and Styles stopped once again to catch their breaths. When they stood upright again, they noticed a cheap-looking hotel across the road and decided to hide out there for the night. Once they were settled into a room, Styles said, "I'll go an' get us some eats. You seem to be attractin' too much attention in this wacky town."

* * *

Meanwhile, Lt. Hornblower, Acting Lt. Kennedy, Bosun Matthews and First Mate Styles were relaxing in a room in a neighbouring hotel, sitting around a table having just finished their tea. There was a subdued excitement in the air with the knowledge of a whole week ahead of them for rest and relaxation.

Kennedy jumped up from his chair and said, "Come Matthews, we shall go and purchase that pack of cards now." Matthews rose and reached for his coat. "Is there anythink else we can getcha, Mr. 'ornblower?" he asked caringly. Hornblower considered. "If the library were open I would say 'lots of books', but that will have to wait until tomorrow. No nothing, thank you Matthews." The two men left Styles to keep the injured Lieutenant company, and headed for the corner store.

As they walked down the street, Kennedy noticed Matthews' longing look at the pub and decided a bottle of rum might assist in his superior officer's healing process. Matthews also purchased a bottle for himself and Styles. When they reached the corner store a few minutes later, they bumped into Styles the pirate, just about to leave.

"What are you doing here?" Kennedy asked of him. Styles, not recognising the two men standing before him, replied warily, "I'm gettin' . . . getting some food." Matthews did a double-take and laughed. "Didn't we feed you enough, Styles?" The pirate gasped at hearing the stranger call him by name. He mumbled, "Apparently not," and tried to retreat out the door, but Kennedy grabbed him by the arm and said, "Wait for us, we'll go back with you."

He stood nervously in the doorway as the two strangers purchased their items, and when both their backs were turned, he fled down the street to his hotel. *This place is stark-raving mad!* he thought to himself.

When Kennedy and Matthews returned to their hotel room, they immediately confronted Styles. "Why didn't you wait for us?" Kennedy demanded. "Beg pardon, sir?" "Why d'ya run off on us?" Matthews added. Styles looked from one angry face to the other. "Wha' . . . Whad are ya talkin' abou'?"

At this point, Hornblower woke from his dozing on the couch. "What's going on?" he asked, rubbing his eyes. All three tried to talk at once, so Hornblower held up his hands to cease the barrage, his bruised head throbbing.

Kennedy stepped forward. "Styles was down at the store buying some more food, and when we told him to wait for us, he ran off." Styles gagged. "Tha's no' true, sir. I been 'ere th' whole time! 'aven't I, Mr. 'ornblower?" Hornblower frowned. "I think so, but I don't know how long I dozed off for." The three men looked accusingly at Styles. "I swear t' ya's. I never lef' th' room."

Matthews lost his patience. "Twas defin'tely you, Styles, don't try an' deny it." He whacked him on the side of the head. "That's for runnin' off on us," and again, "an' that's for lyin' 'bout it." Styles rubbed his head in confusion, but decided it would be best for his poor head if he remained silent. Kennedy chuckled at the look on Styles' face, and quoted from his beloved Shakespeare, " 'Was there ever any man thus beaten out of season, when in the why and the wherefore is neither rhyme nor reason?' "

The following morning, the four men rose early to a beautiful clear Spring day. Hornblower was feeling much better, and suggested they have a picnic in the park. "Splendid idea, sir," Kennedy grinned. "We could invite Miss Susan and Miss Felicity along. They live not far from the park." "Yes, indeed!" Hornblower smiled back. He reached for a quill and paper. "Styles, take this note to this address, and wait for a reply. We will wait here for you." "Aye, sir," Styles beamed, excited at this unusual call to duty.

He found the address with little difficulty, gawking at the size of the estate, and presented his note to the servant, who retreated upstairs. Not long after, the servant returned with the message that the girls would meet them at twelve noon in the *special* place, winking as he said it. Styles thanked the servant, and retreated back down the street.

When he had travelled a block or so, Styles encountered Hornblower the pirate, who pulled him behind a tree and whispered, "How did you go?" Styles looked at him warily and replied, "Good, sir. They said they'd meet us a' twelve, in th' *special* place." He winked as the servant had done.

"The *special* place? Where th' bloody hell is tha'?" Styles blinked in surprise at the swearing, but replied, "I dunno, sir. I though' you'd know." "Mmmm. It mus' be a code. Me thinks I know. C'me on, we should hide ou' till then," and he led the confused man toward the hotel.

"Sir," Styles asked as they walked side by side, "I was jus' wond'rin'. Where's ya uneeform?" Hornblower frowned sideways at him. "I left th' hat in th' room. It was attractin' too much bloody attention. An' by the way, you don' 'ave ta put on th' accent for me, ya know." Styles almost stopped in his tracks at his extraordinary comments. He shook his head to clear the fog, and thought to himself, *The Lieutenant must have hit his head harder than we thought.*

The two men were almost to the hotel by now, when Lt. Bracegirdle and Mr. Bowles from the Indefatigable sighted them, and crossed the road to intercept them. "Mr. Hornblower!" Bracegirdle called.

Hornblower recognised the officer from the night before and said, "Damn it! 'Ere we bloody well go again." He looked around for a quick escape, but the buildings around them prevented it. Styles blinked at the language again and shook his head, as the two officers surrounded them.

"Two things, Mr. Hornblower," Bracegirdle growled. "Firstly, where is your uniform, and secondly how do you explain your behaviour in the tavern last night?" Hornblower sighed. "Look mate . . . I mean, look here, I don't know what's going on around here, but I didn't feel like wearing my uniform today, OK? Is there a law against that?" The three men gasped at his insubordinate attitude, so he quickly tried to maintain his cover. He remembered what the officer had said about him being in hospital, and he feigned a dizzy spell. "I wasn't feeling very well this morning, and I didn't feel up to dressing myself properly."

"Oh!" Bracegirdle exclaimed sympathetically, reaching out to support him. "Sit down, Mr. Hornblower, before you pass out." He guided the supposedly sick lad to a low stone wall, and removed his hat to fan him. "You shouldn't be out here, Mr. Hornblower. You should be resting in bed."

Suddenly Bracegirdle remembered the mad dash this same young man had made down the street only the night before, and he placed his hat back on his head and stood upright. "Just a minute," he said accusingly, "you weren't sick at all last night. Why, I've never seen you run so fast as you did last night. How do you explain that, Mr. Hornblower?"

The cornered pirate looked up at the two imposing officers standing over him and he felt trapped. He searched for an explanation, but Styles came up with one instead. "Sir, I'm no' sure wha' you're talkin' abou', but Mr. 'ornblower was in 'is 'otel room all las' nigh'. I was with 'im th' whole time."

Hornblower was amazed at his friend's audacity, not to mention his brilliant accent, but played along with him anyway. "That's right. I was resting in my bed all night. He's my witness." "How dare you both?!" Bracegirdle exclaimed. "I have a *dozen* witnesses who saw your activities last night, so don't even try to deny it or I'll have you both locked up in a second!"

Styles was beside himself with confusion. "But sir," he implored, "I swear on me mother's grave, Mr. 'ornblower an' me were in th' 'otel room all nigh', an' we was there since mid-afternoon!"

Bracegirdle gasped again at the outright lie, and grabbed Styles by the arm and passed him to Bowles. Then he dragged Hornblower to his feet and led him toward the dock. "We'll go and see what the Captain has to say about this!"

Hornblower struggled desperately against the man's strong grip, but was unable to release himself. "You're all mad, the lot o' ya's!" he yelled. He fought so frantically that a couple of guards were called over to help restrain him.

As Bracegirdle walked behind the guards, he was extremely concerned at his Lieutenant's uncharacteristic behaviour. He also could not understand how after all the injuries he had suffered less than a week ago, Hornblower appeared to have more strength than ever. It was most baffling to him.

When they finally had Hornblower secured in a cell, the doctor was called to examine his head for injuries. The young Lieutenant put up such a fight, kicking, spitting and swearing worse than any sailor, that the doctor had been forced to give him a sedative to calm him down. Eventually he lay half-unconscious on the bed.

* * *

Meanwhile, Dr. Hornblower had not long arrived in Cardiff, and was already making his way to the front desk of the hospital. He informed them who he was, and enquired after his son. "I'm sorry, Dr. Hornblower," the receptionist replied, checking her records, "he was discharged yesterday. I'm not sure where he is now, but I'm sure if you check with his ship, they'll be able to tell you." He thanked her, and headed for the dock.

* * *

X-eGroups-Return: sentto-266600-19859-1004922999-SarahB1=buckeye-express.com@returns.groups.yahoo.com X-Sender: redline@powerup.com.au X-Apparently-To: hhfic@yahoogroups.com X-eGroups-Return: redline@powerup.com.au To: hhfic@yahoogroups.com X-Originating-IP: 63.12.145.72 From: redline@powerup.com.au X-Yahoo-Profile: middyrob Mailing-List: list hhfic@yahoogroups.com; contact hhfic-owner@yahoogroups.com Delivered-To: mailing list hhfic@yahoogroups.com List-Unsubscribe: <mailto:hhfic-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com> Date: Mon, 05 Nov 2001 01:16:35 -0000 Reply-To: hhfic@yahoogroups.com Subject: [hhfic] FIC The Comedy of Errors 2/2 (Corrected)

SAME DISCLAIMERS AS BEFORE

Back in the hotel room, Lt. Hornblower, Kennedy and Matthews were impatiently waiting for Styles' return, and finally gave up and decided to search for him. Initially, Kennedy told Hornblower to stay behind to rest, but the latter was so weary of being cooped up inside that he convinced them to let him join them.

After several minutes of slowly walking the streets, they finally found Styles the pirate, wandering around near the docks. Hornblower confronted him first. "Where have you been?" "I been lookin' for you! Where 'ave *you* been?" Styles replied gruffly, eyeing the two strangers with his friend. Then he added, "What's wi' th' uneeform? Don' tell me you've joined the Navy!" He laughed raucously, but no-one else did. They all looked at him like he was mad.

Before Hornblower could find his voice, the two officers from the previous night joined their group, one hatless. The younger one spoke first. "Mr. Hornblower, would you be so kind as to return my hat to me?" Hornblower looked at the Lieutenant like he was the devil himself. *I must be having a bad dream!* he thought. He closed his eyes and shook his head gently to clear it, but when he opened his eyes again, the madmen were still there.

Hornblower turned to the latest madman first. "To which hat do you refer, sir?" The officer laughed and replied, "The hat on your head, of course." "Of course." Hornblower and Kennedy exchanged alarmed glances, the former replying, "This is my hat, sir. Whatever are you on about?"

To this the older officer replied impatiently, "Mr. Simms loaned his hat to you last night, Mr. Hornblower." No reply. "You said you had forgotten yours." "I have no idea what you are talking about, sir." Styles couldn't for the life of him work out why his friend was denying what had happened the previous night, and said, "Jus' give it to 'im, 'oratio. It don't matter. You'd be better off withou' i' anyways."

Now everyone gasped at Styles for talking so informally to Hornblower, who could not take anymore. "Now I know this must be a dream!" he yelled. "SOMEBODY PLEASE WAKE ME UP!". His vision blurred and before he knew what was happening, Kennedy and Matthews were lowering him gently to the ground. Kennedy then removed Hornblower's hat and proceeded to fan his pale face with it.

"I'll take that, Mr. Kennedy!" Simms said, grabbing it out of his hand. "I'm late for a meeting with the Admiral." With that, he and his fellow officer walked off quickly. Kennedy shook his head in bewilderment as he watched them leave, and then used his own hat to fan his friend.

At this point, Captain Pellew noticed the four men from across the street, and strolled over to join them. "What's going on here, gentlemen?" he asked. "Why isn't Mr. Hornblower in bed resting?"

Kennedy stood to attention and opened his mouth to explain, but on hearing Pellew's voice, Hornblower looked up through slit eyes and exclaimed sarcastically, "Oh good, Pellew's here! I suppose you're going to perform a song and dance routine for me, are you?"

"I beg your pardon, Mr. Hornblower!" the Captain gasped. "Um . . . he's not himself, sir," Kennedy quickly explained. "He's a little confused at the moment." Matthews added, "That makes two o' us!" "Make tha' three!" Styles also said.

Pellew glared at the group. "What are you four raving about?" Kennedy timidly cleared his throat before replying. "There's been some strange things happening around here this morning, sir." "Like what, Mr. Kennedy?" "Well . . . Styles and Mr. Simms and . . . " Styles interrupted indignantly, finding it hard to maintain his false accent. "You lot are th' ones actin' strange! The sooner I get outta this hell-hole th' better! Are you wit' me, 'oratio, or will I leave ya wit' your new loony friends?"

"Styles!" The Captain could hardly believe his ears. "That is no way to talk to your commanding officer!" "He's no officer!" Styles replied. "Look, he don't even 'ave a hat!" Pellew looked to Kennedy for some much needed clarification, who shrugged and said, "See what I mean, sir? He's making no sense whatsoever."

Eventually the Captain regained his wits. "I think you had all better come with me to the hospital." "What about our picnic?" Hornblower asked, half-dazed. "What picnic?" Pellew frowned. "Um . . . we had arranged to have a picnic in the park," Kennedy explained, before turning to Styles. "Did you give the note to the girls?"

Styles stared back blankly. "What note and what girls?" "Aarrgggghhh!" Hornblower yelled in exasperation. "Relax, Mr. Hornblower," Pellew comforted. "Everything will be all right. Help him to his feet, gentlemen."

* * *

Meanwhile on the Indy, Dr. Hornblower had just been led to the brig, to find Hornblower the pirate, lying on the bunk with a naval doctor tending him. He cleared his throat. "How is he doing, doctor? I'm his father, Dr. Hornblower." Before he could hold out his hand for the obligatory introduction, Hornblower bolted upright and yelled, "You're my WHAT?!"

"Now now, Lieutenant," Dr. Wood soothed, forcing him down onto his back and re- securing the restraints. "Just lie still until the drugs take effect." Then he led the lad's father a few paces away from the bed. "He's not making much sense, and he's been very violent and abusive. I'm afraid he may have some serious head trauma."

"Oh dear," Dr. Hornblower sighed. "That's rich!" Hornblower growled, listening from the bed. "You reckon I'm th' one no' makin' much sense!" He struggled pointlessly against his bindings.

"What's with the accent?" Dr. Hornblower asked quietly. "I have no idea. Perhaps the head trauma is affecting his speech patterns." "Mmmm. I would like to move him to the town hospital, if you do not object. That way I could tend to him personally." "Of course, Dr. Hornblower."

Suddenly Styles jumped up from his bunk in the next cell and grabbed the bars. "I'd like t' go too if I could. I need t' fin' Mr. Kennedy and Matthews. They're prob'ly ou' lookin' for us now." To himself he thought bitterly, *or they're enjoyin' our picnic withou' us.*

Bracegirdle stepped forward from his vigil outside the cells. "Definitely not, Styles! You are under arrest until we get to the bottom of this mess." Then Hornblower screamed from his bed in frustration, "Who the bloody hell are Kennedy and Matthews!" "Oh dear," his father said, concerned. "He *is* traumatised, isn't he. Let us get him to the hospital as quickly as possible."

* * *

Inside the hospital, the staff doctor was examining Lt. Hornblower as he lay on a bed. Captain Pellew was standing close by, while Kennedy, Matthews and Styles the pirate, were near the door.

Pellew explained the situation. "I am afraid he may have been released too early, doctor. Apparently he almost collapsed and he has been incoherent for the last twenty minutes." "Why wasn't he resting in bed, as we advised?" the doctor challenged defensively. "Ahem. That's a very good question." Pellew replied, before passing the challenge onto his junior Lieutenant. "Mr. Kennedy?"

Kennedy stepped forward nervously. "Um . . . He, Mr. Hornblower, insisted he was feeling fine, and he practically ordered me to let him come for a walk with us." "That's no excuse, Mr. Kennedy," the Captain growled. "He was in your care. You should have forced him to stay in bed." The acting Lieutenant thought *I've never been able to *force* Horatio to do anything in my life!* but out loud he simply apologised.

Meanwhile, Styles the pirate, was in the background thinking *What the bloody hell are they all talking about? I'm getting out of here while I can. Horatio can sort this out for himself.* He quietly slipped out the door and exited the building, just as Bracegirdle, Dr. Hornblower and two guards were walking in, followed by Hornblower the pirate being carried on a stretcher by two men.

"What are you doing here, Styles?!" Bracegirdle exclaimed. "I thought I left you in the brig?" "Say wha'?" Styles jumped back startled. Then he thought *Oh, I recognise you. You're the ravin' lunatic from the pub last night.* "I was jus' leavin'." "Oh no you don't." Bracegirdle reached out to grab hold of his arm, but Styles jumped out of the way and ran down the path. "After him, men!" Bracegirdle yelled to the guards. "And lock him up more securely this time!"

"RUN, STYLES!" Hornblower hollered from the stretcher. "RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!" "Be quiet, Mr. Hornblower!" Bracegirdle growled, but the still- restrained pirate only snickered and said, "You'll never catch him now, you bastards." Bracegirdle gasped, and vented his frustrations on the stretcher- bearers. "Take him inside!"

At the reception desk, Bracegirdle instructed the men to release Hornblower from the stretcher, but to maintain a firm grip on him. He then explained to the nurse, "Lt. Hornblower's head injury must be much worse than you thought, although his other injuries appear to have miraculously healed since only yesterday."

The nurse frowned as she went through her records. "Er . . . There must be some sort of mistake. Lt. Hornblower is in with the doctor already." Bracegirdle blinked at her. "Come again?" She checked her records again and said, "Wait here, please."

Inside the examination room, the nurse approached the doctor warily. "Er . . . Excuse me, doctor. There is a Lt. Bracegirdle outside claiming to have a Lt. Hornblower with him for admittance." The doctor frowned at the woman, trying to determine if she was joking. "How can that be? Lt. Hornblower is obviously right here." She shrugged in utter bafflement.

The Captain stepped in. "Lt. Bracegirdle is my first Lieutenant. Bring them in and we will settle the confusion." A minute later Dr. Hornblower walked in, followed by Bracegirdle firmly holding onto Hornblower the pirate.

"Father!" Lt. Hornblower exclaimed, sitting upright on the bed. "What are you doing here?" Dr. Hornblower stopped dead in his tracks. "Horatio?! But . . . How? . . . Who? . . . " Bracegirdle stepped around the doctor and stared at Lt. Hornblower. "How can you be over there, when I am holding onto you here?!" He looked back and forth between the Hornblower standing beside him and the Hornblower on the bed, as did everyone else in the room.

Kennedy hollered, "What the . . . ?!" Hornblower the pirate cursed, "Bloody hell!" Matthews gasped. Lt. Hornblower slumped on the bed. "I'm still dreaming, aren't I?" Pellew said dazedly, "We can't all be dreaming."

After a minute's stunned silence, Dr. Hornblower suddenly turned to Hornblower the pirate and said, "Oh my God! You must be my long lost son!" Every other person in the room yelled, "WHAT?!" Dr. Hornblower then turned to his son on the bed. "Didn't you receive my letter?" "No. What are you talking about, father?" Dr. Hornblower chuckled. "It is a long story. Do you want to hear it now? Everyone yelled, "YES!" in unison.

* * *

So the Hornblower twins were finally reunited after nineteen years, and so were the Styles twins, once the authorities caught up with Sigmund Styles the pirate. Horatio Hornblower the pirate changed his name to Horaldo Hornblower to avoid further confusion with his new brother. Apparently their nanny had mistaken the baby's identity when she had informed the pirate Captain of his name. She had later fallen in love with one of the crewmen, and they had run off together somewhere in Portugal, never to be seen again.

Unfortunately, Horaldo and Sigmund were forced to serve the remainder of their jail sentences, but once they were released two years later, they both got a job on an English merchant ship, the Century, loving their new life at sea.

Whenever the Century crossed paths with the Indefatigable, there could be seen two identical sets of twins waving to each other across the water. And Kennedy could be heard quoting: " 'We came into the world like brother and brother; And now let's go hand in hand, not one before another.' "

 

 

THE END