Hail and Farewell
by Joan C.

RATING:PG
DISCLAIMER: I claim no rights financial or creative
for the characters in this story. They owe their
existence to C.S. Forester, and the producers of
Hornblower.

********************

Hornblower: Hail and Farewell


Lieutenant Horatio Hornblower stood on the
Quarterdeck of the Renown and wondered what imp
of Satan had seized control of his life.Three months
ago, he had been happy -- as happy as his own
restless heart had believed possible. He was a
commisioned Lieutenant, serving under the
illustrious Captain Sir Edward Pellew, on board the
frigate Indefatigable. He had his best friend, Archie
Kennedy at his side, and the respect and honor of
the men in his division. He had not envisioned it
changing. More fool he!

The memory of his last days on the Indy was
nearly too painful to recall, but he could not help
worrying at it, like an old scar. He had been called
to
Captain Pellewís cabin, and with his usual concern
over what task he had managed to bungle, he had
stood before Pellew, hat in hand, ready to take his
tongue-lashing. Pellew was a master of the art; he
could make the most haughty officer cower under
the weight of a few well chosen words. Hornblower
knew. He had been on the receiving end of Pellewís
ire often enough.

But Pellew had also been a mentor, a
father-figure, and a hero to the gangling
Midshipman. He had turned that awkward,
self-conscious seventeen year old, into an officer of
His Majestyís Navy. He had commended him for
bravery, and comforted him in his grief. He had even
saved his life. Horatio might have worshipped God,
but his regard for his Captain did not fall far short
of that mark.

That day, he had waited as Pellew finished
reading an official-looking parchment, laid it down,
and cleared his throat. ìAh, Mr. Hornblower. I have
some news for you.î

ìSir?î

ìThe Amiralty has taken notice of your fine
record. Here -- ì

Horatio took the paper from Pellew and
read. ì ëYou are hereby requested and required to
report to HMS Renown, where you will assume the
duties of Lieutenant ...íî The blood drained from
his face. He felt rather cold, and knew that he had to
make some sort of response. ìIím to leave the
Indefatigable, sir?î The instant the words left his
mouth, he cursed them. Obviously. The Admiralty
did not play games with its orders.

Pellew merely nodded. ìYes, Mr. Hornblower. Leave the
Indy and take up duties on a ship of the line. It is
the logical progression in your career.î Pellew rose
and poured two glasses of brandy. ìShall we drink to
your good fortune?î

ìSir, I -- I donít know what to say. ì Horatio
stammered. The entire incident was too reminiscent
of the scene three years earlier when his father had
announced that Captain Keene of the Justinian
would accept Horatio as Midshipman. He had that
same hollow feeling in his midsection; as if the
bottom had just dropped out of his stomach.

ìYou cannot say anything, Mr. Hornblower.
These are orders. You obey them.î

ìOf course, sir.î Horatioís emotions were at
war with the demeanor required by the occasion..
For a long moment he struggled with his next
words. ìI shall miss the Indefatigable, sir.î

Pellewís face was as usual, quite unreadable.
He had known that this day would come, indeed, he
had prepared for it. An officer of Hornblowerís
calibre could not be expected to remain on board a
Frigate. What a waste that would have been! A
Lieutenant on a ship of the line could expect to
become a Commander, and then a Post Captain. He
would wish no less for Hornblower. Still, he would
miss the lad. He had watched him mature with such
pride; as he might have watched his own son, had
the Lord seen fit to grant him one. He could not
have asked for a finer young man than Horatio.
Pellew cleared his throat and turned to with wide
windows of his cabin. He hoped the glare would
provide an excuse for the tears welling in his eyes.
When he turned back to Hornblower, he had
mastered his emotions sufficiently to speak.

ìThree years ago, after the Fireships
incident, I told you that it had been an honor to
serve with you. Nothing that has happened since
then has altered my feelings. It has indeed been an
honor serving with you, Horatio.î

Hornblowerís gaze flew to Pellewís face at
the use of his Christian name, and briefly, he saw
mirrored in his Captainís eyes, the regard and
respect that shone in his own. ìThank you, sir. I owe
you everything.î The words sounded thick in his
throat.

ìThose debts have long since been repaid.î
Pellew nodded sharply. ìTo your brilliant future, Mr.
Hornblower.î He raised his glass, and Horatio could
do nothing but respond in kind.

***********
His brilliant future. To be the junior
Lieutenant on a ship governed by a mad Captain.
Horatioís hands clenched and unclenched behind his
back. His first meeting with Sawyer had been on the
Quarterdeck, as he watched a Seamanís back being
cut to ribbons by the lash, The poor fellow had been
forced to holystone his own blood from the deck
before he had been taken to the surgeon. Horatio
had never learned of the manís infraction, but he had
seen the incident repeated for offenses as severe as
stealing and drunkenness, to as minor as a bit of
sloppy work.

Captain Sawyer started at shadows and saw
conspiracies around every corner. The officers of the
Renown were as subject to various punishments as
the seaman. And for as little cause. The Bosonís
cane received a sharp workout on the hides of
Midshipmen, and the Lieutenants had gone days
without sleep, due to being put on Watch-on-Watch
for nothing more than some imagined slight.
Horatio, whose outrage at the mistreatment of his
men had been finely honed by his own experiences
on the Justinian, and by Pellewís fair, if unflinching
discipline, had found himself at frequent odds with
Sawyer. His appeals on behalf of the Midshipmen to
First Lieutenant Buckland had been ignored.

ëThey are guilty as the rest of us in the
Captainís mind, Mr. Hornblower,î Buckland had
argued.

ëThen he is mad!í

ëProve it.í Buckland had said shortly, and
turned away from Horatioís pleas for mercy.

His life had become a constant, wearying
battle. At the end of each long day, when he finally
was able to crawl into his bunk, he could not sleep
for worrying what the next would bring. Would
poor Wellard be beaten again? What imagined
neglect in his duties would bring down the Captainís
wrath? What humiliation could Sawyer inflict on his
officers next?

There were no answers. Horatio would stare
into the dark until his eyes burned, and finally yield
to exhaustion, only to wake at dawn, his nerves taut
as sinews, his heart pounding. And then began the
task of appearing indifferent to the misery around
him. That detached demeanor and unwavering
attention to his duties, were all that kept him from
flying into a million shattered pieces.

He could take no comfort in the company of
his fellow officers; they did not seek him out nor
did
he encourage them. Sawyer took any conversation
between the lieutenants as a plot for mutiny. And so,
except on rare occasions when the Captain was
safely off the ship, they seldom indulged in idle
conversation. Horatioís father had once termed him
ëa solitary boy,í and Horatio, for most of his life,
would not argue that; but on the Indy, he had never
been as alone as he was now. On the Indy, there had
been Archie Kennedy. And Lieutenant Bracegirdle,
who had offered much good advice, and poor
practical jokes. Even the men of his division had
shared a fine sense of camaraderie. And there had
been Pellew, whose sharp mind had challenged
Horatio to think like a commander. He had accepted
his transfer fatalistically, knowing that there would
never be another ship like the Indefatigable; he had
not expected to feel its loss like a wound that
refused to heal.

***************
The evening before Horatioís departure, the
officers had gathered for a farewell dinner on the
Indefatigable. Captain Pellewís steward had
prepared a feast. There had even been fresh bread,
and wine from Pellewís estate cellars in Cornwall.
Toasts had been proposed until Horatioís face
burned brightly with his blushes. And since he had
no head for spirits, by the time the dinner had wound
down to its close, he was certain that he had made
an utter fool of himself in front of the men he had
served with for three years. The fact that they had
all
waked with sore heads the following morning had
only slightly allayed his fears.

That day was the hardest. Saying goodbye to
Archie. They had been nearly silent as Horatio
packed his sea chest; his books, his uniforms, his
worn shirts that had not been replaced since
Muzillac.

ìHere, you donít want to forget this.î Archie
handed him a rumpled neckcloth. You loaned it to
me last year.î

ìSo youíve had it for a year while mine
frayed and faded?î Horatio threw it back to him,
laughing. ìYou might as well keep it!î

ìAs a souvenir?î Archie teased, then
sobered, looking down at the rumpled silk. ìChrist,
this is hard, Horatio. I shall miss you.î

ëYes,î Horatio said evenly. ìBut we shall
read of each otherís exploits in the Chronicle... and
who knows, we may serve together again.î He
returned to his packing, not noting Archieís
protracted silence.

ìIím leaving the Navy.î

His voice was so soft that Horatio was not
sure that he had heard him correctly. ìYou what?î

ìIn January. I-I am going home. There have
been troubles, and I am needed there.î

Horatio sat down rather suddenly. It was not
a future he had envisioned, not one without Archie.
He had always thought that they would sail on the
seas together; in spirit, if not in truth. In three
years, the sea had become his home, his life. He could
imagine no other, the thought of giving it up made
him physically weak. ìWhy? I thought you hated it.î

ìYes, I did. But I have since learned that
there are worst things in this world. I cannot refuse.
For better or worse, they are my family. î He looked
resigned, but not unhappy.

Horatio was at a loss. He would have fought with his
last breath to stay at sea.ìIím sorry, Archie.î

ìWhy? Iím certainly not!î

Horatio looked into Archieís eyes, and saw
that he spoke the truth. It gave him a jolt. ìYou
mean that.î

Archie met Horatioís gaze. He felt immeasurably older
than his friend. Despite all he had seen, despite all
they had been through, when Horatio stood on the
Quarterdeck, he was at home. Yet, what was Horatioís
home, had been nothing less than Hell for Archie.
ìYes, I mean it. What did you think? That I was happy
here? Do you want the truth, my friend?î

Horatio did, despite the foreknowledge that
it would bruise his heart. ìYes.î

ìI wished I were dead from the moment I
first set foot on the Justinian.î

ìThose days are over, Archie. Leave them,î
Horatio sighed. It was an old argument between
friends, but as close as they were, Archie had never
spoken of willingly of Jack Simpson, or his brutal
treatment at Simpsonís hands. Horatio thought the
memories had faded with time, or had at least gone
quiescent.

Archie shook his head. ìThey have never
been over, Horatio. I live with them every day, every
night. I shall live with them the rest of my life. If
not for the love I bear for you, I would be dead!î

ìYou donít mean that!î

ìYes, I do. I was never meant for this life.
But, I was too in awe of my father and too unhappy
at home, to object to his arrangements. And I
thought, how bad could it be? I was not afraid,
Horatio. But I should have been.î Archieís blue eyes
darkened to nearly black. ìI should have been.î He
laughed shortly, ìAnd now I am afraid every day of
my life.î

ìAnd you think that Iím not! My guts are in
a roil half the time -- ì

ìBut the other half of the time, Horatio, you
are in your element! You cannot deny it. I know you
too well.î Archie laughed then. ìRemember the
Marie Galant?î

ìMy first command. The ship sank.î He
could smile about it now; at the time he had been
certain he would be court-martialled.

ìIt doesnít matter that the ship sank! What
matters is that you came back to the Indy a bloody
hero!î

Horatio gave a derogatory shrug. ìNo.î

ìYou did not see the look on Pellewís face. I
did. He knew it then, Horatio.î

ìRubbish!î He could not bear to hear
anymore. Archie was wrong. He was no bloody
hero. Heroes did not hang over the rail and vomit;
they did not lay awake in the night and count the
ways that they had failed, or could have failed during
the day. They did the right thing, and never doubted
that it was the right thing. No, he was no hero,
despite Archieís protestations. The toll of the watch
bell spared him further meditations, and he rose
quickly. ìIf Iím not ready when the shore boat
comes, Pellew will throw me overboard!î

Archie had seen all the doubts chasing
through Horatioís mind, and knew that he could do
nothing to stop them. He laid a hand on his
Horatioís arm. ìWait ... î Horatio stilled in his
motion. It was past denying. For the first time in two
years, he would face the days without Archie. They
had shared everything: the Justinian, the trials of
the
Spanish prison, the grief and pain of Muzillac. But
there had also been good times for both of them.
Laughter and friendship, the excitement of the chase,
the capture of the prizes. Horatioís first, and he
hoped his last, hangover. How Archie had laughed
at his misery! But at the same time he had offered a
mug of coffee and a tot of rum. Archie was the first
person Horatio would die for, and could know with
confidence, that gesture would be returned. Damn!
He swore as his eyes misted over.

There were tears standing in Archieís eyes,
as well. ìWe will see each other again. And I will
read every issue of the Naval Chronicle, I swear it,î
Archie spoke with more conviction than Horatio
felt. He must have seen the bleak shadow in
Horatioís eyes, for his grip tightened. ìI will always
be your friend, Horatio.î

That simple assurance meant the world to
him. ìAnd I yours, Archie.î They stood regarding
each other in silence. They would remember this
farewell their entire lives. Horatio finally turned
away and closed the lock on his sea chest. ìYou
know that I wish you every happiness. And if
leaving is what you want, then I hope it is for the
best.î He could not stop the tremor in his voice and
tried to disguise it by clearing his throat.

Archie ran the back of his hand over his eyes.
ìI expect to see an epaulette on your shoulder within
a year, Mr. Hornblower.î

ìAye, aye, sir.î Horatio grinned through his
tears, and snapped an exaggerated salute. ìCaptain
Hornblower, at your service.î

Then there was a knock at their door, and
Matthews and stood there, his hat in his hands. Two
seamen waited behind him. ìBegginí your pardon,
sirs. But the shore boat is here.î

ìThank you, Matthews.î He let the seamen
through to get his dunnage. When they had gone, he
looked around at the tiny cabin. There were
memories there, and he would cherish them. But the
wide world was outside, not enclosed by these
wooden walls. He settled his cocked hat on his head,
and followed Archie up the passageway to the deck.

**************

And so he stood on the deck of one of
Englandís great battleships, gazing out over the
ocean, wondering how he could shape a future out
of the miserable present. There were rumors that the
Renown would be sent to the Indies. There were
countries in revolt, French privateers prowling the
waters, and Spanish pirates raiding helpless convoys.
The promise of action made Horatioís pulse leap.
He thought of Pellew pacing the Indyís quarterdeck,
his dark eyes as sharp as a hawkís, scanning the
horizon for prey. I would have a hunger for it like
his, not this half-life I have been living ...

ìShore boat, ahoy! Passenger requesting
permission to come aboard!î he heard Midshipman
Wellard cry out. As officer of the watch it was his
duty to greet all comers to the Renown. Lieutenant
Buckland was nowhere in sight. Horatio peered
through his glass. The sight made his heart sink.

ìVery good, Mr. Wellard. You may allow
her alongside.î

A few moments later, the passenger came on
board. He was a tall, broadly built man, a few years
older than Hornblower. His dark hair was shorn in
the newer fashion, and he wore a Lieutenantís
uniform. He stood in front of Horatio, and saluted.

ìLieutenant William Bush reporting for duty.î

ìLieutenant Hornblower, sir.î They stood
taking measure of each other. Horatio met eyes the
same blue as the sea, with a frank and open
expression of curiosity in them. That expression, so
reminiscent of Archieís was something Horatio had
not seen for months. ìWelcome aboard, Mr. Bush.î
He offered his hand, and at the same time could not
help thinking that Lieutenant Bush was one more
obstacle he would have to surmount in the chain of
command.

Lieutenant Bush gave Hornblowerís hand a
firm shake. Despite the courtesy, he could sense no
real warmth. Of course, if Hornblower were junior
Lieutenant, then Bushís arrival could have an
enormous impact on his career. No wonder this
dark-eyed young man was so wary. I cannot blame
him. I should feel the same way. Hornblower ... Iíve
heard that name, Bush thought. And had a feeling
that he would come to know it, and the
self-contained officer before him, very well indeed.

The End