Reply to the Fic Challenge
by Liv

 

Mr Bowels, Pellew, Hornblower, Kennedy and Bracegirdle are all
sitting around a table examining the letter.

 

Hornblower: He's not worth the powder!

Mr Bowels: I thought you'd got rid of him, Sir, with that
exceptionally fine shot of yours.

Pellew: I did, Mr Bowels, I did. I fear we are at the mercy
of a perturbed spirit not of our making.

Kennedy: But how did the letter reach us?

Bracegirdle: It must have been written while dying. Look there
is blood all over that letter.

Hornblower: Dr Hepplewhite carried him away after the duel. He
could have given him any thing to prolong his life, albeit however
brief that may have been.

Kennedy: You don't believe in the after-life then? It seems to
be written while he was in hell.

Bowles: Simpson may have been delirious. What's preventing him from
assuming he was there already?

Pellew: When I shot Simpson, I saw him fall with my very own
eyes. No amount of medicine could have brought him back from that
fatal wound.

Hornblower: There is only one way to find out.

(Enter Dr Hepplewhite).

Pellew: You know why you are here?

Dr Hepplewhite: To relay the events after Simpson's death, and the
hours preceeding it, I presume?

Pellew: Correct.

Dr Hepplewhite: Immediately after a man is pronounced dead from being
shot in a duel, I submerge his body in sub-zero temperatures to
preserve what few organs that he may have that may be useful to other
officers in the Navy, should they ever be in need of a spare kidney,
or lung, or (gesturing towards Mr Kennedy) a spare heart.

Kennedy: What?! You mean that heart transplant you gave me was
was

Dr Hepplewhite: Simpson's? Naturally. After your period of starvation
in Cadiz, you were in urgent need of a new heart, you will remember.
Simpson's heart was the only one that matched your blood type. Mind
you, it was still in perfect condition when I retrieved it from the
freezer.

Kennedy: But the hole that was in it?

Dr Hepplewhite: What of it? I stitched it up and it was as good as
new. Now back to the preservation process. Prior to freezing the body
of a man who is pronounced dead, I do whatever I can to prolong his
life. That is in the Articles of War, is it not, Captain Pellew, that
a doctor has a primary duty of care to his patients, and shall
endeavor, under all circumstances, to preserve and sustain his life,
unless the life of that man is terminated at the discretion of the
Court of the Navy for being convicted of a crime.

Hornblower: But this WAS a crime!

Dr Hepplewhite: Was it? Pray, then, what was the aim of the duel? As
far as I am concerned, Simpson was merely carrying out his part in
the duel, however dishonorable the manner in which he carried out his
part. Had Simpson succeeded, I doubt very much if Pellew would have
just cause in sending him to be court-martialled. The duel was
sanctioned from all parties; there is no law which stipulates a man
cannot fire early or carry out the aim of the duel using extreme
measures. They are merely points of etiquette.

Kennedy: And bringing a madman back to life that is merely
etiquette, too, is it Dr Hepplewhite?

Dr Hepplewhite: I told you, Mr Kennedy, that is duty. Now, where was
I? Oh yes, prior to freezing Simpson, I examined him thoroughly for
any signs of heartbeat or brain activity, and found he had a very,
very, faint heartbeat which indicated he may still have a chance at
life. It was of capital importance therefore that I commence the
revival process, before he fell into shock, which usually inexorably
leads to death. I dosed him with opiate and kept him in a constant
state of sedation while I opened him up and did my work removing the
bullet, which had lodged itself in the right ventricle - nearly
fatal, but not quite. But Simpson had already lost a lot of blood,
and the odds were not good that he should survive.

Hornblower: So what happened then?

Dr Hepplewhite: I removed the bullet from Simpson's heart, stitched
his chest cavity, and awaited to see if there would be any sign of
mortification. He lay unconscious for a further 36-hours before he
began stirring from his coma.

Pellew: And then?

Dr Hepplewhite: I asked him if he knew who I was. He shrieked with
laughter and said he had finally come home to the Devil. He thought I
was Satan! Fancy that!

(Kennedy and Hornblower exchange glances. Pellew coughs to break the
silence).

Pellew: So that is when he requested to write a letter?

Dr Hepplewhite: Oh Simpson didn't write the letter, I did.

All: What? Why?

Dr Hepplewhite: Well, for one thing he was too weak to hold a pen.
And Simpson was illiterate, we all know that. Look at the way that
letter is written does it look like its been done in illiterate
scrawl?

Kennedy: Well, no.

Bracegirlde: And the blood on the letter would have come from the
stains on your apron.

Dr Hepplewhite: Exactly.

Pellew: So Simpson merely ranted and raved, and you acted as
his scribe?

Dr Hepplwhite: Well, I don't know if he was ranting and raving, his
thoughts seemed fairly coherent.

Pellew: But you wrote down everything he was saying?

Dr Hepplewhite: As far as I could, yes.

Bracegirdle: And addressed it to the Acting Lieutenant, Horatio
Hornblower.

Dr Hepplewhite: As per his last dying request, yes. After he gave
this last request, he exhaled his last choking breath, and died. I
knew then that he was dead beyond saving.

(Silence).

Pellew: Thank you, Dr Hepplewhite, that will be all.

 

***********

After this investigation, Pellew lodged an appeal to have a clause
changed in the Articles of War which would prevent any man who had
been convicted of a crime in a court-martial from having the
privilege of writing or recording their last dying words. This was
implemented in order to aid in the erasure of their name from public
memory, and, in doing so, wipe out villains from a nation's history.