Horatio’s Bad Hair Day

by Emma



On a particularly bright and briskly windy morning off the coast of France, Archie Kennedy was rudely awakened by a strangled yell that emanated from somewhere in the general area of his friend Horatio Hornblower’s cot.


“Holy sh*t, Horatio,” yelled Archie, “I’ve been on watch since midnight; I’m trying to SLEEP!!”  He sighed peevishly.  “What is it?”

He sat up to see his friend looking despairingly at himself in the tiny shard of mirror the two shared.  “Look at my hair!” Horatio wailed.

Archie squinted at him.  “Oh, my.”

Horatio’s normally neat, glossy, curly locks were sticking up from his head at obscenely absurd angles and snarled into numerous rats’ nests, giving him the distinctive look of a mangy Merino sheep.  

“What’ll I DOOO?!” he cried.  “I can’t face the men looking like this!”

“Hmmm,” said Archie.  “You do have a problem.  You didn’t happen to use Styles’ special Old Salt Spray shampoo, did you?”


“Hmmm.  Let me take a look.”

Archie pushed Horatio’s head about for a few seconds as he surveyed the damage.

“I think if you just put a hat on it, it should be fine.  No-one ever sees your hair when you wear that bicorne anyway.”

“But what if we get a lady guest and I must doff my hat?  I’d never live it down!”

“Let’s just try the hat for now.  Come on, the Watch awaits.”


“Bad ‘air, you say?”  Matthews surveyed Horatio with an experienced seaman’s eye.  “Can’t have that.”

They were standing on the fo’c’sle, where Horatio had been hiding for most of the watch, and Matthews had been called to lend his mind to the young officer’s problem.

“’Ave ye tried whale grease?”


“Wait ‘ere.”

Matthews tripped off and returned a few moments later with a small ceramic jar.  He took off the lid and held it out proudly.  “See?  This’ll fix ye up right good, sir.”

Horatio and Archie leaned forward curiously, then suddenly staggered back as a reeking, loathsome odor jumped out of the jar and punched them in the faces before shimmying up towards the royal sails.  Horatio threw himself over the bulwark, vomiting violently.

“J*us Ch*st, Matthews,” gasped Archie, nose pinched and cloak over his mouth, “what the f*k is that?!”

“Whale grease, sir!  Makes any bad ‘air issues disappear – chock full of vit’mins and proteins.  ‘Ere.”

He punched a fist into the jar, then walked up to Horatio and started slathering it all over his head.

“Aaah!  Ah—oh—aaa—Matthews, what the—gerroff!!”

“Strugglin’ll only make it worse, sir.  What you do in the night, I’ll never know,” tutted the bo’sun, slapping on more grease with vigour.

“Aaargh!  Matthews—get OFF!”

Finally the bo’sun stepped back, surveying his handiwork.  “Hmmm.  It helped summat.”

Archie, who had been cowering behind the foremast in an attempt to escape the smell, poked his head around it.  He took one look at Horatio and exploded in laughter.

“O my GOD,” he gasped after a few moments, “Hor-hor—oh, oh, oh—”

Horatio glared at him. 

“I,” choked Archie through tears of laughter, “Have seen greased pigs prettier than you.  Good God, you look an absolutely horrendous, hot disaster!”

“Yes, thank you, MR. Kennedy,” snapped Horatio, trying vainly to brush excess grease off his hair and flick it onto the deck.   

At that moment, Pellew came on deck and started shouting for Horatio.


Horatio, seeing no way out, simply slapped his hat onto his head with a slimy splotch and headed aft.


Pellew was standing on the quarterdeck, his evenly tanned face upturned to the sky with a look of solemn cheesiness.

“Mr. Hornblower—”  He stopped and sniffed the air.  “Good God, what is that obnoxious smell?”

“I don’t know, Sir,” said Horatio desperately.  “I think it’s Matthews.”

“Dammit, doesn’t that man ever bathe?  But that don’t matter.  What I need you to do is go to the Duchess of Wharfedale’s cribbage party this evening for me.  I’ve got business at the Admiralty and need someone else to go instead.”

“But I don’t play cribbage, Sir.”

“You can do math, can’t you?  You’ll do fine.  But watch out if she starts to play parlour games.  Whatever you do, don’t play Post Office with her.  Once going it never ends.”

“Sir, I—”

“Excellent.  Six o’clock this evening, then.”

“But—aye, aye, Sir.”  Horatio saluted dismally as the superior officer he so looked up to strode away.  Archie came up.

“Wow, Horatio,” he said, “No fair.  You always get to do all the fun stuff.”

“But my hair,” yowled Horatio.  “What’m I gonna DOOOOOO?!?!”

At that moment Styles and Oldroyd came up.  Styles opened his mouth to speak, but ended up gagging.

“Cor!  An’ I thought I was the only one needin’ a clean!”  he glared at Oldroyd.

“Ain’t me!” squawked Oldroyd.  “I salted my teeth this mornin’!!”

“Pipe down,” advised Archie.  “Mr. Hornblower’s having a Bad Hair Day.”

“Aah.”  Styles wiggled his head sympathetically.  “It’s no fun, Sir, trust me—I’ve been havin’ one for the past ten years.”

“I don’t suppose you have any suggestions?” asked Horatio scathingly.

“Tar do do wonders,” piped up Oldroyd.

Everyone stared at him.  “What?”

“Tar, what as we use on the ropes!  Sticks it down good and tight, it do.”

“It’s worth a try, Horatio,” said Archie.  “What have you got to lose at this point?”

“Oh,” muttered Horatio darkly.  “My career, my reputation, my ego, my pride…”

“Not much, then,” said Archie cheerfully.  “Come on then.”

Oldroyd bounced off and came back with a bucket of tar.  A few moments later, he and Styles were sticking it and smoothing it all over Horatio’s head.  It was going well until Oldroyd’s hand stuck to Horatio’s head.  Pulling was painful for both parties, so Archie went and got a pair of shears, but they just seized up in the thick, viscous tar-whale grease slop on Horatio’s head and in the end, Matthews had to use a mixture of a pistol-shot and a Marine’s bayonet to half-shoot, half-chop the hapless sailor off of his superior officer.  When they were done, Horatio’s hair was worse than it had been that morning.

“Sh*t,” he raged as he looked in the mirror again that evening.  “What do I DO, Archie?”

“Oh, stuff it,” grumped his friend.  “I’m sick of helping you.  I’m also sick of that smell – it offends me.  I’ve got a delicate constitution, you know, have some respect!”

“Oh well,” sighed Horatio, “I’ll just have to hope that her Grace doesn’t notice.”


“Ah, Mr. Haitch!  So good to see you!”

“Your Grace.”  Horatio achieved a beautiful leg.

“Bloody hell, what’s that smell?”

Horatio couldn’t stand it anymore and broke down on the Duchess’ shoulder, blubbering out the entire story.

“There, there,” she said.  “I have just the thing.  Come with me.”


“How did she do it?”

“She washed it,” said Horatio proudly.  “With real shampoo and conditioner and detangler and everything.”

“You do smell sumthin’ nice,” sighed Oldroyd.  Styles and Matthews silently offered him to each other behind his back - *after you* - then they BOTH shmucked him.

“Damn,” said Archie in disgust.  “I could have told you that.”

“Well, why didn’t you?”

“You didn’t ask.”  Then: “OWWWwww, what was that for?!”