Horatio's Journal: The Duel, part two
by Lft. Michele

The last dreadful night is over, although I fear this night will be
no better. Simpson has commanded that I be awakened again to-night
every half hour, and I do not want to think about what level of
exhaustion shall beset me by the morrow. I CAN not, for this day has
had sufficient troubles of its own...

Following a fair breakfast, but one which made me feel vaguely ill (I
am still not used to the motion of this ship, and after a restless
night, I fear the seasickness is again worsening), I assumed my
watch. Abovedecks went I, and almost immediately upon doing so,
nearly slipped on the freshly swabbed planking. I could feel the
derisive mirth from the onlooking seamen, which was made worse when
one of them, Styles, I believe, informed me that Lt. Eccleston was
awaiting me in the fighting top. I was at once taken aback by such a
request, as it made no sense whatever (firstly, what would the First
Lieutenant be doing in the fighting top); yet I could not disobey an
order, so, heart in my throat and breathing all but stopped, I forced
myself to ascend the rigging.

A lifelong dread of high places weighing down my every upward
movement, I slowly made my way skyward, my throat becoming more
parched with every inch. Finally, after a lifetime of climbing, my
fears were confirmed, and there was Simpson, smug and delighted at my
horror and fear. One of the ratlines (I believe that is what they
call them) gave way under my foot, and I felt my heart stop, for I
was certain I would at once fall to my death, or worse, as death
would have been a welcome relief. I am humiliated beyond words that
I begged him to help me, knowing painfully well that he would not,
and that indeed his perverse glee would only increase at my distress;
but I could not help myself. He, of course, made a particularly
agile descent, passing me by with a horrid, self-satisfied smile, and
left me there, to die, or to fall, or to rot there for eternity, it
mattered not which.

The next moments are vague in my tortured memory, but I do recall
beginning to hyperventilate as I clung desperately to the few strands
of rope that stood between survival and the shattering of every bone
in my body. I also remember wondering why I did not simply let go,
and take the chance that death might be swift and merciful, but my
fingers WOULD not open in order to facilitate such a possibility. I
hung there, all dignity and all hope gone, the deck mostly deserted
save one or two tormenting seamen (of Simpson's division), until
blessedly, Archie happened by, in the course of his watch, and found
me. Horrified for my ordeal and truly concerned for my well-being,
he clambered immediately up the rigging and assisted me to safety,
talking gently to me all the while, as a means of distracting me from
my dreadful, crippling fear. I do not know how he did it, but he had
to hold on for his own safety whilst reaching over to pry my fingers
loose from the rope, for I was still unable to let go.... I fear
that had he not happened by at such opportune time, I may still have
been there, perhaps until the sea birds plucked the very eyes from my
head....

Kennedy took all the time to calm me that he dared, as he needed to
perform the duties of his watch, and knew that I must force myself to
resume mine as well. I have not wished to face the realities here
(this life is not at all what I had imagined it would be...), but
Archie, despite his own concerns, has been doing all a person can do
to help me adapt. After the completion of our morning watches, we
had a few rare moments to sit at the mess table and converse unheard,
all of our other messmates being either on watch, quite soundly
asleep, or elsewise engaged. The exchange went somewhat thusly:

"I must thank you, Archie, for I am certain I do not know what I
would have done this morning.."

"Do not give it further thought, Horatio," was Kennedy's earnest
response. "When I saw you, I knew at once whose doing it was..."

"You yourself must be quite plagued with exhaustion," I wondered,
with concern. "My father is a physician, and thus have I had
occasion to observe others with your... condition... My apologies,
Archie..."

My friend looked matter-of-fact, but grateful for my
sensitivity. "It is all right... it is something I have had to live
with, and it had been quiet until Simpson's unexpected return. I am
tired, Horatio, but I will recover." He hesitated. "I just wish...."

He did not finish his sentence.

"Archie?" I prompted, concerned but not wishing to compel him to
speak of something which he did not wish to.

"If he had not returned, things would be different. There has not
been much with which to occupy ourselves here these last several
months, but it has been tolerable, and a better life than many of us
would have on land. I myself had a good home, but not very much to
look forward to -- most of Father's lands and holdings had been
parceled out to my older brothers, and it was expected that I be the
one to go to sea... I had a place here... for a while, anyway... And
then Simpson left to take the examination for Lieutenant... Since
then I had... I had just been beginning to regain... what I had
lost..."

"I don't understand, Archie." My new friend seemed uncomfortable and
hesitant to talk about whatever was on his mind, yet I sensed he
needed to release it, and to know that someone understood whatever it
was.

"Horatio," Kennedy began quietly, voice almost a whisper, and
breaking as he spoke, "there's something you need to know about
Simpson..." He leaned in close. "What he's done... what he DOES...."

At his tone, and at the words, I felt an immediate involuntary motion
inside my stomach, somewhat akin to seasickness, but far worse. I
could only imagine what my friend's next words might be, but I did
not want to hear them.

Archie was pale, and fraught with fear and...something else,
something I could not identify. "Horatio, he -- "

Footsteps echoing upon the wooden decks heralded Clayton's arrival,
his watch having ended. The sound awakened Windsor and Nathaniel,
and they stirred in their hammocks for a few moments before climbing
from them and readying them for stowing. For his own part, Clayton
removed his cloak and sat down at the table next to Archie, his
chilled hands wrapped round a steaming cup of something that smelled
wonderful. The previous conversation had come to an end, and a new
one was beginning.

It was at this point that I strung up my own hammock and sought a few
precious minutes of sleep, fairly secure in the belief that none of
those present owed any great loyalty to Simpson and would probably
not report to him my uninterrupted slumber....

Dated again this day, 26 January, 1793, and signed, Horatio
Hornblower, Midshipman, HMS Justinian.


I lie in the sick berth, grateful for but one thing, that being this
pencil given me with which to write this, as I could not at this
moment sit up to take quill to parchment...

The pain that is deep inside of me, which is dreadful and relentless,
and brings to mind things that must be in there of which I had no
previous knowledge (save Father's mention of such things, to his
patients) is of no consequence when set against the agony in my soul,
the feeling of failure and helplessness, and, worst of all, the
disappointment that I have survived the beating. Oh, why does he
plague me so? What dreadful thing have I done, that this horror and
torture should be brought upon me, and hope and dignity taken from
me? Will I never be free of him, without dishonouring myself....

Doctor Hepplewhite has done what he could to make me comfortable, but
I fear mine is a pain which a physician cannot palliate. He does not
have the tenderness which Father always exhibited to his patients,
particularly those in great distress, but he is competent (when not
smelling of rum); and his mate, Sloane, is a most compassionate
fellow. For its own part, the sick berth itself lacks the
cleanliness and order of Father's offices, and certainly their
warmth, but I imagine this is to be expected at sea, or at anchor, as
the case may be. Hepplewhite having done his duty, Sloane has been
most kind to me, although he did order Archie to leave so that I
could rest.

It occurs to me I am not telling this tale in a coherent manner; that
is perhaps owing to my own lack of coherence, or at the least, I am
intermittently so, by reason of the aforementioned pain. I shall
now explain how it is that I am come here....

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

"Time, gentlemen!" had been Captain Keene's signal that the time for
working out this morning's navigation problem was concluded. I had
been told that every morning Mr. Bowles conducts a midshipmen's
seamanship class and will put before us questions to test our
comprehension and progress. Having done fairly well at school, I
welcomed the challenge, and the distraction from my misery. Today's
was a simple problem, to my mind, and I did not understand how every
one of my messmates could have reached an incorrect solution.

Simpson's, unfortunately, seemed to be the least accurate answer of
all, by Captain Keene's assessment and reaction. As he publickly
humiliated Simpson, I could feel Jack seething with anger, and I knew
that eventually it would be unleashed against me. As one by one my
messmates' answers were pronounced incorrect (Hether appeared
particularly surprised -- I recall him having said earlier that he
had been applying himself of late and had expected to see himself
improve), I tried to shrink inside myself, almost unconsciously
pulling my limbs in closer to myself in some vain attempt to perhaps
render myself invisible. I knew that if Keene announced with as much
enthusiasm my success as he had Simpson's failure, that the stage
would be set for more of the demon's dreadful anger being manifested
against me.

As feared, the Captain praised my lone success, even going so far as
to predict my someday surpassing the others! Oh, blast my need to
prove my intellectual mettle! But it is all I have at this time, and
I simply COULD not hold back in such matters, I could not bring
myself to do it... My pride in my accomplishment was only minimal,
for I knew, as the seasick feeling in my stomach returned, that
retribution would soon be forthcoming....

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

I had been right. My watch having been accomplished, I sat at table
in the Midshipmen's Mess, studying Morrie's Seamanship by candlelight
(January afternoons being dreadfully short), when my torturer once
more swept down upon us, like an evil presence settling upon a room.
Trying desperately to remain focused on the same phrase I read no
less than five times, I half-heard some raving of his about an
inquisition, that ill feeling returning to my weary body. I heard my
name spoken in his insane voice, and before I could remove myself
from harm's way, Cleveland and Hether were holding down my arms, and
Simpson loomed over me, cat in hand, rendering me unable to help
myself.

The madman wanted to know what my "dirty little secret" was. I had
no idea of what he might be raving, for this made no sense to me
whatever. What gnaws at my soul at night? He need look no further
than himself! And then...the implication he made about Mother -- and
he tore from me the locket she gave to me on her deathbed!! At that
moment, my fear was at an end, overtaken irrevocably by an insatiable
rage, and a righteous need to avenge his accusation against her, and
his endless tormenting of myself.

He began to beat me, and I started to bleed, but the physical pain
was only brief and biting, my anger and need for revenge stronger and
more palpable. I, unfortunately, was unable to defend myself, my
limbs being pinned and the beating continuing relentlessly. My only
means of defense was to hit him with my head, which I did, and which,
in my rage, I did not even feel.

It was enough to release me, if only temporarily, to the floor, and
Simpson began kicking me. That was when the pain inside took over
the whole of my body, but again my rage and indignation sustained me;
and though I vaguely heard someone, I think it was Cleveland, beg me
to stay down (he must have been through this as well, for how could
he have done Simpson's bidding and aid in this assault upon me?), I
COULD not stay down. Blood spurting from my mouth, I drew upon every
last ounce of strength and resolve I had, and I did pull myself up
again, only to be again knocked to the hard floor and beat with with
cat. In the blur of pain, humiliation, and hopelessness, I heard
someone warn Simpson that he would kill me, and I thought of that
possibility, and clung to it.... Perhaps my fight was over, I had
given all I could, but the enemy was stronger, and if I could not
defend myself against him, I did not deserve to live....

As all around me was beginning to go dark, I half-heard Clayton's
struggling-to-be-firm voice: "Stand off, Jack...." I had wondered
where Clayton had gone; I had been vaguely aware that he and Archie
had left, leaving me feeling dreadfully abandoned and alone, but I
did later find out the reasons: This rescue being Clayton's reason,
and Archie's being that he could not bear to watch. Both did return
at this time, however, and in light of the conversation I had almost
had with Archie yesterday, I can only imagine how difficult this must
have been for him...

Simpson lamely argued that he had no quarrel with Clayton, but the
latter stood firm and bade Cleveland, Hether, and Archie take me to
the surgeon, that command being the last thing I remember before
waking up here, some time later...

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

Archie had remained, staying out of the way as much as possible in
the tiny sick berth, as Sloane, the surgeon's mate, had cleaned my
wounds, and Doctor Hepplewhite palpated my stomach and abdomen,
presumably to detect internal injuries or fractures. I must admit to
a lack of confidence in the doctor, but I did not believe there was
any permanent damage, although I would not be surprised if one or two
ribs might be fractured, and as soon as I was able I said so. I had
wished my unconsciousness would have lasted longer, at least until
they had finished tending me, but I was not to be so fortunate. As
Sloane tightly bandaged my ribs, eliciting unchecked wincing from me
(I was barely able to keep myself from crying out, but I had been
humiliated quite enough and WOULD not give in this time....), I
focused on Archie's forced smile, as he stood just beyond the surgeon
and his mate, pain all over his young face, but doing what he could
to encourage me, mainly by wordlessly assuring me that he understood
exactly how I felt at this moment....

I remember wondering if Clayton was all right....

As I now write, Archie has just left, and after thanking him in a
voice so hoarse I could not even recognise it, I bade him look after
Clayton, for I feared that Jack might somehow gain the upper hand,
and I would know that any retribution Clayton might face, I would
have brought upon him....

I believe I can sleep now... I fear only awakening....

Dated this day, 27 January, 1793, and signed, Horatio Hornblower,
Midshipman, HMS Justinian.


I have slept for almost a full day. Doctor Hepplewhite must have
given to me a great quantity of laudanum, more, I imagine, than
Father might have given to his patients for similar injury; but given
my state I can understand why he deemed so much necessary, for the
rest has done me well. As far as my physical pain, that is true, at
the least.

The pain in my soul remains, and the anger and outrage, although these
latter two, I fancy, are somewhat dimmed by the effects of laudanum.
The first thing I recall seeing upon waking was Archie's concerned
face, again looking older than anyone his age ever SHOULD, but which
eased when he saw me come round. I heard his fuzzy voice calling for
Hepplewhite, who came and looked at me. After pronouncing me as
being fine considering my state (also in a decidedly fuzzy voice), he
went back about his business, whatever that may have been.

Archie positioned a chair next to the bunk upon which I lay (and
which I could barely feel beneath me) and sat, eyeing me with
concern. He gently, tentatively placed a warm hand upon my forearm,
which I COULD feel, although I found it nearly impossible to lift my
head, for it felt as though weights were upon it, holding it down;
and I could not even THINK about shifting position. For some time (I
do not know how long, for I could not perceive time, and only knew I
had slept a day gone from being told so) we remained as such; and for
the briefest time I almost felt safe, and cared for.

Sloane brought to me a cup of something that smelled warm and
welcome, and I realised for the first time that I was quite hungry,
not having taken sustenance for a very long time. He made a motion
that he was going to feed me, but Archie waved him off, and my friend
gently lifted my head with one hand and with the other held the cup
to my lips and helped me drink. It was clear beef broth, I believe,
something I had not seen since coming aboard, and it was the best I
had ever tasted. It was not too hot, just enough, and it warmed me
inside; and I found myself able to raise my hand to the cup, perhaps
to assist Archie in being certain I would get all of it. Archie
appeared relieved, and Sloane stood by with a look of satisfaction,
and took the cup from Archie when I was finished. I smiled
gratefully to them both, which felt to be a tremendous effort, my
muscles still feeling as though they had not been used for some time,
owing to the effects of too much laudanum; it was then that I
realised in some horror in what a state I must appear, for the pain I
was beginning to feel in my face must be accompanied by quite some
horrid bruises and marks... It was to Archie's credit that he did not
react to my appearance; though I have never considered myself vain,
this was of some comfort to me....

Nonetheless, the broth strengthened me to a degree, and my thoughts
began to return to me.

"Archie," I began, "is it true what Sloane said, that I have slept
away a day's watches?"

"Aye, it is, Horatio," he answered softly.

"Archie, I need to get back -- " I should never have tried to sit up,
poor effort though it was, for, laudanum notwithstanding, the pain
that shot through the area of my rib fractures was so intense I could
not hold back a tear from escaping. It was not a tear of sorrow, but
of physical pain....

"Horatio, you cannot." My friend gently restrained me from further
effort, which by no means had I intention or ability of
resisting. "Doctor Hepplewhite has ordered that you remain here
until he deems you fit to return to duty. As you have said, your
father is a physician, so I expect you would know that you need time
to heal."

I began a lame protest: "The Lieutenant of the Watch will not stand
for --"

"Doctor Hepplewhite has arranged it. You are to serve light duty for
a time. You will be out of here soon enough."

"But -- " another thought came tumbling into my still-numb mind --
"Clayton... what of Clayton? Archie, is he all right? Simpson -- "

I saw Archie visibly recoil at the name of our tormentor, and I
wished at once that I had not spoken it. Nonetheless, he answered
quietly, "Horatio, I AM concerned for Clayton..."

There was something in his voice that worried me, and that made me
feel vaguely ill inside, and having nothing to do with the
laudanum. "Clayton? What is it, Archie?"

"I don't know, Horatio... he's become very quiet since he ordered
Simpson away from you. I don't know what happened after we brought
you here, for there was no one else in the mess after we left.
Clayton won't tell us anything, how he dealt with Simpson, what was
said, not ANYthing..."

I lay quiet, letting his words settle into my wearily awakening mind.

"There's something else, Horatio," my friend continued, somewhat
hesitantly. Silence for a moment. "It's Simpson -- he's become even
more insufferable, more confident, more haughty, more -- " Suddenly
Archie's eyes became moist, but he cleared his throat and blinked
hard once or twice, and again I felt his hand on my forearm, this
time tightening.

"Archie?"

"Nothing, Horatio... nothing at all... you just rest. Clayton is all
right, he's just tired from volunteering to take an extra watch to-
day."

That was MY fault.. *I* should have been taking my OWN watches...
Archie was keeping something from me....

"Archie, are you all right?"

"Yes, Horatio," his blue eyes went to the floor, but his grip on my
arm remained, "quite well. But I must return to duty, I will be -- I
will be missed. You rest. Sloane has confided in me that he expects
you will be able to return to light duty on the morrow. Rest whilst
you can... you will need it..."

I could tell that at once he regretted saying those last few words,
but it seemed he could not keep them in. My friend, almost a brother
now, despite the short time we had been acquainted (perhaps owing to
the shared adversity, perhaps owing to our looking after one another
in this adversity), gave my arm one final squeeze before rising and
turning to leave.

"I'll see you soon, Horatio." His voice was just a bit too
light. "Feel better." And he was gone.

What was happening in the Midshipmen's Mess? What was that demon
Simpson about? As the dullness in my mind gradually receded, I felt
my anger returning. My hand went, without my thinking about it, to
my neck to feel for Mother's locket, but I was reminded that it was
not there. It had been all I'd had left of her -- it had been the
last thing she had given me before she passed to her reward. She had
told me it had been her mother's, and her grandmother's, and since
she would never have a daughter, she must pass it to me, in the hope
that I could someday make a gift of it to my wife. My wife?? Those
words had sounded strange to so young a boy, and even stranger in my
mind now. I did not even know if I would survive service in
Justinian, much less ever be a man worthy of protecting a wife. The
only thing I DID know was that I must somehow get back that locket,
and that its thief must pay for his crimes. I did not care if my
last action before leaving this world would be to see to that; I just
did not know how to bring it about, especially when at the moment I
could not even rise to a sitting position without assistance. I
wondered how this could be, when 24 hours ago I HAD been able to do
so. The body is a curious thing indeed....

I fear I shall have to ponder such matters at a later time... How it
is I feel so tired once again I cannot fathom; nonetheless, I shall
write at this time:

Dated this day, 27 January, 1793, and signed, Horatio Hornblower,
Midshipm....


The pain and aching in my arms surpasses that in my side, which is
itself still intense. But I COULD not inform Lieutenant Eccleston of
the injuries to my ribs, as it would not corroborate the poor tale I
attempted to pass to him regarding a fall in the night... It had been
my understanding that Doctor Hepplewhite was to arrange light duty
for me for a time; however, it has become clear that the rum has
taken hold of him once more, to the point where it has prevented him
from completing his intended duties.. at my expense.

I did return to duty, assuming the forenoon watch, but I fear I had
difficulty in concentrating sufficiently to adequately perform my
duties, for Mr. Eccleston found me in a pensive moment at the rail,
my back to him; and his sharp tone at once stirred me, causing my
heart to leap into my throat and begin to pound intensely. He
enquired as to what might be the matter with me, and I was forced to
turn, and he at once noted the various and several bruises, marks,
and scrapes upon my battered face. When first I caught sight of them
in the glass this morning, I took a gasping breath and my heart
sank. As I have said, I have never been given to vanity, but my
appearance was indeed frightful, and for a moment I feared it might
remain so; but Sloane informed me that all would heal in time...

I only wish that I would heal inside as well... I do not refer to the
fractures....

I do not know why, I do not know how it came to me, but I lied to the
First Lieutenant that I had lost my footing in the dark and had
fallen... It was obvious that no one had thought to inform him of
either my injuries or my time in the sick berth, and, having now
gained an understanding that his majesty's Navy was not a place one
could expect coddling, I saw no point in endeavouring to enlighten
him myself. I must say he DID give me every opportunity, but I chose
to take all upon myself, and he dispensed naval discipline as he saw
fit, and as was his right.

I had heard, as a boy, tales from some of Father's seafaring friends
of said naval discipline, and did recall specifically stories of men
put in the rigging. I could never have imagined how horrible it
could be.... When I heard the sentence pronounced, I felt myself
become numb, as if I were not in my own body, and hearing the words
from a distance. I was forced, Mr. Eccleston and two marines
watching, to ascend the rigging and ordered to remain there until
such time as the First Lieutenant might see fit to allow me down.
Seasick, terrified of high places, cold, and in pain, I remained
there, wracked with loneliness and homesickness such as I had never
experienced before and had never WISHED to experience... These were
so strong that they overshadowed the anger I felt, and the
indignation and humiliation, the anger having resurfaced when I had
seen Simpson, smug and comfortable, come on deck and hear the
dreadful sentence proclaimed... How could he be allowed the run of
the ship, to be free to terrorise and do as he willed, whilst I hung
here, soaked through to my tortured soul by the freezing January
rain? Where was justice? I knew that there WAS none, and I feared
there never WOULD be for me....

As I clung to the rough, drenched ratlines, my skin cracking and
bleeding, the relentless wind almost blowing the very soul from me, I
thought, *why didn't I just tell him? Why did I not reveal what had
happened, what had BEEN going on for such a long time?* I could not
answer that question any more than I could answer the desperate
wondering as to when I might be allowed to come down from this cold,
wet prison...

For how long was I there? I lost all accounting of time as the
numbness finally, blessedly, began to take hold and push out the
pain... My mind somehow was able to go beyond the aching and
trembling that pervaded and pushed to its limits every muscle in my
body, and knew now only a strange numbness, which ultimately was the
only thing (save the formulation in my mind of letters to Father)
that allowed me to hold on for those interminable and merciless
hours....

What was Simpson doing whilst I hung there helpless? I had not yet
had opportunity to return to the Midshipmen's Berth, Archie having
brought my clothes so that I might not be late for my watch, and had
come directly abovedecks from the sick berth; I therefore knew
nothing of Clayton, with regard to the conversation of yesterday.
Archie had scarcely time to wish me well before he was expected for
his own watch, so no information from that source had been
forthcoming. The only clue I could see was a... a heaviness in his
countenance and a cloud in his blue eyes, worse than had been earlier
evident. What horrors had occurred that night, whilst I had lain in
security and laudanum-induced oblivion in the sick berth? I vowed to
find out, though I did not wish to know...

I found my thoughts turning, as I fought the dreadful cold and
demoralising loneliness, to Father, and to home. How I longed to
tell him of the horrors to which I and the others had been subjected
here, and to entreat him, nay, BEG him to allow me to come home! My
mind sought to consider ways in which this might be accomplished, but
I could think of none, for I believed such action would constitute
desertion, and I knew that freedom could never be mine, either in my
life, or from Simpson, were I to choose such a course. No, I had
become a Midshipman in his majesty's Navy, and there was no reneging,
no reversing my fate, no way to ever return to the life I had
known....

'Dearest Father,
I am pleased to tell you that everything is going along splendidly.
I count myself fortunate indeed to serve under Captain Keane, and
with so fine a body of men as are to be found here in Justinian. I
am very happy here. I trust this finds you as it leaves me, well and
in good spirits.
Your affectionate son,
Horatio.'

No...NO! How could I SAY that to him? It was not the truth... it
was a terrible lie!

'Dearest Father,
I hold no malice nor place blame for the miserable and pathetic lot
which my life has become, for neither of us could have foreseen what
has happened here. My life has been reduced to no more than a living
nightmare, my existence solely for the pleasure and whim of one
Midshipman Jack Simpson, whose life's goal is to torture and terrify
every young man aboard this ship whom he outranks. The Captain,
while seeming a good man, is gravely ill, and apparently holds little
interest in the occurrences aboard his own ship, and I fear the
situation has come out of his control.

'I cannot remain here, Father... I have tried to the best of, and
beyond my capabilities.. I do not ask for dismissal from Service; I
only ask that if any way can be sought to arrange my transfer to a
different vessel....'

No....no, I cannot say that either... I am not a boy any longer.. I
cannot ask my father to release me from my obligations... I must find
a way to deal with this on my own... One way, or another....

My fevered mind (for I believe I was rapidly becoming ill, the chills
beginning to wrack my freezing body) began to repeat over and over
the words in the first letter which I had mentally composed, and I
made up my mind that I would write them down and bid the note be
posted at the first opportunity.

It was as I went over the letter in my mind for perhaps the fifty-
second time, or maybe it was the fifty-third time, and the beginnings
of delirium taking hold, that I felt strong, warm arms round my
middle, and warm hands prying my stiffened, blistered hands from the
ratlines. It was just becoming dark, I believe, although the stormy
conditions had kept the sky grey all the day long.

"Horatio... are you all right?" The soft words were Archie's, and I
was collapsing onto the soaked deck, between him and Clayton. My two
friends were just able to catch me, Clayton putting a blanket -- no,
two blankets -- round my aching shoulders; and they helped me back to
what was becoming my new home, the sick berth.

That was all I was aware of, and I do not even know for how long I
slept. I awakened only moments ago, hungry and thirsty, pain in my
throat and congestion in my head, and still feeling chilled to the
bone, despite the layers of blankets under which I am lying. I
believe I have just moments to transfer to another page those words
to Father, before a hot meal shall be forthcoming (bless Sloane for
his vigilance and compassion!), so I shall close this entry for the
moment, and date it,

This day, 28, or perhaps 29 January, 1793, and signed, Horatio
Hornblower, Midshipman, HMS Justinian.

Would that it were not so....