THE JOURNEY HOME
Part 14 - Farewells
They arrived back at the manor just as Hornblower's sea chest was being
loaded into the carriage. The sound of horses' hooves on the cobbles
brought the entire assembly out to the drive. Lady Sarah's tall,
statuesque figure led the group. Edrington swung out of the saddle just
as she arrived at his side. He caught her in a brief embrace before
turning to acknowledge everybody else. With his customary bluntness he
laid the whole situation out.
"Reg is being held in custody until the magistrate can get here. Until
then there's very little that we can do." He handed his reins over to
the waiting groom.
Annie stood at the edge of the circle, William behind her. "But what
about..." She took a deep breath and started over. "Was it murder, my
lord?" she bluntly asked.
Edrington stared at Annie for a moment, as if trying to decide how much
to say. He met his brother's eyes briefly, and William gave a small nod.
Decision made, Edrington told Annie the truth. "In my opinion, no. But
my opinion is hardly the one that counts." He looked around at the
entire circle gathered around him and Kennedy. "Until the magistrate
arrives, we just have to wait."
"When is the magistrate expected to arrive?" Robert Chamberlain asked.
"Four days." Kennedy answered. He met his father's eyes. "Four days."
"Can I see him?" Edward asked, his voice sounding almost timid.
Edrington hesitated before answering. "I'm not sure. Its not my decision
to make, but I'll speak to Colonel Mathers about it." He sighed and
rubbed his eyes. "I'll do my best, Mr. Kennedy. You can count on that."
"You both look completely exhausted." Lady Edrington's voice rang out
from the rear of the group. She was so tiny that Kennedy hadn't even
noticed her presence until she spoke, but now she pushed her way through
the group and faced her son and Kennedy. "And I doubt you ate a
breakfast worthy of the name! Well, its too late to change that." She
took hold of Edrington's elbow and began walking toward the house.
"Sarah, my dear, would you please tell Cook to prepare an early lunch?
We have some time before Mr. Hornblower will be leaving, do we not?
Hornblower felt all the attention focused on him. "But I thought..."
"Pooh!" said Lady Edrington confidently. "You can always take the later
coach, and still get to Portsmouth in plenty of time. But these young
men need some decent food after a rather disturbed day."
Lady Sarah walked briskly off to take care of matters. Lady Edrington
turned to Kennedy and took his elbow as well. "I include you in this,
Mr. Kennedy. Do not fail me!"
Kennedy grinned. "Of course not, my lady! I would not want to be
accused of behaving in an ungentlemanly manner!"
Inside they found lunch already waiting for them in the dining room. It
was a very quiet and subdued meal; everyone seemed to be focused on his
or her own thoughts. Hornblower especially seemed miles away. He sat
staring out the window and ate very little. After some minutes of
watching him push his food around the plate Kennedy finally took pity on
Hornblower started and dropped his fork. The clatter as it struck the
plate seemed to break the spell in the room as everyone laughed. With a
sheepish grin he picked the fork up again and began to eat. "I'm sorry."
he apologized to the room at large. "My mind was miles away."
"In Portsmouth, no doubt." Lady Edrington commented
"Indeed, ma'am." Hornblower replied. He glanced at his friend sitting
across the table, and then at Annie. "I truly wish I didn't need to
leave today. I feel so helpless, walking out in the middle of
everything." He looked briefly at William before his eyes once again
settled on Annie. "I feel like I'm deserting my friends when they need
me the most."
"You have to obey orders." Edrington's calm and quiet voice stopped
Hornblower. "We all do. Its the price we paid when we chose a life in
the military, and its the price we will continue to pay. There is not
one person at this table who blames you."
"I know." Hornblower smiled wanly. "They don't have to. I blame
myself." He abruptly stood. "I think its time I was going."
"Sit down, Mr. Hornblower." Lady Edrington said. Hornblower sat.
"There's no need to be in such a hurry. Besides, I would think you would
like to take full advantage of good food while you can before being
placed back on shipboard fare."
"My apologies, ma'am. You're right, of course." Hornblower sketched a
small bow in her direction
"Nervous?" Emma asked him.
"Absolutely!" he replied. "I've been on the Indy for nearly seven years,
and now its off to a ship of the line, a crew of nearly eight hundred,
and who knows what kind of future!" He laughed a little. "Yes, I'm
nervous, but I suppose its a good kind of nervous."
Emma's jaw had dropped while Hornblower was speaking. "Eight hundred
people? On one ship?" She glanced at Kennedy and then back at
Hornblower. "Good heavens! Where do you keep them all?"
Kennedy laughed. "You'd be surprised! Maybe some day I'll show you what
its like on board a ship of the line."
Emma blushed and bent her head to her plate. But when she glanced up at
Kennedy from under her brow there was a spark in her eyes that was
unmistakable. "I'll hold you to that promise, Mr. Kennedy." was all she
Kennedy felt his face flaming, and cursed his crystal clear complexion,
which made every emotion visible. He looked up and met Lady Sarah's eye.
She smiled briefly before stepping in to effect his rescue.
"Hal, was Colonel Mathers there?" she asked.
Edrington's face blanched and his knuckles whitened where he held his
fork. He looked up at his fiancee before very carefully setting the fork
beside his plate. He cleared his throat before replying.
"Why do you ask?"
Lady Sarah looked slightly abashed, but she pushed ahead. "I know how
much you dislike the man, and I was just wondering if you managed to hold
your temper. So?" she asked, raising her right eyebrow in a mirror image
of Edrington's favorite sardonic expression.
"Yes, he was there, and no, I did not keep my temper!" Edrington turned
his gaze on Kennedy, who quickly lowered his eyes to his plate. "This
shouldn't come as a surprise; I've never been able to hold my temper in
that man's presence."
Kennedy cleared his throat. "I thought you did a fairly good job myself.
Lord knows, I might have been tempted to let him have it. Considering
Edward Kennedy followed the conversation with a worried look on his face.
"Is Colonel Mathers involved in the matter, my lord?"
"Who is Colonel Mathers?" Robert Chamberlain asked at the same time.
Edrington looked from the elder Kennedy to Chamberlain and decided to
answer the easier question first. "Colonel Mathers is the sheriff, as
well as the commander of the district militia." He looked at Edward
before continuing. "He's one of the most unjust, uncaring, and
unscrupulous men I've ever met."
"He has a nasty habit of hanging first, asking questions later." Edward
chimed in. "I can remember that incident involving your father, my lord.
An ugly scene all around."
"That's one way to put it." Edrington said with a slight grimace.
"So" Edward said, taking a deep breath before continuing. "Colonel
Mathers is in charge of matters. I was afraid of that."
"Will he hang Reg?" Annie's quiet voice made the men at the table start.
They had forgotten she was there, or they would never have continued the
"Not if I have anything to say about it." was Edrington's response. No
one at the table doubted his determination.
In an effort to diffuse the tension in the room Lady Edrington changed
the subject and the conversation drifted off into inconsequential
matters. Because his attention was not required, Kennedy allowed his
mind to wander; bouncing back and forth between memories with no rhyme or
reason. Images from his childhood and first few years in the navy were
all jumbled together with thoughts of the last few days. The more he
thought about their situation the worse the muddle became. It was a
relief when Lady Sarah pushed back her chair and stood, indicating an end
to the meal.
Lady Edrington commandeered Hornblower's attention. "The day I can't
enjoy the company of such a man is the day you'll be burying me." she
said to her eldest son as the pair swept past him. Hornblower blushed
fiercely and Edrington shook his head; a half-smile curving his lips.
They went off for another discussion of the history of the manor and the
Edrington family, while the rest of the party retreated to the drawing
Kennedy did his best to show an interest in the conversation that whirled
around him, but it was hopeless. He barely noticed the concerned glances
that his father and sister kept casting his way. He kept thinking about
the murder, but no matter what way he rearranged the facts, he simply
could not conceive of Reg with that knife in his hand. It was as out of
character for Reginald Kennedy to do such a thing as it would be if
Horatio Hornblower suddenly stood up and burst into song! He got to his
feet and moved to stand before the French doors, staring blankly out at
the beautiful day. After a moment, and without excusing himself to his
companions, he pushed the doors open and walked out into the garden.
Conversation stopped suddenly as the entire group watched his progress
across the lawn. Edrington made as if to stand, but Lady Sarah rested a
hand on his leg to stay his motion. She looked to where Emma sat across
the room. With an apologetic smile and a quiet "Pardon" Emma stood and
quickly followed Kennedy.
She caught up with him underneath the boughs of the oak where he and
Edrington had talked just two days before. "Archie...."
He jumped and whirled to confront the voice. When he saw Emma there he
sighed heavily and felt his heart return to its proper place.
"I... I'm sorry." she stammered. "I shouldn't have crept up on you like
He smiled. "No, I'm sorry. My mind was a million miles away and I
wasn't paying any attention." He turned back around to look at the vast
expanse of lawn that spread beneath him. "Its so beautiful and peaceful
here." he mused. "I wonder that Edrington can leave it for such long
periods of time."
Emma had come to stand beside him as he spoke. She looked out at the
vista and saw what he saw - beauty and peace. She sighed quietly, and
Kennedy looked at her in puzzlement.
"There hasn't been very much peace lately." she said. "For any of us."
She looked down at the grass beneath her feet and moved closer to him.
"I'm sorry. I'd like to say that I know how you feel, but it would be a
lie." She looked up and met his eyes. "I can't possibly imagine how you
feel right now. I just..." She brushed her hair back from her face in
exasperation. "I just wish there was something, anything, that I could
do, instead of sitting around and wringing my hands like a good little
Kennedy looked into her eyes, her anger and frustration making them grey
as a thundercloud. That she was in earnest he did not doubt. His heart
and mind were torn between the need to accept her support and a desire to
shield her from the worst of what was happening.
Emma read the indecision in his eyes, but it only strengthened her
determination. "Let me help you, Archie! Even if all I do is listen
while you pour your heart out, at least I'd feel useful!" She twined her
hands together. "Please?"
Kennedy reached out and gently pulled her hands apart, holding them in
his. He searched her face for some sign that she was simply saying what
he wanted to hear, but found none. Finally, he spoke the thought that
was foremost in his mind. "Why?" he asked, his voice husky. "Why Emma?
Why do you want to get involved in all of this?"
"I don't know!" she whispered. "All I know is that something happened to
me the moment we met. I can't explain it, but I felt as if..." She
He finished for her. "It felt as if you had met the other half of
yourself." When Emma looked up at him, surprised, he reached out a hand
and gently brushed his fingers on her cheek. "I felt the exact same
thing. It was like connecting with a part of myself that I had never
known was missing. I looked into your eyes and I felt complete." He
laughed slightly. "Its crazy, I know, but I can't help it."
"No!" Emma shook her head. "Its not crazy. Its exactly what I feel."
She looked down at the grass beneath their feet. "I was afraid that you
didn't feel the same."
He reached for her then, plunging his hand into her hair and cupping her
nape. The kiss wasn't gentle, at least not at first. There was
something about the whole situation that lent an urgency to their
actions. Emma's hands slid up his chest and encircled his neck, getting
tangled in his unbound hair. Kennedy's arms wrapped around her waist and
pulled her closer. He sighed then, and the pressure of his lips on hers
lightened, becoming a feather-light caress. He broke the kiss and rested
his forehead against hers.
"This is crazy." he repeated before kissing her again.
Time stood still for both of them. Minutes, hours, even days could have
passed, but they didn't notice. Each was aware only of the other, of
holding and being held, of touch and taste, and the pleasure to be
derived from each.
When next they broke apart both were breathing heavily. Kennedy sighed
gustily and tucked Emma's head into his shoulder, resting his cheek on
"Do you believe in love at first sigh, Archie? she asked, he voice
slightly muffled by his shoulder.
At first Kennedy could not believe he had heard her correctly. He pulled
back and tilted her face to his so he could look into her eyes. "What
did you say?"
Emma blushed. "I asked if you believe in love at first sight."
Dumbfounded, Kennedy could only stare at her, tracing the lines of her
face with his eyes. Then, he started to laugh. Not an embarrassed
laughed, or a scornful laugh, or a sardonic laugh. But a full-fledged
laugh of genuine amusement, almost painful in its sweetness.
Emma was puzzled by his reaction, but she couldn't help but smile in
response. "Am I missing something?" she asked, cocking her head slightly
to one side.
Kennedy struggled to get his mirth under control. "No!" He was still
laughing slightly, but he managed to shake his head. "No, you haven't
missed anything. Its just that..."
Emma waited. "Just what?"
"The other night I said the same thing to Horatio. About love at first
sight." He cupped her cheek in his hand. "And I was thinking of you
when I said it."
"So is that a yes or a no?"
"That's a yes! An absolute, unmitigated, unqualified, and undeniable
YES!" He shouted the last word. And before Emma could reply he bent
slightly, wrapped his arms tight around her waist, lifted her high in the
air and spun the both of them around. "Yes, yes, YES!"
Both were laughing breathlessly when he set Emma back on her feet. They
embraced each other closely, holding tight to these few moments of
happiness in the midst of the storm brewing about them.
The pair sprang apart, looking guilty. Barton stood not five yards away.
He had a secretive smile on his face, but his voice, as usual, was an
example of butler-like detachment.
"Mr. Kennedy, Miss Chamberlain. The rest of the party is waiting for you
in the courtyard. Mr. Hornblower..."
They quickly looked at each other, than back at Barton. Without another
word Kennedy clasped Emma's hand in his and they set off towards the
house at a run.
"Thank you, Barton!" Emma's somewhat breathless voice drifted back to
where he stood.
With a smile and a shake of his head, the butler followed them, albeit at
a more sedate pace.
In the courtyard Hornblower was pacing agitatedly alongside the carriage,
frequently looking toward the house. With his familiar sardonic grin
Edrington followed all of his movements, noting the nervousness that
permeated Hornblower's entire body. When Kennedy and Emma erupted on the
scene at a run, they were greeted with audible sighs of relief and a few
questioning glances. Kennedy knew he was blushing, but for perhaps the
first time in his life he didn't care. He loved Emma, and she loved him.
The bubble of joy inside of him was so enormous he felt like shouting
his love aloud to the world.
Until he looked at Hornblower. At the sight of his friend the bubble
burst, leaving him to confront his good-byes to his best friend. It
seemed that all the other farewells had been said; that Horatio had been
waiting for the most important one of all.
Emma approached him first, holding out her hand to him. "Good luck to
you, Mr. Hornblower." she said. "I wonder if we'll ever meet again?"
Hornblower bowed slightly over her hand and glanced at Kennedy. With a
broad grin he kissed her hand and said quietly for her ears alone "I
imagine we will, if my friend has any say in the matter."
Emma grinned in return. "I believe you are correct, Horatio." He started
at her use of his first name, and while he stood startled she leaned in
and kissed him on the cheek. "I do believe you are correct."
The others had drifted back toward the house, and Emma followed them,
giving Kennedy's hand a brief squeeze as she passed. Kennedy watched her
over his shoulder for a moment before turning and taking a step closer to
"Well." he said.
"Well." Hornblower repeated.
"This isn't good-bye, you know." Kennedy said, rushing in before
Hornblower could speak. "We'll see each other, surely."
"Ships that pass in the night? Hornblower couldn't help asking. "You can
count on seeing me in the future Archie. And if not, they we can
certainly read of each other's exploits in the Naval Chronicle!" He
looked to where Emma still stood by the front door of the manor, just out
of earshot. "I only hope I can obtain leave to attend the wedding!"
Kennedy flushed, but didn't deny it. "Pass your examination, Archie. I
fully expect to see a lieutenant's uniform on your back when next we
"I will, Horatio. I won't let you down."
Hornblower shook his head. "No Archie. Don't let *yourself* down."
They stood in silence for a moment before Hornblower extended his hand.
"I must go."
Kennedy clasped the hand in his, and then embraced his friend.
"Farewell, Horatio." he said, tears pricking the corners of his eyes.
Hornblower pulled back from the embrace and clapped his friend on the
shoulder. "Farewell, Archibald." And he sprang inside the carriage and
signaled the driver to start.
"Oh, thank you! Thank you so much for that!" Kennedy shouted after the
coach, laughing at the use of his full name.
A thin arm came out of the window and waved good-bye. Kennedy stood in
the courtyard and watched until the carriage rounded a bend and was gone