A Letter From Hell
Dear...what was your name? Simpson? Jack Simpson?
I am Midshipman Henry Wellard.
And I thank you.
You say if hate has any power this letter would reach its intended recipient. Well, I don't know if it is hate that got the letter here, or perhaps irony.
You see, I am one of those Midshipmen, 'common as wharf rats' that you so despised. And I was about as downtrodden as they come. I was fifteen, friendless, and helpless, when I found myself assigned to the Renown this past year. Had I encountered you, I would probably have hanged myself from the yard arm, and given Randall a few moments' of joy. Instead, I encountered the fruits of your labors.
Two of the Lieutenants on the ship, you see, were Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Hornblower. And when, from the start, the Captain began mistreating me...beating me on a whim, for doing no more than my duty...it was the two of them who came to my defense. And when I found myself alone in my berth, for I was surrounded by Midshipmen close to twice my age, it was Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Hornblower who offered me friendship.
When I was in pain, Mr. Kennedy offered me solace. When I was weak, Mr. Hornblower showed me strength. When I wondered how I would get through one more day in that hell hole, I would watch the two of them, and I knew I could survive. I did not understand why they seemed to know me. I did not know how it is they could possibly put themselves in my shoes.
Now, of course, after reading your letter, it all becomes crystal clear. Their tyrant was not a Captain, but a mere fellow "wharf rat", not smart enough to surpass them on merit. Though my tyrant was a Captain, it was still tyranny, and still they recognized it. They knew the words I needed to hear, and the example I needed to see. And they knew that, as our situation became more precarious, and our Captain became increasingly unstable, that action must be taken.
And I know also this: that the example they followed is the same as the one shown them by their previous Captain, the man who had good sense enough to dispatch you to your current address. Captain Pellew did not waste that shot in saving Mr. Hornblower's life. No more did Mr. Hornblower waste his energy in saving Mr. Kennedy. Their honor shines on, Sir, and indeed grows, despite, or perhaps because of, encountering (and surviving) you.
I am growing weaker, and do not know that I myself am much longer for this earth. In endeavoring to follow their example, I may have cost myself my life. I do not regret it. Nor do I wish them to regret my loss. If I die, I die with dignity. Likewise, Mr. Kennedy, also shot, is willing to lay down his life for his friend. There is no shame in death, then, for either of us, if indeed death it shall be.
You shall never understand this letter, but I am glad that I received yours. It only makes me all the more grateful for my friends, and more confident that the friends I leave behind will have the strength to go on, continuing their service as they have begun. And someday, perhaps, another boy, downtrodden and alone, will rejoice in their friendship as well.
Midshipman Henry Wellard