A Life of Duty: Archie and Edrington II
The Carriage Ride...
For the first portion of the trip back, Archie and Lord Edrington sat consumed
by their own thoughts and memories. However, Lord Edrington was plagued
by a comment made by Dr. Hornblower shortly before they left... "You
retrieved his body." Thinking back, Edrington remembered the bleak
expression on Archie's face, and the way he rubbed his shoulder.
"Mr. Kennedy," Edrington started, only to stop after seeing the
almost vacant expression on Archie's face. He realized Archie had not heard
him, and decided to call him back to himself the way Horatio had done -
require him to report. The silence grew longer. "Mr. Kennedy, tell
me what happened that night." he demanded sharply.
"My lord?" Archie seemed to take a moment before the words sank
in. "It was a mission, sir. We were to raid a signal tower, but there
was heavier opposition than expected."
Edrington watched in concern as Archie started blankly past him. Suddenly
he realized Archie was replaying the events in his mind. When Archie took
up the narrative again, it was with an odd detached tone.
"It wasn't until after the mission was completed and we were back aboard
the Indy that I knew anything had happened to Horatio. I think Mr. Cleveland
told me." His voice trailed off.
"You decided to go back for him..." Edrington prompted.
"I couldn't leave him there!" The words burst from Archie as though
ripped from his very soul. "I don't know what happened next."
However, the memories were starting to come back nudging at the curtain
that had fallen over them. After a few moments more of silence, Archie continued
in a distracted tone of voice, "I took Matthews, Styles and Oldroyd
with me. There was another seaman, but I don't remember who - he didn't
make it back. We knew Captain Pellew wouldn't agree to allow us to go back,
so we took a jollyboat without his permission."
"What happened when you got to the beach?"
"We were seen, and they started shooting at us. The seaman fell, and
I was hit in the shoulder. We could see where Horatio was lying. I remember
shooting a Frog who was standing over Horatio's body - I don't know what
he was doing. Somehow, we got to him." Archie had to stop again to
fight his way back through the memories that were pouring over him. Edrington
sat silently just watching the younger man's expressions.
"You got to him. What happened next?" He finally asked.
"I took his sword, Styles slung him over his shoulder..." Archie
eyes filled with tears, and his voice caught. He cleared his throat before
continuing. "Matthews and Oldroyd cleared the way for us to get back
to the boat. I remember sitting with one hand on the rudder, and the other
holding him against me."
Edrington finally realized the huge leap forward Archie had taken during
that mission. Between losing his best friend, single-handedly completing
the objective of the mission, and then going back to retrieve Horatio's
body. For the first time in their acquaintance, Edrington looked at Archie
as an equal who deserved his respect. This was not the jaunty young man
who made snide comments about his troops, but a seasoned officer who had
demonstrated initiative and maturity.
Trapped in the memory, Archie continued, "We rowed back to the Indy,
and I helped to lift Horatio to the deck. Captain Pellew pulled him up,
and then nearly dragged me over the side. He was furious." Edrington
listened with compassion to the detached recital. Archie looked almost surprised
as he related the captain's anger. "He finally stopped yelling after
he saw I was wounded." Unconsciously, Archie again touched his shoulder.
His expression lifted into a small smile as he quoted, and unintentionally
mimicked, the captain's tone and words, "'...the next time you go asea
without my word I swear you'll run the ruddy gauntlet for it sir!'"
Edrington, too, smiled at the quote. However, he realized the captain's
anger was borne of his feelings of responsibility for Archie - not just
as one of his crew, but as Horatio's best friend. His appearance is deceiving,
Edrington decided. Though he is ruddy complected and solid, there is a fragility
in him that Horatio had sheltered. "It appears you remember more than
you thought." Edrington observed.
"There are whole sections that are blank, my lord." Archie's throat
closed as he remembered that he knew Horatio had been buried, but had no
recollection of the ceremony.
The tears he had tried to suppress while at Dr. Hornblower's welled in his
eyes and slowly traced down his cheeks. Edrington grasped his arm with a
solid grip, but turned his face away. He didn't want Archie to see his tears.
"I'm sorry, my lord." Archie said as he brushed the tears from
"It's all right, Mr. Kennedy. I understand." With that, Lord Edrington
looked toward him, so Archie saw the tears that had overflowed.