A Life of Duty: Matthews
by Kelly Powers
Disclaimer: I do not own these characters, I am only borrowing them for
Note: I have enjoyed the Life of Duty series so much that I thought I
would add my own chapter. I hope you all find it a worthy addition to
The day was gray, gray and cold. Not that it was a bad thing, it
rather matched the mood of the older man as he sat on the edge of the
dock with his fishing pole in the water. He had hoped to find some
peace and quiet on this rare trip back home. He hadn't been home in a
long time, it felt good, it felt strange. It was good to see Mary
again. As much as he loved his way of life, he missed Mary. He wasn't
able to see her as much as the officers were be able to see their
wives. He was a lucky man and he knew it, Mary Mathews never
complained, never let him believe she might be unhappy with the man she
had agreed to marry all those years ago.
He loved the sea, at least he did when he committed his life to it
when he had still been a boy. Just a boy, Mathews thought bitterly. He
couldn't help but let his mind wander to Mr. Hornblower. In his
leadership and bravery he had behaved like a man, but he had still been
just a boy.
He thought again about how he had yearned to join the navy as a
lad. His father had been a fisherman and he had grown up on the water.
He never had any delusions that he would make some grand career for
himself, but that was okay, he just wanted to live on the water, to
breath the air and feel the motion of the ship under his feet. He had
seen that same look on Mr. Hornblower's face. He remembered how he
often saw him standing proudly on deck, his face turned towards the sky
taking in his surroundings with a look of complete happiness on his
I have lost that feeling, thought Mathews somberly. He had lost it
once before while on Justinian. While serving under Jack Simpson he had
become more interested in gambling and carousing than sailing the ship
and doing his duty. It wasn't something he minded at the time for he
hadn't realized it, not until he was under Mr. Hornblower's command.
He had remembered what it was like to love the sea because Mr.
Hornblower loved the sea and Mr. Hornblower respected them and trusted
But now that feeling was lost again, cast into the water along with
Mr. Hornblower's body. He had dealt with death before for he had lost
mates during his long career in the navy, but this was different.
Hornblower had become a symbol of what it meant to be brave and strong,
not only to him, but to all of the men he led. He had been the finest
officer Mathews could have ever asked to serve under.
Without warning, tears came to Mathews' eyes and he gave into them with
out hesitation. He felt no shame in his grief and was grateful when he
felt Mary sit down next to him on the dock. Lying his head on her lap
he let his sobs come as Mary rubbed his heaving shoulders. They sat
this way without words for almost an hour, even after Mathews' sobs had
abated Mary still sat their holding him waiting until the moment was
right to break the silence.
"He sent me a letter once you know," she said quietly and pulled
letter out of the pocket of her tattered dress.
"I didn't know that," Mathews replied and sat up in order to look
Mary in the face. Mathews sat there in shock for a few moments regarding
Mary carefully. "I never would have believed that he'd have done
that," he said finally. "Why didn't you ever say anything to me
it in one of your letters?"
"It was several months back," she began to explain. "Would
me to read it to you now?" Without waiting for an answer, Mary began
unfold the piece of paper in order to read to her husband. She knew he
could read it for himself if he had wanted to, but he was slow at
reading and often let Mary read things to him when they were together.
As she opened the letter, Mathews realized that by the look of it, it
had been read many times over. He couldn't help but wonder what was in
the letter that made her want to read it so many times as he waited
patiently for her to begin.
Holding the paper in front of her, Mary cleared her throat and began
to read .
Dear Mrs. Mathews,
I don't know if your husband has ever mentioned me to you before.
My name is Horatio Hornblower and I am a lieutenant on the Indefatigable
and your husband's commanding officer. I am writing to inform you of
your husband's bravery and sense of duty during our last engagement in
France. I am pleased to inform you that he received special recognition
from the captain for his performance.
A letter like this is not one that is out of the ordinary for an
officer to write. Letters to family members about one of his men's
performance during wartime is part of the job. However, if I may be so
bold, I would like to take this opportunity to inform you of what a fine
member of this crew your husband has been. I am not a seasoned member
of this crew, Mrs. Mathews, I have not even been in the navy very
long. I came into this knowing very little about what I was supposed to
do, only that I had a duty to serve my country. If it had not been for
your husband I would have floundered. Without knowing it, he helped me
along, not only teaching me how to sail, but fostering my love of the
sea for his own was very contagious. Never have I met a man who had
such a natural ability to sail the seas and I am sure he will continue
to do so long after I have moved on.
Lt. Horatio Hornblower
Mathews sat there for a moment, unsure of what to say. He hoped
that Mary would speak first and was rewarded when she finally did.
"I held on to this letter because his words made me so proud of
you," she said. Her eyes had started to fill with tears as she was
reading the letter and now they fell freely down her face. "I suppose
that is why I didn't have to question your melancholy over his death
when you returned home. I have no doubt that he was a fine man indeed."
Still unable to find his voice, Mathews simply took Mary's hand and
looked down at the water. He studied his reflection for a time and
momentarily he thought he saw something in the water, a reflection of a
face, young and smiling as if he was enjoying the quiet stillness of the
water. Mathews turned to see if someone was standing behind him but
found nothing. Surly his eyes were deceiving him, he thought. But for
some reason he felt more calm and at ease than he had in a long time as
he and Mary sat there holding hands and dangling their feet in the water
as the sun began to set. As the sky above them turned to a bright
redish orange, Mary leaned in and put her head on her husband's
"I love the sea, Mary," he said quietly.
"That you do, love, that you do."