by Alicia D.
The box seemed to have reduced in size. It was as if with
deterieration on the owner's body, the box too had shrunk. It stood in the
center of the room, singular and solitary, growing seemingly smaller with
each passing moment. Commander Horatio Hornblower was perched on the edge of
his stool, his calloused hands supporting his chin. His deep chestnut eyes
were fixed on the box as if by starring hard at the wooden exterior, all that
was within would be revealed.
A loud knock reverberated throughout the room, rousing Horatio from his
state of contemplation. He unfolded his limbs and strode slowly to the wooden
door, his eye ever fixed upon the box.
Horatio swung the door open to reveal his youngest Midshipman.
"Sir..." he stammered, his eyes pinned on the Commander's boots. "Sir, we
are almost ready to drop anchor..and..um.."
"Of course, " Horatio stated, "I will be on deck immediately."
The young man saluted and departed. Horatio grabbed his hat and closed the
door, glancing once more at the sea chest in the center of the room. The
sunlight streamed in from the windows and seemed to illuminate the gold
letters so punctiliously engraved on the top,
The air smelt different, as if sea and land air were not the same but two
separate and distinct life sources. Horatio could not tell which he enjoyed
better, the cold, crisp, salty smell of the sea air or the busy, exotic smell
of the land. The sea air gave him life, while on land a certain energy seemed
to surge into him. It was with such a burst of energy that he boldly strode
though the streets of Portsmouth. He had just come from a meeting with the
Admiraty. His first voyage as a Captain had gone well and apparently
congradulations were due. Now, with his men on leave and the whole afternoon
before him, Horatio was uncertain of what to do with himself. He was
contently wandering from store to store when he stummbled upon a store so
hideoulsly ugly that one could not pass it without giving it a glance.
Scrawled messily upon the wooden sign that hung over the large door was the
word BOOKSTORE. It was funny how one such small insignificant word could
derive from him so many memories. In that single moment as he glanced up at
the sign, his head painfully arched back, memories of Archie came rushing
back to him. Archie had always been reading, a book on his bed, one in his
coat pocket , another lying on the floor. It all seemed so real, so life like
that for a while Horatio became lost in a sea of memories. It was only the
high pitched peals of laughter that woke him from his daydream. Exploding
from the store came a throng of little boys, each clutching a book. One small
boy collided with Horatio. With eyes downcast the boy picked himslef up, gave
a quick salute and ran off to join the others.
Horatio smiled to himself, sighed and continued walking. He found
himself, a half an hour later, standing on the cool sand, starring out into
the sea. Unintentionally he found his mind wandering to Archie's Sea
chest...still sitting in his cabin, unopened. Though almost 3 weeks since his
death Horatio could not seem to bring himslef to open it. It was as if in
opening it he would be accepting the reality that he was not sure he was
ready to accept. It was far easier to lie to himself, telling himself that
when he docked once more, Archie would be there to greet him. To accost his
things, by opening the chest, he would erase the dream that he felt he needed
to cling to. So lost in thought was he that Horatio did not hear the
footsteps come up behind him, the sand muffling each beat. When he finally
did detect a slight breathing behind him it was too late.
"Boom, You're dead!"
Horatio swung around, his hand immediatly reaching for his pistol. Before him
was boy, kneeling on the ground with his hand pointed at Horatio.The boy
immediatly jumped to his feet and screamed
"Sorry , sir...didn't mean to frighten you...please don't hurt me." There
was a flicker of laughter that came soaring out of the trees to their left
and the sound of feet running. Three larger boys sprinted out from behind a
tree and pointed at the little boy in front of him, their insane sounding
giggles filling his ears before they scampered off down the beach. Horatio
quickly surmised the situation and looked back at the grief stricken little
boy in fromt of him.
"They...they made me do it...i di- did not want to sir but..but they made
me do it." the boy sobbed from beneath his slightly messy blond bangs.Horatio
felt increasing sympathy for the small boy, no older then seven, that sat
before him sobbing. Without a word Horatio reached down and tousled the boy's
hair before reaching down and picking up the boy's fallen book. "Shakespeare
For Children" read the title. Horatio pushed back the painful memories from
his mind and handing the boy his book, helping him to his feet.
"Thank you sir...I- I wish i was a sailor ...sir..are you a captain?"
"yes." stated Horatio with pride.
The boy gasped and took a step back in awe.
"What is your name?" he asked, his voice barely above a whisper, his hand
clinging tightly to his book.
"Hornblower," was the reply, "Horatio Hornblower."
The noon sun shone brightly overhead as the seagulls soared, their piercing
screams filling the air.
"...and do you get to tell everyone else what to do?" the boy's high
pitched voice seemed to correspond with the seagull's cry.
Side by side that two of them walked, boy and captain. Perched atop the
boy's head was Horatio's hat, his face was alight with boyish wonder as he
gazed up at his new idol, his mouth ever asking questions.Horatio walked
along side him, quietly munching on an apple he had bought from the fruit
vendor and eagarly answering the small boy's questions with meticulous
"No , I don't tell them what to do. I direct them, I steer them in the
right direction, I command them ...but I don't dictate."
At the last word the boy wrinkled up his nose in puzzlement but did not
inquire about it's meaning.Horatio, guessing the problem attempted to
" I don't yell at my men or refuse to accept other possibilities they
have to offer."
The boy nodded solemnly, as if he were considering something. When he finally
spoke his voice trembled with emotion.
"Don't you ever get frightened?" he all but whispered.
"Sometimes," replied Horatio his face darkening, "Something's can make
you very scared indeed..and they are not only battles."
Again the boy nodded, as if he understood exactly what Horatio was talking
"But you have to press on," the boy said in a low voice, "You can't let
such things stand in the way of your duty."
Horatio starred at him in puzzlement for a few moments before the spell was
broken and the boy let out a little laugh and said
"I am expected home now."
With that he skipped off after placing his hat into Horatio's hand. When he
was halfway down the dirt avenue he spun around and pinned his blue eyes on
"Someday I'll be a sailor just like you." he shouted before turning once
more and prancing back down the street, seeming to vanish in the fog that was
only now beginning to descend.
The orange orb was sinking deep behind the horizon when Horatio finally set
foot back upon his ship. Deep orange rays reflected off the newly washed
wooden planks, setting the ship in an eerie light. He made his way across the
deck and down the stairs shouting orders as he went by.
Once inside his cabin, his eyes stayed averted from the still silent
chest. He went about his cabin, carefully tidying everything along his way,
as if prolonging the inevitable. It was only when everything was in it's
rightful place and there was no more to be done that Horatio turned his eyes
towards the chest in the center of the room.
He took off his jacket and walked over to the chest, his key in his
pocket pressing against his skin as if urging him on. He knelt down on the
cold wooden floor and ran his fingers lightly over the engraved letters, as
if letting them sink into his soul. With slightly trembling hands he took the
key out of his pocket and placed it in the lock. The top swung open with
ease. Filling the berth of the chest were the piles of Archie's life.
Notebooks and shirts all so full of his him. Slowly Horatio waded through the
sea of memories, coming across many a shred of paper the would make him think
of such and such a time or book he can remember Archie reading at such a
time. before he knew it, piles of Archie's things lay scattered about the
room. The empty room seemed empty no more, books and papers of all kinds made
it seem more like a home than ever before. The chest was almost empty when he
saw it, propped up against the side of the chest, as if starring at him. The
miniature was well drawn, so well drawn in fact that Horatio feared the small
boy would jump right out at him. He starred at the face of the boy he had
seen just hours earlier and scratched his head in bafflement for it was the
boy from the market! Slowly he flipped over the minature to read the
engraving on the back
Master Archie Kennedy <Age eight>
The miniature clattered to the floor as Horatio's fingers struggles to hold
onto it. The pieces flew in all directions, shattering on the cold wooden