Pellew's Perspectives...Muzillac Prequel
"How Archie Kennedy became an Acting Lieutenant"
February 23rd, 1797
It has been two and a half months since we departed England. After
a brief stop in Oporto, we have spent most of our time patrolling
the Spanish coast, with only temporary relief via supply ships.
It was not as rich a Christmas as the one last year, for any of
us, but we made do with what celebration we could. Finally, however,
we have been ordered to Gibraltar and will arrive in port tomorrow.
After hours of official dispatches, and readying the reports I
know Hale will desire from my travels, I finally have a moment
to pen a more enjoyable letter.
I trust this letter will find you well and re-established in London,
preparing for challenging theatrical roles. Of course, the excitement
of Drury Lane must pale in comparison to your most recent engagement!
Perhaps you could create an entire new career of performance on
I hope you received the short note I was able to send you from
Oporto...one never knows how the mail carries in a neutral country.
The officers are well and would beg to be remembered to you, if
I should dare to tell them to whom I write! Bracegirdle has been
at my mercy since England, as I have dragged details from him
about his wife. It would seem that they met and married in Gibraltar
with a scant three weeks of courtship, and he was so concerned
with my reaction that he opted not to tell me of her existence.
So naturally, I torture him endlessly now. We are in Gibraltar
and I shall insist on meeting her.
Brandon says I must be impervious to gunfire, as I show no ill
effects of my surgical adventures whatsoever. Cousins added, when
he thought I could not hear (bless that skylight) that it does
seem to have awakened my sense of humor. Not so; it is only that
I show it more now.
Johnson has not had another bout of the fever since Brandon began
treating him with that Quinine extract, so I am cautiously optimistic
that I have the finest surgical team of the entire British fleet,
all unofficially of course! Brandon's father is an insufferable
ass who would rail at discovering his son was serving as a lowly
doctor, and Johnson is only a medic, according to the Navy. The
beauty of this is, no rival captain would try to entice a mere
midshipman and a medic to join him!
I do not know what next orders shall await us, and I have had
no word of Horatio since returning him to Spain. I worry sometimes,
but I remember your description of Don Massaredo, and I confess
that eases my thoughts.
It goes without saying, of course, that nothing eases my thoughts
of you...oh, Kitty, how I miss you! I cannot be kept busy enough
twenty-four hours a day, to keep you from haunting my memory.
There are worse ways to be haunted, I suppose. You are in my dreams
each evening; and sometimes I still expect to find you awaiting
me in my cabin when I retire.
Dear me, I seem to have gone all sentimental. Curse Hornblower!
He came on board my ship, and before I know it I am writing in
a journal, playing daddy to a mess full of young boys, and courting
an actress! We must encounter an enemy soon, so that I may blow
him out of the water and re-establish my reputation as the fierce
Sir Edward Pellew.
With love and affection,
We set anchor early in the morning, and dispatches were soon forwarded.
Hale did not have time for me until tomorrow, at which point he
said he would have much to tell me. It was all rather cryptic.
I also had the pleasure of receiving Mr. McGill and his men back
on board; they had returned their prize successfully and had been
awaiting us for four weeks now, Hale using him as he saw fit about
But I am off today to join Harvey for a pint and a bite to eat,
having received the following cryptic note:
Understand you arrived this morning. Coincidentally, I just received
stores from Spain which I am holding for you. Hale knows, of course,
but is caught up in some scheme of Hood's and would keep you on
tenterhooks until tomorrow. So if you were to find me at our friendly
tavern, just after the noon hour, I think you will be most agreeably
pleased with your package!
This was interesting, to say the least! I made my departure, permitting
Clarke and Brandon to share my boat, as they are off for some
more of Brandon's strange herbs. I was so curious about Harvey's
missive that I barely spoke two words to them, however.
"Are you feeling alright, Sir?" Brandon asked, noting
I frowned deeper. "Mr. Brandon, shall you ask me that daily
for as long as you remain in my service? I have not had any side
effects from that shot in two months!"
He nodded. "Yes, Sir."
I fussed still more anyway. "I do not see what point it makes
for you to ask me this, anyway. What could you possibly tell from
He hesitated, with a look at Clarke, and then ventured a response.
"If you tell me you are fine, then I know you are sick. If
you become irritated, then I know you are fine."
I would have laughed if we were alone, but with Clarke's presence
I cannot condone impertinence, even when it is the truth. And
I scowled mightily.
"You would do best to hold your tongue, Mr. Brandon. You
are still a midshipman in title, if not in action, and I will
not have you behaving so disrespectfully towards me." I said,
very sternly. Clarke looked with pity on Brandon.
Brandon paled slightly, and nodded, realizing he'd overstepped
his boundaries. "Yes, Sir. I am sorry, Sir."
"You should be." I cleared my throat and noted that
we were approaching the dock. I wished very much to explain that
what was acceptable when we were in private conference with each
other, was not acceptable around the men. With a sigh, however,
I realized that there was no time for such a conversation. "I
shall be back on board by evening. Please report to me then."
And as we swept up to the dock, I swiftly moved out, not noting
his pale face at my order, or thinking that my words might be
misconstrued. I was too full of thoughts of Harvey to give time
over to Brandon's worst fears.
I hesitated as I entered the tavern, but the barkeep spotted me
immediately, and motioned me into the same back room Harvey and
I had been sequestered in when last I saw him.
"Ah, Edward, there you are. Come and join our fine Spanish
I stood stupefied in the entryway.
Hornblower. Kennedy. Together, in the room, rising from the table.
"Captain Pellew, Sir." Hornblower spoke first, saluting.
"It is a pleasure to see you."
I found my voice and came forward, my hand out. "A most unexpected
pleasure, yet again, Mr. Hornblower." I turned to his companion.
"And the same with Mr. Kennedy, although not quite as much
of a surprise as the last time I had the pleasure of your company."
He smiled warmly. "Indeed not, Sir."
Harvey, with a grin, motioned to the barkeep. "A pint for
my stunned friend!"
I sat in the chair indicated, barely able to keep my eyes off
of my young officers, so long absent. "Gentlemen, I do not
know where to even begin with my questions!"
Kennedy and Hornblower hesitated, looking at each other, and then
Harvey spoke up.
"I happened to run into the lads last evening, just as they
were leaving from reporting to Admiral Hale. He knew you were
due in this morning, and as I understand it a Midshipman McGill
returned to you shortly after you set anchor. But he wished to
confer with the gentlemen further, and asked them to hold here
until he gave them leave to return to Indefatigable."
I felt a burn at that. "Could he not have told me of their
return in dispatches? Why leave me hanging?"
Harvey shrugged. "I saw no point in it, certainly, especially
when I found he was not to meet with you until tomorrow. And since
he did not request secrecy, well..." He gestured around.
"Here we are!"
I turned to Hornblower next. "How did you escape, Mr. Hornblower?
At this time of year, with almost continuous storms battering
He blushed. "You give me too much credit, Sir. We were magnanimously
released by the Spanish government..."
Kennedy broke in with a broad smile: "On account of Mr. Hornblower's
uncommon gallantry and valor..."
Hornblower glared at him. "We were set at liberty three weeks
ago; however, due to the weather were held up, and only arrived
I turned to Mr. Kennedy with a raised eyebrow... "Gallantry
Hornblower blushed deeply as Kennedy continued on: "Aye,
Sir, and I believe Massaredo used the word honorable once or twice
as well...he is quite an eloquent speaker, Sir."
Horatio looked as though he might implode, and Harvey guffawed
loudly. "Mr. Kennedy, if looks could kill, I believe Mr.
Hornblower would have you buried already."
Kennedy grinned back. "He'll have to do better than that,
Sir. I don't kill easily." And we all laughed then, even
Hornblower, who must have sensed himself outnumbered. He was still
quite embarrassed though, and I decided to take pity on him.
"Well, Gentleman, I cannot tell you how good shall be to
have you back on board my ship, for many reasons. And with Mr.
McGill returning as well, we shall have so many officers, we will
not know what to do with ourselves!"
Hornblower nodded. "Captain Harvey informed me of McGill's
presence; It cannot have been easy establishing a watch schedule,
though I was told you had added a couple of new Midshipmen."
I smiled into my ale. "Yes, a pair of impossibly young men
named Anderson and Holloway. Good lads, but very green I'm afraid.
Mr. Cousins has ended up bearing much responsibility." And
unconsciously, I winced slightly, moving my shoulder.
Kennedy, most observant, asked, "Did you hurt your shoulder,
Well, they would be back on board soon and would hear the story
one way or another. "I'm afraid I was shot recently, Mr.
Kennedy..." All three of my drinking companions gasped, and
I half-smiled. "...by an old acquaintance of yours, Mr. Hornblower;
a Gentleman by the name of DeVergess."
Hornblower's stern jaw set tightly. "DEVERGESS?"
"Yes, we had the privilege of blowing the ship he was travelling
on out from under him, and he repaid me by trying to shoot my
head off. Mr. Cousins diverted the shot, and Mr. Brandon dug the
ball out of my shoulder." I met his eyes. "You gentlemen
have missed much in your time away."
Harvey shook his head. "I have come to believe, Edward, that
there is no such thing as an easy sail to England."
I raised my glass to him. "Then here's hoping that's not
where Hale is planning on sending me tomorrow!"
We rounded up the rest of my men at the Inn where Hale had them
put up for the evening, and arrangements were made for their return
to Indefatigable. I was overjoyed at the prospect of having a
fully complimented ship, and spend much of the walk towards the
dockyard talking of stores with Harvey.
When I turned back around, I saw Kennedy and Hornblower, standing
quietly, looking out into the harbor where Indefatigable rested.
And a fine sight she was too, most especially for two young men
as wearied with land life as these two would be. I smiled at the
backs of their heads, momentarily forgetting myself.
"Glad to have the boys back home, eh, Edward?" Harvey
And I did not feel inclined to pretend otherwise, as long as they
cannot see me. "Quite glad, Archibald, as you are well aware."
He nodded round the corner. "Two more of yours, eh?"
Brandon and Clarke, both with a myriad of parcels, were just rounding
the corner. I called out to them, all of my good humor restored.
"Impeccable timing, Mr. Brandon; I believe that we shall
just be able to squeeze you in to the boat, unless you've managed
to buy out the apothecaries of Gibraltar.
Brandon, who no doubt was confused by my recurring mood swings,
simply stared at me. Clarke found his voice. "Beg pardon,
Horatio and Archie turned around then, and Brandon nearly lost
hold of his packages. "Mr. Hornblower! Mr. Kennedy!"
His face lit up at the sight of them both.
With a smile, Horatio stood forward, and helped relieve him of
some of the parcels. "Mr. Brandon, good to see you again."
Kennedy, likewise, grabbed some of Brandon's precious herbs.
"This shall be a crowded boat indeed, I think."
Somehow, though, it was managed, and we returned to a cheering
Indefatigable, for an eagle-eyed Mr. Cousins had spotted our additional
Horatio was naturally the picture of embarrassed reticence; Kennedy,
easy-going and expert at exasperating his friend, reminded me
once again of the man he had been before imprisonment; before
the return of Simpson.
"Best get yourselves down below, gentlemen, and see if you
cannot put together a decent change of clothes. Mr. Hornblower,
that Uniform was in sad shape before you departed for England;
it is now positively unspeakable."
He looked at me in wide-eyed agony, and then down at his threadbare
coat with chagrin. Bracegirdle's laugh bellowed. "Well, you
will be needing a new one soon, lad, but in the meantime, I believe
I might find something appropriate."
"Well, assuming that to be so, Lieutenant Bracegirdle, I
will expect to see all of my officers for dinner this evening,
save for Mr. McGill, who has the misfortune to have watch at that
time. It is nice, I must say, to say 'all my officers' and have
that mean more than four men. Now, if you'll excuse me, Gentlemen..."
I had no sooner given Powers orders about dinner than a timid
knock came to my door.
Mr. Brandon pensively stood there.
"As you requested, Sir, I am reporting to you."
Huh? Oh, yes, I had forgotten about my harsh words to him this
morning. I motioned to him to close the door, and stood at my
desk, fingering the pages of my log book, wondering what exactly
to say, since I was hardly as angry now as I had been then.
I glanced up at him. His face was impassive, but his eyes gave
him away. He was miserable about being here, about having spoken
out of turn earlier, and mostly for having angered me. And I remembered
where he came from, the kind of hell his life had been before
Indefatigable. His father an abusive drunkard, two of his brothers
so as well. I AM more of a father to him than he has ever had
in his life. Still, he stood his ground, willing to accept whatever
I might throw at him. He certainly had no lack of courage. I cut
off a smile.
"Mr. Brandon, about earlier this day...I know, Mr. Brandon,
that you have become accustomed to speaking to me as a ship's
doctor, rather than as a Midshipman. Which is due in no small
part to the fact that I owe my life to your skill as a doctor,
on at least two occasions. And the truth is, in a conversation
in the sick bay or on the deck when we are alone, I do not object
to your familiarity. But I cannot have such an example before
the men, Mr. Brandon; it dampens my position of authority and
could destroy morale. DO YOU UNDERSTAND THIS?"
His blue eyes met mine steadily, his jaw tight. "Yes, Sir."
And he waited for more.
I exhaled. "Do NOT let it happen again." I stood in
front of him, and looked him over. "Is that understood?"
I said more gently.
Realizing that I did not mean to have him drawn and quartered
for his offence, his jaw relaxed. "Yes, Sir."
I nodded. "Good. You'd best get ready for dinner then, Mr.
Brandon. Please be punctual."
His relief was audible. "Aye, Aye, Sir...Thank you, Sir."
I waved him off, pretending to be absorbed in a dispatch I've
already read fifty times, and only let myself smile after the
door closed behind him.
Dinner had been a jolly affair. Horatio and Archie regaled us
with tales of their life with Don Massaredo these past month's,
Archie often making a point of complimenting Horatio in some way
that would make him blush to the tips of his ears.
I studied them carefully. Hornblower was more relaxed a man than
he'd went away as; Kennedy drew him out of his shell, and out
of his blue moods. And Kennedy showed no signs of the pallor and
illness that still marked him during their brief stay last November.
He was every inch a true gentleman, well at ease with life. Only
his occasional glance at Brandon reminded me that he had more
problems still to be dealt with. He hides it well.
The rest of us, of course, took care to fill them in on our adventures
since last we met, with Brandon doing a pretty fair job of embarrassing
Cousins, himself! Cousins, who still WILL blame himself for the
mizzenmast disaster, looked as though he wanted to crawl under
the table when Hornblower said it sounded as though he was a good
man to have about in a crisis.
After the party broke up I was still restless. I wished to write
to Kitty, but my heart was too full of my own good luck to be
able to be eloquent about it. And things are still new enough
between us that I wish to be eloquent still! So I headed up on
deck, half expecting, and hoping, to find Horatio there.
Find him I did, but he was in conversation with Mr. Brandon. Knowing
no shame, I stood to the side and listened in to the last of their
"I am pleased to hear you have gotten on so well with your
studies, Mr. Brandon. You hardly seem to have missed me at all!"
"Oh, I missed you, Sir. We all did." He sighed. "And
there is still much I must learn! Your diplomacy, for example.
I am afraid I try the Captain's patience terribly."
"We all do that sometimes, I think." He breathed in
deeply. "Oh, how much I have missed this, Mr. Brandon."
"We are not even out to sea, yet, Mr. Hornblower."
"Even at anchor, I would take this air over that of prison
any day. Even if I have to trade a little seasickness for it."
"I might be able to help you with that, Sir..."
"I was hoping you'd say that." Horatio turned to him.
"There is something else I wished to ask of you Mr. Brandon.
Have you had any luck researching Mr. Kennedy's illness?"
Brandon hesitated. "Has he had any repeated episodes while
you were in prison?"
Brandon turned to face his superior officer. "There are two
basic types of fits, from what I've read, Sir. Some you're born
with; they happen at times with no patterns, and often grow lesser
as the patient ages, assuming there is no fatal seizure along
Hornblower looked down. "And the other kind?"
"Brought on by trauma of some sort. A physical or emotional
accident might cause it."
"Yes, Sir...one doctor wrote of a case of a man who lost
his entire family in a tragic fire. From that point on, whenever
he saw flames, he would have a sort of fit, Sir."
"I see." Horatio kicked at some ropes. "Neither
quite seem to fit Mr. Kennedy."
Brandon nodded. "I was hoping to speak to him more of their
history. It might be a bit of both."
Horatio looked at him searchingly. "Did the Captain tell
you...anything about a Mr. Simpson?"
He shook his head. "Not the Captain, Mr. Hornblower. But
Dr. Hepplewhite had quite a lot to say. That's why Captain got
him off the ship."
Hornblower closed his eyes. "I see. So you understand?"
"How does one understand the incomprehensible? But knowing
is enough. It gives me much to think about."
I moved forward out of the shadows as if I'd just arrived. "Good
"Sir!" They both exclaimed warmly.
"A fine evening, Gentleman. I feel quite happy to have a
full rotation of officers. Hopefully, Mr. Brandon, we shall not
again be forced to use you above decks."
He smiled at me. "Yes, Sir, for all of our sakes!" He
moved away. "I'd best turn in; tomorrow Johnson and I are
expecting the regular medical stores."
"Take care they don't cheat you now, Mr. Brandon."
"Aye, Aye, Sir."
Horatio watched him walk away with a smile. "He's a good
"Yes, he is. Sometimes I must remind myself he is only fifteen."
Horatio shook his head. "He's old for his years, Sir."
"Hm. He's had a difficult life."
"Kennedy told me a bit about Lord Exton while we were in
prison. Makes me feel quite guilty for how little I appreciated
my own father."
I rolled my eyes. "Only you, Mr. Hornblower, could take someone
else's crime and find a way to make it your guilt."
"I know, Sir. It's just that sometimes I look at Mr. Brandon
and I think that he's the son my father always wanted."
"Come, Mr. Hornblower, in what way? You are both bright,
talented young men who have survived imperfect lives. The only
difference is in your talents. You are a sailor, he is a doctor."
"That would be the difference, now wouldn't it?"
"Mmm, and how would we have known Mr. Brandon was a born
Doctor if not for your recognition of it? You are not just a sailor,
Mr. Hornblower. You are a teacher, and a leader, and a thinker.
Your father understood that. He may not have liked it, at times,
but he accepted it. Unlike Brandon's father." I shuddered.
Hornblower nodded. "Yes. I cannot understand that. I looked
up to my father, and I feared disappointing him, but I was not
AFRAID of him, Sir! And I cannot understand how a man can harm
his own child in such a manner."
"No more can I, Mr. Hornblower. But Mr. Brandon has been
brought to us here, and I suppose that is the important thing.
He is at home."
Hornblower looked out toward the harbor again. "Yes. Home
is a good place to be."
A letter from Sir Edward Pellew to Katherine Cobham:
"My Dearest Kitty...
I am of such a heavy heart in writing this letter that I do not
know where to begin. There is very much a part of me that feels
I must shield you from my pain in this matter, but I need you,
Kitty, I need to be able to tell you those feelings which I shall
be forced to hide from my men.
Strangely, had I written this missive last evening, how different
my mood and my news! For Hornblower, Kennedy, and the men gone
to Spain have returned, healthy and well, released by the Spaniards
on account of Hornblower's valorous behavior. Such revelry there
was last evening! We only lacked your company, Kitty, to have
made my life fully happy. Though what I WOULD have said to Hornblower
is beyond me.
This afternoon everything changed. For I reported to Admiral Hale
for my orders.
The first half of my conversation with him was merely frustrating,
but nothing unexpected. We are to return to England in three week's
time, for whatever vague plan Hood had in mind for me has finally
come to fruition. Do not think I shall regret returning to England,
and thus to you for however brief a period of time (and do not
relocate to Portsmouth; I shall be travelling to London with Hornblower
and spending some time there in meetings with Hood, if I am to
judge Hale correctly). Mr. Hornblower I choose to accompany me
for many reasons, not the least of which is that I must see him
properly outfitted with a new Uniform!
The second half of the conversation took a strange turn.
"You have a Midshipman by the name of Andrew Brandon sailing
with you, do you not, Captain?"
I informed him that I did. And he presented to me the most recent
copy of the Naval Gazette, an item circled on the page. It was
the one containing details of my shooting, one which Bracegirdle
would have put in. It complemented Mr. Reginald Cousins, Midshipman,
most strongly, for his gallant actions in saving my life and in
cutting down the assailant without further injury to our Brave
Englishmen. It went on to also commend him for holding three and
a half watches, including overseeing a strenuous repair job, while
I was being ministered to. All in all, not a bad little paragraph,
quite a boost for the lad, and certain to make Hammond furious.
It was the last sentence that threw me.
"Special commendations also go to the Ship's medical team,
specifically Medic Stephen Johnson, of His Majesty's Marines,
and Midshipman Andrew Brandon, serving as Ship's Doctor. Mr. Brandon
stopped the bleeding and removed the shell from the wound, no
doubt saving Captain Pellew's life..."
Oh, Kitty! My thoughts at such a moment! How is it that I failed
to tell Bracegirdle of Lord Exton's thoughts on his son serving
in a medical capacity? That he was sent to sea to PREVENT his
training as a Doctor? No, Bracegirdle, ever fair and always generous,
wanted to make sure the young man received proper mention; his
And what shall he receive instead? A one-way ticket to Hell! For,
as Hale rather bluntly informed me, Mr. Brandon is to be removed
as an officer in His Majesty's Navy, and returned home. Exton
is furious, apparently his second son, George, the one in the
ARMY, saw the notice and pointed it out to his father. And, in
what I assume was a drunken rage, he insisted his son be returned
to him before *I* could damage him more! And when a Lord insists
on something, how can I stop it?
I returned to my ship this evening, and have been an absolute
BEAR, scowling at all who would dare cross my path. Hornblower
has stuck his head in once or twice, but I have sent him away
rather abruptly. And BRANDON, which kills me, gave some of his
concoctions to Powers, in case I should be needing them! HE IS
WORRIED ABOUT ME?
I know you yourself are unaware of the extent of Exton's behavior
towards his son. I confess, Brandon spoke little of it to me,
minor comments and a few more detailed ones while recovering from
Hepplewhite's attack on him. Bits that I have pieced together
in the past year and change we have had him on board. But Cousin's
told me of Brandon's condition when he first arrived on board,
and Kennedy knows and dislikes Exton himself. And of course I
had the PLEASURE of meeting him in Gibraltar once! An odious man!
I would not leave him have care of a DOG!
I keep telling myself there must be something I can do, that I
have several weeks to figure something out. For Brandon will remain
on Indefatigable AS A CIVILIAN, and return to England with us,
where his father will meet him. But I cannot see any way out of
He does not know yet. I shall send for him soon, for he must not
be in uniform when Hale arrives! Oh, did I forget to mention?
Hale has decided to travel with us!
How do I tell him this, Kitty? He told me once that when he came
to Indefatigable, he found himself SAVED. And I must look him
in the face now, and tell him it has all been a mirage, that it
is beyond my power to save him.
Kitty, my love, I leave off now, a most miserable man.
Missing you terribly,
I heard Brandon enter, but did not turn from the windows, staring
out at the blackness, searching for answers. I could see his reflection
in the glass, knew he had been roused from his slumber by Forbes
and brought to me, having hastily dressed himself.
"Sir? You wanted to see me? Shall I get my medical kit, Sir?"
Oh, God, give me the strength to do this!
"No, Mr. Brandon. I am not ill." I cleared my throat,
and still did not turn around.
"Have you a change of civilian clothes with you, Mr. Brandon?"
"Yes, Sir...One. But I am not sure it fits any longer."
He sounded puzzled.
"If not, we will have to procure you clothing in Gibraltar
"Sir, I am afraid I do not understand."
I closed my eyes. "You are hereby relieved of your duty.
You will from now on stay in the cabin next to Mr. Hornblower,
as would befit a civilian of your stature. You will sail with
us back to England, where you will be returned to...your father's
house." I swallowed once, too close to losing my composure.
Hastily I turned around and sat at my desk, grasping at my log
books, still trying not to look at him. "That is all!"
I could feel his confusion and shock. "Sir, I...what have
I done to displease you so? Please, Sir..." His voice broke,
but he held composure.
I sighed and finally looked at him, because I cannot have him
thinking that he has merited this release. His face was gray,
his eyes wide. I thought he might faint.
"Mr. Brandon...your service with me has been nothing short
of exemplary. Too exemplary, unfortunately. Your name appeared
in the Gazette for saving my life; you were identified as the
ship's Doctor. And your father saw the report."
His shoulders slumped then, his head cast downward. "I see,
Sir." He whispered.
"I am sorry, Mr. Brandon." I cleared my throat, not
at all sure that I could hold MY composure.
He looked up at me slowly. "Must I travel home as a civilian,
Sir? Can I not remain as a Midshipman at least until we reach
I shook my head gently. "I am afraid not, Mr. Brandon. Admiral
Hale has decided to travel with us to England."
"Oh." He swallowed once and exhaled. "Then let
me thank you now, Sir, for your kindness towards me this past
year. I am...indebted to you."
"As every man on board this ship is indebted to YOU, myself
included. You are a fine Doctor, Mr. Brandon."
He gave me half a smile. "I might have been, Sir. We'll never
know now." And suddenly the emotion threatened to come over
him, and hastily he ran from my office before it could.
I put my head in my hands, near to tears myself. Only when Powers
entered, guiding me upward, did I move. "You heard?"
"Yes, Sir. There is no hope for it, Sir?"
I shook my head. "None."
"Sir, shall I...what shall I say to the men? They will wonder."
Yes, wonder they would. "The most you ought to say is that
he is returning to civilian life at his Father's request. Anything
else he might add is of his own choosing."
"Yes, Sir. The men will all be very sorry, Sir."
The men do not know the half of it!
We depart for England tomorrow, with one small blessing granted.
For some reason, Hale has decided not to travel with me after
all. So Mr. Brandon may resume some final duties once we are safely
away from Port (I did not wish to have him in uniform should Hale
drop in these past weeks). But I have permitted him to remain
in the Midshipman's berth, with his friends.
Today I received a reply from Kitty. I do not know how she managed
it, but she did.
"Edward My Love...
I have just received both of your letters from Gibraltar, and
rush to respond before you do depart. I hope this finds you.
I was all giddiness when I opened your first letter, it made me
long so to be on board Indefatigable with you. But I wished to
be by your side even more when I read your second. Oh, Edward,
what you must have felt! And to have nobody in person who you
can express it to! It is just not right.
I am praying for the boy, Edward. For I have seen him to be a
strong lad, and perhaps he shall take some of what he learned
from you this past year and turn it into a way of surviving. Perhaps
just knowing that there are people who value him and care for
him shall give him the strength to see him through.
I have never met Lord Exton, but I did once meet Lady Exton at
the theater (I did not realize Brandon would have been her son).
She was a sweet good Lady, gracious and gentle. Of course, she
was not in the presence of her husband, but of an impossibly small
lad of ten or eleven, with fair hair and wide eyes. Why, this
must have been your young Doctor. I wonder that he never recognized
me, but as I was in costume...A Midsummer Night's Dream, I think
it was. Anyway, is the Mother still alive? Can perhaps she relieve
the situation? A stupid question, I suppose...A woman cannot do
much with an abusive husband in this world, as I am too well aware.
Why are not all men like you, Edward? It does seem strange that
the Almighty permitted such a scarcity of the good ones.
For you ARE a good man. Stop berating yourself right now, as I
know you are. This cannot be helped. Brandon's father is simply
a brute with a title, and cannot be fought. Though I know you
don't like to hear that. But do not underestimate the importance
of your influence in the boy's life, even for a very short time.
With all my thoughts and prayers,
I dropped her letter on my desk and resumed my stare out the window.
Word got has gotten around of the lad's circumstances, between
Powers' usual murmuring, and Brandon saying his goodbyes. The
ship was nearly in a state of mourning. I myself have not smiled
since I have learned we are to lose him; I feel lethargic and
useless. To the ship I have retreated into my stony, uncaring
demeanor that once marked my daily life. I do not bark at the
men, nor do I praise them, I simply issue orders and retreat behind
A sudden knock on my door, and Mr. Kennedy entered.
"Mr. Kennedy, I trust you are well this day."
He nodded. "Yes, Sir. Very well, thank you."
"Is there something you require?"
He hesitated a moment. "Sir, I understand that Mr. Brandon
will be forced to leave us. There are many rumors going about,
Sir. Is it...definite that he returns to his father? Is there
no other family he might go to?"
I wondered that of all the men, it should be Mr. Kennedy that
directly confronted me on the situation. "You would be best
off asking Mr. Brandon that."
"He will not speak of it, Sir. Indeed, he speaks of little
these days, only goes about with Johnson and Clarke, making sure
they know how to grind up those powders of his." He paused.
"He is having nightmares, though he will not discuss them
when he awakes. Cousins spends much of the evening watching over
Of course, Kennedy was in the Midshipman's berth with him, and
would see what Brandon would not otherwise show the world.
"All I can tell you then, Mr. Kennedy, is that his father
is prone to drink and by all accounts to fits of violence, and
requested his return."
"And there is nothing to be done? From the Navy's standpoint,
I shrugged. "The Navy is an outfit of the Government, the
government is largely the province of the titled, and Lord Exton
has a title. If YOUR father should insist on your dismissal, Mr.
Kennedy, I would have no choice but to acquiesce."
He grinned. "Not much fear of THAT, Sir." He sighed
again, lost in thought. "However, Sir...since you bring my
family up...how long shall we stay in England?"
"Hale told me to be prepared for a month, at least. Lord
"Then might it be possible, when we first arrive, for me
to have a few day's leave? We have a country house not far from
Portsmouth, outside Southampton, in fact, and if I send a letter
from Oporto, I should be able to see some of them there."
I realized Kennedy would not have seen any of his family since
his days on Justinian at least. Four years.
"Naturally, you have my blessing. If we arrive in England
as scheduled on the first of April, you may depart on the third,
for a period of up to a week. I only ask that you leave your location
with Mr. Bracegirdle. He shall command the Indefatigable with
Hornblower and I in London. Should we be forced to depart earlier
than expected, I would of course require you to expedite your
"Of course, Sir. Thank you." Kennedy looked thoughtful,
as though he had something more on his mind. With a start, he
came to himself and rose. "I am on watch next, Sir."
I nodded and waved him off, wondering just what that look meant.
Then, with a sigh, I turned around and resumed my stare out the
Naturally, as we would now wish to be delayed for England, the
weather is fair and the wind crisp. We shall be in Oporto tomorrow,
without so much as an additional skirmish or sighting of an enemy
Kennedy has given me a letter to set out for England...I noticed
he addressed it not to his father but to his brother David. A
bit surprising, but I am not about to question him.
I have come out of my shell a bit, been slightly more conversational
with the men. After all, we are by and large of one thought in
this-that Brandon ought not to be going, and that none of us wish
him to. My problem is that I feel I should be able to prevent
it, and I hate admitting to the men that I cannot.
Mr. Cousins has the watch now. He has been as quiet and morose
as I have. Which is not to be wondered at. I approached him.
"We make good time, Mr. Cousins."
He looked upwards in frustration, as if to curse the wind. "Yes,
I glanced at him. "How does Mr. Brandon do, Mr. Cousins?"
He was startled, for other than the five minutes with Kennedy,
I have not brought up the impending departure of Mr. Brandon to
anybody in all this time. But he looked steadily out to the horizon.
"Not well, I think, Sir, though he will try to hide it."
"Mr. Kennedy mentioned nightmares. Is he still having them?"
"Yes, Sir. Though not as bad as at first; it's like he's
growing resigned to it. He seems to withdraw more."
I closed my eyes. This was very, very bad.
"I am afraid for him, Sir." Cousins said quietly, almost
in a whisper.
I knew I ought to snap off some platitude about Mr. Brandon being
fifteen, and not a child, and that he ought to be able to take
whatever his father might dish out. But I could not. For I am
afraid for him too.
"I know, Mr. Cousins. He has been a good friend to you, and
you have been through much together. He is stronger than he looks,
though. He must survive but a few years before he is able to stand
up to his father."
Cousins shook his head. "I am not afraid for him physically,
Sir, though that no doubt is bad enough. But he is losing his
life's interest, Sir. Imagine what your life would be like if
for no good reason someone came up to you tomorrow and told you
that you could never go to sea again?"
I shuddered. As much as I loved Kitty, my life without the sea
is without meaning. Cousins nodded.
"You DO see what I mean, Sir? Take Drew off this ship, not
only away from people who care about him and people he cares about,
but take him away from his vocation, from any hope of ever practicing
it again, and what has he got left?" He cleared his throat.
"The only thing he has said to me this entire time about
his return, is that he prays we encounter an enemy and he is killed
in action. That frightens me, Sir."
It frightened me, badly, and I must have showed it, for Cousins
"May I be so bold as to say something, Sir?"
I looked at him. What else could he add?
"Sir," He whispered, looking around. "Sir, Drew
thinks you're angry with him. You've hardly spoken to him since
this order came down, and he's taking it hard. I think he really
believes that it's his behavior that's led to this."
Oh, God! "I am not angry, Mr. Cousins. I am ashamed. Ashamed
that I can do nothing to help him." I muttered.
He nodded. "I didn't think you were angry, Sir, and I've
told him that, but he's past listening anymore."
"Thank you, Mr. Cousins, I shall try to let him know as much
of my feelings as I can." The boy had enough to deal with.
"Sail to larboard!" He cried suddenly. "Sir, I
think she's French."
"Hands to quarters!" I yelled, the personal crises of
my ship pushed to the background.
Except for one last thought. I grabbed Forbes from McAnn's division
as they were taking places. "Mr. Forbes, I request you to
return below, and make certain that Mr. Brandon does not show
his face above decks. At any cost!"
Confused, he obeyed nevertheless. Cousins gave me a brief glance...we
were in perfect understanding. Hornblower soon was at my side.
"We're ready, Sir."
"Good, Let's see what she's got!"
March 22nd, 1797
After spending most of the day in pursuit, the ship, a speedy
little corvette, eluded us with nary a shot fired, so my worries
about Brandon throwing himself in front of cannon fire proved
for naught. But it did take up much time, and the next afternoon
found me in Oporto.
So it was not until the following evening, as we departed Oporto,
that I had a chance to seek out Brandon. Perhaps I was a bit reluctant
to have the conversation myself, for what comfort can I give him?
I found him at last, on the quarterdeck, staring off the back
of the ship. He was a solitary figure, rigid and unmoving, looking
towards the lands and the life we were leaving behind.
"Mr. Brandon." I said softly, afraid to startle him.
"I promise not to jump off the back of the ship, Sir, if
that's what you're fearing."
I came up next to him. "What makes you think that's what
was on my mind?"
"Because Reg has a big mouth, Sir. Why else would you have
Forbes pinioning me down in sick bay during conflict?"
I half smiled. "Mr. Cousins is worried about you, Mr. Brandon."
He sighed but kept his eyes on the night sky. "I know. Sometimes
I'm worried about me too. Mostly, though, I just don't know what
to feel. It's like my life has become sand and is just slipping
through my fingers. I keep asking myself what I could have done
differently to avoid this."
"Well, you could have let me die on the operating table.
Which would have kept your name out of the Gazette well enough."
"I'm serious, Sir."
"So am I, Mr. Brandon. You are in this situation only because
your irrational father read a complimentary paragraph on your
medical skills. And no other reason."
Brandon's head sank into his chest. "I thought...maybe...you
were glad to be rid of me, Sir."
I wanted to make a quip about not wanting to waste all that time
I'd put into his training, but my voice failed me. So I reached
out and gently grasped his shoulder and squeezed.
He turned to me; I could see his eyes glisten in the moonlight.
"I don't want to go home, Sir!" He whispered hoarsely.
Somehow, I found the strength to talk. "And I do not want
you to leave. These weeks have been the most powerless I have
ever felt in my life, Mr. Brandon. Even when Mr. Hornblower was
missing...and you remember my mood THEN..." This elicited
a hint of a smile... "...I felt more in control than I feel
Gently I wiped a tear away with my thumb. "There is always
a place open for you on this ship, Mr. Brandon. Or on any ship
of mine. Your father will not always have control over you. And
I cannot think of anyone I would more wish to have as a ship's
doctor than you." I coughed lightly. "Especially as
I've made a habit of late of getting myself hurt!"
That got a bit of a laugh from him, and I returned my hand to
his shoulder, and we stood side by side, looking at the moon retreating
in the sky.
March 31st, 1797
I have been trying to bury myself in work as we approach Plymouth,
trying to forget the events that await us there. The men are not
so fortunate, and more than once I have caught sight of a hardened
sailor near tears at Mr. Brandon's impending loss. They care much
for him, maybe because he has cared so much for them, so much
more than Hepplewhite, to be certain. Johnson is well liked, and
I am glad to have him, but the truth is Brandon simply had this
aura about him, like Hornblower.
Speaking of whom, Hornblower has been quite miserable himself.
And Kennedy has been too preoccupied to take his accustomed role
of foil to Hornblower's moods.
I found Horatio in the officer's mess, sitting with a book on
his lap, frowning.
"What, Mr. Hornblower? Have you found a navigational test
you cannot master?"
He blinked at me. "Oh, no, Sir. This is my father's medical
text. Mr. Brandon has just given it back to me."
"Shouldn't he keep it?"
"That's what I said, Sir, thinking that he might still be
able to study from it. But he said that if his father found it
among his things he would destroy it first, and then him. He was
laughing when he said it, but..."
I sighed, and sat across from him. "It was probably the truth.
What of his other medical texts?"
"He's left them with Johnson, and he's written out duplicate
instructions for Johnson and cook on how to prepare the herbal
potions he's been using, but he wanted me to have this back, in
case I should encounter another aspiring Doctor, I suppose."
He shook his head. "I can't imagine I shall ever find another
"I'm not that lucky a man, Mr. Hornblower!" I shook
my head, and remembered my reason for searching him out. "You
are to accompany me, Mr. Hornblower, to London tomorrow. As soon
as the boat is secure in Plymouth we shall retain passage."
"London? For how long?"
"That depends on Admiral Hood, but I should say two weeks
certainly. Prepare accordingly."
Well that startled him out of his mood, as I knew it would. It
is one of the reasons I did not tell him previously. "Sir,
"Because in my absence the command of the ship falls to the
First Lieutenant, and you are my Second Lieutenant. And because
I have a year's worth of tormenting to do to you, and because
you need a new Uniform." And then I slipped. "And besides,
I think Kitty should like to see you."
He looked at me in puzzlement. "Miss Cobham, Sir? Do you
plan on seeing her? I did not know you kept in touch?"
This last bit was exchanged just as Mr. Cousins entered in search
of Mr. Hornblower with a question. He stopped dead on hearing
the nature of our discussion.
Me? I was dumbfounded. Mr. Hornblower had been back with us five
weeks and the gossip had not carried to him? I had been certain
it would have, but I guess the news had been replaced with the
other, more immediate problems we faced.
"Ah, Mr. Cousins. Impeccable timing. Please do explain...things
to Mr. Hornblower, if you will!"
"Sir?!?" He was panic stricken.
"You have your orders, Mr. Cousins. No doubt Mr. Hornblower
will find the story enlightening! Carry on!"
I beat a hasty retreat. In battle I am hardened. But in love,
I am still the original coward.
The dawn of the morning saw us setting anchor in Portsmouth. I
was up on deck early, Mr. Cousins already there, though it was
not his watch. Several other men not normally up were also milling
about. And a young, timid Mr. Brandon, showing no resemblance
to the strong man he'd become over his time in service, stood
to the side, his sea chest readied, his shoulders slumped slightly
I approached him. "Surely you do not expect anyone here so
early, Mr. Brandon?"
"If not now, then soon..." His eyes scanned the port,
and I lifted the glass. Sure enough, there was that bastard, his
father, standing self-importantly at the dock, a carriage behind
him. I sighed.
"Yes, he is there, Mr. Brandon. We must ready the ship's
boat for you, then, as quickly as possible."
"Please, Sir. I'd prefer not to keep him waiting." He
said, in a vain attempt at wry humor.
Hornblower's men were to row him to shore; Matthews, Styles and
Oldroyd, with Mr. McGill's help. Mr. Cousins would have liked
to do it, except that we both knew that if he did, neither of
their composure would be worth a damn.
He came forward now, without words, merely extending his hand.
Brandon clasped it warmly. "Take care, Reg. Dan asked me
to look out for you, but I guess you'll have to watch yourself
"Aye, I'll do that. You take care now, Drew." He swallowed
hard, and abruptly backed away.
Others came forward, from Andrews to Morris to Johnson, with quick
words as the boat was readied. Horatio laid a hand gently on his
shoulder. "I hold that book for you, Mr. Brandon."
Kennedy, brow furrowed, came forward with a nod. Brandon spoke
first. "I am sorry, Mr. Kennedy, that our time was cut short.
I hope I helped."
Kennedy smiled, though his eyes remained in thought. "You
did, Mr. Brandon. I hope to repay you someday."
Finally, I stepped in. "Gentlemen, let us not detain Mr.
Brandon. The boat is now ready. He must leave." I faced him,
and he saluted me.
"Thank you for everything, Sir."
I straightened up. "It has been a pleasure serving with you,
Mr. Brandon. I hope that someday we shall serve together again."
He followed my example gamely, shoulders square, arms behind his
back. "I would be proud to do so at any time, Sir. I shall
never forget my days here. Give my regards to all those I might
have missed, Sir. And to the Duchess!" He whispered, a wicked
twinkle in his eye.
So it was with a chuckle that I saw him over board. Only after
I was well out of his sight did I feel my face freezing with the
hurt I was feeling. Not that it mattered, for he did not look
back, any more than a damned man would wish to look on paradise.
I picked up the glass again, to see his father pacing on the dockside,
tapping his cane on the roadway in his impatience. Tap, tap, tap...
I slammed the glass shut and whirled around. I had no desire to
witness anything worse. For if I saw it, I might be inclined to
turn my cannon on him.
"I am returning to my quarters, Mr. Anderson. Please see
to it that I am not disturbed."
The ship was almost funereal that afternoon, as if we'd done battle.
When Matthews and the rest returned, Horatio went forward to question
them, and I followed.
Hornblower turned to me. "Matthews said the man did not speak
two words to Mr. Brandon when they deposited him there."
I turned in surprise. "Nothing?"
"Not a bit! He ignored the boy outright. Motioned for his
men to get his dunnage into the carriage. Kind a looked us over,
in disgust. Course, the feeling was pretty mutual, Sir. He ends
up just glaring at him, and Mr. Brandon, he got into the carriage.
The old man followed and they were off"
"Mhm. Mr. McGill, did Mr. Brandon say anything in the boat?"
"I tried, Sir, to make a bit of small talk, asked if he had
any old friends he might seek out in Rushton. He said he doubted
that's where they were headed, not right away. Apparently they
have a country house outside Southampton, and he figured they'd
be headed there for a week or two at least. He didn't say much
I sighed, then looked back at Matthews. "Mr. Hornblower and
I will be travelling to London, but there has been a delay. Please
be prepared to take us to shore first thing tomorrow morning."
"Aye, Aye, Sir."
Horatio followed me. "Delay?"
I smiled. "I never planned on our leaving today, Mr. Hornblower.
I wanted to see how fast you could pack." His face fell in
shock, but I walked on, trying to enjoy my joke but failing.
Once in my cabin, I sank into my chair and picked up the letter
I had received from Kitty on my arrival.
"Edward, My Love,
If you are reading this, then you have reached Portsmouth safely
and have no doubt dropped off your precious cargo, or are about
to. I have inquired around about Mr. Brandon's family situation-we
in the theatrical profession often have an entourage of gentry
about us. I regret that I have little good to tell of the Brandon
Two brothers, George and Wills, are as big drunkards as the father
himself. George is seldom there, but Wills often spends time with
his father and can be just as brutal. There is a brother Ralph,
a clergyman in Kent, who has distanced himself from the family.
And of course, the oldest son, Stanton, who is from all accounts
a fine young man, but inclined to avoid his father, for the obvious
reasons. The daughter, Alicia, is by considered a lovely and talented
young woman, but report is that even her inheritance of twenty
thousand pounds would not entice a good man to associate himself
with her family. At least, until the father dies and young Stanton
is the new Lord Essex, which is the only solution I can see for
any hope for any of them.
The mother is addicted to laudanum, prescribed to her after she
lost her last child when young Drew was about six. It has grown
over the years; I think she uses it to escape her husband.
I am sorry to pain you more, Edward. I know you were fond of that
boy. I hope I can take your mind off your troubles for a bit.
I look forward to seeing you again, for I have ached to be with
I can be found at the St. James theater, where I am currently
playing in Much Ado About Nothing, or at my lodgings. Do see if
you can't drag Mr. Hornblower out to a performance. He can use
a little culture.
With love and undying affection,
Archie Kennedy and a very down Reg Cousins looked up in surprise
as Horatio came down below.
"Horatio? Aren't you away?"
"Not till tomorrow, apparently. The Captain was teasing me,
said he wanted to see how long it would take me to pack."
Hornblower sat at the Midshipman's table, more at home in this
place than in his quarters at the moment. By nature solitary,
for once he was afraid of brooding.
"I don't suppose anybody would care for a game of whist?"
Cousins choked back a sob, and Mr. Kennedy placed a steadying
hand on his shoulder. Hornblower looked down at him in gently.
Cousins steadied himself. "Sorry, Sir. Just...Drew became
quite a whist player while you were away."
Hornblower exhaled. "Then it is I who am sorry to bring it
up, Mr. Cousins."
Cousins pulled himself together. "I suppose that's really
why the Captain had you packing for today. Kept your mind off
Hornblower shrugged. "Well, there's plenty of time to think
now, unfortunately. But we cannot keep up like this, gentlemen.
There is a ship to run." He was aware how hollow it sounded,
but he knew not what else to say.
Cousins nodded. "Aye, and Drew would not like to have us
like this. He liked to laugh too much." He drew his breath
in, and looked to Mr. Kennedy, whose mind seemed elsewhere. "You
are to return home yourself in two days, are you not, Mr. Kennedy?"
When Archie didn't answer right away, Horatio felt a cold hand
at his heart. "Archie, are you alright?"
He smiled suddenly. "Yes, Horatio, do not worry so. I am
Hornblower relaxed. "Looking forward to seeing your family?"
"Well, my brother David anyway. And there is much to do,
and not much time on leave to do it in."
Hornblower was puzzled but decided not to follow. He took out
a pack of cards and began a game of poker, not normally his cup
of tea, but enough to occupy Cousins for a bit, and that was the
main thing right now.
But what on earth had Archie meant?
London was bursting at the seams, the Port abuzz with the preparations
of war. Horatio was all eyes, probably never having seen the city
in this light before. We exited our boat and I paid our fare,
hoping Horatio would not get run over as he stood there gaping.
"Mr. Hornblower! This day if you please. We must secure our
lodgings and then report to Admiral Hood."
"Aye, Aye, Sir!" He swirled around and managed to get
his feet tangled in his cape, nearly falling over.
"Good heavens, Mr. Hornblower, one would think you had never
seen the city of London before!"
He blushed. "But Sir...I haven't!"
"What?" I turned to him, guiding him by the elbow towards
my usual Inn, behind the husky man I'd just hired to carry our
"Never been nearer it than Spithead, Sir."
"Heavens, Mr. Hornblower, how have you made it to nearly
one and twenty without spending time in your country's capital?"
"In my defense, Sir, I have not spent much time on dry land
in the past four years! And the time I have spent, has been in
We arrived to the Spotted Duck shortly, and had a few minutes
to freshen up. Then I found myself guiding my young, naïve
Lieutenant towards the hallowed halls of Admiralty.
"Horatio, do try and keep your mouth closed and look a bit
more like an officer." I muttered, more tense about this
meeting than I should care to admit. Palely he nodded, clasping
his arms even tighter behind his back.
We were seen to by a minion and escorted to seats. Horatio would
have preferred to pace, I think, but one glance saw him seated
rigidly next to me.
Which was fine for the first hour. Then *I* began to fuss, with
my dispatches, with the buttons on my dress uniform, with my very
hands. Horatio, if he noticed it, took care not to say a word.
I was accustomed to an Admiral feeling the privilege of keeping
a mere Captain waiting, though it never amused me.
But by the time two hours had passed I was fuming silently. Not
that Hornblower was unaware of it, for I could feel him shrinking
in the seat next to me. No conversation had even been ventured
on his part for the past half hour, and if he became any more
taut he'd grow another inch.
Finally, after some two and a half hours of waiting, the minion
returned. So sorry, but Admiral had been called away. He would
almost certainly be back tomorrow, and could we perhaps return
I politely thanked the gentleman for his assistance, begged him
to let Admiral Hood know we would return on the following day,
and let him know where we could be reached in the event he should
need to send us any messages. I tipped my hat and walked calmly
away with Hornblower in tow, then stood on the steps, Horatio
one step behind me.
"God damn that man to HELL" I growled, storming forward
with Hornblower, long legs and all, barely able to keep up with
I continued with my tirade, all muttered with a grimace through
clenched teeth and half under my breath, as I wove skillfully
through the crowds. Poor Horatio had the devil of a time keeping
up with me, especially as he would say "pardon me" to
every stranger he bumped into.
"Yes, Mr. Hornblower."
"Sir, we passed the Spotted Duck three blocks back, I think,
"And your point, Mr. Hornblower?"
"Nothing Sir...except that is where we are staying."
"Very good, Mr. Hornblower. However, it is not where we are
"No. We are headed to the St. James' Theater, where the Kitty...Miss
Cobham...will bee meeting us. If you do not object."
"No, Sir, of course not." Panting, he caught up to me
as I stood on a street corner. "But wouldn't you prefer to
dine with her alone, Sir?"
I half smiled. "Given my mood, Mr. Hornblower, it might be
best if I had some help with the conversation this evening. By
the way, we attend her performance tonight."
Hornblower got rather pink. "Sir? I must...I don't know..."
"Spit it out, Hornblower." I snapped, walking forward
"It's not a MUSICAL performance, is it?"
I turned to him. The poor lad's face was most pitiful, his glance
plaintive, his mouth twitching. And it served better than anything
else to break my mood, for I howled with laughter.
Horatio now looked wounded. "I'm sorry, Sir, I know it is
hard to understand. I wish I could take the same enjoyment in
music that others do, but I cannot! It's...it's painful!"
I smiled indulgently at him. "Sorry, Mr. Hornblower. Not
to worry, it's your basic Shakespeare. There might be a short
musical piece or two, but nothing major."
He relaxed with a smile. "Thank you, Sir. In that event,
I should be delighted to see Miss Cobham perform."
"A three month engagement in Spain was not enough for you?"
"The performance was first rate, but the part grew wearying
I chuckled appreciatively as we approached the theater.
She was waiting for us as we entered, and I felt my heart skip
a beat. Her glorious curls were held off of her face by a sort
of dusty-pink silk band which matched her dress perfectly. I had
not been used to seeing her so well dressed; certainly on ship
board she had been confined to sailor's leftovers.
Her face flushed slightly as she saw me. "Edward!"
"Kitty!" And completely forgetting Hornblower, I took
her in my arms and kissed her, giddy with the joy of seeing her
again. For a moment, there was only the two of us.
A slight cough behind me brought me back to my senses, and I felt
my face grow warm. "Er, Miss Cobham, you remember Mr. Hornblower,
She turned away from me beaming. "Mr. Aitch!" She quipped.
And Horatio, recovering his equilibrium faster than I did, bowed
low with a grin. "Your Grace!"
The two of them laughed. "Horatio, it is good to see you!"
Clearing my throat, I took Kitty's arm, and she smiled up at me.
"Shall we to dinner, then, Edward? It will just be the tavern,
I'm afraid." And she leaned tightly in next to me
I tingled at her touch. "It is the company that is the important
thing." Horatio, more than a little bit embarrassed, stood
behind, and I motioned for him to follow us.
And out of the corner of my eye, as I looked back down at Kitty,
I could see his indulgent smile. I suppose it ought to have bothered
me. But somehow, it was good to know that my relationship with
Kitty pleased him.
We were finishing our main course when Kitty finally brought up
the subject never far from either of our minds.
"No word about Mr. Brandon I suppose?"
I shook my head sadly. "No, and it's doubtful we will have
any. I hardly move in the same circles as Lord Exton, and I am
probably the last person he would choose to communicate with."
She looked at Horatio.
"Don't look at me, ma'am. As the son of a doctor, I AM what
Lord Exton is most repulsed by."
She drummed her fingers on the table pensively. "A few of
my friends...patrons of the theater...may try to help, perhaps
offering an apprenticeship. " She finished off her one glass
of wine. "What of Mr. Kennedy? He is of Exton's class."
Horatio shook his head. "Mr. Kennedy has the opposite problem.
His family is far beyond Lord Exton's sphere."
I was startled. "I never knew that, Mr. Hornblower?"
"We did not have much else to talk of these past months than
family, Sir. His family isn't just titled; his father is something
like the King's third cousin once removed. Fought in the crusades
and in every great battle England's ever seen. I doubt Kennedy's
father would deign to give Lord Exton five minutes of his time.
Assuming Kennedy would ask them to. He tries to distance himself
from them as much as possible."
I shook my head. "So why was he suddenly so keen to visit
them this week, anyway, Mr. Hornblower?"
He shrugged. "I suppose after eight year's absence, anyone's
family might be tolerable."
I had not known it was so long. "Eight years, Mr. Hornblower?"
I was aghast.
Horatio nodded, as he wiped his chin. "Yes, he's not seen
any of them since he was sent to Justinian , when he was but twelve."
Kitty sat back in disgust. "Why these people have children
is beyond me."
Horatio continued. "He does have one brother who'd write
to him. David, I think."
My memories stirred. "Ah, yes, that is the one he wrote to.
Was hoping to have him meet him at their country house near Southampton."
"Devonshire." Hornblower put in.
"I beg your pardon?"
"Kennedy's family's house is in Devonshire. They also keep
a house in London, where they do spend most of their time."
I frowned. "I was almost certain he said Southampton."
"He could never get to Devonshire and back in a week."
Hornblower shrugged. "Nevertheless, that is where is family
resides. Perhaps his brother is staying in the Southampton area."
Hornblower's face lit up. "Sir, you must have confused his
house with Mr. Brandon's. Remember? McGill told us that is where
he would be!"
"Ah, yes, of course, instead of returning to Rushton! So
I did." Yes, surely that was the answer to that little mystery.
"Well, Gentleman, unless you want me to miss my curtain call,
we'd best return to the St. James.
We followed her out, and wove our way back through the crowd.
But something persisted in bothering me just bellow the surface,
something I cannot quite grasp. Well, it shall come to me.
The performance was lovely, breathtaking. Even Hornblower managed
to enjoy himself. I could wait for Hood forever, I think, with
Kitty for company.
We were waited outside in the mews for her, when Horatio tugged
at my arm. "Hm? What is it, Mr. Hornblower."
He nodded to the end of the alleyway, to a street vendor with
flowers, and looked at me expressively. Oh!
Somewhat sheepishly I walked down and managed to choose a rather
pretty bouquet, I thought, that smelled quite nice and seemed
as though it would look well against her dress. I tried to remember
the last time I bought flowers for anyone. I do not think even
my wife had that privilege, for I courted and married her in the
fall and set sail in the Spring. I felt foolish as I returned
to Horatio, who was smiling again.
"Do you have a comment, Mr. Hornblower?"
"No, Sir." He answered very seriously, without losing
I might have chewed him out further, when Kitty exited.
"Well, Gentlemen..." She spied my gift, then. "Oh,
"Yes, well...of course they are..." I was blushing again,
I could feel it.
"Oh, lilacs, Edward, they are my favorite. And so early in
the season for them, too! Oh!" And she buried her nose deep
into the fragrant blossoms, and then looked up at me most radiantly.
"This is so very unexpected! Thank you, Edward!"
I felt myself breathing faster, overcome with her joy. "It
is much less than you deserve, Kitty."
A slight scraping sound then, and I remembered Horatio.
He was clearing his throat, a little pink around the cheeks. "Well,
if you both will excuse me, I think I shall return to the Inn.
About eight blocks back, is it not, Sir?"
I was pleased and worried at the same time. "Do you think
you can find it alright?"
He laughed pleasantly. "Why, it's a clear night, the wind
is fair, and I am hardly likely to sail into a nest of Spaniards
on the way, Sir." Seeing my hesitation, he continued most
seriously. "I shall be fine, I assure you."
I nodded. "Very well, then, Mr. Hornblower, it is eight blocks
back on Chambers street, you cannot miss it. I shall see you..."
and I came to a sudden, embarrassed stop.
"In the morning, Sir, for I shall no doubt be asleep when
you return." He answered smoothly. "Good evening, Miss
Cobham. It was a lovely performance."
She offered her hand to him and he took it. "Thank you, Horatio."
Yes, yes, thank you, Horatio. I thought impatiently. Now be gone!
With a gentle, fond smile at me, he disappeared into the evening,
and Kitty, still engrossed in her flowers, pulled at my arm. "This
We walked in the fine evening for several blocks, finally coming
to a respectable building. "I say, Kitty, your landlord will
not have any objection to this?"
She laughed. "My landlady was quite a rip in her day, Edward,
an old actress. She married well, was widowed young, and now takes
joy in hearing my stage foibles. She's also almost eighty and
pretty deaf, and has probably been in bed for hours."
We entered quietly and headed to her rooms on the third floor.
Kitty went forward to find a vase for the flowers, and I awkwardly
took off my cape and poured myself a glass of port from the decanter.
As she disappeared, I went to the window, looking out over the
city, the moon most dramatic over head. Strange to think it was
the same moon that rose over the Indefatigable, where Bracegirdle
would now be in command.
I turned around to find her standing in the doorway to her bedroom,
wearing only her dressing gown. God, how I love her! Trembling,
I put the glass down on the table, and went forward, taking her
in my arms, kissing her, touching her, freeing her hair even as
she pulled at my shirt.
"Kitty, I need you so! I have needed you so badly."
She answered my kisses, her hands finding all of my aches and
desires. "I know, Edward. You have me now. I am all yours."
I did not dare pick her up, still favoring my shoulder. But I
led her into the bedroom, and down into my arms, wanting to hold
on to her forever.
The dream was vivid. The blood trailing through the streets of
London was a bright red, pooling like puddles of rain. It flowed
in a rivulet, to a dark alley near the theater, leading to a cape-covered
form slumped at its end. Trembling I lifted the cloak. Brandon,
battered senseless, sightless eyes staring forward, and expression
of pain and terror on his face. A laugh, then, Lord Exton's laugh
echoing around me, but when I turned he was not there. Instead,
I found Kennedy, wounded, bleeding, dying, weeping. I found what
was left of Hornblower, mutilated, as if by a blast. Styles, Matthews
and Oldroyd, blown apart by bullets. Bowles, guillotined. What
did it mean?
I turned back to Brandon, his lifeless form so helpless, so small.
And Exton's laugh began to mingle with his screams, his pleas
for mercy, his cries for help. His cry for me. No. Nooooo!
"Edward!" Kitty shook me awake. "Edward, you are
crying out in your sleep. What is it?"
"Brandon..." I whispered. And then six weeks of frustration
and rage caught up with me, and without warning I broke down and
cried. Wept like a child for the boy I could not save.
"Oh, Edward! My dear, sweet, Edward!" She held me tightly,
my head against her bosom, her fingers running through my hair.
"Edward, you did everything for him you could."
"Not enough, oh Kitty, it was not enough."
"Shhh." She kissed the top of my head, soothing me in
any way she could. Finally, as the tears slowed down, she spoke
gently. "Now you listen to me, Edward. When Mr. Hornblower
tried to take the blame for Hunter's botched escape attempt, what
did you tell him?'
Swallowing, I tried to speak sensibly. "He cannot hold himself
responsible for the choices Mr. Hunter made in life."
"Mmmhmm. So why would you take the blame for the choices
Lord Exton has made?"
"It's not the same, Kitty. There is an innocent life at stake.
If Exton only chose to destroy himself, I would not care a jot."
"And what choices did you make that you would change, Edward?
Would you choose not to accept Mr. Brandon as midshipman in the
first place? Would you accept him, but not choose him to be a
doctor? Would you choose him to be a doctor, but not to save your
life? None of these, I think."
"I could have stood up to Hale and refused to let him go."
I said, with a sigh.
"Oh, yes. And who would take care of the rest of your men
after you found yourself removed from command and commissioned
off at half pay for the next forty years?"
I inhaled deeply. "I know your right, Kitty. Know it with
my head. But in my heart I feel Brandon's suffering, and it hurts
me. And every day I have woken up on the Indefatigable for the
past weeks, with my stoic face and stern demeanor, I looked out
at men who wonder how I can be so cold to see him leaving. All
the while I am dying inside."
"Did Mr. Brandon understand how you felt?"
I remembered a conversation not long ago, with a hurting boy on
my moonlit deck. "Yes, thankfully, he understood my position."
"And Hornblower and the other officers? I have no doubt they
"Yes." I whispered, succumbing to her gentle touch.
"They are good men."
"Then go back to sleep, Edward. At the very least, take comfort
in the thought that Mr. Brandon, whatever may befall him, knows
that you hold him in your esteem."
I closed my eyes, still tight within her grasp, and prayed with
all my heart she was right.
Seven BLOODY days in London, and still BLOODY Admiral Hood has
not seen fit to take the time to see me.
Called away. In an important conference. Unavoidably detained.
The final straw being this morning, when I was informed that Hood
had gone to Liverpool-Liverpool!-and might be back within a week
or two. Perhaps if I came back tomorrow there might be word.
Meanwhile, I have a frigate lolling around in Portsmouth, that
ought to be out on patrol, making short work of our French and
Spanish enemies. I have sent several dispatches out to Bracegirdle,
who has nothing remarkable to report in return. The decks are
clean, the sails well repaired, our supply orders filled, and
our men starting to grow restless. Sensing a continued delay in
our return to some sort of normal duties, I finally had told him
to have the men repaint her trim.
And the longer I am in England, and stuck with only my own thoughts,
the more the fate of poor Mr. Brandon preys on my mind. Kitty
can only do so much to ease my fears. For though I have accepted
the fact that I am not to blame for his fate, it does not make
me any happier as I know he suffers. Or can I hope for a miracle,
and that his father has seen the error of his ways?
Hornblower was awaiting me at the Inn when I returned from another
unfruitful venture at Admiralty. I had some days ago given up
dragging his unfortunate self with me on these trips. He is so
fidgety and anxious he makes my mood worse rather than better.
So I sent him off to the tailor, who has assured Mr. Hornblower
that he should have a full compliment of uniforms awaiting him
in another weeks time.
"Sir..." He said, not even asking me about Hood, as
my mood must have been clear. "Dispatches have arrived for
you here. One from Bracegirdle, and one hand I do not know, written
I swore. &%^&*&! Hood! Grasping the missive from Liverpool
first, I tore it open. Briefly, Hood mentioned he expected to
be back in this area by April 17th, but was uncertain whether
he should travel by land or by sea, so perhaps it would be best
if I were to return to my ship (!) in the event he should arrive
"Mr. Hornblower, we must make plans to return to the Indefatigable
. PERHAPS Admiral Hood will find it palatable to meet us there.
Your uniforms must wait."
With a sigh, I turned to Bracegirdle's brief report.
"Hm, nothing new, except that they have had a letter from
Mr. Kennedy, saying that he plans on returning late the evening
of the tenth..."
"That's today, Sir..."
I froze him with a glance. "Yes, Mr. Hornblower, I am well
aware of the date. Despite Hood's attempts to have me believe
we have been frozen in time." I read further. "...however,
there is a possibility, he wrote, that he might be delayed a day
or two, depending on certain favorable circumstances, in which
case he begs his pardon, but says that we will understand when
next we see him..." I frowned deeply. "What on earth
is his meaning? Do you know, Hornblower?"
He looked as puzzled as I was. "No, Sir. I must say it seems
an unlikely letter for him to have written." He rubbed his
jaw. "He has seemed rather contemplative lately, something
has most definitely been preying on his mind, but he gave me no
indication of what it was."
I shrugged. "Well, with any luck we shall be back on the
Indefatigable by late this afternoon, so we shall have answers
soon enough. I must secure a boat and square with the Inn."
"Let me take care of that, Sir."
I looked at him in surprise.
"I thought you might wish to call on Miss Cobham before we
Kitty! In my frustrations I had forgotten! Whatever is the matter
"Thank you, Mr. Hornblower. I shall be back within two hours."
"Yes, Sir. I will have everything ready."
Kitty looked up in surprise when I entered. "Edward, this
is an unexpected pleasure."
I kissed her. "Unexpected and short lived, I am afraid. Hood
has ordered me to attend him on Indefatigable. Maybe."
"Shall I travel to Portsmouth?"
Oh, it was a tempting offer. "No, Kitty, I cannot take you
from the show, it would be most selfish of me to deprive you of
your livelihood. Besides, Hood is just as likely to order me back
to London tomorrow."
"Or Dublin, or the Massachusetts Bay State in America the
way he is going!" She said, wryly. "Do take care of
yourself, Edward. Perhaps you shall worry less once on board Indefatigable."
I smiled sadly. "You DO know me, Kitty." I embraced
her tightly, and whispered into her ear. "I love you, Lady
She shivered slightly. "And I love you, my dearest husband!"
She answered softly.
If only I could never let her go.
By the time I returned to the Inn, Hornblower had our chests packed,
the bill at the Inn squared, and a man to take our belongings
to the dock to the boat he'd hired.
"Well done, Mr. Hornblower. Let us waste no more time."
"Aye, Aye, Sir."
He had learned the ways of London quickly, for now he wove through
the foot traffic with ease, more than keeping up with me.
"Miss Cobham bids you goodbye, Mr. Hornblower, and hopes
to see you in London again soon!"
"That was very generous of her, Sir."
"I took liberty of extending your regards."
"Thank you, Sir."
Soon we were in the boat, being whisked away, towards a saner
Something I had been meaning to ask him came to the front of my
"Have you a young lady waiting you somewhere, Hornblower?"
He turned to me in embarrassed confusion. "No, Sir! What
made you think I had?"
I shrugged. "The first night when we were here, when you
rather pointedly noted that flower vendor. It seemed a surprisingly
romantic thought for you to have had. And a most effective one,
as it turns out." He blushed even deeper. "And really,
after the shock Bracegirdle pulled on me, I would not have been
surprised for you to tell me you were married with four children."
He laughed. "While away in prison? Hardly likely, Sir. And
I am not such a good liar as to be able to hide a wife."
He sighed. "I do not think, Sir, that I have ever even been
He got a warm, far-away look in his eyes then. "My parents,
Sir. My father was in general a very practical, sensible man,
but when it came to my mother...he loved her so very much. Whenever
he was away for more than a day, he always brought her flowers
on his return, and she always was so overjoyed that it was as
if he'd captured sunlight and brought it into the house."
He smiled at the memory, then looked back at me. "That night,
Sir, you had much the same look on your face, that he used to
have looking at her."
I looked down at my hands, suddenly feeling a bit less foolish
for being in love, a bit more allowed to be human.
Hornblower continued. "May I say, Sir, that I am very happy
"You may, Mr. Hornblower." I looked up at him. "I
can only hope that someday you find such happiness for yourself."
"Thank you, Sir."
We arrived on Indefatigable just prior to dinner. Bracegirdle,
efficient as ever, handed me all reports. The ship had remained
well-run, there were no problems with malcontents, despite our
proximity to dry land, and no disciplinary measures had been called
"Very well done, Mr. Bracegirdle."
He did not answer, and I looked up to see him lost in thought.
"Something preys on your mind, Sir?"
He nodded. "Mr. Brandon, Sir. I suppose it would be to much
to hope that you heard word of him while in London?"
"Hardly likely, as he is in Southampton."
Bracegirdle sighed. "I regret his loss very much, Sir. If
I had not put through that report..."
I cut him off. "If I had told you of his father's nature,
you would NOT have. You had only his best interest in mind when
you wrote him up. And I had only his self esteem in my mind, when
I opted not to have his family circumstances made public. It is
not our fault, Sir."
"No, Sir, I don't suppose it is. But I still don't have to
be happy about it."
"Good, because neither am I."
Late that evening I found myself on deck, wondering if we would
see Mr. Kennedy. I was doubly curious about his return, for I
have checked in my diary. I WAS right, he DID tell me that his
family home was in Southampton. Yet Horatio was equally certain
he was of Devonshire! Truly, the man was up to something.
Cousins had the watch, in relief of Anderson, who was down with
a head cold. He seemed sad, older than he had been just weeks
ago. Anderson and Holloway were a bit too young to be mates of
his, and McGill was too old. Horatio, standing next to me, remarked
on his demeanor quietly.
"Mr. Cousins is very solitary, Sir."
"Yes. He reminds me of you when Mr. Kennedy was missing."
"It can be a lonely life on board a ship to be without a
"Indeed it can."
A shore boat appeared to be heading out towards us. "Speaking
of Mr. Kennedy, perhaps this is he."
"Shore Boat, Sir." Mr. Cousins called out.
"Yes, Mr. Cousins, we've noted it." Hornblower and I
headed to the quarterdeck beside him. "They're still to far
out to identify. Can you make out the passenger, Mr. Cousins?"
"No, Sir, but it's passengers. Two officers-or at least two
Hornblower raised an eyebrow. "Not likely to be Mr. Kennedy,
then. And too late for a social call."
I clasped my arms tightly behind my back. "Well, it shall
reach us eventually. A most unusual occurrence!"
And the three of us waited.
Flashback...April 3rd. POV of Midshipman Kennedy
Archie Kennedy sat in the coach, being carried speedily away from
the Indefatigable and every security he knew. But it must be done.
For once, he had an advantage over Horatio and Captain Pellew
in handling a crisis, and though taking action alone frightened
him, he WOULD do it.
The decision to TAKE action had been surprisingly easy to make.
It had its roots in a conversation he had with Mr. Brandon the
day that Captain Pellew had been with Hale. A conversation that
had changed his life.
Brandon had been pleased to see him in sick berth, welcoming him
with a warm smile and such an air of competence about him that
his age was soon forgotten.
Kennedy, so used to Hepplewhite's rough use of him, his belittling
ways and his snide remarks that reminded him of every failing,
was hopeful. And Horatio, he knew, put quite a lot of stock in
this young man, and that said something. So, hesitantly, Kennedy
inquired about any assistance Brandon might offer for a man prone
to fits. And held his breath.
Brandon did not disappoint. He was calm and serious, but gentle,
talking of diseases one was born with versus diseases acquired.
He talked of men with head injuries, and men whose fits had disappeared
with age. And, without ever needing explanation, that Kennedy
was the man in question, spent time talking with him about his
childhood fits, drawing Kennedy out, getting him to discuss the
ailment that has so embarrassed his family. It was an open discussion,
the first one he'd had in his entire life about his ailment. And
it had remained open until he discussed being sent to sea at age
eleven, when his father had decided that to send Archie to school
would be to only further ruin the family name.
Which of course, led to the Justinian, and Archie felt the wall
He did not know how much young Mr. Brandon knew about what Simpson
had done to him. Certainly Hepplewhite might have said much, but
Mr. Brandon had, by all accounts, been on poor terms with the
sot. The thing is, there were so few people in his life whom he
really trusted. Horatio. Maybe his brother David. The Captain.
Yet he had refrained from discussing his violation with even them.
Horatio might have understood once. But then, Horatio had never
let Simpson have full control over him. And so, if he could not
trust HORATIO, how could he trust this young man, this BOY, no
matter how qualified he seemed to be to help him?
Brandon had studied him, those blue eyes searching his face for
clues. Coming to a decision.
"Mr. Kennedy, perhaps it would be best if I told you first
something of my own circumstances."
And Drew told him everything. Of being three years old and spilling
his father's drink and having the man nearly strap him senseless.
Only his mother's hasty intervention saved him from death. It
was his earliest memory. Then, of being five and running in terror
from his father on a rampage. The man had settled for his brother
Wills, and Wills had gotten even with him by hunting him down
and beating him just as badly. There was the point, by the age
of seven, when the question was only which one of them would get
beaten today, and how badly? Only Alicia seemed exempt. And Stanton,
who by the time Brandon was seven, was twenty, and away at school.
That was the worst of it. For as they aged, Brandon had watched
his brothers escape. George, twelve years older, first to school
and then to the Army. Ralph to school, eventually becoming a clergyman.
Wills, the next youngest boy, inherited his father's size and
demeanor. Though just six years older than Drew, his father, if
he must choose between the two of them to abuse, would choose
Drew any time. So by the time that he was ten, the beatings were
a way of life, and his mother, who was kept in supply of Laudanum,
seemed to drift away. Stanton was disgusted by his father's behavior
and kept himself as removed from the family as possible. And just
when Drew had hopes of being sent away to school, his father had
balked at the expense of wasting an education on a fifth son.
And besides, what sport would he have left?
The day he learned he would not be sent to school, after his father
had banged him up pretty badly, he'd fled from the house, ignoring
the pain, just wanting to get away. And he found himself, full
of anger and hatred, at the surgery of Dr. Stewart.
Stewart had been a kindly old Scotsman, who knew, as well as the
rest of the town of Rushton, how badly Drew and his brothers had
been mistreated. But Brandon had been rude to the man, feeling
the need spread the frustration and the hurt, hating his life
and everything connected to it. He had expected more abuse, to
have the Doctor hurt him also. It was all he knew. But Doc had
gently pulled him to the side and held him, soothing him, trying
to comfort him. Brandon remembered his gentleness as if it were
yesterday. And after the Doctor helped to ease the pain as best
he could, the man had offered to let him stay for the afternoon,
provided he pulled his weight! And such was Brandon's introduction
He became Dr. Stewart's helper, escaping every day from the estate,
not that his father particularly noticed. The "sport"
more often than not took place in the evening. The tutors didn't
particularly care that he was gone either. And so he stayed with
the Doctor, learning, taking notes, caring for people. And finding
out what it was like to have someone care for him.
Until the day that his father found out, and it all came crashing
down. Just weeks shy of fourteen years old, he walked in the door
and right in to the strap slashing him across his face. He did
not remember much after that, only waking up the next day with
his sister weeping over him. And within a week his father dragged
him off to Gibraltar, purchasing a spot for him on Indefatigable,
giving him one last "gift": a vicious beating with his
cane that left no marks where anyone could see them. Better get
used to it, he'd said, Captain Pellew will be beating you every
There was a real gift though, one Alicia had smuggled into his
dunnage. The medical books Dr. Stewart had provided for him.
And of course, the greatest gift of all had been the fact that
he'd been sent here. The Indefatigable was his haven, his home,
the men on board her his family. Like Dr. Stewart, Captain Pellew
and Mr. Hornblower had given him a chance to soar, and he'd taken
it, choosing not to look backward at what life had dealt him.
There had been a pause then, and the two men stared at each other,
Kennedy stunned. Brandon was not just a boy in similar circumstances.
He was a soul mate. He too had once been as low as you can get
in this life, and had survived.
And so Kennedy told Brandon everything. From the first violation
at Simpson's hands to Hepplewhite's disregard, to Simpson's blessed
promotion to Acting Lieutenant right before Horatio joined them.
And he detailed the fits, how they seemed to occur in Simpson's
presence, as he found out when Jack returned, his commission denied.
And restarting after a lapse again, the night Simpson joined Indefatigable.
But not another one until he saw Horatio in prison.
"Horatio offered a reminder of Simpson, then. But tell me,
you must have been through quite a physical ordeal while in prison.
Yet, no problems?"
"No, not even during my time in the Oubliette." Kennedy
himself found that puzzling.
Brandon nodded. "Seems to me you've got two separate problems.
A history of childhood fits that was probably prolonged by the
trauma of what Simpson did to you."
Kennedy looked at him, stupefied. "You mean they might not
Brandon was cautious. "I cannot guarantee that. There are
certain things known to cause sufferers to be stricken. Overly
bright lights. Loud noises or things that might make you dizzy.
And I cannot guarantee there never to be a reminder of Simpson
in your life. But the more time you have to come to grips with
what he did to you, the more likely it would be that even if you
saw Simpson's twin, you would not have a fit."
"Shall I ever get over it, do you think?" Archie had
whispered, not speaking of the fits at all.
Brandon understood; he smiled, and grasped his arm. "You
took the first step towards that today, I think."
Kennedy sighed, his eyes on the countryside flying by, but not
really seeing it. He owed Brandon. For nobody else, not even the
Captain, could help the boy. But HE could, because of his family's
position and connections. Something he had always despised. But
now, finally, it was possible there just might be some good of
being a Lord's son after all.
The carriage arrived at Southampton. Kennedy arose, exiting into
His brother David and a short, wiry-looking fair man, not quite
yet thirty, stood before him.
"Archie!" To his surprise David grasped him tightly.
"You really are alive, you little squirt!"
Archie felt himself getting choked up. He had not really thought
anyone would have missed him all that much.
David stood back and looked him over. "You are quite the
sight, Archie! Why, you are taller than me now!"
"Not by much!" He laughed, but was pleased. Then his
eyes turned to the other man.
"Ah! By your special request, Mr. Stanton Brandon. My good
friend from school."
"Mr. Kennedy!" Stanton put forth his hand, and Archie
recognized right away those eyes, honest, gentle and piercing
at the same time.
"Please, call me Archie." He inhaled, and then came
right to the point. "I hope, Mr. Brandon, that you will be
able to help me help your brother."
The future Lord Exton looked at him searchingly then smiled. "If
it's my brother's best interest you have at heart, Archie, then
indeed, you must call me Stan."
And understanding each other, the trio headed to the Inn, where
Archie would try to explain the plan.
April 4th, 1797
(From the POV of Andrew Brandon)
The dreams were cruel.
Again, last night, he had walked the deck of Indefatigable. Felt
the gentle sway of her as she sought out her enemies, those who
would dare cross her path. He heard the wind singing in the sails
and riggings, could hear Mr. Bowles calling out orders and the
men cheerfully but obediently fulfilling them. Sometimes he would
find himself in sick berth, grinding potions and laughing with
Johnson, or in the midshipman's berth, around a table, listening
to the stories of his mates. There never seemed to be a specific
incident in the dreams to remark them, just the glory of every
day life aboard the ship, and the joy of an unexpected compliment
from Mr. Hornblower, or in a bit of notice from the Captain.
And then he would wake up, as he did this morning, and remember
where he was.
With a moan, Drew rolled over gingerly, from his stomach to his
back, wincing but finding it not intolerable. There had been a
new phenomenon that developed during his year away; his father
had last night gotten himself SO drunk that he was incapable of
beating him! So he had been spared one night's torment, giving
him an extra day for old bruises to heal before new ones could
be applied. He was resigned enough to know that eventually they
would be. But he'd been lucky so far...his father had not yet
used the cane, which is what really terrified him. The strap he
A sudden breeze ruffled the curtains in the window, bringing with
it fresh April air. For a moment Drew was reminded of the sails
and the ocean breeze, and the tears started. God, he was so homesick
he thought he might die!
Funny, he'd felt the same way his first few nights on the Indy,
silent tears running down his face as he lay in that strange hammock,
with strange mates, in a place he did not know, missing home.
As bad as home had been, it was familiar; and there had always
been the gentle care of his sister, and of Doctor Stewart. On
the Indy there was fear, and a strange language, and that scary
man Hunter who he now reported to, and all these things he didn't
understand, but was expected to DO! Still, years of taking abuse
from his father had made him stoic on the outside, and he hid
his terror well.
Cousins and Carlysle had been exceedingly kind to him, protecting
him from Hunter, stopping his mistakes before he made them, and
encouraging him to seek out Mr. Hornblower. Mr. Hornblower, to
be sure, was a grand man, an inspiration, and yet at the same
time approachable and warm. Surely he could never have been a
frightened young midshipman himself.
But Drew's fear remained for a while. Because of the stories George
had told him. And because the night they had stayed over in Gibraltar
before he'd been sent on board, his father had beaten him with
that cane for the first time, pounding him over and over again,
each blow searing. And all the while the man had laughed, saying
he'd better get used to it, because Captain Pellew was known to
be fierce. Captain Pellew did not like incompetence. Captain Pellew
would have him beaten JUST LIKE THIS every day. So most of his
first week on Indefatigable, he had watched the man with terrified
eyes, his stomach sinking whenever he approached, and his relief
palpable as he would walk by without noticing him at all.
But Drew was a sharp lad, though young; he celebrated his fourteenth
birthday shortly after joining the Indy. And whatever stories
his father had tried to pound in to him were contradicted by the
realities of life on board. After two weeks, he understood. The
men did not so much fear Captain Pellew as revere him. He was
an object of awe and respect, but not of abject terror. Nobody
wanted to disappoint him, for his tongue was caustic and the look
he could give you could pierce your heart. But in two weeks he
did not see one crewman taste the cat, and not one boy...himself
included...was beaten. Or tied in the riggings.
And then Christmas happened. And fierce, terrifying Captain Pellew
had provided every one of his men with an enormous Christmas feast,
out of his own pocket, as the men went around saying. And then
he took the watch himself, to give all his officers the night
off. When word had come down that after dinner a Midshipman would
be required to join the Captain at watch, his heart had sunk,
for he was the newest and would doubtless be chosen. But Lieutenant
Hornblower had looked round the midshipman's berth, had met his
eyes for a second. His gaze had been soft, his smile understanding.
And he had announced that HE would take the watch.
Later that evening, when they discovered the snow and the Captain
had given them a few moments to enjoy it, he caught something
else. The way the Captain looked at his men, in particular Mr.
Hornblower. Pride there, when he knew it could not be seen. Like
he had Mr. Hornblower's whole future mapped out, and liked what
And that was when the change began. Just getting through the day
without getting beaten was not enough. Instead of behaving to
avoid all attention, he found himself craving it. He wanted Mr.
Hornblower's praise at a lesson done correctly. He wanted to have
Mr. Bracegirdle compliment his signaling skills. Mr. Hunter was
a lost cause, he knew, but even Mr. Bowles had once praised the
speed with which he readied his gun port during an exercise.
He hoped that maybe someday the Captain would take notice of him,
but hadn't really thought it would happen. That was reserved for
the extraordinary men, men like Mr. Hornblower. And Drew knew
he was at a disadvantage. Though he was smart, he was small for
his age. And like his brother Stanton, he'd inherited more than
his mother's demeanor. His brother had not exceeded a height of
five-foot eight and was still slender, though not weak; Drew figured
that was probably his own fate. He'd never be the first up the
riggings, like Reg, or able to move cannon balls about as if they
were candy, like Dan could. No, the Captain wasn't likely to notice
And then he had. Turning that piercing gaze on him when, of all
things, he requested he work with Hepplewhite in the sick bay!
Observing his demeanor around the old drunken doctor, and liking
what he saw! Giving him encouragement before being pressed into
operating for the first time, making him believe that he could
do it. And the look he'd given him when it was over...the kind
of look Drew had believed was reserved for the Hornblowers of
the world. "Well Done, Mr. Brandon. Very well done indeed!"
It was burned into his memory. He was supposed to return to Captain
Pellew to report after he cleaned the sick bay. It should not
have taken more than an hour, but was an hour and a half before
he could get there. Because he had spent fifteen minutes weeping
with the sheer joy and relief of someone who had been saved.
Drew fought to compose himself, for soon his father would go clattering
down to the breakfast table, and he would be expected to be there.
Besides, his brother Stanton would be coming today, bringing two
friends, he had written in the letter they received yesterday.
Most uncharacteristic of him, but Drew looked forward to it. It
might divert some of his father's attentions away from "the
So he put the memory of that look, that compliment, away with
the rest of his memories. He took them out when his father charged
him, shut his mind to the pain and the indignity by playing out
every proud look, every impressed stare or bit of hard-won praise
that the Captain, or any of the officers, had ever given him.
Someday, he intended to take the Captain up on his offer to return
to duty, if he could survive.
What frightened him is, this was only his fourth day home.
April 5th...1:15 AM (POV Brandon)
That evening Drew lay still in bed, on his stomach, recovering
from another beating and a bad shock that left his emotions in
The beating had not actually been that bad, he thought, wiping
his eyes. His father had hardly been drunk. Instead of a rampage
where the man flailed wildly, it had been controlled and purposeful,
though done in secret. Apparently not wanting to engage Stanton's
censure, or the censure of his guests, he had waited till Drew
had retired, coming later to his room, saying that if Drew let
out one scream, he'd go get the cane instead. So Drew had taken
it, and his father left, his lust for violence satisfied.
No, it was not pain but shock that had him in its grip now, the
shock and the strangeness of it. For Stanton had arrived just
after breakfast with his two great friends, the younger sons of
the Lord Bridgeleigh.
David and Archie Kennedy. Archie Kennedy. Mr. Kennedy! In resplendent
Midshipman's uniform and with his blond hair gleaming in the light.
What in God's name was he doing here? And how could he face him?
His father had been beyond pleased. For Lord Bridgeleigh was one
of England's finest peers, a nobleman, a relative of the King,
and even if they were only YOUNGER sons, it was quite a coup to
have them in his house. Imagine...the DEVONSHIRE KENNEDYS staying
Drew had not known what to do with himself. Should he acknowledge
Mr. Kennedy, or would that enrage his father?
Mr. Kennedy had taken the situation in hand by greeting him warmly,
saying how good it was to see him looking so well (was he blind?)
and mentioning that he should miss having the company of another
esteemed nobleman on board in the future. It would leave him "forced
into conversation with those who were social inferiors!"
(Like Mr. Hornblower, his best friend? What the devil had gotten
into him this day?)
His father, of course, had preened. No matter how little he liked
his youngest son, to have one of Lord Bridgeleigh's sons treat
him as an equal socially meant something! His importance was being
RECOGNIZED. Of course Mr. David and Archibald Kennedy were welcome
to stay for the remainder of the week! He could certainly extend
his hospitality. His wife was ill, of course, and seldom left
her room, but Alicia was more than capable of standing as hostess.
Alicia! She had entered, and suddenly the look on Archie's face
changed. For a moment, Drew saw the laughing, happy man who was
so well liked on board the ship. Archie stared at Alicia mesmerized.
And then it was gone, and the stranger returned. Alicia turned
to Drew, an expressive look on her face when she realized that
Mr. Kennedy had been a shipmate. Dear Alicia, trying so hard to
protect him, being just as much at a loss as he was. Still, she'd
coped, as she always did, making arrangements with the household
staff to prepare guestrooms and handle the ordering of additional
Stanton had been jovial, teasing him a bit, asking him to tell
some shipboard stories. No, damned if he would! He could not speak
of Indefatigable in this place. But then, he didn't have to, for
his father turned immediately to Archie and begged him to talk
of Indefatigable, instead.
And Archie did. Sort of. But the ship he described was about as
unlike the one Drew held in his heart as his father was from Captain
Pellew! Kennedy described a ship ruthlessly efficient and cold.
The men he referred to as having little more value than the beasts
in the hold. Pellew was suddenly flinty-eyed and cunning, without
pity or remorse. A grand story-book captain, but nothing like
the real leader Drew knew. And Hornblower was made to seem obsequious,
annoying, plotting to try and keep Archie out of the way so he
could rise instead.
Drew had moved uncomfortably at this statement. He wanted to cry
out, decry Kennedy, ask him what on earth he was thinking of?
But he also wanted to live, and so he held his tongue rather than
insult his father's vaunted guests.
Where was Archie Kennedy? The good man who'd been through so much,
who had confided his soul to him so he might be helped? He did
not know who the man sitting in the library was!
The three young men and his father had dismissed him shortly afterwards,
with his father cautioning him not to even think about leaving
the grounds (as if the staff would let him). So morosely he'd
strolled through the garden, trying to make sense of it all, finally
sprawling under a tree.
Alicia had found him there. "That ODIOUS man was not a friend
of yours, was he, Drew?"
"I thought he was."
"He's the worst boot-licker I've ever seen! Winding Father
in with all those phony stories. I MET your Captain Pellew, and
he's not at all like what he described. He's such a fine man."
Drew had turned to her, in real emotional pain. "Please,
Alicia, do not speak of it, I beg you! I cannot remember Indefatigable
She had swallowed and nodded, and then sat down on the ground
next to him, putting her arm around his shoulders.
Drew knew it wasn't easy for her, any of this. She was almost
twenty now, and a beautiful young woman, intelligent, accomplished,
sweet-tempered, and with a fortune of twenty-thousand pounds to
boot. By all rights she ought to have had her pick of suitors,
ought to have been able to find a husband who deserved her. But
with such a family? So many incidents caused by Wills and George,
the conduct of their father, and the effective absence of their
mother, all of this made them laughed at in society. Yet her father
grew desperate to marry her off, seeking out any man who might
do. Drew feared she'd be forced into a bad marriage to a man like
their father. To see her end up as their Mother had, suffering
and addled with narcotic drugs, it would be the last straw for
him. But so far her father refused to seek past their own social
strata, and had yet to find a man in that class weak and dissipated
enough to take her.
The evening had passed in similar fashion to the afternoon, with
Archie putting down everything Drew held dear about his ship,
mocking it, and making up stories of glories that did not happen.
It all made him sick, and he had retired as soon as was polite.
When his father had slipped into his room some three hours later,
waking him to be beaten, he almost had not minded it. He had hoped
he would beat him into oblivion so he could not see how far his
friend had fallen, not remember THIS loss on top of all others.
For if he could be so wrong about Archie Kennedy, what else might
he have been wrong about?
April 5th, 1797 1am
(From the POV of Archie Kennedy)
Archie leaned against the tree and vomited.
The plan. He had to stick to the plan. It was the only hope, and
damn it, it was working, if only he could convince his stomach
to cooperate, if only he could withstand several more days of
Drew looking at him like he was the beast he made himself sound
Kitty Cobham, he thought wryly, would have been proud of his performance,
as the weasily youngest son of privilege. Exton had bought it.
Even David, who was in on the plan, had looked startled at some
of the things that came out of his mouth. He was hurting Drew,
he knew, but it was all for a purpose and it would be fine in
the end. Only once had he slipped, and that was when Miss Brandon
had entered the room. Lord, he had not expected her to be so beautiful!
Archie shook his head. He had to stop those thoughts. He could
not risk Drew's well being with some sort of puppy love for a
woman who would never look twice at the likes of him, anyway.
But he could not take another night like tonight, he was certain.
For Miss Brandon had given him the room right next to Drew. And,
his mind racing with thoughts of how far he should take things
tomorrow, he had been wide awake five minutes ago when he heard
Lord Exton pass in the hallway and into his youngest son's room.
Heard the muffled voices, and then the sickening sound of the
beating as it began. He had not heard Drew cry out, except for
a muffled gasp, a swallowed whimper. He wanted to charge in there,
strangle the man as he stood, grab the boy and run for the shore.
Which would have been fatal, of course. But how could he be expected
to lay there and listen? Good God, how long could it go on?
Then he'd felt his head buzz, and fearing a fit, he'd risen quietly,
grabbed his cloak, and headed downstairs for the terrace and out
into the garden.
The air had cleared his head, and he battled the memories of another
boy, beaten down and whimpering. Simpson hadn't stopped at the
beatings. But neither had Simpson been his father, someone who
was supposed to be a source of love and security. He would not
let Drew be dragged down to the depths he had reached. He would
not let it happen. "I will not let it happen!" He said,
fiercely, under his breath.
The sudden footfall startled him. "What is that you said,
Startled, he rose quickly. "I...beg your pardon Miss Brandon...I..."
She stood before him, a shawl wrapped around her, the moon shining
off of her pale hair, which fell in a long braid across her shoulder.
She looked fierce, though. No-nonsense. "You were saying
you would not let it happen. What is it you are referring too?"
She asked sternly.
Archie could only stand there, unable to answer as he wished to,
too startled to answer in the character he was playing.
She smirked. "As I thought. So many people say they won't
let it happen. So many people, pretending to be so concerned.
But when it comes right down to it, nobody ever does want to get
involved." She tossed her head, her braid whipping around
to her back, as she looked back at the house. A candle extinguished
in one room
"You can go back upstairs now, Mr. Kennedy. It is over. Your
sleep will not be disrupted any longer." She looked at him
with such disgust, such loathing, and he could not bear it.
"Miss Alicia, please..." He grasped her arm. "I
will get him out of here. I will!" He hissed, fearful of
Her eyes flashed fire. "If you are so concerned with his
well being, why did you run away out here? I am only a woman,
I cannot stop my father in a rampage. You could have!"
Archie shook his head, both hands on her arms, facing her. "And
then what? I stop it tonight. What of tomorrow? What of when I
return to my ship? There is no law on my side that would permit
me to take him from this house without your father's permission
and you know it!"
He saw the angry tears in her eyes. "Then the law is wrong
and can be damned!"
Archie exhaled, and automatically reached up to her face. "The
law is very wrong. But I cannot damn it. I can only work around
it. Your brother Stanton, my brother, and I, we will convince
your father to send him back to Indefatigable willingly. A few
more days. Just a few more days."
She blinked at him. "You'll never get him to do it."
Archie smiled at her. "Yes, I will. For I am one of the Devonshire
Kennedys Miss Alicia, however much I've fought that in the past.
Your father cannot resist us. And as my father would say, never
underestimate a Kennedy."
Her scrutiny deepened, but was less hostile. "You really
think you will succeed?"
Archie took a deep breath. "Yes, with the help of our older
brothers. And, it goes without saying, your discretion."
The anger sparked back for a moment. "There is nothing I
would not do for Drew, Mr. Kennedy. I have watched him suffer
his entire life. I watched my mother give up. I always swore I
never would. I do not appreciate your insinuating that I cannot
be discreet in this matter."
Archie smiled even wider. "Good. Keep that anger up. You
must loathe me as much as you did the man I pretended to be this
She backed up a step. "I still do not know you're NOT the
man I saw this afternoon." Looking back towards the house,
she began to move away. "I must check on Drew, Mr. Kennedy.
Archie bowed low, and felt his heart racing as she walked away.
She was something else, alright, full of fire and emotion. Well,
not that it mattered to him, anyway.
The past week had been a special kind of hell for Drew. Being
around Archie, having him talk of Indefatigable constantly but
in ways that were offensive to him, made him ill. He devised little
comfort from the fact that his father had been too busy with his
stately guests to pay him much attention. Since that night when
Archie had first arrived, there had been only one more beating,
and that had been two days ago.
Last night he had not dreamed of the ship for the first time since
his return home. But instead of bringing relief, his dreamless
sleep had left him feeling bereft, as if he had lost her for a
second time. Archie's cold tales of the search for prize money
by mercenary officers seemed to be erasing his memory of the ways
things actually HAD been.
He'd escaped again, curled up under that tree in the garden, trying
to see the ship in his mind. Alicia's gentle voice interrupted
"Quiet day today, eh, Drew." She sat down next to him,
her skirts billowing out around her.
He gave her a far-away smile. "The calm before the storm
I fear. After all, our guests cannot stay forever." He shut
his eyes again. "Then he'll make up for lost time, I'm sure."
Alicia bit her lower lip, as if she wished to say something, but
held back. "Maybe not. Maybe it will be better."
Drew raised one eyebrow at her, in an unconscious imitation of
Captain Pellew. "Awfully optimistic suddenly, aren't you?"
He gazed away from her, out into the garden, not seeing it really,
and not caring. It was getting harder to care about anything anymore.
Looking at him carefully she sighed. "It grows wearying to
always be fearing the worst." She smoothed her hair back
from her forehead, and then folded her arms in front of her. "Drew,
what sort of man is Mr. Kennedy?"
"I assume you mean Archie and not his brother? I do not know
any more, Alicia. He has not been here the man I thought he was
on..." He swallowed. It hurt to say the name. "He's
not the man he was at sea."
"What did you think of him before?"
Drew smiled. "It's strange, Alicia. I barely sailed with
him. But in some ways I know him better than anyone on that ship.
We are very much alike, you know. Or at least, I thought we were."
She turned towards him. "What do you mean, you barely sailed
with him? I understood that he had been to sea since the age of
twelve, and on...your ship for several years?"
Drew looked to the sky, but was seeing a place far away. "Mr.
Kennedy was lost in an expedition long before I entered the navy.
He was in several prisons before ending up in the same one with
some other men, men I did know. He spent a few days with us last
November after the whole group was released from prison in order
to perform a rather heroic rescue." He turned to her with
a smile. "The Archie Kennedy I knew, Alicia, was the sort
of man who willingly returned to prison because the Lieutenant
he served with had given his parole. Despite the fact that his
conditions at prison included spending a month confined to a hole
in the ground. That was how honorable he was."
Alicia was wide-eyed. "But where was that story, Drew? Why
does he not tell us these things?"
Drew scowled. "Perhaps because that Lieutenant...his best
friend...was Mr. Hornblower, a social nobody, a man who father
would not bother to say 'excuse me' to if he bumped into him on
Alicia grew very pink then. "Drew, don't...perhaps Mr. Kennedy
has reasons for speaking as he does."
Drew looked at her quietly. "I cannot fathom what reason
he would have for creating such an entirely fictitious account
of life. But then, no more can I understand what he is doing here
at all." He sighed. "Anyway, the long and short of it
is, Mr. Kennedy only returned to the ship the day before father
ordered me back. If you had asked me previously, I would have
said he was one of the kindest, loyal, most honorable men I've
ever known. He's been strong, stronger than he's ever realized,
because he's a survivor, Alicia. The things that have happened
to him would have destroyed a lesser man." He let his mind
drift off to what Archie had been through. "I admired him
for that. I know sometimes just surviving is enough." He
sighed deeply and leaned backwards, drawing his knees in towards
him. "I would very much have liked for that man visit me.
I do not know who this man is." With effort, he got up, and
extended his hand to his sister. "We had best go in and get
ready for dinner."
Alicia hesitated, then took his hand. She seemed hesitant about
"Come, Alicia, what is it you are not telling me? You know
I can read you like a book."
She managed a smile. "It is nothing, Drew. Will it satisfy
you if I tell you I only wish for what is best for you to happen?"
He looked puzzled, but pleased, for a moment fully bringing his
mind to her. He reached over and kissed his sister on the cheek.
"I have never doubted that, Alicia. You have always been
there for me."
He said nothing more as they headed to the house, but knew that
he would only wish to one day have the opportunity to do something
for her in return, that could make such a difference in her life,
as she had made in his.
Drew felt heavyhearted as he headed to dinner. Archie would be
leaving tomorrow, he believed. Returning to the Indefatigable.
Leaving him behind.
And though the Archie he'd spent the past week with bore little
resemblance to the man he admired, he would have given anything
to be returning with him.
I cannot bear it. I CANNOT, he thought, over and over again.
But bear it he must, for his father would have accepted no excuses
for missing dinner. And there was no point in baiting the man.
Sitting at the table this evening, he marveled anew at Kennedy's
behavior. He could only attribute the fact that he was behaving
as though he were, to put it bluntly, an ass, on the unfortunate
influence of his older brother. He, too, was stiff and pompous,
but since Drew had no frame of reference about David, he did not
find that so extraordinary. Except that he was truly a strange
friend for Stanton to have.
His brother was also changed. Suddenly he seamed eager to please
his father, almost humoring the man. But this was not so entirely
unexplainable, for Drew felt it probably to be an attempt to protect
He barely contributed two words of conversation, which no doubt
pleased his father. And so when Alicia left the table, and the
port went round, Drew expected to be dismissed as "too young."
But his father, ever toying with him, decided he should remain
present. "And you WILL have a glass of port, BOY." He
Drew acquiesced quietly, acting downcast and chastised, as would
most please his father. Really, he was indifferent. Ever since
Hepplewhite's attack on him with the gin bottle, he had learned
that he COULD handle a social glass of spirits, though he did
not have a taste for them, and doubted he ever would. But he could
not act indifferent, because that would only enrage his father
more. So he pretended to be obedient but disturbed, convincing
his father that this was yet another punishment.
Immediately on Alicia's departure, Kennedy started in.
"I must say, Lord Exton, I will miss having Drew on board
very much. Not much class on that old barge."
Drew felt his face burn, and wished he liked Port better.
His father made a noise like "harumph", pleased at the
inference, displeased, no doubt, to be reminded of his son's failure.
For from his point of view, that is what it would have been.
Drew noted Archie and David exchanging a curious glance. Then
Archie fired the broadside, before Drew could realize he was under
"'Tis a pity, what they're saying. Oh, I'm certain it isn't
true, but you know how the gossipmongers like a story. It's a
black mark, for certain."
His father slammed down his glass and rolled a malevolent eye
towards him. Drew felt his stare, felt the anger radiating from
him, and felt his breath coming faster. He looked plaintively
at his friend. Archie, whatever are you DOING to me, he thought.
His father spoke, low and dangerous. "Black mark? Just what
is it that they are saying of Andrew, Mr. Kennedy?"
Archie hurried on. "Oh, you know, that he's a quitter. Couldn't
handle the Navy. All that. Rot, you know. I'm certain you merely
removed him for more important purposes. Still, that is what it
looks like." Archie met his father's eye. "Quitting."
Good God, Archie, why don't you get up out of your chair and hand
him the cane yourself? Nervously he picked at the dinner napkin
in his lap.
His father leaned back, and tossed off the remainder of his port
in one gulp, then tapped for it to be filled again. Drew did not
dare meet his eye.
Stanton broke in then. "Rot. Drew was every bit as capable
as any other man on that boat, I bet."
Archie hurried on. "Oh, I know he was. But I was there. Those
who were not, may not have such a fortunate idea. It does look
His father scowled at him. "All this because you kept up
that stupid Doctoring nonsense, boy. I thought I beat all that
out of you before I sent you on board! I guess I didn't beat you
Drew closed his eyes. If he lost it, God help him, if he started
CRYING at the dinner table, adding that embarrassment to his father's
complaints, his life would not be worth two pence. No, he would
not be that lucky; his father would never actually kill him. Just
beat him to the limits of his sensibility every day until he turned
twenty-one. Six years. No, he could not cry. He opened his eyes
but kept them fixed on his plate, holding himself steady, his
hands pulling at the napkin out of sight, twisting it forcefully.
Archie suddenly laughed out loud. "Doctoring? Good lord,
is that why you had him removed from the ship, Lord Exton? Why,
surely he didn't tell you he was working as a DOCTOR?"
And Drew looked up sharply. Archie was all mirth and joviality,
smiling engagingly as he continued. "Drew must've decided
it was an easier life to come back here instead of having to do
actual work on Indefatigable, you little scoundrel!" He playfully
tossed his own napkin towards him, but Drew just sat there.
His father did not know which statement to question. "Are
you telling me, Mr. Kennedy, that Andrew was NOT acting as ship's
Archie scoffed. "Waste a valuable young midshipman such as
your son in such a useless job? Captain Pellew would ask Mr. Hornblower
to act as cook first! Of course, that would be more suitable for
HIM, but Drew, a Doctor?"
Stanton turned to his father. "You see, Father, I told George
it was nonsense!" Looking back to Archie, he continued: "There
was this piece in the Naval Gazette which identified Drew as ship's
doctor, saving Captain Pellew's life."
Archie laughed, deeply and loudly. "I cannot believe anyone
thought that might be true. Why, you know how that came about,
don't you? Drew WAS there, of course, he very bravely assisted
in holding down the Captain while the operation was performed.
But it was that medic, a silly marine named Johnson, who actually
dug the ball out. Lucky he didn't kill the Captain, but no doubt
it was Pellew's superior strength and breeding that kept him alive.
Still, it did have to be written up, and Lieutenant Bracegirdle
couldn't bear the idea of giving credit to a MARINE for heaven's
sake. So he wrote up Drew."
Drew met Archie's eyes for the first time since the first day
the man had been here. His eyes...what was that he was trying
to tell him?
His father exhaled slowly. "Why did your Captain not tell
me of this? I was most explicit with Admiral Hale as to my reasons
in removing Drew from service."
Archie shrugged. "No doubt Hale held it back from the Captain.
He believes a man should obey an order without question. You wanted
your son back, therefore he ordered Captain Pellew to comply."
The second glass of port was tossed down into his father's belly,
and suddenly refilled. Exton ran a fat finger round the glass's
rim, and did not look up. "I cannot believe you didn't enlighten
me, ANDREW. No doubt you felt disinclined to do the hard work
required to be a successful officer, and felt this would be the
easy way out."
Drew said the only thing he could, though he knew it was for no
purpose. "I'm sorry, Father." And held his breath, his
Archie jumped in then. "It would serve him right if you sent
him back with me!"
Suddenly, Drew felt the world right itself again. As if a mirror
that had been shattered into a thousand pieces suddenly rose up
and rejoined itself, returning a true reflection. And as the pieces
flew together and what had been disjointed became whole, he saw
Archie Kennedy...his friend, Archie Kennedy...trying the only
way he could to save his life. Tears threatened again, but for
a different nature, and he steadied his breathing, trying to maintain
"I can assure you, Captain Pellew would look very unkindly
at this incident. I wouldn't want to be in Drew's situation should
that happen, to learn that a midshipman had practically deserted.
You know what Pellew's reaction would be, don't you, Drew?"
Drew inhaled and called on reserves he didn't know he had. He
had always been a terrible liar, but here he would have to lie
in order to succeed. "Mr. Kennedy... please..." He whispered,
pleading. "If the Captain found out, it would be worse than
what happened to Mr. Cousins for sleeping on watch!" His
voice sounded tremulous and emotional, just the right way to sound
for a young man in terror. That, at least, was not a stretch,
though not for the reasons his father would hopefully read.
He just caught the hint of a twinkle in Mr. Kennedy's eye, for
they both knew that NOTHING had happened to Mr. Cousins. Stanton
finalized the conclusion.
"Really, father, I don't see any other option if we are to
save our name. Drew must go back and serve out his time at sea,
no matter what he fears."
His father had the last of the port, and then made his decision.
"Andrew. Look at me!"
Drew swallowed and met his father's eyes, cold and uncaring as
they were. No need to pretend to be afraid now. In this exchange
his whole future rested.
"You shall return to Indefatigable with Mr. Kennedy."
He gasped, hoping to indicate fear. "No, father, please..."
He whispered, his voice breaking.
"SILENCE! You shall return to your room and prepare your
trunk. I trust you still have your uniform?"
Drew hung his head, not daring show his father his face. "Yes,
Sir." He mumbled.
"Good. You are dismissed."
Drew rose hastily from the table and made for the doorway.
He froze where he stood, knowing what was to come, dreading it,
but seeing no way out of it.
"Yes, father?" He held tightly to the door handle and
looked back at him.
"You may expect me in your room in three quarters of an hour."
His father drummed his fingers on the table, his eyes moving pointedly
to his cane where he had rested it in the corner.
Drew felt sick, nausea rising in his throat. So it was to be Gibraltar
all over again. He closed his eyes, frightened, very very frightened,
but stronger now for knowing that it was only one more night.
One more night.
"Yes, Father." He whispered, and continued out the door
Archie Kennedy was frantic. Moments after Drew's departure from
the room Lord Exton had excused himself, and Stanton had followed,
the worry plain on his face, perhaps hoping he could talk his
father out of his planned assault. And Archie, as soon as Exton
was departed, had bolted himself, out to the garden, away from
David's pleading... "Archie...wait."
Not this! No, this was not his plan. Oh, to be certain, Exton
had fallen in with sending Brandon back exactly as he thought
he would. Archie knew that the idea of being embarrassed in society
was anathema to him. As long as he believed that it would HURT
Drew, and they had done a convincing job of making Exton believe
the Indefatigable to be one step up from prison, Exton could be
counted on to ship the boy off.
But the beating was unforeseen. Archie had stupidly thought it
would be enough of a punishment, in Exton's mind, to send him
to Pellew's justice. And so in three-quarters of an hour...no,
half an hour by now...Drew would be subject to a wrath that Archie
had brought down on him. He had thought the other beatings were
bad enough, but this? He had seen the pallor on Drew's face, a
face that moments before had seen a glimpse of hope in his life,
though he hid it well. No, this beating scared Drew, and therefore
scared him. But what did he do? Did he intervene? That would blow
everything up. But how, how could he sit back and let it happen?
He'd blown it. Ruined everything. He should have known he was
not like Captain Pellew or Horatio. He could never be such a man,
never have things work out the right way. And he wasn't much of
a Kennedy either. No, he did not have that kind of luck on his
He sat on a stone bench and stared into a small decorative pond,
tears flowing freely down his face. The footsteps approached,
and he figured it was David. "I've bollixed it up again,
David. I never should have attempted this. Why should I succeed
in this any more than I have succeeded in anything else in life?
I must finally admit myself to be a total failure at life. Horatio
should have let me die in prison."
A soft hand fell on his shoulder. "I could not disagree more,
He whirled around. "Miss Alicia!"
She sat next to him before he could rise, and took his hands in
hers. "Mr. Kennedy, you have saved my brother. Whatever happens
tonight..." She gulped. "Tomorrow he returns with you."
Archie felt the tears welling up again. "This is not how
I wanted it!"
She smiled ruefully. "I doubt it's how he'd have preferred
it. But you did not see Drew this afternoon. He was drifting away,
Mr. Kennedy. Loosing everything that he had become while he was
on Indefatigable. He was numb, losing touch with life, because
that was the only way he could cope. I feared not for his safety,
but for his sanity. I saw him heading down Mother's path."
She shook her head. "You've not seen Mother. She spends her
days with a bottle of laudanum in a dream world. I could not bear
for that to be Drew's end."
Archie blinked. "But he is to be tortured...How can I let
this happen? How can I stand by while he is so brutalized?"
Her earnest gaze burned in to his soul. "I am sorry now,
Mr. Kennedy, for the hard words I had for you that first night
you were here. You are, indeed, every bit the man Drew told me
he believed you to be."
"I..." He paused. Whatever did she mean? What could
Drew have told her other than that he was an afflicted weakling
who'd permitted himself to be sodomized? "I do not understand
what good Drew could have possibly said about me."
She gently stroked his cheek, wiping away his tears with her kerchief.
"Only that he had believed you to be one of the most generous,
honorable men he'd ever served with, and one of the strongest
Drew had said THAT? Of HIM? Knowing what he knew about Kennedy,
he could say such things? "He exaggerates."
She smiled. "I do not think so. Drew in general is both a
good judge of people and at the same time a terrible liar. And
he called you a SURVIVOR!" She held his hands again. "It
is why he was so terribly puzzled by your behavior here."
Archie bit his lower lip. "It doesn't matter, anyway. I still
cannot protect him this evening."
She shook her head. "No, you cannot. You have done what it
was in your power to do. Now it is in Stan's hands."
Archie gasped hopefully. "Stan will be able to prevent this?"
Alicia looked down. "It is doubtful. But he may be able to
lessen it. He is plying father with drink now."
Archie turned. "But won't that make it worse?"
She shook her head. "Not if he gets him drunk enough. Besides,
I think he's hoping to slip him some laudanum. That would be the
best solution; the drug shall confuse him enough so that he remembers
beating him more than he actually will have." She rose suddenly.
"Walk with me, Mr. Kennedy? I find I cannot sit here and
So he rose, and linked his arm in hers, and they took a turn around
the garden, not saying much, both of their hearts were too heavy
for that. Archie also was under another powerful sensation. He
remembered how Miss Alicia had looked at him this evening, as
if she might care for him. Of course, she was caring for a man
who didn't exist, at least not how he'd been described to her.
Could such a woman ever care for the man he actually was?
She lifted her head suddenly, seeing the shadow in the window
of Drew's room.
"It's starting..." She whispered. And suddenly she buried
her head in Archie's chest, grasping at his coat.
Archie wrapped her arms around her tightly, hoping to shield her
from as much as possible. "Pray for him, Alicia. It is only
one more night."
Drew knew not how he got through that night, but opening his eyes
the next morning he knew he'd survived, although still in such
pain that it was as if the abuse had just taken place, instead
of having ended eight hours earlier.
He had tried to convince himself, as he'd nervously paced in his
room last evening, that this was a simple trade-off, to take this
beating in return for being sent back to the Indefatigable. Objectively
he could say he would walk through the gauntlet if it meant returning
to sea. But it was hard to be objective when he had been in his
room waiting his father's approach.
The man had arrived promptly, drunker than normal, and with the
cane firmly in his grasp. Drew was ashamed to remember he'd backed
into a corner and actually tried to plead with the man. Ashamed
because it humiliated him for absolutely no purpose. Indeed, it
only increased the man's enjoyment of the torture.
It had been fifteen minutes of sheer hell, with Drew actually
screaming out loud towards the end. And suddenly the two of them
had collapsed together; his father from the effects of drink and
laudanum, and he from the searing pain.
He did not remember being lifted into bed, but at one point could
hear the hushed voices over him, Alicia's soft hands gently washing
his face, Mr. Kennedy holding his hand as he squeezed. Archie
"This is it. No matter what happens, I will not let that
man near him again. I will gladly kill him first."
David countered. "Exton is out cold, I tell you. He'll not
even wake up before tomorrow afternoon, and you will be long gone."
Archie stroked Drew's head gently, not noticing he was awake,
for Drew found it necessary to lay very still. "Long gone?
How? Do you really think he'll be in any condition to endure the
coach ride from Southampton to Portsmouth? All those hours of
jostling in a coach?"
Stanton's voice spoke low. "Archie's right. There's no way
he'll be fit for travel. Nothing's broken, but he's in agony.
We must keep him here another day."
Alicia, tears in her voice, pleaded. "He MUST go. He cannot
spend another night with father. You know he intended to do far
worse than even this, Stan; it was only the fact that you drugged
him that kept it from happening."
David's voice was wavering. "Whatever SHALL we do about your
Stan sighed. "I had planned on suggesting a trip to Edinburgh,
to see our Uncle. With Drew out of sight, it would have been easy
to get him to go."
"Edinburgh? You would keep company with him so far?"
Stan's voice was firm. "I would insist on it. Archie, you
said yourself you are not certain when Indefatigable sails. Father
must not have any chance of changing his mind." He sighed
again. "I shall have to try and keep him on Laudanum through
Drew had drifted off then, on another wave of pain. And he had
just woken up now; it must be around nine o'clock. He thought
he might be able to move, if he took it slowly. But his father
would certainly be asleep for several more hours; he would take
every spare moment he had to recover.
One other thought came to his head. A memory of those last seconds
before his father entered his room. He had been looking out the
window, and seen two forms embracing. Archie and his sister. He
had not had time to process the thought at the moment, but now
he gave it all consideration. And it pleased him greatly. Archie
undervalued himself, Drew knew, but the sad reality was that as
a younger son, his options of marriage within his social sphere
were limited. Drew knew he would feel that oppression someday
On the other hand, his sister, though most advantageously provided
for, had the disadvantage of her family reputation. Decent suitors,
at least from Drew's idea of what constituted decent, had been
few. Actually, they had been none. For he was silly enough to
hope that his sister would find a good man who loved her and would
not be living off her for her fortune. Archie, though not independently
wealthy, had a career. If he could love her, there were few better
men. And Drew was fairly certain that even if his father got wind
of the fits, he would still not object. He was a Devonshire Kennedy,
Simpson, though...his father must never, never hear about that.
It did not affect Drew's opinion of his friend, but his father
would draw a different conclusion. Drew would not let that knowledge
get out. Ever.
With a sigh, he realized he must move. It would take him time
to get ready. Pain or not, he would be leaving this house today;
he WOULD be sleeping this night in his hammock on board the Indy,
with Cousins snoring across from him. Or he would die trying.
Taking a deep breath and biting his lip, Drew rolled over on to
Archie sat unseeing in the library. He did not know what this
day would bring. He felt lost, alone. And he would be late returning
to the Indy. Certainly he had written to Mr. Bracegirdle that
that might occur. But Archie still hated the idea of disobeying
the Captain, even with good reason.
Alicia touched his hand suddenly. "Mr. Kennedy, do not take
it so hard. You will get him out of here. I have never seen my
father so skillfully handled as you have done. I doubted you once,
but I assure you I will never doubt you again."
Archie tried to smile at her. "You are too kind, Miss Alicia.
For I know your father is awake."
She nodded. "Aye, but keeping to his bed, unable to hold
down food and too sick to lift a glass, let alone a cane."
She shivered, and Archie held her hand. It was nice, that. She
met his eye suddenly and he was flooded by guilt as she spoke,
"Mr. Kennedy, would it be acceptable to you for me to write
you on board Indefatigable? I think, in this circumstance, my
father would approve."
He wondered at the doubt and the fear he saw in her eye. How could
she doubt that he would give everything to have such a woman care
for him? At the same time, how could he, such a man, consider
"Miss Alicia...you do not know me. If your brother were at
liberty to tell you all he knows of me, you would not ask to bestow
me with such an honor."
Her eyes welled with tears. "What is it I need to know more
than the sort of man you are?" She drew her breath in sharply.
"It is because of my father, isn't it? You would not consider
me acceptable for being his daughter."
Archie's blue eyes opened wide. "No, a thousand times no!"
He took her hands in his. "Miss Alicia, when your brother
is awake...ask him...if he thinks I am a proper suitor for you.
He will tell you the truth. For however much he might esteem me
as a brother officer, or feel indebted to me as a friend, he would
not sacrifice YOU. And he knows I am not a fit man to call on
Archie rose suddenly and walked away from the table. He did not
know where he meant to go, only knew it must be out of the same
room from her, for he could not bear to know he had thrown his
chance at love away. But he stopped in the door suddenly, as Drew
turned the corner with effort. Drew, standing stiff and pale,
but straight, in his uniform, his chin determined even as his
eyes spoke of his pain.
Archie gasped. "Good God, Mr. Brandon, whatever are you thinking?"
Alicia rose suddenly to her brother's side, but he waved her off.
"I believe, Mr. Kennedy..." He said, through tight lips.
"...that the coach leaves from Southampton at four o'clock.
We must be on our way by One, then. We have but half an hour to
Archie gaped. "You are not serious!"
Tightly Drew replied, "Do I appear to be joking, Mr. Kennedy?"
Stan and David returned to the dining room then, and their astonishment
was quite evident.
"Brother, get yourself back to your bed immediately! You
cannot last such a journey."
Without wincing, Drew pulled his shoulders even straighter, and
clasped his hands behind his back. "Stan, I believe I know
best what I am capable of. The trip will be uncomfortable, but
not nearly so much so as staying here. I am stronger than I look.
And I am returning to Indefatigable today."
Archie looked back and forth at Stan and Drew. David merely shrugged.
To be sure, Drew looked determined, and Archie could not blame
him. Suddenly Stan smiled at his younger brother.
"You've become quite a fine young man, Drew. And you are
the Doctor, after all. So if you feel you can make the trip, I
will not stand in your way. Father has signed all the papers.
I shall tell him, that despite your pleading protests, we have
forced you to be ready to leave."
Drew nodded. "Whatever you must tell him. If you need me
to pretend reluctance out loud I will do so. But I will go to
Portsmouth this day, even if I have to walk there."
Stan reached out and tousled his brother's hair, then motioned
for Archie and David to follow him.
No sooner were they out of the room than Drew collapsed into his
sister's arms, holding back a gasp of pain.
"Drew! Oh, Drew, you are NOT fit to go!" She whispered,
"I must, Alicia, cannot you see that?" He pleaded with
her. "I shall die if I stay here another day. Either father
will kill me, or I shall die of despair."
She pulled him gently to a settee and he half laid down on it,
his head resting in her lap as she stroked his head.
"Rest while you can, then." She sighed, not at all certain
that she ought to permit this. "We will hear them approaching,
and you must rise quickly."
He winced, letting her minister to him while she could. It would
be an arduous journey, but he would survive. He would show Archie
that he too could be strong.
Alicia took advantage of the moment alone with her brother. "Drew,
there is something I must tell you. I think...that I could possibly
find myself falling in love with your Mr. Kennedy."
Drew smiled peacefully. "I know. I saw the two of you in
the garden last evening."
"It does not bother you?"
"Not at all. I cannot think of a better man for you Alicia,
and to top it off I believe father would consider him acceptable.
That father and I could agree on a man worthy of you is nothing
short of remarkable."
She continued stroking his head gently. "He...Mr. Kennedy...seemed
to think that you would find him unsuitable for me, Drew. He said
you knew things about him that, though they would not prevent
you from considering him a friend, would keep you from considering
him a man good enough for me. Do you know of what he speaks?"
Drew frowned, searching for the right words for both Alicia and
Archie. "Yes, I do." How on earth did he explain this
to her? "You can tell Mr. Kennedy that you spoke with me,
Alicia. Tell him I said that I would not tell you the particulars
of his situation, but that I despite those circumstances, nothing
should make me happier than someday calling him my brother."
Alicia blushed at how he put that, but it was a happy blush, the
blush of a woman who was in love already, caution be damned.
They remained there for some fifteen minutes, with Drew reserving
as much strength as possible. So when the gentlemen returned,
they found him composed, standing by the window, awaiting them.
Stan spoke quietly. "Drew, father wishes to see you before
Fearful, Drew did not move.
"He's not capable of harming you; he's so sick he cannot
get out of bed. But remember you must be afraid of returning to
the Indefatigable. Look a bit more cowed than you actually are.
And look a bit more HURT, will you?"
Drew would have laughed at that, but he did not have the strength.
Three hours later, he was huddled into the corner of a coach,
doing anything in his power to keep his mind off of the agony
he was in.
Archie had realized his game not long after they'd arrived in
Southampton, for he'd nearly fainted when they exited the carriage
father had sent them in. After reviving him, Archie had read him
a blistering riot act, scolding him in a very close replication
of what Captain Pellew might have said had he been there. He backed
off only on seeing how close to tears Drew was.
"I wanted to go HOME, Archie!" He pleaded.
So they sat next to each other now, the coach carrying four others.
He felt every lurch, every jolt in the road. One hour down, far
too many to go.
Archie squeezed his arm gently. "Try and get some sleep,
Mr. Brandon," He whispered.
So Drew dozed off and on. Finally, at one point he and Archie
were the only passengers left.
"Another two hours only, Drew." And Archie had moved
over, leaving him room to lay down, which he did with a sigh.
Archie, on seeing he was not drifting off again, spoke. "I
cannot believe that you told your sister that you would be delighted
for her to write to me."
"Father gave his permission, did he not?"
"Are you kidding? He just about fell on my neck. He is absolutely
besotted with the man he thinks I am."
Drew half smiled. "And my sister is besotted with the man
you are, Archie."
He protested. "No, she is besotted with the man you have
made her believe me to be! What happens when she shall learn the
truth?" He added bitterly.
Drew painfully raised himself up to look Archie in the eye. "What
truth is it you speak of? The fits? She is the daughter of a man
of violence and a tendency to drink, and a woman who's addicted
to laudanum. Do you really think that she should consider YOU
Archie looked away. "I am not speaking of the fits, and you
Drew eyed him sharply. "Do you have a sister, Archie?"
"No. There is just William, David and myself."
"If you did, and she were to fall in love with me, would
Archie slowly shook his head. "No, why should I?"
"Because I am a failure. I have been beaten down and violently
abused most of my life. I have been tortured and tormented, and
have fought demons of my own. And I still needed you to save me
from my own situation."
"That is not the same, Mr. Brandon!"
"Is it not? What Simpson did to you was abuse of the most
vile nature. And you have survived. And you saved ME, Mr. Kennedy.
Why do you not see that as an accomplishment? You are no more
to blame for what happened to you than I am for what has befallen
Archie gulped. "I shall have to tell her, someday. I cannot
accept her love while wondering if she would reject me if she
Drew nodded. "That is as you choose. I would not force you
to anything. But I can tell you, Archie, that if I believed my
sister to be the sort of woman who would reject you for your past,
I would never have risked hurting you by encouraging her."
There was a violent jolt in the road and Drew cried out, and gently
Archie eased him down again on the seat. "Take it easy, Mr.
Brandon. Captain Pellew will have my head if my rescue attempt
only results in your burial at sea!"
Drew tried to smile. "Thank you, Archie."
Archie sighed once more, staring out the window. "If only
you'd not praised me so highly. How can I live up to such a reputation?"
Drew closed his eyes. "It is nothing Mr. Hornblower would
not have also said, and he would have believed it as much as I
Archie let out a half-laugh. "Oh, Horatio is as crazy as
Drew felt sleep coming over him again. "How many men, Archie..."
He whispered ... "Will it take to believe in you, before
you believe in yourself? Me, Mr. Hornblower, the Captain, your
brother..." He was asleep before he could finish the listing
of the Archie Kennedy fan club.
Archie patted the boy gently on the shoulder. Yes, perhaps he
was not quite the failure he'd always believed himself to be.
And certainly this time he was successful in his goal, for he
was bringing Mr. Brandon back where he belonged. But he did not
feel like imposing on this hurting boy, by letting him know that
the one man whose opinion mattered was not Horatio, or the Captain,
but his own father, Lord Bridgeleigh.
And that would NEVER happen.
April 10th, 1797
Finally, at close to eleven that evening, they arrived in Portsmouth.
Archie roused Drew gently, and they stood outside now, awaiting
the man whom Archie had hired to transport their belongings.
Archie looked with worry at Drew. That boy needed bed, and quickly.
Though he did pick up his head at the smell of the sea air, he
was fading fast. "Take us to the dock, please. We will be
hiring a shore boat to return to Indefatigable."
The crusty old man spat. "Ye'll not be findin one, I'm afeared.
Tis mortal late to be takin one out. A capting, maybe, an admiral
fer certain, but two green mids? You'd best go t'the inn for the
Archie saw the look of disappointment on Drew's face. After they
had come so far? "Take me to the docks!" He said more
firmly, and held a coin up in the air.
They wove their way along towards where the shore boats could
be found, Archie occasionally holding up Drew as he would stumble,
wishing he could only pick the boy up and carry him, but that
would arouse comment.
Once they reached their destination, the old man took his coin
and disappeared, while Archie scanned their situation. Not an
attendant in sight; nobody looking to make a lengthy row outward.
Off to the side, a couple of men regarded him, but looking at
his uniform and his rank, they quickly disappeared again.
One boat was coming in now, and Archie hoped that maybe here they
might persuade someone to row backward.
Alas! The boat was rowed by a woman and an old man; a twelve-year
old girl with them. Still, Archie held out hope, for the woman
was evidently long of the sea life and might feel for him.
"Ma'am, this evening, is there any chance you'd be willing
to take two Midshipmen back to their boat? I would be willing
to pay a crown."
Drew raised his eyes at such extravagance, as did the woman. "Ye
must be late from leave, then. Afraid the Captain will hide ye?
Well, let him, I say. Me husband, who I just came from visitin,
is a hard worker on a good ship, but I know most of the lot of
ye officers aren't worth it. C'mon Da, c'mon, Violet."
The young girl eyed them curiously. She had dark braids, almost
black, and a fringe of heavy hair on her forehead over what Archie
could see by the lamplight were unusual blue eyes. Those eyes
were not looking at Archie, though but at Drew, looking at him
carefully. "Mam, that boy is sick." But her mother turned
Sure enough, Drew was teetering precipitously, and Archie gently
caught him, leading down to a seat on the trunk. "There now,
Mr. Brandon, we'll get back to Indefatigable tomorrow, we will,"
he said, trying to sooth him. The question was, how did they get
to the Inn tonight?
Archie did not see how wide the girl called Violet's eyes grew
when he called Drew's name. But she ran back and grabbed her mother's
arm, and whispered something furiously to her. Suddenly the woman
"Which one o'ye be Mr. Brandon, then?"
Drew raised his head up. "I am, ma'am." He whispered
She looked him over. "Mr. Brandon of the Indefatigable?"
Abruptly the woman nodded. "Get the boat, Da, we're going
to row these gentlemen back to their ship."
Archie was puzzled but overjoyed. Drew merely leaned heavily against
him, muttering a quiet, "Thank god."
Soon they found themselves being whisked away. Drew lay huddled
down in the boat, sleeping again; the girl Violet watching protectively
over him. Their saviors were silent, however; he soon discovered
that "Da" seemed hard of hearing and spoke little. The
woman kept her eye on her job. Only Violet spoke occasionally,
fussing over Mr. Brandon in a rather cute way.
The woman's eyes softened at the sight, and it seemed to loosen
her tongue. "Who be you, Sir?"
Archie was startled. "I am Mr. Kennedy." He was not
sure if that name would mean anything to her or not.
"Aye, me husband's spoke of ye, once er twice." She
smiled again, and Archie realized her husband must be on the Indy.
The woman proudly glanced down at her daughter. "She's got
a proper crush on that boy now. Not so surprisin; Vi's awful close
to her Da."
Archie was puzzled. "Which man is your husband?"
"Name be Morris. Ollie Morris."
"Yes, of course, he is a Carpenter's mate. A very good man."
They were fast on the Indy now; Archie knew that with the ship
at anchor the officer of the watch was liable to be nearly alone
on deck. He wondered who that would be. A strangely-pitched voice
called out, "Shoreboat ahoy!"
"Aye Aye." Mrs. Morris answered brightly.
Archie went to hand her the crown, but she shook her head. "Mr.
Kennedy, ye be gone, I think, when it happened, but that boy there...he
saved me husband's life, he did. Took out is pendix, er somesuch,
when the other Doctor woulda let 'im die. Ollie told me today,
'e did, bout how the boy was sent off, an' his father a bad man
from all accounts. Ye brought 'im back. I'll not take the money,
then. Tis only way I can repay 'im."
Archie smiled down at Drew. His father had a saying that you made
your own luck in this world. Perhaps he was right after all. "Thank
you, ma'am. I shall explain it to him when he is more awake."
Drew rose groggily, as the boat came along side the frigate. Before
he was fully himself, Violet shyly reached up and kissed him on
the cheek, then blushed and ducked down next to her grandfather.
Archie almost laughed at the expression on Drew's face; the boy
did not know what had just happened. "I'll explain it on
the morrow, Mr. Brandon."
Suddenly Archie saw tears in his eyes as he contemplated the steps
leading up the Indy's side. "I...cannot...do...it."
Archie stood behind him strongly. "Yes, you can, Mr. Brandon.
For I will be right behind you, and I will not let you fall. Lean
on me, Mr. Brandon."
And so it was that their progress up the side was slow, every
step torture for the young man, and only made because the boy
understood what awaited him in the end. Archie knew whomever had
the watch must be beside themselves with anxiety.
Suddenly the top neared, and a pair of strong hands assisted Mr.
Brandon on to the deck.
Cousins cried out joyously. "Drew! It IS you!"
Archie found his feet on the deck beside him, and saw that Captain
Pellew and Horatio, astonished beyond belief, were the sole other
witnesses to their arrival. And for Pellew to admit astonishment...
Drew pulled together every last bit of strength he had, squared
away his shoulders, and saluted smartly. "Andrew Brandon,
Midshipman, reporting for duty, Sir." He handed over an envelope.
"My papers, Sir."
Pellew took the papers...the ones that said that Lord Exton was
permitting his son to return to Indefatigable, and read them with
a hand that shook ever so slightly. Swiftly he folded them up
again and handed them to Mr. Hornblower. For a quick second, Archie
saw the Captain glance around, as if looking for someone. But
truly, the five of them were alone.
And without warning, and completely out of character, at least
out of the character he had created for himself, Captain Pellew
reached out and embraced Mr. Brandon. The boy fell into his arms
with a muffled sob, and Archie swore he saw tears in the Captain's
eyes as he held him tightly. "Welcome back, Mr. Brandon."
He whispered into the top of his head.
Archie felt his own tears, then, and would have been ashamed,
if not for the fact that Horatio...also...and Mr. Cousins...Archie
swallowed, and took out his handkerchief.
Pellew cleared his throat suddenly, and turned to Mr. Cousins.
"Mr. Cousins, you are relieved from watch. Please, we must
get him to sick berth, I think." Pellew looked at Archie
Archie answered forthrightly. "A final bad night with his
father, and the coach ride did him no good, I fear." Pellew
nodded as Cousins and Hornblower assisted Brandon. Archie could
see the Captain wished to follow.
"Sir, I will gladly finish this watch. It is almost over
"Yes, Mr. Holloway will be up to relieve you shortly. Once
he does, Mr. Kennedy, please report. I would dearly love an explanation
for how you managed this!"
"Of course, Sir."
Pellew nodded to him awkwardly, and then hurried away.
Archie sighed deeply. Back on the Indy again!
He stood for a few moments in the silence of her deck, the feeling
of happiness, not just for a mission accomplished, but for returning
to the ship as well. He strode the quarterdeck, breathing the
night air, looking up at the masts.
"It's a quiet night, my lady," he said to her. "But
soon you'll be back out to sea again, with the wind pulling your
sails. And won't we all be happier then!"
Archie blushed suddenly, to realize he'd spoken out loud to a
SHIP. But the wind rustled in the ropes, and it was as if she'd
answered him with a quiet, acquiescing sigh. And he realized it
He remembered the day in the prison cell when Horatio had stood
over him and cried, "Don't you want to be back on the Indy?
Feel the wind in your hair?" He'd thought Horatio was daft,
then. It was only a ship; a collection of timber and rope and
canvas skillfully put together by man. And he did not love the
sea, like Horatio. This had never been his dream.
And yet...he looked proudly around her. She was so much more than
timber and canvas. She was alive; he felt it this night, felt
her heart beating to protect all of her men. And nothing WAS better
than to be on her deck, and feel the wind in his hair. He longed
suddenly to climb up the main mast, and look out, see the world
from her view. He would do that tomorrow, perhaps; or perhaps
he'd wait until Drew was better and take him up there also. She
would heal them both.
Gently he reached into his breast pocket, and took out the handkerchief
Alicia had shyly given him. He held it to his cheek, and then
placed it back with a soft sigh.
Standing on the quarterdeck, arms behind him, he smiled. For the
first time in his entire life, Archie Kennedy was a happy man.
I am an officer in His Majesty's Navy, he thought. I serve for
the best Captain and with the best men, on the finest ship ever
built. And there is nothing I would rather be.
April 11th, 1797
A Letter from Sir Edward Pellew to Kitty Cobham...
Most wonderful news. Mr. Brandon has returned to us, with his
father's permission, no less. Thanks to the cunning of *Acting
Lieutenant* Archie Kennedy!
I had been on deck in conversation late last evening with Mr.
Hornblower, with Mr. Cousins on the watch. We saw the shore boat
approaching, but as we were expecting Mr. Kennedy, it aroused
minimal concern. Only as the boat grew closer did we note it contained
TWO officers. Mr. Cousins guessed the truth first, "Sir,
It CANNOT be..."; he scarcely dared give voice to his hopes,
and I was afraid it would kill him should it not be Mr. Brandon.
But it was. His pale face eventually peaked over the side; he
was so wounded that he made it up the ladder only with the careful
assistance of Mr. Kennedy. But no matter how hurt, he spied me,
and straightened himself up to his full height, and handed me
his papers with a salute. Oh, my thoughts at that moment, Kitty,
when I read his father's humble apology to me for ever doubting
my handling of his rascal son, and begging me to take the boy
back, subjecting him to whatever *corrective action* I deemed
necessary, in order to restore his family honor.
Corrective action? Kitty, I looked at the boy and he was near
collapse, beaten half to death, but his eyes on me with only trust
and security, and relief to be back. And I did something then
that will astound you; I forgot myself as Captain, and permitted
myself to be human for a moment. Possibly had there been any men
on deck other than my most trusted I would not have done it. But
I needed, Kitty, to reach out and touch him, to ensure to myself
that he was alive, and let him know he was finally safe.
I hugged him. There, I said it; you can stop smirking now, as
I know you assuredly are. And I still believe that in general
it is better for the young men to fear me! But in this instance,
well, to use Lord Exton's own words, it was the most appropriate
*Corrective Action* I could take.
Horatio and Mr. Cousins swept the boy down to sick berth, with
Mr. Kennedy volunteering to finish the watch. I saw the boy settled
in, Johnson gave him one of his own potions, and soon he was peacefully
asleep. Johnson checked him for broken bones or more serious injury,
thankfully there were none; but, oh, to see the violence his father
wreaked on him; it made me both sick and angry. He will need several
days of rest before he is himself once more.
Finally I did have a chance to hear Mr. Kennedy's report. His
brother, it would seem, was great friends with Brandon's oldest
brother, by all accounts a fine young man. Kennedy also was well
aware of Lord Exton's obsession with his status in society. So
he wrote to his brother, explaining the situation, and the three
of them devised a plan. Somehow, they managed to handle Exton
perfectly, convincing him that Drew's life here was hell, that
his father had only played into the boy's hands by removing him,
and that a black mark was left against the family name by having
the boy quit in this way.
Mr. Kennedy, by the way, blames himself for the final assault
on the boy, but I quickly discouraged such thinking. The lad is
alive, and will be far better off for Kennedy's assistance. I
did chastise him slightly for not letting me know his plans, but
he calmly explained that he was not at all certain of success,
and did not wish to get my hopes up needlessly.
I cannot explain the change in Mr. Kennedy just in this past week;
he is at peace, Kitty. At long last I think he has decided to
travel down the road of the future, instead of hiding in the house
of his past. I watched him carefully as he reported. Though tired,
he walked me patiently through his thought process, and his week
performing for Exton. He apologized for making me sound like a
Demon, and the ship a pit of hell, but did not cringe or wilt
under my focus. I am impressed, and pleased; my own worst failing
is in handling the likes of Lord Exton. His skill can become a
valuable asset for me.
That is why I shall promote Kennedy to Acting Lieutenant. I have
been desiring a third Lieutenant for some time, but had hesitated
in promoting Mr. Cousins. Though his future is bright, I feel
that early promotion placed far too heavy a burden on Hornblower's
shoulders; one I feel he still carries the weight of. I wish Mr.
Cousins to have the freedom to grow into the role of leadership.
Kennedy I had been considering these past weeks, but had yet been
uncertain that he would even desire the promotion. I now know
he is ready.
I am still awaiting Admiral Hood, and am fairly itching to get
back out to sea. But I am happy, happy with my men, happy with
my ship, and happy with you, my dearest. I know we are still at
war; at any moment one of my men, or even I myself, might be cut
down. But I take comfort in knowing no ship is better prepared,
and that should I be struck down, I have no regrets in how I have
lived my life, or run my ship.
With the utmost love and affection...