A Friend In Need
by Sue N.


It was dark in the sick berth, and Archie Kennedy did not like the dark; actually, he hated it. Too many hurts, too much evil, had come to him in the dark for him ever to be comfortable in it again. He knew he could have asked for the lanterns to be turned up, but he didn't like to be a nuisance, either. And, besides, he knew everyone here was supposed to be asleep, and had no wish to disturb them with too much light. So he sat in the dark, and tried to think of it as peaceful, rather than threatening.

Fine officer he was, scared of the dark.

After a few moments, however, he could bear it no longer, and rose to his feet, taking a few small steps toward the lantern he knew hung nearby. Carefully, he raised the flame in it just enough to cast a small circle of light, immensely comforted even by that feeble glow. Then, he returned to his seat and fixed his gaze once more upon his injured friend.

Horatio was sleeping soundly, deeply, under the effects of the laudanum, and looked unusually peaceful. Hidden behind closed lids were the deep, dark eyes that in wakefulness either sparkled and shone with laughter, burned with anger or brimmed with whatever concern, fear, doubt or anxiety filled his soul at the moment. And his animated face was slack, all lines of care and responsibility smoothed from it by sleep. The change startled Archie; rarely did he see his friend look as young as he actually was.

He leaned closer still, listening intently to Horatio's breathing, watching the rise and fall of his chest, wanting needing to assure himself that his friend was still here, would not be leaving. The battle with that Spanish frigate had been short but fierce, and though Indefatigable had carried the day, it had not been a bloodless victory. Nine men had died, and a score of others had been wounded, some grievously so. Yet, though two men had been blown to pieces right before his eyes, nothing had shaken him as had the sight of Horatio falling to the deck with a sniper's ball in him. Until that moment, he had never imagined Horatio dying; now it seemed he could think of nothing else.

God, what would he do if Horatio died? He wasn't strong enough to survive without that particular presence in his life. Perhaps someday, but not now. Not yet. There was still too much of him that remained locked in the dark, cringing in terror, relying on Horatio to restore the light. He had come a long way, but not all of him had made it back yet. Would not make it back without Horatio's help.

He swallowed hard and stared into his friend's peaceful sleeping face. Horatio wouldn't die, couldn't die. It was inconceivable. Captain Pellew himself had said a great future awaited him, and that future certainly did not include dying because of some damned Spanish sniper while still a mere lieutenant. Horatio would be a captain someday, an admiral, it was certain. Too many stupid men had achieved such status; why shouldn't a brilliant fellow like his friend? Besides, too many men needed him now for him to die, and Horatio had never once deserted anyone in need.

Hadn't he been shot while shielding Captain Pellew, who had been momentarily stunned and blinded by the splinter that had grazed him?

Archie sighed heavily, tiredly, and bowed his head, running his hands over his face and wincing as he thoughtlessly aggravated the deep bruise along his own jawline. Powers, one of the gun captains, had been hit by grape, and, in dying, had managed to deal him a wicked blow.

You knew it was bad when the dead started fighting back

Across the berth, from the shadows, a pair of eyes studied the tableau in rapt fascination. One young man, deeply asleep, oblivious to all pain, another the living embodiment of pain, his entire heart written plainly on his pale, bruised, anxious face. Could two men ever be more different, or any closer? Could two friends, so vastly unalike, ever compliment - complete - each other more perfectly? A faint, wry smile tugged at the corners of a wide, mobile mouth.

Strange, how the grace of God worked even amidst the brutality of war

He saw the blond head lift, saw the expression of anguish ripple across the young face, and was moved to compassion. Yet another patient, in need of healing

Archie tensed slightly and lifted his head, momentarily startled by an intrusion into the dark silence but immediately reassured. He heard the quiet footsteps, but it was the smell, more than anything else, that calmed his quickened heart. He knew that smell - the faint, sharp bite of tobacco that just clung to clothing yet far from disliking it, was immensely comforted by it. He had heard that smells had a tremendous power over the mind, that a mere whiff of something could trigger a rush of memories either pleasant or painful, even resurrect memories long since thought lost, and he supposed it must be true. Hadn't he often quieted his fears by telling himself the dark in Indefatigable smelled completely different than it had in Justinian and in the prisons?

Looking up, he saw exactly what - whom - he had expected to see, and felt immensely relieved. Dr. Sebastian was there, at Horatio's other side, his face in shadows, but the dark green of his coat unmistakable. A strong, long-fingered hand reached out and was laid gently against Horatio's cheek, then his forehead, and the shadowed head bobbed in satisfaction. Then, as Archie watched, the tall figure turned slightly, the hand reached out again, and another lantern came to life.

Dr. Sebastian smiled crookedly and shook his head slightly as his dark gaze fell upon the young man at his patient's side. "Shouldn't you be asleep yourself, Mr. Kennedy?" he asked in a quiet, resonant voice. "I cannot believe your jaw doesn't hurt."

"Well," Archie frowned sheepishly and bowed his head again, "a little, I suppose " He lifted his head once more, though his eyes sought Horatio, and not the physician. "But I couldn't sleep. I tried, but Every time I closed my eyes, I saw him lying in his own blood " He flinched at the memory and closed his eyes tightly against it. "Besides, I - I thought I thought I should be here. He has sat so often with me -"

Dr. Sebastian's smile grew gentle, and his dark eyes held a glimmer of sadness as they rested upon the young man. "I do not believe Mr. Hornblower would consider that a debt that requires repayment," he said softly.

Archie started at that and raised his head sharply, his blue eyes growing wide. "No, I - I didn't mean I mean, I - I am not repaying him, I - I am -" What? Guarding him? Now, how ridiculous did that sound, for him to be anyone's protector? He sighed softly and grimaced, shaking his head slowly. "I simply thought he should have someone with him."

"Ah," Sebastian breathed. "He is fortunate to have so caring a friend." His black eyes studied Archie intently. "You are worried about him?"

Archie blinked and dropped his gaze to the bandages about his friend's chest. "Yes," he whispered. Then, looking up quickly, he added, "Not that I doubt your skill "

Sebastian laughed and raised a hand to silence the young man. "It is quite all right, I assure you. It is only natural that you should be concerned for your friend. He was seriously wounded. But," his face grew serious, and he leaned over the sleeping Horatio to capture and hold Kennedy's eyes, "I believe he will be fine. The wound was a clean one, the bleeding has stopped, he shows no sign of fever, and he is resting quietly. All good signs, wouldn't you say?"

"Yes," Archie murmured.

Sebastian straightened, but his eyes continued to rest on Kennedy. "Have you gotten any sleep at all?" The young man's silence was answer enough, and he smiled again. "Come with me, then," he invited quietly. "Let us talk in my cabin until you feel more disposed to sleep. I would rather not disturb Mr. Hornblower."

Archie drew a slow, deep breath, torn between his need to stay with Horatio and his instinctive longing for the doctor's calming company. The battle showed in his eyes.

"Mr. Kennedy," Sebastian said softly, pointing behind him, "my cabin is just there. If we leave the door open and position a chair just so, you should still be able to see him. And we certainly will hear him should he need us."

Archie thought a moment longer, then nodded and rose slowly to his feet. Before leaving, however, he reached down and pulled the blanket up over Horatio's chest and shoulders and tucked it as closely about his friend as he dared without running the risk of disturbing him.

Sebastian saw all this, as he saw everything, and smiled to himself, fascinated and touched as ever by the deep bond between the two young men. But, without commenting upon it, he turned and led Kennedy to his cabin.

Once within, Archie looked about, seeing much of the doctor in his surroundings. There were books, the ever present box of cigars on the desk and, in her place of honour, the statue of the Madonna, with the row of unlit votive candles at her feet. He knew he should have disapproved of the doctor's open display of his faith, knew Catholicism was still viewed with deep hostility and suspicion at home. But he felt none of those things. Who was he to question what was so obviously a deep source of peace and solace for another?

True to his word, Sebastian moved a chair across the small space and positioned so that, if he but craned his neck a fraction, Archie could see where Horatio rested. The sight of the tall doctor rearranging his cabin for him brought an embarrassed smile to his lips.

"I'm sorry," he apologized, turning back to the doctor. "I know I must seem foolish -"

"Why?" Sebastian asked quietly, straightening and turning to face the younger, smaller man. "For showing concern for a friend? If that is foolishness, Mr. Kennedy, then I pray for a world populated by fools!"

Archie laughed lightly; as ever, the doctor's presence was exerting its calming influence upon him. And though he still felt a bit foolish, he could not help leaning in the chair to take another look at his friend.

Sebastian went to his desk and sat down in the chair, then leaned forward and opened the box, withdrawing one of the slender cheroots that seemed an extension of his hand. "Would the smoke bother you?"

At the question, Archie turned toward him, frowning slightly. "It is your office, sir."

Sebastian lifted a dark brow a fraction. "Yes, but at the moment, you are sharing it, and I do not wish to give offense."

"No, please," Archie assented quietly. "It will not bother me at all."

Sebastian lit the cheroot and inhaled deeply, then exhaled, studying the young officer through a cloud of smoke. He was not a man who liked to pry, and tried to avoid such whenever possible, but he had developed a deep affection for both Hornblower and Kennedy, and an almost paternal concern for the latter. He had learned so much of the young man's tortured past revealed to him slowly, painfully, often through tears and in whispers by the lad himself and could not but notice how deeply his friend's wounding had affected - no, shaken him. Luis Sebastian had never believed in limiting himself only to hurts to the body; he knew sometimes the far more serious, the more crippling hurts were those dealt to the soul. And he had no desire to see any further scars inflicted on this particular soul.

"I have every confidence that Mr. Hornblower will be fine," he said quietly, gently.

Archie swallowed and nodded. "Of course, he will," he answered, trying not to sound desperate.

But he did not quite succeed. Sebastian's quick ears, attuned to subtle shadings and nuances, caught the tremulous note and focused his attention all the more sharply upon the young officer. He noted the way the boy continually darted frightened glances at his sleeping friend, saw how he clasped and unclasped his hands, chewed his lip, appeared ready at any moment to spring from his chair and rush to Hornblower's side. His fear was a palpable force in the small cabin.

With a sigh, Sebastian rose to his feet and went to the small cabinet where he kept his brandy. Taking out the bottle and two glasses, he poured two portions, then carried the more generous one to Archie. "Here," he instructed quietly, "drink this." At the young man's suspicious frown, he smiled easily, reassuringly. "I assure you, it is only brandy, nothing more." He knew of the lad's sensitivity to laudanum, knew of the horrible nightmares into which the drug plunged him, and would never lightly subject him to that. "But you do need something."

Archie swallowed and nodded tightly, taking the glass. And as he sipped from it, he had to admit the liquor's fiery bite did smooth the edge from his jagged nerves. Between the battle and Horatio's wounding, he had begun to feel as if every nerve in him were being stretched to the point of snapping

Sebastian watched the boy take another sip, and nodded in satisfaction. He would sleep, whether he wished to or not. Returning to his seat, he picked up his cheroot and took another puff. And saw Kennedy dart another glance through the doorway toward Horatio.

"You are frightened of losing him," he observed, everything about him relaxed. Except that sharp black gaze, which missed nothing.

Archie stiffened and flushed guiltily, then bowed his head, ashamed of having been caught in his weakness. "I know in battle men die," he murmured, staring into his glass. "I have seen it countless times already - "

"But Mr. Hornblower is a friend," the doctor said gently. "Watching a man die and watching a friend die are not quite the same things."

Archie swallowed and shook his bowed head slowly, his eyes, wide and unblinking, still fixed upon the brandy. "I suppose I - I have never really considered that Horatio could die," he whispered, the words torn painfully from him. "There are some things one always thinks of as unalterable. The sun will rise in the east. The Thames will run into the sea. And Horatio Hornblower will be here. But when he fell - "

"No man is invincible," Sebastian said softly, kindly. "Mr. Hornblower is a remarkable young man, but he is not impervious to shell and shot. He is as mortal as you or I."

Archie winced and nodded. "I know, but - "

"But?" Sebastian prompted gently, watching the young man intently through a haze of smoke.

Archie grimaced deeply and shifted uncomfortably in his chair. "You will think me foolish."

Sebastian lifted two dark brows in surprise. "I have never considered you foolish before. Why would I start now?"

Archie frowned in irritation with himself. "Why shouldn't you? God knows, I do!"

A faint, knowing smile curved about the doctor's mouth and warmed his dark eyes. Leaning forward and placing the cheroot in a small dish, he folded both arms upon the desk, fixed his kind gaze upon the young man, and said quietly, "But, Mr. Kennedy, you consider yourself a great many things that I do not. And that Mr. Hornblower does not." As the boy's startled gaze flew to his, his smile grew sad and he shook his graying head slowly. "If you could but see yourself through another's eyes, perhaps through your friend's eyes, for even a short time, perhaps you would understand what I mean." He was silent for several moments, but continued to hold Kennedy's gaze with his. Slowly, keeping his elbows on the desk, he lifted his hands and brought them together, pressing his clasped fingers to his mouth. Only after long moments did he ask, "Why does the thought of losing him frighten you so?"

Archie inhaled sharply and sat up straight, his blue eyes widening. The doctor had the damnedest habit of asking the very questions he asked himself! He was beginning to believe the man could read minds!

Sebastian smiled behind his hands, knowing he had hit a nerve. And it was the very nerve he had been aiming for. But he remained silent, content to let the young man answer in his own time, in his own fashion.

Archie could feel those great, fathomless black eyes upon him, going through him, reaching into his mind and soul and unlocking them. It was the same sensation he'd experienced countless times with Horatio, and, as ever, it made him feel frightfully vulnerable, almost naked. There were so many parts of himself, of his life, his past, that he did not want anyone even himself to see, to know, yet these two between them seemed determined to drag him kicking and screaming from the hiding places he had so carefully constructed over the years. And though he was so frightened of the dark, the thought of leaving it behind to step fully into the light terrified him even more.

What if what they saw in the light was not what they expected - wanted - to see at all?

But those eyes were opening the door, and he could not stop them. He began to tremble from the effort, but knew resistance would prove futile. Horatio had found too many of the hiding places, opened too many of the doors already. Something in him, some traitorous instinct, had begun to crave the light, and now this man was offering even more. He could almost resent it, except - except -

- except he hated the dark -

"I have never had a friend like him before." The soft voice startled him, until he realized it was his. He had not intended to speak, but could not now stop himself. "I mean," his blue eyes sought out Sebastian's black ones, and a confused frown twisted his mouth, "why *should* someone like him bother to befriend someone like me? He is brilliant, y'know, in every way. Practically perfect!" He took another sip of brandy, and grimaced as it burned its path down his throat. "My oldest brother is like that, and he only ever tolerated me. But Horatio - " He frowned suddenly, deeply, and looked quizzically at the doctor. "He is the only one who has ever said he needed me. We were in prison, I had just tried starving myself, all I wanted was to die, and he said he needed me. He said, 'I won't survive without you.' Now why would HE say such a thing to ME?"

Again, Sebastian lifted his brows slightly. "Perhaps because it was the truth?" he suggested softly.

Archie laughed aloud at the very thought. "Oh, Doctor, really! Horatio could survive very easily without me! He always has before - "

"Strange, he told me once you had saved his life. In France, I believe. He said if it hadn't been for you, that he would now certainly be dead." A slight smile tugged at the corners of his mouth and lurked in his black eyes. "So, you see, he was right he did need you. And wouldn't have survived without you."

Archie bowed his head and stared once more into his glass, remembering. Horatio, too grief-stricken to move, the French soldiers coming nearer, that bridge about to blow -

"I couldn't very well let him die," he said softly. "And he looked so helpless I knew if I didn't go get him, he would never come on his own. He would just let them kill him - "

"He needed you," the doctor said again.

Archie looked up and grimaced. "But it was only that once. And he has done so much more for me - "

"More than saving his life?" Sebastian asked in surprise. "I find that difficult to believe. What could possibly be more than that?"

Archie stared at the man unflinchingly. "In that prison, he saved more than my life. He saved ME. My sanity, my soul.- By the time he came into that cell, there wasn't much of me left. I was mad, or near enough to it that the difference didn't matter, I had given up and wanted only to die. But he wouldn't let me," he said softly, earnestly, needing this man to understand. "He stayed with me, all that night, and so many others he fed me, when I was too weak to feed myself, yet never made it seem an imposition, or, worse, an obligation I have grown accustomed to others pitying me, treating me as someone different from everyone else, whether because of the fits or or other things, but Horatio never has." He winced and shook his head. "I am not certain you can truly understand what that is like, to look into someone's eyes and, for the first time in your life, see a complete absence of pity. And I don't want to lose that. I've grown too accustomed to it."

"Just as you've grown accustomed to his needing you," Sebastian murmured.

Archie sighed sharply. "He doesn't NEED - "

"Then why are you here?" the doctor asked. "Why are you denying yourself the sleep you so desperately need to sit with a man who is so deeply asleep he does not even know you are here?"

"I don't - I mean, I couldn't - I simply didn't want - "

"Him to wake up and be alone, and be frightened," Sebastian supplied quietly. "You knew he would need you."

Archie opened his mouth to speak, but could find no answer to those words. Instead, he merely took another drink.

Sebastian continued to gaze kindly upon the young man, smiling slightly, sadly. He truly had no understanding of his own value...

"I have noted many times the depth of the friendship between you and Mr. Hornblower," he began quietly, gently. "Such friendships are exceedingly rare in this life. You should both feel yourselves blessed to have it."

"Oh, *I* certainly do!" Archie breathed fervently.

Sebastian frowned slightly. "Only you?" He asked. "Do you not believe Mr. Hornblower feels himself equally blessed?"

Archie blushed and stared down into his brandy. "It is only that I have been such an inconvenience to him at times," he murmured. "He has had to do so much to help me - "

"And have you never helped him?" Sebastian asked through a cloud of smoke.

Archie smiled wryly. "How could I possibly be of any help to someone so unfailingly brilliant as Horatio?"

Again, the expressive brows lifted a fraction. "And is that how our dear Mr. Hornblower sees himself? As 'unfailingly brilliant'?"

Archie laughed aloud. "Horatio? See himself as brilliant?" He laughed again, struck by the ridiculous thought. "God, no! He considers himself the farthest thing from it! All he sees are his flaws, his faults, and what he considers his failings, though I'll be damned if I can see how he has ever failed anyone or at anything!"

"He does take himself most seriously," Sebastian commented idly.

Archie laughed again. "Horatio takes everyone, and everything, seriously! I've tried to get him not to, but " He sighed and shrugged. "Well, I suppose he wouldn't be Horatio then, would he?"

"No, I suppose not," Sebastian answered absently. At the moment, he was not thinking about Mr. Hornblower, but about Mr. Kennedy. He noted how easily the young man laughed, how his face cleared and his eyes lit, and marvelled at it. If ever a young man had cause to have forgotten how to laugh, it was this one. Yet he was well-known for his humour, his wit, his pleasant nature. Sebastian had even heard he did a wicked impersonation of Captain Pellew at his blustery best.

"I heard the two of you, yesterday morning," he said idly, staring at the glowing tip of his cheroot. "Before the battle." He glanced at Archie without seeming to. "You were teasing him, I believe. He wore his usual serious, somber face, as if he carried the weight of the world upon his shoulders, and you were determined to make him smile." He glanced up at Kennedy, then, his own mouth twitching. "I believe I heard him threaten to throw you overboard. And then I heard him laughing. It is not, I believe, a sound we hear often from him."

Archie blushed. He'd had no idea their little exchange had been overheard. But the doctor was right - Horatio had laughed, the cloud had lifted from his brow, and, for a few moments, he had been free of the worry he wore wound about him like a chain. Archie would gladly have gone overboard for that.

"You see, you make him laugh. And," Sebastian added pointedly, "you trust him."

Archie blinked. "Of course, I trust him! Without question."

"Even when he does not trust himself. That is a very valuable gift to give another," he said softly, "that unquestioning, implicit, unhesitating trust. He needs that. He needs to know someone believes in him even when he does not believe in himself." He sat back in his chair and eyed the young man unwaveringly. "That is, I believe, a gift you give each other. You believe in him when he does not, he believes in you when you will not. The two of you have perfect faith in each other. And there are few perfect things in this world."

Archie blinked and frowned and shifted again. His jaw was beginning to hurt, and he was beginning to feel sleepy. The doctor's voice, deep and infinitely soothing, and the brandy were working on him as laudanum would, but without the nightmares.

"But there is so much more to believe in with Horatio," he murmured, absently rubbing his eyes. "He never fails - "

"Everyone fails at sometime, at something, Mr. Kennedy. God alone is perfect, and, talented as he is, Mr. Hornblower is not God." He could see the lad's shoulders drooping, could see his eyelids growing heavy, and smiled to himself. "It is no sin to fail. We are weak, flawed creatures, lad. That is why we need each other. We each need someone to support us when we are weak, to help us when we stumble, to right us when we fall, and to comfort us when we fail. It is, I believe, called 'friendship'."

"But Horatio - "

"Needs you," Sebastian insisted gently, as if dealing with a stubborn and sleepy child. "The words he spoke to you in that prison were not a lie, Archie. He is not a man who makes friends easily. He knows he cannot afford to lose the few the one he has. All those times you say he has spent at your side, tending you through some sickness or injury do you think he was there only because you needed him? Isn't it possible, isn't it just possible, that he has spent so many hours watching over you, in the sick berth, on deck, or wherever, not because you need him, but because he needs you?" he stared at the young man, his dark eyes infinitely kind. "You believe you would not, could not, survive without him, that, if he were to die, some part of you would be lost as well. No?"

Archie swallowed and nodded.

Sebastian smiled. "Have you never considered that Mr. Hornblower, your infallible, practically perfect Horatio, might feel the very same about you? Everyone needs a friend, Mr. Kennedy. Mr. Hornblower is, by nature, a solitary soul. Yet no man can survive by himself, locked away inside himself. And you have given him a way out of himself. As I said, I have watched the two of you together. Do you realize that, on all this ship, you are the only one who will not let Mr. Hornblower retreat into his brooding silences? That you will not allow him to closet himself away with his perceived failures and torment himself with them? When the others would avoid him, leave him alone, you go after him. You poke him, you prod him, you push him and pull him and give him absolutely no peace until he turns upon you, sometimes furiously, and empties himself of whatever is bothering him." He eyed Kennedy shrewdly. "It cannot be pleasant to be on the receiving end of one of Mr. Hornblower's explosions."

Archie shrugged lightly. "No, not pleasant. But someone has to do it." He frowned slightly and shook his head slowly. "No one else can see how he tortures himself. And no one else understands what it is like to to feel such wounds festering in your mind, your soul - I could never allow him to inflict such pain upon himself. He is too good a man, too good a friend. And if - if I have to bear the brunt of a few unpleasant explosions to make him see his worth, then so be it. It is a small enough price to pay."

"Indeed," Sebastian agreed with a slight, knowing smile. "But you are, to my knowledge, the only one who has shown himself willing to pay it. Everyone else would leave him to himself; you do not. And you make him laugh. Do you not see, Mr. Kennedy? Mr. Hornblower needs you every bit as much as you need him. He knows, just as you do, that without this friendship, without his friend, he would lose some part of himself."

Archie frowned slightly. "But he is so much stronger - "

"The strongest man cannot stand alone. Even the most solitary soul must have a friend." He shrugged his broad shoulders and smiled. "It is the way our God made us. And who are we to question the mind of God?"

Archie said nothing, merely raised the glass to his lips for another drink, only to find it empty. He blinked in confusion, wondering where all the brandy had gone.

Sebastian sat back in his chair, smiling slightly. He could see the blue eyes clouding with fatigue, confusion and drink, could see the young man's eyelids beginning to droop, and knew his work was nearly done. But not quite yet.

"You see, Archie," he said quietly, pitching his voice low, "that is the beauty of friendship. That is the grace of friendship. No one person derives all the benefits. If it is a true friendship, then it nourishes and nurtures both. Mr. Hornblower was not merely being kind when he spoke those words to you in prison. He does need you, Archie, just as you need him. God saw the need in each of you and brought you together that you might each find what you lack. Do you not see? You and Horatio are God's gifts to each other."

Archie blinked owlishly at the doctor, startled by those words. He had never been called a gift by or to anyone before -

Sebastian laughed quietly and rose to his feet. "Now, Mr. Kennedy," he said, walking toward the young man, "Mr. Hornblower needs you, but not at the moment." He reached down and drew Archie to his feet, then took the glass from him before it went crashing to the deck. "Go to bed, go to sleep, and rest your poor bruised jaw. It will be sore enough in the morning as it is."

Archie nodded and started to leave, then stopped. "Please, may I - "

"Look in on him one last time?" Sebastian chuckled. "But of course. I would expect nothing less from a friend."

Archie made his way to Horatio's hammock and gazed down at him, seeing again the peaceful, pain-free slumber, the brow untouched by worry. Smiling slightly, tiredly, he nodded and turned away, knowing he could no longer hold his own need for rest at bay.

Dr. Sebastian watched him leave, then returned to his cabin. Still smiling slightly, he went to the statue of the Madonna and gazed into her serene face. "They are both still very young, aren't they?" he murmured. "You will watch over them for me, won't you?" Never pausing to think about what he did, he lit one of the votive candles at her feet. "I entrust them to you, most loving Mother. I give to you my two young friends in need."

**The End**