PASSAGES-The Renown Trilogy
Part One: Paved with Good Intentions
LETTER FROM DREW BRANDON TO ARCHIE KENNEDY
August 1, 1799.
I hope this letter finds you well and in good spirits, and adjusting to life aboard a new ship. You and Horatio are often in my thoughts and prayers.
We here on Impetueax are still stuck in the channel for now, although I think it is in the wind that we might be sent down to the Med. I think Hood is tired of dealing with us. But despite his being tired of our being in a perpetual state of disarray, he will not let Captain Pellew properly deal with our principle mutineers.
You will think that I have gone mad, telling you that I am
desirous of seeing fellow human beings flogged and hanged. I
am not mad. They have been enacting a reign of terror here, not
only on their former officers, but on their fellow crewmen. As
a doctor, I am in a unique position to see the men and their complaints.
I have routed out a few men with long service here, who have
suffered under this mutiny more than they ever suffered under former Captain Williams. Indeed, the man was not a tyrant as much as he was ineffective.
In any event, they tell me things. Men who wouldn't be caught dead approaching the Captain with a problem have come to let things "slip" (while having a tooth examined, for example) that they fully expect me to pass on to him. Which I do. And he, of course, knows how to best act on the information, without compromising my informants. He now has the same reputation for clairvoyance once given to him on the Indefatigable.
Still, as long as the principle instigators are unable to be tried and handled, there is the impression that they have won. And that's a bad way to sail.
Reg is doing well. The Captain has re-appointed him, ahead of schedule, Acting Lieutenant. He was able to do this because our former third Lieutenant, Lawe, fell from the rat lines. Idiot. Good weather, calm seas, and he fell. Because he was drunk. It was only Christian consideration that allowed Captain Pellew to read the services over him.
With Lawe's death, only one of our remaining Lieutenants is
original to Impetueax: A fifty year old man by the name of Wainwright.
Harmless enough, but far too much a yes-man for Captain Pellew's
taste. Second Lieutenant is a likable young man, about your age,
named Higbee, always cheery and with an excellent tenor he likes
to show off in the ward room. Third Lieutenant is a man who claims
to know you, Archie...chap by the name of Owen who said he got
to sail with you while you were on your way to your own Lieutenant's
exam. He says
Wheeler, now our Senior mid, was with you as well, and begs me to let you know that he has not forgotten your orders. He and Wheeler are great friends, it would seem, though they maintain propriety of rank. I feel for them, from experience.
That leaves Reg now as (acting) fourth Lieutenant. He is in additional fine spirits lately, as our service in the channel has seen us often in Plymouth, which means he has often seen Ellie! Oh, once or twice he has deigned (harrumph) to bring me home with him, wherein his Mother stuffs me full of food while he disappears for several hours at a time with his wife! I would object to the indecency, if not for the food.
Alas, Captain Pellew has no similar joy; the ship being what it is, he dares not leave, even for a few hours; and he will not have Kitty on board, for the same reason.
Which brings me, of course, to Alicia...I have heard from her that you and Mr. Hornblower spent a pleasant week and a half of leave at your father's house in London. Though apparently neither of you were in too good shape once you got there! I must ask, did you leave one pub in Portsmouth unturned? Because she seemed to think not! You are fortunate, Sir, that my sister is of a kindly disposition. At least, I assume she forgave you, because when I asked how Horatio engaged himself during the week and a half, she seemed to have forgotten he had been there! Ah, well, I can relate to THAT well enough, except poor Horatio has not the advantage of being plied with food by Reg's mother.
Violet and her mother have made their way to Portsmouth (I
have not seen her, more's the pity) and Signora Danini came with
them. She has since gone to London, to work with a cousin there.
By the by, did Horatio tell you he proposed? I give you a moment
here to collect your thoughts and utter a few unprintable exclamations,
because I assume he did not. Yes, he proposed, she
accepted, although their wedding is on hold until he is settled into Renown. I think he'd like a bit more security than being third Lieutenant. Silly ass! Letting good time go to pass, over rank.
I do hope you are faring well on your new ship. I have heard enough good things about Captain Sawyer to feel fairly confident about your situation, and am certain that you and Horatio will impress him the same way you impressed Captain Pellew. He would have to be blind to not see your talents. Is his method of command very different from the Captains? I am curious. Not curious enough to seek a place on another ship, mind...but curious.
Must close for now. I want to get this out before we set sail again.
Take care of yourself,
Your Brother, Drew Brandon.
LETTER FROM ARCHIE KENNEDY TO DREW BRANDON
Dated September 15, 1799
No, Mr. Hornblower did not tell me he was engaged. Yes, I gave him a fair amount of hell over it. The nerve! After all we have shared together (not the least of which was about two hundred pints of ale in Portsmouth) to keep this quiet was quite galling. I would have pounded his head in with his own pillow, save that this ship is not quite like the Indefatigable and such frivolity would, I fear, be out of place.
I am not complaining, mind. Captain Sawyer is undeniably a brilliant man. A tad reserved. I believe that the losses he suffered in that frigate battle still prey on his mind. He also suffered a nasty head injury in that event, I understand...the ship's doctor, Clive, is his old friend and attends him constantly. This might be seen as blasphemy, but I really think this might be his last command.
Clive, by the way, is not much like you. I am grateful for the gift of willow-bark you gave me, because certain sure it is not an item to be found in his medicine chest. Most prominent there would be his supply of laudanum. Oh, I am certain he is a competent surgeon (we have not yet seen action to test him) but he is very traditional...rather a let-down from serving with you and Johnson.
Anyway, Sawyer's command is strict. I try and remind myself that when first came on board Indefatigable as a shy midshipman, Captain Pellew was positively terrifying. And he does not know us yet. No doubt once he has seen us in action, he will lighten up a bit. As it is, dinners are rather trying, as one is always trying not to say the wrong thing. Which is particularly difficult for Horatio, who has your gift of brutal honesty at times.
We have a load of older midshipmen, mainly recent recruits. Sawyer does not appear to favor "young gentlemen" to use our first Lieutenant Buckland's quaint phrasing. He feels they are more prone to panic. Perhaps, but as I recall they were often more capable of creative thinking. When I ask myself, who would I choose, Cousins or the late McGill, there is no question. I am glad, though, that he is not recruiting young boys. I would hate to be a nervous fifteen year old suddenly finding myself berthed with ten men pushing thirty and beyond. Come to think of it, that was very nearly my circumstances when first I joined Justinian!
Am tickled pink to hear about young Owens and Wheeler. Tell Owens that I understand his message, and am glad of it. You should keep an eye out for Wheeler, though; a boy prone to moroseness, who suffered greatly on his first ship (served with that bastard Strong-you remember?). I will not say more, except to say that if you took Horatio's nature and put him through my sufferings, you would have Wheeler.
Medically speaking, I am feeling fine, no sign of my previous ailments returning (I had been nervous in transferring to a new ship that they might come out). Perhaps you are correct, and I really have outgrown them.
Alicia did read me the riot act when I stumbled, horribly hung-over, into father's house during that leave. I am afraid she was much in thought of your father (although I am not a vicious drunk...in fact, I am a positively giggly happy one). Still, I have promised her to NEVER DO THAT AGAIN. I do not think Horatio needed to elicit any such request from Angelina. He was SO sick that he still has not touched anything stronger than ship's grog since we were to sea.
You can try to complain to me about benign neglect all you want, young man, but I know damned well you enjoy those trips to Reg's family. Whether he is there or not. I can see you now, hoeing the garden or feeding the sheep! His mother fussing over you and his father talking your ear off. A true family environment, and you eat it up. Not that I begrudge you it, but no mock complaining, now!
You did an admiral job of explaining the players on your own ship; ours our equally varied. Buckland I cannot get a handle on. He seems almost afraid of Sawyer, which is just wrong coming from a first Lieutenant. And they have served together for some time, which mystifies me. I have seen nothing from him to indicate brilliance or incompetence (as I said, our patrols have been unvaryingly dull). Kymper, on the other hand, is smug and self-complacent. He has told me that he wishes for a transfer, and feels certain one is at hand. I cannot see another Captain wanting him.
Matthews and Styles are doing well, as arbiters of the peace.
The Captain does not seem to flog much (his strictness does not
run to those levels). The only discipline they have had to take
is on a couple of the midshipman, for excessive drunkenness.
It was rather startling for me...Sawyer had them tied to the gratings
and caned across their back. I guess I had never seen a thirty-
year old midshipman disciplined before. Matthews did not enjoy it, but then, no good bosun ever does. Still, it was a just punishment, so there can be no complaint. And it's not like he had Matthews use the cat.
The men, indeed, are given an unusual amount of freedom. However,
that does not seem misplaced; many of the men have served with
Sawyer for some time, and obey him from sheer hero worship. There
are a few problems; nothing I am certain that cannot be solved
quickly. The thing is, for the men who know Sawyer, obedience
comes naturally. But two thirds of the men are as new to the
ship as I am, and have not developed that loyalty yet. I am a
little concerned about that. Still, you know Matthews...brooks
nothing improper. And he has Styles
to back him up. Quite the pair, they have turned out to be.
Speaking of marriages...Styles went and married Oldroyd's sister
before we left port! She is still working with Captain Pellew's
wife, but he has high hopes for a child soon! In fact, he brags
about it. Rather unwillingly, I now find myself in a race to
produce progeny. I suppose we can add Mr. Cousins to that mix.
I take comfort in the fact that each one of us will probably
ahead of you and Horatio.
Enough for now. I have watch, next, and Captain Sawyer does not look kindly on lateness.
Your brother, Archie Kennedy.
LETTER FROM REG COUSINS TO HIS WIFE:
October 13, 1799
I hope you are fairing well. One month away from Plymouth and I miss you so badly it feels like a physical injury.
We have arrived in the Mediterranean now, familiar stomping grounds. Drew's Violet is probably kicking herself for having relocated. Except it seems doubtful that we shall remain here. We are almost a rogue ship, wanted by no fleet, doomed to wander from port to port with no particular mission or goal.
At last Captain Pellew was given permission to try and to punish
our mutineers. Three men were hanged. Four men were severely
flogged and then transferred to other ships. Brutal, I know it
sounds, but believe me when I say that any one of these men would
have gladly slit my throat should the opportunity have presented
itself. There were several nights when I sat up in the ward
room on watch, with a pistol aimed at the door.
But that is behind us now. With the men without instigators, they are starting to fall in line. Drew's man Marks is now one of our leaders (whether Drew is commissioned or not, I still consider Marks to be his man). He has been waging a propaganda campaign, supporting Captain Pellew bellow decks.
I am enjoying my return to Lieutenant's status. The work is different here, on such a larger ship with so many more men to keep track of. But the Captain has started relying on me greatly. I am quite certain that he tells me things that he would not tell the other Lieutenants, often to see how I react and to get an honest answer...because he knows I will give him one. Owens is too shy of him to do that yet, Higbee is affable, but a rather sweet-talker, if you know what I mean. And Wainwright...ugh. Horatio used to tell stories of a Lieutenant Eccleston, and I believe this man must be a clone. He sees nothing, he notes nothing, he says nothing. He does nothing.
The younger men are well. Wheeler is proving to be a most capable young man...he's a good friend of Owens, and no doubt will be next promoted to Acting Lieutenant, when possible. Meanwhile, he's a trustworthy presence in with the Midshipmen. Drew got a letter from Archie pertaining to Wheeler (it seems Wheeler and Owens served with him on a prize ship once) and now he takes special care to chat with the young man (they are about the same age, but somehow Drew seems much older to me).
He has become pretty popular, let me tell you. Don't know
what the last Doctor they had here was like, but the Captain has
said to me that if we turn the ship around, it will be because
of Drew's care of the men more than anything. Naturally, he said
that to me, in the strictest of confidence, and has no intention
of paying Drew the same compliment. Drew even tended to the
flogged men with a great deal of compassion, despite his acknowledgement that it was a deserved sentence.
It is really rather cute, I must say, to see the relationship that has developed between Drew and Captain Pellew. Stripped of the formality of being a ship's officer, Drew now has freedom with the Captain he once only dreamed of. Naturally, therefore, he has become quite deferential in public, to the Captain's confusion. However, over dinner when it is just the Captain, myself, and Drew (he occasionally does this) Drew draws the man out in an astounding manner.
I wish I could tell you when I will be able to see you again. It is uncertain, however; as I've said, we seem to have no mission, yet each journey finds us instructed to venture further from England still. But be certain that you are in my thoughts and my dreams every moment of the way.
With love, Reg.
LETTER FROM CAPTAIN SIR EDWARD PELLEW TO KATHERINE COBHAM PELLEW:
October 28, 1799
My Dearest Kitty...
Really, I cannot feel some days that I have not made a mistake in not retiring after the Indefatigable and returning to spend time with you and our daughter. Thankfully those days are further and further between. Not that I do not miss you and Beatrice, but my ship shows signs of improvement.
At last we have seen action, and I have finally had a chance to see what this crew can do. There were the known quantities, of course. The Indefatigables. Sound men, all, and performing without failure. The remaining men took their lead, and the lead of their commanding midshipmen. May I say that I am particularly impressed with the young men of the ship? Anderson grows daily, in a way I had once despaired of. Ward is now officially Master's Mate, but he shows keener instincts than our master, a sixty-year old named Freebody. And Wheeler is capable of surprising insights. Miraculously, they all survived this battle with little more than a scratch (Howard took a splinter to the arm, but is recovering nicely).
And it is official...Drew Brandon is one step short of Sun-God
on this ship. One of the original Impetueax men, Masterson, was
badly injured in the battle. Badly. He was a popular man, eighteen
years at sea and not involved in the mutinies in any way. His
mates were crushed by the loss, but were getting ready to read
the rites, when Drew sweeps in and commands them (and you can
hear his tone of voice, I am certain) to bring him to the surgery.
Where, somehow, he
pulls him from the jaws of death. And, six days later, the man shows almost full signs of recovery and no fever. I may have won the men's admiration, but Drew has won their hearts, and rightly so.
Wainwright, my First Lieutenant (idiot) was rather put out
by it, and suggested I have Drew flogged for the impertinence
of showing me up. How so? I asked, restraining from placing
my hands round his neck. Why, he replied, you said he appeared
to be as good as dead, and then he went and saved him! I retorted
that my failure to fully understand Mr. Brandon's talents after
so much time together was my fault, not his, and if anyone ought
to be flogged, it was therefore me!
That rather shocked him, but he recovered enough to babble that there was also the matter of how kindly he treated our flogged mutineers (imagine, he kept THEM from dying) and the fact that the men are becoming "too attached" to a mere doctor.
"And it's not like there's no precedent for it, Sir. Why, our old Captain had old Doctor Winter flogged on a regular basis. Keeps 'em knowing who is in command."
I pointed out that I am not Captain Williams, nor do I wish to find myself in the same state of mutiny, thank you very much.
Mr. Cousins and Mr. Brandon together have been my sanity keepers. I can speak fairly freely to them, with complete confidence and trust. I owe both of them my life so many times that it would not be right for me NOT to trust them. Drew, to my amusement, has become the most perfectly decorous officer in public, now that he no longer is one. In private, however, he needles me in a most off-hand way, until he gets me to laugh at myself. Their service, indeed, their friendship, is invaluable.
I have not heard much of Renown. I'd rather thought she'd have some exploits of her own by now. Certainly Horatio must be cooking up all sorts of schemes for action, and I cannot believe Sawyer is too proud to utilize them. Still, I am uncertain where their assignment takes them, so that is not entirely surprising.
Drew has had a letter from Archie, and it seems they are still feeling out the ship and the men. Well, I am pleased to see they both have learned caution for once. But surely by now Captain Sawyer realizes what gems he has.
I must close now, my love. We are off on another patrol, into the Med itself, possibly to Italy. I look forward, as always, to escaping the port and returning to normal duty.
In love, Edward.
A LETTER TO VIOLET MORRIS, FROM DREW BRANDON:
November 27th, 1799
Hello, my sweet love.
It was an unexpectedly pleasant surprise that your letter managed to find me yesterday, on my birthday. It was, without question, the greatest present I could have received, and I received many.
I am glad to hear that you and your mother have settled in, and that you have found some seamstress work. The new rooms sound lovely; I hope you find someone as affable as Mrs. Bracegirdle to take the second floor.
We are in the Med right now, we've had a few skirmishes but nothing major. I've seen a few injuries but most were quickly handled. The men are warming up to me; Marks has had a good hand in that. One man, however, got rather drunk and decided I would make an interesting bit of sport. Ahem. I will not go into further details, except that before he could lay a hand on me, Marks throttled him black and blue. Which was no where near as bad as what the Captain did...the man was at the gratings for fifty, by far the harshest punishment I have seen him issue, save to the mutineers. Do not fret on my account; I am well safe. If anything, the incident has bonded me closer to the majority of the men. Especially seeing how Marks came to my defense. He is as hard bitten a character as the Navy has seen, and if he can follow me (and Captain Pellew) the rest can, as well.
Back to the subject of my birthday, in addition to your wonderful letter, I had a few surprises. The Captain laid in a full store of cider for me. Reg presented me with a package from his family, that he'd secreted from Plymouth. His mother has knit me a wonderful set of gloves and a hat for winter use. Johnson carved me a lovely flute in his spare time...now all I have to do is learn to play it! A task made easier by the fact that Horatio is no longer on the vessel.
In any event, we had a rather jolly meal in the midshipmen's berth (Anderson set it up) and Mr. Wheeler asked me how old I was. When I told him seventeen, his jaw about dropped to the table. He was certain I was at least twenty. Turns out we are the same age. He is shocked. I told him that he should see me after a full day of battle surgery; I feel closer to SIXTY then.
It has been a difficult sail. I have seen too many men flogged.
I understand its necessity, but I still have a difficult time
being around it. Johnson, by tacit agreement, is the man who
witnesses punishment and decrees whether it shall continue or
no. There is not much I don't like doing in the Navy, but that
is the one task I cannot stomach. I retreat below decks, away
turmoil, and await the damaged victim for treatment.
At first, the Captain feared I would hold the discipline against
him. He walked around me on egg-shells, and appeared to fear
I would despise him. How could I? I know that he uses this as
a last resort. I also am well aware that left unchecked, the
behavior of the ship would endanger my life, and the lives of
ALL the men. I have been most kind to him (ha) by acting with
deference before the men. Which confuses him to no end!
This is hard on him. As it has been hard on all of us. We came from a ship that was such a well oiled machine, that it is bizarre to find ourselves thrown into chaos.
A bit of good news: Reg's Ellie is with child. He is ecstatic and terrified, mostly because he fears he can not provide for the family. Rubbish, I say, but there he goes worrying. The Captain has promised to find an exam board ASAP so he can finally be commissioned and start drawing higher pay and higher percentage of prize money.
He won a contest, therefore, that I never told him he was involved in. Archie had joked with me that it would be a close bet to see whether he, Styles, or Reg, should become a father first. I haven't decided yet if I should write Archie, or Alicia. I am not certain the news would please them. As Archie has now been away for almost five months, and Alicia has not informed me of any pending events, I have to assume that she is not blessed as of yet. I worry about that, only because of the first child.
Dear me, it suddenly occurs to me that I am discussing things of a very delicate nature with you, that is probably HIGHLY improper as I am your beau. Had you any brothers, they could challenge me to a duel over such conversation! I know your life has not been so sheltered as my sister's, and I have already gotten used to thinking of you as a partner in my medical career, but even still! Do forgive me, love.
In any event, I miss you terribly. Someday, not soon enough for me, we will be thinking about our own children. My stomach only lurches a little bit at the anticipation; a year ago I would have been nauseous with terror at the prospect of fatherhood. You see, I am getting better!
I do not know when fate shall return me to England. Perhaps for the new year ...the new century. A grand time we shall have then, love.
With great affection...Drew.
AN UNMAILED LETTER TO SIR EDWARD PELLEW, FROM HORATIO HORNBLOWER
December 24, 1799
I write this with the full and certain knowledge that I will never have the courage to send it; the thought of you reading such thoughts as I now put to paper are more mortifying than could be believed. Were you here, in person, I might be able to say my feelings out loud, confident I could explain myself and that you would not laugh at me. But then, were you here, I would not have the feelings that I do.
Nearly six months I have served here on Renown. Six months since I have left the Indefatigable. At the time, I was rather pleased with the assignment. And though I would never regret the time I've spent in your service, I felt rather sorry for those men who went with you to your new Command, feeling that my new commission was so much more preferable to service on a ship in such a state of disarray. Yes, undoubtedly I had gotten the better deal in the bargain.
Or so I thought.
This is not your ship, Sir. I cannot put my finger on what bothers me most about it, but things are not quite right here. It is something like Justinian, when Captain Keene was more concerned with his disease than his command. Not to say Captain Sawyer isn't concerned with his Command. He is too much so; the Lieutenants merely exist as extra bodies around him. But the feeling I get is that this is a ship with no rudder.
Perhaps it is second Lieutenant Kymper who causes my disturbance. Kymper is smug and self-satisfied, but to my seeing has done nothing to back it up. He offers no suggestions to the Captain, but often undertakes little plans on his own. And that, I can assure you, is the one way to rise Captain Sawyer's ire. Inevitably he drags other men into punishment; usually one of the midshipmen. They are older men, thank heavens, and not boys who suffer such wrath.
Sometimes, men are flogged, although ALMOST NEVER if they are old-time Renowns. They seem to have a special protection from the Captain.
Maybe it is Lieutenant Buckland who is the cause of my unease. He is no Bracegirdle, to be certain. He is not even an Eccleston. He simpers and mutters, and is afraid of his own shadow. And the Captain rides him terribly, belittling him without stop. That, no doubt, is the reason for his insecurities. Still, it is irritating, to spend time reporting for a man who cannot make a decision to save his life.
And as I read this, I realize full well who the source of my unease is.
I hate to say it. I hate to write it. I hate to find fault with any man so lauded, so decorated, as he is. A hero of the Nile. The Battle of Cape St. Vincent. But, God help me, I think his mind is going.
Going slowly, mind you. Like little drops of water draining through a narrow funnel. So subtle that you don't notice it at first. Then, one day, you wake up and the funnel is empty. I pray it does not come to that.
The loneliness is pervasive. Archie and I are far and away the youngest officers on board (including midshipmen) and are also regarded as outsiders. We are for each other, but still alien to our ship. Matthews and Styles have made good inroads with the two thirds men who came new to Renown, but the original men distrust them. And I am afraid the Captain, aided by a loyal gunner by the name of Hobbs, encourages the distrust. The one occasion where he had to order one of his original men flogged, he made a point of announcing to the ship's company that it was Matthews who wielded the Cat. As if Matthews ever willingly abused anybody in his life.
There are three groups of citizens on board this ship. The "Renowns", the Ship's upper crust; the "other men", roughly the equivalent of the merchant class, and the "officers" who curiously seem to be the equal of London's paupers. The Captain and his buddy Dr. Clive are the only officers who belong to the first group.
He does not hate me, or Archie. But he does not trust us, either. Sometimes, Sir, I see him looking at me with such malevolence it freezes my blood. I have stopped making suggestions; indeed, I have stopped talking whenever possible. He does not value my opinion, he does not care for my ideas, and he either ignores them or laughs at them. I am not used to it.
Sir, forgive me if I sound petulant. What is the line from Hamlet: "A king who was to THIS; hyperion to a satyr." So is the falling from you to this Captain. I am certain he was a good man, once, and a good Captain. But his grip here is precarious.
I feel the loneliness more this night than any other. We are currently in patrol in the North Sea, off the coast of Ireland. It is cold. I was on duty this evening, and we were surrounded by a sudden snow-squall. And I almost cried. Where was the camaraderie I had grown used to? The freedom that enabled you to surreptitiously throw a snow-ball at me? And me to return fire.
Granted, that was a most unusual night, but it gave me, Sir, insight to you as a man (not only an officer), that I do not think I shall ever have with Captain Sawyer.
I hadn't realized that anybody else had been aware of our snowball fight, until Matthews approached me this evening. Wearing his uniform proudly, he was never-the-less as sad as I was.
"Not much like the Indy, eh, Sir? Don't think we'll see any snowballs this evening."
We spoke for about twenty minutes. He apprised me as to the situation bellow decks, particularly the growing insolence of the gunner Hobbs, and a handful of men, including one named Randall, who were nearing insubordination. "The Captain won't hear of it, though." He said, softly.
I said my only joy in this situation is that we have no unfortunate young men to suffer the Captain's wrath. It is bad enough to watch adult midshipmen beaten.
Matthews positively shuddered at that comment. "Don't like the idea of beatin' a young man, Sir. Necessary, sometimes. But I don't like it, still."
It was funny, the unspoken understanding that were any young men on board us, they would be often beaten. The Captain, I think, would like to take the Cat to the Lieutenants themselves, if he could justify it. Yet to all appearances, this is a lenient ship! Rare circumstance, when the officers are treated worse than the men. And I ask myself, whatever can I have done to deserve this wrath? I can only assume that I am paying the price for the mistakes of others.
I closed my eyes against the swirling snow, and pictured my Christmases on the Indy. I remember the many midshipman who came through our ranks. I watched, in my mind, Drew grow from a frightened boy to the intelligent young man he became. I saw Reg change from a somewhat headstrong youth to a fine officer of good standing. I remember Archie and I growing up on that ship. And the camaraderie and good will that surrounded us from the men bellow and above us in station.
I remember hoping to follow in your footsteps, Sir. Remember hoping to be an officer in your mold. I am trying, Dear God, how I try. But it is not easy here. Still, I sense that I must keep my wits about me. I am not certain where we are heading (I do not refer only to our destination) but it seems clear that I cannot rely on my superior officers, and therefore must rely on myself. There are Archie and Matthews and Styles, of course, and the good men from bellow decks. But I am their superior; I must lead them, should circumstances dictate the need. And I am lonely.
I wish you nothing but health and happiness this Christmas, and that your voyage has been easier than mine. Would that I were with you.
ACTUAL LETTER FROM HORATIO HORNBLOWER TO SIR EDWARD PELLEW:
Just wanted to drop you a brief note to let you know that all is well with us here on Renown. I am still growing into my role on a larger ship, but I hope I have put the lessons I learned from you to good use, and grow more confident every day.
I trust your Christmas on Impetueax was merry. Ours here was not so grand, as we are currently stationed off the coast of Ireland. Perhaps you read of our recent bout with a privateer? We overpowered them handily; I was fortunate to have the lead of the boarding party.
In any event, Sir, please extend my well-wishes to all of my friends on Indefatigable, particularly Drew and Reg. You are often in my thoughts.
Sincerely, Horatio Hornblower.
A LETTER TO HORATIO HORNBLOWER, FROM SIR EDWARD PELLEW
My Dear Hornblower:
Christmas, I must confess, is not the same without you and Mr. Kennedy here to partake of our good fortune. The Impetueax has just taken her first prize, and I think, finally, I have won the men over. Though every day is a strain, each day is less than the day before.
I prepared the usual feast, and the midshipman pooled their resources and conspired with Powers, to buy ME dinner. Can you guess? A roast young pig! I set forth to carve it, and burst into such peals of laughter that Mr. Cousins took the knife away from me; I believe he was afraid I should injure myself.
I could only laugh more, as HE stood there, looking so much like you, utterly clueless as to how to carve. His face flushed slightly, and finally Drew burst forth with a "Oh, for heaven's sake!" and snatched the instruments from him. Leave it to a ship's surgeon to be able to carve a roast deftly. Thirty seconds, and he was done. And I still had not stopped laughing.
There hasn't been much to laugh at on this ship, previously. Fourteen men flogged in six months. Not my usual style of command. But it has been only one man this month; I take comfort in the fact that the incidents are lessening as time goes on. Today will make that even more the case, I think.
We shall be back in Plymouth by New Year's day. I believe Kitty shall be repairing to the city, and I think I just MIGHT be able to spend an afternoon ashore without all hell breaking lose.
I saw the write-up on your recent encounter off the coast of Ireland. Sounds like it was a smashing success, though I was surprised that the only name mentioned was that of a gunner, Hobbs. Surely some other man must be worthy of praise? I know I am not lavish with the stuff myself, but it appears that Sawyer has me beat in that regard.
Interesting conversation I had with Drew the other day. I gather he is in receipt of a letter from Archie which has him concerned for your Captain's safety. Says if he read Archie right, that Captain Sawyer suffered a head wound last June and is still suffering headaches (or at least he was as of September, when the letter was written). That wasn't what concerned him so much ("heads are like that, Sir.") as the fact that Archie seemed to indicate that your ship's Doctor was treating him with Laudanum for it. Drew was most adamant, that if I were writing you, that you should express that under NO CIRCUMSTANCES should Laudanum be used to treat a brain injury. As Laudanum acts on the brain directly, it seems to cause a multitude more problems than it cures: delusions, waking nightmares, feelings of despondency, and paranoia. None of which are good things for a man in command of a large ship!
Of course, I am certain Mr. Kennedy got that wrong. Drew says
that (his usual unorthodoxy aside) this is fairly accepted knowledge
in modern medicine. He himself, of course, would poor every bottle
of laudanum overboard if he could. Says it doesn't even dull
the pain, really; just makes you too damned lethargic to react
to it. But if it is well known that laudanum and head-injuries
don't mix, it seems unlikely that a Doctor whom is on good terms
with his Captain,
would subject him to such torment.
In any event, I trust you and Mr. Kennedy are doing well in your new situation. Although I miss you, I must say that I am glad to see you have gone on to such a good opportunity. From here it is but one short step to commander; one battle where you distinguish yourself and you are there. You must only endeavor to get that Captain of yours to be more forthcoming with the praise! Please tell me you are not playing the falsely modest shy officer you once did on my ship?
I wish you a merry Christmas, Hornblower, and a wonderful start to the new century.
Sincerely, Sir Edward Pellew.
(NOTE: LETTER WAS MISDIRECTED AND LOST, FINALLY RECOVERED
STACK OF NOTES IN ADMIRALTY IN JUNE OF 1872).
Letter from Doctor Clement Clive, to his brother, Artemus.
January 1, 1800
Another sail. Another Christmas at sea and blissfully free from my wife. I told you, poor old sod, you should have taken your practice to the Navy as I did, instead of rushing on out to establish a practice in such a heathenish place as Kingston! Life at sea makes one's domestic situation so much more tolerable, what? Not that I don't love dear Eliza, but one can have too much of a good thing, particularly children. How many have I now? Five? Six? I never can keep it straight. A cruel fate of the almighty that I can spend one evening home with her and she ends up pregnant again, all because she's fulfilled her wifely duties.
Listen, old boy, I need some advice. I am worried about James. I've served with him over fifteen years now, and have never seen him quite like this.
I knew the situation with losing the men after our encounter off the coast of Brittany preyed on his mind. You suggested, remember, that a few drops of laudanum might help to ease his mental anguish. Well, it did, for some months. At least, for the first seven hours after his dosing, he would be quite himself again. However, he does seem to come down rather abruptly, and has become increasingly sarcastic.
Had I mentioned that he suffered a severe concussion in that skirmish? Was out cold for two days, and still has headaches periodically. I've given him some extra laudanum for the pain. It does improve his mood wonderfully, however I have noticed that his need for it is more frequent. Now I give him a few drops every six hours.
At moments like this, I wish there had been money to send both of us to medical college. I know I learned much from apprenticing with you, more than enough to enable me to stitch wounds and remove limbs, or bleed a man with a bit of fever. I make a good show of it, and it never mattered to James that I wasn't a full Doctor. But medical events such as this make me wish I had a bit more knowledge to back up my decisions.
Those new Lieutenants...Artie, let me tell you, they are rather above themselves. The tall thin one is a Doctor's son himself, and the both of them rattle on and on about a young man who performed medically on their last ship. Poppycock! Messing about with strange teas and funny ideas. Sounds positively medieval to me. I'll brook with nothing but sound English medicine in my berth, the kind you taught me. Boy doctor, indeed!
Anyway, do get back to me with advice on James. Shall I increase the dosage, do you think? Perhaps if I bleed him, it will help.
Ah, well, best to let nature take its course, with a little help from nurture, in the form of a stout narcotic. No doubt he will come around soon.
LETTER FROM ARCHIE KENNEDY TO DREW BRANDON:
February 10th, 1800
You son of a gun...I have heard from Morris, who heard from his daughter, that Mr. Cousins is to be a father. And you didn't tell me! I take exception to the fact that you do not think I can wish happiness on another, especially such a deserving man. I do hope you will not let your sister find out in a round about way.
Am I disappointed? Perhaps a bit; not because Reg is to be a father, but because I am not. But then, our schedule what it is, it is not as though I am home often enough to advance my cause. Besides...never mind.
Styles is EXCEEDINGLY put out about it, as he was most certain he could outdo a mere boy he once knew as a gangly midshipman. I believe he would row us all to England himself, if he could. And were I the Captain, I would let him.
It's not...it's just...oh, Damn, I hadn't been going to pour a lot of nonsense into this letter. But here goes: I must tell someone; talking to Horatio has become difficult, and I cannot burden Alicia. So you win, Dr. Brandon: The Captain grows worse, and our situation here is just a little less tolerable each day.
His behavior is erratic. Not in any concrete way one could put a finger on. But he rails and he glowers, and then on a turn of a coin, he simpers and compliments. The man is making ME crazy; one moment he accuses me of not having even basic navigational skills, the next he is suggesting I might be just the man, I might, to plot our course. And I am 'an honest man' he says. Often.
I am not certain what he wants of me. And it is worse, far worse, for Horatio.
Horatio has, three times in the past month, made suggestions, good ones, that might have led to our having more success than the capture of one small privateer. The first time, he was enthusiastic, confident. The Captain blew like an overheated gun... "How many commands have YOU had, Mr. Hornblower...How many ships did you actually manage to get back to England safely without being captured or having them sink from under you, eh?" Really, if he could abuse HORATIO in such a manner, I shudder to think what he would do if he took a close look at MY record.
The second suggestion was made more cautiously, with all due deference...I think he decided that flattering the Captain would go over better...almost making him think it was HIS idea, as it were. For a second or two, it worked, I thought. Then the Captain jumped on him: "Are you thinking you know more of MY command than I do, Lieutenant Hornblower? I make the decisions here. There is hell to pay, yes hell to pay, if I do not. Do not think I do not see how you are trying to lead me!"
The third time was just yesterday. And Horatio...calm, certain Horatio, stuttered out the suggestion (which I knew to be at heart a sound one) in such an uncertain manner that Captain Pellew wouldn't have followed the idea.
So I cannot talk to Horatio. He grows morose. And the Captain has started to look at the two of us strangely. "Talking to Mr. Hornblower again, Mr. Kennedy? Not a wise move, I think, Mr. Kennedy." Oh, he loathes Horatio, and he begins to implicate that my friendship with Horatio is jeopardizing my career.
Well, bollocks to him, I say; I have long ago decided that my friendship with Horatio is far more important to me than any image I might want to hold up. Lord knows, there has been more than one time when Horatio stood beside me when it was not prudent to do so. Justinian. Spain. I am afraid I let him down rather badly back on Justinian, but I hope I made it up when I stood beside him honoring our parole.
Anyway, what I am saying is, perhaps it is just as well that I am not facing fatherhood at this moment. It would be another worry to be dealt with, and quite frankly I am not certain that I am up to it at this time. Not to mention 0the fact that the way my service on this ship is going, and indeed the way the SHIP is going, I am not certain I shall ever see England again.
That last sounds damnably morose. No, I don't want to die. But I have a very bad feeling about this. Once, back on the Indy when Hammond was tormenting Reg, I commented to Horatio about how much worse it is when your tormentor is a Captain and not a fellow midshipman. Damned, but I had no desire to be proven right in so obvious a way.
Enough bitterness. Enough bile. I have had enough of both. Surely there must be more pleasant topics I can address with you?
How is Violet? Have you two married yet, or are you, like Horatio, waiting for some mythical good time? Do not do that, I would advise. Marry as soon as you can, funds, fortunes, careers be damned. Do not waste one precious moment of your time on this Earth together. It is the love of your sister that keeps me going through all, my life-line to sanity in an insane world.
Well, so much for trying to be cheerful. I suppose I better close now, before you send men here to drag me off in a white jacket.
Your brother, Archie.
LETTER FROM DREW BRANDON TO ARCHIE KENNEDY:
May 12, 1800
My Dear brother,
My heart is breaking for you, knowing what your situation must be like and how you must be having to endure.
I know your strength. And I know Horatio's weakness. And I am racking my brains for some tangible way I could help you, but as I am here, on Impetueax, currently patrolling the coast of Africa, I do not see what I can do.
The Captain certainly sounds as though he is balanced JUST this side of sanity. I wish I could be there to see it myself, and perhaps find a way of assisting him. Have you gotten him off the laudanum? Last Christmas, when Captain Pellew was writing Horatio, I did urge him to encourage it. Laudanum and head injuries make A VERY BAD MIX. If you have gotten him off of laudanum, his behavior ought to gradually return to normal. Of course, I do not know what "normal" is for him, but it seems that if so many men have demonstrated such loyalty to him for fifteen years, he must have a good man inside of him somewhere.
If he is still on Laudanum...then God help your ship's doctor when I get my hands on him. The longer he takes the drug, the more likely there is to be permanent damage. And, of course, the harder it will be to remove the drug from him. It is terribly habit forming.
I hate laudanum! The drug does no good; please, do try and talk some sense into that doctor of yours, will you?
Funny, but I went back and looked over my old journal today. At this time last year, we were in Oran, marveling over the gift of an aloe plant. I had just lost my father. Horatio had only recently found Angelina. The Lieutenant's exam, disaster that it was, had not happened yet. What a lifetime ago it seems, and yet it is only one year.
Anyway, I understand that it is more Horatio you are worried about than yourself. I confess, I would agree with that assessment. You have a more natural capability to vent your frustrations, and found no shame in writing me to help relieve your emotional strain. I notice Horatio has not written! That is not a complaint; I understand him well. He would regard this as his failure, his failure to impress the Captain, and now you all suffer for it. And he would be ashamed to admit to any one of us that he is not perfect.
While you were away on your exam two years ago, Lt. Bracegirdle sent Horatio and I on a stranded ship by ourselves to salvage some vegetable marrows. I know you have heard pieces of this story. It of course was really to salvage our relationship with each other, for we had been at each other's throats. The night had been hot and miserable, and we collapsed on the ship's deck to sleep, rather than finding a comfortable spot below, where it would have been stifling. And we talked, for some time. We are much alike, the two of us, both of us loath to admit failure. We talked about my father, and about his, and about a thousand other things.
Anyway, what I am trying (badly)to say is this: I felt the presence of his father with us. I felt him watching over Horatio, and strangely over me, at that time. I don't know if Horatio really felt it or not, but I did. And I've had reason to believe, since then, that Horatio's father remains a close watch over his son, and over me to a lesser extent. Now it is YOU who will be sending men for ME with a straight jacket!
So I will do what I can...I will pray. Not so much to God, as to Doctor Hornblower, to keep an even closer watch over his son, and to find some way to comfort him. I do not know what trials you have before you on this sail, but Horatio will need to keep his wits about him, and his confidence up.
I wish there were something else to be done. If anything should come to my mind further, I will write at once. Be strong, Archie. I know that you are, far stronger than you give yourself credit for. He will need your strength.
With my prayers, Drew
PS...word has just come...Samuel Andrew Cousins made his way into the world on April the 19th. There's some happy news, at least.
LETTER FROM HORATIO HORNBLOWER TO ANGELINA DANINI
June 20, 1800
Please forgive me for not writing sooner. But my heart has been heavy of late and I have been loath to burden you with my problems. I know you are willing to hear them, but I should very much have liked to explain them to you with a solution in mind. Yet as time goes on, no solution has presented itself.
My life on board Renown has not proceeded as I have hoped. I find myself following a Captain whose suspicion and paranoia grows daily. Between me and him is only an ineffective first Lieutenant who has no spine and a supercilious second Lieutenant who no longer cares.
My worst fear is if I remain on this ship for much longer, I will end up as spineless and indifferent as the two of them.
I try, daily, to remind myself of Sawyer's storied past, of his exploits. I have listened, surreptitiously, to his loyal men, and learned that he has previously displayed valor and courage, and ingenuity. So I try, some way, to elicit some spark of that man from the shell he has been left with. I have made suggestions, ones it seams to me that the storied Captain Sawyer I knew would have leapt at. Yet each comment I make is met with resentment, or sarcasm, or indifference, or outright contempt. And it hurts.
The men do talk. The good ones (there are a few) who have been long in his service speak mostly of their triumph over the three French frigates. So many men lost. And he cares so very, very deeply for his men that I can understand how that loss must have shaken him. And the men have nothing but contempt for Lieutenants Buckland and Kymper, whom I gather were responsible in some way for the extent of the damage. Unfortunately, Archie and myself seem to have gotten caught in the net of disdain cast for all officers, though we were not there and have not (to my knowledge) done anything to merit it.
Yet it seems that nobody but Archie and myself (and Matthews and Styles with us) have noticed that the Captain is unstable. Unfortunately, it is not something one can use for general conversation, "Hello, Lieutenant Buckland, have you considered the possibility that the captain is loosing his mind?" Such conversation could see me swinging from the yard arm.
So perhaps more men than myself notice it. I will never know. But the fear of where this might lead us...sailing into the unknown (Captain Sawyer often is reluctant to share our orders with us)...has worn me down. I am worried. I worry about Archie, who grows more sarcastic at our predicament...one day, I fear, he will say one wrong word too many. He is not so adept at bottling his emotions as I am. And I worry about Styles. Some of Sawyer's old men show open resentment at his place as bosun's mate and do not accord him respect. Though he is not the man he used to be, I could see him losing his temper with one of them, and subjecting himself to discipline.
Thank God for Matthews.
He is a rock. He reads me with a look, and knows, somehow, when I just need him to stand beside me. Though the differences of rank shall always be between us, I feel I can count him as a friend. He is not happy, either. He dislikes the increasing number of floggings (particularly of the newer men) and, as a man who appreciates order, does not care for the vagaries of the Captain's mood. I know I can count on him to stand with me, no matter what.
The problem is, stand with me for WHAT? What can I do? How can I handle this situation? I am without a clue as to how to proceed. More than once I have wished for the advice of Captain Pellew, yet I am now an adult. Should I not have already learned enough from him to be able to solve this? Perhaps I have, but I cannot handle the solution. For the only solution I can see is that perhaps...perhaps...the Captain should no longer have this command.
My hand shakes even to write that. It goes so against everything I have ever believed. Everything I have ever seen. I would not have removed even Captain Foster from service. But I grow to think that Captain Sawyer cannot handle this ship. And to fear that the time to find out I am right should not be when we are facing a fleet of the enemy.
I have started having strange dreams once more. The dreams from last summer, where I fear for Archie's life, had returned. But recently, those dreams have been replaced with ones somewhat more pleasant. Angelina, I have been dreaming of my father.
He is there with me, and I am a small child, and we are visiting patients of his. I see his kindness and his care, often buried under his professional veneer. I have felt his hand on my shoulder, holding me steady, as I tried to bring in a fish I had caught. But last night, Angelina, I dreamt that I saw him here with me, on this ship.
He was standing watch with me, beside me, and I felt myself drawing strength from him. His voice was soothing, but his message was somber: *it will grow harder yet, Horatio. You must be as strong as I know you can be, Horatio. Many are depending on you.* And I felt a sudden blackness...all I could think is, *Father, I do not know how much stronger I can be. I do not know how much more I can take on my shoulders.*
And...this almost frightens me...he put his hand out on my arm and turned me to him. He had tears in his eyes. And he spoke quietly: *Oh my son, if I could only take half of what is coming...but there is a chance. Pray God, there is a chance*. And, Angelina, he embraced me...held me more tightly than he had since I was about six years old. He held me so tightly that I felt safe for a few moments, happy, for a few moments.
Then I woke up, and I was still here.
It has been comforting and distressing at the same time. I feel him with me now, at every moment, when on duty or in the ward room, or even just at times like this. I know whatever it is he sees in my future is not good. So I hold on to what I can, which is everything that he taught me. Courage. Integrity. Caution. They shall be my watchwords as I go forward here, into the great unknown that this journey has become.
Angelina, I am sorry if any of this hurts you or distresses you. Perhaps I ought not to throw this on your head in such a manner. But, my love, you asked me to be open with you, to trust you with the thoughts I would trust with nobody else, and so I have.
Oh, but how I need you! We have just heard that we are bound back for England, for Portsmouth, and I am living for one simple afternoon's leave, to spend with you. To hold you in my arms, and bury myself in your love, for just a few short hours. We are due in to England on July the 9th; if there is any way you can escape London, I would dearly appreciate the opportunity to see you.
Of course, I realize that GETTING a few hours leave from the Captain will be an interesting adventure in and of itself. "May I spend a few hours in port with my betrothed?" How simple a request from Captain Pellew, even if one expects a scathingly sarcastic reply. How difficult a request from Captain Sawyer, for I feel I would be giving him even more leverage to torture me with. I must put the request in such a way that he does not understand how much this means to me.
Praying I shall be seeing you shortly...
Ever your beloved, Horatio.
NOTE FROM ANGELINA DANINI TO HORATIO HORNBLOWER, HMS RENOWN
July 10th, Portsmouth.
Dear, dear Horatio:
I see that Renown set anchor late last evening. I have taken up residence in Mrs. Morris' rooms (London did not suit me anyway). Their address is 17 The Mews. I am in the upper rooms. I await you, whenever you might get away. Pray your Captain will let you.
NOTE FROM HORATIO HORNBLOWER TO ANGELINA DANINI:
Your prayers have worked. Will be there just after noon tomorrow. Do not need to be back on board until my watch that evening. Captain is in remarkably fine spirits. Will probably have me flogged on my return. Do not care. See you soon.
I was a wreck of a man all morning, just waiting for the Captain to change his mind, while trying NOT to look excited or anxious. Stoic, calm, unconcerned...but dear lord, if he does not let me off of this ship, I might strangle him with my bare hands.
For whatever reason, though, he calmly bade me good day and I departed.
It took me little time to find the street. It was just beyond one of the pubs where Archie and I foolishly (and, as it turned out, unwarrantedly) celebrated our transfer to Renown. I ran nearly smack into Violet Morris as I maintained a barely dignified quick-walk to the dwelling.
"Mr. Hornblower, Sir, it is good to see you." She said, smiling sweetly.
I felt rather embarrassed, for my instinct was not to stop, but to run right into Angelina's arms. Not proper, no, not at all! "Miss Violet, a good day to you."
"I am just off to the shops myself." She said. And then added slyly, "My mother is calling on my Aunt, Sir." She blinked up at me. "You and Miss Danini shall have the house quite to yourself until four at least. Enjoy your visit."
And quickly she ran off, before I could even begin to blush at what she said.
Then I ran forward to the door.
She was there, waiting, the door slightly open, her face a mix of worry and relief. She let me pass inside, closing the door behind her.
"My rooms are at the top of the stairs, first door on the left." She breathed.
I could not wait that long. "Oh, my dear..." And I embraced her, tightly, and she kissed me, her lips seeking mine, her hands entangling themselves in my hair, as my hat fell off.
"Angelina...oh, Angelina..." I murmured, nuzzling against her, trying to forget everything but her touch and her scent.
She seemed to melt against me, and with little effort, I swept her in my arms and carried her up the stairs.
"Horatio, we must dress, I fear; Violet will be back by four."
"I know." It was three thirty now. "I know."
Tenderly, Angelina sponged at my eyes again with the damp, cool cloth she was still holding. I had gotten her upstairs, and immersed myself in passion; we had made love with reckless abandon. But afterwards, as I'd grasped her close to me, the anxiety of these past months bubbled out, and I had cried, like a child, without shame. To let any other human being see such emotion in me would have been mortifying; yet with Angelina it felt only natural and right.
She had comforted me, letting me cry on her shoulder until my tears were spent, and then held me as I'd fallen briefly to sleep. It had only been the touch of the coolness on my reddened eyes that had awakened me.
"How bad do I look?"
"You look delicious, my dear." She kissed me on the tip of my nose.
"No, I mean my eyes...are they red?" I felt her hand gently against my cheek.
"No, not any longer...you will be most presentable." She smiled wickedly. "Once you are wearing clothes, at least."
"Oh, very well..." I rose reluctantly, and she began to hand me my articles of clothing; we dressed ourselves at the same time.
She turned to tie my neck-kerchief, letting her hands rest on my chest as she did so. "Are you going to be alright, Horatio."
I smiled sadly. "Would that I had the answer for that, Angelina. Do you know how little it would take for me not to go back to that ship this evening? Just stay here with you, forever?" I wrapped my arms around her.
She shook her head. "You say that, Horatio...but you know you cannot do it. And I do not believe you would, anyway."
I objected. "I would. Were it not desertion, I would do it in a heartbeat."
She laughed. "You would not, because you would not leave Archie and your friends back on Renown. It would destroy you."
Archie. Matthews. Styles. And the handful of good men who weren't any happier about the ship than I was. "You do know me, my love."
"Yes, indeed I do, Sir." She patted my chest. "Let us repair to the drawing room downstairs, as if we have been there the entire time."
"I do not believe Miss Violet will believe it."
"Perhaps not. But we ought to at least pretend we are obeying the bounds of propriety."
"Angelina." I was concerned. "Do not...you do not...think...that I am using you?"
"Oh, Horatio, of course not; that is not what I meant to say." She again stroked my cheek lovingly. "We are to be married after all. And I understand your fear about entering a marriage right now, while you are so afraid for your future. We are very much alike, you know. I understand you well. I only wish I could be there for you more often."
"You are there for me, Love." I kissed her hand. "Every waking moment, and most of my sleeping ones as well. You are never far from my heart."
November 26, 1800
I cannot believe the extreme boredom we have had here.
We have spent the past six months patrolling the coast of South Africa, haplessly. Few ships sighted, and Captain Sawyer in no mood to encounter them when we did. Rather than attempt to engage, we spent days dodging enemy vessels. It is surprising, for he had a reputation as a fierce warrior. The men...those not loyal to Sawyer...grow restless. Gaming abounds, though Matthews and Styles do their best to stamp it out. The other officers seem little willing to do anything about it. The midshipmen are insolent and impatient; Horatio actually had to discipline one for refusing to work a problem he'd set yesterday.
We suffered frequent fever in Africa; over twenty men died of various diseases, and Dr. Clive was terrified. He was totally out of his element; if it isn't a splinter or an amputation, he doesn't have a clue what to do. There are not words in the English language, my friend, for how badly I wished you were here. Finally, though, we were scheduled to return to the Med.
The ship arrived from our lengthy and fruitless patrol into Gibraltar one week ago. I do believe that Captain Sawyer had his head handed to him by Admiral Hale, for his mood was inhumanly foul on his return. All Lieutenants were ordered on Watch and Watch and lost their spirit rations for the period of seven days. An extremely trying process, and the reason I am not writing until today; I was far too tired to do so before now.
And then, since yesterday, the Captain is all sunshine. A lavish feast laid in for his men, "my good men, my loyal men." One which, understand, the officers were not allowed to partake of. But his good humor is restored today; he is making jokes (granted, often at the expense of one of us Lieutenants) and he and Dr. Clive have been reminiscing about past sails.
At moments like this, you can see something of the man Captain Sawyer was reputed to be. He had a proud gleam in his eye, and good color to his face; the gunner, Hobbs, looked like he was ready to cry at the sight. I looked at Horatio, and he at me, and we were astounded. Where was this man, all of the time? This is what we expected when we came aboard here.
Well, we are appreciating it for however much longer it lasts.
In any event, the crux of it all is that we are to return to England next, via the Indy's old route of Madeira/Oporto. I joked with Horatio that we might try and locate some vegetable marrows while in Madeira, and he ALMOST smiled. He apparently had a wonderful reunion with Angelina last summer, and looks forward to seeing her again. Right now, I think she is all that is keeping him sane.
Though, if the Captain's mood continues, perhaps our future days need not be so unbearable. I know your opinion on this: I believe (but cannot prove) that he is no longer on laudanum. Perhaps our service here might be salvaged after all.
I do hope things continue to be good for you on Impetueax. It sounds like the Captain (with a little help) is doing an admirable job of turning the ship around. Wish I could be there to see it!
PS...Congratulate Reg (very belatedly...our letters have been unbearably slow!) for me...I am green with envy.
PPS...Happy birthday. Eighteen already! I can hardly believe it.
LETTER FROM REG COUSINS TO HIS WIFE ELLIE
December 17th, 1800
I pray that you and the baby are both doing well, and am counting off the seconds until I can see you again. As we are currently patrolling the North Atlantic keeping our trade routes safe, I am not certain when that will be. But know you are constantly in my thoughts, and I am trying desperately to imagine what little Sam must look like...I am depressed, sometimes, thinking that I will be a total stranger to him when I see him.
The Captain and I have commiserated on this often, in the quiet moments above decks. Beatrice is now nearly two. Kitty says she is running around like crazy, curious and determined to explore everything, and with an extensive vocabulary. To quote Kitty, "she is never at a loss for words." I teased the Captain that I am not certain which of them she takes after more in that regard.
The ship begins to operate smoothly, although not with quite the camaraderie we once had on the Indy. The Captain had a dinner for all senior officers the other night, and invited Midshipman Anderson as well. It was a pleasant, friendly affair. Wainwright did try and monopolize the conversation (his favorite tactic is to respond to any other Lieutenant's comments with : "Well, that's how I used to think too, when I was only a (second/third/fourth, fill in the blank with the appropriate number) Lieutenant). But the Captain's sarcasm comes out in full at such moments.
Higbee and Owens both have become more open as they have learned that they can trust the Captain, and that he will not bite anyone's head off for expressing a well-thought out idea. Which, of course, leaves Wainwright out in the dark, as he is incapable of having one. I myself made a suggestion a week ago about a particular convoy that has been bedeviling us, and tomorrow we attempt to put it into action. If all goes to plan, we should have a prize or two. Higbee and I are to have the lead of it. Do not worry, my love; I have no intention of not coming back to you and my son.
Drew remains himself, cheery, intelligent, and rather stubborn. He and the ship's master had serious words the other day over the condition of one of his men to work. I do not think Master Freebody has ever encountered a Doctor willing to stand up to him, and who actually would not make a man work when he was not capable of it. The Captain had to be called in to mediate, which did not amuse him, but he did back Drew. (Drew apologized for the conflict later; he hates to put the Captain in a difficult position). But really, the Captain did what made most sense. Mr. Ward, who is the Master's Mate, could easily take over the Master's job; whereas it would be disaster for our men to watch a comrade die on duty when he ought to have been in sick berth. We are trying to get the men to trust us, and showing we care for them is paramount.
Drew, of course, does not stomach malingering. He can spot a phony a mile away, and the men soon learned that there was nothing doing there. He usually gets them going by saying "You cannot climb the rat-lines? Fair enough...we shall race to the top, and see if I can beat you." They do not know that he legitimately can best them, and any man not really sick as a dog would be mortified to lose such a race to the ship's Doctor, for heaven's sake.
Meanwhile, he has taken over conducting classes for the ship's boys. And reading lessons for any man who wants them. Only a few are willing to give up their precious time in the dog-watches, but those who do are grateful indeed. The midshipmen are taught by Higbee, who has a good sense of humor and an easy rapport with them. Henry Anderson often seeks me out with questions, though. We have too much in our past together to cease communicating now, and he is comfortable with me.
I must close now, my love, for the dispatch vessel will be leaving soon, and I must start to prepare for our mission tomorrow. With any luck, perhaps I shall be given command of a prize vessel to sail to England! Kiss Sam for me.
Your loving husband, Reg.
LETTER FROM CLEMENT CLIVE TO HIS BROTHER ARTEMIS
December 25, 1800
I wanted to let you know that I followed your advice (it took your letter eons to find me), and weaned James off of the laudanum. Your judgment proved sound, as his mood has grown more steady, and his headaches decreased. My relief is palpable, for I had not been certain that he would be able to continue the command. I'd had no idea that laudanum could have such effects on a man!
We are in Madeira this evening, and the Captain is feeling so pleased that he managed a large feast for all the men (from his own funds) and even invited all of his officers to dinner. A most magnanimous gesture, you must understand, for the disaster that was our last mission (where we lost two thirds of the crew) was entirely the fault of their incompetence.
I suppose that is rather harsh for Hornblower and Kennedy, the young pups. They were not here then, after all. Buckland and Kymper I have no sympathy for. All the mids from that event are gone; those not killed Sawyer had replaced with older men less volatile. Still, how different from any other young lieutenant can Hornblower and Kennedy be? They're all the same, these officers, gung ho to attach their name to a famous Captain and ride his coat-tails to promotion.
Why, do you know, the Captain told me that Admiral Hood told HIM this boy Hornblower stole all the glory from Captain Pellew, taking credit for restoring supplies to the fleet and defeating a fire ship? And then tossed Pellew high and dry when the disaster of a French invasion befell him. So here he is, trying enthusiastically to please the Captain, with these *ideas!* Thanks to Hood's warning, my good Captain saw right through Hornblower's little charade.
And Kennedy, per Hood, is little more than Hornblower's toady, and was only promoted because his father is a Lord. In fact (do keep this to yourself; James told me after a few too many glasses of Claret) it may be that Hornblower is Kennedy's brother, by half, if you get my drift. You know how the upper crust are with natural children and all! Of course, Hood himself has a few of those lying around, I'll wager!
Anyway, back to the laudanum. I started putting one less drop per day into the tincture, as you suggested. After thirty days, he was drinking a drugless brew. He still is, as a matter of fact. For the first week after that, he was a bear, and absolute bear, but then he began to return to something of his old self, though over drinks he becomes maudlin and laments his losses. I am glad, for you quite scared me when you said that after prolonged usage, the damage to the brain cortex could be PERMANENT. Really, Artemus, you must overreact! This is a standard medical drug, it could not be harmful!
In any event, I do wish you a good Christmas. Perhaps now that James is improving, we shall have some real accomplishment on this ship. Prize money has been rather scarce of late, due to his temperament. But now all is well!
NOTE FROM REG COUSINS TO HIS WIFE, ELLIE:
February 1, 1801
Our mission was entirely successful, we captured a large privateer LOADED with riches. I am now a) a thousand pounds wealthier! and b) more importantly, IN Plymouth!!!!!!!!!! I will have duties to attend to for the next few days, but if you can arrange to meet me at the Dragon's Inn in Plymouth by, say February 5th, I will have three days more leave before my passage back to the Impetueux.
I look forward to seeing you and my son, Love! Please, please, say you can come?
Waiting anxiously, Reg
(PS, do not forget to mention the thousand pounds to your father, will you?)
February 5th, 1801
Benj Cousins, acting as escort to his sister in law (not to mention an extra pair of hands for an increasingly active babe!) stood in the snow outside the Dragon's Inn. Ellie, hair swept up and with a blush in her cheek, stepped beside him carefully. He handed her little Sam once she was sure of her footing, and took up the satchel.
"Thanks, Benj. I do appreciate this."
"Ar, El, it's the least I can do for Reg. Can't have you travellin' with the babe alone."
She looked anxiously around the street, and then proceeded cautiously with her son into the front room.
Ellie blushed, as Sam gurgled noisily. "Please, I am looking for my husband... Acting Lieutenant Reginald Cousins?"
Sam became more squirmy, and Benj held his arms out, as he'd put the bag down. Sam went to his Uncle with a happy laugh, grasping for those strong arms.
"Ah, yes...he went out about an hour ago...should be back any moment..."
"There's no Acting Lieutenant Cousins here." A voice said from the doorway. "Only a Lieutenant Cousins, who passed his exam yesterday."
Ellie turned, face wet with tears of joy, as Reg stood waiting to embrace her; she rushed into his arms with a sob.
"Here, now...I wasn't expecting you for some hours, yet." He whispered, rather hoarse himself.
"I have been so...worried...ever since that letter where you mentioned that mission...I was certain you should be killed and...and..." She laughed at her own silliness, touching Reg's face to make certain he was there, really there.
"I've brought you a gift." He held a little package out to her.
She stood back and smiled saucily. "I've brought you one, as well."
And she turned and took Sam back from Benj, and carried him to his father.
Reg's voice went. He barely had time to acknowledge his brother, before he became consumed with the smiling, happy, round little babe with the great mass of dark brown hair. "Sam?" He whispered, somehow. He reached out, and then held back. "He'll be afraid of me." He said, in fear himself.
Indeed, Sam had shyly tucked his head into Ellie's bosom, peeping out at the tall stranger from dark lashes.
"Ta, Sam...you know who this is." Ellie cooed. "We have a miniature of him, and I talk to you about him every night, don't I, Sam? This is your Da, Sam!"
Sam smiled at Reg, who smiled back, trembling. The infant hid his face again, and then looked back at his father.
And years of being big brother came out in Reg. He knew this game! Smiling easy, he hid his own face behind his hands, and then looked over at his son. Grinning, he did it again.
Sam squealed with laughter, and clapped.
"Yes!" Ellie bounced him up and down. "That's your silly Da, come all the way home from the sea to see us."
"Da!" Sam crowed joyously. And stretched his arms out.
"Sam!" Reg swooped him forward, and held him high before bringing him down into his chest! "You're such a big boy, Sam!"
The child gurgled again, eyes wide and mouth open in sheer excitement, and Reg pulled him close, kissing him on his head. "I have missed so much, Sam!" He said, shakily.
"You've been with us every second." Ellie accepted Reg's one-armed embrace, and the three of them stood together, oblivious to the world.
Benj turned to the proprietress. "I'll be needin' a room, I guess. And if you'll point me to a table, ma'am, I think I'll leave these fine folks alone."
"It would be my pleasure, Sir."
LETTER FROM ARCHIE KENNEDY TO ALICIA BRANDON
February 18, 1801
We are on channel patrol for at least the next few months it seams. Not much chance of action, but at least we shall have frequent opportunity to see each other.
The Captain's mood has gone 180 degrees from previous. He is a new man. He is still very inclined to be cautious, and doesn't seem to entirely trust us. But the one thing is certain, he trusts Horatio and I slightly more than Buckland and Kymper. In any event, whenever we are in Portsmouth, either Horatio or I have been promised leave (we shall alternate). He was not simpering when he gave us the honor; just quietly statesmanlike. It is a refreshing change, I must tell you.
Naturally, as I suspected, had your brother been here the entire time, we none of us would have had any problems. The laudanum issue would have been nipped in the bud, and we would not have been subject to the borderline lunatic we faced for most of our service here. Trouble is, Horatio and I seem to not be able to get into his better graces. He holds back from us, no matter how valiantly we perform.
Of course, the fact that we haven't had much opportunity to perform hinders us. And I can rather understand that if Buckland and Kymper were his only example of Lieutenants, we wouldn't seem trustworthy either.
Well, each day he has to see that we are conscientious men doing our duty and serving our King, is one day closer to his accepting us. It has only taken nearly two years!
Has your brother married Violet yet? Tell him to hurry up, will you. He's eighteen now; old enough. If I had met you when *I* was his age, I would not have wasted any time. Of course, I didn't waste any time anyway, but even still...
Horatio sends his love to you, my dear. He and Angelina are hoping to be married (he finally listened to my advice, if your brother won't) by next June or July. By that time he hopes to persuade Sawyer to give him more than four hours of leave at a time. Angelina is making all arrangements.
Our next trip into Portsmouth is scheduled to be around March 23rd, and it is my turn. I look forward to seeing you then.
With love, Archie.
March 23, 1801
I felt a certain amount of peace as I headed to the quarterdeck this morning. I had just been able to see Angelina last week; on my return Captain Sawyer had, very calmly, asked if I intended to be married. Now, in my year and a half of service, this is the first time he's asked me anything even vaguely resembling a personal question. I'd informed him that I did, in fact, plan on being married. And he, to my surprise, said simply that perhaps somewhere around June or July I might be able to take a few days (!) leave.
The training I had from Captain Pellew proved useful, as I think I managed to be grateful without being obsequious. I told Archie excitedly of the offer later, though, right before I wrote to Angelina. Archie and I enjoyed a few moments of quiet speculation about the Captain in the Ward room. I think...I hope...he is warming up to us. A great blessing, that would be.
"Good Morning, Mr. Hornblower."
"Captain Sawyer." I said, brightly.
"A good day for sailing." His eyes scanned the horizon, his face placid. "No sign of the enemy?"
"None yet, Sir."
"None YET?" He repeated, and I felt sick. I did not want to give him any reason to go back to actively disliking me.
Suddenly, he smirked. "Well, the day is young. I wouldn't mind taking a prize or two. It has been too long."
I struggled for an answer for that one that would not seem like a bad reflection on his command these past months. "We are well prepared, Sir, if we do encounter an enemy. The men are hungry for it."
He looked at me carefully. "You have noticed that, eh? You pay attention to the men, do you?"
I met his eye. "Indeed I do, Sir. Our success or failure rests in their accomplishments."
"Yes." He said simply. "It does."
For a few seconds we stood side by side, and I felt as if I had an understanding with him; that he had seen me for the first time. And realized that in some ways we were perhaps more alike than different. It was a pleasant few minutes.
Then Lieutenant Buckland came above decks.
"Good Morning, Sir." He said, rather more loudly than necessary.
"I am not deaf, Lieutenant Buckland." Captain Sawyer snapped. Then, after Buckland settled in to the quarterdeck without further word, he raised an eyebrow at him. "No greeting for Lieutenant Hornblower, then?"
"Oh, er, yes, Lieutenant Hornblower...I did not see you there."
"Good morning, Lieutenant Buckland." I answered, without rancor. The man is an idiot, but a relatively harmless one.
"You didn't see, eh? Well, nothing new there." He mumbled, shaking his head. Buckland looked affronted, and, uncomfortable, he wandered away, under guise of going to retrieve his glass from his quarters.
Sawyer sighed. "What, Mr. Hornblower, do you think of Lieutenant Buckland?"
A trap. It might be a trap. Must be cautious. "I think he is a careful officer, Sir."
"Careful of himself, at least." The Captain kept his eyes forward. "Not so careful of others. But then, a man can say many things. It is his actions that are a better indication of his beliefs."
"I agree totally, Sir." My voice became warm despite my own caution.
He nodded towards Styles suddenly. "One of your men for some time now, eh, Hornblower?"
"Yes, Sir. I have sailed with Styles and Matthews both for five years now."
"They are loyal to you, then?" He did not take his eyes from Styles, who was going about his duties.
"They are loyal to the Navy, Sir. Not only to me."
"And you appreciate that, do you?"
"So what do you give them in return, Sir? Extra rum, gifts from port, a certain freedom that other men do not have?" His voice was stern.
I flushed. "I give them loyalty in return. As I do all the men here. I have a responsibility to them, as I do to you."
"Give loyalty...to the men?" His eyes were unreadable as he turned to look at me. Then, very faintly, a smile touched his face. "It is a very long time, Mr. Hornblower, since I have had an officer say such a thing. A very long time, indeed." He nodded once. "A good thing to hear, Sir."
And he walked away, leaving me feeling better about my prospects here than I had since the first day I set foot on the vessel. I managed to contain my joy as Kymper took over the watch.
A cup of tea now, and a few moments to tell Archie the news. Things are looking up here at last
I felt the ship rock from a swift impact as I sat having a cup of tea. Archie and I both jolted up immediately.
"What the...?" I gasped.
Tomlinson, one of our thirty-year old midshipmen, suddenly was at the door, even as Archie and I struggled into our jackets.
"Beg pardon, Sirs, but I think Lieutenant Kymper is considering about a beat to quarters."
There was another booming impact rocking the ship. "You think?" Archie snarled, even as he moved forward.
"What happened, Tomlinson?" I asked, as we hurried out towards the deck.
"French frigate. Kymper didn't think they'd fire on us." He said, frowning.
"That's LIEUTENANT Kymper." I corrected, but my heart wasn't in the rebuke. "Has the Captain been notified?"
"Aye, Sir...Midshipman Steward went forward to do it."
I peered through the smoke as we came up on the deck.. Confusion! Men yelling, crying out, some bleeding, and still nobody had cleared for action!
Buckland was cowering on the quarterdeck; I could hear clearly Kymper asking him what to do.
"For God's sake, man! Clear for action!" I yelled over the din of the injured. Archie had immediately tried to round up the standing men to some form of order, with the help of Matthews and Styles.
Buckland looked affronted. "The Captain is not here yet."
His voice spoke from over my shoulder. "He's here NOW, Lieutenant Buckland."
I turned to him, wondering if I should have to explain my impertinence, but he swept forward. "Are Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Hornblower the only officers on board with brains? Clear FOR ACTION!"
The divisions were organized, and with sudden direction, the men grew more confident. I started to head towards the gun deck, when Captain Sawyer grabbed me. "You stay with me, Hornblower. YOU!" He snapped at Kymper. "Get yourself to the gun ports, and try and stay out of Kennedy's way."
The Captain's jaw was firm and immobile as we made our way to the quarterdeck. He pulled out his glass, and nodded.
"She's starting to run from us now...sees we're clearing." He slammed the glass shut firmly.
"We should pursue her." I said, then realized that perhaps I had forgotten myself.
But Captain Sawyer smiled. "I couldn't agree more, Hornblower. Give the order to Mr. Mason."
Breathing easier, I grabbed our ship's Master and indicated we were to follow our quarry. Then I returned to stand beside Captain Sawyer.
He was excited. His eyes gleamed as he stared out towards the fleeing frigate, a slight dimple evident in his face. "Nothing like a little action, eh, Mr. Hornblower. So long as we are well prepared and willing to fight."
"The men are willing, certainly, Sir." I said, my own pulse quickening.
He nodded sharply. "And they're prepared...NOW." He set his shoulders back as we prepared to fire. "Perhaps, Mr. Hornblower, you would care to lead some exercises with the men later, to keep them sharp?"
"I would be honored, Sir." I hesitated to bring Archie's name into this; he already thinks we are joined at the hip. And I cannot count on this good mood lasting infinitely.
"And have Kennedy help you. The little I just saw indicates that he's good around a gun."
"Top notch, Sir." I said, exhaling. Archie, perhaps...just perhaps...we have gotten through to him.
Just as we neared striking range, the wind shifted suddenly, and I barked out quick orders on instinct to Mason. Captain Sawyer nodded in agreement.
But Mason didn't move quickly. He looked at me for a moment, puzzled, and then at the Captain, waiting for confirmation.
"Damn it man, didn't you hear him?" Sawyer snapped.
Too late; as Mason went to maneuver we were taken flat aback, and foundered for a few moments; enough time for our prize to take advantage. She wasn't foolish enough to attempt to keep up an attack, though; one or two shots and then she made her escape.
The first shot whistled past us, fortunately. The second...I heard the splintering of the masts and the rip of the sail, and looked up just in time to see the falling bundle. I leapt backwards, as did Captain Sawyer; unfortunately he was not as agile as I was, and he crumpled as he was struck.
Oh, God! "Surgeon! Surgeon!" I spied Tomlinson. "You there! Get Doctor Clive!"
I knelt beside him, and he groaned; a good sign, at least. He'd taken a blow to the head as he'd hit the deck; a splinter protruded from his arm a good six inches. I was afraid to touch it lest I made it worse.
"Damn." He muttered groggily. Then he brought his eyes to focus on me. "Get us moving and back on course, Hornblower. Clive will tend to me."
"Yes, Sir! You'll be fine, Sir." I encouraged.
He took the encouragement about as well as Captain Pellew would have. "Damn, Sir, I've been hurt far worse than this. Get us moving, I said."
"Aye, aye, Sir." I replied, my mouth twitching. Clive was running forward anyway, and I went to have a word with Mason.
Two hours later, the Captain was resting in sick berth, and I stopped in to see him.
"Ah, Hornblower." Clive smiled at me, his face otherwise a frozen mask. "I shall have him moved once he's come to. He's still asleep for now." He leaned back in the chair next to the Captain.
I looked down; his head rolled on the pillow; his forehead drenched in sweat and a bloody bandage bound round his arm. "His second head injury recently, is it not, Sir?"
"Bah; the last one was April 1799. I would hardly call that recently."
"Yes, but..." My voice trailed off. Clive had never relished my medical opinion, though my father had been a physician and I had a little knowledge. I didn't think he'd like hearing from me that head wounds tended to lead to an accumulated brain injury. My eyes traveled to the little table beside him, on which rested a brown bottle. I looked at Clive, striving to keep my voice unemotional. "Laudanum?"
"Yes, LAUDANUM." He grumbled. "What of it? He was in great pain from that splinter...would you have had me leave him screaming while I removed it and stitched it up? Would you wish to have him suffer?"
"No, of course not." I became defensive. "I would never have the Captain suffer!"
I looked reluctantly down at him. I had just been beginning
to understand the man, and to realize that in some ways we were
more alike than not. But the laudanum...surely that was a bad
thing, was it not?
LETTER FROM HORATIO HORNBLOWER TO ANGELINA DANINI
April 9, 1801
My dearest Angelina:
My love, we are once again faced with problems...my problems, I know; but yours as well, that might force us to postpone our marriage. I am truly sorry, for you are all that is good in my life; all that I am holding on to, keeping me sane.
I felt I was developing a strong relationship with Captain Sawyer at last. We were making progress; I found that our methods were not so very different at all. I think, Angelina, he was seeing me for the first time. And perhaps he was beginning to respect me as well. I know this: that man, that I was just beginning to know, would not have objected to my taking three days' leave to be married.
Unfortunately, that man is gone, and I am not hopeful he will ever return.
We had a little skirmish last week. It was precipitated by Kymper's total idiocy in failing to clear for action when we were surprised by a French frigate. The frigate captain took advantage of our lack of preparation by sending off several telling volleys. I dashed above decks, as did the Captain, and we found ourselves working together to turn the tide.
The disaster happened when the ship's master balked at an order I gave, and the ship was taken aback. That enabled our enemy to get off another couple of shots before escaping from our grasp. One of those shots managed to injure the Captain; a very bad splinter wound and another knock to the head.
And so Dr. Clive has him back on laudanum, and the paranoia has returned.
He blames (perhaps correctly) Kymper for his folly in not clearing the decks. He blames Buckland for not asserting his power over Kymper as first Lieutenant. That, perhaps, is less fair. But Angelina, he blames me...I am not certain for what. But his memory (addled by the head injury and the laudanum) only tells him that I was beside him, and he was hurt, and therefore it is my fault. He scorns me outwardly, calls me a coward and a schemer in the same breath. Archie has also been tainted...another "useless officer." His pain is excruciating (he developed an infection around the splinter that necessitated a further surgery) and he clings to the medication like an infant to a bottle. And Clive lets him.
I fear very much for our future here. For a scant two months, I got a chance to serve with the man Captain Sawyer used to be. Now he is gone, and I do not know what to do.
You do see, don't you, that we cannot marry right now? My life is most precarious here. He is against his officers, and praises his men over us. Until I get off of this blasted barge, I do not understand how I could permit you to align yourself with me. I am not certain at this moment that my end will be a good one.
My dear, forgive me. If you hate me, I will understand. If you wish to break our engagement and find a man better suited to loving you, I would understand that as well. No, damn it, I will not understand it; I will not like it; it will burn in my stomach for the rest of my days. But I will accept it, as I can accept that perhaps you would have been wiser to never choose me at all.
Yours if you'll have me; yours if you won't-Horaito.
LETTER FROM ARCHIE KENNEDY TO DREW BRANDON
April 12, 1801
My dear brother...
I cannot begin to tell you the sorrow I feel at this time, and the fear. My life, I think, has begun to spill out of control, and I do not know where to turn or how to fix it.
The Captain, after a two month period of sanity (after his blessed removal from Laudanum) was re-injured recently. Guess how the good Doctor Clive opted to treat him? And yes, before you ask, it WAS a head injury, and he is now exhibiting all of those signs you warned us of: paranoia, anxiety, mood swings. You name it.
But worst of all was today. He killed Kymper.
He had blamed Kymper for failure to clear the decks during the skirmish that saw him injured. A few days after he returned to full duty, as his memory and his strength returned, he ordered Kymper to stand watch for three days straight. With no rations. 72 hours of watch. In beating sun and in full uniform. Buckland tried to rationalize with him, and Buckland ended up on watch for 36 hours as a thank you. So Horaito and I opted to say nothing.
Kymper collapsed around the end of his 48th hour of duty. Sawyer found him, asleep. He ordered him put in arms, and kept under arrest. Until today. Today he dragged the poor bastard forward, reminding the assembled men that the penalty for sleeping on duty was death. And that was for an officer as well as for some poor sailor. And he ordered the man shot by firing squad.
I can not tell you how sick I am. Afterward, he turned and eyed the three of us... Buckland, Horatio, and myself, with a most peculiar little smile on his face. Then he ordered the three of us to clean the mess up, and toss Kymper overboard. No rights. No honor in death. Then Sawyer let out a great moan, and Clive came forward, laudanum in hand, and we have heard no more from him today.
Buckland shakes his head and mutters to himself. What can we do? After all, Kymper DID botch up our battle. Sawyer had every right to discipline him. And he did fall asleep on duty, and the penalty for that IS death. Lord knows, I had no great love for the second Lieutenant, but this? Was this justice? Was it wise? I do not know, I only know that I keep a sharp watch on my back, and am avowed that I will do nothing that could in any way be construed as against my Captain.
But Drew, this is the first time I have been really afraid since I was under Simpson's wrath in Justinian.
Pray for me, and for Horatio with me. He has withdrawn completely. He has even cancelled his engagement, I think. I do not know what he is planning, but he scares me as well. So was his face when he prepared to duel Simpson all those years ago. A calculating despair.
Please, do not let your sister know of this. I cannot have her worry for me. And I am well aware that I have much to live for.
May 3, 1801
Drew, face pale and drawn, quickly approached Captain Pellew on the quarter deck of Impetueax. Mr. Cousins was the Lieutenant of the watch, and it would not have been abnormal for him to visit anyway, the handful of "old Indys" enjoying a little camaraderie.
The Captain eyed him, one brow raised and a hint of smile on his face. "Ah, Dr. Brandon, how good of you to..." His voice trailed off. "visit." His brow fell, and then he drew both down in a frown of concern. Reg, also, scanned Drew's face, lips slightly parted.
"Captain. Lieutenant Cousins." He stood beside them, his shoulders set. "Captain Pellew, Sir, I am well aware that this is not a situation you can do anything about, but...well, dash it all, misery loves company." He thrust a brief letter into his Captain's hand. "From Mr. Kennedy, Sir. Tell me what you can make of it. Because I am at a loss."
The Captain's eyes busily took in the note. Reg pretended indifference, while all the while casting quick darts towards Drew.
Drew looked out over the deck of the Impetueax. The nicely ordered, well run deck of the Impetueax. He could not have said that a year ago, but here it was, not quite the Indefatigable, but not a bad ship either. Some good men aboard her, in fact. Many good officers. And that, he was becoming more and more aware, was a function of the man who lead them.
"Ahem." Drew turned back to Captain Pellew, whose face was stony. He was in the midst of a re-read of the letter, when he looked up and caught Drew's eye. "This is not good, Mr. Brandon. Not good at all."
"I know that, Sir." Drew felt the load shift slightly off of his shoulder.
The Captain was shaking his head. "...firing squad!" He whispered, his lips pale.
Cousins looked over, eyes wide, at the words. "Firing squad?"
Without looking up, the Captain handed the horror over to Reg for him to read, then looked at Drew. "Have you heard from Mr. Hornblower at all?"
"I have not." Drew replied. "You know him, Sir...he'd rather slit his wrists and stick them in a vat of sea-water than admit to any failure."
Wincing at Drew's bluntness, the Captain nodded in slowly, exhaling as he did. "Yes, Dr. Brandon. This must grate on him terribly."
Reg had just finished the letter, and was now looking up at Captain Pellew and Drew, his face pale despite his tan. "Is there nothing to be done?"
He knew, of course, the answer. One man would not interfere in the command of another. It was an unwritten code among all Captains. Pellew perhaps did not always like it, but he followed it. For he would be loath to have to submit to the suggestion of another man himself.
"I will..." The Captain said finally. "Write to Mr. Hornblower, perhaps. I do not know of much else I can do." He looked sharply at Drew. "A diagnosis is difficult to make without seeing the patient, Mr. Brandon. Can you tell me what yours would be of Captain Sawyer?"
Drew met his stare unblinking. "I would say he is clinging to sanity by the smallest of threads, Sir. Due in part to the head injury, and in part to the drugs."
"You could not remove him from command at a description such as 'clinging to sanity.' That would mean he was sane."
Taking a deep breath, Drew went on, "Were I there, Sir, I believe I would declare him unfit for command until such time as he is weaned from the Laudanum, and recovered from his head wound. Mind you, that might be never. But in my mind, it would be no different then when you, Sir, took a shot to the chest and were laid up in surgery. When that happened, Mr. Bracegirdle temporarily took over your responsibilities, and willingly returned them to you when you were well. THAT was not a mutiny."
The Captain and Reg both flinched. "I beg of you, Mr. Brandon, do not use that word." He sighed, shaking his head. "This letter is already four weeks old. Pray things have gotten better already."
And with a shrug, the Captain headed towards his quarters, wondering what on earth he was to say to his most prized student.
LETTER FROM CAPTAIN PELLEW TO HORATIO HORNBLOWER:
May 3, 1801
"My dear Hornblower...
Some incidents regarding your current tenure aboard the Renown have been brought to my attention. It matters not how that happened; believe me clairvoyant if you wish. But allow me, if it will not mortify you, to let you know that I am heartily concerned for your well being.
I cannot interfere in the command of another Captain, even if, from what I understand, he is in such a precarious state mentally. It is only your ship's doctor who can declare that. But what I can do is offer you advice, and any encouragement that I can.
If your world around you is insane, then it is imperative that YOU, at least, maintain your sanity. Hold yourself before the men at all times as a picture of composure, of assurance. Do not let others see that you are worn from the chaos. Better still, do not LET the chaos wear you. Easier said, than done, I know. But believe me, Horatio, I know you for the officer that you are. I have sailed with no man better in my over thirty-five years of service. DO NOT ALLOW THIS MAN TO HAVE YOU DOUBTING YOURSELF. I know too well that you will.
Also, do not let this man push you to actions you can only regret later. Do what you can, within the confines of regulations. Implore Mr. Kennedy to do the same. You perhaps will be the only examples the men will have to follow, should disaster fall; and they will not forget your actions.
Meanwhile, Hornblower, try and speak with the Doctor, but only in a way that can be construed as helping the Captain. Do not give him any reason to question your loyalty. Simply advise him of your concern. How could he object to that?
I am not there, I know. My words might sound hollow. And I can imagine the despair in your heart...do not think I do not know you. Remember, you have sailed on ships before this one. You will sail on ships afterward. None of this is more than a lesson for you to apply in the good days ahead. Keep thinking of it as a way you will NOT behave when you have your own command. And pity the man; he was once great. Sometimes, one needs to know when to step aside. It looks as if he waited one command too long.
Hold on, Horatio. You are not alone, though it might feel that way. And know that your friends on Impetueax have you often in their thoughts.
Your Captain...Sir Edward Pellew.
LETTER FROM ANGELINA DANINI TO HORATIO HORNBLOWER
May 4, 1801
My dearest Horatio:
I will wait for you until the sun burns out, if that is what you require. I love you, I adore you, and most importantly, I understand you. Perhaps others would not; but having been surrounded by chaos myself before, I can well see that you would be reluctant to make a commitment when you feel you are standing on quicksand. Mind, I would have no objection to it; I have already decided we are the only two people who will be able to put up with each other.
Patience and courage love, for both of us. Until the day you are free from this madman, I shall be there for you, wait for you, and count the hours until we can be united under God.
May 21, 1801
I approached Archie in the ward room, both of my letters buried deeply in my sea-chest, away from prying eyes.
Fortunately, he was alone.
"Archie." I sat across from him. He looked up at me; in his eyes I saw the same uncertainty I remember from his defending a bridge in France. "We must speak."
His face relaxed. "We have not spoken for some time, Horatio. It is good to hear your voice."
I nodded. I had been abstracted ever since Kymper's execution. Captain Pellew's letter, and Angelina's, had kicked me awake. "We must watch each other's back, Archie. We cannot control what is going on around us, but we can control ourselves."
Archie nodded. "Yes, but Horatio...what else? Is there nothing we can do?"
I sighed. "I have spent much time thinking on it, as you know. And I received a few letters today..." I could feel myself blushing. "...that reminded me that I have a responsibility to the Navy and to the men, and to myself. Our path is clear: we must be the perfect officers. We must give Captain Sawyer no cause for complaint. And we must hope that he either gets better, or..."
"Or what?" Archie's lopsided smile was grim. "Hope he goes so nutters that even Clive can't ignore it?"
I shrugged. "Basically, yes."
Archie ran his hand over his face. "We are in Portsmouth tomorrow. Shall you get any leave, do you think?"
"I think it is doubtful for either of us."
"Damn." He sat back. "What of Buckland, Horaito? Shall we speak to him as well?"
Slowly, I shook my head. "I cannot make him out. He was man enough to speak for Kymper during the first punishment, but otherwise? I would say, Archie, that we can trust each other...and Matthews and Styles. Nobody else."
"No." His voice was low, almost inaudible. "Nobody else." He gave himself a little shake and rose; he was on duty shortly. "One good thing, Horatio..." He smiled thinly. "At least we have no boys to worry about."
I matched his grim expression. No, indeed; if it was unbearable to be a twenty-five year old Lieutenant in such circumstances, how much worse would it be to be a twelve-year old midshipman? Yes, that would worry Archie and I a good deal.
May 22, 1801
"Oh, Christ, Archie..." I whispered under my breath. "Will you look at this?"
"Wha...?" He followed my gaze to the awkward figure struggling over the side. "Oh, no!"
Our worst fear had just been realized. A young boy, Midshipman's uniform, had arrived, apparently assigned here.
"Do we tell him..." Archie murmured. "To turn around and get back in the shore boat before it is too late?"
I quelled him with a glance, just in time. The Captain came forward abruptly.
"What is this? Why was I not notified?"
"Sir...it would appear that a new midshipman has arrived." The boy was just starting to make his way awkwardly towards the quarterdeck.
"Oh, Lieutenant Hornblower, how good of you to state the obvious!" He muttered. "Well, at least the young cub knows enough to report to me. At least HE knows who is in command of this ship. And he had best not forget it, eh, Mr. Hornblower? We do not accept insubordination from our officers, do we, Mr. Hornblower?"
"No, Sir." I murmured. He smirked nastily. It was a particularly bad day for him today.
I watched, a pit forming in my stomach, as the clueless young man nervously came forward.
He saluted awkwardly. "C...Come aboard, Sir."
The Captain returned the salute, his eagle eyes not leaving the boy's face. My, I thought, he is pale. A spattering of dark brown freckles that matched his eyes and his hair dotted his nose. The Captain noted them as well.
"You're face is spotty, boy." He said abruptly.
"Er..." He blinked, startled. "Yes, Sir."
"A few weeks at sea and you'll have so many of those we won't be able to see your face for 'em, eh, Lieutenant Hornblower?" He said it in a jovial manner.
"Quite, Sir." I answered, ashamed. He ought not to make sport with the poor boy's appearance.
The young man himself seemed to not know what to do next, and blinked helplessly at Captain Sawyer. At least he had sense enough not to show any discomfort at the teasing; that would only have spurred the man on.
"Well, come on, boy." Sawyer's good humor was still evident. "You do have a name, don't you."
"Yes, Sir." He gulped. "Henry Wellard, Midshipman, Sir."
"Mister Welllllaaaaaaaard." He dragged out the name. "A suitable name for a midshipman. It remains to be seen if it is suitable for more. Do you plan on making the Navy your career, Mister Wellard?"
What kind of question was that for the boy? He was here, wasn't he?
"Yes, Sir." He answered, a slight hint of excitement in his voice.
"Then we shall hope you are not killed. Easy enough for that to happen. Carelessness on the ratlines. Blown to pieces by enemy fire, not enough of you left to bury. Falling overboard and drowning. Happens all the time, does it not, Mr. Hornblower?"
"It happens sometimes, Sir." Damned if I would petrify this child more than he already was, for the poor kid's pallor had increased at this litany of his prospects.
"Ah, yes, Mr. Wellard. Here we have Lieutenant Hornblower, so far above himself as to think he is the Captain's equal, is that not true, Mr. Hornblower?" He glared at me.
"No, Sir. I could never presume to be your equal." And pray God I never will.
"And next to him is Mr. Kennedy. He is Mr. Hornblower's yes-man, and of no consequence."
I saw the spots rise in Archie's face, but thankfully he held his tongue.
The Captain's dose of medication must have been slipping, for he suddenly looked tired. "And now, Mr. Kennedy, if you wish to make yourself useful, for once, show this boy to the Midshipman's berth."
At that moment, the ship lurched in the wake of another vessel passing us; with the wind as it was, it was just enough to knock an inexperienced man about, and Wellard teetered slightly, where as Archie and I did not so much as twitch, our legs compensating for the moving deck.
The Captain, however, coming down off the laudanum, was also rather precarious, and he toppled right over. At least he would have, if Mr. Wellard had not had the bad fortune to catch him.
"Beg pardon, Sir." He asked, anxiously. "Are you alright?"
The Captain's face suffused red in a seething rage, and I felt my stomach sink even lower.
"How dare you..." He seethed. "HOW DARE YOU, MR. WELLARD, HUMILIATE ME LIKE THAT?"
"S...sir?" Wellard stuttered out, eyes wide, mouth trembling.
"CONSPIRING TO KNOCK ME OVER! WHO PUT YOU UP TO IT? HORNBLOWER OR KENNEDY?"
The boy was terrified. "S...sir, nobody, Sir...I just didn't want to see you get hurt, Sir. I'm sorry."
"How OLD are you, Wellard?"
"S...sir, I'm f...fourteen."
"Sir..." I tried, praying to dissuade him. "Mr. Wellard is new, I am certain he meant no offense.
But there was no turning back now. "Get bellow, Mr. Wellard! Mr. Kennedy, escort him. Mr. Hornblower, my compliments to Mr. Matthews and have him bring me his rattan. As Mr. Wellard is NEW, perhaps his first lesson had best be the definition of the expression kissing the gunner's daughter. That is how we punish naughty little boys in the Navy. Half a dozen should do it, I think. And if you dawdle any further, Mr. Hornblower, I will make it a dozen full!" He snapped away, behind the and I nodded at Styles, who shrugged and went for Matthews.
It was about ten minutes later, as I stood in position, my eyes frozen on the horizon and my jaw tight, that I heard the whip of the cane. I winced, as Wellard yelped sharply enough for me to hear. The sound was repeated five times, with five yelps. He'll learn, I thought. He'll learn to hold that in. He'll get teased this evening by his mates, as well; the group of older men who he would be berthing with. A man does not cry out when beaten; not without further impetus than six strokes.
Well, at least he wasn't crying outright. That was a start. You held the tears until you were alone in your hammock, and then you learned to let them fall without sound.
Archie came forward to join me, his face gray. "Mr. Wellard is to be on your station, Horatio." Archie twitched his neck in his shirt. "He is to report for duty in twenty minutes, or receive a full dozen."
I scowled. There had been no reason for Sawyer to put the boy on this watch; he could have waited until tomorrow, even, before being assigned duty. Captain Pellew never stuck a new man on duty his first day.
"He didn't cry at all. Just yelped." Archie said, softly, his thoughts apparently along the same as mine. "Poor kid. Here five minutes and beaten."
"A lousy introduction to the Navy, certain sure." Mr. Wellard, whoever you are, and wherever you came from, you will regret being here soon.
If you don't already.
Archie had left by the time, fifteen minutes later, young Wellard came stiffly above decks. "Reporting for duty, Sir." He said, unemotionally.
"Very good, Mr. Wellard." I took a few steps away, standing as far from the skylight as I could. "Do you understand the bell system, Mr. Wellard?" I asked, reverting to teacher mode, and hoping to take his mind from his worries.
He turned those deep brown eyes on me in gratitude. "I have read up on it, Sir, but I wouldn't mind an explanation."
I went over the watch system slowly, and in detail. He listened attentively, and asked one or two questions, hesitantly, as if fearing I would chastise him for doing so. Naturally, I did not; indeed, his quick grasp of the Navy's odd time-keeping system was impressive. He has a quick mind, and seems intelligent. A good lad.
"You've got it now, Mr. Wellard." I said, giving him a little smile. "Faster than most do, I must say. I am impressed."
"Thank you, Sir." He gave me a very slight and very tentative smile. "Sir...may I ask you..."
"Yes, Mr. Wellard?"
He thought the question out, and phrased it carefully. "What can I do to refrain from angering the Captain in the future, Sir?" His voice was tiny, a mere squeak with a hint of the pain he was in.
Oh, Mr. Wellard, if I but had the answer to that! "What happened today was unfortunate, Sir. If you are attentive to your duty, and mind your place here, it ought not happen again." I lied. Because it would happen again.
"The Captain said...he expected it would happen again. Often." His lips were white.
I sighed deeply. "I regret that, Mr. Wellard. Just remember, he is a hero, and a grand man. Always treat him most deferentially, and with high respect. If you do, he will stop scrutinizing you so closely, and your life will be easier." It was kinder to say that, than to say, eventually he will get tired of beating you, and will move on to his next victim.
He sighed. "I saw my seachest into the berth, and the other midshipmen there mocked me for crying out." He blushed. "I didn't mean to...I just...didn't expect..." His voice trailed off.
What? Didn't expect to get bent over a gun and throttled before you were here one hour? How could you not have thought that would happen! "Do not let them tease you too badly. Let me know if it continues. Though they are all older now, they were boys once too."
"Thank you, Sir." The bells rang changing the watch; Buckland to replace me, and Midshipman Tomlinson to replace Wellard. Tomlinson smirked at Wellard, who shrank back. I glared at the elder Mid hard, and the smirk faded. "Come, Mr. Wellard." I said, evenly. "I will show you back to your berth, as I expect you have forgotten the way."
We walked in silence below decks; when we came to the mid's berth I laid a friendly hand on his shoulder. "Mr. Kennedy or I will show you around the ship tomorrow. However, we are neither of us on good terms with the Captain, so it is best that in public you not exhibit any sign of friendship with us."
He nodded, the harsh lessons of Renown coming thick and fast. "I must still thank you again, Sir, for your kindness."
My heart broke, remembering another frightened young midshipman who said very similar words to a man by the name of Clayton. It was a lifetime ago.
"You are very welcome, Mr. Wellard. Welcome to Renown." And before I could say anything I might regret, I turned to go to my own berth.
I saw Matthews late that evening. I had never ceased my habit of a nocturnal walk on the deck, and was not surprised to find him there, almost expecting me.
"Evening, Matthews." I said.
"Not a good one, I'm afeared, Sir." He frowned sadly.
There was a sudden burst of raucus laughter. Captain Sawyer's voice trailed up from the skylight. He and Dr. Clive were apparently enjoying a late meal and a drink or three.
I set my shoulders in the distance, looking over the ships of the harbor. "I wonder if Impetueax is around?"
"Aye, Sir. I don't know, I'm sure." He understood enough what I was thinking. "Wish I could a been bosun under Captain Pellew." His voice was quiet; we were away from all ears, and Sawyer's loud laughter indicated he was not aware us.
"I understand, Matthews. You were just doing your duty."
"What'd the boy do, Sir? Styles didn't see, he said." Matthews pale eyes implored me for an answer.
"He had the misfortune to keep the Captain from falling off his feet. Sadly, this was seen as impertinence."
Matthews looked even more unhappy then. "Worse than I thought, Sir." He coughed. "I tried to go a little easy, Sir."
"The Captain didn't notice, I hope?"
"I said a *little* easy. And as the boy cried out as it was..." Matthews shrugged. "More out of shock, than pain, I think.
"We must be cautious, Matthews. The Captain mustn't suspect you are going easy on him. It would be bad for all three of us." I warned.
"Sir?" He looked at me in horror. "Ye mean to say ye think it'll happen again?"
I stared out to the horizon for a moment, wondering if somewhere out there in that lonely ocean Impetueax sailed, her men happy, her boys allowed to be, well, boys, her Captain overseeing it all with stern indulgence. "For a long time, Matthews, Archie and I...were glad, that there were no boys on board. It is easy to torment a boy. Especially a young midshipman. A young powder boy has a much more specified value. If the Captain's paranoia grows, and I see no reason for it not to, I do not think Mr. Wellard's service here will be a happy one."
"But tisn't right, Sir!" He pleaded. "Now, sometime's boys get high spirits, and you got to calm 'em down a bit; seen it all the time. But yer talking ABUSE!"
He spat the word out the way I have heard him disdain "mutiny." I gave him a bitter smile.
"Not abuse, Matthews, discipline. On paper, you know, it's all according to the articles of war. Who is to care that a fourteen year old boy suffers for no greater crime than assisting his Captain?"
"I do, Sir. I'm the one with the cane, after all." He looked disgusted.
"I care as well. But Captain Foster, say, do you think he would care? Not a jot. And the thing is, Matthews, if the Captain can order such harsh punishment because the boy tried to AID him, then how do YOU think he will react when the boy actually makes a mistake, even a minor one? Mixes up a signal? Addresses an officer improperly? He's new to the Navy; he's bound to do something wrong, even in innocence. No, Matthews, I am afraid that is not the last time you will be beating Mr. Wellard."
Matthews spat off the ship. "I don't have to like it, Sir. No, I don't."
"No." I looked at him sideways, and whispered, "That is why we must do what we can to make it easier. Without risking him further. Do you understand?"
He met my eye clearly. "Yes, Mr. Hornblower. I do. Reckon I've always understood you pretty well."
So with a nod, I glanced around the ship, and began a slow return to my own berth, sad to know that what I could do was so little.
JUNE 10 1801
We shall be in Portsmouth tomorrow, for about a week. I shall attempt to get away from the ship for a few hours at least, but as the Captain's state of mind continues to be precarious at best, I am not at all certain that will be possible.
I have added new worries to those I'd previously told you about. Worries in the form of a young boy not quite fifteen whom has been thrown into the mix here. He's a young midshipman by the name of Henry Wellard, and wasn't here five minutes before the Captain ordered him beaten. Archie and I are beside ourselves; this child was every worse nightmare we'd entertained since the moment we came here.
Wellard seems a good lad, bright enough and willing. But he never had a chance. A freak incident convinced the Captain Wellard was against him, and now the boy gets no breaks.
He's been beaten another six times since that first day. Not for any good reason, mind. He's no malingerer, and he's quite conscientious. But he didn't salute quickly enough once. Another time he made the mistake of asking a question, quite a normal one, really...he'd only been here a week. The Captain publicly declared him ignorant and stupid, and sent him once again to the gun. You get the idea.
Oh, he's stood it well, very manfully and all that nonsense. But he's little more than a child. And he's growing skittish. He does not know when the next blow is coming (it is no longer a question of if or why). Until yesterday, Matthews did a pretty good show of it, holding back as much as he could (we had agreed privately that since the punishment was unjust, we were within our rights to take steps to mitigate it). It was only six each time, thankfully.
Unfortunately, two days ago when the boy was beaten (for the grand infraction of having a miniscule stain on his uniform) gunner Hobbs made a loud comment afterwards that his ninety-year old grandmother could hit harder than that. Hobbs has the Captain's ear, and I could not risk repercussions falling on either Matthews or Wellard if we were found out. So I talked it over with Matthews, and explained to Wellard, that the next beating would be full force.
Sadly, there is no doubt there will be another beating. Until the Captain has found somebody he can have better sport with, Wellard is vulnerable.
I do hope I shall be able to see you when we are in port, but I feel guilty about it at the same time. I asked Henry if he had any family he wished to visit, and he replied that he hadn't any family at all...that's why he's in the Navy. Apparently his mother died last January and he was rather vague about his father. Somebody had money enough to secure him the place, though; it does not take a genius to read between the lines on that one. He was rather shy and ashamed about it, but it is not his fault, after all. The Navy, I pointed out to him, is man's great equalizer; that's why somebody like Archie, third son of a Lord, might be friends with someone like me, only son of a Doctor.
Of course, talking up the Navy to him in his current predicament is hard to do.
I have vowed, my love, that I will not order boys' beaten on any ship of mine, for anything less than the direst of errors. There has got to be a better way.
Perhaps I shall be able to see you soon. If not, know you are in my thoughts.
"Steady there, Mr. Wellard." I put my hand out to his shoulder, and felt him trembling slightly. He tried to pull himself together, and forced himself to stand stiffly beside me on the docks at Portsmouth. His eyes were still wet, and his face was frightfully pale.
Captain Sawyer had assigned us both to oversee the loading of supplies. It was pure cruelty on his part to force Henry to go with me. The boy was not normally on duty at this time. But at the end of his watch earlier, he ordered Henry beaten six times for clumsiness (he'd tripped over a cable). As he'd had him beaten six yesterday evening for stuttering his response to a question set by the ship's master, Henry was in no condition for another six this morning. Especially as Matthews can no longer go easy on him.
Where he ought to be right now is curled up in his hammock, letting his tears fall in private, taking what comfort he could from what must seem a very cruel world.
As I steadied him, I caught a smirk from Randall, and I scowled. Still, I knew better than to reprimand him; I would only bring more ire down on Henry's head.
"Thank you, Sir." Henry said quietly. Well, at least he was STANDING, though I fear the ride in the boat had done him no good.
"Lieutenant Hornblower!" A familiar voice came to me; I turned with a smile.
"Lieutenant Brandon!" The memory of happiness coursed through my veins. "I did not expect to see you in port, Sir!"
"That is Doctor Brandon, now; and I might say the same of you. Strange that in nearly two years we have not both found ourselves in the same port before now."
Drew hadn't changed much. A bit more tan, and his hair seeming even more blond by contrast, but his smile just as friendly, and his eyes as intelligent. He extended his hand and I grasped it firmly, wishing I could embrace him in friendship instead.
I saw Henry falter slightly as Randall bumped into him, and I called out a terse, "Careful with those supplies, now." I could not act concerned for Wellard, though I did put my hand on his shoulder once more.
Henry cast a quick glance at me, and then down at his feet, before looking up at the young man he did not know.
Drew, as I suspected, needed no instruction. He sized up Wellard in a glance; I could see him noting the boy's stiff stance, his pale skin, his red eyes, and his drawn mouth. To say nothing of the air of shame and awkwardness of a man used to being abused. A tiny spark of anger lit Drew's eyes, then disappeared quickly with a warm glance, and a hand extended. "Doctor Andrew Brandon, Sir; HMS Impetueaux."
"Henry Wellard, Midshipman, HMS Renown." Henry said, taking Drew's hand.
"I am pleased to know you, Sir." He looked over at me, mirth in his eyes; only I could see the ire that it masked. "Mr. Hornblower and I are old shipmates from Indefatigable. Are you new to the Navy, Mr. Wellard?"
"I've just been in service one month, Doctor Brandon." He answered, no joy in the fact evident in his voice.
"Well, you have no better superior officer. But don't tell Mr. Kennedy I said that!" He added; a low, confiding whisper that was loud enough for me to hear.
And bless me if Henry didn't manage a smile back. "Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Hornblower both have been most kind."
Styles came forward suddenly. "Beggin yer pardon Sir..." Then he stopped short. "Lor', I mean, Mr. Brandon! Ye aren't goin to Renown, are ye?" I couldn't tell if his voice were more horrified or hopeful.
Drew laughed easily. "Over Captain Pellew's dead body, I can assure you, Styles. We are also in Port, through the day after tomorrow."
I cleared my throat, and Styles came back to the point. "Right, Sir...Me an Matthew's were standin' guard over some of the supplies, over there in the shade, Sir, an' thought it might be a good idea t'have an officer with us." He glanced at Henry.
I saw the kindness...get the boy away from the eyes of the men, and safely in the shade. Matthews might even conspire for him to be able to lean on a crate for a bit, and rest. Poor Matthews; eaten up by guilt over the beatings; though they are not his fault. Fortunately, Henry knows that though Matthews wields the rattan, it is not by choice.
"I would be happy to assist, Sir." Henry looked up at me with those great brown eyes of his, and I managed to keep myself from playing big brother instead of officer. "Very good Mr. Wellard. Join Mr. Matthews and Styles, please."
"Aye, aye, Sir." He moved laboriously away; Styles nodded at me over his shoulder.
Drew was now free to grill me. But all he did is look at me, his mouth now grim, one eyebrow raised in question.
"Mr. Wellard is a fine young man." I said, evenly.
"No doubt." Drew said, waiting for more.
"He has had the misfortune to be placed in a difficult situation." Inspiration came over me, tempered by the fear and paranoia that I was beginning to feel, that Captain Sawyer was living to torment me through Mr. Wellard. "In fact, I think he might be better served to be placed on another ship."
Drew raised both eyebrows this time. "Of course, much of a young man's fortune rests on his luck in assignment. Nobody understands that better than I do."
"I think, Mr. Brandon, that you can understand Mr. Wellard's situation very well. Very, very well." I stressed. "I think he would positively thrive on another ship."
He nodded, eyes never leaving my face. "I believe you might be right. Mr. Kennedy and I have corresponded, and I think I understand your conditions."
"Dr. Brandon..." A thin young boy I did not know came running forward. "Ship's boats about to head to Impetueax, Sir."
"Yes, King; I'll be right along." He turned back to me. "I must go Horatio. But I will remember what you've told me. Pity you can't visit the Captain. He'd love to see you."
"And I him. Perhaps next time." We shook once more, and then Drew was off.
Perhaps...just perhaps...oh, if I could only get Wellard safely on Impetueax. Drew would know how to take care of him, and he might actually be alright.
Let me handle what I can in this life. And then go from there.
"We need another Midshipman, Sir." Drew ambled into Captain Pellew's cabin and sat, casually, across from him.
The Captain blinked once, and acted stern. "Come in Dr. Brandon, and make yourself at home."
"I already am in, and I am at home, Sir." Drew replied in an almost off-hand manner.
They stared each other down for a few seconds, before they simultaneously broke into smiles.
"What is this about another midshipman?" Pellew asked. "We have a full crew."
"I can't imagine another boy would take up that much space, Sir." Drew cajoled.
"Picking up strays in Portsmouth, Mr. Brandon?"
"Hardly, Sir. I ran in to Mr. Hornblower while I was there."
"Horatio?" The Captain's face was alive with concern and hope. "How is he?"
"As well as either of us would have expected, given the circumstances. He was there with a young midshipman name of Wellard, who'd been about beaten half to death."
"How did you know..."
"Trust me." Drew said, mouth a grim line. "I know." He took a deep breath. "Anyway, without directly saying so, Horatio as good as indicated that he thought we should take the boy on, request his transfer somehow. Said the boy would benefit from a change in ship. Thrive, he said."
Captain Pellew sighed. Of all the things for Horatio to ask him! "Has he been on Renown long?"
"A month in service only."
"Archie had indicated previously to me that the Captain does not care for younger midshipman, so this Wellard must have been forced on him." Drew added.
Pellew sighed. "Oh, very well, Drew; I will write to Sawyer, and try and come up with a plausible reason for the request. I will not trade a man to him, though; I refuse to put one of my own in harm's way."
"I can't imagine Horatio would ask you to." Drew stood quickly. "You're doing a good thing, Sir. That boy was in a very bad way. It was like looking at my own shadow."
Their eyes met once more. Captain Pellew knew there were certain things that Drew would never exaggerate, and certain things he would never condone. If he could identify so closely with this unfortunate young man, then it must be very bad indeed.
LETTER FROM CAPTAIN PELLEW TO CAPTAIN SAWYER
I was pleased to find the Renown in port at the same time as the Impetueax, for I have long hoped to make your acquaintance. I would be very pleased to invite you to the ship for dinner tomorrow evening. Your storied past precedes you, yet somehow my own career has kept us often at opposite ends of the seas. I believe you also once served with my former Captain, Artemis Kent, just prior to my own service with him. It would be my honor to finally have the opportunity to meet with you.
As it would happen, Captain, I am in a bit of a bind. I find myself short of midshipmen, and wondered if you might have a young man who is under your care? I would be willing to provide any financial reparation you might require. I am looking for a young man to take the place of a man recently promoted; someone under the age of twenty would be best for the harmony of my berth. Do not worry about his disciplinary record; I have dealt with enough mischievous boys to know how they must be handled. You may bring any appropriate candidate to diner with you tomorrow.
I look forward to our meeting.
Yours sincerely, Sir Edward Pellew, Commodore, HMS Impetueax
LETTER FROM CAPTAIN SAWYER TO CAPTAIN PELLEW
I regret that I will not be able to attend dinner this evening. Although I do appreciate your invitation, I am afraid I have not the luxury of being absent from my ship for so long as even a few hours. You see, my officers are neither trustworthy nor intelligent, and I cannot count on Renown still being afloat. But then, you are well aware, I believe, of the demeanor of two of those men, as the rapscallions were once your problems.
As for midshipmen, I do have one who would answer. But I believe
it would be irresponsible for me to force you to take a man so
useless as he. I would be most remiss, Sir, in passing him off
to you. Though, of course, that was once your cowardly way, was
it not? To remove your discipline problems to my ship?
No, no, I feel it rests on my shoulder to attempt to correct that young Midshipman, that he might be a passable officer. And rest assured, correct him I shall.
We depart Portsmouth tomorrow. I am sorry to have lost the chance to meet with you. Perhaps fate will cross our paths again.
Sincerely, Captain James Sawyer, HMS Renown
Captain Pellew spluttered angrily, not certain what to take more offense to: the gross misrepresentation of Hornblower and Kennedy, or the personal implication that he'd pawned off inferior men to Renown. Hell, he hadn't wanted to let those men go anyway. He'd take them back in two seconds. And this poor boy with them, too. Only obviously Sawyer was too full of himself to comply.
Insane? This was not an insane letter; it was purposely and pointedly insulting. The man might be an idiot, but he was a sane one. Why, it sounded like something Foster or Hammond would write.
Drew was in the office with him. "Sir?" He asked, reading the answer in Pellew's face, but not wanting to believe it. Silently, seething, Pellew handed the letter to him, and he quickly read it.
"Dear God." Drew went pale. "We've made it worse, Sir. That poor, poor boy." He swallowed hard; this is the last thing he would have ever wished to do.
"You think he'll take his pique out on this Midshipman Wellard?" The Captain found his voice.
"It is written in every line, Sir. With Sawyer on laudanum again, he is obviously becoming paranoid. No doubt he will decide that the poor boy instigated this; he might even decide that it was a conspiracy between Wellard and Horatio." Drew handed the letter back, hand shaking, swiping over his face.
The Captain looked down at the letter, wondering how it was he did not pick up the same feeling. "You sound very sure, Drew?"
"Believe me, Sir." His face was drawn. "I
have been in Wellard's shoes. Trust me, he will suffer for it.
Four more hours to go.
That was all Henry Wellard could think, his wrist straining in the riggings as Renown made her way over the choppy seas. Four more hours. And then he would be released.
He still wasn't quite certain what happened. He'd come back from port with Mr. Hornblower (dear God, that boat ride had been a painful nightmare). Blessedly, the Captain had ignored him, and he was permitted to return to his berth, where he'd curled up for a few hours of blissful sleep. He vaguely remembered Mr. Hornblower and Mr. Kennedy coming to check on him, stroking his head. Mr. Hornblower had whispered something about it might be all over soon. It had been comforting, whatever it was.
And the next day had started fine. He was spotless, he was on time, he was cautious. He survived the first three hours of his watch uneventfully. And then the Captain appeared.
"Misterrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr Wellllllllllllardddddddddddd." Drawing out his name in the most frightful manner. Another beating, oh God, could he take it? He could only stare helplessly at the man, wondering what he should be accused of next. Fortunately, he supposed, it was not to be a beating. Not this time.
And even now, thirty-two hours after being tied in the riggings, he wasn't sure what he'd done wrong. The Captain accused him of conspiring for transfer to another ship, Impetueax. He was not certain how that had happened, he'd just stood there dumbfounded, shocked and frightened, as poor Mr. Hornblower watched, aghast. Indeed, Mr. Hornblower looked like he'd like to crawl into the deck.
Somehow, when the scathing lecture was over, he was ordered confined to the riggings for thirty-six hours, and Mr. Hornblower assigned continuous watch for the same period. Grossly unfair; how could Mr. Hornblower be guilty? Yet some four hours after his painful confinement, there his commanding officer stood, looking at him beseechingly.
"I must beg your forgiveness, Mr. Wellard." He'd whispered, under his breath, looking from side to side. "I had meant it only for the best."
"There's nothing to forgive, Sir." He'd responded, in equal quiet. He didn't understand it, but he knew Mr. Hornblower blamed himself for his predicament. Still, how could he be angry at Mr. Hornblower? He and Mr. Kennedy were about the only men who'd ever been kind to him his entire life. And Matthews and Styles, too. They worried about him. Strange to feel they were kind, when they were usually beating him and holding him down to be beaten, respectively. But he saw the commiseration in Style's eyes when he was held down, and the apology in Matthews expression when it was over. They all actually seemed to care.
Impetueax. Ah, now he remembered. That was the ship Mr. Hornblower's young friend, the doctor, served on! Somehow, one of the men must have heard something, and reported it to the Captain, and it had been misconstrued. That must be it.
He'd liked that young man. The way he looked at him, like he'd known him a long time. The firm shake of hand, like he mattered. The way he seemed to understand that he was hurt, but was not about to embarrass him by calling attention to it. Very young for a Doctor, and why had Mr. Hornblower first called him Lieutenant, in that teasing manner? Perhaps someday Mr. Hornblower would explain it to him. He wished, very much, that he could serve on that other ship with the men who were so kind to him. Their Captain must have been very different indeed.
He looked down at the deck. A new boy there. Powder monkey, pressed this week. Randall was picking on him something fierce, and Styles was yelling at Randall. Now the Captain...there! Slapping the kid. He knew enough what that was like.
He closed his eyes and drifted off, leaning his face against the rough ropes.
Suddenly the deck seemed to hit him. He'd been cut down; the punishment must be over.
"Look at the little bugger, eh? Rope marks on his face. How'd you like those to be permanent, kid?" Randall leered at him.
Henry tried to stand, but he couldn't get his legs to work proper. He blinked; it was dark out; must be very late.
"Back off there, Randall. Punishment's over; Captain's called you to a tot of rum, go and get yer share." Matthews roared over his head.
And in the quiet of the night, Matthews bent and picked him up.
"Thank you...Mr. Matthews." He whispered. "My legs aren't proper like."
"S'alright, Lad; you lean on me, now, and we'll get you squared away to yer own bunk."
He leaned against the bosun, knowing full well he was being dragged more than he was under his own power. "Mr. Hornblower alright?" He asked, as they entered the middie's berth, and Matthews assisted him up to his hammock.
"Och, now, don't you worry about Mr. Hornblower, then; he's come through worse an' that's a fact." He pulled the blanket up to Wellard's chin. "You rest now, laddie; the world will be better tomorrow."
Would it, he wondered? Would his world ever be better? Somehow, he could not believe that it would.
Surely, it could not get worse?