Perspectives, The Duel
Part 1 - The Inspection
Captain Sir Edward Pellew, of HMS Indefatigable, paced the narrow
space of his cabin
slowly and deliberately, hands behind his back, his brow furrowed
in concentration. They
were to sea at last; war had been declared on France, and Pellew
was anxious to get going.
Although he had no love of war-lamenting the wasteful loss of
good men-Pellew was in
general never so happy as when he was at sea.
Just under fifty, Pellew had served in His Majesty's navy since
the age of fifteen, and had
known of little else of life other than that on his ships. He
knew himself to be a well-
respected captain, and being placed in command of this frigate
was confirmation of that fact.
He would be playing a vital role in the campaigns against France,
and he would need his ship
to be operating flawlessly before action was seen.
Ah, but there was the rub! A new ship, a new crew, many men who
had never sailed together
before, some of whom were not here willingly, thanks to the press;
serving for new officers,
some of whom had never seen fighting action. The beginning of
such a voyage was fraught
with problems, and it was his duty to discover them before they
could endanger the mission,
or the lives of the other men.
Such a problem sat on his desk now. Notes, drafts, reports, from
Captain Keene of the HMS
Justinian, as well as the man who would now be Pellew's first
Lieutenant, Eccleston, also of
the Justinian. He had received a large number of her crew, but
from all accounts the Justinian
had not been a well-disciplined ship. Pellew had known Keene years
ago, as a cautious,
reserved but honorable man, but had not seen him in some times.
He understood from others
that Keene had been fighting a wasting disease, and it was known
to have left him bitter. He
was a dying man by all accounts, but worse from Pellew's perspective
were the rumors that
Keene's capability to command had already died. The stories he
had outlined before him,
when Pellew read between the lines, confirmed that fact.
Of particular concern to Pellew at this point was one young Midshipman
by the name of-
what was it? Hornblower. Horatio Hornblower. Apparently he had
been taken into Keene's
service as a favor to the boy's father, who was Keene's physician.
According to Keene this
boy had recently committed himself to a duel with a Midshipman
Simpson. The result was
the death of a Midshipman Clayton, as well as a severe injury
to Mr. Simpson, although word
was Simpson would recover. Mr. Eccleston had been less reticent
with the details on the duel
than Keene had been, noting the reason for Mr. Clayton's death-Mr.
Hornblower had been
"incapacitated" and Mr. Clayton had fought the duel
for him. Per Eccleston, there was more
than a little doubt that Hornblower had been perfectly fit, as
evidenced by his eventual arrival
on the scene. He must, then, have asked Clayton to fight for him?
despicable act of cowardice that would be-if in fact it occurred
as Eccleston outlined. As he
had found most prudent during his long career, the Captain never
judged on the basis of a
written report, when he had other avenues available to him.
Of the duel itself, Pellew mixed emotions. He despised dueling
in principle as a wasteful and
archaic practice. But he felt surprise at a young man of Hornblower's
class issuing such a
challenge, especially to an older, senior midshipman. In his past
experience, it was usually
the upper class-those of power and high self importance-who dueled,
not the gentry class
of the son of a doctor. Thrown into this was Eccleston's account
of the man Simpson.
Eccleston had dismissed Simpson's importance as an over-aged midshipman,
mathematics and recently denied commission. Per Eccleston, such
a man would have had
little effect on the surrounding Midshipman, certainly none that
should instigate Hornblower
challenge him. However, Eccleston did refer to Simpson as being
rumored to be "a bit of a
bully" (although he scoffed at such petty issues having been
involved in this travesty).
Finally, he noted in other reports that those in Simpson command-now
serving on the
Indefatigable!-were ill disciplined, ill mannered and all together
a sorry lot.
Pellew shook his head. What sort of a man could this Simpson have
been? A bit of a bully?
An older midshipman could be much worse that that, especially
when surrounded by young,
impressionable men-little more than boys, really. If not watched
by a capable captain and
officers, the results could be disastrous. And how could this
Simpson have let his own crew
fall to such levels, without attracting some sort of disciplinary
notice? Now they were
Pellew's men, and he would have no patience with those not capable
of pulling their weight.
He felt that Eccleston had sadly underestimated the damaging effect
of such a man.
Simpson, thankfully, was not his problem. Hornblower and the other
men were, however.
Hearing footsteps down the corridor, Pellew sat at the desk. It
was time to see just how
extensive those problems were.
There was a knock at the door. Pellew looked down at the papers
on his desk. "Enter."
Pellew did not turn around, but sensed the tense, taught form
behind him even before it spoke.
"Mr. Hornblower, Midshipman. You sent for me, Sir?"
Pellew did not look up, but commenced his planned address with
no ceremony: "Mr.
Simpson, as I'm sure you will be glad to hear, shall recover and
rejoin the service." Pellew
noted, in his brief pause, that Hornblower drew his breath in
sharply. "However," Pellew
turned and stared down the young man "He is to remain with
Captain Keene on board
Justinian." There was no mistaking, in Pellew's mind, the
relief present in the otherwise
steady eyes of Hornblower. Taking the boy in with a glance, he
studied him quietly and
quickly: Tall, thin, still so very, very young. And uncharacteristically
pale-the boy had not
been to sea for very long. But the eyes-Pellew thought they spoke
of something other than
the typical Midshipman-where had he seen that gaze before? Speaking
sternly, and letting
every sense of his disgust flow through, he continued:
"You should know, Mr. Hornblower, that I do not think much
of men who let others fight
their battles for them."
If it had been possible for the boy to get paler, Pellew was sure
he would have. He stared him
down, wondering if he would attempt to defend himself. Much to
his surprise, the boy
retained his self-command.
"No, sir." The only answer possible. And young Mr. Hornblower
continued to stare straight
ahead. Must break that composure; Pellew was looking for some
clue, for any clue to the men
of Justinian and what could be expected from them.
Turning his gaze to the letters in his hand, he did something
quite rare for him: openly
criticized another captain in front of one of the men. "Doubtless
had you been properly lead,
this situation would not have arisen."
To Pellew's surprise, the boy spoke up now. "Captain Keene
bears no responsibility-"
Pellew met his eyes until Hornblower looked away. "It is
not your place to damn him or
defend him, Sir."
And although avoiding his gaze, Hornblower continued to try to
clear Keene. "No Sir, I
meant that what befell was outside his control.
Pellew turned and looked out the window. This wild card had better
"Aboard his ship, Sir, there is nothing that is outside a
captain's control and you would do
better to remember it." Pellew did not stop to let sink in
but came to his point, probing what
he was sure would be fresh wounds. "You have already cost
this Navy two Midshipmen."
He heard, rather than saw, Hornblower start at this. "One
injured, the other dead."
Indignance struggled with prudence in Hornblower's voice. "No
one mourns Mr. Clayton's
loss more than I, Sir, and I resent-"
Pellew's control slipped at this moment. "YOU RESENT? Damn
your impudence, Sir. I
will not lose men to no better cause than the satisfaction of
vanity." Hornblower's jaw set,
and those eyes frosted over into impenetrability. "Whilst
under my command, you will issue
no further challenges, IS THAT UNDERSTOOD?"
"Aye aye Sir." Hornblower breathed, his voice horse
and barely audible.
Pellew, seeing he made his point, returned to the notes Eccleston
had given him. "I
understand from Lt. Eccleston that those hands formerly of Mr.
Simpson's division are
something of an undisciplined rabble. Do you concur?"
Puzzled, perhaps, by the turn of the conversation, Hornblower
met his eyes again. "Yes, sir."
"They are now your division." Hornblower blinked, in
surprise. Pellew had no doubt that he
did not see additional responsibility as the possible ending of
their conversation, considering
how it had begun. But Pellew firmly believed that this would be
the one way to discover just
what exactly this enigma was made of. He concluded: "We are
soon to battle, Mr.
Hornblower. I cannot afford to feed men who do not pull their
weight. You will make them
work, or you will answer for it."
Pellew dismissed him, and then settled in to mull over what little
additional information he
had gleaned from the encounter.
He recalled the boy stiffly turning out of his office. Pride?
It had not seemed so. Indeed, he
had come across as very conscientious to duty, even to the point
of defending a Captain who
hardly seemed worth it. He wondered what was going on in this
Sitting again behind the desk, a small smile crept over his face.
Reserved or not, he had
gotten enough of a reaction from Hornblower to tell him a few
important facts. Firstly,
Simpson had been more than an average ship's bully; he was certain
of it. He was equally
certain that Hornblower truly mourned the loss of Clayton, and
believed that the young man
had not asked his friend to fight for him; Hornblower did not
seem a coward, nor had he
presented himself in appearance as reckless or flighty.
It was unfortunate that the circumstances of the duel would never
be fully known to him. Of
course, some captains would have been more than happy to beat
the information out of a
young midshipman; twelve strokes with the cane would make an indelible
almost any young man. But that was not how Pellew preferred things
And in any case-he picked up his notes from Eccleston, stirring
at a memory of an earlier
incident the Lieutenant had mentioned in his notes. Yes, there
it was; Hornblower had
presented himself on deck not long after he had first joined Justinian
showing, as Eccleston
put it, strong physical evidence of having been in a fight. Pellew
pulled out another sheet
from the ship's Doctor, detailing severe facial contusions, and
a young man near
unconsciousness. Some fight.
Eccleston had mentioned that Mr. Hornblower refused to reveal
whom he had been fighting
with, and as a result was confined in the riggings. Despite this,
he had steadfastly refused to
name the other parties in the fight. Pellew fumed to himself silently.
Hornblower was young,
but he was of size enough that Pellew was certain a fight would
have resulted in someone else
showing some physical sign of it. The boy might lose, but he would
surely get at least one
punch in. No, this was no fight, it had been an attack, and he
could probably make an astute
guess as to who the instigator was.
Pellew felt most certain now that even if he had ordered Mr. Hornblower
to suffer the wrath
of the bosun's cane, he would not have divulged the secrets of
the duel. At least, he thought, I
have not the worst of the Justinian's problems here. I am certain
that without Mr. Simpson
this entire lot will only improve.
And for Mr. Hornblower? Pellew remained confused. There were things
that he saw to like
in the boy-his loyalty in defending Keene might be misguided (for
in Pellew's view Keene
himself would have been responsible for whatever would befall
his men) yet it was loyalty.
He was brave enough to speak up to him in defense of Keene, too,
not once but twice-surely
no cowardice there. Thank God his first fears on that account
seemed to be unfounded.
Hornblower would learn when to hold his tongue, but no amount
of time could teach a coward
not to fear.
And, even by Eccleston's account, Hornblower had shown unusual
acumen in his
Yes, Pellew would keep his eyes on Mr. Hornblower. Just possibly
he showed signs of
someday being a fine officer. He just hoped the boy didn't manage
to get himself killed first.
Part 2, A Life of Solitude
Three days at sea, Captain Pellew was relaxing-as much as a captain
heading off to sea can
relax. His worst fears about his rag-tag crew had remained unfounded
to date. There had
been no fights or other incidents that indicated severe morale
problems. Indeed, the men were
all anxious to be off in the open sea and were looking forward
to their first skirmish-
whenever that should fall-with all the relish of men too long
stuck in idleness. Of course,
six months from now, when the water was stale and supplies low,
the men would feel
differently. But Pellew firmly believed that the best prevention
of problems late in a
campaign was the establishment of discipline and order early on.
He walked the nighttime deck of the Indy, observing everything,
but left alone by the other
men save for an occasional salute. Lieutenant Chadd was the officer
on duty, and Pellew
nodded towards him but made no attempt at conversation. He liked
keeping his officers at an
emotional distance-too often early in his career he had watched
friends cut down in battle.
Pellew considered himself a solitary, though not lonely man.
Occasionally, though, he could feel a bit-wistful? Weak thought,
that. He would not change
his life for anything; though there were incidents in his past
he wished had turned out
differently. And sometimes, while walking his shipboard on fine
nights, especially when the
ship was idle, he would find his mind travelling to those in his
past. Tonight was such a
night; and he was in such a mood.
If he could admit to himself that he missed anyone, it would be
a former first lieutenant of his,
William Grey. Mr. Grey and he had served together many years,
first as midshipman when
they were just entering the service. They had suffered the usual
misfortunes of young men
together; railing against the injustice of the officers, bemoaning
their lack of funds, wondering
if they would be midshipmen forever. Later, as both had become
Lieutenants, they were
separated, serving on different ships. But times had occasionally
brought them together
again, and as Pellew had continued to grow in his career, he came
to appreciate his friendship
Grey, you see, knew him. Not as a flinty-eyed thoughtful Lieutenant,
but as the boy he had
been so many years earlier. If Grey had ever been asked to list
Pellew's attributes, he would
have listed his sense of humor early among them, something that
few of Pellew's subsequent
sailing mates would ever have believed him to have. And later,
when Pellew first had
command of his own ship, he had asked Grey to serve with him.
Some men would not have
wished to serve for a man they had started as an equal with, but
Grey had fairly leapt at the
chance. For two years they had campaigned together, with few guessing
at the closeness
between them. In addition to being the perfect first lieutenant,
on whom Pellew came to rely
implicitly, there was the bond of trust that could not be replaced.
When the day came that Pellew had to send a trusted officer to
accompany an envoy to
France, almost two decades previously, there was no question whom
that would be. Pellew
knew he would send Grey, and Grey knew he would be sent-indeed,
he had been fairly
itching to go, to help prove himself. Pellew knew Grey hoped to
have a command one day,
and this would help to establish his name with Admiralty. He had
not a qualm in seeing Grey
off, and as the small boat departed, Pellew's mind traveled to
other problems of his ship.
Grey had been cut down by cannon fire in France just days later;
the Admiralty plan had been
botched from the first. Pellew took some small comfort in knowing
that Grey had been killed
instantly; something certainly preferable to the slow death he
watched the envoy suffer, as the
amputated stump where his leg had been turned gangrenous. But
the envoy had lived long
enough to tell Pellew, feverishly and bitterly, of the incredible
and base stupidity of the
mission on which they had been sent, of the lack of planning,
of the complete
misunderstanding of their enemies. It had gnawed at Pellew, like
a rat at a sack of ship's
biscuit. Men died in war; indeed, at sea they died of many causes.
But losing men to
stupidity and poor planning was something he could never accept.
Pellew was human enough to admit he missed Grey, though he knew
full well by now that
had he lived, he would be a captain himself and not serving with
Pellew any longer. The sea,
Pellew thought, does not lend itself to long friendships.
He shrugged his shoulders, attempting to throw the fit of melancholy
off of him, and looked
around at the deck of the ship. Chadd remained at the watch; a
few other men wandered
above decks. He specifically noted Midshipmen Kennedy and Hornblower
yards away. Hornblower he had continued to keep an eye on as a
result of that earlier
interview, but he had to this point not seen anything to displease
him. A conservative,
prudent young man, less out-going than his friend, the occasionally
Kennedy. Almost against his will, the image of his own friendship
with Grey tried to
compare itself with that of the two boys below. Pellew wondered
for a moment which of the
men would be destined to be the solitary captain, and which would
be cut down in senseless
Fanciful thoughts, he wryly noted. The truth is, in all likelihood
neither boy will survive the
next two years.
And Pellew found himself feeling inexplicably depressed at this
simple statement of fact.
Passing them as he returned to his cabin, both Kennedy and Hornblower
saluting him. Pellew nodded, and then, on impulse, spoke.
"Mr. Kennedy. Mr. Hornblower. You are not on duty, I believe?"
Kennedy spoke first. "No, Sir; I am just off."
Pellew nodded; he knew the schedule well enough. "And Mr.
"I am on at the next, Sir."
"I see. And did neither of you decide that sleep might be
in your best interest?" Grey, had he
been there, would have noted the decided sarcasm in his voice.
These boys, on the other
hand, were at best puzzled and at worst concerned that a capricious
Captain might be about to
tear them to shreds for not being tired.
Kennedy looked uncomfortable, and tried to respond. "Yes,
sir-I mean, I was on my way
Hornblower took over. "Actually, Sir, I had just asked Mr.
Kennedy for details from his
"Indeed." Pellew considered continuing the game and
asking what details exactly, but
realized too well that neither midshipman was really fair sport.
"Well, then, as you were,
They saluted him as he walked off. The brief conversation had
only reinforced the stupid
mood he was in.
Pellew's servant helped him out of his jacket, but he soon dismissed
him, preferring the
further quiet of his cabin, rather than the presence of another
human being who in fact was so
removed from him as to accentuate rather than alleviate his loneliness.
He poured himself a glass of claret, hoping it would ease him
to sleep, stilling the thoughts
plaguing his mind. He completed some notes in his log, and then
opted to retire, drifting off
In his mind's eye he saw her; his wife, the day he had married
her some fifteen years ago.
She was there at the church, beautiful and calm, in that plum
dress that had offset her dark red
hair so well. Pellew's heart swelled with his love for her; that
he had known her just a
fortnight was irrelevant. His emotions, still raw from the loss
of Grey, had been captured by
her. Anne. The lovely, lovely Anne.
He was pleasantly surprised to have Grey hand him the ring; so
good to know he had not died
after all. And afterwards to Anne's parents house, where they
celebrated with a wedding
breakfast. Pellew went outside, only for a moment, to check on
his ship, which somehow
managed to be right beyond the door, the way things are in dreams.
He returned to Anne's screams, in labor, the doctor shaking his
head. The blood, Anne's
blood, soaking the sheets, his mother-in-law wailing, he, the
powerful captain, unable to bring
order to this chaos. The midwife pulling him from the room. And
later, a smaller, high
pitched wail. His son. The doctor telling him his wife had not
survived. And just five hours
later, an impossibly small boy, looking like his father, with
a head full of dark hair and eyes
that seemed to see right through him, lay in that father's arms,
being held for the only time in
his life, as he drew his last breath.
Pellew woke with a start, in a cold sweat. The early morning light
poured in through the
windows. Shaking himself, he called to his servant.
"Tea, Powers. And fried bacon and bread. Immediately, if
He began to dress himself, staring out the ships window, his hand
shaking just slightly but
becoming calmer as he steadied himself. Strange night. Strange
memories. But the mood
was passing now, and soon all would be all right. They were in
open sea and would soon be
finding enough to keep him thinking on more important thoughts.
And so as he sat to the tea and moderate breakfast, he felt only
mild curiosity at the way he
had discovered what Mr. Hornblower's stare had reminded him of.
Part 3-The First Fight
Captain Pellew sat, drained and exhausted, behind the desk in
his cabin. The Indy had just
fought her first skirmish against the French and had by any reckoning
He had been nervously taught as the battle began, although he
did not let the men see this.
They had been at sea for several weeks now, and Pellew had gotten
a good feel for his ship
and his men, but battle was the biggest test. And now, having
boarded their enemy, and
sustaining little damage and few losses, he had a much better
idea of how well the Indy could
Especially pleasing to him was Bowles performance as Master. He
had made the smoothest
transition of any of the Justinian's recruits, and was even now
repairing what damage there
was. The Indy would be pristine in a matter of hours.
Eccleston, on the other hand-It was hard for Pellew to define
in words his feelings for the
man. He liked him, as much as Pellew allowed himself to like anybody.
But he found
himself disappointed in him. The man was competent, capable, and
had the imagination of a
stone. Imagination, Pellew felt, would distinguish a steadfast
Lieutenant from a potential
commander. Pellew doubted the man would rise higher in his profession.
A shame, because
technically the man could be brilliant. But to be a captain, you
could not rely just on what
you could see and touch; as important as it was to know what to
do when the winds change,
so was it important to read further into what those wind changes
meant, not just to you but
Perhaps part of his finding Eccleston lacking had been the performance
of the remainder of
the Justinian crew. Eccleston had belittled many in his reports.
The men in general he had
found lazy and insubordinate, yet nothing had come to Pellew's
ears of any crew problems.
And Pellew kept his ears open. Further, he had expressed opinions
ranging from disinterest to
outright contempt of the midshipman. Cleveland and Hether were,
according to his reports,
dullards. Pellew had seen them to be diligent midshipman, however.
Kennedy was in
Eccleston's view a spoiled and pampered child; but today in battle
he had leapt into the fray
with no regard to his own life, fighting without fear, and showing
no sign of shirking his duty.
And of course, there was Hornblower.
Eccleston had been very harsh in his reports on this young man,
highlighting the disastrous
dual and stressing his uncooperativeness and lack of discipline.
He had only allowed
Hornblower to be singularly intelligent. And Pellew had continued,
since their first meeting
when he let the boy know his opinions of dueling, to watch him.
But what he saw spoke
volumes. His men seemed to have cleaned themselves up since joining
the ship-how much
was due to Hornblower's influence he could only guess at. But
the young man seemed to take
everything in, to learn from all around him. And he had acquitted
himself well this afternoon,
although Pellew could not recall seeing him boarding their enemy.
Still, there was a fair
amount of promise in that boy.
All this meant, that he could not count on Eccleston for a true
judgement of the men. And
that, more than navigational skills, is exactly what he would
have liked to rely on him for.
Pellew was interrupted from his musings by a harsh knock on the
Eccleston himself appeared at the door.
"Captain Pellew, Sir."
"Yes, Mr. Eccleston. What is it?"
"Sir, there appears to have been an incident this afternoon
with Mr. Hornblower."
Pellew felt his stomach sink. What had he missed?
"An incident Mr. Eccleston?"
"Yes Sir. With Dr. Heppelwhite. "
Pellew was puzzled. "You'd best make yourself clear, Mr.
Eccleston. What exactly
"Dr. Heppelwhite was treating Lieutenant Chadd for a splinter
wound when Mr. Hornblower
stormed in and ordered Dr. Heppelwhite to treat the injured gun
man he had been carrying. A
midshipman cannot give orders to the surgeon, you know."
Pellew raised an eyebrow. "And it was definitely an order?
Did you hear it yourself, Mr.
"But the Dr. Heppelwhite is quite angry?"
"At the time he told me the story he was quite struck by
the impudence of it, sir."
"I see. Let me speak to the Doctor and to Lieutenant Chadd--I
assume he is well enough to
"Yes, Sir, but the Dr. is in sick bay at the moment."
"Very well, I'll have a word with Lt., Chadd alone."
Eccleston left to retrieve him, and
Pellew sighed and rubbed his temples. He would like to have told
Eccleston to deal with it,
but suspected he'd take the easiest way out-that of disciplining
ascertaining the truth of the situation.
At that moment Lt. Chadd appeared in the doorway. "Ah, Lt.
Chadd, how is your arm? Not
too bad I hope."
"No, thank you Sir. The doctor says it will heal nicely."
"Ah, I understand, sir, there was an incident with Mr. Hornblower
while you were being
"An Incident, Sir?" Lt. Chadd stared at him. "Oh,
Sir, yes, I suppose. I mean, Mr.
Hornblower arrived while Dr. Heppelwhite was treating me, carrying
a badly injured man-
one of his men from the guns, I believe."
"I see. And did Mr. Hornblower order Dr. Heppelwhite to stop
"Order? Oh, no Sir. He was a bit out of breath, Sir, and
perhaps brusque, but when the Dr.
told him just to dump the poor man there, Mr. Hornblower inquired
as to the nature of my
injuries. And on finding out I had a splinter, implored Dr. Heppelwhite
to turn his attentions
to his man."
"And did the Dr. Heppelwhite do so?" Pellew asked.
"Not at first, informing Mr. Hornblower that all must wait
their turn. And then Mr.
Hornblower did get, well, a bit anxious Sir, pointing out that
his man might bleed to death
waiting. At first I was taken aback by his vehemence, and then
I saw the nature of the man's
Pellew turned. "And they were?"
Lt. Chadd Blanched. "The man had a leg blown clean off at
the knee, sir. Mr. Hornblower
was covered in blood just from carrying him there. And then I
told the doctor to go ahead and
Pellew nodded. "Thank you, Mr. Chadd. I appreciate your honesty
in this matter. If you
would be so good, please have Mr. Hornblower see me if you would."
It was about ten minutes later that Mr. Hornblower appeared in
his doorway. Pellew took a
good long look at him. There were still traces of blood, though
the young man had cleaned
them up as well as possible. He looks, Pellew thought with some
amusement, like I feel. Ah,
well, he'll learn to hide that soon enough.
"You wanted to see me, Sir." Hornblower returned the
gaze with those steadfast, all-seeing
eyes of his.
"Yes. I have heard from Lt. Eccleston that you had an incident
with the Doctor this
afternoon. Is it true that you ordered him to treat your injured
Hornblower looked genuinely surprised. "I did not order him,
sir. When I discovered that Lt.
Chad's injuries were not life threatening, I did implore him to
address my man, who had lost a
"Perhaps-" Pellew paused here. "In your exuberance,
you may have gotten a bit loud?"
Hornblower blushed. "I may have, Sir. I will admit I was
most concerned. Williams was
bleeding very badly. My father, Sir, was a doctor, and I knew
too well the condition was
Ah, yes, the personal angle. Pellew realized now that Hornblower
would have had more
knowledge than the average Midshipman in such matters. "And
how would your father, the
Doctor, have reacted to someone telling him how to treat his patients?"
The young man turned even redder. "He would not have been
pleased, Sir." And Pellew saw
his shoulders slouch, just a bit.
Of course, chances were the boy's father would have recognized
the relative importance
between a splinter injury and a blown off limb. And he didn't
want to discourage Hornblower
from paying attention to the welfare of his men.
"It might, Mr. Hornblower, be advisable for you to seek out
the Doctor and apologize for the
brusqueness of your manner." He met his eyes. "You do
not need to apologize for your
actions, however. You did what was proper. And I'm sure the Doctor
realizes that as well as I
do. But we must not offend him."
"Aye, Aye, Sir." He saw the look of relief on the Midshipman's
As Hornblower turned to leave, Pellew stopped him. "May I
inquire, before you go, Mr.
Hornblower, as to Williams' condition now?"
Hornblower faced him stoically. "I regret to inform you that
despite the Doctor's best
intentions, he was lost, Sir."
"I see. I am sorry for that." He looked the boy in the
eyes to see how he held up. And liked
what he saw there. "Carry on, Mr. Hornblower."
Less than half an hour after dismissing Hornblower he addressed
Eccleston above decks.
"Mr. Eccleston, the incident with Mr. Hornblower has been
handled. You need not concern
yourself with it further."
"Yes, Sir." Eccleston, he could see, would have liked
to ask him just how it had been handled,
but would not.
Pellew debated with himself. He must make Eccleston see the dangers
of forming hasty
judgements of the men, but how to do so without undermining Eccleston's
them? And without undermining his authority over Eccleston, too;
for he believed a Captain
should never find himself explaining too much to those under him;
it would make him appear
"Were you aware, Mr. Eccleston, that one of Hornblower's
men has been lost in this
"I had heard so, Sir."
"Yes. Apparently the man lost a leg in the cannon blast."
"I believe so, Sir." Eccleston did not seem to see what
he was heading for.
Pellew turned and looked down the Indy, at the many men in their
straightening up the ship. "A bad sight for the men, that.
It is hard for them to continue
fighting after such a sight. And some of these men have not been
to battle before. Of
course-" Pellew returned his gaze to Eccleston. "-it
is a worse thing to have a man--a
friend--bleed to death before you, and have your officers ignore
it. Especially if there is any
chance the man might be saved." He saw, finally, a gleam
of light in Eccleston's eyes. "We
must value the men, Mr. Eccleston. We all together fight for the
King, but when it comes
down to it, we fight as much for each other. These are the men
whom we must depend on.
And they must feel they can depend on us. Unless we fight together,
we might as well go join
the French Republicans now." He continued wryly. "And
I, for one, would make a bloody
poor Frog, Mr. Eccleston."
He saw his Lieutenant almost shocked by his statement. Pellew,
himself, was surprised he'd
said such a thing. He had not allowed himself to joke with a crew
member in some time.
Eccleston, in his amazement, almost let a smile creep onto his
Pellew cleared his throat hastily. "I would appreciate it
if you would lead the service for the
burial at sea, Mr. Eccleston."
"Aye Aye, Sir." Eccleston resumed his stony demeanor
and headed away.
Pellew turned to face the sea, away from the many eyes of the
Indy. And let himself smile in
full for the first time in what seamed like forever.
The remainder of the day passed quietly. He had watched from afar
as Eccleston led the
service. Hornblower had to prompt him for the name of his dead
man. Still, Eccleston would
perhaps finally be learning to see the men as more than deck fodder.
Interestingly, right after the service he had observed one of
the other men approaching
Hornblower as the service ended. Pellew recognized him as Styles,
the most slovenly and
most disreputable man in Hornblower's command. Well, the disreputable
had been per
Eccleston from the Justinian days; the slovenly, sadly, Pellew
had witnessed for himself.
Pellew was too far away to hear the conversation, but he observed.
Styles said something,
seemingly struggling for words, perhaps concerning his fallen
comrade? Hornblower replied,
and Styles headed away.
Then, as if thinking better of it, Hornblower called the man back,
and added some comment.
He watched as Styles straightened himself up a bit and seemed
to square his shoulders for a
moment, and then knuckled his head at Hornblower in salute before
Hornblower, judging from his demeanor-the boy remained rooted
to the spot for some
seconds-was as surprised by the sudden show of respect as Pellew
himself was. Then, Pellew
had watched Styles conversing with the rest of the men-relaying
the conversation? Pellew
would have liked to have overheard this best of all. But all he
knew was that the men, as they
returned to their duties, frequently glanced back at Hornblower,
and all seemed to walk a little
straighter and stand a little taller.
And Pellew, for the second time that day, smiled.
The Mystery of the Marie Gallant
Pellew felt exhilarated.
Today was one of those days when everything was in his ship's
favor. The Indefatigable had
overtaken a slow moving group of French supply vessels, who amazingly
had been sailing
with no visible support from the French fleet. They were easy
"What cargo, Mr. Eccleston?"
The largest ship had just surrendered.
Eccleston continued on with information about the cargo, while
Pellew mentally sized up the
needs for the newly captured vessel.
"Lieutenant Chadd! Take a prize crew of six and sail her
for any port in England, report there
Chadd positively beamed. "Aye Aye, Sir."
Immediately he focussed on the next ship in range, a sluggish
moving vessel, smallest of the
lot. Her captain had not yet hauled down colors, making him either
very brave, or very stupid.
"I don't intend to chase her across the seven seas, Mr. Eccleston.
Fire as she bears."
The smoke rose acrid to his nose as the gun went off, and the
men raised a cheer, indicating a
possible hit. Pellew, however, fumed.
"Silence! Not into the HULL, damn it! Cripple her!"
He screamed. The boat was useless to
him if it were sunk onto the bottom of the sea. The next shot
went better, damaging her masts.
It finally surrendered.
Pellew felt the blood coursing through his veins. Two captures!
Well done, indeed. He looked
with some contempt at the size of the new prize, judging it to
have a small crew and a captain
who had cost him some more work than he would have liked. He imagined
Frenchman cursing him as he tried to flee the larger frigate.
He would learn where he ranked
in the scheme of things. And, in his jubilant mood, he decided
to tweak the Captain in a way
he suspected would irritate him the most.
Eccleston interrupted his thoughts. "She's the Marie Gallant,
twenty-four days out of New
Orleans with Rice."
Pellew allowed the humor to creep into his voice. "Well now,
that should sell for a pretty
penny in England!" Prize money didn't matter so much to him,
but he knew what it meant to
his crew. "Prize crew of four, I think, Mr. Eccleston."
He paused, and smiled. "Midshipman's
command." Take that, Mr. Frenchman. One of my lowly midshipmen
can outsail you any day.
He scanned the deck, and he knew immediately whom he wanted. "Mr.
Hornblower, make for
any port you can reach in England if you please, and report there
"Aye Aye, Sir!" Hornblower's face lit up as he stepped
forward to take his command. Pellew
saw Kennedy grab Hornblower and say a few words. Better not have
the crew think he was
showing favoritism. "TODAY, if you please, Mr. Hornblower,
I don't want to loose any more
of this convoy through your DAWDLING."
Hornblower blanched slightly and hurriedly arranged his men to
board her. Pellew watched
the boy through the corner of his eye. Beyond the chance to annoy
a clumsy captain, this had
provided him with yet another chance to judge Hornblower. It should
be an easy sail.
After the Hornblower and crew boarded the Marie Gallant, the Indy
turned to chase the next
victim, a harder catch this time. He caught Eccleston out of the
corner of his eye.
"You have a comment, Mr. Eccleston?"
"Come now, out with it before we have the next in range."
"I was wondering about the choice of Hornblower, Sir."
He paused, then hurried on. "He's
capable, sir, but he is the youngest of the Midshipmen."
"The ship did not warrant more than a Midshipman, Mr. Eccleston.
If I sent a Lieutenant, and
then we were to capture a larger prize, what then?"
"Oh, I agree, Sir-but Hornblower-"
"Is the only one of the Midshipman capable of rudimentary
navigation. You've conducted the
classes in mathematics yourself Mr. Eccleston."
"That is true, Sir-but it's no difficult navigational task
to run a ship of that size back to
Pellew raised his glass as the Indy came barring down on its next
victim. "As things stand,
perhaps not." He turned back to his first Lieutenant. "But
if there is a sudden squall, Mr.
Eccleston, a fog that prevents the night sky from being seen,
or a change of winds, which one
of the Midshipmen do YOU want trying to read a compass?"
"Point taken, Sir." He nodded towards their approaching
ship. "Looks like it's back to action,
Pellew nodded. "Fire a warning shot, Mr. Eccleston."
Part4B, The Mystery of the Marie Gallant
It was little more than a week later, and Pellew was in deep thought
within his quarters.
Chadd had returned from England two days earlier. What should
have been a three day run,
there and back, had suffered a minor delay: the winds, after Chadd
had left the Indefatigable,
had proven difficult for England, causing him almost a day's delay.
Still, he had been
fortunate enough to return almost immediately as a passenger on
the supply ship Caroline as
she joined the fleet. He had returned, additionally, with a new
Lieutenant-a Mr. Bracegirdle,
formerly of the Athena, who would now be the third Lieutenant
on the ship. There were many
letters, several dispatches from Admiral C, and various other
reports he had had time to thumb
through in his leisure. He had learned from Bracegirdle that the
Dreadnought-- was due to be leaving England shortly under guidance
of her First Lieutenant,
Mr. Andrews. Her new captain would be joining them some secretive
run for the Admiral:
Foster, widely called Dreadnought Foster.
Pellew sneered. He and Foster went back many years. Although they
had never served
together, they were all too well aware of each other. Foster,
in fact, had been in command of
the expedition that had lead to the death of his friend Grey.
Pellew hoped that his own
personal feelings did not enter into his opinion of Foster as
the most reckless captain England
had ever seen. He was true to his name-the name he'd had the gall
to give to his ship-the
man feared nothing. And in Pellew's consideration, that was abnormal.
Fear served its
purpose. Not cowardice, which was to surrender to one's fear.
But fear itself, that enabled you
to rise above. And fear, he thought, improved one's judgement.
The desire to stay alive, and
keep your men alive and your ship in tact, versus the desire to
due one's duty, the fear of
failure, of disgrace-the successful completion of this balancing
act is what true greatness
was made of.
Foster, on the other hand, only desired success, glory, short
term victory at all costs. And the
costs were often heavy. In completing missions he lost hundreds
of men, and more than one
ship. And yet he survived the resulting inquiries and court-marshals
with his reputation in
tact-by god! Enhanced! Damn the man.
Pellew had wondered if there was a certain degree of jealousy
in his soul; but decided not.
Anger over Grey, he could admit; but he knew that in a quieter
way he was as much in favor
with Admiralty as Foster. In fact, Pellew was the senior Captain,
if only by three months. And
there were smaller, more important ways that Pellew knew how his
reputation was compared
to Foster. Among the men. In fact, this man, Bracegirdle, had
requested transfer to the
Indefatigable upon the death of Captain Morris. Bracegirdle had
been subtle upon interview,
but word traveled quickly between ships when crew was added. Bracegirdle
preferred not to
serve under Foster, and when he had learned of the need for an
officer on the Indy, had made
that his first choice. Obviously, the man had some champion somewhere,
in order to get that
done, but that was immaterial to Pellew. He would neither favor
the man, nor scorn him; he
Chadd reported not having seen Hornblower in port, but that was
hardly surprising. With a
smaller ship and damage to repair to the topsail, and poor wind,
it would take him longer to
arrive. Hopefully, he would get there in time to return to the
fleet on the
Something, though, was bothering him. He had this feeling of doom
about Hornblower that he
could not place. Perhaps it had something to do with the letter
awaiting Hornblower's return?
It was the only one left from all of those sent over on the Caroline.
No, that was not it. Well, there was nothing to be done. Whatever
was hidden in the back of
his mind, there were only facts to be accepted. If Hornblower
was alright, he would appear
aboard the Indy within the next two days. If he did not appear,
he was captured or killed. Or
deserted (Hornblower? Never!). Why should that disturb him so
much? No doubt Captain
Foster would not even give such an event a thought!
But over dinner that evening that he discovered what was the cause
of his worries.
He had invited the officers to dine with him. Eccleston, Chadd,
Bowles, Bracegirdle, and
Captain McAnn of the Marines. Bracegirdle seemed to be a jolly
type, long a Lieutenant, and
accepting of the fact he would probably never be a captain. Still,
he showed signs of good
judgement already, needing little direct info to sum up the men
and the ship.
At this moment he was telling tails from his days on the Athena
from the last war. He had
apparently served under Captain Morris since a midshipman and
had been much attached to
him. Pellew strove to pay attention, but Hornblower's continued
disappearance preyed on his
mind. He tried to refocus.
"-And then, would you believe, Captain Morris discovered
the bloody Constitution had torn
a four foot gash into our side? We'd been hulled and not even
Pellew felt as if the room was spinning. He stood suddenly, and
the men stood with him in
"No, no, as you were, please, finish your meal. I must attend
As Eccleston rose to follow him, he became more forceful. "As
He paced the deck in a furry; the men had sense to stay away.
"Hulled! Damn it, the Marie
Gallant had been hulled," he muttered. Granted, he hadn't
seen the shot tell, but the way the
men reacted-surely it had. Had Hornblower been aware of that?
He should have made a
point of telling him, but still- He spied young Kennedy walking
on the far deck.
Startled, the young man approached. "Yes, Sir?"
"During our skirmish with the French Convoy last week, Mr.
Kennedy, where were you
"I was working with Mr. Hornblower on the rigging, Sir; we
were having problems with our
"And yet I am sure I saw you on deck with Mr. Hornblower
when I required him to take the
Kennedy looked perplexed but not worried. "Yes, Sir, we had
just climbed down. In fact, that
was the first we had learned that we had captured another prize,
"I see." He frowned. Involved with repairs, it was not
surprising they would have been
oblivious to the action around them-in fact, they would be expected
to tune it out in order to
keep focussed on their work-and on not losing their footing that
far up in the air.
Hornblower especially so, since Pellew had noted he did not have
the best head for heights.
"Did you have any indication that the Marie Gallant had been
"Well, Sir, we could see that she was crippled-" Concern
flew over Kennedy's face. "Has
something happened to Mr. Hornblower, Sir?"
"No, nothing at all, I was merely curious about his delay
in return." Best to end this interview
soon; he did not want to give Kennedy ideas.
Kennedy had completely misinterpreted him, however. "I'm
sure, Sir, that Horatio-I mean,
Mr. Hornblower would return to the ship as soon as possible, Sir-he's
"That will be all, Mr. Kennedy." It was a curt dismissal;
he did not want to discuss his failure
any further, or explain himself to this young man.
For it was his failure-Pellew was certain he had sent that young
man to his death. Eccleston
was right; Hornblower was too young. It was not a lack of responsibility
or duty, but a simple
lack of experience that would be his undoing. And if his Captain
had not sought to notify him
that the ship he'd been assigned to was possibly damaged, why
would it occur to him, in his
first command, to check? Especially when the obvious damage was
pressing; the boy would
have focussed on the sails and getting underway with his meager
crew; he would have
prisoners, possibly belligerent ones, to secure. Even if hulled,
the ship would sail acceptably
for a day or two; and then- Pellew shrugged.
"He'd have sounded the well."
Pellew turned to discover Eccleston had approached him.
"Mr. Eccleston. Of what are you speaking, Sir?"
"Hornblower. After you left, I thought about Bracegirdle's
story, Sir-I know you've been
preoccupied since Chadd returned-it occurred to me that you felt
Hornblower would not be
Heavens, the man had improved! Still, his timing could not have
been worse. Pellew would
have preferred his worst fears to go undiscovered at this point.
"I admit, it had occurred to me
that he might be unaware that the ship had been hulled."
"As you pointed out to me on deck that day, the boy is not
stupid. He would sound the well,
maybe not right away, but within the day, to be sure. If the ship
was damaged-and we're not
certain it was-he would discover it. It would simply increase
his time to England."
Pellew grimaced. "One slight flaw in your logic, Mr. Eccleston.
"The cargo was rice, Mr. Eccleston. The bottom could be ripped
out and well would remain
dry. The rice would absorb the water."
"Oh." Eccleston looked startled. "So you fear-"
Pellew shut down. "I fear nothing, Mr. Eccleston. It is possible
Mr. Hornblower will not be
returning to the Indefatigable. If he is not here within the next
two days, I believe it will be a
fact and not a possibility. In any case, there is not a thing
to be done." He paused and turned
away. "Good evening, Mr. Eccleston."
Pellew, hiding his heavy heart, returned to his cabin and cursed
himself for his softness.
Part 4 C, The Mystery of the Marie Gallant
He was just finishing up his breakfast that morning when he heard
a commotion through the
sky light on deck. He hustled outside to discover what the problem
Eccleston greeted him as he got there. "We seem to have discovered
Mr. Hornblower, Sir."
Pellew turned, snatching the glass from Eccleston. "By God!"
Hornblower, alive and well, with his crew and twelve French prisoners,
in the ship's boat!
"Prepare rations for the men, Mr. Cleveland. We don't know
how long they have been to sea!"
He pointedly ignored the smirk on Eccleston's face and stood,
hands behind his back,
watching as the men prepared to bring in their missing crew mates
and their prisoners.
Pellew looked stoic enough, but inside his emotions were churning.
How the devil did the boy
manage to survive?
The men were all gathered below now, in raucous conversation.
He saw Matthews leading
several of the prisoners before him on to the deck. All the men
wore smiles as wide as the sea
they sailed. He strained to hear, but could pick up only snippets:
Styles: "-fish for it, says he, bold as brass-"
Matthews: "Come now, lads, make way for Mr. Hornblower."
There was pride in his voice. Hornblower, not smiling, stepped
on deck. The men-his own,
and others-slapped him on the back as he walked forward. Genuine,
real admiration there.
Kennedy walked forward, beaming with relief, and greeted his friend.
Pellew was dying of curiosity. "Mr. Hornblower, report if
The boy met his eyes steadily. "Aye Aye, Sir."
Pellew watched as young Hornblower approached.
Already, though, the buzz of the men was making its way to him.
. Something unusual had
happened on that boat. And Hornblower himself was at the center
"Mr. Hornblower? I can assume that the Marie Gallant was
The boy looked exhausted. Worse, he looked crushed. However much
his crew was singing
his praises for keeping them alive, Hornblower was cursing himself
mightily for the lost of
the first ship he'd ever had in his command.
"We set about fixing the damage on the sail immediately and
then set for England, Sir. We
had to put the prisoners to work at first but then secured them
at the front of the ship. Late in
the afternoon I recalled that I needed to sound the well. In my
haste to make sail for England I
had not checked it earlier. However, I was relieved to find that
the well was remarkably dry."
He paused, and then exhaling. "It was not until the next
afternoon, when the winds had
changed and the ship was riding somewhat sluggishly that I recalled
specifically that the ship
had possibly been hulled."
Pellew turned now. "I was uncertain whether or not you realized
"I didn't exactly, Sir. To be honest, I only barely remember
you calling out to the gun crew
not to fire into the Hull. At the moment, I was intent on our
repairs. Still, it was entirely my
responsibility to check on the ship when I first took charge of
her, and I failed to discuss with
you the possibility of damage."
Pellew waved him off. "Never mind that right now. What happened
"I dove over the side to look for damage, Sir."
He nodded. "I wanted to see for myself exactly what the damage
was. It was a fairly large
hole, sir, but I felt we could fother a sail to cover her, and
I set the hands about doing it."
"To no avail, however?"
"Unfortunately, no. I managed to get the sail into place,
but it was too late. The seams started
buckling and we realized the rice was absorbing the water and
expanding-which at least
explained why the well was dry. As a last effort I tried to jettison
the cargo, but there was just
not enough time and the ship was too badly damaged. So we abandoned
ship." The boy set his
shoulders resolutely, waiting for the dressing down that he no
Pellew chewed over the story. Hornblower had in fact done everything
he was supposed to in
the circumstances. A boy of 18 could hardly be expected to realize
that a ship with a cargo
like rice would always have a dry well, and not show leakage.
And to set off in a boat in the
open ocean with prisoners more than doubling crew, cannot have
been an easy choice.
"What happened after abandoning ship, Mr. Hornblower?"
Pellew was genuinely curious,
trying to discover what the fuss from the crew.
Hornblower, coloring slightly, continued. "We-I lost control
of the prisoners while they
were being served water. When one of them grabbed a pistol, I
opted to surrender command
rather than lose one of my men."
"But why did the Captain not make sail for France? Surely
it would have been no problem for
him to get there? You must have been very close."
Hornblower stared straight ahead. "I believe we were, Sir.
But the compass was-lost. And
the Captain made a navigational error."
"And that's all?" Pellew scrutinized him closely.
"We did regain control just prior to your finding us. The
Captain's men, frustrated at not
finding land, began to revolt, and that gave us an opportunity."
"Indeed." Pellew had not failed to notice that Hornblower
considered losing control to be
solely his fault, but regaining control he attributed to the entire
crew. He cleared his throat and
looked out to the horizon. The boy waited, standing at attention,
probably fearing the worst.
"The Marie Gallant was badly damaged when you boarded her,
Mr. Hornblower. And with a
larger prize crew, you might have saved her."
He faced Hornblower now, and the young man met his gaze in exhausted
surprise. "Better for
France to be deprived of its stores than for England to benefit
by it." He cleared his throat.
"Still, lucky for you her captain turned out to be such a
poor navigator, else we may never
have found you." Strange, how he found it hard lately to
keep the sarcastic humor out of his
"Yes, Sir." Was all Hornblower replied, although Pellew
thought he saw a flicker of
embarrassment there? For what?
"Better get some food and some rest, Mr. Hornblower."
"Yes Sir. Aye Aye, Sir." The boy relaxed somewhat as
he made his leave, when suddenly
Pellew remembered. "Oh, one thing more, Mr. Hornblower-this
letter came in for you when
Mr. Chadd returned from England."
Hornblower looked at the envelope in some confusion as he took
it. "Thank you Sir."
Pellew nodded as the boy left, and would have returned to his
duties, when Mr. Cleveland
called out having spotted a sail to wind ward. He saw Hornblower
stuff the letter into his
jacket and hurry to his division, as he raised the glass to his
Part 5 -The Ides of Simpson
Damn the world to Bloody Hell!!!
Things had been running smoothly. The crew had settled in. He
was learning the ways of his
men, and his men were learning him. Mr. Eccleston had begun to
loosen up, had shown
insight, and had become a better leader himself. The only problem
on the ship at all had been
Mr. Bracegirdle's sudden illness; some feverish disease picked
up during his brief stay in
London, no doubt. Vexing, but Hepplewhite assured him, not life
threatening at all. And
having found Hornblower that morning, he had been beginning to
believe that he had as close
to a perfect world as any Captain could wish for.
And then the Justinian got blown up, and it all went to pieces.
The French-damned them-had been taunting the British Navy for
some time with one
particular ship, the Papillon. More skillfully handled than any
French ship he'd ever seen,
Pellew had nearly found himself lured, during a heavy fog, within
range of the French
battlements on land by her. The Indy had sustained heavy damage.
A less cautious (for Pellew
would never permit himself to consider himself skillful) captain
would certainly have been
blown to pieces.
It was fate cruelly taunting him, Pellew thought, that the man
he now regarded as the least
skillful Captain in the entire British Navy would be in the same
vicinity when the Papillon
To be sure, when he had ordered the ships boats out to pick up
survivors (Hornblower and his
men manning one, despite what must have been an exhausting week
on a boat in the open
ocean!) he had not the slightest clue of the identity of the small
ship he had seen, afire and
sinking, after the run-in with the French. Eccleston said he could
only say for sure that it was
British; even the eagle-eyed Bowles had been unable to say for
certain. Not until the boat had
returned with four survivors-three pressed men and one midshipman-had
he known that it was
Keene's Justinian now lying on the bottom of the Ocean. And he
had known immediately
then-he could feel the man's bloody presence-that the midshipman
saved would have to be
Simpson. It would be. Men like him do not die.
Worst, there was little time for him to deal with the man, to
let him know that nobody but
Pellew was Captain on this ship. Prior to the boat's return, Eccleston
had, in a fit of
inspiration, hastily begun to outline a plan to actually capture
the Papillon. Pellew had been
beyond pleased at the time. Eccleston was showing vision, then.
Even more pleasing,
Eccleston had specifically mentioned desiring the assistance of
both Midshipmen Kennedy
and Hornblower, saying he felt they would be vital to the success
of the mission. The man had
learned to see their worth.
The captain had immediately agreed to the plan-Eccleston wished
to have several smaller
boats sneak up to the Papillon at night and board her-he sensed
that it would succeed, and
Pellew was not in the habit of being wrong. Of course, it would
be dangerous, but less so than
risking a face to face confrontation with Papillon in the open
sea again. He felt some qualms
about sending Kennedy and Hornblower-could it be possible that
both would make it back?
But it was only a slight twinge. They were the best men for the
job, and Pellew knew it. He
suggested to Eccleston that they all confer-Eccleston, Pellew,
Bowles, Chadd, Kennedy and
Hornblower-as soon as the latter two returned with survivors.
Of course, they must first
interview surviving officers, if there were any.
No sooner had the words left his lips when Eccleston had turned
to face the approaching
footsteps. Hornblower and Kennedy approached, leading a surviving
man protected by a
blanket, towards him. Someone behind him-Cleveland? Hether?-muttered,
"My God, it was
the Justinian, then."
And Mr. Eccleston said. "Mr. Simpson!"
There was a brief awkward moment. Pellew studied the man he had
wondered about so often.
Thin, angular, with reddish hair dripping on to his face. His
eyebrows raised slightly, his lips
pursed in amusement until he realized the Captain was the man
before him. Then his
demeanor changed almost instantly; he became a weary, frightened
shipwreck survivor, a man
devastated by the loss of his ship and his shipmates. Pellew was
Eccleston recovered himself first. "er, Captain Pellew, this
is Midshipman Jack Simpson from
the Justinian. Mr. Simpson, Captain Pellew."
Simpson saluted him.
Pellew nodded back. "Indeed, Mr. Eccleston. Then you have
served with him before."
Before Eccleston could answer, Simpson interrupted. "As horrible
as my loss has been, Sir, I
must say it is comforting to have had the good fortune to be saved
by a ship where I can find
myself surrounded by so many of my old friends."
Pellew glanced surreptitiously at Hornblower. Mr. Hornblower certainly
didn't look like he
considered it to be good fortune. There seemed to be a wave of
terror around them all.
Hornblower looked almost ill, and Kennedy-good God! What had passed
and him? Pellew thought the lad would, given the least opportunity,
jump overboard. But
there had been no reported incidents with Kennedy!
"Mr. Simpson, I am pleased to welcome you aboard my ship.
Perhaps you would prefer to
recover yourself before reporting? Mr. Eccleston, would you be
so good as to show Mr.
Simpson to the midshipman's berth prior to our meeting?"
It would, of course, have been
more normal to send a midshipman on such a task, but Pellew did
not consider that wise.
Simpson immediately demurred. "I must insist, Sir, on reporting
immediately, as would be
required by the articles of war. I assure you, I am up to the
Eccleston hesitated before addressing the Captain. "Sir,
perhaps Mr. Simpson can offer us
vital information on Papillon that can assist us in the campaign."
Eccleston looked like he
hated saying it, but it was true, after all.
Pellew relented. "Very well. You may join us at this meeting,
then. Mr. Hornblower, Mr.
Kennedy, your presence will be required as well." And they
had all headed to the Captain's
Pellew drew his mind from the meeting and the disgusting display
Mr. Simpson had paraded
before him. Ugh! Describing-in overly graphic details-the death
of Keene, and then crying!
Pellew had seen battle weary men give in to their emotions before,
but it was most normal for
a man to fight the urge, even if losing the fight. But Simpson
embraced his tears, parading
them for Pellew's benefit, he was sure. He doubted Simpson realized
that Pellew had caught
that slight glance at the end of his tale, when he checked to
see if the table were buying it.
Hornblower and Kennedy had looked at each other, in stupefied
silence, and did not
contribute two words as Eccleston proceeded to outline the plan
of battle. Kennedy, in
particular, seemed lost. Simpson had not been on his ship one
bloody hour and already he was
causing problems with two of his most reliable men.
And to top it off, what does the man do but volunteer for the
mission. Pellew tried to persuade
him he was not quite up to it, but Simpson insisted. And Eccleston,
welcoming him, goes and does the one thing Pellew would have liked
to have told him not to-
Eccleston tells Simpson to take part in the action being presided
over by Hornblower and
Kennedy, in their boat! For the love of God, what was the man
And as the evening wore on, Pellew wondered what the hell he was
to do about it?
Part 5B-The Ides of Simpson
Pellew exhaled loudly. Not much time now, just a few hours until
the boats would cast off.
No way to contradict Eccleston about Simpson's place in the mission
without undermining his
First Lieutenant. He imagined the reaction of his midshipmen-not
just Hornblower and
Kennedy, but Cleveland and Hether, who had also served with Simpson,
and all the others,
who would undoubtedly be hearing rumors of the man. No, by God,
Jack Simpson would not
impose a reign of terror over his men. He was one of the midshipmen
only, no better than the
others. Pellew would have to take a less direct approach of making
his feelings known.
"Mr. Hornblower!" Pellew called down the deck. The boy,
seeming to have shrunk in the past
hours, was preparing for the mission with his men. "A word,
if you please."
He watched the boy nervously approach. His men's eyes followed
him, Matthews in
particular, with concern. "Sir."
Pellew looked Hornblower in the eye. Not the same stare, now.
No, there was uncertainty,
there. Fear? Not quite. Despair? Maybe. Pellew turned back to
the sea before talking; he could
not bear those eyes.
"Mr. Hornblower, you remember when you first came on board,
I told you that everything
involving his ship was the concern of the captain, do you not."
"I also told you, Mr. Hornblower, that I judged a man based
on what he does, not on what
others tell me of him."
Pellew looked down at the scope in his hand, feigning interest
in cleaning its lens. "I have
been watching you, Mr. Hornblower."
"Sir?" Hesitation, there, and concern.
"I have been watching how you handled your men. I have noticed
that they appear to hold you
in some esteem. At the very least, they are more prepared, more
willing to work, than they
seemed to be when they joined the Indefatigable. I have heard
no problems from those of your
command, no squabbles, no fighting; you would seem to have them
well trained indeed." He
turned finally to face the boy. "You have done well with
them, Mr. Hornblower."
An expression of pleasure-diffused by surprise-flowed over Hornblowers
face, and almost
drove out the expression it had only moments before. "Thank
you, Sir," the young man
responded, with a hint of warmth.
Pellew met his eyes full on, now. "I have been to sea for
more years than you have been alive,
Mr. Hornblower. I consider myself to be a shrewd judge of men.
I have seen all types of them
in my years. I have seen men of courage and cowardice, men of
vision and men too
impossibly stupid to be believed. I have seen too many good men
killed in battle. And very
rarely, I have seen insidious men who attempt to undermine a ship
for the sheer sport of it.
Such men I will not tolerate." He paused, to let that sink
"No Sir." Hornblower seemed to be standing taller now.
"The most important thing, Mr. Hornblower, about judging
your men, is patience. I try never
to form an opinion too quickly." He looked across the deck,
towards Mr. Simpson, and
Hornblower followed his gaze. "Today, I make an exception
to that rule."
Hornblower looked at him again, an unspoken question hanging between
them. "I have
watched you closely, Mr. Hornblower. There is nothing that has
escaped me about your
performance on board this ship; I have done the same with Mr.
Kennedy. There is a reason
that the two of you were chosen for this mission. You can rest
assured, Mr. Hornblower, that I
will be watching Mr. Simpson with the same eyes. And nothing-nothing
will escape me of
his performance either." Pellew clasped his hands behind
his back. "Do I make myself clear,
"Yes, Sir!" The young man met his eyes, his chin jutting
out, more like the man he had been
before Simpson's intrusion.
Pellew nodded. "Then carry on, Mr. Hornblower; carry on."
He watched Hornblower return to his men-Simpson's old men, they
were. Simpson watched
Hornblower as well, and then turned to look at the Captain. Pellew
did not directly watch
Simpson, though, He could see that his meeting had not gone unnoticed.
Simpson saw that
Hornblower had not been dressed down; had emerged from the meeting
more assured, more
in command of himself. It would either convince Simpson not to
try any games here, or, to
enrage him enough to attempt another futile attack at one or the
other of the midshipman. He
rather hoped for the later. For, one slip up, and he would have
Jack Simpson at the gratings, or
preferably off his ship all together, before the man realized
what hit him.
Simpson turned and disappeared below decks. Pellew heard Eccleston
calling for Mr.
Kennedy, who was nowhere to be seen. Hornblower looked around,
and then headed below
decks himself, apparently in pursuit of his friend. Soon, they
would head away together, into
danger. Pellew both believed and hoped that Hornblower would be
able to beat the odds for a
second time in as many days.
Part Five C, An Interlude to the Ides of Simpson-
The Mystery of the Marie Gallant is Solved!
It was not until the next morning as Powers was serving him his
breakfast, well after the men
had left for the Papillon, that he learned the truth about the
mysterious occurrences aboard the
Powers, having served with him some years, seemed to know when
he was looking for
information. He also seemed to know how to obtain it from the
lower decks. And he managed
to volunteer it without waiting for the Captain to ask.
This day was no different. As he poured the coffee, Powers remarked,
diffidently, "Quite a
story from that boat yesterday, I heard, Sir."
Playing along, he responded indifferently. "Indeed."
"Must have been a sight, Sir." Powers laid the butter
crock deliberately on the table.
"Must have been." Pellew tapped the biscuit on the table
and buttered it generously.
"Styles, Sir, said he'd have never believed anyone could
coolly drop a compass over the side
like that. Especially if faced with an armed Frenchman."
Now truly confused, Pellew put the biscuit down. "I can imagine."
"And then, Sir, for Mr. Hornblower to coolly tell the man
he could fish for it, Sir. Styles said
the Captain was so angry he struck Mr. Hornblower right across
Powers helped him liberally to bacon. "Matthews, Sir, said
the crew was pretty angry at
seeing Mr. Hornblower treated such, but Mr. Hornblower told them
to keep calm. Why, he
wasn't afraid t'all, even out numbered like that."
Thunderstruck, Pellew drained his coffee, and Powers silently
refilled it. "The Captain
seemed to have a pretty hard time of navigating without the compass."
Powers chuckled slightly. "Yes Sir, especially when he was
following a wrong chart."
Pellew dropped his biscuit on the floor, and Powers whisked it
away. "Wrong chart?"
"Yes, Sir. Matthews said he nearly fell out of the boat laughing
when Mr. Hornblower told
him he'd set up a phony one before abandoning ship. Apparently
he memorized the ship's
position himself, just in case they had a problem." Powers
looked over the table. "Anything
"No, thank you, Powers, I have everything."
Powers withdrew silently, and Pellew suddenly found himself laughing,
hard enough to bring
tears to his eyes. But curse him, why hadn't Hornblower told him
this himself? It was
ingenious, that. As for himself, he suddenly found himself far
less of a failure than he'd felt
yesterday at this time. In fact, he'd been dead on right about
one thing-One of his
midshipmen was more than enough to handle a paltry French crew.
At least, this one was.
Part Five D-The Ides of Simpson
Pellew strode the deck of the Indy, Cleveland and Hether nearby.
There had been no sign of
the Papillon, and Pellew knew they were soon reaching the point
where, if the mission had
been a success, there would have been. He fought the urge to voice
his concern, beyond
muttering "Where the devil is the Papillon." Not good
to let the men know he questioned now
that the Papillon would ever come, and if it did, possibly not
under the command of the
"Look, Sir!" Mr. Cleveland spoke behind him.
Pellew turned, glass raised, hoping to see a ship. Instead, he
saw three. "My God, French
Corvettes." There was trouble now. A third of his crew had
gone after Papillon, and his most
trusted third, no less. "Mr. Cleveland, Call all hands to
station." He strode off, trying to pass
himself as assured and confident. In fact, he could feel the sweat
trickle down his back. No
chance to run from three faster ships. In his heart, he knew success
was unlikely. He would
probably lose his ship, many of his men, and possibly his life.
But Sir Edward Pellew would
not go down without fighting, hoping against hope that the luck
that had followed him
through his career would find him now.
He shouted directions to Hether, and then turned as he heard the
dull thud of a distant cannon
blast. Wood from the rigging snapped above his head. "Ready
the guns-fire when ready, Mr.
Instantly the world of the Indy seemed turned to chaos. Pellew
moved as if automated through
the thickening smoke, hearing the guns and the cannon, barely
noting the screams of the men,
trying to keep all three ships within his view. "Keep us
aback, Mr. Hether. We must not let
them get close enough to board us." Missing a third of his
crew, Pellew knew if he was
boarded, the ship was done for.
A bit of masting fell at his feet, and he stepped beyond it. He
was in overdrive, completely
unaware of any danger to himself. He might be cut down at any
minute, but no one would
ever guess it from his calm, calculated demeanor. He gave orders
that were readily obeyed, by
men who seemed also to not doubt the outcome would be in their
favor. Pellew wondered if
inside they knew this fight was as futile as he did.
One of the corvettes seemed to get closer, and Pellew ordered
evasive actions, difficult to
undertake in the midst of sustaining fire from the other two ships.
He saw that this third ship
meant to board him. He wondered for a moment what the prisons
in France were like.
Suddenly, the Corvette seemed to sustain a heavy hit; but surely
the Indy's guns were not
directed in that way?
"Sir!" Cleveland cried out. "It's the Papillon."
Eccleston, bless your heart, thought Pellew. "Continue engaging
the remaining ships, Mr.
Cleveland." He roared out, as if he had never expected anything
else to happen.
The fight was fairer, now. Pellew observed that one of the Corvettes
had sustained heavy
damage and seemed to be surrendering. Eccleston...where was Eccleston?
With the smoke
around it was difficult to see even with the glass. He could occasionally
make out Mr. Bowles
at the wheel, but caught no glance of the first Lieutenant.
One of the Corvettes he had been engaging had now joined in the
battle against Papillon. The
cannon fire came rapidly now; Papillon, a larger ship, seemed
to be battering her opponent at
will. Suddenly a blast shook the Indy, and Pellew found himself
stepping backwards in shock.
Papillon had managed to hit the Corvette in the gun-powder magazine,
and the explosion had
torn the smaller ship to pieces. Smoke billowed everywhere. They
had carried the day; thanks
to the Papillon! Still, those poor, poor devils on that Corvette-a
hit to the magazine was
every naval man's worst nightmare. He was about to give orders
for boats to be launched,
when he realized the Papillon had done just that. One boat headed
for survivors, and another
headed towards the Indy, to report. Pellew waited anxiously for
It was an utterly exhausted looking Hornblower who was the first
over the side of the Indy, a
trickle of blood dried down the side of his head.
Pellew looked around in some amazement, still not sure how he'd
managed to survive the day.
"Timely, Mr. Hornblower. Timely." He inhaled deeply,
and made the most obvious comment.
"I take it by your appearance her that Mr. Eccleston is-indisposed.?"
He feared the answer.
Hornblower, still dazed himself, sighed. "I regret to inform
you sir, that Lieutenant Eccleston
Pellew nodded. Damn. He had just begun to develop a liking for
the man. But that was how it
went when you served in His Majesties Navy. He could guess the
next before Hornblower
"Lieutenant Chad is also among the fallen."
Pellew nodded. Well them, that was that. One question remained.
"Who, then, had charge of
the Papillon during the engagement?"
Hornblower inhaled and squared his shoulders away. "The honor
fell to me, Sir."
To Hornblower? Hornblower? But how? He was the most junior officer
in the whole party,
how on earth- "What of Mr. Simpson and Mr. Kennedy?"
Two little red spots appeared on Hornblower's face.
"Mr. Kennedy, Sir-was left behind when we boarded her."
Anger in his voice, just held in.
"And Mr. Simpson?" Pellew could only guess.
"I had Mr. Bowles place Mr. Simpson under arrest."
"WHAT!" Pellew could not believe this. What had Hornblower
done? Unless there was good
motivation, a midshipman could be hung for such an act against
a superior; or at the very least
flogged to within an inch of his life. Pellew prayed to God that
the boy had a valid reason.
Hornblower met his gaze unwavering. "While I was losing the
top sail, sir, I happened to look
down and see Mr. Kennedy, injured in the boat, being cut loose.
As I watched I noticed Mr.
Simpson pointing towards me. Too late I realized with what object;
I saw the flash and felt the
shot graze my head."
Pellew now took close r look at Hornblower's headwound. A scar
would result, no doubt. The
shot had been a very close thing.
"Simpson shot you?"
"Yes, Sir. I plunged from the arm and was fortunate to end
in the water. I was rendered
unconscious, however, and would not be here now if not for one
of my men."
Stunned, Pellew could only repeat his words. "One of your
"Finch, Sir. He dove into the water after me, or so I am
told. Apparently he was able to drag
me over to the tow line, and Oldroyd and Matthews informed Lieutenant
Eccleston, who sent
a boat for me. The next I knew, I was on board Papillon, it was
morning, and Finch was trying
to bandage my head."
"I see. And what then, Mr. Hornblower? How came you to arrest
Mr. Simpson yourself?"
"I reported the incident to Mr. Eccleston as soon as my head
was clear. At that moment,
however, the shore batteries realized what had happened and opened
fire. Mr. Eccleston told
me to return to my men, and that he would deal with it when we
returned to the Indefatigable.
However, before I was ten feet away, Eccleston and Chadd were
both felled. I was at Mr.
Eccleston's side when he died-" Hornblower's voice wavered
slightly but he held it together.
"-and his last words to me were to take command, and return
to the Indy. So when Simpson
attempted to gain command of the Ship, I ordered Mr. Bowles to
place him under arrest."
Pellew closed his eyes. The arrest could certainly be declared
as justified in Pellew's mind.
But in admiralty, where they would not know the players in the
situation? In black and white,
on paper, what would it look like?
Hornblower continued. "I did what I felt was necessary, Sir.
For the good of the men and the
ship, not only for my own sake."
"I do not doubt your motivation, Mr. Hornblower." He
made a quick resolution. "Report to
my cabin in one hour, Sir. Mr. Simpson will be there also, and
you will have your opportunity
to make formal charges." Pellew looked the boy in the eye.
"Consider your position carefully,
Mr. Hornblower. Know this: if you withdraw the charges, I will
be forced to order you
flogged. If you maintain the charges, Mr. Simpson will be placed
under arrest until a court-
martial can be arranged. At that time, if there is evidence, Mr.
Simpson will hang. If there is
not..." He paused. "-then you will."
They stared at each other for some time. Pellew would have given
the world to be able to stop
being the Captain for just one moment. But it could not be. Hornblower,
pale, only nodded. "I
Pellew could only pray that he did.
Part 6-The Ides Turn-
Eccleston had maintained that Simpson was one of the stupidest
men he had ever come
across. Posthumously, in Pellew's office, the man was proven utterly
The situation had been precarious. The only sure way of saving
Hornblower's life would have
been to order him flogged for mutiny, assuming the boy would withdraw
Pellew could use the excuse of the head wound, in addition to
the fact that he was a mere
midshipman in a conflict with another, more superior one., to
justify not hanging him. But
regulations would have called for 100 lashes. He didn't know if
Hornblower could bear it; he
didn't know if he could bear it being done.
But of course, a young man of integrity would not withdraw the
charges, even when it was to
his advantage to do so. Pellew hoped he had made it clear that
it would be to his advantage.
Surely Hornblower would realize that he had no proof of the claim
other than his own eyes.
The wound could have come from any stray bullet, and his men had
not seen the actual shot
being fired. With no witnesses, it would come down to his word
against Simpson's. And while
Pellew believed him, he knew that others, going by the book, would
probably not. Discipline
must be obeyed. A superior officer can never be usurped. Hornblower
would hang. At least, it
So when Hornblower arrived, standing next to a sneering and seething
Simpson, Pellew was
in emotional turmoil between what he hoped and what he expected.
True to his character,
Hornblower made the charges formally.
And then Simpson challenged Hornblower to a duel.
Pellew could not believe what he had heard. Simpson had obviously
not realized that he held
Hornblower's life in his hands. With his character being assassinated,
Simpson reacted like
the bully he was.
Simpson stood before him smugly while Pellew outwardly fumed.
Inside, he felt stunned
relief. But he played his part. Simpson went on about Hornblower
obviously being a coward.
"I would be careful Sir, of calling a man a coward only lately
distinguished in battle."
Simpson smiled. "Oh, but I do call him a coward, else why
would he refuse to accept my
challenge." He turned to Hornblower, who stood in silent
rage before him.
"You see? He's afraid."
Pellew turned away, and then fired back at Simpson. "I am
afraid that Mr. Hornblower's
reluctance to answer is because of an order I issued when he first
joined Indefatigable, is that
not so, Mr. Hornblower."
"It is, Sir."
Now Simpson looked shocked, but Pellew sped on. "I remove
that Impediment, Mr.
Hornblower, but I must caution you against accepting this challenge."
He stared into the boy's
eyes. Please, he thought, please accept this challenge. As a Captain
I must advise against it,
but if you accept it, then with God's will we can both be rid
of this man.
Whether Hornblower read his thoughts or not he'd never know, but
the boy never for one
moment wavered from his course. "I maintain the charges against
Mr. Simpson, but since I
cannot prove it other than with my body, I have no choice but
to accept his challenge, Sir."
Pellew cleared his throat. "Very well. You will choose your
seconds, then. The duel will take
place in two days on the beach at ____."
Simpson protested. "Two days, Sir? I cannot abide by waiting-"
"Silence, Mr. Simpson!" Pellew roared. "The duel
will take place after all necessary repairs
are done to the ship, and not before. Or have you forgotten that
the chief function of His
Majesty's navy is to patrol the seas, Mr. Simpson."
"Of course not Sir." He confronted him then. "But
am I to remain under arrest with such
charges hanging over my head for two days?"
Pellew placed his arms behind his back. "Since you have issued
a challenge, and Mr.
Hornblower has accepted, the charges will be withheld."
Hornblower responded in surprise. "Withheld, sir?"
"Yes. You gentlemen have decided to settle the issue amongst
yourselves. Therefore, the
formal charges will not go any farther than my desk, unless, Mr.
Simpson, you wish to
explain to admiralty how you came to issue a challenge within
the Captain's presence."
"I don't believe that is necessary, Sir." Simpson knew
enough to know that that would not be
looked on kindly.
"So, Mr. Simpson, you will resume regular duties, with this
caution: you are not to interfere
with Mr. Hornblower or his division at any point. I will not have
the regular operations of this
ship impeded. Is that understood?"
Simpson almost smirked. "Aye, aye, Sir."
Pellew cleared his throat. "And until you gentlemen have
resolved this issue to its final
outcome, you will occupy Lieutenant Eccleston's berth in the officer's
quarters. I do not want
the other midshipmen to be disrupted by this."
Simpson stupidly looked flattered. It had not dawned on him that
the quarters were shared by
the recuperating Bracegirdle at the moment, and would keep him
from having access to
Hornblower and the other Midshipmen. He would speak with Mr. Bowles
about keeping him
otherwise occupied when on duty.
Pellew looked at the log sheet. "Mr. Simpson, you dismissed.
Report yourself to Mr. Bowles
in one hour. That is all."
Simpson nodded, saluted, with a clipped "Aye, aye, Sir"
Pellew turned back to Hornblower.
"Mr. Hornblower, you are relieved of watch for the next two
Hornblower looked aghast. "But, Sir-"
Pellew silenced him with a look. "You shall report to Dr.
Hepplewhite. I believe your head
wound is worse than it appeared; at least, that is what it shall
say in my report. You have had
a busy week, Mr. Hornblower. Two days of rest prior to a duel
would be advisable."
It finally dawned on Hornblower that this was not punitive. Pellew
half smiled. "Mr. Simpson
has provided both of us with an avenue of escape, Mr. Hornblower."
He reached down and
tore up the prepared charges. "I did not much like the options
before me prior to Mr.
Hornblower almost smiled back. "Nor I, Sir."
Pellew cleared his throat. "You will need to find a second.
It would be unseemly for me to do
so. Mr. Bracegirdle I believe would be trustworthy, but he is
still ill. Cleveland or Hether,
Hornblower hesitated. "We were all on Justinian together.
I fear Mr. Simpson might still have
influence on them. Mr. Bowles, perhaps-"
Pellew shook his head. "I have other need for Mr. Bowles
that I cannot elaborate on, I am
Hornblower made a decision. "Then I would have Finch, Sir."
"A crewman?" Not usual, that.
"With Mr. Kennedy gone, there is no one I would trust to
guard my life more than my men."
Good lad, thought Pellew. That is what any captain could wish
for. "Then you shall be served
by all your division, Mr. Hornblower, although I'm sure no crewman
had ever before been
involved in such gentleman's folly." He hesitated. "Matthew's,
I believe, has been in service
"Then he would be whom you had best discuss your pistol with.
Make sure you know how to
operate the blasted thing, and see if he can give you any advice
on how to handle it. Of
course, I could not suggest he actually help you, as I must remain
neutral in this matter."
"Of course, Sir."
Pellew nodded. "To Hepplewhite with you, then, Mr. Hornblower."
"Aye Aye Sir."
Part 7-A Decision
Pellew sat at his desk and motioned for Mr. Bowles to enter. He
had just authorized a duel
between a man he had come to value and a man he would just as
soon feed to the sharks. It
had honestly been the best option before them. He dared not interfere
more than he already
had, and could only hope that Hornblower's perpetual luck would
His one concern lay in Simpson's integrity, or lack of. Since
the man was devil enough to
shoot his own shipmate of the top mast, he was not to be trusted.
Of course, it was hard to fix
a duel, but Pellew would have to keep close watch. And that is
where Mr. Bowles would
But first thing's first: what was the truth of the events on board
Papillon? So many questions.
And Eccleston, and Chadd, dead. And Kennedy?
"Mr. Hornblower informed me that Mr. Kennedy was left behind.
Just what exactly occurred
with that, Mr. Bowles?"
Bowles answered directly. "On the Justinian, I had heard
stories that Mr. Kennedy was prone
to fits of some kind."
Pellew merely looked at him. "I have never heard of Mr. Kennedy
having fits on board this
"No Sir. I believe he has not had one since we've arrived
"In six months?"
"No, Sir. Not until the Jolly Boat that evening." Bowles
adjusted the cuff of his shirt. "Not
until Mr. Simpson joined us."
"I see." Pellew waited for Bowles to elaborate.
"I do not understand the medical situation, Sir. I know that
in most circumstances Mr.
Kennedy has proven a capable officer. However, in light of the
need for quiet in the jolly
boat, Mr. Hornblower was forced to knock Mr. Kennedy over the
head, to quiet him."
Pellew closed his eyes. That, he thought, must have been the most
difficult thing Hornblower
had ever had to do in his young life. "And the blow was fatal?"
Bowles raised an eyebrow, and gave him half a smile. "Not
at all, Sir. The young man would
have woken in a few hours with a crashing headache, in my opinion.
the battle, the jolly boat was cut loose, and it, with Mr. Kennedy,
was cut adrift. It is possible
the young man might make it safely to land."
Pellew dearly hoped so, although any land immediately in that
area would of course be enemy
land. "So the French, in the course of the battle, cut the
"It would seem so, Sir." Bowles answered non-commitedly.
"Of course, it would have seemed that the French had shot
Mr. Hornblower, as well."
Bowles nodded appreciatively.
Pellew took a direct tack now. "Did Simpson shot Hornblower?"
"Mr. Hornblower said so, Sir. I am not a witness, unfortunately."
"Yes, but damn it Bowles, what do you think? Is it possible?"
Bowles looked directly at him. "I think, Sir, from my experience
with Mr. Simpson, the man
would blow his own mother's head off if he took a fancy to do
so." Bowles smiled. "In my
Pellew sat back and stared at the log book, wondering what the
devil he was to do next.
Bowles then continued.
"I'll tell you something else, Sir, Mr. Eccleston believed
Pellew raised an eyebrow.
Bowles went on. "Sir, I heard Mr. Eccleston, when the man
was dying, telling Hornblower to
take the ship. I have never known Eccleston to do anything that
wasn't by the book. And by
the book, that ship was Simpson's, Sir. That's why I backed up
Hornblower when he ordered
Simpson into arrest. And the men, too, Sir. They've served under
them both. There was no
question in their mind who to follow, Sir."
Pellew grimaced. "There is no doubt that Simpson was a poor
leader, Mr. Bowles. At best.
The question is, is he a murderer? Attempted, or in the possible
case of Kennedy, an out-right
killer. Without any eyewitness but Hornblower there is no proof,
and this duel must go on.
The alternatives don't bear thinking about. And yet, I fear Mr.
Simpson is not to be trusted."
Bowles concurred. "Shall I mediate the duel, then, Sir."
Pellew paused. If he could not control the outcome of the duel,
he planned on making sure at
least it was above board. "No. Let Hepplewhite do that. He
is neutral." Pellew turned to the
window, looking for the first sight of the land where the duel
was to occur. "Above the beach
at ___, there is, I believe, a cliff with a fine view, Mr. Bowles.
You and I, and perhaps the
Sargent of the Marines, will be taking in that view during the
duel. We had best leave before
the others. I wouldn't want them to know we had gone for a stroll.
It might prove distracting."
Bowles got up to leave. "Very well, Sir. I shall make our
Pellew had one other consideration. "You have kept Mr. Simpson
busy, I assume?"
Bowles grinned. "I have set him to several mathematical problems.
He'll not be finished for
"Excellent, Mr. Bowles. Keep him under close watch, if you
"Aye Aye, Sir."
As the door closed behind him, Captain Pellew pulled his musket
from its place.
Part 8, The Duel
Pellew stood, his back to the cliff, watching as two of the ship's
boats approached the beach.
One carried Mr. Hornblower and his crew; the other, Mr. Simpson,
Cleveland, Heather and
Dr. Hepplewhite. Pellew had specifically asked Hepplewhite to
travel with Simpson, in order
to avoid any conspiracy.
Cleveland and Hether had not been enthusiastic about siding with
Simpson, but had not
wanted to refuse either. They had looked uncomfortable over the
past two days. Pellew
wondered anew at how Simpson had come to have such a hold over
so many men. But he no
longer wondered at Hornblower. Though he was but a boy of seventeen-or
was it eighteen
by now?-he was of strong character. Simpson might make his life
hell, and probably
had-but he could never control him. And that made him dangerous
to a man like Simpson.
Yes, certainly Simpson had tried to remove Hornblower from his
The Captain of the Marines, McAnn, stood off to the side, prepared
to place a defecting party
under arrest. Pellew's musket stood at the ready; Bowles, by his
side, watched the proceedings
through his glass.
"Simpson's landed, Sir. Hepplewhite is maintaining control
of the pistols."
"Very good. How looks Mr. Simpson?"
Bowles handed him the glass with a wry smile. "Not as smug
as he looked at the last one, I
can tell you that."
McAnn added his own information: "Simpson is not such a good
shot as he thinks he is, in my
opinion-and he was not looking at all well this morning, pulling
pretty heavily at the grog."
Bowles went on. "You need a steady hand to fight a duel."
Pellew did not comment, but focussed now on the boat landing with
Hornblower and party.
Funny how those men were formerly Simpson's, yet had totally fallen
Not a one showed any concern for their former commander. The men,
thought Pellew, you
can never fool the men.
Hornblower himself looked very calm. His gait was steady and purposeful.
No grog for him!
He removed his jacket and handed it to Matthews. Hepplewhite removed
the pistols from the
box he'd been carrying them in, as Hornblower and Simpson approached.
Pellew handed the glass back to Bowles. "Can they see us
from the beach, Mr. McAnn?"
"No Sir, the overhang prevents them from having a clear view,
unless we stand at cliff's
Pellew nodded. He would move forward, then, but not until Hornblower
and Simpson had
counted off. They would be too focussed at that time to notice
the group observing them
overhead. He loaded the musket and took sight, nodded and put
Bowles raised the glass one more time. "They're being given
instruction now, Sir." He turned
to Pellew. "May I ask what it is you're expecting?"
"I am not sure, Mr. Bowles, but whatever it is I plan on
being prepared for it."
Bowles was at the glass again as the duelists stood back to back,
pistols pointed at the sky.
"Mr. Simpson's said something to Mr. Hornblower, sir. Hornblower's
"Dammit, boy, don't let him get under your skin!" Pellew
"There, now, he's pulled himself together, they're walking
off the paces now."
Pellew nodded and stepped forward, aiming the musket square for
Bowles was trying to follow Hepplewhite's speech. "He's giving
instructions now, Sir. He's
counting-One-" The men aimed. "Two-"
An unexpected shot went off.
"By god he's fired early, Sir! Hornblower's down!" McAnn
Damn! Pellew felt a blind rage course through his veins in mix
with stark terror.
"Simpson's fired early! He seems to be expostulating something
McAnn pointed to the gun Simpson was waving. "Perhaps it
was a misfire, Sir."
Pellew kept his musket trained on Simpson. "Very convenient."
"Hornblower's up, Sir! And madder than Hell!" Bowles
Thank you, God! Pellew turned away from the musket for one moment.
He saw the boy grasp
a wounded shoulder.
Bowles turned to him. "Looks like Hepplewhite's instructing
Hornblower to return fire, Sir."
McAnn agreed. "Very proper."
Pellew watched the next events unfold with amazement, as first
Simpson turned to run, and
then was ordered to stand his ground. The bully, the tides turned,
acted like the coward he'd
always been, and got down on his knees and pleaded with Hornblower-the
man he'd never
been able to fully own, for his life.
Hornblower had won, without firing a single shot!
He stood now, shaking with pain and rage, pistol pointed squarely
at Simpson. What thoughts
going through his mind, now? Would the desire for revenge win
out over the certain victory
he'd already gained? Could Hornblower shoot an unarmed man, even
this one, at such close
range? Should he?
Pellew watched with pride as the boy raised his pistol high in
the air and shot it once, flinging
the gun away and hurling some invective at Simpson, and turned
towards his men, still
grasping his shoulder.
Bowles and McAnn turned in excited conversation, but Pellew remained
rooted to the spot.
And saw Simpson, a man who would never again be able to command
fear, and who was
beyond learning to command respect, realize what Hornblower had
done to him was worse
As he watched, Simpson shoved Cleveland and turned towards Hornblower.
and McAnn realized what happened, Pellew knew: he had a knife.
Cleveland, Hether and
Hepplewhite turned to Hornblower, but would never be able to stop
Simpson from stabbing
the boy literally in the back.
A single shot rang out. His shot. From the musket he had never
once taken off of Simpson's
Hornblower whirled at the sound, astounded to see Simpson, frozen
just feet away as the
bullet had caught him. The man sat, stunned, a field of red spreading
across his white shirt.
Simpson looked up at the cliff and saw Pellew; it was only then
that Hornblower turned as
Bowles, still in shock, watched as Simpson fell back on the sand,
dead. "An exceptionally fine
shot. If I may say so Sir."
"You may, Mr. Bowles, You may."
Hornblower's men had reached him, tending to his shoulder, as
the young man continued to
stare at the cliff side.
Pellew handed the musket to McAnn and turned to head down to his
boat, from there back to
his ship, problem solved.
Hepplewhite kept Pellew well apprised of Hornblower's condition.
The bullet had gone
cleanly through the shoulder and done remarkably little damage.
The wound had been cleaned
with little enough shouting from Hornblower-the couple of tots
of rum that could no longer
damage his aim helping his pain. Not so much blood. Barring infection,
the doctor informed
him that Mr. Midshipman Hornblower would soon be resuming his
Pellew smiled at the report he'd just written. He would not, if
this letter would be approved, be
Mr. Midshipman Hornblower for much longer. Pellew was requesting
to promote him to
Acting Lieutenant. With Bracegirdle as the First, and Bowles contented
to remain Master,
another Lieutenant was desperately needed, and he'd rather have
somebody who already
earned respect from his men. And his captain. Still, better not
to tell the boy until he was
given the go ahead.
Returning to the deck, he checked the ship's coordinates with
Bowles. Cleveland stood not too
far off, hesitant about facing the captain.
Pellew felt a word was in order. "Mr. Cleveland. I expect
you retrieved your dagger?"
"Yes, Sir-Sir, I can assure you I was unaware-"
"Of course you were, Mr. Cleveland. I understand you'd no
wish to see Hornblower harmed."
Cleveland hesitated. "The truth is, sir, I did not expect
even Mr. Simpson to be so low."
Pellew turned away. "A word of advice, Mr. Cleveland. Always
expect the worst from the
Simpsons of the world. They so seldom disappoint you."
It was only fifteen minutes later, as the ship cleared Ushant,
that he saw Hornblower. His
shoulder was held stiffly and his face was drawn, but he appeared
on deck for his watch right
on schedule. And without hesitation he headed for his captain.
Pellew was pleased to see him about, but was not about to tell
him so. "Ah, Mr. Hornblower.
You have fought your duel, that is well." He met the young
man's gaze. "Never fight another,
that is better."
The boy lowered his head, and then spoke what he'd obviously come
there to say. "I owe you
a debt of gratitude, Sir."
Pellew shrugged it off. "I dispensed justice as I saw fit.
Remember, I told you I judge a man
on what I see him do."
Honest, as always, Hornblower persisted. "Nevertheless, you
saved my life."
Pellew raised an eyebrow. "As you saved the life of every
man on board this ship."
Hornblower's innate honesty knew its boundaries at his own accomplishments,
and he looked
confused and embarrassed. But this time he was not going to let
him off the hook so easily.
"Come now, no false modesty!" Pellew spoke quietly,
and with humor, but firmly. The young
man blushed slightly and could not meet his glance. Pellew stood
closer. "I see something in
you, Mr. Hornblower. If you continue in this service as you've
begun, a great future awaits
Hornblower finally looked at him. "Thank you, Sir."
Pellew nodded firmly. It was the highest praise he could have
given him. "Carry on, Mr.
Hornblower stood up straight then, clasped his arms around his
back despite the pain it caused
him, and turned to look over the boat, and issued some insignificant
orders to his men bellow.
Just as well the boy's back was turned to him, and could not see
the amusement in Pellew's
face. For he was not unconscious to exactly whom Hornblower was
imitating, even if
Hornblower was. And the thought did not displease him in the slightest.
A good man. Soon, a good Lieutenant. And someday, perhaps-?
Pellew knew one thing: he was no longer afraid to smile.
It was late that night and Pellew found himself walking the decks
of his ship again.
Everything this night was right with the world.
A solitary figure rested against the railing not far from him,
staring out to the sea.
Why was the man not sleeping? A shoulder wound was nothing to
laugh at, though the man
had gamely returned to deck soon after Hepplewhite was through
with him. He wondered
what from the past week could still prey on his mind...the Marie
Gallant, the incident on
Papillon, the near escape from possibly hanging or being flogged,
or the incident on the
beach? Pellew approached, wondering what he could say as a Captain
to put the young man's
mind at ease.
Hornblower did not stir. "Mr. Hornblower."
The boy jumped suddenly and turned. "Sir."
He was wide eyed with surprise, so lost in his own world had he
been. His face was even
paler, and Pellew thought his eyes appeared red, although that
could be a trick of the dim light
of the moon and the lanterns. No, not a trick; the boy had been
recently crying, something
which struck Pellew as odd; Hornblower was generally very guarded
in his emotions.
Pellew then noticed that the boy was holding in his hand a letter,
open. And knew this was not
about the ship.
Hornblower followed his eyes. "This is the letter you had
given me when I first returned from
the Marie Gallant, Sir. In the ensuing excitement, I had quite
forgotten I had it." His voice
trailed off. "Until this evening, Sir."
"Bad news, Mr. Hornblower?"
"Yes, Sir." He hesitated. "I've just been informed
that my father has died, Sir."
The boy folded the letter and placed it inside his jacket; Pellew
pretended not to notice that his
hand shook slightly."
"I see." Pellew was at a loss for words. "My condolences,
Mr. Hornblower. Even more of a
pity that you were unable to return to England when we took the
Hornblower turned back to the sea. "Not really, Sir. He passed
away nigh on two months ago.
There was nothing to be done. It was unexpected. Thank you, Sir."
"Two months?" True sending, mail to one at sea was time
"My Aunt, Sir...is not always punctual. I'm afraid she drinks
a bit more than she ought to.
And my father's death must have been a blow to her. She could
not remember what ship I
Pellew cleared his throat and turned to watch the moon sliding
over the dark, calm sea. "I
see." He searched his mind for something more to comfort
"I am sure, Mr. Hornblower, that your father would be very...proud
to know how well you
have served in His Majesty's Navy."
Pellew caught a hint of a half smile. "He had two wishes
for me, I believe, Sir, to be a doctor,
and to play whist well. I was only able to oblige him with one.
He never quite understood why
I wanted to go to sea, Sir. Still, he helped me get here, and
for that I'll always be obliged to
him." No question this time that there were tears in his
It was Pellew's turn to be sly, now. "Well, playing whist
is not at all a bad skill for a seaman
to have. It might teach you how to out smart an adversary, even
when the odds are against
you, such as in an open boat outnumbered by Frenchman."
Hornblower almost smiled outright then, despite himself. "Yes,
Sir. It might."
"Why whist?" He asked suddenly. It seemed an odd request
of a son not much out of
"My father was quite fond of it, Sir. After my mother's death,
my father regarded me as quite
an acceptable fourth for hands with the Parson and his wife. It
was about the only time he
regarded me at all." The last was muttered almost under his
voice, and Pellew tactfully
"How old were you?"
Pellew nodded. He saw much now. A solitary boy...that is what
Keene had said his father had
written to him. He could see this shy child, trying desperately
for notice, learning to excel at
the only bond they shared. He cleared his throat again.
"Get to sleep, Hornblower. That's an order." But he
did not say it unkindly. "I need my men at
their best. No one knows what we may face tomorrow."
"Aye Aye, Sir. Good evening." He saluted him, more composed
now, and Pellew returned the
salute in kind.
He watched Hornblower walk off. True enough that no one knew what
they may find
tomorrow. And Pellew uttered a silent prayer, that God would spare
him THIS midshipman,
let this young man live to see his potential fulfilled.