Mr. Pipps Visits the Doctor
"Are we nearly there?" asked Mr. Pipps, the Indefatigable's
midshipman as the coach rumbled through the Hampshire countryside.
"You asked me that five minutes ago," replied Horatio wearily. His
store of patience had been sadly depleted during the past few hours.
"I know, but it's really Mr. Kennedy who's asking. He's forgotten what
you said already," whispered Mr. Pipps. Just beyond him, on the far end
of the cracked and creaking leather seat, Archie smiled apologetically.
Horatio sighed and attempted to stretch his legs. The elderly lady
sitting opposite to him frowned and thwacked his shins with her umbrella
yet again. Restraining an impulse to seize her hat and fling it out of
the coach window he leaned over Mr. Pipps and spoke to his friend.
"It's quite simple Archie. We'll be passing through Stoke Bilges very
soon. Lower Uppingham and Upper Downingham are not far after that and
when the coach reaches Wilting Magna we get off. It should only take
three hours unless another horse loses a shoe over the side."
"Thank you Horatio," said Archie gratefully "I think I've got it now.
Would you care for a goose sandwich?" He had bought himself a large and
well-filled luncheon hamper at the last coaching inn.
"No, thank you," said Horatio hastily. The coach was swaying like a
jolly boat at Spithead and he was feeling quite queasy.
"You could have one of the little pies instead," said Mr. Pipps
helpfully "I've had two and they're very nice. Jeremy liked them too,
didn't you Jeremy?" He whispered this last remark to his inside
jacket pocket where his pet mouse sat nibbling contentedly on a morsel
of piecrust. Mr. Pipps wished that he could let Jeremy sit on the seat
next to him but he did not want the old lady to scream and hit Mr.
Hornblower with her umbrella like she had when his little whiskered
friend had been allowed out before. He gazed wistfully at the luncheon
basket and wondered aloud if it would be very late before they ate
supper. He continued to speculate about the possibility of a delayed
evening meal and the unpleasantness of enforced hunger until Horatio
could stand it no more.
"Archie!" he said reaching behind his younger colleague to prod his
friend in the ribs "do you think Mr. Pipps might have another of your
"Eh? Oh, yes of course Horatio. I'm sorry if I was distracted. I
was just trying to remember if Lower Downingham comes before Upper
Uppingham or if it's um, well, the other way about."
Horatio groaned and leaned back against the under-stuffed upholstery.
How had he come to be trapped in this heaving, jolting hell of a coach
with a sour faced harridan, the navy's unlikeliest successful
lieutenant's examination candidate, and the Indefatigable's smallest
and most exhausting officer?
It had all begun well enough three days earlier when an order
present himself in Captain Pellew's cabin had sent Horatio running the
length of the ship, curls streaming in the wind. He had knocked at the
door with hat in hand and a soaring heart.
"Ah, Mr. Hornblower," said his commander "come and stand on that
bit of sailcloth if you please."
"Aye aye sir," said Horatio obediently stepping on to the square of
number seven cloth that lay in front of the captain's desk. He could
feel his knees trembling with excitement. Could this be the start of a
new adventure? Was he to be sent on a highly secret mission in order to
bring confusion to His Majesty's enemies? Would the Frogs ever get
tired of being thrashed? Why did a certain part of his anatomy still
persist in swelling almost every night?
"Mr. Hornblower sir! Are you paying attention, dammit?"
"Yes sir! Absolutely sir!"
"Well then," said Sir Edward giving his favorite officer a look
that could put a hole in the bow of cutter at a hundred yards "you are
the first to hear this news Mr. Hornblower."
"Thank you sir," gasped Horatio, his ears going pink with pride.
"You won't regret placing your trust in me sir."
"I know my boy, I know," replied Sir Edward, growing suspiciously
moist about the eyes, "ahem, yes. In a few minutes I shall give the
order for the Indefatigable to leave the blockading squadron and return
Horatio's heart fell. Was it to be a spying mission, like the last
one? Would it involve wearing a dress and infiltrating the Naval Wives
Club? Would Archie laugh if he asked him about the swelling thing
"Kindly attend to what I'm saying!" snapped Sir Edward. He rose
and paced about in his dressing gown, whose rich burgundy hue exactly
matched the stripes on the stern window curtains. His servant followed
him on hands and knees, polishing his master's shoes.
"The Indefatigable is to go into dry dock for a special re-fit. She
will be laid up for at least three weeks while I have some nice mahogany
decking installed. I shall be giving almost the entire ship's company
leave for that period."
"But you want me to stay aboard and help to oversee the work sir?"
said Horatio. His heart was full to bursting at the prospect of being
given such an important task.
"No Mr. Hornblower," said Sir Edward in a kindly tone, "you will
be going on leave too."
Horatio went pale as the full implication of the captain's words sank
"Me sir? I'm to leave the ship? For a whole three weeks?" he
"I'm afraid so."
"Oh but can't I stay sir? I mean I could re-organize the sail
lockers and I'd have plenty of time to cross-brace all the trunging
specketts too," he pleaded.
"It's no use my boy." Sir Edward laid a comforting hand upon
Horatio's shoulder. A silence fell and was interrupted only by the
sound of spit falling upon leather and vigorous brushing. Horatio's
eyes filled with tears that overflowed and spilled down his face. Other
substances followed and the whole sorry mess was soon spattering on the
sailcloth. Sir Edward thought with satisfaction of his best Chinese rug,
which lay underneath the canvas, safe from the onslaught.
"Why sir?" gulped Horatio, "why do I have to go?"
"Because you wear His Majesty's uniform," said Sir Edward with a
faraway look in his eye, "and because there is something very
particular that I need you to do." He clapped Horatio briskly on the
back and hope sprang up anew in the young man's heart. He wiped his
nose and squared his shoulders.
"As captain of this vessel it is my duty to see that all my crew are
safely disposed of during the weeks ahead. To that end I have, at my own
expense, engaged the services of the entire roster of Madame Dolly's
Quayside Tartshop and they will er, entertain the men and um, divert
them from the notion of leaving Portsmouth before we sail again."
"I see sir," said Horatio gloomily. He sincerely hoped his captain
was not going to ask him stand guard duty at Madame Dolly's. The
little he had seen of the girls who hung out of the windows had made him
very nervous. One of them had even had the temerity to pinch his rear
end in the street when he was on important Admiralty business.
"Most of the officers will be will be staying with their families of
course," continued Sir Edward. "I myself will have the pleasure of
stowing my knees under Lady Pellew's table for a short while."
Horatio went scarlet. He always got terribly embarrassed when his
captain alluded to the intimate side of his marriage.
"I hope her mother is not visiting," mused Sir Edward, "and she
had better not invite any more of those damned Methodists to tea. I had
to kick a round dozen of the buggers out of the front parlor last time I
was at home!"
"Yes sir," muttered Horatio awkwardly.
"But I digress Mr. Hornblower," said Sir Edward sitting at his
desk. "I have a letter here from Mr. Pipps' mother. I believe
you've met the lady?"
"Once sir," said Horatio who well remembered coming face to face
with Mrs. Edwina Pipps and finding that she was half a head taller than
he was. He also carried a vivid picture in his mind of Captain Pellew
being pinned in a corner of his own quarterdeck while the lady
acquainted him with some of her opinions on the care of midshipmen in
general, and her son in particular.
"She writes that she and her husband and most of her household are
presently in Scotland for the ghillie shooting and will not.."
"I beg your pardon for interrupting sir, but are you sure she did not
write grouse shooting? I mean aren't ghillies some sort of outdoor
"No Mr. Hornblower, it quite clearly says ghillie" said Captain
Pellew frowning at the letter. "Well be that as it may, I clearly
cannot send Mr. Pipps to stay at an empty house for three weeks so you
had better take him with you."
"Me sir? Where sir?"
"Yes, you sir! To your home sir!"
"But, but," said Horatio, his ears turning pale with agitation.
"It's ideal an arrangement," Sir Edward went on ignoring
Horatio's spluttering, "the lad will be under your capable
supervision. He will also be enjoying the country air under the care of
a doctor to boot."
"Splendid! Run along now Mr. Hornblower. Oh, and if you see that
servant of mine outside send him in will you?"
"I believe he is already under your desk sir," said Horatio
"What! So he is. Dammit Hudnut, haven't you finished my shoes yet?
What the devil have you been playing at all this time eh?"
Archie Kennedy may not have been enough of a sailor to tell
difference between a grundled fore-wallocker and a tuttled wind-drindler
but he was wise in the ways of the human heart. As soon as he saw
Horatio come in to the middys' mess later that afternoon with his eyes
red, his nose running and his breeches in a twist he instinctively knew
that something was amiss with his best friend.
"Is anything the matter Horatio?" he asked kindly. He lowered his
voice, "has the swelling been bothering you again?"
"No that's not it!" exclaimed Horatio taking a savage swig from a
cup of tea. "Well, actually yes, but I was going to ask you about that
later. Archie! I have to leave the ship!"
"No! You can't go!" shrieked Archie horror struck. He fell to the
deck and grasped Horatio round the ankles. "What will I do without
you? What if Sir Edward wants me to order the men to change some of
those sail contraptions? Oh God Horatio! Suppose he wants me to find out
where the ship is? That horrid sextant always pokes me in the eye. I
can't, I can't .."
"Calm down Archie," said Horatio soothingly as he poured the rest
of his tea over his hysterical friend's immaculate golden locks. "I
only meant that I will not be allowed to stay on board for the three
weeks that the Indy will be in dry dock."
"Oh!" said Archie, shaking the tea from his hair and getting to his
feet, "but we'll all have to leave the ship won't we? Aren't you
looking forward to spending three weeks ashore?"
"No Archie, I prefer it at sea. Captain Pellew gives me exciting
things to do and the men like me. When I'm on land girls laugh at me
and my hair doesn't look nearly as good."
"But you will be able to visit your father. Won't you like that?"
said Archie as he patted the remaining tea from his hair with one of his
monogrammed linen towels.
"And there's another thing," said Horatio morosely, "the
captain says I must look after Mr. Pipps for the entire three weeks. I
shall have to take him home with me."
"Oh well, he's not a bad little squeaker," said Archie
cheerfully. "I'd invite you both to come home with me but Mama
always stays with my Uncle George at this time of year. Her house will
be rather dull, in fact I shall be quite lonely there all by myself."
As he spoke his expression closely resembled that of an injured puppy
and, almost before he knew what was happening, Horatio found that he had
persuaded Archie to come on the journey to Muttering-in-the-Marsh with
Mr. Pipps and himself.
"Oh thank you Horatio!" said Archie with a dazzling smile. "Three
weeks in the country. What could be more pleasant?"
"We're nearly at Wilting Magna," said Horatio peering
out of the coach
window at a dreary collection of hovels. "It seems a pity to disturb him
when he's sleeping so soundly but I suppose you had better wake him
"All right," agreed Mr. Pipps. He knelt on the seat next to Archie so
as to have better access to his ear. "Mr. Hornblower says we're nearly
there," he announced in a clear and penetrating treble. "I 'spect we'll
get some dinner soon," he added in a hopeful manner.
Archie sighed and shifted on the unyielding leather. "It's no good," he
murmured with a smile playing on his lips "I can't manage three of you
at once." His eyes opened and slowly focused on the sternly disapproving
frown of the elderly lady opposite.
"Three of who at once?" asked Mr. Pipps. He was desperate for any kind
of diversion as he had not been allowed to lean out of the window, play
marbles or practice on his penny whistle for the entire journey.
"Wrestling partners," said Archie quickly, "I was just dreaming about
practicing some throws."
"Really?" said Mr. Pipps with keen interest. "I've never seen you
wrestle. Mr. Hornblower, have you seen Mr. Kennedy wrestle? I've never
seen Mr. .."
"You had better get your belongings together," said Archie, "we're
getting out soon."
Mr. Pipps was busy for several minutes as he retrieved toy soldiers,
his collection of dead beetles and the dried toad that Styles had given
him two days ago.
The Three Legged Swan, which was the principal (and indeed
coaching inn at Wilting Magna, had seen better days (to be precise,
June 12th and 13th 1698). The young gentlemen sat in the gloomy dining
room and made short work of a couple of boiled fowls and a quantity of
battered sparrows on sticks. Apart from their elderly traveling
companion, they were the only customers. It would have been a relatively
quiet meal if the two serving maids had not fought each other for the
privilege of waiting upon the 'orficcers' and especially the
"Are they wrestling?" asked Mr. Pipps as Effie and Nellie did battle on
the floor. His voice was somewhat muffled as he was chewing on a
particularly crunchy sparrow.
"Ought we to try and separate them?" said Horatio shifting nervously in
his seat as the tangle of female limbs came near his foot.
"I don't believe that will be necessary," said Archie with a grin as
the elderly lady, who had not yet been served with so much as a bread
roll, began to advance upon the two wenches brandishing her umbrella.
While Archie paid for the meal Horatio went to find a conveyance for
the final leg of their journey. Mr. Pipps was busy finishing up his
mutton and gooseberry turnover, a dessert treat that neither of his
companions had cared to try.
While Effie and Nellie were renewing hostilities over the privilege of
bringing Archie his change a gentleman entered the dining room. He was
in his late middle years, tall, and had a head of dark curling hair
tinged with gray. His large brown eyes were set in a long, expressive
face. Archie got up and approached him eagerly, holding out his hand.
"Dr. Hornblower? I believe I would have known you anywhere sir."
"Whatever do you mean sir?" exclaimed the gentleman drawing back "You
are entirely mistaken! My name is Plunkett."
"Are you Mr. Hornblower's papa?" enquired Mr. Pipps, who had finished
his pastry and was going in search of the privy.
"It's a damned lie!" spluttered the gentleman. "I tell you my name is
Plunkett! I am a piano tuner, not a doctor!"
"But he looks just like Mr. Hornblower, doesn't he?" said Mr. Pipps
beginning to dance from foot to foot.
"Er, cut along there's a good fellow," said Archie waving Mr. Pipps out
of the room "and mind you don't leave your toad on the seat this time"
he added. There had been an unpleasant incident that morning at the Duck
and Boot in Twistleton and Archie was anxious to avoid any repetition.
"Well that lady was silly," opined Mr. Pipps as he left the room with
an injured air. "It's not like toads can hurt you, 'speshally if they
Archie apologized to Plunkett. He only used about one tenth of his
available charm but it was sufficient to leave the gentleman in a good
temper once more.
"Not at all sir, not at all. Now if you will excuse me I have to go and
meet my aunt." Plunkett hurried over to the elderly lady from the coach
and began to beg her pardon for being late. He was greeted with a sharp
tap from the umbrella and a horrible scowl. He was then required to
explain why he had left his poor defenseless relative waiting in a low
establishment frequented by shameless doxies and uniformed ruffians.
Archie made his escape and went to see how Horatio was getting along
with the travel arrangements. There was a small chaise waiting in the
yard and between the shafts stood, or rather leaned, an elderly gray
"Our dunnage is all stowed," said Horatio briskly, "as soon as
Mr. Pipps is out of the heads we can all climb aboard and shove off."
Archie cast a doubtful eye over the horse. "Is this the only animal
they could offer?" he asked.
"Well, yes," said Horatio looking a little uncomfortable, "is
there anything wrong with it Archie? I'm afraid I'm not really a
judge of horseflesh."
Archie paused for a moment. It was not often that he knew more about
anything than Horatio did. He wondered if it would be good form to
reveal the full extent of his expertise. Then he remembered that the
last time he had got confused about which way round oars went Horatio
had been very willing to spend two hours explaining things to him.
"The poor old fellow is a trifle knock kneed, spavined and short
winded," he said as kindly as he could "but I daresay he will be able to
manage a short journey."
"That's our Lightning that is," said an ostler strolling out of
the nearby stable. "He'll take you along as nice as you please sir,
no trouble at all."
"How old is he?" enquired Archie.
"Twelve year," said the ostler with a stare that bordered on the
Archie walked round to the horse's head and opened its mouth.
"Did I say twelve? Bless me I meant twenty-one. Got it backwards I
did," said the ostler losing some of his swagger.
"More like twenty eight," said Archie. Within a minute he had
reduced the hiring fee by two thirds and got an extra bucket of oats and
a spare horseshoe thrown in.
"We saw a man who looked just like you," said Mr. Pipps as he came
skipping across the yard with his shirt flapping. "We thought he was
your papa didn't we Mr. Kennedy?"
"Only at first," said Archie.
"Oh you must mean Mr. Plunkett," said Horatio. "People often remark
that we look alike."
"Yes, that's because he looks like your papa," nodded Mr. Pipps
"I know, it's quite a coincidence," agreed Horatio "and his cottage is
just down the lane from ours."
"My mama says that if.." Mr. Pipps' next observation was cut short as
Archie swung him up into the chaise and told him to make sure all his
belongings were present and correct.
"Yes, you're right Archie we had better get going. We don't want to
arrive in Muttering-in- the-Marsh after dark," said Horatio climbing
onto the driving seat. "Would you like to take the tiller? I'm really
not very good with these things." He waved a hand in the general
direction of the horse.
"Delighted," said Archie taking up the reins. There was no getting away
from it, the time had come for him to have a serious talk with Horatio.
If a man was going to be an admiral by the time he was thirty then he
should have at least have a basic grasp of human reproduction. The
baby-in-the-doctor's-bag theory that Horatio was currently happy with
just would not hold up the wardrooms and stern cabins of His Majesty's
navy. These brief weeks in the country were the perfect opportunity to
advance his friend's education.
Archie made encouraging noises and flicked the reins gently but the
horse did not move so much as an ear.
"Is he asleep?" said Mr. Pipps clambering up the back of the driving
seat. "I can wake him up." He blew a shrill blast on his penny whistle.
Horatio, Archie and Lightning all gave brief cries of pain and the
chaise began to move forward. As they made their way along the rut
filled road it soon became apparent that Lightning had only two paces.
One was a slow stagger and the other a slightly faster lumbering walk.
He had a tendency to drift into the hedgerows and it took all of
Archie's skill too keep the chaise from ending up in the ditch. These
were only minor inconveniences. It was the trait that started to
manifest itself when they had been traveling for about half an hour that
was the biggest drawback. It seemed that the animal's diet caused its
digestive system to resemble a gaseous volcano. The first eruption sent
Mr. Pipps into a helpless fit of laughter while it caused his elders to
clap their pocket handkerchiefs over their noses.
"It won't explode will it?" asked Horatio, his eyes watering.
"We might get there faster if it did," said Archie.
From: "Patricia Tunstall" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Mailing-List: list email@example.com; contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Delivered-To: mailing list email@example.com
Date: Mon, 04 Nov 2002 08:54:57 -0600
Subject: [hhfic] Fic: Mr. Pipps Visits the Doctor - Part 3
Title: Mr. Pipps Visits the Doctor ñ Part 3
Disclaimer: I don't own them, apart from Mr. Pipps and one or two
others. Not a penny being made, I can assure you.
Warning: Cruelty to a wig.
Doctor Horace Hornblower snored thunderously in his armchair,
brandy glass dangling from his pump twitching fingers. It was his habit
to take a nap before and after meals in his dust lined study. He also
liked to put his feet up in the middle of the morning and then have
another forty winks after his three o'clock pot of tea. This left him
very little time to devote to his patients. Most of them had learned
not to disturb him during his resting hours.
The door to his study opened and the sudden draught caused a cloud of
smoke to fall back down the chimney and engulf the room.
"Dammit woman!" said the doctor spluttering awake "what is it
now?" His housekeeper Mrs. Goggins came tottering in. She was a rotund
elderly woman whose hair had entirely succeeded in escaping from beneath
"He's here Doctor 'Ornblower, he's here!" she gabbled. Her
lack of teeth made her words somewhat indistinct.
"Not again!" said the doctor crossly. "Tell him to stick the
wretched thing in a bucket of hot tar and come back next week if it
hasn't dropped off by then."
"Ooh no sir, it's not Sam Potts come back with his leg. It's our
Master Horry come home for a visit!" said Mrs. Goggins beaming from
ear to ear.
"Horatio d'ye say?" said the doctor lurching to his feet. "I
wonder if he's brought me any decent brandy."
"It's a mercy I've just this minute taken a batch of scones from
the oven," gabbled Mrs. Goggins.
"Yes, very timely," said the doctor absently as he searched the
mantelpiece for his wig.
"That's right," Mrs. Goggins went on excitedly, "a few more
seconds and they would have been burnt to a cinder. Now you'll have to
excuse me sir while I go and find a pot of that damson jam I made a
month or two back. I already sent Master Horry some and I daresay
he'll be looking forward to more." She shuffled off in the direction
of the kitchen, shedding flour and hairpins as she went.
The doctor jammed his wig on and went to the front door where he found
a diminutive figure in a midshipman's uniform. It was obvious to him
that his housekeeper had taken leave of her senses and was now dwelling
in some nether world where Master Horry was still a five year old child,
albeit a blond one.
"The surgery's closed," said the doctor hastily. He was not fond
of very young patients. They kicked him on the shins far too often.
"I'm not ill, silly!" said the youngster in a penetrating tone,
"I'm going to stay here with Mr. Hornblower and Mr. Kennedy.
Shall I come in? My Mama says it's rude to keep people waiting on the
doorstep. Why have you got a cat on your head?"
Doctor Hornblower put a hand up to his wig and discovered that it had
whiskers and claws. He removed the elderly ginger tom from his head.
"What's his name?" asked the child. "Does he like mice?"
"Erasmus, and of course he likes mice," said the doctor
impatiently. "That's what I keep him for, to catch mice. Mrs.
The housekeeper came bustling out of the kitchen carrying a tray laden
with tea things. "I've got the kettle on," she babbled happily
"These scones are piping hot." Indeed they were. Tendrils of
smoke were still rising from them.
"Where's my wig?" demanded the doctor "and I thought I asked
you to keep the cat out of my study."
"Ooh I took Erasmus off your mantelpiece a couple hours ago sir! Your
wig was right next to him. He's been in the kitchen ever since with
his nose in a bowl of tripe. He's not moved a muscle. He must be
really enjoying it."
The doctor gave a strangled yell and vanished into the kitchen. By the
time he emerged, wearing a damp and greasy looking wig, Horatio, Archie
and Mr. Pipps were seated in the parlour. They each held a plate with an
overcooked scone on it. No one had yet taken a bite in spite of Mrs.
"These are burnt," said Mr. Pipps wrinkling his nose.
"Ooh they'll be lovely with a bit o' damson jam," said Mrs.
Goggins opening the pot. A ghastly odour filled the room turning the
flames in the fireplace a sickly blue.
"Why don't you go and fetch the luggage in?" said the doctor
opening a window hastily, "we can serve ourselves."
"Right you are sir!" The housekeeper treated them all to a wide
smile and tottered out.
"Quick! Let's put this lot on the fire," instructed the doctor
pointing to the pile of charred scones.
"But they're burnt already," said Mr. Pipps. Once it was
explained that the alternative was to eat them, he set to and threw them
into the flames individually and with great enjoyment. Meanwhile Horatio
and his father greeted each other with a brief embarrassed handshake and
a few muttered words.
"This is my friend Archie Kennedy," said Horatio. Archie smiled and
offered the short, portly doctor his hand.
"I do hope you don't mind us all turning up on your doorstep like
this Dr. Hornblower," he said with a brilliant smile.
"Well it's a bit late to worry about that," said the doctor
briskly. "You're here now. Did you bring any decent brandy with
"As a matter of fact I did," said Archie, giving no sign at all
that he had just been on the receiving end of a rude remark.
"Captain Pellew was going to send you a bottle," said Horatio
apologetically "but I'm afraid he changed his mind after, well, you
know, the damson jam."
"Good Lord!" said the doctor snatching up the pot that had been left
sitting on the tea tray, "that reminds me, we must get rid of this as
well. With any luck it's the last one." He tossed the jam out of the
open window. There was a soft thud and a startled neighing, followed by
a more explosive sound.
Mr. Pipps shrieked, "the horse is making that noise again!" and fell
into a fit of uncontrollable giggles.
"Don't tell me you hired that dreadful old nag from the 'Three Legged
Swan' Horatio!" said the doctor glaring at his son with watery blue
eyes. "There's not a worse piece of horseflesh in the county!"
"It was the best I could do I'm afraid," said Horatio looking
"He might not fetch much of a price at Barnet Horse Fair," said Archie
coming to his friend's rescue "but he certainly had the legs to get us
here. Why don't I see if I can find that bottle of brandy?"
A loud crash and a muffled shriek from the hall sent them all rushing
to investigate. They found Mrs. Goggins lying on her back trapped
underneath a large sea chest just inside the front door.
"Oh dear," said Archie "quick, we must get it off her!" With
Horatio's help he lifted the chest up. "Is anything broken Dr.
Hornblower?" he asked anxiously.
"Dashed if I know," said the doctor scratching his head under his
wig "can you hear anything rattling around?"
"Rattling?" said Archie lowering his end of the chest at the foot
of the stairs.
"Yes" said the doctor, "inside the chest. No bottles broken I
hope," he added in a concerned tone.
"I was talking about Mrs. Goggins!" exclaimed Archie.
"Shouldn't you examine her?"
"Good Lord no!" shuddered Dr. Hornblower going a little pale.
"Anyway, she's nearly on her feet now. Perfectly all right I'd
"Bless you Sir I'll be right as rain," gasped Mrs. Goggins as she
heaved herself upright with the aid of the doorpost and Mr. Pipps.
"Ooh Mr. Carnaby whatever have you got in there! It's as heavy as
my poor Ned was just before the dropsy carried him off."
"Um, well just my shirts and hair ribbons in this one actually,"
admitted Archie contritely.
"Mr. Kennedy has won the Cornwallis prize for best kept uniform three
years running" said Horatio smiling proudly at his friend.
"Has he indeed" snorted the doctor, who did not seem impressed.
"My Ned fitted lovely into his clothes too" babbled Mrs. Goggins.
"Mind you that was before he got the dropsy."
"Yes, yes," said the doctor impatiently, "now come along Mrs.
Goggins we need all the luggage brought in, the horse put away for the
night and the beds made up. Oh, and mind you don't forget to go on the
roof tomorrow morning and get that dead pigeon out of the kitchen
"Right you are sir," said the housekeeper cheerfully as she set off
down the garden path, "isn't it lovely to have Master Horry home
"I think we should give her some help to bring all our dunnage aboard
father," said Horatio, raising his voice above another peal of giggles
from Mr. Pipps. It seemed that the phrase "Master Horry" was only
slightly less amusing than the sounds produced by a flatulent horse.
"I suppose you're right son," said the doctor thoughtfully
"otherwise it will be midnight before we find that brandy of yours,
"Oh please call me Archie sir. I'll just go and fetch my stocking
and handkerchief case from the chaise. I'm almost sure it's in
The doctor's eyebrows rose and when Archie and Mr. Pipps had followed
Mrs. Goggins out into the gathering gloom he drew Horatio aside.
"This friend of yours. He's not one of those is he?"
"What makes you ask?" said Horatio
"A separate chest for his shirts and ribbons? Another case for his
stockings, I mean it's hardly usual is it?" said the doctor with
"I think you're right," said Horatio lowering his voice
"Captain Pellew tried to tell me about him a few weeks ago."
"What!" exclaimed Dr. Hornblower, his wig slipping sideways with
"Yes," said Horatio earnestly "but don't treat him any
differently will you? I don't think he wants people to know."
"I'm not surprised!"
"I really wish I'd been able to hear everything Captain Pellew said
about him," mused Horatio. "But some of the men were making a bit of
a racket with their tools in the next cabin. Are you quite well father?
You look a bit pale. Here, sit down on Archie's chest for a moment.
All I really heard was something about the king and a blanket and then
another bit about 'special interest' and 'promotion'. But I
think it must mean that he's secretly an aristocrat, don't you?"
The doctor, who was suddenly looking a great deal better, nodded his
head vigorously and dislodged his wig altogether.
"Run along my boy, run along," he said shoving Horatio out of the
door "we can't have the dear boy hauling boxes about. Tell him to
come back in and put his feet up! And you must give him your room. You
can sleep in the linen cupboard."
"Very well, father," said Horatio smiling. It was good to be home.
Three days later-
Mr. Pipps woke to the sound of an asthmatic cockerel crowing
his window. Somewhere nearby, possibly in the field next door, a cow
coughed mournfully. He yawned and stretched and as he did so his head
and feet made contact with the bed ends. He wasn't in just any bed. It
was Mr. Hornblower's very own first bed and Mr. Pipps liked it so much
that he wanted to take it back to the Indefatigable with him. He liked
his room as well. It was very small and was situated over the front
porch. It was more like a medium sized cupboard than a room. Mr. Pipps
wondered if his mama would allow him to sleep in one of the cupboards at
Saxamunny Towers next time he was home.
Mr. Hornblower was lucky because he was sleeping in a real cupboard. It
was at the top of the stairs and it had big shelves. Mr. Kennedy had to
sleep in a proper room with just an ordinary bed. Mr. Pipps knew he was
disappointed because he heard Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Hornblower arguing
each night about who was going to sleep in the cupboard. Mr. Hornblower
always won. Dr. Hornblower slept in an ordinary room too. Grown ups
always did unless they were on ships. He was not sure where Mrs. Goggins
slept. Perhaps she was too busy to go to bed. Mr. Pipps sat up and
peeked in his pajama pocket. Jeremy was awake.
"Shall we go down and see if there is anything to eat?" he asked.
Jeremy was agreeable and so Mr. Pipps put on his red rowing boat
slippers and went downstairs.
The kitchen at Sheepsbladder Cottage was alive with smells in the
morning. Burnt oatmeal and decomposing vegetable peelings vied with
fresh mint and the cat's dish of tripe. Mr. Pipps sat at the table
looking glumly at the bowl in front of him while Mrs. Goggins did battle
with a loaf of bread. Her method of slicing it entailed crushing the
loaf to her ample bosom and then cutting towards herself with the bread
knife. The resulting slices were not very even and sometimes contained
one of the pins that she stored in the top band of her apron.
"Now eat up Mr. Pitt. That lovely porridge will fill you up better
than anything they give you on that nasty great ship."
"My name's Pipps, not Pitt, Mrs. Goggins" he protested for the
tenth time. He was keeping a wary eye on Erasmus, who was sitting on the
next chair and staring hard at the pocket where Jeremy was eating his
"That's right my lamb," said Mrs. Goggins spearing a piece of
bread on a toasting fork and thrusting it in the fire. "Now then dear,
shall you be going out to play this morning?"
"Yes. I'm going to play in the field with Lightning. The bread's
"I don't know why you spend hours making that horse run about.
Still, it gets you out in the fresh air."
"He makes funny noises Mrs. Goggins. The bread's still on fire."
"Here's your toast dear. I know you like it well done."
Archie yawned and began to take his curling rags out. He had no time to
lie in bed today. He had two important things to do. The first was to
drive to Wilting Magna and purchase a hamper of edible food for himself
and Mr. Pipps. Dr. Hornblower and his son both seemed immune to Mrs.
Goggins' horrible cooking and indeed her dreadful meals did much to
explain why Horatio had such an appetite for ship's biscuit and salt
beef. His second task would be to tackle the next step in Horatio's
education in matters biological. He planned to take Horatio with him to
Wilting Magna and then explain certain things to him on the way back.
Meanwhile Mrs. Goggins was to prepare a hot mustard bath in the
washhouse into which Horatio could be plunged if he was in need of
restoration. If past experience was anything to go by it was not
unlikely that Horatio would be immersed for a couple of hours. The only
drawback that Archie could see in his scheme was that Mr. Pipps would
have stay behind at the cottage for the better part of the day. As he
put on an immaculate new uniform Archie comforted himself with the
thought that, whatever mischief Mr. Pipps got into, the news of it was
not likely to spread beyond the confines of this godforsaken village.
Jules Contretemps sat in the darkest corner of the taproom
of the Giddy
Goat and awaited his breakfast with a smile on his face. It was not the
prospect of the ghastly English food that cheered his soul. He had eaten
before at the only tavern in Muttering-in-the-Marsh and knew what
horrors lay ahead. His good spirits were a result of the fact that he
was about to pull off the biggest coup of his spying career. So far it
had been entirely lacking in success but soon, Jules Contretemps, the
tenth son of an escargot farmer, would astound the French spying
fraternity. Before the week was over he would be able to leave this
horrid damp corner of England forever. He would sail home in triumph to
Paris and be inducted, perhaps by the Emperor himself, into the Order of
the Golden Frog's Leg.
"Merci" he murmured as the landlord dropped a plateful of
distressed foodstuffs in front of him. "I mean, mercy that looks
good," he added hastily.
"I thought you said a French word just then," said the landlord
Jules shook his head and immediately attacked his breakfast with such
gusto that the man was re-assured and moved away. As he ate he silently
went over the details of his mission in his head.
He had been sent to the area because his superior, the Compte de
Bricabrac, had received word that a very important meeting was due to
take place in the district, although its exact location was as yet
unknown. During this meeting Mr. Pitt, the youthful prime minister of
England would be discussing the conduct of the war with some other
high-ranking persons. Jules was sure that he had already discovered the
house where history would be made. His reasons for being so confident
1) A Mrs. Goggins, housekeeper to one Doctor Hornblower, had been
heard to speak of a "Mr. Pitt" who was a guest of her employer.
2) The same Mrs. Goggins had been observed buying a large quantity
of mustard powder.
3) It was well known that English invalids bathed in mustard.
4) Mr. Pitt was known to have delicate health.
5) Naval officers had been seen in the district recently and any
discussion of the war must include ships.
6) Dr. Hornblower had recently boasted to the vicar that a very
well connected person was staying under his roof.
Jules chuckled to himself and ordered another pot of vile coffee.
landlord slammed it down on the table.
"Are you sure you're not French?" he demanded "cos my missus
says you don't half look it."
"Most assuredly I am not monsieur. I am in fact Albanian,"
"That's all right then, but if you was French me and the lads would
have to take you out the back and stir yer insides around with a
"Then I am certainment relieved to be instead a citizen of the
wonderful country of Albania," said Jules. "Kindly be bringing me
He paid for his breakfast and left the tavern in a hurry. As he came
out onto the village street he saw a chaise go by. It was pulled by a
dilapidated gray horse and contained two naval officers.
"Oui oh oui!" he exclaimed happily, "C'est un fait accompli!"
A threatening growl alerted him to the fact that his recent host had
followed him out of the Giddy Goat and was standing close behind him.
"That is an Albanian curse," said Jules quickly. "In my country
we utter it each time we see a gray horse. They are extremely
unlucky." At that moment a strange explosive sound came from the
direction of the receding chaise. The landlord narrowed his eyes, pursed
his lips, furrowed his brow and shrugged his shoulders. Jules took the
opportunity to escape down the street. That afternoon he would go to
Sheepsbladder Cottage and see if he could get a glimpse of Mr. Pitt.
Tomorrow morning the Compte would arrive with reinforcements and
Jules' brilliance would be recognized. Nothing would prevent his
Mr. Pipps sighed. He wished that Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Hornblower
hurry up and come back from Wilting Magna. They had promised to bring
him a mutton and gooseberry turnover as well as some other treats. So
far the day at Sheepsbladder Cottage had been quite dull. For most of
the morning Mrs. Goggins was too busy digging a new cesspit to talk to
him. Doctor Hornblower was snoring in his study when he wasn't
telling his patients to go away and leave him alone. He did get up and
come into the parlor once. That was when Mr. Pipps had being playing for
a while on the piano he had found under an old sheet in the corner of
the room. Apparently the doctor was not much entertained by the
midshipman's fortissimo version of 'Hearts of Oak'. It was not
much fun chasing the cow around the field. She was not as friendly as
Lightning and hardly made any noises at all. It had been quite amusing
to put his dried toad on the her head to see how long it stayed there,
but after it had fallen off and landed in a cowpat once or twice the
novelty had dimmed. He would have liked to play with what was left of
his dead beetle collection on the big kitchen table but he did not dare.
Yesterday when he had been happily arranging them according to size Mrs.
Goggins had gathered up a handful and stirred them into the fruitcake
she was mixing. When he had tried to point out that the raisins were at
the other end of the table she would have none of it.
"Now then Mr. Pitt, I'm too busy to listen to your funny stories!
Why don't you go outside and play dear."
When the cake had been served up at tea-time he had been interested to
see that Mr. Hornblower and his papa had both eaten it as if they liked
it. Mr. Kennedy had spat his out and then thrown the rest of his slice
on the fire when he thought no one was looking.
Mr. Pipps was just beginning to wonder if he ought to climb on the
cottage roof and then see how far his toad would fly when heard the
chaise, or rather Lightning, coming up the lane. He skipped joyfully to
the gate, eager to see what Mr. Kennedy had brought in the hamper.
"Be good fellow and go fetch Mrs. Goggins would you?" Archie called
out cheerily. "I shall need her help to carry Mr. Hornblower into the
"Is he seasick again? asked Mr. Pipps. This was not a foolish
question as Horatio had spent some of coach journey hanging out of the
window with his face a delicate shade of green. At present he was
sitting very still and staring into the distance.
"Oh no he's just, um, coming down with a cold" said Archie.
"Now mind you only bring Mrs. Goggins. We don't need to disturb Dr.
Hornblower with this."
Mr. Pipps skipped obediently away on the promise of a bag of pies from
"I can't do that!" shrieked Horatio suddenly, his brown eyes wide
with dismay and his glossy curls trembling about his ears.
"Calm down, you'll be much better in no time," said Archie
patting his hand kindly. "We'll soon have you in a nice hot bath and
then we'll talk about it some more."
Mrs. Goggins soon came out of the cottage brushing mortar dust from her
hands and apron. She had been repointing the kitchen chimney when Mr.
Pipps had found her.
"I've got the hot water all ready sir," she said as Archie
lowered Horatio from the chaise. "I've had things to boil for
dinner and the Doctor's drawers to simmer as well. I've been heaving
buckets about since dawn. It's a real treat to have the house full
again!" Meanwhile Mr. Pipps had climbed into the chaise and was
attempting to push the hamper out through the door.
"Ooh be careful there Mr. Pitt!" squealed Mrs. Goggins as she was
steadying Horatio on his feet. Archie opened the hamper quickly and
handed Mr. Pipps a small brown paper bag.
"We'll get the rest later," he said "look lively and open the
wash house door."
On the far side of the lane, concealed behind the hedge, Jules
beside himself with excitement. Here was incontrovertible proof from his
own ears and eyes. Mr. Pitt the younger, the prime minister of England
was indeed staying at Sheepsbladder Cottage disguised as a naval
officer. It was obvious that this deception was being used so that he
could go about the countryside without being recognized. He watched as
the ailing politico was helped around the corner of the ramshackle
house. Clearly this Doctor Hornblower must be a famous, if somewhat
eccentric, physician who chose to bury himself in this unlovely village.
Jules decided to wait a little while and then creep closer to the
cottage and its outbuildings in the hope of catching a glimpse of the
treatment that was being offered. He was sure the Emperor would be
"You don't need to stay help me undress him Mrs. Goggins," said
Archie propping Horatio against the wall "I can manage by myself."
"Ooh bless you sir, it's no trouble," replied Mrs. Goggins as she
poured a bucket of mustard powder into the piping hot bath and stirred
it with a shovel.
"No thank you. That's very kind but I think he might be a little
embarrassed about it later on," Archie explained.
"Just as you like sir," chuckled the housekeeper "but I've seen
all Master Horry's bits and pieces many a time when he was a lad."
"That will be all Mrs. Goggins," said Archie firmly. "If I need
you again I'll send Mr. Pipps."
"I'll be in the kitchen then sir. I've the turnips to stuff for
Within a few minutes Horatio was safely installed in the bath.
"Is he going to turn yellow?" said Mr. Pipps curiously. "My papa
turned yellow when my mama made him have a mustard bath. He got a cold
the next day and mama made him sleep in the blue bedroom for a week."
"Oh what bad luck for him," said Archie sympathetically as he
filled a jug with water and poured it over Horatio's head. He took out
his pocket watch and handed it to Mr. Pipps. "I need you to take this
outside and look after it for me," he said. "All the steam in here
can't be good for it. Bring it back in three quarters of an hour."
"Oh!" breathed Mr. Pipps reverently. He skipped solemnly out of the
wash house holding the watch very carefully in two hands.
"Are you feeling any better?" Archie enquired kindly as he poured
another batch of mustard powder in the bath.
"A little," said Horatio tremulously as he shifted uneasily in the
water. "Archie, this woman thing, is there any way we can, I mean is
it possible to .."
"Mmm?" said Archie encouragingly.
"Well what I mean is, for example when we're not actually thrashing
the Frogs at sea we run the guns out and fire them at rafts and barrels
and things, for practice."
"I know, I hate that," said Archie earnestly. "They're so loud
and all that smoke makes my hair go straight."
"And then we drill the men in hauling the sails up and down when its
calm so that when a storm comes they know exactly what to do," Horatio
went on. He was blushing a deep pink and his face clashed alarmingly
with the bright yellow water.
"It's amazing how they know what all the ropes are for isn't
it?" mused Archie.
"You haven't been listening," said Horatio looking quite hurt. He
frowned as he moved in order to sit at the other end of the bath.
"Oh I do beg your pardon!" said Archie contritely. "Yes, of
course, a bit of practical experience is certainly called for. Nothing
could be easier. We'll take a walk towards the village tomorrow."
"How will that help?" said Horatio grimacing with discomfort.
"It will help because we are bound to meet a willing wench or two
before we have gone very far down the lane," said Archie patiently.
"Are you sure?" said Horatio doubtfully. By now he was on his knees
in the bath fishing around under the water with his hands. "Do la..,
um wom.., they just appear like that when you're out walking?"
"Oh yes, all the time," said Archie happily. "I've never known
it to fail and it doesn't matter if I'm in town or out in the
country, they just appear. I've never really understood why," he
"Well I'm sure you know best," said Horatio. "Aha!" he added,
bringing a brace of dripping turnips out of the water. "I knew I was
sitting on something."
Mr. Pipps was making his way down the garden path in a highly
manner with his eyes fixed on the second hand of Archie's watch. He
was finding out how many times he could hop on his right leg in one
minute. His earlier researches had shown that Dr. Hornblower snored
eleven times during a sixty second period and that Lightning made
anywhere between four noises and none during the same amount of time.
Erasmus the ginger cat was following closely behind the midshipman and
was clearly optimistic about the chances of Jeremy being shaken out of
his young protector's pocket.
A loud rumbling noise made Mr. Pipps look up and he came to a sudden
and complete halt. A large box wagon had stopped in the lane. It was
painted bright red and covered in posters making extravagant claims
about the fierce creatures it contained. Mr. Pipps ran joyfully down the
path and out of the gate. Erasmus lost interest in the chase and instead
made a sudden pounce under the gooseberry bushes, fastening his claws
into the rear end of a much larger prey.
"Is it true?" Mr. Pipps asked the driver. He was a rakish looking
fellow with a red bandana on his head and tambourines dangling from his
"What's that then squire?" said the driver with a good natured
"Have you got alionandatigerandacamelandalesserspottedllama?" said
Mr. Pipps bouncing up and down with excitement.
"Not today, but I've got something better,"
"Really?" squealed Mr. Pipps attempting to look inside the
shuttered wagon through a knot hole.
"Oh yes," nodded the driver "you're looking at Albert the
Amazing Articulate Ape."
"No I'm not," asserted Mr. Pipps "I can't see him at all!"
"Well he's having a bit of a rest just now but I expect he'll be
pretty lively tomorrow morning," said the driver. "Do you think it
would be all right if I put my wagon in the next field for the
"Yes," replied Mr. Pipps, with great conviction.
"Tell you what squire, you run inside and ask the gentleman what owns
it and I'll just wait here."
Mr. Pipps hurried up the path and into the cottage. He was in such a
hurry that he did not notice the gooseberry bush waving violently about
nor did he hear the sound of a grown man whimpering. He looked around
the study door and saw that Doctor Hornblower was still slumped sideways
in his armchair with his wig sliding down his nose. He closed the door
quietly and studied the watch. It had only been half an hour since Mr.
Kennedy had asked him to go away and not come back for forty-five
minutes. He trotted into the kitchen and found Mrs. Goggins slicing
"There's a man outside with a talking ape and he wants to stay in
the field tonight," announced Mr. Pipps. "He can can't he?"
"Just as you like Mr. Pitt," said Mrs. Goggins in absent fashion.
"Now run along deary, I've got put these pears in a tart for
Later, when the wagon had gone from the lane and all the occupants
Sheepsbladder Cottage had gone indoors for the evening, Jules crept out
from under the gooseberry bush. He clutched his badly clawed rear end
with pride. These were honorable wounds after all, obtained in the
pursuit of the greater glory of France. Tomorrow he would astound the
Compte de Bricabrac with a wealth of information. Not only had he
discovered the location of the secret talks and personally identified
Pitt the younger but he could also confidently suggest that other
high-ranking persons would soon arrive. Why else would they have hired
the services of a traveling menagerie if not to provide entertainment
for those involved in the meetings? He limped happily away into the
Dinner was a strained affair that night at Sheepsbladder Cottage.
Doctor Hornblower was in an ill humor because he was due to give Squire
Brackett his weekly enema the next morning.
"This doctoring is a God awful business," he complained as they all
attempted to chew their way through an exceptionally stringy chicken and
a tough duck. "You have to pass the time of day with people you would
normally walk a mile to avoid and on top of that you have to inspect
"These stuffed turnips are rather good aren't they?" Horatio
interrupted, as he reached to take another from the dish. Three
disbelieving pairs of eyes stared at him, four if you counted Jeremy.
"What are you going to do with yourself tomorrow youngster?" said
Archie, who was always ready to help turn the conversation to pleasanter
"I've already told you five times," said Mr. Pipps shaking his
head in despair. "I'm going to see that talking ape. The man said I
could." The last sentence was uttered in a very firm tone. He really
could not understand why no one else wanted to come along. How could
visiting Squire Bracket or taking a walk into the village possibly
compare with meeting a real ape that could actually talk? His mama would
certainly have gone with him. Since she was going to miss this wonderful
treat he would have to write and tell her all about it.
"There's to be no tomfoolery," said Horatio rather sternly.
"You mustn't put your hands inside the cage or poke the creature
Mr. Pipps eyes grew wide and a hurt expression crossed his face. It was
as though the notion of borrowing one of Mrs. Goggins' brooms and
shoving it between the bars had never occurred to him at all.
As ghastly as the early courses of the dinner had been they were quite
put in the shade by the later ones. Even Horatio was forced to admit
that a pear tart made with potatoes did not even come close to being
"Not to worry," said the Doctor, who always grew more cheerful when
the after dinner brandy was in the offing "the old dear has one more
course up her sleeve. Something in the naval tradition I believe," he
laughed jabbing Archie in the ribs.
"I'm sure it will be quite extraordinary," replied Archie giving
silent thanks for the food hamper in his room. The door burst open and
the housekeeper staggered in carrying a vast covered dish which she
dropped in the middle of the table with a resounding crash.
"Here we are sirs!" she said "I've made you a lovely plum duff.
It's full to bursting with carrots!"
"Aaarrgghhh!" shrieked Archie going several shades of pale and
slumping forward in his chair.
"What in blazes is the matter with the fellow?" demanded the
"Perhaps he didn't like the smell," suggested Mr. Pipps who had
lifted the cover a little way and was wrinkling his nose at the escaping
"Actually father he has a violent aversion to boiled puddings,"
Horatio explained as he loosened Archie's neck cloth. "I'm afraid
someone was very unkind to him in the past and tormented him with plum
duff." He did not speak of Simpson, their vile former shipmate with
the appallingly groomed hair. He did not tell how the fiend had filled
Archie's breeches with hot pudding just before he was due to go on
watch. Nor did he reveal the hundreds of other unkind acts involving
grog filled shoes and stolen hair ribbons. In the first place these were
not his secrets to tell and in the second, it would have made Archie
look like a complete sissy.
"He's not coming round," said Horatio anxiously as he slapped
Archie on the cheek. "Can you help him father?"
"But I'm just about to have second pudding," protested the
doctor. "Oh very well, bring him over to the fire."
"That's a good idea," said Horatio as he dragged his friend
across the room. "His hands are quite cold. Shall I chafe them and
wrap him in a blanket?"
"No, that takes far too long," said Dr. Hornblower bring the coals
to life with the poker. "Just stick his feet in the grate."
"But they'll get burned!" protested Horatio.
"Not if he wakes up in time," reasoned the doctor. "It's the
best method I know for curing a fit of the vapors. I used it on Lady
Strumpington-Smythe when she'd been unconscious for two days after
finding out that her husband had run off with the coachman. It woke her
up a treat." He smiled at the thought until he remembered that the
wretched woman had never paid him.
"I'd rather try something else," said Horatio depositing Archie
in an armchair and fanning him with the coal shovel.
"Oh very well," his father grumbled. "Mrs. Goggins! Bring me the
Luckily for Archie these implements were buried deep in a kitchen
drawer and he had returned to his senses unaided a good five minutes
before they reached the doctor's hands. He declared himself well
enough to return to the table, apart from a slight headache, but begged
to be excused from tasting Mrs. Goggins special treat.
"Shall I take the lid off now?" asked Mr. Pipps, who was in the act
of doing so. A large round object bound in a cloth lay steaming in the
middle of the dish.
"Get the damn thing unwrapped woman!" said the doctor
Mrs. Goggins untied the ends of the cloth and tipped the contents back
on the dish.
"What ever possessed you to use two cloths?" her employer demanded
as the still wrapped pudding sat in a soggy heap.
"Those are drawers!" giggled Mr. Pipps. Undergarments often amused
him. He always laughed when Captain Pellew's best quality double
gusseted linen ones were hung to dry from the yard arms on Thursdays.
"Ooh it can't be," said Mrs. Goggins looking flustered, "I've
had a bundle of the doctors drawers boiling in the copper all afternoon.
They're not done yet. I had a look at them when I took the pudding
During the next few minutes some harsh words were spoken and tears were
shed as Dr. Hornblower threatened to turn his housekeeper out without a
character for treating his undergarments in such a careless fashion. It
was Horatio who took charge of the situation and restored a semblance of
peace. Things calmed down considerably when all the adults, including
Mrs. Goggins, sat down for a glass of brandy.
"This will settle your nerves," said Horatio kindly, "and would
you like to borrow my handkerchief?"
"Oh thank you," said Archie "mine is quite wet. I'm sorry to be
such a watering pot but it was the pudding and the shouting. It reminded
me of, of, well, pudding and shouting and things."
"Yes, well that's all over with," said Horatio soothingly "and
now that we know there were in fact two coppers in use in the wash house
I expect some of us are still looking forward to a slice of Mrs. Goggins
special treat. What do you say father?"
"Get those damn drawers off the table woman!"
"Good. That's settled then." Horatio smiled around the table
knowing he would treasure the memories of this night and would use them
to comfort himself if he was ever accidentally locked in the bilges.
Mr. Pipps was up bright and early the next morning. Having
himself with one of the pies from Mr. Kennedy's hamper he was in a
position to give his breakfast away to Erasmus. The porridge was
graciously accepted but the burned toast was dragged away and buried in
the flour bin. Squire Brackett's carriage came to the door just before
eight and Dr. Hornblower climbed in it and was taken away grumbling and
complaining. Shortly afterwards Mr. Hornblower and Mr. Kennedy left to
begin their walk, even though Mr. Hornblower didn't seem at all keen
and needed to be pushed gently along.
"I'm going to see Albert now," announced Mr. Pipps once he had
collected his penny whistle and dried toad from his room.
"You've made a new friend Mr. Pitt. That's nice," said Mrs.
Goggins as she wiped the kitchen table down with an indignant Erasmus.
"Don't be late for tea."
Mr. Pipps skipped happily across the garden and into the field as
Jeremy hung on tightly in his bouncing pocket.
"Good day to you squire," said the wagon driver who was wearing a
bright yellow bandana round his head and using small guitars for
"I've come to see Albert," said Mr. Pipps in a forward way that
his mama would not have approved of at all.
With a grin the driver went to the back of the wagon and opened a pair
of hinged shutters.
Mr. Pipps clambered up the wooden steps and peered inside. In the
center of the wagon floor there sat a man sized hairy creature with an
amiable face and staring glassy eyes.
"Oh!" said Mr. Pipps, much impressed. He studied the ape for a
minute or two and then remarked, "I haven't seen him blink yet. When
does he blink?"
"Never," said the driver shaking his head. "It's because he
talks. Apes can only do one or the other, not both."
"When is he going to talk?" asked Mr. Pipps curling his hands
around the bars that stood between him and the most interesting thing he
had ever seen.
"He can be a bit shy to start with," replied the driver "but when
he gets used to you he'll chat away all day. Now I was wondering if
you could stay with him for a bit while I just walk my horse into the
village and get him shod."
"Oh yes! I can do that!" said Mr. Pipps jumping up and down with
delight. "I've looked after animals before. Captain Pellew put me in
charge of all the animals on the ship once. I saved a pig with a sword.
He's called Thomas and he lives with my mama now."
The driver seemed very pleased to hear of Mr. Pipps previous experience
and left soon afterwards.
"Don't let anyone throw things at him or offer him strong drink,"
he said as he led his horse away.
"I won't," promised Mr. Pipps.
"I don't see anyone yet," said Horatio looking about
nervously. He was beginning to think that it would be better if no young
persons of the opposite gender 'popped out of the hedgerow'. He was
not certain that he wanted to do any of the things that Archie had
explained to him. It seemed an altogether too complicated way of dealing
with the swelling problem. He was pretty sure that a freezing cold jet
of seawater from a deck wash pump would be just as good.
"And here they are," murmured Archie as two buxom young things came
sauntering out of the field to their left. "Good day ladies," he
said sweeping his hat off, bowing and giving them the benefit of one of
his brilliant smiles.
"Ooh!" they fluttered, as their milking pails fell to the ground
"How charming you look this morning," continued Archie as he took
the hand of the young woman nearest him and pressed it to his lips.
"Say something Horatio," he added in a whisper.
"Er, I'm d-delighted to m-make your acquaintance," stammered
Horatio as he twisted his hat in his hands.
"Take it off!" hissed Archie.
"Your hat! Take it off Horatio," said Archie signaling with his
eyebrow, "and make a casual remark. You're doing splendidly."
"Ah, yes, good. Shall we have rain do you think?" said Horatio
taking his hat from his head and accidentally tearing it in two behind
"Not if we goes inside the barn we shan't," giggled the shorter
of the two girls.
"Then I think we must do that, don't you Horatio?" laughed Archie
as he allowed the girls to link arms with him and lead him through the
"Do 'e always make noises like that?" asked the taller young lady
as she nibbled Archie's ear lobe. She was eyeing Horatio curiously as
he followed them across the field whimpering under his breath.
"Well I'm hoping you can cure him of it," said Archie as he
allowed his hand to glide over her well-rounded rear end. "If you take
It was shortly after ten o'clock that morning when Jules, the
de Bricabrac and a couple of henchmen came strolling along the lane
towards Sheepsbladder Cottage. They were disguised as stylishly dressed
Albanian goatherds. Unfortunately they had not been able to obtain any
goats to lend authenticity to their appearance. They had instead engaged
the services of an arthritic sheep and a three-legged dog but these had
proved impossible to control and had been abandoned in the vicar's
vegetable garden. As they came within sight of the Hornblower residence
the Compte called the group to a halt.
"We shall review my plan one last time," he said. "You,
Jules was already entirely fed up with his superior. The man was
obsessed with his own glory and had a personal ambition to be admitted
to the famous order of the Golden Croissant, preferably by the Emperor
himself. It was quite evident to Jules that any success in this mission
would serve only to boost Bricabrac's name. He sighed as he outlined
"I am to find out which room Mr. Pitt can be found in. Then, if he is
alone, Leboeuf and I will enter the house, throw a blanket over him and
carry him outside."
"Bon!" said the Compte nodding with approval. "Meanwhile Valjean
and myself will capture the horse in the adjoining field and have the
animal waiting in the lane ready to carry Mr. Pitt away. What then?"
" We take him to the nearest barn and compel him to tell us all he
knows about the English plans of war" said Jules in a less than
"You have some quarrel with my plan?" said Bricabrac looking
fiercely at Jules with his hands on his hips.
"Do you still intend to let Mr. Pitt go after we have interrogated
him?" said Jules regarding the Compte's skinny goatskin clad legs
with barely concealed scorn.
"Yes!" said Bricabrac defiantly. "It should be quite obvious even
to you that we cannot hope to escape from this country if the English
prime minister is with us. He is too well known. We shall lock him in
the barn and will be long gone by the time he gets out. He is an invalid
"But is it not likely that he will then change all the English plans
of war, which we will have taken such trouble to obtain?" said Jules
in a heated manner.
"Of course!" shouted Bricabrac going quite pale with rage. He was
silent for the next few seconds and then added "that is the sheer
brilliance of my plan. The English will be forced to make new plans all
over again. It will be exceedingly inconvenient for them. Follow me!"
He spun on his heel and stalked off towards the cottage. Jules threw up
his hands in despair and trudged after him.
"I say, is there any chance you could find me a decent
"Oh!" gasped Mr. Pipps as he gazed wide eyed at Albert, "you
really do talk!"
"Certainly I do," said Albert in an agreeable tone, "and it makes
me quite dry you know. A cup of tea would be just the thing and it would
warm me up too. It gets a little chilly in here at night"
"Well I 'spect I could bring one,' said Mr. Pipps thoughtfully
"but tea cups break a lot." He spoke from a wide experience of
such instances. It seemed to him that you only had to throw something
near a tea cup to see the whole thing shatter and soak one's aunt or
even worse, one's mama.
"Perhaps I could come indoors with you, what!" suggested the ape
cheerfully, "then the cup wouldn't have to be carried very far at
"But how will you get out?" enquired Mr. Pipps. "There's a big
lock on the door."
"Oh I'll use the key," said Albert shuffling into the far corner
of the cage and emerging with a large key between his paws. "Can you
manage the lock? I'm a little clumsy I'm afraid."
"You won't eat anyone will you?" asked Mr. Pipps hesitating.
"Absolutely not," said Albert solemnly.
"Have you ever eaten a mouse?"
"Never. I think they are jolly little creatures."
Having shed his lingering doubts Mr. Pipps made short work of opening
the cage door and watched spellbound as Albert turned round and climbed
backwards down the wooden steps. As they made their way slowly across
the field Albert explained that his bad feet prevented him from dashing
about and swinging from trees at present. He said how d'ye do to
Jeremy and gave Lightning a friendly wave.
When they got to the cottage Mr. Pipps led Albert straight into the
parlour. The ape climbed onto the sofa and tucked his paws under his
"I suppose it's too early to light a fire?" he asked looking
hopefully at the grate. Mr. Pipps trotted away to find out. Mrs. Goggins
was having a quiet five minutes re-laying some of the flagstones in the
"Ooh you're back soon Mr. Pitt," she said tamping down a slab of
limestone with her sledgehammer. "Would you like a cold slice of plum
"No thank you," said Mr. Pipps politely "but my friend Albert
wants a cup of tea and can you please light a fire in the parlour?
He's feeling chilly"
"It'll take me a few minutes to fetch a barrow load of coal from
the bottom of the garden and then there's the kindling to chop,"
said Mrs. Goggins as she bustled about filling the kettle and hacking at
yesterday's pudding with a chisel.
Mr. Pipps ran upstairs to his little cupboard over the porch and pulled
a blanket from his bed. On the way back down he made a short detour into
Dr. Hornblower's bedroom and borrowed a shawl and a nightcap. Albert
received all these items gratefully and was soon well bundled up.
"Doesn't all your hair keep you warm?" asked Mr. Pipps as he
pulled the nightcap down over his new friend's ears.
"Not warm enough," said Albert "It used to work jolly well in my
home land but of course it was much hotter there. Do you think the tea
will be coming any time soon?" he added hopefully. Mr. Pipps trotted
to the kitchen again to find out. Albert sighed and sank lower into the
sofa and pulled the shawl closer about his neck. In a very short time he
was snoring gently. Being asleep he completely failed to notice the two
men who were climbing in through the parlour window and advancing on him
armed with an Albanian goatskin rug.
"She's bringing it in a minute," announced Mr. Pipps
skipped back into the room. He came to a sudden halt as his eyes took in
the complete absence of Albert, the overturned sofa and the open window.
His hand flew to his mouth. Then he heard the distinctive sound of
Lightning outside in the lane. He dashed to the front door in time to
see a group of gesticulating strangely clad men leading the horse away.
There was a rug- covered figure draped across the animal's back. Mr.
Pipps scowled and went an alarming shade of red.
"I think they must be very bad men," he said to himself. Then he
turned and ran upstairs to fetch his peashooter.
"I think you might come down now Horatio," said Archie
at his friend who was perched on one of the cross beams in the barn
roof. "The girls have gone. They had things to do in the dairy."
"How did I get up here?" said Horatio in a slightly dazed fashion
as he slid across the beam and dropped into the hayloft. "I do hope I
didn't make a cake of myself," he added earnestly.
"Of course you didn't," said Archie handing Horatio his drawers,
"you got a little startled, that's all."
"What happened?" asked Horatio anxiously as he shook the straw out
of his shirt
"Nothing serious," Archie assured him. "It's just that when
your young lady shrieked it seemed to unnerve you. In fact you swarmed
into the rafters like Styles going up the mainmast with his trousers on
"I made her shriek! Oh God, I knew I was doing it all wrong! Why did
I ever think I'd be any good?"
"Nonsense my dear fellow!" said Archie quickly "you were doing
splendidly. It's just that.."
"What?" said Horatio wildly as he dragged his hands through his
curls in a manner that only rendered them even more attractive.
"You shouted 'fiyah!' at the um, crucial moment, and gave her
quite a start. When she squealed you leapt up and well, leapt up."
"Shhh!" said Horatio. He was frowning and peering out through a
hole in the side of barn as he began to pull on his breeches.
'Oh but really Horatio there's no need to be embarrassed. She even
said she didn't mind the bit where you asked permission to grapple and
"No," hissed Horatio, 'I mean it. Shhhh! Some Frenchmen are
"What!" squeaked Archie going pale, "French people here? That's
not allowed is it? I mean this is England!"
"They must be spies Archie and no, of course it's not allowed."
"But are you sure?" babbled Archie. "How can you be certain they
"They are overdressed and quarrelling amongst themselves," said
Horatio with quiet authority as he buttoned up his jacket. "It looks
as if they are coming this way. My guess is that they've captured some
poor devil and mean to interrogate him here in the barn." He grinned
suddenly with undisguised delight. "What a piece of luck eh Archie?
Come on, we need to prepare a reception for them, one they won't have
bargained for I'll warrant."
"Couldn't we just run and tell someone?" pleaded Archie. He could
slap Horatio sometimes when he was in one of these Frog bashing moods.
"We're outnumbered aren't we? It could be dangerous."
"Archie!" laughed Horatio, "what are you talking about? They're
French. Now get your clothes on and help me carry those churns up this
Mr. Pipps sped out of Sheepsbladder Cottage jamming his peashooter
firmly in his belt. He had taken a few precious moments to leave a note
pinned to the front door telling his fellow officers what had happened.
'frensh pies hav takun Albut and Litening
I am persewing them.'
He had tried to explain matters to Mrs. Goggins but had given up very
quickly when it became apparent that she could not tear her attention
away from the cabbage upside down cake she was preparing for dinner. It
was lucky for him that Albert's captors had chosen to steal a horse
that could be clearly heard up to half a mile away. He caught up with
them in a few minutes but was very careful to stay hidden behind trees
and under bushes as they made their quarrelsome way across country
towards the barn.
"Are you sure this exploding horse is not some diabolical English
secret weapon?" the Compte de Bricabrac demanded angrily. "Why did
you make no mention of it in your report?"
Jules opened his mouth to reply but got no further. The Compte let out
an unearthly yell and began prancing about grasping his rear end.
"I have been shot!" he screamed. "My buttocks are pierced!"
"Quick!" said Jules taking command. "We must get to the barn and take
The Compte charged ahead moaning under his breath while his companions
tried to get Lightning to break into a trot. In the time that it took
them all to reach the safety of the building Bricabrac was hit again on
the posterior. Valjean and Leboeuf were both brought down by stinging
legume pellets striking their ankles but struggled bravely on. The
entire group stumbled into the barn in complete disarray, barely
managing to close the doors behind them.
"Mon Dieu!" whimpered Bricabrac "I am on fire! Contretemps, you must
ease my pain before we begin to question the prisoner. I will take off
my breeches and then you can..."
"Do not move Monsieur, not if you value your life! We'll have none of
your filthy continental capers here!" The started spies looked up at the
hayloft and were immediately stared down by Horatio Hornblower, fearless
thrasher of the French. "You are entirely surrounded by a batallion of
crack marksmen," he added untruthfully with a smug expression on his
"Oh merde!" exclaimed Jules as all his chances of a medal and a spot of
leave in France went up in smoke.
"Silence!" roared Horatio. "Remain where you are. Lieutenant Kennedy
elect is coming down to release your prisoner."
"He is?" squeaked Archie, "I say old fellow, is that wise?"
"Certainly it is. Our Frog friends know when they are beaten. Go down
and see who they've captured."
"Yes," sneered the Compte "why don't you come down and see your
pathetic Prime Minister who did not even put up a fight. What sort of
man is it that leads you English?"
"It cannot be Mr. Pitt on the horse," whispered Jules, who had been
staring hard at Horatio.
"Why do you say this?" demanded the Compte under his breath as
Archie climbed down the ladder.
"Because that is Mr. Pitt up there," hissed Jules pointing at
Horatio. "I recognize him from yesterday afternoon."
"Then why did you not perceive that the person in the parlour was not
in fact Mr. Pitt?" said the Compte peevishly.
"It was gloomy in there," replied Jules defensively. "It faces
north and the Goggins woman does not clean the windows."
"Hmmph!" exclaimed the Compte before he turned away to address
Horatio. "So Monsieur Pitt, it seems I must salute you. It is quite
the game you have played with us. But why should you not? You are Pitt
the younger after all and no doubt fond of games." His tone was as
bitter and insulting as a French baker who had just been asked to sell a
loaf to a harmless English traveler.
"You are quite mistaken sir," said Horatio. "I am not Mr. Pitt.
Please stand very still down there or I will be forced to drop this
churn on your head. Who have we got there Mr. Kennedy?"
"Well it certainly isn't Mr. Pitt," said Archie with a grin as he
pulled the goatskin rug away from the figure still huddled on
"By Jove that's better. I was getting quite hot under there,"
said Albert gratefully.
The Compte turned a very unbecoming shade of red and lunged at Jules
"Where is Mr. Pitt?" he shrieked, "you promised me Mr. Pitt and
instead you bring me an ape that talks!"
The barn door opened, creaking loudly as it did so, and all eyes fell
on the small scowling figure that marched boldly in.
"I'm Mr. Pitt," he announced "and you'd better leave my
friend Albert alone!"
The Compte went white, then red, and finally purple. He laughed
hysterically and began to jump around in an alarming fashion. It was not
until Horatio dropped a milk churn over his upper body that he subsided
in a corner.
"You are Mr. Pitt?" said Jules in amazement. Could it be that the
English government was actually led by a child of no more than five?
"Not Pitt," said the child scornfully, "Pipps!"
The door creaked again and the wagon driver entered with a pistol in
"It's all clear outside sir," he said addressing Albert with a
distinctly more refined accent than he had used before.
"Capital, capital!" said Albert "Well done Carruthers. Why
don't you march these Johnnies back to the wagon and lock'em up.
I expect my young friend will help you. What do you say Mr. Pipps?"
The young officer was indeed more than willing to lend a hand and
promised to keep his pea shooter trained on the prisoners all the way
back to Sheepsbladder Cottage.
"Would you like us to help you out of your skin?"
taking the shawl and blanket from the ape's shoulders.
"Oh no! Absolutely not!" said Albert shaking his head.
"But you can't be very comfortable in there."
"He has to keep it on Archie. He must keep his identity secret you
see," explained Horatio.
"Yes, that's just it," agreed Albert. "We can't have the
Frogs finding out that Albert the Amazing Ape is really Carstairs from
the Admiralty can we? Oh Bugger! I've done it again!"
"You can rely on our discretion sir," Horatio assured him. "May I
ask if in fact the real Mr. Pitt is in the district?"
"Um, well actually the chaps in the little room under the stairs at
the Admiralty didn't exactly say. We were just told that a French spy
had been spotted sneaking about. By the way, well done Hornblower. We
couldn't have bagged'em so neatly without your help. That young
Pipps is a plucky youngster, what! I believe I shall mention his name in
"I'll let him know sir," said Horatio with an almost undetectable
"Goodbye Horatio," said Doctor Hornblower. "I'd
come to the gate
and see you off but it's time for my morning nap."
"Oh please don't disturb yourself father," said Horatio much
embarrassed by the outpouring of affection from his parent.
"Goodbye my dear boy," said the doctor shaking Archie warmly by the
hand. "Don't forget, if any of your relatives ever need any
physicking, I'm your man.
"Er, thank you sir," said Archie looking puzzled, "but there is
only mother and myself."
"I was meaning your other relatives," said the doctor with a leer
and wink. "The one's on your father's side," he added in a
conspiratorial whisper. Archie smiled faintly and made his escape down
the garden path.
"I'm going now. Goodbye," announced Mr. Pipps as he skipped out
of the front door. He was clutching a coconut shell and a poster with a
picture of Albert on it. Both had been parting gifts from his hirsute
friend. Mr. Pipps had generously bestowed the remains of his dried
beetle collection on the ape.
"You haven't seen my wig anywhere I suppose?" the doctor called
"Well I think its time to cast off," said Horatio awkwardly.
"I'd advise it," said the doctor. "I happen to know that Mrs.
Goggins is packing a few treats for the journey."
Horatio needed no second telling. He shot through the garden and leapt
into the waiting chaise.
"Quick Archie! Make sail! There's not a moment to lose."
A few moments were lost while Lightning was persuaded that forwards was
the best way to proceed but the chaise was soon lumbering along the
"I can see Mrs. Goggins waving," said Mr. Pipps as they reached the
end of the first field. "She's holding up a basket and she's got
something in her other hand. It looks like a pot of jam. Mr. Kennedy,
we're not going to stop are we?" he added doubtfully.
Archie said nothing but instead urged the horse to an even more
Three days later aboard the Indefatigable:
Horatio woke and sat up with a loud cry. He made another cry as he
smacked his head on the nice new mahogany decking. He reached over and
shook the next hammock.
"Archie wake up!" he whispered as his friend tipped out and landed
on the deck with a thud.
"Oh God, Archie!" I've just realized what it all means!"
"All what?" yawned Archie climbing back in and falling straight out
the other side.
"Mr. Plunkett looking like me and everything! I'm adopted aren't
Archie stood up blinking.
"Um, that's probably something you should ask your father."
"Yes I will Archie. I'll do that the very next time I'm home.
"But that might not be for another couple of years Horatio."
"Oh at the very least," replied Horatio. "Good night Archie."
"Good night Horatio."
"Do you think you could help me get back in my hammock?"