Mr. Pipps and the Prize Ship
Horatio Hornblower strolled into the midshipmen's berth and
found his best
friend Archie sitting at the dining table with a pen in his hand and wearing
a worried expression.
"Oh I'm so glad to see you Horatio!" he said going pink with relief. "Can
you help me with this letter?"
"I expect so," said Horatio pulling Archie's ears playfully. "What seems to
be the problem?"
"Well I'm trying to write a letter home but I can't think of very much to
"What have you put so far?"
"Dear Mamma, We are at sea and the food is horrid. Horatio has been seasick
twice already. Please send another four dozen shirts."
"That seems more than adequate Archie," said Horatio encouragingly "in fact
I think you could drop the part about me being sick and it would still be a
handsome letter. It's longer than the ones I write to my father."
"Thanks Horatio," said Archie as he crossed out the offending sentence, "you
always seem to know what a fellow should do."
"Do I?" said Horatio, as a note of bitterness crept into his voice. "Do I
really?" he said running his hands through the casual disarray of his dark
brown curls only to leave them even more fetchingly arranged than before.
"You have no idea Archie. The doubts! The feelings of inadequacy! The
indigestion! It never ends." He slumped into a chair opposite his friend and
met an unfocused blue stare that reminded him forcibly of a bewildered
bunny. "Archie!" he said sharply "are you listening to me?"
"Um, oh no, I'm sorry Horatio. I was just trying to remember Mamma's
A cry of "all hands on deck" and the thunderous noise of Mr. Bracegirdle
running overhead drowned Horatio's reply out.
When he and Archie reached the quarterdeck the Indefatigable was leaning
markedly to starboard as everyone had surged across to take a look at the
hapless Frog ship that was about to become their next prize. The air was
full of the rattle of pocket abacuses as the officers worked out their share
of the loot.
"Silence!" roared Sir Edward "Mr. Hornblower, find out what ship that is."
'Aye aye Sir," said Horatio enthusiastically. "Quel bateau?" he yelled.
"Dammit!" cried Sir Edward wincing "kindly stand a little further off Mr.
Hornblower. That cursed lingo goes right through me!"
"Beg pardon Sir."
"L'Incroyable," came the reply.
"What's her name?" asked Sir Edward impatiently.
"It's 'Incredible' Sir," said Horatio translating.
"Her name Sir. It's 'Incredible'."
"Yes, well don't keep me in suspense boy! What is this incredible name?"
"The name of the ship is the 'Incredible' Sir."
"But that wasn't what that officer called out just now" said Sir Edward,
glaring at his young subordinate.
"No Sir. I translated the name for you. It's 'Incroyable' in French you
"I think you've wasted quite enough of my time Mr. Hornblower! Find out
what she is carrying."
After a brief exchange with the French captain Horatio turned back to Sir
"She's taking supplies to the French fleet in the Med. Sir. Several tons of
garlic and 200 barrels of goose liver."
Mutterings of disappointment came from all over the ship and one or two of
the officers were seen to throw their pocket abacuses away in disgust.
"What a damned shame!" exclaimed Sir Edward 'we won't be able to give that
cargo away in England. The ship will fetch a tidy enough sum though. Mr.
Pipps!" The diminutive figure of the Inefatigable's youngest midshipman came
scampering up the ladder onto the quarterdeck.
"I didn't like my dinner" he said to his captain in a conversational tone.
"Never mind that now" chided Sir Edward "I am putting you in command of that
French prize ship."
"Oh" said Mr. Pipps taking out what appeared to be a small telescope and
squinting in the direction of the 'Incroyable' "is it my very own to keep?"
"No of course not! You will merely sail her to the nearest English port and
wait there for orders."
"But it's a nice ship. Why can't I keep it?"
"Because it belongs to the King. Now let me see what size crew you will
need. Hand me your telescope Mr. Pipps if you please." He took the small
glass and put it to his eye. "What the devil is this?" he exclaimed after a
"It's my kaleidoscope," said Mr. Pipps proudly "It's good isn't it?"
"It's perfectly splendid" agreed the captain "but you must not bring it onto
the quarterdeck again. I will look after it for you. Mr. Hornblower, your
glass please. Mr. Hornblower? Where are you sir?"
"He's lying on the deck Sir Edward" murmured Mr. Bracegirdle at his elbow.
"Well what is he doing down there?"
"I'm not sure Sir. He fell over backwards when you said that Mr. Pipps would
be taking command of the prize ship. He doesn't seem to be able to talk Sir.
His mouth keeps opening and shutting but nothing is coming out."
Horatio came to his senses to find Dr Chippendale bending gloomily
in the sick berth.
"What happened?" he asked coughing and gasping
"I don't know doctor, I was about to ask you," said Horatio.
"I'm blowed if I know son," said the old rough-hewn medico ruefully. "When
they carried you in here you were as white as a sheet. I took one look and
thought you were a goner."
"How very odd," said Horatio sitting up "I can't remember what happened. One
minute I was standing next to the captain and then I woke up in here."
"That's how it starts," said the doctor mournfully. "Next time you'll peg
out for good, mark my words."
"Nonsense doctor. I must just have um, well I probably merely, er"
"Fainted? Swooned?" suggested Dr. Chippendale.
"Certainly not!" said Horatio hotly.
"Would you like one of these powders?" asked the doctor rummaging in a
drawer. "I've got the black stuff or the green stuff."
"What do they do?" said Horatio doubtfully.
"Nothing, as far as I can see."
The door to the sick berth opened and Archie rushed anxiously through it.
"Oh Horatio, are you all right? Do say you are, but if you are not may I
have first dibs on your sea chest?"
"I'm perfectly fine Archie," said Horatio smiling indulgently at him "but I
must confess that I am having trouble remembering what happened on the
"Well I'm not sure if I can tell you much," said Archie screwing up his nose
with the effort of trying to recall recent events. "Let me see. Captain
Pellew had just given Mr. Pipps command of the prize ship and then there was
this almighty thump as you hit the deck."
"No!" shrieked Horatio, leaping off the bunk. "That can't be true! It should
"What's the matter with him doctor?" yelled Archie as he attempted to
wrestle his friend to the floor.
"He's in a proper taking about something," said Dr. Chippendale helpfully.
"Out of my way!" said Horatio picking Archie up and putting him on a shelf.
"I must go and speak to Captain Pellew at once!" He ran out, slamming the
door with such force behind him that Archie fell off his perch.
"I expect that hurts," observed Dr. Chippendale as Archie got to his feet
rubbing various parts of his bruised anatomy.
"You're not a very good doctor are you?" he said with a rare flash of near
"I'm not a doctor at all," replied Chippendale morosely.
"What! you mean you're an impostor?" gasped Archie.
"No! That would be dishonest. It wasn't my fault. It happened like this. I
was standing outside Portsmouth docks one Monday afternoon hoping to pick up
some work unloading ships when this lieutenant came up to me and said 'are
you a docker?' At least, that's what I thought he said but I had a bit of a
cold and my ears were clogged up. 'Yes' I said. 'Good' he said 'You're
pressed mate.' Next thing I know we're out at sea and people are coming in
here telling me all kinds of personal things and taking their clothes off.
It's a nightmare I can tell you!"
"But what will you do if we are in a battle?" said Archie his eyes going as
wide as saucers.
"Why, what happens then?" asked Chippendale. "I've only been aboard a
fortnight. Have we had one of those yet?"
"Oh well, never mind," said Archie nervously "I um, I'd better go."
"Ah there you are Mr. Hornblower," said the Captain
Pellew as Horatio came
into his day cabin, his ears red with indignation "I trust you have fully
"Yes, thank you Sir. But Sir I must protest! How can you put Mr. Pipps in
charge of the prize ship?"
"It's a question of seniority I'm afraid," said Sir Edward as he examined
swatches of curtain material. "Mr. Pipps has been on the ship's books longer
than any other midshipman and so he must be given the command."
"But Sir" spluttered Horatio "I'm seventeen and three quarters and he is not
"Oh very true" agreed Sir Edward kneeling down to compare the colors in a
rather attractive chintz with the border of his best rug. "But the thing is
Mr. Hornblower that Mr. Pipps' parents are a farsighted couple and put his
name down on the ship's roster before his conception. Indeed, I think they
wrote to me about it shortly before their own betrothal."
"But Sir, you surely don't intend to send him off in sole command of a prize
crew and a couple of dozen French prisoners!"
"No of course I don't!" snapped Sir Edward as he held a flowered muslin up
to the stern windows. "I'm not a simpleton, damn your impudence! What do you
think of this one?"
"What Sir?" said Horatio looking puzzled.
"This fabric man. Will it look well draped over this window?"
"I, er, um I don't think .." said Horatio floundering. Why oh why had he
neglected the chapter on cabin décor in Clerk's Seamanship? "So what will
you do about Mr. Pipps Sir" he asked hoping that Sir Edward would not notice
his evasive action.
"Ah yes. Well naturally I shall have to send my best young officer with him.
Prepare to go across to the 'Incroyable' Mr. Hornblower. You sail within the
"Come along! Come along!" said Sir Edward standing
impatiently by the entry
port. "Are you ready Mr. Hornblower? Where is Mr. Pipps? I haven't got all
day you know! I've got curtains to make!"
"I'm ready Sir," said Horatio wearing an eager
let's-have-another-crack-at-the-frogs expression. Sir Edward's decision to
make him second in command of the prize ship had quite cheered him up.
"So you are my boy, so you are," agreed Sir Edward drawing near to have a
private word with his favorite young officer. "Now don't forget to keep your
feet dry and change your underwear frequently. You must pay attention to
these things if you are going to make captain by the time you a twenty."
"Yes sir, thank you sir."
The clatter of small feet and a dragging sound announced the arrival of Mr.
Pipps, who was pulling a very large canvas bag along the deck after him.
"I see you have all your dunnage packed Sir," said Horatio, who was
determined to get off on the right foot with his tiny temporary commander.
"Yes" agreed Mr. Pipps "I'm taking all my toy soldiers, my drum, my tin
whistle and my best bits of string."
Without further ado Horatio instructed Styles to carry Mr. Pipps down into
the waiting boat. His bag was dropped over the side after him. There was a
faint shriek as it landed and Horatio wondered if it had accidentally hit
one of the seamen but they all appeared to be unhurt. He climbed into the
boat himself and instructed Mathews to cast off.
"Cast off it is Sir! And come on lads; let's have three cheers for Mr.
"What are you doing Mathews?" said Horatio going scarlet with embarrassment,
"I haven't done anything to cheer about!"
"Aye but you will soon won't you, Sir? Me and the lads just thought we'd
save a bit of time and.."
"No! I forbid it! Just row the boat!"
"Aye Aye Sir! Just the row the boat it is Sir."
Half way across to the Incroyable Mr. Pipps made a request in Horatio's ear.
"You will have to wait a minute Sir" he advised, "you can cut along forrard
as soon we get on board."
Within a very short time they were climbing up the side of the Incroyable. A
group of peevish and overdressed French officers who were waiting to
surrender met them.
"Where 'ave you been?" complained their captain "we 'ave been waiting 'ere
in ze cold pour une heure!"
"And now you can wait another five minutes Monsieur while our commander
makes himself comfortable" said Horatio sternly as Mr. Pipps pushed past
them and made a dash for the heads.
"Sacre Bleu! You are making the joke surely!" exclaimed the French captain
"that finger puppet cannot possibly be your commander!"
"I'm with you mate" muttered Styles.
"Do not presume Monsieur to question a decision made by the British Navy! We
will wait until Mr. Pipps is ready to accept your surrender," said Horatio
"Meester Peeps? That is 'is name? Meester Peeps! But that is so amusant!"
laughed the captain, as the rest of his officers tittered in an annoying
"Styles!" snapped Horatio, his eyes flashing becomingly. "The next Frenchman
"Will be shot Sir?" growled Styles menacingly.
"No Styles! You will merely remove all the lace and feathers from his
The next two minutes passed quietly. Occasionally one of the French officers
would go purple in the face from the effort of suppressing his giggles, but
none of them dared to make a sound. At last Mr. Pipps came trotting back,
his shirt hanging out of his breeches waistband.
"There aren't any seats!" he exclaimed indignantly.
"No Sir. I'm afraid the heads are like that on French ships," said Horatio
sympathetically "Let me tuck in your shirt and then you can accept this
"I had to stand on two planks and look straight down into the sea!"
"Yes Sir, it all sounds very inconvenient, however you must take the ship
over now." Horatio frowned at the French Captain who stepped forward,
identified himself as Captain Dubois of the vastly inferior French Navy and
held out his sword. Accepting it eagerly Mr. Pipps would have fallen beneath
its weight if Horatio had not held him up.
"And to whom do I 'ave the honor of surrendering?" enquired Captain Dubois,
not bothering to hide the smirk on his face (as well as being horribly
inconsistent about the dropping of his aitches).
"Me!" said Mr. Pipps stoutly. Two of the French officers fell to the deck
stuffing their handkerchiefs in their mouths.
"Sir, I suggest that you send the prisoners below," urged Horatio, anxious
to maintain some degree of decorum.
"But they might have more presents for me," whispered Mr. Pipps.
"I'm afraid you only get the sword," murmured Horatio "and the ship of
course. If you have the prisoners locked up we can get underway."
"All right then" said Mr. Pipps solemnly. Then he stepped towards the French
officers and said in a clear treble. "Right all you Froggy peoples, you have
to go below now!"
This was evidently too much for one French lieutenant who became convulsed
with laughter and hooted out loud. Retribution was swift. Styles, Mathews,
Lewis and Clark immediately surrounded him. There was a lot of shrieking and
feathers and lace flew in all directions. It was a silent and chastened
group of Frenchmen who were led below two minutes later.
"Can I go and play with my soldiers now?" asked Mr. Pipps.
"I think you should set a course for England next Sir" said Horatio in a
"Oh" said Mr. Pipps as a worried look clouded his cherubic countenance.
"Is something the matter?" asked Horatio bending down.
" I don't think I know where England is," confided Mr. Pipps.
"It's all right Sir, I know where to find it. Have you decided which port to
Mr. Pipps frowned with deep concentration for a while and then announced
"Really? Do you have a particular reason for choosing it?"
"I went there for my holidays last year. It's jolly nice. They have donkeys
you can ride and everything!"
"Well that sounds perfectly splendid Sir, but unfortunately I don't think
the harbor is deep enough for a vessel of this size. Could I suggest
"Do they have donkeys there?"
After some fierce bargaining on both sides it was agreed that they would
sail close enough to Bridlington-on-Sea to wave at the donkeys and that
lemonade and buns would be forthcoming at the Crown and Anchor on their
arrival at Portsmouth.
It was two days into the voyage and Horatio was relaxing in
day cabin. He was snacking on a bag of toasted weevils that he had brought
along from the Indefatigable and was leafing through a copy of the Naval
Chronicle whilst composing imaginary future letters to the Admiralty.
I have the honor to inform you while sailing in the frigate Unstoppable, I
met with the French fleet of Cape Finistere and, when they were all lined up
side on, I fired upon them broadside. My cannon balls flew at such a
velocity that many of them went clean through several ships at once. Twelve
of the enemy were sunk and destroyed within five minutes.
I have the honor to remain your most obedient servant,
He passed a pleasant hour in this fashion while his commander was having his
afternoon nap. This restful interlude was brought to an end when Styles came
knocking at the door.
"There's trouble with them Frog officers Sir. They want to speak to the
Having spent thirty minutes persuading Mr. Pipps that it was indeed
necessary for him to go to bed (putting him back in his bunk four times and
fetching him five glasses of water) Horatio was loathe to wake him just yet
and so went to deal with the matter himself.
"Meester 'Ornblower," said the French captain indignantly "this seaman
person tells us that we must 'elp to sail the ship. We do not do this kind
of thing! Our uniforms are much too nice."
"We need your help to work the ship Monsieur because two days of your
vittles have laid several of our men low with er, internal problems. Being
obliged to stand in the heads for hours at a time has made them too weak to
climb the shrouds. You will have to take their places until they are fit
again. We cannot manage with just your men, you must help as well."
"You speak of weakness, but we 'ave been confined in this place with no
cushions to sit on and no mirrors. You are inhuman! We will not 'elp you!"
As one man, the French officers turned their back on Horatio and folded
"Is that your final word?" asked Horatio calmly.
"Oui," they chorused.
"Are you going to start stringin' them up sir?" menaced Styles.
"No," said Horatio serenely, "I have something far more effective in mind.
Lock the door." He went back to the captain's quarters and met Mr. Pipps
emerging from the sleeping cabin in his stockinged feet and with his hair on
"I've finished my nap," he said with more than a hint of defiance in his
"So you have," agreed Horatio "and not a moment too soon Sir. There is
something very important that needs doing and you are the only one on the
ship who can help."
"What is it?" asked Mr. Pipps eagerly as Horatio tamed his locks with a
"I will tell you on the way Sir. Would you be kind enough to bring your drum
Horatio was on the quarterdeck sweeping the horizon with his
case more Frogs were in the offing when Styles came to summon him below once
"The Frog captain wants a word Sir. E's in tears this time, the big girl's
"I am not surprised," said Horatio, "still, he held out for almost an hour.
Not bad for a Frog." As he drew nearer the hold where the French officer's
were being kept a horrible din became evident. A shrill voice was declaiming
"The Grand Old Duke of York" at full lungpower, accompanied by a vigorous
drum beat. When the voice was silent a piercing whistle took up the
"I think you may stop now Sir!" yelled Horatio arriving outside the hold
"Do you think they liked it?" ask Mr. Pipps, His face aglow with effort and
"I believe so," said Horatio.
"Well I'm very busy now and I can't play anymore," said Mr. Pipps gathering
up his instruments and skipping away. When Styles unlocked the door the
French captain fell down and clutched Horatio around the ankles.
"Ave mercy!" he sobbed "Send that vile infant from Hell away! We will do
anything you ask!"
"Very well Monsieur, I have two requests. First of all you and these other
gentlemen will assist in the sailing of this vessel for as long as is
necessary. Secondly, I would have you remember that 'vile infant from Hell'
is not a proper form of address on one of His Britannic Majesty's ship's."
"Yes, yes but do not let Meester Peeps torture us anymore!" sniveled the
captain, while the other officers blew their noses into their lace
"Let them out of here and put them to work Styles."
No sooner was Horatio back on deck when Mathews came hurrying
"Beggin' yer pardon Mr. Hornblower Sir but you're needed in the galley right
"Thank you Mathews. Help Styles to get the French officers doing something
"You've got them to agree to work have you Sir? By heck that's worth three
cheers that is. Come on lads! Hip..."
"How are you feeling Mathews?" said Horatio cutting him off swiftly. "Has
your stomach recovered?" he added as they made their way below.
"Oh its much better now Sir. Mind you I couldn't say the same about
yesterday. I got caught short in the cross trees and.."
"Yes, well I'm very glad you're better," said Horatio hastily "and how are
the other men?"
"Coming along nicely Sir"
"Good, I'll go and see them later."
"Aye Sir but you'll want to wait until we've hosed the sick bay down."
When they reached the galley the French cook was standing morosely outside
the pantry with a rolling pin held aloft.
"Zere is zomezing in zere!" he whispered fearfully in appallingly accented
English. Horatio pushed him aside and opened the door a crack. He closed it
"I can deal with this Mathews, go outside and take him with you."
"But I 'ave chicken to marinade and petits fours to make Monsieur."
"You can come back later," said Horatio shooing the cook towards the door.
"Non Monsieur! I am in the middle of preparing ze dinner! I cannot be
"Oh just come back and boil everything!" snapped Horatio impatiently. "Get
him out of here Mathews!"
"Aye Aye Sir. Get him out of here it is."
When they had gone Horatio took a deep breath and opened the pantry door
"Oh Archie!" he sighed "what are you doing?"
"Hwo Hwaysho!" mumbled Archie. He was sitting on the floor at the back of
the pantry with a wedge of Camembert in one hand and a slice of gateau in
"Put the Frog food down Archie," said Horatio walking slowly towards his
stricken friend. He was assailed by memories of finding Archie in the cabin
of another French ship after he had gone missing for three months. His
captors had fed him mercilessly and it had taken all of Horatio's skill and
devotion to help his friend trim off twenty pounds and learn to love salt
pork again. Had all that hard work gone to waste?
"Just go away Horatio!" he whimpered. "You can't do anything. This damned
Frog cuisine has got its hooks into me and I'll never be free of it. Never!"
He took a defiant swig from the wine bottle that stood beside him on the
"We'll see about that!" said Horatio lunging forward and hauling him to his
feet. He began pulling him bodily out of the pantry. Archie grabbed wildly
at the dishes on the shelves as he was dragged past.
"Poulet de bonne femme!" he shrieked pitifully "Just one mouthful I beg you.
Ooh look, pot au feu! Madeleines!"
"Stop it Archie," hissed Horatio "the whole ship will hear you. Try to
remember you're British!"
"Boeuf en croute! Crème Caramel!"
"I'm sorry Archie," said Horatio with tears in his eyes as he picked up a
stale baguette "you leave me no choice." He swiped Archie round the head
with the hard stick of bread. There was a dreadful sound of crust hitting
curls and Archie dropped the cake and the cheese as if he had been struck
with a French loaf.
"That's better," said Horatio taking hold of Archie's collar and propelling
him out of the galley.
"Why it's Mr. Kennedy!" exclaimed Mathews cheerily "this is a surprise. Have
you just rescued him Sir? Now this must be worth three cheers! Hip.."
"Hooray" said Archie looking befuddled.
"That will do Mathews! How many more times? Find Mr. Pipps and ask him to
meet me in his cabin."
"Aye Aye Sir, find Mr. Pipps it is. Are you sure you wouldn't like just one
"No Mathews! Come along Archie," said Horatio "you have some explaining to
As Horatio marched Archie into the stern cabin he felt something
underneath his foot.
"You trodded on one of my soldiers!" cried Mr. Pipps indignantly. He was
stretched out on the floor surrounded by his miniature army.
"I beg your pardon Sir," said Hornblower apologetically.
"It wasn't one of my best ones," admitted his commander.
"Thank you. Sir, I have to report that I found Mr. Kennedy stowed away in
"I was not stowed away!" protested Archie "I had permission to come aboard
didn't I?" he said nodding and winking several times at Mr. Pipps.
"I 'spect so," replied the child airily as he knocked a row of tiny troops
flying with a toy cannon.
"You were in his bag!" accused Horatio, recalling the noise as it dropped
into the boat.
"I might have been," said Archie looking a trifle guilty.
"But why did you come Archie?"
"Oh you don't know what its like Horatio! Captain Pellew can never remember
who I am and the other chaps are terribly jealous because I'm your best
friend. They take all kinds of liberties when you're not there."
"Sewing up my sleeves and giving my hat to the goat," he said tearfully.
"Beggin' your pardon Sir," said Mathews putting his head round the door
"There's trouble with them Frogs again. They've all stopped work and they
want to speak to Mr. Pipps."
"I can't come now I've got to finish this battle," said Mr. Pipps peevishly.
"I think you must go and see what they want Sir," said Horatio earnestly.
"But I'm just getting to the best part!" said Mr. Pipps in a determined
"Sir you must think of the good of the ship."
"Oh Horatio, really!" said Archie looking exasperated. "Leave this to me.
Mr. Pipps I'll give you until the count of three to get your hat and coat
"Or what!" said Mr. Pipps defiantly.
"Or you will spend the rest of the day in your sleeping cabin with no toys
and no supper. One, two.." To Horatio's astonishment Mr. Pipps scurried to
put his outer clothes on and then went obediently to the door.
"Shall we go Horatio?" said Archie straightening his own jacket.
"Er, yes," said Horatio "although I think that technically speaking, what
you just did might be called mutiny."
"And what would you call hitting a fellow officer over the head with a stale
loaf?" said Archie.
"We'll discuss that later," replied Horatio as they all hurried up on deck.
All the French officers and men were gathered in the bows. Captain Dubois
stepped forward when he saw Mr. Pipps arrive.
"Eh bien, Meester Peeps," he said smirking "I demand that you 'and the ship
over to me!"
"But I don't like you," answered Mr. Pipps reasonably.
"This is not a game!" said Captain Dubois menacingly. "I 'ave 'ere a comrade
of yours and if you do not do as I say you will watch 'im swing from ze end
of a rope!"
"What comrade are you speaking of," asked Horatio. "All our men are
accounted for Captain Dubois."
"I do not speak of a man. I speak of ze little friend your commander sang of
when you allowed 'im to torture us so cruelly."
"The Duke of York?" said Horatio blankly.
"Non! Does zis look like ze Duke of York?" said Dubois putting his hand in
his pocket and pulling out a small brown mouse.
"Oh!" exclaimed Mr. Pipps.
"Hah!" laughed Dubois "I am to 'ave my revenge. For half an hour this vile
infant shrieks all about his dear little mouse, 'Jeremee, Jeremee, He's my
mouse and he goes to sea.' It was unbearable! And then, Le Ciel be praised,
after you bring us up on deck I find zis Jeremee. Now 'e is my prisoner and
you will give the ship back to me."
"You're a bad man!" shouted Mr. Pipps, red in the face.
"Very bad!" agreed Captain Dubois bringing a piece of string that was
fashioned into a noose out of his other pocket.
"Sir!" said Horatio "Unhand that mouse! He is the property of His Britannic
Majesty's Navy. I warn you to release him at once or suffer the
"You may warn as much as you wish," said Dubois smugly "but Meester Pipps is
in command, no? What does 'e say?"
"Phtt!" said Mr. Pipps letting fly with his peashooter with pinpoint
accuracy. Captain Dubois fell heavily to the deck with an astonished
expression on his face.
"Well done Sir!" said Horatio warmly as Styles and the other men swarmed
forward and overpowered the wavering Frogs and then led the dazed French
captain away. "A splendid piece of quick thinking and superb shooting!"
"Well he was very naughty," said Mr. Pipps frowning as he put his peashooter
away. Styles approached carrying something very carefully in his beefy
"I'm sorry Mr. Pipps," he said with a catch in his voice "the little chap
didn't have a chance when that fat Frog fell on 'im." He held out an already
stiffening little corpse, its mouth open and its feet pointing skywards. Mr.
Pipps looked at the mouse but said nothing. Archie knelt by his side and put
an arm around his shoulders.
"We could have a proper burial service for him," he said gently "would you
"Yes please," said Mr. Pipps.
Within half an hour the tiny body had been sewn into one of Archie's
handkerchiefs with Mr. Pipps best marble at his feet. The little white
parcel was laid on a bread cutting board and the ship's company gathered at
the entry port. Horatio removed his hat and opened the prayer book.
"For as much as it hath pleased God." A loud sobbing erupted at the back of
the group and Styles was seen to bury his head in Mathews' shoulder. "To
take our brother Jeremy."
"He's not Jeremy," whispered Mr. Pipps loudly.
"Who is he then?" asked Horatio, taken aback.
"I don't know," shrugged Mr. Pipps.
"But I thought he was your mouse."
"No!" said Mr. Pipps scornfully "Jeremy is much nicer than this one. And
anyway I left him behind in Captain Pellew's stocking drawer so he would be
"We had better just call this one the 'unknown mouse' then," said Archie
quivering with suppressed laugher.
"That's a good idea," said Mr. Pipps admiringly "Go on Mr. Hornblower,
finish the service."
"Aye Aye Sir."
Three days later the Incroyable was safely anchored in Portsmouth
Horatio was pacing up and down the deck waiting to be rowed across to the
port admiral's office.
"Beggin' yer pardon Sir, but we're ready when you are," said Mathews
"Mr. Pipps will be with us shortly and then we will go," said Horatio.
"Aye Aye Sir."
"So Mathews" said Horatio smiling "Here we are at the end of a successful
"And it looks as if we'll be able to sell all that damned garlic and goose
liver after all. The quartermaster at the local prisoner of war depot is
eager to take it. That should bring a tidy profit. Something to shout about
wouldn't you say? "
"Very nice too Sir. That's champion that is."
"A good reason to celebrate wouldn't you say? Something to give a cheer or
"Oh aye Sir, and since you've been kind enough to give us shore leave me and
the lads will be having a few pints in the at the Pig and Whistle later!"
"And doing some cheering too, I don't doubt."
"Here I am" announced Mr. Pipps scampering along the deck "I couldn't find
my shoes for ages."
"Three cheers for our gallant little captain!" shouted Mathews as Horatio's
jaw dropped open with dismay. "Hip, hip."
"Hooray!" roared the boat's crew.
"Hooray!" rang out as the entire ship's company joined in.
"Hooray!" The cheers reached a crescendo as other ships and a number of
people on the dockside weighed in.
"Oh they cheered just for me!" exclaimed Mr. Pipps happily "Did you hear
them Mr. Hornblower? Shall I help you pick all your papers up?"
"Thank you Sir" sighed Horatio "That's very kind of you."