From Here to Profanity
Captain Sir Edward Pellew looked around his day cabin with
What a splendid group of officers he had to be sure. And there they sat,
hanging on his every word; eager to hear how they might next serve their
king and country.
"Gentlemen," he began "we are at present at anchor half a mile of the coast
of France. The sea is calm. The weather is sunny with a light breeze and
there is a slight chance of showers by morning." A silence greeted these
revelations and the captain frowned with displeasure.
Mr. Bracegirdle leaned forward, "Begging your pardon sir but we knew that
all ready," he murmured.
"Oh did you now! Yes, well splendid. I like to see my officers well
informed. Ahem. But what you may not know is that the infamous Chateau
Bouillon lies three miles inland and...yes, what is it Mr. Bracegirdle?"
"Excuse me sir but you've written that bit up on the chalkboard."
"What! Oh, yes. Well spotted Mr. Bracegirdle. It's a pity the rest of you
aren't as alert as the first lieutenant," he said glaring around the table.
"However gentlemen, what none of you can possibly know is that I intend to
mount a daring raid on this Frog chateau and... Oh what is it now Mr.
"Well sir. It's just that you mentioning the Chateau was a bit of a giveaway
wasn't it. I mean we were bound to guess that something was up and..."
"That will do!" hissed Sir Edward "I forbid you to speak again Mr.
Bracegirdle unless you have something useful to contribute." The first
officer folded his arms and stared grimly at the table. "If I might be
allowed to continue, I intend to send a group of men to the Chateau to carry
out what you might call an act of liberation."
"A raiding party sir?" asked Mr. Kennedy brightly
"No Mr., Mr., you ninny! A small group of men in one boat hardly constitutes
a raiding party."
"Yes it does!" chorused the rest of the officers.
"Well never mind that now!" said Sir Edward hastily. "What I need at the
moment is for some young and intelligent officer to volunteer to lead this
little expedition." Hands flew up all round the table accompanied by cries
of "Me sir! I'll go sir! Oh please sir, choose me sir!
"Very gratifying I'm sure gentlemen," said Sir Edward "but I think this
particular mission calls for someone with very specific abilities. A young
officer quite possibly seated at the far end of this table." All eyes turned
towards Mr. Hornblower who appeared to be sitting on his hands and whose
eyes were firmly shut. "Come along gentlemen!" said the captain testily,
"surely there is someone among you with dark curly hair and brown eyes who
is eager to give the Frogs another thrashing! Oh, put your hands down and
somebody wake Mr. Hornblower up!"
"Oh Hell!" exclaimed Hornblower, as Mr. Bowles jabbed him in the ribs with
the wrong end of a telescope.
"Well done Mr. Hornblower," beamed the captain, "you're a credit to the
service as always."
"I didn't say word sir!" protested Horatio "and I certainly don't recall
volunteering for anything!"
"I know you did my boy," said Sir Edward blowing his nose and wiping a tear
from his eye, "and at this rate you'll be an admiral by the time you are
"But sir, I just got back from sinking that frigate yesterday armed only
with a rowing boat and a cauldron of last Thursday's soup. And then last
night you made me go ashore and blow up that escargot storage depot. I need
a rest sir!"
"I'll give you a glass of my very best brandy when you get back," wheedled
"Oh all right!" sighed Hornblower, rolling his eyes.
In order to keep the details of the mission as secret as possible Sir Edward
dismissed the rest of the officers. They filed moodily out of the cabin,
aiming covert kicks at Horatio's chair and whispering "captain's pet!"
"What am I supposed to liberate from the Chateau sir? Is it secret documents
vital to the war or a really important prisoner?" As always his brown eyes
had gone especially sparkly at the thought of taking another swipe at the
"Hmm?" said Sir Edward dreamily "Oh, er, yes my boy, that is no. The
objective is far more important than that. There is a room at the top of the
west tower of the Chateau that contains the finest set of tapestries in all
"Tapestries Mr. Hornblower. You are to enter that room and, with the aid of
our finest and sharpest British Navy Pocket Knives, detach them from their
hangers and bring them back here."
Horatio looked thoughtful for a moment and then, with an air of triumph, he
said, "so it's a cutting out expedition sir!"
"No Mr. Hornblower, it's a raiding party," said the captain looking puzzled.
"Oh why do I do it?" groaned Horatio running his hands through his glossy
"Try to make jokes sir. I'm hopeless at it. They always fall flat and then
people think I'm an idiot. It's never any good sir!"
"You're not going to cry are you?" asked Sir Edward backing away nervously.
"I don't think so. Why sir?" said Horatio miserably.
"Because we can't have that sort of thing on one of His Majesty's ships.
We're men Mr. Hornblower, men in uniforms."
"Yes sir, of course sir."
"Ahem! Right then Mr. Hornblower, back to business. As soon as it gets dark
you will take a group of hand-picked men, row ashore, make your way to the
Chateau, obtain the tapestries and return here in double quick time. Any
"Yes sir. How are we going to use these tapestries against the French sir?"
"One of them is going to hang over there on the bulkhead," said Sir Edward
pointing to the far side of the day cabin, "and the rest will be sent to my
home where will finish off the dining room very nicely."
There was a tap at the cabin door. It meant that the captain's servant
didn't have to schlep to the scuttlebutt every time he needed to fill a
"Enter!" called Sir Edward as someone knocked. The door opened and a
diminutive figure skipped in wearing a midshipman's uniform and bowling a
"Yes, what is it Mr. Pipps?"
"Oh!" exclaimed the child, who could have been no more than four years old,
"well I fink that big fat man upstairs wanted you to come out and play but I
did forgotted most of what he sayed."
"I beg your pardon!" said Sir Edward, staring at the child in a forbidding
manner. Since Mr. Pipps had vanished under the dining table in search of his
hoop, the stare was largely wasted.
"I believe he means that Mr. Bracegirdle is requesting your presence on the
"I think you're right!" exclaimed the captain, "well done Mr. Hornblower."
"Thank you sir. Sir, may I ask if you think that Mr. Pipps may in fact be a
little too young for his duties?"
"Nonsense Mr. Hornblower! Mr. Pipps is a very enthusiastic young officer.
I'll never forget the way he knocked Admiral Dubois on his stern with one
blast of his peashooter. He's a fine young chap and you had better take him
along with you tonight."
On the quarterdeck the first lieutenant was looking anxiously
"Report Mr. Bracegirdle!" roared Sir Edward as he leaped over the stern rail
having taken the short cut by climbing out of his cabin window.
"There is a man in the water off the port bow sir. He is clinging to some
wreckage, but the strange thing is that he is really, really small."
"Turn the telescope around Mr. Bracegirdle."
"Lower a boat! Mr. Hornblower, go and rescue that man."
"Aye aye sir!" Horatio made his way manfully to the entry port, ignoring the
wide spread jealous mutterings of "it's not fair. It's always him. When do
the rest of us chaps get a look in?"
"May I come with you Horatio?" Archie came running up eagerly, "do say yes!"
"Certainly Arch" said Horatio patting him fondly on the head "but you must
be careful to stay calm. You know what happens when you get too excited."
"Yes Horatio" murmured Archie, "I'm sorry about last time. Did you get the
stain out of your jacket yet?"
"Never mind that now. We must go and pull this poor devil out of the sea,"
said Horatio leaping heroically into the lowered boat. Archie followed him
and they sat in the stern ready to cast off.
"I say," said Archie after a few moments, "do you think we should get some
of the men to come along as well? They could do the rowing and we could
steer and shout orders."
"Damn!" cried Horatio smacking himself on the forehead "Mathews, Styles,
Oldroyd, Emmerson, Lake, Palmer! Get down here at once!"
As soon as the men were at the oars, the boat pulled away over the waves
towards the figure struggling in the water. As they drew close a cheery cry
of "hello Snotty!" rang out.
"Oh no!" whimpered Archie. "It's Simpson! Horatio what am I going to do?"
"Don't worry," said Horatio patting him on the shoulder "I know he used to
steal your hair ribbons but I won't let him do it anymore."
"But that's not all he did!" said Archie nervously.
"Calm down Archie, I know all about the grog in your shoes. I shall put a
stop to that as well," promised Horatio leaning over the gunwale and heaving
Simpson aboard by the waistband of his drawers. "What happened to your ship
you poisonous toad?" he asked as a white faced Simpson struggled desperately
to re-arrange his underwear.
"I've no idea Snotty," gasped Simpson. "I was just having a quiet smoke in
the powder magazine and boom! The whole damn ship vanished. I can't
understand it. Nice to see you again Archie, had any plum duff lately?"
Archie went pale and squirmed uneasily. Horatio frowned and made up his mind
to find out why a seemingly innocent remark about a boiled pudding could
cause his friend so much distress. He would have to be very careful how he
asked. He didn't want to upset Archie needlessly by bringing back painful
memories. He would need to use all the tact and delicacy at his command.
When they got back on board Indefatigable Simpson was summoned to the
quarterdeck to give an account of himself. Horatio managed to give him a
parting boot up the backside and then put an arm gently around Archie's head
and led him down to his cabin.
"All right Blondie," he said slamming the door shut "what's all this
nonsense about plum duff? Hmm?"
"Oh God Horatio!" babbled Archie going picturesquely pale, "I can't possibly
tell you that!"
"Rubbish!" said Horatio shaking him by the lapels, "out with it man!"
"All right, all right!" he sobbed, "I'll tell you. Simpson, he took my
breeches and ..."
"Oh the swine!" gasped Horatio.
"I know. It was awful! And then he took some string and a wooden spoon and
"I'll kill him! Kill him!" swore Horatio.
"Oh I wish you would. Anyway, then he shoved the plum duff in and..."
"A whole plum duff!" shrieked Horatio going pale with horror.
"Yes" whispered Archie, "It filled my breeches completely and he hid all my
other pairs so I had nothing to wear and this was just five minutes before I
was meant to be on watch!"
"So you're telling me that he filled your trousers with boiled pudding?"
said Horatio, suddenly much calmer.
"But you weren't in them at the time, or anything?"
"Well, no," said Archie looking bewildered, "how could I have been? I mean
he filled them up completely. It was dreadful. I had to empty it all out in
a hurry and put the breeches on. I reeked of suet and they were sticking to
me all over." He trembled at the very thought.
"You really are a bit of a cake aren't you?" said Horatio cuffing him fondly
round the ears. "Do you want to come with me on this Chateau Bouillon caper
"Oh yes please!" said Archie gazing at him worshipfully with his big blue
"Right ho then. Meet me by the entry port at seven bells."
Later that afternoon Horatio was sitting with his feet up on
table, a pot of tea and a plate of scones at his elbow. He was just downing
his fifth scone laden with jam and clotted cream when Simpson sidled in
"Something wrong?" said Horatio lazily tossing a handful of weevils at his
"Yes there damn well is!" said Simpson savagely. "I'm being thrown off the
"That's splendid news" laughed Horatio "Why?"
"Having hair unbecoming an officer" spat Simpson. "Sir Edward said I was a
disgrace to the service. I tried to explain about my inherited split ends
and the damage from salt spray but he wouldn't listen. He just kept on and
on about 'untidy heaps of straw' and 'unmade haystacks'. He's going to make
me row back to Portsmouth tomorrow! You and Archie make me sick do you know
that?" Simpson sniveled "you with your shiny curls and him with his natural
highlights. You don't know what it's like for me!"
"Oh dry up" said Horatio getting to his feet "why don't you try this and see
if it helps."
He emptied the teapot over Simpson's head and went to find Archie and give
him the good news.
Under cover of darkness Horatio, Archie and a handpicked group
old salts set off for the shore. They had gone about a hundred yards when
young Mr. Pipps, who was still upset at having to leave his toy soldiers
behind, whispered urgently in Horatio's ear.
"Why didn't you go before we left the ship?"
"Me don't know" sniffed Mr. Pipps, hopping from foot to foot.
"Well you'll just have to go over the side." There was a small splash as the
obedient child leapt over the gunwale into the sea. "No! I didn't mean that
you silly boy! I meant...Oh never mind! Fish him out Styles" said Horatio
with a sigh. "No, on second thoughts just hold him in the water for a couple
of minutes first."
They reached the shore without further incident.
"Right men, gather round" said Horatio gathering the men around him. "You
are to follow me. Stay close and keep very quiet."
"Mr. 'Ornblower sir."
"Yes, what is it Mathews?"
"Me and the lads sir, we just want to say what a pleasure it is to be going
off on one of these little expeditions with you again sir."
"Thank you Mathews"
"Yes sir, I was only sayin' to Styles this mornin'. It's about time Mr.
'Ornblower took us on one of his little jaunts I said."
"Very good Mathews. Now we really.."
"And then Styles 'e says to me 'you're right you old bugger. It'll be a rare
treat to give the Frogs another bashing with Mr. 'Ornblower'"
"Will you shut up!" yelled Horatio.
"Shut up it is sir. Always a pleasure sir."
"I say Horatio," whispered Archie anxiously, "do you think you should be
shouting like that?"
"Probably not!" hissed Horatio fiercely. "Where are you anyway?" he said
looking on all sides for his friend.
"I'm inside your jacket."
"What in blazes are you doing there?"
"Well, you did say to stay close and its really quite cozy in here."
"Come out at once! I need you to bring up the rear."
"In the dark?" said Archie tremulously as he re-appeared.
"Take Mr. Pipps with you. Make sure you keep a hold of his hand and don't
"Me won't." piped up Mr. Pipps helpfully.
After an hour of marching they came to within a hundred yards of the Chateau
"Halt!" whispered Horatio "Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Pipps come forward."
'Beggin' your pardon sir."
"What is it now Mathews?"
"I don't think they can 'ere you at the back sir on account you're
"Oh just go and get them!" said Horatio impatiently. In no time at all Mr.
Pipps came skipping forward towing Archie behind him. "Here's the plan,"
said Horatio. "I want Mr. Pipps to go and knock at the front door of the
Chateau and then run away. When the occupants come to answer the door we
will all run quickly to the back door, force it open and make our way to the
"Are you sure that will work Horatio?" said Archie doubtfully. "It sounds a
bit too simple to me."
"Of course it will work Archie! We are dealing with Frogs! Now I think you
should take Mr. Pipps half way to the door and wait for him while he runs
back afterwards. You can hide behind that hedge."
The moon had come out and so Horatio and the rest of the men had a clear
view as Archie crouched behind the hedge and Mr. Pipps skipped bravely
towards the imposing front door of the Chateau. When he came to a sudden
halt and bent down to pick something of the ground, Archie waved frantically
at him to encourage him to keep going. After a few seconds he set off again
reluctantly and then veered off course for no apparent reason and vanished
behind a tree.
"Wot's 'e doin' of sir?" growled Styles in a shockingly ungrammatical
"I wish I knew! Oh No! Archie wait, don't go yourself!" exclaimed Horatio in
a horrified whisper, as Archie leapt from his hiding place and made a
determined run for the Chateau's front entrance. He rapped on the door
smartly with both fists and then ran behind the same tree that had obscured
Mr. Pipps. A few seconds later he emerged with Mr. Pipps on his shoulders
and ran swiftly to where the rest of the men were waiting.
"What happened?" asked Horatio as they set off to find the back door.
"First he found a dead crow and then he saw a conker tree," gasped Archie.
"Me wanted to keep the crow," said Mr. Pipps in a disgruntled tone.
As Horatio had predicted, the rear portion of the Chateau was deserted,
apart from a few heavily snoring guards, and they made their way to the
tower without hindrance. The room housing the tapestries was a large one
with a raised wooden platform at one end.
"Right men, get these tapestries cut down and rolled up," ordered Horatio.
"Keep it quiet now. We don't want to bring any Frogs up here to see what's
"Beggin' yer pardon sir," said Mathews tugging his forelock "but do you
think Mr. Kennedy's all right sir? He's got that funny look in his eye
again." Horatio followed his anxious gaze and saw that Archie had climbed up
on to the platform and had become alarmingly flushed.
"Oh no! Not here! Not now!" he groaned. "Archie come down at once!"
"Just look at this room," said Archie with an enraptured expression on his
face. "It's just perfect for putting on a play!"
"E's off Sir!" warned Styles "we'll never keep 'im quiet now." Horatio saw
that there indeed little hope of averting disaster. Archie had walked to the
edge of the platform and was standing with one foot forward and his right
arm held out to the front.
"Oh for a Muse of fire, that would ascend the brightest heaven of
invention," he declaimed in his best wake'em up in the back row voice.
"It's bad this time," said Mathews shaking his head "he's having a full
blown fit of the Shakespeares."
"We few, we happy few, we band of brothers," continued Archie in ringing
tones while everyone else stared at Horatio, expecting him to do something.
"E'll be throwing 'is 'at off and goin' down on one knee in a minute you see
if 'e don't," grumbled Oldroyd.
"Here comes the herald of the French, my liege." Said Archie tossing his hat
the length of the room and falling dramatically to one knee.
"Get up there and take hold of him!" said Horatio "We must roll him up in
one of the tapestries until he's quiet." Several large seamen launched
themselves at the unfortunate Mr. Kennedy and within thirty seconds he was
"Now stay calm Archie," said Horatio soothingly "we'll get you back to the
ship as soon as we can and throw a barrel of cold water over you."
"Not at all my dear old fellow. Now Mathews, do we have all the tapestries
off the wall and rolled up?"
"Yes sir. All rolled up sir."
"Right then, I suggest we heave the lot out of the windows. It will be much
easier than carting them down the stairs."
"Very good sir, heave them out the window it is. Come on men, you 'eard Mr.
Mr. Pipps, who was at the far end of the room, began stamping loudly on the
floor and Horatio hurried to stop him.
"This is no time to be dancing a hornpipe Mr. Pipps!" he admonished.
"I not dancing!" said the child scornfully "I squishing this beetle!"
"Lift your foot once more and I'll make all your toy soldiers walk the
plank!' threatened Horatio. Tucking the subdued child underneath his arm he
re-joined his men.
"All the tapestries are out the window sir!" reported Mathews.
"Well done," said Horatio "Now let's get out of here. Styles, pick up Mr.
"Yes sir. Where is 'e sir?"
"On the platform man, rolled up in a tapestry."
"Beggin' yer pardon sir."
"You did just give us an order to heave all the tapestries out the window
didn't you sir?"
"Yes that's right. Oh my God! You haven't! Tell me you didn't throw little
Arch out of the window!" gasped Horatio.
"Not as such sir. Oldroyd just got a little confused. Don't you worry though
sir. There's a river right underneath the window."
"Oh thank heavens for that!" exclaimed Horatio running to look. "But I don't
see anything in the water."
"No sir, they all floated away downstream. I expect they'll be out to sea in
"Come on men there's no time to lose. We must get back to the boat and go
looking for Mr. Kennedy."
"Back to the boat it is sir,' said Mathews cheerfully. 'It's a pity we
didn't just row up 'ere in the boat in the first place isn't it sir? We
could 'ave saved a lot of time. Yes sir. Shut up it is sir."
Horatio gazed at the moonlit sea and heaved a sigh. Life was
Archie. The nights were strangely quiet. Archie had never mastered the art
of sleeping in a hammock and Horatio had been used to getting up a dozen
times to pick him up off the floor. Because of his dislike of the dark
Archie had not cared to go the heads alone at night and had always needed
Horatio to get up and guide him. Now the long hours of the night had nothing
to offer but unbroken hours of slumber. He had come up on deck to escape
this oppressive inactivity. A movement by his knee and the sound of sniffing
caught his attention. He looked down and saw the diminutive figure of Mr.
Pipps, clothed in his pajamas and sporting little red felt slippers in the
shape of rowing boats.
"Shouldn't you be tucked up in your hammock?" he inquired.
"I miss my friend," said the child mournfully.
"Oh yes, so do I," said Horatio, his eyes going watery at the thought of
Archie's loss being felt by one so young.
"What did you like best about him?" asked Mr. Pipps, his chin quivering.
"Well," said Horatio, marveling at the recent advances in the child's speech
"he was such a cheery little chap, always scampering about the deck, full of
the joys of life."
"Yes," said Mr. Pipps drying his tears "and he could run very fast." He
tugged at Horatio's hand "shall I tell you a secret?"
"If you like," said Horatio kneeling down, the better to hear the child.
"He was scared of the guns."
"Yes. I know, but he was brave in other ways wasn't he," replied Horatio,
wondering if Archie too had confided in their tiny colleague in the past.
"He used to hide in my pocket when they fired the big ones," whispered Mr.
"Did he really?" said Horatio smiling "are you sure you're not making that
"No, of course not! He liked my pocket."
"Come now," said Horatio "you know that officers in His Majesty's Navy
should always tell the truth."
"I am! Gregory liked to hide in my pocket!"
"My pet mouse."
"He got squashed."
The following afternoon, just before teatime, Sir Edward summoned
officers to his day cabin.
"Gentlemen" he said "I have just received some news from the Admiralty by
express carrier pigeon. A treaty has been signed at Stoke-on-Trent. We are
no longer at war with France!"
"Oh!" a collective groan of disappointment came from every throat.
"We are, however, still seriously displeased with Spain and have His
Majesty's permission to knock seven bells out of any Albanian ships that we
A cheer greeted these words.
"Will we be sailing for Spanish waters sir?" asked Horatio.
"No, we will remain on patrol in the Channel."
"To deal with the Albanian threat of course."
"But sir," said Horatio lowering his voice, "the Albanians home waters are
even further away than the Spanish."
"Are they by Jove!" exclaimed Sir Edward. "Hmm. Perhaps I had better write a
note the Admiralty and inform them. Well done Mr. Hornblower!"
"Thank you sir," replied Horatio lowering his eyes modestly. It was a relief
to be in his captain's good books again. Things had been a little strained
since the Chateau Bouillon affair. It had not been the loss of the
tapestries that had angered the captain, or even the disappearance of Mr.
Kennedy. It had been the damage to his new woven silk Chinese rug that had
vexed him. Horatio had been unable to avoid sobbing while making his report
and the combination of salt water and mucous had made the dyes run.
"Cooee!" a shrill cry from above made all of the officers look up. Mr. Pipps
was waving at them through the skylight.
"It's a Froggy frigate!" he announced
"Make your report properly sir!" roared Sir Edward "where exactly is the
Froggy er, the French frigate."
"In the sea silly" giggled Mr. Pipps as he skipped away.
"Mr. Bracegirdle, you will stop that young man's cocoa for a month and he is
to have no more bedtime stories. We must have discipline at all costs!"
"It's the 'Mal de Mer' sir," said Horatio after they had all trooped up to
the quarterdeck "she's heaving to, and they are lowering a boat. They are
sending an officer across. Looks like a lieutenant. The boats pulling
alongside sir. The officer's climbing through the entry port sir. He's
coming across the deck sir. He's standing in front of you sir. He's opening
his mouth sir."
"Yes. That will do Mr. Hornblower! I think I may be able to manage now."
The French officer made a bow, took of his hat, spat out a clove of garlic
and addressed Sir Edward thusly.
"I bring you greetings from Capitaine Peugeot-Renault. He begs that you will
dine with him this evening aboard the 'Mal de Mer' in order to celebrate the
newly declared peace between our two great nations."
There was a lengthy and somewhat embarrassing pause after he had finished,
which was eventually broken by Sir Edward asking Horatio a question.
"Well what is he saying man?"
"Oh! I do beg your pardon sir. He was speaking English and I just
"Well don't just assume! It's a well known fact that British naval officers
above the rank of commander are not obliged to comprehend anything uttered
by foreigners. What does he want?"
"You are invited to dinner aboard the frigate sir."
"Oh really. What are they having?"
There was a brief conference between Horatio and the French lieutenant.
"Sir, he regrets that they can only offer a haunch of venison, a cured ham,
two dozen partridges, assorted domestic fowls, fresh salmon seethed in
butter, crabs, lobsters, and a selection of the finest cheeses all to be
washed down by some superlative wines."
"I see. I shall have to go I suppose" sighed Sir Edward reluctantly. "Ask
the lieutenant if he would like me to bring any English dishes along to help
make a proper meal of it. Some boiled cabbage or a plum duff perhaps?"
The French officer turned quite pale and shook his head vigorously in reply.
Two hours later Sir Edward stood by the entry port in his best uniform
waiting for his barge to row him across to the French ship. Horatio
approached and coughed respectfully.
"What is it Mr. Hornblower?"
"I was wondering sir if you might want to consider changing your coat."
"Why is that?"
Well sir, it has the names of all the French frigates you've sunk
embroidered on the back."
"Oh! Perhaps you have a point." He was in the process of changing into his
second best coat; the one with 'We stuffed it to the Dons at Cape St
Vincent' worked in gold thread across the shoulders, when an exhausted
carrier pigeon thudded on to the deck.
Horatio knelt and relieved the panting bird of its tiny leather satchel and
handed the message it contained to the captain.
"This changes everything!" exclaimed Sir Edward turning the minuscule pages,
"We are once again at war with France! The treaty of Stoke-on-Trent is
broken and the accord of Puddleton -in-the-Marsh is in effect. We are at
peace with the Spanish, fairly miffed with the Swedes and Danes and have His
Majesty's approval to sink all Swiss shipping on sight."
"What of the Albanians sir?" asked Horatio his nostrils flaring like a young
"They are to be completely ignored. Mr. Hornblower you will signal the 'Mal
de Me' that I shall be half an hour late. Mr. Pipps!"
"You are to have your peashooter ready at all times and bring down any
pigeons that you see heading for the French er, Froggy frigate. Mr.
Hornblower come with me."
Horatio followed his captain below, eager to find out what he was planning.
It would be something absolutely corking he was sure.
"Mr. Hornblower, we have an opportunity to strike a blow for our country and
we must not waste it. Element of surprise and all that." Said the captain
taking a generous swig from one of his cut glass decanters.
"Are we going to sink the frigate sir?" asked Horatio eagerly.
"Good heavens no! That ship is carrying a priceless treasure and I mean to
get hold of it."
"What is it sir?"
"A set of Louis Quinze furniture in perfect condition. Dining table, chairs,
sofas the lot. It's been the pride of the French fleet for years. It's all
in Captain Pergola, that French johnny's cabin but before this day is over
it will grace this very room."
Later that evening, under cover of darkness, Horatio stepped down into a
boat where Mr. Pipps, Mathews, Styles, Morecombe, Wise, Hall and Oates sat
ready to undertake the daring mission. They rowed quickly across and
positioned themselves under the stern windows of the 'Mal de Mer'.
"All right men," whispered Horatio, "by now the dinner will be over and
Captain Pellew will have suggested that they all take their brandy up on
deck. I'm going up first to take a look. Wait here for my signal."
"Wait for your signal it is sir," whispered Mathews "and sir..."
"Shut up Mathews."
Horatio climbed up, opened one of the stern windows and stepped into the
cabin. When he had bolted the door from the inside he looked around. The
furniture was certainly every bit as handsome as Captain Pellew had
described it. There was a sofa in one corner that looked especially well
upholstered and he decided to try it out. As he sat down a squeal not unlike
that of a demented rabbit erupted beneath him. He jumped up and found
himself looking down at a pair of startled blue eyes.
"Archie!?" he gasped.
"Oh no!" groaned Archie, "Horatio, you can't see me like this!"
"What's happened to you?" said Horatio aghast. His once svelte friend
appeared to have packed on at least a stone around the waist and had the
beginnings of a double chin. His shirt was stained with food and his mouth
had a decidedly sticky appearance.
"What's that on your face Archie?"
"Nothing," said Archie hastily stuffing a profiterole into his mouth "just a
bit of chocolate."
"Where have you been all this time and why can't you button your waistcoat
"Oh God it's been awful!" sobbed Archie "the Frogs fished me out of the sea
and made me sit and eat with the officers. Then they found out about my,
well the Shakespeare, you know, and they forced me to recite for them at
meal times. Everyday it's been the same. Tables groaning with the finest
cuisine and wines. If they liked the way I delivered a sonnet they threw me
a chicken. A soliloquy got me a filet mignon and a bottle of wine. The worst
times were when they made me do Henry the Fifth and showered me with
gateaux. I tried to escape a few times but I kept getting stuck in the
portholes and then they put me to work in the galley as a punishment. The
chefs had no mercy! They kept handing me spoonfuls of left over batter and
"You poor thing!" said Horatio patting his shoulder "but you're not to worry
Archie. A week or two of good British Navy vittles will soon sort you out."
"No!" screamed Archie "I can't go back on the Indy looking like this. I'd
rather jump in the sea and end it all." He got up and grabbed a half-eaten
baguette off the table and bit into it savagely.
"Listen to me!" shouted Horatio snatching the bread away and tossing it out
of the window "you're going to forget all this Frog nonsense about flavor
and texture. You're going to learn to enjoy ten year old beef and weevils on
your biscuits and you're going to run up and down the rigging ten times a
day while you're doing it!"
"Don't count on it!" laughed Archie hysterically as he emptied a dish of
crème brulee over his own head.
"Oh stow it Arch!" said Horatio crossly "and get those profiteroles out of
Dragging his weak and protesting friend over to the stern windows he leaned
out and whispered an order.
"Styles, send up a block and tackle. We've got a bulky item to shift."
"Horatio!" cried Archie in a hurt voice.
"Not you, the sofa you great cake!"
Late that night Captain Pellew stood admiring the furniture
in its new home.
"Well this is certainly one in the eye for the Frogs" he said briskly,
running his hand along his new dining table.
"Yes sir," agreed Horatio clutching a very large glass of brandy in each
hand "and the capture of the frigate was jolly good too."
"Couldn't have been easier," said Sir Edward. "When I knew you were safely
away I just turned to Captain Prego, um the French captain and said 'Senor,
you will surrender your ship to me.' Once he knew we had already captured
the furniture all the fight went out of him."
"A triumph sir!" agreed Horatio "and we were fortunate to get Mr. Kennedy
back as well."
"Mr. Kennedy sir. The officer standing to my left."
"Oh yes." Sir Edward came and stood very close to Archie, peering at his
face. "Are you quite sure you used to be on my ship?" he asked.
"Quite sure, sir" said Archie faintly. He was feeling the effects of the
salt pork and weevil sandwich that Horatio had made him eat as soon as he
got back on the Indy.
"Funny," said Sir Edward shaking his head, "I just can't place you."
Four weeks later Horatio stood side by side with Archie as
they watched the
men cleaning the decks. Mr. Kennedy was a picture of health once more with
his jacket buttoned across his trim torso with room to spare. Horatio was
very proud of his friend and the progress he had made but there was one
aspect of his conduct as an officer that he felt bound to comment on.
"It wonderful to see you doing so splendidly" he said
"Thanks Horatio, but I owe it all to you."
"Yes I know. Listen Arch, when you're giving the men order you are always
very polite aren't you?"
"Yes Horatio. It's my upbringing you know."
"That's all very well but the men expect something a bit more nautical"
"Oh, should I mention things like back stays and jib booms? Sort of toss
them in as I go along?"
"Actually I was thinking more of a few swear words and colorful curses."
"I see," said Archie thoughtfully, then without warning he yelled "Styles!
You son of a horse! Push that ruddy broom like you flippin' mean it! How's
that Horatio?" he said with a winning smile
"Perfect Archie. Just perfect" sighed Horatio.