The Weather Eye
Part 17: Shipwrecks and Smoke Signals
by Skihee

"So, inglese, where is the wine?"

"The wine?"

"Si. Donde?"

"Aaaa...." *Think fast, Oldroyd* he told himself, *Wine, wine, where is the
wine? What bloody wine? Think. Think. Elsewise you'll be swallowin' sword
for lunch. Oy, Jesus, Mr. 'Ornblower, where are ye when I need ye?*
"KALIAKRA! That's where he is, er,..I mean, where it is. Yeah. Yeah. On
the pirate ship. Kaliakra." Oldroyd sighed with relief.

The Spaniard turned and shouted to his Captain.

Oldroyd did not understand Spanish, but he understood ship, and this one was
coming about.

*******

Horatio stood looking aft off the stern of Kaliakra. His right foot propped
on the wheel of the carronade next to him. The stiff breeze pressing them
eastward to Port Jackson blew his curls off his forehead and the blousy
frilled shirt filled with wind like one of the sturdy ship's sails. The
material caressed his chest when he turned one way or the other and
occasionally allowed a view of his solid pectoral muscles. He was not muscle
bound, but not a smidge of flab would be found on him. He squared his
shoulders causing the material to flap against his back. He flexed his left
leg where he stood, trying to adjust the leg of the tight black leather
trousers he wore. He looked down and noted the bulge protruding at his
crotch. Putting his right leg down on the deck, he tried to adjust the
garment. He cleared his throat, and wiggled his hips, frowning at the result
he was getting. This pirate garb will not do, simply not do. "Damn." The
boots he wore extended his height by two inches. As he walked toward the
railing, his steps clicked loudly.

He watched Archie turn away from him and giggle.

"Most amusing, Mr. Kennedy," he muttered as he passed to exit the companion.

He made his way into the stern cabins. Roberts sat at his desk writing. The
steps of the leftenant caught his attention. He looked up and snickered
behind his hand.

"You as well? These clothes will not do. I feel that the future of my
children may be greatly hampered."

"You have children?"

"Not yet, no."

"Oh. I see." He snickered again. "They are a bit tight, Mr. Hornblower.
Why don't you check the trunks in the hold. There must be something that
will fit better."

"Aye."

He turned to leave. Roberts could not help but observe his exit. "There is
something to be said for those britches....if I were a woman anyway." He
chuckled at the look Hornblower turned to deliver.

"Stuff it, Roberts."

"Do be careful going down the stairs. You might rip something."

The clicking heels drew attention to his passing all the way to the hold. He
ignored the chortles of the ratings. A snickering Matthews joined him to
assist in his search for clothing. Only Matthews attempts to hide his
amusement assuaged Hornblower's pride to allow his company. Once below,
Hornblower sat, if you could call it that, it was more of a lean, so Matthews
could pull the knee high boots off.

"Thank you, Matthews." He undid the buttons, sucking in his breath and
peeled off the trousers that were more like a second skin. "Ah." Though
standing in his altogether, the billowing shirt provided covering for his
lower regions.

"I don't know how ye got into them pants, sir."

"Nor I, Matthews. I think it was the drink and a challenge from Mr. Kennedy.
It's all a bit fuzzy."

Matthews searched through a trunk. Pulling out a pair of trousers he held
them up to him. Hornblower eyed them critically. The legs were huge
billowing things.

"No."

Matthews dropped them to the floor and resumed his search. "What happened to
yer other trousers, sir?"

"That's a good question, Matthews." He thought pensively, remembering his
part of the conversation, *Archie, damn you! Give me my clothes!* but he
could not recall the answer from Kennedy. It was obvious he had declined his
demand. And, his faulty memory told him he needed to take care of what
Kennedy offered him to drink, especially after having Madeira with Roberts.

"Oy! What's this?" Matthews held up a bottle. "It looks like a bottle of
wine, sir, but it seems empty."

"Let me see." Hornblower held the bottle up to the lantern and shook it.
"You're right, Matthews. It's contents are definitely not wine." He
examined the cork. The lead seal was in place. His eyebrow rose. "It's
sealed." He frowned. Another mystery. What was this doing in a trunk of
clothes? Why was it sealed? Was it some "spy" thing? Should he open it?
"Damn it."

"Sir?"

"Not you, Matthews. I am weary of these intrigues. Could we not for once
just sail and get where we intend to go? Without shipwreck, natives, or
spies? Not to mention fellow officers who delight in tormenting me! Damn
Archie to hell!" he muttered.

Matthews shrugged. "Aye, sir, I know what ye mean." He extracted another
garment, holding them before him doubtfully.

Hornblower winced that Matthews would even suggest such a thing. They were
purple with huge orange polka dots.

"Let me look." Hornblower began throwing things out of the trunk hand over
hand. Nothing was found that would do. "I'm going to kill Archie Kennedy."

Matthews bent over and retrieved one of the discarded garments. He held it
before him and looked inquisitively at Hornblower.

Snatching it from Matthews hand, he put it on. "Not a word, Matthews, not a
word," he cautioned. "I'm going to my cabin. Send Mr. Kennedy to me."

"Aye, aye, sir," snorted Matthews.

Hornblower paced his cabin waiting for Kennedy. Hearing the door open, he
turned to greet his so-called friend.

Kennedy began giggling the moment he saw him which built into all out
laughter. He tried to ask him a question, getting out the words between
intense uncontrollable chuckling, rolling his r's and clicking his l's.
"What klan do ye belong ta, sehr? Is it McGreggor or McGinty?" He laughed
again. "Nice knees, Horatio!"

"I'll nice knees you! Now what the devil did you do with my trousers?"

"Do you play the pipes as well?"

"Archie..." He closed his eyes and balled his fists. "I am doing my utmost
to maintain my temper. What did you do with my trousers?"

"All right, all right. Calm down. But you will not be happy."

"Oh? Am I happy now?" he said angrily.

Archie reached under the bunk and pulled out the wadded garment.

Horatio snatched them from his hand. He shook them out and noted a blackened
area. Looking more closely, he saw they were burned and there was a gaping
hole about where his left cheek would be. He stared mournfully at Archie.

"I told you so."

He sat down holding his head in his hand and tried to remember why his
trousers were burned.

"I guess that will teach you not to mix Madeira wine with English rum."

"How....how...did I do this?"

"You don't remember, do you? We were discussing Indian smoke signals and the
children's rhyme."

"Jack be nimble...." Hornblower closed his eyes and shook his head. "Oh
dear. That accounts for the soreness on my.....ahem. Damn."

"Indeed. We were fortunate not to set the ship afire."

"What am I to do? I cannot wear those...leather skins, clown trousers, nor
do I want to be taken for a Scotsman."

"I'll get Matthews. He's handy with a needle and thread."

Hornblower lay on his bunk and stared at the ceiling. He realized his hand
was resting on something smooth and cold. He lifted it to look at it. The
wine bottle. He held it up to the light. There seemed to be something
inside. Something light weight. He shook it and wondered if he should ask
Roberts about it.

A knock.

"Come."

"Mr. Kennedy says ye need some sewin', sir."

"Yes. My trousers." He handed them over.

Matthews looked at them doubtfully, then looked at his kilt bedecked officer.
"I'll do me best, sir."

"Sail ho!" The two heard the shout from the look out. "Abaft the larboard
stern!"

"Now what?" asked Hornblower. He tossed the bottle onto the bed.