The Weather Eye
Horatio looked up from his kneeling position. Strange. These
to a name related to a despicable character, at least in his and Archie's
canon. He rose slowly, approaching the writhing Kennedy on the stone slab.
The leader watched him but made no move to prevent his approach to Kennedy.
He knelt beside his friend, smoothing his hair, and taking
his shoulders into
"Archie. Archie," he soothed. Soon Kennedy relaxed
and slipped into the
blessed sleep that took him after these episodes. Horatio continued to
cradle his friend.
The group of sailors and natives were silent. Only the rattling
years palm fronds shook in the breeze.
The leader sporting the dried head on his spear approached
babbled something in his native tongue. Hornblower looked up at him but did
not move. The one word he could understand was the appellation bringing to
mind unwelcome memories, memories destroyed with a musket shot. He hated
that dreaded designation and the correlating condition that arrived to
agitate his good friend. Would they ever be truly rid of this grotesque
ghost that seized his friend in stress and reminded HIM of a youthful
humiliation he could successfully bury, but for Archie's response? He
exhaled the air in his lungs abruptly, frustrated at the language barrier.
Simpson, in the corrupted speech of the native, Seemsun. What
in God's name
could it mean? All this kneeling and kowtowing? The man was grunting at him
with seeming questions.
"He is my friend."
The leader turned to his followers speaking to them with a
Seemsun this and Seemsun that, motioning at his men, his own picked division,
and his new Petrel crew. With grunts and spear stabbing motions, his men
were soon corralled into marching position. Four natives ran up to where he
and Archie still sat on the stone slab with several thin tree trunks.
Working quickly with vine and frond, a haphazard stretcher was contrived, and
Archie was placed upon it.
The leader motioned with his spear for Horatio to get up an follow.
The trek through the tropical forest was hot and long. He
was still thirsty
from the prolonged adventure at sea, and his previous ailment. Lifting one
foot and then the other was an effort, flagged on for concern of what they
would do with Archie and his men. He supposed the fact that Archie had not
been sacrificed on the spot was some encouragement. Some encouragement that
they had not ALL been slaughtered, their bodies left to rot in the sun, and
their bones added to the piles near the temple at the watering hole.
Horatio shivered in the heat. Was it fear? Was it sickness?
He was not
sure himself, for all he felt both, for one reason or another, and many.
Within an hour, they reached the village of the island natives.
His men were
pushed into an open area as others of the village ran up with vines to tie
them hand and foot, pushing them roughly to the ground. He could see and
hear Styles protesting their treatment and Matthews warning him in undertones
to quiet down.
He and Archie were led into a thatched hut, his stretcher barers
onto a pile of dried grasses covered over with huge leathery leaves. The men
left Hornblower standing in the middle of the hut, looking about him, and at
his unconscious friend. What were they into now? Why had this turn of
events occurred? Why was he not still safely patrolling the French coast
with his captain? Better a cannon aimed at you than these feathered spears!
And it was damn well too damn hot here. He tugged at his sandy stock and
longed for a wash deck pump shower.
The hut he found them in was made of the same thin tree trunks
had been fashioned from. The walls they formed were sparse, allowing light
and air in, as well as a view to the outside. The roof was of layers of palm
fronds, crisscrossing trunk beams, and each other. At least it provided a
shelter from the beating sun.
A native woman entered the hut carrying a jug. Her attire,
if you could call
it that, was next to nothing, making Hornblower slightly uneasy. She did not
look at him but went straight to Archie. She poured from the jug into what
appeared to be a small turtle shell, and moved it toward Archie.
"Water?" he asked, grabbing her wrist, and knocking the shell to the ground.
She looked at him angrily and spoke in her language. When
she saw he did not
understand, a little smile crossed her lips, she raised both hands into the
air and made wiggling down motions with her fingers, then made scooping
motions towards her mouth. She waited for a response from Hornblower. None
coming, she retrieved the shell, poured into it again, drank some, then
offered it to him. Taking the shell, he drank, haltingly, until the taste
told him, pure water. He blushed under his sunburn.
"Sorry." He held the shell to her. Picking up the
jug, she filled the shell
again. Taking it, she attempted to water Archie. Hornblower reached to
assist, lifting Archie to receive the liquid.
She filled the shell once more and passed it to Hornblower.
took it and drained it. Filling it for him once more, he emptied it once
more, and thanked her.
She spoke again, motioning to the jug, to Archie, and pressing
the shell into
his hand, and then left. His eyes followed her exit. There were two guards
at the doorway that glanced briefly at Hornblower. He stared past them to
where his men were all seated on the ground. Some were in shade, some were
not. He was relieved to see they, too, were being given drink. He sighed
and wondered how he was going to communicate with the savages.
Weary from the trek and the perils leading up to the current
which he found himself, he collapsed on the dirt floor next to Archie's bed.
He leaned his head against his own knee and sighed. Turning his head, he
stared at the jug. Trade or plunder or shipwreck? What could have brought
such an advanced device to these primitives who drank from turtle shells?
"God! What have I gotten myself into? I'd rather face
a fleet of Spanish
and French than this multitude of jabberers!"
"Is that your feeble attempt at prayer?"
His head popped up. "Archie!"
"I had a fit, didn't I?"
Sorrowful, Horatio, said, "You saved us,... saved us all."
"You tell me. Why in God's name did you say Simpson?"
"Did I? I don't recall."
"These natives went to chanting once you fell out."
"Yes! Simpson, simpson, seemsun, they said."
Archie chuckled quizzically. "Indeed? It's about time
that bastard did
Horatio smiled wryly. "Only heaven knows why."
"Heaven? More like hell from the looks of the temple we were by."
Horatio frowned at that suggestion. Indeed, perhaps he had
let the friendly
attitude of the water lady color his perceptions. After all, his men were
outside bound hand and foot, and he and Archie were under guard.
At dusk, a hullabaloo ensued outside the hut. Archie and Horatio peered
through the spaces between the tree trunks. A number of natives were tossing
things to the ground. THEIR things. The savages had found the remains of
their shipwreck and delivered them to their leader. One item seemed to
particularly interest the great one, the slightly paunchy man wearing a
necklace of calorie shells, with the odd feather woven in.
He took the item from one of his excitable followers, stared
at it as he
turned it in his hands, and lifted his head to stare pointedly at the hut
containing Archie and Horatio.
"Uh oh," worried Archie.
Hornblower simply stared, trying to make out what the chief
Then, he saw.
The chief was pointing at their hut shouting commands to his
men. A troop
was coming. Archie and Horatio instinctively backed as far as possible from
the door. The jabberers entered, grabbing both of them, men either side,
grasping hold of their arms, tightly.
The crew of the Petrel watched as their officers were roughly
escorted to the
chief's platform of thatch, the meager belongings strewn about the sand.
Styles pulled at his wrists, hoping to break the vine, but it was as solid as
a three fold chord and cut into his sunburnt skin with a vengeance. He
gritted his teeth at the situation they found themselves in.
"Belay that, Styles. Our time'll come. You mark my words,"
quietly. Several men near, heard him and relaxed as well, keeping their eyes
glued to their commanders.
Moments passed and the leftenants found themselves being roughly
their knees in front of the chief. He waved the article in his hand at them
shouting what seemed accusations. Horatio watch the item held high, holding
his breath that it would not be dropped or damaged in any way, as the man
tossed and swung it about in his angry hand. The word "seemson" was tossed
in every now and then. The man paced in front of them, and yelled again.
Horatio had an odd feeling of dejavu. What did this remind him of? He could
not think, but he knew it was something.
Archie leaned towards him slightly, speaking out of the side
of his mouth, in
low tones, "And, I thought we were done with Pellew for a space."
The chief turned on Archie, yelling and waving the instrument
in his hand.
Then, he called to one of his men, brusquely, jutting out his lower lip.
Shortly, a very wizened old man, dressed in a thinning loin cloth was brought
gingerly before them. What hair he had left was white and wispy, his skin
leathery with sun and age, his legs like bowed toothpicks, founded on knobby
large feet. His arms were thinner than his legs and he grinned a toothless
grin when he saw the two leftenants.
Archie and Horatio exchanged glances.
The man laughed a high pitch chortle, raising his knuckled
hands to his head,
pulling his ears, and tugging at his hair. A clump pulled out and he
released it waft upon the breezes.
Archie and Horaio exchanged glances again, quashing horrified expressions.
The man spoke. His words were apparently aimed at the two
He seemed to repeat the same words, though whether said once or a thousand
times, neither Archie nor Horatio understood him one whit.
"Gantu!" said the old man, getting frustrated with
the situation. "Gantu!"
he said with a frown.
He looked over to the chief motioning and speaking to him.
The chief grunted
an order to his men. Who ran off quickly with a spray of sand emitting from
their footsteps. Shortly, they returned with a stool.
The old man motioned broadly with his leathery tan arms that
it be placed in
front of the two kneeling men. It was almost painful to see him move. He
sat on the stool with a sigh and stared at the two British sailors. He
narrowed his eyes looking intently at them, as if he were trying to see into
their minds, cocking his head one way and then another, left, right, left,
each time slightly lifting the shoulders and then letting them sag, like a
bird waiting for the bug to emerge from the hole he knew it was in.
Since it was his utterance that saved them from slaughter,
Horatio, Archie decided on his own recognizance that he should speak. He
licked his lips and began. "I am Leftenant Kennedy of His Majesty's Ship
Petrel and this is Mr. Hornblower, Captain...."
The old man let out a shriek, shocking Archie into wide-eyed
silence as he
went on jabbering with "Gantu, biwah, tic no cannaway..." he stopped
speaking, held his hands palms out towards them, eyes closed, tighter, as if
he were trying to mash out something from his brain between his eyelids.
Still holding one hand out towards them, he brought the other to his forehead
and rubbed his forehead, tophead, and backhead. He opened one eye to squint
at them, closed it and rubbed his head in a circular motion, running it down
his face to his lips, and began to tug at his lips and pull on his tongue.
"Bleackch!" he exclaimed. "Sand! I've got sand in me mouth!" Both eyes
popped open to stare at the surprised officers. "Brrrrrrreeeeetich, ain't
ye. No! Brritiish. British. I've got it!" The old man grinned at them,
toothless, well, there were one or two left.
"Y-y-you speak English," stuttered Archie.
The old man squinted. "Speak! Gantu! Yes, I ...recollect....some.
I recollect sand." He shivered as if shaking some off. "It be ....all
around....that and ....," he knitted his forehead, "....sea....yes, bad taste
water, bad taste, patooey!" he spat.
"How?" asked Hornblower.
"Hm? Taken....taken...to serve. Speak more, it will
rattle....," and he
pointed to his head. He wobbled it from side to side, then jutted his chin
in concentration at what the young men would say.
"Could you ask him not to toss that thing around?"
asked Horatio nodding
towards the chief.
"Hm?" The old man looked at his leader. "Oh,
that. That ...he... in a
....a.....a......dither. A dither that is what he in. Who belong to that?"
Hornblower frowned in confusion at the odd question. Understanding,
sighed in resignation. "Me, I suppose."
Both eyebrows shot up on the old man. "Oh!" and
he turned to speak to the
leader in their native language. The chief exchanged some words with the old
man then ordered his men to take Hornblower, dragging him to his feet.
"Wait! What's going on?" blurted Hornblower.
Archie stood and grabbed onto Horatio's arm. "What goes
on, old man? Tell
us." Archie thought quickly. What could he say to stop them from taking
Horatio? "Simpson. What about Simpson?"
The struggle over moving Hornblower ceased as all eyes turned
to Archie. The
chief said more to the old man who pulled himself up by Archie's free arm,
pulling on it like a rope till he could peer into Kennedy's face. He reached
up pulling the skin away from his eye, first one and then the other. Pulling
on either side of the eyeball and staring at it.
"Cia lo, azur.....mmmm......," the old codger murmured
"BLUE!" He tapped on Archie's cheek with a skeletal knobby finger, and
nodded his head. "Blue. Blue like...sky....Seemsun in sky."
Simpson in the sky? THAT was doubtful! More like he went
direction. Hornblower looked from Archie to the old man, forgetting his own
impending peril and asked, "What has Simpson got to do with anything?"
The old man whistled in a long breath, scratched his head,
and peered at
Hornblower. All these ancient words he was called on to recall. He had not
spoken this language for moons beyond counting. He sighed and wagged his
head. "Word....word....Amagadoo....Amagadoo....god! Yes.
....god....Seemsun is god."
Hornblower dropped his chin in quizzical disgust, staring at
a god? Never! Unless he was god of the underworld! Hornblower frowned at
the old man. "What kind of a god is *seemsun*?" he demanded.
The old man sighed quick and heavy, turned, retaking his seat
on the stool.
He wondered how the dumb brown-eyed one had come to be with this one, that
seemed to know Seemsun. Did he?
The chief looked at Hornblower and rattled off a bunch of
words at him,
motioning at Archie, at a young lady seated over in the shade, at the sky,
and then said, "Seemsun..." and some other words equally unintelligible to
the young leftenant.
"What does he say, old man?" asked Hornblower impatiently,
to hold his ground, digging his heels into the soft sand.
Archie was glancing around at the current situation. There
was indeed a
rather lovely young lady, lightly tanned, no where near as dark as her male
counterparts (considering the climate), resting on a mat, under a stand of
palms. She was attended by several other women who had begun to giggle, now
that Archie was aware of them. One stood behind her and pulled her fingers
through her long, straight, jet black hair, it shining in the remains of the
sun, covering strategic places on the front of her body. Archie gulped.
"Captain...captain?" the old man pointed at his leader,
"wants to know if he
Hornblower and Kennedy stared long at one another. How this
could mean their lives.
"What, what kind of god is Seemsun?"
The old man sighed heavily, again, as he had to plod through
the corridors of
his memory, looking for the right words. He looked to the sky, waving one
hand palm up, as if protecting himself. "Seemlo." He bore his eyes into
Horatio's . "Seemlo....seemlo....SEEMLO!" He yelled in frustration, and the
English word suddenly appeared. "RAIN, SEEMSUN BRING RAIN!" He sighed
heavily at the effort of remembering, then smiled. "Seemsun bring seemlo,
rain god bring rain. Hee hee hee." He chuckled, happy with himself over his
The leader poked the old man, urging him to ask a question.
The old man scratched at his forehead. "You from Seemsun?
You bring message
from Seemsun?" He taped his own cheek and pointed at Archie. "Eyes blue
like sky. You from Seemsun?" The old man asked the question, giving
doubtful looks at his leader and entreating ones at Archie.
Kennedy blinked, looking quickly from man to man. How was
he to answer? He
did not know why the natives were looking for a message from seemsun but he
could state, in all honesty, one thing. "I knew ...Simpson."
The old man screeched wide-eyed, repeating in his native tongue
to his chief,
A great shouting was taken up as the chief repeated his words,
leaping! The people seemed in great joy.
Archie was more befuddled than ever and then the dreaded thing
chief, grinning happily, spoke to the men holding Hornblower, resulting in
him being drug away.
"Wait! Wait!" shouted Archie, but it was too late.
The natives gathered
around him, lifted him to their shoulders, and began to dance. The good
thing about being lifted was it gave a better view of the path that Horatio
was being shuffled down and away at a rapid pace. He caught the eye of his
friend giving a last glance at him atop the shoulders of the islanders, He
could see his mouth forming words, but he could not hear them.
"Where are you taking him? Where are you taking him?"
But his shouts went
ignored among the din of the native rejoicing.
Drummers appeared and began to beat a frantic beat upon large
with mallets made of gnarled tree root.
Archie could see the Petrel crew tried to rise and were shoved
onto the earth. They gazed toward the path Hornblower disappeared, and back
to Kennedy, still high and lifted up.
The natives pulled Hornblower along roughly. With a twist,
himself from their grasp, running headlong down a sandy path. In the
gathering darkness, he stumbled over a tree root, sprawling in the sand, and
the jabberers were upon him. He had no one to speak to that could understand
him. He flailed about trying to free himself from them, but there were too
many. They pressed him to the ground and tied his wrists with the same vines
used on the crew.
The leader of the native squad pushed him down and spoke roughly
shaking his finger at him. The heavy native got up off him, grabbed
Hornblower, and lifted him up to his feet effortlessly, nearly propelling him
into the air, and coming down just barely retaining his footing.
Hornblower grit his teeth, pulled at his bonds, and demanded,
"I am the
Captain! Take me back to my crew! What do you intend to do to Mr. Kennedy?
I insist I be returned!"
The futility of his situation made his vocal insistence all
laughable. These men understood nothing, but perhaps his tone. They
responded to his questions and demands by shoving him forward between them.
"Take me back to my men!" But he received no response,
but the urging
forward, two before him and two behind.
Walk and walk and walk they did. Sometimes in small valleys,
slopes, in deep sand, ever onward, into the night.
Hornblower watched the stars come out and wished he were on
a ship, any ship,
anywhere but where he was. What had become of Archie? Why was he being
force marched in the middle of the night? How far had they come and when
would they let him rest? He thought about the jug of water in the little
hut. The cool pure taste of it. His mouth was dry, grit at the edge of his
lips. Turning to his shoulder he wiped his mouth on his topcoat sleeve. His
cloak. Damn! The papers in the lining and it being trampled in the sand
back at the native camp. Damn!
He frowned. There was a powerful amount of sand in his boot
and it had been
uncomfortable for the last several hours. He spoke.
"I have sand in my boot."
They responded by giving his shoulder a light shove.
He turned to look over his shoulder at the man behind him.
"I have SAND in my BOOT!"
All right, if that is how you want it, he thought. He stopped
and dropped to
the dirt on his weary posterior.
The man yelled him and motioned for him to get up.
"I have SAND IN MY BOOT, DAMN IT!" And he began
to tug at one of them, and
mutter. "Damn these natives!" He tugged again, but the bindings on his
wrists made boot removal difficult.
The star shine illuminated the party of five, four standing,
one sitting in
the middle, like the child's game of duck duck goose, and he was in the mush
pot. At last, the boot came free. He tumped it up and spilled out a dump
load of sand.
"Ahhh," the natives said as they watched him and
they nodded their heads.
Before he knew what was happening, one of them grabbed him under the arms and
another straddled his other leg and yanked off his boot. He sat there in a
muddle watching the grinning native pouring out another copious amount of
"Well, I had not planned to dump that one, but....all
is well." He looked at
the men grudgingly. "I suppose you aren't a bad lot, ...but where the hell
are you taking me?"
The duo was still manhandling him, getting his feet back into his boots.
"I can manage this on my own. Wait! Let me do it!"
He wiggled and twisted
to get the man holding him under his arms to release him so he could put his
weight into the boot, getting his foot settled into the black leather.
"There! You see?"
The natives laughed and one of them slapped him on the back,
native leader said something to the heavy one that had practically thrown him
into the air before, and the man came towards him.
"I don't suppose you have any water with you?" The
men were scantily clad
and that was bleeding obvious. Just as he was sagging his shoulders in
acceptance of his thirst the burly one grabbed him an threw him over his
This is most undignified, he thought. "Put me down!
I can walk!" He pushed
himself up from the man's back. "Put me down, you great oaf!" He thought
about kicking him but decided that would be even more undignified and besides
the man might sit on him again. He had already HAD that experience, thank
you very much. He sighed, and tried to prop himself up by his elbows resting
on the man's massive shoulder. The native following grinned at him. He
forced a sardonic grin. "Most amusing." And he sighed again, trying to hold
his head up to keep his blood in its natural places.
He did not know how long they walked. He watched the moon
rise, and at some
point he had let himself sag and drift off into an upside down swaying
slumber. He dreamt of the sea, and sea spray! Wind and wave, gently rocking
him. Water seemed to drip upon his lips. A strange tasting water, sort of
sweet. Archie grinned at him and poked him in the side, coming to the half
life between waking and dreaming, he rolled over onto his side muttering,
"Let me sleep. The ship's bell has not tolled." He dreamt Archie was
jabbing him in his ribs, but his wrists hurt, and he winced. Suddenly his
wrists were freed. The blood rushing into his hands pained him like pricks
of sharpened pins. He blinked to consciousness, feeling the pains in his
body from unfamiliar sleeping arrangements. Pains in his feet and legs from
a seemingly all night trek, and gritty sand seemed to cover every inch of his
body with a scraping discomfort. He felt abominable, thirsty, hungry, and he
moaned. Opening his eyes, one of the natives was grinning over him, holding
a piece of white coconut meat out to him. The leader stared down at him with
a ponderous look and spoke to him.
The sun rising in the heavens found its way to shine in Horatio's
eyes and he lifted slightly to avoid it. He shook his head tiredly and said,
"I don't understand a word you're saying, man. Let me be." And he let
himself flop back onto the ground with a weary sigh. He closed his eyes and
lay there. What was that noise? Were they near the sea? He breathed
deeply. Could there be a hint of salt in the air? *Well, of course, idiot,
it is an island! Salt is every damn where!* The natives were talking
amongst themselves again and one of them was jabbing a piece of coconut into
his lips. He opened them in tired resignation taking it as sustenance. "All
right, damn it," he spoke tiredly chewing the white firm, crunchy meat, eyes
still closed. He felt tugging at his feet. They were taking his boots off.
At first he thought *I don't care...... No, I do care!* "What are you bloody
well doing now?" he demanded as he was yanked to his feet by his topcoat
lapels and then his coat stripped from him. "What the devil are you doing?"
One of the natives was undoing his buttons. "Stop that!" But the natives
were fast and soon he was without his waistcoat, his stock, and they were
undoing the buttons of his trousers! "I say! What do you think you are
doing?" The coconut man shoved another piece in his mouth, as his shirt was
removed over his head. He tried to fight them off, but he was outnumbered.
One held his arms behind his back, as the other pulled his breeches off. And
there he was in his all together. The leader looked at him and raised an
eyebrow. Hornblower felt himself straighten into as dignified a stance as he
could muster. The burly one through him over his shoulder again. This was
MOST undignified! What did they intend to do with him?
The sound he heard earlier became louder. Raising up on the
mans shoulder he
looked forward as best he could. A waterfall! Water! A pool of it. The
man carrying him stopped on a broad rock, lifted him off his shoulder by his
hips, and threw him in.
The water was cold and refreshing. He came up with a sputter,
bottom to stand in chest deep water. He eyed his captors squatting on the
rock. He lowered himself to lip level and began to drink in the water
surrounding him, slaking his thirst.
The leader native was speaking to him. The man lifted some
sand letting the
grains fall through his fingers, then motioned for him to wash, motioning
against his sides under his arms.
Hornblower frowned. He was flummoxed at being manhandled as
if he were a
three year old boy. *If you'd told me, I would have gladly done this
myself!* And with a deep breath, he let himself sink beneath the water. He
opened his eyes underwater and gazed at their figures perched on the shore.
He wondered how long he could hold his breath there. It was not much
freedom, but it was some. Then, he saw them stand. *Uh oh. Don't want them
to think I am trying to do myself in.* He came up just in time to stop the
burly one from jumping in after him. He had had enough of this gargantuan.
Undoing his queue, he ran his fingers through his long hair,
his scalp to release the sand there, repeatedly dunking, and rinsing. The
natives seemed to enjoy watching him bathe.
He scratched at the growing beard on his cheeks. The leader
over to the side. He obeyed, keeping his eyes steadfastly on the man,
walking to the shallower waist deep water.
He motioned him closer. The leader took his chin and shook
his head, saying
something to the others. The coconut man arrived with more coconut, but this
meat was mashed up inside one of the ragged shells. They were pointing at
"I need a shave, is that what you mean?"
Apparently it was, as the man began to smear his cheeks with
mixed with something else green and slimy. He frowned at the feel, but in a
way it was soothing to his skin.
The leader sharpened his knife on a rock, another anomaly.
They must trade
with someone. The blade looked like British steel.
The leader took his chin, bringing the knife close to his face.
"Wait! Let me do this. I have no faith in your barbering skills."
The man drew back the knife and Hornblower sighed.
"On my honor, I will do nothing with your knife but shave, if I can."
The leader studied him a moment and held the knife to him butt forward.
Hornblower smiled, holding up his hand for him to wait. He
came up out of
the water, sat on the rocks, and peered down into the watery glass. As the
ripples subsided he looked into a thinning face. A result of illness before
shipwreck and little vittles since. The eyes were sunken with dark circles,
and the beard made him look a ruffian. He did not know whether to laugh
or... but another reflection appeared beside his, the leader looking
curiously at Hornblower's reflection and then his own.
Hornblower turned his head to the man with a raised brow.
He held out his
hand and the man placed his knife there. He noted a certain shakiness in his
"Here's hoping my own skills won't end up with me slicing
my throat." And so
he began, with his audience of four, watching the scraping of hair, wincing
with him, pinching lips. He could not help but chuckle.
When he was nearly done, one appeared with his clothes, shaking
the sand out
into the air, examining them, front and back. And, then it occurred to him.
They wanted him tidied up. Why? What were they going to do with him now?
Why should they care? A dirty British sailor would die the same as a clean
Rinsing, he gulped down more of the water, gazing at the waterfall,
the sound and the sight of it. He sighed and felt a tap on his shoulder.
Turning, the native held his clothes out to him. The man assigned to feeding
him, passed him another piece of coconut, which he popped into his mouth and
chewed as he dressed, giving each shred of clothing a final shake.
Dressed, he almost felt a new man. Pulling his damp hair back,
he tied it
with his wet ribbon. The tips of his curls were already drying in the
The leader approached him with a new piece of vine. Hornblower
winced at it,
still feeling the cuts in his skin from his last binding. Resignedly, he
held out his wrists. He supposed it was one way to thank them for his bath
The leader looked from Hornblower's wrists to his eyes, and
dropping his hand
with the vine, he grabbed Hornblower by the arm and led him up a steep rise.
Refreshed, Hornblower's mind began trying to calculate where
Glancing at the placement of the sun, looking behind him, thinking about how
long and far they walked, he figured it was quite possible they had spanned
the island and were now either deep inland, or on the opposite side. The
opposite side, yes, there was a twinge of salt in the air.
The native leader had to release his arm to make the final
climb to the
precipice. Rising to stand behind the man gesturing before him, Hornblower
stepped to his side. There below was an azure bay and something else that
took Hornblower's breath away. He must be living right. He must. For there
on the sheltered bay, lay a three masted square rigger, riding to anchor.
His brow knit at the sight! Could this be their ticket off this island?
Their transport to Port Jackson?
He felt himself breath in the freedom of the sea and a tall
ship. It had to
be friendly! It had to be!
The native noted his change in attitude and motioned for him to come.
Though it did not look far from where they stood, it was.
The sun had passed
it's zenith by the time they reached the shore. A boat was already on it's
way to them as one of the natives had stopped to blow through a huge shell,
making a tremendous hornblowing sound, alerting the ship to their arrival.
The boat was manned by four rowers, no sign of any type of
uniform and the
ship flew no colors. The man at the tiller spoke to the natives in their
tongue. Before Hornblower could speak, Mr. Burley had picked him up in his
arms like a babe, carried him through the light surf, and placed him in the
He sucked in a breath with a frown. How much more of this
would he have to
endure? He stood pulling at his waistcoat noting the smirks of the rowers.
The natives shoved the boat off and then scrambled in over the side, speaking
to the tiller man.
"Do you speak English?" The tiller man stared at
him but said nothing. "I
am ..." should he call himself a captain or a leftenant? I am Leftenant
Horatio Hornblower of His Majesty's Ship Petrel. Well....I mean..." drat!
There was no ship left to be "of" anything.
Did he note a slight interest in the tillerman? Still he said
gazed across the water to the ship.
Hornblower did as well. She was a fine ship. Sleek lines.
About the size of Indefatigable, maybe a few feet shy. They were coming up
on her stern. He stared at the letters. What was her name? Kaliakra.
Kaliakra, unusual. What language? What nation did she belong to?
A man was peering over the side to the boat, shouting in the
How is it these men knew this native gibberish? Were these the men they
The natives grinned, jabbering away, and he heard them say
Archie. What has befallen Archie? He had not given him much thought in the
last twelve hours. The man on the ship was saying seemsun with a question in
his voice. Hornblower noted his quizzical half smile.
Thumping beside Kaliakra, he made to stand and exit. Mr. Burley
grab him and he slapped at his hands.
"I can do this, thank you," said Hornblower pointedly.
It felt good to be
making his way up the side of a ship. In a moment he was standing on her
deck, feeling the familiar ride to swell.
The man on deck grinned and looked him up and down.
"So! You traffic with rain gods, do you?" said the
man. English. The accent a trifle different, but English all the same.
"Well? Speak! Gantu! You are British, are you not? And the stars speak to
Hornblower was about to speak, but stopped mouth ajar. He
blinked. "What do
you mean stars speak to me?"
"Well that's why you're here, sir! The stars speak to
you. These men
attest." He motioned to the natives. The man grinned widely at his dismay,
then laughed out loud. "Do you know how to use a sextant, sir?"
"Indeed, any leftenant in his majesty's navy would not
be worth his salt if
he did not?"
"Then the stars speak to you! The chief has your sextant?"
Hornblower cocked his head, trying to make sense of all that
was said to him.
Is this what the chief had been ranting about as he waved the ship's sextant
so irreligiously? He stared at the natives. The leader pointed at
Hornblower and spoke to the aristocrat.
"Yes. Gimewah. They want to sell you to me, sir."
"You see, my navigator has died, and I do not, unfortunately,
know how to use
a sextant. Bother! Eh? I'm ruddy well tired of sitting in this bay! Tried
to leave once and sailed around in a circle! Damn me!"
"Who are you, sir, if you don't mind my asking?"
"Well, I DO mind, you see. But, I suppose if I am going
to PRESS you into
service, you will discover it any way. I am a brigand, sir!" He grinned at
Horatio looked around the ship, at the other men present, listening.
Pirates? They did not look like any pirates he had ever seen.
"Forgive me, sir, you do not look like pirates."
Hornblower squinted at him. "You are telling me you are
a PIRATE, sailing
the seven seas, and you nor anyone of you crew knows how to use a sextant?"
The man grinned and gave a nod.
Hornblower laughed out loud, bent over with a guffaw, but no
one else was
laughing. His laughter subsided as he looked around at the very serious men.
The man walked up to Hornblower, wrapping his hand around his
him towards him with a grip on his nape, and a steel cold stare to his eye.
"But YOU are going to remedy that situation, ...AREN'T you?"