PASS THE PEN
Chapter 11: Discovery and Despair
by Meanjean

***

Captain Sir Edward Pellew stood by the windows in his cabin, his mind
racing. Horatio a prisoner...Simpson faking madness. And Archie
Kennedy, acting first Lieutenant. He shook his head slowly. The
world was indeed a strange place.

Kennedy was the only good to come out of this. His behavior had been
exemplary, and impressive. He'd learned more about the young man
in this short time than he had in all his time on Indefatigable
prior. Now, Kennedy was more than Hornblower's friend.

He shook the cobwebs away and scowled at the horizon. Something was
not right; he felt it in his bones. In a fit of white-hot anger,
he'd considered passing Simpson off as a Frog...getting rid of a
blight on his life, and blighting France at the same time. But that
was madness, he knew...at least if he wanted to get Hornblower back.
Simpson would not go quietly.

"Why would a man...this de Jourquin...wish to exchange a mere
Lieutenant? Why would he write to me assuming I would have a
prisoner?" He muttered, ignoring his servant as the man entered
with dinner. Surely Hornblower would not have volunteered any
information? Or had Horatio given deliberately misleading
information, as a method of getting a message to his shipmates?
Without turning, he spoke to the silently moving figure. "Get me
Mr. Bowles and Mr. Kennedy immediately."

"Aye, Aye, Sir." The man nodded and stole quickly away.
Pellew strode over to his charts, and nearly knocked his dinner to
the floor as he spread them out over the table. There were more
important things than food in his life right now, and getting that
young man back to his ship was one of them.

Getting Simpson off it was another.

***

Horatio Hornblower sat in his room, his "cell" really,
despite the fine trappings, and felt a cold despair clutch at his
heart. He had not felt so hopeless since his days as Simpson's
whipping boy on the Justinian.

*Cease and desist, Horatio. You are no longer a child.* He chided
himself. A fine situation he'd found himself in. He'd
managed to avoid the guillotine, but not death. Not really. He'd
determined pretty quickly that he was going to die on this mission
one way or another...unlikely that he could be saved. His shipmates
did not even know he was alive.

The question was, how to die? The first thought had been a rude
refusal of de Jourquin's request, and a swift end. But he
didn't like the idea of marching to his own execution. Death in
escape, death in action, but not death by public humiliation! So,
he'd acquiesced to the man's request...seemingly docile...all
the while calculating a plan to thwart his mission. He might die,
but he would take de Jourquin with him, and preferably a few others
as well.

A cold smile broke over Hornblower's chiseled features. His eyes
glinted like coal. They would sail in a week, de Jourquin had said.
They would go out with several corvettes in the French fleet.

Hornblower had been a studious young man, always. He had read much
about naval history, and older battle tactics.

He wondered if any of the French had ever seen a fire ship?

***

Captain Pellew studied the maps of the French coastline, Kennedy and
Bowles beside him. He drew his finger to the spot Kennedy had
indicated. "This, we believe, to have been our position during
the storm?"

"I believe so, Sir. Not far from there, anyway."

Bowles concurred. "Exactly there, Sir, or I'll eat my
uniform."

"I would not advise that, Mr. Bowles. I have officers enough in
sick berth." Pellew muttered. Bowles gave him a grin, and
Kennedy gaped at the slight joke. *A side of me he's never seen
before.* Pellew nearly smiled, but covered it with a cough, and moved
his finger to the coastline.

"This de Jourquin...came across as a man of means. A man of
culture." Pellew mused. "There are not many areas on this
coastline where he could be."

"Yet he must be close to the sea, Sir." Bowles pointed out.
"The time it has taken for them to recover Mr. Hornblower to
notifying us was not great enough for him to be too far inland."

"True...true..." Pellew frowned. Really, he needed
Hornblower here, his brain, his strange and uncanny insights into the
enemy...

"Sir?" Kennedy asked, growing bolder. "Sir, this
gentlemen seems to be strangely fluent in English for an average
Frenchman."

Pellew's eyes turned to Kennedy, without moving his head.
"Have you a point here, Mr. Kennedy?"

"Yes, Sir..." He took a deep breath. "A man associated
with the government would be most likely to have such fluent English,
and to offer a trade. And it is doubtful, from all I know of Bonny,
that a member of his government could be trusted."

*EXACTLY!* Pellew rose to his full height and studied his first
Lieutenant. Kennedy had articulated an idea only beginning to
trouble his mind. "Are you suggesting, Mr. Kennedy, that this
might be a TRAP?"

Archie, feeling more confident than he had ever before felt in his
life, just from the force of the admiration in his Captain's
gaze, answered calmly, "It might be best to believe it so."

Pellew nodded once, his earnest gaze on Kennedy still. "Thank
you, Mr. Bowles. I would like now to confer with Mr. Kennedy alone,
if you please."

Bowles nodded, and with a brief salute removed himself from the
cabin. Kennedy looked at him, his posture taut. Pellew knew enough
of young officers to know that the request was disconcerting to him.
But he was pleased by the composure Kennedy showed, worried though he
must be.

"So...first Lieutenant Kennedy..." Pellew walked over
towards the brandy decanter. "I had considered attempting to use
Simpson under the guise of a French prisoner...what is your feeling
of that?"

"That he would not allow it, Sir. He'd yell his head off,
and besides, he does not speak French...even when sane, Sir." He
added, wincing at the spectacle of Simpson that came to his mind.

"Hm." Pellew poured them both glasses of the amber brew.
"He IS sane, in my opinion, Mr. Kennedy, and still as malicious
as ever. I owe you an apology, Mr. Kennedy."

Kennedy started. "Sir?"

"The...er...unfortunate incidents earlier, when you had been
accused of attacking Mr. Simpson." Pellew held out the crystal
decanter to him. "Having now been stabbed myself, and witnessing
first hand the games he plays, I have no doubt you had good reason
for your anger. I OUGHT NOT condone it, and I do not, Mr. Kennedy,
so consider yourself reprimanded." He paused to raise the glass.
"Understood?"

Kennedy's face flushed with relief, but he kept his decorum in
place. "Yes, Sir. Thank you, Sir."

"Hm." Pellew cleared his throat and drank deeply. "So...
you do NOT believe that Simpson would work as a decoy?"

"Not if the objective is to get Mr. Hornblower back, Sir. The
situation is...different... from mine..." Pellew noticed the
young man grow pale. "But there is no love lost.
Horat...er...Mr. Hornblower was the only person who ever stood up to
Simpson." Envy mixed slightly with admiration in his voice. "Simpson
would love to see him dead."

"I see." Pellew tapped the desk with his finger. "So,
where do we find a decoy... somebody trustworthy who could pass as a
French prisoner..." He murmured.

"I will go, Sir." Kennedy did not even hesitate. "If
you believe we will not be endangering the ship for one man, I
believe it would be my duty, and I know it would be my honor, to
retrieve him. It is what he would do for me."

"Well spoken, Mr. Kennedy. Well spoken indeed." The Captain
half smiled his approval. "Come, Sir! We are in need of a
plan..."

***
Horatio strolled slowly over the gardens, his face placid, and his
mind racing with plans and fears mixed together. A few guards eyed
him occasionally, but he had no intent of attempting an escape. Not
in these circumstances. No, what he planned was much grander.

It was unfortunate that reality kept biting into his thoughts. He
was not even nineteen, but he was a dead man walking. The only fear
remaining was his father...the news would devastate him. Horatio had
come, over the past months and the frequent letters, to regard his
father with less fear and more compassion. The death of his mother
had nearly destroyed them both. Horatio was the only living relative
Dr. Hornblower had, and though father held his emotions in check, he
believed the man was fond of him.

But worse than the word of his death would be no word at all, and he
wished for some way to notify him.

Suddenly he came up short...one of de Jourquin's minions, a young
nobleman, stood before him. They were alone together in a quiet
grove.

"Monsieur, you enjoy the evening, I see." The man Ouimette
smiled at him warmly.

Hornblower answered in near-perfect French, "It is a fine
night." *Perhaps one of the last I shall have.*

"Perhaps you long for companionship, Monsieur? You have
obviously more intelligence than most on this estate." He
flattered easily. "And even more beauty." He cooed, his arm reaching
out to Horatio's cheek.

The nature of the "companionship" offered turned his stomach
inside out. It took every bit of effort he had left not to recoil,
to spit in this man's face. With iron resolve, he gently but
firmly grasped Ouimette's hand and removed it from his body. "I
thank you, no. I am a..." He struggled for the words, and
remembered his father's frequent lament. "...solitary man."

Ouimette squinted, and smirked. "That perhaps is because you are
young, Monsieur. I can ensure you, certain things are best enjoyed
between two. Or more. I would have expected you to know that, being
in the Navy yourself." Again the arm came towards, him, winding
around his waist.

Horatio's anger...and the frustration he had felt since the
moment of his capture...broke forward, and he spat in Ouimette's
face, pushing him away.

Ouimette fell over, but clamored up quickly, as Horatio turned, face
red, to stride back towards the estate. Harshly the young
nobleman's fingers gripped his arm, and spun him around.

"Monsieur, do you refuse ME?" He snarled.

"That, monsieur, would be clear to the village idiot."
Horatio fumed back.

Ouimette smiled, and then without warning struck Hornblower, with
such force to send him to the ground. Before he could arise, he was
kicked in the head, and he tasted blood. Suddenly Ouimette was on
top of him, meeting three well-placed punches to his face before he
could react. And then...

"Guards! Vite, Vite, s'il vous plait!!!" Ouimette
called out. Horatio tried to rise, but was pinned down, woozy and
defeated. And he had still not recovered in full from his trials at
sea.

But as the guards arrived, breathless and wary, Ouimette's words
did a remarkable job of clearing his head.

"Bring him to de Jourquin. This man has attempted to escape, and
he must be punished."