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PASS THE PEN
Chapter 12: Bait or Switch?
by Skihee

Pellew paced the quarter-deck with an eye to the French corvette, a cable
length away, both ships hove to. The captain of Le Normandie waited for a
reply. What was it to be? He was strapped for officers, down to midshipmen
only if he sent Kennedy on this madman's errand as a faux French prisoner.
There was still something not known here. None of this made sense. He knew
how valuable Hornblower was to him, but why.... This was all terribly odd.
Should I send another man into that danger? If plans went awry, the young
leftenant could also be a guest of the French Republic, but was that not what
the job was about? But, as much as he valued Hornblower, could he send
another man into the tiger's teeth, even a willing one? Was it not more
likely that Kennedy would be found out, accused as a spy, and executed?
There must be another way.

With a last look at the French Corvette, Pellew descended to the waist
and entered his aft cabins. Pulling paper from the drawer, he sat an
composed the following letter.

 

Dear Monsieur de Jourquin,

I fear you are the recipient of misinformation. I have no French prisoners,
at this time, aboard my ship to exchange for Mr. Hornblower. Would that I
did for I value the leftenant you say you hold captive. I do wonder how he
came to be in your possession. Mr. Hornblower was lost at sea nearly a week
ago. For all I know, he could be dead. You could have found his name sewn
into his uniform and this is some ruse to gain I know not what on your part.
I have nothing you could want, but I have something I could give you, a
broadside, sir, in a proper sea battle, not the dangling threats to an
officer that should be treated as the gentleman he is. I expect to hear, if
Mr. Hornblower is indeed still alive, that he has been shown the respect he
would deserve as a ranking officer. If he is alive now, and should become
deceased by no willful act of his own, you will gain, sir, a most vehement
enemy, and I shall endeavor to hunt you down to your dying day.

Your most humble and obedient servant,
Captain Sir Edward Pellew
At Sea, Indefatigable

 

Pellew read the letter over, sanded, and then, sealed it.

 

Above his cabin, on the quarter-deck, Kennedy leaned against the larboard
rail, studying the corvette. Le Normandie was slightly smaller than
Indefatigable. How many men? Near to Indy's compliment no doubt. The
French always had more men than necessary, hoping some of them would know
what they were doing. He smiled crookedly, then shook his head. "Thank God,
I was not born a Frenchman," he muttered under his breath, "but I am about to
play one. Vous vous coucherez avec moi, se soir?" He chuckled. His
attention was drawn to activity in the waist.

"Mr. Cutter! What goes there?"

"Captain has ordered a boat lowered, sir. I'm to take a message to the
Frenchies," answered the bright blonde midshipman, nodding towards the
corvette.

"You? But..." Brow furrowed, Kennedy clamored down the stairs and stepped
nearly at a run into the hallway leading to Pellew's cabin.

The marine on guard was startled with the rapidity of Kennedy's approach and
loud quick rapping on Pellew's door.

"Come."

Kennedy took a deep breath. He took control of his impetuous desire to blurt
out a demand to know why he was not told of the message to be delivered, why
he was not called to prepare to go to the corvette. He thought repeatedly in
his head in the brief seconds between standing outside the closed door and
standing in the presence of his commander, *Think like Horatio! Think like
Horatio! Don't blurt it out! This is the Captain! He had a regard for me,
I thought. What has happened? Have I done something in so brief a time to
shake his confidence? I must be calm. Horatio would be calm and hear him
out. Give me strength!* As these final thoughts flit through his mind, he
pulled the hat from his head, shoved it under his arm, and found himself
saying nothing.

Pellew stared his face pinched in concern. "Yes, Mr. Kennedy?"

Kennedy blinked at the question. Did not the man know why he was there?
"S...sir," he stuttered, "Why...." he halted, then blurted, "Am I not going
with the message, sir?"

Pellew did not look at him, but stood over his desk, straightening the
contents laying upon it. Looking up and out the stern windows, he glanced at
Kennedy, clasped his hands behind his back and stepped towards the glass
portals. At length, he answered.

"No, you're not."

Blinking profusely as the impact of his captain's words full import hit home,
he questioned, "But, Mr. Hornblower, sir..."

"If he is alive, Mr. Kennedy," he spat cutting off his acting first
leftenant. Pellew inhaled audibly. "What assurances do I have that he
lives? Why does this man think I have someone to exchange? No, I will not
send you into a situation beyond our control. What would I be doing, but
exchanging you for him? I would remain in the same situation, a leftenant
down, and mayhaps neither of you would return, and I would be down two
officers. No. There are too many unknown variables here. I will not risk
your services or your life on an unknown quantity, .... not even for Mr.
Hornblower." Pellew stared at the speechless officer.

"But, sir, I am willing to go. I am willing to take that risk."

Chest expanding with an inhale and collapsing with an exhale, Pellew looked
Kennedy in the eye and softened ever so slightly. "I know that, Mr.
Kennedy." Pellew blinked and pressed his lips together. "Your loyalty and
courage does you credit...but I would be no captain to send you willy nilly
into a nest of hornets, buzzing wildly, and for reasons..." he paused, then
finished, "...I know not."

A knock sounded.

Pellew eyed the door. "Come."

Nathaniel poked his head in. "Mr. Cutter's back, sir."

Pellew nodded. "Call for Mr. Bowles."

"Aye, sir," and he was gone.

Kennedy could not hide the anguish from his features. They were giving up
Horatio. *They might kill him, or they might throw him into prison. He is
alone. He will try to escape, that is what I would do,* thought Kennedy.
*The captain cannot be right that he is dead already. Not Horatio.* His
countenance softened from anguish to concern over the decision his captain
had made. *Both of us love him, damn it. Me like a brother and him like a
son." He bowed his head and unconsciously kneaded his forehead, fighting the
distress that overtook him, the fearful anxiety of inaction. He looked up to
see Pellew watching him and saw the barest of smiles faintly appear.

"Courage, Mr. Kennedy. It takes many forms. This is your time to learn this
one."

A knock.

"Come."

Bowles stepped through the entryway. "You called for me, Captain?"

"Yes, Mr. Bowles," he sighed. "I want you to quietly make sail. We are
going to follow that corvette at a discreet distance. Men at every masthead.
I do not want to lose him."

"Aye, aye, sir." Bowles glimpsed the worried features of Kennedy and gave a
knowing wry smile.

Kennedy felt hope surge in his soul and he breathed for the first time in
minutes, unaware that his lungs had constricted. He wanted to shout, but
felt his inner thoughts whispering, *Horatio would not show such glee.* He
fought back the gentle smile, and stated the question.

"We haven't given up, sir?"

Pellew eyed the young officer. "I never said I had given up, Mr. Kennedy."

"You know, sir," he hesitated, fearing he was stating something that was
bleeding obvious, but decided to finish what he had started. "This, too, may
be a trap."

Pellew smiled wryly. "Indeed, it may, Mr. Kennedy. Indeed, it may. It will
have to be a large one to clamp down on Indefatigable." He sighed, knowing
full well, such a trap could exist. He would have to be wary, very wary.

***

Hornblower was slumped in a wooden chair in the center of the room.

Ouimette was pacing back and forth angrily. "The cur tried to escape, I tell
you de Jourquin!"

Jourquin lifted Hornblower's chin and glared at the wounds inflicted upon his
head. "No doubt he was! From you, Ouimette! When will you curb this
disgusting lust of yours? I am ashamed to call myself French in your
presence! Get out! Go back to those dandy boys of yours. Haven't you
enough man-flesh for your sick pleasure?"

"Watch your tongue, de Jourquin! If this scheme of yours does not work,
there will be many disaffected from your leadership. It is foolhardy and has
no merit. I am right! I will be proved right!" Ouimette shifted his eyes
to Hornblower. Even with the damage to Hornblower's face, he found him
desirable. What a night they could have had. *Fool! I would have loved you
so well, so much better than any woman!* His eyes narrowed as he thought
these thoughts toward Hornblower. *You do not know what you are missing.*
An evil smile formed. *If de Jourquin does not punish you, I may still have
a chance, to punish, or ... to pleasure... even if it is only for myself.*

 

De Jourquin followed the diabolical gaze of Ouimette to the British officer
and anger took his visage anew. "Get out! Get out, I said!"

As Ouimette exited the room, a servant entered with a basin of water and
towels. De Jourquin returned from the cellaret with a glass of brandy and
held it to Hornblower's lips, tipping it into his mouth. The officer
swallowed then coughed and pushed the glass away.

The servant brought a small table near, placed the basin upon it, and was
stopped from tending Hornblower.

"Go," ordered Jourquin. "I will tend him."

The servant bowed and departed. Jourquin stepped quickly to the door and
locked it, then returned to Hornblower. Wetting the edge of the cloth, he
dabbed at the bloody wounds on the leftenant's mouth and cheek.

"I apologize, Mr. Hornblower. I was not aware Ouimette had returned. Did he
proposition you?"

Hornblower looked at the older man, blinked and nodded once.

Jourquin let out a long sigh. "He is a pig. I should have realized he would
find you appealing and kept you nearer my protection. If I had known he was
returning, I would have. Forgive me, sir, for what he has done. Not only
these physical wounds but the insinuation ... I will not speak of it. His
kind ... You know what he is." Jourquin held the brandy to his lips.
"Drink, monsieur."

Hornblower coughed and pushed the glass away, wincing as the alcohol met the
open wounds.

Jourquin placed a wetted towel against Hornblower's left cheek. "Hold this.
It will cool the injury."

Hornblower did as commanded. The moist towel felt soothing. The liquor
revived him and he pondered Jourquin.

Jourquin smiled softly, seeing the leftenant's curious gaze. "You may ask
what you will, Mr. Hornblower. I feel you have questions, especially after
Ouimette's outburst in your presence."

"I... suffer some confusion about you, Monsieur. When I arrived, when you
captured me..." Horatio's eyes strayed to the paintings on the wall, to the
finery that was of the nobility of France, "...I was under the impression,
first, that you were Republicans. The guillotine, to a Royalist, is
anathema, and then, by your own words, you claimed to be under the orders of
your dead king, Louis. That is where I began to be unsure of my own position
as a p-prisoner," he winced as so much speech pained his swollen and damaged
lips. "Then, your soldiers, some dressed in the uniform of Louis and some
dressed in the uniform of the Republic. Which are you, sir? Do you serve
the monarchy of France or the Republic?"

"A good question, Mr. Hornblower. It is a good question. It is an
appropriate question." Jourquin sucked in a long breath. "I am of the
nobility, Mr. Hornblower, but... I want to live. I have ..." his eyes
glimpsed the door, reminding himself that it was indeed locked, and he
lowered his voice. "I have been playing at the chameleon, sir, being that
other hated form of Frenchman that has overrun my beautiful France. Unlike
those of my class that has escaped, I have stayed, played a part to both
sides...and some of my men, my faithful servants that still believe in the
monarchy, have as well.

"But it is a dangerous game, mon ami. The writing is on the wall.... or in
the book. I have read the works of our revolutionaries and I can sympathize
and understand the tenets of fraternity, liberty, and, even equality, to an
extent. I fear there is no longer a place for me or my kind here. If the
revolution does not grow on its own merit, the demise of so many of those of
my class... extinction to a way of life! Can you understand this? You are
so young. Your country does not suffer as mine." Jourquin's eyes were moist
and lost in thought, then he added wistfully, "Ouimette has been wooed by
the Republicans and I no longer trust him, if ever I did. Before Ouimette
began to change, to see the Republicans as the answer, we planned a new
France."

"New Holland?"

"Yes. Those lands so far away. Far away from the Republicans.... from the
guillotine. I have families, men, women, children. They are under my care,
like a family. I fear for them. Their loyalty to me brands them as traitors
to the Republicans, makes them fodder for Madame Guillotine!

"You must wonder why I wanted you to ... join us. I need you. I need your
expertise. Who knows the seas better than an Englishman. I wanted you as
our navigator, as our pass through your British fleet. We are desperate, Mr.
Hornblower. I am desperate." De Jourquin stood and walked away from
Hornblower.

Head bowed, he stated, "I have a confession."

He spoke so lowly, Hornblower turned his head to aim his hearing. "Sir?"

"I have located your Indefatigable and offered to exchange you for a French
prisoner of war."

Hornblower intensified his thoughts. "There were no French prisoners on my
ship when I was lost, sir. Have you heard of some action to make you think
so?"

De Jourquin shook his head. "It was a ruse, sir. I hope to take your
Indefatigable and force your captain to escort us to New Holland." De
Jourquin turned quickly. "Can you not see? I need your help. I will
release you and your captain, your ship, as soon as we are safely landed."

"We cannot do that! Captain Pellew would not leave his station to take you
to the other side of the world! He could be court-marshaled for such an
action. Surely YOU see that!" said Hornblower incredulously.

"I am desperate! Surely YOU See that! My people, my loyal subjects, my
wife...have you a wife, Mr. Hornblower? Have you never worried for the
safety of those you love?"

Hornblower swallowed. He had indeed worried for the safety of his men, for
Archie, for his ship, but... love? Was it love... or was it duty? It was a
question he never let himself answer. Duty was expected. Love? Love could
rend your heart... especially if the object of that love... died. His mother
came to mind quicker than the flash of gun powder. His father... that prick
behind the eyes. He hated the feel of hot tears pressing to escape and
pushed the thought away. But,... he had loved her. Not a wife, but a
mother, a dearly loved and missed mother. No one else had he bestowed his
love upon in word... or thought. It was duty. And to his
father...affection? He could allow affection. That was not love.... was it?
He pushed away the thought. Duty.

"You... you feel a duty, ... to your people... to your king... to your men...
to..." said Hornblower gently, lost half in thought.

"Duty? Love? They are one in the same to me, Mr. Hornblower. Will you help
me?"

 

He shook his head. "What.... what can I do? It is my duty to return to my
ship, to serve my country.... you ask the impossible, sir!" he said forlornly.

De Jourquin's shoulders visibly sagged. In a moment his features had gone
hard, cold,. "Then, I will do what I must do.... with or without your help.
I had hoped with." He stared at the Englishman. "You need rest. I await
the reply of your captain. I hope he takes the bait, and I hope your
injuries heal quickly. You leave me no choice but to gag and tie you if and
when the time comes to meet the famous Captain Pellew. I will take his ship
and his crew and he will escort us to New Holland to our New France. This I
must do. I have no other choice."

He stepped to the door and unlocked it. "Guard!"

Two men arrived in the doorway.

"I will put him in solitary confinement. Bring him."

The guards each took an arm of Hornblower, pulling him roughly to his feet.

"Treat him gently! I want no more harm to come to him. He is our ticket to
New France. We do not want him damaged any further."

They followed Jourquin as he crossed the broad hallways to a circular
stairway. He spoke as they climbed up and around and around.

"Your new room is in the tower, Mr. Hornblower. You understand, with the
knowledge you have, I can no longer permit your parole." Pausing, when he
resumed his speech it was to the guards. "No one is to speak to him,
Sergeant Duclos. Only Cassard is to take him his meals and see to his
wounds. No one else may see him without my permission. Understood?
Especially not Ouimette!"

At last they reached the top level. The stair opened onto a foyer. A heavy
wooden door was flanked by a table and chair on one side and a large
decorative urn on the other. Jourquin opened the drawer of the desk and
removed a large set of keys that dangled from a larger ring. They jingled
and jangled as he inserted a key in the lock and pushed against the heavy
door. He entered, as did the guards with Hornblower still grasped between
them. It contained a shoulder high window, a single sized bed, a table and a
chair, a wash stand.

"Is it like your Tower of London?" he questioned with a smile. Jourquin gave
a wave of his hand. The guards obeyed the signal, released Hornblower, and
exited the room.

"You will enjoy this new abode. It is in the top of my fortress and has a
view of the sea. Come look," he invited. "You may watch the approach of
your Indefatigable... or not. How valuable are you to your Captain Pellew?
Eh? Do you think he will supply me with another hostage?" Jourquin smiled
crookedly and narrowed his eyes. "Or just bring his ship under my batteries?
Oh yes, I have batteries. Very cleverly disguised as solid wall. It will
be a grand surprise, do you not think? And look there," he motioned to the
left of the expanse of harbor and then to the far right. "I have ... shall
we say, greeters?... to invite him to stay?"

There were two good sized armed luggers at either end, hidden by trees to the
left and by a rocky knoll on the right. Pellew would never see them until
it was too late.

"I will send Cassard with fresh water and toweling for your injuries... and
some decent food. Would you like your uniform back, Mr. Hornblower, frayed
as it is? I believe it has been restored as much as possible by my
servants." No matter his own needs, Jourquin could not bring himself to be
so thoughtless as to deny the man the dignity of his own country, his own
uniform, his own badge of identity.

Hornblower was surprised by the offer after so much gloating and threat to
his captain and ship, and nodded, at a loss for words. Jourquin departed and
Hornblower listened as the keys banged inside the lock and he was captive and
alone.

He looked out onto the brightness of the blue sea, sparkling diamonds in the
bright sun. He looked at the harbor, at the hidden enemy ships, and closed
his eyes and shook his head. At least, Pellew knew he was alive. Would he
take the bait? "Damn me, for a minnow!" cursed Hornblower.