Pass the Pen

Part 5 by Yuri

The minute of their plot is almost come. Prospero, The Tempest, IV.i

Pass the Pen Part 5, The Tempest.

"Well, sirit's like this" Horatio began. **This is not going to be
easy.** Actually, he was sure that explaining to Captain Pellew the
circumstances surrounding Acting Lieutenant Simpson's `accident'
would be impossible. Minor annoyance at Archie for causing this
predicament flared and died in Horatio's thoughts. **What was Archie
supposed to do?** Jack Simpson being a superior officer only recently
distinguished in battle did not help. **Still, that does not give him
the right toto** Horatio's mind refused to let the thought go
further.

"That's not even half of what he's capable of," Clayton had said such
a short time ago. Horatio had not understood what Clayton meant at
the time"he still wasn't sure that he understood. He simply could not
allow himself to believe that Simpson could stoop to such a level, a
level far beyond that of a bully to pure evil. Bad enough to destroy
a man's body"Clayton's had been the first death he had ever been
really close to, despite his father's profession. And there were the
beatings Jack meted out to each of the midshipmen in turn. But did
the man have to break Archie's spirit; crush his very soul?

"I do not have time to waste on your dawdling, sir," Captain Pellew
said, looking directly into Horatio's eyes. "You have something
important to say"say it."

Archie, half-hidden behind his friend's lanky form, paled even
further. **Oh, god, don't let the captain notice**

"It concerns Mr. Simpson, sir. There has been an accident."

"Explain yourself, Mr. Hornblower," Pellew ordered.

"It isdifficult to explain, Captain Pellew," Hornblower stuttered.

"Obviously. You have broken off trying three times by my count, so
out with it. And please be so thorough as to include Mr. Kennedy's
involvement."

"Yes, sir," Hornblower's response barely came in time to cover
Kennedy's sigh. "Mr. Kennedy was in the hold, battening down supplies
before the storm. Mr. Simpson appeared: he wasnot himself."

Captain Pellew glared. "The man has recently taken a severe blow to
his head so it is no surprise that he is not quite back to full
health."

"I know, sir. Simpson has been acting strangely since the cutting-
out, but he hadn't been violent. According to Mr. Kennedy, it was
quite evident that had changed. Acting Lieutenant Simpson fully
intended to do him injury. SoMidshipman Kennedy knocked Mr. Simpson
unconscious."

"Unprovoked?" The captain turned his ire on Kennedy. "How can you be
sure he meant you harm, sir? Did he carry a pistol?"

"N..no, sir, he did not," Archie answered.

"No pistol? No weapon of any kind?" Archie shook his
head, `no.' "What sort of violence, then, did the man intend, Mr.
Kennedy?"

There was no way he could answer the question truthfully. Archie bit
his lip. "I don't know, sir," he said quietly.

"Youdon'tknow? Damn your eyes! I have only just lost two of my
lieutenants in battle and now you render another officer"a man who
saved your life"unfit for duty. Yet you give me no reason for your
actions."

"Sir, I must protest! If Mr. Kennedy says that Mr. Simpson"
Hornblower blurted.

"SILENCE!!"

The pair of young men stood straight as masts. Kennedy's face was as
smooth and pale as a porcelain cup, and as brittle. Hornblower
recognized the look from the night of the cutting-out. What if Archie
were to have a fit right here, in the captain's cabin? Hornblower's
heart sank"he was helpless to prevent such a thing from happening.
Please, Archie

Captain Pellew had been pacing back and forth, staring at Hornblower
and Kennedy in turns. Kennedy's face was an open book of fear and
panic, mingled with a strange determination. Hornblower was harder to
read"fear, most likely for Kennedy's sake, loyalty (obviously), and
respect for his captain. They could be a fine pair of officers"a
team with each balancing the other's weaknesses with his own
strengths. Damn! Simpson was a fine officer as well, and Pellew's
blood boiled.

"Mr. Kennedy, I can see that you understand the depths of your
predicament," he paused in front of the terrified young man. Kennedy
wondered if he was supposed to give a response. Pellew continued, "as
well you should. You have attacked a superior officer, the penalty
for which is?"

"Death, sir," Kennedy's voice was barely audible.

"Yes, death." Pellew's gaze held Archie motionless. The fear wasn't
of punishment, but something darker and unreadable. Pellew frowned
even more deeply. Did the man feel that he deserved to hang?

The captain turned to stare at Hornblower as he asked another
question. "Mr. Hornblower, were you a witness to Mr. Simpson's attack
on Midshipman Kennedy?"

"No, sir."

"Did you witness Mr. Kennedy attacking Acting Leftenant Simpson?"

"No, sir."

"How long have you known these men?"

The change in the line of questioning threw Hornblower. "Sir?"

"Kennedy and Simpson. How long have you known them?"

"Since I boarded Justinian, sir. A matter of months."

"You have known Mr. Kennedy for only a few months and yet you speak
for him after he has broken one of the articles of war. You seem to
be a promising officer with a strong sense of duty"are you aware that
your actions here could be taken as a sign of mutinous behaviour?"

"Iyes, sir."

"And you are not siding with Mr. Kennedy simply because of the
challenge that has only recently occurred between you and Mr.
Simpson?"

"Sir! No, sir, I"

"Silence!"

"The situation is precarious," Pellew resumed his pacing, much to the
relief of the junior officers, "and I have not known any of you long
enough to judge you. As I told Mr. Hornblower when you transferred
aboard, I judge a man by what I see him do. I have seen Mr. Simpson
behave most admirably in the heat of battle, as did you, Mr.
Hornblower. Why he would threaten violence on a man that he went to
great lengths to save is inconceivable, yet you maintain this charge?"

"Yes, sir," Kennedy responded.

"There is a storm coming, gentlemen, and I need every available
officer." Pellew glared at Archie for depriving the Indefatigable of
Simpson's services. "You will conduct your duties through the
duration of the storm, Mr. Kennedy, after which you shall report to
the marine sergeant. He will confine you to the brig until further
notice."

It was more than he could have hoped for. "Yes, sir."

"Mr. Hornblower, you are dismissed," Pellew ordered.

"Sir," Hornblower saluted, turned, and left. He caught Kennedy's eye"
I'll be just outside.

"Mr. Kennedy," the captain continued as the door closed, "you are
being given an opportunity to redeem yourself. Bear in mind that the
situation is unique and I require time to consider my own actions.
But unless you can give me a very good explanation for these events"
again, he stared Kennedy straight in the eyes, "you had better hope
that Mr. Simpson does not die as a result of your behaviour.
Understood?"

"Yes, sir." The determination began to overpower the panic and fear.

"Dismissed."

Kennedy saluted and made his exit. As good as his word, Horatio
waited outside.

"I am to report to the brig after the storm subsides, he can't spare
me until then."

"Then there's hope, Archie." Hornblower responded. "If Captain Pellew
had condemned you straight away, you would already be confined."

"Yes," Archie said quietly. Managing a small grin he said, "come on
H'ratio, we have work to do."

"I usually have to remind you. You'll be all right." He hurried
abovedecks, leaving Archie trailing behind, lost in thought.

//I have great comfort from this fellow. Me-thinks he hath no
drowning mark upon him, his complexion is perfect gallows. Stand
fast, good Fate, to his hanging, make the rope of his destiny our
cable, for our own doth little advantage. If he be not born to be
hang'd, our case is miserable.// *

*****

* The Tempest, Act 1 scene i.