PTP Ch 8: Betrayal
"God, a Frenchman", thought Hornblower, "and a mean-looking blood Royalist at that." Horblower's instinctive grasp of French helped him to convey something neutral yet pacifying to the Frenchmen surrounding him: "Where am I?"
The question was met with an angry thrust in his back, prompting him to stagger forward. Hornblower allowed himself to be escorted by the French party down the long, stony, road, and well into French territory. He looked about him, trying to decipher what were the characteristics of this village or town which matched his recollection.
Then he saw something which sent a lump down his very manly
adam's apple: there, with a blade gleaming as sharp as a diamond,
was a guillotine. Hornblower could see the party were advancing
him towards the dreaded apparatus, inexorably moving him towards
his fate. In that all of 10 seconds, as the party marched on,
felt a sensation of hot and cold flushes throughout his trembling body, covering him with the sweat of sheer panic. Closer and closer...........and then a divergence to the right saw the guillotine pass by him, and then out of his peripheral vision, leaving only the faintest imprint in his mind's eye. He nearly laughed out loud with relief; so they were not going to behead him after all.
At least, not yet.
He was lead into a white, stony mansion with floorboards as
shiny as silk, and the larger than life portraits of important-looking
French people; such was the opulence displayed by the French.
To one side, they led him, into a smaller room. A stout man of
medium height in full dress had his back to them, gazing out of
the window overlooking the
verdant French garden.
"Monsieur Jacques Vincent de Jourquin" said the leader of the French party, and Hornblower understood himself to be introduced as The Englishman Who Was Caught Lurking About In French Waters.
de Jourquin looked over the scrawny and weather beaten figure of Horatio Hornblower, and made it very clear he would have no further dissertations with the man until the French soldiers took him away and had him scrubbed and re-attired as a proper gentleman.
This they did, and when Hornblower came back he was very much looking the part of a noble Frenchman.
de Jourquin was impressed with the makeover, and decided to court this young, handsome man by dining with him. For three days, de Jourquin treated his guest with the upmost respect and hospitality, and seemed initially to want nothing more from Hornblower than to exchange stories of their adventures on the high seas. de Jourquin spoke with amazing garrulity of his instructions from the late King Louis XVI to tail chase the English expedition to a large island way down south below the equator, which the Dutch had only recently discovered.
Hornblower in turn, informed of his misadventure on board the Indefatigable, and how he was keen to be back "to serve his people and his country."
During the course of the three days, Hornblower learned the details of King Louis's instructions to de Jourquin; he was even given privy to the summons, which read in part:
"....to closely follow the English expedition of areas of special priority, notably the south-east coast of New Holland."
"May God speed you on this adventure" said Hornblower, which seemed the appropriate thing to say.
"Adventure, yes..." de Jourquin had a faraway dreamy look in his eye. "My darling wife, Terese, will surely swoon to see me go so soon, we have been married all but two years, but I shall return all the more bountiful and make myself worthy of her company."
Then de Jourquin snapped out of his romantic trance, and directed a firm gaze towards Hornblower. "Monsieur" he said, "the success of this mission will depend entirely upon you."
Hornblower was caught off guard. "In what way?"
"The French have been chasing after the English for years, trying to find out what they are up to, what they are hiding from the rest of us. You will come with us on this mission to assist our navigation through perilous unchartered waters, to solicit information from the English landing party about what they are doing, and then give us detailed reports about their discoveries. Think of it as being an Officer Liaison."
"You mean a spy" Hornblower said bluntly, "you're asking me to betray my fellow countrymen!"
de Jourquin's once warm eyes flashed into tiny cold dots of marble. "Monsieur, since your arrival here, you have been treated like royalty. To turn your back now would be an insult - "
"I refuse!" Hornblower retorted.
de Jourquin slowly, but calmly, turned towards the window. Hornblower followed his gaze to the faintest glimmer of the guillotine which he had sidled past only three days ago.
"Then the consequences are on your head" said de