Recalled to Life
by Pam and Del
I sought my death, and found it in my womb;
I looked for life, and saw it was a shade;
I trod the earth, and knew it was my tomb;
And now I die, and now I was but made:
My glass is full, and now my glass is run;
And now I live, and now my life is done.
--Chidiock Tichborne, "His Elegy"
"Take this man down!"
Those words and the thump of the gavel rang in his ears, a
roaring sea of
sound that drowned out every other noise in the world. Dazedly, he perceived
a blaze of scarlet on either side, felt strong hands grasping him, propelling
him forward, out of the courtroom.
Another sea--of faces, this time--most of them blurring into
mass, a few standing out with the vivid clarity of a nightmare . . .
Except that one usually awoke from nightmares.
Dark eyes, shocked and aggrieved, met his. He gazed back steadily,
lift one corner of his mouth in something resembling a reassuring smile, as
they hurried him past. The circumstances were too grave for anything more
than that . . .
Grave. Grave man . . . he was being marched to his grave under
a blazing sun.
One foot in front of the other, the same way he made this journey before, but
in reverse. The hands were still grasping his arms, firmly but not roughly.
A surprise, given what he'd just confessed to--but then perhaps they could
see he was bound for a place beyond mortal justice. It probably cost them
nothing to show some mercy to a man who would soon be dust and corruption.
Whatever the reason, he was grateful--they were likely the only things
keeping him from falling flat on his face right now.
Pain awoke, a raw, red ache that grew worse with every step.
youth with the fox hidden under his cloak, never making a sound as the
creature gnawed through his vitals. He clamped his lips shut over the cry
that wanted to escape, felt his head pound with the effort of keeping silent.
It was a relief to see the doors of the infirmary again, to enter through
them and know his journey was nearing its end.
Commotion in the corridor. More red coats escorting another
man, clad only
in his shirtsleeves and breeches, who looked up as he and his own escort
"Kennedy!" Bush leaned forward a little, eyes intent on his face.
Winded, beyond speech, he acknowledged the older man's unspoken
a single flicker of his eyelids. *It is done.*
Bush relaxed, then, suddenly, his expression altered, became
one of regret
and sympathy. His lips parted as though he would say something more but the
guards took the opportunity to march him forward, further down the corridor
and out of sight. Out of the prison infirmary.
*Farewell, Mr. Bush.* He hoped the marines would remember that
officer was also suffering from wounds, albeit healing ones, and deal with
Bars loomed before him, were thrust back so he could march
Except--his legs could barely carry him now. The supporting hands vanished,
were replaced by others, lowering him onto a bed. After his exertions of the
morning, the thin mattress felt surprisingly comfortable--he lay quiescent as
hands relieved him of shoes, breeches, jacket, waistcoat, shirt . . . he
heard a muffled curse as that last garment was removed and the bandages
swathing him from chest to hip became visible. He did not need anyone to
tell him what they looked like, would have said as much--except the strength
that had sustained him in this last effort was draining away as fast as the
blood was leaving his body.
The pressure of those bandages eased, then disappeared, and
he felt the stir
of warm damp air on his now-naked torso, smelled vinegar, and clean linen.
Hands pulled him gently into a sitting position, propped him on pillows while
cool vinegar laved his fevered skin and new linen strips were wound around
A moment of niggling discomfort, like the pricking of a pin
. . . *had*
those helping hands indeed scratched him with one as they fastened the
bandages again? Or had it been--as seemed more likely--the bite of one of
those infernal mosquitos which had been buzzing around the bed for the last
several days? No matter--he was going where such minor irritants would cease
to trouble him. *Home art gone, and ta'en thy wages.*
A cup was thrust into his hands. "Drink." An oddly
accented voice. Was this h
ow native Jamaicans sounded? With an effort, he mustered his wavering
attention for a closer look at the man helping him. No, not a Jamaican. The
face, undistinguished in any particular feature, was tanned but otherwise
seemed as British as his own.
He could not remember seeing this person before. But there
had been others
here--attendants, perhaps even another doctor--tending to him and Bush during
the times that Dr. Clive was in court (where he probably was now, assuring
the judges that his patient was indeed *dying* and his confession could be
counted sacrosanct). Adrift in the fog created by his pain and fever, he had
simply divided them all into Clive and not-Clive. At least *this* not-Clive
had been gentle--and he smiled wan thanks at him before raising the cup to
Laudanum, most likely. He had always shunned the drug before,
could, fearing both the nightmares it brought and the lurking dangers of
habituation. Both had ceased to matter now--and the pain was again flaring t
o life beneath his clean bandages.
*I don't want to die screaming. I don't want HIM to watch
me die screaming.*
Closing his eyes, he drank the bitter stuff down to the very last drop, felt
the empty cup taken from his hand, heard the sound of retreating footsteps,
the closing of a door, then--after a brief lull--another set of approaching
footsteps, heavier this time.
He cracked his eyes open, turned his head towards the sound.
figure, topped with a ratty grey wig, and no doubt bringing with him the
ever-present whiff of spirits. Clive--returned from court and preparing to
pull back the grille to enter.
Which meant . . . *another* would come, as soon as he possibly
could. The one
for whom he was waiting. His body cried out for rest, for peace, for its
eternal quietus . . . but he could stay--surely--long enough to say goodbye .
"My dear friend."
Loving words to take with him into the darkness. He let himself
still with one small pang of knowing what this parting would do to the
speaker . . . but he had already made himself accept that.
And the darkness gently closed around him again.
Breathing. Why could he still feel himself breathing?
Not only breathing but *pain* . . . the darkness was slipping
away from him
and he could sense the light . . . and the pain of each breath, he could feel
the tears leaking from between his closed lids with every movement.
And a burning sensation, low in his chest. Was he condemned
then? Was what
he had done out of love truly so great a sin?
"Shh, shh. Here."
A calm, oddly accented voice that sounded almost familiar.
holding his head and pressing a cup to his mouth; he swallowed without any
thought of resistance.
"There now. You'll do. Rest." The hands settled
him back down, pain fading
away, the slow darkness quietly returning.
He didn't think he had spoken aloud but the strange voice was
"What? Oh, no, you're not in hell, not at all. Although
you may think you've
met the devil soon enough."
(Two weeks earlier)
The day had not gone well. Commodore Sir Edward Pellew was
himself as he returned to his lodgings. It had not gone well, and he feared
*As a man of honor, he will answer.* Damn Hammond.
But a man of honor still might lie, to protect somebody else.
Pellew saw the
trap, as he was sure Hornblower did--what he did not see was how to extricate
Hornblower from it. Nor was he sure what Hornblower himself intended. Pellew
had helped train that mind in strategy--very fertile ground indeed--now it
was his turn to anticipate and outmaneuver his former protege, to find some
course to navigate that would not steer them all to disaster.
Wearily, his mind still on the day's proceedings, he let himself
rooms, closed the door behind him, then stopped--and whipped around, his hand
automatically going to the hilt of his sword, his eyes narrowing as he took
in the scene before him.
Despite the unexpected lateness of his return, a lamp was already
glass of rum was set hospitably on the table; across from it was a second
glass, and a chair already occupied.
"Commodore." The voice was cool, cultured, matching
the smooth elegance of
the speaker's dress and person. "I beg your pardon for this intrusion but my
concerns were rather pressing."
"You!" Pellew exclaimed, coming forward into the
room. "What business do you
have in this?"
His visitor gazed back blandly, unperturbed and unruffled.
Pellew had never
spoken to Nicholas Crawford, Earl of Kilcarron before, but he knew the man
by sight, as evidently, Kilcarron knew *him* And also, a little by
Of the names and titles associated with the Earl of Kilcarron,
discreetly used (yet most widely understood) was "spymaster." At an
Admiralty dinner, an acquaintance of Pellew's, in his cups, had made a
passing reference to "Kilcarron's private army." Sober the next day, the man
had refused to elaborate.
"No direct business," Kilcarron was answering Pellew's
question. "I was
passing by on some--related affair, when this matter of the court-martial
came to my attention."
"Indeed." Pellew seated himself, decided he did
want a swallow of rum--but
not much more than that, if he had to match wits with his guest after a long
day in court. "And your impressions?"
"Matters do not appear too favorable towards the defence at this time."
"Matters appear most *damnable* for the defence at this
time, sir," Pellew
"And rather unjustly so, if the accounts I've heard are to be believed."
Pellew glanced at him inquiringly.
"Come now, Commodore, I deal in information. There have
some--communications before now, suggesting that Captain Sawyer was no longer
. . . quite the man that he was."
Pellew frowned in deep displeasure. "There you have had
the advantage of me,
sir. I had heard nothing of the sort until I had taken ship for Jamaica.
Now, may I inquire as to the precise nature of your interest in these
"They appear to have entangled a young officer that I'd
taken notice of for
"Third lieutenant Hornblower." Pellew's response
was automatic; Kilcarron,
however, appeared patently surprised.
"Third lieutenant? No, I believe the man I am referring
to was the Renown's
"Young Kennedy?" It was Pellew's turn to be taken aback.
"Yes, I believe that is the name. He was brought to my
attention some years
ago, in London, and there is a slight connection between our two families. As
for the other--your Lieutenant Hornblower--I saw him too. A very capable
officer in the service, I am sure, but a bit--uncomfortable?--in social
settings. A charming quality in its way, but a little too *noticeable* to
suit the work I have in mind."
"But Kennedy would be suitable?"
"He seemed a very likely candidate for my organization,
yes. When he had
risen to command rank, I was prepared to recruit his services, actively.
This--situation may alter the timing of my plans to a degree."
Command rank. The commodore lowered his glass, the contents
that would have happened in due course. Given his talents, Hornblower would
certainly have risen more quickly to that position but Kennedy had proven
himself capable on the Indefatigable and would likely have followed in his
friend's footsteps soon enough. Except . . .
"It is feared that he will not survive." Pellew was
surprised at how painful
it was to make that admission. "The doctor attending him believes the wound
to be mortal."
"Does he?" Kilcarron turned the glass languidly
in his hand. "My old nurse
had a saying. 'Feed a cold, hunger a colic, and put no faith in doctors.' I
understand there are two wounded lieutenants. What manner of physician is
treating them at present?"
"The ship's surgeon from the Renown."
Kilcarron closed his eyes as though in excruciating pain. "A
surgeon? Could no better alternative be found?"
"Dr. Clive has treated both officers since they first received their wounds."
"That," said Kilcarron dryly, "is precisely
what I was afraid of." He set his
glass down on the table with an audible clink. "Commodore, if I were to
offer the services of a doctor in my employ, whom I know to be a man of
"I fear your proposal would not be well-received."
Pellew stared morosely
into the depths of his glass. "While these officers are still under a cloud
. . . it is tacitly understood that they must expect nothing more than the
attentions their ship's surgeon can provide."
Kilcarron raised eloquent brows. "What these men have
to say might be
pivotal to determining the outcome of this proceeding, to exposing the truth
of what happened aboard the Renown."
Pellew shifted restively in his chair. "Unfortunately,
I've discovered that
this tribunal is less concerned with truth than with--expediency. And my
former association with both junior lieutenants . . . has hindered my own
ability to influence the outcome."
"An impasse, then. As happens far too often in your branch
of the service."
Kilcarron rose smoothly to his feet. "I have no authority to intervene
directly, of course. And I understand why you feel you cannot help me,
Commodore. But . . . might I have, at least, your assurance--that you will
do nothing to *hinder* me?"
Pellew stared up into the lean, elegant, perfectly composed
features. "I do
not know, my lord, if I am in any position even to offer *that* much. Still .
. . you have my word at least, that this conversation will not travel beyond
these four walls."
"Fair enough." A cool nod. "Nonetheless, I
ask you to think further on what
I have said. There is more than one young life at stake, sir."
"When are you due back in court?"
"Tomorrow. The court adjourned to give me more time to consider my testimony."
"And when they ask you, did you push Captain Sawyer, into the hold--"
"Are you asking me that question now?"
"I am not."
"Then I will answer it when the time comes. But until
then, I see no reason
Pellew glowered down at the gavel, unwilling to look at either
Hammond. Sleep had come very grudgingly to him last night: his mind still
struggling to save Hornblower and the other Renowns, and trying to judge this
disturbing new factor in the equation. No workable solutions had made
themselves evident during the night, and as for this morning . . .
Now that he knew, it was impossible for him not to look up
and notice the
impeccably dressed figure in the back row of the courtroom, blending in
blandly with the spectators. But what did the damned man think either of
them could do? He brought the gavel down with a little more force than
"Call the next witness!"
A sudden stir by the door, an outbreak of surprised, babbling
stared at the unexpected apparition.
Lieutenant Archie Kennedy, walking slowly and unsteadily just
in front of Dr.
Clive, looking as young and as fragile as he had as a returning prisoner of
war on the Indefatigable. He nearly fell once, coming down the aisle, but
managed to struggle upright, reached the front of the room, and asked, in a
low but firm voice, to address the court.
Pellew watched with shocked compassion as the young man took
the oath, seeing
the pain and the weakness and the steel determination underneath that was the
only thing holding Kennedy upright.
"I alone pushed him. I alone pushed Captain Sawyer into the hold."
*Dear God, boy, do you know what the hell you're doing?*
But Kennedy did know, Pellew realized. Knew because Pellew
had trained two
minds in strategy, not just one. Knew because he had transferred together
with Hornblower from the Indefatigable, and had lived every day since in his
company, and knew, even better than Pellew now, how Hornblower thought. And
now Kennedy had spiked the gun, thrown himself into the breach . . .
Pellew saw Collins' look of total surprise--and Hammond's satisfaction.
scapegoat he wanted was providing itself--not the target he had originally
picked, but he would accept it eagerly. Suddenly Pellew himself felt sick
with fury at the waste and inequity of it: the negligence of superiors who
did not remove a failing captain from active duty; the expedient willingness
to sacrifice competent and capable men to preserve the reputations not only
of an unfit captain but of those above him who left him in command.
*No. Not any more. It stops here. * Pellew discovered he
had made his own
decision. Save them both, if it can be done.
Another stir by the door caught his attention. Kennedy, still
on the witness
stand and leaning on his hands for support, noticed it too, and straightened
slightly, a faint look of alarm coming over his face. There was still one way
his efforts could be thwarted . . .
Hornblower entered, stood frozen in shock at the scene before him.
There were only two things Pellew could do for Kennedy anymore--he
both as quickly as possible.
"Well, gentlemen, I think we've heard enough." He
brought the gavel down on
its block. "Take this man down!"
Across the courtroom, Pellew's eyes found Kilcarron's, he gave
one brief nod.
That sign was returned even more imperceptibly. As the crowd erupted in
babbling turmoil, the earl rose in his usual calm, self-contained manner, and
strolled unhurriedly from the room.
(Two weeks later)
"Are you quite sure?"
"It must be done." He struggled to his feet, leaning
both hands against the
wall for balance. "Otherwise they'll--" But he wouldn't say the words; he
wasn't going to allow it. "You know what they'll do to him, otherwise."
He straightened up slowly, then staggered under a wave of pain
A hand caught his shoulder and steadied him. Concerned eyes looked into his.
"Can you even walk that far, man?"
"I won't be alone." His own eyes flicked towards
the bars. "Thank you . . .
for your help."
The other's hand gripped his briefly. "Then, Godspeed."
He was in bed . . . had he dreamed it all? But if he had only
. . .
Oh, God. If he had been sleeping all this time . . . He had
to get to
court! He struggled to sit up, to get out of bed . . . and found he could
barely move his arms and his legs would not obey him at all.
What had happened to him? He twisted, rolled sideways, managed
himself slightly on his elbows . . . and the pain struck, starting from his
wound but spreading through his whole body, overwhelming him. Even his
vision blurred and swam; he dropped back down, gasping, disoriented, but
realizing one more thing at last: he was no longer in the prison infirmary.
Then where was he? It didn't matter, he had to get to court.
He tried to
push himself up again, heard his own sob of pain and frustration. He *had* to
get up, *had* to get to court, or Horatio--
"*What* are you doing?"
That voice again; he knew it now, with its odd accent. It had
during many of his recent . . . dreams?
Once more, he tried to sit up--and was promptly caught by the
"No! Lie down, you're not going anywhere!"
Frantic now, he struggled against the hands. The court . .
. he had to get
there . . . he couldn't tell if he was actually able to speak but the voice
"The court? You mean, the trial? No--you've already
been there. You don't
need to go again--they've closed."
The hands released him--vision still blurred, he tried one
more time to raise
himself. This time, he was pinned down by the hands, the exasperated voice
becoming distinctly impatient.
"That's enough! Now listen--you've been very badly wounded.
You must lie
still or you'll injure yourself some more. I'm going to give you something
to drink, then I want you to rest again--go to *sleep.* Do you understand?"
He'd been to court already? He thought he nodded. But he
didn't want to
sleep--he turned his head aside from the cup, feebly tried to push it away.
"Very well." The voice sounded grim. "I will
give you two alternatives.
Swallow the draught and go to sleep, or I shall strike you on the jaw and put
you under *that* way. I would strongly advise the first course of action
over the second--but you *are* going to sleep!"
"No need for that." A new voice, cool, cultured,
"Proceedings have concluded, Lieutenant. You saved him."
A pause, then the first voice again, much calmer this time.
"Yes. He is
*Safe.* Was it true? But the voices--both of them--sounded
so sure. Horatio
. . . must no longer be in danger. Relief washed over him--he felt himself
going limp. When the cup was once more brought to his lips, he drank without
resisting. Awareness faded.
Awareness returned. Archie felt himself floating upward, slowly,
consciousness coming back to him. There was no sense of urgency now, no
desperation--he had done what he'd intended to do. But the consequences . . .
weren't what he'd expected. He was . . . alive?
He was no longer in the prison infirmary. He remembered discovering
Cautiously, he opened his eyes. In bed, in a room, rather plainly
. . something else about it was familiar--he'd realize it in a minute.
There was a chair by his bed, though. And a man was sitting
in it, watching
Their eyes met and Archie stared. There was something familiar
about this man
too--the long bony face, framed by greying brown hair, the calm grey eyes . .
"You." It came out as hardly more than a whisper. "You . . . were *there.*"
In the Kingston infirmary, he meant to add but he couldn't
seem to manage
that many words.
"Yes," the man answered reassuringly. He seemed
to understand what Archie
"I'm . . . alive?" Again that weak thread of a voice,
barely recognizable as
"Yes," the man said again.
Archie drew a shallow breath, found the inhalation slightly painful. "Why?"
A faint smile. "Someone else will answer most of that
question in time. For
my part--you needed surgery, and I performed it. And you did survive."
Archie frowned slightly, puzzling this out. He was very tired,
"You're . . . doctor?"
"I've been *your* doctor for the better part of two weeks
now. My name's
Latour." The physician stood up. "Since you're awake, I want to examine
your wounds. And there are a few other things that I am sure need to be
Archie lay quietly while Latour undid the bandages and gently
wound, which hurt but less--somehow--than Archie had expected, then replaced
the old bandages with clean ones. He *did* remember this man's touch from
the infirmary. But . . .*what* had he said?
"Two . . . weeks?" Archie ventured, and Latour looked up, frowning a little.
"Yes. We kept you asleep most of that time, so you wouldn't
trying to get up. " The frown grew more severe. "You didn't do yourself any
good, getting up and walking to that courtroom."
Daunted by the rebuke, Archie lapsed into silence. Obediently,
he drank the
water Latour gave him, and another liquid in a smaller cup--warm broth with a
fine grain mixed in to make a very thin gruel. Latour helped him wash his
face and hands after that, and with his other needs--by now Archie felt so
weak and tired he was beyond embarrassment.
His eyelids were growing heavier still, but Latour was holding
a last cup to
his lips. "Drink this--it'll help you sleep better."
*Stay awake--it's time for your sedative.* He almost laughed
but the stab of
discomfort from his wounds stopped him. A last niggling thought fought its
way to the surface of his mind. Two weeks later and he was still alive . . .
"Will I hang?"
"And waste all my labors? I should certainly think not,"
acerbically. "Besides," he added, as his patient's eyes began to close,
"your funeral was ten days ago."
Archie heard *that*, and wanted to protest, but the waves of
already caught him and dragged him under into the darkness.
Drifting. Archie lay with closed eyes, letting consciousness
flow back into
him. But he thought he felt a little stronger than he had the last time he'd
been awake. Stronger, and more curious.
He would not hang. Latour had said so--but then Latour had
else, about a funeral. Something that did not quite make sense. A jest,
perhaps? If so, it had been rather a poor one--worthy of Horatio at his most
Horatio. Archie opened his eyes and frowned up at the ceiling.
happened, whatever had brought him *here*--wherever *here* was--had to have
started that morning in Kingston. After he had given his testimony, or
Lord, could he even bear to remember? A moot point--memory
tended to work
whether one could bear it or not, and it was working now.
Rising from his sickbed in pain and determination. The agonizing
march to the
courtroom to deliver his statement, the no less painful march back to the
infirmary. In between, the shocked murmur that greeted his "confession,"
Horatio's dark, stunned, accusing eyes. Bush, no longer under suspicion,
being escorted from the infirmary as Archie himself was being brought back
in. Grilles, pushed aside so he could be brought through . . . they had not
released him at the threshold but had supported him nearly to the bed, a
small courtesy granted to a dying man . . .
It was Latour, he realized now, who had been there--to undress
the bandages, and had handed him the cup. And then, waiting . . .
Saying goodbye to Horatio, each of them trying not to overset
the other. He
knew at one point he'd been perilously close to tears, had seen the same
betraying moisture in his friend's eyes, but self-control--barely--had
prevailed. *The masks we wear.* He remembered Clayton, mortally wounded,
reaching for Horatio's hand. There would have been some comfort in that, but
a greater risk--a touch might have undone them both. Finding it difficult to
breathe, as if there was less and less air in the room. He'd forced himself
to take shallow, careful breaths, to speak slowly and softly . . . not
wanting to distress Horatio with the sight of him gasping for air. The
creeping numbness working its way through his limbs, the stiff heaviness of
his eyelids--then, quite suddenly, there didn't seem to be enough air in the
*world*. He'd felt his breath catch, shudder to a halt, and the world was
fading out in a grey haze, with Horatio's last valediction sounding in his
ears. This, he had thought, was what it felt like to die . . .
Except that he *hadn't* died. Still frowning, Archie prepared
those last minutes--
No, wait. Go back *further*. Latour and the cup. The pain
had faded away
slowly, and the sensations left in its wake had all seemed natural enough for
one who was--dying. But he was still alive, so how . . . what had been in
the cup to make it seem . . . ?
"But that's impossible," Archie said aloud.
"What is?" Latour asked, entering with a tray in
one hand and shutting the
door with the other.
Archie stared at him. "How--?" he began, and stuck
there, unsure how to
"Ah." Latour put down the tray, sat by the bed.
"If you're well enough to
ask the question--" he stopped in his turn, as if deciding how much to say.
"Simply put--there is a drug that slows the breathing. We had to use it on
you to remove you from the infirmary without hindrance."
Archie's eyes widened. "But . . . that's mad. Like something
from a play!"
It *was* from a play, he remembered. Friar Lawrence's speech to Juliet--"the
likeness of shrunk death." He shook his head dazedly. "*Why*? And 'Latour,'
that's a Fr--" he caught himself in time and stopped, feeling his face grow
"A French name," Latour finished, with a faint smile,
as if guessing that his
patient had nearly used a much ruder word. "I do assure you, I am of one of
His Majesty's loyal subjects nevertheless."
His calm tones eased some but not all of Archie's anxiety.
Brow creased in
thought, he allowed the doctor to prop him further up on his pillows, almost
to a sitting position. And another fragment of the puzzle slipped into place
as his awakening body recognized the sensation of movement--an experience so
familiar he had not recognized it as such until now.
"We're aboard ship, aren't we." It was not a question. "Where are we going?"
*Scotland*? One of the places he would never have guessed. "Why?"
"If he's well enough to ask the question," a new
voice remarked from the
doorway, "then he's well enough to begin to learn the answers."
Archie stared at the newcomer--a tall, spare, fair man with
eyes. Close to Commodore Pellew's age, not wearing a uniform, but with that
same air of deliberate authority. He proceeded to the foot of Archie's bed
and stood looking at him appraisingly.
"Good morning, Lieutenant."
"Sir--?" Archie began, raising quizzical brows.
The cool, level voice was
oddly familiar but he could not remember meeting this man before.
"No, we have not been formally introduced," the man
said, as if reading
Archie's mind. "But I did see you some years ago in London. I am Crawford
A name and a title. Something else stirred in Archie's memory,
as if he were
seeing a map--"Scotland?" he ventured. Crawford, Scotland . . .
The Crawford properties in Scotland were very close to the
Practically adjacent, in fact.
Crawford seemed content to let him puzzle it out. "Very
He glanced at Latour. "Charles, if I may--?"
"Not too long, my lord," the physician warned as he departed.
Kilcarron turned back to the bed. "I imagine you have
a great many questions.
Allow me to address the most pressing of them. You accomplished what you
intended at the court-martial and your shipmates are safe."
He'd sensed that already, from before. But it was a relief
hear it spoken, unequivocally and aloud, without fear and opiates clouding
his mind. Letting the tension drain out of him, he nodded acknowledgement and
waited for the older man to resume speaking.
"After proceedings concluded, you were heavily sedated
and removed from the
infirmary. Dr. Latour then performed surgery on you. He has told you as
Archie found his voice. "He has. And then?"
"Once you were strong enough to be moved, you were brought
aboard this ship,
which is now bound for Scotland. Dr. Latour was initially uncertain about
transporting you this soon, but after the funeral, I deemed it best to remove
you from Kingston at the earliest opportunity."
The funeral, again. But without a body? That couldn't be right.
memory mocked him, it's done every time a man is lost at sea. *But I "died"
ashore* . . .
Kilcarron was continuing, "In a place where storms are
frequent and tropical
diseases endemic, it was not--difficult to locate what we required, for
verisimilitude. But once the notices of your death appeared in the naval
gazettes and chronicles, it would not have served to have anyone discover
you, especially not someone from the Admiralty."
Notices . . . in the gazettes? "Wait." Archie struggled
up against the
pillows. "You said--the Navy's announced my death?"
"That is correct."
"But--no--they can't . . . " Archie pressed the
fingertips of one hand
against his brow, as if he could stop the spinning in his head. His other
hand plucked at the sheet in growing agitation. "If that's what they're
saying, then . . . " Dazed, he shook his head. "My family. My--" he broke
Horatio. Horatio thinking he was dead, grieving for him. *All*
mourning him . . .
"No." He shook his head, more emphatically this time.
"I have to write to
them--they *must* know--someone has to tell them--" His heart was racing,
his breath coming hard and fast, sure signs of panic.
"That is . . . not possible."
"What?" Archie froze, staring at Kilcarron.
"In the eyes of the Navy, you committed and confessed
to a capital crime. By
your own admission, you were a mutineer. If you were to contact your
family--or any of your acquaintance--you would place them in danger. They
could be accused of harboring a felon."
"No." Archie felt his lips form the word, but it
was soundless, as if his
voice had been silenced forever.
"Fourth Lieutenant Archibald Kennedy is dead," Kilcarron
went on implacably.
"You saw to that yourself." He stopped, seeing the stunned anguish in the
blue eyes. "I am sorry," he said, not unkindly. "I thought you already
Archie could no longer respond. A wave of pain and loss was
gathering momentum--about to break over his head and drown him in its depths.
It couldn't be true! Not to lose *all* of them . . .
"I'll send the doctor to you," Kilcarron said simply, and left.
He was alone.
Collapsed against the pillows, Archie lay very still, not yet
daring to move.
He tried to think about breathing: very lightly, very carefully. He
remembered doing the same thing on the Renown, after he had finally realized
he'd been shot, trying to block the pain for as long as possible. Slow,
shallow breaths . . .
Lying in the prison infirmary, he had gradually detached himself
bonds half the world away: love and family, home and England, even the
career he had hoped to have. It had been difficult and painful--he had not
wanted to die, yet he was acknowledging to himself that he had no future,
that he would not survive. He had kept only one last vital tie, because
there was one thing he could still do of his own will: deliver Horatio from
the shadow of the noose and give him the future he deserved. For that, he
had sacrificed life and soul, honor and reputation--not without counting the
cost, but choosing to pay it.
Parting from those he loved had been bearable only because
he was dying. He
had never once considered that he might have to *live* without them.
Slow, shallow breaths. But he felt his breathing quicken,
become rougher and
more uneven, then the heaving of his chest and shoulders. A losing
battle--his eyes were stinging, the world swimming before him in a watery
blur. Tears burned a trail down his face but he no longer cared. Too weak
to sob or rage or strike the mattress . . . instead, a thin, keening moan,
like that of a mortally wounded animal, broke from his throat; choking spasms
of tears made the wound and the healing muscles around it hurt even more, but
he didn't care about that either. It was *right* that it should hurt,
because *everything* hurt . . .
Flinging open the cabin door, Latour paused on the threshold,
what he saw.
His patient, beyond speech, lay weeping on the bed, chest and
shaking convulsively, while tears coursed down his face from beneath closed
The physician winced, all too able to imagine the discomfort
such an outburst
might cause the young man in his present condition. Approaching the bed, he
spoke gently but firmly. "Come now, no more of this. You'll make yourself
Given the patient's level of distress, he was not surprised
to be ignored.
Brows knit, Latour crossed to the other side of the cabin, prepared a
sedative draught, and returned to the bed. It took little effort to raise
his patient, too sunk in misery to offer even token resistance, to a sitting
position again, only a little more to prise open his jaws and tip the draught
down his throat. The young man spluttered slightly, but neither retched nor
choked. Nor did he cease to weep, breath shuddering and tears still
streaming down his cheeks. Latour held him by the shoulders in a light,
careful embrace and spoke to him in a murmured mixture of French and
English--until the draught took effect and the patient sagged limply back
against the pillows. With one last effort, he turned away from Latour,
clearly not caring if he ever woke again.
Latour sighed, waited for his patient's uneven breathing to
steadier rhythm of sleep. Then, taking up a cloth and basin, he began to
bathe the ravaged young face.
Bearding the earl in his cabin the following evening, Latour
fixed him with a
gimlet eye. "You appear to have had a most deleterious effect on my patient,
A cool gaze from under lowered lids. "Would it--appease
you to hear that I
had no such intention? I had thought him fully cognizant of what his actions
might portend. I was mistaken."
Latour sighed, some of his irritation dissipating. "I
do not believe he ever
considered the possibility of survival. Not surprising, given the severity
of his injuries. And I will concede that there was probably no easy or
painless way to tell him that his former existence is lost to him.
Nonetheless, mind and body are closely connected--I pray that the wound dealt
to his spirit will not impede his physical recovery."
"How does he fare?"
"He has ceased to weep, but I fear he is in despair. He will not speak."
"Indeed?" The earl's brows canted up; pushing back
his chair, he rose to his
feet. "Well, perhaps, he will *listen.*"
"What do you mean to do?" Latour's voice was sharp with apprehension.
"Merely to acquaint your patient with the further particulars
situation--and the opportunities still available to him. You must admit, now
is as good a time as any."
"Oh, God." The physician closed his eyes briefly. "Have a care, my lord."
"You wound me, Charles. Am I not always careful?"
"I *know* you." Again that gimlet glare. "You
could overset him. If he does
not sink further into despondency, what you say--and how you say it--may well
"Would that be such a bad thing? Even you must agree
that anger is
preferable to despair."
Latour's gaze did not waver. "As long as that anger does
not result in
greater damage to my patient."
"Every creature requires a purpose to go on living, doctor.
Let it be so
with your patient. Even if that purpose is merely to recover enough to knock
my teeth down my throat."
*Alone, alone, all, all alone; / Alone on a wide, wide sea;
/ And never a
saint took pity on / My soul in agony.*
He had never cared much for Coleridge's poem, nor for the Ancient
had brought his doom upon himself--but now those lines reverberated through
his head like the tolling of a death knell. His death . . . his *life* in
death. *The Night-mare LIFE-IN-DEATH was she, / Who thicks man's blood with
So cold. Archie shivered, felt his body register a protest
at that sudden
contraction. Over the last day and a half, he'd gradually become aware of
physical discomfort--of his sore, swollen eyes, aching throat, and pounding
head. As Latour had predicted, the area around the wound also hurt more, his
chest and abdomen throbbing in dull counterpoint. It did not matter; he
almost welcomed the pain. As it was, agony of mind still reduced the
complaints of the body to insignificance.
The cabin door opened. He did not bother to turn his head,
but remained as he
was, curled on his uninjured side, his back to the door.
A cool, incisive voice sliced through the silence. "Good
Have you decided to emerge yet from the tomb of your grief?"
The remark struck him with the force of a slap. Archie jerked
onto his back
and struggled to sit up, glaring at the man in the doorway through swollen,
"Why did you save my life?" he rasped, anger warring
with grief. "Why not
just let me die?"
Kilcarron stepped into the cabin, closing the door behind him.
have been waste and folly--I do not hold with either."
"But why?" Archie persisted. "What do you want with me?"
"There are two answers to that question. Which do you want first?'"
"*You* choose," Archie challenged.
"Very well." Kilcarron seated himself in the chair
by the bed, steepled his
fingers. "It appears, Lazarus, that the connection between our families is
of long standing. Perhaps not surprising, given that their holdings are so
near. Of course," he added with a thoughtful air, "there have been other
Scottish clans whose lands are located just as closely together who could not
abide each other . . . but that's neither here nor there. What matters is
that Crawfords and Kennedys have been known to help one another,
during--difficult times." He glanced at his listener, met sullen but
attentive blue eyes, and continued. "There was a Crawford saved a Kennedy in
1586, after he most unwisely became involved in the Babington plot. Then
Kennedy of Aylesford saved Philip Crawford in '46, after Culloden . . . my
father and your grandfather. It seems that the elder members of our families
have made rather a practice of delivering their young from the consequences
of their romantic folly."
Archie bit back an indignant gasp, tried to think of something
say, but had the uncomfortable feeling that Kilcarron's possible response
would be even more caustic. Seething, he held his tongue.
The older man was still speaking. "So when I learned
of your entanglement in
those--unfortunate circumstances in Kingston, I believed I could provide a
solution that would prove mutually advantageous. The timing, perhaps, became
a little precipitous, but overall, I would say that events turned out well
enough to serve my purpose."
"Now we come to the second answer. Let us say--I collect information."
"You mean," Archie began cautiously, "you're a spy."
"No. A commander of spies." Kilcarron's gaze sharpened.
"And over the years
I have recruited--in the service of the Crown--many agents, possessing
various talents, from different walks of life. Including the Navy." He
paused to let that disclosure sink in before resuming. "*You* first came to
my attention in '98, in London. I had leisure to observe you at your
sister's house and learned of your experiences in the war, including your
time as a prisoner of the Dons, during which, I understand, you acquired some
mastery of Spanish. That argues a ready memory and a quick grasp of
necessities--always assets in this line of work. It also seemed you had the
ability to move easily through many different strata of society. Another
"You're saying you want me to turn spy?"
"To become an agent. The talents you have are needed
and further skills may
"And if I refuse?"
"Under the circumstances, I do not believe you have the
luxury of refusing.
Or of remaining idle while your countrymen risk their lives in England's
Blue eyes kindled in a blaze of fury. "After Kingston,
you need not speak to
*me* of dying in England's cause, sir!"
Kilcarron raised his brows. "I think that you were prepared
to die less in
England's than in *friendship's* cause. However, I do not propose to quibble
further on that head. The fact remains--you require a purpose and I am
providing you with one."
"What purpose?" Archie asked bitterly. " I've
lost everyone I've ever loved
in my life."
"But not your life itself. And there is a debt owed--on
your side now."
Kilcarron leaned forward in his chair. "It is through my agency that you
still speak, think, and act. I require you to do all three in the service of
your country. You've broken with your past, you've thrown away your
present, and now, I believe . . . your future belongs to me." He rose to his
feet, cold blue eyes fixed intently on the younger man. "Life for life.
Life. A life as a spy. A life in someone else's power.
That last thought was intolerable. He'd lived--and suffered--in
else's power before. But even worse was still the future he faced. A future
full of loss. Kilcarron's words hadn't changed that.
And not only his loss but theirs. Those he had loved, who had
loved him in
return . . . and whose grief was now and forever beyond his power to cure.
His pain. Their pain. The knowledge of the latter increasing
the former to
unendurable levels. *I can't bear to live like this.*
*I can't bear to live.*
Entering his patient's cabin two evenings later with a steaming
broth, Latour cast a quizzical glance at the young man, who was lying on his
back, staring listlessly at the ceiling. The physician weighed the options
of speech versus silence and decided on the latter--at least until he crossed
to the night table and observed the basin he had left there some hours
previously, its contents untouched and undiminished by so much as a spoonful.
With a Gallic oath notable for both its vehemence and sheer
Latour turned a fulminating glare upon his patient. "If you were not
wounded, I would turn you over my knee and spank you as though you were six!"
A momentary, startled flicker in the blue eyes before the patient
lapsed into apathy.
"I object," Latour pressed on sternly, "to the
waste of my efforts. Which
were, I assure you, extreme."
Stubborn silence greeted this disclosure.
"You've managed not to eat anything for more than a day.
That is *not*
acceptable and it has not gone unnoticed."
"He said he could make me spy for him." Sullen and
rebellious at once. "But
he cannot make me eat."
"*Do not try him.*" Latour put his slowest, severest
emphasis on each
syllable. "For that matter, do not try *me.* I assure you, I am older,
wiser, and far more ill-tempered than you." He saw the younger man's eyes
widen with apprehension. The imagination, it seemed, was still active.
His patient's chest rose and fell in a deep, slow sigh. Latour
"Now what is this really about?"
The belligerence was draining from his patient's face, leaving
it young and
tired. "I was dying," he said bleakly. "I *knew* I was dying. And *you*
knew it. And because of that . . . I made a decision. Because I thought it
wouldn't matter and everyone else was so far away. And now--" he looked
down, and Latour could see the blue eyes filling.
"Everyone I--" he broke off again, then forced the
word out, "everyone I
*loved* thinks I'm dead. And I can't tell them or see them or even know if
I'll ever be able to . . . reach them again, somehow." This time, as the
words ran out, he did not resume, the distress all too evident.
Latour exhaled silently, tactfully managed not to notice, and
summoned up a
dry, callous tone that would have done Kilcarron himself credit. "Well,
starvation is certainly not going to provide you with the opportunity for a
The patient's chin jerked up at that, a small spark of anger
"That's better," Latour approved. "Now--I'm
sorry for your dilemma but
there's very little else I--or anyone--can do to solve it at this moment.
I'm not saying there will *never* be a way for you, but much of it will
depend on *him.*" No name was necessary there. "My part of the work was to
keep you alive; your part now is to continue to heal. And to wait, if you
will, for a more opportune time."
"He said it wasn't possible."
"At this point, perhaps not." Latour frowned consideringly.
"But I have
seen him achieve--some notably difficult ends. Even more complex than your
situation. At some future time there may be a happier resolution for you
than at present." The physician bent another fierce glare upon his patient.
"If, that is, you show sense and survive to see it! For that, you must eat,
rest--and have hope." Taking up the old basin, he glanced meaningfully at
the new one he had left in its place. "I expect to see some of that broth
gone when I return."
Alone, Archie stared morosely at the basin on the night table
but made no
move to take it.
"Eat, rest, and have hope." Easier said than done.
*Well, every one can
master a grief but he that has it.*
Shakespeare. Better company than Coleridge, perhaps. Certainly
than his own thoughts. But even the Bard could only hold memory at bay for
There had been another time when he had lived without hope.
He had tried to die then, overwhelmed by what had seemed unendurable
He remembered hearing the patter of rain and slipping away into greyness . .
. and then waking, gasping in terror from the nightmare and the twin
realizations as his mind cleared.
*Damn, I'm still here.* In prison.
*DAMN, I'm still HERE.* Alive at all.
He had wanted neither.
But the decision had not been his alone. Someone had dragged
him away from
oblivion, held him steadily back from the brink. He had resisted stubbornly
at first. But the other was stubborn too, healthier and stronger. Refusing
to let Archie surrender to the peaceful greyness, acknowledging fears and
doubts, but still insisting they could be surmounted and cast aside, soothing
away one particular terror most of all . . .
They had talked--argued--nearly the night through, both finally
into slumber a little before dawn. He had awoken still weak and drained, but
no longer in despair. Somewhere, a seed had been planted again: he was
cared about and needed, there was a place for him.
For a time that knowledge was painful in itself, like circulation
to a chilled and stiffened limb. The revival of hope and feeling in a
guarded heart and an empty, broken spirit had been a nearly unbearable
sensation. But in the end it had been worth the cost.
So had the years between then . . . and now. Good years, most
of them. Oh,
there'd been moments of fear and self-doubt, but they weighed less in the
balance, ultimately, than what had been achieved. He'd earned his
commission--at an age when he could still take some pride in the
accomplishment, he'd gained the friendship and steadfast loyalty of a man who
was everything an officer should be . . . and he'd known love, in many of
He had treasured all those things--at their full worth, he
hoped. And life
without them seemed immeasurably cold and inexpressibly bleak.
"Eat, rest, and have hope." The third condition was
the hardest of all. But
without it--there was nothing.
That was the reason, wasn't it, that hope had been the one
thing left in
Pandora's box? But could he bear to let himself hope?
The future loomed before him--a dark, lonely void, all the
dear ties sundered
and bleeding. *I may never see them again.*
If he died now, by his own hand or rather, by his own failure
of will, he
*would* never see them again. Death was a certainty--and life, with all its
myriad possibilities, was not. And even if nothing could ever be the same,
even if those he loved moved on without him, at least, in time, they might
know the truth and there could be an end to all this needless misery.
His eyes were stinging once more. He blotted them on the back
of his hand,
drew a shallow, quivering breath that still made his wound twinge, and
Then, teeth clenched against the pain, he eased himself up
pillows, reached for the basin, and began, laboriously, to feed himself . . .
'You know that you are recalled to life?'
'They tell me so.'
'I hope you care to live.'
'I can't say.'
--Charles Dickens, *A Tale of Two Cities*
*The drug Latour gave Archie actually existed, and had been
1802 (we love it when history cooperates with fiction--it makes our task so
much easier). Further details will be forthcoming.
** The Crawford and Kennedy clans did originate from the same
region--the southwest--of Scotland.
***Crawford of Kilcarron is an original character, for the
most part, but his
twisty family history, which will be dealt with in more detail later, owes
something to the writings of the late great Dorothy Dunnett.
****Archie's story will be continued in "Into the Game."