The Return of Clayton
by Liv


On one hot, dry and arid afternoon, Don Alfredo summons Hornblower to
his chambers.

"You are to go into town and buy some shaving supplies. Here is a bag
of 1500 pesos."

Hornblower curiously takes the money from him and asks: "What sort of
shaving supplies do you require, Sir?"

"It is not for me, Mr Hornblower. It is for you and your men."

"Sir?"

"The Duchess tells me there is nothing more attractive than a well-
shaved man. Now go tomorrow morning; I give you two hours leave to go
to the nearest town and come back."

So off Hornblower goes the following morning with his bag of 1500
pesos. He purchases the supplies as instructed and since he has some
time left he decides to look around the place. He stops by the local
school where he can hear the children reciting days of the week in
English.

"Mondaaay, Tuesdaay, Wednesdaay, Thursdaaaay.."

He can also hear the teacher's voice which is very English and very
familiar. Hornblower is curious to find out who the teacher is. Could
he indeed be English? And if so, what is he doing in Cadiz?

Hornblower rounds the fence where he can get a full view of the
teacherand stops dead in amazement. Surely it couldn't be!

IT IS CLAYTON!!

The teacher looks up and sees Hornblower. He too is very surprised to
see him. The two men stare at each other across the room.

The children all turn around to see who their teacher is looking at.
After a long moment the teacher unfreezes and introduces Mr
Hornblower to the class.

"Buenos dias Senior Hornblower" say the children in unison, which
means "Good morning Mr Hornblower."

"Perhaps Mr Hornblower would like to join us for the remainder of the
lesson" suggests the teacher. And so he does.

After the lesson, when the children are dismissed, Hornblower
approaches Clayton. They give each other a hug. Clayton thinks
Hornblower is taller and even more handsome than he remembers.
Hornblower thinks Clayton is thinner and has a few wrinkles forming
around his eyes, but definitely and this is the most important
thing definitely looking alive and well.

Hornblower can't stay long because he has to get back to the prison
before his two hours are up, so the two men briefly exchange stories
about where they have been.

Clayton explains why he is not dead:

"After you left the room the morning of the duel you thought I was
dead. Believe me I should have been dead by now if it weren't for the
amazing Dr Hepplewhite. He applied his techniques that had been
banned, in order to flush out the bullet from my body, resuscitate me
with fresh oxygen, and seal the wound. And to think his methods were
banned for being too revolutionary! If he had been granted permission
to practice medicine they way he wanted towhynearly half the men
that have died needlessly in battle would still be alive today."

"Yes" says Hornblower knowingly. His father was also a doctor so he
knew all about the controversy surrounding Dr Hepplewhite's attempts
to revolutionise the medical profession. A doctor of his standing
could get the sack and be publicly disgraced for practicing methods
that had explicitly been banned by the government, especially on a
group as esteemed as the British Navy.

Clayton goes on: "To this day I am eternally grateful to Dr
Hepplewhite for risking his career in order to save my life. How is
the good Doctor by the way?"

Hornblower looks sad: " I regret to inform you that Dr Hepplewhite is
dead, Sir. He was accidentally killed in a duel between `Dreadnought'
Foster and his fellow Captain."

There is silence. Then the bell rings for the children to come back
from their lunch break. It is time also for Hornblower to head back
to the prison. He promises Clayton he will try to visit again soon.
He keeps his promise.

*************

The second visit:

Hornblower visits Clayton a second time on the morning that Kennedy
alleges the Duchess is a fake. Hornblower doesn't care if she is fake
or not, he just wants to find out from Clayton if Kennedy was going
mad. Hornblower hates himself bitterly for failing to notice Kennedy
was getting ill; he feels he has failed in his duty as an officer to
look after all his men.

Hornblower confides to Clayton that Mr Kennedy is with him in prison
and that he is verging on the brink of death.

"Damn" says Clayton. "He's been starving himself again, hasn't he?"

"How did you know?" Hornblower asks, but Clayton just knows.
Hornblower then realises just how much Clayton knows about Kennedy,
especially his fears, emotions and his weaknesses.

"What else ails Archie?" asks Hornblower out loud, apart from fits
and periods of starvation.

Clayton lowers his voice: "When Archie gets really sick and terrified
he wets his bed."

BEDWETTING!!

A lump goes down Hornblower's adam's apple as he comes to the
question he fears most: is Archie going insane? This is something
Clayton doesn't know but he knows depression is a very real mental
disorder that can lead to insanity. Clayton confides that he has
observed it happening to other bright young men in the Navy:

"I have seen men as brave as lions suffocate themselves with the
trauma of war. Men in the prime of their youth strangling their necks
like chickens, cutting their bellies open like pigs, and trimming the
walls with their brainsKennedy is lucky, Horatio. You have time to
save him. You must help him get better. Help him stay strong both
mentally and physically. You must not let him give up. Promise me
you'll help him."

And Hornblower promises: "I will."

Back at the prison Hornblower meditates on everything Clayton told
him. He closes his eyes and tilts his head back in deep thought. Then
Don Alfredo walks by to announce to him that he had been invited to a
lavish dinner

*************
The third visit:

Hornblower wants Clayton to come back with him to the Indefatigable.
But Clayton doesn't want to.

Hornblower shakes his head in confusion: "But I don't understand. Why
not?" he asks.

"Because" says Clayton, with a faraway dreamy look in his eye "I am
happy where I am. This is where I am supposed to be."

Happy here? Supposed to be? Didn't Clayton always want to sail on the
Frigate?

Hornblower tries everything from gentle persuasion to blatant
cajoling, but Clayton is adamant not to leave Cadiz.

"Damn it!" says Hornblower at last in sheer exasperation. "Is it your
pride that is preventing you from returning where you belong?!"

Suddenly there is a commotion outside and the children come rushing
back into the classroom in a state of flurry. "Senior Clayton! Senior
Clayton!" they chant "we have found a lizard!"

Clayton crouches down to inspect the lizard they have caught. Their
faces are flushed with excitement. He gently takes the lizard into
his hand; he engages with the children's innocent fascination.
Hornblower observes all this and realises it is true: Clayton really
is happy where he is. Maybe he has even found a wife and is living
with her in Cadiz. Hornblower's mind wonders for a moment as he
contemplates whether he will ever know such domestic happiness
indeed any kind of happiness - at all.

**************
The last visit:

Hornblower makes one last visit to Clayton when he returns to Cadiz
in order to honor his prison parole. He discovers that what he had
suspected about Clayton's domestic happiness to be true. Clayton
indeed is married to a beautiful Spanish woman named Carmen and
together they have three adorable children; Louis, Natalie and little
Horatio.