Mr. Pipps Saves the Day
by Inzevar

 

The stout hearted men of the Indefatigable stood assembled on the main
deck waiting for their commanding officer, Sir Edward Pellew, to begin
speaking. Horatio Hornblower, the captain's favorite midshipman stood
proudly on the quarterdeck. He did not know what Sir Edward was about to
say but he hoped that it would have something to do with giving the
Frogs another thrashing. He strained at the leash like a young hound
that has not been let out of the house for several hours.
"Men," bellowed Sir Edward, "I have some good news."
"Three cheers for Sir..,"
"Silence!" roared the Captain. "Take that man's name Mr.
Hornblower!"
"Aye Aye Sir," said Horatio making a mental note to kick Mathews in
the rear later.
"A great honor has been paid to the Indefatigable," continued Sir
Edward glaring about him, daring anyone to utter at sound, " and with
it comes a challenge. One that I know you will be equal to for there is
not a finer crew in His Majesty's Navy!"
Horatio felt his chest begin to swell with pride. Something else had
been swelling lately too, especially at night, and he decided that he
really must ask his best friend Midshipman Kennedy for some advice.
Archie might be spectacularly dim in all areas involving seamanship but
he seemed to know all about "it". Last time they had anchored in
Portsmouth he had vanished into Madame Dolly's Quayside Tart Shop for
three days and had then been escorted back to the jolly boat by a
platoon of giggling and carelessly dressed girls. Horatio pulled himself
together. Sir Edward was speaking again.
"Because of her exceptionally well received appearance in the recent
"Ship Beautiful" issue of the Naval Chronicle, the Indefatigable has
been chosen to enter the competition that will determine which is the
most tastefully decorated Captain's cabin in the fleet!"
A stunned silence greeted the announcement. Captain Pellew smiled and
turned to the officers of the watch, "I knew this would
please'em!" he said winking at Horatio.
"Aye Aye Sir." Horatio was hoping desperately that he would not be
put in charge of anything remotely connected with curtain fabric.
"I expect all of you to give every last effort for the good of the
ship." Sir Edward was addressing the men in stirring tones. "There
will be hard days ahead. Furniture will have to be stripped and
re-varnished, rugs beaten and walls painted. Some of you will be sewing
day and night! The judging takes place in Gibralter in two weeks time.
We sail there immediately. God Save the King!"
A ragged cheer went up. Several days in Gibralter were not to be
sneezed at. Sir Edward nodded with satisfaction, told Mr. Bracegirdle to
dismiss the men, and turned away from the rail. He began to pace the
quarterdeck in his usual stately fashion. He had not gone far when he
trod on something that caused his feet to go skyward and his rear end to
make a sudden and severe impact on the deck. From there he fell
backwards onto his head.
"Oh My God Sir!" exclaimed Mr. Bracegirdle "you've fallen over!
Mr. Winthrop go and fetch the surgeon!"
"AYE AYE SIR!" bellowed the newest midshipman as he sped away, his
shoes making a thunderous clatter on the deck.
"Dear God!" moaned the Captain "someone muffle that boy's
oars!"
"Are you hurt Sir?" said Horatio anxiously as he knelt next to his
commander.
"Certainly not!" said Sir Edward sitting up "What nonsense Mr.
Hornblower! I've had entire ships shot away from under me and not
picked up a scratch." He got to his feet and jammed his had back on
his head, only to wince and take it off again.
"SURGEON'S ON HIS WAY SIR!" Mr.Winthrop came bounding up the
ladder and on to the quarterdeck.
"Be quiet!" hissed Sir Edward as he rubbed the back of his head.
"Take off your shoes and go and stand over there!" He pointed to
the far end of the deck and Mr. Winthrop padded away crestfallen.
Dr. Chippendale, the rough and ready ship's surgeon came lumbering
along the gangway. His jacket was covered in sawdust and his wig was on
sideways.
"Now then gents" he said cheerfully "which one of you got knocked
off your pins?"
Horatio's jaw dropped at this dreadful breach of naval etiquette.
"The Captain has need of you," said Mr. Bracegirdle frowning "and
you must address him as Sir."
"Right ho Sir Guv. What seems to be the trouble?"
"Are you drunk?" accused Sir Edward looking at the surgeon with
narrowed eyes.
"Not me mate. Never touch the stuff," said the doctor. "You
having trouble with your peepers? You've got a couple of nasty squints
there. I think I've got something for that." He knelt on the deck
and rummaged in his leather bag. He pulled out a joinery saw, two
chisels, a length of twine and a jar of nails. "Well blow me down if I
ain't brought the wrong bag! See, I was just putting a couple of
shelves up when that lad with the big lungs came a'runnin."
"Tell him to leave," said the Captain clutching his forehead.
"You had better be going Sir," said Horatio quietly. He stood over
the doctor and pointed towards the ladder.
"Glad to mate," said Dr. Chippendale gathering up his tools "I
don't like the bit where I has to start pokin' and proddin'. They
always seems to expect it but it's a waste of time if you ask me."
He trotted happily away to the orlop.
"Mr. Bracegirdle," said the Captain severely, "what was the
impediment that caused me to er, lose my footing?"
"I think it was this Sir," said Mr. Bracegirdle holding up a large
glass marble.
"Aha!" said Sir Edward taking the glass sphere and fixing it with
such an intense stare that it was a wonder it didn't melt. "Pass the
word for Mr. Pipps," he said grimly.
A few minutes later a tapping sound was heard to approach, growing
louder as it did so. Mr. Pipps' head appeared at the top of the
quarterdeck ladder and the rest of him soon followed. He hopped briskly
across to where Sir Edward was standing and took off his hat.
"What the devil are you doing?" demanded Sir Edward with a
ferocious scowl.
"Hop - ping," said Mr. Pipps breathlessly.
"Well stop it at once!"
"I ñ can't ñ stop," answered Mr. Pipps intermittently. "I
ñ have ñ to ñ keep hop- ping ñ un- til ñ din- ner time."
Sir Edward waited until Mr. Pipps was at the lowest point of a
singled-legged jump and then clamped a hand on his head, anchoring the
child firmly to the deck.
"You've made me lose the game now!" said the Indefatigable's
youngest officer indignantly.
"Never mind that Sir! Do you recognize this?" Sir Edward held the
marble in front of Mr. Pipps nose.
"That's my best one!" said Mr. Pipps eagerly, "have you been
playing with it?"
"No. I have been falling over it!" snapped the Captain. "Did I
not tell you last week that you were not to bring marbles on the
quarterdeck?"
"I don't know," said Mr. Pipps solemnly shrugging his shoulders.
"Well I remember it distinctly Sir! For disobeying my direct order
you will be placed in charge of the ship's livestock for one month.
You will see to their welfare and you will also assist in shoveling
whatever requires shoveling."
"Is that hard?" asked Mr. Pipps uncertainly.
"Yes and it is also unpleasant," replied the Captain sternly.
"You are dismissed."
"Well I 'spect my Mamma will be very cross with you when I write to
her," said Mr. Pipps darkly as he left to take up his new duties. The
sound of renewed energetic hopping could be heard coming from the main
deck very soon afterwards.

 

At the end of his watch Horatio drifted into the midshipmen's mess
where he found Archie writing figures on a piece of paper and looking
worried.
"Oh I am glad to see you Horatio!" he said, "Can you help me with
my allowance? I'm trying to work out what it comes to if you take ten
guineas from four hundred and ten guineas, five shillings and eleven
pence three farthings. It's all these pennies and things that confuse
me."
"Glad to help Arch," said Horatio scribbling the answer
effortlessly. "Um, actually Archie I was going to ask if you could
help me with something." He told his friend about the strange things
that had been happening to his anatomy at night.
"Oh that's nothing unusual at all," said Archie kindly and he
went on to inform Horatio of the means by which the continuing survival
of the human race was assured. When Horatio came to his senses he was in
his bunk and Archie was bathing his face with a sponge wrung out in cold
tea.
"What happened?" he asked. Then he remembered and clutched his
friend's neck in alarm. "It's not true is it?" he gasped "Not
that bit about the wo.. the womÖ.I mean I won't actually have toÖ"
"No of course not Horatio," said Archie soothingly "I'm so
sorry, I was having a bit of a joke with you. I made that bit up about
the wombats. I should have said women really."
Horatio came to his senses half an hour later. He was in his bunk and
Archie was putting a mustard poultice on his feet. He stared at his
friend in wordless horror. "I made the whole thing up," said Archie
patting him soothingly on the head "the doctor brings them in his bag
Horatio. I expect you father told you all about that when you were small
didn't he?"
"Yes, and it makes much more sense," said Horatio weak with relief
"but it still doesn't explain the swelling does it?"
"I expect it's just the sea air, Horatio, don't worry about it. I
see you had a letter from your father yesterday. Why don't you read it
again while I just get the mustard out of your hair, it will help you
feel better."
"Thank you Archie. You're such a pal."
Horatio pulled the letter out of his pocket and caught and the
evocative scent of home from its folded pages. Camphor, stale sweat and
drains. He grew calmer as he read the uplifting words.

 

Sheepsbladder Cottage, Muttering in the Marsh, Hampshire.

Dear Son,

Think yourself lucky you are not still stuck in this muddy damp-ridden
corner of England. A dozen scrofulous peasants knocked the door
yesterday wanting me to anoint their gruesome skin complaints. What a
nerve! It's an ordeal every time I go out. I can't pass the time of
day with anyone in the village without them trotting out their boring
maladies.
The vicar had the effrontery to come banging on the door last night
while I was eating my dinner. Some fool had fallen under the wheels of a
cart and he wanted me to go traipsing through the mud and start messing
around with bandages. I told him to fetch the idiot along to the
scullery while I finished my pig's trotters. By the time I had a look
he'd turned up his toes. 'There you are vicar' I said 'I told
you it wasn't worth me getting my coat on.' His Reverence went off
in huff and said I needn't expect to see him for whist on Thursday. I
suppose I shall have to ask the schoolmaster instead, assuming the
consumption doesn't carry him off before then. I keep telling the man
to get out of the house and do some heavy work, ditch digging or hewing
timber. He spends far too much time sitting about in the warm.
Mrs. Goggins wishes to be remembered to Master Horatio. I shall have to
get rid of the old cow if she doesn't buck her ideas up and start
spending more time pushing a broom. I have told her not to send you any
more of her abominable baked offerings so you should be safe for a
while. Ha! Ha!
Knock a few Frenchies on the head for your old father. Be sure to
smuggle some decent brandy for me next time you're on leave.

Your loving parent.
Horace Hornblower

Horatio put the letter down and smiled. Archie had been right. He did
feel better now that he had enjoyed the comfort of his father's words.
He sat up and flexed his bright yellow feet.
"It was jolly decent of you to look after me Archie," he said
"you could have just sent for the surgeon you know."
"Um, well I don't think that would have been a good idea
Horatio," mumbled Archie looking uncomfortable.
"Is there a problem?" said Horatio looking keenly at his blushing
friend.
"Yes I seem to have some mustard up my nose," said Archie going
even pinker.
"No, I meant with the surgeon."
"Oh God!" babbled Archie "All right, all right I'll you
everything. He's a docker, Horatio, a docker, not a doctor. He got
pressed by mistake and I've kept quiet about it for weeks! It's been
hell, Horatio, hell!" He blew his nose loudly into his handkerchief,
which turned bright yellow.
"But this is serious indeed Archie," said Horatio in his best
stuffed shirt manner. "Just think what will happen if there is a
battle. We will have men rolling around the orlop in agony. Those that
survive the amputations will succumb to the galloping gangrene and we
will be tossing bodies over the side for days afterwards."
"Um, yes," said Archie slowly, screwing up his nose as he always
did when straining his thought processes "but isn't that what
happens anyway?"
"Possibly," said Horatio, looking a trifle miffed "but that's
not the point is it?"
We shall never know what Archie's reply would have been (Author's
note: I certainly don't) because at that moment a cry of "man
overboard!" rang out above decks. Horatio hastily stuffed his yellow
feet into his shoes and ran up, followed closely by Archie. The crew
were lined up at the starboard rail watching a naked pink figure
thrashing about in the water.
"Stand aside!" cried Horatio bravely as pulled his shirt off,
"I'll go in after him!"
"Move back there!" cried Sir Edward shouldering Horatio to one side
as he tossed his jacket off and dived over the rail. He executed a
perfect forward pike with one and half twists before entering the water
with barely a ripple.
"Oh rats!" exclaimed Horatio "he never lets me save one. Styles,
Mathews, Oldroyd put those scorecards down and lower a boat."
"Beggin yer pardon Sir," said Mathews tugging his forelock "but
me and Styles here gave the Captain full marks fer that dive but look
what Oldroyd's given 'im!" The loyal old seaman's forehead was
creased with concern, his eyes were clouded with vexation and his hair
had that just washed look.
"Oldroyd!" said Horatio sharply.
"Sir?"
"That dive was a six Oldroyd, not a five point eight."
As the boat pulled away and headed back along the Indy's wake they
could see that Sir Edward had already reached the struggling figure and
was holding his head clear of the waves.
"He's got him Sir!" shouted Mathews excitedly. "Three.."
"Mathews!"
"Sorry Sir. No cheers it is Sir."
Sir Edward was swimming on his back and the rescued seaman was calmly
allowing himself to be towed. Horatio noticed that he was entirely bald,
had very large ears, an upturned snout and was in fact a pig.
"It's a pig Sir!" he blurted out in amazement as Sir Edward
grasped the gunwale.
"Thank you Mr. Hornblower. I had already taken note of that fact,"
said Sir Edward grimly as he was heaved into the boat. The pig scrambled
in after him and, in a touching display of gratitude, insisted on
keeping its head in the Captain's lap as they rowed to catch up with
the ship.
"Oh my God Sir!" said Mr. Bracegirdle bustling up to the entry port
as his Captain set foot on the deck, "you'll catch your death of
cold. Let me send for the surgeon."
"Rubbish!" said the Captain briskly, "I once spent a fortnight
clinging to a plank in the Atlantic and came away without so much as a
sniffle. Fetch me a pint of brandy. Where is Mr. Pipps?"
The diminutive midshipman stepped forward from the admiring circle of
officers and crew members. His face was rather grubby and his stockings
were a disgrace.
"Mr. Pipps, I put the ship's livestock under your care and a pig
goes over the side not four hours later! What have you to say Sir?"
"I didn't do it on purpose," said Mr. Pipps defensively, "he
sort of slipped."
"Oh did he!" said Sir Edward his eyebrows vanishing into his
hairline."
"Yes, I was just helping him get his front legs on the rail so he
could look at the sea and he sort of fell in." The child regarded his
Captain solemnly for a moment and then added, "you're very wet."
"Why the devil would a pig need to look at the ocean?" asked
Captain Pellew after he had swallowed a restorative swig of brandy.
"Because he hadn't seen it before," answered Mr. Pipps
reasonably. "He's only got a horrid little room with no windows
and.."
"This is a ship of war boy!" roared the Captain "not a porcine
pleasure cruise! Get that animal back on board and stow it where it
belongs."
"He's called Thomas," said Mr. Pipps " and I don't think
you're being very nice."
"ENEMY SHIP OFF THE PORT BOW SIR!"
"I thought I told you never to come within ten yards of my person Mr.
Winthrop!" said the Captain clutching his head in pain.
"SORRY SIR"
"Very well Mr. Bracegirdle. Clear for action, and quietly for God's
sake!"

Captain Pellew scowled as he paced the quarterdeck. Clearing for action
had taken longer than usual and he was not best pleased. It appeared
that Mr. Pipps' first move on taking up his new duties had been to let
all the chickens and ducks out of their baskets so that they could play
tag if they wanted to. Several of the birds had taken up stations on
cannons or in coils of rope and had objected loudly to being moved. The
gunner's mate had been viciously pecked on the foot by a speckled
leghorn and was under the inexpert care of the surgeon. Mr. Pipps had
reluctantly obeyed his purple-faced spluttering commander and returned
all the poultry to their original quarters.
"I'll come back later and show you my toy soldiers," he whispered
"and if you're very good I'll take some of you for a swim
later." The ducks greeted this promise with appreciative quacking
while the hens looked merely looked apprehensive.
"What do you make of her Mr. Hornblower?" asked the Captain as
Horatio studied the approaching ship.
"She's Spanish Sir"
"Well done Mr. Hornblower!" Sir Edward was beaming with pride as
his finest midshipman went through his paces. "I'm sure the rest of
my officers would benefit from hearing what led you to that
conclusion." The officers in question stifled groans and exchanged
pained glances behind their Captain's back.
"Well Sir," said Horatio basking in the glow of his commander's
approval " Her name is the "Hispaniola", she's flying Spanish
colors and her sails all have 'property of the Spanish government '
painted in the bottom left hand corner."
"Splendid, my boy, splendid and do you have any suggestions as to our
next course of action?"
"I do Sir. It's an hour past noon and all ships in the Spanish Navy
observe a two hour siesta after the midday meal. I'd like to volunteer
to take a boat and some men and board her Sir. I'll need Mr. Winthrop
as well Sir. We can have her colors down before they know what's
hit'em Sir!" His brown curls shone at the prospect of giving the
Dons a drubbing.
"Excellent plan Mr. Hornblower! You will need to take another officer
with you though. Mr. Bracegirdle who is next in line for a prize
command?"
"Oh but Sir" protested Horatio "I thought I.."
"Not this time Mr. Hornblower. I need you on the Indefatigable. You
are going to help me draw up the plans for re-decorating my cabin."
"Oh ----!" muttered Horatio.
"What was that?" enquired Sir Edward.
"I said 'Oh what luck' Sir."
"Mr. Kennedy is next on the list Sir" said Mr. Bracegirdle.
"Who?"
"Mr. Kennedy Sir. The officer who is attempting to hide behind Mr.
Hornblower."

In less than an hour Horatio was climbing back through the
Indefatigable's entry port followed by Don Pepe Alberto Ricardo
Alberto Heinrich Costabrava Torremolinos, the captain of the
Hispaniola.
"Report Mr. Hornblower," said Sir Edward looking askance at the
Spaniard.
"The Hispaniola is ours Sir. Mr. Kennedy awaits your permission to
set sail for Gibraltar."
"Hi protest!" shouted the Spanish captain. He was not a large man
and his movements were hampered by a very large sword and an over
abundance of feathers on his hat. His English was heavily accented.
"You cheated to get my ship. The thiethta she is thacred. You mutht
wait until it ith over and then we fight."
"What's he complaining about?" asked Sir Edward. He made it a
rule never to understand foreigners.
"He says Sir that we ignored the rules of war because we took his
ship unawares during the siesta hours."
"Yeth!" Yelped Captain Torremolinos warming to his subject, "I am
thleeping and then there ith a perthon who bellowth like a bull outthide
my cabin. My nerveth are shattered! your colorth are up and my colorth
are down! You mutht not do thith during the thiethta!"
"He is objecting to the fact that I employed Mr. Winthrop to wake the
ship once I had taken it Sir."
"Well he has my sympathy.." began Sir Edward before recollecting
himself. "Well you tell him, oh hell you know what to say Mr.
Hornblower," he spluttered.
"Yes Sir." Horatio loved it when Sir Edward trusted him to be
diplomatic. He squared his shoulders and drew himself up to his full
height. "Senor, my captain thinks that you and the rest of your
officers and indeed all the officers in the Spanish Navy are a bunch of
effete, overdressed, nincompoops and he spits on your siesta."
The effect on Captain Torremolinos was immediate. He fell to the deck
and began kicking and screaming with rage.
"Nicely done Mr. Hornblower," shouted Sir Edward over the din,
"have him stowed below and let's get under weigh. Mr. Bracegirdle
signal the Hispaniola to take up station ten cable lengths astern."
The sobbing Spaniard was removed and sails were hoisted. A few minutes
later a answering signal came from the prize ship.
"What does Mr. Kennedy say?" asked the Captain
"He says 'what means does this?' Sir" said Horatio reading the
flags with some difficulty as they had got twisted half way up.
"What the hell kind of a signal is that?"
"I think he did not understand your signal Sir."
"There was nothing wrong with my signal Sir!" roared Sir Edward.
"No Sir, Of course not Sir but perhaps something a little more um,
simple might be called for."
"Very well then you send one!" snapped the Captain.
Horatio instructed the signal midshipman to hoist "Follow the
Indefatigable and don't get too close." It seemed to be understood
as there was a sudden flurry of activity on the Hispaniola. Men were
seen to go aloft to unfurl sails and Mr. Winthrop's voice could be
heard coming from below deck encouraging the men working the capstan.
However, after ten minutes the Hispaniola was still not in her appointed
place. Horatio trained his telescope on her deck and saw Archie battling
with several flags.
"He's signaling again Sir. 'Just a minute.'"
"Well come along Mr. Hornblower what does he say?"
"No Sir, I mean that's the signal 'Just a minute'."
"Did you hear that Mr. Bracegirdle? 'Just a minute'! Have you
ever heard the like?" Sir Edward was astounded.
"No indeed I haven't Sir. Not in all my days at sea Sir. I can't
ever recall Sir, not since I was a midshipmanÖ"
"Thank you Mr. Bracegirdle!" said the Captain testily. "Good God
he's at it again! What now Mr. Hornblower?"
"He says 'Have dropped anchor' Sir."
"But I ordered him to set sail!"
r hampered by a very large sw"Sorry Sir, I misread that one. It's
'Have dropped the anchor'. I think he means he's lost the.."
"Yes, yes I take his meaning! Tell him to sail to Gibraltar
regardless. He can rig an anchor when he gets there. I suggest he ties a
rope to himself and jumps overboard."
"Yes Sir." Horatio saw that Archie was now up to his knees in flags
and it was a good ten minutes before he was able to send a reply to the
Indefatigable.
"What now?" sighed the Captain.
"The signal reads 'Which way Gibraltar is?' Sir."
"Oh Hell's bells! Somebody throw a rope over the stern. We'll tow
him to Gibraltar! Mr. Bracegirdle I'm going below. I have a
headache."
"Shall I fetch.."
"No!"

 

All was peaceful for half an hour and then a dreadful strangled roar
was heard from Sir Edward's cabin. A moment later he rushed on deck
clad only in his dressing gown.
"Where is Mr. Pipps?" he demanded looking wildly about. His hair
was wet and he was brandishing a loofah.
"Here I am," said the officer in question, skipping along the main
deck His had a great deal of straw in his hair and his ears had not seen
water for a long time.
"There are ducks in my bath!" said the Captain menacingly "What
do you know about it?"
"Well you weren't using it and they really wanted a swim,"
explained Mr. Pipps with a cherubic smile.
"I most certainly was using it!" protested Sir Edward.
"I didn't see you," said Mr. Pipps innocently.
"That's because I had just stepped out to the, er well I had just
stepped out for a moment."
"Oh! I'll go and ask them if they've finished and then you can
have another turn," said Mr. Pipps helpfully.
"Do you seriously imagine Sir, that I am going to immerse myself in
water that has just been vacated by a horde of cavorting ducks?"
"I'm not sure," said Mr. Pipps with a puzzled expression "what
does it mean?"
"It means you are to go and get those ---------ducks out of my
--------bath immediately!"
"My Pappa use those words once," said Mr. Pipps in a shocked tone
"and Mama said he had to sleep in the blue drawing room for a week.
I'm going to write and tell her what you said." He looked at his
Captain and added wisely "but I'll go and get the ducks first."
Archie sighed heavily. He was spending his third day half way up the
mainmast. It was his punishment for crashing the Hispaniola into the
rear of the Indefatigable just as both ships were entering Gibraltar's
harbor. Several windows had been broken in Sir Edward's day cabin. It
was very fortunate for Archie that the destruction had taken place
before the cabin had been redecorated for the competition, otherwise Sir
Edward might have been incandescent with rage instead of merely bright
purple. It was even more fortunate, thought Archie, that the main cabin
of the Hispaniola had been chock full of oriental rugs, hangings,
cushions and artifacts of all kinds. Sir Edward had been placated by
Archie's suggestion of an Arabian theme for the competition décor and,
instead of being assigned to scrub out the heads for three weeks, he had
only been ordered aloft for three days.
"Have you got any biscuit left?" asked Mr. Pipps. He was seated
next to Archie on the mainmast top. He was forbidden to set foot on the
deck for the next four hours because he had unwisely allowed the
ship's goat to eat one of the Captain's best silk shirts.
"No I'm afraid not," said Archie "you finished it all half an
hour ago."
"Oh," said Mr. Pipps in a disappointed tone. If it had not been for
the breeze Archie might have been overwhelmed by the aura of the
farmyard that clung to his young companion. Mr. Pipps stockings were a
grubby collection of ladders and his shoes had acquired a generous
coating of a substance whose main color was brown.
"Shall we read our letters again?" suggested Mr. Pipps brightly.
"You read mine to me. I like the way you read them."
"If you like," said Archie good-naturedly. He pulled several sheets
of paper from his jacket pocket, opened them out, cleared his throat and
began to read.

'Sweetikins Darling,
How is my precious little boy? Are you keeping your chest warm?
Do take care not to get your feet wet and be sure to wear your woolly
stockings at night. I cry myself to sleep thinking about my sweet child
in the middle of the dreadfully big ocean. Are you changing your*'

"That's not from my mamma!" said Mr. Pipps indignantly "I
'spect it's from yours."
"Oh! So it is," said Archie "I must have got some pages mixed up,
um, I think this is the right one."

 

'Dearest Algy,
We are all so proud of our brave young man and often talk about
what splendid grown-up things you are doing. Papa says you may have your
own set of dueling pistols when you next come home on leave. He also
says you may join him when he and his gentlemen friends play cards and
shoot peasants.'

"I think she must mean pheasants," said Archie frowning. "After
all one would hardly*"
"MR. PIPPS TO REPORT TO THE CAPTAIN IMMEDIATELY AND YES HE DOES
REALISE THAT HE SAID YOU WERE NOT TO COME DOWN FOR ANOTHER FOUR
HOURS," whispered Mr. Winthrop from the foot of the mast.
"I've got to go now," said Mr. Pipps. "Perhaps he's got some
biscuit," he added hopefully. He slid down a backstay to the deck and
skipped across to where the Captain and Mr. Hornblower were standing.
"Mr. Pipps," said the Captain "I have an important task for you
Sir. Tomorrow is the day of the competition and I wish you to help me
welcome the judges when they come aboard."
"Will I have to wear my best uniform?" ask Mr. Pipps thoughtfully.
Parts of it were being used as blankets for the ducks.
"No young man, you will be wearing a costume, one that reflects the
theme of my cabin. You will be dressed as an Arabian gentleman. You will
give a short speech that Mr. Hornblower will teach you and then you will
present some flowers to Lady Dalrymple, the Governor's wife."
"What do 'rabian gentlemen wear?" asked Mr. Pipps suspiciously.
"Oh it's very splendid!" said the Captain. "In fact all the
other midshipmen wanted to wear it didn't they Mr. Hornblower?"
"Yes Sir," lied Horatio.
"Now run along to the gun room Mr. Pipps. You are to be measured for
your outfit so the men can start sewing and have your new clothes ready
for tomorrow. Go with him Mr. Hornblower and attend to that other matter
we discussed."
"Aye Aye Sir."
When they had gone below Sir Edward walked to the ship' s rail and
gazed across the harbor at his rivals. There was the 'Indecisive', a
sixty-five and a half gunner commanded by Reginald Fotherington-Hythe.
He had a keen eye for a well-turned chair leg and was a dab hand with
the crochet hook. The frigate 'Indecipherable' had dropped anchor
that afternoon. Her captain, Harry 'Fancy Pants' Threepwood was
determined to keep his décor a secret until the last moment and had
blacked out the windows of his cabin. Three other ships, the
'Insufferable', the "Insupportable' and the 'Hedgehog'
made up the rest of the contestants. It was going to be a close run
thing.

Down in the gun room Mr. Pipps was eyeing Styles and Mathews with
extreme suspicion. They had several bolts of floral silk stacked on the
table and were advancing on him with a measuring tape. There was a
makeshift curtain hung across one corner of the room and tendrils of
steam wafted from behind it. Escape seemed like a good idea but he
turned to find the way to the door barred by a determined looking Mr.
Hornblower.
"We shall have to give you a bath before you can be measured and
fitted for your, er, costume," said Horatio in a friendly and
reasonable manner. Styles drew the curtain back to reveal a wooden wash
tub full of soapy water.
"I'm not getting in there!" said Mr. Pipps, scandalized.
"I'll get all wet!"
"I'm afraid you are," said Horatio taking off his jacket and
rolling up his sleeves. He nodded and the two men advanced once more
upon Mr. Pipps, who took evasive action by diving under the table. A
lively struggle followed at the end of which Mr. Pipps had been relieved
of his clothing and placed in the tub.
"Well I'm writing to my Mamma!" he spluttered balefully as
Horatio poured a basin a warm water over his head and Mathews soaped his
ears, "and I'm never going to show you my toy soldiers again!"
Twenty minutes later a wrathful cherub stood on the table in clean
small clothes. His face was very pink and his damp hair sprang from his
head in tight curls. As Styles held a length of pale orange silk against
him the hideous truth dawned on Mr. Pipps.
"You're making a dress!" he gasped. "I'm not wearing a
dress!"
"Of course you're not," soothed Horatio. "It's a traditional
eastern garment worn by fierce warriors. Look it's going to have a
sash to put your sword in."
"I get a real sword?" said Mr. Pipps and he smiled again.

 

Early next morning Sir Edward assembled his officers in the wardroom to
review the plans for the day. His own cabin was to stay off limits, even
to himself, until the judging was over. Mr. Pipps was the only officer
not present as he had been given extra time to practice his speech.
"Now gentlemen," said Sir Edward "the judges will begin their
work at noon on board the Insufferable. They will then visit Indecisive,
Hedgehog, Indecipherable, Insupportable and lastly, Indefatigable. The
panel is to consist of Lady Dalrymple, Admiral Sir Guy Hoop-Stroopling
and*"
"It's Stroop-Hoopling Sir," murmured Mr. Bracegirdle.
"Are you sure?" snapped Sir Edward frowning.
"I always thought it was Strop-Hoopling Sir," ventured Archie.
"Yes, well be that as it may," said Sir Edward testily "the last
of the judges will be Mr. Tarquin Rice-Paper, décor correspondent of the
Naval Chronicle. After they have been greeted and Mr. Pipps has
presented the flowers to her ladyship I shall lead the way to my cabin.
Let me say again that until that moment no one is to enter my quarters
for any reason. Once the judging is over, and dare I say it, the
Indefatigable has been declared victorious, the buffet luncheon will be
served. The main dish will be whole roast pig."
Mr. Pipps, who had abandoned practicing his speech for the pleasures of
walking the ship's goat, happened to be passing the wardroom door at
the precise moment when Thomas' fate was announced. His hand flew to
his mouth and his eyes grew wide with horror.
Half an hour later Mr. Pipps arrived at the entry port in the company
of a short, odd looking person whose features were hidden by a
midshipman's hat and cloak.
"We're going ashore," said Mr. Pipps to the marine on duty.
"Whose your friend?" asked the sentry suspiciously.
"He's called Midshipman Thomas," said Mr. Pipps "and he has to
go ashore. He's got some 'portant papers to give to someone."
"That's a pig wearing a hat and a cloak," said the sentry,
unmoved.
"No it's not!" said Mr. Pipps with spirit.
"You want to put that there pig back in its pen before the Captain
catches you," said the marine.
"I'll give you sixpence," said Mr. Pipps in desperation.
"Put the pig back sonny."
"Come along Thomas," whispered Mr. Pipps as he walked dejectedly
away "I'll find you a hiding place. You shan't be roasted!"

"Archie you have to help me!" cried Horatio as he burst into the
midshipmen's mess with curls flying and a wild look in his eye. He was
carrying a child's frock, oops sorry, a warrior costume, and a bunch
of flowers.
"Is it swelling again?" said Archie sympathetically as he ironed
his hair ribbons on the dining table.
"No!" said Horatio, "well, yes, but that's not the problem just
now. Archie, I'm going to be in terrible trouble with the Captain!
I've mislaid Mr. Pipps!"
"Oh I see," said Archie, who didn't. "What do you need the
little squeaker for anyway?"
"He's absolutely vital to today's operations," said Horatio
thumping the table with his fist, "he's supposed to present Lady
Dalrymple with these flowers and give a little speech of welcome."
Horatio paced up and down in a distraught fashion, " and that's not
the only thing that's going wrong. The pig's gone missing as
well!"
"Perhaps he went for another swim," suggested Archie helpfully,
"he seemed to enjoy it last time."
"Oh God!" moaned Horatio, "Sir Edward will have my guts for
garters. I'm supposed to have the wretched child togged up and in
place at the entry port in fifteen minutes. The judges will be here in
half an hour!" He sat down at the table and buried his face in his
hands.
"Couldn't someone else hand Lady Dalrymple the bouquet?"
"I suppose so Archie but who's got time to learn the speech?"
"Oh I can do that," said Archie, "or I could use some of the
stuff I already know." A far away expression came into his eyes and
his ironing arm slowed down and then stopped altogether.
"I don't know if that's such a good idea Arch," said Horatio
hastily.
"You don't trust me do you?" said Archie bitterly; "you're
always treating me like I'm some incompetent fool!"
"No, no I'm sure you could do it," said Horatio leaping to his
feet, snatching Archie's burning hair ribbon from the table, hurling
it to the floor and stamping out the flames, "but I want you to
promise me that you'll stick to the speech Sir Edward wrote." He was
dreadfully worried that the excitement of speaking in front of so many
people might tip Archie into a fit of the Shakespeare's. Once that
happened, the only way to stop him spouting reams of poetry, or even an
entire play, was to immerse him in a barrel of cold water. That might
prove difficult is he were standing close to visiting dignitaries.
"Yes, I promise," said Archie eagerly. Then his face fell again,
"oh but I can't help, don't you see Horatio?"
"Why not?"
"I'll never be able to get into the costume."

The judges arrived promptly at seven bells. The Admiral, a lively
gentleman of some sixty years, returned Sir Edward's salute by kissing
him warmly on both cheeks. Temporarily deprived of speech, the Captain
was only able to give Mr. Rice-Paper a vague wave as he stepped through
the entry port.
"What a time we've had!" exclaimed Mr. Rice-Paper in a shrill
voice, "a positive plethora of good taste so far but I'll wager
you'll out do them all Sir Edward! I well remember your Louis
Quinze desk and chintz curtains from the last time I was aboard. I
nearly wept with joy sir!" He was a tough looking individual with
immense shoulders, a thick neck and two days' growth of beard.
When Lady Dalrymple was hoisted aboard she was not in the best of
moods. The crew of the Hedgehog had managed to drop her on the deck and,
furthermore, the men of the Insupportable had dipped her feet in the
water when returning her to the boat.
"Well I'm damned glad this is the last one Sir Edward!" she said
adjusting her skirts, "my feet are wet and I could eat a horse."
" Well then Madam," replied the Captain, "We shall do our best to
expedite matters. I can't promise you a horse but Öwhat is it Mr.
Hornblower?" Horatio, very red in the face, whispered a few words in
his commander's ear. Sir Edward gave him a very hard look indeed and
then continued "nor apparently can we offer you any roast pork but
I'm sure some refreshments will be available! And now Ma'am my
youngest midshipman hasÖ. what is it now Mr. Hornblower?!" Horatio
whispered in his commander's other ear. "Who?" said the Captain
severely and then added, "I shall speak to you later Sir!"
Archie stepped forward arrayed in his best uniform and gave Lady
Dalrymple a dazzling smile. He took her hand, kissed it and then
delivered the words of welcome and the flowers. Horatio had soon calmed
his fears about the silken robes, explaining that he would not be
required to wear them. At least, that was what Archie had taken "Oh
bugger the costume!" to mean.
"What a charming young man!" exclaimed Lady Dalrymple, fanning
herself vigorously. "May I borrow him Sir Edward? My feet are still
wet and I require an arm to lean on."
"Certainly Madam certainly" said Sir Edward, "and would you care
to inspect the cabin now? Admiral Hoop, er Strop, er Sir Guy? Mr.
Rice-Pudding?"
The party moved aft. Archie managed to suppress his squeak of surprise
when her Ladyship pinched his rear end playfully. Horatio on the other
hand, who was escorting the Admiral, was unable to keep silent when Sir
Guy bestowed a hearty slap on his rump. He was able to turn his yelp
into a strangled cough and earn yet another baleful look from his
Captain. Mr. Winthrop, who was keeping Mr. Rice-Paper company, was
forbidden to make any noise whatsoever, including conversation.

"I don't wish to boast," said Sir Edward, pausing outside his
cabin door, "but I think I may say that the Indefatigable had outdone
herself. My Lady, Gentlemen, I give you the shores of Araby!" he
opened the door with a flourish and waved the judges and their escorts
inside. There was complete silence for a moment. Sir Edward, satisfied
that the judges were overwhelmed by the gorgeous nature of the d*cor,
followed them in order to point out the especially good parts of the
arrangements. He had not gone two paces into the room before he was
thunderstruck. On the previous evening he had closed the door on a
fabulous replica of the inside of a sheiks' tent. Fabric was draped
across the ceiling and down the walls. A tasteful array of rugs,
cushions, hookahs, lamps and spittoons had completed the illusion. The
scene was somewhat different now. Some of the hangings appeared to have
been chewed and the center of the cabin contained a large and untidy
nest of cushions. A snoring figure lay in the middle of it concealed in
a hat and cloak. Next to this unknown officer lay a very small and
somewhat grubby midshipman.
"What the hell is going on?" roared Sir Edward as soon as he found
his voice. His outburst woke the midshipman who leapt to his feet and
ran forward gripping a short sword crying, "you're not taking him.
You mustn't eat him! He's my friend!" The child stopped in front
of the judging party and scowled horribly at them. Horatio wondered if
being keel hauled was at all painful.
"Oh!" cried Lady Dalrymple clapping her hands, "it's a tableau,
how sweet!"
"Eh?" said the Admiral, Mr. Rice-Paper, the Captain, Horatio and
Archie.
"Yes!" she went on enthusiastically "a naval officer has been
wounded and fallen into the hands of some ghastly brigands and is being
bravely defended by this plucky young midshipman. Oh how diverting Sir
Edward! This is so much more interesting than the other cabin we have
seen today!"
"Well you're not eating Thomas!" said Mr. Pipps stamping his foot
defiantly.
"Cannibals!" said Lady Dalrymple, "how deliciously horrible!"
"That's the spirit youngster!" chuckled the admiral. Mr.
Rice-Paper blew his nose rather loudly into his pocket-handkerchief,
apparently overcome by the pathos of the scene before him.
"Well Gentlemen!" said Lady Dalrymple to the other judges in a
forceful tone, "I don't think there is any doubt about which ship
takes the prize is there?" Neither gentleman seemed inclined to
disagree with her. "Good. That's settled then. Where's the
food?"
"It's not in here!" said Mr. Pipps with a final flourish of his
sword as his bemused captain led his guests out.

There were loud cheers from the crew when they learned that the prize
included more than just a five year free subscription to the Naval
Chronicle. There was also a coupon for every man jack aboard, redeemable
at Senora Esmerelda's Happy Hacienda (Shore Leaves R Us!).
In spite of the noticeable lack of roast pork Sir Edward was able to
offer his guests a variety of dishes. The weevils in blankets were much
enjoyed, as were the dried peas au gratin. The grog and conversation
were flowing freely when a shore boat hailed the ship.
"See who that is Mr. Hornblower," said Sir Edward who was now in a
remarkably good mood and was demonstrating the finer points of the
treble reverse running reef hitch to Lady Dalrymple.
Horatio stepped smartly to the entry port, quite relieved to escape Sir
Guy's attentions. The boat contained a strikingly handsome woman of
about thirty and no sooner was it alongside than she began to climb
aboard in a determined and agile fashion.
"I'm Edwina Pipps," she announced, as her head appeared level
with the ship's rail, "may I come aboard? Oh how splendid, you're
having a party." She continued her climb and arrived on the deck.
Horatio found that she stood half a head taller than him. "Don't
bother about introducing me to the Captain," she said striding past
him, "I'll do it myself. Captain Pellew? Edwina Pipps. So nice to
meet you at last." She gave Sir Edward a dazzling smile and he eyed
her a little nervously.
"Ah yes, delighted I'm sure Madam. So you are in fact er.."
"Algernon Pipps Mamma," she said. "I hope my dear boy has been
doing his duty. He writes to me very often but I'm sure there are many
things he does not tell me."
"He writes often you say?" the Captain's observations were cut
short as a small figure came hurtling out of Sir Edward's cabin,
charged across the deck and threw himself into Mrs. Pipps arms.
"Oh Mamma," he cried, "The Captain is going to kill my friend
Thomas. Tell him he mustn't!"
"Oh Algy dear," said Mrs. Pipps kissing him warmly "I'm sure
the Captain does not hang midshipmen, do you Sir Edward?"
"He's a pig!" exclaimed Mr. Pipps passionately.
"Now Algy," said his mother reproachfully "that's no way to
speak about your Captain. Papa would not like to hear you say such
things."
"No, Mamma! Thomas is a pig!"
"But you said he was your friend dear."
"He is!" shrieked Mr. Pipps "the captain wants to roast him, but
I like him."
"Well I'm afraid pigs are often eaten dear. I'm quite fond of a
loin chop myself."
"But couldn't you buy him and take him home with you Mamma? Oh
please say you will!" wailed Mr. Pipps hugging her neck.
"Well if you really want me too I suppose it could be arranged. Would
you sell me your pig Captain Pellew?" asked Mrs. Pipps brightly.
The Captain was suddenly aware of the fact that Lady Dalrymple was
looking intently at him, as was a teary eyed Mr. Rice-Paper. Numerous
crewmembers were also paying close attention to what his next words
might be. He had the strong impression that if he was in the Coliseum in
ancient Rome on an afternoon when games were being held, all thumbs
would be pointing skyward. He had not read Admiral Nelson's invaluable
little volume entitled 'How To Get'em On Your Side, Keep'em There
And Swipe More Frogs' for nothing and graciously gave his assent to
sell Thomas to Mrs. Pipps.
"Oh thank you! You are the best Mamma in the whole world!" squealed
Mr. Pipps in delight. Strong men wept.

 

Later, when all the guests had gone, Horatio and Archie were finishing
up some leftover frosted weevils in the midshipmen's mess. Mr. Pipps
had been allowed to go ashore for the evening with his Mamma and Thomas
had gone with them.
"I say Archie," said Horatio "did you know that Admiral
Strop-Hoopling is completely out of his mind?"
"How do you mean?" said Archie tossing a frosted weevil in the air
and failing to catch it in his mouth.
"Well the silly old coot thought I was a young lady! He kept patting
my hand and asking me to go back to his flag ship for a glass of
Madeira."
"Oh Horatio," laughed Archie, "everyone in the Service knows that
Sir Guy likes to wind his capstan sideways!"
"Why would he do that?" said Horatio looking puzzled.
"No, no Horatio, listen to me. I'm saying that he hoists his
his broad pennant backwards." There was still no gleam of
comprehension in his friend's eyes and so Archie added. "The Admiral
rows his barge upstream."
"Surely an Admiral isn't expected to row his own barge!" said
Horatio shocked, "and doesn't the Admiralty have something to say
about his unorthodox signaling?"
Archie sighed and took a moment to consider the consequences of
explaining Sir Guy's preferences to his friend. By the time he had
carried the unconscious Horatio to his bunk and revived him the evening
would be gone. Besides which there probably was not enough mustard on
board to make the multiple poultices that would be required to restore
his equilibrium. It did not take him long to reach his decision.
"I expect you're right Horatio," he said lobbing a weevil at his
friend's head and going a yard wide. "The old duffer's obviously
as mad as a hatter!"