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Season's Greetings
by JanL

Dearest Mother,

Thank you very much for sending the Christmas package. It did reach me
in time for the holiday, though I am sorry to say I was unable to open it
on Christmas Day. We had a long, wet gale that blew as though it would
never cease, and all our ships' company was either on deck, below deck at
the pumps, or sleeping like the dead from sheer exhaustion. The weather
moderated, however; as I write this my lantern is swinging gently as a
baby's cradle.

Please do not be alarmed at my mention of the pumps, Mother. It is
perfectly usual for a ship to take on a little water in lively weather,
and of course you know our good Captain would not allow the
Indefatigable, his pride and joy, to fall into disrepair. Indeed, as
soon as the wind relented and the rain began to fall down instead of
sideways, Captain Pellew had our men commence the restoration of order.

But I must return to my thanks. I enjoyed the marzipan rabbit immensely
-- indeed, I was astonished that it had survived the journey! and will
share the fruit-cake with my messmates. The warm underclothing and
woolen stockings are also much appreciated, but I may not have room in my
sea-chest for so many; please do not think me ungrateful if I pass a pair
of stockings on to my friend Lt. Hornblower. He has no family, Mother;
his father died whilst we were in prison, and though he would never speak
of it I know he feels the lack keenly, especially at this Season. I have
not seen him receive even one letter since we returned to the Indy.

If we are ever given shore leave (and I know not when that might be), I
should like to bring Lt. Hornblower home with me for a visit. He is a
most respectable officer -- a full Lieutenant, with several commendations
to his record -- and I am certain even Father could not object to him.
(Indeed, after his dismay at my Drury Lane acquaintances, Father might
not even recognize me in such utterly unexceptionable company!) Please
do broach the subject, if you are able, and let me know how the wind
blows in that quarter. You are a better judge of His Lordship's
temperament than I, and Father can be so abrupt; I would not see my
friend slighted, as he is only too aware that his antecedents are less
than illustrious. (Though I suspect he will eventually surpass many of
our better-born but less capable shipmates.) He is certainly the best
friend I have ever had, and I would not be writing this now if he had not
saved my life and freed us all from that wretched Spanish prison.

I do apologize for bringing up such an unfestive memory, but as the year
draws to a close I cannot help reflecting upon the great improvement in
my life, these past several months! Even better, at some point in the
new year, if Captain Pellew thinks me ready, I will be able to take my
examination for the rank of Lieutenant, and qualify for a commission!
Mr. Hornblower has already begun tutoring me in navigational mathematics
-- never my best subject -- and has vowed that I will be able to find my
way around the globe in my sleep by the time he is finished. (If I can
manage that feat in broad daylight I will be well pleased!)

I seem to be reaching the bottom of the page, Mother... and although I
understand your hint -- a gift of writing paper and ink is a signal-flag
even an Acting Lieutenant can read clearly enough -- I must close now so
as not to waste either my candle or my sleeping-time. Those of us on
watch throughout the storm have been given two watches off to rest and
recover ourselves. Captain Pellew is, as I have probably said before, a
very fine commanding officer, and while he expects our very best at all
times, he is also vigilant of our welfare. You will be pleased to know
that, once the ship was secure, he wasted no time in having the deck
cleared for services so that he might read the Nativity from St. Luke to
the assembled crew, after which he wished each man a Merry Christmas and
had the cook serve a festive meal from special stores he had brought
aboard when we were last supplied. The merriment that ensued was like
nothing you could even imagine on such a sober, well regulated ship!

Please rest assured that I am well, and happy, and wish only that I could
see your dear face, and those of my sisters. I will write to them soon,
and more to you as time permits. When I may see you other than in my
mind's eye I do not know, but I can think of no better way to occupy my
time than serving in His Majesty's Navy and guarding the land that holds
my dear Family.

All love to you, and a Happy New Year!

Your devoted son,

Archie

Acting Lt (!) Archibald Kennedy