Another Way to Serve
Part 1

A collaborative effort by Kathie Kirchener; Kellie Winkler, "Rohan Rider" and Bobbi Meislohn

Chapter 1

Commodore Pellew sighed heavily, and pushed a pile of papers away
from him. Deceit did not lie easily on his brow, nor did betrayal.
Aye, betrayal, for what else could he call what he had done to the
young man whom he considered his star protege? He tried to ease his
mind by telling himself that someday, Commander Hornblower would
understand why he had done what he did, but so far, he was failing
miserably.

Restless now, he stood and went to the window. The dreary evening
matched his mood as he stood watching the rain fall in sheets,
shrouding the town, as sadness shrouded his soul.

A knock broke into his thoughts. "Enter," he barked, without
turning.

"Good evening, Commodore," said a well dressed gentleman of Pellew's
own age, as he entered the room.

Pellew turned quickly. "Dr. Leonard. You have news?"

"Yes, sir. He is awake."

"And?"

"And, understandably, he is quite confused. I have not told him
much, but he is becoming rather insistent."

"Very well," answered Pellew, "I shall speak to him."

Dr Leonard nodded. "Yes. He will believe it, coming from you, but
you must remember that he has suffered an extraordinary trauma. You
must try not to upset him."

Pellew smiled grimly. "If I know our young friend, I'm not at all
certain that will be possible."

The doctor laughed. "Yes, perhaps you are correct. From what you
have told me, he is a most determined young man."

The two men left the room, and continued down the corridor until
they reached a recessed alcove, where a stairway was barely visible.
They descended the staircase and walked down another hallway. When
they reached a door near the end, Pellew raised his hand.

"I will see him alone."

"As you wish, but I will be across the hall," answered the doctor.
"Remember, he is still very weak."

Pellew nodded, then waited until the doctor disappeared into the
room across the hall. He raised his hand, knocked on the door, and
then opened it and let himself in.

A figure sat on the edge of the bed, his back to the Commodore. Even
without seeing the man's face, Pellew could tell that he was in
great pain. The man said quietly, his voice tired but still with a
spark of defiance "I'll submit to no more potions or proddings,
Doctor, until I get some answers."

Pellew almost suppressed a grin, then quickly sobered himself and
said mildly "Well, Mr. Kennedy, if that is the way you speak to the
man who saved your life, I wonder if maybe he should not have."

The figure on the bed sat bolt upright and immediately gasped in
pain. Putting a hand over the healing wound on his midsection, he
slowly pulled himself to his feet, using the bedpost for support.
"Commodore!"

"Stand down, Mr. Kennedy, and sit down, before you fall over and I
am forced to call the doctor back!"

Slowly, Archie walked around to the front of the bed and sat down.
His eyes never left Pellew's face, and the Commodore saw a spark of
hope flare there. He continued, "I understand that you have a few
questions. I believe I may have some answers for you."

His pain forgotten, Archie leaned forward. "Sir, I do not
understand. What is this place? I was dying - I KNOW I was dying!
Dr. Clive knew it, too, though he would never say it aloud. I died!
How can I possibly be here?"

Pellew considered before answering. "When you were injured, Mr.
Kennedy, it was indeed life-threatening. Dr. Clive was correct in
assuming that you would not be able to survive. However, I was
contacted by my old friend, Dr. Leonard, who has been a physician
for the Navy for many more years than you have been on this earth.
Dr. Leonard knew of the whole affair - the Spanish prisoners, your
injuries, as well as Mr. Bush's, Mr. Hornblower's trial - all of it.
He came to me with a plan. Your injuries must appear to have been
serious enough to cause your "death", or his plan would fail. Well,
that was simple enough. The difficult part was going to be in
actually "creating" your death. Dr. Leonard is the most skilled
physician there is, and he knew that he could repair your injuries.
He also has knowledge of some substances that may give the illusion
of death."

Pellew paused as Archie shook his head. "I do not understand. Why?
Why go to all the trouble of spiriting me away to this place? Why
was my death so important?"

Pellew sighed heavily, then sat down on a chair across from the bed.
"Your death was important, because Lt. Archie Kennedy can no longer
exist."

Archie's eyes widened. "What?! You save my life only to take it away
again? What kind of madness..."

"MR. KENNEDY!!" Pellew bellowed, rising from his chair. "You'll not
accuse your superior officer of conspiracy to commit murder! You do
not have the facts!"

Archie's blue eyes became hard as flint, and he lifted his chin to
meet Pellew's eyes. "Then, perhaps, sir, you will tell me why I may
no longer live."

Pellew took a deep breath. "I did not say you could not live. I said
that Lt. Kennedy could not exist."

Confusion swept over Archie's face again. "Sir, that makes no sense.
I am Lt. Archie Kennedy. I am alive. I am here. Now. Are you telling
me that I can never leave this place - that I am once again to be a
prisoner? Because if you are, sir, I would rather you had let me
die. Prison is a fate far worse than death, I assure you."

Pellew took a few steps around the spare, windowless room. "Perhaps
I started in the wrong place. Perhaps I should have started with a
question. Lt. Kennedy. Did you push Captain Sawyer?"

Wariness filled Archie's eyes. "I said as much, did I not, at the
court-martial?"

"Yes, you did. And now I am asking you again. Did. You. Push.
Captain. Sawyer?

As Archie opened his mouth to answer, Pellew lunged forward and
grabbed his arm. "The TRUTH, Mr. Kennedy. There is no one but myself
in this room to hear."

Archie swallowed, and Pellew released his arm. As Archie lowered his
gaze to the floor, he said wearily, "No, sir. I did not."

Pellew allowed himself a small smile. "Very well. We will not now
discuss your reasons for confessing, for trust me, I know them as
well as you yourself."

Archie met Pellew's gaze steadily. "Then you also know sir, that
what I have just told you, I will tell no other man."

"Perhaps not, Mr. Kennedy. Then again, perhaps....."

Pellew turned back to his pacing, then stopped and looked at Archie.
"You realize that this "plan" of Dr. Leonard's and mine had already
been decided, before you so......impetuously.... decided to confess.
You rather threw a crimp into our plans."

"Well, sir," replied Archie with a flash of his old humor, "As I was
unaware you had any plans for me, I am afraid it could not be
helped. And I assure you, sir, it was not an impetuous act, but one
I considered well and hard before committing."

Archie placed his hands on both sides of his body and slowly pushed
himself to a standing position. Pellew resisted the urge to lend a
hand. At last Archie stood and faced his former commanding officer.
"I must know sir. What is this plan you have for me?"

Pellew folded his arms across his chest, and focused his gaze on
Archie. "Tell me, Lt. Why did you join the Navy?"

Archie spoke without hesitation. "For many reasons, sir - to become
a man my father could be proud of, and because it was expected of
me. Because I love the sea. And, not least of all, to serve my
country."

Pellew nodded. "And are there other ways to serve your country?"

Archie thought for an instant. "Yes, sir, I suppose there are, but
they were not what I wanted to do."

"Another question. Tell me, Mr. Kennedy. What, in times of war, is
the most important resource for a Navy?"

"Well, sir, beyond the obvious, such as weapons, ships, men, and
supplies, I would have to say it would be information."

"Very good, Mr. Kennedy! Precisely the answer I was looking for.
Information about your enemy is crucial. And the best way to get
that information?"

"Having someone on the inside is perhaps the best way, sir, but it
is difficult to turn someone against their country."

"Yes, Lt., but what if it is not their own country that they are
furnishing information regarding?"

"You mean, sir, a spy? I would imagine that would take a great deal
of training, and someone who is proficient in the language,
and......" Archie's voice trailed off. Dumbfounded, he sank back to
a seat on the bed. "Sir, you, sir, I, sir, you can not possibly want
me, to, ....? Sir?"

"Yes, Mr. Kennedy, I do indeed. You have the grasp of the language,
you have a rather....engaging.... personality, and you wish to serve
your country. These qualities will aid you in ingratiating yourself
with the enemy. Obviously, you can not function as Lt. Kennedy - you
must be someone who is a native of the enemy's country. You will be
provided with an alternate identity, and very detailed instructions
regarding your new career."

Archie shook his head. "Sir, this is quite a prospect to consider."

"Yes it is, Lt." Pellew's voice hardened. "There is one thing that
must be made absolutely clear. You must have no contact with anyone
from your past. No family, no friends, no sweethearts - and
especially, no Mr. Hornblower."

Archie felt a stab of pain. "Poor Horatio," he whispered, "he thinks
me dead. He believes I pushed Captain Sawyer..."

"Nonsense!" snapped Pellew. "He believes no such thing. His anger at
having your name besmirched was visible. If he were to have any
reason to believe that you still lived, he would stop at nothing to
search you out, and your new identity would be compromised. That
must not happen."

Suddenly, Archie felt tired, so very tired. Nevertheless, he pulled
himself to his feet once again. "Sir, it is really not such a large war. It is quite possible that Mr. Hornblower and I could accidentally meet, in the midst of it."

"Then that, Mr. Kennedy, shall be part of your mission. You must
never let that happen. Perhaps, in the days when this damnable war
is finished, you may seek him out, and tell him your tale, but until
then, you must avoid him. Am I understood?"

Archie raised his head and drew himself to attention. "Yes sir. How
do I begin?"

Chapter 2

She read over the words again. "No, this can not be!" she whispered.
"Dead 4th Lt. Archibald Kennedy. January 1802. Kingston, Jamaica."
She folded the paper in half, placing it neatly in front of her on
the table. "Archie, my dear Archie." Putting her hand in her pocket
she felt Archie's letter, letting her fingers glide over it. She
pulled it out and read the boldly written words. "Miss Emily James.
London England." Archie's hand had written those words for her. She
placed the letter to her heart and sighed. Quickly she stood up,
shoving the letter back in her pocket. She refused to believe the
newspaper and what she had read. Archie's letter had just arrived
and she hadn't had a chance to read it. The newspaper had upset her
too much. Snatching the paper off the table she headed out the door.
She was bound and determined to find out who had printed such lies.
Her father would know. He was an admiral in his majesty's navy and
he wouldn't let such an injustice stand. "No sir," she thought
confidently. "He will put it right."

The afternoon sun warmed her face as she stepped outside. The
Admiralty was only a few blocks and it was such a beautiful day,
Emily decided to walk. Her mind drifted as she passed sights and
sounds on her way. Glancing at the park she saw Archie and her on
their last picnic. "Oh Emily, you know you get prettier everyday!"
Archie said sweetly, holding her hand in his. His words made her
blush and she smiled, looking deep into his sapphire blue eyes. "I
know you talked to my father," she said, changing the subject. A
sheepish grin crossed his face. "Have you been spying on me again
Miss James?" Emily giggled as he playfully tickled her wrist. "No, I
just over heard father talking to someone in his office."

"Oh really," Archie's eyebrows shot up. "And what did you hear?"

Emily's brown eyes sparkled as she smiled and snuggled up against
him. "Well he was inquiring about a church and how much it would
cost to reserve it."
He teased," Who are you getting married to?" She pushed him away,
faking hurt feelings. "I thought it was going to be you. But I hear
Johnny Walker is interested." Archie laughed and grabbed her up in
his arms. Pulling her close he whispered," You are the love of my
life Emily James and I intend to marry you as soon as I finish my
next voyage."
She smiled then frowned, thinking how much she would miss him.
Before she could speak he leaned forward, kissing her full on the
lips. She melted in his arms, tasting his lips on hers.

A clanking cart passing by brought her out of her memory. She
approached the Admiralty Arch. It was nearly one and people hustled
about before her. "Father would be at lunch now," she thought and
headed to his favorite pub. Men laughed heartily as she entered the
Dragon. She always hated such places, making her feel small and
dirty. A hand suddenly grabbed her shoulder, causing a gasp to
escape her. "Oh father!" she sighed smiling up at his old face.
"What are you doing in here?" Quickly he escorted her outside.
"Emily, I want an answer if you please." She pulled him further away
from the entrance, trying to get away from the noise.
"I read this today." She handed him the newspaper, waiting anxiously
for him to read it. He barely scanned the passage, folding the paper
back into it's neat form. Nervously he wiped his hands on his
trousers. It was a habit he had picked up while captain of his first
command. "It's not true, right Father?" she pleaded. His silence
brought tears to her eyes. He couldn't stand this torture and
finally spoke.
"Come on home Emily. We must talk." He took her hand. She jerked out
of his grip, her tears threatening to spill.
"No! Tell me the truth! Is Archie dead?" Her voice was barely a
whisper. The old man faced her, taking her hands.
"Yes."
She didn't react. She didn't cry. She only stared at him, not
believing. "Emily," he said, his voice sterner," Did you hear me?"
She took a step back, dropping her hands to her side.
"I heard you. I just don't believe you." The calm in her voice
scared him. "I'll go home now sir." She turned and walked away,
leaving him staring after her.

He shook his head in concern, wondering how she would react when she
heard all the details of her fiancée's death. Silently he mourned his
future son-in-law's demise. He recalled the first time he had met
young Kennedy. At the time he was Captain Arnold James and was one
of three conducting the lieutenant's exams. "The next young
gentleman," he ordered. A blond haired, stocky young man entered the
room.
"Name?"
"Acting Leftenant Archie Kennedy of the Indefatigable, sir."
James was a bit taken with the sound of confidence in his voice.
"Papers."
Archie handed them over, only making eye contact with him. "Very
good Mr. Kennedy, take a seat."
Archie did as he was told, still holding the Admiral's gaze.
"Thank you sir." Silently James read over the documents.

"You were in a Spanish prison."
"Yes sir."
"Hmm," Captain Turny said suspiciously. "And how did you gain your
freedom?"
James observed the first hint of nervousness in Archie.
"Sir, I was not alone in prison. I had several shipmates join me
after I had been there six months."
Turny bore his gaze into him. "Yes?" Archie swallowed and carried
on.

"Mr. Hornblower consented to rescue Spanish sailors as their ship
was sinking."
James was intrigued.
"Really? How interesting. Do you still serve with this Mr.
Hornblower?"
Archie nodded, seeming to relax a bit. "Indeed, I do sir."
Turny only grunted," Rescue the enemy! Was he mad?"

"It is not my place to question sir. He was my commanding officer
and I did as ordered."

"Very good Mr. Kennedy but I have heard enough. It is not our place
to inquire on Mr. Hornblower's actions." His comments were directed
at Turny, who fell silent. "Besides, we are here to conduct an exam.
Mr. Kennedy, are you ready?" Archie set his jaw and nodded.

James entered his office and sat down. The silence was deafening as
he stared at the opened envelope in front of him. It contained the
unofficial report from Jamaica which he had read and re-read.
Commodore Pellew had written it just for him, knowing his connection
to Kennedy. "Dear God, how is Emily going to take this?" he said to
no one. Archie dying and admitting to mutiny and trying to murder
his captain. James shook his head. He just couldn't believe it.

Emily sat at the table, staring off into space. She had lost track
of all time and feeling. Only one thing occupied her mind. "I have
to get to Archie! I must go to Jamaica!" Her mind raced with ideas.
If she traveled as a woman, her father would surely find her and
make her return. If she was disguised, she might just make it.
Looking over the newspaper again, she saw the date. Barely a month
had passed. Her mind was set as she left the table. Quickly she
packed a few belongings but stopped. "I have to look like a man."
She entered her father's room, pulling open his closet. After taking
2 outfits she stepped up to the mirror. Her long brown hair flowed
down her back. Taking the pair of scissors off her father's
nightstand she stared at her reflection a moment. "For you Archie,"
she whispered as her long locks fell to the ground.

She headed out the door, dressed as a man. Finding a carriage, she
ordered it to Portsmouth. It was a long tiring journey but the
images of Archie pushed her forward. After an hour she found her
passage. A merchant ship named Bright Star was ready to set sail as
Emily walked aboard. Wearing her cloak and assumed name, she prayed
that her father would not find her. In her cabin she pulled Archie's
letter out, caressing it gently in her hand. Carefully she began to
open it.

 

Chapter 3

Emily awoke suddenly, bolting upright in her hammock. Something felt
wrong. The ships motion had changed, as if it wasn't moving. Quickly
she sprang out of bed, Archie's letter falling to the ground. She
had tried to read it last night but only got as far as," My dearest
Emily." She threw on some clothes and headed out the door. Reaching
the deck she saw chaos all about her. Men were running in every
direction, shouting and near panic. "What was going on?" she
thought. It seemed the entire ship was swept in disorder. The sun
beat down from the cloudless sky, making her sweat. Taking her cloak
off she made her way amidships, pushing through the crowd of people.
She made it to a railing and scanned the horizon. Gasping in shock
she spotted two French Corvettes fast on their tail. A sailor came
running past and she reached out and stopped him. "They can't be
after us!" she motioned at the enemy. The big sailor bristled,
grabbing her by the collar. "They are! Come on, we need every man's
help!" Emily didn't have a chance to argue as she was dragged to the
nearest cannon. "Know how to pull on ropes?" he barked.
Setting her jaw she barked back," Yes! Do you?" The man laughed then
proceeded to push and prod more men to the cannon. She swallowed as
the gun was loaded, wishing she were back home in London.

Admiral James stood unmoving in his empty room. He stared at the
remains of Emily's long brown hair in a pile at his feet. "Where
does she think she's going?" he thought. "What is she going to do?
Oh Emily."
He bent down picking up a clump of hair. Slowly he touched it,
feeling the softness of its texture. Straightening himself he threw
it to the ground and left in anger. He was going to drag her home if
it was the last thing he did.

Emily's arms ached as she heaved on the heavy ropes. She had lost
count at how many times they had fired. Her brain swam with fatigue
as it blocked out all the noise and carnage around her. All she knew
was pull, pull, pull and stand clear. Over and over she performed
her task. As she was heaving yet again a cannon ball struck not two
feet from her. She had no time to react as splinters flew in every
direction, one shearing into her soft flesh. Falling helplessly to
the deck, she stared in stunned silence at a huge hunk of wood
protruding from her right bicep. Slowly everything around her faded
into black.

"Archie!" she cried out, pain shooting through her arm. She tried to
sit up but someone held her down. Slowly her eyes came to focus on
an older looking man wearing a rather ugly wig. "Just relax miss,"
he said sternly. She did as told suddenly realizing he knew she
wasn't a man. He sensed her thoughts. "Yes, I know you are a woman.
Part of the examine my dear." Instantly she took a disliking to him.
"Are you a doctor sir?" her voice agitated.

"Most of the time I'm called Doctor Clive. So I must be." He wiped
her wound with a cloth causing more pain than relief. She cringed,
forcing herself not to cry. Frowning at his sarcastic tone, she
forced herself up on one elbow. "I want out of here!" she spat
despite the throbbing in her arm.
Clive pushed her back down against the cot. "Try that again young
lady and I'll tie you to your bed!"

Her head was spinning from the pain. "I'm sure you have lots of
practice with that!"
She couldn't fight against his strong hands and gave up. Clive
smiled at his victory over her. He reached into his bag, pulling a
bottle out. "Here," he poured a small amount of brownish liquid into
a cup. "Drink this."

Emily didn't move, not trusting the stranger. "No!" she stated
stubbornly. Just then another man entered the room. "Captain wants
you on deck doctor." Clive glanced at him, then smiled ruefully. "Oh
Hobbs, could you assist me with this patient?" Hobbs, who had been
half way out the door, nodded and went to his side.
Emily stared up at them, somehow knowing what they were about to do
to her. Clive stood on her right, while Hobbs was on her left. "Hold
her down please, she refuses to cooperate." Hobbs frowned, an
unwilling nursemaid. He reached down, holding her wrists to the bed.
Emily fought with all her might; squirming while Clive approached
with the medicine. He bent close to her face, pinching her nose and
pouring the concoction down her throat. She swallowed and coughed as
Hobbs released her. "Thank you Mr. Hobbs. I'll be up shortly." Hobbs
nodded and basically ran out of the room.

Sputtering Emily's temper was on fire. "How dare you!" She tried to
catch her breath, pausing before she ranted on. "You are a vile
bastard!" Clive only laughed as he packed his bag. "You would know
best miss." As he was turning to leave she stopped him with her
words. "Wait till my father hears of this!" Admiral James will kick
your arse!"

"Admiral Arnold James?" he said stunned.
"Yes, didn't you hear me?"

It looked as if a light had come on. "Then you knew Lt. Kennedy."
She took in a sharp breath at the mention of her loves name. "Yes,"
she whispered. But suddenly she began to feel very strange. The
medicine was taking its affect. Clive only stood a moment longer
before leaving the room and a sleeping Emily.

 

Chapter 4

Slowly she opened her eyes, the light glaring down at her. Quickly
she squeezed them shut as tears poured down her face. The light
hurt, causing more tears to well up. "What was that medicine?" she
thought. Her whole body felt strange, as if she wasn't attached to
it. A noise buzzed in her ear. It began to get louder. She turned
her head away from the annoying sound. Her body was like lead.
Trying to move her hand she scrunched up her face in the effort. It
was no good. Slowly she opened her eyes again the light was gone.
Only a faint glow came from a table next to her bed. A candle
glimmered in the darkness. She stared at it wondering where she was.
The gentle swaying assured her she was still on a ship. Her eyes
began to focus on a face before her. It seemed familiar somehow.
"Archie?" she whispered, desperately trying to move her hand. She
wanted to touch him, to sweep away all her fears and doubts. But
then the face changed growing old and gray.

"It's Dr. Clive. Can you hear me?"

Emily groaned in disappointment. "Where am I?"

Clive smiled at his patient's recovery. "Aboard the Renown."
"What!" She couldn't believe her ears. "It can't be," she whispered
shaking her head. This time her hand responded, going over her mouth
in shock.

"We had to take you off the Bright Star. You were seriously
injured." She was too stunned to reply and nodded numbly. "It was
the only way Miss James, you understand." Clive stood up, looking
about the empty sickbay. "Besides, we'll be in Portsmouth before you
know it."
Emily swallowed, controlling her response to scream at the man. "I'm
thirsty," she answered weakly.

"I'll get you something to eat too." She waited till he was gone
before sitting up. The drug was fast wearing off as her feet touched
the floor. Scanning the room she spotted her clothes in a pile at
the foot of the bed. Fumbling frantically, she tried to get dressed
as fast as her drugged mind would let her. "I'm on Archie's ship!"
The thought repeated itself over and over in her head.
Throwing on her coat she eased over to the door. The coast was clear as she left
the sickbay, heading for the deck. It was a moonless night as she
appeared on the forecastle. Only the helmsman and lieutenant of the
watch were visible. In the shadows she observed the lieutenant. He
had his hat on making it hard for her to see his face. It definitely
was not Archie.

The man had brown hair and a different walk. He held
himself more confidently than Archie did. Emily glanced about her
and made her move to the main deck unnoticed. Now she was positive
the lieutenant wasn't her love. She could see his face. He looked a
bit older than Archie but more commanding. She had met a few of
Archie's friends, Horatio Hornblower for one. But he was nowhere to
be seen. "Oh dear, now what?" She was stuck with nowhere to go. All
that awaited her in Portsmouth was her angry father. And on this
ship?

Suddenly she heard Dr. Clive ranting from below deck. "Fool girl is
gone! Find her Mr. Styles!!" Emily inhaled sharply and stepped
forward, praying she was about to make the right decision. The
lieutenant spotted her immediately and started toward her. The look
in his eye almost stopped her cold. He was serious and not anyone
she would want to mess with. She played it cool, looking up at the
stars as if she belonged there.

"Excuse me sir," the officer said in a deep cautious voice.

Emily caught his eye. "I'm sorry lieutenant but I only wanted some
fresh air."

The man's mouth dropped open and he realized he was a she. "Please
forgive me miss! Lieutenant Bush at your service."

She took his offered arm, needing it to keep from falling down. The
medicine still had its hold. "Besides, I can not stand that so
called doctor!"
Bush laughed easily with her nodding his head. "I completely
understand."

Just then Clive appeared on deck, shouting. "There she is! Get her
Mr. Bush! Restrain her this instant!"
Bush growled," I will do nothing of the sort! She only wanted some
air." Emily smiled, pouring on the charm.
Clive frowned. "Please return her to my sick berth this instant. She
is not fit to be up."

Bush turned to her. "Come on. The doctor is still a doctor."
Somehow looking into his blue eyes, she trusted him completely. A
moment of silence passed before she realized she was staring at him.

"Yes," she finally answered, glad for the darkness to hide her red
cheeks. "Would you be so kind as to help me Lt. Bush?"

A grin warmed his face as he nodded. "It would be a pleasure."

Clive and Styles watched wearily as the pair walked by. Emily glared
at the doctor as she passed and winked at Styles. All she had was
her wits and charm if she wanted to find Archie and escape her
father.

Chapter 5

She hated this! Being stuck and bed and watched constantly like she
was a criminal. A day had passed since her meeting with Mr. Bush.
She couldn't help but wonder about him and her dear Archie. A sigh
escaped her as Archie's image came to her mind. As soon as she found
him she would insist they get married. That instant!
A smile sprang to her lips thinking of her dearest love holding her
hand and kissing her passionately.
Clive cleared his throat, holding a tray in front of him. "Your
lunch," he said mockingly as if he was a servant.
Emily sneered up at him. "I don't like you as much as you don't like
me." She sat up, smoothing the covers over her lap. "But please at
least try and be civil."
Clive forced a smile and handed her the tray. "I will if you will,"
he remarked, forcing the pleasant tone. She sighed and looked up at
him. "You did save my life and I thank you." She was sincere.

"That is my job after all," he replied smugly and walked away,
leaving her to glare after him.
"Snobby bastard! I hope all your hair falls out!" He didn't hear her
curses muttered under her breath but she wished he had.

Her attention fell on the meal before her. It was totally revolting.
The bread, or what at least looked like bread, was green with mold.
The soup turned her stomached for it looked like dirty mop water and
smelled of worse.
"Dear God!" she protested. Clive turned his attention away from the
papers at his desk and gazed at her.
"Did you say something?" he asked, his words dripping with
sweetness. Emily realized he was waiting for her bitter reaction.
Well she wasn't going to give it to him. No, he wouldn't win this
round.
"Oh, I just wanted to say how delicious this soup is!" She dipped
her spoon into the muddy liquid and paused, looking at it with a
sickening feeling. Clive's eyes watched every moment of her
discomfort, waiting for her defeat. She shoved the so-called food
into her mouth and forced herself to swallow. The disgusting taste
remained in her mouth as she took a bite of moldy bread. "Yummy!"
Her voice lied. The look on her face was sheer disgust when she
heard a voice.
"May I see Miss James?" She knew that commanding tone and turned to
see Lieutenant Bush addressing Clive.
"Well." He glanced in her direction and back at the officer. "Just
don't stay too long."

Bush nodded and walked easily over to her bedside. "Good day Miss.
how are you feeling? Better I hope." He pulled a chair next to her
bed and sat in it facing her.
"Mr. Bush, so very sweet of you to visit me in prison."

He laughed then caught the doctor's glare from across the room. "I
would be fully recovered if it wasn't for this dog food!" she
whispered and set the tray on the table.
Bush caught sight of it, then whispered," Doctor Clive made that."
Emily tried not to laugh and turned to see Clive red with anger. He
had heard her comment and quickly stood up, leaving the room in a
huff.

"Oh well!" she laughed, Bush joining her. Her ease in his company
was apparent to him as he cleared his throat.
"Actually I came here on another matter that I need to discuss with
you."
Her smile faded into concern. "Yes? What is it?"

Bush looked down at his hands resting in his lap, then back to her
brown eyes. "I suppose you heard about Mr. Kennedy. I know the two
of you were engaged."
Her concern turned to a questioning look. "Yes. This is true."

"First let me offer my deepest sympathies for your loss. Lt. Kennedy
was the bravest, most honorable man I knew."
Her face went blank. "My loss?" she whispered.
Now it was his turn to look confused. "Yes, surely your father told
you?"

Emily shook her head. "No, it was a lie. Archie can't be dead." She
smiled confidently at him.
He swallowed, dreading what he was about to do. Gently he took her
hand. "Miss James, Archie Kennedy died in Jamaica over a month ago."

Silence engulfed them as his words sunk in. She looked down at his
hand holding hers. It was a sailor's hand, like Archie's.
She moved her fingers over his palm, feeling the rough calluses. "So
it is true." Her voice was steady and calm, no hint of the grief
that was threatening to explode. Her brown eyes bore into his blue
eyes. "Thank you for telling me sir. I do appreciate that." She
released his hand and closed her eyes.

He was totally lost for words, not expecting any of what had just
occurred. "If you please," she said wearily," I suddenly feel very
tired."
He rose from the chair.
"I'll let you get your rest then. If there is anything I can do."
She nodded and rolled over not wanting to see him leave.

He made a hasty exit stopping Clive outside the room. "What is it?"
he questioned not liking the officer's worried face. Before Bush
could answer, Emily's sobs did. "Oh," was all he said as Bush left
him standing in the hall.

"Get a hold of yourself!" Emily chided. But the tears wouldn't stop.
She needed comfort. She wanted comfort. But there was no one to give
it to her. She wanted Archie back. Slowly she rose from the bed and
shuffled through her belongings looking for all she had left of her
beloved. Archie's letter stared up at her as she picked it up
lovingly. Its contents were still unknown to her. But now seemed
like as a good a time as any to read his final words to her.

Chapter 6

She returned to the bed with the letter cradled in her hand. Slowly
the tears stopped as she admired the writing once again.
"Archie, my dear sweet Archie," she sighed heavily. The grief in her
heart was almost unbearable. Never before in her life had she felt
such pain and anguish. Carefully she unfolded the paper, forcing
herself to do it. Her hands began to tremble with fear. "What
happened to you Archie? Did you suffer?"
She focused on his written words before her.

My Dearest Emily,
I have barely been away from you an hour and yet my heart
yearns for you. I swear we will marry on my return. Your father has
it all prepared. But don't tell him I told you. You already had an
idea what he was up to anyway. He only wants his only child to be
happy. As do I. About my best man, you know I want Horatio but I
have yet to ask him. Duty before pleasure my dearest. I know he will
be honored even though he only met you yesterday. He has no idea the
depth of love I have for you or that I am even engaged! Oh he will
be most shocked.
The captain has not yet informed us of our destination yet Horatio
suspects the West Indies. And he is rarely wrong. I trust Horatio's
instincts. So far the Renown is not at all like the good old Indy.
She is a fine ship, yes. But her crew needs work and discipline. I
fear it will be a long voyage. Time for my watch dearest. I must go
and relieve Mr. Bush. He is our new 2nd leftenant. Seems to be the
Captain's favorite in my opinion. I will think of you always, Em. I
love you more than life itself.
Your Dear, Archie

A smile spread across her face and she wiped away the tears. Archie
came to her mind again. His sweet boyish grin and sparkling blue
eyes, oh how she could never resist his charm! She flipped to the
next page. It was dated a month later and its tone was a bit darker.

My Dearest Emily,
I have lost track of the days since we were last together. Seems
like years! You always said we should share everything that happens
in our lives. I agreed with you at the time, least wise I would
never have told you of Jack Simpson. Oh my love, I would give
anything to be with you now! To be off this cursed ship and away
from this insane situation! Emily I do not want to burden your soul
with my current trial. No, I only wish you to think of our love and
our upcoming wedding day. Then we will be together forever, never to
be parted from one another. I barely have time to write this for I
have to report to Horatio every hour fully dressed day and night.
Poor Horatio! The captain belittles him so! But back to you my
sweet. My problems are my alone and at the moment, I wish you to
have no bad thoughts. Although what troubles me now will soon pass,
for the best I pray, do not worry. Just remember my love is always
and forever yours. I will see you soon.
Your Dear, Archie

Now her smile was gone. She couldn't help but wonder what had
happened to cause such stress in his words. All she knew was Archie
was dead. Not how or why or anything! Her grief was fading, slowly
changing into burning anger. The next letter met her gaze. It was
dated January 13th, 1802. "Only a month ago," she thought.

My dearest love,
I write this with great difficulty and heartache. Mr. Bush is kind
enough to help me in this endeavor and I thank him. He has become a
good friend over these last hard months and will never know how much
I have come to admire him. Horatio as always, has been a pillar of
strength. These two men have been the bravest most honorable men I
have ever served with. Never say anything bad about them, no matter
what you may hear. Before I go on, I must apologize to you. I would
never deliberately hurt you and for what I am about to do, please
forgive me. I ask you to move on without me. Em, you deserve far
better than I, a lowly 4th Lieutenant. We should have been married
long ago and yet I kept you hanging on. I have dishonored you Em and
for that I am truly sorry. As for my action while on board the
Renown, your father will explain, as will Horatio if you so desire
to seek him out. I am an officer in his Majesty's Navy and you must
understand I am saving lives with my own. I shall never see you
again, my dear.
Your devoted servant,
Archie Kennedy

At his last words she bursts into tears. Now the pain in her heart
hurt far worse than before. It was bad enough when she thought he
was dead but now! Now he had rejected her on his deathbed! Her grief
was gone; all that remained was anger. Anger at him for dying, anger
at Horatio for not saving him; anger at her father for not telling
her! The tears stopped and she sat up unmoving on the bed, the
letters in her lap. Time stood still and yet she knew nothing more
of his death. She had more questions than answers. "Now what do I
do?"

Someone entered the sickbay and she turned to see Clive enter. He
caught the emotion on her face, changing his concern into fear.
Looking like a scared dog with his tail tucked between his legs, he
cautiously approached her side. "Miss James, is there anything you
need?"

She barely noticed him, her mind full of thoughts. "What do I do
now?" she whispered.
Clive's eyebrows shot up making his wig move. "Miss?"

She looked up at him, her voice getting angry. "What do I do now! He
wants me to move on! Forget about him!"
Clive wished he were anywhere else but there. "Please miss," he said
trying to calm her.
"NO! I don't even know how he died and he wants me to move on!" She
stood up, standing face to face with the bewildered doctor. "I must
know what happened to him!" She poked him in the chest. "Tell me how
he died!"

Chapter 7

A sudden knock on the door saved him from being flayed alive.
Buckland stood cowering in the doorway afraid to enter. "Yes?" Clive
sputtered, in more stress than he cared for.
"Um, you are needed on deck." Buckland finally spit out. Clive
nodded then turned back to Emily. In a rare moment of compassion he
reached out and touched her arm.
"Are you quite all right Miss James?" His words seemed to ease her
anger. She looked from his hand to his face, her frown easing into a
slightly smile.
"I will survive. Thank you for your concern doctor."

He nodded and smiled before heading to the door. Just as he reached
it, she stopped him. "You know," she spoke softly, grabbing his
attention," you can be almost human when you aren't drinking."

Clive smiled and left her alone, knowing that was a compliment.
Slowly she sank back on the cot clutching Archie's words in her
hand. "Archie, Archie," she whispered shaking her head. The tears
began to well up again as she choked out a single word. "Why?"

Bush stood on the quarterdeck of the Renown. It was late in the
afternoon as his watch ended. But he didn't want to leave for some
reason. He strolled to the railing and stared down at the rushing
sea. Kennedy's fiancée had brought back memories and feelings that
he had tried to suppress.
The last 6 months replayed in his mind. Archie's death was sad but
he had hardly come to know the man. He knew others grieved far worse
than he did. Horatio for one. After that evening when Archie
succumbed to his wound, Horatio had remained at his empty bed all
night, never leaving even though his body had been removed. Bush had
been a bit surprised by his actions but later came to understand
when Matthews had explained the friendship between Horatio and
Archie.
He had never been close to anyone like that. Bush had no one he
called friend, except perhaps Horatio. Over their time together on
Renown and the events there, he felt a connection to Horatio. Could
it be friendship?

"Good evening Lt. Bush," a female voice greeted, bringing him out of
his thoughts. He turned and regarded Emily in the fading light. He
didn't realize how long he had remained on deck till now. "Evening
ma'am."

She caught the hint of surprise on his face. "I'm sorry if I am
disturbing you. Forgive me." She turned to go but he stopped her.
"No, no. I was just enjoying the sea."

Emily smiled and stepped up next to him at the rail. The last of the
suns rays dipped into the horizon, casting a shimmering red through
the sky. A light breeze ruffled her short brown hair. "This is my
first time at sea," she commented," I love it."

Bush smiled warmly. "This is one of my favorite things about
sailing."
"Yes?"
He glanced at her, catching her eye. "The sunsets. Nothing else like
it. They just aren't the same on land. The sea makes them magical."

She smiled and observed the first star low in the sky. "I imagine
Archie loved this as much as you."

The mention of Kennedy brought a physical response to him. He had
been leaning against the rail but now he suddenly straightened,
standing stiff as a board.
Emily caught this and frowned. "I'm sorry."
They both stood in silence unsure what to say to each other. Finally
she spoke desperately trying to change the subject.

"Doctor Clive is having me moved to my own room." She tried to smile
but her lower lip began to tremble, the tears threatening. Bush saw
this and was even more unsure what to do. Did he hug her or leave
her as she was?
Her voice cracked as she spoke," He said I would be more
comfortable." She turned away from him, embarrassed at her weakness
to control her emotions. His heart went out to her and he gently
touched her shoulder.

"Miss James," he said comforting her," It's okay."

That was the last straw. Her soul burst with the grief and anger she
had been trying to hide, spilling out and down her face. She turned
and faced him, his own grief compelling him to comfort her. Someone
to hold her and tell her everything would be fine that's what she
wanted. That's what he wanted to give her. He took her into his
arms, holding her till she quieted down. Gently he swayed her back
and forth as if he had done this before a thousand times. It felt
safe and warm in his arms, all her worries melted away. She wanted
to remain there forever, never having her heart feel the pain of
Archie's death and rejection.

 

Chapter 8

The ships bell rang out, announcing the next watch and bringing the
shuffling of feet on deck. The noise seemed to bring Bush back to
his senses and he released the girl in his arms. Reaching into his
pocket he offered her something to dry her face. A warm smile
thanked him and she wiped the tears away. A cold wind suddenly
whipped around them, making Emily pulled her shawl tighter about her
shoulders. The sun had long since past and night was well on its
way.

Buckland came up behind them, having seen their romantic embrace.
"Excuse the intrusion," he addressed Emily," but Dr. Clive requests
you retire to your room for the evening. I can escort you if you
like?"

She scanned the deck looking for the old buzzard but could see him
nowhere. "Very well," she sighed. Buckland extended his arm, giving
Bush a warning look. But she didn't take it, instead clinging to
Bush at her side. "If you please sir, I would very much like, Lt.
Bush to escort me. If he doesn't protest." Her eyes seemed to plead
up at him and there was no power on earth that was going to stop him
from rejecting her request. "I do not protest at all," he said kindly.
Buckland lowered his arm and nodded. "Goodnight miss." Inside he was
fuming; Bush could tell by the way his eyes followed him. Emily
smiled and walked off with him. "Mr. Bush," Buckland called after them.
"Yes sir?" Bush replied, stopping briefly.
"Report back here as soon as you can."

"Aye aye, sir."
The pair disappeared below, Buckland watching them with worry.

"I hope I didn't get you into any trouble?" Emily asked in concern.
He shook his head. "No, has nothing to do with you. Ship's duty, I'm
certain."

His words reassured her as they reached her room. He opened the door
and lit a candle for her. "Goodnight Miss James."
She grabbed his hand. "Emily. Please call me Emily."
He smiled back at her.
"Goodnight Emily." Gently he kissed her hand and left, leaving her
staring after him.

Reaching the deck he reported to Buckland. "Sir."


"Mr. Bush," he began, somewhat uncertain, "it may be none of my
business but do you think it wise to become," he cleared his
throat," involved with Miss James a day after she has learned of
Kennedy's death?"

His jaw clenched as Bush replied coolly. "Are you asking me as the
1st officer sir?"
Buckland shook his head and lowered his voice. "No, no. Indeed I am
not. At ease Mr. Bush."
At that Bush relaxed but his emotionless face turned to anger. "In
that case, you are quite right. It is none of your business." He
hastily added, "sir."
"Good evening Mr. Buckland." He saluted and turned, leaving the
leftenant to his own thoughts.

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

Admiral James paced in his study. He had received word Renown was
anchored and his daughter was aboard. It took all his strength not
to run down to the docks at that moment. Two weeks he had worried
and fumed over her and now she was safely home. "Come!" he barked to
the knock on his door.

His trusty servant Christopher peeked through the doorway. "Sir.
Ready to take you to the dock."
James rushed out of the room and to the waiting carriage. "Thank you
Chris," he said as he climbed in. "Please have two meals prepared
when I arrive back."
"Yes sir," the young man replied watching the carriage depart.

Standing on the pier he could make out the boat being lowered into
the water from the Renown. Slowly, ever so slowly, it approached.
There she was! He spotted her sitting near the rear of the boat. She
waved, spotting him at the same time. The boat bumped along the
stone side and Emily sat patiently, looking up into her father's
eager gaze. Someone helped her out and she stood, unsure, before him.
There she was, standing in front of him as if in a dream. He stepped
forward and grabbed her into his arms, relieved. "Emily, my precious
daughter!" he wept.

She returned his embrace, stunned at his tears. "Father, it's all
right," she whispered. Quickly he regained himself and stepped back.
"Look at you!" he scolded. "That hair! You look like a boy!" Then he
noticed her arm in a sling. "What have you done to yourself?"

She smiled and took his hand. "It is nothing! Dr. Clive made me wear
this old thing. Said I had to if I was going to leave the ship! I
think he just wanted to humiliate me one more time." James had an
amused look on his face, especially when she muttered under her
breath," Bastard!"

"Young lady!" he roared, hiding his joy from her.
"Sorry father." She flashed him a smile and pulled him down the
dock. "I'll tell you all about my trip over lunch."

Emily was famished as she ate another helping of beef and biscuits.
James watched in amusement from across the table. "Maybe this will
teach you to run off. I told ya' sailors food was nothing to be
desired." She nodded in agreement, biting into her third biscuit.

"The ship's food was fine, it was Dr. Clive who can't cook."
James gave her a warning gaze. "Well, he was only the most rude,
vulgar man I have ever met!" She softened her tone as she touched
her arm and the healing wound. "He did save my life." Christopher
entered the room changing the subject. "Oh Chris! How I missed your
cooking!"
He nodded, clearly embarrassed at her manner. "Yes ma'am. Thank
you." Quickly he cleared the table and retreated.

James lit his pipe and moved to his comfy chair in the corner. "Now
come over here and promise me you will never do such a foolhardy
thing like that again."

She did as ordered and sat on the sofa. "Father, I had to. For
Archie."

He let out a heavy sigh at her words. "I know he is dead," she said
in a low tone. "I found out from some of the officers aboard the
Renown."
James knew he had to tell her now. He had no choice. "Did they also
tell you how he died?"
She shook her head. "No."

But before he could continue Christopher interrupted. "Beggin' your
pardon sir, someone here to see you."

"Bring him in." He stood to receive his guest. Chris led him in and

Emily knew him instantly.
"Mr. Bush! What are you doing here?"
He saluted the admiral. "Sir, Miss James."
"Please have a seat Mr. Bush," he offered, Bush sitting on the sofa
next to Emily. Christopher brought in two glasses of brandy.
"Thank you," Bush said holding the glass carefully. "I came here to
offer my deepest sympathy over Mr. Kennedy."

Emily sat silently observing his every move.
"Thank you, sir. So kind of you to come in person, isn't it Emily?"
She caught his stern look and nodded. "Yes sir, it is."

She had to change the subject. Talking about Archie was too much for
her to bear. "Mr. Bush saved my life!" she blurted a bit too
eagerly.

James turned his gaze on the leftenant. "Oh?"

"I did?" Bush was dumbfounded.
All eyes went back to Emily. "Well when the Bright Star fell under
attack, you WERE on the Renown when she saved us." Her smiled
brightened the room as all eyes fell back on Bush.

"Miss James gives me too much credit. I am but 2nd leftenant on the
Renown."

The admiral smiled knowingly. "None the less, you did save her sir,
and I am grateful. Why don't you join us for dinner tonight?"

Bush didn't know what he was getting himself into. "Oh please Mr.
Bush," Emily said excited."
He wanted to say no, but with those big brown eyes pleading, he gave
his answer. "I would be honored to attend."

Chapter 9

Bush arrived at 8pm sharp, entering the James home. Christopher took
his hat and led him to the study. But he wasn't the lone guest.
There were captains and admirals milling about as he peeked into the
study. It looked like the entire fleet was crammed into that one
room. He had never seen some many officers gathered together in one
place. "Well I'll be a monkey's uncle," he whispered.

"Oh really," someone commented behind him. He smiled at the sight of
Emily, dressed as a lady should be. He barely recognized the girl
from the Renown. Her gown shimmered in the light making her brown
eyes golden. She seemed different somehow. There was a radiating
glow about her that she lacked on the ship. "You don't look like a
monkey's uncle," she said seriously.

He grinned and decided she was joking. "And how do you know what a
monkey's uncle looks like?" A twinkle came to her eye and a
mischievous grin caught her face.
"Well I know for a fact my father would not allow any monkeys in
his house. Especially for this homecoming party he insisted on
having for me. But." She took him by the arm and pulled him into the
study. She led him straight through the throng of people till they
reached the other side. "There!" she pointed to someone standing in
the corner next to her father. "That is Admiral Turny. He is a
monkey's uncle if I ever saw one!"
He chuckled at her joke and stared at the robust admiral. His hair
was a shocking shade of red along with his beard. He had more hair
on his face than Bush did on his head! He could be a monkey with all
that hair Bush thought. Looking back at Emily he was about to tell
her so when he saw horror cloud her features. Then he heard Admiral
Turny loud and clear.

"Archie Kennedy is a murderous dog and deserved to die a mutinous
scoundrel, just as he did! He pushed his captain down the hold,
indeed! They should have hung his carcass from the highest yardarm!"

The words stung like hot a iron sheering his flesh and Bush quickly
crossed the room to the pompous man, not caring if he was an
admiral. "I do protest your words sir!" he spat grabbing the man's
shoulder to get his full attention.
"What!" Turny sputtered.
"Mr. Kennedy was no dog and there is no way in hell he pushed
Captain Sawyer, sir!" Bush was raging. Turny was at a lose for words
so Bush gave him another rebuke. "Further more sir, I respect you
say nothing further to blacken the name of Lt. Kennedy," he lowered
his growl," Specially when the woman he was to marry is in the same
room as you!"
The study fell silent, all eyes on him.
Turny now turned red and actually humbled himself. "I do apologize,
Mister?"
"Bush, sir."
"Mister Bush. And also to Miss James."

Bush nodded, accepting his words and turned back to catch Emily's
expression, but she was nowhere to be found. He rushed to where he
had last seen her, but she was gone. Scanning the room he saw her no
place and worry struck the pit of his stomach. Christopher caught
his elbow. "She was upset sir! She ran into the hall." Bush nodded
and forced himself back through the crowd. Finally out of the study
he caught sight of the front door wide open. "Oh no," he thought as
he ran out into the dark night.

It was nearing midnight as Bush continued his frantic search. Emily
had heard Admiral Turny, every wretched word. Bush dared not guess
what was running through her mind.
The streets were mostly deserted as he made his way toward the
docks.

Emily stood at the waters edge staring blankly in front of her. Once
she would have never believed such words from anyone about her dear
Archie. But now those words stung and hurt her. Archie suddenly
wasn't her dearest anymore, his imagine tarnished. How could she
actually believe Admiral Turny's words! Archie was no murderer! She
was as sure of that as the breath she took into her body. Even now
the words the words stabbed her. A single tear rolled down her cheek
and she couldn't help but remember Archie. It seemed she had no
escape from him. He was everywhere. In that house, those men, those
words. With a sigh she walked along the shore trying to come to
grips with her struggling emotions. The pier loomed before her and
she walked back up to it. Her mind wouldn't be clear till she found
out what happened to Archie. She knew there was no moving on till
she knew the truth.

"God is cruel!" she spoke out loud now walking along the pier. This
was where she had arrived only yesterday. She paused and scanned the
water for the Renown. "If I were an artist God would take away my
sight. If I were a musician he would steal my hearing. But I am a
girl and he has killed my love. What about my heart?" She gazed up
to the stars as if expecting an answer from above.

Someone touched her shoulder and she smiled, Bush springing into her
thoughts. "I knew you would find me," she said as she turned around.
But the face that greeted her was not Bush. No it was a dirty,
unfamiliar face that lusted at her. She gasped in fear and took a
step back. The stranger sneered down at her and laughed.

"Oh I found you all right!" He grabbed her and wrapped his strong
arms about her body. Her stomach lurched at the stink of rum on his
breath. She struggled against his hulk but was helpless.
"Let me go you filthy animal!" she screamed squirming in his steal
grip. The drunken sot forced his dirty mouth over hers and she
gagged. The stench was over powering, suddenly forcing Dr. Clive's
image to her head. Somehow it gave her the strength to fight back
and she sunk her teeth into the man's lower lip. He screeched in
agony, releasing her from his arms. Blood poured from his mouth and
he grabbed Emily by her injured arm, making her cry out in pain.

"You little whore!" he spat and squeezed her arm harder. She winced
in pain but suddenly Archie sprang to her mind and rescue,
remembering a certain incident between them. With her right knee she
forced every ounce of strength she possessed into smashing his
groin. Instantly he let her go and withered to the ground, crying.
Footsteps echoed behind her and a man materialized out of the dark,
a board in his hand. Her mind was still in shock and she didn't
recognize him. Carefully he removed his navy coat and placed it over
her trembling form. "Emily," the man whispered," speak to me."

She stared into his compassionate blue eyes and immediately felt
safe. His voice shot straight to her heart. "Mis-mister Bush?" she
stuttered. The man on the ground moaned and Bush stared at him, then
back to Emily amazed. "Well, guess I don't need this," he said and
dropped the board.
"Are you all right?"
She blinked not knowing what to say or do. "I-I believe so."
"Come on," he said gently leading her away," let's get you home."
She numbly obeyed, staring at him the whole time. Reaching the house
she seemed to come out of her trance.
"Thank you Mr. Bush."

He stopped at the door and smiled slightly at her. "Please, call me
William."

Chapter 10

A month had passed since Bush had seen Emily last. His duties had
taken him back to sea for that short time but he found himself in
London once again. Ships business had brought him and he had
completed his orders. He sat in the pub nursing his glass of ale,
considering how he was about to spend his next four days. His mind
fell on Emily and he couldn't stop himself from thinking of her. The
last month he had thought of nothing else. Suddenly someone
addressed him. "Lt. Bush! Is that you?"
He quickly rose to his feet. "Admiral James sir. Good to see you
again."
They shook hands and he offered him a seat.

"No, I'm afraid I can't stay. Please say you can visit Emily?"
His voice pleaded, almost begged him. And did he look rather pale?
"Yes sir. I will."
James nodded and left, Bush staring after him.

It was late afternoon when he knocked on the door of the James home.
Christopher greeted him warmly and took his hat. "Good to see you
sir."
Did he look ill as well?
Bush had to ask. He stopped the servant before entering the study.
"Is everything well?"
Chris avoided his eyes. "I don't know sir."
"You don't know?" The anger was evident in his voice. But from the
scared look on the boys face, he didn't press him.

Instead he nodded and entered the study, worried more than ever. The
room was almost pitch black and it took a full minute for his eyes
to adjust. A sigh brought his attention to the far corner and to
Emily snuggled in a chair. She had her knees drawn up to her chest
and looked like a small ball all cuddled up.
"Hello Emily," he said softly.

She had not noticed him till he spoke. "Lt. Bush." She slowly stood
up and he gasped at the sight of her. Once full red cheeks were now
hollow and pale. But most shocking was her figure. Her dress huge on
her small frame, barely fitting her emancipated body.

"I came to inquire about you," he said regaining himself.
She smiled slightly. "How very kind of you. Thank you." She gestured
for him to sit. But he shook his head, worried. "Do you feel up to a
walk?"
"Yes, that would be fine. Father has a lovely garden."

She held his arm as they stepped out into the bright sunlight
blinding her for a second.
"Are you quite all right?"

She stopped and clenched his arm for support. "Yes. I just haven't
ventured outside in a few days."
He was shocked over her appearance. She looked even worse in the
light than in the dark. "Emily, what has happened to you?"

They reached a bench in front of a small pond and sat down. She
stared into the water, regarding her grime reflection. "That night I
was attacked, father told me about Archie, everything." Her voice
was emotionless and uncaring.
Bush kicked himself for not coming to see her sooner.
"I just don't know what to do?" She turned and gave him a weak
smile. "I guess I don't care anymore."

He grabbed her hands and squeezed them. "Don't say that! You know
Mr. Kennedy, Archie, wouldn't want that!"

"Oh really," she closed her eyes. "He rejected me. Wrote me a letter
on his deathbed rejecting me." Her voice choked and she couldn't go
on. He had to ease her soul, somehow.
"You know Archie didn't push Captain Sawyer."

She looked up at him in surprise. "But father explained it all. He
did and the report said so."

"Emily," he smiled," all the reports in the world mean nothing. What
does your heart tell you?"

She stared at him, her brown eyes suddenly coming back to life. "My
god! How could I think such a horrible thing!" It was as if her soul
had been pulled into the light. "Oh Archie."
Her gaze fell on his hands still clasped over hers. "All this time I
have been punishing myself and Archie. Why did I not see the truth?"

He continued to gaze upon her face. "Maybe you just needed a friend
to help you find your heart again."

Her brown eyes met his blue eyes and she suddenly knew. "William,"
she whispered," I think I can move on now."
He nodded. "That's what Archie wanted."
"Yes," she whispered. He seemed to read her mind and pulled her
close, swaying her gently in his embrace.
"Everything will be all right now, I promise," he whispered in her
ear.
"I know."
Admiral James watched relieved from the house. "Thank god."

The next four days flew by as Bush spent every possible minute with
Emily till finally he had to return to Portsmouth. She stood with
him at the front door, his carriage waiting. "I will write you. I
already have your father's permission," he said happily.

Emily giggled and he saw that sweet girl he had met on the Renown.
"Be careful William. I want you back here in one piece." He gave her
a broad grin.
"Don't you worry. Commander Hornblower is the best captain to sail
with on the channel."
Her smile lifted his soul and he hated to leave her. "I must go." He
gently kissed her cheek and turned to go but she pulled him back,
passionately kissing his lips. They lingered in the warmth and love
of that moment it seemed forever.
Finally they parted and she whispered words making his heart sing.
"I love you."

"As do I."

Quickly he turned and left, knowing he would marry Emily James, the
former fiancée of Lt. Kennedy, on his next leave.

 

Chapter 11

"What on earth am I doing here?" she thought as she surveyed the
glittering ballroom. All of these people -- and all of the mindless
chatter. She'd always hated these social situations; always felt so
out of place. But Madeline had insisted she come to France for a
visit and to celebrate Jean-Luc's birthday. She just couldn't
refuse. After all, she and Madeline had been friends since their
convent school days.

"The Odd Couple" they'd been called by the other girls. Madeline
Maitland -- blond, blue-eyed, beautiful and outgoing. And she,
Abigail Kennedy -- plain, dark-haired, deep-set dark eyes and so
introverted. How Madeline had laughed at the nickname! Now, of
course, Madeline was the Comtessa de Favreau and she had been,
briefly, Mrs. Robert MacKenzie.

It will do you a world of good to get away, Madeline had written.
Michael is quite capable of looking after the business. Besides as newlyweds,
he and Bridgit need some time to themselves. And David
will not be home from school for two more months. Surely you can
spend a month with us! It's time you started to live again, Abby. I
don't want to seem cruel, but a year and a half is enough time to
grieve for your brother. Do be a darling and come to see us.

She had been right, of course. Madeline always was. One couldn't
hide forever in Scotland. It was time she got on with the business
of living. "But did I have to choose this way to begin," she
thought, "I could, at least, have tried something a little public."
Ah well, Robert would certainly have approved -- and so would Archie. He'd
even applaud her actions.

But she had to get away from all of this noise. The garden -- yes,
that was the place for a little peace and quiet. She made her way
along the path. Madeline had commissioned a true English garden,
complete with pond and stone bench -- the perfect place to gather
her thoughts. She'd been sitting there no more than ten minutes when
she heard the voice. Strange, she had been so wrapped in her
thoughts she hadn't heard anyone approach.

"The celebration is inside, Madame. Why do you sit here alone?" he asked, the soft French
accent unmistakable.

"I've always felt a bit out of place in social situations, sir," she
answered. "And I've never been very adept at making small talk."

"Then I apologize for disturbing you," he said.

"Not at all," she answered, "It's time I was going anyway."

She rose from the bench. The color drained from her face as she saw him standing there.
There was no mistaking those eyes; that face -- even with the moustache he'd
grown; the slight, sardonic smile -- she knew her brother. After all, it was she who had
comforted him during all the ills, bumps and bruises of his childhood; dispelling his
nightmares with her songs. It was she who had helped him with his studies; insisting he read Shakespeare and Dante. And it was she who had instilled his love of the theater; taking him to his first performance on Drury Lane, much to their father's chagrin. Even after all this time, there was no mistaking the man standing before her, the light of the moon full on his handsome face.

"Archie," she whispered, "but it can't be."

"Dear God, now I'm seeing ghosts!" And she sank back onto the bench, the strength
suddenly gone from her limbs.

"Abby," he said, walking slowing toward her, the accent gone now, "please let me explain. I'm no ghost."

She closed her eyes and when she opened them, he was on the bench
beside her, smiling down at her. Slowly she raised a trembling hand
to touch his face; her own wet with tears. He took her hand in his
and kissed the slender fingers. Commodore Pellew's admonition rang in his head. "You must have no contact with anyone from your past." But he could not bring himself to leave her. She deserved to know the truth. He would tell her everything. He had always trusted her with his life; now he would trust her with his secret.

"For the past year," he said, "my name and my life have been that of
Lieutenant Paul Dubois -- that is my cover."

"Cover?" she said, "Please, Archie, I don't understand. We thought
you were dead. They told us you had been wounded and died in
Kingston. You're supposed to be buried there -- and here you sit,
talking with me. Your friend, Commander Hornblower, came to see me
straight from Kingston. He said that I should never believe the
stories I would most likely hear about you. He said that despite the rumors and innuendoes,
I must always believe that you died a hero. Please, Archie, tell me what's going on! Why were we told you were dead?"

"Well," he laughed, with a trace of his old humor, "it seems the
reports of my death were greatly exaggerated."

"Archibald James Kennedy, this is NOT Drury Lane!" she scolded, "please stop playacting
and tell me what in God's name is going on!"

"I know," he said, his voice contrite, "and I am sorry for everything that you've had to
endure, but hear me out, please."

He, then, told her of the plan Commodore Pellew had come up with --
the "death" of Archie Kennedy; his subsequent training and placement in
Napoleon's army as a spy.

"It was a way for me to continue to serve my country," he said.
"Abby, please tell me you understand."

"For the past year I have eaten, lived and breathed Paul Dubois -- I
am he. And because of what I do, lives have been saved."

"But what on earth are you doing here?" she asked.

"I am now the personal aide to Le Comte de Favreau," he said quietly, "my reward
for saving his life. I only just arrived this evening."

Abby said nothing ­ she had heard the story from Madeline ­ the brave young Lieutenant
who'd stopped the assassin from putting a bullet into her husband. There were so many
questions she wanted to ask ­ but she couldn't bring herself to speak.

"Please Abby, you must promise never to tell anyone that I'm alive. Please,
it's vitally important," he begged grasping both her hands in his, earnest eyes holding her
own.

"Then you must promise me something in return," she said.

"Promise you what?"

"You must promise me, little brother, that you will keep safe and
when this is all over, you must come home. Please, Archie, do this for
me! And, I promise to keep your secret."

"That, my love, I shall definitely promise," he replied, laughing. "Now, will
you come inside and do me the honor of a waltz?"

 

Chapter 12

Abby felt as if she were floating on air. Her brother, her dead
brother, was back! He wasn't - hadn't - died! It was like something out of one of the
Shakespearean plays that Archie loved so much. Like - like Twelfth Night! Yes, that was it
almost exactly. Well, this was better than Twelfth Night. This was real.

"Hey, Abby. Are you awake? You look like you're in a trance." Archie
squeezed her arm as he teased her gently.

"It's just that this is so unreal! Like a dream..."

"It's like that for me, too." Archie said as he led her onto the
dance floor where they joined dozens of other couples in a waltz. Archie had always been a
good dancer, and time had not altered his grace, or his ease on the dance floor.

"You cannot KNOW how hard it has been for me these past months ­ a year and a half, now. It was dreadful, being so close to home, to you, and yet so very far away. It almost broke my heart." They slid across the floor, both with a look of joy on their faces, but a
trace of sadness remained in the deep blue of Archie's eyes. He sighed and continued.
"The only thing that kept me going was the idea that someday, with
God's good grace, I would be able to come back to you. I knew that it would be better
for you to mourn for a few years than a lifetime. I know that it nearly broke Horatio's -"

"Horatio?" Abby paused, and then stopped altogether as the musicians
ceased playing and the couples clapped approvingly. The dancers began to wander off
the floor, drifting towards the gardens or the refreshment tables for wine or punch.
Archie nodded and, offering her his arm, led her towards a deserted corner.

"Horatio. Commander Horatio Hornblower. By now he must be an
Admiral. He was a genius....and the best friend I ever had. He saved my life on
several occasions, and he stood by me when no one else dared. After Commodore Pellew faked my death, Horatio sat by my cot until Pellew gave him his new orders, and informed him of his commission. Horatio left then because it was -" Archie smiled that little half-smile, "- because it was his DUTY. Horatio always did his duty." Archie smiled once more, and his eyes took on a faraway look.

"I see. Commander Hornblower. He was the one who came by and told
me not to believe anything I heard. I didn't understand at the time why he would
care... I think I do now." She stopped suddenly and looked at something on the far side of the room. Then glanced back at Archie.

"Tell me, Archie. Do you remember what your Commander Hornblower
looked like? You would know him if you saw him again?"

Archie seemed taken aback. "Why, yes. I wouldn't ever forget such a
dear friend. He was always the one who attracted attention. He was very tall... he even
LOOKED important! Why do you ask?"

Abby seemed not to have heard the last part of her brother's answer.
"And do you want to preserve your alias?" That really got Archie's attention.

"Yes, I must. It is vital."

"Would Com- would Horatio remember you?"

"Yes, I suppose. He was too loyal to forget a friend. Even he considered us friends."

"Then you must go, immediately." Abby looked very serious. A single
tear rolled down her cheek. Archie frowned, and looked behind his shoulder to where his sister had glanced. He started.

There, standing by the window, looking very regal (yet awkward and
forlorn) and just as Archie remembered him stood...Horatio Hornblower. Archie rose quietly, and slipped out unseen by the dear friend who still mourned his loss.

 

Chapter 13

Abigail watched her brother leave, then quickly brushed the tear
from her cheek and placed a smile upon her lips. She turned back to
where Horatio stood by the window. She had to give Archie time to
get away, without his best friend seeing him.

Gracefully, she walked across the room to greet him, hands
outstretched. "Commander Hornblower! What a pleasant surprise!"

Horatio turned, and his heart did a little flip. Archie's sister.
Even though physically, she resembled him not at all, he still saw
Archie in the way she carried herself, and heard him in her lilting
voice. God, would he never get over the sense of loss?

"Mrs. MacKenzie. How nice to see you again. This is truly
unexpected."

Abby laughed. "Well, I am on holiday, visiting a dear friend of
mine from school, and she simply insisted that I join her here
tonight. That is MY reason for being here, sir - what is yours?" she
asked flirtatiously, all the while hoping that Archie was long gone
and would not hear her attempt to distract Hornblower. She would
never hear the end of it!

Horatio looked around uncomfortably. "I am here to find one of my
men. My ship was severely damaged in a storm, and we have put to
port for some repairs. Mr. Jeffers has family attending this soiree,
and I wish to inform him that we will be staying longer than
anticipated, and we have some ship's business that must be discussed
tonight. In fact, I see him now. Begging your pardon, Mrs.
MacKenzie, but I must speak to him."

Abby nodded. "Of course. But please - it's Abby. You were my
brother's closest friend, and therefore, you are my friend, also.
Archie would want that."

Horatio inclined his head, hoping that Abby had not seen the pain in
his eyes at the sound of Archie's name. "Very well - Abby."

She smiled at him. "Wonderful! Now you simply must promise me a
dance when you are finished."

At the look of sheer terror on Horatio's face, she laughed gaily.
"Oh, don't TELL me! Archie said you couldn't dance, but I never
believed him!"

Painfully, Horatio admitted how he despised dancing, and music.
Being utterly tone-deaf, it was an incredible trial for him just to
be there. He excused himself, and went to speak to Jeffers.

Outside in the garden, Archie leaned against a tree, fighting the
panic rising inside him. "Oh," he groaned. "How could I have been so careless? If Horatio had seen me, Pellew would have had my head! No, he
would have had me flogged. Oh, no - he would have done the flogging
himself, and THEN he would have had my head!" Still, Archie could not
move away. Horatio - his friend, his comrade, his savior - was so
close. Archie shook his head. He must keep to the business at hand.
He still had to meet with his contact. Where was he, anyway? He
looked around the garden, growing impatient, but then he spied the
man, and moved over to speak to him.

Horatio concluded his business with Jeffers, then looked for Abby.
Finally, he saw her, back on the dance floor. He nodded to her, and
she raised a hand in reply. Heaving a sigh, Horatio walked outside.
Seeing Abby had rattled him more than he cared to admit. It brought
back so many memories of Archie, and he felt a deep depression
beginning to fall over him. Aimlessly, he walked around the garden.
Why did he feel Archie so close to him here? Was it merely seeing
his sister, or was there something else?

Horatio shook his head. He was being fanciful. Archie was gone, and
that was that. Words that his friend Lt. Bush had said began
returning to him.

It had been a night just like this, and Horatio had received his
promotion and his own ship only hours before, yet he felt no
pleasure, because Archie was dead. His ship was anchored off the
shore, awaiting her final refit, and he stared out at her lying there.
Dear God, it WAS his ship. His and his alone to command. How could
he possibly do it alone? He took a long drink out of the bottle in
his hands, and closed his eyes. "Dammit, Archie," he swore softly.
"Why did you have to leave me? We should be sharing this together."
He took another long drink from the bottle, and moved a bit closer
to the water, stumbling slightly as he did so. Dimly, he heard
footfalls on the dock behind him, but he didn't bother to turn
around to see if it was friend or foe.

Lt. Bush's voice came through the growing darkness. "You'd best step
back, sir, before you fall in."

"Leave me alone, Mr. Bush," growled Horatio. "I've no desire for
company, and I'll not share my drink with anyone."

Bush lowered his head, then moved to stand next to Horatio. Side by
side, they stood gazing out at Retribution. Bush spoke quietly
into the night. "You have to let it go, sir. You have to let HIM
go."

Horatio swung around to face Bush, nearly losing his footing as he
did so. Bush grabbed his arm to steady him, but Horatio angrily
pushed his hand away.

"Let him go? I cannot - I WILL not - ever let him go, Mr. Bush. He
was the best friend I ever had, though Lord knows I did not deserve
his friendship. Time and time again, I let him down, and never, not
once, did he hold me to blame. Instead, he stood beside me, and held
me up. He was the strongest, bravest, most loyal man....

Horatio's voice broke, and he turned back to the water, struggling
to regain control. "Leave me, Mr. Bush. It is not appropriate for
you to see me here, with my tongue loosened by drink."

"I cannot leave you here alone, sir, not such as you are."

"Then do not lecture me, Mr. Bush, on how to live my life."

"I'm sorry, sir, for overstepping my bounds, but you are to take
command of Retribution, who sails in four days time, and you must
be prepared."

"Prepared," whispered Horatio. "As I was prepared to watch my
brother die. But all the preparation in the world cannot bring back
that which was so brutally taken from me."

"From ALL of us, sir. I did not know Mr. Kennedy as long as you, and
I will not presume to have shared the bond that the two of you did,
but I did know him. Enough to know this - it would pain him to see
you risking your career over him. You say he supported you - now,
you must do the same for him. Can you not see that to honor him, you
must remain the man that he supported so well and so honorably?"

"My honor, sir, was not worth his life!" barked Horatio, sounding
strangely like Pellew. "Had he remained in his sickbed, instead of
making that long trip to stand in front of the court, he would still
be alive today. It is my fault, Mr. Bush. Mine and mine alone."

"Do you honestly believe that, sir? His wound was most grievous - "

"Yes, it was," interrupted Horatio. "But he would have overcome it.
He overcame so much in his life - so much pain and suffering,
beginning with those dark, horrible days in Justinian. You cannot
imagine what horrors that despicable Simpson subjected him to."

"Perhaps I can, sir. I was a midshipman myself, and I am all too
aware of what goes on below decks on long voyages, Naval regulations
be damned."

Horatio snorted. "Jack Simpson did not need the excuse of a long
voyage. He had enough evil in him for a dozen, nay, a hundred men.
And, Mr. Bush, there is a great difference between that of which you
speak, and being forced into something towards which you have no
inclination. Yet Archie," and Horatio's voice softened "Archie grew
beyond the....abuse... and became stronger than anyone could ever
have imagined. Then, too, he had to endure years alone in a dirty
prison - and that, too, Mr. Bush, was my fault. Had I not used
violence against him, he would have been at my side, fighting along
with the men, instead of lying unconscious, to drift away and be
captured. Do you know, Mr. Bush, that never, not one single time,
did Archie even bring that up. I have betrayed him over and over,
yet he never deserted or doubted me. He was the best of us, Mr.
Bush. The very best." Horatio's voice broke yet again, and he fell
silent.

Bush reached out a hand, and pulled Horatio away from the water.
This time there was no anger, no resistance.

"I'll not argue with you on that, sir. But hard as it may be for all
of us, we are in the midst of a war. Men die. That is what war does.
There is no discrimination between good and bad - there is only war,
and it cares little for the men who wage it. You will always carry
Archie with you, sir. It is your choice as to whether it is as a
memory, or as a burden. Which do you think he would prefer?"

Horatio lifted his head and looked at Bush, who almost shivered from
the look in his eyes. Gone was the grief and the pain. Instead, the
eyes that looked back at him were cold and emotionless. Bush could
almost feel Horatio pulling away, though his body moved not an inch.

"Your point is well taken, sir. But know this. I swear, Mr. Bush, by
all that I hold true and honorable, the good name of Lt. Archie
Kennedy WILL be restored. No longer will there be whispers below
deck of mutiny and murder, and Archie will be free to rest, as he so
rightly deserves."

Horatio pulled himself back to the present, and sighed. He had sworn
to see Archie's name cleared, but he had done nothing to do so. Once
again, he had failed. Yet one final time, he had again failed Archie.

Horatio began to move towards the garden gate, when a movement
caught his eye. Two men were having a whispered conversation in the
shadows, with one glancing furtively over his shoulder. Frowning,
Horatio held very still, but he could not hear anything. Carefully,
he crept closer, but as he did, the men seemed to finish their
business, and one of them left the garden. Horatio watched him go,
then turned his attention to the man still in the garden.

The moon peeked out from behind a cloud, giving a soft illumination
to the garden. It caressed the hair of the man as he stepped out of
the shadows, creating a soft golden glow that tore at Horatio's
heart. That hair....no. It was impossible. The man only resembled
Archie, simply because he had been in Horatio's thoughts. Yes, that
was it. He released the breath he wasn't even aware he'd been
holding, chastising himself for such a foolish flight of fancy.
"Dead men do not walk in gardens and have secret meetings" he
thought. He shook his head to clear it, and turned to leave.

At the slight sound, the blonde man's head whipped around, and his
eyes looked full into Horatio's. "No," whispered Horatio. "No no
nonononononono..." Blue eyes met brown in shock. Horatio stepped
forward. "Archie?" The blonde man pulled his cloak closely around
himself, and fled. Horatio remained standing in the garden, frozen
in shock.

 

Chapter 14

Madeline grasped the letter tightly in her hands. Quickly she reread
the words and closed her eyes against the tears that suddenly
threatened. "No," she thought, "this can't be happening." Opening
her eyes she scanned the letter again. Written in David's strong
hand she read the words, ". . . .Mother ill. . .come soon. . ." and
then, the last, ". . .consumption." She closed her eyes again. "No,
not Abby -- not this way." What a terrible waste. To die from such a
dreadful disease. She had to get to England as quickly as possible.
Summoning her servants, she ordered her baggage packed. Then, she
went in search of her husband.

"Jean-Luc," she called as she entered his study. He was bent over
his desk, the young Lieutenant Dubois at his side. Startled by the
urgency in his wife's voice, Le Comte de Favreau looked up from the
map he'd been studying with his aide.

"What is it dearest? You are as pale as a ghost! What is troubling
you?" he asked as he took her trembling figure into his arms.
"You're shaking like a leaf!" Silently Madeline handed him the
letter as she pulled out of his comforting embrace. "I must get to
England. Abby is desperately ill," she said, eyes moist with tears.
Finishing the letter, Jean-Luc handed it to the young man at his
side. Glancing at him, Madeline saw the blood drain from his face as
he read David's words. She smiled faintly, remembering how taken he
had been with Abby. She'd even teased Abby afterward about it. They
had gotten on so well during her visit. It had been good to see him
smile and laugh -- he'd seemed so solemn and sad. It had been good
for Abby, too.

Now, however, she turned her attention once more to her husband who
was issuing orders for a coach to be readied. "Lieutenant Dubois?"
"Yes, Excellency," Archie looked into the faded blue eyes of the
count. "You will escort Le Comtessa to Marseilles and from there to
England so that she can be with Madame MacKenzie. You are to stay
with her as long as she chooses to be in England. I entrust her
safety to your capable hands."

"I shall not fail you, Excellency."

Turning to his wife, Jean-Luc took her once again into his arms and
kissed her. "Now go, both of you," he said, "and Madeline. . ."

"Yes dearest?"

"My prayers for Abigail."

"Thank you my love. . . .farewell."

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

The sloop, La Mer, glided through the channel waters soundlessly.
Archie stood on deck, relishing the feel of it below his feet.
Almost two years in France, and now he was going home. . .home to
England. "I should be happy," he thought, "to be going home even
under these circumstances." Suddenly, Abby's face filled his vision
and he couldn't breathe.

"Please, God, let me not be too late. Let us have a little more
time. . .let me, at least, have the chance to say goodbye," he prayed. And a silent tear
slid down his tanned cheek.

Brushing it away, he raised his head and saw the sails appear as if by magic on the
horizon. A ship, headed straight toward La Mer. Quickly he went to
Madeline's cabin and knocked on the door. "Please forgive the
intrusion, Madame," he said, "but there is a ship coming toward us
flying the British ensign. I ask that you stay in the safety of your
cabin. I'll come back when I've gotten a report from the captain."

As he turned to leave, both of them heard the warning shot that had
been fired from the British ship. And both felt the next shot as it
struck the topsail. Archie raced up the ladder and on to the deck;
Madeline not far behind him. The captain was already lowering La
Mer's colors. He was shouting something to the British vessel --
something about the distinguished passenger on board bound for
England.

"What's he saying, sir?" First Lieutenant Bush asked his captain.
"He says they have Le Comtessa de Favreau and her aide aboard, Mr.
Bush," Commander Hornblower answered. "Apparently, the countess is
enroute for England."

"Mr. Witt," Horatio turned to the young midshipman behind him,
"prepare my cabin to receive the lady. And Mr. Bush, take a prize
crew aboard La Mer. Sail her to Plymouth and await orders."
"Aye, sir," said both men, saluting at the same time and hurrying away.

"Le Comtessa," Horatio bowed at the waist, "it is an honor to have
you aboard. Please accept the use of my cabin until we reach
England."

"Thank you, Captain," she said in perfect, accent less English,
"allow me to present my traveling companion and my husband's aide,
Lieutenant Paul Dubois."

Horatio turned to welcome the man who'd just come aboard. He
stiffened as his dark eyes took in the lean, tanned face, the
moustache, the sapphire blue of the eyes. He opened his mouth to
speak, but no words came.

"Mr. Witt, please escort the countess to my cabin," Horatio said
when he could trust himself to speak again.

"Aye, sir. . .this way please Madame."

"Mr. Stiles, please take Lieutenant Dubois below." "Mr. Matthews,
make ready to sail for England." Horatio issued his orders and turned away.
He did not trust himself to look as Styles led the Frenchman below.

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

Archie sat on the bench in the brig. This was all, somehow, eerily
familiar. The last time he'd been interred, though, Horatio and Bush
had been with him. Footsteps approached. Even before he heard the
key in the lock, he knew it was Horatio. Looking up at his old
friend, he smiled and rose to his feet.

"Leave us, please," Horatio said to the Marine guard. For several
moments he simply stared at the man before him, his throat working
convulsively.

"Well," Archie began, "say something, will you?"

"And what does one say to a ghost?" Horatio asked stiffly, "or for
that matter, to a traitor to one's country?" His eyes grew hard as
he looked at this man he'd once called friend.

"I'm no ghost. . .nor am I a traitor. You, above all people, should
know that, Horatio."

"Then what on earth are you doing -- a French lieutenant? Good God,
Archie, I watched you die in Kingston. I buried you there. For the
last two years I've mourned the loss of my one true friend. . . .and
here you are, ALIVE AND WELL. . .AND A BLOODY FROG!" Horatio's voice
rose on those last words and he turned away.

Archie put a hand on his friend's shoulder. "You buried an empty
coffin, Horatio. If I could have told you what was going on, I would
have. I never wanted you to mourn for me, but it was the only way.
You had to believe that I was dead -- Commodore Pellew was right
about that."

"What does the Commodore have to do with any of this?" demanded
Horatio, shaking off the hand and sitting on the bench.

"Well, if you've a spare moment and would like to hear a tale, I'll
tell you," and Archie smiled at his friend.

". . . .and that's what happened, Horatio. It was the only way I
could continue to serve my country."

"But. . . .a spy?" dumbfounded, Horatio shook his head.

"Yes, for the last year I've been Paul Dubois. These past six months
I've been the personal aide to General Le Comte de Favreau -- my
reward for saving him from an assassin's bullet. The position has
made me privy to some of Napoleon's best-kept secrets. Commodore
Pellew will vouch for what I've told you," and Archie heaved a sigh,
glad, finally, that he was able to tell his friend the truth.

"There's no need -- I believe you. But why are you sailing for
England with the countess?" asked Horatio, "why now, after two years
away?".

"Because Le Comtessa de Favreau is the former Madeline Maitland. She
is still an English citizen, Horatio -- even though she is married
to a Frenchman," Archie's quiet voice was filled with intense pain,
"She is on her way to visit a dear friend who is very ill." He paused a moment
before continuing, "She is on her way to see my sister, Horatio."

"Commodore Pellew will not be pleased that you are with her, Archie."

"I know, but I had no choice. The General insisted I accompany
his wife on this journey. I could not refuse. It would have seemed suspicious. My
cover must be maintained at all costs. Even the Commodore would agree to that."

"And is that your only reason for being with her?" Horatio asked, his voice soft
with compassion.

"You know that it isn't," Archie replied. "I've got to see Abby one last time,
Horatio," he said, "I've got to have the chance to say goodbye." And Archie put his
face in his hands.

"Then it's to England, with all speed," said Horatio, his arm sliding around the shoulders of his friend, offering what comfort he could.

 

Chapter 15

Matthews glanced over at Styles, who had a thoughtful yet puzzled
look on his face.

"Oy! Styles!" Styles jerked out of his reverie, and began eating
his ship's bread hurriedly. Matthews let him eat a minute, but when
his mouth began to get too full, he whacked him on the head.

" 'Ere, I didn't say choke yourself." Styles grinned and began to
chew slower. "What are you thinking on, eh? You don't usually think
like that..."

"You know that froggy ship we took? The one with the lady...
and her aide?"

Matthews wrinkled his brow. "Aye, but why should that bother
you?"

"Cap'n Hornblower had me take the aide down to the hold.
I've seen him before. And doing it felt strangely familiar-" Styles
broke off and clasped his head in his hands. He sighed. "Argh...
I've seen him BEFORE!"

"Who are you talking about? The froggy gent?" Matthews was
a little worried. He tried to recall the face of the man -
Lieutenant Dubois, he thought it was. He wondered why this should bother his friend so much...

"Aye..."

"Maybe he was on another ship we took? Or per'aps he was
visiting that there prison with the Dons." Matthews offered. He
knew this wasn't the correct answer, or one that Styles would
accept. This was going to last a while. He glanced up as a familiar
footstep fell in the passage. He rose as he saw who it was, and
saluted.

"Cap'n Hornblower, sir..." Styles stood too.

"As you were Matthews, Styles." Horatio wavered in the
doorway. ' How I long to be a midshipman once more, so that I
may talk to these men... and so that I wouldn't be in this mess... '
he grimly thought.

Seeing his captain's uncertainty, Matthews offered a "Was there
something you wanted, sir?" Horatio glanced up. He thought for
a minute and then answered.

"No... no, just walking..." He nodded, and then continued
down the passage. Styles turned, triumphant.

"There! Cap'n Hornblower feels it too!" Styles started after his
captain, but Matthews quickly caught him by the scruff of his neck.

"Oy! You can't go ask Cap'n Hornblower! He might think you're
a spy!"

"Not Cap'n... He knows..." He started out once more, but
before he could leave, Horatio once more entered. He had a
determined look on his face.

"Styles. Matthews. I want you to watch out for the prisoner. You
alone are to take him his rations, and to walk him out on deck."
Matthews and Styles exchanged puzzled looks. That was usually
the marine's duty. Why was the captain assigning it to them?

"But sir...?"

"JUST - do it. And don't say anything to anyone." And sighing, he
left.

"Well...!" Styles grabbed some rations and headed out the door,
the same way Horatio had come.

" 'Ere! Where're you going in such a hurry?"

"I'm takin' the prisoner his rations. I want to see if I can place
him." Styles answered and left.

"Well I'm comin' too! I want to see this 'ere frog!"

They rushed down the passage to the hold. Styles whispered
something to the marine who shrugged and left. Then he opened
the door. Dubois looked up and started to smile and say something,
but stopped. He had an odd look on his face.

'Oy, he's right! Where have I seen him before...?' Matthews
thought. They fed him, but remained silent throughout the whole
procedure.

"Sir, we're going to take you out on deck now. There's
no where you can go on this ship, so we won't chain you. You
seem to have the Cap'n's trust... " Styles stopped and looked
hard at the prisoner, whose expression didn't change. Styles
shrugged.

"Well, come on then!" Matthews led the way up to the deck.

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

First Lieutenant Bush, Captain of La Mere, paced back and forth,
his hands clasped behind his back. He had seen the French Lieutenant
who had escorted the Lady from the ship Retribution had taken. He
had seen him through the smoke of battle, on the decks of the French
ship and the Retribution. He had watched him go aboard and greet
Captain Hornblower. He had just been close enough to see his smile.

He had seen it all before.

He wanted to know why the Frog Lieutenant had bothered him so,
and why on EARTH he was still thinking about him. He had seen
hundreds of French officers. But none of them seemed familiar. Why
did this one seem so?

He sighed. He searched his thoughts once more, thinking back
through the many minor encounters. Perhaps it was not among the
French he should be searching - maybe this man was a deserter?
A traitor? A spy? He continued to search his troubled mind. but
only one face loomed in front of him. It was not the face of a
deserter, or a traitor, or a spy. It was the face of the bravest man he had
ever known.

Of course, Archie Kennedy had seemed cowardly and mutinous
at first - a real firebrand. But then, so had Hornblower. Yet as he
had gotten to know him, he realized that Archie was neither. He
was an extremely good, just, and loyal friend. And one who was
not afraid to stand up for others who were weaker in mind and/or
body. He was a FRIEND. Bush had never had a good friend, and
he envied Hornblower in that he did.

"I wonder if Hornblower ever realized that Kennedy had never
pushed Captain Sawyer," he thought to himself as he leaned over
the side of his ship and gazed at the sky.

He had known. From the moment that Kennedy had demanded
that he call for Dr. Clive to bring his uniform he had known.
Kennedy was not just going to sit by and watch his dearest
friend be publicly disgraced and hanged for something that he
had not caused. But then, Kennedy hadn't caused it either.
Bush went along with it for a time, for he had considered that it
was better to save a genius than a loyal officer. But now he
regretted it. Oh, HOW he regretted it.

" I should have offered myself. Or given a statement in his defense -
in BOTH their defenses. It was pure cowardice, and I had no
right to recover from my wound..."

He remembered peeking through the bars as Kennedy died,
and hearing the words that Hornblower and he had exchanged...
"Why?" ... "Just take it and say goodbye" ... "you're the bravest
man I know, Archie" ... "I am honored to have served with you"...
"And I to have known you" ... "Ya' see? Better already"

And then Kennedy had died. Hornblower had seemed to be
unaffected at first, murmured goodbye and all. But after a few
minutes he had fallen to the floor, wracked with tears. He cried
out, and beat the floor, and noticed nothing.

But Bush had.

Just before someone had come in to take Kennedy out, Bush
noticed that Kennedy was STILL BREATHING! Bush didn't say
anything, he thought it was only his imagination. But...

Horatio never left. Only when Pellew had given him his orders
and his - Promotion.

"And he didn't want to take it," Bush smiled.

It was true! Hornblower had wanted Bush to take it, as he
was the superior officer. That was so very like Hornblower.
So quick to do his duty. He wondered how Sawyer had missed it...

Pellew had obviously worked with Hornblower before, and
just ORDERED him to take the promotion. That gave Hornblower
a new duty to think about.

And he had taken it.

And there he was.

And there was Bush.

And there was still the same French Lieutenant who he could not
place. But he HAD seen him before. Kennedy had said once that....

"WHY do I keep thinking about Kennedy?!" He exclaimed out
loud this time.

Then, a thought hit him.

Kennedy had breathed.

He wasn't dead.

"Oh no... What will I tell Hornblower...?"

"And Emily?"

 

Chapter 16

We've arrived in Dornoch," Horatio said, turning from the window to
face Madeline and the man known as Lieutenant Paul Dubois. "There's
a boat standing by to take you ashore, My Lady. I am sure you can
find a coach to take you on to Lochcarron."

"Thank you, Captain Hornblower," Madeline smiled up at the serious
young captain, "you have been most gracious. I shall not forget your
kindness. Come, Lieutenant."

"Very well, Madame," and Archie shook hands with his friend,
resisting the urge to embrace him, "my thanks as well Captain
Hornblower." Horatio smiled faintly. Archie was back in character,
right down to the soft French accent in his speech.

He followed them on deck and saw them safely on to the boat that
would take them ashore. Briefly his eyes met Archie's and he nodded.
No words were needed between the two of them. Archie returned the
smile, saluted with a hand to his hat as the boat drew away from Retribution.

"Mr. Witt, as soon as the boat returns from shore, make ready to
sail for Portsmouth. I shall be in my cabin."

"Aye, sir," answered the young midshipman.

Horatio entered his cabin and took out the packet Archie had given
him the previous evening. He was not looking forward to seeing
Commodore Pellew, in light of what he'd just done

"Here," Archie had said with a small smile, "this might make the meeting
with him a little more palatable for both of you, as well as make
him think twice about hanging me from the nearest yardarm."

"What is it?" asked Horatio.

"It's a detailed map, as well as a delivery timetable of French supply
ships for the next three months. Should make for an interesting
little sea drama between Napoleon and His Majesty's Navy, don't you
think?" Archie laughed.

"Well," Horatio answered, "at the very least, it might keep the Commodore from coming to Lochcarron personally and taking your head."

Leaving his cabin, Horatio made his way on deck. The boat had
returned and preparations were being carried out to set sail for
Portsmouth. Leaning on the rail, Horatio gazed at the Scottish
coastline.

"Farewell for now, Archie," he whispered, "I pray you are
not too late say goodbye. And I hope to see you soon my dear friend."

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

The coach pulled to a stop in the circular drive. Archie peered out
at the softly falling rain, the gray stone edifice of MacKenzie
Manor before him. He had not been here since Abby had married
Robert. God, that had been 18 years ago! She had been so happy, even
with the dauntless task of raising two boys who were not her own.
His throat caught as he remembered how Abby loved this place. Born
and raised, as he had been, in London, she had fallen in love with
the wild beauty of this Highland country the first time she'd set
eyes on it. Briefly, he shut his own eyes, trying to rid himself of
the pain in his heart.

Opening the coach door, he stepped down and then offered his hand to
Madeline. "Please have Le Comtessa's baggage brought to the house,"
he said to one of the servants who'd silently appeared at his side.

"Yes sir," the man replied, bowing slightly. Turning to Madeline, he
bowed again. "Mr. David is there, ma'am." Together, she and Archie
made their way to the open door. In it stood a young man of 22 --
tall, slender, dark hair and blue eyes filled with pain.

"Aunt Madeline," he said, trying to smile and kissing her cheek, "I
am very glad that you are here."

"No more than I, Davey," she said, hugging his tall frame. "Allow me
to present Lieutenant Paul Dubois. He is the personal aide to your
uncle -- and a good friend.

David MacKenzie turned to the man at his aunt's side.
Blue eyes met blue and Archie bowed slightly, "An honor to meet you, sir."
"As it is for me, sir," replied David,
staring at the stranger before him. There was something oddly
familiar about him, but David could not quite put his finger on what
it was. Something in the voice -- in the eyes -- it was there but. . . .

"How is she, Davey?" Madeline's question interrupted his thoughts,
"May I see her now, please?"

"Doctor Jameson is with her right now," he said, "and as for your
other question, let us just say it is good you arrived when you
have. . ." and he led them into the house.

As they walked through the foyer, the study door opened and another
young man came out. "Michael," Archie thought, "he runs the family
business that Abby managed until he came of age -- and David -- the
soon to be doctor." He thought again of how she had been left -- a
widow after only two years of marriage -- with Robert's business to
look after and two small boys to raise. Now, of course, the boys
were men and Abby was. . .no good thinking about that right now.
Startled out of his memories, Archie reached out to shake Michael's
hand. David had made the introduction and he'd barely heard it.

As he grasped the hand of this French Lieutenant, Michael looked
hard at his face. "I know this man," he thought, but he had no time
to puzzle it out. Footsteps sounded on the stairs. All four turned
to see a small, red haired woman coming down the steps with an
elderly gentleman. They were deep in conversation, unaware of the
three men and the woman standing at the bottom of the stairs.
Glancing up, the small woman smiled and walked over to stand beside
Michael.

"Aunt Madeline," he said, "you remember Bridgit, my wife?"

"Indeed I do; how are you my dear?" Madeline moved forward to
embrace the smaller woman.

"It is a pleasure to see you again, My Lady," Bridgit replied, "and
this is Dr. Jameson." The elder gentleman turned from his
conversation with David, bowed and kissed Madeline's hand.

"Michael," David turned to his brother, "I think it best that Aunt
Madeline see Mother now."

"Very well. I'll take her upstairs." Taking her arm, Michael led her
up the staircase.

"Lieutenant Dubois," David said, turning to Archie, "might I have a
word with you in private sir." Opening the door to the study, he
motioned Archie inside. "What may I do for you Mr. MacKenzie?"
Archie'd asked warily.

"I believe, sir, it's what I can do for you that matters." David
replied. "Lieutenant, or should I say, Uncle," he began. As Archie
opened his mouth to protest, David raised his hand, "Please sir, let
me continue. I thought I recognized you the moment you arrived, but
I could not be sure until now.

"And just who do you think I am?" Archie asked.

"You are my uncle, Lieutenant Archie Kennedy of His Majesty's Royal
Navy. Although why you are pretending to be a Frenchman, I cannot
guess!"

"Would you believe me if I said that you are mistaken?" Archie asked
dryly.

"Please, sir," the young man said, "I am not stupid -- nor am I a
fool. I'll warrant Mother recognized you when she was in Paris, as
well -- and if she has keep this secret all these months, there must
be a very good reason behind your subterfuge."

Archie turned to the window and stared out at the hills beyond.
Nothing would be gained by lying. He sighed and turned back to
David. "Please believe me when I tell you that I am no traitor. What
I do is for the good of the service, as well as for England!"
Speaking rapidly, he told David the entire story. ". . . .and that
is why your mother has kept my secret," he finished, "and why I must
ask that you do the same. No one must suspect that Archie Kennedy
and Paul Dubois are one and the same. I know that Michael does, I see
it in his face, but he must never out the truth!"

"Thank you for telling me, Uncle," and David gazed levelly at the
man standing before him, "but I have one question -- did you HAVE to
accept the assignment as personal assistant to Le Comte de Favreau?
It seems to me that you have put the Count and Countess in danger. I
would not want to see either of them hurt if you are found out."

"Believe me, Davey, I have been extremely careful in my activities;
especially where the Count and Countess are concerned. I have a
deep respect and affection for both of them -- and I would not see
either of them come to grief because of me."

"Then we shall speak no more about this," David said, "and as Mother
has done, trust that I shall keep your secret also."

"Thank you, Davey," Archie said, a sad smile on his face. "And
speaking of your mother, may I see her please?"

"Of course -- this way -- we'll go up the back stairs," and David
led the way through the kitchen and up to Abby's room. They waited in
a recessed alcove until Madeline and Michael had come out
and gone back downstairs.

David opened the door, then stood aside so that Archie could enter.
"I'll leave you alone to say goodbye," and he held out his hand to
his uncle. Archie grasped it for an instant and then went into the
room, the door closing softly behind him.

He stood for a moment in the shadows cast by the soft lamplight,
then walked slowly to her bed. Abby lay there, eyes closed, her
breath coming in soft rasps. Her skin had a transparent quality.
Archie could see the small veins in her eyelids. As he sat down in
the chair by the bed, those eyelids fluttered open and Abby smiled.

"God," she said, laughing softly, "I really hate that moustache!"

"Not exactly the welcome home I expected," he answered, taking her
hand in his and bringing it to his lips.

"And not the one I had planned for you either, my love," she said,
her voice barely a whisper.

"Shh," he began, "don't try to speak -- you need your rest."

She smiled up at him again. "Say it, Archie," she said, "please say
goodbye so that I may go."

"Abby, I. . ." he began -- and his voice faltered.

"It'll be all right," she said, "I promise you, it will be all
right."

"I love you, Abby," he said. God, how inadequate those words sounded
to his ears! He closed his eyes -- there was so much he wanted to
tell her -- how much she'd meant to him all these years. Opening his
eyes, he looked at her and realized he didn't need to say anything
at all -- Abby understood as she always had.

"And I you," she said, still smiling. The hand in his tightened for
a moment -- and then loosened.

Leaning over her now still form, Archie closed the sightless eyes
and kissed her forehead. "Goodbye, Abby," he whispered

 

Chapter 17

Sun streamed through the stained glass windows of the tiny village
church. Prisms of colored light played about the faces of the small
group gathered there. Father Timothy had just finished the final
benediction -- strains of Pachelbel's Canon in D Major filled the
church. It had been a favorite of Abby's, and Archie felt a small
smile touch his lips as the music washed over him. His eyes fell on
the casket, and the iron band around his heart tightened again. He
had never felt such pain in his life. Even the wound he'd sustained
in the West Indies had been nothing like this. "Why," the irrational
thought could not be stopped, "why did you have to take her now?" A
dream, Abby had said when they'd met accidentally in France. He'd
teased her about her thoughts then, but it had been no dream. It was
real -- as this was real. "No, not real," his mind insisted, "a
nightmare -- a nightmare from which there will be no waking."

Archie felt a hand on his arm and looked over at Madeline. Together
they rose and walked the few yards from the church to the small
cemetery. Tears welled in Madeline's eyes as Father Timothy began a
last blessing for Abby. She gripped Archie's hand, feeling his quiet
strength. Looking up, she met David's gaze. He smiled as if to
reassure her that everything would be all right. He was so much like
Abby -- it was hard to believe he was not her child. Michael, his arm
around Bridgit, nodded to her, offering her comfort without words.
"You did well, Abby," she thought, "well, indeed."

"Come, Madame," said Archie, startling Madeline out of her reverie,
"we are finished here. It is time we were leaving. There will be
people arriving at the house and we must be there to greet them."

"I am fortunate," she thought, "that Jean-Luc insisted Paul accompany me. I could not
have borne it otherwise."

Riding back to the house, Archie gazed at the passing countryside.
Summer in the highland country was truly beautiful. Wildflowers
bloomed in the fields and meadows -- a scent of honeysuckle and
heather filled the air. Stifling a sigh, he looked around to find
Michael studying him closely.

"The sooner we are bound for France," he thought, "the better for
all concerned -- especially Lieutenant Paul Dubois." Perhaps one day
this damnable war would come to an end.

"And then," Archie vowed to himself, "I shall come home -- home for good and all."

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

The doors to the manor house stood open. All around, groups of
people milled about talking quietly. Archie felt stifled by so many
people -- all offering kind words of condolence. "If I don't get
away from here soon," he thought, "I shall surely go mad." He
finally understood why Abby had so disliked social engagements. The
endless prattle! He knew the kind words were meant to give comfort,
but he could find none in them. He was beyond solace -- his grief
too palpable; too physical. Hurrying to the stables behind the
manor, he asked the groom for horse and saddle. A ride through the
countryside might give him the comfort he could not find in words
alone.

The day was fine and Archie took full advantage of it. Giving the
horse its head, he galloped through the highlands. He was a superb
horseman -- had always delighted in the feel of the wind rushing by;
the power of the horse beneath him. Unconscious of where he was
headed, Archie was surprised to see he had ridden to the church.
Reigning in his mount, he dismounted and walked to the meadow that
bordered the cemetery. Leaving the horse to graze in the meadow,
Archie gathered a small bouquet of wildflowers and walked to the
cemetery. Opening the gate, he went to Abby's grave. He bent down on
one knee and placed the flowers on the fresh earth. Tears he dared
not shed at the funeral for fear of giving away his alias now dimmed
his vision. Burying his face in his hands, he let the deep sobs rack
his body.

"Please, Abby," he begged, "tell me what to do now! I don't know if I can do this any longer!"

Suddenly he caught the hint of lilac -- Abby's scent. Her quiet voice filled his mind.
"Of course you can, Archie -- and you will," she said. "you've always been stronger
than you know. You will do what is right just as you always have."

"But how can I continue, knowing I won't be coming home to you?"

"Oh my darling boy, I haven't left you ­ I'll always be right here ­ in your heart."

"Then I shall do my best, Abby," he whispered and started as he felt a hand fall on
his shoulder. Turning, he looked up into the face of his dearest
friend.

"Archie," Horatio tried to think of something he could say
that would lessen the pain evident on his friend's face, "I. . . ."
but there were no words.

"It's all right, Horatio," Archie said,
wiping the tears from his face, "I know. Come, let's leave this place."

"I am truly sorry," Horatio replied.

Archie smiled, his voice gentle, "I know that too, Horatio."