Let's Go Shopping!
by Lt. Lila
In which Archie and Horatio SHOP PORTSMOUTH DRY!
(Thanks, B, for the suggestion of the subtitle!)
Mr. Midshipman Archibald Kennedy stood at the bowsprit rail of HMS INDEFATIGABLE and gazed longingly at the bustling port city several cable lengths across the calm harbour from the anchored frigate.
His very best friend in the world and fellow midshipman Horatio Hornblower, taller than him by a few inches and dark of hair and complexion compared to Archie's fresh, blonde features, strode up to him. "Good morning, Mr. Kennedy."
"Good, glorious morning, Horatio!"
Horatio's arched eyebrows rose on his forehead. "You're in a cheerful mood this morning, Archie."
"Of course, Horatio!" Archie's bright blue eyes glittered in the English sunshine. "We're HOME! And we've been granted LEAVE!"
Horatio's smile matched the broad grin that creased Archie's face. "True enough, I suppose."
"You SUPPOSE? LEAVE, Horatio! FREEDOM!"
Horatio shrugged. "You have something to go ashore for. Your family. I might as well stay aboard."
"Family, schmamily!" Archie exclaimed. "LET'S GO SHOPPING!"
"Come on, Horatio! Keep up!" Archie hurried off the quay and rushed toward the market section of Portsmouth.
Though Horatio's long legs could have carried him swiftly to the fore in any speed-walking contest, he dogged along behind, his feet nearly dragging.
Archie stopped and turned to his friend, his hands on his hips. "What IS it, Horatio? The shops won't stay open forever!"
Horatio ducked his head. "I'm just not a shopping type of person, Archie. I should have stayed aboard the INDY."
Archie punched him on the arm. "Don't be ridiculous, Raysh! This is going to be GREAT!"
"In here!" Archie pulled Horatio by the coat sleeve. "The best tailor on the dockside! Mr. Peevis!" Archie waved cheerily at the stooped-over shopkeeper standing among a pile of boxes and folded shirts.
"Oh, my stars and garters! Mr. Kennedy!" The old man, tiny round spectacles perched on the end of his nose, cried out in surprise. "Oh, excuse me, sir! Mr. MIDSHIPMAN Kennedy! So good to see you, young sir!" Peevis thrust out a gnarled hand. Horatio noticed pins stuck at odd angles into the old man's cuff as Archie heartily shook the offered hand. "And who have y' brought with y' this fine day?" Peevis enquired.
Horatio rolled his eyes and fidgeted, shifting from foot to foot as Mr. Peevis stuck pins from his cuff into the hem of Horatio's jacket. "Young man, if y' don't stand still, I can't mend yer hem properly! It'll be all askew!" Peevis exclaimed.
"Why don't you just buy a new jacket, Horatio? Anything would be better than that beat up old thing of yours." Archie scowled at the worn cuffs and collar of Horatio's claimed "best" uniform coat. "I can't for the life of me understand why you hang onto that old thing."
Horatio shrugged, then put a hand to his mouth. "So sorry, Mr. Peevis!" Horatio tipped his dark curled head at Archie. "It's comfortable, Archie. I LIKE it."
"Comfortable, schmomfortable! It's falling apart, Raysh!" Archie argued.
Horatio shrugged again.
Some time later the two young officers exited the shop, both of their faces beaming. Horatio refrained from admiring the patch jobs Peevis had miracle-worked on the worst of the worn parts of his jacket. Archie balanced several large boxes and a couple of bags emblazoned with the "Peevis Shirts and Men's Finery" logo. He hailed a nearby, languishing street boy, flipped the child a coin and draped the parcels in the boy's precarious grasp. "To the INDY!" Archie directed. "Post-haste, boy! More coin will await you upon safe delivery!"
Horatio stared after the boy as the tyke waddle-hurried down the lane, juggling boxes and bags. "Do you trust him to deliver the goods, Archie?" Horatio asked.
"Of course," Archie said. "Pogges like that'll do anything for a couple of shillings. Mark my words, Raysh. He'll do his job and be back at my heels begging for more in two shakes!"
"But the packages you gave him are worth far more than a few shillings," argued Horatio.
Archie stopped and stared at his friend, a scowl creasing his usually smooth, unbothered forehead. "You do tend to over-analyse things, Raysh. An annoying habit of yours."
Horatio's chin rose and his back straightened. "Captain Pellew finds that trait of mine to be one of my BEST qualities!"
"Ha-rumph!" said Archie.
"NOW where, Archie?" Horatio had seen the light in Archie's eyes as they rounded the corner, dodging carts and chicken cages. Oh, no! Not the goldsmith's shop, thought Horatio.
"To the goldsmith's shop!" exclaimed Archie. "I want another watch fob to commemorate our last victory over that French sloop!"
"That was no sloop, Archie," Horatio said, exhaling loudly and exasperation clear on his face. "'Twas a silly little fishing boat! With three crewmen aboard and a tiny load of hake!"
Archie shrugged and beamed, pulling Horatio with him into the small jeweller's shop. Archie rapped on the main counter. "Goldsmith! Goldsmith! Customers await you!"
A wizened man, with tiny spectacles perched on the end of his nose and a magnifying loop clipped to the glasses' frame, hobbled from the back room. He burnished a gold watch case with a stained cloth. "Gentlemen! Gentlemen, please! My name ist Goldschmidt! Nacht Goldsmith!"
"Goldsmith, Schmoldschmidt! Whatever," muttered Archie, then handed over a piece of paper.
Mr. "Goldschmidt" peered at the scrap, dropped the loop in front of his eye, peered some more. "Vas ist das?" he queried.
Archie's chin rose and pride emanated from him. "I would like you to make me a new watch fob, Sir Goldsmith! To that design and name! The INDY'S latest capture!"
"Le Petit Chou?" Goldschmidt asked. "You are serious about dis?"
"Well, man, for God's sake, why not?" Archie exclaimed.
Goldschmidt shrugged. "Very well." Off he went into the back room, muttering something about dinghies and cabbages.
Out in the sunshine again, the two young men bent over their prizes gleaned from the goldsmith's shop. Archie rubbed the new watch fob against his jacket front, fondling it, then running his fingers over the myriad others that dangled, doubled up at this point, on his watch chain. Horatio had always wondered about all those gold charms, but had never dared ask. Now he knew. Captain Pellew was an aggressive captain and quick to snap up prizes of any sort. Ask Archie; he had a watch fob to commemorate EVERY capture.
Horatio had had his worn-out, old pocket watch crystal polished. Mr. Goldschmidt had offered to replace it with an uncracked one, but Horatio had grimly shaken his head.
Next was the apothecary's shop. Archie charged in the doorway, his face bright and excited. Horatio darted in after him and skulked behind a cabinet.
Horatio KNEW why Archie was in this shop and was mortified that Archie might incite him into accompanying him to some nefarious place and deed. He lurked about behind various bits of displays and furniture while Archie negotiated with the apothecary, a short, bent, older man whom Archie called Purvis. A pair of tiny spectacles perched on the end of Mr. Purvis's nose.
A short time later they left the shop, Archie once again burdened by armloads of packages and Horatio savouring like a king's gourmet meal a meagre stick of liquorice from the small bag he clutched like it contained gold bullion.
Archie searched around them. "Where's that--? Ah! There he is! Boy! Over here with you!" he ordered and the young fellow who had borne Archie's shirts back to the INDY scampered up to them.
He plucked his greasy, curled locks. "Here, Mistah! I'll take yer boxes back t' th' ship fer y' agin!"
Archie patted him on the head, handed him another coin, then stacked his outstretched arms with box after box, topping it all with a small, tightly folded-over brown bag. Archie hesitated, then retrieved the bag. "On second thought, I hope to be using these later," he muttered. "There you are, boy, off you go!"
"What's in the bag?" Horatio inquired as Archie pushed the sack into his inside breast jacket pocket.
"Ahem," Archie began. "Just a little something that I HOPE I'll be needing for later!"
Horatio's eyebrows rose. "How so?"
"Just for one of our stops," he answered.
"Which one is that?"
"'Tis for at the pub, Raysh, and for the pub girls," Archie spoke quite baldly.
Horatio's brow creased. "You bought a treat for the pub's girls?"
Horatio's scowl deepened.
"SHOES!" cried Archie. "Look you, Raysh! The shoemaker's shop!" he squealed.
Horatio rolled his eyes.
They exited the shop a long time later, the shoemaker, Mr. Pugue, a small, squirrelly, elderly man with tiny oval glasses perched on the end of his nose, followed them out, beaming with pride. Archie's face glowed with pleasure and Horatio's glistened with sweat.
Archie hired a donkey cart to return his purchases to the INDY. The street boy took the reins.
Horatio turned his foot one way, then the other, admiring the shiny new nails holding the soles of his shoes to the tired out faded grey leather of the tops. The shoes used to be black and aboard the INDY, with the help of a couple of clever crewmen, Horatio could keep his shoes somewhat polished using the tar that was normally utilized on the standing rigging to keep it safe from weathering. Little could be done about the sorry state of the pitted pinchbeck of his buckles however, and he had gravely declined the shoemaker's generous offer of replacing them with shiny silver buckles.
"Look, you!" exclaimed Archie. "The sword smith's! Let us get new officer's swords!"
Horatio shook his head, dug in his worn-down heels. "Archie, we're not REALLY officers, you know. We only hold warrants."
Archie grinned. "The men still have to salute us!" He tugged on Horatio's arm. "Come on, Raysh! This shop is the best of the lot!"
Horatio groaned and let himself be dragged inside.
The shopkeeper, Mr. Parker-Bowles, was a tiny, little man with an equally tiny, little pair of spectacles perched on the end of his nose. Archie and Horatio's puzzled expressions greeted his shuffling, old entrance from the back room of the shop.
Archie shrugged without a second thought and began man-handling the merchandise. Horatio stared for a few more seconds at the little man, trying to imagine his tiny, gnarled paws wrapped around a farrier's mallet and pounding on a length of red-hot steel. Horatio shook his head. The image was too non-sequitor for his sensibilities and he banished it from his mind.
He jumped back just in time to avoid being cut in two by the gleaming blade Archie was swiping through the air.
"Archie!" he exclaimed. "Watch what you're doing, there! You nearly had me in pieces!"
Archie laughed and continued slicing apart imaginary opponents. "I like THIS one!" he cried. He reached for another shiny blade and an equally shiny scabbard to accompany it. "And this one!"
Horatio rolled his eyes.
The boy clucked at the long-eared donkey and headed the cart back toward the dock and the INDY.
"Are you arming the entire crew, Archie?" Horatio exhaled, exasperated.
"Crew, Schmew, Horatio," Archie admonished. "Just a couple of trinkets to send back to the folks at home. My older brother Clive quite enjoys a good blade. He's stuck one or two into a duelling partner before."
"Oh, I SEE," said Horatio, unamused and remembering his own sorry excuse for a duel, from which his own captain had to rescue him.
Archie noticed Horatio's demeanour. "No, really, Raysh! Clive is quite GOOD at duelling! Does it all the time. It's his silly girlfriends, you see. Always getting him into a conflict or other. Most of those blades I just bought are going straight into his collection. I hope he remembers to clean them after he's used them. Nothing pits a blade faster than a bit of uncleaned-oh, bloody Hell!"
"What is it, Archie?"
"The victualling yard! I nearly forgot!"
"What did you forget, Archie?" Horatio scowled. They had been to so many shops this afternoon, 'twas a wonder that Archie had remembered ANY of them.
"That's right, you weren't there when Mr. Bracegirdle gave me the list!" Archie nodded at Horatio. "We must purchase goodies for the ward room while we are out and about. A few chickens and goats. A bullock was specifically requested by Mr. Bracegirdle. A young one, he said. 'Tis more tender. Tenderer. And Mr. Bowles wanted a duck or two. He prefers their eggs over hen's. Hen-es. You know. Hen's eggs, is what I mean."
Horatio stared at Archie as if the other had suddenly sprouted three heads. Tenderer? HEN-ES?
"And I would like more sugar and flour, to ensure we have pastries at hand, even weeks out at sea!" Archie suppressed a shudder. "Agghhh!!! WEEKS at sea. The thought--well, the thought sends SHIVERS down my spine! The idea of MONTHS is almost intolerable!"
His big brown eyes even wider than usual, Horatio stared at his friend. Archie didn't LIKE to be at sea? Why then did he JOIN the navy? Although Horatio himself had certain-problems--when the weather kicked up and the swells were high. He gulped. Just the thought of high seas made his belly lurch.
Or was it that he'd not had a thing to eat today except a stick of black liquorice?
Archie, so excited was he by the prospect of a shopping expedition, had not given Horatio any time to eat breakfast that morning, but had dragged his friend off the ship at the soonest opportunity.
"What about-ha-hmm-what about, um, WASTE paper?" Horatio asked quietly, his cheeks flaring red.
"Whot's that?" enquired Archie. "Whot, whot? Waste paper?" Archie scowled at Horatio, puzzled. "Why do you worry about something like that?" Archie punched Horatio on the arm. "If we run out of waste paper, we can always wipe ourselves with one of the cabin boys! Har, har!" He laughed so hard, he doubled over, clutching his stomach.
Horatio found nothing funny about Archie's statement and stood stolidly, his arms folded in front of him, scowling at Archie's crudity.
Archie recovered soon enough and, ignoring Horatio's foul temper, proceeded to order fowl from a diminutive geezer, miniscule lenses perched on the end of his nose and introducing himself as Mr. Purdy, manager of the Victualling Yard.
"One small bullock, please, Mr. Purdy," Archie said. "Let's see, three hens and two duck hens. Hrmm.three CHICKEN hens.HEN-ES! And two duck hens.you know, FEMALE ducks!"
Archie was obviously having a difficult time with the concept of female fowl. Horatio stepped into the discussion. "Sir. Three female chickens and two female ducks would do us just fine."
Purdy nodded, adjusted his teeny glasses on his nose, and scribbled on a scrap of paper.
Horatio stared at the scrap, nudging Archie's arm. "Like that, Archie."
Archie raised an eyebrow at his friend. "Like what, Raysh?"
"Like that piece of paper," answered Horatio.
"What in bloody hell are you talking about, Raysh?' Archie exclaimed.
Horatio leaned in closer, whispered in Archie's ear. "The Waste Paper, Archie! It could be like that! As simple as that!" He dipped his chin toward the pile of scrap paper that Purdy used as a note pad.
Archie's scowl deepened. "What IS it with you and waste paper, Horatio? You worry constantly about it aboard ship! Have we EVER run out?"
Horatio shrugged, peered at the ground. "No," came his meek reply.
"Then why do you worry?" Archie cried.
Horatio never raised his gaze, but kept it in the gutter where
Horatio dragged along behind Archie for the rest of the day, his stomach growling and his bladder and colon protesting. WHEN WAS ARCHIE GOING TO STOP?
"Shop until you drop," was the quote Horatio had always heard from his friend. They visited haberdashers, and milliners, potters, pie shops and candy shops. They went to butchers and bakers and candle-stick-makers. They stopped in at book-binders and bird-keepers.
Archie bought himself a green and yellow parrot. The bird perched upon his shoulder and ran his little feathery cheeks along Archie's, mumbling birdie thoughts to himself all the while.
Horatio was mortified at Archie's choice. A bird aboard a ship? Archie argued that "all the best pirates had them, why not a naval officer, too?"
"What shall I name him, Horatio?" Archie asked, poking a finger at the little bird's beak. The bird nipped at Archie's fingertip, but Archie didn't pull back and the parrot nibbled instead of drawing blood.
Horatio scowled, his eyes wide. HE would go no nearer that beastly bird than an arm's length. That Archie would innocently let the thing on his shoulder was beyond Horatio's sensibilities.
They stood outside the pet shop and the sky darkened. A few drops rained about them. Archie looked up into the clouds. "Oh, dear. 'Tis drizzling." He played with the bird again, the two of them fencing, finger to beak. Archie snapped his other hand's fingers. The bird squawked and flapped his wings. "That's it! I bought him on a day threatening rain, and here comes the drizzle! I'll name him Drizzle!"
Horatio rolled his eyes yet a hundredth time that day.
"Ahh!!" cried Archie, and Horatio knew at least one part of his personal torture would end! "THE PUB!" exclaimed Archie.
They stumbled into the dark, smoky, crowded interior of the Red Lion Pub and found themselves a table near the back.
Horatio quickly excused himself and hurried to the "little house" outside the "Big" one. Some time later he fumbled back into the main building, dragging a piece of the Waste Paper in with him, stuck to the bottom of his faded, worn, hastily-miraculously-repaired shoe.
Archie sat at the rough table with the stupid bird he'd dubbed even more stupidly "Drizzle" on one shoulder and a couple of plump girls clung to his other.
Horatio stopped paces away from the table. GIRLS! Archie had invited a couple of girls to sit with them! Horatio put a fist to his forehead, closed his eyes and tilted his head back. DEAR GOD! GIRLS!!! He lowered his chin to his chest, pounded his clenched fists together under his mouth. WHAT TO DO! GIRLS!!!!
"Come on over here, Raysh! Meet Sarah and Elizabeth!" Archie extended a hand to Horatio. "Sarah, Beth! Meet my best friend in the world, Horatio Hornblower!"
Sarah and Elizabeth burst into laughter.
Horatio frowned. WHY WERE THEY LAUGHING? HAD HE FORGOTTEN TO BUTTON UP HIS FALL-FLAP? He checked. No, his breeches were in perfect order, if ragged.
Archie squeezed Sarah, closest to him, reached out a clutching hand to Elizabeth, drawing her closer. "Come now, girls. Where's the joke?"
Elizabeth giggled and quaked behind her podgy hand. "H-hor-a-tio H-horn-b-blowah!' she squealed. "Where'd 'e get a name like that? 'Is parents MAD at 'im, er some'ing?" Sarah cackled in response.
Horatio flushed beet-red and clenched his fists. "Archie!" he stated through his teeth.
"SIT DOWN!" Archie ordered, punctuating his demand with a stabbing of his hand at the seat saved for Horatio's use.
Horatio slid into the chair, his butt-cheeks barely gracing the seat. Girls. What to do about girls, he wondered. He thought of Archie's glee at buying a "treat" for the pub girls, then suddenly it struck him what exactly those "treats" were. His hands involuntarily flew to his mouth. NOT THAT! Archie had not bought himself THOSE things, had he? Horatio looked up at Archie fondling and cooing at the girls, and realized he was right. Archie had nefarious deeds in mind indeed!
Horatio wanted nothing to do with those things, but, of course, he lost. He ALWAYS lost.
Except at whist. He LIKED playing whist. An idea popped into his head. "Archie, we've a full compliment for a round of whist!"
Archie rolled his eyes this time.
Horatio and Archie strode down the Portsmouth streets, headed, alone except for the bird clinging to Archie's shoulder, back to the docks.
"'Tis better this way. Archie, really it is," stated Horatio. "Those girls were nothing but trouble."
Archie bent a cold eye on Horatio. NOTHING, indeed! Those girls meant a night of excitement, of carousal, a night of FUN! "Sometimes, Horatio, you are a stick in the mud."
"'Twasn't ME," Horatio defended himself. "'Twas Cleveland summoning us back to the INDY!"
Archie smirked, his shoulders slumping. Drizzle fluttered his wings and gripped tighter. "Bloody Cleveland," Archie muttered. Drizzle muttered too.
"Don't blame Cleveland, Archie. 'Tis Captain Pellew who ordered us back," Horatio said.
"Him to!" Archie continued.
Horatio stopped, his hands on his hips. "Archie! 'Tis unbecoming of you to speak ill of the captain!"
Archie stopped too, and mirrored Horatio's attitude. "Unbecoming, unbeschmoming! Captain Pellew is ruining our fun! We were supposed to have leave until tomorrow!"
Horatio shrugged. "An emergency must have come up." He chucked Archie on the shoulder. The shoulder opposite the bird. "Come on, Arch. Let's go."
Archie sighed heavily. "Oh, alright!"
Captain Sir Edward Pellew stood in the centre of the main hold, boxes, barrels and sacks of every shape and size surrounding him. He, in fact, had barely enough room to stand where he was without actually treading on a box or sack. "Gentlemen! Glad you could answer my summons so quickly! I hope I wasn't interrupting anything important," he said.
Horatio and Archie stood at attention before him, their hats in their hands and subservience on their faces.
"Nothing sir, just a night of wild-" Archie snapped his teeth shut as he felt the elbow that Horatio jabbed in his ribs.
Pellew crossed his arms over his barrel chest. "I would like you gentlemen to explain all this, if you please!"
Innocence emanated from the two midshipmen's countenances. "All WHAT, sir?" Archie blinked repeatedly, his blue eyes angelic.
Pellew waved his arms over the packages jamming the main hold. "All this STUFF!" he said. "There's no room for any supplies for the ship!"
Archie blinked even more rapidly and a golden halo seemed to appear over his head.
Horatio shuffled from foot to foot and repeatedly cleared his throat. "Ha-hum! Ha-hum!"
Pellew strode up to them, scowling at them, his shoulders squared and his eyes flinty. "Explain!" he snapped.
"We went shopping, sir-"
"We had to pick up a few things-"
"We found some great bargains-"
"We needed new shirts-"
"Buy, buy BUY!" squealed Archie, then his hands flew to his mouth, squelching his rising excitement.
Pellew's eyes flared. "You've bought Portsmouth dry!" He shook a finger at them. "You've squandered all your prize money, gentlemen! After all the hard work I did to win it for you!"
Horatio's chin dropped. "Ha-hum," he said, upset that he had done something to anger the captain.
"Mr. Hornblower! Stop making that confounded sound!" Pellew snapped.
"Aye, aye, sir!" Horatio's chin snapped up and he squared his shoulders. He was an officer and he would take his reprimand like one!
"Now, then, gentlemen," Pellew continued, his tone level and firm. "I want all this stuff stowed properly and the extras to be taken OFF THIS SHIP!"
"Aye, aye, sir!" The two echoed each other.
"Most of my purchases are to be sent to my family, sir," said Archie. "I shall see to it forthwith."
"Very good, Mr. Kennedy," Pellew said. "And you, Mr. Hornblower?"
"Ha-h-um, I didn't buy anything, sir, except a bag of liquorice."
"WHAT?" Pellew shouted.
Horatio turned out his pockets. A ball of lint fell from one. Two moths flew out of the other, fluttered around the lantern on the bulkhead next to Horatio's head. Drizzle snapped his beak at them.
"I haven't any money, sir, save a few coppers," Horatio explained. "I never kept any of my prize money, but sent it home to my father. I never got very much anyway. I was always on some other assignment, or taking one of your prizes back to English ports, sir, so I never participated in capturing any prizes." His chin dipped again. "And-and my prize agent demands a hefty percentage, sir."
"You should get another agent-" started Archie.
"MR. KENNEDY!!" Pellew roared.
Archie shut up.
"YOU MEAN TO TELL ME ALL THIS STUFF IS YOURS?"
Archie coloured and looked down at his toes. "Yes, sir."
Pellew ripped open the nearest box, tore out a frilly silk shirt, crumpled it into a ball, then stopped, shook out the shirt, held it up to himself. "Hmm, nice!" he muttered. "Excellent material, expert stitching, expensive lace on the cuffs." He looked up at Archie, his eyes glittering. "Excellent selection, Mr. Kennedy." He carefully folded the shirt back up, placed it gently into its box. He clasped his hands behind his back, rocked back and forth on the balls of his feet.
Horatio and Archie stared at him, waiting for the other shoe to drop. There certainly was enough of a selection of them in various boxes strewn around Pellew's feet.
"Gentlemen," Pellew said, his eyes gleaming excitedly. "May I suggest the THREE of us go out shopping on the morrow?"