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Child of Sorrow
by Wendy B and Hillary Stevens

 

PART FOUR

Hornblower looked up as Hart entered the Captain's bookroom, and laid his pen aside. "Awake at last," he said, smiling a little.

"Miss Pellew said you have been waiting all morning," Hart apologised. He wondered why the officer had come today; so far as he knew, they needed nothing more from him.

"Come in; sit down," Hornblower said, drawing a chair nearer his own, next to the writing table. "Are you rested?"

"Yes, sir." It was near midday, and he had slept for many hours, surprising himself and pleasing Emma. He seated himself in the offered chair.

"Good," the lieutenant said. "I have come to take you out with me, to the Indefatigable. Captain Pellew thinks it prudent. We should have done so before now."

"Why?"

"Hart, more than a dozen people now know of you. We wish to keep that number from increasing, but think it impossible. One of the revenue officers we had on board during our first mission has already spoken of you to several others."

Hart nodded. He recalled the brief conversation he had overheard, between that officer and Lieutenant Hornblower, on their return from the beach. He also recalled Hornblower's taciturn manner, his almost rude replies to the man's observations and questions. Now he knew why.

"Sir, why must I go out to the frigate? Does it matter now, what people know? You have the man in gaol, after all."

"It does matter," Hornblower said. He folded the paper on which he had been writing, then folded it inside another, sealing it with a wafer. That done, he said, "I have no wish to agitate you needlessly, and I do not think I do so when I tell you that you may be in some danger now, more so than before.

Tegereth must have friends, relations - men who might do much to see him freed. When he is found guilty, those friends will follow him to the gallows. A man about to die objects to his friends living on after him. He will want their company. They will not wish to join him, and you...if anything should happen to you...do you understand?"

"They will kill me."

"They will not. I swear to you that you will be kept safe," Hornblower said. "The assizes convene in three week's time. I suppose we should have spoken of this, but there has not been much time to ensure you understood everything. You must testify at his trial."

"Oh. Is there no way out of it?" Hart wondered. "I don't know whether I can."

"None that I can see, without a barefaced confession from the prisoner." Hornblower dipped the pen in the inkwell once more and wrote a direction on the cover of his letter, then blotted the pen dry.

"Is that about me?" Hart asked.

Lieutenant Hornblower flicked at the corner of the paper, waiting for the ink to dry. "No," he said. "It is only a letter to a shipmate, and one long overdue. I took the time this morning to accomplish it."

"I did not mean to - to pry."

Hornblower shook his head, letting Hart know he did not take offence.

"He will never confess," Hart said. Then, seeing Hornblower's perplexed expression, he added, "The prisoner. He will not."

"Not likely, no," Hornblower said. "Don't worry; we will give you all the help we can, to get you through it."

Hart stood. "I am ready to go whenever you wish, after I say farewell to...to everyone here."

Hornblower nodded. "I will await you in the yard," he said. "Miss Pellew is already aware of her...of Captain Pellew's plans for you. She prepared some clothing for you this morning, as well as bedding and other necessities."

*****

Hart patted the hanging cot in the room below the quarterdeck they called the wardroom, wondering whether he could climb into it. He knew he would appear inept next to these experienced sea officers. The cabin, as they called the tiny, enclosed space, belonged to an officer, a lieutenant who had gone ashore, on leave. He was the same officer to whom Lieutenant Hornblower had written, and Hart learned that his name was Kennedy.

Boys called messboys and one manservant saw to their comfort, brought meals, washed clothing, and kept the wardroom clean. The ship differed little from a well-staffed house in town, except that it offered little in the way of elbow-room. And he had to make up his own bed, which he could scarcely reach.

Lieutenant Hornblower poked his head through the door. "All right?" he asked.

Seeing him struggle, Hornblower came in and helped with the sheets. As they worked, Hart questioned the lieutenant.

"Sir," he asked. "Is Lieutenant Kennedy Irish?"

Hornblower said, "No. Irishmen cannot hold commissions in the Navy. Why do you ask?"

"His name is Irish," Hart explained. "We were Irish, you know. We lived in Galway half the year."

"But you are not Irish," Hornblower argued.

"Father said we were. All the English people in Ireland call themselves Irish, if they live there."

"But you are English, wherever you lived. The captain's brother lives in Galway, when he is home. His wife was born there, but she is English. Just as you are."

Hart shook his head. It was too confusing. "Has Captain Pellew heard yet from his brother, about the two men who went there? Have they been arrested?"

"The next packet returns on Tuesday. We will hear nothing before then."

"Captain Pellew seemed confident of that plan succeeding, so I will not worry," Hart decided. Where shall I put these things?" he asked, pointing to an array of items that had been bound inside the sheets; clothing, a comb, toothbrush with powder, milled soap and towels as well as some eating utensils.

"The dishes can go into the closet out there - what we call the pantry. Leave everything on the cot, and I'll make room for it in Kennedy's chest, later this afternoon."

"When will he come back?" Hart wondered.

"His leave expires in two weeks. He must return before that time."

"All right. What will I do, now I am here?"

"I am going to give you over to the charge of a midshipman, a rather tireless boy named Duchesne. And before you ask, no, he is not French. He is English."

Hart pressed his lips together. How could an Englishman living in Ireland be English, while a Frenchman living in England was English? Perhaps everyone was English, and just did not realise it.

"All right," he said, keeping his thoughts to himself. "When do I see him?"

"Follow me up, and I will introduce you." Hornblower held the door while Hart exited, and they climbed the ladder to the quarterdeck. "He is there." He pointed upward.

Hart shaded his eyes against the mid-afternoon sun and saw the silhouette of a boy near the top of the mizzen. Sitting. He had a book in his hand, and seemed to be reading from it.

"What is he doing?" he asked.

"Learning his manners," Hornblower replied.

"From a book?"

"No. He is studying wind points from the book. He has chosen that venue by virtue of his impertinence. I will explain..."

*****

Hart felt he wasted most of his first week on board, for he did little. He slept, sometimes for many hours of the day as well as the night. He was tired. Sometimes he would awake at dawn, eat breakfast with the officers, then, as soon as they vacated the mess, stumble back into the cabin for another hour or two. He craved the oblivion of it, and welcomed it, however unwelcome the dreams that came with it. Finally, after several days of this, Lieutenant Hornblower asked that the surgeon examine Hart.

"He has no fever, and is not ill," the surgeon told the lieutenant. "I can prescribe a tonic, something that will stimulate his liver, but there is no disease. It is not uncommon, this lethargy, when a man is in mourning. That is the purpose of the custom; we do not require him to be as lively as a bachelor in a ballroom. Let him sleep. When he is done, he will be as ever."

Hart put the doctor's tonic in Kennedy's sea chest with his other things but never tasted it. He refused to drink anything black. It made no difference, for after a week, he seemed better, and as the days passed, felt closer to his old self than he had since Phoebe wrecked. He attended Midshipman Duchesne while that boy was on duty, and accepted his invitation to join the mids in their berth for games of cards, draughts, reading, or whatever was in the wind each evening.

They performed no official watches while in port, but Captain Pellew hated like the devil to see a midshipman standing idle, and instructed his lieutenants to keep them busy as much as possible. Hart had never met such wild-mannered boys, and supposed Captain Pellew meant to keep them out of mischief.

Hart heard through Lieutenant Hornblower that the two men in Ireland had come to a bad end, that their cargo had been confiscated by Israel Pellew, who planned to return with both the prisoners and their goods. The items they had attempted to sell would revert to the crown, through the hands of Samuel Pellew, minus the customs agent's expenses.

The two prisoners would join their relation in gaol to await their own trial. Even if they had nothing to do with wrecking, they faced transportation, as a minimum, for smuggling arms to Ireland. Since the recent rebellions, penalties were harsh.

Word had come that the peer who had drawn the lot and who would oversee the quarterly assizes in Truro was Lord Teignmouth. Hart knew of Teignmouth by name only, and learned nothing more. Falmouth society seemed as little informed as he about this man.

Hart paced the gangway each day before the noon meal. It was the warmest time of day, and the surgeon had said he needed sunlight and exercise. He took both at once, whatever odd glances he got from the ship's people. He had grown accustomed to their stares, and assumed that by now everyone on board knew everything. Once while performing his thirty-minute duty to his body, angry shouts followed by peals of laughter disrupted his routine. Midshipman Duchesne flew up the ladder, another boy fast on his heels, and after them, a very red-faced and vexed Mr. Bowles.

"What is this?" Lieutenant Hornblower demanded, grabbing each boy's collar and halting his escape.

Mr. Bowles caught up and explained that the two boys had genuine, innate propensities toward practical jokes, and that he would not countenance such goings-on for another day. Hornblower assured the Master that he would get to the bottom of it and see them punished. Bowles stormed back down the ladder mumbling about his unfinished meal, leaving the boys in Hornblower's hands.

"Mr. Duchesne," he said. "Get your sextant. I want a noon sighting."

"What?" the boy shouted.

"Duchesne!" Hornblower snapped. "Will another hour at the masthead improve your attention to my orders?"

"Yes, sir. I mean, no, sir," he answered, flustered. "Sorry, sir. But the order surprised me."

"An officer displays no surprise, no fear, and no anger. Remember it. What are you, Mr. Duchesne?"

While Duchesne was busy arranging his thoughts, his companion chimed in, "He's a shit-house Walla. Honestly, sir, I did not know he took it and he might have killed..."

"Silence." Hornblower's expression remained exactly the same; only his colour changed a little. "Thogmorton, you are promoted to captain, to remind you of your manners."

"Sir?"

"The heads. You will serve as acting captain today. Get a mop and a bucket of vinegar."

"Sir!" he cried.

"You have a question?"

"No, sir," he said, lowering his eyes. "Thank you, sir." He trotted off to obey.

"Duchesne," Hornblower turned to the now grinning midshipman. "Would you care to join him?"

Duchesne immediately assumed a sober expression. "No, sir. I would not, sir. But why am I to take a noon sighting in port?"

"Because that is my order. Bring your results to me in one minute, then do it again, showing Mr. Wellard how it is done."

"Yes, sir," the boy saluted, ran below, then returned in seconds with his sextant in his hand. He took the sighting, wrote it down and handed the paper to Lieutenant Hornblower. Hornblower took it and stuffed it into his pocket without looking at it.

"Come here," Duchesne said to Hart. "I must show you how to do this."

"Why?" Hart asked.

"The captain thinks we learn best by teaching others. Let me borrow another, for you. Come along." He ran down to the midshipmen's berth, Hart following, then both ran up again.

"Can you not walk?" Hart asked. "Why run all the time?"

"Midshipmen cannot walk," he answered.

"Why not?"

"Captain Pellew makes us. We are to run whenever we are following an order. He's mad, you know."

"Captain Pellew?"

"No, the second lieutenant. Hornblower. Why should we take a noon sighting in port? We know where we are. He has lost his mind; this is proof of it. What is the bloody point of it?"

"I cannot say," Hart answered, though he had a vague idea. "What did Thogmorton call you?"

Duchesne grinned, repeated the insult, then scowled. "He should never have said such a thing to a Navy man. It's what we call the lowest orders of soldiers. Army men."

Hart digested this, then asked, "What did you do to Mr. Bowles?"

"Nothing of magnitude. As the mess boy passed on his way into the wardroom, I dropped Thogmorton's pet eel into the tureen of mulligatawny. It did not harm the eel a mite, I swear. When they dished old Bowles his soup, it was as lively as ever."

Duchesne spent an hour showing Hart how to use the sextant, what each screw and hinge did, how to set the tiny mirrors, how to chart his results. Hart watched and made several attempts, but could see nothing.

"Never mind; it is far past noon now, anyway. I can show you again tomorrow."

The next few days passed in this, if not pleasant, at least amusing manner, and the days no longer seemed to last six weeks each. Hart found pleasant conversation with the midshipmen, Lieutenant Bracegirdle became something of his confidant, helping him with questions that seemed to have no discernible answers. When he wanted company without conversation, though, Lieutenant Hornblower was usually available and willing to supply it.

When Saturday came, Hart assumed he would go ashore with the boys. The first lieutenant, in charge of the young gentlemen's leave, deferred the question to Captain Pellew. The captain refused.

Somewhat downhearted, Hart went to bed early, awoke even earlier, but did not arise until he was sure the boys had gone. He lay still, feeling quite like a prisoner, which was unfair in light of the fact that he had committed no crime, and was pondering another escape attempt when the door abruptly opened.

"Horatio, who is sleeping in my bed?" a bright-faced gentleman asked.

After the odious intrusion of the cabin's owner, Hart got up, dressed himself and consented to come out to breakfast. Judging by the stiff consistency of the boiled oat porridge, the mess boys had brought it some time earlier. Lieutenant Hornblower spooned a lump into a bowl, added some salt, and set it before Hart. The fair-haired Kennedy eyed him with interest.

"I understand you are disappointed that the Captain refused you permission to go ashore," Hornblower said after seeing Hart's countenance. "But it is only ten days longer, then you will be quite free to go where you wish."

"Why am I a prisoner? What have I done wrong?" he complained.

"You are not a prisoner, and you understand the reasons perfectly well."

Hart stared into the bowl of greyish muck, but did not pick up the spoon. "No one in Falmouth knows me," he argued.

"Precisely. People would guess your identity, especially if you travelled in company with Captain Pellew's midshipmen, many of whom were born here."

Hart gave up the argument. "I don't like porridge," he said, pushing the bowl away, making room for his elbows.

He pressed the heels of his hands to his temples. Already this morning his head ached. He did not truly care about going into town. His pique came from strangers presuming to order him about. However helpful they might have been, might be still, it made him angry, and he did not care who bore the brunt of it.

"Someone must make something else for me," he insisted when Hornblower did not reply.

"No," Hornblower said. "The galley is already preparing the noon meal."

"So what?" he asked. He failed to see how one person preparing one meal could interfere with that.

"So we will not inconvenience them with requests for breakfast when they have already served it. If you will not have the porridge, there is bread in the pantry."

"If the captain wanted them to - "

"He would not interfere with the ship's routine for his own convenience. He is not arrogant as that." Lieutenant Hornblower nudged the bowl toward him, sliding it between Hart's elbows, effectively placing the bowl directly under his nose. "Eat," he said. "We do not tolerate waste."

"Then you eat it." He shoved it back, glaring defiantly at the lieutenant.

"I thank you, but I breakfasted some time ago," Hornblower countered, his voice infuriatingly calm.

"Very well," Hart answered. He picked up the bowl and laid it on the floor. The surgeon's dog, a yellow-brown animal of no certain heritage, leapt up from his corner and bounded over to it. The animal consumed the unsightly meal in three swallows, looked up at Hart to see whether more was in the offing, then strolled back to his pallet and dropped down with a vulgar grunt.

Hart had not taken his eyes from the lieutenant.

"Pick that bowl up, or someone will step on it," Hornblower said.

Hart did not move.

"Hart - " Hornblower warned.

Hart stood and walked out. No one here could make him do anything. No one.

On deck, Hart ignored the First Lieutenant and even the Captain's greeting and strode forward to the forecastle. Gripping the brace attached to the jib-boom, he glared out at the two dozen or so boats scurrying to and fro in the roads, taking men out to their ships, or into the town. Behind him, he heard someone approaching.

"What are you doing?" Lieutenant Bracegirdle asked.

"Directing my many affairs, as you can see," he said.

Bracegirdle raised his eyebrows, then said, "Captain Pellew sent me forward to ask you to return below. You know he has asked that you not expose yourself to scrutiny during the busier hours."

"I don't care," Hart taunted.

"Do you not?"

"No. Not a mite."

"I see. Consider that Captain Pellew is your host, and you are his guest. Should you not respect his wishes?" Bracegirdle queried.

"He is not my host. He is my gaoler. It is a prisoner's duty to defy his keepers."

"Whatever your feelings - "

Hart lost what little patience remained. He turned, eyes blazing. "Leave off ordering me about!" he shouted. "I am not your dog!"

"Is that the way of it?" Lieutenant Bracegirdle asked.

"Yes."

"Mr. Wellard."

"What?" he snapped as yet another imperious voice commanded him.

"Come with me." Captain Pellew turned on his heel and headed down the gangway toward the quarterdeck, not even checking to see whether Hart was following.

"You are not my father!" Hart shouted, infuriated by the man's arrogance.

Still the Captain did not stop, did not even hesitate. Hart let him go for a few more steps, then abruptly changed his mind. He had some things he wanted to tell this man as well. He followed and caught up with him just as he was entering his rooms, the marine guard holding the door for him.

"Into the great cabin," Captain Pellew said, walking straight through and opening that door.

The Great Cabin extended almost the entire width of the ship and was bright, lit by the uninterrupted row of windows across the stern. Hart could see nothing outside, for the spray and snow had glazed them over. The ice magnified the sunlight, creating an almost unbearable glare.

"Sit where you please," the captain invited. He sent his steward for coffee.

Hart chose the bench seat, which ran under the windows, the light behind him. He knew that the captain would be unable to see his face, and he rather liked the idea. The steward returned with coffee, filled two cups, then left again. Hart sat with his fists clenched on his knees and waited.

"You are angry," Captain Pellew said.

Hart stared fixedly at the leg of the great, varnished dining table. He watched a cold, lazy fly crawl around the intricate carving, but did not answer. The captain had not asked a question. Captain Pellew drew the endmost chair from its place under the table and seated himself. He crossed his legs, resting one heel on the opposite knee, and picked up one cup. He offered it to Hart.

"I had no choice but to keep you here," the captain reminded him.

Hart refused to look at him. He kept his eyes resolutely on the table leg. "I don't care about going ashore. I did not even want to go."

"But you are angry. Drink this." He still held the cup toward Hart, who finally accepted it.

He was indeed furious, so much so that he would have tossed the cup through the window if he had the nerve.

Captain Pellew said. "Perhaps your frustration will assist you to some purpose. You see there?" He pointed to several volumes of best blank, an inkwell, pens and blotter. "You will spend the day in this cabin, writing."

"To whom?" Hart snapped. "I know no one. Your murdering countrymen took care of that."

Satisfied, Hart saw the blow strike. Illogically, it offset the fact that the windows were still all of a piece.

The captain took a breath and slowly let it out. "I wish you to write to the court. Your statement, a description of everything that happened and everything you saw. You may read, rather than recite a practised narrative."

"I may?" This interested him.

"You may. It is the preferred method for those inexperienced in lawsuits. I have left a few notes, facts you should take care to include. Otherwise, it should be in your words. Have you any questions?"

"Yes, sir," Hart said. "Where shall I begin?"

"You might give a brief summary of the departure from Plymouth, to include the name of the schooner and her captain. Begin in detail when you first saw the lights. End, I think, before you find the horse. Do you agree?"

"Yes, sir," Hart answered, his face warming at the implication.

"The steward will see to your meals. There is a roundhouse to your right, should you need it. I will leave you in peace, as you appear to require it. Bring it to me when you are finished."

Captain Pellew closed the door between them, leaving Hart alone. He finished the coffee, got up and placed the cup on the edge of the table. He walked to the opposite end, and looked at the sheaf of paper, smooth, clean sheets, which he was required to fill with his words. What he would write, he did not know. Even after he began, he could not have told. But in beginning, he took a step, and each one following brought him closer to the conclusion.

*****

Horatio had watched Hart leave with a numb sense of astonishment. If he were Duchesne or one of the other midshipmen, Horatio would have had him at the masthead before the boy had time to draw another breath. But Hart was not one of Indefatigable's young gentlemen, and Horatio found himself sympathising with Hart's frustration and anger.

A firm hand gripped his shoulder and pressed him down on to the bench. "I see I have missed much during my absence," Archie Kennedy observed, taking a sip from the mug of coffee he held. "Perhaps you should begin by explaining why you have given my cabin to such a disagreeable young man."

Horatio sighed. "It is a long story, Archie."

"And I have all the time in the world to listen to it." He signalled the steward to bring Horatio coffee as well.

It took the better part of an hour to recount all that had occurred since Archie's departure. Horatio omitted nothing of it. It was the first time he himself had considered the incident as a whole. Until this moment, he had examined only the individual elements. He was nauseous when he finished, his hands gripping the heavy mug.

"Good lord," Archie breathed when he finished. "What must it have been like for him?"

"Terrifying, I am certain."

"What's to become of him after the trial?"

"The Captain's brother, Dr. Pellew, has sent inquiries to London. Perhaps there is someone who will take him."

Undone by the story he had just told, Horatio recognised that he had faced the same fate as Hart although he had been a few years older. In his case, however, there had already been plans in place to join Justinian as a midshipman. His father's death had merely served to hasten them.

"Horatio - "

"Otherwise, I have been assured he will be cared for," he finished. He tried to ignore the understanding in Archie's eyes. It seemed he was not alone in recognising Hart's plight as his own.

"In Falmouth, under the protection of the Pellews?" Archie smiled. "I have no doubt of it. Have you spoken to the boy of this?"

"No, I thought to wait until there is some word."

"You still have not addressed why my cabin was pressed into service as a lodging house. Would he not deal better with the midshipmen? There are a few of his age." Archie grinned. "Although sharing a berth with them may not be to his liking. You say he is gently reared."

"He spends a good portion of his day with them, but the Captain felt - "

"Not Mr. Hornblower. Oh no, but the Captain," Archie teased.

"Yes, the Captain," Horatio repeated emphatically, "felt he could do with some privacy. Yours was the only unoccupied cabin."

"But I have returned. Returned, I might add, bearing provisions."

Horatio grinned. "Provisions, you say." He made a show of looking around the wardroom. "I see nothing of the sort, Archie."

"They are to come aboard this afternoon. I made the necessary arrangements. Tonight we shall dine like kings."

"Tonight," Bracegirdle rejoined from the ladder, "you shall dine like lieutenants." He joined them at the table. "I bring an invitation from the Captain, gentlemen. He requests you join him for dinner ashore."

Horatio fought the unbecoming desire to sigh. "And are you not among the invited guests, Mr.
Bracegirdle?"

Bracegirdle grinned. "I have a previous engagement and have already tendered my apologies."

Archie shook his head. "I do not believe you, sir."

The grin grew wider. "Are you questioning the honour of a fellow officer, Mr. Kennedy? I do
indeed have an engagement. Your dinner, though, may prove more interesting."

Horatio looked at Archie and then at Bracegirdle. "'Interesting'?"

"Indeed, the guest list includes yourselves, Captain Israel Pellew, Dr. Samuel Pellew, Mr. Wellard and..." He paused to ensure he had their attention.

"And who, sir?" Archie demanded.

"Captain Sawyer."

"The Captain Sawyer?" Archie demanded. "Captain James Sawyer of the Renown? Of the Mediterranean Fleet?" He looked at Horatio for confirmation.

"That Captain James Sawyer," Horatio told him. "He and the Captain are known to one another. He attended the soiree at the Captain's home."

"Have you spoken to him, Horatio? Have you been introduced?"

"In a manner of speaking. He came aboard to speak with the Captain about Hart. Mr. Bracegirdle and I were there as well."

"And?"

"It was neither noteworthy nor memorable, Archie. He asked a few questions, and I answered them."

Bracegirdle took a sip of coffee. "But he knew of you, Horatio."

Archie's eyes immediately turned to the older man. "He did?"

"Captain Pellew mentioned Gibraltar and the fire ships, and Sawyer called him "the cattle man", I believe. Was that not it, Horatio?"

Horatio felt his face warm. "He was kind enough to recall it, but that all happened quite some time ago."

"But he remembered it, Horatio! It is your entrée, is it not?"

Horatio wished Archie had taken a few more weeks of leave. "Of course not!"

"Why 'of course not'?" Archie demanded. "How else will you make yourself known?"

"Archie, I have no desire to make myself known! Do you know how many junior officers of little standing inflict themselves on men such as Sawyer? I have no desire to be perceived as one of that ilk."

Bracegirdle murmured, "I think you might be surprised how you are perceived, Horatio."

Putting his hands flat against the table, Horatio stood in an effort to either end or outrun the subject. "Mr. Bracegirdle, please convey my thanks to the Captain. I will be happy to accompany him ashore this evening."

"My stockings and neckerchiefs are available for loan," Archie called as Horatio stalked toward the ladder.

"Thank you, Archie, but I haven't yet returned your most recent loan," Horatio called over his shoulder and heard the sound of their laughter follow him up on deck.

*****

At the day's end, Hart laid the last pen aside. It had been difficult to write the things he did, to relive once more the horrors of that day. But in re-reading what he had done, he thought that Captain Pellew proved right - his anger and frustration saw him through it, served him when he thought he could not think the things, much less write them. .

He closed his eyes to rest them, and laid his head on the table. Though the sun had long ago slipped across the sky and no longer glaring through the many windows, the headache he had suffered upon awakening had grown worse.

"Mr. Wellard," Captain Pellew touched his shoulder.

He had been asleep, the pool of moisture under his cheek a testament to how deeply. He wiped his face with the back of his hand, embarrassed.

"Have you finished?" the captain asked.

"Yes, sir," he said.

Captain Pellew collected the finished pages and sealed them together inside a clean sheet.

"My brother has arrived from Ireland," he said. "You wished to go ashore, and he wishes to see you. Take ten minutes to dress, and meet me on the quarterdeck."

Hart did not want to go; he was tired. But he did as the captain ordered, and was in place in the allotted time. They met at Wynn's Hotel in Falmouth. In the lower rooms, dozens of men milled about with drinks in hand. Captain Pellew led them up to a dining room on the first floor, where Hart recognised Dr. Samuel Pellew, and greeted him. The man he had bowled down the high street saw him and came to him before he could think to hide himself.

"Good evening, Mr. Wellard," he said. "You are well?"

"Yes, Captain Sawyer," he answered.

"I have had your story out of Sir Edward," he said. "I beg your pardon, sir, for my accusations of the night."

Several seconds passed before Hart recalled the captain accusing him of being a pickpocket. "I had forgotten it, sir," he admitted.

"There's a fine gentleman," Sawyer remarked. "Gracious and mannerly. What will you do now?"

"Do, sir?"

"Do, my boy. What will you do? Sir Edward refuses to impress you, as I suggested. Perhaps I shall," he teased.

"Oh. I don't know as yet, sir. I am only waiting..."

"Waiting, yes, of course you are. You have a trial to attend," he said.

"Waiting also for word from town," Samuel Pellew interjected. "His father's estate must be settled. When it is, he will be in a better position to choose a profession."

Sir Edward joined them with a tall, thin man in tow. "Mr. Wellard, this skinny fellow is my brother, Captain Israel Pellew. He wants to meet you. Israel, Henry Hartington Wellard, of whom you have heard. Make yourselves known to one another."

"I am honoured to meet you,' the newest captain said. "You know we arrested the two who went to Galway, do you not?"

"Yes, sir," he said. He wanted more details, but Lieutenant Kennedy interrupted.

"Captain Pellew, sir," Kennedy said, offering his hand to Israel. "I just heard that you have left our squadron, that you will take Cleopatra to North America. We will miss you sorely, sir, however many congratulations are in order."

"Thank you, Lieutenant," Israel said. "I regret the separation as much as I look forward to the command. But one must follow orders, I suppose."

"Only when all other options fail," Kennedy said, smiling.

"I think you and I are of a mind, sir," Israel said. "But what would happen if we disobeyed all of them? Madness."

"If I may argue the point, sir, I would say we would have better organised and more reasonable service."

While they laughed at Kennedy's wit, the inn's servants trailed in. One man laid the cloth for dinner, others set covered dishes and open platters on the board. The rattle of china and silver obscured conversation while they seated themselves.

Before he took his place, Hart stopped Hornblower and Kennedy and tendered his apologies for his rudeness at breakfast. Both quickly brushed his concerns aside, so quickly that Hart ended in feeling that his apology, at first heartfelt, was worthless. He was a fool to think anything he did, whether good or evil, made a difference to them. They had too many concerns of their own.

He rubbed his eyes, the headache continuing unabated. He wanted solitude, something he was accustomed to having in abundance before this month. He had awakened in a foul mood, and so far nothing had changed it. He should have pleaded illness and stayed on board.

Hornblower, on his left, was deeply involved in a conversation; Israel sat quietly on his right.. Before the first dish was served, not wishing to interrupt Hornblower, he excused himself to Israel Pellew.

Israel's penetrating eyes searched Hart's face. "Are you ill?"

"No, sir. I just need to go outside. You know."

Israel nodded slightly and said he would escort him through the public rooms. Hart told him it was unnecessary, but Israel stood and followed him out. Other than a glance to see who was leaving, no one paid much attention to their departure.

Israel pointed out the room, then leaned against the wall outside to wait for him. Hart went in, having no excuse not to, waited a moment, then came out again. Israel was talking to someone, a stranger, so he sidled between the press of patrons, found a door and exited. The door he had come through seemed little used, so he sat on the step and dropped his head into his cradled arms. He did not want to run away, as before. He just wanted to be alone. What he longed for most was to fall into his mother's arms and weep like a child.

He had often wept in the days before, usually at night when everyone slept, or in the darkness on the upper decks, when no one could see him. If the ship's people noticed, they pretended otherwise, for no one ever disturbed him when it happened. Even though everyone overlooked what he considered unmanly displays, it was embarrassing. Sometimes it came without even a warning, overwhelming sadness. Like now. He was not weeping, but his eyes were not dry. It just happened that way. He was grateful that this time he had felt some warning of it and was able to escape in time. Until Israel found him and sat next to him.

He thought at first it was Lieutenant Hornblower. Then he saw the solid silver shoe buckle, and realised it was Israel.

"I saw you evade me, but was unable to break away," Israel said.

"I was not going anywhere," Hart told him.

"You must wish for privacy, and badly. But I cannot leave you here alone. You understand?"

Hart decided to forgive the intrusion, as Israel did sound truly apologetic. "Will they wait dinner?" Hart asked, thinking of the others.

"I doubt it. If they do, let them. They are accustomed to cold meat; they will not suffer for it, the tortured, duty-bound devils."

"Sir!"

"Sir? Sir, nothing. They have tormented you beyond your endurance. I know they have, for I know them both very well."

"Both?"

"My brothers."

"But sir," Hart argued. "They are not unkind. I am sure they do what they think best."

"And is it best?" Israel questioned.

"I...I suppose it is."

"But is it fun?"

"No."

"No," Israel concurred. "Do they ask too much of you?"

"I don't think they do. My father always said that was how I could tell right from wrong. If I felt unsure, he said, I should always choose the more difficult thing. So this must be right."

Israel seemed to relax then. "Your father was a very wise man," he said. "Tell me about him. Can you?" He slid out of his coat and draped it over Hart, blocking some of the cold.

"Yes," he said and was surprised that he could, and easily. He talked for some time, telling Israel how his father had taken him to India with him, first when he was ten, and again when he was twelve. "While other boys were put up in schools to keep them out of the way, he hired a tutor and brought me with him. He let me attend his meetings and introduced me to his friends. He treated me as his companion as much as his son. He was my closest friend. I have never known another boy who could say that. But I could."

"How fortunate, that you have so much to remember. I recall nothing of my own father."

Hart thought about that for a moment. "I cannot decide which I would prefer. I think it would have been better your way."

"No, it would not. You have at least fond memories. Tell me, have you found anyone here in whom you can confide? I know Ned keeps no chaplain. And the vicar here..."

"He's dead," Hart sneered. "He kicked a decade ago. Just no one thought to bury him. I wish they would."

Israel looked shocked, then exploded in laughter. "By God, you're right. Ned respects him; Sam reveres him. I never could stomach the fellow. But that leaves you with no guidance."

"Lieutenant Hornblower is very kind," he said, defending his staunch ally in all of this.

"I know him," Israel concurred. "He is a good man. But do you confide in him? Does he listen?"

"When I want to talk, he will listen. He is wise. He knows. And when I want quiet, he says nothing. I like him."

"He would be a fine friend, then, if he spoke more often, advised you more?" Israel suggested.

"No. If he spoke more, he might think less. This way, he never makes mistakes or says the wrong thing."

"You may be right. I had not thought of it. Tell me this, then. What of God? Have you been able to pray?"

"No," Hart answered more harshly than he intended. "No. I cannot."

"Because you blame Him," Israel said. He did not sound as though he were judging, but only stating what he knew.

"Yes," Hart agreed. "I blame Him most of all."

"He knows you do. He understands that. He knows all you feel."

"How can you say so?" he asked, angry again. "How can you?" He resented this. No one could know what he felt, and no one could know God's mind. It was impossible that any man could do that.

"I will tell you, if you care to hear it," Israel said.

Hart nodded, but reserved his misgivings as his right.

Israel said, "I lost three quarters of my crew one day, in an instant...my midshipmen, eight boys I loved as my own family...women, wives visiting husbands, many with children and infants. It was an explosion - the magazine caught fire. I was injured, and did not recover in time to see them buried.

"Then they told me the truth. A crewman stealing powder to sell ashore set light to the powder stores. Idiocy, carelessness, whatever one chooses to call it. I doubt I shall ever live without pain from the wounds I got that day, wounds of two sorts. And I blamed God. For a year, I held Him responsible, and refused to speak to Him."

"And now?" Hart asked, admitting that perhaps this man might know something of what he felt.

"When I did pray, finally, the answer surprised me. He knew my anger as well as I knew it. And He did not chastise me for it. I found comfort there, and peace, something I never thought to feel again. I still have pain, but not rage. I cannot raise my left arm higher than my shoulder. But I do not suffer from hatred, which is itself a more painful affliction.

My brothers cared for me, and I will never say they did not help. Had it not been for their kindness and encouragement, I might well have allowed death. I might even have chosen death. But they did not let me consider it. The help of brethren is a blessing, but it is not enough. I had to give my torments over to Him, to place them in His strong hands before I could feel free of it. I wasted a year. I hope you do not. Try to see the Father's face, and his answer might surprise you."

"Sir Edward is a very strong man," Hart said, promising nothing.

"He is," Israel agreed. "Few men are born with his spirit and determination. His resolve. But he is not God." He paused, then added, "Just don't tell him I said so."

Hart tried to prevent it, but it would come out. He laughed aloud at what Israel had said as much as at his playfully defiant expression, the bright laughter in his eyes. Impulsively, he offered Israel his hand.

Israel took it. "God, you are cold."

"Yes," Hart confirmed. "Cornwall is a cold place."

Israel nodded, understanding what Hart would not say; understanding the cold that had nothing to do with the weather. "We should go in then. It would not serve to have you become ill."

"Israel," Sir Edward stood as soon as he caught sight of them. The party was reduced by two members, Samuel Pellew and Captain Sawyer had gone. "What became of you? We have nearly done."

"Nothing, Ned," Israel answered. "We became hopelessly entangled in conversation."

"Did you."

"We did. What's become of Samuel?"

"He had to leave; he has a long road home these dark nights. He extended his invitation that you spend the night with him. Just let yourself in."

"No," Israel said. "How could I, when my nephew is waiting up for me?"

"George will be asleep. It is past nine," Sir Edward argued.

"I will wager that he is not," Hornblower said dryly.

"As will I," Israel said with a grin. "I visited earlier, and told him I would be back."

"With pockets bulging with presents, I suppose," Sir Edward said. "You spoil him, and leave Susan to suffer the consequences."

Israel chuckled. "Of course I do. I must contend for my position as his favourite uncle."

"In that case, we had better get you up there. Hornblower, Kennedy, see Mr. Wellard out. I will see you on board at ten, as usual."

"Yes, sir," Hornblower agreed.

Kennedy stood and took up his cloak. Remembering the intensity of the cold outside, Hart began to dress himself for the trip out to Indefatigable. Before taking his leave of them, Israel put an arm around his shoulders and drew him close. Then he turned to Hornblower.

"Keep him warm," he said. "It's important."

"Yes, sir," Hornblower said. "I shall."

*****

Hart had dreamed often in the last weeks, but the dream he had this night differed. It was not a nightmare. He came late to the house, his father's house, and let himself in the front door. Everything was exactly as it should be. He followed the light and the warmth to the family's parlour, and there they waited. No one shouted or abused him for being so late, but his mother, came to him and held him, asked where he had been; she had been worried. Then they were all together, warm, happy. Content. He sighed, settling into the upholstered settee. Everyone seemed pleased with him: India, his mother, and especially his father. He had done something of which they were proud. He could not recall what it was, but it did not matter in mantle of affection that surrounded him. He was happy.

Waking from that dream was worse than waking from the nightmares of Tegereth with his pistol or of Cador finding him under the mangled sails as he lie on the beach. Those dreams terrified. Not this one. Now waking was the nightmare; the dream was the reality he preferred.

He tried to be quiet, but sleeping so close upon one another in the midshipmen's berth, there was no privacy, no way to shut himself away as he had done at the captain's house and in the wardroom. He disturbed Duchesne, just inches from him, and the boy asked whether he should get Lieutenant Hornblower. Hart said no. Uncertain, the midshipman said he would go anyway, but returned to his cot when another young gentleman objected to the disturbance. Hart, grateful to the complainer in the dark, stayed quiet until morning and waited for the bell to stir the ship's people to life.

Duchesne must have said something to Hornblower because the lieutenant came to Hart after breakfast, showed him how to roll his hammock and took him above to secure it in the netting. Then he led him aft, to the deck atop the captain's rooms, and stayed with him for nearly an hour. Seated on the flag locker, Hart told him what he had dreamed. Then he asked Lieutenant Hornblower if he knew how long it would be before he was able to sleep quietly, how long before he would wake without wretchedness.

"I cannot tell you, for I do not know," Hornblower said. "Every man recovers as his nature dictates. Don't be without hope, Hart. The pain you have now eventually grows dull, just as the wounds on your feet healed."

"Are you sure?" Hart asked.

"Very sure," Hornblower promised. "Look out there," he said, pointing to the men on deck and the many boats in the harbour. "Every man you see knows the pain of losing someone he loved."

"Do you know it?" he asked. "You mentioned your father once."

"I do," he answered slowly. "Not only my father, but others as well. I owe my very life many times over to men who are now dead. If you like, I will tell you about one named Abel. Abel Finch. Shall I?"

"Yes," Hart answered. "I think I would like to hear it."

So Hornblower told of a sailor who had saved him, and how that sailor had later died in horrid circumstances, of starvation, of illness; whatever his devoted friends did to help him, he had died. But they remembered him, and the captain had done what he could for the man's family, praised him in his letter of condolence, gave him mention in his reports to the Admiralty - his compliments all the reward his kin could now receive. But those who owed him gratitude remembered him, and they were many.

"You are fortunate in this, Hart," Hornblower said. "Your memories cannot be taken from you, and they are good. It is more than many men have. The incidents that caused his death are nightmarish in themselves, as is the man who killed him. But think of this: Tegereth only took your father's life. He can take nothing more - he cannot damage your father's honour, nor can he remove the affection you had for one another. He cannot take your thoughts. He cannot win."

Hart listened, but his thoughts were too jumbled to comprehend so much. He would have to think later, when everyone was asleep. Only the last sentence made sense, the part about winning. "When do we go?" he asked.

"A week," Hornblower said. "We want time to spare for the journey to Truro."

*****

The week passed tolerably. Captain Sawyer came aboard occasionally and spoke to Hart whenever he saw him, sometimes telling him stories, sometimes just talking about service and patriotism and duty. Dr. Pellew came once to have Hart sign some papers allowing him to act on his behalf.

Hart continued to shadow Mr. Duchesne about his duties, keeping the one occupied, the other out of mischief. The frigate had little room for boys; there was not enough space for footraces, so they raced to the topmast instead. Whatever limitations the frigate placed upon their fun, they found a way around. Bored with the meals provided by the galley, they shot rooks with slingshots and bribed the cook to let them use his fire. They killed gulls as well, but none would eat the oily, fish-tasting birds. They killed them as punishment for the mess they left on the quarterdeck. They played cards until lights-out, or they read novels. Some studied, but not often. Any who worked too hard at his books became the recipient of highly uncomplimentary remarks by the rest.

When Duchesne discovered that Hart could "speak French like a Frenchman," he informed the others. An older boy jumped up and rummaged through his sea chest, bringing out a tattered paper-covered novel, which he said he had won in a wager with a boy on another frigate in the squadron. They asked Hart to read it, but to read it in English. He did. He doubted the captain or any of the lieutenants would have approved of the subject of the novel, but he said nothing. He was the hero of the day, of several days, until the book was done, and he felt his education was now more than complete. His tutor had never given him such interesting assignments.

The midshipmen could not indulge in any sporting competition as boys wanted to do, so they gambled instead. They placed wagers on everything that happened, and none were better for it. Hart saw much money change hands the day Captain Pellew doled out allowances.

On the Saturday after they had their allowance, the boys once more begged Lieutenant Bracegirdle for permission to go ashore. He gave it. While they were away, Captain Pellew gave Hart another occupation - he was to act as the captain's writer for the day, copying various letters and forms for the ship's records, some as many as five times each. The captain had a clerk, but Hart saw that he was also very busy. When the midshipmen returned, Captain Pellew released him. As he passed his desk, Hart noted what the clerk was doing. He was copying Hart's statement, and had done so a number times judging by the stack of papers on the man's right.

*****

The day before he was to leave for Truro, Captain Pellew invited Hart to join him. When the young gentlemen explained that an invitation was actually an order, Hart quickly brushed his hair and with the help of a couple of the boys, straightened his clothing for the interview. He arrived within minutes of the summons.

The day room was a more comfortably appointed room than the workrooms, with fine furnishings, a floor cover and even wax candles. Hart sat in the chair indicated by the steward, who then left them alone.

"First," Captain Pellew began, "Let me reiterate my regrets. God knows none of this should have come to pass. No one can replace your losses; the best we can hope to do is restore to you the benefits of family and friends, if only by supporting you until your majority."

"Thank you, sir. I never meant...what I said to you about...the people here."

"I hope that is true, that you do not think too harshly of us," Captain Pellew answered. "And I accept your apology. Considering your grief and frustration, an occasional spell of temper is hardly unreasonable. Second, I want to wish you the best during the next few days. It will be far from easy, but you have the fortitude to do it. Finally, and most importantly, there is this. I have seen you these last weeks, and feel your presence here is an asset to the people on this ship. I see your affection and admiration for some of my officers and the manner in which you have become a part of the gun-room."

Hart bit his lip, wondering if the captain knew the truth of it; that he had not really been accepted there until he had translated a highly indelicate work of fiction for the young gentlemen.

"I have invited you here to consult with you upon your wishes," he continued. "Would you consider making this your home? You would be most welcome by me and my officers."

"Sir, I...I would like to..."

"Then...?"

"No. I cannot. I am sorry for it; I would do anything else you asked."

"Might I hear your reason?"

"Your ship is here often - many weeks of the year."

"Falmouth is our squadron's home port, yes," Captain Pellew answered.

"Then I cannot. I do not want to come here."

"I see."

"I hope you will not despise me for a coward, sir, but I would prefer working in a company ship as a collier to returning here as an admiral. I'm sorry, sir. I know it is your home. But it can never be mine, for all that my father lies here. That does not matter to me. The part of my father that I love is in my heart, not in your soil, and I will take that with me when I go."

It was the longest speech he had given in his life, and he was breathless when he finished. And worried that he had once more offended this man.

"You are determined, I see. I do understand, Mr. Wellard, and I could not despise you for your feelings. Quite the opposite. Well," he said, standing and brushing the creases from his trousers. "In that case, I will offer another proposition. Captain Sawyer is impressed with your mettle."

"I know, sir."

"You know?"

"Yes, sir. He has said as much."

"Well. He also wishes to see to your future. The Admiralty has an academy in Plymouth, where a young man might go to learn seamanship. With the recommendation of two captains, he might also receive a scholarship. Will you consider it?"

"Sir..."

"I have agreed with Sawyer that I will add my name to his in the application."

Hart had wondered what was in the wind, having noted Sawyer's apparent interest and how often he made a point of speaking to him whenever he came on board. The unprecedented conversations led Hart to believe he would eventually offer something.

"May I have some time to consider it, sir?" Hart asked.

"Naturally you will want to wait until you hear something from town. However, with your permission, I will tell him to go ahead with the arrangements. Should you decide against it, you will not be made to go against your will. At the same time, if you do want it, you will be able to go immediately."

"That seems wise," Hart observed.

"Thank you." Captain Pellew's lips twitched as though he wanted to laugh.

"You are welcome." Hart could not see the joke, so continued as sincerely as he had begun. "I think after Lieutenant Hornblower, you are the wisest man I know."

Captain Pellew held his smile for a moment, then laughed outright. "Perhaps the Academy is a good scheme. They might offer lessons in Navy customs."

"Sir?"

The captain shook his head, then said, "I have one additional charge to carry out." He lifted a small fabric-wrapped parcel from his desk drawer. "This is yours. Our absent-minded vicar forgot to give it to you. He sent it out with his apologies."

Hart unfolded the grey flannel. "Father's ring," he said under his breath, gingerly touching the circlet of etched gold. Holding his breath, he slid it onto his finger, the largest, but it was loose.

"Here, I'll fix it," Captain Pellew said, holding his hand out.

Hart took it off and hesitantly gave it to him, worried that he would damage it. But he did not. The captain cut a strip from his silk handkerchief with his penknife and painstakingly wrapped it around the band, tucking the last end underneath with the point of a quill. "There," he said. "Try it now."

Hart replaced it, and it fit snugly. He stared at it, unseeing, violent memories whipping through him. "Thank you, sir," he said, eventually noticing his and the captain's silence. "I last saw this when...when he reached down, to help me up."

Sir Edward lifted Hart's chin with the tips of his fingers. Hart met his steadfast gaze as the captain said, "Then you have a reminder of the most important part of being a man."

*****

"Hart, it's time," Hornblower whispered, shaking him.

The crier outside announced three o'clock, and Hart groaned. "I'm not done sleeping," he complained."

Hornblower, Kennedy and Hart had come ashore at dusk, to spend the remaining hours before the mail came through from Dover. They had to be outside the inn at half-past three.

"Come on," Hornblower said, shaking him again. "They will not wait. Do get up."

He sat up, groggy and irritable. "I'm up," he said.

"Good. I have got to shake Kennedy out, and he is going to be more of a chore. Can I rely that you will not go back to sleep?"

"Yes, I'm up," he repeated, dropping his feet over the side of the narrow cot. The cold floor under his feet made his eyes open. He reached for his breeches and began to pull them on. Hornblower went to wake Kennedy. Both officers returned together and led him outside.

The chill wind whipped between the buildings of the narrow road. Hart's skin was still damp from washing, his stomach complained of the void, and he was too tired to stand outside in the dark awaiting a coach, accompanied by a set of rowdy young men who smelled of drink.

"What if it's late?" he asked, his teeth clicking together as he shivered.

"The mail is never late," a stout young man replied. "See, here it comes."

The coach barely came to a halt. Hart climbed inside with Hornblower and Kennedy, the party-goers apparently riding as outside passengers. Less than a minute later the coach pulled away, a man still throwing their bags to the ostler. The coach had gone a mile toward Truro before he had everything secured.

As soon as he was out of the wind and cold, Hart fell asleep again, using most of the rear-facing seat, his legs cramped and his feet against the panel, his grey woolen comforter unwound from his neck and bundled under his head for a pillow.

Awakened later by a hard jolt that nearly threw him to the floor, he sat up. Dawn had broken while he slept, and Kennedy sat across from him studying a sheaf of papers, which he held angled toward the rising sun. Hart recognised the pages from the clerk's table, the copies of his statement.

Kennedy finished reading, rolled them together and tied them with a black ribbon. He nudged Hornblower, and said, "I've read every copy; there are no errors. It was well done."

"You woke me to say that?" Hornblower complained. "If you were Captain Pellew's clerk, would you make any errors?"

"Likely not," Kennedy agreed, grinning.

"Why did he not ask me to make copies?" Hart asked. "I could have."

"No," Kennedy said. "It is best this way. As you are awake..." he unbuckled a black bag and hunted inside. Like a magician, he extracted paper-wrapped parcels of biscuits, not ship's biscuit, but the sort purchased from a patisserie shop. Then came oranges, oranges in February. Hart could not believe his eyes. Or his nose. The summery scent filled the coach's interior, and he inhaled deeply.

"It reminds me of the theatre," he said. "The vendors."

Kennedy smiled. "You went often?"

"Yes, we saw everything at the Adelphi through Christmas. I saw Julius Caesar, then something stupid - a modern writer, I think, then they did Tom Jones which was very funny..." he listed the plays he had seen between bites.

They ate and tossed the peel under the seats. Kennedy assured them that their kindness in doing so would be appreciated by the next lot of passengers, insisting that it improved the air. Though temporarily distracted by the delightful meal, Hart returned to the previous conversation.

"Why did the captain not ask me to copy what I wrote?" he asked. "He had me do the clerk's work while the clerk did that. Why?"

"It is best," Kennedy repeated. "As you question so persistently, I will try to explain. You wrote it. Have you seen it since?"

"No," Hart said. "But I would like it now, if I may. I think I should read it a few times so I do not stumble."

"Absolutely not," Kennedy said. "It is best that you read tomorrow with as much an unstudied air as possible. Too much rehearsal would diminish the value of your performance."

"Archie," Hornblower reprimanded. "He is not acting in a play; this is important."

"Exactly," Kennedy returned. "But it is a play. Think of it as such, and you will understand. Hart, you have seen how playwrights like Sheridan use words, and how actors use feigned emotion to tell the audience what they should think, how they should feel. You know which characters are good, and which are evil, who you are supposed to love or hate, do you not?"

"Of course. We stomp our feet and shout and throw things at the villains. Orange peel, usually. It's all very silly, but good fun," he said.

"But in this case, it is very important," Hornblower said, falling in with Kennedy's analogy. "The reviews of this play determine the verdict, just as the reviews of stage plays determine its success."

"Exactly," Kennedy agreed. "He...what's his name?"

"Tegereth," Hornblower supplied.

"Thank you. He will either hang or go free. There is no middle ground in this; if found guilty, he must hang. The courts will not recommend a murderer like this to the King's mercy. He will not be pardoned. Tomorrow decides his life. We must ensure that the decision goes against him."

Hart listened, but he was tired. He blinked as his vision blurred, unable to follow what Kennedy was telling him. It was too complicated to follow.

"Archie," Hornblower interrupted his friend. "You are confusing matters; he is going to be nervous enough, and you are making it worse."

Kennedy raised his eyebrows, surprised, then collected himself again. "My apologies," he said. "I told Captain Pellew I would advise you. My father has done his turn at assizes, so I know a little of what is wanted. I will try to address only what will help you."

"Go on, sir," Hart said, attentive once more.

"First, and keep this in the fore of your mind at all times, do not look at the prisoner until you are made to do so."

"Made to?"

"You will be asked to identify him. When you do, don't meet his eyes. Look at his shoulder, his knees, his boots, anything but his face if you think you will become agitated. Second, address yourself only to Lord Teignmouth. Should anyone question you, direct your reply only to His Lordship."

"All right," Hart agreed.

"Third, if you are questioned, never say 'yes' or 'no'," he directed. "Speak intelligently, in complete sentences. This is important; you will sound impudent if you do otherwise. We will practice it. You cannot afford to insult Teignmouth. He is the audience and the critic. His opinion is...you know what I mean."

"Of course," Hart said.

Kennedy barely waited for his answer before continuing, frantic. "Now you must know this before you see it. He will have witnesses - men who will swear an oath that - that - "

"Tegereth," Hornblower inserted.

"Yes. They will swear that he was elsewhere, with them, in Turkey, in Egypt, in short, anywhere but on that beach on that morning. Ignore them. They lie. Everyone knows they lie. Only if you react, if you appear stricken, doubtful, will anyone pay heed to those statements. They are the post-knights, paid witnesses. You know of this?"

Hart nodded. He had heard of them. Every trial he had read about had a few of these paid liars. It would not be considered a fair trial without them. "I do not doubt what I know, sir," he said. "And I know him."

"Good," Kennedy patted his shoulder. "The truth is easiest to prove. Tegereth has not that advantage. His hired liars will do him no good. In essence, he has nothing, and anyone with sense will know it."

"What if Lord Teignmouth has no sense?" Hart wondered.

"It has been known to happen," Hornblower added, his brow creasing with apprehension.

Kennedy threw his arms over the back edge of the seat and said laconically, "I happen to know he is a very worthy gentleman. He is nearly thirty, mother living, father dead. Married two years ago. I also happen to know that his tractable wife presented him with a prodigious fat boy three months ago. His sensibilities will be roused, his protective nature provoked."

Hornblower relaxed after this oration, slouched in the seat, put his feet up on the seat next to Hart and closed his eyes.

"Only one thing more," Kennedy said.

Hornblower opened one eye.

"What?" Hart asked. He doubted he could remember anything else.

"Clothing. Captain Pellew gave me a few guineas for that purpose. The tattered look may be appealing to old ladies and romantic young girls, but I suggest something more appropriate to the occasion."

"He is appropriate," Hornblower said, squinting across at Hart.

"I am not!" Hart contradicted.

"No, he is not," Kennedy agreed. "Frayed cuffs and darned stockings may do well for a midshipman, but as a witness - if we could count on a jury of sympathetic mothers and romantic young ladies, we would keep it. But we don't. We arrive at noon, time and enough to spare to pay a visit to a warehouse."

*****

Hart studied his appearance in the mirror and raised his eyebrows appreciatively. He felt better; he almost felt like smiling. Soft black shoes, whole, new stockings, a black cutaway coat and what Kennedy laughingly called a 'Sunday-go-to-meeting' top hat, making a joke of the numerous Quakers they saw in Truro. The hat almost completed his ensemble. All he lacked was a neckcloth.

The purveyor of mourning garb, a dour-faced, middle-aged fellow brought a long, flat box, and opened it. Inside lay a strip of fine black silk, neatly hemmed with infinitesimal stitches.

"No," Hart said, pushing it aside. "White."

"But sir!" the man objected.

"White," he repeated.

"It would not be proper, sir," one-eyebrow insisted stubbornly. "The rules - "

"I do not care," Hart said. "My father never wore black. That was his rule."

"Get a white one," Hornblower ordered.

The man bowed a little stiffly, took the black away and returned with white. Disgruntled, he lifted it from the paste box and began to fold it.

"I will do it," Hart said, taking it. He folded and pleated it, and sighed with satisfaction when he tied a perfect oriental knot on the first attempt. If he buttoned his coat high enough, it would hardly show, but he would know it was white.

Kennedy added two more shirts to the ensemble, then half a dozen pairs of stocking. Hart changed back into his old garments once more, and the purveyor wrapped the new in paper and string. Kennedy asked how much.

"Nothing, sir," the man replied, simpering.

"I beg your pardon?" Kennedy said, his eyes narrowing. "What can you mean?"

"I will give the clothing at no cost if I may let it be known that he chose my warehouse."

"Pay him, Archie," Hornblower said.

"I shall. And I will have a copy of the bill, if you please," he said to the man. He glanced at Hart, then said to Hornblower, "Perhaps you should wait outside."

"Perhaps we will." Hornblower led Hart out while Kennedy settled the bill. He came out behind them, cursing and carrying everything in his arms.

"Why did you not have it sent?" Hart asked.

"If I asked him to send it, he would know where you are. Then everyone in Truro would know before morning," Kennedy said.

"Why would anyone care?" he asked.

"Murder trials do not happen every day, Hart," Hornblower said.

"The usual criminal is somewhat less respectable. This bourgeois innkeeper on trial for his life has everyone excited. Rather like seeing your headmaster naked, if you understand me. They are pleased, and you are already something of a celebrity. The broadsheet editors have already tried the case."

Hornblower pulled a folded paper from his coat, and handed it to Hart. There in the centre column was an article discussing the trial, accompanied by a fine wood-cut illustration.

"Is that supposed to be me?" Hart asked, appalled. "In a ruffled collar? By God, I am nearly thirteen! Who prints this? I will talk to him." He searched the paper for the identity of the editor, but Hornblower snatched it from him and stuffed it back into his coat before he could note it.

"You may be thirteen, or nearly so, but you are not old enough to curse," he said. "And no, you will not talk to him."

"Why not?" he demanded. "Give that to me!" He tried to get at the paper again, but Hornblower dodged his attempts.

"Hart," Kennedy shouted over the melee, "whatever you say, they will not print. It is best to say nothing. Trust us in this."

"You would be disappointed, at least," Hornblower added, holding Hart's wrist tightly, preventing him from digging into his coat. "Whatever you say, they print what they like."

"Let them take your words at the trial," Kennedy took a turn. "They do not need to know more than you say there."

"Listen to him. He is right. Never mind the papers. It is not your concern. Now come on, both of you. People are already beginning to point you out. We will have supper and retire early. Tomorrow will be a very long day."

Hart stood up straight as he had seen the midshipmen stand when one of the officers was reprimanding him. "Aye, aye, Captain," he said mockingly, saluting Hornblower. "But you are wrong, Captain. Every day has the exact same number of hours."

Hornblower closed his lips tightly and sighed. The lieutenant looked tired and his mouth twitched, angry. Hart regretted his temper almost instantly. He hesitated, thinking he should apologise, but both lieutenants propelled him forward, impatient. He changed his mind about repenting then, and pulled his elbow out of Kennedy's grip.

"You need not drag me along," he said. He increased his pace and walked along ahead of them, pretending he did not know them.

They argued again at the inn. Hart wanted to eat supper below, in company. He was tired of the two officers, and wanted to see someone else. Anyone else. He changed his mind almost immediately, though, when he saw the numbers of people staring at him. He could hardly enjoy a meal with that going on around him. He followed the officers up, stomping hard on each step as he climbed.

The inn was busy, bustling with patrons, most of whom were in town for the spectacle of a murder trial, and supper was a long time coming up. Hart fell asleep waiting, woke up when it arrived, and ate in silence. The short rest and the meal restored him to a more even temper, and seemed to do the same for both men.

Tempers only flared briefly when Hart insisted he would take drinks with them after. Hornblower said no, but too late, as Kennedy had already handed him a glass of port, well-diluted with water. Hornblower refused to explain his disapproval to Kennedy, saying he was too tired to argue the point.

Relieved, Hart prepared for the night, undressing and relaxing on the cot while the officers finished their drinks. He listened to them talk for a while. They were discussing some expected changes in the fleet, speculating on what might occur during the next year.

Both Hornblower and Kennedy soon climbed into their beds, complaining of the cold room. Hornblower covered his face with his blanket, but listened to Kennedy talk, answering occasionally.

During a lull, Hart asked Kennedy, "How long have you been an officer, sir?" He knew almost everything about Hornblower; now he wanted to learn something of this relative stranger.

"Since I left school at sixteen," Kennedy said.

"I have not been to school, unless you consider the grammar school when I was young," Hart told him. "Was it terrible?" He had heard horrific accounts from boys who had gone as boarders.

"Not at all. Why would you think so?"

"Did you ever get flogged?"

Kennedy laughed. "Of course, but it was worth it."

"What was?"

"Whatever we did to earn the flogging. The head was not cruel, you know. Just...frustrated."

"What did you do?" Hart asked. He could easily imagine Kennedy defying rules.

"Our most common offence was being out after lock-up. We were caught gaming some nights, stealing food from neighbouring farms, apples and fowl, anything to augment the bread and cheese we had six days a week. On Sunday, we had something better, so we never had to defile the Lord's day with sin."

"But you liked it?" Hart asked.

"I hated it, but now I think I was never more content. The greatest problem I had was winning the next cricket match or construing my obligatory six lines of Latin and Greek. Of course we all had cribs, so that was no bother. I would go back today, if I could."

"It sounds rather fun," Hart admitted.

"It was miserable," Kennedy laughed again. "But yes, it was fun. Are you thinking of going to school?"

"Perhaps. Captain Sawyer thinks I should go to the Naval Academy in Plymouth. He has offered to recommend me to the Admiral, who is the head there. He says they are old friends."

"Did he?"

"Yes. He is quite a fine man, I think. Frightening, but very fine. He is a hero, you know. He was at St. Vincent."

"Yes, I know," Kennedy said. "Were you even born? What can you know of that battle?"

"Everything he told me."

"I see. Yes, he was there. So were Jervis and Nelson. I was still in short dresses myself, or you might have heard of me as well."

Hornblower sniggered under his blanket, and Kennedy tossed a shoe, striking the leg of his friend's cot.

"Kennedy - " Hornblower warned without coming out of hibernation.

"Serves you right, making fun of your betters."

"Older is not necessarily better," Hornblower asserted.

"Are you older?" Hart asked Kennedy. "I thought he - "

"There, you see, Horatio?" Kennedy accused. "I tell him all the time. He is a morose old codger."

"I resent that," Hornblower said, his voice muffled.

"As you will, sir. But you had better lay in a store of chamomile and ginger. You'll have gout next."

Hart giggled as Kennedy doused the light. The argument continued in the dark. All would be silent for a moment; Hart would think it was done, then Kennedy would fire another volley. Hornblower took the shots with good humour, and fired a few rounds of his own. Hart fell asleep before the end, so he did not know which of the two had the final word.