All the World's a Stage
The sun was just beginning to set as the jollyboat made it's way towards the
docks of Portsmouth. Two of the occupants wore uniforms identifying them as officers of His Royal Majesty Navy.
"Honestly Archie, if you don't quit squirming you are surely going to
capsize the boat!" Horatio exclaimed. "Why won't you tell me about the
surprise?" he asked.
Archie laughed and squirmed even more, "No I'm sorry my friend, but you are
just going to have to wait". At this moment the boat reached the docks and
all conversation was halted as the task was completed. Once the two young
men were ashore Archie quickly assumed the lead, walking briskly ahead of
Horatio towards the Red Lion Inn. "Come on Horatio, let's satisfy our
appetites and after that we will satisfy your curiosity."
As the two friends ate a simple but filling meal, Horatio continued quizzing
his friend about the impending surprise. It was an exercise in futility
however, as Archie steadfastly refused to give him even the smallest of
hints. Finally with a sigh Horatio gave up, but not before imparting a
final comment, "It is all very well and good for you to keep your secret,
but Captain Pellew gave us shore leave for this night only, therefore you
cannot keep me in suspense too much longer." With a nod of agreement
Archie finished his ale and stood, "Well then, let us settle the bill and
solve this mystery then" he said.
Once again Archie took the lead as they reached the streets, he walked at an
eager pace, practically bouncing on his heels as he went. Finally he
stopped in front of a small building that had seen better days. It was in a
respectable part of town, but had a careworn, aged appearance. Archie
turned and looked at Horatio with an expectant smile. Horatio, for his
part was taking a closer look at the building, noticing finally the small
marquee indicating this was a theatre. On further inspection of the marquee
Horatio noticed a new playbill announcing a production of Shakespeare's
Romeo and Juliet being performed this evening.
Smothering a sense of impending doom, Horatio looked at Archie whose smile
had, if possible, grown even wider. "We are going to spend our liberty at a
play?" he asked. "Oh yes my uncultured friend, we are" Archie pronounced,
"but that is NOT the surprise! Come with me and you shall have your
surprise." Horatio, by now totally puzzled followed Archie around to the
side alley of the building. They continued down the alley to a door on the
side of the building. Archie then proceeded to pound on the door, which was
quickly answered by a small, grizzled elderly man. "Wotcha' want?" he
barked at them. Archie leaned over and said something softly to him while
slipping a coin into his hand. "I'll see" announced the man and disappeared
back inside. Archie again smiled rather enigmatically at Horatio, who was
feeling decidedly uneasy by now. "Archie, shouldn't we go back out front, I
really don't think the Captain would be pleased if we were to get in trouble
tonight." Horatio said. "Not to worry Horatio, we shan't get into any
mischief, and the Captain isn't ashore to notice if we did." Archie
The aforementioned Captain, Sir Edward Pellew had in fact decided to come
ashore. As the Indefatigable was in Portsmouth to obtain fresh supplies, it
allowed some of the crew to a few days or an evening free as the case was.
Sir Edward, while decidedly found of his ship, found that an idea of an
evening on land sounded quite appealing after all. It could in fact be
rather enlightening; the captain mused to himself. Rereading the article
in the local paper his servant had brought him with his evening meal, Pellew
made up his mind, stood and left his cabin, cloak in hand. Inviting Mr.
Bracegirdle to join him, the two gentlemen set off for shore.
"What is our destination this evening Captain" queried Mr. Bracegirdle as
they began to walk from the docks. "How do you feel about Shakespeare Mr.
Bracegirdle?" Sir Edward responded. "I've a passing acquaintance with
his works Sir" Bracegirdle replied. "Oh, I believe you and I have a better
acquaintance than that with Mr. Shakespeare, specifically this night" the
Captain said as he arrived at the theatre and purchased two tickets. "The
play's the thing, eh Mr. Bracegirdle?" Pellew smiled at his confused
companion as he led them to their seats.
Horatio, in the meantime, having been admitted with Archie to the backstage
area was staring dumbfounded at the vision in front of him. "Well don't
stand their gawping boy, aren't you going to say hello Mr. Haitch? Closing
his mouth with an audible gulp, Horatio quickly remembered himself and made
the necessary bow and spoke, "Hello your Ladyship, this is a most unexpected
pleasure". "It is good to see you again Horatio, and I am now simply
Katherine Cobham, Kitty if you please sir" she replied. "What a swelled
head I shall have, what with two handsome young Naval officers come to pay
their respects before my performance" Kitty laughed, "my reputation shall
grow exceedingly!" "You are to be in the play Madam" asked Horatio,
"shall you be playing Juliet then?" Kitty positively preened, "Fa Mr.
Haitch, you have improved in your conversational skills considerably! No
luv, I shall be playing the Lady Capulet, Juliet's mother" she sighed.
"Well then ma'am, you shall surely be showing off your considerable acting
talents to be able to play that part convincingly at your age" Archie said.
Just as Kitty was about to respond, a large, redheaded whirlwind rounded the
corner, exclaiming in loud, dramatic tones, "I simply do not believe I must
endure such ill-treatment! Is it not insult enough that that silly fop of a
director has cast me as the mere nurse in our drama, but to give me such
poor garments to wear in front of my adoring public? " Stopping in front of
the group, she heaved another sigh and was about to continue her
protestations when she looked at Archie and gasped. "It simply cannot be!"
she announced while enveloping Archie in a bone-crushing hug to her more
than ample bosom. "Is it truly you my golden angel, can it truly be?"
With this, the lady proceeded to attempt to squeeze the last breath out of
her "angel", perhaps attempting to send him back to his heavenly home.
Horatio, mind still awhirl with the vision of the "Duchess of Wharfedale" as
he had known Kitty on that fateful voyage from Gibraltar to England while
she was attempting to get home under that disguise, noticed the unhealthy
flush lack of oxygen was rendering to his friend and attempted to intercede.
"Excuse me ma'am," he said making a bow, "but I don't believe I've had the
pleasure of making your acquaintance." "Oh please, forgive my poor manners"
Kitty exclaimed, "Mr. Hornblower, Mr. Kennedy, may I present to you the
great actress Honoria St. John." "We've met" Archie squeaked, trying in
vain to obtain a bit of air. Finally releasing Archie, Honoria made a
curtsy to Horatio, during which time she managed to give him a most thorough
once over. Horatio, by now a deep crimson, looked questioningly at Archie
who in attempt to regain his composure did not respond immediately. Kitty
picked up the conversation in order to aid him. "Honoria, I had the
pleasure of meeting these young gentleman when returning from Gibraltar, I
wonder though how you come to be acquainted with Mr. Kennedy?" Honoria
patted a few strands of her unnaturally red hair back in place and began,
"Well, thereby hangs a tale."
"It was while I was starring on Drury Lane in a very popular play I might
add, that I had the good fortune to meet my beautiful beau" she explained.
"I was deep into my soliloquy when a few ill-bred, ill-mannered louts from
one of the boxes proceeded to start booing me! I, being a true
professional, ignored them but for a glare in their direction. Still they
did not cease, but I completed the scene splendidly in spite of them. Well,
the next scene did not call for my presence right away, so I proceeded
towards their box. Once there I gave them a good set down, but this merely
caused them to start laughing and then the bold youths even began picking at
my costume, a truly lovely creation in the Elizabethan tradition." She
sighed, lost in the memory. "Well, I was truly becoming worried for my very
safety as you can imagine! I had not thought to bring anyone with me for
security you see. When to my rescue came my own tower of strength, your Mr.
"I protest Madam, you make to much of it. I merely quieted down a few
drunken lords and returned you to the stage area" Archie said. "No, it was
so much more than that my angel, you are far too modest" Honoria loudly
proclaimed. "You saved the whole production you did, when you took over
the role of the leading man when that lout who considered himself an actor
drank himself insensate." "Archie acted!" Horatio sputtered while Kitty
merely smiled and raised an eyebrow. Before Archie could restrain the
elder lady, she continued. "Oh yes, most splendidly he did, he is a true
artiste!" Honoria stated. Both Kitty and Horatio looked at Archie
questioningly, the artiste however by this time was trying to spot a
Archie was saved, or damned, as the case may be, by the sound of a loud
crash and an even louder curse somewhere farther backstage. "Oh no, not
again" both actresses exclaimed and rushed towards the noise. Horatio
looked uncertainly at Archie, who sighed resignedly and made to follow the
ladies. The sight that greeted them was one of utter chaos. It appeared
that Juliet had not been able to wait until show time and had decided to do
great bodily harm to her Romeo herself. Said Romeo was lying in a most
unromantic heap on the floor cradling his bleeding head in his hands.
Honoria bore down on the scene not unlike the Indy when engaging enemy
ships. "What do you think you are doing Rosie" she asked the young lady in
the Juliet costume. "How do you expect us to go on tonight if you damage
one of the main characters?" she continued in a stern and disapproving tone
that even Captain Pellew would admire. "I caught 'im with 'is 'ands up
another girls skirts" Rosie said indignantly. "Promised me 'e weren't gonna
do that anymore, said 'e'd be faithful 'e did!" "Do calm yourself dear,
your origins are showing most glaringly" Honoria replied.
Kitty, Horatio and Archie had been looking over said roving Romeo while the
discussion had gone on. Now Kitty stood and shook her head resignedly.
"Well, that's that then" she said. "Romeo here is not going to go on
tonight, he is in need of stitches this time." "Oh no!" wailed Rosie,
"We must go on, else we won't get paid and I need the money to get home to
London." "Well girl, you should have thought of that before you hit him,"
Kitty said wryly. Murmurs of distress could now be heard from the other
cast members milling about. "Whatever shall we do" Honoria lamented, "We
are all in need of the pay." The stage manager peeked out into the theatre
and just as quickly turned around. "Well" he said, "ye'd better do
something and quick, the house is beginning to fill and we only have 30
minutes to show time!"
Horatio, by this time completely out of his element could only look around
him in a daze. Well thought Kitty, no help from Mr. Haitch this time.
Continuing to look around, her eyes fell upon Mr. Kennedy standing nearby.
Looking from the fallen lover on the floor back to Archie she began to smile
as a plan formed in her mind. "Tell me Mr. Kennedy" Kitty said
seductively, "Do you know Romeo and Juliet". Archie, caught unaware,
replied unthinkingly, "Why of course, I'm a great admirer of Shakespeare
and have seen all his plays many times." Casting a meaningful look at
Honoria, Kitty stepped closer to Archie continuing to talk in an easy
manner, "You've seen his plays many times have you indeed?" She asked.
Honoria for her part had caught the meaning in Kitty's glance and stepped
closer to Archie from the other side, saying as she did so, "In fact, I
believe you could even quote Shakespeare knowledgeably my dear." For his
part, Archie while uncertain as to the ladies plan, was not unaware of the
flanking maneuver he was being trapped in the middle of. Sputtering as he
began to back away he looked imploringly to Horatio for help.
Unsure himself of the ladies motives, Horatio attempted to stall them.
"Ladies, should we not be attempting to find a replacement amongst the other
actors for that unfortunate young man" he asked looking again at the fallen
lead. "Oh but you see Horatio" Kitty replied, "This is a poor touring
company, most of these younger people are just getting started, none of them
has the confidence, experience, or ability to play a part of this
magnitude." As she was finishing this statement both she and her
co-conspirator Honoria had managed to box poor Archie into a corner.
"Yes," Honoria agreed placing a hand lovingly on Archie's shoulder, "It
would take a rare talent, a true artiste to save us now" she concluded
looking Archie pointedly in the eye. "Surely you cannot be suggesting what
I believe you are ma'am" Archie stammered. "My angel, only YOU can play
Romeo as he is truly meant to be played!" Honoria announced. "Yes Mr.
Kennedy, you must rescue us from certain disaster" Kitty added.
Rosie, the erstwhile Juliet, having overheard the conversation launched
herself directly at Archie, squealing with delight at the prospect of having
this fine looking young officer as her leading man. "I cannot." Archie
began before being cut off abruptly. "You can my love, and you must, you
shall!" Honoria stated and proceed to begin dragging Archie towards the
dressing area. "Rosie, my girl, get one of the men to help you get that
young man, whatever his name is, out of the Romeo costume. It may be a
little large as you have a finer, more aristocratic build, my love" she said
looking at Archie appraisingly, "But we shall make do."
Grabbing Horatio by the arm, Kitty began to instruct him as well. "Now Mr.
Haitch, you must help your friend get into costume as I am sure he does not
want Rosie or heaven forbid, Honoria to assist him. Horatio's eyebrows
shot up and he responded very quickly, "Of course Miss Cobham that would be
MOST improper!" Hurrying to catch up with Archie, Horatio relieved the
ladies of the costume and firmly shut the door to the little cubicle that
served as a private dressing room. Running a shaking hand through his hair,
Archie turned to Horatio, "Honestly Horatio, I merely meant to surprise you
with Miss Cobham's presence, nothing more" he exclaimed. "However did you
know she was going to be here performing Archie" Horatio asked, this
question having puzzled him since first seeing the Duchess again. "Miss
Cobham sent me a letter not long ago indicating she was in this touring
company and knowing of my fondness for theatre inviting me to come to the
play and bring you as a surprise if we happened to be in town when they came
through. I thought it was a happy coincidence when it did come about."
"Well," Horatio sighed looking around him, "Whatever do we do know Mr.
Kennedy. It appears we've been neatly captured by the enemy."
Archie shrugged his shoulders and began taking off his uniform, "I really
don't see any other option other than surrender Horatio" he replied. Taking
the costume from his stunned friend he began to put it on. Seeing that it
was in fact a bit too long, he sighed, looked around and found a crimson
sash to tie around his waist, tucking the doublet up a bit as he did so. He
then proceeded to sit down in the rickety chair and apply stage makeup
expertly from the various pots and jars set on the table in front of him.
Leaning in closer to the old, cracked looking glass he set to completing the
finer details of the eye makeup. Horatio for his part had sat on top of a
large trunk, this being the only other surface offering a place. Watching
as his best friend, the man with whom he had gone through so many life
altering experience with, Horatio realized how little it still knew about
him. It was a bit disconcerting he realized, and yet oddly fascinating to
learn new things about Archie. "I do not think the admiralty will approve
of one of its officers taking to the stage," he said to Archie. "Hmm, quite
true Horatio, but I shall solve that easily." "However will you do that?"
Horatio asked. "You will see my friend" Archie replied mysteriously.
"Now I shall need someone to run lines with me quickly as well as enlighten
me on the staging instructions. Please ask one of the ladies to come see
me," he asked. Of course Horatio said, going to the door. Upon opening it,
he noted that the three ladies in question were standing quite nearby.
Horatio walked towards them just as the stage manager walked by announcing
loudly, "Ten minutes to curtain everyone!" Relaying Archie's request to
the three, Honoria quickly decided, as Mr. Kennedy was HER angel, it would
be she that ran lines with him. "Go make sure you are all in order my
dear, after all you are the leading lady" she said to Rosie. With that
Honoria swept away towards the small room and the new Romeo.
"I do not think this bodes well milady" Horatio confided to Kitty. "I am
not so sure Horatio" she replied consideringly. "I believe this may help
boost your young friend's confidence considerably. If what Honoria has told
me is true of the young man, he is quite and accomplished actor." "Do
you believe that she is right, or is merely besotted by her "golden angel"
Horatio inquired? "While it is true she finds him attractive" Kitty began,
"I know Honoria well enough to know that when it comes to acting she does
not mince words nor suffer fools gladly." "We'd best get you to a seat
Mr. Haitch, the show shall soon start and then the truth will out."
Captain Pellew and Mr. Bracegirdle took their seats and removed their hats.
"These seats are quite well placed for having come so late sir" Mr.
Bracegirdle noted. "Well at times being a ships captain does come in
handy" the Captain replied. "Of course if I were an Admiral we would be
sitting up front" he noted wryly. Before any more comments could be made
the curtains on stage parted and a man came out to announce the beginning of
Horatio sat nervously off to the side in the front row seat Kitty had lead
him too. Although his was a mind given more to science than the spiritual,
Horatio found himself praying fervently. Please lord he thought to
himself, do not let Archie be humiliated, I do not think he could survive
it. And please do not let this get us into any trouble he concluded as he
saw a man step out on stage from behind the curtain. Here we go he thought
as the curtains began to open.
As Lady Capulet entered the stage, three men in the audience reacted
notably. Horatio was enraptured anew by the sight of Katherine Cobham,
late the Duchess of Wharfedale, beautiful and bedazzling in full stage make
up and costume confidently becoming yet another personage in front of his
eyes. A bit farther back, Captain Pellew's suspicions about the lady were
laid to rest. He too found himself enraptured by the woman onstage, but
for far different reasons than his young officer's. The third gentleman,
Mr. Bracegirdle gasped audibly when finally it dawned on him why the lady
onstage looked so familiar. "Sir" he began, "Isn't that." He was shushed
firmly by his captain. "Later I will explain all" Pellew said.
An even bigger shock was in store for the three a small while later as Romeo
himself entered the play. "Is the day so young" Romeo responded to
Benvolio. Unlike before, the three men of the HMS Indefatigable had the
same reaction, pure astonishment. Here on this stage was a poised and
confident man. He spoke his lines with authority and moved around the stage
with grace and confidence. In fact, as Horatio watched it seemed Archie
positively shone, a golden being after all.
While Horatio had never been one for the theatre, preferring instead his
books of logic, he found as the play went on he could not tear himself away.
Sir Edward also watched intently, seeing young Mr. Kennedy in a new light.
Sir Edward had always based his opinions of others on what he saw them do,
and tonight he was revising his opinions of Midshipman Kennedy. He had
always considered him an able enough sailor, despite his "affliction", but
had thought him to be a rather shallow, happy go lucky sort. Now however he
was realizing as he watched the confident and well-spoken young man in front
of him, he saw new depths and potential in him. Mr. Bracegirdle for his
part could only stare in rapt fascination. That this actor, this Romeo,
should be the same unsure and traumatized young man he had been attempting
to teach and inspire was beyond all comprehension.
As the final, dramatic death scene drew to a conclusion Horatio found his
eyes actually filling with tears. He could not say exactly why, whether
from pride at Archie's splendid performance, or the painful memories
watching his friend die onstage brought back. As the actors came onstage to
take their bows, people in the audience cheered heartily for Romeo. The
Narrator announced, "Romeo, played this evening by Mr. Clayton Jones."
Horatio smiled, appreciating Archie's creative solution to keeping his true
identity unknown while managing a tribute to their fallen friend at the same
As the applause began to die down, Captain Pellew and Mr. Bracegirdle exited
quietly. "Well sir, that was most enlightening indeed if I may say" Mr.
Bracegirdle commented. "You may sir" the Captain responded, "You may
indeed." "Did you know that the Duchess of Wharfedale was an actress sir"
Mr. Bracegirdle asked. "Not initially, no. However she did look a bit
familiar and I could think of why. It wasn't until Mr. Hornblower had
rescued her and returned her to our ship for passage home that I began to
figure it out" Pellew explained. "She is a talented actress, to be sure,
yet at times the aristocratic personage of the Duchess seemed to slip. I
realized tonight when I saw the name Katherine Cobham in an advertisement
for the play why she looked familiar to me. I had seen her in a play some
years ago in London." "And what of Mr. Kennedy" Bracegirdle asked. "That
was entirely unexpected" Pellew assured him. "Our Mr. Kennedy bears further
watching I believe Mr. Bracegirdle. And I shall be watching" the Captain
pronounced, "Most closely I shall watch" he finished as the two men climbed
into the jollyboat for the ride back to the Indy.
Horatio and the much congratulated Mr. Kennedy were themselves beginning the
journey back to the docks. After having washed off the stage makeup, Archie
had changed back into his military uniform. Honoria, Rosie and Kitty waited
outside to congratulate him on an outstanding performance. When the two
young men emerged from the room, Honoria again engulfed Archie in a
bone-crushing hug. "Saved again, you are more than an angel, I declare" she
intoned dramatically, "you are a veritable archangel, a savior my dear!"
Releasing Archie before permanent damage could be done, she swept an
unsuspecting and astonished Horatio into her arms. "You are also a worthy
hero my dear, helping get my angel ready and our fallen artisan cleaned up."
"Really it was nothing ma'am" Horatio gasped weakly. Stepping back, Honoria
said to Kitty, "Hero's our lads, our day and night hero's." "Day and night
heroes" Kitty questioned. "Why of course my dear" Honoria replied as if it
should be perfectly obvious. "Look how they complement one another. One
made of light, so golden and fair. The other of ebony, both his eyes and
The ladies attempted to persuade the two to join them for a late supper, but
Horatio replied regretfully, "I truly wish we could ladies, but we must get
back to the ship else the captain will have our hides." Kitty impulsively
embraced the two young men as she said good bye. Honoria dabbed her eyes
dramatically with a handkerchief as she bid farewell. And Rosie for once
was rendered speechless and merely curtsied to the two gentlemen as they
As they walked at a brisk pace through the streets toward the docks, Horatio
complimented Archie again on his performance. "How many plays have you been
in Archie?" he asked with awe. "One or two small ones is all Horatio,
nothing more" Archie replied. Finally as they boarded the jollyboat Archie
could stand Horatio's awestruck stares no more. "Horatio" he said quietly,
"Do not look at me so, it is most disconcerting." "I can not help it
Archie" Horatio replied, "It is like you are a different person. A famous
one, it is very odd to consider." "Horatio, I am the same person as before,
Midshipman Kennedy. Tonight was just an oddity, but it was quite an
adventure certain sure!" He laughed.
The jollyboat having reached its destination, the two friends proceeded to
climb aboard, happy to be home at last. As they came over the side, they
were laughing together. They proceeded across the deck towards the ladder,
contentedly talking quietly together. As they drew near the companionway
Captain Pellew called down from the quarterdeck, "Mr. Hornblower, Mr.
Kennedy, did you enjoy your evening sirs" he inquired politely. "Most
certainly sir, and thank you for the privilege sir" Horatio responded for
the pair. "You gentleman are quite welcome, now I would bid you goodnight.
Tis almost morning, I would have thee gone" Pellew said to the two young men
before him and walked quickly away lest they see the smile on his face.
Horatio looked at Archie in horror, "Archie, isn't that a line from that
play tonight" he asked. "Yes it is Horatio" Archie replied looking towards
the spot the captain had so recently left. "You don't think Captain Pellew
knows do you" he asked, continuing before Archie could answer, "No of
course he couldn't, he didn't leave the ship. It's impossible, there is no
way he could have seen us at the theatre." Having satisfied himself with
that answer, Horatio continued towards their berths. With a considering
glance back, Archie made to follow, answer his friend softly as he did,
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio."