Hornblower Talk Like a Pirate Day
by Blade&Roses and Don the Pudgy Brooklyn Bunny
Commodore Pellew swept into his office, a stern look upon his face. Nodding, he dismissed the half-dozen Marines stationed around the room. He sat down at his desk, folded his hands and finally looked up.
Three officers stood before him, at attention, staring fixedly over his head at the wall.
Pellew's lips twitched.
"Gentlemen!" he suddenly boomed. "I trust there is some explanation for -- this?" And he swept his hand toward them.
For a moment, the room was silent, then --
"Shiver me timbers!" the parrot on Mr. Kennedy's shoulders squawked.
"Well, Mr. Kennedy?" demanded Pellew, eying the bird -- who stared back at him.
Kennedy appeared to be terrified -- face pale, shoulders shaking slightly within his flowing blue shirt. Then, drawing a breath, he rallied. "Sir," he began. "Yesterday was International Talk Like A Pirate Day."
"And that, I suppose, explains the -- atire?" Pellew crooked one eyebrow at his officers, noting the loose pants, flowing garishly-colored shirts and sashes and -- was that an eyepatch pushed up on Mr. Hornblower's forehead?
Not to mention the parrot, which had begun clawing at Mr. Kennedy's shoulder.
"Indeed, sir," Mr. Hornblower said in a quavering tone. "We, ah, had to dress the part."
Pellew slammed his fist on the desk. "YOU, sirs, are OFFICERS in His Majesty's Navy. And officers are NEVER pirates!"
"YES, SIR!" three voices chorused.
"Imagine my shock, sirs, when the Captain of my Marines informed me he had apprehended three of my officers out of uniform, dressed lower than any seaman, sneaking back aboard ship after midnight!"
"We apologize for any inconvenience, sir!" Hornblower said hastily, seeing his Commodore's face achieving a dangerous hue.
"The three of you abandoned your duties to carry out some fancy dress charade!" Pellew roared.
"No, sir!" Hornblower proclaimed, trying to attain an even straighter posture, as if that were possible. "We carried out all our duties faithfully, sir!"
"No one saw us, sir," Kennedy contributed. Pellew glared at him, trying not to laugh as the parrot began clawing its way up the side of Kennedy's hair. The lieutenant winced, but carried on doggedly, "we were not required on watch yesterday, sir, being involved in the Admiralty's attempt to remedy its bookkeeping -- ah, errors -- by inventorying the contents of all storehouses."
"We, sir, were assigned to the old warehouse at the far end of the harbor," Hornblower picked up the thread of the story, fidgeting slightly as the parrot flew from Kennedy's head to his own, and began running its beak through Hornblower's loose hair. "We changed our clothing there following the completion of the inventory. So, the only ones who saw us yesterday were Styles and Matthews --"
"who certainly will say nothing, sir, out of respect for Mr. Hornblower," put in Kennedy.
"and a half-dozen of our regular crew, who were themselves, um --"
"suitably attired for the day," completed Kennedy.
Both fell silent at the look on Pellew's face, and braced themselves for an explosion.
"It was all the Americans' fault, sir," Mr. Bush spoke suddenly. Pellew's eyes fixed on him, and Bush's face whitened. The parrot plopped onto his shoulder as he continued in a slightly defiant tone, "This -- day -- was created by a pair of Americans, sir. And the crews of every American ship in port have been trumpeting the fact that only they know how to carry it off. Have you seen them, sir? Their crews yesterday would have put Port Royale in its heyday to shame. For the honor of the Service, we HAD to do something!"
"Gentlemen, really," Pellew said in his sternest tone. "So your solution was to dress up like a, a --" Words apparently failed him at this point.
"No, sir," Hornblower said nervously. Turning, he picked up a package from the chair behind him. "It was necessary to dress like this so as to -- blend in."
"Blend in . . ." Pellew's voice trailed off as Mr. Hornblower opened the package, revealing an American flag.
"Yes, sir," Kennedy said proudly. "Dressed in this manner, and speaking like pirates, we successfully infiltrated the Constitution's crew."
"As our boat left the dock from outside the far warehouse, we were not perceived as coming from a British ship," Hornblower explained, "and were assumed to be some of the Americans returning from shore leave."
"It was a rather simple matter to then mix with the crew as they lowered the flag at sunset, and offer to store it safely," Bush added, raising a hand to push the parrot's beak away from his nose.
"Which we did, sir," Kennedy pointed out, "we stored it safely -- on our ship, not theirs."
"And we didn't leave them without a flag," Bush finished.
Pellew turned to look at the wide windows at his ship's stern. In fact, Constitution was a beehive of activity this morning, with men running back and forth across the deck, swinging from ropes along her sides and scurrying up and down the rigging, while her officers were gathered on the quarterdeck, all pointing at her stern.
Where the Jolly Roger flew.
He glanced back up at Mr. Bush, who smiled slightly and said, "after all, if they want to be like pirates . . ." Hornblower and Kennedy nodded gleefully in agreement.
Pellew looked back down at the American flag, then cleared his throat.
"Gentlemen, the Americans are -- at the moment -- not antagonists of His Majesty, and we owe them all respect and courtesy," he began, trying to glare at his officers. "As such, the playing of juvenile pranks on them -- particularly at a time when they have clearly taken leave of their senses and require tender care -- is something any worthy officer should avoid!"
"Yes, sir," Bush said dejectedly.
"Sorry, sir," Kennedy's head hung down.
"I should have thought it through more carefully," Hornblower mumbled, his face flushed with embarassment.
"Nevertheless, sirs, it was masterfully done!" and Pellew beamed a smile at them.
All three officers stood to attention, smiling. "Thank you, sir!" they returned proudly.
"Now, you are dismissed -- to get out of those disgusting outfits!"
The men hastily fled the room, tripping over each other as the parrot began flapping about . their heads. As they made it into the hall, Pellew heard his crew bursting into hysterical laughter at the sight of their clothing.
Pellew managed to hold onto his controlled demeanor until the door closed on his three officers. Then, shoulders shaking, he dashed to his bunk, grabbed his pillow and shoved his face into it as he burst into laughter. 'Wouldn't do for the Marines to think I've lost my senses. But oh, the Admirals are just going to love this one,' he thought, looking forward to tonight's dinner with the Admiralty, and the argument over just which high-ranking officer would get to pay a call on Constitution, to return her flag . . .
Inspired by two things -- the annual tradition of college students stealing their football rival's mascots (and leaving something funny in the masot's place) and a story I read a long long time ago -- something about one of the Hornblower men having to steal something from another ship. I can't recall the story's title, the author or even what they stole - but the idea of our favorite men dressed up as pirates to conduct a raid on someone else's ship struck me as funny (I've been seeing Horatio in an eye patch for two days now). And as we all know, once you get a story stuck in your head -- there's no help for it but to write it down . . . I apologize to the original writer for failing to recall his or her name -- and if anyone can remember the story, please let me know the title!