There was no reply. Hornblower lay back on the cot.
*Archie is not here; he is dead.*
The darkness of the cabin surrounded him. The ocean sloshed
against the hull
and the wooden walls echoed deep empty tones. How long was it since the
ship's bell last tolled? Closing his eyes with a sigh, he waited.....for
sleep.....for the bell...
'For whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee. No man is an
island.' *Is that
how that poem goes? But I feel like a very lonely island. More solitary
than ever.* he thought...
*No man is an island. But I feel like an island. All alone
in a huge ocean,
an ocean...devoid .... of friendship.... your friendship, Archie...
How I miss you. How I came to depend upon... It was stupid
of me. I never
should have... But....if I had not, I would have been the poorer for not
having known you, served with you, watched you change with the merest
Is that what being a captain is about? Pellew would answer
yes. What would
Sawyer answer? But it is not a fair question. Sawyer was mad....
Who will be my Captain next, or should I say Admiral? I am
Archie. They made me a commander. You paid the price, and I won the prize...
It was too costly a gift, my friend, too costly...
Whatever did I give you to compare?
What is this abysmal black hole in my heart?
I did not know you were there until you were gone. What a
space you have
left! No one will ever fill it. Perhaps it will shrink in time, as the one
left by my mother. How many holes can a man's heart hold? If I had
known,.... I would have guarded it more closely...
No more holes! I cannot bear another. I forgot and let you
remember next time. There will not be a next time. There can not be a next
time...the loss overwhelms...*
The ship's bell sounded.
*Not near enough for you, my friend...it only marks the time...as
I feel I
do.... waiting.....until this emptiness ....