A Day (or So) in the Life
by Sue N.
**Chapter Thirteen: The Examination for Leftenant**
Horatio was pacing the quarter-deck like a caged
animal, his eyes clouded, his face dark with worry,
his lean frame taut. Time and again he turned and
stared out over the water into the town beyond, not
certain what he was watching for, but watching
"Are you expecting him to fire a rocket, perhaps?"
Bracegirdle teased gently, watching the younger man
with amused compassion. "I fear the town authorities
would not look kindly upon such."
"Oh, I don't know!" Horatio sighed in frustration.
"But he has been gone so long-- It will be dark soon--
Good God, what can be taking so long?"
"Think back to your own examination," Bracegirdle
advised. "How many candidates were there? And that was
in Gibraltar. Now, imagine how many there must be
here, at the fleet's main anchorage. I dare say we
shall be fortunate if he is back before dawn!"
"Dawn!" Horatio gasped in horror. A sudden thought
came to him. "Look, perhaps I could--"
"What? Go to him?" Bracegirdle guessed shrewdly. "And
if he has not gone in yet, exactly how will that help
him? Listen to me, Horatio," he said gently, placing a
large, brotherly hand on the younger man's shoulder,
"this is something he must do for himself. We all know
that. HE knows that. And look at yourself. You are as
nervous as I have ever seen you. Do you truly think
seeing you in such a state would help him at all?
Sometimes, Horatio, the best thing a friend can do is
to let another friend stand or fall on his own. There
will be ample time for consolation or celebration
after his return. But for now, your place is here."
Horatio sighed and bowed his head, frowning but
recognizing the truth of the man's words. "I know you
are right, but--"
"But he is a friend," Bracegirdle said, smiling
slightly. "And fortunate he is, indeed, to have a
friend such as you. Now, before you wear a hole in the
captain's quarter-deck, I suggest we go into the hold
and take an inventory of beef and biscuit casks."
"We already did that--"
"Yes, and you counted them incorrectly."
Horatio raised his head sharply at that. "Sir, I
protest! I am certain I counted every one--"
"And some twice. Come on." Bracegirdle winked. "Prove
Horatio smiled at that and nodded, grateful for
Bracegirdle's kindness. "I shall, indeed, sir. And
take great pleasure in it!"
Pellew looked up, and stiffened involuntarily at the
sight of the familiar face. Kennedy was pale, his blue
eyes wide, but there was an air of composure, an
absence of panic, about him that the captain found
most welcome. He was tempted to smile, but quashed the
urge. Nonetheless, he thought he saw Kennedy glance at
him, and somehow take heart.
Give the lad credit for courage...
"Certificates, please," Ramsay directed, holding out a
Archie stopped before the table and handed the captain
all the papers attesting to his identity, years of
service, good conduct and other formalities. Without
thinking, he passed them with his right hand, blushing
faintly as Gerard took notice of the bandage, then
lifted his gaze to take in the still-bruised face.
"Things getting a bit rough out there?" he asked
"Oh, no, sir," Archie breathed, missing the jest
entirely. "I was injured-- a few days ago--" What? In
a brawl in the streets of Portsmouth? "Sir," he added
lamely, forgoing any further explanation.
"Your name?" Kerr intoned.
"Archie-- Archibald Kennedy, mids-- acting-lieutenant
in the frigate Indefatigable."
Four pairs of eyebrows shot up at that, and four pairs
of eyes swung ëround to Pellew. "One of yours, Sir
Edward?" George asked in surprise.
"Indeed so, gentlemen," Pellew answered evenly. "I had
put Acting-Lieutenant Kennedy's name forward before I
was asked to sit on the board. I saw no reason to
withdraw it. However," he glanced at Kennedy, then
back to his fellow captains, "in the interest of
fairness, I shall refrain from questioning him. I
should not wish to appear either unduly biased or
unduly harsh in my judgment."
The four others consulted among themselves for a
moment, then nodded their assent. "Very well," Kerr
said. A gleam suddenly appeared in his eyes. "I have
to admit, though, it's not every midshipman -- or
acting-lieutenant -- who would knowingly appear before
his own captain. Ye've got nerves, lad. Now let's see
if there's a brain to go wi' them!" He glanced at
Ramsay. "Captain Ramsay, I believe you have the next
Ramsay sat back and studied the young man
appraisingly. "Mr. Kennedy," he began, watching the
blue eyes shift immediately to him, "you are in chase
of an enemy's ship of war, upon a wind, with all your
sails set. She is right ahead. On which side will you
engage her, sir?"
For one dreadful, sickening moment, all thought left
Archie in a rush, his mind seeming actually to go
numb. This was it; he had failed. Little knowing what
else to do, he glanced instinctively at Captain
Pellew, seeking comfort and reassurance from that
presence as he had in so many battles before, as he
had while engaging the French frigate.
Oh, God, the frigate...
He came back to himself with a jerk, and turned his
gaze abruptly back to Ramsay. "I would engage her on
her leeward side," he answered, his voice very soft,
but very steady. "She would not be able to put away
before the wind, and if there is any sea at all, she
might not be able to open her lower ports."
"I see," Ramsay said, leaning forward and catching
that gaze with his own. "So you would always engage to
Archie started to answer, but hesitated. There was
something else... "No, sir, not always," he began
thoughtfully. "If," he frowned deeply, concentrating,
"if the breeze is light and the weather hot, it-- it
would be better to engage to windward. Then they
should receive the smoke and heat of the fire."
While Ramsay and the other three consulted, Pellew
concentrated hard on holding still and allowing no
expression to show. But, by God, the boy was right!
Surely they must see that!
Gerard smiled and nodded. "Very good, Mr. Kennedy," he
complimented. "A most satisfactory answer. Let us see
if you can give us another." He watched the young man
intently. "How would you wear ship with all sails
Archie returned that stare, unblinking, for long
moments, his mind again faltering. With an effort,
though, he tore his gaze from the captain's and
dropped it to the table, then closed his eyes and
summoned forth a mental picture of the Indy's
quarter-deck, with Captain Pellew, Mr. Bracegirdle and
Mr. Bowles all in place beneath the towering mountain
of the Indy's full spread of canvas. They had done
this, and he had watched.
They had done this...
He opened his eyes and lifted his head, staring past
the captains to the wall and describing each step as
it unfolded in his mind's eye. "Sir," he began, the
tension visibly leaving his body, "I would haul the
mizzen up, and the mizzen stay-sail down, or brail it
up, and hard a-weather the helm. I would shiver the
mizzen topsail, let go the main and main-top bowlines,
ease off the main sheet and the lee main brace, and
round in the weather brace. When the wind is abaft the
Pellew slid his hands into his lap and clasped them
tightly together, clenching his jaws just as tightly
to keep from mouthing the words along with Kennedy.
The young man was speaking slowly, deliberately,
careful not to omit a single detail, and Pellew was
following every step with him, mentally putting
Indefatigable through her paces. His dark eyes never
left Kennedy, and his every muscle was so taut it
hurt. Once or twice, he had to remind himself to
But the lad was doing fine. No, by God, he was doing
better than fine! Kennedy was doing superbly!
Out in the big, silent room, Midshipman Jenkins of
Sophia stared sightlessly at his open book and chewed
his thumbnail down to the quick, then started on his
index finger. So far, he knew, they had asked about
clearing for action, looking for sails in the dark,
splicing cables, rigging various masts and putting
about in heavy seas. Ordinarily, not a one of them
would give him a moment's pause. Now, however, it was
all he could do to keep the pertinent points of each
Well, hell. It really wasn't so bad being a
The door opened and closed and he looked up, groaning
at the sight of Kennedy standing there, ashen-faced,
glassy-eyed and trembling. Preparing the words of
consolation he had been rehearsing, he rose to his
feet and started forward, eyeing his new friend
"Now, look, Kennedy--"
Before he could get any further, though, Kennedy came
to himself abruptly, gave a loud, ecstatic whoop and
raced forward, grabbing Jenkins' hand in his own
broken one and giving it a hearty shake, regardless of
the pain it must have caused him.
"I passed!" he shouted joyously to the entire room,
his blue eyes alight, his face flushed with colour. "I
passed, do you hear? The board has recommended me for
promotion to lieutenant and my captain, my captain who
was on that damned bloody marvellous board, said he
accepts their recommendation! Do you hear me?" he
cried. "I AM LIEUTENANT ARCHIE KENNEDY!"
Jenkins laughed aloud and shook his friend's hand
again, truly delighted for him. "Wonderful news,
splendid news! Kennedy, we shall have to celebrate--
Oh, God!" he suddenly gasped, his eyes widening, his
face falling. "I am next. They are waiting-- God help
me, I am next!"
"Listen to me," Archie said urgently, putting his
hands on Jenkins' shoulders and staring into his
suddenly-dazed eyes. "Listen to their questions, then
take your time, but not too much time, and think. And
if you like, I shall wait here for you. Then," he
smiled, "we can celebrate our promotions together!"
Jenkins smiled slightly, gratefully. "Kennedy, you're
a good chap! Yes, please, do wait." He winked. "I want
to hear all about Nelson!"
The taproom of the Admiral's Daughter was a lively
place, filled with midshipmen celebrating the passing
of their examinations and their imminent commissions.
As the tavern nearest Admiralty House, it had become a
natural gathering spot for those who had reason to
revel, and the scene within was a marked contrast to
the solemnity these same young men had just left
behind. Older officers who remembered this same
overwhelming joy and relief from their own youths
looked on in smiling camaraderie, with more than one
hoisting a pint to the exuberant group of new
Crowded around a very small table with four others,
Kennedy and Jenkins discovered, quite to their
surprise and delight, that each had just enough for
two pints -- one round to celebrate Kennedy's passing,
and the second to celebrate Jenkins'. As the potman
set a tankard before each, Jenkins grabbed his, rose
to his feet and said loudly, "To LIEUTENANT Archie
Kennedy of His Britannic Majesty's frigate
Indefatigable, who passed his examination with his
Shouts of "hear, hear!" went up from the table -- and
the room -- as Archie laughed aloud and raised his own
tankard in acknowledgement of the toast. Jenkins sat
down again and regraded his new friend with a smile
and a shake of his head. "I still don't know how you
did it, Kennedy," he said. "I tell you, when I was in
there, Pellew's eyes bored through me the whole time.
When I came out, I had to check myself for holes!"
Archie laughed again and took a deep, carefree drink
of his ale. Oh, it was prime stuff! Or maybe it just
tasted better when mixed with success...
"Oh, no," chimed in another new lieutenant, his broad
face already shiny with drink. "The hard one was that
Kerr! Snarling out questions with that brogue, then
waiting for you to hang yourself-- There was more than
one moment when I wished the floor would just open up
and swallow me whole!"
"Oh, Kerr's not so bad," opined another. "The worst
ones are the quiet ones -- Gerard and Pellew. Aye,
quiet, and deadly!" He looked at Archie and blinked
owlishly. "And Pellew's your captain, you say? You was
tested by your own captain?" When Kennedy nodded, the
young man whistled and raised his half-empty tankard.
"Then here's to you, mate! You're a better man than
I'll ever be!"
As arguments over who had been the tougher inquisitor
went ëround the table, Archie leaned forward to
Jenkins and asked, "Davey, would you consider it too
late to call upon someone?"
Jenkins frowned and drank again. "Depends," he rasped.
"Who are you wantin' to see?"
Archie smiled shyly and blushed. "Well--"
"A-HA!" Jenkins chortled. "A lady! She pretty?"
"Oh, yes," Archie sighed, gazing into his ale and
seeing two luminous brown eyes staring back. "Prettier
than pretty! And as soft and warm as a Mediterranean
breeze--" He glanced up at Jenkins. "She met me this
morning, outside Admiralty House, just to wish me
luck! And-- and she told me to stop by-- if it weren't
too late-- Is it, d'you think?"
Jenkins frowned and scratched his chin thoughtfully.
"I don't know. It's fair past the supper hour, and
some of these town families keep early hours--" He
raised his tankard and smiled. "There's really only
one way to find out, you know. After all," he winked,
"for all you know, she's waiting by her window,
watchin' the street for you. It'd be a royal shame to
disappoint her. And what's the worst that could
Normally, Archie hated that question; whenever it was
asked of him, he could always conjure up disasters of
the most gruesome sort. At this moment, however, he
could not think of a single thing that could go wrong
"How long you known her?" Jenkins asked, full of
curiosity. His dark eyes were bright and lively; at
this moment, he had not a care in the world.
Archie sipped from his ale. "Oh, just a few days," he
answered at last. "Just after we anchored, Captain
Pellew gave me and Horatio -- that's my shipmate and
very good friend, Lieutenant Horatio Hornblower --
liberty. While we were looking around Portsmouth, we
heard these screams, and saw two young ladies being
molested by a gang of robbers." He shrugged. "So we
went to help." He lifted his right hand. "That's how I
Jenkins grinned broadly. "Ah, injured in battle, eh?
And for a young lady? You must've appeared quite the
Archie blushed again. "Oh, no. It was just-- instinct,
I guess. We had to help."
"And she came to wish you good luck this morning?" He
eyed his new friend enviously. "I should have
liberties like that! D'you blokes on the Indy always
lead such interesting lives?"
Archie laughed and drank again. He had considered his
life in many terms, but "interesting" had never been
one of them. Still, things were certainly starting to
Jenkins watched Kennedy finish his ale, then lifted
his own tankard and drained it. Setting it down, he
waved the potman over again. "Another round, my good
man," he ordered. "And now, Kennedy, it's your turn to
Both young men were rather well toasted as they made
their way along the dark and quiet street to the
Addington home. Having finished their two rounds, they
had been bought two more by some of their wealthier
comrades who had taken pity on them, and now, while
not actually drunk, they were nonetheless feeling
quite pleased with themselves and with the world at
Life was good...
"There it is!" Archie hissed sharply, stopping short
just before the imposing house. "D'you suppose they're
Jenkins frowned and studied the expansive edifice. "I
can see light through the lower windows-- Good God,
Kennedy, you didn't say she was royalty! Look at this
Archie gave his friend a playful shove. "She's not!
But her father's a ship-builder, and has ties with the
East India Company. You know, the merchant lot."
"She's probably too good for you, then. Hey, though,"
he suddenly stared hard at Kennedy, "what does your
"Nothing," Archie said with a grimace. "He's a
Jenkins choked and coughed. "A VISCOUNT! Christ,
Archie, you are full of surprises!" He smiled
slightly. "Maybe you're too good for her, then."
"I'm the third son," Archie said absently, still
studying the house. "Oh, God, maybe I should just
wait!" He started to turn away, his nerve, even
ale-bolstered, fading. "I--"
"Oh, no, you don't," Jenkins called, grabbing his arm
and pulling him back around. "We've come this far. You
faced your own captain on the board. You're not gonna
turn back before your prettier-than-pretty little
bird, are you? Besides," he nudged Archie forward,
"she said she wanted you to call, didn't she? That
means she cares. If you don't let her know what
happened, she'll worry all night. Don't want that on
your conscience, do you?"
Archie scowled blackly at him. "You're as bad as
Horatio! Oh, all right!" He jerked his arm free, then
tugged on his jacket to straighten it. "But if we wake
her father, I get to kill you, all alright?"
Jenkins smiled and nodded. "Sounds fair. Let's go."
Taking a deep breath and gathering what remained of
his courage, Archie strode up to the massive front
door and uttered a silent prayer before rapping the
knocker against the wood. He found himself holding his
breath while he waited for someone to answer, and was
just about to turn away when the door opened.
"Yes?" asked the tall, grey-haired man who stared down
a rather prominent nose at the two young men.
Archie gazed up through wide, startled eyes and tried
desperately to remember who this man might be. But so
much of that night was still a vague blur--
Jenkins frowned and shoved an elbow into Kennedy's
ribs. "A-hem!" he coughed loudly.
"Oh!" Archie gulped. "Um, yes, well, we-- my friend
and I, that is-- were wondering if-- by chance-- the
Addingtons-- Sir Robert and his family-- are within--
Or is it too late for them to be receiving visitors?"
he suddenly asked in a rush. "I know this is not quite
the usual hour, but we only just-- well, that is, we
have not been free--"
"Kennedy, you're babbling!" Jenkins hissed. "Take a
deep breath, ask one question, and then wait for an
answer!" God, she must be much prettier than pretty,
"One question," Archie repeated dazedly. "All right.
Um, are they-- the Addingtons, I mean -- well, of
course, I mean the Addingtons--"
He drew a deep breath, straightened, and asked
quickly, "Are they within?"
The man, Sir Robert's long-time butler, skillfully
resisted his urge to smile, and continued to stare
rather pointedly at the extremely flustered young man
before him. "They are," he answered simply, with no
"Oh, God!" Jenkins groaned, bowing his head and
covering his face with a hand, knowing Kennedy would
be forced to ask another question.
But Archie seemed to be pulling himself together, if
with an effort. He had dealt with servants all his
life, and forced himself to remember how it was done.
"And are they up?"
"They are in the parlour, sir."
Jenkins nodded slightly. Well, now they were getting
Archie drew himself up to his full height and forced
himself to meet that frosty gaze with something like
the withering stare his father used to such
perfection. "Then would you be so good as to announce
Again, the urge to smile was resisted. "And you are?"
The blond head came up and the blue eyes flashed. "I
am Act-- No, I am Lieutenant Archie Kennedy of the
frigate Indefatigable, and this is Lieutenant David
Jenkins of the frigate Sophia."
The man bowed. "Very good, sir. I shall see if they
are accepting visitors." He opened the door and
ushered them into a large foyer. "Please, wait here."
Archie bobbed his head tersely as Jenkins looked on in
approval. A viscount's son, indeed!
They had been waiting only a very few minutes when
light, rapid footsteps caught Kennedy's attention. As
he turned, a sweet, familiar voice called excitedly,
"Lieutenant Kennedy? Then--"
At the sight of her, a huge , bright grin spread
across his face and all hesitation, all uncertainty,
was forgotten. "I passed!" he shouted, throwing open
his arms. "I passed my examination!"
Jenkins watched in surprise as the girl gave a small,
glad cry, raced across the foyer and threw herself
into Kennedy's arms, closing her own tightly about
him. And with a broad smile of his own, he had to
admit that his new friend had been right. This girl
was prettier -- much prettier -- than pretty, indeed!
Horatio had moved his pacing from the quarter-deck
down to the wardroom, and was in the process of
wearing a track in the oak beneath his feet as he
circled the table yet again. Bracegirdle and Bowles
were engaged in still another game of acey-deucey and
had all but forgotten him, but young Mr. Hardy, who
had the attention span of any other fifteen-year-old
boy, could focus on nothing but that silently circling
Oh, God, merciful God, please let Mr. Kennedy return
soon! he prayed fervently.
Horatio was thinking much the same thing, though for
entirely different reasons. He and Bracegirdle had
counted every cask twice, had inspected the hold, had
given the midshipmen their evening lessons in
arithmetic, had written one of the ratings up on
charges for drunkenness -- oh, wouldn't the captain be
ecstatic to find that awaiting him upon his return! --
had, in short, done all but haul up the anchor and
take the Indy out for an evening cruise. And still
nothing, nothing could take his mind off what was
Oh, God, what if Archie HAD failed? Or, worse, what if
he had gone in there, seen Pellew, and had a fit? What
would they do to a midshipman who had a fit before
"Boat approachin'!" called the quartermaster's voice
from the companionway. "Looks like ëe's comin' back!"
At that, every affectation of calm, of inattention and
unconcern in the wardroom was abandoned. Every man
there -- Hornblower, Hardy, Bracegirdle and Bowles --
turned or leapt to his feet and raced for the
companionway with not the slightest pretense of
decorum. Horatio, with his long legs, made it first
and arrived upon deck before the others, only to find
a small knot of men already gathered at the side,
Now remembering his rank and position, Bracegirdle
made a much more orderly ascent to the quarter-deck.
"Glass," he said simply, holding out his hand and
closing his fingers about it as the quartermaster
pressed it into his hand. He raised the glass to his
eye and peered into the darkness, finally sighting the
small shoreboat, and the young man seated within.
"Aye, it's him," he said quietly.
Horatio chewed his lip and fought to keep himself from
snatching the glass away from Bracegirdle. Yes, but
what did he look like? Could they tell anything from
this distance? Oh, God, what was happening?
At last, Bracegirdle took pity upon the junior
lieutenant and handed the glass to him. "Care to see
Horatio tried not to grab, but was not entirely
certain he succeeded. With a sharp intake of breath,
he raised the glass to his eye and stared through it.
Yes, it was Archie, but-- Oh, God, his head was bowed!
Did that mean--
"Goddamn them, can't the bastards row any faster?" he
hissed without thinking.
Bracegirdle cleared his throat to keep from laughing,
and Bowles stared up at the sky. Below, at the side,
Matthews was urging the men back, as uncertain as
anyone else about what kind of welcome to give.
Horatio could wait no longer. Almost throwing the
glass back to Bracegirdle, he hurried down the
companionway to the deck and walked as quickly as
dignity would allow to the side just as the boat came
into hailing distance.
"Shoreboat, ahoy!" he cried.
"Aye aye, sir!" answered the lead oarsman. Moments
later, the boat was at the side ladder.
Horatio told himself to inhale, then, when his chest
began to burn, reminded himself to exhale. God, what
was taking Archie so long? He was moving more slowly
than usual, more carefully-- Oh, God, just as if he
HAD had a fit--
Archie jumped for the ladder and just managed to catch
it and hang on, his head swimming more than he would
like. Between the ale at the Admiral's Daughter, and
Sir Robert's brandy, this was harder than he had
anticipated. Instinct, however, came to his aid and he
began to climb, using his good hand while holding his
books in his injured one. Well, at least all the drink
had served to numb the pain...
To his surprise -- and relief -- Horatio was there to
grab his arm and haul him aboard. As he straightened,
he reeled a bit, but quickly steadied himself and
assumed a properly sober -- even somber -- expression.
"Well?" Horatio hissed, not at all liking Kennedy's
wide and slightly unfocused gaze or his unsteadiness.
All were familiar to him as the after-effects of a
Bracegirdle, Bowles and Hardy joined them, while
Matthews and the men crowded as closely about as they
dared. Kennedy took them all in, blinking slowly and
"I've never seen so many midshipmen in all my life,"
he said at last, his words slurring. "There looked to
be hundreds of them!" He frowned slightly. "And there
were some who were actually crying!"
Bracegirdle cleared his throat, detecting the
tell-tale whiff of celebration on the young man's
breath. "And you, Mr. Kennedy?" he asked quietly. "Am
I right in assuming there were no tears shed for you?"
At that moment, an enormous, boyish grin of pure joy
spread over Kennedy's face, lighting his eyes like
beacons. "I PASSED!" he shouted for all to hear. "I
passed my examination!" He turned and grabbed
Horatio's shoulders, holding tightly to his friend and
laughing. "You were right all along! I could do it, I
DID do it! Oh, Horatio, I passed! The captain is going
to make me a lieutenant!"
Horatio laughed aloud and grabbed his friend in a
close, joyous embrace while Bowles and the others
thumped Kennedy's back heartily. "Oh, Archie, I knew
you could! I KNEW you could!" He thrust Kennedy away
and smiled into his eyes. "So, Lieutenant Kennedy,
congratulations! And well done!"
Behind them, Matthews led the men in a jubilant chorus
of cheers, and the old seaman beamed proudly. When he
could, he went forward and, catching Kennedy's eye,
knuckled his forehead in a salute.
"Congratulations, sir," he said with a wide smile.
"Didn't I say it'd be a lovely day?"
"You did, Matthews," Archie said quietly, still
smiling. "And thank you again. You will never know how
much your words meant to me."
"They was true enough, sir, ever' one," Matthews
assured him. "Just you remember now -- there's tests,
an' there's tests. And sometimes the 'ardest ones are
those that nobody sees us pass." He saluted again.
"Congratulations, Leftenant Kennedy. You done us
proud, sir. Just as we knew ye would."
"Well," Bracegirdle said quietly, again patting the
young man's back, "unless my nose deceives me, there's
been some celebration already." Kennedy blushed, and
the lieutenant chuckled, wondering if the younger man
would ever outgrow that particular habit. "But perhaps
you would not be averse to sharing another cup or two
with your shipmates?"
Archie looked at the smiling faces about him and
wondered how he could ever have doubted himself when
such men as these believed in him. "Why, it would be
an honour to drink with you gentlemen," he allowed,
sketching a low and elegant, if somewhat tipsy, bow.
"For I consider it is in large part to you that I owe
my present good fortune!"
Two hours later, when Pellew returned to
Indefatigable, he took the report from the
quartermaster as was his habit, and started toward his
cabin. But a snatch of laughter reached him from
another quarter and, though it had never been a habit
of his while captain, he made his way instead toward
the officers' wardroom.
And there he saw them, relaxed, joyous, even jubilant.
The older, steady pair, Bracegirdle and Bowles, and
the boys, Hornblower, Kennedy, Hardy, and a few other
midshipmen. It was, he thought, as splendid a
compliment of men as any captain could ask. As he
watched them, he thought better of intruding upon
their high spirits, and turned away.
He would find another occasion, another place, to
deliver his best wishes to his newest lieutenant...
"Captain Pellew!" Horatio called in surprise, seeing
him just as he turned. "Sir!"
Instantly, the laughter and revelry ceased. Pellew,
knowing he was caught, turned gracefully and smiled
easily as his gaze swept over the gathering. "At your
ease, men," he commanded quietly, coming forward to
join them. He saw then the figure he had been seeking,
and his smile broadened. "Ah, Mr. Kennedy!" he
greeted, obviously startling the young man who, unless
he missed his guess, had drunk rather more than he
should. "I wanted to congratulate you on your fine
showing this afternoon. I trust you have informed your
comrades that I shall be promoting you to lieutenant?"
"Yes, sir," Archie answered, hoping the words were not
as badly slurred as he feared. "And-- thank you, sir.
It means a lot-- coming from you."
"Does it?" Pellew asked softly. "I am honoured to hear
that. Well," his manner turned brisk again, "I shall
not intrude further upon you. I merely wanted to
tender my congratulations. Oh, there is one more
thing," he said suddenly, fixing that all-seeing stare
once more upon the less than steady Kennedy. "You will
require a new uniform to go with your new rank. I can
recommend Cutler and Gross in town." He arched a dark
brow. "Perhaps tomorrow you and Mr. Hornblower should
like to go ashore tomorrow and see to that."
"Oh, yes, sir!" Archie breathed. "Thank you, sir!"
"I would only ask," Pellew said, allowing himself the
smallest of smiles, "that you keep this trip ashore
less-- eventful than your last, hm? No more bringing
stray admirals home for supper, eh?"
Archie blushed furiously and very nearly gagged, while
Horatio stared up at the beams above and clasped his
hands tightly behind him.
"No, sir," Archie rasped at last. "No more admirals,
sir. At least, I shall-- I shall try, sir."
"That is all one can ask, Mr. Kennedy. Good night."
"Good night, sir," Archie breathed, now certain he
had, indeed, had too much to drink.
"Well," Bracegirdle breathed when the captain had
gone, "I believe that, gentlemen, is a fitting
conclusion to our celebration. Mr. Kennedy, I shall
offer a final toast before calling it a night." He
filled his glass, then raised it, with the others
following. "To our own Archie, now Lieutenant Kennedy
-- may success and good fortune continue to follow one
who has so thoroughly earned them."
"Hear, hear!" greeted a chorus of voices with gusto as
all eyes turned to the new lieutenant.
And never in all his life had Archie Kennedy been
happier than he was at this moment, when every doubt
he had ever held about himself had been laid to rest,
for once and for all.