The Fall of a Sparrow
By Alicia D.
A cold hand emerged from the everlasting darkness and groped
it's way toward his throat. Finally it reached him and the strong
deathlike grip squeezed his throat, cutting off the air to the
rest of his body. He fought it, clawed at the hand, scratched
and pinched at it but all of his attempts were in vain. The hand
only gripped harder making it impossible for him to think beyond
the fact that he had returned to haunt him once more as he always
would. Forever return and cut off his life giving breathe. Then,
just when he thought that he could take no more, that he would
surely die once more, as he did every time this dream came, the
bell released him. The bell rang and rang, it's high, piercing
shriek awakening Acting Lt. Archie Kennedy from his all too real
dream. With a jump, Archie grabbed his uniform and dressed hastily,
trying to banish from his mind the memory of the nightmare.
From the hall he could hear shout's of an enemy ship coming the Indy's way. He finished dressing as fast as he could then reached out to open the door, but there he hesitated, leaning against the closed door, his eyes shut tightly. This attempt to calm himself usually worked, but not today. Today his hear still pounded and his breathing came in quick faint gasps.
"Please" he silently pleaded to himself, "Please don't do this to me. Horatio needs me. He hasn't been the same in battles since Muziac. Don't do this to him." Despite this appeal Archie still emerged from his cabin with shaking hands.
* * *
Horatio stumbled up on the deck still half asleep and disoriented. Quickly he straightened himself up as he heard the Captain bellowing,
"Starboard Side! Starboard side! Officers to their stations!!"
Horatio looked about him and caught sight of his division, readying the guns on the starboard side. With a leap down from the quarterdeck, Horatio ran to his division.
"Come on men, Hurry!" he shouted above the commotion of the deck. Before him he could see a French frigate coming straight toward them, their ports already open and ready for battle.
"Fire." Horatio shouted just as the other ship did the same, sending bits of wood flying into the air, piercing his flesh. He let out a cry of pain as he pulled a large splinter out.
* * *
Bounding up onto the quarterdeck Archie frantically scanned the deck for Horatio and found him already at his station. Breathing a sigh of relief, Archie descended to his station and readied the gun, keeping a watchful on his friend all the while.
* * *
Horatio knew that he should be ready when it came. He should feel something, anything that would serve as a warning as a preparation but always, always it caught him totally unaware. He was standing near the gun on the Indy totally immersed in the battle. His hands were clenched tightly in front of him, shouting out orders and then all of a sudden an explosion shot through the air and he was no longer on the Indy but back on that bridge in Muziac. Marriette was once again dying in his armsGod Nowhy? Why had he insisted that she come? What had he done? A strangled cry tore from his lips as he felt her slip away from him. He curled himself up as if punched and starred in front of him with blank expressionless eyes.
* * *
Archie could tell something was wrong. Horatio was not giving orders, just standing hunched over his hands clenched in front of him. He heard the cry from Horatio and froze. It was happening again, he knew it. His heart was pounding and he tried to steady his shaking hands as he said
"Carry on men. I have to go check on something."
"Aye aye sir." Was the reply.
With all the speed he could muster, Archie ran down the deck, regardless of the puzzled glances shot his way. He didn't care what they thought. Archie flew to Horatio's side, yelled for the men to carry on firing at will then placed a hand on Horatio's shoulder. Horatio pulled away but turned his blank eyes upon Archie and murmured and anguished,
Before Archie could answer another blast fell on the ship and Archie winced. He closed his eyes and counted to five, breathing deeply with each second, then he opened his eyes and saw Horatio standing three feet away from him, his spine as straight as an arrow, his expressionless eyes locked on the deep blue sea beyond. Archie silently prayed then took a step once more towards his friend.
* * *
Someone was touching his shoulder, speaking to him soothingly but Horatio would have none if it. All that mattered was Marriette. How could he do this to her?! Again, someone talking to him, he pulled away,
"Why can't you leave me alone?" he shouted.
* * *
Archie pulled back suddenly, letting go of his friends shoulder, startled by the harsh words. He knew that Horatio had no idea who he was or that he was trying to help him but deep down Archie felt the sting of those sharp words.
He felt rather than saw the canon ball. It was hard to explain but he could sense it coming moments before it came into sight. Horatio was standing a few feet from him.
"Horatio watch out." He screamed above the loud pounding that was beginning to fill his head. Horatio did not move acknowledge his words, just stood, his mouth silently forming the word why over and over again. By the time the canon ball was in sight Archie had already decided what course of action he would take. With a cry he threw himself at Horatio, knocking them both to the ground. The dull pain of the impact on the deck mingled with a sharp, fierce pain. Pain greater then he had felt in a long time, thendarkness.
* * *
Horatio could hear the loud banging on the front door all the way up in his second floor bedroom. Why couldn't the patients just let his father sleep instead of coming to him at all hours of the night? The thudding grew worse, seemed to shake his entire being. Why did no one answer the door? Such pounding. Answer the door!! He could hear his father talking downstairs. Nonot fathersomeone else Captain Pellew!! Of course it was the Indy...The battle, what had happened? Reluctantly he opened his eyes. Not his small room above his father's kitchen, not his snug cabin aboard the Indy but the deck. The hard wooden deck stained red with blood. He tried to remember what happened but all he could muster up was a picture of MarrietteMarriette.Oh God , he'd had another flashback and this time during a battle!! He had been having them sporadically ever since it happened but mostly at night and only Archie had known about them - Archie! He remembered Archie standing next to him! Where was he? With a start he bounded to his feet. A wave of nausea engulfed him and the pounding in his head increased. He quickly leaned against a nearby gun and looked anxiously around the deck.
* * *
When the smoke had cleared enough for Captain Pellew to see, he surveyed the damage. Though they had won the battle it was not evident from the scene before him. Bodies of British and French sailors alike lay side by side. Moans of pain echoed throughout the deck. With a sigh, Captain Pellew prepared for the painful task of separating the living from the dead. He was halfway down the quarterdeck steps before he remembered to go about his custom of accounting for all of his officers. He ticked them off in his head. Mr. Bowles? Bloody but in one piece. Mr.Braicegirdle? Favoring his right side, he should be told to go to the surgery. Mr. Hornblower? Where was the lad? Immediately Caption Pellew became frantic. Oh no, he thought as he scanned the deck with anxious eyes, Not him anyone but him. His heart seemed to skip a beat and the breath he did not know he was holding was slowly let out as he spotted the young man leaning against one of the guns looking around, obviously worried. Mr. Kennedy? Of course, no wonder Hornblower was looking worried. He could not find Mr. Kennedy anywhere! A new fear to contend with he again examined the deck his eyes wide. "No!" He pleaded to himself, "No I didn't mean him. Please I didn't mean I would switch one life for another!! Dear God, not him!"
* * *
The darkness that engulfed him was not the peaceful, serene feeling of slumber. Instead the blackness that surrounded him was a painful one. Searing hot fire seemed to burn his insides. Very far away he could hear someone calling his name.
* * *
"Archie! Archie!" above the echoing moans Horatio shouted frantically. It was all coming back to him now. The battle, the flashback, the cannonball. Archie had saved his lifeagain. He would never forgive himself if Archie were dea-No! He would not allow himself to think it. It couldn't be true! He had to be somewhere.
* * *
"Horatio" Archie's, mouth moved to form the word but he was not sure if a sound came out or not. There was an odd kind of pressure surrounding him, pressing continually down on him, suffocating him.
"Archie!" someone cried slowly. What is that?
Again he tried to call Horatio's name but he could feel himself slipping away, falling into the deep abyss of unconsciousness. He tried to hang on to that last fringe of consciousness but it was in vain. He could not hold on for much longer.
* * *
Horatio leaned against the gun, closed his eyes and concentrated on just breathing. His chaotic searching would do Archie no good. He bent down and started to slowly to pull bodies off some of the injured, hoping to uncover his friend among the rubble. He went about this for some minutes before he noticed the hand. Splayed out from under a demolished gun was and arm. Connected to that arm was a hand. Horatio reached out and turned it over, drawing in a sharp breath as he recognized the ring on it's finger.
"Styles, Matthews. Rig a tackle. Now!!"
With shaking hands Horatio attached the gun to the hooks of the tackle and it was slowly lifted up. Horatio fell to his knees as the body of Acting Lt. Archie Kennedy was revealed. His face was paper white, stained prominently with blood. His torn uniform was soaked deep red and he showed no visible signs of life.
"No!" cried Horatio vehemently, "No Please!"
* * *
Someone was touching him, pulling at the thing on his chest. Then, suddenly, the burden was lifted. His lungs filled with air and slowly he again became aware of the things around him. Someone was again calling his name. Feeling exceedingly sluggish Archie managed to pull open his eyes.
* * *
Horatio gave a cry of relief as Archie's eyes fluttered open. He lived, oh thank heaven he lived!
"Horatio?" Archie whispered wincing. "Are you all right."
Horatio felt tears of relief and remorse sting his eyes but refused to let them show as he muttered
"Yes. I'm fine. Your-your going to be f-fine too. I promise. I-."He could not continue. He let his chin drop to his chin and allowed two tears to fall down his soot marked face. He brushed them away and looked upon his friend whose eyes were once again closed. Horatio bowed his head in his hands. He gave a startled jump as a hand rested on his shoulder.
* * *
Captain Pellew had been watching the scene unfolding before him with stunned silence. He saw the gun lifted off his Acting Lt, saw the blood stained body underneath, saw the tears fall from Hornblower's eyes. And what could he do to stop it? What comfort could he off the young Lt? This was the British navy. People, boys even, were injured everyday. It was a way of life. Even as his rational brain asserted this, his heart wept for the young men down on the deck, suffering. He would tear apart the gunner who had sent that canon ball hurtling into his valiant Acting Lt. if he could, but he couldn't. And the rage and sympathy and even ...fear that he felt made him a volcano of emotions ready to erupt. In the end the only comfort he could offer was the presence of his not so steady hand upon Hornblower's shoulder.
* * *
Side by side they stood, Captain and Lt., man and boyfather
and son watching as their officer, friend and comrade was taken
down to the surgery. Captain Pellew cleared his throat self-consciously
"Don't worry lad. I'm sure that he will be fine. He has been through so much already, I am sure his is not meant to - go this way. He is destined for great things I am sure of it."
Even as he spoke these words he could feel a lump forming in his throat and he was not at all certain if he believed his own words. Not trusting his emotions, he hastily excused himself.
Horatio stayed though, staring after the stretcher, his legs refusing to move.
* * *
"Put him on the table!" Ordered the doctor, dipping his hands in a basin of water instantly turning it red.
He gazed down at the body refusing, as he always did, to look at the face of the man in front of him thereby detaching himself from the task at hand. This time though it proved useless. His uniform gave is identity away.
"Kennedy." he muttered to himself as his peeled the bloody jacket off. Pieces of debris were lodged deep in his chest and more than three ribs were broken. He had lost a lot of blood and the doctor did not hold out much hope. But never the less he sewed him up, gave him medicine to ease the pain and placed him on a spare cot.
* * *
His breathing was shallow but steady, his chest heaving slowly up and down, up and down. He could hear something, voices was it? Very soft and far away, like a buzzing in his ear. On some level he seemed aware of things, on another his head was a muddle.
* * *
Captain Pellew sat at his small writing desk, contemplating the problem placed in front of him. He had to send someone to command the French frigate that they had captured. But whom could he send? Mr. Bowles was a broken arm. He needed Mr. Braicegirdle and besides, he seemed in pain despite his protests. Mr. Kennedy was indisposed. That only left Mr. Hornblower. But how could he order the lad to go and command a frigate when his best friend may be dying? How could he when Captain Pellew knew how much this friendship meant to him? But whom else could he send? He had to send Hornblower. Dear god why did he have to be the one to tell him?
Horatio sat in his small cabin, silently picking up and putting down various items over and over again for no particular reason. He let his emotions rush over him like waves. The guilt, the remorse, the fear and distress, the anger and humiliation. All were tossing and turning in his head pounding at the boundaries of his skull, anxious to be let out.
Closing his eyes he sank down on his cot and rubbed his fingers against his temples, willing the pain, mental as well as physical, to subside. Miraculously, it seemed to help and the pounding lessened as he drifted off into a light sleep.
* * *
Once more the world collapsed around him as he laid Marriette down on the cold ground. Once more the sound of the popping musket fire hit him as if he had been struck with the bullets. "Noooooooooooooooooooooooo!" he screamed. A strong hand was on his shoulder, urging him to come away. Knowing who it was, Horatio looked up, expecting to see the worried face of his friend. As his eyes met Archie's his expression changed and he was no longer worried but in pain. Blood began to drip from his dirty blond hair. His eyes rolled back until the only things visible were the whites of his eyes. Horatio gave out another scream and bolted straight up in his cot, his chest heaving up and down rhythmically. A dream, he though, just a dream.
Suddenly there was a knock on his cabin door, shakily he got up and opened it astonished to see the Captain standing before him, looking very uncomfortable.
"Ah Mr. Hornblower. I um H-how are you making out? Any news from the surgery yet?"
"No, sir. The last I heard he was being put in one of the cots downstairs.
"Very good." Said the Captain running his hands over his weary face. "May I speak with you for a moment Mr. Hornblower?"
"Yes sir, of course. Please come in." Said Horatio, hastily getting out of the doorway to let the Captain in. He gestured to a nearby chair.
"No thank you. I prefer to stand" was the Captain's reply, his knuckles growing white from squeezing his hands together so tightly. He began to pace back and forth in the tiny cabin as he started to speak,
"Well the thing is the - you see-WellEach of us has a duty to our ship and our country. Sometimes this duty conflict with our duty as a man or as a son oras a fiend. What I am trying to say is that often we have to do something when we would rather be doing something else-uhhh. I need you to take command of the " The espior ."
"Oh." Was Horatio's stunned reply. Leave to go on another ship? Leave, when Archie may be on the brink of death? How could he do something like that?
Captain Pellew watched the conflicting emotions on Hornblower's face. He watched the puzzlement, the dismay, the distress and finally the acceptance.
"Of course I will command the "Espior." sir. If those are your orders."
Pellew gazed at the young man with growing admiration and pride.
"I am glad, Mr. Hornblower. I know that this will be hard. I am very sorry that I have to do this but--."
"I understand sir. When do I leave?"
"As soon as possible." was the swift reply, "When you have pack and saidgoodbye, come to my cabin for instructions."
"Aye aye sir.
The Captain departed making the room seem quite empty without his commanding presence. With the Captain by his side Horatio could do anything, he would do the limit and beyond the make him proud of him. It was only when he was alone that the fear and the dismay came creeping back. The uncertainty, that was so often alleviated by Archie's quick wit and good humored jokes, could not go away on it's own.
Horatio mechanically packed his sea chest, his mind shutting down from too much feeling and too many emotions.
* * *
It was dark, dark and cold. Only it wasn't the kind of cold you felt in your skin, but the kind of cold that penetrated your soul. It numbed your very being all the way down to your toes until you could not feel anything, emotional or physical. The buzzing had stopped and the only thing he could hear was the gentle swishing of the waves against the hull of the ship. Thump, thump, thump!
* * *
Horatio approached the sick berth quietly. Slowly, he opened the door and strode in. Almost all of the hammocks were occupied. From some came cries of pain while some were deathly silent. Horatio took a deep breath and momentary closed his eyes before proceeding to the corner cot.
The lantern on the ceiling swayed back and forth sending shadows dancing about Archie's face, which was deathly white. Horatio pulled a stool up to his friend's bedside, his hand slightly shaking. This was not the Archie he knew. This silent body in front of him held no sign of the vivacious, good-natured friend he knew. Suddenly, Archie's eyes flew open and sapphire orbs gazed straight at the ceiling, not focusing but drifting form one thing to another.
* * *
Thump, thump thump clang clang clang. Mingled with the rhythmic beating of the waves came a jingle of footsteps but Archie was too far-gone to hear them. He was struggling to stay out of the great chasm of delirium and retain his rational thought but it was a battle he was quickly losing. He opened his eyes but saw nothing but the darkness of night.
* * *
"Archie?" asked Horatio softly, "Can you hear me?"
There was no answer
"Archie, I have to go. I am in command of the Espoir.
Still there was no reaction.
"Please Archie, say something. I don't want to leave you like this."
" You can't do this to me. Please you can't die! I need you to say something to me now!" With that last cry Horatio dropped his head down into his hands
It started softly, he could hardly hear the beginning but as the words slowly got louder Horatio lifted up his head in astonishment.
" There is a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now 'tis not to come. If it be not to come it will be now. If it be not now yet it will come. The readiness it all." Came the slow steady voice from the cot.
"What?" asked Horatio confused.
"Hamlet" Said Archie "it's from Hamlet, Horatio." With that last exclamation Archie once again fell into unconsciousness.
Horatio was a mass of emotions as he walked out of the sick berth. He was happy that Archie had spoken to him before he had gone, puzzled at his words of parting and even a bit angry that Archie had nothing to say to him except some indecipherable verse from some Shakespearean play.
Slowly he proceeded to his cabin. He stuck his head in and took one last look around. Confident that he had not forgotten anything he departed, leaving the door swinging open as if proclaiming its emptiness.
As he passed it, he paused at the door of Archie's cabin. He entered, immediately wished that he had not. Pieces of Archie's life seemed scattered around the room. A handkerchief here, a stray book there. Horatio's eyes fell on one book propped up against a candlestick on the nightstand. Archie's current reading material. The title was plainly written on the binding "Hamlet", it read. On impulse Horatio strode across the length of the room and picked up the book, tucking it into his waistcoat. He then exited, closing the door softly behind him.
* * *
Horatio was gone, that much he knew. He had gone.where had he said he was going? He could not remember for the life of him. He remembered Horatio sitting next to him, remembered reciting something from Hamletrememberedremembered.
* * *
"The Espoir "*name of the french boat* bobbed up and down in the freezing ocean beckoning Horatio on, pulling him. With one last salute to his captain he descended onto the deck of "The Espoir".
* * *
Captain watched as Hornblower gave him one more tortured glance and saluted him before going disappearing over the side of the Indy onto the deck of the other ship. He sighed and closed his eyes momentarily before shouting orders to Mr. Bowles to make sail. He then retired to his cabin.
He sat at his large table reading the letters from the admiralty his eyes going over the words while his brain registered none of it. He found himself halfway through a letter and not knowing in the slightest what it was about. Finally he laid down the papers and walked down the long hallway to the sick berth.
"The fever is getting worse." proclaimed the doctor. "Get me more water and rags."
The small boy raced through the sea of bunks to the sick berth door, colliding with Captain Pellow at the threshold.
"I--I--I." stammered the boy nervous.
"Carry on" said the captain patting the boy on the head as he sprinted past.
"How is he doing?" he asked as he came upon the doctor standing over Kennedy's body.
"Not too well." replied the doctor with a shake of his head. "His fever is getting worse and I don't know if he will last the night."
Captain pellow ran his hands over his weary face.
" Well...inform me of any...changes."
"Aye Aye sir." was the reply as the doctor grabbed the wet cloth from the boy and slapped them on Kennedy's burning forehead.
"Is there any thing else to do?" asked the Captain, his brow furrowed with concern as he watched Kennedy convulsivly shiver beneath the rough woolen blanket.
"Hope." replied the doctor
The Espoir gently swayed to and fro as if trying to rock it's occupants to sleep. But despite the rocking, Horatio could not sleep. he lay awake, his eyes wide and staring. He willed them to close, begged them to close and release him into the peaceful land of slumber. But it was to no avail.He could not sleep. Disgusted with himself, he he put on the lantern by his bedside and swung his legs over the side of the bed resting his head in his hands.As he slowly lifted his head his eye caught the book lying a few feet from him on the floor. Shrugging his shoulders, Horatio leaned down, picked up the book and opened to the first....
"Let me go! No! Pease!" shouts of fury could be heard throughout the sick berth from Kennedy's hammock. The crisis of the fever had come late that night and the doctor was having trouble keeping the young man from falling out of the hammock and hurting himself. he had begun screaming a little after midnihjt, his voice piercing through the scilence of the night.
It was happening all over again. The hand once again came towards him and pinned him down stifling his lungs and making it hard for him to breath. He struggled against it pushing it away. But still it held him in it's iron grip.
"Let me go!he shouted, "No!Please"
He was trembling from fear, but what was he afraid of? He could not put his finger of the cause of his fear but he knew it was something...something... Pain tore through him making him once again cry out. To his astonishment he found him self quoting from Hamlet once more
"Oh that this too too solid flesh would melt thaw and...
"...resolve itself into a dew. Or that the everlasting had not fixed his canon 'gainst self slaughter."
The words on the pale yellow page before him jumped out at him. This was the passage read by Clayton to him. What was the fascination with quoting from the work? He thought to himself as he turned the book over and ventured over to the basin to methodically wash his hands. His body went through the actions of washing while his mind was miles away. What is Archie doing? he thought Is he getting better? Is he dead? What would he do if he was? How could he live with himself knowing that it was his doing? Horatio sighed, banishing such thoughts from his mind. he spun around, grabbing the book, collapsing down on the bed and opening the book all in one fluid motion.
The book had drawn him in for some reason, trapped him in its eloquence. He didn't even like Shakespeare yet he found that he could not stop reading it. Perhaps it was because it seemed like his only link to his friend. Perhaps in some subconscious way Horatio believed that as long as he held onto that book everything would be okay. Whatever the reason was, he knew he had to finish, had to continue on. He read well into the early morning until the dawn slowly began to rise in the east and he was granted the gift of peaceful slumber.
The crisis was over. The dawn had come and Archie was peacefully sleeping, his face a mask of calm. Captain Pellew had just left the sick berth, reveling in the hope the doctor now had as to Kennedy's recovery. The Doctor had seemed quite surprised at the fever's swift decline as the first rays of light had bounced off the wooden floorboard of the sick berth.
Kennedy was now alone, his finger slightly curled around the edge of the blanket, his chest rising and falling ryrhthmically. His eyelids flickered and he squinted in the morning sun. With eyes half closed Archie wiggled his fingers, relishing in the movement. Encouraged by his strength he swung his legs over the side of the cot, his eyes buckling as soon as they hit the floor. He lay sprawled out on the floor, his legs twisted beneath him when the doctor approached.
"I knew that I should have left a guard or someone at your bed." The doctor muttered as he struggled to place him back on the cot.
"I thought I could walk." Archie protested when he was once again lying in his cot.
"Well, it will be quite a few days before you will regain your strength sufficiently enough to do so much as blink let alone walk."answered the doctor sharply.
With a sigh Archie brought his shaking hand to his eyes.
"Horatio. What happened to Horatio? I remember something. I was talking to him, reciting something but I can't be sure that it wasn't a dream. Is he all right? Where is he?"
"He is fine Mr. Kennedy, just fine, The Captain has put him in charge of the french frigate that we captured. We will be rebanding with them in two days. i'm sure he will be quuite happy to see you. he was very worried."
Archie nodded, wearily dozing off into blissful sleep.
(2 days later)
Horatio's eyes were peeled to the ship bobbing up and down in the distance. Both ships would be at the port in minutes. What would await him there? Would he get off the boat only to find that his best friend had been brutally snatched form this world? Would he once again lose someone that had a profound effect on his life? He didn't know if he could take it. First Mariette and now this!
Horatio shouted orders to the crew as they neared the port and the splashing of the anchor was a reminder that he would soon know the outcome of his friend's life. Horatio clenched his hands and set his face into a mask of calm passivness as he walked off the ship on to the dock.
May be it was just him but Horatio felt that the Indy seemed very quiet as he stepped onto the wooden plankings that he called home. The only sounds he could hear was the wind blowing through the sails sending unearthly noises resinating through the air.
He didn't wait to be told, didn't even stop to talk to the Captain though he knew he should have. But he knew that if he talked to anyone he would have to ask the unevitable question and he didn't know if he was ready for the answer. And so, as soon as he got on the ship, he found himself on his way to his own cabin. Once there he sat on his cot, his eyes pinned on the wall opposite him. "Ten minuetes." He said to himself, "I'll wait ten minuetes then go down to the sick berth".But as he took off his coat and hung it on the post, preparing lay down for those few precious minutes something fell out of his pocket onto the floor. The title jumped out at him "Hamlet". It was then that he knew that he must go now and return his friend's book. No matter what state he was in, Horatio owed him that.
Archie knew that Espior was docked along side them, knew that Horatio was onboard. He coulds hear the news of the ships docking buzzing about the sick berth. And he waited.
Horatio strode down the hall preparing himself for whatever was to come. He came to the door of the sick berth and he waited , twisting the book through long fingers. he didn't even know what he was waiting for really. A sign? A hint? What? Finally, when his knuckles were white from clenching them too hard he swung open the door.
Archie's mouth broke out into a wide grin as he caught Horatio's eye. He looked so shocked that Archie could almost laugh...almost. It only took a few seconds for Horatio to regain his composure though and almost immediatly his face untwisted and set itself back in place.
"Good morning Archie!" he said, his voice full of happiness "How are you ?"
"Not bad, not bad." conceeded Archie with a twinkle in his eye."And you?"
"Likewise." answered Horatio as he walked over to the cot where Archie lay.
He gazed down at his valient friend and his eye caught the still bood soaked cloth wrapped around his shoulder and his smile dimmed.
"Archie...you... I ...that is....Thank you." he finally manged to stammer.
"For what?" asked archie puzzled.
"For what you did, for saving my life. I don't know what I would have done if you... that is..."
"Your welcome." answered Archie. "That is two you owe me ." said he mischiviously.
As soon as the words were out he regretted them.
"I'm sorry Horatio. I didn't mean to bring that up. I know how hard Muziac was for you. I shouldn't have said anything. I'm such a fool. And about your dreams--."
"It's okay Archie. A dream itself is but a shadow."
Archie looked up at him with wide blue eyes. Did Lt. Horatio Hornblower just quote Hamlet? He couldn't believe it. It was unimaginable, inconcievable!!
"I'm just glad that you are okay Archie. I was very worried about you." proceeded Horatio, placing a hand on his unhurt shoulder and walking away before Archie had time to react.
Archie looked down at the book Horatio had placed at his feet and flipped through it , the book falling open
A dream itself is but a shadow
Read the first line of the page. Archie lay down and closed his eyes, unafriad. The dream that had always haunted him would come no more for, as Horatio had taught him, it was only a shadow.