by Wendy B.
"Horatio, how was it?"
Horatio groaned. "You can not imagine."
"Why? What happened, what did he say?"
"Captain Pellew said nothing that was not true, Archie. And
argued with him! God, what must he think of me!"
"I'm sure he told you, whatever he thought," said Archie,dryly.
He'd been in the Captain's quarters only a short time ago, himself.
"First, he blamed me for costing the Navy two midshipmen.
I tried to explain - and sounded idiotic - when will I learn to
think? He damned me for impudence, then. God, he was furious!
He blamed Captain Keene, and I stupidly tried to defend him. I
can't recommend refuting Captain Pellew, should the idea ever
cross your mind. He must have thought I was drunk, or worse! And
to top it off, I am now in charge of Simpson's felonious crew!"
Horatio cringed at this; he had not forgotten their insults to
him upon his arrival on Justinian, nor their having assisted Simpson
in his little prank, luring him into the rigging. He reddened
at the memory- he had actually begged Simpson to help him. This
crew had been there, seen and heard it all. Between the lot of
them, they had seen more years at sea than his total yearsof life!
Those men would ever respect him, and he didn't dare dream that
he could make them.
"He blamed you? For Clayton and Simpson? Why- how did he
"He was holding a letter, presumably from either Dr. Heppelwhite
or Captain Keene. It stated that I allowed Clayton to fight Simpson
for me, a duel in which I was the challenger! Damn, Archie, Simpson
is out of my life, and still he follows me."
Archie tried to disagree, but his own feelings were so similar
that it was impossible. His smile looked more like a grimace.
"I was there, Horatio. I know what happened that day, and
so do others. Perhaps someone will tell him the truth of it."
Horatio was even more horrified at this idea. To be defended by
men like Hether and Cleveland was intensely distasteful to him.
He prayed that Pellew would forget the matter. But he knew that
would not happen. Pellew didn't seem the sort to forget anything.
"Horatio, do you really know why Clayton did it? Why do you
think he-- incapacitated--you, and put himself in your place?"
Archie was still worried about his duplicity during those arrangements,
and what Horatio might feel about his betrayal.
"Of course, Archie. Captain Pellew was correct, you know.
I have cost the Navy two midshipmen, not that I regret the loss
of Simpson, but of Clayton, I do. I am responsible for his death,
Archie, it is no different that if I had fired the pistol myself.
He blamed me, you know, before he died. He said I shamed him into
acting on my behalf."
"Horatio, you can't be responsible for Clayton's decision!
What could you have done to stop him? Nothing!"
"I didn't know my words would affect him that way, I never
thought he would do anything - when did he ever? - but I should
have known, I should have thought before I spoke. But I was desperate,
and didn't think! His death is on my conscience, Archie, nothing
can change that."
Archie was silent, thinking of something dreadful, if his countenance
was any indication. Horatio watched as he opened his sea chest
and reached in, rummaged through his clothing, books and papers
until he found what he was looking for. He pulled out a small
square package wrapped in a scrap of sailcloth.
Horatio waited, questioning. As Archie unwound the wrappings and
revealed a well-worn black fabric covered book. He looked carefully
at his new friend, wondering what was different about him suddenly.
He was pale, gray really, and there was something odd - his lips
were too straight and his eyes too bright. He held the book out
to Horatio but seemed unable to speak.
"What is it, Archie?"
Horatio looked at him, and finally took it. Curiously, he opened
the cover. Inside he saw page after page covered with a fine,
scholarly hand. About two-thirds of the book was filled, the remainder
"What is it, Archie?" he asked again, still examining
the little black volume. Then he saw the name, inside the front
cover. "Clayton? Archie, why are you giving this to me? It
belonged to Clayton! Why was it not sent to his family, with the
rest of his belongings? Archie?"
Archie had to swallow hard before he could reply. "Before
he went, before he fought Simpson, he gave it to me. He knew--well,
he knew that his life would end that day, and he wanted me to
Archie hesitated again, uncertain how to proceed. "Read it,
Horatio. I think that may have been what he had in mind. There
is a lot you do not know about Clayton, and why he did what he
did. We were on Justinian for six months together, six months
during which many things happened--things that made him the man
Archie was talking fast now. "He was a good man, Horatio!
You have no idea- the man you saw was not Clayton, you only saw
what was left of him. He was a gentleman, he was educated, a musician,
and he was kind. He cared, once--you have no idea how much!"
Archie hesitated again, as I if unsure, then finished all in a
breath: "He spoke to me before the duel, Horatio. I was happy
for him. I was! He did what he wanted to do, and nothing you might
have said could have stopped him."
Horatio was uncomfortable with the idea of reading the private
thoughts of the dead. "Archie, how can I read this? Have
"No! I will not read it. I was there, and I know what happened.
I won't relive it." Archie would not let Horatio see him.
He was staring at the book, his eyes unfocused, as though he were
seeing the words written inside. "Just--read it. And after,
when you have done, please don't speak of it."
Abruptly, Archie left him then. Horatio watched as he climbed
the ladder to report above. After a moment, he sat back and studied
the frayed fabric cover of the book.
Archie had been strange. Since Clayton's death, since their reassignment
to Indefatigable, he had not voiced any grief for Clayton, he
did not seem affected by his death in any way. Perhaps Archie
was simply looking forward? Maybe he didn't want to look back
now. Simpson was out of their lives, hopefully for good and all,
and Archie would, if he could, forget the last six months of his
life entirely. And Clayton had been a part of those six months,
hadn't he? He remembered Archie, on his first day in Spithead.
Laughing, sharing amusing observations about the state of the
ship, the Navy, Johnny Crapeau and the French republic. He was
animated. Then Horatio remembered: Simpson had not been there,
at the time. He was on shore, taking his examination for Lieutenant.
And failing it. The Justinian midshipmen thought him gone, but
he came back. A cold chill ran up his spine and exploded in his
brain. What if--but it was unthinkable.
He shook himself. His thoughts were wandering. He had to pull
himself together. Pellew had seen him at his worst, or at least
his most Stupid. Now he had to repair the damage. He swore to
himself that he would spend every second of every day of the next
twelve months becoming a perfect officer. It would take some doing,
and incredible amount of concentration and focus, but Horatio
was accustomed to unreasonable goals, and to meeting them, and
even exceeding them. He would do so again, he must be assured
that Captain Pellew did not think as poorly of him as he had indicated
not an hour ago.
He looked again at the journal in his hands. It would be difficult
to read, but impossible not to.
Horatio sighed. He had another four hours before his next watch.
He would never sleep, not after that disastrous interview. His
stomach was in a knot, and his heart skipped a beat whenever he
thought of Pellew's words: "You RESENT? Damn your impudence,
sir!" And vanity! As if he had sought a duel over vanity!
But would he prefer that Pellew knew the truth? That he sought
death, rather than face another day with Jack Simpson? Which was
the lesser of these two evils? Vanity, cowardice, neither was
an attractive attribute. He found what passed for a quiet spot,
and opened the journal.
"2 July 1793"
Horatio opened his eyes wide. Two days before his sixteenth birthday.
What was he doing that day? Home from school for the summer, perhaps
never to return. He remembered reading the news at the post office
in the nearby town. Hostilities were expected, more unpleasantness
with the French. Quota Acts were spoken of and within three weeks,
every county in England was to provide a specified quota of men
for the Navy based on its population. To fulfill these quotas,
they had already emptied their gaols and workhouses of all able-bodied
inmates. He remembered reading one article in which a ship's captain
was complaining that "the refuse of the gallows and the parings
of the gaol make the majority of most ship's companies."
It was at this point that his father finally heard from one of
the acquaintances he had in the Royal Navy, in an attempt to get
Horatio an assignment aboard a vessel as a midshipman. If he could
not do this, he would be pressed as an ordinary seaman, and would
probably be dead within the year. He was of age, healthy, and
had no waiver against
Impressment; he must be accepted as a midshipman.
By the fourth, his father had heard from an old patient of his,
a Captain William Keene, of HMS Justinian. His orders allowed
him several months at home, to complete one more step in his education,
then he must go. Unless hostilities came to a head sooner than
expected, he was free until the new year. His gift on his sixteenth
birthday was this news. From this day, he would ever forget July
4th, the day he was sold into slavery.
He turned his attention back to Clayton's journal. The compactness
of the writing made reading difficult. Clayton had not wasted
a fraction of any usable space. His hand was neat and scholarly,
his lines of writing perfectly straight, so much a portrait of
the writer: no fussiness or stylized letters, just an honest and
Horatio's eyes stung as he read inside the cover:
This is the record of Midshipman C Clayton
2 July 1793
I am overjoyed to write of my new ship, the Justinian, under Captain
Wm. Keene. She is a stinking hulk in comparison to my last ship,
the Minerva, out of Calcutta. But she has a glorious advantage
over Minerva; my brother Christian is here. I have not seen him
for seven years, and our reunion was tearful and joyous.
Christian is now seventeen, eight years younger than I. He appears
healthy to me, for a change. I worried when I heard where he was,
but he wrote and informed me that our uncle was no longer willing
to be responsible for his support. This is the same uncle who
cut me loose at that age, and sent me here. And as I was, Christian
is required to repay that mercenary relative for his years of
support, and especially for his equipage, which was supplied for
him upon his signing aboard. A midshipman's wages are so minute;
it will take years to repay our respective debts.
I do not feel the Navy is the place for Christian, but he has
high hopes of advancement. In his eyes I see all the hope and
innocence of his age. I see that he plans to be an admiral within
a twelvemonth. He is bright; I only wish he were a more sturdy
man, physically. He has been plagued by ill health since birth.
As was during his infancy and childhood, I shall be here again,
should he need care. I thank God for his many illnesses in one
way: it allowed us to grow together as boys, closer than brothers
usually are. None in my uncle's house were willing, so the task
of caring for my sickly infant brother fell to me. No objections
were voiced against this arrangement; I was allowed to spend every
hour of every day with him, when it was necessary. I did not resent
it, and to this day those weeks in the nursery remain among my
We were sent to the uncle, my father's brother, when our mother
died of a putrid fever, following my brother's birth. Our father
had been killed in the King's service six months before.
Our close relationship began at this time. My brother had not
been christened, and no one seemed to care overmuch. They were
told that he would not likey live a fortnight. Thus it fell to
me to chose his name. I chose Christian, and was much ridiculed
for it. But the name was for our mother's maiden name. Her family,
Christians of Cumberland, and I was probably influenced by the
stories my mother told, of the moderate wealth of the Christian
family. I had childish hopes of being rescued by these fabled
I should mention our very infamous cousin, Fletcher Christian.
Four years ago this April, his name became the essence of dishonor
to our countrymen. But I love him still, if he is living, for
the sake of childhood dreams. Of course we share the details of
the relationship with no man.
I should devote some of this writing to Justinian, in order that
I may consider it a proper record. Justinian is under the command
of Captain Wm. Keene, her senior Lieutenant is Lt. Eccleston,
followed by Lt. Chadd. There are at present only six midshipmen,
with another six due to arrive within a fortnight. The six currently
are Christian and I, Mr. Whitney, Mr. Chandler, and Mr. Elliot.
I know little of the histories of these men on this, my first
day here, but will write their stories as I learn them. They appear
to be gentlemen, much of an age, between eighteen and twenty.
I find myself the eldest, and Christian the youngest of the midshipmen.
We also have on board some six or so boys of less than fifteen,
who are rated ëboysí but who will act as servants.
They will be rated midshipmen when they reach the age of fifteen,
should they prove worthy. These boys are sons of gentlemen, with
manners and behavior appropriate to their class.
We are certainly preparing for something; we hear news through
the bumboats that come daily, bringing "wives" for the
crew and wares for purchase. The boats also smuggle supplies of
rum and gin on board, usually under the dresses of the women.
Captain Keene and his Lieutenants donít seem to notice
the smuggling, but there is little else for seamen to do as we
sit idle in the channel. Perhaps they ignore it. The men are not
allowed shore leave for fear of desertions, so the shore comes
to them, by the boatload.
I expect that Christian and I will spend the next week in conversation,
getting to know one another. I must go on duty now, as it is my
time. Similar to the laxity of discipline on the Bounty, we are
separated into three watches rather than two. In this way, we
are idle more than at work, which could cause some difficulties
if we do not see action soon. I am concerned about this, but it
is not my place to voice opinions about the Captain's decisions.
Most ships, while in port, do not have ëwatchesí but
rather all men work during the daylight and all sleep during the
night. I wonder if this unusual arrangement might have something
to do with the increase in our numbers. It will be too crowded
soon, for all to sleep at the same time. That is most likely the
reason for the division into watches.
4 July 1792
The morning brought us three additional men. They are Mr.Kenndy,
Mr.Austen, and Mr.Share. The latter is not a midshipman. He is
the new clerk, who will live with us in the midshipmen's berth.
He is accompanied by his mate, who was introduced to us as "Major."
Major is a dog of uncertain heritage, but to hear Mr. Share, one
would imagine the animal had been bred and educated in one of
Englanís great houses. This loping, ungainly animal boasts
a coat of the most unlikely shade of red imaginable. Share and
his animal are ridiculously fond of each other, so of course the
Major will berth under Share's hammock.
Mr. Kennedy is assigned the same watch as myself and Chris, so
I expect to know more of him soon. The other assigned to our watch
is Mr. Whitney, with whom I have had several brief conversations.
He is quite "smart" in matters of dress, and appears
to be of a wealthier class of men than is usually found aboard
a ship berthed in Spithead. His experience is limited to one voyage
on a trade vessel with the East India Company. He chose the Navy
upon his return, the rumors of war bring out expectations of quick
advancement among midshipmen, and within all other ranks as well.
War, and career prospects are at their brightest. But not for
our captain, I fear. He is not well, he limps and can barely walk
across the deck without becoming short of breath. What will happen
when we are ordered into action? I cannot see him tolerating it.
5 July 1792
This idling in Spithead has resulted in a plague of vermin on
board. Once we get out to sea, assuming we will do, the situation
will improve, but as matters stand, the constant inflow of unclean
seamen and their "wives" means lice. Luckily our berth
has not been too seriously invaded. I served my time on Minerva
as the assistant to the shipís physician. Using the knowledge
that I gained there, we have instituted some measure of cleanliness
to the berth and our mess. The introduction of a dog to our company
hindered our attempts at first, and we considered requesting that
Share get rid of the animal. But bathing the animal with lye and
lamp oil has rid his skin of unwanted guests, so he stays. However,
cleanliness is daily more difficult to achieve in such close living
conditions. It seems that with every boatload of visitors comes
a fresh wave of vermin and disease.
Discipline is almost non-existent now, with the arrival of so
many fresh recruits. They have only just been organized into watches,
and assigned to their particular duties. Their individual skills
have yet to be ascertained. I judge that most will end up cannon
fodder, if experience has taught me anything. Prisoners do not
often make the best seamen, though there have been exceptions,
and they seldom have viable skills as artificers. The men who
comprise our division are doubtless no better or worse than the
rest-- they live and smell like animals.
10 July 1792
Southern Star came into port today, along with her squadron. A
fourth part of her crew was transferred to Justinian, bringing
us the addition of three midshipmen. They are Mr. Hether, Mr.
Cleveland, and Mr. Simpson. These three have apparently been together
on two other ships, making this the third. They seem cordial enough,
though not of the same class of men as the men previously mentioned.
I may be prejudiced in favor of gentlemen's sons. Their having
known one another for a length of time causes some resentment.
We are all of us strangers to one another, with the exceptions
of these three men. They form a triumvirate, of sorts, in that
they have a mutual understanding, almost an exclusivity between
themselves. Mr. Simpson seems to have some hold over the other
two, however, and we have all noticed that they do as he orders
them, and with little or no argument. It is possible that they
simply defer to him due to his age, he is much older than they,
and is senior by way of time served as a midshipman. I am no longer
the eldest midshipman.
I wonder that this somewhat aged man is not discomfited by his
advanced years, with so little rank to show for it. But as with
myself, we are not at war, and promotions are slow during peacetime,
unless one has an outstanding opportunity to prove his skill.
I have known of midshipmen who boasted of as many as fifty years.
The three watches have been organized as follows:
First watch: Christian, Mr. Kennedy, Mr. Whitney, and myself
Second Watch: Mr. Elliot, Mr. Austen, Mr.Chandler
Third watch: Mr. Simpson, Mr. Hether, Mr. Cleveland
I should mention that men transferred from the Southern Star came
here with much resentment. These men have not seen England for
three years, yet they were transferred here without even one hour
of freedom, for fear that they might escape. They have not been
allowed to set foot on their homeland, but are in essence imprisoned
here. The marines row around our ship all night, to prevent would-be
deserters from attempting to swim to shore. Justinian is berthed
so far into the channel and it would be impossible for all but
the strongest swimmer to succeed, but these men are desperate
and will try. I pity them. I imagine the longing they must have
felt all this last month, knowing they were headed home. Now to
be refused even the briefest touch must be heartbreaking to them.
Consider that they can see land and even smell it, but cannot
touch it. It is enough to make any man desperate. They lose themselves
in drink when their feelings get the better of them.
I am still quite concerned by the amount of free time the men
have. With three watches instead of two, there is much idleness.
I enjoy it, for it provides ample time to become reacquainted
Christian, and time for keeping this journal.
Mr. Simpson questioned me regarding this, he was curious as to
why I should want to record this miserable existence. I answered
that I have always done so, and could not stop. His questions
were insolent and impertinent. He seems an unhappy man.
18 July 1792
I have not had opportunity to write for some time, Mr. Simpson's
adamant curiosity regarding my writing is annoying, vexing. I
have discontinued writing except when he has the watch. I have
felt a need to keep it secure as the sight of it arouses such
curiosity in him as concerns me more than a little. I am not sure
what he would expect it to contain, should he read it. But on
principle, I will not leave it where he may peruse. One of my
duties is inspecting the light room, which is seldom used. I have
loosened a plank of the double thickness of wall, and within the
space I keep this hidden. No one will question my going there,
so I have opportunity to retrieve it when I wish to add to it.
Should Justinian sail into battle, and should her powder ignite,
it will be lost. But so will we all.
The fleet is building itself up remarkably quickly, we hear that
her number will be doubled by Autumn. Some say tripled, but this
must be exaggeration. We also hear that the republican armies
are moving up the Dutch frontier.
The British government has announced that it has no intention
of becoming involved in European land wars. If this is so, why
then why are we building up the Navy? There is little we can do
in such a dispute, in my opinion, other than blockade the coasts
of France, and destroy French shipping. But that would seem a
very indirect means of stopping French armies from overrunning
most of Europe.
Here on Justinian, illness is plaguing the ship. Since the transfer
of the crew from the Southern Star, we are afflicted with fever.
Many of the ratings are diseased from traffic with loose women,
and though I feel this is only just punishment for unwed congress,
I pity them even as I hear their screams of pain. Dr. Heppelwhite's
cure seems worse than disease. Many men will not go to him, but
prefer to suffer illness, which is preferable to his treatment.
Mr. Share, the clerk, was injured on Tuesday. He tripped over
some coiled line, and fell headfirst into a hold, the grating
having been removed for a small repair. He cut his head quite
badly, and is now bandaged and suffers headache. He refuses to
return to Dr. Heppelwhite, for which decision none of us blame
him. The doctor is not a sympathetic man, and is usually drunk.
He treats men with roughly and berates them when they are injured
or in pain.
Christian suffered from a slight fever this week, but recovered
well and in short time. He is still strong from the better diet
of the landsman. He has some residual resistance, perhaps. He
was forced to see the doctor, however much we dislike Heppelwhite.
He was unable to attend his duty for two days, and was ordered
to report to sick berth. He was bled twice, then he returned to
us as soon as he was able. He said another day in the sick berth
might kill him. He now recovers well in our company.
Other than these two, there have been no illnesses within our
21 July 1792
Twenty days I have been here on Justinian, and I begin to know
my mates. They are for the most part very fine men. However, I
harbor great reservations about Mr. Simpson and his two toadies,
Mr. Hether and Mr. Cleveland. We've seen that their blind obedience
to his orders are based more on fear than respect. I suspected
this early on, and now it is proven.
Mr. Hether balked when ordered to perform some servant's task
for Mr. Simpson. When Mr. Simpson saw this hesitation from his
mate, he knocked him down with his fist, and was about to begin
kicking him when Mr. Austen and Mr. Witney interfered. They managed
to stop him further harming Mr.Hether, but Simpson was furious
with them for their insubordination. He threatened both of them
with his revenge. Thus far he has done nothing, and it is generally
hoped that he spoke in anger and does not intend to follow up
these threats. Resultant of the conflict, our mess has now diverged
into separate groups. Most avoid presenting themselves within
while Mr. Simpson is off duty and awake. His presence within the
mess is like rotting fruit in the steward's hold. He has a foul
odor, and contaminates all he touches.
Of our men, Mr. Kennedy appears to be the most fearful of that
one odious midshipman. Mr. Kennedy is of a refined nature, and
appears to have lived a rather unexposed existence until now.
Mr. Simpson has sensed this, and preys on it. To watch this man
batten on his
subordinates' trepidation is revolting to me. He has not beaten
Kennedy, nor even threatened him. He simply looks at him. Whenever
Kennedy speaks, he looks. When Kennedy moves, he stares. The constant
observation is taking a toll on this boy, and he is becoming quite
conscious and unsure. To avoid Simpson's piercing eyes, he must
remain frozen in place, neither moving nor speaking. This is a
miserable existence for the boy, who at first struck me as a witty,
clever young man with good potential.
The difficulty in a situation like this is that Mr. Simpson violates
no regulation. He has not attacked a superior officer, nor any
midshipman with exception of the two he arrived with. They will
not complain of his treatment, they are much too cowed by him.
Mr. Eccleston and Mr. Chadd notice the bruises only when it suits
them to do so. Perhaps they expect this sort of behavior, God
knows it is common enough.
Traditionally, no man would dare complain to a Lieutenant of beatings,
to do so would be shameful and unacceptable. One does not give
the name of a mate to an officer, for any reason. Fighting is
a punishable offense, but tale-bearing will result in a more severe
punishment still -ostracizing the victims who tell, followed by
an even more severe punishment from his own mates at a later date.
I pray Simpson does not use this tradition of silence against
others. He seems to have no conscience, though, so I feel I pray
1 August 1792
The situation in the midshipmen's mess goes from bad to worse.
Mr.Simpson has become more than a nuisance, he's become the guardian
of hell. In the last ten days, he has successfully concentrated
his cruelty on almost every member. Before now, he has avoided
antagonizing myself and Christian. That is also changing.
Mr. Simpson has followed up on his threat of revenge against Mr.
Whitney. A week ago, while the second watch was on duty, most
of us were within our berth. There was a drenching downpour above,
which forced us to retire below decks. The four of our watch were
a discussion of policies and on the possibility of war. Simpson
and his two cronies were asleep, or so we thought. Mr. Kennedy,
a vivacious boy by nature, made an amusing observation about the
frogs, and how their diet might affect their performance in battle.
There was much laughter at this, when we were set upon by Hether
and Cleveland, at Mr. Simpson's order. With a swipe, the table
was cleared, and those two men had Mr. Whitney laid out across
it. At this point I felt it was my duty to interfere, being closest
to Simpson in age and rank. When I stood and began to move toward
him, he looked at me and smiled. He then looked very pointedly
at Chris, smirking. I glanced at Chirs to see why he looked at
him. Chris was still pale from his recent fever, but otherwise
looked as usual. I could not immediately comprehend Simpson's
meaning, then it struck me that he was threatening me by threatening
Chirstian. He had found the lever to control me, in my affection
for my brother. I returned to my place, sickened by the gleam
in his eye that told me he now knew me.
Whitney was severely beaten, whipped until he begged for mercy.
Mr. Kennedy ran from the room, looking very white. Chris and I,
being in a position between the entrance and Jack, were forced
The physical beating he could probably have endured without much
loss of face, but Simpson did not stop at that. He held a candle
to the boy's ear, we could hear his hair hissing and spitting
in the heat of the flame. He insisted that Whitney share his life's
story with us. I am sickened by the memory of this display. All
this while, Simpson kept his knee in Whitney's stomach and an
arm across his throat. With their faces inches apart, the fiend
forced a confession from the lad, berating and humiliating his
every utterance. Whitney duly confessed his every wrongful act,
none of which I will put to paper. The boy will never be able
to meet the eyes of his mates, after this. His humiliation is
complete, as is his status as subordinate to Jack Simpson.
When he finally released Mr. Whitney, he sent Cleveland out to
find Kennedy. Cleveland dragged the unwilling man back into the
mess. Kennedy was then ordered by Mr. Simpson to wash the table
as he was ready for his evening meal. Too surprised to interfere,
we watched as Kennedy retrieved a bucket of water and a sponge.
I noticed Kennedy's color changing so I took the bucket from him,
and sent him out. We could not help hearing him vomiting outside
the door. Simpson commented that he'd make a very sweet officer
indeed, if the sight of a little blood turned his refined, aristocratic
stomach. He and his two mates laughed long at this poor jest.
I assisted Mr. Whitney to the best of my ability; he did not wish
assistance, understandably. He is humiliated and ashamed. And
very angry. I insisted on helping him to remove the blood from
his face and to cleanse his wounds, as it won't do to leave them
open to infection. Christian donated a fresh shirt to the cause,
and we attempted to reassure him that we did not see him as being
inferior based on Simpson's treatment and his subsequent confessions.
To the contrary, Simpson has debased himself; his victim is innocent.
But for Whitney, I think it will be some days before he is himself
again. It angers me that this good man is subject to such abuse
as this, for the act of interfering and assisting a fellow officer.
For doing his duty, he was thus punished.
We heard the next day that Simpson attacked Mr. Austen, during
our watch. Elliot and Chandler did not interfere, Hether and Cleveland
assisted once more.
I plan to speak to Lt. Eccleston regarding this matter.
2 August 1792
During the next watch, I took advantage of the opportunity to
speak with Lt. Eccleston regarding the matter of Mr. Simpson.
I explained the situation as well as possible, but how does one
explain that Mr. Simpson is looking at midshipmen? That his looks
carry threats? That his threats will be carried out? I did mention
the beatings of at least three midshipmen, the lack of morals
displayed by the man, and his abusive nature. I got nowhere.
Mr. Eccleston as much as ignored me. He said in that calmly stoic
voice, "Mr. Clayton, you have been in this Navy for many
years. How is it possible that you have never come across a similar
situation? Pecking order is established, just as in boys' schools.
Midshipmen are, for the most part, boys; they will behave as boys
behave, a problem time will cure all too soon. I suggest you not
concern yourself ."
I reiterated my concerns, namely that Mr. Simpson was not fifteen,
and that his beatings were far beyond boyish sparring, and that
I felt the man is dangerous. He was distracted by Mr. Chadd then,
and nodded at me as he walked away, dismissing my concerns without
address. My only hope is that the seed of doubt might have been
planted. What will it take to water and fertilize it? Perhaps
Simpson will kill someone. Then, I suppose, our Lieutenant will
be forced to see what is.
I wish I had the physical strength to challenge Mr. Simpson. If
all of the midshipmen were united, we might hope to defeat his
purposes. But with Hether and Cleveland acting as his spies, and
assisting his activities, with Witney and Austen hiding from him,
with Kennedy too terrified to speak, much less act against him,
with myself apprehensive about Christian's welfare, with Elliot
and Chandler behaving in a neutral manner, it is hopeless. Mr.
Simpson convinced Elliot and Chandler that Mr. Austen was the
challenger in the dispute that they witnessed. He has insulted
Simpson and got what he deserved. They are withholding judgement
and ignoring the situation. We see little of these two, as they
have close friends among the warrant officers, and spend almost
all of their free time with men there.
I am unsure of my next course of action. Simpson knows I will
obey his every command as long as he threatens Christian. But
will my obedience protect my brother? I doubt it. I refuse to
be complacent about this.
4 August 1972
As Chris and I entered the mess after our watch, Mr. Simpson informed
me that I was to take his next watch for him. I looked at him,
and he assured me that I had volunteered, as he did not feel "up
to it." I had graciously offered this favor, as a sign of
my good nature and my regard for his person. He noted that Christian
was looking somewhat unwell this day, and should have some much
needed rest while I performed my voluntary duty.
The threat was obvious: if I did not perform as he commanded,
Chris would suffer for it. But to absent myself from the mess,
leaving Christian there with that foul being produced marked suspicion,
which I suppose showed on my face. I hoped that by doing as I
was ordered, I would diffuse his apparent annoyance with us.
So after four hours rest, I again went up on deck to perform his
duty for him. Mr. Chadd questioned me as to my reappearance, and
the whereabouts of Mr. Simpson. I replied that he was unwell,
and that I was a voluntary replacement, which seemed to satisfy
him. He did not question this, nor did he find my appearance extraordinary.
When this four hour duty ended, it was again time for our watch.
I was joined by Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Witney at the proper time,
followed shortly after by my brother. There were bruises on his
"By all that's HolyÖ" I began, but Chris stopped
me. "No," he said. "This is not you; I asked for
this. I will not have you protecting me again! Do you think I
haven't noticed? How can I allow it, when he uses me to control
you? What would you do in my place? I will not consent to this!"
Simpson had knocked him around a little, for insubordination,
according to Chris. He had stood up to him, told him he would
not be used to manipulate others. Why did Simpson go so easy on
him? Was this yet another message, another threatÖwas he
letting me know that there was nothing I could really do, to protect
Christian? I felt this was so.
The horror of our situation was suddenly very real: nothing I
could do, no amount of blind obedience or debasing of myself would
protect Chris, if Simpson decided it was to be otherwise. He was
in control, not I. I could chose to follow his orders, and he
might forgo harming my brother.
And he might not, should he whimsically decide otherwise.
I could not say to myself, "If I only do this or that thing,
Chris will be safe." For he is the master, we are arbitrarily
punished as he feels whatever force drives him to torture. Nothing,
NOTHING we do, can change this. It is an hopeless situation for
us all. And my experiences in Minerva's sick berth have shown
me what can happen to men who have no hope.
I left Chris then, I still felt I needed to see Mr. Kennedy. He
was at the rail, neglecting his men and his duty. I made a small
noise to let him know I approached, and he jumped as though I
had fired cannon. When he saw it was I, he looked away and would
not meet my eyes. He instead looked out toward the shore, hiding
his face from my inquiring gaze. He refused any comment, no matter
what I said or asked him. He simply stared out toward the shore.
I felt he did not hear me speaking.
Christian is under my protection for the sake of love, he is my
brother and my only living family worth recognizing, but he is
strong. Mr. Kennedy, on the other hand, is breaking my heart.
Already I love him well, and I know not how to help him. I tried
to reach him, but thought he might be crying. I was afraid to
intrude here. My God, what can I do to help this man? What sort
of man is it, who can destroy others, and take pleasure in the
destruction? I could never understand it, having spent my childhood
and most of my adult life nurturing and nursing, building up,
never tearing down. What demon twisted and warped that man's soul,
to make him what he is? I do not hope to understand, I only hope
to find a way to stop him.
5 August 1792
I continue my thoughts of yesterday, as I ran short of time.
I look about me, and take inventory of the changes since Simpson's
arrival. Christian is much thinner than he was a month ago. He
looks a sickly color, but he is yet strong in his mind, and determined.
Mr. Kennedy is nearly broken already, and I can not see why. Thus
far, Simpson has never openly laid a hand on him. He seldom addresses
him, and seems to ignore him for the most part. He watches him,
but that is all I have seen. Kennedy's reaction seems much more
intense than is warranted by the treatment he has had at Simpson's
hands, within my sight. It occurs to me, as I write this, that
Jack may be submitting this boy to abuses that I do not see. What
can explain his nervousness, his starting at the least sound,
when it comes unexpectedly, or from behind? Why was he crying
at the rail, during his watch? There is more to this that we see,
and I intend to find the answers to these questions.
Our group is so different now. Where once we were all contentment
and mutual respect, enjoying between watch conversation; now we
were living in a demon-infested hell.
Witney will never again be close to any of us; he feels his "confession"
most keenly, and will not participate in any conversation. He
seems to feel he is unworthy. He does not see that each of us
has sins and secrets, he is no different, except that he was forced
to bare his, while some of us still keep ours. Mr. Austen is much
of the same mind as Mr. Witney.
Chandler and Elliot still avoid our berth, except during sleep.
They rest here during Simpson's duty times, and at other times
we see nothing of them.
Hether and Cleveland seem a little apologetic outside of Simpson's
presence, but that will not affect any of us. As long as they
continue in his service while he is present, we censure them.
No one speaks before these two spies. Their duplicity does not
even atempt to disguise itself. Or perhaps they are clever enough
to know they could not hope to deceive.
I do appreciate a man who accepts the limitations of his own cleverness.
10 August 1792
No changes to speak of. Well, one perhaps. Mr. Simpson seems to
have developed an affection for Mr. Share's cur! He allows thedog
near him, pats him and gives him scraps from his table. "Major"
accepts this attention as his due, but does not appear to return
any actual affection. He is a "one man dog" and Mr.
Share is that man.
Share's duties as clerk keep him from our berth most days, and
he sleeps here at night. Major follows him to his work place,
usually he works in the Captain's cabin or one of the Lieutenant's
cabins, when he is not in the ward room or otherwise close by
the officers who use him. There is much for him to do, even here.
He keeps all accounts for the steward and the purser, writes requisitions
for them, and performs many personal favors as well, in the form
of writing. There are those Warrant Officers who's writing skills
would shame a boy of twelve, so letters to their sweethearts and
family are penned by our clerk.
I became aware of Simpson's attentions to Share's dog this week.
While the animal usually attends his master, occasionally Simpson
will go to Share and borrow him for a watch. Share is happy to
let him do so as Major gets weary of sitting all the day, and
begs for exercise. I am very surprised by this attention; a man
like Simpson cannot possibly be a dog lover. If I am wrong, I
will be even more surprised. I am suspicious, Jack does nothing
21 August 1792
Christian was again afflicted with a fever. The heat of the month
isunbearable, and the sick berth reeks of death and worse. Overcrowded
as it already was, Christian was removed to the Navy hospital
in Portsmouth for treatment. Treatment which consisted of his
being virtually ignored for eight days, except by myself. I was
allowed to accompany him to the hospital, as nursing staff is
over-stretched. For a few days I lived in fear that he might not
recover. His fever was dangerously high and he was delirious for
nearly 48 hours. Constant bathing to keep the skin cool combined
with useful medicines brought about his recovery, and we are on
Justinian once again. Ill as he had become, it was heavenly to
be away from Justinian for over a week. I had forgotten how others
live, for a time. Now I remember.
This realization has brought Archie Kennedy under even closerscrutiny
by myself. If only there were something I could do for the boy.
But I've yet to see Simpson touch him. And he tells no one what
is bothering him. He is thinner than even Christian, now. My being
away for a while has cleared my vision where he is concerned,
and I see him as he is, and compare this to what he was a month
ago.He seldom smiles, he seldom speaks, he does his duty without
animation and sleeps most of the remaining hours away. He eats
but little, and gets almost no exercise. I am hoping to catch
him tonight, we have the watch from two to four this morning,
and I wish to use the time to draw him out. God knows he needs
to talk to someone.
While Chris and I were absent, Share's dog disappeared. Should
I voice any surprise? More the fool I, if I did. Rumor is that
Simpson challenged Share to a contest of the dog's loyalty. Mr.
Share won, of course, the animal loves him with all the love a
dog has to give. In conclusion of the contest, Simpson attempted
to strike Mr. Share, but the dog interfered - it leapt up and
clamped its jaws around Simpson's wrist, and did not let go until
ordered to do so by Share. Simpson ordered him to get rid of the
animal, and even went so far as to complain to Mr. Eccelston.
It was in the way of a rolicking tantrum, if gossip is correct.
His wish was not granted, as the Lieutenant had heard the story
and knew the dog was within his rights to attack. He was defending
his master, which is what a dog does naturally.
Mr. Simpson's bite wound became infected with disease. He moans
in pain and curses Share every minute. The good that has come
of this is that he lacks the energy at present to annoy. He lies
in his hammock and makes demands of his cronies, Hether and Cleveland,
who are worn out with their unwanted nursing duties. It would
seem that without affection, the duties of caring for the ill
are more demanding than otherwise.
The dog is missing. Share is heartbroken, and spends all of his
free time searching, asking questions of the men, whether they've
seen the dog, who he was last seen with, and when. So far, nothing
points to Simpson, and Share begins to suspect the officers secretly
got rid of him, in keeping with Simpson's request. I, of course,
suspect Jack of the deed. I wonder if I can prove it.
22 August 1792
As I had hoped, I was able to approach Mr. Kennedy during the
watch, to encourage him to converse. I spoke to him of the changes
I had noticed in him, and at first he had no reply, but kept his
face from mine, even in the darkness. I continued encouraging
him for several minutes before he spoke. And when he did, God,
when he did, I almost wish he had not. I don't know what Simpson
has done but I can hazzard a guess or three. Archie did not give
details, but I now suspect Simpson of the worst kind of torture,
unclean acts and foulness. But this conversation was not the end
of the evening, it was only the beginning.
Mr. Chadd came to us as we spoke, and offered his feelings regarding
the amounts of strong drink that were daily smuggled on board.
He felt that much of this smuggling was done at this time of the
night, and he asked that we be especially observant. As he spoke,
he spotted a small cask floating below, just at the foot of the
ladder. He ordered me to fetch it up: he would have these smuggled
goods and foil the culprits plans. I climbed through the port
and down the
side, hooked the cask by an attached rope, and dragged it up.
By the feel, it was quite a full cask; it bumped heavily up the
side. Careful, there, Mr. Clayton," he said, "we don't
want to lose the evidence." I brought the cask safely on
board, and sat back, winded. Chadd then sent Kennedy below for
a pry-bar, with which we would open our prize. When Archie returned
with the desired tool, Chadd ordered him to open it, and he complied.
A terrible stench filled the air as the seal was broken, and curious,
we shined a light into it. Perhaps a cask of beef gone off, and
thrown overboard by another ship, but Chadd would be sure.
Chadd held the light, while Kennedy examined the contents. I saw
him stumble, and grasp the rail as though he were about to fall.
He pulled himself to the side, and vomited into the sea, with
Chadd along side, valiantly trying not to. Alarmed, I raised myself
to view the contents, and was horrified by my discovery. There,
neatly packed, were the remains of Share's mongrel. I recognizedthe
animal by the color of the pelt. I was unable to move a muscle,
momentarily, I fell back, the blood draining from my face. I forgot
my own difficulties, however, when I saw Archie fall to the deck
in what appeared to be a fit.
Lt. Chadd had never had experience with the phenomenon, and was
frightened by it. He ordered me to remove Mr. Kennedy to the sick
berth, but I explained that I must wait until the fit subsided
before I could do this unassisted. Wide-eyed, he watched as I
held Archie's head to keep him safe from concussion. My heart
was in my throat the entire duration of the spasms that wracked
the boy's body. I had heard rumors of men choking to death from
fits. I knew better, but when confronted with it, all logic is
gone, and fears take over. I waited for what seemed to be a year,
before the fit ran its course. It was only a few minutes, in reality.
At this point, Kennedy relaxed and seemed to have fallen asleep.
Meanwhile, Chadd kicked the offending cask back over the side
with a curse. He called for two of the seamen, who assisted me
in removing Mr. Kennedy to the sick berth. He said he would not
report the events of this evening, I suspect he felt he would
We had to wake the doctor, who was more drunk than asleep. When
I explained the nature of the complaint, he cursed me and sent
us out, claiming that there was nothing to be done, there was
no cure for this curse, as he called it. "It's God's will,"
he said, "and I will not interfere." How he became a
doctor is past my understanding. Is there a prerequisite that
a man be a foul-tempered drunkard in order to become a doctor?
There must be a regulation, at least in the Navy.
With the assistance of the two seamen, we brought Archie below.
Our watch now over, I sit and write this while all are asleep.
I will wake Simpson in a moment. I wonder whether Archie will
recall the events of this night? I hope not.
23 August 1792
After closing this morning, I put this book in its place, and
returned to the midshipmen's berth. Archie was soundly asleep,as
were Hether and Cleveland. Perhaps this would be a cowardly attack,
but even a brave man would not hesitate when this angry. I was
guessing about Archie, but I felt I was right. But I know I am
not guessing about the dog. What evil will this man do, if not
I walked up to Simpson's hammock. He was perspiring with fever,
his festering arm paining him much. At least I hoped so. I woke
him by grasping that arm at its most swollen and painful-looking
point. He flew up, waking with a roar of pain. Then he saw me,
saw me and saw what I was about.
He was writhing in pain, howling for help. Hether and Cleveland
were by this time awake, but still struggling to extricate themselves
from sleep and hammocks. To my surprise, I saw my fist land in
Simpson's face, saw it retract and fly forward again. I noticed
a slight spongy sensation as his nose shattered under my knuckles.
"The first was for him," I said, "and the second
for the dog." Howling and gushing blood, he lay back into
his hammock. I could easily have killed him at this point, but
held back. I had no desire to hang. To commit murder, yes, but
not at the cost of my own life. Christian seemed to sense the
struggle, he was beside me then and he put his hands on my wrists,
holding them gently. I looked into his gentle eyes, and felt his
gentle soul. Even with such influence, it was a fight to turn
from Jack and walk away. His shrieks filled the berth, Hether
and Cleveland attempted to help him with cold water, cloths, whatever
those inept, bumbling nitwits could find to further antagonize
Unbelievable that Mr. Kennedy did not wake through this incident.
Simpson's vociferous threats followed me as Christian and I walked
out of the berth. "You'll pay for this, coward! Don't think
you won't, Clayton. I've only started with you, I'll make you
sorry you were born! Coward!"
He is correct, I am sure. I will pay, probably dearly with subsequent
beatings and degradations that even I can't imagine. Trust Simpson,
his imagination is never at a loss. He'll extract payment, of
this I have no doubts. But it was worth it. I'd gladly do it again.
I washed Simpson's gore from my arms, and as I did so, I felt
a sense of equality with the man. Was I no better than he, now?
What had I become, fighting in the manger like a beast, fighting
with my fists, hurting, where I had only ever helped before? I
was dumbstruck by the guilt I suddenly felt. Christian held me
as I began to weep. Thank God he was there, for if he were not,
I might have returned below to offer my apologies to Jack Simpson.
I wept with frustration, with anger and guilt, with fear for Mr.
Kennedy, and with disgust for my cowardly attack. But most of
all, I wept with vexation. I could not forgive myself for this
animalistic, aggressive attack upon an ill and sleeping man.
1 September 1792
Simpson recovers well. It is said that when I grasped the infected
area of his arm, I inadvertently released the poison that was
paining him. The wound had become abscessed, and I assisted in
his recovery after all. I was his unwilling surgeon, but the irony
is lost on him.
His nose is indeed broken, and will heal with a slight enlargement
at the bridge. I've spoiled his looks, somewhat. I feel, however,
that his more sinister appearance now matches his temperament.
It might be more difficult for him to deceive, I've made an honest
man of him. His visage more reflects the villain that he is.
My attack upon his person appears to have affected him a little.
It may be that he is yet unwell, but his desire to confront and
control is less than it was previously. He has seen that I have
a breaking point. I have also seen this.
I have seen how little it takes for a man to leave everything
he believes in, everything that he feels defines his character,
to turn completely about and join ranks with those he has always
seen as beneath him in behavior.
I have debased myself, with my cowardly attack. I accept this,
and live with it. When I acted against my beliefs to seek revenge
in the lowest manner possible, I affected a change, however short-lived
it may be, in an intolerable situation.
Does the end justify the means? I don't know.
I have accepted that I am less than perfect, and that I too may
succumb to beast-like nature when provoked by a man who can only
behave as a beast would. I react according to the nature of the
stimulus, it appears. I had never before been tested. When a man
interacts almost exclusively with gentlemen and gentleman-like
behavior, he does not find a need to resort to his nature.
I failed a test of my character, but I do not hate myself for
it. We live in peace at the moment, which is all I want; my personal
failure notwithstanding. I would gladly be daily disappointed
in myself if this would mean daily peace. That is what he has
brought me to. I am desperate, and I would give up who I am, and
all I believe in, to be assured of Chris' safety, to stop him
tormenting Mr. Kennedy, in short, to let us all live in peace,
without interference for a few weeks, or even a few days.
What might I give up, to be assured this feeling permanently?
I am afraid to ask myself.
And what does this say about me? The heroes of literature are
all perfect, never would they give an inch, and yet they find
a way to accomplishments; they remove evil, they overcome wickedness,
they do all of this without giving up an iota of their integrity.
That is art. This place is real. We will do what we must, and
the price does not signify.
What is a little thing like honor, in comparison?
5 September 1792
Our new-found peace has induced complacency toward Jack. Amazing
how quickly one forgets. Christian went too far today, and Jack
is come back.
We had four hours this morning, while Simpson was on duty above.
Share was mourning the loss of his companion. He regrets his loss
as though the dog were his child. He is justified, the animal
was his only family. He moans about the untimely demise of his
friend, how short his life, how little time he had had to enjoy
the life. Cut down in the flower of his youth, I think he said.
He is waxing poetic in his almost romantic view of death and grief.
Romantic, as only those who have never experienced true loss,
Christian sympathized with him, in a lighthearted manner. He encouraged
Mr. Share to perform a service of sorts, for the animal. It was
all in fun, and in hopes of diversion for our little clerk.
Chris took a spike of metal, and heated over a lamp, and burned
an effigy of Major into the board on which we mess. He then burned
the dog's name below the sketch, along with a date.
Alert for an opportunity to be amused for a time, Kennedy suggested
the berth be put into deep mourning. A black crepe streamer was
attached to the entry, as a sign of our mourning. They tied arm
bands onto one another, then went out and did the same to every
dog on board the ship, including three dogs belonging to our officers.
This unheard of activity stirred the dogs, and they became quite
wild. As a group, and almost as though it were arranged by some
secret orders among the dogs, they trooped up on deck and ran
three great circles around it before charging below again. A sort
of procession, if you will. At least, that is how it was seen
by the men on deck. Most of the men were amused, and many laughed
outright at the absurdity of it all. Simpson, however, felt it
was a personal insult to himself. Why should he think so, when
he maintains his innocence in this matter?
Simpson returned shortly after the spectacle ended, black of face
and seething with unsuppressed anger. No one of us looked directly
at him, as he pounded across the floor. His eyes lighted on the
effigy of Major, burned into the board. He struck both Chris and
Share across their faces. Kennedy, quick as a ferret as always,
managed to escape this punishment. I stood and placed myself between
Jack and his two victims, but Chris would not have it so, and
pushed past me. He was ready to fight, to strike back, and Jack
sensed this. He backed away for a moment, then charged toward
"Clayton, I hold you responsible for this incident. These
brats need to show some respect for their betters, don't they?
Under you, they do not learn. Well, the classroom shall have an
object lesson. A lesson in humility, if you will."
I stepped out of reach, and said, " I will not be drawn into
this with you, Jack. It will prove nothing except that you have
larger fists and a stronger arm than I have."
"Clayton," he said, moving toward me again, that irritating
smirk flitting across his mouth, "Yes, that's perfect. You
will fight when your opponent is incapable of defending himself,
coward that you are."
He reached me, grasped the back of my neck and tossed me bodily
over the cannon, after which he proceeded with his ever-present
"starter." He managed to lay on a half-dozen before
Chris grabbed the lash from his hand. He turned on Chris. He should
have let it go, for Chris instantly protected himself. The lash
cut Jack across the neck and clavicle, deeply enough to draw a
double line of blood. Jack put his hand to the injury, drew it
away and peered curiously at the stains on his hand. It took him
a moment to realize why he was bleeding. When he did comprehend
that Chris had struck himÖhe seemed surprised.
"Well!" he exclaimed, "A Clayton with red blood,
who would have thought it possible. Are you sure you are brothers?
Perhaps the mare who bred you found a stallion the second time
around, rather than the gelding responsible for that coward,"
he said, looking at me.
Chris said nothing, he only smiled at Jack, his teeth still blood-flecked
from the blow Jack had landed on his mouth. He held that bloody
lash, and smiled. Jack seemed suddenly calm. He put his hand on
Chris' arm, and grinned at him as though they shared some secret
understanding. Jack thought he recognized in Chris a compatriot,
a fellow who could understand him, maybe even help him play his
game. Chris was bright, I've said this before now. And he was
playing Jack's game by Jack's rules. But he was not playing on
Jack's side, he was playing to win. A glance toward me, and I
We would talk later.
6 September 1792
Chris' first words to me, once we found ourselves alone, were
"If you can't beat them, patronize them." Our uncle
used to say this. The thought of Chris emulating that man wounded
me. I know he did well for us, as children, but a child needs
more than food and shelter, clothing and educationÖand his
demanding repayment for his help. It humbles us, even as everything
he has ever done seems to have been arranged for that purpose.
We were dependent family in embarassed circumstances, charity
was never so unwillingly given, I think, than in his family. And
that charity turned out to be a long-term loan. How does one calculate
the cost of bringing two boys to adulthood? In this case, he kept
a record. An actual accounting of each shilling spent on my brother
And Chris was quoting him, and he was using those words to direct
his own actions regarding Jack Simpson.
I couldn't reply for a time. He knew why, of course. He then said,
"I am leaving this ship, dear brother. It's the only way.
Until I can find a way out, I will patronize the bastard. But
I am leaving, I am going to desert."
"Chris, you can't! What if you are caught, you'll be arrested,
court-martialed! Please, there has to be another way!" I
pleaded with him.
"No, I've worked it all out," he said. "I'll join
another ship, using another name. They won't quibble, will they,
when they need men so desperately? I'll have to go for a rating,
but I'll soon be midshipman again, so that's no worry."
"No! You can't, Chris you aren't strong enough for that kind
of work, that kind of life. It will kill you, you know it will."
I couldn't let him do this!
"No, what will kill me is staying here. It is already killing
me. With me gone, he'll have nothing to use against you. We'll
both be better off if we are not together. I'll survive as a seaman
for a time. Many have started careers before the mast, even the
great Captain Cook. There are enough ships here, I could even
join one of the trade ships headed for India--there are several
leaving this month. Hopefully I would not be recognized before
then. And the last place they'd be looking for a deserter is on
"Then we'll go together."
"No, impossible, you must see that! Two midshipmen deserting
and two men enlisting on another ship the next day would be too
much of a coincidence. We'd be caught and punished, and sent right
"Chris," I asked, "How can I bear this? I live
in fear for you, even as I stand beside you. What then will be
my fear if I don't know where you are, or what your circumstances?
How can you let me know where you are, when any communication
with me would be suspect?"
"As soon as I get a new ship, I'll send something. Not a
letter, surely, but somethingÖ"
I had an idea. I pulled from my pocket the watch that had belonged
to our father: a small, inexpensive silver timepiece that I had
inherited at the age of seven, when our father was killed. "Send
this, Chris. Take it with you, and when you find yourself somewhere,
send it. Find a way to include at least the name of your ship,
if you can. Don't state the name directly, you are clever enough
to come up with a way to tell me, without writing a word. Only
when I see this watch again will I know you are safe."
He hesitated to take it from me, he knew how I valued it. I hated
this, hated it and the man responsible for it. I asked, "How
will you desert? Do you have a plan?"
"Not yet," he answered slowly. "But an answer will
come to me. I'll keep Jack ignorant until it does. If I can. It
won't be an easy task, will it? He's bound to see through me in
no time. I'll have to leave as quickly as possible, before he
sees he's been confounded. If he does find out, I don't even want
to think about his revengeÖwhich reminds meÖwhat of
his revenge? Will he punish you further, when I am gone? Punish
you for my leaving? We must find a way to prevent this, if we
can. Else, how can I leave?"
"I'm not a fool, Chris," I said. "I know you do
this to protect me. You are planning this for that purpose alone.
How do you think I will live then, if something happens to you,
once you leave here?"
He answered, "You may be my brother and my keeper, but you
are not God, are you? What can happen to me elsewhere can easily
happen to me here. Disease, injury, death, how can you stop these?
My leaving here is an answer to only one thing: this intolerable
situation - and how can you accuse me of protecting you, when
that is what you've been doing for me, ever since he came here?
Iím not blind either! He uses me to control you, and vice
versa, as the French say. What other choice is there for us?"
I thought about leaving myself, but the idea of leaving Chris
alone with Jack indefinitely left my heart cold. It would be more
difficult, also, for a man of my age to sign on board as a landsman.
My experience would show quickly and I would be suspected. A boy
of Chris' age could manage this more easily - he could pretend
to be a boy wide-eyed with patriotic fervor, determined to run
away to sea. He could do this, while I could not. He was right
in that we could not desert together, we'd be caught very quickly.
But could we do so on two separate occasions?
"Chris, maybe in time, once I know where you are, I could
apply to transfer. Given enough time between your leaving and
my applying, we might get by with it." I said. We agreed
to consider this, should the opportunity present itself. We would
wait, and hope for an opportunity. One never knew what fate had
For now, we will try to find a way to get him away from Justinian.
No ideas present themselves immediately. If we try to bribe one
of the marines rowing guard, and fail, we will be reported. Then
they will be watching him carefully, and he will never get a second
chance. We shall have to find a way that involves no other man,
for a secret shared is no longer a secret.
10 September 1792
Britain is sure of war with France. The Navy has more than doubled
her number of ships, and building up of forces continues. Wellesley
has named the Army "the scum of the Earth" and I am
grateful we are not included in his summary.
We have not yet come upon a viable plan for Christian's escape
from Justinian. Simpson has withdrawn once again from tormenting
either of us. His tortures seem to come and go with the moon.
He may indeed feel that Chris is now a part of his lordship's
retinue, an opinion Chris has done nothing to abuse. We are tolerated
now, or perhaps he is simply bored by us. Maintaining his position
as leader and dictator must deplete him occasionally. I feel he
is taking his rest while he may, and rebuilding his battalion
for another onslaught.
20 September 1792
Chris has not yet fully recovered from the fever of last month.
He gets well, then reverses. This cycle of ill health is wearing
him. He was slightly ill today, and was again bled by our fine
doctor. Then last night he collapsed on deck during our watch.
This time he refused to see Dr. Heppelwhite. The Lieutenant of
the watch, was nowhere in sight, so I did not make him go. I am
wrong, possibly, but whenever Chris has a recurrence of fever,
that man takes more of his blood. This does not cure the fever,
but simply weakens an already weak body. Why does he continue
on a course that so obviously does not cure the illness? It seems
illogical to me. And also apparently to Chris. He rested for a
while against a bulkhead, until he felt himself again. He is simply
weak, he says.
We have pooled the resources of our mess and have made arrangements
to purchase better food for ourselves, but it seems not to help
in Chris's case. I have heard that red wine will fortify his blood,
and have purchased some. I am most alarmed, and feel that he will
recover best away from here. Anxiety is affecting him and bringing
on these bouts of illness. He wants to be gone before Simpson
I've been keeping a close eye on Kennedy as well. I seldom allow
him outside my company, and give him tasks and duties outside
of Jack's area of control. When Jack is in our berth, I take Chris
and Archie and find work for them, away from the midshipmen's
mess. It is possible to be with both of them for twenty-four hours
of the day, unless something unusual occurs on board. We none
of us get much rest, fearing to sleep for fear of what might happen
if we do. We sleep lightly, constantly alert for attack. It is
worse than battle, and just as fatiguing. Our company of three
becomes closely knit, and I wish I could confide our plans to
Mr. Kennedy. But I will not nflict additional worries upon him.
He is completely inside himself, he does not come out and lets
no one in. But his face is as readable to me as it ever was -
he disengages his feelings from his countenance, but I know him
I know that Simpson understood me, when I accused him during my
cowardly attack. My hope is that he fears exposure, and that he
will leave off harming Kennedy in that foul manner. Simpson would
never be an officer with such a reputation, he knows that at least.
He may suspect such a threat exists, though in truth it does not.
In order to prosecute him, there must be at least one reliable
witness. So far, none have come forward. It may be that there
are none. Kennedy, even if he could be encouraged to make the
accusation, would get nowhere, without corroboration from another
person. I will not question others on this subject, in order to
protect Kennedy. If a witness does exist, he must come forward
on his own. Simpson is most likely aware of these facts, and he
may feel there is in fact no threat to himself. So I do all I
can to keep the two separated. Without opportunity, he can not
harm the boy further.
23 September 1792
This life is hell, or maybe hell would be preferable to it.
Chris is once again a little better, but for how long? Jack has
renewed his campaign of torture. His wrath falls upon Cleveland
one day, Witney the next, and on it goes. He seems to have an
endless supply of cruelties within his small mind. I cannot organize
my thoughts this day, though I will try to do so in writing here.
Kennedy is in some difficulty, and I cannot be of help now. This
has been a particularly evil day, one in which Simpson's mood
was as foul as the water in the bilge. The second watch was on
duty, and Christian had been asleep for some time. I chose to
stay awake as long as Jack did, to be sure Chris could rest undisturbed.
I was forced to make many concessions in order to accomplish this
small wish, he seemed determined that Chris be disturbed as often
as possible. I hated keeping Kennedy in the berth while Jack was
awake, but Chris needed rest, there was little else I could do.
When Jack was finally asleep, Kennedy and I took the opportunity
for some much-needed rest as well.
It had to happen soon, and I had been dreading the day. Of course
it would happen at the end of one of the worst. Mr. Kennedy suffered
a fit in his sleep, most likely brought on by a nightmare, or
by the nightmare of his existence. He fell from his hammock and
onto the deck with a crash that woke us all. He suffered violent
apasms and tortures I know not of. This was the latest of several
attacks of this nature, but so far we had kept this from Mr. Simpson.
That is no longer possible.
At first, Simpson behaved as though he believed Kennedy was feigning
illness. He popped out of his hammock, strode to where Kennedy
lay writhing, and proceeded to kick him, so furious was he at
having his sleep disturbed.
"Kennedy! Shut up, for God's sake," he shouted. I placed
myself between them, facing Jack. "Stop it," I ordered.
Yes, I am very brave where others are concerned, and when I am
half asleep, confused, and haven't taken time to think. Simpson's
eyes widened at my effrontery, then looked more closely at Kennedy.
The man was very obviously in the midst of a serious attack, it
was impossible that he could be acting. What motivation could
he have had, to feign his condition?
"What is this, Clayton?" he asked, his voice cold as
iron. "Kennedy trying to get himself discharged now? It won't
work. Archie, get up, and stow that noise!" He attempted
another kick toward his victim, but missed, as I was still in
his way. Shoving me aside, he bent over and grabbed Kennedy by
his nightshirt, and started shaking him. I again interfered, and
I think he finally realized that this was not a performance, if
he did indeed have doubts.
"Get him out of here, Clayton; shut him up. Take him to Dr.
I told him no, Dr. Heppelwhite would do nothing for him. Jack's
brain calculated this in a way that it never calculated trigonometry.
"So, you've done this before, have you Archie?" he askedhe
air. "You two have been keeping secrets, I see. We'll see
about this, won't we, Clayton. You should know, there are no secrets
where Jack is concerned."
No, there certainly were not. Unless I count this book, but even
of this I feel insecure. He may in fact have found it long ago,
and may be daily reading it.
With Chris's help, we got Archie back into his hammock. He seemed
soundly asleep once again, and normally would not know anything
of the attack. But he will be quite bruised in the morning, as
well as experiencing the usual sore muscles. He will know, certainly.
I dread the moment of his realizing that Jack was is aware of
24 September 1792
That moment was as terrible as I had expected. His eyes, those
very expressive blue eyes, I simply could not meet them, when
I explained his bruises the next morning. Dear God, how much more
can this boy carry? He did not say anything, he did not weep for
himself, he did nothing. But a little more of the light behind
those eyes disappeared at that moment, light I had not realized
was there until I watched it drain away, and I know somehow that
I will not, in my life, see it return.
I curse Jack for this, one more sin to lay at his doorstep, one
more crime he will be held accountable for when his time comes.
His book of debts was even heavier than the accounting my uncle
keeps against Christian and me. How I wish, at this moment, to
be responsible for Jack's final meeting with his judge. If only
I were a murderer, if only I could bury my conscience as deeply
as Jack has buried his, I could do it. And I could have joy in
25 September 1792
Christian's fever has decidedly departed for a time, but the illness
has settled in his lungs. He coughs day and night, and keeps everyone
awake with it. I convinced him to see our "doctor" if
I may so call him, and he has been given some dreadful smelling
concoction with which he doses himself when it becomes unbearable.
It smells of tar, or something worse. Perhaps Heppelwhite scrapes
the pitch from the seams, and uses it to dose the men. It would
save him money, and it would also explain the dampness that creeps
into our berth and which seems to be increasing daily. I feel
the ship is rotting under us, and one morning we shall roll out
of our hammocks to find we are swimming. The mysterious medicine
seems to help for short periods, but he needs to go. He needs
more rest than he can get here, and a ship that keeps the water
out of her hull, and the souls in the bodies of her men.
If he cannot find a way out soon, I shall consider asking a discharge
for him, as being unfit.
29 September 1792
The opportunity for escape has come, but with it a fearful compromise.
Mr. Simpson is ordered ashore, in two day's time, to perform some
particular duties, which I shall describe shortly. Ordered to
choose four midshipmen to accompany him, as well as a dozen of
the marines, he has of course chosen Christian as one of his company.
Add to this select body Mr. Hether, Mr. Cleveland, and Mr. Kennedy.
God, could he have chosen any differently? Impossible - I could
have predicted this with no thought. Fiend that he is, he chooses
his favorites, his cronies and his victims. Judging by the twisted
smirks he has been directing toward me all morning, his choices
were designed to pain me. His aim is true - he strikes me to my
The party is required to accomplish two tasks. Number one is this:
Finally, after much talk and little action, the Navy has instituted
the "hot" press. Our men will assist in the collection
of seamen, and in the processing of the impressed men. Christian's
and Archie's duties will include questioning them as to their
abilities, ascertaining that they have no waiver against impressment,
and are not already assigned to another vessel, with orders to
join that ship by a certain date. They say that only seamen are
rounded up by the gangs, but we know that it is often otherwise.
We live with those men every day, victims of the gangs.
The second part of the task will be assisting the purser in acquiring
additional stores for our ship. The addition of many souls on
board along with the imminent threat of action means we are in
need of much more than we currently possess. Living, as we have
been, with access to fresh supplies, the ship is not supplied
for a voyage of any length.
This is the opportunity we've been looking for, but I have misgivings
nonetheless. Simpson's presence was not a part of the calculations.
Nor were the numerous press-gangs that will be in the area. Because
of them, Christian will have to work with Jack for the first two
days, then make his escape on the third day, before they are due
to return to Justinian. By then, the gangs will be finished, as
after two days of it there will be no men left to impress into
service. Those who are not caught out at once will have escaped
or hidden themselves, and will be praying for similar luck next
time around. For a pressed man, life on board is little more than
a prison sentence with the additional threat of a higher death
rate. It is no wonder to anyone that they run, hide, and if they
are caught, fight as though their lives depend on it. Their lives
I will return to this later today, when we have sorted out more
details. I cannot concentrate at the present - my head is spinning
with plans, ideas, and possibilities.
I return to writing with the hope that if I place all of my fears
and excitement in this book, they will remain here and will not
be visible on my face during the next forty-two hours. Chris is
arranging his personal things as I write. He will not bring extra
uniform items, but only as many civilian articles as he has. He'll
have to abandon the uniform he wears, when he deserts. He can't
risk selling it.
I've given him every spare copper, and every one I could beg or
borrow from others, so he will not suffer from want, should he
be delayed or have difficulty signing aboard another ship. He
has father's watch. He has the medicine from Dr. Heppelwhite.
He cannot carry much, how would he explain it? He will wear some
spare clothing under his uniform, but anything bulky will show.
I am focusing on the practical to avoid the other - my fears for
him, and the lonliness that will follow when he is gone. He and
Kennedy will be virtually alone with Jack Simpson for two days,
with only Jack's cronies for assistance. Fine help they will be.
I am now considering the idea of requesting to replace Kennedy.
I can not find a reason for the request; nothing plausible comes
to mind. I could try to convince Kennedy to feign illness, but
I doubt he would. He is too honest, and cares very little these
days what happens to himself. He could most likely not be a party
to a deception that would allow his escape, while placing another
in his situation. Jack may have crushed his spirit, but his honor
Kennedy is like a man facing execution. He looks forward to three
consecutive days of hell. What tortures of mind must he be suffering
now? For once, it does not show - I can read nothing in his face.
He seems to have separated his mind from his body, and I don't
know where he is or how to find him. If ever a man needed help
- but what can I do? I am as helpless as he, in this.
I will, as I said, offer to replace him. Jack will be annoyed
by my interference, of course, if he should come to hear of it.
He has an itinerary known only to himself; he will fight any changes
- any attempt to thwart his decisions is seen by him as insubordination
and an insult to his dignity. He will tolerate no changes, without
good reason, for he has some plan in mind, I see this in his face
when he looks at me.
1 October 1792
I was unable to replace Archie. They are both gone. They departed
Justinian just after the last watch, while still dark. Chris and
I said our farewells last night. We could not have done so at
his departure, it would have looked strange, considering he is
expected back in three days. He came up on deck sometime after
midnight; the shore party had been excused from duty for the night.
We did not speak much, we both felt too much, and have too many
worries to speak lightly. We are both devastated that it has come,
no matter that we prayed for this chance. Neither of us were able
to weep, not for ourselves, not for each other. God, how I will
miss him, and how I curse the beast who brings such misery to
his fellow man. Chris, take care, please God, take care. I'll
not sleep before Jack's return, I know.
Justinian has taught me something. I have learned to hate.
I return to add a devastating discovery. Christian had spent some
time in sorting through his belongings, and packing them away.
I thought to remove his uniforms from his sea chest, so it would
not be discovered that his desertion was planned. I would place
them in my own, for now, and after his return, I would give some
items to Mr. Kennedy. Everything was very neatly packed into the
chest, his whole life in this small wooden box. I came upon a
bundle of linen, and unfolding it, saw that it was his thin blanket
and the cushion, a parting gift from our uncle's wife. There,
upon both the blanket and the linen cover of the cushion, I found
spatters of dark, dried blood. realized what this meant. Chris's
coughing, which had not abated, was bringing blood from his lungs.
I said I had been unable to weep when I said goodbye to him. When
I saw this, and realized what he had been hiding from me, I could
not stop. Thank God I was alone.
I knew what this meant. Pthisis. It was a death sentence, if it
were not treated. As soon as I was able, I went to Dr. Heppelwhite,
and told him what I had found. Stupid, stupid man, he declared
it was not urgent, and that Chris would be perfectly able to do
his duties until he returned to Justinian. He claimed that he
had given him medicines for his cough, though he was insulted
that Chris had not mentioned the blood. He said that a spell in
the hospital would bring him right again, if he were lucky. Lucky!
What should I do? Should I tell the Lieutenant of his plans to
desert, in order to secure medical treatment? How would Chris
feel about this, if I did it? He would be angry with me, he is
not an infant any longer, that I should make decisions for him.
He would feel guilty for keeping this secret from me. He obviously
didn't want to add to my worries, and if he were aware that I
knew, his concerns would be doubled. I cannot add to his pain.
He must think me happy for his escape. He needs to concentrate
on himself, without guilt. He did not want me to worry, apparently,
this would have made his leaving even more difficult. I chose
to let him go without that additional pain.
I am determined to uphold this decision, as difficult as it is.
I assume that once Chris establishes himself in another ship,
he will seek help for his condition. I can't bring him back here,
matter what. He would die here, under this doctor, these conditions,
and this atmosphere. When he told me of his plans to desert, he
said this he would die if he stayed. Is this part of what he meant?
If I do not hear from him within ten days, I will re-think this
decision. If he had not been secretive, and had told me of his
illness, I might have encouraged him to seek a berth among one
of the ships bound for India. The climate would suit his complaint.
I pray that he knows this; he did mention the several East India
merchant ships preparing to depart this month. Perhaps that was
his way of telling me that he knew, and that he would take care
of himself. I must believe this is so.
I think I have rationalized myself out of despair. I doubt it
will last through the night, though. The demons that come to us
at three or four in the morning will not be talked away.
3 October 1792
The shore party returned a few minutes ago. I was on deck, watching
for them. It was dusk, light was poor, so I waited until they
were all on board, to be sure Chris was not with them. I then
retreated, unnoticed by anyone. I could not risk an attempt at
speech, pretending to be surprised, pretending to wonder where
my brother was. I am no actor. I found a private hole in the bowels
of the ship and wept again. The return of the party brought home
how much I would miss him. His leaving is now a fact, not just
a hope. I suppose I had hoped, a little, that he would fail.
4 October 1792
Last night, a realization cut off my self-pity: where was Mr.Kennedy?
Why had I not seen him; was I only looking for Christian? Confusion
crept in. I searched my memory, and was sure of it - Archie had
not been with the returning party. I was then most anxious to
hear what had occurred. I left my bolt-hole and returned to our
berth to wait for news, but it never came. Hether and Cleveland
came in and went to sleep without a word, or even a glance. I
assumed they were given orders to keep silent until I could be
questioned. Mr. Simpson would have been reporting to the Lieutenant,
which would have taken much time, considering what must have happened.
I was sure it would be long, they would have many questions for
him. I had settled into my hammock, and patiently waited to be
I was very curious. Perhaps Archie took advantage of the situation,and
I fell asleep last night pondering these things, and it is now
morning. I have not been disturbed all night, which is strange
in itself. I was supposed to have had the watch at four. Now I
am alone in the berth, and still waiting for word. Something is
amiss. I have never heard of a man excused from his duty, without
requesting it or being informed of some change in routine. I'll
have the answer soon; I hear someone approaching.
31 December 1792
The last day of the year. It has been three months since I've
written here, and finally I feel I can. I need to, for my own
sanity. Jack is gone today, he's been given a week's leave, first
to be examined for Lieutenant, then followed by several days of
recreation. He has been the model officer for the last twelve
weeks. Even so, his odious presence affects me adversely; the
very sight of him makes me ill.
The Captain is very poorly, he grows weaker daily, and he seems
hardly able to stand some days. Soon they will be forced to heft
him aboard in a sling, like a woman. We still see very little
of him. He is required by regulation to live on board, but he
manages to find reasons to stay on shore six nights out of seven.
Lt. Eccleston has managed to do both his job and that of the captain.
I congratulate him while I condemn him. A man who does many things
does no one thing very well. He is the proverbial Jack of all
trades and master of none. If he were allowed to simply perform
his duty as a Lieutenant, he might do well. I would like to think
so, as he seems a good man, very conscientious of his duty here.
I could write a dissertation discussing every man on board, but
that would solve nothing for me. My eyes are constantly drawn
above, to my last entry, and I know I will not rest until I finish
writing what I started.
Even after three months, I recall that day as though it were this
very morning. My hand shakes as I consider writing of it. Why
this should be, I am unsure, except for this: I feel that once
I enter it in this book, I will have to admit the truth of it.
I will have to think, which is something I have avoided doing
My life, for the last quarter of this year, has been a blur of
alcohol, attending to my duties, putting up with an insane mess
mate, and helping his victims when he's finished with them. I
did not allow myself to care for any of them, because I knew that
if I did care, Jack would punish them for it.
Today, though, the thought of Jack Simpson becoming a Lieutenant
and being assigned to another ship reveals to me that I am still
alive. that blessed peace we find here now, without his presence.
I find that life has some sweet music left to share. It is not
the music of youth, full of energy and hope, but it is comforting
nevertheless. I have also discovered in myself a need to complete
this writing. What a strange sensation, sitting here on the deck
with the sun shining on these pages, writing without constraint,
without fear of detection. Time is mine, again, and so I write,
and extirpate my devils.
Mr. Witney came to me in the morning, and informed me that Mr.
Eccleston wished to see me at my convenience. This was confusing
and of itself, one would have thought his message would be more
abrupt, if not terse. At my convenience? Maybe the messenger had
it wrong. I was already dressed, so I went to Lt. Eccleston immediately.
When I knocked and entered the captain's cabin, he was alone,
standing with his back to me, looking out toward the shore. He
turned, and indicated that I sit in a chair near the table. On
the table was a package bearing my name. He motioned for me to
take and open it, which I did. I found myself, much sooner than
I expected, holding our father's silver watch. So soonÖand
for the first time, I allowed myself to admit some anxiety over
the strangeness of events since the shore party returned. I noticed,
along with the watch, some coins, some letters, someÖthen
I looked up at the Lieutenant, fear had taken control of me. This
did not look the way it should, it did not seem that anything
went according to Chris's plan at allÖsomething was not right,
but somehow I could not comprehend it. I found myself creating
and rejecting a dozen possible occurrences within the few seconds
before Lt. Eccleston spoke.
"Mr. Clayton, it is my duty to inform you that Mr. Christian
Clayton is dead," was all I remember hearing. Everything
went black, and it was many hours before I woke to the pain. I
do recall it, I recall trying to wake, then something telling
me that I shouldn't, that there was something waiting for me that
I didn't want. I couldnít shut out the screaming sound
in my ears. Then I would tasted a bitterness and the darkness
came again. I recall waking once to the sound of sobbing, and
I recall wishing that someone would go and help, do something
to quiet it. I remember seeing Mr. Kennedy, his eyes were red,
and I wondered if he had been the man I had heard. Then there
was that screaming sound in my head, followed by the bitter taste
that always brought the darkness.
The sound of the ship's bell woke me the next time, and finally
all seemed quiet. I opened my. I couldn't understand why I was
here, in the sick berth. Mr. Kennedy was asleep seated on a bench
with his head resting on the foot of my cot. He looked exhausted,
his eyes had deep black lines under them, and he was whiter than
I had ever seen him; I should trade places with him. He should
be in this bed.
I caught my breath as my memory returned. I held it, waiting for
the pain to come. Sitting up, I drew my knees up and rested my
forehead on them, wrapping my arms around to hide my face. I forced
myself to breathe a few times, against the agony. Heppelwhite
must have given some drug or another, I was dizzy and nauseous.
My movements had disturbed Kennedy, and he sat up and studied
me, bleary eyed and perplexed. He saw that I was awake, and collected
himself. All he said to me was "Clayton." Then he looked
"Archie, what happened?" was all I could say. But I
didn't really want to hear his answer, it didn't matter.
"I can't talk, Clayton, I am to fetch Mr. Eccleston immediately.
Will you be well, while I go?" Archie seemed strange, he
was anxious to go out, to follow his orders. But I wasn't ready.
"Archie," I said. "please, stay, just give me a
moment." I needed time, time before I could face the Lieutenant.
Archie sat back down, waiting for me to speak, but I could not.
The effort required to breathe used all of my strength. Then the
room was lurching and dizziness overcame me. I grabbed Archieís
arm, and lay back again to avoid falling. Archie brought some
cold water, and helped me to drink. I was drugged, dehydrated,
and fatigued. "Archie, how long, when did youÖ"
I couldn't think, couldn't form even a simple question. And I
had so many of them.
"Where were you, Archie, you didn't come back with himÖwith
Jack, I mean." I had to know. Archie was hesitant, but he
knew I needed to know something, I needed to be oriented before
Eccleston arrived. He answered. I hated his answer.
"I was waiting for you, to come. They left me to stay with
him, until you could come. Then they sent word to come back. I
will return with you, to take care ofÖthings, when you are
ready. I turned away from Archie. I could not bear to hear what
he was saying.
"Archie, please go out," He was silent; I did not hear
him go. I looked, and he stood there yet, facing me.
"Clayton, Iím sorry!" he cried out suddenly.
"It was my fault, Jack said it was my fault and the doctor
agreed that he should have been called much sooner, but I didnít
know, I killed him, they both say I killed him but I didnít
I couldnít grasp what he was saying. Jack, always it came
down to Jack Simpson!
Archie was torturing himself now. "I canít talk, Clayton.
Eccleston will tell you everything, then you will know. Then you
willÖ" and with that he abruptly left me, almost running
from the room.
"Hate me." I could hear the words he had left unspoken.
How could I ever hate Archie Kennedy? What in the name of God
had happened there?
Then came Eccleston. I don't want to remember that interview either.
It felt as though every word spoken to me drove a spike deeper
into my heart, making it more and more impossible that this could
be a dream, or a mistake.
He looked concerned, ashamed even.
"How do you fare, Mr. Clayton?" he asked me.
"I am recovered sir," I replied. "It was a shock
sir, and I beg your
pardon." I was still shaken by the little that Archie had
revealed, though I tried to conceal it.
"Yes, wellÖit would seem that you didn't know. I assumed
one of the
men had told you, that you were prepared to hear what I had to
say. I hopeÖwell, you will recover then, will you not? Youíve
been given twenty-four hours leave, of course, to attend to arrangements."
"Yes, sir," I replied, finding it impossible to say
more than this.
He was silent for a moment. Then I thought of Kennedy. "Sir,
would it be possible for you to allow Mr. Kennedy to accompany
me on shore? I may have need of his assistance, if you will allow
"I think that would be wise, Mr. Clayton, I will see to it."
Then he went on, "I understand, from Dr. Heppelwhite, that
your brother was very ill, and that you knew of this. Why did
you not inform me of it?"
I couldn't think how to answer, all I knew was confusion.
"Come, man, you must answer this. What reason was there,
to keep his illness to yourself?"
I was livid. Dr. Heppelwhite indeed! "Sir, I was not aware
of the severity of Christian's condition until he was on shore.
I went to Dr. Heppelwhite, and he insisted that all would be well,
that there was [lenty of time. He would not hear of recalling
him to the ship for what he said was the early stages of disease.
He said Christian would be well able to attend to his duties and
that when they returned, he would see to him."
"Did he, indeed? I must speak to him again, it seems. Would
you be willing to attest to this, before the doctor? He judged
ill, it would seem. I beg in to question his abilities."
Do you, indeed, I thought to myself. It's about time someone thought
to do so.
"Sir, may I inquire, how didÖwhat did Mr. Simpson say?
How my brother died" I could no longer keep my voice steady,
"what happened, precisely?" I seemed unable to articulate,
everything was coming out awkwardly.
"According to Mr. Simpson's report, Midshipman Clayton suffered
a fever during the second night ashore, and went to his bed early.
Mr. Kennedy woke Mr. Simpson around four in the morning, asking
that he be allowed to send for a physician, as he had noticed
an increase in fever and some blood with coughing. Mr. Simpson
felt it would be more expeditious to send Kennedy for a doctor,
while he attended to Mr. Clayton himself. By the time Kennedy
returned, your brother had succumbed. It was left too late, according
to Mr. Simpson. He should have been summoned much earlier, though
even so, I understand it would probably have been hopeless. The
doctor who was brought reported that he saw evidence of uncontrolled
bleeding from the lungs, when he examined theÖyour brother."
So it was that I learned that Mr. Simpson was alone with Christian
when he died. I would question Mr. Kennedy very closely, and see
what he could add to this history.
I went ashore with Archie, that evening, to take care of arrangements.
The money that Chris possessed upon his death covered the cost
of his care and internment. I saw him briefly, but we had said
our farewells before this. In my pocket was the watch, returned
to me. I recalled telling him that when I saw it again, I would
know he was safe.
Archie and I had a day to spend in mourning Chris, before we were
required to return to the Justinian. We roomed in a respectable
house, had dinner and retired early, the day had been fatiguing
in a most extreme sense. In the morning, I asked if he would mind
walking out with me, and answering some questions about Chris's
last days. He seemed to expect this, he had no objection, though
of course he had little enthusiasm for the project.
According to Archie, Chris was unwell only on the second night,
he had done well while processing the harvest of the press gangs.
He was ill during dinner, felt feverish, and appeared to be flushed.
He went early to bed. Mr. Kennedy retired soon after, they were
berthed together, along with a half-dozen others, in a single
large room. When he saw how Chirs was faring, he sent word to
the innkeeper, who had Chris removed to a more private room, to
avoid infecting his other guests. He wanted additional money for
this service, which Archie gladly paid from his own pocket.
I had to wonder at this point whether Chris had found a way to
feign illness, as a part of his plan to desert the next morning.
It was possible.
Archie said Chris's cough worsened in the early hours, as it usually
did. They had spent most of the night in conversation, until Archie
noticed blood on Christian's handkerchief, which he had kept concelaed
before. He then decided to report to Simpson, requesting they
send for help.
I wondered whether this was worse than it had been, or was it
just more of the same?
I tried to question Archie about the fever, and to get more details
about the bleeding, but he could not really answer, he didn't
know what I was searching for. I was looking for reason to doubt
that Chris died of his illness. I had to tell him, to make him
understand. So I did.
He was shocked, surprised, of course, but accepted it in short
time. No one who lived as we did could be surprised by an attempt
to escape from it. I asked him to repeat the story, adding my
suspicions before he began. He was adamant that the fever was
real, but admitted that Chris might have played it up, for the
benefit of a ruse. The blood, as described by Archie, was much
the same as I had seen, not a hemorrhage at all. Not until after
he returned with the doctor, anyway. Then there was a lot, he
said, around his mouth and nose, and even his eyes. What would
make him bleed from his eyes?
I had not noticed anything like this, when I saw Christian yesterday,
and said so.
"I donít know how you can bear to speak to me, Clayton,
when you know that this was my fault. I didnít want you
to see it, the blood, I washed it away. When I came back with
the doctor, it was---Clayton, can you bear to hear this?"
Kennedy was looking at me with both guilt and concern clearly
written on his face.
"Archie, it was not your fault," I said. "I will
never believe that. Simpson may have convinced you of its being
so, you were upset, of course, and he took advantage of that.
Did the doctor blame you?"
"Yes, he did"
"Within your hearing? What did he say, exactly?"
"Oh. I donít recall him saying anything to me. Simpson
told me afterward that the doctor claimed that I was at fault.
I was negligent in not sending word more quickly."
"Archie, please! Tell me what happened, and stop assuming
the blame. If Simpson said it, it must be a lie. You know this!"
"Very well." He seemed resigned. "When I came back
with the doctor, blood was everywhere. It had poured from his
mouth and nose, and strangely, there was some even around his
eyes. They were open, and the white part was red, and he was looking
at me, and Simpson was looking at me, they were all accusing me---"
Then Archie had to let go for a while. Thankfully we were in a
secluded area of the walk, with a seat nearby. I led him to it
and as he sat he started to apologize. "Clayton, I apologize,
compared to your loss, this is in dreadfully poor taste. Forgive
"Dear God, Archie, there is nothing to forgive!" I returned.
"Please listen to me. I do not know what Jack did, but know
this: Christian has been coughing blood for some time now, though
he hid it well. Even I did not know. Dr. Heppelwhite confirmed
my suspicion of pthisis, consumption, Archie. But it should not
have killed him, not in this early stage! Are you hearing me?
I believe him, for once I do. He should not have died suddenly,
like this. It takes months, sometimes years to kill, even a man
as weakened as Chris was, he should have been well for some time
yet. This disease never kills suddenly!"
Archie looked at me in surprise. He was finally hearing me, I
"Archie, Jack was alone with Christian when he died. If he
hadnít turned the blame on you, if you had been able to
think clearly, what would have been your first thought?"
Archieís look became one of horror. "Oh God, he killed
him, didnít he? He did something, he killed him, and heís
going to get away with it!"
"Yes," I said. "The only thing Iíve ever
heard of that can cause bleeding in the eyes, Archie, is suffocation,
drowning, or strangulation. He murdered my brother for his revenge,
against me. And I cannot prove it---Archie, you look unwell."
He was whiter than white, now, he was the color of the marble
bench on which he sat. "I am going to be sick," he answered.
Poor Archie! And he was, horribly sick.
We talked the day away, and returned to Justinian with the sunset.
There was nothing more to do, I had proof of nothing - only my
suspicion, which refused to die away.
Before we retired, Archie handed me a small folded bit of paper.
"I found this among his things, Clayton. It has your name
on it. I am sorry I waited to give it to you;I don't know what
it might say. I was afraid of it making things worse for you.
But of course you must have it, now."
I unfolded the note and read. It was a farewell note from Christian.
A note written when he was sure he was away, and still had plans
"Dearest, fondest brother,
I am writing this as I wait in this rather unremarkable inn, filled
with sailors of all types. In less than forty-eight hours, I leave
this place, and go to a new life. I don't know where I'll end
up, but be assured that I am happy now. I only regret that I must
leave you behind. You'll be lonely, I know, without me, as I will
be without you. I'll wait for you, I know we'll be together again
within the year. Something tells me so.
I plan to put this note into one of Mr. Kennedy's pockets or his
bag, without his knowledge. He will find it when he returns, and
will give it to you. I almost told him of my plan, in case I need
his assistance, but I have not done so, and will not, unless no
other course presents itself.
I want to say something about that night, the night you broke
Jack Simpson's nose, and felt so guilty about it. Archie and I
were discussing Shakespeare, which he loves to do, and we came
across this passage which I wanted to share with you.
`Cowards die many times before their death;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
It seems most strange to me that men should fear;
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.'
So, brother and friend, you must never again call yourself by
that name. It pains me when you do it. When you allow Jack to
call you such, I see in your eyes that you accept it as truth.
Never do so again, if you would do anything for me. I know you
as I well as I know myself; you have never thought of your death,
never wanted it, and ever envisioned it. You have been ever valiant,
courageous and heroic. You will think I say too much, and do you
too much honor. See how well I know you? One day you will see
yourself as your brother sees you, and I wish that day to come
soon. You've done all for me that your nature allowed you to do,
I can say no more, just that I will miss you. I know you'll watch
out for Mr. Kennedy, he needs someone, more than I do. You know.
I will close with this thought: if you don't come to me within
the year, I swear I'll come to you, grab you by your queue, and
drag you to where ever I am. I can't wait to see you again. I
imagine your face when we next meet - I will be a different man,
well and happy, and fat, if I can manage it! This I promise you.
You are not to worry about me, sir, that is an order.
Your most affectionate brother,
2 January 1793
Writing my thoughts yesterday, and reliving that horrible week
once again has brought to the fore all of my suspicions of Jack.
I thinkÖno, I am sure, that he killed Christian. I made a
horrific discovery, as I glanced through this book yesterday.
First, I studied Jack's behavior and methods, as objectively as
it was possible for me to do, through this reading.
When I broke his nose, woke him from his sleep and beat him, he
promised to repay me for it. He never did. He never retaliated
for that incident. In every other case, he had his revenge. But
he let this one go. And this was much worse than the petty "crimes"
committed by others, others who were severely punished shortly
after they had transgressed his idea of proper behavior toward
his person. But now I know that he did retaliate.
My actions were indirectly responsible for Christian's death.
I struck Jack for what he had done to Kennedy, and the dog. My
satisfaction in that beating was little, but I have paid greatly
for it. And Chris paid for it, with his life. Because I loved
him, he had to die. Now that Jack is gone, I can admit this. If
he were here, I should be forced to kill him. I would go to hell
for it, but then I would kill him again when I got there.
Ironic that a new midshipman should arrive today. He is one that
was promised to us last summer. Ironic because he states his age
as seventeen. I try not to care, but I cannot stand by and watch--this
one is green with seasickness. Luckily the ailment usually lasts
only a few days. He looks miserable, and feels worse, I suppose.
My question to myself this day is whether I am capable of assisting,
without aring. When you invest time and effort into a thing, you
inevitably learn to care for it. But I hold my feelings in check.
What does it matter that he is just seventeen? What does it matter,
that he is ill, frightened, homesick? Aren't they all? This one
will be no different, I am determined. I will not care. I will
do my duty toward my fellow man, I will not stand by and watch
suffering when I can assist and relieve that suffering, but am
I required to invest anything of myself? I choose to feel nothing,
especially where this one is concerned.
5 January 1793
Horatio Hornblower. I had neglected to enter his name in my last
entry. I pity the poor sod, having to live with such a label.
He accepts it as is, having been attached to it from birth, I
suppose. But to those who have never heard it before, the name
is amusing. His seasickness is abating, and he is learning quickly
of his new life. Kennedy seems to love him already, and I am grateful
for this. Kennedy needs a friend, so does Hornblower (I smile
even as I write the name, I cannot help myself). A rapport between
them is a very good thing for both.
Hornblower is very quiet; perhaps he is shy, perhaps he is simply
cautious. He listens to the others tell of their experiences,
and looks forward to having some adventures of his own, I think.
He does well under Mr. Bowles; he is the son of a gentleman physician,
and his education is appropriate to his class. He is a perfectionist,
and will not speak unless he knows himself to be correct. He will
be a good influence, and I am satisfied with the friendship he
offers Mr. Kennedy.
Archie is renewed, with Jack gone. Daily I see the return of the
vivacious, fun-loving young man of my first days here. His humor
strikes us all - he can see folly everywhere he looks, and does
not hesitate to point it out in most unflattering terms. Our evenings
and time away from our duties have never been so pleasant, with
this lively group of boys and men. The officers will soon admonish
our mess; they become quite boisterous in the evenings. I cannot
yet join the hilarity, but I do find comfort in observing it.
I only wish Christian could have been a part of this, rather than
of the other. No wonder I cannot partake. I spend much time wishing
for what should have been. I've found that I am capable of smiling,
now and then. But laughter is on the other side of the world for
me, and I have no idea of finding it.
I've begun playing again. I have not picked up my instrument since
July of last year. Jack's arrival removed all thought of music
from our existence. I learned to play when Christian was a child
and in my uncle's house. One of his children demanded his father
purchase this fiddle. He had an acquaintance who played, and was
jealous. He lost interest in it within days of acquiring it, when
he discovered that learning would involve some effort.
I was interested, but dared not express it. After it sat for a
year or more in a dusty storeroom, I simply took it. I did not
ask permission, as my wanting it would have made ownership more
important to my cousin. I took it, and as I sat with Christian
through his many illnesses, I taught myself to play. I listened
attentively to every scrap of music I heard, whether it came from
sellers in the street or performers in the parlor. I would repeat
every bar I heard, for Christian.
The music sped us through many an hour, and made his days of illness
more bearable to him. Now I play, to remind myself of him, and
of what he meant to me. Being able to do this means much to me,
it tells me that I will live, that grief gives way to pleasant
memories in time. If only my memory were not tainted with thoughts
of revenge, I might someday learn to be content.
7 January 1793
None of us ever entertained the thought that he might. Without
warning, Jack returned to us. Last night, during the evening meal,
he simply materialized out of the shadows like the demon from
hell that he is.
I ask God if this is the answer to my desire - the desire for
revenge. I cannot suggest that it is an answer to prayer, for
I have honestly never prayed for such a thing. But I do desire
it. My beliefs forbid such thoughts, but my nature demands it.
Tonight, after Jack was asleep, or pretending to be, I re-read
Christian's last message to me. I know now that he was correct
in assuming that we will be together before the end of a year.
It came to me, while I was reading, that if I choose to do this,
to avenge Christian's death, I will lose my life doing it. It
was not premonition or a vision or anything so dramatic. I just
I've already betrayed my beliefs so many times. My beliefs forbid
my even being in the Navy as a midshipman, but only as a physician
or assistant to one. But my situation did not allow for such a
costly education, and my uncle ordered me here. I had no choice
in the matter. Thankfully my last captain, of the Minerva, understood
this, and allowed me to serve in the capacity of assistant to
the ship's doctor. He did not have to do so, but he was wise and
compassionate, so I have never been forced to commit murder for
my king. I have never killed another man, not even in the name
of duty. I have never even fired a weapon against an enemy. I
do not feel that I am less of a loyal citizen because of this.
I feel I can better serve, though, in saving lives than in taking
Now for the first time in my life, I desire the death of another
man. And I plan to do the killing myself, and I plan to feel satisfaction
in it. I've prayed that God remove this desire from my heart,
but he will not, because I do not honestly wish it. I want this
feeling, evil though it be. I do not know when the opportunity
will arise, to avenge my dear brother, but I do know that it will
come; I have seen it. I wonder whether my soul will suffer eternal
damnation for this sin. I wonder if I even believe there is a
hell, outside of earth. I feel I've lived there for six months
already, and if there is an accounting taken at the end of a man's
life, then I will be marked as paid in full. For, how much value
can God really place, on the life of a man like Jack Simpson?
A man who lives to torment, harm and abuse his fellow men, what
can his life be worth? He is a murderer, and worse. Yes, I have
paid the price already, of this I have no doubts.
So I do not miss my opportunity when it does come, I now carry
a loaded pistol under my cloak. It was difficult to get, but not
for a man who no longer cares for regulations and obedience. I
replace the powder and priming each morning, as soon as I am able
to secure a private moment to do so.
Yes, Jack is back. When he showed up last night, interrupting
a most pleasant meal and conversation, I looked at the faces of
the men surrounding me. Hether and Cleveland automatically assumed
the positions of minions to that demon, performing at his order
without question or hesitation. Kennedy, of course Kennedy was
slaughtered on the spot. His soul seemed to vacate his body, and
all of the life seemed to drain from his face in that instant.
His eyes reflected terror and dread. He knew what was to come.
Hornblower did not understand any of this. None of us had mentioned
Jack to him. It was as though it were a mutual agreement, though
it was never discussed among us. I think we'd hoped to exorcise
his memory from our berth by never mentioning his name aloud.
This night was the first that Hornblower felt any desire for food,
since the day of his arrival. He's been seasick all week, and
is only beginning to recover. So when Jack helped himself to Horatio's
meal, Horaito questioned this. He had no choice, Jack looked at
him so challengingly, that if he had not he'd have been branded
a coward from this day on. God, I wish someone had warned him,
thought the look of Kennedy's face should have been warning enough.
But the boy was confused, shocked by the behavior that the rest
of us accepted as nothing out of the ordinary. He questioned Jack,
and was forced to humiliate himself as payment. Jack made him
dance. Hornblower must have had a most shielded life, before this.
His astonishment was apparent. Finally he complied, but only after
Jack became violent in his demand.
A new shipmate for Jack to play with - and he is in heaven. His
amusement was clearly visible as he tormented this one. Hornblower
is timid in some ways - self conscious and awkward in certain
situations. Another six months before he can test for Lieutenant
again. Hornblower will not last six months, nor will I. Nor will
Jack, if I can help it.
I swore I would not care, I swore I would protect myself. But
that was before Jack's return. Now I have to admit that I do concern
myself with these young men, and I will not watch him destroy
one more person. That is my oath, now. What a shame I did not
do this sooner. But it took Christianís death to make me
feel this way, so how could things have been otherwise?
After the incident over dinner, Jack ordered Kennedy to wake Hornblower
every half-hour, through the night, as additional punishment for
How terrible, to make one friend the means of punishing the other!
Of course Jack immediately perceived their mutual affection. How
does he do this? He seems to see through men's souls, and find
the one thing that will harm them the most.
Kennedy suffered an attack of his same malady shortly after we
retired. This woke all in the berth, much to Jack's fury. The
fit was the first since Jack had left us. There is no doubt in
my mind what the cause might be.
Hornblower assisted me in returning Archie to his hammock. God,
how I pity that boy - and how I prayed that he would not recall
this incident. He went to sleep immediately after, as he usually
does. Hornblower was all concern and kindness toward his friend,
for which I am grateful. Some men are frightened by it; I recall
Mr. Chadd's horrified reaction. Perhaps Hornblower is more tolerant
because his father is a physician. He seemed unfamiliar with the
disease, but also accepting of it. Good lad! Already I find myself
admiring him, a boy of seventeen. There is something about him
of greatness, if he can overcome his self-consciousness. A few
months at sea would cure him. I think he will eventually become
very comfortable in his new life.
He has the capacity to do well. He adjusts to new situations very
quickly, for the most part. Only Jack's appearance and actions
seemed to confound him, momentarily. But I think that with time,
he will find his way around, through and then over Jack Simpson.
Kennedy woke at the next bell so he and I alternated waking Hornblower.
But Kennedy also needed rest, the attacks come more frequently
when he is over-tired.
Hornblower was lucky. The usual punishment of this type is to
require that the young man rise, dress himself fully, and report
to the lieutenant of the watch, every thirty minutes of the night.
Jack did not demand this portion, probably because he has no authority
to inflict any punishment on his fellow midshipmen. How could
he justify this to the Lieutenant. Hornblower disobeyed no regulations.
9 January 1793
Yesterday began with the usual morning lessons under the master.
A lesson in navigation, in this case. I was on duty during the
lesson, but I was able to observe all that occurred. A problem
was set by Master Bowles, and each of the men was to solve it.
Naturally, most of them were in error, in their calculations.
There are two reasons for this: first, that our mess is not conducive
to the activity of study or thought of any kind, and second, no
one would dare to answer correctly, a problem that Jack Simpson
would not be able to solve.
I KNOW that Archie had it correct, at first. I was watching him.
Captain Keene came on board and wandered into the "classroom"
just as they should have had their results written down. He went
first to Mr. Simpson, and proceeded to berate him for his inaccuracies.
He actually congratulated him for locating the source of the Nile,
somewhere in Africa, I believe. Then I saw Kennedy furtively wipe
away his results with the tip of his finger, and change a number
or two with his slate pencil. When the captain came to him, he
handed over his slate with a confident air, looked up hopefully,
then allowed his face to fall in feigned disappointment and confusion
as the captain said "no." His ruse worked. Luckily for
Kennedy, Keene didn't look at his calculations carefully, or he'd
have noticed that they were done correctly. It was only the final
result that was incorrect.
By the time the captain worked his way through the group to Mr.
Hornblower, I could see that the boy had by now realized his error.
But he bravely looked up, almost challenging the captain to find
an error. Horatio knew he had the correct coordinates, there was
no surprise on his face as the captain applauded his efforts and
complimented his abilities - after which he flung further insults
in the direction of Mr. Simpson. Simpson was by this time glaring
at Mr. Hornblower, who obviously felt the sting of the gaze. He
continued to stare straight down at his slate, but knowledge was
in his face - he knew what was to come next. Oh yes, he knew.
When Simpson came into our berth later, and made the announcement,
Horatio was the only one who did not look surprised. It happened
so quickly that it took most of us by surprise. We were so accustomed
to our policy of non-interference that we were all inertia, except
for our little ferrett, Mr. Kennedy - he escaped soon after the
attack began. It started as usual, but Hornblower's "inquisition"
soon became more brutal than was usual. Hether and Cleveland assisted
Jack, under threat of taking his place if they did not. Together
they pulled Horatio across the table, and Jack began the routine
with a whip across the backside, just one more humiliation in
his repertoire of tortures. They turned him over, then, and Simpson
began in earnest - first by tearing a locket from Horatio's neck,
and accusing his mother of being less than pure. Horatio seemed
to be so innocent of the foulness of men, and Jack would see that
part of him destroyed quickly. Abruptly, all of his outraged innocence
rebelled, and he slammed his forehead into Jack's face, knocking
him off long enough to free himself. Jack was up and on him again
in no time, though, and beat the boy mercilessly, seizing him
by the neck and hammering his face against the table. When Horatio
fell to the floor, the men begged Horatio to stay down, but he
would not give up. Damn him for his courage, and for his outraged
spirit - he was magnificent!
But Jack did eventually beat him down, a few kicks aimed very
perfectly, and he was unable to rise again. This attack was so
brutal that even Hether and Cleveland objected to the violence,
begging Jack to stop, warning him that he would kill Horatio if
he didn't. With a comment about respect, he took to whipping him
with his bit of rope.
While this was happening, and it all took less than a moment,
I shook myself and realized that I was in a position to do something
about this. Moving slowly, I took the pistol from my cloak, which
I had removed during the evening, and crept through the shadows
until I was behind Jack. Placing the pistol against his temple,
I ordered him to leave off. He froze, and as soon as I saw Kennedy
reappear, I sent the men to Dr. Heppelwhite, towing Horatio between
them. They were gone in an instant, and I was alone with my enemy,
and I had a loaded pistol against his head.
For all that I had sworn to do murder, I could not bring myself
to pull the trigger. Something stopped me, something said that
this was not the way, this was not the time for it. My hand was
shaking with the conflict in my self. I wanted to kill him then,
I wanted it, but it was not right, not yet - I heard Christian's
voice then, I remembered him saying I was not a coward, because
I had not envisioned my own death. But I had, and this was not
Simpson immediately seized upon my hesitation, and took the opportunity
to knock the weapon from my hand. It flew and bounced across the
table, and remarkably, it did not misfire as it tumbled and bounced.
He did not mark my face - he seldom did so to certain ones of
us. He grasped my neck at the back, and I was tossed across the
table as though I weighed nothing. My temple met the solid oak
board with a sharp crack, rendering me nearly senseless. He then
proceeded to vent his remaining anger, thrashing insanely and
only stopping when he became fatigued with the exercise.
As soon as I was able, I went to the sick bay to see how Horatio
fared. Archie was with him, and the were just removing him, preparing
to return to the midshipmen's berth. Sending him off with a warning
in his ear about fighting!
I asked Heppelwhite for some laudanum, both Horatio and I might
want some during the night, I thought. He didn't ask any questions,
but handed me what I requested, and waved me out of his berth.
10 January 1793
Last night I experienced such a combination of sleeplessness and
nightmares as is difficult to describe. Christian and Horatio
were jumbled together in those dreams, one becoming the other
until they were soon the same manÖa man who was suffering
merciless torture while I was forced to watch, an unwilling witness,
tied hands and feet to the mastÖLt. Eccleston wandered about
the deck, and seemed to see nothing - I called to him for help,
but he did not hear. Then I saw Chris, definitely Chris, lying
in an expanding pool of his own blood, which was pouring from
his eyes, mouth, nose and ears. He was calling for help as Eccleston
stepped over his motionless body, slipping and skidding in the
slippery blood. Eccleston cursed the men, and ordered them to
clean the boards. The red pool expanded to cover the whole deck
of the ship, every man was wading through it. First I heard Chris
sobbing, then Horatio crying in pain. Eccleston spoke with Simpson's
voice. "See, coward? You are helpless against me. The ship
will be bathed in blood before I'm through." He was so close
I could smell his putrid breath. "I took your brother's life,
to punish you, Clayton, and still you are too cowardly to stop
me! You cower under the table like the dog you are. I know you
! I know you! Look Clayton, you've pissed yourselfÖ"
I woke with a start, and still heard an echo of the dream - someone,
not sobbing, but trying desperately not to. HoratioÖ
I woke Archie and together we went to himÖI administered
some of the laudanum, and sent Archie above for some ice or snow,
with which Justinian was now covered. He returned, and we applied
it to his bruises, especially those on his face, until the swollen
appearance was reduced, and the cold numbed some of his pain.
The drug then took effect, and he was asleep again. Through all
of this he said no word to us.
It was nearly morning then, and we had the first watch. We had
been on deck about half an hour, when I saw Eccleston approach
Horatio, and heard him speaking sternly to him. I was distracted
for a while, preparing for an approaching storm, and when I next
went to see how Horatio fared, it was nearly dark, rain was fast
becoming icy sleet. I could not find him, and when I asked for
him, I was directed to look
Above, and there he was, lashed to the rigging. He was being punished
I questioned Lt. Eccleston, and was told the punishment would
be as usual, two watches in the rigging. The weather was not his
lookout, he said, and if Horatio had complied with his order to
reveal his sparring partner, he would not now be forced to endure
the sleet up there. He was not far above the deck, and we could
see his face, which was blue with cold. His eyes were closed tightly
against the needles of ice, and his knuckles were white, tightly
grasping the line to keep from being blown from the rigging. Another
four hours, before he could be let down. Four hours of hell for
both him, and for Archie and I. We waited, and the moment the
bell marked the time, we went to him, to get him down.
He was barely conscious, if at all. We climbed up on either side
of him, cut the lashes and tried to pull him away, to loosen his
hands from the line, and though his eyes opened and he looked
at Archie, he did not see him. "No!" he shouted. "If
I let go, I'll fall." Archie tried to tell him it was time
to come down now, but he didn't hear. He kept fighting us, insisting
he had to stay for two watches, that he wouldn't let go. Finally
Archie hooked one arm through the rigging and took Horatioís
face between both of his hands, turning it toward his own. With
his eyes watering from the sleet and frustration, he shouted,
"Horatio listen to me! Let go! You must come down now! Horatio,
you're freezing, if you don't let go, you will die. Do you
understand? Let go of the rope!"
Horatio answered him, almost coherently at first, "Archie,
what are you doing here? Did you fight with someone? I was very
cold, but now I feel quite warm." Archie tried again to pull
the clenched hands from the rope, when Horatio said to him, "Why
do you want me to fall, Archie? I thought you were my friend.
Now everything is different. I don't know why," and with
that he seemed to loose all connection. His head fell forward,
and we were able to pull his hands open, to help him down. We
each took one arm and lowered him to the deck, where he fell in
a sodden heap.
We hauled him down to the sick berth and called for Dr. Heppelwhite,
but there was no reply. We quickly stripped Horatio of his ice
coated clothing, and wrapped him in blankets, but the air in the
berth was icy. Archie started a fire in the small stove, and as
the room warmed, I sent him to the galley for hot water. "Do
not argue, take every last drop of hot water they have. Bring
it here, and tell them to heat more, as much as they can."
While I waited for the water, I began rubbing Horatio's hands
and feet, arms and legs, trying to generate some heat and encourage
circulation to his blue limbs. Archie returned with several men
hauling buckets of steaming, nearly boiling water. "Now some
cold," I shouted at them. They returned almost immediately
with cold water, which I mixed with the hot. I lifted Horatio's
legs, bent his knees, and dropped his feet into the water. I mixed
more, and began pouring it over him, blankets and all, soaking
him and everything and everyone in the process. Over and over,
we poured hotter and hotter water over him, and within a quarter
of an hour, he began to shake. Then I realized that the shock
of the sudden temperature change could kill him.
"Archie!" I said. "Pick up his feet, hold his legs
up high, we have to keep blood in his head/" Archie did this.
The shuddering became almost convulsive soon, every muscle of
his body was reacting to the change. We continued that water bathing,
though. He had to be warmed quickly, as quickly as possible without
killing him. Suddenly his eyes opened, and he let out a shriek
Archie, dropping his legs, was at his head immediately. "Horatio!"
he exclaimed, "you're all right, you've been frozen and we
have to get you warm. It will hurt for a while, but it can't be
helped. Try to relax, Horatio - let your blood refill your limbs.
I know it is hurting, it is just your blood warming the cold parts.
Just a little longer, just a few more minutes, I swear it, and
it will ease. Trust me Horatio, trust me, trust Clayton, we are
doing all we canÖ" Archie didn't stop talking, calming,
reassuring, until finally we thought the worst might be over.
"Get those legs up again," I ordered one of the men.
Styles was his name, I thought. A huge man, very volatile. He
complied, and appeared somewhat anxious. I looked again; yes,
he looked guilty! I wondered why, but did not have time to consider
Horatio was still convulsively shivering, as his body warmed.
The fire had now heated the room to almost steaming, so I ordered
blankets hung around the stove to warm them through. As soon as
they were warm enough, we prepared a mat on the floor next to
the stove, and carried Horatio to it. Every movement and every
touch brought additional spasms, and gasps of pain escaped along
with an occasional sharp cry when it became overwhelming. We wrapped
his body in the warmed blankets, which we replaced every few minutes,
as they cooled.
When the shivering finally slowed, the agony of his returning
circulation was terrible to witness. Every once in a while, a
spasm would pull at him, and when it became unbearable, he could
not help grimacing, groaning with it. He turned onto his side,
pulled his knees up, suddenly suffering unexpected griping pains.
Archie, who apparently had many talents, broke into Heppelwhite's
cabinet and found his supply of opium which we mixed with alcohol
to make a laudanum of sorts. Damn Heppelwhite, where in hell was
he! Kennedy dripped the mixture onto Horatio's tongue until the
pain eased. After some time, enough had found its way into him,
and he fell into an exhausted sleep, still shuddering slightly.
It was then that I thought to examine his hands, which were still
tightly clenched into fists. He was unable to straighten his fingers,
he had held tightly for so long. We slowly pried his fingers
straight. I gasped when I saw the palms, there was almost no area
where the skin had not been abraded . I sent Archie for some salves,
and while he was rummaging through Heppelwhite's supplies, I prepared
some linen strips with which to wrap them. Archie returned with
some oily looking salve in a glass container, which smelled strongly
of goose grease. I spread some on the bandages and wrapped each
limp hand carefully, and tied the ends tightly.
This done, I was suddenly light-headed with relief. He would live,
he would probably be well within a very short time. The danger
was past, and I let myself relax. The blood was singing in my
ears, and my vision began to fade, when Archie caught me and shook
me. I winced, then a sharp cry escaped as his hands touched my
shoulders. I had completely forgotten about my own pain, in the
panic of the last few hours. Archie flew behind me and began to
pull my shirt away from my back. I fought him as well as I was
able, but the dizziness was taking over now, and I found myself
lying next to Horatio, wondering how I had come to be there. "It's
nothing, Archie." I managed to say, "just--you know."
Archie nodded, and returned to the stove for more warm blankets.
After exchanging Horatio's, he threw one over me. Too tired to
protest, I let the heat penetrate, and fell into a deep sleep.
11 January 1793
Last night, Mr. Kennedy woke me a few minutes before we were due
on watch. He reported that he had located our very fine doctor,
unconscious in his bed. He was not awake yet, so we left Horatio
where he was. I reported Mr. Hornblower's inability to attend
to his duty, and his residence in the sick berth. I did not mention
that he had not been seen by out dear and glorious physician.
Mr. Chadd accepted his absence without any show of surprise. God,
Navy tradition is beastly and vicious.
I was well able to attend to my duty, as was Mr. Kennedy, though
he was exhausted from his many hours of nursing. I had awakened
him early yesterday to help me with Horatio, during the night.
Then came our watch, then the incident of the rigging. While I
slept, he watched. Now he had another four hours duty before he
could rest. I hated to see him fatigued, it seemed to bring on
his fits more frequently, when he was not rested.
We wait for news of the French, now. They actually put their King
on trial two weeks before Christmas, the results still not decided.
Britain declares that if the French murder their King, we will
declare war upon them. Our days were filled with speculation -
what would they do with him now? As Archie is fond of saying,
lopping the heads off the royalty won't fill empty bellies. And
if they did do this, England would have to become involved. As
a monarchy, we have a position to maintain and a policy to enforce.
It seems England is very fearful of a similar revolution of her
own people. As though we would dream of emulating the frogs!
We fully expect to be involved soon, at any rate. Whatever they
do, we are certainly getting ready for war. I expect it within
days, or weeks at the outside.
19 January 1793
Hornblower is my concern these weeks. He speaks but little, eats
little, my God, even as I write this, I see similarities. His
life is paralleling both Archie's and Christian's. How far can
it go? How
many times has Simpson watched this struggle, knowing he would
not lose? He has his hobby honed to an art, I imagine, with so
many years of practice. Where did he learn it, originally? I will
speak with him soon, for I fear he has the look of a desperate
man, and desperate men make desperate choices.
I've just returned from a conversation with Horatio.
It was a cold morning, and I brought a cup of heated grog to warm
him. He is barely recovered from having nearly been frozen to
death, and I know from experience how quickly the limbs, once
injured in this way, absorb the cold again. Even a chill will
cause pain for several weeks, and he will be sensitive to cold
many years now. Perhaps for the rest of his life. I pray he is
sent to warmer climes when this war, which has not yet begun,
has come to an end. Spain, the Indies, South America, even the
South Seas are a possibility.
I was correct in my assumption - he does indeed consider death
to be an option for escape. After all that happened with Christian,
still I suggested desertionÖI couldn't believe it, as the
words left my lips. But he will not consider desertion as an option.
In this way he is different. He still has pride, he will not let
Jack win. "Someone should do something" he said to me.
His eyes were accusing, demanding. I am the most senior after
Jack, of course he looks to me to help. He is desperate indeed,
I could see this in his eyes. He was near tears through most of
the interview - tears of frustration and anger, not of self pity.
He is infuriated.
As we spoke, Lt. Eccleston came to us, with Jack in tow. Horatio
is ordered ashore with Jack, to assist in cordoning of the immediate
area. A convoy has come in from the Indies, and they fear the
men will attempt to run, to escape being pressed again for service.
They will be, no doubt, seeing how things stand with the French.
What a feeling I have of having been here before I suffer under
this day. Horatio, gone ashore with Jack. I know it is unlikely,
but I cannot stop myself wondering if we will see him again. Is
he dead already, as I write this? As desperate as he was, anything
Horatio did not look to me like a man ready to give up. When he
got the order from Lt. Eccleston to accompany Jack, I saw the
resolution in his eyes. He squared his shoulders, looked Jack
in the eye, and accepted the orders. He will soon challenge Jack,
a challenge that Jack will be unable to ignore. Jack is unaware
of the strength in this boy. When it comes, he will be surprised,
20 January 1793
They returned this morning. All of them. I had not realized how
worried I was. I choked in relief when I saw Horatio come through
the entry port. They were not speaking to one another, and I could
sense a great tension between them.
Later in the morning, Horatio found us on the gun deck. We congregated
around the cannon knowing something was in the air.
Horatio looked grimly determined as he began to tell it. Heíd
bee ordered by Simpson to wait outside and watch for the signal
from the convoy. It was bitterly cold, and after waiting and watching
for several hours, he was feeling the cold penetrating his barely
recovered limbs. He stood it as long as he could but eventually
the pain inhis feet crept up his legs and he feared for his ability
to function once the signal did come, when he would be needed
to perform his duty.
Through the windows of the pub, which was set as the rendezvous,
he could see the dancing flames of the fire. The colder he grew,
the more irresistible the fire became. Finally determined that
he would enter just long enough to thaw his limbs before returning
to his post, he entered. Heíd have done better to remain
Simpson had been spending these hours in drinking, and had enough
inside him to render himself even more beastly than usual. Before
the two could enter any real conflict, Lt. Chalk and Mr. Caldwell,
of the Goliath, entered the pub, and stated that the East India
convoy had been delayed, and suggested a game of cards to while
away the day --day which ended with Horatio challenging Simpson
to a duel.
I know, as all of our mates know, that this challenge has naught
to do with Horatioís impugned sense of honor over a card
game. Though Jack accused him of cheating and insulted him before
the gentlemen of the Goliath, Jack is the true challenger in this.
Horatio simply followed the script set forth by Jack. But I am
uncertain that Mr. Simpson expected such a serious challenge.
He probably thought the beating and subsequent punishment had
broken this boy.
But Horatio is not like the rest of us. First of all, he hasnít
been subjected to Jackís tortures for a long enough period
of time to be destroyed. Jack may have once beaten him, but the
body heal quickly. Horatioís demeanor over the last week
or so had been indicative of hopelessness, but I saw his determination
when Eccleston ordered him ashore with Jack yesterday. Heíd
made some decision then, and was far from giving in. He will not
let Jack win, and live. Now he will die, of this we are certain.
But still Jack will not have won. Killing a man does not remove
I imagine this hellish hole after this duel, with Horatio another
of Jack's fallen victims, and I cannot have it. Other than my
brother, how many has Jack been responsible for killing? Dozens??
Do the suicides count? Jack Simpson is an enemy to be feared,
and one day I hope, England will declare war on the Jacks of her
land. Any man who destroys her sons in this wanton manner should
be treated as her enemy; and should be the first ones against
the wall. England's sons are her heart and soul, and she would
do well to mind them, for by protecting the one, she will save
Tomorrow. He says tomorrow sees an end to it. His end, or Jacks.
Most likely his, and then God help us all. Kennedy and I argued
with him, and tried to get him to see sense, but a desperate man
is not a sensible man. He is so marvelously outraged. I think
his decision may give this entire ship's company a sweeping kick
in its apathetic quarterdeck.
I will not allow Horatio Hornblower to die tomorrow. I refuse
to allow him to give his life over to a madman. I do not offer
myself as the proverbial sacrifice, however, as I have every intention
of killing Jack Simpson in the morning. How could I let this opportunity
pass me by, when I have been waiting, looking and even living
for the chance. My death will be nothing if I can take Jack with
me. I have nothing to lose, while Horatio has everything to gain.
He has a father who would grieve his loss, while I have none.
He will make a brilliant officer one day, whereas I never shall.
I have not the desire to be so, now. Nor have I his talent, his
motivation, his passion.
I therefore do my country a great service in making this trade.
Even our bumbling, burbling captain can see Horatio's potential.
If he could see it, surely Simpson did. That is his grudge against
this boy. Horatio will pass him by in no time, and I cannot see
Jack as Horatio's subordinate. Once this war officially begins,
promotion will be swift, for the ones who show promise. He has
ability on his side, and never mind the lack of interest in him.
He won't need that, to succeed. He will leave the idea of interest
to the nobles of our land, who promote each other's sons out of
dangerous positions and into safe, well paid ones. I think Horatio
would be humiliated if he heard it said that he earned his promotion
in the drawing rooms of London. When he is mature, perhaps, he
will be more tolerant of such arrangements, but somehow I doubt
this, I cannot envision him accepting it. Meanwhile, he will earn
promotion quickly, and Jack cannot tolerate the idea.
At the last, I will try once more to dissuade him from this course,
but not out of any desire to see him reverse his decision. I only
offer him one last chance to prove to himself that what I go to
do, he would have done. He will know, in his heart, that he would
have done it, if I had not interfered. I hope this provides him
some consolation, at the end. I know he will feel responsible
for this - he did demand this of me at one time, and he will expect
that those demands animated my resolve in this matter. His comment
that someone should do something did in fact affect me, but it
is only now that I see what should have been done long ago. He
is a child, but this child is so determined to correct unfairness,
to remedy the ills, to destroy the invading putrescence of our
lives. He is outraged as only the very young can be. His vision
of how things should be makes me ashamed to have tolerated injustice
for so long.
Looking back, I am astounded by the things we've not only tolerated,
but had actually come to expect of our lives. This is not life,
it is only existing day to day. Fear makes every decision for
us. I cannot comprehend how things came to this pass. I think
it happened so gradually, and that we were manipulated so professionally
that most of us did not realize, until it was too late, how deeply
imbedded he was in our existence.
Jack invaded like a deadly disease - no one knows where it came
from, or what caused it. We knew we were unwell, felt slightly
uncomfortable for a time, with a vague sense of unease and general
malaise. Then, when the disease attacked with all of its strength,
we were already too weak to fight it off. It had undermined our
resistance, then it took over our lives. It destroyed what we
had come here with, and replaced those finer things with things
of a base and vile nature. It attacked all we held dear, and when
those things were gone, it filled the void with poisons. We saw
what was happening, why could we not stop it? Had the disease
gone too far by the time we noticed it? Did we notice it, but
refuse to admit to ourselves just how volatile the infection was,
until it had established itself irrevocably?
Then came this dose of medicine, uninfected, unaffected, and passionately
virtuous. The purifying fire he brought with him has destroyed
the disease in me. It cannot replace what was lost, but it cleared
the fever from my vision, and I see what must be. I see what should
be, and what will be, when I do what I must do. I do what he would
have done, so in one way I am a thief. I take what he brought,
I do what he would do, but in doing so, perhaps I save his life.
I am not blind to my many faults; they are my old friends, and
I know them well. I did not save the life of my own brother; it
is possible that this is my penance for my neglect.
I found Archie on deck a few moments ago. I was glad to find him,
I had looked for him below, and he was not asleep. He was vibrating
with anxiety, while Horatio agonized below. I wish I could relive
Horatio's anxiety as easily as I did Kennedy's. I told him of
my plan, for I need his assistance to accomplish this. I need
him to take care of some final arrangements. I've instructed him
as to my desires.
I was very matter-of-fact as I did this. He must not know that
I have any fears, that the closer it comes to morning, the more
frightened I am of what the day will bring. I told him what I
require of him, and he accepted my directions without question.
He understands me perfectly, my reasons, my regrets, and all that
I have become since we've known one another.
I thank God for Kennedy, he's been a silent pillar of support
through the last months. He's never been one to vocalize complaints.
He accepts. He does what needs to be done, he disregards his own
pain, and carries on. I cannot imagine the nightmares that are
his daily life. He's a survivor. Even he has no idea that he is
far from weak. The fits he suffers have made him see himself as
flawed, but he is wrong. Someday, I know, he will see this.
I have conflicted his sense of honor tonight -he is unsure, I
think, whether he should inform Horatio of my decision, of my
plans. I trust that he will not. I've sworn him to secrecy. It
was wonderful to speak to another person, and I wish I could have
been completely honest with him. I know now how the condemned
man feels, on the morning of his execution. I wish I were strong
enough to let go, strong enough to allow myself to be weak before
him. But of course I can not do that. Archie must not know of
my terror this morning - this is the only way I can protect him
from his own feelings, after. After. What an incredible word!
There will be an after, I just won't be there to see it. What
strange sensations this idea inspires.
I truly feel that Archie will not suffer for this. He knows it
must be, and he knows why. When he said goodnight a while ago,
I was already gone, for him. He's learned to keep a distance between
himself and others. This will be another day in his life, one
of many without much to distinguish it from the others. I see
that he is determined that this be so.
He has now agreed to act as my second, and he will accompany me
on shore, when we meet with Jack. I've instructed him to say nothing,
he will not speak to Jack at all. This instruction shouldn't be
necessary, but I want to take no chances. Every word from Jack's
mouth is poison, and I'll not have this boy swallow any more of
I pray that Horatio never feels that Archie was more involved
in this than he really is. Horatio must never resent Archie's
knowledge, before the fact, and blame him for concealing my intentions.
Archie doesn't want Horatio dead any more than I do. He will keep
silent because I have asked it of him, and when it is over, he
will reveal his duplicity to his friend. I know he will, and I
am afraid of Horatio's reaction to this revelation. I hope he
will not hate Archie, or blame him. Horatio doesn't know me, he
doesn't know my reasons, and he doesn't know what both Archie
and I have endured for over half a year. I doubt Archie will make
him see; Archie does not speak of himself.
I will write a final note to Horatio, and attempt to make him
see some things, but this situation with Archie will have to be
resolved between the two of them. Archie will take this book for
me, and keep it. I do not want it sent to my family, with my other
belongings. What he does with it then will be done at his discretion.
I cannot see him reading it, though. Why should he want to relive
the horror of the last year?
I have less than two hours, before I must go to Horatio. Simpson
will be leaving thirty minutes before, so there will be no chance
of their accidentally meeting before the appointed time.
I've completed the letter to Horatio. I must remember to tell
Archie of it, to see that Horatio gets it. I hope it does him
at least some good.
I have also penned a short message to my only living relation,
my uncle. I've ordered that he be sent all of our clothing, that
sell them to defray his costs. I offered him my condolences upon
the loss of not one, but both of his dear nephews, in the same
year. I've left orders with Mr. Kennedy regarding what happens
to me after. Of course I wish to be near Chris, if it is possible,
but it doesn't much matter.
An incredible sensation of peace has come over me now, and I hear
my watch ticking away the seconds before I go. I no longer fear.
There is no sense of struggling against the inevitable. I am fatigued,
but that doesn't matter. I will soon get rest. My senses are overwhelmed
by the events and decisions of the day, and now only numbness
remains. I hope this feeling lasts through the next couple of
hours, until daybreak. It's quite comfortable. I will not move,
for fear of breaking the spell.
Here I've remained all night, and now I am enjoying this last
hour and the contentment I feel as I watch the arrival of dawn.
The sky is appropriately bleak and overcast, the light is dim
and gray -appropriate to the mood - it is a day designed for death,
and the Earth has dressed herself in mourning. I am flattered.
Jack just went in the first boat, I saw him go, saw the challenge
in his eyes, the hatred in his soul, as he looked toward me from
the boat. I almost pity him for the things he will never know.
Love, friendship, honor, the joy of giving rather than taking,
the pleasure of building rather than destroying. But I won't waste
these final moments on Jack.
Archie came to me just now, and told me I needn't wake Horatio-
he is already up, has been all the night I expect. So I have some
unexpected time. What an enormous gift a few minutes become, when
one has an appointment to keep.
Archie waited a moment, after delivering his message. His resolve
was crumbled and his face was painted in shades of melancholy.
Oh God! Is he strong enough to face this? Did I over-estimate
him? I must keep him from seeing Horatio, now. I looked at him,
took his offered hand, held it tightly and drew strength from
him. He seems to have a limitless supply of certain kinds of courage,
and he gives of it freely. Just the touch of a fellow human meant
much to me. He had to help me to my feet then; I could not do
it. I regret that. Now he is aware of some of my fear. I rose
to face him, he was overcome. I could not watch it, or allow it.
Oh God, Archie, please don't! Not now, not now -I can't watch
you do this, I'll not be able to go through with this, if I think
I am causing you more pain..."No, Archie, please," I
begged him. God, I had hoped to forgo this particular agony, with
Archie. I though he had already let go. Damn. Damn! I embraced
him briefly, for my own comfort as well as for his.
As I pushed him away, I told him to see to the boat, to be sure
it would be ready.
I saw Archie bury his cares, and don the mask of carefree boy
once again. Thank you, Archie. That one is my favorite.
I go now to Horatio. God grant that he forgive me, and God grant
that he forgive himself. Give us all the peace we deserve.
Horatio turned this final page, and tucked inside were several
folded sheets of paper that had been torn from the book. His name
was scripted across the outside leaf, in Clayton's hand. Cautiously,
he opened the fold, and began to read:
Please forgive the manner of delivering this letter to you. I
know it will be difficult for you to read. I do not know how much
time will have passed, but if you are reading this, it means that
I am gone. And that Jack Simpson killed me, and that you are most
likely assuming all of the responsibility for these events. Do
not do so. If you must lay blame, lay it at the feet of Jack Simpson,
who is directly responsible for all of this. I pray that he is
by this time rotting in his grave, without benefit of a shroud
to protect him from worms.
You are an honorable man, Horatio, and I do not mean that in a
light sense. There are very few truly honorable men. Theclassics
are full of them, history is full of them, and novels have them
popping out of the binding. The reason a man of honor is such
a popular subject is that he is so rare. You are one, and Archie
Kennedy is another. I am glad you have met each other; you have
a lot to offer one another.
I am not a man of much honor, Horatio. Many times I have done
things that transgressed everything I believed in. During this
last year, I have cast aside almost every perception I have ever
held dear. I have sold out.
I was a man who believed in peace. Jack Simpson took that from
me. I was a man who relied on fairness, and he took that as well.
I loved my brother, and he killed him. I did not believe in violence,
now I do. I believed in the conscience of man as a guiding factor
for his behavior, but he didn't have one, so what good did mine
do me? I believed in the essential goodness of men, that given
a choice, a man will do the thing that redeems him rather that
that which condemns him. Jack disillusioned me. I believed in
kindness, and in assisting men wherever I found one who needed
help. But he destroyed those I cared for, and exchanged kindness
for pain and destruction. What good did my help do anyone? It
only brought them more pain. I believed it was wrong to kill a
man, no matter what. I no longer feel that way.
I feel that there are times when murder is justified. I now believe
in hanging, and in punishing men when they commit crimes against
other men. Moreover, I believe I will try to kill Jack Simpson
in less than two hours. Always, my conscience has led me, and
today my conscience tells me that this is right. A life for a
life, Horatio, but not yours. You are not a part of this equation.
This should never have been your battle. I should have killed
him long before you arrived here, and for my failure to do so,
You may feel that you deserve your chance to kill this man, but
I do not think that was your true goal. All you cared about was
separating yourself from Jack Simpson by any possible means, even
if it meant your death. He beat you, but that was all. You are
not yet destroyed, nor are you even much damaged. I will not stand
by and see you slaughtered.
I know in my heart that I am saving your life, Horatio. You would
have died today, and that is not something I could have lived
with. I am forcing you into a position that I was unwilling to
occupy - and that is but another evidence of cowardice on my part.
With my death, I pay for all the years of inertia and apathy.
I must do this, you see. I do it for Christian, for Archie, for
you and every man who has been and who would be destroyed by Jack
Simpson. But most of all, I do it for myself. I know I go to my
death today, that was revealed to me some time ago. I must die
to make my having lived a worthwhile event.
You have a life yet to live. You have a father who would grieve
for you, while I have none. The only family I care for is gone
ahead of me, and today I go to join him. I am content to do so.
For the first time in my life, I feel I am doing something that
will have a positive effect, something that matters, perhaps even
something that will change the face of this coming war with France.
For in it, you will make a difference that I could never make.
You have the ability and the temperament to become a magnificent
officer, and my only regret is that I cannot stay to see it. For
ever, I have hidden behind a system of beliefs, thinking that
if I adhered to them, no harm would come to me or to anyone else.
Never have I killed. Never have I done harm. But to what effect?
None. Today that changes, and if you regret my decision, you take
this from me. If you grieve for me, if you blame yourself for
what I do, you nullify my actions, and my death will have no purpose.
I force you into a very difficult position, Horatio, and I am
sorry for it.
Don't try to make me into a hero, in your mind. If in reading
this, you feel that I go to my death with courage and fearless
decisiveness, do not deceive yourself any longer. Even now I am
anything but brave. I fear the pain that may come with dying,
it terrifies me. I cannot think, without pain, of leaving this
world. Life is an instinct, and the one thing we all grasp at
tightly. Our will to live will not be denied by our nature. Yes,
I fear it. I wonder that it is possible, that I will not be sleeping
in the midshipman's berth this evening. Imagining the world without
one's presence is amazingly clarifying to one's perception. It's
made me see just how insignificant I am. I imagine the small area
of the world that my body occupies, the little corner of the berth
that houses my sea chest, and imagine them both empty. And I see
little difference in the world as a whole. My life has been ineffectual,
but I have hope for the world after my death. That thought helps;
I will not hesitate to go through with my plans, knowing I may
make a positive change in your lives, and knowing that I will
be content where I go after.
I can offer you no comfort other than this. I have nothing else
to give, so I pray it is enough.
Horatio slowly re-folded the letter, and tucked it gently into
the book. As tears of frustration stung his eyes, he brushed at
them impatiently. "All for nothing!" he thought. Simpson
is not dead, he was back on Justinian, and most likely torturing
the poor boys who helped out in the sick berth. Pity we couldn't
have left Heppelwhite to tend to him, he thought. He deserves
only the very best, after all.
Still angry, he thought through Clayton's short life. Had he really
lived and died ineffectually, as he claimed? Jack was not dead,
but Clayton's death did in fact assure his own life. What a horrible
gift to contemplate - how does one become worthy of another man's
sacrifice? Impossible! No one could live up to this!
His hatred of Jack Simpson quadrupled at that moment, if that
were possible. What a shame Captain Pellew had given orders that
he issue no more challenges. If he could, he'd swim back to Justinian
for a shot at Jack.
Why did Clayton see himself as so ineffective? Could he really
not see the good he had done? Why, if he had not been there to
help me, I'd have cut my own throat when I first arrived on Justinian.
He was the only man who had even a vague idea of the depression
that came with seasickness.
He had placed himself in front of Jack, held a pistol to his head,
and ordered him to stop beating. That was very effective, I must
say. I might have been killed that night.
Then, after that spell in the rigging. I don't even remember it,
the last thing I recall is suddenly feeling very warm and sleepy.
I never thought of freezing. He saved me that day as well!
Then this damned duel - he was right, and since he took a bullet
that killed him, who is to say I would have had better luck? Jack's
aim was true.
After, when he woke from his concussion, he knew exactly what
Clayton had done, before he even left the ship. Clayton had lived
just long enough to apologize for his failure.
In reading Clayton's last thoughts, he was put in mind of the
French king, who had also lost his life that day. Together and
alone, both had suffered the last agonies of knowledge, of knowing
that they were soon to die.
"Horatio, is it evening?" He remembered Clayton's final
words to him. Yes, Clayton, he thought. Yes, it is evening, and
the dawn will never come. He remembered with a shudder, that ice
cold room, Clayton clutching his wound with blood-covered hands,
Dr. Heppelwhite sitting beside Clayton, shooting daggers with
his eys, accusing him, accusing him.
Archie had been looking at Clayton in disbelief, waiting for the
end. Archie had seemed so cold - this was just another adventure,
Archie, now his only friend in this world, felt this at least
as deeply as he did. Clayton's journal had done one thing for
their friendship right off: it had revealed an aspect of Archie's
personality that he had been only vaguely aware of, before. He
knew, of course, that Archie could hide behind his own face. But
he did not know how often Archie was doing this. He felt an unexpected
turn in his stomach as he thought of what Clayton suspected Archie
had undergone, at Simpson's hands. How was it possible - how does
Archie do it? He can look so free of care, even happy sometimes.
Was all of that cheerful countenance a mask that he put on in
the morning, and took off at night? And were Clayton's suspicions
correct? He knew, without a doubt, that Jack was fully capable
of it. He shuddered; he didn't want to think about it. His own
inquisition was so fresh in his mind, barely five weeks ago. He
remembered the foulness of Simpson, lying over him, breathing
in his face, grinning at him in the candle-light, talking about
his motherÖ oh! How can Archie bear memories even worse than
these! And how in the name of all that's holy does he hide it
so well! What must his life have been, to have learned that lesson
so perfectly? No wonder Archie had demanded that he not speak
of the journal, after reading it. What courage it must have taken,
for Archie to give it to him, to almost order him to read it.
If it were myself, thought Horatio, would I have been able to
do that? Would I have been willing that another man know my secrets,
because knowing them would somehow help him? I wouldn't have done
it -I know it - I would rather have seen him suffer that reveal
my own shame. Horatio's father held these truths: that when a
man would not speak of a thing, this was when a man most needed
to speak of it. And the longer he waits, the more damage. By refusing
the catharsis of speech, Archie was condemning himself to years
of torment. But - and a thought came - wasn't it possible that
in offering the journal, Archie was in fact talking about it?
Horatio couldn't sit still for another second. He bolted through
the door and went to find Archie.
The Indefatigable was close-hauled for the night. The February
sun was lower than the clouds, and the world was shot with gold.
Shadows were long and black, but the surface of the water was
a pagan fire dance.
He saw Archie at the rail, his favorite place, as close as possible
to the quarterdeck, as far from the bow as he could get. Archie
didn't like the smells, forward. The galley, the heads, the mangers,
he preferred sweeter air.
Horatio took a moment to study his friend, before disturbing him.
Archie wore no mask now. His shoulders were pulled forward protectively,
and he rested both arms on the rail, the palms of his
hands facing upward, an almost supplicating posture. He was watching
the play of light on the water, and his eyes projected a heartbreaking
blend of both hope and despair. Horatio stopped short of speaking,
his breath caught in his throat. He was intruding; Archie was
unclothed, defenseless. He looked away, tried to focus elsewhere
for a moment. A man needs his armor, and to strip him of it would
not be an act of friendship.
Horatio turned away. His long legs took him twice `round the deck,
walking out some of his frustration. Damn! He had so many questions,
but Archie had asked that he not speak of the journal. SurelyÖthere
must be Öa way to talk to him. Circumnavigating the deck
was getting him nowhere, of course.
He stopped pacing, found his way between a boat and a cannon,
and slid to the deck with his back against the side. Drawing his
knees up to his chin, he was fairly well-concealed. Perhaps he
could have some moments of thought without interruption. And hopefully
without being sick.
In his interview with his new captain, this morning, he had several
times spoken without thought, his reactions strictly emotional
reflexes. He'd defended himself regarding Clayton. That was pure
emotion, without forethought. And foolish. And insubordinate.
He'd sworn at that time he would never again speak without thinking
first, and that was exactly what he'd been about to do to Archie.
He'd charged up on deck, his emotions running wild, every question
he had meant to ask - no thought at all - just - a loose cannon,
he was a loose cannon. If he were to accomplish his goals, he
would have to - HAVE TO - learn control. He felt a pain in his
right hand and realized he'd been banging his fist into the very
solid oak planks of the deck for the last several seconds...not
hard, but hard enough.
"Well, that was foolish." Archie's voice startled him.
"But I don't think she felt a thing."
"Archie, I--" he didn't know exactly what to reply.
His mind was scattered in at least a dozen different directions
at once, and replying to Archie's jest was not one of them. Archie,
the same Archie who less than ten minutes ago appeared to be in
the depths of despair. He couldn't have been so mistaken - he
did see it with his own eyes. How long could Archie maintain his
facade? They'd be much together now, on the Indefatigable, he
couldn't possibly keep this up -it would take an incredible amount
of control. He'd have to let that guard down soon, otherwiseÖtheir
friendship could never grow beyond what is was. Would Archie keep
him and everyone else shut out forever? Horaito knew it was possible
- he'd done it himself, for years, with his own father.
"Here, get up." Archie offered his hand. Horatio reached
out and grasped it, and pulled himself to his feet. "I'm
sorry I startled you, I saw you marching circumference, then disappear.
And here you are, cowering in the dark, while a beautiful sunset
does her best to secure your admiration."
"Yes, I--" Damn it, what should he say, to explain?
But he very much doubted that Archie truly needed an explanation.
"I apologize, Horatio, I know why you came up here. I was
just thinking...you...it was unfair...what I said. You can...ask
me about it, if you need to." Archie was stammering, but
he had courage, Horatio had to admit. This is what Archie had
been thinking, there at the rail, deciding to face the past, when
he was all but assured he had left it behind on Justinian. That
expression of dismay made sense, now.
But how could he ask Archie to do this thing? He knew, from the
few weeks he'd suffered under Simpson's tyranny, what it must
take for Archie to make this offer. Horatio could not bear to
think of it himself. Simpson, the Justinian, and what Clayton
had done. Over the last few weeks, his heart had been systematically
"I see you've finished. May I?" Archie motioned for
Clayton's book, appropriately covered in tattered black fabric,
a portrait of the man who wrote it. Looking at Archie, Horatio
slowly opened it and removed his letter, then handed the book
over. "He said I should do with it whatever I saw as right,
Horatio. And I did, in having you read it. But now, I have to...let
it go. It's all that's left of that life, and it has to go."
Archie strolled back to the rail, with Horatio following, confused.
Archie's hands were shaking as he held the record of the horrors
the past year. He looked at the plain cover, studied it as though
there might be some message on it that only he could read. Apparently
he found what he was looking for. He clutched the book tightly
with both hands for a second, then let go with a sob. They watched
as the journal plummeted downward, and entered the maw of the
sea with a quiet splash, consumed.
Now what? Horatio wondered. He waited for Archie to compose himself,
waited to see if Archie would speak. He put a hand on Archie's
shoulder, trying to help, but felt the muscles become even more
tense, under his touch. Pretending not to notice, Horatio casually
let his hand fall back to his side. Archie looked at him, a blue-black
look of apology, without the words to go with it. Archie wasn't
even sure what he was apologizing for, Horatio thought. How could
he put it into words?
"Archie, I don't even know what to ask you. You were there,
you lived through all of that, you saw it happen. Why did Clayton
feel he did so little? Why could he not see what he really was,
what he had accomplished? Did he really have such a skewed view
of himself? It makes me wonder whether any of us sees ourselves
as we truly are."
Archie didn't reply for a very long time. When he did, it was
almost a whisper. "I can't say. I didn't read it, of course
I couldn't. But I know this: Clayton never saw himself as helping
anyone, yet that was what he did, for all of us, every day he
was here. His own tragedy, his brother's death, nearly killed
him. He was all but dead, since that day."
Archie swallowed, took a deep breath and continued with a stronger
voice: "He seemed to come to himself a little after Simpson
left; you were here when he returned. So you saw what he became...he
was a shadow of himself. Somehow, and I don't know how, he managed
to pull enough life out of that shadow, enough to do what he wanted
to do. No, he didn't kill Jack, God knows I wish he had, but at
least he got us away from him. He is there, we are here, leagues
from him, and we are free now."
"He's not dead, Archie." Horatio said, coldly. "And
until he is, I will not feel that honor has been satisfied. Until
he is, I'll not feel that I am free of him. So far, he has won."
"We've seen the last of him, Horatio. We are so far from
Spithead I don't think I can recall what it looks like. We have
a chance now, a chance to make something of ourselves, a chance
to prove ourselves and win honors. We are in one of the best ships
in the fleet, under one of the best known Captains in the Navy."
"How can I just go on as though none of this happened, Archie!
I cannot, you know the thing is impossible. Everything I do will
be what he should have done, any honors I might win are rightfully
his. He should be rewarded now, with what I have here. I cannot
take what I did not earn. I am not a thief!"
"Clayton gave up everything so we could have this, Horatio.
If you don't accept that, what good did his actions do? Yes, that
could be you, dead, and you know that, but it isn't."
Archie waited and when Horatio did not reply, he continued. "What
was missing from Clayton was stolen by Simpson, not by you. When
he took that pistol ball, he was simply letting Jack finish what
he'd started last Summer. Why should it have been you? He stood
in front of that pistol because that's what he wanted to do! He
was ashamed, when you were the first one to ever challenge Simpson,
ashamed that he was still alive, after his brother ... damn, I'm
...that was ...I apologize, Horatio." Catching sight of Horatio's
face, he stopped short.
Horatio was embarrassed by the tears that had suddenly filled
his eyes. He was such a child! Homesick, seasick, tired, he wanted
his own bedroom above his father's sitting room, and he wanted
to leave all of this behind him. He childishly wished none of
it had ever happened.
"I forgot how ...young you are. You haven't even had time
to adjust to being here, and all this has happened. I'm sorry
I was so harsh." Archie looked away, allowed Horatio some
Horatio gave in to his feelings. For a few seconds he was afraid
-afraid that once he went down this road, once he let himself
weep for all that had happened, he might never be able to stop.
He found all the pain of Clayton's death, and the frustrations
and pains of the last month. With his face turned toward the unsympathetic
sea, from any man who might be observing him, he tried again to
gain control of himself.
"How I envy you," Archie said at last. "I wish
to God I could do that."
"Being seasick helps," Horatio was able to reply. "Ever
since we changed course last night...I don't know, something changed--Oh
God, why me!" His outburst seemed to have exacerbated the
nausea, and he hung over the rail, consumed with it. His stomach
didn't seem to care that there was nothing in it to get rid of,
and it seemed like hours before the spasms let up enough for him
to stand again. When he did, his face was no longer green, it
was gray. He had stood too quickly, and a wave of dizziness took
him. He slid down to the deck, and put his head between his knees,
shaking with exhaustion.
Archie was concerned by his color. This seemed a bit more serious
than ordinary seasickness, and no doubt it was. "Horatio,
when did you last eat anything? Have you had a thing to eat or
drink since this started? You have to at least keep drinking,
even if it all comes up again."
A groan was all the reply he was to receive.
Archie caught up with him shortly, carrying a tin cup of water,
which he laced with a bit of grog. "Something has to feel
better than nothing. And drink it slowly, don't gulp it down,
or it will come right back up."
Archie left Horatio for a moment and went to speak to Mr. Bracegirdle,
who was, as usual, observing everything that went on, on deck,
with his calm but watchful eyes.
"Mr. Kennedy, I see Mr. Hornblower is once again suffering
from the change in direction. May I suggest that you have come
to beg his release from duty?" His eyes were smiling, and
his voice amused.
Kennedy let out the breath he'd been holding. It was difficult
for him to ask anything of a superior; he was used to the reception
such a request would have gotten on Justinian. "Yes, sir.
If you would, I think--it would be best--he's in no condition
to stand watch, sir, as you can see."
Both looked at Hornblower, slouched against the bulkhead, sipping
listlessly. Black smudges underlined his eyes, and he was so pale
even his lips were white. "Very well, Mr. Kennedy, you may
tell him he is excused for today, but get him below as soon as
he is able to go. We don't want the deck cluttered up with heaps
of seasick midshipmen, do we?"
"Yes sir, no sir, of course not, sir. Thank you!" Archie
was inordinately grateful for this wonderful ship, the cheerful
officers, and a captain who made them what they were. Considerate,
reasonable gentlemen. They knew how to get the best from the men,
and abusing them was not the preferred method.
He returned to Horatio to give him the news. He saw that there
was already a tiny wash of color in his face, and his eyes looked
a little less sunken. He definitely needed to drink, he'd been
fasting to combat the sickness, apparently. His breath seemed
to come easier now, the grog burning away the nausea. He soon
rose to his feet again and Archie helped him below.
"Thank you, Archie," he said. "God, I feel so bloody
stupid, bawling and puking like an infant off his feed."
Archie smiled at the simile, and offered Horatio the chance to
smile at himself. He convinced him to try a few crumbs of biscuit,
believing that an empty stomach felt the movement much more than
one with something in it. He was right. Soon Horatio was almost
"Just stick with plain tea or coffee, and dry biscuit, as
much as you can. No sugar or fat things, they make it worse. I've
heard this from dozens of men who probably know." Archie
was filling in empty space, with words. Horatio didn't appear
to be listening.
"Archie, I...I have to think that you must be right, in what
you said to me. Of course you are. We have a chance here, and
we must be grateful that not all ships are Justinian. I feel that
even if Jack Simpson were here with us, things would still be
different. We could fight him, here...I know we could...we'd stand
a chance, anyhow..."
It was Archie's turn to pale, at the thought of Jack on board
the Indefatigable. "I don't care to consider the idea, or
even imagine it."
"Certainly, Archie. Of course not. But, I wish... "
He shut up then, seeing that Archie was distancing himself from
the conversation. How could he tell him it will only get worse?
Archie was not willing to discuss what he'd been through, over
Not now, Archie, but someday, when enough time has passed. You'll
have to, if you are to be whole again, but I can't tell you this
right now, can I?
"Horatio," Archie's voice was soft with pain, "I
will not let him touch me again, you know. If only I can keep
from thinking--if I let him continue to--it is now my own fault,
my own weakness, and I will have only myself to blame. I will
not be that weak. I just have to be the one in control now"
Oh, Archie! Horatio cried to himself. It can never be like that!
How I wish I could tell you so, my father could, I've heard him
many times. God, how I wish it were over, now, for you. I wish
that all you want to believe were really true, and that through
your own might, you could overcome this.
"Yes, Archie, you are stronger than you know. Clayton said
so, a number of times, he saw great strength in you. You have
what you need, I know you do."
If only you'll not hide behind that mask, so I'll know when I
am needed! Horatio swore an oath to himself, that whatever it
took, he would always find a way to help this friend. He could
be a great man, if not for this hurt.
Clayton had died, giving both of them hope for the first time.
He must become the man that Clayton saw, the man he had described
in his journal, and he must bring Archie with him, drag him along
unwilling if need be; this he would do, for Clayton. No matter
what Archie said, he owed Clayton something. This would be his
payment for that debt, a debt that he would never speak of.
"Horatio, I know it is not worth much now, but if you...well,
if you ever need anything I will help in whatever way I can. If
Horatio almost laughed out loud -Archie's thoughts were so exactly
like his own. Was he also swearing to replace something of what
they'd lost, when Clayton died? Was he making promises to himself,
to quell his own demons? Probably.
"Thank you Archie. If things continue on the way they've
begun here, I'm sure I'll have plenty of opportunity to take you
up on that offer."
The end of the beginning.