Journey From Darkness
by Kris B.
Captain Pellew was trying to keep his voice low and
steady. But his anger was starting to show. Horatio
could see it and so could that poor galley boy. It
wasn't the boy's fault really he was just following
orders. It was that blasted cook. Granted he was new
to this ship, but not to the service. If he kept this
up the cook was going to be on the wrong end of a
flogging or rope. Horatio couldn't help but think of
what happened to the old cook at a time like this. The
Captain had warned him about experimenting with
different recipes. He told the Captain that he hoped
to create a dish that would be so delicious that the
crew would no longer hate him. Horatio wanted to tell
him no amount of actual food he made the crew would
never like him. Horatio agreed with Archie when he
said the cook had the personality of shipworm and was
just as dangerous. And anyone who didn't think so had
never tasted his gruel surprise. Who knew he could get
that many maggots in each helping. Horatio was
surprised that the crew didn't mutiny or at least
throw him overboard.
" I guess he got what was coming to him," Horatio
thought. "Found lying in the galley poisoned by his
own food." Horatio shook his head and sighed. That
poison could have wiped out the whole crew. Only one
other crewmember ate it unfortunately for him it
killed him, but it was fortunate for the rest of the
crew. There wasn't an investigation into his death. It
was just assumed that he had finally crossed the line
between inedible to lethal. Horatio had to give the
crew credit they did an admirable job at concealing
their joy. Their joy didn't last long though. The new
cook, Harvey was his name, was worse then the old one.
Horatio never thought anyone could beat Gruel
Surprise, but he was wrong. Harvey excelled at making
edible things inedible. Now he needed a detail of men
to go down and rearrange the ships stores saying that
he couldn't possibly make anything with the stores so
unorganized. Harvey already said he would not cook
another meal until his wishes were met. Hearing this
the crew gave a shout for joy. Even a threatened
flogging wasn't doing any good. Harvey was lucky that
there any ship to engage in battle with or he would
have already been swinging from the nearest yardarm.
The lack of any enemy was only reason Harvey was still
"I will not be held captive by a ships cook! Are we
not at war, and am I not the Captain of this ship? I
have already sent Mr. Kennedy and a group of four men.
I will not send another man below to clear his mess."
Pellew said impatiently.
The galley boy knuckled a salute and scurried off to
the galley. It was only a couple minutes before the
boy was back on the deck. Trembling like a little
field mouse he gave the cooks new message to the
Captain. The Captain's face grew red with anger and
the vein in his forehead popped out. The boy turned
white and looked like he was going to collapse at the
"Mr. Hornblower take this message down to the cook.
Tell him that he will not get any more men. I have
indulged his whining and I will do so no more. If he
continues to bother me or and officers with mere
complaints I will personally see to it that he will be
on the wrong end of the rope." The Captain bellowed.
"Mr. Hornblower what are you doing down here? Been
demoted have we? For this job is to menial for the
likes of Horatio Hornblower." Archie said with a
Even in the dim light of the hold Horatio could see
his blue eyes sparkling with laughter. Horatio try as
he might but he couldn't come up with a witty reply.
So instead he turned his attention to the hold. The
hold was a sight. The stores were scattered about in a
haphazard fashion. If they were to come under any
attack this would be a danger to everyone. The piles
were stacked to high and Horatio could see that one
sharp motion of the boat would bring them tumbling
"I know what you're thinking and I agree, but it does
look better then before." Archie said coming to stand
next to Horatio.
"Mr. Kennedy I don't know how it could get any worse.
If we were under attack - " A violent shudder shook the
ship. Barrels tumbled down hitting one of the men. The
other men rushed to his aid.
"Horatio we have to get up to the deck," Archie said.
Just he said this the ship was hit by another violent
jolt. The candles went out and Horatio was plunged
into darkness. Before he could register the darkness a
heavy object hit him, and something plunged itself
deep into his shoulder. There was no pain at the
moment only numbness, and the thought where was
The pain had started. At first it was only a dull ach
now it was a searing pain, and it was all Horatio
could do not to cry out at every little move of the
ship. He could hear the moans of two other men in the
hold with him, but not Archie. If Archie could moan he
could at least tell Horatio where he was. There was
something holding him down. He used his good arm to
push it off himself. His wounded arm screamed in
protest. He could feel the darkness closing in on him.
But he couldn't give in he had to find Archie. Horatio
tried to stand, but fell back to his knees as a wave
of dizziness enveloped him. He knew he needed to stop
the blood, but he had to find Archie. On his knees
Horatio crawled to the spot where he thought Archie
had been last. His fingers searched anxiously in the
darkness for any sign of his best friend. His fingers
suddenly found a piece of cloth, a hand, and then a
face. Even in the pitch black Horatio knew it was
"Archie?" Horatio choked out a whisper. "Archie
you hear me? Archie you need to wake up." Gently
patting Archie's face to wake him Horatio could feel
the blood coming from a wound on Archie's head. He
felt the rough wooden board beneath Archie's head, and
he could feel the blood pooling there.
"Horatio?" came a soft whisper. Horatio almost didn't
hear it due to the noise of the battle going on above
"Archie did you say something?" Horatio whispered
"Horatio my head hurts. I just can't stay awake."
Archie said in a louder voice.
"NO Archie you have to stay awake. They can't come
down to get us until the battle is over. You have to
stay awake until then." Horatio said in a voice as
strong as he could muster. His own battle to stay
awake was faltering. All he wanted was to give in to
the luring temptation of blessed sleep. The pain in
his shoulder was getting worse, and he could feel
himself getting weaker.
"Archie I need your help you have to help me stay
awake," Horatio said.
"Don't worry Horatio I won't let you down," Archie
"Archie I can't believe I am going to say this, but
quote me something from Shakespeare," Horatio said his
"Are you sure Horatio that just might put you to
sleep?" Archie joked.
"Yes Archie, and since you can't see me I am rolling
my eyes," Horatio joked back. Good this is what we
need to do just keep each other talking until they get
"Horatio you made a semi joke. Now I can tell
something is wrong. If you are sure it won't put you
to sleep here goes. But I reserve the right to say I
told you so if you do fall asleep.
Whether `tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of trouble
And by opposing end them."
"Please keep going Archie," Horatio whispered.
"To die, to sleep; to sleep, perchance to dream."
"The point of you doing this is to keep our minds off
sleep Mr. Kennedy if you don't mind," Horatio said
with a touch of annoyance in his voice. For some
reason Archie's voice was getting farther away.
"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Then are dreamt of in your philosophy,"
"Archie I told you to quote Shakespeare - "
"I was. There is a character called Horatio in Hamlet
and he - oh never mind. You really try reading
Shakespeare some time and broaden you horizons.
Horatio I hear voices!"
"Archie I have no doubt you hear voices,"
A pale light fell over them both. Horatio was appalled
by what he saw. The hold was a shambles. Archie was
very pale compared to the bright red blood that
streaked his face, and that had puddle around him. His
face was also drawn tight with pain, and Horatio could
tell that his joking was just a way to deal with the
"Why was it getting so dark and why were the voices
seemed so far away," Horatio wondered. He was starting
to slip into that blessed darkness. But before he did
"He has lost so much blood. I don't think he'll make
The voices were luring him back to the land of the living.
they were muffled and distant. He tried no to listen to them. All
he wanted was to stay in the darkness away from the pain waking up
would bring him. But the voices were getting clearer, and while
Horatio recognized most of them on voice was decidedly missing. When
Horatio finally opened his eyes it all came flooding back to him the
hold, the battle, and Archie. In the dim light of the sick berth
Horatio strained to see around him. He looked at the men lying in
the hammocks next to him. Archie wasn't one of them.
Dr. Mort was over in the corner talking to Mr. Bowles. The
low murmuring from the other men made their conversation hard to
hear. But some words managed to float his way. Words like
`wakes up' and `tell him' came into his ears.
they would speak up. They were obviously talking about something of
a most serious nature, because even in the dim light he could see the
grave looks on the doctors and Mr. Bowles's faces. As much as he
wanted it to go unnoticed that he was awake, and as much as he wanted
to observe them longer a more pressing matter came to mind. He
desperately needed a drink, and didn't know how much more he
could stand his throat feeling like sandpaper. Getting out of the
hammock was not an option. His body didn't seem to want to obey
command, and the numbness of sleep in his shoulder was beginning to
fade away. Horatio tried to call for them, but all that came out was
a mild croaking sound. On one of their occasional glances his way
they finally noticed the fact that he was observing them. A panicked
look spread across the Dr. Mort's round pudgy face. Even in the
light Horatio could see Mr. Bowles's strained face turn a sickly
gray. Dr. Mort quickly turned to Mr. Bowles and whispered a hurried
message. Mr. Bowles then hastily retreated from the sick berth.
Dr. Mort walked over to Horatio's hammock in such graceful
manner that didn't seem to fit his size. Dr. Mort was a gentle
man who had no enemies aboard ship. Light appeared to follow him
wherever he went. He was one of the few ships doctors who really
cared about his men, and treated them all equally. He always seemed
to have a new joke to tell. Dr. Mort always went about his duties
with a cheerful disposition even in the midst of battle. This
pleasant and kind nature made the men who were injured feel safe and
secure. His merry nature was reflected in his forever-dancing gray
eyes. But this was not the man who greeted Horatio. Dr. Mort was
trying to appear the same jolly man he had always been, and Horatio
would have believed it if it had not been for his eyes. As Dr. Mort
got closer Horatio could see that the once jovial eyes were now dark
"Well well look who is finally awake. I'm glad to see
decided to join us in the land of the living once more. I bet
thirsty." He said with a strained smile. Before Horatio could
he wandered off to the water bucket.
"Now why not just call for a boy to go get the water,"
"There now I bet that hits the spot," He said as
sipped the water. "You gave us all quite a scare. That wound in
shoulder is going to take awhile to heal all the way, but I don't
why you can't go back to you regular duties eventually."
"Dr. what were you and Mr. Bowles discussing and where
go so quickly? And where is Archie? Was he not hurt? Is he on duty
right now?" Horatio finally managed to croak out.
"Mr. Bowles was just down here discussing your condition
the Captain he likes to have regular reports you know. He went to go
tell the Captain that you are awake. Standing orders you see."
Dr. Mort said elusively.
"Yes Dr. but where is Archie? Will he be informed that
awake too?" Horatio questioned. His mind already forming on what
might be the horrible truth. No that wasn't possible Horatio
"The Captain will be down in a minute. I am surprised
he isn't here already. Now I must really go see to the other
men." Dr. Mort said as he started away.
With all the strength Horatio could muster he griped the Dr.'s
arm, and said, "Where is Archie and what aren't you telling
He said in a strong voice.
"Please Mr. Hornblower I must see to the other men now.
let go of my arm - " Dr. Mort said in a quivering voice.
"Yes Mr. Hornblower let the good Dr. go. He has nothing
with this. Dr. Mort is only acting out my direct orders."
Pellew said in a stern voice.
Horatio released his grip on the poor Dr.'s arm. He really
didn't blame the Dr. he only wanted answers. Now that the man
would answer then had arrived he wasn't sure he wanted to hear
He already knew in his heart what was about to be said, and he was
dreading it with every fiber of his being. Saying out loud would
make it true, and nothing could take back those hateful words.
"Mr. Hornblower I am sorry I made you wait, but I didn't
you to hear this from anyone else. I thought that it was important
that you hear it from me alone - "
No no no screamed Horatio's mind. He didn't want to hear it.
It couldn't be true, and yet it was written plain as day all over
the Captains face. There was no hiding the ugly truth. Nothing he
could do or say would stop the words from flowing out of the
"I am sorry Mr. Hornblower, but Mr. Kennedy did not make
Pellew said in a low voice.
With the utterance of those words Horatio sank back into darkness.
The sun shown brightly in the late afternoon sky, and its
rays danced brilliantly on the water. But the sunlight could not
reach the deck of the ship. The ship was like a dark thundercloud
looming on the horizon. The suns rays could not penetrate the thick
veil of sadness that pervaded the entire ship. The ship had seen
death before, but this death had been different. Its crew
unnaturally silent, mourning the loss of a valued officer. The light
that had once surrounded the ship and her men was now silenced
forever. The vast ocean now held the light of the ship for eternity
in its rolling waves.
Horatio stood on the stern looking back at the far off place
were they had left his best friend. The Captain had offered him 24
hours without watch, but Horatio had refused. He needed to get back
to his duty, though all he really wanted to do was to sit in the dark
alone in his cabin. He was on watch, but whoa to any young
midshipman who interrupted his silence. His stance was one of
complete solitude and thought. Horatio tried to keep his mind on the
tasks at hand, but it was wandering freely to ponder the events of
the past few days.
It had only been a few days ago when he and Archie had been
standing on this deck together. There was never really a dull moment
when Archie had been around. While they were stiff and formal during
the day watches the night watches were a different story. The night
watches had never been dull when Archie was by his side. He was
forever trying to wipe that stoic look off Horatio's face.
Trying his hardest to crack that unbreakable granite look with jokes
and quips. It had been a game with them to see how long Horatio
could withstand Archie's infectious humor. Now all Horatio had
the memories of his jokes and his 200-candle smile. Even though
those memories were painful Horatio wished he could focus on them and
not the recent tragedy. He still remembered how he felt waking up in
the sick berth. Not wanting the horrible reality to be true.
Knowing that his best friend in all the world was dead and there was
nothing he could do about it.
Sick Berth - (a few days earlier)
Again the world of light was calling his name. But this time
he really didn't want to wake up. Because if he did then
everything the Captain had told him would be true. And he would have
to face the world without Archie. When he could no longer pretend to
himself that he was asleep he slowly opened his eyes. To his great
surprise sitting next to his hammock was a very tired looking Captain
Pellew. His face was strained making every line on his face look
like a deep gash. Horatio had never seen the Captain so old
looking. Even after the toughest of battles with many of the hands
lost the Captain had never looked so worn as he did right now. When
he saw Horatio was awake the deep lines of worry eased somewhat.
"Mr. Hornblower - " Pellew's voice cracked. "Would
like some water?"
"Yes thank you Sir," Horatio croaked. After his
water was fulfilled the Captain started talking in a calm low tone.
"Mr. Hornblower I am sorry I should have taken into account
injury, and prepared you better for what I had to say." Pellew
"Don't feel bad Sir. There is no easy way to break such
news," Horatio whispered feeling the tears welling up in his eyes
threatening to overflow without his permission.
"Yes, but son I could have saved you from further injury."
" I am grateful that you took the time to tell me yourself.
understand that the ship must be in great need of repairs."
Horatio said softly.
" Mr. Hornblower no matter what opinion I formed of Mr.
when he first boarded this ship that is of no consequence now. He
proved himself a worthy and brave officer, and he will be greatly
missed. And as a good friend of Mr. Kennedy you deserve to be told
of his passing by me personally." Pellew said quietly, but
"None the less Sir I am grateful to you. Now I have a
have you buried him - " Horatio said his voice cracking badly not
allowing him to go on. He could already feel the stray tears roll
down his cheek, and his emotions threatened to overwhelm him.
"No we have not buried him at sea yet. I realized a long
ago that if we are not allowed to say goodbye to a friend there would
always be a lingering hope in our minds that they will someday come
back. I myself have experienced this, and I do not wish you to go
through life with such an ever present spirit." Pellew said.
"Thank you again Sir. I would like to see him. If that
possible Sir." Horatio said trying desperately to keep his
emotionsin check in front of the Captain.
"Very well Mr. Hornblower if the Doctor says alright,
feel that you are strong enough," Pellew said as he rose to get
As the doctor checked him over Horatio's mind wandered to the
last time he had talked to Archie. Even though he had been in pain
he had continually made jokes to lighten Horatio's mood. The
doctor finally said that if he promised to take it easy he would
allow him to get up. It took awhile to get him up and mobile.
Styles and Matthews were called to assist Horatio get to where Archie
lay. By the time they had reached the companionway outside the sick
berth Horatio was already exhausted, but he was determined to say
goodbye to his friend. Though it actually took quite sometime with
many rest breaks, it seemed to Horatio that they arrived all to soon
at the doorway.
"Would ya like me to go in there with ya Sir?" Matthews asked.
"No thank you Matthews. I can make it by myself."
said as he stepped forward and went inside.
A single candle lit the tiny room. The flame danced merrily
the beams and on the face of the still figure lying before him. The
dancing flame was out of place in this room of sadness. A chair had
been placed next to the body. His legs threatened to collapse with
every step, but he needed to do this alone. He did not want the men
to see his weakness. He turned back to the doorway where Matthews
and Styles stood with a shared look of concern.
"I will call you when I am finished," Horatio said
and he shut the door.
He turned back to the body of his best friend. He had been
dressed in his best uniform, and his hair was pulled back in a neat
queue. He would have looked like he was sleeping if had not been for
the pale blue tinge that had added itself to his features. Horatio
slowly eased himself onto the chair his eyes never wavering from the
body. There was so much he wanted to say, but nothing came out of
his mouth except for a choking sob. What was he doing Horatio
thought? He had to get a hold of himself. This was what happened in
war. In war some men die and others live. However cruel, it was the
way of things. It was war and in war there was no time for
grieving. But Horatio couldn't follow his own advice. He could
no longer hold back the tears he had been fighting while talking to the
Captain. Before in the back of his mind he had thought maybe the
Captain had been mistaken, but now there was no more pretending. The
evidence was before his own eyes. His best friend in the world lay
before him. The icy pallor of death had already taken hold of the
body that had once been so vibrant and full of life. The infectious
smile was replaced by the fixed expression of death. The lips had a
bluish hue to them. The dancing sky-blue eyes were closed to the
world forever. Only the hair was still glowing in the weak
candlelight. The candle above his head lit the blond hair so that it
framed the pale face in a golden halo of light.
There was such an unfairness to what had happened. Archie
suffered so much at the hands of Simpson, his fits, three long years
of imprisonment, the hole, and starvation only to die when his life
was getting better. No Horatio thought this was getting him
nowhere. Archie was dead and there was no bringing him back. He
started gathering his thoughts. He had no idea how long he had been
sitting there in silence. But now it was deafening. It was time to
get a hold of himself. He used his good hand to wipe away the silent
tears that stained his face. The choking sobs had long since
ceased. Horatio could not let the men see his sorrow, and who knew
if Matthews would be coming through that door to check on him.
Horatio had made up his mind this was war, and in a war men die. He
could not be grieving over a death in battle when his men needed
him. That would not be proper for an officer in his Majesty's
Navy. He decided that it was time to say goodbye, be done with it, and put
it in the back of his mind. He took a hold of the white hand, folded
across Archie's chest, in his. The stiffness of death had
already invaded the joints. He stared down at the body grasping the rigid
hand and said his goodbyes.
"Goodbye my friend, you were the best of all of us,"
said quietly, and very carefully he laid the hand back down. With that he
called for Matthews, because he didn't think that he would even
make it back to the door by himself. He was utterly exhausted mentally
and physically. Matthews quickly opened the door, and hurried to
"I am ready to go Matthews." Horatio said in a calm
As Matthews helped him up from the chair Horatio could see the lines of
worry for his commander etched in the sea worn face.
"Are you sure you are alright Sir. You look almost done
could have Styles go for the doctor? Maybe I left you in here to
long." Matthews said worriedly.
"No Matthews I am fine just tired. Please will you help
to the sick berth I would like to lie down." Horatio sighed as
Matthews helped him out of the tiny room never looking back at the body.
After Styles had shut the door he and Matthews helped their injured
commander back to his hammock.
A voice behind him broke the silence of his thoughts.
Horatio turned and saw Mr. Bracegirdle standing in front of him with
an expression of worry about his face. When Horatio asked Mr.
Bracegirdle to repeat what he had just said it was as though his
voice was disconnected from his body.
"Mr. Hornblower I said I am here to relieve you. Your
over." Mr. Bracegirdle repeated.
"Oh thank you. I was going over our position in my head
and I am
afraid I didn't hear your approach. I am sorry." Horatio
said stumbling for any excuse to hide his inattentiveness.
"Our current position is not that interesting I'm afraid.
believe something else plagues your mind." Mr. Bracegirdle said warily.
"I don't know what you are talking about. I was also
calculating where our position would be this evening with the amount of wind we
have now." Horatio said cautiously.
"No matter. Before I came up on deck the Captain bade
you this message. He requests that you to come to his cabin after your
watch is over." Mr. Bracegirdle said.
"Thank you Mr. Bracegirdle. I will go and see the Captain
once." Horatio said as he walked away and disappeared into the hold.
"I am worried about him. He seems to me like a man who
holding himself together." Mr. Bowles said coming over to stand
next to Mr. Bracegirdle.
"I know that is what concerns the Captain. His injuries
healing just fine it's his spirit that has all of us concerned." Mr.
Bracegirdle said quietly. "Has he talked you at all?"
"Only when necessary. The only thing he does is stand
stern, and stare. Almost straining to see were we left - " Mr. Bowles
said his voice drifting off.
"I know. He keeps it bottled up inside as if that will
pain go away. Refusing to mourn, and that is dangerous for all of
us." Mr. Bracegirdle said, as sadness griped is voice. "Lets us hope
the Captain will get through to him.
As Horatio stepped into the hold he saw Mr. Bowles begin a
conversation with Mr. Bracegirdle, and he didn't have to overhear
a word they said to know they were talking about him. The duel
expressions of sadness and concern told him all he needed to know.
Horatio thought he could fool everybody, but now if the Captain knew
then whole ship knew as well. All their looks seem to fit now.
Horatio had just thought they were being respectful of the dead. He
cursed himself for not being more observant, and catching his
behavior before the crew saw. Now they would think him weak, and not
fit for battle. He was sure that this is what Captain Pellew wanted
to discuss with him. He had failed as an officer. When Horatio
reached the Captain's door he took a deep breath and knocked
to prepare himself for what was to come when he stepped through that
door. A booming voice answered back from the other side
Horatio opened the door and stepped from the gloomy passageway to the
Captain sun filled cabin.