Keeping His Word
by Archer's Aim
Aidan Hornblower sat on a veranda at an expensive resort, eating breakfast while enjoying his view of the harbor below. The waters of the bay were a deep blue, tropically warm, so clear that he could see a school of dolphins trolling for fish, even at this distance. The surrounding arms of the bay were adorned with groves of tall trees and dense bush, covered in deep green leaves and brilliant scarlet and amber flowers. The bay itself was dotted with small and some not-so-small vessels, their passengers taking skiffs to the shore in search of provisions at the marketplace, with its tables laden with mangoes, bananas, greens and spices and fresh-caught fish.
'Jamaica is a marvelous place', he reflected, sipping coffee and reaching for the local newspaper. Somehow, he'd never been here, despite all his traveling. A successful antiquities broker, Aidan had a reputation among his clients for fulfilling their most impossible wishes, and a reputation among archeologists and museum directors for frustrating their purchase of desired pieces in the process. None of which bothered him.
For years, he'd been searching for an unusual piece of Fabrege for a client, and last week Aidan had located it, in Jamaica, of all places. He'd managed to complete the purchase yesterday, and then had decided to take a few days off and explore the area.
Relaxed, Aidan scanned the front page of the paper. Ah yes, the usual. War, weather, political scandal and . . .
Stunned, he read the story at the bottom of the page twice. Just a short piece, a few paragraphs long, and what it said would seem ordinary, unimportant to most readers, except as a historical curiosity.
Not to the head of the Hornblower family.
In shock, Aidan stood up abruptly, a tall, thin man, running his hands though short iron-gray hair. For a moment, he continued to look toward the bay, then picked up the paper in a hand that trembled slightly and hurried through the wide doors into his room.
Sitting down at the desk, he opened his briefcase, lifted out auction catalogs and files labeled neatly with clients' names. Below them rested a slim, navy-blue binder, unlabeled. Aidan carried it with him everywhere, for some unknown reason, rereading it frequently, even though, by now, he knew most of its contents by heart. He carefully lifted it out and carried it to the sofa, where he sat holding it and the newspaper, staring blindly into space.
A ship's horn sounded from the harbor, and with a sigh, Aidan set the paper on the table and opened the binder. Running his hand over the photocopied pages within it, he smiled sadly as he read the opening page:
My name is Horatio Hornblower. After reading this volume, you may assert that what I have written here is nonsense, the ramblings of a delusional old man, for it does not, I know, conform to the record, such as it is, of events long ago. However, I am, I assure you, in full possession of my mind, and more importantly, my memories. And it is those memories which are the truth, not the lies told to slander one who did not deserve such treatment, who deserved to be remembered, not condemned into oblivion.
I have, at the advanced age of 70, many titles. Viscount. Admiral in Her Majesty's Navy. Husband. Father. Grandfather.
But not the title I most want. Not friend. I had the honor of that title once, and was grateful for its bestowing, though I never said so aloud. I should have said so. I lost that honor, many years ago. Not really lost. I carelessly allowed it to slip away from me, focusing so much on myself, that I forgot about the responsibilities that came with that title. And was left alone, because of my selfishness. No more than I deserved.
I ask that my heirs, after reading this journal, honor the one memorialized within these pages, if nowhere else. I am not a fanciful man, and I hold out little hope that my writing of this journal will change anything. But perhaps, if my heirs remember, I will be given the joy of that title once more.
Aidan closed the journal, and his eyes, and leaned back in thought. The wind unexpectedly blew through the doors and sent the newspaper to the floor, crumpled so that the small article was the only part of the page still visible.
Dig at pauper's cemetery nears conclusion
Excavations at the pauper's cemetery in the heart of Old Town Kingston are expected to be completed within the week, according to Jessamine James, famous archeologist and discoverer of the tomb of Helen of Troy, who heads the dig.
The cemetery, established in 1785 to provide a burial site for indigent and unknown persons, was formerly run under the direction of the vicars at St. Thomas the Doubting Church. The cemetery was officially closed in 1810, when the church building burned down. Although the church was rebuilt in a new location only a few miles away, the vicar ceded control of the cemetery to the city at that time.
Kingston officials agreed to sell the property, the last undeveloped site in Old Town, to a development group last year. A condition of the sale was that the cemetery be excavated, and the graves relocated. Ms. James, who retired to Jamaica five years ago, offered to run the dig, and several universities agreed to provide funding, with numerous students donating their time to the project.
To date, the archeological team has located the remains of some 186 persons. Thanks to careful records kept by the vicars of St. Thomas, the names of most of these unfortunates are known, and efforts are under way to locate any descendants. Those whose relatives cannot be located, or who remain unknown, will be reburied in plots at the new Kingston National Cemetery, which have been donated by the Jamaican government.(one week earlier)
Jessie James sat under a large red-and-white striped umbrella, and watched students enthusiastically brush dirt from artifacts or carefully catalog their finds. 'Ah, youth,' she thought, amused, trying to recall, at the age of 82, what it been like to be that young. 'When I was 18 . . .'
When Jessie was 18, she'd had the typical goals of a young woman in Butte, Montana. Get married to Spencer Gray and build his business a new air transport company with one cranky plane and three customers large enough to support the eight children she intended to have. Spencer had even taught her to fly. Then came Pearl Harbor. Spencer enlisted, went to England and was shot down over the Channel, leaving her without even a grave at which to mourn. Jessie had joined an auxiliary unit and delivered planes, often under fire, to the Pacific theater.
After the war, she'd talked her way into working at the new anthropology department of an upstart western university. Her ability to fly an airplane helped. Then she'd talked her way into becoming a student, despite formal training. She'd spent ten years digging on the Greek plains, until the memorable day she'd stood up and realized the hill above her was just too symmetrical to be natural. And found a gravesite no one believed existed.
Everyone had been surprised she retired to Jamaica they'd expected her to stay in her beloved Greece. Only her closest friends knew of her fascination with British naval history started years ago, when Spencer's weekly letters, in an effort to disguise how dangerous his missions were, instead contained stories of British history. So when it came time to retire, she chose Kingston Britain being too cold for her arthritic knees, and Gibraltar too full of people speaking a language she didn't know.
She'd volunteered for this dig because of that interest. She knew a few British sailors had ended up in the pauper's cemetery. And she'd been outraged at initial plans to rebury all remains in a mass grave perhaps in reaction to Spencer's lack of a gravesite, she'd always been sensitive about people deserving a monument by which to be remembered. And once she'd volunteered, well, department heads across the world, many of them former students, had provided all the funding and manpower she needed.
'Or people-power, to be more accurate,' she smirked, watching her two most promising assistants, Fay Framingham and George Grant, make their way toward her.
The dig site, at first, looked daunting a large plot of land, covered in brush and trees, with all markers missing due to hurricanes. But the vicars of St. Thomas had marked each grave's location on a carefully drawn map, and the overabundance of students meant the work could be conducted at top speed. The only area not tagged for exploration had been the northwest corner the vicars' map indicated no graves in that area. But Fay and George, both due to receive their doctorates this year, had convinced her to allow them to dig there. Neither expected to find anything, but the experience of running their own dig site would be useful.
So Jessie was understandably surprised when the two ducked under the umbrella and sat down at the card table beside her with somber faces. "What?" she asked worriedly, already wondering whether someone could have been injured while working at their site.
"We've found something in Z9 plot," Fay said soberly.
"Found something?" Jessie repeated.
"Bones," George said flatly.They buried Archie Kennedy on January 27, 1802, one day after our trial ended, and he died. I say they. I was not permitted to attend; indeed, I was ordered not to attend. Even the men loyal to us Matthews, Styles were told their services were ' required' aboard Renown all that day. This despite the fact that Renown was being repaired, and her crew was supposed to be at liberty in town.
I had heard of Hammond's insistence on the usual procedures for one convicted of assault upon his captain, and therefore mutiny against the laws of the Admiralty to be thrown overboard naked with no ceremony. However, Renown, it was pointed out, could not make sail, and thus could not manage such a matter. No other ship wanted a mutineer brought aboard, even if he was dead. Hammond and Pellew were still shouting over it, or so I am told, when Captain Collins weighed in.
Bury the man in Kingston, but accord him no honors or recognition. No service. Just a grave.
Pellew broke the news to me, in my room at the inn to which I had been escorted following the end of the trial. I had been forced to sit there, in the courtroom, and listen to Pellew's pleased voice as he pronounced me innocent of all charges. This scarcely an hour after watching Archie die, the effort of walking to that courtroom too much for his weakened body to handle. For one mad moment, I considered flinging my sword at the captains. But duty prevailed, and so I sat there and listened, and then retired to the inn as directed, to ponder Pellew's actions throughout the trial. I knew he was concerned about the effect the trial would have upon my career. But why, why had he accepted Archie's testimony? He knew he was ill, near the point of death, and delirious most of the time.
Was it that he never really had that much personal acquaintance with Kennedy? Something that was my fault. Was he fixed so much on my career that he ignored my friend, to Archie's detriment? Had that not been the case, would the trial have ended differently? With us both freed, as Pellew brilliantly saved his two protégées or with us both condemned to the gallows? I have never found the answer. . ."Bones?" repeated Jessie, surprised.
Fay nodded yes, then added "but there aren't any graves marked in that section . . ."
'Stupid, stupid!' Jessie suddenly thought. 'You silly old woman, you forgot the first rule of digging. Never assume . . .' Aloud, she said, "No, they don't show anything. But I screwed up. I forgot maps aren't always right. Which means," she said, levering herself out of the chair and onto her feet, "that we have a mystery, and you," smiling at the two students, "have your first find."
Mentally still kicking herself, she began hobbling slowly across the dig site to the distant spot surrounded by excited students . . .And so, the 27th found me back in the prison infirmary, sitting on Archie's bed, where he had taken his last breath. Dying alone. Even though I was sitting there. Because I didn't have the strength to reach over and take his hand. Not that he blamed me for that, I know. But I hold it against myself. Yet another example of my selfishness. And now he was to buried alone.
Oh, I knew the plans thanks to Hobbs. The Renown's gunner had, in the end, understood what had happened to his captain, and forgiven us all. He somehow learned the manner of Archie's burial, and told me the night before, after Pellew left. Burial before dawn, to avoid witnesses. An unmarked grave in a wooded, unused section of the pauper's cemetery. The body to be dressed only in a plain shirt and pants and this only because the vicar of St. Thomas refused to allow the burial of a naked man, even if wrapped in old sailcloth, as Archie was. When Hobbs left that night, he took with him something from me, to slip into Archie's hand, if he could he had hinted to the men watching over Archie's body that he had some private words to say to the 'mutineer' about how he had treated Sawyer, and he thought the men would allow a few minutes alone with him.
And so, Hobbs said farewell to my friend for me, and I kept vigil all that day, alone, in the infirmary. . . Jessie reached plot Z9, and stood there, panting. 'You're getting old, woman.' Ignoring the protests of her knees she leaned over the grave, its boundaries marked out by stakes.
There wasn't much visible, as yet. Dirt, yes, lots of that. The occasional tree root, left over from the poor palms uprooted by the machinery used to clear the site. And there, just visible, the tips of some bones. Her mind clinically recorded the shape, and condition, the presence of cloth near the upper corner, weathered but still in recognizable condition.
But no trace of wood, of the coffin that should have been there. Even the meanest, poorest of graves in the main part of the cemetery had, surprisingly, involved the use of a rough, plank coffin. Early tests results revealed that the wood was weathered, and contained a high brine content cast off bits of old ships, left over from wrecks, or from repairs, a student had speculated. Apparently, the vicars had done the best they could by the unfortunates buried here. There had also been traces of stone, or metal, near the heads of the graves, suggesting that, at some time, crude markers had been placed to indicate where graves were located. All gone now, swept away by the storms that periodically washed over the island.
But that had been the main part of the cemetery, an open, flat field, exposed to the elements. This part had always been heavily covered by trees and brush, according to the records, and therefore a marker should have survived. Except, they couldn't seem to find it.
For the next few days, Fay and George took the lead in exploring
the grave. And the more they dug, the more confusing the picture
became.Long after I knew Archie had been laid to rest, Pellew
came to the infirmary. I gathered he had been looking for me most
of the day, and had only late in the afternoon figured out where
I was. He was relieved to see me there, rather than searching
for Archie's grave. Doubtless he feared I would face charges for
insubordination, so soon after the 'successful' completion of
the trial for mutiny. And there, he gave me the latest edition
of the Kingston Chronicle. I had already learned that, in an attempt
to preserve Sawyer's reputation, the Chronicle had been prevailed
upon to report only that an inquiry was taking place, with no
names mentioned, and later, that it had been concluded. I knew
there would be consequences to Archie's confession, but it somehow
never occurred to me, until I sat there with a copy of the Chronicle
praising my actions, and those of Mr. Bush, and omitting all mention
of my friend, that everything Archie had ever done would now be
obliterated. Never spoken of,
lest the 'mutineer' have some favorable attributes attached to his name.
And then Pellew gave me my orders. Commander. A ship of my own. We had dreamed of this day, Archie and I, promising that, whichever of us achieved command first, would ask the other to be his lieutenant.
And that was no longer possible . . . I left Kingston, and Archie, two days later, on Retribution. My thirty pieces of silver for betraying my friend. October 28th
By the end of the week, the excavation was finished, and Fay and George submitted their report for Jessie's review.
"Summary on lone gravesite in zone Z9.
"One set of remains was recovered from the site, that of a Caucasian male, aged 25-30 years. Average or slightly below average height, depending upon origin. One rib is shattered at mid-point, with no signs of healing, and there are indications of other, earlier physical traumas. Initial examination places this individual's death between 200-225 years ago.
"There are no clothing fragments remaining, not unexpected in a tropical climate. However, several buttons, of good quality, were retrieved from the lower rib and pelvic region, indicating the individual was dressed in pants and suspenders. No further buttons were located, suggesting neither a waistcoat nor coat was present. No leather was retrieved from the region near the feet, leading to the conclusion that the individual was not wearing shoes.
"Fragments of cloth from the NE corner, near the head, and from underneath the sternum, were analyzed and determined to be sailcloth, signifying the individual was wrapped in a cloth shroud, rather than the plank coffins used elsewhere. No mineral or metal traces were found in the site, except for the items noted below, supporting the conclusion that no coffin was used for this burial.
"No stone or metal fragments were found, again showing that, unlike elsewhere in the cemetery, no marker was placed on the grave. It does not provide an explanation for the grave's failure to be listed on the map, as the vicar officiating at the burial would have known the location of the grave regardless of the lack of a marker. Further investigation is warranted, if only because of the unusualness of the site when compared to contemporaneous burials."
Below the summary, a description of two unusual items recovered from this grave.
Jessie placed the folder on the table, and sipped at her tea while thinking.
So far, they'd matched the vicars' list of burials precisely with graves, and already found every adult on the list. So who was this man? And why had the vicars not listed him?
"Item. Three large and four small fragments of iron, recovered from the midsection of the remains. Composition indicates the probability that the fragments came from the same item, most probably a piece of rifle or pistol shot. Examination indicates the shot did not break apart as a result of corrosion or decay, suggesting it broke apart as the result of impact with a solid object."
'Such as a rib?' Jessie speculated, thinking of that shattered rib. Had the man been shot, and died of his injury, then been hastily buried here? Perhaps perhaps he'd been murdered, and the isolated spot had served as a hiding place for the body. Her mind, primed by sixty years of reading every murder mystery she could find, created a vivid picture of the typical dark and stormy night, with two men lugging a cloth-wrapped body behind the church into the woods, digging while lit by a single lantern and flashes of lightening as the storm rent its fury . . .
'Oh, get a grip, woman,' she groused to herself. That doesn't explain the other item, which would almost certainly have been removed by any thief . . .
Which brought her back to her question. She, Fay and George had considered, and discarded, numerous possibilities.
Not a murderer the remains showed no signs of death by hanging, which would have left obvious marks on the bones. And not a criminal, shot while fleeing a crime. Criminals had been buried in the main part of the cemetery which held a murderer and two thieves.
Not a murder victim. George had enlisted several enthusiastic students, who'd spent the weekend reading the pages of the Kingston Chronicle. Surprisingly, there had only been three murders in the relevant time all of women. None shot. And only six other shootings reported, all men whose descriptions or deaths did not fit the remains of Z9. And who were accounted for in other cemeteries. The students had looked.
Not Navy. As Jessie suspected, eight Naval sailors were buried here men who'd died of illness, or met their end as a result of an accident, and hadn't left sufficient funds for burial. "Two were shot in battles," a student waved his notes at Jessie. "Yes," she responded, after reading his work, "but one man was at least 6 feet tall, and the other was over 50. And," she said gently to the crestfallen student, "both these men were shot more than three years before their deaths . . ."
And not a sailor from any other ship. Men from merchant vessels listed as having died had, like their Naval counterparts, been found already.
Jessie still thought the man might have been a sailor, based on the wear patterns of his shoulders and hands, but there was no name to attach to him. 'He could be a merchant sailor, but there's no record of him in the Chronicle, and we don't have the time to search through the records of every shipping company that visited these islands over that period. And the Naval records from here are gone lost in that big hurricane back in the '60's. Besides, the Chronicle had a positive mania for reporting the doings of the Navy. Hell, they even reported the death of a powder boy from chicken pox. They'd have said something if he was one of Britain's men.'
So, it wasn't likely they'd ever find out who he was. Which meant he'd be buried in another unnamed grave. 'At least he'll have a marker,' Jessie thought, but that was small comfort. She liked to think that everyone here would have their identities back, after so long without them.
"Excuse me, ma'am?"
Glancing up, Jessie saw one of the first-year students. "There's a man here asking for you."
"And he would be?"
"Oh," the girl flushed, "I'm sorry, he gave me his card." And handed it over.
'Aidan Hornblower, Antiquities.' A number, an address in a fashionable district of London.
Looking up, eyes narrowed, she said, "Send him over." And watched the girl scamper off. 'Aidan Hornblower. Now what do you want? Nothing here to take the fancy of your clients . . .'When I reached Portsmouth with Retribution, I found that my punishment had already begun. The glorious future Pellew had expounded to me before I left Kingston was no more. The Peace had been signed. My ship was taken, my commission unconfirmed, my pay docked. And in the triumphant news of peace, all mention of Kingston, and its 'inquiry', had been lost. Even the Naval Chronicle forgot, merely mentioning a satisfactory end, without names. I learned at the Admiralty -- a trip I could not really afford, but had to take -- that Archie had been struck from the register of officers. And that was that absent that glorious career, lacking both money and political influence, I could do nothing to retrieve his good name . . .Aidan had spent the weekend dithering not something he was used to doing. He had an obligation, moral if not legal. And no idea whether it could be carried out.
As soon as his solicitor's offices in London opened Monday, he was on the phone even though it was only 4 a.m. in Jamaica. Speaking rapidly, he reminded the man of the unusual family history in a certain matter, then described what he had been able to learn about the dig. The solicitor fired questions back at him, and after two hours, they had a plan. The solicitor engaged a counterpart in Kingston to act on Aidan's behalf, should it become necessary, and the paperwork to smooth the process was already under preparation when Aidan hung up the phone.
'But will it be needed?' he wondered, carrying his cell phone out onto the veranda. He knew there was only one way to find out ask the excavation's director, Jessie James. He snorted to himself, wondering once again what her parents had been thinking to pick that name. Then smiled, thinking of her career, acknowledging it fit her perfectly. They'd met often over the years, usually in connection with the auction of some item her university wanted for a museum, and his client wanted for a collection. Generally, his client's deeper pocket won. She'd never held that against him.
Aidan picked up the phone again, prepared to call the Kingston solicitor and have him begin inquiries about the dig.
And stopped, as clouds suddenly drifted across the sun, and a cold breeze blew over his neck. He shivered.
The family had an obligation, a duty. And that meant he couldn't just delegate this to someone else, like another routine business task. He had to see to it himself, and that meant talking to Jessie James. At the very least, he could explain why he wanted to look over the remains uncovered by her dig.
And maybe steal one of them to take home.
Never was a man so thankful for the return of war as I was. And not just because I was out of funds, and in desperate need of some type of employment. But because war offered me the means to an end. The end to Archie's disgrace, and forgiveness for me. God help me, but I wanted back on a ship and back into battle. I needed the means to achieve those ends. I needed promotion, and money, and connections. I would get only one chance at revoking that verdict, and I needed all the ammunition I could muster to do it . . .Aidan made his way across the excavation site, dodging open graves and pre-occupied students. He ducked under the umbrella and held out his hand to Jessie. 'Damn, older, frailer and still as stubborn as ever.' One look at her eyes, level and determined, reminded him she was not an opponent to take for granted. Smiling slightly, he said, "Hello, Ms. James."
A snort. "Ms. James. Huh. What do you want, Hornblower?"
Aidan did her the honor of not wasting her time. "I want to look around the site, then look over what you've found."
"Why? So you can snag something for your damned clients?" was the blunt response. "I promise you Aidan, there's nothing here they'd want. And everything here is going where it belongs, back into new graves with its owners." Glancing sideways at him quickly, she was struck by his unusual posture. Ramrod straight as usual, but edgy. Too straight, like he was trying not to fidget. 'Something's wrong.' Jessie had known Aidan Hornblower on and off for the better part of 25 years. And he was always in control, always self-assured. Except when it came to matters of family. For reasons she had never understood, Aidan was always reticent when it came to his family, as she'd found out when trying to get him to talk to her, indulging her Naval interests. "Damnit," she said abruptly, "pull up a chair. My neck hurts looking up at you."
Aidan sat, but snuck another glance at the dirt field as he did so. 'Where?'
"Aidan! Don't go to sleep on me here! Now what do you want?"
"I told you."
"And I told you. So what's the real reason you want to look around?"
"Jessie," a deep breath, 'patience, Aidan', "just, let me look around, alright? Please? And check out the lab as well? I'll owe you a huge favor, you can call it in anytime. For anything. I'll even back off on the purchase of those Roman columns next week, convince the client they wouldn't work in her home. Just please?"
'Let me look, Jessie. Although if there's anything there, you'll not like the legal maneuvers I'll have to take to get it from you.' And his eyes drifted out across the field, once more.
Watching Aidan scanning the cemetery, Jessie realized, with a start, that she had never seen him like this before. 'Nervous. He's nervous about this favor. And something else. What . . .' After a moment she knew. 'Embarrassed. Aidan Horace Hornblower is embarrassed?! And nothing ever embarrasses the man . . . except talking about his family's past, so . . . '
In a softer voice, she took a shot, "Why don't you just tell me why this is so important to your family?" As his shocked eyes swung back to her, she added, "You know me, I never tell tales. I'll not talk to anyone, unless you want me to."
'She's not family,' Aidan thought. And felt a nudge in his mind, almost forming words. 'Tell her. She can help.'
Drawing a breath, he asked, "How much do you know about my family?"
"Hornblower. Viscount. Descended from one Horatio Hornblower, Admiral, Naval hero, married into the Wellingtons. Protegee of Pellew. Had one son by a previous wife, who also married well, had lots of kids and founded your family. Fortunes up and down, but never out, and very up right now. Never a hint of scandal attached to the name . . ."
'And that's caused a wince in you, Aidan.'
"What did I miss?"
"Too quick a denial, Aidan. That's not worthy of you you're usually so much better at hiding things. So give. What's going on, and," another shot, "who's here in this cemetery you're so desperate to hide?"
"Not hide," Aidan denied. Jessie said nothing more, waiting while Aidan sat and studied her. Then, "Find," Aidan confessed, and began talking.But even with a war, it seemed to be my fate to continue being punished. I saw action, but never action that would tip the balance of the conflict, put my name on the front page of every paper. Never in the truly important matters. Never in the great battles that became household names. I was never exactly in the right spot at the right moment. As if something was holding me back, keeping me away. Damnit. Didn't whatever it was realize I needed that fame, that glory, to help Archie? Yet the miscues continued, and time dragged on . . ."I don't know how much you remember about Horatio Hornblower's service, but he made several trips to the Indies. The first one, it wasn't a good trip. Renown, 1802.
"Captain James Sawyer, hero of the Nile? That Renown?" Jessie asked.
Aidan nodded, "Horatio ended up on trial here for mutiny."
"What?" Jessie exclaimed. "Mutiny?" At Aidan's acknowledgment, she questioned, "1802? Can't be. I got news for you Aidan, I just had the brightest students from five universities going through the Chronicle with a fine-tooth comb, looking for something, and there was no mention of a trial."
"They called it an 'inquiry', for politics' sake, but it was a trial nonetheless."
"Politics' sake," Jessie repeated. "As I recall, Sawyer died at the hands of some Spanish rebels who got loose on his ship. Never made it to Kingston. His officers brought the ship in, then she got a new Captain and they all went back to England."
"Not all of them, and not all on Renown. Horatio was given his first command here, a sloop called Retribution. He brought it back to England just as peace was declared. "
"After the trial . . .?" Jessie asked, not quite believing what she was hearing.
"For mutiny. Sawyer did end up being shot by the Spanish. But before that, he was supposedly pushed into the hold of Renown."
"And they accused your ancestor."
"They accused all the officers of Renown the First, a man named Buckland, and Bush, who later served with Horatio, and Horatio's best friend, the fourth lieutenant. Archie Kennedy. But for some reason, all the attention was on Horatio."
"From what I've read of Sawyer, he was a hard captain, but fair and good to his crew, officers and enlisted alike," Jessie said skeptically. "So what made them start a trial for mutiny?"
"Well, for one thing, the officers really were plotting mutiny," Aidan said calmly, but wondering inside where this compulsion to tell the truth, after so many long years, was coming from.
"Huh!?" Jessie yelped.
"Because Sawyer was stark, raving mad." As Jessie opened her mouth again, Aidan raised a hand and said, "Please. Just let me tell this." She closed her mouth, leaned back and stared at him with narrowed eyes, as he continued, "Sawyer had apparently been losing it for some time, slowly, so slowly most didn't notice. And the doctor on Renown helped hide the symptoms, by the injudicious application of a lot of laudanum to keep him quiet. By the time Hornblower and Kennedy were assigned to Renown in 1800, joining Buckland, he'd pretty much become a raging paranoiac. But not everyone was out to get him just his officers."
"And you know this because . . ."
"Horatio wrote it all down, in a journal that's given to each Viscount." At Jessie's snort, he said somewhat defensively, "I know. I remember the quote from your book 'The written word is not always accurate'. But I believe him."
"Ah-huh," Jessie muttered, "so the great hero was nuts . . ."
"And it only got worse. By the time Bush came to Renown, late in 1801, it was pretty much open warfare between the officers and Sawyer. For some reason, the Admiralty didn't pull him off the ship publicity, design or maybe they just didn't realize how far gone he was. Horatio wrote that he had good days, and even on the bad days he could be very, very believable. For whatever reason, Renown sailed for the Indies with a mad captain, a crew that pretty much did what they wanted, and four officers whose hands were tied. It's a miracle they didn't run into a French ship on the way she'd have been lost within the first ten minutes of the battle."
"Anyway, on the way there, the officers met to try and find some way to save the ship. Sawyer got word of it and went hunting them, with the ship's entire complement of marines. Then Sawyer ended up flat on his back in the hold, with a head injury."
"Which probably didn't help his sanity any," Jessie remarked dryly. "Which one pushed him in?"
"None of them, according to Horatio," Aidan said. "Sawyer had cornered Kennedy, and then for some reason started backing away from him and no, Kennedy didn't have any weapons, and from Horatio's description was a pretty unthreatening guy but Sawyer still backed away and ended up falling over into the hold."
"And no one tried to warn him?"
"Horatio said he wanted to, but Sawyer was holding a gun aimed at Kennedy's heart. Crazy as he was, I guess Horatio was afraid the slightest noise would make him fire, and he'd be responsible for the death of his best friend." Aidan paused, a sad look in his eyes, then went on. "Cutting to the end, Sawyer tried to take a Spanish fort, the occupants of which ended up as prisoners on Renown. They got loose, staged a takeover attempt, and in the process, Sawyer was killed, and Bush and Kennedy wounded. Buckland and Horatio got the ship to Kingston."
"And were put on trial," Jessie said flatly.
"Sawyer had written everything down, every paranoid delusion, and it was . . . very convincing. And it didn't help that Hammond was one of the only three captains in port and ended up on the panel, along with Pellew and someone named Collins." At Jessie's raised eyebrows, he remembered her fascination with Naval history and said simply, "Hammond, contrary to official report, did not commit suicide. He was actively working even in Kingston on an Irish revolt throughout the Fleet, and he killed himself when he got caught. The Admiralty hushed it up they couldn't afford a Naval martyr to the Irish cause."
"According to Horatio?"
"And to some records in France that my grandfather tracked down, while he was stationed in Paris during the War. So we definitely know that part of Horatio's story was true." At Jessie's stunned look, he smiled and said, "We've kept the papers. You never know when such things might be needed."
Jessie swallowed. Suddenly, this crazy story didn't seem so crazy. "They're on trial . . ."
"Buckland accused Horatio of pushing the Captain. And Horatio was due to testify the next day . . ." Aidan's voice trailed off. Jessie waited for several minutes, then impatiently asked, "And . . ."
"Kennedy walked into the courtroom and confessed."Every time I tire, every time I wonder why I am doing this, or just want to stop and rest, I remember Archie's face. Pale, drawn with pain, the eyes the life fading from his eyes even while he was standing in front of me in the courtroom. Then the marines half-carried him out, and I followed. No one stopped me the captains had adjourned to consider his testimony those ridiculous lies. No one who knew Archie and I thought Pellew knew Archie -- would believe he would hurt a sick and wounded man. Not after all the times he had been hurt, and sick, and wounded, and all the ways people had hurt him. There was no way on this earth that Archie could have harmed Sawyer.
But he had confessed . . .
"Archie Kennedy," Aidan said, so softly that Jessie had to lean forward to hear him. "Horatio's best, his only real friend. They'd been serving together for ten years. Endured things that I find hard to believe even in today's world." He rubbed a hand over his face. "Horatio worried about him so much. He'd been injured shot in the abdomen " And Jessie sat up straighter, staring at him, "and was just barely hanging on. He and Bush had been confined to the prison infirmary since the start of the trial, although I think someone must have taken statements from them. The last thing Horatio expected to see when he reached the courtroom was his best friend already on the stand, testifying that he and he alone had pushed Captain Sawyer into the hold."
Jessie opened her mouth to say something, then closed it quickly. 'Shot in the abdomen.' "There's no record of any of this in the Chronicle."
"No," and Aidan's tone was angry, "as I said, politics. Kennedy's father was the Earl of Cassilis he was the youngest of four sons despite the confession, they'd want to avoid offending the Earl too much. And they wanted to preserve Sawyer's name. So, they kept the matter quiet. And it wasn't hard Kingston wasn't exactly the center of the war at the time, and Kennedy helped matters along by dying that day, less than an hour after testifying. He was buried in an unmarked grave. Horatio wasn't permitted to attend the burial, but he arranged to have a family heirloom of ours" and here Jessie sat bold upright and stared in shock at Aidan "buried with Archie."
"And Horatio?" she got out.
"Got Retribution, and after the peace ended, a few years later, he had another ship, and another, bigger still. Saw action, but always just missing the really big battles. Still he was making steady progress up the ladder. Then there was the French affair, and he got the title. And money. Married Barbara. And then he was ready."
"To try and clear Archie's name."I'd wanted fame, and glory, and the money and power to reopen the case. And now I had it title, wealth, connections, the throne's favor -- but dear God, I'd almost had to lose another friend to get it. Bush. Who knew nothing of why I was so driven at times. But loyally followed me anyway.
Just as Archie always had . . .
I had the knowledge of Hammond's treachery. I could count on Bush for testimony corroborating Sawyer's insanity as well as the testimony of Matthews, and Styles. And Hobbs. I'd kept in touch with him as well, he'd retired from the sea, ran a little tavern in Portsmouth. And had never forgotten Archie's sacrifice. And I'd found Clive as well, retired and living in the Cotswolds. I was sure I could convince him to tell the truth now Sawyer's daughter had died, without children. There was nothing to prevent Archie's honor being restored, I thought.
I was mistaken . . ."Horatio had evidence sworn statements from men who'd been on Renown, Renown's doctor, Bush's testimony. I've seen it the paperwork's still kept in the lawyer's office, with the original journal. He knew about Hammond, he'd helped track that traitor down. He thought that he could persuade the Admiralty the trial was rigged, and that Archie had only confessed to save them all from Hammond. Once he had the political connections, he was ready to go to the Admiralty."
Jessie sat silent for a moment, then asked, "Why hadn't Kennedy's family done something before this? Seems to me they'd have a bigger stake in removing any stigma from their family tree. And a hell of a lot better chance, with that title and all."
"The Kennedys," Aidan said carefully, "had already attended to their family problem."God help me, I almost killed a man in cold blood today. Not cold. Hot. I have never felt such fury in me before, not even with Simpson. I did not think I was capable of absolute hatred.
Until I met James Kennedy at my club, where I had gone to review one last time the paperwork I would be presenting to the Admiralty on the morrow.
James Kennedy. The oldest of Archie's three brothers. The latest Lord Cassillis, upon the death of Archie's father some years ago. A man I would have thought an ally in the fight to clear Archie's name.
A man who made clear to me that he had no such brother.
His family gave up on him. I know the brothers had never been that close, but still Archie was family. And his brothers have denounced him, erased him from their line. James took great pride in detailing the steps taken. Name struck from the family documents. No death entered on the parish records, as that would have required acknowledging Archie's existence.
Money, strategically paid, to those in a position to ensure certain documents at the Admiralty never saw the light of day again. Lost, or destroyed, it made no difference. Just so long as the records of Kennedy's service vanished. The Admiralty officials were only too happy to cooperate, James boasted, to preserve Captain Sawyer's reputation. And, I now know, the reputation of those who knew his sanity had gone, but failed to act.
After all, if Kennedy's family didn't care that his existence was erased, who would?
Oh God, they even burned the only portrait of him that there was, the one his father had painted when he achieved his lieutenancy. Archie was so proud of the fact that he had been judged worthy of inclusion in the family gallery.
Am I the only one who holds family dear? Is it because I have so little of it? Maria gone. My son and daughter dead. Only one son left, and Barbara. No parents. No siblings. And the one closest to me, closer dear God than my wife, vanished into disgrace.
Is there no end to what depths a man can fall? Is oblivion truly so easy to achieve . . .?"Horatio didn't believe him, of course," Aidan said. "He'd been lied to so many times, over so many things, I don't think he really believed anything anyone said, unless he had proof that their statements were true. And so he went looking for that proof. At the Admiralty. And I guess you could say, he found it, because he found nothing."I should have known, I should have remembered. The Admiralty hid a madman under the title of 'hero', and a traitor's death under the mantle of 'suicide in the face of capture'. They had preserved the reputations of Sawyer, and Hammond, in the face of enormous difficulties dozens of witnesses, medical records, paperwork in the hands of a foreign government.
How much easier to blot out one insignificant lieutenant. To lose the few pieces of paper enrollment, commission, death that marked the passage of a good and decent man.
Especially with his family's consent.
I searched, God help us all, I looked, for days. Nothing. No record. It was as if Archie Kennedy was a figment of my mind. As if I, not Sawyer, had suffered the insanity.
And that meant there could be no review of the case. No restoration of Archie's honor. There was no case concerning a disgraced 26-year-old lieutenant to reopen . . . 'The poor man, that poor lonely man.' And she wasn't sure which she meant Archie or Horatio. "So," Jessie summed up, through the lump in her throat, "the Admiralty, the Kennedys, everyone just forgot about him?"
"Not everyone," Aidan responded quietly, "Horatio didn't. And we haven't." 'She isn't a Hornblower, she isn't one of us.' But at her questioning look, he said, hesitantly, ""there's a vow every Viscount makes, when he inherits." And shivered, suddenly cold.
So in the end, I could do nothing. I had my fame, and my success, and my name. I had the money, and title, and the political connections I truly do love Barbara, but the fact her brother was Wellington definitely added to the initial allure.
And I could do nothing. Because there was nothing to correct.
Archie no longer existed.
Except in my memory.
And when I die, he'll really be gone . . .
Unless you remember for me. I charge my heirs, my descendants, with this duty. To remember a man named Archie Kennedy. That he lived, and served his country well, and gave up everything life, honor, existence for this family. Every Viscount after me must ensure that the family members know his name, and how and why he died.
And someday, someday perhaps, some one of you will find a way to bring him home. Just bring some part of him home. Something to rest in the country he loved. Even if the only existence he is ever given is a name on a gravestone, it will still be more than he has now.
Keep my word.
"We all promise," Aidan said quietly. "Every one of us who becomes Viscount. You swear to remember." Then, louder, more insistent, "Don't you see, Jessie? Horatio wrote in his journal that Archie was buried in the pauper's cemetery. This cemetery. Archie Kennedy is here, somewhere. I have to look. It's my duty to look."
"And if you find him?"
"I'll bring him home."
"Aidan . . ."
"It's already arranged, Jessie. Horatio learned the lesson well, and he taught his descendants. Money, position, connections. Right now, a lawyer in Kingston is preparing the paperwork to claim the remains, and send them back to England for burial. The solicitor there will arrange for the plot, and the service. Whatever it takes, will be done." His voice became more desperate. "But I need to find him first, and . . ."
" . . . if you don't let me look, and I don't even know how to identify him and . . ."
"I SAID alright!" Jessie practically had to yell to be heard over the stream of words coming out of Aidan's mouth. 'Who'd have thought collected Aidan Hornblower had such passion.' "I'll help you, Aidan. And more importantly, I'll help him. Because I think we already found him."
"Just shut up and come with me."I made more trips back to that accursed region, on the business of the damnable Admiralty that took away my friend, from me, from everyone. And I fulfilled my duty. I did what they expected, what they needed me to do, matched their ruthlessness with my own. And took pleasure, in the occasional downfall of those too stupid, or too arrogant, in their corruption to see judgment approaching them.
And I looked for some sign of my friend. Barbara, bless her, helped, having learned the story from my ravings while ill one winter.
A judicious donation to the poor box, and Barbara's smile, ensured we could see the vicars' records of the old cemetery. He wasn't listed, of course. I can't believe I actually held out hope that he would be listed. And the vicar, the sexton, everyone from that time had long since passed away, been buried in their ornate, well-marked graves. While Archie remained hidden.
I even, one day, walked the cemetery. Abandoned for years, grown over with weeds, for the city was not careful in its care of the poor, even when dead. One corner was so wooded, I could not force my way into it. And after that trip, at last, I stopped searching . . .Jessie pushed herself out of her chair, waved off Aidan's hand, and set out across the dig site. "We keep the cars on the far side, to prevent dust blowing every time an engine starts," she explained.
"Who you want is in the storage room, Aidan. That's where we're holding the remains, until the new graves are ready probably in about a week's time or so. You cut it close, you know?"
"More than you realize," Aidan murmured, then, catching her look, explained, "I didn't even know about the dig I came here on business, decided to stay over an extra day and read about it in the next morning's paper. If I hadn't stayed, I'd have never seen the story."
"Humph," muttered Jessie, then out of habit (and to slow down the walk, which was killing her knees), she began explaining about the cemetery's layout, and the burial methods, and the vicars' map. Blushing slightly at Aidan's expression, she said defensively, "Once a teacher, always a teacher." Then something in the lecture struck Aidan.
"You said the vicars kept a list with names and grave locations? Is that how you . . ."
"No," Jessie said, a touch of anger coloring her tone, "no, it seems the Admiralty succeeded in that as well. Kennedy's name isn't on the map."
"Then, how . . ."
"Over here," she said, abruptly turning and causing a kneeling student to scramble out of her way. Aidan made an awkward leap over the student and fell in next to her. "Where are we going?"
"To Kennedy's grave."
"Ah, Jessie, the graves"
"are back there," she finished. "But not his." She led him to the far corner, just below the car park, where a small area was marked with stakes. A hundred or more feet from the other graves.
"You found him here?"
"Yes. In the woods."
"It's so . . . lonely."
Jessie was silent for a moment, remembering her first glimpse of the grave and its occupant, then muttered a quote from one of her books and set out again towards the cars.In the end, I took my fame away from them, and for the most part, I retired. Oh, I still had duties, made appearances at Court. I could not entirely forsake the small, iron-willed woman who now ruled our island. But, I slipped away from the Admiralty's leash. For whatever time I have left upon this earth, I will serve that faithless place as little as possible . . . Thirty minutes later, Aidan and Jessie arrived at the dig's headquarters, an old warehouse near the harbor slated for renovation early the next year. For now, it served as office, computer room, laboratory and, in the back, climate-controlled storage area. Here, on tables, rested the remains removed from the cemetery. Each set of bones stored carefully in a box, covered by cloth, with a label listing the location of the grave and, more importantly to Jessie, the individual's identity. Some had full names, others just a first- or nick-name, such as Jake the Candleman. More boxes rested on shelves beneath the tables, with the items removed from the grave, destined to be returned to their owners for reburial.
Aidan stopped on the threshold. "There's so many . . ."
"I told you," Jessie elbowed past him, aiming for the far end of the room. "I know which one he is."
Aidan followed in her wake, passing between the rows of tables. He noticed some of the boxes had, besides their names, a stenciled marker. A cross, a flag British, American, even Spanish. He smiled, remembering Jessie's words in the cemetery, 'No one's life deserves to be forgotten.'
"Here," Jessie announced, stopping at the very back of the room, beside a table holding a box bereft of all markers, covered with white cloth. "If I'm not wrong, this is Archie Kennedy."
Aidan's hand reached for the cloth, then stopped. Jessie noticed the slight trembling, and reaching out, took his hand in hers, while with her left hand she pulled the cloth back slightly, revealing one corner of the box, and the small, pathetic collection of bones it held.
"Why . . ." Aidan's throat was suddenly dry, his body cold, and he had to swallow before continuing, "why do you think . . ." 'Damn it, I never even knew the man why do I suddenly want to start crying just because I'm looking at his bones?'
Jessie rested her fingertips on the side of the box. "Right age, right sex male, between 25 and 30. You said Kennedy was 26."
Aidan just nodded.
"And like I said, he was buried in that grave, away from everyone. The vicars had to know it was there they inspected every part of the place every week, would have seen a fresh grave, but they still didn't record it on their map. No coffin, just a shroud."
"Like Kennedy," he said hoarsely.
"Yes," Jessie said, and like his, her voice was suddenly changed, softer, gentler. "And then, there's this," and pulling back the cloth a bit more, she showed Aidan a rib bone, broken into fragments at the mid-point. "Sixth rib, right side over the abdomen, where Kennedy was hit. And we recovered what we think was a pistol or rifle shot from the abdominal area."
"Still, it could be . . . coincidence?" Aidan asked. 'It can't be this easy, not after all this time.'
"Too many coincidences, "Jessie said flatly. "Aidan, I know this is him."
Aidan took a final look at the remains, then gently eased the cloth back over the box. Eyes still fixed on it, he asked Jessie, "You always say never to base a conclusion on coincidences. So how can you be certain this is Archie Kennedy?"
"Because of what we found in his hand."There are still days when I miss him dearly, my friend. I wonder, does he rest quietly in the place they put him, or does he think we all forgot him? I'd like to believe he knows we didn't forget, that we still care. He holds the evidence in his hand, for Hobbs told me he was successful in this last mission on our behalf . . ."Item. One pendant, ivory, trimmed with gold. Tarnished gold chain still attached, although the chain was broken. An image, very faded, appears to be a woman, with dark, curling hair, arranged in the style of the late 1700's. Item was wrapped in a piece of cloth, fragments of which were retrieved and appear to have been oilskin. Item was located surrounded by the bones of the individual's right hand, suggesting that it had been held in that hand at the time of burial."
A pendant with a broken chain. When she first read it, Jessie had snorted and thought, 'ah, yes, the typical clue to the murderer.'
Not a clue to a murderer's name.
A clue to a victim's identity.My granddaughter asked me yesterday whether I had any pictures of my mother. She resents having been told that she resembled me, for she still feels me a tyrant - I refused her permission in the absence of her father, who is on duty -- to attend a party. She would prefer to think that we both resemble my mother, who's gentleness and goodness and enjoyment of holiday parties I had relayed to her in many stories. I told her the truth -- that she, and her father, and I, all came from the mold of that remarkable woman who had been my mother. And that I had such a portrait once, but that it had been given to a friend . . .Modern archeology was a wonderful thing. It allowed for DNA testing. Precise dating of artifacts. And enhancement of long-faded images.
When Jessie had first seen the restored picture of the woman on the pendant, she had the nagging feeling she had seen that face, and hair, before. Angular features, almost too stern for a woman, surrounded by a cloud of unruly, curling brown hair.
It hadn't been until Aidan mentioned a family heirloom left in Kennedy's grave that it clicked. In looking at that woman, she was looking at a younger Aidan, before his hair went gray and was cut short.
"And that clinches it, at least for me," Jessie said quietly. "This is Archie Kennedy, Aidan. I know it. Somewhere, you know it too. And yes, too many many coincidences. From you're being here just at the right time, to us even finding his grave. I hadn't planned to dig there, you know. I let myself get talked into a dig there to give some students experience before they graduate."
They were silent a moment, then Jessie continued, "I won't fight you on this, Aidan. I think I think we found him because it's time for him to go home."
Aidan just nodded again, wondering if he really was he wasn't crying, was he?
Jessie had no such illusions. Pulling out a handkerchief, she wiped her eyes, blew her nose loudly, and then announced, "And I'd like to call in that favor, now, if you don't mind."
Startled, Aidan looked at her.
"Buy me dinner tonight, so I can read the rest of that journal. And I know it's a family matter, Aidan, but would you mind terribly if I attended the funeral?"
Aidan smiled, and said, "I think he'd be honored."Earlier that afternoon, Evangeline Hornblower had received a call from Mr. Saunders the solicitor, and listened in shock to his explanation of Aidan's prolonged visit to Jamaica. She hung up and sat quietly, recalling Aidan's story of the vow he made upon inheriting the family honors.
And a journal she had read long ago, while Aidan was busy trolling an antique market, and had left his eight-months' pregnant wife and his briefcase in the shaded park across the street. She had been struck by the loneliness of the old man writing the book, a man who felt that his life had meant little, because he had failed his friend.
Aidan planned a small ceremony, according to Saunders. He'd asked the solicitor to purchase a plot in one of London's cemeteries, and set the burial for October 31st. A local vicar had agreed to read the service, and the law firm would take responsibility for the grave's maintenance.
And although Archie Kennedy would finally return to England, Saunders had indicated there was no way to reopen such ancient proceedings. Archie Kennedy would still be without his honor.
Evangeline stared at the phone a moment longer, then dialed a number she knew by heart. "Emma dear, how are you?" she asked her daughter, then after receiving the usual breathless update on her grandson's progress, "Can I ask what you and Steve are doing for Halloween?"
Now that I am older, in some way, I understand the actions
of the three men of that court, even if I can never forgive them
entirely for the result. Collins was disposed, I believe
now, to be fair, but the evidence was damning. AlthoughPellew
and I never discussed the trial again, I learned that Collins
had tried to run interference between the Hammond and Pellew
but one error, one slip of his tongue, caused by heat or exhaustion,
led to Buckland's damning accusation. And brought matters to the
point where Archie was, in turn, driven to confess.
Pellew did his best, saving myself, and Bush, and even poor Buckland.
He was faced with opposition on all sides, had few allies, and
still managed at least a partial victory. And Archie's confession?
He had no choice but to accept it. It had been delivered in an
open court, before witnesses. There was no disputing it. As for
Hammond, I will never forgive his plotting, for it was he who
insisted upon the farce of the trial. And I will
always be left to wonder, had Archie not been forced from his bed, would he have lived? But I can understand Hammond, at least a little driven by a desperate patriotism to try any means to free his land. As I was driven to try and save Archie's name . . .
Dinner had been an uneven affair spurts of conversation, followed by periods of silence, during which Aidan brooded over something and Jessie read through Horatio's journal. At one point, while discussing plans, Jessie had found herself asking, "Aidan. What about the Kennedys?"
"What about them?" Aidan returned, playing with his fork.
"Shouldn't they be told? I mean, he is their, well, relative."
Aidan looked up, an angry glint in his eyes. "My father saved an article for me, Jessie, about the most recent Earl's father, when he was awarded honors by the Queen for his service during the War. It went into great detail about his ancestry and their history of serving Britain. There was no mention of Archie. They still deny him, to this day." Then he shook his head. "Hell, today's generations probably don't even know he existed, thanks to Archie's brothers. So why should I get them involved now? They aren't his family." And he lapsed back into silence.
An hour later, Aidan and Jessie still sat in the restaurant, Aidan nursing his coffee and staring into space, Jessie reading the journal. Finally closing it with a sigh, she looked up of her companion. 'Enough brooding, time to spill it.'
"What are you thinking about, Aidan?"
Jessie sighed. "I know. He was all alone. But Aidan, you're taking him home." She caught his stern, tight-lipped look. Jessie had seen that look before, a few times. Usually right before some maneuver that sent a priceless treasure to one of his client's homes, instead of her museum.
"What are you hatching?"
"A proper funeral."
I thought you already had that planned," Jessie asked, confused.
"No. No, I didn't," Aidan said, and Jessie realized he was very angry. "I had a quiet, inconspicuous funeral planned. A simple plot, another anonymous god-damned lonely grave. That's the grave I was talking about. And that's not what Horatio wanted." With a sudden motion, he pulled his cell phone out and dialing, began a hushed conversation.
"No, he didn't, did he?" Jessie mused, recalling the words she had just read, the unhappy statements of a lonely man, betrayed by something he had once believed in. Then, she heard Aidan's soft muttering, something about 'traveling' and 'short notice'.
Closing the phone, Aidan looked at her and said bluntly, "Horatio wanted Kennedy's honor back. And he couldn't do it because they wiped out all record of his existence. Well, I can't give him back his honor, Not after all this time. But I can give him a good place to rest, square in the public eye, where everyone will see his name and know he existed."
"And that place would be . . ."
"In our family's plot. Right next to Horatio."
"Emma!" a shocked Evangeline exclaimed as she opened her door, "what are you doing here!"
Emma stared at her mother, then reached out and patted her arm. "Funeral Mum, remember?" Then she noticed the suitcase behind her mother in the hall, and raised her eyebrows in silent question.
"Damn, you didn't get the message which probably means Annie and Daniel are coming here too," Evangeline said in exasperation.
"Your father called really, really late last night and changed the plans."
"No funeral?" Emma said in surprise.
"No, there's a funeral," Evangeline sniffed, once more beginning to tear up as she recalled the conversation. "But it's been moved to the village. Aidan feels the best place to bury poor Mr. Kennedy is there, next to his friend. Next to Horatio."
Emma looked at her silently for a moment, then, nodded in agreement and, with her own sniff, headed off down the stairs, followed by her mother. As they reached the street, Emma motioned her husband to get back in the car, then pulled out her cellphone.
"I'll wait for your sister and brother and bring them down with me," Evangeline called as she came through the door, towing the enormous suitcase behind her.
Emma smiled. "Um, Mum? There's a few more people coming than you think." And she explained, in between phone calls.Jessie woke up that next morning to find Aidan had been true to his word. By 10 a.m., his solicitor was presenting papers to the Court, requesting custody of the remains marked Z9-1 by her group. By noon, custody was granted, and Aidan called to tell her he, and a local funeral home director, were on their way to the office to properly prepare Archie Kennedy's remains for transport back to Britain.
Jessie had been at the office since 6 a.m., when she intercepted Fay and George on their way to the coffee pot, drew them up along her desk in the common office area, and began telling them Kennedy's story. Within 30 minutes, every student, volunteer and hanger-on had joined them, and she'd had to start the story twice, for the benefit of late arrivals, before she could finally come to the part about the plans for reburial in Britain.
And to her surprise, no one complained. Not Fay and George, who would now be unable to conduct detailed studies of the burial, and thus could not present a paper on their first 'discovery' to the archeological community. Not the other students, even the idealistic first-years, full of the "importance of studying fully the past to benefit the present."
Not one objection. She beamed with pride as George left on an errand, and Fay excused herself to go wash the tears off her face.
Aidan arrived promptly at 1 p.m., followed by a hearse from which the director and an assistant unloaded a small casket. The solicitor pulled in behind them, and presented the papers formally to Jessie. She didn't bother to read them, just handed them off to someone behind her, and with dignity, lead the small group inside. There, they marched down an aisle formed by the students, who had moved the other tables of remains back, to allow room for the casket.
Aidan slowed up as he approached that last table, once more feeling a pang of unexpected sorrow at the sight of the covered box. 'I shouldn't be surprised I've known about him since I was a child. And I've lived with Horatio's memories of him for ten years, since I first read that journal. I feel like like I know him.' Without a word, he nodded to the director, who removed the white cloth quickly, then, looking at it more closely, handed it to his assistant, admonishing him to fold it carefully. Aidan, confused, snuck a look at it, and realized
'someone sewed a Union Jack to it.'
Someone had taken a small British flag, and delicately stitched it to the center of the white cloth. "Fay," came Jessie soft voice from his elbow, "she asked George to buy one from the souvenir shop down the street, then sewed it on. The Admiralty wouldn't give him the dignity of a flag on his grave then, or now, but, well, she said it wasn't right he shouldn't have the flag over him."
Aidan smiled, and waited while the men finished their work, then escorted Jessie out the door behind the casket, back through the honor guard of students. And the group headed to the airport.October 30
Aidan and Jessie had arrived back in London quite late the night before, and gone straight to their hotel, while Archie's casket was taken to a local funeral home for the night. The next morning, they left for the village, where the Hornblower family had their 'ancestral' home, a small farmhouse currently inhabited by Aidan's elderly aunts. On the way, Jessie informed Aidan that two friends had contacted her, needing to discuss plans for her latest book, and if Aidan didn't mind, she'd asked them to meet her at the village.
They reached the village later that afternoon, following the hearse to the small church where Aidan's family had celebrated important occasions for 200 years. Generations of Hornblowers, from Horatio to Aidan's parents, were buried in the shaded cemetery next to the church.
Following the War, the sleepy village, with its quaint buildings and scenic countryside, had become a magnet for tourists. Year-round, visitors from a number of countries and from London as well, were to be found wandering its streets. Many of them found time to visit the Church, and the Hornblower plot, listed in many guidebooks.
Aidan and Jessie got out, and were met on the steps by Evangeline and the vicar. Jessie left immediately, saying she had to meet her friends. And after seeing to the placement of the casket in the church, the vicar suggested they go to the inn and review plans for the service.
As they walked down the steps, Aidan nearly knocked over an older man, who, with his friends, was heading into the church. Both parties' apologized profusely, and the vicar chimed in, explaining the church was closed until after a funeral the following day. The man asked for, and received, directions to the pub next door to Aidan's inn, and he and his friends headed there, taking with them Aidan's gift of a ten-pound note for a round of drinks. Smiling, the vicar explained that the men had been hanging around for several days, waiting for another friend to arrive who was, it seemed, late. He locked the church doors and led them down the hill to the inn.
Over dinner, they set the final plans for the service. And later met Jessie and her two friends, a former cameraman on Jessie's digs, and a history professor from Cambridge who helped edit her books. Aidan thought they looked familiar, but after a moment, decided that they just looked like every other academic he'd ever met tweed pants, blazers and pipes. Aidan readily agreed to Jessie's request that they attend the service . . . October 31
Aidan walked into the small church, comforted, as always, by a sense of peace and belonging. But he wasn't prepared for the shock he felt upon reaching the church's interior.
As expected, the small casket, holding its collection of bones and the locket, was placed on a bier in the aisle before the altar. The plain white cloth, with its sewn-on British flag squarely in the center, was draped over the casket. Lit candles lined the aisle, and the organist was playing soft, somber music.
The bouquets of mums and lilies Aidan had ordered were there, but instead of lining the aisle, they'd been placed around the altar. In their stead, gathered around the casket he saw at least a dozen large baskets holding a wide variety of native English flowers all out of season, and therefore impossibly expensive.
And instead of an echoing, empty church, pews filled with faces.
"Hi Dad," came a voice from behind him, and turning, he found himself staring at his eldest daughter Emma, holding his infant grandson Richard in her arms. Next to her, his younger daughter Annie, both dressed in dark-hued suits, but smiling cheerfully at him.
"Where did everyone come from?" he asked dumbly. "How did they know . . ."
A bout of giggles escaped from Annie, as Emma smiled and said, "Dad, everyone in this family knows. Absolutely everyone." She placed a hand on his arm. "Mum told us. She called to explain what was going on. I think she just meant for the immediate family to be here. But, well, she didn't realize we were on the conference line, and Uncle John was in the office with me. He remembered . . ."
"And I called my son, and before I knew it, he was on the phone rounding everyone up!" a chipper voice sounded from the door, as Aidan's younger brother John wandered into the church. "Aidan, our whole family has a duty to be here, to see him laid to rest." And he escorted his wife to an empty pew, where his son and twin daughters were already waiting for them.
Aidan looked out over the small church. Uncles and aunts, cousins and in-laws. Dressed in proper attire for a funeral even his cousin the aspiring rock star. A few unfamiliar faces probably close friends of family members. He felt a hand sneak into his, looked over to see his wife smiling at him. With an answering nod, he led her to the pew next to the casket, and on a gentle swell, the organ began to play the introductory hymn . . .I have finally told Barbara my plans for my own funeral. Small, quiet, just the family. No elaborate ceremony. And most definitely, no, absolutely no, representatives from the Admiralty. They would not attend Archie's grave, and they shall not attend mine . . .It was a fitting service. None of the pomp that accompanied the burial of one who'd sacrificed all in the service of his country. No salute of guns, no uniformed escort, no official recognition. None of the glitter that had marked the celebrations of Trafalgar only a few days earlier.
The congregation sung simple hymns, songs with which Archie Kennedy would have been familiar. The usual prayers, readings from the Bible, recitation of Psalms. And an addition Shakespeare's sonnets, which Aidan recalled had been a favorite of Kennedy's.
But there was no eulogy, not in the classic sense. A eulogy, the vicar had pointed out, was a speech on the deceased's life made by one who had known him, an impossibility in this case. Aidan had been about to add more sonnets in its place, when Evangeline spoke up.
"Aidan. What about that last entry in the journal?"
It strikes me, looking back through these pages, that I have said much of Archie Kennedy's death, but little of his life.
Archie Kennedy was not a simple man, or an easy one to befriend. Some saw him as self-righteous, proud, prone to making annoying comments at the wrong time.
What some saw as self-righteous, I knew to be an overwhelming concern for those in need, and a firm belief that those in a position to help had a moral obligation to do so. Pride was instead a fierce self-preservation against being hurt again by those close to him, as he was by family, and shipmates, and those claiming to be friends. And the comments? Well, he did have a tendency to say things less honest men would not say. He saw the truth, and he spoke it. That was a measure of his honor he would not deceive, even when it would have made his life easier.
Archie was the sort of man to teach every powder boy on the Indy to read, in the hope that some of them might make their way to a better life.
To continue loving his family, even when they showed plainly that he was nothing more than an inconvenience to their plans.
To starve himself to death, rather than force his shipmates to remain in prison for months, waiting to see if he would recover enough from his illness to chance an escape. To run across a burning bridge to save me, knowing that the bridge would likely blow up before either of us could get off it.
To confess publicly to a crime he did not commit, rather than see an innocent friend hang for it.
He was the kind of man who, abused foully by another, would not celebrate the death of that man, and found it within himself to feel compassion for his soul. I did not know this at the time. But, years later, going through Archie's seachest aboard Retribution, a chest smuggled to me by Mr. Bush before its contents could be dumped overboard, I found it. A receipt for funds given to St. Christopher's, the seaman's church in Portsmouth. Payment for prayers to be said for the repose of Simpson's soul.
That was Archie Kennedy. A man who cared more about others than himself. Who did not, I realize, fit into our time. Ours is a cynical, selfish era, with every man seeking only his own advancement, without concern for the effects upon others less fortunate. And Archie Kennedy was too good a soul for this time.The vicar put down the printed page from which he'd been reading, and leaned forward on the pulpit.
"There are those who say that the measure of a man's life is in his material goods, the wealth he accumulates in his life. By that measure, Archie Kennedy was a failure, for he takes nothing with him to his repose but a gift from his friend. Still others measure a man's worth by those who mourn his death and here again, you could call him a failure, for none who knew him saw him to his first grave, and only a few mourned his passing.
"Yet I have often thought that the measure of a man is in the effect he has on others' lives. And by that measure, Archie Kennedy was a success. For his simple gift to a friend had a profound effect, enabling that friend to wed, and start a family, the family that has gathered here today. A family that has given the world much in its time. Doctors, and musicians. Businessmen and inventors. Military and civilian heroes. Had it not been for Archie Kennedy, none of you would have been born. And so, by that measure, Archie Kennedy lived a good life. And you, recognizing the priceless value of that gift, have gathered to give thanks, in the only way left to do so. You have brought him home. Let us pray . . ."
With one last hymn, the service concluded, and then the casket was brought to the churchyard, carried by Aidan's brother and an uncle. In silence, broken only by the calls of a bird, the sexton and his assistants lowered it into its place next to Hornblower, whose grave, with that of his wife, was marked by a large, white stone. At the vicar's nod, Aidan cast the first handful of English dirt into the grave, followed by the rest of his family and friends. Then, in a break from tradition, the group waited while the grave was filled in, and the beautiful English flowers, in their blues and reds, yellows and whites, were heaped over the mound.
And finally, from the small garage near the church, came the stone Aidan had selected. Marked with Kennedy's name in bold letters, and the dates of his birth and death. Below them, his rank Aidan would be damned if he was going to omit that! And above it all, a drawing of a frigate under full sail. It helped to be a dealer in antiquities a client, a sculptor, had graciously spent an afternoon etching the design into the stone, when Aidan had explained the situation to him.
In small groups, the family left the cemetery, heading to the inn, whose common room had been reserved for a family meal. At last, only Aidan, Evangeline and Jessie were left. Jessie wiped her eyes, then looked over at Aidan. "He'll do fine here." Aidan nodded in agreement, and, turning, left the peace of the cemetery for what he was sure would be a noisy family reunion.I suppose that I was foolish, all those years ago, believing that the Admiralty would change their minds about the conviction. Organizations such as the Admiralty do not make mistakes, and that would be what they would be admitting, were they to now clear Kennedy's name.
Still, it was a nice dream, to think Archie would be remembered as the hero he truly was . . .Aidan made his way to Jessie, sitting alone at a temporarily empty table. He still couldn't believe everyone was there. Family members he hadn't seen in years family members he'd never even met, as they lived in distant countries. All in one place, and making up for lost time. The din in the inn's dining room from fifty simultaneous conversations was deafening at times.
Oh, there were a few, a very few, explainable absences. A nephew, away at school, who, in today's style, sent a text message earlier in the day informing them that he thought he'd like to be the first Hornblower in five generations to enter the Navy. A niece in France, awaiting the birth of her first child any day, who'd had a long call with him that evening, then decided the child would be named Archie if it was a boy. And a distant cousin, a famous actor off on location, who nevertheless, learning of the funeral, sent English flowers to frame the small casket.
"Dad!" and a thump on his back followed, nearly causing Aidan to spill his drink onto Jessie's head. Turning, he saw his son, a reporter for The Times, and his son-in-law, Steve, another reporter for a rival paper. And standing a bit back, talking to Jessie's two friends was that his son's mentor, the senior editor for political affairs?
Frowning, he said, "Daniel, what's he doing here?"
His son flashed a wide grin. "Research, Dad."
"Research. See, I had to ask for time off for the funeral, and then I had to explain to him who was being buried, since it wasn't, technically speaking, a relative who died. And, well . . ."
"Hey, I'm not promising anything Dad. Or starting anything . . . "
"Me, either," Steve interjected cheerfully.
"But, well, you know, it's human interest. And political interest. And he asked if he could come along, and well, there's probably going to be a story 'bout it in the Sunday edition."
"Sorry, Dad," his son retorted, "it's out of my hands." With another cheeky grin, he towed Steve off to rejoin the lively discussion. Aidan could just barely hear the words "feature" and "reputation."
Hearing a muffled snort, he glanced back down at Jessie. "It isn't funny, Jessie. Even today, especially today, our military is very sensitive about accusations of wrongdoing. They could get in a lot of trouble for writing that story."
"Maybe," she said, smiling mysteriously. "But not if there's independent confirmation from otherwise reputable sources."
"Like the documents I have?" Aidan said in exasperation. "They wouldn't hold up today Jessie, not without someone to confirm their authenticity. And all those people are dead!"
"Aidan, Aidan," she answered in amusement. "There are other ways of confirming authenticity. Today's tests can date documents to within weeks of being written. And as for confirming the stories within the documents, there are always other sources."
A light dawned in Aidan's head. "Your two friends . . . I know them, don't I?"
"They're experts in these matters. John? He's a documentary producer Oscars, Emmies, you name it, he's won it. And he specializes in government matters. He's got more military sources than the combined spy agencies of the world."
"And the other one?"
"Ah, he's a bit more private, about his interests. Like I said, a nice quiet history professor. Who happens to use another name to write best-selling books novels and not on the period in question." The name she gave him was such a shock, he said down abruptly in the empty chair next to her and just stared.
In a smug tone, she finished, "Horatio couldn't do it,
but he taught the lesson. Connections, Aidan. Connections. And
between your family and my friends, I'd say we'll make so much
of a stink, they'll have to make things right, now."
"It was a nice funeral, wasn't it, dear," asked Evangeline late that evening, as she and Aidan sat in the small parlor of the inn, watching through the open window as a late autumn shower wiped the village's main street clean. Jessie, pleading the need to attend to business, had left after the meal for London with her friends. "And so nice of everyone to make the effort to get here.""Yes," murmered Aidan, "Very nice."
Evangeline looked closely at her husband. He was tired, and if she was honest, just a little bit drunk. Smiling, she stood up, and announced, "I'll head up now. Why don't you stay here for a bit. Enjoy the quiet, before we get back to London."
Her only answer was a sleepy smile.
Leaning over, she kissed the top of his head and muttered, "You really are a very good man, you know. Don't forget your key." Then walked off, leaving her drowsy husband slumbering in the parlor, the only light the flames from the fire.
It had been a nice service, Aidan reflected. And somehow fitting, that on this one occasion, at least, the widely scattered Hornblower family had gathered, to pay their respects to the man who had enabled that family to exist. He relaxed in the warmth of the room, listening to the rain, and thought again how his family, God bless them, had finally done the right thing by Kennedy. He only hoped the man could find some peace now, back in his home, in England. With a sigh, Aidan leaned back into the cushions. Perhaps just a small nap . . . Aidan stretched a bit, yawning. He checked his watch. 2 a.m. on Halloween night. The fire had gone out and the parlor was chilly. Glancing out the window, he saw the rains had stopped, and a dense white fog was now draped atop the village, curling thickly through the unlit street.
Was there something out there?
Frowning slightly, but too tired to move, Aidan looked toward the end of the street.
A form was weaving through the fog, walking slowly. As it drew closer, Aidan could see a young man, medium in height but well built, dressed in what seemed to be a loose white shirt and pants held up by suspenders. The clothes blended into the fog, lending an eerie, not-quite-there appearance to the stranger. Long blonde hair framed an anxious face, as he looked about uncertainly, clearly wondering where he was. As Aidan watched, the stranger stopped on the street outside his window, looking back and forth between the inn and pub, trying to decide where to go.
" . . . know how they can call that beer, cheap, watered-down swill that it is," a voice complained, as light spilled from the pub door and four men made their way out.
"Well," came the soft voice of the older man Aidan had met on the church steps, speaking reprovingly to his tall, rough-looking companion as they walked up the street, "the tapman did warn ya it was American beer."
"Matthews?" the stranger whispered, in a frightened, unsure voice.
The four men spun around, only now spotting him.
"Sir!" the older man's voice came, sounding, to Aidan's ears, quite happy. "Ah, sir, it's good ta see you, we've been waitin' awhile now." The men hurried over to the stranger, all talking at once. Matthews snatched up a hand and shook it enthusiastically and a short, wiry man clapped a hand on the stranger's shoulder, grinning up into his face.
The stranger looked at the men around him, and even at this distance, Aidan could see bewilderment in deep blue eyes. Matthews, noticing the confusion on the man's face, shushed his comrades and said firmly, "Now, sir, I'm sure you've lots of questions and all, but the Cap'n'll be the one to answer them."
"The . . . Captain?" the light voice asked hesitantly.
And from the shadows outside the pub came a deeper, authoritative voice, "Yes, and he's extremely annoyed at being kept waiting." As the four men straightened to attention, the voice, softened, continued on, "I knew you would be delayed getting here, but frankly sir, even for you, this is ridiculous."
For a moment, the stranger stood, frozen, face still, then slowly turned and looked toward the shadows. As Aidan watched, his face lit up with an impossibly happy smile, and without another word, he ran toward the pub, followed by the other men. The tall form in the shadows reached out and gathered the shorter stranger into an embrace, then, without another word, began leading him deeper into the shadows. The four men followed behind, as one of them, a red-head, smirking at the taller man, saying loudly, "Well, Styles, I may 'ave been late sometimes, but I never kep' anyone waitin' two hunnert years like Mr. Kennedy!"
'Like . . . who?' thought Aidan numbly.
And from the shadows in which the men disappeared, a laughing voice echoed back, "Horatio! You mean to tell me your descendant is an actor?! Oh, my poor friend . . .!"Aidan jolted upright in the chair, and blinking, looked around him. Same room, same view out the window. The pub next door was dark, and checking his watch, he saw it was nearly dawn. He shook his head a bit, trying to clear his mind. Had he really seen . . . what he thought he'd seen? No. Impossible. After a few minutes reflection, he decided he'd been dreaming, undoubtedly as the result of all the wine he'd had. Best head up to his room for a shower and change before meeting the others for breakfast. He reached down to gather his key off the side table.
And touched something else.
Looking down, he saw his fingers resting on a faded pendant, tarnished chain coiled neatly around it, which lay on top of a small, folded sheet of paper.
With shaking hands, he opened the page. Peering closely, he saw an untidy, scrawling line of writing, and after a few minutes, managed to decipher the old-fashioned script.
"Thank you for keeping his word."
A/N: Yes, I know. No one's found Helen of Troy's grave. I couldn't resist adding a reference, as I just finished reading a new book about her.