by Emily Regent
_CHAPTER ONE: Misery_
Kennedy had begun to realise that he tended to look forward
to shore leave more as a matter of habit than because he actually
looked forward to it, and this oddity occurred to him only as
he had disembarked the boat. Obviously, he was not going to be
spending any time with Hornblower, and he found himself missing
the friendship all over again. He had so many memories of wonderful
shore leave spent with his friend; they hadn't needed anything
or anyone else, and if Hornblower had not enjoyed himself then
Kennedy couldn't claim to be aware of it.
Two days of shore leave had felt like two weeks, and the memories of such had sustained him through the long voyages to follow.
Now Hornblower had a family to attend to; a wife and a little son. Bush was invited to join him, and it had felt like a real blow to Kennedy. Not only was it new confirmation that he had been cut out of his former friend's life, but he was denied any companionship himself, since he refused to put Bush in a position where he must choose between them. Hornblower had made his offer before Kennedy thought to do likewise, therefore, Kennedy must do without. Even so - Bush may have preferred to visit his sisters than go around with Kennedy, anyway.
Was he jealous? Of course - no sane man would not feel some measure of envy, and he refused to feel guilty for it. It was not as though he had any intention of /acting/ on his feelings, so they were harming nobody.
/I can sulk just fine on my own/, he thought to himself, but the attempt failed to lighten his spirits any.
Still, it left him without company; he did not have the time to travel up to Culzean to visit Cassillis and Dewhurst and back - neither had he enough warning to contact them and have them meet him down in London. Kennedy wished that he had thought of all this before getting in the damned boat; he might as well have stayed aboard /Seawitch/.
However, he was here, now and it seemed very ungrateful and foolish to waste shore leave, even if it was not going to be ideal. Next time, he might save his leave and ask Pellew if he might take longer on another occasion, when he /would/ have time to visit Culzean. Kennedy attended to his 'duties' - the wardroom stores and exchanging a few books he might like to have aboard ship with him for their next stretch at sea. He also took the trouble to have new shirts and neckcloths sent to /Seawitch/ that day, since they were the only items of uniform in need of replacing. That would leave the next day utterly free before he reported himself aboard the morning afterwards.
He was already aware that Miss Cobham would be acting at the Drury Lane Theatre this season, so there was no need to feel surprise or any sense of divine intervention as he passed the bill-board, but he did smile to himself. He was also fairly certain he could find some entertainment after the play, too, which might be pleasant. It was a long time since he had indulged in theatrical company, and Hornblower had never been fond of the idea, hence his abstinence.
So, he thoroughly enjoyed the performance and with the confidence of a theatre regular (even though his opportunities didn't qualify him to be considered a /frequent/ regular), he presented himself at the stage door, armed with a bouquet of carnations. He could identify the common flowers with the idleness of any British gentleman, but these had only appeared in the country in the last fifteen years or so; from China, if the woman in the shop were to be believed. Kennedy thought they were an extremely pretty, exotic prize, and would suit Miss Cobham's taste.
"Miss Cobham; my compliments," Kennedy greeted when the lady in question exited, with a proper bow, handing her the flowers. "You have not changed at all; except to grow ever more lovely and talented!"
"Whythank you, sir," she replied, with a confused smile. One of the men accompanying her stepped forwards with a frown, but she checked him; he was the usual sort of man employed by the theatre to move sets and occasionally protect it's more valuable assets. "But it is traditional to have these sent to my dressing room."
Kennedy didn't think to be disappointed; after all, she had last seen him as a pale, half-starved midshipman returning to prison on one of the /Indefatigable/'s boats; he was now nearly a decade older and seen only by dim light in the street-back of Drury Lane. Of course, /he/ had seen /her/ on stage, but they had never had the opportunity to meet again. He knew she had spoken to Hornblower, though, and that she regularly exchanged letters with him and Captain Pellew.
"You don't remember me, madam," he stated, still smiling. "We met in Spain." He didn't want to bring back unhappy memories of El Ferrol, and thought that would be sufficient for her to recall the man she had helped bring back to life. He didn't think he had changed all /that/ much, and he was wearing his best shore-going uniform. Between their former acquaintance in an enemy country and that he was a Navy man ought to be prompt enough for her.
"Oh dear - I travelled a great deal several years ago and met so many people that I'm afraid I do not remember you, sir," she told him with a smile that waspatronising. Kind but patronising. "Thank you for the carnations, they are so very beautiful and one of my favourites, but I have a dinner engagement, and I mustn't be late."
From the stance of her escort and the way she stood herself, this was going to be his one remaining chance to end the matter with civility. He still didn't want to distress her - especially not if she would be in company for dinner - with memories of the prison, so ... "Goodnight, Miss Cobham," he said, civilly, "please forgive my intrusion, and I hope you enjoy your engagement." Kennedy made another bow, and buried his disappointment as he turned to leave.
Disappointed, but not crushed, until he heard her address her dinner companions.
"Oh, Horatio - it's so good to see you again! You look well."
A pause as they exchanged a polite kiss. "Likewise, Miss Cobham. May I present my dear friend, Lieutenant Bush, and my wife, Maria"
Kennedy hired a boat to return him to /Seawitch/, all the while
silently thanking what meagre luck in his life had trained him
as a spy and which training he used to hide his feelings from
the boatwomen who rowed him towards the 74. He was also going
to have to use them as he reported his presence to Lt. Potter
and again when he greeted anybody he happened to meet on his way
back to the wardroom - he didn't want to discuss what had occurred,
and the best way to avoid questions would be to say that he had
grown bored when the play was not worth watching and the weather
He would have to make something up to account for why he was also choosing to spend the next day of leave aboard ship, but he could always say he was eager to start reading one of his new books, and the weather was disagreeable, anyway. Only Orrock was likely to press him further, and he might put off the enthusiastic youngster with some joke about missing his company, and returning solely for the pleasure of hearing his wit once again.
Indeed, Potter met him off the boat.
"Back so soon?" he asked. He was not a sociable man, and he preferred to remain a professional 'acquaintance' of his fellow officers, rather than their friend, but he was pleasant, for all that.
"A bad play, so I may as well be bored where I don't have to pay for it," he joked. "And I'd already had my books sent across."
"Oh, good - a new library," Potter replied, with a smile. "I'll look forward to that. Sleep well, Mr Kennedy."
"Peaceful watch," he returned, realising that he had no idea whether Potter would enjoy the volumes he had selected. They had an unspoken agreement that all books the officers had were also part of wardroom 'stores' and could be borrowed by anybody when the owner had finished reading them. Usually they would read their own purchases first, then offer them up. One or two were kept 'private', such as his favourite Shakespeare as it had sentimental value, and the Captain and Dr Sebastian had joined the unofficial exchange, which meant that there was usually just about enough literature to last them all for the voyage, even if not all of it was to everybody's tastes.
Like the food stores, it was one point over which Hornblower and Kennedy had a sort of 'truce'; neither being petty-minded enough to deprive the other of such simple courtesies, even though the details of the matters were dealt with by the very-much-in-the-middle Bush.
Consistent with his poor luck, Orrock was also on watch, and had taken station by the ladder. He was also concerned that Kennedy had cut short his leave, and his worry was such that Kennedy found himself unable to carry through his original plan of dealing with the Irishman.
"Are you all right, sir? You aren't ill, are you - would you like me to fetch Dr Sebastian?"
In fact, that was something useful he could do tomorrow. The doctor was to take his leave somewhat later, since he oversaw the medical supplies personally, and they would be arriving the next day. Kennedy could help him with that; it would also mean that the books would last just a little longer, and he felt a little cheered at the prospect of being useful.
"On no account, Mr. Orrock," he said, firmly. Then he realised he was being rather foolish - Orrock was aware that he and Hornblower had their problems: hell, the whole ship knew. "I found myself in want of company. I have no acquaintance in London and it was too far for my relations or myself to visit the other. Since I had already concluded my business, there was little use remaining ashore."
"I'm sorry, sir," Orrock told him, managing not to sound either falsely sympathetic or jeering. "You know, if you do ever want for company, I think you'd always be welcome in the middies' berthand if you'll excuse me, sir, I think you're the only officer who would always be welcome in the middies' berth, whenever you'd like."
"That is the most gracious invitation I have ever received, Mr Orrock," Kennedy told him, feeling truly warmed by the sentiment and the sincerity the Irishman clearly felt (even if the words might not be altogether true) but he had suddenly stopped smiling.
"Except for yourself, sir - obviously! That is-" Kennedy followed the younger man's gaze, behind him, and turned to see Pellew, half-dressed, wearing an expression he had long used to terrify midshipmen. Kennedy ought to know it as he had been on the receiving end of it often enough, and could fully sympathise with poor Orrock.
Once the midshipman came to the conclusion that silence was the better part of not getting into further trouble, Pellew held his gaze steady for a few more seconds, then turned and addressed Kennedy. "I think I'd benefit from some advice, sir, if you'd be so obliging," he suggested.
"Aye-aye, sir," Kennedy obeyed, but gave the blushing Orrock the benefit of an extremely wicked wink as Pellew turned and led the way into the Great Cabin.
Kennedy was no more comfortable with Pellew now than he had ever been, and very much doubted that he could offer very helpful advice to anybody at the present moment, but least of all to his Captain. Of all the people to run into on his less than happy return to the ship, Pellew was the least likely to believe any story that he might concoct, and perhaps not accept it even if he could find some likely reason for his early homecoming.
As it happened, the only advice Captain Pellew actually required of him was whether he should wear a blue or white neckcloth to dinner. Kennedy recommended white as being better in keeping with his captain's show. "I didn't think to see you back so soon," the Captain told him, tying the cloth with care. "Surely you could find entertainment enough in London; even if you lacked company, Mr Kennedy - I rather considered you more resourceful. Drury Lane not up to it's usual standard, eh?"
It was more than Kennedy's honour would allow for a performance by Kitty Cobham to be thought lacking by a man who knew her, even one he respected as much as Pellew. "No, indeed, sir - the performance was excellent."
"Then something else?" he asked, apparently casually. Kennedy knew better, by now, though.
"As I told Mr Orrock - plays and reviews are all very well but of little value if one has nobody to discuss such things with afterwards." He smiled. "I must resign myself to being a hopelessly sociable creature, by nature, and not suited to solitude."
"I wish I had chosen a spy more carefully, Mr Kennedy - you really are impossible, these days," Pellew grumbled, unexpectedly. "Out with it, man - what trouble did you meet ashore this time? I know it can't be money; your uniform hasn't suffered so I daresay there's been no trouble of a different nature. I know full well you're familiar with theatre circles, and I'm sure you could have found a pleasing enough companion there. So - why this early return from a leave you were looking forward to?"
"I went to see Miss Cobham after the play," he confessed.
"Ah - and she had another engagement; yes - Mr Hornblower was kind enough to extend an invitation for me to renew my own acquaintance with her. However, I have other acquaintances to meet." He paused in his careful knotting, and looked frowningly at Kennedy, possibly wondering whether there had been an unpleasant scene created by any of his officers.
"Miss Cobham did not recognise me," Kennedy told him, knowing only the truth would reassure his superior that he and Hornblower had not argued in the street before witnesses. "She told me of her dinner engagementso I left. I had already attended to all I needed to do ashore, and there seemed no point in lingering. I thought I might help Dr Sebastian with his medical supplies tomorrow."
It was horrible to be pitied by Pellew. Kennedy was adept enough, by now, at reading the true sentiments behind a man's carefully neutral expression (he had never needed training to do more than fine-tune that particular skill).
"Well, if one old acquaintance has failed you, then perhaps I can persuade you to reunite with another. I dine with my brother, this evening; you will accompany me, if you please, Mr Kennedy."
"Oh - I mustn't impose, sir - you must have a great deal to discuss with Captain Pellew."
Pellew had tied his neckcloth to his satisfaction and squinted at the result in the mirror. "I do indeed, and would welcome the chance to do so. He always asks after you in his letters and you might tell him of your exploits to save me the trouble; no doubt you could make a more amusing job of it than I could, and it might be as well if he can see for himself that his former Lieutenant is quite as well as I tell him, for I'm sure he doesn't read half of what I write and doesn't believe the rest. I think I should also like to hear how you went on aboard /Swiftsure/, as I'm sure neither of you have been entirely honest with me about your tenure there." He smiled, to show he was teasing.
"Sir, you're very kind-"
"And what part of my statement made you think I was being kind and not issuing an order, Mr Kennedy?"
Why, Kennedy thought to himself, he ever bothered to argue with Captain Pellew, he didn't know, because he never won! Mostly because a captain had sufficient power over a lieutenant to make every persuasion, question, request and advice into an order. Kennedy thought it might be amusing if they could one day switch places, but didn't waste very much time on the notion, as it was never going to happen. So he smiled; he had enjoyed his time aboard /Swiftsure/. Captain Israel Pellew was every bit as fine a man as his older brother, and had the added appeal of being warmer towards his officers. He and Kennedy had got on well, and the idea of meeting him again was indeed a welcome one, especially considering the evening's disappointments.
"Aye-aye, sir. Thank you. I would be very pleased to meet Captain Pellew again," he said, and was able to say it without falseness.
_CHAPTER TWO: THE CAPTAIN'S TABLE_
If Potter and Orrock were surprised to see Kennedy back aboard
/Seawitch/ again so soon, then they were equally surprised to
see him leaving so quickly. There was no alternation needed to
his uniform, so he did not have to hold up the Captain with any
change to his dress, and he looked quite properly inferior to
Pellew without disgracing him. The Captain himself made his excuses,
saying that he had decided to make use of Lt. Kennedy, since he
was back aboard, and Kennedy found himself quite pleased with
the new arrangements.
Certainly this was far more pleasant a way to spend the evening than alone in a tavern or lodging, and the temptation to get himself drunk enough to pass out instead of falling asleep would probably have been too much for him to resist, alone.
Looking forward to greeting Captain Israel Pellew again he was, but not quite sufficiently to deny the older Captain Pellew a good head start after he had climbed aboard the ship; he could hear them greeting each other with all the affection that separated brothers who cared deeply for one another ought, and gave them as much privacy as he estimated Captain Pellew's patience would allow for. He then came aboard quietly and unassumingly, leaving off until he was greeted or introduced.
Having ended the warm embrace, Captain Israel Pellew looked up to see who had accompanied his brother, and the previous miserable events of the evening were quite forgotten when Kennedy saw the warmth and welcome in his former captain's face. "Why, it's Mr Kennedy! Oh, damn me, it's good to see you!"
He came forwards and clasped his hand. "Captain - likewise!" he offered, genuinely, feeling himself smile.
"Excellent, excellent - Mr Brand, my compliments to my steward and he's to set another place for dinner - Mr Kennedy, I do hope Sir Edward wasn't mean enough to deny you shore leave in order to sit with two crusty old captains and listen to old family arguments!"
Israel's customary humour lifted Kennedy further. He knew that Captain Pellew was quite as capable of a joke or wit, but they were very different in their approach. It would be difficult for him to have said who he respected the more, despite the awkwardness which seemed to plague him around the older Pellew. As for simply liking them as men, he thought Israel had an edge, being rather more similar to him in manner and equal to his brother in interests and education.
"I had no plans for shore leave, sir, and Captain Pellew was kind enough to extend this invitation."
Israel offered a wry smile to his brother. "Kind enough to order, you mean," he interpreted.
"Kind enough not to fling you overboard," Pellew countered, although he was grinning.
"Threats on my very own deck; what is the Navy coming to?" Israel asked Kennedy, and ushered them aft towards his cabin and out of the rain. /Swiftsure/ was about the same size as the old /Indefatigable/, which made it a comfortable size, but not as large as /Seawitch/. The setting fit three people very well, and would have accommodated four or five, but a larger party than that might have been more awkward.
The food was simple, but well prepared; Kennedy already knew the brothers had that much in common, and was able to enjoy the offering himself. Captain Israel Pellew also offered them an excellent wine, which had been the unofficial reward for taking an Italian pirate.
"So-" he spluttered with laughter. "He pulls ahead yet again, and I'm so proud of my plan that I'm determined to have as much sea-room to play with as I can get, so I let it go on; putting out sails enough to stay just about a hundred yards away and to his weather before I want to act"
Both Pellews and Kennedy were laughing uncontrollably at Israel's rendering of the capture of the Italian. Kennedy didn't think he had ever seen the elder so free from restraint before, and was enjoying this new aspect of his character almost as much as he was enjoying Captain Israel's story.
"So it goes on - I begin to suspect that I'll try my /brilliant/ strategy at dawn, with the advantage of uncertain light, whatever our sea-room, and whether the sea stays as rough or not. And then - hahahahaha - and then he disobliged me most grievously by crashing into the bloody island /bows first!/ They were so busy trying to work out why we weren't coming up on them, as they could see we hadn't all sails set, that they neglected to check their own passage entirely!"
The steward refilled their glasses unasked, and pretended not to notice that the three officers were practically unable to speak with mirth. Kennedy could only assume that the wine Israel had 'claimed' was rather stronger than the usual stock carried aboard ship since all three of them were obviously in their cups and the second bottle had barely been started. He had forgotten the events of the evening - or at least the wine had dulled the disappointment enough for him not to care that he /did/ remember - and decided that he couldn't wish for more fun on shore-leave. Hornblower was far too dignified for this kind of behaviour, and Bush would say they were acting like children! Or rather, he might not say it in front of such illustrious company, but he would certainly think it.
Israel waved his hand for as much quiet as he was going to get. "But, there is one matter on which I must be honest, and on which I ought to confess his stupidity was not wholly the result of his own stupidityI mean, his accident was not wholly his stupidityyou know what I mean." He stopped, grinning to himself.
Kennedy tried to laugh quietly, used to the way in which Captain Israel would stop speaking half-way through a statement in order to give it impact, but regaining some semblance of control was very difficult. The way Pellew glared and made a snappish demand for him to continue made the Lieutenant think Israel did it from habit to irritate his older brother.
"Never saw the island myself!"
That was it - they were undone, and it was as well that the desert was served cold as anything hot would be ruined by the time they could eat without choking. Certainly islands that were submerged when the tide came up were a hazard to any ship when one did not have the appropriate chart, but they were generally visible enough before one ran aground on them.
"You!" the older Pellew accused (amidst his mirth). "You are too much like Halliwell for your own good!"
"Was that a complement or an insult?" Israel asked Kennedy.
"HmmI'm not sure, sir - actually," he lowered his voice to a stage whisper that carried well beyond the door. "To be perfectly truthful, I don't think Captain Pellew knows, either!"
"I have to take any comparison as a complement," Israel confessed. "Whether intended or not. That is one old man I daren't cross; damn genius. When we say 'confusion to the enemy'; he's precisely what we're talking about!"
"Hear! Hear!" Kennedy repeated, softly, taking another sip of wine. Captain Pellew raised his own glass, and if Kennedy recalled the evening's previous disappointment, he was able to bear it with less misery.
"It's damn good of you to offer the cabin," Pellew
told his younger brother, smiling to himself. /Swiftsure/ and
the old Indy were about the same size, but the 74-gun /Seawitch/
made this cabin seem small. "But I'm sure the wardroom is
comfortable enough for me."
Israel waved him off. "Don't be daft, Edward. You're senior - you should have the cabin, and I always feel it's good for me to remind myself how the lieutenants live. I've become indolent in my old age." He grinned his assurance, but the elder Pellew had known Israel all his life, and knew what his brother was about. So he would be in a better position if he introduced the topic Israel really wanted to talk about himself. Besides which, his brother seemed to have a better understanding of Kennedy, and Pellew thought he might benefit from some of that himself; he felt it was time he tried to wipe out this awkwardness that seemed to plague their contact.
"Speaking of Lieutenants, I hope you didn't mind Mr Kennedy's presence at dinner. He's suffering from a bit of a disappointment," he said, lightly. "I thought perhaps an evening here would cheer him up."
"Oh, not at all - I'm fond of Kennedy. I hope his 'disappointment' isn't the kind to lead him to disgrace or hit him too hard," Israel commented, examining his ragged nails. A respectable Captain with years of command both behind and ahead, and Israel still bit his nails! Pellew tried not to roll his eyes.
"No he had gone to visit an old acquaintance, and found that he was not remembered," Pellew explained briefly, removing his shoes and the restrictive jacket. That Italian wine really had been stronger than he would have thought; once he would have waited until his brother left the cabin he might even have made a better, or at least more persistent, argument over taking the cabin in the first place.
" 'Poor, hapless Kennedy'," Israel quoted. Then his tone turned serious. "How is he, Edward? Does he get along all right?"
Pellew nodded slowly. Apparently the brothers shared these concerns. "He's managing very well, in both his careers, I think," Pellew assessed, cautiously. "He's more confident as a seaman, although I think that has as much to do with his advancement to Lieutenant as anything else, but it's good to see that he is coming along as a commanding officer, too. He's a talented spyI chose very well, there, but I" The wine was indeed making him free with his opinions.
"But?" Israel prompted.
Pellew paused. "He'll be the first to admit that he's had considerable benefit from his training, but I don't think he enjoys the life of a spy. If he knew how to get out of it, I think he would."
It was Israel's turn to pause. "Precisely why I wouldn't accept any such training myself," he confided. "Once you're in it, there's no getting out of it, Edward. Kennedy's been hooked, he's being reeled in for as long as it takes before he's caught altogether; if indeed it hasn't happened already. However; it isn't necessarily a full-time post; he can be a naval officer, too, and while it might not do him any credit, neither should it do significant harm." The point required reiteration. "However; he /can't/ get out of it."
"If I had known this, I would have been more careful about throwing him into the situation in the first place," Pellew replied, irritably. He had not predicted the effect on his officer; he had not had any idea, at the time, that there was such an extensive, formal organisation of spies and agents, and would certainly never have attempted to engage Kennedy's services if he had thought he would be committing the man to a second career for life. He did not confide quite all his thoughts to Israel, because in retrospect, he had also been very naïve about the situation, but while he could not take the full measure of blame he did feel a sense of culpability. "Now I wish I could make it easier for him," he sighed.
"Easier?" Israel asked. "There's nothing easy about it, Edward. If you think command and responsibility is difficult, it's nothing compared to what some of these men go through. Frankly, I'm relieved my involvement extends only to training. I don't think even Kennedy realises what he may be in for. They'll be soft on him to start with, you know."
Pellew grunted; Israel wasn't telling him anything he didn't already suspect, and he was fairly sure that Kennedy knew for himself. "Returning to service wasn't made simple for him; thankfully the crew who had transferred from /Renown/ never believed in his confession, and if there are rumours on the lower deck, then they remain just that - rumour. He has a stalwart friend in my second lieutenant, but his new career has also seen a breakdown in his friendship with Hornbloweryou remember?"
"Aye, I remember your protégé," Israel replied. "I'm rather surprised, though - if they were /your/ orders, surely he understands that you wouldn't just play with a man's life in such a manner, and Kennedy acted for the good of the nation."
Pellew paused again. "I've been as candid as I can with Hornblower; I haven't interfered with their differences, and they're both reasonable men - they've kept their dispute off my quarterdeck and away from their duties. They'll work together if it's what the ship or the people require, though Kennedy would do so, anyway. I don't know what else to tell Hornblower, though - this quarrel he has with Kennedy seems so unreasonable, and it just isn't like him, Israel. I'm sure there's something that I don't know, and with that in mind, I don't feel I can really approach either on the subject."
"I know what you mean - it must be awkward," Israel replied. Pellew noticed the calculating look in his brother's eye and suspected that Kennedy would probably be in for a bit of a grilling when /Swiftsure/'s captain joined him in the wardroom. No doubt, if Israel could prise any reasons out of him, then he would inform Pellew. But he should warn his brother "I get the impression, too, that Mr Kennedy is rather confused by Hornblower's reaction. And Hornblower is the most logical creature I know; which is what makes the situation so frustrating. Kennedy would reconcile within the hour, given the chance, and Hornblower isn't one to bear a grudge, either - I've seen proof of that, myself."
"Oh, yes - Hammond, who died defending his country," Israel said sarcastically, "So we can certainly establish that Hornblower's attitude to the necessity for such deception isn't lacking. Perhaps you're right - there must be something else. Maybe something else that happened aboard /Renown/?"
Pellew sighed. "I can only think so, but then, why was Hornblower so grieved by his death? Why did he devote so much of a terrible time in his own life (with his Court Martial going very badly for him) to Kennedy's comfort, unaware of what he was going to do?"
Pellew looked up at his younger brother, mildly disappointed that there would be no immediate revelations from /him/. However, Israel was frowning himself; a look of thoughtfulness crossing his features, but if he had any suspicions, then he was keeping them to himself.
Israel closed the door to the wardroom firmly, pleased that
he had the opportunity to speak privately with Kennedy. Aboard
/Swiftsure/, Kennedy had shown a noteworthy interest in succeeding
both as an officer and in his training as an agent of the Secret
Service, and he had marked the young man out quite quickly. He
had Kennedy's records of course; the reports from the Admiralty
and the official paperwork. He also had the benefit of his brother's
honest opinion of Kennedy in more personal correspondence, which
had made him think that Kennedy was a man worth marking for the
future. The only awkward part of the matter had been Halliwell's
instructions that Kennedy was considered a potential for the Secret
Service, and the 'official' recommendation had come from Captain
Sir Edward Pellew. Neither his brother nor Kennedy had known anything
of this intention to procure him for the service if he succeeded
in carrying out the mission Pellew had in mind for him.
During his time aboard the ship, Israel had come to like Kennedy as a man. In truth, he saw a lot of himself in the other officer; he had spent his life trying to live up to his brother's standards, and Kennedy was also desperately trying to live up to Hornblower's standards. Neither had chosen a career in the Navy for themselves, but both had learned a love of the sea. Israel liked the finer things in life, when he could get them, and tried very hard not to mourn them when he could not, and Kennedy shared that attitude, although for all appearances, didn't seem to miss luxury at all. They also had a taste for classical education, an advantage denied them because of their obligations to the service, and concerning which they each had to make their own studies. Again Kennedy seemed to be the more successful, but a lack of confidence and a gratifying lack of pretension ensured that he always gave way to inferior knowledge when it was exposed by a social superior,
keeping his own, quiet counsel.
Kennedy was also a sociable creature, as was Israel, and such interest had meant that they kept company more often than a Captain and junior Lieutenant might otherwise allow.
Another matter on which Israel had failed to be completely honest with his brother was his intention to acquire Kennedy as his own officer at the earliest opportunity. Edward was well above him in seniority, and then Kennedy would have the patronage of two admirals who were also attached to Israel; he didn't think he would be denied, but neither was he a patient man, and if he could coax Kennedy away from /Seawitch/ this very weekwell, he was not above feeling out the situation, and from being small children, Edward had always been inclined to forgive him for such underhanded behaviour when he made his charming, expert apologies.
Kennedy smiled up at him as he entered, having removed his jacket already and his neckcloth was loosely tied in the fashion the people often wore. Not that Israel was much neater himself, and abandoned his own clothing over a chair. His sole Lieutenant still aboard had the watch, and would be leaving immediately to shore-leave, when one of the others returned and who would be on the next watch. Effectively, the wardroom was theirs.
"It's almost like returning home for a visit," Kennedy remarked. The ease with which he addressed Israel seemed in sharp contrast to the deference he had shown Pellew. Israel's /Swiftsure/ had not been a base of training for the Secret Services for so long without her captain learning a few tricks of observation himself. Kennedy had relaxed more as the evening wore on, and as the older Pellew abandoned some of his rigidity and dignity, and although Pellew treated him kindly, he noticed some awkwardness between the two men. Not a very unpleasant awkwardness; not the result of any argument or failure he guessed, but an unease that had been there for a long time, nonetheless.
"It's rather pleasant to be back in the wardroom," Israel replied. "I remember first getting to the Great Cabin with relief at some privacy and peace, then not a week later hoping for an invitation to the wardroom because I was lonely!" He laughed at himself.
"Is it smaller than you recall, sir?" Kennedy enquired. Ah - there it was; a question he would never dare ask Pellew, but which he was comfortable enough to ask Israel.
"Perhaps just a little," he confessed. "You'll understand when you make Post, Mr Kennedy. Those things sent to try us as Midshipmen and Lieutenants do not simply vanish - they just turn into new problems and burdens. But larger quarters do help, I must say."
Kennedy smiled but didn't reply. That meant one of two things, Israel guessed; either he did not believe the older man, or he did not believe he would ever make Post, and did not want to admit it in either case. Although he had a strength that belied his soft manner and gentlemanly appearance, Kennedy had scant faith in his own abilities, and it was nearly impossible to convince him of his own worth. But Israel did not believe that they were such friends as to presume to approach the subject - or his own suspicions of the reasons behind them.
"Mr KennedyArchie - might I ask something. It's rather a delicate matter, and I would both appreciate your confidence, and respect the fact that I'm about to put you in a very difficult position."
"Of course, sir. Nothing is wrong, I hope!"
"Nothing of a drastic nature, no; but a matter which causes me some concern." Israel indicated one of the chairs and took another himself. He had brought the rest of the bottle and laid out two glasses; another thing he and Kennedy shared was a better head for wine! Where his own came from, he couldn't think, but Kennedy's was probably the result of his Scots ancestry. He poured as he spoke. "I noticed my brother seemed to need more light more rapidly this eveninghe didn't seem able to see quite as well as I recall. I've also noticed his writing has become larger, and he's taken to wearing one of those awful glassesermquizzing glasses, I think they're called."
He glanced up from his task. Kennedy was frowning, and looking away. Israel felt it safe to continue. "I suppose a failing eyesight is simply a consequence of getting older, butI do worry about Edward, you know. I suppose that's ironic since I'm the one who nearly crashed into an island."
"A well submerged island, sir," Kennedy comforted, respectfully. Then he became serious. "I had noticed Captain Pellew's eyesight failing, too."
"When?" Israel demanded. "When did it start?"
"He's been using the quizzing glass at least since I came away from France. He had maintained very well lit rooms from when I was aboard /Renown/, and I've often noticed a magnifier on his desk aboard /Seawitch/. But if I may offer my opinion, sir?" he asked.
"Tchreally! - since when did you feel you couldn't speak your mind to me?" Israel asked.
Kennedy smiled at that. But it was too small a thing for him to be so affected by, the older man thought. As Kennedy continued speaking, Israel was thinking about his brother's correspondence, and what might not have been said in the letters Kennedy himself had written.
"Although his eyesight might turn into a serious problem aboard ship, I do not believe his sight is entirely threatened. I know very little of such matters, of course, but if anybody else has noticed, then nobody has deemed it worthy of mention. Indeed, I believe that Captain Pellew will rise to the Admiralty before any deficiency forces him to retire. Once an Admiral, even aboard ship, that his sight is not what it used to be will matter much less, and it is fine work that causes him difficulty - he is little slower than his other officers in spotting land or the enemy when she comes into view."
That was reassuring. He trusted Kennedy's judgement, although Kennedy was not a doctor; he also trusted Kennedy to be honest about his opinion. He would like to be entirely wrong, and Edward not have any such problems at all, but what the Lieutenant had said was pretty much what he wanted to hear. His brother would make Admiral, retirement would not be necessary, and at the rate the service was losing her senior men, Pellew would no doubt be wearing considerably more gold lace within the next two or three years.
"That /is/ a relief," he said.
"Welleven if I'm wrong, I can at least assure you that Captain Pellew has three dedicated Lieutenants, all of whom would go to any lengths to cover such misfortune long enough for him to be promoted Admiral. Then all he would need is a reliable Flag Lieutenant; his eyesight wouldn't matter so far as his career is concerned."
"You really are like Halliwell," Israel told him, allowing that statement to form the bridge between that and the second topic he wished to discuss. "So - if we assume the future which you have suggested for my brother, what would be your intention after he is promoted?"
"I would be at Admiral Halliwell's disposal, sir," he answered. "I assume I'd be assigned to another vesselI think it is likely that the Admiral keeps me aboard /Seawitch/ only so long as Captain Pellew is in command of her; either from respect for the Captain, or because he is in a position to get me to any urgent assignment quicker than most vessels would be capable of. Perhaps both. Once he is promoted, I assume I will be transferred where I am wanted."
Israel wrinkled his nose. "That doesn't sound very comfortable," he remarked. "Unless you'd prefer not to be settled, of course."
The smile Kennedy offered this time was rather weak. "I have not given the matter much thought; I assumed I would simply have to acquiesce. Fortunately, it's likely to be frigates - for their speed, so I might make my cousin's fortune for him."
"Well," Israel said, taking the first opening offered. "I should warn you it's my intention to acquire you for /Swiftsure/or whatever I'm commanding when the time comes. Assuming, of course, that I haven't retired myself, one way or another."
This time, Kennedy seemed genuinely affected. "I think," he started, then cleared his throat. "I think should the Admiral be persuaded, then I would like that very much, sir. I enjoyed my time aboard /Swiftsure/. And not just because I found the training interesting, or because I was enjoying some authority as a Lieutenant for the first time."
Israel contemplated his next question. "Sobeing separated from your friends would not affect your decision? I understood that you are quite close to Lt Bushand had been close to Commander Hornblower."
Kennedy didn't reply immediately, instead concerning himself with a small sip of the wine as he formulated an appropriate answer. "I enjoy friendship, sir, but it must be subject to the requirements of the service. And I should hope that aboard /Swiftsure/, I should not be without friends."
Israel grinned. "How charmingly diplomatic," he remarked, and then regarded Kennedy closely. "But would you prefer service on /Swiftsure/ to service on /Seawitch/? Especially considering your current difficulties with Commander Hornblower. And while I stand in no doubt of the high regard in which you hold my brother; I also have the impression that you would not be adverse to serving under myself once more."
Kennedy smiled. "Indeed I would not object, sir. Matters are somewhat strained aboard /Seawitch/, and I'm sure I need not explain them. I cannot speak for your brother's opinion, sir - I might dare only to remark that I would be missed by the midshipmen, and Mr. Bush, although he is closer to Horatio than to me. If there were an Admiral Pellew, then I think to serve with Captain Pellew once more, could I manage it, would be a great honour."
"In that case," Israel replied, deeming the time right to make his attempt. "I might be tempted to inform you that if you preferred not to wait until there is an Admiral Pellew, you can be assured of a space in this very wardroomat your earliest convenience."
Kennedy abandoned the wine he had been about to sip. "Sir?"
"I'm perfectly serious, Archie - so long as I'm in command of /Swiftsure/, you can be assured of useful employment within the Navy. Would you not consider serving here?"
"With pleasure, sir, butconsidering the nature of this vessel - I mean her true purpose - surely Admiral Halliwell has already put in place faithful and competent officers, whose discretion might be relied upon."
"Oh, indeed he has," Israel agreed. "Not all agents are suited to the field so some are put in permanent positions in places to which they are suited; politicians, teachers and instructors; there are more places to well dispose an agent than I can guess at. All my lieutenants and most of my midshipmen are such. The master of the ship is! And yes; they are all competent officers and good men; they're all excellent fellows in their own ways, but you are a /Navy/ man, Archie. This is a /Navy/ ship! And to be honest, I could use at least one man on whom I can rely to behave as one of His Majesty's Officers as opposed to one of His Majesty's Agents."
Kennedy nodded in understanding, but he was stalling. Israel gave him whatever mental space he needed, since this was probably the last conversation he would have expected to have this evening.
"You're no fool, Kennedy. You know that few agents are likely to make Post Captain. And while he's an excellent man and one I very much admire, Admiral Halliwell is a Secret Service man: if he can keep you where you are, he will, but given the chance to prove yourself, there's a chance that others in the Navy will sit up and pay attention - he can't deny you your rightful rewards when there are others who are taking some interest in your career."
He had never expected seducing Kennedy away from /Seawitch/ would be easy, but the man was paying more attention to what he was saying than Israel would have thought. There was every chance that he might just be won over without delay, and he proceeded, giving the younger man some more material to contemplate that might prove a greater inducement than simply renewed interest in his career.
"It must be especially difficult for you when the First Officer, and my brother's favourite, has not seen fit to renew your friendship. I might speak for my brother and say that I know he thinks very highly of you." Kennedy looked up at that, and appeared taken aback. Edward was so strict sometimes, though, that it was no surprise to learn that Kennedy stood in ignorance of his views. "Truly, Archie - I even have correspondence that says as much to prove it! The same correspondence that is concerned for both you and his protégé."
Kennedy began to look uncertain again. "Commander Hornblower deserves your brother's interest, sir," he assured. "Captain Pellew is not a sociable man where his duty is concerned, and prefers to make a confidant out of his First Officer. When we were transferred from Justinian, his new First, Lt. Eccleston, was used to having his own way. Captain Keane was no longer up to the task of command; Lt. Eccleston ran the ship, but he chiefly ran it in dock and inshore because the ship herself was old. This made him both indolent andwell, a little resentful that he no longer commanded the authority he had once enjoyed after transferring to /Indefatigable/ since his new Captain was more than capable. Lt Chadd was very much like Eccleston. Of the others who transferred, there were Heather and Cleveland, both too old and who had failed too many times to ever be more than midshipmen, a remarkably dull youth called Kennedy, who showed no potential or aptitude. Then a
brilliant, firm young man who shared many of the same traits as the Captain, so if he could not make a reliable associate out of his Lieutenants, then at least he might bear the interest of the brightest of the midshipmen."
"Wasn't Lt. Bracegirdle first of /Indefatigable/? I remember he was a fine officer; just the right qualities to complement Captain Pellew."
"Aye, but I understand it was a while later when he was assigned," Kennedy answered. "Certainly after I was captured, and by which time Horatio was already established in the captain's eye."
Israel grunted. He had met Hornblower briefly, and in some ways liked him - he was physically awkward, which was almost endearing, although had an elegance when he could forget his nervousness. He was respectful, and could be quick witted when sure of himself. But he was conscious always of his own dignity; rather like Edward. Israel couldn't help but draw parallels between his own relationship with his brother, and Kennedy's relationship with Hornblower, then again the complementary attitudes and characters of the older Pellew and Hornblower, which contrasted with himself and Kennedy.
"I think you and I are something alike," he remarked, unguardedly. He had not meant to make the observation out loud, although he felt no particular compulsion to wince over the faux pas.
"I think we are, sir," Kennedy agreed with a smile.
"So you shall think it over?" he persisted.
Kennedy nodded. "I believe I shall, sir. And I might express that I am not insensitive to the complement I am being paid. Thank you."
_CHAPTER THREE: THIEF IN THE NIGHT_
It was late when himself and Israel eventually turned in for
the night, and although he had not let it show, Kennedy had to
admit that his former captain had given him a great deal to think
about. Perhaps a transfer would be no bad thing. The breakdown
in his relationship with Hornblower seemed beyond any hope, now,
if he could show such disapproval when Kennedy had done no worse
than rescue his cousin from the clutches of France's most evil
man. He remained honoured to serve under Captain Pellew, but still
there was an awkwardness between them that he could not seem to
get the better of, as well; and he was acutely aware that no such
unease lay between himself and Israel.
Additionally, if Hornblower was so determined to despise him, then it would only be a matter of time before Bush and Pellew were dragged into the quarrel, and be forced to choose. Kennedy was not so hopelessly committed to self-pity as to think their choice would be made without reluctance or regret, but he also knew that their choice would be Hornblower. After all, how could it not?
But aboard /Swiftsure/, it would all be different. He might speak freely of his exploits as spy and agent with his fellow officers and captain, who had some share in his profession and in turn they might confide in him. Aboard /Swiftsure/, he might retain his friendship with Bush, albeit from a distance, and he would be less likely to lose Pellew's regard. Their interactions might be awkward, but he knew that Pellew's opinion of him had improved after the issue over the Crammond Dock plans. He regarded his present Captain more than sufficiently to not want to lose that respect.
So much for /Seawitch/, and the advantages provided aboard /Swiftsure/ were indeed attractive.
Then that goddamn barrier again; he just could not let go of the hope that he and Hornblower might yet resolve their differences. He could not see how it was possible, and the chances decreased day by day, but could he let go? The idea of some happy reunion had been all that sustained him during his recovery in Jamaica and time in France.
However, he was grateful for Israel's offer, despite the turmoil it was causing. If he asked for transfer, then it was all too possible that Halliwell would transfer him to Secret Services in a manner very permanent. If he requested transfer to a named ship whose Captain would be pleased to accept him, then such a risk was considerably lessened.
The debate circled and continued, making for very restless night, and he supposed he was not going to sleep. Indeed, a turn above decks might just be what he required. Recall this ship, the crew, the feel of her and imagine what it would be to serve aboard once again. It was even just a little disturbing to find that he was giving the offer his serious attention, and there was a seed of excitement at the possibility beginning to form.
He was half dressed when he was first alerted to trouble, therefore in a position to wake Captain Israel Pellew. The captain, however, was already awake and pulling on his dressing gown. "There are no exercises, tonight," he confided. "That means genuine trouble."
They were out of the wardroom and on deck as quickly as could be accomplished. There seemed to be considerable confusion, and from what Kennedy could glean, a small party had somehow got aboard and had taken a hostage.
The officer of the watch appeared, bloodied and breathless, sword in hand, and addressed Israel. "Your brother, sir-" he gasped. "They sought you, but as he was in your Cabin-" another deep breath. "He seems to be upholding the masquerade, and the men-" (breathe) "-none of us dared interfere, sir! Those damn Italian pirates!"
The deck cleared for long enough that Kennedy had a good view of Pellew in nothing but his nightshirt, held by two men, hands tied with a cord, and his neckcloth used as a gag. They must think he was Israel Pellew!
Captain Pellew spotted them and his eyes widened. It only took that one look, but Kennedy knew his orders; he was not to allow the younger Pellew to be taken. Israel, naturally distraught and angry at seeing his brother so mistreated, began to step forward, and the injured officer used his last reserves of strength to pin his captain against the rail, to prevent his interference. There was still enough noise and chaos for Israel's voice to be lost. /Swiftsure/'s captain looked at him, and he could see just as clearly the orders being issued to him - he was not to allow the elder Pellew to be taken.
Not given to procrastination, Kennedy chose to acknowledge the older man's seniority, and give his orders the benefit of his obedience. But he would not stand idle by in either case. "Where is their ship?" he asked the struggling Lieutenant. He had the relief, now, of another man come to restrain Israel.
"One of our cutters - taken last year; the /Despatch/ - came under a captured flag, so nobody suspects - our own signal man is ashore - no time to raise the alarm before he was taken..."
Kennedy nodded his acknowledgement, and looked towards the little cutter. An ensign fluttered above French colours, indicating a British capture. With a head start he should reach her before the boat bearing the Italians. All he could afford by way of explanation and apology was a last, brief clasp of Israel's hand and he slipped quietly over the rail, into the freezing water, and struck out towards the moored cutter.
As he was forced down into the boat, Pellew thanked god for the officer and seaman restraining his brother. He had every faith that Kennedy would obey his orders, and thanked god for that as well. He was shoved to the floor, clumsily covered with a tarpaulin and the pistol held on him. He could see the tops of /Swiftsure/'s mast for some distance, and no signal went fluttering aloft. The final Italian directed at the crew of /Swiftsure/ was beyond him, but he knew the officer of the watch had spoken the cursed language as they had attempted to negotiate. He was also able to protect his younger brother by letting the officer know that he must not reveal his true identity to the boarders. They were adults now; both somewhat past middle age, and still recalling those days when he protected Israel from the ire of their parents, he was still protecting him from enemies, now.
Unless he was mistaken, and he did not believe he was, /Swiftsure/ had been told not to raise the alarm or he would be shot. Boats in the dock were too common a sight to attract much attention. He also felt an odd surge of guilty relief. Kennedy had acknowledged his order with the barest nod (so far as his failing eyesight could distinguish), spoken swiftly to the officer restraining Israel, and then melted away.
Pellew was aware that too few knew of his capture for any rescue to be mounted on the instant, but that Kennedy didn't keep him in sight until the last possible second to be as helpful to any would-be rescuers indicated that he intended to see to it personally. Somehow that Kennedy was making the attempt gave him more confidence than if he had known the entire fleet was in pursuit.
If only he hadn't drunk so much of that wine! He would have woken less sluggishly and have been in a better position to defend himself; neither would he have slept so solidly. Pellew didn't think he had an especially poor head for drink; not like Hornblower, but Israel and Kennedy were his easy superiors in that respect, and because the wine was light in flavour, he had not given it its full credit. Thus he was taken easily.
/In other words/, he reflected bitterly, /I was too damn drunk to do myself any service at all!/
He was cheered aboard a handy little cutter; British built and captured, then somehow acquired by these pirates, he supposed. The noise was mocking and gave him no confidence of kindly intentions - there were a few French among this crew, and their dress indicated that they had no legitimate trade in these (or any) waters. Their own countrymen would probably watch them swing with as much enthusiasm as the British.
He was shoved unceremoniously aft, and down a hatch into a stinking half-flooded holding cell, and manacled, and it didn't occur to him to be grateful that they hadn't chained him to the wall. His cell-mate was a corpse rotten down to the bones, wearing tattered remains of pirate clothing, and he was nearly sick with fear at being trapped with the repugnant object. Then sense came forwards; if the stench that ran through every ship with an unclean crew lingered here, then the gruesome remains didn't overpower them. If this was indeed the cutter /Despatch/, then it was also too recently taken for any body to have decomposed to this level in any part of it. Therefore it was down here to frighten the crew, or frighten other prisoners, or perhaps both.
Not that he felt too much better for the wisdom. When /Hijo del Sol/ had taken /Seawitch/, he had been imprisoned with fellow officers; men with whom he could converse and plan, and for whom he had to be strong and set an example; men who spoke the language of his captors and so could communicate with him. Even if there were Frenchmen as well as Italians in this crew, he could speak neither language.
So he was mistaken for his brother, unarmed, trapped, alone and unable to speak with his gaolers. Edward Pellew had never felt so small, vulnerable or alone in all his life.
"/Swiftsure/!" came the shout. It took a few seconds for Hornblower to recall who was the Captain of /Swiftsure/, mostly because he had been expecting the return call to be '/Seawitch/', and he momentarily anticipated the return of either Kennedy or Captain Pellew. Orrock had told him this morning that Kennedy had returned early from his shoreleave in a depressed state, then left again with Pellew in much better spirits. He wished Orrock had been less polite about passing the information so he might have snapped at him for presuming to comment at all.
He knew /Swiftsure/'s captain was Israel Pellew, and that /Swiftsure/ was moored within view. He also knew that the Captain had turned down his invitation to dine in favour of a prior engagement with his brother. It seemed reasonable to assume that Kennedy had joined them, since he had served his first few years as Lieutenant aboard /Swiftsure/ and by all accounts, he and Israel Pellew got along very well.
But the boat was certainly heading towards /Seawitch/. "Prepare to pipe Captain Israel Pellew aboard!" Hornblower ordered. The boat was making considerable speed in the water, and Hornblower could now make out only a single officer sitting in the sternsheets.
Finally, with the agility of a much younger man, Israel Pellew came aboard with all haste and no ceremony. He thanked Matthew's party, but silenced the pipes immediately and en route aft, /he read himself in as Captain of *Seawitch*/!
"Get this ship out of this god-rotten dock as soon as you may, if you please! Officers to the cabin immediately - have a reliable midshipman take charge of the deck. My apologies for all lack of manners and ceremony, or explanations, gentlemen, but speed is of the essence!"
"Sir, you can't-" Hornblower began, but his reply was that Israel thrust the paper authorising him as captain of the vessel into his chest, and continued towards the cabin.
"We still have men ashore, sir - and supplies," Bush warned.
"We sail without," Israel ordered. "If we're out so long that supplies run out, then we'll be too late and it shan't matter."
"Aye-aye, sir," Bush acknowledged with his typical, uncurious response. "Responsible midshipman to take the deck: that's you, Mr. Orrock. Mr Stott; round up the officers aboard into the cabin, if you please. Then attend yourself; the captain may require a messenger."
"Course, sir?" asked Orrock, respectfully.
"That's why we need the messenger," Bush replied, shortly.
Hornblower heard all this as he read Captain Israel's commission with disbelieving eyes. "Sir?" Bush asked him as they walked towards the cabin together.
"Signed by Admiral Halliwell, and I think written in a hurry," Hornblower said. "It's certainly Captain Israel Pellew: I've only met him once, briefly, but that's him."
"Archie's still ashore?" Bush asked, refusing to make any concessions to Hornblower over their increasingly frequent arguments.
"According to Mr Orrock, he returned early, only to depart with /our/ Captain Pellew not half an hour later."
"Strange," remarked Bush, but he made no other comment to indicate whether or not his curiosity had been roused.
It seemed to be understood that the Master was required to get the ship out of the dock and Mr Prowse had felt no particular obligation to attend Israel Pellew's hastily called meeting. Once Acting Lieutenant Wellard and Mr Matthews had arrived, Israel's impatience had apparently reached it's limit and he began the briefing without any preamble, except to repeat his former apology. "Gentlemen, I'm very sorry for simply coming aboard and appropriating this ship. I hope you will come to agree that the measure was necessary and view the situation with similar urgency. Last night my brother and I dined, with Lieutenant Kennedy, and it being late, there seemed little point in their returning to /Seawitch/. I made the mistake of courtesy and offered Edward - uh, that is Captain Pellew - my cabin. In the night, as we slept, brigands attacked /Swiftsure/ under cover of a captured prize and abducted Captain Pellew believing him to be me."
He waited for their reactions, which were a mixture of shock and dismay.
"Is he all right?" Hornblower demanded.
"I have no idea!" Israel snapped back, betraying a deep fear beneath his mantle of calm. He took a deep breath. "My apologies. He boarded /Despatch/ under his own power - he was therefore alive and relatively uninjured at that point."
"/Despatch/, sir?" Wellard asked.
"Cutter - captured by the French last year," Israel replied. "She's fast and reliable, but lightly armed. She returned to dock under the flag indicating she had been recaptured."
"We saw her, sir," Hornblower interrupted again. "Indeed, I would have had half a mind to prevent her unexplained departure so quickly had I been here."
"Then thank god you weren't, sir. My first Luff was warned that any move preventing /Despatch/ from leaving Spithead would result in a bullet through my brother's head."
"We're to attempt rescue, aren't we, sir?" Matthews burst out.
Israel smiled for the first time. "We are indeed," he replied.
"Sir - if I may?" Bush asked.
The pleasant look faded from Israel's face: apparently he expected argument and was fully prepared to deal with it. Hornblower resolved to support Bush if he could: although rescue was also on his own mind; the haste with which Israel was conducting himself seemed counter-productive.
"As concerned as I am for Captain Pellew - as are we all - might I enquire after Lieutenant Kennedy?"
Israel seemed relieved. "Our chief hope, Mr -?"
"Bush, sir - William Bush, Second Lieutenant."
"Mr Bush - Mr Kennedy was able to slip off /Swiftsure/ and he swam to the cutter. His presence with my brother in this situation is all that keeps me from despairing utterly. But I must inform youmy brother has value, both as himself and as me. Should Lieutenant Kennedy be captured, he will not be thought of so highly. Pirates are rarely interested in information and they won't trust a turncoat."
Bush nodded, his usual acceptance shielding whatever he might be thinking, but Hornblower couldn't help but feel an additional pang for Kennedy. For all that he had convinced himself that he despised the man, every so often a small dent or hole would appear in the self-deception.
Once they had made the open sea, Israel sent a messenger with a course for Mr Prowse and Orrock. He also repeated the tale of /Swiftsure/'s encounter with the Italian pirate, including the fact that he had made an amusing after-dinner anecdote of the affair to Kennedy and his brother, which meant they were likely to figure out for themselves who had taken Captain Pellew, and possibly why.
"We discovered contraband, for the most part," he detailed. "Papers to keep Admiral Halliwell happy, of course, but none of that look especially significant. Gentlemen - I do feel compelled to be honest with you. I fear this abduction has no better motive than revenge."
Hornblower felt the implications of that statement sink in. If there were no other reason - nothing the pirates could believe Pellew offered them, or any value they could imagine, then all that awaited him would be torture and death. He found himself grateful, even, for the presence of Kennedy.
"A hostage, perhaps?" Bush asked, optimistically. "Perhaps for ransom?" Hornblower suspected the suggestions were offered more to offer hope than in true belief. "Sir - I have never known pirates pass up an opportunity to make money, and this demonstration would serve as a sure warning to other Naval Captains who consider pursuit. Leaving Captain Pellew alive would lend their threat considerably more impact than killing him."
Israel offered a half-smile. "Thank you, Mr Bush," he said, kindly.
"And I can't see Mr Kennedy standing by while any harm came to your brother; not if there were anything within his power to prevent it," Bush continued.
In fact, Hornblower thought reluctantly, he was sure Kennedy really /would/ do anything to see the Captain safe, and having witnessed the new confidence and deviousness of which Kennedy now seemed capable, Pellew couldn't have a better or more useful companion on his unfortunate adventure.
_CHAPTER FOUR: THE PIRATE ARMAND_
a/n - Okay, I know strictly speaking, this isn't the title of a film or book, but I'm taking advantage of - ahem - artistic license.
It must have been two days in which he had been given water
that was blessedly fresh and plentiful, but no food. His eyes
had adjusted to the dim light and he had discovered that although
his prison was not entirely confining, he couldn't stand entirely
straight, nor could he lie down for fear of drowning in the water
which was between one and four inches high at any given time.
He began to gain some small understanding of what Hornblower must
have endured during his week in the Oubliette.
It was with a shock of guilt that he suddenly recalled Kennedy. Kennedy had endured a month - and nearly three years alone besides - in that hole. Yet his first thought was for Hornblower, and just one week. And in cruel irony, it was Kennedy who was likely to be the main facilitator of his release, should such ever occur.
He recalled the Third Lieutenant's behaviour during dinner; how much more relaxed he had seemed in the company of his brother, but he had thought several years ago, when he first made the assignment, that Kennedy and Israel would get along well. Reports from both sides and their mutual manner indicated that he had been absolutely right. But having his judgement proved sound was cold and lonely comfort in this dreadful little cell.
Without explanation, two of the rough, burley men hauled him to his feet and forced him up on deck. He was dragged by the heavy manacles and could barely see in the light that was too bright after the darkness belowdecks, but he could hear mocking cheers once again, and as his eyes adjusted, he saw no sign of coast or any indication of where he may be. The little cutter had made good time with the fair wind, and he wondered whether Kennedy had made good time, too. Then he reflected that the wish was selfish; he, so far as they knew, was Israel Pellew and therefore had value of some sort as hostage, for exchange or even just revenge - however protracted that might turn out to be. Kennedy was a mere Lieutenant and was more trouble alive than dead; if they had no more sinister use for him first.
An Italian was busy shouting at one of the hands, who stood with a stance of insolent idleness. The hand replied in lazy French: "Je ne comprends pas," which was familiar enough for Pellew to recognise as a statement of incomprehension. Yet more welcome to his ears was the familiar voice, despite the foreign language, and careless drawl: Kennedy.
By squirming as though uncomfortable, he was able to get a view of events. Kennedy's hair was a wild tangle, with a half-hearted attempt at restraint at the back. He wore a rough hemp shirt with soft leather trousers and a blue coat with silver buttons, the fashion for which had gone out in the early 1780s, but which had once been fine. Not that he was the most conspicuous man aboard - these pirates seemed to have a taste for bright colours. He was leaning on a filthy mop and a few patches of dirty swirls surrounded him, as though he had actually made the deck worse not better with his cleaning effort. He cut a figure very like the popular novels concerning beautiful swooning ladies and mis-maligned brigands who never failed to overthrow their persecutors and acquire their rightful titles and positions in society.
But this was a stark reality. The Italian cuffed Kennedy up the side of his face, and the Lieutenant took the blow, scarcely seeming to notice, looking back at him without being especially impressed with the severity of the discipline. Another intervened; he was tall and handsome, but severe and well tanned with a hard, stern look about him. He had an immediate air of authority, and wore well-kept dark clothing in sharp contrast with these other men and their bright, shabby finery. The two involved in the short incident explained the situation; Kennedy in French and the Italian in his own language.
He responded with instructions in both languages, and regarded Pellew with a similar look of disgust. Eyes turned towards him, including Kennedy, and Pellew chose another man to stare at. Discussions that he didn't understand were batted back and forth, and instructions given out. Whatever they had said to Kennedy prompted sulky objections from him, and Pellew frowned, supposing that he ought to be less conspicuous.
It was a few moments before he realised his error, and the men were beginning to be suspicious of his disapproval. It was awful to have Kennedy speak to him so derisively, even when he couldn't understand what was being said. It was even worse when the Lieutenant spat on him, then turned away, dropping the mop where anybody could trip over it. Before he could get over the shock of it, the dark featured man was pulling him up and scattering the rest.
"You," he said, with a heavy Italian accent. "Are not a favourite with my crew."
"That much, sir, is quite evident."
The half-smile that twisted the mouth was chilly. "That is the final measure of insolence you'll be allowed," he said. "We take you for revenge...but you may be lucky. Our sweet /Giovanna/ lies beached - we refloat her when the weather turns and the island becomes yet more submerged, but in the meantime, we need you to show us something."
Pellew didn't respond in the pause that was allowed him. The Italian didn't seem to mind.
"Papers," he clarified.
Despite the disappointment he must offer his captor, Pellew experienced a surge of relief. He could answer for this without knowing the specifics. "Turned over to my Admiral," he said, civilly. "As soon as we returned."
His captor raised his eyebrows as though in theatrical disbelief. "Really?" he asked.
Pellew would not be bated. "Sir, you will find in the articles of war most specific instructions regarding all such captured literature - Article Seven to be precise."
"You would not even glance at them yourself?"
Pellew was silent for a few moments before answering and he hoped his belated reply sounded as though the pause was from feebleness rather than a desperate attempt to think of something convincing. "I believed it likely that the contents were to be shared with me when I received sailing orders, and therefore concluded that it was better that I offer them in their original condition. As per Article Seven."
The man nodded, and offered a wry smile that was no warmer than the previous. Pellew did not think he was a man used to smiling, but was as satisfied that he was believable as he could be. Israel had not attached any mystery to the beaching of the vessel or capture of papers, and he was more likely to have mentioned it to his brother and Kennedy than not.
"Very well; when we reach /Giovanna/, you will show us where these papers were found. For now you go below; I will have Armand keep his eye on you...I suggest you be wary of him; among his other habits he is already suspected of seeing one man over the side."
"Armand?" Pellew asked.
The pirate glanced at his nightrobe, where Kennedy had spat on him. "He will watch you carefully; I suggest you are equally vigilant."
It had been the hardest thing he had ever had to do. Kennedy
was grateful that he could pretend to be turning away in disgust,
because he couldn't bear to look at Pellew having spat on him,
but no other route was open to him to allay suspicions. He didn't
think to resent Pellew for his clumsy act; he must be exhausted,
cold and starving. His own presence and appearance as a pirate
must have been a shock to the Captain, and his disrespectful treatment
of the ship and his duties. Pellew mustn't be seen to show him
too much attention, and since he had offered more than Kennedy's
rightful share, the only way to cover himself was to treat him
with disgust and make a show of it. A derisive and spiteful show,
to go with the character he had established for himself as a derisive,
insolent and spiteful man. His cheeks burned with shame at the
thought of what he had done, and he was grateful for the dim light
belowdecks so others may not see.
He had first thought to stow away aboard the cutter - free Captain Pellew - escape. Of course, he had no idea of the specifics of this plan, but to let Pellew go to his fate alone was simply unthinkable. When he realised that much of the crew was in fact French, not Italian, a new possibility emerged. Hell - Anthony did it all the time; why not he? There were no records requiring a true identity to be checked on; he eavesdropped on two men - found that after /Despatch/ had been taken prize, she had been captured by the /Giovanna/ and the French crew given the chance to join the crew or be executed. Many had deserted, since, although the captain didn't seem to care, but a few had taken to the life, and remained. Kennedy knew he could speak adequate French to take the main speaker's place, and a swift, smart attack saw the two men overboard; he had worn an amalgamation of their clothing - whatever fit best, and thought the blue coat too conspicuous to suddenly go
missing - it's previous owner had been non-descript enough that the coat was likely to raise more attention than the man.
He took a few swigs of the wine they had been drinking and he poured the rest over the side so he might appear rolling drunk, with his mostly-empty bottle. That the wine was that which he had previously enjoyed aboard /Swiftsure/ did not escape his notice, but he pushed the thought aside as he gave all his attention to his play-acting.
They threw freezing water over him and flung him in the hold to sober up - then gave him the dullest tasks aboard as punishment, which he performed to the kind of standard he thought a Frenchman might.
He was not very popular aboard the ship.
It was not long before the captain was brought back down to the holding cell, where he had been berthed with 'Alfredo', the ship's...skeleton. He wasn't sure of the exact significance of the rotted down corpse, but it was afforded a fonder tolerance than he was, at present.
"The captain wants you keeping an eye on the prisoner," he was told, as Pellew's guard brought him down.
"Why me?" He eyed Pellew then glanced at the cell. "Hey - why can Alfredo not be trusted? He always does what I tell him."
Some small vanity was soothed as they laughed at his jest. They made a few crude remarks, and he grinned, grateful that his Captain could not understand what was being said, and supposed the Italian wanted him out of the way, and perhaps believed that some idle torment of his prisoner by a bored guard might make Pellew more co-operative. He was not unaware that he was not given the keys to the cell.
He kept up the act, however, for as long as he could hear the other two men making their way back up to the deck. "Ici!" he ordered, but Pellew, not understanding, did not obey. Kennedy whistled as though calling a dog to heel, slapped at his leg encouragingly a few times, and laughed at his own outrageous sense of humour for the benefit of the other men.
"Sir?" he whispered when he knew they had gone. "Oh, sir - I am so sorry-"
"Mr Kennedy - I believe you have precious little to apologise for," Pellew responded. "Indeed, I am most gratified to see you."
"I doubt I'll be left on guard for long," he confided. "I think I may know a way off, sir, but it would mean you having to swim - do you think you can? With my help?"
Pellew considered briefly. "Not chained like this," he concluded. "Not even with help, I fear."
Kennedy nodded. "There are plenty of barrels in the hold; I'll find something watertight and light for a float. Sir - they've been talking about papers..."
"Yes, they want me to tell them where 'I' found the papers I handed over to Admiral Halliwell. My guess is that they would be in the Captain's cabin, though..."
"Aye," Kennedy agreed. "And that is precisely what you ought to tell them, as well that you took a couple of cases of wine. If I've overheard the Italian correctly, there were other papers concealed aboard their ship - her name is /Giovanna/ and they intend to refloat her. But I would suggest these papers are of greater concern to them. Sir - you might also mention that one of your officers actually got them, and merely reported to you; to account for your knowledge of the cabin being inexact?" And if they believe you to be your brother, they can't have seen him."
Pellew looked at him for several moments. "Mr Kennedy - that is an excellent suggestion; I was concerned about not knowing the cabin layout! But could you get hold of these other papers?" He smiled ironically. "You seem to have a particular talent for such matters."
"Well...sir - I don't... I think. Ah; I'm sorry, sir, but it's going to be difficult enough to get you out - and myself; I don't think ought else can be accomplished at present. I'm- I'm sorry, sir."
Pellew suddenly felt vaguely ashamed of himself. Kennedy had come after him, not in search of pirate secrets - it was not really an appropriate time to concern themselves with the Italian's activities.
"I'm sorry, sir," Kennedy repeated, more firmly. "I had no thought beyond your liberation...I might be considered as under you brother's orders, sir."
"You're quite right, Mr Kennedy. I shouldn't impose," the captain replied, oddly pleased that the Lieutenant had stood up to him - and even in this situation could be amused at the good manners with which he excused himself. "My apologies."
"Sir; I'll find something to use as a float. Then I'll come for you. I'll - uh - I'll try and find you some warmer clothes, too."
"That would be greatly appreciated-"
"Armand! Qu'est que tu fait?"
Kennedy turned. "Eh? L'Anglais - Il est mon-"
He was interrupted by a stream of angry French, and Kennedy adopted a languid pose and bored expression until the other man had finished. Then he made a lazy reply. He winked openly at Pellew, then hit his hand against the bars - and Pellew flinched back, genuinely surprised. Kennedy laughed, high and cruel, and Pellew was actually relieved when he left in the company of the Frenchman.
Pellew was forced to endure another two days of his conditions.
A lifetime spent at sea had made him resilient to the demands
of hunger and better acquainted than he might like with an inability
to wash himself. He was dozing when Kennedy returned to the cell.
"Sir!" he hissed. "Captain Pellew!"
It took Pellew a few moments to wake up properly and recall his situation. He took a long drink of the stale water, and felt surprisingly refreshed; Kennedy did not look as good, however, and was carrying a small powder barrel and something wrapped in a clean cloth.
"Mr Kennedy," he whispered. "When did you last sleep?"
Kennedy looked sheepish. "Ah - a couple of days, sir, but I've been awake longer on /Swiftsure/. I think I've eaten better than you. I- I'm afraid this was all I could smuggle out." He pushed some bread and cold meat through the bars - poor fare, but better than might be expected after two months at sea, and to Pellew, nothing had ever looked quite so appetizing in his life.
"It will have to be now, sir," Kennedy said as the Captain ate. He took out some wire and began working on the lock. "We're at the /Giovanna/; I've been told I'm not to accompany the party aboard, so we have our chance." He grinned. "I argued my case most fiercely and they now think I'm sulking, somewhere belowdecks. There's an advantage to not being trusted."
"Apparently so, Mr Kennedy," Pellew agreed.
"They're mustered on deck to ensure she's refloated properly; I wish Hora- Mr Hornblower could see what they've rigged - it's a clever set up, sir," Kennedy chattered. "I didn't think /Despatch/ would be big enough. These aren't the usual scum one might expect of a pirate - more and more I have the impression that Captain Vittorio chooses his crew quite carefully; I don't think 'Armand' would last very long. He might consider me clever enough, but I've taken care to be idle and argumentative as well. With a little luck, he may think you've escaped unaided, and perhaps that I deserted is an unrelated matter. Or that I expected too severe a punishment for failing to stop you, so ran as well. I'm sorry I can't offer a better excuse for our absence."
Pellew did not think either tale was likely to be believed any more than the lieutenant, but even Kennedy offered it less than optimistically. The lock clicked open, Pellew slipped out and Kennedy closed the bars again. They spent a couple of seconds regarding Pellew's former cell-mate; the sad skeleton, in possession of more clothing than flesh. "Of all the things here, sir, I think I'm going to miss Alfredo most," Kennedy said, speculatively.
Kennedy nodded towards the skeleton. "Alfredo, sir."
"Mr Kennedy - I believe we are at a point where I might safely ask an intimate question: are you or are you not responsible for naming the skeleton 'Fred'?"
"I believe it was the only moment aboard, sir, when the crew might have liked me," Kennedy responded.
"You never cease to amaze me, Mr Kennedy!"
He was gratified by the genuine smile which blossomed on the younger man's face. "We shall have to chose our moment carefully, and head to the coastal caverns. If we can take shelter there, then we ought to be able to hide until they've given up any search for you. From what I can see, they're a maze, and would take too long for them to search very thoroughly. I suggest they're our best chance."
"Oh...well - and then I believe I would benefit from your advice on what we should do next. I haven't had time to think so far ahead. Getting off /Despatch/ was pretty much the extent of my planning. I'm sorry, sir."
"I see," Pellew stated, trying not to be too disappointed. "You know I am expected aboard /Giovanna/ once she has been refloated?"
"Aye, sir. That was why I thought it best to do this now. Once they have established what you know, then I have no way of guessing what they intend for you. It may even depend on what you tell them: I think this must be now or never. I'm sorry about the barrel, sir - it was all I could find."
As they moved quickly to the deck, trying to be inconspicuous, Pellew shook his head at Kennedy's back. "Really, Mr Kennedy, I do wish you would stop apologising!"
He should have predicted that the Lieutenant would reply, "Sorry, sir."
_CHAPTER FIVE: THE PIRATE VITTORIO_
a/n: Please excuse my salute to two other splendid nautical films which are mentioned below. (And another appeal to artistic licence above).
The caverns by the coast were indeed the maze that Kennedy
had promised, and Pellew found himself more grateful to the man
than he could ever recall being to another. Kennedy had outlined
a vaguely reasonable way to get themselves out of trouble should
they be caught on deck; Pellew was to make a dash for the rail
and go overboard (with the barrel), and Kennedy would pretend
that he had been tormenting the prisoner before he might lose
his chance forever when Pellew went aboard /Giovanna/.
Then, afeared for his own safety, Kennedy planned to make something of an issue in his own escape; over the rail. All Pellew had to do was get to the coast, conceal himself as best he could, while Kennedy led the pirates on a chase through the caverns, and perhaps pick enough of them off for them to abandon the two men to whatever fate was ordained.
The men were hard at work, ensuring /Giovanna/ did not suffer mishap as she was refloated. They even waited a few moments to admire the set up, directed by the weathered, handsome Captain Vittorio, which prompted the conviction that /Giovanna/ would soon be taking to the seas again. Fortunately, so much attention was being given to the task, that he and Kennedy went into the water unnoticed, and were able to swim away without being observed. He had doubted whether his Lieutenant's hastily sketched plan for a dramatic escape would work if they were observed, and was grateful that there was no need to test it.
He was also surprised that Kennedy had come up with it at all. It was quite far from his usual simple but effective ruses. He hoped the pressures of upholding two difficult careers was not proving too much for the other man, then put the matter out of his mind. He ought to have more confidence in Kennedy - Israel certainly trusted him; Halliwell had few enough doubts that he continued to keep Kennedy on the Secret Service payroll, and the spy, Anthony, had spoken very highly of him. In fact, before their quarrel, Hornblower had always urged the captain to trust Kennedy. Were Kennedy and himself the only two creatures of their mutual acquaintance who did not have the same level of confidence in him?
"Here, sir," Kennedy offered, and Pellew found himself wrapped in Kennedy's uniform coat - his best uniform coat, which he had worn to dinner aboard /Swiftsure/, and over that, the blue coat. It was only then that Pellew noticed he was shaking with the cold - the water had been freezing, although he barely registered it, and without the exercise of swimming, he was beginning to feel it now. Hampered by having to handle a powder-barrel and the heavy chains and manacles, merely moving through the water had taken all his attention - even Kennedy's assistance and reassuring presence didn't make the task easy for him.
"Are you all right, sir?" he asked.
"Are /you/ all right, Mr. Kennedy?" Pellew countered, kindly. Kennedy looked ten years older than his true age, and with a weariness that didn't seem accounted for by the current situation alone.
"Aye, sir - relieved! I would hate to face Captain Pellew without you, sir. Indeed, I should not dare to return to England." He smiled, encouragingly, and led the way into the dark coastal caves. Pellew followed him, thinking it odd that Kennedy would talk of his brother as though /he/ were his commanding officer. Giving the matter some thought, however, should he be forced to retire from service - or be fortunate enough to be promoted - Kennedy could do worse than find a place in the Wardroom aboard Israel's vessel. He thought Israel would consider the same, and knowing him as he did, Pellew began to suspect why his little brother had elected to sleep in the wardroom
"So given the choice, Mr Kennedy - under whom would you rather serve; myself or Captain Israel Pellew?" the Captain asked, when they had found some measure of shelter in a dry cave some distance from the shore. Hopefully they had taken too many turns for the pirates to merely stumble on them, but Pellew sensed a pattern, and trusted that Kennedy knew exactly where they were and how to get out again.
Kennedy evaded his question, however, by offering an entirely unrelated observation. "How odd, sir - Captain Israel asked me that self-same question in /Swiftsure/'s wardroom! I think this shows sir, that however different you arein many ways you are very like, too."
Pellew paused; the comparison to his younger brother was always welcome. Kennedy was in a fortunate position; more fortunate even than Hornblower, who did not know Captain Israel, and who therefore could not share in Pellew's regard for his brother in the same way Kennedy could. It was strange that he should be comforted by having something in common with Kennedy that others couldn't share so readily - something other than duty or Navy matters or the more academic interests they had in common; worthy discussion on those subjects required some difference of opinion, and Kennedy would always defer, even to knowledge that was inferior to his own, rather than offend.
"Indeed, Mr Kennedy. But what was your answer?" he asked.
Kennedy looked away as he answered. "I told him that I would serve under him, sir. I offered my difficulties with Commander Hornblower as a reason."
"And did you tell the truth?" the Captain persisted.
Kennedy, however, had a ready answer, almost as though he had expected the question, and Pellew wondered whether he had. "No, sir - I was not honest with Captain Israel Pellew," he said in a precise manner.
Pellew smiled, and there was one of those awkward pauses that he so hated. He never seemed to suffer them with anyone else, and since Kennedy was generally an open, easy-going man, it seemed foolish that they should occur between them. Then the realisation came upon him in a rush; and he found himself amused before he could stifle the "/Ha!/" which startled the other man.
"Sir?" Kennedy asked, concerned; but Pellew was laughing, more quietly, in genuine spirits. "Captain Pellew?" he asked, again.
"Oh, Mr Kennedy, but you never cease to amaze me, sir!" Pellew chuckled.
"Me?" he asked, doubtfully.
"Yes, Mr Kennedy - you! Damn you!" But Pellew was still amused, rather than angry. "So my conclusion stands thus; in telling Israel that you would prefer to serve under him, you were perfectly honest with my brother. And the deception you claim comes from offering up Hornblower as the reason! I'll wager it is not the reason, and /that/ is what you were not honest about!"
The intense look of shame and guilt that crossed Kennedy's pale features made him seem even older, and was the carminative Pellew needed to not laugh out loud. He was not especially surprised by the younger man's preference, however, having sent him to /Swiftsure/ in the first place on the certainty that he would find it a better environment in which to flourish. However, it was something of a pang to realise that Kennedy would still prefer to serve under his brother; he would not mention their own awkward relations - there was no call for him to embarrass Kennedy more than he already had.
"I mean no disrespect to you, sir, but I have good reasons for my preference, and it is merely /my/ preference. I have to say that I think I am very unusual in my choice; I cannot see any other man who has served under you making the same one. And that is a /truthful/ statement, sir."
"No other officer has served under us both," Pellew pointed out. There was a long pause. "So would it be impolite of me to enquire after your reasons? Your genuine reasons?"
Kennedy licked his dry lips; this was certainly the most intimate conversation they had ever shared - even having to explain his financial difficulties, or confessing the disastrous encounter at Drury Lane didn't seem to carry this burden of weight for him. Then he raised his head and looked Pellew directly in the eye, and there was a confidence in his expression that Pellew was not used to. "You, and Commander Hornblowerand indeed Mr Bush all have a 'presence'. You can walk onto the quarterdeck of a ship - any ship - and immediately the men know who is in command. They don't need to see any gold braid or epaulettes to know; you could stand there in slops, and they would be well aware of who controls their destiny.
"However, for myself, and for your brotherwe do not share that gift, sir. Neither of us are commanding men, and so we must find some other way to lead. It is the one thing in which I cannot imitate you. I might gain wisdom from your examples in tactical thinking, in your decisions, in the way you run your ship and treat the men and officers, but I cannot benefit from your example in command because it is something you are born with or not, and I was not." Kennedy smiled a little. "But I have a fine enough example in your brother. Now his manner of command I /can/ copy; I can learn from it, as he was no more born with a command presence than I was."
Pellew smiled. "I can't be offended when you praise my brother, Mr Kennedy," he said. "So did you tell him that?"
Kennedy shook his head. "I didn't, sir - I It seemed as though I needed to give few reasons to your brother. I think I have been fortunate enough to acquire a similar regard from him that Commander Hornblower enjoys from you."
Pellew nodded, in understanding. In the polite world, he should not be asking such questions at all, but they were both exhausted, cold and in fear of their very lives - Kennedy had come so far with him, and Pellew knew, without needing to be told, that whatever his fate should be, Kennedy would either share it, or offer his life in order that Pellew might stand some chance. Awful though the situation had become, it was eroding some of the barriers that lay between them, and even if some things were going to be painful to hear, it was preferable to contemplating their most likely demise.
"Might I enquire what else you did /not/ tell my brother? I assume that if you're willing to say this much then you don't object confiding in meironically."
"Aye, sir," Kennedy offered, with a self-depreciating smile, and some colour returned to his face. "Nothing more complex than vanity," he explained, eventually.
Pellew chuckled, partly at the unexpected answer, and partly through disbelief. "Vanity? Mr Kennedy; of the seven sins, that is the last I would think you capable of!"
"But, sir, it's true. When I first came aboard /Indefatigable/ as a midshipman, there was nothing to mark me out. Which was precisely the way I wanted it. I was just dull Mr Kennedy." Pellew couldn't quite hide a flinch, and was aware that Kennedy would guess that was precisely the way he had originally been perceived by his Captain. "Lord alone knows, there was nothing special about Mr Midshipman Kennedy; he was so dull and average that he might have created the merely adequate standard against which all others were measured! Those who knew better considered me as unfortunate. So I was always either ignored or pitied; neither are enviable."
He didn't give Pellew time to comment, speaking in a rush. Apparently he didn't want to hear any answer Pellew might make. "However, when I went aboard /Swiftsure/, I was a Lieutenant! Commissioned! I had been given a mark of approbation by the Admiralty, and what was more; I was a spy in training - an agent considered worthy of the training I was to receive. More important than any Admiralty papers, I had the recommendation of Captain Sir Edward Pellew and Admiral Halliwell. Therefore, I also had respect, in a once-removed manner."
He had to interrupt. "Mr Kennedyyou must be aware that you have my respect," Pellew said, softly. "I hope you have not gone through your tenure aboard /Seawitch/ thinking that you do not."
"No sir - not for a minute. Not for a single secondaboard /Seawitch/. But you knew the dull and unfortunate Mr Midshipman Kennedy aboard /Indefatigable/; and nobody had any reason to respect him at all; not even myself. But I had the regard due to any Lieutenant aboard a ship, from the other officers, and Captain Israel's, from the moment I stepped aboard /Swiftsure/: no past to live down and therefore much less to prove to my superiors. That situation was much more ... comfortable, sir."
Pellew frowned at his Lieutenant's reply. He couldn't suspect any false report in what Kennedy had said, but he was also a little confused. Although there was a polite silence maintained concerning his early career and misfortunes, Kennedy must know that his history was well known by Pellew. If his position as Captain did not ensure it, then his relationship with his protégé must, and Kennedy ought to be aware that overcoming all obstacles, as he had, said a great deal for him in Pellew's eyes.
It was true that Kennedy lacked 'presence'; or at least he lacked presence when he chose to, and when he did exert his natural presence, it was not a commanding one; it was charming and charismatic, rather. Kennedy inspired confidence more than he inspired obedience, and trust more than loyalty. However, those qualities had their own uses - Kennedy had made an effective commander during the /Hijo del Sol/ fiasco (a memory which still made Pellew blush): he had conducted himself marvellously in France, both when he retrieved the plans, and when he rescued his cousin.
Pellew would be the first to admit that Kennedy was more like his brother, and that they probably found each other better social companions than Kennedy would find the older Pellew. On closer reflection, there was a measure of passion in both men which made them more impulsiveperhaps more prone to recklessness than himself. When he took a risk, it was calculated and measured, or so necessary as to make debate pointless. He had seen both his brother and Kennedy take risks in a fit of pique or desperation that he was not inclined to.
A noise outside their resting place alerted them to trouble. They scampered clumsily to their feet, Kennedy stumbling for a moment, and steadying himself before making a second attempt. Pellew wondered how long it was since the man had slept. He was wearing nothing but the rough shirt and trousers, now and they were not much protection against the cold. Pellew had been taken in only his nightrobe, and reflected guiltily that he was now in possession of both Kennedy's ruined uniform jacket and the blue coat belonging to 'Armand'.
Kennedy looked around quickly, and indicated a small hollow where they could shelter a little more. He pushed Pellew before him, and restrained as he was, Pellew couldn't object. They daren't make a noise, and hampered by the manacles and chains, he couldn't both physically resist and remain quiet. Kennedy's hands were cold. A light appeared at the low entrance, giving them shaded light to see by, and he saw the Lieutenant's eyes widen in alarm. Clearly visible was the empty barrel he had used as a float; it would be equally visible from the entrance. They had forgotten it!
Pellew could just about see the figure who was investigating their little cavern; not the features, but the height, build and dark clothing indicated the pirate captain himself. He touched the barrel, and would find it wet; recently in the water, and not some cast off which found it's way here. The man pulled out his weapon, and Pellew knew it was over. Indeed, it was less than a minute before the lantern light fell upon them.
The men emerged to the sneering face of the handsome Vittorio, and yet Kennedy remained in front of Pellew, between him and his persecutor, and it touched Pellew to think that the respect he had so recently expressed for Kennedy was returned to this extent.
"Well," he said softly. "Such a valiant attempt - so nearly a success." He shouted something in Italian, then in French to the men outside, and Pellew expected them to both be set upon at any moment.
"Mr Kennedy-" he whispered hoarsely.
"He's ordered them away, sir. He's told them we're not here, and to give up," was the quiet, but surprising reply. "Sir," he addressed the pirate with his customary manners. "You ought to be aware that this gentleman is Captain Sir /Edward/ Pellew of /Seawitch/: not Captain Sir Israel of /Swiftsure/. He has no information that is likely to be valuable to you, but further harm to him will only incur the wrath of the Royal Navy. You would find yourself actively hunted, not merely chased after chance encounters."
"Why," said the pirate sarcastically. "Thank you for your generous warning, I am sure. And you yourself?"
"Lieutenant Kennedy, junior of /Seawitch/," he replied, and Pellew did not miss the demotion he had just offered himself; the insignificance he claimed. Potter was his junior Lieutenant, not Kennedy.
"And just how did you become involved? And how would this be the brother of Israel Pellew?"
"We were dining with Captain Israel aboard his ship, and the hour growing late, he offered his senior officer the cabinas is customary," Kennedy explained. "Your men took the wrong Pellew, sir. I was on deck, saw the incident and realised it must be /Despatch/ they had come from."
The Italian had an unsettling way of dragging out a silence while assessing them. "So your presence aboard /Swiftsure/?"
"I had been included in the dinner invitation."
"A junior Lieutenant?" Vittorio asked, derisively. "In dock, while all others had Leave? Why were you not ashore, like them?"
That Kennedy could appear briefly hurt at the reminder of his experience in Drury Lane here, of all places, oddly fascinated Pellew.
But the Italian laughed. "Sonothing to enjoy on leave - or no money to accomplish it; a Captain's invitation, made for the sake of your English manners alone, was accepted so junior 'Tenente Kennedy might have a story for his wardroom!" His amusement at his own assessment (one that Pellew was happy to know was false; his invitation had been genuine, not merely polite) was malicious.
However, Kennedy's response was masterly; he looked away and bit his lip as though a vulnerable secret had been announced. Then he turned back and swallowed; a show of defiant pride just slightly overdone - his back too rigid and straight, his head raised just a little too much and his tone a shade too nervous; a fine performance for an actor pretending to be acting. "Sir - if an invitation meant only for politeness' sake was offered for you to dine with Jack Sparrow and Morgan Adams, would you refuse it?"
"/Captain/ Jack Sparrow: /Captain/ Morgan Adams," Vittorio corrected, with a manner that was almost fond, and another short laugh. "No - I believe I would not refuse. Butit begs the question. If I find that Captain Pellew has value enough for me to relinquish him as my prize; what value have you? Would harm to you incur the wrath of the Royal Navy?"
"I have no value, sir," Kennedy admitted, the pose he had adopted wilting. The Italian aimed his pistol at Kennedy's head. Pellew heard his intake of breath, and felt him tremble a little. But he remained in front of his captain, and prepared to meet his death as a King's Officer ought.
_CHAPTER SIX: ESCAPE FROM SKULL ISLAND_
It took every ounce of his faltering self-control not to flinch
away as Vittorio, with his other hand, reached out and with his
fingertips beneath his chin very gently turned Kennedy's head,
so he was forced to look up and into the Italian's dark eyes.
"From here," he said, softly. "Your escape is your
He put up the pistol and with a final half-smile that was as near to a genuine gesture as this man had yet come, the pirate turned and left. Kennedy felt close to collapse; his legs seemed weak and he was sure he must be shaking from head to foot. Pellew gripped his arms from behind. "Mr Kennedy, are you well?" he asked.
"Aye, sirf- f- fine," he managed. "Why didn't he shoot us? Why did he send the men away?"
"Mr Kennedy, I could not even begin to guess," Pellew told him. "However, neither would I care to waste this opportunity we have been given."
"Indeed not, sir," Kennedy agreed.
He retrieved the barrel, putting it inside the cavern opening just in case they were going to have to take to the water again and if the tide rose into the caves, and as they waited for the /Giovanna/ to get under weigh, Pellew cleared his throat quietly, but rather awkwardly. "Mr Kennedy."
"I hope you don't think that he was right. I hope you don't think I invited you to dinner just to be polite."
Kennedy looked around and paused, then an expression of great daring formed on his face. "I am assured it was not a polite invitation, sir - as I recall, you /ordered/ me to dinner!"
It was the tiniest gleam of light, but the flash seemed too
regulartoo steady in its rhythm to be natural. It was hardly likely
to be the moon off the water, for the light was stable and the
sea relatively calm. Something beneath the surface exposed periodically,
perhaps, but few items would remain so untarnished as that; nor
would the shallow tide be quite so regular as to allow such ordered
display of the light.
"It's a long beat to windward if it's nothing," Hornblower stated. For once, he was in a flurry of indecision that he refused to allow to be seen. To press on seemed sensible since the /Giovanna/ could not be seen in the darkness and mist and there was no sign of any corpse on the submerged island; nor any other sign of the grisly demise of Captain Pellew. But there was that gleam
"Stand inshore, sir?" he asked Israel.
The younger Captain Pellew seemed to be suffering in a similar way to himself. "Send a boat," he ordered, eventually. "We can offer covering fire if it turns out to be a trap, retrieve the boat swiftly and depart in a hurry if the chase proves pointless."
"Aye, sir," Hornblower concurred.
"See if you can't get volunteers only in the boat. It will be vulnerable work, and I'd prefer to be spared the necessity of ordering men on so dangerous a journey, if I can. Otherwise - the strongest rowers you can find."
"Aye-aye, sir - indeed, I think I can accomplish both," Hornblower replied, smothering a smile. Knowing how popular his brother was with the crew of /Seawitch/ might do something to cheer Israel, he considered. His awareness that the crew were just as interested in the elder Pellew's welfare as he was should comfort him, and assure him that they would do their utmost to see him safe.
In fact, Hornblower intended to command the boat himself.
The night had become a freezing cold ordeal, and Hornblower thought stealth was preferable to announcing their presence; or at least for the boat - /Seawitch/'s presence might just prove off-putting to the pirate ship. If they were not seen, then /Seawitch/ should not have to position herself to defend them, and make changing course for Italy more difficult and time-consuming. Swift as /Seawitch/ was, every ship needed time and sea-room to turn. Bush accompanied him in the boat, unasked, and in a way that suggested all argument would be in vain. Hornblower was grateful for his stalwart presence.
He experienced several seconds of doubt, however, as the oarsmen shoved off, and he realised the blinking light had vanished, but it was not long before he experienced a new surge of feeling - a terrible mingling of hope and fear - as from the cold, night fog came the sound of gunfire, and the water, near the location of the light, was disturbed by the unmistakeable bite of bullets.
"Did they see your signal?" asked Pellew; it seemed as though he were trying not to sound apprehensive as Kennedy pushed the knife back into his boot.
"I think so, sir - they've put a boat out to investigate," Kennedy replied. "The ship is remaining on station, and I've lost sight of /Giovanna/. I think the ship is /Seawitch/." The last was said with doubt and confusion; he has known Israel would not abandon his brother - he would offer pursuit and that much was not in doubt, but why would /Seawitch/ be here and not /Swiftsure/? It was always possible the Admiral had given such orders, and since he had once had a habit of commandeering /Seawitch/ for his own missions, he may have done so again. Kennedy, however, was not inclined to speculate too much; she was an ally, and that was really all that mattered, at present.
"And if the boat doesn't see us?" Pellew asked. "We have no other way of creating a light, and that might be seen from /Giovanna/. Mr Kennedy - perhaps we should consider meeting her half-way."
Kennedy looked at the water at his feet as though it were a strange, foreign substance. "It's going to be damned cold, sir - colder than before; are you sure?"
As an answer, Pellew moved into the cavern and returned with his barrel. It was a firm statement, but almost amusing. This fine ship's captain, wearing a nightrobe, two badly fitting jackets, and manacles, in possession of a small, empty powder-barrel, determined to go for a very cold swim in the fog at night. However, Kennedy sobered abruptly as another thought struck him.
"In fact, sir - that may be for the best, or the boat will run aground the same island as /Giovanna/! She'd be a sitting target if the pirates are still within range. Uh - after you, sir."
Pellew nodded, and without either ceremony or complaint, entered the water and began to kick for the little boat, which was making some headway towards them. Kennedy's own dive drove the air from his lungs; 'cold' did not begin to describe the temperature of the water, and he surfaced quickly, gasping, almost expecting to feel ice against his skin as he pulled himself over the sea. At least it was calm; this section of coast boasted sandy coves and smooth caverns - most of the tides would strike at the broader rocks behind them, where the cliffs rose out of the water like Neptune's slipway.
If Kennedy had judged rightly, they should just be over the submerged island, now, and he could make out two ships, rather than just one. The reassuring, dominating figure of /Seawitch/ was clearly visible against the sky and he could be sure of her identity - the other was the pale, ghostly silhouette amidst the sea mist, which could only be the /Giovanna/.
Pellew was still ahead of him; holding out the float and kicking like a child on his first swimming lessons, although it was an unmerciful parent who would demand their children learn in these frigid waters. In fact, his own carefully paced strokes were beginning to feel sluggish and ineffective. His arms and legs were becoming numb.
Shots rang out around them. Pellew looked more like driftwood, and indistinct flotsam thanks to the barrel and the blue coat, which blended darkly with the sea. But he - in nought but the white shirt and pale leather trousers - stood out starkly against the water, and another bullet struck the water just near him. Feeling that he was going to be hit by a ball any second, Kennedy dived and skimmed over the surface of the island which lay beneath them; submerged once more in the rising tide. Thank god - the boat had seen them, too, and the oarsmen had redoubled their efforts. That figure looked like Hornblower, and Pellew was nearly there. More shots and he dived again, this time feeling growth of seaweed in the sandy soil which brushed against his belly and legs as he swam.
Kennedy surfaced once more, amidst another hail of shot. He saw enough to know that Pellew was being helped into the boat and more balls bit at the water close to him, altogether too close for comfort and so he dived for the third time. Now the growth was thicker, and rather than gently caress at him, it sought to entangle him. In some alarm, Kennedy realised that the island was less well submerged in an unfavourable tide, and all he could feel was the weedy tendrils rising to grasp at his clothing. When he tried to surface once more, the real danger became apparent. He was caught fast.
At first, Kennedy saw no reason to panic - he pulled the knife from his boot and slashed at the offending flora, but its grip was more determined than he had accounted for and for each swipe, he seemed no more released than before. His chest was beginning to ache with the desire to breath. The seaweed attacked his clothing and limbs as he felt a surge of fear alongside the pressure on his lungs. Then, in a final stroke of ill luck, his arm was caught as the blade split another tendril and the knife was suddenly wrenched out of his hand, ensnared by a clump of weed.
Kennedy couldn't help it; his body screaming for air, he took a breath.
Since the water was clear, even though it was dark, Kennedy
was a prime target in his pale clothing and Hornblower saw his
struggles in the water with the bank of weeds. He had dived under
the surface to avoid the sporadic shots being fired from the pirate
vessel, although she was now moving away, having given up on both
Pellew and Kennedy. Kennedy had still not surfaced and seemed
to be struggling more weakly, now.
It took him aback when his heart gave an odd lurch.
"Horatio!" Bush exclaimed in appalled shock when Hornblower did no more than stare.
Hornblower nodded absently. There was no doubt in his own mind that Kennedy was the principle agent in Pellew's escape. There was no arguing with the perception that Kennedy had saved the Captain's life. Hornblower might not be strictly confident about his dislike of Kennedy, and many of his attempts to alienate him had been half-hearted, but it would be a shabby business, indeed, to just let him drown.
He dived from the boat, expecting and accepting the frigid temperature of the water. Kennedy had nearly succeeded in freeing himself from the weeds as it was, and it wouldn't take much from him, now.
By the time he reached Kennedy, the man was completely limp, and he even used Kennedy's own knife to cut away the last clumps of weed which had wound around his legs to trap him just beneath the surface of the water. The Lieutenant wasn't breathing, and Hornblower pulled his arm hard across his chest; Kennedy, spluttering and coughing up water, came to something resembling life.
Hornblower didn't have to swim very far to gain the boat, and Bush and the others pulled Kennedy inboard before Bush and Styles reached down again to assist him. Pellew sat in the sternsheets, an odd figure, with his back straight and proud, wearing a nightshirt and blue coat with a blanket wrapped around him, manacles, and balancing a barrel on his knees. Hornblower shuddered to see those manacles (even though they rendered his attachment to an empty barrel less odd).
Kennedy was still unconscious, Matthews and Bush wrapping him in a blanket as best they could. Seeing him lying insensible in the bottom of the boat forcibly reminded Hornblower of the time he had struck his former friend down because a fit threatened their cutting out mission. He knew he had secured that boat properly and had long ago discovered that the spiteful Simpson had cut it loose.
How odd that the situation was now reversed: Kennedy was no longer his closest friend and he lay safe in the boat, and Hornblower had saved him, as opposed to condemning him. He wondered whether Bush saw the irony in it - the only person he had ever confessed his 'crime' to; or Matthews and Styles, who were the only remaining witnesses to the original incident.
There was already a bosun's chair set up when they reached /Seawitch/, and Hornblower could see Israel's face looking anxiously at them. They had determined two simple signals - a white handkerchief, held aloft by Bush to indicate that their search of the coast was in vain, or a red scarf to indicate they had found his brother and Kennedy. Of course, there had been no arrangement to signal what sort of condition either man would be in, and the red scarf could indicate either living beings, or just their remains.
Pellew gave the bosun's chair a speculative look, but used it anyway - since it was there he might as well, but he had become less forgiving of the convenience as he got older. Hornblower suspected that his mentor liked to prove that he was still an active, agile and perfectly capable of getting aboard and disembarking his own ship without such help. In a way, it was fortunate that Kennedy was in a state requiring assistance, since the captain could offer that as an excuse for using it himself.
Bush took the need for Hornblower to have anything more to do with the Lieutenant off his hands by suggesting he follow the captain up, to give Kennedy a bit more room. He had regained consciousness as they rowed back, but had not spoken, and was so clearly exhausted that not even Pellew had attempted conversation with him, except to say. "There, there, Mr Kennedy. I believe we can claim to be safe."
Kennedy had muttered something indistinct and shaky that might have been, "Aye, aye, sir."
Kennedy awoke still tired, and unable to focus on any one issue
for very long. In his head whirled the now-familiar arguments
for and against resigning his commission aboard /Seawitch/ in
favour of serving aboard /Swiftsure/; and he debated himself in
ever more complex circles of reasoning versus sentiment. He needed
to clear his head. A walk on deck, perhaps - to become familiar
once again with the feel and crew of /Swiftsure/, and perhaps
offer some peace of spirit that would allow him to sleep for an
hour or so. He opened his eyes and frowned.
This was not the spartan berth in /Swiftsure/'s wardroom in which he had tried to sleep. There was a pretty cross-stitch of a ship above the cot in which he lay which looked vaguely familiar, and it took him a few moments to recognise it as the work of Bush's sister, which he had so proudly shown off before hanging it in his berth.
"You're aboard /Seawitch/, Archie - in the Second Lieutenant's cabin," came a voice. He looked up to see Captain Israel Pellew standing over him, smiling. He stared stupidly at his former captain trying to recall why he was there, and why he himself would be sleeping in Bush's quarters. Then it came back to him; the Italian pirates snatching Pellew from /Swiftsure/, his subsequent disguise in order to rescue him; being aboard /Swiftsure/ at dinnerhe even recalled being invited, because an old friend had not remembered him when he went around to visit.
"Sir!" he acknowledged, sitting up. "Captain Pellew - is he all right?"
"He's fine; he's fine! And I'm glad to see you looking better too," Israel answered. "You've slept a full day around; you must have been exhausted. In fact, Mr Wellard and Mr Orrock had quite a problem trying to work out how to get you into your hammock without waking you! They came up with an ingenious plan of putting you in it and /then/ slinging it before Mr Bush intervened and offered up his cabin, instead. Lucky for your skull that he did, for I'm sure the young gentlemen in question would have failed utterly with their scheme!"
Kennedy chuckled despite feeling foggy.
Israel's expression became more sober, and he patted Kennedy's hand which lay over the blankets. "Thank you, Archie. Thank you for my brother's life - I don't believe I could ever repay this debt, and I'm more grateful than words can express."
"Sir, it was-"
"Don't you dare say it was nothing," Israel interrupted, although his tone was soft. "Don't you dare! It was on my account that he was taken prisoner and made to endure what should have been my fate. If anything worse had happened to him, I should never have been able to answer my conscience, and if you had not intervened, I am convinced that much worse would have befallen him." He looked seriously at the Lieutenant, and Kennedy felt he was being asked for some kind of approbation for his forgiveness, even!
It embarrassed Kennedy to feel that, in a way, he had Israel utterly within his power, even just for a few moments. "Without your leave to train aboard /Swiftsure/, sir, I would have none of the skills that allowed me to free my cousin Dewhurst from Robespierre's clutches. Let us say, rather, that we are even?" he offered, extending his hand.
Israel grinned, and the familiar gesture heartened him as the captain took his hand, and put his other arm around his shoulders, patting him roughly and breaking off only when they heard the wardroom door opening. "Damn you, Kennedy, but I wish I had half your charm!" he grumbled, in a manner reminiscent of his elder brother.
"For heavens sake, leave the poor man alone, Israel!" came the original gruff manner from the wardroom. "Mr Kennedy, sir - how fare you?"
"Much better, Captain, thank you," Kennedy replied with a smile. "And yourself? You are well, sir?"
"Very well, and very grateful, Mr Kennedy. I don't think either of us were in much of a state to be exchanging gratitude in the boat. In fact, we're heading to England, where I intend to have this young rogue charged with unlawfully commandeering my ship and crew, and will eagerly embark on any damage to /Seawitch/ that I can reasonably or unreasonably lay at his door and further burden his purse!"
"My command is perfectly legal, Edward, and you know it!" Israel retorted, very properly. "Between you and me, Mr Kennedy, he is annoyed because I offered more-than sufficient compensation in several bottles of a fine wine recently captured from an Italian pirate!"
Kennedy couldn't help but laugh at that, and was pleased to see the sparkle of amusement in Pellew's eyes, too. The older man cleared his throat.
"I'mahI'm afraid your uniform is beyond repair, Mr Kennedy," he confessed. "However, before I had the pirate Armand's raiment disposed of, I did perform this rescue, and felt it an appropriate tribute to your time as a brigand!" He took Kennedy's hand, and into it placed several silver buttons.
Kennedy looked at them blankly before realising that they must have come from the pale blue coat which 'Armand' had been wearing.
"Take a look, Archie," Israel encouraged.
Wondering at the mystery, Kennedy examined one of the buttons. "Why - it's a thistle!" he exclaimed. He looked at another. " 'Nemo me impune lacessit!' " and another - "a sprig of heather" - and "Saint Andrew's standard!" There was also a Celtic cross; a tiny picture of the bagpipes and an outline of Edinburgh city.
Each of the buttons had some small, finely crafted symbol of Scotland upon it. "Thank you, sir," he grinned, genuinely delighted with this prize. "These are from-"
"The blue coat, Mr Kennedy, yes. I thought it might prove entertaining, so I removed them before my steward could destroy them. And now-" he took the buttons from the Lieutenant, and placed them in a small wooden box, which he then put by the cot. "We shall leave you to eat and sleep, before we're subject to Doctor Sebastian's wrath, ourselves."
Kennedy smiled and Pellew was ushering his younger brother out of the door before he could reply. However, the elder Pellew turned back a moment, when Israel was out of the way. "I'm pleased to have you back on board, Mr Kennedy," he said, quietly. "Very pleased indeed."
It was not only the silver buttons or his Captain's warm words that gave Kennedy cause to feel satisfied as he laid back, however. When Pellew had mentioned the boat, he had one further recollection that came to him in a flash, and had left a thread of hope hanging still within his reach. As he had been drowning, he dimly remembered being cut free; familiar arms keeping him afloat - forcing the water from his lungs before it ended his life.
And he recalled those arms belonging to Hornblower.