OLIM MEMINISSE JUVABIT: A Hornblower Story
...One day we will be glad to remember...
by Laura Webster
*Prologue: London, 1838*
Lord Carstares, First Lord of Her Majesty's Admiralty, looked
the ballroom, a pleased expression gracing his aquiline features. The
cream of the British Navy was present, their dashing uniforms
contrasting sharply with the ladies' silks and satins, every glint of
gold, every luxury a testament to the might of the British empire, and
to the force that made that empire possible. There were admirals,
captains, dukes, earls, even a prince, in attendance. Even one or two
lieutenants had been admitted. Carstares smiled. Yes, the little Queen
would be very happy could she see the evening's gathering.
His gaze sharpened as he sought out familiar figures. There
Jervey, ninety if he was a day, boring some young lady rigid as he
barked into her ear, recounting every tedious detail from his
experiences as a young lieutenant in the war against the colonies in
America. Johnstone, an amiable idiot, who would never make admiral
should he live to a hundred, and would never have made captain had
Britain been at war, stood with his wife, placidly watching the world
pass. And - by God! One eyebrow jerked sharply upwards as Carstares
recognised one of the more elderly guests. Sir Edward Pellew, in faith!
Not dead, then, as everyone seemed to believe.
My, that was a name to conjure with. Pellew had been a captain
Louis' head had been removed from the rest of him, and what a captain he
had been. And hadn't he - yes! Carstares swung round, his eyes
roaming, until he found his quarry. Horatio Hornblower, another captain
who had distinguished himself, though slightly later in the war with
France. Yes, he had gained his start on Pellew's ship, before
transferring toÖ now, what ship had it been? There was some scandal -
that was it! The Renown! Some jackanapes of a lieutenant had killed
the captain, Sawyer. Mutiny, of course, but the lieutenant - aye,
Kennedy, that was his name, one of Lord Arlington's sons, now he thought
of it - had died, and the matter had ended. Not that anyone forgot, of
course. It was hardly the sort of thing that was allowed to rest.
Now, as for the Renown - yes, there was Admiral Bush, looking
ill-tempered as he ever had. While Hornblower, though serious, had
punctuated his naval career with diplomatic words and polite behaviour,
Bush had made no such efforts, though had ended up an admiral as well.
War heroes, of course, the pair of them, and that sort of thing was
expected. The public liked to have men whose daring exploits were as
familiar to them as their vicar's foibles promoted to admiral. It gave
them a sense of security.
His interest in Hornblower and Bush fading, Carstares caught
wife's eye, and made his way towards her, ready to start circulating
round the guests. A host's duties must never be forgotten. He nodded
to the Duke of Bedford, the Marquis of Belmont and the Earl of Edrington
before reaching his wife's side, and it is strange that a man as
politically acute as Carstares failed to notice the almost imperceptible
tension that constricted the room. A tension that seemed to have no
cause at all, and yet for all that was quite obvious for those who cared
The night was young, and, as such, had many an alarum and excursion
*Part One: Admiral William Bush*
Admirals Bush and Hornblower - nearly a century in the service
them. And official functions were as tedious now, nearing the middle of
the nineteenth century, as they had been when lowly Acting-Lieutenant
William Bush was invited to dine at Governor House in Jamaica in 17__.
Bush wandered round the over-heated ballroom, barely restraining a tug
at his cravat. He dealt brusquely with those who approached him, wryly
aware that he was that he was reinforcing the impression many held of
him as a stern and intractable commander with little time for the airs
and graces that lesser officers adopted. He retreated to a corner,
beneath the cover of a large potted palm - how ridiculous to find such a
thing in a London ballroom! - and surveyed the throng gathered before
At the other end of the room stood his best friend, Horatio
shining light in Her Majesty's Admiralty, talking solemnly to some
ageing aristocrat, though he managed to spare a smile for the elderly
countess, standing at her husband's arm. Horatio took his leave, and
started to cross the room, but Bush was distracted from his progress as
two younger officers approached the potted palm. One was dressed in a
lieutenant's uniform and, to judge from his relaxed manner and easy
laugh, was well enough acquainted with society not to find such parties
an ordeal. The older man Bush recognised immediately. Lately a
captain, he had served as midshipman on the Indomitable under Bush's
command. He had had him beaten for carelessness in his duties, and Bush
didn't bother to restrain a smile at the dizzy heights to which the
scrawny midshipman had climbed. He realised they had not noticed his
presence as they spoke.
"Which one is Admiral Hornblower?" A derisive snort
"For God's sake, Fielding! Don't tell me you don't know
The lieutenant shrugged, not a whit abashed by his senior's reaction.
"Never had reason to meet him. Didn't you serve with him?"
"To my regret, no. I was midshipman under Bush, though."
whistle sounded, only to be quickly stifled.
"He's practically a legend."
"They both are. They've served together for years. Marlowe
they were midshipmen together."
"Friends from the start. Is he here tonight?"
"I think so -" The two men moved away, distracted
by the hail of
another friend, leaving Bush behind, strangely motionless. It wasn't
until dizziness struck him that he realised he was holding his breath,
and he released it with a gust, the lieutenant's words echoing in his
"Friends from the start..." No, Horatio's friend
from the start had
been quite another man, a man who had sacrificed everything for that
friendship. Bush and Hornblower were friends enough now, God knew, but
they hadn't always been, had they? Because the first time they had met,
Hornblower had been 24, a seasoned lieutenant, and Bush one likewise, at
nearing 30. Bush had boarded the Renown as Second Lieutenant... The
Renown. He caught his breath again. God, what a mess that had been;
and the price - the price had been high, and had been paid by one man.
Lt Archie Kennedy.
And he, Bush, had disliked him from their first meeting - no,
before then. Serving with Sawyer was an honour, but Bush had been
looking forward to meeting the infamous Horatio Hornblower, who had
served with such distinction on the Indefatigable under Captain Sir
Edward Pellew. In the King's Arms in Plymouth he had mentioned his
post. He was congratulated on his fortune; polite enquiries elicited
the names of Lts Buckland and Kennedy; and a seaman's ugly whisper
condemned Kennedy as an incompetent lord's son, riding Hornblower's coat
tails to glory.
With hindsight, of course, the man had been alone in his accusations,
hastily silenced by the men with him, and not with the native caution of
the ratings caught criticising an officer, but with genuine anger.
Naturally, Bush had not paid attention at the time, indignation rising
in his breast - he had known such officers before, men incapable of
command, but who won that very prize as a result of birth.
And Kennedy had not disappointed. A quick wit and no bottom
- a man
with delicate features who showed none of the respect due to the
Captain. Then, later that day, he had overheard him coming to the aid
of one of the junior officers: "Sir, Randall! You call him Sir!" Of
course, he was of aristocratic birth, and well able to give such an
order. And it was no more than any officer should have done. And
Hornblower was right behind him. But there was authority in his voice,
and he knew how to deal with the men, though they were for the most part
The weeks had passed on Renown, and, almost unwillingly, Bush
opinion of Kennedy changing - almost as his opinion of Sawyer was
changing, though in the opposite direction. Kennedy was too quick to
speak, to question, too intemperate, too indiscreet. But he knew how to
do his job, and do it well. He knew what to say to help the unfortunate
Wellard. And he knew his duty as an officer, his duty to his ship and
to his men.
The situation had gone from bad to worse: Sawyer had fallen
- or been
pushed - into the hold; Dr Clive had refused to pronounce him unfit for
command, leaving the ship's lieutenants swinging in the wind; Sawyer had
re-emerged from the mists of Clive's laudanum, condemning Hornblower,
Kennedy, and Bush himself as mutineers, and then launched that
ill-judged attack on Sonoma Bay, running the Renown aground. And then
the mighty James Sawyer, one of Nelson's own, had gone to pieces
completely, and cowered in a corner like a child, before threatening
Hornblower with a pistol, forcing Clive to declare him unfit. And
naturally, the world being the kind of place it was, the situation had
not improved. Buckland - born an ass if ever a man was - had dillied,
dallied, and dithered, so out of his depth it would have been funny had
their position not been so dire. Eventually, of course, he seemed to
have lost what was left of his wits, forcing Horatio to remain at the
fort, facing certain death as he detonated the explosives.
And Archie Kennedy had refused to return to the Renown without
friend. Bush himself had gritted his teeth at the stupidity of
Buckland's order, but had, he noted, half ashamed, been prepared to
leave the younger lieutenant to the job. Orders were orders, after all,
even after all that had passed. But Kennedy had hung behind, waiting
until Buckland was on the jollyboat back to the ship, then, with a
flashing smile, so full of daredevil glee it quite made one forget that
he was ready to die with his friend if need be, had run back up the
stone steps towards the beleaguered Spanish fort.
He had followed him. For what reasons, even now, he found
hard to say.
Perhaps to remonstrate, though that seemed unlikely. A desire to
fulfil his duty, to help complete the task that should be all
considerations have been his? An avuncular feeling that the two younger
men needed his help? Or was it simpler than that - merely that he
wished to be a part of their tight little ring? Whatever the reason, he
had followed, had run hard on Kennedy's heels, into the smooth walls of
the tunnels, up the winding steps whence came the telltale sounds of
someone setting a fuse. Looking back with a grin, Kennedy had whipped a
handkerchief from his coat, and waved it, joyfully announcing their
presence to his friend.
They had set the fuses, blown up the whole damned place. And
had jumped of a cliff. A rueful smile spread, involuntarily, across
Bush's face. My God! To have been so young as to do such a thing with
barely a second thought! Well, if truth must out, had he been given an
option he would have not done it, but not from any cowardice, merely
because he had no wish to drown. But Hornblower had taken one arm -
afraid of heights as he claimed to be, and how Kennedy had enjoyed
throwing that at him when they were raising the gun! - and Kennedy
himself the other, and all three had leaped into the abyss. Not that it
had, technically, been an abyss at all, but as they flew through the
air, that was damned well how it had felt.
So, all three had returned, hale and hearty, to the Renown.
teetering between pique that Hornblower had survived his orders, and
shame that he had given such orders in the first place, had commended
the prize ships to him, and they had returned to peace. Peace, that is,
until some half-witted Marine had walked into the clever Senora's trap,
and forsaken the entire ship.
Blood and noise and chaos had been their watchwords, as was
case when warring sides fight, and Bush himself had been cut down,
slashed across the middle, lying on the quarterdeck with his blood
spilling from him in a river of red. Clive had been patching him up,
and those resting in the sick berth had been congratulating themselves
that the worst was over, and there were not so many of them hurt as
might have been, when Hornblower had burst in, one arm round Kennedy,
pulling him towards the doctor. It had been bad. It hadn't taken
Horatio's wild-eyed look of panic, or Kennedy's pallor, or the bright
blood soaking his shirt to tell them that. It was there, in the room,
tangible. Archie Kennedy was a dead man.
And, confound the man, his nobility had not stopped at giving
to save the ship but he must needs give his name to save Horatio. He
had lain there in the whitewashed prison of a hospital, dying, whilst
Buckland and Hornblower faced the court martial, and waited, waited
until it became clear that, no matter what any one desired, Hornblower
would be asked that question: Did you push Captain Sawyer into the hold?
and would be on oath to answer truthfully.
Maybe he had. Maybe it had been an accident. To this day,
unsure. If it was an accident, it was indeed a tragic one. If Horatio
had done such a deed - well, with Sawyer at the helm they would have
been dead in a day, and no-one, in their hearts, would have condemned
him. But however he would have answered the question, Archie Kennedy
had not let him take the risk.
Archie Kennedy had confessed.
Confessed to the court martial, confessed to all those waiting
the outcome. Confessed to a courtful of people who did not believe him,
then returned to the hospital and waited to die.
He hadn't had long to wait - he had died that day, long before
set over Kingston. Horatio had been with him, and that had been right,
for it was Horatio that he had sacrificed the only thing that could
matter to a dying man - the memory he left behind.
In an intellectual debate, perhaps such a sacrifice was no
common sense. Archie was dying anyway; why should Horatio die too? It
was eminently sensible. But in an intellectual debate, the debaters can
laugh, and cry pax, and think no more on it. Archie died, and his name
was ruined, reviled, spat on. A low, unworthy cur, whose dishonourable
and murderous actions cost Britain one of her greatest captains. A man
whose name was not spoken but sneered upon, a man whose family
repudiated him, yet lived in the knowledge of his shame.
But, by God, Archie Kennedy had been no traitor, no murderer.
thing Bush was sure, and that was that Archie had never pushed Sawyer
into the hold; it would not have occurred to him. He had been a good
and loyal Englishman, who had fought and died for his country, and
deserved to be remembered thus. His fists clenched, and his ire rose,
and he found it intolerable that such lies had been perpetuated to save
the Admiralty from the embarrassment of Sawyer's life and death. By
God, it should not be borne!
*Part Two: Alexander Cheyne, Earl of Edrington*
The Earl of Edrington, who had retired a General in the British
viewed the ballroom with well-disguised boredom. He wondered idly
whether he had ever found pleasure in such gatherings, and decided that
he had not. He was growing old, and his interest in war and affairs of
state had palled as he aged; now he merely wished to live out his days
in comfort and relative peace at his home in Hampshire. Not that he had
any plans of dying soon, mark you. But a youth spent in the army had
more than satisfied any craving for excitement he might own to, and the
peaceful life now beckoned him with ever-growing force.
The only reason he had attended this particular function was
had anticipated seeing several old friends, whose company was not always
so easy to find, chief among whom was a very old acquaintance, Admiral
Horatio Hornblower. And Horatio he had seen, looking very much as he
ever had, if a little older, as they all did. They had spoken briefly,
and arranged to meet for dinner at Edrington's club before going their
separate ways once more, and with that Edrington was satisfied; he had
expected no more from the evening's work. He turned to suggest to his
dear Adeline that they make their excuses, when a penetrating gaze met
his, and he stopped, brows furrowed as he tried to place it. It was an
old man, frail, with a crown of snowy white hair which was unfamiliar,
and yet those hawk-like eyes seemed soÖ Good Lord! Could it be? Yet
the man was dead by now - surely he had to be dead? No, there could be
no mistaking: Admiral Pellew; Sir Edward Pellew. He smiled in
acknowledgement, and stepped forward to approach the man, whenÖ A
silver strand of memory coursed through his head, and brought to light a
man he had never quite forgotten. Not someone he thought of often; even
Hornblower's presence had not raised him to the surface, for he and
Hornblower were friends of longstanding, and had many memories between
them. Pellew, though; he had only had dealings with Pellew once, a long
time ago, and recollections of that encounter brought forth a slew of
An ill-conceived mission into FranceÖ the shining goal
of an end to the
RepublicÖ a crazed aristocratÖ a lieutenant who barely knew one end of a
horse from anotherÖ an officer who panicked under fire yet managed to
retain the regard of his menÖ an officer who had not the courage to
light a fuse yet who had dared to challenge death and rescue a friendÖ
At first glance: a junior officer, little different to the
officers under his own command, although considerably less respectful,
but nevertheless a familiar quantity. Quick with his tongue, he was not
so forward when it came to business, although given Pellew's strong
reaction to his query about an invasion, that was hardly surprising.
No, the admirable Hornblower was the leader of the two; Kennedy was the
jester, laughing in his command, making light of his "promotion" to
arrange transport of the ship's cannon. Even when one of his men dumped
a pile of horse manure on his boots he did not reprimand, but took it in
his stride. Not a man who would go far in his career; no doubt gallant
enough in battle, but without the leadership skills that would take him
Kennedy's gallantry he doubted later. A little musket fire,
man had lost his head, firing the cannon again and again until he and
Hornblower had arrived and the latter had managed to calm him.
Panicking in the face of fire - and not much in the way of fire at that!
No, Kennedy was not a man he wanted at his back. And yetÖ the
discovery of the missing artillery, the growing realisation that they
might not be able to return quite as easily as they had hopedÖ Kennedy
had calmed down, kept the men in check, ordered them appropriately, and
made sure their heads stayed attached to their bodies. Their situation
had worsened, and he had overseen final preparations to blow up the
bridge. He had been pale, tense, and yet he had done his duty, and
Edrington had wondered if he must yet again change his mind about this
And when the minutes were ticking away, and they could hear
their position the sound of the Republican soldiers entering the village
of Muzillac, it was to Kennedy that he looked when it became clear that
they may have to strand Hornblower on the other side of the river;
Kennedy with whom he shared that decision. And it was Kennedy who had
the task of lighting the fuse and blowing the bridge to perdition,
leaving his friend on the wrong side. But Kennedy had not had the nerve
to light it himself; one of the men had come forward and taken it from
him, gently, and Edrington, who had always found himself to be a most
excellent judge of men, and prided himself on it, was once more
Hornblower had appeared with the girl - Mariette - from the
who then got herself shot, leaving Hornblower helpless with grief at her
side, not seeming to comprehend that that his time was running out. And
then, confounding him once more, Kennedy ran across the bridge, ran to
his friend, and coaxed him across, just as if there was no likelihood of
being blown to the Devil.
But that had been the end of that, and the Army had parted
the Indefatigable, and he had not seen Kennedy again. And really, the
last that he had thought of him, excepting the occasional polite query
when he had run across Hornblower.
And then, one day, sitting in his tent trying to decipher his
brother's scrawl on a duty letter from Eton, a young and overly
enthusiastic lieutenant, who had fallen in the way of acting as a sort
of aide-de-camp for the superior Earl of Edrington, had burst in, waving
a copy of the Gazette, that noble publication that recounted all news of
note for the assorted branches of the military.
"Sir, sir!" Edrington, who harboured a sincere affection
his youngest brother, and who had been deeply involved in an engaging
account by that young gentleman of a boxing match he had been privileged
to involve himself in, was annoyed at being disturbed thus peremptorily,
and was somewhat terse in his response.
"What the devil is it, Harland? Can't you see I'm busy?"
whom the reading and writing of letters was a hated chore, his only
correspondent of any consequence being his Great Aunt Sophia, a lady
whose prose was not noted for its wit, waved aside such petty concerns
as a brother's letter, and flourished the gazette in the major's face.
"But, sir! It's Lieutenant Hornblower, sir. I know you
he was a particular acquaintance of yours, so I thought you might like
to read it. I'm sorry if I disturbed you," he added, rather
"Hornblower? What's he done now? Rescued the whole of
fleet?" Edrington's lips quirked upwards in a smile, but it was not
returned by the lieutenant; indeed, his face wore an unusually sober
"Not exactly, sir." He thrust the paper at the major,
clouding his eyes. "It - it says he's a mutineer, sir."
"Mutiny, eh? Don't be a fool, Harland, you must have
Hornblower would as soon fly as be involved in a mutiny."
Pressure on his arm brought the Earl of Edrington back to the
as his wife shot him a warning look. Carstares, their honoured host for
the evening, was passing, and the two men exchanged dignified nods.
Then he was gone, and Edrington was once more sunk in remembrance, his
gaze focused in the middle distance, a solitary figure on the dance
floor, guarded by his dear Adeline.
"An unfortunate report of mutiny has reached us from the
Kingston in Jamaica. Captain James Sawyer died on his ship, Renown, on
30 September 17__ as the ship was overtaken by Spanish prisoners.
However, at the time of his death, it appears he was under guard, and a
charge of mutiny was levelled against the ship's lieutenants: Buckland,
Bush, Hornblower & Kennedy." Edrington stared blindly at the newspaper
in front of him, scarcely aware of Harland's suddenly timid presence.
He swallowed, shocked, then continues reading.
"The court martial was conducted initially with the testimonies
among others, Dr Clive, the ship's surgeon, and Lts Buckland and
Hornblower. Lts Bush and Kennedy were not present, as they were
recovering from injuries gained whilst defending Renown from the
Spanish. It was the verdict of the esteemed members who made up the
adjudicating panel of the court martial, that the following officers
were found to be not guilty of mutiny: Lt Buckland, Lt HornblowerÖ" He
looked up with a relieved laugh.
"There, you see, Harland! You'd think the men at the
realise this is a military paper, not some London scandal sheet! I dare
say they think it exciting to provoke such fears. Well, was that all?
Yes? You'd better carry on, then. My compliments to Colonel March, and
when may we expect the artillery to be prepared?" As Harland ran off on
his errand, Edrington's gaze fell back to the paper, and, with glance at
Thomas' letter lying on a stool, he started to skim the rest of the
"-and Lt Bush. Lt Kennedy appeared before the court and
both mutiny and assault on Captain Sawyer, and was thus found guilty,
stripped of rank, and sentenced to death by hanging. He died of his
injuries before the execution."
My God. Kennedy - a mutineer? The paper fell from his grasp,
Edrington paid it no heed. A mutineer? Could it be possible? No - no,
that wasn't right. Hornblower - yes, maybe, under certain
circumstances. It had been plain in Muzillac that he was not one to
stand by and watch others suffer if he could help it. But Sawyer -
Sawyer was a hero, a legend, even for an Army man. And Kennedy? He was
pulled from his reverie by the sound of running steps as Harland once
more burst into the tent, panting out Colonel March's reply.
"He said to give him six hours, then they could stand
fast, sir. Sir?"
Edrington waved him aside.
"Thank you, Harland. That will be all." Faced with
such a dismissal,
the lieutenant could do nothing but back out of the tent, conscious of
something being wrong, but unsure as to what exactly. He left behind a
commanding officer who was struggling to find a single man within the
conflicting personalities that had made up Archie Kennedy. A carefree
young officer with barely a thought of progressing in his career? A
coward who panicked in the face of the enemy? A hero who would walk
through fire for a friend? A man who would attack his captain and lead
a mutiny? No. A thousand times no! That last did not - could not fit.
Kennedy had not sought advancement; he would not commit mutiny for
that. His men may respect him, may even follow him, but he was not the
sort to incite a mutiny. No, that would beÖ Yes, how plain it was.
And how ridiculous for anyone to suppose that a man like Archie Kennedy
would be guilty of mutiny, and Hornblower guiltless. Far more likely
the other way round - except not that either, for where Horatio led,
Archie would follow, the two in it together. Yes, that was the most
probable explanation. In it together, both accused - but Archie dying,
and once more ready to cross a bridge on fire to save his friend.
Adeline Cheyne, the Countess of Edrington, looked on with affection
her husband returned to her. The mist burned from his eyes, and his jaw
tense, and she caught the words he muttered: "Such a sacrifice, and
never to be recognised."
*Part Three: Admiral Sir Edward Pellew*
Edward Pellew was decidedly out of sorts. He was tired, he
and he was stuck in the kind of social situation he had never
particularly enjoyed, even when he was a young man without half the
troubles he had as an old one. Moreover, he was irritated with himself
for deciding to accept the invitation that had arrived four days ago,
and even more irritated with his valet, the indispensable Mountjoy, for
not talking him out of it. What had possessed him? He received a dozen
such invitations if he received one, and he had never before accepted.
He'd as lief have the whole Admiralty think him dead, truth be told,
which from the number of startled looks he'd received, they did - and
that in itself had almost made up for his coming out at all. He'd never
been one to play their games if he could help it, and he didn't intend
to start now: he would not dance attendance on the latest crop at the
Admiralty, so that they could sit back, and smile, and say that they had
the famous Sir Edward Pellew's support in whatever little schemes their
devious minds dreamed up - and dream up they would, for it had been
Pellew's longstanding regret that he had never once had the acquaintance
of a decent First Lord. Well, they could go to the Devil, the lot of
them. And then he was even more irritated, for he recognised in himself
the foolishness of the very old, and deplored it.
No, his days of glory were long past: so long past that he
beyond the bitterness and regret that soured his years after leaving his
Britannic Majesty's Navy, and was left merely as an old man, waiting for
death to call. A sombre attitude, many might call it, but it at least
had the virtue of negating any lingering duty he might feel to the
Admiralty: he did not come at their bidding, no, nor at any man's. And
yet, he had come here today, this evening. Why? Even as he questioned
his decision, he noticed what Lord Carstares, for all his knowing, had
missed: there was something present in the air, some tension that was
having its effect. Aye, there was something in the wind, and Pellew
found himself nodding to himself, like some old sage in a story book.
Looking around, he did not recognise many of those present,
but he saw
Horatio, and he saw the man Bush, whom he had met first in Kingston.
KingstonÖ Devil plague it! He did not wish to think on Kingston. And
then there was that smiling fool Johnstone, and old Admiral Richards and
another man, whom he knew but could not place. A gentleman, not in
uniform, elderly, but not so old as to be useless. Their eyes met, and
in the stranger's straight gaze he found recognition. A recognition
that was reciprocated, for yes, that was Edrington. A fine army man he
had been, and a brave soldier, for all his consequence. He had been
there for that dreadful mission to Muzillac - the devious plan of
another First Lord - which had ended up breaking Horatio's heart. A
girl had died, that was right, and a bridge. Aye, a bridge, and young
Kennedy had toÖ No! He did not wish to think on Kennedy either.
But Kennedy would not stay away, and seeing Horatio, who had
forgotten his first friend at sea, and Bush, who had been there at
Kennedy's bitter end, and Edrington, who had seen the selfless valour
that Kennedy could display as if it were no more than a tattered flag
that any man might bear, Pellew realised that here lay his one great
That Lieutenant Kennedy had been condemned in death as he so
been in life.
Thinking about it - and his mind seemed determined to make
sure he did
just that - Pellew found that he could not remember Kennedy coming on
board the Indefatigable. Oh, he knew well enough when he had arrived,
for it was the same day as Horatio, and that he did not forget. But
Kennedy - no, he did not remember. And he did not remember his leaving,
or rather, his not being there; not the first time, when he had had a
fit in the jollyboat as she floated towards the Papillon and been
knocked out by Horatio, and then set loose from the Papillon by that
blackguardÖ what was his name? He had shot him, that much was true.
Ah, yes, Simpson, that was it. Simpson, whose black heart would surely
burn in Hell, and not just because he had tried to kill Horatio.
Because although Pellew may not remember Kennedy's first stint on the
Indie, he certainly remembered the second, when they had picked up
Horatio and his men from their rescue of the Spanish ship whose name he
did not remember and did not care to try. And lo and behold, but Mr
Kennedy had been with them - a very pale and thin Mr Kennedy to be sure,
but very definitely Mr Kennedy, who had been the first to volunteer to
return to honour Horatio's word. Oh yes, Pellew remembered that, for in
that gesture, that spoke so clearly of the midshipman's own honour and
loyalty, he had seen something that he had not seen before, something
that would have made him remember if nothing else had.
Eventually they had returned from their Spanish prison, and
found himself taking more of an interest in young Kennedy, though his
attention had always been focused more on Horatio. He had felt guilty
about that, once, but now it was too familiar a feeling to bother with.
Yes, he had loved Horatio, for that young man had been the son he had
never had, and all the other officers had not had a chance, though he
believed - he hoped - he had always been everything a captain should be
to them. So he had spoken to Kennedy, learned about him. Partly, in
truth, because he was Horatio's loyal friend, but mainly on his own
behalf. And he liked the man, aye, and had pitied him, for Pellew had
never been a fool, and loath as he was to do so, he recognised the
source of many of Kennedy's worries. Yes, Simpson had deserved that
bullet in his heart - or where his heart would have been, had he had
one, which Pellew took leave to doubt.
And so Horatio and Archie, as they always had been to each
grown together on the Indie, grown from boys to men, and each had been a
source of pride to Pellew, for they were indeed fine men, who knew their
duty to King and Country, and if Horatio had a tendency to be over bold,
and Archie had a bad habit of questioning his own authority, and
doubting his ability to deal with the tasks thrown at him, why, it was
no more than many another officer, and they were all the better for
recognising their faults.
But time moved on, and promotion became inevitable: no, more
inevitable, they sought it; perhaps not for the advancement, but for the
excitement of new pastures. And new pastures they had found, by God.
But the grin that had encroached on Pellew's lined face soon vanished,
as he thought of what those new pastures had done to the boys he had
Horatio, filled with guilt at his friend's death.
Archie, dead, unmourned by many who should thank him for his service.
Yes, that was what had hit hard, what had filled him with bile
bitterness. He had been there, he had been in a position of power, and
he had not been able to protect them. He did not know whether Horatio
had pushed Sawyer or not. He did not care. Either way had been as hard
for him: if he pushed him, then Archie would forever be punished for a
crime that Horatio committed; an if he had not, why, Archie had been
punished for a crime that had never been. And why? Because the pompous
lords of the Admiralty, those bastions of respectability and nobility,
did not want Sawyer's name tarnished. No, they wanted his honour
unimpeached, his glories unbesmirched, his good name to be born clean
and high for anyone to see. Nevermind that he was out of his head on
opiates. Nevermind that he should not have had control of a row boat,
let alone a ship of the line. Nevermind that his actions would have
killed every man jack of his crew, had his lieutenants not stepped in.
"It sits ill, sir, it sits very ill!" he growled,
and the gentleman
standing beside him looked at him askance, and wondered what the
Admiralty was doing letting in such a strange old man.
*Part Four: Admiral Horatio Hornblower*
Horatio moved across the ballroom, acknowledging acquaintances
passed. He would never be completely at ease in such gatherings, but he
was sufficiently used to them not to mind anymore, and sufficiently
well-versed in the necessary etiquette to avoid making a fool of
himself, as he had at his first formal outing, all those years ago, at
the Dalrymples in Gibraltar. He smiled to himself. God, how long ago
that had been, and how much he had changed since then.
Spying Edrington, he made his way over, made his bow (again,
improved from his first attempt to the "Duchess of Wharfedale") to the
Lady Adeline, and after a brief exchange, arranged to meet the earl at
his club: a place far more conducive to good conversation than a crowded
ballroom. He caught sight of William Bush, cowering behind a palm, the
arrant coward! and made his way towards him, a grin on his face, for he
well knew how much William detested these affairs. In fact, he was
surprised that the other man had decided to come, for it was a rare day
indeed when Admiral Bush condescended to attend the Admiralty for purely
social reasons. His view was blocked for a couple of minutes by a
couple of young officers, then they moved away, and a few moments later
he was standing before his old friend.
"Enjoying yourself, Admiral?" he asked, his tone wry.
"No. Excuse me, Horatio, I need a drink." And with
that, he walked
off, leaving Horatio standing next to that ridiculous potted palm.
Looking back across the ballroom, he watched Bush disappear into another
room, then his eye was caught by two men: Edrington andÖ Good Lord!
Pellew! But he never came to these things. Horatio frowned, a frown
which deepened as he saw the way the two men were looking at each other.
There was something odd about tonight, that was certain. A tension
that had been growing, and grew even thicker as Edrington's gaze fell
away, till he seemed to staring at nothing, and Pellew the same. He
knew that look though, that look that said, I'm seeing things you cannot
see. But he knew who they were seeing, because it was the same person
he always saw.
He had never forgotten. And though it was not true to say
that not a
day went by without Horatio thinking of his old friend - for he had
often been too busy to think of more than where the next cannon should
fire, or too tired to think of more than when he might seek his bed - he
still remembered him frequently, remembered the first time he had met
him, on the horror that was the Justinian, remembered their excitement
at joining the Indefatigable, remembered losing him to that bastard
SimpsonÖ remembered finding him in Spain.
They had shared so much, because, for all that had happened
they had been young men - no, boys, really - and were open for
friendship in a way that lessened as they had grown older. After they
had left the Justinian, and Simpson, they had both had the chance to
become the best they could be, and had seized that chance. Only, for
Archie, that had ended ignominiously when he had been struck on the head
by his best friend. Horatio winced, even now, even knowing that, in the
end, Archie had born him no ill will for what he had done.
And then Horatio had been left without a friend, for the other
midshipmen on the Indie were not Archie, and never could be, but he
managed well enough, until Spain, when he was taken prisoner, as much by
his own fault as by any misfortune handed down by Fate, and there had
been Archie, in that prison, just a body under a heap of blankets.
Archie had wanted to die, and come too damn close to succeeding.
not because he was a coward, or because he couldn't face living, but
because he didn't want to jeopardise the other men's chance of escaping.
He had been through hell, and they had found him at a very bad time,
but Horatio knew in his heart that Archie would have recovered, would
have tried, for the sixth time, to escape. Because Archie was brave,
and did not back away from his fears, even as he confessed them.
Confession. That damned confession. That was what it always
to. Archie, confessing to mutiny, confessing to pushing Sawyer into the
hold. And he wouldn't have, probably, if Horatio had been able to
answer him then and there in the hospital, when he asked. But he
didn't, and now he couldn't. Not for any metaphysical reasons, but
because he didn't know. Not any more. Had he pushed Sawyer? It was so
long ago, and everything had happened so fast. Archie, advancing;
Sawyer, backing away, towards the hold; and Horatio had sprung from his
corner, Wellard at his heels, andÖ but had he pushed him? He had
reached, certainly. He had touched him, of that he was sure. But had
he only reached out to try and save him, instinctively, or had there
been malice in his actions, malice he had since forgotten, or erased
from his mind?
But it didn't matter if he'd pushed Sawyer or not. If he had
had nothing to reproach himself for, and if he had - well, Pellew had
been right, and he had always known it himself: it was for the good of
the ship. But Archie still mattered. Archie, who had been condemned as
a mutineer, as a murderer and a traitor, though technically neither of
the latter. Archie, who had died fighting for his country, but who had
been buried in an unmarked grave in Kingston.
Suddenly it seemed so intolerable. Horatio knew, for Pellew
him, that the court martial had been out for blood; whose, they did not
care, so long as they could use it to wash away the stain on Sawyer's
name. And so an innocent man had been sentenced to hang because the old
fools needed to preserve in Sawyer a British hero, when, at the last, he
had been naught but an insane old man. No, but that was not true
either, for at the last, at the very last, Sawyer had been as brave as
any Englishman, and deserved to be remembered thus, but not at the
expense of Archie's name.
There was quiet in the ballroom now, as Lord Carstares was
the usual toasts. To a captain lately distinguished in action; to an
admiral recently dead. To other men whose virtues the Admiralty cared
to recognise. Something close to a sneer crossed Horatio's face, and
looking about he saw the same expression on the faces of Bush, Edrington
and Pellew, and he knew. Knew what to do. As Carstares opened his
mouth to give the final toast, to Her Majesty Queen Victoria, Horatio
"My Lords, Ladies, and Gentlemen," and they turned
"To Lieutenant Archie Kennedy. The greatest friend, the
the truest soul I have ever known."
Some of the younger men and ladies present raised their glasses
uncomprehendingly, then lowered them, uncomfortably, in the resounding
silence that followed, the heavy expressions of the other officers
eloquent enough of their outrage. A beat, then two, and then another
glass raised, another voice.
"Archie Kennedy. The best man I ever jumped off a cliff
with." And -
was that a smile on the usually gruff admiral's face?
"Lt Kennedy. Loyal and brave to the last." And
Edrington - what did
he have to do with such a disgrace to Navy?
"Lt Archie Kennedy. Overcame more troubles than a man
should face, and
was as fine an officer as I should care to meet." My God, Pellew - and
he a member of the court martial that would have hanged Kennedy. It was
left to Horatio to have the last word.
"Archie Kennedy." And he tossed back the champagne.
*Epilogue: After the Ball*
Carstares stalked into his library, his jaw clenched in furious
annoyance. Damn them! What did they think they were playing at? To
toast a mutineer, a traitor, and in such a fashion. Had they run mad?
And this - my God! This would be all over town before the week was out,
and ten to one he'd have some member of the Privy Council popping in,
"just for a word", and asking, oh-so-delicately, exactly what he
intended to do about it all. What the Admiralty intended to do. They'd
found Kennedy guilty of mutiny nearly forty years ago, and yet here were
a retired admiral, two current admirals, and a retired general, who was
an earl, for God's sake, all of them heroes, whatever that was supposed
to mean, toasting Kennedy as if he'd been a saint.
What to do? Deny them? Make liars out of them? Or claim
court martial had in some way been mistaken, that Kennedy had been
falsely accused, and now, by the staunch efforts of his fellow officers,
he wouldÖ would what? No, that wouldn't wash. Anyway, Kennedy had
confessed; that was something. Carstares paced, incensed by the bloody
minded sentimentality of the old for bringing this to the surfaceÖ No,
wait, there was something. Sentiment. Aye, there was the way out of
He calmed down, thinking. Brave men, valiant in their many
their country. No, more than that. Served England for nigh on fifty
years; closer to sixty in Pellew's case. Yes, push how long they'd been
around. Looking back to the days of their youth, remembering old
friends. No doubt Kennedy had done his part, maybe even saved his
friends' lives on occasion. But he had confessed to mutiny before the
court martial, and there was no escaping it. Perhaps a rueful spreading
of hands at this point. Of course, the gentlemen were entitled to
remember their friend, and perhaps the years added a rosy glow to that
memory, and better perhaps that we should not try to destroy it, but
leave them to it.
He smiled. Yes, that would work. And the younger men would
nod, and say no more, but laugh at the older men for their silly ideas.
He would not have smiled with such pleasure had he been privy
conversation of some of those "younger men".
Ö Ö Ö
"What did you think of that, eh?" Lt Fielding looked
at his old friend
Captain Lewis, the same man who had been thrashed under Bush's command,
and squinted at him. He had drunk perhaps a little more than was wise,
and, after clambering into Lewis' carriage, had contributed little to
"Think of what?"
"Anthony! That toast to Kennedy!"
"Oh, that." He was silent for a moment. "Who
the devil is Kennedy?"
A laugh came from the other side of the carriage, where the esteemed
Captain Theodore Marlowe, another of their coterie, was sitting.
"Anthony, Anthony! Only you could ask that. Kennedy
was the man who
knocked off old Sawyer. Years ago, out in the Indies."
"Good grief, Anthony, don't tell me you -"
"Battle of the Nile. And Cape St Vincent. I'm not daft,
Theo, just a
"Well, anyway, Kennedy was the chap who did for him."
"No he wasn't," contradicted Alastair Lewis. "Some
dago did for
Sawyer. Kennedy knocked him out, or shoved him into the hold, or
something. Mutiny, anyway. Damned bad show."
"I wonder why Hornblower and the others said all that
then. If he was
"I don't know. Must have been friends, I suppose. Before
that is." Anthony, who appeared to have fallen asleep, looked up.
"Didn't hang." The other two turned to him.
"What do you mean, he didn't hang? Of course he did."
his head obstinately, then regretted the action.
"Didn't. I remember him now, anyway. Arlington's son,
you see." This
cryptic utterance was almost too much for his friends.
"Anthony, Arlington's not much older than us, and -"
"Arlington's uncle, then. Old Arlington's son. He told
hang. Died after the court martial."
"Mm." There was silence. Theo and Alastair gazed
at Anthony, waiting
for more, then exchanged exasperated glances when no more was
"Anthony! How did he come to die then?"
"What? Oh, dago got him too. Took over the ship, whatever it was -"
"The Renown," supplied Alastair, thought Anthony took no notice.
"- Sawyer was killed. Kennedy and Bush were injured.
Same day as the court martial, so they couldn't hang him."
"He was dying when he confessed?" But Anthony was
once more on the
verge of sleep, and Alastair shrugged his shoulders.
"Why not? Meet his Maker with a clear conscience, all
that sort of
thing. It's odd though. That Hornblower and the others should talk
about him like that." He gave a short laugh. "Getting old, I suppose."
Marlowe didn't answer; he was too busy thinking. He was a man of
greater understanding than his friends, and the whole evening's events
had seemed strange to him. And now Anthony said that Kennedy had been
"Alastair, what do you know about the whole thing?"
"Not much. Kennedy - oh, and Hornblower and Bush, and
some other chap
- were all lieutenants under Captain Sawyer. They sailed for the West
Indies, but before they got there, something happened to Sawyer - I
can't remember what exactly, but it was something like falling into the
hold - and so the First Lieutenant took command. Only, when they got to
Jamaica, the whole lot of them were charged with mutiny. Said Sawyer
had been pushed, you see. Anyway, whatever happened to him was
deliberate, and not an accident."
"They were all accused?"
"That's right. Then they had the court martialÖ"
"They were all there?"
"At the court martial? Yes, of courseÖ No, wait.
No, that's right.
Hornblower and the other chap, the First Lieutenant, were there.
Kennedy and Bush weren't because they were injured. Well, dash it all!
Anthony must be right, because Kennedy was injured when the Spanish
tried to take Renown. Anyway, he turned up and confessed, and that was
"Do you know what happened before he, er, turned up?"
"I mean, did the others say it was him?" Alastair
sat thinking for a
"You know, I don't think they did. No, by God, they can't
because they were after hanging Hornblower for it!"
"Aye, that's right, because Black Charlie Hammond was
there, and my
brother - you know, my oldest one, Daniel - was a lieutenant with him
years ago, and he said that Hammond - in his cups, you know - had once
claimed that Hornblower was a - a "dirty, black mutineer," or some such
nonsense, and then forgotten it the next morning. Course, Dan didn't
pay any heed, but he wrote and told me because it was so odd."
"Mm, I thought so at the time. Lot of nonsense of course,
as Dan said,
"Is it? Nonsense, I mean."
"Theo, Hornblower's not a mutineer."
"How do we know? No, no, don't look at me like that,
about this: Hornblower's a mutineer. He's facing a court martial, which
wants to hang him. Meanwhile Kennedy, who's not a mutineer, is dying,
and to save his friend, confesses, knowing that they'll probably never
get the chance to hang him."
"Rot! This is Hornblower, Theo! He wouldn't mutineer.
admiral, for God's sake!"
"Well, he wasn't then, was he? And who's to say what
it was like. I
mean, maybe Sawyer was incompetent, orÖ I don't know, a traitor, or
"Well, if it was like that, oh wise one," and such
fine sarcasm in his
voice, "they would hardly have charged them with mutiny, now, would
"They damned well would! Oh, come on, Alastair, you know
Admiralty's like. Admit that one of their great captains - one of
Nelson's own, so they say - was a filthy traitor, or mad as a march
hare, or whatever? They'd rather hang a handy lieutenant, you know they
would. Ten guineas says that's what happened." The carriage jolted to
"For God's sake, Theo! Kennedy committed mutiny, and
confessed to it.
Aye, and would have been hanged for it had he not died. That's all
there is to it, so let's have an end to your fancies."
"If it's true, then why that toast? And not just Hornblower,
and Edrington, and Pellew too, of all people. Pellew, who was on that
court martial, as I recall. No, my ten guineas stays on Kennedy.
Anyway, it's late; let's have no more. Anthony, wake up, damn you!
Thus roused, Anthony Fielding stumbled down from the carriage,
waved a farewell to his friends before walking up the steps that led to
the imposing front door of his club. He handed hat and cloak to Levins,
the porter on duty, and wandered into the smoking room, greeting the odd
acquaintance on the way. Sighting a covey of old friends from his
school days, he weaved his way through the chairs towards them, and
flopped down. Contrary to Theo and Alastair's belief, he had not been
asleep, and, once revived with a brandy, was quite ready to share his
"I say, fellows, have you heard the latest of the Admiralty's doings?"