Note: Dialogue in French is still shown like this, ^my head hurts.^
Horatio moaned and curled up in a tight ball on his cot. He
had not been
this seasick for more than a year. A wave of nausea surged through him and
he almost wished he were back in his prison cell. It hadn't smelled very
good but at least the bed had stayed still. He remembered that the voyage
from El Ferrol to Gibraltar had been sheer bliss. Don Massaredo had arranged
for a Spanish xebec to transport his former prisoners to the British naval
port. The weather had been fair and the sea no more than lively. Horatio and
Archie had spent the entire two days and nights on the deck in their
shirtsleeves, drinking in the fresh air. Within a week of their arrival the
Indefatigable had put in to Gibraltar for supplies and orders. Horatio had
thought that his heart would burst with happiness when he climbed up her
side and stepped through the entry port on to the deck once more. It was his
head that was bursting now. He was supposed to be on watch in half an hour
but knew he was in not in any state to carry out his duties. He lurched out
of his cot, stumbled across his tiny cabin and fell into the wardroom.
"Get you something sir?" It was Miller, one of the wardroom servants. He was
looking sympathetically at the gray-faced young officer.
"A bucket," gasped Horatio. When he had emptied his stomach he sent Miller
up on deck to give his apologies to the officer he was meant to be
relieving. He sat at the dining table and rested his head on his arms for a
few minutes. Anything was better than moving. A hand on his shoulder made
him look up. It was Mr. Bracegirdle, the first lieutenant. His broad face
wore a kindly expression.
"No need to ask how you are Mr. Hornblower," he said.
"I am sorry sir," gulped Horatio "but I don't think I can.."
"Don't worry lad. I've already noted that you are indisposed in the log. You
need not report for duty again until you are fit."
"Thank you sir. Oh God!" Horatio doubled up as nausea hit him again, coupled
with dizziness this time, just for good measure.
"Come along. Let's get you into your bed." Mr. Bracegirdle took him firmly
by the arm and steered him back into his cabin. "Stay put. I'll send Mr.
Kennedy to look in on you at the end of his watch."
"Ough!" groaned Horatio, unable to make a more coherent reply. He slept
fitfully during the next four hours as the ship clawed off the storm lashed
French coast. Like the rest of the squadron, they were trying to reach the
comparative safety of Torbay, but were making almost no headway.
He woke up when someone wiped his face with a cool wet cloth. He opened his
eyes to find Archie sitting next to him.
"My poor old fellow" he said looking concerned, "would you like some water?"
Horatio nodded and instantly regretted moving his head. Archie rubbed his
back until the retching stopped and then held a cup of water to his lips.
"Thank you" Horatio whispered, "Do you have a pistol handy?"
"I'm afraid not" said Archie smiling "is it that bad?"
"Yes. And if you were really my friend you would put me out of my misery."
"Mr. Bowles tells me that this will blow over by morning. You only have to
hold on for a few more hours." Horatio groaned. "Has the surgeon given you
"I didn't ask."
"Perhaps you should Horatio. I have heard that he is much more approachable
than Dr. Hepplewhite. He may be able to help. Shall I fetch him?"
"All right." Horatio was at the end of his tether. He was not sure he could
bear even one more hour of this torment. Within ten minutes Dr. Whitaker was
bending over him. He was a younger man that Hepplewhite and actually seemed
to have some interest in Horatio's condition.
"You should have some to me as soon as this started," he said in a mildly
scolding tone as he took Horatio's pulse and felt his forehead. "I have one
or two preparations that can help at the onset but at this late stage I
think the best thing for you is sleep." He poured a cup of water and
measured some drops into it from a dark green bottle. "Drink it up now,
that's it." Within five minutes Horatio was asleep.
"Will he be all right?" said Archie looking anxiously at his friend.
"I believe he will rest quietly for the next several hours. His stomach is
empty so there will be no danger of choking. I will come back later to see
how he does. I suggest that you get some rest yourself Mr. Kennedy. You are
still suffering from the effects of your imprisonment and should not overtax
your strength." He smiled at Archie who hardly knew what to say. His
previous experience of ships' surgeons had not prepared him for this
unsolicited concern for his health.
"Oh, yes. I suppose I am tired." He would never have admitted as much to Dr.
Hepplewhite but he felt able to confess his fatigue to this man. When the
doctor had gone he made sure Horatio was securely tucked in his cot and then
he went to his own cabin, a luxury he was only just beginning to get used
to. Captain Pellew had appointed him acting lieutenant on his return to the
Indefatigable. The reasons cited for the promotion had been his persistent
attempts to escape from his French and Spanish captors and the part he
played in the attempts to rescue the crew of the Spanish ship that the
Indefatigable had driven on to the Devil's Teeth. When he had begun to
express his doubts about his fitness for his new rank the Captain had cut
"No misplaced modesty if you please Mr. Kennedy. Your escape attempts kept a
considerable number of enemy officers and troops occupied who might
otherwise have been fighting our own men in the field. You did your duty sir
and this is your just reward."
Horatio had also told him in no uncertain terms that his promotion was well
deserved. Poor Horatio! He would go and see how he was in a while. He yawned
and was asleep before he knew it.
Horatio sat bolt upright. The muttering and quiet sobbing that
worrying at the edges of his sleep had become loud cries of fright.
"Horatio! Help me! Oh God, please help me!" It was Archie's voice, desperate
and terrified. What could be the matter? He staggered to his feet and opened
his cabin door.
"Help me! Help me!"
The voice was coming from up on deck. Horatio made his way through the empty
wardroom. The ship's motion was still very lively and his legs were
unsteady. He collided with the table, chairs and bulkhead before getting to
the door. Up on deck it was dark and the rain stung at his face like
needles. The sails flapped noisily overhead as the wind gusted.
"He's killing me Horatio! You have to stop him!" The voice was coming from
over the side. Scrambling across the deck in his bare feet Horatio reached
the rail and peered over.
"Save me Horatio! Save me!" There, in the dark, a blond head and a
frantically waving arm. Horatio looked around for help. He couldn't see
anyone. He tried to call out to Archie to hold on but his voice would not
come. He struggled towards a rope coiled on the deck, intending to throw a
line. He had just secured it to a ring bolt when a noise over his head made
him look up. A sail had torn itself loose and was falling towards him along
with a spar and some rigging. There was no time to get out of the way. All
at once he was engulfed in heavy wet canvas. He tried desperately to get
free but was pulled towards the rail as the bulk of the debris fell over it
into the sea. Ropes tangled at his feet and he was powerless to stop himself
being dragged over the side. As he entered the water something struck his
"Wake up Mr. Kennedy," the doctor's anxious voice cut into Archie's
"What is it?" he mumbled "something the matter with Horatio?" He pushed his
blankets aside and stood up.
"I might be able to answer that if I could find him," said the doctor
"Where have you looked?" said Archie hastily pulling on his clothes.
"All the wardroom cabins, the heads, the gunroom and the waist. There is no
sign of him. I will have to report him missing to the officer of the watch
and have him organize a search."
"He must be lying ill or stunned somewhere," said Archie getting into his
shoes and his watchcoat. "You said he would sleep for hours. Why didn't he?"
"He must have had an unfortunate reaction to the draught gave him. It can
happen occasionally. Frankly I am surprised that he could move about at all.
I have seldom seen a worse case of seasickness."
They hurried up to the quarter deck and found that Captain Pellew was there
consulting with his first lieutenant.
"What's amiss gentlemen?" he inquired pitching his voice above the howl of
"Mr. Hornblower cannot be found sir" answered the doctor. "He was
incapacitated when I examined him three hours ago and I dosed him with a
sleeping draught. I am afraid that he is lying injured somewhere on the
"Good God man! Why wasn't somebody sitting with him?" Captain Pellew's eyes
blazed with anger. Archie hung his head. He felt utterly responsible.
"I believed that he was completely sedated and would not stir for several
hours, sir" said the doctor without flinching. "I am afraid I was wrong."
"Very well. Mr. Kennedy!"
"Go below and rouse out the idlers and the men who are off watch. Turn out
all the midshipmen and have each one take his division and search the entire
ship. Lively now!"
"Aye aye sir."
The exhausted men were disgruntled at first but as soon as they learned they
were to search for young Mr. Hornblower many of them showed genuine concern,
especially those under his direct command. For thirty anxious minutes Archie
stood at the foot of the starboard quarterdeck ladder while every part of
the Indefatigable was scoured. At the end of that time all the midshipmen
came and gave him the same heartbreaking report. Mr. Hornblower was nowhere
to be found. Archie turned and climbed the ladder in a daze. Standing in
front of the Captain once more he found himself unable to speak at first.
"Ah, then I fear we have lost him." Archie looked up at saw an expression he
had not seen on his captain's face before. Despair.
"We must go back sir," said Archie, his voice rising, "we must go back and
look for him."
"Impossible I'm afraid Mr. Kennedy. We are running before a gale."
"But we must go back sir!" Archie shouted. "He must have fallen overboard.
He may still be alive. Oh God sir! We must go back!"
"My cabin Mr. Kennedy! At once sir!"
"Bu aren't you going to do anything!"
"Mr. Bracegirdle! Escort Mr. Kennedy to my quarters immediately if you
please." Captain Pellew's face was dark with anger. The first lieutenant
took a fierce grip on Archie's arm and propelled him off the quarterdeck.
When they were inside the captain's cabin Archie stood silent as Mr.
Bracegirdle tore into him.
"Can't you see how upset the captain is, how upset we all are? Do you think
you are the only one that this affects? I know how hard this is. We've seen
Mr. Hornblower cheat death before and I suppose we all thought he had a
charmed life but it's no good this time, lad! He can't come back from this."
"That will be all, thank you Mr. Bracegirdle." The captain came in shedding
his dripping overcoat.
"Aye aye sir." They exchanged solemn glances as the first lieutenant went
Archie stared miserably at the floor, seeing nothing. He felt devoid of all
feeling, as if he would never be moved by anything again. He wished the
captain would dismiss him so that he could go and shut himself in his cabin.
He was aware that Sir Edward was standing close behind him and he waited for
the inevitable tirade to begin.
"I am very sorry my boy, very sorry indeed." There was nothing but sympathy
in his voice. When he walked around to face Archie his eyes were glistening.
"He saved me," Archie whispered. Sensation was returning. Something was
tearing inside him. "He watched over me all those nights in prison and I
could not sit with him for just one. I slept while he... I don't know. He
must have felt ill and gone up on deck for some air. If only I had been
awake. Why wasn't I awake?"
"You were not responsible Mr. Kennedy and I will not have you reproach
yourself. The responsibility for this loss, as with all losses on this ship,
lies with me."
"He would not blame you sir," said Archie, tears starting to flow.
"And he would most assuredly not blame you Mr. Kennedy. Mourn the loss of
your friend and then do all that you can with your life. You have the
makings of a very fine officer and I hope to see you fulfill your promise.
It would be a way to honor his memory." He rested a hand on Archie's
shoulder for a few moments. "Go and rest now Mr. Kennedy. You are excused
duty for the next 24 hours."
"Yes sir." Archie left the cabin, blinded with tears. As the door closed
behind him Captain Pellew sank into a chair and covered his face with his
To: "'firstname.lastname@example.org'" <email@example.com>
From: "Tunstall, Patricia" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Mailing-List: list email@example.com; contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Delivered-To: mailing list email@example.com
Date: Mon, 26 Nov 2001 09:09:09 -0600
Subject: [hhfic] Overboard Part 2 0f 6
Title: Overboard Part 2
Disclaimer: I do not own these characters. I do not claim to own them, and I
am not profiting by them.
Note: Dialogue in French is shown like this. ^Who could he be?^
Philippe cursed as his boat, the Adele, was flung sideways
trough. They were going to die. What would become of Berthe his wife without
a husband and son to support her? He should never have left harbor with bad
weather so plainly in the offing. Better to have gone hungry for a few days
than risk losing everything. Even the big English ships of the line were
struggling in this storm. They had seen a frigate go by not five minutes ago
with some of its sails ripped away.
There was an impact at the bows and, Philippe saw his son Jean looking to
see if there was any damage. Suddenly the boy was beckoning his father to
^Look^ he shouted, pointing down into the water ^a man! ^ At that moment a
wave swelled up and brought the struggling swimmer almost on a level with
the boat's rail. They both grabbed and pulled him onto the deck. He lay
gasping and shivering with blood running down his face. They dragged him to
the back of the boat where a shelter offered some protection from the rain
and wind. The man was young and dark haired and dressed only in the remains
of a shirt and breeches. He was in no state to talk and they had no time to
do anything except cover him with a spare sail and tie a rag around his head
to stop the bleeding. The next few hours were spent in trying to bring
themselves, and the boat they depended on for their living, safely through
By dawn the winds had dropped considerably and the sea subsided enough so
that they could afford to pay a little attention to their passenger. He was
very pale and did not respond when they shook him. His shins, and every
other exposed area of skin, were covered with cuts and scrapes.
^Who do you think he could be? ^ said Jean from the tiller.
^He must have come from that frigate. He is not a common seaman. I think he
must be an officer. ^ Philippe answered as he removed the bloody rag from
the young man's head and replaced it with a clean one.
^An English officer? ^
^What else? Only English ships were at sea last night. Our brave captains
like to stay safely in port in dirty weather. Besides, he could not have
lasted more than five minutes in that sea. He can only have come from the
English frigate. ^
^Perhaps we can get a reward for turning him over to the authorities,^ said
Jean hopefully, his eyes growing bright at the thought of some money and
what it might buy.
^Only if he lives,^ said Philippe ^they will pay nothing for a corpse.^ He
did not like to hear his son speak in such a way. He thought that the
dangers of life on the sea made brothers of all men who sailed on it. By
early morning they were in sight of the coast. They had been blown well off
course and it would take all day to sail to their homeport. It was clear
that the young man shivering and moaning on the deck needed a warm bed and
^We must put in at the first harbor we come to^ Philippe told Jean. ^He will
die if we do not get him some help. ^
A knock at his day cabin door roused Sir Edward from his melancholy
thoughts. The marine sentry stepped in.
"The doctor wishes to see you sir."
"Very well." Sir Edward had always prided himself on commanding the men on
his ship without fear or favor but it had required an effort to conceal his
disappointment in Doctor Whitaker during the past two days. He could not
look at him without being reminded of the loss of Mr. Hornblower. He knew
that many of his officers and men held the doctor directly responsible and
were not as scrupulous about hiding their feelings. He did not envy him.
"Can I be of service doctor?" he said, noting the man's obvious tiredness.
"There is something I must bring to your attention sir, but I would have you
know that I am in no way trying to deny my own culpability for recent
"Go on man" snapped Sir Edward when the doctor hesitated.
"Sir, I have discovered that one of my assistants, Evans, has been stealing
drugs from my cabinet and concealing the theft by adding water to the
"I see. Well you are quite right to report the matter but Mr. Bracegirdle is
in charge of discipline and you should make this known to him."
"I have not explained the matter fully sir." The doctor's voice was calm but
he was clearly determined to have his say. "Evans has tampered with some of
the drugs to such an extent that they are at half strength, or even below.
When I administered a sedative to Mr. Hornblower I fully expected him to
fall deeply asleep. I counted on him being safely confined to his bed for
several hours. But at half strength the draught I gave him probably induced
waking dreams. God knows what torment of mind came over him. The poor boy
may even have thrown himself into the sea to escape imaginary horrors."
"Dear God!" said Pellew, much distressed. It was dreadful to think of that
quick and capable mind driven to self-destruction. A grim look came over the
"What will you do sir?" asked the doctor.
"Where is Evans now?" demanded the captain.
"He is waiting in the sick berth. He knows why I have come to see you."
"Damn!" exclaimed Pellew. He opened the cabin door and sent for the
lieutenant of the marines. "Mr. Ovenden send four of your men to the sick
berth and escort Evans to the brig. Post extra sentries there, I want no
harm to come to him."
"Right away sir."
"You fear the men may take matters into their own hands sir?"
"I do doctor. Mr. Hornblower was a great favorite with the men. They loved
his courage and would have followed him anywhere."
"You do not need to tell me how highly the young man was regarded."
"No, I imagine not," said Sir Edward, his voice taking on a sympathetic
note. "Evans must be punished before the day is out. I want the entire
ship's company to know that he endangered the lives of all who were sick or
injured. It will be made plain that he betrayed your trust and undermined
your ability to properly treat your patients."
"How severe will the punishment be captain?"
"For my own part doctor, I should like to hang him from the yard arm but
that would not be just. I suspect that he did not look past satisfying his
own cravings. However he is to blame for the loss of one man and the
sufferings of others. He must pay for it. What is more he must pay to an
extent that satisfies the men, otherwise they will exact their own
"You mean they would kill him?"
"I have no doubt that an unfortunate accident would carry him off in the
near future. For his own sake I can show little mercy."
Later that day the entire ship's company was assembled on desk to witness
Evan's punishment. He stood white faced with fear as Sir Edward read out the
charges against him. No one spoke up on his behalf and there was a murmur of
approval when the captain instructed the bosun to lay on 250 lashes.
Archie watched as the man was stripped of his shirt and tied to a grating.
Normally he hated to see a man flogged. It was not a frequent occurrence on
the Indefatigable, as Sir Edward preferred his officers to find other means
of keeping good discipline. Today Archie would have gladly wielded the cat
o' nine tails himself. That's what he thought to begin with but as the man's
back began to dissolve into bloody shreds he felt ashamed and disgusted. He
knew that Horatio would not have wanted this. Evans was neither courageous
nor strong. He screamed after the third stroke and fainted at twenty-two.
The doctor stepped forward and declared him unfit to continue. Sir Edward
nodded and Evans was untied.
"Give him some of that medicine wot done for Mr. 'Ornblower" Someone
"Let me piss in first" came another gruff voice.
"Silence!" roared Sir Edward. "The next man who calls out will answer to me.
The punishment is over. The man Evans will be discharged from the ship at
the next port. Mr. Bracegirdle, carry on."
As Archie was leaving the deck to go below Styles and Oldroyd, men from
Horatio's own division, approached him.
"Beggin' your pardon sir."
"Yes Styles?" Archie saw the wicked gleam in the burly seaman's eyes and he
guessed what was coming next.
"Some o' the lads was thinking' that.."
"Belay that Styles! If you are going to suggest that I should give my
approval to some scheme for tossing Evans over the side in the dead of
night, you will be making a mistake. You heard the captain. The matter is
"But sir, that bastard Evans.."
"Is a pathetic creature whose brains have been turned to cotton wadding by
"But 'e killed Mr. 'Ornblower!" said Oldroyd, indignant anger written all
over his face.
"I can't tell you that he didn't' said Archie "and I feel just as badly as
you do. If you are really determined to harm Evans I probably can't stop
you, but do something for me first."
"What's that sir?" Styles looked suspiciously at him.
"Tell me how you would explain it to Mr. Hornblower." Archie saw at once
that he had
"That's not fair sir," protested Oldroyd
"No, it bloody ain't," agreed Styles.
"You'll leave Evans alone then," demanded Archie, fixing them both with a
stern look. "Come on lads! Is he even worth getting your hands dirty?"
"I suppose not sir." Styles admitted this with great reluctance but Archie
was encouraged to hear him say it at all. His dismissed both men before they
could think of any further argument and he went down into the wardroom. Even
now he kept expecting to see Horatio sitting at the table playing cards of
studying a chart. He could bear to set foot inside Horatio's cabin. Its
emptiness was like a mirror held up to the gaping hole in his heart.
The pain in his head was terrible. It was so bad that he turned
his back on
consciousness for as long as he could. Eventually it was thirst, raging
sore-throated thirst that drove him up out of the darkness. He was in a bed.
A woman was talking nearby. She did not sound pleased. After a moment or two
the words began to make sense to him.
^Who is going to pay for all this?^ she was demanding. ^I'm just a poor
widow trying to make a living. I can't afford to give rooms away to English
prisoners. Someone should send for the authorities!^
^I'm thirsty^ he whispered, hoping that she would put her complaints aside
long enough to give him a drink.
^Oh! So he's French after all. It sounds like he's from Paris Well I suppose
his family or perhaps another officer will come up with the money.^ She
sounded slightly mollified now.
^I am sure of it Madame. It was very kind of you to let us bring him here
and I am certain his family will be grateful.^ A man's voice and a man's
hands lifting his head and putting a cup to his lips. Fresh cool water.
Merciful God, it tasted good! He drank greedily until the man said ^that
is enough for now monsieur.^
^Thank you.^ He opened his eyes and saw a weather beaten face topped by grey
^Can you tell us your name monsieur?^ the man asked.
^Yes, get his name, his family must be told. They will want to take care of
his expenses.^ That woman again!. He followed the voice and found here
standing at the foot of the bed. She was staring at him with her arms
folded. She was small and dark haired with a cross-looking face. She didn't
seem to like him. He didn't feel like smiling at her.
^Monsieur?^ the man was still talking to him. ^We pulled you from the sea
monsieur, me and my son Jean. Do you remember?^ He didn't. ^Can you tell us
who you are?^ He couldn't.
^No.^ he said. There was no use in hiding it. He felt very tired. It had
been a strain to listen and understand and then to find the words to speak.
He shut his eyes and the room went away.
The next two days went by rapidly for him. He could only stay awake for
short stretches of time. The man who called himself Philipe was kind. He
brought him soup and coffee. A doctor came and looked at his head.
^Tell me your name.^ the doctor said loudly and slowly.
^I would if I knew it!^ he replied irritably.
The doctor told him he had lost his memory. This made him laugh at first and
then it made him weep.
^The blow to his head is affecting him,^ announced the medical genius. ^That
is why his speech is slow and he has to search for some of his words.^
^Will he remember who his family are?^ It was the woman of course. He had
learned that she owned the inn he had been brought to.
^Perhaps,^ said the doctor on his way out.
His head felt much better on the third day, which was just as well since he
had a stream of visitors including the local citizens committee and a
priest. They all talked about him for what seemed like hours and decided
that he should stay where he was until he was well enough to travel. They
did not say where he would be going. They all asked him if he remembered his
name. He told them all that he did not. The committee cheered the landlady
up immensely by advancing her some funds to cover the cost of housing the
unknown officer. They asked him if he could remember the name of his ship as
they were hoping to recover the money from the navy. He regretted that he
could not help them and feigned sleep so that they would all go away.
On the fourth day he got up for a while and on the fifth he went outside in
borrowed clothes for some fresh air. Philipe helped him walk to a bench in
front of the inn. It was on the quayside of a small fishing town. The sight
and smell of the sea lifted his heart.
^That is my boat^ said Philipe pointing to the Adele. ^Jean is aboard. He is
impatient to leave.^
^This is not your home port then?^
^No monsieur, we live some 50 leagues north of here. We were blown a long
way from our fishing grounds by the storm.^
^You must not stay on my account Philipe. You have already done so much for
Philip knew that it did not make any sense to remain. The young man was
recovering rapidly now and would soon be restored to the navy. They would
find out who he was and see that he was re-united with his family, or with
his brother officers.
^You saw the ship I came from Philipe. Did you see what she was called?^
^I did not monsieur but I have been talking to the local fishermen and they
agree with me that none of our French ships were in the area on that night.
I am sure it was an English frigate.^
^So I must have been a prisoner aboard her.^
^Yes monsieur.^ That meant he had been in a battle. Had his own ship been
sunk? Were men that he had called friends lying dead at the bottom of the
sea? He did not know. For the time being his sorrows, as well as his joys,
were lost to him.
The following morning a deputation from the citizen's committee called at
the inn. They had consulted with officials in the largest town in the
district and had been instructed to send him to Paris for questioning and,
it was hoped, identification. An escort would arrive the next day to
accompany him on the journey and deliver him to the investigating authority.
He felt uneasy.
^Why do they need me to go to Paris?^ he asked. ^Would it not be simpler to
take me to the nearest naval port?^
They did not know why, but they did point out that since his accent was
clearly Parisian he might have a good chance of locating his family and
friends there. He thanked them for all their efforts on his behalf and
agreed to be ready to travel in the morning. When they had gone his feeling
of uneasiness grew until it was outright distress. He knew nothing almost
nothing about himself, even his face in the mirror was strange to him, but
he knew he did not want to go to Paris. He walked out of the inn and along
the quay to where Philip and Jean were getting ready to sail.
^Ah monsieur! I am glad you have come. We shall have to say goodbye very
soon. We leave with the tide.^ Philipe smiled up at him from the Adele.
^Take me with you!^ He had blurted the words out before he knew it. It was
the sea, he realized. He could not bear to be taken away from the sea. It
was his home.
^But monsieur, shouldn't you try to find your family?^
^How can I? I remember nothing about myself, except that I belong on the
sea. Please let me come with you. If I am ever going to find myself I
believe it will be out there.^ Philipe could understand his wish to be free
of the land. He liked the young man a great deal and felt sorry for him. It
was cruel, the way that his past had been snatched away from him. And what
did the future hold He might not get another posting on a ship because of
his slow speech and the way he had to struggle sometimes to explain what he
^What do you say Jean?^ Philipe asked his son.
^I don't care,^ he shrugged ^as long as he does not expect a share of the
They left within the hour. He did not go back to the inn. He had no
possessions to collect and was sure the landlady would be happy to find him
gone. He borrowed a fisherman's smock from Jean and an old hat from Philipe.
As the wind filled the sails of the little boat he felt the weight of this
troubles diminish. His head was clearer than it had been since his injury
but there was still a thick fog where his memory should have been. It was
plain that he could handle a boat in his sleep. They had hardly got clear of
the harbor before he was giving them expert help to trim the sails. An hour
later Philip had no qualms about asking him to take the tiller when they
came upon a shoal of mackerel. He and Jean threw out the nets and hauled
them in full to bursting. They cleaned and gutted their catch while the
young man steered and kept his eye on the weather. A flock of screaming,
rejoicing gulls followed behind snatching up the fish innards as they were
In the mid-afternoon they saw a ship approaching from the west.
^Good said Philip ^with any luck they will buy our catch.^
^But what if they are english?^ the young man wondered.
^Then they will buy all we have!^ laughed Philipe. ^They will have been at
sea for months and will be tired of their beef and pork. We have nothing to
fear from them monsieur. The English ships never interfere with fishing
boats. They like to ask us what other ships we have seen. With that old hat
of mine you look like one of us. They will think you are a fisherman too.^
As the ship came closer he found himself gazing at her with admiration.
^An English frigate^ Philipe told him when she was still a little way off.
^You will see monsieur they will be eager to buy.^ Sure enough, instead of
sweeping past them the ship hailed them and then luffed up so that the Adele
could come alongside. As she steered under her bows the young man looked up
for a second and read her name, Indefatigable.
"There is a fishing boat of the starboard bow captain."
"Very well Mr. Bracegirdle. We will luff up. Let the cook and purser find
out if they have anything worth buying. Mr. Graham should speak to them as
well, they may have information about French ships in the vicinity." Captain
Pellew could not help thinking that only a week ago he could have sent Mr.
Hornblower to make those enquiries. He glanced across the quarterdeck at Mr.
Kennedy. All things considered the boy was doing a remarkable job of holding
himself together. It was a damned shame that he should have suffered another
serious blow when he had hardly recovered from two grueling years of
imprisonment. He was obviously feeling the loss of his friend intensely but
Pellew knew there had to be steel under that delicate exterior. Without it,
he would have died in prison.
"It's seems they have enough fish to give us all a good supper sir." Said
Mr. Bracegirdle from the rail "what do you think Mr. Kennedy?" Archie
dutifully stepped across the desk and looked over the side. The first
lieutenant was always asking him questions these days. Archie knew he was
trying to help him, by taking his mind off Horatio. It wasn't working, but
it was hard not to like Mr. Bracegirdle for making the effort. He glanced
down at the two fishermen who were negotiating a price with the cook. A
third man was keeping the boat alongside by holding a line. Something about
him made Archie stare. It was his hands. They were long and slender with
strong and capable fingers. He was suddenly overwhelmed by memories. He was
lying ill in prison and Horatio was bending over him stroking his forehead
gently. Then he was assailed by a picture of Horatio leaning over him and
tapping his chest insistently with a forefinger, while persuading him to
give up his fast. How odd that to see someone with such similar hands. A
lock of hair had escaped from underneath the man's hat. It was dark brown
with a curl in it. Archie's stomach gave a lurch. 'Stop it you fool!' he
thought. He could not look away. As far as he could judge the man was tall.
He had broad shoulders and long legs.
"Horatio?" it was a whisper at first. Then, as the fishing boat rose with
the swell he caught a glimpse of the man's nose and jaw. "Horatio!" he
screamed. Someone grabbed him from behind and swung him around. It was Mr.
Bracegirdle, his face full of concern.
"Steady lad," he said keeping a firm hold on Archie's shoulders.
"He's in the boat!" said Archie trying to break free, "he's in the boat
"Now Mr. Kennedy, Archie," the first lieutenant began gently, obviously
thinking that his wits had gone astray with grief. The Captain was looking
at Archie over Mr. Bracegirdle's shoulder. His face was very grave.
"Captain Pellew sir," pleaded Archie "take a look for yourself sir. I beg of
Sir Edward studied Archie's face for a moment and then went to the side of
the ship. Archie held his breath, suddenly afraid that it had all been some
"Let him go Mr. Bracegirdle," said the captain in a strange subdued voice.
"I believe he is right." Archie gave a sob of joy and would have run down to
the entry port if Sir Edward had not detained him by the arm. "Not so fast
Mr. Kennedy. Something is amiss. Why has Mr. Hornblower not made himself
known to us?"
"Perhaps the other two men have threatened him with harm. Perhaps he is
their prisoner?" said Archie, desperate to get off the quarterdeck.
"That may be so," said the captain doubtfully, "but with so many comrades
close at hand why does he simply not call out for help?"
"I don't know sir," said Archie helplessly.
"Well it's time we found out," said the captain, in a return to his usual
Philippe and the ship's cook had not taken long to agree a
price and a net
was being lowered to haul the catch up to the ship. He wished it were all
over with. He felt nervous and his stomach was churning. At one point a
shout from above had almost startled him in to looking up. Now one of the
English officers was asking questions in French about war ships in the area.
Without warning four seamen sprang over the side of the ship and thudded
onto the deck of the boat. They overpowered Philippe and Jean at once, but
made no move towards him. Two of them were actually smiling at him.
^I am sorry monsieur,^ said Philippe. ^I think this may be the ship that
took you prisoner. Someone must have recognized you.^
The word 'prisoner' sent a shudder through him. His soul recoiled at the
thought of being held captive. He ran across the boat and dived into the
sea. As he surfaced he heard voices shouting. He swam away as swiftly as he
could, not caring if he died. He only knew he would not be taken. He was
only two days out of his sick bed and soon reached the end of his strength.
His head was pounding and he could not keep his nose and mouth above the
water any longer. Just as he sank a hand took him by the scruff of the neck
and pulled him back up to the surface. He struggled weakly. He was led go
for a moment and then someone was in front of him. It was a middle-aged man
with piercing brown eyes. He was speaking calmly in English and seemed
puzzled that he was getting no answers. A boat came alongside, it must have
been lowered in a hurry from the ship, and they were both hauled into it.
Someone wrapped a blanket round him and then held him very tightly. He found
himself looking up at the face of a young English officer with fair hair and
blue eyes. He kept saying the same word in a low voice over and over again.
While his servant was toweling him down and helping him get
into a dry set
of clothes the captain questioned Mr. Graham.
"Tell me what passed between Mr. Hornblower and those men in the boat."
"Well sir, it was very strange,"
"I know that!" snapped the captain, "tell me what was said man!"
"Yes sir. After our people seized the two men the older one told Mr.
Hornblower that this was the ship that had held him, meaning Mr. Hornblower,
prisoner. He said that someone must have recognized Mr. Hornblower and that
he was sorry. Then Mr. Hornblower jumped in the water sir. I called out that
he had nothing to fear but I don't think he heard me. From what the two men
have told me sir it seems that they pulled Mr. Hornblower out of the sea
several nights back and that he has spoken only French to them the entire
time. They are convinced that he is a French officer."
"Very well Mr. Graham, get down to the sick berth if you please. The doctor
may need your help."
Sir Edward sat still for a couple of minutes while his servant plaited and
rebound his hair. What could have happened to his most promising lieutenant?
If he had pretended to be French to avoid being imprisoned that made sense.
But why not drop the charade as soon as he was within arm's reach of
comrades and safety? Why had he failed to recognize that it was his captain
who was saving him from drowning? As soon as the servant was done Sir Edward
hurried away, hoping to find some answers.
Archie stood beside Horatio's cot holding his hand. He had helped the doctor
to pull off his wet clothing and massaged some warmth back into him with
towels. Horatio was lying very still under the blankets. The doctor had said
that he was not deeply unconscious, just weak and reluctant to communicate.
Archie had been relieved to see the scar that Simpson had given Horatio high
up on his right side. He had begun to fear that this unresponsive and
distant creature might not be Horatio after all. But there was the proof, a
red puckered line spoiling the ivory skin. The doctor was examining his head
with gentle hands when Captain Pellew came in.
"How is he doctor?"
"Somewhat battered, exhausted and, ah yes, here it is, suffering from the
after effects of a severe blow to the head."
"Could the injury explain his, er, his somewhat unusual behaviour?"
"Are you asking if it explains why he seems to have forgotten his both
native tongue and the fact that he is member of this ship's company?"
"Yes, I am."
"I take it Mr. Hornblower had not shown any previous signs of mental
"Not at all sir! Dammit, he is my finest young officer," answered Sir Edward
with considerable vehemence.
"Then yes sir, I believe that his present difficulties stem from this recent
injury and perhaps, more seriously, from one other cause."
"The corrupted sleeping draught that I gave him before he vanished."
"Dear God!" said the captain looking at Horatio with compassion.
"But the effects won't be permanent, will they?" said Archie, whose anxiety
had been increasing as he listened to this exchange.
"I pray not," said the doctor smiling kindly at him.
"Amen to that," whispered Archie.
"Stay with him Mr. Kennedy, he has need of a friend just now," said Sir
"Yes sir. Thank you sir."
"Mr. Graham, you will stay as well. Mr. Hornblower will need his er,
requirements made known to the doctor." He bent over Horatio and laid a hand
briefly on his forehead then he strode away while giving a further
instruction. "Doctor, you will advise me of any change at once."
An hour later a dozing Archie felt Horatio tug his hand away. With
undisguised joy he saw his friend's eyes open and gradually focus.
"Speak to him Archie" encouraged Dr. Whitaker.
"Horatio are you feeling better now? I am so glad that you have come back to
^I am so thirsty,^ said Horatio frowning at him. ^My head hurts.^
Mr. Graham translated this disappointingly French utterance. The doctor gave
him some water, promising to give him a draught for his pain in a little
"Ask him if he knows who he is" said the doctor, taking Horatio's pulse.
Archie was in despair as Graham relayed Horatio's answer.
"He says he cannot remember his name but he believes he is an officer in the
French navy and that he is our prisoner."
"For God's sake tell him who he is! Tell him that he is safe among friends!"
Archie had grabbed hold of Graham's arm. It distressed him terribly to know
that Horatio believed himself a captive.
"No Mr. Graham" said the doctor very firmly. He held up a hand as Archie
began to protest. "Tell him we mean him no harm and that his hurts will be
attended to but do not tell him anything else. We must be able to recognize
when he starts to recover his memory. If we spoon feed him with information
about himself we will not know when that happens. Please don't look at me
like that Mr. Kennedy. It is not my intention to be unkind."
Having been informed that Horatio was awake the captain came hurrying back.
He listened attentively while the doctor told him what had happened and how
he intended to deal with the situation.
"I will respect your opinion, of course," he said "although I must confess
it seems somewhat harsh to keep the poor boy in ignorance."
"I understand your feelings sir but I believe it is the best way to
"Very well. Mr. Graham you will inform Mr. Hornblower that I am the captain
of this vessel and that I guarantee he will be treated with every
consideration." He nodded kindly at Horatio as his words were translated.
"He thanks you sir and wants to know what has become of the two men from the
"Tell him they have been allowed to leave unharmed and were well-paid for
"He thanks you again sir."
"Tell him I wish him a speedy recovery. Now then doctor, I shall be posting
two sentries outside this door immediately."
"For what reason sir?"
"Because sir, my most resourceful young officer regards himself as our
prisoner and will no doubt consider it his duty to impede us as soon as he
can walk. I will not be surprised if he attempts to heave our compass over
the side at the earliest opportunity." Sir Edward spoke of this possibility
with a distinct air of pride.
"Could you not obtain his parole sir?" ventured Dr. Whitaker "Surely that
would rule out the chance of any such excitement?"
"I could not sir!" growled Sir Edward. "It would be a gross deception. I am
already uneasy that his identity is being kept from him. There will be two
guards now and more later if required. Continue to keep me informed." When
he had gone Archie could not help smiling.
"He is right you know doctor. Once Horatio is on his feet it will not be
easy to keep him confined."
"I am sure you are right," said the doctor pouring a large dose of sedative
"but I don't think we will need to worry for the next several hours. Mr.
Graham, please tell Mr. Hornblower that this will get rid of his headache."
Archie watched Horatio drink the medicine. "Will you sit with him?' asked
the doctor, "I must attend to my other patients."
Archie settled himself in a chair facing Horatio. He could not resist
patting his friend's arm and saying "You'll be alright, I know you will."
Horatio looked at him with sleepy eyes and smiled a little.
"Do you think he recognized you?" said Graham yawning and stretching.
"No," said Archie sadly "He just thinks I'm being kind." He waited until
Horatio was deeply asleep and then took his hand again. "Please let him know
me when he wakes," he prayed. "For if he knows me, he will know himself."
Pacing the quarterdeck the following afternoon Captain Pellew
many of his officers and men were downhearted. Although Mr. Hornblower had
been restored to the ship, he had been brought aboard half drowned and
clearly not in possession of all his faculties. The news from the sick bay
that morning was not as encouraging as Sir Edward had hoped. The injured
lieutenant had eaten breakfast (prepared by the captain's own cook no less!)
and was regaining his strength, but he still did not know who he was. Nor
had he spoken any English. Mr. Kennedy, reporting privately to the captain,
had relayed that Mr. Hornblower had attempted to hide a fork in his bedding
and was watching everyone who came in and out of the sick berth with keen
interest. On hearing this Sir Edward had immediately doubled the number of
guards and sent Styles down to help Archie keep things under control.
It was a fine day, and with no enemy in sight the ship cleared for action so
that gunnery practice could take place. Sir Edward was wealthy and could
well afford to buy enough powder and shot of his own to allow his men to
fire at targets with live ammunition several times a week. On this
particular day he felt that it might also serve to raise their spirits a
"The captain means to fire a few rounds sir" said
Styles quietly, as the
sound of the guns being run out rumbled down from the deck above. "It'll be
a pity if it wakes Mr. 'Ornblower."
"Yes it will," agreed Archie. Horatio was curled up on his side in his cot,
looking very peaceful. That had not been the case after breakfast when
Archie had insisted on searching his bed for the missing fork. Horatio had
not offered any violence but had clearly been annoyed at being thwarted.
Archie did not want not like to be pessimistic but he could not help
wondering what would happen if Horatio did not recover his memory. Would he
be sent to the naval hospital at Haslar? And if he still did not recover
there would he be discharged from the service? His father was no longer
alive to care for him and Archie did not think he had any other family. A
plan had begun to form in his mind. The Kennedy's mostly ignored their
seagoing fourth son but they did make him a handsome annual allowance.
Several years' worth was lying almost untouched at his London bankers. It
would be enough to buy a house on the coast and keep two young gentlemen in
comfortable style. He would resign his commission and take care of Horatio,
if necessary teaching him English all over again. Once Horatio was ready to
make a new life for himself..... Archie flinched as the guns began to roar.
He saw Horatio jerk bolt upright in bed, wide eyed with alarm.
"Bugger! Easy now sir" said Styles, placing a burley hand on Horatio's chest
with the intention of pressing him back down on his pillows.
"Get your bloody hand off me!" shouted Horatio scowling. Styles stepped back
grinning with astonishment.
"You have to stay where you are Horatio," Archie yelled above the guns, his
face radiant with happiness.
"Let me go! I'm late! I have to get to my division!" Horatio was wrestling
with both of them now.
"Let him go!" ordered the doctor, who had come running to see what was the
matter. "Guards! You are to let him through. Mr. Kennedy you must allow him
to go where he wants. We will follow him to make sure he comes to no harm.
Mr. Graham, inform the captain if you please."
"Aye aye sir," said Archie bounding after Horatio, who was already running
out of the door with Styles close behind him. The doctor paused long enough
to snatch up a blanket and then hurried after them.
Mr. Bracegirdle was studying his pocket watch, timing the intervals
firings when Mr. Graham came charging up the ladder onto the quarterdeck and
collided with him.
"Have a care sir!" exclaimed Mr. Bracegirdle fending him off.
"I beg your pardon sir," shouted Mr.Graham over the din "but I have an
urgent message for the captain."
"What is it?" said Sir Edward striding over.
"The doctor's compliment's and will you come to the gun deck at once sir."
"What is going on?"
"It's Mr. Hornblower sir, but you better come and see for yourself sir." Sir
Edward wasted no more time and ran nimbly down the ladder to the waist and
then vanished down a hatchway. He found Dr. Whitaker standing at the aft end
of the gun deck, holding a blanket and peering through the smoke at the guns
on the larboard side.
"Mr. Hornblower has taken charge of his gun crews, sir," he said waiting for
the intervals between gunfire to make his report. Sir Edward squinted
through the smoke and made out a tall, dark haired figure giving lively
encouragement to the men handling two of the twenty-four pounders.
"What language?" he asked, not caring that his anxiety was quite obvious.
"Full blooded nautical English!" said the doctor with a broad smile.
"Thank God!" exclaimed Sir Edward. Then he peered through the smoke again
and said, "do you think he realizes that he is not dressed?"
"I doubt it," said the doctor "but I do not think we should pay any
attention. It's as if the spring of his normal self has begun to flow again
and I do not want to do anything to that will impede it. If I could ask for
your help sir?"
"Anything," said Sir Edward. "Anything at all."
Mathews, Oldroyd and the other men of Horatio's division had
startled out of their rhythm of loading and firing by the sudden appearance
of their lieutenant in his nightshirt.
"Keep your eyes on the damned target!' he yelled, very wild and un-officer
like with his bare feet and his hair flowing loose. "You should be looking
out of the porthole Oldroyd, not bloody staring at me!" When Mr. Kennedy and
Styles appeared too and began signaling them to carry on as normal they
quickly recovered. Indeed, the presence of their popular young officer
seemed to inspire them. They not only managed to fire off more rounds than
the other gun crews in the time allotted, but also destroyed the raft that
had been towed some distance from the ship as a target. At last the guns
fell silent and as they did all eyes started to turn towards Mr. Hornblower.
Archie was afraid that he would become aware of the strangeness of the
situation and be distressed. He was about to try and lead him away when
Captain Pellew walked up briskly, with the doctor following.
"Exemplary work Mr. Hornblower!" he said in his familiar bracing tone. "Very
well done indeed! I think this calls for a double spirit ration for your
men." Then he, and everyone else, waited anxiously for Horatio's reply.
"Thank you sir," said Horatio, standing at attention and swaying slightly
with fatigue. A collective sigh of relief ran the length of the gun deck.
"Not at all sir, well deserved," said Sir Edward looking keenly at him. He
swept a fierce glance around the deck and one hundred and fifty men suddenly
found they were far too busy to pay any attention to an officer in his
nightclothes. "Mr. Hornblower," he said in a much quieter tone "you appear
to be a little unwell. I suggest that.."
"Yes Sir. I'll go to my cabin." This unheard of interruption of his captain
and his flat tone of voice made it plain to those around him that Horatio
was far from well.
"I'll go with you," said Archie, receiving an encouraging nod from Sir
Edward and falling in beside Horatio as he took halting steps towards one of
the forward ladders. Styles stationed himself immediately behind the two
lieutenants and was perfectly placed to scoop Horatio up when he sank
towards the deck a few seconds later.
"Take him to his cabin," instructed the doctor, folding the blanket around
Horatio as he lay in Style's arms.
"Why not the sick berth?" asked Sir Edward.
"He is expecting to wake up in his cabin sir, and I do not wish to alarm him
or confuse him any further. He has already undergone a profound shock today.
I will send word of any change, sir."
Horatio woke up and was immediately aware that the terrible
nausea had gone.
He sighed with relief and stretched, only to find that he ached all over. He
groaned and opened his eyes. Archie was sitting on a chair with his feet on
Horatio's sea chest. He was asleep. The door opened and the doctor came in.
"I see you are awake Mr. Hornblower," he said bending down to take his
pulse. "How do you feel?"
"That draught you gave me certainly worked doctor. My stomach feels
completely better but I think I must have fallen out of bed during the
night. I feel bruised all over. Have you been here long Archie?"
"Yes" said Archie yawning and smiling at the same time.
"I'm glad to see you so improved Mr. Hornblower. I will come and see you
again later and we will discuss when you might resume your duties. In the
meantime I think you will find that Mr. Kennedy has much to tell you."
Before he closed the cabin door behind him he spoke to Archie. "Give him all
the information that we have Mr. Kennedy. It will be for the best."
"Yes doctor" said Archie solemnly. He turned to find Horatio's large dark
eyes fixed on him, a puzzled expression on his face. Archie took a deep
breath and began to enlighten his friend with all the gentleness he could
In the stern cabin the captain and Dr. Whitaker were enjoying a glass of Sir
Edward's best brandy.
"I have seen a similar case," the doctor reminisced, having first assured
Sir Edward that his best young lieutenant would very likely be fit for duty
by the end of the week. "A young man thrown from a horse. He did not
recognise any of his family and they had quite despaired of him. Then one
day he accompanied them to church for the first time since his accident and
during the first hymn he turned to his mother reminded her that they had
sung the very same one at his sister's wedding the year before. It was the
music that turned the key to his memory." To his surprise Sir Edward began
to smile broadly and then chuckled.
"Forgive me doctor but there is perhaps an amusing side to this. You may not
be aware that Mr. Hornblower is tone deaf."
'Ah, then music would not have worked in his case."
"No, but I think that those of us who know him well would agree that gun
fire is certainly music to Mr. Hornblower's ears!"