Requested and Required (Missing Scene from
Author's Note: This story popped into my head and just wanted
to be written. I hope you will enjoy reading it as much as I
enjoyed writing it.
This story is dedicated to Sam and our endless e-mail discussions. I wouldn't have written this one without them!
I am lucky to have this job. I am! Many of my fellow seamen from other warships have no job at all. But I have a job at a shipyard. It's hard labour but I can live from my payment. Somehow. I share my small room with a co-worker.
It is hard work but I do not complain. Times are difficult and there are hundred other seamen who would take my job. They would not hesitate a second.
The voice is unfamiliar but it sounds like upper class. I turn towards the man. It's been a long time since someone ever called me 'seaman'. /Who is this man/, I wonder. "Aye, sir," I answer nervously.
The man who walks towards me looks almost like a gentleman. I do not believe he will cause trouble for me. He looks rather friendly. Nevertheless, I am nervous.
"Seaman Matthews, if I were you, I would quit and be on the quay tomorrow morning." He turns and is about to leave.
"Sir!" I shout. "Why? Where?"
He turns. "It will be for the best of you, Matthews. Trust me."
/Trust me? How can a man like that say 'trust me' to a mere seaman? I know I am not the most clever person on earth but I know someone else will get my job if I don't come here tomorrow. How can I trust this man?/ "Sir," I manage to address him with dry lips, "I will lose me job. I cannot risk that." I turn to return to my work. If I dawdle, I will be fired.
"I am told not to say anything, but there will be a ship waiting for you."
/A ship!/ My heart misses a beat. /A ship!/ To be back on the seven seas would be a blessing. To smell the fresh air, to see the endless water, to fight the elements seems impossible for me. "Sir, why d' ye come t' me? WHY?" I am still aware that there are captains I would never want to serve. Those months on Renown were enough. I'd rather stay here than follow someone to serve under such a captain again.
". no doubt."
I must have missed the speech of the man. I haven't heard that he still speaks to me. I must have been deeper in my thoughts than I expected. My thoughts are confused. Why me? Who would want to have ME on his ship? My mind races. There is one. But rumours go that he has been demoted again. No, it is hope against hope. It cannot be Mr. Hornblower. It simply cannot. We are at peace with the world: There is no reason that a junior commander should get command. There are many more captains who are gifted with more connections and more money. It can't be!
"You don't listen, man!"
Now he is angry. "I am sorry, sir. I 'ave my job. I do not wan' t' lose me money."
Strangely enough, he is quite understanding. "I know that life is not easy in peacetime. Believe me, you won't regret it if you went to the quay tomorrow morning shortly after dawn."
I frown. That sounds strange. "May I ask, sir, who ye are?" I am still nervous.
"You may not. It should be enough for you to know that I was sent by the admiralty and that you are especially requested and required."
Requested and required? That truly sounds like the admiralty. I decide to believe the tale. "Which ship, sir? I don' wan' t' be on the wrong one."
"This much I can tell you, there is only one." With these words, the man leaves.
"Matthews! What the hell are you doing? Where are the nets? Why ain't they ready yet?"
The foreman. Not quite the boss, but still. Most foremen are worse than the bosses (who would never come here) and I don't believe this man is an exception.. "I'm sorry, sir," I hurry to say.
"If you dawdle any longer, the next man will get your job!"
I swallow hard. I know what that means. Yet I want to know what this stranger wanted. I have to find out. One ship only? Only for my best? I hurry outside. The secretary from the admiralty (I believe he is a lower secretary) cannot be far away. I know I have just lost my job but I cannot stay here. I know I am hoping too much from life but even the slimmest chance.
"Sir!" I shout. "Who sent ye?" I know I cannot say anything about my suspicions. But I am very sure that he was sent by an admiral. It would dim my chance to get a job aboard a ship. Yet, if my mind is right, there can be only one admiral who asks for me.
The man turns towards me, a stern look on his face. I know he would not say anything. I just have to wait and see. Yet, there is something I have to do. I could never forgive myself if I didn't.
"'ave ye asked Styles as well?" I ask the clerk from admiralty. "'e was me mate. If th' job is for my best, then it will be for 'is best as well."
The clerk looks at me curiously. He might not have thought of it yet. "All right, I will do my best to find him."
Then he turns and leaves. He will not come back, I know.
I cannot go back. I have just quit my job. There is nothing left for me to do. I can walk to the quay now and see what is happening over there.
I reach it but cannot find anything unusual. Only a few ships lie at anchor. No more traffic than this morning. The biggest ship over there - must be the flagship. Admiral Pellew, someone told me yesterday. This seems to make sense to my own thoughts. Over there - the Hotspur. Our ship! My heart leaps again. Our ship! I came back on this sloop. What I wouldn't give to be back there!
Reality dawns on me. The Hotspur was never *our* ship. We only re-captured it but we returned on the Retribution. Yet, I still feel as if she is *our* ship. Without us, she would still sail under French flag!
The last night was a short one. I couldn't sleep. I rose very early this morning. Now I am at the quay and have waited for hours. Nothing has happened so far. Until now. There is a commotion. I know the sound. They are preparing a ship. I hurry towards the men and offer my help.
"Not much to do. Only a small sloop."
"I wanna be on a big ship. Not a sloop."
These and more complaints make their way to my ears. How can men be so stupid? They should be grateful for any job they can get!
"It's the Hotspur."
The Hotspur! I would serve on any ship. On a sloop even, if only the captain is fair towards his crew.
We reach the ship. It's the Hotspur. My Hotspur. Mr. Hornblower's Hotspur, rather. I stand on the deck and it is like being home again. I know this is my place. Styles is behind me now - we are about to climb the stairs and I try to tell him something...
"Wait! Matthews! Styles! It's good to see you."
Mr. Hornblower! It is him! I would recognize this voice anywhere. I'm beaming. So it was really Admiral Pellew who sent this man to me yesterday!
It is hard not to embrace the lad. A salute is all I can do
now. But it comes from my heart and I am sure he will see it.
"Captain Hornblower! Good to see you back in command! She's
a fine ship, sir!"