Another Way to Serve
by Kathy Kirchner
Archie Kennedy put down the telescope and swore softly. It
nearly a week since he had sent word to Horatio Hornblower to meet
him here, and still there was no sign of his ship, Retribution.
Perhaps he had forgotten his vow to help Archie, or perhaps he was
simply unable to get away. Either way, it was beginning to be a
problem. Archie rolled over onto his back and looked up at the
bright blue sky. If he didn't hear something from Horatio soon, he
would have to do this by himself, and Lord, that did not appeal to
him. He sighed and closed his eyes. It would have to be decided by
Hours later, the sound of men's voices snapped him awake. Sleeping!
Good Lord! That was not very smart! Carefully, he rolled over and
pointed the glass at the beach. A smile broke over his face, and he
stood up. There was Horatio, and Styles and Matthews, too! He
resisted the urge to run down to the beach, and instead waited for
the three men to come to him.
"Hello, Horatio," he said warmly.
"Mr. Kennedy! You are looking extremely well, even if
you are still
wearing that frog uniform," responded Horatio.
"I am almost beginning to like it, I do believe. Styles.
It is good to see you again."
Styles ducked his head, but Matthews smiled at Archie. "You
sir. 'Specially since ya' ain't our prisoner this time."
"Well," Archie said, "I need to be."
"Wot?" exclaimed Styles, looking up. "You want
we should capture you
"Not exactly," laughed Archie, "but I do need
to get on board
Retribution, and being a prisoner is the best cover. I do not want
any of the men to recognize me, so I assume I will have to stay in
the brig again."
"Archie," said Horatio. "What is this about?"
"I need your help, Horatio, and probably Matthews and Styles as
well. There is a fort we need to visit - it is not far from here,
just up the coast."
The men had been walking toward the beach as they talked, and
Archie caught sight of Retribution - and something else.
"Horatio! You've captured another prize!"
"Yes," answered Horatio with a curious mixture of
embarrassment. "It is the Liberte, and she is why we were delayed
in getting here."
"She's perfect, Horatio."
Horatio looked at his friend - he had indeed been away from
for too long. "Well, I would not say "perfect", Archie. She is not
terribly fast, and she tends to list to starboard - "
"No, that is not what I mean," Archie interrupted.
"I suppose you
have put Bush or some poor midshipman in charge of her?"
"Yes, Lt. Bush is in command. He is to sail her to - "
"No," Archie said, "we will take her instead.
A French corvette will
be much less conspicuous than Retribution, and probably will not
raise an alarm if she is spotted."
"Archie, what exactly will we be doing?"
Archie shook his head. "Not here. Let us get to Retribution,
will explain what I can there."
It took but a few minutes to reach the ship. They were met
by Lt. Bush.
"We have taken a prisoner, Lt. Bush. Perhaps you remember
Dubois, from La Mer?"
Bush knit his brow in puzzlement. "Sir?"
"Lt. Dubois. He has been recaptured, and will be sailing
with us -
as a prisoner, of course."
"Um, aye, sir, yes, sir," stammered Bush.
"Now, Mr. Bush," continued Horatio. "Did I not
order you to take
command of Liberte and sail her to Plymouth?"
"Aye, sir, " answered Bush, glad to be back on firmer
"Begging the Captain's pardon, sir, but I am merely waiting for the
stores to be transferred."
"Very well, Mr. Bush. However, there has been a change
of plans. You
will remain in command of Retribution, and I will take Liberte."
Bush heard a gasp from some of the men behind him. "Sir.
protest. This is highly unusual."
"Are you questioning my orders, sir?"
"No, sir, not at all, sir," Bush replied nervously.
"I merely point
out your duties here aboard Retribution. Liberte is a prize,
sir, and as such should rightly be commanded by someone of lesser
rank than you."
Horatio never took his eyes from Bush's face. "Nevertheless,
Bush, those are your orders. In addition to the men you have already
transferred over to her, I will take Styles, Matthews, and three
Marines with me. Also, the prisoner will accompany me."
The prisoner. Bush had almost forgotten him. "IS he a
"Why would he not be?"
"Sir, it may have taken me a little time the last time
he was here,
but I do recognize him. I know that he is - "
"He is Lt. Paul Dubois, Mr. Bush," interrupted Horatio.
Lieutenant. A FROG sir, in case you have forgotten what the uniform
Bewildered, Bush stared at his commander. "Sir, it is - "
"It is Lt. Dubois. Do you not understand me?"
"Aye, aye, sir," Bush replied. "You will be
taking Styles, Matthews -
and Lt. Dubois. If I may ask, sir, will we be sailing together to
Horatio almost smiled. Once he got he feet back under him and
recovered from his shock, his first Leftenant was pretty quick.
"Very astute, Mr. Bush. No, we will not sail together to Plymouth.
You will put to sea, at the coordinates I will provide you, and wait
for us there. We will join you forthwith."
Bush touched his cap. "Aye, aye, sir." He moved aft,
all jumbled up and confused. What the bloody hell was going on here?
Horatio turned to Styles and Matthews. "Return the prisoner
The men knuckled their foreheads and moved Archie below decks.
Horatio soon joined Archie in the brig.
"Tell me more, Archie," he said quietly.
Archie leaned against the wall and rubbed his hands over his
"Well, I have already told you the location of the fort - we are
very close. I think if we put ashore with a small contingent, we
should be all right. All we need - "
"Archie," Horatio interrupted. "You have not
yet told me of the
importance of this particular fort."
Archie looked at Horatio, uncertain of how much he should tell
"Oh, what does it matter," he thought. "I have already messed this up
completely, letting myself be captured that first time on La Mer -
by Horatio, of all men!" Of all the ships in the fleet, it HAD to be
Retribution who captured his ship. Well, the damage was done.
Perhaps something good could come out of this - something other than
his own neck in a noose.
"Very well, Horatio. Simply put, this fort is a secret
for a very elite group of Frog assassins."
"Oh, wonderful!" exclaimed Horatio. "And you
want us to sail right
up to them and - what? Say good morning?"
"Come, come, Horatio, I am not proposing suicide! The
fort will be
abandoned for a week or so - the Frogs are currently on their way to
accomplish a mission of their own."
"And what mission is that, Archie?"
"I have no information on that, Horatio, honestly, I do not. It is
not important. What IS important is that we get inside the fort now,
while it is unoccupied. We must try and find any plans or maps that
may be there, and get them to England as quickly as possible."
Horatio considered. "Why would they leave the fort unguarded?
would seem to be rather imprudent of them, would it not? And surely,
they would never leave behind any plans or maps to be discovered."
"Under normal circumstances, you would be correct. However,
fort is beyond top secret - known only to Napoleon himself, one or
two trusted aides, including Le Comte de Favreau, and the men who
train there. No plans ever leave the base, and as soon as a mission
is completed, all records are destroyed. All plans for future
missions are locked in a safe in the commander's quarters."
So - what? We just march in there, take the plans, and leave?"
Archie laughed. "I do not believe it will be QUITE that
Horatio. No doubt there will be a few guards we will have take care
of, but that should be the worst of it."
Horatio nodded. "Very well. We should reach that part
of the coast
tomorrow morning. Perhaps Lt. Bush should keep Retribution close."
"No." Archie shook his head firmly. "She must
not be anywhere near
the fort. We cannot take the chance of a British ship of war being
spotted - it could jeopardize the mission."
Horatio stood up and looked at his old friend. "So. Are
you ready to
leave this cell, and transfer over to the Liberte?"
Archie grinned. "You know that I am, Horatio. I have spent
much of my life in a prison of one kind or another!"
The two men went above decks to find Matthews and Styles waiting
transfer them to the other ship. Once aboard, they watched as
Retribution departed. They did not speak until her sails were but
a distant speck on the horizon, and then Horatio turned to Matthews
and ordered him to set sail for the coast.
"Lt. Dubois," said Horatio. "Will you join me in my cabin?"
The two men retired to the captain's quarters and
relaxed in the
the comfortable chairs there.
Horatio looked at Archie. "I almost do not
know what to say to you.
So many things have changed."
Archie nodded, his eyes becoming sad. "Yes, they have."
Horatio knew from whence the sadness came. "You miss Abby."
Archie's blue eyes clouded. "More than you
know. It's been four
months, Horatio, and I still think of her daily."
"Oh, God, Archie, I am so sorry. I know how much you cared for her."
Archie nodded, trying to keep his grief at bay.
"She was the only
member of my family who ever cared for me, after Mother died. I was
a constant source of disappointment and embarrassment to my father,
and an easy target for my brothers' ridicule and torment, but Abby
loved me. I sometimes wonder how my childhood would have been, if
she had not married and moved away while I was still so young."
Horatio stared at the floor and murmured "If
thy unworthiness raised
loved in thee, more worthy I to be beloved of thee." Realizing that
the room had fallen silent, he raised his eyes, only to find Archie
staring at him in open-mouthed astonishment.
"Shakespeare, Horatio? SHAKESPEARE? Don't
tell me that you have
finally acquired a taste for the finer things in life!"
Horatio reddened under Archie's delighted look.
"I confess, Archie,
I still do not enjoy any of his works. After you - died - I did read
some of his sonnets from the book you gave me. Although I did not
understand most of it, I felt as if a little part of you was still
with me. It eased things a bit."
Archie closed his eyes, then looked at his friend.
"God, Horatio, I
am so sorry. I wish I could have told you. I knew you would blame
yourself, even though the blame was not yours to carry."
Horatio felt the anger he'd been holding for nearly two years begin
to surface. "And who SHOULD I blame, Archie? You? Never. Why did I
wait so long, after the fighting stopped on Renown, to seek you out?
And then to babble on, while you sat there in pain. I should have
known immediately that you had been injured, and I should have
gotten you to the sick berth more quickly. I should - "
"Stop it, Horatio. Stop it." Archie's
blue eyes were flashing. "If
you must blame someone, blame the Spaniard who felled me, not
yourself. There was no way for you to have known. There were many
men wounded that day - many men who died. You cannot protect us
all. You could not have saved us all."
Horatio looked at his friend, his eyes reflecting
his pain. "No. I
could not save the one man who mattered more to me than my own
Archie was silent for a moment, then he spoke gently.
"What is it,
Horatio? There is something else here - something that has been
below the water-line for a long time."
Horatio turned his eyes from his friend, and whispered
but one word.
Archie leaned back in his chair. "Ah. I understand."
Horatio turned back to him, dark eyes probing blue. "Do you?"
Archie nodded. "Yes, I think I do. You feel
betrayed. He let you
believe I was dead. He let you believe I pushed Sawyer."
"No! God! Archie! I never believed that! Never!"
Archie leaned forward in his chair, elbows on his
knees, and hands
clasped under his chin. "No? Not even for an instant?"
Horatio's face again reddened under Archie's gaze,
and he remained
"I thought as much. Horatio, it's all right.
You, of all people, know
that I have always had a tendency to act or re-act without thinking
of consequences. That is why I will never be a true leader, like
you. Like Commodore Pellew."
At the name, Horatio again looked away. "He did not trust me enough
to tell me that you had not died. He watched me grieve at your
bedside, and weep at your grave, and he never uttered a word."
Archie's face lit up. "You wept at my grave?
Really, Horatio? I can
not imagine the stoic Mr. Hornblower shedding a tear in public!"
Horatio glared at Archie, who had the grace to look sheepish.
"Sorry, Horatio. Please continue."
"Do you know what he said to me, Archie? He
said you "saw your duty
and you did it, for the good of your ship." My God, Archie! I was
certain sure he believed that you did it! He saw what it did to me,
yet he could not tell me the one thing he knew would ease my mind."
Archie tried to organize his thoughts. He was treading
waters here, and he wanted to be very certain of his heading.
"Horatio. Commodore Pellew could NOT tell
you. You have to know that
it is not a matter of trust. He knew that you would stop at nothing
to find me - he said so himself - and he also knew that your duty -
your DUTY, Horatio - was with Retribution. Do you think he would
have given command of her to you if he did not trust you? You must
understand that he was doing his duty, also. The two of you are cut
from the same cloth, Horatio. Duty above all else. Even above
"No!" Horatio lashed out. "Never again...."
"Stop it, Horatio. We do what we must, to
serve our country and our
King. Is that not what you have told me many times over? I am who I
am, Horatio, because of you. Because you saw something in me worth
saving, when no one else even bothered to look. Commodore Pellew saw
something in you, Horatio, and his feelings have not changed. Do you
think it was easy for him to deceive you? Do you think he will want
to face you, once he finds out you know about me?"
Horatio was suddenly struck with a thought. "Archie!
What will they
do to you, if you return to England? The charges of murder..."
"...were never issued against me," said
Archie, "my 'death' put an
end to it. I do not know the legalities, but I imagine they could
still hang me." Archie shrugged. "That will be up to the courts."
Horatio stood up, and paced around the cabin. "We must not let that
happen, Archie. You must stay in France. We will get the dispatches
"And tell them what? They will ask how you
obtained the plans, and
why you left Retribution. No, I must return with you. We will face
Horatio smiled wryly. "I do not relish that thought."
Archie grinned in return. "Ah, Horatio you
should have seen him,
that first time he came to see me. Here I am, snatched from the arms
of death, still in my sickbed, and he is in full "intimidation"
regalia." Archie straightened his shoulders, clasped his hands
behind his back, and puffed out his chest in his best Pellew
impersonation. "Then that, Mr. Kennedy, shall be part of your
mission. You must never let that happen. Perhaps, in the days when
this damnable war is finished, you may seek out Mr. Hornblower and
tell him your tale, but until then you must avoid him..."
Horatio collapsed back in his chair, with tears
of laughter running
down his face. "Oh, Archie. I had forgotten what a wonderful Pellew
you do. I have missed your wit so greatly."
Archie grinned back at him. "So, I guess we
will just have to put an
end to this war all by ourselves, eh Horatio?"
Laughter filled the cabin, and the two men felt
at peace for the
first time in a very long time. Archie finally took his leave and
retired to his own quarters. They did have a mission tomorrow, after
Morning came, dark and menacing. Conditions were
thought Horatio, and despite Archie's assurances, he felt uneasy
about this mission. Archie arrived back on deck, and nodded to
Horatio, who moved over to speak to him. "Seaman's dress, Archie?"
he asked curiously.
Archie continued to scan the shoreline, and he
Horatio. "I did not really care to wear Paul Dubois' uniform, and by
rights am no longer entitled to a British Leftenant's uniform, so I
borrowed these from Matthews. The fit is just about right." Drawing
his gaze away from the coast, he turned to Horatio. "Shall we?"
Horatio, Styles, Matthews, Archie, and three Marines
went over the
side and rowed the jollyboat to shore. Archie watched as Horatio
continued to look at Liberte, and said quietly, "Jeffers seems to
be a good man. He will follow your orders and put to sea until we
Horatio sighed. "Yes, he is a good man, and
a fine Midshipman. I
just, well, I still have doubts about this, Archie."
"You needn't, Commander. Everything is under control."
Horatio looked at Archie in surprise. His friend
different, somehow. Gone was the boyish enthusiasm he had always
displayed prior to a mission, and in its place was someone harder,
deadlier. For an instant, Horatio wondered just what kind of
training Archie had undergone before embarking on his new career.
The boat arrived at the shore, and Archie ordered
the Marines to
drag it out of sight and hide it. Without waiting for Horatio, he
struck out for the cliffs. The men looked at Horatio, who shrugged
his shoulders and followed Archie. "Come along, men."
After more than an hour, Archie stopped at some
caves in the cliffs.
It had been a long, harrowing climb, and one of the Marines had
fallen, severely wrenching his ankle. He was supported by the other
two Marines, who were out of breath from the hard climb. Archie
didn't even spare them a glance.
"We will set up a fall-back position here,"
said Archie. "Styles,
Matthews, scout the perimeter - make sure there is no one around."
The two men looked at Horatio, who took Archie's arm and led him off
a little way, apart from the rest of the group.
"Archie, the men need a breather. You yourself
said the fort should
be nearly deserted - we have time to consider our plan of action."
Archie looked at Horatio as if he were as crazy
as Captain Sawyer.
"We already KNOW our plan of action. Now, why are Styles and
Matthews still here? Dawdling is not acceptable!" He began to move
back towards the group of men, but Horatio stepped in front of him
and put a hand on his chest. Archie looked down at Horatio's hand,
then back up at his face. His own face flushed with anger. Horatio
tried to calm him.
"Archie, think a minute. Mr. Kerr is injured.
We must see to the men
"No, Horatio, we must secure the perimeter."
Horatio didn't understand. "Archie, what has
gotten into you? You
know a commander must always take care of his men first and
foremost, especially when they are injured - "
Archie nearly spat out his retort. "They are not MY men, Horatio."
Horatio stepped back in shock, his hand dropping
to his side. Surely
he did not hear that correctly. His own anger began to rise to match
Archie's. "No? What about Matthews? And Styles? They are not your
men? Do we not go back all the way to Justinian together?
Archie threw up his hands in disgust. "Oh,
GOD, Horatio. Must we go
back there again? Will that always be the way you think of me - as a
weak, spineless coward who had fits and couldn't stand up to a
bully and a brute?"
Horatio's own temper flared. "I would much
prefer THAT man to the
one I see in front of me! Really, Archie, I do believe you are
beginning to take this "spy" stuff much too seriously!"
Fury marked Archie's face, causing his fair skin
to flush even more,
and his eyes to spark. "This is who I am now, Horatio, whether you
approve or not. Perhaps it galls you just a bit that this time, for
once, you are not the one in command here. You are not my superior."
"Oh, for heaven's SAKE, Archie," Horatio raged. Before he could
continue, Matthews stepped up to them.
"Begging your pardon, sirs, but Styles and
me will gladly do a bit
of scoutin' around."
Horatio's eyes never left Archie's face. "No,
thank you, Matthews.
You and Styles help the Marines with Mr. Kerr."
Archie's blue eyes turned to ice, and he spoke
teeth. "Very well, Commander. I will scout around myself." With
that, he turned on his heel and exited the cave. Horatio watched
him, his brown eyes smoldering.
Matthews and Styles moved over to the Marines.
Styles glanced at
Matthews and spoke under his breath. "I ain't never seen nuttin'
like that, Matty. Mr. 'Ornblower 'n' Mr. Kennedy ain't never had no
argument I can r'member."
Matthews eased Kerr into a more comfortable position,
and glanced at
Horatio, then back at Styles. "Looks like our young pup has finally
grown some teeth after comin' back from the dead, eh Styles?"
Styles grinned at him, then they both jumped to
their feet, as the
sound of a single musket shot reached them.
Horatio, Matthews, Styles, and the two Marines
raced toward the
sound of the gunfire, with Kerr hopping along behind as best he
could. Rounding a corner, Horatio pulled up in shock.
Lying sprawled on his back on the trail in front
of them was Archie
Kennedy, a pool of blood staining the ground beneath him. Horatio's
breath caught in his throat - no, not again. Images of Archie
sitting on the deck of a ship, his life's blood staining the deck,
filled his mind. With a cry, he raced forward, his men following,
only to be brought up short by the sound of more musket fire. One
Marine fell. Matthews cried out and fell, clutching his knee. Styles
grabbed Matthews and began to drag him off of the path, but he
stopped in his tracks. A musket muzzle pointed straight between his
eyes. The Liberte men all stopped as a group of armed men
Styles edged over to Horatio and whispered, "I
only count five, sir -
we can take 'em."
Horatio shook his head. "No, Styles. There
may be more, and we have
wounded." His gaze drifted to Archie still lying motionless on the
trail in front of them. "We shall have to bide our time."
"Quiet, you!" yelled one of their captors,
in heavily accented
English. "Pick up those worthless corpses and come with us. Leave
the dead here."
Styles moved to help Matthews, while the remaining
Kerr. Horatio knelt beside Archie, praying for a sign of life. Just
then, as if he sensed Horatio near, Archie moved his head and
groaned. Gently, Horatio lifted Archie's body into his arms and
moved down the trail, doing his best not to jostle his friend.
Within just a few minutes, they reached the fort. The guard shoved
them into a room with one small, barred window and slammed the door
shut. There was the sound of a bolt being drawn across the outside,
locking them in.
Carefully, Horatio laid Archie on the floor, wincing
as Archie moaned
in pain. Styles tried to get Matthews to sit, but he waved Styles
off and limped over to Horatio.
"How is he, sir?"
Horatio didn't look up from his examination of
Archie. "It is bad,
Matthews - very bad. The musket ball is still inside his shoulder. We
have to stop the bleeding."
Helplessly, Horatio looked around the large room for something -
anything - but saw nothing. At a sound behind him, he turned to see
Spencer, the other Marine, holding out his Marine uniform jacket.
"It's not much, sir, but perhaps it can help," he said
"Thank you Spencer. Styles, please tear this
into strips." Horatio
looked at Matthews.
"I'm a' right, sir. Hurts like the devil,
but I felt worse. Let me
"I'll not turn you down," Horatio said
gratefully. "Spencer, first
bind Matthew's knee, then see if you cannot raise the attention of
our guards. We must have some water."
"Aye, aye, sir."
Horatio returned his gaze to his friend lying prone
on the floor. As
he watched, Archie's eyes flickered open. Slowly, his blue eyes
searched until they found Horatio, who leaned forward and gently
brushed the hair from Archie's forehead. "How do you feel?"
Archie almost laughed, but it hurt too much. "How
do you bloody
THINK I feel? Hurts like hell. How are the men?"
"Matthews has a leg wound, Kerr's ankle is
the same. Styles and
Spencer are fine."
"What about Reese?"
Horatio shook his head. Archie briefly closed his
eyes. "Dammit. I
am sorry, Horatio. I messed up completely. Again."
"This was not your fault, Archie."
"Where have I heard THAT before?" answered
Archie. "Yes, it was. I
was careless. I was so angry when I left the cave, that I took no
precautions - I just walked right into this. I should have known
better. I DID know better."
"Archie, please," begged Horatio. "You
must rest, and save your
"For what?" whispered Archie. "I do not see a way out of this. When
the Frogs return, it will be over. Most likely I will be gone before
"I am not giving up, Archie, and neither are
you," Horatio said
firmly. He stood up and looked around. "Spencer. Any luck with those
"Yes, sir. One of them has agreed to bring us some water."
Just then, the bolt was drawn back from the door,
and three guards
entered. One carried two buckets of water, while the other two aimed
their muskets at the group. The one who carried the water dropped it
on the floor, splashing much of it on the floor. He walked
over and peered down at Archie, and snorted. "He does not appear to
be very strong. I would not waste my water on him. Let him die. Or
better yet, we will shoot him as he lies."
Styles lunged forward, but Kerr grabbed his arm.
"Belay that, Styles," ordered Horatio. "I need you alive."
The guard cackled. "Good advice, monsieur.
Let him live so that you
may all be executed together." The guards retreated and locked the
Matthews looked at Horatio. "What are we doin', sir?"
Horatio ran his hand through his dark curls, and
looked back at
Archie. "We will do what we can to get out of here, Matthews. If we
only had some sort of tool....."
Matthews grinned and reached down and pulled up
his pants leg. To
Horatio's amazement, he held out a knife. "Will this do, sir? Those
dumb Frogs didn't even think ta search me."
Horatio grinned back at him. "That will do
nicely, Matthews. Styles.
Take this knife and see if you can work on the mortar around those
bars in the window. Perhaps we can remove those bars and go out
"Aye, aye," said Styles happily, taking
the knife and moving to the
window. Soon he was busy scraping away.
Horatio turned back to Archie, and his smile faded. Archie looked so
pale, lying there with strips of Spencer's uniform jacket pressed
against his shoulder. Horatio sat down next to him, and said
quietly, "How is it, Archie?"
"I've just been thinking," Archie said
weakly. "There is a rather
nice symmetry to this. Here you sit beside me at my deathbed, just
like in Kingston." At Horatio's exclamation, he looked his friend in
the eye. "Do not deny it, Horatio. There is no doctor here to save
me this time. Even if I do not bleed to death, this musket ball in my
shoulder will be the death of me, certain sure. You know the truth,
"No." Horatio's voice broke. "Not
again. I cannot do this, Archie.
You must hold on until help arrives."
Archie looked at Horatio with eyes that were suddenly
clear and free
of pain. "Help, Horatio? No one knows this fort exists, much less
that we are imprisoned here. I am not afraid this time, Horatio.
Really, I am not. But you must promise me one thing. Please."
"Anything, Archie," Horatio said, his
voice breaking. "Name it, and
it is yours."
"I ask only this, Horatio. Do not carry this
with you. It is not
your fault. I got a second chance at life. Not too many people get
the chance to come back and tell the people who matter most to them,
what is in their heart. I would have died many years ago on
Justinian, were it not for you. Simpson would eventually have
killed me or driven me mad, or I would have taken my own life. You
saved me, Horatio - my brother - my one true friend. For that, I
will always love you. If you carry anything, carry that."
Horatio choked back a sob as a tear slowly worked
its way down his
cheek. He grasped Archie's hand. "I will always carry you in my
heart, Archie. You were always the best of us."
Archie nodded, and his eyes closed. With a quiet
cry, Horatio leaned
"Please, no," thought Horatio, pain knifing
through him, "I cannot
lose you again, Archie, not when I have just found you."
He looked at his friend, and noticed the slow rise
and fall of his
chest. He was still breathing. Saying a prayer to a God he didn't
believe in, Horatio closed his eyes. A slight sound caused him to
open them up again.
Matthews and Styles were standing a few feet away,
and Horatio was
astonished to see tears on both the men's faces. Styles stood, the
knife at his side, weeping openly. Matthews kept wiping his eyes.
Horatio stood and moved over to them.
"It's all right. He's still alive - for now."
Styles caught Horatio's eye. "Please, sir,
you gotta' do sump'n.
Ain't right he should die again. Your father - he were a doctor.
Don't you know sump'n to help Mr. Kennedy, sir?"
Horatio shook his head. "I am not my father,
Styles, and I do not
know what I can do. If only the musket ball had gone right through
the shoulder, I might have been able to patch him up enough to get
him to the ship, but....." Horatio stopped talking. He was staring
at the knife in Styles' hand. Then he shrugged. "I am not a doctor."
Kerr moved forward. "I know what you were
just thinking, sir. It
might be worth a try."
"No, Mr. Kerr. I do not have the expertise.
Were I to try it, it
would surely kill him."
"Commander, sir, with all due respect, if
you do NOT try it, he will
die for certain."
Styles had been looking back and forth between
the two men,
confusion on his face. "Beggin' your pardon sir, but wot are you
Horatio ignored him. "I will not do it," he said adamantly.
Kerr limped over to stand next to Horatio. "I,
too, am the son of a
doctor, sir. I can help you."
Hope sprang into Horatio's heart. "Is it possible? I have watched my
father do it, but never have I done anything like this before."
"AARGG!!!" bellowed Styles, making everyone
jump, and waking Archie
from his rest. "Wot the bloody 'ell are you talkin' 'bout? SIR!!"
Horatio and Kerr exchanged smiles. Horatio spoke
first. "Saving Mr.
Kennedy, Styles. That is what we are talking about." He walked over
"Oh," said Styles. "Well, that's all right, then."
Horatio knelt down next to Archie, who said weakly,
"Why is Styles
bellowing so? It is enough to wake the dead." He glanced at Horatio
from under half-closed eyes, to see if Horatio had caught the joke.
Then his eyes opened wider. "Horatio?"
"Archie. I have an idea - well, actually,
Kerr and I had the same
idea at the same time. This will not be easy on you - in fact, it
could quite possibly kill you."
"Oh," groaned Archie. "How many times must I die?"
"Quiet, Archie, and listen to me. Let me tell
you what I have in
mind. Mr. Kerr and I want to remove the musket ball from your
shoulder. What do you think?"
Archie gaped at him. "Remove the....Surgery.
Here. Using what? Your
"No, Archie, using Matthews knife."
"His knife. The same one Styles has been scraping
mortar and iron
Horatio leaned back, a wounded expression on his
face. "Why, Archie.
We will rinse it off in the water first. What do you take me for? A
Barbarian? A Frog?"
Archie closed his eyes. "Oh, Horatio. Was
that a joke? Because if it
was, it was not in very good taste. I despair of you, I truly do."
Horatio placed his hand on Archie's shoulder. "Archie, please. This
has to be YOUR decision."
Archie looked up at Horatio's worried face. "Would
you really let me
A genuine smile lit Horatio's handsome countenance.
"Not on your
life, Mr. Kennedy. Not on your life."
"It IS my life," Archie grumbled. "Oh,
very well. Just try not to
leave too big a scar. Emily may not care for you disfiguring
Horatio frowned. "Emily?"
"Never mind, Horatio. It doesn't matter. Can
we please get this
Horatio stood up. "Styles, Spencer, please
lift Mr. Kennedy up onto
the table. Carefully, gentleman. Very good. Now, Styles, I am going
to need you to hold Mr. Kennedy's shoulders, and Spencer, you hold
The men didn't move, but rather looked at Horatio
Horatio returned their looks with a steady gaze, even though he,
himself, was shaking inside. "The other option is to tie him to the
table, and as I do not see any rope, we shall have to restrain him
The two men nodded and took their places. Archie
looked up at
Horatio, his blue eyes wide with fear. Horatio smiled at him, and
Archie nodded. Kerr took his place opposite Horatio, and Matthews
stood by with the water and strips of cloth. Horatio gently cleaned
Archie's wound, then, gathering his courage, put the knife to the
wound. Archie's eyes bulged, and he cried out. Styles pushed down on
Archie's uninjured shoulder and put his other hand on Archie's
forehead, pressing him back to the table. As Horatio probed the
wound, Archie again cried out in pain, and convulsed, trying to sit
up. Spencer was lying across his legs, which were beating against
the table. It took all of Styles' and Spencer's massive strength to
hold him still.
"Cor!" gasped Styles. "He's awful strong for such a little guy."
Archie continued to cry out in pain as Horatio worked, then fell
back weakly, and didn't move. Kerr checked him, then looked across
at Horatio. "It's all right, sir - he's just unconscious."
"Good," muttered Horatio, "that
will speed things up." After a few
more minutes of probing, he was able to locate the musket ball and
remove it. Very gently, he cleaned the wound and packed more strips
of cloth around it. His hands began to shake, and Kerr took the
cloths from him.
"Sir, you have done enough - more than enough.
Let me finish here.
You should go sit down."
Horatio nodded and moved to the far end of the
room. He sat down and
leaned against the wall, as the reality of what he had done hit him.
He could very well have just killed his best friend. He buried his
head in his hands.
Matthews left Archie alone for a while, then limped
over to his
commander. Horatio looked up at his approach. Matthews cleared his
throat, suddenly uncertain why he had come over here.
Horatio spoke wearily. "Yes, Matthews? Something?"
Matthews spoke quietly. "I jus' wanted ta
say, sir - that were
somethin' I never thought t' see - you bein' a surgeon. It were
somethin' fine, sir."
Horatio smiled slightly. "Thank you, Matthews."
Matthews took a breath and plunged forward. "Ya
dun the right
thing, sir. Mr. Kennedy, he got a lot of fight in 'im. Not one of us
wants to see 'im go, sir."
Horatio focused on Matthews. "You still care
for him, Matthews?
After the things he said?"
Matthews scoffed. "Ya mean, 'bout us not bein'
his men? He were
right, sir, we ain't. We're yours. But that don't change the fact
that me 'n' Styles still feel, well, sorta' respons'ble fer 'im.
Mebbe he don't like to think on Justinian, but we can't help it
none, sir. We shoulda' pr'tected 'im from Simpson, but we didn't.
God. Mr. Kennedy were so young, sir. Ain't nobody should have their
youth stolen like that - not like that! It made us right proud to
see 'im survive, sir, and become a fine Lieutenant, a talented
gunner, and a good man. Sorta' like watchin' your own son grow up."
Horatio smiled. This was indeed a long speech from
taciturn Matthews! "Perhaps you should tell him that, once we get
out of here. I think it would mean a great deal to him."
Kerr limped over to them just then, and Horatio
looked up. "How is
"He is resting comfortably, sir - well, as
comfortable as possible,
given the circumstances. Spencer and I returned him to his place on
the floor - seemed a little safer down there. I was just wondering,
sir. What now? Any ideas on how to get out of here?"
Horatio sighed. "Not a one, Mr. Kerr. Not a one."
Two long, interminable days passed. Archie slept
most of the time,
and began to regain his strength. Spencer, Styles, and Kerr took
turns working at the mortar around the bars but were having very
little luck. The guards brought them water and meager rations twice
a day, merely dropping it on the floor and leaving, without saying a
word. Horatio was worried about when the Frog assassins would
return, and he began to spend a great deal of time at the window,
making the men working there very uncomfortable.
Shortly after noon on the third day, musket fire
the fort. The men from Liberte ran to the window and crowded
around, trying to see what was going on, but there was nothing
within their view. Shouts and more musket fire filled the air, then
everything fell quiet. Soon, the men could hear the sound of men
coming down the corridor outside their cell. Horatio exchanged
glances with his men and gripped Matthew's knife tightly in his
fist. This time, they would not go without a fight.
A familiar voice rang through the corridor. "Commander
Are you there, sir!" Horatio grinned, and the men let out a cheer.
It was Midshipman Jeffers!
"In here," called Horatio.
Jeffers drew back the bolt, and opened the door.
He walked over to
Horatio and saluted. "Here as requested, sir."
"Fine job, Jeffers, fine job! I was afraid
that perhaps you were
unable to locate the fort."
"Well, it weren't easy, sir - what a bugger
of a climb that was!"
Then Jeffers sobered. "We found Mr. Reese's body on the trail, sir,
so we knew we were going in the right direction."
"Yes," Horatio said quietly. "Mr.
Reese died trying to save his
shipmates. We must return him to the Liberte and give him a proper
burial, with honors. Now, if you do not mind, sir, I would very much
like to leave here. We do have several wounded - mostly minor, with
the exception of Mr. - of Lt. Dubois."
Jeffers looked over at Archie with distaste. "He's
a Frog, sir, even
without the uniform. Why don't we leave him here with his own kind?
It will be hard enough getting back down those cliffs without him."
Horatio shook his head firmly. "He comes with
us, Mr. Jeffers. We
will have to rig some kind of litter."
"Aye, aye, sir," said Jeffers reluctantly.
"I'll go dig something
up." Jeffers left with several of the men, and Horatio moved over to
"Archie? Are you awake?"
Archie opened his eyes and nodded. "I heard
Jeffers, Horatio. You
and I have several things to discuss when we reach Liberte." He gave
Horatio a hard look. "Right now, though, give me a hand. I have a
mission to complete, and I cannot do it lying down."
Horatio was aghast. "Mission, Archie? Two
days ago, you were lying
on your deathbed, and now you speak of completing your mission? Have
the fits returned? Did you hit your head?"
Archie sighed. "Very well, I will do it by
myself." He started to
push himself to his feet, but his face blanched, and he fell back
with a sharp cry of pain. "Dammit, Horatio, help me!"
Horatio merely regarded Archie, with his arms folded
chest. "And if I do not?"
Archie fairly growled at him. "Then I'll just start crawling!"
Horatio sighed, then reached down and helped Archie
to his feet.
Archie instantly made for the door, walking on trembling legs.
Horatio rolled his eyes and followed him.
The two of them found the commanding officer's
quarters with no
problem, and Archie immediately located the safe. Horatio looked on
in astonishment as Archie expertly opened it.
"Breaking into safes, Archie? Is THAT what they taught you?"
Archie grinned at him. "Just one of my many
new talents, Horatio.
You should SEE the training I got on how to get information from a
female foreign agent...."
Horatio held up his hand. "I do not want to
know any more, Archie.
Is there anything in there?"
Archie tossed a packet on the desk, and removed
another file. "Here.
Look through these. See if there is anything we can use."
The room was quiet for a few moments, with only
the sound of turning
pages to be heard.
"Good God!" exclaimed Horatio, breaking
the silence. Archie looked
up. Horatio's face was pure white, and his eyes were huge pools of
"What is it?" demanded Archie.
Horatio stared. "They're going to assassinate Nelson."
"Let me see that," demanded Archie. He
skimmed through the
documents. "All right," he said. We will take all of these. We must
get to Liberte, and rendezvous with Retribution immediately." He
started for the door. Horatio stopped him, then put his arm around
Archie's waist to help him. Archie's legs were still very shaky.
It took the men several hours to reach the cliffs.
Matthews and Kerr
insisted on walking under their own power, but Styles and Spencer
carried Archie on a stretcher that Jeffers had found in the fort's
infirmary. Occasionally, Horatio glanced back to see how his friend
was faring. He was worried about Archie. Even though he appeared to
be out of danger from the makeshift surgery, he was still very pale.
His eyes, though, when they met Horatio's, were clear and free of
pain. A good sign, Horatio decided.
Navigating the descent from the cliffs was the
most difficult part
of the journey. A few of the men from the rescue party climbed down,
and Archie was lowered with a set of ropes that Jeffers had taken
from the fort. Then the stretcher was raised back up to the
cliff-top for Matthews, and again for Kerr, and then the whole
process was repeated one last time, to bring down the body of Reese,
the fallen Marine. Finally, all the men were on the beach. The two
jolly boats were brought out of hiding, and they made way for
Liberte. Once aboard her, Horatio made his rounds, making sure
Matthews went to what passed for the sick berth, and checking in
with the officers on watch. He looked around for Archie, but his
friend seemed to have disappeared. He ordered the men to set sail
Some time later, Horatio retired to his cabin.
This had been a
harrowing few days, and all he wanted was sleep. He opened the door
to his cabin and groaned. There, leaning against the desk, his arms
folded across his chest and his face like a thundercloud, was
Archie Kennedy. For an instant, Horatio wondered if he could escape
back on deck, but he didn't think he'd get very far. He entered the
room and closed the door, then walked around to the other side of
"Can't this wait, Archie?"
"What the bloody hell did you think you were
Archie. "You told Jeffers about the fort! No one was to know - I
should not even have told you! Yet you told him EVERYthing!"
"And if I had not," replied Horatio mildly,
"we should be there
"That is not the POINT!" yelled Archie.
"I trusted you with this
secret - "
"You TRUSTED me," Horatio said coldly,
"to bring you back here in
one piece. I made a decision. If we had not returned by a certain
hour, Jeffers was to come after us. I told you from the start that I
was uneasy about this mission, and my instincts were right."
The two men stared at each other for a moment,
and then Archie
inclined his head. "You were right, Horatio. As always."
Horatio made a sound of disgust. "Archie,
I am NOT always right. I
have made more mistakes than I care to count."
Archie kept his head lowered but peeked out at
Horatio. "You just
do not get it, do you?" he said softly, a small smile tugging at the
corners of his mouth.
"That even when you do make a mistake, it
somehow turns out right.
The gods of fortune smile on you, Horatio, and all you ever do is
Horatio shook his head vehemently, then abruptly sat down.
Archie looked at him with concern. "Horatio, are you all right?"
Horatio didn't answer him, and then Archie realized.
"Horatio. Don't TELL me - you still get seasick?"
Horatio tried to deny it, but the green pallor
of his face gave him
away. Archie started laughing, which only served to make Horatio
mad. "Archie, it is only because we have been on land for some
Archie let loose with peals of laughter. "Oh!
Ho! This could be a
play for Drury Lane The Seasick Commodore! Oh! Oh, it hurts to
laugh! Ho ho!"
Horatio glared at him. "That's not FUNNY, Archie."
This, of course, just sent Archie off into another
gale of laughter.
Matthews and Styles were walking past, when they heard Archie's
maniacal laughter coming out of their commander's cabin.
Styles grinned and said, "Looks like ev'thing's
back to normal, eh
" 'Pears so, Styles. Sure is a nice thing to hear again, ain't it?"
Retribution sailed toward England, with
Liberte, under the
command of Lt. Bush, following her. The seas had been quiet and the
wind steady, and they made good time.
Horatio and Archie had decided that Archie must
continue to use his
Paul Dubois identity, so for most of the voyage, Archie was confined
to the brig on Retribution. He chafed under the restraint, but
knew the wisdom of this course of action. Unfortunately, the
solitary time gave him a chance to reflect on the fate that awaited
him, and he became quieter and more withdrawn as they neared
England. It had been his decision to return, but that didn't make it
Archie looked up as the door to his cell opened,
entered. "How are you this morning, Lieutenant?"
Archie shrugged. "No different than yesterday,
or the day before, or
any of the days before that."
Horatio sat on the end of the bed. "We reach
Archie. There is still time to change your mind. We will find a way
to return you to France. I will explain the dispatches to Pellew."
"And how will you explain finding the fort?"
Archie said heavily.
"You just happened to stop at that stretch of beach and decided to
go for a climb? No, Horatio. We must do this the way we decided."
Horatio gazed at his friend, uncertain of what
to say. "I do not
believe that I have ever respected a man more than I do you,
Archie." He stood up and clapped a hand on Archie's shoulder. "We
must have faith, my friend, that everything will work out."
Archie gave him a wry smile. "Faith, Horatio?
Have you become a
God-fearing man in my absence? No, I think not. Perhaps I will have
faith in the famous Hornblower luck instead." He sighed. "It is
certain sure that the Kennedy luck ran out years ago."
There was a knock on the door, and the Marine,
Kerr, looked inside.
"Mr. Bush's compliments, sir. We have arrived home."
Horatio looked at Archie. "Ready?"
Archie grimaced and stood up. He held his hands
out in front of him,
and Kerr, with an apologetic look, put manacles on him.
They emerged into sunshine, and Archie closed his
eyes. He would
have recognized home even if he were blind - the sounds, the smells
- home. He opened his eyes, then blinked in surprise.
The deck was empty, save for three solitary figures
at the bow. As
he moved forward, he saw that it was Styles, Matthews, and Bush.
Horatio paused in front of them and nodded. It was Matthews who
"We just wanted ta say, Mr. Kennedy, sir -
good luck. We know what
you done for the King's navy, and for us."
Styles spoke up. "We b'lieve in ya, sir. Comm'dore
Pellew won't let
nuttin' happen to you."
Archie tried to swallow past the lump in this throat.
Matthews, Styles. That means more to me than you know." He glanced
at Bush, who looked back at him, and merely said, very quietly,
"Godspeed, Mr. Kennedy." Then all three men saluted him.
Not trusting himself to speak, Archie nodded. Horatio
put his hand
on Archie's shoulder and said, "It's time." The two of them went over
the side with the Marines, Kerr and Spencer, following.
Much too soon for Archie's liking, they arrived
Pellew's office. He waited in the hall, with the armed Marines on
either side of him. A long look passed between Archie and Horatio,
and then Horatio knocked on the door and disappeared inside. Archie
heaved a sigh and sat down on a bench, staring at his manacled
Inside the office, Pellew was delighted to see
Hornblower! Please come in and sit down. Tell me of your voyage. I
hear you captured another prize!"
"Yes, sir, the Liberte," Horatio
answered. He was not in the mood
for small talk, so he placed the dispatches on Pellew's desk. "And
Pellew opened the package and began to read. The
color drained from
his face. "Assassinate Admiral Nelson? What can they be thinking?"
Horatio answered slowly. "The best we could
come up with, sir, is
that they hope it would throw the fleet into confusion and chaos,
and they would strike at that time."
Pellew began pacing his office. "This is unconscionable.
We must - "
he broke off and looked at Horatio. "Were these plans aboard the
Horatio swallowed. "No, sir. They were recovered
by a, a friend of
Pellew's eyes narrowed. "Do you trust this
"friend of England", Mr.
"With my life, sir, with my life," Horatio
responded fervently. "In
fact, sir, he is waiting in the corridor."
Pellew sighed. Why did he always have to drag information
this man? "Well, do not leave him out there, sir - bring him in!"
Horatio opened the door, and nodded to Archie.
He motioned the
Marines to stand on guard, but first he had them unlock the manacles
on Archie's hands. Archie entered the office.
The uniform was all that Pellew saw. "A FROG,
Mr. Hornblower? You
trust the enemy?"
Archie spoke up quickly, before Horatio could.
"Only the uniform is
the enemy, sir, not the man."
Pellew glared at Horatio, then turned and stared
at Archie. "Mr.
Kennedy. You are not looking very well."
Horatio choked, and Archie floundered for a response.
"Well, sir, we
had a little problem on the last assignment, and - "
"Er, yes, sir, that would be Mr. Hornblower and myself, sir. I - "
"Mister Hornblower. And you."
"Yes, sir. See, sir, I knew I couldn't infiltrate
the fort by
myself, so I coerced - "
"Yes, sir, the assassins' fort. And it's a
good thing I DID coerce
him sir, because you see, I kind of got shot, and - "
"Yes, sir, and Horatio, I mean, Mr. Hornblower,
he had to remove the
bullet - oh, that really HURT, sir, and - "
"Remove the bullet."
"Yes, sir. Well, I would have died, sir, but
he used Matthews' knife
- which those imbecile Frogs never saw - to dig the musket ball out
of my shoulder, and - "
Pellew held up his hands. "Wait, please, Mr.
Kennedy. I am becoming
dizzy." He turned to Horatio, and barked "Something amuses you, Mr.
Horatio felt the grin that had been threatening
to appear die. "No,
sir, not at all sir. It was just as Mr. Kennedy described it, sir."
"Very well," growled Pellew. "Perhaps
you should begin by telling me
how the two of you met up."
Archie and Horatio exchanged glances. This time,
it was Horatio who
spoke. "Well, sir, the first time was at a party in France, well,
sort of. I mean, I saw Arch - Mr. Kennedy in the garden, but I half
believed he was a ghost. After all, he was dead, sir."
Pellew looked up at the slightly accusing tone
of Horatio's voice,
but Horatio continued on. "Then when we captured La Mer, Mr. Kennedy
was aboard her, on his way to see his sister, who was very ill."
"La Mer?!" blustered Pellew. "Good
god, man, that was nearly a year
ago! You have known since then?"
Horatio met Pellew's gaze. "Yes, sir,"
he said levelly. "Mr. Kennedy
told me of his life as Lt. Paul Dubois, and I pledged to help him in
any way I could. And to hold his secret."
Pellew was shaking his head. "I should have
known that I could never
keep the two of you apart. Mr. Kennedy. It is indeed good to see you
again. Mr. Hornblower - " Pellew paused. He had dreaded this day -
prayed it would never arrive, but here it was. "I am sincerely
apologetic for letting you believe Mr. Kennedy was dead. There was
simply no choice in the matter."
"I understand, sir," Horatio said stiffly, "as Mr. Kennedy pointed
out, you were only doing your duty."
Pellew nodded. "And now, my duty is to take
care of the information
in these dispatches. Mr. Kennedy, I am afraid you will have to
return to the brig aboard Retribution for the time being. Mr.
Hornblower, you will also return to your ship. I will contact you
when I can."
Horatio and Archie nodded and turned to leave.
Pellew called after
them, "And one more thing, gentlemen."
The two turned around to face him.
"Good job, sirs. A damn fine job."
It was three days before there was any word from
and then it came in the person of the Commodore himself. Horatio met
him topside and then led the way to his cabin. Pellew removed his
hat and looked around.
"I trust Lt. Dubois will be joining us," he said lightly.
Horatio spoke as if from a great distance. "He
is being escorted
here from the brig as we speak, sir."
Pellew sighed. This was what he had feared the
most. Horatio was
obviously greatly troubled by Pellew's betrayal regarding Archie's
death. "Mr. Hornblower. I sincerely regret that I deceived you. This
- distance - between us is very troubling to me, and I wish that I
could set it to rights. Is there nothing I could say that will help
you understand my motives?"
Horatio sighed. "I DO understand them, sir,
and I know that what you
did was only for the good of England and the King. It is just -
disappointment that I feel. I would never have betrayed Mr.
Kennedy's secret, sir - never. I only wish that you would have
believed in me." Horatio's voice trailed off, and he looked
Pellew smiled at him. "Oh, Mr. Hornblower
- I DO believe in you,
more than I have ever believed in anyone, including myself. I
believed that you could keep Mr. Kennedy's secret, but I also
believed that your grief over his passing must be genuine, in order
for the plan to succeed. You are many things, Mr. Hornblower - the
finest officer I have ever seen, a leader for whom the men will lay
down their lives with no reservation, a true and loyal friend, and a
man of honor and integrity. What you are NOT, Mr. Hornblower, is an
actor. That is best left to someone like our Mr. Kennedy. I have
heard that he does a very fine Pellew."
A knock sounded on the door, and a Marine escorted
Archie in, then
left, closing the door behind him. Archie, still looking a little
worse for wear, looked back and forth between Horatio and Pellew.
"Uh-oh," he thought, "this does not look good."
Aloud, he said, "Good afternoon, Commodore,
Mr. Hornblower. Am I
Pellew looked at Horatio and raised an eyebrow. Horatio gave a
genuine smile and said, "Not at all, Mr. Kennedy. It is good to see
you outside of your cell."
Pellew breathed a sigh of relief. It appeared that
weathered that storm intact. He turned his mind to the reason for
"Gentlemen. Your presence is requested and
required this evening, at
a reception honoring our own Admiral Horatio Nelson. Mr. Hornblower.
You will extend the invitation to as many of your men as you may
spare from your ship."
Horatio was startled. "All the men, sir? Not just the officers?"
"All of your men, sir. I believe you will
especially want to invite
Matthews and Styles."
Confused, Horatio merely said "Aye, aye, sir,"
and glanced at
Archie was staring at Pellew, his face drawn and
tight. "Sir, I can
not. My cover - "
Pellew sighed and gave Archie a look of exasperation,
just a touch of affection. "Mr. Kennedy. That is an order."
Archie swallowed nervously. "Aye, aye, sir."
Pellew started to leave, then stopped and pulled
a package from
under his arm. He tossed it to Archie. "You may wish to use this."
Archie caught the package and smiled slightly at
Pellew shrugged. "Yes. Think of it that way."
Archie opened the package. He froze, his face whiter
had ever seen it. Concerned, he moved toward his friend.
Archie looked at him, his blue eyes vivid against the stark white of
his face. His throat worked convulsively, but no words came out. The
package he was holding dropped from his hands and landed on
Horatio's desk. Horatio removed the wrapping and looked inside.
It was Archie's British Leftenant's uniform.
Archie stared at Pellew in open astonishment. Pellew
gave a rare
chuckle, and said gently, "Welcome home, son."
Archie finally spoke. "Sir, I do not know what to say."
"Well! They say that there is a first time
for everything! You will
wear that uniform this evening - you do remember how to button it
correctly, I assume?"
Archie nodded, not trusting himself to speak.
"Very good," said Pellew. "You will
report to my office directly
from Retribution - no stopping at the reception or the nearest
pub. Mr. Hornblower, you needn't accompany him. We will see you at
the reception." With that, Pellew exited the cabin.
Horatio could not restrain the smile that leapt
to his lips. "This
is a good sign, Archie!"
Archie was still as white as a ghost. "Maybe
not, Horatio. Maybe
they just want to hang me in front of everyone, in my uniform.
Perhaps I am going to be the evening's entertainment," he added
"Archie! Where is the famous Kennedy optimism I know so well?"
"I think I left it in France," Archie
replied. "Oh, why did I not
listen to you and return to France? I could have had a good life -
found a pretty French girl, gotten married, had dozens of
"Dozens, Archie?" Horatio laughed. "Come
on, we need to get ready
for the reception. Admiral Nelson himself!"
Archie glowered at Horatio. "You are happy
to be going to my
execution? What kind of friend are you?"
"The kind who believes in you, Archie. Now,
you must do one small
thing for me."
"Would you PLEASE shave off that ridiculous moustache?"
Archie looked hurt. "You don't like it? I
rather think it makes me
look older, and more dashing and distinguished."
Horatio snorted. "Archie, no matter what,
you will always look to be
17. Even when you are old and gray, you will still look like a
child. Must be those blasted aristocratic bloodlines of yours. Now
will you please remove it?"
Archie looked at him mournfully. "Does anyone
ever say no to you,
Horatio somberly shook his head. "No one who
ever lived to tell the
Commander Hornblower and Lt. Bush stood at the
reception for Admiral
Nelson, watching the delighted looks on the faces of the men of
Retribution. Surely it was the first time that some of them had
ever seen such elegance, and it was certain sure that it had been
quite some time since they had enjoyed such a fine repast. Styles
had eaten entirely too much chicken, Horatio noticed, and grinned
slightly. Well, let them enjoy it while they could. It was a rare
Toasts had been made to both the King and Admiral
speeches presented that nearly deified the Admiral. Horatio noticed
that the man seemed to thrive on all the accolades. Nelson was
extremely small in stature, but the strength of his personality
overpowered every man in the room, despite the absence of one arm.
Horatio dragged his gaze away from Nelson and searched the room for
Archie. Where was he? Had he been too afraid to come? Had Pellew
given him bad news before the reception? Perhaps even now he was
locked in another cell, or being prepared for execution! "You are
being absurd," he told himself. "Pellew would have told you.
Wouldn't he?" A stab of panic hit Horatio, and he began to move off
to search for Archie. A hand on his arm stopped him, and he looked
up to see Bush motioning towards Pellew, who was standing by a
closed door. The Commodore was calling for quiet from the guests,
who settled down to listen to him."
"Thank you, gentlemen," said Pellew in his strong, clear voice.
"This evening, we have gathered to honor the brave and noble Admiral
Nelson, but I am here to tell you, that we very nearly would have
had to gather to mourn him instead. However, due to the unwavering
courage and resourcefulness of members of His Majesty's Navy, a plot
was uncovered - a heinous plot to assassinate the most revered man
in that Navy."
Angry murmurs filled the crowd, but Pellew continued on.
"It is due only to the bravery of a select
few men that he is with
us tonight. Due to the intelligence gathered by these men, the plan
was thwarted, and a secret facility used by the French was later
destroyed. Tonight, I would like to present to you one of the heroes
of this mission. He is a most loyal son of England, and I am proud
to call him one of our own." Pellew nodded to a Marine, who opened
the door next to him. "Gentlemen, I present - Lieutenant Archibald
Archie stepped through the door, resplendent in
his uniform, his
shoulders back and blonde head held high.
An angry roar filled the room, and there were cries
"SILENCE!" bellowed Pellew, dark eyes
blazing. "This man is none of
those things! You men from Retribution were invited here tonight
so that you could witness the reinstatement of Lt. Kennedy. For
nearly two years, he has served England in secret, and in constant
danger, and he has saved many lives. As for the charges of mutiny
and murder..." Pellew paused while his eyes searched out Horatio.
"Lt. Kennedy willingly subjected himself to those charges, at my
request. The trial was all a part of the plan. No one was ever to be
convicted of a murder, or attempted murder, that never occurred. Mr.
Kennedy confessed, subjecting himself to the ridicule of his former
shipmates, and the termination of all good name, in order that the
whole episode be over with, and so that he might begin another way
to serve his country and his King. Let no man ever again speak
against the courage and loyalty of Lt. Archie Kennedy for he has
served as well and as true as any man in this room. Admiral Nelson
and Lord Hood have both given their approval and their blessing for
all black marks to be removed from the name of Lt. Kennedy." Pellew
turned and faced Archie. "Lt. Kennedy, I salute you."
There was dead silence in the room. Horatio's eyes met Archie's, and
he put his hands together and began to applaud. After a few seconds,
Lt. Bush joined him. Styles and Matthews quickly joined in, and then
applause and cheers filled the room. Archie's eyes never left
Horatio's, not even as tears began to fall from the blue depths.
Hours later, Archie and Horatio sat quietly in
a pub, nursing their
drinks. They had been silent for quite some time. Finally, Horatio
asked the question he had been wanting to for hours.
"What now, Archie?"
Archie scrubbed his hands over his face. "I
have not decided,
Horatio. Pellew has offered me a 2nd Lt. position - on the
Indefatigable, can you believe that? - or the option to continue what I
have been doing. It is a true dilemma for me, Horatio."
Archie paused and looked at his friend.
"The Navy was not my dream, nor is it my destiny,
not as it is
yours, Horatio. It was a place that my father sent me, out of
embarrassment over a son who was small and had fits. And even
though I truly love the sea, I believe that my path lies elsewhere.
Where, I do not know. Despite Commodore Pellew's assurances, I am
not sure that I can continue in my current position, now that the
world knows I am not dead. I did love my job, though, Horatio, and it
is something that I am good at. Usually.
My dearest hope, Horatio, is that we continue our
knows - we may just have more adventures together down the road. In
fact, I am certain sure of it. And Horatio - we WILL grow old, and
one day we will sit beside that fire, with our brandy in our hands,
and we will remember all of those adventures. We will remember all
the friends we have lost along the way. But most of all, Horatio, I
believe we will remember the friendship we have had together. I owe
you my life many times over - "
Horatio broke in. "And I owe you mine many more."
Archie smiled, and continued. "You have truly
been more brother to
me than my own blood brothers ever have been. Even though we may no
longer serve side by side, know that I will always be with you,
perhaps somewhere high atop the yardarm, or helping you climb those
blasted riggings you despise so much."
Horatio snorted. "I no longer need to do that,
Mr. Kennedy. Rather,
it is I who order other men to climb them."
Archie grinned, his youthful merriment shining through his eyes.
"Well, then. That makes it all worthwhile, doesn't it? Horatio, this
is not the end of us, I swear it. I know that there are more
adventures out there waiting for us. I just pray that they don't all
end up with you taking a knife to me."
The two men laughed, comfortable in their friendship
memories. Perhaps there were more adventures out there, but for now,
they were content to sit together and remember the ones from their
One final thought struck Horatio. "Archie?"
"Who is Emily?"
Archie looked at Horatio, a hurt expression on
his face. "Horatio!
You met Emily once. I introduced you to her briefly. Of course, I
didn't tell you then, but she is everything to me, Horatio. She
holds my heart, and my soul. In fact, she is my fiancée."
Horatio couldn't believe what he was hearing. "Emily,"
slowly. "You introduced me to Emily James?"
Archie's face lit up. "Yes! Ah, Horatio, I
am so glad you remember
her. I realize that it has been quite some time since we were
together, and much has happened, but I know that she felt as I do -
her love for me is stronger than anything I have ever known. I never
wanted to hurt her, Horatio, but Pellew ordered me to have no
contact with friends, family, or sweethearts. I know she still
believes me to be dead, but now - NOW, Horatio - I am free to be
with her. I must find her, just as soon as I can."
Horatio had a sick feeling in his stomach. Emily
James! The woman
loved by William Bush. Oh, why had Archie never mentioned their
relationship? Surely, if Bush had known about Archie and Emily, he
would have spoken by now, unless - maybe he feared it would wound
Horatio. That could be, for when Bush had become involved with
Emily, he too, had believed Archie to be dead. But what about since
"I don't understand, Archie," Horatio
said. "If she was your
fiancée, why did you not say so, when we were introduced?"
Archie stared at his hands which were suddenly
gripping the mug in
front of him very tightly. Sighing, he forced his hands to relax,
and looked up at Horatio.
"It is - difficult - to explain, Horatio.
It's not because I was
ashamed of her or of our feelings for each other. It was more that
it was something so new, and so extraordinary, that I had no wish to
jinx it. Laugh if you will, Horatio, but you know we sailors are a
superstitious lot. I have never been happier than when I am with
Emily, but it was not easy to come to."
Archie paused, and looked around the room. Horatio
noticed that his
friend had become very tense, and their earlier, easy companionship
Archie looked back at Horatio, then dropped his gaze to
the table between them. His slender hands picked at the planking,
betraying his nervousness, and his words obviously came with a great
deal of effort.
"No matter how hard I try to remove it, Horatio,
there will always
be a shadow on my soul - a stain that will never be erased, no
matter how much I scrub. I know that it is not my fault - I did not
ask for Jack Simpson to abuse me in the way that he did, but that
does not mean that I do not still carry the shame. That shame has
kept me from ever allowing myself to truly love a woman, because I
was so afraid of -- of the intimacy such a relationship requires. I
feared I would always be alone."
Archie looked up at Horatio and the light behind
his eyes glowed
with such fervor that Horatio did not doubt his words.
"And then, I met Emily. She was so beautiful,
and strong, and
passionate, and completely unlike any woman I had ever known. It was
like the sun after a storm. She shone her light into the darkest
recesses of my soul, Horatio, and I knew that she was the one I
would be with forever." Archie beamed. "And the truly amazing thing
was, she loved me, too! Despite all my flaws, and my past, she
accepted me, scars and all. Finally, Horatio, finally, I could begin
to leave Jack Simpson in the past."
A deep voice broke into Archie's monologue. "Now
there is a name I
thought never to blacken this world again." A shadow fell across the
table, and both men looked up. Commodore Sir Edward Pellew stood
beside them. The two men began to rise, but Pellew motioned them to
remain seated. "May I join you?"
Horatio and Archie stared at each other. "Of
course, sir, please
do," croaked Archie, not sure what to make of this.
Pellew sat down and ordered a tankard of ale for
leaned back and looked at the younger men. "So, gentlemen, do I dare
ask why Mr. Simpson's name is being discussed on what should,
otherwise, be a joyous occasion?"
Archie and Horatio again looked at one another,
and Horatio raised
an eyebrow. It would be Archie's tale to tell, if he so chose.
Archie was silent for a moment. He owed his life
to Pellew, and he
had oftentimes felt, over the past couple of years, that they had
almost gotten to be friends.
He, himself, had never spoken to Pellew of his past relationship with
Jack Simpson, but he knew that the Commodore was well aware of it
of every detail. That had bothered Archie for a very long time.
He'd wondered if that knowledge had caused Pellew to think
less of him as a man and as an officer. He had finally consoled
himself with the memory of something that
Horatio had told him, when they first boarded Indefatigable. Pellew
had told Horatio that he judged a man by what he saw him do, not by
what others told him he had done. Archie knew that he had proven
himself in his new career, and he believed that Pellew respected him
for that. Certainly, it was due to his influence that Archie was
walking the streets a free man. Well, the Commodore was correct.
This WAS a joyous occasion, and he would not spoil it by raising the
spectre of Jack Simpson. So, he turned his wide grin onto the
Commodore and spoke with a calm happiness.
"Sir, I was just explaining to Mr. Hornblower
that I do not believe
I will again be troubled by nightmares of that fiend. I have met the
woman who has banished him, sir, and she and I will be married just
as soon as everything can be arranged."
Pellew, in the midst of lifting the tankard of
ale to his lips,
stopped in mid-motion and looked at Archie. What had the boy said?
Married? He placed the untasted tankard on the table and leaned
back again. "Married, Mr. Kennedy?"
"Yes, sir," replied Archie, grinning
like a fool. "Actually, we
became engaged shortly after I left Indefatigable, but then, well,
Renown happened, and everything that followed, so obviously we were
unable to marry. But now, sir, thanks to you, I am free to go ahead
with the wedding."
Pellew glanced at Horatio, then sharpened his gaze.
amiss there. "Mr. Hornblower. You are being rather quiet. Are you
not pleased for your friend?"
"Oh, bloody hell," thought Horatio. "How
can I possibly tell Archie
and destroy his happiness, especially with Pellew here?" Aloud, he
said "Sir, you know that I wish nothing but happiness for Mr.
Kennedy. Lord knows no one deserves it more than he. I just would
like him to remember that he has been gone for a very long time. Not
to be indelicate, Archie, but perhaps she has moved on."
Archie couldn't stop beaming. "Oh, Horatio, I cannot believe that.
To be perfectly honest with you, I had considered that. In Kingston,
right before I left the surgery for the court-martial, I did write
her a letter, and I told her I would never see her again, and that
she must forget me, and go on with her life. I thought I was going
to die, no matter what, so maybe my setting her free would help her
to get past everything after I was gone."
"But I KNOW Emily - our love was so strong that she could not have simply forgotten about me. We belong together, and we will be together."
Archie flushed a bit as he fell silent, a little
embarrassed to be
saying these things in front of Pellew, but really, what did it
matter? The man knew his darkest secrets already. Why should he not
know his happiest one, too?
Pellew looked at the enraptured young man across
the table from him
and found he could not resist Kennedy's infectious grin. The boy -
no, he corrected himself, the MAN - had come so far, that surely no
one could begrudge him his happiness at last. Pellew was well aware
of all the myriad demons that Archie had battled throughout his
young life, beginning with his indifferent family, who were more
embarrassed and humiliated by him than they were loving and
supportive. Frankly, Pellew could not comprehend not loving one of
your children, simply because he suffered from a medical ailment,
especially when the lad had so much to offer - warmth, a wicked wit,
intelligence, and a heart that was stouter than any Pellew had ever
encountered. But Archie's father had never looked beyond the fits,
and so he had sent the 12-year-old boy to sea. Archie, Pellew knew,
believed in his heart that his father had hoped he would be killed
in action so there would be no more shame upon the Kennedy name.
Instead, Archie had been thrust into the cruelest hell Pellew could
Unbidden, the visage of Jack Simpson appeared before
and he felt the bile rise in his throat. Simpson had used Archie in
the vilest way imaginable for years, and no man had ever stood
against him. No one, that is until Hornblower. But even he had not
known the depths of Jack Simpson's depravity, not until Archie had
cried it out, wrapped in Horatio's strong arms, when the nightmares
had simply become too much for him to bear alone. And in that
telling, with the quiet support and strength of his best friend,
Archie had begun to emerge from the tenebrous abyss in which he had
languished for far too long.
The two men shared a deep bond which, in private, Pellew envied greatly
His knowledge of that bond caused him now to look more closely at Hornblower.
No, his eyes did not deceive. The man was clearly uncomfortable, and it had to do with
Kennedy's announcement. Well, Pellew decided, he would get to the bottom of this.
"Mr. Kennedy," he said, once more looking
at Archie. "are you going
to inform me of the name of your intended, or shall I have to wait
for the wedding announcement?"
Archie grinned yet again. "Her name, sir, is Emily - Emily James."
Pellew started. "Good God, man - Admiral James' daughter?"
"Yes, sir, the one and only."
"I had no idea," marveled Pellew. "Of
course, I knew you were
acquainted. I even wrote the Admiral after the events in Kingston,
to tell him of your confession and subsequent passing, but I never
imagined that you were engaged to his daughter."
"Well," Archie began, with an apologetic
glance at Horatio, "it was
not common knowledge, sir. Only Emily, er, Miss James' father was
aware of the agreement. I did not even tell Mr. Hornblower, though
of course I fully intended to, at the right time. But then,
everything went wrong in Renown. After that, it really didn't matter,
because I believed never to see her again, and with my disgrace, it
seemed best that she not be known as the fiancée of a mutineer and
murderer. I did have to bring one other person into my confidence,
though. When I knew I was going to die and decided to go to the
court-martial and confess, I asked Mr. Bush to help me in composing
a letter to Miss James. I did not have the strength to do it alone.
I asked for his word that he tell no one, not even you, Horatio,
about my betrothal. I had to protect her reputation and her
character, you see."
Horatio's mind was spinning. So, that explained
why Bush had never
told Horatio that Emily and Archie had been engaged. He had given
his word to a dying man. William Bush was an honorable man, and he
would never have broken his promise. How must he be feeling, now
that he knew Archie was alive? Poor Bush, thought Horatio wryly. He
must feel guilty as hell. But how would Archie feel, when he found
out that he had lost his love to someone else? That would not
happen, Horatio vowed. Not tonight, at least. He had to turn
Archie's thoughts elsewhere. But where?
Horatio turned his gaze to Pellew. How odd it was that the
Commodore had chosen to join them here, in this out-of-the-way
tavern. It was most unusual that someone of his rank and status
should join a lowly Commander and a recently reinstated Lieutenant.
Horatio looked around the room and noticed that the three of them
were the only remaining patrons. He turned back to the table, only
to find Pellew's dark gaze upon him.
"Go ahead, Mr. Hornblower," said Pellew quietly. "Ask the question."
Horatio fidgeted, then rested both elbows on the
table. "Sir, I am
confused about something you said tonight at the reception."
"And what is that, Mr. Hornblower?"
"Well, sir, when you were giving your speech
about Mr. Kennedy's
heroism - and a fine speech it was, sir - you said that Lt. Kennedy
subjected himself to the charges of mutiny and murder at your
request. But sir, that is not what Mr. Kennedy told me happened. He
said that he had made the decision to confess on his own, and that,
in fact, he had interfered with your plans to recruit him for his
new job. He said you were rather put out about it, sir."
"Oh, did he indeed?" growled Pellew,
shooting daggers with his look
at Archie. "Perhaps Mr. Kennedy would like a reminder of how I am
when I am truly 'put out', hmm, Mr. Kennedy?"
Archie looked abashed. "No, sir, I'd really
rather not, sir. You
know I sometimes embellish my stories a bit - it is just the
frustrated thespian in me, sir."
Pellew could not suppress his grin. No matter how
far these men came
in their lives and their careers, he could still remind them of the
raw midshipmen he had met so long ago. Oh, how he enjoyed
discomfiting them occasionally.
"And you, Mr. Hornblower. Are you accusing me of lying?"
"Oh, hell's bells," thought Horatio.
"I've blundered yet again."
Horatio spoke earnestly. "No sir, never, sir. I just thought that
you could elucidate the facts for me, sir, so that I would have a
clearer idea of what happened."
Pellew groaned inwardly. He had known that Hornblower was too sharp
to have missed the inconsistencies in Pellew's narrative of events,
but he had truly hoped that the man would not press him on it. But,
of course, Hornblower's innate sense of honesty and integrity could
not let it pass. He sighed and said, "Very well, gentlemen. I shall
tell you the truth."
"I did indeed lie this evening, as you are
both aware. The trial in
Kingston was real. Mr. Hornblower would no doubt have been found
guilty and hanged, had not Mr. Kennedy confessed. Oh, I do not
believe you guilty, sir - Captain Sawyer was beyond saving and
should have been relieved of command."
"But the Admiralty did not want Sawyer to be remembered
in that manner, and so they were determined to blame someone else.
Mr. Kennedy gave them that someone else. As
soon as I realized what he had done, I ended that sham of a
court-martial. It was my fervent hope that his "death" would cause
them to let the matter drop, for if the true accounting of events
were to be made public, the reputation of the entire British Navy
could well be impaired. Alas, that was not to be. Mr. Kennedy's name
was vilified. It was, as we now know, a mistake of the highest
order. As soon as I received those plans that the two of you
possessed, I went straight to the Admiralty. Nelson and Hood were
there, and it was to those two that I pled my case. I told them the
tale of Mr. Kennedy's resurrection, training, and placement in
Napoleon's army. I spoke of the many British lives that were saved,
not the least of which was Admiral Nelson himself, and the grave
risk you willingly took in order to see that the plans were
delivered safely into our hands. Still, they were not convinced.
They did not believe that the good name of a lowly former Lieutenant - apologies, Mr. Kennedy - was more important than the reputation of an established hero such as Sawyer."
Pellew stopped, and shook his head. "To say
that the members of the
Admiralty can be obstinate is an understatement. It took me nearly
two days of continuous argument before there was even a glimmer of a
breakthrough. It was Nelson who was willing to look at your service,
Mr. Kennedy, but Hood remained adamant that this changed nothing. He
wanted to see you hang."
Archie winced. "So how were you able to change his mind, sir?"
Pellew didn't respond at first. His fingers drummed
on the table,
and a faraway look was in his eyes, while he considered how best to
answer that. He raised his head and looked at Horatio and Archie in
"In short, gentlemen, I told them that if Mr. Kennedy were not
reinstated, and his name completely cleared of all wrong-doing, I
would resign my commission, and tell the public the truth myself."
Amazed, Horatio leaned forward. "Sir! How
could you do that? They
would never let you - they would execute you!"
Pellew allowed a small, grim smile to touch his
lips. "Let us just
say that I know some secrets that they wish never to see the light
of day, and I made it clear that I would have no compunction about
telling those secrets."
Archie was shaking his head, rocked to the core
by what the
Commodore had risked for him. "Sir. Why? Why would you do that for
Pellew looked at him sadly. "It is unfortunate
that you have to ask
that question, Mr. Kennedy. The reason you do not know the answer is
completely my own responsibility. Throughout my career, I have
always prided myself on taking care of my men -- of caring for them --
but always from a distance. I believed that to become close to the
men under my command would undermine my authority and impair my
judgment regarding them. But then, Mr. Hornblower came aboard my
ship, and everything changed. I grew to care for him very much. And
when you, Mr. Kennedy, were returned to us after your ordeal in El
Ferrol, I found myself always feeling extremely protective towards
you. Mr. Hornblower assured me that I needn't feel that way, that
you had more strength and courage than were readily visible, but
still, I was unable to separate my feelings from my duty. The two of
you have become as sons to me. It was my duty to see that no further
harm befell you."
Horatio and Archie looked at each other, then at
Pellew. Never had
the man spoken so plainly to them of emotion. Horatio glanced back
at Archie. His friend was obviously having a very difficult time
controlling his own emotions, and Horatio well understood the
reason. For Archie, whose own father had never spoken of love for
his son, who indeed had not ever felt the emotion for his youngest
son, to hear words such as this coming from a man whom he respected
above anyone else, had to be a bit overwhelming. Horatio spoke
across the table to Pellew.
"Sir, I know that I speak for both of us when I say that the regard
you hold us in is returned completely, without reservation. For
myself, I will never forget what you have restored to me - my
brother, my best friend, and my peace of mind. That is no small
Archie spoke, still struggling to keep his emotions
under wraps. His
voice was almost a whisper. "Aye, sir, a gift I can never repay. You
risked your career, and your life for me, sir. There has only been
one other man, in my entire life, who was willing to do that for me,
and I am still in his debt. I know the price you almost paid, sir,
and I..I..." Archie choked as tears sprang to his eyes.
Pellew leaned forward, and put his hand on Archie's
arm. His voice
was very gentle. "Had I not done what I did, Mr. Kennedy, the price
I paid would have been much higher. All of my career, I have chosen
duty above all else. This time, I chose honor over duty. It was the
correct choice, Archie. For you, I could have done no less."
Archie wanted to put his head down and weep. Never
had Pellew called
him by his first name, and he wasn't sure what to say. His wit
seemed to have deserted him, and a simple thank you seemed far too
inadequate. He looked at the two men across the table smiling at
him and knew that no words were needed. He had finally found the
only family he would ever need. He was, indeed, home at last.