A Reason for a Caning
(With apologies to Mark Twain)
by Mebbie10

A lieutenant only one week and already an admirals aide. His hand shook,
papers fluttering in the breeze as he ran up the stairs to the signal hoist. He
had to use both hands to ascend the ladder, he hated heights. he didn't notice
the two sheets that fluttered out of his fist. Moments later the midshipman
took the remaining sheets and prepared the hoist.

"Our number, sir!" Alan Lewrie looked up from the music he held in his hand,
a new piece that Caroline had sent him for some reason, they hadn't spoken in

"Our number, sir!" Jack Aubrey fairly jumped, the glass through which he was
watching the short skirted doxies ashore nearly falling into the river. London
was nothing like the country where Sophie was waiting for him.

"Our number, sir!" Captain Horatio Hornblower disregarded the call, only the
quickness of his step toward the quarterdeck betrayed his curiosity, what
could the admiralty want with them?.

The scraps of paper, each with it's mangled midshipman's scribbles were
received into their captains hands.

'Well this will keep me out of trouble.' Thought Alan Lewrie, as he called
for his best uniform and finest hose, "Be sure there's no cat hair on my

"Well, the old bas, no, I oughten't to call him that now, man has finally
shuffled off his damnable mortal coil, well, I have to do my duty." Muttered Jack
Aubrey as he tore at his neckcloth, preparing for the razor that Killick held
like an executioners sword.

"Well, it had to come sometime. He's outlived his contemporaries. But how did
it happen here? In London, not a frog anywhere and not a hostile ship
insight." Hornblower whispered, "Death comes to us all."

Alan Lewrie, his sword hit banging his thigh as he paced the admiralty
hallway, the message wadded tightly in his fist. "Aubrey! I understood you hated
the old coot!"

Jack was winded and he tripped on the last step of the six flights. "Lewrie!
Not you too?" he waved his own scrap of paper. "Daft way to put together a
funeral, what?"

A set of light footfalls heralded another arrival.

"Hornblower!" Lewrie exclaimed, as the tall captain strode into sight. "I can
understand why you are here! You were his protégé!"

The clerk opened one of the double doors, "The admiral will see you now."

Confused looks passed between the three captains. "The Admiral?" Aubrey
choked out as they moved through the passage in order of seniority, Lewrie, Aubrey
then Hornblower.

"Gentlemen?" the rear admiral of the blue, questioned as he looked up from
the maps on the table.

"Sir, we thought you were dead! Isn't that the meaning of this signal?" The
now wet and floppy piece of paper fluttered to the table, where the admiral
snatched it from Lewrie and read the scratches instantly. "I'll have him caned,
four missing pages, no wonder I didn't get my burgundy curtain fabric from
Lady Pellew."

"Gentlemen, the news of my death has been greatly exaggerated."

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