Conversations: Horatio, Archie & Bush:
Maggots of the Past
"So..that really IS how you came upon your commission,
Hornblower?" William Bush looked incredulous, yet amused.
"I'm afraid so, sir," Horatio admitted, with a sheepish
grin. He still felt a bit uncomfortable talking about the whole
affair, but he had come to trust Bush, and regard him as a friend,
and so was able to put it aside. He was grateful that the wardroom
and its environs were empty and quiet, save themselves.
"I would like to have seen the look on your face when
Pellew said that to you," Bush persisted, allowing himself a
light laugh at the image of his serious fellow Lieutenant being
teased by his captain, and in front of a lady, yet.
Hornblower squirmed uncomfortably, but joined in the good-natured
"What jest catches your fancy this evening, gentlemen?"
Bush and Hornblower looked up as a shadow was cast from the
of the wardroom.
"Archie... is the watch changed already?" Horatio said.
"Aye, sir," Kennedy replied, resting his hat on the
near the doorway and settling wearily on a bench, beside Hornblower.
"Mr Buckland has the watch." He sighed and looked down at his
hands. "I am tired...."
The other officers could see in Archie's face that he was indeed
"Are you quite all right, Mr Kennedy?" Bush asked.
Archie responded with a weary smile. "Yes. Yes, I'm fine,
sir, thank you. It's just... something in this time of
Kennedy's already-soft voice trailed off, and his gaze with
Horatio offered a knowing glance toward his friend, but Bush looked
puzzled. The Second Lieutenant, however, thought it best not to
question it at the moment, and decided to change the subject.
"So, what news of ship's business?"
Archie came back to the present and looked at Bush. "None,
Bush -- all is quiet and well. Course is steady, and the wind is
fair. I believe an uneventful night awaits Renown."
"Very good, Mr Kennedy."
"Well, Horatio?" Archie turned to his old friend.
in thy quips and thy quiddities?" *
Hornblower rolled his eyes at his friend's quoting. "No,
Archie," he smiled, "Mr Bush was just reminding me that I
don't, er, always approach things in the usual manner."
"Oh... YOU, Horatio?" Archie teased, his blue eyes
"Do tell, sir."
Before Hornblower could stop him, Bush answered, "We were
comparing stories of our examinations for Lieutenant. It would appear
that Mr Hornblower here has managed to avoid the usual process..."
Horatio watched in dismay as his friend's expression fell into
darkness, and once more Bush wondered at it. Hornblower looked
apologetic, but said nothing.
"Well, what is it, man?" Bush asked the Third Lieutenant.
"If you gentlemen will excuse me," Archie said quietly,
standing, "I believe I will go and check on Mr Buckland. A -- a
question regarding a course correction, I believe.. it seems to have
slipped my mind..."
And he was gone.
"Mr Hornblower, is Mr Kennedy all right?"
Horatio sighed and ran a hand through his hair in frustration.
chose his words carefully. "Please understand, sir, and do
forgive... Our commissions are something of a sore subject for Mr
"Oh?" Bush looked concerned for his new friends,
"Yes, sir... I've told you the circumstances of my
"Did I mention that Mr Kennedy was still a midshipman
"I'm not sure you have..."
"Or that he was already serving in Justinian for some
I first came aboard?"
"No, Mr Hornblower, that I did not know." Bush was
to piece it together.
Horatio looked down at the decking. "Archie has never
resolved that time... not totally, anyway."
"I had no idea..." Bush said quietly.
"Oh, he's very well now, and most of the time never even
THINKS of those dark days in El Ferrol anymore. But every once in a
while... when the subject comes up..."
"...or at a certain time of year?" Bush remembered
Kennedy's earlier, cryptic comment.
"Aye, sir. It comes back to him, " Horatio said,
sadness in his voice. "He remembers his long years in prison,
feeling alone and abandoned, sick and helpless; and he feels ashamed,
and like a failure. He's been a long time struggling with his
that so much of life passed him by during that time... that *I* went
on to attain the rank of Acting Lieutenant, whilst he was stuck
rotting in prison. It tears at his soul some nights, and again the
sense of failure and worthlessness return. Not to mention the guilt --
because he IS happy and proud for my good fortune.. But still, I
fear those memories are going to haunt him forever..."
Bush leant forward, his blue eyes full with understanding and
sincerity. "But doesn't Mr Kennedy know that none of that
MATTERS now? He's a fine officer, and a good man; and despite my
initial comments to him, I am proud to serve with him. And.. all the
MORE so, now that I know the full story... His value goes far beyond
any misfortunes that may have occurred in the past, and to lose time
in regret and unearned shame will serve no purpose."
Hornblower smiled. He knew that Bush was speaking in earnest,
was very glad that the three of them had become such friends, in such
a short time.
"Yes, sir, I have reminded him of that, on occasion."
was quiet for a moment, then looked up at his friend and superior
officer. "Someday, he might even BELIEVE it..."
*Henry IV, Part One, Act I, scene ii