by Sherry

He didn't know why he'd kept it. So many years gone by. He wasn't usually prone to such sentimentality. He couldn't even remember how he'd gotten it into his own possession. The typhus had a decent hold by the time they got him back to England on Nonsuch. Maybe he had raved to Brown and Bush about it in his fever, and they had humoured him. Barbara had stored it away. She had put it in his old sea chest, and now Richard had unearthed it, along with a small book, Shakespeare's sonnets. The latter had a black queue ribbon in it as a place keeper. Amazing what could be "contained" in pieces of woven fabric. The broad pendant might never have been possible had it not been for the actions of the original wearer of that black ribbon.

Hornblower remembered the rush of grief and gratitude when he'd discovered the book at the bottom of the case of wine Pellew had sent him, in celebration of his new command, Retribution. He had let the black ribbon wind around his fingers, feeling Archie in its grain, imagining his presence, hearing his words "There you see, better already!" ----- but it hadn't been better at all.

He remembered the delight and exuberance that had sprung forth when the commodore's pendant had unfurled from Nonsuch's masthead. He and Bush had "grinned like schoolboys" with pleasure at being together and at Horatio's achievement.

Both his blue eyed friends long gone. He thought on them. Archie and his mischievous grin and irrepressible spirit. Bush (rarely "William") and his staunch loyalty and reliability. No tears nowadays, but an ache as if there was a hole or an empty space somewhere about his lower sternum. An "absence" if you will, as if a part of himself had gone astray.

Richard came running in "Come outside Papa, come and see what I've made!"

Putting the memorabilia down he followed his son out to the stream bordering the home fields. Richard had fashioned a small craft from pieces of bark and twig. Three masts stuck through slits in the bark. He held out a flat piece of wood around which he had wound a strip of cloth he'd wheedled from the maidservant. Upon the cloth he'd managed to write INDEFATIGABLE in ever diminishing letters. "It is going to be the stern" he said. "Mama helped me with the spelling, but there were too many letters, and they weren't going to fit so I had to squash them up. Mama said that it was your fav'rite ship, 'n that you talk about it many a time. Only, I don't know how I can make the stern stick on to the ship."

"Yes" said Horatio "it was my favourite ship". * Although Hotspur with Mr. Bush, and Lydia, where I met your stepmother, came close *. More memories bound up in yet another strip of cloth!

A sudden image entered his mind --- of the broad pendant and the black ribbon, together on the bark "Indefatigable", touched alight and floating away, burning, like the Viking funeral ships. It was only a fleeting vision, quickly overcome by a desperate need to hang on to the tangible reminders of his loved ones.

"Come, Richard. If we try and sail her on the stream as she is, she may get beyond our reach and we'd lose her. Let us see if we can find some string or rope to tie the stern on, and then a length for us to hold so she can't get away. I'll show you how to make the knots".

"Yes please father!"

The two ambled off in search of their cordage. He wasn't going to risk losing this reminder just yet.

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