Watch and Watch
By Jan Lindner
It took a few minutes for the Spanish guards to make the arrangements.
It always took the Spaniards twice as long to do anything. The
Mediterranean temperament, no doubt.
Archie Kennedy was grateful for their sloth. He edged closer to
Hornblower, as they stood in parade-ground formation, waiting
could all watch while Hornblower, their commanding officer, was
into a hole in the ground where he could not stand, or lie down,
Of all the English prisoners who stood there, only Kennedy knew
really meant. He wished he could offer more than poor advice,
but it was
all he had. "Horatio, at night, when the guards aren't paying
you can stretch a little. Hold the bars and bend your knees, let
body hang down. It isn't much, but it does help."
Hornblower nodded slightly.
"And -- you're taller, I don't know if there's room -- but
you might be
able to lie on your back and stretch your legs up along the wall.
not comfortable, either, but it's a change." God, he was
was afraid, somehow as frightened for his friend as if he were
down there himself.
"I'll be all right, Archie," Hornblower said softly,
his eyes on the
guards as they wrestled with the rusted latch of the grating.
stripped off his jacket, held it out. "Here, keep this for
His fingers closed around the blue wool as Hornblower pushed it
hands. "No, you should leave it on, it gets chilly down there
--" And it would be a cushion against the cold rock, little
really, but something.
"You take it, Archie. You're in command, now. You are senior
you know. He was only made Midshipman last year, for bravery in
He was a gunner's mate before that."
Kennedy blinked at the information, which suddenly explained so
"See what you can do for his leg," Hornblower went on.
"I'm afraid the
bullet's still in there. Keep him alive for me, Archie."
creaked open across the courtyard, a rusty dungeon sound. Hornblower
his lips, made his voice light. "I expect it'll be my turn
to need your
help, once they let me out."
Their eyes met, and Kennedy realized that his friend was as frightened
he was. But it only showed in his eyes, and the men couldn't see
It was an officer's responsibility to inspire confidence in the
Kennedy wished he could inspire it in himself.
But he couldn't let Horatio down. "Aye, Mr. Hornblower,"
crisply. He tucked the jacket under his arm and touched his forehead
salute. "I'll see to it."
He was rewarded with the ghost of a smile. Hornblower raised his
bit. "Men, I am leaving Mr. Kennedy in command. If any of
his orders, I will consider it mutiny. Is that clear?"
"Aye, sir!" Matthews said with a kind of grim satisfaction.
thinkin' on you, Mr. Hornblower." His 'aye' was echoed by
glowered at the hapless survivors of Hunter's ill-considered escape
//"Veine, Cabron."// The guards were there suddenly,
side, dragging him away, across the courtyard. He shook off their
as they tried to push him into the pit, and climbed down himself,
deliberately. His movements said, //This is how an Englishman
adversity. It will be unpleasant. I am not afraid.// He turned
instant, nodded at them all. Then one of the guards shoved his
down, and the grate slammed shut above him.
Styles growled. "Goddamn Diegos!"
"Good luck, Horatio!" Kennedy called as other guards
herded them back to
their cells. There was no reply, just the clanging of the guards
pounding in the pins that held the grate shut. Old and rusty,
such a tight fit that no prisoner could possibly work them loose
the whole compound hearing.
Then the Indy's men were locked up, and he was alone again. At
others would be able to see the oubliette; their window overlooked
courtyard. The midshipmen's cell was on the building's cooler
was probably considered more comfortable, looking out on the long
walkway with a view of the outer wall of the prison compound.
wouldn't have any idea, there, of what was happening to Horatio,
all of them confined to their cells, he wouldn't be able to ask
And he would have to deal with Hunter.
He would -- almost --- rather be back in the pit.
His fellow midshipman was lying on the top bunk he had claimed
on the day
they arrived. He should have let Horatio choose a bunk, first,
eyes, but Hornblower had not disputed his presumption.
//Stop that. It's useless.// Kennedy reined in his resentment,
himself to be calm and matter-of-fact. "They've put him in
the hole," he
said. "It could be worse. With two men dead, Massaredo would
within his rights to shoot him." Hunter made no response,
proceeded to inspect his wounded leg.
Somebody -- Matthews, most likely -- had wrapped it in a strip
homespun torn from the bedding. Kennedy unwound the bloody rag,
that Horatio had been right. "The bullet's still in there,"
confirmed. "I can't do anything about that, so I'll just
clean it up a
bit and bandage it. It won't heal right until the bullet's out."
Hunter just stared at him, dully. He couldn't tell what that expression
meant. Brute pain, perhaps. It didn't really matter. "There's
that comes by once in awhile, from the town. If Don Massaredo
magnanimous he may let him tend to you." //If he's forgiven
killing two of his men, you stupid sod. What in God's name possessed
Hadn't Hunter realized Horatio could have been executed for his
If the commandante had not been perfectly aware who was at fault,
might have. . . which was why Kennedy had urged his friend to
the conspirators, making certain that Massaredo knew he was not
responsible. Horatio wouldn't have named Hunter, though, even
Spaniard had ordered him shot. //Didn't you think about getting
killed? Didn't you think about the men?//
--No, most likely not. Hunter probably had not thought at all,
considering that he might fail. Or perhaps, deep inside, he knew
hopeless and had been trying to get himself killed. Kennedy could
understand that, oh, yes. That had been his own intention, in
attempt. All those guards with guns, it should have been easy.
hadn't needed to shoot to stop him. //At least I did not endanger
else.// "This is going to hurt," he warned, but could
not feel sorry.
Hunter grunted acknowledgement. He said nothing more as Kennedy
he could to stop the bleeding. When he was finished, and rewrapping
bandage, Hunter finally asked, "How is he?"
//How do you think, you God-damned fool? He's alone, and afraid,
can't even stand up, and odds are he's more worried about you
himself.// But he said, "I don't know." He stamped savagely
anger, and went on, levelly, "It depends on how long they
keep him in
there. It sent me nearly mad, and I could not walk for a month,
//Think about that, you mutinous bastard. Think quietly. If you
more word, I will hit you, wounded or not.// He tied the strips
cloth, carefully, and said, "There."
The task accomplished, he was suddenly exhausted. He had been
today than any time since his own escape attempt, and standing
in the sun
most of that time. More time than he'd have thought himself capable
He was getting stronger. Against all his expectation, his body
recovering. //For all the good it will do.//
//Perhaps Horatio will listen to reason, now. He might have thought
could haul me along, but now Hunter can't walk.//
No, there would be no reasoning with him. It would be "We
wait until you
are both ready to travel," even though the Indy's more recent
now knew just how difficult escape would be. Forlorn hope. Hunter
had a musket ball lodged in the big muscle of his leg. If that
taken out, he would never be able to walk very far or very long.
that he had a bit of Spanish, Hornblower might just make it alone,
with Matthews and Styles. Dragging a pair of cripples, he wouldn't
//He's going to spend the rest of the war here. We all are. If
that long.// Kennedy gave Hunter a dipper of water, then drank
himself, his mind drifting out to that cramped pit in the courtyard.
Horatio would be thirsty, too. He would be just beginning to make
acquaintance of the unrelenting thirst that would become a constant
And there was nothing to be done to help him. Nothing. Anger at
was futile, now. It would do no good. //And I'm so bloody damned
tired...// Kennedy kicked off his shoes. Mechanically, he removed
jacket, put it on the lower bunk, and rolled Hornblower's jacket
pillow. It was a silly, sentimental gesture -- one midshipman's
was much like another -- but it made him seem a bit closer, and
helped. Bone-tired, he climbed under his thin blanket, turned
the wall, and tried very hard to feel nothing at all until his
released him into sleep.
//Miercoles.// Wednesday. A hot, sunny afternoon. Kennedy scratched
mark into the bedpost with a bit of rock Hunter had hidden in
then added a second mark beside it. Horatio had gone into the
Tuesday afternoon. Technically, this was still the first day,
than twenty-four hours, but it would have felt like much longer
there. It wouldn't help Horatio, making this record, but when
out -- //when,// not if -- Kennedy would be at least able to tell
long it had been.
You couldn't keep track of time, down there. The mind wandered.
the first few days, you stared at the marks you made on the wall
wondered if it was still the same day, or if maybe you had dozed
slept the clock round. You hoped so, it would make it that much
to when they would let you out. Except you didn't know how long
His feet would be at least half-numb, by now. His back and legs
aching, and he would have gone through the first round of the
notion that the walls were slowly drawing closer, crushing in.
stomach would be resigned to the fact that there would be nothing
It might be too early, yet, for him to have gone into the strange
half-conscious stupor where time shifted, a single breath taking
eternity to hiss in, then out, or a day passing in the blink of
The guards brought bread and water, and took the slop bucket out.
Kennedy forced the food down, knowing that he no longer had the
being responsible only for himself. But every morsel that passed
lips was a reminder that his friend was doing without, from no
his own. And it didn't help that Hunter was now refusing to eat.
Kennedy decided to let that ride for a day or two. Hunter was
water was the important thing, after losing blood, and a short
do him no harm. At the moment, Kennedy feared his own anger, didn't
really know what he might do if Hunter were to give him an argument.
But he was not going to let it continue for very long. And he
treat Hunter as Hunter had treated him. Not out of any kindness,
Christian forgiveness, but because he still had enough self-respect
to indulge in that sort of petty vengeance -- and because Hunter
deserve to escape the consequences of his actions. Dying was much
Besides, Horatio had given him his orders. //"Keep him alive
Archie."// That was a covenant he could not break. In some
superstitious, wholly irrational manner, he felt that if he managed
keep Hunter alive, Horatio would be all right, too. Well, rational
not, he would do as his friend had asked. //That man will eat,
He'll eat if I have to shove it down his throat with a bedpost.//
Horatio would probably have discovered, by now, that if you leaned
elbow, you could stretch the other arm up toward the grate, and
was a different sort of stretch than what you got reaching both
overhead. It was dry, but there was something to be said for dry
weather; the vermin stayed down in the drains. When it rained,
filled with water, and the things that lived down there came out.
and mice, mostly, but there had been a scorpion once, and even
killed it with his shoe he'd spent every night after that wondering
had any relatives wandering around in the dark.
It got so very dark down in the earth.
//Jueves.// Thursday. Another line scratched in wood.
Kennedy could see clouds in the sky overhead, the thin, wispy
presaged heavier rainclouds. Good. Clouds would mean shade, and
daytime heat would be a little easier to bear.
If they treated Horatio as they had him, he would be given a pint
water each day, half in the morning and half at sunset. It wasn't
enough, it was never enough, but its arrival shaped the day. On
third day -- or maybe it had been the fourth -- there would be
a piece of
bread. The conventions of war forbade actually starving prisoners
death, but those serving punishment time were given barely enough
body and soul together.
Of course, there wasn't anything much to do, down there, or room
to do it
in. A body probably did not require much food. In its own way,
almost funny; he had become so accustomed to privation, down in
that starvation had seemed the simplest way out. It had been so
until Horatio had caught hold of him and dragged him back to life.
He would have to tackle Hunter today.
He'd given the man his morning oatmeal and piece of bread, and
not to see as Hunter hid the bread under the side of his blanket
the bowl until the porridge congealed. At lunchtime he would have
something about that bread, that and the rock-hard crusts from
before. Toss them out the window, probably. There were birds that
scavenge them. Letting them stay in the beds would only add rats
to the smaller livestock that inhabited the thin straw pallets.
//I wish I knew how long they're going to keep him down there.//
But that would make the stay easier. Knowing how much you had
set a goal, and that was not permitted. The Spaniards had had
years of Inquisition in which to refine the art of torment, and
made quite a study of it.
That oubliette was a perfect example. It was much cleaner than
flogging, for example. No lash, no blood. Strictly speaking, they
nothing to the prisoner. They let the pit do their dirty work,
man's own body double itself up in cramps, let the imagination
to screaming despair. Very creative, the Spaniards. Very economical
with their resources. And Massaredo, who was probably not really
man, had learned to use those simple, efficient methods to accomplish
end, which was order and security within his fortress.
The Don had been quite frank, when Kennedy had been sent to him,
just before a group of English prisoners had been traded back
for a batch
of Spanish infantrymen. He had explained that, with his history
escape attempts, Meestair Kennedy would be watched carefully.
behaved himself, all would be well. If he tried to escape again,
would be punished.
He had tried again, of course, after he had been in Spain about
months. He'd had to wait until his ankle healed from the wrench
put paid to his final effort to escape the French. By then, the
had been used to him, and were less watchful. Some straw stuffed
the mechanism of the lock on his door had kept it from closing
enough that he'd been able to jiggle it loose. He had made it
as far as
the courtyard that night, and had even managed to scale the first
turning a table on end.
But there had been more sentries outside the first set of gates,
though he ran they wouldn't shoot him. One of Massaredo's mounted
soldiers had run him down, knocking him flat in the dust for the
Massaredo had been regretful, but matter-of-fact. The punishment
escape was time in the pit, and the length of time depended on
obstinate the escaper had been. He didn't know until they pulled
out that it had been a month, and by then he no longer cared.
How long would it be for Horatio? It was only his first escape,
guards had been killed. And he was refusing to talk. Would it
time? Less? Damn them for their guessing games!
The sun was nearly overhead. Noon.
It was about time he dealt with Hunter.
Getting him down from the bunk was less difficult than Kennedy
expected; Mr. Hunter had apparently grown tired of viewing the
He grimaced as his wounded leg touched the floor, but, to give
due, he stayed upright and, with Kennedy's help, hopped over to
below the window. And there he sat, in a funk, staring at the
When the guards came with lunch, Kennedy steeled himself. He picked
Hunter's food first, and took it over. He actually had to put
into Hunter's hands, and the wooden spoon into the bowl, before
back for his own food.
"Eat." Kennedy sat heavily on his bunk, tore off a bite
of dry bread and
chewed it dutifully. Hunter made no response at all. "You
must eat," he
went on, trying to be patient. "Stay strong."
Hunter only sat there, no doubt feeling guilty as hell. And well
deserved to, damn his recklessness, but what good was guilt going
any of them? //Stew in it if you want to, but, damn it, I am not
to tell him I let you die!//
All his anger and frustration distilled down into one simple statement:
//"He'll need you."//
Hunter finally met his eyes, his own so full of dumb misery that
moment Kennedy actually pitied him. But it worked. Weeping silently,
his nose running, Hunter began to scrape the oatmeal from the
shovel it into his mouth.
And that was all it took. Kennedy was taken aback by the ease
That, more than anything, told him how utterly demolished Hunter
his failure, and the knowledge drained away some of his anger.
to be angry with a dog for barking. One thing he was certain of:
would be an end to Hunter's contempt for his commanding officer.
shouldn't have to pay this price for your respect.//
//Viernes.// Friday. Four days down there.
They might give him something to eat today.
Kennedy watched impassively as the guards removed the bowls from
breakfast, and began his self-imposed regimen of exercise. Fifty
back and forth, from the door to the window. Only four steps each
the cell was not roomy. Four steps, times fifty. Horatio had worked
out: 5,280 feet in a mile, roughly two feet in a step. Twenty-six
hundred forty steps would be a mile. He would reach that by the
the day. Bit by bit, he had walked a mile since Horatio had been
Horatio had started him doing this in the infirmary, half-carrying
first, until his legs would take his weight. It hadn't been fifty
then; one transit of the room on his own had been a victory. Then
exercises, stretching his knees up to his chin, one at a time,
them around to stretch his back, as Dr. Hornblower advised rheumatic
oldsters. Horatio had moved his legs at first because he didn't
strength to do it himself. God, that had hurt! If he'd known bringing
the muscles back to life again was going to be so painful he wouldn't
have bothered. But Horatio had persisted; he would not let him
soon, please god, he would be able to repay him.
//"You'd do the same for me, if I were in your shoes."
"But you're not.
And you never would be."// Sniveling, self-pitying git. The
his words echoed like a condemnation. He would give his soul to
He had given Hunter his cot, making it clear that the arrangement
temporary. The poor bastard really couldn't climb to the upper
his leg the way it was, and Kennedy had neither the strength nor
inclination to lift him. Getting him up there wouldn't have been
problem for Matthews and Styles; Styles was incredibly strong
probably have hoisted him up singlehanded.
He was using Horatio's bunk now. It felt a bit like trespassing,
wasn't going to occupy the space that Hunter had used, and he
it was a bit cooler, nearer the floor. Besides, when Horatio came
he should get the single bunk, for as long as he wanted it. If
reaction was anything like Kennedy's had been, the enclosed lower
would be too much like the pit. And if he needed help with getting
if he needed help with anything, it would be easier from that
Yesterday's clouds had thickened, and a cool breeze stirred the
air in the cell. There would be rain, soon, a downpour from the
it. A mixed blessing. Horatio would be able to rinse the grime
hair, perhaps catch a little of the rainwater to drink.
//I should have told him about wringing the water out of his shirt,//
thought suddenly. You got more water that way than just trying
it in your mouth. But Horatio would realize that; his mind moved
than anyone Kennedy had ever known, except perhaps Captain Pellew.
would welcome the rain, at least at first. It took a little while
the water to become yet another trial of endurance, after the
permeated everything and you could feel your toes shriveling inside
shoes and the damp stone leached every bit of warmth from your
//I wish he'd kept his jacket.// Even wet, the wool held the body's
heat; that was likely the reason they used it for uniforms. Horatio
might not have thought of rain. Or perhaps he had not wanted to
the jacket. Even if he had the money to replace it, there was
when there would be a chance. And Horatio never had any money.
wits and his integrity, his courage and compassion. Those wouldn't
enough to protect him from the rain, or the penetrating cold.
In that damned hole, none of them were going to be enough.
//Sabado.// Saturday. The rain had moved on across the Spanish
peninsula, leaving a cool fresh morning in its wake. The guards
back and forth along the top of the wall like clockwork soldiers.
Everything was calm, sunny, peaceful.
Kennedy checked Hunter's leg, took his own morning exercise, and
down, hoping to escape into sleep. Hunter was up and moving around
bit, now, healing rapidly. He had made an awkward attempt at apology
yesterday; he seemed to crave conversation, and that was the last
Kennedy wanted. He was doing his damnedest to behave moderately
Hunter, to at least preserve the formal courtesy of fellow officers,
actual friendliness was beyond him. Perhaps he would feel less
resentment when Horatio was released. Perhaps.
This would be Horatio's fifth day down there. He would likely
wondering if the world still existed, outside, apart from the
guard. After hours of solitude it seemed the war outside could
garrison evacuated, and a prisoner left to die down there.
Had he been tempted to call out, as Kennedy had? If so, he had
come to the same conclusion -- that the attention he might attract
the Spaniards would not be anything he wanted.
But no; Horatio would have a different concern, one that Kennedy
had: his men. They were too far away, in their cell, to make out
but they would hear if he cried out. And so he would try to keep
so as not to alarm them.
It probably would not matter much. Unless a guard were standing
above, outside noises were muffled down there, distant, and it
unlikely that any sound would have escaped. The rest of the world
gradually receded until even the insects creeping along the walls
welcome company. In that, at least, Horatio might have some advantage;
he seemed more comfortable with solitude than most, and this cell
chance of that, at all.
But that much solitude? And in such physical misery? No. None
madman would find it tolerable for long.
//But he knows we are here. He knows we are waiting for him, that
have him in our thoughts. Matthews even said as much.// That might
help. The knowledge that there were friends waiting nearby, shipmates,
people who spoke the same language... that had to be of some help.
When he thought about it. If he thought about it. At times, down
the only reality was the ache running up your spine and down your
the frantic need to move that could not be satisfied, the wild
bring it to an end, in any way you could. Kennedy had been nearly
to smash his head against the stone walls, hoping to crack his
just to make it stop. He had not done it only because he feared
not be enough to kill him.
Horatio would be stronger than that. Horatio had always been stronger.
He would. Really. He would.
Six days, now. And it had been dry; if Horatio had thought to
shoes off, they should be dried out by now. The heat had returned,
though, and the sun would be shining directly into the pit for
hours at midday.
But there was something for Horatio to look forward to, though
know it. Don Massaredo observed the Lord's Day by a small act
charity: he permitted the prisoner to have a meal. Probably nothing
more than a bowl of oatmeal, or perhaps a thin stew, but Horatio's
stomach probably would not be able to deal with more than that.
not be allowed to stand to receive the food, but it would be something.
And then, of course, it would be back to the endless waiting.
Kennedy wondered if Massaredo would let him take Horatio's place,
day or so, to give him some respite. Probably not, though he knew
old man liked Horatio. //I wonder if I could do it? I wish I were
strong. But Horatio would never let me, I know that much.//
But this waiting was becoming more than he could bear. If it went
much longer, he might run mad and do it. Better to share in the
than stand uselessly to one side, watching. The hours moved so
felt as if a lifetime passed before the sun started its journey
He could try to distract himself by reading. He had not permitted
himself that indulgence, as though denying himself would somehow
but surely it would do Horatio no harm. And it would be a way
escaping from this cell, at least in thought, of countering the
sense of helplessness.
He found the little pocket Shakespeare that he'd carried like
a parting gift from his sister, the one thing that had survived
past two years, and took it to the window, to the light. He ignored
creaking open of the cell door. Lunch. He didn't care. Yes, he
eat, but --
It was a moment before he realized that someone had staggered
in, a bent,
unsteady figure, squinting in the dim light --
//"Horatio!"// He flew across the cell, caught Hornblower
shoulders, taking his weight. He was trembling, his legs shaking
newborn colt's as he peered up. Hunter limped over, taking Horatio's
other arm, but he said nothing.
For the space of a heartbeat Kennedy's mind could not even form
The reality was too unexpected, too overwhelming. "Are --
are you all
right?" Stupid, stupid, stupid. Of course he was not all
right. He was
sun-dazzled, the light felt like knives after the darkness in
And he stood bent as an old man.
"Yes, Archie." His voice was hoarse, rusty from disuse.
His lips were
cracked and peeling. "Apart from feeling that I've been bent
A joke. He was trying to make a joke. //To make me feel better.//
Kennedy's feeble laugh felt more like a sob. Hornblower turned
Hunter. No recriminations. Just "How's your leg, Mr. Hunter?"
Hunter seemed taken aback by the civility, fumbling a reply. "Well,
well, it's -- well, thank you."
"Good..." Horatio whispered. "Good." He was
fading fast, head nodding
forward. Kennedy shifted his grip, trying to turn him towards
"Come on," he offered encouragingly.
Horatio just kept sliding forward, out on his feet. He had spent
last bit of energy making sure his men were all right. Kennedy
with him, catching Horatio on his knees to keep him off the dirt
cradling him against his chest. It was a precious moment, the
hold on to his friend and reassure himself that he was truly there,
some dream or illusion but a solid if somewhat ungainly reality.
Hunter present, it was the most he could do without risking some
Horatio wasn't unconscious, though. He blinked, and smiled weakly
undignified position, one he clearly had no energy to alter. "Oh,
Kennedy laughed with him, but he couldn't stop the tears, and
head to hide them. "Mr. Hunter," he said, blinking,
"Help me get Mr.
Hornblower into bed and I'll fetch the water bucket. I think the
occasion demands a toast. Come on, Horatio. Up on the count of
Six days, then. Don Massaredo had found some balance between the
necessity for making an example of Hornblower and his own knowledge
his innocence. Thank God the old Spaniard had some sense of justice.
And speaking of sense... Kennedy glanced at Hunter, trying to
though his injured leg made his participation more a hindrance
anything. Whether this had knocked any sense into him remained
But for the moment, it didn't matter. Horatio was back: weak,
and for the next few hours dead to the world. But he was back.
they couldn't escape, even if they were stuck here for the rest
war, he was back. And the long watch was finally over.