A Gentleman of Some Renown

[afrai wanted pastiche. I wanted to write parody. The world gets this.]

'Archie!' exclaimed Hornblower. 'What a surprise it is to find you here. I thought you was quite dead.'

'It would seem not,' said Kennedy weakly. He struggled to sit up, and Horatio clapped him on the shoulder.

'Are you feeling unwell?'

This gave Kennedy pause, as Hornblower's more forward questions sometimes did; the headstrong fellow seldom considered the effects of his passions on others, whether they took the form of words or actions. 'Somewhat, but never to worry, joy; I shall be better before long. It is only a want of freedom that afflicts me, you see, and with you here, I suspect matters will change.'

'We'll be leaving soon, I expect,' said Hornblower with his usual access of enthusiasm.

'I should like it of all things.' Kennedy clasped his hand and sat up. In the light, his face was far paler than normal.

Hornblower scowled at his pallor. 'You ought to recover before we make any untoward moves.'

'Sure and I will never be feeling better lying here,' Kennedy said with asperity. Some color returned to his cheeks with his annoyance. 'This prison air is less healthful than the darkest parts of the ship, and the Spanish are the Spanish. Enemies on every score. This is no sea-side vacation.'

Hornblower flushed at the phrase, thinking on what small decencies he could command as an officer which were impossible for his compatriot. 'We'll soon have you out of here,' he said consolingly.

Kennedy nodded. 'I look forward to it.'

* * *

'I say, Archie,' Hornblower said softly as they left the wardroom of the H. M. S. Renown, Hornblower to his duty watch and Kennedy for his cabin. 'I would like to speak with you in some confidence, later on. Perhaps at eight bells you could meet me below?'

'Sure and I will meet you there, only let me rest awhile beforehand.' Kennedy knuckled his forehead in a quick reflex, more an acknowledgement of the invitation and a slight nudge at his friend and superior officer than any real deference, as could be told by his simultaneous wink.

No similar wink could have been observed in the dark of the hold where they found one another, down among the stores of salt pork and peas to be distributed on the appropriate days of the week to all the men of the ship and the faint smell of limes for the purpose of warding off scurvy from men too long parted from shore and its attendant green things. The lieutenants located one another by habit. Hornblower, coming off duty, turned at such and such a box and sat upon another, listening to the little sounds of the rats. They grew louder when he ceased moving, then quieted again at the sound of another man approaching. Kennedy had brought a lantern that frightened off the rodents and lit his smile with an eerie glow. ''Tis a pleasure to find you here,' he said to Hornblower, and took a seat beside him on the container that provided his perch.

'You must have rested,' Hornblower said with amused exasperation, 'but it did not improve your wit. Put out the light, if you would.'

'I am sure we will both be blind if I do that.'

'Only for a time, and it is easier to talk so in the dark, with no one coming to see what the lantern is about.' Hornblower extinguished it, shaking his head. 'You ought to know that.'

'I do, soul,' said Kennedy, his tone forlorn, 'but I despise rats. Would that we could keep them away without calling undue attention. Were you to leave me a light, it would alleviate the condition entirely.'

'They ain't what you'd call unfriendly, are they?' Hornblower asked with some dismay after one of the rodents ran over his foot.

'No. Do say what you had in mind.'

'It was about the captain,' Hornblower said, and here he lowered his voice considerably.

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