Back with part 2 of my Horatio Hornblower fanfic: Following Orders.
For part one and explanations on characters, setting and such, please see Part 1: Imposing. There I explain things for those who’ve never watched Hornblower, so even if you don’t know what I’m talking about, you can still enjoy the story. 🙂
Enjoy part 2, everyone!
Rain pattered down outside as the carriage rattled down the dark country roads. The smell of wet grass and sea carried over the cold winds that swirled over the moors. A sharp gust blew through the opening in the door and spattered rain over the two men sitting inside.
Archie didn’t notice. His blue eyes strained out the window into the darkness, watching for the landmarks that guarded the path to home. Not much could be seen, but he contented himself with guessing half blindly at the part of the road by its bends and rises.
Archie noted the shadow of an oak tree nearby. In that case, he thought, we should be hitting a bump in the road right about… now.
The wheels clattered and the carriage bucked over the old bump, just as Archie thought it would. Horatio was jostled in his seat and gave a small moan, but didn’t wake. He turned his head and relaxed again, letting his hat slide down over the side of his face.
Archie couldn’t even consider going to sleep. He shifted forwards in his seat and an involuntary grin split his face at the thought of his family and seeing them again. This last, short stretch was almost more than he could stand. Archie leaned out the window a little so he could see George, bundled in his overcoat on the perch.
“Coming along nicely, George?”
“Yes, fine, Mr. Kennedy.” The collar of the coat drawn up around George’s mouth moved slightly. Rain poured off the tip of his hat as he turned to smile with his eyes at Archie. “And what about you and that Mr. Hornblower? Doin’ alright back there?”
“I’m fine. Just watching for the landmarks. And Horatio’s been asleep for a while now.”
“Probably good for him,” George observed, “He won’t be getting as much of it when he arrives.”
“Yes, and he’ll be getting more fun instead, if I have anything to say about it.” Archie winked at George and ducked back into the coach to wipe the raindrops off his own face.
The rainy world outside continued to rattle on and the outlines of few more familiar hilltops went past. Archie fidgeted in his seat impatiently. Horatio slept on.
Only a few more minutes now…
A faint, candlelight glow filtered through the dark and the coach bumped along towards it. They hadn’t gone on for more than a minute when George pulled up the reins and stopped.
He turned and leaned off the box a little, “You can tell your friend that we’re here. It’s only the footpath ahead.”
Archie nudged Horatio’s shoulder, “Horatio, wake up.”
His friend stiffened and drew in his breath. He opened his eyes into darkness and quiet. Horatio held still and looked over at Archie, “Where are we?”
“We’re at my house, silly,” Archie grinned.
The remembrance that Archie had dragged him along back to his family came back to Horatio. Sighing, he slid out the door behind Archie and self–consciously straightened his hat and coat. He looked down the footpath to the windows that glowed softly into the night and resolved to leave the best impression possible on his friend’s family.
His manners and dress would be impeccable. He would address everyone properly and never speak more than necessary. Even if they looked as hard as they could, nothing would be found wanting in him. The name “Horatio Hornblower” would forever shine as a beacon of perfection in their minds.
Goodness, my hands are shaking now… Horatio shook his head, repeating Captain Pelew’s orders to himself. It’s just a normal family, Horatio. Not a court martial.
Archie breathed a happy sigh as he started towards the house. Horatio didn’t follow, lost in his own thoughts. Archie stopped and went back to grab his friend’s hand,
“C’mon, Horatio…” he stopped and looked down at Horatio’s hand, “Your hands are shaking hard. What on earth are you so worried about?”
Horatio closed his eyes and let out his breath slowly before starting down the footpath, “Archie, this was a bad idea.”
“Oh, come now. You haven’t even met my family yet.”
The light of the house’s windows shone brighter as the two walked closer.
“How many siblings do you have again?” There was a note of despair in Horatio’s voice.
“Six. You’ll love them, trust me.”
“Who’s the youngest in your family?”
“A baby sister I haven’t met yet. She should be about eight months old, by now.” The light was still dim, but Archie’s smile almost shone in the darkness, “Mother said her name is Beth.”
Now there was a baby. Horatio cringed.
“I don’t know what to do around a baby! I’ve never…”
“Horatio, it’ll be fine. You don’t have to do much to get a baby to like you. Just make a few funny faces… you know… make her smile.” Archie glanced over at Horatio’s worried and serious face, “You’ve made funny faces before, haven’t you?”
“No time comes to mind…”
Archie shrugged, “You’ll learn soon enough.”
There were only a few yards remaining on the path to the house when the door flung open, outlining a smallish girl in the doorway. An excited shriek split the air and the girl flew towards Archie, who bent down with his arms open to her.
“Archie!” the girl threw her arms around his neck as he closed his arms encircling her. “I missed you!”
“I missed you too, Polly,” Archie laughed.
More bodies crowded to the doorway with cries of: “He’s back!” and the squeals of small children. Archie hoisted Polly to his shoulder and marched the rest of the way to the door, Polly laughing all the way. The rest of the family cleared away from the door to let them in. Smiles reflected on every face.
A man with graying, brownish hair stepped forward and clapped Archie on the shoulder. “Welcome back home, son!”
Archie grinned and clapped his father back on the shoulder, “It’s good to be home.”
“Who d’you have with you?” asked a smaller boy Horatio guessed to be around seven years old. All eyes turned to Horatio. Any introduction he’d previously had in mind fled him the second he opened his mouth.
“I…” he stammered, “well…”
“This is my friend, Horatio Hornblower,” Archie stepped next to Horatio and winked at him, “He insisted on coming along with me. Very eager to meet everyone.”
“Archie!” Horatio was horrified.
Archie laughed at the puzzled expressions of his family, “Actually, I practically dragged him here. He had nowhere to go, since he’d had no word from his father, and I wanted him to meet all of you at last. So,” he gave a sweeping gesture at Horatio, “Here he is.”
“And we are delighted to have him,” added a kind voice. Horatio looked to see a woman who was obviously Archie’s mother smiling at him.
He nodded politely, “I hope I’m not imposing.”
“Oh, goodness, no!” she laughed with a wave of her hand, “We love having guests. And we’ve heard all about you in letters from Archie, so it’s nice to finally see you in person.” She looked him up and down, as if connecting all she’d heard with the man standing before her.
“The trunks are still in the carriage?” asked Mr. Kennedy.
“Yes. George should have them unfastened by now.” Archie answered, “I’ll help you bring them in.” Father and son started for the door.
“I’ll help you,” Horatio took a step after them.
“You’re our guest, Mr. Hornblower!” The surprised tone in Mrs. Kennedy’s voice stopped Horatio’s advance to the door. “We certainly don’t expect you to bring in your own luggage.”
Horatio nodded his head respectfully, “I understand Mrs. Kennedy, but I consider it my duty to help out whenever possible. Especially after showing up without a previous invitation.”
“Archie’s invitation is plenty enough and you won’t be hauling in your own trunk while I have anything to say about it. You must be tired anyway; it’s late.” She smiled at him, then turned to one of her sons in back of her. “Nathaniel, will you show Horatio to his room?”
“Of course, mother.” Nathaniel moved over to Horatio and nodded towards the hall. “If you’ll just follow me, it’s down this way.”
“I see…” Horatio took one last look at the two figures on the path in the rain, bit his tongue and followed Archie’s brother down the hallway.
Candles glowed from their sconces on the walls, casting a sleepy, yellowish light through the house. Horatio and Nathaniel passed by the kitchen, sitting room and a couple of other half open doors. The hall turned off to the right and there was one more closed door. Nathaniel opened it and stepped aside to let Horatio in.
Two beds with white blankets and pillows were pushed up against opposite walls in the room. Nightstands stood by each, with a candles flickering in their holders sitting on top. A window was in one of the walls, but the nothing was visible in the darkness behind the glass. Only candlelight reflected back into the room off of its shiny surface.
There was a cozy, happy and safe feeling in the room that Horatio was unacquainted with. It was new, but felt nice all the same.
“Thank you Mr. Nathaniel,” Horatio turned and got a better look at the young man in back of him. He could see little resemblance to Archie. Nathaniel had darker hair, a larger nose and different jawline. He was not as cheerful looking either, but the bright blue eyes were the same.
“I’m glad I could be of help, Mr. Hornblower,” Nathaniel bowed. “I hope you’ll enjoy our stay with us.”
“I hope so too.”
A flicker of a smile passed over Nathaniel’s face, “I assure you, we always try our best to make any guest feel at home, sir.” He nodded again and left the room, with the parting words of: “Goodnight, Mr. Hornblower.”
Horatio took off his hat, coat and shoes and pulled back the blankets. They were clean feeling and cool, but warmed up quickly as he got in. Still, it was hard to completely relax. Doubts still poked at his mind over how welcome he was here.
It’ll take forever to get to sleep, he thought, I’m not even supposed to be here. I’d sleep easier if I were back in my hammock on the Indefatigable.
The minutes passed, the candles on the nightstands burned lower and footsteps came up the hall. Archie and his father carried one of the trunks down the passage as quietly as they could, with only a few whispers and stops to shift handholds. They reached the door of the bedroom and Archie poked his head in. Soft, even breaths greeted his ears and he smiled.
“Quietly,” he cautioned, turning back to Mr. Kennedy, “Horatio’s asleep already.”
And more should be coming soon. We’ll see how our hero manages to leave his impeccable impression…
How’s everyone liking the story so far?
Favorite parts, lines, descriptions or characters?
Please comment and tell me! I love hearing how you like it! 🙂