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Rain on the Just

Title: Rain on the Just

Author Eglantine_br

Rating G

Word Count 900

Rain on the Just

Robert Eccleston was clenching his toes.

Clench, relax, clench relax, like someone making a fist. Logically the motion ought to warm them, or at least warm the water in his shoes. But all it did was drive the cold misery around in circles. When he removed his shoes later, he knew his toes would be white, the toenails almost blue, and the skin soggy and miserable. It had been raining for four days. Justinian leaked. Well, all ships leaked. But she was the worst he'd ever known. All of his stockings were already wet. He had no confidence that the rain would ever stop.

He pictured Justininan with a storm cloud over her forever-- forgotten by the rest of the sunny world.

“Mr Eccleston Sir--”

The midshipman was squaring his jaw, to stop his shivering. His face had been pinked by the wind this morning. It had been one of the few bits of color in the whole damn place. Now it was white. His lips were pale. He was wet to the skin too, despite his waxed boat-cloak. His hat was sagging.

“Yes Mr Kennedy.”

“Captain's compliments Sir, and he says to attend in his cabin.”

“Very well, Mr Kennedy.” Eccleston nodded. The boy turned away. Eccleston cleared his throat. “Mr Kennedy?

“Aye, Sir?”

“Would you go to the galley please and fetch a cup of coffee for Mr Chad here?” Chad looked up, startled out of his own dull misery.

Kennedy assented and departed rapidly. If the boy had any sense he would steam a moment by the galley stove, and drink a cup himself.

“Thank you--' Chad murmured.

“Something to warm you, Francis.” Eccelston said. “He should be back quickly, he's a good lad.” There were some mids who would dawdle in their tasks, never be to hand where you looked for them. Kennedy was not one of those. He was brisk in his duties, for the most part.

Eccleston stepped into the passageway. It was still relatively cold here. Fire was a bad idea on any ship. But there was no wind here and no rain. The relief was immediate. He tucked his hat under his arm, and clawed at his hair. Best not to report to Keene with it entirely ahoo. Not, Eccleston thought, that the old man would care. He was kindly, if preoccupied. And his eyes were dim.


His voice had a proper snap to it, relic of years of habit, even if it was cracked with age. The door swung open.

The old man blinked up at him, then stopped to honk into an enormous handkerchief. He waved impatiently at Eccleston.

“Sit down man, don't stand there like a costive stork.”

Eccleston sat. It was even warmer nearer the deck. Keene kept heated brick beneath the desk. If Eccleston stayed very still, he reasoned, he would begin producing his own fog bank. His mouth twitched.

“Something funny?”

“No, Sir.”

“Too bad. I could use a laugh.”

The old man shuffled through he papers on his desk. He seemed not to be looking anywhere in particular, but his hands emerged with a list.

“Hmm-- here we are. Mr Clayton has failed his examinations. He will be returning to our embrace today still a midshipman. Mr Simpson will return tomorrow, no doubt in the same condition. Mr Simpson needs more attention placed on his mathematics. Mr Clayton needs to spend less time dreaming with his violin. The younger boys are bright enough, but they are being set a poor example. As long as we remain at Spithead, we can educate, at least.”

There was a pause here.

“Aye Sir.” Eccleston's voice was dull. He had heard this before. He spoke because an answer seemed to be required.

“Another thing.” Keene shuffled again through the papers.

“There is a new midshipman arriving today. His name is Hornblower. Older than the usual run His father is an old friend of mine. I have not seen the boy since he he was in skirts-- but he seemed likely enough then. He is probably not stupid. Knows nothing of the Navy though.”

Eccleston nodded. His shivering had fined down, and finally stopped.

“That is all.” Keene said. “Wring the water out of young Hornblower once he boards. Then send him up to me.”

Eccleston stood. His toes squished. He had dripped a puddle on the deck. He saluted, and turned away. He heard Keene cough. It made Eccleston want to cough too.

On deck the wind had shifted. The rain was thinner, but more horizontal now. Chad had his long fingers wrapped around a mug.

“Is the coffee good?” Eccleston asked. Stupid question. The coffee was horrid. They all knew it. But it was hot. That was the thing.

“My coffee was good.” Francis Chadd replied. “Or-- well. Umm. It was hot at least.” This one is for you. Mr Kennedy said you looked to need it.”

“Well.” Eccleston said. He did not know hat to say after that.

He squinted through the horizontal rain. There, on watch, was damp dripping, pale lipped Kennedy. His had was going to need blocking.

“Shore- boat ahoy!” shouted Kennedy.


( 23 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 17th, 2013 08:07 pm (UTC)
I enjoy your writing. I like 'meeting' the characters you create.
Mar. 17th, 2013 08:53 pm (UTC)
Thank you. That makes me very happy. The people I write, (even in fan-fic,) are mostly people I would like to meet myself.
Mar. 18th, 2013 12:12 am (UTC)
Ah, another of your most enjoyable works. I believe it captures the time immediately prior to the start of the Hornblower saga, whether in print or on screen. I am, however, a bit perplexed by the presence of Mr. Chad. I thought he was from another ship and met with Hornblower (and Jack Simpson)only when ashore to press returning merchant sailors.
Mar. 18th, 2013 12:43 am (UTC)
I am so glad you liked it. Yes, it is a 'before' piece. Mr Chad is actually on the Q-deck, when Horatio comes soggily aboard. He is introduced by Eccleston as 'Mr Chad, Lt of the watch.' I don't think he has any lines then.

(Most of the talk is by Archie.)

Mar. 18th, 2013 12:09 pm (UTC)
(Most of the talk is by Archie.)

Plus ca change?

Nice piece - just as the world is about to change for them all.
Mar. 18th, 2013 12:29 pm (UTC)
Yes. I think Keene has an inkling. the others are more surprised. Horatio, as we know, is totally clueless!
Mar. 18th, 2013 09:33 am (UTC)
If I remember correctly, I think the lieutenant that Hornblower and Simpson meet when they go ashore with the press gang is Lieutenant Chalk of the Goliath.

Edited at 2013-03-18 09:34 am (UTC)
Mar. 18th, 2013 12:08 pm (UTC)
You mean you guys noticed anyone else but Archie?
Mar. 18th, 2013 12:30 pm (UTC)
He should take more roles where he is drenched with freezing water. He could put a stip in his contract...
Mar. 18th, 2013 01:35 pm (UTC)
Only because Archie isn't in that scene. Otherwise, no :P
Mar. 18th, 2013 01:36 pm (UTC)
There are bits Archie isn't in? Oh wait, that's when I hit fast forward...
Mar. 18th, 2013 03:54 pm (UTC)
Apparently there are whole episodes Archie isn't in. Who knew?!
Mar. 18th, 2013 03:56 pm (UTC)
Well, I didn't, cos I ain't ever seen them.
Mar. 18th, 2013 09:58 pm (UTC)
My Dear, you are absolutely correct. I'll blame it on the "CHA" that begins each name, and that as I mature (age) the memory is subject to imperfection. This also illustrates why I ended up creating a list of characters for my own work.
Mar. 19th, 2013 12:20 am (UTC)
I am sure I have watched it too much. But I especially like the very beginning. Strangely I do not remember Chalk at all!
Mar. 19th, 2013 10:08 pm (UTC)
Chalk is the Lieutenant that Horatio and Simpson end up playing cards with.
Oct. 3rd, 2016 11:23 pm (UTC)
I love the very beginning too. That's why I love your Justinian stories. There is a painful sweetness about them.

I am trying to reconcile Eccleston thinking Archie is a good lad, with his later (according into your previous story) apparently ordering Archie to be caned twice. Was he basing his "good lad" impression on an Archie who had been free of Simpson for a few weeks or months, and did Archie's performance deteriorate when Simpson was back on board, leading to canings? Or did Archie just do the best he could in general, and did Eccleston regard canings as a normal part of every midshipman's upbringing? I am thinking of course of lemurling's Eccleston, who regarded Archie as a lazy troublemaker because he had missed so many watches, and never realized they were a result of his being abused. Your Eccleston seems more kind and perceptive, but still clueless - which is really how he seems in the movie too. I always feel that if he had any idea what Simpson was up to, he'd never have put him in the same boat as Archie.
Oct. 4th, 2016 12:09 am (UTC)
I think Archie was coming along pretty well when Simpson was gone. he was hopeless when Simpson was around-- too scared to think straight. I think Eccleston felt caning was pretty normal, but he did not really want to do it.

Eccleston knew that Simpson was a bully, and that he bullied Archie. But he did not have any idea that Simpson was a rapist. Archie hid that very well. Simpson had said that Archie would hang if anyone knew, and that he, Simpson, would tell.
Oct. 4th, 2016 12:25 am (UTC)
Poor Archie.
Mar. 18th, 2013 10:00 pm (UTC)
I do recall Mr. Chad now... a while since I've watched (or read) the beginnings of the saga.
Mar. 19th, 2013 03:21 am (UTC)
He does not say much. I think he gets shot twice, and dies the second time around-- on the Papillon.
Mar. 19th, 2013 10:58 pm (UTC)
Chadd gets to navigate the first prize they take on the day that Horatio gets the Marie Gallante so he has an offscreen moment of glory at least -since he comes back he managed to make port with the prize

incidentally I now have almsot the entire four years of the Indy whereabouts and her officers whereabouts charted from the musters and pay books and looking at the prize crews whom we can locate (it being easier to find the ones who were captured again by the French) but Pellew almost never sent a lieutenant with a prize - he did send the midshipmen and usually in pairs .
I Will do a post on that when I get the complete stats to offer

meanwhile a second reply actaully to appreciate this story !!
Mar. 19th, 2013 11:01 pm (UTC)
My other comment joining in the discussion meant that I needed this one to say njoyed this day before interpretation

I like the way you can feel the ever pressent rain - eating into them and chill with it

( 23 comments — Leave a comment )