Title: Improving Texts
Word Count 1100
There is little excuse for this excursion into silly land. I think that Mary Wolstoncraft must have access to a time machine. Wonder where she got it. And I think she packed that particular basket with care. Improving books can take many forms, after all.
Maybe tomorrow we will all get to see the results of the improving reading regime.
Cleveland moved lightly for man of his size. He was strong under his bulk and as agile as a ships rat. He could make it up to the tops in good time-- usually faster than Horatio. (Neither were as consistently fast as Archie.) But today was different. Horatio was on watch, and therefore watching. Cleveland was returning from time ashore. He had gone away, four days ago, in a coach with Mr Bracegirdle. Nobody was supposed to know why. But of course everyone knew. Cleveland's smile would have given it away, if nothing else did. (Bracey said nothing at all, of course.) Cleveland was going to see Miss Cathcart.
Now he was back. He looked tired, and he was having some trouble coming up the side. He was hampered by a large hamper. It was as big as Cleveland's torso, rectangular, made of reinforced wicker, and topped with a bow of pink sateen. From his place on the Quarterdeck, and judging by the sweat topping Mr Cleveland, Horatio judged it to weigh at least 40 pounds.
Finally, with help from above, and a firm push from below, Cleveland gained the deck.
He saluted distractedly, and stood puffing. Bracy, coming up the side without impediment, patted him on the shoulder.
“It was good to have your company, Mr Cleveland,” he said.
“Thank you, Sir. I will write to Mrs Bracegirdle tonight sir, but please will you tell her as well how grateful we are for—umm.” Well, that sentence seemed to to headed for a reef, Horatio thought. He listened, interested, behind his bland watch face. Cleveland stopped abruptly
“Indeed.” Bracey broke in smoothly before it got any worse.
“Why don't you take that basket below. Someone can sort the contents I'm sure. And then you have watch, do you not?”
“Aye, Sir. I am to relieve Mr Hornblower.”
Cleveland hefted the hamper, his moth contracting as he took the weight, and he went below.
Archie was dancing. It was a hopping spinning sort of dance, performed in the wardroom, with only Horatio to witness. Archie had both hands covering his mouth. It was, Horatio thought, as if he was trying not to scream with joy. The ecstasy of the moment could find no other way out. Horatio waited, until Archie was done. He had seen this before.
“Shall I help?” Horatio asked. He had his knife ready.
“Yes, oh, Horatio it is so wonderful. No, not with that. Don't cut it if we don't have to. Might be useful for something. Let me work the knot,”
(A pink sateen ribbon did not have any Naval application that Horatio could name. but like all sailors, Archie would not cut anything he could save entire.)
The knot gave way, and they lifted the cover off. The smell of books, filled the wardroom. Old paper, woodfire, land and home and childhood. Horatio swallowed hard.
“Did these all come from Bracey's house?” His voice came out gruff.
“No.” Archie said. “Apparently Mrs Bracey got them from a friend. A Mrs Woolston—something. The wool woman wanted them given to the Indy. She is a writer herself, and has a lot of books. These are for our improvement. But Horatio, it has been so long since I read anything new, I don't even mind improving tracts. Let's see here...”
“Collected works of Marlowe.” Horatio lifted that off the top. Archie was glowing like the rising sun.
“Common Sense.” Archie said. He set that one down
“This one seems to be for children.” Horatio said. “Fairy stories. The author is foreign, I think. Have you ever heard of Bruno Bettleheim?”
“Ooh-- look. Travels with a Donkey. Why would anyone write about that?”
“Don't know. Maybe it has something to do with Cervantes. Probably more fun to read than this one”
“He help up a small book entitled Two Years Before the Mast. “ No thank you.” Archie said. He put it aside gently even so.
“Creative Bee-keeping for the Frugal Household.”
“This one must be fiction.” Horatio said. He was flipping through it. “What is a Hobbit?”
“No idea,” Archie said. “There are three others by the same fellow. Nice and long. I hope they are good.” He set them aside together. “Look, this one is about an excavation of ruins in Italy. It has pictures-- It-- oooh!”
Horatio looked over Archie's shoulder.
“That's-- he's-- with a goat!”
“Well.” Archie's voice was faint. “He is part goat himself, so I suppose it is all right.”
“How Green was my Valley?” Surely that depends on where the valley is. Who do you suppose thinks up these titles?”
“No idea, H'ratio. Maybe the authors don't always get a choice.”
They were almost to the bottom now. Archie reached out and caressed the books, as one would a dog.
“The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat.” and it is by a doctor!” Horatio said.
“I do not want to think ill of any connexion of Mrs Bracegirldle, but some of these seem-- I mean the goat one.”
“It is all right if it is art.”
“Well. H'hm. “
“Oh-- this is the last one. “Breeches vs Trowsers: A Poststructural Deconstruction of Naval Unmentionables"
“What on earth?”
“Horatio, I have no idea. Cleveland says that Miss Cathcart met Mrs Wool-whatever, and liked her very much. Said she was full of new ideas.”
Horatio looked at Archie. Archie was looking down at the goat picture. Looking closely.
“It is no worse than Leda and the swan.” Archie said. “And you see that one everywhere.”
“Which one are you going to start with?” Archie had clearly made his choice, Horatio thought.
“Oh, I don't know,” Horatio said “The one about the clothing, perhaps.”
“Ah.” Archie eyes were heavy and his face was flushed.
“Almost the end of the day. I'm for my hammock. Think I'll read for a while. What about you?”
“Oh yes.” Horatio said.