Title: Let Us Have Peace
Word Count 413
“There you are old Stephen, you are still awake I find.”
Jack had dined alone, as day turned to night, writing reports. He had squinted and scratched away with his pen until his head ached. Only now, at 5 bells had he come out. He had thought Stephen long abed.
Jack stepped lightly for such a big man, this was not the first time that Stephen had missed his approach. Stephen had been far away in thought, Jack could see that. Stephen raised his gaze with a sort of dreamy distraction that could mean anything, but it was a grave face, and so Jack tried to think of something cheering.
“Did you hear our gun exercise? Was it not splendid? The starboline gun crews are improving in particular. Tonight they—but come, is something the matter?”
Jack lowered himself in stages, to sit beside Stephen, legs dangling over the dark sea. The airs of the night were fresh on his face, and he sighed.
“Indeed I did hear the guns, and felt them through the soles of my shoes. Will not the repeated concussive forces damage ship in time? I cannot think it could be harmless.”
“No,” Jack said. “Because the ship is in the water do you see.”
“I do. I do see that the ship is in the water too.”
“It does men no good, I am sure,” Stephen said.
“No,” Jack allowed. “Men can be killed by the violence of the air itself, dead where they stand without a mark on them. It is rare, but I have seen it.”
“I have read of such things,” Stephen said.
They sat in silence for some time.
“Do you never long for peace Jack?” Stephen asked.
“My business is war,” Jack's voice was low.
“Aye indeed. And mine too. But if the world were otherwise-- as a boy I used to think that maybe in a hundred years men would have found some secret to amity between nations. Now I think a hundred years insufficient.”
“One hundred ten years from now, then?” Jack's smile was fond. “Because you were poor in your calculations?”
Stephen sighed. They sailed, between sea and sky, suspended as it were, in a celestial vastness. Men and their concerns small as the sparks of a forgotten fire.
One hundred and ten years, to find the secret of it. Maybe so,”Stephen said. “That will be nineteen fourteen..." He laughed a little at the distance of it. Vast. "Well, we will not live to see it. Nineteen fourteen though, that does sound like a good year for peace."