Hornblower during the Crisis (Horatio Hornblower Series #4)by C. S. Forester
Captain Hornblower, after two hard years on blockade at Brest, has relinquished the helm of the Hotspur. He has no ship, only the promise of one. Meanwhile there are battles to be fought.
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Hornblower During the Crisis
By C. S. Forester
Back Bay BooksCopyright © 1999 C.S. Forester
All right reserved.
Chapter OneHornblower was expecting the knock on the door, because he had seen through his cabin window enough to guess what was happening outside.
"Water-hoy coming alongside, sir," reported Bush, hat in hand.
"Very well, Mr. Bush." Hornblower was disturbed in spirit and had no intention of smoothing Bush's path for him.
"The new captain's on board the hoy, sir." Bush was perfectly well aware of Hornblower's mood, yet was not ingenious enough to cope with it.
"Very well, Mr. Bush."
But that was simple cruelty, the deliberate teasing of a nearly dumb animal; Hornblower realised that such behaviour really gave him no pleasure and only occasioned embarrassment to Bush. He relented to the extent of introducing a lighter touch into the conversation.
"So now you have a few minutes to spare for me, Mr. Bush?" he said. "It's a change after your preoccupation of the last two days."
That was neither fair nor kind, and Bush showed his feelings in his face.
"I've had my duties to do, sir," he mumbled.
"Getting Hotspur into apple-pie order ready for her new captain?"
"Doesn't matter about me, of course. I'm only a back number now."
Even though he was not in a smiling mood, Hornblower could not help smiling at the misery of Bush's expression.
"I'm glad to see you're only human, Mr. Bush, after all. Sometimes I've doubted it. There couldn't be a more perfect first lieutenant."
Bush needed two or three seconds in which to digest this unexpected compliment.
"That's very good of you, sir. Very kind indeed. But it's been all your doing."
In a moment they would slide down the slippery slopes of sentiment, which would be unbearable.
"Time for me to appear on deck," said Hornblower. "We'd better say goodbye, Mr. Bush. The best of luck under your new captain."
He went so far towards yielding to the mood of the moment as to hold out his hand, which Bush took. Luckily Bush's emotions prevented him from saying more than just "Goodbye, sir," and Hornblower hurried out through the cabin door with Bush at his heels.
There was instantly plenty of distraction as the water-hoy was laid alongside the Hotspur; the side of the hoy was covered from end to end with old sails in rolls and with substantial fend-offs of sandbags, yet it was a ticklish business, even in the sheltered waters of this little bay, to pass lines between the two ships and draw them together. A gangplank came clattering out from the hoy to bridge the gap between the two decks, and a burly man in full uniform made the precarious crossing. He was very tall - two or three inches over six feet - and heavily built; a man of middle age or more, to judge by the shock of grey hair revealed when he raised his hat. The boatswain's mates pealed loudly on their calls; the two ship's drummers beat a ragged ruffle.
"Welcome aboard, sir," said Hornblower.
The new captain pulled a paper from his breast pocket, opened it, and began to read. A shout from Bush bared every head so that the function would take place with due solemnity.
"Orders given by us, William Cornwallis, Vice Admiral of the Red, Knight of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath, Commanding His Majesty's Ships and Vessels of the Channel Fleet, to James Percival Meadows, Esquire -"
"D'ye think we have all day?" This was a new, stentorian voice from the deck of the hoy. "Stand by to take the hoses, there! Mr. Lieutenant, let's have some hands for the pumps."
The voice came, appropriately enough, from the barrel-shaped captain of the hoy. Bush signalled frantically for him to stay quiet until this vital ceremonial was completed.
"Time enough for that tomfoolery when the water's all aboard. The wind'll shift within the hour," roared the barrel-shaped captain, quite unabashed. Captain Meadows scowled and hesitated, but for all his vast stature he could do nothing to silence the captain of the hoy. He roared through the rest of his orders at a pace nearer a gallop than a canter, and folded them up with evident relief now that he was legally captain of H.M.S. Hotspur.
"On hats!" bellowed Bush.
"Sir, I relieve you," said Meadows to Hornblower.
"I much regret the bad manners displayed in the hoy, sir," said Hornblower to Meadows.
"Now let's have some sturdy hands," said the barrel-shaped captain to no one in particular, and Meadows shrugged his vast shoulders with resignation.
"Mr. Bush, my first lieutenant - I mean your first lieutenant, sir," said Hornblower, hastily effecting the introduction.
"Carry on, Mr. Bush," said Meadows, and Bush plunged instantly into the business of transferring the fresh water from the hoy.
"Who's that fellow, sir?" asked Hornblower, with a jerk of his thumb at the captain of the hoy.
"He's been my cross for the last two days," answered Meadows. "He's not only captain but he's thirty-seven sixty-fourths owner. Under Navy Office contract - can't press him, can't press his men, as they all have protections. Says what he likes, does what he likes, and I'd give my prize money for the next five years to have him at the gratings for ten minutes."
"M'm," said Hornblower. "I'm taking passage with him."
"Hope you fare better than I did."
"By your leave, sirs." A hand from the hoy came pushing along the gangplank dragging a canvas hose. At his heels came someone carrying papers; there was bustle everywhere.
"I'll hand over the ship's papers, sir," said Hornblower. "Will you come with me? I mean - they are ready in your cabin when you have time to attend to them, sir."
In the cabin, his sea-chest and ditty bag lay forlorn on the bare deck, pathetic indications of his immediate departure. It was the work only of a few moments to complete the transfer of command.
"May I request of Mr. Bush the loan of a hand to transfer my dunnage, sir ?" asked Hornblower.
Now he was nobody. He was not even a passenger; he had no standing at all, and this became more evident still when he returned to the deck to look round for his officers to bid them farewell. They were all engrossed in the business of the moment, with hardly a second to spare for him. Handshakes were hasty and perfunctory; it was with a queer relief that he turned away to the gangplank.
It was a relief that was short-lived, for even at anchor Hotspur was rolling perceptibly in the swell that curved in round the point, and the two ships, Hotspur and the water-hoy, were rolling in opposite phases, their upper works inclining first together and then away from each other, so that the gangplank which joined them was possessed of several distinct motions - it swung in a vertical plane like a seesaw and in a horizontal plane like a compass needle. It rose and fell bodily, too, but the most frightening motion, instantly obvious as soon as he addressed himself to the crossing, was a stabbing back-and-forth motion as the ships surged together and apart, the gap bridged by the plank being now six feet and then sixteen. To a barefooted seaman the passage would be nothing; to Hornblower it was a rather frightening matter - an eighteen-inch plank with no handrail. He was conscious, too, of the barrel-shaped captain watching him, but at least that made him determined to show no hesitation once he decided on the passage. He studied the motions of the plank out of the tail of his eye while apparently his attention was fully taken up by the various activities in the two ships.
Then he made a rush for it, got both feet on the plank, endured a nightmare interval when it seemed as if, hurry as he would, he made no progress at all, and then thankfully reached the end of the plank and stepped clear of it onto the comparative stability of the deck. The barrel-shaped captain made no move to welcome him, and while two hands dumped his baggage on the deck Hornblower had to make the first advance.
"Are you the master of this vessel, sir?" he asked.
"Captain Baddlestone, master of the hoy Princess."
"I am Captain Hornblower, and I am to be given a passage to England," said Hornblower. He deliberately chose that form of words, nettled as he was by Baddlestone's offhand manner.
"You have your warrant?"
The question and the way in which it was asked rather pricked the bubble of Hornblower's dignity, but he was roused sufficiently by now to feel he would stand no more insolence.
"I have," he declared.
Baddlestone had a large, round, red face, inclining even to purple; from out of it, from under two thick black eyebrows, two surprisingly bright blue eyes met Hornblower's haughty stare. Hornblower was determined to yield not an inch, and was prepared to continue to meet the head-on assault of those blue eyes indefinitely, but he found his flank neatly turned.
"Cabin food a guinea a day. Or you can compound for the passage for three guineas," announced Baddlestone.
It was a surprise to find he had to pay for his subsistence, and Hornblower knew his surprise was apparent in his expression, but he would not allow it to be apparent in his words. He would not even condescend to ask the questions that were on the tip of his tongue. He could be quite sure that Baddlestone had legality on his side. The Navy Office charter of the hoy presumably compelled Baddlestone to give passages to transient officers, but omitted all reference to subsistence. He thought quickly.
"Three guineas, then," he said as loftily as he could, with all the manner of a man to whom the difference between one guinea and three was of no concern. It was not until after he had said the words that he worked out in his mind the deduction that the wind was likely to back round easterly and make a long return passage probable.
During this conversation one pump had been working most irregularly, and now the other one came to a stop; the cessation of the monotonous noise was quite striking. Now Bush was hailing from the Hotspur.
"That's only nineteen ton! We can take two more."
"And two more you won't get," yelled Baddlestone in reply. "We're sucked dry."
It was a strange feeling that this was of no concern to Hornblower; he was free of responsibility, even though his mind automatically worked out that Hotspur now had fresh water for forty days. It was Meadows who would have to plan to conserve that supply. And with the wind likely to come easterly, Hotspur would have to close the mouth of the Goulet as closely as possible - that was Meadows's concern and nothing to do with him, not ever again.
The hands who had been working at the pumps went scuttling back over the gangplank; the two hands from the Princess who had been standing by the hoses came back on board dragging their charges. Last came the Princess's mate.
"Stand by the lines, there!" yelled Baddlestone. "Jib halliards, Mister!"
Baddlestone himself went to the wheel, and he made a neat job of getting the hoy away from the Hotspur's side. He continued to steer the ship while the half dozen hands under the supervision of the mate set about the task of lifting and stowing the fend-offs that hung along her side. It was only a matter of seconds before the gap between the two ships was too wide to bridge by voice. Hornblower looked across the sparkling water. It appeared that Meadows was summoning all hands in order to address them in an inaugural speech; certainly no one spared a further glance towards the hoy or towards Hornblower standing lonely on the deck. The bonds of naval friendship, of naval intimacy, were exceedingly strong, but they could be ruptured in a flash. It was more than likely that he would never see Bush again.
Excerpted from Hornblower During the Crisis by C. S. Forester Copyright © 1999 by C.S. Forester. Excerpted by permission.
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- Date of Birth:
- August 27, 1899
- Date of Death:
- April 2, 1966
- Place of Birth:
- Cairo, Egypt
- Place of Death:
- Berkeley, California
- AlleynGuy's Medical School of the University of London
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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If you love action and adventure books then Hornblower During the Crisis would be the book for you. I am one who loves action and I loved this book. In it Hornblower is leaving his ship to set sail on another ship headed for London where he could be promoted to captain. They also have to deal with many hardships on the way including some tough casualties. One of my favorite quotes was, ¿We¿ve settled it,¿ said Baddlestone's voice. ¿Where¿s Meadows?¿ croaked Hornblower his throat still dry with tension. ¿He¿s a goner,¿ answered Baddlestone with a wave of his arm. That was one of my favorite quotes because that is where you learned of the gruesome ending that befell Meadows. In the middle of the crews journey to London they catch sight of an enemy French ship behind them. It has 3 times the men and much better weaponry. It is also gaining on them fast. Hornblower debates with the two captains on board on what action to take. They then decide in the end to take the initiative and board the French ship to try to catch them by surprise. So Hornblower and his men get ready to try to take down a force three times their size. Odds were against them but they had the element of surprise so they valiantly prepared for battle. This was one of the most suspenseful parts for me and I was dying to see the outcome. Hornblower During the Crisis is a great book for action and adventure lovers. A problem with it is that the author died while still writing this book so they had to take different parts of stories that the author had used for short stories in between big novels to connect them together and used them to complete Hornblower During the Crisis. So considering this you can understand why the book is as unclear and confusing as it is. At times it is hard to follow and I had to turn back to see if I had missed something or hadn¿t read something. It was hard to understand what the characters were discussing many times. For this reason I would recommend it for ages 12 and up otherwise younger kids would get lost and wouldn¿t understand it. It is confusing at parts when Hornblower gets sent on a spy mission and suddenly it skips over years of training and just summarizes them for you so it takes a while for you to catch up to the story. At another point, Hornblower¿s ship is boarded by another British crew and the other crew forces themselves on and they even don¿t deny that it is piracy. Though later in the story the other crew never becomes enemies with Hornblower and they don¿t really do anything else except fight alongside Hornblower. It was confusing because I thought they were evil but it turns out they don¿t get in trouble or anything. Though if you do like to read and you like action and adventure then I highly suggest you read Hornblower During the Crisis and the other volumes in this series too.
Another great story in the Hornblower series! Highly recommend.
I bought these for my best friend. He loves them and reads them so fats. Great series. Wish there was more of them, easy gifts for him!
The novel was not finished due the death of the author, but still has all the flavor that you expect from the Hornblower series. Because the storyline just gets through the setup prior to Hornblower going into the action, you need to fill in the ending with your own imagination based on the flavor of all the Hornblower novels and the author notes that follow the setup. Because the book does not tie into any novels that follow in the series, you could read it anytime after the #3 novel in the series. Read it when you have a short bit of time that needs to be filled and you want just a little more Hornblower.
Where is beat to quarters & ship of the line for nook? B & N has this unfinished work an not two of the best Hornblower books.
This started out really good. I just wish the author would have been around long enough to finish the story.