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Letters 3

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William had spent an hour attempting a reply to Hornblower’s letter but had failed to write a single word. He would not burden the man with his problems but did not want the letter to be pointless- but what could he say?

I miss the sea, and you- every day is a trial? The impotence of my position constantly leads me to…

I hope this letter finds you and your family in good health. I am finding my position here a challenge.

He had a start, as paltry as it was, it did have the virtue of being the truth.

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Hornblower sat in his study to read Bush’s letter. His friend had settled in to Sheerness and his new position with the ease that Hornblower had expected.

I hope this letter finds you and your family in good health. I’m finding my position here a challenge because Sheerness works very differently to a ship. I am however adjusting my expectations accordingly.

The Sutherland and France seem a lifetime away

As Richard entered with a toy boat and a hopeful expression, Hornblower carefully folded the letter away. Hornblower was pleased that Bush was putting the difficult times they’d had behind him.

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Hornblower knew Bush had changed despite the lack of obvious differences. His uniform was still perfect, his queue exactly regulation. The affectionate respect that warmed Hornblower through, despite his best efforts, was still present, but something was wrong. Whatever the wrongness was made Hornblower’s heart lurch painfully.

Hornblower studied his friend closely identifying new lines and a painfully drawn tightness on his face. Bush looked up startled at the scrutiny and met Hornblower’s eyes. In that instant Hornblower knew exactly what was wrong. Grief, vulnerability and tightly controlled despair met his startled gaze.

Bush’s letters came back to him with new meaning and Hornblower was struck by the enormity of his wilful blindness.

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Bush watched horrified as Hornblower's face drained of all colour as his puzzlement changed to shocked realisation. Bush looked down quickly hiding his expression, but aware the damage was done.

He risked a glance up, willing Hornblower to ignore his new knowledge. But he realised as he saw the determination mingled with guilt in Hornblower’s eyes that his hope was a forlorn one.

All his carefully worded letters had come to naught and Bush damped down a sudden burst of irritation at Hornblower’s unwanted awakening. But to his shame it was quickly replaced by an almost overwhelming sense of relief.