Story notes for "The Bare Word" by Resonant

Posted January 1, 2010

This is slash on C.S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower series -- specifically on the short story "Hornblower's Temptation." I would very much recommend reading the story -- if only to see that paragraph-loads of Hornblower introspection are canonical! -- and if you want to read it, I've uploaded it here. If not, here's a summary of the critical points:

McCool, a deserter and an Irish Nationalist, is fighting for France when he's captured and court-martialed by the British. Because Hornblower is the most junior lieutenant on board, he's charged with keeping McCool a prisoner -- and with finding a way to persuade him not to make a speech before being hanged, for fear his eloquence might turn the heads of the sailors of the fleet, a third of whom are Irish. (A member of the admiral's staff suggests stuffing his mouth with bits of tarred rope, an idea that horrifies the soft-hearted Hornblower.)

Instead, McCool offers a promise -- and when Hornblower is dubious about accepting "the bare word" of a deserter, he offers a bargain: Hornblower will promise to send McCool's sea-chest, along with a letter, back to McCool's wife in Dublin; in return, McCool will promise to make no speeches.

Most of the story concerns what's in the letter and the sea-chest, and not what happens the night before the hanging.

Many thanks to Merry for beta.

Read The Bare Word

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