Slip in Time
Harriman Nelson looked out at the sea through the Seaview's transparent windows. The light reflected nicely on his reddish brown hair. It hadn't been a long sea voyage, but he was tired. They were heading back to base now and the Admiral was grateful to be getting back.
"Earth to Harri, Earth to Harri," Mark smiled at Harri.
"Sorry, what were you going on and on and on about?" Nelson asked.
Lee said, "We were discussing Mark's book on time travel. We were debating whether you could go back and change history." Lee looked at the Admiral thoughtfully. "Are you alright, Sir?"
"Fine, Lee, just a little tired, that's all. I think I will turn in for the night"
"Alright, Admiral, good night."
Harri said goodnight to Lee and Mark and left the "front porch." He walked through to the control room and spoke to an older officer. He was consulting a chart and working on the plotting of the voyage. He was so full of enthusiasm.
"Yes, sir, all shipshape. Just turning in?"
"Yes, if everything is alright."
"I'll give you a call if we have any problems, good night, sir," Jesse turned back to the charts he had been studying.
Harri walked back to his quarters and instead of finding himself on a modern submarine, he found himself on the deck of a 18th century sailing ship. The bulkheads were made of wood instead of metal, the portholes were made of glass instead of the material Seaview used, and they actually opened with brass hinges. Instead of his usual uniform, he was wearing the uniform of a 18th century British navy officer. Noise was going on all around him. Splintering sounds, crashing of guns, swearing of unfamiliar voices in an accent he didn't recognise. The whole ship shook and Harri found himself on the deck.
"Are you alright, Sir? Let me help you up." A midshipman came over and helped him up. He picked up a naval officer’s tricorner hat, which obviously belong to the Admiral. He looked so familiar, but Harri just couldn't place where he knew him from. Quickly the midshipman gave him his hat, and led him to a seat. Harri smiled as he watched the midshipman move round with such enthusiasm . A young lady of obviously doubtful virtue sauntered over to help.
"Sir, I am sorry, I will have to hurry, I am supposed to be delivering a message to Admiral Nelson," the midshipman said.
"Admiral Nelson...I am Admiral Nelson," Harri said
"Dearie me," the young lady looked him up and down suggestively. " You must have gotten quite some bump on the head if you think you are him. Here, take my hankie and apply it to your head. Looks like you got hit with a splinter." The young lady moved in a suggestive manner with the rolling of the ship.
Harri, took the handkerchief and wiped his head with it, then stuck it in his pocket.
"Sir, I have met Admiral Nelson from a distance and you, certainly, aren't him."
Suddenly Harri realised, "What ship is this?"
"Bless you , sir, this is Lord Nelson's ship, the Victory." The young lady looked at him as if he was crazy.
"What day is it? Harri asked urgently.
"It's October 21st, sir"
Harri looked for his watch, then realised that it would be too modern for the time period. He checked and found a pocket watch in his pocket. He looked at the time . It was just 12:45 in the afternoon. There is just enough time. "You must take me to Viscount Nelson. I can prevent a terrible tragedy that will affect all of England."
The midshipman ran off quickly with enthusiasm. He began to hope he could have an opportunity to make a difference to England. He returned shortly and said, "Captain Hardy's compliments. You are to follow me."
Both of them went deep into the ship. As they went, Harri told the midshipman all he knew about Viscount Nelson's death and the action that was taking place all around him. "Nelson decided not to use traditional methods in sea battles; he decided to cut the French line in half with both sides attacking at once."
"Wouldn’t it have been risky to disobey orders and do it his own way?" the midshipman looked at him with curiousity.
"It would have been if he had lost, but his strategy was brilliant. When he sent up the flag with the message ‘England expects every man to do his duty,' the men cheered, because they felt he was with them."
"The Nelson touch?"
"Yes, he had the touch. Captain Hardy will be with Viscount Nelson when he is shot. It will take Hardy, a sergeant of the marines, and two privates to lift him up." Pride filled Harri’s chest.
"But won’t his being shot affect the moral on the ship?"
"That is another of his touches of genius, he will ask for his face to be covered with a hankerchief."
"If you know so much, sir, how many of our ships will we loose then?" the midshipman listened carefully to every word.
"Not a single one."
"But how do you know so much?"
"I studied it at the Naval Academy." They came to a small dark room and Harri was rudely shoved into it and the door was locked behind him.
He listened to the noise around him. He knew what the sounds meant. He heard the sounds of wood being smashed and men shouting when their companions were killed. He heard the crashing sounds of the cannons being pulled back and forth and the whimpering of the young children the navy used in those days to carry powder. After what seemed like hours, the door was opened again. The sunlight streamed in on Harri after being in the dark room. The midshipman was unlocking the door.
"Captain Hardy would like to extend his apologies. When I reported to him that you thought you were Admiral Nelson, he thought you were out of your mind. Then when I told him what you said about the ships and Admiral Nelson, he says he is sorry he never listened to you, now. He is asking if you would like to be present."
The midshipman led the way to the bowels of the ship. The deck down here was painted red and there were screams going on. Men were being brought down with various horrific injuries. There was very little the surgeons could do to save most of them, but they were trying. In the corner, over by the side, a small group of officers surrounded a wounded man lying on the side. Harri recognised Viscount Nelson from the drawing he had seen of this scene. Harri was taken over and stood beside Captain Hardy.
Viscount Nelson gasped and said, "How many French ships have struck?"
"That’s well, but I had bargained for twenty. I have done my duty, I thank God for it." Then as all the officers watched, he died. The officers round about him were crying and Nelson felt a tear forming in his own eye. The midshipman led him out and he found himself back on the Seaview.
He went through to the control and instead of finding Jesse on duty, he found another officer. "Who are you and where is the officer of the watch."
"Smith, sir and I am the officer of the watch. Are you alright, sir?" Harri shook his head and walked through to the "front porch".
In the observation nose, all was the same as he left it except for the addition of one man. An older man who moved quickly and talked with great enthusiasm. He was sitting at the table with Mark and Lee and describing how his ancestors made their money during the Napoleanic war.
"My ancestor reported to the Admiralty everything he knew about the battle. He was the only person who could give a complete and absolute account of the action. He was a midshipman, right smack in the middle of things. One of the Admirals kept and eye on him and marked him out for rapid promotion. In those days, the higher your rank, the more money you got from capturing French ships, so he started the family fortune."
He turned to him and said, "Did you change your mind about retiring, sir?"
The Admiral sat down tiredly in the chair .He reached in his pocket and wiped his head with the handkerchief that the young lady had given him. "Lee, you were right, and Mark, you, too were right. You can and you can’t change history. I have a story to tell you. "