The Jest

Horatio kisses Archie shortly when he returns from his shore leave, smiling, laughing, head held high.

"What have you done?"

"Lost my wealth."


"I bought trinkets. Butterflies, and silvers spoons, and tassels. China roses and bronze grapes." Archie smiles the special smile. "Purple feathers and a painting of the word love, in every colour in the world."

"Archie, you're jesting."

"No, m'not." Archie shakes his head in his special way.

"May I see, then?"

"Forgive me, no. Not yet. But someday. I shall show you all my trinkets, and give you the painting." Archie says it firmly but tenderly, seriously but laughingly, so that it is special, and a real-true promise.

But Horatio always imagines Archie was jesting. It is forgotten, laid aside, and no longer a matter within a matter of days. Occasionally, later on, he hears of it in passing.

"I lost a spoon today," Archie will say.

"When we jumped into the sea with Bush, the last rose fell out of my pocket."

"The tassels are all unravelled, Horatio."

Yet no more than that.

When Archie is gone - dead - whatever word is harshest and most honest - Horatio chances to go through his possessions. It is his duty, out of loyalty, retribution for a mutiny. Among the scraps and bits and pieces, he finds a battered silver spoon, and a slip of paper. Painted on the paper, with a small brush tip, in too many different colours to count, is the name, "Horatio".

Horatio tucks the spoon into his coat pocket, and sighs. Love in a thousand colours? "Horatio"?

So it was a jest, then, after all.

Back to the Index.