“To Lord Nelson,”
Peter Barnes tipped back his tumbler of grog with too much enthusiasm for a boy of fourteen. Small and thin, he was easily pitched into his cups, despite regular conditioning during his two years at sea.
“Why’s it always him?” he asked, setting the beaker down with a drunken crash. “What’s so wonderful about Lord Nelson?”
“He’s a bloody hero, Pete.”
The other sailors laughed at the boy, whose drunken rambles were becoming nightly events. Cullen, a teenage landsman fresh from the press, grinned.
“Hah. You know how he lost that arm of his? Not in some bloody battle. You think the greatest wizard Britain has seen in a hundred years, nay two hundred years, would let some half-brained muggle chop his arm off? Let me tell you.”
Peter settled back and began the story.
“Back in ’99, before everyone in the world knew that Lady ‘Amilton was f- ow!”
“Tsk. Language, Peter,” Cullen said.
“As I was saying, before we knew that Lady ‘Amilton was slee- ow! Bloody hell! That’s not even bad. Anyway, I didn’t know, and you didn’t know, and nobody knew that Lady ‘Amilton was ‘getting to know’ Lord Nelson. And-”
“Then how do you know the story?”
“Got it from my cousin’s best friend’s aunt, who was the chambermaid who saw everything! Jesus bloody Christ, let me finish? As I was saying, everybody knew ‘bout ‘Amilton’s affair, ‘cepting of course the Lord Hamilton. Now the admiral and Lady ‘Amilton were all a-twined in the sheets, when, clattering up the way, comes none but the ‘usband ‘imself. Nelson, of course, hears the racket and leaps up out o’ bed, fixing for the fireplace to floo himself away, not wantin’ to be caught trowsers down. The Lady, though,”
Here Peter hopped on the bench and pitched his not-yet-deepened voice higher.
“Sir! How ungallant! Have you no sense of honor, you must duel!”
“The Admiral, of course, pointed out that as a wizard and a Naval officer, he was in fact prohibited from dueling. The Lady though,
“Fie on law! No law contains our love! Besides, yon fireplace leads nowhere. I had the thought to disconnect it, for our privacy.”
Nelson, now much dismayed, hears knocking at the door. “But stay, my love, but stay,” the Lady cries. He reaches out to kiss her hand in farewell, but just as the two touch.”
He stopped, for dramatic effect, and nudged Cullen. “Take my sleeve,” he whispered, “it’s for the show.”
“But just as the two touch… Pop opens the door and pop goes Nelson…
And Peter jumped from the bench, leaving Cullen dangling his empty coat.
“and Lady ‘Amilton’s got his arm. She faints away, and remembers naught, but I know the chambermaid who saw it all.”
Peter bowed to applause. Cullen threw the coat back in mock anger.
“How the hell would the greatest wizard in Britain go and splinch himself?”
"For love, mate," Peter grinned. "For love."