|Hornblower and the Atropos|
| Preceded by|
| Followed by|
Hornblower in the West Indies
|Dec 1805||Jan 1808|
| Preceded by|
Hornblower and the Crisis
| Followed by|
The Happy Return
Hornblower and the Atropos (published 1953) was the eighth book in the Hornblower series written by C.S. Forester. By internal chronology, it is the fifth book in the series.
It follows Horatio Hornblower after he is assigned to the HMS Atropos, the smallest vessel in the English navy that qualifies to be commanded by a post-captain, as he hunts for treasure in the Mediterranean Sea.
On a December day in 1805, Hornblower takes his very pregnant wife and their son on a canal boat to London. He is excited about getting his new orders and obtaining his first command as a post-captain. On the canal, the assistant boatman becomes incapacitated, thus allowing Hornblower the opportunity to learn much of canal boat operation when he volunteers to take the man's place.
Upon their arrival in London, Hornblower assumes command of the Atropos. His first assignment is a unique one: to organise Admiral Nelson's funeral. The Battle of Trafalgar had just taken place, in which Nelson was shot by a musket and killed. The nation is in mourning and all eyes are on the funeral. During the solemn navy procession, Hornblower has to deal with a leak on the ceremonial barge conveying Nelson's casket. The hands bailing frantically, barely managing to unload the casket without sinking.
Once Hornblower finishes with the funeral, he is presented to his King at the royal court. He is informed that the king's nephew, a German prince run out of his principality by Napoleon, is to be one of his midshipmen on the Atropos. Hornblower's treatment of the prince is a continuing sub-plot.
He is then sent to pick up three pearl divers from Ceylon and a surly salvage master to recover treasure from a sunken British ship. The ship had sunk in Turkish waters carrying a fortune in silver and gold. Hornblower is tasked with the salvage operation. The Turks are aware of the supposedly-secret recovery operation and craftily bring a superior ship into the bay, and man a previously deserted fort, trapping Hornblower. When the Turks demand all the money Hornblower has recovered, he puts them off until the following morning. In the middle of the night, he makes a daring escape by an extremely perilous route, outsmarting both the ship and the coastal battery.
Following Hornblower's delivery of the treasure, he helps capture a Spanish ship, the Castilla, and makes his way into a Sicilian port for repairs. He does such a fine job, his ship attracts the notice of the King of Sicily. The British government transfers the vessel to the Sicilian navy in return for the King's allegiance. Hornblower makes his way back to England, only to find both of his children mortally ill with smallpox.
- Other books in the series refer to Hornblower capturing the Castilla as a lieutenant, but he is a captain in this book, which actually describes the battle. Confusingly, the short story "Hornblower and the Hand of Destiny" (1940) also describes an entirely different action featuring Lieutenant Hornblower capturing Castilla. Forester apparently retconned Hornblower's history, overwriting the events of his short stories in subsequent novel-length works. "The fact that he discouraged the re-publication of the short stories is an indicator that he gave the novel's events preference."