I would not wish
Any companion in the world but you.
(The Tempest 3.1
Act 4 Scene 6. Horatio found himself a corner to be alone with his thoughts. For an orphan, he had come a long way. First, adopted by King Hamlet to be his squire. Such an honor but he always wondered why him. “Because I can trust you,” the king said when Horatio asked.
It had been that trust that had earned Horatio a scholarship for Wittenberg University. “Go away and become a scholar. Then return and you will be my trusted adviser,” King Hamlet told Horatio. “And watch out for my son. I know I can trust you to do that.”
That same trust earned Horatio a friendship with the prince. It was that same trust that Gertrude found so appealing. And Claudius too.
If someone had asked Horatio why he could be trusted, Horatio would simply have told them the story of a man who could not be trusted. Judas Iscariot. The orphan once heard a priest tell the story of Iscariot. Horatio knew he did not want to be a Judas. So he made sure that he said nothing that would reveal the confidence others had in him. He knew secrets and he kept them.
One minute he was alone, the next a servant stood before him. “Sir, two sailors want to speak to you. They have a letter.”
Horatio gave a deep sigh. It was back to work for him. “I’ll see them.”
The servant left.
Horatio asked himself, “Who would want to send me a letter. Certainly not that girl I fell in love with at Wittenberg. She dumped me for a senior, and a football player at that. Then again, maybe she needs me.”
Before Horatio stood two sailors. Each wore sailor’s boots and sailor’s pants and a sailor’s shirt and a sailor’s hat. The tall one had a white beard that once was red. The short one wore an earring. Yep, they were sailors alright.
“We have a letter for your eyes only,” the tall one said. “But first you must pay the postage due of two gold ducats.”
In those days, there was no Pony Express. There was no carrier pigeons. There was no United States Postal Service. There was no email and there was no text. The only way you could get a letter out of your part of the world was to catch someone on the way to the letter’s destination. Or hire someone to carry your message.
“Who would be sending me a letter?”
“My lord, Hamlet.”
Horatio pulled out two gold ducats from his pocket and handed them to the sailor. The sailor handed him his letter.
When thou shalt have overlooked this, give these fellows some means to the king. They have letters for him. Ere we were two days old at sea, a pirate of very warlike appointment gave us chase. Finding ourselves too slow of sail, we put on a compelled valor, and in the grapple I boarded them. On the instant, they got clear of our ship, so I alone became their prisoner. They have dealt with me like thieves of mercy, but they knew what they did; I am to do a good turn for them.
Let the king have the letters I have sent, and repair thou to me with as much speed as thou wouldst fly death. I have words to speak in thine ear will make thee dumb, yet are they much too light for the bore of the matter. These good fellows will bring thee where I am. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern hold their course for England. Of them I have much to tell thee. Fare-well.
He that thou knowest thine,
There was something about the letter that made Horatio think this wasn’t Hamlet, and yet it was Hamlet. It wasn’t the doubting Hamlet, but a confident Hamlet. The prince had changed. He had gained what had for some time seemed lost. The writer of this letter seemed lighter than air. It was the Hamlet he had once known.
“Wow,” Horatio said. “That is some story.”
“And all true, sir. Never have we witnessed a braver man.”
“Well, follow me. I will take you to the king to deliver his letters. Then you can take me to the man who sent you.”
“And remember, not a word to the king about this other matter. Understood?”
So, dear Reader, aren’t you surprised? Bet you thought Hamlet was in England, doing the pubs and catching the Bard’s latest play. Looks like he isn’t. Very interesting. Bet Claudius will be surprised too.