The Devil Within
Captain Pellew looked at the young man – merely a boy – before him, and then at Mr Simpson. Young, and with still a lot to learn, but brave and true, Mr Hornblower had all the makings of a fine and promising officer in His Majesty's Royal Navy. Only recently distinguished in battle he'd proven himself to have a clear and steady head upon his young shoulders, and a gentle heart – when he looked into Mr Simpson's eyes however he saw only cold, hard, calculating ambition, a malicious intent, and contempt – there was genuine evil in the older man's eyes.
He was quite prepared to believe Mr Hornblower, that Mr Simpson had indeed shot him with the intent to kill during the assault the previous evening – based on his initial assessment of the man's character. The nearly fatal shot was too close to being perfect to be a coincidence – but as a ship's Captain he could not allow himself to judge any man by anything other than what he saw him do.
He'd placed the impediment on Mr Hornblower when he'd first joined his crew as a warning to all of his men, not just the young Officer himself, that he did not take to his crew solving petty squabbles amongst themselves by taking pot shots at each other lightly. However, the young Midshipman had kept his word to his Captain, and had proven himself to be of quite different character since then – but this was a matter of the young man's honour, and even Captain Pellew had to admit to himself that honour had to be satisfied.
A man could not be content with either himself, nor his work without the merit of his good name – the lack of which the Captain had seen lead many men to disheartenment, restlessness, and cause them to become plagued by self-doubt.
On the other hand if the young Mr Hornblower lost it could bring to an end a very promising career in his Majesty's Royal Navy before it had even really had its chance to begin – but Captain Pellew knew what he needed to do.
"Very well Mr Honrblower, I remove that impediment…" He spoke hesitantly at last, finally gracing both men with his answer – still not entirely convinced that he was doing the right thing – but at least this would sort the real men from the boys he thought.