Hamlet and Horatio
“Ratso! What are you doing back from Wittenberg? Won’t your father flip his wig if you’re not at your studies?”
Horatio frowned. “You’re one to talk. You are talking! Who are you talking to, anyway?”
“Myself,” Hamlet mumbled.
“Me,” the Ghost drawled from beneath them.
Horatio jumped back, a chill scattering up his back. “What the hell?”
“Never mind that. How are things at school?”
Horatio glared at him. “They’d be a lot better if you were there to do your papers. Professor Kinton, particularly, is going to have your head you don’t finish that Natural Philosophy paper you promised him!”
Hamlet looked away, something sliding through his eyes that Horatio couldn’t read. “I just couldn’t…” He trailed off.
Horatio felt guilt flood him. “Hambone, I’m sorry. I never meant–”
“Have you seen Ophelia?” Hamlet interrupted.
Horatio stared at him. “No. I haven’t been up to the castle yet. I heard Polonius is in fine fettle, though.”
“From whom?” Hamlet demanded, suddenly intense.
Horatio’s eyed narrowed. “I knew it. What are you up to?”
Hamlet looked, if anything, more furtive. “You must promise me you will say nothing. Promise. Swear it… swear it on my sword.”
“Your sword!” Horatio echoed, shocked.
“His sword,” the Ghost quavered.
“Hamlet, what –”
“You must,” Hamlet interrupted. “You will say nothing!”
“All right, all right! Calm down! I’ll swear.”
“By his sword,” the Ghost commanded.
“Hamlet, what is that?” Horatio demanded. He looked around and spotted the Ghost. He stumbled back with a cry, dropping his backpack. The zipper sprang apart and spilled several heavy, leather-bound textbooks into the grass.
“My father,” Hamlet answered simply. He looked at the Ghost, pain and a strange resolve in his eyes that Horatio had never seen.
“This has got to be the strangest thing I’ve ever seen!” Horatio burst out. “You, a student of Natural Philosophy. I heard they said you were mad, and I half believed it. But this –” He waved at the ghost with an agitated hand.
“Then give it welcome, Horatio, as a true Philosopher. There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
“Since when have I been a know-it-all?” Horatio protested, still staring wide-eyed at the Ghost. “Hamlet, is that your father?” he asked plaintively.
“Yes,” Hamlet said again.
Horatio rubbed his eyes furiously for a moment as the ghost began to fade. “What is going on? I receive a letter that the King is dead, his son the Prince is mad, and Polonius is traipsing around the castle while his daughter goes mad from grief. You love Ophelia, dammit! What are you doing?”
Hamlet regarded him sadly. “I would explain, but I need time, Horatio. Time that I do not have. Time to catch a murderer.”
“But who –”
“Have you heard who is to wed my mother?” Hamlet demanded, intense again.
Horatio sighed, feeling like it came from his toes. “Yes. I’m sorry. But that’s surely not cause for murder! Such things aren’t done in these times!”
Hamlet shook his head, disgusted. “Always you seek the best in man.”
“And always you seek the worst!” Horatio snapped, offended. “See reason, man! You cannot just accuse the man who will be King of Denmark of usurping his brother’s throne by murder!”
Hamlet looked away, toward where the ghost had been just moments before. Horatio watched that unfamiliar resolve surfacing again. “Man will act as he has always done, and woman also. If it is truth you seek, my friend, then it is truth you shall have.” He stared into the distance for a few moments more and then turned to Horatio as though nothing had happened. “Come. Fix your bag. I’ll walk you up to the castle. You must be tired from your journey.”
Horatio blinked and allowed the Prince to chivy him onto the road toward the castle. He would speak no more of what they had discussed, but Horatio could not shake the feeling that something was rotten in the heart of Denmark.