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|"The Last Encounter"|
|Author||C. S. Forester|
|Genre(s)||Historical short story|
|Published in||Hornblower and the Crisis|
|Publisher||Michael Joseph, London|
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
"The Last Encounter" is a short story by C. S. Forester, providing the final chapter in the life of his fictional naval hero, Horatio Hornblower. It was published together with the unfinished novel Hornblower and the Crisis and another short story, "Hornblower and the Widow McCool".
In 1848, Hornblower, now 72, is enjoying a comfortable retirement on his country estate at Smallbridge, Kent. Recently promoted to the well-paid but honorary rank of Admiral of the Fleet, he reflects that life as a country gentleman is pleasant and secure but dull. Hornblower is still married to Lady Barbara, and his sailor-servant Brown still attends him, although now as a butler.
Late one stormy night, a well-dressed Frenchman, claiming to be Napoleon, arrives at the front door of Hornblower's mansion. The man had been travelling by rail to Dover to take ship for France. However a landslip has delayed the train near Smallbridge Park, and he is urgently seeking assistance to complete his journey. Barbara is favourably impressed with the man's charming manners and persuades her husband to provide a carriage, although Hornblower is convinced that the Frenchman is a lunatic.
A month later, the Hornblowers find that their caller really was a Napoleon—Prince Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, nephew of Napoleon I, and the future Emperor Napoleon III. He was on his way to Paris to contest the office of President of France. After winning the election, the Prince-President confers on Hornblower the insignia of a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour and presents a sapphire to Barbara in gratitude for their timely aid.