An American Encounter
By Skihee :)

Chapter 11 Where are we?

The majority of this chapter is PG 13, but around the last 10 pages there are some R rated descriptions. Younger Readers, be advised!


*****************

The first watch settled in. Lasky was on duty. For the past ten hours Hornblower had overseen the changing of course from the larboard to the starboard tack, seeking to gain the latitude of Gibraltar, then sail straight in on a rhumb line. He worked his men and himself diligently, but he was tired and he knew his men were tired. Having all but the mizzen sail reefed, he bade Lasky a goodnight. The tensions and exertions of the past thirty-six hours were telling on him. He needed rest.

 

He supped with Pamela a few hours previous and nearly drifted off to sleep as she massaged his neck and shoulders. Thinking about joining her in the cabin, he brightened a little and made his way below decks. He knocked twice and opened the door slowly. She sat at the table reading, looking up as he entered. She rose to embrace him. He leaned for a light kiss. She was dressed in her nightgown and robe, with her hair down and newly brushed. On the table was a fresh pot of tea Jenkins delivered at Hornblower's request.

 

"Good evening, my dear."

"You look tired, my darling." She pushed his coat away and lay it over the chair back.

"Indeed, I am. What are you reading?"

 

"The sonnets Matthews gave me. They are lovely."

 

"Like you, my lady," he sat heavily in a chair and rubbed his eyes, yawning. Pamela massaged tense shoulders. "You've a magic touch." He pulled a hand from his shoulder and kissed it.

"Anything for you." She leaned over to kiss his cheek. He turned to meet warm lips and pulled her onto his lap, wrapping his arms around the sensual body.

 

She gazed into his handsome features.

 

"What was that sigh for?"

 

"I'm the luckiest girl in the world."

 

"Are you?"

 

She nodded and touched his expressive full lips. He pressed the fingertip between them. Then, he lifted and carried her to the bunk. Laying her upon it, he climbed in next to her. The two gazed for moments, then he spoke.

 

"I cannot get enough of you. The more I have, the more I want." He felt a sting behind his eyes. "I do not ever want to let you go, Pamela. I cannot bear the thought of our parting."

 

"Do not speak of it, Horatio." She had been through partings before. Painful? Yes. And now, married once more to a man she would relinquish to duty, to career, to the sea, it was inevitable.

He pulled on the sash of the robe until it gave way. Reaching low, he lightly smoothed his hand up and under the gown, kissing the warm neck. Fingers worked to loosen trousers. Joining came silently, with the merest breath, and they were one. For a time, they could be one. After the fireworks of passion, the union remained. Resting his head on her shoulder, he drifted off to sleep.

Silent tears coursed down her temples as she delighted in the weight upon her body. She nuzzled beside his ear, breathing in the scent of sea, salt, and soft curls. A slight stubble sanded her silken cheek. She kissed it, whispering, "I love you, Horatio."

 

The soft words roused him to respond. "Hm." As he turned, rubbing his face against hers, he felt the damp skin but found her lips. "Do not cry, my love."

 

"They are tears of joy. Not sadness. Not sadness, my darling."

 

He rolled against the wall. "Sleep calls me."

 

"Then sleep, my love." She saw all tension leave his features as he succumbed. "Thank you, Lord, for this man," she prayed, before slipping into blissful rest.

 

What was that? He could see it in the fog, dimly. The water surrounded
him. If he could but reach it. It rang. A channel buoy! He tried again. The pain registered as he started awake. His hand banged into the bulkhead. He inhaled suddenly, realizing it was a dream! The bell sounded again, but it was different, smaller, higher pitched. The ship's bell. How many times did it toll? Was it seven? He could not recall. Rubbing his knuckles, Horatio lay in the dark, realizing he was still dressed in his uniform. He was aware of Pamela next to him and the rhythmic breathing. He listened to the ship, hearing the creaking and the lap of water against the hull. Propping his head, he watched her sleep and moved a strand of hair. He did not want to wake her and whispered what he desired to say.

 

"You have made me more happy than I feel I have a right. My memory of you has become entwined with the sea. When I see a sail, I will remember your skirts billowing in the wind. When I hear the ensign flapping in the breeze, I will recall your hair streaming windward. When the men climb the rigging, it will be you I see. The scare you gave me, my impetuous lady." He rubbed his lips over her forehead, barely touching. "If ever someone says to do my duty, I will remember our wedding night and the passion of our love." He stroked her cheek. "I love you. Thank you. I have such a need to say thank you!"

 

"Eratio," she mumbled sleepily.

 

"Raysho. My mother used to call me..." He buried his face in her hair.

 

She came to full consciousness, hearing a sniff. She was in Horatio's arms. She adjusted. and became the one who held. "I love you, Horatio." She kissed his head, stroking the soft curls, smoothing his hair, playing with a ringlet, wrapping it around her fingers, in and out.

He loved the touch, feeling chills run over his body as fingers gently tugged. He squeezed her between strong arms and turned his face towards hers. "I love you."

 

In the dim light of moonbeams streaming through the stern windows, she caught the sparkle of a wet streak on his cheek. She wiped away the dampness and felt a sting in her own eyes.

"I don't think I have ever been in love, the way I am in love with you. What have you done to me?" she whispered.

 

He smiled wryly. "No more than you have done to me."

 

He kissed her deeply and long, enveloping her in his arms, tightly, wanting to press her into his own being into one person. He kissed her cheek, then leaned his head against hers.

****

 

Dawn came early for Captain Pellew as he stared at the ceiling above his bunk. His nights seemed to be more and more restless with worry for Hornblower and the rest of the crew he abandoned on that blasted pirate ship! He was so cocksure Hornblower would be able to manage a holed vessel, two of them below the water line! Was he wrong? Had they both forgotten the lessons of Marie Gallant?

 

He sat up in bed. But, wooden ships floated. With men at the pumps they should be all right. Then, if it was not the leaks, what was it? Ah, yes, the powder!

 

He stood abruptly to his feet. What if they met the enemy and had no means to fight? He began to pace the cabin. Perhaps they were already taken captive? Hornblower and his men in prison again?

 

He turned on his heel quickly, pacing. Or, worse, if he put up a fight with what he had, with no chance to surrender.... he could not finish the thought or the pace. He stood still. Dead? No, he would not consider it. He set his lips and paced again. He stopped and rubbed his forehead. "Where the hell, are we?" he muttered. He grabbed his dressing gown, shoved his feet into shoes and went out on deck.

 

The gray light of dawn embraced the ship through a light fog. "Damn!" he muttered when he saw the mist. He walked quickly to the quarter-deck. Kennedy held the morning watch, relieving the other officers from his fidgeting and worry. He was on duty while they slept, and he was supposed to sleep, while they were on duty. At least, that was the plan. Pellew stormed onto the quarter-deck alarming Kennedy.

 

"What is it, Captain?" he asked abruptly.

Pellew eyed him, trying to compose himself, and not betray his own anxiety about Dolphin. Though, truth be known, the whole ship knew already. They were never under such an alert status unless they were in a chase. Everyone knew there was no enemy in sight. It was not that. It was Hornblower. And the crew. And that damned ship! And the damned powder!

 

Kennedy swallowed, wide eyed. His captain seemed on the verge of an explosion. He was not quite sure why Pellew was treating him the way he was of late. It started after Portsmouth, it seemed, when Pellew had him do all the accounting of new supplies. He knew it was busy work, perhaps a punishment even. He wondered what Beadle said to his captain to make him think Kennedy called him a coward. Was this why he was given a watch a midshipman should pull?

 

"Damn this fog!" Pellew spit.

 

"Aye, sir, the fog be damned!" said Kennedy nervously.

 

Placing hands on hips, he assessed the acting leftenant for impertinence, but noted the startled expression. He glanced from Kennedy, to the deck, to the sail, squinted, clasped his hands behind him, and began to pace. "Damn fog," he muttered. *It will do neither of us any good to dwell on the possibilities of Hornblower's fate.* thought Pellew. *You've a loyal friend, Mr. Hornblower. Probably one of the best things you will get out of this man's navy.* "I will be in my cabin, Mr. Kennedy. When this fog lifts, be sure to call me. Pass the word to the next duty officer."

 

"Aye, aye, sir!" Kennedy answered, relieved. Watching his captain disappear down the ladder, he raised and lowered his eyebrows. *How do you manage him, Horatio? I must inquire upon your return. He scares the bejeebers out of me!*

*********

Two knocks at the door brought Hornblower to consciousness. He rose from bed and opened the door. It was Hardy with hot water and coffee. He let him in to place the tray on the table. Hornblower grasped the nightshirt to cover his neck.

 

"Thank you, Hardy. How is the weather this morning?"

 

"It's a bit foggy, sir. Not much wind. I think Matthews said we was doin' about two knots. Course, we're still only usin' the mizzen sail, sir." Hardy could not keep his eyes from roaming the small cabin. "Mornin', ma'am," nodded Hardy.

 

Pamela wakened to voices and smiled with sleepy eyes. "Good morning, Mr. Hardy."

 

"Thank you, Hardy." Hornblower herded him out of the room. "I shall be on deck directly."

 

"Aye, sir."

 

"Horatio." Pamela held out her hand. Taking it, he bent for a kiss.

 

"Good morning, my lady."

 

She reached around him for a hug, kissing his cheek. "I love you, darling. Mmmm."

 

"What?" he chuckled.

 

"You're so good looking!"

 

He looked down at his nightshirt. "Ah, yes, well,... it's the uniform," he said sarcastically, giving her a kiss on the forehead. "I must shave."

 

She watched, rolling over to rest her head on the scrunched up pillow.

 

He glanced her way once his face was soaped. "You look like the cat that ate the canary!"

 

She raised an eyebrow. "Maybe I did!"

 

He ran the razor down his cheek. "Now, don't make me laugh. I do not need to add nicks to my list of injuries."

 

"What injuries?"

 

He moved his nightshirt to reveal his neck.

 

"Oh," she blushed shyly.

 

"Oh, indeed!" Every stroke or two, he glanced her way, smiling. At one point, she mimicked his movements. "Haven't you ever seen a man shave before?"

 

"Hm, yes," she said thinking, "I used to watch my father when I was a little girl."

 

He finished, wiping the outline of soap from the edges of his face. "Done."

 

"Come here and let me feel." He walked over and sat on the edge of the bed. She rolled over, reaching to run a hand over the smooth cheek. "Hmm," she said with delight. "Come closer. Let me smell." He leaned down. She put her nose along his cheek rubbing hers against his. "Hmm. I like this soap you use." His ear was too irresistible. She took the lobe between her lips.

 

"Now, now, Mrs. Hornblower," he said sighing, "None of that, if you please."

 

"As you wish, my darling." She kissed his cheek, laying back on the bed.

 

He pulled on his trousers underneath his nightshirt. She raised an eyebrow and smiled. He watched her watch him with a smirk, shaking his head. He removed his night shirt.

 

"Ah!" she leaned back throwing the covers over her head. "Torture! Torture!" she yelled.

 

He pulled on his shirt, shaking his head with a grin. He was buttoning his waistcoat when she peeked from under the blanket. "You are so silly!"

 

"Why am I silly? Because the man I love likes to torture me? Parading around half naked, looking EXTREMELY handsome. Getting ready to rendezvous with his lover!"

 

He stopped in mid tie of his neckerchief. "What on earth are you talking about?" He began to tickle her. "I've married a mad woman! She is completely daft! Gone out of her head, she has!"

 

She writhed on the bed trying to get away from tickling fingers. "Stop! Horatio!" she laughed, "Your terrible! Stop it! Stop!" She pleaded. "I take it back! I take it back!" She grabbed his hands and held them. "Stop!"

 

"You're my only lover!" he stated.

 

She shook her head no. He tilted his head and tried to reclaim his hands.

 

"No, no! Don't tickle me!" she laughed.

 

"Why should I not, eh? You are raving! I need to tickle some sense into you!"

 

"No, Horatio. Please don't tickle me anymore."

 

Going back to tying his neckerchief, he asked, "Coffee?"

 

"Yes, please." She donned her robe, smoothed her hair, then accepted the mug. "Thank you. Mmmm. Nothing like a good cup of coffee in the morning." She walked over to look out the stern windows.

 

He was puzzled. Putting his coffee down, he came up behind her, wrapping his arms around her waist, and leaning his head onto her shoulder. He kissed her neck. "I love you, Mrs. Hornblower."

 

She placed her hand on top of his. "I know you do. I love you."

 

"Does it bother you that I say it so much?"

 

Putting her cup down, she turned to face him, placing her hand on his cheek, looking into his dark eyes with hers. "Until the day I die, Horatio, I will never grow weary of you saying you love me."

 

He hugged tightly. "What did you mean earlier?" he asked softly.

 

"About what, sweetheart?"

 

"Me having a lover. What...what were you talking about?" She tried to see him, but he held her in place so each could only speak into the other's ear. "Don't tease me, Pamela."

 

"Well....actually you have three. I don't mind sharing you with them because I know I am getting the best part."

 

"Pamela." he pleaded. "Whatever do you mean?"

 

"Your three loves, the sea, this ship, and the navy! And, not necessarily in that order!" She tried to make light of what she was saying. She felt his head sag onto her shoulder. "Horatio?" He was silent and prevented her from looking at him. "Horatio, sweetheart, I... I was only teasing! Darling!"

 

"How can you joke about it? How can you?"

 

"Because if I do not make light of it, I will be in tears."

 

At last, he released his hold and allowed a view of his downcast visage.

 

"But, you wouldn't be you, without them." She stroked his cheek. "You belong to them before you belong to me. I'll let you go when the time comes. It won't be easy, my love, but I will."

 

He hugged her tightly again. A knock came at the door, then a voice. It was Matthews.

 

"Mr. Hornblower, it's nearly six bells, sir. Fog's lifted enough for a sightin', sir."

 

She smiled, "See?"

 

"I'll be right there." Kissing her hand, he backed away, grabbed his hat and sextant, and left.

 

"Oh, Pamela, why are you so stupid?" she asked out loud. "Lord, don't let me say the wrong things! I will have to let him go! I know I will! I know I will!" She turned, covering her face.

 

Hornblower was taking sightings three times a day, seven a.m., noon, and five p.m. He needed to be sure he never missed an opportunity to note Dolphin's position. He could not allow himself to be thwarted by the weather. He was anxious about getting to Gibraltar on account of his duty, but on the other hand, delay meant more time with the woman he loved. Why had he allowed himself to fall in love, part of him asked. Not loving her would be like not breathing, the other part answered. *I need her like a ship needs a sail! She is life to me!*

 

The ship's bell rang. He wiped his sleeve over his eyes and lifted the sextant to them. He noted the markings, looked at the compass, noted the time, as he did for every sighting. He walked aft, looking at the wake of Dolphin. Chills coursed over his body at the name of the ship he captained. He looked at the broad ocean turning bluer to the west as the sun rose to shine upon it. God! He looked down at himself, at the uniform he wore. He inhaled quickly. He shook his head and closed his eyes, thinking on her words. It was true! And, she knew it! And yet, she had said yes! Said yes, and married him! His head dropped to his chest. He felt as though he were being unfaithful! But to who? To her? Or to his three mistresses? Or, to all of them?

 

He turned to look down the ship forward. She was beautiful! Even with her sails furled! The cut of Dolphin was as sensual as the body he so recently held!

She! A ship was a she! A she to be handled, cared for, caressed! One man to drive her and many men to work her! She needed their touch as they needed her support. As he cared for her tenderly, she would care for them, providing for them a home, a haven, the heart of this family of men. Navy men. Hornblower looked at the crew on deck in their nautical garb. He breathed deeply at the camaraderie he felt with them. He stared at Matthews nearby.

 

Seeing the stare, Matthews asked, "Did ye need somethin', sir?"

 

Hornblower blinked as if being awakened from a dream. "Call, the men to station, Mr. Matthews. Get those sail set! It is time we were away!"

 

"Aye, aye, sir!"

 

Hornblower went below to make log entries. He stood outside the cabin, hesitating. He knocked twice and opened the door slowly. The room was empty. He walked in looking all about. Fear gripped him. This is what it will be like when she is gone. The emptiness flooded him like water filling a sinking ship. He felt forlorn. He walked over to the table, sat down, and held his head in his hands. The emotional turmoil he was experiencing overwhelmed him. God! On deck, he felt unfaithful to Pamela! Here he felt her loss so deeply, he felt unfaithful to the others!

 

The cabin door opened. Pamela entered, freshened from washing up, procuring a different dress, and fixing her hair. She was humming as she closed the door, not realizing his return. He startled her.

"Darling! I didn't expect you back so soon!" she said, gaily.

He wiped his cheeks and walked to the stern windows, hoping for enough time for his face to return to normal.

 

"I was just about to write in the log."

 

She heard the catch in his voice. Silence permeated the cabin and then she replied, softly.
"I will leave you to it, then. I do not wish to disturb you."

 

"No!" he nearly turned. "Don't leave. Don't...go."

 

"Very well." Giving a final glance of concern, she straightened the bed clothes. *It is my stupid comment from earlier that has brought this on. Oh Lord! Help us. What have I done?* she thought.

 

"Pamela."

 

"Yes?"

When he did not answer, she stopped spreading the blankets and looked his way. The sadness emanated across the room, covering her with emptiness. His arms were askew in a hopeless attitude.

"Hold me, my love," he pleaded.

She stepped into his embrace, becoming that which upheld him.

"How did you know? How can I survive?"

"Loving all of us? You will find a way. You must find a way." In his arms, so safe, so secure. She lifted her eyes to his, radiating a warm smile. "My Captain."

"I fear...I fear..." he stammered.

"Horatio,... we cannot live these next few days worrying about the future. We chose to wed so we could be together....now." She inhaled deeply. "If we spend our time anxious about tomorrow, how will we enjoy each other in the time we have? Hmm? Did we not both go into this knowing one day it would end?"

"Don't say that! Do not say it will end!"

She stared into his flushed face, smoothing his cheek, smoothing the persistent curl from his forehead. "Not end then, but part we will, we must. The powers that be will have it so," she insisted. "And I will not be the cause to distract you from your destiny. I will not!"

 

"Destiny! What destiny? If it is not with you, I..."

"Horatio. Darling. Please. Please!" Tears began to fall.

He hugged her tightly. "I did not mean to make you cry!" He swayed the embrace. "I have reminded you of them. Forgive me, Pamela! Forgive me! You have not jinxed me! I will not die because I am your husband. Do not think it!"

She chuckled through her tears.

"What is funny? Tell me."

"I know you. Don't you see? I know you fear losing me, but... it is an unnecessary anxiety. I love you. And...you know me. You know I fear I have doomed you to death." She laughed again. "We know each other so well. See?"

The tear streaked face turned upwards. Taking it, he wiped the cheeks with his thumbs.

"I am hopelessly in love with you."

"And, I, you," she added.

"That is all that matters."

"As you have said, since the beginning. You forgot, that's all. It has been you, Horatio, to carry this through. Do not forget. I do not know if I am strong enough to do it. Live in the moment, not the tomorrows. It seems to be my lot in life to love men who love the sea! A sea that will bring parting. I accepted that fact the moment I realized I had fallen in love with you." She watched his eyes soften. "Remember the night I told you, you would be a true captain someday? One that would make his country proud? That has not changed." She traced his lips with her fingers. "You see, darling, when I said yes, to you, I knew what I was saying yes to. Maybe you did not fully realize what you were choosing. Maybe I should have insisted we talk more about the situations. I might have talked us both out of it."

"I do not want to be talked out of it, Pamela. I..."

 

She put fingers over his lips and shook her head. "If you wanted to dissolve our union, we could tear that page out of your log. And when we get to Gibraltar, I will seek a ship to take me back to America. No one need ever know. We would never see each other again."

 

He squeezed her tightly, becoming angry. "Stop! Stop right there! I have no intention of letting you go! Do you hear?" He shook her, then held her. "Do not even think of leaving me! I will come after you, if you do! Do you hear me?"

"I hear you," she whispered.

 

"I love you." His eyes roamed her face. "You are right about me. I do love the sea. The navy is a big part of my life. And I want a ship of my own to command more than I can express. But, I also, love you! I want all of you! Right now I have all of you! And, I know the navy and the sea will have me as long as I serve, but.... it's you. It is you that is breaking my heart and filling it at the same time!"

 

"You mustn't look at the future, my love. There is only the present."

 

He sighed, pulling her to his shoulder, closing his eyes. "The present. Yes, the gift. The gift that you are to me."

 

"That is the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me, Horatio."

 

"I want to make love to you, Pamela." He waited for a response.

 

"Well,... you can't."

 

"Why not?'

 

"Because it is nearly eight o'cl...I mean,... eight bells and Jenkins will be bringing our breakfast."

 

"After breakfast, then."

 

"What about Dolphin, the sea, and the navy?"

 

"They shall have to wait their turn."

 

She laughed and hit him on the shoulder.

 

"Is it a date?"

 

"Yes, indeed, Captain. Far be it from me to deny you anything!"

*****

Pellew sat at his desk having just gone over the charts for the third time that day, as if looking at them made the frigate move any faster. Why was he feeling so anxious about Hornblower? Was it the Kennedy effect?' He overheard the other officers making light of anyone being fidgety as suffering from the Kennedy effect.' He hoped Kennedy himself did not know of this label since he might take it the wrong way due to his affliction. He was feeling a bit guilty over his treatment of his junior officer and passed the word for him to come to his cabin. It was well into the afternoon. Kennedy should have gotten his sleep by now. The knock came.

 

"Come."

 

Kennedy entered looking nervous as was his want whenever in his captain's presence. "Acting Leftenant Kennedy reporting, sir."

 

"Sit down, Mr. Kennedy."

 

He swallowed and sat stiffly, holding his hat.

 

Rising, Pellew poured the two of them a glass of wine. He handed one to Kennedy, noting the mild look of astonishment. As he sat down, he leaned back to gaze out the stern windows.

 

"I feel you and I need a drink, sir." He tapped his fingers on his chin. "Though belated, let us drink to your success with Mr. Beadle." He sought some reason for imbibing with him out of the blue and that was what came to mind. The real reason was the anxiousness they both shared, and Pellew had no idea why the anxiety was growing over his absent men. Pellew peered at Kennedy, lifted his chin, raised his glass. "To you, sir!"

 

"Tha...thank you, sir," he answered nervously sipping the wine. Kennedy stole a glance at Pellew over his glass.

 

"I.... I did not mean to alarm you this morning, Mr. Kennedy. I find myself anxious to arrive in Gibraltar. My nights have been somewhat ...restless. Do not take offense, sir."

 

"I did not, Captain."

 

"Hmm. Drink your wine."

 

"Yes, sir." Kennedy bowed his head into the glass. He noted the charts on the table. "Might I ask, sir, when you think we will reach Gibraltar?"

 

"Hmm?" The question drug Pellew back from thoughts beginning to play and replay. "Ah, certainly, sir." Pellew sat his glass down, bending over the charts from his chair. "I make our position to be here, sir." he said, pointing with the feather end of his quill. "At the mouth of the Straits. Wind with us, we could be there by this time tomorrow afternoon."

 

Kennedy sipped again, "Do...do you think...do you think they will be there, sir?"

 

Pellew flashed dark eyes at him, but checked himself. Inhaling deeply, he said, "I do not assume to tell the future, sir, but I pray that they are."

 

Kennedy studied the chart eagerly. "Where exactly were we, sir, when we boarded Dolphin?"

 

Pellew looked at the latitude lines, the longitude lines. Pursing his lips he responded, "I would say... there...roughly." Indicating west on the chart, "We returned to this point to rendezvous with you on Cymbaline. It took us three days to England," he traced the route with his quill, "A day there, unloading our prisoners, resupplying." He gave Kennedy a nod for his rapid resupply, "Then, off again, one...two....three....four....," he paused looking up at the ceiling, "Thanks to the wind with us and no enemy to delay us. We shall be here tomorrow, God willing."

 

"And, going back to where you left, Hor...Leftenant Hornblower, given the damage to his ship, where do you propose he might be?"

 

"Well, I want him to be in Gibraltar!" he said gruffly.

 

"Yes, sir," said Kennedy with some resignation. He hoped he would be willing to reason out the why' if they were not in Gibraltar. "But what if he's not?"

 

Breathing air out open lips, he studied the chart with difficulties' in mind. Yes, perhaps this is what the two of them needed. To think through the possibilities that might detain Hornblower from meeting them in Gibraltar. It might lessen his apprehension should he not see the blasted pirate ship at anchor upon arrival. He wanted to make up his treatment of Kennedy, why not work out a worst case scenario? He picked up his glass and drained it. Kennedy did the same. They both stood peering at the chart of the Atlantic Ocean.

 

"All right, Mr. Kennedy. We left Dolphin here. The ship was badly damaged. Dismasted. Shot holes, at least three, and below the water line. Oh, God." Speaking the ship injuries aloud gave weight to the situation. Had Bracegirdle been right to question leaving Indefatigables young leftenants on wounded vessels? "I think I need another glass. Would you like one, sir?"

 

"Yes, sir, thank you."

 

Pellew poured. They drank. Back to the chart.

 

"Let's see. Say they took a day to patch and get the masts installed, another day to rig, sails up, and ready on the third day and sailing. Winds have been on our side so presumably, the same for them. If she were sluggish due the water she'd take on with fothered sail, give them another day. How many is that?"

 

"Four, sir."

 

"Hmm. Travel time from there to here, two days, no better make it three, if she's riding heavy. And assuming nothing untoward occurred." He looked up at the ceiling in thought. "Another two say to get from here to Gibraltar, that makes..."

 

"Nine, sir, nine days."

 

"Yes, and for us, nine days. We should be running into each other." Pellew turned from the charts to pace, still thinking of a worst case scenario. "But, if he met the enemy..." he glanced at Kennedy, "and having no means to fight.... what would you do, Mr. Kennedy?"

 

Kennedy held back on the response that came immediately to mind. Pellew waited, he knew Kennedy knew. Their eyes locked.

 

"I'd run, sir," he spoke softly, hating to say it.

 

They both continued to look at each other. Kennedy thinking of his friend, Pellew thinking of his...remembering he had spent time in a Spanish prison.

 

"Yes, I'd run, sir. Run, indeed." He picked up his glass and drained it, Kennedy followed. Absently, Pellew picked up the bottle and refilled their glasses without asking. Pellew sipped the wine.

 

Kennedy sipped and let his thoughts run. *Yes, run like hell, Horatio. Like we did that day with the bridge exploding behind us! God! I hope and pray you are not captured by the enemy!* He thought of the prisons he endured, closing his eyes at the thoughts of what that entailed. He sighed in resignation. "He may not be there tomorrow, sir." Kennedy's voice broke into Pellew's thoughts.

 

"Damn it, Mr. Kennedy, I get the feeling he won't be either." That was it! It was good to know what had been gnawing at him from his subconscious. Hornblower and Dolphin are not there. He knew it like he knew his own ship! But, he had to go there first. He had to be sure. He drained the glass. "Damn!" Kennedy sipped the wine. "He's not there." He spoke it with conviction and looked at the chart again. "Where are you, Mr. Hornblower? What has scared you to running? A French Ship? A Spanish one? I imagine he's kicked himself up and down the deck of that ship over those non-existent powder stores, eh, Mr. Kennedy?"

 

"Certain sure of that, Captain," he responded wryly.

 

"And, well he should! Damn it!" He hated worrying about his men. He hated worrying about Hornblower even more! And, he hated admitting' that he worried about Hornblower even more! He thought of him as his son, not just another man under his command. He acknowledged to himself that he viewed Horatio as more than an officer when he was quarantined on that plague ship. He glanced at Kennedy. Here stood his best friend. The friend Hornblower helped return from prison. The friend who helped Hornblower return from a lost cause in France. The friend who had been worrying about Hornblower for the past week, doing whatever he could to try to rejoin him. Pellew drained his glass once more. The wine was making him amiable. He clamped his hand on Kennedy's shoulder. "Thank you, for stopping by, Mr. Kennedy."

 

Kennedy's face was flushed from drink. "Thank you, sir. Thank you for examining the chart with me."

 

Pellew removed his hand and sat the glass down. He stared at the chart. "Indeed, sir."

 

Kennedy left the cabin for the deck. The sun was setting. He looked west. "Where are you, Horatio? I don't think you will be in Gibraltar either." He sighed and relaxed, leaning heavily on the starboard rail. He heard Bowles shouting orders. The ship was turning to larboard, lining up to enter the Straits of Gibraltar.

 

*************

At last, Hornblower and the crew of Dolphin performed the gun drills. The men seemed actually glad of the exercise. After all, they were a British Navy fighting force, though of late, they seemed more a private yachting expedition. Even though they did not have the powder to put up a real defense, or offense, it was good to test themselves. Some of the guns were dirty, so after the trials, Hornblower had the crews each cleaning three guns. The rest of the day evolved into a routine semblance of what they did on Indefatigable. Swabbing the decks, checking the lines, and examining any seams needing tending. The men liked the little ship and took pride in her care. None of the work was pressing. There was a general relaxed attitude for all Dolphin's inhabitants.

There was a good stiff breeze. Hornblower's noon sighting revealed they were nearly at the latitude that would drive them home to Gibraltar. The five o'clock sight told they were there. The order had been given and Dolphin was now traversing that line that in two days time should find them very near the Straits of Gibraltar. The thought of meeting up with the Indy gave the men a lift. Many were heard humming the sea tunes they knew so well.

 

Pamela enjoyed all the activity, watching the gun maneuvers, seeing the men at work. Alert to her presence, they tried all the harder. Hornblower became aware of the increased efforts and secretly grinned at the benefits the presence of his wife was providing. He took her on a tour of the gun deck during the cleaning, having several of the men explain the order needed for firing the gun, from loading, to the pull of the lanyard. They beamed under her attentions and she was very attentive indeed, not surprising her husband at all. He began to appreciate her inquisitive attitude to things of a naval nature. Her request to have a gun fired amazed him, though in thinking back it should not have. The men were all anxious to oblige and looked to him with pleading expressions. He gave this request some thought and in the end decided it would not matter in the grand scheme of things, so he gave permission. He warned her of the noise. When the gun went off, its loudness startled her, and she jumped. The men laughed and she with them. She did not understand why they were not all deaf!

 

He and Pamela dined that evening on a meal she suggested to Cook. He allowed her in his galley, and the two of them tried some spices Cook was not used to using, but that Pamela was familiar. The food had a delectable flavor! The meal was enjoyable to Hornblower, much to her delight. She hoped she would have the opportunity to prepare him a meal, someday.

After dinner, the two went on deck to walk arm in arm from the quarter-deck to the bowsprit and back again. They conversed with one another and made an unknown number of rounds. Every now and then he noticed his men taking an interest in their walks', thinking it gave them some amount of entertainment. She gave a smile when she saw them watching, which seemed to please. Hornblower was amazed that the attentions of a woman affected the men, ...his men. And when she gave that smile to him, it seemed as though the very universe brightened. They both resisted thoughts about Gibraltar, despite Dolphin's rhumb line course.

 

She retired to the cabin. He was on the quarter-deck checking the compass, discussing the amount of sail they were under with Lasky, the man on duty for the first watch. He waited while the line was run to ascertain Dolphin's speed, seven knots. He departed with the information to record in the log.


Tonight, the kiss lasted long. She held him hungrily, caressing his head with one hand and embracing him tightly with the other. He found his arms clutching her in a similar manner, stopping one kiss and beginning the next. The turn eastward was the impetus for what both were thinking, that neither gave voice, the impending separation. This embrace was the first to belie the thoughts they kept from one another, as even this night the thoughts remained unspoken, but the actions revealed their hearts.

 

The kisses stirred them with desire. Holding her hand, he turned to bolt the cabin door. Looking into her eyes, he lifted and carried her to the bed. Neither spoke with voice, but with a look, a touch, a sigh, a caress, each tenderly handling the other, a sweetness in the sighs and a gentleness in the moans. At the end, they lay in each others arms, she caressing his curls and playing with his hair. After a while, he began to stroke and kiss her body, until he lay atop her once again, gazing into liquid brown pools. She returned the stare, touched his cheek, adjusted to take him again. She closed eyes and sighed as he joined. He lowered gently onto the warm lips, feeling the pressure of hands on his back and slipping his arms around her. They were in one world of their own making. No ship, no service, no sea. Only the two of them, acting as one.

 

Afterward, he rose for a drink. Only the ceiling lantern was lit, giving but dim illumination to the cabin. She admired his physique, enjoying the look of his muscles, his broad back. Coming up behind, she embraced him, splaying her hands on his chest. He turned in the embrace and held the cup to her lips, then placed it on the table.

 

He lifted her chin with a finger. His eyes said what his voice did not *I love you, Pamela.*

 

Placing both hands behind his neck, her breasts lifted to press against his chest as they kissed. His hands caressed and covered every inch of her body. He whispered in her ear. "I love your body."

 

"And, I, yours!"

 

He carried her to the bed. And so the evening went. Little was spoken with words, they were unnecessary. They loved each other in mind, body, and spirit. Physical communication was the language of the night. After this last episode of love making, they fell asleep, Pamela resting on his chest.

 

About midnight, with the ship bell tolling out its eighth ding, Pamela wakened. Raising up, she saw he was awake. In the dark, a glisten. Neither said a word. She sighed and lay her head on his chest.

 

"Horatio, go with me on deck. I want to look at the stars with you."

 

He caressed her head, smoothing her hair. "All right, my love."

 

The sound of the sea, the creaking of ship's timber, the hum of wind in the rigging, greeted them in the damp, night air. Kramer stood the middle watch. The quarter-deck would give the most unobstructed view of the heavens.

 

"Good evening, Mr. Kramer."

 

Kramer was surprised. "Good evening, Captain, Mrs. Hornblower."


"Is all well?" Hornblower questioned.

 

"Aye, sir. Speed has dropped to three knots, but she's steady."

 

"Very well." Hornblower fidgeted. "We have come up to star gaze, Mr. Kramer, if you will excuse us."

 

"Certainly, sir." Kramer raised an eyebrow to the helmsman.

 

Bailey whispered, "Nothing these two do surprises me."

 

They stole a quick glance at the Hornblowers, then faced forward, straining to hear any conversation.

 

The two gazed into the starry night. Pamela cooed with delight at the brightness. "It almost looks as though you could touch them!"

 

Hornblower smiled, too. "Indeed." He observed these sights many nights. The heavens impressed when he took the time to note them. It had been a while since he allowed himself the luxury. He reached his arm around her side seeking to give warmth. "There's the big dipper....and the north star, Polaris. I could sight off that one." Pointing opposite and low on the horizon, "There's Orion. See the belt of stars and the scabbard?'

"Beautiful!" she replied, affirmatively. Her left hand covered his right, resting at her waist.

"Look there. See the Seven Sisters?"

"Where?"

"There. Sometimes you have to avert the eye, and then you can see them. They are faint. Look here, then shift your eye."

 

She did as he said. "Oh, I think I see them. They are in a cluster!"

 

"Yes!" He grinned, "That's them." He squeezed her side.

 

"Oh Horatio, it is beautiful!"

 

"You are."

 

She turned, and he leaned for a kiss.

 

"Horatio," she whispered, "The men!"

 

"They will not care, my sweet." He settled his lips over hers. At the break, he snuggled his nose in her hair, whispering, "I love you." His arms tightened.

 

"Horatio? Take me up to the top yard tomorrow."

 

He sighed, moving back to study her features. He shook his head, incredulous.

 

"Please! Please, Horatio!"

 

"I don't understand you. Why? Why do you want to do this thing?"

 

"I just do. Isn't there something you have always wanted to do? Since I was a little girl, traveling with my father, I have wanted to do what I saw the men do. I nearly made it one time, when I was about ten, but my father sent one of the men to bring me down."

 

"And I bet you went kicking and yelling all the way!"

 

She grinned. "How did you know?"

 

"But you have already done it!" he argued.

 

"Yes, but I was not able to enjoy it, nor even take in the view. You were too angry!"

 

"I feared for your safety....and, you disobeyed me," he stated firmly.

 

"I'm sorry I scared you, darling. Mr. Matthews and Mr. Styles led me to believe you would not allow it. It was my only recourse."

 

"They are right. I would not. I will not."

 

She was crestfallen. "I am trying to get your permission, my love."

 

He looked askance, smiling, with a raised eyebrow, "And, what do you mean by that?"

 

She looked away.

 

"Pamela?" he drew out the last syllable of her name, pulling her chin with a finger. "No. Look at me. I said, no."

 

"Horatio!" she stomped her foot.

 

He snorted, shaking his head. "No, and I mean no!"

 

She crossed her arms on her chest and pouted.

 

"I think I can see what you looked like when you were ten. Did your father take you over his knee?"

 

She released her arms. "No."

 

"Hmm."

 

"What does that mean?" she asked warily.

 

He shook his head. "I don't know. And, you had better not find out."

********

The Indefatigable made good time overnight. They were ahead of schedule. They passed outside Cadiz harbour and were on the way to Gibraltar. They should anchor by noon if the wind were agreeable. The coast of Spain was readily visible, and Morocco could be seen in the distance. The crew of the Indy would be glad to arrive, hoping for a respite from the continuous alert status. The ship glided over the waters with ease, like a graceful seabird sails just above water.

 

Hours later, the entire crew turned out to watch the approach to the moorings. The quarter-deck was thick with officers, on and off duty. Pellew stood looking with pursed lips, squinting at the anchored ships, as Indefatigable drew closer. Kennedy was at the rail with glass to eye, but they were not near enough to see names and he had not gotten a good look at Dolphin, having been left with Cymbaline.

 

"Mr. Bowles take us in slowly. Mr. Bracegirdle run up her flag."

 

"Aye, aye, sir."

 

"Mr. Kennedy."

 

"Sir?"

 

"Ready the launch. We will check in with the port admiral."

 

"Aye, aye, sir." Kennedy stopped. "We, sir?"

 

He nodded.

The Indy sailed in amongst the other ships at anchor. Pellew moved from one side to the other, seeking Dolphin. Not here. Nothing her size was here. He released a deep sigh.

 

The launch waited on gentle swells. The sideboys piping, Kennedy and the crew watched as Pellew descended the steps.