An American Encounter
By Skihee :)

Chapter 12 The Search for Hornblower


Pellew entered the offices of the port admiral with Kennedy close behind. Admiral Hale stood to greet, walking around the desk.

 

"Captain Pellew."

 

"Admiral Hale. This is Acting Leftenant Kennedy."

 

Kennedy saluted. "Sir."

"Mr. Kennedy." Hale gave him a nod. "We did not expect to see you again for some time, Sir Edward. What has brought you back to Gibraltar?"

 

"To make a long story short, sir, we had a run in with pirates. They were attacking an American ship, the Cymbaline, when we came upon them. Giving chase, we took their ship but badly damaged her. I left a repair crew under the command of Leftenant Hornblower. They were supposed to meet us here. I did not see the ship anchored so I presume it has not yet arrived."

 

"No reports as you describe have come to my ears. Though the other name you mention sounds familiar." He looked to his secretary. "Cymbaline. Where have I heard that name before, Leftenant Dodd?"

"There was a solicitor here a day or so ago, sir, asking if any of our ships had reported seeing her."

"Ah, yes. I remember now. An American chap was supposed to be coming here to discuss trade treaties or some such thing. What became of the Cymbaline, Sir Edward?"

"Mr. Kennedy" said Pellew turning towards him, "and crew were able to assist her repair. The captain, Captain Mason, believing the American to be deceased ...What was his name, Mr. Kennedy?"

"Mr. Dawson, sir."

"Yes, when we reached Dolphin, the pirate ship, we cleared her of all personnel. We learned from the pirate captain that Dawson had been killed though there was some question about the man's daughter. We are not sure what became of her. At any rate, Captain Mason chose to return to America."

"Hmm. What's this about a daughter?"

 

"Well, from what we gleaned from Captain Mason and the pirate, Mr. Dawson and his daughter were on Dolphin. Though when we reached her none but the pirates were found. The pirate confessed to killing Dawson, but could not say what happened to the girl."

"Then you are saying she is still on the ship?"

"We do not know, sir. As I said, we thought we had cleared the ship of everyone on board, ...or, the pirate lied."

"Hmm. And you say this vessel is expected here?"

 

"Yes, sir. Gibraltar was closer. The ship was badly damaged. I felt it better to come here for repair than trying the voyage to England."

 

"Well, she's not here, sir."

 

"Yes. I wanted to report to you before we turned around to return to station. We will look for her in case something prevented the repairs we thought could be done at sea."

 

"Very well. Should she show up, I shall try to let you know by dispatch of her whereabouts."

 

"Thank you, sir. We shall away, then." Pellew turned towards the door, Hale following.

 

"Good to see you again, Sir Edward. I hope you find your crew. Another prize would be a tidy sum in your pocket, eh?" He smiled amiably with a wink.

 

"Yes, sir." He and Kennedy exited into the hallway.

Pellew silently fumed over the suggestion that his concern for Dolphin was the monetary award. His face had gone dark and moody. He muttered an expletive. Kennedy shot a side glance and stepped quickly to keep up. It was but a short walk from the Port Admiral headquarters to the docks. The launch sat ready and waiting. Pellew's stormy countenance kept the row back quiet and tense.

Where was Dolphin? His feelings that she would not be here were now confirmed. They would have to turn about and go back the way they came, but once meeting the Atlantic rollers, where to? It was a big ocean. Dolphin was a small ship. Was she still afloat? Had she been captured? Where, in heaven's name, was she? He could see the chart in his mind's eye. Pellew began to plot options for the course they would follow in the search.

Mr. Bracegirdle welcomed the captain as he came up the side of Indefatigable. One look at his face told what was learned ashore.

Pellew saluted the quarter-deck. "Prepare to make sail, Mr. Bracegirdle. Inform Mr. Bowles. I want us out of here within the hour. I shall be in my cabin."

"Back to the Atlantic?"

Pellew nodded curtly.

"Aye, aye, sir." Bracegirdle assessed Kennedy as he came through the entry port. "Welcome back, Mr. Kennedy. No news of Mr. Hornblower?"

Archie shook his head. "None, sir."

So, there was to be no break in the search for Hornblower. Reaching the quarter-deck, he relayed Pellew's orders, "Mr. Bowles! Up anchor, prepare to make sail!" The men on deck quietly moaned. So much for getting a rest.

*******

Hornblower stood watching the men aloft. The wind was gusty today and kept falling off. The sun beat down on the decks as a precursor to summer, still over a month away. With disgruntled features, he resumed pacing. As the thought of reaching Gibraltar began to loom, a number of concerns lined up for inspection. Topmost being, what was to become of his bride?

 

She was American. She had no family there. He was her family and he was going to have to leave her. Leave her alone. His brow wrinkled. An emptiness in his middle made him nauseous. A sweat broke out on his body.

She related that her father employed a lawyer there that should be able to acquire any funds she might need. What kind of husband was he that could not provide for his wife? He turned the pace quickly. He was beginning to hope the Indy would not be there which would enable him to go ashore and see that she was taken care of properly.

 

If the Indy was there... what was his Captain going to say? His hand went to his forehead. Oh God, what was Captain Pellew going to say? Perhaps he could avoid telling him. Keep his wedding a secret. Why would he have to know anyway? He could tell the men not to say anything, at least not until things were back to normal and they were all back on the Indy. Of course, once he started getting letters from Pamela, it might be hard to explain who Mrs. Hornblower was, since everyone knew his mother had passed away.

 

But, then, there was the possibility of being court-marshaled. He had run from the enemy. He had failed to see his command was properly supplied. Would he be court marshaled? Who would see to Pamela, then? Two husbands dead and one in prison! What was he to do?

 

He avoided these thoughts. Now they were descending upon him like a full gale! He was feeling queasy. The last time he felt this way, not counting his times of sea sickness, was when he was nine years old. He had stolen a peppermint from a street vendor and his mother asked him where he had gotten it. He lied, telling her a patient of his father's gave it to him. His guilty conscience plagued him with sleepless nights and loss of appetite until he confessed to his mother. At the memory, he looked up with closed eyes and sighed. He had not stolen anything. Had he? He loved his wife. Why should he feel guilty? He inhaled and exhaled, swallowing, holding his middle.

 

If he did not tell Pellew about her, what would she think? She might be hurt that he would try to keep the marriage a secret. So many people to consider, not to mention his career, his duty. He put both hands to his head and groaned.

 

"Mr. Hornblower, are ye all right, sir?" asked the man on watch.

 

"What?" Inhaling and swallowing, he peered over his hands. He straightened. "Yes. Yes. I am going below, Mr. Garner. I shall return presently."

 

He walked quickly down to the cabin, bursting through the door. She was not there. "Pamela, Pamela!" he called furtively.

 

She came hurrying in from the room next door. "What is it, Horatio?" she asked, anxiously.

 

He took her in his arms. "Pamela!"

 

"Horatio! I love you, sweetheart!"

 

"Don't talk!" He held her moving from side to side. He caught his breath, inhaling. He kissed the side of her head, pressing his eyes closed.

 

"Darling, I can't breathe!"

 

He released her immediately. "I'm sorry!"

 

"What is it, my love?" She caressed the side of his face.

 

He took her in his arms again. "I'm ...I'm not feeling well." He could not tell her of the worrisome anxieties.

 

"Come and lie down. I'll get you some tea."

 

"No! No, I don't want to lie down. I... I just need... I need to hold you." He inhaled again. "I need to h..h...hold you."

 

"Horatio," she said calmly, "It is going to be all right." She felt him shake his head no. She began to stroke his back with a downward motion. The soon coming separation, that had to be what was plaguing his thoughts. "Let's go sit down. We'll talk about it."

 

He hugged her tighter, breathing in and out quickly. The room began to spin. "No, I..." He faltered, chest heaving as he tried to breathe. He was hyperventilating. Blackness enveloped him.

 

Pamela struggled to move out from under his limp body, pushing him over onto his back. She was on her knees beside him, loosening his neckerchief. The cabin door banged open as the ship rolled. Styles, passing by in the corridor, saw her kneeling next to Hornblower.

 

"What's happened, Miss?" he hurried to kneel beside his captain.

 

"I ... I think .." she thought quickly. His body felt hot. "Heat stroke... I think it's heat
stroke. Could you help me get him to the bed, Mr. Styles?"

 

Styles slipped his arms under him and carried him to the bunk.

 

"Wait. Take off his coat."

 

His torso did indeed seem unusually hot.

 

"Could you get some water, please, Mr. Styles?"

 

"Aye, Miss."

 

Pamela glanced behind, seeing him go. She unbuttoned Horatio's waistcoat. "Don't worry, dear. They will never know," she whispered. She stroked the damp hair off his brow.

 

Styles returned with a bucket of water. "Could you get me an empty bucket, as well, Mr. Styles?"

 

"Yes, ma'am."

 

Dipping a rag into the water, she squeezed it out, making a cool compress for his head.

 

Styles came back with the bucket. "What happened?"

 

She kept her eyes on Hornblower. "I don't know exactly. He came in saying he did not feel well. He looked hot. The next thing I knew, he collapsed on the floor."

 

"It is hot out today, that it is. Can I do anythin' else, ma'am?"

 

"I don't think so, Mr. Styles. Is he needed?"

 

"Nah, nothin' special goin' on. Just makin' our way to Gibraltar. Have im rest as long as e'll let ya." He grinned. "I'll let Matty know."

 

"Very well, Mr. Styles. Thank you." She was glad of Styles departure. She expected, when Horatio came to, he might be physically sick.

She continued to place the cool compress on his forehead and dab at his reddened cheeks. She tried to piece together what he was saying before he passed out. It sounded like something he said the other night when they were in bed together. Something about his mother. He had not spoken of her very much, but clearly there was something she must learn about the other Mrs. Hornblower and her son. She spoke a quick prayer, "Lord, help me to understand what is bothering him."

 

She recognized, too, what he was doing as something her doctor back home called "excessive breathing". She remembered thinking what a strange term this was when she heard it. How could one breathe excessively? But, she saw it in a girl from school on her wedding day. At least, it was supposed to be her wedding day. The boy that was to marry her stood her up. She had begun the "excessive breathing" and passed out in a similar fashion. It was learned later the girl was in a family way. The doctor said she was overly anxious and breathed excessively, causing her to unbalance the body's oxygen. This seemed even stranger, but she accepted the explanation that air was entering and leaving the body so quickly that it did not have time to change within the system as it should. At least, that is how it was explained to her. The doctor was very kind to answer her questions as she helped with the girl.

She continued to mop his brow. Fearing he might vomit when he awoke, she kept the empty bucket close. He had complained about his stomach, and with the apparent dizziness caused by the "malady", she wanted to be ready.

 

He moaned. No sooner had she thought this than he was sitting up leaning over. She held the bucket for him. Her stomach turned, but she managed to stay calm. He fell back against the bed. He moaned again, threw up again. Falling back on the bed.

 

"Oh God!" he held his stomach with one hand and covered his eyes with his arm.

 

She dampened a fresh rag. Taking a dry towel, she placed it loosely over his nose and mouth. "Breathe through this, Horatio." She swabbed his forehead and mopped his chest where the shirt was open, cooled the rag, and started over at his forehead.

 

He sat up a third time to vomit, but this time there was nothing in his stomach. He turned on his side clutching his middle and moaned. "I'm sorry, Pamela."

 

"Shhh. Just lie quietly, now."

 

At last his breathing came near normal.

 

"How...how did I get here?" he asked.

 

"Shhh. No talking."

 

He lifted his head squinting at her, then let it drop with a moan. "The men put me here?" He would not let it rest.

 

She sighed. "Yes. Mr. Styles only."

 

"Hmm," he said, eyes closed. "Did I...did I hurt you when I..."

 

"Shhh! Stop talking and rest, Horatio! I am fine. I told Mr. Styles you had heat stroke. It is hot outside today. It could happen to anyone."

 

"Heat stroke?" he asked.

 

"It is a good explanation."

 

"Is that what it was?"

 

She stared a moment. "Maybe partly."

 

"Then, what, Nurse Hornblower? What is the matter with me?" His lips revealed a smile from under his arm.

 

"You were breathing excessively."

 

"Breathing excessively?" He chuckled. "Oh, God! Death by breathing!"

 

"Horatio! This isn't funny! You made yourself pass out!"

 

"I'm sorry, Pamela." He took the hand that was wiping his forehead, pulled it to his lips, and kissed.

 

"Darling, I love you. I am going to ask you something, but I don't want to upset you."

 

He closed his eyes. "What...what do you want to know?"

 

"Did ...did your ..." she bit her bottom lip, "Did your mother call you sweetheart?"

 

Eyes met. Closing his, he exhaled and scrunched his forehead. He returned her hand there, inhaling and exhaling quickly. "Yes. Yes," he breathed out. "I was sick. I had a fever. It was a sickness that was common in the village that year. My father was out tending his patients. My mother took care of me, but she..." his voice caught, "she...she got the fever, too. And, before I was well enough to see her again, she, she ... I don't understand why...why I keep thinking about her. Why after so long, I am weeping over her. I don't understand." He was silent, then said. "The last thing I remember her saying to me was I love you, sweetheart'." He faced Pamela. "I never got to tell her good-bye. I never got to tell her I loved her."

 

"She knew, Horatio," she said sadly. She hesitated, then asked, "Is there something about me that reminds you of her?"

 

He became very quiet and lay his head in her lap. "She had long dark hair. I remember watching her brush it sitting in front of a big mirror. Sometimes she saw me reflected in the mirror and she would smile and turn and hold her arms out to me. She embraced me and scolded me sweetly for not being in bed asleep. Then, she would lead me back to bed. I remember her hair falling over my face when she tucked me in. She always smelled marvelous." He gazed at Pamela, smiling. "You smell marvelous."

 

She stroked his head.

He breathed in, resting his head back in her lap, thinking. "She liked to laugh. I can't remember what about, but I remember laughing with her. She could always find something to smile about." His forehead scrunched and he chuckled, "Oh my!"

 

"What?"

 

He looked up at her and shook his head. "I'd best not say."

 

"Horatio, what?"

 

"I can't believe what I have just remembered."

 

"Please tell me," she asked softly.

 

"When I was very little, probably around five, we had been in the village shopping. Somehow, I became separated and this HUGE dog chased me. I ran and ran and finally climbed a tree! I went quite high up for a five year old. I sat in that tree crying until she found me. I was afraid to climb down, so she climbed up to get me." He looked up at Pamela to see a very satisfied look.

 

"Ha! Thank you, Mrs. Hornblower!"

 

"I guess you do remind me of my mother. And, you call me sweetheart. But, Pamela, you are also very different. I love you for who you are, my lady, not for who my mother was."

 

She continued to caress him. She thought about what he said, what she knew of their situation. Then, she said, "Horatio, are you equating leaving me in Gibraltar with losing your mother?"

 

"I am worried for you, my love. I don't want to leave you there all alone." Though he was accustomed to it, he knew what it was to be left alone.

 

"I will be all right."

 

He turned to see her as he spoke. "I cannot leave you there alone. You are my wife! I will not abandon you!"

 

She smoothed his hair back. "I will be," she said pointedly, "All right. You are not abandoning me. You are going to work!"

 

"You can't stay there alone!" he insisted.

She stood up letting his head fall to the bed. "Yes, I can!" she said louder, taking a few steps away.

 

He sat up. "No! You cannot!"

 

"Horatio. We are having our first argument."

 

"No, we are not. We are having a discussion."

 

She laughed.

 

One long stride and he embraced her. "I love you. You are not staying there alone."

 

She sighed. "Fine. I shall hire a maid to stay with me. Will that satisfy you?"

 

"It might," and he thought that would be more sensible than resigning his commission.

 

"Good." She sighed. "No more excessive breathing, understand? You scared me."

 

"I did?"

 

"Yes, Mr. Hornblower, you did." she gazed lovingly into large, dark, brown eyes, putting her fingertip on his lower lip, "Now, when can I..."

 

"No." He cut her off.

"Horatio!" she whined out the syllables of his name.

 

"No! There is a big difference between a twenty foot tree and a hundred foot mast. No!"

**********

The Indefatigable nearly reached the position of twelve hours previous. Sailing due west, the sun hit her sails causing them to cast a bright glow. The radiance shown like a beam from a search light. But soon that incandescence would disappear. The sun sank slowly in the west, dipping into the deep blue ocean, pulling a blanket of darkness over the sea from the east.

Her Captain eased up on the state of alert under which they were operating. The reason? Partly because he knew his men needed a rest and partly because he was not sure where to begin his search for the overdue Dolphin. The sails deployed were at a minimum to keep the Indy on her way to the Atlantic. The crew relaxed into a mode of hunting, not only for the enemy, but also for lost comrades.

Archie stood on the forecastle watching the last rays of the sun. He wondered about his friend. Talking with Admiral Hale made him think about Dolphin in a different light. It was the way Hale asked What's this about a daughter?' Archie had not given her much thought. His main concern was Horatio's inability to fight, lacking powder, should he come upon an enemy vessel.

What if she were still on Dolphin? A lady alone on a ship with Horatio and the men from the Indy? Styles came to mind immediately, causing Archie's eyebrow to rise. Horatio might have to keep an eye on him! Matthews, she would be safe with. Matthews was, under that rough exterior, a gentleman seaman, after all. The others, Kramer, Garner, Lasky, Bailey, Oldroyd, would look, that must be expected, but she would not need to worry about them. They would know better with Captain Pellew and Horatio to answer to. Hardy, Greely, Carden, young men, their own shyness would keep them in line. The older seamen, Starns, Billings, Harkins, they were married so they should mind their p's and q's. The other men he did not know so well, but if Hornblower chose them, it could be presumed they would behave themselves or suffer the consequences. He would no doubt deprive them of their spirit ration at the first hint of misbehavior. Yes, a lady would be safe with the men Horatio chose. Of the lot, only Styles gave him pause, bringing a smile. Matthews and Horatio would keep him in line, Archie assured.

Horatio and a female, both eyebrows went up at this thought! Kennedy almost chuckled out loud. The poor lady! What would she do with Horatio? He would be polite, yes.
Would he be smitten? Doubtful. He could not imagine Horatio taking an interest in any females unless they were made of wood with masts and yards, especially after what happened in France. There was a sad thought. He had nearly forgotten her. Horatio never did say much about the girl, but then he never did say much of anything about himself to anyone, unless it was to share doubts of his abilities and disparage his actions, always analyzing to the nth degree what he should have done or could have done. Never satisfied with his outcomes, even the most dazzling ones.

The duchess had gotten under Horatio's young skin, but he was older now. But then again, not much wiser. There was little opportunity to dally with the opposite sex when you spent months at sea. Hornblower was an officer in His Majesty's Navy first and foremost. Poor lady, he thought again. She shall probably be glad to be done with the lot of them. He wondered how she was handling the loss of her father. He looked down at the deck and frowned. That might be something Horatio would have to deal with. Not just a woman, but a woman grieving. Archie sighed and looked again to the western sky. "Well, Horatio, have you just seen the sun go down? Are you standing on the deck of Dolphin, listening to the wind in the rigging?"

"So now you've taken to talking to yourself, Mr. Kennedy?"

Kennedy jumped at the address. "Dr. Sebastian! You startled me, sir!"

"I apologize. You were so deep in thought, I did not want to disturb you. But when you began conversing with yourself, I thought I might join you." He smiled as he pulled one of his long dark cigars from his pocket.

"Actually, I was talking to Mr. Hornblower."

Sebastian looked around the forecastle with humor on his face, "But of course! Why not?" He walked over to the lantern at the bow to light his cigar. The glow illumined his dark features. He turned back to Kennedy, blowing a slow stream of blue smoke from his lungs.

"I am just wondering where he is and if we will find him. Or, if we will miss each other in the broad expanse of the sea." He motioned with his arm in a wide arc, smiling.

"Hmm." he said, sucking on the cigar. "And has our sail into Gibraltar made you more anxious for the good leftenant?"

With a wry smile and scrunched eyebrows, he replied, "Actually, no. I think I became calmer after my visit with Captain Pellew."

"Indeed? Why do you suppose?"

Sighing he said, "I think because I know the Captain is as much, or more, worried than I. Yet, he maintains his composure. Plus, he was willing to discuss the whereabouts of Dolphin. I don't know. Talking about it helped for some reason. And, I think, being with him had something to do with it, as well, if that makes sense."

"Yes. It is good to have a Captain who is concerned for those in his command. I believe it to be a mark of true greatness. He is a good man, Captain Pellew. We are fortunate to have him."

"Yes, sir, most fortunate, as long as we do our duty! Do you think Horatio is all right, doctor?"

"I have kept him and his crew in my prayers since they left us. God is in control, Mr. Kennedy, no matter where they are and, whether Mr. Hornblower believes it or not."

"I found myself wondering about Mrs. Dandridge tonight. Do you think she is still alive?"

"I do not have a crystal ball! But, I pray the lady is well and that the Lord has comforted her in her loss."

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

Hornblower stood at the taffrail of Dolphin. Darkness crept across the sea from that place which was their destination, sneaking up behind him. He looked west with strange thoughts besetting his mind. How could he allow himself to think such things? He fought the urge to give them form with actual words. How could he? How could he be thinking that which he was thinking? He opened his lips to fill his lungs to the fullest. Holding his breath he closed his eyes and told himself, no... no... no.

With the setting of the sun, the cooler ocean took over the weather of the night. He enjoyed the cooling breeze wafting over him, passing by to his sails, Dolphin's sails.

The afternoon sighting told they were on course for Gibraltar. Perhaps by tomorrow afternoon they would sight the coastal tip of southern Spain. With a following sea and fair winds, another day would bring them to harbor. He sighed, letting his head bow.

Styles held the second dog watch. He stood nonchalantly next to the quarter-deck rail looking into the waist. Hornblower smirked and shook his head. Why had he not brought a midshipman with him? Another oversight on his part. He was the sole officer on board. It was far too late to consider. Matthews, Styles, Oldroyd, Kramer, Lasky, Garner, and Bailey had served him well as officers of the watch. He truly had no complaints about the men under him. Polish is nice, but he would make do. Soon they would all be back on the Indy. He walked over to stand next to Styles, curious at what he was watching.

Becoming aware of Hornblower's presence, Styles stood straighter, cheeks reddening.

Hornblower glanced at Styles for it was Pamela he was watching. Neither said a word. Hornblower assessed what he saw, imprinting another picture to take with him. He became aware of the way she held her head, carried her shoulders. Sadness. She was not aware she was observed. The melancholy surrounding her floated upwards. He said softly to Styles, "You have the deck."

Styles saluted him, answering quietly, "Aye, sir."

Hornblower went down into the waist, walking slowly towards her.

She saw him out of the corner of her eye and turned with a smile.

He glanced from her face to her hands which she was wringing.

She watched his face and knew she was failing to convince him with her lips that things were well. She pulled her hands apart and tried again, smiling. "Horatio," she welcomed, voice wavering.

He took her hand, pulling it to his lips. She looked away. He realized where they were standing. The stain was gone from the deck but not from her memory. It was the first time in days he had seen that look of sadness. He pulled her into his embrace.

"Our journey is nearing its end, Pamela."

Eyes closed tightly, she leaned against his chest. The black paint brush wiped across the theater of her mind, once, and then again, and then a third time. Her fingers clutched the lapel of his topcoat. She did not want to do this. Why was this happening now? Was it his panic of the morning reminding her she had no one in Spain? Was he right, that she would not be able to live there all alone? The only family she had now was her sister, back in America, an uncle she detested, and Horatio....and,... maybe someone else. She rested one hand on her abdomen and clutched the shawl under her chin. She felt guilty denying the memory of her father and guilty for feeling this immense loneliness in Horatio's arms.

"I'm sorry, Horatio."

"I am surprised you made it this long without remembering."

"I had other things to occupy my thoughts," she tried to jest.

"What do you want me to do?"

"Nothing, dearest...nothing. There is nothing you can do, but what you are doing."

He hugged her and rested his head on hers.

"We will be in sight of Spain by tomorrow afternoon."

She nodded her head in his chest. "Have you resolved your anxieties?"

He breathed a smile. "Yes. After I worry prodigiously, I come round to the conclusion to take things as they come, using whichever plan of action seems the most feasible for the situation. I am learning, by degrees."

She almost laughed, looking up with a tear streaked countenance, "I am glad I have such a wise husband."

"Are you being facetious?"

"Only partly, Mr. Hornblower," she grinned.

He returned the smile, reaching to wipe her cheeks, "I am glad to see, wretch that I am, that I can give you amusement, my lady."

She laughed and tapped his shoulder.

"I am going to miss that."

"What? Me hitting you in the shoulder?"

"Yes!"

"What about this?" She began to tickle him.

"Stop that!" he grabbed her hands and surveyed what crew might be watching from the yards. "Now what are you going to do?"

"Let me go, Horatio!"

"If I do, you know what will happen."

"No, Horatio, don't tickle me. Please." She laughed just thinking about it. He let go of her hands, but she tried to hold on to his. At last she squealed, let go, and pushed him away. Lifting up her skirts, she took off at a run towards the bow.

Styles stood watching the play. He shook his head as he watched his Captain run up the deck, yelling to his wife that he was going to get her.

Matthews came on deck, having heard the shouts. He looked up at Styles who was grinning. "What's goin' on?"

"The children are playing, Matty," he said matter-of-factly.

Matthews looked foreword and saw Pamela running towards him, skirts high around her knees. Hornblower was close behind, giving chase.

She saw Matthews and ran behind him.

"Save me, Mr. Matthews!" she cried, laughing.

Hornblower drew up, seeing Matthews and Styles observing. Pamela laughed all the more. "I'm going to get you for this! Grab her, Mr. Matthews."

"What? That's not fair! Don't you dare, Mr. Matthews!" she said indignantly, dodging behind him, avoiding Hornblower's hands.

"What's going on, sir?" asked Matthews at a loss to know how to respond. He was supposed to obey his captain. He glanced up at Styles who shrugged his shoulders.

"This woman is under arrest!" he stated, trying to be serious.

"I am not!"

"Yes, she is!"

"What are the charges, sir?" asked Matthews

Hornblower smiled. "Charges? Charges?" He still tried to reach her around Matthews who began to shift to protect her. She was clutching Matthews shirt, giggling behind him.

Hornblower stood still and focused on Matthews. "Whose side are you on?"

With his attention drawn, she made another break forward, running towards the bow. Hornblower did not wait for an answer from Matthews and took off after her once more.

When she got to the bow, she stopped, placing the foremast between them. They laughed at each other as he attempted to get her.

"Come here, Pamela."

"Not on your life, sir!"

"If you do, I promise to be merciful."

She laughed continuing to dodge behind the mast. He lunged, tripping over the cables and falling to the deck. She looked back, laughing.

"Are you all right, Horatio?" She took a step closer. "I know you are playing opossum." He did not move. She took another step closer. "Horatio?" She touched his shoulder with the tip of her shoe, pulling back quickly. Her laughter quieted. "Horatio?" She pulled her hair back behind her ears as it had come loose during the antics. She stood over him. "Horatio, you're not hurt. Are you?" She leaned down towards him. "Horatio...sweetheart?" She knelt at his side. She reached out to smooth the curl on his forehead.

Suddenly, he grabbed her, and in one motion, had her wrists, with her back to the deck, leaning over her. He grinned.

"Faker!" she said panting.

"I told you I would get you. You should believe what I say, my lady."

Her face went serious, "I believe you."

He breathed in, a gentle triumphant smile on his lips. He stood and pulled her to her feet. He looked up to see several men grinning, watching them from the yards.

"Kiss her, Mr. Hornblower!" one called.

"Dear Lord, what have you turned me into? Captain Pellew would have me on watch on watch, if not lashed to the rigging. Or, maybe in to Dr. Sebastian to have my sanity checked," he said, on second thought.

"Captain Pellew isn't here."

"Thank the Lord, for that, as Matthews likes to say!" He picked up his hat. Holding her hand, he pulled her with him back aft.

Before they reached the companion, she pulled back on his hand. He turned.

"Thank you, Horatio...for cheering me."

"Indeed. You and the men should have enough to laugh over for the rest of the year!"

She pulled back on his hand again. "Kiss me."

"Don't you think we've provided enough entertainment for the men already?"

She shook her head slowly, her eyes locked on his, chin down. It was her best sultry look. Her hair was down. She watched him consider. Saw his resolve dissolving, looking from her lips to her eyes and back again. She moved slightly towards him, encouraging.

"Only a little one," he said.

She nodded, smiling, looking into his eyes, closing hers as lips touched. His were warm and soft. She could smell a hint of his shaving soap.

He was lost to the world when in this proximity. She was sweet and gentle. His arms seemed to have a mind of their own and embraced her. He had not realized he was hungry for a kiss. His mind strayed to thoughts of when he would no longer have her available for such. He became aware of shouts from above and came to himself, feeling his face redden. He backed away.

She stayed in place, eyes closed, lips parted.

"Pamela," he said, lowly, looking shiftily about. "Pamela!" he said more urgently, but still quietly. He glanced with embarrassment at the men who briefly stopped their calls and whistles and now started a new vocal of awesome approval. "Pamela!"

She opened her eyes, a smile grew over her face. "Now they know you can kiss, too, Captain Hornblower."

His face color matched the red of the Union Jack as he grabbed her hand and pulled her down the companion, escaping the calls of the men. He shut them in the cabin.

She stood quietly watching him, as he paced and shook his head.

"Why did I do that? Captain Pellew would not have me lashed to the rigging, he would have me flogged round the fleet!"

"You love me."

"What?"

"You asked why you did that. Because you love me. And you are going to miss me when I can't be with you anymore."

He stopped and stared. They stood staring at each other, about six feet apart. His hair was tousled, his neckerchief askew. Dust from somewhere clung to the shoulder of his topcoat. Her hair lay down around her left shoulder and her back. The shawl she had draped over her shoulders now hung limply from her elbows. Neither one moved. Neither one spoke.

*******

Captain Pellew awoke, sitting in his chair. He sat straighter looking at the chart. He remembered now. He made his decision about the course and stopped to rest his eyes. He looked at his watch. Good heavens! He had been sleeping for three hours! There was a blanket over his lap. He scowled as he realized his servant had come in and let him sleep where he was. That man doted on him like an old mother hen, choosing to cover, rather than wake him.

Standing, Pellew pulled on his top coat, cloak, and hat. Even though summer was approaching, the nights at sea were still cool enough to require warm clothes. He went on deck, noting the crew. Making his way to the quarter-deck, he saluted the officer of the watch.

"Good evening, Mr. McMasters."

"Captain, sir." He saluted. "We continue our tack westerly. Winds out of the west nor'west, five knots, sir."

"Thank you, Mr. McMasters." He went to look at the binnacle even though he was given the direction. Breathing in the night air, he looked northward where the coast of Spain lie in darkness. Reaching the Atlantic would take longer, having to tack out, but morning should find them nearing Cape St. Vincent. He had decided to make sail for that point where they had last seen Dolphin. If for some reason she was limping into Gibraltar, they might find her on that heading. It seemed, after much deliberation on his part, to be the wisest choice to make.

The temptation came to think through all the scenarios playing in his mind about Dolphin. There were several of them ranging from something preventing some or all masts from being recast and, God forbid, they were pulling the pirate ship by her launch, to her sinking, and again all souls in a launch, to her being sunk or captured by the enemy! Those were the worst case options. On the positive side, perhaps Hornblower had pulled into a cove on the coast of Portugal to complete repairs, or he had run from the enemy, having no means to fight.

Pellew frowned, pursing his lips. *Young Hornblower cannot fully take the blame for this,* he thought. He should have told him to check weapons stores of the pirates. He should have realized when the pirates failed to put up much of a fight something was amiss. As his captain, he bore the blame for Hornblower's lack more than his officer. He bowed his head and sighed, speaking under his breath, "Lord, just let us find them alive and well, I pray."

The ship's bell tolled the hour, ten o'clock. Pellew walked to larboard and held one of the lines in his hand. McMasters had begun giving the orders to change tack. Pellew watched the men pulling the braces as the helmsman turned the wheel. The sails fell off until the rudder caught, flapping, they once again filled with the wind. Pellew gave a single firm nod. Good crew. He had a good crew.

"Nicely done, Mr. McMasters."

"Thank you, Captain. The men are well trained, sir."

Knowing McMasters could not see his face, Pellew let his mouth turn wryly. He complimented McMasters and McMasters gave it to the crew. He was well pleased with his men, well pleased indeed.

**********

Hornblower left the first watch at four bells, entered the cabin, and sat writing in the log by the light of a single candle and the ceiling lantern. Pamela was already in bed and he assumed asleep since she did not speak when he arrived. Finishing the entry, he blew out the candle and disrobed, pulling on his nightshirt. He loosed his hair from its tie and sat at the table with a sigh. He sat back in the chair, leaned an elbow on the table, and canted his head to rest in that hand.

"Darling?"

He looked toward the bed. "Pamela? I thought you were asleep."

"What are you doing? Why haven't you come to bed?"

He sat down on the bunk, smiling. "I thought you were sleeping. I did not want to disturb you."

"Aren't you tired?"

"Yes. But ...I do not feel sleepy."

"Then sit here, sir, not in that hard chair." She moved over, pulled the covers back, and fluffed a pillow at the wall for him to lean against. He did as she wished, putting his long legs under the blankets. She moved up to lean against his chest, her arm around his middle. He placed his arm over her shoulders and kissed her head. Starring off into space, he exhaled slowly.

"Tell me about your father," she asked.

"You don't beat about the bush do you?"

"You haven't told me much about him. Do you like your father?"

His brow wrinkled in incredulity. "Yes, I do!"

"Then tell me about him."

"Well,...what...what do you want to know?"

She leaned out to see him better, shaking her head. "What does he look like? How old is he? Where does he live? Did he play with you as a child? Did he beat you? Did he want you to join the navy? Do you ...."

"Belay that! Enough!" He chuckled. "I shall never remember all those questions! I get the idea!"

She relaxed against him once again, waiting.

Looking up in thought, he began. "My father is a doctor," he moved his free hand as he spoke, "His age is...sixty-three, I think, this year. I am slightly taller than he, and he is thin. He used to practice in Portsmouth, but decided to return to his birthplace. He lives in Highclere now, a little village northeast of Salisbury Plain. He did not play with me as a child, though I seem to recall being bounced when I was very small. Perhaps my mother needed to have me entertained whilst she prepared a meal or something. But as for play type play, as a boy, no. Not until...not until after my mother died... he taught me to play whist. It was a year or so after her death, he taught me to play. They needed a fourth that could be relied upon, he, the vicar, and his wife, so, I was selected. I think he was pleased at how quickly I caught on to the game." Hornblower paused reflecting on his own admissions. "I did learn it quickly." He stopped as he remembered, not sure he wanted to share what he was recalling.

"What are you thinking, Horatio?" she asked gently.

He sighed, looking at the woman he married. He never told anyone the things he told her this day. She wanted more from him. She wanted to know him. That thought took him back to their vows. But this was not an obligation, he knew. She really wanted to know, but could he tell her? This was one of his most painful memories, even though age revealed the truth. He felt her hand touching his head as she pushed his hair behind his right ear. The hand came to rest on his cheek. He looked deeply into the loving eyes.

"For a while, I ... I thought my.... my father...." he inhaled deeply and tried again, "I thought my father blamed me for my mother's death." He swallowed and looked away. "When she died, he...he seemed to disappear from my life more than usual. I felt ..." he took another deep breath, "I felt abandoned!" he tried to laugh. Pamela lowered to his chest and hugged him. "I realize now, it wasn't me he blamed, but himself. It was several years, however, before I understood this. It was a comment he made one night when we were playing whist."

"What ...what did he say that lead you to think he blamed himself?" she urged.

"We were due to play at the vicarage. He did not want to go, but then decided he would. I could see he was upset about something, but he did not confide in me his troubles. While we were playing, something was said about a woman who had died that day. My father became angry and said,... I remember his words exactly, he said..., "I failed her. As I failed Louisa. I should have been there! I should have been there!" and he stormed out of the house into the night." He felt Pamela's arms tighten around him.

"The vicar's wife was very consoling. She saw the tears in my eyes, though I tried to fight them. She thought my father had frightened me, but that wasn't it. I knew that night that my father did not blame me! I was relieved, but I also knew he blamed himself. That night we became partners, in my mind, as I, too, blamed myself for my mother's death. My attitude changed towards my father. I thought he hated me for being the cause of her death, that being the reason he left me alone so often. But, it was his own guilt that separated us. After that night, we were closer, at least from my point of view. I must have come across to him as being more understanding. And, though we never spoke of it, I think he felt the same, as well."

Pamela moved her head on his chest and said his name. He squeezed her and continued his story with a sigh.

"He never laid a hand on me, that I recall. His look was enough of a reprimand." He shuddered as he remembered the stern looks of his da. "His stare could only be rivaled by Captain Pellew's," he chuckled. "As far as the navy, well, he could not afford to help me with more schooling, and indeed what would I do with it? Become a teacher? A lawyer? I did not choose those. We both decided the navy was the course I was to take. Captain Keene was a patient of his, and my father bargained doctoring for midshipman fees. Keene was Captain of Justinian, my first ship," he said faintly. "My early days as a midshipman had some frightening moments," he added, thoughtfully.

"I cannot imagine you being afraid of anything, my love."

"So I have succeeded in fooling you, eh?"

"Then, in the end, your relationship with your father is a good one?"

"Well, we're men, my lady."

"Do you mean by that you do not show affection to one another?"

"Well, we have an understanding."

She sighed. "I don't understand men. Did he ever give you a hug, or a pat on the back, or anything?"

"No, not physically."

"Then, how ...? Did he ever say he loved you?"

"No. I just knew. We had an understanding."

She leaned up to look at him. "Oh, Horatio!" She hugged him tightly. "I love you, darling!"

He chuckled. "Men don't say those kinds of things to one another."

"Well, they should! My father was always telling me he loved me."

"You're a girl!"

"So? Horatio, wouldn't you tell your child you loved him?"

He felt his skin warming with a rush and a quiver in his inner being. With knitted brow he asked warily, "Pamela, you're not...you don't think....I mean, you couldn't ..."

"Don't you want children?" His mind was quick indeed! Her thoughts were nearly revealed! But it could not be known, just because a date had come and gone. It was far too early, and probably, it was just the stressful events causing delays. All the same, it was an opportune moment to test the waters, so to speak.

He swallowed. "I....I ... I had not thought....well, yes, I guess I do. But, you couldn't be...could you?"

She laughed. "Can't you say the words? Am I going to have a baby? I don't know, but there is always that possibility. Am I now? I have no way of knowing, yet. But, if I were would that make you happy?"

He sat with his mouth open, blinking. "I..." he closed his mouth, moistened his lips, and swallowed. "If it happens it would be a good thing. Would it make you happy?" he asked carefully.

"To have your child?" She sat up, cupping his cheek. "I would be delighted to have your baby, Horatio."

They gazed into one anothers eyes. A smile moved across Pamela's lips. She took a string of his nightshirt, pulling it slowly. He looked down, watching her untie his clothes. He smiled. "Are we working toward that tonight?"

"Not necessarily."

Warm breath on his neck and then soft lips suctioning the skin, he closed his eyes, inhaling, as the rest of his body tingled at the touch. "Hmm," he moaned.

"Do you like this?"

He exhaled. "Yes."

She moved up to his ear, breathing warmly into it.

"Hmm, Pamela, I love you."

"Promise me you will tell our baby you love him," she whispered.

"I promise." He took her in his arms, slipping the two of them prone in bed.