An American Encounter
By Skihee :)
Chapter 13 Reunion
Indefatigable passed Cape St. Vincent and was set on a west nor'west course in the open Atlantic. A light fog burned off in the past hour and the sun beat down upon the men swabbing the decks of the British naval frigate. Lookouts were posted at the top yard of each mast and in the fighting tops. Mr. Bracegirdle and Mr. Bowles stood quietly exchanging comments about the mission, the men, and the morning. The coasts of Spain and Portugal were left behind hours ago and no longer in view.
Not many miles away another little ship was slipping through the water, fitfully tacking against the contrary wind, seeking an easterly path. Her captain was at the top yard of the main mast, glass to eye. Dolphin was not yet in sight of land, and the wind shift seemed it would cause further delay.
On the quarter-deck of Dolphin paced a strange figure for a vessel flying the ensign of His Majesty's Navy, for it was a woman dressed in a cream colored loosely flowing dress in a similarly colored wide brimmed hat. The wind blew gustily against her, outlining the curve of her body in the late morning sun. Her face revealed deep concentration as she paced. When her direction allowed, and before she turned, she would steal a glance up to the captain high upon the main mast top yard. Upon close inspection, a marked degree of agitation would have been noted if anyone had paused to examine her. However, the attention of the men on deck and in the yards was focused on the far eastern horizon, searching for that first glimmer of land that would bring them another step closer to the end of their journey. With a last pace and a last glance upward, she descended the stairs and went below decks.
With only the varying blues of sky and sea surrounding her, Indefatigables sails billowed in the wind picking up the ship to dance across the water. Captain Pellew emerged on deck mounting the brief stairs to obtain the quarter-deck. He saluted and greeted Bracegirdle and Bowles. He noted Kennedy at the taffrail looking back towards whence they had come. The ship was full of activity and an expectation that could have been cut with a knife. Pellew could sense it. He turned it over in his mind trying to sift it to see what it was. He looked about his ship again, inspecting each of the men on lookout at the masts. He walked to starboard staring out over the waves. Bracegirdle joined him.
"The wind is driving us more westerly than intended, sir."
"Hmm." Pellew glanced, then followed the rail aft, slowly circumventing the half circle of the quarter-deck, peering out to the horizon and all points in between.
"Mr. Kennedy," he said as he passed by.
Startled out of his own concentration, he replied, "Good day, Captain." He watched Pellew reach the larboard side, inching along, looking west and south. He saw him stop and squint into the distance, then peer at the lookout on the mizzenmast. The man's gaze was northwest.
"Mr. Bracegirdle!" he roared.
"Sir?" Bracegirdle walked quickly to larboard.
Pellew motioned to the mizzen lookouts. "Have those men look all directions, not just northwest!"
Bracegirdle shouted the order. Pellew took out his small spyglass and trained it southwest.
"What is it, Captain?" asked Kennedy.
"I thought I saw a glimpse of sail, but it's fallen below the horizon," he replied, voice as pinched and strained as his eyesight. He slowly moved his little telescope along the edge of view. He stopped quickly. Kennedy pulled out his own glass. Pellew looked up to the mizzen lookouts. As he did, the man on the top yard cupped his mouth to call down.
"Deck there! Sail to larboard!"
Bowles stepped to the side and held the larger ship's glass to eye.
Pellew spoke. "Mr. Bowles, bring her around to that heading!"
"Aye, aye, sir!" He held the telescope out to Pellew. Snapping closed his pocket one, he raised the larger to eye. The topsails of the ship in the distance could be seen. Bowles commanded the helmsman to turn and shouted orders to the men on deck and in the rigging to adjust sail to the new course.
On Dolphin, the men and her captain continued to look eastward. No one saw the slightly built seaman come on deck and begin to climb the shrouds of the main mast. Hornblower was about to descend. He shut the glass and placed it in his coat pocket. Another man stood up beside him and put arms around his waist.
"Pamela!" he said in surprise.
"Horatio don't be angry. I had to come! It may be my last chance! It is so beautiful today! If you are going to spank me, it will be worth it! Just don't be angry!"
He shook his head, taking her arm to move her between himself and the mast. "Pamela..." he did not know what to say in his exasperation. He pressed her back to pin her between him and the top of the mast.
"I love you, Horatio! I had to be here with you. I had to be here!" she said again.
He felt the closeness of her body. His arms grasped the mast. Standing behind her, he could see the curve of her neck, her hair all stuffed inside the sock cap. The sun heated her skin. With his nose so close, her aroma soothed his senses. He glanced at the men in the yards nearest. Seeing their attention elsewhere, he let his lips brush her neck. Her profile was framed against the blue sea at this angle, and whether he wanted to or not he heard himself saying, "I love you, my lady."
She reached back with her right hand to touch his head. "Oh Captain! This is wondrous! I understand why you love the sea!" She delighted in the marvelous sights before her. The white sail of Dolphin were bowed with wind. The position of the sun gave the water a deep topaz blue, blending into navy hues where the angle of light altered. The sound of the waves hitting against the hull, the wind singing past the lines, the creak of the mast, the flap of the British ensign, all filled her hearing. She closed her eyes becoming aware of every sense she could employ. The sun beating down on her, the rigid mast pressing against her torso with the muscular body of the man she loved at her back. The saturated hues of blue and white. The smell and taste of the clean, salt air. Memories to hold for a lifetime! She drank them in, filling every nook and cranny of her being. She inhaled filling her lungs to capacity and then exhaled leaving a broad grin on her countenance. "I can't find the words to express the beauty I see, my love!"
She sighed. Turning carefully in his arms, she studied his face to see if he were angry. Love was all she saw. He leaned to kiss her. She did not have to ask him this time. He pressed his body to hers, hugging her and the mast. While he kissed her, he opened his eyes to view his men. At least the ones he could see were not looking. He closed his eyes again, giving her mouth and lips his full attention. He felt her arms around him. He moved to her cheek resting his there, eyes closed, he whispered. "God, I love you!" Though he feared for her safety, now that she was here, he let himself dive into her company, her closeness. Tugging gently on the sock cap, he released her long dark tresses to the wind.
At the same moment, he opened his eyes and looked north, a man at the foremast fighting top shouted, "Sail to larboard!"
His body stiffened with fear for the safety of his command. What was he doing enjoying his wife when his ship needed seeing to? Fearing for her, his men, his ship, his career, had already proven to be a Herculean task for his psyche. He would miss her when she was gone, but at least he would not have this sick compounded worry to deal with. Combining one's home life with one's work had its disadvantages, especially when you worked for a country at war.
Styles, standing on the quarter-deck, glass to eye shouted, "It's the bloody Indy!" He observed Hornblower and studied what he saw. "Oh Christ!" He began to make his way there.
Hornblower allowed his lungs breath again. This was like the first glimpse of home when one has been gone far too long. He and Pamela looked towards the off-white sails rapidly approaching.
She looked for long moments, a cascade of thoughts flowing through her mind. She spoke softly, "She's beautiful, Horatio. She's a beautiful ship. I can see why you love her so."
Horatio examined her face, noted sadness, happiness, love, all contained in the features he had grown to know and care for. "It is you I love." He kissed her in view of the ship, as if stating to the wooden vessel he had found one of his own kind to love.
On Indefatigable, the lookouts confirmed a British ensign on the stern of the distant ship. Captain Pellew made his way forward, climbing to the foremast top yard. He wanted to see for himself if it were Dolphin, looking for absolution from his anxious days and nights. The lookout made room for him. Then, Kennedy arrived at his side. Both stood with glass to eye.
Indefatigable was on a course nearly perpendicular to the smaller vessel which gave an open view into the side of the little ship. Pellew's glass came to rest on the main mast top yard. "What the devil...?" His mouth dropped open.
Archie's scope found the identical image. He swallowed and said with quiet amazement, "Horatio?" He paused trying to understand what he was seeing, "It's...it's a girl, sir! A...a woman, I mean!" Kennedy looked wide eyed at his Captain, whose face had taken on an intense furor.
Pellew began the descent. Reaching the deck, he called back angrily, "Mr. Kennedy!"
Kennedy scrambled down to join him in the waist. The Captain called for Bracegirdle and Rampling. He paced furiously, composing himself before the officers.
"Mr. Bracegirdle, signal Dolphin to heave to. Mr. Rampling, Mr. Kennedy, prepare the longboat. Stock it with powder kegs for Dolphin. Mr. Rampling you will take command of Dolphin. Mr. Kennedy, you will assist him." he hissed. "Send Mr. Hornblower back with Dolphin's log. Mr. Bracegirdle, when Mr. Hornblower arrives, bring me the log and inform him he is confined to quarters. I shall be in my cabin." He stormed off.
Each officer stood trying to regroup from the squall they were enveloped in. Bracegirdle moved first, calling for the signal flags.
"Mr. Kennedy, see to the powder stores while I get the longboat swayed," ordered Rampling.
"Aye, aye, sir."
Hornblower stood to larboard with Dolphin hove to as ordered by Indefatigable. He could see a launch on its way over. Kennedy and Rampling were on board. His mouth curved into a smile seeing his old friend.
"Mr. Matthews, call the men to assist with the supplies." He could see the launch was loaded with powder kegs. He felt relief at having the stores sent, but anxiety that his lack was known.
Rampling came through the entry port followed by Kennedy and the men off loading the kegs. Matthews arranged the men to receive the gun powder.
Hornblower saluted. "Mr. Rampling, welcome aboard, sir. Mr. Kennedy! Good to see you as well. I am glad of these supplies, sir. Very glad, indeed," said Hornblower happily.
"Mr. Hornblower, you are to gather your dunnage and return to Indefatigable. Captain Pellew wishes I take command of Dolphin."
Hornblower looked from him to Kennedy. "I...I.. don't understand." Was it his failure concerning the powder? He could not think what would cause this precipitous order.
"He wishes you to bring your log, sir, right away. As soon as the kegs are off loaded you are to return in the launch."
Concern covered his countenance at the request, no...at the command. Something in Rampling's voice reflected it was not a request. "I shall get my things." He left in a daze. He glanced at the cabin he and Pamela were inhabiting as he made his way to the room where the majority of his belongings were still stored. It did not take long to pack his chest. He entered the joint cabin to gather a few things there and to retrieve the log. Pamela walked in behind him, once again clothed in the cream colored dress. He stiffened hearing her footsteps. Closing his eyes, he tried to think how to tell her he was leaving.
She saw his things piled on the table. Seeing his face, she knew immediately. She tried to smile, "I thought we would ...we would not have to part until Gibraltar."
"Captain Pellew has called me back to Indefatigable."
Hot tears jumped to her eyes. "Who is to captain Dolphin?" she asked, clutching her hands.
"Leftenant Rampling. Archie Kennedy will be here as well. Archie is my friend I told you of. You will be all right with them. You need not fear. Besides, Matthews, Styles, and the rest will still be here." He stifled the envy with the consolation that they were familiar.
She looked about trying not to ask the next question. It came anyway. "Why?"
"I must do as I am told, Pamela."
The tears rolled. She wiped them away. "Of course you do."
A knock came at the door. It was Matthews.
"Is your chest ready, sir?" He looked mournfully at Hornblower and his wife.
"Nearly, Matthews, but before you take my things topside, I want you to move all Mrs. Hornblower's things in here. Quickly, please."
"Aye, aye, sir." Oldroyd was waiting in the companion to assist. The two of them worked to transfer as requested.
She looked at him curiously.
"I cannot bear to think of anyone in this room except you, my lady. Rampling won't mind."
She threw herself into his arms. "How can he do this to us?"
"I am an officer in His Majesty's Navy. I must follow orders. Do not blame Captain Pellew. He is a good man. Whatever happens to me, Pamela, do not blame him."
"What do you mean, whatever happens to you?"
"Sir?" pressed Matthews.
Hornblower took his things from the table. "Would you put these in my chest, Matthews? It's in my cabin. Then, you may take it topside. I shall be there presently."
"Aye, aye, Captain."
They were alone once more. He held her in his arms. "I love you, Pamela. We will be together again." Though he said it, he was not convinced. Why was he being recalled? Was it the powder?
She turned her face to his. He wiped her cheeks and leaned to kiss her.
Archie opened the door, his face registering shock and surprise. Horatio kissing a woman...again? He backed out of the room, realizing they were not aware of his presence.
She held her lips to his ear and whispered, "I love you, darling." He leaned his head against hers feeling her shake in his arms.
"Don't come on deck, my love, please. Help me do this." He released her, backing to the table to take the log. He swallowed as he watched her watch him. He walked towards the door.
He stopped, taking her in his arms one last time. "Help me, Pamela. Help me do this," he whispered, kissing a path from her hair to her lips. A last embrace and they released one another. He strode quickly out the door, jaw clinched. Pamela leaned against the wall for support, giving way to the weight of sadness.
Hornblower had no time to converse with Kennedy. The launch was waiting. He studied his friend for a moment before going over the side. No words came. Styles was standing nearby. He caught his eye and noted the nod Styles gave him. He swallowed fixing his gaze on the larger frigate looming close by. Sitting in the stern, the launch bore Hornblower away from his command to Indefatigable.
Hornblower came through the entry port. Dr. Sebastian was there to greet him, along with Mr. Bracegirdle.
"Mr. Hornblower! Good to see you alive and well! We wondered what became of you!" smiled Sebastian.
"Dr. Sebastian," said Hornblower, with a nod.
"I am off to meet Mrs. Dandridge. Is there anything I should know about the dear lady? The Captain has asked me to ascertain the state of her health, both mental and physical."
Hornblower blinked, mouth agape, "I...I...should say she was well when I left her and I hope she is still so."
"Good! When I return we must talk more. Tell me of your adventures since you left us!" With that, he climbed down into the launch.
"Mr. Hornblower, welcome back, sir," said Bracegirdle. "I don't mind telling you, you had us all worried, especially Mr. Kennedy."
"Worried, Mr. Bracegirdle?" He was still watching the doctor and the launch on the way to Dolphin.
"I see you have Dolphin's log."
"Yes, sir," returning his gaze to Bracegirdle. "Does Captain Pellew wish to see me?"
"Actually, no. He has asked me to bring the log to him. You are confined to your cabin, I am afraid."
"Confined?" asked Hornblower, puzzled.
"Yes. In fact, these marines are to escort you there."
"Am I under arrest?"
"All I know is what I have told you, sir. May I have the log?"
Hornblower gave it. He felt as if he were living a nightmare. Was he asleep? The ship under his command taken, separated from his wife, hardly two words to his best friend, his log was to be delivered to the captain by someone else. And now, he was confined to his cabin, escorted by two marines. Is this because he forgot to supply the ship with powder? Was he going to be court-marshaled? What other reason could precipitate such treatment? Wild thoughts coursed as he found the familiar quarters. The two marines took guard of the door, closing it after him.
Bracegirdle arrived outside Captain Pellew's offices. Taking a deep breath, he knocked.
Entering the cabin, he saw Pellew standing at the stern windows. "Mr. Hornblower is back on board, sir. Here is the log from Dolphin."
Pellew did not speak for a moment. "How did Mr. Hornblower look, Mr. Bracegirdle?"
"Well, but confused, sir."
Pellew cleared his throat, "Indeed." Turning to Bracegirdle he took the log. A certain stiffness remained in Pellew's demeanor, a slight smolder in the eyes. "Thank you, Mr. Bracegirdle. That will be all."
Bracegirdle could not read Pellew's mood. Whatever had sent him off into a fury seemed to have abated. The only sign of the earlier anger was the fact that Hornblower's confinement had not been rescinded and the taut attitude with which he was dismissed.
"Aye, aye, sir."
Pellew stared at the log. Sitting, he opened it to the entry beginning the day he left Hornblower with the ship. The information on the first and second day was pretty much what he expected. Settling in what crewman would do what jobs, notes on the repairs made, the watch schedule, notes on the well. As he came to the third day his eyebrow went up. There was the description of where and how Mrs. Dandridge had been found, though she was referred to as "the lady", that she could not or would not speak. He read on, discovering Hornblower feared she might harm herself and how he had taken on her care. Pellew pursed his lips and thought about the men that went with Hornblower. He was correct; he was the only one right for the task. Is this how they became close? Close enough for them to be kissing' on the top yard? On the top yard, for heavens sake! Pellew sighed and read on.
Each log entry spoke of ship details, course, direction. Then, a paragraph disclosing that "the lady" regained her voice, that she was an American, that she saw her father murdered before her eyes, that her name was Pamela'. Pellew inhaled and exhaled deeply. These were waters his officer had not had to sail before. He looked again at the first name with knitted brow. Did he not know her last name? What was it about Americans? Can they not do anything right?
He read on. Mention was made of clearing the deck of the blood stain.' Whose, he wondered? The American's? And, clearing the pirate's cabin. A note that Pamela' was better, discovering there was no powder on board, his mouth curved into a frown as he read it. The decision to try to patch Dolphin at sea was there. He read this with interest, shaking his head at the peril Hornblower put the ship in by laying her over as far as he did. "My God!" There was his reasoning, If I cannot fight, I must be able to run.' So he had spent a day doing the patching, moving the cannon. That accounted for one of the days he was late to rendezvous. He read on. There was something about Pamela he started to write, but stopped and ran a line through it, changing to the subject of the well. So, with the repatching the water went down in the bilge. The next few entries were light with only the most necessary details as far as direction, wind speed, knots, and sightings. Then, out of the blue one sentence about her. "Pamela's last name is Dandridge, her father's name, Dawson."
More routine entries until the sighting of the French ship. Pellew's eyes narrowed at this information. Hornblower wrote of his decision to run, turning the ship about and heading into the North Atlantic. He could tell by the words his officer used that he did not like the choice he felt forced to make. He knew how such a decision would have wrenched his insides and felt for his young leftenant. It accounted for another day of delay. Turning the page he immediately noted four signatures. There was a knock at his door.
Closing the book, he looked up and called, "Come."
His servant entered with lunch. He was not hungry and was somewhat annoyed that he was interrupted. Bracegirdle was behind him.
"Begging your pardon, Captain, but are we to remain hove to?"
"Hmm? Yes. Yes, for the time being. Is there a problem, Mr. Bracegirdle?"
"No, sir." He hesitated.
Pellew caught it. "Something else, Mr. Bracegirdle?"
"Is...is Mr. Hornblower to be fed in his cabin, or is he allowed in the officer's mess, sir?"
Pellew looked at the log sitting next to the meal. He picked it up, turning to the last entry, noting how many more pages he had to review. "Send him to me." Perhaps he would give him his lunch, he thought absently.
"Aye, aye, sir."
Pellew was left alone again. He turned to the page with the signatures. Reaching for his glass, he drank as he began to read. On this day...' he nearly choked on the drink. He put the glass down, picking up a napkin to wipe his front, his sleeve, and part of the log. With disbelief, he opened the log again. It was there in black and white! Hornblower married Mrs. Dandridge! Matthews and Styles were witnesses! With mouth agape, he sat down slowly, rereading the words. He had not misread. They were married in a Handfasting ceremony with a Declaration of Marriage! He had heard of both of these types of ceremonies. But, Hornblower? Married?
He did not know what to think? And, Hornblower was on his way to his cabin! Well, that explained their familiarity! But, still, kissing on the top yard? He shook his head. Had he no regard for his men? How must they have felt? He looked at the log again. Not much was written for this day, only the bare minimum, a one line notation of turning the ship about and another of no longer sighting the French vessel. Indeed, probably busy with other things. Other things! He could not believe he was being so mentally flippant about his officer's actions! He needed time to think on this one! A knock came.
"Who is it?" he asked.
"Leftenant Hornblower, sir." Hornblower stood nervously outside. He stared at the marine guarding Pellew's door, then at the two that followed, no, guarded him.
"Just a moment," called Pellew. What was he going to say? Hornblower married? He looked back in the log to see how long they had been married. Four days. Married four days. Newlyweds. Four days. Kissing on the top yard! He was still flabbergasted. "Come in, Mr. Hornblower."
He turned his back to him while he still thought how he would respond.
Hornblower walked in and closed the door. He saw the log on the table and tried to swallow, his mouth as dry as Dolphin's well.
"You sent for me, sir?"
"Yes." Pellew glanced at him briefly, but in that quick look noted the confusion and distraught features of his officer. He said nothing else.
"Shall I give a report, sir?"
"Hmm? No," said Pellew still thinking of how to handle this strange situation. He was thinking back over all his years in the service and could find nothing to compare with this!
"I...I am to be court-marshaled, sir?" he asked at length, not fully recovered from Pellew telling him no' about reporting. He had been planning what he would say, thinking that this interview would come.
"Court-marshaled?" *For kissing?* thought Pellew, hardly likely, though he might lose his commission for conduct unbecoming an officer.
"Yes, sir. I failed to see my command was properly supplied, leading me to run from the enemy. I...I failed to serve my country, sir." Hornblower let his head bow.
Pellew turned, "Is that what you think this is about?"
Hornblower became even more confused. Again, he attempted a swallow, thought back, tried to think what else he had done to break king's regulations.
Meanwhile, Dr. Sebastian climbed onto Dolphin and was met by Kennedy. "Mr. Kennedy! How goes your new ship?" he asked smiling.
"Dr. Sebastian! Well enough. We are not in need of your services, sir. What brings you here?"
"Captain Pellew wishes me to check on your passenger." He looked around the deck. "I see no one fitting her description."
"She is in her cabin. I have not had an opportunity to speak to her. She and Horatio ...seem to ...have...become...shall we say, ...fast friends," said Kennedy.
"Show me where she is."
The two went below decks. Sebastian knocked on the door. There was no answer. He knocked again and called. "Mrs. Dandridge?" No answer. "Mrs. Dandridge, I am Dr. Sebastian. Captain Pellew wishes me to check on your well being."
Something hit the door. Kennedy and Sebastian looked at each other.
"I am not sure, Mr. Kennedy, but I think we have just been fired upon. Mrs. Dandridge, are you all right?"
"That is not my name!" She sounded angry.
Sebastian looked at Kennedy again. "Did you not say her name was Mrs. Dandridge?"
"That is what Captain Mason said. Unless I misunderstood."
"What was the other name?"
"Hmm. I beg your pardon most sincerely, dear lady. Is your name Mrs. Dawson?"
"No! Go away!" The voice was strained.
"What manner of diplomacy do you think Mr. Hornblower used with her?"
"Ummm. I don't think what he did will work for you." Kennedy said thoughtfully. He was baffled. He would have sworn those were the correct names. "I will go ask Matthews. He must know her name."
"Very well. I shall stay and try to convince her to speak with me." Kennedy departed in search of Matthews. "Dear lady, I wish you no harm. I am only following my captain's orders. He is concerned for you."
"No, he is not!" Another bang against the door and a clatter.
"I beg to differ with you. Why do you think he is not concerned for you?"
"Why did he call Captain Hornblower back?"
"I do not know." Silence. "Perhaps I could find out for you." He heard steps coming toward the door.
"You would ask him?"
"Certainly, when I see him. I will say, Captain, the lady of Dolphin would like to know why Mr. Hornblower is no longer her captain?' Is that what I should ask?"
He heard the bolt slide back on the door. It opened a crack. She looked at him with red puffy eyes. "I don't need a doctor."
His features filled with concern. "You are sad because Mr. Hornblower is no longer Captain."
"Would you like him to come back?"
"Hmm. May I speak with you?"
"You are speaking with me."
He smiled. "May I come in?"
"I am not in the mood to entertain, sir."
"I do not need to be entertained. I only need to know if you are in anyway injured."
"I can tell you I am not. You should go back to your ship and your captain," she said distastefully.
"Very well. But, I must write in my journal who it is I have spoken with. If you are not Mrs. Dandridge or Mrs. Dawson, what name shall I put down for you?"
She stared at him for a moment, "Mrs. Hornblower." She darted her eyes over him then shut the door and bolted it.
Matthews and Kennedy joined him in the companionway.
Sebastian looked at Matthews. "Mr. Matthews the lady has just told me a curious thing." Matthews features seemed to pink. "Is this true?"
Knowing that Kennedy was questioning about her name, Matthews could guess what the doctor was alluding to. He looked down at his shoes.
Kennedy looked quizzically at Matthews, then at Sebastian. "Is what true? What are we talking about?" questioned Kennedy, nervously.
Dr. Sebastian sighed and shook his head. "Dear, oh dear, what will Captain Pellew say when he learns of this precipitous move of Mr. Hornblower?"
"What? What? What are you talking about?" asked Kennedy anxiously.
"They're in love, sir," said Matthews looking at the deck.
"I guess that would explain it," muttered Kennedy. "Love?"
Dr. Sebastian let out a slight chuckle. "Indeed? So, cupid's arrow has struck Mr. Hornblower! This is most amusing! I wonder if Captain Pellew will think so as well?"
"What?" asked Kennedy in exasperation.
"Her name, Mr. Kennedy. Her name is Mrs. Hornblower."
If one could have been in two places at once, one would have heard the same thing spoken by two different people in perfect unison. One being Archie Kennedy on Dolphin and the other being Captain Pellew on Indefatigable. "Mrs. Hornblower?"
"What on earth, Mr. Hornblower, led you to make such a decision?" asked Pellew.
Hornblower tried to swallow once again. "I love her, sir, and she loves me. We wanted to be together and we were afraid circumstances in Gibraltar would not allow us that time." This was not what he expected to be explaining. He was totally unprepared. Truth answered.
Pellew rubbed his forehead. "Was this not a detriment to the crew?"
"They seemed to be happy for us, sir."
Pellew studied Hornblower trying to imagine what the ratings thought about all this. He could see why they might wish the lad well. Indeed, they might have thought Mr. Hornblower had never been with a woman! He remembered how his own friends had been anxious to get him "acquainted" with the opposite sex. Perhaps these were the feelings of his crew. Married. Mr. Hornblower married. Well, why not.
"Mr. Hornblower, as Indefatigable was bearing down on Dolphin, I happened to be looking through the glass at a most curious sight on the main mast top yard!"
Hornblower sucked in his breath and again tried to swallow. "Sir?"
"Do you know what I mean, sir?"
"Yes, sir," admitted a crimson colored Hornblower.
"Does that sort of thing go on all the time aboard your ship?"
"Do you think that sort of behavior becoming to an officer?"
"No, sir. Indeed not, sir."
"Do you think that sort of "thing" will ever happen aboard your ship again?"
"No, sir. Definitely not, sir."
"Do I have your word on that, Mr. Hornblower."
"Aye, aye, sir. You do, indeed."
"Hmm," said Pellew looking at his protege. He paced, still thinking about the news. He extended his hand. "Congratulations, Mr. Hornblower."
"Thank you, sir. Am I no longer confined?"
"Not on board this ship! I will let you return to Dolphin, Mr. Hornblower. If your men do not object to you and your wife continuing with them to Gibraltar, I shall let you stay. If they object then one of you must come to Indefatigable."
"Aye, aye, sir."
"Let us go to Dolphin. You must introduce me to your wife."
Hornblower's eyes grew wide at the suggestion! He needed a little time to explain things to Pamela. He knew how she might be feeling towards his Captain. "Aye, aye, sir. I am sure she will be delighted."
"MRS. Hornblower?" said Kennedy. He looked at Matthews. "What...what does she mean, Mrs. Hornblower?"
"They were married, sir," said Matthews.
"By whom? When?"
"Handfasting and Declaration, sir."
Sebastian was quietly chuckling to himself. "And, his wife is very upset that Captain Pellew has called his leftenant back. Oh dear." He shook his head.
Kennedy continued to question Matthews in low tones for all the details. The three walked to the companion to return topside.
"Dr. Sebastian?" It was Pamela, composure regained.
She shied, embarrassed. "Dr. Sebastian, I must ask you to forgive me for my behavior, sir. Please accept my apologies. I... I ..."
"No need, dear lady. I understand how unexpected it must have been for you that Mr. Hornblower was recalled to his ship. He seemed somewhat dazed when I saw him as well. Though I did not understand at the time,... why." He smiled warmly.
"But, I have behaved childishly throwing things and I was very rude. Can you ever forgive me?" She held out her hand.
He took it and bowed slightly, "But, of course, you are forgiven. And I am most thankful that Dolphin is made of such sturdy oak!" He grinned and she laughed. "Ah, that is better! You will see Mr. Hornblower again. I am sure of it!"
She received his assurance with gladness. "Thank you, Doctor. Do you still wish to talk with me?"
"Only if you feel up to it. I do not wish to cause you further distress."
She held out her left hand. "Actually, I do have some splinters."
He took the hand and stared with concern. "Indeed, you do! What have you been doing, pulling back on the braces?" he said, joking.
She smiled, glancing at Matthews and Kennedy who were listening to the conversation. "No, but you're close!"
"May we go in your cabin? The light from the windows will be better than this."
"Certainly." She looked passed his shoulder to Kennedy. "Are you Archie Kennedy?"
He walked over giving her a salute with a smile. "Yes, ma'am."
"My name is Pamela ...Hornblower," she said carefully. "I am sorry Horatio is not here to properly introduce us."
"I'm pleased to meet you, MM...."
She laughed. "It's all right Mr. Kennedy. I must be as big a shock to all of you as you are to me! When the...Indy...suddenly appeared, I had no idea our lives would change so drastically! I am afraid I did not respond very well. Please forgive me, sir."
He smiled. "Of course."
"Mr. Matthews, do you think it would put Mr. Cook or Mr. Jenkins out very much to fix us a pot of tea?"
"I'll check on it fer ye, ma'am."
"Thank you, Mr. Matthews."
"Mr. Kennedy will you join us as the doctor tends me?" She held out her hand for him to see the rope splinters in her hand.
"Then, that...that was you on the top yard?" he said it as half statement, half question.
She felt her color rise, her eyes widen, her jaw drop, and then she bit her bottom lip and smiled. "You saw?"
"Yes, ma'am," he answered uneasily, "And so did the captain."
"Oh no! Is...is that why Captain Hornblower was ...was called back to his ship?"
"I would say it had... something... to do with it, at least."
Sebastian looked at the two of them exchanging information of which he was not aware. He shrugged his shoulders as they both turned to him.
"Oh no. No, no, no. What have I done? He is going to...oh no!" She shook her head at the images forming in her mind. Finally, she looked back at them. "Oh, my, I have made a terrible impression on you, on Captain Pellew, with everyone! AND, gotten Horatio in trouble! Oh Lord, let me die! Just let me die!" And, of course, she began to cry. Walking into her cabin she sat in the window seat. "Horatio is going to...oh no... oh no..."
Kennedy looked at Dr. Sebastian. "I'm going to check
in with Leftenant Rampling. Maybe I will be back and maybe ...uh...
enjoy your tea, Doctor." He patted Sebastian's shoulder
Sebastian entered the cabin and passed his handkerchief to her.
"Thank you, sir!" she cried. "I have really done it now! He is going to be so angry when he realizes it's all my fault! He told me not to do it, but I did it anyway!" She threw her arms out as she spoke.
"What did you do?" he asked as he took her left hand to look at the splinters.
"I...I..." she looked at him. "I climbed to the top yard!" She boo-hooed even louder.
He smiled. "You what?" He opened his case to get a needle.
"I climbed to the top yard!" She continued to motion broadly with her right hand. "He told me not to, but I DID anyway! And it was so lovely up there!" She leaned back remembering the view. "So beautiful! I had to see him, to see if he was angry with me, but he...he... "she broke into loud sobs, "And, now he's in trouble! And it's my fault!"
"Hmm hm," he said as he took her left hand again. "And, why does that get Mr. Hornblower in trouble?"
"Captain Pellew saw..." she gasped motioning again with her right hand, "Saw..."she gasped.
"Captain Pellew saw..." he said steadily, trying to get her to finish the sentence as he removed the splinters from her hand.
"Us kissing!" she blurted, sobbing.
A moment later, there was a knock. Jenkins entered with a tray of tea and cups. He looked at Dr. Sebastian warily, seeing him holding her hand and her in tears.
Sebastian said grinning, "Splinters!"
Jenkins nodded, backing out of the room. "Aye, aye, sir!"
He studied the palm. "I think I got them all, Mrs. Hornblower. Let me check the other hand."
She sniffed as she looked at it. "Thank you, Dr. Sebastian." She leaned her head against the window frame and looked out at the sunlit sea. "What will Captain Pellew do to him, doctor?"
He brought her a wet cloth for her face. "Hang him up by his thumbs, no doubt."
She gasped with horror, then beheld the doctor grinning. "You're joking!" She laughed a little. "Oh, please don't tease me, sir. Though I am sure I deserve it and more!"
He finished preparing her a cup of tea. "Drink this and calm yourself, Mrs. Hornblower. Captain Pellew can be like a lion on the outside, but inside, he is really a pussy cat. I am sure he does not approve of kissing in the yards, but I think you will find he is an understanding man when he knows of the circumstances." Sebastian thought a prayer that what he spoke would be true. He sat on the window seat across from her sipping his tea. "I dare say, if I had been standing on the top yard with you, I could not have resisted kissing you either."
Her eyes danced, looking at him over her cup. Smiling she said, "I like you, Dr. Sebastian. I'm so glad I apologized to you."
"And I, as well, or I would not have gotten to know you!"
"Are you sure you want to? I seem to constantly be in tears over one thing or another!" she tried to laugh.
"Ah, well," he looked at her warmly, "You have been under a lot of duress."
"I thought we would have at least two more days together. I know when we reach Gibraltar our lives will be... changed. He must return to his ship and I ... I don't quite know what I shall do. But, I should be stronger," she said disparaging her conduct. "I should not have let myself fall apart like that, giving into childish anger. I should be stronger."
The doctor's eyebrow went up. "You sound like Mr. Hornblower. But as he has yet to learn, Mrs. Hornblower, we are all only human and subject to human foibles."
At the mention of his name, her face changed from despair over her conduct to one of love, shining from every pore. Her eyes darted to his, "I love him, doctor. He will be all right, won't he?" She placed her hand on his.
"He will be all right. If I know my Pellew's and my Hornblower's, he will be all right." He patted the back of her hand. He stood and pulled her to her feet. "Come. Let us go up into the fresh air. Let the men on the Indy get a look at you. You will make them all wish they could be aboard Dolphin! And, they will be glad to know you are all right! For we did not know what had become of you! And now, you are Mr. Hornblower's bride! They will be green with envy!"
"Doctor, are you sure that would be a good thing?"
"Of course! It will get their blood racing! They will know they are alive!"
Pipes could be heard sounding as Sebastian made the deck. Reaching back, he took Pamela's hand to guide her up the remaining stairs.
Pellew stood saluting the quarter-deck. Turning, he saw her up close for the first time. She glanced at him, but then her gaze rested on something behind him and he was able to watch a soft smile accentuate a loving countenance. He turned his head to see Hornblower settling his footing and greeting Kennedy.
Looking over to see her with Dr. Sebastian, Hornblower blinked as a slight smile fixed on his lips.
Pellew glanced at Hornblower, disturbed that a woman was affecting his officer. Next, he saw Sebastian break into a grin.
She walked over to them, looked at Pellew, Horatio, at Pellew again, and threw her arms around his neck nearly knocking his hat off his head. He had to hold her to keep his balance.
"Oh, thank you, Captain Pellew!" and she kissed his cheek.
Horatio's eyes went huge and he shook his head. He took her hand to pull her away easily. She released Pellew and stood beside Hornblower.
"Sir, this is Pamela. I mean...Mrs. Hornblower."
Stunned, Pellew straightened his hat, cheeks ablaze.
"She tends to be a bit demonstrative, sir," Hornblower apologized as he squeezed and pulled down on her hand. "She's an American, sir," he said nervously.
"Yes, I KNOW, Mr. Hornblower," he said, gruffly. "Pleased to meet you, ma'am," bowing and sizing up the woman that captured his leftenant.
She curtsied, with eyes lowered, "Forgive me, Captain Pellew, I was just so pleased to see Hor...Captain Hornblower back, sir."
Horatio felt his face redden and heard Pellew clear his throat.
"Indeed, madam." Pellew glanced at Sebastian who was still grinning like a Cheshire cat! "Doctor, I trust you find all to be well?"
"Aye, Captain. All is well."