An American Encounter
By Skihee :)
Chapter 14 Friends and Fear
"Mr. Rampling, call all hands on deck, sir. I wish to speak with them," ordered Pellew.
"Aye, aye, sir."
"Mr. Hornblower, you may wish a few moments with Mrs. Hornblower."
"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir." He saluted, pulling Pamela back towards the companion.
"What's going on Horatio?" she whispered.
"Mr. Kennedy, find Matthews and Styles. I wish to speak to them on the quarter-deck," said Pellew, moving off in that direction.
"Aye, aye, sir," obeyed Kennedy.
Hornblower led her back to their room. He looked around it quickly with a sigh pulling her in behind him. He shut the door.
He embraced her, kissing her passionately. Hugging tightly, he said, "Oh God! How am I ever going to leave you?" Holding her head between his hands, he studied her puzzled features, then embraced her again. "I love you! God, how I love you!"
"I love you, darling!" She wondered what happened to him since their parting. What did his Captain mean that he might want a "few moments" with her. "Why has your Captain ordered all hands on deck?"
Swallowing, he looked at her mournfully. "The captain saw us on the yard."
"I know, Archie Kennedy told me."
She cupped his cheek; he turned to kiss her palm. He clutched her tightly. She did not understand these anxious feelings even though parting left her in tears.
"Horatio, what happened on your ship?"
He sighed and sat them down on the window seat. "I ..." he doubted that he should tell her about the confinement. "I just had time to think is all." He smoothed her hair, shining from light entering the stern windows, and smiled sadly.
"Was Captain Pellew terribly angry?"
His eyes lowered and he took her hands.
"Oh, he was, wasn't he?" she cried.
"He read the log and learned of our marriage." He gazed deeply into her soft brown eyes.
"Do you regret it, darling?" she asked.
"No, no!" He embraced her. "No. I love you. You are the best thing to come into my life since...since I can remember." He gazed longingly into her moistening eyes and smiled wryly. "That's my girl!" He wiped her tears with his thumbs. She laughed and cried at the same time. "Come here." He slid her onto his lap and held on, resting his head on her chest. That was all he wanted to do, feel her close to him. "I hear your heart beating."
"Horatio, my love. Can you forgive me for getting you in trouble?"
"Shhh. We will not speak of it. Besides you did not get me in trouble."
"What is going on with the men?"
He sighed. "The captain is asking them if we have disturbed them."
"Oh Horatio! Have we behaved that badly?"
"Conduct unbecoming an officer."
She tried to move from his arms but anticipating her reaction, he held her firmly. "Pamela, Pamela." He let her slip down onto the seat enabling her to cry on his shoulder. "I would do it all again. I love you." He stroked her head. "I love you." Pulling out his handkerchief, he pressed it into her hand. "The linen merchants in America must be glad of the business you supply."
That got her to chuckle, bringing a bigger smile to Horatio's face.
"Are you going to lose your commission?"
"I do not think so." Though, he was not sure.
"And if we disturbed your men?"
He exhaled sadly. "Then, we shall be separated. You here, and me on the Indy."
She threw her arms around him choking back her sobs. Resting his head against hers, he held her, glad to have her where she belonged, in his arms.
Styles was already on the quarter-deck as it had been his watch when they met up with Indefatigable. Pellew stood at the taffrail. Kennedy approached Styles with Matthews in tow, telling him Pellew wanted to speak with them. Styles looked at Matthews, stiffening to match his mate. The three moved aft to Pellew.
"Captain Pellew, here are Styles and Matthews," reported Kennedy.
The two felt a constriction in their throats and chests as Pellew's steely gaze fell upon them. His stern look gave them no respite as they saluted him.
He inhaled deeply. "Thank you, Mr. Kennedy. You may go."
"Aye, sir." Glancing quickly at the two ratings, he moved away.
Matthews tried to swallow.
Pellew looked the two of them over. "Mr. Hornblower thinks very highly of you men."
The two gave each other puzzled looks. "Thank ye, sir," answered Matthews warily, glad his tongue unstuck from the roof of his mouth. His heart beat wildly in his chest.
"Highly enough to have you both be his marriage witnesses, as well."
Styles gave Matthews a side glance with lidded eyes avoiding Pellew's.
"Tell me about his ...wedding," he commanded, tilting his head to look down his chin.
The two exchanged glances again. Styles shaking his head no at Matthews and then a nod to let him know the ball was in his court. It was Matthews turn to breathe in deeply.
"Well, Captain, it was like this. He and the lady became close. Well, I mean, they're in love," he smiled at his rigid Captain, but then released the grin. "Anyway, Mr. Hornblower asks me t'see if there's a minister among the crew. Well, there now't! But a couple o' the boys suggests Handfasting or Marriage by Declaration. Handfasting is where..."
"I am familiar with both of these ceremonies. Go on," he said impatiently.
"Aye, sir." He glanced at Styles looking for assistance and found none. Inhaling, "Well, we helped the two of em arrange it, sir. We kept em apart until time fer the wedding." A wry smile came over Matthews as he remembered Hornblower's uneasiness. "Mr. Hornblower was a sight, e was! Nervous a groom as ever I saw! Thought e was gonna back out at one point! But, when she came up here, sir, all dressed in er weddin' dress," Matthews sighed as he remembered, "Ye should have seen him beam! Right, Styles?"
"He did that, Matty! I mean, Matthews," said Styles.
Matthews smiled at the Captain, but let it go again at the sight of him. Clearing his throat, "Near the whole crew was there, sir. But, we didn't lose no time sailin', sir. We had a crew on." He stole another glance at Pellew. "We had a dinner fer em and a few toasts. But, we was alert! None of us had no hankerin' t'end up in a Frog prison! No, sir! And we knew if we needed Mr. Hornblower he'd be right there. Right, Styles?"
"Right!" Styles shifted his weight.
Pellew sighed. Turning to gaze aft at the sea, he clasped his hands behind him. The ensign above him flapped restively in tune with the men under his inspection. "I take it then, the crew is in accord with Mr. Hornblower's actions?"
Styles and Matthews stared at each other again.
"If ye mean, sir, they was fer it, they was," said Styles.
Pellew turned quickly, eyebrow raised at his reply. "Indeed?"
Rampling approached Pellew. "The men are assembled, sir."
"Thank you, Mr. Rampling. You two stay here."
"Aye, aye, sir," they said knuckling their foreheads.
Pellew descended into the waist where the crew was lined up on either side. Kennedy and Rampling stood on the quarter-deck looking down on the proceedings.
"I know you men are aware of Mr. Hornblower's marriage." He stretched his neck upward, beginning a slow pace down the center. "His decision to marry was, shall we say, somewhat unusual. Not to mention the form' the ceremony took." He viewed the men near him whose eyes lowered under his stare. "You men are not in any kind of peril. But, I must ask you, and I must enjoin you to answer honestly." He turned to head back aft.
"Mr. Hornblower is not here because I do not wish his presence to unduly influence you. If you have a complaint against him, I wish you to voice it freely. If his conduct with his *wife* has in anyway affected you adversely I wish to know it." He stopped and looked around at each man. Some shifted uneasily under his questioning. "You may speak freely. No harm will come to you." He waited.
Some of the men looked at each other, not sure what to say. Jenkins was the first to speak.
"Captain, we was right happy fer im and Miss Pamela. I got nothin' t'say against im."
"They make a right sweet couple, sir!" added Hardy.
"I was glad to help wi' the weddin', sir!" said Greely.
"Aye, it were a bright spot! Brightest I've known in all me years in the navy, sir!"
"Aye, and we was glad to see ol' Ornblower with a lady, right boys?" Starns chuckled and others with him, giving their assent.
"Aye, we're glad fer em!" That statement was joined by more "Ayes".
"Then, is there no one who wishes to complain of his actions?" asked Pellew.
"Well, I do, sir! I wanted him to kiss er again, and
e wouldn't! Until she made him, right, Bailey?" the men
laughed loudly poking each others ribs and looking around at one
Pellew exhaled with dismay, yet stifling a smile. *Is this a disciplined crew,* he wondered, *that jokes about their captain?* "I have another question for you men."
"Do any of you wish not to sail with him and Mrs. Hornblower to Gibraltar? If you do not wish to remain here, step forward." He waited watching them look at each other. No one moved. "Very well. No one has a serious complaint about Mr. Hornblower's activities?" He waited again.
"No, sir." That reply was joined by many others.
He turned to remount the quarter-deck.
"Mr. Rampling, I must apologize to you for making you move again. It seems Mr. Hornblower will retain his command after all, sir."
Rampling smiled. "Aye, aye, sir. I will gather my dunnage."
"You, Mr. Kennedy, however, shall remain. We shall correct Mr. Hornblower's oversight of having an additional officer on board."
Another grin from this officer, "Aye, aye, sir."
"In fact, Mr. Kennedy, please call Mr. Hornblower back on deck."
He bounded away. Pellew stared down onto the deck below watching the men converse. Dr. Sebastian was quietly puffing on his cigar watching all these happenings. He stepped to his Captain.
Pellew gave him a side glance. "What are you grinning about now, doctor?" he asked tersely.
"I am pleased, sir."
"You have not lost an officer, Captain, but gained a daughter-in-law."
Pellew looked at him oddly, "Really, Doctor!"
Sebastian chuckled, while Pellew frowned and teetered on his toes. He never had to endure such insubordination from Hepplewhite.
Kennedy knocked on the door. Hornblower still held her, feeling her stiffen in his arms at the knock.
"Don't answer it, Horatio!" She said quickly.
He smiled. "I must."
She looked anxiously into his eyes. "I know. I love you."
He went to open the door. She stood and watched him speak to someone. Then, heard another voice in the corridor. She wrung her hands waiting for him to turn. At last, he gently closed the door, eyes downcast. Slowly he raised them. A smile crept over his lips as he held his arms out. She ran to him. "He's letting me stay! The men are letting me stay!" He almost laughed out loud. She kissed him quickly over and over. He hugged her and spun around. "Oh, Pamela! We have two days! At least two days, my lady!" He kissed her. "I'm wanted on deck!"
"May I come?"
"I'll be there as soon as I fix my face."
When he entered the waist, his men cheered. He looked to the quarter-deck seeing Pellew's stern countenance and Dr. Sebastian's smiling one. Kennedy gave him a nod from behind Pellew. Styles and Matthews grinned behind Kennedy.
Hornblower gave Rampling a salute and made his way to Pellew.
"You sent for me, sir?"
Pellew inhaled and exhaled. "Is your crew always so vocal, Mr. Hornblower?"
"No, sir. They are hard workers and have performed for me as I have seen them perform for you. I have nothing but accolades for their conduct, sir."
"Indeed? Dr. Sebastian, we seem to be among a mutual admiration society!"
"Isn't it grand, Captain?" Sebastian grinned.
Pellew cleared his throat. "Mr. Hornblower, we have been dawdling here long enough! Make sail for Gibraltar. You may take the point."
"Aye, aye, sir. Mr. Styles! Mr. Matthews! Prepare to make sail!"
"Aye, aye, Captain!" they replied separately.
Matthews moved forward to shout at the crew in the waist. They scattered quietly to their positions. Styles commanded the helmsman.
"Mr. Kennedy will remain with you, Mr. Hornblower."
"Thank you, sir."
"Hm." He looked at Dr. Sebastian, and tipped his head in dismay at his grinning surgeon. "Mrs. Hornblower is all right, Doctor?"
"I am sure she is very well, now, sir." He glanced at Hornblower. "Is she not, Mr. Hornblower?"
"Yes, Dr. Sebastian."
At that moment, she emerged on deck. Crewmen near her smiled, gave nods, and winked. She smiled broadly and nodded her thanks.
"Come, Doctor. Let us away!" Pellew was already on his way down the stairs. He came face to face with her and stopped.
She curtsied. "Thank you, Captain."
"Don't thank me, thank his crew."
"Aye, aye, sir," she smiled.
"Ahem." He nodded and moved to the side.
Dr. Sebastian was next. She held out her hand to him.
"Thank you, Doctor."
"I need no thanks, dear lady. If you should ever need my services, be sure to call me."
"I will, sir!"
Hornblower came, taking her hand and leading her to see them off, but released her, realizing where his Captain's eyes rested.
Pellew tilted his head, looking down at Hornblower. "Don't forget our conversation on Indefatigable, Mr. Hornblower."
"I will not, sir," he blushed.
"Glad to have met you, madam," he said with a nod.
She did it again. Enveloping Pellew's neck, she kissed him on the cheek. He again was forced to hold her or lose his balance.
"Really, madam!" he said into her ear.
"I love you, Captain Pellew! Thank you so much!"
He let his arms rest around her a moment longer than he wished and then said, "You're welcome."
He straightened his hat and cleared his throat. "See you in Gibraltar, Mr. Hornblower!" Looking at the two, sizing her up again, "And, you, too, Mrs. Hornblower."
"I look forward to it, Captain!"
"Indeed." He descended the side, pipes attending his departure.
The Hornblowers mounted the quarter-deck. Grinning with pleasure, Hornblower greeted his old friend. "Mr. Kennedy!"
"I am glad to see you, Archie!"
"And, I, you! And, Mrs. Hornblower!" He bowed.
She curtsied, "Mr. Kennedy!"
"This is my wife, Pamela!"
"Yes, we have met!" Archie banged his fist on Horatio's upper arm. "Can't leave you alone for a minute! Now, you're an old married man!"
"Well, hardly. But I hope to be someday," he grinned at Pamela, taking her hand.
The pipes on the Indy could be heard across the water. All three turned towards the command ship. Hornblower cocked his head. "Time we were away, Archie!"
Hornblower's reply was a smirk. "Make sail," he said with a sigh..
"Aye, aye, sir," responded Matthews enthusiastically. He relayed the order.
"Wear ship!" called Hornblower.
Pamela sauntered aft to give Horatio and Archie some time to themselves. She watched the Indy's sails roll out to full length, seeing the men dotted among the yards. She smiled, feeling the warmth of the sun beating down and recalling the earlier view!
She gave thanks to God for returning the man she loved, not only to her, but to his command. She looked over her shoulder at the two officers exchanging stories. Dwelling upon the taller of the two, she placed a notch in her memory of what she was seeing. He was as happy as she had ever known him to be! And that pleased her. As if he could hear her thoughts, he turned his gaze and sent one of his special smiles. Tingling in her being started somewhere in her chest region and emanated to the outer reaches of her body. Her shoulders shivered at the feel.
It was enough to see him. And more, to see him in his element. She tipped her head as a thought of Horatio's mother came to mind. "You would be so proud of him, Mrs. Hornblower," she heard herself softly saying into the wind. "I love your son. I wish I could know you, too." A breeze billowed her skirt and caught part of her hair from its fastenings. Another blow and it all came loose.
Hornblower caught the sight out of the corner of his eye. He turned to see her hair blowing in the wind.
Archie heard his breath catch, and he, too, turned to watch. "She's beautiful, Horatio. You don't deserve her."
"I know, Archie. I can hardly believe she feels for me the way I feel about her."
Pamela turned to walk towards them, her hair buffeted by the breezes whipping the sides of her face. "I believe the wind has picked up, sirs!" She held her hand out to Horatio. "I am going below to rest for a while."
He gripped her hand to bid farewell. "All right, my lady."
Watching her make a way down, he relaxed. His attention returned to Archie who was relating tales of experiences on Indefatigable sans Hornblower. He listened attentively of how Pellew examined the charts with him, drinking.
He was happy for his friend. It was a growing experience for Archie that pleased. He wanted the best for Kennedy, especially after all he had been through, some of which he took the blame.
Even though it was necessary to knock him out on the cutting out expedition to Papillon, he had not forgiven himself for the results. Aiding Kennedy's recovery in the Spanish prison was the only salve he could apply to his conscience. Considering all Archie endured in the various prisons he was placed in, it was small salve indeed. Accidentally revealing some of these thoughts to Dr. Sebastian, the doctor pointed out that each man has his own course to follow. Saying the set of a man's sails' were determined by the storms' he went through. It seemed to him that Archie's were hurricane strength!
But here his friend stood, recounting skirmishes with Beadle
of the dockyard, eliciting a guffaw at how he had played him.
Kitty Cobham would have been proud! And then, to hear that Pellew
wanted to know his strategy nearly put him in a stitch! He could
not imagine Pellew putting on an act for anyone! Especially in
the employ of gaining supplies! It would be beneath his dignity!
Archie's openness revealed the esteem he held for Hornblower. His genuine regard touched him. He reddened, not only over Archie's worry, but also at the reminder of his failure to supply his command. He commented that he needed Archie with him to be his gunnery officer, complementing him on that aspect of his career in which he shined.
"Really, Horatio, here I was worried sick about you and you were wrapped in her arms!" Kennedy grinned. "I half believe it was that which set Captain Pellew in a furor more than seeing you two on the yard! I think he was worried as much, or more, than I, you scoundrel!"
"But as you can see we are all well, Mr. Kennedy! All your worry for naught!"
Archie stared at him shaking his head. "I can't believe you're married!"
"I am! And, happily so."
"Next thing we'll hear you'll be a father!"
Hornblower thought, then grinned, "It's possible!"
He and Archie laughed. "You know the Captain would not approve of our socializing here on the quarter-deck," said Archie.
"Perhaps not, but he did choose you to come with me. And, I am Captain on Dolphin."
"Indeed, you are! So, tell me, whatever possessed you to take your wife up to the top yard to kiss her?"
"Really, Mr. Kennedy."
"And, why did you have her dress as a seaman?"
"That was not my idea."
"It was hers?" he asked with amusement.
"Should I ask ?"
"She enjoys climbing."
Archie laughed. "Ho, ho, Horatio! I remember your first climb!"
Hornblower looked around at his men. "That's enough. That is something I do not care to remember."
"Yes, those memories are best left forgotten. I agree." Archie sighed and gazed the length of ship. "How does she handle?"
"I'll tell you this climbing thing of hers has worried me no end. I hope today put and end to it." Suddenly the phrasing of his question jarred him. "What sort of a question is that, Mr. Kennedy?"
"The ship! How does the ship handle?"
"Oh!" He laughed. "Dolphin is a beauty! I wish I could keep her. She's quick on a turn and the sail we've rigged has her flying!"
"Does Pamela know your affections are divided?" he chuckled.
"As a matter of fact, we have had such a discussion, if you must know."
"The girl loves me! What more can I say?" He grinned.
"You don't deserve her!"
"Nevertheless..., Mr. Kennedy!"
"So when we get to Gibraltar you are just going to dump her off and go back to the Indy?"
"I am not going to dump her off!" He shoved Kennedy sideways.
"Ah, Mr. Hornblower, I seem to have hit a nerve!"
"Don't tease me, Archie. It is hard enough as it is." Hornblower's face became downcast.
Archie could see his concern. "What are you going to do? Does she have family there?"
"No. And, I don't know."
"Horatio!" he exclaimed. "I've got it! Turn Dolphin around and run off with her to America!"
Hornblower raised his brow at that suggestion but did not laugh. "I've already considered that option," he replied seriously.
"You're not kidding, are you?" said Archie, concerned. "That would have been a fine kettle of fish! Then, we never would have known what happened to you!"
"Well, I didn't do it! Did I?" he said in low tones.
Archie was speechless thinking over the implications of what his best friend was saying. Love, Hornblower in love, had actually considered deserting? Taking a prize of His Majesty and running off with it! Taking the Indy's crew and his wife and running off to America?
"Then, I thought about just taking her back to America, so she would be with her family, but then, how would I ever see her? It is a quandary, Archie. Indeed, it is."
"What are you going to do? Leftenant's pay is not much more than acting leftenant pay. How are you going to support her?"
Horatio pressed his lips tightly, head bowed, scuffing the deck with his shoe. The need to be with her made itself known. His heart began to ache. He glanced at the taffrail remembering her there. Finally, he said, "Her father has a solicitor in Gibraltar. She thinks he will be able to help her."
Archie licked his lips, breathing in, putting his hand on Horatio's shoulder. He had not seen Horatio in such an emotional state since Muzillac. He tried to understand what he might be feeling. "God, Horatio, you really love her, don't you?"
Horatio looked up to the sky, laughed, shook his head. "Sometimes it hurts, Archie. I didn't know love could hurt this way. It seems to well up inside me and the only antidote is seeing her, holding her. I ..."he sucked in his breath hanging his head. "I feel so lost sometimes. Today, when I was sitting alone in my cabin on the Indy...I didn't know what was to become of me. I knew Captain Pellew must have been furious with me to put me under guard. I thought, am I ever going to see her again? And, then, if I were to be court-marshaled for running from that French ship, I started to wish I had run with Dolphin. I wondered if I were losing my mind! God, Archie, I cannot believe I am burdening you with this!"
Archie kept his hand on his shoulder and grabbed his arm with the other. He moved closer to console him. He glanced around at the crew who seemed oblivious to their conversation. Matthews and Styles were gone. Kramer was on watch and standing far to starboard giving Hornblower privacy with Kennedy. He reached across Hornblower's broad shoulders pulling him towards him sideways. He actually felt Horatio lean into him. He was startled to find his friend in need.
Hornblower gave him a crooked smile. "Am I going mad, Archie?"
"No!" He smiled at him reassuringly. "No...just madly in love, I think." Archie bent over to look at his middle. Then, he pushed him slightly forward to look at his back, then, back to look at his middle.
"What in the world are you doing, Archie?" smiled Hornblower.
"I'm looking for that arrow."
"The one Dr. Sebastian said Cupid hit you with!"
Hornblower grabbed Kennedy's hat off his head and hit him with it.
"Thank God, Captain Pellew isn't here!" said Kennedy ducking.
With the setting of the sun, the wind died. It was just as well, since tacking to use the breezes pushed them further south. Both she and Indefatigable sat hove to. The larger ship was off the larboard stern.
The three young travelers supped together on Dolphin in the Captain's Cabin. Pamela moved her things back into her old room with Horatio's return. She wished him to be able to use the larger room as his, since he was Captain; and she did not wish to make the crew feel uncomfortable about entering a ladies' bed chamber.
The conversation at dinner was informative, centering on Indefatigable. Horatio felt dismay at the facts related by Kennedy and was chagrined at the idea of Pellew racing to his rescue!
Pamela watched the gloom descend him. She could feel the heaviness as he became increasingly quiet. "Archie, I appreciate the gallantry of Captain Pellew and Indefatigable. He is more than welcome to come to my rescue any day!" she told him softly. "All of you are heroes to me." She placed her hand on Horatio's thigh hoping to call him back from the despondency he slipped into.
Horatio absently placed his hand on hers. His eyes revealed a twisted melancholy Kennedy had not seen before.
Hornblower felt the weight. A weight he let himself sidestep for the last day or two. It came back with a vengeance. His duty. He was an officer in His Majesty's Navy. Had he forgotten? No. The situation he found himself in left him defenseless. He did not have the means to do anything but what he had done, but even so, he condemned himself relentlessly over the gunpowder. The damn gunpowder!
If he could have given that French ship a run for her money, he would not feel so useless! That was it! He was useless! Only good for being rescued! Captain Pellew had to come and get him like he was a lost little boy!
Pamela reached over to touch his upper arm. He was squeezing her hand so tightly it was beginning to hurt. He looked over at her and realized what he was doing. He released it, glancing at Archie, and then Pamela. What were they talking about? He was not listening. He stood up abruptly.
"I've got to check on the watch. You two stay here and enjoy your drinks. I'll be back shortly." Hornblower departed.
Turning to Archie, she could not hide the sadness in her eyes. "He can be so hard on himself," she said, "And, when he gets like this, it is like no one else exists! He shuts everyone out. All he sees are his believed shortcomings!"
"You know him well, considering ... I...I should have realized how he would take it. What a blunder I've made," said Archie frowning.
Pamela reached over to touch his hand. "Archie, he is very happy to see you and I am glad I got to meet you. He will get over it, or at least he will shelve it until he has an opportunity to right what he thinks he has done wrong. It's like Dr. Sebastian said, he finds it hard to let himself be human, to accept his mistakes."
So, Dr. Sebastian's wisdom has reached Dolphin, thought Kennedy. "Horatio is quite fantastic, you know."
She smiled broadly, "Oh, yes, I know!"
"He is as close to perfect as a human can be in this man's navy." He sighed. "He has been beating himself up about this gunpowder thing, hasn't he?"
She nodded. "We had a little misunderstanding a few days back. Mr. Matthews was good enough to explain to me about how much he hated running from the French ship, going into detail about the powder stores we didn't have. I appreciated him opening up that aspect of my husband for me. Else, I might never have known. While I knew he loved the sea and his life in the navy, I had not fully understood his duty. His duty is his life."
"Yes. And, I think you provided him with a reprieve from his life of duty," stated Archie.
"Is that bad, Archie?" she asked mournfully.
He took her hand in his, leaning closer. "No." He shook his head with a half smile accenting his assurance. "He loves you. ...Boy, does he love you! I've learned things about Horatio today, I never would have imagined! Let alone think! It is wonderful that you two have found each other. You are a good thing for him, Pamela." He patted her hand.
Her shoulders released their tension.
Thinking, he spoke again. "That is probably why the crew responded as they did to his desire to marry. They know how wrapped up he is with duty. I'm sure they must have been amazed he wanted you. Not that you aren't desirable!" he added quickly not wanting her to take his meaning wrong. "It's Horatio. He lives for his duty and that is all ... or,... was all. He needs you. I don't think he would have ever allowed himself to get to know you under any other circumstances."
Pondering these words, her thoughts took her far back to events surrounding how she met Horatio. His duty, she had become his duty. At least, he chose for her to become so. But, then, she had become something else.
"I haven't upset you, have I? I mean, your father..."
"No, Archie, you haven't upset me."
"You probably know things about Horatio that he would never in this world reveal to me."
"And you, as well, know things he would never tell me!" she replied.
Archie chuckled. "He is like a puzzle. Everyone has a few pieces! If we ever get together we might have a complete picture!"
"I don't know. He is complete enough for me as he is."
"Indeed. And, you for him."
Hornblower was on the quarter-deck, pacing erratically. He could not stop thinking about Pellew searching the Atlantic for Dolphin. He clasped his hands behind him, pacing, stopping, sighing, clinching his jaw, pacing.
Lasky had the watch and glanced at his Captain every now and then, exchanging looks with the helmsman.
The moon, barely risen, was but a crescent. The starry night gave some light to the shadowy forms on the quarter-deck of Indefatigable. Hornblower peered into her, trying to make out the men on duty. He thought back, realizing this would have been his watch on the Indy.
He could see someone moving near the starboard side. A glint of gold braid gleamed from the clothing. It was Pellew. Horatio was frozen for a moment. His captain looked so small from here, but in his mind he was gargantuan. He felt himself color even at this distance. Bottom lip twitching, he was angry that his failures caused his captain apprehension. His embarrassed anger made him jerk his head away. He thought about going below, but then he would have to face Archie and Pamela. The top yard? No. It, too, was a cause of upset to Pellew. His mind darted to his experience there. No. He would not allow himself to remember the curve of her neck, the scent of her skin, the feel of his lips brushing ... No! He told himself again. A lump caught in his throat. He berated himself for his weakness. Maybe he WAS just a little boy in need of rescue! Too stupid to know how to fill the shoes of a captain! Still not ready for a command of his own!
Pellew saw the pacing figure and knew from the gait it was Hornblower. Why was he not with his wife and Kennedy? He pursed his lips squinting in the darkness. What made him retreat to the quarter-deck? Whenever Hornblower had been on an extended expedition in the past, and returned, Pellew would have a debriefing. Searching for unanswered questions, salving concerns, allaying doubts, fears, and chastising when necessary. Todays meeting was unsettling for both of them. He had not time to prepare, to analyze what was affecting Hornblower. Discovering the marriage completely threw him. Just as seeing him in the yard had! Breathing deeply, he set his jaw. He fixed his eyes on Dolphin's Captain. A wry smile altered his visage. Remembering, Mrs. Dandridge, ...er, Mrs. Hornblower, calling Hornblower, Captain. Captain Hornblower. Indeed. He would be one day. He nodded. "I think we need to have a talk, Captain Hornblower. Indeed, I do. And I think I had better have a talk with Mrs. Hornblower, as well." Up went his eyebrow at that thought.
The night advanced to the wee hours. Hornblower still stood the quarter-deck.
Kennedy had come up a few hours previous, trying to jog him out of his current state. But to no avail. He gave up, recognizing a brick wall when he saw one. His final joust was to remind him of Pamela and the waning number of nights available for wedded bliss.
The walls currently erected around Hornblower could not be broached. No one would enter and no one could exit. Cold seeping into his bones through his topcoat, and weariness, finally sent him below.
All was silent in the cabin. He walked quietly over to be sure she was in bed, then, went to stand and stare out the stern windows into the black night. His mind was still fixed inward, on the self he so loathed. He did not hear her and she did not speak.
Her hands traveled up his chest, pushing the top coat away from his chilled body. Her fingers unbuttoned his waistcoat. His gaze out the stern windows did not alter. She paused to peer through the darkness trying to see his face. A glint met her. She pushed the vest away and undid the fastenings of his shirt. She pushed his shoulders to turn him, pressing down gently so he sat on the window seat. Kneeling, she removed his shoes. She observed the state of despair. Standing close, she rubbed his back and kissed the top of his head. Arms enveloped her and he buried his face in her night gown.