An American Encounter
By Skihee :)

Chapter 15 Forgiveness

Pamela sat in the make shift chair on the quarter-deck reading a book.

Archie was overseeing the afternoon watch. His eyes slowly swept the sail, sea, and ship they were following, Indefatigable. The wind was light and seemed it would cease all together. Now, and then, a sail would require a reef. Accomplishing the task with ease, the men of Indefatigable were a group to admire, whether they were officers or ratings.

Setting aside the book to watch, Pamela thought about Captain Pellew. Horatio certainly thought highly of his commanding officer. By the fruit she saw, he was more than capable, his abilities extending to the men, from the highest rank to the lowest.

She smiled, remembering Greely sent to look for Horatio that morning. She drew the material over the stern windows to darken the cabin, hoping to give a longer rest after his night vigil. She and Kennedy agreed that Kennedy would take over today, whether Horatio acceded or not. Worry over a further wound to his ego troubled Pamela, but the need for rest after the mental beating of last night convinced her to try.

Upon his return, she recognized the signs of anguish. She softly argued he was a capable officer, bringing up his wisdom in having avoided a contest he could not have won by fleeing from the French ship. Did he think sailing towards it and losing Dolphin through surrender or sinking would have been a better mark on his record? Causing him and his men to either be captured or killed? He chose the prudent path, preserved their lives and the ship.

He tried to retort something about the gunpowder, and she cut him off gently, telling him he could not take that into consideration. He had to work from where he was. Bringing up a past mistake that affected the situation now was a lost cause. "What if I had not come with my father on this trip? He might still be alive! Should I torture myself with the what ifs?" she asked.

"The admiralty might take a different view," said he.

She then asked if Pellew had said any such a thing. With a deep sigh, he replied, no, but Pellew should not have had to come looking for him.

"That was Pellew's choice," she said, not his. "Did you ask him to come looking for you?" Was Horatio not making his way to Gibraltar as fast as wind and wave would let him? He did not ask for Pellew to come looking for him, she said firmly. Why did he insist on taking on the actions of others? He listened, sighing at the logic she presented. It seemed the words spoken and argued were accepted as a balm on his tortured faculties before he drifted off to the blessed sleep come to claim him.

 

She lay listening to the beating of his heart, enjoying the intimacy, letting the silent tears run down to dampen his nightshirt. How he tortured with self doubt! She saw no quaking from his men. They were not fearful of being in his hands! Nor was she! They were not on the verge of mutiny! Though sometimes he drove *her* to distraction! They trusted him. She trusted him. Why could he not see his competence, his abilities, his achievement? Why was he blind to his own worth as a commanding officer? If Captain Pellew had doubted it, would he have let him come back to Dolphin? No, a resounding, no! Why cannot this man she loved see how priceless he was?

She wakened before him and lay waiting for a stirring.

Greely tapped on the door, not knowing the prearranged shift of command to Archie this day. She answered the knock, peering through a crack in the door.

Fortunately, Kennedy was on his way out and confirmed with Greely that Captain Hornblower was not to be disturbed. Greely knit his brow as it was not how the ship had been run before, but assumed the presence of Mr. Kennedy altered previous plans, and he accepted what he was told without further ado.

Pamela returned to the vigil of watching her husband sleep. She noted the lines, shadows, and shadings of his peaceful features. His firm jaw line provoked a sigh. She could not prevent herself from smoothing a curl from his temple, that same one that mystified from the first. While she was smoothing it, his eyes opened to watch. She startled when she realized he was awake, her features breaking into a slow smile. She placed her finger over his lips and spoke.

"You are taking the morning off, Captain Hornblower. Your second is testing his own abilities at command and you are not to stir, sir." He scrunched his brow, but she quashed any protest, shaking her head no, with a shhhh. She eased herself onto the bed beside him resting her head on her crooked right arm, so she could see his face and he hers. She ran her hand slowly over his chest, pulling at his nightshirt strings, looking back to see the half smile on his face. "Now, you are not to speak a word this morning, sir." His face questioned her but he played the game. "Let me tell you about my husband. He is a most adorable man." Moving slowly down his right side, her hand reached his knees where his nightshirt ended. "There is no other like him in all the world. He is brave, courageous, true." She slipped her hand under his gown and began to slide it up his thigh. "The men in his command think the world of him and strive to be the best they can be, because he does." He cleared his throat, giving her a wary look. "He gives his all to His Majesty's Navy and takes his duties most seriously." Reaching nearly to his waist, she smiled and paused. He inhaled deeply. "His own Captain trusts him implicitly. And knows, as I do, that he will always do his duty." She slowly moved her left leg over his body straddling him.

She breathed in and out blissfully remembering the morning in the cabin, squinting in the mid-afternoon sun, watching the ensign barely moving.

Horatio joined Archie on the quarter-deck, eyes brightening on seeing her sitting with a book.

"Logs all sorted out, Captain Hornblower?" Kennedy asked.

"Indeed, Mr. Kennedy. It seems the wind may be providing me with another cause for entry, however," he replied with strabismal eyes to the sails.

"Deck there!" called the mizzenmast lookout. "Indy's signaling, sir!"

Hornblower and Kennedy moved to larboard to better see the flags running to halyard.
"Respond in the affirmative, Mr. Kennedy. Heave to!" Hornblower continued to watch the signals, pursing his lips, blinking at what they told.

Pamela walked over to him. "What is he signaling?"

"He wants us to heave to, and..." his eyebrows went up, "He wants us to come to dinner."
He continued to read the flags. "Affirmative, Mr. Kennedy." Hornblower looked at his wife. "We are to come to dinner. He is sending the Indy's jolly boat with Rampling to take over here while we are gone."

Pamela tried to hide her sadness at losing his company for dinner and looked on the bright side at an opportunity to meet another man Horatio worked with. "I shall enjoy meeting Mr. Rampling."

Hornblower cocked his head. "Well, I doubt you'll have much of a chance to say more than hello and farewell. You are to come to dinner as well, dear."

Her shocked expression brought a wry smile to Hornblower wondering what she might put his captain through this time.

"I am to go?"

"Yes."

"When?"

"When Mr. Rampling arrives."

"Well, when will that be, Horatio?" she asked anxiously.

He swallowed looking round at the men who might have heard her call him by his first name. "Mr. Kennedy, ask when we are to expect Mr. Rampling."

Kennedy chose the appropriate flags, handing them to Bailey.

Bracegirdle and Pellew read the query from their vantage on the Indy.

"When?" questioned Pellew. "When? Well, when the launch gets there! What does he mean when? Has Mr. Hornblower got somewhere else to go?" Pellew fumed.

"I imagine it's Mrs. Hornblower wanting to know, sir," said Bracegirdle.

"What? Oh, ...yes,... of course,.... women." Pellew sighed, pulling out his watch. "Tell them eight bells."

"Aye, aye, sir!"

Seeing the answer, Hornblower looked at his wife, "Four o'clock, Pamela," he said lowly.

"Four o'clock! He expects me to be ready by four o'clock! Men! I do declare!" She moved quickly below to prepare herself for dinner with her husband's commanding officer.

*****

Pellew finished the paperwork cluttering his desk, leaned back in his chair, and sighed at the shimmer of late afternoon light sparkling on the sea. Standing, he removed his pocket watch to check the time. It was nearly five o'clock. The corner of his mouth rose with his eyebrow at the tardiness of his dinner guests. Pulling on his coat and hat, he headed for the quarter-deck.

Bracegirdle was standing glass to eye watching Dolphin. "Well, Mr. Bracegirdle, any sign of movement?"

"Aye, sir, there's lots of movement," he chuckled, still peering through the telescope, "Mr. Hornblower and Mr. Kennedy have paced themselves into a lather it would seem. And, I believe Mr. Hornblower is the more tranquil of the two! If that's possible! They've got the swing ready."

"No sign of our female guest?"

 

"Not as yet, sir, but Mr. Hornblower has just gone below decks."

 

"Hmmm," Pellew turned to pace. He was feeling disturbed and was striving to maintain composure. Waiting for women was, thank God, not something he had to do every day. He tried to convince himself he could be conciliatory toward Hornblower's bride. Bride, indeed. He unconsciously reached to touch his cheek where she had kissed him the day before. Realizing his own reverie, he cleared his throat. Americans! Telling him she loved him! Was it not more that she appreciated his decision to allow Hornblower to return? Could she not have just said thank you for sending Hornblower back?

"Here she is, sir!"

Every man topside turned to see her swung out and lowered to the launch. Hornblower was there to receive her out of the swing. Rampling bid Kennedy ado as he descended the side.

"Well, it's about time!" Pellew said testily. "Is our swing ready, Mr. Bracegirdle?"

"Aye, sir," Bracegirdle resisted adding *it has been*.

It was a short pull over to the Indy. Kennedy climbed through the entry port first, saluting the ensign. He noted Pellew's cast.

"Welcome back, Mr. Kennedy," smiled McMasters, the only other commissioned leftenant left on the Indy besides Bracegirdle.

"Mr. McMasters. All well with the Captain?"

McMasters' mouth went askew, glancing at Pellew who was on his way down to greet his men. "Ever the soul of discretion, Mr. Kennedy."

Hornblower climbed in and saluted. The Indy's men were watching as the swing came up with Pamela on board.

Wearing the rose colored dress, a beige shawl dotted with images of large roses covered her shoulders and arms. Her hair was neatly arranged into a bejeweled net matching her dress. Bathing before dressing, a light scent of roses floated to the deck as she descended. Horatio breathed in the pleasant perfume as he helped her exit the swing.

He gave Pellew a quick nod. "I apologize for being late, Captain."

Pamela held her hand out to Pellew. "It's my fault, Captain Pellew. Please. I accept full responsibility. I must rely on your forgiveness, sir, for detaining your men." She lowered her chin, canting her view with a tilt of her head. Hornblower swallowed watching her, knowing how this look worked on him.

Pellew was taken aback at her forward manner, ...though, ...he wondered why. "Of course, madam. It was a spur of the moment invitation due to the falling wind. I should have given you more notice. It is I that should ask your forgiveness." He smiled inwardly at his own chivalry.

Hornblower and Kennedy darted at each other, then back to their Captain, who was holding her hand and bowing slightly. Pamela was smiling warmly at his response, obviously pleased that he realized his oversight.

"You are most kind, Captain."

"May I escort you to dinner, Ma'am?"

"I would be delighted!"

"Mr. Hornblower?" asked Pellew, seeking his permission. Horatio nodded ascent.

The ship was quiet. The men on duty stared in awe. Not so much that she was a great beauty, but that she was female, aboard their ship, on the arm of their captain, married to their leftenant!

The dinner party assembled in the cabin. Pellew introduced his officers in attendance, Bracegirdle, Bowles, McMasters, McCann of the Marines, Sebastian, she knew, and Midshipman Brandon. She nodded, saying good evening, or nice to meet you, they giving a bow, she a curtsey.

Pellew's servant, Daniels, awaited them and once seated, a generous meal was provided. Pellew sat at the head of the table, surveying his crew as the meal was consumed in jaunty yet reserved conversation, until the drink began to have its way. It seemed as though a family were together at a holiday after a separation! Bracegirdle questioned Hornblower concerning the repairs to the shot holes.

Hornblower reported on the difficulties with water in the well, her sluggish movements, and his decision to patch at sea. Every eye turned to him at the audacity to attempt such a harrowing plan. Pamela watched the faces of the men enjoying the repartee and banter. She hid her smile with a napkin, basking in the camaraderie of her husband's shipmates, happy to see him so well liked and revered.

Pellew watched her when she did not see. Noted her listening to the conversation, her eyes dancing above the napkin. He did not know what he was looking for, but so far, other than the forward nature with which she expressed herself, he could not find fault. She and Pellew were the quietest ones at the table.

"It's a wonder, Mr. Hornblower, Dolphin did not roll! You took a great chance, sir!" commented Bowles.

 

"What were you doing, Mrs. Hornblower, whilst these repairs were afoot?" asked Pellew. His own voice surprised him, but there it was. She was startled out of her amusement.

"I, sir? Well,... I was below helping move the cannon!" she grinned.

Horatio gave her a look of which she had never seen before. It fell somewhere among incredulity, shock and mirth. He opened his mouth to speak, when Dr. Sebastian jabbed him in the ribs and started laughing. The whole table broke into a great guffaw. Even Pellew let loose a smile.

"Forgive me, Captain," she said gaily, "Mr. Hornblower is very careful with his passengers, sir. He had me put in a boat and rowed to safety until the deed was done."

Horatio's cheeks burned. First, at the jocularity of his wife, and now, at her praise.

Bracegirdle interjected, "Ah, so you did take some precautions, eh, Mr. Hornblower?"

"He removed the most valuable item on board to safety," stated Sebastian, giving Pamela a nod.

"You are too kind, Doctor!"

Hornblower and Pellew shared a glance. Horatio's high cheek bones still pinked. Pellew wondered how much more adulation his reserved officer would be able to stand. Though when he saw Horatio gaze at Pamela, a certain confidence seemed to brighten his demeanor. Pellew was thoughtful that this American woman should in some way enhance the behavior of his officer. He found the realization giving him a sense of peace about midway his chest. Curious that, he thought. He relaxed back into his chair and continued his observations, catching Brandon admiring the guest, then meeting Sebastian's twinkling eyes. The good doctor seemed to approve of Hornblower's choice. The conversation shifted once more when he rejoined. Kennedy was speaking.

"So, Mrs. Hornblower, how did Leftenant Hornblower propose?"

Pellew felt his own cheeks burning as Hornblower's. The rest of the table was chuckling and turned to her, waiting for a reply.

A playful smile, eyes downcast, reddening cheeks, she glanced at Horatio. Their eyes met and lingered. The table grew quiet as the men watched the exchange, feeling hearts warm at the connection tying the two lovers. It seemed almost a palpable thing, and seemingly, wrapped those in attendance in its all encompassing embrace.

"Well....," she searched Horatio's face which suppressed a grin, not knowing whether to be pleased at the questions or embarrassed. She looked down, lips still in an upward curve. "He was very romantic!"

Ahs and moans came from the table. Pellew watched Hornblower go redder but could tell, that though dismayed, he merely waited for this information to be shared. Perhaps it was easier letting her tell it than having to himself. His eyes shifted from Horatio to Pamela to Kennedy. Hornblower could intervene, thought Pellew; he kept quiet.

Kennedy prodded, "Did he get down on his knee?"

All eyes were again set on her. "Yes, he did,...most sweetly!"

The men chuckled, Horatio shook his head, looking to the ceiling to avoid the jibes he endured at Kennedy's hand. "Mr. Kennedy, I thought you were my friend? I am sure Captain Pellew does not care to hear about..."

"On the contrary, Mr. Hornblower, I find it most interesting." If Hornblower was expecting his Captain to rescue him from the conversation, he had another think coming. Pellew was enjoying his officer's discomfort immensely.

Hornblower's expression was struck! He sat there with his mouth ajar giving rise to another round of cackling. Pamela watched his discomfort and wished she could hug him. He gazed her direction and felt the embarrassment float away, but return in a wave as he realized what she was about to say in front of his fellow officers and his captain.

"I lo...," was all she managed to say as Hornblower came quickly to his feet.

"What about a game of cards, sir?"

Everyone silenced, looking at him standing there, and then, peals of laughter echoed round the table.

"Mr. Hornblower, you interrupted your wife! What were you about to say, Mrs. Hornblower?" asked Pellew.

"I was going to say, Captain Pellew, I love your ship. I hoped I might be given a tour of my husband's home away from home."

"Indeed. I think Mr. Hornblower has had enough of our intrusions!" said Dr. Sebastian standing beside Hornblower, choosing to rescue him when Pellew would not. He reached his hand out to Pamela. "Mrs. Hornblower, may I show you around? I would much rather enjoy your company than a game of cards."

 

She glanced at Horatio who was giving her that just wait till I get you alone stare.' "Yes, Doctor Sebastian, I would be delighted." She placed her hand in Sebastian's. As she stood, the entire table of officers stood. "Thank you, Captain Pellew for a delicious dinner! My compliments to your cook!"

"Duly noted, madam."

The rest of the men bowed out of the game of cards, some seeking to join Pamela and Sebastian. Kennedy received a steely glance from Horatio and decided to join the tour as well. Only Pellew, Hornblower, and Brandon were left standing in the cabin.

"We do not seem to have enough for a game, Mr. Hornblower."

"No, sir." he said quietly.

"It's good to see you, Mr. Hornblower," said Brandon grinning.

Hornblower returned the smile. "And you, Mr. Brandon."

"I... I think your wife is lovely, sir."

"Thank you."

I've work to do, Captain. Thank you for the dinner."

"Mr. Brandon," Pellew assented.

Pellew and Hornblower were left standing alone, awkwardly. "Come with me, Mr. Hornblower." Pellew led him to the office part of the cabin and poured them both a brandy. Handing the glass to his leftenant, he toasted, "To you and your bride, Mr. Hornblower. A long and happy marriage."

"Thank you, sir." Both sipped in the constrained silence.

"Mr. Hornblower, I do not mean to pry into your ..." affairs? There had to be a better word, thought Pellew. "Your...your situation. We both know the pay of a leftenant is not grandiose by any means."

"No, sir," said Hornblower, eyes downcast.

"How...how do you intend to support your wife?" Pellew's head was tilted, looking down his chin, teetering on his toes.

Hornblower swallowed, feeling the heat in his cheeks. "She..." he could not bring his eyes to settle on Pellew's. "She says she does not need me to support her, sir."

"Indeed?"

"She has an inheritance from her deceased husband..." Hornblower felt a pang at this admission that a dead husband could support her better than a live one. "And, she will inherit something from her father." His voice trailed off softly.

"I see." Pellew sympathized. "Well, at least that shall not be a worry to you."

"No, sir," he said meekly. "But, one day I shall support her, sir." he added hopefully.

"Of course, Mr. Hornblower. Most assuredly!" he offered. They both sipped from the brandy. "Where will she live?" he asked, feeling like a doddering uncle.

"For now, she plans to stay in Gibraltar. Her father has a solicitor there who will be able to arrange her finances. She will need to let her sister know she is alive and her intentions."

"Hmm." Another sip. "Does she think she will be able to give up her own country?"

Hornblower seemed to waiver at this question. "We have not spoken of it, sir."

Pellew looked thoughtfully at Hornblower. A flash of worry crossed his mind that Hornblower might give up his! Did his love for her reach that far? He recalled the exchanges between the two at dinner, finding himself fearful to pose the question. He downed his brandy. "Does it seem warm in here to you?"

"A might, sir." Indeed, Hornblower found it stifling, unsure whether from the atmosphere, the brandy, or the questions.

Pellew grabbed his hat, motioning for Hornblower to follow. Reaching outdoors, Hornblower searched topside for some sign of Pamela and her entourage, but all was quiet and unusually deserted. He followed his captain to the stern. They stood looking over to Dolphin, noting the watch, and the gentle swell of the sea lifting each ship in turn.

"You've done a fine job with your ship,...Captain Hornblower."

"I... I... thank you, sir," the address caught him off guard.

Pellew clasped his hands behind his back and swung his body to glance at Hornblower.

"You will be a captain someday. I have no doubt, sir."

"I ... wish I .... I.....thank you, sir," Hornblower had his doubts but felt acquiescence was the correct path to take this evening.

Pellew eyed him. "I should have told you to check the munitions stores, Mr. Hornblower."

"The fault is mine, sir, I..."

"Not alone, Mr. Hornblower," said Pellew pointedly, "Unless you intend to usurp my command of Indefatigable."

"No, sir! I would never..."

"I should think not! Am I not your commanding officer? Was I not in charge of the pursuit of Dolphin?"

"Yes, sir, but...."

"No, buts, Mr. Hornblower. Those pirates put up a fight next to nothing. Should have been the first warning something was amiss. I failed to properly assess the situation."

Hornblower stood with his mouth agape. "Sir, I...."

"No. You have nothing to reproach yourself, sir. The fault was entirely mine. Not only did I fail to assess the situation, but I also rushed off without further consideration!"

"Captain Pellew..."

"My oversight then led to further complications."

"Sir?" Hornblower was having difficulty listening to Pellew taking the blame. These things were his responsibility. What, now, did he mean?

"I put you and your men at great peril, Mr. Hornblower. I must ask you to forgive me."

Hornblower's mouth was agape with disbelief.

Pellew shifted his eyes, smiling inwardly at the effect. "Because of my failings you could have been captured or blown out of the water by that French ship!" He glanced at Hornblower blinking in disbelief. "I could be court-marshaled."

"Sir! No, sir, the fault was mine!"

"Fault, sir? Fault? Your actions have redeemed me, man! The choice you made preserved us all! Fleeing before the enemy was the logical choice, sir! You preserved lives, and ..." tilting his head towards Dolphin, "Saved his majesty a valuable prize! I am in your debt, sir!"

 

Hornblower was slowly shaking his head. "Captain Pellew..."

"How does she handle? Is she as handy as she looks?" Pellew would not let him get a
word in.

"What, sir?"

"Dolphin, man! Surely you've put her through her paces!"

"I... but... yes, sir! I have... but, sir... I..."

"Maybe I shall have a go with her."

"Sir?"

"Excellent idea! Give me a chance to see Indefatigable from a different vantage. Don't you think that a grand idea, Mr. Hornblower? How did she look to you today?"

"Sir... I, well, the Indy is always a beauty, sir. But I..."

"It's settled then. First wind, I shall join you on Dolphin, Captain Hornblower, and take your command for a pace."

Hornblower sighed, giving up any chance to argue. "Aye, aye, sir." It finally sunk in that his captain had addressed him AS captain and the blood was rushing to his cheeks. He caught a breath.

Pellew turned to smile secretly over his successes. He would join Dolphin. It would be an interesting experience. And, besides, he had not yet had a conversation with Pamela.

Kennedy entered the waist from below decks reaching his hand down the companion to assist her up the steep stairs!

"My goodness! And I thought the stairs on Dolphin were steep! How many times have you landed at the bottom, Mr. Kennedy?"

"Oh my aching...forgive me, madam! Let me only say more than I care to remember!"

They both laughed.

Pellew heard Hornblower inhale at the sound of laughter as he quickly turned to observe them. He watched the face of his officer and could see a smile gently revealing in the slightly upturned lips. And the eyes! Brighter, slightly compressed at the edges by the muscles of the cheeks. His own eyebrows arched as he shook his head. His all business, all duty officer was in love! He was astonished! A side of this young man he had never before seen and he found it amazing! Love! What it does to a man when it finds him! He noted the increase in Hornblower's breathing.

"She seems to have survived the good doctor's tour, Mr. Hornblower."

"Yes, sir," he said softly, hardly acknowledging the comment. He drank in the image. It felt like she had been gone for weeks! He searched her features, watching upturned lips, the gayety she shared with Archie. Was he jealous? When she turned and their eyes met, she lit up! There was no need for envy! He watched her countenance and saw her catch a breath and broadly grin.

Dr. Sebastian saw the change in her expression and turned to see Hornblower and Pellew. He grinned, blowing out a puff of smoke, then did a courtly bow to the quarter-deck.

"Mr. Kennedy, we may have kept Mrs. Hornblower too long on our tour!" said Sebastian.

"It's time you were away, Mr. Hornblower. The hour grows late, does it not?" asked Pellew.

"Y...Yes, sir. We should be going." He started for the stairs, but Pamela and the entourage were on the way up.

She smiled and took his hand as she entered the quarter-deck. "Captain, I could not leave without seeing your command post!"

Pellew glanced at Hornblower. "Of course not, Mrs. Hornblower. Though it is much like any other quarter-deck of a frigate."

"But it is you that makes it special, sir!" She smiled at the helmsman. "Hello!"

"Ma'am," he nodded, glancing at Pellew.

"The Inde...Inde...oh blast it all, I cannot say it! It is too much of a tongue twister for me,
Captain!"

Taken aback by the language, he fought a grin and said the name slowly, "In-de-fa-ti-ga-ble."

"Thank you, Captain. It is a mouthful! I promise I shall practice until I have it right!"

She walked aft to the taffrail mumbling *Inde...Indefa...* under her breath as the men watched. Even the helmsman turned to observe. Bowles eyed him sternly.

 

"She is a beauty, sir! I know you are as proud as Horatio."

Hornblower seemed to have stopped breathing. Pellew observed the others officers' reactions.

She peered over at Dolphin, barely visible in the starlight. "Isn't she pretty? And so small compared to the In...this ship!" She turned to the group of men watching. She smiled. Looking up at the mizzenmast, she inhaled quickly. "Oh my! Captain! How high do your masts go?"

Hornblower was near apoplexy! Her question got him breathing again. Walking to her quickly, he took her hand firmly and said under his breath, "No!" giving her hand a tug.
"The Captain and I were just saying it was time we returned home... I mean,... to Dolphin." Hornblower swallowed nervously, barely looking at his fellow officers but catching Kennedy's eye.

Pellew darted a look at Kennedy wondering about the exchange between them. Kennedy avoided the Captains inquiring gaze, slightly pinker. Clearly he knew. Pellew cleared his throat. "Yes, dear lady, it is time we called it an evening. Morning comes early shipboard."

"Oh, I know!" she said. Hornblower squeezed her hand tightly in warning. "Thank you again, sir, for the wonderful meal." She smiled and pulled her hand from Hornblower's, wriggling her fingers secretly to see if they still worked. Hornblower caught the action, then took it more gently. Looking askance, she wondered what she had done now.

"Thank you, again, Captain Pellew, sir," stated Hornblower,

"You are very welcome, Mr. Hornblower. Do come again."

Hornblower walked to the stairs.

Dr. Sebastian was chuckling.

Pamela gave Sebastian a huge smile. "Thank you again for the tour, Doctor!"

He bowed. "Not at all, Mrs. Hornblower! Glad to be of service!"

Hornblower went down the stairs first, then Pamela, then Kennedy. She held on to Hornblower's shoulders.

"I just don't know how you manage these stairs in rough seas! Heavens above! I fear my shins would be covered with bruises! Not to mention if your foot slipped and you landed on your..."

"Pamela! The swing is ready."

"...On your face!" Why was he continually interrupting?

Pellew took it all in and chuckled quietly. Dear, oh dear, what would the rest of their evening be like! His face went serious and he cleared his throat, then descended the ladder to bid farewell. He arrived at the swing as Hornblower was about to signal for the lift.

"Goodnight, dear lady. I enjoyed your company this evening," said Pellew.

She motioned him closer. Holding the swing rope in one hand, she placed the other on Pellew's neck, pulling him so she could whisper in his ear. Her fingers caressed his neck as she spoke.

"No," he said quietly. She whispered again, then, kissed him lightly on the cheek.

Hornblower was slowly turning into a beet, darting glances at Kennedy and Sebastian whose constant grin was of no solace whatsoever.

Pellew cleared his throat as he leaned back to an upright position. He nodded to
Hornblower who gave the signal to lift and swing out.

Pellew saluted her. "Goodnight, ma'am."

Kennedy waited in the boat to assist her out of the swing. As he did, she leaned in to whisper in his ear. Hornblower caught the end of her private conversation with Archie as he climbed onto the rail. His struggled to conceal the aggravation as he took a seat in the stern.

Rampling was alert to the return. Once they were aboard, he bid his farewells for the row back.

Horatio informed, "I am going to check in with the watch."

"Of course," she said.

He tried to think of something else to say, fumbled, then turned to leave. Kennedy was standing by observing. He could tell something was bothering Horatio. He perceived Pamela's distress.

"I've done something to upset him, Mr. Kennedy," she said sadly.

"No, you haven't, Pamela. It's just new ground. Don't worry," he tried to reassure, taking her hand. He swallowed, realizing what he was doing, and released it. "I...I'll go talk to him."

"No. Leave him be. He will come when he is ready." They stared into each others eyes.

"As you wish." He departed.

She gazed about the ship. Their ship. It was small compared to the Indy. She smiled remembering her inability to say the ship's name. She tried again. "In-de-fa-tig...fa- tig. No. Indeft.. In-def..." She released a sigh, walking toward the bowsprit.

She went as far forward as she could. Grabbing one of the standing rigging lines, she leaned against it. "We're the only females here, Dolphin. I've done something to upset Horatio, but I don't know what. Do you?" She listened expecting an answer. The ship creaked. Ropes tightened against bonds with the swell of the sea. "I don't speak ship. What's that you said?" She listened again. A sigh of a breeze hummed by the lines. "Thank you for your condolences." She looked back the length of the ship. She could see him pacing on the quarter-deck. Sighing, she spoke again. "Yep. He's got something on his mind. What did I do? Whatever I did, Horatio, please forgive me. I love you, sweetheart." She sighed, letting go the rigging, walking toward the companion.

A face peered over from the fighting top, watching her despondent figure disappear below decks.

Some hours later, Hornblower entered the cabin. He walked to the bed, but this time she was not there. "Damn it!" he said under his breath. He went back topside looking into the fighting tops. Not there. He went back below to her room. He hesitated before trying the door. It was not locked. He walked in. As his eyes became accustomed to the low light, he could make out her form and hear the rhythmic breathing of sleep. He stood over her calming down with each deep breath. He bent to slip his arms under her. She came drowsily to consciousness as he lifted her.

"No!" she said sleepily. "No!"

"Pamela!" he whispered. She pushed against his chest, making him lose hold. He barely kept from dropping her and falling on the deck.

"No!" she said again.

"Come to our room!"

"No!" she whispered loudly.

He sighed. "Why are you sleeping in here?" She did not answer, but turned to face the wall, pulling covers up over her shoulders. "Pamela." Waiting. A sigh.

The door closed. She turned slightly, expecting to be alone, when she realized he was still there. *What is he doing?* she wondered. There was a sound of clothes rustling. She could hear him breathing, sighing. Then, to her surprise, he pushed her over to get into bed.

"What are you doing?" she whispered.

"I am sleeping with my wife!" he whispered back.

"This bed is too small for two!"

"I know!" He was barely able to keep himself perched on the edge.

She rolled over to face him and felt bare skin when she touched his side. She pressed against the ship's wall. "You can't sleep here," she whispered.

"Yes, I can."

She inhaled, feeling the closeness in the dark, the heat of his body emanating towards her. His breath blew softly against her forehead. He was here. He was with her. She began to tremble.

"You're shaking."

"No, I'm not!" She began to cry.

"Pamela. I love you."

"No, you don't!"

He put his arms around her, kissing her head. He carefully felt for her face, finding and wiping her cheeks. "Yes, I do," he said tenderly. "Forgive me?"

She sniffed, placing her hand against his bare chest. He reached back in the dark for his coat searching for a handkerchief. As he fumbled for it, he lost his cantilevered balance and fell to the floor. She began to giggle and tried to peer down at him in the darkness. "What are you doing?" she whispered.

"Laying on the deck," he whispered in exasperation. "Here."

"What?"

"Take my handkerchief."

She felt in the dark for his hand.

 

"Ow!"
"Was that your nose?"

"Yes!"

She giggled again. "I'm sorry!"

"Take the handkerchief!"

She took it, dried her face, and blew her nose. She waited. "What are you doing now?" she whispered.

"Still laying on the deck."

"I forgive you." She listened to his movements and felt him getting back into the bed.

Once again, she pressed against the wall, giving him as much room as she could.

"What are you doing?" she whispered.

"Sleeping with my wife."

Neither spoke for a few moments.

"You cannot sleep here. The bed isn't big enough."

"Yes, I can."

"Did you hit your head when you fell? You can't sleep here!" she whispered. She felt his hand on her face. His thumb reaching to touch her lips. He moved towards her covering her mouth with his. His hand moved down to her breast then slid down to her waist, pulling up the fabric of her gown. He lay her flat on the bunk and mounted. Warm lips pulled on her neck.

"Horatio!" she whispered, in ecstasy and pain from the bite. "Horatio!"

He covered her mouth forcefully with his.

"I want you, Pamela." he whispered. "I love you. You are mine. I will have you... now. Whether in this bed or another."

She gave in to his demand, enjoying a roughness in the love making heretofore unknown, a sweet surrender to his masculinity. Afterwards, he became gentle, having reclaimed her body as his. He kissed her cheeks repeatedly, pressed forcefully his mouth upon hers.

"Now, tell me,..." he demanded breathlessly, "... what were all those secrets you shared with my captain and Archie."

"Secrets?" Was he jealous? "I love you, Horatio. I never intended to... I mean...oh darling! I asked them if I had done anything wrong and when they said no, I thanked them."

She listened to him breathing, thinking about her response. "I love you, Horatio. I love only you." She waited. "You kept interrupting me. I thought...I thought...."

"Pamela! You did nothing wrong! Forgive me for making you feel that way. Forgive me, for..." She was right. Whether she intended it or not, he was ...intensely jealous, and he did not like the feeling.

She cupped his face, he leaned into it, and turned to kiss her palm as he always did.

"I don't want to lose you." He held her tightly.

"I didn't think you wanted me anymore!"

"Don't say that! Don't think that!"

"My darling!"

"You are mine. Tell me you are mine."

"I am yours..." her voice caught with emotion. "I will always be yours."

"I love you more than anything in this world."

"Horatio,...I embarrassed you tonight....forgive me?"

"No. It was me. I...I can't get used to having you."

"What does that mean?"

"I feel guilty, embarrassed. Not by you. It's the situation. I mean everyone knows what
we are doing!" he whispered.

"And you do it so well." She chuckled. "Forgive me! But it's true! That's what's bothering you? I thought we had already dealt with that days ago!"

"Yes. But, now my Captain is here. My fellow officers. The whole damn ship!"

She began to giggle again.

"That is very interesting what you are doing when we are in this position."

"Good!"

If he was jealous of the attentions to Pellew and Archie, she was jealous that he had such comrades, such a ship to abandon her for, and his duty. She did not know she would have to face his other lovers, the ship and the navy, by accepting an invitation to dinner, but they were there, and it was difficult to take. She defended herself as only she knew how, maybe subconsciously she did want to make him jealous.

He carefully rose. She listened to clothing rustle, then felt him lay something on her chest. It was his shoes, shirt, and coat.

"Hold these," he whispered. He slipped his arms underneath her and picked her up.

"What are you doing?"

"Taking my wife home, where she belongs."

He was naked from the waist up and carried her boldly out into the companionway. The ship's lantern allowed them to view one another. So could anyone else had they been in the vicinity, but Hornblower did not care. She was his and he still felt the need to claim her. He stood gazing at his wife in his arms and she at him. He let her slip to the floor and kissed her, pressing his shoes and clothing between them. He stroked her cheek after the kiss, then picked her up and carried her into the cabin as he had on their wedding night.

Jealousy was a curious emotion, especially when it was unfounded. Why was it when one wanted the other the most, it seemed they wanted them the least? Fearing it resulted in a night of reassurance on both parts for one another. Reassurance and reclamation. One of those delightfully tiring nights that ended just before sunrise with physical exhaustion and sweat dampened bed linen. Neither cared a whit for the time the ship bell told. Archie would understand.

*****

Pellew awoke with duty on his mind, and a nagging thought about Dolphin. Hornblower had overseen an excellent repair job. Therefore, she should be taken to England as a prize, not Gibraltar, in accordance with the Articles of War. Laying in his bunk he reached to massage his forehead. The thought had been knocking on his subconscious mind ever since the two ships rejoined. He sighed. If he made the decision to send Dolphin to England, should he have Hornblower take her, or one of his other officers? And, then, even more of a concern, though he did not want it to be, was what to do with .... her. He sat up in bed leaning his head into his hands. "Oh God," he groaned. Running his hands down his face, he looked out the stern windows of the cabin. This was too complicated. His servant entered.

"Water's ready, sir."

"Thank you, Daniels." He arose to wash his face and shave. As he dried, the towel brushed the side of his neck. The sensation reminded him of the caressing touch he felt last night. He shook. "You've been too long at sea, Edward!"

Daniels peeked in quizzically, hearing him talking to himself. "Breakfast here, sir."

Pellew entered the sun sprayed aft cabin sitting to apply himself to the morning meal. "Daniels, A report, if you please."

"Aye, aye, sir."

He could hear the servant passing the word for the midshipman attending watch to report. It was not long before Mr. Cutter was standing before him, hat in hand. The wind was light and from the north, he reported. The day clearing from a misty beginning. Remembering his conversation with Hornblower to sail Dolphin, he gave his next orders.

"Have Mr. Bracegirdle signal Dolphin I will be coming aboard. And get the launch ready."

"Aye, aye, sir," answered Cutter.

Finished with breakfast, he bent over his charts. He studied the location in regards to Gibraltar and England giving out a heavy sigh. Dolphin must go to England. There was no reason to send her to Gibraltar. "Damn!" he said under his breath. He would tell Hornblower. A decision would be made about who sailed her and what would become of Mrs. Hornblower. There was no reason to go to Gibraltar for EITHER ship. He needed to get Indefatigable back on station patrolling the French and Spanish coasts. There was no other choice. She certainly could not reside on Indefatigable. Mrs. Hornblower would have to go to England with Dolphin. He sighed heavily. Well, that might please his young leftenant if he chose to leave them together, which after his meeting with Dolphin's crew he could see no reason why not.

He slowly pulled on his coat, grabbed his hat, and left for the quarter-deck.

He saluted Bowles. "Good morning, Mr. Bowles."

"Good Morning, sir."

"What think ye of the weather?"

"I'd hazard to guess wind will freshen, sir," said Bowles.

"Indeed." Pellew glanced at the set sail for the minimal wind, then, at Bracegirdle. "Mr. Bracegirdle, I am going to Dolphin for a time, sir. You will be in charge in my absence." Glancing around at the sail once more he said, "If the wind picks up I plan to put the little ship through her paces." His eyes darted quickly to Bracegirdle's face to read how he took the announcement. His senior officer gave a nod.

"Aye, aye, sir. Do you wish us to follow or rejoin you, sir?"

Pellew breathed deeply, then sighed. "Come with us for a bit. If all goes well, I shall either return or signal a rendezvous."

"Aye, aye, Captain."

Cutter joined them on the quarter-deck. "The launch is ready, sir."

"Very well, Mr. Cutter. The ship is yours, Mr. Bracegirdle."

"Aye, sir. Thank you , sir."

Hornblower was, not surprisingly, slow to rise this morning and received the signal report of his captain's impending arrival with mild alarm. Even with the knowledge, he lingered in bed, leaving Kennedy to make sure the ship and crew were ready.

"Horatio...this is a fond compliment you pay me, dearest. I shall never forget it."

"Tell me," he smiled.

"That you choose to stay with me than run to duty...you will make me cry."

He kissed her. "I do not wish to make you cry, but I do wish you to know I love you."

"I know you do." She caressed his cheek. "You had better get ready. You do not want your captain...our captain getting angry with us."

He laughed. "No, ma'am, I do not." He kissed her lips lightly and still hovered over her.

She smiled, biting her lower lip.

"Let me do that!" he grinned.

"Go on, you silly!"

A frantic knocking came at the door.

"Yes?" called Hornblower.

"Mr. Kennedy says to say Cap'n Pellew is on his way!"

"Damn!" He jumped from bed. "Thank you, Styles! Be right there!"

 

Kennedy was pacing near the rail, with Matthews and Styles at the ready to pipe Pellew on board. Where is Horatio? With the thought came the man, hurriedly on deck, still buttoning his waistcoat.

"Captain Pellew wants to give Dolphin a run, eh?" Kennedy stared side to side, then reached to wipe a bit of soap near Hornblower's ear.

"So he said last night, Archie."

Archie grinned wryly as he tugged on Hornblower's stock to cover a bruise on his neck. "I see you and Pamela sorted it out last night?"

Hornblower cleared his throat and pressed nervously on his neckerchief.

Archie chuckled and changed the subject. "This might be fun if we get a decent wind and she handles as well as you say. Dolphin, I mean."

"Oh, she does, Mr. Kennedy. She does! They both handle nicely at my command."

Archie's mouth dropped open, but he closed it with a grin.

Having his captain come to sail *his* ship was almost as nerve-wracking as having him meet his wife. Pamela knew that Pellew was coming and why. She seemed genuinely delighted.

The launch was bumping against Dolphin's side. The Captain climbed aboard to the shrill pipes of the men.

Hornblower greeted with a salute. "Good morning, Captain Pellew, sir. Welcome aboard Dolphin."

Pellew nodded at Hornblower and Kennedy. "Good morning, gentlemen. Mr. Bowles believes the wind may freshen." He looked up into the yards, noting the men ready in the ropes for whatever might be required.

"I hope so, sir. Could I interest you in coffee in the interim?" Asked Hornblower.

"Yes, Mr. Hornblower, you may."

"I shall await you on the quarter-deck," said Kennedy, giving a salute to the two as he retreated.

Pellew eyed Hornblower with some amusement at this unfamiliar cordiality his officer was affording. Hitherto it had always been Pellew to invite him for refreshment. The tables were turned. Hornblower was doing an admirable job in another area virgin to his application. He motioned nervously to the companion that would take them to the stern cabin.

Hornblower opened the door carefully. As it swung wide, Pellew was met with a tidy, illumined room. The table was prepared with the items required for breakfast drinks.

Hornblower looked quickly about for Pamela. She was no where to be seen.

"Your quarters are more than adequate, Mr. Hornblower. Returning to Indefatigable may not be so appealing?"

Hornblower's forehead creased. "No, sir! I mean, ...I will be most happy to return when the time comes, Captain."

Pellew was having a devil of a time controlling the side of his face that insisted on a smile. He looked away to hide his amusement.

"Where is your good lady this fine morning?"

Hornblower began to reply when footsteps were heard behind them. Pamela strolled into the cabin dressed in her wedding dress, scarf neatly tied about her neck. Hornblower cleared his throat, touching his own neckerchief.

Upon seeing Pellew, her features twinkled with merriment. "Good morning, Captain!"

Pellew returned the smile and bowed over her hand. "Good morning, ma'am. I trust you rested well last evening?"

The blush came quickly and she bowed her head to avoid looking at Horatio. "Indeed, Captain. Dolphin has a comforting effect upon me for her familiarity. Could I fix you a cup of tea or coffee?"

"Yes, please, coffee."

The men engaged in small talk about the sea while in her presence. She handed each a cup. Hornblower took a deep breath as he received his. She smiled wryly and raised a mischievous eyebrow. As they stood drinking the coffee and exchanging pleasantries, Dolphin was felt to pitch forward.

"The wind foretold by Mr. Bowles must have arrived Mr. Hornblower. Shall we?" He motioned to exit the cabin.

"Yes, sir."

"Thank you, Mrs. Hornblower. Will you be joining us above decks? We're going to have a look at what Dolphin can do."

"I wouldn't miss it, Captain! I shall join you presently."

"Very well, madam." He bowed.

She curtsied and Hornblower followed Pellew from the room.

 

Kennedy was on the quarter-deck giving orders for preparation.

"Ready, Mr. Kennedy?"

"Aye, aye, Captain!"

Pellew surveyed the crew, giving orders which Kennedy relayed to the men. Hornblower stood by feeling a swelling in his chest, watching the men and his ship come to life for this man he so admired. He looked back at the Indy to see similar activities as the two ships began the run. It seemed the wind was made to order. Like a bulldog with a terrier the two wooden vessels seemed to run across the waters seeking adventure to give purpose.

Pellew ordered signal flags to alert the Indy to his choice of maneuvers. They were like ballerinas at counter point. The wind whipped the ships across the waves. The men in the yards could be heard exclaiming and pointing at the play of the two vessels.

At last Hornblower forgot himself and gave way to a full mouthed toothy grin at the exhilaration of sail. They were not a fighting force at this moment but strictly men of the sea enjoying the ship, their expertise, the wind and the weather! It was a magnificent day!

Pellew breathed deeply. "She's a fine prize, Mr. Hornblower! A fine prize indeed!" He looked aft seeing Pamela in conversation with Styles about the larger ship to larboard. He motioned a nod for Hornblower to follow him to the starboard side.

"Mr. Hornblower, you have done a fine job patching Dolphin."

"Thank you, sir."

"Too good, in fact, sir."

"Sir?"

"According to the Articles of War, Mr. Hornblower, a prize is to be taken to England to be purchased into service. The only reason I ordered you to Gibraltar to begin with was because I thought she not seaworthy enough to make the longer journey. You have made her capable of that journey." Pellew looked him in the eye.

Hornblower blinked, letting the weight of his words sink in. This was a definite blow. He glanced over at Pamela smiling and chatting with Kennedy and Styles.

"I know you are concerned for her well being. That you were counting on her father's solicitor to help you with....the situation." He tried to be delicate in broaching Hornblower's financial difficulties.

"I....I appreciate your concern, sir." He glanced briefly at the deck. Pellew watched as a stiffness took over Hornblower's attitude. "I will do whatever is necessary in my duty to you and the ship, sir,... both ships."

Pellew absently grabbed Hornblower's forearm, a mild turn of his lips and he looked into his eyes. "It will be all right, Mr. Hornblower. Your wife is a survivor."

Hornblower breathed in deeply, aware of Pellew's hand on his forearm. He relished this touch from his Captain as much as it surprised him. The only person he had ever seen Pellew touch in such a familiar manner was Brandon, upon his return from his father, beaten and badly used.

"Thank you, Captain." The word felt strange in his mouth, like it should have been *father*. The hold released as Pellew nodded and walked towards Pamela. Hornblower watched him go, intensely aware of the sensation on his arm even though it was no longer there. He saw Pamela turn and then do a double take to look at him again, catching the expression on his visage and Pellew headed her direction. His face must have belied a concern by the look she returned before settling eyes upon Pellew with a soft smile. She liked his captain. Her gaze shifted to Hornblower's face as his own cheeks allowed an upward turn. She noted the change in his countenance with a quick glance. He saw her body, which was momentarily tense, relax once more in the good company she enjoyed.

Hornblower took a moment to marvel at the connection of which the two were capable. Except for the misunderstanding of the previous evening, they could read each other easily, whether it was a look, an attitude of the body, an intonation. He and Pamela were indeed one. Pellew's words came back to him *It will be all right, Mr. Hornblower. Your wife is a survivor.* He let out a sigh, tucked the new information aside, and stepped to join the conversation taking place to larboard.

Having given the order to signal the Indy to turn and sail before them, Pellew was exclaiming about the qualities of his ship. His men, officers and ratings alike, were enjoying his discourse on the finer points of Indefatigable. He indicated a patch to Pamela which ensued with exclamations from the men present about the battle that had brought the wound. As they talked the Indy turned one hundred and eighty degrees. The officers were so intrigued watching her, they failed to order a similar course change for Dolphin.

Pamela opened to the enthusiasm of these sailing men, aware of one close to her that electrified her being. She felt his nearness. Like a magnet she let her body be drawn towards him, moving slightly to touch the front of his body with the back of hers. She felt him make the next move towards her to the point that if she allowed her body to lean she would rest against him. She could hear him breathing and feel his exhaled breath.

Pellew did a double take that Hornblower was so near his wife. He turned back to the Indy to hide the smile from his men. He was about to give the order to turn Dolphin on a similar course when a shout came from the main mast lookout.

"Deck there! Ship to starboard!"

The entire group looked at the man and the direction he was pointing. The three officers stepped quickly to starboard. Kennedy handed Pellew the large telescope kept near the helm. Hornblower pulled his smaller one from his coat pocket. Pamela moved to his side.

There was indeed a ship headed in the direction of Dolphin which was still on her southeasterly tack while Indefatigable was now headed northwest. The gap between the two widened as the officers continued to peer in the distance trying to determine if the visitor was friend or foe.