An American Encounter
By Skihee :)
Chapter 22 Confessions ( Adult Marital situations)
Sebastian wearily climbed the stairs topside. Walking to larboard, he tipped the bucket over watching the crab sail down the side of Indefatigable, back from whence it came. He sat the bucket on the deck, leaning with a sigh against the rail. The eastern sky was beginning to pink with the first signs of sunrise.
Here he was, out of uniform. His shirt sleeves loosely flapped about his wrists. He pulled one of the cheroots from the packet he kept them in and began looking for a source to light it. Fo'csle or quarter-deck? He knew he would find a lantern either place. Wishing to avoid conversation, he chose the fo'csle. Less likely to run into the Captain there, too, though what the Captain would be doing up at this late, or early, hour he knew not. He shook his head and exhaled. He needed a smoke. Climbing the stairs, he was astounded to see another human being up there. He made his way to the lantern, then realized who his companion was. He shook his head. A perfect ending to a perfect evening, he thought sarcastically.
"The one place I thought not to see you and here you are."
"Dr. Sebastian," he said with surprise.
"I know, I know, I am out of uniform."
Pellew turned his head quizzically at the doctor. "I would not comment on your dress, doctor, at this early hour. Or is it late?"
Sebastian took a long drag on his cigarette, sighing out the smoke. "It is definitely late, Captain."
"Something is preying on your mind, doctor?" It was more of a statement than a question.
Leaning against the railing, ankles crossed, he shrugged, flicked the ashes off his weed. "I lost my temper tonight. I do not like to lose my temper. I am very disappointed in myself."
Pellew moved closer to Sebastian. "You look tired, sir, and very weary. You should be sleeping," he said mildly.
"Well, I had a burial at sea to perform."
Pellew blanched and started to speak. Sebastian held his hand up to him. "Forgive me, Captain, it was a poor choice of words. We do have dead to bury, but I was speaking of my crab."
"Oh. He didn't make it, eh?"
"No, sir." Sebastian chuckled. "Mr. Kennedy thought the ship's biscuit I had fed him did him in." Sebastian laughed and Pellew joined him.
"Mr. Kennedy can be a source of wit, indeed, sir. I am glad you can laugh over your loss."
Sebastian chuckled again and then sighed. "I must confess, Captain. I must confess to someone. I have not behaved as a gentleman should."
Pellew bent over the rail. "Why am I getting the feeling this is going to have something to do with Mrs. Hornblower?" He stared at the doctor.
Sebastian met his gaze. "Who else?"
"Should I ask?"
Sebastian exhaled and with a demonstration with his right hand said, "I popped her one on the fanny."
"I guess the prudent thing would be to examine why. She made you angry, you say?"
"Yes, she did."
"Hmm. She can be damned frustrating. I know that for a fact., but she has not angered me. Not yet, anyway."
"But she was injured. It was late. She had already been abducted by that man. Arh!" he moaned. "She is a woman! I should not have let her provoke me." Sebastian turned, folding his hands on the rail, resting his forehead on them.
Pellew sighed. "I am sure it is not as serious as you make it sound."
"I made her cry." He paused. "I shall have to apologize to her."
Pellew mirrored Sebastian by leaning against the rail, but looking eastward. The sun would make its appearance soon.
"One thing I've noted about our Mrs. Hornblower....And, given, she went through some trials last night. We all did. I can tell you when I saw that man jump with her, I felt my heart stop. For her. For Mr. Hornblower. I know what it is to lose a wife. I know when I lost my first wife, I..." He noted a tension in Sebastian and he remembered the good doctor would know what he spoke of as well. "I was lost. I filled my days and nights with work to the point of exhaustion so I wouldn't have to think, to feel. I pray Mr. Hornblower never knows such .... emptiness. Anyway, I was going to say, I do not believe the lady holds grudges. More than likely she will want to apologize to you, if she did something to cause your outburst, and to her credit, I must say." Pellew nodded his head. "All in all, she is quite something. Mr. Hornblower does seem to have the luck, as I know the men all say. I have seen a pleasing change in Mr. Hornblower. He is more light-hearted, well, for him, that is. You might not see it, but I do. She has been good for him. I don't know what it would do to him to lose her." Pellew looked wistfully in the distance. "And, damn me, she's got spunk," he said with admiration remembering her shooting the pirate about to sever him.
Sebastian thought about his first meeting with Pamela. The captain was right. She had apologized to him that first day, when she did not want his care and was throwing things at the door. He smiled to himself over that childish outburst. He had handled her better that day, accepting her apology. Now he would need her to accept his.
Sebastian moved upright commenting, "Captain, I believe that is the most I have heard you say about a topic not to do with the war since I have been on this ship!"
"Are you saying I am talking too much, doctor?"
He snorted. "No, captain. Thank you for your kind words of encouragement. No doubt you are correct in your surmise. I believe we were both out of character last night, or at worst, both showing our bad sides."
"You? A bad side, doctor?"
"Shhh. Don't tell anyone, captain." He smiled broadly, more like his old self. "I see you decided to berth her with her husband." remarked Sebastian arching an eyebrow at his captain.
"Ahem. Yes." Pellew stood straight, clasping his hands behind him. He exhaled. "After that incident last night, I...I feared she would not feel safe anywhere but with him. I feel responsible for not protecting her better. I told Hornblower I would. I failed both of them." He turned a quick eye to Sebastian looking for his response to his confession.
"You could not have predicted what would happen, Captain." Sebastian pulled another cheroot from his pack, offering one to Pellew. He held up his hand refusing the offer. Sebastian sucked in the lantern light, blowing blue smoke between his lips.
"We are not long for Gibraltar. What that destination holds, I am beginning to wonder. I am getting this uneasy feeling at the back of my neck." He squinted at Sebastian again. "When are you going to release Mr. Kennedy?"
"The books say three weeks on his type of injury, Captain. He has about half as much time to go. By the way, sir, what are you doing out here?"
"I started my report and realized I did not have Mr. Hornblower's yet. Any idea if he completed his, doctor?"
Sebastian started laughing. "Captain, I would not hold your breath on that one."
Pellew exhaled heavily. "I suppose under the circumstances I shall have to give the man some slack. I like Mrs. Hornblower, doctor, but I shall be glad to get my ship back in order."
Horatio felt the warmth of her with him. How long had it been since they could sleep in one anothers arms without compunction? The bunk was smaller than the one the men had devised for them on Dolphin. She lay with her head on his chest, resting her right cheek there. Her rhythmic breathing told him she slept at ease.
He heard the toll of the ship's bell, it was early morning. He could visualize the watch on the quarter-deck performing their duties. He could see Dolphin riding astern. And nothing else. It was like they were the only two ships at sea. The pirate menace blown to kingdom come. He sighed.
For once, he was thankful for his restricted duties. He could be with her when she needed him. The residual fear of her attack came through once they were in his room. He had offered to sleep in Archie's bunk to give her space, but she clung to him from when they entered the cabin, insisting he lock the door, and not letting him put her down anywhere but with him. Sebastian's potion, or simply tiredness, took hold quickly. Once they were arranged comfortably on his bunk, he did not remember another thought.
He twisted her hair in his fingers as he lay with her, recalling the events of last night. He kept seeing her on the deck of that ship, in a heap, at the mercy of those men. The scream he heard, most likely from one of the blows Dr. Sebastian so vividly described last night. He kissed her forehead. His report! God! He was supposed to write Pellew a report! He carefully moved out from under her, resting her head gently on his pillow, pulling the blanket up around her shoulders.
His cabin was stuffed with her things. He recalled the difficulty of moving in his cabin last night. He stood looking at the situation. House cleaning was not what he wanted to do, but it was required if he was going to get anything done. He tried lifting the chest of clothes she had inherited from Dolphin. *Damn!* he thought. He would need help or he was going to make an unholy racket. He watched her as he carefully unlatched his door, being as quiet as possible. He peered out into the companion. Catching sight of a man, he called him over.
"Hardy!" he whispered loudly. He was one of the men that had worked as cook's mate on Dolphin.
"I need your help moving a chest, but you must be absolutely silent."
He let him in the cabin. "Grab the end there. I want to put this on Mr. Kennedy's bunk." he whispered. That was better. Now he could move more freely in the small space. "Thank you, Hardy." He moved some individual items from his table to the remaining spaces on the bunk.
"Is she all right, sir?"
"Yes, thank you."
"Would ye like me ta bring ye some coffee, sir?"
Hornblower thought this over. What would his fellow officers think of him being waited on by one of the ratings? He no longer captained a ship. "I..." he hesitated.
Hardy smiled at him. "I'll get it for ye. Ain't no need o'nobody else knowin'."
"Thank you, Mr. Hardy." Hornblower nearly caught himself addressing a rating as *mister* but it was passed his lips before he could stop himself. Familiar patterns die hard, even ones in effect for only two weeks.
Hardy grinned. "Aye, aye, ...sir." and he had nearly called him captain.
Hornblower blinked. Thank God, he had not called him that! What would Pellew say? He would not want to be looked at as a mutineer, for heaven's sake!
He moved his small table away from the wall, pulling the chair quietly back into position. Looking in his own chest, he pulled out paper and a pencil. Glancing at Pamela, listening to her breathing, he knew she was undisturbed. Lighting a candle from the overhead lantern, he thought about where Pellew would expect him to begin his report and started writing. Once he got going with it he was jotting his thoughts down rapid fire. A quiet knock came. Rising, he opened his door.
"There ye are, sir."
"Thank you, Hardy," he smiled at the rating, closing his door. Sipping the coffee, he watched his wife stir in their bed. He wondered if the smell of coffee might waken her. He hoped not.
He sat and went back to his writing. She remained asleep. Every now and then he stopped to listen to her rhythmic breathing. The report finished, he rummaged in his chest for a clean uniform. He had one last clean working topcoat. He wondered where his uniform was from last night. It must be retrieved and mended, that was all there was to that. He frowned over what that was going to require. Dressed from the waist down, he shaved, and completed dressing. As he pulled on his topcoat, she uttered a frightened moan. Walking over to look at her, he could tell she was sleeping. She called his name anxiously. He sat on the bunk next to her.
"Horatio!" She was sitting bolt upright out of a sound sleep, clutching him around the neck. She sobbed a couple of times, panting, until wakefulness took over.
"You're safe. It's all right." he whispered, holding her. He leaned her back over to a prone position. She released his neck. He began to smooth her hair from her face.
She looked at him puzzled as to where she was. Gazing about his room, she said, "I'm in your cabin."
"Yes, dear," he smiled. "Such as it is."
Reaching up, she stroked his cheek, smiling. "You shaved. I dreamt you were shaving, but then someone came in and..."
He put his hand gently over her lips. "Remember what you told me about telling dreams before breakfast," he smiled.
"Come here, sir," she requested urgently. He moved to lean over her. Wrapping her arms around him she hugged him tight, he holding her as well. Was he really here with her? She felt the warmth of him through his topcoat. The cloth rustled as she ran her hands over his back. Pinching her eyes together, she began to cry silently, only the racking of her body a sign.
"Shhh shhh shhhh. You're all right sweetheart," he whispered. "You're all right."
"You came for me. Horatio, you came for me," she cried.
"Yes,...... I will always come for you," he kissed her ear.
"I didn't think I would ever see you again. That man, he..."
"Shhh. He's dead. He will never trouble you again. Never."
"How, how did you find me?"
They gazed into one anothers eyes. "Matthews. I was engaged in a sword fight with a man on Kaliakra. Matthews came to tell me they had taken you." He brushed her cheeks carefully. The pain from the bruising registered. She moved her hand to her face.
"Oh, Horatio. My ... I.... I was...I behaved poorly last night, didn't I?" She put her hand over her eyes. "I remember. I was...I was awful to Dr. Sebastian. I embarrassed you and Mr. Brandon. And, and, Dr. Sebastian he was asking me...Oh Lord, what was he asking me?" She stopped there. She did not remember Horatio present when the doctor was talking to her about her conjugal activities. Why was he? She shielded her hand over her eyes peering at her husband. "Give me your mirror, Horatio."
He looked at her dubiously. "Before I do, let me prepare you."
"Oh, Lord!" She covered her eyes again. "Tell me."
He sighed. "You have a cut on your lower lip. The bruising on your face is black and blue now instead of red and purple. The swelling under your eye looks less, so that is good news. All in all, you look like you've been in a brawl at the local tavern."
"With none of its benefits?" she chortled.
He laughed. "I know you're on your way to healing, my lady, when you can joke about it. No, none of the benefits. But, if you would like a drink, I think I could locate one for you."
She stared at him, wondering what he thought of her.
"I love you," he said.
She stuck her tongue out over her bottom lip running over it thoughtfully. Then, she gasped.
"What else have you remembered?" he chuckled.
"Horatio! You...you...bathed me, last night, didn't you?"
"I did," he said, eyebrow arching. "I found it quite enjoyable, but we had better not speak of that now."
"Oh, Lord. It is all coming back to me," she gasped again. "Horatio, I behaved so terribly." She put both hands over her face. "How can you bear to look at me? How many people was I rude to? Oh, sweetheart!" She turned pulling his pillow over her head, her speech muffled. "I remember now, I didn't want you to see my face! You threatened to spank me, and Dr. Sebastian did. Oh, I will never be able to face him. I made him so angry! That kind man, and I did that to him. Captain Pellew must hate me! Look what I have done to his crew! I have been nothing but trouble since I disobeyed my father trying to go topside on Cymbaline. Everything is my fault!" She began to cry under his pillow.
Horatio looked at her in dismay. She was seeming to be all right with last nights occurrences and now she had descended into this weeping bundle. He was at a loss for what to do. "Darling, darling! It will be all right. Captain Pellew does not hate you. The crew is fine. Dr. Sebastian will survive. He will forgive you, I am sure of it. I forgive you. I love you. Please don't cry!"
"You really think so?
"Yes....to everything....everything!" he fumbled
She lifted the pillow from her head. He helped to adjust it back where it belonged. She stared at him. "I'm hungry."
He could not help but laugh. "Very well. I will go see what I can find for you." He shook his head wondering at these jumps from being fine to being ...well...emotional. He supposed it must be the trauma of the attack by Craven. "I'll be back as quick as I can."
"Thank you, darling." Watching him leave, her attention turned to the planking above her head. Reaching upwards, she tried to touch the knot that resembled a....monkey.....that's what it looked like. What was it Dr. Sebastian said to her last night that she wanted to remember? All that stuff about her previous husbands and Horatio. Absently she moved her hand to her lower abdomen. She pressed her hand across it. Sebastian had done that. Why? She was not pregnant....was she? What was it he said? Oh, yes, she recalled now. *How long do you think it takes for a baby to start forming?* She had never thought about it. She had never been pregnant. How would a baby start forming? She only recognized a woman was pregnant after she started showing, she had never given thought to what happened before then. Her sister, Patricia, had children, but she lived far away each time she became pregnant. Pamela never saw her until she was three months along or more. She never thought to ask her about the beginnings of her pregnancy. Though her sister did tell her of feeling nauseated with Tapley, her second child. Sucking in her breath, she put her hand over her mouth. Did Dr. Sebastian think she was pregnant? She took both her hands, mashing them on her stomach. She did not feel anything. Could he? All she knew was that all that pressing told her she needed to relieve herself.
Horatio returned balancing a square containing a little bacon, some oatmeal, and two fried biscuits, on top of two mugs, tea for her, another coffee for him. Pamela was sitting struggling to brush her hair.
"Here you are." He sat the food down on the table he had used earlier to write his report. Picking up his papers, he sat them on a vacant spot on Archie's bunk.
He separated the breakfast onto two plates he had tucked under his arm. Reaching inside his coat, he pulled out knives and forks.
"Thank you, darling. It smells wonderful." She gave her hair a few more tugs. It surrounded her shoulders like a mane. He pulled the chair out for her. She sat staring into space. If she were pregnant, how would he take the news? They had spoken of the possibility of children. He had told her he was amenable to them. Though never in her wildest dreams had she thought it could happen so soon. She had seen it as a future event, not one that would happen directly after marriage. But maybe she was not with child. She had no reason to think so. Certainly her monthlies being late could not signify pregnancy. Could it? If only she could talk to her sister, or any woman. She was not ready to discuss it with Horatio. Who on board the Indy could she talk to about this? She knew who. And she did intend to speak with him, if he was willing to speak to her.
He straightened himself from holding the chair for her. Smiling at her, he shook his head. "Where has that mind of yours wondered off to now?"
She stood, touching his cheek. "Do you love me, Horatio?"
His face was incredulous, "Of course, I do."
"Are you sure you won't leave me in Gibraltar and never see me again?"
He took her in his arms. "What is this? Why are you asking such foolish questions?" He had risked life and limb for her last night. How could she doubt his love for her? "I love you. You are my very life. The only thing that could prevent me from returning to you would be my own death. I am yours. You are mine. You will always be so. We are husband and wife. No matter that time and tide shall separate us, I will come to you. Never doubt me. Never doubt me." He hugged her tighter and she him. He lifted her chin. Bending he lightly kissed her injured lips. "I thought you were hungry," he said softly.
She smiled gently at him, "I am."
"Well, our food is getting cold." Sitting to eat the breakfast, he noticed she was unusually quiet. Something was on her mind still. What more could he have said to convince her of his love for her? He found himself stopping to watch her eat when she was not looking. Should he inquire about her thoughts? Was she still traumatized from last night? Probably. To some extent, those events would stay with her for awhile. It was not the kind of thing one could shrug off. He worried about her.
She noticed he was sitting holding his utensils staring at her. She smiled, "Horatio," she placed her hand on his. He felt himself relax at her touch. This was his Pamela. He had not realized he was so tense. "What's wrong, darling?"
He held her hand. "Just looking at my beautiful wife. Knowing how lucky I am to have found her." She squeezed his hand.
"Thank you for the breakfast, sweetheart."
There was a knock at the door. Horatio stood to answer it.
"Mr. Brandon! Good morning!"
"Good morning, sir. I am here to see Mrs. Hornblower."
He turned to Pamela, she nodded for him to enter. "Come in." He quickly piled the breakfast dishes. Taking them, and placing his papers under his arm, he said, "Dear, I need to take this report to Captain Pellew, will you be all right?"
"Yes. Thank you, Mr. Hornblower," she replied. He smiled at her formality.
"No need for me to stay is there, Mr. Brandon?"
He gave her a final nod with a smile, and exited the cabin.
Brandon cleared his throat. "How are you, Mrs. Hornblower?"
"Please sit down, Mr. Brandon." She motioned for him to take the other chair. He sat down stiffly. "I am better, sir. Thank you for inquiring."
"Dr. Sebastian thought you might prefer me to check you this morning, ma'am. May I?"
He pulled his chair closer. She held her head still for him. He gently held her chin turning her head to look at her lip and cheek.
"You have a gentle touch, Mr. Brandon."
Coloring under her compliment, he said, "Thank you, ma'am." He placed his wrist on her forehead. He then took her wrist, checking her pulse. "Does your face hurt ma'am?"
"How is the bruise on your ribs?"
"It does not hurt unless I touch it."
"Dr. Sebastian would like you to rest today. He would like you to drink this. It is for any pain you might feel and will help you sleep." He handed her a cup.
"Shall I take it now?"
"If you would ma'am." She drank it down.
"Yuck!" She drank the remnants of her tea. "That stuff is supposed to help me?"
Brandon suppressed a smile. "Yes, ma'am. I have some oil that might ease your lip. May I put some on for you?"
"Yes, thank you, sir." She parted her lips and waited. He put some of the oil on his fingertip. He was visibly shaking as he neared her mouth. "I won't bite you, Mr. Brandon, despite how rude I was last night. Can you forgive me for my behavior?"
He reached with his other hand to hold her chin. "Don't talk, Mrs. Hornblower." She noted a softening in his tone. He held his mouth parted and stretched his own bottom lip over his teeth as he gently smoothed the oil over her lip. "I'm sorry that man did this to you. You were very brave."
"How so, sir?" She did not feel brave. She saw it as enduring, not bravery.
"Many women would have become hysterical if they had been through what you have. You just got mad."
She placed her hand on his knee and laughed out loud. "Is that what it was, Mr. Brandon?"
He smiled broadly, "It seemed that way to me. But you shouldn't be mad at Mr. Hornblower. He was just worried about you. I don't think I've ever seen him in such a state as he was last night. Mr. Kennedy told us about your rescue. I wish I could have seen it. There's no man with more courage than Mr. Hornblower, ma'am, unless it's Captain Pellew."
She smiled as warmly at him as she could and he back at her. "How is Dr. Sebastian?"
"He's fine. Keeping busy checking the wounded from last night. I'm hoping to get him to rest. I don't think he's been to bed yet."
A sadness came over her expression thinking about how she had treated him. "I'm sorry to hear that. I am sure he must be exhausted. I hope you are successful in getting him to rest. I..." She stopped herself. There was no need to burden Brandon with her repentance. She needed to tell the doctor herself. "Would you tell him thank you for tending me last night, Mr. Brandon?"
"You bet, I mean, yes, ma'am, I will," Brandon was grinning. "You should rest now yourself. I will be back to check on you this afternoon. If you need anything, let me know." He stood to leave and she with him. She was slightly taller than he. Standing next to him reminded him of her sister's oldest boy even though Brandon had to be several years older. "And, yes ma'am, I do forgive you. I mean, you weren't exactly yourself last night, ma'am. I understand."
She wanted to hug him, but refrained, and merely took his hand. Squeezing it, she said, "Thank you, Mr. Brandon. You have been most kind."
"Get some rest now."
"Aye, aye, sir."
Brandon grinned at her as he closed the door.
Hours later, Pamela tried to rouse herself. Her limbs felt weighted. She tried to open her eyes. Her eyelids were too heavy to lift. She tried to speak, but only a moan would come from her. She gave up and listened to the hushed voices in her room.
"She's been sleeping such a long time, Dr. Sebastian." That was Horatio's voice. Was Dr. Sebastian here to see her? She wanted to talk to him. She moaned again.
"Perhaps a little too much laudanum. If she requires more, I will reduce the dosage. But it is good that she rests Mr. Hornblower. The swelling under the eye is much, much less. I am glad to see it. I see no infection in the cut. She is healing well." She felt his hand softly laying upon her forehead, then brushing soothingly over the top of her head. "While I am here, let me check your arm." She felt the doctor's hand lightly on her chin. Then, a finger gliding gently over her bottom lip. She heard clothes rustling. "Hmm. Come with me to sick berth, I want to put a clean bandage on your arm." Footsteps, the door opening and closing, and silence, except for the sounds of the ship. She drifted back into blessed sleep.
Hours later, she once again came near waking. She listened to the sounds. What was that? She lay listening again. Pages, someone was turning pages of a book. She opened her eyes. The candle played shadows on the ceiling of the cabin. Someone sighed. She rolled over onto her left side, easing her bruised face on the pillow. The hanging lantern caught the lights in his blond hair. His white shirt seemed to glow as well. She smiled.
"You look like an angel sitting there, Archie," she said softly.
He jumped. "Pamela! You scared the daylights out of me!" He put his book down and moved to the chair next to her bunk. "How are you feeling, sleepyhead?" He smiled at her.
"Hungry. What time is it? What are you doing here? Where is Horatio?"
"So many questions! Well, I believe I heard it is seven o'clock. Horatio is on his watch. He asked me if I would sit with you in case you should waken and need something. I am here on dispensation from Captain Pellew, if you please. The cook is keeping something warmed for you. Shall I call for it now?"
"Yes! Please! I'm famished!"
"The lady has an appetite! Be right back." He opened the door, calling for a cabin boy. "Mrs. Hornblower is awake. Would you get her dinner?" He turned back to her with a smile. "So how do you like our humble abode?"
"Where ever Horatio is will seem like home." She sat up slowly. "Ooo, I feel like I drank too much last night." She waited as her equilibrium settled in to her upright position.
"If you you will forgive me for saying so, I would hate to see the other guy."
She put her hand over her bruised cheek. "Oh, Archie, I know I look a sight! I think I am the other guy."
He came over to sit next to her again, "But you are as beautiful as ever."
"You, sir, have been too long at sea."
He chuckled. "Agreed. But you are still lovely, Pamela, despite your bruises."
"Thank you for trying to make me feel better, you silly goose."
"Oh the scorn I must endure!"
"What are you reading?"
"This? It is an amazing tale of daring do, called Norie's Seamanship."
"Really? I thought you knew all there was to know about seamanship already?" she smiled.
"Now you are making me laugh. I wish. After I finish going over this one, I get to read the sequel, CLARK'S Seamanship. They are both tremendously exciting," he yawned. "Gosh, even mentioning them puts me to sleep."
"Then, why are you reading them?"
"Our fine captain has put my name forward for the leftenant's exam. I am due to take it in Gibraltar as soon as the examination team of captains are available."
"Ah, so you are studying for a test."
"In so many words, yes." A knock. He took the dinner from the cabin boy and sat it on the table.
"Mmm, this looks delicious! I'm starving!" The plate before her contained roast beef with chunks of potatoes and carrot, and a hefty serving of peas, all floating in a sea of dark gravy. A fried biscuit sat on a separate plate. A large flagon contained grog, the drink consumed by every person on board. She applied herself to the meal.
"Well, you slept through lunch. I'm glad the ship's food appeals to you. As long as you can avoid the ship's biscuit you should fare well."
"Isn't this a ship's biscuit?" she asked holding the fried biscuit delivered with her meal.
"No. Those are freshly made. The flour is still good from our supplies. The ship's biscuits are similar, though larger and with the consistency of a brick."
"You are making a joke."
"No! I'm serious! Dr. Sebastian made the mistake of giving some to his crab and it died!"
"His crab? I didn't know Dr. Sebastian had a crab?"
"Well, he doesn't anymore."
"How sad. Can it be replaced?"
Archie chuckled. "I would not concern yourself too much. He was planning to eat him."
"Maybe the crab was sick," she offered.
Archie chuckled, "Must have been. That's why it was in sick berth!" They both laughed.
Horatio finished his watch, leaving immediately, where normally he would have been slow to depart. Reaching his cabin, he knocked, opening the door slowly.
"Ah, the master returns," announced Archie.
"Archie. Pamela! You're awake! Has he been taking proper care of you?" She rose to greet him, he taking her hands.
"He makes an excellent nurse."
"And she makes and excellent student."
Horatio looked at them quizzically.
"Archie has been teaching me about seamanship."
'Oh? Thinking about joining up are you?"
"Not on your life. I have barely survived you as our passenger. I am afraid you would find yourself at the gratings before the captain could blink his eye."
"I think that is my cue to be off," smiled Archie. "I do not wish to be involved in a domestic dispute."
"Thank you, Archie, for sitting with me."
"Yes, Archie, thank you," added Hornblower.
He slipped out the door.
Horatio kissed her forehead. "I see you've eaten dinner. You had me worried sleeping so long. How are you?"
"Missing you." She put one hand on his shoulder, the other on his neck, leaning against his chest. Using her fingertips she stroked his head behind his ear. "Take me topside. I want to breath the clear night air. Will you?"
"Let me dress, then." She hurriedly grabbed the navy blue dress she had worn on Dolphin from her trunk. He watched her pull the night gown off revealing her shapely back. She stopped, turned slowly to look at him over her right shoulder so the good side of her face was visible. "I've been thinking about cutting my hair."
He moved to her resting his hands on her back, moving them slowly to her shoulders to her neck. He began to massage there. "Dr. Sebastian said you might have some muscle stiffness here." She shivered under his touch. "How does that feel?"
"Lovely." She lifted her hair as she had last night, with her right hand she made to pull his around to her front to rest it on her breast. She sighed at his touch. He kissed her neck, slowly moving his lips across the back of it from one side to the other. "I want you, Horatio, but I can't bear for you to make love to me with my face the way it looks."
He bent to blow out the candle. Only the night lantern let out its meager glow. She turned to him feeling her body rub over his topcoat. "Your buttons are cold." He pulled it off letting it fall to the floor. He returned to splay his hands over her back. Kissing her gently from her ear nuzzling slowly around her hair line. She undid the buttons on his vest. It joined his topcoat. Running her hands over his stomach and chest, he assisted removing his shirt. He sighed as he hugged her to him, feeling her fingers at work on his trouser buttons. She leaned to kiss his bandaged arm.
"You are my life, my lady. Never doubt me." He tilted her head up, gently kissed her lips. She extended her tongue to caress his. Moving slowly he barely pressed his lips upon hers and but briefly. He picked her up swiftly and placed her on his bunk. "Never could I have imagined I would have this memory for this bed." He was careful as he joined her not to lean on her right side. They sighed in unison. It was good to be with her. He felt her hands upon his back as they moved. The two released within moments of each other. He breathed heavily upon her neck, kissing her lightly.
"I love you, Horatio." She smoothed his hair from his face that gravity brought to play over his cheek.
"How much of your hair were you thinking of cutting?"
She smiled at him. "A foot?"
"A foot! You'll be bald!"
"Hardly, silly. You're teasing me."
"I am. I love you, darling. Don't cut anymore than a foot or I'll have you over my knee."
"Idle threats," she chimed rolling her eyes and pressing his sides.
"No tickling. That's an order." He slid to the side with a sigh. Leaning on her right arm, she bent to kiss his cheek. She stroked it with the backs of her fingers.
"Do you know how much I love you?"
"No. Tell me?"
"I love you more than apple pie with a slice of cheese on top."
He arched an eyebrow at her. "And how much do you like apple pie, might I ask."
"Oh, I love apple pie." She smiled laying back down. "Our houselady, Junie, she's a darkie, can make the most delicious apple pies! She covers them with a light flakey crust that melts in your mouth! The smell when they are cooking fills up the whole of our grounds all the way down to the creek. I love a piece straight out of the oven with a slice of cheddar cheese on top. It melts and mingles with the crust and the apples..." She looked over at him. "I could eat a piece right now!" She bent over his side, gumming his ribs. "Ow, I forgot my lip!"
"No, tickling, you!" He grabbed her and held her close to his face, smiling into hers. He shook his head. "As soon as your lip is well, I am going to kiss you like there is no tomorrow."
"Is that a promise?"
He moved to her forehead kissing her brow. "That's a promise."
"Take me topside, darling. I won't be showing my face in the sunlight for a few more days."
"Your wish is my command."
She pulled on the navy dress, forgoing her corset in deference to her bruised ribs. He came over to pull her hair out from the back of her dress lifting it out slowly. "I shall not have many more times when I can do this."
"It will only be a foot, Horatio, it will still reach to my shoulder blades." She looked at him with a pout. "It takes so long to dry with it this long, dear. And, it's a struggle to brush through!"
"I didn't say no, did I?"
"But you don't want me to?" she asked meekly.
He hugged her. "Do whatever makes you happy. But no more than a foot. I love your hair. I love you. I want to be there when you do it. I want some to keep." He smiled at her.
"Under that naval officer exterior beats the heart of a true romantic!" He gave her a light swat on her bottom. She squealed.
"Wait! You will need your cloak. The weather has gone cool. It is changeable this time of year when going from spring to summer. He swung it around her shoulders, doing the clasp at her neck. He pulled her hair out again, smiling to himself then pulled the hood over her head, stuffing her tresses into its voluminous shape. Throwing on his own cloak, the two left.
Making their way up the stairs, she whispered, "Have I ever told you how handsome you are in your cape?"
He grinned, whispering back, "All we dashing leftenants wear these."
"And all the dashing captains, as well. Oh, Horatio, I don't want Captain Pellew to see me!" She stepped into his arms. His Captain was coming out into the waist from his quarters.
He saw the two of them, Pamela pressing into his officer's chest. "Good evening, Mr. Hornblower, Mrs. Hornblower."
"Good evening, sir," swallowed Horatio, resting his arm around her shoulders.
"Good evening, Captain," came her muffled reply. She had to be polite. "Forgive me, Captain, I had not thought we would see anyone this time of night, but I needed some fresh air." She lifted her head, turning slowly to him, pulling her hood over to hide her face.
Pellew squinted at Hornblower. "I understand, madam." He bowed towards her. "Carry on, Mr. Hornblower."
"Thank you, sir."
The two began a stroll forward. "I didn't get you in trouble, did I?"
She looked into the starry night. "Horatio, this is so beautiful! I love the nights at sea when not a cloud blocks the heavens! And, there's a wind!"
"Indeed." Her arm entwined his. He sighed with satisfaction. He counted himself fortunate. Fortunate indeed. He had just made love to his wife. His ship sailed with fair winds and calm seas. The night was cool. The stars were brilliant. There was not an enemy in sight. And though Gibraltar was drawing near, he still had several nights and days to spend with the woman he loved, in the service he was dedicated to, on a ship with a worthy crew and captain, on a sea that bore them with peace.
They were on the third trip around the waist when Dr. Sebastian came on deck. . He moved to the fo'csle anticipating some time for reflection and a few smokes. They did not see him as he made his way there and he chose to pass the couple without comment.
On the fourth trip around the two stopped to starboard. Horatio wrapped her in his cloak, further shielding her from the night breeze. She hugged him, nestling in his chest. She sighed feeling secure, loved, happy. Looking toward the fo'csle, Horatio saw the tip of his cheroot glow as he inhaled, then a stream smoke caught in the lantern light carried in the wind forward. He looked down at Pamela wondering if he should tell her he was there.
"Dr. Sebastian is on the fo'csle."
"Yes. I see his cheroot glowing in the darkness."
She hesitated thinking. "Dear. I would like to speak with him."
"Very well. Let's go."
"I want to speak to him ...alone."
He looked into her eyes, caressed her cheek. "Let me see you safely up the stairs."
He stood beneath making sure she had a firm footing on the raised deck before he left her.
She inhaled hoping to breath in courage to apologize, to seek the knowledge that he might share with her. She pulled her cloak closer feeling the coolness of the evening, walking towards him.
He saw her coming. Her dress made him think of the nuns back at his home by the sea. He took a final drag on his near spent cheroot, flicked it overboard, prayed that he would say the right things to her, and that she would forgive him for what he had done.
"Good evening, Dr. Sebastian."
"And to you, Mrs. Hornblower."
She inhaled. "It's a beautiful evening tonight isn't it? The stars look close enough to touch."
"Indeed they do, Mrs. Hornblower. Like diamonds in the sunlight," he smiled.
She turned from him to look larboard. She breathed in suddenly, causing him to turn quickly. "Look at Dolphin! I had not seen her back there! Isn't she beautiful! Oh, she's lovely! Look how her sails reflect the starshine! The white waves kissing her bow. Oh!" The affection for the ship in her voice made him wonder. She had lost her father there, but she had found a love. The ship was beautiful on the water, but he felt it held more for her than mere surface beauty. He smiled to himself. He could hear the Pamela he had come to know in her voice, not the angry one whose bottom received his wrath.
"Dolphin is a lovely ship, Mrs. Hornblower. I think she shall always hold a special place in your heart."
She turned to smile at him, having forgotten the serious nature of her visit. His face reminded her though. She looked away from him. "Dr. Sebastian," she started slowly, "I behaved dreadfully last night. I have come to ask you to forgive me for being so mean and ungrateful. I do appreciate you examining me, putting my and Horatio's minds at rest. I realize there could have been something more seriously wrong with me. I was totally out of line with my reactions. Can you forgive me, sir?" She placed her hand on his arm, looking into his dark eyes.
He sighed, placing his hand over hers. "I forgive you, dear lady. Can you forgive me? I had no right to lay a hand on you in such a manner. I am thoroughly disappointed that I allowed myself to lose my temper. I know my outburst must have angered you. I feel great remorse and I have prayed that I might apologize to you and that I would never do such a thing again in my life. It has burdened me heavily."
"Dr. Sebastian, it was totally my doing." Tears began to stream down her cheeks. "The fault lies with me. It was my attitude that brought on your anger and frustration. I know I frustrate people. I don't behave as ladies are expected, but I can't be someone I am not. It would be a lie."
He released her hand to pull his handkerchief from his pocket. "Now, now. No tears. No tears." He dabbed her cheeks carefully. "All in all, last night was a difficult time for both of us. Only forgiveness will smooth its memory. And who says you do not behave as a lady? Well, for the most part anyway." He smiled. She chuckled through her tears. "Tell me you forgive me and let us be done with it."
She sniffed. "I forgive you, sir."
He pulled her to him. "And now here am I doing another improper thing. Hugging the wife of a fellow officer."
"I won't tell."
He released her. "Thank you, ma'am. Not for just promising not to tell, but for your forgiveness."
She sighed using his handkerchief to dry her face. She handed it back to him. Moving to the rail, she let the wind cool her hot cheeks. It blew off her hood. The wind began to tug at her hair gently pulling it from the confines of her cloak. He watched her enjoying the breeze, noting the darkness of her bruises.
"Dr. Sebastian, why were you asking me about being pregnant last night?"
"I must apologize for that as well, Mrs. Hornblower. I can only say I had been meaning to ask you if you had thought about the possibility of becoming pregnant. It is another example of letting my temper run. I am deeply sorry. Can you forgive me for that?"
"Of course. Of course, doctor. But tell me, why were you pressing me there? Could you feel, ... can you feel a baby when it would be so small?"
He sighed. "Mrs. Hornblower, I am dedicated to my profession. But I must confess there is much we do not know." He moved to lean on the rail next to her. "As I said last night, we know the joining of a man and a woman can produce offspring. Obviously, it does not happen every time they join, for I know couples who have desired children their entire married life and have never been blessed with a one. I can easily say it is God's handiwork, and it is to a certain point, but I believe He set laws in motion that govern our existence. He would not be so arbitrary to deny a happy couple children, and then make the young girl raped by an assailant an unhappy mother. It is more than I can fathom when I try to mix the sin of man with a merciful God. Many times I must answer in faith that He will make all things work together for good."
"I understand, doctor, you are saying it cannot be known how or when a woman is with child. But if she is, can it be known earlier than when it is obvious?"
He studied her face. "You were raised by your father, were you not?"
"Yes, mostly. I have a sister, but she is eight years older than I, and she was gone before I...before I reached womanhood. My father did his best, but some things I did not ask of him, and my friends, when I tried to speak of such things, were too embarrassed to even let me form my questions. The darkie who cared for me in our home would just shake her head and say *You'll know when the time comes*. I love Junie, but she was not much help either."
Sebastian took her hand and squeezed it. "I will tell you what I know. I questioned you about your cycle..."
"You mean monthlies, don't you?"
"Yes, your monthlies. I questioned you to find out if it was still coming as it should. When a woman becomes pregnant, the monthlies stop. We don't know why, but I am assuming it has something to do with the child growing inside her. It is only logical since both items occur in the same organ of the female body. The curious thing is that even after the child is born, the monthlies may not return for some time. The only occasion I had to learn something further was when a woman, a mother of ten, no less, was very vocal and frustrated that her monthlies had returned when she was still nursing her last child. She said a very curious thing. She said that in all her child bearing and nursing days that she had never had her monthlies return while she was still breast feeding a child and she thought something was wrong with her. I have not had the opportunity to study pregnancy, child bearing, care before and after birth. I think some day doctors shall totally commit themselves to the care and practice of treating women. It is something sorely needed if only someone would take the time to learn. If only men and women were not afraid to speak of such things to one another." He smiled at her. "Someone like you, Mrs. Hornblower, not afraid to speak, not afraid to ask questions."
"But, can you know if someone is pregnant by touching them?"
"You refer to my abdominal examination last night,"
"I confess, dear lady. I do not know. Once the child is large enough, yes, but in the beginning stages, I simply do not know. Forgive me for using you as a learning specimen."
She smiled and took his hand this time. "It's all right. I don't mind."
"Do you want children, Mrs. Hornblower?"
"Oh, Dr. Sebastian, you just don't know. I love Horatio so much, I want his child so much, I ache inside. If you could tell me I am carrying his child right now, I would shout!"
He grinned at her. "I believe you would."
"Is there anything else that might tell me when... when I could be carrying his child? Other than the monthlies stopping?"
"Well, I have not treated many pregnancies as I told you. But, one sign could be increased appetite. Cravings for strange food combinations, one husband told me. Another husband came to me at a loss for what to do telling me his wife was sometimes an angel one moment and a devil the next." He chortled remembering the poor man. "There is much we do not know. I am sorry to say it." He decided to leave off a discussion about death related pregnancies. It was too close to home.
She sighed, looking down at the deck. "I could be with child couldn't I, Dr. Sebastian?"
"You said last night your monthlies had not come as usual. It is a possibility, but I would wait for the next time around. If they do not appear by next month, then you may well be."
She squealed, hugged him, and kissed him on the cheek. "Thank you, Dr. Sebastian." She turned to go. The next thing she knew she was laying flat on the deck.
"Mrs. Hornblower!" Dr. Sebastian was helping her to her feet.
"Oh, I must have tripped on something."
"Sit here a moment and catch your breath. He moved her to perch on the rail by the ship's bell. She looked at her forearm. "Let me see you. You have given yourself quite a scrape. Wait a moment and we will go below to take care of it."
She gazed up at him smiling. "Do you think falling could be a sign of pregnancy?"
He chuckled. "I have no idea." He scrunched his forehead in thought. "Mrs. Hornblower, would you be willing to keep a diary?"
"A diary? About my life? Why?"
"Not just about your life, but about your ...body. If you are trying to get pregnant, you could...write down when you and ... oh, forgive me, never mind, it is too personal a subject."
She lay her hand on his arm. "Dr. Sebastian, did you not tell me tonight that it would take men and women talking to one another about such things to better understand them? What do you want me to do?"
He gazed at her. "Mrs. Hornblower, you are a remarkable woman, a very remarkable woman. If Mr. Hornblower were not already married to you I would have to propose to you right now."
"Dr. Sebastian, now you are being silly."
"No, I'm not, and to be truthful, it frightens me."
"Tell me what you want me to put down in the diary."
"Here comes your husband, and we had better go see to your arm."
"Don't say anything to Horatio!" She whispered quickly. "About any of this!"
"My lips are sealed, dear lady."
She inhaled deeply, smiling up at the doctor, and exhaled.