American Encounter Ch 25
Later that afternoon, Indefatigable, the schooner she had dismasted,
Dolphin, and the schooner she had dismasted, made a slow arduous
tack southward to join the fleet. It was discovered Dolphin's
schooner also carried a chest of gold, but that its delegate had
been more successful than Monsieur Tulede to dispose of his dispatches.
Hornblower's discovery had been another example of the luck that
seemed to surround the man.
The first Spanish frigate had sunk beneath the waves, her surviving crew taking refuge in her launch boats. They were held at cannon point until the Indy returned when they were imprisoned in her *gaol* and in Dolphin's. Rampling did not want to take the chance of being overpowered by them so he had held them off until the Indy arrived to assist.
The sun was low in the west when the the little band of ships arrived to nestle among the ships of the line. Pamela stood in awe on the quarter-deck the nearer they came in among the great battleships. The largest of the lot, Jervis's flagship, the Victory, caused her to hold onto her husband's arm in two places exclaiming that she had never seen such a magnificent ship. And, indeed, Victory was impressive! She towered above them. Three gun decks, the top deck, the quarter-deck, her masts going up forever to the heavens, from their vantage point on the Indy. The Leander and the Goliath, both seventy-fours, added the finishing touches to the group of five ships of the line.
The Spanish ships that had been following Dreadnought and Swiftsure had dwindled to two. One had been sunk, one dismasted--El Corazon del Mar, and the other--Santa Isabella, boarded and taken. This was a day when the enemy had run a great risk and the British had beaten them. They were out numbered, out gunned, and out manned. And, indeed, no power on earth had withstood the might of the British Navy.
Pellew had the signal sent that he had captured documents,
captives, and gold. Jervis ordered him to report and deliver.
They moved slowly up along side Victory.
Faces peered down at them as they came in. The tackle was passed and the two chests of gold were brought out. Pellew was glad to have them off his ship. It was a burden he would as soon turn over to the Admiral. It would mean another small sum rewarded to the men and officers in sight during the battles but of greater importance, the dispatches. After unloading the gold, and moving off to ride at station, Pellew was called to deliver them and come to dinner.
Hornblower and Kennedy were both assigned watches despite their past injuries. McMasters captained one of the schooners and Cleveland had the other. The only good thing about the schooners was they did not require much manpower as far as hands. Each took four men with him just for the sake of rest. Dolphin had been given additional marines to guard the Spanish prisoners. Other than that, everything was normal.
Pellew left at the beginning of the second dogwatch. Hornblower was officer of this watch and the next, his idea since the dogwatch lasted but half the time. Midshipman James had suffered a head injury and was off duty at least until tomorrow. Cutter had been wounded and also was under care for the next twenty-four hours. Brandon was again charged with midshipman duties. He was expected to take the morning watch. Kennedy took the middle, Bracegirdle retained the forenoon. The afternoon watch would revert to Kennedy again, and the first dogwatch would be Brandon's. That was the plan, at least, until Indefatigable's crew could be whole once more.
Hornblower sighed watching his Captain being rowed to the Victory. It would be quite a climb from the ocean surface to the waist. *Thank God I don't have to make that climb. I would probably end up in the drink!*
"Quite a sight, eh Mr. Hornblower!"
He jumped. "Mr. Kennedy! You startled me!"
"Guess we're even, then, for this morning!" he said amicably. "She's a beauty, isn't she? Can you imagine being the captain of that ship?" Horatio swallowed at the thought. Archie turned a quizzical smile. "Don't tell me you're speechless?"
"I cannot imagine. Truly."
Archie turned on the quarter-deck taking in the oak built ships riding on the swells around them. "We're in a forest! A forest of ships! Isn't it magnificent?"
Hornblower had to smile at his friend. "You're starting to sound like Pamela!"
"Well where is she anyway? Why isn't she up here enjoying this incredible sight?"
"She saw enough when we came in. She is resting."
"How could one get enough of this!"
Hornblower stared at his friend. He had not heard him take on so since their first view of Indefatigable years ago. He sounded like a child let loose in the toymaker's workshop. "What has gotten into you, Mr. Kennedy?"
"I don't know, Horatio, I just feel exuberant! I have no idea why. Maybe it is because we won today. Or, because we are among so many of our own kind, I don't have to worry about being attacked, blown up, shot at, put to the sword, or hit on the head. Or, maybe it is being set free from the sick berth! Don't you ever have days when you are just happy?" Archie relished the smile he saw on his friend's face. "There! Why don't you do that more?"
"Smile! I mean we won! We captured the enemy! It's just fantastic!"
"Mr. Kennedy, I am beginning to think you have been into the spirit stores. Do you have a purpose for being up here or did you just come to gloat?"
"Gloating is good!" He beamed. "Oh, Horatio! There should be fireworks going off in the heavens!"
"It was only a battle, not the war, Mr. Kennedy! Contain yourself!"
"Oh! I feel like dancing! I should go get your wife!"
"You will do no such thing!"
"Oh, yes, you don't like music." Kennedy shook his head and frowned. "Pity that. I bet Pamela is quite a dancer."
Archie pulled himself up onto the railing, stretched his arms out to either side, and began to tightrope walk the taff rail.
"What the devil are you doing? Have you lost all sense? Get down from there before you fall!"
"I'm all right, Horatio, really."
"Get down! Mr. Kennedy, get down from there this instant or I shall .... Archie, please!"
He began to teeter. "Whoa oh!" Hornblower jumped up to grab his arm pulling him into the quarter-deck. He tumbled down on top of him with a thud. Archie leaned up on his elbow. Hornblower's hat was askew on his head. Archie started laughing.
"Damn it, Archie! Get off of me!" Hornblower rolled him off so he could sit up. Archie rolled over on his back pointing at Hornblower's hat laughing all the harder.
"What the devil is going on up here?" demanded Bracegirdle. Hornblower turned to look at him. Bracegirdle had to fight down a chuckle seeing Pellew's reserved officer sitting on his bum with his hat awry. Hornblower came to his feet.
"Sorry, Mr. Bracegirdle, sir." He extended his hand to help Archie up. "Mr. Kennedy fell, sir." He pulled his hat around straight. The two stood still before their superior officer. Kennedy still trying desperately to stifle his laughter.
"Mr. Kennedy. Have you been drinking?"
He shook his head no then said, "No, sir."
"Is this your watch?"
"Well, it is now. You are on duty, sir. Deport yourself to fit the station."
"Does that mean, sir..." began Hornblower.
"No. You are still on watch as well, Mr. Hornblower. This is a ship of His Majesty's Navy and I expect to see officers on the quarter-deck not a couple of school yard ruffians. Do I make myself clear? For God's sake we're in sight of the Victory, man! Not to mention four other ships of the line. If Captain Pellew saw what I saw here tonight...you don't want to know what he would do!"
Kennedy was duly chastised. Bracegirdle left them. He glanced over at the scowl on his friend's face. "Sorry, Horatio."
Hornblower sighed, and walked away from his friend muttering under his breath.
Pellew returned at five bells. He was piped aboard as usual, though he regretted not ordering the pipes away so as not to disturb his sleeping men. He saluted the quarter-deck, then entered his cabin. A short time later, the Captain suddenly appeared on the quarter-deck.
"Captain Pellew, sir."
Pellew walked to the side gazing in the star shine at Victory riding less than a cable length away. He sighed. Hornblower joined him.
"She's a beauty, sir."
"Indeed, sir. A magnificent fighting machine." He turned to glance at his leftenant. "I am glad I caught you up here before your watch ended. Admiral Jervis wants to meet you tomorrow. We are expected for breakfast."
"Yes, I told him you were the one to discover the dispatches. He was most impressed at your observations."
"Thank you, sir."
"And, the two delegates, Mr. Tulede and the man from Rampling's
ship. I did not think to ask Rampling his name. Anyway, we shall
need to collect him as well before we row over. It will be an
early rising, Mr. Hornblower. The Admiral is anxious to return
to Gibraltar. The two Spanish prizes and our two French ones,
not to mention the gold, will put a tidy sum into our pockets.
That should help you out financially with your new *family*."
A slight smile moved over Pellew's lips. "Not to mention Dolphin! We will not have to share her prize money with anyone. This has been a profitable if somewhat confused and lengthy assignment."
Hornblower stood listening to his captain, wondering how much he would receive in prize money, wondering if, indeed, he had not just a wife but a family. He exhaled at the thought. How his life had changed from just a few weeks ago! Responsibility. It made him feel older, it made him feel taller. He straightened his shoulders, clasping his hands more tightly behind him. And now, the Admiral of the White wanted to see him! And with that, he would set foot on Victory! One of the grandest of His Majesty's first rates.
"What of the dispatches, sir? Are we to know their contents?"
"Their destination was Ireland. The French are trying to enlist the Irish to their cause, Mr. Hornblower." Pellew frowned, studying the deck at his feet. "I pray the Irish would be smarter than that. Bonaparte would crush them, eventually."
Movement in the waist caught his eye. Kennedy. He walked forward to the ship's bell, rang it eight times, and made his way to join Hornblower. He hid his surprise at seeing Pellew.
"Good evening, Captain, Mr. Hornblower," saluted Kennedy.
"Ah, Mr. Kennedy. Just the man I need to see."
Kennedy held his breath glancing anxiously at Hornblower.
Had his antics been revealed?
"You have the middle watch, I see. At its end, I want you to assemble a boat crew, row over to Dolphin and pick up the French delegate from Rampling, return here for Mr. Hornblower and myself and row us to Victory."
"Aye, aye, sir."
"And, Kennedy, before you leave for Dolphin send your watch crewman to waken Mr. Hornblower and myself."
"Aye, aye, sir."
"Mr. Hornblower you had best get your rest. We have a busy day ahead of us tomorrow, wind willing. And, I shall say I believe it will be." He searched the flags at mast noting their direction.
Hornblower returned to his cabin his mind full of speculation. He undressed slowly being preoccupied with what his captain had shared with him. He inclined his head at his sleeping wife with a half smile. His chest was brimming with opportunity as he slipped into the bunk arranging the sleeping position that had become familiar in their last few days together. Rethinking the day, he looked for some error he had made, some laxity. He knew there had to be something he had misjudged. But the only thing he could find, was his failure to maintain his balance, slipping into the water when he reached for the first dispatch he sighted bobbing under Indefatigables hull. A swell had revealed it beneath her, and a swell had nearly let the Indy down on his head! There was Kennedy's manic behavior, but he did not feel like he needed anymore responsibility for that than he was already given. Thank you, Mr. Bracegirdle! The Victory. He was going to set foot on the Victory. He sighed. And, meet old Jervy.
"What's all that sighing?" asked Pamela sleepily, feeling her head rise and fall with each inhale and exhale.
"Nothing, my lady. Go back to sleep."
She ran her hand over his chest. "Love you."
He kissed her forehead. "I love you."
Knocking brought him from a light sleep. "Mr. Hornblower."
He did not feel that he had been asleep for hours. It felt
more like minutes.
He arose to open his cabin door. "Yes, Styles?"
"Mr. Kennedy sent me ta wake ye, sir. And, this here is from Mr. Brandon. He says to give it to Mrs. Hornblower if she has a temperature."
Hornblower yawned, scratching his head as he took the cup. "Thank you, Styles." He stared into the brown liquid. Sebastian had said nothing about this. He sat it down and studied his sleeping wife. Gently he put his hand to her forehead. Lighting the candle from the beam lantern, he studied her face. Her cheeks were flushed. He put his hand on her forehead again. There was another knock. He answered the door. "Yes?"
"Yer shavin' water, sir. And, Captain Pellew said to remind you to wear yer dress uniform. And here's a coffee fer ye, sir. Captain's orders."
"Thank you, Jenkins." Setting the two containers on his table, he returned to her side. She did indeed have a fever. He shook his head with concern. Taking the cup, he began to rub her back. "Pamela." He smoothed the hair on the side of her head. "Pamela," he said gently. "Sit up, dear, Mr. Brandon has sent a potion for you."
She pulled herself up on her elbow, taking the cup from him, and drinking. He petted her head until she had finished. She gave him the cup and lay back down with a sigh. He prepped his things to shave, half dressing. Rousing herself from sleep, she opened her eyes to watch him.
"What time is it, Horatio?"
"Its early. Go back to sleep."
"It's hot in here." She kicked her covers off.
"You have a fever. You should stay covered." She lay quiet studying him as he shaved. He smiled at her. "Go back to sleep." He finished shaving, put on a clean shirt, waistcoat, and neckerchief. She saw his dress coat laid out over her chest.
Smiling at him, she said, "Awfully early for a dress uniform."
"I am to meet the Admiral."
"Really?" She gasped with delight. "Horatio! That's wonderful! Isn't it?"
He chuckled. "In this case, yes."
"You're going to the Victory?"
"That's marvelous, darling! I'm so pleased." She rolled over onto her back, staring at the monkey knot in the ceiling. "I'd love to climb those masts. I bet you could see clear to America on those."
Pulling on his topcoat, he sat on the bed beside her. She
turned her gaze to him. He ran his hand over her forehead to
her cheek. His touch was cool on her fevered skin. Worry filled
his features. She kissed his palm, then reached to smooth the
curl from his forehead with a smile. He bent over her to embrace
her, putting his cool cheek next to her hot one.
"I'll see you later this morning," he whispered. He released her to rub his hand over her forehead once more.
"You look handsome in your uniform!"
He arose, put his hat on his head, and moved to open the cabin door. She turned on her side to watch him go. Hesitating, he took a mental picture of her there in his bunk. He thought of Pellew's words about the wind last night and knew she would not fill it much longer. He leaned far over to blow out the candle and retrieve his coffee. "Go back to sleep, now."
"Aye, aye, sir," she said softly.
The coffee was still warm enough to have an effect. The morning air was cool as he stood in the waist. He walked to the rail where he could see the longboat pulled up beside Dolphin, then, to the other side to view Victory. He glanced around the entire area taking in all the ships hove to together. He had never been in such a large convoy before. To be stationed on one of those in a line of battle, what must that be like?
Pellew joined him, looking toward Dolphin. "Ah, I see
Mr. Kennedy has the Frenchman."
Two marines appeared from below escorting Mr. Tulede.
"Bon jour, capeetan. Must we be called so airlee?"
"Good morning, Mr. Tulede. You are being transferred to the Admiral's flagship. We are waiting for Mr. Kennedy to arrive with your compatriot."
Tulede walked to the side staring at the longboat. "Hmph." He had a slight air of disgust about him as he considered the man that was his comrade in arms. "It is too bad you did not blow him up with one of your cannonballs. I cannot stand ze man! Your admiral will not make us room togethair, will he?"
Pellew was astonished to hear the Frenchman speak so frankly. But then he had always suspected that even a Frenchman hated a Frenchman. He wondered that the nation was able to repopulate itself. The female of the species must act as a buffer.
"I cannot answer for the admiral, Mr. Tulede."
Hornblower stared at the launch as Kennedy came nearer. His friend seemed strangely drawn up as he handled the tiller. He looked at the Frenchman. Something about him seemed oddly familiar.
"Come, Mr. Hornblower, let us be ready."
Styles gave Hornblower a wary look as he held onto the Indy for the three passengers to join them. Pellew settled in close to Kennedy. Hornblower caught a look from Kennedy as he took a seat across from the other delegate. Looking up he understood the reason for the expressions on Kennedy and Styles. He glanced at Matthews' tightly clinched jaw, then back into the face of his old adversary, Etienne DeVergesse.
The Frenchman glared at Hornblower having the satisfaction of surprising him with his presence. "We meet again, Lieutenant Hornblower."
Pellew knitted his brow at the verbal and nonverbal exchange between the Frenchman and his officer. "You know this man, Mr. Hornblower?" he questioned.
"Yes, Captain. This is Colonel Etienne DeVergesse of the French army. We met in Spain."
Tulede watched the interactions with interest. He clearly recognized the dislike for DeVergesse in the English leftenant, with some satisfaction.
"I must correct you, Mr. Hornblower. I am no longer in
the army. I am a delegate of the Republic of France, Citizen
DeVergesse will do." He looked back at Kennedy at the tiller.
"I see you and Mr. Kennedy continue in the service of His Majesty's Navy. At least, so it appears."
Pellew listened to the innuendo in the Frenchman's tone. "Mr. Hornblower, the only time you have been in Spain was while you were in captivity."
"Yes, sir. Colonel DeVergesse saw fit to murder one of my men. One of our men, sir." He corrected himself.
Pellew could feel the animosity grow in the longboat, looking at the faces of the crewmen rowing, aware that several of them had been in the prison with Hornblower. That explained the tension he was picking up from Kennedy as well.
"I executed him for a spy, Mr. Hornblower. It was not murder."
Pellew noted the crewmen missing a stroke at their oars.
"We were not spies!"
DeVergesse smirked at him. "So you say."
"Silence!" ordered Pellew. "We will not begin another battle in this longboat, gentlemen. Is that clear?"
"Most clear, Captain," simpered DeVergesse.
Hornblower averted his eyes from the Frenchman. His presence
brought to mind, not only the death of the crewman and all the
mistreatment to himself and Styles, but also the manner in which
he behaved towards Kitty Cobham. DeVergesse was clearly no gentleman.
He looked back at him to see him quietly pleased with himself.
How he wished he could wipe that smirk off his filthy Frog face!
Kennedy guided the longboat to Victory's side. "Toss your oars!" Oars raised, she glided into position. Styles grabbed the side, once again, to hold the longboat for the officers to exit. Pellew went up first. DeVergesse was next. Styles locked eyes with DeVergesse briefly. As he stepped onto the boat bench, he slipped hitting his chin against the side of Victory.
"Oh, sir, are ye all right?" asked Styles as he roughly helped him to his feet, nearly sending him over the side. "These seas can be treacherous going from boat to ship, sir. Best ye mind yer step."
DeVergesse put his hand to his lip. Blood trickled down his chin. He said something to Styles in French, most assuredly not a thank you. "I protest, Mr. Hornblower! He tripped me!"
"Mr. Styles would never do such a thing, sir. He is correct in the need for care when transferring boat to ship."
DeVergesse glared at him and muttered another curse in French. He took firm hold of the step rails to ascend to the deck. Tulede followed him.
Hornblower looked long at Styles who lowered his eyes sheepishly then said, "Mind yer step, Mr. Hornblower."
On the deck of Victory, Pellew waited for the Frenchmen. Admiral Jervis walked to join him, desiring to have a look at the French delegates.
DeVergesse entered the waist in a huff speaking to Tulede. They began arguing in French. Pellew noted the blood streaming from his lower lip. Hornblower joined them.
"What is all this Captain Pellew?" asked Jervis.
DeVergesse butted in to answer. "That crewman tripped me!"
"He did not! Citizen Devergesse slipped in ze boat!" offered Tulede. The two Frenchmen again exchanged words.
"What do you say, Sir Edward?"
Pellew studied Hornblower for a moment, glanced at the Frenchmen. "I would not wish to gainsay what Mr. Tulede expresses, sir." The Frenchmen were still arguing.
"Silence!" ordered Jervis. Hornblower stared at the Admiral then looked to his Captain. "Which of you is the senior officer?" he inquired of the Frenchmen.
"I am, monsieur," said Tulede with satisfaction.
Jervis looked at DeVergesse. "Any junior officer that disputes the word of a senior in His Majesty's Navy had better have witnesses to back him up. Do you, sir, have witnesses?"
DeVergesse looked at Hornblower angrily. "No, I do not!"
"Captain Perkins, take these Frenchmen below until I am ready to interview them. See, Mr...."
"Tulede is given appropriate quarters for his rank."
Tulede bowed. DeVergesse began to argue with him in French again. Tulede threw up his hands as he followed the Captain below, continuing to exchange words with his countryman.
Jervis turned his attention to Pellew and Hornblower. "What a way to start the day! Eh, Captain Pellew? It's a wonder those Frenchies aren't in a civil war the way they carry on." "Come gentlemen. We must not let our breakfast get cold."
They were ushered into the large day cabin in the stern of the ship. The Victory was fifty-two feet abeam. The long dining table accommodated more than twenty men! The varnished wooden floors and walls reflected a sheen from the sconced candles and beam lanterns. White linen covered the table. China sporting a blue anchor sat at each place. A tray of breakfast condiments centered every four places. Pewter utensils and a linen napkin bordered the plates. A small division of servants delivered the components of the breakfast meal, including fresh eggs, gammon, freshly baked bread, and steaming pots of coffee or tea! There were even broiled mushrooms, half a broiled tomato, and beans! What kind of galley existed here? Hornblower and Pellew were seated opposite each other. Hornblower's eyes were large at the lavish array set before him. He blinked at Pellew who contained a smirk at his leftenant's surprise.
The Admiral was announcing a long list of assembled dining guests. Hornblower had enough presence of mind to acknowledge them with a nod and a relaxed smile.
"Mr. Hornblower, I understand we have you to thank for the dispatches recovered from the French delegates. I commend you on your quick thinking, sir," commented Jervis.
But even though this was navy fare, something clicked, and he saw himself seated at another fine table not far from his prison cell, a table in Spain, set by the servants of Don Masserado. Jervis waited for an answer. Pellew stared at his leftenant realizing his mind was miles away. Taking careful aim so as not to hit the Victory leftenant sitting next to him, he kicked him in the shin. Hornblower's head whipped up to his captain, recalling the words echoing in his head. He turned to Admiral Jervis, "Thank you, sir, but anyone could have seen them." Pellew closed his eyes and shook his head slightly.
"But not just anyone did. Were you ordered to check the hull, sir?"
"No, Admiral, but there was time and opportunity..."
"Nevertheless, if you had not chosen to do so we would have never known the plottings of old Boney! Well done, sir, well done."
"Thank you, sir." He glanced at his captain who seemed satisfied with his unqualified answer of thanks.
Jervis seemed uncommonly personable after all he had heard rumored about the tough naval commander. "Leftenant Hornblower, how long is it you have been in the service?" asked Jervis.
"Six years, sir."
"Sounds like all you need is the right campaign to push you over to commander status. What do you think, Sir Edward?"
"Mr. Hornblower has served me well, sir. I believe a great future awaits him, though I shall regret his loss."
"Indeed, sir. The best do go on to promotion, and we lose them as subordinates. Though in my case, I've pretty much got all of you!" Pellew, Hornblower, Captain Perkins, the ship's doctor, and the assorted Victory leftenants in attendance chuckled. "It's just the proximity!" Jervis sipped from his cup. "I understand you've captained a number of prizes, Mr. Hornblower. What did you discover between the two ranks, sir, leftenant to captain?"
Hornblower inhaled wondering how much more of the Admiral's attention he would be getting. "A captain has far more responsibility, sir. The decisions required can weigh heavily. And, the welfare of the crew and the ship is always present."
"Indeed, sir. I like the way you put your crew first. I can see your captain has taught you well."
Hornblower smiled. "I hope, sir, that I might live up to my captain's expectations," and then thought he did not live up to his division's. He had not put his crew first. If he had he would have punched DeVergesse in his smirking face as he sat across from him in the boat. Glancing at Pellew, he wondered if he guessed at the injury caused to DeVergesse and his part in it. Silence implied acquiescence. He knew Styles tripped him. But he could never take action against Styles after what DeVergesse did to him in Spain. It could only compound the injustice done to the seaman. He berated himself. He should have hit him. Slammed his fist into that smug look on his face! There would never be another opportunity. DeVergesse deserved it and more. So why was he feeling guilty? Because of his silence to protect Styles? Because he failed to take some action in retribution against the fiend? It was both, and it was Pellew. Whichever he did would disappoint his commander, he was sure. Would he ask him later about the incident in the boat? God, he hoped not! He did not want to answer that question.
The conversation turned to others in attendance at last. The battle was discussed between the British and Spanish ships. Pellew inserted a comment now and then about Indefatigables part in the previous day's activities. Hornblower's mind moved from the discussion back to his imprisonment in Spain. He recalled the Almeira breaking up on the reef and the cold hours adrift in the storm with his men and Kitty Cobham. And, with her recollection came DeVergesse. His very name sounded serpentine in his thoughts, hissing out the final syllable. He wished he had challenged him to a duel. He looked up to see his captain staring at him.
The meal ended. Hornblower was dismissed for a brief tour of Victory while Jervis had parting words with Pellew. The first leftenant took him to view the gundecks, galley, sick berth, officers quarters. The galley stove particularly impressed him. It was huge! About six feet square! No wonder they had fresh bread! Though the flag leftenant assured him such delights were only for special occasions, or visitors.
It took about thirty minutes to traverse the seven decks back and forth. They emerged into the waist in the warm morning sun. Hornblower stood staring up at the main mast. The leftenant followed his gaze.
"Long way up, Mr. Hornblower," he said with satisfaction.
"Yes. I imagine you could see America from up there," he said sadly with a smile.
The leftenant laughed. "Almost, sir, almost!"
Pellew met him surprised to hear the Victory's leftenant laughing over something Hornblower said. Saw that his leftenant was still in his melancholy mood, even after walking the numerous decks of Victory. Pellew sighed at the sight of him, wanting to put a hand on his shoulder and inquire after his thoughts. Could he not take joy in the attentions of Jervis? A man that could do his career good? Someone to know in high places? What was troubling him now? The French delegate he knew from Spain? Or, was it the impending arrival at Gibraltar? Would the opportunity to speak with his leftenant before arriving at the Rock present itself? It seemed the closer they came to the British Colony the more somber he was becoming. He almost began to regret the loss of Pamela. That thought jolted him out of his musings! Signal flags called the longboat back to collect them. It was time they were away. Gibraltar beckoned in the distance.
Mid-morning and the two Spanish ships were now manned by crews from the Victory. The Santa Isabella would be towing El Corazon del Mar. Victory would lead off with Dreadnought following, then, the Spanish prizes, Goliath, Leander, Swiftsure, the two small schooners, Dolphin, and Indefatigable bringing up the rear.
Indefatigable sat at a position forward of the rest of the fleet. Each ship would pass by her as she waited to take her position. Pamela stood at the back of the quarter-deck watching the different ships make sail. Men from the other vessels gave her a curious look as they passed. She held Horatio's glass to eye watching the preparations, walking from one side of the taff to the other.
Pellew stood with Bracegirdle and Bowles watching for their moment to follow, feeling like a father with his errant girl-child playing out of his sight, but knowing all along she was there. There to pique the interests of inquisitive eyes. Only the occasional fidget of his clasped hands, or sidelong views of passing sailors gave away his knowledge of her presence. Secretly, he felt proud of her interest in things naval, especially British Naval. It almost seemed like some kind of victory to know his British leftenant had so captured this American female. He did not let himself see it the other way, after all they were on a British ship, not an American one. They were sailing to a British Colony, not an ex-British Colony, not a United States of America. He harumphed at the thought.
He let his eyes rest on Hornblower, pinching back a smile from his lips. He had caught the cautious quick glances he gave her. His eyes narrowed to examine his thoughts. Was he living vicariously through his ... *Go on, Pellew* he thought. *You'll never say it! Can't you even let yourself think it? Oh, very well* he conceded to himself, *my son. Living vicariously through my son. Why shouldn't I want to see him happy? Maybe Pamela would survive childbirth. Some women did. Just because his wife and Sebastian's had not* He turned his head slightly listening to her footsteps behind him walking from side to side. Hornblower was doing the same. Pellew inhaled. *Damn it, why doesn't he go back there and take her in his arms? Don't be a fool, Pellew. He would never do that! Not Mr. Hornblower. Not...Horatio. My God, Pellew! You never cease to astound me! You've called the boy by his Christian name! Oh shut up! I'll call him whatever I damn well please! Jervy was right, you know. There will come a day when you will lose him. Don't say lose him! He mustn't....he must not....You've gone soft, Edward! Can't you even say it? No, I can not! I will not! I will not even let the thought form! When he leaves me, it will be due to a promotion! Maybe to a ship of the line! But, not that....not that. You're talking to yourself, Edward. So what? No one can hear me. Who else have I got to converse with. Maybe if Kitty were here. Don't let yourself think of her, for God's sake!* He closed his eyes until the thought had passed.
Hornblower, Kennedy, Cutter, James, Sebastian and Brandon stood dotted about the deck. No one wanted to miss the sight of so many fellow craft. Even the crew was turned out. Many perched in the shrouds watching the spectacle. The wind had turned to come out of the northwest, was steady, but not too strong. It would be an easy day's sail with bright sunshine that should see them well nigh to the Straits. The temperature was warm but comfortable.
At last, Dolphin passed by them. Rampling, Lasky, Garner,
and her compliment of men were turned out for the parade of ships
as well. They saluted Indefatigable as they passed.
Bowles gave the order for sail. As the canvas tightened against the wind, Indy took up the starboard tack to match the vessels before her.
"That was marvelous, Captain!" exclaimed Dr. Sebastian grinning broadly. "It makes me proud to be in the British Navy."
Pellew arched an eyebrow at him. "Indeed, Doctor."
The men who were not on duty made their way below to rest. Brandon, who had been up since three a.m., struggled to cover a yawn. He glanced back to Pamela leaning against the larboard rail staring in the distance. Hornblower was speaking in low tones with Kennedy. He stepped back to join her.
"With all the commotion I had not a moment to inquire. How are you today?"
"Well, sir. Thank you for the tea. I did have a slight fever this morning, but I am feeling better now."
"A little, but you put the ginger in the tea again. Yes?"
"Yes. I figured it would not hurt you, and if you needed it, well..."
She placed her hand on his forearm. "You are an excellent doctor, Mr. Brandon. Thank you for thinking of me."
"I will send some with you when you leave us, ma'am, including instructions for amounts and so on. Just in case."
She stared at him a moment wondering if Sebastian had taken him into his confidence about her suspected condition. She looked past him to Horatio, then back. "Thank you, Mr. Brandon. You are most kind."
"Enjoy the day, ma'am." He bowed and left her. Stepping up behind Cutter he took his arm. "Mr. Cutter, time you took your ease. You too, Mr. James."
"I'm feeling fine, Mr. Brandon, really," offered Cutter.
"Let the doctor be the judge, Mr. Cutter," ordered Brandon.
Sebastian turned to see him gathering their flock of infirm. "Captain, Mr. Brandon reminds me it is time for me to return to duty. I need to make my rounds, sir. Gentlemen." He bent his head to bow adieu. He joined Pamela. "How are you this fine morning, Mrs. Hornblower?"
"Good morning, Dr. Sebastian. I am better. Thank you. Would you escort me to the waist, Doctor?"
As the two passed Hornblower, he inquired, "Is everything all right?"
"Yes, Mr. Hornblower. Dr. Sebastian is seeing me to the
waist," answered Pamela.
Sebastian went down the ladder before her so she might hold onto his shoulders as she descended.
Hornblower was about to follow her down. He was off duty until the second dog watch.
"Mr. Hornblower," called Pellew.
"Sir?" He stepped to join his Captain near the helm.
"I have been considering Gibraltar. I think it might be best if I wrote a letter of introduction to your wife's solicitor. It might help to smooth things for her so the man is not completely taken by surprise when she meets him."
"Thank you, sir. That would seem a prudent path to take."
"About that man, DeVergesse. Is there something more you wish to tell me, sir?"
Hornblower frowned thinking about his conversation with Kennedy. "He is no gentleman, sir. I would not trust him to keep his word. As I said in the boat, he executed one of our men and was about to execute Mr. Kennedy when the prison warden arrived to stop him. He is power hungry, sir, and would do whatever he deemed necessary to promote himself."
"I see. Thank you for your insights. Carry on, Mr. Hornblower."
"Thank you , sir."
Sebastian escorted Pamela forward to the fo'csle attending her climb there. They took a position next to the foremast.
"Dr. Sebastian, does Mr. Brandon know about...what... I mean... is he aware I may be expecting?"
"I have not told him, ma'am."
"Did you know he sent me tea this morning without my asking?"
A curious look came over the doctor. "No, I did not."
She sighed. "Doctor...I become more and more convinced I carry a child. I believe I have morning sickness. Are you aware of it?"
"Yes. I know some women get queasy in the beginning months of pregnancy."
"And, I as well. My sister had bouts of it with two of her children." She gazed at the deck, a smile forming on her lips.
"Will you tell Mr. Hornblower?"
"No. Not yet. Not yet." She looked into his dark eyes. "Do you think I should?"
"You must do as you think best, my lady. If you still wish to wait to be sure, that is well, also." He clasped her hand between his. "I will miss you when you leave us at Gibraltar."
She felt her eyes beginning to fill. "Thank you, Doctor. I will miss you, too. You have been a good and kind friend. And a marvelous surgeon to have saved so many of us with your skill. If I did not say thank you before, let me say it now. For myself and for Horatio. Knowing you will be with him on his ship will ease my mind."
Sebastian felt himself redden and shook his head. "Once more Mrs. Hornblower you bring a blush to my cheek." He bowed slightly. "Thank you for your confidence in my abilities. I will strive not to disappoint." He released her hand, turning to go. She watched him until he descended to the deck below.
The bow was even in the gentle but steady breeze. She stepped closer to the sprit. Something caught her eye. She moved closer to the rail. Below, gliding on the water pushed by Indy's bow swam a small group of dolphin. One jumped from the water. She moved closer to watch. Grabbing onto the line, she pulled herself up to the sprit. Holding the line of the jib sail, she inched out further. The clothes she wore were not conducive to climbing about the ship, but she knew her opportunities diminished the longer they sailed eastward. To experience such delight as these sea creatures exhibited was not to be missed. She laughed at the apparent enjoyment of going with the press of the frigate, canting her head to watch them.
Hornblower stood in the waist looking about him when Sebastian appeared at his side.
"Are you looking for Mrs. Hornblower, sir?"
"Yes, Doctor. Did she go below?"
"No, sir. She is on the fo'csle."
Hornblower was not ready for the image that met him. He could see her skirts below the jib sail. He felt his heart stop. Moving to the weather side, he could see her standing on the sprit looking into the ocean. He did not want to startle her. It might cause her to fall. He felt his heart climb to his throat. Following her gaze, he saw the dolphin gliding on the wave Indy pushed before her. She was not aware of him. Stepping quickly, he came up behind her grabbing her waist. He felt her wobble in his arms as he held to the lines.
Breathing a sigh of relief, he said, "Pamela! You are going to give me heart failure, my lady!" He did not have it in him to rail at her today. He pulled her closer against him.
"Look, Horatio! Aren't they a wonder! They always seem to have a smile on their face, don't you think?" She tried to turn to look at him, but he held her fast where she was. She realized then, that she had scared him. "Darling, I am all right. You should not worry about me!" She put her hand over his around her waist, bent her head back and kissed him on the cheek.
"Please, Pamela. Let us back off carefully." All he could think of was her falling off the bow and getting run over by the ship. It had happened before. The barnacles on the hull ripping the flesh off the seaman. He did not survive. As they stepped onto the solid deck of the forecastle, he held her in his arms not thinking where he was. He held her for moments. She felt him shaking.
"Horatio! Dear, I did not mean to frighten you!"
He released his hold, putting his hand on the side of her cheek, studying her. His own features revealed a forlorn worry. "What am I to do with you?" He pulled her into his arms again. Feeling her warmth, smelling her hair. He closed his eyes tightly. She wrapped him in her arms, looking around. No one to see them, the launches blocking the view from the quarter-deck. Once again he released her. He still felt himself trembling.
"I ... I wanted to watch the dolphins." She placed her hand on his chest feeling his heart beating quickly. "I'm sorry, sweetheart. I won't do it again." Would that promise assuage his fears? She decided to try to soften the subject. "Darling," she took his hand pulling him to the rail, "Look. Aren't they beautiful?" She pulled his hand to her lips, then turned to face him, leaning against the rail. "Whenever you see one of them, think of me. And know I am thinking of you. Always."
He came back to himself, remembering where he was. Turning, he glanced around the fo'csle, up into the masts, back towards the quarter-deck. It did not appear that they were observed. He looked back at her, inhaling deeply as his body relaxed from its fight or flight readiness. "Come with me." He ran a finger down her cheek. "I want to make love to you."
She smiled. "Why, Mr. Hornblower, at this time of day?"
"Any time of day with you. Will you?" He ran his finger over her lips waiting for her to answer.
He was incredibly handsome still clothed in his dress uniform. His dark eyes fraught with a deep concern for her. The love behind his gaze reached out to stir her heart. It amazed her, the depth of her feeling for this young British officer and his for her. Sometimes the feeling she felt for him was so intense she felt she would break She held his wandering fingers at her lips kissing them sweetly. It had been at least two nights since they had made love to one another. The time they had left grew shorter. "I thought you would never ask, my love."
He felt his ardor rise as he led her back to his cabin. Trembling, fever, passion. All these caused his body to tingle in expectation. It was like his wedding night, though he had not the drink in him. Approaching his cabin, he opened the door, glanced about them, picked her up in his arms, hesitating as he gazed into her eyes, then carried her over the threshold.
"Wait! Let me." Waistcoat and shirt removed, he moved closer to her. Reaching behind her, holding her close to his chest, studying her face, he gently unfastened each button, working slowly down her back. She felt herself warming further, becoming slightly faint. She leaned against him, resting her lips against his chest, she moved them softly over his skin. His chest rose with the intake of air. Her dress parted. He let his lips glide over her hairline, enjoying her touch, letting the dress drop to the floor.
Unbuttoning his trousers, he stood to remove them. He looked down, then slowly let his eyes rise to meet hers. Would this be his last opportunity to make love to her? To feel her softness beneath him? To be held in her embrace? He let himself sink upon her, letting the warmth flow over him like a basin of bath water, resting upon her like a familiar feather pillow, closing his eyes to walk in fields of gold.
Hornblower slept a blessed sleep. No dreams, just a blissful rest. Pamela, wakening, lay beside him. She examined every angle of his face. How she wished she had a painting of him. Their time together was nearly over. Would it all seem like a dream? Taking a lock of his hair, she rubbed it between her fingers. It was soft and sensual to her touch. She moved her nose next to his hairline breathing him in, brushing his cheek. She watched his eyebrows twitch.
Ding ding, ding ding, ding ding, ding. She thought about the bells, mentally converting them to time. They had slept through lunch and her stomach was telling her about it. Why was she always hungry? The baby? It could not possibly eat that much! Could it? Maybe her body wanted to store up fuel in case there was none. Another entry for the diary she kept at Dr. Sebastian's suggestion. She ignored the rumblings in her middle. It was empty. She closed her eyes and told her stomach to be quiet. It rumbled again.
Indefatigable and the rest of Jervis's Squadron sailed on until loss of sunlight was imminent. The Admiral signaled for night stations, pre-planned in case the wind had not increased. Jervis hoped, unreasonably so, to reach Gibraltar before nightfall, but the wind did not cooperate. They just could not make the knots he was hoping for. Making the Straits in the dark, with so many together, was not wise. So, here they sat.
Hornblower was on watch, again doing the abbreviated second
dog and first. He could peer across the waves to see the lights
of the band of ships. Sighing, he thought, *Another night. We've
been given another night. And another day*. A smile played on
his lips remembering their late morning together. The memory
brought another sigh. He turned to walk aft, keeping himself
moving. Six hours straight without sitting was tiring. *Stupid,
Hornblower, stupid* he told himself. What on earth possessed
him to volunteer for ostensibly a watch on watch? He knew the
answer. Guilt. He had it easy for weeks, it seemed, when Sebastian
would not let him do more. He was making it up to his fellows.
He did not have much longer before Archie would come to relieve him.
Almost as if he had beckoned him, Archie appeared. Another cloaked figure was with him. Archie lifted his eyes to Hornblower and smiled. The hooded companion as well. It was Pamela. She gave him a smile, then turned to walk forward to starboard. He kept his eye on her wondering what brought her out so late.
"Anything to report, Mr. Hornblower?"
"Nothing, Mr. Kennedy. All is well. You are a bit early."
"Not much really. Go on. Go see her."
"It's all of five minutes, Horatio. Go on. If you feel you must, you can wait and toll the bell."
Inhaling, he held Kennedy's forearm, looking for permission once more. He gave it. "Go on!"
He stepped down into the waist, pausing at the base of the stairs to stare at her shadowed figure standing next to the rail He tried to read her. He took halting steps, turning his head as if he were listening for something. What was he receiving from her? Confusion. Conflict. A sniff. Crying. She was crying. He swallowed. Whispering, "Pamela." He had tried not to surprise her, but he saw her shoulders jerk, and she turned her back to him. He moved directly behind her, resisting a touch. Surely she knew he was close. Another half step and their bodies would meet. He took it. She reached out her hand to hold onto the fo'csle stairs, leaning away from him onto the rungs. Was she upset with him about something? He put his hand on her shoulder. She covered it with hers, tilting her head towards it. The time. He needed to ring the bell. "I'll be back in a moment, my lady," he whispered. Letting his long fingers caress hers, he moved to the bell. The last tone complete, he turned to her. She was gone. He gazed into the shadows of the deck not finding the dark figure he sought. He backed to look onto the fo'csle. She had to be there.
The moment he released her, she climbed the ladder to the small forward deck. She wiped her face again with her handkerchief. She had told herself she would not cry, but doubting her own will in that respect she had come prepared. She felt the need for the silence of the night, to see the brilliance of the heavens and feel the wind upon her face. She wanted to be with him, but now the tears were coming. At least, they were silent tears She knew he would come for her. She had to get herself together before he arrived. Wiping her face again, she took deep breaths, angrily telling herself to stop crying. She heard his step upon the wood planking.
The hooded figure stood in the shadows forward where they had been earlier that morning. Looking about them, he knew they were alone. Walking up behind her, he paused, then taking her shoulders slowly turned her into his chest, wrapping his arms around her. She was quiet. He inhaled and exhaled, feeling her rise and fall upon him. He moved the two of them so he could lean against the rail. Weariness seemed to take him. He felt her hand move to midway his chest and rest there. He felt no need to wonder what she was thinking. He knew. Similar thoughts flooded his mind the moment duties were fulfilled. His emotions were mixed, wanting her safe from his ship of war, but wanting her near, too. He knew in his heart and mind there was only one logical choice.
Consoling himself, he realized they had been given far more than the five days originally hoped for. There had been a price to pay, but in the end they both emerged whole. His life with her had been a life of adventure. Sailing the sea, captain of Dolphin, surviving attack by pirates on two occasions. He felt his chest swell with the knowledge that she had saved his captain. Two people he loved. His brow knitted. He did love his captain, like a father,or an older brother. It was curious he had not thought of the word before in relation to his captain. Honor, respect, yes, but love? It was a revelation that brought a curious smile and he sighed holding her tighter.
"I feel your heart beating," she said softly.
He rubbed her back soothingly in response to her words; she moved to rest her forehead against his cheek. He closed his eyes leaning towards her.
It was the ships bell that roused them from dozing in each others arms. He inhaled quickly wondering and realizing at once where they were. She had slipped back down to rest her head on his shoulder, his head leaning on hers. He moved slowly feeling the ache in his neck from sleeping thus. His knees felt stiff in their locked position. The side rail pressing into his back made him wince.
Her hand was upon his cheek. Bending slightly, his lips found hers. He felt her arm circle his shoulders holding him closer. It was a passionate kiss speaking of love and longing. Longing that would command their future.
The pain of separation they both tried to avoid had won at last. He could find no words to say and she could not contain her tears.
The End of Part One.
American Encounter, Part Two, continues as the Fleet returns to Gibraltar. Pamela disembarks with the only certainties being the love they bear for one another and the war that separates them.