An American Encounter, Part 2
Chapter 1 - Farewell
Paper work, paper work, mounds of paper work! *I'm not really a captain of a fighting vessel! I'm a glorified clerk!* he thought to himself. Report upon report upon report! He really should allow himself the luxury of a clerk. *Damn it! I need to turn this all over to Bracegirdle and Hornblower. As soon as this business in Gibraltar is finished I will do just that! It is time they both learned what the real duties of a captain are!* Pellew fumed within himself. A second day bent over the incessant mounds of sheaf before him was having its toll. AND, this afternoon, he was expected to preside, with two other captains, over the current round of leftenant's examinations.
Bracegirdle, first leftenant of His Majesty's Frigate Indefatigable, was seeing to the multitude of Spanish prisoners, now off loaded, in the care of the land forces on the Rock. He was slightly rotund, thinning hair for his young age, blue eyes, and a face with a ready smile or quick retort. His assignment was to see the prisoners taken in the recent action were accounted properly. The captain and crew of his ship were liable for head money. At five pounds a head that was something worth taking care of! His men would be glad of the sum, and God knows they'd earned it!
Hornblower would be busy with his bride. *A bride! Don't go off on that tangent again, Pellew. You won't get any work done daydreaming about what cannot be! Not here anyway.* Lanky, young, Mr. Hornblower. Married. It was still hard to believe. He and his bride had been living aboard his ship for several weeks now, after the setto with the pirate rabble. A knock helped to rouse him from wandering thoughts.
"Come." He heard the door open and a rustle of clothing, too much rustle to be one of his men. Turning, he saw her standing there. He rose from his seat, bringing his middle aged person up stiffly. He tightened his jaw taking in the sight of her with his deep brown eyes. The crags in his face lightened as he observed the young woman filling his cabin with her presence.
The dress she wore was of a rose color with a three inch wide tatting of cream white lace around the 'v' neckline, a modest cut with a bare hint of what lie beneath. The same lace trimmed the three quarter length sleeves. The fitted waist pointed downward over full skirts. In her hand, a straw hat with a band of a similar rose color cloth and flowing sashes. Her soft brown hair hung in neat curls around her head. A warm smile curved upon ruby lips in a lightly tanned complexion, the result of time at sea under an early summer sun. And, something more. That peculiar beauty he had seen before in other women. A beauty that must somehow be associated with new life. It seemed to hover around women expecting children, like a glow of energy. She was fascinating to look upon. He realized he had been staring at her for some seconds by the color that rose to her cheeks.
"Good morning, captain. Is something amiss with my...?"
she glanced down at her clothing.
"Not at all. Forgive me, Mrs. Hornblower. I am still unaccustomed to having your gender aboard my ship. I find your appearance ... refreshing."
She blushed at his compliment. "You are most kind, Captain. I ... I have come to thank you for all you have done for me. I shall forever be in your debt, sir."
She was here to say good-bye. A sudden tug of remorse grabbed at his heart. As much as he wanted his ship back to normal, he would miss having her on board. She so enjoyed the ship, but it was not a safe place for women, even a brave one. He did think her brave, to shoot that man and save his life. Not the usual run of the mill woman. No indeed. But he knew that already. Hornblower would never a marry a common everyday woman. Not unless he felt obligated to the poor soul. But, certainly, there was no fear of that ever happening with this cocked pistol standing before him. The two of them belonged together if ever a man and a woman did. He realized he was without his topcoat. Stepping towards the chair upon which it lay, he placed his hand upon it to take it up. Suddenly, her hand rested atop his.
"You need not do that on my account, Captain Pellew."
The cabin was warm in these latitudes in late May. She slowly lifted her hand from the back of his. She would say that. Not one for propriety, she. Americans. Where did they go wrong?
A tingling sensation dispersed out his fingertips from her touch. She was still affecting him. He looked down at his hand. A mild tremor shook his core at the memory of her touch. Her closeness to him and the light perfume of roses in her hair was intoxicating. He stepped back, making the slightest bow. "Very well. I am glad my ship and my men have been of aid to you, madam. I, too, am in your debt. You saved my life and I shall never forget."
She smiled at him. "But you saved mine, sir, and more than once." Turning, she stepped closer to the stern windows, looking at the myriad ships moored around them in Gibraltar Bay, Algeciras Bay to the Spaniards. "I shall miss this ship," she said softly. "And, yet I am glad of the land." Was she speaking to him or to the sea? "I feel as if I have been at sea for an eternity. So much has happened. I have lost much, but I have gained even more." She turned to face him, laughing at herself. "Now I must ask you to forgive me, Captain! I did not mean to become so reflective. I came to thank you and tell you good-bye."
"But I will see you again. And, soon, from what Mr. Hornblower tells me. Your wedding."
The deck called her gaze. "Yes. Horatio wants it." Tears pooled in her eyes.
"What is the matter, my lady?"
She sniffed, shaking her head and turning away once again.
He reached to fumble in his coat pocket for a handkerchief. What was it about a woman in tears that so affected him, the rigid and efficient naval captain?
"Here, here, now, madam, none of that." He handed her his handkerchief.
She took the linen, smiling sadly. "Thank you, Captain," and dabbed at her eyes. "My fears are silly, I know. But yet, I have them! Oh Captain Pellew! What if he dies? I'm bad luck! Bad luck! Why can he not be satisfied with our Handfasting?" The tears were flowing again. "You are like a father to him. Could you not convince him to forgo this wedding?" She searched his eyes looking for the help she desperately desired.
His eyebrow rose at being called a father. He supposed that was how she saw him. How else could she see him? "Mr. Hornblower is set on having you wed in the Church of England. I do not believe I could sway him from his decision. Why do you think such a thing about yourself?"
"You know I was married before. Married twice before." She hesitated studying his reaction to her words. Then, added, "Both church weddings." Red eyes looked at him. "Do you think less of me?"
*Think less of her? Why? She is pregnant. She has got to be pregnant* he thought. *She is talking nonsensically!* He knew of her changeable moods. Care was needed. What would his leftenant think if she emerged from his cabin with red and puffy eyes? What could he say to rouse her out of this negative thinking? "Are your husbands still living?" He knew at least one of them was not from his conversation with the Captain of Cymbaline, the American Captain from whose ship she had been kidnapped.
She looked at him as if he were raving mad. "No, that is the point! They are ... are...not alive. I am bad luck! Don't you see?"
He sighed. "My dear, in the sight of God and my men, you are already married. What, in heavens name, could a church wedding make a spot of difference? It is something that will please Mr. Hornblower. Do you not wish to make him happy? It is too late, is it not? If being wed to you has sealed his fate, what more can be said?"
She blinked at him her mouth dropping open and then she began to laugh. She covered her lips, blushing, realizing her behavior. "I apologize, Captain! Oh, please, please, don't tell him! Don't repeat a word of what I said. He will be angry with me if he finds out. Forgive me, please."
"I find it difficult to imagine Mr. Hornblower being angry with you, but my dear Mrs. Hornblower, not a word shall pass my lips. You have been nothing but good luck for me, AND Mr. Hornblower. If you had not saved me from being split in two, I would not have been there to protect him OR you. And, there has been ample opportunity for him to meet his demise in the past few weeks. Each time he has survived and rescued you as well. Your fears are unfounded, ma'am. Do not torture yourself with such thoughts. I am sure Mr. Hornblower would look upon the deaths of your previous husbands, meaning no disrespect to their memory mind you, as his good fortune. Enjoy the time you have left with him before we leave. Be glad I can give it. And, I give it out of my respect and obligation to YOU." He turned from her jesturing in the air. "After all, I cannot have all my leftenants leaving me for weddings and honeymoons every time we come into port! It isn't good for the morale of the men OR me!"
He faced her, taking the handkerchief from her hand. "It may be months before you see him again. It all depends on what assignment the Admiralty gives us. Hold onto him as long as I will let you," he smiled, eyebrow arched. He dried the remaining streak from her cheek, lifted her hand and replaced his handkerchief in it. "Keep this. I see you do not have one and good-byes are always difficult for women." She smiled at him and threw her arms around his neck knocking him slightly backwards. "Ooph! You know I am getting used to this."
She moved back so she could see his smiling face and returned the grin. Leaning in to kiss his cheek, whispering in his ear, she said, "I love you, Captain Pellew. I am going to miss you, Mr. Kennedy, Mr. Matthews, Mr. Styles..."
"STOP! Before you have yourself in tears again! THAT is an order! I will not have you leave my office with tear stained cheeks! If you are going to start crying again, do it out there." He motioned to the deck without. "Off with you, now!"
"Yes, sir." She smiled. "You will watch over Horatio, won't you?"
"Out! And, I mean now! No more maudlin conversations!"
He opened the door for her as she swept past him. Closing the door, he sighed, running his hand down his face and shaking his head. "Soon, Edward, soon. Your ship will be back to normal soon," he whispered to himself.
The day before, Kennedy and Hornblower had settled themselves in the stern of the longboat filled with Spanish sailors, marine guards, eight ratings of the Indy, and Bradley at the tiller. The row to shore was not a long one, but long enough for Hornblower to study the tiny peninsula with new interest.
His eyes settled on the peak of the great gray Rock, gliding down its southern side to the two tiers, platforms of rock on its southern side. The lighthouse at Europa Point stood as the beacon of warning from the lowest of the two. The cliff went straight up for fifty feet from the surface of the Mediterranean. The second platform began from this, known as Windmill Flats. Like a broad second step it abutted the rock that began its slope upward to eventually reach the highest point nearly 1,400 feet above sea level. No great trees in sight, but damn it, the rock was there. He shook his head as he envisioned his wife clinging to the sides of the cliffs, fulfilling her lust for climbing. Should he try to tell her flat out that she was not to climb them? But, maybe she will not think of it, whereas, if he mentions it, it may plant the seed of thought. He exhaled through pursed lips.
Gibraltar. What will she think of living in the tiny British possession? Though a land base, at times it was no better off than one of his majesty's ships at sea, needing to be watered and victualed. The amount of crops grown barely supported the people. Food supplies were imported, either from home, or nearby countries with whom they were at peace. Even water was scarce for there was no natural supply. He knitted his brow. Could he abandon her here? Would she remain and wait for his return? Pressing his tongue against the side of his mouth, his thoughts intensified.
The summers were hot, humid, and dry. How would they compare to the summers of her home in North Carolina? America. What was it like? Could she give up her country for him?
All this information played through Hornblower's logical, analytical mind as he thought of leaving his bride on the Mediterranean outpost. Worried? Yes. What else could he be. She had no one here. Though they hoped for help from her father's solicitor, it was still an unknown factor. Surely people survived here. People from countries bordering the Med settled there, making a living. He breathed a deep sigh of resignation. Was there any other choice?
Kennedy looked over at his friend, hearing his sigh. Hornblower had shared little of his concerns, but Archie knew Horatio had them, being addicted to worry as he was. He wanted to console him but knew it best to save it until his words were for his ears alone. Archie returned to his own meditations over his impending leftenants examination.
The men rowed steadily to shore. Upon docking, they were met by more Indy marine guards. The prisoners were off loaded into their care. Bradley and the rest of the Indy men returned for another batch of prisoners, while Hornblower and Kennedy disembarked on their errands.
The two stood awkwardly for a moment, getting their bearings. Kennedy was slightly shorter than his friend, sandy blonde hair, and blue eyes to rival the depths of the Indies. He was built sturdily, but his face often resembled that of an angel, his features being finely handsome. Easy going, he often cheered, or tried to cheer, his serious companion, with a quip. Life was far less serious to the young third son of a lord. It was his birth position which had led him to a life in the navy.
"On shore at last!" smiled Kennedy. "Solid ground!"
Hornblower's worried scowl did not change. His brow seemed permanently furrowed.
Kennedy tried again. "Are you going directly to the solicitor?"
"Shall I go with you?"
"You need not, Archie," said Hornblower as he smiled at his friend. "I know you must inquire after your examination times."
"But the admiralty is going nowhere."
"Very well, then. Come on." He was preoccupied with his task, taking long strides to reach the main street leading from the quay to the city center. His eyes were a deep brooding brown, despite his current happiness. The angular features of his face were sharp and stark but still strikingly handsome, though he would not have believed it. The furrow in his brow was brought on by the concern for his impending second ceremony of marriage to his wife. It was a long story, ...and well, all those facts would soon come to light as people he came in contact with would question why he was marrying when already married.
Archie found himself walking quickly to keep up with his long legged, mentally preoccupied friend. He would be glad to have this errand over. Perhaps they could find a tavern and have a fresh pint of beer before returning to the Indy.
Reaching the city square, Hornblower peered at the street corners intersecting. Finding Cathedral Street, he slowed his pace, searching the placards for her father's solicitor. Walking the cobbled streets quickly, he found the building. It was a squat two stories high, the roof flat, with a cistern. He reached to open and enter the door. A bell rang as the door moved inwards.
Inside, a narrow hallway reached back into darkness. A flight of stairs to the right disappeared upwards, a faint light from a small window illuminating the treads. A door to the left opened into a small office. Hornblower entered.
"Good day, sir. I am looking for a Mr. Hoskins." He addressed a small, graying man seated behind a desk. He stood to greet Hornblower, looking up at the leftenant from his short stature.
"Good day to you, sir, "said the man with a soft gravely voice. And you are...?"
"I am Leftenant Horatio Hornblower of His Britannic Majesty's Ship Indefatigable. I would like to speak with Mr. Hoskins."
"May I ask the nature of your visit?"
"I am here concerning an American by the name of Dawson, sir."
The clerk's eyes grew wide at the name. "Indeed? Just a moment, Leftenant." The man knocked on the door to the right of his desk. A voice called for him to enter.
"Well, that got some action," commented Archie.
Voices could be heard within. The desk clerk and a man emerged. Another older portly man stood in the doorway, his stomach protruding outward within his deep blue waistcoat. A topcoat of the same blue hung open further framing his large figure.
"Leftenant Hornblower! Come in, sir! I am Mr. Hoskins." He moved to allow the two navy men into his office.
"How do you do, sir," said Hornblower extending his hand "This is Acting Leftenant Kennedy."
Archie held out his hand for a shake, smiling a nod of greeting
to the lawyer.
"Do sit down." He motioned to two leather chairs in front of his massive mahogany desk, scattered with papers and ledgers. The room received light from a large window fronting the street. White sheers covered the opening. Heavy brocade curtains of forest green hues hung at the sides. Volume filled bookshelves lined the walls behind his desk and to the right. The man moved to sit at his desk. He smiled broadly at the two young men.
"Well, I must say this is a surprise! I have inquired at the Admiralty offices on several occasions concerning Mr. Dawson, but I had no idea they would send two leftenants to respond. What have you learned of Mr. Dawson's whereabouts? I expected him here nearly a month ago!"
Hornblower blinked at him, taking a breath to steady his nerves. "I regret to inform you, sir, Mr. Dawson is dead." It felt odd saying this about his father-in-law, even though he never met him. He was someone dear to Pamela. It surprised him how voicing the fact caused a twinge in his innards. The news obviously shocked Mr. Hoskins.
"No! How so, sir?"
"His ship was attacked by pirates. They kidnapped his daughter. He went to her defense and was slain."
"I'll be damned! The poor man! What a pity! What became of his daughter? I don't suppose you know if his company will be sending someone to replace him?"
"I do not, sir, but it is on his daughter's behalf that I am here."
"I have a letter for you from my captain, sir, Captain Pellew of His Majesty's Ship Indefatigable." Hornblower pulled the letter from his coat pocket handing it across the desk to Hoskins.
Hoskins broke the wafer and began reading the note. His captain had written a letter of explanation and introduction for Pamela. He briefly outlined her father's and her capture, his death, and her need of support.
Hornblower studied Hoskins face as he read the letter. Would he help her? Hoskin's brow was pinched in concentration as he read Pellew's words. He shook his head briefly and sighed over the information
"How tragic," said Hoskins as he let his hand drop to the desk top. "The dear lady. My, my," he said shaking his head. He sighed. "Poor Mr. Dawson must have had a premonition. His last dispatch to me contained a request to include his daughter on the bank accounts here in Gibraltar. I thought it strange at the time, but you know these Americans. They have their own ways of doing things it appears. As long as she knows the password to prove her identity and her signature matches the one he sent me, I can comply with your Captain's request to assist her."
"Thank you, Mr. Hoskins. I know she will be relieved." As he was, and hoping desperately that she did know the password. "When may she meet with you, sir?"
He opened a ledger before him, putting his glasses on his nose. "Let me look. I could see her first thing in the morning, say half past nine. I will send a note to Mr. Clyde of the Bank of Gibraltar to set up a meeting with him to get her officially on the Dawson accounts."
Hornblower felt a weight shift slightly from his shoulders. Another day and they would know, less than twenty-four hours and he would know, if she would be taken care of.
"Thank you, Mr. Hoskins. I will see she arrives promptly."
"Very well, Leftenant Hornblower. This is sad. Sad, indeed. How does the lady?"
"She mourns the loss of her father, sir. It has been a harrowing month for her."
The three men were on their feet headed towards the lawyers door. "You had some involvement in her rescue, I presume?"
"Yes, sir. The Indefatigable caught the pirate ship on which she was absconded."
"And the pirates?"
"In a prison hulk in England, now, sir."
"Good. Impressive, Leftenant. Proud of our Navy. Indeed I am, sir."
"Thank you, Mr. Hoskins." The men shook hands once again, departing.
Horatio and Archie stood in the afternoon sunlight in the street. Hornblower closed his eyes and sighed. Archie commented, "It goes well, Horatio. What's next on your list?"
"Much, Archie. But we best find out your examination times. While you ask about that I will see what the Admiralty says about accommodations for naval spouses."
The two were once again taking long strides through the streets. Making their way past numerous shops, a name caught Hornblower's attention. He stopped abruptly. Archie felt his momentum throw him past his friend as he tried to stop as quickly as he. Hornblower was already entering a shop. The bell on the door announced their entry. Archie stared at the sign painted on the half window of the door, Himmel's Jewelry.
A woman emerged from a curtained doorway to greet them in the small shop. She was wearing a simple dark blue dress and spoke with a heavy Jewish accent. Her slightly graying, dark hair was pinned neatly back from her middle aged face. "Good day, gentlemen. What can I do for you?"
"I wondered if you might have wedding rings for sale, ma'am?" Hornblower blushed at his request. Even though he had been married for nearly a month, it was still new to him.
The woman pulled some keys from her pocket, unlocked a cabinet, and removed a tray containing numerous gold bands, placing them on the counter separating her from her customers. Hornblower bent to look at them. One style caught his eye immediately. A huge smile overtook his lips. "Marvelous!"
Archie bent next to him to see what he found to be so pleasing.
Hornblower looked up at the woman. "May I?"
"Certainly, young sir! Have a look!" She watched him lift the ring carefully from the tray, turning it close to his eyes to take in its intricacies. "It is a lovely piece. My husband made it for a man over a year ago and he never returned for it. It is a little odd for a wedding band, but with the great fish forever playing in the bay..." she shrugged her shoulders, "... I guess it is not so strange."
Hornblower smiled again as he slipped it on to his little finger. "I think it will fit her. What do you think, Archie?"
"Your guess is as good as mine, Horatio."
Hornblower smiled down at the ring on his finger. He knew she would love it. Turning his finger, the light glanced off the cuts creating the two figures leaping gently from the waves, two dolphins arcing over and under one another.
"How much is it?" he asked carefully.
"That would be two pound and six, sir."
"Could you put an inscription inside?"
"Yes. What would it say?"
"P and H second May 1799. How much for the inscription?"
"Aaron!" she called. "Let me get my husband. Aaron!"
A man a little older than the woman appeared. He wore glasses, had white hair, and calm brown eyes. "What is it, Lydia, dear?"
"He wants to know the charge for an inscription. He wants to say..." she wrote it on a piece of paper this way as she said it, "...P & H 2 May 1799. Is that right, sir?" she looked up questioning Hornblower.
"Yes," he smiled, "perfect."
"Hmmm, say, three shillings for the inscription?"
Hornblower breathed in. "All right. When could you have it done?"
"When do you need it?"
"As soon as possible, sir."
"I could have it for you by tomorrow afternoon."
"That will do. I will bring my lady by to be certain of the sizing, but I am almost sure it will fit her."
"As long as she does not require too much of an adjustment it will not effect the ring or its inscription."
Hornblower pulled a pouch from his inside coat pocket, the pouch containing the gift from Pellew. He spilled the coin into his hand finding the payment amount.
"Here is your receipt. We will have it ready by this time tomorrow."
"Thank you, sir."
Horatio and Archie were again quick timing through the streets. Hornblower eyed the hotels and bed and breakfast places he passed. He needed to locate a place for her to stay but wanted to inquire at the Admiralty offices first.
"Go check on your exam times, Archie. I will wait for you here." His hand poised over the door knob to enter the common offices.
"Aye, aye, Mr. Hornblower," he smiled.
Hornblower approached a leftenant seated behind a desk. The leftenant looked to be in his early thirties. A rather ordinary but kind face. Hornblower cleared his throat audibly. The man looked up at him with deep blue eyes.
"Can I help you, Leftenant?"
"I was wondering if you could tell me if the navy makes housing available for officers families."
"Would this be for your wife?"
"We have a list of landlords within the town you can check with, but as for within the naval grounds, no. Not unless you're an Admiral or better," smiled the leftenant.
"Well, no," smiled Hornblower, "not yet anyway." He marveled within himself. He had made a joke!
The leftenant stood. He was a good three inches taller than Hornblower and limped noticeably over to look in a filing cabinet. He pulled several sheaves of paper from it handing them to Hornblower. "Newlywed?"
"Yes! Does it show?" blushed Hornblower.
"Congratulations. Maybe those will be of help to you."
"Thank you, sir." Hornblower was amazed to find
such a cordial unaffected soul working in Admiralty offices.
The man clearly had not been born for this sort of work. He was
too obliging! Hornblower found a bench to sit on outside to wait
for Archie. He poured over the papers wondering how he would
have time to inquire at all these places.
Archie approached seeing him bent over the lists. He slid onto the bench beside him.
"Well, we are on our own, basically. They gave me a list, but how will I have time to do all this? She needs a place to stay tomorrow night."
"Best go with a hotel or rooming house, I'd say, Horatio. Perhaps, her lawyer can assist with the other after we've gone. I know it's not what you want to hear, but..."
"Oh, you're right, Archie. All this is driving me quite mad!"
"Come on. Let's go get a drink and calm you down. By the look of you, you'd think you weren't married yet!"
"Oh damn! I've got to go to the minister first!"
"I suppose it would not do to meet a minister with beer on your breath," he sighed. "All right, where now?"
"Let me ask that leftenant in there, he must know a church nearby."
Hornblower stood in front of the desk once more. "Sorry to bother you again leftenant."
The man looked up at him and smiled. "Something else?"
"Yes. I need a church. Could you recommend one that does weddings quickly?"
The man smiled more broadly. "You're even more than a newlywed, eh? Well, just up the city center street, when you come to the square, go north up Embankment. You will find an Anglican Church a couple of blocks off the square. The minister, Mr. Godwin, is most amenable."
"Thank you, thank you again."
"Tell him Leftenant Barnstable sent you."
"I will!" he called back as he exited the door.
Archie found himself hurrying once more to keep up with Hornblower. He was going to be ready for that pint!
Here they were at the square again. It seemed to be the hub for everything. Embankment was the north road extension as the leftenant had reported. The two block walk revealed the small stone structure. It was similar to churches found in the villages of England. A spire, a bell tower, oaken doors with a small arched window matching the arch of the doors. The heavy ring handle hung from the metal locking mechanism. Taking the ring in his hand, Hornblower turned it and pushed.
A foyer walled with wooden spiral columns separated the small area from the church within. A book lay open for visitors to sign. The two stood waiting for their eyes to grow accustomed to the darkness after the bright afternoon Gibraltar sun. No one seemed to be in evidence. Hornblower walked to the entry to the church proper. It was cool within its walls. Wooden pews advanced before him. Stained glass windows were on either side with a larger one above and at the back of the altar.
Hornblower sighted a man inching along one of the forward pews. "Excuse me, sir. Could you tell me where I might find the minister, Mr. Godwin?"
The man was dressed in a long black frock as those of the ministry were want to wear. He was rather short, shorter than Archie. His hair was bright blonde atop a round face, reminiscent of Mr. Bracegirdle. His eyes were brown though and he was a might stouter than Bracie. He righted himself from straightening books in the pew backs.
"I am Mr. Godwin."
"Benny?" said Archie amazed.
The man stepped closer to them. "Archie? Archie Kennedy
is that you?"
He moved to the aisle quickly and embraced him.
"Benny! What on earth are you doing here?" Asked Archie holding his upper arms to get a good look at him.
"I might ask you the same. I never knew you to darken the door of a church." he grinned.
"I'm on a mission. How did you come to be here? I can't believe it's you!"
"Well it's a long story. Aren't they all!" he smiled and looked at Hornblower.
"This is Horatio Hornblower. Horatio this is an old, a very old, friend of mine."
"Not THAT old, Archie!"
"How do you do?" said Hornblower shaking his hand.
"Mr. Hornblower is in need of your services, if you are indeed a minister!" kidded Archie.
"I am! I most assuredly am, you scoundrel! he said to Archie. "What may I do for you, Mr. Hornblower?"
"I ...I am ..."
Archie laughed at his friend's fumbling. "He wants to get married! And, married AGAIN, I might say. Once was not enough for him!"
"Archie!" blushed Hornblower.
"Come, come, Mr. Hornblower. Don't let Archie fluster you! Married AGAIN, you say. Sounds like there is a long story behind that announcement!"
"Indeed, Benny. Could we not discuss it over a pint somewhere? Or, does your Employer disapprove?"
"All things in moderation, dear boy, all things in moderation. I do have evensong tonight, so don't get me too tipsy! I would love an excuse for a drink and some conversation." He directed his speech to Hornblower. "You, sir, can tell me all about your marital requirements."
They followed him to a tiny office where he removed his clerical garb for a slightly outdated topcoat. He noted Archie's stare. "The pay of a parson is not grand by any means."
Archie smiled wryly at his friend, "Nor is that of a naval leftenant, and I am not officially one of those even."
He led them out a side door, down a back alley, to the side entrance of a large building.
"I get the feeling this is not new to you, Benny."
Benny smiled at him. "One must have friends, sir." Climbing a few stairs they entered the doorway into a broad seating area. Benny approached the bar and tapped on a small bell.
"Are they open now?" asked Archie whispering.
"They are for me."
"Is this a hotel?" asked Hornblower.
"Yes, a quite nice little place. They do meals and have the pub, too."
"Do you think they would have accommodations for rent on a semi-long term basis?"
Benny smiled. "They might."
An older man entered behind the bar from a side door. His gray hair was awry as if he had just come out from under the covers. His shirt sleeves were pulled up to his elbow and his vest hung open. His face wore a put-out expression until his eyes rested on Benny.
"What chee doin' here, Mr. Godwin?"
"An old friend of mine has just arrived, Harry. I wondered if we might prevail upon you to pump us some pints and loan us your back room for a visit. Mr. Hornblower here might be interested in renting a room as well."
"Glad ta do it, Rev. Welcome to Gibraltar, young sirs!" He reached for a glass, pulled the hand pump releasing the dark liquid into the glass.
"Ahhhh," smiled Archie.
"Best beer in Gibraltar this is. Just like ye get at home!" He handed the first glass to Archie, pumping two more. "You know where the room is, help yourself."
The reverend put down a coin to pay for the beers. Hornblower and Archie started to protest. "No, this one is on me. Come on." They followed him to a U-shaped sitting area.
Taking seats, Benny beamed at Archie. "To the Navy!" he raised his glass in toast and they theirs.
"The Navy!" they chimed in.
After drinking, Archie asked, "Why are we toasting the navy?"
"Well, it's what has brought us all here! But let me hear Mr. Hornblower's needs before any other stories." He set his gaze on Horatio and waited.
"My wife and I wish to be married in the church." Benny's eyebrows went up. "We were married at sea, in a Handfasting ceremony."
"Handfasting! I haven't heard of that in years! In a hurry were you?"
Hornblower smiled shyly. "We were afraid we would not be able to marry at all once here in Gibraltar due to my situation in the navy...and....well, Handfasting was suggested. And Marriage by Declaration," he added quickly.
"Covered all eventualities, eh? And, now you have the time, so the church. Well, that is fine. What time constraints are we under?"
"I do not know. My captain has not yet received his orders, but they could come at any time."
"So you wish to do the deed as soon as possible."
Hornblower smiled with surprise. "I don't think we could be ready that quickly. We do wish to have attendees. Would Friday be possible?"
Benny looked up to the ceiling recalling his schedule. "Friday morning, yes?"
"Done! Friday morning it is."
Hornblower leaned back in his chair, inhaling deeply with a look of satisfaction. One more item off his list. He drank long from his glass. He had not realized he was so thirsty. Poor Archie he thought, tagging along with him, wishing for a drink. Archie was a good friend. The beverage was having its way helping him to relax. His list had but one large thing left and perhaps this hotel would fill that bill. It was close to the church, it might even host the after wedding breakfast. He brought his attention back to the conversation between Archie and his friend.
"Well, Archibald Kennedy! Who would have thought we would meet in Gibraltar!"
"Indeed, Benjamen. I thought you were going to take over the parsonage of your father's estate."
"I will, I will, I guess. Old Vicar Renquist is still kicking, however, so I followed after you."
"After me?" asked Archie.
"Yes, I joined the navy! As a chaplain, of course."
"Then, how is it you are here?"
"Oh Lord, Archie, I was so seasick I was useless. Never got my sea legs. Captain dumped me off here and said good riddance! It was a dire mortification, I must say! I don't quite know how I shall ever get back to England!"
"You will, you will!" encouraged Archie.
"Oh don't get me wrong. It isn't the getting there, it is the going! I shall have to endure another spate of motion sickness! I don't know if I could bear it! I had become suicidal, I am embarrassed to admit!" he chuckled. "The Lord took pity on me in giving me a consolate captain!"
"Mr. Godwin, would you excuse me? I should like to speak to the proprietors about a room." Hornblower rose.
"I'll come with you. Make sure they treat you right," he whispered. He and Archie drained their glasses.
Walking through the tabled spaces brought them to a wide reception area. A woman was working behind the desk hunched over a list of figures and biting the tip of a pencil. Eyeglasses were perched on her narrow nose. Her hair was more gray than brown hiked upon her head with a wide arching tortoise shell comb. She was plump with a mild double chin beginning under her first one. Her dress was modestly patterned in a cotton fabric of cream and ivy green.
"Good day, Mrs. Harvey," said Godwin.
"Oh!" she trilled, "Mr. Godwin! I didn't know you were here!"
"Calm yourself dear lady, Harry has obliged us with a pint. I have here a gentleman in need of accommodation. Mr. Hornblower this is Mrs. Harvey. She and her husband Harry own the Laughing Dolphin."
Hornblower could not hide his amazement at the name of the hotel. "The Laughing Dolphin?" He glanced at Archie grinning at his side.
"This must be the place, Horatio," said Archie.
Recovering himself he went on. "My wife and I need a room, a double, for a few nights. My ship will be leaving in the near future and at that time she would probably do in a single until she finds a more permanent place to live. Would you have such rooms available?"
"Oh indeed, sir. When would you want to begin your stay?"
"I have a lovely double room. Let me show it to you."
He followed her up a broad staircase to a room over the front of the hotel. It was large with open spaces. Four bright windows looked out into the bay. Hornblower's gaze took in the accouterments. A double bed in a four poster frame with steps up to the plush mattress. A side wash stand with a bowl and pitcher. Off white lace covered night stands on either side of the bed, a candlestick on each. The carpet on the rug had a floral design. The wallpaper depicted finely dressed ladies of the last century attended by men dressed in wigs, waistcoats and coat tails, a dog yapping at their feet, and a fountain spraying water upward. A tall armoire stood against the south wall. It was a lovely room and he began to wonder if his purse could afford it.
"How...how much per night, ma'am."
She studied him a moment. Noted he was but a leftenant. She took a deep breath. "I've another room you might like as well on the next level. Would you like to see it before you decide?"
Hornblower took her cue. "Yes, may I?"
He followed her up the next flight of stairs. She took him to the room directly above the previous. It and another room took up the space of the one below. It was more intimate, only two windows facing the front but an additional window on the side. It had a similar carpet on the floor. The walls were painted white, the bed seemed the same size and make. In fact, other than the windows, walls and overall size, it was quite similar.
"This room is lovely as well, ma'am. The price?" he asked warily.
"The room below is one and a half pounds a night, this one is," she hesitated remembering he was with Godwin, "ten shillings a night. If you stay more than three nights, I'll drop it to nine."
"I'll take this one, if I may. I am sure we will stay at least three nights. Also, ma'am would you do wedding breakfasts?"
She smiled widely at him. "A wedding? Is it your friend downstairs getting married?"
"No, ma'am, it is a long story. My wife and I were married at sea, but now we wish to be married in the church. So, the room is for my wife and I, but we are also getting married. We have a small group of officers and men that will attend. I should say no more than a dozen for breakfast at the most, possibly less."
"Let me work up a price for ye. Come on downstairs."
Mrs. Harvey was behind the desk again jotting on a paper. "Here, Mr. Hornblower," she said calling him over. He turned his head to look at the paper as she pointed at the figures. "This amount per person on the breakfast since you did not seem quite sure on the numbers. The breakfast will include these items, eggs, ham, bacon, sausages, biscuits, toast, tomatoes, chipped potatoes, butter, jam, coffee, tea, orange juice. Is there anything else you would like? Mushrooms?"
"That is a most generous breakfast, ma'am." He recalled the food served him on the Victory and decided this was equal to that expansive morning meal.
"Is the price agreeable?" she asked biting her lower lip, looking curiously into his angular face.
"Yes, I believe it seems most fair, ma'am."
"It is to be Friday morning?"
She smiled. "We'll be ready for ye, sir!"
"Thank you. Thank you. There is one more thing, ma'am. A couple of my men will be delivering a trunk in the morning. Will they be able to put it in the room?"
"Yes, sir. No problem with that."
"Also, could I prevail upon you. I noticed there is a
lady selling flowers on the square, could you see a dozen roses
or whatever the lady has are placed in the room before our arrival?
Something red if she has them or whatever you feel would please...my
Archie had never heard his friend speak so tenderly. He stared at him, blinking and mouth ajar.
"I'd be pleased to do that for ye, sir," she replied softly.
He placed a coin on the counter. "Will that cover it?"
"More than cover it, sir. I shall put the remainder towards your bill."
"Thank you, ma'am." At last he felt he could relax. Everything he could think of had been done. He felt himself floating in air. Now if he could just get himself to forget the amount of money he was spending on their wedding. It was his idea. She had told him repeatedly she did not need this second wedding. Why did he feel it so necessary? He just did and that was that. It deserved no more thought.
Horatio glanced at the immobility of his friend and reaching over pushed his bottom jaw up to close his mouth.
"Flowers, Horatio? Leftenant Horatio Hornblower of His Majesty,s Frigate Indefatigable is buying flowers?
Horatio exhaled deeply and quickly and did not respond to the query.
Archie followed Hornblower and Godwin into the street hearing Mrs. Harvey asking her husband why he never bought her flowers.
"I shall bring Pamela by to see you tomorrow, Mr. Godwin."
"I look forward to meeting her. Indeed, I do!"
At last Hornblower simply ambled down the street. "When is your leftenants exam, Archie?"
Hornblower stopped in his tracks. "TOMORROW? God, I hope that doesn't mean we're shipping out Friday! What time are you due there?"
"We are to begin assembling at four o'clock. Horatio... I would dearly like another drink. The pubs should be open now. Do you mind?"
"Not at all, Archie, but don't go overboard. You should be studying tonight."
"Don't remind me! God, I shall be glad when this is over."
"Did you ask which captains were presiding?"
"No. I don't want to know. With the preponderance of vessels we just sailed in with it could be anybody. I don't need the added pressure of worrying which of them I will stand before. Learning that tomorrow will be time enough!"
"Well, at least you haven't alienated any of them as I did."
"But you were saved by a fire ship. Any chance of that happening for me?"
Hornblower chuckled. "Come now, Archie, you will do fine. Much better than I. After all, I failed my examination."
"That's what worries me, Horatio. If you failed, what hope have I?"
"None of that now. You will return to us a commissioned leftenant tomorrow night I have no doubt. In fact, arrive early so you aren't out till midnight as I was. All the more reason to get you back to the Indy, to study and rest!"
"Not before that drink, sir!"
"Very well. Here is a likely place."
The pub was whitewashed as the pubs back in England. Two steps up had them leaning to open the door of the Admiral's Arms. A number of navy men sat drinking their pints already. The arrival of so many of His Majesty's ships was feeding the coffers of the locals.
"I'll get the first round," offered Kennedy. "Get us a table."
Hornblower seated himself on a bench attached to the wall with
a small rectangular table in front of him and a stool beside it.
Laying his hat on the bench, he waited gazing at the
decorations of the dark paneled pub and the patrons taking their ease. Kennedy joined him with the pints.
A placard on the wall advertised the East India Company. It
pictured, in three dimensions, a three masted shooner with the
slogan, "Fair Winds and Following Seas, printed in script
below it. Various tankards hung from pegs rimming the ceiling
at the bar. Small round tables, with short stools, were free
standing and dotted about the oak planked floor. A bowsprit figurehead
was attached to one of the supporting columns. It was the figure
of a woman dressed in a pink gown with one breast exposed. Hornblower
rested his eyes upon the statue and found himself comparing her
to Pamela. Clearing his throat, he looked away.
Archie caught Hornblower,s final glance at the figurehead and grinned. "Here, Horatio.
He sighed and took the tankard of beer.
A big load off your mind, eh? To get so much accomplished?
"Yes, but I shall worry now that I know your exam is tomorrow. You know the Admiralty, they are likely to send us off straight away."
"And, they may not. Now drink and stop worrying. If anyone should be worrying, it is I."
"Archie. You will do fine."
"What ship are you two from?" a man called towards them.
"Indefatigable," replied Archie.
"Oh, Pellew's ship. He's got quite a reputation for getting prizes."
"We do all right. And you, what is your ship?"
"The Victory. We just sailed in with you. Mind if I join you?"
"Do, by all means. I'm Archie Kennedy. This is Horatio Hornblower."
The leftenant picked up his stool to join them. He looked to be near thirty, tall, thin, dark hair, deep brown eyes, and a hawkish nose. His uniform had seen some use.
"James Harkins, at your service. You came on board Victory with Pellew did you not?" he asked Horatio.
"I recognize you from breakfast. You're the one that found the dispatches."
"Yes. Just dumb luck," shrugged Horatio.
"And that was your wife on the quarter-deck of your ship."
Hornblower felt his face redden that so much was known about him. "Yes." The reminder of Pamela made him realize he was missing her. He was ready to go back to the Indy, but for Archie's sake he held his tongue.
"I should have so much dumb luck," commented Archie.
"Well, I guess you have heard the scuttlebutt about Nelson."
Hornblower knitted his brow, glancing at Archie. "Nelson?"
"Indeed. The nerve of the man! But I guess when you're as brilliant as he is you can get away with such things. If it were one of us we would be hung at the nearest yardarm."
"What...what has he done?"
"Then, you haven't heard." Harkins leaned towards them and they followed his example. He whispered lowly, "Nelson was ordered to report here, but refused and sent a couple of his captains instead. Lord Keith is taking over the Mediterranean Fleet and is flat aback at Nelson's refusal to follow his order. On top of that, Nelson has the nerve to ask for frigates!" Harkins looked archly at each of them. "I guess that's what being a successful Admiral will get you, eh?"
"But perhaps there is something Admiral Lord Keith does not understand. Perhaps Nelson could not convey the situation," said Hornblower coming to his defense.
Harkins leaned in again and whispered. "Word is Nelson is having an affair with the British Ambassador's wife, Lady Hamilton." He leaned back away from them. "Guess that must be reason enough to tell the Admiral of the Fleet to eat his orders."
Hornblower had nothing to say to this. He thought about Pamela and was glad there were no such encumbrances with them. He respected Nelson greatly. A brilliant naval tactician, brave, a leader, and well liked by his men from all reports. There must be more to this story than the tongue wag going around. He watched as Archie finished his pint.
"Your turn, Horatio." He held his glass out to him.
"No, let me," said Harkins. He took his and Archie's glass for a refill, returned them and insisted Hornblower empty his so he could buy him a beer as well.
"So, Pellew has let you boys out for a break, eh?"
Errands, sir, we have been doing errands, (buarp) ... all day, said Archie beginning to feel his beer. "Scuse me.
"Any from your ship going for the lefenant's examinations?"
"I, sir. I alone am requested and required."
"Have you heard who the captains are presiding?"
"No! And don't tell me! I prefer ignorance!"
Harkins laughed. "As you wish. But you are in for a surprise!"
"No, no no. Don't tell me. Not my own Captain. Please, God, no!"
"Well, you know they decide these things by lottery."
"Oh, God, now I am feeling sick. Horatio, take me home."
"Is it, Harkins? Is Pellew to be one of the captains?" asked Hornblower.
Harkins nodded, "Sorry to be the bearer of unwanted news."
"Very well, Archie, let's go." Now he did feel sorry for his friend. He would not want to have to face Pellew. Talk about pressure!
"Are you going to drink that?" Archie asked thickly, pointing at Hornblower's glass.
"No, I think we have both had enough. If anything..." he stopped in mid speech as Archie lifted his glass and drained it. "That isn't going to help, Mr. Kennedy. It is food you need and a good night's rest."
He grabbed Kennedy's arm, pushed his hat on his head and pulled him from the pub. "So long, Mr. Harkins."
Harkins saluted the two of them.
The sun was lower than when they entered. Kennedy burped long and deep as he stood in the street, blinking in the afternoon light. Hornblower gazed at him with dismay.
"Not Pellew. Tell me he didn't shay it, Horatio." Kennedy weaved as he stood firmly planted on the cobblestones.
Hornblower shook his head at his friend. "You should not have finished my beer. You know it is stronger than ship,s grog. Come on. Take some deep breaths. We,ve to to find a boat back to the Indy.
A group of Victory's officers were assembled on the docks waiting for a boat. Having brought the jovial atmosphere of the pub with them, they offered to drop Kennedy and Hornblower at their ship, since they would be passing her on the way to theirs. The wait was brief. The Victory's men were loud and boisterous in the boat, several bursting into song briefly. Hornblower exchanged a glance with Kennedy who grinned back at him in the midst of such a happy crew. As the boat pulled nearer the Indy, he could see Pamela leaning against the rail of the forecastle. The officers saw her staring at the boat, realizing who she was watching, and who was returning her stare. Having a few drinks under their belts, several of them smiled and called out in unison, "Whoaooooa!" then laughed as they saw Hornblower's cheeks pink.
The two ascended to the deck. Pellew exited his cabin as Kennedy's feet hit the planking. Pellew looked at him sideways, their eyes meeting. The smile on Kennedy's face slowly faded. He gave his captain a serious nod. Pellew returned the nod and continued his journey to the side. He had heard the raucous passengers of the Victory Crew returning his men. Eyebrows raised as he looked over the rail. Some of the men, seeing him peering down at them, poked their fellow officers in the ribs and quieted under his gaze. The ratings maneuvered the boat away from the side.
"Were you successful?"
"Yes, sir. She has an appointment with Mr. Hoskins at half past nine."
"Good. Good." Pellew looked again at Kennedy arching an eyebrow. "He knows?"
"Yes, sir," said Hornblower lowly. "A leftenant from Victory told us."
Pellew inhaled long and slow. "Mr. Kennedy."
Kennedy joined them from a discussion with Bracegirdle. "Sir?"
Pellew studied him a moment. "We have a journey together on the morrow, Mr. Kennedy."
Pellew continued to assess his junior officer. He let his countenance soften. "I will treat you as I would any other officer, Mr. Kennedy. No partiality for, or, against you."
"I understand that, sir."
Pellew clasped his hands behind him turning his gaze to Gibraltar. "Just remember, Mr. Kennedy, I have every confidence in you. And whether you pass or fail, you are still my officer." He turned his head to lock eyes with Kennedy.
Kennedy swallowed holding his gaze. "Yes, sir. Thank you, sir." He saluted his captain. Glancing at Hornblower, Kennedy left them to go below.
Pellew rose on his toes, looking back across the water. "You had better see to him, Mr. Hornblower. I do not believe he will keep his drink."
Hornblower smiled. "Aye, aye, sir."
Hearing his steps departing, Pellew turned to watch his second leftenant stopping to speak to his wife before going below. The fondness he felt for his men frightened, yet warmed him. He quickly closed the door to the what ifs. To ponder these could take one to a despair leading to madness. Life was to be lived. Fretting was useless. Bracegirdle approached him.
"They are fine men, sir."
Pellew glanced at his first leftenant, then to the land, somewhat comforted that his first leftenant read his thoughts. He closed his eyes. They burned from overuse having been at paperwork since mooring. "Indeed, sir, indeed," he said tiredly.
"Mr. Kennedy informed me Mr. Hornblower was successful."
"So we are to see a wedding. I expect it will lend an air of finality to his status of matrimony," Bracegirdle smiled crookedly.
Pellew bent his head downwards. "Did you have something in mind, Mr. Bracegirdle?"
The leftenant chuckled, "I see you are reading my thoughts, Captain."
"Just remember this. Mrs. Hornblower may be with child, so whatever you do, do not let it upset her. Well, not too much anyway."
"Aye, aye, Captain."
Bracegirdle turned from Pellew and joined Pamela at the other side of the ship. She was dressed in the off-white dress that seemed to be fitting her better than it did four weeks ago.
"Well, Mrs. Hornblower, it seems we are to lose you tomorrow."
She smiled at him, then, returned her gaze towards Victory. "And, I am to lose you, Mr. Bracegirdle."
"You must be glad at the prospect of solid ground under your feet once again."
"Yes," she smiled sadly, "Yes."
"I look forward to your wedding," he said trying to cheer her.
She blinked several times. "Do you?"
He canted his head, as if to study her. Was she not pleased at the prospect of being *officially* married? "Are you having doubts, ma'am?"
"Not about Horatio, Mr. Bracegirdle. Never about Horatio," she replied her voice trailing off quietly. She turned, unexpectedly, looking directly into his blue eyes. "I love Mr. Hornblower. I love him fiercely, sir. I love him to the point that I would wish my own heart would stop beating than to see him harmed."
Bracegirdle could not help but place his hand atop hers on the rail. "You can not live a life as a navy wife in fear, ma'am." He watched her eyes fill. He could see her struggle to fight them.
"Do not tell him you saw me this way, Mr. Bracegirdle, ever," she whispered. "I know. I know what you say is true." She moved her hand from under his, then turned the palms of both hands up and flat. "This is how I hold him, Mr. Bracegirdle." She looked down at her hands, then back to him. "Though he is my husband, he does not belong to me. And, as long as I remember that, as long as I hold him this way, he will be mine."
The tears in her eyes evaporated. A strength was there. He felt her embolden and knew she did indeed know. With any passage there is the occasional step backwards. He had come upon her in the midst of one, and now, had seen her take one forward.
Was this the American spirit? Since he had been a young boy, old enough to learn of the world, he had marveled at the men and women choosing to leave the safety of England for the wilderness across the sea. That kind of hardship had to breed strength. Now he had seen it with his own eyes. Somewhere in this woman's past was an ancestor from his own country. Knowing that, gave him pride in the results he witnessed before him. His eyes twinkled at her.
"It has been a pleasure knowing you, Mrs. Hornblower. The men of Indefatigable shall long remember you."
Extending her right hand, she smiled at Bracegirdle. He held it firmly, giving her a nod.
The sun was low on the horizon. It was dusk, light fading into darkness, gradually. Hornblower emerged from below decks to join Pamela, still gazing towards Victory. He stood beside her.
"She is awesome. Terrible and beautiful at the same time. Even her colors say beware! Like the bumble bee and the wasp. She is at rest now. When her ports open she will bare her teeth like a lion and pour out fire like the dragons of old!" She turned her head to meet the eyes of the man she loved. She saw a smile within his velvet brown orbs. Smiling gently, she asked, "Have my ramblings amused you?"
He breathed deeply, leaning against the rail, looking to Victory.
"A penny for your thoughts?" she requested.
"They are worth a million pound...each is of you." He opened his hand. She placed her small one in his large tapering palm. Their fingers intertwined. He closed his eyes. "I long for you," he said quietly, looking once again at Victory.
She gazed out to the great ship, feeling the pressure of his hand upon hers and the tingling within. He shifted his weight taking a side step. Their shoulders touched, setting off another current sparking through her system. She leaned against him. Opening his long narrow fingers, he closed them again around her soft ones.
Eyes lowered, moving to face him, she lifted them slowly. He stroked her features with his vision. His lips parted taking and releasing a breath, looking deeply into the depths of her soul. She blinked unable to withstand his stare.
"H..h.. how is Archie?"
"Do you really want to know?"
Daring to look back, she admitted softly, "No."
Her heart was pounding. He reached to touch her mouth. Closing her eyes, she felt his finger tips glide softly over her lips.
"I think my heart shall beat out of my chest," he murmured, speaking what she, too, was feeling. He let his fingers trace the curve of her jaw line. She stared at his soft brown hair, reaching to smooth his curls. He closed his eyes relishing her touch. Rocking up on her toes, she leaned to press a kiss to his brow. Feeling her breath, he opened his eyes to see the blur of her closeness. He turned his head to brush her cheek with his lips.
"Not here," he whispered.
"I know, my love, not here." Gravity pulled her hand to his shoulder, sliding to his chest.
A gentle smile rested upon his countenance. In the dim light of early evening, he traversed her features once more.
"Mr. Hornblower, sir."
He jumped at the address, sucking in a breath, oblivious to the young man's approach. "Yes, Mr. Cutter?" he asked, regaining his composure.
The midshipman stood uneasily before him, asking in a youthfully changing voice, "Begging your pardon, sir, the captain bids me ask if you and Mrs. Hornblower would like to have dinner with him on shore this evening?"
He looked to Pamela for a reply. She nodded her assent.
"When did he wish to depart, Mr. Cutter?"
"Seven bells, sir." His voice broke between the high and low tones nervously.
"Tell him, thank you. We shall be ready."
"Aye, aye, sir." Cutter turned crisply to inform the captain.
"Should I change?"
He sighed. "Not for me. There is nothing I would have you change. Well, except that unreasonable desire for climbing. Maybe that," he beamed. He took her hand, pulling her behind him.
"And where are we going, sir?"
"To our cabin. We have some unfinished business."
Pellew, Pamela, Hornblower, Rampling, Cutter, Matthews, and Styles made their way up the street from the bay. Oldroyd, Hardy, Billings, and Wiliams, and a four man squad of Marines, including a sergeant, sat with the launch at the docks. With so many men on leave, Pellew did not trust leaving the boat unguarded, and feared they would not find one to take them back to the Indy, if he let them return.
The village was filled with navy men. Walking the streets, drinking in the pubs. Laughter could be heard now and then as the men about town relaxed from duty, at their ease after port entry.
Hornblower suggested eating at the hotel where he had arranged for the wedding breakfast. The ratings tagged along, so they would know where to bring her trunk in the morning.
The captain felt like he was leading an assault with so many of his men following him up the inclined street. Deciding to have dinner on shore had been spur of the moment. Realizing he might be engaged in examinations all evening the night before the wedding, he felt this was his one and only chance to enjoy a land side meal with the Hornblowers. Bracegirdle requested that a couple of officers join the dinner party to spy out the *terrain*, since he, himself, had other *errands* that needed his attention.
Pellew wondered what his first was cooking up for Hornblower. Discovering tomorrow night what mischief will have rained down upon his second and serious officer, caused him no small amount of merriment. Had he not been saddled with these tests, he would have had time to give some thought to rankling the man himself. He let go a smile with a glance at Hornblower, then, Pamela, and found her watching him. His face went deadly serious, immediately. He glanced back noticing her raised eyebrows and questioning eyes. He looked up as innocently as he could at the looming hotel before them.
Pamela looked at the sign on the hanging placard and broad wall of the hotel front. Finding the face of her husband, they exchanged knowing looks.
"So this is where we're ta bring the trunk, sir?" asked Matthews.
"Yes. Ask for Mr.or Mrs. Harvey. Tell them I sent you. You should have no difficulties. Think you'll be able to find it tomorrow?"
"Yes, sir, Mr. Hornblower."
"Very well, Matthews. Be ready at the launch when we return," ordered a tired Pellew.
"Aye, aye, Captain."
The cue had been given that the ratings were on their own from this point. The officers and lady entered the hotel.
The five of them stood awkwardly in the reception area. Rampling held his hat on his fist, nervously spinning it over his hand, observing the details of the room. He was an inch or two taller than Hornblower, and thin. He tended to stand with his feet apart as if he were steadying himself on the deck of a rolling ship. His hair was dark brown, straight, and tied neatly at the back of his head. Eyes were brown and seemed rimmed with a deep purple ring. The nose was narrow with lips to match. In his late twenties, he was not handsome. Attractive, in a rugged sort of thin way, might describe him. His uniform, like that of so many others, was in a sad state, thinning at the elbows, but appearing neat at a distance.
Cutter stood as far from his captain as he could. When Mr. Bracegirdle had first approached him to participate in plottings against Mr. Hornblower, he had accepted, with relish, the opportunity to be included in the activities of his immediate superiors. If he had known it included having dinner with Pellew, however, he would have declined. The man caused him to stammer and blush, and he hated that feeling of fire in his cheeks.
Today, when he had been caught on duty by Pellew and ordered to invite the Hornblower's to dinner, he had had to steel himself to return, knock on Pellew's door, enter, and report. Pellew had looked at him strangely and asked him how long he had been on board the Indy. He managed to stammer out that it was for some months, not wanting to admit the true length of time. Pellew had looked unsettled, which disturbed Cutter. He feared his captain would be calling him back, now that he was aware of his existence. And now, here he was, part of the Captain's dinner party.
Pellew was staring at him. God! There went the color into
his pale face. His blue eyes darted amongst the members of their
party, the room, and his uniform. He wondered if something were
wrong with it. He turned sideways, hoping his thin frame would
make him invisible. He reached to pull his hat off his head,
feeling it tug at his thick, light blonde hair. He took a step
away from his captain, pretending to take an interest in a picture
on the far wall. How was he going to make it through dinner?
He gulped wishing he were back on the Indy.
Pellew turned to whisper to Hornblower. "Mr. Hornblower, I have been trying to think back to when Mr. Cutter joined Indefatigable. Can it possibly be a year?"
"Has he never been to dinner? I am sure I have invited all my midshipmen, but I do not recall him attending."
Hornblower smiled. "He is scared to death of you, sir. I believe whenever, he was invited, he traded watches with whoever had duty."
"Why, in heaven's name?"
"He joined us just before Muzillac. If you forgive me for reminding you, sir, you were a little ...distant at the time."
Pellew cleared his throat raising an eyebrow. "He does his duty, does he not, Mr. Hornblower?"
"Oh, indeed sir, I have no complaints about Mr. Cutter. He is quite diligent."
"He is very well turned out."
Hornblower grinned recalling a phrase from Lord Edrington. "It must mean you are a better officer, sir."
Hornblower twitched nervously, realizing another one of his jokes had fallen flat as a flounder. A young woman appeared at reception, drawing their attention from the awkward moment. The men checked their hats.
The party of five found a table in the dining area. Hornblower held a chair for Pamela. Pellew smiled inwardly, watching the chivalry of his officer. Once Pamela was seated, the rest of them took their seats.
While they awaited the order, small talk ensued about the number of vessels at anchor, the prisoners, and the war. Soon, Rampling excused himself from the table. Pellew set his face, not wanting to give anything away. A few moments later, Cutter, too, begged their pardons and disappeared.
Hornblower had been unable to forget the conversation with Victory's Leftenant Harkins and wondered about broaching the subject with his captain. With his co-officers gone, it might be easier to bring it up. Should he?
"What is on your mind, Mr. Hornblower?"
How does he do that? He found it most disconcerting that his captain could tell when he was plagued with worrisome thoughts. He glanced at Pamela, sipping the white wine she and Pellew were drinking.
"Nothing, sir." He looked at the raised eyebrows on his captain. Pellew knew there was something. "It is just some," he shook his head to dismiss his own words, "...talk about Admiral Nelson."
Pellew leaned back wearily in his chair, reached for his wine, and exhaled. "Lord Admiral Horatio Nelson. You are in good company, Mr. Hornblower."
Pamela smiled. "It is a good name."
Pellew let his eyes follow Hornblower's left arm resting on the back of his wife's chair. The thumb of his left hand was rubbing her shoulder, his finger tips touched the top of her arm. His eyes traced back to Pamela's, whose twinkled, knowing that he saw Horatio's arm around her. He cleared his throat.
"Indeed, it is, Mrs. Hornblower. Definitely not a common one." He sighed out his fatigue. "What have you heard, sir?"
"Idle chatter, I'm sure, sir," he replied, smiling nervously.
"Pub talk," he said reluctantly, shrugging. "More likely the drink speaking," again trying to make light of what he had heard and wishing he had said nothing.
Pellew stared at Pamela, then at Horatio. "Was it about his countermanding orders?"
Hornblower swallowed, removed his arm from Pamela's chair, absently scooting his own closer to her. "Something like that, sir."
"Hmm. Amazing how these things get out."
Hornblower cocked his head, squinting. "Is it true, sir?"
Pellew looked down, seeming to chew over his words. He thought about his next statement, before this American. To say anything even slightly negative in front of a former enemy made him uncomfortable. It was like hanging ones laundry out for the world to see. But this was Hornblower's wife! She was practically British by union. She would bear British children, if she were indeed pregnant. And, in two days, that union would be solidified by the Anglican Church.
"Yes, Mr. Hornblower. It is true."
Admiral Nelson disobeying orders? How could he? He was Britain through and through! There had to be a valid reason, not simply the one he had heard. But even he had toyed with the idea of stealing Dolphin and sailing to America with Pamela. There was no danger, now, of the thought being put into action. Perhaps he could understand Nelson's feelings better than he realized. Nelson, the embodiment of the British Navy, a strikingly brilliant leader. But, how could he dare speak of it to Pellew?
He felt a hand upon his. Pamela. He felt his body rejoice at her touch. Lady Emma Hamilton. Did the admiral, too, shudder with joy when Emma came near? When she touched him? His fingers looped around Pamela's delicate hand. Then, he heard his own voice, asking, without his permission, slipping out quietly with one word, "Why?"
Pellew shifted uneasily in his chair, clearing his throat. Glancing at his two table companions, he breathed deeply. "I am sure his reasons are...multifaceted, Mr. Hornblower. Ah, here comes our meal. Where are Mr. Rampling and Mr. Cutter?" He needed them as a diversion to leave the subject of the disobedient Nelson.
Pamela was on her feet before he finished his question. "I'll find them, captain."
Pellew and Hornblower stood.
"I'll go, Pamela..."
"No," she said firmly. "You and the captain finish your conversation. I will find our wayward crew." She smiled grabbing her skirts to maneuver the busy dining area.
They watched her disappear around the corner. Pellew sighed again. Did she realize how hard it was for him to speak ill of a fellow officer in front of her? It was difficult enough to tell Hornblower, a man he expected to obey him! To have to admit a man of higher rank than himself was telling his commanders *no* made Pellew squirm. Obedience in the service was not requested, it was required! He silently wondered if Nelson's refusal to obey would have far reaching consequences. He hoped the hope of all hope that Nelson did have a definite, firm, desperate reason to disobey, and remain where he was.
"Sit down, Mr. Hornblower. She will be all right." The two settled into their seats. The waiter began placing the food at each place. "Admiral Nelson is in a position to watch the activities of the French fleet, Mr. Hornblower, the ports of Toulon, Malta, Naples. The Admiralty and Lord Keith are not there. They cannot understand fully the situations Nelson faces. There are times when we as leaders must make choices, informed decisions, that others cannot comprehend. Do you understand?"
Pellew clearly did not think Emma Hamilton was Nelson's sole reason for refusing to obey. He felt himself relax. Thank God for his captain. His subconscious mind had been gnawing away at the Nelson revelations all evening. A calm assurance came over him that one of England's best and bravest would never do an act to harm the country he loved. And, apparently, that decision went in a simultaneous direction with his "affections" for a compatriot. His eyes returned to see his captain leaning to stare at something behind him.
Rampling was entering the side door Godwin, Hornblower, and Kennedy had used earlier that day. Pellew caught Hornblower before he could turn.
"Mr. Hornblower, could you pour me another glass of wine?" requested Pellew. Rampling saw them, realizing immediately where the doorway led. He turned and exited. Hornblower could see his captain's glass was barely drained, but he complied.
A swish of cream clothing caught Hornblower's eye. He stood, seeing Pamela returning with Cutter in tow. Pellew mirrored his action.
"I found him outside star gazing!" smiled Pamela. "I tried to point out some of the constellations you showed me, dear. But I do not think they are visible yet." Hornblower assisted her with her chair.
Pellew gave Cutter a serious stare. "Mr. Cutter, our meal has arrived."
"Thank you, sir," he answered stiffly.
"Mr. Cutter, your grandfather is in the House of Lords, is he not?"
Crimson would have described the young midshipman. "Yes, sir."
"I recall reading a letter from him. I can't think of what distracted me from interviewing you, sir. Mr. Hornblower says he finds you to be diligent to your duty."
"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir."
"Hm." Pellew nodded realizing he would get no more out of the boy than *Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.* and decided to leave it at that. There would be opportunities enough once back aboard the Indy.
Pamela looked up from her seat at the three of them still standing. "What gentlemen you all are! Do sit down!"
Cutter turned nervously, first to his captain, then to her, then to his captain. At last, he tossed the tails of his coat and sat.
"Mr. Cutter, did you not see Mr. Rampling in your wanderings?"
Cutter opened his mouth to reply when Pellew said, "I feel certain he will be here shortly, Mr. Hornblower."
Rampling appeared almost immediately. Hornblower looked quizzically at his captain.
"Please forgive my tardiness, sirs and lady," begged Rampling, taking his seat.
"I found Mr. Cutter standing outside the hotel looking
up at the heavens, Mr. Rampling.
Where were you?"
Rampling smiled lightly, "I fear, ma'am, I lost my way to the wash room. Please excuse my absence." He bowed his head to her, glancing at Hornblower.
The next day Pamela emerged from her farewell to Pellew, his handkerchief tightly held. Hornblower stood waiting amongst his men to assist her entry into the launch. Unlike the day before, the boat was spacious, lacking the Spanish prisoners to fill its benches. A number of men from his Dolphin crew had turned out to see her off. They smiled and knuckled their heads to her, murmuring soft good-byes. She smiled, squeezed hands, and fought her tears with success. Finally, she stood next to Horatio. She allowed herself a quick glance at her husband and then turned to seat herself.
Pamela was lowered via swing into the launch, the full skirts of her lace trimmed rose dress rustling in a light updraft from the ocean surface. The wide brimmed hat was tied beneath her chin with a broad bow under her left ear. She was saying good-bye to Indefatigable, her second home with Horatio.
With that thought, she looked across the water, able to make out the tops'l main mast of Dolphin. She was in dry dock for repair. Styles had told her the bowsprit was badly damaged and would be replaced, but she could not see more of the vessel. Maybe after a few days, she would be able to walk down to the shipyard to have a look at her.
The ship had seemed a death ship to her at first. A place where she was taken against her will, nearly assaulted, her father slain. A place where she had escaped to run and hide, losing hold on reality to the vivid memory of her father's murder. She felt a catch in her throat. But, then, quite unexpectedly, a tall, dark-eyed British leftenant had eased into her sorrowful existence. He changed the ship from one of death to one of life. New life for her, and in her. She turned in the swing to see him give her a smile and a nod of assurance as he oversaw her lowering to the launch.
She pondered whether to say anything to her husband about her suspicions of pregnancy, but the chance of disappointing him, or herself, cautioned her. She must be absolutely certain before she said anything. Even then, she wondered if she should not keep the information completely secret. Did not her husband have enough worries without her, too? Her and a child, even more so. She breathed heavily upon her thoughts and mentally spoke to the babe. *I do not know if we should tell him about you yet, if you are indeed there.* Unconsciously, she lay her handkerchief hand upon her abdomen.
Matthews reached to help her from the swing. She smiled warmly at him. What would she do without the men she loved around her? He held her gaze for a moment, then turned his head a notch at the tears he saw pooling in her eyes.
"None o' that, Miss Pamela," he whispered to her.
She dabbed quickly beneath her eyes. "I am going to miss you. You ...you are..." her throat constricted around the rest of her words, *like a father to me*, and stuck there, unable to reach vocal expression.
Matthews shook his head seriously.
She felt Hornblower stepping into the launch behind her. Pulling her arm, he assisted her into a seat in the stern. She forced a smile for him, sitting where he indicated. The men began the row, evenly, pulling back on each stroke in unison.
Bailey had the tiller. As the launch cleared the bow of the Indy, all Gibraltar could be seen. The southernmost tip disappeared into a fog resting heavily upon the calm waters. There was but a breath of wind. The same fog draped over the top of the jutting, great, barren rock. The air was heavy with moisture, stifling the lungs, smothering, silencing.
Pamela fixed her gaze on the coming dock, but her mind visualized Indefatigable. She had avoided the thoughts for so many days, so many weeks. Now, here they were. They would not be put off, loudly rapping on the door of her heart like a cruel, demanding landlord, wanting his rent. *Stop rowing!* she thought. *Stop! You are taking me away! No! No!* her thoughts were screaming. She could not leave! It was her home! Horatio was her home! *Take me back, Horatio! Take me back to the Indy!* She clutched her heart. Gibraltar was cold, unfriendly, empty. How could she live here? There was no love here! How could he make her go? How could he abandon her? Her breath began to come quickly! This separation, this ending, was like a death march, leading to a gallows.
Matthews, in the rowing seat opposite, was watching her. He shifted his eyes to Hornblower, then, back to Pamela. What could he do to calm her? She was not looking at him. *Look at me* he willed her. Her eyes met his. The handkerchief was looped over her finger. She put her finger between her teeth, biting back a shout. He could see the stark, screaming sadness. He tried to shake his head, a warning, a comforting, ever so slightly, hoping Hornblower would not see, but he did.
Hornblower scrunched his brow, wondering at Matthews. He saw her move out of the corner of his eye. He shifted them, trying to see her without turning his head. He could tell she had turned to face outboard. He leaned slightly forward trying to gain a point of observation with his peripheral vision. She turned a little more away from him. What was she doing, he wondered? Not crying. Not now. How would they make it through the day, if she lost her composure now?
Matthews looked intently upon Hornblower. Hornblower's jaw set firmly. Matthews began to grip and ungrip the oar he was holding. What did Matthews want him to do? He looked at the faces of the men rowing in the boat. Some looked out and away. Some looked at him expectantly, shifting between him and her. His eyes returned to meet Matthews'. Matthews gave a nod of encouragement. Hornblower turned his head ever so slightly towards her and spotted what he wanted. Reaching, he placed his hand over hers. The other men in the boat looked away from them. Pamela moved her fingers to grip his. He felt her hold tighten. He returned the pressure, letting his shoulder touch hers. He felt one violent shudder. He breathed in, closing his eyes. *Please, Pamela. Hold on. Hold on, my love,* he thought.
Hornblower's stomach turned. It was the mental connection. And, it was in full play. She had done a remarkable job hiding from him the coming despair. She may have even hid it from herself. Now it covered him like a flood. The thing the two of them had dreaded was here.
He had not let himself think of it. Safety. Safety for her had replaced the thoughts of separation. He focused his mind again on that...safety. She would be safe on the land. No pirates, no cannon, no war. His chest rose with the intake of air. He released the pressure from his hand and applied it again, returning the steady squeeze, feeling the intense pressure of her fingers.
He dared not look directly. His peripheral vision was fixed. She moved, turning more of her shoulder to him. Her head tilted downwards for some moments, still outboard. He heard a sniff. He swallowed hard, looking again to Matthews. Matthews cheeks were pulling at a mild curve upwards at the corners of his mouth. He blinked slowly at Hornblower. He let himself relax. She had it. She had it, for the moment, anyway. *Hold on, darling, hold on,* he thought again.
The boat came against the dock with a thud. He felt her shudder beside him. Matthews and Stephens had already vaulted from the boat to tie her bow and stern. Matthews was extending his hand to her. She looked up at him with a tentative smile.
He nodded reassuringly, "You can do it, Miss Pamela."
She lifted her skirts onto the stern seat, feeling Horatio's hands around her waist, steadying her, reaching to take Matthews' hand. He pulled her onto the dock, giving her an encouraging smile.
Hornblower followed. "Thank you, Mr. Matthews." He had called him mister again. He felt his face redden. The man was more than a hand, when it came to his wife. It was the only excuse he could give himself for the form of respect he had for the old seaman. Indeed, he had always been more than a "hand" to him. He blinked nervously, and Matthews, too, seemed uncomfortable but understanding.
"Aye, aye, sir," he said. "We'll get that trunk to the hotel directly, sir." He gave Hornblower a shakey salute.
At last, his gaze rested on his wife. A hint of redness rimmed her dry eyes that darted away from his.
"We must away to Mr. Hoskins office." He took her elbow leading her down the dock.
She stopped. "Wait, Horatio!" her voice pleaded. She turned walking quickly back to the men, leaving him standing alone. He watched as she called Matthews over, away from the others. Styles glanced at them, at Hornblower, and back to the trunk and his mates. He watched her hat moving as she spoke to Matthews. He seemed to be protesting. He saw her run her finger over the whiskered seaman's cheek, and finally, clutching his hand. Hornblower shifted his weight, shaking his head at the woman he loved. Styles gave her a nodding smile as she turned, walking quickly to join Horatio.
"Is it close enough for walking?" she asked as she strode up to him.
"Yes, but the time will not bear anymore dawdling."
She walked quickly, her gaze fixed to the pathways ahead.
He took heart at her renewed vigor and decided it best not to speak of the journey from Indefatigable. Another journey was before them, an adventure, whose end was as shrouded in mystery, as the tip of the rock, in the morning mists.