An American Encounter
Armed and Ready
Pamela sat on the wall, swinging her leg, and hitting the structure with her heel. Waiting. Watching. Her husband was in deep conversation with his captain. Who would have thought they would see him tonight? Crossing paths on the way to dinner, Pamela noted Pellew's preoccupied expression and encouraged Horatio to approach his officer. It was only a bit of a nudge he needed as he was still wondering when the ship would depart for its station.
"He likes you, Pamela."
"The captain. He likes you," stated Natalie again.
"The Captain is a good man, Natalie."
"That isn't what I said."
"Hm? Oh." She looked at her friend and smiled. "Yes, he seems to like me well enough."
Pamela was ignoring her intention, thought Natalie, or was oblivious to the notion. The captain LIKED her, REALLY liked her. She watched him at the wedding breakfast after seeing him holding Pamela the previous night. Hornblower knew it, too, she was pretty sure. She sighed and shook her head and gazed at Kennedy standing beside Hornblower, their attention fixed on the words of the captain.
"Who exactly is the Spanish genltleman with them?"
"But he is in the British Navy?"
"Yes. He is half Spanish, half English." Pamela dropped to the ground from her perch. "Let's walk down to the docks, Nat. They could be talking for some time."
As they passed near the huddled group of naval officers, Hornblower snatched a glance her way, noting their direction.
The docks were still busy with comings and goings, though somewhat alleviated due to the hour and the day. Torch light bathed the scene in a yellow incandescence and the hum of evening insects tuned in the background. At the far end, the blue tipped oars of the Indefatigable's launch could be seen reaching for the sky. The two women sauntered away from the water's edge, staying clear of the bustle.
A burley figure came towards them.
"Oy! Miss Pamela!"
"I was 'opin' to catch ye before we left. I've got somethin' of yers." He reached inside his shirt and pulled out a wrapping of cloth. Pulling on one end, it tumbled in his hand until the object was revealed. "Ye left it on Dolphin. I meant to give it to ye sooner, but..."
She stared, recalling how it came to be hers. It was not really hers, but she had taken it to use. She looked back into the kindly expression of the rugged seaman she had come to know and call friend.
"Ye may need it. Gibraltar is a wild and wooly place. Don't let yer guard down."
"I will not, Mr. Styles."
"No going back to America! You're British now!"
"Indeed! Long live the King!" she stated with a grin.
"Aye, Mrs. Hornblower," said Matthews, appearing along side Styles, "and Styles is right. Be careful. Here's a sheath for it. See?" He removed the dagger from Styles hand and pushed it into the leather holder. "It's got buckles here and here, so's you can..." and he motioned to her lower extremities. "I made it from Dago leather. Good quality."
"Shall I put it on now?"
"No!" the two chimed, looking nervously about.
She chortled. "I was teasing gentlemen! Thank you. Thank you both." Taking the holder from Matthews, she pulled the dagger, letting it rest across her upturned palm. The steel was bright, hard, and sharp. The handle was encrusted with a blue sapphire set in gold, on a silver matrix depicting the figure of a man with a cross, and a ship in the background. What personage had the pirates lifted this from? It was hers now. Memories flooded in to remind her of how she had cut Styles and used it to hold Hornblower at bay. Resheathing the weapon, she looked up and smiled at the two men. "I shall never forget you... my gallant men!" She rose on tip-toe, delivering a kiss to each man. "Thank you, Mr. Styles. Thank you, Mr. Matthews."
"What is going on here?" asked Hornblower good naturedly. "I've not even left port yet and look where I find you!"
Matthews watched as Pamela hid the dagger in the folds of her skirt.
"They were just bidding me farewell, Horatio."
The other officers trooped up behind him.
"It is time we were away, gentlemen," said Pellew to the ratings.
"Aye, aye, sir." Knuckling their foreheads, Styles and Matthews retreated to the launch.
"Mrs. Hornblower. I see you once more. I hear things went relatively well in respect to your wedding?" Sebastian's eyes twinkled at Pellew.
"Indeed, Dr. Sebastian, relatively well. I am glad to see YOU safe, sir."
"Yes, yes." He bowed and backed from her to join the launch.
Pellew held his chin high looking at her, then dipped it to bow. "Good night, Mrs. Hornblower."
"Good night, Captain." She felt Hornblower take her left hand. Slipping her right hand into her pocket, she pushed the sheathed dagger into the folds so it would not be seen.
"Are you ready for dinner?" He grinned at her and lead her from the docks.
Such a happy face, *he must know when he is leaving. I know he longs for his ship and the sea.* The evening breeze tossed her curls against her cheek.
"The wind is fair for England," she commented.
"Indeed. Victory should be well on her way."
Pamela looked over at Natalie and Archie speaking to one another
quietly as they walked.
She snatched a glance at Horatio's profile. He was still mirthful. *Certainly, he knows when he is leaving.* Would she have to drag the information from him? She sighed with exasperation.
"What is wrong, my love?"
"Nothing. I'm just tired."
"Would you rather return to the hotel?"
"No, no." She sighed again. Still nothing. She bit her tongue. She would not ask him. She would NOT ask him. "Horatio Hornblower are you going to tell me what is going on?"
"What?" Stopping, he gave her his attention.
"We'll get a table at the Harlequin, Horatio. You two need a little time. See you there," said Archie as he passed.
"Yes, Archie. What? The Captain? He...he had been to see Admiral Jervis. That is why Sebastian was with him. It seems the Admiral was taken ill yesterday. Victory sailed without him. He has been to see him at hospital."
"Oh." She was deflated and embarrassed. "I am sorry to hear Admiral Jervis is not well," the walk resumed, "but when ... I mean," she stopped again, turning to face him, "the WIND is right for England! Are you leaving? What are you grinning about?"
He glanced about them, then pulled her over into the shadows. As his eyes became accustomed to the darkness, only a street lamp giving illumination, he bent to gaze into her worried expression. He smiled and caressed her cheek.
She let her fingers rest upon his lips. "Why so gay?"
He grinned wider. "A fortuitous meeting. Most fortuitous.
Thank you, Admiral Jervis!"
He paused for effect. "While waiting to visit the Admiral, Captain Pellew overheard someone speaking of returning to England and....well... to make a long story short, they are vacating a townhouse unexpectedly and the Captain has secured it for us, for you! Are you not as pleased as I?"
"Yes. It is near the hospital. Captain Pellew is to meet us in the morning. The men will come to help us move. The people are leaving unexpectedly and will leave the furnishings. They have offered the dwelling free of charge. You only need take care of their things and upkeep the house." He hugged her. This was one of the last items on his list of worries, knowing she would have a semi-permanent residence, a place of safety. "And...best of all...they have a maid. She would be someone to be with you, dear, if she meets with your approval."
"You don't sound very pleased."
"Well, no, I mean, yes, I am. It is just so sudden!"
"I hope you like her. I hope I like her. I don't want you to be alone."
"I know," she sighed and nodded, "Horatio. It will put your mind at ease." She patted his chest absently. "But, it sounds as though they may intend to return."
"Yes. But they believe they will be gone for a year or more. Plenty of time for you, for us....to make plans or adjustments as to where you ultimately live."
"You want me to go to England?"
"Eventually, my love. It is my home. It will be our home."
Her worried expression concerned him.
"And, when do you leave?"
"As soon as the wind changes."
"Changes? It is set for England now."
He shook his head holding her with his eyes. "It is not our destination. Come. Let us speak no more of it here. Archie and Natalie await."
The next morning found Pamela and Horatio standing in the morning mists to meet the Captain at the Selby's townhouse. The ship to take Mr. and Mrs. Selby to England was sailing with the morning tide. The conversation consisted of 'hello, how are you, Maria is the maid, here are the keys, write if you have questions,' and they were off.
Captain Pellew, Horatio, and Pamela stood watching them rush away in a flurry of dust and hoof-beats.
"Well. That was easy," said Pamela.
The threesome turned to stare at the townhouse.
"Selby says a German woman lives next door. The maid is Spanish, but has lived on Gibraltar since before the siege. She chose to stay under British rule rather than leave the familiar. Rather odd, but women," shrugged Pellew glancing at Pamela with a fought smile, "who can know what is in the mind of a woman?"
The maid opened the door to allow them entrance. She curtsied. "Good morning, senors, senora. I am Maria."
"Mrs. Hornblower, Captain Pellew, and I am Mr. Hornblower."
"Good morning, Maria," smiled Pamela.
Her expression was curious. "You are not English."
"Well, by marriage I am, but originally I am from the United States. My husband is English."
Maria curtsied again, bowing her head. "I will show you the house, yes?"
"Yes, thank you," said Hornblower.
Maria appeared to be in her late thirties, early forties, stocky but not overweight. A few strands of gray could be seen in her black hair which was pulled back from her olive complexion. She wore a gathered skirt of olive green, with a blousy top of beige muslin gathered at the neck and arms. Her appearance was neat if not fashionable.
As they followed her, Hornblower questioned Pamela with a look and raised eyebrow concerning her acceptance of Maria. She shrugged her reply.
The house was small but adequate. It was similar to the buildings they had seen in the village proper. The front door opened into a hallway with stairs to one side. The stair wall was the common wall with the townhouse that adjoined. The hallway led back to a kitchen. The front room was a parlor, behind it an adequate dining room with a bow window similar to the one in the parlor, and then the room housing the kitchen. A tiny room with a bed and another, with an empty metal tub, were tucked in behind the stairs. There was a back door that lead to several out buildings.
"Do you have a horse?" questioned Maria.
"No." answered Hornblower.
"Not yet," added Pamela.
"There is a small barn if you have a horse."
"May we see the upstairs?" asked Pellew. He was anxious to be done with the tour.
"Follow me, senors and senora."
The upstairs consisted of three rooms. The front room was the largest and contained a comfortable looking double sized bed, currently stripped of its coverings. There were two windows with beige brocade curtains. A dresser, with mirror, stood against one wall, and a wash stand beside. A substantial armoire was tucked in one corner and a free-standing full length mirror stood in another.
"I have clean linen for the bed, senora,"
They followed her to see the last remaining rooms. The one in the middle was the smallest and contained only a single bed, a night stand, and a small dresser with a wash basin. One window opposed the door. The back bedroom was similar to the front in that it had two windows. There were two single beds in this room with night stands, a washstand, and an armoire.
"Did the Selby's often have guests?" asked Pamela.
"On occasion, senora."
"Do you stay here, Maria?"
"I have a little room off the kitchen I stay in when I am needed. But usually, I return to my home after the evening meal is prepared."
Hornblower felt his chest sink. Pamela gave his hand a squeeze.
"Will you be staying, Senora....Hornblower?"
She and Horatio shared knowing looks.
"Yes. Yes, I would be delighted to stay. It is a lovely home."
"I am very pleased the house will not be left vacant. Mr. Selby said you might wish to employ my services."
"Yes. I am in need of a maid. Perhaps we can talk later."
"Very well. I will attend to the bedroom if you no longer need me."
"Thank you, Maria," answered Hornblower.
"Ahoy, there? Mr. Hornblower, sir?" came a call from below.
"Ah. The men are here with your things, Mr. Hornblower," stated Pellew. "I will see to them."
Pellew gone, that left the two alone upstairs. Pamela walked back to the front bedroom and stared out the front window. She could see the wagon downstairs and the men unloading her chests. Hornblower stood beside her.
"I thought the maid came with the house and that she stayed here."
"She will not be that expensive, darling, and I will be all right."
"I don't like the idea of you being here alone."
She turned and laid her hand on his chest. "You are such a worry wart. You worry about me here and I will worry about you at sea, in a war."
He half frowned, half smiled, and sighed. "That is the way of it."
Maria entered the room. "Oh! I beg your pardon. Should I wait to do the bed?"
"No, no. Come in."
"Oy! Mr. Hornblower! Where shall we put this 'un?" panted Styles.
"Mornin' Mrs. Hornblower," grinned Oldroyd.
"Bring it in here, Styles."
"Nice house, miss."
"It is a lovely house, Mr. Styles. Oh Horatio! There is Captain Pellew about to leave! I must thank him for his help." She opened the window. "Captain Pellew!"
The captain turned, looking up to where the voice came from.
"Wait, Captain! Excuse me, darling." Pamela came quickly down the stairs expecting to rush out the door, but Pellew had returned to the house and was entering the front door when she reached the bottom of the stairs.
Pellew felt his heartbeat increase as she stepped to meet him. Even though, he had a word for her about her behavior.
"Mrs. Hornblower, please do not yell at me from windows."
"Oy! Excuse us, Captain Pellew." Matthews and Hardy were bringing in a large wooden box.
Pellew scowled at them and it, but Pamela had taken his hand and pulled him into the front parlor.
"Captain Pellew, forgive me, but I was afraid you would leave before I could thank you. It seems I am forever saying thank you to you."
"Yes, well..." he was blushing like a schoolboy and hating the reaction, " I knew your need. I could do no less. If you are secure, it will be one less thing for my leftenant to worry about."
"You know him so well."
He inhaled and exhaled, trying to let go the emotions he felt in her presence, and knowing in his heart of hearts it would be one less thing for him to worry about as well.
"I trust you will take care of yourself, madam."
"I will, Captain. Thank you for your concern."
Upstairs Matthews and Hardy were inquiring what to do with the box they held.
"This is right heavy, Mr. Hornblower. Where shall we put it, sir?" asked Matthews.
Hornblower squinted at the box. He did not recall it.
"What the devil is it?"
"I don't rightly know, sir. Miss Pamela had us get it from the storage room at the 'otel."
He sighed and stepped to the landing.
"Pamela! Pamela! Where do you want this box?"
"Excuse me, Captain. I'm coming, dear."
Pellew stood and stared at his feet for a moment and smiled to himself. Breathing deeply, he stepped into the hallway to see her skirts disappear on the upstairs landing.
"Where do you want this box put?"
Hornblower watched her color."Let's put it in the back bedroom."
Matthews and Hardy did as she instructed, setting the box down heavily with a clang.
"What have you got there?" asked Hornblower, wondering at the sounds from its contents.
"Oh, just some old things I picked up here and there."
He stepped over to open the lid.
"It is nothing important, Horatio, don't..." she bit her lip as he raised the lid.
His jaw slacked as he stared at the contents. "Where did you get all this?"
"They're wedding gifts?" she answered with hesitation.
"Well, sort of. I wish you hadn't opened it, Horatio."
"I'd like an explanation."
She sighed looking at Matthews and Hardy, who were sheepishly backing to exit the room. Horatio noted their demeanor and wondered what they had to do with this.
She stood beside him and then knelt beside the box. With a sigh, she started. "This one is from Leftenant Cutter." She removed a sword from the box and laid it on the floor. "This one from Mr. Lasky, this one from, oh let me think. I have it all written down. It has the tassel on it still, um, Mr. Bracegirdle, and he gave me one of the pistols as well. This pistol is from Mr. McMasters, and this one from Mr. Rampling. They were so sweet." She smiled remembering the occasion. "This is from Mr. Billings," she laid a pike on the floor. "The ax is from Mr. Starns. She pulled out a bag. "Gun powder, from Archie."
"Archie! Archie gave you gun powder?"
"Well, I have all these pistols, Horatio. And the musket is from the marines, a group gift." She reached in, pulling a black round object from the chest and letting it roll across the floor. She smiled warmly. "And this is from Drake, little Drake. He is such a sweet boy. I will miss him. Do take care of him, Horatio." She looked up at her standing husband, taking his hand in hers. "He is so little," and she thought about her own child growing within.
"Do not tell me, Pamela, you have a cannon in there as well."
"Captain Pellew is delivering one this afternoon."
Horatio's shocked and speechless expression brought laughter from his wife as she came to her feet.
"I am teasing you, Horatio! The captain is not sending me a cannon!" She hugged him.
He rested his arm across her shoulder and looked down at the armaments. "You've enough weapons there for a boarding party." He shook his head and sighed. His men were worried about leaving her as much as he was, but he had not given her a weapon. "They are worried about you. Even here."
"Horatio! Don't, darling! This is why I did not tell you about them. Don't worry, please. I did not want you to know, but I could not refuse their gifts, could I?"
He sighed and pulled her into his embrace.