An American Encounter, part 2
by Skihee

Chapter 2
Moving Forward

The little old man sat behind the desk in the anteroom trying to accomplish his work while Hornblower paced like an expectant father in the tiny outer office. Hornblower's mind dealt with a new confusion. He thought he knew the woman he had married. Seeing her around a man such as Hoskins had revealed a part of her he did not know. It was like she was another person. He had sensed the change as they left the dock, as if each step a transformation was taking place beside him. She had a determination, a self-assured demeanor. Something told him this was her father's daughter that he was seeing for the first time.

Pamela sat with poise in the leather chair opposite Mr. Hoskins. Her shoulders and back were as straight as a private's at inspection. She held her chin up, her head in a lofty pose. Her eyes were similarly lofty in their expression and her mouth gave no hint of friendly persuasion. She completed her signature, Pamela D. Dandridge, and passed the paper to him.

He studied it with pince-nez perched on his nose. Looking over them at her, he asked, "And the password, Mrs. Dandridge." He passed the paper back to her, releasing a great breath from his portly frame. She wrote on it and passed it back to him. He sighed a relief and smiled at her. "It is well, ma'am. With these evidences and the letter from Captain Pellew, I accept the warrant that you are who you say you are."

"Thank you, Mr. Hoskins. I know my father would retain only the most astute solicitor in Gibraltar. I have every confidence in you, sir," she said somewhat less stiffly.

He seemed pleased with her assessment of him. "Pray, dear lady, I hope you will forgive my asking, with the death of your father so recent in history, would you know if your uncle will be coming to complete the arrangements I had begun on your father's behalf?"

Her eyes flashed at the mention of her uncle. She did not claim him, and he did not claim her. She had given business no thought since the recent events in her life. It seemed on several occasions she might not live to concern herself with them and other matters were more seemly. Now, business encroached upon her last few days with Horatio. Dealings with her uncle. She had avoided all thought of what her father's death would mean to her in relation to the family business. Hoskins was asking her questions she was not ready to answer.

"I must decline at this time, Mr. Hoskins, to answer your many questions concerning Dawson Import and Export. I know you understand my position, having recently lost my father, and I have other pressing duties in regards to my rescuers. If I might return on another occasion, I would be of a better mind to address your concerns. After these many weeks of waiting, one more should not present a great difficulty."

"No, my lady, indeed not." He was deflated at the news. He had done all the footwork to arrange safe passage for Dawson Import and Export Shipping and here everything sat for lack of the final agreements and necessary paperwork. Would he ever get his fee? A silly question. He needed patience. DIE was a reputable American firm he had assisted before. Besides, did he not take care of the firms banking practices in Gibraltar? He knew its deposits. Indeed, he was about to take Mrs. Dandridge to a meeting with the banker.

"I understand completely, Mrs. Dandridge. Might we set up an appointment for next week?"

"Yes, Mr. Hoskins. That would be agreeable. When would be convenient for you?" she answered in a conciliatory tone.

"Let me call Mr. Deedle; he has the appointment ledger." He rose.

"Mr. Hoskins."

"Yes?"

"Might I trouble you for some note paper?"

"Certainly, ma'am." Pulling a drawer, he handed her several sheets. "Excuse me."

Left alone, she quickly wrote two notes. Hoskins left his door open. Hornblower stopped to stare at her writing at the desk.

"Mr. Hornblower!" smiled Hoskins, "I never knew our navy was so protective of foreign civilians! I must say, I am impressed. Not only with you, but with your captain. Deedle give me the appointment book, if you please. So, you will be escorting her about until she is settled?"

"Yes, Mr. Hoskins, my captain would not have it otherwise."

Hoskins smiled. "How quaint! I've heard of rescuers becoming responsible for the rescued! Quaint, very quaint! I expect you shall be accompanying us to the bank, as well, then?"

"Yes, sir."

"Very well. Good to have an escort where money is concerned. Nearly done." He returned to his office shutting the door.

He sat pondering the appointments.

"Have you a seal?"

"Hm? Yes, yes. Here you are. Oh, here." He lit a candle for her to use the sealing wax. "Wax is not up to snuff. Wick constantly goes out. I've told Deedle to replace it, but..." he smiled.

"Thank you, Mr. Hoskins." After several attempts the sealing wax candle stayed lit long enough to drip onto the folded parchment. She pressed his seal into it, accomplishing both notes at once. A broad smile broke over her face as she looked at the seal. "Oh!"

Hoskins returned the wide grin he saw appear on her face. "What? What is it dear lady?"

"Your seal!"

"Eh? It is just an "H" ma'am!"

"Just an "H", yes. But it is so appropriate!"

"Eh?" Hoskins was utterly confused.

"Some day you will understand, Mr. Hoskins," she smiled. "Would you have a messenger to send these right away? I fear they are of an urgent nature."

"Hm? Certainly, certainly. Thursday, nine o'clock?" It was nearly a week to the hour.

She looked at him strangely. "Oh! The appointment? Oh indeed, sir, that will do."

He arose calling Deedle. Hornblower watched the old man enter the office leaving the door ajar.

Hoskins studied the addresses on the letters. She leaned to point and explain each one.

"If you could take this one straight away to the Laughing Dolphin, you should find Mr. Matthews there. The other, as soon as possible to the Indefatigable." Her eyes widened in surprise as she happily bit her lip. She had said the ship's entire name without stumbling!

Hoskins saw her warm smile and could not help but reflect it. For a man in the law he was a pleasing sort. And, the more he was around Mrs. Dandridge, the more he was finding her to be pleasing, as well. Not as staid as he first surmised, nor as gloomy as she might be.

Deedle emerged with the notes, passing by Hornblower. He ceased pacing, seeing her smiling with Hoskins.

"Oh, one more thing, Mr. Hoskins."

"Yes?"

She moved to close the door. "I forgot to mention. I feel I may be in Gibraltar for some time. Indeed, I do not know when I will return to America."

"I know you must be distressed over your attack, madam. It may take you a while to trust the seaways once more," his visage was serious and consoling.

"Indeed, Mr. Hoskins. Therefore, I wish to open my own bank account. Do you foresee any difficulties in my doing so?"

"Your father expressed his desire that you have access to his company accounts, you are listed as an acting vice president. I see no impediments."

"Good. May I see the bank statement for the business?"

"Of course." He opened them to reveal the balance.

"This is the amount I wish to withdraw from D-I-E, sir, and open my own account."

He gasped at the amount she scribed. "Are you planning to reside here permanently, dear lady?"

"I might." She saw the amazement in his face.

"Well,.... I....that is entirely up to you, of course!"

"I like you, Mr. Hoskins. I think we shall get on famously," she smiled. She hooked her arm in his, exiting his offices.

By noontime, Hornblower was floating. Nearly all the heavy care that weighted his shoulders had been removed. Though she would not tell him how much, and he did not ask, he knew she had funds to sustain her for sometime. Funds that could keep her comfortable until her stateside accounts could be accessed. She did not like discussing money with him, but he had learned that Captain Dandridge had left her a tidy sum of it. Her father, too, saw his widowed favorite did not go wanting. With that, it could only be imagined what she was liable to inherit in his will. There was only she, her sister and her family, and her uncle, whom was recently revealed, that stood to inherit from James Dawson. She would not discuss her uncle, and he chose not to press her about her family. They were a long way away, as was his father.

With a pouch full of coins, she desired to buy things necessary that she had gone without for so long. But what would she do with Horatio? She did not desire to hurt him with her financial independence.

"Horatio," she hesitated, "There are things that I absolutely must purchase." She stopped from her whirlwind morning and, for the first time since she was lowered into the launch, looked into the face of her month long companion. She blinked at his expression, realizing she had been ignoring him in the flurry of activity. She gasped slightly, placing her hand alongside his cheek. "Forgive me!"

He smiled, "Forgive you for what?"

"I have not been paying attention to you, sweetheart." She leaned in to hug him.

"Here is not the place, Pamela," he said nervously, looking about him.

"Horatio, you are so conventional!" She looked around them, spying what she wanted. "Come over here." He followed her to an alley, between two buildings.

"What are you doing?" he asked incredulously. "What do you mean I am conventional?"
She pulled him by the hand until they were behind a set of stairs leading to a second story doorway. "I do not know what Americans do in America. Does every man and woman there stop in the streets to...to..."

She smiled up at him. "We are not in the streets."

"No, we are in an alley," he shrugged, not thinking much of this either. "And, if being conventional means you adhere to the expectations of society in a ...," she kissed him to stop his chatter. "Pamela, I will not...," she kissed him again. "I will say...," she kissed him again. The last time, when they stopped, he hugged her, giving in for the moment.
"We can not do this."

"Why not? Don't you love me?"

He released her, gesturing with his hands. "That is not the point! I am an officer in his majesty's navy. We are in a town. A military possession of his majesty. A British colony. An OBEDIENT British Colony. People in polite society do not, do not kiss in public or, or, even hold hands in public. It isn't done!" He supposed he should have had this conversation with her when they were aboard ship. Did she not know the expectations of society? What kind of morals existed in *her United States?* The agitation he was feeling surprised him, but he had not the time to consider from whence it came.

She let him speak his peace and sighed, listening, thinking about how handsome he was, and how she had failed to notice how handsome he was, so long into the day.

"You're not listening to me, are you?"

"Yes, I am, dear."

"What did I say?"

"You said you would not hold my hand."

"You're only half listening, then. I did not say I would not hold your hand. I said it isn't done in public."

"Well, why is that?"

"I... I ...Pamela!"

"I'm exasperating you aren't I? Kiss me."

"Yes. Yes, you are! And, no, I will not. I will not again."

"Don't you love me?" she asked with a pout, wrapping her arms around his neck.

He sighed. "Stop that! Every time you do not get your way, you, you... just, stop!"

She released him, stepped away, giving him her back. He stood looking at her, regretting his words. He shrugged not knowing what to say. How could he have refused her affections? What was wrong with him? Seconds passed. He took a hesitating step towards her.

"You're,...you're not crying are you?"

She shook her head no. Prim and proper. That was how he wanted her. Her uncle, Uncle Daniel, he wanted her prim and proper. Daniel Dawson did not like the way his brother had raised his youngest daughter. She had despised him for his criticism of her and her father. Now, the man she loved was requiring the same thing from her. Tears escaped her eyes, running hotly down her cheeks. But, she loved Horatio. Would he really expect this facade from her? She reached to wipe her face.

"We are no longer on Dolphin," he said softly, approaching her.

New tears formed rivulets. *Don't speak of it!* she shouted in thought. She felt his closeness. She stepped away from him. *You don't want to see my tears. Stay away!* she thought.

"Pamela."

*Don't say my name!* she thought loudly.

"Pamela." He watched her cringe from him. What was happening? He loved her. Why was this rift forming between them? She did not want him. Had his words been so wrong? Was he wrong to remind her of where they were? What could he say? Maybe she did not need him, now that she had funds. Perhaps it was only money she needed and not him at all. He turned, heading out of the alley.

She turned to see him walking away. Covering her mouth to stifle a cry, she walked deeper into the alley, away from him.

He stopped at the street, a struggle in his soul. He loved her. What was he doing, leaving her in an alley? He looked up the street, then down. Closing his eyes, he prayed, if only he could pray. *What is happening to us?* There was no mast to climb. They were not on a ship. If he walked away from her now, would he find her later? What of all their plans? What of... the baby? There was a baby. Everyone thought so, even though she had not confirmed the beliefs. Even though she had said nothing to him, her actions, her moodiness. It was something everyone suspected, but of which no one spoke. She was his wife. He turned, with determination in his soul. No one was there. Where was she?
He strode back into the alley. Passing the stairs they had stood behind, he saw her flat on the ground.

"Pamela! Pamela! Are you all right?" He bent to help her, taking her arm. She snatched it away from him. "Darling, did you fall?" he asked amazed. She pressed her eyes against her left forearm, crying. He sat in the dirt next to her. He placed his hand haltingly on her back. "Forgive me, Pamela. I...I am not used to you not needing me. You don't need me. You have money to buy whatever you need. I cannot stand that you do not need me." The words poured. He listened to what he was saying. It must be the truth. It must be coming from his heart for the words did not come from his mind. Mentally, what did it matter that she did not need him, but to his heart it was everything.

She sniffed, turning to look at him. "Oh, Horatio!"

"Come here," he said as he pulled her to his chest.

"Of course, I need you! How silly can you be?"

Leaning against her hair, exposed from the broad brimmed hat hanging down her back,he murmured, "This is like old times." She laughed and cried at the same time. He pulled her away to look at her. The tears had mingled with the dirt of the alleyway to muddy her face. "You're a sight, Mrs. Hornblower!" He pulled out his handkerchief and began to wipe at the smudges.

"You've got mud on your cheek!"

"I'm not surprised one bit."

She looked sadly at him and tried to wipe it away, smearing it further. "Oh!"

"Do you forgive me?" he asked. She nodded her head as a lone tear fell to glide through the remaining dirt covering her countenance.

"Do you love me?" he asked.

She nodded again. "Yes! Yes, I love you!"

They were two grown adults sitting in the dirt in an alleyway. Her dress was a mess. His uniform was smudged, and his trousers looked even worse.

He stood, pulling her with him, then picked her up in his arms. "Are you hurt?" He began to exit the alley.

She lifted her elbow to show him the bleeding scrape there.

"How did you come to fall?" Their eyes were for each other.

"I don't know. It is the second time it has happened."

"Hm. That night on the fo'csle with the doctor?" She nodded. "Have you fallen like this in the past?" She shook her head no.

"When I was eight I fell running home to tell my father about seeing a calf born. I fell down scraping both my knees."

"Are your knees scraped now?"

She pulled on her skirts to reveal them. He maneuvered over to a solid wall to hide what she was doing. He kept his mouth shut about propriety. After all, did he not ask? He looked at them. One had a torn stocking and a bleeding scrape, the other, a soiled knee.
He marveled with all the undergarments she was wearing that her knees would be injured. She must have slid when she fell. She threw her skirts back down, seeing his cheeks color.

"I'm sorry, Horatio. You asked."

"I did. I did ask." How could this woman act this way with him and yet behave as she had in front of Hoskins? He shook his head at the contrast. Cold, haughty with Hoskins until she had him on her side. Then, calculating and manipulative until she was done. He thought about the way she held herself. Would he like her to behave that way with him? It made him think of the ladies he met briefly at Government House, right here in Gibraltar. Well, he sighed, she was capable of acting like British society. Did he want her to?

"What is that sigh for? You are disappointed in me, " she stated. "You don't like my behavior. You want me prim and proper, like my uncle." Finally, she let her thoughts be known.

"Your uncle? You do not like your uncle."

"I do not like my uncle," she said sticking out her bottom lip looking away from him up the street.

He stopped their forward motion, letting her feet down to the ground. "Are you all right?"

She returned her gaze to him. "Yes."

"Good." He began to wrap his arms around her, moving closer to her lips. He would show her he was nothing like her uncle. If she wanted impropriety, he would give it to her.

"What are you doing?" she asked amazed.

"I am going to kiss you."

She put her hand over his lips. "Stop! Horatio, we are in the middle of the street!" She looked one way and then the other.

"Yes." He pulled her hand away, moving to kiss her again.

She leaned away from him. "But, everyone can see us!"

"Yes. Don't look at them. Pretend they are not there."

She laughed. "Horatio, you don't have to do this."

"You equated me with your uncle that you dislike, did you not?"

"Well,..." she hemmed.

"Did you not?"

"I take it back. You are nothing like him. Nothing."

"Why do you think I am disappointed in you?"

"Horatio, let me go. She pushed her hands gently against his chest. "People are staring," she whispered.

He tightened his arms around her. "You are my wife. Answer me."

"Horatio!

He tightened his grip further waiting for his answer.

"Because... I don't remember."

"Kiss me, he demanded.

"No."

"Why? Don't you love me?"

She laughed. "All right, all right. You have made your point, Mr. Hornblower."

"Kiss me."

"There's an admiral coming."

He released her immediately, straightening his clothes, looking around.

She was giggling. He raised an eyebrow, moving quickly to scoop her back up in his
arms.

"I can walk, you know."

But he did not put her down and he did not respond. She felt herself in his strong arms. How handsome he was. She smiled as she watched the determined face focused on the path before them. Hornblower continued down the street until he came upon a familiar shop. He opened the door with Pamela still in his arms. The bell on the door jangled.

"Will you let me down now?"

"Mr. Hornblower! What has happened?"

"Good day, Mrs. Himmel. We had a slight accident, but we are mostly all right."

"No, you are not! You poor dear! Look at your elbow! Aaron! Aaron! Bring some water and bandages! Why has the lady not been cared for? You poor thing! What happened to you?"

"Clumsy, Mrs. Himmel," she looked over to her husband hoping she got her name right, "Just clumsy."

"Oh! Your beautiful dress! Oh!" she threw her hands up to cover her cheeks and mouth.

"What is it, Lydia?"

"Good day, Mr. Himmel. She fell. I was on the way to our hotel when I realized we were passing your shop. I know I am early, but I thought maybe if there were a size problem it could be taken care of now. And, then I could collect it this afternoon."

"Oh! Oh! Come, my dear!" Mrs. Himmel grabbed Pamela's arm pulling her down the hallway, next to the stairs, to a back room. "Oh, you are limping, too! Come, get out of your dress. My brother can clean it for you before the stains set. Come, come!" Pamela looked over her shoulder at Horatio, dismayed at what was happening.

Horatio opened his mouth to speak a protest, when Mr. Himmel returned with the ring.

"Here," he smiled as he polished it with a cloth and then placed it in Horatio's hand. "Have a look!"

Horatio lifted the ring to look at the inside. The inscription was complete.

"It did not take as long as I thought. So, if it fits? You can take it with you now. Go see, go see!" He pushed him towards the small back room where Pamela had been whisked away. "Go on!" Mr. Himmel shooed him towards the room.

Hornblower walked in the doorway. Pamela stood in her white undergarments, skirts reaching near the floor, her arms bear, still smudged, dirt on her face and arms, hair mussed. She was beautiful standing there, and he stared.

Mrs. Himmel caught the mild look of shock on its way off his face. "Ooo! You two are married, aren't you?" She placed a blanket over Pamela's shoulders, pulling it around her snugly.

"Yes, Mrs. Himmel, we are," said Pamela softly.

She watched the two, eyes locking on one another, Hornblower moving closer.

"But, I think not wed for very long!" she smiled. "I will be right back with a bandage."

They were alone. He stood before her, lifting her chin. "You're beautiful!" He raised her left hand. "Here. See if it fits." He held the ring between his fingers, slipping it on.

She stared at her hand, mouth agape. She lifted it, examining the ring. "Horatio!" Her dancing eyes looked back into his, then back to the ring. "It's...it's... perfect! It's beautiful!"

"You like it?"

"I can't believe you. I can't believe...when did you have time for this? I love it! I love you! I don't deserve you! I don't!" She threw her arms around him.

He leaned his face into her hair, breathing in her scent. "I am pleased that you like it. It was meant for you." He heard the telltale sniff. "Don,t cry." He felt her cool lips upon his cheek, and then upon his mouth.

"Hold me, Horatio," she urged. "Tighter!"

"What is going on in that head of yours, now?" he grinned, feeling her grip around him. "No tears, now!" She pressed him more firmly. "I am not going anywhere." Her continued embrace concerned him. Had the ring brought back memories of her deceased husbands? "Pamela?"

How could she tell him all her fear thoughts? Every muscle in her arms flexed to clasp him tightly. He was going to leave her. Leave her and return to sea. Would a wedding band be her only memento of yet another young husband? But this man was special. As special as the ring on her finger. She could not give voice to her fears. He did not want to hear them, she knew, but they still remained. *Just hold me!* she thought, and then, she said it. "Just hold me."

He adjusted his arms around her, splaying his hands to press her against him. "I love you," he whispered. "There's an inscription."

"An inscription?" She looked up into his dark eyes and searched his face, his magnificent face. She placed her hand on his cheek and he turned to kiss her palm. Leaning towards him, she reached to meet his lips. "Kiss me, darling!

He felt her eagerly pressing his lips. He breathed in deeply and did as she bade him.
As if touching her had created a communication pathway, he knew, that even though they had barely arrived in Gibraltar, that the separation was fore in her mind. He thought back to the morning row from the Indy. His heart ached in agreement. What could he say to her? Would she let him? Should he break off the kiss? Her hands moved over his head, through his hair. His heart raced. This had to stop, but he did not want it to stop.

"Pam...Pamela!

She tried to move back to kiss him again. He held his cheek firmly against hers, shaking his head no. He felt her hands, balled into fists, pressing against his back, then spreading and clutching the material of his topcoat.

"Horatio. I love you. I love the ring. Never let me go. Never let me go, Horatio."

He held her firmly in his arms. "I never will. You are mine. Never forget. You are mine. I,ll come back to you. I will! Today is not the day for good-byes!" Why was this happening now? He pushed his cheek against hers and pressed a kiss upon it. "My lady, my love. His mouth was dry and he sighed, giving in to the moment. Maybe this WAS the time to do this. To say THIS good-bye. Maybe it would be easier to do it now and not go through this agony when time for him to leave. Does it work that way, he wondered? Would it work this way for them? Or, would this be another moment in time, regretting the future? What had he said to her before, back when they were on Dolphin? "Do not let our tomorrows give death to our todays."

She slowly released her hold and sighed and gazed at him once more. "I know. I know, sweetheart." She leaned her head against his chest.

"We won,t be parted forever, my lady. Not forever. He paused and cupped her chin in his hand. "Look at the inscription.

"I don't want to take it off," she whispered.

He leaned down to kiss her lightly, then considered his words. "You cannot have it until tomorrow.

"But why? We're already married."

"Stop being a child," he scolded sweetly. "Look at the inscription."

Removing it hesitatingly, she held it up to look within. The tears began anew. "You...you do love me, don't you?"

"Yes, my love, I do. I have loved you since I first saw you shoved between the timbers on Dolphin, threatening me with a dagger.

She jerked her head up to him, amazed at the revelation.

He nodded. "It,s true. Stubborn as you are, he gently pushed her loose hair behind her ear, "I love you. "

Mrs. Himmel peered around the edge of the door, staring at the embraced lovers. Her husband walked up behind her.

"Here's your water, Lydia."

She took the dish of water. "Look what a nice couple, Aaron," she whispered.

"Oop! The lady is not dressed!" He put his hand up to cover his eyes and turned away. "Did the ring fit?"

"I'll ask," she whispered. "Ahem."

The two broke from each other slowly.

"I've some water to wash that wound, Mrs. Hornblower. How does the ring?"

"Oh! It's...beautiful!"

"It fits?"

"Like it was made just for her!" answered Horatio.

"Look at yourself, sir! Did the two of you fall together? Get out of your uniform and I will have my brother clean it as well."

Horatio backed away from her. "It will be all right, thank you, no."

"But look at the dirt on your lapels! Your trousers! What a mess you are! Come now, don't be shy! I will give you a blanket to wrap in!"

"I cannot, ma'am, but if my wife may wait here, I will go get her a clean dress."

"Hm. Well, change yourself and bring back this uniform. I will ask my brother to see to it immediately."

"I..." he did not know how to answer her persistence. Pamela smiled at him and nodded. Sighing, he said, "Very well. The hotel is not far from here. I shall return quickly."

Pamela gazed at the ring on her finger.

"You shall have to give it up until tomorrow," he warned.

"Let me keep it till you return," she pleaded.

He squeezed Pamela's hand. "All right." He smiled watching her admire the ring. He was very pleased with himself. Walking the small hallway, he saw Mr. Himmel waiting for him.

"Did the ring fit?"

"Yes, sir. Very well. Very well, indeed."

*********

Kennedy had been unable to complete a single meal all day. The steward eyed him, discontentedly, as he removed the nearly full plate of food from before him. Being transfixed upon a piece of beef sitting on his plate, he was roused from his preoccupation, sucking in a quick breath. He gazed up to see Rampling and McMasters staring at him.

"It will be over soon, Archie," offered McMasters.

"Try to think beyond it, Kennedy," suggested Rampling.

He gave the two of them a wane smile, "Right," he said flatly, thinking *you two lucky ducks do not have to face Pellew.*

"Besides, you've got Hornblower's wedding to consider. Mr. Bracegirdle has come up with some wild pranks for our esteemed leftenant," grinned McMasters.

"Oh, don't tell me. The less I know the better. I've already graced Sir Horatio with a prank of my own," he smiled slyly.

"And, what pray tell is that?" queried Rampling.

Kennedy hunched over the table before them. They moved to the huddle to hear his hushed reply. "Before the men retrieved his kit to take to the Laughing Dolphin, I tied everything in knots!"

"Oh Lord! He will have your hide!" chuckled McMasters.

Rampling sniggered, "If nothing else, it will take up some of his time from his evening with Mrs. Hornblower." He gave them a wink. The three chuckled together.

"If just one of what Mr. Bracegirdle has in mind comes off, you will have to wait in line for Mr. Hornblower's wrath," laughed McMasters.

"All right, all right, tell me. Perhaps not thinking about trigonometry, longitude, and celestial navigation will do me some good." Kennedy leaned towards the two leftenants to hear, not THE plan, but the PLANS.

**********

Meanwhile, Hornblower had made his way to the Laughing Dolphin. As he approached he thought he saw Starns, the ships carpenter, headed down the square back towards the bay with Midshipman Cutter. He craned his neck to see if it were, but his own errand kept him preoccupied. Appropriating the key to their room, he bounded up the three flights of stairs, taking two steps at a time.

Unlocking the room, he was met with the sight of a large bouquet of red roses sitting in a vase on a small round table by the window. Their aroma filled the room and brought her to mind.

Opening Pamela's trunk, he chose the teal blue dress. The color reminded him of the sea. He was about to leave when he caught sight of himself in the wash stand mirror.

"Oh dear!" He had a streak of mud across his face. His lapels looked even worse in the mirror than from his vantage. "No wonder Mrs. Himmel wanted to snatch my uniform," he muttered quietly. He lay her dress across the bed, stopping a moment to consider the thought of a real mattress ... he cleared his throat, rousing himself from drifting fantasies. Pulling off his topcoat, he was amazed at the mileage the dirt had made upon his clothes. His waistcoat was dirtied across his middle, and the frills of his sleeves were gray with soil. He shook his head as he disrobed quickly. Pouring some water into the basin, he wiped the smudges from his face. He folded his soiled clothing neatly, deciding to take up the offer of Mrs. Himmel. Grabbing the canvas bag that contained his extra clothing for the wedding, he reached inside.

"What the devil?" He dumped every piece of clothing onto the bed. "Damn!" He began to shake his head in disbelief. "Archie! I know it was you! I'm going to...! I am going to kill you!" he repeated slowly as he tried to pull the knots our of his trousers. "Serves you right to have to face the captain for your leftenants exam! Damn it!"

**********

Back on the Indy, Pellew was emerging from his cabins. He wore a sour countenance at the thought of his coming assignment, including the added pressure on Kennedy. The other two captains were Troubridge and Ball. He snorted at the *luck* of the three of them to have their names chosen from the *hat* so to speak. Well, at least there might be some time to converse with them, both previously of Nelson's squadron in the Med. Eyebrow arching, he wondered if they knew what Nelson's reasons were for disobeying orders.

He marveled to think of it. Earlier this century an Admiral had been hanged for his misdeeds. But, then Nelson was no ordinary Admiral. He was well liked by the people, not to mention his grand successes at Cape St. Vincent and most recently the Battle of the Nile. A country that would consider chastising a hero of his caliber would surely be considered raving! He smiled thinking of his liaison with Lady Hamilton, finding himself sighing at the luck of the man. And that thought brought a connection to his own Horatio.

Hornblower getting married. He looked down pursing his lips in a smile. He accepted the Handfasting with witnesses, but like his leftenant, believed a wedding in the Anglican Church would solidify the fact. Pamela had not seemed to take much interest in the affair until he received the missive from her. It was well. It was her wedding. She may as well have her request. Nothing would stop the coming events. He let his mind stretch to the near future and did not feel a precipitous call by the Admiralty, in the offing, to up anchor and away, not Friday anyway.

He stood staring down into the launch, awaiting their departure. He had come on deck early and gazed at the ships at anchor, shimmering in the noonday sun on a sapphire sea. The fog had burned away, but a haze of moisture still hung in the atmosphere. He was beginning to feel the heat building within his dark uniform.

The first of his fellow travelers to come on deck was Matthews. Seeing Pellew he saluted his captain meekly. Pellew nodded at the seaman. Finally, Kennedy emerged from below.

"Captain, sir," he swallowed a salute at him.

"Relax, Mr. Kennedy." He glanced at his acting leftenant, thinking about the stress his two young officers were feeling. Bracegirdle's conniving came to mind. Kennedy should take part in the schemes. He was game for a tweaking of Mr. Hornblower, he was sure. It was going to be an interesting twenty-four hours.

A trace of a smile flashed quickly over his visage. One of his guilty pleasures was needling Hornblower on the odd occasion. The man needed to laugh now and then, although truth be known, what Bracegirdle had in mind might not crack a smile on his young officer, but it should make his wedding memorable. As if that were something he needed.

The one solace of the examinations was that Pellew was basically free from his regular duties. He would not have to write a report, make a list, digest reports from his various department officers, or confirm a duty roster. McMasters, Rampling, Bracegirdle, and Bowles would share the responsibility of the ship while he, Hornblower, and Kennedy were away.

Hornblower was ostensibly on leave. In a briefing, with his men, sans Hornblower and Kennedy their first day moored, he had informed his other officers that in deference to Mrs. Hornblower and all she had been through in the past month, that Hornblower would be given a free rein to do whatever necessary to assist her. He reminded them of the perils she had been through, wanting to be sure to gain the sympathy of his officers lest they resent Hornblower's amount of leave. He would be sure to grant them all as much as he could. And, here again, Mr. Bracegirdle's plans would somewhat soften the notion of Hornblower taking life free and easy.

Styles, Hardy, Carden, and Stephens appeared on deck. Pellew flinched seeing Carden standing there, dejectedly, with his canvas sack slung over his shoulder, containing all he owned. His shirt sleeve was tucked revealing the stump left from the encounter with Kaliakra. He approached the seaman.

"I understand you will be leaving us, Carden." He could not help but let his chin rise as he peered at the man.

"Aye, sir," answered Carden, surprised at the address.

"I am sorry to see you go. You have served us well."

He blinked, glancing over to his shipmates listening to the exchange. "I thank ye, captain," he replied softly and he bowed his head, knuckling it with his one hand holding the strings of his bag.

Pellew felt his jaw tighten. "I do not know what solace you might take from the information... but Admiral Nelson continues to thrive... though losing a limb."

Carden appeared thoughtful. "Aye, sir. But the Admiral ain't expected to climb the rigging."

"No. No, I suppose not." Pellew glanced to the deck, then back to Carden. "But I think he would if he had a reason."

Carden straightened, cracked a wide grin and chuckled. "I believe he could, Capt'n. The Admiral surely would if he was of a mind ta."

A faint curve appeared upon Pellew's lips. "The Board of Sick and Wounded will see you home soon," he added optimistically.

"Yes, sir, yes sir," replied Carden, feeling himself standing a little taller, with a lighter burden upon his shoulders.

"Very well, gentlemen, enough dawdling. Let us away!" The men climbed over the side, Pellew last, with pipes squealing.

**********

Hornblower made his way back to the jewelry shop. Several passers-by gave him curious looks and he muttered a curse again.

He entered the shop noisily alarming the Himmels.

"Mr. Hornblower!" Mrs. Himmel's face scrunched as she perceived the crumpled leftenant. He reddened under her gaze.

He shook his head. "I know, I know, Mrs. Himmel. The soiled clothes might be better than these. I fear I must take you up on your offer and then some." He placed the soiled stack of clothes on a chair in the hallway.

Hearing his voice, Pamela peeked around the door still wrapped in her blanket. She snickered when she saw him.

"You would find this funny! Do you know he has knotted every piece of clothing I own?" He strode down the hall holding his bag of clothing in one hand and her dress in the other. "Laugh! Go ahead!"

"Darling, you look so funny!"

The dampness of shipboard life and the knots created enormous wrinkles throughout every inch of fabric, setting them firmly. No amount of smoothing had eased the appearance, and the humidity of the place had done little in his walk over.

"Do you know what would have happened had I not discovered this until tonight? Or, worse yet, tomorrow? Here," he said handing her the dress. "Be thankful he did not disturb your clothing!"

He assisted buttoning her dress, feeling himself calming. Her presence was taking his mind off his troubles. He rested his hand on her shoulder.

Covering his hand with her own, the ring glinted in the light. She leaned back against him, sighing.

"What was that for, Mrs. Hornblower?" he questioned softly.

"I think it is precious that Archie mussed your clothes." She turned, sweetly smiling. "Only someone who really cares about you would tease you so, Horatio."

He sighed, considering her statement. She stroked his cheek.

"I missed you while you were gone."

"How are your wounds?"

She lifted her arm to show the bandaged elbow. "Mrs. Himmel has taken very good care of me. Ship's doctor couldn't have done better! And we have enjoyed some delightful conversation."

"Ahem." The proprietess gave Pamela a sly look.

The two responded to the introduction, turning to their hostess. Pamela winked at her.

"What besides cleaning do you want done, sir?"

He sighed, opening his bag and spilling the contents on the floor. Pamela snickered again.

"Oh dear," tuned Mrs. Himmel.

The three of them stooped, each taking an item. As they worked the knots undone, Pamela informed him that the Himmel's knew all about the impending second marriage. Lydia told her all about her brother, who had a flourishing laundry service due to the amount of cross traffic of shipping in the straits. Her dress had already been sent over by the Himmel's nephew and, "He should be returning soon on the off chance you had decided to have your uniform cleaned. I told her once you got a look at yourself, you would decide to take her offer."

He found himself staring at Pamela as she worked to unknot his clothing. Part of his anger was the delay in getting back to her. He was beginning to realize just how much he would miss her. Her eyes were lowered and it reminded him of that day on Dolphin's quarter-deck, when he had nearly called it all off. What had been in his mind? Marrying during a war. Marrying a *foreigner.* An unconventional wedding. He stopped working as he watched her, thinking back to the moments before he left her to get her dress, recalling the clinging kisses and clasping embraces. He felt a tightening in his throat.

She knew he was intent upon her. Mrs. Himmel did as well. She took the last item from Pamela's hand.

"Get out of those clothes, as well, sir. I will ask my brother to see to them straight away. I think a bit of steam will be necessary. Sooner gone, sooner back." She departed with an armful.

Slowly Pamela's gaze met his. A sad softness from his deep brown eyes gazed back at her. He shook his head, no, as he wondered how he would force himself to let his duty carry him from her. The anchor of his thoughts surfaced and he thought once more *Not time nor tide shall keep me from you.* It was the belief of his returning that kept him sane. Moving forward, their lips met.