An American Encounter
AE2 Ch 26 The Monkey on the Ceiling
The longboat, sail set after an hour of rowing, glided over the glassy sea. A breath of wind propelled them out to the set latitude of blockade. It was unknown which frigate would pick them up. The two ships kept patrol, though under drastically reduced sail near the pick-up points.
Horatio stared into the water. Hardy lived. That was a load lifted. Pamela was somewhere near, and despite Edrington's encouraging words that she only wanted to help, his emotions were mixed. He thought of the advice of Dr. Sebastian, to let her know he loved her and it now intertwined with the glee of Styles, of the knowledge of the pregnancy. *One in the oven.* It brought a wry smile, as he recalled the slaps on his back. The seaman had been under a cloud of worry, not being with him that fateful night. Loyal men. His eyes rested on Edrington. Amused at the costume of the prim English lord, he considered the distressing information, his explanation of being in debt of his life to Pamela....as he was....as his men were....as they all were....And to Brecon!...the man he had cursed as a traitor....performing a dangerous dance.....of life, of freedom....the last ones out. They did get out...? He shook his head, pondering the streams of life. What was he going to do? How was this to be handled? He massaged his forehead and ran his hand down his face, ending by clutching his chin with his right fist.
"Ship ahoy!" shouted Oldroyd from the bow.
Indefatigable, even in the barest light of dawn, he knew the outline of this ship. He felt a swelling in his chest. Home.
On the quarter-deck of Indefatigable the long boat was sighted.
"It's them, Captain! Success!"
"Indeed, Mr. Bracegirdle." Pellew was glad the semi-darkness hid the grin of pleasure, but stepped out of easy observation all the same. "Captain Brecon redeems....and not only himself."
"I do not see the Captain, sir," stated Bracegirdle concerned.
The boat thudded against Indy's side and men began to enter. Pellew made his way to the waist.
"Mr. Kennedy! Mr. Hornblower!" He eyed the facial injury.
"It is nothing, sir. Good to see you, Captain."
"Pass the word for Dr. Sebastian."
"Lord Edrington? Is that you, man?
"It is, Captain Pellew. I did not think I would ever grace the deck of your ship again, sir, but I am pleased to do. Exceedingly so."
"Adventure upon adventure, I fear. Mr. Sherbourne. Welcome aboard, sir. Where is Captain Brecon?"
"I'd say that's him, sir," nodding towards shore and the dark little boat approaching.
"Indeed? I thought one boat was to do. But Major Edrington was not expected, nor..." he spotted the Spanish looking Jose. "More strays, Mr. Hornblower?" Pellew shifted a glance to Kennedy as Hornblower had moved to the side.
Horatio breathed in deeply catching sight of the smaller figures in the oncoming craft. "Indeed, Captain. One I thought never to see on board this ship again."
Pellew stood beside his second leftenant and studied the little boat. He closed his mouth as quickly as it had fallen open. Pamela? More adventure than even he could have imagined!
"Mr. Bracegirdle! We will need the swing!"
"Aye, aye, sir."
Pellew pinched a look at Hornblower. What was this going to do to him? Settle him? Cause him to resign? There was a set line to the man's mouth. Was he angry?
He assessed her attire and raised an eyebrow. Domesticity! Where was he going to put TWO women? Though he had an idea where one would have to go. He glanced at Kennedy whose mouth was screwed up in thought....perhaps about the same thing.
Pamela's gaze was fixed on Hornblower's. She motioned for the other woman to go first.
Pellew recognized her, the woman,... housekeeper,... from the townhouse. "Miss Maria, is it not?"
"Your memory serves, Captain Pellew."
Sebastian arrived. He addressed Maria in the tongue of his father and bowed. She curtsied and the look on her face was not one Pellew wished to see. He rolled his eyes and observed the swing lowering Mrs. Hornblower. Her feet were bare and dirty. She pressed them together, one on top of the other.
She stared at her husband and stood the deck where she landed, not moving, except to pull the sheer black shawl tightly over her bosom and lowering one arm across her abdomen, clutching the bottom of the wrap. Would he see she was, indeed, still with child? She was only three months along or so, depending on when.... Stealing a glance at her tummy, she tried to suck it in.
Nor did Hornblower budge.
*Rooted to the bloody deck like a ruddy oak!* thought Pellew. *Stubborn! Both of them! Or, perhaps, fear on her part. Is that possible?*
Pellew's eyebrow took another tour north and he exhaled the breath he did not know he held. The ship was in the full light of a new breaking day and silence prevailed, except for the calming noises of Indefatigable. The entire company was aware of the steel hard silence of the married couple.
"Right! Everybody to the aft cabin! Daniels has coffee, tea, possibly food, for the lot of you! Go on! Go on! I cannot wait for reports! Get aft!" ordered Pellew. "Mr. Bracegirdle, see to those boats. Keep an eye out for Emerald. Signal we've got them upon sight of her."
"Aye, aye, Captain."
Sebastian aided by leading the way, assisting Maria.
Edrington and Kennedy glanced at the Hornblowers, but followed Brecon and his men.
"Mr. Hornblower," stated Pellew forcefully, nodding the way.
"Sir." He took the cue and motioned with his arm for Pamela to go before him.
Her heartbeat increased as she felt him near behind. Closing her eyes, briefly, she clutched the wrap tighter and swallowed hard. Entering the familiar aft cabin, she felt a prick of tears, but remembered the awful charcoal around her eyes, and forestalled them. She stepped to the stern windows, facing the Mediterranean blue.
There was a general hubbub in the cabin. Pellew told them to help themselves to coffee or tea and ordered Daniels to bring toast and jam, cheese, fruit, whatever was handy. The long dinner table was stowed so there was plenty of standing room. He took in each odd player in this latest adventure. Brecon decked to the hilt in a French high-ranking officer's dress uniform, Maria in the Spanish style dress with Sebastian looking admiringly on. That was NOT why he called the doctor. He found Hornblower newly rooted in another spot, watching his wife for the most part, but also giving some attention to people that addressed him. Edrington looked ridiculous out of uniform and where the devil did he come from anyway? Somehow, Pamela was involved. Kennedy seemed to have a care when he observed his friend, but conversed with Sherbourne and Nichols, Brecon's leftenants, about the nights events.
Taking on his duty of host, Pellew approached Pamela. "May I get you a coffee or tea, ma'am?"
She gave him a tenuous smile and he realized anew the dramatic decorations of her countenance.
"No. Thank you, Captain."
He saw her eyes rest on her husband, then return to the blue sea. He squinted at Hornblower whose eyes were lowered to the deck, his face revealing minor muscular contortions. What was he thinking? What did he intend to say to her?
Daniels entered with a bowl of apples, oranges, and plums. Pellew took it from him and gave him another order, sending him from the cabin.
"Excuse me. Ladies and gentlemen!" he announced. "I've had another thought." He handed the fruit to Dr. Sebastian. "Doctor, take that to the quarter-deck, if you please. Mr. Kennedy." He placed a pot of coffee in his hand. "Captain Brecon! You do not mind, do you sir?" A pot of tea. To Sherbourne, a bowl of sugar. "Quarter-deck, all, please! Except, you two!" He bowed to his second leftenant and then to Pamela and handed a bowl of jam to Nichols.
Brecon stopped in front of Hornblower. "Your wife was
magnificent. I have never danced with so astute a partner. She
OBEYED every command, and we brought the house down!" He
winked at Hornblower who nodded his thanks with a slight bow.
It was the first time he heard her voice. Though he wished it was not this man's name, the sound brought the familiar stab to his heart with the resulting tingle through his body.
Having sat his coffee cup down, Brecon lifted her hand and bowed over it. "Exquisite, my dear," and he pressed it with a kiss.
The breakfast party filed out till only the rooted couple, Edrington, and Pellew remained. Neither Horatio nor Pamela moved.
Edrington approached Hornblower. He, too, had been watching the silent duo. "Here," he pulled his belt from the loops of his trousers. "You may find need of this," he winked.
Daniels entered with a steaming pitcher, placed it on the sideboard, and retrieved Pellew's wash basin, towel, and soap from the closet. Pellew nodded to his servant.
"Mrs. Hornblower. Feel free to use my basin as you see fit." Pellew gave Hornblower a parting stare and they were left alone.
She maintained her gaze out the stern, though the view was blurring.
Hornblower twisted his mouth in thought and stared briefly at the belt in his hand. He stepped to the sideboard, folded the belt and lay it down. Pouring some water into the basin, he lay the wash rag in the water. He looked back to see she had not moved.
"Come here." The stern tone surprised him, and he watched her flinch, hesitate, then, obey. She stood before him with eyes lowered, still clutching the shawl. He listened to the footsteps overhead and muffled voices. Squeezing water from the rag, he soaped part of it. Gently raising her chin, he began to wipe the remains of red paint from her lips. "Keep your mouth closed, lest I get soap in it," he advised gently. With the non soapy end of the cloth, he wiped her lips. "Close your eyes." He saw a tear escape as he began to remove the black outlining from her eyes. He frowned as it smeared. "Keep them closed. I will need a little more soap." Washing, soaping, and wiping, he sighed. "What the devil is this stuff? Keep your eyes closed. I'm not finished."
She listened as he stepped over to the door, opened it, and spoke to the marine outside. She could not hear the words clearly. He returned and began again on her eyes, gently wiping them. Satisfied with the bits needing specific attention, he examined the coins still wrapped around the top of her head. Some of them were twisted with her hair. He began to disentangle them, the jingling of the lapped coins the only sound.
As he leaned over her head to separate hair from chain, her nose was near enough to his neck to breathe in the familiar scent of her man, close enough for lips to caress the warm neck. His proximity was breath taking.
"Sorry. I'm trying not to pull your hair. There." Laying the loop of coins on the stand, he washed the whole of her face until her skin gleamed. "Done." He admired his handiwork, and allowed the mildest smile. "So. It is you under there."
She kept her lips closed tightly and tried not to laugh.
A knock at the door called his attention. He returned with
a wrapped bundle. "Here."
He brought Pellew's desk chair. "Sit."
She did nothing but what he told her. She watched him move the basin to the floor and wash her feet. No longer able to hold back, the tears flowed in silent rivulets down her cheeks.
"You've cut your foot. Aren't you going..." he looked up from his work and ceased. Lifting the towel, he dabbed at the tears. "Open it. It is not new, but was given...a gift. A lady I met in Naples. She showed it to me and I thought it might fit. She insisted I take it for you."
She bit her lip and pulled back the overlapping papers of the bundle. It was cream white with sheer lace over a crossed and gathered high waist bodice, short sleeves, and soft as silk.
"It's beautiful, Horatio."
"She said it would do well for.....a woman...expecting." Busy completing the washing of her feet, he waited, then asked. "How ...how is our child?"
More tears flowed. "He's... growing."
He straightened to his height from where he knelt, reached a hand to her cheek, letting his fingers slip over an ear and into her hair.
She leaned into the palm and looked into his eyes. "Forgive me? Forgive me, Horatio?"
He leaned in closer. The swimming brown eyes he so longed to see in person, not just dreams. The naturally ruby lips, whose softness he recalled, parting. His beautiful, impetuous love. It would be so easy to kiss her, to hold her, to take her to his cabin and make love to her. To feel her safe in his arms and wash away the months of separation that seemed an eternity.
Someone dropped something onto the deck above, breaking the spell. He released her, located the slop jar, and poured the dirty basin water in it, wiping the bowl clean, thinking. Was what Edrington revealed truly what she had been doing these past weeks? He knew she was pregnant despite the report of her letter. Was she traipsing here and there in the company of spies? It appeared, for the present, it was true. He told her to leave the fighting of the war to him. Apparently, she did not listen. Why should he be surprised? This was her modus operandi.....but it had to stop. This will not do, this will not do. His displeasure rose within his breast. How would he convince her to obey him? Talking did not seem to have an impact. She is contrite now, but....will she not return to her own head strong insistence of going against his wishes? Were his wishes so unreasonable? That he wanted her safely at home, waiting for him? This ... look....clothing....it is an embarrassment. She assisted in the rescue, but..... this was not what he wanted for his wife. He placed the basin on the stand and threw the cloth forcefully into it.
"Dr. Sebastian should have a look at that. It needs bandaging. I'll see if Cudgeons can make a pair of slippers for you. He's good at that sort of thing. You may have one of my night shirts." There was an edge to his voice and he felt the tension in his jaw. She was his wife, he would supply her needs, no matter how displeased he was about her activities. Should he take Edrington's suggestion to take her over his knee? Would that solve anything?
He stepped to the windows, desiring above all to control his anger. And what was he angry over? Putting herself in danger, yes. Traveling in the company of men, dancing with them, putting herself in danger that way, yes. *Jealous. I am jealous. I may as well admit it for whatever good it will do.* In enemy territory instead of safely at home, yes. Rescuing half dead men, according to Edrington, yes, though it was a kind gesture, she had no business doing it. If she wanted to contribute funds to the rescue, he could understand that, but going herself? In an open boat? It was folly! This was fear for her, and fearing for reasons that should not have been, that made him angry. He twisted his mouth at the thoughts. My name. Why is she hiding her name, my name? He felt the hurt more than wished to admit. War is nothing to play at, and it seemed that was what she was doing. It just happened she was able to assist in their rescue, and she should not have! *Damn! How am I going to deal with this? She is pregnant. Can that excuse any of this behavior?*
"Are you going to put on the dress? I could leave."
Indeed, that might be for the best. Just leave and not confront this now. *But....* eyes closing tightly, *...despite everything, I love her. I want her in my arms, to feel her with me. What am I going to do? I've got to let her know I am displeased. I've got to. For her sake, for the child's, for mine, for ours. I've got to be as stern as Captain Pellew would be. Would he have advice for the situation?*
His words stabbed. "I...I would rather wash before I put on so beautiful a gift."
"I do not think that pitcher has sufficient water for a bath, not even a sponge one." *My response is short. She knows I'm angry.*
She stood up, her face wet. "You're angry."
*Yes, I'm angry,* he thought, clinching his jaw. He did not turn, but folded his arms over his chest, and rocked on his toes, his mouth twisting. He would not speak words in haste. He would do nothing in haste.
"It is because I told you I was not expecting?"
No answer. *I am partly responsible for that...my letter.*
She swallowed. "Because ... because I am here?... with Maria?.... with Edrington?"
He heaved a sigh, pressing the folded arms tighter across his chest. *You have hit upon part of the reason,* his unspoken response.
"Because... of the way I am dressed? I did not want you to see me this way."
"You did not mind if the French army saw you that way, Edrington, Brecon, Kennedy." The words were terse. The green-eyed monster reared its ugly head.
"I did not dress this way for any man. I do not ask men to admire me!" She sucked in a breath. "Maria...." she searched and recalled how she came to dance. "That...that French officer! He ...he took my ring! I hit him and they were going to arrest me. Maria said I was a dancer, that I could ... I could dance for them. They gave me back my ring." She sniffed and held it between her fingers. "I was afraid. I did not want to be put in a French prison. They would have found out I am American, the wife of .....of a British leftenant. It could have gone badly for the entire mission!"
*She hit a French officer? Good God!* "If you had stayed in Gibraltar, as I wished, none of this would have happened."
"You are angry because I disobeyed you."
"I am displeased, yes. And it led to ... " he breathed deeply "...all sorts of ramifications."
She looked at the folded belt on the stand. "Do you want to beat me?"
"Would it do any good?" he asked sarcastically. That was what he was assessing now. Would it? Should he? Would her condition permit it?
"Major Edrington seems to think it would. He brings it up constantly, one way or another." That suddenly seemed easier than facing the list of improprieties she was guilty of.
"Is he in love with you?" The question escaped from his heart. Was he? Edrington, by his own admission, had spent the last week with her in close company. Guarding the woman he, Hornblower, loved? It made him feel inadequate. She was his wife, his love, his responsibility. How could she, how could she be with him?
She did not answer.
"Are you in love with him?" The hurt could not be disguised. He closed his eyes, fearing the answer, his ears keen for the reply.
"No!" she whispered incredulously. "I...I'm in love with my husband. And, .... I've .... not followed his wishes .... I've put myself in peril and ... put our child in peril..." she sucked in a breath, trying to continue. "...I... I've put our ... our love in peril... and I never intended.... I never intended..." She collapsed onto the chair and wept into her hands.
He swallowed, but did not turn, and waited.
She sniffed, wiped her cheeks, stared at the stiff back that had not moved. More? Would she be forced to face everything now? She watched his back broaden with the intake of air.
"Edrington was inquiring after Leftenant Dandridge."
She pressed her eyes and lips closed and thought, *Oh, Lord! Not this. Not this, too!*
"My name offends you? The name I gave you at our wedding offends you?"
She shook her head and sniffed. "It is complicated, Horatio."
"Indeed?" He waited for more. "I have no where to go. I have not yet been assigned watch duty." He thought about turning to her, but decided against it.
"My ...my uncle arrived."
"The CONVENTIONAL uncle?" He remembered her calling him conventional while in Gibraltar.
"Yes. I could not tell him. Do not take it the wrong way. I was afraid. He ... he dislikes the British because of the war. If he knew I were married to you.... I was afraid he would make me leave. Make me go back to America and I would never see you again."
He looked down at the window seat. Damn that he could not support her. Would she bring up her bank accounts that he knew were in the name of Dandridge? Could he allow this use of her name for one thing and not another?
"What about Lord Edrington?"
"Lord? Edrington is a lord?"
"Why did you tell him your last name was Dandridge? He
is not your uncle."
Standing, she let the black wrap fall from defeated shoulders and hung her head. She gazed at his back sorrowfully. This name thing had hurt him, really hurt him. Pouring water into the basin, she rinsed the rag and wiped the flushed chest, arms and neck with clear water. She needed to wash the dirt and sweat away....needed to feel clean, and not just physically. It was too much to bear. She had been up all night, except for a catnap on Maria's shoulder, and she was tired. *But, I've got to answer him. He will think I do not care, if I do not.*
"Did...did he tell you how we met?" If he had, all hope of keeping from Horatio her activities was lost. Truth, she knew, would be the course to follow and hope he did not question whether or not she ever intended to share her missions.
"He said you ransomed him, half dead, from Barbary Pirates."
The truth, it would have to be the truth. Was meddling Edrington a curse or a blessing? Probably a blessing, best to get it all out in the open and take whatever consequences would follow. Would he still love her in the end? Could he? Did he love her?
"Yes. He was our third such rescue. One man did die, but he and the other one lived. The rescued men were not to know about us. It was Maria's thing. I provided the money for ransom. No one knew. The payment was not much because the men were so far gone, they were left for dead. Edrington looked awful when we picked him up. He was not as bad as he looked, though he thought he was blind. He remembered me. I always went to the hospital to visit the wounded. Oh, Horatio, I was only trying to help." She was pacing slowly and wringing her hands. "I was afraid he would find out who I was, expose Maria, tell you .....when I knew you would not want me doing such things. I knew... Lord, I knew! I like the idiot, but I do not love him. I told him from the first I was married. I just did not tell him your real name... nor mine." She stopped pacing and addressed his back. "My name is Pamela Hornblower! I love my name! I love your name! I love you! I've missed you, till I thought.... I thought... I could not take another breath! I had to do something. I cannot sit and worry about you. I thought if I helped someone else, it would be like helping you. Please, Horatio, please! I know you're angry. I do not blame you for being angry. You have every right to be angry." She sniffed and saw her words did not move him. "I just wanted to feel a part of your life, a part of you."
How could he trust her? Denying the child was one thing, this wanton disregard for propriety was another. *She is not a spy, she is my wife. I can never condone this dangerous, willful activity.*
"You are head strong, Pamela. It is one of the things
that makes me love you, but you have gone beyond limits. If I
let this pass without indicating to you how deeply your actions
displease me, how will I know you are not laughing behind your
hat, so to speak? It is no longer just your life. It is the
life of the child....indeed it is the life of the woman I LOVE.
I must insist you guard her more carefully, for I cannot be with
you as most husbands are with their wives. I cannot express the
heart rending worry that ....."
Pivoting on his heel, he faced her. "Pamela!"
She was prostrate on the deck.
"Pamela!" He scooped and carried her to the window seat. "Pamela! Marine! Get Dr. Sebastian!" He smoothed the hair from her face, removed his coat and covered her. "Pamela!"
He could hear the tumult overhead. Sebastian, Maria, Pellew, Edrington, and Kennedy arrived.
"Mr. Hornblower?" asked Pellew.
"She fainted! I was speaking to her and she fainted."
"Have Becker bring the smelling salts from the dispensary," ordered Sebastian.
"She fainted yesterday, Doctor," advised Edrington.
Sebastian studied the sunken eyes, the depressed cheeks. "When
did she eat last?"
"I know she had breakfast yesterday, Dr. Sebastian, but beyond that, I do not know," supplied Maria.
"Where is Becker with those salts?"
Kennedy was just retrieving them at the door. "Here, sir."
He passed the stopper tip beneath her nose. She moaned and turned away, opening her eyes. She saw everyone staring, her eyes resting on Dr. Sebastian's concerned countenance. "Dr. Sebastian."
"What...did I...?" She bit her bottom lip, located Hornblower, sitting with his head in his hands, and realized she was covered with his coat. She attempted to sit up.
"Now, now." He pressed her down. "What do you think you are doing? Lie quietly. When did you last have a meal?"
"I do not feel hungry."
"I did not ask you if you felt hungry. I asked when you ate last."
"I do not remember." She turned to the sea.
Sebastian sighed. "Captain,... I would like a few moments alone with my patient, if I may."
'Of course, Doctor. Lady? Gentlemen?" he herded.
Hornblower got up to leave, as well.
"Not you, Mr. Hornblower."
Turning to Sebastian, Hornblower let his eyes fleet over her.
The door closed. The three were cloaked in a heavy silence.
Sebastian closed his eyes.
Hornblower saw it, knew what it meant, and walked noiselessly across the length of the cabin. Reaching the other side, he let his eyes skip from her to the sea, and hung his head.
She sniffed and reached to wipe her face, then turned onto her side, giving her back to the room. "Where am I to go?"
"What do you mean, Mrs. Hornblower?"
"I do not wish to impose on Captain Pellew."
"Well, I imagine that will be up to the Captain and your husband."
"Are you having difficulty with the pregnancy?"
She shook her head no.
"Can you tell me why you are not eating?"
"I'm just not hungry."
"I am going to order some food. You will eat, yes Mrs. Hornblower?" he questioned.
"I am tired, Doctor."
"Rest, then, for now. I will be back shortly."
The two were left alone for the second time that morning.
Hornblower watched her back. Slowly, he came near. Regular breathing revealed she was asleep. He knelt beside the window seat, stared at the long dark hair, and taking a few strands at a time, gently pulled it behind her ear. He leaned closer, breathing the scent rising from warm skin. *God, I have dreamt of this!* He closed his eyes and lowered his lips till they faintly brushed the soft, white, sensuous neck. She twitched, he lifted slightly, but she returned to rest, and he hovered near. He nuzzled lightly along the hairline, felt the soft tresses caress his cheek. Eyes closed, he inhaled the familiar perfume that blended in his memory, bonding the two. *I love you, Pamela. I love you with all my being. You have gone against my wishes every way conceivable. There is a war within me. I want you, but ....*
A noise without yanked him from the pleasant but unhappy muse and he removed to the far side, adrenaline giving effortless long strides.
In the doorway, Sebastian raised an eyebrow that Hornblower stood afar off. "How is she?"
"I .... think.....she is sleeping."
Sebastian frowned, but before he sat down next to her, he studied Hornblower's seeming indifference. A hand on her forehead, he detected no fever. The pulse was slow and steady.
"You know, Mr. Hornblower. This will turn out however you wish it."
"What occurs is completely in your hands."
A heavy sigh expelled. "But if I choose wrongly...."
Suddenly noticing the hair pulled neatly away from her neck, Sebastian's visage softened. "That is what life is about.... the choices we make."
"Take it from one that has been around a while, ...to love ...is always the best choice, Mr. Hornblower." Looking back, he could see the leftenant's chin was nearly resting on his chest. "You must be as tired as she."
He did not reply.
"You should get some rest."
The cabin door opened. Pellew assessed the mood of the room. "Mr. Hornblower."
"Captain Brecon is about to leave and he wishes to clarify a few things with you."
"Yes, sir." He looked down, "I...I will need ...my coat."
Sebastian gently removed the article. "I will cover her, Mr. Hornblower. Fear not."
"Yes, sir." Pulling it on, he could feel the warmth from her body in its folds. Hesitating...
"Brecon is on the quarter-deck, sir," advised Pellew.
"How is she, Doctor?"
"Sleeping. I do not like that she is not eating or resting regularly. She should be, in her condition."
"Hornblower has a handful with that one."
"He does, Captain. It is the truth." Sebastian shook his head and sighed.
"I have to agree with him. He said he never thought he would see her on board this ship again, and frankly, never did I."
Sebastian smiled at nothing in particular, "Then, it must be an answer to prayer."
"Well,... it may take an act of God to smooth things over with these two."
"I have faith, Captain." Sebastian slipped his arms underneath and lifted Pamela. "I will take my patient and go, sir. I know you have work to do and this is not a sick berth."
"As you see fit, Doctor."
Maria caught up with him on the way below decks.
"She is worn out. Pobrecita. Has he forgiven her?"
"He will,...just give him a little time. Would you like to help me put her to bed?"
"I have been doing that off and on for the past few months," she smiled.
Maria opened the door. Sebastian lay her on the bunk.
"Would you mind helping her change. I know she is exhausted, but these clothes.....it would be better if she did not wear these anymore."
"Leave it to me, Doctor. I know what to do."
Sebastian lit the room candle. "I will be right back with some water and towels."
Maria closed the door and turned her head to gaze at her employer and ad hoc spy. Carefully, she removed the skirt and slip, and began on the blouse.
Pamela moaned a protest. "Oh, Maria! It's you. Let me sleep. I am so tired."
"You may sleep, but not in these clothes."
Pamela frowned and helped to pull her arms from the sleeves, then fell back with a groan and stared at the ceiling overhead. "Oh. Oh, Maria....! Not here!" she said doubtfully.
Pamela grabbed the blanket to cover.
"Mrs. Hornblower. Water for a bath, if you wish it. I am going to bring you a little breakfast."
"Senora, you will see she eats before she goes back to sleep?"
"I will, sir."
"But, Dr. Sebastian. He...." attempted Pamela.
"I will be right back with some food."
"Sit up, Miss Pamela. I will help you wash. You want to be clean for him."
"He does not want me. I should not be here," she said sadly. "Why did you bring me ...? Oh! I cannot think!"
Maria sponged. "I see you already washed your face."
"Horatio did it. He....did not... like it....."
"Mm," she commented lightly.
"Maria,....he....he is so angry. I have never seen him this angry."
"What did you expect?"
"Well, I did not expect to end up back on Indefatigable. I feel like such a pain. Why did it have to come to this? Now,... he knows everything. I never intended him to know, and now...." She threw herself onto the mattress. Maria bathed her legs. "It is sweet of you to do this for me. I should be doing it myself." Her voice trailed off and her eyes closed.
"Wake up, Pamela. The doctor will return and you must dress." Grabbing her hand, she pulled her back to a sitting position.
"I'm so tired." She let her head flop back against her shoulders and felt her hair tickling her backside. Opening her eyes, she stared at the ceiling and shook her head slightly. "Oh...yes.....no, Maria, I should not be here."
Maria looked quizzically at the ceiling. "What are you looking at?"
Maria chuckled. "You are tired. There is no monkey in here."
"Oh, yes. Yes, there is. I looked at him for weeks and he is still there. I cannot tell you how many nights I wished I were that monkey." Pamela reached and gently touched the ceiling with her finger tip, caressing the wood.
After the battle with Kaliakra, she had been brought, wounded, to Indefatigable. Abducted and taken to Magie Noir and rescued by her husband, Pellew finally agreed to let her stay with Horatio. During her convalescence, waiting for her face to heal, she spent many hours staring at the curious wood grain. She and Horatio had a laugh that they both thought the knot resembled a monkey.
Horatio. He did not want her. He was angry. Why did they put her here? She did think she could bear his disdain, not again, not when she was this exhausted.
Maria slipped a sleeve over her raised arm and pulled the garment down passed Pamela's head, lifting the long tresses out the back.
"Put your arm through the other sleeve."
"All right, but look."
Pamela pulled her companion to sit and leaned her back against her chest. She rested her arm over Maria's right shoulder, while staring at the planking. She traced it gently.
Maria gazed up at the knot.
"Here is his funny little face, arms, tail. If I could be this monkey, I could be here with him every time he slept, watch over him, sail with him where ever he goes. See him?"
"Yes, Pamela. But I know Mr. Hornblower much prefers you as you are."
"No. He doesn't. He does not prefer me at all. You should not have brought me here. It was you? Not Horatio, that brought me?"
"Dr. Sebastian brought you here. It is where you belong."
"Not any more. He is angry!" She let herself fall upon the bedding. "Tell Dr. Sebastian..."
Maria tugged on the night shirt till it covered down to her calves.
Sebastian entered with a tray.
"She is not asleep?"
"Not too very." She pulled her arm. "Pamela. Come on. The doctor wants you to feed the baby."
"Nooo.... what? The baby?" Sitting up, she wavered, drunk with exhaustion. "You wretched lucky monkey. Why do you keep waking me up?"
"What is she talking about?" asked Sebastian.
"A wood knot. If you want her to eat, we had better be quick." Maria sat beside her to keep her upright. "I'll hold, you feed."
"I'm not hungry, doctor, really. I just want to sleep....but....can you not put me in sick berth?"
He shoveled in some scrambled egg.
"I do not want to eat," she mumbled over the food.
"Eat and maybe I will see about putting you in sick berth."
"You will? He does not want me. Do not make me stay where I am not wanted." Chewing, slowly. "I prefer fried eggs." Every disjointed thought emerged through her lips. "What is in these?"
"Yes. We have not a cow. It is substituting for milk."
"I've heard that. Milk when you carry. This is quite tasty, I admit. Must have made a grand mess for the cook to clean though."
"He has nothing else to do."
She dozed off with a mouth full of food.
"Mrs. Hornblower." He tapped her cheek lightly. "Swallow what is in you mouth and drink this."
She woke up enough to comply. "Is that beer? You will let me go to sick berth?"
"I promise you will be where you want to be when you wake up."
Maria eased her onto the pillow and spread the blanket over.
"You disapprove of me bringing her with me."
Sebastian sighed. "Many times, madam, when I find myself at odds with occurrences surrounding me, that on the one hand seem a disastrous choice, but on the other hand a God send, I prefer to defer to God, no matter my own inclinations."
She grinned. "Doctor Sebastian. I think I shall find you pleasing company until this juncture comes to an end."
He smiled softly. "It is good to make new acquaintances on the voyage of life."
Hornblower came down the stairs rapidly, clutching a paper wrapped bundle, a sheer black shawl, and a belt. Taking long strides, he came to a sudden halt and glanced about the hammocked sick berth. He checked into the small rooms set up for critical patients. Where was she? Pellew said Sebastian had taken her.
"Mr. Hornblower, sir! Matty told me ya was all right."
"I am, and I am more than pleased to see you made it. It was a bold move."
"Somebody had to do somethin'. I hoped ye wouldn't think me bein' a coward."
"Never crossed my mind, man. I knew you would tell the captain what befell us if you could"
"Aye, sir. I saw a chance and took it." Hardy grinned. "I hear ye got a pleasant surprise, sir."
Hornblower's face was sad and happy at the same time. "They told you?"
"Yes, sir. But that's Mrs. H, ain't it? She's got pluck!"
"Yes, she does." and he had to chuckle at the description. "I do not suppose you know .... I mean.... Have you seen Dr. Sebastian?"
"He's putterin' about somewheres. Thank ye, sir, for stoppin' ta talk."
"You get well, Hardy. I am glad to see I did not lose a good man."
"I will, sir. Thank ye."
Stepping out and turning without looking, he ran into Sebastian.
"Mr. Hornblower? Just the man I need to see."
"Sir?" He stiffened and posed unhurriedly, waiting to be told where she was.
"Come here and let me look at you."
"I want to have a look at your back. Matthews tells me you have a wound."
"It heals. It is fine. Where..."
"Mr. Hornblower. I must report to the captain. Come here."
With a frown, Hornblower lay the things he carried in the nearest hammock, pulled his coat and waistcoat off, and tugged his shirt from his trousers. Lifting the shirt up to his left shoulder, he huffed, "You see? It heals. There is nothing to be done." Where is she? That is what he wanted to know.
"Be still and let me look." Sebastian pressed around the healing welt.
"Did that hurt?"
"No..... it tickles."
Sebastian snorted. "I did not know you were ticklish?" He pressed again and Hornblower flinched again. "Sorry, Leftenant. You are right. There is nothing to be done. Let me see your face. Hm. That will come off in another day or two. Do not pick at it."
"Yes, sir. I mean, no, sir."
Sebastian meandered off to the small room set up with writing papers. Hornblower followed him shirt tail hanging, clutching his belongings in a clump.
"Hm? You still here, Mr. Hornblower?" He did not look up from his writing and hid a smirk, hoping it was justified.
"Yes. I.... Is there something I should know?"
"Hm?" He looked him up and down. "Well, you are out of uniform like that. I suggest you correct it before the Captain sees you."
"You know that is not what I mean." He dropped the things to the floor, and shoved his shirt tail in.
"Oh. Well, as soon as I finish my report and give it to the captain, you will be allowed to return to duty."
Hornblower was buttoning his waistcoat. "Doctor." He tried desperately not to clench his teeth.
Sebastian sighed and raised his eyes to meet the second leftenant as he pulled his topcoat into position. "Yes? Is there something else?"
"You know damn well...." Hornblower closed his eyes. "Forgive me, sir. Where is she?"
"Why do you want to know?" He went back to writing.
"She is my wife."
"She is resting."
Sebastian sighed. "She needs to rest, Mr. Hornblower."
"Doctor....please....please....tell me where she is?" He waited. "I beg you, sir."
Sebastian leaned back in the chair, met Hornblower's gaze, crossed his arms, and waited.
"Very well. The Indy is not that big. I will find her myself," and he turned to go.
He looked back, defiantly.
"She....is under the monkey."
Hornblower attempted to nod a thanks and turned quickly.
"Let her sleep!" called Sebastian.
"Yes, sir," he shouted in reply.
His steps increased until he was trotting down the gun deck. Nearing his cabin, he slowed and lightened his step. He stood outside, taking deep breaths to calm and quiet his breathing.
Rampling walked by.
"Mr. Rampling! Here." He shoved the belt into Rampling's hand. "Give that to Lord Edrington, please sir."
"Aye, Aye, Mr. Hornblower." Rampling gave a good-natured lop-sided grin. "Good to have you back, sir. Both of you."
Hornblower felt his heart beat increasing. He slowly and quietly opened the door of his cabin, entered, and closed it silently. Leaning against the door, ........ She was here....she was really here. He slowly removed his clothes and donned his night shirt. Climbing over and in, he situated himself next to the bulkhead. She stirred and he eased down, laying on his back. She tossed and turned, moaned, threw an arm across his chest, and snuggled into the crook of his shoulder.
A pleasing warmth spread throughout his being, like sheltered sunlight on a chilly day. He told Sebastian he would let her sleep, but... he could not resist. Holding her, he rolled carefully so that she was under him. He slipped down, smiling with pleasure at the sight of her sleeping countenance. With his thumbs, he rubbed her forehead and into her hairline. Moistening his lips, he kissed lightly, then backed to watch her expression. Again.... slowly.... seeing the briefest wrinkle of brow. He polished her lips with his, languidly, savoring the sensations, the softness sending tingles of delight.
He let his nose slip over the smooth cheek, inhaling the personal scent so familiar, so intermingled with his feelings.
Settling over the sensuous mouth, he moistened his lips and hers. She made the slightest moan, an aphrodisiac to his libido. Hands slipped over his back, caressing the broad shoulders. He pressed his lips to hers in a slow gyration of amorous desire. A longer moan vibrated against him. He felt both hands pressing against his shoulder blades, alternating in a caress. A deep kiss began and his lungs filled, pressing against the softness below.
"Pamela!" he whispered all breath. "I love you. I should let you sleep, but... I had to kiss you. I had to tell you, I love you. You fill up my life...all the empty spaces. I have missed you, my love. My sweet love."
He felt her quake and a hot tear splash against his finger.
"No tears," he whispered, pressing his cheek to hers and breathing in her ear softly. "No tears."
A sniff and her arms gripped around him with all her strength.
"Forgive me, Horatio!" she whispered.
"I do. I love you,.... my precious impetuous wife." He slipped his arms underneath to totally immerse his sense of touch in nothing but her.
"Never let me go, darling!"
"I never will!"
She moaned quietly and kissed his face, until heated lips found counterparts of passion.
"Pleasure me," she whispered hotly into his ear.
"You need only ask," he breathed in reply.
The temperature of the room increased, though it went largely unnoticed. Twin night shirts joined in a muddled dance upon the deck. Quiet sighs and moans harmonized the melody of panting whispers. And, as for the monkey on the ceiling? It kept its silent vigil and held the same curious expression it always would.
The End of American Encounter Part 2