An American Encounter, part 2
by Skihee

Chapter 3
Natalie

The Indy's launch eased against the dock. It was a bustle of activity for such a small colony. The moment one boat was off loaded the shore crews were eager to send them away to make room for others arriving. They had done this all day previously, off loading the Spanish prisoners. While the feat of delivering so great amount of captured enemy was complete, the traffic was barely abated.

An American ship had sailed in just before noon, clumsily mooring. She had lost her mizzen mast and the crew had a devil of a time getting her in. Her passengers were advised to take shelter ashore rather than withstand the stifling heat at anchor whilest under repair. The boat entering after the Indy's was full of civilians, several of which were female.

The ladies had caught Archie's eye and he did not hear his captain's words.

"Did you hear what I said, Mr. Kennedy?"

"Sir?"

Pellew followed Kennedy's gaze and frowned. "I said, I am going to the Admiralty."

"Yes, sir."

Pellew turned to see Bracegirdle's retinue speak their farewells to Carden. The one armed man ambled off towards the hospital.

"I will see you later, Mr. Kennedy," he replied heavily.

Kennedy gave his captain his full attention. "Aye, aye, sir."

"And don't dawdle, sir! Be on time, so you may be well done with this!"

"Aye, aye, sir." He saluted. Pellew walked crisply toward the drawbridge leading uptown.

Voices recalled Kennedy's attention to what was transpiring behind him. He turned to watch the shore crew assisting the ladies off the boat. He watched as first an older woman, then, two younger ones exited to the dock. The older one he assumed to be the mother. She was trim and dressed fashionably well. She wore a broad hat to match her gray-blue dress. The hat a must in these latitudes to protect the skin from the searing sun. The taller girl looked prim in a pale pink flowing gown in a style he was not familiar with. It was flattering to her bosom giving a discreet view of her ample chest. The smaller female caught him completely. She was shorter than he. Her hair a jet black, braided and captured in a white net extending from a band of small pearls. Dressed in a white cotton dress, her small frame seemed delicate and fragile.

The man following them to exit the launch stood watching a young boy leaping over the seats in the boat, bounding onto the dock. With one word, he reprimanded him.

"Charles!" The man's voice was deep, aggravated, and American.

Half of Archie's mouth rose at the recognition. It was then he noticed the girl in white held a black bound book with gilt edges, the title also golden. He turned his head trying to read it. Bringing his eyes up, she was intently staring at him. He blinked in surprise, not retreating but meeting her gaze. She reddened and looked away.

Archie turned his attention to the boat, it quickly off loading people and packages. The shore crew was again urging the launch away to make room for an incoming longboat. His reactions were swift perceiving the impending peril to the young lady. He bounded towards her grabbing her about her waist. She screamed as Archie moved to fend the blow. Glancing off Archie's shoulder, one of the launch oars came crashing onto the dock.

He moaned under the blow onto his healing shoulder. Breathing to control the pain, he spoke to her.

"Are you all right?"

She could feel his breath on her cheek.

"Moreover, sir, are YOU all right?"

"Natalie!" boomed the man. He came over pulling her out of Archie's arms, causing her to drop her book.

Archie bent to pick it up. He smiled at the title, Odysseus. "Weighty reading for a young lady." He handed it to her.

"I am not so young," she replied defensively.

"What do you mean, sir, groping my daughter?"

"Father! This gallant gentleman protected me."

"He did, Father!" chimed in the young boy called Charles. "The oar on that boat nearly hit her!" he cried, pointing at the launch on its way back to the ship."

Kennedy reached to rub his right shoulder.

She asked him a second time, "Are you all right?"

He released it. "Yes, yes. I am fine. Thank you."

"Well, that wouldn't surprise me! Damn bunch of sailors! Worst crewed ship I've ever had the misfortune to sail upon. I thank you, then, Mr...."

"Kennedy, sir," he stopped himself from saying his complete title realizing it would mean little to American civilians.

"You're British!" he boomed again.

How did such a slight girl have such a large father, he thought. "Yes, sir."

"Navy?"

"Yes, sir. Acting Leftenant Kennedy of His Majesty's Frigate Indefatigable."

"Inde-who?" said the man.

The young boy's eyes grew large as he listened to Archie speaking.

"That is a mouthful, young sir," chimed in the older woman.

"Yes, ma'am. Indefatigable, sir," saluted Kennedy bowing his head.

The taller young lady stood next to the older one, raising an eyebrow at Archie's stature, or lack of it in comparison to herself. She was unusually tall, seeming to take after her father.

"Well, how do you do, Lieutenant Kennedy? I'm Charles Langdon." He extended his hand. Archie took it feeling a steel, firm grip.

"Pleased to meet you, sir."

"I apologize for my gruff manner a moment ago. The men on that ship we came in on have been a trial where my daughters are concerned, sir, I am embarrassed to say. Thank you for shielding Natalie from harm."

"You are more than welcome." He let his eyes return to Natalie's visage.

"This is my wife, Mrs. Langdon, my daughter Elizabeth, and son Charles, Jr. And, Natalie."

Kennedy kept his hand to his hat giving a slight nod of a salute to each person in turn, finally resting his eyes upon Natalie.

"Mr. Kennedy, it seems we have been cast ashore by misfortune. Can you recommend a place to stay here in Gibraltar?" asked Mrs. Langdon.

"Some friends of mine are staying at the Laughing Dolphin. It seems to be a pleasant establishment."

"Does it do meals?" asked Mr. Langdon, his booming voice seeming to demand answers.

"It does, Mr. Langdon."

"God be praised! I am sick to death of shipboard fare. Point us in that direction, if you would, Mr. Kennedy."

"I am headed in that general direction. Perhaps I could walk a long with you for a pace."

A man with a hand cart was employed to ferry the Langdon dunnage up the inclined road towards the square.

**********

Pellew arrived at the Admiralty. Checking in with the board, the leftenant in charge directed him to a holding office. The room was of a medium size, paneled in the dark oak as so many naval offices. He could not help but wonder from where the wood came, Gibraltar being the wasteland it was. Oil paintings depicting ships of the line graced the walls. A man approached him to take his hat. Locating a stuffed leather chair he lowered himself into it feeling strange to be so unoccupied. A steward appeared inquiring if he would like a drink. The heat of the day made him incline away from the heavier drinks he was accustomed to at sea. He ordered a beer.

It was not long before another of the examining board arrived. It was Ball. Pellew sipped his beer watching the room's attendants similarly care for the newly arrived Captain. Free of their attentions, Pellew stood to greet him.

"Captain Ball, is it?"

"Aye, Captain. You must be Sir Edward Pellew. I heard you were the third. Troubridge should be along shortly." He let the steward know he would have the same as Pellew.
"Sit down, sir. Damn me, I hate getting roped into doing these things."

"I, as well, sir, especially when one of my own is involved."

"Damn! Why do they do that to us AND them? Haven't the lads got enough to deal with without their own captain trying them?"

"Indeed." Pellew sipped his beer. "You are lately of Nelson's company, are you not Captain Ball?"

"Aye, that I am. Hated to leave. He ordered us to come..." Ball left his sentence incomplete, not knowing what sort Pellew might be.

"How does the Admiral, sir?"

Ball sighed heavily. "Not as well as I would like. He drives himself. Badly wounded at the Nile. Thought it was mortal. Thank God, it wasn't! Surely gave his brain a rattle though. It is a wonder it didn't splatter his brains over the quarter-deck!"

Pellew's eyebrows arched. "That bad, eh? I admire his perseverance. Arm gone, sight gone, and now the head injury. One of my own men suffered a blow to the head. He was in sick berth for a week. My physician was loath to release him back to duty."

"The man is a marvel! I don't know that I would have continued in the service with what he has been through." He leaned towards Pellew speaking in hushed tones. "His remaining eye gives him trouble. There were days when I wondered if he would not lead us through the eyes of another. And, damn me, he could do it, too!" he chuckled, eyes looking to his own thoughts. He nodded at Pellew.

Pellew sat mulling over the news of Nelson. How could anyone blame the man for succumbing to the charms of Lady Hamilton? He must have a sense of his own mortality. To allow oneself the comforts of an attentive lady when one has given so much. Pellew could not find it in him to damn the man, even the lack of discretion.

How in hell can one be discreet on board a ship? It was known in military circles that the Hamiltons and the King and Queen of Naples were, at times, living on board Nelson's ship. And he thought having ONE woman on board was a trial! Pellew felt his head shake at the thought.

Pellew had given up the quest for discretion in regards to the Hornblowers after the last attempt on Pamela's life. At least they were married. His mind was wondering. He forced another question to focus on more immediate concerns.

"Captain, how goes the war in Nelson's neck of the woods!"

Ball inhaled and exhaled quickly, leaning towards Pellew. "The squadron has been dispersed like a cannonball hitting a deck. Splintered over the Med. Don't like it. Not one bit!" he said lowly. "It's got me worried, Sir Edward, indeed it does."

"No orders yet?" asked Pellew.

Ball shook his head. "You?"

"No, but we came to be here somewhat unexpectedly."

"Oh?" questioned Ball.

**********

Kennedy ended up walking the entire way to the Laughing Dolphin with the Langdons. He had been at Mr. Langdon's side. Using what little he knew and observed from being in town with Horatio yesterday, he pointed out different sights which gave him opportunity to further examine Miss Natalie. She caught him twice so engaged. The first time he looked away quickly, the second he did not.

Mr. Langdon answered Kennedy's questions affably. He learned that Mr. Langdon was an American consul on his way to Athens. He was appointed for a year and chose to bring his entire family. He was proud of his son Charles and his two daughters. He let slip a comment of concern about his oldest becoming an old maid, as she was already twenty-two years of age. Langdon quietly asked Kennedy's assessment of his older daughter.

Not wishing to offend in anyway he said, "She is rather tall, but quite nice looking, sir."

"Hm. Yes, she is self-conscious about her height," frowned Langdon. "It seems to make her sullen."

Kennedy felt sorry for the man. He was obviously concerned for her. He glanced again at Natalie. It had never before occurred to him that the height of a female could adversely affect her prospects. Miss Natalie should have no difficulties in that respect. She was just right in his opinion.

******

Horatio sat with the blanket wrapped around him, his clothes having been sent off to be pressed.

"Mrs. Hornblower, your man has arrived."

Horatio gave Pamela a questioning look.

"Thank you, Mrs. Himmel." She placed her hand on Horatio's knee. "I've got some errands to run, dear. You don't mind do you?"

"Errands? Who, who is out there?" He stood to peer around the door. It was Matthews. He dodged back behind the door quickly. Further embarrassment at sitting in his underwear wrapped in a blanket was not what he needed. He remembered her conversing with Matthews on the dock. "How the devil did he know we were here?"

"The Himmel's have quite a source of runners. I sent a message. You don't mind do you, Horatio?"

"No, darling, not as long as you do not gallivant around the town unescorted."

She kissed him lightly on the lips. "Thank you, darling!"

"Wait! Give me back my ring!" He whispered loudly.

"Oh," she pouted. She turned slowly back to him holding the ring with her fingers.

He held out his hand for it, smiling. "Come on, you can't have it until tomorrow."

"But..."

"Come on, you," he urged lovingly. She sighed, placing it in his hand. He pulled her to him for another light kiss. "Where will I find you?"

"At the hotel. I will see you there this afternoon!"

**********

Standing at the window of their hotel room, Horatio gazed out to the bay to Indefatigable. She looked small from here. He reflected upon his life there, his captain, his fellow officers, the men, the battles they had been through, and... Pamela. He sighed. She would no longer share his existence there. How would it be to get back into the routine of the ship? Of the war, even? They had the skirmish with the French and Spanish, but still the confrontation with the pirates seemed more to the fore. Was it because of Pamela? *Most likely,* he thought to himself.

He rested his hand on the window frame and leaned against it. The immense battlements of the peninsula came to mind. Surely she would be safe here. The cannon, and men on duty, could be seen along the fortifications. He had learned of the Siege of Gibraltar in school. Having the woman he loved ensconced here made the tale more meaningful. His countrymen had held the peninsula for four years. Now, it was firmly in British hands. No enemy from without should endanger her, but what was to be done in the way of a companion for her, within the walls?

Walking to the bed, he gazed at his neatly pressed and folded clothing. Smiling wryly, he shook his head. Archie was going to hear about this, though he had to admit, his clothing had not looked so good in some time. Perhaps Archie had done him a favor after all.

Mr. Dreyfus had done an excellent job. Only his soiled uniform and Pamela's dress remained to be returned. Pulling open the bottom drawer of the washstand chest, he placed his clothing carefully inside. Removing his pocket watch, he noted the time, wondering where she was. They were to meet with Reverend Godwin at five o'clock. It was getting late.

Giving the bed a final look, he rested upon it, crossing his feet over the edge. Putting his hands behind his head, he stared at the ceiling. It was much farther away than the ceiling over his berth on the Indy. He reached his arm out. No chance of touching these beamed ceilings. He let his arm drop onto the soft feather mattress. Turning onto his side, he envisioned Pamela laying beside him. With a sigh, he moved his hand to touch the cloth carving of the coverlet. He felt the knobby texture of the fabric beneath his hand as he let it run down the slope of the pillow. Exhaling deeply, he closed his eyes.

*******

Pamela and Matthews were nearing the hotel. Matthews had his arms full of packages, round ones, square ones, tied ones, bagged ones. Whenever they approached an area with numbers of people, his eyes shifted nervously, hoping none of his mates would see him. He did not mind helping Mrs. Hornblower, he just did not want to be teased. Passing through the square, he breathed a sigh of relief. He had seen no one from the Indy.

"Oh, Mr. Matthews! I am famished! I do believe I shall have to get a bite to eat before dinner! Skipping lunch was not a good idea! Are you hungry?"

"I'm fine, ma'am."

"Hm." She twisted her mouth at him. "I wonder where Mr. Hornblower is?"

The two climbed the stairs to enter the hotel lobby. Styles was sitting nonchalantly in a lobby chair, while Oldroyd stood studying a painting on the wall of ships at sea. He was muttering under his breath to Styles about the accuracy of the ship's lines. Matthews saw the two immediately and felt his face warm.

Pamela saw them, as well, and greeted them. "Mr. Styles, Mr. Oldroyd! Good to see you! Could you help me? You see I have already laden Mr. Matthews down." She passed the packages she was holding into the arms of Styles and Oldroyd, took some from Matthews and gave those to them as well. "He has been such a dear!"

"Certainly, ma'am," said Styles, eyes twinkling at Matthews.

"Aye, ma'am," replied Oldroyd, accepting the bundles.

"Have you seen Mr. Hornblower?" She turned from them, not giving them a chance to answer. "I know we are supposed to meet the minister this afternoon. Oh, what is the time? What this lobby needs is a ship's bell."

She walked over to the front desk. Some people were standing there speaking with Mrs. Harvey. She waited patiently for them to move. She heard their voices, but her mind was so preoccupied, it did not register that they were American. A woman in the group turned, bumping into her.

"I beg your pardon."

"It's quite all right," responded Pamela amicably.

"Pamela? Pamela Dawson?"

Pamela knitted her brow, staring at the woman before her. Her mouth opened as her memory jogged. "Mrs. Langdon? My word! What are you doing here?"

The two women embraced lightly. "Pamela! My goodness how you've grown! Oh, and your last name is not Dawson anymore, is it?"

The three sailors stood holding her packages, watching the reunion.

Two ladies came down the stairs. "Pamela! Elizabeth, it's Pamela Dandridge!" cried Natalie. She hurried over to hug and kiss her.

"Natalie! I cannot believe you are here! Elizabeth, dear!" Pamela hugged her feeling the rigidity of her relunctant embrace. She looked at each one, and then, at the father who turned to them from Mrs. Harvey. "Mr. Langdon! Charles!" She tousled the youth's hair.

"I do declare! Miss Pamela!" cried Langdon.

"Oh, I just can't believe it! What on earth are you doing in Gibraltar, Mr. Langdon?"

"We were on our way to Greece, but our ship had to put in for repairs. Dreadful storm we came through!" revealed Langdon.

"My goodness! I don't know what to say! It is wonderful to see you!"

"Why are YOU here, my dear? Where is your father?" asked Mrs. Langdon.

Pamela calmed and replied with a sad smile. "My father...was killed ...about a month ago." She glanced over to the three sailors, shifting uneasily with her burdens to hand. She felt a hand grasp hers. It was Mrs. Langdon.

"No!" said Mr. Langdon shocked. "James Dawson, dead! Let it not be!"

Pamela swallowed, fighting back the tears.

"Oh, my dear, I am so sorry!" Mrs. Langdon pulled her close. "You poor thing. I know how close you and your father were. Especially after..."

"Thank you, Mrs. Langdon. It is good to see you, but I have things I must do." They followed her glance toward the three sailors. "If you will be here for a few days, perhaps we could have tea together."

"Oh, Pamela, you know I want to talk to you sooner than that!" cried Natalie.

Pamela smiled widely at the young girl. "And, I with you, Natalie. I have much to tell. You are staying here?"

"Yes."

"Perhaps we could get together later this evening. I would have to ask my... um," she glanced at Elizabeth stiffly staring at her. "I mean, maybe we could talk later."

"All right, dear. I am anxious to hear all your news, when you are ready. It is good to see you," said Mrs. Langdon.

"Come along, my dears," urged Mr. Langdon, "if we are going to take a turn about the town before dinner, we had best be going. Good-bye, Miss Pamela."

She watched them leave. Natalie turned to give her a last smile and a wave of her hand.

"You know them, Mrs. Hornblower?"

"Yes, Mrs. Harvey. They used to live in my home town. Could I have our room key?"

"Mr. Hornblower has it. As far as I know, he is there now."

Pamela's face sparkled at the mention of his name and the prospect of seeing him. "Then, I just need to rent a single room for one night, and order three baths."

She led her package bearers up to the room. Knocking lightly, she tried the door and opened it carefully, peeking inside. She could see him laying on the bed, his back to her. Motioning to the men to be quiet, she led them to a spot to put the packages on the floor. Placing certain ones back into Matthews' hand, she motioned them back out into the hallway.

"Here is your key, Mr. Matthews. I have ordered you a bath. Check with Mrs. Harvey to see when it will be ready."

"Yes, ma'am."

"Thank you, all three!" she whispered. "See you later!"

As she closed the door, Styles and Oldroyd stared at Matthews. His face took on a disgruntled appearance. He motioned for them to follow him.

Within the room, Pamela leaned against the closed door, gazing at Horatio. Approaching the vase of flowers, she tenderly touched the soft petals. *Aw!* she thought, *he is the sweetest!* She stepped closer to the bed, taking in the length of him, from the head of the bed to the foot. Sighing, she moved closer, bending over him to see his mouth slightly open. He breathed evenly. His pocket watch lay open on the bed where he had lain it. She picked it up, checked the time, then, placed it on the night stand. She walked around to the other side of the bed, gently entering it, laying on her side to face him. Smiling at his sleeping face, she reached to play lightly with his curls. His left hand rested near her pillow. Very carefully, she slipped her hand under his. There was a change in his breathing. His hand twitched over hers, pressing it slightly. She watched his eyes blinking, as he came to wakefulness. They opened further to take her in beside him. A smile crept over his lips.

"A dream come true," he said softly. He moved himself closer and pulled her towards him at the same time. "I love you."

"I love you and I love the flowers!"

He kissed her lightly. "Do you? Where have you been?"

"Shopping."

"What did you buy?" he asked sleepily.

"Lots of things. Look." She motioned with her head and eyes. He looked over his shoulder briefly, and chuckled.

"Have you bought out every merchant in Gibraltar?"

"Only half."

********

On the next floor above and at the back of the hotel, Matthews, Styles, and Oldroyd stood in Matthews tiny room for one. There was a single bed, night stand, a small dresser with a basin and pitcher, and a chair.

Styles threw himself down on the bed. "Well, DEAR, what's this all about?"

Matthews scowled at the address. "None o' that!"

"Yeah, what's going on? What chee got a room for? Cap'n Pellew know you ain't comin' back to the Indy?" Oldroyd examined each accouterment of the room.

"Aye, he knows," sighed Matthews. He dropped his packages on top of Styles stomach.

"Oof! What's all this, Matty?"

"Miss Pamela." He hesitated looking at his mates. "Well, she's got no da to give her away! And you already done had your chance, Styles! So, this round, it's me!"

"Well, now, Matty. It's a right honor her choosin' ye ta be the one ta walk her down the aisle. After all, ye were the one ta get the word ta Mr. Hornblower about her bein' takin' to that Kaliakra. She mighta chosen Cap'n, ye know."

"Aye, I reckon. It's just this monkey suit she's wantin' me ta wear."

"Aye, and Cap'n is more like Mr. Ornblower's da," grinned Oldroyd. His mates stared at him. "Well, he is!" he added defensively.

"AND, she's ordered me one o' them proper baths! Looky here." He dumped one of the packages onto the bed beside Styles. Soap, a new razor, comb, shaving mug with brush, and mug soap.

Styles picked up the soap to smell it. "Oy, Matty, ye'll be turnin' heads wi' this! Ye'll be smellin' like a proper English gentleman, ye will! That musta cost a pretty penny!"

Oldroyd took it to smell. "Can I try it sometime, Matty?"

"Let's see yer clothes," ordered Styles, rising on one elbow.

 

*********

Another day was nearly done on Gibraltar. Horatio Hornblower walked the street with his lady on his arm, feeling everything was right with the world. The meeting with Godwin went off without a hitch. Everything seemed to be in order. Only waiting for the morning remained.

"It is a beautiful evening, Horatio. Will we have time to walk down to the point soon?"

"Whatever you wish, my lady."

Climbing the few stairs to enter the hotel, they turned looking westward to the bay. The water was littered with fighting ships, cargo ships, schooners, fishing boats. She leaned against him and he placed his hand over her arm looped in his. Kissing her forehead, he told her once more, " I love you."

About to enter the hotel, he heard someone shouting his name. "Mr. Hornblower! Mr. Hornblower!"

He turned to see who called him. A dark haired youth approached him. "Are you Mr. Hornblower, sir?" he asked breathlessly.

"Yes."

"Leftenant Bracegirdle asks if ye could attend him at the dock, sir?"

"Is there some problem, boy?"

"I don't know, sir. I was just told to look for someone wot looks like you with a lady," the boy touched his cap to her, "at this *ere *otel. Will ye come, sir?"

Hornblower's expression took on one of worry. What could Bracegirdle possibly want? And, tonight of all nights! Seeing Pamela give him a smile and a nod, he replied. "Very well." He opened the door for her. "I will return as quick as I can."

"I'll be waiting, my love."

He followed the youth through the streets, passed the square, down the city center street, passed the wall fortifications, through the gate, to the landing docks. He was amazed to see so many people and boats still coming and going. Such activity!

He looked up and down the docks, seeking Bracegirdle's portly frame. "Where is he?"

"Down there, sir. He said fer ye ta wait fer him down there." The youth pointed towards the end of the dock." The boy stood before him with his hand out.

Frowning, Hornblower took a coin from his pocket placing it into his hand. "Thank ye, sir!" The youth ran back towards the city.

Hornblower took long strides down the dock. There was the launch from the Indy. He recognized the blue tipped oars. No one was there with the boat. Pellew had nearly a complete crew waiting with the boat last night. Why was this one left unattended?

**********

Pamela entered the hotel lobby and was greeted by the Langdon's on their way into dinner. Speaking with Natalie, the two arranged to meet and talk, privately, both wishing to renew their friendship. It was determined they would meet in the bathing room on the second floor.

The room accommodated two bath tubs, separated by a heavy burgundy curtain. When the port was extra busy, the bathing room was thus appointed to meet the needs of the guests. The attendant was waiting for Pamela when she arrived. A basin of water was prepared to wash her long, dark, brown hair. This accomplished, the attendant poured another steaming pitcher of water into the metal bathtub.

Natalie arrived. Pamela stepped to greet her, taking her hands, she leaned to kiss her cheek. After exchanging pleasantries with one another, Natalie began her hair washing, while Pamela stuck a toe into the steaming water of her bath to test the temperature. She unwrapped her towel. Climbing into the tub, she lowered herself slowly into the water, avoiding immersion of her wounded knee and elbow.

"Oh, Natalie! Whoever invented bathtubs deserves a medal! This is heaven!" The woman attending placed a towel behind her neck where the height of the tub supported her back.

"Would you like me to comb your hair, Mrs. Hornblower?

"Yes, Gertie, thank you."

Natalie looked over at her friend from her bent position. "Who?"

Pamela grinned over at her young friend, observing the cleansing shower of water cascading over her head.

Natalie crinkled her brow. "Pamela!" Squeezing water out of her hair and wrapping it in a towel, she stepped over to stare down at her soaking friend. "You're not! Again? Elizabeth shall have a cow! What in heaven's name did you do to your knee?"

"I fell." She winced. "I know, Natalie. I hesitate to tell any of you, especially Elizabeth. She makes me feel so guilty!"

"What's his name? When did you meet him? How long have you been married?" She lifted Pamela's elbow and shook her head at the injury.

"Slow down!" smiled Pamela. "Get into your tub."

Natalie did as she was bid. The washroom attendant fastened the curtain back, giving clear visibility between the two bathers.

Natalie clutched the side of the tub. "Tell me, Pamela, I am all eagerness to hear!"

Pamela gazed dreamily at the ceiling and sighed, feeling the comb tug gently through her hair. "He is wonderful, Natalie. Marvelous, handsome, intelligent! I cannot think of enough glowing terms to describe him."

"What's his name?"

"Horatio. Horatio Hornblower." Her eyes twinkled. "I know. The last name is rather silly, but he is not. Far from it. Oh, Natalie, I do not mean to lessen the memories of Tom and William, but until I met Horatio, I think I have never been in love before. He makes me feel like I have NEVER FELT before!"

"How did you meet him?"

"It is a long story. He was one of my rescuers. It was too late for father," she stated sadly, "and, then, Horatio came into my life. He is a leftenant in the British navy!"

"Oh, Lord! Pamela! Another man of the sea?" Natalie looked sorrowful.

"I know, dear, but it must be my lot in life to love one. Horatio is so special, Natalie. He is like no one I have ever known. Wait till you see him! He is handsome beyond compare."

"Well, of course, YOU would think so. I can see how much in love you are!" smiled Natalie. "When did you marry?"

"We were married at sea in a Handfasting ceremony."

"Handfasting?"

"Mm hm. It was so romantic!"

"Pamela! You are living in another world!"

"It does seem that way sometimes! I lived on a ship of war for nearly a month! And a pirate ship! What tales I shall have to tell our grandchildren!"

"Is this Handfasting thing legal?"

"Yes. But we are getting married in the church, as well."

"Whatever do you mean?"

"We are getting married in the morning in a little Anglican Church just around the corner."

Natalie gasped. "May I come? Please! May I?"

"Oh, Natalie, dear! I do not want to upset Elizabeth. She will hate me more than she does now!"

"Oh, bosh on Elizabeth! If she were not so broody, she would have a husband by now!"

"Do not be hard on her, Natalie. If I had such stature, I mightn't be married either."

"THAT I cannot imagine! Three husbands, at your age!"

Pamela put her hand to her cheek. "Don't remind me, dear! Do you think I am bad luck?"

"Bad luck? How could having three dashing men fall in love with you be bad luck?"

"But I mean me, for them."

"No. No, Pamela! Do not think such a thing." Natalie watched a veil of sadness cover her friend's visage. "We have discussed this before, Pamela. It is not true. You know it is not true."

Pamela wiped her face with a wash cloth, hiding the tears that came too quickly.

Natalie knew what she was doing. Had she not been there when Tom died? And, William. She had been to visit Pamela at last summer's end, finding her gloomy and depressed over the loss of Captain Dandridge. Pamela had vowed she would never marry again, considering herself to be a bad luck token. But, Natalie had found a way to cheer her, encouraging her in her favorite pastime. "I thought about you when I watched the men climb our masts, Pamela. Remember that oak tree down by the creek?"

"Indeed, I do! Our platform holds, last I saw! Zeke Deke still teases me about asking him to build it! Between him and father I ... will never live it down." Her voice trailed off softly.

"Zeke Deke! What a treasure that man is!" cheered Natalie. How would she feel if it were her father that died? Pamela has lost so much, so young. If anyone deserved love, it was she. *I don't know that I could bear up under so much tragedy!* thought Natalie. She ached for her friend. "Did you get a chance to climb a mast this voyage?"

"I did, Natalie. I did, indeed! Though Father would have none of it!" Pamela's voice caught at the mention of her father. She felt her emotions rising and falling like swells beneath the Dolphin. "And, I am afraid Horatio does not care for my obsession either!"

Natalie recalled to mind Pamela's frilled pantloons made visible as she had tied her skirts up to her waist, climbing higher in the old oak tree than Natalie would have ventured. She nearly scared the wits out of her, going so high. After suggesting she make the climb, Natalie had second thoughts, fearing Pamela might choose to do herself in, succumbing to her depression over Dandridge. Natalie had prayed hard, watching Pamela on the thin swaying branches. "No! I don't imagine he does! You did not climb in your petticoat, did you?"

"No. Worse! I was wearing men's clothes!"

"Lord, Pamela! I do declare!"

"Oh, yes, I nearly lost him. He was so angry with me." She looked reflective, recalling the slap on her rump. "Though I believe it was fear for my safety that made him so." A soft smile took her countenance. "He is such a dear, Natalie. And, so brave!"

"I think these tears are for another reason."

"I begin to miss him. We have been breath and heartbeat for one another for nearly a month. When he goes back to sea, I may cease to live. How will I survive this parting?"

"I pray one day I shall be so fortunate to have one such man love me."

Pamela looked affectionately at her friend. "I pray you do. Indeed, I do."

Natalie sighed. "I must agree that seeing a man in uniform IS a pleasing sight!" She smiled thinking about the young man who rescued her on the docks. "But, Pamela, tell me everything! How did you come to need rescuing?"

**********

Hornblower gazed out toward the Indefatigable. Where was Bracegirdle? He stood waiting. Pacing. Waiting. Many boats arrived and departed. He sighed. "Where are you Leftenant Bracegirdle?" He pulled out his pocket watch, staring at the numbers. Closing it, tucking it into his breast pocket, he pulled out his small telescope. Extending it, he peered out into the bay. Indefatigable appeared normal. He could see a man on watch. By his size and stance, he assumed him to be McMasters. A slight tinge of guilt assaulted him that his fellow officer was working while he was free to be with his bride. He viewed the rest of the moored ships summarily. Nothing amiss. No fire ship. He grinned at the thought, with Archie coming briefly to mind. Collapsing his scope, he paced again.

At last, he saw a man approaching him. It was not Bracegirdle but one of the dock hands.

"That cher boat, sir?" asked the man.

Hornblower looked at him, hesitating with his reply. "It is a boat belonging to my ship, yes."

"Can't leave her there, sir."

Hornblower's brow furrowed. "Why not?"

"Dock stewards orders. No unattended boats. Ye'll have to move her."

"She will be moved when her crew returns."

"She can't be there with no crew. Ye've got to move her, sir."

"And, how do you propose I do that, sir?" asked Hornblower agitatedly.

"All's I know is, there ain't to be no unattended boats. Ye've got ta move her."

"Well, I cannot move her by myself, man! Be reasonable!"

The man put his hands on his hips. "She's got to go, sir!"

"If I had a crew, I would gladly move her. But if I had a crew, it would not be necessary to move her because then she would be attended, would she not?"

The man scratched his head, trying to understand his meaning.

"Are ye saying ye won't move her?"

Hornblower felt himself turning red with frustration. "No. I am saying I cannot move her!"

The man harumphed, turned, and left clomping along the dock away from him.

Hornblower shook his head and paced again. Where was Bracegirdle? It was getting dark. What was he going to do? Captain Pellew would be irate if someone took his launch. He paced quickly. He pulled out his pocket watch. The face was barely visible in the nearby torch light. Heavy footsteps approached. Stopping his pace, he turned to see the man from earlier... with a squad of redcoats.

"That's him, sir." The man said pointing at Hornblower.

A leftenant approached him. "I understand you are refusing orders to move this boat."

Hornblower's shock registered on his face. "Orders? Sir, I do not have a crew!"

"Why are you here with no crew?"

"I am waiting for my ship's first leftenant. I assume the crew is with him!"

"You cannot leave that boat unattended."

"Well, I am here."

"No, sir. You don't get my meaning. The boat needs to have a crew. If you've got no crew, the boat can't be here. No docking of boats. You see how busy it is here?" he turned motioning to the boats coming and going, loading and off loading passengers. "You cannot have an unattended boat."

Hornblower sighed, at a loss to know what to say. "I am sure Mr. Bracegirdle will return soon."

The leftenant looked at the dockman who shook his head. The leftenant sighed, looking back at Hornblower, he asked. "What is your name, sir?"

"Leftenant Horatio Hornblower of His Majesty's Frigate Indefatigable."

"Well, sir, I am going to have to place you under arrest."

"What? Why? What are the charges?"

"Failure to maintain a boat's crew with your boat and docking without proper attendants."

"But, I am sure it is here for my Captain, sir. My Captain is Captain Sir Edward Pellew. He is in town for leftenant examinations."

"I wouldn't know anything about your captain, sir. Take her, Mr. Barney," ordered the leftenant. The dockman motioned for a group of men from behind the squad, forward. They entered the Indy's launch. "Unattended boats become property of Gibraltar docks. And, you sir, are under arrest." He took Hornblower by the arm.

"Wait! You cannot take the Captain's boat!" Hornblower saw the group of men seating themselves, taking up the blue-tipped oars. He knew Pellew took pride in this launch with the fancy trimmed oars. Damn! If anything happened to the boat, Pellew would be insufferable for days! Indeed, every time a boat was needed, he would be reminded of this one's loss and his crankiness would begin anew! Hornblower knew it would be just like that! "No! Wait! I am sure Mr. Bracegirdle will return momentarily. You cannot take the Captain's boat. Let me get someone. I'll, I'll hire someone to take it back to the Indy!"

"Sorry, sir. Too late. Are you coming along peaceably?"

"But..." Hornblower stared around at his situation. Pamela would wonder where he was. They had planned to bathe, have dinner, and turn in for the night. What was he going to do? She would worry. He did not want her to worry. Not now. Not in...the condition she was in. Not when he might be called back to sea at any moment. She might think that to be the case, if he did not return. No. She knew the Captain was in leftenant examinations. Where was Archie? Was he not done with his exam yet? Or, Matthews? Styles? Even Oldroyd would do, to get a message to her! But what would he say? *I have been placed under arrest?* He shook his head, knowing that would not do. How was he going to get out of this? He was getting married in the morning. *I cannot be arrested. Not now. Not tonight!* He felt the leftenant pull him, and his feet reluctantly follow. "I am under arrest?"

"Aye, you are."

"May I send a message?"

"Not now, sir. You will have to take that up with my captain."