An American Encounter
by Skihee

Chapter 6
Another Wedding

**Author's note: This chapter contains excerpts from the King James Version of the Bible and from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, Marriage Ceremony.

*****

Kennedy and Hornblower headed for the church via the back route Godwin had taken them previously. The early morning sun was already heating up the late spring day.

"What are those marines doing in front of the church?" questioned Hornblower.

"Ignore them, Horatio."

"But, why are they there?"

Archie grabbed the crook of his arm and pulled him in the side door of the church. A low hum of conversation distracted Horatio from further questions of the troop outside.

"Have we encroached upon another function?" Hornblower stepped to where he could see into the church proper. "Arc..." his throat closed. His eyes went wide. Hornblower noted the large number of people and the gold braided apparel. He swallowed hard and tried again. "Archie...What? Who...who...who.." His mind was working too fast to seize upon the thought he wished to form.

"Horatio, you sound like an owl."

His mouth dropped briefly, then closed. He canted his head with a furrowed brow and asked, "Who is minding the Indy?"

"Troubridge's men."

"Troubridge? Captain Troubridge? Nelson's Captain Troubridge?"

"Yes."

"Is this Pellew's idea?"

"Yes. He said this should be a proper naval wedding."

"Is that Troubridge sitting next to the Captain?"

Archie leaned up on his tip-toes to look over Hornblower's shoulder. "Yes. The one next to him is Captain Ball. He met them yesterday. They are the rest of the examination board."

Hornblower held his forehead. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"You seemed to have a lot on your mind."

"Oh, God! And, Pamela is not ready!" He felt his stomach do a dizzying flip. "Oh, God!"

"It will be all right. She already has a track record with Pellew. It will be all right. Come on. Let us pacify Benny."

Archie pulled him into the small room acting as Godwin's office and settled him into a chair. He sat holding his head in his hands. "I should have had another drink...maybe two."

"At last! Where have you been? I thought this was to be a small gathering. Do you know how many people are out there? Do you know what time it is?" asked Godwin.

Archie shook his head at Benny. Godwin noted Hornblower's demeanor.

"Do not worry, Mr. Hornblower. I have not lost a groom yet. We have not lost the bride, have we?"

"She is delayed, but will be here soon," advised Archie.

"How soon?"

"Unknown."

"Oh dear."

Standing, Horatio returned to gaze upon the assembled masses. "My crew! It's my Dolphin crew!" Every officer from Pellew and Bracegirdle down to Midshipmen James and Cutter were there. "Archie!" he whispered, grabbing his friend's arm. "That army leftenant that arrested me last night is here! How did he find me? That is a fine kettle of fish. Arrested at my own wedding! That will be one for the book."

"You need not worry, Horatio. I believe the Captain has taken care of it."

"Then, why is he here?"

"To see the wedding?"

Horatio stared at his friend.

"I will go inform the Captain of what is going on before he has an eruption," said Archie slipping past Hornblower. "That is what the best man is for, is it not?" he grinned back at Hornblower.

 

"Here. Drink this," commanded Godwin. Horatio looked down into a gold cup full of dark liquid. "It is all right. It has not been blessed yet." Godwin looked over the crowd. "Lord! Is that Admiral Jervis?"

Hornblower felt the blood drain from his features. It was. He had not noticed him before, but he recognized him from the Victory, and another man in Admiral gold sat next to him. He lifted the cup to his lips, draining it to the last drop. Who are all these people? The church seemed to be filling of its own accord. He backed to the wall, feeling the need for something solid at his back. Archie was talking to Pellew and looking over at him.

Pellew stood. Hornblower steeled himself, pressing the empty cup into Benny's hand. His Captain and Archie weaved their way around the pews.

"Mr. Hornblower." Pellew peered into his ashen features.

"Y..yes, sir?" He forced himself away from the supporting wall.

"Are you all right, sir?"

"Y..yes, Captain. Quite all right," he lied.

Pellew narrowed his eyes. "Hm. Mr. Kennedy tells me something is awry with Mrs. Hornblower."

"Yes, Captain. Sorry, sir."

Pellew sighed. "Somehow I am not surprised." He pulled his pocket watch and stared at the hands. Snapping it closed, he cleared his throat. "I hope you do not mind the additional guests. I told them of your impending wedding. They knew of your exploits from Admiral Jervis and wished to meet you."

"Me, sir?"

"It isn't every leftenant that intercepts top secret enemy dispatches."

Hornblower shifted his eyes in embarrassment. So that was why they were here. "It was only luck, sir."

"You've got the devil's own luck, Mr. Hornblower. All the more reason, I suppose, WHY they are curious about Mrs. Hornblower. I had to do some fast talking to explain why she is an American."

Hornblower's protective instinct burst to the fore. "Captain, I would not have..."

"Calm yourself, sir. Though they are Admirals and Captains all, they do know what *love* is, I assure you. You need not worry yourself."

Hornblower relaxed, but was thankful for the adrenal rush to steady his frayed nerves. Where was Pamela? He was ready to go get her himself.

A hush came over the attendees. Hornblower, Kennedy, and Pellew turned to see the cause. A middle aged man and woman, with a tall thin woman, and a young boy made their way down the aisle to take seats near the front.

"It's the Langdons. Pamela must be here." Hornblower felt his heart atingle within.

"I'll go." Archie left them quickly.

Pellew smiled at Hornblower and gave him a nod. "It begins."

Hornblower and Pellew watched Kennedy disappear beyond the spindled wall dividing the nave from the narthex.

The narthex was dotted with inquisitive Gibraltarians and church members attracted by the troop of red coated marines outside the church doors. The longer the ceremony was delayed the more people were drawn in by curiosity. Several passed by Kennedy to enter the sanctuary and took seats to watch the proceedings. Those in the foyer quieted as Archie neared the wedding party.

Matthews stood next to Pamela leaning and whispering to Styles. The two of them saw Kennedy's approach. Matthews nodded with a gentle smile on his lips. Pamela bent slightly forward, inspecting the skirt folds of her borrowed gown. Nervously, she worked her way up to the lace and pearl bodice, pinching the side seam that had been hastily taken in. Kennedy watched her worried features move to a halting grin when she saw his approach. Natalie stood behind her, smiling warmly at him. He breathed in.

"Pamela, you are keeping the world waiting." He took both her hands in his. "What a dress, dear lady! God has surely blessed Horatio with more beauty than he deserves!"

He watched a blush rise to her cheeks, enhancing the glow that emanated from her countenance. His eyes moved to her hair, coifed in ringlets, pearls laced in and out the curls wistfully loose atop her head.

"Isn't she beautiful, Mr. Kennedy?" asked Natalie.

"Indeed she is, Miss Langdon." He held himself back from complimenting Natalie who stood as a vision of loveliness herself, dressed in a lavender gown of soft satin. "Are you ready, Pamela?" She nodded. "Matthews?"

"Aye, Mr. Kennedy, as ever I will be."

Glancing at Styles, the seaman nodded to Kennedy and went before them to sit in a pew on the left side of the nave. Pamela clutched Kennedy's forearm. "Natalie is going with me."

Archie and Natalie gazed at each other briefly as he offered his arm to her. He stopped at the entrance to the sanctuary, catching the eye of Godwin, Hornblower and Pellew. He waited as the three walked to take their planned positions, climbing the three steps to the chancelry. Godwin, centered himself before the chancel railing. Hornblower, stood sideways, watching the aisle. Pellew moved to the lectern. Godwin gave Archie a nod.

"You look lovely this morning, Natalie," he whispered, taking another brief glance at the young woman whose arm entwined his.

"Thank you, Archie," she replied.

Kennedy turned his head to be sure Pamela and Matthews would follow. She had moved into the arms of Matthews. Was she shaking her head? He could see Matthews speaking into her ear and rubbing her back. Archie gave him an inquiring look. Matthews nodded and winked at him.

Natalie noted the silent communication between the two men and whispered. "It's the crowd. She wasn't expecting so many to be here. The marines turned her frantic. She thought Horatio had been arrested."

Taking a deep breath, Archie escorted Natalie up the aisle. All faces were turned to them, those of common people they did not know, familiar ones to Archie, officers and crew of Indefatigable, those of gold bedecked uniforms of Admirals and Captains. Archie moved his left hand to cover Natalie's that rested on his right forearm. The two climbed the same stairs to the chancel. He deposited Natalie to the left side of the chancel boundary, then walked to take his place behind Horatio. As he passed Horatio, he whispered. "She thought the marines were here to arrest you."

Hornblower twitched imperceptibly, blinking at the information, his eyes glued to the entrance from the narthex.

The church was silent. The rustle of the satin skirts could be heard from the foyer to the chancelry. A dapper Matthews pressed her hand to his right forearm gently pulling her out of the shadows into the lighted aisle. A pleasing sigh from the attendees was scarcely audible.

Hornblower stopped in mid-breath. Everything about her was radiant in the early morning sunlight streaming through the diamond windows of the church. The cream color of the satin gown caught and reflected the light onto her features, lighting her outwardly, while the essence of her own being emanated from an inward incandescence. He was awed. With the approaching vision, all preoccupation with uninvited guests disappeared like star shine with the rising sun. He remembered to breath, continuing the stymied intake of air, quietly, as his chest swelled and his lips curved slightly at the corners. He sought her eyes and they met his. He pulled her to him with his gaze, calmly and silently. * When your heart beats, I want to feel it* popped into his memory. Could she read his thoughts? *When you make a move, I want to move with you* The two were nearly to the foot of the stairs. He could see her face even more clearly now. The remains of a blush colored her cheeks pink with a rosy glow. He could see the track of a tear tracing down from her eyes. *When your eyes cry, I want to catch the tears* He felt his logical mind restrain him from going to her. She and Matthews halted at the bottom of the stairs. Hornblower could not move his eyes from her, nor she hers from him. A familiar voice came to his ears. The strong, commanding voice of his captain, melodiously reading that which Pamela had requested.

He was astonished when she apprised him of her granted desire from his officer commanding. She knew her husband would have his nerves jangled with instrument or singing voice, so she chose the music of the spoken word, and now Pellew was obliging with chapter and verse.

"First Corinthians, chapter thirteen. Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal." Pellew paused, looking up briefly at the audience before him.

"And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; Charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things." Pellew glanced up from his reading again, noting Hornblower's steady gaze at Pamela.

"Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away, for we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away." He paused again.

"When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity." Pellew quietly closed the Bible before him, looking at the hushed audience. Godwin nodded to Matthews.

Pamela gently lifted her skirts to climb the three steps, still holding Matthews' arm. Horatio removed not his gaze, watching Pamela's eyes return to his.

Godwin began the prescribed Form of Solemnization of Matrimony from the Book of Common Prayer.

"Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this congregation, to join together this Man and this Woman in holy Matrimony; which is an honourable estate, instituted of God in the time of man's innocency, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church, which holy estate Christ adorned and beautified with his presence, and first miracle that he wrought, in Cana of Galilee, and is commended of Saint Paul to be honourable ..."

Benny continued the lengthy reading from the Prayer Book. Hornblower's mind went to analyzing what Pellew had read. He was no longer a child. He was a man. A man. A man taking a woman to be his. A woman joined with his own flesh. They were one and would forever be one. Darkly. Through a glass darkly. Yes, the future seemed dark with his nation at war, with his duty only a beckon away. When would they be called to up anchor and away? The thought of separation distressed him, but he knew it would come. And when it came, he would go. He felt a pool of tears forming and saw the concern in the eyes focused on his own. He let his head move sideways slightly to assure her as Benny's words came into his conscious thinking.

"...let him now speak, or else hereafter for ever hold his peace." Godwin paused waiting for any sound of protest. Silence replied. "I require and charge you both, as ye will answer at the dreadful day of judgment when the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed..."

*My only secret, my lady, is the enormity of my love for you. I cannot comprehend it myself. How can I convey it to you?* thought Hornblower.

"Horatio..." At the sound of his Christian name, Hornblower jerked his attention to Benny. "...Wilt thou have this woman to thy wedded wife, to live together after God's ordinance in the holy estate of Matrimony? Wilt thou love her, comfort her, honour, and keep her in sickness and in health, and, forsaking all other, keep thee only unto her, so long as ye both shall live?"

"I will."

"Pamela. Wilt thou have this man to thy wedded husband, to live together after God's ordinance in the holy estate of Matrimony? Wilt thou obey him, and serve him, love, honour, and keep him in sickness and in health, and, forsaking all other, keep thee only unto him, so long as ye both shall live?"

"I will."

"Who giveth this woman to be married to this man?

"I do," answered Matthews strongly. He moved behind her, and taking her right hand, placed it in Hornblower's right hand. He smiled up at his officer, with a nod. Matthews glanced over at Pellew who was still standing at the lectern, hands clasped behind his back, and gave him a wink. Pellew shifted on his feet, resisting the urge to clear his throat.

"Repeat after me," commanded Godwin. "I, Horatio take thee, Pamela to my wedded wife."

With each phrase, Godwin paused to let Hornblower repeat the words. "To have and to hold from this day forward......" Hornblower held her hand more tightly, her response a twitch from her eyebrows and an increase in her own grasp. Benny glanced at them, noting the unexpected hesitations in the rote ceremony which he had never encountered before. These two were acutely aware of what they were saying.

"For better for worse, for richer for poorer," Hornblower slowed in his repetition. Yes, he was taking her for richer. That test had already presented itself ...... in sickness and in health," Was this not how he came to love her in the first place? "To love and to cherish,....." Hornblower said this part slowly, seeming to intensify its meaning, pausing where Godwin had not paused.

"To love...."

Did he just pull her closer to him, wondered Godwin?

"...and....to cherish..."

Godwin was frozen until Hornblower looked at him for the next words. He cleared his throat, "Till death us do part," Hornblower was silent, staring into the eyes of the woman he loved. Could he say this? Her eyes were looking from one to the other of his. Moisture was forming in the corners. She smiled gently, ever so slightly dipping her chin downward. "Till...death...us do part," he recited. He hated saying it because he knew it would remind her of the other two he wanted to forget, and wanted her to forget. But, then again, he did want to say it because he knew that was the only thing that would keep him from her, from returning to her. Death alone, was their enemy.

"...according to God's holy ordinance; and thereto I plight thee my troth." As Hornblower repeated the words, a corporate sigh of relief could be heard from the congregation. They released each other's hand and turned nervously at the response of the audience. Pellew shifted on his feet once more. Natalie and Archie exchanged looks of relief.

It was Pamela's turn. Godwin enjoined her anxiously to take Horatio's right hand in hers and REPEAT after him.

Taking a deep breath, he began. "I, Pamela, take thee, Horatio, to my wedded husband." Godwin looked up from his reading to see Pamela grinning into the face of Horatio. Finally, she spoke the words. Godwin closed his eyes for a second. This wedding was seeming an eternity.

"To have and to hold from this day forward....for better for worse....for richer for poorer,...in sickness and in health, .... to love, cherish, and to obey..." She had repeated the following phrases in a timely manor until they reached the last one. Was she repeating his moves? Godwin and the guests waited as she spoke.

"To love......cherish..." she turned her hold on his hand so their forearms and elbows were touching. She hesitated and began to grin, focusing on the floor at Godwin's feet. Horatio was twisting his mouth trying to stop the smile from taking his lips. He gripped her hand tighter slightly shaking her arm. She looked at him, recognizing the mirth of his down turned chin, clothed in indignation. "And to obey."

Godwin sighed a sigh of relief and added quickly though with some reservation "Till death us do part..." He watched her face straighten as she watched their held hands return to normal. She looked up into her husband's chiseled features and echoed, "Till death us do part."

"According to God's holy ordinance; and thereto I give thee my troth." With her response, he asked. "Do you have the ring?"

Horatio turned to Archie who placed it in his hand. Godwin held a copy of an open Bible forward as Horatio placed the ring on the open pages. Godwin turned, stepped behind the chancel railing, held the ring and Bible up asking God's blessing on the outward and visible sign of their union. Pamela and Horatio stepped closer to the railing. Godwin turned back to them and giving the ring to Horatio had him hold it on the fourth finger of her left hand and repeat after him. She was smiling at the ring, two dolphins, leaping to form a circle. Horatio, too, grinned at her pleasure, then relaxed, listening to what he was to say next.

"With this ring I thee wed, ...." Horatio said the words with an emotion that could not help but move Godwin with awe. His pauses, his emphasis, his vocal quality. "With my body I thee worship..." Godwin stared unspeaking at the two before him, lost in Horatio's words and intonation. Those six words Benny had stated many times, but as Hornblower spoke them, it was as if he were hearing them for the first time. Understanding their meaning for the first time. Hornblower reluctantly looked to Godwin for the next phrase. "And, and ..." stuttered Godwin, "With all my worldly goods I thee endow," Hornblower gave him a curious look and chose to say *and* only once.

"And with all my worldly goods I thee endow." It was like a prayer coming from him, spoken softly and humbly.

"In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen." That repeated, he motioned for them to kneel at the railing.

"Let us pray. O Eternal God, Creator and Preserver of all mankind, giver of all spiritual grace, the Author of everlasting life; Send thy blessing upon these thy servants, this man and this woman, whom we bless in thy Name; that, as Isaac and Rebecca lived faithfully together, so these persons may surely perform and keep the vow and covenant betwixt them made, whereof this Ring given and received is a token and pledge, and may ever remain in perfect love and peace together, and live according to thy laws; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen"

Godwin bent to take the right hand of each and placed them once more together. "Those who God hath joined together let no man put asunder." The minister looked out to the people. "Forasmuch as Horatio and Pamela have consented together in holy wedlock, and have witnessed the same before God and this company, and thereto have given and pledged their troth either to other, and have declared the same by giving and receiving of a Ring, and by joining of hands, I pronounce that they be Husband and Wife together, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen."

"God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Ghost, bless, preserve, and keep you; the Lord mercifully with his favour look upon you; and so fill you with all spiritual benediction and grace, that ye may so live together in this life, that in the world to come ye may have life everlasting. Amen." Godwin nodded to Pellew who read Psalm 128.

"Blessed are all they that fear the Lord; and walk in his ways.
For thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands; O well is thee, and happy shalt thou be.
Thy wife shall be as the fruitful vine;" Pellew could not prevent his right eyebrow from rising in his forehead. "Upon the walls of thine house;
Thy children like the olive-branches; round about thy table." Pellew considered the vision these words evoked. Horatio and Pamela seated at one end and the other of a dining table with children lining either side.
"Lo, thus shall the man be blessed: that feareth the Lord. The Lord from out of Sion shall so bless thee: that thou shalt see Jerusalem in prosperity all thy life long;
Yea, that thou shalt see thy children's children: and peace upon Israel.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen."

Pamela and Horatio still knelt. "Lord, have mercy upon us," stated Godwin.

The couple replied in unison, "Christ, have mercy upon us."

"Lord, have mercy upon us," continued the minister as he said the Lord's prayer over them. Then this, "O Lord, save thy servant, and thy handmaid;"

The couple said, "Who put their trust in thee."

"O Lord, send them help from thy holy place;"

"And evermore defend them."

"Be unto them a tower of strength,"

"From the face of their enemy,"

"O Lord, hear our prayer."

"And let our cry come unto thee."

Godwin said a prayer over them asking for mercy and blessings for their lives. And, then another asking for them to "be fruitful in procreation of children" to which a few in the audience could not help exchange a glance from bowed heads. And, yet another prayer outlining the duties of the husband and duties of the wife according to scripture. Then, finally, the prayer of communion, as he offered to them the elements commemorating Christ's sacrifice.

At last, the minister told them to rise. They turned to face the congregation. Horatio held out his crooked elbow. "I love you, Mrs. Hornblower," he whispered.

"I love you, Mr. Hornblower." The two walked to the brink of the steps and were about to descend, when someone shouted from the pews.

"Kiss her, Mr. Hornblower!" The man was hushed by those around him.

They froze gazing at each other with blushes of embarrassment. The quarter-deck of Dolphin was one thing, the chancel of a church inhabited with Royal Naval Officers of superior rank was another. Horatio swallowed with a moment of indecision. That had been the voice of one of his men. He did not know which one, but he knew it was one of his. He resisted looking to Pellew. He stared at her lips wondering if it would be an effrontery to God to kiss her here. In his head, snatches of the prayers by Archie's friend cascaded through his memory. Weren't several of them about procreating? Men and women don't usually procreate unless they kiss one another, at some point, first. He could see the boldness in Pamela's face. She would go along with whatever he decided. He leaned and kissed her lips lightly. The congregation gave a general positive utterance. They stood watching them make their way down the aisle. Natalie and Archie followed them, then Pellew, and then Godwin.

The door of the church was held open by Sergeant Blaine of the Marines. He gave Hornblower a salute. The newlyweds passed by him into a tunnel of bright red marine uniforms with a silver arched dome of drawn sabers. At the end of the tunnel, a carriage awaited them. It was a short walk to the Laughing Dolphin. Who had ordered a carriage? Before he could give voice to his question, Pamela answered it.

"The Langdon's ordered it for us, Horatio."

He assisted her into the cab. Turning to Archie who stood nearby holding Natalie's hand on his arm, he grinned and told him to take care of their guests at the Dolphin.

Archie's face became a canvas of concern, which made Hornblower grin widely.
Settling into the seat, he called to the driver. "Take us down to the point!"

He sat back in the seat with a sigh. Leaning, he kissed her, wrapping his arms around her and pulling her against his chest. He felt her arms around him as the carriage bounced through the cobbled streets of Gibraltar.

Leaning in the crook of the seat, she looked up at him.

"You're beautiful, my lady."

"I love you, Horatio. I love you."

He gathered her into his arms once again, pressing his cheek to hers, and kissing her ear.

"I thought you had been arrested!" she said into his ear and rubbing her cheek against his.

"Serves you right for locking me out this morning."

She pulled away to look at him. Was he angry with her? But a smile was on his lips.

"Forgive me, Horatio!"

"I do."

She looked over her shoulder at the passing scene. Most of the homes had dropped away. The hospital grounds were to the right, between them and the sea.

"Horatio...do you think I am fat?"

He chuckled. "No! I do not!"

"But what if I get fat?"

He apprised her question, and responded with one of his own. "Why would you get fat?"

She looked at the scrub and shale and the battlements circling the peninsula. Biting her lips together, she stared into his deep brown eyes. Her body's response at the thought she wanted to express caused a tingling in her torso. She could not say it. He might worry. She turned again to the passing scenery. Feeling his hands pulling her to him, she gave in and let him hold her to his chest.

"If you were with child you might add on weight," he said out of the blue. He moved his head to try to see her face. He felt her arms tighten around his middle. Relaxing against the seat back, he crooked his finger to smooth her cheek. As he suspected, it was wet. With one hand, he reached into his pocket and handed her his handkerchief. "Driver! Stop here!" The carriage halted on the road. "Come with me," he said softly. He helped her down. "I wanted to take you to the lighthouse, but we haven't the time this morning." She lifted the skirts of the dress to keep them out of the dust and shale strewn path. Steep stairs led up to the walk behind the battlements. He held her elbow, assisting her. The wind met them, tugging at the curls in the hair of each. Horatio smiled watching her ringlets tossed around her cheeks and forehead. "The wind will muss your hair!"

Standing at one of the embrasures, they looked out to sea. North of them, the ship crowded bay could be seen clearly. White caps danced across the water. Horatio looked around and sighed. "Well, we won't be going anywhere today, that is certain sure."

"What do you mean?"

"The wind is wrong. We couldn't put to sea if we wanted to."

"Do you want to?"

"No."

He stood behind her, wrapping his arms around her waist, looking westward. She covered his hands with her own and leaned against him.

"When your heart beats, I want to feel it," he whispered into her ear.

She closed her eyes, and sighed. "When your voice speaks, I want to hear it."

"When your eyes cry, I want to catch the tears. I want to know you."

"When you breathe, love, I want to breathe with you."

"When you make a move, I want to move with you."

She turned in his arms, facing him to say her next part. "When you're calling me, I want to answer you. I want to know you." It was their Handfasting vows. She held back his curls in the gusting wind.

He looked deeply into her moist eyes. "I want to have children with you, Pamela. I want you to be the mother of my children." Cupping her face with his hand, he brought his lips to hers. The kiss his crew wanted to see was here, with only the cab driver, the horse, and the sea as an audience.

He gazed at her for a moment, wondering if she would confirm his suspicions. He watched the struggle. He did not know of another way to smooth whatever might prevent her from telling him she was with child. Maybe she was not, after all. At least his words should allay any fears she might have should she become pregnant.

She set her eyes on her wedding band, turning it so the polished cuts glinted in the sun. Hornblower smiled, watching her.

"Do you still like it?"

She put her palm on his cheek. He turned his head to kiss it. "I adore it. I adore you. You have given me far more than a wedding band, Horatio."

Hugging her he said, "It is time we joined our guests."

Back down the steep stone casement, he lifted her into his arms and carried her to the carriage. "Take us to the Laughing Dolphin."

The driver touched his cap and turned the carriage about skillfully, clicking to his horse.