An American Encounter, Part Three
by Skihee

AE3 Ch 11 Onward Through the Fog

Friday morning. Horatio knelt in front of Drake on the front door landing. Carden was behind the little boy. Drake was dressed in the new night shirt Hornblower put him in last night, purchased by his god-father through Kennedy, a soft blue flannel covered over with a new top coat, bare feet in new shoes, and Hornblower's hat atop Drake's head, teetering and nearly blocking the boys eyes.

There was a nip in the morning fog which obscured most of the front garden. The color of the roses that still bloomed was softened in the covering mist. The light flowery perfume hung in vaporous clouds.

"Drake, I will see you in a few months, eh?" asked Hornblower, his warm breath showing white in the cold, early hours.

"Yes, sir," he said doubtfully. "I will watch out for her."

"I know you will."

Drake leaned in for a hug. Horatio thought about how small the child's arms were around his neck in comparison to the job he was leaving on the boy's shoulders.

"Thank you, Drake. Just... be here for her."

He saw Pamela coming down the stairs within. She was dressed in one of the dresses Brecon acquired, a deep burgundy color, with massive gathers tucked under her bosom. The undershift peeked above the tied bib flap in the front. She retrieved the dark, navy cloak from the hall tree, buttoned the frog, and lifted the hood to cover her hair.

"Tell the Captain I think of him, and that I will write him, please, sir?" requested Drake, holding Hornblower's hat out to him.

"That I will, Sir Drake," smiled Hornblower, who then returned his view to Pamela and rose.

She slipped by Carden, taking Hornblower's offered hand, then knelt before Drake.

"Stay with Mr. Carden and I will return shortly. Maria will be here with Manuel soon," she added hopefully.

"We've some gardenin' to do, Mrs. Hornblower. Me and Drake'll stay busy," offered the one armed sailor.

"Good-bye, Carden. I am well pleased you are here," added Hornblower sincerely.

"I do me best, sir."

A horse neighed, and the jingling of bells sounded, a precaution in the thick weather.

"Uncle's carriage," she informed.

"Right," stated Hornblower. He picked up his duffel and slipped his other arm around her shoulders. By the time they reached the white picket fence that bordered the house and grounds, and separated them from the road, the driver had the buggy turned around. Hornblower threw the kit in, and assisted Pamela's entry. He looked back. Carden and the boy were barely visible in the fog. Taking a seat, he pulled her close. "This is where we came in," he said softly. "The docks, sir."

"Aye, aye, Leftenant," answered the driver. With a slap of the reins, the horses moved slowly, bells ringing.

"Have I told you recently how beautiful you are?" He lifted her chin and smiled. "Fog. It is a blessing this morning."

"Why is that?"

"It gives me an opportunity to kiss my wife before I leave."

He leaned and did just that, ending with his lips pressed in her hair. "I love you. I shall always love you. I will come back, Pamela. I will."

"I know you will, Horatio. I believe it. I do. I shall wait, and I will keep you in my prayers, morning, noon, and night."

Pamela nestled into the hollow of his shoulder, feeling his warmth, his arms. The sorrows faced, not many hours previous, were like a nightmare best forgotten. Pamela reflected on the last time she had said good-bye, when he left in June. She acted happy, then, for his sake, hiding how dreadfully she would miss him. But not this time. She confessed in the boat when she fell overboard the awful lonely days, the desperate days, that led her to entreat Maria that she be included in the missions. Needing the busy-ness of doing to block the void, the emptiness, she coped that way. To learn that he missed her was a revelation. She had understood his desire to get back to sea, though there was some vacillation on his part of wanting to go and desiring to stay, but, in the end, she assumed he would return as second leftenant of Indefatigable with little time for thought for who he left behind. Horatio was destined for the job he filled. She knew that and let him go, but to learn that he even considered leaving the navy for her was a consolation, but also a worry-- a consolation because it spoke of his love, -- a worry because it was his destiny,-- he nor she, could interfere in that. With a deep sigh, she looked up into his handsome features and smiled.

Giving a gentle smile in return, Horatio kissed her forehead and tightened his embrace. *I fear to ask what you are thinking, my love,* he thought. *I know now you really did miss me last June. You hid it very well, Pamela. Now, we both know how much ...loneliness we each will suffer with our parting. I cannot think more on this. I will unman myself and what would that do to you?* He took a deep breath and spoke aloud what had become a mantra, to soothe his own thoughts, to soothe hers. "I will come back to you. Time nor tide will keep me from you. I will come back."

On the docks, the grizzled Matthews paced, slowly. Another man stood away from the launch, hugging his chest in the chill morning air. The blue tipped oars stood at attention in the docked boat, a dozen signals waiting for the arrival of the passengers. With the sound of bells and carriage wheel gears, Matthews nodded to the man.

The coach turned onto the planking of the docks. A red rider sat atop a black snorting steed, indistinct in the fog. The mare pranced upon the wood slats as the conveyance drew near. Edrington sat ramrod straight upon the horse, giving her an invisible command to still.

Hornblower heard a little gasp from his wife and smiled. "It is the first time you have seen Lord Edrington in his regimentals."

She gazed into her husbands eyes, not knowing what to say.

He kissed her hand. "Impressive, is he not?"

"I am speechless. I had no idea. I can see why our militia cried the redcoats are coming!"

"Ha ha ha! Pamela! You're priceless!" He hugged her hoping the fog would still provide a screen, but he could see Lord Edrington's perch provided a clear view. *Just as well, * thought Hornblower. *The man needs to get over my wife!*

Matthews waited at the carriage side. Hornblower handed him his kit, then climbed out. Turning, he helped Pamela down. A man walked through the fog, becoming distinct. Dawson.

"Good morning, Lieutenant Hornblower," greeted Dawson.

"Mr. Dawson."

"Uncle Daniel!"

"Do not sound so surprised, niece."

Three months ago Dawson would have pulled her into a launch and forcefully taken her out to Patriot's Dream if he had known about Hornblower. Extenuating circumstances altered everything. She did not tell him about Hornblower, nor the pregnancy. Random thoughts ricocheted through his mind.

The fear to sail, was it true? He had questions about how she came to be on Indefatigable. But if she were to feel safe anywhere at sea, would it not be with her husband on the ship of war that rescued her?

Three months ago, Patriot's Dream had not yet been rescued by Nelson's underlings off Malta, or recently, by Pellew. He had a clearer understanding of the Barbary Pirates and a grudging respect for an old adversary--changes.

He was impressed with Hornblower's chivalry, noting the respect the younger man gave him, allowing time alone with his niece on Indefatigable not many days previous. He was impressed with his total disinterest in Pamela's money. Not once had the subject emerged except Hornblower's dismay at his own pecuniary deficiencies. The man may not know it, nor did he appear desirous to learn it, but he was quite well off with Pamela to wife.

Hornblower was no shrinking violet. His personality had the force of will to demand, what by right as her husband he owned, that she would not be allowed to return home. The conversation echoed: 'She is coming home to North Carolina,' he had said, but Hornblower replied with a steady denial, 'No,...she will not, sir.' Though Dawson thought that if Pamela wanted to come home, Hornblower would let her. He had a feeling Hornblower loved her enough to let her go, if she wished.

His brow knit. *She does not desire it. At least not yet. She loves him too much.* He watched the fearless features she presented now, saying good-bye, here on the Gibraltar docks. His heart went out to her knowing the previous losses she sustained, losing Tom and William... James. *Why in God's name did she have to fall in love with another seaman? His country is at war. He has not only the dangers of open water but also that people are trying to kill him!* A kindly eye rested on his brother's son-in-law, the realization of which amazed him. *You're going soft, Dawson,* he thought to himself, then argued, *Shut up, you old codger. The man has integrity-- even though he *is* British--and Pamela loves him. They are going to have a child.* The back and forth internal argument continued. *If he lives to see it. If she lives to see it!* He felt steel within his heart. *Shut up, damn you! She will live. He will live. She must. Dear God in heaven, she must.*

Pamela was talking with the army major, the horse between them. He patted the sleek neck of the nervous steed and answered Pamela's questions. The mare was a fine looking piece of horseflesh. Before Hornblower's arrival, Dawson had watched the major handle the spirited horse with ease, asking Matthews who he was.

Dawson recognized the army officer from last July. The man had approached him inquiring after Pamela's name. What had Pamela been up to that the man would not know her surname? The improprieties of his niece irked him, but those were set aside for the moment, and he quashed the thought. As to the major, Dawson did not know he was in the British army, then. His eyes narrowed with remembrance of the uniform on American soil. Dawson continued the silent observations. Why was Hornblower allowing this conversation? Where is he? Seeing him talking with Matthews, he eased towards him, keeping an eye on the army man.

"Why aren't you wearing your sling?" asked Pamela.

Edrington smiled. "You aren't going to let me get away with anything, are you?"

She smiled back, shaking her head. "I am pleased that you are well. You are one of our successes."

"You will not be doing any more such adventures, will you?" he asked anxiously.

"No. Do not fear. You need not warn Horatio. I will not."

The fearful expression evaporated into a tender one. He slipped his gloved hand in hers before she could stop him and he raised her slim fingers to his lips. He held her hand there as he gazed into her eyes. "I owe you my life, Pamela. I shall never forget you."

The brown eyes were so sincere, she could not break the connection. "Nor I you, Alexander."

Spying Hornblower near the launch, Edrington hastily removed a packet from his breast pocket and placed it in her hand. "Take it, ..."

She shook her head no and interrupted him, "Major, no..."

"Take it, please, my lady. My feelings have not altered, though I know the impossibility. I promise I will watch over him for as long as I know him. Just for you. My debt to you." A final glimpse at Hornblower and he leaned towards her and planted a lingering kiss on her cheek. "Forgive me," he whispered in her ear.

Hiding the packet in the folds of her cloak, she slipped it down into the deep pocket. As Edrington moved back, she lay her palm on his cheek and saw him lean into it. "Alexander..." A slight shake of her head and the hand lowered.

Dawson watched the interchange from a discreet distance. Pamela seemed inclined to the major, conversing with him easily, like he was an old friend. The major seemed to have more than a social interest. Dawson felt a stiffening of his insides as his stomach knotted. He glanced Hornblower's way. He was talking to the man in charge of the launch. Dawson approached Hornblower.

"That major seems to have an inordinate interest in your wife, sir."

The wry smile on Hornblower was not what Dawson expected. "I know. Do not worry."

"As I thought many years ago of a similar friend," muttered Dawson in warning.

"The major sails with us, sir. Your niece is faithful," he assured, amazed the American would feel the need to warn. "Mr. Dawson, I am trusting you, sir, not to make Pamela do anything she would not wish to do."

Dawson was surprised the lieutenant spoke. "If you mean taking her back to America. I will not as long as you live, sir, without your permission."

The qualification. 'As long as you live.' Hornblower viewed Pamela. Her uncle knew of the heartbreak his niece had been through. *Thank the Lord, I chose to say this away from her,* he thought. *His reply might set her off in tears. She wears a brave face this morning.* He shifted his view to Dawson who was returning his gaze from Pamela as well. "I think we both have her best interests at heart, sir."

"I know I do, Mr. Hornblower." He paused then added, "I believe you do, as well."

"Thank you for coming this morning, Mr. Dawson. It eases my mind to know I will not leave her alone on the docks." He searched the older man's blue eyes and saw them soften towards him. Dawson nodded.

Hornblower, with Dawson beside him, walked to his wife. Hornblower slipped his hand around hers and caught the fleeting surprise of his lady. So little pleased her.

"My Lord, I am given to understand the horse remains."

"She does, Leftenant, though if I could persuade Dalrymple to sell her to me, she would not." He rubbed her nose and the horse snorted. "She is a beauty." Alexander gave Pamela a meaningful glance as he handed the reins to a groomsman and the horse was led away. An older gentleman arrived, carrying a satchel. He was dressed neatly, grey hair, grey eyes, a censorial air about him. "This is my man, Bentley, Mrs. Hornblower, Mr. Hornblower."

With a brief appraising eye of Pamela, he bowed to them both. "Madam. Sir."

Pamela smiled at the man, nodded, and lingered in her gaze. Edrington saw it and glanced at Bentley.

"Sir." Hornblower nodded to the elder gentleman. "Have you met Pamela's uncle, my Lord?"

"Yes. we had an occasion to speak last July, briefly. I am Major Edrington. How do, sir?"

The two shook hands. "Dawson is the name, Major," his eyes narrowed, he glimpsed each one of the young people.

"Will this fog delay us, Mr. Hornblower?" asked Edrington.

"I think not much, my Lord. The sun is up; it begins to burn away. We are ready to shove off if you and your man will embark."

The two men turned to Bentley and saw Pamela had drawn him away, was holding his hand, and speaking to him. Hornblower frowned and looked at Edrington.

"My American wife," he said lowly as if that explained every odd behavior she exhibited.

"If you are displeased with her, Hornblower..." smirked Edrington.

"I did not say that, sir." He eyed Edrington and shook his head. "It pleases me you sail with Indefatigable, my Lord."

The smirk broadened. "Bentley!"

The servant and Pamela joined them.

"Good-bye, Mrs. Hornblower. I am forever indebted."

"Not to just me, Major," insisted Pamela.

A twisted smile appeared. Taking her hand, he kissed it. "I am not prepared to argue with you this morning." He nodded to Dawson, gave Bentley a wondering glance, then followed the servant to the boat.

Hornblower extended a hand. "Good-bye, Mr. Dawson. Safe journey to you, sir. It would be prudent to find other ships headed west, when you sail."

Dawson gave a twisted nod. "Indeed, Mr. Hornblower. Safe voyage to you."

Hornblower, with Pamela's hand in his grasp, took her with him to the launch. Taking a breath, each faced the other, gazing long, knowing the time together must end.

"I've spoken to your uncle. He will not try to make you go. Do not worry."

"I will not."

"I love you."

"And, I love you."

Hornblower looked nervously at the men in the launch, waiting for him.

Edrington admonished him. "Don't be fool, man. Kiss her good-bye."

Hornblower took Edrington's advice. The length of time of the kiss, he did not know, only that he would not have another opportunity for God knew how long. Her arms gripped so tightly, she was pressed so near, and then, he felt it. A smile and chuckle from them both broke the kiss. The baby had kicked him.

"He did not mean it. It was a love tap," she said.

Hornblower hugged her and whispered in her ear. "Write me. Tell me how you fare."

"You know I will. Take care, my darling. I love you."

"I love you, Pamela." He lifted her hand and kissed it, gazing a final moment into her loving brown eyes.

Moving quickly, he stepped into the boat. The coxswain called for oars and the launch slowly propelled through the silent water. Ships' bells sounded the hour. His last glimpse was Dawson standing beside her, then the gray-white fog obscured his view. As he sat, he caught Edrington eyeing him with a raised eyebrow.

The sounds coming from the ships nearby were flat in quality due to the heavy water laden air. Eyes strained to pierce through the mist. The coxswain noted each ship they passed as a marker to find Indefatigable.

"She should be straight ahead, now," Hanraddy said, bobbing his head, hoping for a better view.

Her bow loomed out of the fog!

"Toss your oars! Watch her, now! Fend her off, Barkley!" called Hanraddy, pushing the tiller hard over. The larboard bow of the launch knocked against the hull. "Damn me, she came up quick! Sorry, sirs. Aye, aye!" He called in response to the hail. The men on watch did not see them either, until they hit.

Disembarking the launch and climbing the ship's side, Edrington, Hornblower, and Bentley stood in the waist.

"Welcome back, Major Edrington," greeted Bracegirdle. He nodded to Hornblower.

"Leftenant Bracegirdle. This is my man, Bentley," said Edrington.

"We were expecting you, Mr. Bentley. Hardy, show Mr. Bentley where he's berthing. You, my Lord, have been given Mr. Kennedy's cabin. Kennedy is back in with you, Mr. Hornblower," grinned Bracegirdle. "Like old times."

"Where is Mr. Kennedy? I have not seen him since Wednesday," commented Hornblower.

Bracegirdle raised an eyebrow. "He did not come out with you? There'll be the devil to pay if he doesn't get here before we sail."

"Ah. Major Edrington, Mr. Hornblower! Did I hear Mr. Kennedy is not with you?" asked Pellew, emerging out of the thick white mist.

"I am sure he will be along, Captain," assured Bracegirdle. "I told him we would sail with the tide. Perhaps the fog delays him."

"It is well for him it delays US," said Pellew lowly. "Come, gentlemen. I've a fresh pot of coffee in my cabin." Pellew looked up to the quarter-deck. "Mr. Rampling!" and he motioned him down.

Daniels waited at attention in the aft cabin. Pellew swaggered into the room. "Shut the door, Mr. Rampling. Thank you, Daniels, you are dismissed." Pellew poured coffee for the four officers and waited for Daniels to exit. Passing the cups and saucers to the standing men and indicating the cream and sugar, he spoke lowly. "I've had a messenger this morning from Admiralty. Napoleon has landed in France."

Brow knit, Hornblower asked. "When, sir?"

"Within the past two weeks, it seems. Word is, he landed at Frejus. This the reason our dinner last night was cut short." He sipped the coffee. "Though I think it was said in jest, it seems they thought Indefatigable's presence off Toulon either delayed his arrival or caused him to choose the eastern landing."

"So we did have an effect off Toulon. Hard to believe we did anything while there," commented Rampling.

"This war is far from over," stated Edrington. "Curse me for my shoulder!"

"Calm yourself, my Lord. It may be for the best that you will be in England. She will need all her best officers near when the news reaches her shores. India is safe for the moment, thanks to Nelson. Surely, Bonaparte will turn his sights on the base of the country that thwarts his every move off the continent of Europe."

"He will redouble his efforts," said Bracegirdle.

"No doubt. But, we shall prevail, sir. I've said it once and I'll say it again. There is no power on Earth that can withstand the might of the British navy. We shall prevail."

"Yes, sir," agreed Bracegirdle.

"Rest that arm of yours, my Lord. You may heal quicker than Dr. Blakeney believes. Perhaps Dr. Sebastian could give a second opinion. However, you can rely it will be an honest one, sir."

"I might take you up on that, Captain," said Edrington. "Fine coffee, sir."

"Enjoy it. I do not know what awaits us on the voyage home, whether there will be a calm before the storm, or whether a nest of hornets will be stirred. Whatever. We will be ready."

"We will indeed, sir," commented Hornblower.

"Good to have you back, Mr. Hornblower. Your good wife and Master Drake are settled?"

"Yes, sir. Thank you for asking. Drake sends his regards and asked me to tell you that he will write, sir."

Pellew's visage softened from the hard lines brought by talk of war. "Thank you, Mr. Hornblower. You two might want to settle into more comfortable sailing gear. We've a good three weeks sail ahead of us at least. No need to be in your dress uniform any longer, eh Mr. Hornblower? And as for you, Mr. Bracegirdle, let us hope your kindness of last night does not create more difficulties than the fog already presents. I dislike going from having one leftenant too many to having one too few."

"Yes, sir," said Bracegirdle, chagrined. "Thank you for the coffee."

The four officers departed the cabins into the waist. The crew was in the final stages of loading the launch and securing it.

"What was that about, Mr. Bracegirdle?" asked Hornblower.

It barely registered that Bowles called to man the capstan.

The first leftenant sighed as he nodded Rampling to retake the watch. "Mr. Kennedy. He came back late Wednesday. Well, actually, Thursday. Showed up that morning just making watch duty. The captain was not pleased, but he did not cause the rest of us any difficulties, so the captain let him off with a reprimand. After the Captain left for dinner last night, Kennedy implored that I let him go ashore. He traded watches with Rampling, so he is not needed again until the forenoon watch." He lifted a hand to the fog. "As you can see, Mr. Hornblower, we are delayed. Let us pray he arrives soon."

"Ahoy! Indefatigable!"

The three men stepped to the side. It was Kennedy in a tiny two man rowboat and he was rowing! The officers grinned broadly.

Kennedy's exasperated visage looked up. He stood, causing the boat to teeter wildly. Giving the passenger, an older looking gentleman, a coin, he disembarked onto the side steps.

The midshipman rang the bell to begin the forenoon watch.

Scrambling through the entry port and out of breath, Kennedy saluted. "Reporting for duty, Mr. Bracegirdle."

Bracegirdle ducked his chin, and shook his head. "Mr. Kennedy. Take your post."

"Aye, aye, sir." He saluted. "My Lord Edrington! Fancy seeing you here! Joined the navy, have you? Need a proper uniform, you do!"

"Stuff it, Kennedy," replied Edrington good-naturedly.

"Mr. Hornblower," Kennedy winked. "Got a good-bye kiss from a certain young lady standing on the docks! Remind me later, I've one for you!" Stepping quickly to the quarter-deck ladder, Kennedy looked over his shoulder and grinned.

Hornblower wagged his head and smiled.

Edrington heaved a huge sigh. "Well. Mr. Bracegirdle, I have the feeling you and I are the odd men out."

"Only until I get back to England, Lord Edrington. I hope to spend a few days with my wife." On that note, Bracegirdle departed for duty.

"Excuse me, Major," said Hornblower. I believe I will follow Captain Pellew's suggestion and change uniforms."

"I agree, sir. Lead on."

The two went below decks.

"This is beginning to feel like my home away from home, Hornblower."

"Welcome back, sir. We are glad to have you aboard."

"I'm touched, Leftenant," a hint of sarcasm in his tone.

"Better to have you here than there, sir."

Edrington grinned. "Indeed? I wish I could say contrary, but I've no wish to make you jealous, sir. Your wife is hopelessly devoted to you."

"I know. Just the same, I am glad you return to England. Do you remember where McMasters' cabin is, sir?"

"How could I forget!" he said dryly, then muttered as he walked, "Has the lock been repaired since you unceremoniously kicked in the door? You won't be doing that while I am in residence, will you?"

Hornblower closed the door and stood looking at the disarray of the cabin. Archie's sea chest had been shoved against his bunk and nothing more done. Kennedy's loose things littered the bed and the joint furniture. He snorted. "Back again. Will I ever have a cabin to myself?"

On the table was a bowl of assorted fruit. Hornblower picked up the apple, rubbed it on his sleeve, and bit into it. His own kit, recently deposited, lay on his bunk. He lifted it to the floor, sat, placed the apple between his teeth, and removed the wooden object from the bag. He bit through the apple, chewed, and opened the wooden folder. A note fell onto his lap.

The tense chest eased, as did his features, and a smile appeared. She gazed sweetly at him, that hint of mischief in her eyes. He opened the note. "I love you, Captain Horatio Hornblower. I will see you again. From my heart to yours, Pamela." He stuck the apple in his mouth, then folded the frame so it would sit on the table. "I love you, wife," he said to the picture. "I hope you are as pleased with what Deluca does of me as I am with this."

Opening his sea chest, he unpacked and pulled out his undress uniform. After changing, he stuck her note into his breast pocket and straightened the cabin as much as possible to prevent Kennedy's belongings from cascading about the room should they find heavy seas in the straits. Before leaving the cabin, he closed the picture and placed it in his bunk, along with the bowl of fruit. He shook his head at the oddity. Why was there fresh fruit in his cabin?

In the course of the day, Hornblower was to learn that Dawson had delivered five hundred crates of fruit to Indefatigable, Wednesday evening, consisting of apples, oranges, bananas, and plums. Dawson had said nothing to Hornblower about it. It caused a bit of an uproar as Midshipman Connors was on duty and he did not know whether to accept it or not. Bracegirdle had been ashore seeing to normal provisioning, but he could not have accomplished such an order so quickly, nor would it have been delivered by Arabs! Arabs who did not speak English! All the Moslem could say was Indefatigable, Indefatigable, and point. He was quite persistent and insistent that the fruit be swayed aboard. Finally, Rampling was summoned, as the ranking officer on the ship, and he determined, with much frustration, that the fruit was a gift.

Due to the late hour the crates were brought, they were not stored away in the hold. It would require the shifting of supplies and it was too dark in the hold to see properly to all that was necessary. When Pellew returned Wednesday night, he had to climb over and around the crates to get to his cabin, none too happy about the disorder aboard his ship. Midshipman Cutter, who had the first watch, was the recipient of Pellew's views on the matter.

The cranky American who despised Great Britain was now the benefactor of one of her fighting vessels. The British navy provisioned by an American. An American rescued by the British Navy. Perhaps there was some future in it. Only time would tell.

Hornblower realized the Indy had been in motion for some minutes. The fog had to have cleared. He went topside. Kennedy was at the watch post, Bowles nearby, as well as the Captain and Edrington. Edrington was dressed as a civilian, with the sling in place, though he did not wear it at dinner last night, nor this morning until now. Looking larboard, Hornblower could see the fog had indeed thinned to mere wisps of cloud. The rock was clearly visible above the ethereal layers of vapor. He went to the side and viewed the wall that bordered the south end of the peninsula, the wall where he and Pamela sat last June and watched Foudroyant's arrival. Was that only last summer? It seemed an age.

"Mr. Hornblower!"

It was Kennedy. He canted his head towards land. The captain and Edrington held glasses to eye.

Hornblower pulled his from the inside pocket and extended it. A blurry figure walked rapidly across the top of the embrasure. *God, no!* he thought.

Indefatigable was slowly turning away west. Hornblower strode to the quarter-deck, taking the ladder two rungs at a time.

"Ahem." Pellew offered him the larger glass as he arrived.

He took position at the larboard stern taffrail, aware of Bowles calling to adjust sail. Holding the telescope steady, he could see her plainly. Was it possible to smile and worry at the same time?

"Stop. Just please stop walking before you fall," he muttered under his breath.

Then, he watched as she raised a telescope to her eye, the one Pellew gave as a wedding present. Standing beside her was Dawson. She gave the glass to her uncle. After a moment, Dawson returned the telescope. Hornblower lowered the one he was using and what had brought such great despair the night previous suddenly struck him. He was leaving, she was staying, and, in truth, he did not know when he would see her again. It was almost painful to lift the telescope to see the figure grow smaller in the distance, but he did. Dawson was helping her down. *Thank you, sir,* thought Hornblower, "at least she is not alone," he voiced.

Indefatigables crew was in tip top form. After so many weeks of blockade off Toulon and the only encounter the rescue of Patriot's Dream, they were itching for action. Indefatigable creaked and squeaked her rigging as the ocean cradled her upon the waves. The wind hummed a soft song slipping by the sheets, billowing the sail.

The voyage out to the Atlantic was wretchedly normal other than the company they held, three prestigious seventy-fours on the way to Portsmouth for a refit. Vanguard and Zealous both from the Mediterranean fleet and Vengeance in from the West Indies. It was not known until the last moment that they would make up a convoy. As usual, it was the wind and circumstance that put the assorted shipping in company. Captain Hood of Zealous became the temporary commander of the small band, his ship being in the best condition of the three seventy-fours. Vengeance was next in the pecking order though she was thick with growth on her hull from her warm water station and was the slowest of the group.

Not a day out of port and a couple of luggers were spotted venturing out from the Spanish coast, but their captains beat a hasty retreat to the shallows when they saw the formidable looking British squadron of three ships of the line and a frigate.

Edrington was on deck and Hornblower had the watch. Hornblower was surprised to hear Edrington's murmured comment.

"A wise move. Zealous will make short work of you if you aren't careful."

Hornblower moved nearer to the man. "You sound as though you speak from experience, my Lord."

Edrington was startled by the voice. He eyed Hornblower for a moment. He told Maria he would tell no one of the events aboard Picard's ship, but Hornblower was as tight lipped as they came. It might not go amiss to share this confidence and get back into the man's good graces. He liked Hornblower, even if he was the barrier between himself and Pamela. Besides, she loved Hornblower and Edrington had promised to watch over the leftenant. He would set the bait, and if Hornblower bit, he would take it from there.

"The trip back to Gibraltar from Indefatigable aboard Picard's ship was not without incident, Mr. Hornblower. Your wife's friends certainly lead interesting lives. I do not wish to worry you, but I hope she meant it when she said her days in the company of Mrs. Orrego were finished."

Hornblower set his jaw. "Picard's ship? Was not Eagle's captain named Goode?"

Edrington looked down with the slightest turn of lip. Hornblower was quick. "It was. But I did not return to Gibraltar with Eagle. I stayed with Maria and the rest of her motley crew. I was never more glad that you kept Pamela with you than then."
Edrington's smile was gentle. "Do you not wonder why I was still in Gibraltar after so many weeks passed from when I left you? I confess I was happy to see your wife once more, but she was not the reason I was still there."

"You...injured your old wound," Hornblower ventured.

"I did not plan to, but events have a way of intervening in ones plans. Now, I go back to England to sit until they release me to duty."

"You and Picard's ship were involved with Zealous?"

Edrington breathed in, glanced behind them, and lowered his voice. "Yes. You know Maria works as an agent for our government. She is very persuasive that woman. Not only did she get Goode to slightly alter course but had him send up a series of rockets as we neared the French and Spanish borders. Picard's ship loomed up out of nowhere. I could have stayed with Eagle, but I decided that since I left Gibraltar clandestinely, it might do well to return that way. I did not wish to cause difficulties, and I confess to a certain curiosity about such doings."

He raised an eyebrow at Hornblower. "Picard's ship was on another errand, something to do with Barcelona and your Lord Nelson. All I know is I ended up in hand to hand combat and woke up with a fresh wound over my old one." His right hand slipped under the sling and held the shoulder.

"Picard's ship was surrounded by two deckers and assorted smaller vessels. They turned out to be Zealous, Vanguard, and five smaller ships, prizes taken by them." Edrington nodded toward the two seventy-fours. "Picard and Maria had gone to speak with Hood. Whatever they told him, Picard's ship was released. I was in and out of consciousness, but I know we met with another ship at sea. I presume to deliver the message for Nelson. Maria got me back to Gibraltar, and I staggered my way into hospital. Blakeney knew me. I convinced him to ask me no questions and things were hushed up. If Bentley had not arrived and inquired after me, I daresay I would have been missed at all. One wounded army major is of little consequence."

Hornblower was deep in thought and Edrington looked him up and down before speaking again.

"I tell you this in the strictest confidence, Leftenant. You can see my concern for your wife. She has no business getting involved with these people."

***

After some days at sea, Edrington noticed the attention Hornblower was getting from officers and men, which surprised him, and he learned from Kennedy the reason why. When Archie confided that Hornblower considered resigning his commission, he understood completely and secretly sympathized with Hornblower. If Pamela were his wife, he would look forward to the coming forced rehabilitation.

Bentley, Edrington learned, had been admonished by Pamela to see that he wore the sling. He was touched that she cared and he could tell the imperious and proprietary Bentley was grudgingly taken with her, even in so brief a contact. His only comment when Edrington tried to edge out of him what else was said was that, "She would never do, sir, not as a wife. Your mamah would be most distressed."

"She saved my life, Bentley."

"No doubt a good turn, and certainly gratitude is in order, sir."

"I love her," he admitted wistfully.

"You will get over her, sir, as you did the roan pony that went to your cousin."

"It isn't the same thing, man," he answered irritably.

"If you insist, my Lord."

"Bentley, you can be damned insufferable at times."

"Yes, my Lord." Bentley did not say that Mrs. Hornblower said the same thing to him, that Edrington would get over her, and to be patient with him. Bentley wondered if she were right? If he was right about the pony? Edrington answered it for him.

"That pony should have been mine."

Bentley turned away so Edrington would not see him roll his eyes and sigh. His Lordship nearly always got what he wanted. Pampered he was, and he had the physique and good looks to expect to get what he wanted. Thank the powers that be the young woman was already married! And to a man Edrington respected.

Bentley knew of Hornblower and Kennedy, Pellew and Indefatigable. The Edrington's had few naval connections. He looked at the planking of the ship. She too had rescued the young man he had watched over since birth and she was taking him home once more, first from Muzillac and now from the Sahara.

His mamah had been as anguished and out of sorts as he could remember when news came that Alexander had been lost in the desert. The house was quietly desolate as they waited for further word. It was a letter from this Pamela person that came addressed to the family of Major Edrington. His brow rose recalling how the letter was addressed, to the family of Major, not Lord Edrington. But it was good news all around and the sun shone once more at the Edrington estate. He had read her letter so many times he could see it now, in her delicate hand. And, now he had met the author.

Dear Mrs. Edrington,

I know Dr. Blakeney intends to write, but I wanted you to know first hand, that your son lives. If I were you and had such a son, I would be on pins and needles to hear of his circumstances. I know Dr. Blakeney is concerned with many men. Do pardon him if he is tardy with communication.

Alexander has suffered wounds but heals nicely. The scars will lessen with time. At this point there is some question about his eyes, but I wanted you to know, I pray for him daily, and I feel sure he will be fine. He grows stronger by the day.

Yours,
Pamela

He remembered the aggravation of not knowing where Alexander was. The silly woman did not say in the letter. More weeks of waiting ensued. At last the letter from Blakeney came, telling of his where abouts, and one from Alexander in his familiar scrawl requesting a replacement set of regimentals. He informed that he was confined to hospital for a time.

It did not take much convincing for the matriarch to let him come as soon as a passage could be found. She was near on the verge of purchasing a frigate when a mail packet was located to bear him to Gibraltar. If her constitution had been stronger, she would have made the trip herself, though Alexander admonished in his letter that she should not, but to send one of the boys with his gear. One of the boys... Bentley smiled recalling the delight on Alexander's visage when one of the boys turned out to be his long suffering servant.

It was with much consternation, that when he arrived, he sat for two weeks in Gibraltar and not a person knowing what became of Edrington. He had disappeared into thin air, apparently, and then returned as mysteriously in hospital, an injury to his shoulder wound, Blakeney said. Confound Blakeney that he had no answers for him and Alexander was shut up like a clam. But, that was over. Edrington was in his care and he intended him to stay there until the family physician said otherwise.

A few more weeks in the company of these sailors and they would both be back where they belonged. Terra firma, the estate, Edrington's mamah, and the people he was born to, not these common officers and goodwilled American women. It was especially good that he was away from her. The man was besotted, and it did not suit him. It did not suit him at all....nor did she.

***

Hornblower was quiet but keenly aware of what transpired around him. He noted the worried glances of his fellow officers, Sebastian in particular eyed him closely during meals. The captain asked him and others in for a game of whist, unusual so early in the voyage. Bowles arrived in the officer's mess one evening and demanded Hornblower play a game of Backgammon with him. He did not have it in him to refuse when informed Bracegirdle was not available. He knew the way of things and was touched by the sailing master's concern.

Hornblower was patient with the felicitations of his shipmates and hoped they would soon realize that he was fine, that he could handle the separation, and that the extra attention would cease. On occasion, even the men revealed a wary watch over him, a wry smile appeared and he wondered if he would have to get angry to stop it all.

He missed her dreadfully, but he hid it under the mask of his rank. The fear was gone. He knew without a doubt she loved him and that circumstances and the people surrounding her would hold her in check. Though what Edrington revealed to him about Maria was disturbing, he was sure the advanced pregnancy and Drake would keep Pamela at home. She was as safe as he could make her and not be at her side.

Kennedy had been silent about his affairs in Gibraltar. Pellew was not so forgiving the second time around and he was given watch on watch for a week. There was little opportunity for Hornblower to speak to him because of it and with all the extra attention he was getting from everyone else, he was grateful Kennedy could not render but the passing greeting, especially since the two were, once again, sharing a cabin.

Horatio was adding another paragraph to the letter he started to Pamela, when Kennedy came in and threw himself into his bunk, sighing with fatigue. He stopped writing and gazed for some minutes at his friend.

"Was she worth it?"

Kennedy turned tired blue eyes upon his long time friend, the faintest smile on his lips, but no answer.

Hornblower raised his eyebrows and muttered. "I suppose she was," and went back to writing. It would be a while before a mail packet would meet up with them. He used the paper as a special time to be with Pamela, to communicate the days events, and tell her that he loved her, sometimes recalling a special moment, musings put to parchment.

Kennedy turned on his side and watched Hornblower write until his mate looked up at him. Neither spoke, but neither quit the silent gaze into the eyes revealing the soul of the other.

"I'm all right, Archie."

A smile broadened over Kennedy's face.

"Are you too tired to ask?"

"I am. Glad you knew the question. Thought you might be tired of it." Kennedy rolled over onto his other side.

"I am tired of it."

Kennedy took a deep breath and Hornblower watched his back expand with the intake of air.

"We love you, Horatio."

A pillow bounced off Kennedy's back, and he chuckled and fell asleep.


***

 

Dawson walked along the road to the townhouse. He found the distance agreeable for stretching his legs. Once he was aboard Patriot's Dream, he would have no such opportunity, no such luxury. With the flurry surrounding Hornblower's departure over, he felt no need for the carriage. The air was brisk and cool, but the exercise warmed him. He was dressed lightly, considering it was late October, just a dark wool suit with a waistcoat, and a tricorn hat.

Having stayed longer than he knew he should, he was on his way to tell his niece he would leave with the morning tide. He did have a shipping business, and it needed tending. He sighed heavily, resignedly, that he was leaving her here.

"Junie is not going to like this," he muttered lowly but audibly, talking to himself. "But, at least, I can tell her you live. She is going to have a fit when I tell her you are pregnant."

Hearing laughter, he looked up to see Drake and Manuel engaged in a game of chase. He eyed them as he came near and smiled at the play of boys. Where did they get the energy?

"Uncle Dawson!" grinned Drake as he spotted him on the road. The boy came running towards him.

Dawson snorted slightly at the name the little British waif had given him. He was not Uncle Daniel or Mr. Dawson, but Uncle Dawson, sort of like he was Drake, instead of Robin.

"Good morning, Sir Drake." He knew the address would make the boy grin and that would get back to Pamela. Whatever he could do to ingratiate himself with his niece, he did with barely a thought.

In the last two days, when he was not seeing to Patriot's Dream's provisioning, Dawson had gone to visit his niece. She was not doing well handling Hornblower's departure and she barely talked with him at all, the conversation tended to be one-sided, his. Most of the time was spent talking with Drake, a bit with Carden, and an even more minute bit with Maria. Maria did not have much to say. He had a feeling there was more to her than he knew, but he did not know why. He did discuss the mid-wife with Maria and felt more calm about Pamela having the proper people about her when the time came. He intended to come back just before the child was due.

With Drake, the conversation turned to Indefatigable. The boy missed his shipmates. He took Dawson upstairs to show him his room, his new clothes, and told about Kennedy knighting him, that he was to watch over Pamela. That that was why he was there. Another mystery. There was something Dawson did not know. Why would Hornblower feel Pamela needed Drake to protect her? A child? He was not sure he would ever know the answers to these questions. His niece, he feared, had been doing many more things that were, to his mind, inappropriate. Trying to figure it out was like putting a puzzle together that had ten pieces missing. In the end, he satisfied himself with the knowledge that she was relatively safe, funded, and had caring people around her, though not as many as he wished.

Drake slipped his hand into Dawson's and gazed up at the tall man. Dawson patted the top of it. "How are you today?"

"I'm fine, sir. And you?"

Manuel came up towards them and dropped in to walk beside Drake.

"Fine. Fine," he answered absently. "Manuel," he nodded to the boy.

"Mr. Dawson, sir," greeted Maria's nephew.

Dawson gazed down the lane as they drew nearer the gated fence. Drake was wiggling his hand. He looked down at the boy.

"What is it?"

Drake's visage was serious. "You're going to sail, aren't you, sir?"

Inhaling long, "Yes, Drake."

When the boy said nothing more, Dawson looked at him again. Drake's head hung low. Furrowing his brow, he wondered, would the child be sorry to see him go?

"How is Miss Pamela today? Better?"

Drake continued to stare at the ground. Finally, he gave a shrug of his shoulders. "It's hard on them," he said at last.

"Them?"

Drake nodded, not looking at Dawson.

The older man stopped. "What do you mean,... them?"

Hesitating, Drake shrugged, "Both of them. She's as sad as he was, though I know, she doesn't know, I know."

Dawson knelt down in the dirt by the boy and searched his care worn face.

"She doesn't want me to know, but I do," added Drake.

"What do you mean, both of them?"

"Last June, when we left Gibraltar. Mr. Hornblower... he missed her awful bad, ...maybe even more than me." The boy dug the toe of his shoe into the dirt. "I never thought about her missing him so much...but she does. You won't tell her I know, will you, sir?"

Dawson blinked, a half smile appearing, and he shook his head. "No. I won't tell her." The boy's countenance was distressed. Dawson pulled Drake against him and held him tightly. He heard the sniff and the sobs the boy tried to stifle. "You miss them, too, don't you, Robin? The captain, Hornblower, and the rest." Another sniff, but no reply. Dawson hugged him tighter and petted the back of his hair and waited for the emotion to subside. Finally the lad spoke.

"Only god-father calls me Robin." With a final sniff, he backed off Dawson's shoulder and looked into the older man's face. Hugging his neck, he said, "I wish you didn't have to go."

Dawson felt the prick behind his eyes. What in God's name was he doing hugging this British child? How did he let himself go this way? He swallowed, feeling the old internal arguments try to rage in his soul. He pushed them away like wrestling with a demon, closed his eyes, and held onto Drake. "I'll be back," he whispered finally. "I'll come back." What was he saying? How had he come to feel the need to reassure this child? Out of his own lips came an answer. It was as good a one as he could conceive. "You love her." Drake nodded against him as if he knew exactly what they were talking about.

"If anythin' ever happens to Mr. Hornblower, I'll ask her to marry me."

Dawson strangled the chuckle in his chest and pulled the boy back to look at his face. It was all seriousness. The child was serious. He could think of nothing to say, released an arm, and petted the boy's blonde curls, seeing them spring back in place. "My niece is fortunate, indeed, to have two such worthy men love her."

The boy blinked and a gentle smile took his lips.

"Let's go see if she is up for a walk. Has she been out of the house today?"

"No, not even out of bed!" Drake skipped along ahead of him and Manuel returned to do cartwheels down the lane.

Dawson removed his hat as he entered the foyer and hung it on the hall tree. Peering into the parlour, he saw it and the dining room were empty. Maria came from the back of the house.

"Mr. Dawson. Good-day, sir." Her visage was not as cheerful as it had been in the past. "I will tell her you are here," offered Maria.

He placed a hand on her arm. "Let me go."

He looked up the stairs and inhaling a long breath, ascended them quietly. His step was light as he pushed open the bedroom door. She was laying face down on the bed, dressed in her night gown, and it was afternoon. His shoulders sagged at the sight as the air left his lungs. Wetting a towel at the basin, he leaned on the bed and wiped at the part of her face visible.

She sniffed and wiped at her nose, her eyes were red and puffy, the skin of her cheeks red and swollen.

"Oh! Uncle! Leave me! Leave me!" She turned her face away from him.

He shifted closer to her. "I can't do that, Pamela."

"I don't want you to see me this way. Please go," she said quietly.

He lay the cool cloth on her forehead, then spotted it on her cheek. With a sigh, he looked around the room. The curtains were drawn.

Rising, he pulled back the heavy brocade and looped the tie backs around them. She did not protest but covered her eyes.

"When have you been down stairs?"

No answer.

"Come with me for a walk. It will do you good."

She shook her head.

With a sigh, hands on his hips, he stated. "Pamela, you're a Dawson. Sometimes a Dawson does things others don't want them to do and sometimes a Dawson has to be made to do things they don't want to do." Taking her hand, he pulled it over his shoulder and lifted her into his arms.

"No, Uncle! Please don't! Please! I am not dressed!"

He eased through the door.

"Uncle Daniel, don't. Don't, please, don't," she implored quietly.

Carefully, he made his way down the stairs. Drake saw them and stared, mouth agape.

"Drake. Get her shoes, her cloak. You got a handkerchief, boy?"

"Yes, sir!"

"Give it to her and go get another."

"You're not taking her to America, are you?" he asked anxiously as he pressed the cloth onto her tummy.

"No. No. Not unless she makes me. I'm taking her for a walk. You get those things and catch up with us." He passed through the front door.

She pinched her eyes closed in the bright sunshine, held on with both hands around his shoulders, and ducked her head underneath her upper arm.

"The light hurts my eyes, Uncle."

"Not surprising. You've locked yourself away for the past three days in that darkened room. They'll adjust soon enough."

She heard the creak of the gate opening, then slamming to behind them.

"I'm too heavy for you to carry me."

"No, you're not. Have you eaten?"

She did not answer.

"What would Hornblower do if he knew you weren't taking proper care of his child?"

She felt a pout on her lips at the accusation but did not answer. Her eyes did adjust and she looked around. The world was not empty, not black or bleak. There was the great rock, the road, the scrub bush, the wall, the sea. Staring into the bright blue water, she looked as far west as she could see. Tears pricked and she turned into his chest.

"Take me back! Please!"

"Take you back where? To America?"

She shook her head against him.

He plodded on, neither speaking.

"Horatio said he spoke to you about that. You won't try to make me, will you?"

He did not answer and kept walking.

She looked at the visage of Daniel Dawson, so near. The clear blue eyes so like her father's.

"Uncle?"

Huffing a sigh, he stopped and looked at her. "I'm leaving tomorrow, Pamela. I cannot leave knowing you are ... pining like this. I know Hornblower does not want me to take you to America, but if I don't see you make the effort to pull out of this melancholy, I may feel I have no other choice."

Running footsteps sounded on the shale. Drake's hands were bundled with the great cloak, her shoes, and the spare linen.

"Drake!" she gasped, seeing him greatly burdened and her cloak dragging partly behind him.

"You haven't given him much thought either, have you?" Dawson accused. Not waiting for an answer, he spoke to Drake. "Drop that cloak and put her shoes on her feet, boy."

Drake having done so, Dawson put her down, making sure she was steady before reaching for the cloak. She clutched her arms, having lost the closeness of his body to keep her warm. The thin night gown billowed in the wind sweeping around the point. Dawson shook the dirt from her cloak and attached it around her shoulders. Drake held the cloth out to him and Dawson took it.

Bending down to Drake, he said lowly, "Go see if you can find her some flowers. Be careful, now."

"Aye, aye, sir." Drake ran off towards the scrub, stopping to pull at one here and one there.

"Take your time, Robin!"

The boy turned and grinned. "Yes, sir!"

Pamela pulled the cloak closed, hiding the nightgown. "He likes you. Drake likes you," she said vacantly, then looked at her uncle. "You've changed."

He put his arm around her shoulder, leaned her weight against him, and encouraged her to walk beside him. "I have." They walked a few paces before he inhaled and spoke again. "Can you forgive me, ... for expecting you to be something you were never born to be and not letting you be who you are?"

She looked up into his features and smiled, knowing the question was confusing, but understanding what he meant. "You mean forgive you for expecting me to do what you wanted me to do?"

He bowed his head.

"I do, Uncle. I forgive you." Tears welled. "My father loved you so." She covered her face, wept, and he stopped and held her tightly, waiting for the surge of emotion to pass.

He patted her arm and the two walked again, she leaning her head against his shoulder. After some moments, she spoke again but not about her father.

"I...I fear I will never see him again." She paused, they walked, he listened and waited for her to speak. "But yet, I see him in all his glory as an admiral. How can both be true? Is it just my imagination?"

"That was a game, Pamela. A game James invented to calm you as a child....when you became worrisome about one thing or another." Stretching out on the wind, his brother had called it. He used to try to get him to do it, and he refused, telling his brother it was hogwash.

She smiled. "I remember. He held his arms wide, lifted his coat to the wind. He looked like he was flying! He said 'Stretch out! Stretch out, child of mine and see your future!'" She laughed lightly. "It seemed like it worked. That it came true. He would look beyond the point of concern. Show me the time after. It did ease my fearsome thoughts."

"If you see him as an admiral, then hold to that dream."

"It is what I said to him our last night. It was what kept my sanity... and calmed us both."

"Hold to it, then. Hold fast to it," he urged. "It is said the third time is the charm, Pamela. This one may well outlive us all."

"I hope so. I pray he does."

He squeezed her against him.

She glimpsed Daniel looking seaward. "I pray you have a safe journey home."

"Thank you, my dear. I will be back before the baby is due if I can. What date do you think?"

"The end of February or beginning of March. Not a safe time for sea voyages, Uncle. Do not try to come if you think it unsafe. But if you do, I shall be glad to see you."

Dawson felt his chest tighten. It was the kindest thing, the best thing, she could have said.

"You don't know how much that means to me, Pamela."

She pressed against his side and felt something hit her leg. Reaching inside her pocket, she found the letter given to her by Edrington. She extracted it from her pocket and stared at her name, her first name, written on the outside. Looking at her uncle, she saw his eyes on the address as well.

"Is that from your husband?"

She shook her head. "No. Major, I mean, Lord Edrington."

Taking a deep breath, he asked, "How do you come to know an army man?"

She smiled and laughed, the first he had seen or heard in days. It sounded good to hear her laugh.

"You will not approve, Uncle Daniel. Horatio was very unhappy about the entire situation."

"He seemed inordinately docile about the two of you on the dock the other morning."

"That's because he knows I love him...and only him....now."

"Why is that man writing you and using your first name?"

"I ... helped him when he was injured, at hospital," she turned her head and nodded over and behind them where the facility was housed. "He... he thinks he is in love with me. Horatio knows." She paused and then added absently, "Alexander likes Horatio."

Daniel sighed heavily, raised a brow, --Alexander,-- apparently Edrington's first name. "Hornblower is far more understanding than I would be, that is all I can say."

She laughed again. "I do not know why I am laughing. He got into the most awful fight with the major on Indefatigable." She covered her mouth. "I do feel dreadful about the entire situation."

"Hornblower fought this Edrington over you?" He found he liked Hornblower even more, much to his dismay. He felt himself sliding down a hill's peak of accepting the man more and more. "He could have gotten himself in a lot of trouble, could he not?"

"Yes. As it was, Alexander, Major Edrington, took some of the responsibility and asked Captain Pellew not to be too hard on him. You see, Horatio and the Major were friends, sort of, before ... anyway, Captain Pellew only gave Horatio watch on watch for a week for fighting."

Dawson could not stop the smile and nearly laughed. So Hornblower had blows with the army major. "Did he win?"

Pamela looked sharply at her uncle and saw him smiling. "Archie told me Styles had to pull Horatio off the major to stop the fight."

"Then, Hornblower had the upper hand when it ended," he was grinning now.

"Yes, he did." She smiled quizzically at Dawson. "Both of them were battered and bruised, Uncle."

Dawson chuckled. "Forgive me, my dear. I think I like your Horatio even more than I thought I did. Are you going to open the letter?"

She sighed. "Yes. Let me sit though. I feel a little tired."

Finding a smooth outcropping of stone, Dawson brushed away the dirt. "I'll go check on Drake while you read."

"All right, Uncle." She broke the seal and unfolded three pages of writing and sighed.

 

Dear Pamela,

A letter from me is probably one of the last things you ever expected to receive, but as I have been unable to put you out of mind, I find myself penning this to you. Damn me, I have never had a woman under my skin. It is well that you are of a neutral country for if you were working for the French or Spanish, I fear I would find myself surrendering to the enemy, or in a heat to capture you. Come to think of it, capturing you sounds to be a delightful enterprise.

But, I digress, easy to do where you are concerned. Forgive me, lady. As you can see, I am still in love with you. I saw you with Hornblower Thursday. I could not bring myself to speak to the two of you. He saw me, but you did not. I was riding Dalrymple's mare. I never thought I would desire anyting the navy had, but in regards to your lovely person, that is indeed the case. I am angry with myself for still feeling this way towards you. I write this in hope of dispelling my desire, but truly it merely makes me dwell on you the more, and while I esteem Mr. Hornblower greatly, I do not believe he is the right man for you, but in your current condtition and state of matrimony, what I think matters not a whit.

Many is the night I have relived those days on the road to Toulon. I shall never forget them, especially the morning of our breakfast together atop the knoll overlooking the Mediterranean. Those moments seem to replay in my mind most frequently. I did not realilze it then, but I feel you had some feeling for me. On reflection, I can feel you turning into my side to speak to me and then leaning against my shoulder. Do you remember? You were so near. I asked you to move away, or I would kiss you for lack of will power. I can feel your hand on my shoulder as you leaned against me, even now, and your sweet breath brushing my cheek. If only you had been free, I would have taken you in my arms and...well... to forget you would be to deny my own heartbeat. I find you in my dreams, waking and sleeping. Thoughts of you plague me, and I find myself looking for you here, there, and everywhere. and then, there you were, first at the King and Crown and then, on the footpath, with him.

I could never wish Hornblower ill. I truly like the man, but should anyting ever befall him, might this lovesick major vie for your hand? I thought you found me somewhat pleasing. I like your spirit. I love you, lady, and ... I wish you were mine.

 

I know you will be discreet with this missive, for fear your husband would call me out. I have no desire to injure him in any way. I only wish to say, once and for all, that I still find you of interest, and should some hapless circumstance of fate make you suddenly single, I would be pleased to hear from you.

 

Your most sincere servant,
Alexander

 

 

With a heavy sigh, she folded the papers and shoved them back into her pocket. Elbows on knees, she leaned into her hands and softly wept. Edrington did not know how much his words would wound, that something could happen to Horatio. The poor man was still in love with her. "I never meant you to love me. I never meant it!" She looked up and saw Dawson approaching, carrying Drake whose hands contained a fistful of wildflowers. The sight made her smile through the tears. She wiped her eyes, blew her nose and rose to meet them. Drake thrust the flowers toward her.

"For you, Miss Pamela!" grinned Drake.

"They are lovely, my darling." She looped her arm in Daniel's. "Let's go home and have tea. I think I would like some of those scones..." she sucked a breath recalling she had last eaten them with Hornblower. She leaned her head on Dawson's arm.

Dawson saw her wipe her eyes and glanced at Drake, seeing he saw, too. The little boy shook his head and leaned against Dawson. The man gave the boy a squeeze and pressed his niece's arm against his side. If only he could be in two places, but like Hornblower, it was time for him to go.

*****