An American Encounter, Part Three
Ch 29 Death Before Dawn
The failing light of eventide and the brisk February night airs caused Amelia Holly to increase the pace and look over her shoulder. Why did he have to come back? The rejection of so many months ago, more than a year, was it, had crushed her spirit. She had come to view his absence as a good thing, and, until finding acceptance in the person of Mrs. Hornblower, had waged a silent war against the 'decent' folk of Gibraltar... and the Royal Navy. The life of revenge she carved out suited her damaged emotions, ... until he came along, and then she had met Pamela Hornblower and the two were found kindred spirits, though for entirely different reasons.
Pamela was younger. Her losses came from death, not refusal, not condemnation, not failure. The American surprised her. Despite the dark fate Pamela embraced, she was a wild, flighty soul, like a small bird on the wing, flittering through life and singing with a profound joy. The pregnancy did not keep her in seclusion or inactive Amelia came to learn from the disgruntled Mr. Carden and from the mischievous excitement Pamela generated in Sir Drake. Something about her put Archie to mind and Amelia was not sure why, and gave up thinking on it, confounded by the comparison, and choosing to hang on to Pamela's company.
"Men can be insufferable stuffed shirts, Amelia. It does not matter what country they call home," Pamela had said, eyes twinkling and lips merry. "If some bloody bastard has left you," she whispered, "count it all joy and he does not deserve you anyway. You are better off." Pamela gave Amelia's hand an assuring squeeze. "Another man that is right for you will present himself. I know it. You've just made a poor choice. Make another one."
But that seemed easier said than done, as they say, despite the visage of Archie Kennedy coming to mind. She had lied to Archie, telling him she was a widow. She remained married to the 'bloody bastard' as Pamela had called him. Amelia's lips curved upwards on one side recalling the bawdy verbiage coined by the young expectant mother, then, broadened to a chuckle.
Archie had told her of Mrs. Hornblower's stay aboard ship and Amelia thought that a fascinating occurrence. She questioned Pamela about it. What stories she had to tell... and they were true, as confirmed by Drake and Carden.
There was a mystery that Pamela had not yet confided concerning her servant Maria and an army major. Drake had more to say on the subject, but Amelia was not sure the young boy had the facts straight and Carden would not elaborate and appeared to caution Drake's utterances with a stern countenance. She wondered what admonition Carden delivered to Drake for when she questioned the boy privately later, he insisted there was nothing else to tell and skipped away to find Manuel. Pamela always quieted when the major came up in conversation, just as she grew melancholy more often than not, when her husband was mentioned.
"We agreed not to speak of it, Amelia. I cannot voice it,... though... I fear it is beyond mattering. Nothing has altered. It is like a die that must be cast and cannot be deprived of its making... but I do not understand it." Pamela put a hand to her cheek and clutched the curls beside her ear. The eyes focused on something seen only by her.
Pamela's visage tormented, Amelia could no longer resist the temptation to embrace her and tell her to cast away such morbid thoughts, that two people as much in love as she and Horatio evidently were, could not be separated. It was a strange thing to comfort Pamela and take up the part of a man, telling her Horatio would keep the promise to return. After moments in her arms, Amelia listened as Pamela said, "I know he would come back to us if he could," and then, revealed the dark nightmare that plagued her regularly.
"Have you written him to warn him?" asked Amelia, at a loss of what else to say. There was no man she loved as Pamela did Horatio. But from all she knew, a bond existed between these two lovers the likes of which were only encountered in fairy stories and tragedies.
Pamela shook her head no. "I cannot. I cannot. He loves the sea. He is a man of duty and honor and I cannot ask him to be less than he is." Pamela's red and tear streaked face revealed searching and hopeless eyes. "Do you understand?"
Amelia touched Pamela's cheek to cool and wiped it gently. "No. But you must do as your heart dictates."
Pamela nodded. "Yes, I must. And, if I must lose him..." she wiped a hot wet cheek, "I cannot think on this, Amelia. Come walk with me...silently beside the sea. Will you?"
The wind that Sunday was fierce, whipping the cloaks about and between their legs and sending strands of curls lashing around their faces and shoulders. After nearly reaching the lighthouse on Europa Point, Pamela turned and smiled and clutched Amelia's hand.
"You're a dear for walking all this way with me," and added shakily, "I'm better now. The wind and cold brings us closer and I feel like I am there with him... on the quarter-deck of Indefatigable." She bent her head and rubbed the growing abdomen. "Our little one is quiet now. He feels close to his father, too." She gazed out to sea, the white caps sending water sprays misting on air. "Horatio loves him. I'll teach him to sail, my darling," she spoke to Horatio, to the sea. "I will see he knows you." Falling against the embrasure, Pamela covered her face and wept.
Amelia pulled her into her arms. This grieving she had never experienced, to love and feel loss and yet the love remained. It was unfathomable. She could not put the day out of her mind, and she did something she had never done before. She wrote Archie and asked him to watch over Horatio. That was months ago and she had questioned herself about it ever since, even now, as she was bringing the gifts, for the time was nearing.
Reaching the door, she knocked twice and then entered. Maria was called away and had taken Consuela with her earlier that week. Before leaving, the maid servant had visited her at the shop, telling of Pamela's recurring nightmare, that it was worse than the other ones, that Pamela had been distraught, constantly in prayer, fretting and disconsolate.
It was not known if Maria or the young companion would return before the birth of the baby. The Spanish woman's activities were darker than the caste of her skin. Nevertheless, Maria and Consuela were absent and Pamela's delivery nigh, though Pamela assured her there was nothing to worry about.
Nothing to worry about. Amelia felt frustration that both women had left Pamela alone, with nothing but a one-armed sailor and an eight year old boy. True, the mid-wife was next door, but Mrs. Mueller was well known for her birthing abilities and was called hither and yon, at the bidding of most of pregnant Gibraltar.
Damn Blakeney for sailing back to England. Godwin, too. It seemed like every person Pamela knew had evaporated into thin air. Only she and Barnstable were left of Pamela's close friends and he was avoiding Mrs. Hornblower and Amelia knew why.
Men. She came to like Barnstable in a wary kind of fashion and after some tentative flirtations determined he was less like most of the men she bedded and oddly more along the lines of Hornblower. The fateful day when Archie Kennedy and Robin Drake entered her shop had taken her into the realm of a totally different sort of people. What she understood of Pamela's husband, having never met him in person, came by acquaintance in the brief descriptions of Archie and the inscrutable love Pamela held for the man. But getting back to Barnstable, he blamed his land side duties on the leg injury received at St. Vincent and he appeared to be honorable, at least he was keeping his affection for Pamela a secret. Pamela had to know though. How could she not? Amelia had watched the lingering glances the port leftenant had rested upon the young unenlightened American. Or, was she aware? Barnstable had not yet come up in conversation as pertaining to Pamela, though Pamela had asked her if Barth might be capable of taking Archie's place.
Amelia pondered the idea of Archie having a place for some time and was not sure he truly wanted one. He was another source of musing and reverie. Would he want to see her again? Amelia felt the stiff letter inside the pocket and inhaled quickly as she had when the missive was found amongst those arrived in the post. She placed the packages on the hall tree seat.
"Mr. Carden." She poked her head in the kitchen to let him know she was there.
"Mrs. Holly! I didn't hear ye knock," replied the sailor, coming to his feet.
"I let myself in. How is she?" asked Amelia. She pulled the tight fitting leather gloves from her fingers and placed them inside the pockets of the cloak, then removed it. She wore a long sleeved muted dark green bodice buttoned up to her neck, the overskirt slightly lighter than the one underneath matching the top.
"She's grown quiet. Spends a lot of time in her bedroom. She's above stairs now. Prayin', I reckon. It can't harm, I suppose," added Carden, following Amelia to the hall tree.
"Prayer seems to comfort her, Mr. Carden," said Amelia. She hung the cloak on a hook and started toward the base of the stairs when the front door burst open, banging against the wall loudly.
A giant hulk of a man advanced rapidly inside, reached out a hand, and grasped Amelia by the wrist.
"So, this is where I find you. Sneaking off to see another man," he growled. He turned his head sharply to Carden, seeing the stump of an arm. Surprise fleeted over the scowling visage it reddened by the biting cold wind. The open iris made his eyes appear black and rimmed narrowly with walnut brown. "One-armed, too. Can you not do better than that?" He wrenched her wrist, causing her to cry out and fall onto the floor, the skirts of her dress puffing out then sinking. His lips formed a snarl under a large nose. His head was capped by a bicorn, a glimpse of a leftenant's uniform flashed beneath the red lined cape.
"Here you! You canna come charging in here! This is a private residence," stated Carden.
"Get up!" He tugged violently bringing Amelia to a standing position, then, backhanded her. "Bitch! I told you I was coming back." He grabbed her hair and leaned into her face. "I let your precious customers be and you repay me by running off here!" He jerked her head back.
"Here now! Stop that!" Carden moved in to be struck by a massive fist and landed hard against the parlor door post.
"Holly's whore," he said menacingly to Amelia. "Do you know that's what they call you? You've made me out a cuckold, Amelia!" He struck her across the face. "I'm the laughing stock of the whole damn fleet. You're nothing but a damn whore!"
"Who left who, Horace? Did not Caroline want you after all?" spat Amelia, looking up from the floor where she landed, a hand lay against the stinging blows.
"Leave Caroline out of this," he snarled. "If I had not been chained to you, they would have accepted me. She is to get three thousand a year and she wanted me... until she found out about you. And what comes to my ears but whispers about officers coming to you, bedding you! Holly's whore they call you and laugh at me behind my back." He knelt and grabbed her by the hair, pulling her head back and arching her throat unnaturally. "I should break your neck."
The sound of a pistol being cocked sounded above him and he jerked his head up.
"Let her go or I promise you I will put a musket ball in that filthy head of yours." Pamela crouched on the stairs, the pistol held with both hands, aimed directly at the intruder. The white nightgown billowed around her from the breeze entering the wide open front door. Drake stood on the stairs behind her, completing the loading of a second pistol, and cocked it, shakily, watching the large man and Pamela with wide eyes.
"Who the hell are you?"
"I am the woman of this house and you are not welcome in it. Release her before I put a ball in your brain. At this distance I am not likely to miss," said Pamela fiercely.
"This woman is my wife," stated the man, releasing Amelia's hair. "I have a right to her."
"She is my servant and I claim the greater right," said Pamela, effecting a British accent. "I have paid her a good wage and I expect her to fulfill her duties. Now, unless you wish to reimburse me for her services, I order you to leave my home."
Horace Holly stared at his wife, glanced about the finery of the immediate rooms, then, looked at Carden recovering himself on the floor. "What about him?"
Carden was grasping his chin and shaking his head to clear it. He blinked his eyes trying to end the double vision. He leaned against the wall. Listening to Pamela speak with what seemed like a British accent, he stuck a finger in his ear and wiggled it.
"Mr. Carden is my man servant." She eased down the stairs, a bare foot extending below the flowing gown. "Amelia," Pamela extended a hand and grasped Amelia's shaking one and tugged her to move behind her.
"What's she doing for you? She has a store in town," he questioned.
"That is none of your business," stated Pamela haughtily.
"She's my wife. That makes it my business," insisted Holly, straightening his cape.
"She is my companion, Mr. Holly."
"And who are you?"
"My name is Pamela Pellew. Perhaps you have heard of my husband. He is the captain of His Majesty's Frigate Indefatigable." **God, please never let Horatio know I've used the captain's name,** she thought. She watched the man flinch and knew he knew who Pellew was.
"She's been faithless to me," he averred nervously.
"Your marital concern is nothing to me. I have hired her in good faith. If you wish to take her then give me three pounds six," she released Amelia and held out her left hand, "though it will inconvenience me no end. Who is your captain? He shall know of it."
"You've paid her three pounds six?" asked Holly amazed.
Pamela turned her head once in a partial nod.
Holly struggled with the knowledge and stared at the tip of his boot. Looking back at Pamela, he removed his hat and bowed. "I beg your pardon, ma'am. I ... I have had disconcerting news concerning my wife. She did not tell me she was working for you. I apologize for barging into you home. When may I see you, Amelia?" he asked firmly.
"She is staying with me until I am delivered, Mr. Holly, except when she operates the store," interjected Pamela.
He averted his eyes, pondering her words, and twisted his mouth in thought. "Is that three pounds six for the entire time?"
Pamela felt her lips pressing tightly. She disliked speaking of money more than anything else, but sometimes that was the only thing people listened to.
"I pay her weekly, Mr. Holly." She watched him calculate and knew he would compare his own meager leftenant's pay to what his wife would gain in a month, although it was all a lie. She did not allow a look at Carden or Amelia and hoped desperately they were playing along and supporting the falsehood. "Now, I would like you to leave and close the door behind you. I am taking a chill and the captain will be most displeased to learn his wife has been so accosted."
With a final glare into his wife's eyes, Holly bowed and departed, closing the door behind him.
Drake lay the pistol down and bounded down the stairs around Pamela and Amelia and bolted the front door, then, ran to the back door and locked it too.
Pamela sat heavily upon the stair and turned to Amelia. "Are you all right?"
Tears were forming in Amelia's eyes and she was shaking visibly. "Thank you, Pamela," she whispered, "I thought he was going to kill me."
Pamela scooted to a stair above Amelia and took her in her arms. "Oh my dear, my dear!"
"Here, Miss Pam," said Carden offering a glass of
"Amelia?" Pamela put the brandy into Amelia's shaking palms.
She drank it, the alcohol stinging her mouth, then lay her head in Pamela's lap, unable to remain upright, tears streaming down her cheeks. "I apologize Pamela that I have brought this to your house."
"Here, ma'am." Carden handed up another brandy.
"Get yourself one, Mr. Carden. Are you all right? Drake, get a basin of cold water and some cloths for Mr. Carden and Mrs. Holly."
"Yes, Miss Pamela," obeyed Drake, dashing off to the kitchen.
"I've got blood on your gown, Pamela," gasped Amelia, moving off her lap.
"It does not matter," and Pamela pressed her down. "Take your ease, Amelia. Here," she removed a handkerchief from her sleeve.
Drake arrived with the basin, squeezed water out of a cloth and handed it to Pamela, then, prepared one for Carden.
"I weren't no help to ye, ma'am," said Carden downcast.
"Do not speak that way, Mr. Carden. It was unexpected," assured Pamela. "You rescued me from far worse brigands before." She reminded him of the night so many months ago when the two were first reacquainted in a dark Gibraltar alley.
Amelia spoke in a daze. "He came to the shop today, but I convinced him to leave because of the patrons. I hoped he was gone for good. I wish he had never returned. Forgive me, Pamela."
Pamela dabbed at the bleeding facial wounds. "Sh, let us not speak now."
Amelia sniffed. "I brought something for the baby. Drake, would you fetch those packages."
He retrieved them from the halltree seat. "There you are, Mrs. Holly," he said quietly.
"Open them, Pamela."
"Are you sure you want me to do this now?"
"Yes," she wiped away tears, "please do."
Hesitating, Pamela slowly unwrapped the folded brown paper packaging. Inside were three little white cotton gowns, one embroidered in silk with anchors, one with dolphins, and the last with little roses, all edged with the tiniest tatting. "Amelia, they are beautiful!"
"I sealed the seams to prevent chafing his skin. They should last through many launderings."
"Amelia. You are such a treasure!" Pamela hugged her and wiped her own eyes with a handkerchief removed from her other sleeve.
"Open another," urged Amelia.
Pamela sat the gowns and paper on the stair. The next package held three soft flannel blankets, one of deep navy blue, one light blue, and a third, cream white, each with a monogrammed 'H' in one corner. Pamela held them to her cheek. "They are so soft. Feel, Drake." She rubbed one against the boy's face.
"The baby will like those, Mrs. Holly," assured Drake. He took the blood stained cloth from her and offered a fresh damp one.
Amelia smiled and touched the cold compress to the purpling jaw. "Go on. The next. Do not stop."
Pamela opened the final package finding a dozen thick nappies within, with sewn side straps.
"They work this way." Amelia demonstrated by tying a bow with the ribbons on either side. "See? You pull it through the button hole. They can be loosened or tightened this way. Then, you won't have to chance sticking him with pins."
Pamela hugged her tightly. "I've never seen such a thing. Did you think of it on your own?"
"It's brilliant! Believe me, I know, from diapering my sister's children." She hugged her again. "Thank you, so much." She smoothed Amelia's hair. "Can you make it to the parlour now? Let me tend your injuries properly."
"I should go home."
"You will do no such a thing! You are staying here. Mr. Carden will inquire when his ship is to make sail and you will stay here until he leaves," stated Pamela.
"I cannot do that. I have a business to run."
"You will do exactly as I said. Work there during the day and come here at night. Is three pounds six enough? I will arrange a carriage to cart you back and forth."
"I cannot, Pamela."
"Do not argue with a pregnant woman. We must have a our way, don't you know?"
"Pamela. You make me laugh," she cried.
Pamela hugged her. "You are a dear friend, Amelia. Please, stay. You will be doing me a favor after all."
The next morning Pamela rose and dressed early, choosing the burgundy dress procured by Brecon so many months ago. She smiled thinking of the man who rescued her from the French fort. The dress was comfortable and raised minutely in the front, due to the baby, to reveal her ankles. She was fiddling in the kitchen and surprised Carden as he came in from milking Milinda.
"Miss Pamela! Are ye all right?" asked Carden looking her up and down.
She stepped as close as the baby would allow and cupped Carden's face. "Oh Mr. Carden." His left jaw and eye were black and blue.
"I know. I know. I look as I've been out drinkin' wi' Styles."
Smiling, she asked, "Does it hurt much?"
"Not too much, Miss Pamela. Thank ye fer askin'. Ye had me worried. I thought that baby had ye up early."
"No. It isn't time." Turning to the center table, she cracked eggs into a bowl and dropped the shells into a rubbish bin. "I've talked Amelia into staying here today, but she is expecting Mrs. Harcourt in to pick up an order. So, I am going to fetch it and take it to the lady. Would you like some scrambled eggs with cheese?"
"Yes, ma'am, thank you," he said removing the warm coat and hanging it on a peg, "but I don't like the sound o'that, ma'am. Mrs. Holly's husband may be lurkin' about waitin' on her." He placed the bucket in the dry sink and prepared to decant it to allow separation of the cream from the milk.
"That'll do, yes, ma'am."
"I am going to see Leftenant Barnstable. He should be able to discover which ship her husband is on and when it sails." Wiping her hands on a towel, she picked up a fork and beat the eggs. "Slice that bread for me, will you?"
"Yes'm. Then, I'm goin' with ye." He swished his hand in the basin holding the wash rag, then, wiped the stub with the damp towel. Maria had trained him well. Leaning and holding the bread loaf in place with the stump, he sliced.
"No, Mr. Carden. I want you to stay here and watch over Amelia."
"But, Miss Pamela..."
"No. I insist you obey me in this. That man will not harm me. Indeed, there is no reason I should see him at all." She placed the heavy iron skillet on the stove, then, dropped in a dollop of butter. Stepping outside, she took the lantern, descended the three steps, then, went down into the freezing cellar. Slicing off a hunk of cheese from the wedge stored there, she made her way back inside.
"If he learns ye've lied to him, he might," called Carden loudly, hearing the outside door opening with her return.
Cold air followed her in through the door. "I do not intend to speak to the man."
"Yer too far along to be traipsin' about the town, ma'am," Carden argued.
"Please do not fight me in this, Mr. Carden. Our numbers are too thin."
"Whose fightin'?" yawned Drake, rubbing his eyes at the door, barefoot, and clothed in a nightgown.
"Drake! Give me a kiss!" She bent low and he gave
her a peck on the cheek and she returned it. "Did we wake
The boy shrugged, yawned again, then, took a seat by the work table.
Carden lifted the cap and scratched his head. "Mr. Hornblower
wouldn't like it."
"I know, Mr. Carden. You are absolutely correct." She grated the cheese. "How many eggs, Drake?"
"You are making them with cheese?" asked Drake peering into the bowl of scrambled eggs.
She nodded and smiled.
"My favorite!" he grinned.
"Two then, yes?" she asked.
He nodded excitedly.
Carden scowled at the boy. "Pan's damn hard to clean after scrambled eggs. Cheese in it is worse," commented Carden. "Beggin' your pardon, Miss Pamela.
She chuckled jovially. "I do not know what I would do without you, Mr. Carden. You make me feel like I am home. Not my home, mind you, but my and Horatio's home on Dolphin. I fear I have an ear for salty talk. I want to prepare something that will be easy for Mrs. Holly to eat."
"I'll clean the cook pan," offered Drake. "All I have to do is scrub it with some sand. It cleans up easy."
Carden put his hand on his hip. "Da...Blast me, if ye haven't distracted me. Yer gonna insist on doin' this?"
She nodded. "I have to."
"What's she gonna do?" asked Drake, more attentive and awake.
Both adults were silent.
Drake jumped down from the stool. "All right. Have it your own way." He stomped out of the kitchen.
"Drake!" she called after him. "I've hurt his feelings." She wiped her hands and stepped into the hallway. "Drake." She caught a glimpse of his feet running up the stairs. "Oh blast!" she muttered and returned to the kitchen. "I'm going to fix Amelia's tray first. I know she won't want to come downstairs this morning, poor thing. Carden, would you set it for me?"
"Yes'm. And, I'm cartin' it upstairs. I won't have ye haulin' trays in your condition," frowned Carden. "Fine time fer Maria, Manuel, and Consuela to be gone," he complained. "I wonder when that cousin of hers is going to show."
Pamela came near and kissed him on the unbruised cheek. "You're a saint, Mr. Carden."
He blushed profoundly. "Miss Pamela..."he exclaimed, then, he beamed with a broad smile and shook his head. "Mr. Hornblower wouldn't like it."
She laughed and so did he, wincing with pain from the bruises.
"Mr. Hornblower would be pleased I am praising my men. He does," said Pamela cheerfully.
"Aye, ma'am, but he don't kiss 'em."
Amelia's morning meal was supplemented with a large glass of sherry to combat any discomfort. Helping her to sit up in bed and placing the breakfast tray across Amelia's lap, Pamela informed her of the plans and that Carden would remain there with the house locked and secure. Pamela repeated where she would find the box of items for Mrs. Harcourt and she promised to hire a carriage, and then, return home.
"The hats, Pamela, I forgot to wrap the baby's hats. You will find them on the chair near my dresser. Three of them to match the gowns. I am certain that must be where I laid them. Do not stay there too long, promise me." Amelia clasped Pamela's hand.
Pamela gazed sadly at the bruised countenance, Amelia's injuries bringing to mind her own from last May. "I will get in and out as quick as a rabbit, Amelia. You have my word." She rose and patted the back of Amelia's hand. "And, I will lock everything behind me," she said, lifting Amelia's key from her pocket.
"My dear, you won't have that baby on the way, will you? I think he has started to drop."
Pamela rubbed down the front of her dress thoughtfully. "I think you are right, Amelia. I must remember to note it in the diary for Dr. Sebastian. Would you remind me when I return?" Pamela pulled the blankets up around her friend. "I will have Carden come in to tend the fire for you."
"Do be careful."
"I will. You rest and heal. I will come see you when I return."
Pamela left the darkened room. The hallway was bright from the quarter-light over the base of the stairs that fronted the townhouse.
Drake caught her eye as he emerged from his room, fully dressed in tan and brown and belted with the dirk. He met her gaze, stopped, genuflected and removed his cap with a flourish, bowing to his knee.
"Sir Drake, at your service, madam."
Pamela stood straight and tall and hooked her hands just above her belly. "Rise, Sir Drake. It pleases us most nobly that thou hast decided to accept the challenge."
Twisting back a smile, he held out both hands. "I am at your service, milady."
She stepped and held out a hand. He slipped forward on his knee, took it, and planted a kiss upon it.
"Rise, Sir Drake. Let us feast before we venture into adversity."
He stood and offered the back of his hand. She placed hers on his and the two descended the stairs together.
An hour later, pan scrubbed by Drake, fire tended by Carden, dishes washed by Pamela, she and Drake passed through the picket fence gate. They were wrapped warmly against the mid-February chill, Pamela in navy cloak and brimmed green velvet hat tied under her chin with a satin sash and Drake with cap and coat and woolen trousers. The morning was bright and brisk and altogether lovely. Their footsteps crunched on the shale.
Pamela inhaled deeply.
"Are you all right?" asked Drake.
"Yes," she exhaled. "Amelia is right. The baby has dropped. I can breathe a little easier."
Drake craned to look at her. "He's dropped?"
"He has moved lower, Drake. In preparation for birth."
After some moments silence, he asked, "Are you scared? Will it hurt?"
"It will hurt, ... some," she smiled, "Yes, I am a little frightened, but he and I will do it... when the time comes."
"Do you hope Mr. Hornblower will be here for it?"
"His letter said he was coming back to Gibraltar."
The letter had arrived the same day as Amelia's husband. Horatio said he was well and that the Captain had managed to get Indefatigable on an errand to Gibraltar, but that he did not know when they would arrive. Her heart leapt at the news. Was it that hope that made her momentarily cheerful? "I've been selfish, Drake. Can you forgive me?"
Drake thought for a moment, not understanding what she meant, then, pulled Pamela's hand to his lips. He met her downward gaze. "I love you, Miss Pamela," and he meant it earnestly.
"I love you, too, Sir Drake." She smiled, released his hand, and hugged his shoulder. "Thank you for coming with me today."
"I promised Mr. Hornblower I would watch over you. But even if I had not promised, I would be here. I'll guard you, Miss Pamela." His face was deadly serious and he rested his left hand on the hilt of the dirk.
She smiled, taken with the somber attitude, rubbed the side of his cheek, and took his hand once more.
As they walked, Pamela explained what they were doing and Drake insisted they find Barnstable first, as it might take him some time to discover the dispensation of Mr. Holly. Their path was set for the Admiralty offices.
The two descended the rise that connected the near sea level shelf to the village. Pamela gazed at the innumerable forest of masts jutting to the sky. The multitude of banners on each ship fluttered in the constant breeze. Sounds of hammering, creaking, and an occasional shout came to their ears of men working. The smell of salt air and wet hemp was more pronounced as they neared the mole.
"Drake, you are to let me do the talking. And, no mention of last night and Mrs. Holly," instructed Pamela.
They approached the wooden overpass and Pamela marked several carriages awaiting hire. Turning to the left before the bridge that would carry them to the docks, she sought the building where Barnstable worked and smiled at the few passers by touching a hat to her. Drake knit his brow and scowled at anyone gazing upon her too long. At last, entering the building a midshipman indicated, she stood in front of Barnstable's desk. His head was bowed to a paper he was busily scritching across with a quill.
"Leftenant Barnstable," she said quietly.
He jerked his hand and broke the quill, splattering the paper with ink, then, stood. "Mrs. Hornblower! I..." He swallowed, then, tried to straighten the mess he made of the paper he was writing.
She attempted to help and passed him a handkerchief to wipe ink from his hands.
"I've mussed your linen," he frowned.
She smiled and kept from laughing. "It is all right, Leftenant, I have plenty. Consider it yours."
He relaxed, becoming accustomed to her presence, then, wiped at the ink staining his palm. "Forgive me," he said shyly.
"Think nothing of it," her eyes glistened happily.
"To what do I owe the honor of your visit, Mrs. Hornblower?" he asked formally, more to remind himself whose she was. He winked at Drake, then, let her visage captivate his attention.
"I need your assistance, sir, if I may."
Barnstable leaned slightly forward and glanced down at the dirk on Drake's side. The boy was too young to be carrying such a weapon, but he kept the opinion a silent one. "I will be happy to assist you in what ever way I can, ma'am."
Pamela felt her words were echoing off the walls of the empty chamber, it holding a few desks and file cabinets and little else. "Is there somewhere we could talk?"
"Um. Excuse me, if you please," he said rounding his desk.
It was the first time she had visited his workplace. She watched him speak to another officer, then, don his hat and cloak from a wall peg.
"Come with me." He took her elbow, then, opened a door and followed the two of them out. "Over here." He motioned to a wooden structure with double doors and walked hastily towards them and opened one.
They were inside a canteen. He escorted her to a benched table, and after some awkward adjustment of the bench for her to sit with the extended tummy, he asked if he could get her a cup of tea. She smiled and accepted and Drake climbed in to sit beside her, the dirk clattering against the wood. She removed her hat and cloak and had retaken the seat by the time he returned with a tray of tea for three.
Removing his outer gear, Barnstable sat across from them.
"Milk and sugar?" he asked.
"Yes, please," answered Pamela. Barth's hands were so like Horatio's, long thin fingers, now slightly stained with indigo ink. Her lips quirked a little smile and she found his nervousness charming.
"Yes," she smiled.
He caught the smile and looked up from the sugar bowl bashfully.
"And you Drake?"
"Same, please, sir."
They sat in silence until each of them had a cup. Pamela stirred the liquid, and pondered how to broach the subject of Mr. Holly without alarming Mr. Barnstable overmuch. Drake watched her and mimicked her movements, silently stirring the drink and glancing at Barnstable when she did.
"Oh dear." She sighed and laid the spoon on the saucer. Why was this so difficult?
"What is it, Mrs. Hornblower?" asked Barnstable mildly perplexed.
"I do not know quite what to say." She lifted her eyes apprehensively, then began. "I need to find out which ship an officer is on and when said ship can be expected to sail. I believe the vessel arrived recently, if that helps. Can you... would you be able to reveal such information, Leftenant?"
"I do not see why not. Who is the man?" He sipped the tea and attended the reply.
"Horace Holly is his name. He is a leftenant."
He placed the cup down, then, raised his eyes to hers. The nervousness disappeared. "Is ... Is he related to ... Amelia Holly?"
"Her husband," she said softly.
"You want to know when he will be leaving?" he stated.
Barnstable's eyes shifted to Drake, Drake armed with a dirk, then, to Pamela, and he inhaled. "Yes. I can find out for you. Do you want to tell me why you want to know?"
Pamela bit her lower lip. "Mm hm," she said negatively, then, lifted the cup to her lips. It was time to change the subject. "The tea is delightful. How have you been, Leftenant? I have not seen you since New Year's Day." That she had missed his company was something she wanted to deny, but in her heart of hearts, she could not. Though he was older than Horatio, he was in the uniform and had the accent. Ever since that first encounter on the embrasures last July, she found solace in his company.
"Well. I am well, thank you."
"Reverend Godwin and Doctor Blakeney have returned to England," she stated.
"Yes. I know. They are both sorely missed. Have you met the new physician as yet?"
"No. No, I have not. I have not been to hospital for some time now," answered Pamela. "Benny's replacement has not yet arrived.
"No, but the parishioners are carrying on. But, of course, you know that. Ha...have you heard from your husband?" His eyes fluttered, then, rested on hers, which were downcast.
"Yes. I received a letter Friday. Indefatigable is to return here, he says."
"Indeed? I had not heard." He did his best to hide the disappointment. How could he be so selfish? She was with child. She loves her husband. She had never given him any untoward advances though she was somewhat forward in her manner. He accounted it to her colonial status, the aforesaid bold nature, and whatever mischief she seemed to inadvertently become embroiled in. Blakeney gave him an odd and incomplete report of the relationship between Pamela and Lord Edrington, and if she had refused a liaison with a peer, ... oh, he should not even be thinking along these lines. He respected her, and if there was no prospect for him, as surely there could not be, he would wish her present and future happiness. Besides, he had put away all such fanciful thoughts weeks ago, only her presence caused these meandering musings to surface.
"Perhaps you will have an opportunity to meet him this time around," suggested Pamela.
"Yes." He stood, as if ready to bolt from the room, then, sat down. "I beg your pardon, have you finished? Or, would you care for another cup?"
"Yes! And, no,... thank you." She rose and replaced her hat and tied it on.
Barnstable held her cloak for her, then, slung his own around his shoulders and doffed the bicorn. Thoughts of Hornblower put aside, Barnstable's subconscious surfaced the new twist concerning Amelia Holly. Pamela had nearly succeeded in avoiding additional discussion, and Drake complicated subsequent debate. If what was whispered about Amelia Holly was as true as he believed it to be, Barnstable wanted clarification about Pamela's inquiry, for her sake.
Once outside in the sandy courtyard, the sand rasping beneath their shoes, Barnstable spoke.
"Drake. I would like to speak to Mrs. Hornblower alone, if you please." The boy had been unusually quiet. Drake's expression was serious and the left hand rested on the hilt of the dirk.
"Wait there by the lamp post, darling," suggested Pamela lovingly.
Once Drake was settled, Barnstable focused his attention on her, standing to block Drake's view. "Mrs. Hornblower, I know you like Mrs. Holly and consider her a friend. I would not wish to besmirch her character..."
Pamela placed a hand on Barnstable's. "I know about Amelia, Barth. She remains my friend, as I consider her to be."
The pause gave them both time to realize what the other knew concerning Amelia Holly.
"I know of no other woman but you who could say that, Pamela." He bowed his head, then, looked her in the eye. "What has happened to bring you here to me this morning? Why is Drake sporting a weapon? Do not take me for a fool."
She blushed fiercely. "A boy's game. I do not take you for a fool, Leftenant. I ... I do not want you to worry."
He took her hand in his, held it tightly, and bent towards her, blocking the sun from hitting her face. "Then, ...you know I would worry... about anything that might concern you." He swallowed and looked down at her hand in his. She was silent and did not remove the hand. He raised it to his lips and placed a lingering kiss upon it and dared to gaze into her eyes, then, he covered it with his other hand. **I have placed my name on the sea service list,** he thought, but could not say. He had decided it best for him to leave Gibraltar, fearing he could not combat his feelings forever. "Why do you want to know about Leftenant Holly?" he asked softly. He released her hand but stepped minutely closer to her.
She bent her head back slightly further to meet his eyes, a brilliant blue in the morning sun, blue like her father's. He was a little taller than Horatio. At last, she shook her head and did not answer.
"You will not tell me?" he asked.
"No, Barth," she whispered.
He gazed at the sunlight glinting on her curls, the small full lips, and the pleading expression in her eyes not to question her further. He nodded finally. "I will bring you the information this evening. Will you be home?"
"Yes, but,... I have errands in town. I could stop by to save you the ... the trip," she suggested, the words trailing off.
"You do not want me to..." there was a catch in his voice. She did not want him coming to her home.
"No, no! Do not think that!" She raised a hand and laid it on his cheek. "Do not think that." She felt her eyes filling; she was touching him, and it was too late to draw back her hand. Blakeney and Godwin were gone. She wanted Barnstable as a friend, just a friend. But the past months without her father, and with Horatio gone, left her lonely, companionless. Her father had been her confidant, except for the brief times she was married. She missed Horatio dreadfully and her father. She was accustomed to having a man in her life of some sort, one on a level with her, and she had spread the need between these three men that were here, Blakeney, Godwin, and Barnstable, and Barnstable, she knew, was the most fragile of the three. "I love my husband," she blurted in a whisper. "I ... I do not want to see you hurt."
"I cannot help how I feel towards you, Pamela."
"I know, Barth. It is why you have stayed away these past six weeks."
He smiled sadly and nodded pressing her hand to his cheek. She knew. She knew how many weeks it had been. He knew the weeks, the days, and the hours.
"Pamela, I lo..."
She placed her finger tips over his mouth and shook her head. "No. No," she whispered. The scene was replaying in a cabin on Dolphin. "No, Barth. No, Leftenant. I must go." She slipped around him and almost ran to Drake, supporting her tummy with a hand and wiping her cheeks quickly.
Drake was puzzled. He could see she was crying, and looked back at Barnstable who was striding after her.
"Pamela! You should have a carriage. Just a moment." He raised a hand, then, called and motioned to the cabby across the way.
In his confusion, Drake looked at the two adults and asked Barnstable, "Did she tell you about Mrs. Holly?"
Barnstable's eyes glinted steel at Drake. The boy was not playing at wearing the short sword. "Yes, she did." The next hard look was for Pamela as he helped her into the carriage. "I will bring you that information this evening, Mrs. Hornblower." He lifted Drake into the coach.
"Thank you, Leftenant." There was no arguing now. He was protecting Drake from learning of what passed between them, and his suspicions for concern had grown in a leap and a bound.
"Where to, ma'am?" asked the cab driver.
"Mrs. Hornblower?" asked Barnstable.
"Holly's Habiliments and Haberdashery, please." She looked Barnstable in the eye and the concern and worry she perceived within the clear blue was undeniable.
"You heard the lady, sir, on the square," said Barnstable, not releasing her gaze.
"Aye, aye, Cap'n," replied the driver, giving a toss of the reins.
The carriage clattered away and Barnstable watched it go until he could see it no longer.
Drake heaved a sigh, then, elbow on knee, he rested chin in palm. "Mr. Barnstable did not sound happy. He sounded a little like Captain Pellew." He sat back and looked up at Pamela, then, shook his head. "How do you get into so much trouble?"
"Drake," she said astonished.
"I think I know, but... " his little face scrunched into a frown, "why did you tell Mr. Holly that you were married to Captain Pellew?"
Pamela's visage turned officious. "I needed a well known personage of undeniable repute, Drake. Horatio will be that someday, but he is not just now." Her look softened and she leaned towards him. "Please do not tell him I have used the captain's name," she pleaded sorrowfully.
"I won't tell him but he seems to have ways of finding out." Concentration etched Drake's visage. "Do you think we will see Mr. Holly at the store?"
"I hope not. I hope not desperately," she answered.
"If we do, you need to correct yourself. You would not be Pamela Pellew, but Lady Pamela Pellew or Lady Pellew. Captain Pellew is a Knight of the Bath. Have you not heard him called Sir Edward?"
A hand flew to her mouth. "Did I misspeak? Oh dear."
"Do not worry. You can blame it on his bursting in the house and startling us so. You are a female. That makes sense." He eyed her with some amount of disdain, shaking his head. "Mr. Barnstable is in love with you."
"Drake! I have not..."
"Oh, you do not have to do much." He twisted his mouth in a frown. "I recognize all the signs."
"This is not something for you and I to be speaking of, young sir," she looked away to the passing scenery of the village.
"Do you love Mr. Hornblower?"
She whipped her head around, hurt reflected in her eyes. "How can you ask me such a thing? Yes, I do." What was this child saying? Taking a deep breath, she hid her face by turning it away to the scenery. When she spoke there was a catch in her voice. "Have I... have I done it again, Drake? I do not mean to encourage them. I like Mr. Barnstable. I do not want to hurt him."
Drake pulled a handkerchief from a pocket and tucked it into
"You have to remind him you belong to someone else."
"I have tried. I do not seem to be successful."
"We're here," notified Drake, seeing the store front.
"Oh," said Pamela, jolted from the train of thought. "Driver, I want you to wait here. I have a package to pick up and then, deliver. I will return in a moment
"Yes, ma'am. Let me help ye down." He bounded to the ground, offering a hand.
As she approached the shop door, she removed a key from her reticule.
A tall matronly lady dressed in a colonial blue cloak over a heather blue damask dress, the skirt puffed with silver grey silk sashes in the polonaise style, walked mincingly from the square where she had been sitting on a park bench.
"Oh!" she said with exasperation on seeing Pamela. "I thought you were Mrs. Holly. Where is that woman? She told me my order would be ready today." She looked about the streets and twisted the strings of her reticule with gloved fingers.
"Would you be Mrs. Harcourt by any chance?" asked Pamela.
The woman ceased fretting and stared. "Yes. I am," she answered with a modicum of astonishment, taking in the pregnant woman.
Pamela smiled. "I am so glad. Mrs. Holly is ill, but I am here to deliver the goods." She twisted the skeleton key in the lock and pushed the door open, the bell over the door tinkled with welcoming notes. "Do come in. I know just where it is and you will save me a trip."
"Mrs. Holly is ill? It grieves me to hear it. Bless the woman for remembering. There is a dinner at government house this evening with Lady Dalrymple and I simply must have the new gown."
From his perch in the coach, Drake watched the two women disappear into the clothing shop. Frowning, he recalled the day spent there with Mr. Kennedy and was thankful he would not be a customer. Speaking of which, two ladies entered the shop and several more were approaching, a couple with young children to hand. "Uh oh," said Drake.
The driver looked at him doubtfully. "Women. It is market day."
"Excuse me, sir. I will see if I can hurry her along."
Drake jumped from the coach and entered the store cautiously. Pamela was behind a counter and setting a large wrapped package there, pointing at the name. Mrs. Harcourt seemed pleased and removed money from her reticule. Pamela was in a discussion to refuse the money, saying that Mrs. Holly could be paid later, but the woman would not be put off. Drake spied the other ladies and children collecting items when another woman entered, excusing herself for knocking into him. He looked back to Pamela. She was searching for change for the insistent woman. Drake shook his head and frowned. Easing over beside them, he waited politely for an opportunity to speak. Finally, the woman had the change and made to exit.
"Miss Pamela. Look," said Drake motioning to the customers.
"Dear Lord! Where did they all come from?" asked Pamela anxiously.
"I need a ha'penny needle, Miss. Can you assist me?" asked a woman clothed in dark wool. Suddenly aware that Pamela's state of being negated her being a miss, she corrected herself. "I mean, can you assist me, ma'am?"
"A ha'penny needle?" asked Pamela at a loss. She looked in the bins. "Is this what you need?" and held the container towards her.
"Yes," smiled the woman. "I would like two and I need a new needle case. The dog et mine, the daft beast, and I refuse to wait for its appearance. I do hope it makes it through unopened, poor stupid thing."
Pamela blinked in wonderment. "I as well, ma'am," and she accepted the five penny fee. "Did you wish that wrapped?"
"No thank you, dear. I will put it in my bag. Where is Mrs. Holly?"
"She is ill today."
"I am sorry to hear it. It is well that she could hire you to come in for her. Saturday is a busy day in town, is it not?" The woman smiled, nodded, and departed.
"You opened late today, ma'am. I would like a yard of this broadcloth here," stated a young mother of two.
"A yard?" asked Pamela. She shifted a view to Drake, seeing his pleading visage. "Just a moment, ma'am." She pulled Drake over and retrieved a half crown from her coin purse. "Drake, go pay the cab driver and ask him to come back in ..." she looked at the number of women in the shop, "... two hours."
"Two hours!" exclaimed Drake in a whisper.
"Do as I say!"
"Yes, ma'am." He wagged his head broadly from side to side and headed for the door. When he returned from paying the coachman, he found several more women had entered.
"Are we paying you today, boy?" asked a woman laying a dozen clouts on the counter.
"Er," started Drake doubtfully.
The woman held out three shillings. "Here you go, young man. These plain ones are four for a shilling."
"Did you want them wrapped, ma'am?" asked Drake, dropping the coins in his pocket and pulling a sheet of paper from behind the counter.
"Yes. Here, let me help," she smiled. "When will Mrs. Holly be back? I am sorry to hear she is not well."
"Soon, I hope," answered Drake.
The time flew by for the next hours, and finally, the last customer had paid and was leaving out the door.
"Oh my goodness," sighed Pamela gazing at the disarray of the store goods.
"Can we go now?" asked Drake. "I am hungry."
"Help me straighten a bit first. I do not want Mrs. Holly coming back to a mess."
Drake's shoulders fell and he did not attempt a protest but went to work shifting a stack of towels.
Pamela eased down onto her knees to retrieve a spool of thread and heard the bell on the door jangle with its opening. "We're closing, please," she said righting herself to look over the tables. Pamela felt a burst of butterflies when she saw who had entered.
"Well, if it isn't my wife's employer... or did I misunderstand you last night. Just whom employs whom?" asked Mr. Holly menacingly.
Pamela came to her feet with effort and cradled the baby within behind the table. "Mr. Holly," she stated using the British accent. "Your wife was too damaged to open her shop today."
"It looks open to me," he said, stepping closer.
Horace Holly was tall, dark, and handsome, and Pamela caught a breath and fluttered her eyes, amazement assailing her with the immediate question of how a man so strikingly handsome could be such a cad. A flicker of pleasure flashed across his features as if he knew his looks were found pleasing. Last night his nose had seemed larger, but in the daylight afforded through the store front windows, it fit the overall look. Her lips parted as she noted the height of the man, reaching well beyond six feet, she was sure.
His features softened and he came closer still. "What did you say your name was?"
The door bell pealed again and called the attention of Pamela and Mr. Holly, who turned to see Bartholomew Barnstable halted in the open doorway.
"Pamela... Lady Pamela Pellew is my name," she said hurriedly, "Captain Sir Edward Pellew is my husband," her chin raised slightly and her eyes narrowed. **Lord, do not let Barth call me Mrs. Hornblower!** she thought.
Holly turned back and studied her. "So you said before. A lady and a captain's wife running a haberdashery?"
"It was an accident, sir. The ladies arrived and I had not the heart to turn them away. You above all people know why Mrs. Holly is not here herself," accused Pamela. "I will see the funds are given to your wife, if that is your concern."
Drake's hand eased over onto the hilt of the dirk. He met Barnstable's brief questioning gaze, then, Barnstable closed the door and the bell sounded again causing Holly to look around and eye him.
"The store is closed, sir," stated Mr. Holly, piercing Barnstable with a sharp glare.
"I am not here to shop, sir. I am here to collect... Lady Pellew," stated Barnstable.
Stifling a nervous sigh, Pamela asked, "Leftenant Barnstable. Have you met, Leftenant Holly? He is Mrs. Holly's husband," she said fighting the tremor in her British sounding voice.
"No, I have not had the pleasure." He drew near and extended a hand. Where was Amelia?
Holly hesitated to accept the outstretched palm, but did, warily. "Leftenant Barnstable," Holly's eyes shifted to Pamela. "It seems my wife has an amiable and felicitous employer, Leftenant." Holly observed Barnstable, looking for any sign of doubt.
"Lady Pellew is far too gracious for her own good," stated Barnstable bowing slightly. "Sir Edward requested I look out for her during his absence, as you can see, she is young and will soon deliver."
Pamela felt her face flush brightly and drew a silent breath. **I am not that young!** she mentally protested, but kept her lips sealed, her shoulders back, and her chin high.
"Are you ready to go, Lady Pellew?" asked Barnstable.
"In a moment, Leftenant. I have some things to retrieve. Would you excuse me, gentlemen?" She gripped the skirt slightly to maneuver around the table goods, then, disappeared into the back room and was heard mounting the stairs and stepping overhead.
Mr. Holly canted his head upwards, looking briefly at the ceiling, then, twisted his mouth wryly and shifted his eyes to Barnstable. "You know my wife, do you?"
"I met her through Lady Pellew, sir, at a Christmas Eve dinner. We attended midnight mass together. Reverend Godwin was also a friend of Lady Pellew."
"Midnight mass? My wife?" Holly refrained from laughter but was clearly amused and astonished. Holly, aware of Drake watching him intensely, asked, "And what is your part in this, boy? Lady Pellew is not old enough, I do not think, to have a child your age."
Drake set his mouth and did not hide the anger from his face. "Captain Pellew is my godfather."
Holly raised an eyebrow and sauntered to a display near the window. At last, he said, "She seems to be taking a while," and he took a step towards the back room.
"Leftenant Barnstable," called Pamela from above stairs.
"Excuse me, Mr. Holly," said Barnstable.
Holly nodded and Barnstable was heard to climb the back stairs.
By the time Barnstable reached the top of the stairs, his mouth was set and his eyes demanded answers.
"Could you carry this satchel down for me, please?" her expression pleaded for indulgence.
"Yes,... ma'am," he answered, unsure how to address her.
She stepped quickly to retrieve the baby's bonnets locating them where Amelia said to look. She ran her fingers over the bright shiny silk embroidery of the leaping dolphin, then, folded the hats together gently and slipped them inside a pocket. "Now we can go," she said quietly.
Seeing the two descending the stairs, Drake walked cautiously to the shop front door and opened it.
Barnstable carried the dunnage outside to the waiting carriage. Pamela turned at the doorway and donned the cloak, then, she fingered the sash of the green hat.
"Mr. Holly, I must go now," she informed, pulling the hat on her head.
Hesitating, Holly acquiesced with a final glimpse of the wares of the store. He stopped next to Pamela who had no opportunity to move out of his way. His body lightly brushed the fabric of her clothing, and he towered above her. She could feel the heat of his body and puff of his breath as she leaned against the door, her eyes turned high to see his fierce visage. He took the sash strings of the hat and tied them gently, straightening the bow firmly at her neck, letting an errant fingertip trace the curve of her throat, and shifting his eyes to see Barnstable's back was to them.
"Tell Amelia I will see her in a few days," he stated menacingly, his eyes mere slits as he gazed down into hers, then, he stalked off down the village footpath, his dark navy cape billowing in the turn as Holly gave Barnstable a farewell nod.
Barnstable came up beside Pamela as she removed the skeleton key from the latch. She hid the trembling hands in the folds of her skirt, then, double checked that the door was indeed locked.
"Mrs. Hornblower," the leftenant whispered, taking her elbow and escorting her to the waiting carriage and handing her up into it. Climbing in he sat opposite, his countenance firm. He crossed his arms over his chest and pondered how to confront the young woman nervously avoiding his gaze. "Driver, Townhouse nine-fifty-seven, Europa Point Lane."
"Aye, aye, sir."
Circling the square, the carriage headed towards the mole, passing Horace Holly as he descended the road leading to the harbour, then, turned left to head south away from the town center. Once Barnstable could no longer see Holly, he turned his gaze on Pamela.
"What the devil have you entered into now? Blakeney hinted at assumptions I only half believed." He leaned forward and threw a hand into the air. "Where is Amelia Holly and why are you operating her shop?"
"I did not mean to operate the shop. It just.... snowballed into something I could not stop," she answered.
"Since when did you become Captain Pellew's wife? You are just using his name, are you not? Or are you really married to the man? Do you just make things up out of... out of... nowhere? First, you were Mrs. Hornblower. Then, you were Mrs. Dandridge. Then, you went back to Mrs. Hornblower and now you are Lady Pellew? Why would you tell that man you are married to Captain Pellew?" Leaning against the leather upholstery, he crossed his arms over his chest and waited.
Pamela glanced at Drake beside her, then, at Barnstable opposite, and finally at the scenery, eyes fluttering and mouth tensing and untensing as if a war were going on over what she would allow past her lips.
Barnstable glimpsed Drake, then, his gaze pinned the woman across from him and he considered what tall tale she might be concocting. He questioned his feelings with disgust and then Hornblower's for being bound in marriage to such a ... a... wayward child. Why that word? Why that thought? Immediately, his consternation began to ebb.
Drake stuck out a lip in a pout with a scowl on his visage, glimpsed her, then, Barnstable, then, huffed, and crossed his arms over his chest. "I'm hungry," he stated, but neither acknowledged the words.
"Your Christian name is really Pamela, is it not?" asked Barnstable at length sadly hopeful. He could not remain cross to save his life.
After a moment of consideration, she pierced Barnstable's gaze with her own. "I am Pamela Dawson Hornblower," she said mildly angry, verging on tears.
He leaned forward. "Then, why the devil are you using Captain Pellew's name?" asked Barnstable softly with concern.
Pamela turned her gaze on the hospital grounds they were passing and did not answer.
Unable to remain silent further, Drake blurted, "Because Mr. Holly hit Mrs. Holly and she,..." indicating Pamela, "told him Mrs. Holly was her servant. Mr. Hornblower isn't well known enough yet, so she used my godfather's name. It makes sense to her. She's a girl. That's how she thinks!" shrugged Drake, tossing his hands in the air and losing some of the angry tone. "But it must have worked because Mr. Holly stopped beating Mrs. Holly and left. Of course, she was aiming a cocked pistol at his head."
Pamela stared open mouthed at her young charge, then, shock registered that Barnstable was now privy to their secrets. "Drake!" she cried amazed.
"Who was aiming a cocked pistol at his head?" asked Barnstable automatically, the full import of Drake's words not yet sinking into rational thought.
Drake faced Pamela. "He ought to know! You've asked him to help us. He should know what he's in for," stated the boy defensively. "After all, he's lied for you. He played along with you being godfather's wife."
Pamela was flabbergasted and speechless.
Barnstable absorbed the truth the child divulged, then, sought to justify in his thinking Pamela's choices, taking the pieces of information and analyzing their import, the pistol a shattering revelation. Without a reply, he knew it was Pamela with pistol to hand.
Drake looked back and forth at the two adults sharing the coach. With undeniable exasperation he stated, "I've never known so many grown ups to do so much play acting. The only person who could top off this day would be Mr. Kennedy!"
The child's retort stunned Pamela momentarily. She snickered, glimpsed Barnstable, then, covered her lips in an attempt to stifle a chortle. "Drake, Drake," she implored mirthfully.
He scowled and refused to look at her. "I suppose I am to go to my room without dinner."
She reached around his shoulders and squeezed him, placing a kiss on his temple. "No, darling. You are right. Mr. Barnstable should know." She pressed her cheek against Drake's soft curls and set a tender gaze on the man she unintentionally embroiled in a scheme to deceive one to preserve another. "Forgive me, Leftenant Barnstable... and once again I must thank you for not revealing my true identity." She kissed Drake's curls. "Are you terribly hungry, Drake?"
The boy turned his love-filled eyes into hers. Her pretty rose-colored lips offered a compassionate smile and he could not be angry with her any longer. He nodded briefly and she planted a kiss in the middle of his forehead and embraced him. The yielding breasts pressed against him and the fragrance of her bosom was heady stuff. He loved her so, and now, he felt remorse for his words.
"I had to tell him, Miss Pamela," he maintained apoligetically.
"Yes. It's all right, Drake," she soothed. "You are right, my man."
Drake felt prickling tingles bursting over his youthful body. Man. Her man. He was melting under her spell.
And so was Barnstable.
As they traveled to the townhouse, Pamela disclosed to the leftenant the occurrences of the previous night. He listened solemnly, his features growing grave.
"I know you mean well, but you are putting yourself in danger coming between Lt. Holly and his wife, Mrs. Hornblower,... not to mention Drake," he nodded towards the boy.
Pamela knew Barnstable was right. He could have included Carden in that list. "I cannot turn my back on her, Leftenant," defended Pamela. "She is my friend. Leftenant Holly has been faithless and treated her most unkindly." To her mind, that fact justified the peril. She would share in Amelia's jeopardy. As Amelia's friend, it was her duty.
"I do not defend the man," he said pointedly. "Indeed, he has not behaved as a proper husband, if what you say is true."
"He said it himself. I heard him all the way into my bed chamber. He was courting the hand of another woman while married to Amelia."
"Mrs. Holly has not responded to his misdeeds in the best possible fashion." Barnstable sighed unhappily. "I wish you were not involved. It would be better to put her up at one of the inns than to have her under your roof."
"I cannot turn her out. That is final. I will speak no more on this matter," insisted Pamela, distraught and looking away.
"I do not wish to upset you," stated Barnstable perplexed, leaning towards her. "Let me speak to Mrs. Holly."
"Mrs. Hornblower," he paused, seeking the right words, "I promise I will say nothing about her leaving your home. Let me speak to her... as a friend. Please."
Worry etched Pamela's features. She considered Amelia, Drake, Barnstable's council, her own vulnerable physical condition. "I wish Horatio were here," she whispered behind the linen.
Drake took her hand and held it and she met his troubled gaze.
"All right, Leftenant, but only if she agrees to see you," acquiesced Pamela.
"Fair enough," he affirmed and gave a reassuring nod.
Arriving at the townhouse, the three disembarked the coach. Entering the front hall, Pamela excused herself and disappeared into the back room used for bathing.
"Is that you, Pamela?" asked a female voice thickly.
Barnstable looked up into the bruised features of Amelia Holly. She was dressed in a nightgown and was tying the wrapper closed about her waist. Barth removed his hat. "Mrs. Holly. Yes, she and Drake have returned. I am sorry to hear what has occurred. I believe this is for you," he indicated the satchel he carried.
"I'm going to see if Carden has anythin' left from lunch. Can I get either of you something?" asked Drake politely.
"Nothing for me, Drake," smiled Barnstable.
"Mrs. Holly?" the boy asked, but she replied she had already taken lunch. "Excuse me then," and he strode down the long hall to the kitchen.
Barnstable and Amelia's eyes locked, each questioning the other silently.
"Would you come up, Leftenant?" she asked. "Leaning over this rail is making my bruises hurt."
"I will," and he was moving there before her sentence was completed. Arriving on the landing, he was astonished by the injuries.
"Pretty sight, yes?" She dipped her head in a failed attempt to hide the wounds. "Would you... come in, please?" she asked motioning to the middle bedroom.
He nodded and followed.
"Shut the door," she ordered softly, climbing back into the bed, "and lock it. Come. Sit down."
He did as he was bid, glimpsing her over his shoulder as he set the lock, then, placing the dunnage by the chest of drawers.
She sighed as she leaned back against the pillows at the headboard. "Pamela told you."
"Not exactly," he qualified.
"What ship is he on? When will he leave?" she asked, ignoring the unclear reply.
"Aquilles. She is due to sail Wednesday, wind willing," answered Barnstable.
Amelia sighed long, then, shook her head. "I cannot stay here that long."
Barnstable resisted a reply, recalling his promise to Pamela. "She does not want you to leave."
"Why was she so late returning? It is nearly three o'clock. I have been beside myself with worry. I expected her back before lunch." She searched his eyes in the low light of the darkened room. "Did... did Horace ... did she see him again? My husband is a dangerous man, Mr. Barnstable. Or, can you tell me she has been with you?" she asked hopefully.
Barnstable quaked with the last innuendo. "Mrs. Hornblower has done nothing untoward," he defended.
"But I have?" she asked bitterly, switching the subject further.
Barnstable shifted uneasily in the chair.
"Forgive me, Leftenant Barnstable. That was wrong of me. Pamela would do nothing wrong intentionally, though she might out of her good-hearted nature... as she has done with me."
Barnstable gulped as quietly as he could.
Amelia smiled wryly. "I know you are in love with her."
Barnstable inhaled, stood, and turned his back to her. What could he say as a rebuff? It would be a lie. "Mrs. Hornblower is not ..."
"No. She is very much in love with her husband,... who is not here," said Amelia. "But it was not her for whom I made the statement. It's all right. You can tell me. I will say nothing... though in her heart, I think she knows, but does not want to know. She needs you. She needs you as a man and as a friend." She chuckled lightly. "If only I could have been so satisfied. Perhaps if Horace had loved me as surely and truly as Horatio loves Pamela..." she paused, then added vacantly with certainty, "...but he does not." She rested her eyes on Barnstable. "What will you do?" Talking about his problems gave respite from her own. What would he say?
"I've put my name on the list for sea service," he said wistfully. It was good to tell someone, someone that might understand, even if only a little. "I cannot bear to be near her, knowing I can never... I can never..."
"Tell her you love her?" Secretly, Amelia delighted in Barnstable's perplexity. It was delicious to see a man in such a state. With the thought completed, she loathed herself for feeling joy over his forlorn love. She understood why Pamela liked him. He was basically a good man.
He nodded. "I tried to stay away."
"But she came to you today, ... for me." Another twinge of joy sparked in her soul but after reveling, she reviled herself for it.
"Yes." He turned suddenly, facing her, "Mrs. Holly..." then, sat down. He covered his eyes.
"Come," she encouraged quietly. "Rest your head here,... just for a moment."
Hesitating but an instant, he slipped to his knees and lay his cheek on the blankets, accepting the feeble comfort of her touch. She petted the dark hair and sighed, a twinge of sorrow for his state, pricking. "Love. What a silly, foolish emotion. It rules us and ruins us and wreaks havoc in our lives. How do we find the right ... the right ... person?"
"I fell in love with her that day on the embrasures,... last July. I have never fully put her from my mind, though I have tried." His speech was dreamlike, as if he was talking to himself not to Amelia, like he was surrendering, weary of the battle.
She petted him slowly and lovingly, like a mother would an injured child. Why did men not love her as Barnstable or Hornblower loved Pamela? The face of Archie Kennedy came sharply into focus in her mind's eye, and her true eyes burned hot with regret. It was too late for either her or Archie.
"I do not know what to tell you, Barth. Did you know that is what she calls you when you come up in conversation?" She smiled softly at the surprised male eyes seeking hers in the dim light. "Yes. She calls you Barth very tenderly when she speaks of you... and she does speak of you."
Pamela spoke of him to others? And used his Christian name?
"Forgive me. I do not mean an unkindness," said Amelia. Was that a lie? But, it was time to move on to more important matters. "She will not let me leave." She removed her touch. "I must go, Leftenant, ... before something happens that I could not live with." Briefly, she considered asking him to help, but... no, she could not ask. It might drive a wedge between them... and Amelia did not want to hurt Pamela. She laughed briefly. "I never thought I would say this about another woman. But... I do not wish to cause her pain... and I do not know why? Why should I care what happens to her?"
"She is your friend, Amelia," said Barnstable, rising to sit in the chair, then, leaning to hold his forehead. He added vacantly, "I think whomever Pamela calls friend ... she has a great... fondness for. She wraps people in the fabric of her heart."
Fondness for me, Amelia thought questioning? Then, she added, "I always thought Bart was the short name for Bartholomew?" Amelia questioned out of the blue, avoiding discussion of Pamela's bent towards caring.
"It is. Pamela is the only one that has ever called me Barth."
A wry smile stretched the bruised tissues on Amelia's face. "And... it endears her to you the more."
He glimpsed her shyly and made no reply.
"I will leave ... soon. Watch over her, Barth, until Horatio returns. I do not say that to be cruel to you. I know your feelings. Watch over her. Keep her safe." Amelia wondered why she felt so anxious for Pamela, but she did. It was not cruelty to Barnstable but fear for Pamela. The expectant mother did not know Horace as she did. There was black danger when Horace Holly came to mind. It would have been better if Caroline's people had never heard of her... for all of their sakes.
"It is cool in here. Would you like me to rekindle the fire?" he asked, seeing the cold grate.
"No. No. The temperature of the room eases my pain." She scooted lower in the bed under the covers.
Barnstable pulled the down blanket up to her chin. Breathing deeply, Barnstable silently quitted the unlit chamber, closing the door without a sound. A pale glow brightened the landing with the diminishing winter afternoon sunlight.
Drake's bedroom was at the end of the hall. Barnstable stepped lightly to the opening and regarded the two beds, considering whether he should suggest staying until Holly sailed. But, how would it look for him to be coming and going like a resident? What kind of difficulties would present themselves as far as his naval duties?
Turning away from Drake's room, he gazed at the door of Pamela's bedroom. The cold knob was to hand before he realized he had traveled the length of the landing. As he turned the handle stealthily the door eased open.
A light scent of Pamela's perfume met his nose. The smell was clean and fresh and reminded him of her. The bed was spread smoothly and neatly. The window curtains were drawn back and a pristine spyglass lay across a padded chest. A single step into the room and it caught his attention immediately, a portrait on the right hand wall. Recovering from the initial shock of seeing them together, their gazes of love and joy so openly expressed to each other, he let the muscles in his face droop. The obvious adoration of Horatio for Pamela and Pamela for Horatio was there for anyone to see. The ache in the center of his chest intensified. Lowering his eyes sadly, Barnstable saw the plump pillows mounded at the headboard. She slept here... and her husband with her. Sucking a breath, he stepped out of the room.
He was torn. He felt he should stay to protect them, but also, felt he should leave. Filling his lungs, he ran a hand down his face. **I cannot do this,** he thought. A hard retort filled his mind. **If you leave them unguarded and he harms them, how will you live with yourself?**His mouth opened to release a heavy exhale. Rubbing his forehead, he covered his eyes.
The voice was soft, calmly curious, and caring.
Looking up, he swallowed. Lips parted but no words came.
"What is it? Is Amelia all right?" asked Pamela.
"Yes. Yes, she is," he answered lowly.
Pamela stepped forward and lay a hand on his. "What is the matter? You are as pale as a sheet."
He shook his head, removed his gaze, then, looked back. "Mrs. Hornblower... is there ... I mean. Would there be someone that could ... that could stay with you until Mr. Holly leaves?"
She regarded the emotional state of the man before her. "Seeing Amelia has upset you," she said, her visage calming. "Drake told me she called you. "Do not worry about us, Lt. Barnstable. Mr. Carden is here... and ... I know how to use a pistol. I never meant for you to become this involved. Please, believe me."
He wanted to escape down the stairs, but he turned away instead, fighting the words erupting from his heart. "Involved? You do not know the half of it," he whispered.
"You must not call me that," he commanded, his voice harsh and breaking.
Pamela knew there were moments when both of them would fall into using their Christian names. Months ago when Horatio was with her, she would call him one or the other to tease him, but ... it was different with Barth. It was not to tease. There was a seriousness between them, a closeness that confused her, yet brought comfort, a gravity she did not understand. Why did she feel so attached to this man when she loved Horatio? Why? It seemed a cruel thing to share her concerns. They were not his, but yet, he made them so.
When she did not reply, he met her hurt and questioning gaze.
"Forgive me. Forgive me, Leftenant Barnstable." The skirt rustled as she turned to go.
Reaching out, he took hold of her arm. She halted and he released her.
"You would not let me say it this morning. Tell me you know," he asked softly.
She did not face him but stood motionless, frozen in place. At last, she spoke. "No, B.... no. What good would it do?" She felt the baby stirring inside her womb. "I belong to Horatio. I ... I love him. I love my husband." Her voice broke with the utterance.
"I know. I am not asking you to deny him... or to prefer me. Just... just tell me you know."
"But ... why?" she asked. "Will it not cause you further pain?"
"There can not be greater pain than what I feel now." Was it Mrs. Holly scraping back the thin veil over his emotions that made him bold? Was it the impending birth of the child, that even now, bound her to another? Or the fact that some captain might see his name on a list and call him to sea? Then, he might very well never see her again. Or was it the threat to their lives by an angry husband whose troubles were no fault but his own?
She turned slowly, brimming eyes lifted to his. She shook her head minutely. "I never meant for you to fall in love with me." A tear drop eased over the ledge of eyelid and haltingly perched on a rosy cheek.
His sad eyes were a brilliant blue swimming in their own deep pools.
She could not bear to see his eyes full. "No," she breathed.
He cupped her cheek, and with a thumb, he wiped away the heavy
"No. No, Mr. Barnstable." His touch was like water to a thirsty soul. Calling him so formally felt awkward on her tongue.
"I am going for a walk. I will return for supper and I will stay here with you and Drake until Holly's ship sails. When he leaves, so will I." He moved his hand to brush the side of her head. "I ...," the words caught in his throat, but no fingers of hers sought to stop him, "I love you. I will protect you until I know you are safe. No protests," he said swiftly, "You must let me guard you. I will see you safe,... you, Drake, Mrs. Holly. Now that I know the deadly danger in which you stand, you must allow this." He stepped as near to her as the baby would let him and embraced her. "Why did you not tell me this morning what happened?"
She leaned against his firm chest. "I ..." She sighed and reached her arms around him and held him fast. "Forgive me, Barth. Forgive me, Horatio, for my weakness." The safety of his strong arms enfolding her gave peace and pain, but mostly it brought a feeling of security, safety and security. Had the threat of Horace Holly been greater than she let herself concede?
Barth looked down at her soft curls and planted a kiss on the top of her head. "I've wanted to hold you for so long.... so long. Do not weep, Pamela. Surely Horatio would not deny you the safety I can offer. I give it freely. No expectations." He rested his cheek on her head. "Do not fear. I require no payment. Only that I know you are safe... you, your child, and Drake."
Emotion kept her silent but for the pressure of her hands on his back. The child in her womb kicked him in the side and he snorted.
"You best tell little Horatio I only mean to protect you. I will not come between you and his father. This is my promise, on my honor, and ... on ... on my love. Do you believe me?"
She nodded against his chest but made no move to request release.
"You are tired, my dear. Rest while I am gone. I will see that the house is locked until I return."
She eased out of his arms, nodded, but did not seek his face.
He watched her enter the bedroom and close the door. Filling his lungs, he quitted above stairs, keeping his promise to secure the house before leaving. The walk would give a chance to plan and steel his emotions to keep true to his word. There was nothing else.
Three nights and three days passed and in the small hours of the third night, Amelia Holly packed her bag and crept silently down the stairs. Resting the sealed note against the candle that lit her way down, she extinguished the flame and slipped out into the cold misty night. She was well rested. The chill temperatures made her shiver and she walked faster, enjoying the stretch of leg after the days of confinement. The few lights haloing from the village were the beacon guiding her home, that and the familiar shale lane. It would take her no more than thirty or forty minutes to go the distance. Peering briefly at passing shadows, she kept her view on the road, listening to her soles crunch on the rocky surface.
The streetlight outside her shop hugged its light to itself. It always brought Archie to mind. It was there she had seen him waiting expectantly for her to acknowledge him. She smiled with the memory. Passing through the dark alley, she kicked a bottle and it clamored against an unseen obstacle. A shadow silently appeared, then, blended with others. Amelia hurried quickly to the back door, her heart pounding to wake the dead. The key was gripped tightly in her fingers and she shoved it in the hole and turned it. The door opened and suddenly the weight of a body was pushing in behind her, then, the door closed firmly and she felt her arms clutched roughly.
"Amelia, darling. I knew you would come."
"Horace! Stop it!"
He shoved her against the wall. "Feeling better, are you? I've got something for you." His breath was heavy with gin and he pressed his body full against her, grabbed her chin roughly, and smothered her mouth with his, forcing a kiss. "Don't you bite me, dear, or you will regret it." He pressed his lips against hers painfully and pinned her pounding fists against the wall, her moans of protest went unheeded. "You've given out to plenty. I'm the only one with the true right," he stated, his huge hand circling her throat threateningly. He wound her tousled hair around a fist and yanked her head back. "Upstairs will be more comfortable. Do you not think? Not a peep, my lovely little whore," he ordered as he covered her mouth with a hand. The confused sound on the wooden stairs echoed into the shop of wears. The goods tonight would have no cost... at least, not with coin.
Drake woke to the smell of shaving soap as he had the previous morning. Turning his eyes onto the back of the man who was his roommate, he breathed deeply the manly aroma and it reminded him of happy days aboard Indefatigable when he was called upon in the service of the officers. It was not his usual duty. He had been considered too young and too little to be given such chores.
"Did I wake you again?" asked Barnstable, noting the change in Drake's breathing and turning to see him awake. Peering back into the glass, he raised his chin and dragged the razor upwards, shifting minutely so the candlelight would enlighten the path of the blade.
"Yes, sir," replied Drake sleepily.
"Go back to sleep, then."
Drake's eyes opened wider and he turned on his side. "Aren't you afraid of slitting your throat?"
Barnstable grinned. "Only when curious little boys distract me."
Drake's serious visage eased. "I like you, Mr. Barnstable."
"I like you, too, Drake. Go back to sleep now."
"You will come back this afternoon?"
"Yes, my boy, until Aquilles leaves, you shall have me again."
"She's rested easier since you've been here." After a pause, he added, "I know."
Barnstable peered into the eyes of Drake's reflection in the mirror, then, gave his own visage his attention and wiped away soapy remains.
"I've rested easier, too, sir," he said quietly. "I don't want you to go. We need a man around the house."
Barnstable's expression was incredulous, mirthful, and pleased all in one as he buttoned the top buttons of his shirt and lifted the braces over his shoulders. He sat down on the edge of the bed. "I thought that was your job?" The furrowed forehead of the boy made Barnstable add quickly with assurance in his tone, "One day, Mr. Hornblower will be here with you."
Another of Drake's long pauses hung in the air. Barnstable had become acquainted with them in the few days he had berthed with the child, and he waited.
"But he won't sleep in here," voiced Drake.
"No," said Barnstable releasing the quick inhale, "I do not suppose he will." He gave the tip of Drake's nose a tap. "Give it a couple of years though and little Horatio will keep you company."
Brow knit, Drake pondered the idea.
"And in another few, he can watch you shave," he smiled, quirking an eyebrow. Barnstable completed dressing in waist and topcoat, then, bent to pull the covers up under Drake's chin. "Sleep now. I will see you this afternoon."
Cold air entered the bedroom from the landing. The other bedroom doors were shut, and candle to hand, the leftenant stepped lightly down the staircase. At the base, he placed the candlestick on the entry table and knocked a letter to the floor. He rounded to collect his cape and hat from the hall tree, and stopped to fasten the brass hook at the neck, then, bent to retrieve the missive. Glancing at the inscription, he realized there was not enough writing for a proper address. He tilted it to the flickering flame. Only one word was centered on the front: Pamela.
"No!" he whispered. Taking two stairs at a time, he reached the middle bedroom door and opened it. The bed was spread up. Her satchel was gone. "Amelia, you little fool! Pray God he is aboard Aquilles." He closed the door rapidly but quietly, then, glanced towards Pamela's room, and hastened down the stairs to the little chamber opposite the kitchen and entered. "Carden! Carden! Wake up, man!" he whispered loudly.
"Mr. Barnstable? What is it, sir?" asked Carden raising on his elbow.
"Mrs. Holly has left. If Mrs. Hornblower should wake, do not let her do anything foolish."
Carden's mouth quirked wryly. "I'll try, sir."
"Do not try. Do. Keep her here. Tell her I took Mrs. Holly into town if you must." He held up the note to Carden, then, lay it on his bedside table. "Do not let her read this."
"Yes, sir. Are ye that worried?"
Barnstable did not answer, but with a firm glare strode a step to the door, then, spun. "Come lock the door behind me."
"Aye, aye, sir," answered Carden, tossing back the blankets and padding barefooted after him down the cold hallway.
Barnstable stepped out into the thickened mist; the new day was yet clothed in darkness, the temperature chill.
"Good luck, sir!" he heard Carden whisper, then, heard the door close softly, and the lock set.
He picked up the pace, striding long. A twinge in his left knee and he reached a hand down to steady it. "Damnation, don't you go out on me," he said lowly. Exercising had strengthened the knee, but a false move could set him back from all the ginger care he had bestowed upon the limb. He should have wrapped it this morning and he quietly cursed for being lackadaisical and over confident in its repair. Shifting his weight, he let the right side of his body take the brunt of his strides. Looking towards the rock, he could see no sign of the coming dawn. He looked back over his shoulder to the south. Even that direction showed no evidence of light. His pace was bringing him close to the edge of the village.
A single sound thudded in his hearing, muffled in the mist. A twinge in his innards, fear, he stepped more quickly, bending to support the questionable knee with a hand. "Do not let it be. Do not let it be," he repeated under his breath.
The square. Grey light caught on the water droplets suspended in the air. Barnstable shivered in the cold. He could see Amelia's shop. Was there a light in the upper floor window? Scanning the square, he saw a lampman extinguishing the street lights.
"You, sir!" called Barnstable across the way.
The lampman stopped and turned. "Aye?"
"Did you hear something a moment ago?"
"Aye. I did. It come from the harbour, din't it?" he asked.
Barnstable considered the idea doubtfully and hopefully. "Come with me, will you?"
"What's the do, Cap'n?" asked the man.
"Come with me, please." Barnstable reached the front door of the haberdashery and tried to open it.
"She hasn't been open since Saturd'y, so I hear, sir. She's never been open this early," advised the lampman.
"There is a back door, is there not?" asked Barnstable.
"Aye, there be," said the man, leading the way and holding the lantern he carried high. "Ye've got a suspicion, sir?" he asked over his shoulder, Barnstable following.
"I pray I am wrong."
"It's that one there. But it's locked, I'll warrant."
Barnstable reached out a hand, clutched the knob, turned, and pushed against the half-light door. It opened and his stomach turned a flip. Looking back at the man, he inclined his head for the man to enter with him. Immediately, he stumbled into something on the floor. Bending, he lifted it. Amelia's satchel.
"Mrs. Holly? Mrs. Holly, are you here?" called Barnstable.
The light had increased enough to come in through the store front
windows, giving a dim view. He stepped to the doorway of the
shop and glanced around. The lampman stood watching. Walking
to the foot of the stairs, Barnstable stopped and called again.
He took three steps up the staircase when the unmistakable odor of gunpowder wafted to his nose. Looking back, he saw the surprise on his companion's face. He smelled it, too. Both men ascended. "Mrs. Holly?"
Barnstable halted as he entered into the open loft. Closing his eyes and sucking a breath, he automatically turned away.
"Cor!" said the lampman. "I heard she were up to no good. I guess it was true." He passed by Barnstable. The few steps into the room and there came a crunch beneath his shoe. Holding the lamp up, he noticed unmatched buttons were scattered across the floor as well as a small box. Turning back the lamp towards the window, he took a step nearer the body on the floor. "Looks like he's done hisself in. God almighty," he whispered, "he's blown his brains out. What a mess." The lampman drew nearer to the bed and gazed at the body of Amelia Holly. Craning his neck and squinting, he looked for wounds on the obviously dead woman. "Looks like he strangled her. Bruises, or... maybe he broke her neck." The man sucked his teeth. "Cor." He looked back at Barnstable who only now found his footing to move.
Lifting the naval cape from the floor, Barnstable flung it over the remains of Horace Holly, then, covered Amelia with a blanket from the floor.
"Did ye know her, sir?"
"Sun's up. Mighty early in the morning to be dealin' with such matters. He's navy, in't he?"
"Yes," managed Barnstable.
The man huffed a sigh and scratched his head. "I'll get the law. You going to inform your lot, sir?"
His lot? Barnstable was stunned. "Yes. Yes... I will." How would he tell Pamela? Why could Mrs. Holly not wait one more day? He felt ill and wanted to sit down but not here.
"This'll put a crimp in the ladies market day this Saturd'y, that's fer sure," and he shook his whiskered head.
The day was grey with heavy clouds and morning salty mists clung to the ground and embraced the headstones eerily. There was no sign of the grave diggers except the mounded earth that covered the remains of Horace and Amelia Holly, together in death if not in life. Arching stones were carved with the names of the couple.
"Why did they bury them next to each other? He did not love her," said Pamela bitterly, sadly, tiredly, the strain of recent events evident. The sound of the words rested heavy and flat in the silence of the early morning hour. There was no breeze to carry the sound, only the cold heavy water ladden still air, thick with quiet, enveloping each word like cotton wadding.
Barnstable stepped close and embraced her gently. "We should not have come, Pamela."
"She was a friend. Is there no one to read over her?"
Barnstable had no answer except to squeeze her closer.
"Poor Amelia. Her time cut short ... and so sad... no chance for reclamation..." The sentiment was incomplete like Amelia's life. Pamela leaned heavy into the hollow of Barnstable's shoulder. "Thank you for bringing me, Barth," she said absently. "Where is Drake? He has flowers."
"Let us go and find him, Pamela," said Barth.
"No, you go. Let me stay with her." She pushed gently away and stepped to the cold headstone, resting a hand upon it.
Barnstable watched her kneel beside the grave and finger the letters of Amelia's name. **Do not blame yourself,** he thought, words already spoken to her once, then, walked silently towards the cemetery gate, searching the grave rows for little Drake.
"Death. Another death. Oh, Lord, why?" asked Pamela mournfully. "Ameila," whispered Pamela as tears rolled down her cheeks. "If only you had waited."
The word was very soft, but audible to Pamela's ears. She looked around for the speaker. Was it someone mocking her? Rising, she turned one way and then another peering through the mists, wiping her cheeks. At last, she saw the woman. **It is not Amelia. What a silly thought,** thought Pamela. The woman wore a cape and was looking over her left shoulder. The eyes were lively and encouraging.
"Were you speaking to me?" asked Pamela. She watched the faintest move of the woman's lips into the barest of smiles.
"Miss Pamela! There you are! I made a wrong turn somewhere!" huffed Drake out of breath. "I've been frantic to find you. It's creepy in here on such a day as today. Where is Mr. Barnstable?"
Pamela took the boy by the shoulders and held him near, then, looked back to the woman. "Where did she go?" Pamela peered through the mists and saw Barnstable headed towards them, but there was no sign of the cloaked lady.
"Where did who go?" asked Drake, shivering despite himself. He gazed upwards into Pamela's searching countenance.
Barnstable reached them. "There you are, Drake."
"Did you see her? That woman in the dark cloak?" asked Pamela.
"There is no one here today," informed Barnstable. "From the looks of those clouds, we should not tarry longer. Drake, set the flowers and let us be off."
"But... Barth... where did she go?"
"Where did who go?"
"What woman? I have seen no one but you and the boy." Barnstable bent to assist Drake with the flower vase which was refusing to stay upright. The yellow daffodils were cheerfully bright amongst so much dark earth, white mist, grey stone, and greyer sky.
Hesitating, Pamela skirts floated amongst the mists as she glided silently along the footpath and stirred the low wet white clouds away from the trail between the burial plots. Looking back towards her companions, she gauged how much further to walk. Reaching near where she believed the woman to have stood, she craned to look and squinted in the shifting fog. "Are you there?" Giving up with a sigh, she focused on the gravestone name partly covered with dead overgrowth. Holding onto the stone, she squatted with effort in her pregnant condition and pulled away the brownish plant leaves. "A-m...," the name began as Amelia's, but the next letter was not an 'e' but an 'a'. "Amanda," read Pamela. Raising her eyes to the surname, she sucked a breath, then, gazed at it curiously.
"Miss Pamela!" called Drake.
"I'm coming, darling," she called. Giving the gravestone a final glimpse, she strode to meet Drake and Barth.
"Did you find her?" asked Barth, taking her hand and leading them towards the exit.
"No," answered Pamela, "but there is a grave there. Drake... has Captain Pellew ever been married?"