An American Encounter, Part Three
by Skihee

Ch 33 Time and Tide

 

The faint bleating of a goat drifted mournfully on the wind. Horatio stood on the rise and looked down on the hovel. It was such abject poverty, yet the little old woman had shared with a stranger all she had and had given him more. She had given him back his very life. How could he repay her? It was a question that had no answer.

"Old Emiangeles lives a humble life, but it was not always so. When she was younger, she served as a companion to one of the richest families in Portugal. But that was a long time ago." The priest saw the young man was preoccupied. "Brother Horatio," teased the holy man, "a penny for your thoughts."

Horatio smiled, hearing the address. In the days since coming to himself, Hornblower had confessed doubt in the existence of God, leading to an evening of debate between himself and Brother Stephen.

Asked why he wore a cross around his neck if he doubted God, he explained that Pamela had given it to him, that he wore it to please her. The brothers smiled at one another, knowingly, and Hornblower cocked his head and waited for the barage.

"Primeiro Peter três um," said Stephen. With an English translation in the St. James version before him, Stephen quickly turned to a book towards the back of the Bible and read in a heavy Portuguese accent, "First Peter three one: Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands, that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives." With self-satisfaction, Stephen looked up at Hornblower.

Horatio had stopped listening at the part where it said that Pamela should be in subjection to him. Having been taken off guard by the odd scripture, the muscles of his face twitched this way and that, finding that he could recall all the things she had done of her own volition, nary a darkened door in his memory.... and he knew without a doubt he loved her still. Despite all of her impetuous activity and his exasperated anxiety, his innermost being yearned for her company.

"You see, Brother Horatio?" asked Stephen happily.

Hornblower was beyond finding Brother Stephen calling him Brother Horatio comical, but he was their guest and he was dressed as one of them and he supposed it would sound odd to greet him as Leftenant Hornblower wearing this garb. His appearance, in fact, was most disagreeable and a longing to once again wear the uniform of his majesty's navy was growing in his heart, however he knew he had another errand to perform before he could resume that position, an errand of utmost urgency. Notwithstanding, he looked forward to retrieving the remains of the outward sign of his rank from his rescuer.

After two days of accumulating supplies for the journey over the sea, the two brothers and he set out on foot with a pack mule to return to the seaside village and the outlying 'homes' where one such as Emiangeles de Aragon dwelt. And here he stood on the precipice of adventure, gazing at the simple place of his redemption.

There was the goat shed, the chicken coop, the piles of gleaned coastal refuse... to which he had once belonged -- and the chair he had sat in until one day, his mind woke and the nerves in his body told him he had been sitting in that chair for days. He had stared at the blue sky, absorbed the warmth of the sun, listened to the call of the sea birds, and stared at his hands... for hours. There had been something missing but he did not know what. He knew now as he rubbed the underside of his left ring finger. The band was gone.

The persistent cry of the goat intensified then softened, seemingly from fatigue.

"Do you remember this place?" asked the older brother.

"I do," said Hornblower sadly. The woman, the boy, Gabrielle, each of them had spoken to him, calling him o ingles so many times, he assumed it to be his name. Why had he not realized they were speaking a foreign tongue? Could a doctor explain the vagaries of a traumatized brain? So much time had been lost.

He tilted his head back and let the sun burn red through his eyelids. **Pamela. I'm coming, my love. These brothers are expecting a boat for me. But do not fear,... there will be one. You can be sure.** He lowered his view to the vast blue ocean. Flaring his nostrils, he inhaled the cool salt air in spite of the warming rays of the late winter sun.

What was wrong with that constantly braying goat? It seemed to have found its voice and complained insistently.

The brothers spoke in their own language to one another. Hornblower eyed the older man and waited for translation.

"I told Stephen the house looks unusually quiet. I am wondering if Emi is home. Let us proceed."

Extending the end of the walking stick to ease down the steep path, the aging priest descended with a halting step. Once reaching the same level as the humble abode, the bleating of the goat intensified, as if it heard their approach and was crying for attention.

"What is wrong with Getana?" asked Horatio out loud. Striding towards the goat shed, he stretched the hem of the brown robe to its extent.

The old priest stood in the center of the barren yard looking about. Stephen, dropped the lead line for the mule and followed after Hornblower, the sound of the goat becoming frantic.

"Good God!" exclaimed Hornblower, kneeling beside the animal and stroking her neck. "She's not been milked. For days it would appear."

The nanny lifted up a hind foot and kicked at the swollen udder, the teats bruised and bleeding.

"I fetch a bucket!" cried the brother, running haphazardly to the house.

"Bucket be damned," said Hornblower. Easing up against her, he leaned his right shoulder against her neck and right forequarter to pin her against the boards of the simple stall. "Easy, Getana. Easy, old girl." He grasped a teat that appeared the least injured and tugged down with a smooth easy motion. "Easy, Getana, easy," he cooed.

Her bleating did not cease but became more of a mournful cry.

"Where is the boy, eh? Why have they left you this way?" A thought occurred to him with the question, and equally as quickly he appreciated the alacrity of the process. "Has Gabrielle had her baby and they have forgotten you? Eh? Is that it?" The goat's milk puddled on the ground, mixing with blood from the wounded udder.

Huffing a breath, the nanny rubbed her solid stiff-haired head against Hornblower's shoulder.

The smell of the goat coated the monk's robe he wore as Hornblower continued to milk her. "There now, there. You will be all right." Hornblower raised his eyes to see Stephen with a bucket to hand and watching the milk spray into the dirt. Horatio shook his head. "I wouldn't bother with this milk, Stephen. She will need a salve on these. Easy, girl," answered Hornblower to the goat's cry. With wry lips, Hornblower contemplated being a physician for a goat.

"What is it?" asked Hornblower, seeing the brother's perplexed expression, far too troubled for the discomfort of a goat.

Stephen started to answer in Portuguese but stopped and translated. "Go to the house. Go. I will see to the goat."

Hornblower gave a last gentle tug, then came to his feet, much to the goat's protest. He patted her on the neck voicing a soothing word, all the time his eyes growing more fearful with what he perceived in Stephen's face. "Take her," he said, leaving the small corral and sprinting to the crude cabin.

The door was open and he grabbed the post to halt his swift steps. In the center of the front room, the old woman sat on a footstool, rocking and moaning.

The old priest emerged from the back room and clung to the lintel of the doorway, his face ashen. His fixed stare traced to Hornblower and the man crossed himself and spoke in Portuguese.

"What? What is it?" asked Hornblower, wide-eyed with trepidation. The boy was no where to be seen.

The fire was out and the room was chill. He went to the woman and squatted, and searched the wrinkled face. Her eyes were fixed on an unseen image.

"Her hands are like ice," said Hornblower. "Ma'am? Ma'am?" He did not know what he should call her. The immense distress was unmistakable. Hornblower drew her to his embrace and looked at the stunned man of God. "What has happened? What is it?"

"Gabrielle," whispered the priest. "The birth, it looks."

Hornblower balled his fists on the back of the grieving woman. Memories of youth exploded. Those horrible nights and worse mornings when his father would stump into the house, weary with failed effort, blood spattering his clothing, thick crimson drops on the tips of his shoes, and he would disrobe in the mud room and lean his half naked body against the old planting platform his mother had used, and hang his head, and wait for the images to free him.

"Não! Não! Não!" cried the old woman. "Não! Não! Não!"

Hornblower searched the face of the priest. **God, no. God, please, no,** thought Hornblower. The ache was deep in his chest.

The priest began to speak in Portuguese and his voice droned in a soft, calming cadence. Slowly the old woman ceased to cry, sniffed and wiped the baggy skin of her cheek with a gloved palm.

"What did you say to her?" asked Hornblower, delicately.

The timbre of the godly man's voice was the same, soothing, comforting, and even, despite the translation to a second language. "Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also."

The little primitive cottage was silent, lacking even the familiar pop of burning dried seaweed.

The old woman whispered in Portuguese, "O bebê cessou chorar."

Hornblower looked to the priest.

"The baby has ceased crying, she says," the priest added lowly, "though, I do not think the little girl ever uttered a sound."

These events were too close to home. **We are to have a boy. A boy, not a girl,** thought Hornblower.

"Desde que voltou, o bebê parou seu é chorar," whispered Emi.

"What does she say?"

The priest stepped to where he could see the old woman's face. "She does not know what she is saying."

"What did she say?" repeated Hornblower.

"She says, since you have come back, the baby has ceased its crying."

With a shake of his head, Hornblower thought, then said vacantly, "It is Getana. She thought Getana was the child." He was familiar with odd interpretations when the mind was out of focus.

"A mãe e criança estão juntas. Eu os verei logo."

Hornblower raised questioning eyes to the monk.

"She says, mother and child are together, and that she will see them soon."

She urged Hornblower to release his grip. The tight pressing fingers he recognized on his shoulders, pushed him back gently. The old woman's face was streaked with tears, eyes red, but as those mournful orbs found his, he saw a spark, and the hint of a smile. How was she able to do it? How could she recover from so devastating a blow?

"O ingles! O ingles." It was like she suddenly knew he was there, as if he had popped out of nowhere into her presence. The tips of her fingers protruded out the ends of the gloves and inspected his cheeks and his mouth with a spidery touch. "O Senhor curou-o?"

Hornblower shrugged, not understanding the question put to him.

"She asks, has the Lord healed you?"

The priest answered her in Portuguese. then said, "I told her that her care and prayers have been answered with your recovery. I told her you did not know who you were, but that you have remembered."

The old woman touched the side of his head where the last wound had been, lifting the hair and peeking underneath, then smoothing it against his cheek. She pressed his hair with both hands and smiled and spoke a quiet question. "O que é seu nome?"

The priest answered, "Horatio Hornblower. É tenente na marinha Britânica."

"Horatio Hornblower," she smiled, stroking his hair with both hands and cupping his cheeks. "Um oficial. Um tenente."

He smiled. "Yes, ma'am. I am Leftenant Horatio Hornblower of His Majesty's Frigate Indefatigable."

The priest translated the words into Portuguese..

"Horatio Hornblower de tenente dSeua Fragata da Majestade Infatigável," she repeated.

"I will take her outside and call Stephen. Her daughter and the child need to be taken out of here. I will find out where her grandson is and if anyone has been called to see to the body."

Hornblower helped her to her feet, and the priest escorted her outside, questioning her in their tongue.

With a shiver, Hornblower took a step toward the back room and entered. Gabrielle lay on the bed he had once occupied. He picked up the candle from the trunk table and light fell onto the corpses. A sticky puddle of blood lay on and between her legs; some having dripped onto the floor. The baby girl lay on Gabrielle's chest, spotted with dark dried blood, the skin bluish. Hornblower fell back and turned away, overcome with the scene, his stomach flipping, his heart pounding with sorrow for Gabrielle and her family and with fear for his own.

In all his days of battle, while this was not the bloodiest he had seen, it was the most heart wrenching. He had known this woman though he had not conversed with her intelligibly. She had laughed and smiled at him, even seemed happy to see him when she came to visit her mother. And, now he understood why she had been of so much interest, besides her pretty face, silky dark hair, mirthful lips, and warm brown eyes. She was pregnant, as Pamela was pregnant. He hung his head. "Let there be nothing similar about their fates," rasped Hornblower.

Panting, he wiped the popping sweat from his upper lip. He lifted the trunk top, seeking a blanket. A hilt protruded from the back of the clothing and he drew it out. Holding the candle near the top of the blade, he read the name. It was his name. Bits of black sticky tar stuck to cold steel, leftover from the hectic sawing to free Indefatigable from the wreckage. He stared into the rough wooden trunk and lifted the blue woolen coat, his, and his oilskin was underneath. There was little else in it other than some thin summer clothing of faded muslin. He dropped the topcoat and dirk inside and closed the lid.

Stretching out his long legs, he stalked to the make-shift animal enclosure and found the folded remains of sailcloth salvaged from the shore and a coil of line. Taking it back inside and Stephen following close on his heels, Hornblower turned at the back room doorway and put a hand on Stephen's chest.

"No! I will do it. I do not need your help," his voice cracked angrily. Firey eyes stared at the amazed ones of the brother.

"As you wish," said the stunned monk.

Hornblower motioned with a flick of his head that Stephen should leave and he watched the hesitant man go.

Swiveling to face the task at hand, Hornblower trembled as he unfurled the cloth onto the floor. He looked on the dead baby. Licking his lips and swallowing, he stretched out trembling hands to raise the little thing from the mother. The body was cold and sticky and he felt his stomach protesting. Picking her up, he saw the drying rubbery cord dangling from where it wrapped the baby's neck. A sob forced its way out of his throat as he lay the child onto the stiff fabric.

Next, he lifted the edges of the blood soaked bed clothes on which Gabrielle lay and wrapped them around her legs. Slipping his arms underneath her, he placed her on the floor beside the babe.

He started to cry, but wiped across his eyes angrily, and halted the tears. Carefully, he put the baby on Gabrielle's chest, and folded the dead arms of the mother over the child, a death embrace. Taking one side and then the other, he wrapped the width of the cloth around the two, then enfolded the head and feet with its length. Using the dirk, he cut the rope into lengths, then tied the wrapping bands at the ankles, the knees, the waist, two across the chest, and one carefully around the neck. With a grunt, he hoisted the bundled bodies onto the cot gingerly.

"She will thank you for taking such care."

Startled, Hornblower wheeled around to see the old man.

"Emi and Stephen are preparing a place for the body until a cart can be brought to take it for burial. Stephen is going to the village for help."

Hornblower nodded and stared at the floor, At length, he said, "I will get something to scrape the floor there," he motioned at the dry blood. "It will be cold tonight. We should build a fire."

Stepping out of the shanty, Hornblower was met with a swift sea breeze. The wind had altered and was coming out of the northwest. A little more of a shift north and slightly east would be perfect for sailing. The rough brown robe whipped and flapped between his legs and his loose hair blew in tumults around his shoulders. He inhaled the fresh breeze and was thankful for the chill weather that stifled mortification of the bodies.

He saw the old woman and Stephen fumbling with odd lengths of planking and he advanced to assist.

"The priest says you are going for a cart, Stephen. I will do this," advised Hornblower softly, feeling ashamed for how he had treated the man.

"Very well," acceded the brother.

The old woman shifted the pieces of wood.

"Let me," said Hornblower, laying a hand on hers.

Sad eyes searched his visage.

"Sit." He took her upper arms and gently shifted her towards the milk stool. "Sit."

She sat and sniffed and wiped her eyes and watched him adjust the lengths of timber.

He stole a peek at the woman as he worked. She held her forehead, leaning far forward, then shook her head sadly. Next, she covered her lips, then holding both cheeks in her palms, whispered something in her language.

He tested the sturdiness of the temporary structure. At last, the platform was complete.

"I am going to get her." He touched his chest, motioned with a hand, and repeated his intentions. "I am going to get Gabrielle."

The old woman nodded her understanding.

Remembering the bloodied floor, Hornblower retrieved a thin plank of board and a bucket.

As Hornblower exited the hovel with the sail covered corpses, he stopped, giving the old woman a chance to view the remains. He watched closely to see if the binding might upset her, but she made no outward sign that the way he prepared the bodies was offensive. Walking slowly, he approached the resting place, hearing the steps of the priest behind him. With care, he placed Gabrielle on the boards.

Emiangeles lay a gnarled hand on the cloth, feeling the baby in her daughter's arms. She spoke to the bodies of her daughter and granddaughter and Hornblower did not understand what she was saying, though he did hear his name in the monologue. Finally, Emi crossed her palms on her chest and hung her head and hushed.

The three stood a silent vigil for moments while the increasingly cool wind blew softly around the shabby animal shelter. Getana was resting noiselessly in the mud created by her own milk, twitching an ear on her drooping head, seeming to mourn the loss of the human mother and child.

The sun was lowering in the west, sending frail golden fingers of light heavenward.


The next morning, Hornblower awoke on a straw pallet in the back of the village chapel beneath his oilskin and three layers of wool and quilted blankets. Though he had slept for hours, he was mentally weary from the previous emotional afternoon and evening. He was no longer dressed in the robes of the brotherhood but had donned his uniform, except for his jacket. He wore the burgundy wool sweater his mother had knit his father instead, its sleeves rolled up and the neck rolled down. The covers fell away as he rose to a sitting position, and he felt the warmth of his body escaping into the chill air of the unheated chapel.

At the far end of the long white-washed room, beneath a crucifix, were the covered bodies of Gabrielle and Angelica surrounded by candles and winter wildflowers. Emi had given the baby the name her mother intended for a girl child. It had been a long arduous night of coming and going and weeping and wailing.

Stephen had returned with a cart and a half dozen men and women to carry the deceased away. Lanterns bobbed along the path behind and before the wagon, the women taking up the rear surrounding and embracing Emi on the long walk. It was well that Stephen came back when he did. The old woman had gone back to her cottage but only to change into the black clothes of mourning, a crisp linen that covered her from neck to ankle, a style of days gone by. Her hair was combed and smoothed and pulled into a neat bun. Over it, she placed a simple black bonnet and then she donned the familiar rough, woolen coat. She returned to the place of her daughter, refusing to leave the bodies alone in the sparse shelter, and the night temperatures were dipping towards freezing.

Hornblower learned that Pando, along with his brother and sister, had stayed with a cousin while his mother had gone to his grandmother for the birth. The task had been done successfully on three other occasions, but this time something had gone deadly wrong. The feelings that swept over Hornblower seeing the young boy grasping the wrapped body of his mother speared his heart, bringing to mind his own loss at a young age. He knew what it was to grow up without a mother, and such a one as Gabrielle appeared to be would be missed indeed.

The anxious desire to be on his way remained, but he owed the old woman much. He could not leave and appear disrespectful of her loss. Plus, the fact that he intended to rob one of the villagers pricked his conscience. He raised his eyes to the cross and thought, **God, if you are in the business of intervening in the lives of we mortals, it would do well if you could provide that boat the brothers have prayed for.**

But, he did not seriously believe that God would answer the thought or the prayer or indeed that He was even listening. If God did exist, he did not feel he could say yea or nay to an eternal being, that being the limits of an open mind, for he knew many did believe, but he did not. Not the way they believed anyway. God might have been active in creation at one time, but the world was left to its own devices now, to muddle through existence as best it could.

He had been incensed that Gabrielle was dead, and even entertained the thought of blaming God, but to place blame would mean that God must be there to receive it. And, so, he had been merely angry with events and tragedy and poverty and lack, bringing his father to mind.

His trip home to heal had settled his feelings of jealousy that remained from childhood, jealousy over the time his da gave to his patients. His father had assisted Meryl to deliver, and he could not help but wonder if his father might have been equally successful with Gabrielle, having the experience and knowledge of a physician. It was a useless idea since his father was far and away. And there was Pamela to consider, though he held those ponderings back from conscious thought.

He would give Emiangeles de Aragon one more day of the life she had saved, and then he would reclaim it entirely, he had to go. His own family needed him and he needed them. He longed to hold Pamela in his arms and to see their child. Since the last terrifying nightmare that brought the final key to his memory, he had been dreaming of her, a flood of dreams, waking in that state common to men, as he was now. Raising an eyebrow at the condition, he pushed against his groin and told the member there was nothing for him here.

For the most part, Hornblower tried to stay out of the way of the day's proceedings. It was heartening to see the villagers concerned for the old woman.

Towards evening, Hornblower found Emiangeles de Aragon coming to stand beside him as he surveyed the fishing boats. She looped her arm in his and tugged him away, speaking to him in Portuguese. He had no idea what she was saying and he assumed she chattered away being accustomed to speaking to him as she had in the times past.

The priest and Stephen walked out of the chapel conversing softly with the visitors. The burial was set for tomorrow. Looking up, they saw Hornblower with Emi and she motioned for them to come, but did not wait for the two men. Apparently, they were bound for her home from the direction they were headed.

At one point, the woman veered away from the normal path and took one that led down to the shoreline. The two of them trudged through the soft sand until gaining the hard pack made by the daily rush of water. The tide was at low ebb, creating a vast open field between the growth of scrub vegetation amongst the dunes down to the ocean. The sounds of the waves tumbling softly in the distance, the smell of the salt air, the sand grating beneath his feet, made Hornblower restless.

Watching the tossing grey water take on a deeper shade as the sun lowered behind far horizon clouds, his attention was not on his companion, but on the coming solitary voyage. How many miles would he be able to cover in twenty-four hours? Remembering the fingernail moon of last night, he knew there would be a good light if the clouds allowed it. He might even be able to slip away this night if the heavens remained clear. The ebb appeared to be at its lowest which meant in about six hours the repeat process would begin from the high point of full tide. He heard the crunch of a footfall on the rasping sand and saw the brothers were catching up to them.

The old priest stopped beside Hornblower and looked upon the sea. "This was an unexpected journey," he commented.

"All mine seem to be so," said Hornblower, absently, not sure if the priest meant taking this way off the path, or the recent circumstances, but his answer suited both. "I do not know what she has been saying," informed Hornblower.

The priest asked Emi and the two spoke back and forth for a time.

"She says she thanked you for all you did for Gabrielle... and for her."

"That goes without saying. I could do nothing less. Please express to her the sadness of my heart at Gabrielle's passing," said Hornblower quietly.

The priest smiled after listening to her response, and Hornblower quirked an eyebrow waiting for the priest to translate.

"She says that goes without saying, too."

Emi was speaking again and removed her arm from his as she tugged at a chain beneath the clothing and around her neck. Opening the clasp, she removed the gold band.

"She says she has been keeping this for you, that she feared when you were not well you might lose it. She says when she pulled you out of the water it slipped off your finger into her hand."

His mouth gaped with expectation as she held the ring out for him to take.

"Oh, God! I thought it lost in the sea," he said amazed. He held out his palm and she placed it there. "I never believed I would see it again." He stared at the golden dolphins and clasped it in his hand. "Thank you." He opened the hand and taking the round band, he slipped it onto the ring finger. It was a little loose, reporting his loss of weight, and he twirled it around the finger.

She smiled and spoke and the priest translated. "She says it means much to you."

"It does. It does indeed. My wife gave it to me, ..." and the dolphins, he thought of the dolphins, pushing him towards shore.

It was a fluke of nature, surely, and he dismissed the thought that an Eternal Being had guarded him, but that set off the round of thought from days ago about the men in his past helping to preserve his life, and Mrs. Giacomin in Italy, knowing about the ring and Pamela. Was this a sign? No, he rejected it. The only sign he would accept would be the boat he needed. The ring was a trigger, firing off one memory after another, all having to do with Pamela, -- from the ship, to the animal, to this physical symbol of their union depicted by the pair of dolphins in molded gold, but nothing more.

"Tell her she has made me very happy in the midst of her sorrow."

She listened to the priest, then took hold of Hornblower's hand, giving to Hornblower a warm yet sad smile, then led him along the beach. Hornblower felt odd being guided by the woman, but it was what she had done before, and he did not pull away.

He closed his eyes and felt the swelling happiness within his heart over the return of the ring. It was such a silly thing in which to take comfort, but he did. It was the outward sign of his and Pamela's union, even though the ring to him had been given a month later, they were the same image, meant the same thing, that she was devoted to him and him to her. He had given his heart, mind, body, and soul to a woman that loved him. He thought of his mother, the woman that gave him life and affection and he knew his father cherished him, but ... now he had the love of a woman once more in his life.

He recollected her lips lowering to kiss the band, and then the shaft of his finger, with tiny tender kisses until she took the digit playfully into the soft, warm, moist mouth, gazing up at him with those sultry brown eyes full of mischief and love. This would not do to be so occupied in this company, but he had lived for so many weeks without the society of her memory, he wanted to think on her. He wanted to remember the nights of love making in his cabin on Indefatigable...of the brief, playful courtship on Dolphin... of the maddening things she did to worry and perplex him,... everything. It was like a gift these memories, a gift to be opened and considered, and he ached to see her. She loved him, just him, for who he was,-- and he loved her. It was not position, or reputation, or money-- she just loved him.

The light was failing fast and the temperature was falling, becoming correspondingly chill. They were down here without a lantern. Hornblower looked up at the sky going midnight blue around the eastern edges, the evening star twinkling above the dunes. Someone was up ahead speaking, and he turned to the priest for clarification.

"What is going on?" asked Hornblower.

The priest smiled. "Look for yourself."

Hornblower peered through the dim. There was a large shadow and a glow behind it. Someone had a lantern up ahead. Hornblower traced the length of the dark figure. **No. It could not be.** He stopped dead in his tracks.

Emi squeezed his hand. "Venha, Tenente. O barco que você pediu está aqui."

"She says, the boat you asked for is here," informed Stephen.

Hornblower was disbelieving. "Is this meant to be a joke?" he asked.

"It is no joke," said the priest. "God answers prayer."

"How... how can this be?" asked Hornblower.

"Ramieres was out fishing about a week ago and found this floating unmanned."

"A week ago? Then, it is just happenstance," shrugged Hornblower, incredulous and advancing towards the twenty foot launch.

"Do you not know that God knows what you need before you ask?" exhorted the priest.

Placing his hands on the gunwale, Hornblower gave the Portuguese man and his companion a nod, then let his hands slide along the outside planks as he walked round about her. "May I?" he asked, lifting the lantern. Holding the lamp high, he examined the boat closely for damage and found none. The markings showed her to be detached from a French ship. "She is fine, but... how much does he want for her?"

Stephen posed the question to Ramieres who looked at Emi intently, his dark Portuguese features revealing thought processes known only to him in the glow of the lantern. Facing Hornblower, the fisherman sighed and bowed slightly, then spoke in his language.

"Sou contado eu não tenho nenhum necessidade de outro barco de pescaria, que eu não posso navegar mas um de cada vez, que eu sou mas um homem humilde de entrega do Deus Vivo, isso livremente era ele dados a mim e livremente devia dou-o a você, e além do mais que era provavelmente seua marinha que causou a liberação deste barco do navio francês com que que navegou. É o seu."

"That was quite a speech," said Stephen, looking at Ramieres. "I think that is the most I have ever heard him say!"

Emi gazed proudly at her friend. She took Ramieres hand and raised it to her lips for a kiss. He pulled it away, muttered and went to tend his fishing boat ten feet from this one.

"What did he say?" asked Hornblower.

The priest was smiling contentedly and he exchanged the look of satisfaction with Emiangeles.

"Tenente Hornblower, you have been a blessing to us all. Through your need, God has revealed His hand," stated the priest satisfactorily. "Ramieres says the boat is yours."

That was all? It sounded that he said far more than that. Hornblower was puzzled. "Why?" he shrugged.

The priest stood before Emi and the two older people shared soft words.

"Basically, Ramieres said the boat was freely given to him and he freely gives it to you, that he was merely the delivery man of the Living God," informed Stephen. "God's care extends to all, Senhor Hornblower, even to those who doubt... and especially to those who doubt but are prayed for by those that do not doubt." Stephen was headed towards the fishing boat, but he stopped to add, "It is me, Stephen, that says the last, not Ramieres," he informed, frustration tingeing the words. "Some people would not know a snake if the viper sunk its teeth into their hand."

"Tell Mr. Ramieres I said thank you," called Hornblower.

"It is God you should thank," said Stephen, tossing the words over his shoulder.

The priest had become aware of the exchange between Hornblower and Stephen. "Don't mind Stephen, Tenente, he does not understand how you do not understand... how is it you English say, ... the plain nose on your face."

Hornblower thought about the priest's reply and Stephen's point. "Will you thank God for me then?" he asked of the priest, feeling generous for making the request.

"It would mean more coming from you. But, yes, I will."

"Does He not know, without my saying so?" sparred Hornblower, growing slightly weary of God in his affairs. He immediately regretted the casual comment he allowed past his lips, accounting it to the excitement of the launch.

"Yes. But when you go out of your way to do something for someone, and even though thanks are not needed, is it not common courtesy to say thank you?"

Hornblower's face crimsoned under the rebuke and he replied meekly, "Yes, sir."

Hornblower waited bashfully for any further words of admonition, but the priest merely nodded to his reply and he and Emi went to speak with Stephen and Ramieres.

Hornblower lifted the lantern and tried to assess the canvas furled on the spar. He would have to ask if Ramieres had checked the sail, but a tug on the fabric showed it was solid, not ripping with rot. Looking in the box stored in the bow, he found the night lantern, striker, flint, lamp oil. None of it looked used. "God!" he whispered. There was spare canvas tucked behind and beneath the box. **The damn French never do use what they have when it comes to sailing,** he thought, then smiled wryly, **We do not give the damn Frogs a chance!** That's what Styles would reply to that thought, Hornblower knew, and he grinned as he checked the oars, lines, tiller and rudder. All he needed was water and food. He breathed deeply the cold salt air. If only the tide were right, but no, he needed supplies, and the supplies the priest had made them wait and gather, before the journey here, were stored at Emi's home, along with his jacket and dirk.

***

Hornblower could not sleep, no matter how hard he tried. Tossing and turning on the blankets near the fire, he had lain on his back and watched the shadows from the burning embers dance across the ceiling. Pamela was much on his mind. When he closed his eyes, her form was there, as she was on their wedding night. The memory took his breath and he sighed heavily. He pressed against his temples, groaning inside his head. He was getting hard. He sat up abruptly, saw the other men sleeping nearby, and quietly came to his feet. He slipped on his shoes, grabbed his heavy coat, and tip-toed to the door. He would open it quickly and slip out into the cold night so as not to wake anyone. He had to do something, anything.

Stephen had gone with him to Emi's to get the supplies and then the two men had returned to the village. It was more accessible to the craft. Outside, out of the warmth of Ramieres's home, Hornblower paced the dozen steps to where he could see the eastern horizon unimpeded. There it was, the sliver of waxing moon he expected. He watched the breath from his nose turn white in the moonlight and he shivered. He would have nearly two weeks of relative light for night sailing. Ramieres, through Stephen's translation, had warned him of sunken reefs just offshore. The fisherman said the tide should be high enough for Hornblower to pass over them, but he warned him all the same.

Hornblower paced back and forth to stay warm and hoped he could walk off the desire in his loins. Hearing a door open, he looked up to see two men emerging from Ramieres's front door. **Damn,** he thought, **I woke them.** He waited for the two men. It was Ramieres and Stephen.

Ramieres spoke in his language, and Stephen translated.

"What are you doing out here, English? The tide will not turn for another few hours."

Hornblower twisted back a smile at the name Stephen was repeating. He could tell from the way the brother looked and spoke that he was not happy out of doors, at this hour, acting as interpreter.

"I cannot sleep," Horatio answered truthfully.

Hornblower waited as Stephen relayed his words and the monk and Ramieres had a go back and forth of information.

"I told him you were going to your wife, not the navy. He wants to know if she is pretty," said Stephen, rolling his eyes, then breathing into his palms.

"She is beautiful."

Ramieres' white teeth shone in the moonlight. He motioned rounding his hands at his chest, his tone a question.

Stephen was astonished and his mouth gaped open.

Hornblower was amazed as well, but he was accustomed to such uncouth banter from overhearing the ratings below deck chatter, though none of them would ever dare ask him such a question. No gentleman would. Nevertheless, the man had just given Hornblower a means of 'escape' and with that thought, he condescended to answer him. "I know what he is asking, and yes, my wife is well endowed," and he thought on without saying, **especially since she is expecting.** Hornblower was proud of his wife's figure, but touched his forehead, and took a breath. He came out here to get away from these thoughts and here he was speaking about them. This would not do, however, the devilment it was causing Stephen gave Hornblower a certain amount of cocky satisfaction.

Stephen swallowed and answered Ramieres' query as briefly as possible. Ramieres shoved Stephen's arm and laughed quietly and made another comment.

"He wants to know how long it has been since... must you two speak of this?" asked the monk, obviously uncomfortable.

It struck Hornblower as absurd that he was standing outside, in freezing temperatures, having a bawdy conversation with a Portuguese fisherman, going through a Franciscan Brother. Perhaps it was the relative darkness that made Hornblower bold, or maybe it was the opportunity to watch his foil squirm, or possibly an indication that his brain was not completely healed and under his strict control, but he replied to this query as well. "October. I have not seen my wife since October."

"Outubro?" Ramieres seemed amazed and commiserated with a guttural tone. Shaking his head sadly, the fisherman made a statement.

Stephen just looked at Hornblower and did not translate.

Ramieres took Hornblower by the arm and inclined his head for him to follow.

The two walked along the footpath for a while and then Ramieres pointed down into a gully. When Hornblower did not respond immediately, the Portuguese made a back and forth motion with his hand at crotch level and encouraged Hornblower to go off on his own.

Hornblower was taken aback by the suggestion, and retorted immediately. "No, no, no. I ... I do not think so."

Ramieres shrugged and retraced their steps.

Hornblower followed looking over his shoulder at the gully, and then shifted his eyes to grab another look at Ramieres. The walk, the embarrassing suggestion, and the cold had done the trick. He was feeling far less amorous.

When they got back to the house, he followed Ramieres in, and then returned to his spot on the floor. Stephen rose up to look at both men, then lay back down. Hornblower lay on his side and watched the low blue flames licking the long wood log.

After moments, a quiet question came from Stephen. "Did you,... o ingles?"

Hornblower lay on his back and looked through the darkness toward the monk. For some reason, he knew this man with whom he verbally sparred needed to know. The subject was a private thing, but then Stephen had been pulled into the conversation as a courtesy. Hornblower let down his reserve.

Sighing, he said, "No, Stephen, I did not."

"I'm proud of you, o ingles. Good-night, senhor."

Hornblower knit his brow. "Were you praying for me?"

The brother's only reply was a muffled chuckle.

Hornblower grinned broadly and thought, **Touché, Brother Stephen. Pamela, ... I love you. Even here, with you nearly a thousand miles away, you manage to disrupt my life. Thank God, Archie is not here. I would never hear the end of this.**

Hornblower was wakened with a rough hand shaking his arm.

"O ingles?"

It was Ramieres. Hornblower did not understand the next words, but he knew. It was time to go.

Ramieres poked the dying embers of the fire.

Looking around, Hornblower saw the two monks were gone. He rose, grabbed the oilskin coat used as a blanket, and shrugged it on, lifting his long hair out of the neck.

The two brothers were waiting outside for him, the mule loaded with supplies.

"Did you sleep well, Tenente?" asked the old monk.

Snatching a glance at Stephen, Hornblower replied affirmatively.

"Good. It will be dawn soon and Ramieres says the tide looks right."

Alejandro, Ramieres's son, and two other burly men who attended the mass for Gabrielle, pulled a low wide-wheeled cart on the trek to the seashore. The Portuguese spoke to one another and Hornblower could only guess from the few words he recognized that they were discussing the launching.

The morning air was freezing. He would be glad when the sun claimed the day.

As Hornblower approached the French-made launch, he examined her lines in the early light. She was sleek, not as broad bottomed as a British boat of similar size. He looked curiously at the extended keel board underneath. The French were known for their ship design being superior to the British. Hornblower thought about the underwater panel and considered what it might mean to her handling. She did not seem amenable for use as a landing craft, perhaps she was meant only for deep water ports. He was beginning to look forward to this voyage with greater interest. That board explained why she was tilted on her side so drastically, something he had missed last night. It would mean less slippage on the water surface with that dropped board. He turned to look at the low cart the men dragged down here with them.

Ramieres was motioning to it and speaking to the men and the monks and jabbing a finger at the loaded mule. The brothers removed the supplies from the pack animal and stashed them inside the craft as best they could. Hornblower joined the men as they lifted the bow and slipped the low wagon underneath it. Ramieres motioned for him to help them raise the stern. Alejandro pulled the tongue of the cart, and Hornblower, along with Ramieres and the other two men, lifted the aft portion. Swiveling in the packed sand, Alejandro brought the bow around and they were headed for sea. Nearing the water, he turned again, and they backed the boat into the water. Hornblower gasped as the cold water hit his legs.

Ramieres grinned and commented and the other men laughed with him. Somehow, Hornblower got the impression it had to do with last nights journey to the gully, but he was not sure.

A call from the beach and Hornblower turned to see Emiangeles and Pando on the beach with a crate to hand and her waving him back in.

Ramieres grumbled, then motioned for Hornblower to go.

The priest reached her before Hornblower and the two were conversing when he arrived and he gave her a nod of greeting.

"She has brought you a chicken and some feed," informed the priest. "She says the hen is a good layer and that when you run out of feed, you can eat her."

Pando spoke and the priest translated.

"The boy says her name is Felicia."

"Felicia? I cannot take her," said Hornblower. He knew the little reddish-brown hen was a favorite from Emi's chicken coop.

"They want you to have her, Tenente."

Emi held out a pair of thick socks and nodded, speaking amiably.

"A friend of Emi's offers you these wool stockings. Take them, Horatio. The nights will be cold at sea. Your feet are already wet," noticed the priest.

Hornblower accepted the footwear with thanks and stuffed them into the breast pocket of his coat, then took the chicken's crate in hand.

Emi grabbed Hornblower's lapel and pulled him down. She kissed his cheek and stroked his hair.

"She wishes you God speed and that your wife will deliver safely."

Blinking bashfully, Hornblower nodded and bent to kiss the old woman's cheek. "Tell her I thank her more than she can know."

The priest translated and Emi nodded and smiled. "Vá com Deus, inglês."

"She says to go with God," said Stephen.

Hornblower smiled wryly. "I would be happy to have Him along. Thank you all, for what you have done. I shall never forget you. None of you." He turned and strode to the waiting men, standing just out of the chilling surf. Gaining the boat, he placed the chicken crate in the bow.

Hornblower and the men carried the vessel into the sea until the keel board barely touched. Ramieres motioned for him to get in. Grabbing onto the gunwale, Hornblower hauled himself over into the launch and scrambled to put the oars in the locks. His weight pressed the bottom board into the ocean floor and he felt the boat tilting to one side.

Ramieres was shouting no and motioning vertically. The mast, he wanted him to install the mast. Ramieres was right. He alone would not be able to row the boat out even with the help of the tide. It would take wind power to get him passed the breakers. Hornblower gripped the long spar and pushed it up, lifting and dropping it into place. He stuck the wedges around the base and tapped them in with the wood mallet. Taking the halyard, he hauled the mast ring to the top and tied off the line. The boom wagged back and forth and he grabbed hold of the rope to stop it.

Ramieres motioned Hornblower back towards the stern to get his weight off the center, then shouted to the men to be ready for a coming wave to help lift the boat from the sand.

Hornblower watched the wave come and gauged the wind on the sail. He sat with an arm on the tiller, ready to put the rudder hard over and haul the boom into position. The moment came, the wave lifted the stern, and the wind filled the canvas, pushing the vessel bow. He held his breath as she completed the swing round one hundred and eighty degrees before the next wave could hit her on the beam ends and knock her sideways. Then, he adjusted and aimed the tiller head on. The sail lost wind and Hornblower madly shifted the boom. The canvas caught again and he sailed into the breakers, riding the boat like a child's see saw gone mad. It was all Hornblower could do to keep the craft headed out to sea with the tiller held firm despite the wave action against the rudder. It was a hectic few minutes, the ocean waves lifting and lowering, the bottom board bouncing off the ocean floor, until only swells passed beneath him. Finally, the wind advanced the craft out beyond the breakers and incoming tide.

Hornblower snatched a glimpse of the shore; it was falling away rapidly. Seeing the men emerging from the surf and watching his progress, he would have waved his thanks, but he could not let go of the tiller and boom line. He breathed a sigh of relief-- at last, he was at sea. He was on his way to Gibraltar and... he was shivering like a leaf in a gale.

Suddenly, Hornblower was thrown forward, landing against the wooden bench on the starboard side. Ducking, he barely missed being hit in the head by the boom. A scraping sound vibrated through the planking.

A reef! She hit a reef!

As Hornblower peered over the side into grey-green water, a swell came and floated her off. Hornblower frantically adjusted the boom, then madly surveyed the inboard planks for a breach. She appeared to be holding.

**Thank, God,** he thought as the wind moved him away from the underwater obstacles. He aimed the bow westward to get further from shore. Tying off the boom, he clutched his side and eased onto the stern bench, grimacing with the sharp pain in his ribs and trembling with cold. He looked at his reddened hands.

"God, no!" His ring was gone. "No!" He pressed his clothing and searched the immediate area where he sat, then held his forehead. The ring had become inexorably tied to Pamela in his thinking. "No! Do not take her from me! Please... God... I love her!" The water awash in the bottom of the boat brought the rolling ring into his field of view. Reaching a hand into the icy water, he grasped the golden band. Pushing back up onto the seat, he clutched it to his chest and closed his eyes. His finger was too thin to keep the jewelry in place, and the cold made his fingers even thinner. He yanked the crucifix chain out from his clothing. With a quaking hand, he opened the clasp and slipped the ring onto the chain. It settled next to the cross and Hornblower pondered the two golden items. Taking a calming breath, he looked up.

"What do You want from me?" The sky was a phantom blue-grey color. "I do not blame you for my mother's death. I out grew the idea. I out grew you!" He paused. "It was meant to be a joke...You coming along with me."

There was no answer, just the quiet swoosh of water against the boat's hull.

**But all my efforts at humor fall flat,** he thought.

"All right. All right." Hornblower shook his head resignedly. "I concede. It was not happenstance. You provided this boat. If You want to hear me say it, I will. Thank you. Thank you, God, for this boat." He pushed the necklace inside his shirt; the cold metal rested against his skin. Rubbing his side, he lay against the tiller and heaved a sigh. "Do not take her from me. Please." He adjusted the tiller and the sail for a more southerly course, laying the boat on a larboard tack.

The wind on the wet clothing increased the quaking of muscles. Hornblower surveyed the items in the boat, teeth chattering. The water casks lay akimbo forward and he saw the chicken's crate was laying sideways. He tied the tiller in place and moved forward to put the chicken to rights and straighten the supplies.

"Felicia?" He peered in at the hen. "You look cold." He sat the coop on one of the bench seats and tied it in place. Pouring a handful of feed into his palm, he dropped it inside the pen. The chicken pecked at the kernels and that elicited a half smile from her companion. "I could do with some breakfast myself," he said softly.

Finding the wax-coated canvas bags containing blankets, he removed one and lay it on the bench, then proceeded to disrobe. Pulling the sweater over his head, he then draped it so the dry part blocked the wind over the hen's cage. "No Edrington or Bentley this time, Felicia. Just you and me." Hornblower cocked his head upwards. "Forgive me, sir,-- and God."

Hornblower peeled away his waistcoat. It was only wet from about chest down. Stretching, he lay the clothing out to dry. Lastly, he pulled his only shirt off and placed it alone. Pressing back his chest, he looked down at the red area over his rib cage. There would be a whopper of a bruise there by tomorrow. The dry blanket felt good against his bloodless skin.

"We've each got to pull our weight, Felicia. Your duty is to eat and lay eggs, and I promise you, serve this ship well, and... I will spare you the ax. Me? It is my job to keep us under weigh and on our way as quick as I can to Pamela and our baby. If he isn't already birthed, he soon will be." He removed the other blanket from the sack and draped it over his shoulders.

Hornblower pulled out a hard roll brought from the monk's kitchen and broke off an end. Munching the bread and watching a persistent breeze ruffle the chicken's feathers, he said, "Now, if our Third Party could just hold up His end and give us a bit of warm sunshine, we will be all right." Hornblower looked around at the open sea to his right and the distant shore on the eastern horizon, and shook his head. "If only Archie could see me now... talking to a chicken with an Invisible Being on board. What a motley crew we make, eh?"

At that moment, a ray of sunshine broke through the clouds. The hen clucked and Hornblower squinted at the parted overhead clouds.

"Thank you." Then, Hornblower addressed the chicken. "If saying thanks is what it takes, I will say it all the way to Gibraltar," and he bit off another hunk of bread.

The small craft was alone on the wide ocean and the day was just beginning.

 

****

 

Barnstable wished he did not look forward to the afternoon trek out to the Hornblower townhouse, but he did. The see-saw, up and down, back and forth, play of his emotions and thoughts arrived every day at this time, and he pondered them, and enjoyed them, and despaired. In the end, he was always back where he started. There was no hope for a relationship with the woman he loved.

Seeing Pamela was springtime to his soul and he wished these days could go on forever, but when logic asserted itself, he knew two things. One, Pamela was in love Hornblower and two, he would soon sail out of her life.

When reality and logic held the fore, he had another reason for escaping into her presence,-- the unendurable teaching of Mr. Midshipman Maynard the ways of the admiralty records office. The man's thick-headedness made Captain Sorbo request Barnstable's presence on shore until the very last moment. Captain Garrison seemed a bit peeved about it and only Barnstable's previous experience at sea made his new captain's wait palatable. It was interesting to be fought over, though it was merely a spar of words by these two senior officers and the admiralty captain held sway.

The crunch of the rocky road sounded, and oddly, Barnstable did a three hundred sixty degree turn as he walked, then flailed his hands in the air over his head in an attempt to sweep away the frustrations of laboring with the dim midshipman. Looking around, he checked to be sure no one saw the strange exorcism. Taking a deep breath, he huffed the air out of his lungs and increased his stride, taking care with the trick knee.

When his heart released him to think of other than Pamela, his coming position took a place in his considerations. Duke of York had a seasoned crew. All that would be required of him was to find his niche. Getting on with other officers had never been a difficulty before and he was wise to most practical jokes that might be played on him. Nevertheless, he knew he should be prepared for pranks all the same.

Returning his mind to Pamela a smile eased over his lips. He had been able to cheer her, and the baby was a cute little thing. After visiting with them for the past week, he almost thought the child was recognizing his face and his voice, and perhaps even giving him a smile. He had not held a baby since his nieces had been small and that was a good six or seven years ago. Most of all, it seemed to please Pamela for him to hold the boy. He liked the baby, indeed, he could love the child, but he knew it would be foolish to allow himself such an attachment. He already had one irrational regard for the babe's mother.

If Pellew had not called him that night, Barth would never have introduced his person back into Pamela's life. Restricting his desire to see her had been difficult, but he stayed busy, tying up loose ends at the office, sorting files, and finishing reports. On that first afternoon, when he had come to see that Mrs. Harvey had, as requested, found a suitable maid to help Pamela, he had entered her society hesitantly. Their last good-bye had been a very 'final' good-bye and he was not at all sure he would be welcome.

She was surprised but appeared happy to see him and displayed the baby proudly. He had given the child more attention to ease his presence there and was rewarded with Pamela's proximity which caused no small physical response through his body. He was hopelessly attracted to her and he longed to sail out of her life as much as he longed to stay, an ever present quandary.

The knock at the door brought Drake to give him entrance.

"Good afternoon, Sir Drake," smiled Barnstable, tossing the boy's golden curls.

"Hello, Mr. Barnstable," responded the boy cheerfully, backing to give the officer entry. "She's just finishing feeding the baby."

Barth gave Drake his hat. "Everything going well with Miss Caroline?"

"Oh yes, sir. She is fine help," commented Drake, placing the hat on the hall tree.

"I thought I heard a voice. Good afternoon, Mr. Barnstable," greeted a young woman, emerging from the back of the house. She wore a white cap over strawberry blonde hair and a beige and green striped fitted blouse with a skirt of the same material. Fading freckles dotted her short nose and the grey-green eyes were open and honest. She held out a hand to take his cloak.

"Miss Caroline," he nodded, "good to see you so chipper."

"Oh, it's a delight to be here, sir. I love babies and Mrs. Hornblower is a sweet young mum," added Caroline, after hanging his cloak on the tree hook. "The townhouse is so small, it's easy care really. Much smaller than the inn. Not so many floors, of course. Mr. Carden always helps best he can, sir. I guess that's the navy in him."

"How is she?" whispered Barth.

"Drake," said Caroline, "be a good boy and go give the dinner a poke, will you?"

Drake scrunched one side of his mouth, said, "Yes, ma'am," and lumbered slowly towards the kitchen.

"I'll see you in a few minutes, Drake," encouraged Barth.

"He's a good boy, is Robin," sighed Caroline, and she whispered, "He misses Mr. Hornblower as much as her, but he tries not to let her know." Caroline lowered her eyes briefly and wagged her inclined head, then nodded. "I know you know she misses her 'usband. She hasn't given up hope of his returning."

Barnstable nodded and hoped the ridiculous brief disappointment did not divulge.

"It's heart-breaking, Mr. Barnstable. But you, sir, you cheer 'em both. Indeed, you do, sir. It's very kind of you to come visitin'. Mrs. Harvey told me the captain asked ye to do it."

Avoiding Caroline's gaze, he nodded, but added, "Mrs. Hornblower is a friend."

"She's lucky to have you, sir." The girl smiled and said, "She should be done feeding the little one. She's in the parlour." Easing around the officer, Caroline opened the parlour door and entered.

Barnstable heard her announce him and he listened eagerly for Pamela's reply.

"Show him in, Caroline."

Barth stepped in slowly, greeted with another smile by Caroline.

Pamela looked up at Barnstable from the rocker, the baby over her shoulder, a happy smile on her lips but sadness in her eyes. "Mr. Barnstable."

"Mrs. Hornblower," he bowed, then stepped closer to look at the contented little face. "All fed?"

"Yes," smiled Pamela sadly.

"Did you want me to take him, Mrs. Hornblower?" asked the servant.

"Not yet, Caroline."

"I'll bring the tea, then, shall I?"

"Yes. Please," answered Pamela. It was a routine that had formed in the last week, Barnstable coming for tea, inquiring after them all. That first day he showed up at the townhouse, he had explained his presence was at the request of Captain Pellew. Pamela told herself every time he turned up it was because Barth was doing a duty for Horatio's commanding officer.

Caroline closed the door after her.

"Let me take him," said the leftenant in the awkward silence.

Barnstable found the extra towel and draped it over his left shoulder, then extended his hands to take the baby. "Come on, Little Captain." He carefully placed the child on his shoulder. The baby was warm and small and squeaked a sigh. The tall lanky officer rubbed the tiny back.

Pamela watched Barnstable touch her child as Horatio might have done. There was their little boy resting against the naval uniform she knew so well. The bright white gown against the dark navy blue was another contrast between the size of the little boy and the man that held him. Her eyes traced to the large portrait standing in the dining room and back to the vibrant steadfast friend holding her baby.

"Have you been a good boy for your mama today?"

The baby burped.

Pamela covered her mouth to stifle the titter. "Oh dear!"

Barnstable grinned. "It must mean he is enjoying his vittles." Barnstable blushed immediately. "Forgive me, Mrs. Hornblower."

Pamela stood up and gazed at the calm face of the child. "Don't be silly, Barth, I mean,... Mr. Barnstable." She sighed and walked to the front window and looked out into the front garden. She wore an ivory cotton dress with long sleeves, the length extending in a line from beneath the short bodice. The chemise underneath covered the swell of her breasts while the neckline squared across the soft fabric underneath. It was new, purchased from Amelia Holly's shop with an eye to when she would no longer need the fullness for the baby.

A knock and Caroline came in with a tray, snatching a glimpse of the two friends. "Here's the tea, ma'am. Shall I take the baby now?"

Pamela stepped over to Barth, daring to look into his bright blue eyes, then she took the child gently into her arms. Gazing down at the contented infant, she lightly touched the tiny pink lips and stroked the chubby cheek. Kissing his forehead, she passed him into Caroline's capable hands.

"Thank you, Caroline."

"I'll check him and put him in the basket, shall I?"

Pamela nodded and watched her carefully close the parlour door, leaving her and Barth alone. She could not help the nervous swallow. The room was alive with ... expectation. It grew stronger each time he came to visit ... and it frightened her. She lifted her eyes to Horatio's portrait and thought the familiar mantra. **Time nor tide will keep me from you... but what of death? No. No.** How many times a day did these thoughts plague her?

A rustle and she stopped the turn she began. She could feel him close to her. She closed her eyes and recalled their first time together after he came on the mission from Pellew. The tears had come and he had taken her in his arms... again. How many times had this ... man ... that was not her husband, nor any kind of relation... held her?

Barnstable stopped behind her and looked at the portrait of Hornblower, always there to remind him. Breathing softly, he asked, "Pamela?"

She shook her head. "I'm all right, Barth." The moment she said it the tears welled. "No. No, I'm not all right. I want my husband. He is not ... I will not believe it."

"Pamela," said Barth, gently placing his hands on her arms.

"No!" she whispered and stepped away, shaking her head.

Barth lowered his head. He did not want to go so soon, but it was for the best. "I should go."

"You should," she whispered.

Taking a breath, he was about to take a step when she spoke again.

"But, I do not want you to go." Her head hung low. "I do not want you to go." She slowly raised her head and turned to face him. She shook her head with brimming eyes. "Why did you come into my life? I've asked myself that question almost as much as I've ... " She raised a hand, then drew it back. She would not touch him, it would not be fair to him and she already felt like a traitor... to him.... to Horatio. "You ... you remind me of him, Barth. Do you not see? It would not be fair to you. I've got to wait for him. I promised. I promised."

He took a step towards her.

"No. Stop. Please," she begged. He was close enough to cause her to lift her head to see his tender countenance.

A step and he pulled her into his arms.

She melted and molded into the hollow of his chest, shaking her head no, but feeding on the unspoken love he offered. Why was she so weak?

"Pamela, Pamela," he whispered, "I cannot bear to see you unhappy. If I knew where he was I would fetch him for you." He looked at Hornblower as he spoke the words, feeling her give way. "I know you love him. Leftenant Kennedy told me that... I might remind you of ... Horatio. I cannot alter what I am." Then, he thought, **I can only alter where I am. And as long as I am in Gibraltar, I will want to be at your side.** He closed his eyes. **I am leaving and I cannot find the words to tell you. It has to be for the best.**

It always seemed to be enough, this embrace,... for both of them. Barnstable was mildly aware that the room was growing dim, that the parlour door had opened, whispers spoken, and the door closed once more. She was quiet and he gently released the hold. Removing a handkerchief from his breast pocket, he lifted her chin and dabbed at the damp face. She raised her eyes. He folded the cloth and placed it back into his pocket.

"Do you think the tea is cold?" he asked.

Without a word, she turned to check the teapot. "Warm but not hot." She picked up the lid. "Caroline makes it strong. I will fetch a pot of hot water. Shall I?" she asked faintly.

"Should I go?" he asked.

"Drake would be disappointed if you did not stay to dinner."

He did not ask the next question that came so readily. "I ... will stay."

She clasped his hand then released it.

Barnstable stepped into the dining room and approached the portrait of Horatio Hornblower. Swiveling to see she was gone, he spoke to the image.

"Are you alive, sir? Your friend thinks you are. Your wife wants you to be." Barth pursed his lips in a half frown. "The unspoken secrets of my heart urge me even now," he looked Hornblower in the eye, "I am only human, sir." Barnstable turned his back on the portrait. "I must not. I... must... not." He strode around the dining table, out through the parlour to the hall tree, and threw the cloak around his shoulders. Picking up the hat, he was about to press it on, when he saw her watching him from the long corridor. Pausing, he extended a leg and bowed low. "Forgive me. I... All is well with the servant?" His voice was sharp and edgy.

Pamela nodded.

"Then..." with a softer tone, "I... I have discharged my duty."

Drake quietly came to Pamela's side.

"Good-bye, Mrs. Hornblower."

"Good-bye, Mr. Barnstable."

Barnstable gave Drake a nod and whirled on his heel. The front door closed quietly behind the officer.

The vacuum of space could not have been quieter or more devoid of life and air. The emptiness swallowed Pamela in a blinding whirl.

"I thought he was going to stay for dinner?" questioned Drake.

Startled by the little boy's voice, Pamela clutched her heart. "Oh, Drake," she breathed, gathering up shattered emotions and thinking, **I cannot go through another farewell with Barth. Please, Lord, preserve me from anymore good-byes.** Placing an arm around the boy's shoulders, she said softly, "He has to go, Robin, and we have to let him."

"But why?"

"He has his own life to live, sweetheart."

Drake looked at the closed door, then ran towards it, flung it open and called, following out at a run. "Mr. Barnstable! Mr. Barnstable!" Drake fumbled with the white wooden gate and threw it forcefully against the adjoining fence. "Mr. Barnstable! Where are you going? Why are you not staying? Mr. Barnstable?"

Barth halted the long strides as the boy plummeted into him. Rising to his full height, Barnstable looked down on the small boy with a stony gaze. "Pull yourself together, Mr. Drake."

"No! Why are you leaving?"

Drake hit him with balled fists until Barth had to take them in hand. Giving in to the child's frustration, he knelt and hugged the boy who questioned him and wept on his shoulder. After a tumult of repeating the questions and getting no answers, Drake calmed and sniffed.

"Do you not like us anymore?" asked the child.

Barnstable clutched him tightly. "My dear boy, I care for all of you far too much," confessed Barth. "Do you not see I have to go?"

"No. No, I want you to stay. I want you to live with us. You could stay in my room like when Mrs. Holly was here. We've got lots of beds."

"I cannot, Drake." Barth looked into the child's eyes and stroked his blonde curls.

"But why?"

"Mr. Hornblower is Mrs. Hornblower's husband. He would not want me living with you."

"But..." Drake knew to say Horatio was dead was not acceptable, and he did not want to say it.

"Mr. Hornblower is alive and coming back to you. You must wait for him," said Barth emphatically. "Mrs. Hornblower and Mr. Kennedy... they both know... you must be patient. Things will right themselves."

"But can you not stay until they do?"

"You do not know what you are asking, child."

Drake pondered Barnstable's countenance and after moments, put his arms around Barth's neck. "She loves you. I know she does," he whispered.

Barnstable closed his eyes. "We are friends, yes, Robin."

"Then, please come back."

"I cannot."

"Why?"

Barnstable sighed. "We must know when it is time to say good-bye. It is not good to overstay ones welcome."

"But you have not overstayed. You 'are' welcome."

"Robin, you are a good boy but a boy all the same and you cannot understand the ways of ... of adults. It is not my place to be with you and Mrs. Hornblower and Captain."

"We will miss you. We will be lonely without you."

"I will miss you, too."

"Please do not go. Please," Drake pleaded.

"You must accept that this is for the best."

"No," Drake insisted. "Why is it for the best when we will all miss each other?"

Barth sighed. "Do you miss Captain Pellew?"

"Yes."

"And the crew and Mr. Kennedy and the ship?"

"Yes."

"Well, just as they had to go back to their life, I have to go back to mine."

"But, I want Pamela to live on board with us like she did before."

Following the desultory thinking of the young boy, Barth said, "Would that be a proper place for Captain?"

Drake hung his head.

"You see? A fighting ship is not a suitable place for babies or ladies, at least not permanently."

"But we are not on a ship now," insisted the boy.

Barnstable enfolded the boy in his arms. "Robin, you must let me go as I have let you and Pamela and Captain go. It is what must be done."

"I do not want you to go!" Robin had never looked more child-like as his face puckered. "Please do not go!"

"Robin." Barnstable clutched the overwrought boy. "Drake, you've got to be a man now. Mrs. Hornblower needs you to be a man. I need you to be a man." He saw her out of the corner of his eye, thirty feet back, standing in the lane, the skirts of her dress blown persistently by the south wind, the soft brown ringlets of her long hair stretching out to caress the silky cheeks. She was beautiful, and he knew in that moment he might never see her again. He patted Drake on the back. "Come now. Miss Pamela is standing in the cold without a coat waiting for you. Go back. Take her out of the wind. You are the only one to take care of her until Horatio comes back. You know it is your duty, Robin. We are all depending on you." Barth gripped the boy's arms and pulled them from around his neck, forcing him to back away. "Go on."

Drake looked at Pamela with a tear streaked face, walked towards her, and then ran and buried his face in her skirts.

Barth rose to his full stature. The wind that touched her arrived to blow his cloak away, bringing a wisp of her light floral scent, exposing the rank of his uniform and for a moment, he could not move. He could not make himself walk away, locked in her gaze; his lungs ceased to function and time slipped into an ethereal wasteland. They were the family he did not have. With what will he had, he shifted his weight, forcing the step backwards, and then another. He wanted to scream 'I love you' but only his eyes could say what was in his heart. But she knew. He knew she knew. It was not right to love the wife of another man. It wasn't right. He wrenched his body around and faced the empty road before him, forcing the heavy steps that would bear him away.


*****

It was the next morning that Barnstable saw her moored in the bay, the Stars and Stripes waving proudly from her stern. Though other American ships were in port, this one stood out, for he recognized her. Barth stared at her lines for a time, lost in thought.

Daniel Dawson, American curmudgeon, and uncle to Pamela. What would the American do if he learned Hornblower was ... missing. **Well, it is none of my affair,** he thought.

"Do you know her, sir," asked Midshipman Maynard.

"What? Know who?" asked Barnstable, disturbed in his ruminations.

"That American ship, sir, Patriot's Dream? You ... seem ... thoughtful, sir. Saucy name for a ship in a British port, is it not?" commented Maynard.

"The war has been over for seventeen years, man, nearly eighteen," retorted Barnstable, who immediately regretted the tone of his response.

"Yes, sir," replied Maynard meekly. The pimple-faced youth reddened under the rebuke, turning almost the colour of one of the red stripes on the Patriot's flag.

The young officer was small in stature, appearing like a younger brother to Barnstable. If his discourse had been on anything other than Americans, his comments might not have been met with quite so much disdain from his mentor.

Barth turned on a heel and continued the monologue of information for Midshipman Maynard.

"Barnstable? Lieutenant Barnstable?" The American was neatly dressed in an almost black navy blue wool, the shining silver grey hair was pulled back in a queue tied with a muted molten slate broadband silky ribbon. Lively blue eyes flashed with a happy recognition from the winter-tan face.

It was like he had heard that voice all his life. Barnstable halted and viewed the speaker and thought, **God, of all the people to meet today, surely he is going to ask me...**

"I thought that was you," grinned the American, jutting out his hand for a shake.

"Mr. Dawson, sir," said Barnstable, taking the proffered hand. "How long has it been? This is Midshipman Maynard, sir."

Maynard gave a nod and received one, but the American chattered on as if he and Barnstable were old friends.

"Not long enough in one sense, man, and too long in another. But, it is good to see a face I recognize, if I must be here once again."

**How could this man be any relation to Pamela Hornblower,** thought Barth, **They are as opposite as night and day.**

"Don't mind my gruffness, Lieutenant. I've been too long cooped up on board ship. I don't suppose you've seen my niece lately, have you?"

Barnstable shifted his eyes to Maynard, mindful that the boy was keenly aware, if you could describe Maynard in such terms. **Well, damn, I'm leaving in a few days, why should I care if Maynard knows or not?** Barth gave a single nod. "Indeed, I have, sir."

"You have? Is the child born?"

"He is, sir, and a fine strong lad, too," affirmed Barth.

"A boy? She had a boy? Damn!" grinned Dawson, patting his breast pocket and removing two cigars for the British officers. "Take one. They're made of the finest Virginia tobacco. I shall have to hasten my obligations with your port officials. When? Do you know? Is Pamela all right?"

"Thank you, sir," muttered Maynard, confused but following Barnstable's lead. He inspected the long thick cigar, then tucked it inside his breast pocket as Dawson had made Barnstable do.

"She is well, Mr. Dawson," the thought of her bringing a blush to Barth's cheek. "The twenty second of February, I believe, sir, was the date of the birth." Barnstable bit his tongue after the fact. He was volunteering information, but it was too late now.

"Did she name him after Hornblower?" asked Dawson.

"She did, but not exactly. I do not wish to spoil her surprise or yours, Mr. Dawson."

"What about Hornblower? Is he here?" Dawson craned his head to stare at the British warships at anchor. He checked when they arrived last night, but he had not looked for Indefatigable this morning.

When Barnstable had time to reflect on the answer he gave, the rapidity of thought surprised him.

"Last I heard, no, sir,... he was not." That was true, and Barnstable felt no remorse in the veiled answer. Not knowing what Pamela would want her uncle to know, he felt it best left to her to tell him about Hornblower, if indeed she would.

So, Pamela was no longer hiding her identity from her uncle. This was uncharted ground. She had not spoken of Dawson ever. Barnstable knew the old American from that night when he happened upon Pamela and him at the inn. There must have been some reconciliation, for Dawson sounded that he knew about Horatio. The pregnancy must have forced her to reveal the marriage to his fellow countryman, something Dawson would have despised from the candid speech of the old man last July.

Barnstable called to mind that evening, when he had seen her sitting there. He was drawn to her even then, despite her matrimonial state, and for days and nights after, she invaded his thought life. For weeks, whenever he found himself out and about on duty for the admiralty, he had kept a look out for her but to no avail until last November when he found her in the company of Benny Godwin and very much in a family way. The spark of love would not be put out. He knew it was slowly burning like a fire with the damper closed but for a sliver. Yesterday, he closed the mechanism on his ardor all together, at least he thought he had, until now. Why oh why of all the people he could run into today, with but two days left on Gibraltar, did it have to be her uncle? What was Maynard thinking about all this?

"You know, Mr. Barnstable, I thought you were the one she was in love with last July," grinned Dawson.

"Me, sir?" Barth was astounded. "Wh... why would you think that, Mr. Dawson?" he fumbled, noting with a shift of eye Maynard's keen interest. **Damn, that he is along,** thought Barth briefly, for Dawson was speaking again.

"I like to think I know my niece better than she thinks I do. I knew a few pirates wouldn't put her off sailing if she had a mind to, even though... even though there was James... but no, she's a Dawson through and through. I suspected it might be you, but I wasn't far off. Actually, I wish it were you seeing as how you are land bound with the bad knee. I don't know how much you know, but Pamela's had some bad luck with husbands."

Just hearing Dawson say it wounded Barnstable on Pamela's account. Though she was not his, he wanted her happiness more than anything. And why did he? Was it supreme love to desire that she have what she fancied? Even if it was not him? But he had not been rejected, he had been too late. Would he have had a chance if he and Hornblower had both been suitors? It was foolish to consider. What was... was. There was no use thinking on it.

"We ... are only friends, Mr. Dawson," averred Barth.

"Are you now?" asked Dawson, eyeing Barnstable closely. "Well, I suppose I shall have to see her for myself. Jawing with you isn't getting me there. Nice to see you again, Lieutenant Barnstable. Always good to know a friendly face in a foreign port. Even British ones, these days." Dawson nodded to Maynard and walked briskly down the quay towards the port offices.

Maynard watched as the agitated superior officer observed the departing American. "Why did you not tell him, sir?" queried the midshipman.

"Tell him what, Mr. Maynard?" asked Barth, irritably.

"That Mr. Hornblower is dead. I mean, there are not two men in his majesty's navy with such a ridiculous name, are there?"

Barnstable held back an irresistible urge to grasp Maynard by the neck. Instead, he wheeled around and strode off towards their destination.

Maynard took a jog to catch up with his senior, hearing the end of a mutter.

"Sorry, sir?" questioned the middy.

Barnstable rounded on him. "I said how the devil would you know if he were living or dead?" said Barth through clinched teeth.

Maynard blinked at the ire displayed in the calm, quiet, unassuming officer that had been pacifically training him for the duties he was about to assume. "I... I read the report, sir. The report submitted by Captain Pellew of Indefatigable. Do you not remember it?"

Barnstable glared at the midshipman then softened and turned away. Of course, Maynard knew. Had it not been one of the examples he used for this type of missive? Had he not shown Maynard who must be given copies? Where they would be filed? Had not Barth been pricked each time he wrote Hornblower's name, knowing this was Pamela's Horatio Hornblower? And, had he not steeled his emotions to that loss that they all hoped, Pamela, Pellew, Kennedy, Drake, would, in the end, be false?

This was a subject that bore into the depths of his soul like the drill of a well for deep water. His emotions were tangled up in love for Pamela and her happiness, in the far-fetched hopes of a friend, and the fear of a lost life and how it affected the people that loss touched... even him, and he did not know the man. He wanted to run. If he were not in Maynard's company, if he were not in a busy British port, or an officer in his majesty's navy, if he did not fear damaging the fragile knee when he was looking for escape to sea, he would have bolted and run as far as land would let him. All he could do was hang his head and grip his emotions. At least Maynard had the good sense to say nothing more.

Barnstable pulled a packet from his coat. "Take it to the Captain of Marines, first building on the right." Barnstable walked away.

"But...?"

Barth turned and motioned with an arm. "There. First building on the right."

"But, sir. Where will I find you?" asked Maynard.

"Admiral's Arms," called Barth over his shoulder.

Maynard watched the officer's broad steps towards the main road. Shifting his eyes, he looked where they had last seen the aging American, then he hurried off to complete the errand and hopefully locate Barnstable. Was his better going to get a drink? At this hour? How was Leftenant Hornblower involved with Americans? Who was Dawson's niece, and what connection did Barnstable have with any of them? Barnstable had said nothing when they were copying Pellew's report into the records.

 

***

The rap on the door was so loud, it gave Pamela a start, causing Cap to lose hold on the nipple. Could it be Horatio? She pulled the flap over her breast and eased the baby onto her shoulder, where he burped. She reached the parlour door just as Drake ran down the hallway to answer it and Caroline stopped beside her. The poor child was looking for Barth to return, but that was not Barth's quiet knock.

Drake opened the door and exclaimed with astonishment, "Uncle Dawson!" Turning rapidly to Pamela then back again to the visitor, he said grinning, "It's Uncle Dawson!"

"Uncle Daniel! What a surprise!" said Pamela.

"Drake, lad! By God, I think you've grown!" bellowed Daniel Dawson. He surprised even himself as he bent to a knee to give the young boy a bear hug. The two of them had formed a lasting bond in the few days after Hornblower and Indefatigable sailed. Daniel beamed at Pamela and was rewarded with a genuine smile. Daniel rose with Drake in his arms.

"Sir!" Drake drew out the word.

"Sorry, lad," he said and put him down. "My, my, look at the little mother. How do you do, ma'am," he said to Caroline.

The big man tip-toed over to look at the little bundle on his niece's shoulder.

"Oh, he's the spittin' image of his da, but we won't hold that against him," he grinned. "How are you, darlin' girl?" He held onto Drake's shoulder with one hand and Pamela's with the other, giving her a kiss on the cheek.

Pamela could not prevent the grin widening on her face. She could not recall ever seeing her uncle so animated, and it was good to see him, to see those familiar blue eyes, so like her father's.

"I am well, uncle. When did you arrive?"

"Last night, but the damn limey's-- pardon me, girl, I've been a long time at sea. The damned powers-that-be wouldn't let us off till I'd checked in with the port officials, and I was informed in no uncertain terms that I would have to wait until this morning. They had me sitting around or filling out paper work most of the day. You would not believe what they are charging me in mooring fees. It's robbery, that's what it is."

Dawson touched the baby's cheek and Cap lifted that side of his mouth in response.

"Is he hungry?"

"Not too very, he was nearly finished when we heard your knock. Uncle Daniel, this is Caroline. She has been helping out since Cap's birth. Caroline, this is my uncle, Mr. Dawson."

"How do you do, sir?" she curtsied. "Shall I make tea, ma'am."

"Yes, please, Caroline."

With a smile, she nodded and retreated to the kitchen.

"Cap? What kind of a name is Cap? Why the devil have you named him after a hat?"

"Uncle!" but Daniel did not give her chance to say more.

"I ran into that lieutenant of yours on the quay. He told me you had the boy you expected, but no more. What's his name? Cap?"

"What lieutenant?" asked Pamela, almost fearfully.

"Barnstable."

Drake stood there, his eyes laughing, and his voice giggling. He was delighted to see the old man again.

"What's so funny, Drake?" asked Dawson. His eyes darted to Pamela. What was behind her question?

"Come into the parlour, uncle, and sit," suggested Pamela.

"Hm, boy? What are you laughing about?" and Daniel bent to tickle the boy's sides, causing him to screech with laughter.

"Uncle, you will have us all panting with the vapours! Oh, but it is good to see you. So you did come," said Pamela. As soon as her uncle was not looking, she shook her head seriously at Drake.

The boy responded with a nod and a correspondingly serious expression. He was getting used to these silent signals. He was not to say anything about Mr. Hornblower.

"Did you doubt it?" asked Daniel, as he lowered himself onto the couch. His eyes fell upon the portrait of Hornblower over the mantle and he rose and walked over to examine it closely. "This the one that Italian was to do for you? Good God!" He strode to the opening between the parlour and the dining room and stared. "What the devil are you going to do with such a huge portrait?" Walking in, he looked Hornblower up and down. "Well, he's a damn fine artist this Italian," he muttered, "looks just like him." He faced his niece. There was something fleeting in her expression. Dawson pinned her with a stare as he returned to sit opposite from where she sat in the rocking chair.

"Tell me about my grandnephew," ordered Daniel gruffly, watching his niece carefully.

Pamela looked away. It was easier to hide her emotions from her uncle when she did not like him. Every word and movement since he entered her home had endeared him, but she dare not let him know anything about the possibility that.... She had to give Horatio time to ... to... keep his promise. Her uncle would not understand, at least, she did not think he would. Gathering her sweetest smile, she brought her eyes to meet her uncle's.

"Well,... I've named him Captain, Uncle. He is not named after a hat, you goose," she smiled.

Without looking, Daniel darted a hand to tickle Drake who was sitting close by on the couch. The boy laughed through closed teeth.

"What is wrong with this boy?" Daniel asked.

Drake laughed and grinned.

"Captain, eh? Do not tell me you named the lad after, what's his name,... Pellew?" asked Daniel, continuing to tickle Drake.

Drake guffawed, finding it terribly funny to think Cap was named after his god-father.

Pamela looked on the scene before her and remembered her father doing such antics with Patricia's children. The two brothers were really very much alike, especially since the drastic change in Daniel's response toward her since her father's death. Who had changed? Her or her uncle? Or was it both of them and they found common ground in the middle? Her sister and her father would be pleased to see the two of them reconciled.

"No, I've... I've named him after his father, and Horatio's father, and mine."

Dawson sat dumbfounded, trying to imagine what she had labeled the tiny creature that rested on her shoulder. Women could do the damnedest things with a boy's name. What was she doing, following after the fashion of the British? Their custom seemed to give a child every family name they could think of. If the child were allowed to pick one, he might accept it, but from his experience, it was just a mouthful and difficult to keep the proper order. Had they not seen this when that high-minded Lee child had been christened in Williamsburg, the minister fumbling the list of names both times he said them.

"Well?" he asked.

"His name is Captain Horatio James Hubbell Dawson Hornblower," said Pamela.

"Hubbell?"

"That is Horatio's father's name."

"Hubbell Hornblower," muttered Daniel, "God, the teasing the man must have endured. Why the devil did Hubbell give his son a name like Horatio?"

"I was told Horatio's mother chose his name."

"I should have known," said Daniel frowning.

"Uncle, I like Horatio's name, both of them."

She would, he thought but did not say. Daniel counted his fingers on one hand, "So you've given my grandnephew five names and his first names him after headgear. Good God!" Daniel stood up and leaned towards her. "Give me the boy so I can sympathize with him."

"Put a towel on your shoulder, uncle," motioned Pamela, still smiling doubtfully at her uncle's joke.

Drake handed one over to Daniel, then the uncle picked up the baby carefully. "Let me look at you."

Cap yawned greatly and Daniel smiled warmly.

"Are we keeping you awake, boy?"

He cradled the child in the crook of his arm and Pamela rose to watch her son.

"Cap. Captain. Are you planning to send him off to sea?" asked Daniel. "If so this name may cause him all sorts of mischief. And the crew!" he added with exasperation.

"No. No. That will be entirely up to him," smiled Pamela, staring at her little boy.

Daniel twisted his mouth and scowled at the thought of a grandnephew of his as an officer in the British Navy. The baby watched him with languid eyes, his face scrunching slightly.

Pamela looked at both faces. "Uncle! What are you teaching him?" she giggled. "Stop that this instant!"

Daniel's face changed to amazement as he gazed at the child. "Not on God's green Earth could he be copying my expression, Pamela. How old is he, nearly two weeks?"

"Almost. Two weeks on Wednesday. Isn't he the sweetest little baby you've ever seen?" asked Pamela.

"He looks like his da," commented Dawson.

"Indeed, he does," agreed Pamela wistfully, "every inch his da."

Daniel shifted his eyes to his niece. "Motherhood becomes you, my dear."

"If you mean, I love my son, I do," she answered softly, "I always have."

There was something behind those words thought Daniel. There was something he did not know. He would learn it before he left for home, or his name was not Daniel Dawson.

 

*****
Dawson drummed the fingers of his right hand against the shiny scarred pub table while resting his chin in the palm of the other. Patiently, he waited. Learning Lieutenant Barnstable was gone had put a knot in Dawson's detective work. Since his arrival in Gibraltar, keeping his vow to return for the birth of Pamela's first child, a number of odd circumstances and observations were creating a puzzle of holes. He knew his niece well enough to know she was hiding something. She was easier to read now that she did not have that cold, emotional barrier between the two of them. For some reason, she was avoiding confiding in him as he wished she would. Resorting to other means, he hoped for discovery, for revelation.

It was a touchy situation to avoid causing a rift between Pamela, Drake and/or himself, so Dawson had looked beyond their tight circle for answers. The new woman, Caroline, he suspected had been instructed to keep silent. Heavy hints for information had been ignored or avoided. As he looked back on it, Dawson saw that Pamela in seeking assistance with the baby had stopped an interview with Carden.

Had she and Barnstable gone too far in their 'friendship'? That idea rubbed Dawson raw, considering how his own destiny had been crushed by a faithless love, and he sought to dismiss it by asking Pamela questions that affirmed her commitment to Hornblower. She sounded honest in her avowal of love, but ... there was that ... something... that brought about the questions in the first place.

Pamela had let slip that she and Barnstable were at times on a first name basis.

"Who is Barth?" Daniel had asked his niece.

She blushed and stammered. He had listened to her explanation of this with as open a mind as he could muster. He had to back off at one point when she became wary and oversensitive to his questions. Daniel got the distinct impression that Pamela was muddle-minded where Barnstable was concerned, but nevertheless faithful to Hornblower. Could Barnstable be equally fuzzy in his thinking? Was that why he had requested sea service when physically he was supposed to be disabled? Drake was constantly bringing Lieutenant Barnstable up in conversation and it was clear the officer had spent a good deal of time with his niece and her young ward.

Dawson scrunched his mouth in a pursed frown and thought, **Too bad. I liked the man. Older. Stable he was, like his name.** Dawson switched palms to rest his chin and drummed the fingers of his other hand. No matter what his previous feelings towards Great Britain, he was relieved to know that a niece of his was trustworthy and faithful in the bonds of matrimony.

Dawson reflected on her moods. Was it just his imagination? No, something was wrong. At times, Pamela verged on overwhelming joy and at others a deep sadness, though when she realized he knew she was unhappy, she would insist she was not, excusing the perceived emotion as fatigue or worry for the baby.

Dawson stopped drumming his fingers, leaving the four digits in mid-air. Lowering a finger at a time, he considered each player in the mystery: Pamela, Horatio, Barnstable, Drake. Who else? That Maria woman that was gone? Indefatigable and her complement were absent. The redcoat major was out, too. What was he missing? Did she doubt Hornblower's fidelity? Was he land side somewhere making her question his faithfulness? On an afternoon walk with Drake, Dawson had finally asked him, why Pamela was downhearted. Drake's honest response was that she missed Hornblower. The boy's gaze had been steady and Dawson felt he spoke the truth. But the uneasiness in Dawson's heart lingered.

There was only one other person to question and that was Horatio Hornblower himself. Where was he? When Daniel asked Pamela, she avoided a direct answer. When might he return to Gibraltar? She had no idea. Did anyone here know what his disposition was? That query seemed to upset his niece, and he changed the subject. Rather than Hornblower being out of sight and out of mind for Pamela, it was more absence makes the heart grow fonder. This Dawson knew too well, and grudgingly, he admitted he liked the young man, despite Hornblower's heritage or his occupation.

There was one last avenue to explore. Dawson hoped some information concerning Hornblower might be gleaned from the ranks of the British navy, though it was not one of his favorite institutions with which to deal. That irritation was brought home to roost with his consequential questioning of Captain Sorbo and the discovery that Barnstable had sailed.

According to Sorbo, not only was Barnstable gone, but apparently, he had occupied a position privy to that type of information Dawson desired about Hornblower. The captain's veiled delight irritated the American.

"I cannot help you, Mr. Dawson. Information about one of his majesty's officers, even a leftenant, would require that you go through formal channels and submit the request for information on Leftenant Hornblower in writing. The navy will reply to your solicitation in due course."

"The man is married to my niece," fumed Dawson.

Sorbo replied, "Then, why do you not ask her where Leftenant Hornblower is currently assigned?" Dawson's look of consternation made Sorbo add solicitously, for whatever the reason, "Have your niece inquire. She should bring the marriage record as proof of her lawful right to information. Then, we might be able to assist her directly. Is it money she needs?"

The insinuation that Pamela would be in need financially nettled Dawson and he banged his fist onto the pub table causing the patrons in attendance to cease talking and look his way

The aproned tap man approached. "Is there somethin' else ye wanted, sir?"

Dawson's cogitation was interrupted. "What?" he asked gruffly.

"Would ye be wantin' somethin' more, sir?"

Drumming both sets of fingers simultaneously, Dawson said, "Yes. I'll have a fresh beer. Thank you."

"Another 'alf pint?"

"Yes."

The man stood for a moment, but when Dawson did not drink down the rest of the glass he had, the pub keeper frowned and went for another glass.

Dawson's thoughts returned to Pamela. If she knew that he was prying into her life, it might do irreparable harm to their relationship, no matter what his good intentions.

Fate had stepped in as he stepped out of Sorbo's office and it was that for which he waited. Humbling himself to the cause was something to which Dawson was becoming quite adept. He gazed at the pub door, now and then, and was finally rewarded. In he walked, looking over the faces until his eyes met Dawson's. The old American came to his feet, smiled, and extended a hand.

"Mr. Maynard, it is good of you to come."

 

 

***

Daniel Dawson stood under the glow of the street lamp, stunned. The young midshipman had information of the most grievous kind. That Dawson would feel Hornblower's death in such confused terms suspended him in thought. All concentration was turned onto reflections and the gaping hole in his gut. Pamela had lost a third husband to death. Reeling under the reality, Dawson grabbed hold of the lamp post. He'd had mixed emotions about accepting the British officer into his family; now Hornblower was gone, leaving Pamela alone with a baby to raise. **God. This could kill her,** he thought and he stumbled to a bench on the square and sat down.

The news was so overwhelming Daniel could not think clearly. His mind was filled with images of Hornblower and Pamela and how happy the two had been in each others company. The weight of her love for Hornblower crushed Dawson with the gravity of the loss, and he saw it compounded with the death of James. Two men she loved dearly lost to death in less than the space of a year. It was too much. Dawson wiped his face with a hand and sniffed and leaned back and looked up into gathering stars. **I actually liked the young bastard. He had pluck. Damn. Damn it to hell that baby has no father.**

**Did Pellew write her a letter? Does she know? Is that what I am sensing from her? Why would she not tell me? She cannot want to continue to live on this ... this outpost. Why did she not tell me? Is it Barnstable? Was she considering him as a possible fourth husband? No. No, she is still in love with Hornblower.** Dawson hung his head and wagged it slowly. "Christ, James, our girl has lost another one. What am I going to say to her? She cannot stay here. That's plain. She needs to come home, where she belongs. She needs to come home to Dawson's Creek, to Swann-Phoenix. It will put Patricia's mind to rest, and Junie will be pleased, too."

 

 

***

 

Pamela leaned into the dough, then turned it. Grabbing some flour, she sprinkled it over the board and patted the lump. This was a task that kept her hands and mind busy and she could tuck away all worry for Horatio. In the coming days a disquietude came upon Pamela Hornblower concerning her uncle. He seemed somewhat preoccupied. For a time, she chose to ignore the change, deciding it might be the British outpost that was putting him off. Though he had mellowed and accepted Horatio as her choice, she knew the dislike for things British remained.

"Uncle," she questioned as she kneaded, "you know I have enjoyed your company these past weeks immensely. Your presence has meant much to Drake. I am well pleased that the two of you delight in each others association. Please do not take my inquiry wrong, but... how much longer will you remain in Gibraltar?"

Daniel did not raise his eyes from the potato he was peeling. "You know, it impresses me that Carden can do this single-handed."

Pamela glimpsed her uncle but attended the bread makings.

"How much longer do I intend to remain?" he paused and went on, "I do not know." He dropped the white fleshy vegetable into a bowl of water with several more. Choosing another, he let the knife bite into the tough skin at a thin angle, resulting in a ribbon of brown extending over his bulky fist. "How long do you intend to stay?" There. The question was out and Dawson felt the muscles in his jaw tighten.

"Whatever do you mean? I think once the baby is a bit older, I may move to England. We never know where he may sail, or out of what harbour his ship may be based." The point of contention was thin on her lips. "You should understand the ways of the navy without my explanation." The argument was difficult to present and rang hollow within her heart.

Daniel breathed in. Did she know or did she not? He wiped off the board, shoveling the potato peels into a bucket. As he stood, he could see Carden and Caroline tending the wash boil out back, Drake looking on. It was just as well that Pamela had a sparse number of servants. There would be that many fewer to deal with once she returned home. He peered into the nearby basket where Cap was dozing and wiped the board clean. Taking a potato, he placed it on the board and diced it, then put the pieces in a pot and started on another one.

"What if something should happen to Horatio?" asked Dawson softly. He prayed his voice would not be gruff sounding and he saw the query made her hesitate in the task at which she was engaged. "I despise bringing up such a scenario, Pamela, please know that. I want you to be happy. I know you love him deeply and I am not seeking to separate the two of you in any shape, form, or fashion. As long as he is there to be your husband, I will not interfere in your choices." Daniel forced those private thoughts into words, not an easy task, but he had to be sure she understood his position.

Taking some oil onto her fingers, Pamela spread it over the iron bread pans. Her thoughts had turned towards home since the shock of Horatio's possible death had numbed. Passing the Christmas season here instead of at Swann-Phoenix had been hard, but Drake and her good friends had been a solace, along with Horatio's letters. She sliced the dough in half and placed the two parts into the pans. Patricia's family would have come to stay for the yuletide celebrations at the North Carolina residence, she considered, as she smoothed oil over the dough lumps, then covered them with damp towels. America seemed such a long, long way away, almost a lifetime. Turning, she sat the bread pans on the window sill not far from the warm iron stove and observed Drake dodging about the back garden. He and Victoria, Patricia's oldest girl, would be about the same age. Dipping a scoop into a sack, she started the process over again and measured flour into a bowl.

"Thank you, Uncle," was all she replied.

Daniel did not press the point, and he said no more on the subject.

 

***

 

Two days later, it was bright with sunshine and Dawson and Drake decided to take a walk down to the south beach, seeking what shellfish they might find. Daniel saw this as an opportunity. The subject had to be broached and Drake was the safest to probe.

"Drake," started Dawson, "I know about Horatio."

Drake stopped and looked up into Daniel's visage, then he kicked at a half buried stone and walked on.

"You know it, too, boy, do you not?"

Drake hung his head low. "He will come back," said the boy at last.

"And if he does not? How long does she intend to wait?" asked Dawson, struggling to hide the irritation in his voice. This was the crux. Pamela did not believe Hornblower was dead.

"Forever, I should say," replied Drake wistfully, thinking as soon as he was old enough, he would marry her if Horatio had not returned by then.

"Forever is a long time," commented Dawson.

"It is," agreed Drake, "But when you make a promise, you should keep it. Who told you, sir?"

"Someone you do not know."

"Then,... it was not Mr. Barnstable?"

"Mr. Barnstable? No. Did you know that he has gone back to sea?"

Drake halted. He lifted a flushed countenance and stared at the older man. "He... he has a bad knee."

"I thought so, too, son, but he is gone."

Drake quietly considered the news. "It is a puzzle. He did not say good-bye... at least not a final good-bye," commented Drake dejectedly. "His knee is bad unless he is very careful with it. The ship will bedevil it sorely, I fear."

This little boy was the only puzzle Dawson knew. Most of the time Drake exceeded in understanding for his years. His true age appeared only when he was most joyful and carefree, at least to Dawson's knowledge.

The boy stepped over to an outcropping of stone and sat down. "I need to rest a few minutes," he said wiping his sleeve over his face.

Dawson observed the plants nearby, some tinged with new growth and some with bare branches from winter. Finally, he rested his eyes on the great rock, following the long incline to the top peak.

"Uncle Dawson, I am feeling rather tired. Would you mind if we went home, sir?" asked Drake, shivering.

"As you wish, son." Dawson looked at the boy closely. "Drake, have you got a fever, lad?" Kneeling, Dawson pulled the glove from his hand and pushed Drake's blonde hair off his forehead. "You are warm, Robin. Are you feeling ill?"

"Just tired, sir, and cold."

Dawson embraced him, the limp feeling of the boy's muscles obvious, then he rose with Drake in his arms and walked quickly back towards town.

 

***

That evening, Pamela arrived at the King and Crown and knocked frantically on her uncle's door.

"Pamela," exclaimed Dawson as he moved to allow entry.

"I came as soon as I could. Where is he? What has happened?" She pulled off her gloves, bonnet, and cloak, tossing them onto a stuffed chair, as she walked into the separate bed chamber. "Drake?" she whispered.

She sat on the edge of the bed and studied the ruddy complexion. He was small, nearly disappearing amongst the pillows, sheets, and blankets of the double sized bed.

"Tell me uncle," she whispered as she ran cool fingertips over the heated brow, "what has been done for him?"

Dawson decided it best to calm her fears first, if they could be calmed. He explained how Drake had complained of being tired on their walk when he discovered the boy had a fever, that he brought him here to protect the baby from exposure to whatever Drake might have. He had not been able to locate a physician, but the local apothecary had prescribed an herbal tea for the boy. He was about to wake Robin to take another cup of the brew.

Pamela held Drake's hand and with the other she smoothed the damp hair off the child's forehead. "Oh my darling, my darling boy!" she whispered, kissing the back of his hand. She turned to Dawson. "You could not find a physician?"

"No, Pamela."

She released Drake's hand and walked into the sitting room, paced, and stopped. "I will go to Mr. Barnstable. If there is not a physician, he might know of a reliable doctor."

"Mr. Barnstable is gone," informed Dawson quietly.

Pamela looked upon him in disbelief and shook her head. "He wouldn't... " She halted and shook her head again. Barth would not leave without telling her good-bye, would he? She closed her eyes and saw him there in the middle of the lane. That is what he had left unsaid ... she had sensed he wanted to tell her something. "No," she whispered disheartened. "Where is he?"

"He went back to sea service, my dear," said Dawson gently. Was she in love with Barnstable? It was difficult to tell with Pamela. She always held everyone she cared for close to her heart. He realized Drake's illness would upset her, but what more could he do than he had done?

She sat down. Barth gone, Drake sick, Horatio... Horatio. Now was not the time to break down, and in truth, she sorely wanted to scream and rage at this turn of events, but Drake was ill. "Then, ..." her brow was wrinkled in thought, who? Who could they ask? "The inn can suggest no one?"

"The physician they knew went back to England. They were the ones that suggested the apothecary."

"Did he come here to see Drake?"

"Of course, he did, Pamela. Would I have it any other way?"

"And what did he say?"

"That the boy has a fever. There are no signs of something worse. He gave me some herbs to brew in a tea. He said it would take at least a day to know if they would do the trick, but he thought they would. He offered to bleed the boy, but I said no. So, he suggested cooling him with damp toweling."

Pamela gripped Daniel's arm. "Thank you, Uncle. I have never believed in bleeding. I wish Dr. Sebastian were here. I have some herbs at home he prescribed for me."

"Pamela, let us try what the apothecary has given first. The man seemed to know of what he spoke."

Pamela let go of Dawson's arm dejectedly and paced.

Dawson stood in her path. "How did you get here, child?"

"Walked, uncle."

"Who is taking care of Captain?"

"Caroline had not yet left for home, I asked her to stay with him until... until ... Uncle! He is going to be all right, is he not? Not Drake. Not Drake, too!"

Dawson embraced her silently and had the same thought. Not Drake, too. He had lost a brother and, admittedly, the loss of Hornblower had been heavy on his heart.

"Not Drake, too," she whispered.

"I will do my best with the boy, Pamela. I want you to go home. You have Captain to look after."

"Why am I always forced to choose?" asked Pamela. "I do not want to leave him, but I cannot abandon Captain either. At least, let me wake him so he may know I was here."

Her quick steps into the bed chamber were accented by the rustle of the rose coloured dress she wore. She fell on her knees beside the bed.

"Drake?" She stroked his temple, then took a damp towel and tapped it over the heated brow and cheeks. "Drake, darling? Pamela is here, my love, my man." She touched his lips with the cloth. "Drake. Please, darling. Do not leave me, too." She bowed her head onto the mattress and spoke muffled words, "Do not leave me, Drake."

A small hand touched her cheek and she lifted her head immediately and smiled.

"Drake. Robin," she said softly smiling.

The little palm wiped over her cheek. "Miss Pamela," he whispered weakly.

"My dear! My dear boy!" she said quietly, kissing his palm.

"I'll be all right. I won't leave you. I won't..."

A maid arrived in the room with a cup of the brewed tea and Dawson urged Pamela away. After settling her in the sitting room chair, he returned to check on Robin.

Pamela held out a hand and watched it tremble, then clutched the two together over her heart. Daniel emerged from the bedroom.

"She is going to give him the tea while I see to getting you a carriage," Daniel said.

"But..." she started to protest.

"Your place is with the baby. I will take care of Drake."

"But, Uncle..."

"You cannot be two places at once. You are Captain's only source of sustenance and Drake would not want you putting yourself or him in jeopardy, would he?" asked Dawson.

She replied with a shake of her head.

"That's my girl. That's James's girl. You have always had a good head on your shoulders, Pamela, though sometimes ... well, that doesn't matter anymore," finished Dawson. "Let me fetch my coat to see you out."

Pamela tied the bonnet strings, pulled on the gloves, and adjusted the cloak as her uncle draped it over her shoulders.

"Thank you, Uncle."

Dawson strode to open the door and he and Pamela departed quietly. The hotel hallway held that padded silence that only a thick carpeted corridor could command.

As they descended the stairs, Pamela asked, "How did you know about Mr. Barnstable?"

"Oh... I had a question,... about port things, but he was gone. I did not get to speak to him," informed Dawson. **It was not Barnstable that told me about Horatio, if that is what you are wondering,** he thought.

Pamela snatched a peek at Uncle Daniel. She could not ask him, but she was almost certain, he knew. She was not ready to speak of it with him, not ready to defend her decision to wait. How long would she wait? Wait for the dead to return? Barth was gone. Barnstable had been her last bastion of stability. They were all gone... Dr. Blakeney, Reverend Godwin,... Amelia, Maria... Barth... and.... **Where are you, Maria? And Consuella? Barth. Barth, how could you leave and not tell me? Oh!** she thought and nearly stumbled on the stair.

"Pamela? Careful, my girl!"

Dawson grabbed her about the waist, but she collapsed onto the step, covered her mouth and turned away. He pulled her around to lean against him.

"You've born too much tragedy, child, too much tragedy."

They were not far enough down the stairs to be observed. The inn was quiet for the early hour before dinner.

"Pamela... you know it is my dearest wish that you... that you would come home. Patricia would love to see that boy of yours... her boy isn't much older than Captain. Captain should meet his cousins... his aunt and his uncle. How is he ever to know them if you stay here? And, there's Junie. She goes into a rant every time you come up in conversation, wanting to know why I left you here."

"Dear Junie," said Pamela, squeezing Daniel's hand. Thoughts of home dried her tears. She would like to see her sister and her nieces and nephews. She would love to show Cap off to all of them, to show Patricia the pictures of Horatio so she could see what a fine looking man he was. Was? **No,** she thought, **No.** "Uncle...?" she hesitated, "you know?"

He nodded and pressed her head against his chest and kissed her forehead. "I wish to high heaven it were not so. But on all I hold holy, on all I hold dear, I swear to you, Pamela, if I could trade places with him, I would." His grip around her tightened. "Believe me, girl. I know what you've been through. When I learned of ... his loss, I was stunned, truly stunned."

"He promised he would come back," she whispered.

"He would if he could, I am sure. I liked Hornblower, even though he was British."

Pamela chuckled sadly, listening to her uncle confess affection for Horatio, when she knew, in general, he despised her husband's countrymen, but the laughter soon turned to agony and she turned into his chest.

Daniel had read the report Pellew wrote and he saw no possibility for survival. The storm conditions, the water temperatures, no one could survive such an ordeal. Hornblower was dead, lost at sea.

"What have I done, uncle? What have I done that every man I love or care for is wrenched from me? What have I done to deserve this?"

"The Lord does not give us more than we can bear, child. I guess He must know how strong you are."

"I do not want to be strong, Uncle."

"I know, child, I know."

At last, things were out in the open for both of them. Daniel knew about Horatio, and Pamela knew the logical choice was to go back to America. Living in Gibraltar had become as empty and as hollow as the great limestone rock itself, riddled with caves and passageways. There was no one for her here. No one.

But what if Horatio were alive? Did not Archie think so? All the way home in the carriage her mind ran in the tight circle of was he or was he not coming back? If he came back and found her gone, what would he think? If only Maria were here, could she not leave word for him with Maria? Or, could she not go home to America for a while and then return? But she knew the townhouse owners were coming back in June. She would have to find somewhere else to live. Could she take Captain on two long sea voyages, home and then back to Gibraltar? What would become of Carden? And Drake? What would she do about Drake? Would he want to come with her to America? She could not think of him in danger aboard a fighting warship. Drake had to get better. He was all she had left... besides Cap.

She leaned onto the padded leather arm of the carriage seat. "Horatio. Horatio, my love. What am I to do? I will never marry again. Never. I will wait for you. I will." She searched for a solution. "I will write you. Yes. I will write and tell you where I am. Surely the letters will find you if you are alive... and you will come for us. You will find us. Where else would we go? You know it would be England or America. If only I knew your father better, but ... you said he was not well. I cannot impose on him, Cap and I. That is what I will do. I will write you ... and ... Cap and I will wait for you. Time and tide will not keep us from you. I will wait for you. I love you, Horatio. Please come for us. Please come, my darling. Please come."