An American Encounter, Part Three
by Skihee

Ch 34 Adventure and Adversity


It had been some time since Hornblower set sail in the small French built boat. The deep keel board made her swift upon the surface, preventing side slippage, but no matter how fast she might flit along the coast, the weather was daunting. Attempting to make better time out away from the lee shore had brought high swells and Hornblower was perpetually damp and cold.

The sea was rolling, and more than one wave had broken over the bow bringing the necessity of tacking back towards shore to avoid the influx of water. Bailing out the bottom of the boat was tiring and he shivered from the temperature and from exhaustion. Some of his food stores were ruined by the briny sea and he rationed what remained. Eating Felicia would be the last thing he would do. He turned the prow eastward back into the relative safety of the coastal waters and determined a point just off shore to work the wind and the water to his greatest advantage, but it was slow going.

Not having a compass, Hornblower kept the eastern shore in sight and to larboard as a navigational tool. But, his greatest fear was realized, that of nighttime sailing and possibly losing his way.

Many of the first few nights at sea had been clear and he kept the North Star to his back, but it only took one dark night to put him off course. He had wakened to find no sign of land in any direction. His first thought was the boat could be headed to the mid-Atlantic, riding the prevailing circular current. The time spent under Bowles' tutelage and days of examining Indefatigable's charts provided a memory of the North Atlantic gyre which flowed from the Straits of Florida, up the east coast of North America, across to Western Europe, down along the Iberian Peninsula, and back across to North America. It was this bottom turn he feared. The current rotated westward along the coast of Portugal and it could propel him towards the Madeira Islands, entirely the wrong direction. He considered being forced to America by the current a dry and wry joke of fate.

With that in mind, the overcast sky giving him no clues to direction, he decided to reef sail and wait, hoping for clear weather, night or day, that he might use what he knew of the stars and the time of year, if the sun did appear. This was worse than being becalmed to Hornblower's thinking since there was a wind and if only he knew from what direction it blew he could use it to his advantage. At the close of day, the sun had pierced through the dark clouds, low on the horizon. Hornblower scrambled to unleash the canvas and get the boat headed eastward.

He held the course through the darkness until he felt the wind shift, and fearing he could steer wrongly, gave up sailing and lowered the canvas. Adrift and at the mercy of the great ocean, he lit the boat's lantern.

By removing the bench tops, Hornblower found he could create a dry platform, above the boat's inevitable slosh, wide enough for him to sit, and provide standing space for Felicia. Taking the spare sail cloth, he raised the boom slightly and tented it over. One of the blankets he positioned across the aft end, and forward, he pulled the sail cloth together, tying the sail's earrings.

"Well, Felicia. What do you think about this, eh? We have a roof over our heads."

He opened the door of the chicken crate and the hen bobbed her head erratically as chickens do and emerged onto the dry wood. Hornblower placed a handful of seed on the planking and watched the hen eat.

He had thought of creating the shelter before, but he did not as long as the sky was clear and he could navigate. There was nothing to be done this night and he sought to provide comfort for himself and his female companion. It was positively extravagant, and tonight, he would have a hot meal of fried eggs. Felicia had produced three very nice sized eggs, and he intended to cook them over the lantern, thus giving the fuel and fire triple duty-- light, heat, and a stove. Having already bashed the lantern's top flat, he sat the iron pot on top and waited for it to heat. He cupped his hands around the glass sides of the lamp and closed his eyes to focus on the warmth meeting his hands. His body shivered and he draped the other blanket around his shoulders and hovered over the lantern. The heat rose and warmed his face.

"Thank you, Felicia, for the dinner." He proceeded to break the eggs into the pot. Using the tin which held the striker and flint, he angled its shiny bottom to reflect light into the pot to watch the eggs cook. The edges slowly solidified into white and the yellows became moderately firm. He munched on a stale roll as he waited, dropping some of the dry crust onto the egg tops and some on the plank near the hen. The leather flagon of wine he lifted to his lips and drank deeply, the spirit radiating heat through his core.

He poured some into the bottom of a metal cup and placed it near the hen. She canted her head one way and then another and then tasted the dark liquid, shaking her head jerkily and making Hornblower laugh. He ate the eggs, drank the wine, and finished the bread. Other than when the sun had shone, this was the warmest he had been since leaving land.

"This is quite cozy, isn't it, Felicia?" He downed more of the wine and then shifted on the planks, curving his body around the lantern into a prone position. He grabbed the sack that contained the sparse remainder of the drying rolls and used it for a pillow, then, turned the wick low and switched places with the lamp and the chicken so she nestled next to him. He gazed at the lantern wick for some time thinking he should put out the light and save the fuel. **Just a few moments more in the lavish warmth,** he thought.

He woke the next morning with a start, sending Felicia clucking excitedly with wings flapping.

"Damn." He turned the wick down to douse the flame. At least he had lowered the wick before falling asleep. He picked up the lantern and felt its weight and frowned, then pulled the canvas back, allowing his head to emerge. The good news was, the sun was shining and still low enough on the horizon to point the way. "Thank you, God. Have I been forgetting to say it enough? Rise and shine, Felicia. It's time we were away."

He stuffed the spare canvas in the bow and replaced the board seat at the tiller. Hoisting the sail and securing the halyard, he pushed the boom to catch the wind. With some final adjustment to get the maximum press of sail, he sat down and pondered the folly of extravagant living at sea, but he felt rested and restored.

The boom line secure, he completed straightening the equipment. He washed the iron pot and struggled with the spare canvas, nearly falling out of the boat, finally getting it folded and properly stowed. Felicia had gone back into her crate and he draped a blanket on one side to block the wind. He could not be doing more than three knots and he wondered how much the current was setting him back.

It was two days before he saw land again.

The last night away from the coast was frigid and prevented sleep with the constant quivering of his body, even though he was wrapped in the extra sailcloth and held Felicia for mutual warmth. He refused to light the lantern again until land was in sight.

The sun of the next day was soothing. The recurring drop of his head woke him from drowsing sleep, until he succumbed to weariness completely.

A soft spray wet his cheek, once, and then again. In half sleep, he reveled in the feel of the sun heating his body and part of him resisted waking until the crash of breakers demanded its way into conscious hearing. Jerking awake, he yanked his arms free of the heavy canvas and blankets, leaned on the tiller and shifted the boom, allowing the wind to press the craft back out to sea. Safely away from the coast, he sighed and considered his state of affairs. He wiped a raw hand down his bearded face and winced as he extended one leg and then the other, the muscles stiff from inactivity.

Hornblower heard the soft clucking emitted by the hen from beneath the heavy covers. Peering inside, he carefully lifted Felicia out and sat her on a bench.

"There you are. We need a break, Felicia. There is no quarter-deck to pace and no galley stove to stand beside." From a pocket he pulled a folded paper, a tracing he made of the Iberian Peninsula from the atlas in the Franciscans' library. There was not much detail, but he had marked what rivers were charted that met the coastal sea. If he could locate one, he would sail in and find a mooring, replace water supplies, and perhaps ... perhaps what? Food? Shelter? Wash and dry his clothes only to get them wet again? He opened the palm of his right hand and stared at the gash across it where the rope of the boom had rubbed it raw.

He turned his head to stare at the notches on the gunwale. Twelve. They had been sailing for twelve days and he had no idea where they were. He sat up and bent forward to stretch the muscles in his back, then arched it the other way. Groaning, he counted the days since he awakened to who he was till when he set sail. Six. **Six plus twelve, eighteen,** he thought, **leap year, it is... March eleventh.** The calculation from the wedding date made it simple. Thought ceased as the fact that he was an actual father was probably true. It had to be true. No other consideration could be allowed. He covered his face with both hands. "Forgive me, Pamela, for not being there. I tried. I truly tried." He sighed and stared at the hen, the mast, the sea, the coast. "I'm coming, my love. Trust me. I'm coming." He turned the boat towards land, coming in close to search for an inlet. The angle of the afternoon sun he thought was slightly less than when he left Emi's village. Or maybe he was just fooling himself into thinking it was a touch warmer. Of course, that could change overnight, he knew full well.

Late that afternoon, he found an opening that led inland. The meager fortifications he passed took no notice. No one was attacking Portugal from the sea and he certainly did not appear threatening. As night fell the temperature was chill and he berated the earlier thoughts of warmth, but the sky was brilliant with star shine.

The river's shore increased with foliage as he traveled upriver, the incoming tide and the spare breeze pressed him forward. Fairly certain this was the southern part of Portugal, he stood up and tried to peer over the shadowy winter-dead brush and trees. He put the tiller hard over and turned the bow of the boat into shore, lowering the canvas and gliding with inertia. Finding an indentation in the river's edge, he leaped stiffly towards the ground, it jarring the legs unused to terra firma. He tugged the boat forward, then secured the bowline on a nearby tree. With the dirk, he hacked limbs and brush to hide the vessel. Grabbing the sack that held the monk's robe, he tugged the garment over his own clothing and pulled the hood over his head. His physique looked massive with the great coat covered over. Hesitating but a moment, he snatched up Felicia's crate and the bag containing the last two pieces of stale bread. He placed the chicken's coop under a bush, gave her some feed and water from the river, then covered her with a blanket.

"I'll be back," he whispered as he slung the bread bag over his shoulder. He gazed at the stars and the gloomy foliage around him. "Damn." Dropping the bag to the ground, he lifted the skirt of the layered clothing and pulled out the dirk. He returned to the boat and shoved the limbs to the side. Yanking the corner of the folded sail cloth, he pierced it with the dirk and sliced off a good size portion, then ripped it into strips. Shoving the strips into the robe's pocket, he picked up the bread bag. With a sigh, he pushed his way through the undergrowth, mentally counting his steps. It was good to stretch his legs in as broad a step as the flora would allow, though somewhat painful. When he could not feel the breeze, he stopped to find a low limb and tied one of the white bits of cloth to it where it would not be overly visible.

Hornblower was about to decide the night trek was an unsound decision when the brush opened onto a clearing. There was a narrow path leading off to the left, the star shine reflected off the grey sandy soil. He glanced around for something to mark his trail from the river's edge. Finding nothing, he quickly broke a limb on the nearest foliage and tied a white strip near the base. Cupping both hands over his mouth he blew warm air into them and strode to the path wondering how far he would walk before he found a sign of civilization. **God? Are you with me? If so, a warm place to rest would be most welcome.**

He lifted his nose to the air. Food. Someone was cooking food. He picked up the pace. The smell of wood smoke came wafting on the air. Up one rise, down, up another, and the grounds opened to reveal a small stucco cottage with out buildings. A sheep's baa sounded, then a dog barked. Hornblower froze, then quickly reached into his bag and broke off a piece of stale bread. A bounding shape ran at him barking loudly. Hornblower knelt on one knee and carefully extended a hand, opening it slowly to reveal the dry crust.

The dog pulled to a stop, no more than eight feet away, canted its head and snorted.

"Come. I mean no harm. Would you trade a bite of bread for an audience with your master?" Hornblower remained still and waited.

The door of the cottage opened and a male voice called out in Portuguese.

Hornblower felt his spirit sink. The language barrier. Should he answer in English or try to communicate in Spanish, or in French? "Vá com Deus," he said loudly, rising. Where had that come from, he questioned himself? **I know no other Portuguese.**

The back lit figure emerged with a lamp to hand and lifted it high, bringing the smell of hot food circling about him. The old man was stooped and white-headed with a great droopy mustache to match; his clothing was common garb. He squinted at Hornblower and said something to the dog who backed from Hornblower to his owner's side.

"Perdóname," Hornblower said in Spanish. "Yo no hablo portugués." When the man said nothing, Hornblower put the meager crust of bread offered to the dog back into the bag.

The man stepped closer and inspected Hornblower, saying something in the tongue of the land.

Hornblower recognized the word for God and repeated it. "Deus," then smiled weakly.

The man peered at him, then took his arm and pulled him towards the house, speaking again. He motioned for his dog to return to its place, then pushed Hornblower into the hut and shut the door behind them.

Hornblower's host put down the lamp onto the wooden dining table central in the small space and stared at him for moments, making him feel self conscious. Hornblower wondered how he must look. He knew he was thinner as he had tightened the back strings on his trousers just that morning, but the mass of clothing he wore disguised his waning body. The room was marvelously warm and he felt his muscles desire to give way. He wavered and extended a hand to the table to catch himself and the man grabbed hold of him as well, easing him down onto one of the two wooden chairs.

The hut reminded him of old Emi's place, though this was only one room. He noted the cot at the back. Hooks on the wall held a coat, shirts, trousers, and a hat. Storage barrels were shoved beneath a narrow table set with a basket of onions and some containers of varying shapes. A large knife lay beside a cutting board and a string of garlic hung on the wall. A few additional wooden serving dishes were stacked on top of one another.

The hearth was made of river stones. The fire was well stoked and an iron pot hung from metal work suspending it over the flames. The smoke had blackened the white-washed stucco wall above it. It was from this location the pleasurable aroma of hot and hearty smelling food filled the enclosed space. Just inhaling the fumes of the food fed Hornblower somewhat.

The man was speaking in Portuguese again and it frustrated Hornblower. "I do not speak Portuguese," he whispered as he lowered his head onto his arm and closed his eyes. The warmth of the room was overtaking him quickly. He had not realized just how worn out he was, and not having walked for nearly two weeks, the trek had taken a toll on his energies. He felt the hood pulled away from his head.

"Why did ye not say ye were English to begin with?" asked the man slowly and clearly. "What's an English monk doin' in Portugal?"

Hornblower half raised and blinked at what he thought he heard. Had the man spoken to him in English or was he hallucinating? What was his strange accent?

"Are ye hungry?" the man asked. "Ye look hungry." He took a bowl from a shelf, bent over the pot hung over the fire and dipped into it, filling the container. Next, he grabbed a spoon. He sat the bowl on the table and pushed it towards Hornblower who sat up and stared at the food. "Eat. Eat," the man repeated.

Hornblower pulled the dish closer. The smell and warmth the food radiated overcame his senses. "Thank you. Thank you, Lord, for the food." Plunging the spoon into the dense meaty stew, he ate. Lamb, potatoes, carrots and some other vegetable he was not sure of, in a thick brown gravy, but it tasted marvelous.

He watched the man pick up the bread bag, squeeze it down to the paltry oval shapes in the bottom, then pull out one of the stale rolls. Astonished, the man gave a shake of his head. Standing, he poured a white liquid into a cup and sat it before Hornblower.

"Thank you, sir," said Hornblower, lifting the cup and ascertaining the drink was milk. He drank it to the bottom, sat the cup down, and wiped his lips and mustache with the back of his hand. "You are very kind."

"Yer hand needs bandaging," he replied and filled the cup with milk once more, took the bowl and filled it half full of another dishing of lamb stew. If it had been as long a time since the monk had eaten as his appearance suggested, it would not be good for him to overeat.

Hornblower felt his eyelids growing heavy, but set to the stew until the spoon scraped the bottom, then drained the cup.

"More?" asked the man.

Hornblower smiled. "I fear I am too weary to eat more. I know I shall regret it, sir, but, no, thank you." Hornblower roused himself and rose to his feet. "Pray, sir, might I do some work to gain a supply of food from you? Or, I have a chicken. She is a good layer. Might I trade her for some supplies?"

"Sit down, young un, before ye fall," said the kindly old Portuguese.

"I must not or I may not... be able to stand again." He felt himself swaying like he was on the deck of the Indy in a whirl. He grabbed his forehead. "Thank you for the food. Perhaps..." he took a step towards the door, "perhaps, I could..."

The man caught him before he fully collapsed onto the floor and managed to get him back into the chair, resting the upper part of Hornblower's body upon the table.

"I'll gi ya my food, but not me bed." With a sigh, the old man pulled two sheep skins off his cot and lay them out on the floor parallel to the fireplace. "Come on, laddie." He grabbed Hornblower about the torso and felt the clothing mash in towards the skinny body of his guest. He lowered Hornblower back onto the chair, then bent and lifted the robe, the coat, and saw the trousers. With a knit brow, he got Hornblower to stand. He proceeded to remove the robe, the greatcoat, the oversized wool sweater off him until only one set of clothing remained.

"Damn me," whispered the old man, recognizing the uniform of the British navy. He pulled the dirk from its scabbard and tilting it to the light read, "Leftenant Horatio Hornblower." He twisted his mouth. "You're no monk, laddie." He noted the damp condition of the clothes and originally intending to remove those outer layers, decided to strip Hornblower to his skin. He lay Hornblower onto the sheep skins as naked as the day he was born.

"Yer worn out, bucko, and starving, too, from the looks of ye."

The man lifted each charm on the necklace about Hornblower's neck. Carefully, he undid the clasp of the chain. The cross he tossed and rested in his palm. With pudgy aging fingers he lifted the ring close to his eyes and squinted at the two golden dolphins and angled it to read the inscription. "P and H 2nd May 1799." He looked back at the sleeping guest. "I reckon the H is you, Horatio Hornblower. What's the P for? Penelope? Patricia? Polly? Hm," he commented wryly. He dropped the necklace into a cup and set it on the mantel.

With a sigh, he inventoried the chaffed skin, raising a brow at the scars he found. With a moan at having to move his ancient bones, he retrieved a jar and tilted it to wet his finger with the oil it contained, then gently smoothed it over the reddened areas on Hornblower's neck, irritated by the chain and damp clothing. He lifted Hornblower's left arm and considered what might have caused the reddened area on the underside of the upper arm and lower forearm just above the wrist. The outer side of the left thigh received a soothing coating of oil, and finally, both feet. The old man slipped thick wool socks onto them, too. He covered Hornblower with a thin soft blanket, then a heavier wool one. He wound some of his clothing into a ball around his forearm and placed it beneath Hornblower's head for a pillow. At last, each raw palm was slathered with a thick salve and wrapped and tied with strips of muslin toweling.

"I never knew a British officer to sport a beard before," he scratched his chin, "nor wear monk's robes for that matter. What are ye on about, laddie?" He pondered the sleeping young man. "I guess that'll be answered tomorrow."

He laid out Hornblower's clothes on the chairs, table, and hooks so they might dry somewhat. Quickly rinsing the bowls, spoons, and cups, he poked at the fire and set another couple of logs to the flames. Hornblower had not moved. The man blew out the wick on the lamp and went to his bed. Grabbing a box from beneath it, he pulled out two more sheep skins. He slipped beneath the blanket covered over by them and closed his eyes. "Bless me... " he halted and began again, "Bless us, Lord, and hear me pray, keep us safe by night and day, if death should call, remember me, and bring me nigh, my soul to thee."

 

Hornblower lay on his stomach, his arms wrapped around the ball of clothing. Cold air swirled over the bare arms and he pulled them beneath the covers and returned to sleep. Hours later, he opened his eyes and stared at the wooden legs of a table and chairs.

"Pamela," he mumbled, then, closed his eyes and slept again.

In dreams, he saw her open, winning smile and heard her gay laughter as she hung onto the shrouds. Love from her deep brown eyes emanated in waves toward him and she was in his arms. So soft. To touch her silken body. So so soft. From fully clothed on the quarter-deck to a naked embrace in the cabin on Dolphin, their marriage chamber. The pleasant agony on her countenance made him moan and his chest heave, his head whirled with the fiery release. Echoing words sounded in his head. NO! Archie's twisted features and reaching hand. The wooden hull raised above his head. He was drowning in freezing waters. Ropes wrapped his legs and he kicked at them. He gasped and bolted upright. The sound of water in his ears disappeared into silence. His back was cold and he tried to comprehend his surroundings. He was alone, in the Portuguese man's house, the Portuguese man that spoke English. Did he speak English, or had that been a dream, too? Hornblower lay back down and pulled the covers over his nakedness, turning to the failing fire. Seeing a log pile to the side of the hearth, he raised up and grabbed one, placing it on the low embers. His eyelids grew heavy. He was hungry, but the weariness of his body kept him prone. Perhaps the old man would return soon, and he passed into sleep, watching the small flame nibble at the bark of the new log.

He woke to the sound of mixing. Yes, it was mixing. Someone was stirring something rapidly.

"Are ye plannin' to sleep the rest o' yer life away?" came the English words.

Hornblower opened his eyes with a jerk. Was that the remains of a dream he heard?

"I'm making biscuits."

Hornblower turned over onto his back and stared up at the man standing at the narrow table. He looked around the room.

"You do speak English," stated Hornblower. "I thought I dreamt it," he said softly. "Did you undress me?"

"Well, it warn't yer mum that did it, laddie."

Hornblower stared at the bandages tied around each palm, then searched his neck. The raw skin was rough and drying and tender to the touch. "My ring!"

"It's in that cup on the mantel, but I wouldn't recommend puttin' it on again just yet. Give your skin a chance to heal is my advice."

Hornblower tried to reach the cup from a sitting position but could not. Gathering the blanket about him, his long loose hair draping his shoulders, he stood and looked into the cup, and poured the necklace into the bandaged palm, then clutched it despite the swollen tissues.

"Thank you, sir," he said meekly, having thought the worst immediately.

"That P is for Pamela?"

Hornblower regarded him curiously.

"Ye've been talkin' about her in yer sleep. She yer wife?"

Hornblower pondered the man's words, questions entering his mind rapidly. What had he said in the dreams? How long had he slept? Where was he? How much farther to Gibraltar? Did the man know? Who was he? And, the accent, it sounded to be Scottish.

"Yes. Pamela is my wife."

"Thought so." He dumped the dough onto a floured board with a poof and patted it. "Hungry, Mr. Hornblower?"

Horatio was startled for a moment and then saw his dirk laying on the table. "Yes, sir," he answered meekly again. "You have me at a disadvantage. You know my name, but I do not know yours. You are Scottish, are you not?"

The man smiled and glanced Hornblower's way. "I've not lost me brogue completely in all these long years, Portyguese and all. Aye, I'm a Scot. Name's Sean Hagerty."

"Thank you, Mr. Hagerty, for your kindness."

"Sit down there. Underneath that bowl you'll find some bacon and bread cakes from breakfast. I thought ye would have woke up this morning and I cooked extra for ye."

Hornblower sat and lifted the dish. It was all he could do to keep from stuffing it all into his mouth at one time. He devoured the three pieces of thick red meat and completed the second patty of bread. Hagerty sat a cup of milk before him and Hornblower drained it.

"Thank you for your generosity, sir."

"Are ye run?"

Hornblower wiped his mouth with the palm of his hand and looked around the room for his clothes.

"No, sir. Not run. You know the navy?"

"Aye, I know it. Doesn't change, does it?"

Hornblower eyed him and wondered how a Scot came to live in the wilderness of Portugal.

"May I ask where my clothes are?"

"Here. Put this on." He tossed Hornblower a long night shirt. "They're still wet. When ye didn't wake up yesterday, I went ahead and rinsed the salt out of em today. Yer all chaffed up from the salt. I put some oil on the worst places and salve on yer hands."

Hornblower looked at the back of his left arm and realized he was still clutching the necklace in his left hand. He opened it and gently let the jewelry fall onto the table. As he pulled the gown down over his head, he asked, "How long have I been sleeping?"

"Two days. Tonight would make two days."

"Felicia!"

"Who?"

"Felicia! I must go to her!"

"Who's Felicia?"

"My chicken. I left her near the..." Hornblower ceased speaking.

Sean chuckled. "Your chicken! You're worried about a chicken?"

"She belonged to someone... a friend, a dear friend. She will starve. I must..."

"Avast, laddie. I found yer chicken this morning, or rather Gavin did when I was down rinsin' yer clothes. She's fine. I put her in the coop with my hens."

"Who... who is Gavin?"

"You met Gavin the night you arrived. My sheep dog. He sniffed her out right away."

"You did not harm her?"

"No." He shoved Hornblower's bedding over and set the flat iron pan on the fire stand. Some of the same oil he used on Hornblower he poured into the griddle. "No, yer chicken seemed to be right happy, and she ate her fill and settled onto a nest of hay."

"I've been asleep for two days?" He ran his fingers through his hair. "Would you give me some supplies in exchange for Felicia?" he asked.

The old Scot stared at him a moment. He carried two cut-outs of dough and dropped them into the oil, then another two, until the pan was full of biscuit rounds.

"Forgive me," said Hornblower. "You have already fed me and given me shelter. Is there some work I could do to possibly earn a pan of those biscuits to take with me? Or, would you accept my dirk as payment?"

"You should drink some more milk Beef up. Yer too skinny, laddie."

"Please, sir." He ran his hand over his hair again, anxious to be off. Two days? He had slept two days? He stood and paced and stared at the socks covering his feet.

"I do not get much company. Why do ye not tell me just what a British navy man is doing wearing the robe of a Franciscan monk and sailin' a French marked cutter?" He chuckled, "With a chicken as a passenger.... and, who by his own confession, is not run. Come on, Mr. Hornblower, there has to be story behind all this. I could use a good yarn. What was the name of yer ship? Yer Captain? I know who Pamela is. Who is Archie?"

Hornblower stared and wondered just how much had he spoken in his sleep and hoped he did not talk in his sleep all the time.

"Ye need not fear telling me. I've no one to tell or to turn ye in, if that is what is worryin' ye." The Scot watched the officer consider. "I'll give ye a pan of biscuit. Yer clothes are wet and it is near nightfall. Come on, sit down and spin me a tale." He turned to the fire and swung the pot back over the fire and shifted the pan stand over a bit, giving it a shake. "I've got a nice little chicken in the pot with some rice." He swiveled and looked over his shoulder. "It isn't yer Felicia. Bring that chair over nearer the fire and turn these bread cakes for me. I'll bring yer clothes in so they'll dry quicker."

Hornblower did as bid and poked at the biscuit, lifting one to check the amount of brown occurring on the underside. Hagerty returned with a puff of cold wind behind him and tossed the mound of wet clothing onto the dining table with an oof.

"Them cakes all right?" asked Hagerty, hammering nails into the wall and attaching the clothes.

"Yes. They are fine, sir."

"Sir. Hoo ha!" Hagerty turned and grinned. "Yer a polite one. How about it? What ship were ye on?"

"Indefatigable. Indefatigable was my... is my ship," said Hornblower thoughtfully. Was she still afloat? Had she gone on to Gibraltar?

Hornblower watched the man hang his clothes all around the walls of the small room. Gently he turned each bread cake over as requested, and told the long tale of how he came to be there and sought answers to his own questions concerning where he was and how far to Gib. He stirred the pot of chicken and rice. The river he sailed up was a minor tributary into the ocean on the southwest coast. The chart in the library of the Franciscan Monastery pictured in his mind but this stream was not one of them from what the man said. The good news was he was farther south than he thought, the entry into the Straits of Gibraltar not far, relatively speaking.

Hagerty handed Hornblower another cup of milk and commented on the thinness of his body and told him to drink up. The Scot inquired why Hornblower had run low on food, and he told him what was lost to the sea. Looking askance at his guest, Hagerty grunted and judged Hornblower, commenting on how much he must care for his wife to be so set on going to her in such a dangerous fashion. The evening wore on and the men supped on the one pot dinner and buttered bread.

Hornblower fingered the ring that lay on the table, sensed the old man had a story of his own and asked if he had ever been married. Hagerty became thoughtful as he sucked on the long stemmed pipe, and then his own story poured out like molten lead into a mold. The two men shared conversation about shipmates, for the Scot had finally confessed that he, too, had once been in the navy, forty years ago, but that he had fallen in love with a Portuguese woman and he had run, faking his death with a body washed in from the sea. Its face was blighted beyond recognition. Hagerty had dressed it in his clothes and put a suicide note in the pocket of the peacoat.

He asked Hornblower if he would turn him in.

After quiet contemplation, Hornblower shook his head. Forty years after the fact, he could see no sense in it. The man was in his seventies, Hornblower learned. Who could there be alive that would care? No one benefited by his death, Hagerty confessed. He had no family left in Scotland. There was no one to receive any kind of compensation, and besides, as a suicide there would be none.

"Do ye think the less of me for runnin'?" asked Hagerty.

Hornblower lowered his eyes. Hagerty had run for the love of a woman. Had not Hornblower contemplated similarly? Had it not been for Archie, would he not now be in the same situation, only hiding out in a backwater of America?

Hornblower shook his head, "No. No, I do not think the less of you, sir", then rose to check the state of his clothing. But what did Hornblower think of himself? Did his country need him? He always intended to go back to the navy once he knew Pamela and the child were well, but in the final analysis, he was not sure if he would. Surely they must consider him lost at sea. He marveled that he lived through that freezing night adrift on the tossing waves and shivered.

"Did you have children?" asked Hornblower wistfully, moving to the next piece of clothing and squeezing it.

"Yes, sir, we did. We had three. One died of fever at the age of three. I thought it would kill my Magdarelis. Maggie was over wrought with grief, but God was good and within the next week, she realized she was pregnant with our third. I've always thanked God for our baby."

"A boy or a girl?" asked Hornblower.

"A girl," smiled Hagerty, "a beautiful little girl. She had my coloring and her mum's dark eyes, round as saucers." Hagerty sighed.

"Grandchildren?" asked Hornblower.

Hagerty nodded, pulling on his pipe. "They come to visit in the summer for a few days. She and her man live in Lisbon. My boy is off fightin for Portugal. Army. He does not know I run. He thinks I cashed out."

"Do you have any regrets?"

Hagerty puffed on the weed and sighed heavily. "No. I would have liked to see Scotland once more. She's a beautiful country. But... no. No regrets." He eyed Hornblower's back as he touched his jacket.. "Will you have regrets?"

"I plan to return to the navy," said Hornblower, unable to hold the gaze of the other man.

"Yer letters are in my coat pocket. I found em when I was about to dunk yer coat in the river. I didn't read em," he added thoughtfully.

Hornblower found the wad of paper in the old man's overcoat. He had not read them for sometime. They felt damp and he opened them to see if the writing had been distorted or destroyed. Seeing Pamela's turn of hand made his heart skip a beat and his inner being tingle. Swallowing, he folded them closed and sat them on the table next to the ring and cross. Taking a deep breath, he looked down at the night clothes he wore.

"Thank you for all you have done for me, Mr. Hagerty. Concerning, my provisions..."

"I'll take care of ye, Mr. Hornblower. Don't ye worry now. In fact, it's time we turned in. Yer clothes should be dry by morning and the wind may be in yer favor. But if it isn't, ye should stay here a bit and build up yer strength. Yer too thin, laddie. Take yer ease before the fire and store it up for that long cold voyage ahead of ye. I do not envy ye one bit, but the clime should be goin off warm anyday now, relatively speakin'. It is mid March after all."

Hornblower knelt and poked the fire, laid on a set of logs, then eased under the blankets onto the sheep's wool. He stared at the play of flame light on the ceiling of the little hut and avoided contemplation of his future beyond seeing his wife and child. He turned his head to the flames and a single tear coursed down the side of his temple and he wiped it away.

***

Once Daniel Dawson knew of Pamela's decision, he made plans to leave the British outpost. Patriot's Dream had returned from delivering the load of cotton and tobacco to El Jadida. The convoy with which he had traveled to Gibraltar was due back through the straits any day. He had planned to sail into the Mediterranean and pick up a load of olive products to import, but now he had a more precious cargo with which to be concerned. He would have Pamela packed and ready to go.

Sitting next to Mr. Deluca, Dawson and the artist watched the hired men steady the bulky cargo, Hornblower's large portrait crated for shipping. Deluca was discussing the weather, but Dawson barely attended. He was on pins and needles to embark. The one fear that gripped him now was... what if Hornblower were to return? But he could not possibly. That was the reply he made to himself when the fear would rise that Pamela might not come home to America.

Drake was well and he was as committed as ever to Pamela. The boy had chosen to stay with her. That was well. Dawson liked the little waif, in fact, he loved the little boy. He had two more people to shower his love upon, Captain and Drake, and Pamela would soon be his alone to dote on, for she had vowed never again to marry. He could see her point. All the men she married had died. Daniel thought the notion of being a jinx was foolish, and he told her so. But all the same, the idea worked to his advantage. Was he so selfish?

Arriving on the quay, Dawson admonished his men to treat the boxed portrait with the utmost care. If this was all he had to bear of Hornblower, he would give it his all and see the memory of the man was preserved, for Pamela's sake and for Cap's. Every boy should know the man that was his father and Hornblower was no man to be ashamed of even though he was British. Captain, his brother's grandchild, was half British.

"Thank you for your assistance in crating the portrait, Mr. Deluca," said Dawson, once it was off loaded onto a lighter. Dawson had hired the large flat craft to assure the painting's safe arrival out to Patriot's Dream. He held out a hand containing gold sovereigns and the Italian bowed as he accepted the payment.

"I am happy to help, Mr. Dawson. I wish it were going on a happier note. However, I am pleased that it comforts your niece. She was wise to commission the portraits. Who could have guessed they would be all there was to commemorate Mr. Hornblower?"

"Yes, indeed so." Dawson touched his hat brim. "Good-day, sir. The carriage men will take you back to your shop."

"I prefer to walk, but thank you all the same. Safe journey, Mr. Dawson." With that final farewell, Deluca ambled up the quay, looking out into the moored shipping.

Daniel watched Deluca leave and paid the delivery men, then followed slowly until he could turn into the Admiral's Arms. There were not many patrons. He purchased a beer and then settled into an unlit back table and waited. He nervously drummed his fingers.

The door of the pub opened, spilling light onto the darkly appointed room. A midshipman entered, purchased a drink, and looking over his shoulder, meandered towards the back of the tavern. He slipped onto a chair opposite Dawson.

"Did you get them?" asked Dawson.

The midshipman swallowed nervously and nodded, looking over his shoulder.

"No one is coming. No one cares," whispered Dawson. "The man is dead. You said so yourself."

Maynard breathed in long. "I know. But still... " He fidgeted, then added, "If he's dead, what do you care? Why ...?"

Dawson placed a stack of gold coins on the table top. "Just a little added insurance. We're American. Why should YOU care? These are not state secrets."

Maynard stared at the cold hard cash. Hesitating but a moment, he reached inside his coat and pulled out several packets.

"All three are here?" asked Dawson, sliding the letters over to check the addressees, Lt. Horatio Hornblower on one, and Dr. H. Hornblower on the other, and the third.

"Aye, but that one... that one to ..." he lowered his voice to the barest whisper and leaned towards Dawson, "that one to Captain Pellew..."

Dawson had approached Maynard and explained about the letters from his niece, saying there would be three to watch for, three with a return address from Mrs. Pamela Hornblower, Swann-Phoenix of Dawson's Creek, Wilmington, North Carolina, United States of America. The Midshipman was having second thoughts but watched as Dawson placed another stack of coins on the shiny scarred table top, letting them clink softly against one another as he released them.

"They are merely letters from my niece. Do not worry. I will take care of it," assured Dawson.

The midshipman slid the coins into his palm, swallowed hard, and put them into a cloth, then wrapped it neatly and stuffed it into the pocket where the letters had rested. "Wh...when do you leave?"

"Tomorrow. I assure you, nothing will come of this. Do not fear."

Giving an anxious nod, the midshipman drank half the glass of beer. Wiping his lips, he stood. "I've got to get back."

Dawson nodded.

Maynard finished the glass and laid it on the counter on his way out.

Dawson leaned against the wooden back and fanned the three letters beneath the table top, then stuffed them inside his coat pocket. The frayed ends were slowly trimmed. Breathing in slowly and deeply, he rose to his feet and walked out of the pub into the lane that would take him out to the townhouse. It would be the last time he made this trek.

He raised his chin and looked at the British naval grounds haughtily. **You'll not take another from me,** he thought defiantly. **You will not keep this one.**

The time spent walking passed swiftly, and he found he had arrived onto the doorstep of the townhouse. It would be the last time he would stand here and knock.

"Uncle Dawson!" greeted Drake. "You will never guess who is here!"

Dawson's nerves exploded within and a sweat immediately broke out over his body. **God no! Not Hornblower,** he thought, as he stepped into the small front entry. "What, Drake?" The boy grabbed his hand and tugged him towards the kitchen. He could hear voices, women's voices. He saw Pamela was speaking as he neared.

"Uncle Daniel," Pamela acknowledged his arrival, "Maria has returned. Maria, you remember my uncle, Mr. Dawson?"

The Spanish woman looked thin and haggard. Daniel was so relieved it was not Hornblower his head spun and he felt near a faint. "Miss Maria," he said with a breathy voice.

"Mr. Dawson," she curtsied slightly.

Dawson noticed a slight wince and he let his eyes trace the woman rapidly but said nothing. With a shock, he noticed the very pregnant girl seated on the stool next to the door, leaning against the wall.

"This is Consuela, Uncle," informed Pamela shyly. Pamela saw Daniel had spied the teenage girl. "She is a friend,... mi amiga, Consuela," she added softly to the weary young girl.

He touched his hat in greeting, completely befuddled at what the arrival would mean. Pamela, Captain, and Drake were all set to stay in a suite of rooms at the King and Crown tonight, and Carden in a single room. Pamela had offered for Carden to come to America and amazingly enough, the man had accepted. It was a wise move for the one-armed ex-sailor, Dawson thought. Dinner was planned for service in the suite so as not to leave Captain unattended. All that was left to do was take the people and the remains of their baggage to the inn. Surely the arrival of these two women would not alter the plans. Pamela appeared excited and happy. Dawson's heart sank.

"We've been worried about you, Maria," said Dawson convincingly.

Her eyes shifted across Dawson's features. She gave a nod and said, "Thank you, Mr. Dawson. It was not my intent to cause worry, or be absent this long," said Maria. "It gladdens my heart that all went well with Mrs. Hornblower's delivery."

"I have just been telling her, Uncle, that we sail tomorrow. She will be here should Horatio return and will tell him where we are," smiled Pamela, returning her gaze to Maria.

Dawson felt a tightening in his throat. This unexpected turn of events did not bode well. **Hornblower is dead,** he told himself. **No one could survive the sea Pamela described. No one.** But it was the slightest doubt that made him seek Maynard out and remove Pamela's letters from the post.

As Dawson observed the Spanish woman, he spied a curious crack that Pamela did not appear to perceive, but then, his niece's optimism might have dulled her perception.

A plaintive cry sounded from the direction of the parlour. Drake spun around and tore off towards it. "I'll see to him, Miss Pamela!" The boy was excited about the impending venture across the ocean. He had been asking Dawson about the home in North Carolina, about Patriot's Dream, and anything else that popped into his boyish mind.

"Drake will make such a good older brother," said Pamela happily.

"Miss Pamela!" hollered Drake, "He's pooh!"

Pamela and Caroline exchanged amused glances.

"I'm coming, Robin," called Pamela, excusing herself from present company.

"I'll bring a pan of warm water, Miss Pam," said Caroline.

"So, Miss Maria," said Dawson backing out of Caroline's way as she passed through the doorway, "you will continue here at the townhouse?"

"Yes, sir. As always, I make sure the rooms are ready when the owners return this summer."

Looking out the corner of his eye, Dawson saw Pamela, with Cap, Drake and Caroline, headed up the stairs. He stepped further into the kitchen and considered how he might approach Maria, wondering if she were approachable. The woman always held some mystery about her that he suspected Pamela knew.

"Do you know about... Mr. Hornblower?" asked Dawson.

"Si, yes, I do, Mr. Dawson," answered Maria."

"Pamela told you?" asked Daniel.

"Yes." Maria was exhausted and secretly relieved that Pamela was leaving, for her own safety and for her own good. "I have barely just arrived, but then you know that, Mr. Dawson. If you would excuse us, sir, we are weary from our journey and since Mrs. Hornblower intends to vacate the house, I believe we will stay here the night." Maria lifted the kettle of hot water from the stove and carried it into the bathing room.

Dawson twisted his mouth, failing to hide his aggravation. Why did she have to come back now? **I do not want her here to tell Hornblower anything!**

Maria returned and watched Dawson's reactions. He might have Pamela fooled, but she knew there was much unchanged about the American. What she could not deny was that he cared about his niece, and since Hornblower was dead, it was best for Pamela and the child to go back to her native land.

Dawson looked out the window, stretched out his arms, and grabbed onto the edges of the dry sink. The question erupting needed answering. He turned abruptly and startled the women.

"Do you think Hornblower is dead?" He stared into Maria's dark eyes.

The Spanish woman perceived his fear. Dawson was on a precipice. She breathed deeply. "I know the circumstances of his demise. I know of no common man that could survive such conditions." She watched Dawson's stance relax. The old codger did not deserve to get off this easily. "But, Mr. Dawson, Mr. Hornblower is an uncommon man with an uncommon wife. Do you not think?" Maria thought she did not hide the pleasure too well over his renewed perplexity. "Excuse me, Mr. Dawson. Come, Consuela."

The pregnant girl eased off the stool slowly, cradling the extended abdomen and panting with the exertion of movement.

"When is her delivery?" asked Dawson, amazed at the size of the unborn child in relation to the size of the girl. "She is young to be with child, is she not?"

"The man that took her did not ask her age," said Maria defiantly, placing a compassionate arm over Consuela's shoulders. Maria guided Consuela into the bathing room.

In the following hours, Daniel Dawson paced anxiously in the parlour, the corridor, the kitchen, his greatest fear that Pamela would decide against departure. He was not ignorant to the permutations of the feminine mind. The turn of events with the arrival of the long absent companion, maid of all work, or whatever Maria's true relationship to Pamela was, distressed Dawson. He hoped furtively that the presence of Mrs. Mueller would be sufficient to convince Pamela that they should continue on as they had planned.

Those long months ago, before he returned to America after Hornblower's departure, he had had a talk with the mid-wife that resided in the companion townhouse and paid her well in advance. Learning that the woman had not been consulted for Captain's birth, he had decided to let the retainer go. That it was now being redeemed for use by the young girl Consuela sat well with the thrifty old American, and would sit better if her presence would keep Pamela on the planned course. He was too old for all these ragged unexpected ramifications another birth presaged. Thankfully, Maria had agreed with him. She had become his ally and supported his arguments that Mrs. Mueller and Maria could handle the impending birth, that Pamela and the children would be more of a distraction than a help.

The young girl was upstairs now in the middle bedroom, Drake was tending Captain in the parlour, and Carden was slowly gathering the few remains of the combined baggage in the front hallway. The carriage was due anytime.

Upstairs in the master bedroom, Pamela stood and stared at the empty room. The furniture stayed, it belonged to the owners, but her personal things were gone, her trunk, the sea chest made for the baby by the Indefatigables, all the memories it contained. The portrait of her and Horatio had been crated and taken to Patriot's Dream already. Only the small satchel remained that held the necessities for Captain. Pamela wrung her hands. Had she made the correct decision?

Maria walked through the bedroom doorway and beheld the young mother. The Spanish woman was somewhat restored through the familiarity of the surroundings and the relative safety. She would not divulge what she had been through, though she sensed Pamela knew intuitively that the mission had been unusually difficult and taxing. As she gazed into the worried features of the American, she also knew Pamela would not ask. This parting was for the best.

Maria took the few steps that allowed her to grasp Pamela's warm hands in hers, then the two women embraced.

"Oh, Maria." Pamela's eyes filled. "Am I right to go?"

"Yes. Yes. Do what is best for you and the children. Should he come, I will tell him."

Pamela turned and stepped to the front window. Pulling back the curtain, she sighed. "Shall I tell you my thoughts?"

Maria advanced to stand beside her and look out on the garden. The carriage had arrived and Carden, Dawson, and the driver were stowing the last bits of luggage. The two women had been through much together in the months they had known each other. She would miss the plucky young American.

"I do not think I will see him again until he is an admiral," said Pamela sadly. "I do not know what is to happen in the long years between. It must be the price for his life, to live without him."

Maria put her arm over Pamela's shoulders. During their association, Pamela had explained to her the 'stretching out' she and her father used to do, to look into the future.

"That may not be so, Pamela. Perhaps you are sensing the ultimate honor of his accomplishments."

Pamela bowed her head. "Is that what you think?"

Maria squeezed her shoulder. "We cannot know the future, dearest."

Pamela sniffed and Maria embraced her.

"You have been like a daughter to me, Pamela. I hate that this has happened to Horatio. I will believe with you for his return. Have faith. I know you do."

Pamela straightened. "I do, Maria. Horatio is not dead. If he were, I would feel it in my heart." She paused then said, "I could not live without faith in the goodness of God, though it is sometimes hard to pray and not see the answers. I have survived. My baby lives and is healthy.... and the vision remains... and Horatio's promise."

"I know God loves you, Pamela. He has preserved your life."

"And yours, Maria."

Maria looked away. "Indeed,... He has."

"What is it, Maria?" asked Pamela, seeing a shadow of concern on the dark features of her friend.

Smiling sadly, Maria said, "Nothing for you to worry about. And do not be concerned for Consuela. Mrs. Mueller is here and her mother-in-law, though I do not understand a word of the German language. The two of them have been babbling at one another." She squeezed Pamela's hands warmly. "You must not alter your plans. It is for the best. Mrs. Mueller says she will ask her servant girl to help out, too. We will be fine."

"You are sure? Will you send word when Consuela is delivered?"

"I will. If the child is born before you sail, I will send Manuel with a message. I expect he and Jose any time now."

"You will write me?"

"Of course, I will."

The two women saw Daniel Dawson looking up at the bedroom window.

"Your uncle is ready to leave," observed Maria, knowing the man was more than ready, anxious the better description.

"Yes, the old dear."

"Pamela," Maria started to caution her about Dawson, something she sensed. But, the elderly man loved Pamela and Captain. The old codger was even well disposed towards Robin. It would not be right to put a wedge between Pamela and her kin.

"Yes?"

Maria shook her head and smiled. "Nothing. I pray you a safe journey home. Come. Let me look on Captain one last time before you go. You will tell him of our adventures together?"

"Oh," grinned Pamela, looking heavenward, "he shall think his mother, father, and their friends the greatest adventurers on earth. He shall know of every one."

"But especially his father," said Maria.

"Especially his father," agreed Pamela, lovingly.


Pamela did not hear from Maria that night or morning. She had hardly slept at all in the strange bed of the opulent hotel. Second thoughts about leaving plagued her through the night, running around in circles about what was best for Captain, Robin, herself, and... was Horatio alive. Added to the tumble of ponderings was the strange recollection of the woman, presumably the ghost of Captain's Pellew's wife, and her one word admonition...Wait.

But so much had happened since seeing the apparition. What was it she wanted Pamela to wait for? Was it Captain's birth? Or, did it mean to wait there? Pamela had not been visited by the woman's spirit since that night on the embrasure. There would not be any question of waiting if not for the news of Horatio's loss. In all her cogitation, that one word gave her the greatest discomfiture.

In the final analysis, the resulting conclusion always butted against the promise, Horatio's promise to come to her. Her letters had been mailed. Maria was at the townhouse. If he were alive, he would come for them, no matter where they were. It was that repeated thought that enabled her to board the boat that would take them out to Patriot's Dream, that and Drake's excitement about returning to sea.

Pamela gathered the skirt of the burgundy dress, the same dress she had worn to the quay the day she said farewell to Horatio. So many memories pressed as she stepped from the boson's chair onto the wood planks and waited for the tiny basket containing the baby to be hauled aboard. She bent far over the side to smile at the tiny infant rising towards her.

"Welcome back, Miss Pamela," said a crewman. He was dressed in a waist length topcoat of navy blue, wore a hat with a tail of blue ribbons, and white trousers. The entire crew looked sharp and crisp. Pamela knew it was her uncle that made the sailors maintain a spit and polish presence here in the British port. Every inch of Patriot's Dream shone like brand new from the varnish on the rail to the lines through the lubber's hole.

"Davy! Davy Willowbrook. It is good to see you! Is your mother well?" asked Pamela, smiling warmly at the sandy-hair green-eyed sailor.

"Thankee for askin', Miss. She be fine. I heared ye'd married again."

"Yes. And I have a son."

"Oh, aye, yer uncle done told us. He was as happy as a lark about it."

The man captured the basket and gently lowered it into the hands of a woman and detached the line.

"Thank you, Caroline," said Pamela as she eased the baby out of the basket. "Davy, this is Miss Caroline Dumfries. Miss Dumfries, Davy Willowbrook."

The young man touched his hat, said, "Miss Dumfries," and Caroline curtsied with a reply, "Mr. Willowbrook."

He grinned broadly, reluctant to remove his gaze from the fresh young British miss. "What did ye name the little cherub, Miss Pamela?"

"Captain Hornblower is his name."

"Willowbrook! Get forward there!" bellowed the master.

"Aye, aye, sir! Beg pardon, Miss Pamela, Miss Dumfries."

Caroline raised eyebrows, her look one of curious interest.

Pamela gave her a sly smile. "Davy is a fine looking man, yes?"

"Indeed. Would he be married, ma'am?" questioned Caroline.

"A year ago he was not. Shall I make discreet inquiries?" asked Pamela.

"I should not be so bold, Miss Pam."

"Bother, Caroline," smiled Pamela. "I am more than pleased you have taken my offer to come to America. I have grown to depend on you so."

Caroline blushed and called attention to the baby. "Captain seems to be taking to the sea. He looks keen with interest, as babies go," said Caroline.

Pamela laughed quietly, gazing at the child. "It is a good beginning."

"I shall see to the cabin, shall I, Miss Pamela?"

"Yes, Caroline. Thank you."

Caroline left with the basket and Drake caught Pamela's eye, climbing the quarter-deck stairs before Uncle Daniel. Drake was taking full advantage of his position and had run to the taffrail, lifting himself bodily with stiffened arms. She had not seen him as excited since ... since before Barth had left that windy day those weeks ago. Pamela's countenance saddened.

Carden approached and touched his forehead. "Ma'am."

"I am taking as much of Gibraltar home with me as I can, Mr. Carden," said Pamela lightly.

"Thank ye, Mrs. Hornblower," said Carden solemnly.

"Mr. Carden," she admonished him, clutching the remaining arm briefly, "You are my faithful companion. We have been through much together. Drake and Captain will depend on you, as I have and will." she emphasized. "You knew Horatio longer than I, sir, and you have many more stories to share."

"Aye, Misses H., and thank ye all the same," he repeated quietly.

"Dear Mr. Carden," said Pamela affectionately, then she changed the subject. "How does it feel to be standing on the deck of a ship again?"

"Good, ma'am, better than I expected. Thank ye, thank ye," nodded Carden as he sought a place to stand to watch the proceedings for slipping the moorings the American way, though he did not expect there to be a huge amount of difference.

Pamela kissed Captain's forehead with cool lips and approached the ship's rail. As she looked back upon Gibraltar, her country's colours flapping noisily in the early morning airs, a single word pounded her thoughts. Wait. Wait. Wait.

She cradled Captain and hugged him to her cheek. "My darling, my sweet darling. Pray I have made the right decision."