An American Encounter, Part Three
by Skihee

AE3 Ch 5 Boys Will Be Boys

 

Edrington was in shirt sleeves leaning against the foremast, sucking on a pipe. He was smoking quite a bit of late. It was something to do. The navy was damn boring, at least the blockade thing surely was. He promised to ship Sebastian some tobacco to replace all he was using, though the good doctor did not seem concerned.

Under his arm was tucked a book loaned him by Kennedy, but it was too dark to read now. A footstep pulled his attention. Looking to his right, there she was. He looked behind and around her. She was alone. He checked to see if anyone observed them. Not finding staring eyes from any quarter, he watched. Wearing the one gown she owned and looking lovely and feminine, she was as pretty in normal clothing as he had ever seen her after regaining his sight. Assessing his emotions, he found the interest and affection was still present. Why could she not tell him she belonged to Hornblower? He might have stayed the love from growing within. It was something he tried to ... destroy? It was impossible. He owed his life. How can you destroy something so ... basic? Would it not be like disavowing ones existence? Not only did he owe her for aiding in his rescue and recovery, but he still wished she were his. He liked Hornblower, he truly did, and though his feelings were bridled, they still lived.

"Aren't you going to say hello?" she asked quietly.

Edrington looked around. To whom did she speak? She was next to the rail, looking towards the open sea.

"Do not come near me. I would not make him jealous, but I wanted to speak to you."

"You address me?" They had been aboard Indefatigable for days and barely communicated with one another, and never had they been alone together. It was difficult giving her up after living in such close quarters on the journey to Toulon. He knew full well how Hornblower felt toward him. It hurt.

"I ... I wanted to thank you for being with me on the last trip. I ... appreciate that you sought to protect me. It is a kindness I shall never forget."

"Nor shall I ever forget you. I owe you far more, Pamela."

"Do not feel that way. I never meant to get to know you, ....but now that I do, I could not let you leave without saying thank you and bidding you well."

"I owe you a greater thanks. You....you not only gave me my life, but something to live for, at least until I realized I would live no matter what." Melancholia echoed in the words.

"I never meant ... I should not have come."

"Wait!" He took a step toward her then backed behind the mast, hugging it. "Wait. Please." He hesitated before he spoke again. Just having the opportunity to view her with no one else around fed his abject soul. "You ... you look ... lovely."

She lowered her head, not looking his way, but how to retreat.

"Please.... please, Pamela. I promise not to say it again." He watched her nervously choose to stay.

"I must go."

"Yes, you must, I know you must. Thank you for coming to speak to me."

"I felt I owed you that, ... at least, ... Alexander. Take care, sir." Lifting her skirt, she departed. Should she have used his Christian name? What fine line did one walk in such a situation? She liked him very much and hoped they could be friends but would never desire to hurt Horatio in such a way again.

"And you, lady... Pamela." He lingered in the deepening shadows until she was gone. Muscles tugged on a half smile. She liked him. If only she were not married...but she is. "And to the wrong man," he said aloud, sighing. "Edrington ... you shall be content with this. You shall. The one that got away... something to warm the cockles of your heart in your dotage... thinking on what might have been." He inhaled deeply, shaking his head rapidly at the passionate thoughts of which he was capable. He sauntered aimlessly foreward and stuck the pipe between his teeth.

 

The following day, Eagle arrived. She carried only crew and there was plenty of space for passengers. Edrington, Tom, Geoff, Manuel, Jose, Carden, and Maria were leaving. When it was found there was room, Maria decided it best to return home. She had reports to file and people to see.

"But, Maria, what shall Captain Brecon do with the clothing for you?" asked Pamela.

"He will find a way to use it, believe me," she grinned. The two women embraced. "Take care of that baby. I will see you when you get home."

"It has been a pleasure spending time with you Senora Orrego," bowed Sebastian. "Perhaps I will see you again...in Gibraltar."

"I would like that, Doctor Sebastian. Vaya usted con Dios."

"Y tu," he responded.

Her eyes lingered on the doctor and his use of the familiar 'tu' and she smiled warmly. Adjusting into the chair, she was lifted and swung over the side to the waiting boat.

Pamela gave Manuel's shoulders a squeeze. "Be good."

"Si, Senora."

The major addressed the assembly. "I dislike saying it, but time for me to go as well." Edrington extended his hand. "Captain Pellew."

"God's speed, my Lord. Thank you for your part in the rescue of my men," stated Pellew. "I know the army shall be glad to see you safe, sir."

Edrington smiled wryly. "I shall be glad to have a bit of horseflesh beneath me, that is certain." He turned to Kennedy. "Thank you, Leftenant Kennedy, for my lessons on navigation. However, I believe I shall decline the posting."

Kennedy grinned. "Tis a shame, my Lord, you would make a fine seaman."

"If you should ever decide to become a part of the REAL service, let me know. I am sure I could start you out in a suitable position." He and Kennedy shared amiable smiles. His eyes moved to Hornblower, standing with his wife beside him. "Mr. Hornblower." He offered his hand.

With but a moment's hesitation, Hornblower took it. "Lord Edrington."

The major sighed and cocked his head. "I believe you are fully healed."

Hornblower looked down shyly with a soft smile. "As you are, sir."

Edrington could not help a glance at Pamela.

"Thank you for watching over my wife," stated Hornblower

"The pleasure was all mine, sir," he replied.

Pamela's expression sought permission from her husband, who nodded his approval. She gave a gentle gaze Edrington's way. "I am more than pleased that you are all right, Major. Thank you... for everything."

Edrington's features softened. "I owe you much, Mrs. Hornblower."

She leaned to give him the slightest hug and whispered, "Goodbye, Alexander," and she kissed him lightly on the cheek.

His eyes brightened and he smirked as she backed from him. "Goodbye, lady." The scent of her hair lingered in his nostrils. Suddenly he could feel her in his arms riding before him on the spirited horse the night they left the Rock. He nodded to Hornblower. "I look forward to seeing you again someday, Leftenant."

Hornblower nodded and felt Pamela's hand slipping into his, holding tightly. She touched her arm against his as she leaned towards him. Glancing briefly, he saw her eyes lifted to give assurance.

Edrington stepped onto the entry port and with a final nod to Pellew, he lowered down the side.

Pellew stepped closer to watch the boat push away and the oars dip into the blue sea, pulling for Eagle. Eyebrows rising in thought, he hoped he made the right decision to allow Hornblower's wife to remain. There went his chance to be rid of her, though what in God's name would her traveling with Edrington have done to his leftenant? With that final thought, he had no more misgivings. He released a heavy sigh of relief that caused his men to look his way. Bracegirdle's look of expectation caused him to respond.

"Company. At last we can relax, eh gentlemen...and lady?" He departed with muffled snickers sounding in his ears.

Pamela gazed warmly into her husbands countenance. "Thank you."

"For what?"

"Letting me say goodbye." She squeezed his hand.

"I ... understand ... what it is ... to rescue someone." He lifted her hand and kissed the back of it.

A day later, Emerald came into view, hove to, and signal flags flying. Indefatigable stationed half a cable length away. Mooing could be heard across the water. With that, the Indy crew sprang into action. A new passenger would be joining them. Styles was given charge of the beast and he seemed peculiarly interested in having the farm animal on board.

Pamela watched for a while, but the advent of the cow was nothing she cared to know. Everyone seemed to be conspiring against her wishes to make her drink the putrid white liquid. The only thing to brighten the event was the case of clothing Brecon was sending. Different clothes. At least there was that. She gave her husband's hand a squeeze and informed, "I'm going below, Horatio.

"As you wish." He turned back towards the boats to watch the off loading. Kennedy was in the waist supervising the ratings.

"Mrs. Hornblower!" exclaimed Rampling.

Horatio wheeled to see Pamela flat on the deck. He, Pellew, several other officers took long strides and bent to assist her.

"Mrs. Hornblower! Are you all right?" asked Pellew.

"Ow. Oh, blast!" She lifted her skirt. Her knee was scraped and bleeding. "Not again! I will be all right, Captain. Thank you."

The men wanted to look but also avoided the sight of her shapely calf and ankle, a trickle of blood streaming down the appendage.

Hornblower sucked in a breath, fluttered his eyes, and cleared his throat. "Pamela."

"Oh!" She dropped the hem lower but kept the cloth pulled away from the wound. On closer inspection she realized the skirt was torn. "Oh! I've ripped it!" she cried disappointedly.

"Put her on the signal flag locker, Mr. Hornblower. Mr. Bracegirdle, call Dr. Sebastian."

Hornblower picked her up as she whispered, "I can walk, Horatio."

"You did this in Gibraltar. Is something wrong?" he asked lowly and concerned.

"I'm just...clumsy."

She played with a curl just peeking from under his hat while he held her. She sighed. "This is nice after all. There is no other way I could be in your arms up here."

"Pamela," he said bashfully.

He let her down onto the box. Sebastian arrived shortly with a medical kit.

"Mrs. Hornblower! Not again?" commented the doctor. He knelt down and lifted the dress above her knee.

All the officers faced away. Rampling grabbed Connors arm and pulled him around.

"Just the knee this time? Not the elbows, too?"

She looked. One was slightly red, but no blood.

"How many times have you done this now? Two that I know of."

"And another in Gibraltar, sir," added Hornblower.

Sebastian squinted up at the leftenant, then proceeded to wipe the wound.

She sucked in a breath through her teeth.

"Have you always fallen like this, Mrs. Hornblower?"

She shook her head, a grimace on her countenance. He pulled a sliver of wood from the wound.

"Ooo!" she sounded.

"I am sorry to hurt you, madam." Sebastian carefully administered a salve and bandaged the wound, then checked the other knee. An old scar was visible. He canted his head in thought as he gazed. "When did you start falling, Mrs. Hornblower?"

"Not until I was on the fo'c'sle that night with you,... months ago, sir."

"You never had these falling spells until now?" asked the doctor.

She shook her head. "No."

Sebastian pondered the idea. He covered her legs then took her chin in his hand. "It must be the baby." He stood.

"What do you mean, Doctor?" asked Hornblower.

"Well," he sighed, "the child must be throwing her off balance ... her equilibrium. I can think of no other explanation, ...if this is a new occurrence,... and she says it is."

Hornblower studied his wife with furrowed brow.

"Mrs. Hornblower... no rushing. Understand?"

"Yes, Doctor."

A loud moo sounded across the ship.

"Ah!" grinned Sebastian. "Captain Brecon has come through, I hear!" Looking back at the patient, he said. "Good. No more falls, young lady."

"No, sir."

"Milk, Mr. Hornblower. See she drinks it."

"Yes, Doctor."

Sebastian departed and Pamela shuddered, saying, "Blech." A frown rested on her lips, and Hornblower just shook his head.

********

At last, new clothing, the troupe of spies all gone,... except for Pamela,... the daily routine settled in aboard ship. Hornblower finished his week long punishment and was back on regular duties. The couple seemed to relax in to each others company. Hornblower mellowed to the married man that he was, and Pamela eased into her own habitual course of reading, walking, resting, and forcing down the three glasses of milk that Sebastian insisted she drink, he preferring it were more, she wishing it were none.

Little Drake occupied a greater extent of her day than he had when last she was aboard. Hornblower's acceptance of him was part of the reason, whereas before Drake begged her to keep their meetings a secret, fearing he would get in trouble for being in the leftenant's quarters. Now, they met openly at one of the meal tables between the cannon.

As the days went by, an informal class took shape. When she spent time with Drake doing his letters, numbers, and reading, a few of the other boys would attend.

Three in particular arranged to be present. Wiggins, the oldest of the cabin boys, tall for his age, coming nearly to Hornblower's shoulders, lanky, and blonde, brown-eyed, he seemed a natural leader, obeyed his elders, and did his best at whatever task he was assigned. Granby, next in age, not more than a year younger than Wiggins, was a head and half shorter than the taller boy and had a bit of baby fat to his features, giving a jowly look, with chestnut brown hair and eyes to match. Lydle was of African decent, chocolate brown, the youngest of the three by two or more years. He matched his name, was thin, but surprisingly strong. He proved his physical prowess to Pamela by doing press-ups on the deck and clapping his hands on the rise. He could walk on his hands and do flips forward and backward, landing on his feet. He was as tight as a spring. She was suitably impressed and in the days that followed came to understand it was the physical adeptness that gained the friendship and respect of the older boys.

The three would come and sit and listen as she read to Drake. She supposed it was the novelty of being a female that encouraged them to come and listen. Drake would loop his arm with hers and proudly stake his claim. He found her first, after Mr. Hornblower, of course, and he let them know.

They all seemed so young to be at sea, away from mothers and fathers. Pamela had not dared to ask why for fear of a breaking heart. The only time mothers were mentioned was when the boys asked what she would do with Mr. Hornblower's son. To which she responded that the boy would be hers, too. A strange expression came over the faces as if that had not occurred to them. Did they not think she would survive the birth?

What they seemed to enjoy most was when she shared a story of the Indians of North Carolina. The story they found most fascinating was the one that ended hostilities with a treaty that was hammered out in metal, rather than solely written down on paper. For some reason, that intrigued the boys, and they insisted she draw it out for them. Doing the best she could from memory, she drew the picture and wrote the rather poetic wording.

The picture was of a walking Indian who carried a fistful of wheat sheaves. He wore moccasins, a long sleeved shirt with an open vest, and a loin cloth over trousers. The boys found the last bit of clothing interesting but feared asking more about the habiliments, her being a girl. The Indian sported a band around his head with three or four feathers sticking up and askew, and his hair was loose and went past his shoulders.

Arching around the Indian were these words, as best as she could recall: For as many stars are in the heavens, for this many moons will we be at peace with the white man. Around the outer edge of the wording were stars surrounding the entire rectangular, oval-shaped metal treaty. After completing the drawing and the words, the classroom contingent sat staring at it, everyone absolutely silent.

Pamela pondered the current situation with England at war with France and Spain...these children traveling the seas in a ship of war, motherless, fatherless. She gazed at each young countenance around her as they studied the drawing. A sadness griped her heart. Indefatigable had been relatively fortunate in battle during her sojourn on the vessel. At least, none of the boys had been killed. Killed. The thought was terrible.

"Mrs. Hornblower. Could I have this?"

"Certainly, Wiggins."

"Come on, Granby, Lydle! Let's see if Mr. Starns will give us a bit of copper to make it, eh?" The three older boys scurried away, clutching the drawing.

"We'll need more than a scrap of metal, Wiggy. How will we do the shapes?" The voices trailed away.

Drake looked at Pamela and asked. "Are they? The Indians. Are they still at peace?"

"They were when I left home, Drake."

"Do you miss North Carolina?" he asked.

"Promise you won't tell Mr. Hornblower?" she whispered.

He nodded seriously.

"Sometimes....just a little bit. But if I were there, instead of here, I would miss him... and you,... more."

Drake stared into her eyes. "You are going to live in Gibraltar?"

"Yes, for a while. Maybe after the baby is born I will move to England."

"You won't go back to America?"

She thought about the question. It was something she did not allow herself to think. It brought memories of her father. Looking away, she wiped a tear, then tried to smile for the young man. "No," she said breathily fighting the unsteady reply.

He stared unwavering into her eyes, then put his arms around her neck and whispered in her ear. "Don't cry," he said softly. "I love you. Mr. Hornblower loves you, too. I'm sorry that bad man killed your da."

"Oh, Drake!" She rested her head on his little shoulder and sniffed and held on until she was sure the tears were staunched. How did one so young understand her feelings?

He leaned back and pulled his shirt-tail up to dry her face and then kissed her cheek, holding her again.

"Next to Horatio you are the sweetest man I know!"

As the days passed, Pamela became almost invisible to the crew. They spoke to her kindly, sometimes gave a salute which made her smile more and they seemed to like that. She became an observer. The respect given the officers, the diligence of the crew, the quiet and methodical duties known by each man, the people of Indefatigable impressed her. At times, it was difficult to believe they could become a fighting force and the ship a weapon of destruction in a matter of moments. But she had seen it. Her husband had overseen such drills numerous times since her return. The British Navy was an efficient fighting force.

It was late afternoon when Captain Pellew came on deck for a stroll. These walks were necessary due to the constraints of shipboard life, otherwise no beneficial exercise was to be had. He was pacing back and forth along the weather side of the quarter-deck, left alone in that prized position. She watched for a while, wondering what he thought about when he paced, then returned to read the book she brought with her. Drake was attending to duties in the galley and Hornblower was at a paperwork task below, so she was free and taking her ease in a make-shift chair in a little corner by the taffrail.

Sebastian ordered she get fresh air and sunshine and so she sat, the straw hat given her by Pellew and picked out by Hornblower, firmly tied under her chin. She wore the gauzy pale blue blouse Brecon acquired with the dark blue gathered skirt. The material in the skirt was multitudinous and she wore the thin silk French-made chemise underneath, also courtesy of Captain Brecon. His tastes in women's underclothes were astonishing as were the clothes themselves. When no one was looking she lifted the skirt above her ankles and spread her legs to allow air circulation. The movement became rote as she read and turned a page, occasionally wagging her knees in and out to create a fanning effect.

A laughing shout caught her attention. Looking towards the main course, she could see Lydle, Wiggins, and Granby cavorting on the yard. Pellew saw them, too, and the cessation of movement to her right caught her attention. The captain was eyeing the behaviour of the boys. Wiggins held onto a loose halyard and was swinging from one side of the yard to the other. He pretended to fire a pistol then brandish a sword, holding to the sheet with only one hand and a foot wrapped in the line. Granby and Lydle were laughing and she thought she heard her husband's name spoken by one. With a gasp, she covered her mouth. They were acting out her rescue from Magie Noir, a story she had related and embellished to their amusement and pleasure.

Pellew heard the gasp and looked her way curiously. He glanced back at the boys, then to her, and approached. She came to her feet and backed against the rail.

"Mrs. Hornblower." He had the barest smile and studied her for a moment, then looked at the boys again. "The lads seem to be having a bit of fun today." He sighed and spied her once more. "I do not recall the story in this manner." He stared at the boys. "It is the swinging back and forth from ship to ship that would not quite ring true. Yes. As I recall it, Mr. Hornblower had only one chance to reach Magie Noir before Kaliakra exploded. He would not have had time to swing back over for his... lucky... cutlass." He stared back at her, lips twitching back a grin, noted the book, and pointed at it. "You might be better employed writing those than reading them."

Wiggins propelled off the yard again, and swinging round, grabbed Lydle and carried him away. Lydle let go a yelp and latched onto Wiggins shoulders. Pellew sucked in a breath and stepped toward the waist rail, Pamela on his heels.

"MR. WIGGINS!"

The boy was startled by the call and jerked losing hold of Lydle for a split second. In that moment in time, Lydle lost hold of Wiggins' shoulders and slipped down to hold onto Wiggins' knees.

Pamela gasped and grabbed onto Pellew's arm.

Wiggins let go of the line and bent down to grab Lydle, hanging by his leg wrapped in the line. The pendulum force brought Lydle to the yard where he tried to slip his leg between the yard and the foot-rope. He let go of Wiggins entirely.

Pamela screamed, "No!" and buried her face in Pellew's shoulder.

Lydle latched onto the foot-rope with hands and a bent leg, the other leg dangling dangerously below. Somehow Wiggins was able to right himself. Granby hugged the mast, waiting for Wiggins' to pendulum past him so he could assist Lydle. As the two were gaining a purchase on the spar, Wiggins was headed back towards the two younger boys. He would have hit and knocked them off, but he released the line completely and landed on the billowing sail.

With Pellew patting her arm for the brief moment when he thought they were safe, she looked up to see Wiggins fall onto the canvas!

"Lord, help him!" she cried squeezing Pellew's arm tightly.

"Damn!" Pellew watched the shadow of the young boy's body against the sail, feeling his heart in his throat. He could only guess what was transpiring. Surely the child would fall to his death. But what he viewed was not in his expectation.

Wiggins grabbed onto one of the reef points as he hit the canvas, in that brief span he pulled a knife from its sheath and stabbed it through the canvas, gaining a fleeting purchase. Between the knife and the ribbon of canvas reefing cord, he held his position for a breath. The knife began to slice down the canvas even though he plunged its sharp side up. He struggled against gravity, kicking his feet as if trying to climb up the main course.

Granby had Lydle holding securely to the yard and scrambled to grab the halyard and toss it back towards Wiggins. "Wiggy! Grab on!"

The line hit against the older boy as the knife cut down the material and the reef point began to tear away. He felt the line against his face.

"Wiggy! Grab on, man!" shouted Lydle breathlessly.

Hearing the shouts, Hornblower came running up the companion, bursting into the waist. He took it all in in a moment and ran to the mast. Ratings did the same, with several climbing towards the yard.

Trying for the rope would mean releasing the knife or the cord. Wiggins let go the knife, relying on the reef point to sustain him, but it tore further while he turned to grasp for the line. Feeling the rope slipping away, he reached and felt it against his palm, he let go the canvas tie taking the line. The rope ran through his hands, friction burning as he sought to grab a hold and twist the rope with his leg. He screamed as the rope burned and sliced his hands. It cut into his flesh and grabbed his knee and calf and he came to a jerking halt fifteen feet above the deck, hanging at an angle, his head lower than his knee. He hung there for an instant, breathing heavily.

Pellew watched, still expecting to see the body hit the deck. The other two boys were on the way down, a couple of top men giving them a steady hand through the descent.

Jenkins stood on the stored boat reaching for the foot of the dangling boy. "Oh, Wiggins, yer in fer it now, boy!" he stated doubtfully.

Catching his breath, Wiggins looked back at the torn mainsail. Wincing with the pain in his palms he let himself down hand over hand. Hornblower was waiting. Wiggins unwrapped his leg from the line, tried to stand, and would have collapsed if not for Hornblower holding him under the arms.

"Sorry, sir!" he breathed.

"Wiggins! What the devil are you doing?" he inquired with concern and a slight sting in his tone.

The boy stared at the rope-burned and bleeding hands. He tried putting his weight on both legs but nearly fell.

"Jenkins! See him down to the sick-bay."

"Aye, aye, Mr. Hornblower."

All three turned eyes to the quarter-deck.

Pellew was patting Pamela's shoulder and speaking to her. She turned to see all three children standing and looking up at the Captain. She covered her mouth with her hand, her eyes revealing the aftermath of the fear from which she was recovering.

Pellew took a deep breath, a righteous anger replacing the same fearful concern Mrs. Hornblower suffered.

Seeing the furor filling his face, she pleaded, "Oh, please, Captain...!"

"Mr. Bracegirdle," he said calmly.

"Yes, sir?"

Get a detail to replace the mains'l and have the bosun bring his cane." He fumed silently, then descended to the deck.

Pamela stayed where she was and observed, biting the side of her finger anxiously.

Jenkins waited supporting Wiggins as the Captain approached the gathered group. He took one of Wiggins' hands and looked at the bleeding wounds.

"Never in all my days have I seen such a display, Mr. Wiggins!" he clipped.

"Sorry, sir," he said head bowed.

"This is a ship of war, not a trapeze act!"

"Sorry, sir. There is no excuse, sir." Wiggins glanced Hornblower's direction, and glimpsed the leftenant's wife on the quarter-deck.

"Indeed. There is no excuse! You nearly got the lot of you killed with those high flying antics!"

The bosun arrived having been apprised of the events before he came on deck.

Wiggins hung his head.

"It will be a dozen for you Mr. Wiggins. Six for putting yourself and your mates in danger and six for damaging the sail! Mr. Connors, call Dr. Sebastian. I want Wiggins here to witness the punishment of these before going to sick berth."

"Aye, aye, sir." answered Connors.

"As soon as Dr. Sebastian says you are able, Mr. Wiggins, your punishment will be carried out." Pellew turned to the two younger boys. Neither one would look at him. "Mr. Granby, ...because of your quick actions you may have saved the lives of both of your mates. Nevertheless, you were part of this...this...dangerous escapade." Pellew looked at the bosun. "Six each. Now."

"Aye, Aye, Captain."

Pellew glanced at Hornblower then ascended to the deck, the leftenant following. Pellew hesitated seeing Pamela waiting at the rail.

"You may not wish to watch this, Mrs. Hornblower. I excuse you should you wish to leave," advised Pellew.

Pamela looked at Hornblower, shook her head no, and moved over to the rail, grasping onto it and looking out to sea.

"All hands aft to witness punishment!" called Bracegirdle.

The men assembled and stood silently waiting.

"This is a ship of war! Not a playground! I will not have any man on my ship cavorting and putting himself or his mates in deadly danger. Carry out the punishment, Mr. Paramor," spoke Pellew decisively.

The cannon was pulled back as far as the lines would let her. Granby straddled it. Bailey knelt at the bore and held his hands. Taking position, the bosun looked to Pellew. The captain gave a nod.

The sound of the cane slicing through the air was like the sound of a massive bumble bee until it met its mark. THWACK!

There was an audible gasp from Granby. He pressed his eyes closed tightly. With the next blow, a short moan sounded. He pressed his forehead to the gun. The next strike pushed him towards the bore. By the fourth, he was biting his lip and breathing heavily.

"Six!" stated the bosun.

Granby arose carefully, stepping stiffly away from the gun, his face pinked with pain. One of the ratings turned him around to watch Lydle mount for his turn at punishment.

Pamela saw the scarecrow thin boy, laying atop the black metal cannon. It began again. Not a sound was heard from this one. There could not be an ounce of fat on the child. How would he bear such a beating? She could not watch and waited for the sounds to cease. She did not have to wait very long. She fainted, collapsing silently onto the deck. When she came to, she was in their cabin. Outer clothing removed, she lay dressed in the ribboned sleeveless chemise. Horatio was wiping her face with a cool damp cloth.

When he saw her eyes open, he smiled lovingly, and ran his hand over her hair. Shaking his head, he said, "You scared me worse than seeing Wiggins hanging on by that reef point."

"Horatio." She took his hand, holding it tightly and rolled to face the wall. She kissed his hand and sniffed.

He leaned over to see her face. "What's this?"

She sniffed and shook her head, clutching his hand.

He scooted her over and lay down beside her, his body forming to hers. With his free hand, he propped his head, then leaned and kissed her cheek. "Why are you crying?" he asked softly.

She sniffed, and shook her head, sniffed and said, "It was my fault."

"What was your fault?"

"The boys. I told them a story and they were acting it out."

Horatio thought. "Did you tell them to act it out?"

She shook her head. "No."

He was quiet, letting his words take effect, then added. "Wiggins, Granby, and Lydle acted on their own. They know better, especially Wiggins. He is nearly grown and should have chosen more wisely."

"But ...he could have been killed. They all could have been killed."

"Precisely, Pamela. He should have known better. He paid the price and so did we. The men are still working to replace the main sail. Then, the other will have to be repaired. He will learn from his mistakes. Thank God, he will learn from his mistakes. He still lives."

Pamela rolled to look at her husband, searching his eyes.

His soft gaze remained and he kissed her forehead. "I love you." Shifting, he lay flat and settled her head on his chest. Lightly, his fingers slipped over her bare arm. "You must not blame yourself. The boys must take responsibility for their actions. It is how they learn."

"Are they all right?"

"As far as I know. You will see them."

"But they may not want to see me," she said doubtfully.

"They might be ashamed for a few days, but it will pass."

"But they may hate me for getting them in trouble."

Hornblower knitted his brow. "You....did not get them in trouble. They got themselves in trouble." He chuckled. "The same way I got myself in trouble where you are concerned."

"Horatio, ... you are not making me feel any better."

"I'd ...like...to make you feel better. This falling and fainting must cease, my dear. Dr. Sebastian was near beside himself when he learned you had fainted."

"He worries too much."

"He is a doctor. You worry me, too. Was it the heat that made you faint?"

She shrugged her shoulders, thinking. She asked, "Is Lydle all right?"

"Yes."

"Thank the Lord! He is so small, I feared for ...."

"He is as stout-hearted as the other two. He suffered his punishment like a man."

"But he is not a man, Horatio. He is a boy."

Horatio's chest lifted, then lowered with a sigh. "It is discipline, Pamela." After a moments silence, he asked, "Was it the punishment that made you faint?"

She did not reply.

He shifted the two of them again, laying her flat, he looked down into her face, seeing the bottom lip pressed by her teeth. He shook his head. "Pamela."

Tears sprang to her eyes. "I don't want our son in the navy!" She covered her eyes. Her shoulders and chest shaking as she fought the emotion.

What was he to do? It had been a long time since she displayed this kind of irrational behavior. Sebastian's advice was just to love her. Could he reason with her? "By the time our son is old enough to join the service, the war will be over." He hoped it would.

"What if there is another war?"

"Then, you will have to take him to America where he will be safe."

She ceased crying, uncovering her eyes to meet his. "I couldn't leave you."

He smiled wryly and smoothed her forehead. "I love you. You worry too much. Sufficient unto the day is the trouble thereof."

She stared oddly. "It always amazes me when you quote scripture."

"Did I?" He pulled absently at the ribbons tying the top of her chemise.

"Yes. Jesus said that. How do you know it?"

He did not look at her as he recalled easily where he learned it. He played with the ribbons, noting the softness of the material. "My mother. She used to say it. When I would worry as a child about a problem with a bully of a boy in the village." He gazed into her eyes. "You manage somehow to bring her memory without my even realizing."

"I wish I could have known her." Pamela lay her hand on Horatio's cheek. "She has such a magnificent son, and I love him so much."

"Will you take her advice?" His fingers traced the exposed skin above the neck of the chemise.

"I will. I want you."

He lowered to kiss, taking her upper lip, the sensitive inner lip smooth against his own, he shifted to take her lower lip, then began a deep inner kiss. Her moan intensified his desire. The mounting passion carried them away to a world inhabited by them alone.

A knock sounded at the door.

He held her breast and was kissing her forcefully. Tearing away from the passion, he asked panting. "Who is it?" He placed his mouth over hers and resumed.

"Dr. Sebastian."

He pulled out of the kiss, panting still. "She is fine, Doctor." He whispered to her. "You are very fine, indeed."

Pamela grasped the skin of his neck between her teeth, causing him to moan.

"Mr. Hornblower?"

"Sir? She ... She is fine, sir. Really."

Silence.

"I will bring her to sick bay later, sir, if necessary." She yanked his shirt from his trousers and ran her hands over his backside.

"Very well, Mr. Hornblower."

"Thank you, sir, for inquiring." He grinned. "Don't do that when I am trying to talk," he whispered.

"Stop talking," she whispered back, pulling his head down so his lips would meet hers.

******

In the second dogwatch, Hornblower arrived in sick-bay, finding Dr. Sebastian at his writing desk.

"Dr. Sebastian. How is Wiggins, sir?"

"Mr. Hornblower," smiled the doctor. Sebastian lay down the quill. "Come and see."

Wiggins saw the two officers approaching and tried to sit up in the hammock.

"Mr. Hornblower, sir."

"How are you, Wiggins?"

"I...I am anxious to have my punishment, sir. Waiting for it is worse."

"I now know your state of mind, but how are your injuries?" asked Hornblower.

Wiggins glanced at the doctor. "I'm hoping to be up and about tomorrow, sir."

Hornblower turned to Sebastian.

"He has pulled a muscle in his left leg. I prefer he stay off it for at least a day. I will not release him until day after tomorrow. His hands will heal, given time."

Wiggins was downcast at the lengthy confinement. "I...I'm sorry about the sail, sir. I truly am."

"I know, Wiggins."

"Captain Pellew was ... angry about it, I know, sir," he said sadly.

"He would have been more upset to have lost you, boy. A sail can be replaced, you cannot."

"I don't think it was me he was thinkin' of, sir."

Horatio sighed. "You do not know the captain if you think that, Mr. Wiggins."

"But I'm just a cabin boy, sir."

"Yes, you are now, but if you manage to keep from breaking your ruddy neck, you may not always be." The boy's lack of self-worth was irritating him.

"Sir?"

"I have nothing more to say, Wiggins. Follow the doctor's orders and get well."

"Yes, sir." The boy pondered the words of the second leftenant, wondering what they could mean.

Sebastian patted the boys arm and followed Hornblower aft. "How is your wife? Did she say what caused her to faint?"

'I think it was the heat, sir. I have instructed her not to be on deck in the heat of day, but only in the morning and late afternoon."

"Hm." Sebastian kept his thoughts to himself. "Hardy was released today. I thought you might want to know. He is on light duties, however, for another month."

"That is what we all have these days, sir." mumbled Hornblower. "How are Granby and Lydle, Doctor?"

"Stiff, sore. A little wiser, I hope," stated Sebastian. "You know what they were playing about up there, do you not?"

"Yes. Mr. Kennedy informed me." Hornblower bowed his head. "They acted on their own recognizance, Doctor,..."

Sebastian interrupted. "I am not blaming anyone, Leftenant. It was merely a question. They made unwise choices." The doctor watched the uneasy young man struggle with the knowledge.

"Indeed." Hornblower was chagrined by the smiling physician. "I will speak to Pamela."

The doctor laughed. "Leave her be, sir. It is only a symptom of a wider ... affliction, shall I say?"

"Sir?"

"You are a hero to these boys, Leftenant."

"Only by Pamela's embellishments."

"No, sir. She might have added a bit of spice to the tale, but the facts remain. Mr. Hornblower, I am well-pleased to serve on a ship with you, despite the difficulties and aggravations you occasionally supply."

Hornblower was speechless.

Sebastian laughed. "That was a back-handed compliment, Leftenant. I eagerly watch your career unfold."

Hornblower was biting back a grin. "Doctor.... thank you,... I think." He departed aft, looking back over his shoulder at the smiling medico.

**********

It was another dreary day of blockade duty. Wiggins' punishment was a dissipating past event and September was slipping away. Two weeks previous, Lord Keith took the squadron to Port Mahon, leaving Indefatigable and Emerald in place. Hornblower had the afternoon watch which was nearly up. Laughter caught his ear, a particular feminine laugh that he knew well. Pamela.

Drake came scurrying up on deck giggling. She was chasing him. The little boy ran foreward then ducked around the boats.

"I am going to get you, Master Drake!" she called.

Hornblower's lips raised in a smile while a brief worry crossed his countenance as she hopped over a bolt ring here and a cannon pulley there. She stopped midway the boat, then looked back at Horatio and grinned. He could see both of them and canted his head to his left. She tip-toed aft, dashed around the boat, and grabbed Drake, both of them falling on the deck. The boy shouted laughter and she proclaimed her success.

"I got you!"

Hornblower smiled, eyes dancing with merriment at the game with which he was entertained in the last moments of the watch.

Pellew stepped outside the corridor leading to his after cabins and stared at the duo intertwined and laughing on the deck. A twitch of muscles raised the side of his mouth.

Drake spotted the Captain first, sucked a breath, and stood motionless. Pamela was still grinning from her seat upon the deck and continued to smile as the Indefatigable's commander drew near. He extended a hand.

"Captain!" She took the offer and came to her feet. She smoothed the dress; her face reflected the additional weight her body was storing. Her eyes were bright and her complexion was creamy and smooth with a light tan. The baby was more apparent, despite the high-waist cut of the dress.

In general, Mrs. Hornblower had a sparkle about her that did Pellew's heart good. Nothing out of the ordinary had happened for nearly a week. It was practically peaceful after she and the boys nearly set the ship afire in another attempt at native American arts.

She seemed genuinely surprised when the sticks she was rubbing together caught the cow's fodder on fire. Fortunately, Styles was not far from them having completed the afternoon milking and dumped two buckets of milk to douse the flame. Oldroyd arrived with an additional bucket of sand and a blanket to smother the remaining fire.

With this event, Pellew felt compelled to confine her to quarters and forbade her seeing the boys for a week. It was odd having she and Hornblower standing at attention in his cabin, but necessary to his way of thinking. She had to be made to know the seriousness of open fires on a wooden vessel!

All subject matter with which she entertained the boys now, had to be run passed Mr. Bracegirdle or one of the other leftenants. While this restriction was meant to bridle any dangerous activities, it seemed that once the subject matter was known, his leftenants and midshipmen were hovering nearby for the discussions, and not merely as a safety precaution.

Daniels, his servant and informer, let him know that Mr. Kennedy had her show him the fire trick, though the leftenant was prepared with a bucket of water this time, should things get out of hand. Pellew had a talk with Mr. Kennedy.

The week previous to the fire incident was another moment that cracked open the door of Pellew's sealed memories. He should have taken a clue that something else "American" was afoot when she requested Matthews to pull the carcass of a dead pelican from the sea and remove some of its feathers.

Mrs. Hornblower decorated the boys as painted Indians using soot from the lanterns, attaching cloths to the waists of their trousers, fore and aft, removing their shoes and shirts, and tying a band about their heads. The pelican's feathers were longer and made a better headdress than the chicken ones readily available.

Apparently, she encouraged them to move by stealth. While they were supposed to be creeping up on each other, two against two, Wiggins and Drake being one band, and Granby and Lydle another, they succeeded in scaring the wits out of Mr. Bowles when Lydle leapt from the quarter-deck ladder with a WHOOP! He aimed himself towards Drake in the waist near the the marine on duty. The man had his musket down and ready to shoot before he knew what was on about! Captain McCann was furious and took a deal of calming by Pellew with Mr. Hornblower present.

Pellew stood by the rail wagging his head as he recalled the ship board incidents since the arrival of Mrs. Hornblower.

Midshipman James rang the watch bell. Pamela was bidding Drake farewell at the companion. He was going on galley duty until the dinner watches were over. Hornblower was on the quarter-deck turning over the watch to Rampling. Pellew waited for Pamela to turn. When she did she smiled broadly and approached.

"He is such a wonderful child, Captain. How ever did he come to be aboard your ship?"

His quizzical expression caught her.

"Oh, Captain! Forgive me," she laughed, "that did not come out as I meant it."

"I take your meaning, Mrs. Hornblower," he smiled back. "Indeed, Drake is young to be on a frigate. I took him as a favor to someone very dear to me. It is a long story, madam."

"I would love to hear it sometime if you are willing to share."

He nodded his head non-committally. Hornblower approached the two.

"Good afternoon, Captain."

"Mr. Hornblower."

"Is all well, sir?" asked Hornblower

"Your wife was just asking about young Drake, Mr. Hornblower."

"Was she? I would like to speak to you about him as well, sir, at your convenience."

"Is there a problem, Mr. Hornblower?"

"No, no, sir. No problems."

Pellew studied the visage of his second leftenant. "Later, then, sir. I am off for a walk. Good evening, Mrs. Hornblower," he nodded.

"Captain." She smiled and gave a slight curtsey.

"What do you want to know about Drake, Horatio?" she asked as her fingers knit with his.

He lifted the hand for a kiss, shrugged, and said, "Just curious about his future education."

"Education?"

Horatio offered his elbow and she looped her arm with his. The two sauntered towards the forecastle.

"He is a bright boy, do you not think?" asked Horatio.

"Yes, very much so. Why are you concerned?"

"I don't want to talk about Drake anymore. How is my wife?"

She was pleased. "Your wife is very happy."

"And how is my son?"

She stepped over to the forecastle wall, the boats blocking the view from the quarter-deck, facing him she took his hand and lay it on her belly. "Hm. Here." She pulled his hand over to her side and kept hers resting on top.

Horatio smiled, feeling the light pounding against his palm. "What is he doing?"

She giggled. "Pacing the quarter-deck, maybe. Rapidly!"

Horatio chuckled softly and gazed lovingly at his wife. "What I want to do to you I cannot do here." His hand slipped around her waist and he pulled her closer. He swallowed as she was near enough to kiss.

"You had better take me below, Mr. Hornblower."

His heart was beating faster and his breath came quicker. "How can you still effect me this way? I have had you for a month and yet, even now its seems as though I never have. But I know I have. But I desire you as though it were the first time." His head dropped lower towards her.

"Leftenant, you mustn't kiss me here," she said breathlessly. She placed her hand lightly on his thigh and brought it up slowly, letting her fingers slip to the front of his trousers.

His lips parted and he moistened them, then sighed. With his eyes, he roamed her features. "It is a sweet agony to have you in my arms and not ..." He lowered even closer to her mouth.

She moved her head side to side, slowly, negatively. "Take me below, my love."

Though he wanted to, he felt rooted to the deck. To move would mean giving up the immediate closeness. "Pamela. Pamela."

She placed her hand on his cheek. Closing his eyes, he turned into the palm and took the mound beneath her thumb into his mouth, pressing it with his tongue and chewing the flesh, slowly, rhythmically. He felt her skin clamped between his teeth, felt the rough lines against his tongue and tasted a light saltyness. He opened his eyes languidly and opened his mouth so she could see as he nipped her hand, circling the clenched flesh with his tongue.

He watched as her chest rose with an intake of breath.

"Sir, ... if you do not want me to embarrass either one of us, you had best take me below now. Please."

He smiled and kissed her hand, releasing it from the hold he had. She sighed and relaxed visibly.

"Tell me," he whispered.

"I want you. I want you, Horatio. I...I want your hands on me." She looked from eye to eye. "I ... want your lips on me. I..."

He put his fingers over her lips and gazed with satisfaction. "I think it is time we went below, Mrs. Hornblower."

Her lips rose into a smile. "Yes, Mr. Hornblower."

His eyes looked down at his trousers then traced to see hers looking in the same place. She raised her eyes to meet his, and he grinned sheepishly. "Perhaps, you should walk a little before me, ma'am."

"As you wish, sir."

Into the evening, after dinner, after a delightful late afternoon, Pamela sat at the wardroom table writing a letter to her sister. Hornblower was engaged in a game of whist with the other off-watch leftenants, Rampling, McMasters, and Bracegirdle. The sailing master, Mr. Bowles watched the game with a frown. Dr. Sebastian was recently departed for his evening smoke on the forecastle.

"I would never remember all these different tricks and trumps," said Bowles shaking his head.

"It's easy, Mr. Bowles. Just concentrate," stated Hornblower.

"Don't believe him, Bowles. He's a shark at this game," stated McMasters, Rampling's partner.

"Indeed. We are losing badly. I think it is a plot by the senior leftenants," complained Rampling.

Bracegirdle and Hornblower shared an amiable grin. Pamela stopped writing to listen to the banter. Hornblower saw her listening and caught her eye. She moistened her lips and kept his attention longer than either expected.

"Ah, that's our secret weapon, Mr. McMasters," joked Rampling. "Have his wife at table during the game to distract him."

Hornblower looked back at his cohorts and snorted. "Sorry, Mr. Bracegirdle."

"Quite all right, Mr. Hornblower. We've got them on the run."

Connors arrived in the doorway. "Excuse me, sirs."

The company looked at the speaker.

"Mr. Hornblower, the captain wishes to see you, sir."

"Thank you, Captain Pellew, sir," said McMasters throwing down his cards.

"Perhaps Mr. Bowles would sit in for me," suggested Hornblower as he rose from the table.

"Not on your life, sir!" said Bowles.

"Good. I've had enough. I think I shall go harass Kennedy for a while." spoke Rampling, standing, too. "Keep him on his toes during his watch."

Several men chuckled.

"I'm turning in," said McMasters. "I've that book Kennedy loaned me. It should put me to sleep straight away."

"Mr. Bowles! Backgammon?"

"Now your talking, Mr. Bracegirdle!" stated Bowles.

"Pamela?" questioned Hornblower, taking her hand.

"I will finish my letter. Do not be concerned for me."

"I will see she gets home safely," offered Bracegirdle.

Hornblower followed Connors on deck.

"Do you know what this is about, Mr. Connors?"

"No, sir."

Hornblower entered the corridor, nodded at the marine on duty, and knocked.

"Come."

Stepping into the lighted cabin, he spoke. "Reporting as requested, sir."

"Ah, Mr. Hornblower. Sit down."

"Yes, sir."

Pellew poured a glass of port for each of them.

"Thank you, sir." Hornblower held the glass a moment, then sipped.

Pellew sat down with a sigh.

"All is well with your bride?"

"Yes, sir. Thank you. Very well."

Pellew sighed long. "Your wife is quite something, Mr. Hornblower." Pellew shook his head in thought. "You know these antics that have erupted in the past month with the boys.... on the face of it they would appear to be mild aggravations, but if you look below the surface, and I am not sure I should be telling you this, but if you look below the surface, they have been a god-send."

Hornblower gulped the port audibly. Pamela's activities considered a god-send?

"This blockade off Toulon has been one of the dreariest in memory. She has managed to keep us suitably entertained, but more importantly she has inadvertently amused the men. Do you know there is a wager for when the next incident will occur?" Pellews eyebrows were raised and he nodded his head. "Hm! The men have a rating system for varying degrees of ...shall we say excitability? I am beginning to wonder if I should rescind my order of keeping tabs on her meetings with the boys. Things have been quiet for a week now."

Hornblower listened attentively, not sure if he should be apologizing or not. "Pamela meant only to share things about America with the boys, sir. I know her intent was not to disrupt."

Pellew chuckled. "Yes. Yes. I know. Up to the moment when I saw her companions leaving, I had doubts as to whether I made the right decision to allow her to stay, but I know now. It was right...in more ways than one. I think it is safe to say the men find her agreeable, which is good, considering the circumstances for the rest of us."

A mild blush entered Hornblower's cheeks. He no longer allowed a thought about his benefits of a wife in relation to the lack of the crew. Ordering himself to stop feeling guilty about his own good fortune, he knew it would not last forever, that he would join the ranks of the celibate, once more.

"She is almost like a mascot to the men...and she has been nothing but good luck for me. Prize ships, not only Dolphin, but our part in the action with the French and Spanish with Jervis's squadron. A tidy sum there, alone. My life, yours, the men....Edrington's life." He paused letting that take effect, watching his leftenant. "All in all, she has been good luck."

It is true, thought Hornblower. In his anxiety not to disrupt the ship, he had failed to consider Pamela's activities in a positive light. Even the night she caused them both to go into the sea had ended positively, clearing the air between them. *I love you, Pamela,* he thought. Hornblower's face relaxed. This interview was kindling the ever present ember of love within.

"I wish you could tell her that, sir," he said softly. "That you consider her to be good luck flies in the face of what she believes. She holds herself in the exact opposite opinion, mainly due to the demise of her first two husbands." Hornblower lowered his view to the deck. He did not like speaking of the previous men. He preferred them to be out of mind and non-existent. She is his. His captain was complimenting the woman he loved. She belonged to no one else. "I know she feels badly about what has occurred with Wiggins, Granby, and Lydle. She is very careful with what she tells them these days. But one never knows what boys will do, sir." Hornblower smiled on that note.

Pellew knew his feelings for his second leftenant, but as he shared information about his wife, he warmed to the man even more.

"She is a very special lady, Mr. Hornblower, very special indeed."

"I think so, sir," said Hornblower distantly.

Pellew could see Hornblower drifting away in thought about his wife. He only meant to use her to ease into conversation. She was not why he called him. It was his mention of Drake.

"What is it that concerns you about Drake, Mr. Hornblower?"

"Drake?" He repeated the boys name as he shifted his thoughts from Pamela to the child. "I have a thought about him, sir, but I do not know his background, so I do not know if I would be out of line in a request."

"He is a good boy. Is he not?"

"Indeed, he is, sir."

Pellew stared into nothingness, lining up the boys history in his mind.

"Drake is the son, of the daughter, of a man..." Pellew rose, drink in hand, and stepped to the darkened stern windows. "...who was....a friend....much like your friendship with Mr. Kennedy."

He sipped the port.

"His name was Bently, Adam Bently. We were midshipmen together for a time, he was older than I, and became a leftenant. He ended up on a 74. He married young, one of those necessary marriages, but they loved each other deeply. It was not infatuation. She was as sweet as the day is long. I was best man at their wedding. Her name was Alice... Alice and Adam."

The captain paused, glanced at Hornblower and began again.

"Anyway, to make a long story short, my friend was killed in the Anglo-American war....a battle with a French ship of the line....cannonball split him in two, I was told. But, he and Alice had a child, a girl. They named her Hazel ... her eyes matched her name." Pellew's eyes drew into a squint as he recalled the girl's. It was like he was studying them as he spoke. "They could be the brightest turquoise on some days and the palest gray on others."

Coming out of the reverie, Pellew continued.

"Alice was not much of a mother for Hazel after Adam's death. She never really recovered from the loss. I always made a point of visiting her when in England. She seemed to fade by degrees each time I saw her, closing into herself. It was difficult for Hazel growing up under such a cloud of ...sadness." He paused, then said. "I was supposed to be making this short. Sorry, Mr. Hornblower."

"Do not apologize, Captain. What became of Hazel"

A heavy sigh. "She ... managed to get herself in a family way... she would tell no one who. She was quite stoic about every point. She sent herself away from her mother, which may not have been the best for Alice. While Alice never seemed to have much desire for life, she had none once Hazel was gone. She just gave up, lost the will to live it seemed." Pellew paused, then said, "I think Hazel felt the need to hide, though I never knew the truth. She asked if she could stay at my home in Cornwall until she was delivered. I could not refuse her. After the child was born, I offered for her to remain there. The servants found her to be ...amiable, and my housekeeper was delighted to have a babe in the house again." Pellew stared at his shoes.

"But did she marry? How does the child have the name Drake, sir?"

"It is the name Hazel chose for him. When asked who the father was for the purpose of the birth certificate and christening, she said the father was Francis Drake, a sailor." Pellew chuckled. "Sir Francis I am sure would have been flattered that such a young woman would choose him to be the father of her child. He was her hero. She told me once that if her father had lived, he would have been as famous as Drake. She idolized her father and the admiral." Pellew went silent, then resumed. "His brilliant blue eyes are what gives him his first name...the color of robin's eggs. I can see Hazel smiling down at the babe in her arms. I feel sure they must be the color of his true father's eyes from the look on her face. She loved that man, whoever he was." Was he a navy man? It was a suspicion, but Pellew would never know.

"Then, Drake, at least, still has a mother waiting for him in England....and possibly a father."

Pellew looked down at the floor and shook his head. "It is another reason your wife has become ... precious to me. I received a letter from my housekeeper, while you were with Nelson, informing me Hazel had died. She became gravely ill about two years ago. That was when she asked me to take Drake with me. She was afraid for him, but would not tell me why. She was so ill. She said, if I loved her father at all that I would take his grandson and keep him safe." Pellew laughed at the irony. "Safe on a ship of war! Finally, I gave in to her request. Your wife..." Pellew looked directly at him. "Your wife has filled an empty spot for Drake. I knew she was spending time with him before we entered Gibraltar last May. I was not sure it was a good thing. Boys Drake's age can become ..." he breathed in "...overly attached. But, Drake is quite the little man. You see what I mean about Pamela being a god-send...in many ways."

He softened in his look at Hornblower, thinking about her effect on the leftenant. Did Hornblower realize how he himself had changed since meeting her? Aside from minor distractions, and discounting the withdrawal symptoms of last June, Hornblower was more at ease, less serious. With her aboard, he was much his old self, except he had a lighter heart. That one person could make a difference in so many lives was a wonder. She was not perfect by any means, but she added that verve that seemed to spark the people around her.

"We will never know who Drake's true father is. Hazel took that with her to her grave."

Hornblower stared at the floor. "He is an orphan."

"No,... he is the grandson of my good friend. There are times when I see Bently in him. He was a good man. I think Drake will be a good man. We are all his father, Mr. Hornblower....and right now, your wife is his mother."

Hornblower pondered that idea. There were times when Drake had almost been a father to him. The child father to the man, a different take on that adage,.... or at least a younger brother, a wise younger brother. Human relationships could certainly take on abnormal configurations. The relationship between Pamela and her father, and now young Drake. A wry smile took Hornblower's face as he recalled the child sitting on a rib of Indefatigable, chin in hand, saying, 'It is a pickle.'

"What amuses you, Mr. Hornblower?"

"Just something I recalled Drake saying, sir."

"Hm. So there you have the boy's history. What is your request?"

"I wondered, sir, if when it comes time for Pamela to be put ashore in Gibraltar if Drake might go with her?"