An American Encounter
By Skihee :)
Chapter 4 "The Worry"
He wondered how long he had been up there. The wind had blown out the cobwebs clogging his mind and he felt he could think more clearly. The problems facing him no longer seemed insurmountable. The plan of action he had laid out for his men and his ship would see them through. He would handle them as they came. And, as for her, that too, would take care of itself. His self assurance restored, he headed down the rigging to the deck. Checking with the helmsman, he bade his goodnights. Tomorrow would be a day of preparation. Its events already laid out on the duty roster in his head, he returned to his cabin and was soon fast asleep.
Images crowded into his dreams. She was there, lovely and playful doing the strangest things! Styles, Matthews, Jenkins. That American flag. Her again. His plans for Dolphin. He tossed and turned. The gundeck. His men. The well. The ocean. The Dolphin heeling over. Was she capsizing? Rumbling sounds. Moving the cannon. One is lose! The cannon had broken free from the lines holding it. At that moment the Dolphin was hit by a wave that sent it careening across the gundeck.
"Styles! Look out!" Hornblower ran to push Styles out of the way of the on coming cannon. He tripped and fell to the deck. Would the cannon crush him? A banging noise was going on in his head as he lay there on the deck. Everyone had disappeared! It was dark. He was alone.
"Mr. Hornblower! Mr. Hornblower!" It was Matthews' voice he heard outside his cabin door. The door opened revealing Matthews standing there. "Mr. Hornblower, are you all right, sir?"
He was laying on the floor of his cabin. Matthews came in to help him up.
"Where's Styles?" He asked still in a sleep stupor trying to understand where he was.
"He's topside, sir. You must have been having a dream."
"A dream?" He rubbed his face and took a deep breath. "Where is Pamela, I mean, Miss Pamela?"
"She's out on the quarterdeck, sir. I was just comin' to see if you might be awake and wantin' your breakfast when I heard you call out for Styles."
He sat down heavily on his bunk. That was all a dream! It had seemed so real.
"What time is it?"
"It's near seven in the morning, sir. Shall I tell Jenkins to bring your breakfast and he's askin' if he can serve you and the lady in the captain's cabin."
Hornblower was still foggy from his dream. "Yes. All right."
"I'll tell him, sir."
Hornblower went over to throw some water on his face. He stumbled out into the companionway. Passing by her cabin, he opened the door. The flag was not hanging on the wall. It was neatly folded and sitting on top of the sea chest. He went on deck looking immediately to the quarterdeck. Pamela was not sitting on the deck, but she was standing near the taffrail looking off the stern. He tried to see if she were wearing shoes. It had to have been a dream! Climbing the stairs, he approached her.
"Good morning, Miss."
"Good morning, Mr. Hornblower." She gave a brief glance his direction, then stared out to sea.
"I understand we are having breakfast together,"he
"I believe it is Mr. Jenkins idea, sir. Please do not feel compelled to dine with me. I can eat in my cabin." She started to walk away.
"No, I would be happy to take breakfast with you," he said hurriedly. "Please, forgive me, I seem to have had some quite vivid dreams last night." A shy grin tried to play on his lips as he sought a glimpse of her eyes.
"I am glad to hear you were able to get some rest, sir." She avoided looking into his face. After last night, she decided it best to steer clear of Mr. Hornblower.
"Thank you, Miss. What ...about you? Did you sleep?" She slept in his arms the previous night. The memory made his innards flutter.
"Passing well, sir, passing well. Thank you." There was a sadness in her tone.
"I have not expressed my condolences on the loss of your father, ma'am. Allow me to do so now."
She closed her eyes and sighed, preparing to look into his handsome face. She would have to at some point on this voyage. Maybe he would not have the same effect on her in the light of day. She raised her eyes slowly to meet his. She sucked in a breath quickly, "Thank you," and she looked away. It was not better, it was worse. Was there any way to get out of having breakfast with him?
"Shall we go below?" He motioned her before him. Just being near her seemed to electrify him, like the sizzle of too close lightening. "Are you limping, Miss?"
"It's nothing, Mr. Hornblower. Do not trouble yourself, sir."
"But you are limping. Have you hurt yourself?"
"It will be all right, sir. I do not wish to trouble you further."
He did not press her about it again until they reached the captain's cabin.
"Your men have really made a difference in this room, Captain."
He turned just in time to see Jenkins coming with his hands full and he moved out of his way.
"Yes, I hope it does not upset you to come in here."
"I would not have recognized it as being the same room." But, that could have been an excuse not to dine with him.
Turning to walk to her chair, she was definitely limping. He held out her chair. As she sat down, he came around and knelt to face her.
"What on earth, Mr. Hornblower?"
"Let me see your foot."
"Well, I ...."she was astounded at his persistance.
She stuck her right foot out from under her skirts. He examined her ankle. No swelling. He took her shoe off and noticed a slight blood stain on her stocking. "Take off your stocking." He pivoted on his knees so he was not looking at her.
"Really! Mr. Hornblower..." She could tell by his attitude he was not going to let her be. She slid the stocking down off her right leg then dropped her skirts back down so that only her foot was seen. "All right, Dr. Hornblower. The patient is ready."
He turned a gaze to her pretty face and lingered until he noted a blush, making her even more lovely. He breathed in.
She smiled dubiously, giving up all hope of avoidance.
He lifted her foot to see the splinter stuck in the bottom of her foot. Jenkins walked in with the rest of their breakfast. "Jenkins, bring some water, salve, and a bandage. Mr. Matthews!"Since there was no door, he caught sight of him in the companionway . "Go look in my cabin and bring me my kit, if you please."
"Aye, aye, sir."
"You shouldn't walk barefooted on wooden ship decks, Miss Pamela. That's a nasty splinter you've got there. You can't leave these in. It could get infected and fester. Then, you would have a real problem. When did you get this?"
"Last night, sir. I had already gone to bed, but got up for a drink of water. That's when I stepped on it. I tried to get it out, but it was too deep."
"It is deep. This may hurt a little."
"Your breakfast is here. Shouldn't you eat before it gets cold? Can I pour you a cup of tea?"
"Coffee, please." Matthews came in with his kit. He took out a pair of tweezers his father had given him. Jenkins arrived. "Thank you, Jenkins." He and Matthews were looking at the foot. "Matthews, hold that candle down here."
"Oh, you've got a nasty one there, ma'am,"said Matthews.
Hornblower dampened the dried blood and carefully wiped her foot so as not to press the splinter deeper in. He looked up at her. "Are you ready?"
He took a deep breath with tweezers in hand. It was a couple of attempts before he was able to grab the end of the wooden chard. "Got it!" He wiped her foot again to clean away the blood, then taking the salve, he covered the wound and wrapped her foot. "Are you all right?"
She had a slight grimace but nodded at him.
He smiled at her. "Good girl." He slipped her stocking back on her foot and pulled it up on her leg a little above the ankle, then slid her shoe back on. "You should always wear your shoes, Miss. Your feet aren't tough like a sailor's. That is going to be sore for a couple of days."
"It feels better already, Dr. Hornblower. Thank you."
"Matthews, put this back for me, please. Then, get Mr. Styles and come back here. You two bring a couple of mugs with you if you would like some coffee or tea." He washed and dried his hands.
"Aye, aye, sir."
He sat at the chair perpendicular to hers and watched as she ate some of her breakfast. When she saw him staring at her, she blushed.
"You are acting very strange this morning, Mr. Hornblower, is it because you have once again taken on your other self as doctor?"she teased.
He chuckled and applied himself to his breakfast. "Indeed. You should let me have a look at your wrists." He noticed her face twinge and changed the subject. "I had some very strange dreams last night."
"Really? Be careful what you tell before breakfast. It might come true."
"Mine have already come true. You were in my dream and you had a splinter in your foot."
She stared at him over her tea mug. "You are having dreams about me, sir?"
He chuckled. "It would seem so."
"Dare I ask what else befell me in your nocturnal nightmare?"
She looked down at the food. He took the opportunity to study her face, forgetting to answer. Could she be more beautiful than when last he saw? Her complexion was creamy and clear. The skin over her eyelids so thin, the veins gave a blue cast over them, as if they were painted. Her lips, a natural tearose pink in such a delicate form. He shook himself from thought, just in time, for as he looked away, he caught her glimpse.
"Most definitely not until I have finished my breakfast if your superstition is true." He stabbed at the fried potatoes on the plate, glancing nervously, and trying to see where her eyes were.
Matthews and Styles appeared at the door. He told them to enter and sit. Nodding greetings, Pamela poured each their preferred drink.
"I want to discuss with you some ideas I have for attempting a better patch on the shot holes." He explained his plan to move the cannon to the larboard side, including a warning to Styles to be sure the cannon being moved were securely tethered before loosing them from their bolt rings. They chewed over ideas on dealing with the hot pitch they would need to seal the more effective patching he wanted.
He gave Styles the new pumping orders and again, or at least, it seemed again. He told Matthews of his desire to have all available sail rigged and set. It was strange as he went over each point how much it mirrored his dream.
Pamela sat quietly listening to the conversation, drinking her tea, and offering to refill theirs. It was those moments that Horatio would steel another unobserved study of her features. It was a pleasant time, the four of them together, and then Matthews and Styles left to begin the preparations for the day's work.
"All this technical talk hasn't left you bored, Miss?"
"No, Captain, it is a good plan you have and a daring one." She lay her hand on his as if to emphasize her confidence but suddenly realized she was touching him. She lifted her hand shyly.
"You should let me change those bandages."
She stared at the wrappings on her wrists, then looked at him. He took her hand in his, turned it over and began to untie the bandage. He carefully unwrapped it. As the layers decreased he came to a part stuck from the dried blood, despite the salve. He looked into her eyes. "I'll be as gentle as I can,"he said softly. He placed a wet cloth on top of the blood dried bandage. Holding it there, he watched her expression. She was avoiding his eyes. "Are you all right?"
She raised them to meet his, letting his features replace the visual horror seeking to form from this reminder of her peril. She forced a smile but it quickly left.
"He is not here to hurt you. I would never allow it."
He placed his hand on her cheek. "You are safe, Pamela."
A single tear escaped. He wiped it away with his thumb.
"Give me your other wrist."
She obeyed. He began the same with this one. It was quiet except for their breathing and the sounds of the ship. He glanced at her countenance and placed another wet cloth on the other arm. He checked the first. It needed more soaking and he wetted the cloth. Despite his assurances, he could tell he needed to do or say something to distract her thoughts. He lifted her hand to his lips and kissed it. "Are you all right?"
"Yes." She smiled nervously.
"What is your last name?"
"What?" Her eyelids fluttered.
"You did not tell me your last name."
"Dandridge. My last name is Dandridge." She seemed to fade away.
"And, your father was Mr. Dandridge." He tried to think of something to say to call her back from wherever her thoughts were taking her. Perhaps bandaging her in this room was not a good idea. What must she be thinking? Should he ask?
Her brow was knitted. "No. My father's name was Dawson, James Dawson."
He was struck! My God, was she married? Had he kissed a married woman? He stuttered and this caught her attention. Her eyes focused on him.
"Oh, Mr. Hornblower. I am a widow!" Did he think she was so loose as to be willing to kiss another man when she was married? That had to be what entered his mind.
He let out the gasp of air he had taken. "I...I...I'm sorry, ma'am." His analytical mind raced with this new information. A widow and now her father dead. She was young. These had to be recent events.
"My husband died about a year ago."
He attended to her wrists. Dead a year? The first bandage finally lifted. As it came off, he looked to see if it pained her. She seemed all right. "It looks better than it did that first day."
"So, it was you that did this for me." She was glad for the change of topic. Discussing her matrimonial state was disquieting.
"Yes." He checked the second wrist removing the bandage carefully. "I'll bandange these for you again, but at some point they will probably need to get air so as to scab over properly." He smiled. "It was funny you calling me Dr. Hornblower. My father is a doctor."
"Then what led you to join the navy? Why did you not become a doctor like your father?"
He shrugged his shoulders. "I don't know. The navy seemed more appealing, more adventurous." He smiled, feeling himself warming to her after the earthquake of revelation.
She watched him as he began to wind the fresh bandages around her wrists. She could not help it. She could feel it happening within her. *It is just gratitude,* she told herself. *He has been so kind. It is gratitude and gratitude only!*
He finished wrapping and tying and looked up to see her stare. She looked away.
"Miss Pamela, I mean, Mrs. Dandridge, I..." She interrupted him.
"Call me Pamela."
"You can call me Mrs. Dandridge when we are around your men, but when we are not, please, call me Pamela." What on earth was she saying?
He continued. "I want to apologize for what happened in your cabin the other day. I don't know what came over me. It was certainly not the gentlemanly thing to do."
"As I recall, Mr. Hornblower, it was not completely your idea." She blushed and averted her eyes. "I think if it came over you, it also came over me."
"It comes over me now. In fact,...in fact...." he stopped, and said, "We live in different worlds, you and I, indeed, different countries even." He watched to see how she received this.
"What you say is true, Captain. Events have brought us together and events will take us apart."
As she said this last, he could hear a hint of sadness in her voice.
"I will be sorry when that day comes, sir." He was so handsome and there was that curl again on his forehead. Unconciously, she reached up to smooth it off his face.
He closed his eyes, tingling at the touch. He reached up, took her hand, pulled it to his lips. She stood and he followed.
"Don't let worrying about the tomorrows give death to our todays." It seemed it was someone else saying this, but it was his voice. He looked at the tears forming in her eyes.
She looked away, but did not move away. She put her hand in his coat pocket and took out his handkerchief.
"My first name is Horatio."
She laughed lightly and he smiled with her.
"Are you laughing at my name?"
She placed her hand on his chest and felt the strong quick beat of his heart matching her own. "Never in this world, sir,"she assured him. "It is a lovely name. How did you know I .... I had meant to ask your men, I.... you have a lovely name, Horatio."
He took her chin in his hand and studied everything filling his vision.
"What do you see, sir?"she asked, blushing under his scrutiny.
His face went deadly serious. "I think I see a ...woman...for whom ... I have come to care." He said this last part slowly and softly. He released her chin and pulled her gently into his embrace. His head leaned against hers and she rested in the hollow of his shoulder. They fit together wonderfully well. "I've got to go to work, Pamela."
"Yes, I know."
"Will you dine with me this evening?"
"I would like that very much, Horatio."
"Until then." He looked at her one last time, feeling his lips burning for hers, and left to care for his ship.
The Indefatigable had been sailing nor' nor'east for the past three days. The wind had been with them and they were making good time. Mr. Bowles stood on the quarter-deck looking over the sail and the men in the rigging. He rested his eyes on a blue coated figure standing at the main mast top yard. Mr. Bracegirdle walked closer to him.
"Up there again, eh, Mr. Bowles?"said Bracegirdle, as he too spied the lone figure on the top yard.
"Any notion of what burdens our Mr. Kennedy?"
"No, sir. But it's got somethin' to do with Mr. Hornblower and that pirate ship, I'll wager." Bowles looked at Bracegirdle.
Captain Pellew ascended the quarter-deck. He nodded to his senior officers. "Mr. Bracegirdle, Mr. Bowles." He surveyed the quarter-deck, the main deck, the sails. His eye was caught by the top of the main mast. He pinched his lips together, and gave a side glance at his two officers. "He's up there again." He looked onto the main deck at one of the cabin boys. "Wiggins!"
A sandy blonde youth looked up at his captain.
The Captain motioned with his eyes and his head to the main mast top yard. "Go tell Mr. Kennedy, I want to see him in my cabin."
"Aye, sir." Wiggins was one of the older cabin boys. Pellew watched him with interest as he made his way to the top yard. He was fast and sure of his way there and Pellew was pleased with what he saw. He watched as the message was relayed to Kennedy who looked down at his Captain standing on the quarter-deck. He saw him look out to sea once more and then begin his descent.
Upon reaching the deck, Kennedy looked up at his Captain and was visibly nervous.
"I'll be in my cabin, Mr. Bracegirdle."
Reaching the deck, he looked at Kennedy. He spoke, "Mr. Kennedy." Inclining his head for him to follow.
Kennedy felt like he was on a trip to the woodshed. He had failed in keeping his concerns hidden and now he was in for it. He could feel it as he gave a final glance up at Bowles and Bracegirdle before going inside.
He followed his Captain into his cabin. Pellew removed his
hat with a sigh, then turned to his acting leftenant. He studied
the younger man and his nervousness.
He thought how to approach him. His senior officers had expressed some concern over Kennedy and Pellew had taken note, seeing the agitation of the young man for himself. Pellew turned and walked over to the stern windows, giving Kennedy some relief from his stare.
"What seems to be the problem, Mr. Kennedy?"
Kennedy gulped. He had planned a reply in case he were questioned and it was partly true. "I am merely anxious to get to England, sir, so that we might be done with these pirates. I was hoping to sight land today, sir."
"We have men for that job, Mr. Kennedy and yet you find it necessary to look for yourself?"
Kennedy stammered his answer. "I...I... just want to...to be rid of them, sir, so that we might get back to Gibraltar."
"And, back with Mr. Hornblower." He turned to look at Kennedy and saw the white of his fear replaced with the red of blush, eyes lowering to the floor.
"I realize you and Mr. Hornblower are friends, Mr. Kennedy, but I feel there is something more causing you concern than the mere loss of his company."
Kennedy felt his face go redder as his captain guessed at his worry.
Pellew let his words sink in and gave his junior officer breathing
space under his questioning. He had no desire to cause him discomfort.
Although, Kennedy's own actions had been causing Pellew and his
senior officer's just that. To the point now,
that he was called into his Captain's cabin.
"Is it something Captain Mason told you?"
Kennedy felt as though a load of bricks had been dropped on him. How could Pellew know?
Pellew watched him and knew he had deduced rightly. The man was clearly suffering under some worry for Hornblower. He decided to take a softer tack with his junior officer. He breathed deeply and moved closer to him. Speaking softly he said, "Come on, man. Out with it. What has been worrying you these last days?"
"I don't want to get Mr. Hornblower in trouble, sir."
Pellew knitted his brow. "How could you get Mr. Hornblower in trouble?"
Kennedy was tight lipped. Pellew sighed and felt himself becoming agitated. He needed to ask a different question. His tone became firmer.
"What did Captain Mason tell you?"
Kennedy's body became taught at this question. He fidgeted and glanced from his Captain to the floor. The seconds seemed like hours as he tried to think of his answer. He could feel his Captain becoming angry with him.
He swallowed. "It.... it was why the pirates attacked them, sir."
Kennedy glanced at his Captain waiting for more information.
"It was what they were looking for on board the Cymbaline, sir."
Pellew was about to lose his composure. What could the pirates have wanted off the American ship that would have anything to do with Mr. Hornblower.
"And, what was it they wanted from the Cymbaline, Mr. Kennedy?"
Kennedy glanced at Pellew, then the floor and licked his lips. His Captain was waiting. Oh God, he did not want to get Horatio in trouble. Captain Pellew was a good captain perhaps he would not be too angry with Horatio. Though he could tell he was getting angry waiting for him to answer. There was nothing to do but confide his fears. He would have to tell him and postponing his answer might make things worse, as indeed it seemed it was about to.
"Gunpowder, sir," he interupted his Captain who was about to explode onto his junior officer. "They wanted gun powder." Kennedy looked downcast.
Pellew let his words sink in and wondered further at how this would affect Hornblower. Clearly there was another suspicion borne these last days by Kennedy. His mind worked quickly over the implications. He wanted to hear Kennedy formalize his fears.
"Go on, Mr. Kennedy."
Kennedy's expression was pitiable under his Captain's relentless examination. He had to say it? He took several quick breaths. "I checked the record for the gun powder stores, sir. I did not see that Mr. Hornblower had removed any when he supplied Dolphin. He had noted removal of supplies from other stores, but...not ... munitions, sir." There. He had said what he knew. He felt wretched at having to tell, and relieved. This burden of worry would no longer be soley his, no matter what the consequences. His head bowed and he stared at the floor, not wanting to look at his captain.
Pellew was mildly stunned. He breathed in slowly and then, out, letting his agitation with the reluctance of his officer flow away. He knew men. He knew his men. He understood Kennedy better than Kennedy knew. He thought back to that day when Dolphin had been taken. It all happened quickly. So, it appeared Hornblower had forgotten stores of gunpowder and apparently that was what the pirates had been wanting from Cymbaline. "Cymbaline did not have the stores of powder they needed."
Kennedy shook his head. "Not according to Captain Mason, sir."
"Did you do an accounting of our powder casks, Mr. Kennedy?" He asked him with composure as he looked out the stern windows. Hoping now, what Kennedy had probably already hoped, that Hornblower had taken them, but not signed that he had taken them. A far easier oversight to accept.
"The casks are all accounted for, sir. He did not take any gun powder." Kennedy answered with head bowed to the deck, not wanting to look at his captain.
Pellew sighed. It was time for another interview with the pirate captain. "Mr. Kennedy, inform Captain McCann I wish the pirate captain brought on deck."
"Aye, aye, sir."
Kennedy was relieved to exit his captain's cabin. He delivered his message and emerged into the waist. He looked sheepishly at Bracegirdle and Bowles on the quarter-deck. His head still hung low. The two senior officer's looked at each other in wonder.
Pellew appeared. He noted Kennedy standing to starboard. He walked over to him and was about to speak when he heard the rattle of chains behind him. He turned to see the pirate blinking in the bright sunshine. Pellew drew himself up with a breath. Kennedy watched.
The pirate smiled at Pellew. "Nice day, ain't it?"
"What is you name?" He asked the pirate.
"Downs, Captain Randy Downs, at your service, sir." He did a mock bow before Pellew.
"Why did you attack Cymbaline, Captain Downs?"
Downs looked at Kennedy, then Pellew. He smiled crookedly at Pellew. "Don't you know?"
"Tell me yourself." Pellew was cool with him not letting his cagey manner distress him.
The pirate looked around the ship and back to Pellew. He canted his head, squinting at him. "What's it to ya?" Then, he started to laugh. He was not stupid. He knew what he wanted from Cymbaline. He could guess why this British Naval officer was asking him about it now. He laughed harder and slapped himself on the knee. "That young lieutenant of yours, he didn't take any with him, did he?" He laughed all the louder.
Kennedy looked at his Captain. Pellew was red faced. He had never seen his Captain like this before. He looked at the laughing pirate and hated him for his mockery. He hoped Downs would not say it. The whole ship would know. Before Downs could stop laughing and answer, Kennedy balled up his fist and punched him out with a right cross! He fell to the deck silent.
Pellew's only sign of surprise was a slight jerk towards Kennedy who was holding his right fist with a pained expression. "Mr. Kennedy! What...?" Pellew turned to McCann. "Take Mr. Downs below, Captain!"
The marines grabbed the pirate by the arms and drug him back below decks.
Pellew looked at Kennedy, his mouth ajar.
Kennedy's face turned a brighter shade of red. "I'm sorry, sir. I couldn't bear his laughing at ..." He looked at his Captain with sad eyes, shoulders sagging.
Captain Pellew sighed quickly as he looked at his junior officer, then squinted up at the Indy's sails. "Well, Mr. Kennedy, ...you saved me from having to do it. After all, it would have been most undignified for a captain in his majesty's navy to have to flatten a pirate!"
On the deck of Dolphin, there was a scurry of busy seamen. Several stood lacing sheets to tether sails, others were spreading sail and running line to spars. Weaving the sheets from ship side to yard and spar, the web of sailing ship became more intricate yet more defined. Hornblower ran an appreciative eye over all he beheld. Matthews approached him.
"This'll take the better part o' th' mornin', sir. 'Specially if you want all sail rigged."
"That is well, Mr. Matthews. It may save our lives."
"Keep them at it until, the list is too severe to remain."
In his ruminations at the top yard the night before, he had decided if they could not fight, they had best be able to run, and run fast. This train of thought had caused him to decide to lighten the ship which meant getting the water out of the well. Since mere pumping was not doing the trick, a better patch was needed. He wondered if what they were about to attempt had ever been done before. He knew he had another option of lightening the ship, but hoped he would not have to choose it. That was dumping the cannon overboard. The military man in him bristled at this notion, even though there was not enough powder to mount a serious attack or defense, it would be the option chosen last. The extra sail would aid in their flight, if it should become necessary.
Styles emerged from below decks. "I've got the men on the rotation ye wanted, sir. One hour on, and two off is what we'll have to do though, sir, due to the men needed for movin' the cannon."
He was having the pumpmen pump like hell for an hour at a time, hoping this combination with the new patchings would get the water out that made Dolphin handle sluggishly. Since he was asking the men to work at that level of exertion, he wanted them relieved after an hour.
"Very well, Mr. Styles. Has the moving of cannon begun?"
"Aye, sir. I'm headed back there to 'elp with that, sir."
"Good. Remember what I told you about being sure each cannon is tethered before releasing it from its stays." Styles knuckled his forehead and went below. "Mr. Matthews, what about the patching crew?"
"They're overside now, sir, 'avin' a look." The two moved forward to starboard side and leaned out over the bow of the ship. The ship was hove to and the men in charge of patching were swung over in rope slings.
"Starns, what do you make of it?"called Hornblower.
"Well, sir, this 'ere one is right close to the water line. Might be we could do a better patch with just weight shiftin', sir. An' if the pumpmen 'ave a go, mmm, could be as 'ow we could close this 'un pretty fair, sir,"said Starns optimistically. "This t'othern will be the tricksy one, sir. She's a foot below the water line. Could be the pumpin' an' closin' o' that 'un 'll make a difference. Alls we can do is give it a go, sir."
"What about the third hole, Starns?"
"That be the tricksiest yet, sir. I don't know. Best to try these two first, then take a new look at 'er, sir."
"Hmm,"said Hornblower his face scrunched in thought. "Very well, Starns. I will see the cannon are shifted straight away."
Starns and his helper made their way back aboard ship. With the measurements he had taken, he would make a patch roughly to fit from spare lumber on board. All would be readied for patching as soon as possible.
Hornblower headed to the gundeck. Styles was there coordinating the moving of the cannon. Even on wheels these monsters were a challenge to men's strength. Tackle was strewn across the gundeck with pulleys and four men heaving to budge one across to larboard.
"Be sure these losed cannon are secured, Mr. Styles,"Hornblower said again. He realized he sounded like a mother hen in reminding him, but the memory of his dream was still fresh and caused him to give caution.
Styles glanced at him and shook his head. "Aye, sir, I remember ye told me so."There was a hint of exasperation in his voice. "Bailey, be sure the tether lines are tight and secure on this 'un before ye loose the tackle." Styles looked at Hornblower and gave his head a firm nod.
Hornblower smiled at him wryly. "Check those stays YOURSELF, Mr. Styles. Let's be sure about the security of each one."
"Aye, aye, sir."
Dolphin was not as large as the Indy. Her gun deck cannon numbered only eighteen, nine per side. He hoped moving some of the nine would be enough to bring the first hole out of water for patching.
Hornblower stood watching as the next cannon was laced and loosed for moving. He went to give a hand with a cable that had become twisted. There was a hush among the men and work ceased as the men looked aft. Hornblower looked to see what had stopped their progress. It was Pamela, Pamela Dandridge. He had finally asked her last name and was taken aback to learn she was not 'miss' but 'Mrs.' Discovering she was married was quickly altered again with the discovery that she was a widow. That knowledge had eased his mind, but left him feeling mildly guilty over his quiet joy that the man was dead. Though he disliked the stoppage of work, a smile quickly flashed over his face. Their eyes met. He noted a shift in hers to softness. Suddenly, he realized his men were now looking at him.
"Harumm,"Hornblower cleared his throat. Walking to stand next to her, he introduced her to his men. "Men, this is Mrs. Dandridge."
A wave of "good days"and "mornin,' ma'ams, wafted through the gundeck. She smiled and did a slight curtsey.
"Good morning, sirs,"she replied. "I wondered what all the commotion was about. I hope I haven't disturbed you, Captain Hornblower."
"Well, miss, we are in the process of shifting the cannon hoping for a chance to do a better patch job on Dolphin's shot holes."
"Ah, yes, as you mentioned earlier. May I watch you work for a while?"
Hornblower saw some of the men shifting their weight uneasily. "I believe that would be all right, miss, as long as you stayed clear in case some cannon should come loose. Be sure to stay well aft here."
"I will, sir."
"Then, if you will excuse me." Hornblower bowed slightly. "Get back to work, men. We haven't got all day."
She did as he asked. Every now and then one of the men looked at her and smiled. Some actually seemed to be working harder in front of her, showing their muscles then looking for her approval, which she gave willingly through a smile and a nod of her head. Indeed, the next cannon was moved quickly, and the third was begun.
Hornblower gave his full attention to the task at hand. He was not aware of the fawning going on before her, only that her presence seemed to flag the men on to greater effort. He went behind Styles checking the lashings. He wanted nothing happening in his ship that had occured in his dream.
Pamela watched them for a while, then slipped out on deck. Hornblower was not aware when she left. Up on deck, she once again caused a work stoppage as the men topside took her in. It was Matthews this time, that introduced her to the men.
"Good morning again, Mr. Matthews,"she said gaily.
"Good mornin', miss."
"There seems to be a flurry of activity everywhere I look!"
"Yes, Miss. We're doin' our best to get her ship shape."
She looked up to the mainmast yard at the men working there. "I would like to make that climb someday, Mr. Matthews."
"It might be a bit scarry for ye, ma'am. It's higher than it looks from down 'ere."
"I used to climb the trees on our land back home. But, I admit, I don't think I ever made it that high. It would be a challenge!"
"Yes, Miss. And not one to be taken lightly."
"When do you think I could give it a try?"
Matthews laughed. "I don't think Mr. Hornblower would approve of ye climbin' up there in those skirts, Miss. No, indeed."
"Then, I shall need some men's clothes."
Matthews stopped chuckling and looked at her. "I don't know, Miss...." said Matthews as he shook his head. "Mr. Hornblower..."
She interrupted him speaking softly in a determined voice. "Mr. Matthews, I have found in my short life, and especially as a female, that if one wants to do something, it is wiser to act first and seek forgiveness afterwards. This will be our secret,"she whispered. "Not a word to anyone."
"Er, no, ma'am," said Matthews hoping she would forget about this wild notion altogether!
The deck was beginning to lean noticibly to larboard and Matthews called the men down from aloft. The men on deck were adjusting their stance to accomodate the list.
On the gundeck, four of the cannon had been moved. They had been a bear! Styles brought up the difficulties they would face when it came time to put them back, as the tilt of the deck was now somewhat pronounced. Hornblower agreed as he wiped his forehead, his exertions bringing on a sweat.
Hornblower came topside and noticed Pamela standing aft watching the topmen descend.
He smiled at her. "What do you think?"
"Very interesting, Captain. Running a sailing ship is a lot of hard work."
"Indeed it is. Excuse me." He walked forward to where Starns and his helper were working on their preparations to patch.
"How are we progressing, Starns?"
"I was just thinkin' I should 'ave a look, sir, by the sway o' the deck."
"Indeed,"replied Hornblower as he walked to the side and looked over. Starns followed him.
"I'll be, sir! The first is out o' the water and most of the second 'un, too!"
"Excellent! I'll go see that one more cannon is shifted and then you may begin your repairs, Starns."
"Aye, aye, sir, we'll be ready."
Hornblower returned to the gundeck. Pamela walked forward to look over the side at the holes in the ships side.
"Oh, my! However have we stayed afloat! My goodness, this would give me pause! What is that covering the hole?"
Matthews came beside her to look over the side. His weathered arm brushed hers. He could smell her light perfume in contrast to the smells that normally greeted his nostrils and he breathed in deeply.
"That's a fothered sail, Miss. Standard patchin' procedures. Though Mr. Hornblower wants somethin' a bit sturdier now, as we might need to run fer it."
She looked at the older man next to her. "Why might we need to run fer it, Mr. Matthews?"
"Well, Miss, these 'ere pirates is fer all intents and purposes out o' powder,"he whispered out the side of his mouth.
"Powder? You mean gun powder?"
"Hmmm. I see. Well, I must say if those holes can be better patched I am all for it."
She leaned out over the rail looking down the ship side. Her backside was lifted to the men as her feet dangled off the deck. Matthews heard low muttering and chuckles from some of the men. He looked at her bottom as well and cleared his voice. Then, gently taking her elbow he pulled her back so her feet were on the deck.
"Beggin' your pardon, miss, but ye should move back now so's we can get on with our work."
"Of course, Mr. Matthews, I would not want to detain you." She smiled at him as she moved back to her point of observation next to the quarter deck. As she walked, the fifth cannon must have been shifted as the deck suddenly listed even more to larboard. She nearly lost her balance! She felt two strong arms grab her to keep her from tumbling overboard.
"Oh!"She cried as she reached back to grab the neck of the man rescuing her. It was Styles. "Oh, Mr. Styles!" Her face was next to his. "Thank you! I thought my next stop would be the briny deep!" She smiled at him and could not help note the muscles in the arms tightly gripping her waist. The force of those same muscles held her close to his body.
Styles stood there with his sea legs planted firmly to adjust to the larboard list. He had his arm around her waist holding tightly. She seemed light in his arms compared to the inanimate objects he normally man-handled about. His other hand grabbed the quarterdeck railing post. His face showed concern for her as he looked into hers. He took a deep breath and blinked at what was registering in his mind. It made him feel uncomfortable. Women were for one thing to his mind, meeting a man's needs. He swallowed as he looked at her full lips and then into her eyes. The blush he felt racing to his cheeks felt strange and unusual. He heard footsteps on the deck behind him.
"Mrs. Dandridge! Are you all right?" asked Hornblower.
Her gaze left Styles face. "Yes, Captain, thanks to Mr. Styles here! I thought I was headed for an unexpected swim!" She smiled at Hornblower as Styles released his hold, steadying, as he guided her to stand in the small cranny of the stairway going to the quarterdeck.
"You best hold on here, ma'am,"said Styles. He looked at his Captain briefly then lowered his eyes as he moved away from them.
"Styles is right. You had best stay there and hold on until this business is finished."
"Aye, aye,sir!" she smiled.
Hornblower walked forward to see Starns and Billings going over the side. Matthews was there with their tools and repair materials to pass over. Starns steadied himself like a climber going down a mountain, then began to cut the line holding the fothered sail. Men on deck pulled it up out of the way. Then using his woodworking tools, he began to even up the timbers in a way that would accept his prepared patch. Billings watched and assisted him as he began to fit the boards in the hole. Pitch and rope seam stuffing would close the first smaller hole quickly. Starns looked up to see several faces peering over the side.
"Gi' me a bit o' slack there,"he called as he prepared to absell himself over to the other hole. It was not much larger than the first, just lower. The waves lapped at his feet as he took his position next to it. Billings joined him. He began again. Trimming and smoothing the blown ship's lumber was the most tedious part of the task, then fitting the patch. Sealing it with the pitch and rope, he called up for the copper sheathing. It was passed to him. Covering the area with pitch, he placed the copper sheathing over the top and began hammering it on. He returned to the first patch and did the same with it.
"I'll be goin' to 'ave a look at the last hole, now, Mr. "Ornblower,"he shouted. "Give me some slack there, Matthews."
Matthews held the guy rope and gave him some play as Starns walked down the ships side to the final hole. He looked at the depression in the fothered sail, noting the size and placement. It lay just under the new water line created by the shifting of weight. "Pull me up, Matthews!" Starnes jumped to the deck and faced Hornblower.
"Well, sir, if ye want to try shiftin' another cannon or two, it might do. It'll be the devil to shift back though, as you well know, sir. Plus, we're takin' the chance o' layin' her over."
Hornblower looked at him and took a deep breath. He leaned out over the side to see the hole. "Give me that rope, Starns. I'll go have a look." Hornblower let himself over and down the side of the ship. He noted the markings of the waterlines on her sides and the placement of the gun ports. He looked at the calm sea and the sun. There was still time to do this last one if all went well. Weighing the advantages in his mind, he made his decision. He pulled himself back to the deck of Dolphin.
"Mr. Styles, have a look at the well, will you? Right away!'
"Mr. Matthews, call the boat out, I want Mrs. Dandridge put in it along with food and water in case we should capsize."
"Mr. Starns, prepare to do your last patch while we move the next cannon."
"Aye, aye, sir."
Hornblower headed for the gundeck, his men following. Matthews called to a group of men to help sway out the boat. Others busied themselves gathering casks of water and tack for the boat.
Styles had reached the belly of the ship where two men were hard at work pumping the bilge.
"Hey, Styles, whats goin' on up there? We're really listin' 'ere!"
"Aye, we are. Captain's got two o' the 'oles patched and 'e's decided to go fer the last 'un."
"Has 'e lost all sense? We might capsize!"
"Hold on to yer horses, mate. 'E knows what 'e's doin'." Styles hoped earnestly he knew what he was doing.
Styles opened the hatch to the well. He wondered what he would be able to tell with the ship at the angle it was. He dropped the line in and then checked its wetness. The pumpmen were pumping rapidly. The line was definitely less wet in length, but was it due to the pumping and the shot holes being repaired or was it the deception of the list? Styles breathed deeply and closed the well hatch.
"'Ow's it look, mate?" called one of the pumpmen.
"She seems dryer. Maybe your work is payin'off, Crabbe,"he called.
Matthews and his men were loading the final food and water stores in the boat and eased her off the deck. It was not far to the water with the ship leaning like she was. Pamela still held on in her cranny watching the events on deck. Matthews approached her.
"The Captain wants you in the boat, miss."
"But why? I want to stay here."
"Captain is afraid she may capsize. He wants you out of 'arms way,"explained Matthews.
"I'm not afraid. I want to stay here,"she insisted.
Matthews was not accustomed to someone questioning his Captain's orders no matter who they were. The subject was not for debate. "Get in the boat, Miss." He held his hand out to help her to it. She looked at his hand stubbornly and hesitated. It was too much for Matthews. He had had enough. He reached over grabbed her and slung her over his shoulder. "I apologize, Miss, but orders is orders."
"Mr. Matthews!" she exclaimed. The men watching were laughing. She gave in and protested no more as he delivered her to the side to be helped into the boat. Another man waiting in the boat assisted her. The crewmen rowed it a safe distance in the event Dolphin should capsize. Pamela looked back at the ship and was amazed how well she could see the deck. Perhaps the Captain was right in insisting that she evacuate.
The list of the gundeck was eerie. The cannon to starboard were heeled back as far as their stays allowed.
"We've got to be really careful with this, men,"cautioned Hornblower.
They began to rig the tackle for the sixth cannon. It would move easily due to the list of the ship. Hornblower checked each tether. The men stationed themselves to starboard of the lines and cannon as this time it would require holding back rather than pulling to. They held tightly and eased the cannon larboard. The incline of the deck increased and they did not move it the entire distance.
"Lash those lines off there, men. Hold to while I go topside to check the waterline." Hornblower had regained the deck as he watched Matthews lowering Pamela off his shoulder. He did not have time to wonder what that was about and walked quickly up the side grasping the rails and pulling himself to where Starns was already overside.
"Well, Mr. Starnes, will that do?" Hornblower jumped up on the rail and pulled himself so his legs and feet were nearly straight out. He could get a better look at the ship's side this way. Starns looked up at him and smiled.
"Ye've got it, sir! Tell Billings to get 'isself over here with me tools!"
Styles showed up beside Hornblower. He glanced around the open deck wondering where Pamela was, then he spied her out in the boat and half smiled to himself. He was glad to see her safe and let out a breath he did not know he was holding. "Well seems dryer, sir."
"Excellent, Mr. Styles!" Hornblower smiled at him. "That is good news! And better news yet is Starns is patching the last hole."
They all waited and watched as the patchings were done. There
was not much else could be done the way the ship was leaning!
If they could have read each others thoughts they would have
been in one accord in prayer that no unexpected swell would meet
them in this precarious position. Hornblower wondered what Captain
Pellew would have thought of this daring repair at sea and he
smiled to himself. This one would be nothing like the Marie Gallant!
His only chiding would come at not remembering to check the munitions
stores and that thought made Hornblower frown.