An American Encounter
By Skihee :)

Chapter 9 "The Wedding!"

Indefatigable prepared to receive the victuals as the lighter from the dockyard was just finishing unloading her cargo. There were some tense moments between the two craft as one was trying to leave and the other trying to tie on to the Indy's chains. The lines kept getting confused and each time the lighter thought it was freed it turned out to be the ropes of the victualler! Thinking they were secure, one of the crewmen unloading the food nearly went into the bay along with a bag of biscuit! Mr. Kennedy was on deck yelling orders to one and then the other.

 

"Not that line! That line! Yes! No! That one!" he shouted and pointed.

 

Captain Pellew, standing on the quarter-deck surveying the happenings could not help but stifle a chuckle at the events unfolding. At last, the lighter pulled away. The small resupply of food stores was completed. Exasperated, Kennedy turned to the quarter-deck and nodded to the captain.

"Mr. Bracegirdle, signal our departure. Mr. Bowles, make sail," commanded Pellew softly.

"Aye, sir." Taking two steps towards the railing, Bowles shouted, "Man the capstan!"

Kennedy joined Pellew on the quarter-deck.

"Congratulations, Mr. Kennedy. I believe our time at anchor for resupplying shall go down in history."

"Thank you, sir."

Pellew walked over to larboard taking in the sights of the harbor. Kennedy stood next to Bowles and watched the men circling the capstan. Bowles became aware of Kennedy and glanced over at Pellew, seeing only his back. Bowles cleared his throat loudly. He took a side step to starboard. Kennedy matched the move. Bowles frowned and gazed Pellew's way. At that moment, Pellew turned and catching Bowles pleading glance, stifled a chuckle.

 

"The anchor is up, Mr. Bowles," said Kennedy, with a nod.

 

Bowles gave him a steely glance. "Make sail!" he shouted.

 

Pellew watched with admiration the patience of his sailing master. Kennedy was intent on every movement of the men in the rigging and making some comment to Bowles whose face seemed to be growing somewhat pinker. It was time to intervene.

 

"Mr. Kennedy."

 

Kennedy was in the middle of expressing views to Bowles about how much sail should be unfurled.

 

"Sir?"

 

"A word if you please." Pellew motioned him over and caught the expression of relief on Bowles' face as Kennedy drew near. "Mr. Kennedy, I would like you to check on the storage of our new supplies."

 

"Mr. Cutter..."

 

"But, I want YOU to check them, Mr. Kennedy."

 

"Aye, aye, sir."

 

"And when you have finished, I want a written report of what was received with an accurate accounting of what was used, what was replaced, and how it is currently stored listing each location and how it is battened down, if necessary."

 

"Sir?"

 

"Is there something unclear, Mr. Kennedy?"

 

"No, sir, but..."

 

"Then carry out my orders."

 

"Aye, aye, sir." He gave a parting glance at Bowles and the sail.

 

Bowles gave a sigh of relief as Pellew came to stand beside him. "Thank you, Captain."

 

"Glad to be of service."

 

The crew of Indefatigable carried out the precise orders of her sailing master, making the most of the afternoon breezes, pulling back on the halyards to catch the wind, easing the frigate smoothly out the mouth of the harbor, and into the English Channel. By nightfall, she was well west. At midnight, under the light of a bright half-moon, Indefatigable was sailing smoothly into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of France, on her way to Gibraltar.

***

 

Daybreak on Dolphin found her Captain standing at the taffrail, glass to eye, sweeping the horizon. Not a ship in sight. After months in a Spanish prison he had no desire to experience a French one. Hornblower's shoes clicked clearly on the decking. "Prepare to come about, Mr. Matthews."

 

"Aye, aye, sir," replied Matthews. The men were in place at the halyards and in the yards.

 

"Helmsman, hard a larboard," ordered Hornblower.

 

"Man braces!" shouted Matthews.

 

Dolphin swung round with a smoothness that stirred Hornblower with pride. She was a pleasing ship. Eyes narrowed, he observed the doings of the men. The sails caught the wind once more and they were on their way.

 

"Keep the lookout, Mr. Matthews. If that French ship is anywhere near us, I want to know immediately."

 

"Aye, aye, sir."

Hornblower glanced around at the men on the quarter-deck. He made a side step closer to Matthews, clearing his voice quietly.

 

"Mr. Matthews, would you know if any of the men on board...," he swallowed nervously, took a breath, "...if any of the men on board might by any chance be a minister?"

 

Matthews knew no one had died. Did Hornblower intend to have a formal Sunday worship time? "A minister, sir?"

 

"Yes, man. Mrs. Dandridge and I would like to be married right away."

 

"I don't know, sir, but I'll find out for ye. Sir, beggin yer pardon, sir, but are ye not goin't' announce banns?"

 

Hornblower sighed with irritation. "Neither Mrs. Dandridge nor I have anyone to object to our marriage, Mr. Matthews. We do not reside in the local village!" He was surprised at his testy nature and counted it for concern over what might happen to prevent their joining in matrimony at Gibraltar. If he did not at least try, and something kept them apart, he would regret it for the rest of his life. In a softer tone, "Please, find out what you can, and do it quietly. I will stand your watch until you return." Hornblower shifted his weight nervously.

 

"Aye, aye, sir." His captain was acting like a nervous bridegroom. He hoped he could fulfill the request. Stopping, he went back to Hornblower. "Sir?"

 

"Yes."

 

"I take it you do not want to do the service yourself?"

 

Hornblower blushed a deep red. "No, I do not! And, please do not mention that ridiculous idea to me again!"

 

"Sorry, sir."

 

Matthews headed below decks to make inquiries of the men. It was impossible to keep it quiet as his captain requested. The men not on duty yet were having breakfast and the topic quickly spread. They asked each other if Aderly, who was on duty, was a minister, but it was resolved that it was his brother that was the man of the cloth. Determining there was not a minister among them, Matthews was saddened.

 

"Why don't they run off to Gretna Green?" laughed one man.

 

"Aye, turn the ship around again, and off to Scotland!"

 

The men laughed.

 

"If we turn this ship around one more time, I'll pass out from dizziness!"

 

"What's in Gretna Green," asked one.

 

"Och well, ye know, when a couple gets it into their eads to marry right away, all they've got to do is declare they're married or somethin'."

 

"Oh! Aye, I ad a mate whose sister did that! Oye they wanted to marry right away. And it's called a Marriage By Declaration. All ye need is two witnesses."

 

"In the back country in Wales, they still do handfastin'!"

 

"Handfasting?" questioned Matthews. "I've eard that name before, ow's it work?"

 

"Well, the man and woman to be married sort of come up with what they wants to say. Ye know, pledgin' vows to one another. They olds ands and they wraps their ands with this cloth thing. That's what does the andfastin'. And, then they're married."

 

"Is this stuff legal?"

 

"Oh, aye. It's the old way o' doin' things, before the church got so involved in marriages. Ye know thar' warn't always ministers to be ad fer weddin's in the old days."

 

"Hmmm. Like now," said Matthews. "Well, lads, how do ye feel about Mr. Hornblower marryin' Mrs. Dandridge?"

 

Some snickers were heard.

 

"More power to im, I says!" General agreement echoed through the mess.

 

"Then, are we agreed to make this appen for em?" asked Matthews.

 

Murmers of curious ascent were made as Matthews began to hatch out a plan. He called Jenkins in to discover if Mrs. Dandridge had left her cabin. "We've got to keep them separated until all's ready. It's bad luck for the bride and groom to see each other on their weddin' day!"

 

The men huddled around Matthews to listen as he explained what each could do.
Shortly thereafter he, Wiliams, the Welshman that knew of handfasting, and Barkley, who knew of the Marriage By Declaration, were standing outside her cabin, knocking.

 

"Just a moment," she called. She was not quite dressed. Looking in her mirror, she gasped and grabbed her throat. She turned her head to better see the bruising on her neck. "Oh my!" A gradual smile eased over her face at the memory of last night. She was about to open the door expecting him to be standing there when she heard Matthews voice. "Who is it?"

 

"Matthews, ma'am."

 

She turned to find something to cover her neck, then opened the door slightly. "Yes, Mr. Matthews?" It was curious that he would be knocking so early.

 

"Umm." Matthews sought the words to speak as to why they were there.

 

She looked at the three men. "Is something wrong with Hora... I mean your captain?" she asked hurriedly.

 

"No, ma'am. You and Mr. Hornblower are wantin' to get married, right?"

 

She blushed. "Yes."

 

"Well, he sent me this mornin' to inquire of the men if there was a minister among em."

 

"Yes?" All of this was news to her. As it was left last night, it would be Gibraltar before they were wed.


Well, we haven't got a minister, ma'am, but we've got some alternatives."

 

She touched her neck to be sure the scarf was in place. "Go on."

 

"Well, this ere is Bryn Wiliams, ma'am. He's a Welshman and his people do a ceremony what's called Handfasting, ma'am." Matthews was careful to give the word every letter it owned.

 

Pamela looked at Wiliams.

 

"It goes this way, Miss. The couple as wants to get married decides on the vows they wants to make to each other, they holds hands, says em with this special cloth wrapped around their ands, and then they're married!" He smiled. "Easy as pie!"

 

Matthews continued, "This ere is Barkley who as another way called Marriage By Declaration."

 

"Aye, ma'am. It's mostly found up Scotland way, but Englishmen, and women," he added, "'Ave been known to take advantage of it. All the couple does is declare they are married before two witnesses and they're done."

The three men waited for a reaction.

She breathed in. "Well, what does your captain say?"

 

"I aven't told im yet, ma'am. I thought e might consider it more if ye ad already agreed to it."

 

She smiled at Matthews placing her hand on his. "You know him very well, Mr. Matthews. I think it sounds to be much like a civil wedding where you appear before a judge. I would be happy to be married in such a manner. The Handfasting, Mr. Wiliams, sounds lovely!"

 

"Might I make a further suggestion, Miss?"

 

"Please do."

 

"Well, I'm thinkin' a combination, ma'am. Do the andfasting, Handfasting," he repeated carefully, "with witnesses, that's us, the crew ma'am, and follow what we can of the traditional marriage. Ye know, not seein' each other, penny in yer shoe, somethin' borrowed, somethin' blue."

 

She laughed. "It sounds wonderful, Mr. Matthews. You couldn't have planned it better! But do you think he will agree?"

 

"Well, miss, if you could write a note sayin' ow you like the idea, I think it'd put it over with im. I've brought the paper and ink ma'am."

 

"All right. What should I say in the note?" She moved out of her doorway to the table, preparing to write.

 

"Please listen to Mr. Matthews' suggestions. And, sign your name."

 

She wrote the words and added an I love you' before her signature. She smiled. "The first note I have ever written to him."

 

Jenkins arrived with breakfast. "Mornin', ma'am," he smiled as he entered the room to place the food on the table.

 

There were now five in her small room. Matthews turned to the men, "Out wi' ye!"

 

"Mr. Wiliams," she called.

 

"Yes, ma'am."

 

"The cloth that is used to wrap the hands. Is there something special about it?"

 

"Well, sometimes it is one passed down from parents, but most of the time the woman makes it special. Weavin' it herself, or, you know, that sewin'...'ow's it called?"

 

"Embroidery?"

 

"Aye, ma'am that's it!"

 

"Is it to say anything special?"

 

"No, ma'am, I think it's whatever ye wants to put on it."

 

"And we also make up what we are to vow to one another?"

 

"Yes, ma'am. Whatever the two of you agrees to say."

 

"Thank you, Mr. Wiliams." She held out her hand.

He took it nervously and shook it lightly. "You're welcome, Miss, and ye couldn't be gettin' a better man than Mr. Hornblower."

 

Matthews pulled the two of them out of the room. "Get on wi'ye, now." He turned to Pamela. "Mrs. Dandridge, ye know you can't see Mr. Hornblower. It would be bad luck. So, if ye need to talk with em, it'll have to be through us or notes, if ye want to write em."

 

"Mr. Matthews," she called him back as he was about to go topside.

 

"Yes, Miss?"

 

"When I was below decks yesterday, looking for clothes, I came across a sewing kit in one of the chests. I'm sorry I can't tell you which one, but could you get it for me?"

 

He smiled and saluted, "Will do, Miss."

 

 

Matthews dispatched Styles and Oldroyd to the orlop for the search. He assigned Starns and Bailey the task of replacing the door on the Captain's Cabin.

 

Returning topside, he could see Hornblower pacing back and forth nervously. He made his way to the stairs with Wiliams and Barkley following. Hornblower spotted him and made long strides over, barely leaving him room to step onto the deck.

 

"What's taken you so long, man?" he asked anxiously. You've been gone nearly an hour! What did you find?"

 

"Sorry, sir. We've no got a minister on board, sir, but I've got some alternatives for ye."

 

"Alternatives?" He walked away from Matthews and began to pace again. Matthews fell into step with him motioning for Wiliams and Barkley to stay put.

 

"Yes, sir. But first I've a note for ye from Mrs. Dandridge."

 

Hornblower stopped dead still and looked at Matthews. "A note?" He took it from Matthews hand and opened it. He read, moving his lips as he did so. The last part, I love you. Pamela' caught him in time. It was read repeatedly for its novelty and awesome truth. There was a woman on this ship that loved him. One that he was arranging to marry.

 

"Sir?" No response. He said it louder "Sir?" Matthews shook his head. "Mr. Hornblower, sir?"

 

"Sorry, Matthews. She says you have a suggestion?" he asked worriedly, placing the note in his coat pocket.

 

Matthews breathed deeply. "Yes, sir." He motioned for Wiliams and Barkley. He began the spiel again about who they were and they chimed in at the right moments with the information they had to share. Hornblower listened attentively.

 

"Very well, I shall go and speak with Mrs. Dandridge."

 

Matthews grabbed his arm. "Best not, sir. Bad luck."

 

"What?"

 

"Bad luck to see each other on yer weddin' day, sir."

 

"My wedding day?" The words sunk in to Hornblower's preoccupied mind. "We're going to get married?"

 

Matthews grinned at his captain. "Aye, sir, ye are!" Wiliams and Barkley exchanged amused glances.

 

"I can't speak with her?"

 

"Best not, sir. I can relay a message to er or ye can write er."

 

"Then, I shall go and write her a note." Matthews grabbed his arm again.

 

"Best not go down there, sir."

 

"Why not?"

 

"Well, she might hear ye, sir."

 

"Well, I need paper, my pen..."

 

"I'll send Barkley for em, sir."

 

"Aren't we carrying this a bit far?"

 

"Ye want good luck fer yer marriage, don't ye, sir?"

 

Hornblower sighed. "Very well."

 

"Let me take care of it for ye, sir. Barkley, go to Captain's cabin and get the paper and quill."

 

"And ink!" added Hornblower. He stepped over to the side and began to pace again. Pulling the note from his pocket, he reread the words. Matthews and Wiliams watched him and chuckled.

Oh e's got it bad, Matty!"

 

"Aye, he does that!"

 

Pamela had the chest open and was searching through the dresses. There was a cream colored one with pink apple blossoms and green leaves sewn at the shoulder that cascaded down to the hem. It had long sleeves, a scooped neck, and a fitted bodice with a v' at the waist. She laid it over her bed as one possibility and continued to pull out dresses for examination. She heard hammering noises and went to open the door. A man was standing in front of it. He turned as he heard the door open.

 

"Mornin' ma'am. Names Crabbe, if you need anythin', I'm to get it for ye."

 

"What is all that banging, Mr. Crabbe?"

 

"They're working to replace the door on the Captain's cabin, ma'am."

 

"Does it take that much hammering?" She spoke loudly to be heard over the din.

 

"Yes, ma'am."

 

"I need some water, Mr. Crabbe," she shouted. As she was completing her sentence loudly the hammering stopped, "I want to wash my hair." She spoke more quietly. "I could wash it with sea water, but I would appreciate fresh water for rinsing. Do you think that possible?"

 

"I'll check, ma'am. But you're not to come out of yer cabin."

 

She smiled. "All right. Has that sewing kit been found?" She had to increase her vocal volume as the hammering resumed.

 

"I'll check, ma'am," he knuckled his head and pulled the door closed.

She felt dismay at all the noise going on and decided to try on the dresses. One was rose colored with a small white flower at the waist. It was very simple, with short sleeves. Another was deep forest green with elbow length sleeves, a sweetheart neckline, with a v' waist. It had a matching green crinoline sewn underneath but would require a lot more for the skirt to hang properly. She examined the bruise on her neck. "Oh!" She sat at the table and wondered how she would cover it. None of the three dresses came up that high.

She began searching the chest again. There was nothing that looked anywhere near festive enough for a wedding that would cover her neck. She pulled the dark green one up to her chin and sat gazing in the small mirror. She looked at the one with the apple blossoms laying on the bunk reflected in the mirror. Turning, she grabbed it and pulled it to her lap. She compared the the dark green dress to the leaves on the cream colored one. A perfect match! Grabbing the rose colored dress, she examined the flower at the waist. It might do if it could be dyed. She went to the door and opened it.

 

"Mornin', ma'am."

 

A different man was there. The hammering continued with occasional sawing noises. "Where is Mr. Crabbe?"

 

"He's gone to see about your water, ma'am. Did ye need somethin' else?"

 

"Well, what's your name?"she shouted.

 

"Sorry, ma'am, my name's Greely," he knuckled his forehead.

Another salute? She found it amusing that the men paid her this courtesy. "Is there someone that can sew?"

 

"The sail maker's mate is with us, ma'am. He's right good at sewin'."

 

"Could you get him for me and has the sewing kit been found yet?"

 

At that moment, Styles appeared with a cloth padded box in his hands. He smiled and knuckled his forehead. "Mornin, Mrs. Dandridge. Is this what ye were wantin'?"

 

She warmly welcomed her partner in crime, "Good mornin' Mr. Styles. Yes! Thank you!"

 

"Do ye need anythin'else?" he was shouting now to be heard over the hammering.

 

"Yes! Water and a seamstress! And a glass of red wine!"

 

The noise stopped. He looked at her neck and touched it lightly with his index finger. "Ah. I see Mr. Hornblower found ye last night!"

 

She clamped her hand over her neck, turning beet red with a shocked expression. "Please don't tell anyone, Mr. Styles!"

 

He grinned. "I won't need to!"

 

"But, I am working on a plan to cover it. Please!"

 

"Yer secret's safe with me, Miss."

 

"Could you see if the water I've asked for is forthcoming?"

 

"Will do."

 

"And, Mr. Styles, have you seen Ho...your Captain this morning?"

 

"Aye, I have," he laughed. "He's a sight to behold, ma'am"

 

"What do you mean?"

 

"He's wearin' a rut in the quarter-deck and he's as antsy as a cat in a room full o' rockin' chairs!"

 

Hornblower, with quill in hand, leaned over a barrel Matthews provided to use as a desk. Sheets of waded paper lay next to the barrel and he copied from one containing scribbles and crossovers. He finished writing and folded the paper with another already completed.

 

 

"Matthews, take this note to Mrs. Dandridge." He started to hand it over but pulled it back. "This is for no one's eyes but hers, is that understood?" he asked firmly.

 

"I understand, sir. I'll deliver it me self and I swear by all that's holy, I won't look at it, sir."

 

"Thank you, Matthews." He took a deep breath and returned to his pacing, unaware that the crew found him a source of amusement. At least it was not one of his black moods. This one they could enjoy.

Matthews arrived below decks to all the sawing and hammering noises. He looked in at Starns, Bailey and two other men helping with the project. "How's it going, gentlemen?"

 

"It'll be done by noon, Matty," Starns replied.

 

"Good man!" He emerged into the companion. Styles was hanging a blanket. "What's this, Styles?"

"She wants to wash er hair. We're settin' up fer er to use the extra cabin so's she won't get hers all wet. Figured this would keep er from seein'..." he nodded his head behind him.

"Good idea."

 

Another seaman arrived. "You need some sewin' done?"

 

Matthews looked curiously at Styles.

 

"She's asked for a seamstress and a glass of red wine."

 

"No doubt we could all use a drink before the day's over!" Matthews replied.

 

The three went to her door. Matthews knocked. She answered it with the scarf now in place. Styles grinned knowingly and she blushed, adjusting it on her neck.

 

"He's sent ye a note ma'am," said Matthews, passing it over.

 

Love and tenderness covered her expression. The men glanced at each other.

 

"Oh!" was all she said, looking at her name written in his hand on the outside folding. A smile bloomed over her face and her eyes danced. She looked up at them and pulled it to her chest, smiling.

 

"Before ye read it ma'am, this is Smith, the sail maker's assistant."

 

"Yes. Just a moment." She brought out two strips of material, one off white linen about three feet in length and six inches wide, the other, dark green and sheer, of a comparable length and width. She handed him two spools of thread to match each strip and a needle. "I need you to hem these on these rough edges. Do you think you can do that for me?"

 

"I'll do me best, ma'am."

 

"And I need the white one done first and as soon as possible."

 

"Aye, aye,...ma'am," said Smith. He departed with the goods.

 

"And, do not let your captain see them!" she called.

 

"I won't, ma'am."

She studied the note. Styles and Matthews were still standing at the door.

 

"We should have that water for ye soon. We're settin' it up down the way in an unused cabin so's ye won't get your stuff wet," offered Styles.

 

"Thank you, Mr. Styles," she said absently as she gazed at the letter.

 

"You'd better read it, Miss," said Matthews.

 

She returned to the chair, oblivious to the little audience.

 

 

My dearest,

I have thought long and hard about what you said last night, that circumstances might prevent us from a wedding and time together. Your logic has convinced me, and as you know, Matthews has come up with a way for us to be wed. This has given me great delight this morning, though I regret I am not able to speak with you personally, again at Matthews suggestion. We seem to be in his hands and those of the crew. I have been told that the proceedings are agreeable to you. I, also, understand we are to choose vows for one another, so I have written what I would like to say to you, and I have left spaces between my lines, if you should like to change anything. If you would be so kind as to let me know what you would like to include, I would be grateful. Your note this morning has filled my heart and I shall treasure it always. I love you. Horatio.

 

 

She pulled the second paper from behind this one and began to read. As she did, tears began to fall. She looked up and then over at the two men standing in the doorway. She smiled softly. "Give me a few minutes, gentlemen, to reply."

 

She made room on the table and began to write on the second sheet of paper. Taking another she jotted a note back to him.

 

 

My dearest and sweetest Horatio,

I cannot begin to tell you how happy you have made me! Your vows are beautiful as they are! I only wish to interject my own, and may I suggest that we take turns saying them during the Handfasting. I am placing mine in between yours. If there is anything you would like to change, please do so. If not, then return it to me and I shall make a copy for myself. I would memorize this one now, but I want to be sure what I have added is acceptable with you, my love. The memory of our time together last night warms me. I look forward to being in your arms tonight. I love you. Pamela

 

 

She folded the two together, handing them to Matthews. "Thank you, Mr. Matthews, Mr. Styles. I shall never forget your kindness."

 

Oldroyd appeared with two buckets of water and Crabbe and Greely following him, burdened likewise. "You might want to use these while they're hot ma'am."

"Hot? I have hot water? I'll be right there!" She ran back to pick up her dress. "Matthews! Styles! What do you think?" She held the apple blossom dress in front of her.

 

"You'll make a beautiful bride, miss! That ye will!" said Matthews.

 

"Mr. "Ornblower's a lucky, dog, he is!" said Styles.

 

Remembering the hot water, she grabbed the sack containing her bathing supplies and was led to the prepared cabin. Bolting the door, she delighted in the opportunity of washing and bathing, even if it was only a sponge bath. The water was hot and the scrub invigorated her.

The men outside the cabin could hear her humming "Rule Britannia."

**********

Matthews took the note to the quarter-deck. Arriving at the man on watch, Matthews asked excitedly, "Where is e? Ye've not let him go below, ave ye?"

 

Garner motioned with his eyes to the main mast head.

 

Following his gaze, he saw Hornblower and the lookout together, Hornblower with glass to eye. Matthews squinted in the direction the telescope was pointed. "Was a ship sighted?"

 

"The lookout thought he saw somethin'. Captain went to look for imself."

 

"That's all we need! The damn Frogs to mess up all this ard work!" cursed Styles.

 

"I've got a note fer im. Ow long's he been up there?"

 

"Mebbe five or ten minutes."

 

"Are we gettin' a noon meal today?" inquired Garner.

 

"Aye, we are. I'm not sure what Jenkins and Cook are comin' up with tonight though."

 

"What time are ye plannin' the ceremony, Matthews?" asked Garner.

 

"I'm hopin all'll be ready by two bells in the first dog watch."

 

Garner and the helmsman grunted their approval.

 

"Then, supper, a bit o' celebratin', and off with em!" Matthews winked at his mates. They all chuckled and glanced up at Hornblower.

 

"How much celebratin'll be done by the rest of us, eh?"

 

"I've got t'ask Mr. Hornblower about that. But with that Frog ship lurkin' about we don't want to get too carried away. I've no hankerin' t'see the inside of a Frog prison.
All's we've got between us'n that, is speed and space, as long as there's wind!"

 

"Aye! Damn, Frogs!" cursed Garner. "Oy, Captain's on is way down."

 

The men watched and waited for Hornblower to return to the quarterdeck. He looked worried.

 

Finally, Matthews spoke, "Is there a ship, sir?"

 

"Not that I could see, but Jordan swears he saw one. Headed south, like us. He couldn't see the ensign and it slipped over the horizon before he could see the sail properly." Hornblower thought for a moment. "We will maintain our southerly course. I do not wish to turn east until we are closer to Gibraltar. Then, we'll sail on a rhumb line straight in and hope the only ships we meet are ours. Mr. Matthews, a moment if you please." He motioned to larboard. "How is Mrs. Dandridge?"

"She seems right happy, sir. I've a note for ye from er."

Taking the note from Matthews, he walked away to read it alone. He stood hunched over the letter, that tingling in his body going off like bells on a tambourine. He swallowed as he read her additions to the vows. He eyed the horizon. What was he doing getting married when the enemy could rear its head at any moment? What WOULD Captain Pellew say about what he was doing? His hands were shaking as he read her letter once more.

 

Matthews, watching his captain, walked over to him. "Will there be a reply, sir?"

 

"What...what am I doing, Matthews? How...I....this...this is madness! What am I doing? We're at war! I must be raving! How can I...?"

 

"Just because we're at war, sir, don't mean people can't fall in love. Don't mean people stop marryin'."

 

"But I have responsibilities, man. I'm the ... captain!"

 

"Aye, sir, and yer doin' a fine job. Ye've no call t'reproach yerself."

 

"But, the men, Matthews. I must be there for them."

 

"Ye will, sir! Yer not goin' nowhere. If we need ye, we'll come get ye! It ain't like yer goin' a long ways off. We'll know where to find ye if needs be, same as always."
Matthews studied him to be sure he was listening. "Ye should see how bright Miss Pamela is, sir. She chosen er dress. What about er note, sir?"

 

Hornblower looked at the papers.

Matthews noted they were shaking. "Ye've just got a case of the jitters, sir. Every man gets im before e gets married. Yers are just compounded a little by our situation." Matthews put his hand on Hornblower's shoulder to steady him. "Ye'll make it through, sir, ye'll make it through. Will ye be makin' a reply?"

 

Hornblower looked at the letters one last time. Moving to the barrel, he leaned over to write. Matthews exchanged glances with Styles and Garner.

 

"What's up with im?" whispered Styles.

 

"Jitters. I think e was on the verge of callin' it off!"

 

"What? Well, if e won't marry er, I will!" said Styles under his breath.

 

"Over my dead body," said Hornblower.

 

Matthews pushed Styles sideways.

 

"Just kiddin', sir," said Styles. He glanced at Matthews. "How'd e hear me?"

 

"Go check on Cook and Jenkins," ordered Matthews.

 

Hornblower read over his letter to her.

 

 

Pamela, my love,

I am pleased you approve of my vows to you. Yours to me are equally pleasing.
I like your suggestion of how they should be said. I have made a copy for you,
so you may keep this one unless there is some other change you wish to make.
If I do not receive it back, I will know it is agreeable with you. How I wish
you were here with me now, I want to take you in my arms.
I miss seeing you today. All my love belongs to you, Horatio.

 

 

 

 

He folded it and handed it to Matthews. "I will need to get cleaned up before the ceremony, Matthews. What time do you plan on us saying our vows?"

 

"At two bells in the first dog watch, sir, so's the men what wants to attend ll be able to clean up before the ceremony."

 

Hornblower swallowed, blinked, and wondered what his men would think of his vows. "Very well. Does Mrs. Dandridge know?"

 

"Aye, sir. I've told er?"

 

"And your other preparations will be ready?"

 

"Aye,sir," answered Matthews warily, wondering how much his captain guessed.

 

Breathing in he said, "I wish to go below to look at the charts and write in the log."

 

"Aye, sir. I'll show ye where Ive put yer things."

 

The two headed below. As they came down the companionway, Matthews first, Hornblower saw the blanket covering the corridor and the new door on the Captain's Cabin. He could hear banging noises still going on inside the room. "Why..?"

 

Matthews motioned for him to be quiet and pulled him away from the Captain's Cabin door. They went down another level. He led him to a storage room. Matthews lit a candle. The room was small. The make-shift table in the middle made it even smaller. Hornblower's log, chart, and instruments were laying on it. He gave Matthews a questioning look.

 

"It won't be fer long, sir."

 

Oldroyd stood in the doorway. "I've brought your things, sir." His arms were full with Hornblower's better uniform topcoat, a clean set of clothes, his kit. "Was there anything else ye were wantin'?"

 

Hornblower felt butterflies in his stomach. "Nnnnno, Oldroyd. Thththank you."

 

Matthews motioned for Oldroyd to leave. He looked at Hornblower who had picked up the log. His hands were shaking again. "Shall I send ye some lunch, sir?"

 

"Nnno. No."

 

"I'll be deliverin' yer note now, sir. Are ye sure ye don't need anythin'?"

 

"Unless I can see Pamela, no."

 

"Not fer another few hours, sir." Matthews confirmed. "I'll be goin' then."

 

Hornblower stood staring at the storage room, the log, the charts on the table, his clothes, and took a deep breath into his lungs. He felt shakey and sat down carefully. Maybe he should have taken some lunch. He reached into his pocket, pulled out her letters, leaned towards the candle, read her words, and then began to commit to memory the vows.

 

Pamela sat in her cabin, wet hair combed out onto a towel over her shoulders, sewing. Smith had returned the linen to her and she was embroidering the handfasting. She did not have long, so she tried to keep it simple. She embroidered Pamela and Horatio' in script in navy blue thread. There was the outline of a blue-gray dolphin in the middle, leaping over the word and' with some teal blue waves in the background . Decorating the ends with apple blossoms and leaves, as a reminder of her dress, she would add as much as she could until time to get ready.

 

The green scarf was still to be done. Hoping to dye it to match the apple blossoms, she dripped red wine onto the white flower from the rose colored dress. It lay drying on the table, the color close enough. Working diligently, when the knock came at the door, it startled her, and she stabbed herself with the needle. "Ouch!"

 

She got up, holding the robe she was wearing and the towel on her shoulders close. She sucked on the stabbed finger and reached to open the door.

 

A hint of lilac with which she had rinsed her hair drifted out settling over Matthews. His face lit with pleasure as his eyes rested upon his captain's bride to be. Her long dark tresses, fluffing out as a mane, hung loose over her shoulders and down her chest, her cheeks were pink, and her eyes glistened. He sucked in a breath audibly. "Aye, Miss Pamela, you're a beauty! A vision of loveliness!"

 

Greely, her current runner, stood behind Matthews, open mouthed, gaping.

 

She went crimson at the compliments. Realizing how she must look, she tugged the towel and robe tighter. Not properly dressed, but in her situation, with no maid to help, what was she to do?

 

The three of them stood there for a moment as if frozen. Looking down, she saw the folded letter in his hand. She broke the spell by asking, "Is that for me?"

 

"Hmmm? Er, yes Miss. It's a note from im," he still held it in his hand, staring at her.

 

She smiled as she spoke, "Could I have it, please?"

 

"A, yes....yes, ma'am. Sorry, Miss!"

 

"Thank you, Mr. Matthews."

 

"Ye'er quite welcome."

She smiled as she slowly closed the door.

 

Matthews heard Greely gulp and then say under his breath, " Oh my Lord!"

 

Matthews took in a breath suddenly remembering to breathe. "Mebbe the rest of us should do some drills after this weddin'!"

 

"Aye, Matty!"

 

Pamela sat down with a smile as she gently opened the letters. Reading, she spoke out loud to answer him. "I wish I were in your arms, my love, and I miss seeing you, too." She held the letter close and bowed her head. Unexpectedly, a prayer came. "Please, Lord, bless this wedding. Forgive me if I have been forward. I do love him!" A tear rolled down her cheek. She looked at the second page. Laying it on the table where she could see it, she began to memorize each line as she sewed.

 

 

The last batch of men were finishing their noon meal. Styles was standing in the doorway of the galley talking to Cook and Jenkins. Two other men had been enlisted to help with the late afternoon dinner meal.

 

"So, Cook, what ave ye come up with for the weddin' feast?"

 

Cook glared at Styles. "Why's Mr. Hornblower in such a bloody hurry to get wed, eh? Ain't I got enough to do with all you lot, now's I got this?"

 

Styles grabbed Cook by the collar and drug em over to the side. "Listen ere, mate. I appen t' know Mr. "Ornblower covered yer arse over some missin' port. So if I were you, I'd belay that!" He shook him once by his collar and let him go.

 

Cook glowered at Styles. "I ain't forgot it, Styles! I got me hands full, an' I ain't got time to chew the fat wi' you!"

 

"All's I asked was what were ye fixin'!"

 

Cook snorted. "We're havin' beef and kidney pie, pork pie, broiled lamb, roasted potatoes, caramelized carrots, glazed onions, pease puddin', pickled quail's eggs, courtesy of the previous owners of Dolphin," Cook's tone lightened as he looked up at the ceiling trying to remember the rest of the menu, "a roast chicken for Mr. and Mrs. Hornblower, white cheese, yellow cheese, also from the pirate's stores, orange marmalade, which I already knows Mr. Hornblower is fond of, fresh pan cooked biscuit, assorted dried fruits, also found in the pirate's hold, a bottle of white wine to go with the roast chicken for the newly weds, enough red wine for each in the crew to have a glass for toastin', also from the previous owners, and Mr. Hornblower and the Frogs permittin' two rations of rum all around with lime juice, and beer, of course."

 

A broad smile broke over Styles pock marked face. Cook returned the grin.
"Get on wi' ye!" said Styles. "Ye want some more elp?" The two relaxed realizing the pressure they were under.

 

"Not from the likes o' you, you ham-fisted son-of-a-gun! You'd slow us up more n help!"

 

"Don't say I didn't offer!" Styles noticed Matthews standing in the middle of the mess looking thoughtful. "What's on yer mind now, Matty? Ye've got that look on yer face that tells me I'm about t'get another assignment."

 

"Aye, Styles, our dinner room needs somethin' special. I figure captain an' his lady there by the bulkhead. Think of somethin' to make it gay in ere, eh? Ye can come up wi' somethin', can't ye?"

 

Styles stared at his mate, mouth open, as he walked off. He swept the room with his eyes and sighed.

 

Hornblower checked the chart, wrote in the log, and memorized his vows. Stepping out of the storage room, he was greeted unexpectedly by Seaman Carden.

 

"Are ye goin' topside, sir?"

 

"Yes."

 

"Well, I'm yer escort, sir. Follow me."

 

Hornblower had too much on his mind to question Matthews' wishes. He followed Carden willingly, glancing at the blanket covering the companion that would lead to her cabin. Once on deck, his escort left him, waiting on the main deck next to the companionway. Ascending to the quarterdeck, he checked in with the man assigned the afternoon watch. There was nothing new to report. The lookout was still posted. The afternoon was ticking away to the appointed time, only two hours remaining. Hornblower decided to check the lookout himself and climbed the rigging to stand beside him, peering through the long telelscope. He needed to know his command was safe. He also knew this would not be the last time he would make this climb today.

 

Pamela finished the Handfasting cloth, closed her eyes and was silently mouthing the vows, when a knock came at the door. Opening it, she found Styles standing there. "Mr. Styles, let you be the first to see our Handfasting cloth!" She brought it over proudly to show.

 

"Aye, miss, ye've done a lovely job!"

 

All of a sudden she threw her arms around his neck. "Oh, Mr. Styles, I am so happy!"

 

He carefully put his arms around her waist and hugged her slightly. "And, I'm happy for ye, miss!" He could not help but breath in the perfume of her hair. He felt his head swim at the embrace.

 

She let go as quickly as she grabbed. Reddening, she said, "Oh! I'm sorry, Mr. Styles!"

 

Recovering, he said, "Don't be, miss!"

 

"Did you come to tell me something?"

 

"No, miss. I was wonderin' if I could borry yer flag?"

 

She gave a curious look. "Of course!"

 

"I'll give it back to ye later!"

 

"All right." She opened the trunk and gave it. "How is Horatio doing? I, mean, your captain."

 

"E'll do better once e's with you again."

 

They could hear the ship's bell sounding. Styles listened until the last toll. "Six bells, Miss. Ye've only two hour to go. Best start gettin' yerself ready."

 

She took a deep breath, and then, to Styles surprise, threw her arms around him again. She hugged him and then kissed him on the cheek. "Thank you, Mr. Styles. I shall never forget you."

 

"Yes, ma'am." He backed away and closed the door. Greely gaped at Styles. "What r you starin' at?"



Hornblower had himself hosed down in the waist of Dolphin. A towel wrapped around him with his hair dripping in his eyes, he gathered his clothes and padded his way back down to his cubbie hole with Carden following him every step of the way. He looked at his jailer' and then closed himself in the room. He tossed his clothes on the floor, rubbed vigorously with the towel, drying himself and his hair. He soaped his face. Peering into the piece of mirror, he applied his razor for the second time this day.

He ran through the vows they would be saying and wished he could have practiced them with her. Completing the shave, he wiped his face, pulled on his clothes, sat down, and stared off into space. He was losing his ability to concentrate the nearer it came to five o'clock. His mind was a blank.

 

On deck, a number of the men decided to follow his example, and were jumping around under the deck pumps. A general feeling of anticipation was in the air. The men joked with each other and as they finished their shower' went below to shave and or dress in clean clothes.

 

Pamela was clothed in her wedding gown' and was fiddling with the green scarf she, with Smith's help, made to hide her bruise'. Wearing it as a choker, she adjusted the pink flower sewn to the scarf, looked at it in the mirror, and adjusted it again. Her hair was parted down the middle with combs holding back the sides. Using green ribbon cut from the other dress, she tied her hair loosely at her neck, and tighter at the end about midway between her shoulder blades and her waist. The sleeves of the dress came down in a point on the back of her hands. The v' waist pointed down her abdomen about a third of the way. The bodice was fitted closely on her torso, accenting the flow of apple blossoms down and across her front from right to left. The flower at her neck on the left balanced the look of the dress nicely from what she could tell. She wore cream colored stockings held up with garters from her corset. Sitting, she placed her feet in the slippers. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes. Putting her hands to her forehead and cheeks, she attempted to warm her hands and cool her face. "Oh Lord! This is the third time I've done this. Why am I so nervous?" She shook her hands and paced in the small space of her cabin. A knock at the door, then Matthews voice.

 

"Miss?"

 

Opening the door, she was met with a beaming Matthews.

 

"How do I look?"

 

"Ye look beautiful! Here." He handed her a penny. "Put this in yer shoe. And, here's something borrowed and blue." He handed her one of the navy blue neckerchiefs worn with their uniforms. "It's Mr. Hornblower's. I figured ye may as well borrow it from him and then e can get it back from ye."

 

She stared at it for a moment, knowing it did not go with what she was wearing. It dawned on her what Matthews was getting at. "Mr. Matthews! Shame on you!" She stepped behind the door, lifted her skirt, and wove it in and out of her garter and stocking. She smoothed the dress to be sure it was not noticeable. Moving the door, she stood before him again. "Well?"

 

"Perfect, Miss! Mr. Hornblower is already on the quarter-deck."

 

Her stomach went all butterflies.

 

"I suggested I say a few words and a blessing before ye begin yer vows. Ye'll be facing each other olding right hands. Then, I'll wrap yer hands with the cloth, ye'll say yer vows. When yer done, I'll say, he may kiss the bride, then I'll present ye to the crew. I'll be waitin' on the quarter-deck with the captain. Would ye like Styles t'walk ye up?"

 

She was thoughtful, remembering her father taking her down the isle on two other occasions. "I would be very happy for Mr. Styles to give me away. His was the first kind face I saw on Dolphin, and the first of all of you."

 

"Are you all right?"

 

She took a deep breath, feeling the pounding of her heart. "Yes."

 

"Styles is on his way."

 

She handed him the handfasting cloth.

 

"I'll see ye on the quarter-deck." He turned to go.

 

"Mr. Matthews!"

 

"Yes, Miss?" She hugged him suddenly. He put his hands lightly on her back through the long embrace.

 

"Are we doing the right thing, Mr. Matthews?" she whispered in his ear.

 

He felt her trembling and held her tighter, speaking softly. "Do ye love im, Miss Pamela?" He felt her nodding on his shoulder.

 

"Yes. Yes, I do," she whispered.

"Then, yer doin' the right thing." He held her until he felt her begin to let go. He heard a sniffle, then, Styles voice.

 

"What's all this? Matty yer makin' the bride cry!" Styles smiled and she released Matthews, laughing and crying at the same time. Styles was never seen so polished! He was dressed in fresh clothes, hair smoothed, face clean.

 

"Fickle, woman! I thought I was the only one sides captain that got yer ugs!" He had pulled his clean handkerchief from his coat pocket and was about to hand it to her. She threw herself into his arms and began to cry on his shoulder.

 

Matthews gave Styles a look. "Do what ye can, man. We'll be waitin' on the quarter-deck." Matthews pulled Greely with him, leaving Styles alone with Pamela.

 

He held her as she sobbed into his shoulder. "Does this mean ye've changed yer mind?"

 

She shook her head no in his chest.

 

"Ye could marry me instead of him," he said softly, only half joking.

 

She laughed a little.

 

"Not much of chuckle from ye on that one, eh?"

 

She shook her head no again.

 

He sighed and held her. "You let me know when yer ready, Miss. Here." He passed his handkerchief. He closed his eyes and held her, enjoying the closeness, wishing she were his.

 

Matthews made his way to the quarter-deck. Hornblower was gone. He threw up his hands! "Where?" Kramer motioned up with his head. "Don't tell me!"

 

"Nah, nothin's been sighted. He's just checkin' again."

 

Matthews blew out a breath and began to pace. "She'll be up ere in a minute! Greely, go wait at the bottom of the companionway and don't let her and Styles up til he's back down ere! I'll send Hardy to tell ye when!"

 

"Aye, Matty!"

 

Matthews paced a few times, muttered under his breath, looked at Oldroyd, and handed him the cloth. "'Ere! Hold on to this!" He walked quickly to the side and flung himself up on the rigging. He was panting when he reached the top yard. Hornblower stood looking through the telescope. Matthews motioned for the man on lookout to move down out of ear shot. He stood up next to Hornblower and looked in the direction of the glass.

 

"Anythin' there, sir?"

 

Hornblower sighed not responding immediately, "No."

 

"Miss Pamela is ready. She'll be comin' up soon." He heard Hornblower gulp. "Have ye changed yer mind, sir?"

 

He shook his head no' but made no verbal response, peering through the spyglass. His mouth was too dry for speech.

 

Matthews sighed and sat down on the yard, leaning precariously against the mast head. He looked up at his captain, wondering if his arms had locked in position with that glass. "Styles offered to marry er."

 

"Does she want to marry Styles?" Hornblower asked blankly.

 

"Well, she told me she loved you." Hornblower looked at him. At last he was getting some kind of response. "I left her cryin' in is arms."

 

"What? Why is she crying?" he asked with concern.

 

"Nerves. I expect. Same as you."

 

Hornblower reddened. "Maybe she's changed her mind."

 

"Do ye want er to?"

 

"No."

 

"Well?"

 

The ship's bell could be heard. Two bells. Hornblower looked at the deck, looked at the empty, darkening horizon, looked at Matthews. "I can't think, Matthews. My mind....I .... I can't think!"

 

"Don't think, sir, just do. Get below. Go on wi'ye, sir. Get down. There's no Frog ship out there. Yer bride's waitin', and she's beautiful!"

 

Something clicked with Hornblower. "My bride?" He smiled. "MY bride!" He handed the glass to Matthews and began to descend rapidly. Matthews motioned the lookout back to position, handing him the glass, he followed after Hornblower.

 

Hornblower went directly to the quarter-deck. Seeing Jenkins, he asked him for a drink. Jenkins was prepared and handed him the tankard. He took a huge swallow without checking, and came up gasping. "What is that?" he rasped.

"Whiskey, sir."

 

"Water!" he coughed and held his throat. The men were chuckling amongst themselves. Hornblower examined the next mug he was handed, being sure it was water. He looked around at the men on the quarter-deck. Some hung in the rigging. Then, he remembered why he had escaped to the mast head. He could not remember the vows!
He started to leave. Several men grabbed his arms.

 

"Hold on, Mr. Hornblower, sir!"

 

"I....I ... can't remember what to say!"

 

"Look in yer coat pocket!" said Aderly.

 

He reached into the coat pocket and pulled out the paper. He opened it and looked at the words then, closed his eyes and tried to remember them.

 

Matthews upon regaining the deck, went to the companionway to signal Greely himself. Greely shook his head that she was not there.

 

"What?!!!" said Matthews. "This'll be the death o' me, I swear it will." He went down the stairs. The blanket had been removed from the companion so he could see Styles standing there with her still in his arms. Panting, he joined. "Miss Pamela?" Since mentioning her as his bride had gotten Hornblower moving, he decided to try the same psychology with her. "Yer husband to be is waitin' for ye topside," he said huffing.

 

She backed off of Styles. Her face was flushed and tear streaked even though she had been quiet for the last five minutes. Greely showed up with a cool damp towel.

 

Styles gently wiped her face. "There now. Come on. Give us a smile!"

 

Greely showed up again with the rest of the wine she used to dye the flower. She drank it down. "Could I have some water, as well?"

 

"I'll get it," said Greely.

 

Styles motioned for Matthews to go. "We'll be right there."

 

The men on the quarter-deck had convinced Hornblower to take another drink of whiskey. He seemed somewhat more relaxed.

 

Matthews had everyone take their positions as they waited for Styles and Pamela. All was quiet but for the wind, the waves, and the wood of the ship. Greely bounded up onto the quarter-deck signaling with his presence that they were coming. Styles came up first, reaching his hand down to help her up the stairs.

 

Hornblower watched, holding his breath. He had not seen her all day. His first sight was she with eyes lowered, as if in prayer, watching her step, coming up the companion. At that moment the rest of the world melted away. She was all he saw. Looking up, she found his face. A huge grin broke over her expression. The whole crew seemed to sigh from holding their breath. She placed her hand on Styles arm as he led her over to Horatio. Styles stopped before his captain, and taking her right hand, placed it in his.

 

"I'd better be makin' the right decision, sir, givin' ye er and," he smiled speaking softly.

 

"You are, Mr. Styles, you are," responded Horatio, smiling the whole while.

 

Matthews cleared his throat. "We are gathered here in the sight of God and this company to witness the Handfasting Marriage By Declaration of Pamela Dawson Dandridge to Horatio Hornblower. We ask the blessings of the Lord be upon this man and this woman as they make their vows to one another."

 

Horatio and Pamela stood facing one another, holding right hands. Matthews placed the Handfasting cloth over the tops of their hands. Their names rested on the top as he wound the cloth with diagonal sweeps to fasten their hands together. The two of them watched as it encircled their hands and wrists. "It's beautiful, Pamela," he whispered to her.

 

"Thank you, Horatio."

 

The fasting finished, Matthews took one step back from them and Horatio began their vows, alternating as they spoke..

 

"I, Horatio, choose you, Pamela, to be my wife."

 

"I, Pamela, choose you, Horatio, to be my husband."

 

"When your heart beats, I want to feel it."

 

"When your voice speaks, I want to hear it."

 

"When your eyes cry, I want to catch the tears. I want to know you."

 

"When you breathe, love, I want to breathe with you."

 

"When you make a move, I want to move with you."

 

"When you're calling me, I want to answer you. I want to know you."

 

"Pamela, will you be my wife?"

 

"I will. Horatio, will you be my husband?

 

"I will. In the sight and hearing of these witnesses, I declare that we are husband and wife."

 

"You may kiss the bride," said Matthews.

 

Smiling Horatio leaned over to kiss her sweetly on the lips. A shout went up from the men. When at last the yells had ceased, Matthews spoke a final blessing over them from the Bible, Numbers 6:24-26:

 

"The Lord bless you, and keep you; the Lord make His face to shine upon you,
and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.' Gentlemen, I give you Mr. and Mrs. Horatio Hornblower!"

 

"Three cheers for Mr. and Mrs. Hornblower!" shouted Oldroyd. "Hip, hip hooray! Hip, hip hooray Hip, hip hooray!!!"

 

A lot of backslapping occurred for Hornblower. Pamela squeezed hands and kissed cheeks. The men commented about the vows, looked at the Handfasting cloth, told her the dress was lovely, gave her advice about children, which made she and Horatio flush with color. The general hub bub that takes place after a wedding took place here, even though it was on a prize ship at sea, and the wedding guests' were seasoned sailing crew, men in His Majesty's Navy. Cook finally quieted everyone down to say the dinner was ready. Matthews sent those not on duty down to the mess.

 

"Sir, I wanted to okay the drinkin' with ye." He told Hornblower what was planned.

 

"It sounds like you have been prudent in your libations, Mr. Matthews. I give my permission."

 

"Don't ferget we need to sign the log, sir. Styles and me will sign as yer witnesses."

 

The little group moved over to the barrel/desk. Horatio had already made the main entry. Pamela signed first, then Horatio, Matthews and Styles.

 

Matthews declared. "It's done then. Take yerselves a few minutes and then come down fer dinner, sir!"

 

"Thank you, Mr. Matthews, Mr. Styles," said Hornblower. Taking her hand, he led her to the taffrail. He cupped her face in his right hand. "I love you, Pamela! When we get to Gibraltar we will have a proper wedding, if you wish."

 

"I missed you so much today." Placing her hands on his chest, she slid them to his shoulders, coming up on tiptoes for a kiss.

Neither one noticed the eyes that dared to stare now. Kramer had the watch and nudged the helmsman to take a look. They grinned, a bit envious, but happy, too, for the serious young captain. Turning forward, Kramer motioned the lookout to cease peering with the glass. Taking one last glance at the two, he and the helmsman faced permanently forward.

The warm afternoon sun hung low on the horizon, sending its coral rays to caress the night.

 

Hornblower released his wife. "Shall we go to dinner?"