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A Day (or So) in the Life
by Sue N.


**Chapter Two: Guests**

Pellew stood upon the quarter-deck, his hands clasped
behind his back, and watched with immense satisfaction
as the first of the boats laden with stores wrested
from Mr. Beadle's tight fist came alongside
Indefatigable. As the hoists were swung out and the
loading was begun, a slight smile tugged at the
corners of his fine mouth, and his dark eyes gleamed
with triumph.

The victory over the dockyard master had been as
gratifying as any victory against the enemy...

Along the deck, over the sides and aloft in the
rigging, the crew worked as they always did when aware
of their captain's presence, with skill, efficiency
and spirit. Mingled with the complaints as natural to
the English seaman as breathing were ribald jokes and
raucous laughter, as well as lusty voices raised in
song. There was, however, precious little horseplay;
not with that imposing, solitary figure standing like
Jove above them.

"'E looks pleased with ëimself, ëe does," murmured
Styles as he and Matthews laboured to bring aboard
coils of new cable. "You'd think we'd get a day or two
off after what we been through."

"Not with ëim," Matthews said sagely, casting a quick
glance over his shoulder at the captain's figure and
then turning back resignedly to the work at hand.
"Captain's not the sort to let us sit idle."

"Wasn't necessarily thinkin' about sittin' idle,"
Styles said with his wicked grin. "Not with so many
women just across the ëarbour."

"And that's exactly why ëe wants to keep us ëard at
work," Matthews said with a knowing look at his
shipmate. "To keep you out of such trouble."

"Trouble?" Styles protested with a failed attempt at
injured innocence. "Me? I'm meek as a lamb--"

"And I'm King George," Matthews scoffed. "'Ere, now, a
bit less gab and a bit more work, unless you want to
be at this all bloody day!"

"Boat comin' in!" Oldroyd announced suddenly, stopping
in his work to eye the approaching vessel. "Cap'n's
barge, it looks like-- Oy, look at them red coats!" he
jeered as the scarlet jackets of the oarsmen came into
clear view. "Bet they make a pretty target for the
Frogs!"

"No prettier than you," Styles teased, taking a
habitual swipe at the younger man's head and scowling
when Oldroyd ducked.

Matthews sighed and shook his head at the two and
stoically returned to work. Someone had to get the
damned cable aboard...

On the quarter-deck, Pellew had taken out his glass
and was watching the approaching boat through it. "My
God," he breathed as recognition brought with it a
flood of delight. "Can I believe my eyes? Mr.
Bracegirdle!" He lowered the glass and snapped it
shut, indulging in a rare broad smile. "We shall
require a captain's welcome!"

Bracegirdle and Bowles exchanged curious looks at
their captain's most uncharacteristic showing of
emotion. He was by no means a demonstrative man, yet
now quite openly displayed what could only be
described as elation.

"Bosun's mates!" Bracegirdle called through cupped
hands as he stepped to the forward railing. "Side
boys! Drummers! Prepare to pipe to the side!"

At the call, and as the pipes twittered the familiar
command, work stopped aboard ship and all hands
hurried to greet the visitor. Midshipmen appeared from
every quarter and tried frantically to straighten and
tidy their uniforms, all the while craning their necks
to see who was coming aboard.

As the barge came alongside, Pellew descended the
companionway to the main deck with an unmistakable
eagerness, only barely able to contain his delight.
Nonetheless, conscious of the eyes of his officers and
crew upon him, once upon the deck he drew himself up
to his full height and inclined his head imperiously,
presenting a formidable image of command.

Pipes whistled, drums rolled, and a gold-braided
cocked hat appeared at the entry port. With a quick,
athletic grace, the visiting captain climbed aboard
and touched his hat in salute to the quarter-deck,
then swept his gaze about the battered ship as he
approached Pellew.

"Good God, Sir Edward!" he barked in sharp amazement.
"What have you done to your bloody ship?"

Bracegirdle swallowed and went pale at the impolitic
question, and Bowles lifted his gaze to study the sky
with rapt absorption. Every man on board waited
tensely for their captain to explode and repel the
rude newcomer from his ship.

But to their everlasting bewilderment and surprise,
Pellew stepped forward and answered amiably, "I simply
tried using some of your tactics, sir. As you can see,
they didn't work. Had to revert to my own to keep her
from sinking."

The visiting captain laughed aloud and, to the still
greater shock of all who watched, reached out and
slapped Pellew on the shoulder. When their own captain
seemed not to mind, actually seemed to enjoy such
familiarity, countless faces registered utter and
complete stupefaction.

Pellew turned and indicated Bracegirdle with a
graceful gesture, greatly amused by the man's dazed
expression. "Allow me to present Lieutenant
Bracegirdle, first lieutenant of Indefatigable. Mr.
Bracegirdle, this is Captain Israel Pellew of the
Swiftsure." His smile broke through as Bracegirdle
blinked rapidly at the name. "Yes, Captain Pellew also
happens to be my younger brother."

Bracegirdle's mouth dropped open, and it was only with
the greatest concentration that he managed to close it
again. Upon closer inspection, however, he could see
the strong physical resemblance between the two men,
and marvelled that he had not noted it before.

"Captain Pellew," the captain of Indefatigable turned
to his guest with a slight smile and twinkling eyes,
one dark eyebrow raised, "will you join me in my
cabin?"

"Why, Captain Pellew," answered Swiftsure's captain
with a merry grin and courtly bow, "I should be
delighted!"

As the two left the deck together, Bracegirdle and
Bowles turned to each other, both as stunned as if
their ship had sprouted wings.

"Mother of God, I don't believe it," Bowles breathed
in utter amazement. "The man is human after all!"
*******************

In the large, comfortable Addington home, the two
young officers were treated as heroes returned
victorious from the wars. The old man's physician was
summoned to see to their injuries, and the two were
provided with clothing from the stock of Addington and
an absent son while servants were ordered to clean and
mend their tattered uniforms. And, until the
physician's arrival, the two young ladies themselves
tended the officers' cuts and cruises with the
gentleness of angels.

Lucy had, from the first, commandeered Kennedy for her
own, and he was entirely content to be her captive.
Her expressive brown eyes -- soft now with concern,
sparkling now with humour -- enchanted him, while her
lovely face engraved itself upon his heart. Her sweet,
open nature gradually drew him out of his shyness, and
soon they were talking and laughing as easily as if
they had known each other all their lives. And when he
told her of the book of sonnets he had purchased
earlier, her delighted response made plain at once
that two kindred spirits had found each other. So it
was with great reluctance that she at last surrendered
him into the care of the physician when that gentleman
finally arrived.

Horatio, having declined Dr. Canby's services after
Elisabeth's most efficient ministrations, now sat in
Addington's study, sipping from a glass of the old
gentleman's excellent brandy and feeling the last of
the edge receding from his nerves. He could not help
but marvel at his surroundings, for the walls of the
study were lined from floor to ceiling with books of
every sort, while vast collections of maps and
intricate models of ships decorated the large desk,
tables and shelves. He saw a ship's bell displayed in
one corner of the room, along with the various sand
glasses used to mark the passage of minutes and
half-hours, and felt very much at home.

Addington followed the young man's keen dark gaze as
it travelled about, and smiled slightly. The lad, he
saw, missed nothing...

"I dreamed of going to sea from my earliest days," the
old man said musingly, his voice as deep and mellow as
aged oak. "Even went for a while, as a ship's boy in a
merchantman. Alas, I proved unsuited to the life and
returned to the family trade of building vessels whose
decks I should never walk. Still," he smiled
wistfully, "I do envy those who can make a life of
it."

Horatio was only half-listening to the man; the rest
of his attention was claimed by the books. At last,
hardly aware he did so, he rose from his chair and
began to wander about, examining raptly the countless
volumes. Principles of navigation, mathematics, the
physical sciences, the classics... the library was a
scholar's dream. His fingers itched mightily to touch
one, to open it, but he dared not presume upon his
host's hospitality.

"Please, Lieutenant Hornblower," Addington urged
amiably, easily able to read the desire written so
plainly upon that expressive face, "make yourself free
with them. A closed book is a useless tool, and these
volumes were meant to be studied."

Horatio swallowed uncomfortably and shook his head.
"Sir Robert, I--"

"I insist, lad," the old man said gently. "You
preserved my greatest treasure, my daughters, from
grievous harm. I should be an ungrateful wretch,
indeed, to withhold mere books from you now."

With an eagerness that was nearly a fever, Horatio
reached for an old work on Ptolemy and ran hungry eyes
and loving fingers over the beautiful pages. So
absorbed in the book was her that he never heard
Elisabeth enter, never saw her go to her father and
whisper in his ear.

Addington rose at once, smiling broadly. "Is he, by
God?" When she nodded, the old man turned to Horatio
and, though well aware the young man had entirely
forgotten him, said, "I shall return momentarily,
Lieutenant. We have an unexpected guest joining us,
and I must make him welcome."

Horatio nodded vaguely, never hearing the words.
Across the room, Elisabeth watched him with a
thoughtful half-smile, studying the play of light over
his lean, angular face, the intensity of his gaze upon
the page, the set of his wide, full mouth. And for
those few moments, she came very near regretting the
betrothal that made any relationship with the young
officer save friendship quite out of the question.
*******************

Israel Pellew sat back in his chair and stretched his
long legs before him, delighting in his brother's
fine, mellow port and allowing his eyes to wander
about the spacious cabin. As ever, it was tastefully
decorated, yet its elegance was marred by
still-visible signs of Indefatigable's latest battle.
The bulkheads and deck were blackened and scarred by
shot, and a pane of glass in the stern windows still
needed replacing. He sighed and shook his head.

"I say, Edward," he mused, "it must have been one hell
of a battle!"

Sir Edward's dark eyes glinted at the memory. "The
fool captain refused to surrender," he said tersely.
"Even when he was soundly beaten, he would not strike.
Had to kill him to get his ship."

"Yes, I saw her when you came limping in with your
prizes. Your gunners certainly made a mess of her!
Pity, she's a pretty thing. Looks fast."

Edward permitted himself a tight smile. "But not fast
enough."

Israel laughed aloud and set down his glass, turning a
mischievous gaze upon his brother. "Still master of
the waters, eh? I heard the French Admiralty, or
whatever trumped-up office they've got now, curses
your name every morning as first order of business."
He winked. "And the Dons don't much care for you,
either!"

"My heart breaks to hear it," Pellew quipped. In his
brother's company, away from the eyes of his men, he
was relaxed as few ever saw him, his face open and
relieved of its customary sternness. "All they have to
do to rid themselves of me is to cease menacing
Britain."

"What?" Israel gasped, sitting upright, his handsome
face a mask of horror. "And put us out of work? Thank
you, no. Sailing's the only trade I have." He regarded
his brother frankly. "And never tell me you're eager
to give farming another try?"

Edward grimaced. "Good God, no! Learned my lesson the
last time." He reached for the port with a shapely
hand and poured himself another glass. "I hear you've
been amusing yourself, as well, at the expense of the
French."

"Oh, I try," Israel said with a shrug. "But it is so
damned hard anymore to get them to come out to fight!
I've got orders for the Med, though. Maybe the Dons
will prove more accommodating." He held out his glass
for his brother to refill and glanced about the cabin
again. "I heard about your, eh, visit to dear Mr.
Beadle earlier. I trust you shall be getting all you
require?"

Edward's smile dissolved into a frown, and his dark
eyes hardened. "Grasping little miser! Almost had to
call in my Marines! Haggling over a foremast-- Does he
expect me to sail without one?"

Israel laughed delightedly. "What? Someone said no to
you? Now THAT I should like to have seen! But don't
fret yourself. I hear Mr. Beadle is not to be with us
much longer." As his brother arched a brow in
interest, Israel nodded. "Aye, it's true. St. Vincent
has declared war on the man. It seems our dear Mr.
Beadle tried refusing one of his requests, and, well,
I am certain you can imagine how well old Jervie
accepts refusal. Questioned Beadle's lineage back four
generations, I believe, and threatened to turn his
ship's guns upon him. I understand another position is
hurriedly being sought for our beloved dockyard
master, before Jervis hangs him from one of his own
yardarms."

"What an appealing thought," Edward muttered blackly.

"Ever the forgiving soul," Israel said, one of the few
men alive who could tease the formidable Captain Sir
Edward Pellew and not be fed his own sword.

A comfortable silence descended upon the two, broken
only by the customary sounds of a crew hard at work
above and below and the water lapping against the
hull. Yet in that silence, Israel took the time to
study his brother, older by only a year, though it
often seemed so much more, and had to admit that
Edward had changed. The levity and mischief that once
had so clearly marked him came now only in subdued
flashes, when he relaxed the iron will that seemed to
form his very core and allowed Edward to replace the
almighty Captain Pellew.

"I heard about Muzillac," he said at last, quietly,
not missing the flash of pain in the eyes so like his
own. "Bad bit of business, that. Can't imagine what
the Admiralty were thinking."

"They weren't," Edward said, dropping his gaze to the
glass he still held. "They were reacting to French
demands, and recklessly jeopardizing the lives of my
men for some half-witted scheme that was doomed from
the start. Invade France with a handful of rag-tag,
ill-trained soldiers, a force entirely unused to
fighting, and think they have a chance of prevailing
against an army that's beaten every force it has
faced-- Pah!" he spat contemptuously. "A child could
have seen it was folly!"

"And yet you went," Israel pointed out, easily able to
imagine what such obedience must have cost his
brother. "For King and country. Edward, you will never
change."

"Should I?" he asked softly.

Israel smiled slightly and shook his head. "No. Please
God, never do that." He sighed and lowered his gaze,
his smile giving way to a frown. "The world is
changing about us every day, Edward," he sighed. "I
should like to believe some constants will remain. And
as long as I know that Captain Sir Edward Pellew,
baronet, is leading the charge across the waters," he
lifted his eyes and smiled again, "why, then I know
that England shall always endure."

"Good God, Israel," Edward muttered with
mock-sternness, though his dark eyes gleamed
good-naturedly, "you heap a lot onto my shoulders!"

"Yes, well, they're broad enough. Or," the younger man
said with a grin, "that is what I hear from an
acquaintance of yours."

Edward frowned sharply. "Acquaintance?"

"Why, yes-- Oh, did I forget to mention it?" Israel's
mischief, unlike his brother's, was thoroughly
irrepressible, and he could never resist teasing the
man whose slightest frown sent hardened warriors
running for cover. "A few months ago, while I was in
London, I chanced to meet a lady who knew you, and she
implored me to tender you her regards. A Miss
Catherine Cobham, I believe."

Edward had raised his glass to his lips for another
drink, and proceeded to spew port across the table.
"Cobham?" he gasped, almost choking. "That woman
dared--"

"Now, now, Edward!" Israel laughed, delighted by the
result he had achieved. "I know all about her little
deception... found it quite charming, in fact. To
think that a woman, an actress, could so fool the
all-knowing Pellew--"

"Israel--"

"Admit it, you merely resent the fact that she
deceived you, and wounded your pride," the younger man
chided gleefully. "She is really a delightful person.
Quite the talented actress. But, of course, you
already know that."

"I should have flung you from the deck the moment you
stepped aboard--"

"I think she must have made a wonderful duchess--"

"ISRAEL!" he bellowed, slamming a hand onto the table
and almost causing the port to fall over. For all his
fine anger, however, his brother only dissolved into
helpless laughter, defeating him entirely. "You are a
scoundrel, sir!" he accused, horrified by his own
desire to laugh.

Israel could see it coming and laughed all the harder.
"Oh, Edward!" he gasped as tears began coursing down
his cheeks. "Dear brother, how I have missed you!"
********************

As soon as Dr. Canby permitted, Lucy hurried back into
the room where he had been treating Kennedy, whom she
found sitting on the edge of the bed. Her heart soared
as he, though darkly bruised and obviously in pain,
smiled warmly at the sight of her.

"How are you, Mr. Kennedy?" she asked, going to him at
once and made anxious by the pallor beneath his
bruises. "Are you all right?"

"Well enough, I suppose. The doctor bound my ribs and
set and bandaged my hand--" He winced and went whiter
still at the memory of that excruciating ordeal, but
swallowed and quickly composed himself, managing
another smile for her sake. "And seeing you again is
certainly the best medicine for me," he murmured with
heartfelt sincerity.

An unfamiliar -- and not at all unpleasant -- warmth
spread through her as she met his gaze. He had the
bluest eyes -- a deep, dark, dense blue that seemed to
encompass both sea and sky -- and she felt that she
could gaze into them forever and still not see all
they held. Though nothing would give her more pleasure
than to try...

"Miss Lucy?" he called softly, unaccustomed to be
looked at in such a manner, but certain he could
quickly grow used to it. "I have not yet thanked you
for your kindness in- in tending my hurts earlier--"

"Oh, no, you must not!" she breathed, laying a slim
finger over his mouth to silence him. "You owe me no
thanks. Indeed, I- I only wish I could do more--" Her
soft brown eyes swept slowly over his bruised face and
down to his bandaged hand, then returned to his eyes,
while her finger lightly stroked his mouth. "When I
think that it was for my sake, and for Elisabeth's,
that you suffered such hurts-- I wish I could take
them away entirely!"

Staring up at her, entranced by her beauty and her
sweetness, he knew he would gladly have suffered far
worse than this for her, and for so simple -- and so
exquisite -- a reward as this delightful touch of her
hand upon him.

A soft, pretty blush coloured her cheeks as she read
the ardour in his eyes and felt the same in her heart.
Slowly she slid her finger from his mouth to his cheek
and along his jaw, then down his throat to where she
felt the rapid throbbing of his pulse.

He gasped and shivered beneath that soft caress, now
feeling quite light-headed. Heat seared his flesh
where she touched him, and he was finding it
increasingly difficult to breathe. The world at the
edge of his vision was dissolving into a grey and
formless mist, until he could see nothing but the
fathomless pools of her luminous brown eyes.

"Drink to me only with thine eyes," he breathed, never
knowing he spoke the words aloud, "and I will pledge
with mine; Or leave a kiss but in the cup, and I'll
not look for wine."

The whispered words from Jonson's poem sent her heart
into a dizzy spiral and her soul into flight. Stepping
closer to him, she slid her hand around to the back of
his neck and toyed absently with the red-gold hair
caught up in a pigtail there, her wide brown eyes
intent upon his beautiful blue ones.

Hardly aware he did so, conscious of nothing save her,
he rose to his feet, drawn to her by a force he could
not resist. Yet it proved too abrupt a movement, for
he reeled heavily and groaned thickly from a sudden
and sickening dizziness. "Oh--"

"Mr. Kennedy!" she cried in sharp terror, closing her
arms about him and holding him against her. "Oh, my
dear-- What is it? What's wrong?"

He closed his eyes tightly and raised his bandaged
hand to his head as the throbbing there intensified.
With his other hand he clutched at her, frightened now
of falling through a floor that seemed to be
disintegrating beneath him. "I- I am not- certain- "

"Here, sit down before you fall," she ordered, her
sweet voice sharpened by fear. "Dr. Canby said you
took a nasty blow to the head-- I should have known
this might happen!"

With the greatest care, she eased him down onto the
edge of the bed, then, when that did not seem to help,
lowered him gently back against the pillows and sat
beside him, holding his hand and gazing anxiously down
at him. He was frightfully pale and breathing faster
than he should have been, and a light sheen of sweat
glistened over his ashen face. She leaned over him and
held his cool, white hand to her breast, tenderly
stroking his hair with her other hand and speaking
softly to him.

He clung to her hand as if to a lifeline and took
refuge in her sweet voice, drawing strength from her.
For long, horrible moments he feared he might have a
fit, remembered how, as a child, he had been thrown
from a horse and hit his head, and suffered violent
fits for so long afterward. But, no, none of the
familiar warning signs were there...

Slowly, colour began creeping back into his cheeks and
his breathing slowed, and she gave a fervent sigh of
relief. As his eyes opened, focused and sought hers,
she squeezed his hand and smiled warmly, her fear only
now abating.

"You are so lovely," he breathed, raising his bandaged
hand to the inviting wealth of her silken chestnut
curls. "I could look at you forever, and never tire of
the sight!"

Her breath caught in her throat, and her heart
throbbed wildly in her breast. She knew she should
probably release his hand, but only held it all the
tighter. He had the most beautiful mouth--

Neither heard the knocking at the door, so intent upon
each other were they. When there was no answer, the
door opened and Elisabeth stepped through.

"Lucy, what-- Oh!" She stopped abruptly at the sight
of her sister seated close beside Mr. Kennedy and
leaning over him, his good hand wrapped in hers and
cradled to her breast, his injured hand stroking her
hair, their eyes intent upon each other. Realizing
neither knew she was there, she cleared her throat
discreetly, then did so again much more loudly, all to
no effect. "Lucy!" she finally had to call.

The younger girl looked up at last, smiling raptly,
her lovely face flushed. "What-- Oh, Elisabeth," she
murmured, slow to recover her wits. "I was-- helping
Mr. Kennedy--"

"Yes, I can see that," Elisabeth said with a small,
droll smile. Moving closer, she could see that they
still held hands, and showed no inclination to release
each other. "I thought I should come and see if all is
well. Papa and our guests are in the parlour waiting."
She arched two slender red-brown brows. "You do
remember supper, do you not?"

"It- is my fault, Miss Elisabeth," Archie said
apologetically. Bracing himself, he struggled to sit
up, wincing deeply and inhaling sharply as the
movement jarred his battered ribs and aching head. To
his immense relief -- and great delight -- Lucy at
once came to his assistance, slipping her arms about
him and holding him to her while he tried to steady
himself.

Concern flooded Elisabeth as she saw his state, and
she went immediately to his other side, joining her
supportive efforts to her sister's. She could not help
seeing the enormous bruise that blackened his right
temple and forehead and disappeared into his hair.

"You must be careful, and move more slowly!" Lucy
chided sharply, her brown eyes filled with anxiety.
"He near fainted earlier," she told her sister. "That
is why he was lying down."

"Oh, dear!" Elisabeth gasped. "Perhaps you should
remain in bed--"

"No, I- I shall be fine," he assured them, managing a
slight, strained smile for Lucy's sake. "Horatio--
will worry if I do not come down-- I am all right,
really."

Elisabeth doubted that, but could see that he was
determined. She could also clearly see that, whatever
befell, Lucy would be close by him to help. All at
once, she felt sorry for her sister's other suitors,
knowing their causes were doomed.

The two girls helped Archie to his feet, and, to his
great relief, he managed to remain there. As Lucy was
determined not to leave his side, Elisabeth brought
him the jacket he had been lent and would have
assisted him with it. But her sister claimed that
privilege for herself, taking the jacket from her and
working the sleeve very carefully over his injured
hand.

"Well, I suppose we are ready," Elisabeth said,
smiling and shaking her head as her sister smoothed
the fine jacket over Mr. Kennedy's shoulders and
chest. "Mr. Hornblower and the Admiral await."

"The Admiral?" Archie asked absently, fascinated by
the play of light over Lucy's sweet face.

"Yes. Didn't Lucy-- No, I suppose it slipped her
mind." Elisabeth's green eyes danced merrily at the
touching sight of the obviously love-struck pair. "My
fiance is a lieutenant in the Navy, and his squadron
is preparing to set sail. The squadron commander has
come to pay his respects, and will be dining with us.
I dare say you have heard of him -- Admiral Sir
Horatio Nelson."
**********