Family
by Simon

The OC's in this story were borrowed from Allison James wonderful
story "Landfall", with her kind permission. She is in no way to blame
for what I've made them do here!


Chapter Thirteen

Letters

 

My Dearest Wife,
23 March 1801

What joy I take in writing those simple words!

Renown is just now clearing the point at Land's End as I pen this to
you. We are leaving home behind and I am leaving you.

Saying farewell to you this morning was as difficult as anything I've
ever done. It was all I could do not to jump from the carriage to
embrace you again. Had I gone back in I would have wanted to love you
once more, and I knew that couldn't be.

I still find that I am unable to comprehend my great good fortune in
you, Sweeting. That you are my wife, that we are truly wed, is such
amazement to me. I find thinking you might actually want me above any
others is astounding.

Know that I love you with all that is in me and that I will return
to you as soon as is possible. I fear that I don't know when that
might be, but I have hopes that our current assignment"which Captain
Sawyer disclosed to us this morning after we left port"should not
take as long as others might. I pray God that I will see you again
within a year.

That sounds so long, I know, but the time will pass for us both.

Be well, write to me often. I do love you so.

With great affection,
H

 

Dear Doctor Hornblower, 15
April, 1801

I wish to tell you once more how so very delighted I was when you
came to our wedding. Seeing the look on Horatio's face as he and you
spoke together is something that I will hold in my heart forever. I
wish I had the words to tell you what a joy that was to me, to see
him so very happy.

I also wish to tell you that I am now sure that you will become a
grandfather before the end of the year. I know that it is too soon to
say such a thing in prudence - especially to a Doctor! - but I know it
to be true. I was sure the moment that it happened and the past weeks
have confirmed my beliefs with what I am told are the usual symptoms.

I'm sorry that both Horatio and Papa are unaware of my news as they
are both at sea. Papa left just a week after Horatio and the mail
packets take a while to catch up with the ships.

I believe that the baby will arrive sometime around the end of the
year and I hasten to assure you that I am in fine health and quite
spoiled by Mama and everyone here.

Please write to me. Tell me of any news that you might have of
Horatio or of any news of his old home that I might pass to him for
his amusement.

In all warmest regards,

Mavis Hornblower

 

My Dear Sophie, 27
May 1801

Tonnant is making good speed, enjoys good weather and fair winds. My
officers, lead by Joss Bracegirdle, as always, seem to be a likely
group.2 I've had no problems with any of them so far. I've hosted
several dinners with them and fear that I will be hard pressed to
scare up a decent game of whist this voyage. I find I long for the
days on the Indy when Horatio and Joss, along with one of the
brighter Mid's could always be counted on for a spirited and
challenging hand.

The crew seems to be a reasonable mix and I foresee no situation that
we will not be able to handle, pray God.

There has been no news of Renown that has reached me as of this
writing. I must trust that they are well.

My Darling, these last two months have caused me to reflect on how
lonely my life would now be had you not happened into it when you
did. That you brought Mavis with you is a joy that I dwell on more
and more.

I beg you to keep yourself well for my return. Do what you can"as I
know that you are"to ease her mind. Mavis is such a dear girl. To
know that she likely suffers in his absence grieves me more than I
can say.

Tell me all your news, my Sweeting. I miss you as I always do.

In all affection,

Ned

Dearest Father, 7 June, 1801

Renown enjoys good weather after a rough spell in the Atlantic while
were enroute to our current destination. She remains a sturdy vessel
and the men who sail her are, for the most part, an experienced lot,
if not always an easy one.

Having Archie beside me goes far to lighten the atmosphere as the
voyage sails on through the weeks and months.

The new Lieutenant, a Mr. Bush, seems to be a decent sort, but I find
that he seems to prefer his own company at present. Mr. Buckland
remains as he has always been.

The Captain has long enjoyed his reputation as a firm leader and he
has not disappointed us in that regard. Discipline is one of the
things on which he prides himself, and rightly so.

I'm glad that I've been able to retain my old division, they are such
good and decent men that they are an honor to serve with.

Father, I must thank you once again for making the effort to join
Mavis and me at our wedding. To see you and to begin to break down
the walls that we had both erected was a great joy to me. It is my
hope that we might continue our rapprochement when I next set foot in
England. I have so missed having a family in any real sense of the
word, and do rejoice that we have made a beginning with each other. I
pray that it will continue.

I would also hope that you are in contact with Mavis, now your
daughter-in-law. She is now part of your family, as we have become
part of hers.

Your affectionate son,

Horatio

 

My Dearest Mavis,
4 July 1801

Today is my birthday and Archie has given me the shirt you asked him
to hold until this day. It fits me perfectly and I am astounded that
you had the time to make the entire thing whilst I was in Portsmouth
in March"it was a busy three weeks, as you will recall!

I thank you from the bottom of my heart and not just for the garment.
I thank you, my Sweeting for your wanting me. I thank you for your
strength in our separation and I thank you for the world of love that
you have opened me up to.

There is not a night that goes by without my dreaming of you. There
isn't a single time I've lain on my narrow cot and not wished with
all my heart that I were in our bed, our bodies entwined as they were
all too briefly. I long to hold you, slowly remove your clothing ad
make love to you over and over as we did during those magical three
weeks of my leave.

I fear that as of this writing, the mail packets have yet to find us.
I wonder if we are to become parents. I know that if it is to be, you
will have the strength to see yourself through the coming time. I
thank God that you are with your mother and not completely alone
during this difficult time for us both.

Don't stop writing. I know that you are. I will receive them
eventually, and long to read your words to me.

I love you, I miss you.

H

 

Dearest,
25 August 1801

It would seem that we are to become grandparents, my love. I have
waited all this time to tell you so as to be sure that all is well.

I must tell you that Mavis has been the perfect picture of health
since the beginning and thrives in both the knowledge that she
carries Horatio's child (whom she is convinced is a son, I might add)
and that she holds his love.

It is a joy to behold, my darling and I only wish that you could be
here to share in it with us both.

I would expect that you would have an announcement to make about the
time of the New Year.

The house is continuing apace and I would hope that it would be ready
for it's occupants within eight months or so. I have been up to my
chin in samples of paint and fabric that your daughter insists on
dithering over endlessly. She fears that whatever she decides on will
not be pleasing to Horatio and I tell her that he will admire
whatever she chooses.

Was I really this bad with our own redecorating, my dear?

I must confess to some concern that we have yet to hear from the dear
boy since he left that morning in March for Renown.

I have made inquiries at the Port Admiral's and have been assured
that there is no ill news of his ship. I trust that they are well,
but out of each of the dispatch vessels.

You will keep your eyes set for him, will you not?

A Commodore commands so much better response than a mere Commodore's
wife.

You are not to have a single care about us, my dearest. We are well
and fine and miss you terribly.

With all my love,

Granny Pellew

 

My Darling,
20 September 1801

I fear that were you to walk in the door today you would be amazed in
the change in your poor wife. I am as big as a house and your son
kicks his poor Mama day and night! I must go about the house in one
of Papa's old shirts, as there is nothing that I own which will
comfortably go about the vastness of my middle section.

Mrs. Whiting was here just this morning and is making me dresses that
will resemble nothing so much as tents to cover my nakedness. I never
thought it possible to not wish you here, but could you see me, you
would run straight away in the other direction.

And mama says that the baby grows the most in the last few months. I
shall be as big as Renown before this is over!

Oh, Horatio, I tease you, my dearest.

I look at myself in the mirror and all I see is our love. I see the
look on your face as you put your ring on my finger, I see you
peaceful in sleep and I see you when we made love and then I am happy
again.

I miss you so desperately. I long to feel your arms about me. I long
to kiss you and to wake with you curled around me, as you would do,
keeping me warm and safe.

I wander down to the conservatory to sit in our chair and wish that I
could see Renown sailing back into the harbor to drop her anchor. She
will, I know, and you will be on her and then you will walk in the
front door and I will throw my arms about your neck and squeeze you
until you beg me to stop.

Our little house is being built to the plans we spoke of. It will not
be such a large home, but we will be able to add rooms should they
become necessary. I hope that you will be pleased with the final
results when you come home. I'm afraid that I'm driving Mama quite
mad with my constant stream of questions about decorating and such
things which she tried so hard to teach me and for which I have no
talent.

Are you well, my dear one? I have been unable to ferret out where in
the world Renown has been sent. I know not if you are in the Med or
the Indies. You could be in China or India. Be safe my dearest. You
are my everything.

You must write me and tell me what names you would like our little
one to be christened with. I am confident that we shall have a son,
but everyone says that we must choose names for either sex, as babies
are often contrary.

But ours will be as perfect as his dear father. I've no doubt.

You are not to worry about me, Sweeting. I am well and taken care of
as though I were made of glass.

I love you so.

Mavis

 

Dear Sir Edward 31
October, 1801

As you are likely aware, Renown currently sails the same waters as
Tonnant. I have some hope that we might have a chance to see one
another, but there is, of course, no guarantee of that.

I must needs write this in confidence, Sir. I pray that you employ
the discretion for which you are justly famous with its contents.

I greatly fear that we are on a course with disaster.

The crew is close to mutiny, the officers are made redundant and our
Captain becomes more erratic by the day.

Although we are running dangerously low of supplies (both our
foodstuffs and
our medicines are almost depleted), we are refused permission to put
into Kingston or Bridgetown or any other port where we might remedy
the situation.

It is my belief that the Captain fears desertion, should we put
ashore.

The crew and, indeed the officers, are subjected to arbitrary
discipline of the most brutal sort. There is neither rhyme nor reason
to the standards to which we are held.

I am much concerned that a situation such as befell Bounty will be
our fate. Should this happen, I cannot say what the final
consequences might be.

W are ordered to contain and disarm a fort in Samana Bay, as you are
likely aware. This may prove close to impossible with the present
circumstances that exist onboard.

Sir Edward, you know that I am no coward, but I beg that you do what
you can to remedy this situation before disaster overtakes us all.

In respect, I remain your obedient servant,

Lieutenant Horatio Hornblower

 

Dear Jacob,
November 29, 1801

I greatly hope that you will do us the great honor of agreeing to
spend your Christmas holiday with Mavis and me down here in
Portsmouth.

We are three people without our loved ones this year and it would
cheer us immeasurably to have you to share the season.

I know you will want to know that Mavis is doing well. She misses
Horatio, of course, but she writes him almost daily and is as happy
as a bride and soon to be mother should be.

We haven't heard from Renown in quite a while. There were some posts
as she was enroute several months ago, but nothing recently.

Edward, who sails the same waters, whatever they may be, says that he
keeps as close a watch as he can on how they are progressing and
hasn't told me of any problems.

If you have heard anything more recent than that, Mavis will want
every detail, I assure you!

I will send the carriage to you on December 22, if that meets with
your approval. Weather permitting, naturally.

Do please say that you'll come. We want to see you so very much.

Warmest regards,

Sophie

 

My Dearest Darling, 26 December
1801

We are the parents of a son! Born yesterday, he is my Christmas
present from you and to you.

I am so proud and so happy that I can barely put pen to paper.

Yesterday at breakfast, I felt somewhat poorly and your father"who is
spending the holidays with us, thank God! "asked me several questions
about my condition and how the previous night and early morning had
passed.

My answers confirmed what I suspected, that the baby was coming. I
will not bore you with the details of the confinement. It was long,
but no more so than many first time deliveries. Mama was there the
entire time and your father could not have been more wonderful. He is
so knowledgeable about what was happening and was so calm that I
never felt even a moment of fear.

He knew exactly what to do and what to say to give me confidence. He
is so like you in so many ways, my love.

I have named him Edward Horatio. I hope that you don't mind. I was
afraid that having two `Horatio's' about the house would get
confusing and Papa will be so pleased. The next will be your choice
as to what to christen the child. I promise you that, my darling.

But our sonhe is so wonderful! He looks like you, dearest. He has
your magnificent eyes and dark hair. It's too soon to know about his
nose or his chin, but he is wonderful and healthy and strong, just
like his father. Jacob says that he's the image of you when you were
born and that he'll likely have your height, too.

Oh, Horatio. I am so happy. I didn't think that I would ever love
another as I do you, but this tiny creature has captured my heart as
surely as has his father.

Hurry home to us, my dearest. We are waiting for you.

I love you so very much,

Mavis

 

Dear Sophie,
23 January, 1802

I write these events to you so that you can tell Mavis as you see fit.

I have just this day finished a task I hope I will never have the
misfortune of repeating.

I presided over the Court Martial of the officers of Renown for
Mutiny and possible murder. Horatio sat before me, along with that
ships' first officer, while I and two other line officers decided
their fate.

If found guilty I would have had no choice but to order their
execution. I enclose the local newspaper which tells the barebones of
the story, but the truth is, as always, more terrible.

I was forced to sit the trial, as I was the only other senior enough
officer. Had I not, they would have had to wait until someone
appropriate turned up--the wait might have been months and that would
not be allowed.

As it is known that Horatio is not only a favorite of mine, but also
now a member of our family I was forced to swear that I could be
impartial and I so endeavored, but Oh Sophie! How could I have
ordered him killed had the events demanded? I would sooner hang
myself.

Dear God, how would I ever have looked Mavis in the face again?

It didn't come to pass, but the resolution was almost as terrible.

James Sawyer was insane, as we suspected. The testimony from that
trial was enough to turn your stomach. He tortured his crew beyond
reason, both the officers and the ratings. There were desertions and
beatings and murder and all because this one man was stretched beyond
his powers of enduring. I feel for the wretch, but I thank the Lord
that he's dead.

I regret to tell you that Horatio's friend, Lieutenant Kennedy has
died of wounds received at the hands of Spanish prisoners during an
escape attempt on Renown. He lived long enough to take the blame for
Sawyer's death, allowing me to free the others. If I ever doubted
what Horatio saw in that young man, I no longer do. I only regret
that I didn't see what he was made of before this.

The first Lieutenant is ruined by this. He performed poorly and his
weakness allowed much of what went wrong to happen. Kennedy is dead
and disgraced, Bush, the second Lieutenant was severely wounded but
appears to be recovering.

Horatio is unhurt, physically, but he will carry these scars as long
as he lives.

He has been given a small ship, a sloop of war and the rank of
Commander. I pray God that he can put this debacle behind him.

My God, how could this have gone so wrong? A ship in total disarray,
men dead, careers and reputations in ruins, the survivors barely left
standing.

Horatio sails for Portsmouth within the fortnight. Treat him gently.

Your Edward