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 Five

 

Edward caught up with Horatio just as he reached the bottom of the
stairs. Taking his arm, he managed to stop the younger man.

"You'll not go up there when you're in this state. Not after last
night, you won't. Good God, man! Think. You can't bed her one night
and break it off with her the next day."

Horatio stopped in his tracks, looking at Pellew. He nodded,
embarrassed and saying nothing.

"Come on." Edward led him into the study. "You still have six days
before you report, there must be something that we can think of."

Horatio sat on one of the leather chairs before the fire. His elbows
on his knees, hands clasped before him. "We could be married before I
leave. That way, if she is pregnant, at least the child won't be a
bastard and she won't be ruined." Edward handed him a brandy, sitting
himself in the next chair, his own drink in hand.

"Is that what you want? I'm not talking about a possible child, I
mean do you truly want to marry the girl?"

Horatio's head was held in both of his hands, his glass on the floor
beside him. "Yes. I want to marry her. I had hoped to wait until I
returned so that she would be completely sure of her feelings and
would be slightly olderthat doesn't matter. We can marry this week."

"Horatio, is that wh"

"It's the only thing that I can give her. It's the only thing that I
can do for her."

"Do you marry her out of obligation?"

He raised his head, looking intently into the fire, thinking before
he answered.

"I can't bear to hurt her. Islept with her. I think that I love her,
but I've never loved anyone before." He looked over at Pellew, a sad
smile on his face. "What does it feel like to be in love?"

Sophie had entered the room, seating herself on the hassock between
then. She gently smiled. "Poor Horatio. You know that if you report
to your ship, it may go badly for you all, but if you don't, it may
be worse. If you marry Mavis now, you may save her from a fate worse
than and if you don't marry her now, you may spare her from a
different type of heartbreak."

She laughed suddenly, truly laughed. "And here you sit discussing it
all with your young lady's parents, of all peoplepoor Horatio!"

"God, you make me sound completely pathetic!" Horatio joined in her
laughing; even Edward broke a smile.

"My dear, as always, you have managed to sum up the situation
perfectly!" She took the glass from her husband's hand, taking a sip.

"Damned if you do and damned if you don't, Horatio. What on earth are
you going to do?"

The laughter faded to nothing and his expression grew serious again.

"I'd marry her tomorrow if I thought that would make her happy."

Sophie exchanged a look with Edward. "It would. Is it what would make
you happy, though?"

"The only thing stopping me is not knowing Renown is the I'm not
sure aboutthat part of things."

Edward spoke up. "You're an officer on a ship of war during wartime.
We both are and we both understand and accept whatever risks are
involved. They're not an excuse to cut your self off from life,
though, Horatio. Sophie understands this, so will Mavis."

He was lost in thought for a few moments. Shaking his head, "But
she's only sixteen, and"

Sophie, finally annoyed, had enough of his indecision.

"And you've known that since you arrived here. You certainly didn't
let it stop you last night. That's just an excuse, and you know that
as well as we do. Now you'll marry the girl this week, or make good
your promise when you get back. Either way, you've gotten yourself
into this and you will deal with it like the adult and gentleman you
are. You were perfectly happy to have the betrothal announced at the
Admiral's party and you will not embarrass Edward now by reneging.
Am I making myself clear?"

He knew when he was cornered. "Yes, Lady Sophie, of course. You're
absolutely right."

"Good." She rose and without a backwards glance left the room to
finish checking on the tea preparations.

Edward spoke quietly. "She's right, you know. But I won't allow you
to marry her just out of obligation. If you're not going to be happy
together, I'd rather you didn't go through with it."

"I do love her, and I do wish to marry her, sir."

"But.?" He prompted.

"Just what I mentioned earlier, that she will be lonely, that"

"Yes, that you'll be killed and she'll be left alone. We all know
about that, it's simply a fact of your life. Mavis understands this
better than you probably believe she does."

Horatio nodded, either in agreement with Edward or what ever was
going through his mind.

"If you'll excuse me, sir, I'll speak to Mavis." Pellew shot him a
questioning look. "No, it will be all right. I'll ask her when we
should marry."

Nodding to the Captain, he left the room.

Sir Edward sat unmoving, lost in though. God, don't let him be killed.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Sophie walked back into the study a few minutes after Horatio had
left.

"Was I too hard on him, Edward?"

"No. He needed to hear what you said to him. He'll do the right
thing."

She sat back down on the hassock, her arms across her chest, hugging
herself. "I never thought that he wouldn't. He's scared to death and
doesn't want any of us to see it. He's afraid that he'll disappoint
you."

"Yes, I know that, and that Mavis will be hurt if he doesn't come
back." Edward smiled gently to himself. "When we were on the Indy, I
would sometimes pretend that he was my son. I would try to think what
advice I should give him, how I could steer him on the right course."

She picked up Horatio's untouched glass of port, sipping it. "He
never mentions his real family, why is that?"

"From what I understand, his mother died when he was a child and he's
estranged from his father for some reason. Has been for years. I
can't comprehend that. How could a man not rejoice in a son like
that?"

"Have you ever met the father?"

"No, I haven't. It's not uncommon for a man's family to want to see
their son or their husband's ship, but his never has that I know of."

"Do you think that he'll be informed of the betrothal or the wedding?"

Edward took her hand. "Perhaps as the mother of the bride you might
write a letter?"

She smiled then leaned over and kissed his cheek. "You really are
very sweet, you know."

"It shall remain our secret, madam."

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

"Would you really want to be married this week? You were so adamant
about waiting."

Horatio tightened his arms about her as they stood where he had found
her before the fireplace in her room. "Well, since we've started the
honeymoon, I don't see any reason why we shouldn't."

She was blushing. "We seem to have no secrets, do we? Papa didn't
threaten you with one of his swords, did he?"

"Just a small dirk." He kissed her lightly. "This is Tuesday already.
I must be back aboard on Monday night. How long will it take to make
the arrangements?"

She looked up at him, trying to gauge his true feelings about all
that had happened in the last few days. Smiling and shrugging at his
question she said, "I've no idea. Mama will know, she's so good at
things like this. Between her and Preston, I suspect that we'll just
be swept along with the tide."

Horatio nodded his acceptance of the inevitable. "I'm sure that will
be the easiest for all concerned. Shall we go tell them so the
maelstrom can commence?"

Mavis hugged him again, even tighter this time. "Dearest." She seemed
embarrassed by her use of the endearment. He smiled his encouragement
at her as she continued. "You're not just agreeing to this because of
last night, are you? Because if that's the reason, there really is
no"

"Mavis. I love you; I want us to be married. It's as simple as that."

She began to cry. "Mavis? Have I said something wrong? Would you
rather wait?"

She shook her head. "No, you don't understand. I've wanted to marry
you since I was eleven. You were so kind to me. The first day I saw
you on Gibraltar, I thought that you were the most handsome man I'd
ever seen. You were the first man to pay any attention to me and you
were always so patient, answering all of my questions and writing me
letters. You never treated me like a child, so it was easy for me to
pretend that you were my---beau. I've pretended for so long that now
it's hard for me to believe you actually have your arms around me and
that we're talking about our wedding."

He smiled, amused that he had been the object of heranyone's
fantasies. That was certainly something that had never occurred to
him before.

"I don't think that we could have become friends if you had been
older then." He blushed. "You're the only sweetheart I've ever had.
I've always been awkward with young ladies. It's only because you
were so young when we met that I could behave normally around you
without becoming tongue-tied."

She reached her arms up to circle around his neck.

"When I saw you that night at your parents party, if I hadn't
realized who you were, I could never have spoken to you. I'd have
been too embarrassed."

Mavis laughed at him, kindly. "All the girls had their caps set for
you from the moment you walked in the door, didn't you know that?"

He was blushing several shades deeper now, becoming self-
conscious. "Papa says that you don't know your own worth. Sometimes
he says that he used to despair because of it, that you never give
yourself due credit."

"Mavis, I really"

"He's right. You seem to think that everyone else has more value than
you do." She took one hand from around his neck and caressed his
cheek. "You are everything I want. I've loved you since I was a child
and nothing could ever make me stop. When you're at sea, never forget
that."

He turned his face slightly, kissing her hand. "I never shall, I
promise."

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

My dear Doctor Hornblower, 1
March 1801

Please forgive my forwardness in writing to you, however I know that
you will wish to be informed of the imminent marriage of our beloved
daughter, Mavis to your son, Horatio.

The ceremony is expected to take place here in Portsmouth later this
week, in all likelihood, this coming Friday evening.

We greatly hope that you will be able to attend and it would give my
husband and I the greatest pleasure if you would do us the very large
honor of being our guest while you are here.

We have become so very fond of Horatio over the past few years and
this natural development between the two young people has brought us
much happiness already, as I'm sure that it will you. We so very much
look forward to making your acquaintance and know that the joining of
our families will be filled with joy.

I have sent our carriage for you convenience, and I do so hope that
you will be in it when it returns to us.

With all my warmest regards,

Lady Sophie Pellew

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

As they sat down to tea, Mavis and Sophie were absorbed in the
details of the wedding.

"Friday evening will be perfect, Mama, that will give us a few days
to prepare and still let Horatio and me have a couple of days after
to ourselves to rest a bit. I think that the conservatory would be
best, don't you?"

"Yes, I agree, dearest. We can bank the candles all around the sides
and there are already plenty of flowers there, so that will simplify
things."

"What shall we serve for refreshments"?

The conversation passed both Edward and Horatio by. They were
completely left out of the planning and were glad of that fact. Only
occasionally would a comment be directed to one of them.

"Horatio, your dress uniform, will it need a cleaning after the
Admiral's party the other night? I'll see to it, don't concern
yourself."

"Edward, love, you must let me know this evening which officers are
to be invited. I need to have some idea of the numbers we'll be
expecting."

"Horatio, do you have any friends we should include?"

"The officer's of Indy and Renown, and perhaps we might have my
division, also." He looked over to Mavis as she smiled in happiness
at his remembering that she had wanted them there.

"Mama, I can wear my new gown from the party, don't you think?"

"Yes, dear, you looked lovely in that. The color suits you perfectly."

And so the planning went on. Sir Edward and Horatio realized that
they were superfluous to the discussion and removed themselves to the
conservatory for a game of chess. The ladies too busy to notice their
absence.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The two women turned to the planning, getting everything fairly
squared away but the time the candles were beginning to gutter. Both
were tired but pleased at what they had accomplished. They had spent
hours on the planning and organizing along with Preston and Cook If
all went according to plan it would be a lovely ceremony, followed by
a simple but elegant dinner and reception. Pleading exhaustion,
Sophie went to bed.

Finding Mavis alone at the dining room table where they had been
working, Horatio took her hand and led her upstairs. "You need sleep,
come along."

Reaching the green door of her bedroom she leaned against him and
answered, "I need to sleep with you."

Caressing her forehead and cheek, smiling slightly, he nodded as he
whispered, "Yes."

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Several of the invitations were delivered to Renown early the next
morning. One was addressed to Ship's Bosun Matthews and Bosun's Mate
Styles.

"What's that, Matty? You getting love letters now?"

"All right, all right. That's enough of that, if you don't mind."
Breaking the seals he looked at the contents. He could read, but
slowly. Seeing his frown, Styles asked him if something was wrong.

"Well I'll be damned. This seems to be an invitation to a weddin this
coming Friday night. It seems that Mr. `Ornblower is up and marryin
Commodore Pellew's daughterand we're invited!"

"Ah, come on. Wot does it really say?"

"That's the God's honest truth. The whole bleedin division is invited
to---let's see here." He read hesitantly. "Join us in the cele
bration of the marriage of Miss Mavis Pellew and Lieutenant Horatio
Hornblower. At seven o'clock."

"Cor! That'll be classy. Wot are they doin inviting us for?"

"It gets better. It's at Pellew's home. And there's a note here on
the bottom of the page. `Miss Mavis has asked for you specially to
be included. Ornblower.' My word."

"Well, we're in the chinks now, Matty!"

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Early the next morning, earlier than usual as there was so much to
do, the elder Pellew's were enjoying their breakfast. They were alone
in the dining room.

"You know that they spent the night in her room again. Do you want to
say something to him or just let it go?"

"I don't really see what possible difference it makes, Sophie.
They're getting married in two days anyway and then he's leaving for
a number of months if not longer. They might as well spend what
little time they do have together."

Calmly nodding her agreement, she turned her attention to her
breakfast.

"I hope to have some sort of a count by late this afternoon. We must
start getting the food in so that the kitchen staff can get to work
on it all."

Edward was looking over the guest list. "It seems that you largely
just repeated the list for our party last week."

"Yes, that is what I did, with a few additions. It seemed to be the
easiest. They're all our friends and they would be the ones who are
in town, most likely. Mavis had asked that Horatio's division be
included. Will that be a problem, do you think?"

"He has them well trained, they won't do anything they shouldn't, I'm
sure. Likely they will stay in the background when confronted by the
amount of gold lace that will be there."

"Sawyer has to come, doesn't he?"

"Of course. He's Horatio's commanding officer. No way around it, I'm
afraid."

"I suppose not." She seemed resigned. "He's just so awful."

"I've no doubt that you can cope, my dear."

Preston came into the room to begin clearing. "Excuse me, M'am.
Should we just leave the other breakfast things here for when Miss
Mavis and the Lieutenant come down or would you rather that we
cleared?"

Looking at him for a moment, she finally said, "Please clear, but
would you have Cook make up a tray for two and have it taken up to
Miss Mavis' room when it's ready?"

He nodded, his face completely bland. "Of course."

"And please do be sure that the coffee is fresh when it goes up.
Thank you, Preston." He left the room to pass on the request.

"Breakfast in bed? I'd say that's above and beyond as an
understanding parent, my dear."

"In for a penny, in for a pound." Smiling became laughter as she
threw her napkin at him.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Horatio rolled over, sliding his arms around Mavis next to him, still
sleeping. He didn't really want to wake her, but he couldn't bear to
not touch her. They were warm and comfortable and had probably slept
longer than they should have. He knew that he shouldn't have given
into the temptation of joining her last night, but how could he not?
He was leaving so very soon.

Sighing, he gently ran his hands down the length of her, feeling the
softness of her body, so unlike his own.

Sleepily she opened her eyes, turning her face to his. Smiling she
asked, "Again? Haven't you had enough for one night?"

He kissed he deeply. "Never."

"Your beard scratches."

"Forgive me."

He was about to move over her when they heard the footsteps outside
her door. "Did you latch it?"

"I don't remember, did you?"

The door quietly opened as they as nonchalantly as possible slid
slightly apart, his arm still around her; her head nestled against
his shoulder.

"Good morning, Miss Mavis, Sir." Preston put the tray on the small
table next to the bed. "I have eggs, toast, ham, potatoes and coffee
here. Would either of you like anything else?"

"Perhaps some hot water in a few minutes, if you don't mind."

"Certainly, sir. I'll send someone up shortly." Bowing slightly, he
turned and left, closing the door behind him.

The two looked at each other before exploding in laughter.

"It seems that they think that it's time for us to get up."

"That was my mother's doing. I'm sure of it. Papa would have never
have thought of it on his own."

Still laugh, they settled in to breakfast on the bed, feeding each
other and laughing. After a short while, the maid arrived with hot
water for them both.

Finished eating, Horatio rose and pulled his clothing on. Leaning in
to kiss her one more time, he went across the hallway to the guest
room to wash and put on a fresh change of clothing. While he was
gone, Mavis had begun dressing when Sophie knocked softly and let
herself in.

"Might we talk for a few minutes, Dearest?"

Mavis was wearing just her wrap. Her mother moved behind where she
was seated at her dressing table and taking the brush from her hand,
began grooming the long hair herself.

"I used to do this when you were a little girl. Remember? I was
always after you to tidy your hair, it was forever coming lose."

Mavis smiled at her in the mirror, nodding. "I always loved when you
did my hair. You were always so good at it. I was such a little
ragamuffin."

"I only minded when you tore your dresses. Is everything going well
with you and Horatio?"

Mavis met her eyes in the mirror. She smiled, blushing. "He's so
wonderful, Mama."

"I know that your father is happy about the way things have worked
out with you two. So am I, Sweeting. You're so very good together."

"He's very much like Papa, isn't he? So smart and honest. Papa says
that his men are more loyal to him than any other young officer he's
ever seen."

"Yes, he's very special. We all know that."

"I had an odd thought last night." She looked embarrassed about that
admission. "I was looking at his hands, he wastouching me." She
blushed and looked as though she might not continue, but managed to
go on. "I thought how very gentle he is and how kind, but at the same
time, I know that he's used those same hands to kill people. I have
such trouble imagining him fighting, cutting and stabbing with his
sword or shooting a gun, but I know that he does that. I know that
he's ordered men to do things that have gotten them killed and that
he's given orders that have killed Frenchmen and Spanish."

She looked at Sophie again. "It's almost like there are two of him,
the kind gentle man I'm going to marry, and some stranger who kills
when need be."

"Yes, I've had the same thoughts about your father. It's difficult to
understand how they can separate the different parts of their lives
as they do."

With no warning, Mavis suddenly was grabbing at her mother, hugging
to her fiercely and sobbing, crying uncontrollably.

"Dearest! Tell me, what is it? Please!"

"I heard him talking with Papa. Horatio admitted that Captain Sawyer
would kill him if he thinks he can get away with it. He won't talk to
me about it, just says that he'll be finebut he won't. You know as
well as I do that a ship's Captain is in complete control of his
ship. He can do whatever he wants, and no one will be able to stop
him."

"That's not true, you know that. There will be other officers on the
ship watching and you know that Horatio will be as careful as can be.
You know that he will. He's smart and he has the loyalty of his men.
That will count for much."

But Mavis wasn't interested in being placated. Her crying stopped
almost as suddenly as it began. Her cheeks still wet and still
clinging to Sophie she calmly spoke. "I know that he'll be killed. I
feel it. That's why I decided to share his bed. It's the only thing
that I have to give to him. I wanted him to have---me before he
left." She drew back to look up at her mother. "Was that a terrible
thing to doI wanted him, too."

"No, Sweet. I did the same thing once when your father was about to
go back to sea. It's all right. You did what any woman who is in love
would do."

"Will it be so terrible if I have a child?"

Sophie had a small smile on her face and shook her head "No."

Tightening her arms around her, quietly Mavis said, "Thank you, Mama."