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 Six

 

By mid morning the acceptances had begun to trickle in. Although the
wedding was on short notice, that was often the way of it in the
military during wartime, and people were used to responding in a
timely fashion.

"Sophie, I was about to take the carriage and I've been informed that
it's been sent on an errand to some village in Kent. Would you know
anything about that?"

She answered without looking up, busy with her lists. "Umm, yes. I
sent it to fetch Horatio's father. It should be back later tonight, I
would think. Oh, I forgotPreston! Please see to it that the other
guestroom is prepared for this evening, if you would."

"Yes, M'am."

"Thank you, Preston. Edward, are Mavis and Horatio still in the
conservatory?"

"Horatio went into town, to look for a ring, I believe. I've no idea
where Mavis has gotten herself off to. Do you need her at the moment?"

"Um, no, not really." She was still studying her lists. "Has he
mentioned to you who will stand up with him? I really should get in
touch with whomever it is he decides on."

Edward sat down to look over the morning paper while he waited for a
hired rig to be brought round. "No, he hasn't mentioned anyone to me.
I would think that he'd ask Kennedy. He seems to be Horatio's closest
friend."

Sophie looked over at her husband. "Kennedy?" She was trying to place
the name. Ah! It came to her. "That handsome young blonde who was one
of your junior officers on the Indefatigable? Is that the one?"

Bemused by the description, Edward simply nodded. Thinking better of
a nonverbal answer he added, "I believe that he's a Lieutenant on
Renown now with Horatio."

"Nice that they're still together. Give them each someone to talk to
during off hours."

"Yes, I suppose. Does Horatio know that you've sent for his father?"

Sophie stood up, gathering her things in preparation for moving
somewhere else. "I haven't mentioned it to him specifically, but I
would think he'd assume I'd invite the man. Why do you ask?"

"I thought that I'd mentioned that they are estranged. It could well
become awkward"we don't know what the cause is or how deep the rift
goes."

Refusing to see a problem, Sophie replied, "Oh, really, Edward.
They're father and son. What better time to renew their relationship
than at the wedding of an only child."

"To a young woman he's never met in the home of complete strangers."
He was about to start reading again when he had a thought. "You know,
you could have simply have put the Doctor in the room Horatio is
nominally occupyingsave on linen. I doubt that it would be too
crowded."

Giving him a look that told him exactly what she thought of his logic
and concerns, she walked out to cope with another of the hundreds of
details involved in a wedding.

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

Horatio was down on the quay while the Pellew's conversation had been
going on. He had gone down straightaway after leaving the house.
Seeing Styles sitting on a bale of hay for the ship animals, he
approached the man.

"Good morning, Styles. By any chance would you know if Mr. Kennedy
has reported back aboard the ship."?

Looking blearily at his officer, he tried his best to focus, despite
the thundering headache he was attempting to ignore. "Can't say that
anyone has seen him, sir. If he's back, he hasn't reported onto the
ship that I know of."

"Thank you, Styles." He turned away, disappointed. Archie had gone up
to London to see some of his family and to get away from Renown,
evidently he was drawing it out as long as he could.

"Sir? Begging your pardon, wot's this we `ear about you getting
married? You don't really want the likes of us there, so you?"

He turned back, amused. "Yes, I'm getting married the day after
tomorrow and Miss Mavis and I would both very much like the entire
division to be there, if you'd like to attend."

Styles looked him over, blunt as ever. "Wot would the likes of us do
with all them gold braid officers who'll be there, Mr. `Ornblower?"

Horatio had been afraid of this. "You needn't come if you'll feel
uncomfortable. Mavis is very fond of you all, especially you and
Matthews, as is Commodore Pellew. I'm sure that you'll be able to
find a room where the gold braid will leave you alone." He smiled
slightly, understanding the thoughts of being out of place.

Nodding and returning the small smile he returned, "Yeah, I guess
that we'll be there, sir. Should be somethin to see, all them
Admirals and such. I ain't ever been in a Commodore's house before."

"Good." He laughed once. "I'll be happy for some friendly faces
myself." He turned to go.

"Sir?"

"Yes, Styles?"

"Your marryin Miss Mavis, and her bein Commodore Pellew's daughter---
you think there's any chance of you getting transferred off Renown
now?"

Horatio knew why he was asking. The men all knew of Sawyer's hatred
for him. "No, I think not. At least not until after this next voyage."

Styles nodded, understanding what this could mean. "We'll see ya
Friday night, then, sir."

Nodding, Hornblower left the dock.

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

Going to the small jeweler's shop that Sir Edward had recommended,
Horatio was surprised at how easy it had been to select a ring. It
was a simple gold band, half an inch wide. It might be too wide for
her finger, but Mavis had said that living in a Navy town, she wanted
to be sure the sailor's knew from a distance that she wasn't
available.

The sizing was simple, too. Joking, she had put a ring she had worn
at her parent's party on his hand, teasing him with it. Her ring had
fit perfectly on his little finger. Her wedding band was sized to his
hand. After deciding on the inscription, he told the proprietor that
he would return the next day to pick it up.

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

As he was in the shop, Horatio had failed to notice that watching,
staring at him through the window had been Captain Sawyer, leaving
before the Lieutenant had finished his business.

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

While Horatio was in town and her father had been waiting for a hired
coach, Mavis had been busy writing letters up in her room.

Dear Dr. Hornblower, (the first one read)

I hope that you don't find me too presumptuous in writing to you like
this, but I wish you to know how very happy Horatio and I are
together. We've known each other for five years now, and I think that
I fell in love with him the first day I saw him.

We will be married in just two days and two days later he will leave
to go back to sea.

I know that I will miss him so very terribly.

I hope that we might write to each other, you and I. I would so much
like us to become friends. You are Horatio's father and to have
raised him, you must be a special man yourself. I hope that you will
come to see me as your daughter, and not just as your son's wife.

I hope that we might be able to comfort each other while he is gone
and perhaps share any news we might receive of him when he is away.

He is so wonderful to me, kind and gentle. He must have learned that
from you.

I am so very glad that you will be able to see our marriage. It will
mean so much to both Horatio and me to have you here with us.

With affection,

Mavis Pellew

 

She sanded and blotted the paper. Well, at least she hoped that the
Doctor would attend. Mama had sent the carriage, after all. She knew
that she probably should have told Horatio that his father had been
sent for, but the very few times that she had mentioned him, Horatio
had frozen her so completely that she had changed the subject.

Well, she would leave the letter on his pillow and if he didn't come
to the wedding, she would rewrite it and sent it to him in Kent. She
wanted to get to know the man.

She began the next letter, to be placed in Horatio's kit when he left
so that he would find it at sea. She would write several letters to
him, she had decided, so that they would be there when he unpacked on
the ship.

 

My dearest Horatio,

Soon my husband in name and not just in fact.

I wanted to tell you my thoughts now, so soon before our marriage but
all I can think to write is that I love you.

I love your smile when I've surprised you by kissing you awake and I
love the way your hair curls in your queue.
I love that you are taller than I am and so strong.
I love that your eyes are so beautiful.
I love your hands, so much more graceful than my own.
I love to watch you when you're asleep and you're peaceful and
relaxed.
I love that you won't let me win at chess when we play, but that you
make me work to beat you and then you don't mind when I have.
I love to find that you are looking at me when you think I don't know.
I love to look at you when you're unaware.
I love how you look in your uniform.
I love how you look out of your uniform.
I love that your voice is calm and that you never have need to raise
it.
I love your kindness and that you are gentle and I love that your
men love you as they do.
I love that you try to protect me from fearing for your safety.
I love that you fear for mine.
I love that my parents wish you for their son.
I love that we will have children together.
I love holding you in my arms all night.
I love that you love me.

Dearest Horatio. I promise that you will never have cause to regret
marrying me.

I do love you so.

Your Mavis

 

She sealed this one tightly. It seemed too precious to chance someone
else reading it.

She moved on to the next.

 

Dearest Mama and Papa,

I wish to tell you how very precious you both are to me. Your
acceptance of Horatio and me has been such a joy to me that I fear
that I lack the words to truly tell you how much it does mean.

I know that you both think that I am too young to be marrying and
that you both wish that we would wait. I know this and so your
letting us go ahead is so important. I know with all my heart that
Horatio and I will be so terribly happy together.

I do love him so very much.

When I first met him back on Gibraltar I knew that he would become
important in my life and I'm glad that when I told you this, Mama,
you never thought to laugh at me. I know that you thought it was just
a child's crush.

I know that I am young, but my feelings for him have never been just
a crush or a passing fancy. I think that I've been spending the last
five years growing up so that we can be together.

I'm so happy that you both also love him. He is such a special man.

When I found out that he had been taken prisoner, I didn't believe
that I could bear that pain, not knowing if he were dead or alive or
if he'd ever be freed. I don't know what I would have done if he had
not been released safely.

I know that he will go back into danger when he goes back aboard
Renown. He tries to tell me that it is nothing and that he will
return in a few months safe and sound.

I fear for him leaving on that ship where he may come to harm, but I
trust that he will be well. I must believe this

I am so frightened, but I have to believe that he will be well.

He is so strong, how could he come to harm? He will return to me
safely. I know that he will.

You have both been so good about letting us have this little time
together. I love you both even more for that.

Your loving daughter,

Mavis

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

By the time that Horatio had gotten back to the Pellew home, it was
close to teatime. Going upstairs to have a quick wash, opening Mavis'
door he saw that she seemed to be taking a nap stretched out on the
bed.

As he sat on the edge of the mattress, the movement woke her. She
turned her face towards him as her eyes opened and gave him a gentle
sleepy smile. He put his hand on her cheek.

"Still tired? You could go back to sleep."

"No, I'm awake now." Her arms came up to his arms, pulling him down
to her. She started kissing him, he was returning her kisses and they
were going too far too fast. Her hands were inside his shirt,
stroking his skin and he was quickly becoming aroused.

"Mavis, no, not now. The door is open and your parents are around
here somewhere. It's almost time to eat."

She stopped without releasing him, holding him tightly. "We have so
little time." It was said against his neck.

"I know." His arms tightened around her as she lay under him.

They began kissing again. Saying nothing and without warning he
suddenly got up, crossed over to the door, closing and latching it.

He returned to the bed and Mavis.

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

"Should I call Mavis for tea, Edward? She's just up in her room."

He looked spooned some sugar into his tea. "No, I'd leave her. I'm
sure that she knows what time it is."

"Horatio's not here, either."

"He came in about half an hour ago. I heard him go upstairs."

"Oh." She buttered her scone.

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

About an hour later Horatio found Sir Edward in his study reading
some dispatches.

"Sir, I was wondering if you might know where Mr. Bracegirdle could
be found?"

He looked up and peered over his glasses at the young man. "He's
usually to be found staying with his brother just outside of
Portsmouth, why do you ask?"

"Well, since Archie seems to still be with his family in London I
fear that he won't receive word of the wedding in time to be my
supporter. I was hoping that Joss would be willing to step in."

"I'm sure that he'd be honored to do so. Why don't you write him and
we'll send it off straight away. Use the desk here, if you'd like."

Horatio sat down and began to write as Edward went on with his
reading. After a few minutes he spoke up.

"Horatio, have you given any thoughts to what you will do about
providing for Mavis after the wedding? I assumed that she would
continue to live here, of course. After all, there's no reason for
her not to. Plenty of room and she and Sophie will keep each other
company. But still, you'll want to do something for her, I would
think."

He was looking at the Commodore. "Yes, I'd been thinking about that.
I agree that her staying here is the most reasonable place under the
circumstances. I thought that I'd arrange with the paymaster to give
her two thirds of my pay."

"Well, leave yourself enough for your own needs. You'll have food to
pay for on the ship and the occasional new shirt or tot of rum
ashore."

He was smiling. "I'll be fine, with any luck we might find some
prizes and I may make some money at whistthe new officers seem to be
a likely lot to me."

Although he privately believed that Horatio was leaving himself quite
short, he decided to put a good face on it. "If anyone can, it's you."

They were both working in companionable silence when they heard a
carriage pull up in front of the house. They heard the sound of the
front door opening and Preston saying that he would see if they were
in. Opening the study door, he politely informed them both that
Doctor Hornblower had arrived and was in the front hallway, should he
be shown in?

Horatio had the look of a man who had just taken a fist to the
stomach, pale and slightly nauseous.

He practically hissed to Sir Edward, "My father is here? How in the
name of God did he learn about this?"

Edward whispered back, as the door was still open. "Sophie sent for
him, obviously. He had to know, he's your father. Now behave and act
like an officer and a gentleman." He turned to Preston. "Please show
him in and tell Cook that there will be one more for dinner. Also,
would you please inform Lady Sophie that the Doctor is here?"

An older man of perhaps sixty-five, tall and thin entered the room
behind Preston, staring at his son the moment his eyes found him.
Horatio spoke first. He was polite but completely detached, as though
introducing a stranger.

"Father, how good to see you again. May I present Commodore Sir
Edward Pellew? He is Mavis' stepfather and was my commanding officer
when I was posted on Indefatigable. Sir Edward, my father, Doctor
Jacob Hornblower."

"Doctor Hornblower, how very good of you to make this long trip on
such short notice. I couldn't be more pleased to meet you." He
stepped forward, taking the Doctor's hand and gesturing him to one of
the chairs by the fireplace. "You must be cold after that carriage
ride in this weather, could I get you a brandy, sir?"

"Yes, thank you, that would be appreciated." He turned his attention
back to his son. "You look well, Horatio. Too thin, but healthy. The
navy must suit you."

"It suits me well enough, Father."

"Is this wedding as sudden as it seems to be? Forgive me, Commodore,
but I hadn't heard from my son that he even had a sweetheart, let
alone that he was planning to marry." Horatio offered nothing by way
of response. Finally Edward stepped into the fray.

"They've known each other about five years, sir. They first met when
we had put into Gibraltar and have remained in contact ever since."

Jacob nodded without saying anything. The silence was becoming
awkward.

Suddenly Sophie opened the door, "Doctor Hornblower! How very
wonderful you are to come all this way!" He rose to greet her and she
immediately kissed his cheek. " I've so been looking forward to
meeting you and Mavis has spoken of almost nothing else for days.
Horatio---why didn't you tell us that you and your father are the
spitting images of each other? I'd have known you as his father
anywhere, Sir."

Forcing a small smile, Horatio said, "If you'll excuse me for a
minute, I'll see what's keeping Mavis." Before anyone could object,
he was out the door.

As he left the three older people alone together, Jacob
commented, "My son doesn't seen particularly happy to see me. Perhaps
it would be better if I were to offer my good wishes and then return
home. I've no desire to ruin his wedding day for him."

"Absolutely not, I won't hear of it Doctor. He's just surprised, is
all. There is quite a lot going on here at the moment and I fear that
your son may be stretched to his limit. We'll have him calmed down
before you know it. And if we don't, Mavis certainly will."

His smile was grateful. "You're very kind, madam. I'm afraid that
Horatio and I are not"close. I fear that we are almost strangers to
one another."

"He's a wonderful young man, you've every right to be proud of him,
sir."

"Thank you, Commodore, that's kind of you to say." The old man seemed
resigned in his relationship with his son. He wore his sadness about
him like a well-worn coat.

"Please, call me Edward Horatio is one of the finest officers I've
had the privilege of working with in all my years in the Navy. I
don't say this lightly. He'll go far, I've no doubt of that. I
wouldn't be at all surprised if he were to pass me by, in time."

The piercing dark brown eyes, which he shared with his son, appraised
Edward. "He's that good? He always was bright, of course, but I never
thought the military would really suit him. I'm pleased to hear that
he's doing well. I feared that sending him to Keane would prove to be
a mistake."

"Justinian had...problems. Fortunately, most of the men who were
aboard her are fine now."

Jacob seemed thoughtful. "It seems that you know my son better than I
do, sirno, please, don't protest. I may be old, but I'm neither
blind nor stupid. I would like to know him better through you, if
that might be possible."

Sophie joined in, "Doctor, Horatio is a kind and gentle young man. He
and my daughter are deeply in love and will, I've no doubt, have a
happy life together. My husband can tell you about the young officer
he knows from his ship, but I can tell you about the young man who I
gladly give my daughter's keeping to."

Jacob seemed wistful and sad. "When Louisa"Horatio's mother -- died I
felt that my life also ended. I couldn't face raising the boy alone
and so sent him away to school when he was six. At first it was my
decision which kept him there, then after a few years he no longer
wanted to come home." He looked from one of the Pellew's to the
other. "And now it's as though I have no son. I know he feels that he
has no father." He paused to take a sip of his brandy. " I would very
much like to hear what both of you know of him. Perhaps later we
might have time to talk at length."

Edward put his arm around Sophie's waist. "Of course. Perhaps we
might have Horatio join us."

They heard laughter in the hallway and the two young people entered
the study. Horatio's face assumed the expressionless mask the instant
he saw his father, but Mavis practically leapt across the room to
greet him. He saw that she was lovely with dark hair and eyes, much
like Horatio. She seemed to be very young.

"Doctor Hornblower! I'm so very, very happy to meet you at last!" and
her arms were around him in a hug. "You must be wonderful to have
raised Horatio. I know that I'll love you as much as I do him."

Preston silently entered the room, moving over to Sophie and
murmuring into her ear.

"I'm told that dinner is ready, shall we go in?"