As I See Fit - Part 5
by Mebbieb10


Edward Pellew, captain of the Altamira, opened his personal journal. It was one of the few totally private moments he remembered since he had taken command. Mandy was somewhere in the great cabin he could hear her banging the lids of her trunks against the bulkhead. He had to smile, he had ordered her baggage brought up when Lawrence's had been rousted out, Mandy had kept out no cold weather clothes when she confined herself to one trunk and had been forced to wear his boat cloak whenever she left their quarters.

He also had ordered the bed up from the hold. They would be anchored in Boston for at least a fortnight and with a diminished anchor watch, he would be allowed to spend more time with her. These last few days he had not been fit company. Every time she had spoken to him, invited him to eat with her or walk with her, the ship's business had interrupted him. She was not happy, and she had reason.

He had been forced to deal with lists of supplies from every department, and all had to be verified and found correct. They had used more gunpowder training the crew at the great guns than was allowed. He was wondering how to make that deficit up. He had several seamen who wished to leave the ship for various reasons. Damn this paperwork. There was just too much of it, and the Admiralty reports! How did you do this, when did you do that, why did you use so much gunpowder! Gunpowder! This was a ship of war, how did they expect him to fight her if the crew did not know what they were doing! The ships paperwork was done, and he wanted to capture a few personal items, but the blank page just stared back at him, reminding him of the stare that Mandy had given him when he told her that her clothing was accessible. God, he loved her, didn't she know?

'A man cannot serve two masters.' He thought, he had read that somewhere, and he was finding it was true. If he did his duty to the ship, his duty to his wife, a duty before God, suffered. His hand almost shook as he put pen to paper.

<<>>

Boston Harbor, December 13, 1773

I love my wife, every time I see her, or indeed, think about her, my whole being surges with want. As long as we are alone, or I have time, it is wonderful. But if something gets in the way, it is hell. I find that my plans for bringing her with me may have to be changed, unless I can find someway to divide my time. I am married to the ship. One of my former captains said that he was the ship, as he went, so did the ship. I am finding that true.

I am married to my wife as well. She has quietly placed demands on me, not intentional, not planned. She tries to keep out of my way, she tries to not disrupt the ship. But, it happens. I can see some of the crew watching her. It's not that she's so very beautiful, she is quite ordinary, beautiful to me because I love her, but plain to others. Many of these men have not been home to wives, families, children, or lovers for years. Then they see me, watching her too, and they know I can take her at will. It is not a good situation. The ship is suffering because of my distraction.

I have to find a way to solve this problem before Portsmouth. I can't very well just up anchor and leave her sitting on the beach, but I also can't give up the Altamira, if she is offered as a permanent command. I might not be confirmed in post rank. That would be bad for Amanda and I. Since we are at peace, I may not be offered another command. Half pay on a commander's salary will not keep us, and I will not use her money.

What can I do?

<<>>

"Let go." The last of the sails were disappearing from the yards as the best bower dropped from it's cathead. Earlier in the day, they had come to rest in the main anchorage, about a half mile from Long Wharf. Then the Admiralty boat had intercepted him as he was descending into his launch, with orders that they leave the Emerald in the anchorage and move into the harbor proper, to anchor between Rowe's and Griffin's wharf. The messenger in the boat had asked him how long it would take to warp the Altamira in, he had said he was not going to warp in, he would sail her in.

Fore top, jib and main top, with those sails and a puff of wind he brought her in. He knew her better now, he loved her swift going, clean bottom and the sweet way of taking advantage of every wind she had. He rubbed his hand along the teak rail of the quarterdeck. Someone had spent serious money and lavished a lot of love over this ship. Now he would do the same.

The Altamira folded her wings and came to rest in the precise spot the Admiralty messenger had indicated. He looked over the ships moored hard to the wharf. Among them, and tied up close together were the Beaver, the Dartmouth and the Eleanor. All other vessels were separated from those three by a hundred feet or more. The position he was left in was directly astern of them. If they were to make sail, he would have to order the Altamira moved. How odd. The rest of Admiral Montague's command remained in the fleet anchorage. What was going on? It would be easier to supply the ship closer in, but this didn't make sense.

He shrugged and walked behind the messenger to the sally port, nothing about this whole voyage made sense. Why should he expect these orders to make sense either?

***

It was well on evening when he was allowed to leave the port admiral's office. His reports turned in and provisioning the ship arranged. No special orders had come his way, just the ordinary tasks of a captain whose ship is tied up in port. 'Dawdling' he thought, 'that's what I'm doing, both here on the street and with the ship in the harbor.' He was walking up Oliver and into Kilby Street. Taking his time and looking at the colonial town. It was strange to feel land under his feet. The night was cool, but not cold and the snow, what little had fallen was still laying on the grass. The days traffic in the streets had removed all traces of it from the paving stones. It was a good evening for a walk. Maybe Mandy would like to go, but then maybe not. 'Dear God, don't let this have been infatuation. I married her. Don't let me be wrong.'

He turned into one of the inns that dotted the waterfront. Somewhat relieved to see that he was not the only Royal Navy uniform in the snug, he sat down near the roaring fire. It was not long before the tankard of ale he had ordered from the barmaid was laid before him, he returned her smile and dug the coins from his vest pocket to pay her. The smile went from warm to nondescript as she noted the gold ring on his finger. He watched the patrons come and go, some couples, some single. Some were well dressed men going straight from the door to a back room. A rather short pudgy man who entered with a tall companion was treated with deference by many of the patrons. A social gathering perhaps, he was not waiting to find out. Paying for his second drink, he walked back out into the night. The wind had picked up, he drew the boat cloak tighter around him.

He smelled her scent, she had hung it back on the rack in the coach when she had come in from seeing Lawrence off. Another thing he could not do because of the ship, he had been half distracted by the Admiralty messenger when Endicott asked his permission to leave the ship. He had given it without another thought, then was dismayed to find his father in law had gone. He would see Lawrence at a family dinner on Saturday, but that was no excuse for not tending to his departure.

He retraced his steps down Kilby and turned west to Hutchinson, long strides taking him to where his launch waited. The admiral had kept him until almost eight and then he had wasted another two hours in the inn. It was well after ten. His cox'n untied the boat and got him from the wharf to the Altamira, a short five minute pull. A moment with the watch keeper and he walked past the coach and opened the door to the great cabin.

A single lantern was alight above the table. A barren table, except for an empty glass that still had a residue of some white liquid and a napkin covered platter with a bottle of wine next to it. The curtains on the cut down four poster were drawn shut on the sides that faced the cabin door and the stern windows. He lifted the napkin to find meat, cheese and fresh soft bread and a slice of freshly baked pie! He poured himself a glass of the wine and had picked up a fork when he noticed the note tucked under the edge of the plate. "Captain," he read, captain?, "I am sorry, I could not stay up to greet you, I went to sleep at the table drinking that horrid glass of fresh milk. I have gone to bed. My love, A."

He had picked at the meat and cheese, but had eaten four thick slices of the fresh bread with some of the new butter that was in a crock on the sideboard. The slice of pie called to him. He drank off the rest of the wine in his glass and forked out a slice of apple and a bit of the crust. The crust flaked away in his mouth and the apple was the sweetest he could remember. It could be that he had not had fresh pie for years. If it were not for the woman asleep behind the draperies of the bed, he would not be enjoying it now.

Without thinking of where the ship was, he started to disrobe with the lantern lit and the stern windows uncovered. He was down to his hose and small clothes when he remembered that there were other ships anchored around them, he dove through the curtains and finished undressing in the privacy of the draped bed. She was so asleep that his sliding under the covers with her did not wake her. He wrapped himself around her and pulled the blankets around her shoulders. The ship was damp and even the hanging stoves could not keep the chill out. The two years he had spent in the Caribbean had spoiled him and he was cold to the bone. He needed her warmth as much as he needed to hold her. As he buried his face in her hair he knew he had been right to marry her. No more doubts.

He would take care of the "captain" item in the morning. To her, he was still "Teddy" and he missed that name from her lips. He drifted off to sleep to the sound of her steady breathing.

***
At the beginning of the next ship's day at noon, he opened the door to the main cabin. She had arisen with him, but they had both forgone the morning walk. His ships business done, he made himself available to her. He entered in the middle of a sharp exchange between Amanda and Millie, one of the few he had heard from them. The older woman had become a fast friend of her lady. "Millie! I refuse to drink anymore of this awful milk! I don't like milk, I've told you before."

"I know, Mrs. Pellew, but it's good for you. My auntie said that she never lost a tooth during her bearing years because she drank milk everyday! There's something about milk that your body craves."

"You are not drinking it! If it is so healthy, why are not you drinking some?"

"I'm not with child!" Edward felt his eyebrows fly up in surprise, with child? Amanda?

"And neither am I!" Amanda returned.

'Surely not! Not yet!' He thought. 'I'm not ready to be a father on top of everything else.'

Millie turned from her lady to carry Amanda's breakfast things into the outer cabin. Mandy, moving to get her workbasket to begin her day, saw Edward standing at the door. "Ohh!" her hand covered her mouth. "Captain, how much of that did you hear?"

"Enough, I think." His mouth hung open a little, making his long face longer. "Are you?"

"No." She answered, with absolute certainty in her voice.

"I'm yours for the day, what would you like to do?"

"I want a real bath. With a bath tub and fresh hot water and lots of soap and.." He cut her off.

"We just watered the ship, there's plenty of fresh water on board. I'll send Grimes to pick up your soap and other femin..well, maybe Millie should go. Do you think she would like a bath too?" In fact it sounded good to him as well.

"Yes. And then I want to go see Mr. Copley for a few minutes, then stop and see Papa, then, wait.Can you sleep out of the ship?"

"No."

"Then take a walk around the town and come back to the inn for supper, then return to the ship! Can we do that?"

"Yes." He caught her as she ran the four steps to him, her arms wrapping around his middle and her face turned to him. Her countenance had a healthy blush that he had not seen since those heady days in Jamaica and her eyes were snapping bright. He returned her light kiss with one of his own before he turned to call for Grimes to make the bath things ready.

***

He was amazed at the number of people who still knew her by sight. It had almost escaped his memory that she had spent the years after he was turned to the sea here in Boston. Many of these people had known her as a young girl and now were greeting her as a married woman. He must have been introduced to two dozen woman and half as many men, his head spun with the names. He had trouble enough with his crew, how could he remember all of these people. Her voice was so proud when she introduced her friends to Captain Edward Pellew of the Altamira.

When they approached John Singleton Copley's house, she turned him aside into a tavern, telling him that he should wait and she would call for him. She had asked him, before they left the ship, for a hundred pounds of her own money. He had counted them out from the strong room and he had seen her fasten the money into her bodice. Now her face was flushed with the exertion of walking on land and further than they normally would. They parted with a touch and he watched her as she knocked on the door and was admitted by a man, in his shirtsleeves, with paint stains on cuffs and arms.

She was there for almost an hour, he met her as she stepped from the low front house into the street. He had left the tavern and was pacing in front of the house, waiting for her. "I will have to return here tomorrow and probably the day after." She said as she took his arm. "You know we have supper at the Hitchbourne's that day as well. You are coming?"

"Unless the Admiral instructs me differently." After eating at an inn, they walked on without a destination. The commercial buildings were being deserted as the supper hour took the shopkeepers and men of business to their homes. The windows of the houses on the other side of King street were lit by candles on the windowsills. "What a waste of candles." He said.

"No, Captain. It's a sign of hospitality! It is the Christmas season, they are lighting the way for weary travelers to a welcome rest."

"Mandy?"

"Captain?"

"Why don't you call me Teddy anymore."

"We are in public, and you said only Captain or Edward. Your name, Edward, is a special name to me. So that leaves only Captain."

"Last night, your note, 'Captain.', that was private, why not Teddy." She didn't stop walking, she did not look at him either. His right hand stole to the fingers that were wrapped around his elbow. Her free hand covered his, her head almost, but not quite, resting on his shoulder.

"Teddy just is not right for a captain of a ship of war. I stopped calling you that after you turned back to defend Emerald. You were so, intense. Teddy is a name for a child, a young man, not for a man who holds life and death over others."

"I miss Teddy, Mandy."

"Captain, I'm not sure Teddy exists anymore."

***

The burgundy suit was lying across his cot in the coach. He looked at it with apprehension. Would he even get the time to meet his new extended family? They had not even been able to spend the night together. Immediately on regaining the deck from their walk the night before he had been called to return to the Port Admiral's office. He met with the other captains to be briefed on the potential civil unrest. The tea transports, the Beaver, Eleanor and the Dartmouth, were not being allowed to unload their cargo. When the situation had been explained to the gathered officers, he had closed his eyes in dismay. He was being used.

The youngest post captain in harbor anchored in a position that would make him the first to respond if there were problems. The Port Admiral had no idea that Pellew was now related by marriage to what seemed to him like most of the citizens of Boston. If things went wrong, it would be blamed on his inexperience. He would never be employed again and his wife would never forgive him.

When he had returned to the Altamira, updated Rimble and made sure the ship was secure, she had already gone to bed. He pulled the bed curtains open and kissed her gently, not disturbing her. He slept in the coach.

Now, he was expected to spend the evening with the Hitchbournes. Amanda's mother's family, and he was late. A knife edge of jealousy shot through him. Charlie Hammond had taken her ashore and they were already at the house at Prince and North street. She had drawn him a map, her face tight with repressed anger. She would not speak against his duty.

He could almost hear her thoughts in his mind: 'When are you going to put me above this boat?' Not ship, boat, and she knew the difference. She had thrown the pen down and turned from his writing desk in the coach. He had touched her cheek, his hand sliding down her neck, caressing her throat. He felt the tremor of response in her shoulder, but as he drew her to him, she turned her head aside from his kiss.

He had let her go, physical love would not take care of this situation. She needed his time and his attention. He started to remove his uniform, as each article of clothing hit the floor another piece of his responsibility fell from his shoulders. Grimes tied his neckcloth and straightened his queue. A flick of cloth on a speck of dirt on his shoulder and Edward Pellew stood as a civilian for the first time in his adult life. Grimes had brought the cheval glass from the main cabin and he looked at himself.

His reddish brown hair shown in the lamplight, his tanned face stood out from his white stock The burgundy coat and breeches fit comfortably and looked like they were made for him. Millie and Amanda had done their work well. The buff colored long weskit set off the dark cloth of the suit. His silver watch fob, with it's fouled anchor the only thing remaining of his profession. Grimes carried in a package wrapped in brown paper and a box, both tied with string.

"What is that?" He asked.

"A gift from Mrs. Pellew, sir." Grimes cut the string on the large flat package. He lifted out a black walking cloak made of rich woolen material, double caped to the elbow with a standing collar. The box yielded a black tricorne with a cockade. "She said it was the only thing that she and Mrs. Grimes could not sew for you."

"I see." This must have come out of the money he had given her the day before. She had taken care of him again. She realized he did not have something and she filled the shortfall. Could she do that with gunpowder? He had been smiling, but he sobered, her dowry had been large enough to cover that shortfall and more. She could have bought the Aurilie.

***

The young man who answered his knock on the door yelled back into the house: "Mandy, there's some man here asking for you!" The boy had left the door open to the cold and Pellew standing on the stoop. He could hear a dull roar of voices, young and old, loud all talking at once. He heard at least three voices shout "Mandy ­ a man finally! After you turned down every eligible man in Boston!" Good natured laughter followed this remark.

'This is a family!' he thought, 'I'm not sure what to do. Maybe just turn' He started to turn away from the door stepping down into the door yard. Amanda's face appeared around the edge of the door.

"Captain! Where are you going? What are you doing standing in the cold, get in here! Emmie, don't go out there!" She reached for the edge of his cape to pull him in while grabbing onto a child who was headed out the door to him.

"NO, Amanda! I cannot go in there!" Her face grew serious. "Come out here!" He pulled her out of the door, winding the cloak around her as they stood in the new fallen snow. A little girl, no more than two or three had been hanging on to Mandy's skirt, she now followed his wife out into the cold. Mandy turned around. "Emmie, go back in to your Papa, I'll be back in a minute." She gave the child a little push toward a man who was stepping to an inner door.

"Edward," She was concerned, he was pale beneath his fading Caribbean tan. "Are you sick? Come inside before you become ill."

"I'm not sick. I justI just can't go in there, all those people, all family. Mandy, I've not been around a big family. What do I do? I can't do this." He would rather face a pistol than these people. He would be on display as a newcomer and the events would be out of his control. She shook off the cape and stepped up on the stoop, she was able to look him eye to eye.

She took his face in her hands, winding the dishtowel around her fingers. "Edward Pellew, husband, I took you for better or for worse. I have had the worst. I stood before Wyndham and Edgar Simpson and watched you beg! Beg for their forgiveness. That took courage. You don't have to crawl here, these are my people. They love what I love. They have talked of nothing else all evening. The young girls are pestering Charlie to get information about you. You have nothing to fear here Captain. Nothing." She leaned toward him and kissed him, then stood back. He watched the snow fall into her hair. "Come inside, Edward. It's warm here." She whispered and held out her hand.

She did not let go of his hand until he was safely inside and the door closed behind him. The door opened onto a central hallway to the right a large room with two trestle tables set up. Around them were at least twenty, maybe more people. A third table was set crosswise against the wall in the rear. This was a very short table and there were a dozen children there, some in their chairs, some crawling on the floor, just keeping out of the way of the women's feet as they brought out dishes of food.

He undid the clasp on the cloak. Mandy held out her hands to take it and the hat. He reluctantly gave it to her and looked anxiously after her as she disappeared into one of the rooms on the other side of the hall. "What is the matter, Edward?" Charles Hammond called from his seat at the far table. "She is coming back, you know!" Pellew stood unmoving, until Amanda arrived empty handed.

She shook her head at him, grasping him by the elbow and pushing him toward a seat on the same side as Charlie, but not next to him. A smooth faced man, with the first jowls of middle age, poured a tankard of wine and thrust it out to him. He took it as Amanda pushed him down in his chair. There was a vacant place next to him. He looked at the faces around him, most friendly, and gave a thin smile. When he looked back Mandy had gone.

A young man, no more than twelve, sat forward in his chair, "Mandy says that you are the captain of that big frigate close in the harbor! Is that true? What's it like to go to sea? How old were you?"

"Nathanleave the man alone." An older male voice from the other table.

Pellew cleared his throat, taking a drink of the wine. "It's alright Mr.?"

"Hitchbourne, just like three quarters of us here. The rest are Reveres or Rivoires if you like the original spelling, and Walkers. I'm Richard, that's my son Nathan. He thinks he want's to go to sea. There's more money to be made in the chandlering trade, boy. Learn that and these sailors will be breaking down your doors!" The man pointed out Charles and Edward. "And your cousin Montgomery over there." Another finger stabbed toward a middle aged man dressed in a merchant officer's coat. Montgomery's another Hitchbourne, Captain."

A hand stretched across the table from the bearded Montgomery Hitchbourne. "Edward, call me Edward." Pellew said as he sat back down.

"Monty's the first mate on the Cierce. Costal ship, lets him get into harbor more often to be with his young missus. They were the newly weds of the family, until you and our Mandy." The women started to appear, including Mandy, all carrying some type of tureen or platter.

The boy, Nathan, spoke again, "Pa, Cousin Paul's gonna miss supper again!"

"He's got other business, shut up Nate." One of young men, maybe twenty four or five, no more hissed. "Them's King's officers, no matter what they are wearing." Charlie glanced at Pellew, not exactly a warning, but his face bespoke caution. Richard's voice boomed out from the other table.

"Tom. Enough. This is a peaceful table. These men are our guests." The voice was stern and the young man, Tom sat back in his chair with a huff and glared at him, an enemy? He was of an age, a rejected suitor? A patriot, as he had heard Mandy call some of her kindred folk in private? He would bear watching.

The bowls and platters were placed on the table and the meat on the rack swung back into the fire place to keep hot. Pellew looked down at the plate before him, pewter, and the design didn't match the tankards, the flatware was mismatched too. Even the white cloths covering the tables had odd patterns in the weave and were different shades of white. The women, including his wife, took off their aprons folded them outside in and laid them across the seat of their chairs before sitting down. He had never seen her as a domestic before. She had always been served and he didn't realize that she knew her way around a kitchen. He watched her face as she talked and reached for the food before her.

"Cousin Edward!" Young Nathan called out, Mandy turned to see what the lad wanted. "Captain!" Mandy nudged him with an elbow.

"He want's you 'Cousin' Edward.'." She said. He leaned forward to look at the eager boy's face.

"You'd better get moving on your vittles at this table, or there won't be any left for you!"

That seemed to break the somber mood that had lingered after Tom had made his say. The dull roar of the conversation started back up. It was louder than it was when he had heard it outside the door. "He is right, Captain, it's every man and woman for their self at these tables. No servants." Mandy said as she handed her plate across to a man on the other side of the table who put three slices of ham on it, then gave it back.

The plates were finally full and the conversation backed down again as the food started to disappear. A woman, Pellew guessed she was twenty nine or thirty, sat across from Mandy, she toyed with her food and watched the door. "Captain," Mandy said, "This is another recent cousin by marriage, Rachel Walker Revere. She married my cousin Paul. Paul's mother was a Hitchbourne."

"Mrs. Revere." He nodded across the table, the woman smiled, her mouth too full to answer. "Mrs. Pellew?" Edward said.

"Yes, Captain." Mandy answered.

"Are you going to plot this family out for me when we get back to the ship, so I know who I am meeting?"

"Oh, better than that! See the elderly lady sitting next to Charlie?" Amanda pointed down the table with her fork. "That's my Grand Aunt Deborah, Paul's mother and the keeper of the family tree. My mother was her brother Nathaniel's daughter. She will draw it all out for you after supper if you ask, she loves to talk about it."

The door opened again, letting a gust of winter air into the room. The women at the other table reached instinctively to pull up their shawls. The door slammed shut behind two men. A dumpy little man, the same man Edward had seen at the tavern the night before and a tall, still slender middle aged man with a bowl style hair cut, short in front with a queue. It was not the same man he had seen walk through the tavern. Rachel Walker stood and fetching a plate from the sideboard started to fill it and made room for the dumpy little man on the corner between the empty place at the head of the table and Rachel's seat.

Amanda stood, pushing her chair back as the two men sat down, she placed a hand on Edwards shoulder. "Cousin Paul, this is my husband, Captain Edward Pellew, and our friend, Commander Charles Hammond." Charlie stood up and bowed, Revere nodding back. The young lady next to Hammond catching his napkin as it fell to the floor. Pellew shook hands with Revere.

"Pellew, eh, so you finally went to Kingston and claimed him, Amanda. After how long? Ten years of boasting of your English officer. How long has it been, are you the newest bride among us?" She blushed, Edward took her hand as she sat back down, the rosiness of her complexion going a deeper shade of red.

"Not quite a month, sir. Charlie Hammond caught my wedding flowers." A ripple of laughter ran across both tables. Charlie reddened, his fair hair pale against his flush. The loudest laugh came from the other table, where Lawrence had come in from the back of the house.

"Gentlemen," Indicating Hammond and Pellew, "This is my associate, John Adams." Both Edward and Adams had to stand to reach across the table for their greeting. "John's not one to turn down a good meal. Mandy, I may not be able to stay long, come by the shop before you leave for England, I have something for you two." He claimed her hand and kissed her fingers. "A long, happy life, Mrs. Pellew. I am proud of you." He said in a lower tone, just meant for those at the head of the table. "You went after what you wanted and took the prize. I hope he is worthy."

"He is, Paul," Her face turned to her husband. "He is, thank you." One of the youngsters, a girl, no more than six, ran to Mandy. "Yes, Rilla?" The girl whispered something in her ear, and Mandy excused herself from the table, picking up her apron and tying it on. Edward ate in silence, listening to the speakers around him and to Charlie, four seats away, chatting rather loudly with the girl, no on retrospect, young woman next to him. Em, like the little girl who had been behind Amanda's skirts.

'Oh my God.' He thought with a shock, as he half listened to Hammond and the young lady, 'If he married her, he would be my cousin, I despair, not Charles Hammond.' Mandy returned carrying a large pitcher and she poured milk into several cups that were held to her at the children's table. She brought the ewer back to the adult table and took a cup from her apron pocket and poured one for herself finally setting the pitcher down on the floor behind her. The table was laden with food, there was no room for it.

Little Em, the toddler, running on stubby legs across the short space from the short table, almost collided with Revere's legs, coming to rest hanging on to Mandy's apron. Amanda reached for her and lifted the little girl onto her lap.

"You look good thus, Amanda." Said Rachel Revere.

"I'm not sure motherhood is for me yet, Rachel." There was a tiny note of sadness in her voice, Pellew glanced at her face, there was nothing betrayed there. Maybe he just knew her better than they did. His attention was caught by a few words from Tom to the man next to him.

"Amos, It's good to see Adams back from Braintree. I was afraid he was giving up the cause. He's a better speaker than Sam and can rouse the people easier." Tom said.

"But he certainly does not like the mob. You read what he wrote about some of the 'patriots' who are beginning to take over. He said they had "The brains of an ugly, surly, brutal mortal." Those are not the words of a man who is happy with the situation." Amos, the man sitting to Tom's right might have been a few years older than Thomas Hitchbourne. "And, you know Governor Hutchinson said that we can't form any kind of union with New York or Virginia and the other states. Is Hutchinson in for a surprise."

Pellew stopped eating, balancing his arm, fork still in his hand, looking down at his plate, listening intently.

Tom continued, "Yes. The Governor just doesn't realize that when they piss off one of us, they piss us all off. We will pull this thing together and we will have our independence! It may not be this year, or over this tea tax, but there will be something and we will all pull together. Amos, are you going to the meeting on the morrow at Old South?"

"I wouldn't miss it for the world. It has been said that they are only going to meet to wait on old Rotch to come back from the Governor at Milton. But I know better. Josiah Quincy's back in town too, I expect he will be there too."

Mandy kicked Pellew in the ankle, and he almost dropped his fork. "Don't be so obvious." She hissed at him. A look at her face told him he was still in her good graces. She hugged Emmie and smiled at him. He snaked an arm around her waist, quite finished with his meal.

The group that had met for dinner steadily diminished from the twenty five or thirty people who had been fed at the two tables to ten adults and three small tots. Charlie had disappeared with Em and Nate had gone with them. The little girl, Em, who had sat in Mandy's lap all evening now crawled into his. He had been momentarily left at the table with no one else around. He didn't quite know what to do, but the child had brought a toy, a bunch of blocks on a string held together with a metal hook. Edward undid the hook and spread the blocks on the table. Between them they built houses, bridges and one ship. That had been his, of course.

That worked for awhile, but the child stopped playing, looking into his face like he should do something for her. He stared back, not sure what he should do. He could see Amanda, working to help clear the room, watching him occasionally. He began to tease the child with the only thing he knew, evidentially it was good enough.

"Tink tonker" He tapped the little girl on the forehead. He could vaguely remember his own father, not Lawrence, but his blood father, playing this game with him. "Eye winker!" He touched her beside her eye.

"Nose dropper!" He pulled her nose between his fingers.

"Mouf eater!" He flicked her lower lip down and let it go to flap back up against her other lip.

"Chin chopper!" He thumped her chin.

"Golly hopper!" He tickled the underside of her chin, bringing up loads of giggles from the child. He grinned at her, the toddler began to repeat the process with him.

Amanda rounded the corner from the kitchen, wiping her hands on a towel just in time to see her grand captain's nose being pulled soundly by a three year old child. He yelled in mock pain.

"Oh Ted-Captain!" He grinned at her, obviously enjoying himself. Her eyes crinkled and a little smile played around her lips. The little girl went on unfazed by Amanda's presence.

"Mouf eater!" Em pulled Edward's lower lip with both hands, the yell of pain this time was real.

"Ay, not so hard!" The child screamed with laughter.

Amanda, just behind the child was close to screaming herself. She held the towel up to her mouth to hide the spasms of giggles. She collapsed onto a chair.

"Chin chopper!" Em screamed. This was not so bad. Just a finger to his chin. "Golly hopper!" She tickled him on his Adam's apple and he broke up in uncontrollable laughter, taking Em and Amanda with him.

The little girl threw both arms around his neck, hugging him tightly. Amanda recovered enough to move to the Windsor chair beside him. She tapped Em on the shoulder.

"You know, Emmie" She said smiling at the child who still had a strangle hold on the Edward's neck. "The Captain belongs to me now. Can I have him back?" The little miss shook her head, tightening her hold. "Not ever?" Again the shake of the head.

"Looks like you've been displaced, Mrs. Pellew." Edward reached for Amanda's hand.

"So it appears, Captain."

"Teddy, my name is Teddy." Their eyes met over the little girls head.

"Edward?" A man's voice broke the moment, they had been so close to coming to an understanding. Edward felt like he was aground and the tide was running out on him. Hitchbourne had reentered the room carrying two long stemmed pipes. "Come on over here by the fire." A number of the Windsor armchairs had been restored to their places by the women who were cleaning up the man motioned to one of them.

Pellew pried the little girl from around his neck, setting her gently on her feet.

"I see you have met my youngest, Emmie." She followed them to the fire side, dragging her string of blocks behind her. She settled on the rug between their feet.

Hitchbourne handed one of the pipes to Edward and followed it with an ember. When the pipe was drawing well, he leaned back in the chair. Edward loved a good cigar, but the pipe was another matter. He lit it and then held it, not trying to smoke it, just letting it burn naturally. He was saved when the little girl climbed into his lap again, this time dragging a raggedy doll with her. Richard Hitchbourn reached for his daughter, Pellew waved him off. "It is all right, she can stay." He handed the pipe back to Hitchbourn.

"She's quite a girl, my baby. Wife gave her life to give her to me. I don't know what will happen when I have to give her to some man. She seems to have taken to you. Must be something you have that draws these Hitchbourne women." He pointed the stem of the pipe at Mandy who was picking up the bundle of table cloths from the floor. The little girl had wormed her way into the crook of his arm. Her red hair trailing over his sleeve.

"What's going on with Tom? Did I say something wrong?"

Hitchbourne shook his head. "I don't know. He courted Mandy good and proper, but she never gave him any indication that she was interested. Now, I don't know. She's been gone a good eight months, then comes back married to a King's officer. Then we asked him to sit down at table, not only with the man who took his intended, but a RN captain to boot. Maybe that's the problem."

"I am troubled that I upset him. It was unintentional, I assure you."

"Hell, you couldn't have known. The boy will let it go sometime. Right now, he's more interested in the Body to worry about you and Mandy. You'll be leaving soon?"

"Ten days, maybe a fortnight. I'm waiting for some replacement crew. Believe me, I'm not in any hurry to leave. Crossing the north Atlantic in the winter is not something that a captain ever wants to do. The sea is too stormy and unpredictable. But orders are to be obeyed, I'm duty bound to go."

"Yes."

Pellew looked down at the child, who was now sound asleep in his arms. He swept the red hair back from her forehead. "She's so heavy, when they go to sleep, they really sleep." Hitchbourne gave a soft laugh.

"Not used to that are you Ed'ard"

"I have never done this before." He nodded to the toddler. "Held a child like this I mean."

"Well, you'd better get used to it. Let's seeof all the Hitchbourne women, I think the average family in my generation has been seven children. My mother, Francis Pattishall Hitchbourne, had six children that lived." The merriment in his eyes reminded Pellew of Amanda's teasing mood. "Let me think, Amanda's in her early twenties, women usually bear about twenty five years, give or take a few, with a child every year and a half, that's sixteen children, if they all live."

Edward felt his eyes growing wide in disbelief, but could not stop the look on his face from showing itself. No, not sixteen children! He knew children would eventually show up, but he was thinking four, five, less. Not sixteen! He had never thought of it in quite that way. He looked down at the child in a new way, only to look up to see Amanda reaching for the sprawled out toddler.

Charlie, the older Em and Nathan opened the front door, all talking and laughing, they were covered with a layer of snowflakes. Evidence of a snowball fight in the yard. Amanda spun to shsss them pointing toward the sleeping baby still laying in Pellew's arms.

"How did you two do that this quick?" Hammond whispered, "We've only been gone from table for an hour! What did you name her? Do you have them half grown and dressed, Amanda?"

Mandy took Little Emmie from Edward's arms, he stood up and rubbed his arm where it had gone to sleep, then he held his arms out for the child again. "I'll carry her up, Mandy." Amanda looked startled, but gave the little girl up to her husband. The toddler never woke up on that trip up the stairs, Mandy changing her into a nightgown and laying her in the small cot by her father's bed. Pellew watched as Amanda kissed the child, then he caught her hand and pulled her close, her back to his chest. He ran his hand across her lower belly. "Mandy, do you want-."

"Pellew!" Hammond whispered into the darkened room, Pellew threw up his hands with a sound of disgust. If a look could injure, Amanda's withering glance would have nearly killed Charlie Hammond. They came out into the central upstairs hallway, to see Emmie and Nate still tagging along behind the Commander.

"Edward, Nathan and Emmie want to see the ship. They have never been aboard a seagoing vessel."

"Now? Charlie, it must be nearly midnight." He reached to pull out his watch.

"Yes."

"Charlie, come down by the fire." He pulled Hammond over beside the hearth. "Do you know what's going on in this town? Didn't you listen tonight at supper? In a year, maybe less, we are going to be at war with these people. And, you want to show them a frigate?" He looked over at Em, who was talking with Amanda and Nate. "You are really wanting to impress this woman, are you not?"

Hammond's look confirmed Edward's appraisal of the situation. He considered for a moment, Hammond had backed him at every step in courting Mandy. Could he do less?

"Very well. You will see the young man and lady get home safely? Will you need an escort?"

"Yes, I will see they get home."

"Let me make my thanks, collect Amanda and we will go."

They made a procession, Charlie and Big Em, Nathan, then Edward and Amanda, all caped and coated through the new fallen snow. Nate, Charlie and Emmie chatted as they trudged along. Amanda and Edward were silent, holding close to each other. Edward did not want to disturb his ship at this hour for a visit, Amanda knew it and didn't know how to respond, so they did not speak at all. Charlie would not be able to show Em the crew's quarters, he was sure that the sea wives were aboard and that deck was not fit for a lady to see. The officer of the watch would have to roust out the master's mates for piping as they went up the side. Would he need to order a bosun's chair for Emmie? Amanda didn't need one, she came up the side like a born seaman.

He did refuse to roust out his boat's crew, hiring a shore boat to carry the five of them to the Altamira. The others had descended into the boat, Amanda stopped just short of getting in. "You will be a good host, will you not, Captain?" She definitely sensed his mood.

"Yes." The answer was terse and constricted. Edward Pellew was not a happy man. He sat in the stern of the boat, slouching in his new cape and hat, almost trying to hide. He didn't even want to announce himself. The Altamira hailed the small boat.

"Sir?" The steersman asked Edward, "What should I tell them?"

"Altamira." The word was almost jerked from his throat. He sat up and removed his hat so the deck officer could identify him.

Pipes shrilled through the ship, summoning the master's mates, side boys and marines. Amanda touched Emmie on the shoulder and showed her how to tie up their long skirts so they could go up the side. Edward stood in the stern and prepared to reach for the man ropes. Emmie stood as well, preparing to go first, Mandy pulled her back down. "No Emmie, the captain goes first in a man of war, I've only gone first once, that was on my wedding day." Amanda handed the steersman the fare.

Edward touched his hat, glancing toward the quarter deck. The officer of the deck and his middy, in this moment, young Pengarth, saluted him just as Emmie and Nate gained the deck. Nate took in the ceremony that Edward received, Amanda appeared next followed by Charlie. "Pass the word for my servant, Mr. Stanfield. Charlie, why don't you escort our guests to my cabin and give me a few minutes to change before we tour the ship. We will not be going through the lower deck."

He was on sure ground here, no new cousins to deal with, and not on display for others. He was in command of the situation again. He was comfortable.

"Aye, Sir." Stanfield answered, touching his hat again. He followed Amanda below and turned into the coach.

Grimes entered carrying a fresh shirt. "There's been a courier here from the Port Admiral, Captain. He left his package on your desk, he wanted to take it directly to you, but we didn't know where you had gone."

"I left word with the new officer, even left him a map of how to get there. Was not that information passed on?" Edward had to think of the name. This man was replacing Buckland who would transfer off the ship when he passed his examination. If he passed. "Baines." If Buckland didn't pass, he would be back with Pengarth and the others for the voyage to England.

The burgundy breeches had been replaced by the standard white ones, and he shrugged into his vest groping in his haste for the brass buttons. The civilian coat landed across the writing desk chair. Grimes passed him the packet, he cut the seal and held it down beside the lantern to read it. "I have to report to Admiral Montague in the morning at first light. At least Mandy won't be disappointed tonight, I can still spend the night with her."

"I'll tell Mrs. Grimes to get the cabin ready."

"No, not yet, I still have Charlie's guests to host, get some cocoa and a pot of coffee, with cream, and the way Amanda's gone after the milk lately, see if there is any of that available for her. Set it up in the main cabin."

"Yes, sir. Milk, sir." There was an almost insolent sound to those last words. Edward turned to his servant.

"Is there something I don't know?" He said, his eyes squinting down and the upside down Y appearing between his eyes, his head cocked slightly to the left. "Something I should know?"

"I assure you sir, I don't 'know' anything. My Missus says that your lady looks, well, um" He coughed, "With child, sir." The steward turned to pick up the discarded clothing. "My Missus knew about our two grandbabies before their own mother knew."

So damn quick. Did Mandy always do things so damn quick? In Jamaica only four months before they were married, courting for only two of those. Then, they were married less than a month and pregnant? She had told him no. She would not lie to him. She had never lied to him, not even when they were children. She had made love to him with abandon, and they certainly had coupled enough times for there to be a child. They had taken no precautions. They had tried once and she had immediately rejected any thing coming between them. Their mutual need for each other would not allow him to leave her alone. 'Oh, Mandy, no, I cannot handle this on top of all the other responsibilities, please be telling me the truth.'

Then he thought about the sweet little girl who slept in his arms earlier in the evening. The thought disintegrated with the sound the watch changing over his head. 'I may have been wrong, I think I do want children, but, please Mandy, not yet. Wait until we can provide a home.'

He walked out of the cabin shaking his head, if a child was there, he would want it and love it no matter what. What was one more responsibility on top of all the others? Besides his wife would help with this one. 'I guess I will have to tell her I have changed my mind. Maybe soon.' That was the last thought he gave to the matter.

"You look more comfortable now, Edward." Charlie said, as Pellew entered the main cabin. Mandy and Big Emmie sat close to the hanging stove, Nate prowling the cabin taking in all its fittings, even the red velvet draped, cut down, four poster. This was his and Mandy's home. The youngster was picking up everything, including his boarding saber and loaded pistols. He crossed the deck in three strides taking the silver mounted hand weapons away from the boy. He shook his head as he laid the pistols back into their open case. They were meant for Mandy and Millie if they were threatened. "Not in my house." The young man was undeterred, he picked up the night glass from the open drawer of his chart locker.

"That's a night glass, do you want to see how it works?" Edward said, Amanda looked at him with relief plain on her face. "Let's go on deck. Charlie? Miss Emily?" He shepherded them out, his expensive telescope firmly under his own arm. "Mandy?"

"I'll be along in a minute." She waved them out of the cabin. The last he saw of his wife was her skirt flying around the corner into the quarter gallery. His eyes crinkled with aborted laughter, how long had she been waiting?

***

Charlie, Emmie and Amanda watched Edward guide Nate into the foretop. The night glass was slung from Pellew's shoulder. "It's so high!" Emmie said as Nate disappeared into the lubber's hole, Edward going up the shrouds.

"Edward likes the heights, it's not so bad, Mandy sleeps up there."

Amanda drew a breath, letting it out with a huff, looking at her husband. "Did the Captain tell you that?"

"Yes," He laughed, "And Emmie, she wears breeches."

Mandy colored, visible even in the dimness of the deck lights. "Only up there." She said, "Charlie would have you think I wear them all the time."

Edward glanced at the trio waiting for him and Nate to come down. As his gaze was going back to the young man, standing, arm wound around the shrouds to the crosstrees, he caught sight of a shadow, in the main top, an officers uniform. The man's back was to him. 'It must be Baines.' He thought. 'I know all the others.' The man was watching the two women and Hammond, never sparing a glance behind him to see who else was there.

Nate was still looking at the town, in the direction of his house, when Edward returned his attention to the boy. "Well, after what you have seen, do you still want to go to sea?"

"More than ever!"

"In a year, if I still have command and we are not enemies, there is a place for you here. If your father will let you come." Edward took the glass from him. "Let's get down, the ladies need to get in."

***

She had already gone below when he left the deck after seeing the visitors and Charlie off. He hurried through the coach, picking up his night things. There would not be much time together this night, first light was a little after seven, he would be called at six.

She was in her shift, a wrapper over that, Millie taking the dress to hang in a make do wardrobe. The main cabin was never built for a woman. If she were to stay aboard, there would have to be more permanent changes to their living area. The curtains were drawn across the stern windows, they were finally alone after how many days? It didn't take him long to poke up the fire in the hanging stove, and get beneath the covers of the bed. She had watched him strip to nothing and then drop the long cotton shirt over his head, she smiled and continued to read the book in her hands.

He was in bed and waiting for her, for the first time in what seemed like weeks and she wanted to read? Was she blind?

No. A very few minutes later the lantern was blown out and she slid in beside him, her own gown riding up her thighs as she rolled into his arms. "You have to be at the Admiral's at first light, you won't get any sleep." She whispered into his shoulder as he touched her hip.

"I don't care." He stretched out his arms, her hands rubbing first his shoulders, then upper arms and down to the tips of his fingers, he forced her down into the pillows, kneeling above her. He repeated her touch, his fingers covering the tips of hers. He ate at her neck, light love nips not enough to bruise, pulling up her skin.

Three sharp raps broke into his consciousness. "Not now!" He sat back on his haunches, his hands running through his loosened hair. She pulled her gown back into place and made room for him to leave their bed. He was glad he could not see her eyes in the darkness. He left the nightshirt wadded under the covers and wrapped up in his dressing gown.

Rimble stood holding a lantern, still in his nightwear as well, as he didn't have the watch. His first officer at least had on two layers of clothing. Pellew held the dressing gown together tightly over his chest and below the waist. Rimble blushed as he told his captain the problem.

"Sorry to disturb you, sir, but we're afire."