As I See Fit - Part 7b
'Oh, dear God, how do I do this?' Pellew thought as he turned from the scene in the small boat to return to his vigil over the three ships. His stomach, never that peaceful where Amanda was concerned, started to roll. 'I have to leave this to Pengarth. I have to do what I must do. I cannot be sick on the deck. Oh, hurry up and dump that damn tea.' He brought his night glass back up, a stray glimmer of light reflecting off the dented tube and into his eye. 'December 16, 1773 will never leave my memory. I've ruined my new telescope. That's another forty pounds. My wife is in peril of her life. Damn you Amanda, why couldn't you stay at home. And my ship is compromised.' He bit his lip unconsiously. 'Amanda, I love you, if anything happens to you, I will personally fire into the wharf and those Indians no matter what hell may follow.'
Above him, he could hear Pengarth rotating the sharpshooters to give them some relief. Dimly the rest of the normal sounds of the ship came back into his consciousness.
From the boat he had heard Amanda ask to sit and she had been allowed to do so. Tom Hitchbourne sat beside her, still holding the cocked pistol, but it was no longer pointed at her head. Occasionally, Pellew would steal a glance into the boat. Tom held her bound hands with his free left hand or stroked her hair and shoulders and occasionally his hand wondered across her breast. She said nothing and did not try to pull away, but kept her eyes only on her husband. Pellew knew that Tom was trying to anger him and he was not going to play the hand that was being forced on him.
The sky was lightening when he saw the savages desert the Beaver. All came off in an orderly fashion and were beginning to form into companies in the street next to Griffin's Wharf. He swung his glass toward Admiral Montague's temporary lodgings at the head of the wharf proper. He was surprised to see the old man looking through his own telescope directly at him. Pellew gestured across his chest, pointing to the kidnappers. The Admiral followed his gesture, and then disappeared into the dining room.
He returned his attention to the tea transports, the Eleanor was emptied of the blanket wrapped men as well. Only the original ship, the Dartmouth, still held any of the rebels. An owl's hoot sounded across the water.
He heard the noise as Tom stood again, dragging Amanda up with him. As Edward took a step to the rail he heard Tom call out. "Well, Pellew." What a sound of derision in his name, the man almost spit it out like rotten whiskey. "We've no further need of this." Tom gathered the hood of Amanda's new cape in his hand, pulling her backwards and off balance.
Pellew watched the pistol come up, no longer trained on Amanda, but on him. He turned showing his whole body to Hitchbourne, his hands spread on the quarterdeck railing. Tom could shoot only one of them. He heard the sharpshooters change position above him, and Pengarth's calm words of restraint. The next few minutes were blurs to him so fast were the motions. The pistol started to return to Amanda's head, but one of the figures in the boat stood up swinging his oar in a short arc to connect with Amanda's back, throwing her into the waters of the bay.
The others in the boat grappled with Tom, yelling to the ships officers that no harm was meant, the pistol went off, the ball careening off one of the blocks hanging from the yard above Pellew's head. Pengarth stayed the marine that had leaned forward to take his shot.
'Her hands are still tied!' He screamed to himself inwardly and broke the chain of his boat cloak in his haste to get free of it and bolt over the side into the water where he had last seen her. His hands, thrust out in front of him, cut the surface. He searched for the fabric of her cape. All his fingers did was seine through the water where the tea was floating out from the ships, coming up empty.
'Deeper, I have to go deeper.' He thought, scarcely rational. His lungs were on fire; he had no time to get the full breaths that prepared his body for what he was doing. 'Wait, wait.' His hands had caught hold of a bit of the hem of her cloak. His fingers laced into the heavy wool; he jerked it toward him and began to reach for it with his other hand. Not waiting to be sure it was she, he started up through the black water.
The last of his air bubbled out; his lungs held no more of the life giving oxygen. His mouth opened and the sea flowed in. 'I've lost us both; myself and Amanda.' God, please help me.' He thought as the blackness overtook him at last. His fingers locked in the collar of Amanda's cloak and he began to sink with her. He had no more strength to fight the waves.
Charles Hammond stood next to Rimble on the quarterdeck. The admiral's launch, crewed by ten strong backs with a brace of marines in the prow, but without the admiral, pulled under the Altamira's lee.
He realized with a shock that he was the ranking officer at that moment in time and that he was in charge of the Altamira and the launch. He saw, by the lantern light, the bubbles that rippled the surface where moments before Pellew had dove in to the bay.
"You there! Cox'n!" He roared.
"Get your strongest swimmer into the water there and see if he can catch them up."
"Aye." The cox'n turned to one of the oarsmen. "Mattie, you are a strong 'en, jump in there!" The crewman shed his shoes and went over the side of the launch into the near freezing waters.
'No!' Edward thought, fighting back the dark, 'I will not let her die without a fight!' With the very last of his waning strength he kicked up, his fingers breaking the water and immediately plunging back below the surface.
A strong hand caught his arm and another wrapped around his chest, pulling him up. His head bobbed above the waves, he gasped, drawing in all the air he could. "My wife!" he tried to yell, "Get her!"
The man let go of him, other hands from the launch tugged at his clothes trying to draw him in to the boat. He would not let go of Amanda's cloak. He felt the sailor's fingers trying to unwrap his hand from the collar.
"'ere, sir, let me take 'er." The rough, but gentle voice said in his ear.
Almost as an afterthought realized the death grip he had on her collar. It took a conscious effort to loosen his fingers. Finally freed from his grasp she came up in front of him. The young sailor had one arm wrapped around her waist and was using his other hand and his work knife to cut the cord that bound her wrists together.
She drew in the air with a wheeze, immediately gagging on the seawater she had swallowed, but breathing nonetheless. It was the most beautiful sound Edward Pellew had heard that day, perhaps in his entire life. Her back was to him, her long hair streaming out toward him, tealeaves clinging to the tendrils. He reached out to touch her, wanting to make sure she really was living.
She was coming back to consciousness; the sailor finally freed her hands. In a delayed reaction she flailed out, her head falling back under the waves. Edward pushed off from the launch to raise her back above the water, as he lifted her head she fought him.
"Amanda!" He shouted, trying to get her attention. "Stop fighting us! Let us help you!"
She struck out at the sound of his voice, an elbow flung directly in his face, striking him squarely across the bridge of his nose. 'Fireworks' he thought, 'The rebels are setting off fireworks.' Then he went under again.
"Whots with these people?" The young sailor said to his companions in the boat, and then dived under to bring Pellew back to the surface. The Captain was floating limply in his arms; face up, blood flowing from his nose. Amanda, alternately sobbing and retching was held firmly by the launches cox'n.
Aboard the Altamira, Charlie saw the second launch put off from Griffin's wharf, it bore the admiral's flag at the stern. He saw Montague himself in the corner seat. "Lieutenant, you'd better get the side manned, it looks like we are to have important company."
"Yes, commander." Rimble said.
Hammond saw the look in Rimble's eyes as the man turned to issue the orders. He wondered if he was overstepping the bounds of his authority, but he would command this situation while Edward Pellew floundered around in the water pulling his wife from the bay. Edward obviously did not have control over his household. Emmie would never do this.
He saw the old admiral stand in the sternsheets and make a speaking trumpet out of his hands. "Mr. Rimble?"
"Yes, Admiral!" Rimble stopped in mid-stride, turning to starboard.
"You may stand your ship down! Get the bosun's chair ready to heave these two aboard."
"With pleasure sir." Rimble passed a few more orders, the boarding nets opened and a line was run through a block and the chair swung over the side. The side boys were lining the entry port, making ready for the Admiral to come aboard. The two surgeons that were present were standing next to the main mast, where the chair would come to rest when it was pulled in, their mates hurrying from forward with medical kits in hand.
Amanda was barely able to hold to the ropes of the chair as she was hoisted in, she almost fell into the hands of the surgeon, Reed, and he eased her to the deck. "Oh, I'm going to be sick." She moaned and tried to crawl over to the side, to be sick over the rail so not to soil the decks. Edward dimly was conscious of seeing Reed put a bucket under her head and the new lieutenant hold her on her knees as she threw up.
As Pellew was landed next to Amanda, he was handed some pieces of waste cloth to hold against his nose as he crawled to her. The other surgeon pulled him away and sat him on the deck. He forced Edward to show his nose to him and the surgeon touched it, feeling for any broken bones or crushed cartilage. Pellew waved him off and struggled to his feet as the Admiral walked toward him.
'I must make a pitiful sight.' He thought as he stood swaying, 'Soaking wet, blood stained uniform and not even a battle to cause it. Amanda is still retching into that bucket. Charlie Hammond standing in my place on the quarterdeck. What the hell?'
Millie had come to the deck with an armload of blankets. Amanda had stopped throwing up and was sitting on the deck, her head in her hands. Pellew thought that she was a little embarrassed, that was well. She deserved to be ashamed. The Admiral was talking to Rimble. Edward took the few steps to Amanda's side.
"My dear?" He asked.
"Ahhh.yes, Captain?" Came her meek reply.
"Can you stand up?" He extended his right hand to her, his left still held the scraps of cloth to his bleeding nose.
"I think so." She took his hand and with Baines help she stood, almost as shaky as he was. He thanked the third lieutenant and took her from Baines hands. "The Admiral is coming this way, Amanda. You will greet him, with dignity." He said with a thin smile.
"Of course, Captain." Her voice was trembling, her eyes still on the deck. Her mind was still working though. "Captain, I don't look like I have a lot of dignity. And neither do you." She said under her breath. He was holding her close, but not tight. Her words were not heard by the others standing around them.
He imagined that she was right. He knew his hat was gone, who knew where, half of his hair was pulled out from his queue and the blood from his nose stained his weskit and the facings of his coat. His nose was beginning to hurt, with the memories of his skull fracture earlier in the year coming back with a fury. Yet he drew himself to something resembling attention when the Admiral stepped in front of him.
"Well, Pellew, I finally get to meet your lady." The man made a leg and bowed in an old fashioned manner to Amanda. She made her bob back and accepted his kiss to her hand. "Why don't you see her below and then get some dry clothes. I'm sure Mr. Rimble will entertain me for a few moments."
Pellew bowed and let Millie drape a dry blanket around Mandy's shoulders removing the sodden cape. Millie handed him a blanket as well and he carried it over his arm as he pushed Mandy before him toward the main cabin. Every step hurt his head, but he kept walking. Millie followed them. He handed Amanda through the door and allowed Millie to pass by him. He shut the cabin door firmly behind him.
He stretched out one hand to support himself on the bulkhead, his left still holding his nose. He was so tired, when had he last slept, Tuesday night? The deck even looked good to him, but the Admiral was waiting. He had caught a nap, but that had been Thursday afternoon. This was Friday morning. He took a step toward the deck and decided he would stand still just a moment and rest. He leaned against the bulkhead resting his head on the wainscoting and moments later found himself on the deck, Rimble, the surgeon, Reed, and the Admiral standing over him.
"My dear Pellew, you fell asleep on your feet." Montague said. "I am ordering you to bed. Mr. Rimble has filled me in on what has happed the last few days. Come and see me in the morning on the flagship, we need to talk about your passage to Portsmouth."
Rimble had pulled him up from the deck and held his arm as he turned into the coach. Grimes hurried into the cabin behind the surgeon carrying his good flannel nightshirt. He didn't even pay attention as he was stripped, the shirt dropped over him and supported to his chair, his mind was already half asleep. He looked toward the door as a light knock sounded, when Rimble opened the door, Millie stepped in, wiping her hand on a blood stained towel.
"Charles?" She said addressing her husband.
"Yes?" Grimes replied.
"I need the surgeon." She said, all business. "I need him now."
Grimes looked at Reed, who was giving Edward's nose a closer inspection and packing cotton into the nostrils. "Well, Captain, it's not broken, but you are going to have a colorful face for a few days. She knocked you a good one."
"Doctor?" Grimes interrupted, motioning to Millie still standing by the door.
"Yes, I'll come." Reed said.
Edward started to stand up from his elbow chair. "Millie, is Amanda all right?" Reed pushed him back down.
"Don't worry about her right now, I'll send for you if it's anything serious." The surgeon interjected.
Pellew sat back in the chair, looking at his cot with longing in his eyes. He would wait for the doctor to return. When he fell asleep in the chair, waking with a jerk of his head, he pushed himself up and motioned for Grimes to hold his cot still so he could fall into it. "Go see what is going on with Amanda. I can't sleep until I know." His eyes were almost closed and he knew he slurred his words. Grimes went away from his sight, to return just a few moments later.
"She's got a pretty deep cut on her neck, sir. The doctor had to shave away a little of her hair to stitch it up. He says she will be all right." He looked at his master, Edward's eyes closed. Grimes went on, "He gave her a little laudanum. She's sleeping now. He sent this in to you if you needed it for your nose." Grimes held up a cordial glass with about an inch of rose-colored liquid in the bottom. The servant looked back at his master, who had fallen sound asleep without any drugs needed.
Pellew slept the clock around, rising at the sound of the eight bells of the first watch. There was a lantern burning over his desk. Grimes was nowhere in sight, he sat up in the cot, holding on to his head as it threatened to keep rising to the deck above. Steadying the cot, he struggled out, reaching for his dressing gown. He stepped into the corridor to the main cabin and taking the two steps to the door, stopped to listen. He heard no sound; he turned the knob and entered.
A single lamp burned near the head of the four-poster. He looked down at a sleeping Amanda. Millie had bound up her hair and the white bandage around her throat shown bright in the dim light. Some tendrils had come out of the scarf and trailed across her face. He reached down to pull them away from her face. His face bore a thin smile of ruefulness and he knelt beside the bed. He heard Millie come in from her quarters.
"She's been asleep since early this morning, sir." She whispered into the darkness. "I've had the doctor in, he says not to worry about that until tomorrow morning."
Amanda stirred, still sleeping, her hand touching the side of the bed where he normally slept. He heard her sigh his name. He rose, brushing her forehead with his lips. Millie slipped out of the cabin. "Sleep well, my love. My duty is to keep you safe." He said faintly, adjusting the covers around her.
He stopped by the sideboard where the case containing his silver mounted pistols stood open. He closed the case and took it with him out of the cabin. He called to the sentry to pass the word for Grimes, who for the first time that he could remember was not immediately at hand.
Pellew walked, still in his nightshirt, onto the spar deck where he looked up at the quarterdeck where Stanfield had the watch. "Call away my gig, Mr. Stanfield, I will be going into the city." Not waiting for an answer he returned to the coach, the box still under his arm.
As Grimes finished shaving him, he looked at himself in the small mirror over the writing desk. His face was bruised, both eyes black and bloodshot. The headache was still there, but not the roaring pain of last night. He turned to the open case on the table, taking each pistol, checking their loads and sticking them into the sash around his waist. The full skirt of the burgundy coat covered them completely. The black cloak made them invisible.
He went over the side, just glimpsing Rimble and Pengarth emerging from the wardroom companionway and Stanfield leaning over the rail to speak to them.