Horatio and Maria: The True Story
An Epic
by Jackie Pena

CHAPTER 1

Rating: G/PG

 

Chapter 1

 

"Why Archie, Why?" Horatio asked his best friend as to why he
confessed to pushing the Captain. Why? because he wanted to spare
his
best friend's life because his was ending. Archie took one last
breath, and he was alive no more.

"Archie NO!" Horatio woke up
screaming and drenched in sweat.

"Horatio, was is it?" Asked a
concerned Archie who was awakened by Horatio.

"I had a very bad dream
my friend." He was still a little shaken up. "I dreamt that you
confessed to pushing the Captain to save me from being hanged and
you died from injuries sustained during the battle against the
Spaniards on The Renown. All Archie did was laugh. He laughed!

"Its not funny!" said an irritated Horatio.

"I'm trying to get some sleep
here gentlemen!" said a frustrated Bush.

"Sorry, Horatio had a dream that I died."

"Oh brother. Please gentlemen, lets all try and get some bloody
sleep!" Bush said. He is such a crab when he is awakened like that.

November 1801.

The men arrive in London. Home at last. Archie was going home to
see
his parents and siblings, he asked Horatio to join him. But
Horatio
feeling that he may be in the way, politelly declined, saying he
needed to stay and find employment. Bush was going home also. He
was
planning to take his youngest sister to the theatre for her
birthday
> to see and actress he's heard about: Catherine Cobham. Horatio
just
smiled. He knew who she was! All three men parted ways but not
before
asking Horatio to write them and inform them where he will be
staying.

A couple of weeks went by, and Horatio had no luck finding
employment. He was low on money, because he was on half pay and
the
cost of living was high in London. He decided to go to nearby
Portsmouth and find a place to stay at an affordable price.

It was a bitterly cold day. Horatio walked the streets of
Portsmouth.
He must have gone to dozens of taverns, hotels, and boarding
homes.
They were either too expensive, or no vacancy. Horatio was
becoming frustrated. He was cold, hungry, and tired of walking.

He came across Highbury Street. The street was very crowded
despite the
bitterly cold day. That was when he saw a plain white house with
black shutters. There was a sign hanging outside that
read "Mason's Boarding
House." He wasn't going for looks, just a warm bed to sleep
in. Horatio was glad when he saw there was a vacany and knocked on
the door.

 

A woman answered the door, her name was Mrs. Elizabeth Mason,
she ran the boarding house. She was a widow who was short, about 50
years of age, with graying hair in a bun. Horatio soon learned that
she was a stickler when it came time to collect the rent. Hornblower
agreed to the rules. He heard that the saying at the boarding house
was "If you don't have it, get ready to hand over your valuables."

He also came across Thomas Taylor, handyman and Mrs.
Mason's "friend". He was slightly was slightly chubby, balding and
crude in manner. He was about the height of Horatio and the age of
Mrs. Mason. Many female employees came and left because of his lusty
and lewd behavior. Mrs. Mason was blind to all of Taylor's faults,
which included gambling, womanizing, and drinking too much. She took
care of him and thought that he took care of her.

Hornblower was shown to his room. The attic. It wasn't too big or
too small either. It was plain and kind of dreary, but it a nice size
bed, and a desk for writing. To put it simply, it was all he could
afford. After a light supper, he laid on the bed, and slept peacfully.

The next morning after Horatio was up and dressed, there was a
knock
on the door. When he opened it, there stood a vision. A young,
petite,
olive skinned woman with long dark brown hair, ocean blue eyes,
> red lucious lips and a very shapely figure. He hasn't seen anyone
so
exotically beautiful since Marriette.

 

When he answered the door, she saw the most handsome made she'd
ever
seen. Tall, kind of thin, broad shoulders, dark curly hair,
chiseled
face, and big brown eyes. "My God he's handsome!" she said to
herself. Their stare of each other seemed like an eternity until
she
spoke.>>

"Good morning Sir." She said in a soft, beautiful voice. "Maria Mason
at your service, would you like your bed made now?" she said with
a
curtsey.

"Yes Miss, thank you. I am Lt. Horatio Hornblower of His
Royal Navy." he said with a gentlemenly bow.

Horatio wondered was she is Mrs. Mason's daughter? She was
unlike her unfriendly, frugal Mother. Maria seemed to be polite
and kind
and had good manners. He caught himself watching her as she
made the bed. She was so beautiful and smelled nice, too. The
dress she wore was simple, yet pretty. Horatio thanked her when she
finished making the bed.

"Will your stay be long, Sir?" she asked.

"It depends if we go to war again Miss." he
said.

"I would like to welcome you and I hope you enjoy your stay here,
Sir." She said,
and flashed him a smile that took his breath away.

"Oh what a wonderful smile!" he said to himself. He thanked
her again and walked
her to the door and opened it for her. Maria was a bit excited.
Not
only is he handsome, but he is quite a gentlemen too.


Maria wanted to do something for this handsome sailor. She
hurried down the stairs to the kitchen and got together a meal of
eggs, bacon and a biscuit with fresh strawberry jam. Maria put all
this on a tray along with some coffee and went to give it to
Horatio. She knew that if her mother would scream at her for giving
food away to a boarder, but she didn't care.

Her heart jumped as she walked back to his room. She
approached the door
and took a deep breath and knocked. She was happy when she saw
he was surprised to see her again.

"Mr. Hornblower, I thought you'd like some breakfast, Sir." She
said in her soft, beautiful voice and flashed that wonderful warm
smile.

 

"Thank you Miss, but you shouldn't have put yourself through so
much trouble, I
do not have the funds for a breakfast meal." He said sounding
serious, yet inside he could feel his heart melt. She made breakfast!
What a woman!

 

It was no trouble, Sir." She said with a shy look on her face. "The
meal is my
compliments, Sir."

"Thank you, Miss you are most kind." He said.

She blushed. She brought the tray in. Everything smelled
wonderful! But
not as wonderful as her. She smelled like an English garden. She
set
the tray down on the table.

She was about to leave when he said, "Miss, I would like to enjoy
your company, if it is not too forward for me to ask."

"It is no trouble, Sir, I would most enjoy to be of company."
She flashed him
that smile of hers.

They conversed while Horatio ate his delicious meal. He learned
from
her that she was 20 years of age, never engaged or married, and
aside
from making the beds at the house, she was a teacher at a nearby
> school. This intrigued him. He also found out that her father,
Richard Mason, a shipwright,
died six years ago from a fever. Her mother took in boarders
shortly
thereafter.

Horatio wanted to know more of her teaching job. Maria was more
than happy to talk about it. She loved teaching and she loved
children. They are so eager to learn. She had been teaching for
about three
years and loves it more everyday.

Maria looked at Horatio and noticed how attentive he was
of her conversation. She never had this long of a conversation
with a
man before, not even her own father. Mr. Taylor? She tried to
stay away from him and his roving eye.

Maria wanted to know more about Horatio and his life in the Navy.
He told her he was the son of a Doctor. His Mother died when he
was nine years of age. She could tell that he missed her dearly. He
joined the Navy when he was 17. She saw how his
face lit up when he talked of the Navy. The love for the sea, and
his
ship, and of battles. This was his life, the life that he loved.
He also
talked of his good friends, his best friend Archie Kennedy and
William Bush, who both will one day come a visit him.

"It sounds like you have some good friends. I would love to talk
to you all day, but I must
return to my duties." She reluctantly said.

"Sorry to have kept you Miss."

"Oh don't be, Sir, it was my pleasure I enjoyed our
conversation, and
please call me Maria."

He took one of her dainty hands and kissed it. It sent shivers
down her spine. Him touching her gave him goosebumps.

"Thank you for the meal Maria, it was most delicious."

She blushed and said, "Thank you Sir."

"Please call me Horatio."

He walked her to the door and closed it after she left. He
leaned against the door, and put his hand on his heart. He was
falling in love. She was she, it was love at first sight for both of
them.


To be continued......

 

 

 

CHAPTER 2

Rating: PG

 

Shortly after Maria left, Horatio decided to write a letter to
Archie.

Dear Archie,
I hope all is well with you and your family. I arrived here in
Portsmouth yesterday and lodged at Mason's Boarding House on Highbury
Street.

Here I have met and fallen in love with the most beautiful and kind
girl I have ever seen. Her name is Maria Catherine Mason. I have not
yet revealed my feelings to her for fear that it may be too soon.
When the time comes, I hope she will feel the same.
I am anxious for a visit from you my friend. Please give my regards
to Mr. Bush.

Your friend always,
Horatio

He put on his coat and headed into town to mail his letter. He spent
a good part of the late morning walking the streets of Portsmouth. It
had snowed a bit earlier and was cold, but sunny.
Horatio couldn't stop thinking of Maria. Her long dark, silky hair,
eyes, blue like the sea, and her beautiful warm smile that made his
heart leap. Before he knew it, he came across the school where Maria
worked.

It was a nice looking building. The school used to be a Convent up
until 20 years ago. A wealthy businessman named James Spencer, who
was rumored to be a distant relative of a member of the Royal family,
purchased it. When Spencer died, he left his entire fortune and the
school to his only child, 17 year old Bridget.

Horatio had a good view of Maria's classroom from where he was
standing. He watched the way she gracefully walked across the room,
to each child to check on their work. He noticed the look of
encouragement she gave them and that beautiful smile!

"Oh no!" he said. She saw me! He froze in his tracks. "She
must think I'm a peeping Tom!" he said to himself.

Maria smiled and waved for Horatio to come in. He came in
still feeling a little embarrassed for being seen.
The classroom had a welcome feeling to it. It was a good size room
with about 20 children in it. Maria had a pretty blue dress on that
matched her pretty eyes. The children were pretty quiet. Maybe it is
because they were wondering whom this man was in a Naval uniform
doing in their
classroom.

"Children, say hello to Leftenant Horatio Hornblower of His
Majesty's Royal Navy"

"Hello Leftenant Hornblower" Said the school children

"Maybe Mr. Hornblower can tell us a bit about what he does in the
Navy"

Horatio didn't expect this, but he agreed to do it to impress her.
The children asked so many questions. The more they asked, the more
he enjoyed speaking to them. How big is your ship? How many cannons
does it have? Have you ever been in battle?

Then bell in the school tower rang. The school day ended and all of
the children thanked Horatio as they left for the day.

"Thank you Horatio. I must apologize for putting you in that position
Sir," Maria said.

"It was my pleasure Maria, no need to apologize. I enjoyed it myself,
you're right children are eager to learn."
She smiled at him, and it made his heart beat faster.

There was a knock at the door. It was Miss Bridget Spencer. She was
about Maria's height, petite, with long fiery red locks, emerald
green eyes and ruby lips.
"Oh I'm sorry Miss Mason, I didn't know you had company."

 

"Its all right Miss Spencer. "Mr. Horatio Hornblower, I'd like you to
meet Miss Bridget Spencer, headmistress of the school, and my
dearest, best friend."

 

"Pleased to make your acquaintance, Miss Spencer." Said Horatio with
a bow.

"It's also a pleasure to meet you Mr. Hornblower." Bridget said with
a curtsey.

"Well I must return to my paperwork." She said
politely. "It was nice to meet you Mr. Hornblower." she
curtsied.

"Likewise miss." He said. She turned around and left.

 

To be continued.....

 

 

CHAPTER 3
Rating: PG-13 for language

Horatio offered to escort Maria home and she accepted.

 

 

As Horatio and Maria walked through the cobblestone streets of
Portsmouth, they made conversation. It was an extremely cold day and
the brisk wind made it more so. They came across a tavern called
Captain's Lady and went inside for a bite to eat as well as to get
out of the cold.

 

They spent sometime walking the cobbly streets of
Portsmouth making conversation. It was very cold outside and the
breeze made it feel even colder. Horatio noticed that Maria's cheeks
were red from the winter cold. They came across a tavern, and Horatio
wanted to treat her for a bite to eat.

Maria tried to say she wasn't hungry, because she knew Horatio didn't
have much money. Horatio insisted because he wanted to repay her for
her kindness and because he was quite hungry himself. She smiled and
shyly accepted because of not wanting to wound Horatio's pride by
rejecting his offer.

The Captain's Lady was a nice little place with a comfortable
atmosphere and was very clean. They got a table right beside a window
with a view of the street. They watched a group of children playing
in the snow. One
threw a snowball at another, he ducked, and it hit the window where
Horatio and Maria were seated. They both laughed. Maria loved
Horatio's wide grin and he loved the way she covered her mouth when
she giggled. It was then that she recognized some of the children
from school and waved at them.
Both Maria and Horatio ordered bowls of soup.

Maria was thankful that she got those etiquette lessons from Bridget.
She would be able to act like a proper lady. The hot soup was
welcoming to their cold bodies. Maria imagined the many meals she
would cook for him if they were married. That thought bought a smile
to her face. She couldn't believe she was thinking about that
already.
Horatio watched her as she ate. He couldn't believe that she was
beautiful even when she ate! Maria caught him staring at her, and it
made him blush.

"Oh umm, 'tis very delicious soup." said Horatio trying to cover up
his staring at her.

"Oh yes indeed". She said in her soft voice.

Their conversation was quiet for a little while, then Maria told
Horatio about how Bridget and her became friends.
Maria's Father insisted that she'd be taught at a good school. He
wanted her to have an education. He knew his daughter was a very
bright child. Her Mother didn't agree. "Why a private school? It's a
waste of money." Maria remembered her mother saying. But, her father
held his ground and his only child would go to the Morgan
Spencer School of Portsmouth.

Maria was ignored by the children at the school and considered "lower
class". She was teased constantly, then one day, one of them pushed
her into the ground, skinning her knees. The other children made her
cry. It was then that she heard a voice scold the other children.

"Get out of here all of you I'm telling my Father!"
The children scattered about. It was 10 year-old Bridget
Spencer. "Come on Maria, I'll help you up."
Bridget's Father always told his daughter to treat everyone as an
equal rich or poor. She took Maria to her home, had the nanny clean
her up and her school uniform, and gave her a clean dress to wear.
Ever since, they have been good friends, and even blood sisters. It
made Horatio think of his friendship with Archie.

They were having such a good time, that they did not realize that it
was getting dark. Maria knew her Mother would not be very happy
about her staying out all afternoon with a mere Naval Officer on half-
pay.
She was right, when they both walk in the door, Mrs. Mason was
furious. She grabbed Maria by the arm, and shook her.

"Where in the devil were ye all afternoon! Ye 'ave duties 'ere, ye
have no time to go frolickin' around the streets like a cheap tart
with a man who is not courtin' ye! Why
don't ye just stand on a street corner!"
Maria's eyes filled with fears from fear and pain.

"Please Madam, it was my fault I asked your daughter if she'd have
lunch with me you do not have to speak to your daughter that way!"
Horatio said trying to calm the irate woman down.

"Maria get to work! And ye Mr.'ornblower mind your own bloody
business! Oh, by the way, Mr. `ornblower, the rest of your rent is
due by the end of the week!" With that, she stormed off upstairs
dragging Maria behind her.

Horatio stood alone. He clenched his fists and thought that if Mrs.
Mason were a man, he would have lost all senses and landed a fist in
her mouth for talking to Maria in that manner. How could sweet Maria
be the daughter of that awful woman?

Upstairs, Mrs. Mason took Maria to her room and slapped her hard
across the face and yelled at her. "Ye stupid little bitch! 'es no
good for ye anyway! He 'as no money!"

"Mother please! We only had lunch that is all!"

"Don't ye talk back to me" She slapped Maria again.
Maria's tears gave her Mother no feeling of remorse. She continued
to scold her. "If I catch ye comin' 'ome late wit' 'im again, you
know wot's comin' to ye!" When her mother left, she collapsed on her
bed crying hysterically.

Horatio wanted to go to Maria's room and take her in his arms and
comfort her. He reluctantly went to his room feeling guilty for
taking Maria to the tavern. If he had not done that, her mother
would not have scolded her so severely.

He tried to read a book trying to keep his mind off of what happened.
Then he tried writing in his journal, but couldn't think of anything
to write in it. He couldn't concentrate on anything but Maria. She
didn't deserve a harsh life in a dreary, house working for her acid-
tongue dominant Mother. He must go to her room. The large clock from
a nearby church ran nine o'clock. Horatio decided to go down to her
room.

To be continued......

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER 4
Rating: PG

Horatio made it down to the second floor towards Maria's room
candlelight shown from the bottom of the door. He was about to knock,
but lost his nerve. He started to pace back and forth.

"Horatio come on man! Just knock!" He said to himself.

He heard sobbing and knocked on the door.

"Maria it's Horatio. Are you alright?"

"Y-Yes Horatio. I am fine"

"You don't sound alright. May I come in?"

"I-I don't know"

"Please Maria. I will not leave until you let me in to see for myself"

"Alright just a moment"

She wiped the tears from her eyes, brushed her hair, put her robe on,
and opened the door."

Horatio closed the door behind him. He looked at her with great
concern. Her eyes were glassy and a bit puffy from crying. Horatio
took her in his arms. She buried her face in his chest and started to
sob again.

"Shhh, I feel that I must apologize to you for getting you into
trouble with your Mother"

"You need not to. I'm used to it"

Puzzled, he took her beautiful face in his hands and caressed it
wiping the tears from her cheeks. She flinched from him touching the
area where her Mother had hit her.

"Maria, are you hurt?"

"Its nothing Horatio"

"Let me see"

Horatio didn't believe her. He took her by the hand over to the
candle to get a better look at her face. There he saw the distinctive
marks of a handprint and slight swelling.

Horatio pursed his lips from anger.

"Did your Mother do this to you?"

Maria looked down at the floor. She didn't answer him.

"Maria?"

She reluctantly nodded.

"What kind of a Mother is she! How could she treat you like this!"

Maria could not stop crying. Horatio held her again.

"Why would anyone want to hurt you? I have only known you for a day,
but I know enough that you are good-hearted and unselfish."

"Thank you for your kind words Sir"

Their eyes met. They have only known one another for a day, but the
love was already there.

Horatio couldn't hide his feelings any longer. He loves her. He must
tell her.

"Sweet Maria. I must confess. When I first saw you, I fell in love.
Since then, all I think of is you. I feel as though I have known you
all my life."

"You must have a girl at every port that has heard those same words
from you."

"My words are true my lady"

He took one of her hands and put it over his heart.

"You feel it beating? It is yours and no one elses"

"Are you speaking the truth Sir? One is not to toy with someones
emotions in that manner."

"I speak the truth. My word on it."

Maria felt the same for him. She has never fallen so hard for someone
in her life.

"I love you Maria. I am not afraid to say it."

New tears streamed down her face. No man has ever said those words to
her.

"Oh Horatio!" Tears formed in her eyes.

A smile came across his face.

They looked at one another for a short moment staring into each
others eyes.

Their lips met. He pulled her closer to him. She felt so safe in his
arms. Maria felt as though the world stood still. He then gave her
light kisses on the uninjured cheek and forehead.

"Please promise me Maria if your Mother or anyone else hurts you
again, you are to come to me immediately. You understand?"

"Yes I promise."

He embraced her.

"I must be off my lady. You need your rest. Promise me you will lock
this door when I leave."

"I will Horatio."

"Good." He gave her one last kiss.

"I cannot wait to see you again" He said.

She smiled. "Same here."

He left. She locked the door. Maria got into bed still feeling
Horatio's kisses on her lips. She fell into a sleepful sleep.

CHAPTER 5

Rating: G/PG

Horatio never met someone that captivated him as much as Maria. He
could still smell her sweet scent as he went to bed. He would have a
peaceful sleep thinking thoughts of her.

The next morning, Maria woke anxious to see Horatio. He told her that
he loved her and stood up to her mother. No man had ever done that
for her. She washed quickly and went downstairs. She noticed that her
mother and Mr. Taylor sneered and glared at her as the left. But, she
didn't care; she was going to prepare breakfast for Horatio and
herself.

Maria hurried about and prepared breakfast for her and Horatio. She
placed it on a tray and headed up to his room.
Horatio answered her knock. He took the tray from her and set it
aside. He took her in his arms and kissed her.

"Oh how I missed you my sweet Maria!"

She giggled. "And I you. Let's eat before our breakfast gets cold."

Horatio thought of the fight with her mother the night before and
asked, "Your Mother! What if.."

Maria put her fingers on his lips to quiet him. "She is not here. Her
and Taylor left for town a little while ago."

Horatio was relieved to hear that Mrs. Mason was not around for
Maria's sake.
She served them breakfast more for him than for her. Maria was one
who didn't have a big appetite.
They ate their breakfast, then Maria got up to make Horatio's bed.

"Do not trouble yourself with that my sweet." He said.

"It is no trouble Horatio. Making beds is my duty here."
He went over and caressed her face and gave her a light kiss on her
lips.

She smiled. "I could let you kiss me all day, but I must go to the
school and meet with Miss Spencer before the children come to class.

"May I escort you?"

"Yes. Thank you."

Horatio walked her to school on the bitterly cold late November
morning. When they arrived, he looked around to make sure no one was
in the area to give her one last kiss.

"I will come for you after school."

 

"Alright my love, I shall be finished by half past three."

"I will see you then." He said.

Maria met with Bridget. She had seen them kissing from her office
window.

"Tsk, tsk Maria Mason kissing in front of the school!" Bridget
scolded her.

Maria blushed. "Forgive me Bridget. It will never happen again."

Bridget giggled. "I'm just teasing you silly! Kissing him already?
You just met!"

"I know but last night he confessed his love for me and I did the
same. My Mother had caught us coming home together and was furious."

That's when Bridget noticed the small mark on Maria's cheek. She knew
it was all Mrs. Mason's doing.
"
I bet she was. Still expressive with her hands as usual I see."
Maria swallowed hard and her statement turned to sadness.

"Oh Maria. I didn't mean to make you sad. I wish you would come and
live with me where you would be safe!"

"I don't want to intrude."

"Don't be silly! Why would you be? I am all alone in a big house. My
only companions are the groundskeepers Mr. and Mrs. Lloyd and they
are like family to me just like you are my dear friend."

"Thank you. I will give it some thought dear friend."

Bridget tried to cheer Maria up.

"So you love him?"

"Yes! When I first saw him I loved him."

"How romantic! Oh Maria I am so happy for you!" She gave Maria a hug.

"Bridget you are so kind. I know one day someone will enter your life
like Horatio did in mine."
Bridget smiled.

"He does have a friend who is an officer of the Navy and is the same
age as him. He wrote asking him to visit. Would you like to meet
him?"

"Oh no you don't Maria Mason! No match making for me."
They both giggled.

"I will see you later Bridget."

The school day was about to start. Maria headed to her classroom.

To be continued......

 

 

CHAPTER 6
Rating: PG-13 for mild adult situations and language

It was the end of the school day and Horatio arrived to escort Maria
home. He knocked on her classroom door where she was at her desk
finishing up paperwork.

"Come in." A look of joy overcame her when he walked in.

"I wish I would have had a teacher as pretty as you when I was in
school." He said.

Maria giggled and went over to him. He embraced her warm body to his
cold one.

"I think you put a spell on me Miss Mason." She looked up at him.

"Oh really?"

"Yes indeed. You were all I though of all day my sweet."

Maria giggled. "I put a good spell on you then."

They both laughed. He rested his chin on her head taking in the
English garden scent of her hair.

Bridget accidently walked in on them.

"Forgive me. I should have knocked."

"It is alright Bridget." Maria said to her.

"Good afternoon Mr. Hornblower." Bridget curtsied him.

"Good afternoon Miss."

"Maria I just wanted to remind you there are no classes tommorow."

"Yes, thank you."

"You and Mr. Hornblower are invited to my home for tea and biscuts
tommorow."

"Thank you Miss Spencer. Maria and I will attend."

Good. How about let's say at half past noon?"

"Sounds fine Miss."

"I can have my carriage sent for you if you like"

"Thank you Bridget. It is very kind of you." Maria said.

Bridget smiled.

"Well good afternoon and will see you both tommorow."

"Miss Spencer, would you like to be escorted home?" Horatio asked.

"That is most kind of you Sir, but I have my caretaker Mr. Lloyd to
escort me home" She curtsied and left.

Horatio and Maria looked into each others eyes.

A warm smile came across Maria's face. "Well my love, I should go
home before and gets dark."

"Yes, yes you're right my sweet."

He helped her put her coat and hat on and made sure she was bundled
up properly to face the cold weather.

As they were walking home, they came across a flower shop on one of
the street corners. As Horatio and Maria wanted inside, they were
greeted by an older, robust woman with a pleasant face and manner.

"May I buy a bouquet of your beautiful flowers Ma'am?"

"Yes young Sir!"

"Take your pick Maria."

"Oh Horatio you are too generous!" Maria cracked a smile and there
was a hint of blush across her cheeks.

"Chooser whatever you'd like."

Maria choose her favorite. Daisies.

"Excellent choice young Miss." The polite woman said.

"Well how much do I owe you Ma'am?"

"For you young sir, half price."

"Thank you Ma'am you are most kind." He paid her.

"Aww its nothin' young sir. It is nice to see a lovely couple as you
both." She handed the flowers to Maria.

They both smiled and thanked her and bid her a good day.

As they stepped out of the shop, Maria put the flowers to her nose
and took in the scent of them.

"They're lovely Horatio. Thank you."

"Not as lovely as you, my sweet."

She blushed. "Oh the things you say!"

"But its true!"

He looked around to make sure no one was looking and stole a kiss
from her sweet lips. She giggled.

They continued their walk home and made it to their destination.

Mrs. Mason and Taylor were not home. Business was slow. There were
only two boarders: an older Gentleman and Horatio.

Horatio and Maria can spend more time together alone. She made dinner
for them and supped in his room.

"My Lady, if you keep making me these delicious meals yo will make me
fat!"

Maria giggled. "You are silly!"

There was a light knock on the door. Maria had a look of fear
thinking it was her Mother, but Mrs. Mason's knocks were not so
polite. Horatio opened the door. It was the help.

"Miss Maria, your mum sent word that she and Mr. Taylor will not be
coming home. Maybe two days." Cora told her.
"Did she say why or where she was going Cora?"

"No Miss."

"Alright. You may retire early if you like."

"Oh thank you Miss!"

"You are quite welcome Cora. Good evening."

The woman curtsied and left.

Horatio was happy. Happy to know that Maria will not be at risk of
being harmed by her Mother for a least two days. Happy that he can
spend time with her alone.

He picked her up and swung her around making her giggle.

"Horatio you're making me dizzy!"

"Sorry. I got carried away."

She looked out the window. "Look its snowing!"

"Put your coat on my sweet."

"Why where are we going?"

"Outside. I want to enjoy the snow."

She obliged him. Horatio was enjoying the falling snow and breathing
in the cold, crisp air.

Maria felt a bit playful. Seeing that Horatio was distracted with
looking up at the sky, she picked up a handful of snow and made it
into a ball and threw it at him hitting Horatio right on the nose.
She started to laugh.

Hoatio wiped the snow from his face and surprised that she did that.
But he grinned.

"What did you do that for?"

"I dunno. Just wanted to."

"You! You'll pay for this!" He playfully said.

Maria ran off laughing. "You'll have to catch me first Leftenant
Hornblower!"

He chased her through Highbury Street.

"You can run but you cannot hide Maria Mason!"

The chase ended when Maria slipped and fell landing on her back.

Horatio rushed over to her. "Oh my God Maria! Are you alright? Are
you hurt?"

All Maria could do was laugh.

"Maria?"

"Yes, yes I am fine." She said in between laughing. "I guess the all
the layers of clothing I'm wearing broke the fall."

Horatio carefully helped her up and helped to clean the snow from
herself.

"Forgive me Maria. I didn't mean for you to get hurt."

"No need to apologize. No harm done. It was quite fun actually."

They both laughed.

"The snow is falling down a bit heavy now. Would you like to go
home?" Horatio asked.

"Yes."

"Alright let's go."

They went to the sitting room to sit by the warm fireplace. Maria
went to the kitchen to make some tea.

"You are spoiling me Maria. A good dinner and now tea."

Maria smiled at him.

They finished their tea.

"You look exhausted my sweet." Horatio said to her while caressing
her face.

"I guess I am."

"It is getting late." He said.

"Yes. Maybe I should go to bed and get a good nights rest."

"May I walk you to your room?"

"I am not tired. I just want to sit by the fire with you."

He noticed that she had her arms crossed as if she were cold.

"Are you cold my love?"

"Yes."

Horatio grabbed an extra blanket and covered them both.

"This is nice. Thank you my love. Will you tell me a story?"

The both chuckled.

Horatio looked into her ocean blue eyes. She was so beautiful. His
lips met with hers. The kiss was passionate and their tongues found
each other.

Horatio's lips travelled to Maria's throat with hot wet kisses. She
loved the sensation she was feeling all over her body.

His hands found her full, firm breasts. Maria moaned to his touch.

All of the sudden, he pulled away from her. Maria gave him a puzzling
look and sat up.

"Horatio did I do something wrong?"

"No my love. I did."

She didn't understand his answer.

"I should not have kissed and touched you that way. It is not proper
behavior."

"Don't apologize. If I may say, I was enjoying the way you were
touching me"

Horatio chuckled.

"I hope I did not sound like a harlot for saying that, sir."

"Never! Don't ever say that about yourself again! You are the most
kind and good natured creature I know and that is why I truly love
you."

Tears filled her eyes. He again told her that he loves her and was a
gentleman for stopping himself from taking advantage of her so soon.

She threw her arms around him, "Oh Horatio you do love me! And I you!"

He smiled and breathed a sigh of relief. She told him she loved him
for the first time.

"There, there no more tears my sweet I hate to see those beautiful
eyes of yours filled with them."

She chuckled while he wiped them from her face. He have her a kiss of
the forehead. She put her head on his shoulder and he rested his head
on hers. They both watched the blazing fire that was keeping them
warm and both fell into a peaceful sleep.

To be continued..

 

CHAPTER 7
Dislclaimers: Same

Rating: G/PG

Very early the next morning, Horatio woke up realising that him and
Maria had fallen asleep on the couch in front of the fire. He smiled
when he saw her still sleeping peacefully in his arms.

She stirred a bit when he nuzzled her hair.

"Come on wake up sleepyhead. It is morning." Horatio said.

Maria slowly opened her eyes and also realised falling asleep on the
couch. She sat up and stretched her arms.

"Oh dear we slept here all night!" She said.

He kissed her on the forhead. She put her arms around him.

"Well Leftenant Hornblower, would you like hot water to shave and
wash Sir?"

"Yes my sweet, that would be lovely."

"Alright, then I shall ask Cora to bring you some to your room."

"Shall I walk you to yours my love?" He asked.

"Yes thank you."

Horatio walked Maria to her room and gave her a kiss before departing
to his.

Maria washed and dressed then headed downstairs to the kitchen to
prepare breakfast.

She placed the tray on the table. Horatio became wide eyed when he
saw the contents of it.

"My love this is too much food! You really do want to make me fat
don't you?"

Maria giggled. "There is the saying, the way to a man's heart is
through his stomach."

Horatio wrapped his arms around her slim waist. "Ahh my lady, but in
my case you did not have to feed me to get to my heart now did you?"

Maria wrapped her arms around his neck. "I love you Horatio."

Their lips met and were lost in a passionate kiss.

"We better eat before this grand feast you prepared gets cold." He
said.

The breakfast was delicious. Horatio couldn't believe how much he ate.

"Oh dear I almost forgot! This message came for you." Maria reached
into her apron pocket and handed him a letter. Then she went over to
make his bed.

It was from Archie. Horatio broke the wax seal.


Dear Horatio,

I hope all is well with you. My Mother is still unwell but is feeling
better as of late. I am happy to hear that you have found someone.

I plan to visit Portsmouth within the next couple of days. Please
give my regards to Miss Mason and look forward to meeting her.

Your friend,
Archie



Horatio smiled. "My friend Archie is coming to visit."

"That's wonderful my love! I cannot wait to meet him!" Maria wrapped
her arms around Horatio's neck. "Maybe we can introduce him to
Bridget!"

Horatio chuckled. "You know that doesn't sound like a bad idea. Miss
Spencer is not spoken for, and Archie comes from a good family."

He gave Maria a kiss on the forehead. She buried her head in his
chest.

"Well my love, I must go and finish the rest of my duties, then I am
going to take a bath and get ready to go to Bridget's home for tea."


"Alright then. I shall wait for you in the sitting room my sweet."
Horatio said.

Maria excused herself and left.

When she finished her duties, Maria went to her room to bathe and put
on one of her better dresses. She went downstairs to Horatio.

"You look lovely as always my sweet." He took one of her dainty hands
to his lips.

Maria blushed. "Thank you my love."

The carriage arrived as promised. They were glad they did not have to
walk the cold and snowcovered streets of Portsmouth to Spencer Manor.

Bridget greeted them at the door. She led them to the sitting room
for tea.

"You have a lovely home Miss Spencer." Horatio said.

"Thank you Mr. Hornblower. I can show you around later if you like."

"Yes, thank you."

"Maria I have something for you." Bridget handed Maria a package.

She opened it. It was a leather satchel. "Bridget you shouldn't have!"

"Yours was getting a bit worn my friend. I think it is time to retire
it."

"Thank you Bridget. You are too kind and generous." Maria hugged her
friend.

"So Miss Spencer, Maria tells me you also own a shipping goods
business that her Father used to work for."

"Yes Mr. Hornblower. Spencer Imports and Exports. I am fourth
generation Spencer to own it."

"How many ships do you have may I ask?"

"Five Mr. Hornblower."

"That is quite impressive." He said.

"I do not know how you handle it all Bridget. The school, and the
shipping business." Maria said.

"Just like my Father did may the Lord rest his soul. Patience,
dedication, and a shrewd mind for it all."

Horatio stared at the grand life size painting of Bridget's parents.
She was the exact image of her Mother.

Bridget then showed them around the home. Maria knew the house all
too well, but it would not have been proper for her to sit and wait
until Bridget and Horatio returned.

She showed them the study, dining room and the ballroom. Upstairs
were the bedrooms. All ten of them. There was a large courtyard in
the back and a guesthouse. The wine cellar had many bottles of
vintage wines dated back to the reign of Charles II.

It was lunchtime and Mrs. Lloyd, the housekeeper had prepared soup
with freshly baked bread.

Horatio and Maria were enjoying their afternoon at Spencer Manor.
Bridget was a gracious hostess to them both.

The afternoon was getting late, Bridget extened her invitation for
dinner.

"Bridget you are too kind. We don't want to intrude." Maria said.

"Maria don't be silly. Why would you think that?"

Maria blushed and shyly said. "We have been here all afternoon my
friend that is why."

"Yes, and you will also be here for dinner."

"Alright if you insist since I see I will not win this argument."
Maria said.

"I do and yes you're right!." Bridget said in a teasing manner.

Both girls giggled.

The chicken and potatoes dinner was delicious. Bridget helped Mrs.
Lloyd serve it.

Horatio and Maria decided it was best to leave shortly after dinner.
Bridget made sure that Mr. Lloyd drove them home in the carriage.

They thanked Bridget for her graciousness. Maria hugged her friend.

"Thank you kindly Bridget. Maria said to her.

Bridget smiled. "It was my pleasure as always my dear friend.

Maria snuggled up to Horatio once they climbed into the carriage. He
put his arms around her and kissed her on the forehead.

They arrived home. Fortunately, Mrs. Mason and Taylor were still not
there. Horatio walked Maria to her room after helped her lock up.
They kissed and embraced before saying goodnight.

To be continued.....

 

CHAPTER 8

Rating: G/PG

Archie was to arrive at any moment, and Horatio was anxious to see
his best friend. He paced back and forth in his room.

Mrs.Mason was at the front desk when Archie approached her.

"Good afternoon Madam, are you Mrs.Mason?"

"Yea who wants te know?"

"Archie Kennedy ma'am. My friend is lodging here, Mr.Horatio
Hornblower."

Mrs.Mason rolled her eyes."Yer a sailor like him?"

"Yes ma'am."

"Yer on 'alf pay too I assume?"

"Well yes."

"Are ye gonna lodge 'ere or not?"

"Uh yes I am." Archie was puzzled at her behavior.

"Well 'alf pay or not, I want money up front!"

Archie being the polite gentleman he was, tried to overlook her
rudeness.

"Yer gonna 'ave to stay with 'yer sailor friend. You'll be payin' the
same as 'im. No special deal for a second lodger. Ye understand?"

"Yes ma'am completely."

"Right then, tis three shillings a week fer lodging and two more fer
meals."

"No problem." Archie gave her the coins.

"Go up to the third floor to the attic."

"Thank you ma'am, you have been most kind." Archie said with a smile
and headed upstairs.

After that remark, all Mrs.Mason could do was glare at him.

The coachman in the meanwhile came in with Archie's luggage. Every
piece had the Kennedy coat of arms painted on them.


"Ma'am, can you direct me to master Kennedy's room?"

"Master who?" She said.

"Master Kennedy. Son of Lord and Lady Kennedy."

"Ye mean the young fellow that was just 'ere?"

"Yes ma'am."

Mrs.Mason gulped from embarassment. "He's upstairs. I'll take ye."

Archie knocked on the door. Horatio answered.

"Would you like a roommate?"

"Archie my good friend!" The two men embraced like brothers.

"Its great to see you again H'ratio."

By then, Mrs. Mason arrived with the coachman.

"Master Kennedy I've bought your luggage sir."

"Thank you Mr. Collins. Have a safe trip back home."

"Thank you master Kennedy. Good day sir." Collins nodded at Horatio
and Mrs. Mason.

"Uh, Mr.Kennedy sir, would ye require anything else?" Mrs. Mason
asked.

Archie looked around and noticed there was only one bed.

"Do you have a cot?"

"Yes sir! I'll 'ave one brought up to ye with extra pillows and
blankets right away! Anything else sir?"

"No that will be all. Thank you."

"If ye need anything don't be afraid to ask!"

Mrs. Mason left. She could be heard yelling for Taylor.

Archie shook his head and chuckled.

"Just a little while ago she was very rude to me. Now she is being
the complete opposite."

"She was only kind to you because somehow she figured out that you
are wealthy."

"Oh?"

"She is not a kind woman Archie. She mistreats Maria physically and
emotionally and her man friend is just as bad."

Archie couldn't believe what he was hearing.

"She beats Maria?."

"Yes. She did not too long ago when we arrived late one evening."

"That is terrible. I am sure that your Maria is very good and kind
since you have fallen for her H'ratio."

"She indeed is Archie."

"When do I meet her?"

"Now if you like! It should be recess time for the schoolchildren."

"Good let's go!" Archie grabbed his hat.

The two friends walked to the school while catching up on things.They
arrived at the school and saw the children playing in the school yard.

Bridget was outside. Archie saw her and put his hand over his heart.

"H'ratio, who is that strikingly beautiful redhead! Is that Maria?"

Horatio chuckled. "No my friend, that is Miss Spencer, headmistress
and owner of the school and Maria's best friend."

"Good God she is beautiful! I must meet her. Is she spoken for?"

"No she is not. Come, lets go over."

Archie flashed his smile and followed Horatio.

They approached Bridget who was trying to break up a fight between
two boys.

"Belay that! What is the meaning of this!" She yelled while having
each child by the arm.

"He started it Miss Spencer. He called me bloody stupid."

"You called my Mother a tart!" The other boy said.

"I cannot believe the filth that came out of your mouths!"

One boy swung at the other making him retaliate with a kick
accidently getting Bridget in the shin.

"OW! That is it! Both of you to my office now!" Bridget was furious.

"But Miss Spencer!"

"NOW! Do not make me get the paddle!" She said while rubbing her shin.

The two boys walked back to the building with their heads hanging
low.

Bridget watched them in their walk of shame with her hands on her
hips. She turned around and noticed Horatio and Archie standing there.

She became wide eyed. "Oh dear forgive me Gentlemen!"

"Miss Spencer are you alright? Horatio asked. She nodded that she was.

"I would like you to meet Leftenant Archie Kennedy, my dearest and
best friend."

Bridget curtsied to Archie's bow.

"Your name sounds familiar Mr. Kennedy. Are you by any chance related
to Lord Edward and Lady Jane Kennedy?"

"Yes I am. They are my parents."

Bridget's face lit up. "Its me Archie, Bridget! My mother was Morgan
Spencer, a childhood friend of your mother."

A wide grin appeared on Archie's face. "You're little Bridget
Spencer? Oh dear God! Forgive me! I did not recognize you!"

"Its been a very long time Mr. Kennedy. We were just small children
when we saw each other last. I did not recognize you either."

"How is your dear Mother?" She asked.

"She's been ill for quite some time, but is feeling a bit better as
of late."

"I'm sorry to hear that Mr. Kennedy. I hope she continues to get
well."

"Thank you Miss Spencer. I shall write to her immediately and inform
her of you. She will be quite pleased and will certainly lift her
spirits."

"Oh forgive me gentlemen! Please come inside."

They followed her into the school. Bridget rang the bell signaling
the end of recess.

"Oh dear I almost forgot about the two students who are in my
office." Bridget said.

"Just a moment gentlemen."

Horatio and Archie could both hear Bridget lecture the boys.

"You are both to write a one hundred word essay on why it is impolite
to call people names and hand it in to me first thing tommorow
morning, and if I hear another filthy word from either one of you, I
will personally wash your mouths with soap and use the paddle on
you! Do you both understand?"

"Yes Miss Spencer."

"Very well then. Back to class."

The boys left her office.

Bridget invited Horatio and Archie into her office.

"Sorry about that gentlemen."

"No need to apoligize Miss Spencer. You were right in punishing
them." Horatio said.

"Please have a seat gentlemen. Would you like some tea?"

They both said yes. Bridget served them.

Archie stared at the life sized painting of Bridget's father.

"That is a remarkable painting of your father Miss Spencer." Archie
said.

"Yes it is. Please call me Bridget, and that goes for you too Mr.
Hornblower. We are all friends here."

"Then you must call me Archie."

"Please call me Horatio Mi..Bridget."

"May I ask you something Horatio?"

"Yes Bridget anything."

Bridget took a deep breath and exhaled.

"I was wondering if...well, I am in desperate need of a head
supervisor at the shipping docks and given your experience, being a
Naval Leftenant and all, I think you are the right choice."

"Bridget, I am flattered, but I'm sure there is someone more
experienced than myself who is already employed in your business."

"I wish that were true Horatio, but believe me there is no one else.
My current supervisor came to me yesterday. He must vacate his
position immediately to take care of his wife who has taken ill and
is uncertain when he will return."

Archie couldn't stop staring at her. He was captivated by her
stunning beauty and intellect.

"Bridget, how did you get involved in the shipping business?" Archie
asked.

"Well Archie my old friend, it is a pretty interesting story. I
inherited Spencer Shipping from my father, who inherited it from his
father, who had inherited it from his. You see my Great-Grandfather,
Richard was the son of Lord Charles Edrington and Amanda Spencer.
Unfortunately Lord Charles was married to someone else. Yes, Richard
was illegitimate. Lord Edrington was in a bind. If anyone found out
that he had a son by his mistress, there would be a huge scandal and
the Edrington name would be tarnished. He secretly supported my great-
great grandmother and Richard financially. When Richard was old
enough, he bought him a shipping business. Since he was never given
the Edrington name, he named it Spencer Imports and Exports Shipping.
By the time the business was handed down to my father, it was a
success and he was able to buy this school. He always thought
education was important and I feel the same."

"You're right Bridget, that was an interesting story." Archie said.

"Do you by any chance know Lord Alexander Edrington?" Horatio asked.

"Yes, we're related, but I have never met him or any of the
Edringtons."

"Horatio, would you give my offer some thought? Please do not feel
forced to accept. I will not hold anything against you if you do not."

Horatio took a deep breath. "I will give it some thought Bridget."
Horatio said.

"Good. Thank you Horatio."

"If I cannot find someone to fill the position, I will be forced to
close the school and do it myself which would be not problem at all,
but unfortunate for the children."

"Yes that would be very unfortunate Bridget." Archie said.

The bell in the tower rang signaling the end of the schoolday.

"Bridget, Archie if you would excuse me, I am going to bring Maria
over here."

"Yes of course, Horatio." Bridget said.

Bridget and Archie were left alone.

"He has already agreed to work for you Bridget. I know Horatio all
too well. He is too proud to accept your offer right away."

Bridget smiled at him. His heart fluttered.

"If I may say Bridget, you have grown up to be quite a lovely woman.
Nothing like the scrawny little girl I used to know with braids who
climbed trees better than I."

Bridget blushed. "Thank you Archie. I must admit, you have also
changed. I wouldn't have known it was you. Nothing like the short
chubby boy who tried to climb trees like I could."

They both laughed.

Horatio and Maria walked in. Archie stood up.

"Archie my I introduce my sweetheart Miss Maria Mason." Maria
curtsied and Archie bowed.

"Please to meet your aquaintance Miss Mason."

"Same here Mr. Kennedy. I have heard so much about you. I feel as
though I know you already. You must call me Maria. Any friend of
Horatio's is a friend of mine."

"Then you must call me Archie."

"Maria, it turns out that Archie and I know each other." Bridget said.

"Oh?" Maria looked puzzled.

"As children we did. Our mothers were good friends with each other."

"Yes, now I remember! I recall you mentioning him quite a bit back
then"

"Oh she did? I am quite flattered Bridget." Archie teased.

Bridget became wide eyed with embarassement.

"I only told her how we would climb trees!" Bridget said in her
defense.

"Are we to have our weekly meeting?" Maria asked Bridget.

"Oh right yes! If you would excuse us gentlemen, we shan't be long."

"Yes of course ladies. Archie and I will wait in the hallway."

When the men left closing the door behind them, Bridget put her hands
on her hips and glared at Maria.

"What did you think you were doing Maria Mason?"

"What do you mean?"

"Teasing me in front of Archie! You are incorrigable!"

Maria giggled. "He is very handsome, and if I remember correctly, you
mentioned him quite a lot back then."

Bridget rolled her eyes.

"Well you're not spoken for and I know he does not have a sweetheart."

"Oh Maria stop it!"

"Bridget I am your friend and I hate to see you alone. You are young,
beautiful, and very intelligent."

"Maria, you know I have to be careful. I don't know if a man will be
interested in me or my fortune."

Maria took her friends hands in hers.

"Oh Bridget I know, but I do not think Archie is like that. Horatio
told me he is the son of a lord."

"Yes he is. Lord Edward to be exact."

"Alright then. There you go! He would not be after your fortune, he
already has one!" Maria said.

"Maria Mason what am I to do with you! He is just an old friend. That
is all!"

They both laughed. Bridget then went over to open the door.

"I was thinking of having a dinner party this Friday evening. I would
like if you all could attend and you too Archie." Bridget said.

Both men accepted. Bridget went over to her desk and wrote something
on a piece of paper and handed it to Maria.

"Here you go Maria. This will keep your mother at ease."

"Thank you Bridget. You think of everything."

Bridget smiled. "It is nothing my friend."

"May we escort you home Bridget?" Archie asked.

"No thank you, Archie. My caretaker Mr. Lloyd is coming for me."

'Well, it was nice to see you again Archie."

Horatio, Maria, and Archie went home. Archie requested to have dinner
for him and Horatio to be taken to their room.

Maria gave the note from Bridget to her mother. She snatched it out
of Maria's hand.

"Wot's this?" She read the note.

"Its an invite for a dinner party two days from now mother. Mr.
Hornblower and Mr. Kennedy are also attending."

"The rich fella?"

"Yes mother."

"If 'es goin' then ye can go. Don't let that little 'igh and mi'ee
friend o' yours steal 'im away!"

Maria took a deep breath. "Thank you mother." She headed upstairs to
grade exams.

Archie and Horatio were supping in their room.

"She's so beautiful H'ratio! That red hair and her lovely green eyes
like emeralds."

"Yes I know Archie."

"I guess I said that already. Forgive me."

Horatio chuckled. "It is alright my friend."

"So when are you going to tell her that you have accepted her offer
of employment?"

"I will tell her at the dinner party."

"I knew you would accept H'ratio."

"Miss Spencer has been very kind to both myself and Maria. I would
like to return the favor to her."

"Yes she is kind and VERY beautiful." Archie said.

Horatio rolled his eyes and grabbed a bedpillow and threw it at
Archie.

"Hey!"

"Wake up Mr. Kennedy! You're still suffering from the effects of
cupid's arrow!"

"I can't help it H'ratio. Now I know what love at first sight is. I
must make her mine and no one elses."


To be continued.....

 

CHAPTER 9A
Disclaimers: Same. I have also decided to make Horatio NOT tonedeaf.

Rating: PG

Two days later......

Archie and Horatio were busily getting ready for Bridget's dinner
party. The two men decided to wear their formal Naval Leftenant
uniforms.

"Bloody hell! No matter what I do, this neckerchief is not
cooperating!" Archie said with great frustration.

Horatio chuckled. "Here let me! It's just a dinner party Archie."

"I want to look my best H'ratio."

"Oh I know why. It is to impress Miss Spencer. Why else would you
want to look your best?"

Meanwhile across town, Bridget was tending to the final preparations
for her party. She had her servants dress in their best uniforms to
look proper. She was instructing Mr. Lloyd to where the guests will
be seated.

"Miss Mason is to be seated here beside me and Mr. Hornblower will be
seated beside her. Mr. Kennedy will sit across from Mr. Hornblower.
Mrs. Lloyd, have the musicians arrived yet?"

"Not yet sweet child."

"Oh dear."

"You're getting too worked up over this party! `Tis not your first
one!" Mrs. Lloyd told her.

"I know. I just want everything to be perfect."

"Everything is child."

Meanwhile Maria made her way down the stairs to meet Horatio and
Archie who were in the sitting room waiting for the carriage to
arrive. She looked stunning in a high waisted, simple, but elegant
evening gown. It was white lace with a gathered bodice, which showed
a hint of her ample bosom, and straight elbow length sleeves. The
underdress was blue like her ocean colored eyes, and the sash that
came across the high waist was in light blue silk satin. Her hair was
up and parted in the middle and hung in ringlets and a simple choker
was around her slender neck. Horatio's heart stopped when he saw her.
She shyly looked at him for his approval.

"Maria, you.look...beautiful. I do not deserve you." Horatio said
while kissing one of her dainty hands.

Maria blushed at his words. "Thank you."

"You look lovely Maria. Horatio needs to protect you from roving eyes
tonight, but not from me I assure you!" Archie said.

Mrs. Mason walked in without complimenting her daughter on how she
looked. She took her by the arm from Horatio and placed her by Archie
putting Maria's hand into Archie's upper arm. Horatio rolled his eyes
and pursed his lips.

"Make sure ye take good care o' 'er Mister Kennedy my Maria is a good
girl."

"Yes ma'am."

"Well the carriage is here." Horatio said.

"Well good evening Mister Kennedy." Mrs. Mason said never
acknowledging Horatio.

They climbed the carriage. Maria sat beside Horatio cuddling up to
him.

"Archie I must apologize for my Mother's behavior and to you too my
love. She thinks I should have my sight set on you Archie."

Archie chuckled. "I take it she does not like you H'ratio?"

"No my friend, I am not wealthy. Just a poor sailor on half pay."
Horatio said.

"Who I simply adore!" Maria said.

Horatio blushed and smiled at her.

They were the first guests to arrive. One of the servants announced
their arrival and Bridget came out of the study to greet them.

Archie felt a lump in his throat from her beauty. She wore an elegant
emerald colored silk evening gown done in the empire style with a
high waist and short sleeves. The bodice was trimmed with gold and
the sash at the high waist was the same color. The necklace she wore
was of large round emeralds which had belonged to her mother gave
distraction to her ample bosom. Her hair was coiled in a high bun,
with a braid around it, and gold hair combs in opposing angles.

"Good evening friends!"

"Bridget you look lovely." Maria said.

"Thank you. May I say the same for you!"

"Bridget, I have given your offer thought, and will accept." Horatio
said.

Bridget smiled. "Thank you Horatio. You do not know how happy I am to
hear that sir. Well, before more guests arrive, may we step in my
office for a moment to discuss your wages and such."

"Of course." He said. They both excuse themselves from Maria and
Archie.

"Well Mr. Hornblower, how does two guinea a week sound?"

Horatio became wide eyed. "Wonderful!"

"You will be working from half past seven in the morning until five
Monday through Friday. Saturdays are only half days for finishing
paperwork and minimal things. Your days off are Sundays and holidays.
Does it all sound alright?" She said.

"It does Bridget."

"Good. Welcome to Spencer Imports and Exports." They shook hands.

"When do I start?"

"Well, how about Monday? We can meet at the docks tomorrow morning to
get yourself aquianted. I will introduce you to the workers myself."

Meanwhile Archie and Maria were patiently waiting in the sitting
room.

"Maria, may I ask you a question if you promise not to tell Bridget."

"Alright Archie."

"What is her favorite flower?"

"She loves tea roses. There are many varieties of them, but her
favorites are the red and pink ones. May I ask why, Mr. Kennedy?"

"I would like to send her flowers."

Maria smiled. "That would be lovely. May I be so bold and ask, if you
have taken a fancy to her?"

Archie blushed.

"It's alright Archie. I will not tell her."

Later on all the other guests had arrived. Dinner was served.

Bridget stood up with a wine glass in hand. "May I propose a toast.
To my new head supervisor at Spencer Imports and Exports; Mr. Horatio
Hornblower." The guests followed the toast.

Archie looked over at a male guest who has not kept his eye off
Bridget.

After dinner, the guests were led into the ballroom. The string
quartet started to play a beautiful song.

"Would you care to dance my love?" Horatio asked.

"Oh yes Horatio. I would love to."

He walked her to the dance floor.

"This is a lovely piece." She said.

"What is it called?" He asked.

"Barbara Allen." She said.

"It is lovely like you my love." Horatio told her.

Maria was quite a dancer. She was light on her feet. Horatio looked
in to lovely blue eyes.

Archie approached Bridget who had been busy socializing with the
other guests and finally had a opportunity to speak to her.

"This is a lovely party Bridget."

"Thank you Archie. I am glad the weather was fair today for it. I was
afraid it was going to snow and many of the guests would not have
been able to come. Excuse me." She curtsied and walked away and
headed toward a group of other gentlemen guests.

Archie noticed she had a laugh with them. He looked away feeling
wounded. She barely had given him conversation and is now acting like
a giddy schoolgirl with a group of men.

Horatio and Maria finished their dance. He led her to out of the
ballroom.

"Horatio, where are you taking me?"

He took her to a dark corner where he kissed her.

"I couldn't stand it. You are so beautiful. I felt as though if I
didn't kiss you I'd go mad."

Maria giggled. "I love you Horatio. Now kiss me again before we
return to the party."

Archie wondered around the room, obvious to the glances from several
female admirers. He stopped to admire an embroidered screen by one of
the fireplaces underneath it was a huge hunting trophy of a deer head
caught by Bridget's father.

"Archie, why are you not dancing?" A female voice said. He turned
around. It was Bridget. "There are plenty of girls here to choose
from."

"The only person I want to dance with doesn't seem to want to dance
with me." He meekly said.

"Did your mother do this beautiful artwork?" He pointed to the
screen.

She blushed. "I did that, its not my best work, but my father loved
it so I've kept it here."

"It is not as lovely as you." He starts to walk away with his head
down thinking he was too bold from his words.

She stops him. "Archie, would you like to dance with me? I would be
honored to have an old friend on my arm."

He looked into her emerald colored eyes. "An old friend? I was hoping
for a new friend, perhaps a new friendship?"

She smiled. "We can look into that, who knows what may happen."

"Well then, shall we have that dance then?" He takes her by the arm
and goes to the dance floor.

The string quartet played "The Ash Grove". During the dance, Archie
felt as if he and Bridget were the only people in the world. That was
until he noticed that mysterious man still staring at Bridget.

Archie hoped to talk some more, but Bridget didn't seem to notice and
walked away after giving him a quick thank you for the dance. He
watched almost helplessly as she walked away.

The mysterious man, who had been watching Archie and Bridget dance,
approached Bridget and asked, "Miss Spencer, I have a business
proposition for you, is there somewhere we could talk in private?"

"I am sorry, but I don't like to do business during parties. May I
ask your name, sir? I don't believe we have even been introduced."

"Forgive me. My name is Andrew Hewitt." He bowed.

"Please to meet you Mr. Hewitt. Though I don't know what your
business is nor care. If you please, I have guests to entertain."

"I know you care about keeping your shipping business above board. I
can help you with that."

"I just hired a man to work in my shipping business."

"He will work with the workers. What you need is someone to get
investors to invest. I can be that man, if you like. I think we
discuss plans in the private of your study."

Bridget thought for a moment. If she had someone to help run the
shipping business, she could have time to concentrate on her school.

"All right, Mr. Hewitt. You have convinced me. This way, please."
Bridget showed him to her study.

Archie had been watching Bridget and Hewitt the whole time. He didn't
trust Hewitt and loathed like the way he had been staring at Bridget.
Archie followed the two of them. He wanted to be there in case of any
wrong doings.

Bridget walked to her desk and asked, "Mr.Hewitt, what exactly is
your proposition?"

Hewitt walked behind her. His demeanor changed from smooth to
crude. "Well first of all, the only business women should be in is
the bedroom little lady."

Bridget turned around, she was filled with shock and anger. "How dare
you speak to me in that manner! I suggest that you leave right now!"

She was about to walk towards the door, when he grabbed her arms and
pinned her to the desk.

To be continued.....

 

CHAPTER 9B

Rating: PG/PG13 (for almost rape and arse whoopin'!)

Bridget tried to struggle, but Hewitt's hold on her was too strong.
He forced kisses on her trailing down her neck and bosom. Bridget was
so terrified she couldn't scream or yell for help.

He pushed her further back on the desk causing the contents on it to
fall off and crash on the floor.

Archie heard the crashing noise and barged in. Hewitt was about to
unbutton his breeches.

"Get off of her you filthy bastard!" Archie pulled him off and
punched him knocking Hewitt to the ground.
Bridget stood frozen in shock.

Hewitt got up and swung at Archie getting him across the jaw. Archie
swung back hitting Hewitt on the nose, then again in the stomach
making him fall on the floor again. Archie grabbed him by the shirt
and punched him again in the face.

Archie pulled him up by the shirt and was face to face with him.

"If I ever see you near her again or as much as look at her, the
beating I gave you is nothing compared to what I will do to you!"

Archie's face was red with anger.

Hewitt smirked. Archie took him and physically threw him out of the
office/study.

Archie looked over at Bridget. He slowly approached her.

She rushed into his arms burying her face in his chest and started to
sob uncontrollably.

"Shhh its alright you're safe with me now." He said gently stroking
her hair.

"Oh Archie he tried to...he tried.." Bridget couldn't get the words
out.

"That monster!" Archie said

Horatio and Maria rushed in.

"Bridget are you alright? We saw a man walk by with a bloody nose and
mouth. The rest of the guests have all gone."

"That man assaulted Bridget. He lured her in here with a false
business proposition." Archie said.

Maria gasped and went over to her friend who was still in Archie's
arms.

"Come with me Bridget. I will take you to your room." Maria said.

Archie loosened his hold on her, but her knees gave out and almost
collapsed. Archie swooped her in his arms and followed Maria upstairs
to Bridget's bedroom.

He gently placed her on the bed.

Bridget caressed his face. "Archie you're hurt." She said looking at
the dried blood at the corner of his mouth.

"It is alright. I've been hurt worse in battle. Well, I will bid you
goodnight so Maria can help you ready for bed."

"Goodnight Archie and thank you. I am in debt with you."

He grinned. "You owe me nothing. Try and get some rest." He took her
hand and kissed it.

Archie closed the door behind him. He could still smell Bridget's
scent on him. He was glad he was in the right place at the right time
to save her from being raped.

That thought infuriated him. Someone wanted to harm the woman he
cared about. He had such a fury in him still that he wanted to track
Hewitt down and beat the life out of him.

Upstairs, Maria helped Bridget out of her dress. One of the servants
bought up hot water for Bridget wanted to wash off Hewitt's
disgusting kisses from her.

She the put her nightgown on and Maria brushed her hair for her then
tucked her in.

"Here drink some tea. It will help soothe your nerves."

"If Archie wouldn't have come, I..he.." Bridget closed her eyes hard
to let the tears flow.

"Shhh, try not to think about it. Would you feel better if I stay
with you?"

"No thank you Maria. I know you must go home. Your mother will not
approve."

"She never approves of anything."

"Do not worry. I will get some sleep. I have to meet your sweetheart
at the docks tommorow to introduce him to the workers."

"Oh yes I almost forgot. Maybe Archie will accompany him!" Maria said
in a teasing manner to cheer Bridget up.

Bridget rolled her eyes. "Maria don't start!

"Oh Bridget! I saw the condition of that man he beat up. I'm
surprised he could walk! Archie held you so protectively afterwards."

"I see that Archie is protective. I must say I did like that. But he
only thinks of me as a friend." Bridget said.

"Are you truly that blind? He is in love with you!"

"No! He could not be. I don't want him to be. I am all right on my
own."


"Uh uh." Maria said. "Well I best go home. Goodnight dear friend."
Maria embraced her.

Maria met up with Horatio and Archie.

"How is she?" Asked Archie.

"She is feeling better and still plans to be at the docks tommorow to
introduce Horatio."

"I will accompany you tommorow Horatio just in case Hewitt shows up."
Archie said.

The carriage ride back home was a quiet one. Maria dozed off in
Horatio's arms. Archie looked at her and sighed.

"I would give anything to have Bridget fall asleep in my arms like
that." He said.

"Archie give her some time. Be patient." Horatio said.

The carriage stopped.

Horatio gently shook Maria. "Wake up my love. We're home."

"Forgive me. I didn't mean to fall asleep."

Horatio chuckled. "You've had a long day."

They went inside. Maria was glad her mother had gone to bed hours ago.

Archie went up to his room and Horatio walked Maria to hers and said
their goodnights.

*******
The next morning Horatio and Archie were on their way to the shipping
docks to meet with Bridget.

On the way there, the men stopped by the flower shop. Archie wanted
to buy Bridget flowers. It was the same place where Horatio had
bought Maria daisies.

"Good morning young sirs!" the saleslady exclaimed.

"Good morning ma'am. Do you deliver flowers?" Archie asked.

"Yes indeed young sir!"

"Do you by any chance have tea roses?"

"Yes. Just cut fresh ones from my greenhouse earlier this morning."

Archie smiled. "Wonderful ma'am. I would like to purchase six red and
six pink."

"Wonderful! She sounds like a special lady!"

Archie's face lit up. "She is."

She gave him paper and a quill to write a note and where they are
going to be sent.

"Oh my Spencer Manor! Yes young man she is a very special lady indeed
and a very sweet one may I add!"

Archie paid her. "Thank you ma'am you have been most kind. Good day."

When they reached the docks, Bridget was there. She was looking over
some cargo that had just arrived.

"Good morning gentlemen." She said to Horatio and Archie.

"Mr. Turner, I would like you to meet Lieutenants Hornblower and
Kennedy. Hornblower will be taking over your job."

The men shook hands.

Bridget gave Horatio and Archie a tour.

"Here are all five of my ships. Posideon, Sea Cove, Excalibur,
Paradise, and our newest ship: Wind Walker."

"They look like fine ships." Horatio said.

"Mr. Turner, would you gather the workers around the platform please?"

"Yes miss, right away."

Bridget led Horatio to the platform. There she stood looking
authorative waiting patiently for all the workers to congregate
around her.

"Good morning all. As you all know, Mr. Turner is taking a leave of
absence. In his place, will be Mr. Horatio Hornblower. I expect for
you all to give him the respect and dedication you have given Mr.
Turner. I will also like to say, that I thank you all for hard work.
This business is what it is today because of you. Good day
gentlemen!" The men cheered waving their hats and walked away.

After the speech Bridget talked to Horatio before she was to leave.
Archie hesitantly approached Bridget and asked, "Are you all right
after last night?"

"Yes, Archie, thank you." She tries not to pay too much attention to
him but can't help seeing his genuine concern.

"May I walk you home?"

"No, thank you. I have my carriage."

Archie wanted to talk more and perhaps join her in the carriage.
Before she entered her carriage, he stammered, "May I call on you,
Miss Spencer?"

Bridget stopped and turned to him. "I would be honored to have you
call on me, Mr. Kennedy." She gave him a big smile and gets into the
carriage.

Horatio came up behind him and said. "Looks like things are looking
up for you."

Archie turns around and brightly smiled. "I do believe they are
H'ratio!"


To be continued.....

 

CHAPTER 10

Rating: PG

Horatio looked around for Maria while Archie distracted Mrs. Mason
who was more than happy to talk to him.

Maria was alone in the kitchen rolling dough for baking bread. She
felt two hands slip around her slim waist and nuzzling in her hair. A
smile came across her face.

He turned her around and embraced her for a passionate kiss. He
chuckled afterwards.

She gave him a puzzling look. "What is so amusing?"

"You have flour on your adorable little nose." He said.

She was about to touch her nose when she saw two white hand prints on
Horatio's wool coat.

She gasped. "Oh dear I am so clumsy sometimes! I will clean it my
love." She grabbed a clean rag.

"Don't worry my love." He kissed the tip of her flour covered nose
and took the rag from her. That is when he noticed a large bruise on
one of her wrists and another up near the inside of her elbow.

He pursed his lips in anger. "When did she do this to you? Why did
she? Maria I have told you to tell me when she harms you!"

Her eyes became filled with tears.

"I don't want anything to happen to you my love. She will throw you
out on the street!"

"Maria do not keep taking this abuse because of concern for me. I
will not allow it."

"I was carrying a bucket of water and accidently tripped spilling it
all over. My mother grabbed me and pulled me to my knees to clean it
up."

He embraced her once again. She buried her face in his chest sobbing.
He stroked her hair.

He cupped her face in his hands wiping her tears away. "Shhh, no
more tears. I will take you away from this place. I promise. Now my
sweet, continue making one of your delicious meals."

She smiled. "Aye, aye, Sir. I love you Horatio."

Horatio smiled at her and went up to his room finding Archie still
having conversation with Mrs. Mason.

"There you are!" Archie said. "Mrs. Mason has graciously offered to
give us complimentary meals."

"Oh 'tis no problem Mista Kennedy. Just remember wot we's talked
about!" She nodded and walked out the room.

Horatio shook his head in disgust over the woman.

Archie chuckled. "Mrs. Mason really has been going out on a limb to
keep me satisfied with my stay here."

 

Horatio rolled his eyes.

"She wants me to call on Maria." Archie said.

"What? No you will not!"

Archie laughed. "Calm down H'ratio! She will only think I am. You
know my heart belongs to Bridget. You need not worry my friend."

"I am worried for HER. Her mother is still harming her."

"Oh God. Why is that woman so cruel to her? Maria is such a sweet
girl."

"I don't know Archie, but I must get her out of here somehow. Between
Mrs. Mason and that Taylor character, Maria is not safe here."

To be continued......

 

 

CHAPTER 11

Rating: PG/PG-13 for language

The next morning, Horatio and Archie accompanied Maria to St.
Michael's Church for Sunday service.

Bridget was already there and had saved a seat for her friends.
Archie's face lit up when he saw her.

Both Maria and Bridget sang like angels when it was time to sing
hymns. Horatio had whispered in Maria's ear telling her how beautiful
her voice was.

After the service, Maria walked into the church graveyard to her
father's tomb and cleaned it off a bit to place flowers on it.
Horatio helped her to her feet.

"Mother has never visited here. She could care less."

"Come my love, Bridget wants us to join her for brunch at her home."

****************

They were all enjoying tea after a delicious brunch. Maria was
admiring the bouquet of flowers above the fireplace mantle.

"Those are lovely flowers Bridget."

"Thank you. They are from Archie."

He cracked a smile when both girls looked at him.

Maria whispered in Horatio's ear. "Follow my lead."

He gave her a puzzling look.

"Mr. Hornblower, I recall you promising me a stroll sir." She said.

"Oh right, yes, I did. Shall we?"

Horatio helped Maria with her coat. He told Archie they would return
for him.

They went outside.

"What is the meaning of this sudden stroll Miss Mason?" Horatio asked.

"I think we should give Archie and Bridget some time alone don't you
think?"

Horatio cracked a smile. "Not only are you beautiful, but you are
also clever."

In that same moment, Maria saw Taylor from a distance and gasped. She
ran into a nearby alleyway with a confused Horatio following her.

"Maria what's wrong?"

"Its Mr. Taylor. Please we must hide in here until he walks by. If he
sees us together he will tell Mother."

Maria had her back turned to the entrance. Horatio was facing it. He
wrapped his scarf around his mouth and nose to diguise himself from
Taylor. He embraced Maria in a protective manner. She buried her face
in his chest and took in the scent and warmth of his body.

Taylor walked by arm in arm with a woman who was not Mrs. Mason, but
a prostitute.

"He's gone. " Horatio said. "And he was escorting a prostitute."

Maria looked into his dark eyes.

"Horatio I love you so much."

"And I you my sweet. Come lets exit this alleyway. It is not a proper
place for you to be in."

**********************
Meanwhile Archie and Bridget were alone in the sitting room
reminiscing on their childhood friendship.

Bridget felt a bit cold and got up to put another log in the
fireplace.

"Here allow me." Archie said.

"Thank you."

"Bridget may I be so bold and say that you look lovely as always."

She blushed and cracked a smile.

"How did you know tea roses are my favorite?" She asked.

"Uh, ummm, I didn't. Lucky guess."

"Uh huh. I think Maria helped you with that lucky guess."

He chuckled. "I wanted to give you something as lovely as you."

"Oh Archie the things you say."

He came closer. "But they are true. I speak from my heart Bridget."

She was speechless. Archie looked into her emerald eyes. She blushed
and looked down in a bashful way.

They heard someone enter. It was Horatio and Maria.

"Oh dear you both look frozen! Here have some tea." Bridget said.

Maria warmed her hands in front of the fireplace.

"Well my friend and Maria, I think it is time for us to be off."
Horatio said.

"You're right. It is going to be dark soon." Maria said.

They all bid Bridget a good evening.

Archie took one of her dainty, soft, hands and kissed it. "Until next
time Bridget."

"Good night Archie."

Bridget showed them to the door. She locked up after they left. She
put the hand that Archie kissed over her heart.

"Bridget Spencer are you mad? You best not be falling in love!" She
said to herself.

*************************

Maria readied for bed. She brushed her beautiful dark brown tresses.
There was an angry knock on the door.

"Open up! Ye hear me!" Mrs. Mason yelled.

Maria reluctantly opened the door and was greeted by a slap across
the face from her Mother.

She shook Maria furiously, which left Maria bruised and teary eyed.

"I saw ye on the arm o' t'at good for nuthin' Hornblower fella! Ye
stupid bloody idiot!" She slapped Maria again.

"Mother I am sorry. Please you are hurting me!"

"Shut yer trap bitch!"

She shoved Maria hard causing her to fall on the floor and stormed
out of the room. Maria stood up and locked the door.

She collapsed on her bed sobbing. How is she going to hide the
bruises from Horatio? She does not want to tell him for his sake and
hers.

Her tears stopped when she fell asleep.

To be continued.....

CHAPTER 12

Rating: PG

The next morning Horatio quietly knocked on Maria's door.

"Maria, its Horatio."

"Good morning my love. Forgive me but I am not dressed properly to
open the door."

"Don't worry about it. Is it alright if Archie escorts you to school
today? I would like to arrive at the docks a little early being my
first day and all."

"Yes of course. Have a good first day my love." Maria said while
looking at herself in the mirror at the slight print marks on her
face.

Archie waited for Maria near the front door. She came down after she
saw Horatio leave from her window.

"Good morning Mr. Kennedy."

"Good morning Miss Mason." He knitted his brow when he noticed the
marks on her face.

Maria looked over at her Mother who was near the entrance to the
sitting room with her hands on her hips and a smirk on her face.
Maria bowed her head down in shame.


As they were walking to the school, Archie forwardly asked her a
question.

"How did you get those marks on your face Miss Mason?"

"Oh those. I tossed and turned a bit too much last night and fell off
the bed."

"Uh huh. I've never seen bruises from a fall look like finger marks."

She stopped in her tracks.

"What are you implying Mr. Kennedy? How dare you question me in that
manner!"

"Forgive me. I did not mean it that way."

She took a deep breath. "I did not mean to be cross Mr. Kennedy.
Please whatever you do, don't tell Mr. Hornblower. Please I beg you."

"So it was your mother again?"

She put her hand over her mouth.

"I know all about it. He told me in confidence as I am his best
friend."

"Please Mr. Kennedy. Do not tell him. I fear for him if he finds out.
My mother is a vindictive woman and Mr. Taylor is worse. He will do
anything she asks him to. Anything. I do not want any harm come to
Horatio."

Archie took a deep breath.

"I reluctantly will abide to your request Miss Mason, but I'm sure he
will see those marks."

They arrived at the school. Maria thanked Archie for walking her to
school. She then hurried to class.

He saw Bridget walking towards her office. He walked after her.

"Good morning Miss Spencer."

She turned around.

"Mr. Kennedy. What brings you here sir?"

"Oh Mr. Hornblower asked me to escort Miss Mason today."

"Would you like some coffee sir?"

"Yes I would like that very much."

"Good. Follow me to my office then."

Archie was quiet while having coffee.

"Archie, is anything wrong? You're very quiet. You look concerned
about something."

"Forgive me Bridget. You are right. I am concerned. I was asked to
keep a secret and I feel guilty to do so."

"Oh. Since it is a secret, I won't ask."

"No its alright. I do want to tell you. Maria was harmed again. She
has some bruising on her face and she made me promise not to tell
H'ratio and feel horrible now for agreeing to do so."

"Oh dear God. If I were not a proper lady of society, I would say
what I feel about that woman right now and that Mr. Taylor, well
don't get me started about him!. Poor Maria. I have asked her time
and time again to leave that horrible home of hers and come live with
me, but she will not thinking that she will be an intrusion."

"Please don't tell her that I told you Bridget."

"I won't I promise."

Archie got up from his chair and walked over to the large windows
behind Bridget's desk.

"You have a wonderful view of your shipping company from here!

Bridget joined him at the windows.


"Yes. Not only can I see the ships being loaded or unloaded, but I
can also look down on the school grounds when the children are
outside and make sure they are behaving!"

They both laughed. Archie loved the sparkle in her eyes when she did.

"I remember you being a hellion as a child yourself Miss Spencer!"

"Oh and you were not! I remember when you put an herb that is used as
a laxative in your eldest brother Richard's milk when he was not
looking!"

"It was your idea Bridget!"

"Yes well I did not like how he was teasing you and I only made it as
a suggestion."

Archie laughed. "Poor Richard. He was running back and forth to the
privie all day."

Bridget giggled so much that her stomach started to hurt.

"Oh dear.I haven't laughed that hard in ages."

"You have such a lovely laugh Bridget."

She blushed.

"Forgive me. I was too forward in saying so."

She cracked a smile. "It is alright. But thank you. You are too kind
with your compliments."

"I only speak the truth."

He put his hand over hers that was resting on the windowsill. There
was a knock on the door.

"Come in please." Bridget said.

It was Miss Pritchard, Bridget's secretary.

"Sorry to bother you Miss Spencer, but Timothy Daniels was sent to
see you. He misbehaved in class again this time throwing a book at
another pupil barely missing his eye.

Bridget took a deep breath.

"Well I guess I will have to discipline him with the paddle this
time."

"Mr. Kennedy forgive me, but can you excuse me for a moment?"

"Yes of course. Anyway, I must be off. Maybe I will visit H'ratio. I
shall return later for Miss Mason."

They exchanged goodbyes and he left.

************************

Horatio was busy inspecting the new cargo that had just arrived from
India.

"There's enough tea for the entire Portsmouth to enjoy for ages!"
Archie said.

"Mr. Kennedy." A surpised Horatio said. "Is Miss Mason alright? I did
not have to chance to see her this morning."

"She is fine." Archie said but in his mind he felt guilty. Maria was
not fine. She again suffered abusive treatment from her mother. He
felt he was betraying Horatio by not telling him the truth.

"Well that's the last of the cargo. Let's go for lunch Mr. Kennedy."

***********************************
Meanwhile Bridget and Maria were already having their lunch during
recess.

"Maria are you alright? You're a bit quiet today."

"Forgive me Bridget. I am just a bit tired."

"Uh huh. Too many thoughts of a certain gentleman by the name of Mr.
Hornblower?"

Maria chuckled. "Yes I suppose that is the reason."

"Maria you're my friend. I know you better than that. Please tell me
what is wrong."

Maria's eyes started to fill with tears.

"I know what happened. The evidence is on your face."

Tears started to flow down Maria's face. Bridget held her hand.

"Maria I have asked you so many times to come and live with me. You
do not deserve to live under that kind of treatment."

"I know you have my friend but I am afraid."

"Of what?"

"Of Mr. Taylor. Mother will ask him to harm you in some way."

"Oh Maria. Do not fear for me. You know I can take care of myself. My
father taught me how to use a pistol and I am not afraid to use it."

"I wish I were as brave as you Bridget."

"Please take my offer into serious consideration Maria I beg you."

"I will Bridget."

**************************

Later that evening, Maria bought dinner up to Horatio and Archie.

After they finished, Archie made his way downstairs to give Horatio
and Maria some time alone.

Horatio pulled Maria on his lap. He started to pull the combs holding
up her hair letting it fall on her shoulders.

He ran his fingers through her silky dark locks. As he looked into
her eyes he caressed her face. That is when he noticed the marks.

He became very angry.

"Why didn't you tell me! Do you not love me?"

"Of course I do." Tears flowed down her face. "Horatio I am afraid
for you. For us."

"So you rather have me stand back and not defend you? I am not a
coward Maria. I have faced many battles and have killed men and I
will do what I have to do to defend the woman I love!"

Maria caressed his face. "Oh Horatio. I have never had a man stand up
for me. Not even my own father. He knew, but was too afraid and did
not want to get involved."

"Then let me protect you Maria! Once I am done paying your mother the
debt that I owe her for back rent, and have enough money saved, I
will get you out of here even if it means renting Bridget's guest
house. I promise Maria. I will take you away from here."

"I love you Horatio."

Their lips met for a passionate kiss.


To be continued.....

 

CHAPTER 13

Rating: PG-13

 

Maria rose earlier than usual to get her household duties completed.
She needed extra time to walk to school for it had snowed late into
the night.

She was carrying a bucket of hot water from the kitchen, when she
passed Taylor's room which was right beside her mother's. His door
was slightly ajar, when he saw she was walking by, he opened it
widely and startled her. He was completely naked and gave her a
lustful look. Maria walked away as quickly as she could in
embarassment and disgust.

Taylor was laughing. "Did ye like wot' ye saw! I'll show ye more if
ye like!"

She hurried upstairs to the attic and knocked. Horatio answered. He
took the bucket from her and gently pulled her inside, put the bucket
down, closed the door and took her in his arms for a kiss.

Archie turned away and snickered. "Alright lovebirds!"

Horatio chuckled and Maria blushed and said.

"Good morning Archie."

************************

Horatio and Archie escorted Maria to school. Archie's eyes lit up
when he saw Bridget looking out from her windows. She waved hello and
he took his hat off and bowed. She giggled and curtsied. Horatio
joined up with Archie after he walked Maria to her classroom.

After dropping off Maria, Horatio and Archie talk to each other as
they walk to the docks.

"The holidays are near Mr. Hornblower. I must return home and spend
it with my family. I promised my mother I would do so."

"Oh yes, I almost forgot about the holidays. I've had quite a bit on
my mind as of late; this new employment and Maria but not in that
order!"

"Poor Miss Mason. I know how you feel Mr. Hornblower. Anyone who
harms Miss Spencer will have to deal with me."

"True Mr. Kennedy. I've seen that famous temper of yours."

**************************************

Archie spent some time with Horatio but then decided to take a walk
around town. He promised Horatio he would walk Maria home after
school.

As he walked by the shops, he noticed a beautiful red haired woman
walking along the street who looked familiar. It was Bridget.

He ran up to her. "Miss Spencer!"

She turned around. "Mr. Kennedy! What a surprise!"

"May I ask you a question Miss Spencer?"

"Yes of course."

"Why are you not at your school?"

"I have some very important errands to run. I must buy gifts for the
children of St. Michaels Orphanage which has been a Spencer family
tradition and then meet with Father Stephen to give him a donation
for the poorest families in Portsmouth so they can at least have a
decent meal for Christmas."

Archie's heart fluttered. Not only is she strikingly beautiful,
intelligent, and shrewd, but she also has a heart of gold.

"May I have the honor to escort you today Miss Spencer?"

She smiled. "I would most enjoy your company Mr. Kennedy."

First, she went to a stationary store to order school supplies for
the nuns at the orphanage. Then to a toy store to purchase gifts for
the children. The shop owner always gave a discount to her as he did
the same for her father for their generosity.

Archie and Bridget then headed to St. Michaels rectory.

"You're most generous Miss Spencer. I think you purchase everything
in the shop!" Archie said.

Bridget chuckled. "It gives me great pleasure to give the children at
the orphanage some joy and happiness for Christmas. Every year Mr.
Lloyd dresses up as Father Christmas and delivers the gifts to them."

Bridget went to the orphanage and gave the donations to Father
Stephen. She then went to the Spencer family crypt to put flowers at
her parents tombs. Archie stood at a distance to give her some
privacy.

She sat on a marble bench. Her eyes started to fill with tears and
soon they started to flow.

Archie heard light weeping and went over to her.

"Bridget are you alright?" He sat down beside her and gave her a
hankerchief. She thanked him.

"Yes I'm alright. Its just that I miss them so. My poor mother was
only twenty and nine years when she died. She died in childbirth. It
was a boy. He died two days after she did and they were buried
together. I was only eight years old but to this day I miss her
dearly. It has been almost three years since my father died. He died
peacefully in his sleep."

"I am so sorry Bridget. I wish I would have been there for you both
times."

Bridget looked into Archie's sapphire eyes. "Thank you for your kind
words."

He wanted to take her into his arms in comfort and tell her he loved
her over and over again but this was not the time and place. He did
not want to take advantage of the situation.

"All better now?" He asked.

"Yes. I think it's time I return to the school. For some odd reason I
have a feeling there will be a line of children waiting outside my
office to be paddled or lectured."

They both chuckled.

"I will escort you back and then wait for Maria to walk her home."

He walked her back to the school. They arrived just in time before
the bell was to ring signaling the end of the school day.

"Thank you for accompanying me Archie."

"It was my pleasure."

"Would you like to join me for dinner at my home the day after
tommorow?" Bridget said as she took Archie's arm.


"Yes. I would be honored."
**********************************

"Why are you all smiles Mr. Kennedy?" Maria asked as he walked her
home.

"Well your good friend Miss Spencer invited me to dinner the day
after tommorow."

"That is wonderful! I am glad. Don't give up on her Mr. Kennedy."

"Me give up? My dear, Kennedys are known to never give up!"

They both laughed.


*************************************

Later on that evening, Maria was relieved when her mother and Taylor
went out to a pub. She was in her room grading papers. There was a
light knock on the door. It was Horatio.

He gave her a kiss. "I've barely seen you all day my love."

She buried her head in his chest and nuzzled. "I know my love.
Forgive me. I am grading papers.Tommorow is the last day of school
for the holidays."

He went over to her desk to observe some of the papers and picked one
of them up to read it.

"My Christmas Wish."

Horatio read the rest of the paper. His smile turned to a frown when
he finished.

"This poor child wants his mother to come down from heaven and spend
Christmas with him."

"Poor little Lawrence. His mother died a few months ago and he misses
her so."

"I know how he feels."

Maria caressed his face.

"Maria, do you love me?"

Maria gave him a puzzling look. "Of course I do! Are you doubting me?"

"It's just that your mother beats you because of me. Do you know how
that makes me feel? I feel that I am not worthy of you."

Maria slightly rose her voice. "I can't believe we are having this
conversation!"

"Maria please don't be angry."

"Me angry? I am more upset than angry!"

He took both her hands and gently held them. Maria let go and walked
over to the window.

"My mother has been beating me since I was a child and you know that
Horatio." Her eyes filled with tears. "Once when I was about ten and
four years, her and I were at the market and she noticed that a boy
had smiled at me and I him. She struck me hard across the face in
front of everyone and called me a stupid tart. My face was swollen
for days."

He went over to her and put his hands on her shoulders. She turned to
him.

"Horatio I love you. You bloody fool! My mother will never beat it
out of me, NEVER!" She started to weep uncontrollably. Horatio took
her in his arms.

"Shh, forgive me my love. The last thing I ever want to do is make
you cry." He nuzzled her hair taking in its floral scent. He gently
cupped her face in his hands and wiped her tears with his thumbs.

"No more crying that is an order."

She chuckled. "Aye, aye sir."

To be continued.....

CHAPTER 14

Rating: PG

Archie dressed for the third time to ready for dinner with Bridget.

"What do you think H'ratio?"

Horatio rolled his eyes.

"Archie you've asked me numerous times already and my answer has been
the same. You look fine!"

"I know, but I want to make sure."

There was a knock on the door. It was Maria.

"Maria, Archie needs a woman's opinion." Horatio said. "What do you
think of what Archie is wearing right now?"

Maria grinned. "Well if I may be so bold to say that you look very
handsome Archie. The silk blue jacket you are wearing matches your
eyes."

She looked over at Horatio hoping that her words did not offend him
or make him jealous.

"Then it is the one I will wear! Thank you for your kind words Maria."

"Thank God." Horatio said.

"Well I must be off. I do not want to be late. Good evening Horatio
and Maria." Archie bowed and said.

Horatio pulled Maria towards him.

"His jacket matches his eyes?" Horatio said teasing her.

"Darling, I love your eyes more. I love everything about you."

"I am going to kiss you now Miss Mason."

"Is that a promise?"

He smiled and pressed his lips on hers.

**********************************

Archie took a deep breath before knocking on the door. He had a
bouquet of red and pink tea roses for Bridget.

He was surprised when Bridget answered and not one of her servants.

She looked radiant in a pale burgundy high waisted dress made of silk
with short sleeves and white gloves past the elbow.. The bodice was
trimmed in creme satin and a creme satin sash across the high waist
that ended up in a bow in the back. Her hair was pulled back in
ringlets.

Archie was speechless from her flawless beauty.

"Good evening Archie." Bridget said and curtsied.

"Uh ummm, yes. Forgive me good evening." He bowed. "These are for
you."

She smiled and thanked him and took the flowers.

"Please come in. You must be cold." She said.

She took his arm and they walked to the dining room.

After dinner they went to the parlor for drinks. Archie put another
log in the fireplace for Bridget because she felt a chill.

"Do you have plans for the holidays Archie?"

"Yes. I am to spend it at home with my family." He said while leaning
against the fireplace mantle.

Bridget grinned and walked over to him. "When do you leave?"

"Tommorow morning."

Bridget gasped in shock. "Tommorow? Why didn't you tell me sooner?
We spent the afternoon together the other day and you did not mention
it."

"Forgive me. You're right Bridget. You were so upset after visiting
your parents tombs that I did not want to say it then or afterwards."

"Oh I see." She said quietly.

"Bridget, will you wait for me?"

"Why do you ask?"

"Bridget, I can no longer hide my feelings for you. My heart is
yours. Since the day I saw you in the school yard you have taken it."

"Archie please don't do this." She pleaded.

"I have to. It is eating me away. You are the most extrodinary woman
I have ever known."

"Archie you and I are just friends."

"You do not feel the same for me?"

"No. I am sorry.I have never felt anything for you but just
friendship and that is all."

He put his drink down. "Well I must go. It is very late and I have an
early start tommorow for a long trip ahead."

"Archie please don't be upset."

He took her hand and kissed it. "Good bye Miss Spencer."

"Archie please."

Archie quickly exited the house.

"Archie wait! Please!" Bridget begged Archie.

He ignored her pleas and quickly walked away disapperaring from her
sight. He was wounded. The woman he truly loved rejected him.

Bridget slowly walked upstairs to her bedroom and slammed her door.

"Bridget you stupid bloody fool!" She said to herself.

***************************************

Archie arrived at the boarding house. He slowly climbed the stairs to
his and Horatio's room.

"Archie. How was your dinner? Did you tell her your feelings about
her?"

"She doesn't want me H'ratio. Only as a bloody friend. I feel as
though I gave her my heart and she threw it on the ground and stomped
on it."

"I'm sorry to hear that Archie, but remember what Maria told you
about her. Bridget may be putting up a front."

"I will always love her. But, I know when I am not wanted." Archie
said.

****************************

Bridget tossed and turned in bed. She heard Archie's words in her
mind over and over again. She remembered the look on his face when
she rejected him. She sat up in bed and ran her fingers through her
hair. She got out of bed and started to pace back and forth across
the room.

"What should I do? I'm sure he does not want anything to do with me
now. How could I have been so cruel to him!"

She looked out her window and noticed that dawn was near. A thought
came to her.

"I will go to him."

She dressed warmly and quicky ran down the stairs and out to her
stables.

She climbed on the horse and headed for the Mason house.


To be continued......

 

CHAPTER 15

Rating:G/PG

The coach from the Kennedy estate arrived for Archie. Horatio
assisted him with taking his luggage down the stairs. The coachman
started to load them.

"When will I see you again my friend?" Horatio asked.

"I don't know, when we get our orders perhaps?"

"I'm sorry Archie that she..."

Archie interrupted. "Oh well. One cannot have everything they want in
life."

Both friends embraced in the brotherly hug.


Maria gave him a sympathetic look. "Have a safe journey Mr. Kennedy."

Archie was going to kiss her hand, but gave her a hug instead.

"Thank you Maria. Take care of yourself."

He climbed the coach and waved goodbye.

****************************************

Bridget nervously went through the large keyring to try to find the
right key to unlock the large gates to make her exit from Spencer
Manor. The morning sun had already made its appearance but a thick
fog was still lingering.

"Which one is the bloody key!" Bridget was almost in tears.

Mr. Lloyd was walking the guard dogs and spotted her.

"Miss Bridget, what is the matter child?"

"Mr. Lloyd, thank God! Please open these gates for me!"

He took the ring of keys from her. "You want me to take you where you
need to go child? I'll get the coach ready."

"No I don't have much time. I must see Mr. Kennedy before he leaves."

Mr. Lloyd opened the gates for her. "Here you go child and please be
careful."

"Thank you." She climbed the sidesaddle on her horse and quickly rode
away.

Bridget made her way through the foggy streets of Portsmouth. She
felt as though she would never approach Highbury Street.

She spotted Horatio who was on his way to the docks and pulled the
horses' reins to make it halt.

"Mr. Hornblower, where's Mr. Kennedy!"

"You just missed him Miss Spencer. His coach arrived earlier than
expected."

"Oh God." Her voiced trembled.

"You may be able to find him if you make your horse gallop quickly."

"Yes you're right! Thank you Horatio!"

"Come on Bessie, show me what you've got!" Bridget whipped the
horses' bottom and rode off.

Bridget made her horse ride hard and fast. She felt guilty in doing
so, but it was the only way to try to catch up to Archie. She almost
did not notice a large tree limb that was lying low and ducked just
in time.

Then out in the distance she could make out a coach. Her heart was
beating quicker than ever. Deep inside she knew it was him.

"Come on Bessie! Don't fail me now. I will give you so many carrots
and apples that you will be the most spoiled horse in the stables!"

She was getting near. She steered Bessie to ride up along the side of
the coach and noticed the luggage with the Kennedy coat of arms on
them. She caught up to it.

"Archie! Archie!" She yelled.

Archie opened the curtain and became wide eyed. The driver looked
back.

"Driver please stop!" Archie shouted.

The driver pulled the reigns on all the horses and Bridget did the
same to hers.

She climbed off her horse and Archie exited the coach.

"Bridget what are you doing here?"

"Oh Archie, I've been such a fool! Please forgive me. I will wait for
you if you still want me to as I feel the same as you."

"Oh Bridget." He cupped her face in his hands. "You do care! You are
still the same hellion you've always been. I can't believe you
chased my coach in this cold foggy day to catch up to me, you must be
frozen!"

She smiled. "No, I am not frozen, I only want to be with you."

They embraced and then his sapphire eyes looked into her emerald ones.

"May I kiss you?" He asked.

"I thought you'd never ask."

Their lips met for a kiss that warmed their cold bodies.

"I must go Bridget."

"Archie, please promise me that you will return."

"I promise. I will only be gone a few weeks."

"I will write to you everyday."

"I will like that very much my lady."

He gave her his arm and walked her to her horse and lifted her up on
it.

"Goodbye Archie."

"Not goodbye. Until next time my lady." Archie said as he waved
goodbye.

To be continued......

 

CHAPTER 16
Rating: PG

December 23, 1801. The next day.

The bell rang signaling the end of school until after the holidays.
Maria had saved up enough money to give each of her students a
peppermint stick and a pencil. Some of her students gave her gifts or
a hug in return.

******************************

Meanwhile, Bridget was writing a letter to Archie, who had only been
gone since yesterday.

My dearest Archie,

I hope when you recieve this letter you have already arrived home
safely and your dear mother is feeling well. You have only been gone
one day and I miss you dearly.

Tommorow Maria and I plan to wrap all of the gifts for the orphans of
St. Michaels. My servants are always so kind to volunteer to assist
us. They even baked cookies for the children.


I anxiously look forward to hearing from you.

Please give my regards to your family especially your dear mother.

Forever yours,

Bridget

She put a wax seal on the letter and asked Miss Pritchard to have it
mailed as soon as possible.

**********************************

Bridget needed to go into town to buy gifts for Mr. and Mrs. Lloyd
and asked Maria to accompany her. Maria wanted so much to buy Horatio
a gift but she had very little money since her mother takes most of
her earnings.

Bridget took Maria home after they finished shopping. As they were
climbing out of the coach, Bridget asked Maria, "Would you like to
spend Christmas with me? Ask Horatio if he would come, too. It would
be nice to spend it with friends."

"Yes, Bridget, I would love to! I will ask Horatio for you. I know he
will say yes."

"I will see you both then." Bridget said before the coach drove off.

****************************************

When Bridget arrived home, one of the servants handed her the mail.
It was a letter from Archie. Her heart skipped a rapid beat from
excitement. She hurried to her office to read it and broke the wax
seal.

My dearest Bridget,

I just arrived in South Hampton to rest for the night. By the time
you recieve this letter I should be home.

I miss you terribly already my lady. I cannot wait to return to you
and hold you in my arms.


Forever yours as you have my heart,

Archie

Bridget sighed and held the letter to her heart.

***********************
The day after next:
Christmas Morn....

Maria was happy that Taylor and her mother weren't at home as she
prepared a breakfast tray for Horatio. After breakfast, Maria
excused herself and hurried to her room and hurried back to Horatio.

"Happy Christmas, my love." Maria said and handed him a small package.

"What this? Maria you shouldn't have my sweet."

"Open it and find out."

It was a navy colored knitted scarf and a pair of mittens. The ends
of the scarf and mittens were trimmed in gold thread.

"I made them myself. I hope you like them my love."

"I do, my sweet, they are lovely. It was very clever of you to knit
them in the color you did. They match my Naval uniform!"

She smiled and gave him a kiss on the lips. Horatio gave her one of
his wide grins and pulled a very small package from his jacket pocket.

"This is for you my love."

Maria sat down and opened the small package. She gasped in shock when
she opened the small box that was inside.

It was a small gold ring with a small diamond around a neck chain.

"It belonged to my dear mother." He said.

"Horatio...it's...beautiful. I don't know what to say."

He got down on one knee in front of her and took one of her hands in
his.

"Say that you will be my wife. I love you more than anything Maria. I
want to share my life with you. When I am with you I feel complete.
You are the piece that was missing in my life."

Her eyes filled with tears. "Oh Horatio! Yes, I will marry you!" She
put the chain around her neck and then threw her arms around him.

He picked her up and swung her around. She giggled.

"I love you Maria Catherine Mason!"


To be continued......

 

CHAPTER 17
Rating: PG

Three weeks later......

Bridget went over the final preparations for her social party to
celebrate Horatio and Maria's betrothal. Everything was in perfect
order. The only thing missing was Archie.

Bridget wore a beautiful pink silk empire gown with a long train. The
bodice and short sleeves were trimmed in gold silk. She wore long
gold silk gloves. Her hair was pulled back and fell in a cascade of
grecian curls.

Maria and Horatio arrived earlier than scheduled. Maria looked
equally as beautiful. Her gown was a grecian style in yellow silk
with a high waist and short sleeves trimmed in white lace. The dress
was a gift from Bridget. Her hair was pulled back and styled in eight
large sausage curls.

When Bridget was informed that Horatio and Maria had arrived, she
went downstairs to meet them in the foyer.

"Good evening Miss Spencer. May I be so bold and say you look very
lovely." Horatio announced as he and Maria blocked the entry way to
the parlor.

"Thank you, Horatio, may I say the same of you?" Bridget said.

"We bought a guest with us and has been looking forward to meeting
you." Maria said.

Bridget gave them a puzzling look.

"Oh?" She said.

Both Horatio and Maria stepped aside so Bridget could meet the
mystery guest. She gasped in shock.

"Archie!" She ran to him and they embraced and kissed passionately.

Horatio and Maria smiled at each other and walked away to give them
some privacy.

Archie looked at her and absorbed her beauty. "Bridget, my sweet
little redhead!" He covered her lips and face with kisses.

"You did not tell me you were coming! I did not expect you back so
soon. When did you arrive?"

"In the mid afternoon. I wanted to surprise you and I couldn't stand
being apart from you anymore my redhead."

"Oh Archie!" Bridget kissed him one more time and then embraced him.

"You look so beautiful tonight." He said while caressing her
beautiful face. "I am not going to let you out of my sight."

Bridget giggled. "I best go to the parlor to greet my guests when
they arrive."

"May I escort you to the parlor then?"


"Yes you may."

He gave her his arm. He felt like the luckiest man in the world to
have such a beautiful woman on his arm.



After all of the guests arrived, they were all seated for dinner.
Bridget was seated at the head of the grand table. Archie was sitting
to her right and Maria to her left.

Bridget looked over at Archie and smiled bashfully at him. Bridget
stood up from her chair with a goblet full of wine in hand. The
gentlemen stood when she did.

"I would like to propose a toast." Everyone grabbed their goblets.

"To the honored guests Mr. Hornblower and Miss Mason who are my
dearest friends."

"To the betrothed!" everyone said while holding their goblets up.

Horatio and Maria both looked at one another with great love for each
other in their eyes.

*************************************

Dancing in the ballroom started shortly after dinner. Bridget and
Maria were chatting away when Archie approached them.

"Pardon me ladies, Miss Spencer will you do me the honor of having
this dance with me?"

Bridget smiled and curtsied. "Yes, Mr. Kennedy. I would be most
honored."

He gently hooked her arm into his and led her to the dance floor.
Horatio did the same with Maria.

"You're quite the dancer, Mr. Kennedy."

"And so are you, Miss Spencer."

Bridget smiled at him which made his heart flutter.

"I am so glad you are here with me Archie. I was missing you
terribly."

"And I you. Not a day went by that I did not." Archie said as he
looked deeply into her eyes.

Bridget and Archie were dancing close to Horatio and Maria, who were
looking into each others eyes.

"Maria, you are the most beautiful woman here."

"Oh, Horatio, the things you say, sir! There are many women here who
are lovlier than I."

"No. Not in my eyes. Just you my love. Only you."

Maria blushed from his words.

Everyone was celebrating the night away until it was announced that
it was nearing midnight. Bridget asked everyone to dress warmly and
join her in the courtyard and face towards the water.

"Are you warm enough my love?" Horatio asked Maria.

"Yes, thank you for asking."

"And you?"

"Aye. Very warm thanks to the wonderful scarf and mittens you made
for me."

The church bells started to ring signaling midnight had arrived.

"Happy New Year!" People were saying to each other.

The night sky lit up with fireworks coming from the water courtesy of
Spencer Imports and Exports getting oohs and ahhs from everyone.

Bridget caught Archie staring at her.

"Mr. Kennedy, why are you not watching the fireworks?"

"I'd rather watch you." He said and leaned closer to her for a kiss.

"Archie Kennedy, you take my breath away sir!"

He reached in the inside pocket of his coat and pulled something out
of it and then looked into her eyes.

"Bridget Morgaine Spencer, I love you more than anything. I cannot
imagine life without you. Will you do me the honor of accepting
proposal of marriage?"

Bridget put her hand over her mouth in shock."Oh Archie
I...I...umm...Oh yes! Yes I accept with all my heart!"

He gently took her left hand and was about to put a ring on her
finger.

"Its lovely Archie." She said as she looked at the ring.

"It is a family heirloom. My mother wanted me to give it to you."

"You spoke to her about proposing to me?"

"Well yes. She was delighted."

Bridget smiled. "I will be a good wife I promise." He caressed her
face.

Horatio and Maria were standing beside them enjoying the fireworks
and overheard. They looked at one another and smiled.

Bridget looked at them with a big smile on her face.

"Maria I'm engaged!" She showed Maria her ring. Both girls hugged.

"Congratulations Bridget, I am so happy for you both!" Maria said.

"As am I." Horatio said. Him and Archie shook hands. Then he kissed
Bridget's hand.

"And happy new year to you both."

To be continued......

 

CHAPTER 18A

Rating: PG/PG-13 for violence and language please be advised

The winter break was wonderful. Maria and Bridget were making wedding
plans. It was decided that a double wedding will take place. Maria
had not told her mother of her betrothal to Horatio and has not
planned to do so.

Then one night the world came crashing down.

Maria encouraged Horatio to enjoy a night out at The Captain's Lady
with Archie. He had been working so hard at the docks lately that
Maria felt he should go out and enjoy himself. He agreed.

Later that evening Maria was in her bedroom reading a book when she
heard a knock on the door. Thinking Horatio had come back early, she
opened the door.

It was not Horatio. It was Taylor and he was up to no good.

He pushed his way through her room.

"What are you doing here? Get out of my room!" She shouted at him

"I thinks its time te give it to ye wench!"

"Get out or I'll....."

"Or ye'll wot', get yer little sailor friends? They's not 'ere!
Hahahahaha!"


Maria tried to back away but he grabbed her and tackled her to the
floor and put his hand over her mouth.

She tried to struggle with all her strength but Taylor's hold on her
was greater.

He grabbed her breasts and tore the front of her nightgown. Maria bit
his hand and screamed, making him strike her hard across her face.

"One more peep 'ot of ye and I'll kill ye bitch!" He hissed.

He continued his disgusting attack on her, as his repulsive mouth
went down to her bosum. Then he started to unbutton his trousers.

"I'm gonna give it to ye hard and rough ye no good for nothin' bitch!"

Maria took a deep breath and an overwelming feeling of strength came
over her. With all her might, she was able to get her knee between
his legs and rammed it hard into his crotch.

"Owwww! Bitch! Ye'll pay for this!"

Mrs. Mason heard the commotion and made her way to Maria's room.

"Wot's goin' on in 'ere!" She screamed.

"Mother! Please help!" Maria pleaded.

"Lizzy, yer little tarty daughter lured me to com' in 'ere! She
wanted me to sleep wit' 'er!"

"You filthy liar! You tried to rape me!"

Mrs. Mason stared at Maria then at Taylor then back at Maria and
walked up to her.

"Ye filthy little 'ore!" Maria's mother said as she slapped her
across the face.

Maria could not believe that her mother was taking Taylor's word over
hers. She cried out, "Mother, no!"

Her mother then noticed the chain around Maria's neck with the
engagement ring.

"I knew it!" She said with great rage in her voice. "Ye probably
slept wit' im' too! Bloody little hoyden!"

"No mother I did not! Horatio loves me and I love him!"

"Shut yer trap! Don't ye talk back te me!"

She continued her beating on Maria with Taylor assisting with an
ocassional shove and when Maria would fall to the floor he'd kick her
and then pulled her to her feet by her hair for more abuse by her
mother.

Horatio and Archie were just arriving from an enjoyable evening. Then
they heard the terrified screams as soon as they entered the house.
They froze in their tracks.

"Oh dear God, it's Maria!" Horatio said.

Both men ran up the stairs with pistols in hand.

Taylor recieved a blow to the head with the butt of Archie's pistol.
Horatio pointed his at Mrs. Mason.

"Let her go!" He said.

Maria's mother loosened her hold on Maria and became wide eyed in
shock.

Maria fell on the floor and crumpled up in a ball.

"Mr. Kennedy." Horatio said. "Would you please wait here while I drag
this filth who calls himself a man into the storage room in the hall."

"Aye, Mr. Hornblower." Archie pointed his pistol at Mrs. Mason.

"Ye wouldn't shoot a lady now would ye, Mista Kennedy?" She asked
sweetly.

Archie cocked his pistol. "Only those with malice in them such as
yourself madam."

When she heard Archie put her down in such a way, she resorted to her
usual ways and spit out. "Ye bastard! No good just like yer sailor
friend!"

Horatio returned and said, "Now its your turn woman!"

"Yer not takin' me anywhere ye son of a bitch!" She yelled.

"We'll see about that!" Horatio spat back.

Horatio grabbed her arm and pinned it behind her back. Archie
followed behind them with his pistol still pointed at her.

Horatio shoved her into the storage room with a still unconcious
Taylor and locked the door from the outside. Then him and Archie
dragged a chest of drawers which was in the hallway and placed it
right in front of the door.

They then ran to Maria's aid. She was curled up in a ball in great
pain and completely terrified. He clenched his teeth in anger at what
he saw.

Maria's face was bloodied and bruised. She had a cut on her lip, one
on her left cheek and her left eye was starting to swell.

Horatio tried to pick her up, and she yelped from the pain. She
grabbed the front of her nightgown to close up the torn part of it.

She was crying hysterically.

"Oh H'rash...he..he...tried to..he.." Maria was too shaken up to
speak.

He gently held her in his arms. "Shhh my love, I am taking you away
from here right now!"

He carefully assisted her to her feet. She held her arm.

"I think my arm is broken." She said.

"Archie, try to locate the man in charge of the livery stable down
the street for a horse and a cart."

"Right away, H'ratio!" As he hurried off to the livery stable.

"My love, try to pack all you can in your carpet bag quickly. I will
do the same. I will be right back."

Maria did what Horatio asked. He returned and assisted her with her
coat but she could not get both arms in the sleeves due to her
possible broken arm.

Archie was able to locate the very drowsy stable owner. The man
became wide awake when Archie paid him with several coins for what he
needed.

Archie returned with the horse and cart. He then hurried upstairs to
pack all he could also. He then carried Horatio's and Maria's bags so
Horatio could carry Maria down the stairs. Mrs. Mason could be heard
banging on the door screaming and cursing.

"Leave ye filthy little 'ore! You are dead to me! Dead!"

Horatio carefully placed Maria in the cart and walked behind it to
keep an eye on Maria. The three of them knew exactly where they could
go. Bridget always said *come and stay with me.* They were on their
way to Bridget's home.


To be continued.....

 

CHAPTER 18B

Chapter 18b

They finally arrived at Bridget's home. The gates to the manor were
locked.

"Horatio, I have keys to the gates and the front door. Bridget gave
them to me." Maria said.

Horatio sighed a breath of relief. She gave him the key and he opened
the gates.

Archie steered the cart to the front of the house.

Bridget was having a sleepless night and was in her office/study
doing some paperwork when she heard the sounds of horses hooves.

She slowly opened the curtain but could not make out the dark figures
from where she was. Who could it be and how did they get through the
locked gates?

She reached for her pistol from her desk drawer and ran to her front
door with a candle to light her way. The door was slowly opening and
she cocked her pistol.

"Bridget its me, Archie!" He walked over and took the pistol from her.

"Oh dear God, what happened!" Bridget said.

She gasped when she saw the beating Maria took.

"Horatio please take her upstairs to the second room from the left.

One of the servants came running down the stairs.

"Is there anything you want me to do Miss Bridget?"

"Yes, Gertrude. Please bring a pot of hot water and some towels to
Miss Mason's room please."

"Yes Miss, right away."

Bridget looked at Archie.

"Archie, could you get Dr. Stewart, my love?"

"Yes, I will Bridget. Right away."

Archie's heart fluttered at her words. She called him her love for
the very first time.

Bridget hurried upstairs. Gertrude had just arrived with hot water
and towels.

Mrs. Lloyd walked in after waking up from the commotion.

"Oh Lord! What happened to her?"

"Her mother did this." Bridget said.

"I will put on a kettle for tea, child."

"Maria I must change your nightgown into a clean one." Bridget told
her.

"I will wait outside." Horatio said.

"No, Horatio please don't go!" Maria said with fear in her voice.

"It's all right my love. You're safe now. I will be right outside the
door."

Both Bridget and Gertrude carefully changed Maria's nightgown.
Bridget tried to ignore the bruises covering Maria's body.

After her gown was changed, Bridget thanked Gertrude and dismissed
her. Then she carefully cleaned the dried blood off from Maria's face.

"She almost killed me Bridget. If Horatio and Archie had not
arrived..." She started to weep.

Horatio walked in and hurried to Maria's side and took her hand in
his.

"You're safe now Maria." Bridget said. "You are to live here with
me. Horatio, you and Archie will reside in the guest cottage."

"Thank you. Bridget, I am at your debt. I can pay rent for letting me
stay." Horatio said.

"Nonsense! I will not hear of it! You are not to pay me anything sir,
and you may stay as long as you like, as a matter of fact, after you
and Maria are married, you may both make it your home if you like."

Archie arrived with the doctor. The doctor shook his head when he saw
a battered Maria.

"I was afraid that this would happen." He said.

"Young man, can you kindly leave us so I can examine my patient?"

"Of course, doctor."

"No! Please stay Horatio!".

"I will be right outside, sweetheart. I cannot be present while
you're being examined. Miss Spencer will stay with you, won't you
Miss Spencer?"

 

"Yes, of course, Mr. Hornblower."

The doctor examined Maria. At first she was afraid when he had to
lift her nightgown to check her ribcage. Bridget convinced her to let
him.

The doctor finished his treatment and gave Bridget instructions on
giving Maria laudanum for the pain. When he exited the bedroom he
found a pacing Horatio in the hallway with Archie.

"How is she doctor? Is she going to be all right?"

"Well, she has several cuts and bruises on her body but mostly on her
face. Her left eye is swollen shut and it may be for the next few
days. Her left arm is broken and two of her ribs on her left side,
but she will recover in no time, Mr. Hornblower."

Horatio had his jaw clenched the whole entire time the doctor was
describing Maria's injuries. He wished it were him and not her.

After Horatio thanked him, Archie saw the doctor out. Horatio hurried
to Maria's side. He noticed the splint around her broken arm. She
touched his cheek and he took her hand in his and kissed it. She
started to weep.

"Bridget, may I stay here tonight to care for Maria?"

"Yes, of course. The chaise lounge should be comfortable enough. If
not, I can have a trundle bed bought to you if you like. Here is the
medicine the doctor prescribed. You are to give her a small dose when
she is in pain."


"Thank you."

Bridget cracked a smile. "Well I will leave you both so Maria can
rest if you need anything do not hesitate to ask. My home is your
home now."

She bid them goodnight and left.

"Shhh, don't cry my sweet. You're safe here."

"Oh Horatio, I can still feel his filthy hands all over me. He even
touched me...down there. I feel so dirty!" Her weeping turned into
uncontrollable sobbing.

Horatio once again clenched his jaw in anger. "If I ever see him near
you or even from a distance from you, may God help me I will not
think twice about killing him!"

Horatio noticed that Maria was trying her hardest to stay awake. The
laudanum was beginning to take effect.

"Try to get some sleep, my love. I am going to be right here by your
side. I am not going anywhere." He kissed her on the forehead and
stroked her hair.

She drifted off into a peaceful sleep. Horatio sighed a breath of
relief and sat in the chaise lounge and covered himself with a
blanket and he soon fell asleep.

Meanwhile, Bridget and Archie were finishing tea in the parlor over a
roaring fireplace.

Archie caressed Bridget's cheek. "You look exhausted, my little
redhead."

"Yes, it's been a long day and night. I think I will ready for bed.
Tommorow is a schoolday." She said and looked at the mantle clock and
saw it was after one in the morning. She gasped, "Oh dear, it is
tommorow! Here is the key to the guest cottage my love. Mr. Lloyd was
kind enough to light the fireplace for you before he went back to bed
so it would be nice and warm for you."

"May I escort you to school tommorow, my sweet?"

"I would be honored if you will."

Archie cracked a smile. "Sleep well, my love. I will see you in a few
hours."

They embraced for a kiss.

******************

Maria was restless in her sleep. The earlier events were now a
nightmare.

"No please, please don't! No, no, Horatio, where are you? HORATIO!"
She woke up screaming.

Horatio jumped to his feet.

"Shhh." He caressed her hair and face. "You were only dreaming, my
love. I am right here."

Maria moaned from pain. "Oww, my ribs hurt so much. It is painful to
take a breath."

"I know. Would you like more laudanum?"

"No, thank you. I do not want to be too dependent on it."

"All right, but if you change your mind, I will give you some. Now,
try and go back to sleep, my sweet." He tucked her in once more and
kissed her forehead.

Maria did fall back asleep once again.


To be continued......