The navy and gilded carriage rambled on, and it was looking to be a glorious
morning - with a brilliant blue sky and the occasional white puffs of
Autumnal clouds. The ride was now a bit smoother as the road had eased from
the well trod and gutted dirt track to the cobblestone streets of London.
Yet for the passengers in Pellew's coach, it had been a journey of suspended
animation, and a treasured chance for three trusted and worthy officers
relax in an escape from the confines of their ship, and enjoy a more casual
and pleasant, if just as confining trip. Pellew, Brandon and Kennedy had
Indefatigable in Portsmouth, once again to the care of the indubitable team
of Lt. Bracegirdle and Mr. Bowles, who would supervise the needed repairs
see to replenishment of supplies and provisions. Brandon was in need of
own supplies as well, and looked forward to a shopping expedition at Culpeper
Ltd., the famous herbalist in London - herbalist to the Crown, no less.
Kennedy was to retrieve his new lieutenant's uniforms at last, having been
promoted over the Summer - after successfully passing his examination, on
second try, much to the relief and satisfaction of all. Pellew was to meet
with Admiral Lord Spencer, report in on their latest batch of prize ships,
the largest number in tow to date, get de-briefed on the latest strategies,
and, inevitably, await a new series of orders. By his experienced reckoning,
Pellew expected to spend a quick two days at the most in town. Once they
arrived at the Admiralty, Pellew would send his driver, Charles, on ahead
the family's townhouse just off Portman Square. Charles would see that the
house was made ready for them, Pellew having seen fit to offer the officers
his London home as lodging for this brief visit.
The trip marked a sort of milestone for each of these two young gentlemen.
Mr. Brandon's position as Ship's Doctor afforded him an occasional
forthrightness and intimacy with the Captain which was unique on board
Indefatigable. The challenge, Brandon had found, and was still learning,
deciphering when to ply the privileges of frankness and confidence, and
it was best to maintain the careful distance that Pellew considered such
sacred necessity to his command. And yet how proud Pellew was as he observed
Brandon master each crisis encountered. As the war somehow maddeningly raged
on, with no end in sight, Pellew could at least count himself fortunate
having the fittest medical team aboard any ship of war.
And Mr. Kennedy, what a year it had been for him, Pellew mused further.
to a shaky start, when the news came down that Hornblower had been offered
the position of 1st Lieutenant on Renown. An agonizing choice for the young
man to make, and indeed one that was in reality, no choice. For any officer
worth his salt knew that one did not reject an offer of advancement, to
ship of the line no less, and then hope to expect a better alternative to
come sailing down the pike at a more convenient time. No, Hornblower's
reputation had preceded him once again, long past considered Pellew's young
upstart. To stay on Indefatigable would most likely mean another year at
least as 2nd Lieutenant - and that was no one's fault, Bracegirdle wasn't
looking to go anywhere and why would he, unless or until he was made Captain.
And while Pellew felt certain that someday Bracegirdle would get his own
ship, for now, he was simply the best 1st Lieutenant to have ever served
him. No, it was the way of the service, Pellew reflected, chains of command
were inevitable and ever-changing. And while it was indeed a poignant day
when Pellew bid farewell to his protege, it was also with no small degree
acknowledgment of a job well done - he had done his best to prepare Mr.
Hornblower for command and Horatio had proven most worthy of Pellew's
And, now the spotlight had shifted to Mr. Kennedy. Pellew recalled him in
the weeks following Hornblower's departure, growing in self confidence and
trusting his instincts with increasing regularity. The ghosts of his past
were now buried for good, it seemed, and the carefully meted, but nonetheless
cherished accolades of Mr. Bracegirdle and the Captain made it clear to
on board Indefatigable that it was Mr. Kennedy's turn to shine. And shine
did, capping it all off this past June by passing his examination for
Lieutenant. It was now official - at last.
The gentlemen felt the carriage slowing to a crawl now, as the morning
traffic of London swept into full gear. Pellew had insisted on leaving well
before dawn, wanting to be over and done with Lord Spencer, anxious to then
enjoy a brief, but well earned respite at home.
"Will we have the honor of meeting your family, Sir?" inquired
during a lull in the conversation, and the street traffic.
"No, I don't imagine so, Mr. Kennedy," said Pellew, matter of
would all be at Exmouth, in Devonshire, this time of year. There is the
annual harvest in the village, Susanna, my wife, gets quite involved with
that, and the children are in school, of course. And my son, I believe,
preparing for the Town's annual Regatta."
Kennedy nodded. "And a journey there would not be possible for you
Pellew shook his head. "I don't see how. It's a good several hours
there, and I don't imagine Lord Spencer will have us lolling about for very
long. One never knows, but no, I did not make plans to journey home this
time." Pellew relaxed back in his seat. He spoke the words without
he had to. There was no other way about it. He had long ago accepted that
commitment to service would mean difficult absences from his home and family.
And they were difficult, there was no shame in admitting that. That his
was the independent and indomitable force that she was, was a source of
joy and pride to Pellew, and it went a long way towards aiding in the
reconciliation of love and duty, the two great competitors for his heart
for his soul as well, for that matter.
"And what about either of you gentlemen? I know I have invited you
to stay in
my home while we are here, but if you would prefer to be at your own family
residences, please do not feel as though you are committed -"
"Oh no, Sir," Brandon protested gently. "Our townhouse would
be deserted this
time of year as well, I fear. And I did not have the chance to send word
ahead, so it would be quite a to-do to arrive unannounced and roust out
servants, sir! Your offer is much appreciated, and I thank you for it."
"As do I, Sir" echoed Kennedy, with like gratitude. "Indeed
I am not even
sure that there are servants to be found at our residence on such short
"Very good, then," nodded Pellew, as the carriage pulled up in
front of the
Admiralty. "I shall send Charles on ahead to see that the house is
for us. Mr. Kennedy, I trust that you can manage to find the tailors without
too much difficulty?" Pellew's eyes fairly twinkled.
"Uh, I am quite sure of it, Sir!" he blushed, smiling - a shade
if ever there was one.
"And you, Mr. Brandon, you know where you are headed?"
"Oh, indeed, Sir. I've been to Culpeper's before - it's over on Bruton
Street. They have everything there, so I'm certain I shall be able to obtain
the supplies we need."
"Well, then, gentlemen." Pellew replied as the three men descended
carriage, Pellew pausing to stretch his arms and shoulders, anything to
the kinks in his back after sitting so long.
It was the sight of the familiar carriage and the three familiar looking
officers that stopped the approaching young lieutenant in his tracks. 8:45
and he was already late for his appointment, but wasn't it...., My God,
"Captain Pellew, sir! Mr. Brandon! Mr. Kennedy - wait, make that Lieutenant
Pellew whirled around, sending his cloak swirling in the breeze. "Mr.
Hornblower! Aren't you a sight for sore eyes!"
Hornblower jogged over to catch up to them. Finally, a chance to congratulate
Archie on his promotion in person! He first saluted Pellew, of course, and
then enthusiastically greeted his dear, dear friends.
"And how is life on Renown treating you, Mr. Hornblower?" Pellew
purposefully. "I trust you've settled in with Captain Sawyer?"
It was a
simple, yet complex question: Pellew had recently heard mixed, indeed
occasionally unsettling, reports, about Sawyer.
"It has been a challenge, Sir..." Hornblower paused, knowing he
answer carefully, diplomatically. "But I should like to think I am
up for the
"As I'm sure you are," nodded Pellew. "But what brings you
to the Admiralty?
I did not see Renown in Portsmouth -"
"No, sir, she is in port at Plymouth. Undergoing some major repairs,
unfortunately. And Captain Sawyer was taken ill last week as well, so we
at the moment, it seems, out of commission. I was asked to report here on
Captain's behalf - although I've already been here two days and no one has
even seen me."
"Welcome to the Admiralty, Mr. Hornblower," Pellew murmured with
just a hint
of sarcasm. "But, please, tell me, where are you lodging?"
Kennedy and Brandon's faces lit up in anticipation.
"At The Wren, sir, not too far off" and he motioned down the street
"Well then, you must join us at my home, I insist on it!"
"Yes, please do!" nodded Mr. Kennedy.
"Oh, but Sir, I wouldn't want to impose -"
"Nonsense - I've already invited Mr. Brandon and Mr. Kennedy - there,
makes perfect sense, and I should very much enjoy the chance to renew our
acquaintance... Judging by the grins on the faces of Mr. Brandon and Mr.
Kennedy, I would guess that they would look forward to that as well....
I must meet up with Lord Spencer, so I shall leave you three to work out
details. We shall meet here at half past ten and hail a coach to take us
home. If I am to be detained by his eminence upstairs, I will get word to
And the three of them just smiled and stared back at him, jubilant at this
latest turn of events.
"Agreed, Sir!" spoke Kennedy. And with a nod of his head, Pellew
with a flourishing swirl of his cloak.
The hired coach was getting closer, Pellew thought he could see the green
Portman Square in the distance from the window. He'd been lost in thought
during much of the drive - seething thoughts of frustration for most of
unfortunately. Irritation at the seeming inability of anyone holding the
of Vice Admiral, or higher, to make a blessed decision on, well, damn near
anything, come to think of it. They gave him nothing more than a "Well
as usual, Captain Pellew" for a most impressive count of prize ships,
hinted that new orders might be ready within the next day or two. Might
be...Pellew shook his head, then noted once again the enjoyable sounds of
friends engaged in conversation beside him. Indeed it seemed that all
throughout the drive Kennedy, Hornblower and Brandon had chatted nonstop.
Pellew chuckled inwardly, but at the same time owned up to the surge of
pleasure he felt at witnessing the strong kinship of these three
extraordinary young men. They had so much to say to each other, it seemed,
and with such animation! They would start off quietly and then in a matter
a few minutes their discourse would crescendo until they suddenly remembered
the Captain was in the coach beside them, and then they would self
consciously lower their voices. Kennedy, of course, had been the object
much of their conversation, now brilliantly adorned in his new uniform,
spare one wrapped in the parcel beside him. He could still stand a bit of
comforts of home - a bathtub, some fresh food and water, well, they all
looked forward to that, but it was indeed amazing what a change of clothes
"It's the stone house on the corner," Pellew called at last to
And for the first time the young men looked around at their surroundings.
"A nice part of town", noted Mr. Kennedy, as Brandon nodded.
"Indeed, gentlemen?" asked Pellew. "You'll have to credit
my wife's family
for that. This was her father's home - I believe he spent more time here
in Wiltshire. When he died, Susanna's brother inherited the main estate,
course, but as his wife's family already possessed an apparently much more
desirable London home, God knows where, this one went to us. I am glad of
for the convenience, but I must confess that I do not really think of it
"You prefer the countryside," offered Brandon.
"I prefer the seaside, Mr. Brandon."
"Of course, Sir!" And they all smiled.
The carriage came to a halt, and Pellew stepped out first, handing several
coins to Hornblower to pay their fare, then walking on ahead to be sure
the place was in order for his guests.
But she came storming out of the front door with the full force of a howitzer
blast, and caught her Papa completely by surprise, nearly knocking him off
"Julia!" he stared at her in disbelief, and then saw that her
clenched about his middle as if a pick-axe would have to pry her loose,
that she sobbed uncontrollably onto his arm.
"What are you doing here, my darling? What is the matter?" Pellew
securely about his waist, not knowing quite exactly what to do, as Kennedy,
Hornblower and Brandon descended from the carriage to join him on the steps
of the imposing, cream colored stone residence.
By now the other children, and Mrs. Broome had come streaming onto the porch
as well. Emma got there first and her hands flew to her face as she saw
Papa. She did not see, or hear, Fleetwood come crashing behind her, knocking
her sheet music from her hand, and her handkerchief, sending the wispy bits
of paper and the fluff of linen sailing into the air all around them.
"Fleetwood! Ohhhh!" Emma cried, and knelt onto the stone floor
to try and
gather up the sheets that had already landed, and retrieve those that were
softly cresting downwards. As the three officers approached the porch, not
knowing quite what to make of the chaotic scene unfolding before them -
having assumed they were arriving at an empty house, Mr. Kennedy noticed
rather flustered young lady, and knelt beside her to assist. He spotted
dainty piece of white lace and linen and gathered it into his hand.
"I believe this may be yours, Miss?" he inquired gently.
Emma pulled up short at the sound of the most gentle voice she had ever
heard. She looked beside her and found herself staring at a spectacularly
handsome young man, with the face of an angel. She reached over tentatively
and as he handed the handkerchief to her, Archie found himself staring at
pair of startlingly expressive brown eyes and the beguiling visage of a
beautiful, but very young, lady.
"Thank you, Sir...pardon, I mean, Lieutenant....Thank you most kindly,
Lieutenant." She murmured, blushing.
"You are most welcome, Miss... Miss --?" he asked, although he
had the vague
and uncomfortable feeling that he knew what the answer was going to be.
"Miss Pellew, Sir. Miss Emma Pellew. And you are?" her voice was
"Lieutenant Kennedy, Archie Kennedy, at your service, Miss." He
quickly and then looked down at his shoe buckles. *Miss Pellew! Great God
heaven. What on earth are you thinking of, Archie, you idiot!* She couldn't
be more than fourteen or fifteen, for God's sake and she was his Captain's
daughter - if she had half the brilliance of her father then no doubt he
in over his head right from the start.
But soon, all of the commotion was overwhelming to everyone. When Mr. Kennedy
offered Emma his arm and she had finally stood up again, she saw Julia
weeping and clenched to her Father. She too could not suppress the tears,
nor could Mrs. Broome. But at least their matronly housekeeper had the
wherewithal to try and gently pry Julia off of her Father just enough to
allow him actual entry into the house, and to see that the other gentlemen
were ushered in as well. And there in the foyer they all gathered, none
them expecting to be seeing each other, none of them knowing who anyone
except for Pellew and he was still rather taken aback, and accordingly,
dumbstruck. Eventually Julia relaxed her grip enough to allow Pellew to
embrace Emma as well, and then to scoop a careening George up into his arms.
"But, why are you all here?...And what is wrong?" he finally said
to no one
in particular, still gazing incredulously at each of them, seeing the sheer
distress in their faces. Melinda had joined them now as well, with little
Edward in her arms. "And where is your Mama?"
It was Julia who spoke first, and though she was quickly racked with a sob,
"She is back at Exmouth, Papa, with Pownoll. Oh Papa, Pownoll is very
he might die!!" And she fell tearfully onto him again.
Edward stared down at her in shock. He turned to his eldest daughter, for
reassurance, shaking his head as he might have to Susanna herself.
"Emma? Please - tell me!"
She reached for his arm and held onto it for dear life. "It's true,
is very ill, Papa. The doctor said we mustn't stay, that we might catch
well, especially George and Edward, so Mama said ...we had to come here
"When? When did you arrive?" He was still in a daze, though he
managed to pass George over to Mrs. Broome, so that he might comfort Julia
"We got here yesterday, we left home early in the morning. It was still
We got here just before noon." She paused as a tear slid down her cheek,
wiping it away with her handkerchief. "Mama said she would send Hal
us back- just as soon - as it was safe... But, oh, Papa we have had no news
all - -" and she dissolved into silent tears onto her father's shoulders.
Kennedy and Hornblower exchanged glances filled with both dread and
infallible concern for their dear Captain. But it was Mr. Brandon who stepped
towards the middle, to stand beside Pellew. He seemed to look first to the
Captain, as if for permission to speak to his daughter, and once he received
a look of grateful assent from Pellew, he began:
"Miss Pellew, if I may, I am Mr. Brandon. I have served with your Father
Ship's doctor for awhile now, I am most honored to say " he paused,
cleared his throat.
Emma lifted her head off of Pellew's shoulder and regarded the young man
beside her Father.
"Yes, Mr. Brandon, I know of you. You saved Papa's life."
"You are too kind, Miss." He smiled gently. "But, I wonder,
describe your brother's illness? Can you tell me, if you recall, did your
Mother, or the doctor say what it was? Did it have a name?"
"He awoke Friday morning with a fever and a very painful throat - he
barely speak a word. By afternoon the fever was much higher, and his throat
had started to tighten- Mama said it was hard for him to breathe, and he
would cough and make this horrible sound- -"
"Like a croup?" Brandon inquired, carefully.
"Yes, that's what Mama called it. The doctor said his throat was constri
"yes. And that his throat would get even tighter and that's how he
it was. He said... it was the diphtheria."
Pellew gasped, and felt himself even start to sway slightly. He felt
Brandon's hand grip his arm under the elbow to try and steady him, but he
surely didn't need Brandon to tell him what diphtheria meant - he knew its
infamous history just as well. Somehow his eyes found Mrs. Broome, who nodded
gently, but then just as quickly, tried to muster up her usual cheerful
"Dr. Knowles is with 'em now, Sir, and he said 'e'd keep round the
day and night if need be....Why, ye can rest assured of that, ye can, Sir.
....An Master Pownoll, why Sir, 'e's a strong and stubborn boy - well, why
wouldn't 'e be so, Sir, he's a Pellew, now isn't 'e! He'll be all right,
Sir. ..Now, children...let's have everyone come into a proper room now,
we? Right this way, gentlemen, please, ye must be longing for some
refreshment - "
But no one really moved - except for Pellew. He turned to Charles,
straightening up to his full height once more as he did so.
"Charles, I'll need fresh horses for the coach. I'll leave for Exmouth
soon as you've got them."
Charles gave his master a stalwart smile. "I've already seen to it,
knew as soon as I arrived, while you were at the Admiralty. I knew you'd
headed right out there, Sir."
Pellew eyes spoke volumes of praise and thanks to his loyal driver. He pursed
his lips, then and looked down for a moment.
"Mr. Brandon, ...I," he stammered, still looking down. "I
don't know if I
even have the right to ask this of you, sir, but I . .. would be forever
your debt if, if you were to accompany me. The local doctor is....well,
competent enough, I'm sure....but, I...." he paused and raised his
looking now to Brandon, the plea plain to see in his eyes. "I would
"Of course, Sir, I insist on it." Drew gazed directly into his
eyes, unwavering. "I - I found quite a wealth of supplies at Culpeper's
well, some preparations that may be able to....help...I'm ready as soon
you are, Captain."
At this, Mr. Hornblower stepped forward. "Sir, please, is there anything
can do? Anything, please just name it, Sir!"
Pellew, touched by his words, shifted uneasily as he spoke. "No, Mr.
Hornblower....I don't think so....Except...."
"I trust...that you will not alter your plans and that both you and
Kennedy will still lodge here, and await our orders.... Lord Spencer knows
that I am here, but now....perhaps, if he - tries to reach me, you could
inform him...of my situation...and get word to me, if necessary."
"Yes, Sir," assured Kennedy. "But, if it is an imposition
on your household,
please do not feel as though-"
"Nonsense, young man," muttered Mrs. Broome, "this house
has got loads of
room for the likes of you two! You'll park yourselves 'ere and I'll not
anything more about it. It looks to me as if ye both could use a bit of
re-victualling! That's right, some proper food, a proper scrubbing, and
launderin' for you, Mr. Hornblower, and don't I know it!"
"I believe you have your answer, then, gentlemen," replied Pellew,
barest of a wry smile, although the worry and weariness had so quickly crept
further over his face and threatened now to take it over. "I learned
awhile ago never to argue with Mrs. Broome - and I do mean awhile ago. After
all, she has known me since I was 9 years old..."
And so that was that. Mrs. Broome ushered the two young men on into the
drawing room and asked James to see to their parcels, then sought out what
they'd like for a late breakfast. At the same time, she so wanted to fuss
over the Captain, insisting that he should rest, or eat, or both, before
setting off for home. But, she searched her own heart and knew that of course
he would be able to think only of reaching home as soon as possible. She
at least able to impart her advice to Brandon, with whom she stowed a hamper
of sliced roast beef, a loaf of fresh bread, a half of her famous plum cake,
several apples, a jug of water and a bottle of hearty burgundy, thrown in
good measure. And Brandon assured her that he would tend to the Captain
insure that he rested, and ate to her satisfaction. The good-byes were
heartwrenching: Emma and Julia's stricken sobs at having had their precious
father for only a very short while, and the uncertainty of what would happen
to their brother. Suddenly even Fleetwood and George began to kick up a
storm: the realization of the awfulness of things right now finally settled
into their carefree world. But Emma and Julia resolved to be their bravest,
as their father had beseeched them and so became the strong older sisters.
They gathered the boys close to allow Brandon and their Papa to make it
of the door. It was all Pellew could do not to dissolve into anguish himself
- but dear Lord, if he couldn't hold himself together now, however would
manage to do so once he got home, to Susanna, and please God, to Pownoll.
kept his teeth clenched and spoke very little, except to reassure them all
that he would send word as soon as it was safe for them to return home.
he saw that Emma had steered the children over towards Mr. Kennedy, who
managed to interest George in his sword and scabbard, and that Fleetwood
now getting a turn at looking through Hornblower's spyglass, he and Brandon
resorted swiftly to the carriage and off they went.
Brandon glanced down at his pocketwatch. It had barely been an hour since
they'd arrived at Pellew's townhouse and now here they were back on the
again. An entire world, well, one man's world, anyway, up-ended in the space
of an hour. For Brandon, perhaps a similar up-ending as well - a way of
seeing his hero as a mere human being, a man, a husband, a father, suddenly
rendered so vulnerable and powerless, and still impressive as he so
effortlessly and yet with such sensitivity took control of matters at home.
And, the children, he'd met them at last. He had heard a bit about them,
mostly from Pellew, who made the occasional joke about them, or when in
cheery enough mood and with enough time to spare would every now and then
regale his officers, at dinner or over whist, with one of the inevitable
stories or cherished memories that comes of the blessings of children and
family. And of course he had learned about Lady Susanna, the Captain's wife
of 16 years - and indeed, it was for certain, the great love of his life.
had seen her portrait many times as Pellew had a lovely, albeit small,
engraving of her hung in his cabin. And both Hornblower and Bracegirdle
told him many times that that engraving hardly did her justice. Indeed,
had both spoken of her fairly often - a beauty, yes, to be sure, but also
very independent and learned woman. A true match for Pellew, it seemed and
also a woman able to withstand and, dare he say it, even thrive during the
inevitable long absences of her husband. The only daughter of Squire Andrew
Frowde of Wiltshire, a family he was familiar with, though he had not met
of them personally. They had been married just after Pellew had been promoted
to Captain - no doubt his promotion had been just the ticket for the Squire
having given his daughter's hand! And now he would meet her this evening,
under such torturous circumstances as these, Drew reckoned.
He stared over to Pellew. The Captain was equally lost in thought as well,
seemed, but Drew could only surmise as to his emotional turmoil. *Good God,*
he realized, *I must say something to comfort him, something! I have tried
hard to keep my own worries at bay, and I cannot let him see my own fear
this.* Diphtheria. If there was a more terrifying disease - - one that
stopped a childhood in its tracks, he did not know of it. The plague,
perhaps, although it conjured up images of foreign lands, places uncivilized.
If Pownoll had fallen ill two days ago, then by the time they arrived this
evening .well, there was the all too distinct possibility that they would
get there in time. And pray to God the other children had not been exposed
too closely once the disease had reached the acute stage. Lady Pellew had
been absolutely right to have sent them to safety. Drew studied the Captain
again - he knew all of this as well, there was no doubt about it, and the
it tortured his soul, that he might very well not see his eldest son alive
again, was written all over his face.
"Your two daughters are lovely, Sir. Really, quite engaging."
Would this be enough to distract him just for awhile?
Pellew seemed to start out of his stare, and then smiled - what father could
manage to suppress a smile when thinking of his daughter, after all?
"Yes, Brandon, they are. ... thank you for saying so - They are - quite
formidable, I must say."
"And, Miss Emma, she is the oldest?" Drew continued gently, although
already knew the answer to his query.
"Yes, Emma is the first - the spitting image of her Mother, if you
She's soon to turn fifteen...She's become such a lady - although somehow
not seem to be able to recall how that happened, do you know?" He smiled
again. "I came home once, several months ago, and in the place of an
awkward, skinny and wide eyed adorable girl had blossomed a beautiful rose...
And she has the equanimity of a saint, so I see and so Susanna tells me.
has the gift of repose, to be sure, yet I have no idea where she gets that
>from - although her Mother certainly possesses more of it than I do."
"And, Julia, she is the next one, then?"
Here he nearly laughed. Nearly.
"Yes, but don't ever phrase it to her like that. Susanna tells me that
been born female, I would be Julia."
"That is a compliment to her, then, I take it, Sir?"
And thankfully, now Pellew did laugh softly. "You had better ask my
about that one, Brandon. And then you'd better tell ME what her answer is!"
He smiled. "Julia is quite the independent one. I struggle with wanting
encourage her willfulness and then thinking I must tame it... else this
shall be bound to disappoint her..." his voice trailed off.
And that took care of Julia, thought Brandon. *What do I say now? The next
child in the pecking order was Pownoll, why, oh why, did I start this?*
yet, as Brandon regarded Pellew again, lost as he was in staring out at
wayside, Brandon got the unmistakable feeling that Pellew wanted, needed,
talk about his son, and his feelings. He had taken a few dares with his
Captain before, some had succeeded, some had not. What to do here? He closed
his eyes for a moment, and then much to his surprise, it was Pellew who
"She and Pownoll are quite close, you know....she is taking this harder
any of them, I see that...it's funny...they are the closest in age, rather
like my brother Israel and myself - and we were peas in a pod when we were
growing up....but I always thought, being brother and sister, that they'd
be as close as we were.....But they are....He respects her so... rather
for a boy of his age, I'd say...."
"Yes, Sir." Brandon shifted uneasily in his seat. *Oh, Hell,*
he thought to
himself. *Just go for it.* "You must be very proud of him, Sir."
Pellew smiled, a careful smile. "Yes, Brandon, I am....Very proud indeed."
And he returned to staring out of the window. "I imagine it cannot
for him sometimes...I try not to pressure him....I want him to be seen for
who he is, not only as my son....and the eldest one, to boot.....And yet,
has already professed his desire to follow in my career....He has lately
reminded us that I joined the Navy when I was only 11 - as he is 11 now,
"But you wish him to wait, or would prefer that he did not join up?"
"Oh, I would not, could not, deny him the privilege of serving his
Brandon....Never...And Susanna accepts this as well - we both agree that
service is likely - inevitable....But I should like to see him finish his
schooling first ....My own situation prevented me from doing so and I have
often regretted that...."
"But, Sir, one would never know this to be the case, believe me! Your
intelligence rivals any learned man of my acquaintance, truthfully!"
Pellew chuckled. "Indeed, Mr. Brandon? Well, perhaps I have managed
up for it on my own, then or else I have mastered the art of faking it rather
"Perhaps, Sir," smiled Brandon appreciatively. And, then, feeling
he had an opening, he took another chance. "Sir, if I may,.... could
me how... you...you should like me to be of ...assistance, when we arrive?
....I am - I am honored that you have asked me, please know that, sir....But
do not want to step on anyone's toes, please understand..."
"I do understand, Mr. Brandon It's a fair question it speaks well of
you....But, I do not think you need to concern yourself as to protocol in
this instance." Pellew shifted, and then leaned back against the seat
cushion, absentmindedly strumming his fingers on the cushion beside him.
Dr. Knowles is still there when we arrive, then I will introduce you to
as Ship's Doctor and explain that you have accompanied me to be of
assistance...." He sighed and sat up again, moving his hand to his
"Look here, Brandon, the man has the personality of a codfish, ...indeed
have never heard him utter more than a sentence or two together. He is older,
in his 60's, I believe,... and, I suppose he knows his practice, but then,
what would I .....No...," he paused suddenly, staring out the window
"No. ..That is most unfair of me...After all, he has seen Susanna safely
through six pregnancies... and attended the children through the usual
childhood escapades...." Pellew paused, and then smiled again at Brandon.
even stayed on speaking terms with me when I injured my back, though, as
can most certainly bear witness, I was very likely the most uncooperative
patient he had ever had...."
And Brandon chuckled. Oh yes, that last statement was likely to be quite
true, no doubt about that. But there was something more he needed to ask,
least he thought he did.
"And, Lady Pellew, Sir, what can I do to be of comfort to her?"
The Captain shut his eyes for a moment, and pressed two fingers against
furrow in his brow. Brandon felt a sudden dreadful twinge that he had
overstepped his bounds. But when Pellew opened his eyes a few beats later,
and, unable to face Brandon for the moment, stared out the window again
fortitude, Brandon caught enough of a glimpse of profound longing, love
tenderness. Pellew at last shook his head. "Just be truthful with her,
Brandon. For she is extremely intelligent and will not suffer deception...And
remind her, try to anyways, that she must not neglect herself...I imagine
will not have allowed herself any chance of rest...she is likely to be
exhausted and hence, I suppose, rather stubborn."
Brandon nodded, wondering with as much subtlety as he could muster whether
the Captain knew that he just provided the most accurate description ever
uttered of himself as for his wife. How well they must be suited to each
other then, he mused.
"Sir, if I might say so, it'll be dusk before we arrive. And, once
there, Sir, there will be much to see to...I should think.....What I mean
Sir, that you really ought to get some rest if you can."
Pellew leaned back against the velvet upholstery of the cushioned seat back,
closing his eyes for a brief moment and letting out a nearly inaudible sigh.
He tilted his head towards the passing countryside. "Quite so, Mr.
quite so." He murmured.
"And I shall endeavor to do likewise. We will be able and ready to
Lady Pellew and the doctor when we get there, Sir." Drew said it with
cheer as he could and even tried a smile. But Pellew's mood had already
"I only pray that he is - that he is still - " Pellew clenched
his teeth hard
again and steeled his jaw, although he could not stop the tremble in his
as he brought it up to his lips. Brandon's resolve nearly turned to sand
his watched his hero valiantly strive to keep his composure. With his own
tremulous hand, he reached over to Pellew and touched his sleeve.
"He is alive, Sir. And I'm sure he is a strong boy. You keep your faith
that, Sir, will you?"
Pellew sighed again, and this time grasped the hand Brandon had rested on
arm. "Thank you, Dr. Brandon."
After a while of comfortable silence, and the equally pleasing scenery of
rolling farmlands and hills, sprinkled with quaint little farmhouses,
cottages and dotted with the occasional Manor house, the sporadic village
two, and the steady but strangely soothing and gentle rocking motion of
carriage, the two men slept. First, Pellew, who Brandon recalled had most
likely gone without much sleep the night before, in anticipation of their
arrival into Portsmouth and the arrangements to be made for repairs and
their transport in to London. Brandon regarded his commanding officer for
few moments, as he felt his own eyelids start to flutter. The face, now
repose, yet still careworn, as though some last fragments of worry and
concern held fast to his consciousness and would not be extinguished by
sleep. Please God, thought Brandon, please help me to be of aid to him
tonight. Please preserve his son - at least for our arrival. If you must
claim him, Lord, thought Brandon, at least grant his father the chance for
last embrace. And, if you find it doable, in this great scheme of life,
you spare this young son, to grow up in the light of his father's love,
please.... and Brandon's eyes fell closed and he too drifted off into sleep.
It was the snap of a twig under the carriage wheels that brought him out
his dreamless slumber. Brandon squinted, saw that the sun was still shining,
though it had dipped closer to the horizon. He checked his watch, it was
just after 4. If he had overheard the Captain and Charles' earlier
conversations correctly, they had about another two hours. He glanced over
Pellew. The Captain still slept, his chest rising and falling in a steady
rhythm, his head propped against the tufted edge of the upholstery.
Brandon slid his arm into his satchel, cautiously and as quietly as he could,
so as not to disturb Pellew, and felt around until his fingers gripped the
leather bound book which rested on the bottom. Gingerly, he eased it out
under his other parcels, until it rested on his knee. Carefully, he began
turn the yellowed and crinkled pages. Many corners were turned down and
margins lined with note upon note from Dr. Hornblower's experiences with
described malady, the herbs and remedies that he had tried, and the results.
It took a few minutes for Brandon to locate the section on infectious
illnesses, and then another moment until he found the passage on diphtheria.
As he had suspected, there was not much that was encouraging to read. Called
the "strangling sickness' he noted grimly, it attacked the weakest
children, the elderly, the infirm. The telltale sign was a white or grayish
coating on the lining of the throat, the membrane - which indicated the
presence of the infection and the source of the inflammation. Brandon
squinted to read the scrawled notes toward the bottom of the page, he had
hold the book up a bit toward the light from the window in order to decipher
Dr. Hornblower's words, so bad was his penmanship. Some loose pages slipped
out onto the floor, and Brandon froze for a moment at the noise, wincing
the fear that he had disturbed the captain and desperately not wanting to
found out at this moment. But the silence resumed, and Pellew's steady
breathing did not change. Brandon let out a sigh of relief, and then resumed
his research. Hornblower had noted the use of something he called essence
Eucalyptus - and Brandon's heart surged with hope. He had procured the very
same oil at Culpeper's, having read of it in another section of the book,
its usefulness in treating pneumonia and other respiratory disorders. While
Hornblower indicated that the oil seemed to soothe and open up the airway,
also appeared that of the four cases he had treated, three children under
age of five, and one elderly male, all had ended in death. Another case,
involving a young adult female, had proven more successful, and she had
survived the disease. However Hornblower had made another note that she
apparently succumbed to complications from childbirth less than a year later.
Brandon reached for his journal and pencil, and began to copy down the
doctor's instructions for the solution of the eucalyptus oil, and the
frequency of the application and was quickly engrossed in his task.
"So, what does he say, Brandon?" came the tired but calm voice
of the Captain.
Brandon started at the sound of Pellew's voice, his pencil going awry on
paper. "Sir, I'm sorry....I had hoped I would not disturb you"
"You did not." Pellew shifted suddenly, uncomfortably, in his
please, tell me. Does our dear Dr. Hornblower have any advice?" He
flexed his shoulders, and reached around to massage his back.
"Well, in fact, Sir, he does cite the use of a certain oil, one obtained
the eucalyptus tree - an Australian tree, Sir, as being beneficial in
maintaining, or even clearing, the airway, in cases of respiratory illness
and diphtheria. It may well be a preparation that Dr. Knowles is not aware
Pellew sighed, still kneading his lower back muscles, and now getting anxious
and frustrated in the process. "Yes, but what good is that advice to
Brandon?" He let out a deep breath. "Last time I checked, we are
where near Australia-"
"But, sir, " Brandon cried, realizing the confusion, "I have
the oil! I
bought it at Culpeper's, Sir! I had read about it in Dr. Hornblower's book
quite awhile ago, when studying treatments for other conditions. Culpeper's
had it, Sir. We have it!"
Pellew slumped back in his seat. "That is well, then," he said,
unable to sit still, and leaned more towards his side. "Then we may
Dr. Hornblower's advice... will serve us well."
And, just then, Pellew groaned and jerked his body back to an upright
position again, and then reached around his waist, pressing his hands against
his back again, his head down and his eyes closed.
"Your back is hurting you, isn't it, Sir?" Brandon leaned forward
Pellew's arm. "We've spent so much of the day sitting, Sir, that's
"Yes.." groaned Pellew, shifting again in the seat, trying in
vain for a
comfortable posture. "It hasn't bothered me for a long time...but,
and he moaned again as another spasm pierced through him.
"We should stop, Sir. Allow you to get a chance to stretch and walk
That might help."
At first Pellew shook his head, but then the pain was too intense. "All
right" he sighed, and Brandon tapped on the door to signal Charles.
It was a short, but needed break. Charles watered the horses, and Brandon
brought out the hamper Mrs. Broome had given him, as Pellew stretched his
limbs and set to walking around in the clearing by the roadside. They were
trailing the coastline now, having cut through the lower country's midsection
- the hypotenuse of the triangle so to speak. Pellew knew the area well
realized that they were only an hour or so from home. Brandon offered them
some bread topped with slices of the meat, and they each took an apple as
well, taking turns sipping the cool water from the jug. The wind had begun
pick up and there were now some darkening clouds trailing the sun. Charles
unfolded an extra blanket over his lap and Pellew re-fastened his cape to
ward off the chill, and the three of them piled back into the carriage again
for the home stretch.