Love, Duty, and Other Ties That Bind
by Beth

PART 4


Pellew rubbed his eyes, and tried to peer at the clock, squinting. It was
nearly half past twelve. Time for another application of the oil. He brushed
his hand over Pownoll's forehead, sweeping away the silky dark locks which
could easily pass for his own. His son was breathing easier, there was no
doubt of that, now. The oil was working, and Pellew determined to continue
with it until all danger was passed. Without a sound, Brandon came beside
him.

"12:30, Sir." He whispered.

"Yes, Mr. Brandon," he said in a like whisper, so as not to disturb Susanna,
fast asleep on the settee.

"I'll bring the pot over, then." And he went to the fire, where a small pot
of water was kept hot on the hearth. He took another ampule of the oil and
poured a few drops into the water, placing it on the floor close beside the
head of Pownoll's bed. Once again the tingling, evergreen like fumes steamed
up around them in a thick warm vapor. Pellew carefully dampened a towel with
some of the water as Brandon released a few more dropperfuls onto it. After
wringing it out, Pellew dabbed it onto Pownoll's chest and over his throat,
gently, and then after a few moments of sponging him like this, let Brandon
softly drape the hot, moist cloth around his upper chest and throat. His
breathing was still calm and easy, which reassured them both. And then, all
of the sudden, he let out a gentle, but deliberate sigh. A sigh of
contentment, of comfort, and one that heralded at last a period of peaceful,
blessed sleep. And Brandon placed his hand over Pownoll's forehead, and
breathed his own sigh of relief.

"The fever is gone, Sir. I think he's going to be all right, now."

Pellew felt his heart leap into his throat and looked to Brandon as though he
must hear it again, for confirmation that it was so. And, Brandon smiled and
nodded. Pellew bowed his head, then, and offered another silent prayer of
thanksgiving. He raised his head, dabbing the tears away, and went over to
Susanna, calmly embracing her, stroking her curls as he whispered softly to
her.

"He is?" she cried, arising suddenly, coming quickly to the bed. She saw for
herself and threw her arms around Brandon first, and then Pellew, tears of
joy and relief flooding freely from her eyes. She called down to Mrs.
Whitacre, who was so overjoyed by the news that she fell into a fit of
joyful sobs as well. And young Henry Broome insisted on heading out right
then and there for London - even if it was raining and in the middle of the
night, he was ready to go now, he was, and why waste a moment more!

*******


He was swimming; down and further down into the blue-green depths. The
tingling rush of the welcoming cool water enveloped his body as he twirled
deeper and deeper, slaking and refreshing after so many hours of hot sun
beating down upon his skin. He relaxed and drifted, still submerged, and
exhaled softly into the murky depths. His eyes were closed, for some reason,
and yet he could still see the bubbles as he exhaled: watched them simmer up
to the surface, where lighter shades of blue awaited him, and the dappled
rays of sunlight danced in rhythm with the swells. He felt himself start to
effortlessly rise, beckoned to the surface, though it seemed to takes ages to
get there. He bobbed up, breathing in and deeply, welcoming the feel of the
air filling his lungs, turned onto his back to once again feel the light of
the sun on his face. And opened his eyes. The candle was glowing softly on
his bedside table, the only burst of light in a room not yet blessed by the
light of daybreak. He was in bed, although he still felt afloat and knew then
that he had been dreaming. For a sudden but terrifying second he was aware of
such weakness that he honestly thought he was paralyzed - but in the fleeting
midst of his panic he realized that he could move his hand, shift his foot.
And, then, gradually, fragments of memory began to re-emerge: the shaking
chills of fever, and the twining, twisting ropes in his throat that he
thought would squeeze it shut for good, the fearful look in his Mother's
eyes, the hushed tones of the Doctor, the scalding steam of the towels they
would swab onto his throat and chest, and how he would cry out to make them
stop - but no voice would come from him. And later still, that feeling of
floating, of being detached from his body, a great distance from pain and
suffering, an overwhelming rush of exhaustion, and then finally, a vision of
swirling navy, and the sound of sobbing comforted by a strong voice. That
voice....which could only be....but, no, it couldn't....he wasn't here....

And then Pownoll looked over to the other side of his bed, and he saw him. He
was sleeping, his upper body draped over the bed, and his lower half in the
upholstered chair beside it. The white expanse of his shirtsleeve was strewn
over the top of Pownoll's knee and his hand rested just beside his own.
Pownoll reached over and placed his hand on top of his, stunned at the
magnitude of what it meant to have his father beside him. He had so many
words whirling about in his head to say, but when he tried to open his mouth
and speak, his breath left his throat, blissfully painless at last, in
nothing more than a shrill rustle of air. But Pellew heard the sound, and
awoke immediately, raised his head quickly to see those wonderful, expressive
eyes.

"It's you...." Pownoll whispered, smiling, "you're here!"

Pellew smiled back and tousled his son's hair. "Yes, I'm here. And it is so
wonderful to have you awake again, my boy!"

Pownoll struggled determinedly to find his voice. "But, when....when did you
get here?"

"Yesterday...We were all so worried about you, Son."

Brandon awakened now, and came over to Pownoll's other side. "Well, it is
nice to meet you at last, Master Pellew!" he said, patting Pownoll's arm
gently as he sat down beside him.

"Pownoll, this is Mr. Brandon,"

"Your Mr. Brandon, Papa?" he stared at Drew with great admiration now.

'You could say that, young man! Indeed, I'm very proud to serve as Ship's
Doctor for your Father."

"And Mr. Brandon brought the medicine, which helped to stop the pain in your
throat."

"That he did, my dear," came Susanna's gentle voice from the foot of the bed.
"And before you know it, you shall be completely well, and back to yourself
again!"

Pownoll stared up at his parents, moved beyond belief at the way they had
both been there for him, and then looked to Mr. Brandon in praise and
gratitude.

"Thank you, Mr. Brandon," he scratched out, "I will never forget what you
have done for me, I promise."

And Brandon nearly felt himself start to well up with tears. He squeezed
Pownoll's hand, as Susanna sat beside her son to offer him a few sips of
sugared water. They watched as he sank back into a restful sleep once more.
Mrs. Whitacre breezed in then, eager to shoo the exhausted, but triumphant
trio downstairs for a needed change of scenery and a proper breakfast,
despite the awfully early hour, and Brandon was grateful for the chance to
mop his eyes quickly with his shirtsleeve.

"So, shall I set the table with some sustenance then? Captain, I haven't seen
you touch a bite since you set foot in the door so I'll not be hearing a no
>from you, Sir." And Pellew smiled and nodded, knowing she had pegged him
perfectly once again. "Some fresh hot coffee, and some hot scones, baking
just now, they are, and some bacon, I think should do the trick! I'll have it
all right out for you!" she said it as all the while she retrieved all of the
used towels, empty cups and trays and other remaining debris from the night's
vigil.

"That sounds wonderful, Mary. My mouth is already watering!" said Susanna.

"All right for you, Mr. Brandon, then?" Mary asked.

"Oh yes, Ma'am, quite so!" he smiled. And then thought for a second. "I
wonder, might I be so bold to ask if there are any more of those wonderful
biscuits, with the currants and the vanilla icing? The ones you served me
earlier? They were quite delicious...I've never tasted anything like them!"

And Mary threw her head back in laughter. "Why, I do believe I have another
fan of my biscuits here!"

"Indeed, Mary! I think you shall have to add him to the Tin List, what do you
say?" giggled Susanna, as Pellew regarded them all with his own quiet
laughter.

"The "Tin List'?" Brandon inquired hesitatingly.

"Yes, Mr. Brandon, I send tins of 'em back with the Captain all the time. He
gets two or three for his pantry you see, and then, well, Mr. Bracegirdle
gets one, there's Admiral Winslow over in Portsmouth and then, oh yes, Lord
Edrington - but he keeps asking for the recipe and he's not going to get it!"

Brandon stared at her, amazed, and turned round to the Captain. "You mean,
Sir, that you have had these....Bracegirdle as well!...And...and that you've,
neither of you... have ever thought to sh-"

"You have a point you wish to make, Mr. Brandon?" Pellew retorted, with
raised eyebrow, though his mock severity threatened in a moment to give way
to the mirth peeking through in his eyes, and then his shoulders just shook
with laughter.

"That settles it, then, Sir," chortled Mary. "Mr. Brandon shall be added to
the list!"

"The sooner the better!" added Susanna.


*******

Why he had arisen so early, God knew, but there it was five thirty and here
he was in front of the shaving glass making himself presentable. Couldn't
still be the lure of the new uniform - although Archie reckoned fondly that
that certainly wasn't a bad thing - perhaps instead it was the plentiful
supply of hot water, down comforters, and sunrises peeking in through
starched and pristine draperies? Whatever the reason, Archie was rested, and
once clean shaven, eager to sample the crisp morning air of London in
October. Mrs. Broome apologized profusely when she saw him come into the
kitchen. The Captain generally tried to sleep later when he was home, she
apologized, and the coffee wasn't usually ready until closer to 7. If he
could just give her a few minutes, why she'd have a pot ready for him fresh
and hot. But, no Archie didn't want any coffee just then, and was set to
start his walkabout, when the door knocker hammered loudly. It was enough to
wake the entire household if it continued, so Archie ran quickly to the door,
lest they were beset by screaming, or cranky children!

But he opened the door and came face to face with the imposing and nearly
larger than life figure of Lord Spencer himself! Archie stared up at him, all
six and a half feet of him, with the girth to match. His piercing eyes leered
at him from the deep recesses of his face, his thick gray hair as wild as the
stare in his eyes. Archie scrambled to reassure himself that yes, he was
fully and properly dressed at this moment, yes, he had shaved, and that in
all honesty, the man should be damned honoured that this particular
lieutenant was up and at 'em and at the door to greet him personally! The
Admiral strode through the door as if entering his own home, two pathetic
looking escorts shivering behind him - one of them, Archie realized with
disgust, that useless Mr. Ellis who had blessed them all with his presence
last evening.

"Well, who are you?" he bellowed.

"Lieutenant Kennedy, Sir, of the Indefatigable, Sir."

At just that moment, Mr. Hornblower came casually rambling down the stairs,
but much to his instant chagrin, still in dressing gown and unshaven. He
stared at the Admiral in unparalleled embarrassment, and Lord Spencer
noticed him with nothing more than a curious stare, as if suddenly realizing
that an insect was unpleasantly hovering above him.

"You, you're that Hornblower fellow, aren't you?"

Hornblower froze on mid-step. In his dressing gown with hair standing on end
in front of the Admiral, dear God, what a short lived career his would be.

-um - "Yes, Sir, Lieutenant Hornblower, of Renown, Sir" he muttered.

"Another blasted lieutenant!" he cried. "I come here seeking a Captain, and
all I get is a pair of bloody lieutenants, dammit to Hell! Now where is
Pellew?"

"He is, away, Sir." stammered Kennedy.

"AWAY?" he screeched. "Well, find him, man!"

"Sir," explained Kennedy, "He was called away to his estate in Devonshire,
with a family emergency, Sir."

"And I don't care if he's gone clear up to SCOTLAND! He has orders, young
man!"

"Yes, Sir, but his son, Sir," tried Kennedy again, "his son was taken
dangerously ill, Sir!"

"And I am in the midst of fighting a war, Mr. Kennedy!" Spencer boomed out.
"And I have been fighting it for nigh onto eight years, Sir, and I am trying
to fight it with ships! With our ships, Sir! And I have, in my years,
learned that if there are more French ships out there fighting it than
British ships, then I AM NOT LIKELY TO WIN THAT WAR, AM I, LIEUTENANT!"

"No, Sir," Kennedy blanched.

"Now, you, either of you - both of you, it matters not to me, had better find
your Captain Pellew and find him soon, if you know what's good for you, and
you'd better tell him that if HE KNOWS what's GOOD FOR HIM, he'll be on board
Indefatigable by sundown tonight, ready to set sail for the Bay of Biscay by
sunrise TOMORROW! And, if not, tell him NOT TO BOTHER REPORTING AT ALL!!" And
he smacked the dispatches squarely into the palm of Kennedy's hand, and
turning on his heels, stormed back into his regal coach, his minions trailing
meekly behind him.

Kennedy stood there, as they drove off, alternating looks down at the
dispatches and at the speeding coach. Hornblower tightened the silk sash at
his waist, ran a hand through his uncombed hair and sauntered down the
remaining steps.

"Well, that was a fabulous first impression I made, don't you think?" he
said, and finally smiled.

"Oh God, Horatio! What are we to do?" asked Archie.

And, despite Archie's efforts to try and maintain some semblance of peace and
quiet, the children gradually emerged down the stairs, still in their
nightclothes and so anxious to know who that troublesome visitor had been.
Emma shushed them, and kept them perched on the landing, so they could
continue to eavesdrop undetected.

"What do we do?" answered Horatio. "Well, I suppose we'd better get this
dispatch off to the Captain."

"But, Horatio, think about it!" Archie argued. "By the time we'd be able to
get this out to Exmouth, and the time it would take for the Captain to travel
to Portsmouth, it'd be well past sundown - you know that!"

"Oh Dear...You're right....Well, then..."

And then, an exhausted and scraggly Henry Broome strode into the kitchen from
the back doorway, dropping his satchel onto the floor rambling on into the
hallway, somewhat wary at seeing all the activity downstairs at such an hour.

"Ma," he cried. "It's me, Henry!"

And Mrs. Broome and the children rushed from their covert posts to crowd
around him, on the edge of fear and eagerness at the news he brought from
Exmouth.

"The news is good, evry'one! The fever's broke, and Mr. Brandon thinks that
Master Pownoll shall recover fine!"

After a joyful exchange of hugs, tears and prayers of thanks, Archie suddenly
stood still in the foyer, his face a picture of amazement.

"Wait a minute, I've got it!" he said with a stunned smile, for a moment
astonished at his own ingenuity.

"What?" cried Horatio. "What is it?"

"We'll go down to Portsmouth, right away, and then we'll SAIL the Indy to
Exmouth!"

"Archie, have you quite lost your mind?" Horatio shook his head, not wanting
to upset his dearest friend, but really this idea was outlandish to say the
least!

"Horatio, consider!" Archie pleaded. "You know as well I do that in
considerably less than the time it would take to go to Exmouth and then on to
Portsmouth, we could go to Portsmouth, and then sail to Exmouth! You know we
could!"

"But Archie, haven't you forgotten something? We don't know where it is! We
don't know his estate- we've never been there!"

"Well, we haven't," said Archie, now with a sly smile. And then he looked
over to hallway behind them. "But they have!"

"Damn straight we have!"

"Miss Julia, manners please, child!" begged Mrs. Broome from the kitchen
doorway - where she had been, listening as well.

But Julia stood firmly, arms folded across her chest, and smiled.

"We can do it, you know we can, Mr. Hornblower!" pleaded Emma. "You must let
us come with you! You must!" And they all piped up in a near deafening chorus
of pleas and promises.

"But Archie, my God,... what if,....and who's to say Mr. Bracegirdle would
even allow it?"

"Mr. Bracegirdle wouldn't hesitate for one second to help Captain Pellew and
you know it, Horatio." Archie's persistence was now beginning to have an
impact, though Horatio still had his doubts.

"But, Archie, if the Captain doesn't agree....if we've got this all wrong, my
God, he'll have our hides!"

"No, Horatio. He'll have my hide. For this was my idea and I'll not deny it,"
Archie was firm, unwavering. "You'll be off the hook, trust me...Besides,
he's not your Captain anymore, is he?"

And somehow that parting shot seemed a blow to Horatio, though it was true
enough. "By God, you don't have to say it like that, Archie.....But, all
right....I'll agree."

"Then it's settled! If Captain Pellew cannot get to the Indy, then WE, all of
us, shall get the Indy to HIM!"

And there was arose such a swell of "YES!" from the children, from the staff,
that passersby outside could only guess at the cause of such an uproar on
such a normally quiet street as this one at half past six in the morning.

"Now, children, please, you must listen carefully!" Archie was firmly in
command of this mission now. "If we are to do this right, we must leave as
soon as possible for Portsmouth, do you understand? I want to hurry upstairs,
get dressed, bring only what you need, and report back here in fifteen
minutes!"

"Aye, aye, Sir!" answered George, with his best salute. And they ran with
lightning speed up the stairs. Mrs. Broome and Melinda watched them run with
amazement, shaking their heads.

"Mrs. Broome, Miss Melinda," asked Horatio, "will you join us as well, then?"

"I'll be there with bells on, Mr. Hornblower!" laughed Melinda. "I couldn't
miss seeing little George 'aving the time of his life on that ship...And I'll
hold on tight to Edward," she added, cuddling him close to her now. "We'll be
just fine, don't you worry 'bout us, Sir!"

"And you, Mrs. Broome?"

"Why, thank ye, Mr. Hornblower, but truth be told, I think it best if me, Mr.
Broome and the laddie here stay on and tidy up 'afore we close the place down
again," she nodded, and then she called Hornblower over closer to whisper in
his ear: "Fact is, Sir, I get bloody sea sick out there, I've
learned....trust me, Son, ye wouldn't want me around ....ye wouldn't!"

"I understand, Mrs. Broome, believe me, I understand!"


********

"There now, young man, I've brought a tray with a bit of each of your most
favourite things, what do you think of that?"

Pownoll, sat up carefully, as Pellew supported his shoulders, and smiled
eagerly at the wonderful food in front of him. He'd awakened after quite a
wonderful rest, and discovered to his glee that he was famished.

"Thank you, Mrs. Whitacre," he said softly as he stared at the food before
him. He smiled and gave a small giggle. "I'm so hungry!"

Susanna brought her hands to her face in utter joy, and the tears slipped
>from her eyes once again - tears of relief and bliss, that her son was soon
to be well again. Pellew saw her reaction and reached for her hand,
squeezing it gently.

As Pownoll tucked into a generously buttered slice of bread, a thought
suddenly occurred to him. "Did they have the Regatta then?" he said with his
mouth full. He swallowed. "It is Tuesday, is it not? It was to have been on
Sunday morning."

"I suppose they did, Son." Pellew said sympathetically. "And I imagine you
would have made us all very proud. And next year, why, you will for certain!"
he said, embracing Pownoll's shoulders.

Pownoll smiled as he felt his father's strong arm around him. "Yes, Papa, I
will. We'll let Alex and Harry have their prize this year, then. But, next
year, Exmouth Bay is mine!"

They all cheered, and Pownoll looked out his window at his beloved view of
the bay. And then suddenly he sat up all the way, nearly upsetting his tray,
and cried hoarsely, "Pa-PA!! It's the Indy!...It's the Indy, Papa! ...Why,
I'd know her anywhere!!! She's just like our painting!... Papa, look!"

"By God, Sir!," cried Brandon, staring in utter disbelief at the sea before
him.

Pellew leapt from beside his son and went to the window. "God in Heaven," he
whispered, and then he was utterly without the power of speech. He threw open
the doors to the portico and walked out onto the huge terrace.

And there, coming into the bay before him, was Indefatigable, as brilliant
and impressive as he had ever seen a sailing ship in his entire life. He
stared in amazement, as she sailed closer into view. In a short time the
amazement gave way to a reassertion of stern command, as the Captain inside
him began to wonder just what the Hell was going on.

"Susanna! Bring my glass will you? Please!"

She hurried it out to him, assessing his state of mind warily, trying to
gauge his reaction to all of this.

"Now, Edward, please, darling, try and stay calm...Why, I'm sure there is a
perfectly reasonable explanation for this - I'm sure-"

"Oh, I can just imagine." He said sardonically, and Susanna knew in a flash
that it was not Edward Pellew that said it, no it was the fierce Captain
Pellew speaking now. Oh dear, she thought, as he began to peer through his
glass.

He focused the glass onto the quarterdeck., muttering aloud as he did so, "Ah
yes, Mr. Bracegirdle, Mr. Bowles, and Mr. Kennedy, as I suspected. Ah, and
Mr. Hornblower, of course, well why not, one for all and all for one, isn't
that how the saying goes? ....Wait a minute....what -what the devil -.Good
God in heaven!" He was fuming now.

"Now, dear...Temper, darling, temper!" But then curiosity got the better of
her as well. "What do you see? Darling.... please, what is it?" Susanna put
her hand over her forehead to try and block out the sunlight, and see more
clearly. But she couldn't make out the details.

"It's Julia! ....Julia is at the wheel of MY SHIP!... By heaven, what in the
name of creation is going on out there??"

"Our Julia? Are you sure?" Susanna kept staring, and then finally, as the
ship sailed in closer, she saw her. She saw her!

"And, Fleetwood, and there's Emma, George and -" And then, suddenly and
undeniably in spite of himself, Captain Pellew began to laugh. "And Edward!"

"Our Edward? -George and Edward?" But they were only toddlers, for heaven's
sake! She squinted again but this time the sun glare was too strong. "But
Melinda is there as well, isn't she?...My Dear?.... My Dear! Please tell me
that Melinda is on that ship somewhere, Edward!"

"Yes, darling, Melinda is there, somewhere on decks, but, well, ....you've
got to see this -"

And he handed her the glass, and she peered through, and broke into the
widest of smiles. There, on deck, were her children, clearly having the time
of their lives. Julia was steering the wheel, with the help of one the crew,
and Mr. Hornblower beside her. Fleetwood and George were at the ready by one
of the gun ports, preparing to pretend fire the cannon. Emma was standing on
the quarterdeck, lost in a dreamy gaze towards Mr. Kennedy, who seemed to
take great pride in explaining some sort of detail to her concerning the
rigging. And there, held happily by dear Mr. Bowles, was none other than
little Edward. He was smiling at first, twirling his bottle of milk, and
then, well...

"oh dear," said Susanna, giggling, as she handed the glass back to her
husband. "Please tell him not to worry. Mrs. Whitacre will get that stain
out most easily -" And Pellew tried not to look too flustered. Susanna
watched as the ship seemed to come to a halt, still some hundred yards off
shore.

"Are they stopping? Why are they stopping now?"

"They'll come the rest of the way in the jolly boats, see they're lowering
them now. And, they'll rig the hoist -"

"Hoist?" asked Susanna. *What on earth could that be?*

But it was time for another surprise, as Pellew, keeping his glass ever
trained on them all, watched in pride and amazement as each and every one of
them, even Emma, and Melinda, holding securely onto Edward, climbed surely
down the sideladder into the waiting boats. "My heavens," he breathed, "well
done, then!"

"Is that the hoist, Edward?" Susanna asked, pointing to the precariously
swinging plank, knotted at each end with rope. "That thing?"

Edward followed her gaze. "Well, yes of course that's it!"

"Well then OF COURSE they took the ladder, my Dear! You'd never convince me
to have a ride on that! That, that thing, in the vernacular of your beloved
Mrs. Broome is nothing more than a bleedin' swing, that is! I'd go for the
sideladder myself, I would!"

"Why, Lady Pellew, I think that is the just about the most endearing thing I
have ever heard you say, my love!" and Susanna elbowed him playfully in the
ribs.

In a matter of a few moments the jolly boats reached the pier, and the
officers and crew helped the children onto the docking platform. They
scampered like wild rabbits up the great stairs and onto the massive portico
and into their parents arms, all of them shouting at once, jumping up and
down for attention, asking about Pownoll, so great was their relief, and so
eager to tell them of their great adventure.

"Papa, I sat at your desk! And you DID hang the picture I drew for you! Just
like you said you would! Oh, Papa!"

"I got to read the charts and turn the wheel! It was easy! Well, Mr.
Hornblower helped!"

"Your officers were so lovely to us, papa! Especially Mr. Kennedy!"

"Wait till we tell Pownoll that we fired the cannon!"

"The biscuits were hard as rocks!"

"But the beer was good!"

"Mr. Bracegirdle says that you're the best captain in the whole world, Papa!"

When their exclamations had all settled down to a lower roar, Mrs. Whitacre
came out to resume control of her charges, and they rushed in with her to
Pownoll's bedroom, so excited to see their brother and tell him all that they
had been doing. Behind them, many paces back, officers Hornblower, Kennedy
and Bracegirdle, strode up the steps and onto the expanse of the terrace.

By now, Pellew had managed to regain his commander's bearing and suppressed
his paternal side for the moment. He awaited them sternly as they quietly
approached.

"Well, gentlemen, I assume you have some sort of reasonable explanation for
your exploits today?"

But to Pellew's surprise, it was Mr. Kennedy who stepped forward. "Sir, if I
may..." he asked cautiously, though his eyes did not stray from Pellew's
piercing gaze. "This is my doing, Sir. And I should like to explain..."

"I am all ears, Mr. Kennedy. Please, enlighten me."

"Sir, a dispatch from Lord Spencer was delivered to your house yesterday
evening. I explained to the courier that you were not at home, that you had
been called to your estate with a family emergency. The courier - a young man
of 14 at the most, Sir - had no other instructions, so he simply held onto
the dispatch, turned round and went back to Admiralty House, I presume. But,
at six o'clock this morning, Lord Spencer himself arrived at the house, Sir "

"Lord Spencer, at six o'clock in the morning? Bloody Hell," Pellew caught
himself, cleared his throat. "Please, go on -"

"Well, Sir, he was quite angry that you were not to be found at home. I, we,
tried to explain to him that you had been called away and that your son was
seriously ill, Sir, but he wouldn't have any of it. He left another dispatch
for you - I have it here - and told us that we had better find you and inform
you that if you were not on board Indefatigable by sundown tonight, ready to
depart for the Bay of Biscay at sunrise tomorrow, not to bother reporting at
all, Sir." He paused for a second, to gather his courage. "I'm sorry, Sir."

"I see," Pellew murmured. Another Admiral with a heart of stone. "There is
more, I take it?"

"Well, Sir, shortly after Lord Spencer left, Master Broome arrived with your
marvelous message from Exmouth, that your son was expected to recover. And so
Horatio, that is, Mr. Hornblower, and I considered that in rather less than
the time it would take to get word to you, and for you to then travel to
Portsmouth, we could all go to Portsmouth and, well...bring the ship to you,
Sir."

Here, Mr. Bracegirdle stepped in. "You will, I hope, be pleased to know that
we stayed as close in to shore as possible the entire time, Sir. At no point
were we more than a mile out, at the most, I promise you."

Pellew nodded, and stared down to the fine marble tiles of the portico,
suddenly overwhelmed.

"And may I add, Sir, that it is presently 5:45 in the afternoon." It was Mr.
Hornblower, in that clear resolute voice of his, God love him. "By my
calculation, you have approximately one and one-half hours before
sundown....Sir."

At this, Pellew could not suppress his smile. He raised his head and regarded
each of them with unspeakable pride. "So I shall have obeyed my order, then,
Mr. Kennedy?"

"Sir," said Kennedy, "We are at war, Sir...And if I recall correctly, a
Captain, a very wise Captain, once told me that when at war, Sir, we are to
react to an order without hesitation....." He paused, took a breath and then
continued. "If we took unwarranted liberties, Sir, then I apologize and I
shall take full responsibility...please know that our intentions were to be
of assistance to you, and to your family, Sir."

"Quite so, Mr. Kennedy....And I do not know what to say... " Pellew eyes
began to pool suddenly, and he stared out to sea to gather his words. "I
cannot endeavor to think how I shall ever manage to thank you, for what you
have done for me..." And he turned back to face them, eyes brimming with
tears.

The men's faces broke into relieved smiles, awash with satisfaction and pride.

"and for what you have given my family - why you have made my children's
fondest wish come true - " then suddenly he paused, and looked down. "Save
for one," he murmured it so softly, and then his voice caught, and he pursed
his lips, unable to continue.

For a fleeting but horrific second Hornblower and Kennedy caught each other's
eye - Had Pownoll not survived after all? But they'd had a message! Could
there have been a relapse? Hornblower started to stammer "Sir, ...oh my God,
...I am so sorry, Sir, but we thought, we had your message..." he started to
gasp. And then, with a gentle creak, the door from the bedroom came open.

There, emerging onto the patio, was an exhausted but smiling Brandon, his
face fatigued, yet effervescent. And leaning very carefully onto the rumpled
sleeve of his arm, was a very fragile and pale, but smiling young lad with
wavy chestnut hair, and those Pellew eyes that spoke volumes in their
expression - immeasurable wonder, gratitude, and underneath all of that, a
well of strength.

"Gentlemen," announced Brandon, "May I present Master Pownoll Pellew?"

Hornblower felt his spirit take flight and soar straight up to heaven as
young Master Pownoll came unsteadily, but surely, over to him. The boy drew
his dressing gown closer over his night shirt and britches, to fend off the
autumn breeze, and then he extended his hand out in greeting.

"Master Pownoll, this is Lieutenant Hornblower," continued Brandon.

"Mr. Hornblower," he said, softly. "It's an honor to meet you, Sir." And
Hornblower bowed and warmly took his hand.

"and Lieutenant Bracegirdle" and Pownoll kept on smiling as he shook Mr.
Bracegirdle's hand. But then Mr. Brandon leaned in close to Mr. Bracegirdle
with a knowing smile on his face.

"Excuse me, Mr. Bracegirdle, I just wanted you to know that I am now on the
Tin List, Sir!"

Bracegirdle stared blankly back at him at first, and then a glimmer of
recognition hit and he broke into a wide smile. "Well done, Mr. Brandon, well
done, Sir!" And Brandon beamed, steering the boy on ahead.

"And, finally, young man, this is Lieutenant Kennedy."

And Pownoll stopped in front of Mr. Kennedy, who took his hand as well.

"Thank you, Mr. Kennedy," he said, his voice still tinged with scratches.
"Thank you for bringing my Father's ship home to us. Thank you for
everything, Sir." And Pownoll nodded his head in salute.

Kennedy thought his very heart would burst at that moment. And he bit his lip
to find his voice. "It is an honor and a privilege to be of service, Master
Pellew." And he returned the salute to Pownoll, who grinned from ear to ear.

Pellew came up beside his son, and Pownoll reached for his Father's hand, and
nodded his head out towards where Indefatigable lay rocking on the gentle
swells of the tide. "She is magnificent, Father. Every bit as wonderful as I
knew she would be!"

Pellew saw the longing in his son's eyes as he gazed at her - he recognized
it as the same look he must surely bear whenever he first got sight of this
most glorious frigate. And, in an instant, he turned back around to Susanna.

She had been leaning against the back wall, silently rejoicing in the scenes
that had played out in front of her in these last several moments. The safe
return of her children, and the incomparable devotion of her husband's
officers. As Pellew turned to her, she saw in the plea in his eyes.

"Susanna....please?"

What else could she say? She smiled and sighed.

"Thirty minutes....Thirty minutes, Edward and not a moment more!.....And you
must hold onto him the entire time, do you understand me. .... Edward?" *Oh
for God's sake,* she thought to herself, *I sound just like my own mother!*

"Absolutely, my love!" And with that, he scooped his son up into his arms,
and gently but quickly whisked him down the steps to the waiting jolly boat,
and while Pownoll carefully held onto his father's shoulders, the smile on
his face was as broad as the horizon itself.

"Mr. Matthews, take us aboard, if you please!"

"Aye, aye, Cap'n, Sir! Look lively, now lads, and ....PULL!"

Susanna watched for a moment as the crew rowed the Captain and his son
smoothly out to the ship. She went over to three most exemplary lieutenants.

"Mr. Hornblower," she greeted him warmly with kisses on each cheek. "Mr.
Bracegirdle, dear Mr. Bracegirdle," and gave him two kisses as well. And
then Mr. Hornblower introduced her to Mr. Kennedy.

"Sir," she went to extend her hand in a proper first greeting, but in an
instant her emotion and gratitude overcame her and she threw her arms around
his shoulders and enveloped him a grateful hug. "Thank you...' she whispered
into his ear. "oh, thank you, Mr. Kennedy!"

Mr. Kennedy drew back, not recalling when he had ever felt so pleased with
himself in his entire life. He bowed to Lady Pellew, and kissed her hand.

"An honor, My Lady. Truly, an honor."


And, there, out in the distance before them all, some hundred yards offshore,
a gloriously happy boy stood proudly on the quarterdeck of his father's
frigate, hands on the railing, reveling in the hypnotic bounce of the waves
and the salty breeze that swirled across his face. He stared out to the
horizon, and then looked up to his father, standing solidly behind him, hands
on his shoulders.

"Someday, I shall sail on a ship... just like this, Father. And you shall
teach me everything I need to know... And we shall serve our country... and
we shall travel all the world together, won't we, Papa?"

"Indeed we shall, my boy. Indeed, we shall!"



END