"Susanna" Chapter 1
by Beth

Time/Setting: At the start of the "Wrong War" episode. I've mucked around a
bit with the order of things. Assume the Indy has been in port in London for
a week or so. Hornblower has his new Leftenant's uniform. Captain Pellew has
been in round the clock meetings at Admiralty House. It is the height of the
social season in London, and so Lady Pellew and the children are presently at
their London townhouse and everyone who is anyone has been invited to a Ball
at the Lord Grenville's huge estate - just on the edge of London. Anyone
includes Naval officers, of course!

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Horatio could but stare at the splendor of the sights and sounds before him
- the glittering chandeliers, the lords and ladies whirling by in their silks
and satins, the triumphant gavotte offered up by the splendid music of the
chamber orchestra, and the nearly garish display of food and drink - garish
at least to someone who had been subsisting on naval rations for the last
four weeks, and that starveling excuse for food in the Spanish prison before
that. Quickly, he ordered those memories away - nothing was going to take
away from his revelation in this evening's festivities. Never in his dreams
of joining the Navy had he thought of the social side of things- how having
had the good fortune to have been made an officer in His Majesty's Navy (and
now, by God, a Leftenant, at that!), nor had he imagined an invitation to
such splendor as this. Here he was, resplendent in his new uniform, at the
very center of social London - indeed the epicenter of all that was right and
well with the world, even more so in light of the awful instability and
destruction going on over on the continent. Horatio drew in a deep breath and
sighed in utter satisfaction. I am an officer. I belong here... this is
right. He scarcely knew where to step first when suddenly he felt a tug in
his sleeve.

"Fine sight, eh, Horatio?" said Mr. Bracegirdle, smiling in anticipation.
"But why are we just standing on the sidelines? Into the fray, sir!"

"Spoken like a happily married man, Mr. Bracegirdle" Horatio chided playfully
back.

Bracegirdle smiled. "Margaret has not a thing to be worried about," he stated
- as if he had already had this very exchange with his own conscience. "I am
only here to look, of course."

"Of course!" Horatio smiled. Where to go first? They'd been handed flutes of
champagne when they entered the great hall. Should they sample the food,
survey the dancing, or enjoy the moonlit beauty of the enormous balcony,
overlooking the equally moonlit and stunning gardens. Bracegirdle had begun
to suggest something to do with food, but as he turned toward his friend he
suddenly noticed that Horatio wasn't listening, he had been dumbstruck by
something.

"Horatio, what is it? What are you staring at?"

"I do believe I have just seen one of the most magnificent women in all of
England, Mr. Bracegirdle. Just look at her!"

Bracegirdle slowly followed Horatio's eyes in the direction of his targeted
gaze. "Ah, indeed," he said in keen recognition.

She was smiling politely in a clustered circle of chattering women and indeed
amongst them she stood out as no one else did. Her brown eyes fairly
sparkled, a true match for the glittering sapphires delicately laced around
her throat, the same shade of sapphire as the velvet ribbon in her hair - an
upswept chignon of lustrous brown curls, a few tendrils of which escaped to
perfectly frame her shoulders, sheathed in creamy sheer lace and gathered at
her d colletage, and then, swirled down into a gown of exquisite sapphire
velvet. One that perfectly draped her incomparable figure - it swept past her
slender waist and then whirled into a glorious full skirt below. While she
wasn't young, in her mid thirties, Horatio would have guessed, and been
right, she had (as most young women had) thankfully abandoned the ridiculous
powdering of her hair, while some of the older ladies still did it - even
several of those ensconced around her. And indeed this lady of title overall
seemed firm and confident in her own presence, her own sense of self - her
own hair, and even her own lightly tanned skin. No doubt she also eschewed
the notion that those of the fairer sex should not be allowed to let the sun
ever hit their faces. Smiling broadly, Bracegirdle was forced to acknowledge
Horatio's awe - indeed this was a lady of magnificence. And, at that very
moment, she must have felt these two pairs of eyes upon her, for suddenly,
she turned her gaze first to Mr. Hornblower, and then to Mr. Bracegirdle. On
seeing it was the latter, she broke into a cheerful grin, eager to have at
last found a reason to escape the charming, if utterly boring, conversation
of these well meaning, overly made-up chatterboxes. She excused herself, and,
opening her fan, began to walk towards the two gentlemen.

Hornblower blanched. Good God, she had caught him staring, and was now headed
right towards him, no doubt to reproach him for his rudeness. How
humiliating! He glanced to Mr. Bracegirdle - perhaps they could make
something up to save face - but Mr. Bracegirdle was grinning broadly,
preparing to greet her! What the devil was going on here?? As she joined
them, Bracegirdle bowed, as per custom. Hornblower meekly followed suit.

"My Lady," Bracegirdle said with gusto, "An honor to make your acquaintance
again!"

What?? He knew her?? She knew him? What in God's name -

"May I say that you look absolutely splendid this evening?"

The Lady smiled and nodded. "Thank you, dear Mr. Bracegirdle, and how very
lovely to see you again! And, you have brought a friend!"

Bracegirdle smiled again - relishing the upcoming piece de resistance. "Yes,
My Lady. If I may I take the liberty of presenting to you our newly
commissioned Leftenant, Mr. Horatio Hornblower," Hornblower began to bow
again, as Bracegirdle moved in for the coup de grace. "Mr. Hornblower, may I
present to you Lady Susanna Pellew." Hornblower's breath left him in mid bow.
Lady Pellew? The Captain's Lady, his Captain's Lady? Good God. His mind was
racing. Well, of course, why not. It stood to reason after all - one of the
most admired officers in the whole damn fleet, wasn't he, so why wouldn't his
wife be one of the most stunning creatures ever to grace God's earth. Of
course. It made perfect sense.

Hornblower stood and tried to find his voice. "L-Lady Pellew, an honor, Sir.
.. I mean, Ma'am. An honor, an honor, My Lady." Oh help...

Susanna smiled and nodded towards him. "Mr. Hornblower, the honor is mine. My
husband has told me so much about you. And my sincere thanks to both of you
gentlemen for your steadfast service and loyalty to my husband. I assure you
it is greatly appreciated."

"No less so, My Lady," chimed Mr. Bracegirdle, with enviable ease, "than is
our indebtedness to the Captain, for his steadfast service to us, and to the
fleet."

Hornblower tossed in a belated accompaniment of "hear, hear". It was all he
could muster for the moment, seemingly disarmed in this momentous exchange
of repartee. Susanna smiled and nodded. They were eating of her hand, as
usual. But how lovely to have finally met Mr. Hornblower, of whom Edward had
so often written to her. His young protege, at last here in front of her. She
wasted no time in placing herself between them and engaging them in
conversation. So much to catch up on! Mr. Bracegirdle, having served with the
Captain off and on for the past several years, was eager to hear about the
family. Goodness, they were up to five children now! Three boys and two
girls, the youngest born just a year ago last April. Hornblower again felt a
stab of awe. Five children and to be as beautiful as she was - amazing! Wait
a moment, did she say April of last year, 1792? Why, that would have been
just after the Fire Ship incident in Gibraltar. Dear God, you would have
thought the Captain would have dropped a hint about it or something. No
wonder Bracegirdle was so eager to chat with her and get on her good side -
it seemed the only way to find out anything about this intensely private
Captain of theirs. Once she had established the health and well-being of Mrs.
Bracegirdle, and their children, Susanna turned her attention to Horatio. To
the delight of Bracegirdle, she quickly confirmed his bachelor status and
then took it upon herself to preview various potential dance partners for
Horatio - instantly offering up a summarized and spectacularly funny C.V. of
each eligible lady who danced or strolled by - Horatio wasn't the only object
of staring in the great hall, it seemed, and Susanna had noticed it. Oh, he
blushed something fierce at the start, and then was assured and cajoled by
Susanna's warmth and genuine affection. The trio continued their reverie,
enjoying the music and dancing around them, the celebratory atmosphere of the
ball. It was anticipated that the Prince Regent would attend as well, and the
accompanying pomp and circumstance elevated everyone's excitement. As Horatio
retrieved another three glasses of champagne, he saw Susanna suddenly and
deliberately turn towards the entrance to the Great Hall, and there,
entering the room were the Captain and Admiral Lord Hood - at last concluded
with their meetings at Admiralty House. Horatio was struck again by Susanna -
how she seemed to have had some sort of instinctive awareness that her
husband was there - before anyone could have seen him enter the room. Horatio
watched as Captain Pellew and Admiral Hood made their way past greetings to
Lord and Lady Grenville, and various others, Admiral Hood pausing to linger
in conversation to another gentleman, while the Captain kept on making his
way through the gathering. All the while, Susanna never took her gaze from
him, and when at last their eyes met, Horatio was sure that he had never seen
a gaze as full of rapture as that which Captain Pellew had for his wife, or
she for him. He made his way to her quickly, and took her arm. Oh, if looks
could speak - or convert themselves into actions!

The Captain nodded to his wife, "My dear, I apologize for having left you on
your own all this time."

"No apology needed, I assure you, my dear. Indeed I have been in the most
engaging company of your two fine Leftenants. We have managed very well, I
think!" She smiled and gestured to Horatio and Mr. Bracegirdle.

"Gentlemen," offered the Captain. Hornblower and Bracegirdle nodded their
greetings. "Mr. Hornblower, I see that you have met my wife."

"Indeed sir, it has been my very great honor" said Hornblower.

"Yes, well..." said the Captain, momentarily a little uncomfortable at this
inevitable collision of his professional and personal life. "Why are you not
dancing, then Mr. Hornblower? Surely there is no shortage of suitable
partners -"

At this, Mr. Bracegirdle and Susanna tried, but could not suppress, their
giggles. And Hornblower blushed again.

"Oh, believe me, Sir, I have tried my best," said Susanna, laughing. Edward
was finally forced to smile as well.

"Gentlemen, if you will excuse us," he finally said, "there is something I
need to discuss with my wife. Please, go and enjoy yourselves, you certainly
deserve to. I will see you tomorrow, eleven AM at Admiralty House. We will
have much to discuss."

"Sir, very good Sir." They both nodded and spoke in unison. Susanna nodded
good night to each of them and thanked them for their company.

And, with that, Edward guided Susanna away from the crowd, towards the
inviting fresh air of the balcony. Truth be told, he hated these kinds of
affairs. He detested crowds and he didn't like dancing. Well, he enjoyed
watching it. Sometimes. And, he certainly enjoyed music - when it was not
cluttered up by conversation. Susanna had to admit that she didn't much care
for these galas either - oh it was nice to put on a gorgeous gown once in
awhile, and it was especially nice to have a chance to talk with her
husband's officers, and she loved music as well, probably even more than
Edward. But, honestly, given that she and Edward were separated so much, what
she really craved was time alone with him, or time with just him and the
children. Once they reached the balcony, the gentle breeze of the cool fresh
air, made them both sigh with relief. She noticed their mutual reaction and
smiled. Edward was still looking very serious, though. They found a quiet
corner where no one would hear them.

He stood gazing towards the moonlit garden paths. "My dear, I am afraid that
we shall be departing imminently, perhaps as early as tomorrow. I am sorry,
I had hoped it would not be so soon."

Susanna touched his shoulder, as if to remind him that she stood next to him,
and was not out in the garden, where he was looking. He took her hand and
turned toward her. This was a good sign, Susanna thought. Occasionally, he
stiffened when she attempted to touch him in public - mostly, she was a good
judge of what moments were appropriate and which were not. This one had been
a challenge.

"I understand" she said, as he held her hand in his. "You seemed troubled,
my Dear. Is it something to do with the Admiral?"


Edward caressed her hand softly, perhaps absentmindedly as he quickly but
carefully surveyed the balcony. "It seems that there is yet another faction
of French Royalists, ready to go and have another run at Paris."

"Again?" asked Susanna. "That would make how many attempts, thenÖ" her voice
trailed off and she sighed.

On one hand she could not help but question what it had to do with England
that France had decided to go positively mad and attempt to obliterate not
only the royal family, but anyone with aristocratic ties. Already some of the
lucky fugitives who had escaped the Terror had been introduced into Susanna's
circle of friends and their stories of escape and worry for their children,
their husbands, their friends were harrowing. More tragic were the reports of
those that had not been so lucky - entire families - even children! - gone to
the guillotine. She blinked away the nightmarish thought of any of their
children in such peril. Edward was looking out to the gardens again - so much
must be going through his mind. So much that he could not say - not here,
where there could be spies from the revolutionary French government at any
gathering, around any corner. He sighed, too, and then as if catching himself
in a most rude lapse, turned back around to Susanna.

"My dear, can you possibly forgive me? I have not once told you how
incredibly beautiful you look this evening. Please do not think I did not
notice - as soon as I walked into the hall, I searched to see where you were,
and when I saw you - oh, my dearest, you took my breath away... As you do,
now."

He took her hand and brought it to his lips. Would that he could have done
what he truly wished to do - to hold her close and kiss her so very deeply.
Susanna's eyes sparkled at his compliment. If he only knew how handsome and
fine he was - how many times the other ladies told her so - how lucky she
was. Well, except for the long times apart of course, they would never forget
to add that part. She took his arm and suggested that they ought to rejoin
the festivities - otherwise people might start to talk. Besides, the Prince
Regent was due to arrive any moment and to be anywhere but in the main hall
at the time of the royal entrance would be terribly gauche.

As they walked back to the main room, Edward chuckled at her use of the word
"gauche".

"Do you know" he asked playfully, "what Julia said to me this morning at
breakfast - it was while you were seeing to George, I think." he said with a
smile.

"Goodness, I can scarcely imagine," answered Susanna with a smile and a shake
of her head. Julia, age 10, was their second daughter and the next oldest
child, and the undisputed independent free thinker of the brood. Where Emma,
their oldest, was looking more and more each day to match her mother in
beauty and temperament, Julia spoke her mind and seemed utterly disdainful of
any sort of girlish trappings. She was inquisitive and exceedingly smart, and
she knew it.

"She told me that she couldn't understand why, if Britain was so angry with
France, so as to be at war with it, if we were so displeased by what they had
done with their King and Queen, why was it that she was still being forced to
learn their blasted language!" Edward said it with such pride and
affection. "I must say, for a moment there, she nearly had me - and then I
tried to remember about literature, poetry and essays on philosophy. I don't
think I managed to be terribly convincing, though. I suppose if Mr.
Sheffington complains that she is not applying herself it shall have to be
my fault."

"Oh, my dear," laughed Susanna, "she is truly your daughter, I think." And he
laughed as well.

The trumpets blared from just outside the Great Hall, announcing the arrival
of his Majesty the Prince Regent.

Captain and Lady Pellew made their way to an empty spot in the long line of
guests arranged at the entrance to the Great Hall. Further along the way,
Susanna could see Leftenants Bracegirlde and Hornblower, standing proudly at
attention, Hornblower still with that same adorable look of slightly
flustered awe. As Lord Grenville escorted the Prince past the rows of guests,
the Captain bowed and Susanna curtseyed, as did all of the guests, each in
turn like a row of dominoes, in keeping with the time honored tradition of
centuries. As the Prince went past, he nodded politely to every two or three
faces, a broad smile on his powdered face. Once he had swept past the guests,
the chamber orchestra commenced with a stately minuet and the Prince himself
led the dance with a flourish. The Captain turned to Susanna. He was fully
expecting to suggest an early evening and that they bid their goodnights and
head for their carriage. He knew, and Susanna knew now as well, that this was
likely to be his last night at home. He knew of only one place he wanted to
be now, on this night - he wanted to be home, and in bed with his wife, to
drink of and savor every last possible kiss and caress until he would be
forced to cruelly tear himself away from -

"Captain Pellew, sir," abruptly a stern voice rudely cut off his passionate
sojourn. Edward looked to his other side and saw Leftenant Wheaton, one of
Admiral Hood's officers, looking extremely agitated. "I'm terribly sorry to
disturb you, sir, and, my apologies, my Lady, but Admiral Hood requires you
urgently sir. He is awaiting you in his carriage and requires you to
accompany him back to Admiralty House at once."

Susanna stifled a gasp and turned to Edward. The Captain drew in a sharp
breath and stiffly straightened out his shoulders. He nodded to the
Leftenant and turned back to Susanna. "My- dear," he stammered, "I must go.
I, will try to get word to you, as soon as I know our plans-Perhaps, I will
even have the chance to still return home tonight." With these words he drew
her closer to him, closer that he would normally have liked, given the
uncomfortable proximity of this annoying Leftenant Wheaton, or was it in fact
then that his orders were to personally deliver the Captain to the Admiral's
carriage, for God's Sake? "And, then, I shall be able to bid you a proper
good bye" Edward whispered to her , "as I had hoped to have done so on this
night."

This time Susanna could not quiet an anguished sigh, and reached up to stroke
his cheek. "My love," she said, unable to hide this sudden desperation in her
expression. "Godspeed to you, Sir," She struggled for more words, and then
Edward took her hand from his cheek and kissed it firmly, all the while
regarding her with an expression that was as much one of love as it was one
of admiration at her courage.

In a flash he was gone, and Susanna stood there, still reeling. As if by
rote, she reached for her fan and shook it open, if for no other reason than
to give her brain something to else to focus on - or perhaps to relieve the
flush of heat that suddenly flamed her cheeks. She began to walk back
towards the balcony, although she wasn't really aware of doing this, and as
she neared the railing she heard voices below on the carriageway. She saw the
Admiral's carriage with its Naval insignia on the side begin to drive off in
a fierce hurry. Behind it she saw another carriage pull up, and into it
quickly were dispatched what looked to be four or five other officers - and
she was fairly sure she caught a quick glimpse of Mr. Bracegirdle. The door
was quickly slammed shut and off it surged as well, into the darkness. They
were gone. She knew for certain then that Edward would not return to her
tonight - no doubt they were to set sail early tomorrow, perhaps even steal
away during the night if such a cloak of secrecy required it. Four days of
togetherness now only a memory - and, well, to be honest, not really even
four days, considering that for so much of the time Edward was sequestered
away at Admiralty House, or on board his ship to see to repairs and such.
And yet, deep down, Susanna knew that she should not, and could not, be
ungrateful. She had to admit that. It was wartime, after all. There was no
schedule here, no down time, as it were. Just a constant state of conflict
and continuous attempts to outmaneuver France and soon, hopefully, best her
once and for all. Indeed, the Indefatigable had only been called in to London
at the last moment, she forced herself to remember - and indeed then strictly
for the purpose of receiving these apparent new orders from the Admiralty.
That it had managed to happen while she and the children happened to also be
in London was truly a gift of God's. That out of his four days in port,
Edward had managed to steal away even two nights at home, in her arms - that
was surely another divine bequest. And what love they had made on those two
nights, as she thought back on them now with such reverence and exultation.
They'd even managed it that first morning, when they'd both somehow awakened
before the dawn - Susanna smiled softly at that thought. A blissful interlude
before the onslaught of four deliriously happy children, who, having
awakened at their usual ungodly hour, and seeing the sword and tricorner on
the table in the entryway, knew in a second that Papa was at home and
promptly stormed through the bedroom doors dashing all caution, and
propriety, aside. Only little George had had to wait until Melinda, his
nanny, also no doubt awakened by the exuberant cheers, could fetch him from
the nursery and deliver him all bug-eyed and smiling to the arms of his
anxiously awaiting father. The smile had now crept completely over Susanna's
gentle countenance, having grown in measure as she recalled each treasured
moment with Edward of these past few days. Indeed, they were enough to give
sincere and heartfelt thanks for, and so she did, silently and solemnly, on
that moonlit and glorious terrace.