by Paloma

Chapter Two: Travelling Companions

Loose ends

(Letter from Captain Sir Edward Pellew to promoted Acting Lieutenant Horatio Hornblower, esquire.)

Wood Hall

Mr. Hornblower,

I hope this letter finds you in good health and spirits. My affairs at Wood Hall took longer than anticipated, but finally they have been completely settled. Since my communication to you is more or less related to them , allow me to disclose to you the particulars and the proposal I've been commissioned to deliver.
Part of my business had to do with the sale of certain property attached to my estate to Vive"Admiral Sir Arthur Montague and his wife Lady Elisabeth , whom they have had a very close connection with family for a very long time. After all the negotiations were completed, Sir Arthur was called to London, where he was ordered to report to Gibraltar in order to take charge of the Port Admiral post, left vacant after Admiral Ferguson's recent death. Lady Montague, a charming elderly lady, expressed her wish to be rejoined with her husband as soon as possible. Whenever she travels abroad, she is usually accompanied by one of her nieces, but it seems this time it was quite impossible; so she asked me if I knew of someone, who might have family in the fleet and would wish to be stationed for some months at Gibraltar. So here is the proposal: since there had been no further attacks at sea in the last weeks, I thought , perhaps your sister would like to engage in such a journey. I clearly remembered that she mentioned during my short stay at Evergreen that she was fond of exploring new places and her wish to be near you. Of course the decision rests with you and her own wishes in his matter.
Let me reassure you that I would not engage in such proposition if I haven't feel confident of the safety of the journey. Please consult with Ms. Hornblower and forward me an answer as soon as possible. Once again let me thank you for your kind hospitality during my two days at Evergreen and convey my regards to your kind sister.

Captain Sir Edward Pellew.

(Letter from Acting Lt. Horatio Hornblower, esquire to Captain Sir Edward Pellew)

Evergreen Cottage

Greetings. I was much surprised by your letter and the proposal carried in it. I discussed the matter with my sister and after careful reflection form both of us, she decided to accept. On the other hand, Mrs. McClure" Abbey"lectured us upon the evilness and unnecessary risks of such a journey, bu finally she gave in. It was lucky your letter arrived when it did, mostly because my sister hadn't been herself lately. I'm afraid she worries about the war situation. I'm sure this journey will light up her spirits.
Thank you sir, for your kind consideration. Looking forward to report on board the 'Indefatigable' in one week. Since I know my sister's disposition and sweetness of temper. I have no doubt that both ladies shall het along fine.
My best regards to you, sir,

Acting Lieutenant Horatio Hornblower.

The pier was hidden by heavy fog. Marianne was chatting next to Lady Elisabeth Montague, while Horatio gave orders to the jolly boat's crew about the women's luggage. The day before their arrival to Spithead, the two women met, and as Horatio has anticipated, they both got along remarkably well. Once the luggage was secured, he help them to jump into the boat. The men form his division were ready for that task, as Horatio could observe, specially concerning his sister boarding. Marianne accepted their attentions in a perfect natural way, greeting each of them by their names, and starting a polite conversation about the weather, their health and their families in that order.
Outside the port there was no fog at all, and the 'Indefatigable' appeared in all her beauty, gleaming in the afternoon sunlight.

"There she is!" Horatio's voice was vibrant with pride and emotion.

"It is very beautiful!" Marianne exclaimed.

"It is certainly a lovely sight, my dear."was Lady Montague's comment" I'm sure we'll have an exciting journey... It's been centuries since I've had any kind of adventure at sea. I'm afraid that my husband's present line of work had kept him very much on firm land."

"Oh, m'am. You are not so old!" protested Marianne.

"Fiddlesticks, child! I'm old as the hills.."

Horatio smiled politely.

"Let me reassure your ladyship about the safety of this voyage and that Captain Pellew, the officers and the crew will endeavour in providing you every comfort possible under the circumstances."

The mere mention of his name was enough for Marianne to fell a certain dizziness. Since his departure form Evergreen, three weeks ago, she had been experiencing alternated states of happiness and wretchedness. Sir Edward's face could not be erased from her memory. Every time she closed her eyes, she could see in a most vivid way every single feature of his face, the smallest expression in his dark brown eyes, the way his lips curved on a smile; and above all his words on that first morning" "Do you know how enchanting and remarkable you are?"" The first two or three days she expected a letter from him. At least a few formal lines inquiring about her health and such. A week after that, she waited for hours looking through the windows for a carriage to appear. Nothing of her fantasies happened and when finally a letter from him arrived, there was nothing in it for her, except his "best regards" and this strange proposition. Of course, she was delighted by it, but now, facing his ship, Marianne wondered about how will be this new encounter. What they would say to each other?
As the small boat approached, she saw several men on the upper deck and her heart started pounding so hard, that it almost hurt. There he was! Full uniform, hands on his back, defiant and looking very intensely at the approaching boat. A sudden painful though came to her mind." " This is where he really belongs.. Where he is most happy. A world of men, honour and duty, where there's no place for a woman or a woman's heart. A bird may love a fish, but where would they build their nest?""
She shook off her gloomy thoughts and helped Horatio attend Lady Montague into some kind of a swing.

"My God, Mr. Hornblower! I warn you, this contraption will collapse and you will be courtmartialed, no doubt...." Both Horatio and Marianne laughed merrily.

At last everyone of them stood on deck. Capt. Pellew rushed down his deck to greet them.

"Welcome on board the 'Indefatigable' your ladyship!"

"Thank you Sir Edward, most kind. Have you had any news of my husband?"

"Yes, m'am. Last report was that the "Antworp' was near Algeciras on her way to Gibraltar. By the time we get there, Sir Arthur will be completely settled in his post ." He fixed his eyes upon Marianne, finding her lovelier than the first time he saw her. A little thinner, less colour on her cheeks. He frowned. Was she ill?

"Welcome, Ms. Hornblower!"

"Thank you captain!"

"Mr. Hornblower, good to have you back!"

"Thank you, sir."

"Mr. Bracegirdle, please convey our passengers to their accommodations!"

"Aye, aye, sir! "

"I hope I'll have the pleasure of your company at dinner time!" He tipped his hat and return to his customary place on the quarter deck.

It was not usual to have women on board, since the captain was most reluctant to use his vessel as transport for civilians; so Bracegirdle examined as politely as possible the two ladies in question. One elderly and dignified. The other one, Hornblower's sister, very delicate and extremely pretty. Well, this trip to Gibraltar would be a pleasant experience after all.

"" God knows we need a little softness and happy faces on board! The captain had been in such a terrible mood all these weeks!""

Please, follow me m'am." He offered his arm to Lady Elisabeth who clearly was not very much in control of her balance. Horatio took his sister's elbow and led her to the entrance of the officer's mess hall.

Marianne had imagined that in a ship of almost six hundred men, cleanliness would be hard to find, but to her surprise everything was spotless, with a faint smell of new paint.

"I hope your ladyship and Ms. Hornblower find your cabin suitable. It is the best we have to offer."

He opened the door. The room was larger than expected from the outside and it was evident that it had been newly painted in a soft creamy colour. A small bed stood near the window, a wide cot with a mattress was on the opposite side of the room. The mattress was covered with spotless, delicate laced sheets and a pillow. A small table, two chairs and a ebony dresser completed the decoration. For a moment Marianne make herself believed that all this was the captain's doing, that he was concerned about her well being, bu remembering his sober greeting, she dismissed the thought.

Horatio lowered his voice while speaking to his sister.

"Would you be all right?"

"Of course! Do not worry about me. It is Lady Montague my main concern now. I think it is best if she takes the bed. The cot is good enough for me."

"Yes, it is a good idea. Once we reach open sea, things tend to get a little rough... She most probably will feel seasick."

Lady Elisabeth interrupted Horatio with a naughty smile on her lips, for she had overheard completely that part of the conversation.

"I never get seasick Mr. Hornblower. And I've never fainted in my entire life, because I was never sure of falling graciously, so you do not have to worry yourself on my account. And as for rough conditions, I was with my husband's fleet during the plague in Smyrna in 85', so after that nothing will impressed me at all, let alone some little waves."

"Do forgive your ladyship... I did not mean to..."Horatio's face reddened. Bracegirdle on the other hand was enjoying extremely the elderly lady frankness.

"Never mind, young man. I know it was well intended."And with gentler tone, she took one of Marianne's hands in hers." But I do really appreciate about the bed, dearest. I don't think I could make myself fit into that swinging thing."

"Well, ladies. We take our leave now. I'll escort you both at dinner time to the captain's cabin. Your ladyship! Ms. Hornblower!" Bracegirdle bowed and left the room.

"See you at dinner, brother!" Marianne winked at Horatio, who blew her a kiss before shutting the door.

Captain Pellew has just finished reading the latest dispatches. The seemingly peace between Spain, France and England was about to end. Spain had just recently signed an alliance with France, but maintaining an apparent neutral attitude towards English ships. Sir Edward mistrusted that treaty. He was sure that neither the French nor the Spaniards will respect it, at least regarding the British navy. He stood up and walked silently around his cabin. It was most unfortunate these developments, now that Lady Elisabeth and Ms. Hornblower were on board. If there should be action...

"" What if any harm should come to her? After all it was my idea to bring her here. But why? Why did I do it? I could have said any excuse, or find someone else to look after Lady Elisabeth. Why? ""
He found no answer.

Lady Montague was resting comfortably. Marianne arranged as well as possible their luggage, trying to save some space. After all this was going o be her home for the next three weeks. She came closer to her new bed, feeling a little unbalanced.

""My God! Don't let me be seasick... Not in front of him! ""

The thought of the captain looking at her in contempt sunk her heart. What had become of the warm man she had met at Evergreen? Is it that he disliked the idea of her being on board after all?
She looked at the white sheets. A soft spicy smell arose from them. Marianne inspected them more carefully. They were made of the finest linen, with a sober yet delicate fringe of lace on the fold of the sheet.

"" I never thought this kind of material was used on these ships.""

She compared them to Lady Montague's. Hers were also spotless, but of inferior material, with no lace or decorations of any kind. She looked again closer and discovered this time, embroidered in the lace some initials. E.P.
The warmest of smiles appeared on her face.

"" So he cared! It was his idea!"" She didn't dare finish the thought.

The general information circulating the officer's mess was that their presence was required by the captain for dinner and that two ladies came on board the ship at Spithead. One of them, Hornblower's sister, who by all accounts given by Mr. Bracegirdle was extremely attractive and amiable.
Once at sea, night befell quickly. Evening meals were served early, so at six sharp, Sir Edwad's guests were seated at his table. The captain's good taste was known all around the fleet, but tonight he seemed to have outdone himself in every detail. At first he engaged himself in observing Marianne. How would she behave in a table full of men (most of them hadn't been near a woman in months!). Of course he knew he could rely absolutely on his officers for the best and most proper behaviour under the circumstances, but it didn't escape him that these officers were not quite themselves tonight. Uniforms had been cleaned. They spoke in softer voices, using more refined language. The younger officers were unable to hide their admiration for Marianne, and that really disturbed him the most. He was surprised by his angry reaction when one of the new midshipman passed a serving of vegetables to Marianne while he was adoringly smiling at her. He was so vexed, he almost ordered him to retire from the table, but with great effort he controlled his tongue. Good Heavens! Even the dignified Mr. Bowles was not immune to a certain gallantry, complimenting "the charming Ms. Hornblower" on her apparel. He observed every detail of her dress. A simple pale yellow muslin and contrary to other women who would had taken the opportunity to display as much of their anatomies as possible, she was wearing a delicate laced shawl to cover the low top of her dress. As for her conduct, she behaved very natural, untouched by flattery, conversing with everybody and listening to all their remarks in a serious and respectful manner.
For the most part of the evening she didn't look at him, and that puzzled and hurt him. Lady Montague engaged herself during dinner on humourous anecdotes of her life with the Vice"Admiral to everyone's delight.

"I've always thought that your ladyship had been willing to accept a kind of life not usual of what is expected of a seaman's wife. That must have been hard for you!" Sir Edward pointed out.

"Indeed... But you see Sir Edward, it is so little a woman is allowed to do, that I considered my duty to be near my der husband at all times and mo matter what. After all I made that promise before the altar almost forty years ago"In sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, for better or worse". I know that because of this I've been always pointed at as a very eccentric person. But it has been my husband's wish and mine, and that is good enough for me."

"But m'am, by your own account you've put your life in peril numerous times" remarked Mr. Bracegirdle.

"Oh, yes my good man, but don't we all? You, yourselves are always at risk, even in peaceful times. Why is it that a man's sacrifice must be greater than a woman's?"

Marianne took one of the old lady's hand in hers and with the gentlest of voices she added:

"I quite agree with you m'am."

Horatio was astonished by her sister's reaction.

"Will you be willing to live like Lady Elisabeth?"

All the officer's eyes, including Pellew's were on her, filled with curiosity.

"If I should care, respect and admire my... husband the way Lady Montague does, I most certainly will."

Captain Pellew took hold of the conversation and for the first time in the evening their eyes met.

"It seem only natural that men should be the one to make the sacrifices, and risk their lives in the line of duty, honour and service to our countrymen. Women " I'm speaking in general, your ladyship" ... A woman's place must be at her home."

"At home indeed! Warm, cozy and protected!" finished Marianne rather ironically.

"That's the general idea, yes!" responded Sir Edward.

Marianne looked directly into his eyes. A tense silence came upon the dinner guests. Nobody on board the ship would have dared to speak to the captain in that tone. Horatio was feeling rather uncomfortable by now, fearing one of the captain's famous verbal explosions, but he also knew her sister all too well and she had never left a " philosophical battle field" without leaving behind several casualties on account of her quick tongue and ironic remarks. He feared the worst. Mr. Bracegirdle try to ease the tension.

"Well if I may say so sir, ladies... History has always tells us that the greatest heroics acts done by men were also inspired by a woman or at least the memory of one."

Sir Edward looked at his second in command in amazement.

"Good Grief! This is the last time I allowed women on board.""

"I do agree in part Mr. Bracegirdle. But by the same token, a woman's feelings should not be diminished. Unfortunately for us, it is always men those who write History and therefore how women must think, act and feel."

Horatio and rest of the officers laughed politely, but the captain's face was so intense in his gaze, that she regretted instantly what she said.

"Point taken! Believe Ms. Hornblower, I quite agree with you."

"" Please, don't be angry at me Marianne. Don't think for a moment I'm not able to validate what you have said. I do, I really do."" Pellew was startled by the thought of calling her by her given name. But that simple gesture produced him such pleasure!

"" Oh, God, thank you! He doesn't seem cross with me. I must control my tongue. At least for Horatio's sake!""
She saw him smiling at her and her heart melted, returning the gesture. From that moment on their eyes met during the rest of the evening.

In the coming weeks Sir Edward saw very little of Marianne, but the few times they were together made an ever fixed mark in his memory. He had instructed both women to exercise twice a day: early in the morning and late at night, this way the discipline of the ship would not be affected. He also informed them that the Spanish and the French had finally started a series of attacks against British supply ships on their way to Gibraltar, so it was best if they should stay as much as possible below decks in case the 'Indefatigable' should have to engage in combat. Both women complied to his wishes Five days after they made sail from England, he was in his usual post at the quarter deck. On that particular dawn, the sea was rough, with big menacing waves splashing against the ship's flanks. There were just a few men counting the helmsman, Mr. Bracegirdle and himself. He was facing the starboard side when he saw Marianne very near the railing. The strong wind and the thrust of each wave was making it very difficult for her maintain balance, a thing she didn't mind by the delighted expression on her face. He was about to tell Mr. Bracegirdle to go to her and take her below decks when a gush of strong wind along with a cascade of sea foam covered her completely.
Without giving any more thought, fearing her to have been thrown overboard, he slide down (he jumped, more likely) the steps from the quarter deck and rushed to her. Fortunately, Marianne was still there, but completely soaked, her hair all tangled and laughing out loud of the whole situation.

"Ms. Hornblower!!"

"Oh, Good morning captain!" She casually greet him.

"Ms. Hornblower, this is most imprudent of you! You could had been badly hurt or worse!" He gabbed her by the arms" Are you all right? "

Marianne was surprised at his reaction. But then she realized his fingers were on her arms, pressing hard her skin against the wet fabric. Even though it was cold, she felt terribly hot inside and finally began blushing intensely.

"Yes captain, I'm all right, really"

Sir Edward let go of her arms, feeling a little ashamed.

"M'am this kind of sea is not safe. I would prefer if you should go below and dry yourself before you catch a chill."

"Believe me captain, I will do it this very instant!... Do forgive me, it was not my intention to be any nuisance."

"It's not that at all... I was concerned for your... safety!"

She was about to thank him, when a new wave, stronger than the one before struck them. Captain Pellew grabbed one of the ropes on the rigging and with the other arm held her firmly avoiding her to fall into the water.
For a second they stood there dripping water, Marianne's body caught between the railing and the captain's own body. The situation would had been too intense if Marianne hadn't giggled at the sight of the soaking wet captain.

"Captain.... Your hat is crooked! Fix it, before anyone can see you like this!"

Pellew let her go. He frowned and put his hat in its proper place.

"Oh, sir... Now I have really made a mess of everything! You'd better dry yourself too, or else we'll both have chill!"

"Yes... yes... quite so. Let me escort you below."

Mr. Bracegirdle noticed the situation and came down most eagerly to help them.

"Captain, sir... Ms. Hornblower! Are you all right?"

"Mr. Bracegirdle, sir... It is obvious we are no all right. Order if you please a double ration of spirits... and take charge in here while I... dry myself. I'll take Ms. Hornblower below."

"Yes sir. Ms. Hornblower would you like me to call your brother?"

"Oh, no, please... He will be frantic to know I was so careless. And now if you'll excuse me.... I must look like an apparition!" Her comment was spontaneous, not seeking any kind of compliment.

"M'am not at all... You look remarkably well!" answered gallantly the first Lieutenant.

Pellew was about to lose his temper, for he noticed for the first time that Marianne's soaked dress left nothing to the imagination. An intense heat coloured his cheeks.

"Mr. Bracegirdle, please comply with my orders at once. This not the time nor the place for poetics remarks!"

"Aye, aye, sir!" He was not at all offended by the captain's manner, for he was more than used to it. If only he was amused. To see the captain dripping water, his hat and neckerchief all crooked was a sight. And Ms. Hornblower! What a lovely figure she had on those wet clothes! No wonder the captain has been behaving like a "forlorn puppy" the past few days! Well, things are getting quite interesting on board the ship!

Captain Pellew took Marianne to her cabin, feeling grateful for the fact that on this early hour nobody would see them in such condition. As for Bracegirdle, he could count on his complete discretion on the subject.

"Do forgive me, captain! It was a silly thing to do... I will be most grateful if Horatio doesn't know any of this!"

"You can count on my secrecy, m'am. But you must promise me you would not do that again. Believe me, it's quite dangerous. I've seen many experienced seamen being swept by tides like these!.... And forgive my rude manners, it was not my intention to shout at you like that!"

"It was your way of showing concern! There's nothing to forgive."

"Good, good! Then I take my leave of you Ms. Hornblower!"

"Sir, I'm most grateful!" She curtsied, opened the door and disappeared inside her cabin. He could hear Lady Elisabeth's surprised question.

"What has happened, dear! You are quite a sight!"

"Oh, indeed... I have just made a complete fool of myself!"

He realized he was ears dropping and walked away from the door, telling himself that it was he the complete fool.

After that incident, they only saw themselves in passing: a courteous tip of the hat or a polite" Good morning or Good evening" until they met again on deck, but on different circumstances.
Captain Pellew was standing on the upper deck. His gaze was lost in the vastness of the night sky, ever wondering where did the sky stopped being the sky and became the sea. Suddenly out of the dark, a bright light broke the quiet skies, fast, very fast, leaving a tiny luminous trail. While he was engaged in his deep thoughts, his eyes dropped down only to gaze upon a more graceful, yet fatal brightness. Marianne was also standing at the lower deck. She had seen the wandering star, he had no doubt about it. He felt a certain guilt for not letting his presence known, but at that moment his feet were nailed to the wooden floor. She moved and their eyes met purely by chance. She did nothing, said nothing; just looked at him and continued her pace towards the officer's mess hall. On her way down, she didn't noticed her handkerchief fell. After Marianne was gone, Sir Edward climbed down the stairs and picked up the soft linen. A sweet scent filled the air. He grasped it tightly in his hand.

"" I'll deliver this to her, later! ""

To Marianne's delight during her stay on board the 'Indie", she could observe the close bond beginning to form between her brother and the captain. Only on one occasion this trust was altered due to Horatio's unguarded behaviour.
A certain Captain Foster was picked up from the sea after a Spanish frigate attacked the ship he was travelling in" an English food convoy with supplies for the fleet anchored at Gibraltar." All supplies were lost and most part of the men were drowned during the action. Horatio was very excited at the news of the arrival of such distinguished guest. He explained to his sister that the man was practically a legend, and his heroic enterprises would fill a library. Marianne was very sorry to disagree with her brother that one time. She disliked instantly Captain Foster's arrogance, rude manners and the veiled antagonism displayed against Captain Pellew.
On the same day Foster was rescued, Captain Pellew arranged dinner in his cabin for the senior officers, Lady Montague and herself. Unfortunately, Lady Elisabeth was feeling poorly and took her supper early and retired to her cabin. So Marianne attended alone. This time, she was placed next to Sir Edward, at the head of the table.
Conversation went in circles and inevitably after a few glasses of wine, Foster became more boastful and presumptuous in his tales.

"As much as three supply ships have been attacked by the Spanish in the past two weeks, Well this
was one ship they would not get. So I resume command of the vessel and engaged, until we were sunk."

Captain Pellew had a worried look in his eyes.

"What of the crew?

There was a tense silence at the table.

"Do you have a question, captain?" There was a certain threatening tone in Foster's voice.

"I was merely wondering how many of the crew the Spanish took from the sea?"

"Well, sir. I really don't know. At that time my mind was engaged in more important things than "arithmetic" ."

Mr. Bowles and Mr. Bracegirdle stopped eating, disgusted by the remark. Both men were used"following Pellew's example"to value each and everyone of the lives entrusted on board the ship. Only Horatio showed an open admiration for the man's words. Marianne could not helped feeling disappointed towards her brother. She began to feel that familiar sensation swelling up her throat that only happened to her when she was really angry at something.

"" What on earth is Horatio thinking of? Has he lost all sense? ""

Captain Foster, thinking he had Pellew cornered retaliated even further.

"Must we assume that you would have surrendered?"

Marianne moved away her plate ("there was nothing she would have liked more than throwing it directly to Foster's head") . She searched in Sir Edward's face for any hint of emotion,
surprised by her protective reaction towards him. Sir Edward seemed a little put out, as if he were looking for the right answer.

"Sir, this is not the time nor the place to discuss tactics !"

Foster continued his ravings.

"Oh, come on man! We are all men of the sea here, except for Ms.Hornblower. But I'm sure that being the sister of an officer she would appreciate an intelligent opinion even from you . You man!" He turned to Horatio sitting next to him." What is your opinion?

Captain Pellew noticing Horatio's discomfort, tried to intervene. A wrong answer to a pompous, vengeful bastard like Foster could ruin a young officer's career forever.

"I think perhaps...."

He was interrupted by Foster.

"Oh, come on man, out with it!"

The whole table was expectant of Horatio's answer.

"Well, sir... I think..... I'm glad that the Spanish had been deprived of our supplies." He looked around the table in search of approbation. He found none. Captain Pellew looked hurt and his sister... My God! He hadn't seen that angry looked in her eyes in years.

"You see!!" Boasted Foster." I'm sure our charming travelling companion would agree with her brother, although for the ladies it is difficult to understand certain matters... Women tend to be such simple souls!"

Marianne got up from the table with the speed of a cannon ball, followed instantly by Pellew. There was such coldness in her voice that all present jumped from their chairs.

"Sir, I'm afraid that all this "arithmetic" has made a little tired. I don't quite see the connection between loss of human lives and loss of cattle, and I do confess that "death"is not my favourite subject, specially during meals. I'll leave that to more experienced men of the sea like yourself .
And as for being a simple soul.... Are you trying to offend me or is it that the wine was too much for you after your resounding victory at sea? . ... Gentlemen!"

All officer's stood up. Foster's face reddened. He opened his mouth to answer, but something in the officer's eyes and Pellew's told him not to do so. And that " ill"tempered young philly"! My God, if any of his men would have talked to him that way, by now there were no skin left on his back!

"I think I'll take my leave now!" Captain Pellew escorted her to the door, and left the room.

Mr. Bowles and Mr. Bracegirdle looked at each other. They were exactly thinking the same, it was about time that someone told that"sawdust brains"how to behave. Hornblower's sister was one of a kind! Quick with her tongue, graceful, and the way she left the room: just like a queen dismissing an importune subject. Well done!!!

Foster padded Horatio's back.

"I fancy you shall go far, young man! I fancy you shall!"

Horatio not feeling very sure of himself, just smile and lowered his head, for he could not stand the look on his shipmates's eyes.

Marianne stood on deck. She was angry and very disappointed with her brother, but above all with herself, for having losing her temper in such a way.

"" How he could have offended him so? "" A strong gush of wind disarrange her hair. She tried to fix it unsuccessfully. So concentrated was in her task, that didn't notice the captain's presence behind her.

Marianne had no idea how much Sir Edward had wished an encounter like this. He was aware that since the incident with the waves, he had been avoiding her , but tonight he couldn't help himself.

"Good evening, Ms. Hornblower!"

"Good evening, sir!"

They stood together leaning on the railing.

"A fine night!"
"Yes, indeed, sir. Very fine!"

"Ms. Hornblower I would like to than...." Marianne didn't let him finished.

"Please, captain do not mention it! I feel quite ashamed of myself. I behaved dreadfully. It seems that certain people have an unhealthy effect on me and I can't control myself. A little restraint and diplomacy wouldn't have gone a missed in front of that .... person."

Captain Pellew faced her. They were very close; one slight movement on his part and her hair would have been touching his cheeks. He swallowed real hard, trying to breath calmly.

"You should not reproach yourself. What you said at the table was honest and very brave, and I'm... deeply grateful!"

Marianne sighed in relief. What she feared most was his disapproval.

"So you are not angry then?"

"Not at all... Besides it's not my place to be angry at you. And in return, you shouldn't be angry at one of my best officers, either."

"My dear brother! I wish he could be seven years old again so I can spank him real good!"

Sir Edward's eyes were amused and a half smile was forming in his lips.

"Did you ever spank him?"

"To be honest... Never. He was always so hard on himself that the courage failed me. That's is why I'm sure that he is already feeling badly for having let you down."

"Is that what you think has happened? Has he let me down?"

"Absolutely! You see captain; my brother is a wonderful man, extraordinary in many ways. But he's still very young! I'm sure he will apologize."

Marianne lifted her eyes to the night sky where thousands of bright stars twinkled.

"It is almost impossible to think that in a night as peaceful as this, there are people fighting, dying
or just feeling unhappy. Look! Isn't that ring around the moon enchanting?"

"Ms. Hornblower... I have seen many moons in my time." His tone was dry, emotionless.

"You haven't seen this one. Besides there's a beautiful legend...." She stopped. Pellew was gazing so intensely at her, that she feared that what she was about to say was totally imprudent: it was said in ancient times that when a man and woman looked at a moon like that, their destinies would be joined together for all eternity. No, she could never tell that to him. Not ever! . She kept looking at the sky.

"What legend?" His voice was quiet as if he didn't want to break the spell.

"Oh, I forgot. Some... ancient tale."

Sir Edward suddenly became very tense. He was feeling the irresistible impulse of kissing her, hard, very hard and held her in is arms. With sheer will, he spoke cooly and in control, trying to compose his spirits.

"Ms. Hornblower, may I suggest you return to your cabin. It's getting late, and there are things I must attend. I'm afraid I've been....."

"Dawdling?" Marianne chuckled softly, her eyes as bright as the stars above.

"I'm afraid so, m'am." Sir Edward smiled openly". Would you follow my orders, miss?"

"Aye, aye, sir ." Marianne tipped an imaginary hat on her head.

Free Web Hosting