CHAPTER 5: At Quiet Rest
Captain Pellew was carried immediately to his cabin, where an exhausted Dr. Hepplewhite attended to the mass of blood, flesh and dirty clothes on the captain's wounds.
Miraculously the bullet hadn't shattered any bones, but it was placed deep inside the flesh and dangerously near the heart. Dr. Hepplewhite decided to extract it, even at risk of much more bleeding. After the bullet was taken out, he placed a tight bandage around the captain's chest and left the cabin.
The senior officers awaited outside in solemn silence.
"Gentlemen, I will not hide from you the fact that the captain's condition is extremely grave. He has lost large quantities of blood and an infectious fever is developing fast. If we don't reach any English port soon, he will certainly die."
Horatio's voice trembled.
"There are still two weeks to reach Portsmouth! Can't you stopped the bleeding?"
"I've fixed a tight bandage... If this doesn't work, I'll have to cauterize and then the risk of infection will be even greater. Believe me there's nothing I can do at this point. Certain things are beyond my knowledge."
"Can we see him?"was Mr. Bracegirdle question.
"It won't make any difference! He's still unconscious!"
"I think the question was if we can stay with him?"shouted Horatio angrly.
"Do as you please, Mr. Hornblower... But if he regain consciousness, do try not to tire him with useless outbursts of emotion. Now if you you'll excuse me, I have other matters to attend."
A grieving silence befell the men. Horatio was so closed to tears that he tried to hide them form Mr. Bracegirdle. He turned away his head and noticed for the first time a letter addressed to Mr. Bracegirdle on the table.
"Sir, it seems the captain left a message for you!"
Both men got close to the table. In the captain's handwriting it could be clearly read"To Mr. Bracegirdle in t case of extreme emergency or eventual death "
"What shall I do Hornblower?"
Mr. Bracegirdle tore off the seal and quickly read the few line on the paper.
"The captain instructed me to take care of his box of private documents and delivered them either in person or by messenger to his friend Robert Davenport at Wood Hall. In case I'm not able to carry out his orders, you should deliver them."
"Where's the box?"
"It has to be somewhere... Damn it! The captain's personal servant would have known, but he was killed during the battle. Help me find it!"
Both men searched carefully and finally found the box inside a drawer.
"I suggest Mr. Hornblower that you should stay with the captain. I'll take care of the box and I'll relieve you in an hour, once I'll make sure our course is set to England."Mr. Bracegirdle put his hand on Horatio's shoulder."Let's pray and hope for the best! Let's pray and hope!"
Horatio sat on a small chair by the bed. Captain Pellew seemed restless, covered in sweat and the bandage was already soaked in blood. It was strange to watch him laying that way... helpless and so lonely. Thoughts of her sister came to his mind.
""How can I face her if he dies? It is certain that she loves him dearly! ""
A spasm of pain overcame Sir Edward. His left hand fell on the side. Horatio grabbed it and he was about to place it on his chest when he saw that the captain was holding something very tightly in his fist. At first he thought it was some kind of paper. He opened slowly his fingers and took it out. It was a small handkerchief, covered in blood with the initials M.H. on it.
"My God, it's Marianne's! "-
Captain Pellew moaned in pain. His left hand moved as if he were trying to find something missing from it. Horatio filled the empty space of his palm with his own hand.
"Sir, please... Listen to me!..."tears fell form his eyes."You must get well, get strong! I know you have such determination and for that I admire you and envy you. If I should accomplished half of what you have in your lifetime, my own life will be fulfilled. But there's so much to learn. I still have so much to sail as a man. Sir, I have no father, no elder brother, would you be that for me? My father, my brother, my friend? Be my guide!....And what about my sister? What about Marianne?"Horatio felt a slight movement in the captain's hand."Sir, your death will take all happiness away from her, of that I'm sure. You don't know how wonderful she is! She is so much finer than anyone I know. If she were here, Dr. Hepplewhite will look more like the ignorant fool he is!. I'm sure she will restore you back to your health. When I was a child, I thought there was nothing she could not do, or solve, or mend. But she's not here. I'm here and all I can do is hold your hand and begged you to come back to us... to her."Horatio leaned his head on the bedside crying openly. Some minutes passed. He felt a soft hand touching his head and it was so familiar that for one second he thought it was his own father. He raised his head. Captain Pellew was looking at him,, a half painful smile drawn in his lips.
"It's all right Hornblower! It's all right my friend!"
Robert Davenport was the son of the late Sir George Pellew's steward, a very respected and well liked man at Wood Hall.
Since Robert and Sir George's son, Edward were of the same age, they became inseparable companions, studying together under strict tutelage at the family mansion. Both boys dreamed of going to exotic places, fight unbeatable battles and covered themselves in glory and riches; but at sixteen shortly after his father's death, Edward broke all contact with his father and left his home to join the Navy. Robert was left alone, except for letters that came regularly from his friend. He helped his father with his obligations in connection with the estate and finally Sir George propose to him to study Law and offered financial support in this matter.
Robert excelled himself in his studies and returned after a few years at Wood Hall. He settled himself in a comfortable property donated by his protector and married a good hearted girl he had known since childhood, named Lillias. After Sir George died, Edward continue his patronage towards him and his growing family. Neither the distance nor the different situation in their lives could destroyed their bond.
The box containing Captain Pellew's documents arrived three weeks after the battle. Attached to it there was a letter form Lt. Horatio Hornblower explaining the seriousness of the captain's wounds and the fact that on their arrival at Portsmouth he had been transferred to a special navy hospital outside the city. His wounds were infected and the doctors thought it was a matter of time. Robert and Lillias shared tears together, for they truly loved him and knew of his goodness of heart and the tenderness of his feelings towards their family.
"What is to be done, darling?"asked Lillias.
"Carry out his wishes. I must deliver this to Mr. Dorson and I will definitely go to Portsmouth and see him."
When he opened the box, he found two more letters; one addressed to Mr. Dorson and the other one to a Miss Marianne Hornblower, to be opened in case of extreme emergency or death.
"" Hornblower! Is this lady a relation of the Lieutenant who wrote the first letter?""
He was surprised that his friend should write to a woman he hadn't ever heard of.
"" She must be someone important in his life for him to write to her..."-
The address read "Evergreen-.
"" Most convenient! It's on my way to Portsmouth!"
Lady Montague returned at the beginning of the new year to her new house at Wood Hall, She was sorry to leave Marianne, but she thought it best if she was ever to start a life of her own. Both women said their goodbyes and promise to write and visit often.
After her departure, Marianne's life came back to her old routine. She worked endlessly to restore her home to its past comfort (Horatio's earnings were steady now, and money arrived regularly). Each little detail, her daily jokes with Abbey were her safety net against memories or any feeling of longing for the captain. By the beginning of March an unexpected visitor carrying letters from Horatio arrived: it was Acting Lieutenant Kennedy, with whom she was acquainted shortly after he and Horatio were released from the prison in Cadiz.
"Archie!"she kissed him fondly on both cheeks. Noticing he was using a walking stick, she became frightened."What has happened?"
"We were engaged in battle...I was wounded."when he saw her anxious expression, tried to ease her fears."Horatio's fine, really! You will see this by his letters. You know me, I like to be in the way of every bullet and cannon ball there is!"
He took her gently by the arm and they both sat down. Archie knew that what he was about to say will make her suffer beyond anything, for he suspected that there was a strong attachment on her part towards the captain; something that was confirmed by Horatio before his parting on sick leave. Once again he touched the subject of the battle.
"It was fierce! Many men died. Almost a third part of the crew."
Marianne's eyes were filled with tears, her heart pounding in her breast.
"You see Marianne.... Captain Pellew was very badly wounded!"
"Is he dead?"Her voice was only a thin thread.
"No. But I won't lie to you. He's not expected to survive..."
A painful moan escaped her lips. Archie received her in his arms and with her all the anguish and pain stored for so many months.
After Archie's visit, Abbey became extremely worried about Marianne. She was told of course of the grave situation of the captain, and was truly sorry for it. But her dear child was taking it harder than it was expected. She became silent and detached. Her speech, all her movements were made as in a state of trance. So when she opened the door to Mr. Robert Davenport bringing a letter from the captain himself, she saw all the gates of Heaven opened to her.
Marianne received Robert in the library. He had only to look once at her to understand why his dear friend's thoughts were for her before facing death. On the other hand, Marianne saw one of the most kind faces she had ever seen and felt completely at ease in his presence.
"Do sit down , sir!"Robert began relating the whole of his connection with Captain Pellew.
"How is he, sir? It's been almost a week since Mr. Kennedy brought me these terrible news.-
"Ms. Hornblower I know no more than you. As soon as I received Edward's letter written before the battle I came to deliver a message for you, by his own hand."He took the letter out of his pocket.
"Thank you, sir!"
"Not at all, m'am. Believe this situation grieves most cruelly for I look upon Edward as my own dear brother."
"I'm glad that he is the recipient of such loyalty and affection... He deserves it!"
There was a sad silence floating around the room. Robert saw her red eyes and the dark circles around them. He felt sorry for her suffering.
"Well. Ms. Horblower. I don't want to take any more time from you under this circumstances. I intend to pass the night at the inn in the village and start my journey early in the morning. I pray with all my heart that at my return I will bring better news. As for the letter, I leave it to you what to do with its contents."
Marianne accompanied him to the door.
"Once again, thank you sir"
"No at all m'am. I hope we could meet under happier circumstances... Pray the Lord!-
"I pray so, sir."
Marianne got out of the house. She walked in the direction of the old Templar ruins. Once there she looked at every stone filled with memories, including the last time she was there with Edward. For in her mind and heart he was no longer Sir Edward, or Captain Pellew"he was simply Edward, the only man she would ever love."
She knelt before one the altar stones.
"Oh, dear God! I've never asked you anything for myself, I'm doing it now. Please, let him live!"She began sobbing as if her heart would break."I will bear anything else... but not his death. I've never told him how much I love him. I've never kissed him, or caress his face or lean my head on his chest and felt his heartbeat. What am I to do without those memories? I prefer one minute of his love than a whole life of contended details...-
She was now sobbing uncontrollably. It took her a long while to compose herself and finally looked at the letter in her hand. Trembling, she tore it open.
"" Dearest Marianne,
Forgive me the liberty of my expression.... ""
She read very slowly, telling herself that this particular moment was really happening. When she finished, she began again until each word was inscribed in her memory. A soft teary smile appeared on her face.
"" He loves me! He had loved me all these months! "" Now she understood his silent moods, the look in his eyes gazing at her. What she thought it was discomfort for her presence, was his own inner struggle to accept his feelings and kept a respectful distance.
"" Is it too late? ""
"" No! "her heart answered"It's never too late to find happiness! ""
There is always a moment of revelation in everyone's life. Marianne ran all the way back to the house.
"What is it, child? Good news from the captain?"
Marianne embraced the old woman.
"He's not out of danger, but now I know what I have to do, no matter what!"
"And that is?"
"Send Thomas to the inn and deliver a message to Mr. Davenport, quick!"
"But child, what are you going to do?"
"You must help me to pack light, for two days at least and go to papa's room and fetch his medicine box!"
"Where are you going?-
Abbey hold her tightly, feeling a lump in her throat.
"God, keep you safe, dearest!"
Robert didn't know what to say to the proposal put before him.
"Ms. Hornblower is very kind of you to worry but..."
-Mr. Davenport please, help me in this. If you don't escort me to Portsmouth, I will go alone sir. And somehow I will get into that hospital."
"But m'am, there will opposition from the medical staff. Only very close relatives gain access to the wounded, and a single woman like yourself among so many men...."
"Mr. Davebnport, I'm not going to inspect the hospital or visit dozens of wounded men... just one! And besides sir, my father was a physician. He trained me to help him in his work. I've raised a brother by my own and later I took care of my own father during his last illness... Believe when I tell you that I don't faint by the sight of blood, nor I will be impressed by the sight of wounded men's bodies. I know he needs me... and if it's not too late, I want to be near him at least a few hours. I'm sure you can arrange that."
"But your brother, what would he say?"
"This is not Horatio's concern. It is my own decision!"
"Ms. Hornblower, forgive me for asking but... Is there any kind of "understanding" between you and Edward?"
"There is now. At least is what he expresses in his letter."was her quiet response.
Robert stood up.
"Ms. Hornblower, I'll see what can I do. Is it too early for you to start at dawn? We can be at Portsmouth before nightfall."
Marianne extended her hands to him. Tears of relief and joy flowed from her eyes.
"Thank you sir, for you have given me my very life!"
Everything was quiet at the wards. Two silent figures walked along the corridors, escorted by an orderly. Finally they reached their destination. A heavy oak door was opened. Inside two candlesticks lighted the room in a dim, depressing light. Acre smells of herbs and ointments floated in the air. Marianne came closer to the bed. A soft cry escaped her lips. The man before her, laying restless in his sleep was not the image she had carried in her heart all those months. He was extremely pale and thin. Dark shadows circled his eyelids and he hadn't been shaved or bathed in days. Once again tears came to her eyes.
"" I must stop this idiotic weeping!"""
She sat at his bedside and very gently took one of his hands and kissed it.
"I'm here my love!... Your Marianne is here!"she spoke in quiet tones.
Robert was so overwhelmed by emotion that he discretely retired to a dark corner of the room feeling he was prying into something private, very intimate.
For the first time Marianne caressed his brow, his eyes and lips with her soft cool fingers.
"Edward please, get well! Do try! You can't die, not now. You don't know how much I need you, how much I love you!"
She leaned over him and opening her mouth kissed his lips with a soft reverent kiss.
"Come back to me!.... I'm waiting for you!"
** Edward was dreaming. A white luminous figure was coming near him. At first he didn't recognize it but at last Marianne appeared before him. There was a mixture of sadness and joy in her eyes. She came very near him, lovingly touching his face. The sensation of her fingers, was so real... so real. He felt his own body responding to her touch.
"" Come back to me! I'm waiting for you! ""she kissed his mouth voraciously. Then turned away.
"" Don't go!! ""
She only smiled.
"" Come Edward! I'm waiting for you! ""**
"Don't go!! Don't leave!!!"Edward cried in his sleep. Fever ran higher again, and cold perspiration bathed his hot skin. Marianne grabbed his hand firmly.
"Shsss!! Hush my love! It is all right! I'm not leaving you!"The grip in his hand became more relaxed, but she realized she had to do something to lower his fever. And he was in urgent need of liquids too.
"Help me Mr. Davenport!"she took off the sheets and began unbuttoning his nightshirt.
"Oh, fiddlesticks, man! I don't care three straws about what others think!. This is not the time, nor the place for puritan speeches. Fetch some cold water and wine!"
For hours Robert and Marianne fought with the fever. Some oil smelling very much like frankincense and lavender was mixed with the cold water and used in bathing the captains wound. His bed sheets were changed by new fresh ones ( Robert didn't know how she managed to carry them!). Marianne also mixed some herbs with the wine and between the two of them, forced it through his mouth. What ever it was; the cold medicinal water or the fact that she was there"for Robert could sense Edward knew that"made his fever ran down and after two hours he was holding Marianne's hands, peacefully asleep.
The last image Robert had was of her holding Edward's hand, speaking softly or singing a harmonious melody.
Nearly at dawn, Robert opened his eyes only to find Marianne in the same position at Edward's bedside. He could see that she was fighting exhaustion and her pallor worried him extremely.
"He's much better now!"she was almost voiceless.
"Yes I do believe so!. But we must leave now before anybody wakes up. And you need rest!"
She kissed Edward's hand and leaning over him brushed the top pf his head. The captain's hand tightened as if he didn't want to let go of her.
"It's all right my love!... I must go for a little while. But remember, I love you. I'll always love you. And I'm waiting for you at Evergreen!"Edward lose his fingers and she carefully placed his hand on the side.
The journey back to Evergreen was hard on Marianne, who was at the brink of exhaustion. When she and Mr. Davenport arrived at the house, Horatio and Lady Montage were eagerly waiting for any news. When Abbey disclosed the particulars of Marianne's departure, Horatio was frantic with worry and if Lady Montague hadn't stopped him, he would have gone to Portsmouth in search of her.
When Marianne got out of the carriage, three pairs of loving arms embraced her. She almost fainted, for she hadn't had anything to drink or eat in more than twenty four hours and the long night at Edward's bedside had completely drained her resistance. Horatio carried her in his arms upstairs to her bedroom where she was put to bed.
Abbey prepared a tray of food and took it to Marianne immediately. She was so tired, she didn't want to eat, but between Lady Elisabeth and Abbey forced her to do so.
"Getting yourself ill won't help dearest!"said Lady Montague.
"It's just that I'm not very hungry!"
"Nonsense child! Just a little bit and then you can go to sleep!"
After a few bites, Lady Elisabeth questioned Marianne about her visit to the hospital.
"How was him?"
"When I arrived he was so sick..... I thought he was going to die before my very eyes..."she couldn't continue.
"Hush! We don't need to talk about this if it upset you too much!"
"I'm fine really!"
"So the poor captain... is he better now?"Abbey's voice sounded truly concerned.
"Yes he was much better when we left."
"God be praised! That poor man all alone with those navy surgeons! Butchers!"Abbey took away the tray and left the room.
"Did he know you were there?"
"All right dear, do not distress yourself!"
Marianne closed her eyes. Her voice was almost a whisper.
"Downstairs with Mr. Davenport. Who by the way had expressed his heartfelt admiration for the manner of your behavior."
"He's a very kind man! I'll be forever in his debt!"
Lady Montague bent over and kissed her forehead.
"I'm glad you went to see him... It was the right thing to do. Now rest my dear!"
"Thank you m'am..."Marianne had barely finished saying those words and fell asleep.
After dinner Horatio went upstairs to see his sister. His long conversation with Robert Davenport gladdened his heart and made him feel optimistic for the future.
Marianne was still fast asleep when he entered the room.
She opened her eyes and smiled at her bother.
"You shouldn't have let me sleep for so long!"
"You were exhausted!"he kissed her hand."There are some glad tidings!"
"From the hospital?"
"Yes. Mr Davenport had just received a note from the captain himself asking him to return to Portsmouth. Apparently after your departure, he regained consciousness and by what Mr. Davenport expresses, the captain is giving a hard time to all medical staff... That really sounds like him!"
"Oh, these are wonderful news indeed!"She began crying.
"Please, don't !"
"I can't help it! I'm so happy!"
Horatio hugged his sister.
"I have to tell you something..."
"When Captain Pellew was wounded I stayed with him. I noticed he was holding something in his hand..."Horatio took out from his pocket a folded piece of cloth."I think this belongs to you!"
"My God! It is one of mine! Did Edw... I mean Captain Pellew had this with him?"
"Yes, I tried to wash away the blood with no success. It seems he had had this in his possession all those months and was holding it even unto his death... I thought you should know!"
Marianne was silent. If she ever needed confirmation about Edward's feelings apart from the letter, there was irrefutable proof before her eyes.
By the end of August Captain Pellew was given his release form the hospital and returned to Wood Hall accompanied by his friend Robert. Ha has also received a letter form the Lord Admiral giving him six months' sick leave. It was also informed to him that due to his extraordinary courage during the battle he was awarded a medal for bravery in the line of duty and that His Majesty was most concerned about his well being.
On his way home he passed near Evergreen Cottage. It was nine months since he first visited the place and for a second he remembered when he saw Marianne for the first time. Robert, noticing his intense gaze at the sight of the house knew exactly what were his friend's feelings.
"Would you like to stop for a short visit?"
"No, not now."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, quite sure. I do not wish... Ms. Hornblower to see me now, not until I've recovered completely."
Shortly before his release form hospital, he inquired after his box of documents and if any of its contents had been delivered. When he was told by Robert that in view he was so near death he had delivered personally the letter addressed to Ms. Hornblower, he began to experience alternates states of joy and anguish, but didn't dare to inquire any further about the subject.
The carriage took its last bend and Edward turned his head in the direction of the cottage.
Summer went by. Once again Nature was changing its bright colors for darker ones and the air was crisp and fresh. There were no letters form Wood Hall, except Lady Montague's punctual correspondence informing Marianne of Edward's fast recovery. That was enough for her; and all the love she felt for him flowed through her, impregnating everything he touched. Abbey observed her daily changes with gladden heart. She had always considered Marianne a lovely creature, but the woman before her eyes was so different; in full bloom and very much in love. The old woman was a little impatient though with the captain's hesitance.
"" What on earth is he waiting for? The second coming of our Lord? Good Grief, men were such fools sometimes! ""
Lady Montague had decided to intervene in the situation. Like Abbey, she couldn't understand Edward's indecision to act. Being an independent woman of character, she truly believed in taking destiny by the hand. She applauded Marianne's decision to visit Edward at the hospital and under the circumstances that young woman had gone far beyond any expectation of how a single woman should behave. It was her opinion that now it was Edward's time to fulfilled
the wishes and happiness of them all.
So in a very feminine conspiring sort of way she went for an "innocent" walk in the woods and very "casually" found Captain Pellew near the house.
"Well, Edward... how nice to see you!"she said emulating her best "Metcalf's attitude" .
"Lady Elisabeth! This is a happy coincidence. I was on my way to pay you a visit,"He offered her his arm.
"How good of you!"
They walked in silence. Suddenly she stopped and faced the captain.
He was startled.
"Would you tell me once in for all... Are you in love with Marianne?"
Captain Pellew did not expect that blunt question. For a moment he looked very much like Horatio during one of his jests.
"Well... Lady Elisabeth I..."
"Oh, for God's sake! If Arthur were here he would have boxed your ears! Believe, I would like to do that just now! Edward, I'm old enough to be your mother, even your grandmother... Can't you give a simple straight answer?"
"Yes, m'am, I can. I do lover her."
Lady Montague sighed in relief.
"Good! Are you going to propose to her?"
Edward took a deep breath.
"M'am I do wish it with al my heart, but I'm not sure if such a proposal will be welcome. I wouldn't risk losing her friendship because of an untimely, unwanted declaration on my part."
"Is that what is detaining you then?"
What assurances would you like to have?"
"I don't know m'am. You see, before the battle I wrote a certain letter addressed to her in which I expressed my feelings quite openly. Mr. Davenport has informed me that she received this communication by his own hand and was aware of its contents."
"M'am since my return to Wood Hall I have received not a single word from her. That is for sure a sign she is not interested at all."
"Oh, Edward! You are totally mistaken about this! Marianne loves you with all her heart!"
The captain could not speak or move for minutes.
"Are you sure of what you are saying?"
"You poor dear man!"she gave him a motherly kiss."Did you know what that poor girl did after reading that famous letter of yours? She begged Mr. Davenport to take her to the hospital. She wanted to see you and be with you no matter what. Poor Robert, had to bribe half of the staff of that wretched place in order to get her in."
"You mean... she was there!"Now he could understand why his dreams were so real. His heart began pounding. He took the old lady in his arms and kissed her in both cheeks.
"Stop this!!"her protest couldn't conceal the fact she was enjoying that outburst of emotion.
"Tell me, I need to know..."
"Well, She went there. Spent the whole night trying to ease your pain and lower you fever. She never let go of your hand or slept for one minute. When she returned to Evergreen she was positively ill. Now Edward, what more assurances you want?"
"Why hadn't Robert tell me any of this?"
"He was bound by a promise made to Marianne. But you see, I'm not breaking any promises. And I know too much the goodness of her heart. She wouldn't hold this against me."Lady Elisabeth was very moved to see the happiness reflected on his face."You have been given a second chance, take it Edward!"
By the end of September he was summoned urgently to the Admiralty for a meeting with the Lord Admiral and several other captains. The old ritual of dressing himself in his full uniform gave him back part of his old confidence and calm demeanor; but that was only in the surface, for in his heart he had decided to confront Marianne at his return form London and ask her to be his wife.