CHAPTER 6: For the mutual Society of Affection
Marianne was in the garden when she saw Abbey running from the
house as if something were after her.
"Don't blame me if you take a fall, Abbey! Your last one took the combined efforts of Horatio, Archie and Thomas to lift you up!"She jested.
"Oh, never mind about that! Hurry child!!"
"What is it? Abbey, please talk sense!"
"Oh, dear Lord! Look at you! Out in the sun without your hat... and your hair! "she took the young woman by the hand and dragged her to the house.
"Abbey!!"she resisted Abbey's hard grip on her.
"He's here!!... And I don't think he is going to wait much longer! I left him already pacing up and down the library like a caged animal!"
"His Lordship, well no... his Excellency...well whatever! The captain is here, child!"
Instinctively Marianne tried to pull back some of her curls, her heart beating so hard she thought she was going to faint at that very moment. Before both women reached the house, she saw
him coming towards them.
"Abbey, I c..can't move!"
"Good, then stay here!"Abbey parted in the opposite direction, saying to herself that if the good captain doesn't say what he was supposed to say, she will personally grabbed him by the neck and force it out of him.
Marianne closed her eyes for a second and when she opened them he was in right front of her. None of them spoke, but very slowly, she took one step towards him Edward couldn't restraint himself no longer and took her by the waist, embracing her so hard that she could barely breathe.
"Marianne!"Edward began kissing her all over her face with all the passion pent up in him for so many months until he reached her trembling lips. Marianne closed her eyes. One of her hands stole up his arm to clutch his sleeve. He searched inside her mouth with such softness, that finally her other arm slid over his back and around his neck. He forced himself to stop, but kept her held very close to him. He could feel her body pressing against his, not wanting to let go. When he finally spoke, his voice was almost a whisper.
"You can't imagine how many times I dreamt of this!"he was speaking softly in her ear. Marianne moved her head and looked into his eyes.
"Did you really?"She pressed her body more tightly against him and returned his kiss. She moved her lips on his and he could feel them fuller and moister. Edward moved his hand above her waist and took her face in his hands. How he could have ever doubted! There was so much love in those eyes, so much sweetness in her smile! .
"Say something please, or I shall go mad!"
She laughed softly.
"You don't give much chance Edward!... Besides, what do you want me to say?"
"That you will be my wife..."
Marianne moaned softly and leaned her head on his chest.
-Yes, my love..."Her lips parted again to receive him. While he kept his hold on her wait, he began to stroke her back with his other hand in slow, light movements until his fingertips were caressing one side of her breast. Marianne's eyes opened wide in amazement, with full color on her cheeks. Feeling he maybe had gone too far, he spoke quietly.
"I think it's best if we go inside my love... It's getting chillier!"
"Well, it seems rather warm to me... don't you think?"
They began laughing. Edward put his arm around her shoulders. They walked to the house, this time with no distance between them.
Once in the library, very little was said. They were only aware of their mutual need and the unstoppable movement of their hands touching each other. After a while, they began discussing their plans for the wedding.
"When shall it be then?"
"In two months. I'm sorry my love, but it can't be sooner."
"Does this mean that you have been ordered back to the 'Indefatigable'?"More than a question was the acceptance of a fact.
"Yes, I'm afraid so. My love, I do feel terrible for telling you this. Here I am after all this months; I'm asking you to marry me, only to tell you next that I have to leave you..."His old fears of causing her sorrow came back.
Marianne pressed her fingertips on his lips.
"Hush! I want you to understand something Edward. The first time I saw you, you were wearing this uniform. You are still wearing it. I love the man inside of it as much as the officer. I can't separate both. I have no right to ask you to be less than you are, for then you would not be the man I love!"-
Edward's dark eyes were bright with tears. Marianne kissed in the corner of his mouth, and very gently buried her face on his neck, smelling the scent of his skin. There was so much restraint passion, that Edward had to get up for fear of taking her that very instant. If anyone would have told him he could love more than he did before, he would not have believed it. Bu he did, with every passing minute. It was more than his natural desire for her as a woman, but also a spiritual bond he could never thought possible to achieve in this world.
"Is there anything troubling you?"Marianne asked.
"No. It's just that if you say such things and looked at me that way, I don't think I will be able to behave in a very cavalier manner."
Marianne blushed intensely.
"Oh, I see..."Suddenly quick as aflash a thought came to her mind."Horatio!"
"What? What about your brother?"
"Have you spoken to him?"
"No, there was no time in London. Besides, it didn't occur to me to tell him of my plans."
"Would you speak to him? I'll write of course, but he would prefer to hear it from you... about our plans, I mean..."
"Yes, of course..."He sat again at her side."He will not fuzz, will he? I ask you this because it seems that every time I mention your name he becomes very defensive. We had a terrible argument months ago after you left Gibraltar with Lady Montague... My God, I thought I was going crazy when He told me the news!!"Once again he put his arms around her, amazed by her quick response to his caresses.
"" She wants me as much as I want her! God, give me patience in the coming months, ofr I don't think I can wait much longer! ""
" He will not do such a thing. He will be delighted. Perhaps that one time he was feeling insecure about the whole situation. There were rumors... you know stupid gossip... and he could sense that something was happening between the two of us. Besides the other day he told me that you have been dawdling too much lately and that isn't like yourself at all!"
"Oh, did he?"Edward pretended to be angry."And you madam, what say you?"
"Well, sir... I have to agree with him!"
"Oh, really?"Edward caressed the soft skin of her neck. He could not remember afterwards what he whispered in her ear, but it as his way of spilling out all the need to love he had buried all those
years. His youth romance with Roxanne was nothing compared to this: Marianne was pure joy in his life, but also a fierce torture until he could make her completely his.
Marianne nibbled his ear and spoke in quiet voice.
" Shall I love you like the wind, love
That is so fierce and strong,
That sweeps all barriers from its path?
And recks not right or wrong?
The passion of the wind , love
Can never last long...
Edward smiled. He continued the verses.
-- I will love you like the stars, love,
Set in the heavenly blue,
That only shine brighter
After weeping tears of dew;
A love the wind, and fire, love;
They love the ages through! ....
"You know it by heart! Finish it, please!"She exclaimed joyfully.
" And when this life is o'er, love
With all its joys and jars,
We'll leave behind the wind and the fire
To wage their boisterous wars,"
Then we shall only be, love
The nearer to the stars."(*)
Marianne took one of his hands in hers.
"Beautiful as those verses are... believe me, I've read something more beautiful not so long ago."
"Did you ?"
"Oh, yes... " ... I cannot go on disguising the fact that you represent everything I hold close to my heart... This conflict is more than a war between two countries. It's a war between a man's soul and a man's mind in which the heart is poor forsaken prisoner... " "
Edward recognized instantly his own words written some months ago.
"So you read the letter after all?"
"Yes, you can't imagine how precious those words are to me!"
"Is that why you came to see me at the hospital? "
There was a combination of surprise and concern in her eyes. He caressed her cheek, reassuring her.
"I would have probably died if you hadn't come!..."
"Don't say such things!... But how did you know?"
"Somehow I knew that all those strange dreams I was having about you kissing me and touching my body were more than a delirium... Afterwards, Lady Elisabeth confirmed this!"
Marianne became really red this time.
"Good gracious! I thought you were unconscious!... You see, I had to ... lower your fever and I couldn't do it with your clothes on... I mean..."
He pressed his mouth against her lips with renewed passion, as if he needed to convince himself that everything that was happening was real.
"So that is your way of lowering down fever! Interesting, madam!... Thank God, I was no so unconscious!"
"Oh, you!!! Stop teasing me!"She was half way to tears and laughter.
"Don't worry darling... next time I'll be fully aware of ... everything!"
"Well, sir... I do believe you are developing a sense of humor!"She circled his neck with both her arms and her hands began playing with his queue. She began kissing him; soft, wet lingering kisses that made Edward even more conscious of the response of his manhood.
"Marianne, please, stop this!"His voice trembled.
"I will... for now. It's just that I want you so much!"She hide her face from him, a little ashamed of her confession.
"Marianne, I love you! You don't know how much I want to..."He gave her a final kiss.
His indomitable will took hold of him once more.
After a few minutes they regained their composure, and the rest of the afternoon was spent talking of the lightest things. Edward explained to her that he had to go back to London early in the morning and that he had already given instructions to his steward to transport all her belongings to Wood Hall. After all, two months will her ample time to prepare herself for the wedding.
It was dark when with much regret he announced his parting. Marianne accompanied him
to the door and helped him with his cape and hat. Her hands were trembling and she was trying very hard to disguise her tears. Edward grabbed her fingers, lifted her chin and looked into her eyes.
"Please, don't cry! I couldn't bear the thought of leaving you so sad!"
"I won't !"She leaned her head on him."Tell me something... Is there going to be any fighting this time?"
"Let's hope not!... But I won't lie to you, there's always that possibility. Do not fear my love, nothing will..."he could not finished, for this promise he knew was not in his hand to deliver.
"Promise me, you will never feel guilty about doing your duty!"
"I promise you."
"And you will write as often as possible!"
"I'll write everyday !"
Edward forced himself to let go of her. He gave her a final kiss and walked away. Marianne stood there until the carriage vanished among the fog.
"" God be with you, my love!""
The sound of the wind in the rigging was like an old friend welcoming him back. Captain Pellew stood at the quarter deck, breathing the old familiar salty smell.
"Sir, everything is in order bellow decks. All supplies are secured!"Mr. Bracegirdle addressed him.
"Very good, Mr. Bracegirdle... Please tell Mr. Hornblower to report in my cabin in fifteen minutes."
"Aye, aye captain!"
The two men looked at each other. Edward was sincerely moved to see his First Lieutenant completely recovered from his wounds.
"I'm glad to see you on board, Mr. Bracegirdle!"
"The feeling is mutual sir. You gave us quite a scare!"
"Yes, yes... I suppose so.... Thank you for your concern sir. I really appreciate it !-
"Not at all sir!"
"Carry on Mr. Bracegirdle!"
Bracegirdle observed how the captain climbed down the wooden steps with his usual swiftness greeting some of the officers on his way to the mess hall . Somehow the captain was he same, but not the same. There was a certain softness in his looks, he smiled more frequently and
his voice, although still stern when giving orders, lacked the coldness he displayed in the past.
""Something is going to happen and I truly hope is the happy event everyone is been waiting for!"-
Some minutes later, Horatio reported at Sir Edward's cabin.
"Lt. Honblower, do you wish to see me, sir?
The captain smiled at the officer, hands in his back.
"At your ease Mr. Hornblower."
Minutes passed without neither of them uttering a word. Horatio began to feel uneasy. Has he done something wrong? .
"Mr. Hornblower, have you received any news from your sister recently?"
Now Horatio felt really nervous.
"" Oh God, not again! "" He managed to answered calmly."No, sir."
"So I take you are not aware of certain... developments..."
"Yes, developments boy! In your sister's situation and ... mine!"
Horatio opened his mouth trying to say something. Captain Pellew couldn't help feel amused by his reaction.
"Mr. Hornblower I will no longer hide the fact that since I met your sister, my feelings for her are of such a profound and loving nature that... Well, you do understand my meaning, don't you Hornblower?"
"Well, sir... If you mean to say that you..."
"Yes, precisely ! I do mean that. In short Mr. Hornblower, the day after my return form London I went to Evergreen Cottage and asked her hand in marriage."
Horatio's lips curved in a happy smile.
"And her answer, sir?"
"So, this means that you are going to be married?"
"Well Mr. Hornblower, that is the logical assumption when you ask someone's hand in marriage and your proposal is accepted. Our plans are for the wedding to take place the day afer our arrival to England."
There was a complete silence.
"Well, man.... May I know your opinion in this matter?"
"My opinion sir?"
"Mr. Hornblower for an intelligent man, you do not have much sense in this matters. Yes! Your opinion!"
"Well, sir, I'm afraid we all don't have your quickness in making up your mind!"He regretted his words."I'm sorry, sir... I was out of place!"
"Never mind! Point taken!... As a matter of fact I agree with your words to your sister; I know I've dawdled too much on this. But I truly would like an earnest opinion from you about it. I value and respect you too much to do something as serious as this behind your back; and it also doesn't escape me the fact that you are both very close to each other and I wouldn't do anything to interfere with those feelings."
"Sir, I can only say that I'm honored by your words and that you both have my blessing!"
Captain Pellew sighed in relief. He walked towards the officer and extended his hand.
"Thank you Hornblower!"
"Sir, I wish you both very happy!"
"You don't think that the differences in our ages will be an impediment for your sister's happiness?
"Well, sir, my sister loves you dearly; it is for her to object to that. And besides, sir...You are not Mathusalem, are you, sir?"
"Good grieve Hornblower! I've never realized until now how much you take after Marianne. You both have the same sharp wit quality !"
"I'm sorry, sir..."
"It's all right, man. This is not your captain speaking, I'll get used to it! Besides..."He smiled openly"that's what I love most about your sister."
The two men looked at each other, feeling a stronger bond than ever it was between them.
Since the news of Marianne's engagement to Edward was known to all parties concerned, Evergreen Cottage experienced such frenzied activity that Abbey thought the whole world had gone mad.
In due time, Lady Elisabeth arrived carrying dozens of boxes and trunks containing the best materials she could find for Marianne's trousseau. She silenced her protests.
"Not one word, young lady! This is a new life for me and since you don't have your own dear mother with you, I would like to fill her place as best as I can... Don't deny me this happiness!"
Marianne embraced the old lady, her heart bursting with emotion.
"Oh, m'am... You have been more than a mother to me in the past months. I don't know what to say!"
"Then say nothing! My mind is quite made up in this subject. Besides, I have a surprise for you... from Edward!"
"A surprise? How?"
"Yes dear. Following his instructions Mr. Dorson commissioned me to deliver this letter and these two packages."
Marianne smiled in childish anticipation.
"What do you want to see first?"
"His letter!"She opened the seal and read it eagerly, for it had been several weeks since his last one.
To Ms. Marianne Hornblower
I hope this finds you well and happy. What can I say? Except that all these weeks at sea have made missed you more than I could ever think possible. Believe me, I've been the most absent-minded captain in the whole fleet, and your dear brother is having a very good time watching me. It serves me right for all the jests I've put on him!
As far as I know, Lady Elisabeth will be delivering some things I've purchased at London and Plymouth before setting sail. Hope they are really to your taste. All I can say is, that each of them reminded me of you!, Specially of one night we were together on board the Indefatigable.
I'm counting the days of my return. There's nothing I wish more than make you my wife and have you all by myself!
Marianne blushed intensely, something that did not go unnoticed by Lady Montague and Abbey.
"Come dear, come and look!"Lady Montague opened a rectangular silver box. Inside of it, on a velvety cushion was the most exquisite piece of jewelry Marianne had ever seen; a delicate tiara mounted in dozens pearls and diamonds. Marianne lovingly touched it.
"T'is will look beautiful with your gown, child!"exclaimed Abbey.
"We haven't even look for a veil yet!"was Marianne's answer.
Lady Elisabeth drew a playful, naughty smile.
"I wouldn't worry about that. Let's see the other package!"
This time both women were deeply moved.
"Well, dear me! If there was a thoughtful man! There's your veil, child!"
It was a thin tulle fabric, covered with hundreds of glossy spots.
"Oh, my dear! This is lovely! It looks just like little twinkling stars!"
Marianne tried to say something, but she could only started weeping. She has hugged lovingly by the her two companions..
"I'll fix you some tea, it'll do you good! T'is are only nerves!"Abbey went out of the room and once outside she thank God with tears in her own eyes ("she would have let herself be killed before
letting Marianne saw her crying!")
""Heavenly Father, I thank thee, for my little girl has found someone worthy of her! At last we will be one happy family again! ""
One week before the wedding, Evergreen Cottage was bursting at the seems. Mr. and Mrs. Davenport arrived with all the family; two enchanting twin boys named Arthur and Robert, and the loveliest nine year old girl named Beatrice. To Mr. Davenport delight, Lillias and Marianne became very close the first instant they were introduced, and as for the children they were quite taken with the woman who was about to marry their "uncle Edward".
By Friday (the wedding was planned for the last Saturday in November) Marianne went to the church to finish certain details about the decoration. Little Beatrice, who followed her everywhere, insisted on going to the church and helped with the flowers. The hours passed like minutes and tea time sneaked on them.
"Good Heavens! Come Beatrice, we must make haste!"She feared Edward might have arrived, for she received a note from him the day before announcing his arrival at tea time.
"Is uncle Edward at the house?"asked the little girl.
-I don't know darling, we'll see when we get there!"
Although a short distance, it was soon clear to Marianne that the little girl was tired and could not maintain her quick pace. She stopped, giving the child a chance to rest. Beatrice's blue eyes were fixed on her.
"When you marry uncle Edward, will you live at Wood Hall?"
"And you will visit us, right?"
"Of course. Every day if you like. And you will visit me, would you like that?"
The little girl leaned her head on her shoulder. Marianne hugged her and kissed her lovingly. What it would be to hold in her arms Edward's children? Waves of pleasure overflowed her body, leaving a wonderful sensation of warmth and contentment.
"Shall I call you aunt Marianne, then?"
"I would like that very much, dearest!"
Marianne was so wrapped up in her thoughts, she didn't noticed that Edward had been watching the whole scene for some time, and seeing her with a child in her arms was the most beautiful thing he had ever cast his eyes upon. After a few minutes, Marianne took the child by the hand: it was then that she saw the captain walking towards her.
"Look, in uncle Edward!"
Marianne let go of the child's hand and ran all the way to him, throwing herself into his welcoming arms.
"You are back and safe!!"She took boldly his mouth in hers, making it very difficult for the captain to say anything. So he held her very close, making her feel all the urgency of his own body since they were apart. Finally he was able to speak.
"This is a fine welcome indeed!"He softly brushed his lips in her earlobe. Marianne shuddered
and then she realized that Beatrice had been watching the whole scene.
The little girl was standing in front of them, gazing curiously. She had seen her parents kissed, but never in that way. Edward bent his knee and took the girl in his arms.
"Well, young lady, what do you have to say for yourself?"
"Hello, uncle Edward!"
They all laugh merrily and started their way back to the house.
Marianne was restless. She got up from her bed and walk around her old room. It looked so empty, different for the exception of her wedding clothes carefully placed on an armchair. A soft knock on the door startled her.
"Who is it?"
"It's me, Horatio!"
She opened the door and let her brother in.
"I saw light under your door. Are you all right?"
"Yes, it's just that I couldn't sleep."
"Me, neither."They looked at each other and burst in nervous laughter. Marianne hugged her brother.
"I'll miss you !"said Horatio with trembling voice.
"And I'll miss you! "feeling her tears coming to her eyes she tried to use a lighter tone of voice"My God! Look at us!... Horatio I'm not moving to the ends of the Earth!"
"Yes, I know."He looked around his sister's room. How many nights as a child he had been there comforted by her, making plans for the future. Something inside of him began to hurt.
"What is this? What is this face about?"She cuddled her brother's dark curls.
"It's just that I was thinking this is the last time we will be able to talk this way!"
"Yes, that's true! Tonight is really my last night in this house, in this room. But I won't be so far away, and you must promise me you'll visit often."
"Well, if the captain won't object to that!"
"Horatio, he won't! Edward feels real affection for you!"
"I'm not so sure about it! Every time he is looking at you and I talked to him, he has this""Not now Mr. Hornblower, later!"" expression on his face!"
They began to laugh and sat on the floor near the fireplace; legs crossed, just like when they were children. They talked, and talked, bringing back all their childhood memories until the clock on the mantle announced it was midnight. Horatio helped his sister up from the floor.
"Now you really mut go to sleep!"
"Good night, Marianne!"
"Sleep well dearest! And remember, I'll always be your loving sister!"
He kissed her on the forehead and abandoned the room before she saw the tears in his eyes. For he knew that from now on he was not a child any longer, and he would have to face life and his destiny on his own.
The vicar's voice was filled with intensity. The customary words seemed new to all present at the church that morning.
"" Dearly beloved,
We are gathered here in the sight of God and in the face of this congregation to join
this man and this woman in Holly matrimony; which is an honorable state instituted by God in times of Man's innocency, signifying the mystical union between Christ and his Church. And therefore is not by any to enterprise likely, or wantonly to satisfy man's carnal lusts or appetites; but reverently, discretely, wisely and soberly, and in the fear of God; duely considering the for which matrimony was ordained:
First, for the procreation of children.
Secondly, as remedy against sin and to avoid fornication.
Thirdly, for the mutual society of affection and help the one ought to have for one another, into which this man and this woman come now to be joined together as man and wife; one flesh, one soul before God... ""