An American Encounter
By Skihee :)
Chapter 2 "Pamela"
With the morning came the time for His Majesty's Ship Indefatigable to bid fairwell to the U.S. Ship Cymbaline. Pellew was on the quarter-deck as he watched the skeleton crew of Cymbaline set her sails and turn her bow westerly towards the New World. He could see Captain Mason supervising his crew, and once under weigh, saw him wave and salute. Pellew touched his hat and nodded and breathed a sigh of relief as this additional burden was removed from his shoulders.
"Mr. Bracegirdle, set sail for home, sir."
"Aye, aye, Captain."
Pellew walked to starboard and stared east wondering about Hornblower and Dolphin. He hoped the woman was alive and well. Seeing men die in war was bad enough.
The low easterly sunrays beat upon him, warming his body in the cool morning air. The men talked quietly as they moved in their shipboard duties. The routine of Indefatigable soothed its Captain. He felt himself relax as he breathed in deeply. Paperwork beckoned him. Turning the deck over to his first leftenant, he returned to his cabin.
Mr. Kennedy emerged from below decks joining Bracegirdle on the quarter-deck. He was mildly apprehensive, seeking a way to broach the subject with his superior officer. Thank goodness it was Bracegirdle here and not Pellew. He would never get up the nerve to ask Pellew.
"Good morning, Mr. Bracegirdle."
"A fine morning, is it not?"
"Indeed." Bracegirdle looked at the young acting leftenant. He became aware of a tenseness in the younger man. "Cymbaline is off to America,"he offered, motioning with his eyes to the sails in the distance.
"Yes. I imagine that crew will be glad to get home." Kennedy spoke with distraction, teetered on his toes, and glanced warily at Bracegirdle. He took a deep breath, started to speak, stopped. What harm might he do in bringing this to the attention of his superior officers. After all, what could be done now? Telling what he suspected might harm his best friend. There was nothing to be done for it, it was too late. Should he just keep quiet? Surely Captain Pellew would never consider sailing back to look for Horatio and if he did, how angry would he be?
Everything happened so quickly. Had he been assigned to go with Horatio he could have helped him think, but then again maybe he did think. And that was why he was here about to ask the question that had been banging around in the back of his mind since he had talked with Mason. Maybe Horatio had taken some and just not noted it in the records. That was possible. Everything had happened so quickly with his own disembarkation, no doubt Hornblower had left equally hurried, at least it seemed so from what the men had said.
Would Pellew go looking for him? And if the answer was no, then he may as well keep quiet and hope for the best for his friend. Worry might be unnecessary. And if he said nothing and something happened to Dolphin would it be his fault for keeping quiet? He looked at Bracegirdle's puzzled face. His own wore the worry that nagged. Somehow he would have to check the purser's records against the stores, against the amount used in the recent fight. But what use would surety be, for he feared that answer, but it would have to be found. It would have to be known.
Bracegirdle became attentive to Kennedy's discomfort. "What is it, Mr. Kennedy?"
"When, ... Never mind, sir. It is not important." He saluted Bracegirdle and left the quarterdeck.
The first leftenant shook his head as he watched the junior officer descend the stairs.
Horatio was blasted out of his sleep by a scream. It was she, sitting bolt upright in bed, sobbing and yelling, "No, no." Acting instinctively, he jumped from the chair where he was sleeping and held her.
"You're all right! You're safe, shhhh, shhhh." He embraced her closely; she was shaking. He stroked her back and continued to speak to her in low comforting tones. At last she relaxed and fell back asleep once more.
Matthew's and Styles appeared at the door upon hearing her scream.
Matthews whispered to him, "Are you all right, sir?"
"Yes, what time is it?"
"It is going on ten, sir."
"TEN? Why didn't someone wake me?"he whispered loudly. Rising from the bed, he tucked her in, and left the cabin. He felt exhausted. "What's going on, Matthews? Are the repairs under way?"
"Yes, sir. We're managin' fine without ye, sir. You should get some rest. We know you were up most of the night. You look all done in, sir."
But he had to see for himself. He came into the bright sunlight and stood blinking on the deck. The main mast was in place and men were working around the base to secure it. The ship was beginning to take on the lines of a sailing vessel.
"See, sir, we been managin'."
"Indeed. Well done, men."
"You should get some rest, sir, we'll carry on here."
Hornblower ignored his words. "I want a full report of the hourly well observations, Styles. And Matthews, a full report from you as well, on what's been done. Be in my cabin in thirty minutes."
"Aye, aye, sir,"said Matthews in dismay.
Styles gave a knowing look to Matthews and shook his head. The two of them knew their captain all too well. A slave to his duty no matter what the cost to himself, or them, for that matter. Styles smirked, giving his head a final shake.
Hornblower turned and went back below decks, not to his cabin but to hers. He took one last look, making sure she was well covered, warm, and sleeping. Returning to his cabin he washed his face, shaved, and then sat down wearily at his desk. He pulled his notes to him. He must be sure that his ship was taken care of. It was his duty. There was a knock at his door.
"Come." Without turning, he started to say, "I said thirty minutes, not..."but looking round he saw it was not Matthews or Styles but Cook standing there with a tray.
"I've brought ye a bite to eat, sir, and some coffee."
Hornblower reddened. Partly because he was about to lambast this early intruder, and partly because he realized someone of his men was looking after his needs without him asking.
"Thank you, Cook," was his sole reply. He was still in a bad humor from his lack of sleep, not to mention the burden of an ill woman who seemed to have some suicidal tendencies. What would Captain Pellew say if he heard he had allowed a woman under his authority to do herself in? How could he live with himself if he, in negligence, allowed her to kill herself. She was a worry to him and it put him in a bad mood.
The tray of food sat before him. He sighed and knew he should eat. It was nigh on to noon and he had not eaten since last night. He drank some coffee and poked at the food before him. He sighed again and then made himself eat a bit. Another knock. This time it was Styles and Matthews.
"Mr. Matthews report if you please, sir."
Matthews and Styles jittered at each other, not used to being addressed in this fashion. He proceeded to give a full report to Hornblower on the repairs made, the materials used, what was left to be done and what materials remained. Hornblower took it all in and made notes on the papers before him. He would enter a more detailed accounting in his official log. Then, Styles reported on the status of the water in the well. It had not changed appreciably from the three feet noted yesterday, not going down nor increasing, which was some moderate good news. At least, the amount of water coming in was offset by the amount of water going out. He dismissed the men and set to writing his log report. Finishing most of the lengthy entires, he mulled over what was left to be done to the ship. He was ready to return topside, but not without first checking on his ward.
He sat down in the chair next to the bed. Seeing the bandages sitting on the table next to the partial bowl of porridge he realized he had not finished caring for her wrists. He gently pulled her hand away from the covers and examined the wounds. He carefully wiped them, administered a salve, and then wrapped the bandage gently around and around until it protected the damaged areas. She stirred slightly. At least he had one arm taken care of. He breathed deeply and waited to be sure she was not waking before starting the other wrist. When he finished, he leaned back with a sigh and thought he would sit with her for just a moment before going on deck. He closed his eyes to rest them and was soon fast asleep in the chair.
Late into the afternoon, Cook, came looking for his Captain. Not finding him in his cabin, he gently opened the door of 'her' cabin. Hornblower was sleeping in the chair, but the woman was awake and staring at Hornblower.
She glanced at Cook and clutched the blanket to her chest. It had become her first response to anyone. He smiled at her and then left. She returned her gaze to Hornblower and wondered where her dagger was. It was not long when the cook returned with a tray of food. He sat it down on the table and touched Hornblower's shoulder.
"Hmm? What is it?" asked Hornblower sleepily.
"Your charge is awake, sir, and I've brought a selection of food for both of you. If you need anything else, just call me, sir."
"What time is it?" He was flustered with himself
for sleeping, instead of taking care of his ship and now with
the woman awake he would have to take care of her.
"MR. Matthews,"Cook replied with the emphasis on the Mr., "says to tell you that all is well, sir, and that you needn't worry about the ship. It has just passed three bells, sir, in the first dog watch."
"Thank you, Cook."
The smell of the food reached Hornblower's nose and suddenly he realized how hungry he was. He looked at the woman and smiled at her. "Well, let's see what cook has brought us, eh? What would you like?" He didn't expect her to answer, but he asked anyway. "Some more porridge, perhaps?" He held the spoon to her lips, but this time she did not open her mouth for him. "No? Then maybe some water first." He held the cup to her lips, she took it and drained it dry. "Good. Now if you don't mind, I believe I will have a drink."
The plate contained some fried potatoes and a rasher of bacon. He took a bite. "This is delicious. Would you like some?" He held a fork full towards her not expecting her to take it but she did. "Excellent!" He smiled at her and prepared another fork full. "Would you like a piece of bacon?" He held it out to her. She looked at him and took it. He picked up another piece and took a bite himself. "MMM delicious!" He felt rather foolish going on about the food this way but it seemed to be having the desired affect on his ward. He smiled broadly and thought he saw a smile flash over her lips as she began to eat the bacon. He saw her notice her bandaged wrists. He took up a piece of biscuit and smeared it with orange marmalade. "My God! Marmalade! I haven't seen marmalade since I left home." He took a bite of the biscuit and handed it to her.
She was now holding a piece of bacon and a piece of biscuit and her blanket dropped. She snatched it up quickly as she realized her exposed state.
"Forgive me,"said Hornblower. "I didn't mean to upset you. I wouldn't upset you for worlds. I'm going to call my man to see if we can't find some women's clothes for you." He picked up the piece of bacon and held it out for her to take again. She took it and then he picked up the piece of biscuit from her blanket.
"Mr. Matthews!" He returned to his chair and smiled at her. "Would you like to try my coffee?" She shook her head no at him. He smiled at her. A response! She understood him. "Some more water then?" Progress, he was making progress.
She held the cup in her hand and drank, never taking her eyes off the man speaking. She was still weary and sore. Her wrists felt stiff and painful. She did not remember anyone tending them but the bandages were there so obviously someone had. She studied the man before her. He was wearing some kind of uniform. What became of the pirates? Was this man a pirate? He seemed to be kind. Could she trust him? She felt the course blanket touching her chest and wondered what else he had done besides care for her wrists, but she was too tired to give that much thought. Her body ached. Her wrists pained her. She began to recall her father when she heard steps in the companionway, rescuing her from those dark thoughts.
They finished their meal as Matthews, having been informed of the request for women's clothes, found a chest full of them. He and Styles carried the thing in. Oldroyd followed them with a bucket of water.
"We thought the lady might want to wash up, sir, so we took the liberty of bringin' some fresh water for her,"Oldroyd offered.
"Good idea, men."They left and Hornblower rose to his feet. He placed her dagger on the table. He had been weighing in his mind what to do with it and had come to the conclusion that she would not try to do herself in and that it could gain him her trust if he showed trust in her. She watched him and he looked at her. "I want you to know we mean you no harm. I am leaving this with you as a token of my assurance. I am going to leave you now and if you want to lock the door after me, you may. There is fresh water for you and a chest of clothes here. Is there anything else I can do for you?" She just stared. "I'll leave you then and I will check on you later, if I may." Again no response. He wondered if she were strong enough to manage on her own, but he felt she needed to be alone for this task. "Let me know if there is anything you require." And so he left. He stood outside the cabin and then heard what he expected, the latch put in place. But, then he heard her whimper, perhaps over her torn dress and all it represented. He hoped she would be all right.
Her bones ached with movement as she slid the latch on the door. The man was gone. He was kind, she thought again. She let go of her dress front and watched it fall revealing the roundness of her breasts. She looked down at the blood soaked skirt and struggled with a sob to keep her mind focused. The trunk. Clean clothes. She lifted the lid and began to sort through its contents. Dark blue. That fit her mood. She held the dress up to her. Laying it aside, she began to undress. Each move of her wrists made her wince. Taking a cloth and the water the men had brought her she began to sponge her body. Wiping away dried blood, sweat, dirt. She stood in the small cabin and shivered in her nakedness as she washed away the painful memories that beset her. Dressed, she found a brush in the trunk and began to brush through her long, thick, dark hair. The curls and waves resisted the pull of the brush. Images crowded back into her mind. Her father. Tears. Sadness. She put her hands over her face. She wanted to cry, but she was sick of crying. Three. It was three now. She slumped under the weight of what she allowed herself to realize. She shook her head, no. Hot tears. No. She sank to the floor, allowing herself to lay over on the skirts of the clean blue dress she was wearing. She clutched the material to her face and gave in to the sobs she could not suppress.
Hornblower went to his own cabin and threw himself across the bed. He had done nothing today and was exhausted. Stretching out his aching body felt magnificent. He had been too long in that chair. He reached over and took his log and began to finish the report he had started earlier that day. He lost track of the time as he read, and wrote and studied the charts. He heard the bell ring out the hour. It had grown late. The cool breezes on deck would refresh him. Lifting himself with a grunt, he pushed on his bicorn and left the cabin. Passing by hers, he wondered if she were sleeping.
Soon, he found himself enveloped in the cool darkness of a starry evening. Haverty was on watch. He saluted him as he came on the quarter-deck. The wind was passing through the newly hung rigging, singing its sea song with the ship creaking in harmony.
Having heard steps in the companionway, she decided to leave the cabin. She crept warily, not making a sound. Stepping out on the deck, she kept to the shadows so as not to be noticed by the men on watch. She could hear the noises of the ship as she pressed her back against the low wall of the quarterdeck. Someone was walking above. She became aware of her surroundings as her eyes grew accustomed to the darkness. She looked down and froze. Beneath her feet was a dark stain outlined in the clear oak decking. The images began to unfold on the theater of her mind.
Hornblower breathed deeply. The cool night air invigorated him. His thoughts turned to the ship. So far his men had not disappointed him. He smiled to himself and felt pride in his men. They were conducting themselves in his absence admirably. He would note it in his records. A moment later, the word "No!"was screamed in the most horrified of voices! On the deck below was a dark figure, kneeling. It was she.
"Good God! What now?" exclaimed Hornblower. He made his way down.
She was crying again, and saying "no"over and over.
The men below came running up on deck at the sound of her scream.
"Go back to sleep, men!" shouted Hornblower. He grabbed her by her shoulders and lifted her to her feet. He held her in his arms wondering if she had the dagger with her, all in the same moment. She leaned into his embrace and continued sobbing onto his shoulder. He wondered what was here that had so upset her. He led her back to her cabin and convinced her to lay down.
She was tidier and in a clean navy blue dress. It came all the way up to her neck, a simple dress really. Her face was clean except for the new stream of hot tears running down her cheeks. Her hair was brushed. She would be pretty if she were not so sad. Her eyes were red and tears were streaming from them again. He sat and looked at her with a sigh. He took his handkerchief out and daubed at the tears running down her face. Following her gaze, he realized she was staring at her ripped and blood soaked dress laying on the trunk.
"I'm going to get rid of that dress. If you don't want me to, you had better speak now." She said nothing. He went to the door, "Man, there,"he had no idea who was doing what jobs at this point. It was Hardy who appeared at the door, "Hardy, take this and throw it over board."
"Aye, aye,sir." Hardy stole a peek at the reclining passenger.
Hornblower turned. "Do you need anything?" It seemed to be his lot in life at the moment to see to her needs. He did not know what else to do but see that she was cared for and got stronger, then perhaps he could get back to his duties as a naval officer. He could not think of any man he could turn this job over to. He was the only one he felt she would trust, or that he would, for that matter, and to treat her as gently and kindly as possible.
He returned to his chair and put his head in his hands, exhaling. When he looked at her again, she had not moved and that steady stream of tears was there. He leaned over with his handkerchief to dry her face.
"Do you want to tell me what happened? Sometimes it helps to talk about it."
She shook her head no and buried her face in her blankets and began to sob.
*Oh God,* he thought, *Wrong thing to say. Maybe she needs a drink. Better still, maybe I need a drink,* but how would she respond to him drinking? It might upset her more. Perhaps the pirates had been drunk whenever they did whatever it was. He went to the door and called for Hardy. "Tell Cook to bring us some hot tea, and maybe a biscuit and some of that marmalade."
She listened to his voice. It distracted her from the images
in her mind demanding her attention. Drying her face with the
blanket, she turned her head to see the back of the kind man who
was trying to help her. *Speak again,* she thought. His voice
was soothing. It distracted horrible memories. *Tell him to
speak to you,* she told herself, but no words came. He turned
and realized she was watching him. He smiled at her.
What was he saying? She closed her eyes and tried to focus on what he was saying. The effort made the tears come in frustration. What was wrong with her? She found she was thinking of herself as another person. She turned her face into the blankets once more.
Cook appeared at the door with a tray. "Beggin' your pardon, sir, but is this going to become a nightly schedule?" Hornblower smiled at his discomfiture.
"I hope not, Cook, I hope not. Thank you, for your efforts."
"Well, my lady, our midnight meal is here." He looked at her and then at the tray. She still hid her face in the blankets. He rose and walked over to the bed and squatted beside it. "Ma'am. I'm going to sit beside you and hold you." He glanced over at the table. The dagger was still lying there. "I'm not going to hurt you. Do you understand? I don't know what I can do for you. It is obvious that those blackguards did something horrendous to you. I'm so sorry they did it. I want to help you. Please, let me help you." He spoke those words with all the tenderness he could muster and he meant them. He lifted her shoulders and sat on the bed pulling her up to hold her. He rested his head on hers and kissed her forehead. He began to rock her and hum a lullaby as best he could with his tone deafness. He remembered his mother singing it to him. He looked over at the tea and realized it was getting cold. He felt her relax in his arms and then heard her gentle, rhythmic breathing. She was asleep and soon so was he, him leaning against the bulkhead and she leaning against him.
Somewhere around dawn, she neared that half sleep, realizing her comfort and the warmth next to her. She put her arms around him and snuggled her face in his chest. A frown came upon her brow and she opened her eyes. She listened to the gentle breathing and felt herself moving with each of his inhales and exhales. She turned her face up to his and saw him sleeping there. A slight smile appeared on her lips and her eyes showed the gratitude she felt for the efforts this stranger made on her behalf. She raised herself gently so as not to waken him. She paused there gazing into the clear chiseled features, the full lips, the pale cheeks and generous nose. Sadness descended upon her. She leaned forward and gently kissed his cheek. She owed him that for his caring. Despite the darkness of her thoughts, she was aware of his efforts for redemption. Slipping off the bunk, she turned and let herself out of the cabin. A tear was already escaping down her cheek. Opening the door carefully, she slipped into the companionway and tiptoed out to the deck.
The morning was dim with clouds and the promise of rain. The sun had not quite made its appearance behind the clouds but its low horizon light was there all the same, manifesting gray.
She looked towards the quarter-deck. She could see the man on watch there and wondered when he would see her. It did not matter though. She began to make her way towards the bow of the ship. She went as far forward as she could, to the very bowsprit of the ship. Looking out over the water, the image of her father's death played in her memory. She threw her arm over her eyes! Death!
The sea was stripped of its beauty by the absence of sunlight. It was gray, dreary, lifeless. Two husbands, a father. Why did such a beautiful thing of nature despise her so? Could she do what she planned? Climb up. Fall. Let the ship run her down? Sucking in a breath, self preservation prevailed and though her heart beat wildly, she could not move. The never ending tears fell without a sound.
The man at the wheel saw her making her way forward. "Jenkins, look there!"he whispered. The man on watch saw her.
"I'd better get Mr. Hornblower!" He jumped down the stairs entering the cabin deck in seconds. He ran to Hornblower's cabin and threw open the door calling his name. When he realized he was not there, he went to her cabin. "Mr. Hornblower!"
He was still sitting upright leaning against the wall asleep. Jenkins shook him.
"Mr. Hornblower! The lady, sir! She's up on deck again!"
Hornblower bounded from his seat, running out into the gray misty morning..
"She's at the bow, sir!"
He hurried that direction but slowed his pace when he saw her standing there. "Good Morning, ma'am,"he tried to say cheerfully, but felt it came out more warily.
She turned to face him slowly. That voice. That resonant comfort. A lifeline. Was there any reason to continue?
Tears again. His heart sank at the sight of her. Would she cry an ocean full of tears?
"He killed him!"
Hornblower nearly jumped out of his skin! Even she had a look of surprise for a moment, but once she found her voice released, the story came pouring out.
"That filthy pirate killed my father!" She sobbed. "He raked his cutlass over his throat"she performed the motions she had watched, sucked in her breath with a sob, then said, "And nearly severed his head from his body!" She cried, again motioning with her hands down her dress, as if she was seeing the thing all over again. "The blood... the blood went everywhere!"
Hornblower's complexion had gone ashen as he listened. Instinctively he moved toward her and pulled her to himself. She was quaking and wailing with sorrow.
"He killed my father!" She said it again. And then she began to collapse in his embrace.
He caught her and picked her up in his arms. She pushed her face into his shoulder as her body racked with her desolation.
Jenkins was close behind him and heard the story. The whole ship would know by breakfast. It did not matter. At least, he would not have to repeat it.
He walked gingerly over the deck with her in his arms. He returned to her cabin, sat down on the bed and held her once again. He found himself rocking her and stroking her head. No words would console her, he knew. He did the only thing he could. He wiped her face, brushed away her hair, and kissed her on the forehead, rocking her all the time. He had to let her get this out. Maybe then she would begin to heal. *So,... she is an American,* he thought. The first one he ever met.
At last, she had stopped crying, at least audibly anyway. The tears still rolled, but she lay there quiet, staring at the wall.
"Ma'am, I've got to go tend to the ship,"he said awkwardly as he stood before her. She said nothing and he turned to leave.
"Thank you, Mr. .....?"she said with a question in her voice.
"Hornblower, Ma'am, 'Leftenant' Horatio Hornblower, of His Britanic Majesty's Frigate Indefatigable."
She looked up at him with an incredulous smile, and then, he too, found what he said funny. "Well, just Hornblower, then, Ma'am."
"My name is Pamela, Mr. Hornblower,"she said blankly returning to stare at the wall and then she closed her eyes.