The Lady Dunbar
by Kelly Garner
"Horatio! Have you seen my cravat?" Horatio turned the page of his book.
"I would hope it's in your room." Archie hurried by the wardroom towards his room. His manner was so agitated the Horatio could not help but look up.
"Found it!" Archie called from his room. He entered the wardroom, holding his prize. His intrigued friend watched as he struggled to tie the thing around his neck. Usually Archie could put that ridiculous thing on in a matter of moments, without even thinking about it, simply one of the advantages of growing up as the son of a noble. But today his hands shook terribly and he could barely hold the cravat, let alone tie it. After several moments of watching this sad display Horatio could not stand it any more. Putting his book aside he stood up, hurried over to Archie and began to tie the thing for him.
"Thank you," Archie sighed.
"What has got you so nervous today? As far as I know it is just an average day."
"It is far from an average day Horatio." Archie was breathing heavily, his palms were sweaty and his skin was pallor. Horatio suddenly became worried.
"Archie, are you all right?"
"I am afraid I may have a fit," Archie said, though he was smiling. This alarmed Horatio terribly.
"Why?! What happened? Do you feel all right?" The smile grew wider.
"I feel wonderful. I am afraid I will have a fit from pure excitement." Puzzlement crossed Horatio's face.
"Archie, tell me what is going on or I will die from worry." Archie grinned like a small child.
"Cat is here, at this port." This did not help Horatio at all.
"Cat?" Archie's face fell, obviously distraught that his friend failed to remember the name.
"You remember Horatio, Cat. Catherine Dunbar, my oldest and dearest friend. The only person who has ever had faith in me, besides you of course." Suddenly Horatio remembered the woman he had so recently learned about, the sweetheart he had never known Archie had. He had only learned about her a few months before, when he had questioned Archie about a letter he had found on the wardroom table. He had discovered a part of Archie's past he had never known had existed by asking this simple question. He had known that Archie's father was a lord and that he tolerated his older more perfect brothers. But Horatio had never heard of a sweetheart or a close friend. By the impression Archie had given Horatio had come to think that Archie had been friendless his entire life. But all of a sudden he had learned of Catherine Dunbar, his childhood friend, closest confident and later sweetheart. She was his guide, his companion, his better half. When he doubted himself she comforted him, made him believe in himself. When he first learned of her existence Horatio would never admit it but he had been jealous of the mysterious Catherine Dunbar, this woman who had Archie's complete trust and confidence. He had thought himself privileged to be so close to Archie, thought he was the only person to know the true Archie. Yet now he learned someone else was privileged to these secrets, someone Archie had kept secret from him. When he had asked Archie why he had never mentioned this apparently very important aspect in his life Archie had simply replied that she had never come up. Horatio knew this was a lie, but had let it go, knew Archie would tell him the truth when he felt like it.
"Yes, I remember. She is here in this port?"
"Yes, and Pellew has already given us freedom to go ashore. Oh Horatio this will be the first time she has seen me since before I was imprisoned. I can not wait to have her see how I have changed and for her to meet you." Horatio's eyes opened wide in surprise.
"Me? Oh no Archie you should go by yourself, you two have not seen each other in three years. I would hate to intrude. . ."
"You must come. I will have my two greatest supporters meet each other. Come on Horatio or we will be late." Without another word Archie grabbed his hat and started up to the main deck. Horatio barely had enough time to grab his own hat and hurry after his friend.
The two officers walked down the streets of Portsmouth, Archie looking anxiously for the inn where his angel was staying. Horatio walked by his side, just as anxious, but for a very different reason. He was not so sure he wanted to meet this perfect angel of Archie's heart, but he had no choice. This was important to Archie, and thus it was important to Horatio.
"There it is," Archie said happily, pointing to a beautiful brick inn. The two went up to the stoop and Archie knocked. A butler appeared in the doorway.
"May I help you?"
"Could you please tell the Lady Catherine Dunbar that Lieutenant Archie Kennedy and Lieutenant Horatio Hornblower would very much like to see her."
"Please come in, the Lady has been expecting you." He led them inside and into the parlor room. "I will fetch the Lady immediately." He left the room and several moments later a beautiful woman appeared at the bottom of the staircase. She was the most beautiful woman Horatio had ever seen. She had a shapely figure underneath a fine corseted dress of plaid, round brown eyes, a pretty pink mouth and pink cheeks under light freckles. Her long auburn hair fell in loose curls about her shoulders. There was a lively intelligent look in her eyes, the same look Archie had when he was at his best.
"Archie!" she exclaimed in a beautiful Scottish brogue.
"Catty," Archie whispered in awe, as if he was in the presence of a religious relic.
"Do not just stand there Archie, come and say hello to me," she commanded with a smile on her lips. The two ran at each other, falling into a grand embrace. Horatio could not help but smile as he watched Archie bury his head in her dark hair and Catherine grab his uniform tightly. When they finally pulled back they kissed, a sweet loving kiss, the type Horatio remembered his father and mother share before she died. When they pulled back they both smiled of childlike joy and it was then that Horatio realized how alike they were in disposition.
"Whether thy be a Dunbar," Cat exclaimed.
"Or a Kennedy," Archie added.
"May God smile upon the Scots!" they finished together. At this they burst into giggles and hugged once more. This was a friendly embrace, an embrace between two old friends.
"It is so good to see you Cat." Cat's face melted into the sweetest smile Horatio had ever seen. She reached up and pushed his hair out of his eyes.
"Aye, I had almost forgotten what you looked like." For a moment the two simply stared into each others' eyes until Horatio summoned the courage to clear his throat. Archie smiled awkwardly and turned towards him.
"I almost forgot. Cat this is Horatio." Cat smiled and extended her hand, not for him to kiss but for him to shake. Horatio paused, had never shaken hands with a woman before. Reluctantly he extended his hand, which Cat took warmly. Horatio was surprised to find that the sweet woman had a powerful handshake.
"It is so good to finally meet you Horatio. Archie has written so much about you in his letters. It is an honor to meet the man who has so helped my Archie." Horatio blushed at such praise.
"I simply helped him find what was inside him all along Lady Dunbar."
"Please Horatio call me Cat, or at least Catherine. I can not abide people calling me Lady Dunbar."
"Very well La. .Cat." She smiled widely and turned on her heels towards the closet room.
"Where are you off to Cat?" Archie asked. Horatio noticed that though Archie never had a Scottish accent normally, since he was raised mostly in London, a brogue appeared around someone of his own nationality.
"We are off to lunch. I have already made the reservations at The King's Tavern," she replied as she retrieved her cloak. Horatio was about to argue when Cat hooked her arms through his and Archie's. "Shall we my dear Lieutenants?" The two men smiled at each other as they walked out into the street, linked arm in arm.
It had truly been a wonderful day. The three young companions had had a marvelous lunch and then spent the rest of the day exploring the shops of Portsmouth. Horatio had been surprised at how comfortable he was around Cat. Usually he was amazingly nervous around women, he often felt as if he was going to faint by merely being in their presence. Even if they were married he felt uneasy, thought he would cross some forbidden line. But around Cat he felt relaxed and at ease. He stopped thinking of her as a Lady and started to think of her as a friend. The woman was intelligent, funny, joyous and understanding. Archie was at his best around her, there was none of the doubt or shame that sometimes clouded his personality. His blue eyes sparkled as his humor and love for life took hold. Even Horatio let go of the worry that often plagued him and found himself having a wonderful time.
Against their will the three parted and Archie and Horatio headed back to the Indy. "What do you think Horatio?" Archie asked him when they were in the wardroom.
"About what? Cat? I think she is wonderful. I have never met such a woman."
"She is wonderful isn't she?" Archie sighed as he fell into a seat behind the table.
"Now I know why you have kept her all to yourself." Archie looked up sharply.
"Now Horatio. . ." Horatio held up his hands.
"The reason why you did not tell me about her is your business. You do not have to tell me, but if you want to," he smiled, "you know where to find me." With that Horatio slipped into his small room.
Sometime in the middle of the night Horatio awoke for seemingly no reason at all. He simply sensed that something was wrong. Pulling himself out of bed he left his room and entered the dark hallway. He did not know what led him to Archie's room, but he felt that he was simply drawn to the door. As he drew close he could see a small bit of light seeping out from beneath the door, knew Archie often needed light to sleep, was ashamed to admit he was frightened of the dark. Quietly he knocked on the door.
"Archie?" he whispered softly.
"Come in," came the equally quiet response. Horatio entered, careful to close the door silently behind him. Archie was sitting up right in his hammock reading a letter by candlelight.
"Archie?" Horatio asked again. Archie looked up and smiled softly. His skin was pale and his bright blue eyes were glazed over.
"Ah, Horatio. What are you doing up?"
"Something just woke me, don't know what it was." He learned in closer to his friend. "Are you all right Archie?" Archie nodded weakly.
"Just could not sleep, that is all." The nightmares again, Horatio thought as he used Archie's sea chest as a seat, but he did not say anything, knew it embarrassed Archie to talk about them. "What are you reading?"
"An old letter of Cat's, one of the first she wrote me. Would you like to read it?" The remark threw Horatio off guard. Read someone else's mail? What an intrusion of privacy. He shook his head.
"Archie, I could never. . ."
"No here, Cat would not mind one bit. In fact she would insist. She thinks letters are the true way to look into people's souls. Here." He handed the yellowing letter to Horatio who took it up reluctantly and began to read.
April 5, 1772
Hello! I know this is my third letter this week, but your last letter was so disheartening I could not help but worry, and you know I am not a silly girl who worries all the time like some. God how annoying they can be. But enough of that. How are you faring Archie? Better I hope. I wish I was there. I would do more than give Mr. Simpson a piece of my mind, I would hit him so hard he would never recover. I know you do not want to be protected, but I can hit him, you can not. What would they do to me? 'Now, now Miss Dunbar, that was not very lady like.' Like Hell! I have not even met the man but I already have a loathing for him. Any man, especially one who must be in his mid thirties, is a coward and a demon to push young men, or boys in the case of poor Mr. Fleet, down stairs. He should be hung!!!
Do not despair Archie. Simply go on with your life, and when it gets too horrible simply drift away in your mind. That is what I do when I am stuck in ridicules tea parties, though I know it is degrading to relate the two. Pretend you and I are fencing out by the brick barn. Remember? When your brothers and our fathers were not there, how we would fence together? Or pretend we are riding out on the cliff or reciting Shakespeare. You were always the best Mac Beth. Remember Archie, Simpson may be able to make the world you live in a living hell, but he can never touch the world in your mind.
You said in your last letters that your fits have grown in number of late, so I have included a package of the special tea my mother used to make for you, along with my prayers.
I miss you greatly Archie, my life is dreary without my best friend around. The only ones I have for company are my Father, who is preoccupied with official business, and the daughters of his friends, who are intolerable silly goslings. I can not wait until we are together again, partners in crime, correct?
Please tell Clayton hello for me and that I wish him well. Take heart Archie, you will be with friends again, I promise. You will rise above this, you are greater than Simpson, who if you ask me will dig his own grave.
Your best friend forever,
As Horatio finished he looked up at Archie, who had been patiently waiting for him to finish.
"This was before I arrived on the Justinian," Horatio said lamely. Archie nodded. "Archie, who was Mr. Fleet?" Archie's blue eyes glazed over with pain long forgotten.
"Reggie was but thirteen when he joined the Justinian, I was only fifteen myself. Reggie was, well... you." Horatio's eyes opened wide and puzzlement crossed his features.
"Me?" Archie nodded, a smile crossing his lips.
"He was perfect, knew everything. Was just like you, except he never doubted himself." Horatio blushed, knew it was true. "He wanted to be an Admiral, and he would have too, except Simpson could not stand poor Reggie being so much better then he ever would be himself. He pushed my friend down the stairs Horatio, broke his poor neck Everyone said it was an accident or suicide, but Reggie was not clumsy and had too much to live for to do something like that. And everyone knew the truth, but we all did nothing. We stood by and let him get away with it." He paused and took a deep breath. "After Reggie died my only friends in the whole world, were Clayton and Cat. They were the only ones I could talk to because I knew what I told them was safe. Until you came of course." Horatio looked at his friend, not sure what to say in reaction to the old painful memories he had dragged up.
"Well you were lucky to have Clayton and Cat to confide in." He gazed at the letter. "Would she have really hit him?" Archie gazed at him a moment and then began to chuckle.
"You bet, right in front of Pellew too. She would not have cared. Cat did always have quite a temper and a mean left hook," he said as he gently massaged his chin, recalling some long ago memory in which the two had playfully wrestled. Horatio could not help but laugh out loud, could actually imagine the feisty Scot hitting the wicked Simpson.
"Archie, why did you not tell me about Cat? I mean the real reason." Archie stared at him for a moment, trying to decide whether or not to tell Horatio the truth.
"I suppose I ..... no, you will think me silly."
"No I won't, I promise." One look in Horatio's eyes told him that he was telling the truth.
"I, was. . . well afraid."
"Afraid?" Horatio asked, worried Archie would stop.
"Afraid that you would take her away from me." Horatio almost fell over. Did Archie say what he thought he'd said?
"I know it's silly. I know you and Cat would never do that to me, but, I mean. . .you're Horatio Hornblower and I'm just Archie. I was afraid Cat would take one look at you and forget all about me, like all the other ladies we have met." Horatio, still not believing what he was hearing, stood up and moved closer to Archie.
"Archie, you and Cat were meant for each other. Even if I did want her, which I don't, she would kick me in the groin. She is loyal to you and you alone. You two are kindred spirits, I saw it for myself. Nothing could tear you two apart." Archie shifted his eyes to the ground, could not bare to look at Horatio for his shame.
"I know that, I always knew that, I guess I was just scared of losing the greatest friend I have ever known." Again confusion crossed Horatio's face. "I know you do not understand," Archie rushed on, "but Cat is the only friend I have ever had that has remained with me. My brothers never gave me another look and the other boys thought I was too weak to play with. Cat was the only girl who wanted to ride and play with the boys, with me. When I joined the navy I became friends with Clayton, Reggie and Cleveland, but Reggie was killed, Clayton was always a little distant and Cleveland betrayed me as to not enrage Simpson."
"I suppose I don't count for anything then," Horatio said, a bit of hurt edging into his voice.
"It's not that. It's just that. . . well my friendship with Cat was a special secret, something no else in the navy knew about it, it was a secret I did not want to share, not even with you. Especially not after. . ."
"The Inquisition." A chill went down Horatio as memories of Simpson's horrible inquisition, his brutal beating to find your deepest darkest secrets. Instantly Horatio knelt down closer to Archie, full of curiosity as well as dread.
"What about the inquisition?" Archie had grown pale, his lips trembling at the memory. When he did speak his words they were halting and spoken with deep emotion.
"Jack cornered me into a small room like he did all the others and began to kick me, yelling at me to tell him my secret. 'Everyone has a secret no else must know,' he said as he hit me. I told him I had fits, but he said everyone would find that out sooner or later, he wanted more, something better. But Horatio I had no secret, none to tell him and I have always been a very bad liar. He continued to hit me, continued to yell. Finally he tired of this and broke into my sea chest, ripping through my things until he found a small portrait I had of Cat. We were not sweethearts yet but I wanted a picture of my greatest supporter with me when I went to sea, so I would not forget what she looked like. Simpson grabbed her portrait and sneered. 'Who's the pretty girl?" he asked. 'A favorite sister? Or a beloved sweetheart?' I did not tell him Horatio, did not dare. I would protect Cat from that monster till the end. He kicked me again, harder and harder, threatening to kill me if I did not tell him who the beautiful woman was. I resisted until I was nearly faint and terrified at the idea of having a fit in front of him. I mumbled 'Cat' against my better judgment. He learned closer to me to hear. 'Who?' he asked. 'Catherine,' I spit out, 'the Lady Catherine Dunbar, my friend.' He smiled at that. 'Your friend huh? Must be a pretty good friend to carry around her picture. It would be horrible if anything should happen to her.' He then got real close to me, that sneer on his face. 'If you should go against the grain here I just might have to do something very, unkindly, to your pretty friend. Understand?'"
Horatio understood perfectly. A man like Simpson would not give a second thought to harming a woman, especially one as pretty as Cat. No matter how tough and stubborn Cat was Horatio knew that if Jack had wanted to kill her she could not hold him off. He himself had tried it once and failed, but who knows? He was not a bawdy feisty Scottish Lady.
"So you see Horatio, it was not just fear for myself that kept me under Simpson's boot, it was my fear for Cat. I just got into the habit of not telling anyone about her. If one person could threaten her, why not others?"
"Archie I would never. . . ."
"I know, just old habits I guess."
"But Simpson's gone," Horatio said gently, "Cat is safe." Archie forced a smile.
"You are right. Horatio," he eyes looked up at him mischievously, "I am thinking about asking Cat's father for her hand in marriage." Horatio had to admit he was not completely surprised, but he had to act happy. "What do you think?"
"I think," he saw the searching look in Archie's eyes and forced a smile, "I think you two have waited long enough." Archie grinned a boyish smile.
"Then I shall ask tomorrow." Horatio stood up and moved to the door.
"Then I shall leave you be. Good night Archie."
"Night Horatio." Quietly Horatio left his very excited and pleased friend alone and went back to his room, slightly down trodden. It was not that he was not happy for Archie, quite the opposite. He thought Cat was the perfect person for Archie. He simply felt, well ignored. Like many people before him Horatio felt that after Archie was married he would be ignored, left out, his place of importance stolen. Somehow Horatio felt that Archie would not need him anymore, he would have the perfect angel.
The next day Archie received permission to go ashore and went off straight away in his best dress uniform. Horatio's forced words of encouragement in his ears. When he arrived at port his first impulse to hunt out Lord Dunbar, but he knew that even though Cat would most defiantly say yes, she would be very insulted that he had not asked her first. He went to her inn and called upon her. He had to wait only a moment before she appeared at the bottom of the staircase, obviously very happy to see him.
"Good morning Archie. Manage to get away from Pellew I see?" she said with a twinkle in her eye as she moved towards him.
"You would be surprised how lenient he can be when he is a good mood." Suddenly he became very shy and nervous in the face of his greatest champion. "I was actually on my way to see your father to ask him something, but I thought it best to ask you first." Cat played innocent.
"Ask me what?" He took her hands in his and kneeled.
"Cat, will you do me the honor of being my wife?" Her face broke into a wide smile.
"It is about time!" Before Archie could do anything Cat jumped at him, threw her arms around his neck as he fell backwards, Cat lying on top of him.
"So is this a yes?" Cat let out a childlike giggle and kissed him sweetly.
"What do you think?" she asked after she had pulled back. Grinning Archie curled his arms around her back and held her close.
"I think that was better than any word you could have used." They kissed again, like only two passionate souls can. "You know," Archie said when they pulled away from each other, "I still have to ask your father."
"He better say yes."
Lord Dunbar did say yes, had always envisioned his daughter marrying the naturally happy but sensitive Kennedy. Archie was so thrilled he insisted Cat go with him aboard the Indy to meet the Captain and his fellow lieutenants. Insist was a strong term, all he had to do was suggest it and she jumped at the chance. Cat loved ships, having an uncle in the navy she had spent many years on them and was looking forward to stepping on board the Indy.
"Boat approaching Captain," Bracegirdle announced to Pellew as they stood on the main deck.
"Mr. Kennedy, back already?" Bracegirdle gazed through his spyglass.
"So it seems, and he has a lady with him." Pellew raised an eyebrow.
"Yes Sir." Pellew nodded slowly.
"Mr. Bowles!" The elder officer suddenly appeared.
"Please alert the men that a woman will be coming aboard." Bowles saluted.
"Yes Sir!" he said as he ran off to do his duty. The boat quickly approached the side and Archie appeared at the top of the ladder. He easily jumped over the rails and saluted Captain Pellew.
"Lieutenant Kennedy reporting Sir."
"Very good Lieutenant." Auburn hair appeared over the side and then the rest of Cat became visible. Instead of waiting for some silly wooden swing to be lowered down, Cat had simply gotten hold of the ladder and easily climbed up to the top. She smiled as she noticed the surprise on all the men's faces as she climbed over the side without help. When she was safely on deck she adjusted her skirts and smiled widely at Captain Pellew, who was trying very hard to hide his surprise at seeing this Scottish beauty on his ship. Though bursting with pride and joy Archie had to remember his position and obligations.
"Sir, may I present my long time friend and fiancé the Lady Catherine Dunbar." At this Pellew raised an eyebrow but said nothing, knew better than to question the workers of Scottish nobility.
"It is my pleasure Lady Dunbar," he said as he took up her hand and kissed it. "My ship is at your service my Lady." Cat smiled sweetly, putting on her official noble countenance.
"It is my pleasure Sir Edward. Archie has nothing but great praise for you." Pellew smiled pleasantly, did not gaze at Archie, knew it would embarrass him.
"Thank you my Lady. To what do I owe this great honor of your visit to my humble ship?"
"For the past several years Archie has written about his life at sea and I wished to see this grand ship for myself. May I impose upon you for a tour?"
"You are not imposing my Lady. Mr. Hornblower, Mr. Kennedy!" The two were instantly by his side.
"Your Kennedy and Mr. Hornblower will give a tour of the ship. It would then be my honor to dine with you."
"Thank you very much Sir Edward for your grand invitation, but I am afraid I must decline this time. You see I already have plans to dine with my father, Archie and his father."
"I understand my Lady, but the invitation is always open."
"Thank you Sir Edward."
"Mr. Kennedy, Mr. Hornblower show the lady about the ship."
"Yes Sir," they said in unison. Without thinking Archie grabbed her wrist and playfully pulled her towards the stairs that led down to the different decks. With a look of reluctance and a bit of sadness Horatio hurried after them, leaving the entire crew wondering why Archie had kept this magnificent creature a secret.
With a bright childlike smile Archie led her to the hold and proudly showed her his guns, his place of honor in the ship. Horatio stood at the entrance and watched the two friends joyfully examine the guns and playfully tease each other, just enjoying the other's company. Horatio was forgotten and they were fifteen again playing in the hills of Scotland or along the ramparts of the Kennedy home outside of London. Horatio felt like an outsider, like an unseen ghost that watched the two undetected. He could actually see them there, they were no longer in a dark hold but on the hills of Scotland. The two were five years younger and Archie was dressed as a noble, not an officer. The two were playfully walking along a decaying wall, laughing and pushing each other off. It was cloudy and windy atop the hill and their hair flew into their faces as they simply enjoyed each other's company. Sighing Horatio turned away from this happy scene and slipped away, his disappearance completely unnoticed by Cat and Archie.
Horatio sat forlornly in the wardroom when he caught the sent of tobacco, which could belong to only one person. He looked up and not surprisingly saw Doctor Sebastian standing in the doorway. Horatio started to stand when the doctor stopped him.
"At your ease Mr. Hornblower," the kindly doctor insisted as he came forward and joined Horatio at the table. "Why are you in here? I thought you and Mr. Kennedy were giving the Lady Dunbar a tour?"
"I think Archie can do well enough without me." Now Sebastian was old enough to know exactly what Horatio was talking about, but he decided it was best to allow the young man to talk about it as he pleased.
"The Lady Dunbar is quite beautiful, inside as well as out," he said in an off hand way.
"How could you know that? You have not said a word to her."
"But I can tell a good heart when I see one and I also saw how Mr. Kennedy and Lady Dunbar looked at each other, only good hearts can share a love like that. What do you think of the Lady Dunbar, my dear Hornblower?"
"Yes you, what do you think of your dear friend's fiancé?" Horatio shrugged.
"Well, she is as grand as you suspect Doctor. I only met her yesterday, but already I count myself lucky to be considered one of her friends."
"You will be serving as Mr. Kennedy's best man I assume?" This innocent comment caught Horatio completely off guard. He had not given the matter a single thought.
"I have not given it much thought, but I doubt it. Archie has two brothers and will probably choose one of them as best man."
"From the way Archie describes his relationship with his brothers that is most doubtful." Horatio chewed his lip, knew what Sebastian said was true, knew Archie and the doctor had developed almost a father son relationship. Horatio was about to add his own comment to this when Archie and Cat happily half ran into the room, laughing all the way. Sebastian looked up at the pair and smiled.
"Good morning Mr. Kennedy," he stood and bowed gallantly towards Cat, "my Lady."
"Doctor Sebastian may I introduce Catherine Dunbar, Cat this is the doctor I told you about." A beautiful smile crossed Cat's face.
"Then I owe a great debt of thanks to you Doctor Sebastian, for healing Archie," she said as she extended her hand, for him to shake, not to kiss. This odd behavior did not seem to strike the Spaniard as such for he simply smiled and took her hand warmly.
"You owe me nothing my Lady, it was my pleasure." Cat glanced over at Archie, a sweet look which people are wont to give when they gaze upon something special which they have come so close to losing. Cat had almost lost him to death and to nightmares and she squeezed his hand to show how precious he was to her. Sebastian caught sight of all of this and knew that the saints had blessed this union. Archie smiled sweetly at her and then seemed to notice Horatio for the first time.
"There you are Horatio. Cat and I were wondering where you had gone off to."
Horatio could not help but mutter, "I am surprised you noticed I was gone." Archie's blue eyes narrowed as he gazed at his friend in confusion. Both Cat and Sebastian immediately knew what needed to be done.
"Doctor, I have always been very interested in medicine, could you possibly show me about your office?" Sebastian sighed with pleasure at the woman's innate knowledge of the human heart.
"It would be my pleasure my Lady." Without saying a word to Archie Cat let go of his hand and hooked her arm around the doctor's and let her lead her to the sick berth.
The two friends stared at each other a moment until Archie broke the silence. "What was that all about?"
"Nothing," Horatio said, trying to avoid a fight.
"Damn that Horatio. You have been acting funny every since you met Cat. What's gotten into you lately? Do you not enjoy seeing me happy?" Horatio looked at him sharply, angered that he would even consider such a thing.
"That's absurd Archie. You know I would never do anything to stand in the way of you and happiness. You are practically my brother, damn it."
"Then why are you acting like this?" Horatio wanted to tell him what was wrong, but he could not, could not bear to admit it.
Sebastian had led his guest to the sick berth to show her about, and was surprised at the woman's great knowledge of medical training. She impressed him so that he just had to ask her how she knew the things she did.
"I was always interested in male hobbies," Cat said with a shrug. "Fencing, riding, plays, medicine, ships. I never was one for sewing and gossip. Father tried to teach me to be a proper lady, painting lessons and the like, but I hated them. The only lessons I loved were my language lessons."
"What languages do you speak my Lady?"
"My own Gaelic, Spanish, French, German and some Italian." A smile crossed the doctor's face.
"Spanish?" Cat knew exactly what the man was up to, he was going to test her. She nodded. "I have not had a conversation in Spanish in quite awhile, would you indulge me my lady?" The woman smiled, enjoyed having someone to test her different languages with.
"Of course Doctor," she replied in perfect Spanish. "Doctor?" she asked pensively as stepped nearer to him.
"Yes my Lady?" he responded in his mother's native tongue. Sebastian had a wonderful understanding of the human heart and took notice when Dunbar's naturally sparkling eyes became dark and concerned.
"I have always considered myself to be Archie's closest confidant. I always felt that he could tell me anything, but of late it seems he will not tell me certain things, things that he feels I will not understand. Though I was hurt at first, I do understand why he could not talk to me, and whatever he said to you apparently worked. He is the Archie that I knew, the boy that left for the navy has returned, in the form of this man. I thought I would never see that boy again, but you have given him back to me and for that I am forever in your debt." The Spaniard saw complete gratitude in those eyes, the same gratitude he had seen in Horatio's eyes the night he had saved Archie's life. And that is what he had done again, yet this time he had saved the man's soul. His heart overflowed with her kind truthful words and he bowed.
"Consider the debt paid my Lady," came the gentle reply. Cat smiled, her melancholy mood broken. She had done what she had meant to and was now glad it was over, for she hated to be in debt to anyone for anything and now they could be equal, Cat's favorite position.
Suddenly a noise shook the boards above them and both looked up startled. A string of curses followed the noise.
"By God, that sounds like German," Sebastian exclaimed, speaking for the first time in English.
"That's not German," Cat said seriously, her eyes growing wide, not from fear, but from knowledge of what must be going on above them. "But Gaelic. Come on, Archie only curses in Gaelic when he is about to explode," she said as she hurried, very calmly, towards the staircase, Sebastian right on her heels.
The two companions hurried to the wardroom where they found Horatio and Archie wrestling, not in friendly manner for there was already blood on Archie's shirt. Sebastian and Cat looked on in horror as the two tore at each other and let wild punches fly.
"Archie! Horatio! Mr. Hornblower! Mr. Kennedy!" The two cried as they ran to the friends and struggled to separate them. "Archie!" Cat exclaimed, her voice edged with scolding urgency as she grabbed him by the shoulders, throwing herself between the two. Sebastian in turn grabbed hold of Horatio, placing himself back to back with the Scottish Lady. Horatio immediately calmed down though his cheeks were still flushed and eyes were still sparkling from emotion. Archie on the other hand struggled wildly and it took all of Cat's strength to hold him. His blond hair fell into his eyes, which were blazing with a fury she had never seen before. While this look might have frightened another it simply sharpened Cat's stubbornness and resolve to calm him.
"Archie! Archie!" she repeated, not sure he could hear her, or that he could even see her. Boldly she reached up and touched his forehead gently. This instantly broke the spell Archie was in. His eyes softened just a bit as he looked into her deep wise eyes.
"What is going on here?" Sebastian asked, authority and concern in his voice. Horatio, the more coherent of the two, touched his bleeding lip tentatively as he looked warily at Archie over the Spaniard and Scot's shoulders.
"We got into a fight."
"Well that is fairly obvious Mr. Hornblower," Sebastian said sharply, his dark eyes flashing. Such violence between friends had a tendency to make him quite angry.
"Over what?" Cat asked, her eyes searching Archie's face for some answer. The steel returned to his eyes as he answered.
"Ask Horatio," he spat as he pulled away from Cat and stomped away. Now against her character and better judgment Cat turned around and stared Horatio hard in the eyes.
"What did you do?!" she demanded. Both the doctor and Horatio looked at her in shock. The happy contentment was gone from her eyes, which had turned fierce and protective. Her features had become hard as she placed her hands on her hips and braced her high heeled feet firmly on the floor boards. Poor Horatio, who was so calm during battle, was completely taken off guard by this wild fierce Scot.
"Uh, uh, it was my fault Cat. I was, I was," he was so ashamed he could not look at those flashing eyes. "I was jealous of you," he said so softly that the two could barely hear him. The fierceness in the eyes faded and was replaced by slight confusion.
"Pardon?" Horatio took a deep breath, wanted to crawl into a hole.
"I was jealous of your friendship. I was afraid of losing my best friend." Gathering all his courage Horatio glanced up at Cat, expecting to see disgust in those eyes, but instead he saw complete understanding and compassion.
"That's funny, I used to be jealous of you," the proud woman said softly. Horatio stared at her, could not believe what he was hearing.
"You, were jealous of me?" he asked, not believing that this great angel would ever be jealous of someone like him.
"I know it sounds silly, but I had always been his only friend, his only companion, but then he had you and I thought he would not need me anymore."
"That is exactly the way I felt when you came along." The two young people stared at each other, finally understanding each other.
"I am sorry I acted so Horatio," Cat apologized. "I suppose I am just so used to protecting Archie." Despite his aching stomach Horatio bowed slightly, knew it took allot for the proud woman to admit she was wrong.
"Quite all right Cat, I act the same way sometimes." His gaze drifted towards Archie's door. "I should talk to him."
"No, the Lady Dunbar will speak to him," Sebastian interceded, "I need to see to these wounds." Horatio was about to argue when Cat came to Sebastian's rescue.
"Yes, I will talk to him first, to calm him down. I will send him to you afterwards Doctor." The Spaniard nodded in consent with her wisdom. Yes, we are quite a good team, that young lady and I. Patting Horatio on the shoulder Cat went to Archie's room and knocked on the door.
"Archie? May I come in?" Silence. "I'm coming in Archie," she declared as she opened the door and disappeared inside.
Archie was sitting on his bed, propped up against the wall, clutching his saint medal in his hand. His face had already begun to swell in several places. Without saying a word Cat went over to him and sat on the remaining length of bed and turned to face him.
"Archie." She reached out and touched his cheek gently. He did not pull away, a good sign. "Horatio told me what that was about." He did not even look up. "You can understand how he feels can't you? He thought he was loosing you and that terrified him." Archie gulped down a lump in his throat.
"I know," he said softly. "I just so desperately wanted you two to like each other." I need you two like each other, he thought, but he did not say it.
"We do like each other Archie," Cat insisted. "We just had to get over our jealousy." At this Archie looked up at her sharply.
"You were jealous of Horatio?" She laughed gently, trying to lighten the mood.
"Of course I was. Archie," she said, scooting closer to him, "you were always my only friend and I thought I would loose you."
"Come now Cat, you had plenty of friends. I was the outcast," Archie insisted.
"Have you forgotten that my wild spirit and opinions separated me? Set me apart from the others."
"But when you grew older people honored you for your great spirit, said it was what made you a true Scottish Lady. I will never fit." She pressed his hand warmly.
"That is just it, I do not want you to fit. I love you for who you are, not who will never be. You are my truest friend and I was afraid I would lose you, but I think Horatio and I realize that we have not lost a friend, but that we have each gained two." Archie looked into her eyes, knew that she spoke the truth. He also knew that she had missed the person he had once been, but now, thanks to Horatio, Sebastian and her, he was whole again. He also knew how Horatio must have felt when Cat had appeared on the scene. It was exactly how he felt when people congratulated Horatio on his latest achievement --- ignored. He reached out his arms to pull her close, needed the closeness that had so long been deprived them. Cat smiled at this, kissed him sweetly on the forehead and ran her hand along his cheek, gently touching his swollen eye. Against his will Archie flinched from pain.
"Come on," she said, taking hold of his hand and pulling him up. "Doctor Sebastian needs to take a look at the bruises." Before she could pull him to the door Archie impulsively grabbed her by the waist, turned her around and kissed her with all his soul.
When he pulled back he whispered, "I love you my Cat." She looked up at him and smiled sweetly.
"I love you my Archie," she whispered back. Her eyes lit up with mischief and cheer. "Doctor Sebastian will wonder where we are. Come on." She took his hand and led him out of the cabin.
"Hold still Mr. Hornblower," Sebastian scolded as he tried to clean Horatio's badly cut lip.
"Yes Doctor," Horatio muttered as Sebastian gently held his head still.
"Here is your second patient Doctor Sebastian." The Spaniard looked up to see the Lady Dunbar and Archie enter the sick berth, hand in hand. Horatio tried to turn around to look, but Sebastian kept his held still with a gentle grip on his jaw.
"Hold still for the Doctor Horatio," Archie joked, trying to break the ice first. Horatio looked up, saw the swelling he had caused on Archie's face. He felt a sudden stab of guilt. He had raised a hand against his friend as if he, Horatio Hornblower, had been Simpson or a Spanish officer. He had made a promise to himself to always protect Archie and now he had hit him as if he was nothing. Archie would never forgive him.
"Doctor, may I speak to you in private?" Cat asked.
"Of course my Lady. I will be back in a moment my dear lieutenants." He stood up and led Cat to his cabin, closing the door the behind them. "How may I help you my Lady?"
"Oh, nothing. I just thought that they should be left alone to talk for a few moments." Sebastian nodded his approval of her little plan.
"I thought as much." Her bright eyes, which had been wondering the room, flashed back at him.
"You sound surprised." She shrugged.
"I guess I am not used to people catching on to my schemes and ideas that quickly. You are very perceptive Doctor Sebastian. Archie said that you were a very good reader of the human heart." Sebastian bowed humbly.
"I am simply directed by my Holy Lady." Cat glanced at the statue of the Virgin Mary on the table and instead of scowling disapprovingly she smiled sweetly, the way someone does when they understand something completely and no more words are needed.
After the two comforting forces had left Archie stood awkwardly near the hammock where Horatio sat, not sure what to say. They had both acted very foolish, in front of two people who they both regarded very highly.
"I am sorry Archie," Horatio said softly, looking at the ground, unable to face his friend. "I am sorry for acting as I did, I am sorry for being pig headed and I am sorry for hitting you." Archie sat down heavily in the chair Sebastian had left vacant.
"I hate to tell you this Horatio, but you will always be pig headed." Horatio could not help but chuckle at this, knew it to be true. "Besides," Archie continued, "I know how you must of felt." Horatio looked up.
"You have never acted stupid because you jealous of one of my friends."
"No, but I did act stupid when I was jealous of your success and your courage and your perfection." Horatio bit his lips, knew exactly what Archie was alluding to. They had been in prison and Archie had almost died. When Horatio had tried to help Archie had lashed out at him in a burst of pent up jealousy and resentment. Horatio sighed, now understood what his friend had been talking about.
"I should never have thought I was being replaced."
"Don't apologize for being human Horatio." Horatio glanced up at those soft blue eyes, who knew all to well what it was like to be human. He saw Archie wince and clutch his stomach.
"Are you all right?" Horatio asked, concern in his eyes. Archie looked up, a smile on his lips.
"Well you don't need to practice your swing, that's for sure." Horatio could not help but chuckle softly, careful to mind the aching in his own ribs. He knew then that everything was forgiven.
"How are you two doing?" came the Scot's cheery voice. Both turned to see Cat and Sebastian walking towards them. The friends exchanged smiles.
"Quite well I think," Archie said through a wide smile. Sebastian nodded sagely. Ah, how quickly young hearts forgave the past.
"When will you be leaving again?" she asked, letting her head fall back against his chest.
"We leave for Gibraltar tomorrow," came the sad reply. The two sat outside in the garden of the inn, Archie leaning against a large tree, Cat curled up in his arms.
"Someday I will go with you." Archie chuckled, knew she would do it to. "Are you laughing at me Archie?"
"Not at you. I was just picturing you ordering Pellew to let you on the Indy."
"I do not order," she corrected, "I request." Again Archie laughed softly at this. He would miss this, would miss the comfortable joy he enjoyed around Cat.
This visit had been different from their last, ignoring the obvious reason that this time Horatio had been around. When they had been young they were simply close friends, the outcasts who defended each other. When they had grown older and become sweethearts Cat was the protector and Archie was the weak victim. But now they were equals, two whole people who protected each other and who finally belonged. This time their future was secure.
"Cat?" She relaxed completely, half closing her eyes and placed her hands over his.
"What do you think of Horatio and Dr. Sebastian?" She could not help but smile, knew her opinion was very important to him.
"Horatio is a very good man who worries too much and doubts himself more than he should." Archie chuckled. She had only met him two days ago, but already she knew him so well.
"Horatio is an open book, isn't he?" She nodded her agreement.
"And as to Dr. Sebastian I think he is perhaps the most noble and gentle human soul I have ever encountered, except for you of course." Archie could not help but blush, was embarrassed and honored to be compared to Doctor Sebastian, who he considered to be a saint.
"I am not worth such a compliment."
"Nonsense," she said with authority, twisting her neck so that she could kiss him on the cheek. Archie pulled her closer to him, ignoring the nagging of his sour side.
"I will miss you Cat." There was a great sadness in his voice that compelled her to kiss his hand in comfort, but her heart did not bleed as it had when he had left the last time, nearly four years ago. Though Horatio had arrived, Archie was still at the mercy of Simpson, was still experiencing fits, was still the victim. No, she assured herself, he will be fine, this time he is well taken care of.
"Do not be away so long this time," she commanded.
"It was not exactly my choice Cat," he said with a bit of humor. She smiled sadly.
"I know, but see that it does not happen again." He smiled as he wrapped his arms around her to pull her even closer. I promise it will not happen again.
Doctor Sebastian sat alone in his cabin at his desk that night, preparing to do his evening prayers.
He could afford time to himself this night. The sick berth was empty, the ship was dock safely at port and most of the men were either on shore or asleep. Horatio and Archie, his two newest patients and young friends, were both away; one of them in hs room studying and the other on shore with his lady.
Sebastian smiled as he thought of the Lady Catherine. What a truly remarkable woman, intelligent, brave, honorable, understanding and stubborn. She reminded him of his own wife, long since dead. He glanced down at the wedding ring he still wore. Our time is over, but Mr. Kennedy and Lady Dunbar have their entire lives ahead of them. Archie would certainly have a successful navy career and the Catherine would become a prestigious lady in her clan. I do hope the Lady comes aboard quite often, I would very much like to have some language and religious discussions with her. While they had been waiting for Archie and Horatio to work at their problems the two had engaged in some wonderful conversation. Not simply frivolous conversation either. He had learned much about the fiery Scot. She had a passion for literature as Archie did, but her tastes leaned more towards the historical adventures, Don Quito was her favorite novel. He had discovered she was a Presbyterian and though she went to church and prayed and believed in God, she admitted she was not the most pious woman in the world. "I do have a tendency to curse," she had admitted.
He smiled at the remembrance and then, out of pure impulse he opened the bottom door of his desk and pulled out a small wooden box. He laid it on the table and opened it, revealing a velvet interior of scarlet. Sitting in it's place of honor was a fine golden cross incrusted with jewels. A present he had given to his wife on Christmas. He pulled it out and held it as if it were a religious relic. Then before he could change his mind he stood up, went over to where his coat lay and place it in the pocket.
Cat jumped onto the deck with the same ease she had used the day before. To her relief the men were not lined up for her arrival and Pellew was not there, so she could skip the social greetings.
"Cat?" She looked up to see Archie rushing toward her, forgetting his status. "What are you doing here?"
"I wanted to say good bye, but," she pretended to pout, "if you do not want me..."
"I'm sorry," he said hurriedly, "I just did not expect to see you here."
"I would not miss seeing you off for the world." She glimpsed around the ship. "Please tell me the Captain is busy, I hate formalities."
"I will have to tell him you came," he said formally, but then he leaned down to whisper in her ear, "after you have gone." She kissed his cheek, not caring who was watching. "Come on," he said, taking her wrist in his tanned hand, "Doctor Sebastian will want to see you before you go." Before she could say anything Archie pulled her across the deck, down the stairs and into the sick berth, which was empty. He led her to the door the doctor's cabin and knocked politely.
"Come in," came Sebastian,s voice from inside. Archie opened the door and the two friends stepped inside to find the doctor reading at his desk. When he saw who had come to see him he put down the book and stood up, smiling.
"Ah, Mr. Kennedy, Lady Dunbar," he greeted cheerily as he moved towards them. "To what do I owe this visit?"
"I came to see Archie off and knew it would be bad manners not to come and see you before I left." Sebastian forced a smile, knew that if he was going to act it must be now.
"I am glad you came my Lady, I have something for you." Cat's eyes widened.
"For me?" she asked in surprise. A gift from the kind hearted doctor had been what she had least expected.
"Yes, if you do not think it too forward." He reached into his coat pocket and retrieved a small wooden box, well worn with age. With Archie and Cat watching his every move intensely he opened it to reveal the fine cross decorated with scroll work and jewels. Both friends caught their breath as he lifted the necklace out of the box and allowed the light to dance on its surface.
"This was my wife's," he said softly, keeping his eyes upon the cross. "I gave it to her one Christmas. She adored it, wore it all the time. Since her death I have kept it hidden away, but now I think it is time it saw the light again. I would be honored if you would wear it." Cat gasped as he held the cross towards he. She could never accept such a gift.
"I can not. . ."
"Please," he interrupted gently. "It once adorned the neck of an angel and now it will do so once again. Please accept my gift." He saw the doubt in her eyes, knew she would be reluctant to take away something so precious from him. But Cat saw the pain in his back eyes and knew how much it would mean to him.
"I would be honored to wear your necklace Doctor Sebastian." A smile spread over his face as he held out the ends of the necklace.
"Of course." She turned around and held up her hair as he fastened the necklace into place.
"There we are my Lady." He pulled back as Cat positioned the large ornate cross carefully on her neck. The chain was the perfect length so that the necklace lay above her dress's neckline on lightly tanned skin. Cat gazed down at the beautiful treasure and then into Sebastian,s dark eyes.
"I will treasure it always," she said softly. He nodded, his eyes downcast.
"It is my pleasure Lady Dunbar. It belongs on a woman of true greatness." Cat could not help but blush at such praise. After all she was being compared to this man's wife, his angel. That is quite a comparison to live up to. She then glanced at Archie, who was looking at her with pure love in his eyes. But she was an angel, Archie's angel.
The three probably would have stood there forever in silence if the small clock on the Doctor's desk had not chimed.
"On, I must be going," she said hurriedly, breaking the spell.
"I will take you up Cat, hopefully we will meet Horatio on the way."
"Good." She turned to Sebastian. "Thank you very much Doctor. I pray your journey will lead you safely to shore, whatever shore that may be."
"Thank you my Lady. May life be so kind to you." Instead of giving her hand to him to kiss she extended both, took his hand and held it warmly.
"Till we meet again Doctor."
"May God make it soon." She smiled sweetly, let his hand fall and followed Archie out into the sick berth.
Archie stood on the deck and watched Portsmouth drift into the distance, imagining that he could see Cat standing on the dock waving to him. He was so lost in his own thoughts that he was not aware of Horatio's presence until he tapped him on the shoulder.
"Oh, Horatio," Archie said, rejoining reality, "There you are."
"How are you doing?" Archie sighed heavily.
"I miss her already," he mused. Horatio put his hand reassuringly on Archie's shoulder.
"You'll see her soon Archie. Just think of all the stories you'll have to tell her next time." Archie could not help but smile.
"I know. Horatio could I ask you a question?"
"Of course Archie." Archie pulled his eyes away from the port to look Horatio full in the face.
"Will you do me the honor of being my best man at my wedding?" Horatio stood in shock, not believing what he was hearing. Dr. Sebastian had suggested such an occurrence, but he had not really believed that Archie would ask it of him. He was being silly of course. He was Archie,s best friend, besides Cat. Who else would he choose? It was just such an unexpected honor that Horatio could not help but stare wide eyed in surprise.
Finally, when he regained himself he spoke. "Archie, I would be honored to serve as your best man." Archie smiled widely, his blue eyes dancing. He slapped Horatio heartedly on the shoulder.
"I knew you would say yes. Cat will certainly be pleased. You were her first choice as well. What was it she said? I refuse to marry if Horatio is not your best man.," Horatio could not help but laugh softly.
"Well I would hate to keep you from your Cat." Archie smiled as the two returned to leaning open the railing.
"It is a good thing you agreed or I would have physically forced you to say yes."