An American Encounter
By Skihee :)
Ch 16 Wounded
Indefatigable settled on her northwesterly course, relaxing into the run. Bracegirdle and Bowles surveyed the sails and men manning them. Each gave the other a knowing look of satisfaction. Bracegirdle looked over his shoulder at Dolphin. He noted Brandon and Cutter standing aft looking back as well. He joined them.
"Mr. Bracegirdle, why has she not turned?" asked Brandon.
He sighed, lifting the telescope to his eye. "I don't know, Mr. Brandon. Perhaps the Captain plans to see if she can overtake us, and is giving us an extensive lead."
"I...I...I've got a bad feeling about this, Mr. Bracegirdle. I wish she'd turn."
Bracegirdle smiled at Brandon's concern. Raising the telescope, he studied the ever growing distant ship. No signs of turning. No new signal flags visible. Brandon's fears seemed to overtake him like a contagion. "Mr. Bowles!"
"Aye, sir?" replied Bowles joining the threesome at the taff.
"Why do you reckon Dolphin is not following?"
Bowles lifted his telescope scanning Dolphin and the surrounding horizon. He concentrated on the tip of her bow, thinking he saw a glitter of white off the sprit. "The gap between us is widening, Mr. Bracegirdle." The two men's eyes locked. Bracegirdle lifted the glass to eye once more, looking for a signal.
"I don't like it, Mr. Bowles. Turn the ship about."
"Aye, aye, sir."
On Dolphin, Pellew looked steadily at the coming ship. "Mr. Hornblower, can you see her colors?"
"No, sir. Either they aren't visible or she's not carrying any."
"I don't like it," said Pellew, irritably. "She's headed straight for us. Beat to quarters, Mr. Hornblower."
Hornblower put down the glass, mouth agape, blinking, he looked round for Matthews.
"Matthews! Pipe to quarters!" he ordered.
Full realization of their position overtook him. "Damn!" Pellew looked back to see the Indefatigable on a course leaving them behind. "Damn! Mr. Kennedy, signal Indefatigable to come about!"
"Aye, aye, sir!"
"How many gun crews have we?"
"With men aloft, four at best, sir," answered Hornblower.
Pellew's eyes flittered in anger. "Caught with my pants down, Mr. Hornblower! Damn!" He noted Pamela listening. "I beg your pardon, Mrs. Hornblower."
"No need, Captain!" she answered, amazed at the chivalry under the circumstances.
He raised the telescope. Hornblower mirrored the action.
"She's running up a flag, sir!"
"What is it?"
"Union Jack, sir!" exclaimed Hornblower.
"I don't trust it, Mr. Hornblower. Why did she not have the colors run before?"
The momentary relief ebbed away.
Pellew gazed outboard aft. Kennedy was about to haul up the signal flags. "BELAY THAT, MR. KENNEDY!" Indefatigable was already in a turn. He nodded, saying lowly, "Good, Bracegirdle, at least one of us is paying attention. Never mind those flags!" Pellew centered himself on the quarter-deck looking at Dolphin's sail, the ship approaching, and Indefatigable. "You men there!" shouted Pellew. "Let her wind spill! Let go the larboard braces and pull on the starboard!"At that moment, a puff of smoke could be seen from the unknown ship, then a shudder from Dolphin.
Pamela gasped. Why was a ship flying British colors firing on them? Dolphin's white ensign was flying. She looked to the new comer. The Union Jack was gone. A black cloth made its way up the line, catching the breeze.
Pellew turned to Hornblower. "She can't see the Indefatigable, Mr. Hornblower. We'll slow Dolphin down to buy some time and use her sail to hide Indefatigable."
"Aye, aye, sir!"
Kennedy approached Pellew. "Sir, request permission to man the gun deck."
"Do so. Mr. Kennedy. Fire as she bears."
"Aye, aye, sir!"
Styles and Matthews headed below to take position at the guns. Only Billings was left to man the helm.
Pellew caught Pamela out the corner of is eye when another cannonball grazed Dolphin's bow. If the sail had not been spilled that one would have landed midships.
"Move your wife to safety, Mr. Hornblower."
He trotted over and grabbed her elbow. "Go to the orlop!" he commanded.
She pulled back, mouth set in a line, defiant.
He hesitated, expecting another refusal, that he did not have time to consider. "Pamela!"
"All right. I'll help Mr. Kennedy."
Shock registered. "No, you will not! I want you to go to the Orlop deck!"
"I can help Mr. Kennedy!"
"No!" he said angrily.
"You're undermanned, Horatio, I can help! I can bring powder to the guns!"
"Don't argue with me, dear. Let me help!"
"You cannot run powder in those clothes!" The moment the words left his lips, he knew the argument was coming.
"Pamela, I do not want to worry about you," he reasoned more calmly. "Please, do as I say!"
"And what do you suppose I will be doing about you? We could all be killed! The ship could sink! Let me help, Horatio! Don't send me off in disagreement, love!" she pleaded.
Pellew half listened to the conversation as Dolphin belted
out her first salvo.
"Mr. Hornblower!" he bellowed.
Glancing at the Captain, then back to his wife, he acquiesed. "All right, Pamela. Do what you can."
She grabbed his neck and kissed him. "I love you!"
"I love you," he replied.
"Mr. Hornblower! If you are quite finished, I want you to order all hands armed to repel boarders!"
"Aye, aye, sir!" He left to do his Captain's bidding.
"You men aloft! Come down and arm yourselves!" called Pellew.
The small rigging crew did as ordered. Pellew paced as he watched another puff of smoke announce a round of cannon fire headed their way. It landed forward taking the foremast! He looked back at the Indy hoping she would come in time. "Blast!" he muttered. At the same moment, as if his comment had been a command, Kennedy's guns let go.
Hornblower entered the gun deck. Controlled pandemonium reigned. Nine cannon manned by four crews worked in alternating rounds. Kennedy moved quickly down the line shouting orders to fire and reload.
"Mr. Kennedy! Every man is to be armed to repel boarders!"
"Aye, aye, Mr. Hornblower!" Their eyes met. Kennedy grinned. "Is this what the Captain meant by seeing what Dolphin would do?"
Hornblower laughed. If anyone could bring jocularity in the heat of battle it would be Kennedy. "Pamela will be bringing you powder!"
"Will she?" he asked amazed. "Will she, indeed?
We need all the help we can get!" He peered out a starboard
The din was incredible as the smoke from the cannon filled the enclosed space.
Hornblower was about to return topside when the men from aloft scampered down the companionway. They took places quickly. About to ascend the stairs, he caught a glimpse of Pamela, already dressed in men's clothes. Her hands were loaded with two powder containers. *Why could she not dress that quickly the night we were invited to dinner?* He bounded the stairs to rejoin Pellew, hearing Kennedy calling.
"Powder monkey! Stop that dawdling and get over here!"
"Aye, aye, sir!"
An explosion rocked the gun deck, knocking Pamela to the floor. Cries of pain screamed in the smoke filled room. All movement seemed to cease. She peered through the grey mist. Kennedy wavered from the concussion, his blonde hair falling recklessly over his forehead. He assisted Garner to his feet. Kennedy was stunned but managed to open three larboard gun ports. The breeze wafted the smoke out the side, clearing the air. His eyes rested on her.
"Are you all right?"
She nodded, unable to speak.
He looked forward where the explosion occurred. The number nine gun lay on its side. The gun port was twice its normal size, with jagged wooden chards to frame the opening. The bottom half of a man lay on the deck. The upper portion a mass of unrecognizable flesh. Archie's stomach turned.
Gulping it down, he saw a man groaning on the deck. Carden. His left arm was blown away just above the elbow. Kramer frantically applied a tournequet. Andrews dropped to his knees, holding his neck, his life's blood spewing forth from the wood splinter. There was no help for such a wound. He was gone.
"Mr. Kennedy! Are ye all right, sir?" It was Styles. He pulled Pamela to her feet and took the powder canisters, pushing her away for more.
"Have we a working crew, Styles?" asked the dazed officer.
Styles moved among the men rousing them to sensibility, pushing them to a position at the guns.
"We're ready, sir!" Styles shouted. Three gun crews awaited his command.
He sighted through the ports, giving the order to fire. The deck filled with acrid smoke again, but cleared through the larboard side. Almost immediately another explosion rocked the little ship. They could hear the creaking of wood as it bent and snapped. Part of the gun deck darkened as the collapsing sail covered two of the gun ports.
Pamela arrived with more powder. As she gathered empty canisters, the guns fired. "Oh, Jesus, help us!" she prayed. Another explosion brought a searing pain to her right thigh. She crumpled to the deck, grabbing her leg, crying out.
The cannonball entered the gun deck landing to larboard spraying wood splinters into the gun crews. Other cries of pain besides hers sounded. She peered through the smoke. A fraction of a second allowed a breeze to clear the air, but with a thud, all went dark on the starboard side and the cross ventilation was lost.
In the gloom, she heard a barely audible Styles calling for Mr. Kennedy. There was no reply. She whimpered feeling the wooden chard lodged in her leg. Footsteps could be heard running on the deck above. She saw Styles bulky figure framed against a larboard porthole. Turning sideways, a projectile extended from his back. She gasped. "No!"
"Miss Pamela! Are ye all right?" he asked tiredly, leaning against one of the uprights. He quietly slipped to the deck.
"Horatio!" she cried.
Hobbling to the companionway, she tripped over something on the deck. It was warm and wet. She was thankful for the darkness that prevented sight. Standing again, she crawled up the stairs.
The sail of Dolphin luffed in the breeze, still taut on the starboard braces. The main mast top mast was bent to the deck with cordage and sail draping across to starboard. Men were standing on the deck, armed, looking for a fight. They stared curiously at the bloody figure, crawling from below.
Her hair was matted. She looked down at her blood-soaked clothing, then at the wooden knife extending from her thigh. Tears streamed tracks through the blood covering her face. A thinner smaller splinter protruded above her left breast. The outer end pricked her left upper arm. She sobbed and yanked it from her chest. She pressed against the pulsing blood, collapsing on the deck.
Seeing she was no danger, the men searched for survivors capable of a fight.
She could hear a scuffle and clang of sword above on the quarter-deck. She summoned all the strength left her. She had to find Horatio.
Dr. Sebastian, Brandon, Rampling, Captain McCann of the Marines, Bracegirdle, and Bowles stood on the quarter-deck watching the approach to Dolphin. They saw the top main mast fall, could see the billowing smoke from her larboard side, and the bowsprit of another ship sticking beyond her stern.
"They're boarding her!" said Brandon. "Can't we get there any faster?"
"We are doing all we can Mr. Brandon," said Bracegirdle calmly. He breathed deeply maintaining his composure. "Mr. Bowles, it will be tricky bringing us along side her at this speed."
"Aye, Mr. Bracegirdle."
Dr. Sebastian observed the two officers. Bowles face was set, mentally measuring the distance. He saw Bowles' chin lower, his eye bead on the sail. His chest rose with the breath he took. He was a study in concentration. He moved away from the group. Sebastian noted the taut stance, the fixed gaze.
Bracegirdle was serene on the surface, but Sebastian knew he was as worried about the crew of Dolphin as the rest.
"Captain McCann. When they see us, they will run. Post some of your sharp shooters up here to take as many as you can before they escape."
"Aye, Mr. Bracegirdle!" McCann called a dozen men from the waist where the squad of Marines were standing by, ready to board Dolphin. .
Dr. Sebastian walked over to the rail. The men he selected were ready and waiting behind the Marines. They would follow after to attend the wounded. A fourth group of men stood at the guns. Should the attacking ship try to escape, Bracegirdle was ready for a fight.
Every man on Indefatigable stood at the ready. Sebastian looked into the rigging at the men, focused on Bowles, waiting his command. He watched as every now and then one of the topmen stole a glance at Dolphin and the approach. They could see Bowles and they waited, bracing themselves against the yard should the two ships collide.
"Who could it be, Dr. Sebastian? This far south. Do you think they're Spanish?" Brandon broke into Sebastian's concentration, desiring an answer for what was happening.
"I do not know, Mr. Brandon." He placed a hand on the younger man's shoulder. "Just be ready to do your best, whatever we find."
"I am, sir."
Sebastian stepped away from the group. He began to pray for those on Dolphin, for those on the Indy, for those that would face whatever was wrought by the unknown enemy.
On the quarter-deck, Hornblower was in a struggle with a sword wielding pirate. The blades clashed and clanged. The pirate was a large man of great strength and he beat against Hornblower until the leftenant was knocked to the deck. The pirate laughed, pulling his sword back to deliver the final crashing blow. Hornblower took the hesitation, rolled onto his left side, and thrusted towards the man as he turned. Metal met flesh as the blade ran him through. The pirates saber landed across his back, cutting sharply through the uniform into Hornblower's flesh.
Another pirate, seeing the losing fight, swung his club to meet Hornblower's head, knocking him senseless. Hornblower and his adversary lay in a twisted pile.
The pirate captain confronted Pellew, holding him at bay while his men battled Hornblower. The pirate cursed when the young officer succeeded in running the man through. It all happened so quickly. Both subordinates seeming to lose the fight. The pirate sneered at Pellew, feeling any defeat was a win! "Ha HA!" he jeered. "Checkmate!"
Helpless to aid Hornblower, blood flowing from the slash, Pellew tried to push past the pirate. The armed captain shoved him against the railing.
"There's no help for him! Let the bastard bleed to death!"
Pamela pulled her injured body up the stairs. She saw Horatio crumpled under the other man, blood pooling under the bodies. She whispered a cry, "Horatio!" Crawling to his side, she smoothed the curl laying on his forehead. With her good leg, she pushed the dead pirate off. The pirate that clubbed Hornblower watched the blood-soaked stranger, assessing whether she was a threat or not, but then something else caught his attention.
The verbal sparring continued between the two captains.
"Look at you!" he spat. "Ye ain't even armed! The might of the British navy! Bah!" The pirate leered through slitted eyes. "Where's Cap'n Downs?"
Pellew regained himself, leaving the sight of Hornblower's wife, to stare angrily at the pirate. "In a British prison! Where you soon shall be,... if not dead!"
"Ha! Ha! Ha! Bold words, Captain! The ship is ours!"
"But not for long!"
The pirate that knocked Hornblower out exclaimed, "A frigate!"
The pirate captain reeled around to see Indefatigable nearly upon them.
"Damn your eyes!" He saw Dolphin's sails, hung thus to hide the approach of the larger ship. He squinted and snorted at Pellew in grudging admiration for the ploy, a pirates salute for craftiness.
Pamela gave attention to the conversation of Pellew and the pirate. Tears blurred her vision. She seemed to be seeing her father, hearing his words, but then, no, this was Captain Pellew's voice. She kept her eyes on the two, realizing she was losing her ability to see and think clearly. She was aware her right hand searched the torso of her husband and found what her subconscious wanted.
"As you can see, you shall soon join Captain Downs," said Pellew triumphantly.
The pirate sneered, "But you won't live to see it!" He raised his sword.
Pamela saw what she had seen before, her father, helpless, unarmed. The pirate cruel in his mockery, his arm raised, cutlass to hand, ready to sever head from body.
"Oh yes he will!" Pamela heard herself say as she leveled the gun.
Hearing her voice, and the cock of a pistol, the pirate turned. She fired! The ball entered him square in the chest, blood spurting with each final beat of his black heart.
Pellew grabbed the sword from the hand of the dying enemy before he hit the deck and advanced on the other man so near Pamela. He was poised to strike her as Pellew jumped to fend the blow.
Pellew glared into the coal black eyes. "Why don't you give up while you've got the chance?"
They stood locked, force against force. Pellew watched him ponder the dead captain. The men on deck aware of the advance of the British frigate. One of them shouted. "Run, men! Back to the ship!"
The man looked at Pellew and pushed him away, jumping to the deck to join his fellows, bolting for the ship alongside.
Pellew let him go, turning his attention to Pamela who wept softly against Hornblower's shoulder. He knelt beside her and touched her arm. With his handkerchief, he wiped her blood-streaked face. "Mrs. Hornblower?" She continued to weep. "Pamela," he said softly.
She turned and blinked, trying to focus.
"Thank you. You saved my life."
She tried to smile, but only tears came. "Horatio!" was all she could say. She tried to form the words to ask if he were alive, but the only word she could voice was his name.
She felt the warmth of the sun upon her body, though within it she felt a chill. Suddenly, she and Horatio were in a rowboat together, lying in each other's arms, on a lazy river. The current carried them along. He was asleep and she tried to wake him, until a dark cloud came blocking out all sight, sound, and feeling.
Those on board Indefatigable heard the gun shot and tensed at the sound. As if it were a signal, Bowles began to call out orders to the crew in the rigging, to the helmsman, to the men ready to fend the sides. The stern of the Indy swung around. Her bow pushed a wave. As the sails were reefed, her forward motion dropped to a minimum. Breathing ceased as the distance between the two ships decreased.
The bowsprit of the unknown vessel lurched forward.
Indefatigable's Marines were ordered. "Ready, men! Fire!"
As the other ship moved slowly west and away, the Marines looked for men in the rigging and on the deck to deprive of life.
A red wave swarmed over Indefatigable's side into Dolphin. Sebastian, Brandon, and the medical squad followed.
Bracegirdle stared onto the quarter-deck of Dolphin. He could see huddled figures. He recognized the gold braid on Pellew's hat. "Captain Pellew, sir! Are you all right?"
Pellew stood. "Yes, Mr. Bracegirdle! Send Dr. Sebastian quickly!"
"He's on his way, sir!"
Pellew saw the pirate ship sailing away. "Call back the
Marines, Mr. Bracegirdle! Prepare
to follow! I will be right there!"
"Aye, aye, sir!
Pellew knelt down beside Hornblower. He placed a hand on his neck, feeling the pulse. "No pirate's taking you, Mr. Hornblower!" He studied Pamela, realizing she was unconscious. "He will be all right." He pulled a strand of hair blowing across her face and tucked it behind an ear. Gazing at the two, he shook his head. "Who'd have thought an American would be your match, Mr. Hornblower?"
"Captain Pellew, are you all right, sir?" asked Sebastian.
Pellew turned to see his doctor and Brandon standing behind him. Before he could answer, Sebastian was kneeling beside the two, checking for signs of life.
"Captain!" Brandon beamed.
He could not help but smile at the junior officer so pleased to see him. "Yes, Mr. Brandon, I'm still kicking. Though if I were under me, I'd have myself flogged for what occured today." He turned to Sebastian. "I don't know who is left alive, doctor, but I have business on Indefatigable."
"I understand, Captain. We will be here. We will do what we can."
Pellew rested his hand on Brandon's shoulder, peering resolutely into his face, then made way to the waist to cross over to the Indy. The Marines were back on board. The medical squad and the repair crew under Rampling remained on Dolphin.
"Shove off, Mr. Bracegirdle! Mr. Bowles swing her round! I want that ship!"
Brandon looked down at the bodies Sebastian was beginning to examine. "God, Doctor! Mrs. Hornblower is covered in blood!"
"Give me my bag. Get a bucket of water, Drew. Then, come back and remove Mr. Hornblower's uniform."
"I'm going to check the gundeck," called one of the sick berth orderlies.
"Good, Watkins. Find those in need of immediate attention. We will be there as soon as we can!"
"Aye, aye, sir."
Sebastian examined the chard in Pamela's leg. Ripping the cloth of her trousers away, he began to wash the wound. Fresh blood came from around the zig zag wood embedded in the thigh. "Where on earth were you, dear lady, for this to happen?" He washed his hands, taking the scalpel, he cut near the wood to lift it out clean. She moaned. "Only a moment more, Pamela. Stay in your dream world. It will all be a bad dream." The splinter came out. He pressed on the wound to stem the bleeding. Taking his pre-threaded needle, he began to stitch her up. He grinned wryly. "This is going to be a very interesting scar you have here." His sewing was adept. He rinsed the rest of the thigh, then wrapped it with a bandage.
Taking a cloth and wetting it, Sebastian began to smooth through her hair. She had a gash at the hairline. He wiped her face. Taking the bucket of water, he poured a bit through her hair, watching the red stained liquid run down the pitch of the deck, mingling with the blood puddle near the man at their feet. Sebastian alotted a second to observe him, a British saber pierced his chest.
Drew was busy cutting away Hornblower's topcoat and shirt. The gash across his back extended a good fifteen inches. It was deeper towards his side. As Brandon gently pulled at the material, the wound set to bleeding afresh.
"Press on it, Drew," said Sebastian as he handed him a folded cloth. Sebastian finished applying the bandage on Pamela. "Here, trade places with me. Cut her clothes off."
Drew blinked. "But ...but...,Doctor..., she's a woman!"
"How else will we know if that is her blood or someone else's unless you check her? Cut her clothes away!"
Sebastian's attention turned to Hornblower. Taking another pre-threaded needle, The doctor began sewing Horatio's flesh. He pressed a bandage over the wound.
"Help me, Drew. Hold this." Drew put his hand on the bandage to hold it in place. Sebastian yanked the shredded clothing from Hornblower, leaving him naked from the waist up. "I'm going to pull him out of that puddle. Stay with him, Drew." Sebastian clutched under Hornblower's arms and dragged him aft. He lay him sideways and wiped his torso. Drew continued to hold the bandage until Sebastian returned with a clean compress and wrappings to bind the wound. The two medical men went around and around Hornblower's mid-section. Sebastian surveyed the work and noted the right blood soaked leg. Was it from lying in the blood puddle? He sighed as he began cutting the trouser. "Sorry, Mr. Hornblower. You will have to get yourself a new uniform." As he pulled the material away he could see his surmise was correct. He reached up to wipe his face, wondering why he was unconcious. He felt the leftenant's head, finding the lump at the back. "You are going to have a whopper of a headache, Mr. Hornblower, when you come to."
His attention returned to Pamela. "Come, Drew." He looked down at her still covered with the blood soaked clothing, then looked at Drew, eyebrow raised. "Have you never seen a naked woman before?"
"N...no, sir!" Brandon's face turned as red as the deck surrounding them.
"Well, it is time you did! We must know if there are further injuries! Help me lift her out of this blood."
Sebastian worked quickly to remove the rest of her trousers. He examined her legs. No sign of further trauma. He cut the sides of her shirt, up the sleeves, across the shoulders and lifted the blood soaked clothing. Taking a cloth he quickly wiped her down. "No major damage. Looks like a glancing blow from something. Slight wound above the left breast." He looked up at Drew who was standing with his mouth open. "Drew!"
"Hand me a bandage!"
"Yes, sir." He passed the small prepared bandages and sticking plaster.
"Dr. Sebastian! We're ready for you on the gun deck!" It was Watkins come for them.
"Don't come up here!" called Drew as he spun to speak to Watkins.
"I will be right there, Watkins." He looked at Drew
again. "Mr. Brandon, Mr. Watkins is
a married man. He has seen a woman before."
"Well, he's not married to Mrs. Hornblower!"
Sebastian chuckled. He leaned Pamela over on her side to remove the clothing from underneath taking a look at her back. Nothing serious there either. The blood covering her was obviously someone else's. He began to wonder what awaited him on the gun deck. He knew from her wounds she had to have been there at one time during the battle. "Come, Drew, let us put her beside her husband. Hand me one of the blankets."
Drew picked it up to give him but found himself staring at
the naked female body.
"She's....she's beautiful!" whispered Drew.
Sebastian pulled the blanket out of his hands, threw it over her, then tucked the sides. Taking a second blanket, he did the same for Hornblower. He grabbed Drew's arm pulling him to go below. "There is nothing more we can do. Let us go see what horror awaits us below."
Brandon's foot nearly slipped out from under him as he stepped down the stairs to Dolphin's waist.
"Watch your step, Mr. Brandon! We do not need another casualty!" Sebastian observed the blood trail leading from the downstairs deck opening to the quarter-deck. Realizing it must be Pamela's blood, he shook his head, then spoke. "Mrs. Hornblower is lucky she did not bleed to death. If that chard had not remained to block the flow of the main artery, we would have been sewing canvas instead of thigh."
They stepped carefully down the stairs to the gun deck. The gun ports were opened to allow all available light in the small space. Though it had been some time since the last gun was fired, the smell of discharged gun powder hung in the air. Sebastian was not prepared for the sight that met his eyes. When doctoring on a ship in battle, the men were brought to him. He did not see the places where the carnage happened, just the aftermath of men's torn bodies. The fighting areas had always been cleaned up by the time he was free to see them. He gasped at the view.
"Holy Mary! Mother of God!"
He heard Brandon suck in a breath. This was new to him, as well. The room looked like a butchery! Blood splattered the walls, the ceilings, the floor! It was as if someone had throne buckets of blood everywhere with bits of flesh included. It dangled from the ceiling with the sticky blood acting as glue to hold it there. He heard Brandon step quickly to the side, retching.
Watkins glanced into Sebastian's drained face. "It's bad, sir," he said, controlling his voice with effort. "I've got the wounded separated over to larboard as best I could. Bandaged a couple. Mr. Rampling is giving us some o' the repair crew to deal with the dead. I don't know who to tell ye t'start with, sir. Styles there...," he pointed at Styles still leaning against the deck support column, unconscious, "...or Starns. I don't know where to tell ye t'start!"
"Go topside, Watkins. Find Mr. Rampling. Tell him we need space cleared on deck to bring the wounded. When the Indy returns we shall be moving them there anyway. Go on, now." He patted his arm.
"Yes, sir. Thank ye, sir." Watkins left without looking back.
Sebastian stared at each wounded man. Fifteen. Choosing one, he went to work.
Brandon stood in the middle assessing. He gently moved Styles over to lay face down on the deck. He would be as good a start as any.
Sebastian sighed deeply as he worked, glancing Brandon's way.
Drew's foot was on Styles as he pulled the projectile out of his back. He dropped it to the deck with a clatter.
"Cannon's revenge," he stated. "That's the tip of a reamer." He knelt to rip Styles shirt away, cleaning the wound, pulling out a scrap of bloody clothing from the point of entry. No major arteries seemed to be cut. He rinsed his hands and began to sew. He remembered the quickness of Dr. Sebastian's sewing and tried to mimic the technique.
A dozen men arrived on the gun deck. Some were Dolphin's survivors. They began the process of transporting the wounded to the top deck.
Sebastian eased next to Brandon while he stuffed padding into a bleeding wound. He peered over Drew's shoulder. Aware the doctor was watching him, Brandon became self-conscious and slowed. He glanced at his mentor.
"I am impressed, Mr. Brandon! Good work!" He patted him on the shoulder and began another temporary dressing.
"Th...thank you, sir." Once again, he gave Styles his undivided attention, clensing the area and finishing with a bandage. Small splinters dotted Styles' back. Brandon cleaned the wounds, bandaging the larger ones.
Carden was alive. Sebastian examined what remained of the shattered limb. Some bone would need to be cut before the pitch was applied. The tourniquet saved his life.
Sebastian made a mental order of who would need care immediately, who could wait, who was beyond waiting. The last of the living left the gun deck. He hurried topside to begin again, having a better idea of what patient needed him immediately. Only those who gave their lives remained. The burial crew was at work collecting the dead,... collecting the pieces, for burial at sea.
Pamela lay on her back on the aft deck of Dolphin. Her husband lay beside her on his side. The late afternoon sun beat down on their battered bodies, while cannon fire could be heard in the distance.
The sea breeze blew the blanket from Hornblower's shoulder. He reached with his right hand to pull it back. The pain in his head made itself known in his conscious mind. His forehead crinkled at the discomfort. He reached his right hand up to his head and moaned. The sea breeze again blew the blanket off his shoulder. He began to realize the hard surface beneath him, the strange feeling in his left side, painful. It was like he had been opened up to spill his innards, but then put back together, though not as secure as his own skin.
He pulled the blanket to cover, shivering in the breeze. Where was he? His head hurt incredibly! He started to roll onto his back. The moment the lump on his head touched the deck he jerked back forward to escape the pain. Moving his left arm in reaction caused him to cry out. He breathed quickly trying to deal with the ache in his head and the stinging hot agony in his side. He held his forehead, sucking in quick breaths, waiting for the torment to subside.
He opened his eyes. Before him was the profile of his wife. She seemed to be sleeping. He wondered at the pale look of her. Was she...? He reached with his left arm which protested by sending searing pain to his brain. He cried out and let his body roll over on his stomach, his right arm underneath. He felt his own bare chest and wrappings around his middle. Breathing quickly to deal with the pain, he squinted at the profile of his wife. Continuing quick breaths, he carefully and slowly moved his left arm. Small stabbings of pain made him move at a snails pace. He touched her cheek. The coldness startled him. "Pamela?" He pushed his body, shifting closer and fell next to her shoulder. The blanket pulled out from under her, he slipped a hand onto her arm. It, too, felt unnaturally cold. Sliding his hand along, he felt the bandage above her breast. Why was she so cold? Slowly, he inched to her neck. The pain of stretching the skin on his left side screamed through his nerves. He panted. "Please, God! Please!" he begged. He pressed his fingers into the carotid artery, concentrating on the feeling report. He held his breath. Was that a pulse? He thought he felt something. He waited for another. It came. He dropped his head to her shoulder. "Thank you, God! Thank you!" he whispered as tears puddled the decking.
Removing his hand, he tucked the blanket. Then, lifting himself with his right hand, he lay half his body over her. She was so cold! He hoped to give warmth. He let his head rest on the deck, just above her left shoulder. The pain in his head throbbed. The ensign flapped above. He stared at the ship's wheel. It was still lashed as he and Pellew had placed it, sending Billings to help on the gun deck. He tried to raise up, looking for Pellew. He thought about the bandages on himself and Pamela. Someone had cared for them. His head hurt, closing his eyes, he wished for sleep.
Six men that survived the gun deck were deaf. The concussions had rendered them so. Sebastian hoped it would be temporary. The next day or two would answer that question.
Sebastian and Brandon spent the better part of the next three hours tending and mending the wounded. The doctor stood surveying the deck. He double checked himself to be sure he had not missed anyone.
Five canvas corpses awaited burial on the starboard side deck.
Rampling stood looking south on the quarter-deck. Sebastian drew near to speak.
"Any sign of the Indy, Mr. Rampling?"
"Yes, doctor. She's just south of us. And, it looks like he got her! I see two sets of sail headed our way."
"Hmm," said Sebastian thoughtfully, wondering if there would be more work for him to do. "Mr. Rampling, have we accounted for all the crew of Dolphin?" He wanted to be sure his duty here was done in case he became embroiled in another set of injuries when Indefatigable returned.
Rampling answered. "That's a good question, Dr. Sebastian. I found Hornblower's crew list. He came aboard with thirty-two men. Correct me if I am wrong. We have five dead, Kramer, Greely, Bradley, Andrews, and Jordan,...fifteen wounded, and twelve men basically whole, except for hearing loss in about half of them. Do those names and figures sound right?"
Sebastian looked around the deck. He computed, reviewing the figures, reviewing the dead. "I come up with thirty-two as well, Leftenant. So our count matches his crew list?"
"Seems to, well, plus Hornblower and his wife would make thirty-four."
"Ah! Mr. Hornblower! I nearly forgot! Excuse me, Leftenant."
Taking a lantern, he went below to the captain's cabin. He located a night gown for her and night shirt for Hornblower.
Before returning above, he stopped to peer into the darkness of the gun deck. It was eerie for a ship to be silent this time of day. Normally, the sounds of men relaxing after a days hard work would be heard. The smell of food would fill the air, not the remnants of death in the afternoon. He started to go up, but a sound stopped him. He paused on the stairs, listening. Nothing came to his ears.
He returned topside to the quarter-deck. Gazing at the couple, he canted his head sideways realizing Hornblower was half laying on his wife. He leaned down to check her pulse. Faint and slow, but there, nevertheless. He placed his hand gently on Hornblower's shoulder.
"Mr. Hornblower," he said softly, "Mr. Hornblower, do not try to move. Mr. Hornblower, do you hear me?"
Sebastian heard the wounded officer suck in a breath.
"What?" he asked, half asleep, half dazed.
"Mr. Hornblower, it is Dr. Sebastian. You have been wounded. Let me move you. You stay still. Understand?"
"Pamela. Why is she so cold?"
"She lost a lot of blood, but I think she will be all right. Now. I am going to move you. Let me do it. Do you understand me?"
Sebastian slipped his hands under Horatio's chest and carefully swung his body off of hers.
"I have brought a night gown and robe to put on your wife. That is what I am going to do now. Then, I am going to dress you. Do you understand?"
"Yes, doctor." Hornblower watched as Sebastian pulled the gown over Pamela's head and body, then, the robe, finally, covering her with the blanket. "Thank you, doctor."
Sebastian squinted at Hornblower. He could see a tear running down the side of his face. "She will be all right with time, Mr. Hornblower. How is your head?"
Hornblower sniffed and used his left hand carefully to wipe the side of his face. "Hurts like hell."
Sebastian chuckled. "I imagine it does. I will get you something to ease the pain." He called Brandon.
Hornblower pushed himself up with his right arm. "Argh!"
Sebastian turned quickly. "Mr. Hornblower! What do you think you are doing?"
He sat up, leaning on his right hand, clutching his left arm to his side. His breath came quickly. The pounding in his head was almost unbearable. Hornblower let himself slip down half way so he was resting on his right elbow, right hand holding his forehead. "Where is Captain Pellew? He's all right, isn't he?" He continued to pant through the pain.
"Captain Pellew is on his way back now with another prize. And, let that teach you not to move precipitously!"
"He got the pirate ship?"
Sebastian exhaled, exasperated. "It seems so. Either that or the pirates are on their way back to take us as well."
Hornblower stared, still pressing his forehead.
Sebastian took the nightshirt and placed it around the leftenant's neck. "Hold still. Let me do this," he said firmly. Supporting his torso, Sebastian dressed him. "Lay down."
Hornblower obeyed, laying on his right side. "Did Archie...did Mr. Kennedy go with Captain Pellew?" He rubbed his forehead with his fingers.
"Brandon we need something for pain for Mr. Hornblower."
"Aye, aye, sir. Glad to see you're awake, Mr. Hornblower," he said gently
Sebastian narrowed his eyes in thought. "I have not seen Mr. Kennedy. Mr. Brandon, did you tend Mr. Kennedy?"
"No, sir. I did not."
Hornblower stared at Sebastian. "He was on the gun deck. Are the gun crews all right?" His eyes darted to Pamela, then back to Sebastian. The doctor's face told Hornblower what he wanted to know. He started to rise again. Sebastian pushed him down gently.
"Stop doing that before you rip those stitches open! That is an order, Mr. Hornblower! Mr. Brandon, the willow bark, if you please."
"Where is Kennedy?" the officer asked again. "Is he...?"
"He is not among the dead," reported Sebastian quickly.
"He was on the gun deck. Where is he?" Hornblower asked anxiously.
"Calm yourself, Mr. Hornblower. I will check. I do not want you trying to get up. Do you understand me?"
Brandon returned. "Mr. Brandon, stay here with Mr. Hornblower. See he does not move. I am going to inquire about Mr. Kennedy. Take your medicine, Mr. Hornblower."
Brandon knelt to help him drink the willow bark tea.
Moving amongst Dolphin's survivors, Sebastian asked about Kennedy. He was told that Kennedy was, indeed, on the gun deck. He went to Rampling.
"Mr. Rampling, that list of Hornblower's crew, is Mr. Kennedy checked off?"
Rampling knit his brow. "Kennedy? I don't remember seeing his name on the list. No, this is Hornblower's original crew list, he would not be on it. Why? Isn't he accounted for?"
Sebastian stared at Rampling, realization dawning. "No."
"You don't think he is still down there?" asked Rampling.
"Where else could he be?" The two men each grabbed a lantern. Making a way to the gun deck, they held the lanterns high, stepping carefully in the gore that still littered the floor.
"You take the larboard, I'll take the starboard," said Rampling. They wove among the cannon.
"Mr. Kennedy, are you down here?" called Sebastian.
"Doctor..." a raspy voice called. "Doctor.."
Sebastian looked for the speaker.
Partly beneath one of the cannon to larboard, he found Archie Kennedy.
Kennedy managed a smile. "We've made a bit of a mess for you, sir. Want to make sure you aren't living too easy!"
Sebastian surveyed the injuries. He reached down to pull him out from under the cannon.
Archie screamed in agony! "Don't move me!" his breath rapid.
Rampling lifted the lantern nearer.
Sebastian studied the twist of his body. "Mr. Kennedy, I think you have dislocated your shoulder." His brow knit with concern at the blood seeping around the hand holding Archie's middle.
"Don't move me!" he pleaded.
Sebastian knelt next to Kennedy. "I will give you something for pain, and then I am going to reset your shoulder. Mr. Rampling, could you retrieve my case from the top deck?"
Sebastian put his hand on the one covering Kennedy's side. "Let me see."
When Sebastian placed his hand on Kennedy's, he felt the sharp prick of a splinter. He moved his hand from Kennedy's and looked more closely, moving the lantern to shed a light. A wooden stake passed through his hand pinning it to his mid-section. He gently moved Kennedy's topcoat to see it had come out the other side and was stuck in the deck. He shook his head, and raised an eyebrow, "Mr. Kennedy, the lengths you go to to get out of doing a watch!"
Kennedy started to laugh, "Oooo, don't make me laugh, Dr. Sebastian." His face scrunched in pain.
Rampling returned with the doctor's case.
"What am I going to do with you? You know I had to sew up your friend." He put a spoonful of laudanum to his lips. Kennedy took it. Sebastian reached under his side to grab the stake's point.
"Horatio? Is he all right?"
At that moment, Sebastian broke the point off. Kennedy screamed, and took to panting.
"He has quite a gash from a pirate's sword on his side. And a lump on his head the size of an orange. A small orange." He yanked him from under the cannon.
Kennedy yelled again and was breathing fast, but was alert enough to ask about Mrs. Hornblower. "What about ... what about ...his wife? Did she....did she make it? Don't move me, doctor." He pleaded shaking his head, hoping to avoid the inevitable.
Sebastian stood over him, placing his right foot gently on his shoulder. "Mr. Kennedy, I am going to take your arm and pull your shoulder back into place."
Kennedy entreated with his eyes, shaking his head. He did not want to feel any more pain, yet knew he had to. "Tell me, first,...is ...is Pamela all right?" His eyes were filling with tears as Sebastian gently lifted his arm.
He assessed Kennedy's tortured features. Tortured with pain, tortured with worry for his friend. "Yes. Yes. She is fine, Mr. Kennedy." He gave a second for Archie's face to relax, then jerked his arm up.
Kennedy screamed in agony and was silent. The entire ship's
company heard the piercing cry.
Sebastian knelt next to Kennedy, feeling the shoulder joint. It seemed back in place. While he was unconscious, he removed Kennedy's uniform topcoat from the right arm, then focused his attention on the stake impaling his hand to his side. He gathered Kennedy's hand in both of his, lifting it off the stake. Kennedy on his side, the doctor broke off the protruding chard, and pushed the remaining bit out his back. He was thankful Kennedy was unconscious, but more than that, he was thankful he did not bleed to death ...here... alone... on the gun deck.
Hornblower stared wide-eyed at Brandon whose eyes were the size of saucers.
"Don't move, Mr. Hornblower!" Brandon fought the urge to leave.
That was Archie. Horatio knew it was Archie. He pushed himself up with his right arm, wincing through the discomfort.
"Mr. Hornblower!" said Brandon.
He got up on his knees. Panting from pain, he held his side close.
"Mr. Hornblower! Stay down!"
Hornblower stared at Brandon as he knelt on his hand and knees, waiting for the hurt to ease. He gulped in three breaths, then rose to his feet. Standing, he wavered. Brandon embraced Hornblower to keep him steady.
"Mr. Hornblower, Dr. Sebastian said you were not to move!"
"That...that was...Archie," he said between breaths.
"If it was, then Dr. Sebastian is with him. There is nothing you can do but make Dr. Sebastian's life more difficult if you rip open your stitches!"
"But... I.... I ...need.....to know....he ....is ....all right. I... need.... to ...know." His hand went to his head. His knees buckled. It was all Brandon could do to keep them both from hitting the deck. He eased Hornblower down to rest on his side. "I feel ...I feel sick, Mr. Brandon."
Brandon dumped the water bucket and held it to Hornblower just
Feeling something rip in his side, Horatio flinched. He fell back to the deck gasping in agony, moaning. He closed his eyes and wished he were dead. "God! Let me die!" he whispered.
Brandon let out a deep sigh. "You've done it, haven't you?"
Hornblower lay on his side, gulping big breaths. "Leave me alone! Go see if Kennedy is all right! That's an order, Mr. Brandon!" he said between gasps.
Brandon set his expression. "Now you LISTEN, Mr. Hornblower! For all intents and purposes you are NOW in sick berth. Even though we are not in the OFFICIAL sick berth, you are IN IT."
Hornblower stared with knitted brow. This was giving him a greater headache. Brandon was pointing with his index finger.
"When you are in sick berth, you are NO LONGER my superior. In fact, I am YOUR superior!" He tapped himself on the chest with the finger. "I and Dr. Sebastian!" he added a bit warily, but then summoned his courage to speak to a man who outranked him, "You will do what *I* say! And, if you make a move to get up AGAIN,... I shall SIT on you! Is that CLEAR? Now, Dr. Sebastian has already GONE to see about Mr. Kennedy. And since you are NOT a doctor, there is nothing, NOTHING, you can do to help. And, ESPECIALLY in your condition. Have you GOT THAT, Mr? Now, you've TORN those stitches, haven't you?"
Hornblower closed his eyes from Brandon's tirade. He sighed shallowly to avoid movement in his diaphragm. "I don't know. I might have." He looked at Pamela's profile. He desperately wanted his arms around her. He reached to stroke her forehead with finger tips.
Brandon's expression eased. He slid Hornblower's night shirt up above the bandage. Hornblower blinked but kept his eyes on Pamela. He lacked the energy to argue and lay still.
As he suspected, the bandage was already pink with blood. Brandon sighed heavily and shook his head. "Dr. Sebastian is going to have my hide!"
"I will not tell him. Why don't you fix it, Mr. Brandon?" he said wearily.
Captain Pellew stood stiffly next to McMasters, on the quarter-deck of Indefatigable, breathing deeply and exhaling as deeply. Exhaustion snatched at his muscles and weighted his eyelids. He turned his neck to the left and breathed deeply again. The damp and cool ocean atmosphere settled upon him.
"Sir...why..." McMasters stopped. He knew it was futile to try to get his captain to rest. Why was he bothering? He knew the rebuff would come. He saw it directed towards Daniels when the servant tried to get him to take supper.
Pellew eyed him, waiting for him to speak again. "Why what, Mr. McMasters?" he asked curtly.
Pellew's eyes narrowed with a scowl. "What is it you want to know?" Pellew faced him. "Why did I fail to realize the danger? Why did I forget my men? Why did I not turn and run? Or ram that bloody ship?" He peered starboard at its black shape just aft of Indefatigable. "Is that what you want to know?" he asked hotly.
McMasters swallowed nervously, "N...n...no, sir. I ... I wondered why you did not rest until we get back to Dolphin, sir."
Pellew turned quickly from his leftenant raising his hand to his forehead. So, he could add biting McMasters' head off to his list of errors today. Anger returned to etch his face. Anger with himself. How many of his men were dead? None on Indefatigable. Thank God. But Dolphin, little Dolphin, Hornblower's home, what had he done to it? Hornblower's home? Had he come to think of the ship that way?
The vision that replayed a dozen times, came again. She saved his life. By all rights, he should be dead with the rest of those unfortunates on Dolphin. Could he dare to believe there were none dead? Hornblower's wife was covered with blood. Certainly it was not all hers. She could not have done what she did if it were.
He hung his head. Who was left alive from the gun deck? Kennedy? What had become of Kennedy? Hornblower's best friend. He told them to prepare for borders. When they arrived, no one came from below decks,... except Mrs. Hornblower. He thought back to the battle. How many times were they hit? How many times did they fire back? He pinched the bridge of his nose and rubbed his forehead. The memory would not come. He should be thankful he could not remember, but he had to know. He was their captain. He was responsible.
The new acquisition. Three ships. His crew was spread between three ships, plus the loss of life and wounded. There were wounded. Hornblower was wounded, and God only knows how many others. He ran his hand down to cover his eyes, then lower to cover his mouth. He sighed again. Glancing at McMasters, he gave thought to going below, but that would never do. He would return. No matter how tired he felt, he would never rest until he had all his family.... He stopped in mid thought. Family? *Edward, you must be tired,* he thought to himself. Family? Family? They were his family. And, what had he done to them?
Sebastian stuffed cloth pads on either side of Kennedy's wound, wrapping his crossbelt around his middle and cinching it. "Pull him up by his left arm, Mr. Rampling." Sebastian carefully lifted his right side not wishing to further traumatize the shoulder joint. Rampling pulled Archie's left arm over his shoulder and grabbed his waist. Sebastian supported the other side.
"Let's get out of here," stated Sebastian.
The three made their way in the dim light to the companion. Help arrived to lift Kennedy topside.
"Careful of his right arm!" cautioned Sebastian. He followed close behind, calling for extra light. He began to repair what he prayed was the last victim on Dolphin.