An American Encounter
By Skihee :)
Chapter 17 The Cares of a Captain
Bowles eased Indefatigable alongside Dolphin for the second time this day and with naught but a starry sky to light his way. A finer sailing Master than he could not be found! If anxiety and self condemnation were not his meat, Pellew would have gloated over the luck of having Bowles serve on his ship. But as it was, he looked anxiously and with dread, at the darkness surrounding Indefatigable's companion. Like a blue whale with a three-quarter grown offspring, the smaller ship nudged the other seeking comfort in its closeness.
The Captain was stiff from his quarter-deck vigil. The return with Kaliakra was slow, having crippled her taking out the topsail masts. By the time the pirate crew was clamped in irons and stowed in the forecastle of Indefatigable, the sun was well on its way to the next hemisphere. Peering into the darkness, he tried to see who was on Dolphin's deck. It was time to check the butcher's bill. Taking a lung full of air, he commanded his body to descend the stairs and walk to the entry port. He wished Bracegirdle were here, but he was consigned to the newly acquired "prize" hove to, starboard of Dolphin.
Dr. Sebastian came to greet him. "At last Captain! We have been awaiting your return. Are my services needed, sir?"
"Very minor injuries, Doctor. Jones has been able to care for them. He reported not more than an hour ago, and I believe he is prepared to begin moving Dolphin's wounded," his voice wavered and he wondered if Sebastian would notice. "How many, Doctor?"
Sebastian peered into the tired, worn, and weary face of his captain. "Five dead, sir," he stated, watching the information deal an understated emotional blow to a man he highly respected. The Captain's head lowered slightly but then stiffened to hear the rest. "Eighteen wounded, plus Leftenant and Mrs. Hornblower." Sebastian sighed. "I thought I would put Mrs. Hornblower in my cabin, sir."
"No, I have already thought of that. She is going in Bracegirdle's cabin. He is Captain of Kaliakra for the time being. Or, does she require constant surveillance, Dr. Sebastian?"
"No, Captain. She will be weak from the loss of blood, but by no means in danger."
"What....what about Mr. Kennedy, Dr. Sebastian?"
Sebastian smiled reassuringly. "He is among the living, Captain Pellew, though it is certain sure he will not be climbing any masts for a while."
Pellew jerked his face into the darkness. Quickly regaining his composure, he said, "I am glad to know it, Doctor."
Sebastian put a hand on Pellew's shoulder. The captain gazed into the calm features of his physician, surprised by the contact.
"They will heal, Captain."
Pellew watched the wounded transferring to the mother ship. The ratings came first as they were in the waist and ready to be moved. Pellew crossed over to Dolphin and gave a kind word to the men he passed, praising their courage. He gazed about the deck, noted the canvas wrapped bodies, five together, two apart, the bodies of the slain enemy.
The dim deck lanterns gave light to the damaged masts. Little had been done to repair with the needs of the dead and wounded, and the encroaching darkness. Turning to the quarter-deck, he could hear a hotly whispered conversation between Hornblower and Sebastian.
"Dr. Sebastian, I can walk! Just give me Matthews and Oldroyd to steady me!"
"Mr. Hornblower! Are you going to be difficult?" Sebastian whispered loudly as he pressed his shoulder back down to the deck.
His mouth hung open as he sputtered to reply. Sebastian was accusing *him* of being difficult? "I...I..."
"Did you not already get up when I told you not to, sir?"
Hornblower blinked. "But, I...I..."
"Did you not faint? And, had it not been for Mr. Brandon, you would have bounced upon the deck?"
Hornblower closed his mouth and blew out a sigh. Letting his head back down onto the pillow brought to cushion his lump, he winced at the pain and frowned. The leftenant looked away from Sebastian and reached to touch Pamela's cheek.
"Is your patient not following your orders, Doctor?" asked Pellew quietly.
Turning to speak to Pellew, Sebastian automatically pushed Hornblower back down. "No, sir, he is being supremely difficult!"
"Supremely?" questioned Hornblower.
"Mr. Hornblower?" asked Pellew.
Hornblower knitted his brow feeling the muscular movements of his forehead paining the back of his skull. "So says, Dr. Sebastian," he answered resignedly, avoiding Pellew's gaze.
Pellew raised his eyebrows. "This will not do, Mr. Hornblower. I order you to follow your doctor's orders."
Hornblower did not look at him or reply. Pellew, astonished, glanced at Sebastian . He knelt down quickly next to Hornblower, who turned to him with a gasp.
"Mr. Hornblower, I fear you have been independent too long, sir!"
His tone was all seething Pellew, a tone Hornblower had not heard aimed at him since he first came on board Indefatigable.
"I am going to overlook this sullen attitude of yours due to your injuries. That clout on your head must have rattled your brain, sir! I have just given you an order and I expect a reply!"
"Yes, sir! Sorry, sir!"
"You will do whatever Dr. Sebastian commands. Do you understand what I am saying to you, Mr. Hornblower?" he whispered gruffly.
"Dr. Sebastain, if Mr. Hornblower gives you any more trouble,
you just let me know!"
Pellew winked clandestinely.
"Indeed I will, Captain."
"I ... I apologize, Doctor," whispered Hornblower.
"Hm. That's better, Mr. Hornblower," stated Pellew. "I take it Mr. Hornblower has a serious head injury, Doctor."
"Yes, I fear he is concussed."
"Are we whispering because Mrs. Hornblower is asleep?"
"Yes, Captain. She will need rest for her body to rebuild its blood supply. And, some food."
Haverty and Lasky arrived with a stretcher for Hornblower.
"No! Please! Dr. Sebastian! Wait!" Hornblower whispered his protests. "Please, Doctor, I can not leave Pamela here!" He darted anxious looks between the doctor and his captain. "I... I must know she has been taken care of first! Please, sir!"
"May I move her, doctor?" queried Pellew.
Pellew knelt beside her, slipped his arms underneath, and lifted.
"Thank you, Captain," said Hornblower, a catch in his throat. He lifted his head, straining to see how she was handled. Pamela was passed down from the quarter-deck via two men.
Pellew reclaimed her for transport to Indefatigable.
Matthews saw him coming. "I'll take her, sir," he offered.
Pellew shook his head, shushing him.
"Where are ye takin' her, sir?" whispered Matthews.
"Lt. Bracegirdle's cabin."
"Aye, sir." Matthews made a way for them and helped steady him down the stairs.
Nearly to the cabin, Pamela stirred and moaned. She opened her eyes and studied the face of the man carrying her through the dim lighting. "Captain Pellew?"
"Shh, yes," he answered.
"Where am I?"
"You are on my ship, Mrs...." he stopped and looked at her. "You are on my ship, Pamela."
He blinked and smiled, hearing the unfamiliar address of his second leftenant. "He is with Dr. Sebastian, but he is all right. You will see him again." He walked. "Matthews, open the door, if you please."
Matthews did as he was told, entered, and prepared the bunk. He lit a candle and gave a warm smile to his officer's wife before leaving.
She was in a daze as Pellew covered her. He brought the chair closer and sat, removing his hat. "How are you?"
"I feel a little light headed and very tired. Tell me about Horatio, Captain." She extended her hand. "You are sure he is all right?"
Pellew smiled, and gently accepted the hand. Another touch. First Sebastian, and now her. A small quake centered in his being. "Yes. He is alright. He has a nasty bump on his noggin, but if he follows his doctor's orders, he will be fine." He hoped.
"When can I see him?" Her grip tightened, when he expected release.
She mulled over the answer. Tears began to flow from the sides of her eyes. She looked away and let go of his hand. "What...what happened on the gun deck? Are...are the men alright?" She was afraid to watch his face. What might she see there? She let her ears take the brunt of the report.
*God!* thought Pellew, she is concerned for the men? He stood, and stepped into the darkness. How did this woman come to be? Was this more of Hornblower's reputed luck? He was speechless that she would ask and speechless that he was requested to share that which weighed so heavily on his own heart and soul.
When he did not answer, she searched the dim lit room and saw him standing with his back to her, head lowered. "Captain?" She waited, but the tears did not.
At last, lifting his head and taking a deep breath, he replied. "Sixteen wounded, plus yourself and ..." he never used Hornblower's Christian name, "...And Mr. Hornblower..." he paused, she waited silently. He knew she was waiting. He took another breath. "Five dead." He hung his head and heard a sob.
He faced her. "No, Mr. Kennedy is wounded only." He saw the tears streaming and felt the prick he forced away. "Mrs. Hornblower...I think this not..."
"Styles? Oldroyd?" She dared to ask about two.
He gave a single shake of his head and knit his brow. He would have to tell her, for he feared she would go through the entire crew list. He could not torture her with guessing.
"Kramer, Jordan, Bradley, Andrews, and Greely are the fallen."
Gulping sobs, she had difficulty breathing. "Greely? And Mr. Kramer?"
There was no help... but himself. He should hold her. He stepped forward. "Mrs...."
She turned her face to the wall, her knuckles clutched white on the blanket. "Will you bury them tomorrow?"
"Yes," his voice was but a whisper.
"I want to be there, Captain. I promise I won't make a fuss. Please,... may I be there?" She met his eyes, proving the words she spoke. Her body trembled as she forced emotional containment.
"That would depend on what the doctor says, ma'am." He was astonished. He could not cease to stare. She cared about the men? She wanted to be at the burial? With all she endured, with her father, with his men, she still wanted to associate herself with their suffering? He sat down and handed her the handkerchief from his inside pocket.
She laughed sadly trembling. "I've ...I've gotten quite a collection of these on this voyage." Pellew did not understand, but smiled anyway. "Thank you, Captain."
Hornblower, ensconced in the stretcher, was passed to the waist.
Kennedy was aware Hornblower was on the way and insisted on waiting. The problem was Oldroyd was assigned to assist Kennedy and he was one of Dolphin's crew suffering from hearing loss. Kennedy kept trying to tell him to wait, and Oldroyd kept saying, "EH?" and pulling the officer towards the Indy.
"COME ALONG, MR. KENNEDY! THEY'RE READY FOR YE IN SICK BERTH!"
"Stop shouting, Oldroyd! You may be deaf, but I am not!"
"I want to speak to Mr. Hornblower! Wait!"
"EH? COME ON, YOU'LL BE ALL RIGHT!"
Being unable to communicate verbally with Oldroyd, his right arm strapped to his side, his left hand bandaged, Kennedy resorted to the only appendage left and stomped on Oldroyd's foot.
"OW! WHA' D'YE DO THAT FER, SIR?" he shouted. Oldroyd grabbed his foot, lost his balance, and fell to the deck.
"BECAUSE YOU CAN'T HEAR ME!" shouted Kennedy.
Lifting his head from the stretcher, Hornblower stared with knitted brow at the two, then lowered it with a sigh, carefully.
As the stretcher bearers neared, Archie held out his arm to stop them that he might speak with Horatio. He grinned at his friend and superior officer.
"What are you grinning at, Mr. Kennedy?" Hornblower asked irritably.
"I am so glad that it is you, Mr. Hornblower, and not I, that shall be carried to sick berth!"
Hornblower eyed his injuries. "Oh? And, where do you think YOU will be, Mr. Kennedy?"
"Well, at least, I shall go under my own steam, Mr. Hornblower!"
Horatio scowled, then sighed and smiled wryly. "I'm glad to see you safe, Mr. Kennedy."
Kennedy smiled warmly, holding out the injured and bandaged hand.
Hornblower stared at the mummified limb, then clasped it gently.
By midnight, every wounded man, and woman, was relocated to Indefatigable. The two ships floated easily together upon the calm sea. Dr. Sebastian made a final round through sick berth, checking that each patient was fed and dosed with whatever potion the wounds deemed necessary.
There was only one more thing to do...check in with the captain. Sebastian knocked on the door. Pellew's servant answered.
"Captain Pellew's on the quarter-deck, sir."
"My needs can wait till the morrow," said Sebastian turning to leave, "I will not disturb him."
"I wish you would, Doctor."
"Why is that, Daniels?"
"He hasn't eaten since breakfast, sir. I couldna get him ta go ta bed. He just sat there with his quill in hand starin' at his papers. Didn't seem to hear me when I did speak to him, sir. He's got me right worried, he has. I even told him *you* ordered him ta eat and rest, sir. I hope that was all right ta do, sir."
Helpers everywhere! Even unrequested ones. "So he did not follow my orders, eh Daniels?"
He grinned sheepishly. "No, sir. Not a bit."
Sebastian drug his weary body topside, carrying a bottle of brandy and two glasses. His cheroot was held between his teeth. Squinting through the smoke, he could just barely make out the form of the person he sought. He climbed to the quarter-deck.
Sighing he responded, "Dr. Sebastian. Have you completed your ministrations?"
Pellew's brow creased. "Almost?"
"Yes, Captain, there is one more wounded from Dolphin yet to care for."
He sighed. "He hasn't been left on Dolphin, has he?"
"No, sir. All the wounded are on Indefatigable."
Pellew was clearly irritated. "Then, why are you up here, man? Do you need me for something?" He sighed heavily.
Sebastian moved nearer, peering into Pellew's face, drawing in a final stream of smoke from his cigar and tossing the butt into the sea. He turned his head to exhale the smoke from his lungs. "The man refuses to rest, sir."
"He has also refused to eat."
"Does he indeed? How does he expect to heal and return to duty if he does not take care of himself?"
"A good question, Captain. I am at a loss to know how to persuade him. Should I quote the Articles of War, the one about rendering himself unfit for service?"
"You might, Doctor, but tell me who he is and I shall speak to him. He will follow my orders, or I shall know the reason why!"
"I doubt he would listen, Captain. He is a very stubborn, willful man."
The doctor chuckled. "No, Mr. Hornblower has been very obedient though not too happy." Sebastian snorted thinking about the resignation of the young leftenant.
"Obedience is the important thing. I ... I am glad to hear Mr. Hornblower has chosen obedience." His voice drifted away with thoughts of Hornblower, everything associated with the second leftenant, Dolphin, and the day's occurrences. Pellew turned to the silent sea, nearly forgetting the physician.
"About this other man, sir, the last of the wounded." Sebatian reminded. "He will not do what he is told."
"What is his injury?"
"Trauma to the head ...and the heart."
"That sounds serious, doctor."
"I agree, Captain. But, at this very moment, the man refuses to do as instructed. He has not eaten. He is not in bed. He will not obey his doctor." Sebastian tilted his head in dismay.
Pellew's left eyebrow rose. "He will obey me, by God! Who is he?" he asked angrily.
Pellew's breath caught in his throat. "Doctor..." what did he want to say? He put his hand to his head. "Doctor..."
"Captain, I realize you must feel some responsibility for what happened today."
"Some? Try ALL, Dr. Sebastian," he spat tiredly.
Sebastian let the air cease its sizzle. "As I understand from men on Dolphin, the Kaliakra approached under an English flag. Is this not true?"
Pellew sighed. "Yes."
"You had no reason to believe it was an enemy."
"But, I should not have let Dolphin out of sight of Indefatigable. I sent my ship in one direction and let that one sail off in another!" he said, pointing towards it. "Into danger and ...death, Doctor."
"Captain, the men do not blame you."
"But I blame myself!" he answered quickly. "I was totally unprepared. I failed to realize the short-comings of Dolphin, being undermanned. Christ, we did not even have a drummer to beat to quarters! I behaved a fool, Doctor. I acted as though we were out for a Sunday picnic." He sighed, staring at the deck. "And, they had us for lunch!" He looked up into nothingness, covering his mouth, turning to pace. He stopped pacing, put a hand to his brow, massaging the left side deeply with his fingers. "I should be court-marshaled for what happened today."
Sebastian stepped closer. "Captain, what else could you have done than what you did?
"Many things, doctor. I...I should not have been on Dolphin in the first place. We should have headed for England, the French and Spanish coasts. That's where we should be! And if we had done so, there would be five men still alive and another eighteen people still whole." His voice cracked. "I forgot my duty, Doctor. I forgot who I am."
"Then, who were you when you were on Dolphin, if not the Captain of these men?"
He knew why he went there,... on Dolphin. He went to tell Hornblower he would have to take Dolphin to England, that his plans for seeing his wife to Gibraltar were through. He wanted to speak with Pamela, to find out if she understood what she had gotten herself into, marrying an officer in His Majesty's Navy, his officer, his...his...
"Captain, do you care about your men?"
"What?" he blinked, waking from pondered thoughts.
"Do you care about your men?"
"Yes, I do!" he said indignantly, "Have you not listened to a word I have been saying?"
"So, if you write in your report what happened as you see it happened, and the admiralty decides to court-marshal you, will that be what is best for your men? To lose their Captain?"
"Why would they want me after what happened today?"
"Oh, I see. This is not about duty. This about the party you are throwing."
"It's late, Doctor. You've lost me."
"Your pity party, Captain."
The doctor was making him angry. He started to let go on the good Dr. Sebastian when his words hit bottom. He *was* feeling sorry for himself. The thought sent him off on another tangent of self-loathing.
Sebastian spoke again. "Yes, it would have been better to run from those pirates. Best to let them have free reign. They could probably kill any number of people if you had let them be. Better to have kept all the men safe than to stop the blood thirsty blackguards."
"Doctor, are you being sarcastic?" He could usually tell, but his mind was not working as well as it might have been.
Sebastian put his hand on the Captain's shoulder for the second time tonight, "Captain, you lost five men today. You have wounded men. But, if you had not seized this enemy, how many more like Mrs. Hornblower's father, and herself, could have been harmed? Why do you not ask her how she feels about the action today? Was she not willing to do what she could to join the fight? Did she say please, Captain, run from them?"
Pellew swallowed. "But I..."
"Captain, you can stand here all night, with buts, and should haves. I will agree that what happened today was unfortunate, but if Dolphin had not been the bait, Indefatigable would not have its catch. And who can say how many more lives would have been lost by the black hearted devices of that enemy."
Pellew stood with his head bowed, listening to the doctor's words.
"You are listening to me, Captain, yes? Then, here is my prescription for you. I am going to pour you a glass of this very fine brandy your man Daniels gave me." He handed him the two glasses to hold. "We are going to have a drink together. Then, you will go to your cabin, eat and go to bed." He poured the brandy in the glasses. "In the morning, you will write your report stating that having found the prize, Dolphin, determining she was sea worthy, you were about to send her to England. As you were about to have her set sail, you noted a ship approaching which revealed itself to be pirate! Dolphin engaged the enemy and with Indefatigable's help defeated them. We now have *two* prizes captured from pirate activity off the coasts of Spain, Portugal, and Africa. This may be a future concern for His Majesty and the people of England as these waters are sailed by the East India Company as well as the Navy, not to mention ships of other nations, such as America. Inconsequential, of course," he smiled. Sebastian raised a glass to Pellew. "Drink up, sir. And my congratulations on your victory today."
Pellew drank the brandy. "Dr. Sebastian. If you were not so valuable as a physician, I would have you as my secretary."
Rampling supervised the final removal of the five deceased crew back to Indefatigable. With the help of a crew of four, the two dead pirates were lain together on a grate. Rampling read the burial service over them, ending with, "May God have mercy on your souls." With that, the platform was tilted, and the bodies of the enemy were interned in the deep blue sea.
Pellew would be saying the service over the five himself. He felt it was the least he could do, and secretly hoped it would somehow salve his conscience.
Hornblower, most recent commanding officer of the dead men, still suffering with headaches, dizziness, and new stitches, would be unable to attend the funerals.
Pamela expressed a desire to be there for the service, and Pellew gave the order to help in whatever way necessary to accomplish that.
Brandon was assigned to Mrs. Hornblower. His youth made him the most trustworthy to be found alone in her cabin, and his rank befitting, being a midshipman, to tend the wife of an officer. He was to assess her condition in regards to the funerals and was not feeling sanguine about allowing the visit. It was too soon after the injury to be up and about. Nor was he pleased at being chosen as her private physician, but here he stood outside her cabin, knocking.
"Who is it?" she asked.
"Midshipman Brandon, ma'am."
"Come in, Mr. Brandon."
Opening the door slowly, Brandon entered carrying a tray of doctoring paraphernalia. "Good morning, Mrs. Hornblower, how are you feeling?"
"Good morning, sir," she remembered meeting the young man at the Captain's dinner. Looking at the contents of his tray she tried to understand who he was and why he was here. "I...um...I ...Are you a doctor?" she asked, pulling the covers under her chin.
"Well, not exactly ma'am. I am sort of a doctor's apprentice you might say. I have been working on Indefatigable for some time in this capacity, and, now, I am under Dr. Sebastian's tutelage. He has assigned me to be your caregiver, ma'am."
"Oh? I guess he is occupied with the more seriously wounded from Dolphin?"
"Aye, ma'am. I mean, yes, ma'am. I see your trunk has been brought over."
"Yes, Matthews retrieved it."
"That is well since you will need clothes for the funeral service this morning." He cleared his throat nervously and stepped over to her. "May I have your wrist?"
She held out her hand to him. Taking it he checked her pulse. He put his hand on her forehead.
"I apologize!" he reddened. "I forgot your head wound. Let me see. Nasty bruise you've got there despite the bleeding." He swallowed and inquired as to her other wound. "How does your leg feel this morning?" He placed his hand gently on her forehead.
"It hurts a little. Mr. Brandon, may...may I ask how old you are?"
He felt the blood coloring his cheeks. "I am nearly sixteen ma'am. But age has nothing to do with my abilities." He pulled the blanket off her legs.
"What...what are you doing?" she asked pulling it back.
"I am going to check your leg wound, ma'am." He stopped and stared. "May I check your wound?"
She thought a moment. Her preference was Dr. Sebastian. She knew him, trusted him as a doctor. Who was this boy they sent to tend her? The crew of Dolphin came to mind. Their wounds had to be worse than hers, and there were certainly more of them. She gently pulled the cover away.
He helped by tucking it to one side. She was still wrapped in the clothes Sebastain dressed her with. Untying the belt, she moved the robe to one side, then began to pull the gown up her leg.
Brandon swallowed as he watched the sections of her leg slowly reveal...foot,... ankle,... calf,... knee. She paused at the knee, glancing at him, then began to move the gown up to her thigh above the bandage. She tucked the materials so as to reveal nothing more than was necessary and glanced at him nervously. "How is Horatio, I mean, Mr. Hornblower, Mr. Brandon?"
"What?" he swallowed, turning away. "Could you excuse me a moment, ma'am?" He left the cabin, closed the door, and leaned against the wall, breathing rapidly. "I cannot do this!" he muttered under his breath. "I cannot do this!"
He walked back to sick berth. Sebastian was checking the men. Brandon glanced at Hornblower, feeling his face glowing red. He walked into the dispensary and shut the door.
Hornblower pressed on his forehead. The headaches he was experiencing since being clubbed by the pirate were formidable, but he was still able to note the disturbance in Brandon.
"Dr. Sebastian," he said with effort, and then louder. "Dr. Sebastian!"
The doctor was hunched over Styles, checking the wound dressing. He walked to Hornblower. "What is it Mr. Hornblower? The medicine you took should be helping your headache soon."
"No, it's not that. Something is wrong with Brandon...Mr. Brandon."
"Mr. Brandon is seeing to your wife."
"No, he's not. He's there. Is something wrong with Pamela?" He started to try to get up.
"Hold it right there, Mr. Hornblower!" Sebastian pressed him down. "I have told you. Do not get up, sit up, or stand up. Now, where did you say Brandon is?"
"There," he pointed.
"Promise me you will stay put and I will go see."
"I promise," he said, pressing his forehead.
Sebastian entered the dispensary. "Drew! Have you finished tending Mrs. Hornblower so quickly? I thought you were going to stay with her during the service?"
Brandon looked at his superior nervously. "I....I....couldn't do it, sir."
"Drew!" he said in exasperation. "What happened?"
"She...she...I....she's awake! I couldn't....I mean yesterday with her unconscious was bad enough! I couldn't.... I mean....she was watching me....look at her....at her leg! I can't ...I can't do it, sir!"
Sebastian did not know whether to be amused or irritated. He studied the young man for a moment, thinking about his cases. "Very well. I will see to her. You shall have to check the men."
Brandon breathed a sigh of relief, "Oh, thank you, sir!"
"Now, you've gotten Mr. Hornblower worried. Go speak to him and tell him she is all right. She is alright, is she not?"
"Oh, yes, sir! Pulse was stronger than last night, no fever that I could tell. She seemed quite alert for someone who has lost a lot of blood!"
"Here is the list of who is left to check." Sebastian went over the names hastily. "If there is a problem, come and get me immediately. Let us reassure Mr. Hornblower. I do not want him getting up under any circumstances. If he re-injures his head it could go badly ."
Brandon and Sebastian arrived at Hornblower's bunk.
"Your wife is fine, Mr. Hornblower, no fever, a good pulse rate. I am going to go check her myself. If you need anything Mr. Brandon will be here."
"Thank you, doctor." He pressed against his forehead. The light seemed to increase the pain so Hornblower squinted out of one eye at Brandon.. "How is her wound, Mr. Brandon?"
"I...I...um...we thought it best that Dr. Sebastian check her wound, sir," replied Brandon nervously.
"Her leg will be all right, will it not?"
"Oh, I am sure, sir. She has very fine legs. I mean, I think she will heal with no difficulty, Mr. Hornblower!"
Hornblower squinted, curiously.
Dr. Sebastian knocked on the door. "Mrs. Hornblower, it's Dr. Sebastian."
"Come in, doctor!" She smiled warmly, then tried to look around him. "Did not Mr. Brandon come back with you?" She relaxed, seeing he was alone.
Sebastian grinned, "I fear, dear lady, that our Mr. Brandon has not had enough exposure in treating the fairer sex. He found seeing you to be most unnerving!"
"Well, that makes two of us! I found being treated by so young a *doctor* to be quite unnerving as well! I wondered if that was why he left so abruptly!"
"Please forgive his youth and lack of experience! Though I despair to know where and when he might have the opportunity to attend your gender again in the near future. I suppose he shall ultimately be consigned to be primarily a doctor of men." He leaned over her gently moving the bed clothes and hers to reveal the bandaged thigh. She watched him, looking from his face to what he was doing to her. He carefully removed the bandage.
"Oooo!" She lay back on her pillow. "That looks ghastly!"
"It is the sight that upsets you. You are all right otherwise?"
He leaned back turning his head to look at the stitching. He chuckled. "I swear to you, Mrs. Hornblower, this was none of my doing!"
She knitted her brow, then took another look at the stitches. "What?"
"Can you not see it? Turn your head just a little." She tried to do what he suggested, turning her head one way then another.
She opened her mouth and inhaled. Then, she smiled at Sebastian with a most devilish grin and laughed out loud. "Oh, I should not be laughing on such a solemn day!" She bit her bottom lip, glanced at Sebastian, then back to her leg. Her face relaxed into a pleasing smile. "Aww. Do you think he will like it?"
Sebastian laughed that she would take the appearance of her impending scar with such aplomb. He knew women who would be screeching at the top of their lungs over such an atrocity to their skin! "By he, do you mean Mr. Hornblower?"
"Well, who else, silly? You and he are the only ones who will ever see it!" She raised her eyebrows to the doctor.
"Ha ha ha! I believe you have managed to make me blush, dear lady, and that has not happened in many years!" He laughed again and she with him.
"Who is it?" asked Sebastian.
Pamela and Sebastian looked at each other and giggled. "You had better let him in, Doctor. What must he be thinking?"
Sebastian opened the door, grinning at the Captain. "Good morning, sir!"
Pellew eyed them both suspiciously. ""Really, Doctor! Do you two realize what is about to take place?" he asked seriously. "I can hear you all the way up on the quarter-deck! Now what is so deucedly funny on a morning when we are about to bury five men? Where is Mr. Brandon? I thought he was to take care of Mrs. Hornblower? Good Morning, Mrs. Hornblower!"
"Good morning, Captain!" she smiled, ceasing laughter.
"Mr. Brandon, I fear, Captain," Sebastian smiled, "Does not feel adequately prepared to tend, shall we say... *female* flesh!" He and Pamela broke into a peal of stifled giggling!
Pellew inhaled, appalled at the jovial atmosphere in which he found himself. He was just going over the funeral service and names of the deceased. They were laughing over Brandon? Thank God the poor boy was not present.
Pellew shifted his weight. "I do not see how Mr. Brandon's youthful embarrassment could result in such hilarity!"
"It isn't just Mr. Brandon, Captain," said Pamela, reaching a hand.
Exhaling, he took it.
"I apologize for our laughter, Captain. It is a sad day, to have to bury so many men. Please forgive us." She looked genuinely contrite.
Why did he find himself at a loss for words when around this
woman? "Very well, madam." He considered her words.
"What do you mean it isn't just Mr. Brandon?"
He watched his doctor and his officer's wife exchange looks.
Sebastian questioned her with a tilt of his head. She smiled and nodded. He arranged the covers and her clothing so only her stitches showed.
Pamela addressed her words to Pellew. "The doctor was checking my wound." She released his hand, nodding towards her leg. "Would you like to see?"
Pellew felt himself redden. "I..."
"It's all right, Captain. I am sure you are acquainted with *female* flesh. "
He stood with his mouth open blinking at the audacity of the two of them. He leaned over to look at her stitches. "Yes. You did a fine job of..." he found himself turning his head. On her thigh, outlined in stitches, were two stylized letters "HH." He glanced at her, then, Sebastian.
She started to giggle.
Sebastian grinned. "It is purely by accident, Captain. I did not plan it!"
"I see," he cleared his throat choosing to maintain an authoritative demeanor, "Lovely, madam."
"Do you think Horatio will like it?" she asked.
"I... I am sure you will have to ask him!" and he felt the color rising to his cheeks. Pamela was giggling into her blankets. "The service was to be at two bells, that's nine to you ma'am. How much longer before she is ready, doctor."
"It will not take me long to replace the bandage."
"I will dress quickly Captain. I promise not to take as long as I did the night of the dinner."
"Very well. We will wait for you, Mrs. Hornblower. Doctor, there is a man waiting outside who will carry her topside. If you would be so kind as to inform him when she is ready."
"Aye, aye, sir."
As the captain closed the door behind him, Sebastian and Pamela looked at each other and began to laugh again trying desperately to stifle the noise.
Pellew heard them, shook his head, and smiled, making his way topside.
The solemnity of the burial service left Pamela quiet and melancholy. She kept her promise to Pellew. Not a sound was heard from her. Silent tears streaked her face. Only stolen glances from men opposite would have seen and she did not return the gaze. She insisted on standing much to Dr. Sebastian's disapproval. Like a stork, she stood straight and tall in honor of the dead. He took position on her right side to support should the ship suddenly pitch or roll with the waves. As the men silently moved away from the side, he felt her lean against him. Color drained from her face. She fainted. All this was too much too soon. Sebastian returned her to Bracegirdle's room, checked her vital signs, then, left her to sleep and rest.
A new crew was chosen for Dolphin under Rampling. They were already at work cleaning her up, repairing her masts, scrubbing her decks. As soon as the ship was viable, Pellew wanted to sail.
Kaliakra was near good as new from the fray of the previous day. Bracegirdle kept the ship and crew well ordered.
As for Indefatigable's captain, Pellew was restless and in a foul humor. Everything seemed at odds. He wanted to leave, to get out of these waters. It was such a feeling of urgency he could not sit still. He managed to write the report, but that was all. He was standing biting the feather tip of his quill. He paced, looked out the stern windows, then, paced again. He felt stifled in the cabin. Pulling on his coat, pacing. "What is it, Edward?" he questioned. He paced again, grabbed his hat, and exited the cabin.
The Indefatigable had a strange feel to her. He did not know what it was, but it was a noisome sensation, like standing on a grate that you felt shift beneath your feet. He wanted to step off onto solid deck but could not. He looked over at Dolphin, still riding at Indefatigable's side. Like a frightened child clings to its mother's skirts.
Kaliakra. He focused his eyes upon her. The sense of foreboding increased. What was it? His face scrunched as he strode to the side, looking past Dolphin, to the dark ship. Why did he have the urge to call his men back from her? To leave her abandoned on the sea? It was ridiculous! She was a prize! Men had given their lives for her!
His feet carried him to the place his subconscious called him, the hold in the bow. A squad of marines stood guard over the prisoners. Pellew approached them slowly. Odors of captivity wafted towards him, sweat, urine, smells associated with the unclean and wounded. He let his eyes travel over each man, until caught by a return stare. A man next to the owner of those eyes whispered in his ear. Pellew watched the man speaking and recognition set in. He was the man he stood against on Dolphin. His eyes moved back to those rock hard brown ones that bore a hole through him. The mouth turned to a sneer.
"Ye ought to be dead! snarled the man. "And, ye will be! Along with that bitch! I'll get her fer killin' me brother!" the man was standing, his chains rattling as he tried to move towards Pellew. "I'll get her in more ways than one!"
Pellew's eyes narrowed. He stood his ground. "What liaison had your captain with the captain of Dolphin?"
Like an angry dog, he stood with his lip snarled. His only answer eyes full of hatred and revenge.
Pellew saw contempt on the face of the man he let flee to Kaliakra and it made his blood boil. He should have killed him. Now, the dead captain's brother was threatening not only him, but the woman who saved his life.
"Downs is stupid! I alas said so! The cur! Dolphin shoulda been mine! And, it will be! And Kaliakra, too!"
Pellew tilted his head to look down on the man. "A bold speech considering your present condition!"
"Aye, I be bold!" He made a step towards Pellew. The men he was chained to grumbled at the discomfort of iron chaffing flesh. Pellew did not flinch. The pirate laughed nodding his head. "Take these chains off me and I'll show ye!"
"Dolphin and Kaliakra are prizes for His Majesty, King George of England. Should you ever set foot on either one of them again it will be that you might hang from a yard arm!" He wondered how stupid this loud mouth lout might be, so he bated him. "You will never know the heel of their decks, nor any ship! Unless it is a prison hulk in the Solent!"
The man growled at him. "Ye'll see! Ye pompous brass bastard! Ye'll see!"
"You weary me with your bombast!" He turned to leave.
"We've got friends! Ye'll see! And, I'll get that murderin' bitch, too! Tell her she can expect me! Do ye hear?"
Pellew passed McCann of the Marines on his way out. He motioned him to follow.
"Captain McCann, have your men guarding the prisoners keep their ears open to whatever they might discuss. Be sure the men are on their guard, and I suggest you double their number, sir."
McCann studied the ship's captain. He did not make idle requests. "Will do, Captain Pellew."
It was not far to sick berth from the prison hold. Pellew stood at the top of the stair opening into the infirmary. He took in a breath at the sight of so many in hammocks, then, walked quietly among the men. Some were sleeping, some were awake.
"Cap'n Pellew!" said Starns in amazement.
"Shhhh!" he gave the man a smile. "How are you, Starns?" he whispered.
"On the mend, sir, thankee!" Starns smiled back.
"I am glad to know it. You did a fine job patching Dolphin, sir."
"Get some rest, now."
Pellew moved on, noting a man with his left foot resting on his right knee. He seemed nearly doubled over. How could he possibly be comfortable in that position? Moving nearer, he could see the patient was reading, holding the book precariously with a bandaged left hand, his right arm incapaciatated. He noted the sandy blonde head and realized who he was.
"Mr. Kennedy that looks damned uncomfortable." he said quietly. Kennedy startled and would have dumped himself onto the deck but for Pellew's quick action.
"Sorry, I did not mean to startle you." He steadied the hammock noting Kennedy's pained expression from the sudden tensing of muscle. Reaching to the floor, he picked up the book that had landed underneath the hammock. "Shakespeare, Mr. Kennedy?"
Archie blushed, "Yes, sir. But it's Henry the Fifth! I felt I needed a break from navigational readings, sir," he explained.
"No need to defend your choice, Mr. Kennedy. How do you fare?"
"Sore, sir, and a bit bored. Dr. Sebastian has not been
a source of good news.
Perhaps you could convince him to unleash me sooner."
"Indeed? What makes you think I would be a better judge of your condition than Dr. Sebastian?"
"I...I...hoped you could convince him to return me to duty, sir!"
Pellew sighed. "Nothing would make me happier than to return you to duty, sir, but I would not do it against the advice of your physician. You do well to obey him as respecting your wounds. Do I make myself clear, Mr. Kennedy?"
"Yes, sir," he answered resignedly.
Pellew sighed. "Everyone seems to be resting quietly."
"Indeed, sir. Not much conversation here abouts. Horatio, I mean, Mr. Hornblower has us a ...." Kennedy bit his lip realizing his words might upset the captain.
"Go on, sir."
He licked his lips nervously. "We're a bit worried about him, sir."
"He still has a headache, sir."
"Hmmm." Pellew opened the Shakespeare to Henry V. "Your book, sir." He handed it over to Kennedy's bandaged hand. Archie placed it open on his chest. "Can you manage?"
"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir."
"Rest, Mr. Kennedy. And, do as your physician tells you."
"Aye, aye, sir."
Pellew looked about for the doctors. Brandon was leaning over a desk in the dispensary making notes. Pellew spotted Hornblower in one of the bunks. He was sleeping on his stomach making the lump on the back of his head clearly visible, despite his thick curls. Pellew leaned over to look at his face. Even in sleep his brow was furrowed. He placed a hand on Hornblower's forehead. It was cool. He smoothed over his head, hoping to ease the furrow. A sigh caused him to startle.
"He looks in pain even in sleep, does he not, sir?" asked Brandon quietly.
"Mr. Brandon, do not sneak up on me like that if you please!" he whispered irritabley. He did not like being caught in such an act of familiarity. He clasped his hands behind his back.
"What is his prognosis?"
"Dr. Sebastian is very concerned that he might re-injure his head. He has given him laudanum, sir, to keep him quiet and resting."
"Keep me informed as concerning our wounded, Mr. Brandon."
"Aye, sir, I am near completing our report."
"Very good. Take it to my cabin when you are finished."
"Aye, aye, Captain."
Suddenly, Pellew knew what needed. Kaliakra, a mission of discovery, beckoned. Just what was the vague feeling of uneasiness pervading his thoughts? Calling for the launch and a signal to Bracegirdle, he was on his way to the brooding ship. He sat in the stern eyeing her.
She seemed surprised at his approach. Did he mean to take her crew? She seemed almost possessive of them! As if she ruled them, than they her. A haughty attitude emanated from the vessel, like the one he encountered in Indefatigable's hold.
Pellew stared with determination. He would not allow disrespect from anyone under his command and that included ships. The launch touched her side with a thud. Did she tremble? He began the climb up the side. The pipes squealed his arrival, seeming shrill with alarm.