An American Encounter
By Skihee :)
Chapter 18 Becalmed
Kaliakra. Entering the captain's cabin Pellew was taken with its orderliness. Not at all what he would have expected from a man who sought to slit his throat. The room was nicely appointed.
"I have a sense of foreboding, Mr. Bracegirdle...and I do not like it. The same I felt, yesterday, as I allowed Dolphin to continue on course towards this ship."
The desk off to the side caught his eye. He began to go through the drawers, letter slots, pulling out and examining notes and missives. One caught his eye. It was addressed to Captain Horace Craven, Algiers. He unfolded the paper, scanning the contents.
"You've found something, sir?" questioned Bracegirdle.
Pellew arched an eyebrow. "It seems Captain Craven has friends in England. Friends with information about merchant sailings, dates and so forth. This might be of interest to the authorities in London. As for us, it seems these men may have some sort of organized effort for their piracy."
"Has he a letter of marque, sir?"
"He is no privateer, Mr. Bracegirdle. That was a pirate flag he raised yesterday. This man has, or I should say had, ties to England, sir. He did not plan to attack enemy merchant shipping but our own! The worst kind of scoundrel."
"And Dolphin was part of this piratical navy, sir?"
"So it would seem, Mr. Bracegirdle." Pellew's mind raced with the information and what Craven's brother said. "I fear there are more such vessels prowling these waters."
"Then we must prepare, sir."
"Indeed, Mr. Bracegirdle, though our current state of affairs worries me. I do not like having enemy on board Indefatigable. Especially threatening ones."
"What's that, sir?"
Pellew's eyes flashed angrily, remembering the encounter. "Captain Craven has a brother. That man I let go on Dolphin informed him of...." he stopped realizing no one knew but he, Pamela....and now the pirates. He looked steadily at Bracegirdle. "Mr. Bracegirdle, Mrs. Hornblower saved my life."
"Craven was about to slit my throat. I had ordered the men to arm themselves for boarding. She came from the gun deck,... found Hornblower unconscious. That man must have thought her no threat, and by the looks of her, I would have agreed. She...she was concerned for...for Hornblower. I...I don't know how she was even aware of what was transpiring between Craven and myself." Pellew's eyes squinted as he recalled the scene on Dolphin's quarter-deck. "Craven raised his sword to sever me in two. She spoke, cocking her pistol, Hornblower's pistol. He turned and she hit him square in the chest. The pirate that clubbed Hornblower was distracted." Pellew turned his head recalling something he failed to notice. "I remember now. He saw Indefatigable approaching and then ran over starboard, climbed the shrouds, as if he were trying to see beyond Kaliakra. Seeing his captain slain, he returned to attack Pa...Mrs. Hornblower. I intercepted his intended blow with his captain's own sword."
"Then how did he flee, sir?"
"I let him go. I...I wanted him away. I...feared for ...I ... It was a poor decision, whatever the reasons. Everything I did that day was a poor decision."
"But, the results, sir. You now have two prizes," said Bracegirdle quietly.
"But at what cost, Mr. Bracegirdle?"
Four days passed since Pellew stood in the cabin of Kaliakra with the discovery. He returned to Indefatigable, poured over his list of crew, and made a momentous decision. After what happened to Dolphin, and the threats of Sid Craven, the brother of Kaliakra's former captain, he decided to crew the two ships from Indefatigables compliment of men. If there were other pirate ships patrolling these waters, he was not going to let any vessel under his command be caught lacking, even though it meant strapping his own for manpower. With that decision, came another. They would all three sail to Gibraltar and the two prizes be turned over to the Admiralty. He could not sail indefinitely without his full crew, but he would get these to port. Not another life would be lost to folly.
A higher power, however, chose to step in. After moving men and dunnage to the two ships, it seemed almost at the moment he was about to give the order to set sail, they were becalmed. For the last two and a half days the three ships rode the swells in utter stillness. Not a breath of wind. The heat was stifling. The only good he could see was that if they were becalmed so were any enemy lurking below the horizon.
Dr. Sebastian was pleased for the benefit of the recovering wounded. It almost seemed the doctor had written a prescription for tranquil seas and handed it to the Almighty to fill! Sometimes the calm jovial attitude of his physician, that all things worked together for good, got on his nerves. Pellew realized his vexation amused the good doctor and he began to wonder what punishment he could impose upon him. No amount of yelling would cower him. He was not a green midshipman. He would merely smile and say "aye, aye, sir." Sebastian would be insufferable but for the fact that he liked the man, and he was an excellent physician.
Pellew completed the recent round of paperwork. Reports filed, letters written, though when a packet would approach them he knew not. The inaction and heat was driving him to distraction. The men were less of a worry. His standing orders were ship's cleaning in the morning, gun drills for an hour. In the heat of the day the men not on watch were sent below to escape the searing sun. Here they began another stint of cleaning the guns. Afternoon brought several more hours of gun drills, sail drills, and ship maintenance before settling into the routine of the evening. With the crew scattered between three ships everyone was kept suitably employed.
Dressed in his woolen topcoat, Pellew stepped onto the deck. He stood squinting into the lifeless sail. McMasters had the watch., his only able bodied leftenant. He stepped below to walk the gundeck to sick berth. Men resting stirred to attention. He motioned them to be at ease. Many relaxed quickly, being accustomed to what had become a daily occurence, Pellew coming to visit the wounded of Indefatigable.
Coming upon the hammocked area, he assessed his observation. Several of the gundeck's lesser wounded were gone, returned to the berths inhabited before transferring to Dolphin. Those with hearing loss had regained it, a remaining ring reported by some. Hornblower's headaches finally abated, though Sebastian would not let him out of bed yet. Kennedy, with his injured shoulder, would be out of commission for another two and half weeks, not to mention his healing side and hand. Styles was on the mend and anxious to be up and about. Starns was due to be released the next day if his wounds looked acceptable. Two other men with serious splinter wounds were still abed. Carden, who lost his arm, and the last two, Crabbe with a broken arm and Stephens with burns to both hands, continued to reside.
There was a moment when Pellew enjoyed the consternation of Sebastian. If anyone could wipe that grin off his face it would be one of his patient's acting on their own volition, which included Mrs. Hornblower.
Three days previous, Pellew arrived on the gun deck to see Matthews find Pamela halfway to sick bay, hopping along the corridor. Matthews carried her the rest of the way while she chatted with the captain, following behind. Matthews deposited the lady at Hornblower's side.
Sebastian was surprised to see her and inquired how she came. Avoiding the complete truth, she told him Matthews carried her, giving Pellew a sly glance. The doctor expressed his concern for movement so soon, but she insisted she was well.
Finding Hornblower in pain enough to complain, she massaged his neck and head. Hornblower reported he felt better, making Sebastian wonder about the bennefits of increased circulation as a curative. Another example for him of God's mysterious working ways.
Her presence in sick bay seemed to cheer the men, not only those of Dolphin, but also, the few wounded from the action with Kaliakra. A woman's touch. His men seemed to thrive on it. After ministering to Hornblower, she hobbled from hammock to hammock, visiting the men, trying to meet their needs with a kind word, a drink of cool water, wiping their brows, fanning them, whatever she found lacking, she tried to provide.
Pellew was the one to notice her fatigue and caught her in a dead faint. Taking her into the dispensary away from the eyes of the men, Sebastian checked the leg wound and found it torn open and seeping blood. Even though they were behind closed doors the vehement censure he visited upon her was known by all. Pellew watched the men exchanging glances and saw the blush on Hornblower's face as the man recalled his own harangue on Dolphin.
Sebastian emerged with her in his arms, his face positively stern. Pellew could not suppress the wry grin and wondered at the satisfaction he felt that someone else had to do the scolding. Is this what the doctor found to be so amusing? She was summarily returned to her cabin, but here she was today, perched on Hornblower's bunk, giving a massage.
"Thank you, my lady," he said softly.
She looked up to see Pellew standing near. Giving him a wink, she beamed.
Pellew felt himself disarmed again. Would he ever get used to the ways of this American? *Are all American women so? Surely not!* he thought.
"Darling, Captain Pellew is here," she whispered into his ear, feeling his body stiffen under her touch.
He sat up in bed. "Captain Pellew, sir."
"Mr. Hornblower. Mrs. Hornblower," he said nodding.
"Still no wind, sir," Hornblower stated.
"Not a breath, Mr. Hornblower."
Kennedy, putting down his Shakespeare, looked over at the three. "Well, at least we're not the only ones out of commission, Mr. Hornblower, the entire ship is!" He grinned at his friend. Seeing the look of consternation on Pellew's face, he dropped the grin and apologized. "Sorry, Captain."
Pellew sighed. "Though I dislike agreeing with you, Mr. Kennedy, there is merit in what you say."
"We are strapped for men, sir?" said Hornblower, more of a statement than a question.
Pellew smiled wryly at his leftenant. His mind was clear and had been employed in assessing their situation, that was obvious. "Yes, Mr. Hornblower. Even the few here will be welcome back to duty. That is, when the good doctor releases them."
Hornblower remembered the last conversation with Pellew about getting him out of sick berth. "I don't suppose you've reconsidered speaking to Dr. Sebastian on my behalf, sir?"
Looking down, Pellew shuffled his feet. There was nothing he would have liked more than getting Hornblower back. In their present state, however, it was less important for Hornblower to return, than it was for him to get a clean bill of health from the doctor. Pellew had questioned Sebastian about Hornblower once his headache had ceased. The doctor explained the danger of re-injuring the head wound, that if he were to fall from a dizzy spell the resulting concussion could cause loss of vision, hearing, put him in a coma, or cause death. He shook his head no, letting his eyes meet Hornblower's. Did the affection he had for this leftenant reveal itself? He glanced at Pamela looking intently into his face. Clearing his throat, he darted away from her stare. "No, sir."
Pamela reached for the crutch Sebastian had provided, a symbol the doctor could be persuaded. "I am off to tend my other men, sir," she smiled looking at Horatio.
"We may have to keep you, Mrs. Hornblower, you have become an able nurse according to Dr. Sebastian," said Pellew.
"I am yours for the duration of this voyage, Captain."
Pellew smiled at the correctness of her response. He cleared his throat. "Where is Dr. Sebastian, Mr. Hornblower?"
"I believe he said he was going to consult with Mr. Brandon, sir."
Brandon was removed from sick berth duties upon the redistribution of men. He was now an officer of the watch pulling the first watch as duty. Three of Hornblower's ratings accustomed to the watch were now employed as well, one on each ship. Matthews staying with the Indy, Garner going to Kaliakra, and Lasky back to Dolphin. Jones, the man acting as second surgeon, was assigned to Kaliakra, she having the second greatest number of men. Dolphin was given two of Sebastian's loblolly boys that he considered would know what to do in an emergency. They could be employed elsewhere as well.
The marines were apportioned. The majority were still with Indefatigable for her size and the need to guard the prisoners, Kaliakra and Dolphin with a small compliment, accordingly.
With a final sigh, Pellew bid adieu to his men in sick berth, and to Pamela. "Perhaps we could have a game of cards later this evening, eh, Mr. Hornblower?"
"I will look forward to it, sir."
Pellew bowed slightly, leaving the infirmary.
Kennedy asked, "What do you think, Horatio?"
"I think I am bloody well tired of sitting in this bed!" He swung his legs over putting his feet on the deck. He moved to the edge of the bunk.
"Horatio," said Kennedy warily and loudly enough for Pamela to take note.
She turned to look from Crabbe's hammock. "Horatio!"
"Mr. Hornblower!" It was Sebastian.
Hornblower looked up, sighing with frustration. "Yes, doctor?"
Sebastian put his hands on his hips and stared at him. Hornblower looked at Kennedy, his wife, Crabbe, and a multitude of other faces staring from hammocks. He muttered, put his feet back in bed, faced the wall, and sighed.
"This is very hard for him," Pamela whispered to Sebastian, arriving beside her.
"Yes, I know. How are the rest of our patients today, Mrs. Hornblower?"
"Well, sir. I'd like you to check Mr. Carden." Leaning on the crutch, she stepped over to Carden's hammock. "I believe his fever has broken."
"Indeed?" Placing a hand on Carden's forehead, he found cool skin. Sebastian allowed a gentle smile. "This is good news. I feared infection from the loss of the limb. Always a danger with these amputations."
"You look tired, doctor. You should rest."
"I am concerned about Stephens. Mr. Brandon has been reading about the care of burns," yawned Sebastian. "When he arrives, we are going to have another look beneath his bandages."
"Until he does, sir, you should lie down. I will stay until Mr. Brandon comes."
He cocked his head. "You know, you should not be so mobile yourself, dear lady. Come let me check your wound. If all is well, I shall do as you ask."
She blinked and tried to avoid his gaze. "I am sure it is all right, doctor."
"Then, no harm in checking." He scooped her up.
"Doctor, I can walk. You need not...."
"Shhh," he winked. "You would not deprive me of holding a beautiful woman in my arms, would you, Mrs. Hornblower?"
He watched her face color, as his own broke into a wide grin. Chuckling he carried her to the dispensary. He noticed Hornblower up on his elbows watching him.
"Dr. Sebastian, may I remind you that she is a married woman?" he said with brow knitted.
"Aye, Horatio," said Kennedy, "You had best keep an eye on our good doctor. He is half Spanish, and you know what they say about Latins!" He pulled his Shakespeare up to hide his grin.
Horatio turned his darkened countenance on Archie. "You are no help, Mr. Kennedy." Looking back to the doctor and Pamela, "I think I should be there when you...are....looking ...at...my wife." He seized upon the idea as a reason to get up.
"Mr. Hornblower. Stop!" Sebastian sat Pamela in a chair, walked over to Hornblower who was once again sitting on the edge of the bunk. He exhaled wearily, looking over his shoulder at Archie. "He is right. You are no help, Mr. Kennedy. Maybe I shall keep you another three weeks in sick berth!" Kennedy sunk down in his hammock, peering over his volume at Sebastian's stern features. Turning back to Hornblower, he said, "All right, all right. We may as well find out now how you are. Stand up, Mr. Hornblower, and slowly."
Sebastian was actually going to let him out of bed? Swallowing, Hornblower took a breath, shifting his weight to bring himself up. He held his left arm close to his side and winced.
"Hm. Feeling those stitches, eh, Mr. Hornblower? Another reason you should not be up so quickly."
Hornblower was standing nearly eye to eye with Sebastian. He was a little shakey on his feet. Sebastian put his arm around him. "Come." He manuevered him to the dispensary, sitting him in a chair. Horatio was decidedly pailer. "Are you going to faint?"
"No," he said with a will.
"If you start to feel faint, put your head between your legs. Understand?"
Hornblower nodded, feeling queasy.
Pamela watched with concern. When his eyes met hers, she gave him a reassuring smile. "If you hurt yourself on my account, Horatio, I shall never forgive myself."
Sebastian studied Pellew's leftenant. Grabbing the rung of the chair he pulled him over next to the wall. He gently pushed Hornblower's shoulder against it. "There. You will be able to see what I am doing better." Bringing Pamela in, he placed her on the cot set up just for her bennefit. She held herself up on her left elbow bringing her face close to Hornblower's. Reaching, she caressed his cheek. I love you,' she said silently.
His features softened as he concentrated on her sweet countenance. He breathed in the closeness, finding her scent a calmative for a queasy stomach.
Sebastian's back was to them as he closed the dispensary door.
Pamela's eyes fixed on her husband. Kiss me,' she mouthed.
Giving but the slightest glance the doctor's way, his lips met hers. He sighed at the softness. Stopping, he looked fully in Sebastian's direction. He still had his back to them, examining jars and pulling various bandages. Hornblower's eyes returned to Pamela lips. He wanted to embrace her. Leaning in once more, their lips joined. The kiss was longer, deeper. He held her gingerly with his left hand, aware of the taut skin on his bandaged side. Conscious knowledge of his injuries disappeared.
"Well. I think I have everything I need," announced
Sebastian before turning.
They separated. "Your color looks better, Mr. Hornblower."
The two said nothing to Sebastian, but everything to one another, their eyes expressing unacknowledged longing. Sebastian was moving her clothing to reveal the bandaged wound. Neither watched. He stole a look at them gazing into each others eyes, wondering at the medicine of a touch, a look, a kiss. These two had been constant companions for two weeks, still newly-weds, recently ripped apart by the ravages of war.
"Mrs. Hornblower!" said Sebastian, noting the small blood stain on the bandage.
Her color pinked at the address, but otherwise her gaze remained with the man she loved. "It isn't bad, Dr. Sebastian. And, it stopped on its own. See?"
He exhaled. "Mr. Hornblower, you wanted to see your wife's wound." He waited for a comment from Hornblower. Looking to him, he noted the two still entranced with one another. "Mr. Hornblower. Did you want to see your wife's wound?"
Hornblower saw Pamela's soft smile. "What? What is it?" he asked, mirroring the smile.
She motioned with her eyes for him to look. He leaned over to see the stitching, placing his neck near her mouth. She breathed on it, moving her lips to brush his skin.
He twisted his head at the chill running down his spine, then stared at the stitches.
Finally, she asked, "Do you like them?"
Hornblower looked at Dr. Sebastian smiling. "What? What have you done?"
Sebastian threw up his hands. "I did not do it! I will be back in a few minutes. Let the air get to this," he said pointing at the leg. "Do not do anything to hurt yourself, Mr. Hornblower." He exited the dispensary, closing the door.
"Do you like them?"
"Pamela!" he said amazed.
"I am yours, Horatio!"
Leaning his head against hers, he spoke. "I love you, Pamela."
"Lay with me."
"We won't do anything. I just want to feel you next to me, darling."
"What about Sebastian?"
"He will tell us before he comes in."
Carefully, Horatio entered the cot and rested his head on her chest.
Sleeves rolled up, Sebastian leaned against the wall with his chair tipped back on two legs and sucked on a cheroot. Aiming his exhaled breath out a port opened for light and ventilation, he tried to send the smoke on its way, though no breeze would carry it.
His thoughts conversed with the Lady and her Son. He let his mind float from person to person, lifting their needs to God, praying for healing, guidance, perseverance. And, finally, in his own discomfort, he spoke quietly, "Lord, this heat! I am afraid to ask for cooler air for fear You would answer with a storm. I do not know what else would dispell this oppressive torridity," he sighed, "Wind, I suppose, would do, Sir. Though that would send us on another peril," he looked up, "I leave this in Your hands to decide."
He turned his head to the dispensary door, wondering if it were hot in there. Would the occupants notice? Were they creating their own heat? He smiled crookedly at what might be taking place in there. Whatever it was, it had come to him in a flash, as so many of his choices to aid healing, that time for these two alone was in order. His eyebrow shot up as Captain Pellew crossed his mind. Would he agree? Ah, well, what matter. He would never know.
He heard soft footsteps approaching. The chair came to rest on all four legs. Craning his neck around the hammocks, he tried to see who was there. It was Brandon...on his way to the dispensary!
"Drew!" whispered Sebastian loudly.
Brandon stopped, his hand poised over the door handle, turning to see who called. There was Sebastian in his shirt sleeves motioning him over. He wished he could walk about in his shirt sleeves. As it was, he was a properly attired Midshipman in his blue woolen topcoat. He headed his way. Passing Hornblower's bunk, he gasped.
"Dr. Sebastian!" he whispered loudly. If Sebastian was whispering there must be good reason to be doing so.
Kennedy peered at him over his book.
Drew smiled. "Mr. Kennedy!" he whispered with a nod, then stepped quickly to Sebastian. "Mr. Hornblower's gone!"
Kennedy looked over at Horatio's bunk, smiled, and shook his head. "You've got all the damned luck, Horatio, you dog!" he said quietly.
Sebastian nodded his head for him to come over.
"Did you hear me? Mr. Hornblower is not in his bunk!"
"I know. I know. It is all right. Grab that chair and come here."
Setting the chair across from his mentor, he sat on its edge. "Where is Mr. Hornblower?"
Sebastian scrunched his face. "Do not ask. He is all right. What have you discovered about our case?"
Drew dropped his head in thought "He is in the dispensary?"
Sebastian sighed irritably. "Mr. Brandon, if His Majesty had a secret service I am positive you would be his primary operating agent!"
"And, and..." his eyes grew wide, not giving in to Sebastian's attempts to divert him.
"Yes," whispered Sebastian curtly.
"Do you think that wise, sir? I mean, neither one of them should be... I mean," he swallowed, "Activity...I mean..." he stammered.
"Mr. Brandon, we must not worry. It is a form of, shall we say, ... therapy."
Sebastian snorted at his response.
"What will Captain Pellew say?"
Sebastian frowned. "Drew, do you discuss with Captain Pellew the treatments you use on your patients?"
"Well, in general, no, sir," he answered thoughtfully.
"Well, in general, neither do I. Now, can we get on with our discussion about Stephens? What have you discovered?"
Brandon shared the findings on the treatments for burns. He described the varying intensities, the signs to know which was worse, the suggested protocols.
Sebastian listened, nodding occasionally. "Hmm. It sounds like little more has been devised for the remmedy of burns than what I already knew. I hoped this new volume would shed some light on a different regimen."
"It was valuable for me, sir. I have not dealt much with burns," Drew whispered.
"Well, that is something, at least. Some day there shall have to be a group of physicians that will study only the treatment of burns. Then, perhaps we will gain further knowledge in how to care for this most horrendous of injuries. I thank God Stephen's is not the worst type."
"How...how long have they been in there, sir?" asked Brandon.
"Hmm?" Sebastian pulled out his pocket watch, raising an eyebrow, "Long enough, Mr. Brandon! Stay here. I do not wish to embarrass either one of them."
"Nor me, neither," said Brandon under his breath feeling the flush in his cheeks.
"Well, Mr. Kennedy, you have distracted me from my duties once again with your witty commentary on Shakespeare!" Sebastian said jovially, standing next to the dispensary door. "We shall have to wait for another time to finish our discussion."
Kennedy tried to sit up in the hammock to see what in the world Sebastian was on about. He winced with the pain in his side. Realizing Sebastian's ruse, Archie rested back in the hammock, shaking his head. "Horatio, Horatio," he muttered.
Sebastian put his hand on the door handle, taking a deep breath. "Mrs. Hornblower, you must think I have forgotten you! Forgive me, ma'am, Mr. Hornblower. It is quite hot in here! Why did you not call me?"
Hornblower's nightshirt was soaking with sweat. His skin was decidedly pinker. "I ..."
"No matter," interrupted Sebastian, trying to save an explanation. "Let me walk you back to your bunk. I will be with you in a moment, Mrs. Hornblower."
Looking at Horatio, she replied, "There is no hurry, Doctor."
Midshipman Cutter pulled the bell's rope to denote the start of the second dog watch.
The officer taking over reported to the watch leftenant.
"Mr. McMasters, sir, I am here to relieve you."
McMasters could not stop the edge of his mouth curving up in a half grin. "Thank you, Mr. Hornblower. It is good to see you up and about."
Hornblower looked at the deck trying hard to hide his own pleasure of being back to work and out of sick berth. "Indeed, sir. It is very good. Anything, I should know?"
McMasters sighed and shook his head, "I wish there were. Eight days of this bloody floating about! I've taken to praying, Mr. Hornblower. If the Almighty is listening, he must still be thinking it over. I know Dr. Sebastian was glad of our situation for the sake of the wounded, but aren't most of you released now?"
"Nearly. Stephens is still under close scrutiny with his burns. Mr. Kennedy is back in his cabin, but still off the duty roster. Styles, Starns, the other ratings, except Carden, are all back in their own hammocks, with limited duties, of course."
"As yourself, I understand."
Hornblower frowned, "Yes," he said absently, reaching to rub his left side.
"Side still bother you?" inquired McMasters.
McMasters pointed at his hand.
"Oh, no, not so much. The blasted thing itches! I cannot wait for Dr. Sebastian to remove these stitches!"
"I imagine this heat doesn't help either."
"No, indeed." Hornblower stopped scratching at the bandage and flapped his coat, like a mockingbird does its wings, to cool his body.
"Hmm. Well, don't do anything to re-open that wound of yours, eh? Probably good doctor sense that you're only allowed this one watch for duty."
Hornblower twisted his mouth in resigned agreement. "Yes." He looked over at Dolphin. McMasters followed his gaze.
"Miss your ship?"
"Indeed, I do, sir," said Hornblower wistfully. He missed those seemingly easy days of sail. He walked over to the side, caught himself scratching and grabbed a rigging line to occupy his right hand. He noted the lines of Dolphin, fully repaired again she was. Inclining his head, he allowed himself to recall his life with Pamela and his crew and sighed.
McMasters stood silently, watching. "You have some good memories despite ..."
Hornblower glanced McMaster's way, then back to Dolphin. "Yes....yes."
The other ship caught his attention. Kaliakra. He had not had time that eventful day to fully examine her. Squinting at her lines, he canted his head one way and then another. Walking aft, still looking at the cut of her.
"She's something, isn't she?"
His brow creased. "Indeed, Mr. McMasters." He studied her thoughtfully. "What is it about her? She seems like she would bolt if she could." Hornblower found it odd that he was comparing a ship to a horse.
"You sound like Captain Pellew! I caught him deep in thought a few nights ago and he had a similar assessment. Do you suppose it is her previous crew that can so impress a character upon her? She is after all just wood, hemp, and canvas."
Hornblower continued to stare at the ship, wondering at what McMasters related.
"Well, I'm off to dinner, sir. Mr. Brandon is your relief. The deck is yours."
"Very well, Mr. McMasters."
A horse, a spirited race horse. Perhaps she is very fast. She had come upon them in a hurry. He wondered at her name. Maybe it means horse. He had never heard the word before. Kaliakra. It had a certain trill to it. He wondered at the origin of the word. Was it some middle eastern name? It was becoming difficult to see her in the gathering darkness. She was an ink blot on an inky sea.
Turning, he paced the length of the quarter-deck, stopping to note the binnacle. Looking into the sail, his sigh was as heavy as the canvas that hung there. Tilting his head higher he could see the man on watch at the mast head. He wished he could climb there to have a look round. Eight days in sick berth had nearly driven him mad. If it had not been for Kennedy, Pamela, and Captain Pellew coming to play whist the last few days, he thought he would surely go insane. Footsteps pulled his attention to duty.
"Well. How are you doing, Mr. Hornblower?"
"Fine, sir. You need not concern yourself. I am behaving."
"I would consider nothing less, Mr. Hornblower!" assured Sebastian. He spied the man atop the mast. "I see you looking wistfully into the shrouds, do I not?"
"As I said, Doctor, I am behaving," he replied, unable to hide the testiness in his voice.
"Hmm." He smiled at Hornblower. Walking over to the side, he stared in the deepening darkness, at the two forms riding the glassy sea with Indefatigable.
Hornblower watched him, then turned his attention away, wishing the doctor would leave. He had enough of his company to last him for some time, he thought. He listened to his steps retreat to the taffrail. The unmistakable scent of the plant Sebastian burned wafted towards him. He tipped on his toes, not allowing a turn to the doctor.
Another figure arrived in the waist. It was Pellew. Was he to be burdened with every person this night? Could they not just leave him be on his first watch back on duty? He frowned his displeasure, knowing they had his best interests to heart. He snatched his hand from his side, reaching to clasp it behind him.
"Mr. Hornblower! Report if you please, sir."
Well, at least he was inquiring after the ship. "All quiet, sir. Nothing to report."
"Hmm." Pellew let his gaze dart over the quarter-deck, taking in Hornblower in bits. Moving to the side, he peered in the darkness at Indefatigable's companions. He no longer bothered to look into the sails. There was no wind revealed there. Bowing his head to the deck, he walked aft to join Sebastian. Softly, he asked, "How does he fair, doctor?"
Hornblower glanced behind him at the captain and the doctor speaking quietly. He sighed heavily. A commotion on deck caught his attention.
"Well, if you come with me then you can be sure I do nothing to harm myself. My arm is lashed to my side. I will not hurt my shoulder. My hand is on the mend. Stay close behind. If I lose my balance, you can catch me!"
"Very funny, Mr. Kennedy!" said Brandon. "Does Dr. Sebastian know you are maneuvering about decks?"
"Oh, bosh, Drew! You sound like an old mother hen!"
Kennedy was pulling himself up the stairs one handed. He looked over at Hornblower and grinned. Brandon was close behind, ready to steady him if he should lose his grip.
"Mr. Hornblower! Back at work I see! You've got all the luck! I've always said so!"
Hornblower tried to motion with his eyes and his head at what was behind him. Kennedy did not catch it.
"I must say even with no breeze it is delightful to be topside! Stuffy below decks! Very!"
He walked over to the side. Stars were painting the skies lending feeble light to the ocean below.
"Ah. Long lost home! How I loved thee, though but for a pace!"
"Shakespeare, Mr. Kennedy?" asked Hornblower.
"No, ...Kennedy!" responded Archie gaily. He cocked his head to see the larger dark shape to starboard of Dolphin. "Our nemesis! She rides the wave, what there is of a wave, in a light prance, does she not Hora...Mr. Hornblower?"
Hornblower inhaled, wondering when the duo would intervene. Even as the thought coursed through his brain, he caught their approach out the corner of his eye.
"A light prance, sir?" asked Pellew.
Startled, Kennedy looked into Hornblower's face querying why he did not warn him. Horatio's eyes were doing that now. Looking beyond Pellew, Archie saw Sebastian. His body tensed and his face winced.
"Captain! And, and... Dr. Sebastian, as well." He darted a look at Brandon whose face was all over with *I told you so.* "Good evening, sirs!"
"Does Kaliakra remind you of a horse, Mr. Kennedy?"
Archie looked at Horatio again, wondering at the question. "It was merely a figure of speech, Captain. I .... I....," he looked at Kaliakra in the glimmer provided by the heavens. "Yes, for some strange reason, she does, sir."
"Most curious," said Pellew more to himself than to Kennedy. He wondered if she were very, very fast. If a wind would ever come, that question might be answered.
"How are you, Mr. Kennedy?" asked the doctor, blowing a stream of smoke from his lips.
Thankfully, the blush on his face was hidden by the darkness. "Well, doctor, well. Different sights stimulate healing, do you not think? Fresh air good for what ails you?"
"Hmm," grunted Sebastian.
"Captain Pellew, sir."
The voice startled Hornblower. It was Mr. Bowles. Who else could possibly show up? Pamela?
"Yes, Mr. Bowles?"
"That matter you asked me to see to, sir. It will be ready at the appointed time."
"Thank you, Mr. Bowles." Pellew sighed, darting glances over his men. "Mr. Kennedy, do you have permission to be wondering about the ship? I would think having an arm immobilized would be a detriment to your navigation."
Kennedy swallowed, trying to smile, "I maneuver quite well, sir. And, I enjoined Mr. Brandon to assist me, you see!"
All eyes turned to Brandon who took on the look of a deer which had just had a lantern shown on its face. His mouth popped open, but no sound emerged.
Sebastian smiled, turning his face to the deck to hide his amusement.
Pellew caught the move. "Dr. Sebastian, is all in keeping with your wishes?"
"Aye, Captain Pellew, a change of scenery and atmosphere is known to have curative properties."
Eyebrow arching, he said, "I see. Carry on then, Mr. Kennedy. Mr. Hornblower."
"I want you to report to my cabin when you come off watch."
"Aye, aye, sir."
"Very well. I bid you gentlemen goodnight." Pellew bowed slightly, leaving his men to speak their farewells. As an afterthought, he proclaimed, "We shall have a wind by morning."
"Aye, we shall," agreed Bowles, turning to leave, also.
Sebastian looked at Kennedy and Hornblower's puzzled expressions.
"God spoke all that exists into being. Why should not our Captain speak wind into being? Good! I am tired of this sitting about! It is time we were away. Do you think the war has forgotten us? Mr. Brandon, do see that Mr. Kennedy makes it back to his cabin in one piece before you start your watch."
"Aye, aye, Dr. Sebastian."
Archie smiled a laugh. "I thought I bought that one!"
"You did, Mr. Kennedy. The good doctor had mercy upon you. Lord! I am starting to sound like him. Another day in sick berth, he might have had me converted."
Kennedy leaned on the railing resting his injured side. "What do you think is going to happen, Horatio?"
Hornblower looked at his friend in dismay. Why was he always asking him this kind of question? As if he had a crystal ball in which to peer.
"Well, wind will be here by morning. We shall set sail. More pirates will appear and this time we shall have to sink them."
Smiling, Kennedy asked, "Why is that?"
"Isn't it obvious? We have no more crew to spare." Hornblower walked away from his friend, desiring solitude.
"Come, Mr. Kennedy. I am due to take the watch soon and my orders are to see you below decks," stated Brandon.
One by one, the quarter-deck emptied, leaving Hornblower and the man at the helm. Horatio sighed. Alone at last. He breathed deeply. The stars shone more brightly in the night sky. He sucked in the sea air filling his lungs, feeling the pull on his stitches. Indefatigable filled his eyes. The creak of her, even on a glassy sea, soothed him like a lullaby. His mind drifted to days of sailing, with full sails, and a rolling sea. Eight bells brought him back from the run before the wind.
Turning the ship over to Brandon, he set his course for Pellew's cabin. Knocking on the door, instead of the familiar *Come*, the door was opened by Daniels, his servant.
The man smiled at Hornblower and opened wide the door to let him in. The room was dimly lit. Daniels motioned to some small refreshment laid out on the table.
"You are to help yourself, sir."
Hornblower looked at him quizzically. Daniels motioned to a dark figure standing at the stern windows. "Goodnight, sir."
Hornblower watched him go. Looking at the figure more closely, he realized it was not Pellew. A light scent of roses reached him. He moved closer. She was in his arms. He kissed, he held, he nuzzled her hair. Squeezing her tightly, he whispered, "I love you."
"I love you," she rejoined.
"I've got the best captain, on the best ship, with the best crew!"
"Indeed you do, Horatio Hornblower! And I have the best husband ,who has the best captain, on the best ship, with the best crew."
"Do you love me?" he asked.
"I love you."