Maria's diary
by Holly Hornblower


August 4, 1802

Mother has rented the little attic room to a half-pay Navy lieutenant, a Mr. Hornblower. He's very fine looking, curly brown hair and the deepest brown eyes I've ever seen. She first showed him the second floor front room, previously occupied by old Mr. Dalton, but he seemed reluctant to take it when Mother named her price. I was the one who suggested the attic room instead. We haven't rented it for a long time, I think it was Lieutenant Price who had it last. Mother could immediately see the advantage of renting it again -- the second floor room will be let soon enough, what with all the unemployed naval officers in Portsmouth since the signing of the Peace. Mr. Hornblower carried his sea chest upstairs himself, it was so lightweight, and I brought the bed linens to make up the bed. I asked him what ship he had served on, and he told me it had been a sloop named Retribution. I said I wasn't familiar with that ship, and he told me it had been a prize of the Renown, and had been known as La Gaditana when it had been a Spanish ship. "So you had served on the Renown?" I asked. "Yes," he replied, very flatly. There was something in his voice that led me to believe he didn't want to discuss his service on the Renown, so I said no more, and once I had the bed made up, I took my leave.


October 16, 1802

I had the most difficult day at school yesterday. Johnnie Bristow was a perfect terror. He would not pay attention, in fact he gazed out the window all morning and even started whistling at one point! I love my pupils, but Johnnie does try my patience at times. I must have still been upset this morning, as Mr. Hornblower asked me at breakfast what was troubling me. He seemed so kind and interested, I told him everything. I feel better for being able to share my problems with someone else. I fear (I didn't tell Mr. Hornblower this!) that I am destined to be a schoolteacher all my life, and care for the children of others. How I would love to have a child of my own ­ to lavish love and kisses on. Of course, I would love to have a husband as well ­ to lavish love and kisses on, too! Alas, I see that possibility slipping away every day. Sometimes I regret spurning the attentions of Mr. Crawford, the boatswain who had the third floor rear room a few years ago. He might have sufficed, but he was so much older than I! And mother told me she wished I might marry better than she did. Yet I wonder if ever another man will look at me. I am plain, I know, but oh I would love a man who loved me with all my heart.


November 6, 1802

Mother and I had a row this evening about Mr. Hornblower's rent. I don't usually trouble myself with details of our roomers' accounts, Mother certainly keeps that well in hand, but today she mentioned he had not paid for either October nor November, and was going to turn him out. I begged her not to. I'm not sure what Mr. Hornblower does for subsistence - although he leaves every day before noon and stays out til all hours of the night. Mother told me he was on stoppages with his half pay. Something about a promotion which wasn't confirmed. Secretly, I am proud of him. I can tell he is ambitious and bright, and if he was promoted to Commander, if only for a while, that speaks all the better for him. I finally convinced Mother to let him stay on, and she relented only after taking his sea chest down to the basement storeroom as collateral.


November 18, 1802

I have decided to knit a pair of gloves for Mr. Hornblower for a Christmas present. He's a lonely soul ­ never a friend to call on him. I know it's probably not a proper thing to do ­ to give a present to a man who hardly knows of my existence. But he's so alone, and he is quite kind to me, that I want to do something nice for him.


December 3, 1802

Mr. Hornblower paid some of his back rent yesterday -- Mother was again ready to pitch him out. She still is warning him that he cannot go on indefinitely on credit. After dinner I begged her to reconsider, and pointed out that all his rent is really just gravy to us, since we hadn't been renting out the attic room before he took it. I guess I made my point, because she said nothing more to him today about it.


December 6, 1802

Mr. Hornblower seems to have misplaced his greatcoat. I haven't seen him wear it for a week or so. And winter is starting to set in. I know he doesn't have the money to buy another. His room is so chilly, I had Suzie leave an extra blanket by his bed today.


December 10, 1802

Mr. Hornblower still doesn't have his greatcoat. I would like to ask him about it, but I fear the answer would embarrass him greatly. I have decided to stop work on the Christmas gloves for now. If I were to give them to him, it would just accentuate the loss of his coat. Another reason is I am afraid he would think me terribly bold giving him a present when nothing more than friendly conversation has passed between us. I would be mortified if he felt he needed to reciprocate with a gift for me, when I know his finances are so tenuous. Yet I cannot bring myself to unravel the work I have already done on them; I will just leave them, unfinished, in the bottom of my knitting basket. Maybe someday, someday, our relationship will be such that I will be able to give them to him without embarrassment.


December 25, 1802

I asked Mr. Hornblower if he would like to go to Christmas service at church with us. Mother made an ugly face ­ her opinion of him is not very high, I'm afraid ­ and he thanked me for the invitation but said he would not wish to impose himself. He gave me a sad little smile ­ oh I could melt ­ and wished me a Merry Christmas and thanked me for all my kindnesses. I think he knows I have been his advocate with mother regarding his rent. I think it is time for me to commit something to this paper which up to now I have only admitted in my heart. I am falling in love with Mr. Hornblower. I do not believe the feeling is reciprocated ­ although I hope someday it might be. If I am nice to him ­ he is so melancholy ­ do nice things for him, and if (this is the most important) he continues to stay with us ­ then maybe my dreams will come true.


January 20, 1803

Mr. Hornblower seemed unusually happy this morning at breakfast. He said he had run into an old friend yesterday ­ a fellow lieutenant from the Renown. He had a twinkle in his eye when he told me. His beautiful brown eyes. How I would love to be able to stare into those eyes and tell him how I feel. Mr. Hornblower is so handsome when he smiles. I would like to see him smile always.


March 7, 1803

Oh I have done it now. I cannot believe my boldness. Mr. Hornblower's Lieutenant friend called on him this morning. His name is William Bush from Chichester, and was at the dockyard to collect his half pay. He is going to spend the night in Mr. Hornblower's room ­ mother had me bring up a truckle bed. I realized they would probably want to go eat supper together, and Mr. Hornblower is still in dire financial straits (Mother and I had another row about his rent last week). So I had Mr. Hornblower give me his uniform coat to sponge ­ oh it is so worn ­ what I would do to be able to make him a new one ­ although I'm no tailor ­ and when I was downstairs I took a half crown and put it in his pocket. Mr. Bush cheers up Mr. Hornblower so ­ I just want him to be able to enjoy his company. I hope he doesn't realize that I put it in ­ but Mr. Hornblower is so smart, he will probably realize it was me.

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