Nelson gaped. “To Fitzsimmons? But he’s a common sailor.”
“Mr Fitzsimmons, please stop the shore boat,” Emma called.
“Wait!” Nelson cried, before taking a deep breath. “I apologise, Mr Fitzsimmons.”
“That’s quite alright, sir,” Fitzsimmons replied.
Nelson sat back down on the bench. “Why the concern with my well being, of late?”
“You defy God,” Emma replied. “Every time you attempt the impossible you dare Him to redeem you once more.”
“Oh Emma, that is war. This is not a huge pillow fight; men die.”
“And what of the men who die to forge your name?”
“Few have perished under my command, and as yet, I’ve lost no ships. Others have sank, yet all mine still sail true.”
Emma dropped her head, unable to answer.
“I’m sorry, Emma. I didn’t intend to sound dismissive.” No response. “Something else plagues you, doesn’t it?”
She nodded. “I had hoped that you might take a young boy aboard your ship. His name is John Wilcock, an apprentice cook from Austrina, who was sent to the hospital to repatriate. I thought that no one would be safer under fire than with you.”
“I’m afraid we have all the crewmen we need aboard the Captain.”
“I understand. Perhaps I can write to the minister for health and have John placed aboard one of the hospital ships.”
She turned her head aside, catching Fitzsimmons concerned gaze.
“We have need of a nother cook, sir,” Fitzsimmons said. “The men complain bitterly about the food.”
“Do they?” Nelson asked incredulously.
“Oh constantly, sir.”
“Well then, I’ll see what I can do to retain this man.”
Emma, beaming, threw her arms around Nelson’s neck.
He laughed. “Now enough of that. I must take you to your home, allowing you the opportunity to dress in your finest clothes.”
“Where are you taking me?”
“For a light supper at the palace.”
Emma stared long and hard, trying to determine his sincerety.
“It seems the king’s knighting me this time,” he said.
Antonio Gutiérrez sat at his desk, staring at the letter in front of him, which came to his asteroid the same morning. Already, he knew it came from the king, as it bore Charles IV of Pain’s waxed seal. No doubt, he’d give him more to deal with than his duties as Governor.
Neatly attired in coat and long curled wig, he believed he should look the proper example of his office. His servants trimmed his goatee beard to perfection, and per his requests, served him the healthiest of foods. Constant exercise, added to his better relations with the people. Too many times in the past, portly nobles exerted more than equitable taxes to line their pockets. It meant for longer days, reducing the local populace to nothing more than slavery. When he walked the streets, exchanging pleasantries, people saw a fit and powerful man, giving the impression he was no stranger to hard work.
A white canary landed on the stone sill of his high window facing the sun.