Chapter 4: The Best Laid Plans
Madame Piebottom, the sole sibling of Horatio Hornblower, sat on the floor of ship's brig with her back against the wall, both literally and figurativly.
A raging battle was going on only a couple hundred feet above her, yet she barely noticed the explosions of the canons, the screams of dying men, or the other sounds sea warfare.
Her mind was on one thing: What do I do now?
She scowled in the darkness and mulled over her situation.
Being the younger sister of the Great, Honorable Captain Hornblower should have made her one of the most influential women of the aristocracy. She snorted in contempt.
Instead of living the life someone of her social standing should, here she sat: On the sticky floor of the filthy brig on the HMS Buggerall. And what an aptly named ship it was! While she hid in her trunk in the booty room, she heard the unmistakeable sounds of various seamen packing fudge no fewer than 4 times.
All of this was her brother's fault. Not the gay sex part; she realized that was what members of the Royal Navy did to pass the long hours at sea, but the situation she now faced.
She wondered how differently her life would have been had her parents had not died from cholera when she was 12 years old.
Had they not died, she would never have become Horatio's charge as was instructed by her parent's Last Will and Testement.
Horatio was her legal gaurdian. As such he was also in charge of little Dora's destiny. However, at the age of 24 Horatio had no inclination to be any kind of parental figure, especially to a willful, smart alecked, disobedient girl.
Six weeks after their parent's deaths little Dora was shipped off to convent in France, where she stayed for the next eight years.
Life at the convent wasn't that bad. Since their parents had left a sizable inheritence, Horatio paid a fair sum for her stay at the convent to be comfortable.
As the years went by Dora grew up into a lovely young woman. Nobody tacked the adjetive 'little' to the beginning of Dora's name anymore.
She was still willful, though and as time passed Dora grew more and more restless with her comfortable, sedate life at the convent.
Several nights a week after the nuns went to bed, Dora snuck out of the convent to the nearest town. There she would dance, drink and socialize with the "townies" until the wee hours of the morning, after which she would stumble back to the convent in a drunken daze.
Understandably, the nuns at the convent were not pleased with Dora's behavior. The final straw was when Dora returned one night from town, staggered into the convent and vomited in the pulpit.
After Dora was finished puking she washed the sour taste out of her mouth with some nice, cool holy water.
Then her stomach began to rumble. Not because she had to puke again- this was intestinal distress of a different sort.
She ran to the what was nearest to her, which happened to be the confessional, lifted up her dress and let loose a torrent of diarrhea that smelled worse than an outhouse in the summer and a series of farts so violent that it sounded like carpet was being ripping up in the confessional.
When the sisters went to mass early that morning, they were greeted first with the over powering stench of the vomit that had been 'ralphed' in the pulpit several hours ago and wattery shit from the confessional.
Then they saw the overturned fount of holy water and that Dora was sprawled in a pew sleeping it off. Her dress was hiked up around her waist and she was snoring like a bear. The sister agreed it was high time their guest left.
After the nuns said a prayer over the scene where such unspeakble things happened only hours ago, they roused Dora, flogged her and sent her to her room to say about a million Hail Marys and Our Fathers each.
The nuns then took the desicrated confession box outside to a field behind the convent where they set it on fire and said some more prayers while making signs of the cross.
After the purification was over, they wrote a letter to Horatio, begging him to retrieve Dora from their care. He replied he'd be there within a week.
Six days later Horatio arrived at the convent where he was greeted by the nuns with a hero's welcome.
Dora was summoned downstairs. She didn't know about Horatio's visit but she wasn't suprised to see him. "Are you taking me back to England?" she asked her brother.
"Yes. Go pack your things at once. The ship sets sail in less than two hours."
On the ship, Dora was contrite and Horatio was silent for most of the journey. The day before the ship docked Horatio informed Dora he had arranged for her to be married to Duke Laurence Piebottom.
"What!" yelled Dora
"You are engaged to be married to Duke Piebottom in a fortnight"
"I've never heard of this Duke Piebottom. Who is he?"
"He is a very noble gentleman. He owns a lot of land and property. Duke Piebottom is exactly the type of man you need to straighten you out and cure you of your disgraceful behavior." Horatio said dispassionately.
"I will not marry a stranger. I won't do it. You can't make me!"
"We shall see."
One week after Dora was back in England, she met her prospective husband. He was 57 years old and very, very fat with a dangerously florid complexion.
He had ears like the handles of a loving cup trophy and disgusting fat, red, squishy looking lips and wooden false teeth, that were painted white. He was impressed with her as much as she was unimpressed by him.
Dora silently vowed right then that this marriage would never happen.
Three days before the impending nuptuals Dora found a couple of stray cats. She slit both the cats throats, collected their blood in a bowl and buried them in the backyard.
After that she stole some men's garments from the clothes line of her neighbor. She took off her dress, ripped it up a bit and smeared it with the cat's blood. Then she changed into her new clothes, knocked over some funrniture and left her rooms dressed as a man.
The next stop was the shipyard, where her brother would be sailing the HMS Greymouth.
The plan was to sneak on board, off her brother and sneak off the boat before anyone noticed anything was amiss.
Since everyone would think Dora was dead, she'd travel around for a few years and then go back to England to collect her brother's inheritence.
Her explanation for her absence would be she was kidnapped by robbers and that she lost her memory, only recently regaining it. It was a good plan and it would have been successful had she not boarded the wrong ship by mistake.
The ship she snuck on was the same one that was captured by the rough crew of the HMS Buggerall. She hid in a trunk to avoid capture but when the ship was plundered they took everything, including the trunk she was hiding in.
Dora decided that the first port the Buggerall stopped at, she'd get off and start her new life. But then that four legged circus freak found her when they were doing inventory for the ship's accountant.
What the fuck kind of ship had an accountant on board?
It didn't matter, really. They were going to kill her, but first they'd make her suffer. That's what bothered Dora most about her impending death: that her brother would never pay for what he'd done.
Suddenly she realized everything was quiet. Was the battle over? Then she heard the footsteps. Someone was approaching the brig. This was it. She was going to die.
Dora stood up. "Who's there?" she said in her most forceful tone. "Answer me, goddammit!"
"Well, if it isn't little Dora Hornblower," said a soothing voice. A voice from her childhood.
"Who are you? How do you know my name?" her voice was less forceful and held a tremor of fear.
"I'm not suprised you don't remember me. It was so long ago. I never told you, Dora but I'm so sorry I couldn't save your parents."
Then Dora knew who the soft voice belonged to. She sobbed. "Doctor Victor Nicholas? You treated my parents when they got cholera." Then she wispered to him, "Please don't let them hurt me. Please?" She held her breath while she waited for his reply.
So what happens next, Dr. Victor Nicholas?