The Captain and the Baby
August 1776, Mary St. Ottery, at an inn:
It felt so good to be clean! The sickbed smell washed away.
The past few days seemed like a blur, the coach ride
Bay to Bath, that had gone well and he remembered Richard Jeffries sleeping
in the coach, the little boys head pillowed on his thigh. Then meeting the
King in his rooms and becoming deathly ill during the ceremony from an
infection to his wound. Jefferies, that stalwart little man, looked almost
frightened to death, as Bowles and Lord Burris had carried him from the coach
into the inn. Now that young man would be coming home with them today to join
their household. The thought made a slight smile curl on his lips.
He had been fed too, not what he wanted which was pig's
fry and biscuits,
but at least he got the biscuits with some scrambled eggs and coffee. He had
been left alone at the table, everyone else busy making ready to leave the
inn for home. He pushed the plate back on the table and took stock of his
The inn's common room, where he sat at the end of a long
table, was spacious and open, with the public room off to one side and the
dining room, where he sat, off to the other. In the middle was a kind of
sitting room with what to his view were comfortable chairs and settees
interspersed with small tables.
Slowly, ever so slowly and very carefully, he stood up.
He winced as the
stitches in his lower back pulled against his movement. Shaky, he kept one
hand on the table edge.
'Damn thing took all my strength.' He thought as he considered
the ten or
twelve feet between where he was standing and a wing back chair in the
sitting room area. Hearing a noise behind him, he turned, his back
immediately complaining and an answering groan escaping his lips. He saw
Simons carrying a small trunk from the room where he had lain for the last
two days to their coach standing outside the double doors.
"Sir Edward," Simons said, in a harsh cautioning
tone. Pellew looked over
his shoulder to see whom Simons was speaking to. There was no one there.
Suddenly he remembered he was 'Sir Edward'. This was going to take some
getting used to. "Sir Edward," The man repeated, "Please wait for me to put
this box away, I'll help you to the chair if you wish."
"No, Simons, I can get there myself." Very slowly
and deliberating every
step he crossed the carpeted floor to the wingback and eased into it's seat.
From this vantage point he could see a second coach also
for travel. It was for the doctor and his apprentice, the men who had saved
his life. They were traveling to Portsmouth to take up a practice that had
been recently purchased.
'I don't know that man's name. I ought to find out before
they leave. I
will need to send them something.' He thought.
"Teddy?" Amanda's voice came to him clear and
ringing from the hallway to
the sleeping rooms taking his thoughts away from the doctor.
"Yes m'dear?" He heard her footsteps coming toward
him before he could
see her saque gown. He smiled as she hove into view, her pregnancy with their
second child very evident. She would not be in public view very much longer.
Her time of confinement would be starting in a matter of weeks. Already she
had drawn distaining looks from some of the ladies who had shared their
breakfast table. She had laughed them off and turned her attention to her
husband. But the looks and remarks had told on her. She was self-conscious
about her burgeoning belly.
She carried a very small child in her arms. He frowned
at this, where did
she get the baby? And where was their child, Eddy?
"Teddy," She was near now, having descended the
three steps that led to
their rooms. "Could you take young Horatio here and keep him for a few
minutes. I need to help the doctor pack his little things. He's a new widower
and his wet nurse is busy with her own child. The boy's been fed and he
should drop off to a nap pretty quick."
He knew his face was full of doubt. He had never held a
baby, and this one looked to be almost a newborn. But he held out his arms to
take the child. "Yes, give him here."
She smiled at him as she laid the child, wrapped in his
his hands. The baby was small enough to fit into his two palms. She looked
around, no one was watching, she kissed his forehead and whispered into his
ear. "Thank you, Teddy, you are my hero." Then she was gone from his view,
the sheer fabric of her dress whispering against the floor.
He gazed at the child in his arms, tiny, defenseless, the
waving, hands extended and thumbs drawing across his little face. The lad
finally got one thumb inserted in his mouth and began to noisily suck on it.
Edward had to smile at this. The little boy was not going to rest until he
had gained that thumb. Pellew tucked the lad tighter into his left elbow and
began a little side to side rocking motion.
The lad's great eyes stared up at Sir Edward's face, Edward
he felt must be an idiotic smile and thought about his own child to come.
Given the nature of his wound, he would not be called back to service for
some time, and there were still more captains than frigates so the
possibility that he would be at home for the birth of his child was very
good. 'Amanda would like that, me being there.' He thought, 'Maybe I will
hold a new son, but no, Amanda wants a girl and I've already got my Eddy.'
His attention was drawn back to the baby boy as the lad sighed and moved in
"Amanda said you would sleep, little boy." He
continued rocking the lad
in his arms. He searched his memory for a song, a lullaby, but nothing came.
He would have to try something else. He started to sing softly:
"Come cheer up my lads, tis to glory we steer,
To add something more to this wonderful year;
To honor we call you as free men, not slaves,
For who are so free as the men of the waves?
"Heart of oak are our ships, jolly tars are our men:
We always are ready,
Steady, boys, steady.
We'll fight and we'll conquer again and again."
The lad's eyes had closed and the little boy's breathing was
easy. He was
asleep in the great post captain's arms. His face was cushioned against the
gold lace and blue wool of Pellew's undress jacket.
Edward Pellew gazed at the child. "What will you be?"
He whispered. He
stroked the lad's head, kissing him as he did his own young son. "Where will
you go? What great things will you see? I owe a life to your father, little
boy, and my Amanda says he will take no payment. Perhaps I can be of service
to you someday."