I Am 80 Years Old Today
"I am 80 years old today." The short sentence on a fresh page of his diary
started this 29,200th day of his life. 'Give or take a few', He thought with a
snort of laughter. The sound was not loud and didn't draw any attention from
the others in the house. He was alone for the first time since rising creakily
from his bed just after sunrise. Susan had always tried to teach him how to
sleep in, but after a lifetime of out or down with the morning watch at four
a.m., she had not succeeded.
Today, he had not been the only one up early. Fleetwood had
risen before him
and was pouring coffee in the breakfast room when Papa, on aching knees
hobbled in. Somewhere upstairs the youngest of them, George Israel, Edward's son
was awake and screaming for his breakfast. Pownall had joined them a bit later
and they enjoyed each other's quiet company. They had spoken softly of the past
years events, both good and bad. New babies born had come with the sausages
and sisters dying had gone with the cream in their coffee.
He had excused himself shortly after the last slice of toast
had been left in
crumbs on the cloth.
Now he sat, pen in hand, open journal before him. No more words
written and he must have drifted off to a nap, for the sun was full up and the
lawn of West Cliff House was full of children.
Susannah had obviously been planning something for today. 'I
hope it's not
much.' He silently said as he looked across the room at what he had come to
think of as the monstrosity. A memento of Algiers, his last campaign, a circular
fortress the size of a wedding cake, with three tiers, what looked like a
thousand miniature cannon and writhing humans on each corner. It usually sat on the
mostly unused table in the great dining room now it sat on his study side
table where the housemen had set it down the day before.
All these children! All the previous day and evidently most
of the morning
he had napped away, children and grandchildren had been arriving. In past years
the children would come and go, but never all of them at once. Now he could
see young women chasing the toddlers, whom he loved with a passion, or calling
out for the youngsters to be careful as the bevy of ponies that Susan had
gotten somewhere were mounted and led away. The Pellew's only had two ponies in
their stables, Shetlands, terrible ill-tempered things. He smiled at the
children, you could tell with accuracy that they were Pellews; even those that bore
other surnames had his eyes or his nose.
"Your traits are powerful, Edward Pellew."
He jerked his head around, some of his leonine mane falling
over one eye. He
would never get used to the shorter style he now wore. He missed his queue and
he missed his women combing it out.
"Who is there?" He asked into the dim corners of
the dark paneled study.
Models of his ships were squirreled away in them like old tiny ghosts, cobwebs
still gathered on them no matter how diligent the housemaids. He knew no one
would answer. He had closed the door behind him and no one had entered.
"Should we ask him, mama?" Again the whisper on the sunbeam.
"No, it's not for us to call him." Another whisper. Familiar and dear.
Silence again. His hand fell across the arm of his chair, brushing
bookcase at his side. A line of books stood there, his own writings and musings
over the years. They were filled by his hand and told stories of traveling the
world. He had indeed led a fortunate life.
He considered the well-worn bindings with curiosity. There
were the old cheap
ones; those had been filled before he became a captain. They told of boats
built on lakes and a midshipman's life. Black flaking cheap leather, the pages
were brown and stained by seawater. The Admiralty insisted on him keeping a
journal, and in all things he carried out his duty. The latest volumes, third
from the end told of life in the Indian Ocean and his troubles with Troubridge
and the Dutch. Second from the end held the story of his exploits in defeating
the pirates in Algiers. He cast a baleful eye at the monstrosity again, men
lost, ships lost, but a united command, the Dutch, believe it or not, some
Americans, and others had joined under his command and defeated the Bey. The last
volume, the one under his hand told the story of retirement and idleness.
His eyebrows flew up, there were two additional volumes, set
velvety navy bindings and the old chipped black ones. A small wooden box sat on
the windowsill next to the model of the Indefatigable, his favorite ship. He
touched the surface with a loving hand. These two books were navy blue as well,
but smooth leather with gold stamping and with something left of the gold leaf
on the edges of the pages. The same loving touch caressed the edges of the
The small portrait of his youngest child, Julia, caught his
eye and a little
tear formed at the corner. Last winter had been a hard one, this child going
before him. No parent wants that to happen. To see your children die before
"Edward?" A light knock on the study door, Susannah
opened it without waiting
for his answer. "Are you coming down? What have you been doing? It's been
hours since you closed yourself in here."
"Yes, I'm coming.uh, Susan?" His hand closed around
the small box. He knew
what was inside, an old watch with a painting inside the cover, a silver locket
bearing a ship on one side and an engraving on the other, and a set of
wedding rings. Those things had been gone from him for forty years, forty wonderful
years with this woman.
She came entirely into the room, her hands on the doorframe,
her fingers were
knobby with arthritis and rheumatism, but they were still beautiful to him.
He took a couple of shaky steps. He had been sitting too long, and took her
hands from the wood. "Susan, where did the books and box come from?"
"Edward, Emily Dawson is dead." His grasp tightened,
Emily? Dead? Dear Lord,
how many more! "The letter that came with them was dated in December, and was
addressed to me. She said she had heard the angels whispering to her and could
not wait any longer to send them along. She never got the chance, her cousin,
Nate, saw that they were sent over. I put them in here. Was that all right?"
His smile was gentle, "The angels whispered to her? Yes.
She would hear
them." He wrapped her in his arms, as bony and fleshless as they had become, and
drew her close. "I have loved you, Susan." He looked out of the window at the
babies, the youngsters, his children and he saw in the shadows, two young women,
one with magnificent mahogany hair streaked with gray at the temples and two
young children peeking around skirts that had been in fashion the century
before, the other dressed in modern fashion with golden red hair the same color as
his own head had been so many years before.
"I've loved you, Susan, I've loved you all!"
Historical notes: The real Edward Pellew was born April 19, 1757 and died Ja
nuary 23, 1833. He was 76 years old. All the children named in this fic were
his real children and grandchildren, Julia (Pellew) Harward, died December 26,
I have fiddled with Pellew's age in "As I See Fit"
to make him old enough to
be at some historical events and do certain things, my date for his birth is
April 19, 1752. This fic follows that time line. By the way, the real Pellew
when he was in command of the Indy would have been younger (around 37) than
Robert Lindsay is in the films, he was born in 1949. (That makes him older than I
am, and I'm pretty old.) So my fiddling with the ages fits the A&E character's