Children of One Family
by Pam

EPILOGUE

 

They were all assembled in the courtyard the following morning to see him off.

"Mrs. Polwhele's packed you some food for the journey," Margaret informed
Archie, handing him a large, paper-wrapped parcel. "And she's included an
extra package of saffron buns for you to share with your undernourished
friend aboard Indefatigable!"

He opened his saddlebag--now considerably heavier than it had been on his
arrival--and stuffed the parcel inside. "It appears I shall be very well-fed
indeed!"

Their light tones masked deeper emotions, held tears at bay when they said
their farewells. Only Henry, who would be accompanying Archie on his ride
into Truro to catch the stagecoach, appeared his usual cheerful self. Robin
was apt to become fretful at the prospect of his newest uncle deserting him
but was partly consoled by a bear-hug and Archie's promise of a special gift
sent from far away. Margaret embraced her brother in turn, holding on to him
as long as she dared. Just ten days ago, he'd been practically a
stranger--and now he was riding away, carrying a large piece of her heart
with him. Parting at last, they exchanged slightly tremulous smiles, then
Archie turned to Medora.

There was a slight flush on her cheeks, but she met his gaze steadily. He
hesitated; after yesterday, an embrace seemed . . . not quite appropriate.
And a kiss, bestowed upon her cheek or forehead, would relegate her to the
nursery, make her again the child she so desperately did not want to be.
Instead, he reached for her hand, which she did not refuse him, and held it
in a light, brief clasp. "I await your letters, Medora Rose--and I expect
you to keep me fully informed of your musical progress. At regular
intervals."

It was the right approach to take; she smiled, some of the constraint
vanishing. "At regular intervals? You are a stern taskmaster, sir!"

"No taskmaster worth his salt is anything *but* stern!"

"As long as the taskmaster remembers that *he* is to write 'at regular
intervals,' himself," Margaret broke in severely. "And I shall have no
hesitations about reminding him of his duty. Frequently."

Archie rolled his eyes. "The tyranny of an older sister! I might be better
off with the lash, at that!"

So they were all laughing when the horses were brought around and the two
young men swung themselves into the saddle. A last wave, a last chorus of
"goodbyes," and they were away, clattering out of the courtyard and down the
lane leading to the main riding track.

Margaret sighed, her heart feeling very full despite her having sent much of
it after her brother. But perhaps that was the condition of love--that the
more one gave, the more one *had* to give away. A paradox, of sorts.

The condition of love. She stole a glance at Medora who was trying so very
hard *not* to strain her eyes for a last glimpse of their recent visitor and
felt her heart go out in turn to her young sister-in-law. Although she
still did not know exactly what had passed between Archie and Medora
yesterday, she was willing to hazard a guess that it had fallen far short of
the girl's secret hopes. A pity, Margaret thought, for, despite
everything--her inexperience and his troubled history--she believed they
*were* well-suited: Archie's natural ebullience lightening Medora's somewhat
serious disposition, her quick perceptions and insights sharpening his own.
But they were both so young yet--Medora with so much to learn, dear Archie
with so much to *unlearn.* Margaret knew--as well as anyone in the
family--about the Tresilians' habit of choosing their mates early and
forever. But at fifteen? There was a whole world out there that Medora had
not discovered--and other young men were part of that world. The curious
alchemy of time and experience could bring about many changes. If the state
of affairs between Archie and Medora never progressed beyond a rare and
lovely friendship, surely that was better than nothing.

If, someday, it were to become something deeper . . . well, she would be the
first to wish them happy.

"Come, my dear." She put an arm around Medora's shoulders. "Time we went
in--you know how Mrs. Polwhele frets when we keep breakfast waiting."

*****

Mr. Bracegirdle was officer of the watch when Archie came aboard the Indy the
following day. He greeted the younger man with a beaming smile, asked several
questions about his home visit, then sent him below. En route to his cabin,
Archie encountered Dr. Sebastian ministering to a powder monkey who had
tripped on the companionway stairs and hurt his wrist. There was no
opportunity for conversation at that point but Archie gave the surgeon a
reassuring smile in response to the other's inquiring glance.

Back in the cabin he shared with Horatio, Archie set about unpacking his
saddlebag. Five minutes into the process, he heard a familiar step in the
passage.

"Archie!" Horatio appeared in the doorway, face alight with pleasure. Then,
remembering his dignity as a naval officer, he added punctiliously, "I am
glad to see you safely returned, Mr. Kennedy."

Archie just smiled. "I've brought something for you. It's on your bunk."

"Oh?" Proper young officer was speedily transformed into curiou --and
hungry--roommate. With a murmur of thanks, Hornblower sat down on his bed,
the parcel in his lap. "What's this?"

"Saffron buns. One of Mrs. Polwhele's specialties--she's my sister's cook."

A crinkling of paper followed this revelation. "There must be a full dozen
here. I couldn't possibly eat them all--"

"Save me out a few, then. And I mean to take at least one down to Dr.
Sebastian later--as thanks for his good advice."

"The visit went well?"

Archie's smile widened. "Amazingly well." He replaced his cleaned and folded
clothes in his sea-chest, then tucked his rolled stockings around the two
glass jars--one of preserves, one of honey--he had also found in the parcel
of food he'd been given. Home comforts--and he suspected there would be
another parcel at Christmas. "My sister's a remarkable woman, Horatio--and
the family she married into . . . well, they may not be of sufficient
consequence to please my father, but they treated me like one of their own. I
haven't been so well cared-for in years."

Horatio smiled too, apparently pleased for him. "So you've better memories
now, than the ones you had before?"

Archie nodded. "Enough to fill a sea-chest. Cornish gardens in the spring,
Cornish kitchens on baking days, the sound of a spinet, perfectly played . .
. " Ignoring Horatio's grimace, he continued, "Linen scented with lavender,
hot baths, homemade blackberry jam, cats who sleep at the foot of people's
beds, little boys who bounce on them . . . "

"The beds or the cats?" Horatio inquired thickly, around a mouthful of
saffron bun.

Archie paused in his unpacking. "That was almost a joke, Mr. Hornblower," he
remarked affably. "Next time you might even succeed in making it amusing!"

Horatio glowered at him but the bun prevented him from responding as he might
have wished. Archie grinned and unwrapped the silver shoe buckles that he
had chosen from his mother's jewel box. *After I make lieutenant, Mother,
you will be with me every step of the way--quite literally.* Last of all, he
unwrapped the miniature he had admired, which Margaret had insisted that he
take. The painted face smiled up at him with all its remembered sweetness.

Horatio craned his neck to catch a glimpse of it. "Is that your mother,
Archie?"

He nodded, handing the miniature to his friend to study in turn. "It was
painted when she was about five-and-twenty."

"She's lovely."

"Except for being taller, Margaret is very like her to look at."

"She's not the only one," Horatio said cryptically, as he handed back the
miniature.

"Mm." Archie was not sure if his friend was teasing him or not. With Horatio,
it was often difficult to tell. He placed the minature tenderly in his
sea-chest and sat down on the floor of the cabin, thinking again of the last
ten days. Of what had been lost and found once more, of endings and
beginnings. And of the bonds formed by blood but sustained by affection,
over the years: links in a chain that would eventually grow long enough to
stretch around the world and strong enough to withstand whatever stresses
were placed upon it. A chain forged in love and loyalty--by children of one
family.

 

END

Pardon, O Lord, our childish rage,
Our little brawls remove,
That, as we grow to riper age,
Our hearts may all be love!

--Isaac Watts, "Love Between Brothers and Sisters"

 

******
AUTHOR'S NOTES

1. The title "Children of One Family," like the verses which open and close
the story, comes from"Love Between Brothers and Sisters," a hymn written by
English theologian Isaac Watts (1674-1748). Watt's undeniable
didacticism--he was also responsible for "How doth the little busy bee",
which Lewis Carroll parodied as "How doth the little crocodile"--does not
automatically lessen the value of his insights, however.

2. I am indebted to the novelist Winston Graham for his evocation of
eighteenth-century Cornwall, not only in the Poldark novels (among the best
historical fiction around) but in his excellent reference book, Poldark's
Cornwall.

3. The disaster that befell Wheal Random and Wheal Rhys in the story was
based upon actual events in Cornwall, though the real-life counterpart of the
fictional event took place in the nineteenth--rather than the
eighteenth--century. Miners working in Wheal Owles broke through a wall into
a flooded shaft of the neighboring Wheal Drea; water poured into Wheal Owles
and an estimated 20 people died in what was considered one of the worst
mining accidents in Cornwall.

4. All the songs mentioned or performed in this story are traditional British
folk songs. The Padstow May Carol is still performed every May 1st in its
village of origin.

5. The Tresilian family and the village of St. Perran are wholly fictional,
though the latter is based upon the north coast village of Perranporth, which
borders one of Cornwall's loveliest and wildest beaches. There is also a
fishing village called "Tresillian" (with two l's) in the eastern part of
Cornwall.

6. The morbid sore throat that claimed the Tresilian parents--and countless
other Cornish in various outbreaks during the 1700s--was actually diphtheria,
though it was not until later in the nineteenth century that the disease was
given that name.

7. Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792) was the eighteenth century "portrait
artist to the stars"--painting the likenesses of many wealthy, aristocratic,
or famous people of the time. He also painted very much in the "grand
manner," using classical motifs and an elevated style. His portrait of the
actress Sarah Siddons depicts her as the Tragic Muse, seated upon a throne,
with the spirits of tragedy hovering over her shoulder.

8. Clan Drummond did indeed side with Bonnie Prince Charlie during the
Jacobite Rising of 1745. For their partisanship, they were stripped of their
lands by the Crown after the prince's defeat at Culloden in 1746; their
properties were restored at a later date.

9. For literature buffs, the name "Medora" was used for one of Byron's
heroines in "The Corsair," a romantic epic poem published in 1814. There is
also the report of a British merchant vessel named "Medora" around 1811. The
name appears to have Greek origins--some translate it as meaning "mother's
gift," others hypothesize that the name is a corruption of "Medea" (an
association that would probably give *my* Miss Tresilian fits to rival Mr.
Kennedy's).

10.. A big thanks to everyone who has stayed the course throughout the story.
Who would ever have thought that a ten-day home visit by the Crumpet would
have lasted almost six months?