LIFE'S LESSONS: SHIPS
by Tracy

 

Richard Kennedy had promised little Archie that he would take him aboard a ship. He had spoken to a friend, who arranged for him to take his sons aboard the H.M.S. Odelia.

Little Archie could barely stay still as the shoreboat was rowed toward the massive ship. His little eyes were wider then Richard would have believed possible. "Papa!" Archie's chubby face lit with excitement, "Dat big!"

"Yes, it is son." Richard smiled. Archie became harder to hold onto the closer they came to the ship.

The captain had the crew bring the lord and his sons aboard, and could not keep the smile from his face at the toddler's excitement. The last time he had seen anyone react this way was when he took his own daughter into a toy shop to buy her a doll.

Little Archie looked up at the sails with his mouth hanging open.

"M'lord." The captain bowed his head, "I have arranged for Lieutenant Walker to show you around the ship."

"Thank you, Captain Westbrook." Richard smiled.

"If you will follow me, M'lord," Walker said.

"Of course." Richard carried his little son as the lieutenant took them around the deck, explaining the functions of the ship.

When they reached the quarter-deck, Walker said, "This is the wheel. We steer the ship using this."

"I do it?" Archie looked at his father's face.

Walker smiled, "Of course, young master." He put his arms out to take the toddler.

Archie hesitated, until his father said, "It is all right, son. He is going to let you steer the ship. Go ahead."

Archie reached out and the lieutenant took him. Moving next to the wheel, Walker said, "Put your hands on the wheel, lad."

Archie put his little hands on the wheel, smiling.

"That's the way, lad." Walker smiled, "Now you're steering the ship."

"Papa!" Archie looked over at him, excited, "I 'teer da boat!"

"I see, son." Richard smiled at him.

The officers and crew watched the small toddler with the brilliant smile, giggling happily.

"Would you like to be in the Navy someday, lad?" One of the officers asked.

"I 'teer da boat?" Archie asked wide eyed.

"You could." The officer said.

Archie looked at his father, "I 'teer da boat, Papa?"

This was something Richard did not want his son to do. Life in the Navy was too dangerous. He could be killed. Or worse.

Richard remembered his friend, Basil, telling him of his brother, George, who went into the Navy. George, a very handsome young man, and left the service a year after joining. Basil told Richard that George had been assaulted by several men aboard the ship he was serving on. That he had been treated like a woman, abused and violated, and had almost died from one severe beating. It was then that George's captain found out what was going on, but it was too late. The damage had been done, and young George was changed forever. Something had died inside the young man, and he was never the same.

Richard did not want any of his sons going aboard a Navel ship where they could face that kind of abuse. He had no intention of encouraging Archie's love of ships.

Archie suddenly released the wheel and looked up at the lieutenant, "We see da guns?"

When the lieutenant frowned, Richard said, "I had explained to Archie about different ships, and told him that Navy ships had guns."

"Ah." Walker nodded slowly, "I see. Shall we go to the gun deck?"

"P'ease, siw?" Archie smiled.

They went to the gun deck and Archie was overwhelmed, "D'ey big!"

"Yes, they are." The lieutenant put him down on the deck and led him over to one of the guns, to pick up a cannon ball, "This is what we put in them to shoot at the enemy."

Archie's face suddenly fell, "Dat huwt d'em?"

"Yes, it does." Walker said, "If it hits a man, it will kill him. It also sinks enemy ships."

"What dat mean?" Archie cocked his little head.

"When one of these balls hits an enemy ship," Walker explained, "it puts a hole in the ship, which let's water into it, and it sinks into the water."

Archie frowned, trying to understand.

"Remember the little boat I put in the pool at home, Archie?" Henry asked, and when Archie nodded, he said, "Remember when it went under the water?"

" 'es." Archie blinked.

"Well," Henry explained, "that is what sinking means. The boat sinks under the water."

Archie frowned even more, "What 'bout da men?"

"If there is a ship nearby," Walker said, "it tries to rescue as many men as it can, but some of them drown."

Archie lowered his head, his expression so sad that the lieutenant felt like crying.

Richard was glad however, that the lieutenant told him that. Perhaps, Archie would lose interest the Navy.

"M'lord." The captain approached, "I would like you and your sons to join me for dinner."

"We would be honored, captain." Richard said.

As the two began to talk, Stephen took Archie's hand, "Let's go look at the rest of the guns."

Archie shook his head, but Stephen pulled him along.

He led Archie to the opposite end of the gun deck, and down to the next gun deck, away from the adults. Then Stephen smiled, "I have an idea! Let's see if you can fit inside one of these guns."

"No, 'teben." Archie shook his head, "I not wan' a do it."

"It will be fun!" Stephen said, "You can be a cannon ball."

Archie frowned and tried to pull away from his brother.

"Come on." Stephen picked Archie up.

"No, 'teben!" Archie cried, "I not wan' to!"

"Oh, hush!" Stephen said, "You're such a babe!"

"No!!" Archie began to cry.

"Hold still!" Stephen snapped, then tried to put Archie in the mouth of the cannon.

"Stop!" Another boy shouted, "Put him down!"

Stephen put his little brother on the deck and Archie stood with his head lowered, sobbing.

The other boy was a young officer. He approached the two boys, then knelt in front of little Archie, "Are you all right?"

Archie shook his head.

"Are you hurt?" The young officer asked.

"I...I..fwi-fwightened!" Archie sobbed.

"I will not let him hurt you." The boy told Archie, "My name is Kenneth. Are you here with your father?"

Archie nodded.

Kenneth stood and picked the toddler up, then glared at Stephen. "You come, as well. I'm certain sure your father would like to know what you were doing."

The young officer took the boys back to the first gun deck.

"There you are." Richard said loudly, "I thought I told you boys not to wander off?"

"Sir," Kenneth said politely, "I don't believe the little one wanted to be there. When I found them, this boy was trying to put the babe in one of the guns."

"Stephen Brandon Eugene Kennedy!" Richard frowned at his son, "What were you trying to do?!"

"We were just trying to see if Archie could fit in it, Father." Stephen said innocently.

"We?" Kenneth glared at him, "He was begging you not to put him in there!"

"Stephen!" Richard growled, then stopped and closed his eyes. He took five deep breaths, to calm himself. Finally, he turned to the boy holding his toddler, "Thank you, young sir, for coming to my son's rescue."

"I'm glad I was there, sir." Kenneth said, "The little one was very frightened." He looked at Stephen, "How could you be so cruel to your babe brother?"

Stephen looked away, refusing to answering the question.

Feeling the little toddler still trembling, Kenneth wanted to get the little one's mind off of what happened, so he looked up at Richard and asked, "Sir? Could I show your little son where we keep the animals?"

Richard smiled, "That would be very kind of you. Henry shall go with you."

"I want to go!" Stephen turned back.

"No." Richard shook his head, "You are not going anywhere with Archie."

"Lord Kennedy and his sons are having dinner with me." The captain told his young midshipman, "Bring them to my cabin at noon, Mr. Chadd."

"Yes, sir." Kenneth Chadd gave a quick salute, and took Archie and Henry forward.

"But I want to go, Father." Stephen protested.

"Then you should think before you act." Richard said, "And you can consider this as part of your punishment."

"Part?" Stephen became worried.

"Yes." Richard told him, "You will get the rest of your punishment when we return home."

Stephen hung his head.

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"Henwy, 'ook!" Archie said excitedly, "D'ey habe aminals!"

"I see." Henry grinned, trying not to laugh at Archie's pronunciation of animals.

"You like animals?" Chadd asked.

Archie nodded, " 'es."

Chadd smiled at the little boy in his arms.

"How old are you, Mr. Chadd?" Henry asked, "If you do not mind my asking?"

"I'll be eleven in January." Chadd told him.

"Do you like the service?" Henry asked as they started aft.

"It's not too bad." Chadd gave a smirk, "At least, it got me away from my step-father. He sent me away believing it was a punishment." Chadd shook his head, "I'm more happy here then I ever would have been living with him."

"He was cruel?" Henry raised a brow.

Chadd shrugged, "Only if you consider beatings cruel."

Henry stopped, staring at him in stunned silence, "You were beaten?"

"He only beat me twice before he decided to send me away."

Henry shook his head in disbelief, "How could he have been so cruel? My father would never strike us with anything other then his hand."

"Then, I would say your father loves you." Chadd started walking again, "But he is not my father, and never wanted me. He just wanted my mother."

" 'ou not habe a papa?" Archie asked sadly.

The boys had not even consider that Archie might be listening.

Chadd swallowed, "No. My father died when I was very young."

" 'ike Papa's Papa?" Archie cocked his little head.

"Yes, Archie." Henry smiled, "Just like Grandfather."

"He ill?" Archie looked at Chadd's face.

"No." Chadd told him, "He had an accident that hurt him very badly and he died."

" 'ou weep?" Archie said softly, his expression so sad.

"Yes." Chadd admitted, "For several days."

"I sowy." Archie wrapped his little arms around Chadd's neck.

"I'm all right." Chadd smiled at him, "It was a long time ago."

"We should join Father now." Henry said.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

London,
December 4, 1779

When the returned to Kennedy Manor, Elizabeth and the girls greeted them a the door. Still angry, Richard told Elizabeth what Stephen had done.

Elizabeth shook her head and looked down at her second son, "Why are you so cruel to your babe brother?"

"Because you love him more the me!" Stephen charged.

"That is not true." Richard snapped.

"You do everything with Archie!" Stephen accused, "He's your favorite! I wish he had died like that other babe!"

Richard raised his hand, but Elizabeth caught it, "I need to speak to you, Richard."

"Just a moment." Richard tried to pull his hand away.

"We must speak now." Elizabeth said firmly.

He looked at her, and could see the insistence if those beautiful blue eyes. "Children, go into the family parlor and be quiet. No talking." Richard said, "Dorothy, take Archie to his chambers."

"Yes, M'lord." Dorothy picked up and took him upstairs.

 

 

Elizabeth waited until the door to the parlor was shut, then led her husband into his study, "Richard, do you not see what has happened? Stephen is being cruel to Archie because he is not receiving enough attention from us."

Richard huffed, "Elizabeth...."

"You take Henry everywhere with you." Elizabeth told him, "The girls and I do things together. You and I spend time with Archie. What do we do with Stephen?"

Richard opened his mouth, then stopped. She was right. Stephen was being overlooked. He sighed, "How did this happen? We never had this problem before."

"We never had five children before." She said gently.

"Dear God, what have I done?" Richard closed his eyes, "I never intended to hurt any of my children."

"Neither did I." Elizabeth kept the same gentle tone, "But we have hurt Stephen, and we have to make amends."

Richard nodded.

 

 

Dorothy took Archie to his room and stood him on the floor. He lowered his head, then sank to the floor and began to cry.

Dorothy sat down in front of him, "What's wrong, lamb?"

" 'teben hate me." Archie sobbed, "He wis' I dead."

"Archie." Dorothy sighed his name as she picked him up and held him, "Sometimes, when we're angry, we say things we don' mean."

"But he hate me!" Archie took a sharp sobbing breath, "He not lobe me!"

Dorothy climbed to her feet with little Archie in her arms and walked over to the rocking chair to sit down. She began to rock him, holding him close and softly soothing him, "There, there, my lit'l lamb. Shhhhhh."

 

 

Elizabeth and Richard walked into the parlor, and the children looked up at them. Taking a deep breath, Richard said, "We love all of you. And we apologize for giving any of you the impression that we do not. Or that we love Archie more then all of you."

"But you do." Stephen said, while the other children remained quiet.

Richard walked over to his favorite chair and sat down, "Stephen, come here."

The boy approached his father with his head lowered.

"Son," Richard reached out, taking Stephen by his upper arms, "I love you."

"But you always do for Archie." Stephen said, not making eye contact with his father.

"As I did for you when you were a babe." Richard gave his leg a pat, "Come here."

Stephen looked at his father, surprised, but climbed onto his lap.

Richard wrapped his arms around his son, "Saturday mornings are going to be yours." When Stephen frowned in confusion, Richard explained, "Saturday morning - and every Saturday after - will be a time for you and I to spend together."

"Without Archie?" Stephen asked.

"Just you and I." Richard said.

Stephen smiled.

"However," Richard said, "you must apologize for what you said to you babe brother and for trying to put him in that cannon."

Stephen hung his head, "Yes, father." He suddenly raised his head and looked at his father, "Am I to be punished, Father?"

"What do you think?" Richard asked.

Stephen hung his head again, "I should be punished."

"We will deal with that problem in the morning." Richard told him, "For now, though, I want you to apologize to Archie."

"Yes, Father." Stephen slid off his father's lap and left the parlor. He climbed the stairs, went to Archie's room, and knocked at the door.

"Come in." Dorothy called.

Stephen opened the door and walked into the room.

Archie was still sobbing, laying against his nurse as she rocked him.

"Archie?" Stephen called. When Archie raised his little head, Stephen frowned and took a deep breath, "I'm sorry I tried to stuff you in the cannon today."

Pouting, Archie took a shuddering breath and sniffed.

"And I'm sorry I said that I wish you had died." Stephen said, "Will you accept my apology?"

Archie frowned and looked up at his nurse.

Smiling gently, Dorothy told him, "Will you forgive him for hurting you?"

"What dat mean?" Archie asked.

"To forgive someone," Dorothy explained, "means you will no longer be hurt or cross with them for what they did to you."

"Oh." Archie turned to Stephen, "I fowgibe 'ou, 'teben."

"Thank you, Archie." Stephen smiled slightly, then turned and left the room.

Archie's little face lit up, "Nuwse Dowfy! Da boats are big!" His eyes wide with the memory, Archie told his nurse everything he could about the ship he had been on.

 

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Author's note:

While sight-seeing at an old mission in Goliad Texas, my oldest cousin came up with the idea of seeing if his baby brother would fit in one of the cannons and joked about using him as a cannon ball.

So Stephen's actions are not something I alone would dream up.

My cousin thought of it first.


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