LIFE'S LESSONS: FIRST STEPS
by Tracy

London,
December 16, 1778

Richard stood tenderly stroking his eight month old son's hair, while watching the little one sleep. Archie was smaller then an eight month old baby should be. But he was so very special. Even in his sleep, the little one smiled. This child smiled more then all four of Richard's other children put together! And he looked like a little angel without wings.

Could there be a more perfect child anywhere in Britain? Richard thought, Or anywhere in the world for that matter? This little one was the most beautiful, most cheerful, most angelic baby ever created! Richard knew none of his children would make him as happy as little Archie would.

The baby was as much a joy to his mother as he was to his father. The child was happy, playful, gentle, sensitive, and affectionate. So precious!

Elizabeth had almost died giving birth a month before he was due, and almost losing the child in the process, so Elizabeth considered the little one a true gift from God.

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December 17, 1778

Early the next evening in the parlor, Richard sat on the sofa reading, while little Archie sat on the floor playing with his toy. After a while, the baby lost interest and just sat for a few moments, sucking his thumb. Then the little one crawled to a chair and pulled himself up. Richard watched the infant look across the room to the harpsichord and could see on his little face that he wanted to go to the instrument. He reached out with one hand, while holding onto the chair with the other and let out a cry to get his father's attention.

Wanting to see what the child would do on his own, Richard pretended to be sleeping. Seeing his father was not going to help him, little Archie looked at the harpsichord a moment, then let go of the chair and tried to walk on his own, but fell. The baby reached out and pulled himself up again, then turned and looked at the harpsichord.

Richard smiled. His little son was not going to give up. He watched the baby let go again and try once more. Again, he fell, but little Archie pulled himself up and tried again. This time, he pouted after he fell. But only for a few moments, then he pulled himself up again.

My little laddie has such determination! Richard was proud of his little son.

Little Archie let go of the chair and took a step, then fell. The little lip came out again, but he pulled himself up once more.

As Elizabeth started into the room, Richard stopped her, putting his finger to his lips for her to keep quiet. They watched, as little Archie looked at the harpsichord, took one step toward it, still holding the chair, then let go and took two steps before falling.

Tears came to Elizabeth's eyes as her hands went over her mouth. Her precious little angel was teaching himself how to walk without even knowing it. All the child could see was what he wanted and was determined to reach it.

Little Archie crawled back to the chair and pulled himself up again. He looked at the harpsichord and let go of the chair, taking four steps this time, before falling once more. The little lip came out again and he sat on the floor with tears in his beautiful blue eyes. The look on his face was breaking his
parents' hearts.

When the lip began to quiver, Richard stood and walked over to him. "Now, now, laddie, do not cry." Richard said as he picked the boy up, "I think you tried enough for one day." He kissed the baby's wet cheek and walked over to the harpsichord. Sitting down with his son on his lap, Richard let the child play. Little Archie squealed with delight as he hit the keys.

"I believe it is time for us to teach him how to walk." Elizabeth said, "He is ready."

"We can start tomorrow." Richard told her, "Let him enjoy the prize he has tried so hard to gain."

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That evening, Elizabeth gave her baby a bath. As always, he splashed the water everywhere, giggling and squealing joyfully. Because of almost losing little Archie, Elizabeth began caring for this child instead of letting the nurse. Richard too, wanted to enjoy ever moment he could with this little angel.

"Have you ever seen a more cheerful baby?" Richard asked his brother as they watched the infant from the doorway.

"No." James replied laughing, "You have the most lovely and cheerful babe I've ever seen in my life! God has certainly blessed you and Elizabeth."

"Yes, he has. And considering how close we came to losing him...." Richard sighed and shook his head, "I never dreamed God would give us such a perfect child!"

"Always cherish him, Richard." James warned, shaking his head and eyeing his brother, "He can be taken away from you so quickly." He looked back at the squealing baby, "And he is such a treasure. Never forget that."

"Richard." Elizabeth called, wrapping the baby in a towel, "Dry him and get him dressed for bed while I dry off."

Richard took his still very excited infant son and carried him to their room. He lay little Archie down to dry him and got an unexpected surprise when he move the towel off of him, "Archie!"

James burst into laughter, "The fountain of youth!"

"James!" Richard growled in irritation.

James backed into the hall, closing the door and still laughing.

Shaking his head, Richard took off his jacket and wet waistcoat, "That was uncalled for, Archie."

The baby just giggled.

Richard sat his jacket and waistcoat aside, then started trying to dress the infant while little Archie kicked and squealed happily. Richard had never washed or dressed any of his other children. Their nurse took care of them, so this one was like his first child. Almost losing this baby had made Richard see things from a different perspective. Little Archie survived a doomed childbirth. God had a purpose for him.

When Richard finished dressing his little son, he sat down in the rocking chair and began to rock him. Richard kissed the baby's soft cheek and the little one snuggled against his father. Cooing softly, Archie put his thumb in his mouth, closed his eyes, and eventually, fell asleep.

As Richard lay his little son in his crib, little Archie sighed softly and put his thumb in his mouth again. Richard stood by the crib, gently stoking the baby's cheek with his fingers.

Elizabeth came into their chambers to find her baby sleeping.

Richard glanced at her, then back at his son, "He is so precious."

"Yes, he is." She kissed the plump little cherub cheek, then pulled the blanket up over Archie. "Good night, my precious little angel." She whispered, lightly stroking his bright hair, then turned and went to their bed.

Richard frowned, "You are not going to come down for a little while?"

"He went to bed early, dear." She pulled back the blankets of their bed, "He will be up early. And hungry. I best sleep while I can."

When Richard met Elizabeth, he had thought her to be the most beautiful young woman he had ever seen. His first sight of her was in the garden of her father's house, with her sapphire eyes and amber hair that looked like gold in the sunlight, she took his breath away. But because their marriage had been arranged, he had never expected her to love him, and he was very grateful to God when she came to love him as much as he loved her. Richard took his wife into his arms, passionately kissing her.

When they ended the kiss, Elizabeth lay down on the bed, still holding his hand, "Come to bed, dear."

Richard pulled his hand from hers to put the lamps put, then joined his wife.

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December 18, 1778

Little Archie awoke before daybreak and pulled himself up in his bed. He gave a happy cry to call for his parents to come and get him. When neither of them stirred, he gave a louder cry.

Still neither of them moved. Frowning, Archie let go of the rail and fell on his little bottom in his crib. He sat there for a few minutes, sucking his thumb.

He was hungry.

He pulled himself up again and gave another cry. This time when no one moved, he let out with a loud squeal.

"I told you he would be up early." Elizabeth said sleepily as she sat up.

When little Archie saw her, he started giggling.

"How can anyone be so cheerful at this time in the morning?" Richard groaned, pulling the blankets over his head.

"My precious little angel is always happy." Elizabeth smiled as walked to the crib.

Archie reached for her with that beautiful smile of his lighting up his cherub face.

"Can you say Mama?" Elizabeth picked little Archie up, walked to the rocking chair, and sat down to feed him. "You are going to learn how to walk today, my precious." She told Archie as she nursed him, "Mama's little angel is going to take his first steps!"

And then, She thought, you will grow so fast, and before I know it, you will be a man.

Elizabeth looked down at her baby trying to imagine what he would look like as man, and what he would do. "God allowed you to live for a reason, my precious. I know He wants you to do something no one else can. You just have to let Him guide you." She smiled down at him, "Always let God guide you, little one." Elizabeth began to sing to Archie while he nursed.

When he was finished, she put him in bed with his father, while she dressed. Little Archie looked at his father, who was sleeping, and slapped at his face.

"Really, son!" Richard muttered and opened his eyes to look at the child, "Is that any way to treat your father?"

Little Archie giggled.

"Where is your mother?" Richard asked, and his baby looked toward her dressing room. "And she put you in bed with me so you could beat me?" He pulled the child into his arms, "How about if I just eat you instead?" Archie squealed as Richard pretended to bite his belly.

"Do not do that unless you plan to get up and play with him." Elizabeth warned from her dressing room, "You know how excited he gets."

"Where does one so small get so much enthusiasm?" Laying on his back, Richard held the baby high above him, the child giggling, while he kicked and slapped excitedly.

"I do not know." She said, "But he does have it. So do not get him excited."

Richard lay Archie down and kissed his forehead, then kissed him on both cheeks, then kissed the tiny nose, and finally kissed his chin. Then he tickled Archie under the chin, making him giggle. "Say Papa." Richard said.

"Oh, no!" Elizabeth came out of her dressing room, "This little one is going to say Mama first. All the others say Papa first."

"Archie is his father's little laddie." Richard announced, "He is going to say Papa first."

"My little angel is going to say Mama first." Elizabeth told him.

"This is my son, lady." Richard informed her.

"Oh?" She walked over to the bed and knelt on it, then sat down, "You were the one who gave birth?"

Richard suddenly turned serious and sat up, "I am so sorry that happened, Elizabeth."

"There was nothing you could have done." She told him as little Archie crawled over to her and used her to pull himself up. "God took care of us."

Richard looked at his small son, "I did not think he would make it. I prayed that you would live because there was a chance you could survive. But I never prayed that he would. I did not believe there was hope for him. It was too early and he was just too small. Children that come before they are supposed to never survive. The doctor said he would not live past six months. He should not have lived this long."

"Mama's little angel is stronger then he looks." She kissed her baby.

"He is so small, Elizabeth." Richard said softly, "He is going to have a difficult time. He will be more likely to become ill."

"He is fine, Richard." She held little Archie while he jumped happily, squealing.

"He is now." Richard told her, "But the doctor said he could become sickly."

"Oh, ye of little faith!" Elizabeth said, "God let him live. He would not let him survive, just to take him from us."

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Later that morning, Elizabeth sat down on the floor of their bed chambers and Richard sat a few feet away. She stood Archie on the floor, "All right, my precious, walk to your father." When little Archie just stood there, she said, "Call him, Richard."

"Son," Richard held his arms out, "come to me."

Archie continued to stand there, sucking his thumb.

Richard wiggled his fingers, "Come here, laddie."

Still sucking his thumb, Archie turned away from him.

"Stubborn little lad." Richard got to his feet, walked over and picked his son up. Then carried him a few feet away from Elizabeth and sat down with him, "Go to your mother."

Still sucking his thumb, little Archie looked at his mother, then at the distance between them.

Elizabeth held out her hands, smiling at him, "Come to Mama."

Little Archie let go of his father and tried to walk to her, taking two steps away from his father. Then fell. He pouted.

"It is all right, angel." Elizabeth said softly, "You can do this."

"He is not old enough, yet." James said from the doorway, "He is only eight months old."

"He was trying to walk yesterday, James." Richard stood the little one up, "He is ready."

"Well, then do it the right way." James turned and walked away.

Richard raised his brow, "The right way?"

Elizabeth laughed, "He coaxed Maria into walking by using gingerbread."

"Yes, well," Richard frowned, "our boy does not need to be tricked into walking."

Archie let go of his father and took five steps toward his mother before falling. Richard reached out and stood him on his feet, "Go on, son."

Elizabeth held her arms out, "Come to Mama, Archie."

Little Archie reached for his mother, "Mum."

Elizabeth's smile was so radiant! "That is right, my precious angel! Come to Mama."

Archie started toward her, then started to lose his balance and stopped. He stayed still a moment, until he was certain he would not fall, then started again.

"Oh, this one is clever!" Richard commented.

"That is it, angel!" Elizabeth smiled, "Come to Mama."

Archie smiled that brilliant smile of his and walked to his mother.

Elizabeth embraced her little son, laughing, "My little Archie took his first steps!" He giggled as she kissed his cheek. Then she turned him around.

"Come to me, Archie." Richard said.

Elizabeth lightly held him until he let go of her to go to Richard. He fell down and lost his smile, then looked up at his mother for help. Elizabeth stood him on his feet again and he started toward his father once more, this time making it all the way to him.

"Very good, laddie!" Richard kissed his son's cheek and little Archie turned around and reached out for his mother.

"He learns quick!" Richard was surprised that the little one realize that he was supposed to go to her now.

Smiling, little Archie started toward his mother again. He liked this game! He made it to Elizabeth without falling, and his smile could not have become any bigger.

As he turned around, Elizabeth said, "Move back a little, Richard." He obeyed and she released her anxious son, who started toward his father.

Becoming excited by the fact that he was walking on his own, little Archie began to giggle and lost his balance. When he fell, he started to pout.

"It is all right, Archie." Elizabeth stood him up once more, but he was hurt because it did not make it without falling and turned to bury his face in his mother's shoulder. She embraced him lovingly, "It does not matter if you fall, Archie. All that matters is that you keep trying. Now, your father is waiting." She turned him toward his father.

"Come here, son." Richard reached out for him, but poor little Archie was still pouting.

James walked into the room and, crouching down, said quietly, "Archie. Look what I have!" He held up a piece of gingerbread.

Archie's blue eyes grew wide and his brilliant smile returned. He reached for the gingerbread, opening and closing his hand.

"No, no, laddie," James shook his head, "you have to come to me to get it."

Little Archie let go of his mother and walked across the room to his uncle without falling.

James pulled the baby into his arms, "That is it, laddie! Here you go." He gave the gingerbread to Archie, who began chewing on it. James embraced the baby and kissed his forehead. "Your such a sweet laddie."

Richard walked over and took the gingerbread, then walked away and sit down again, "Come to me, lad."

Pouting, Archie turned to James and, burying his face in his uncle's shoulder, began to cry.

"No, laddie, it is all right!" James said, "He will give it back to you."

Archie shook his head and kept crying.

Richard stood and walked back over to them. "Come here, son." He reached down and picked Archie up, "You can have the gingerbread." He handed it to his son, who tentatively took it, eyeing his father.

Little Archie looked up at his father with tears in his blue eyes and sliding down his adorable cherub cheeks and his little lip quivering. "Oh, there, there, my little laddie." Richard kissed his baby boy, "Do not cry."

"Do not tell him not to cry," James warned, "or I will have to remind you of eight months ago, when you thought you were going lose Elizabeth."

"I want him to be proud of who he is." Richard said, while little Archie chewed on the gingerbread, still looking so hurt.

"You want the lad to be proud of who he is, Richard?" James told him, "Always be proud of him."

"That will not be hard." Richard embraced his small son, kissing his cheek, which was still wet with the baby's tears, "How could I not be proud of my little Archie?"

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