Love, Duty, and Other Ties That Bind
"There's just no debating it, Master Pownoll. You're sporting quite
there, and from the sound of your voice, or lack of it, I should say, you've
got a monstrous sore throat. Now, you'll stay right there in that bed while
fetch your Mama....and that's final!"
And with that, Mrs. Whitacre gave a swift nod of her white capped head,
whirled on her heels and headed for the door, her equally white and bountiful
apron strings swinging to and fro from the sash at her capacious middle
the door closed behind her. As the latch clicked into place, young Master
Pownoll Pellew reached for the pillow beside him, wadded it quickly into
lumpy, but functional ball, and hurled it against the door - just as Mrs.
Whitacre - having apparently forgotten something - strode back in. It -
sailing pillow - caught her square in the bosom, her rather ample bosom
Pownoll couldn't have aimed it any better had he tried. He felt himself
to the roots of his chestnut hair as he slunk back against his remaining
pillows in sheer mortification. Mrs. Whitacre nonchalantly flicked back
stray strand of dark gray hair and regarded him with cool resignation, tinged
nonetheless with undeniable affection for the eleven year old prankster
he was, and then saw as the blush added an even deeper shade to his already
crimson cheeks. Suddenly, she felt a sudden stab of motherly concern - one
she had to try very hard to suppress so as to make her next point.
"As you are not to come downstairs, I thought I would bring a breakfast
up to you....I trust you will be able to refrain from hurling that at me
Pownoll tried to slink down even further under his covers.
"Yes, Ma'am..." he croaked, and then turned away from the door,
embarrassment, in frustration - both? In any event, he missed his beloved
Nanny's soft smile as she shook her head and closed the door once more.
Pownoll slammed his fist down against the mattress. Why? Why did he have
to get sick today of all days! Friday! Only two days until the Regatta!
little time left and he so needed to practice. He and Anthony had been
getting better, that was to be sure - well he'd only fallen overboard twice
yesterday. But they still needed more practice time on the water, to perfect
their timing, their partnership. If they didn't, it seemed for certain that
that brat cousin of his, Alexander, and his idiot brother Harrison would
And how could he possibly let THEM win? After all, he was the eldest son
none other than Captain Sir Edward Pellew, Baronet, and national hero of
high seas, was he not? The man who had single-handedly rescued nearly 600
men, women and children from the shipwreck of the Dutton? *Yes, everyone,
that's my Father!* If Pownoll wasn't the odds on favourite to win the annual
village boat race, for God's sake, then the sun didn't rise in the East.
But, of course it did, and he was. The heir apparent, the apple of his
father's eye, that was Pownoll. His Christian name even honoured another
illustrious sea captain, as if Pellew wasn't enough of a moniker to insure
his assumed prowess over all things nautical. He fought back tears and
pounded the pillows again.
Oh, but his throat was really hurting. And he had awful chills and felt
wretched and shaky. As if that wasn't enough, his head was pounding as well.
He alternated between thoughts of how he could try and convince his Mother
that he really wasn't that sick, not really, not so sick that he couldn't
sailing. But stronger, contrasting thoughts prevailed. He craved the touch
her cool hand on his forehead; that she might snuggle beside him to read
him and try to soothe him. How she might know to mix up some concoction
could drink that would make his throat stop hurting.
Downstairs in the morning room, the other Pellew children were gathering
breakfast, assembling their scones, jam, butter and cream, and trying not
make too much of a mess of it all. Susanna walked in leisurely with a small
packet in her hand: letters from Edward that had arrived by post last
evening. Lovely as ever, she wore a simple morning dress of Wedgwood blue
and cream colored lace, her long, dark corkscrew curls worn down this morning
but kept back from her face with another bit of the creamy lace. She sat
down at the table, taking note of each child, as she did nearly every morning
when they were all assembled, en masse. Fourteen month old Edward, the youngest
of the brood, and gurgling happily away in his special chair, had crumbled
a scone to bits onto his tray and was then pounding on each large one with
his little, but sturdy, fist. Four year old George was assisting in this
endeavor, strategically aligning the crumbs on Edward's tray, so that as
as he had pounded one particle into sure oblivion, another was primed and
loaded by his able older brother and awaiting the drop of his hand. This
little adventure was quickly but surely ended as Melinda, George and Edward's
nurse, sat down between her charges, turning Edward's chair towards her
that she could assist him with the bowl of porridge and spoon she placed
his tray. Susanna gazed in quiet amusement at these antics of her two
youngest, and then nodded with approval as little Edward seized his spoon
with enthusiasm and attacked his bowl of porridge.
George now repositioned and allied himself with his elder brother Fleetwood,
and joined him in his attentions to their sister Julia, who was seated on
Fleetwood's other side. Though her long auburn braid was sorely tempting
with its casual sways back and forth, the boys, Fleetwood at least, knew
they didn't stand a chance of pulling anything over on her. In fact, most
mornings it was Julia who had a prank of some sort or other ready to spring
on Fleetwood. Well, she was twelve after all, and he was eight, and gullible,
AND a boy, and what else were eight year old little brothers good for,
besides being a total source of annoyance? Indeed, she was almost sorry
had not made up a trick, or a riddle for this morning, because Pownoll hadn't
yet shown up to help bail out his sorry excuse for a sibling. She shook
head: what a missed opportunity. But today Mama had letters for them from
Papa, and those letters were always worth a bit of mercy!
She had heard the carriage ramble up the drive last night - one of the
advantages of her bedroom's northern exposure. She had scrambled from her
and watched as the familiar coach and driver made their delivery. Fine,
she didn't have the drop dead ocean view that Emma and Pownoll had from
rooms, but she did have advance warning of all visitors! And when it was
father's glorious carriage that came up that driveway, and when it was late
and he knew that she was likely to be in her room, and that she would be
gazing out the window for a glimpse of him, and he would look up to her
window with that smile of his and blow her a kiss, a kiss that was just
her, well, there was no room in the house she would rather have had! She
stared at the packet under her Mama's slender hand, and how she hoped there
would be one just for her. It was a thick packet this time - thicker than
usual. That was usually a good sign. She motioned to her older sister, Emma,
to see if she had noticed the letters as well. Other than tormenting the
daily existence of Fleetwood, Julia's other mission in life was to be the
family informant and it was obviously key, in such an challenge, to have
good supply of inside information. But, Emma had seen the packet, blast
Come to think of it, Emma didn't really miss much. But, she was fourteen
so she spent a lot more time with Mama. And, most of the things that she
Mama did together did not interest Julia in the slightest. She detested
embroidery and she did not like learning languages. Emma had already mastered
French and was approaching fluency in Italian! And she could talk for hours
about different dress fabrics, she played the harpsichord and she rhapsodized
over Shakespeare. Ick! Not that Julia wasn't an avid reader as well: indeed
some Shakespeare very much intrigued her - the great mysteries and tragic,
bloody sagas - she had even acted out Julius Caesar's death scene once with
Pownoll, using an old bed sheet, a squashed tomato for pretend blood (it
all that Mrs. Whitacre would give them) and his play sword.
So where was Pownoll, come to think of it? Julia loved her kid brother -
a year apart, they were often inseparable - barring those occasions when
felt compelled to come to the aid of Fleetwood and preserve the dignity
the male line at the breakfast table, Julia mused. But why wasn't he here
Susanna was wondering about that as well as she had nearly made her rounds
the table, and just as she was about to inquire of the brood as to their
brother's whereabouts, Mrs. Whitacre entered softly, and politely called
"I'm sorry to disturb you, m'Lady, but Master Pownoll appears to be
morning," she said.
"What is it, Mary? He seemed all right last evening..."
"Yes, ma'am. But when I came in this morning to pull back his draperies
make sure he was awake, I found him still asleep, but very feverish, I'm
afraid. When I was able to wake him up, he could barely talk and I could
his throat was bothering him."
"I'll be right up then, Mary. He is still in bed, isn't he?"
"Oh yes, Ma'am. I made sure of that. Not that he was too pleased about
I'm sure, but yes, Ma'am. I said I would bring him a tray, shall I see to
"Thank you, Mary, yes, that would be lovely. I'll see you up there,
Mrs. Whitacre nodded and scurried off to the kitchen.
"Children," said Susanna, as she strode back towards the table,
ahead with your breakfast, and then off to your lessons, please. It seems
Pownoll is ill this morning. I have letters for you from Papa, I know you
must be so anxious to have them. Emma, would you pass them out for me? There
is one for each of you - Julia, would you read George's to him, please?
no silly voices, hmmm? Oh, Emma, could you hand me Pownoll's letter, I'll
take it up to him." She went towards the stairs, trying to suppress
burst of anxiety that seemed to strike her from out of nowhere.
She tapped lightly on Pownoll's door, and paused, waiting for him to invite
her in. Nothing. She tapped again, and then opened the door partway, and
peered in. Pownoll appeared to be sleeping, so Susanna stepped in quietly
and went over to his bedside. As she came round to face him, she felt a
familiar tug on her heart. He was asleep: his soft brown hair spread out
the pillow, his dark, lustrous brows and lashes seeming now even darker
contrasted with the whiteness of his pillowcase and the sudden pallor of
complexion - except for two blotches of color high upon his cheekbones.
mouth was turned down into a frown as if to suggest discomfort or upset,
that it compelled Susanna to reach over and caress his fiery cheeks and
forehead, and to brush away the scattered locks upon his brow. The icy cold
of her hand stirred Pownoll awake, and he suddenly shivered and drew his
blanket closer to him. As he opened his eyes, he was also immediately aware
of the throb in his throat - whether he tried to swallow or not, and he
struggled in pain to try and find his voice.
Susanna saw his efforts and gently shushed him. "It's all right, darling,
don't try to talk. I'll ask questions, and you just nod your head yes or
Pownoll, his eyes bright with fever, nodded carefully, and reached for his
Mother's hand. "It's your throat that hurts you, is that right?"
again, and she patted his hand in reassurance.
"Was it hurting last night?" He shook his head. "Just this
morning, when you
woke up, then." Pownoll nodded.
Susanna nodded as well, and pursed her lips. She wanted to stroke his
forehead again, but he was obviously fighting chills now and the last thing
she wanted to do now was anything that would make him feel even colder.
my hands are always so cold,* she reminded herself. It was a sort of running
joke with Edward - and there were infamous, mostly funny, memories of her
reaching for him, to wrap her arms around him, only to have him leap out
bed at the shock of her touch.... She wrapped her hands in his blankets
warm them up, and kept up her gentle chatter.
"And, you've got a fever, my dear, that's plain to see. Well, let's
in bed today, then, and see how you're feeling later this afternoon, hmm?
In the meantime, Mrs. Whitacre is bringing you something to eat...Do you
think you can manage a bit of breakfast, darling?" Her hands felt warm
now, and she reached over and smoothed his forehead.
Pownoll closed his eyes at the softness of her touch. He was relieved that
she wasn't rushing out to get the doctor. Thank God for that. He didn't
Dr. Knowles. He had taken care of all of them for years, so he was probably
good doctor. Mama trusted him, and when Papa hurt his back so badly on the
Dutton, he had taken care of him as well. But, he was such a serious fellow,
with those beady eyes and incredibly tiny glasses over his nose. He'd poke
around, and then take his leave to go and tell Mama what the problem was.
Well, for now this temporary stay was a welcome relief. Susanna smiled and
looked up as Mary came into his room with a tray of apple juice, a small
of cocoa, a bowl of porridge and some bread. She set it down beside Susanna,
and being that nothing further was needed for the moment, she took her leave
to assist the other children downstairs.
Pownoll looked over at the food and it suddenly made his stomach turn over.
He turned his head away quickly, too quickly, for his head immediately
throbbed again, and he felt such a wave of nausea surge through him that
thought he would retch right then and there. Susanna saw his reaction, and
quickly moved the tray aside. She moved to sit beside him on the bed, calmly
stroking his shoulders.
"It's all right...it's all right...darling... Just rest for a moment...
won't force you to eat if you don't think you can, just now. ...Just try
Pownoll took a deep breath, or tried to, and felt the awful beginning of
excruciating cough. He forced himself to swallow it away, to suppress it
while he succeeded, he was rewarded with a raw burst of pain in his throat
that felt like the slice of a knife. His breath came in small little gasps
he concentrated on his mother's touch. "I'm ...sorry..." he murmured,
voice that sounded more like a rasp than anything and was painful to hear.
"No, my darling, don't say that...there's nothing to be sorry for....no
asks to get sick, do they, now...dear, dear Paul..."
And he was able to smile at the sound of her pet name for him.
"Do you think a sip of juice would taste good? It's nice and cool...it
help your throat....I think it would..."
He nodded, and turned back over towards her and slowly began to sit up.
then there was the dizziness and things started to swirl around him: Susanna
held his shoulders and helped him hold the glass in his hand. A few sips.
was good - cool and crisp. He asked for more and Susanna refilled his glass
>from the pitcher. She sat with him afterwards, as he rested his head
her shoulders, and she read Edward's letter to him. It was a newsy letter,
filled with accounts of Indefatigable's latest engagements, details of the
prize ships they had taken, the gorier details eliminated, much to the relief
of Susanna, but still with enough of the drama that would normally hold
Pownoll rapt with interest - as it was surely a surprise to no one within
earshot of Devonshire, or the Admiralty, for that matter, that Pownoll fully
expected to follow in his father's acclaimed footsteps. But, today, the
patter of Susanna's voice was enough to lull Pownoll back into a sort of
restless sleep, and as she left his room, after having carefully extricated
herself from his side so as not to disturb him, Susanna felt a jarring
uneasiness all about her. She still agreed with her decision to wait for
before sending for the doctor. But unless her instincts were wrong, he'd
here before nightfall.
I have your letter of August 11. I heard the coach drive up last night and
hoped that it would be you, or at least a letter from you - one just for
And there was!
Pownoll and I are still keeping up with our Prize Ship chart and I cannot
wait to show it to you when you are home again. We have started all the
back with "Claudette", and just today I put in the names of the
Emma thinks it is also a good way for me to practice my French - by learning,
or remembering what each name means in English - L'Unite, Droits de l'Homme,
La Minerve, and so on. Dear Papa, please do not say this to Emma, please
ever, but I get so angry when she acts like my teacher. I think her idea
about the names is a good one, and I am doing it - see: The Unity, The Rights
of Men, and Minerva? But, I want that to be a secret for just us, promise?
All we need to do now is put the stickpins for each ship on the map, from
directions you wrote down. But I will wait for Pownoll to help me. He is
today, and Mama says we may not go into his room because it might be
catching. Somehow that frightens me. I think that if I could just go in
see him I would feel better. I'll wager I could help him to feel better
well! I just realized that perhaps Mama would not want me write about this.
But I miss you, and I want to tell you everything, Papa! Please promise
that if Mama does not tell you that you will not say that I did. Another
Mama says I should write to you about school and all the latest news of
harvest. And so I shall. School is all right, although most of the time
think it is very boring. I am learning to do accounts on the ledger pages
I am on page 23 of my Latin copybook. There, now I have told you more than
enough about school! The harvesting is the best fun! I think it is one of
favourite times of the year. We shall have a lot of extra apples again this
year. And Mama has already said yes to giving some to your soldiers and
St. Mary's again. This makes me so happy and proud that we can help them
this. Anne said she would come with me when we give them away. Emma doesn't
want to go this time because she said it makes her sad. But I think what
are doing is a very good thing, don't you?
Oh, I miss you, Papa, and I hope that you are coming home soon. I pray for
the safety of you and all the men on your ship every night.
With love from your daughter,
P.S. Papa, I am adding this PS to tell you that Mama has now sent for Dr.
Knowles to come and see Pownoll. Mama says his fever is very high and his
throat is very swollen. We still cannot go up to see him. Remember I am
writing this in secret. I will write more in another letter after the Dr.
gone. Mr. Whitacre is going in to Teignmouth later and promised to post
letter for me to-day. JP
Dr. Knowles stood in the hallway just on the other side of Pownoll's room.
Susanna regarded him intensely, poised like a lioness in anticipation of
words. It was nearly six o'clock now, the dusk had settled over the landscape
and the chambermaids were lighting the hall sconces, and seeing that the
bedroom fireplaces were kindled for evening.
"You were right in sending for me, My Lady. And also quite correct
the other children away from this room at all costs. That is extremely
"At first, I thought it was a simple fever and sore throat - that would
run its course." Susanna said it nervously. "But when the croup
he could not get his breath and the fever rose, and the whiteness in his
throat-I have never seen that before. I have heard of it, though...."
"Yes, Ma'am." Said the doctor. He had never had a way with words
couldn't possibly find one now, so he had better just come out with it.
so sorry to have to confirm your fears, Madam, but I've no doubt about it
all - Master Pownoll has the diphtheria - I'm sure of it." He forced
to face her, to offer a supporting stare, but he was unable to hold her
Susanna stared blankly at him. She had felt his confirmation of her worst
fear hit her like a body blow, and her dazed expression only added to Dr.
Knowles' discomfort - when he was able to look her in the eye, of course.
reality, however, her confused look was but a mask covering the ever present
alertness that all Mothers know too well and possess most acutely - and
was set on full power at this moment; the magnitude of the information she
had just been dealt quickly being processed and filtered in a myriad of
"Then...." she paused. "Why... I must send the children away
- they cannot
stay here... It is highly contagious whilst in this stage, is it not?...
"Yes, M' Lady, quite so. An excellent idea." He regarded her fully
the initial shock, she was well onto next steps now and he could react to
with practiced ease here. "And we should have steam - pots of boiled
get as much vapor into his room as possible, and hot towels for his chest
throat - to try and expand his breathing passages - he'll not to have work
hard to breathe then...Perhaps he won't tire so quickly... it might bring
fever down as well."
And Susanna nodded and sent Charlotte, who was just down the hall finishing
with the sconces, on to Mrs. Whitacre and Mrs. Broome with the necessary
instructions. They would focus on what could be done - not on the fact that
both Susanna and Dr. Knowles knew that diphtheria was likely a fatal disease,
one that in most instances swiftly killed its victims, inflaming the membrane
of the throat and choking the sufferer in a matter of an unspeakably cruel
and very few days.
"We shall have the boiling water and the hot towels very soon, Doctor.
you, please, stay, and...show me, how to apply them-"
"Of course, Madam. I'll stay as long as I can be of service - please
that. As long as you wish."
Susanna stifled a cry and looked away for a moment. "Thank you, Doctor-
-.would be-most appreciated."
Dr. Knowles bowed, and Susanna showed him back into Pownoll's room, where
could await Mrs. Whitacre and her preparations. She gazed at her son from
doorway. Pownoll remained fitfully asleep, the fever high as ever, his breath
coming in raw and shallow bursts.
Numb with fear, she went downstairs, to find her housekeepers, and then
face the children. How to tell them! She searched her mind for the words.
One, that their brother was now truly dangerously ill, and second, that
could not be permitted to stay. She found Mrs. Broome in the drawing room
downstairs, stoking the fire. It was agreed that Susanna would tell the
first, and privately, as they would take it the hardest and would each demand
the whole truth. Fleetwood would surely be upset as well, but would be more
likely to accept Susanna's gentle explanations.
Saturday, October 13, on the way to London
It is just now sun-rise and I am writing this note to you on the top of
copybook, whilst we are in the carriage. Papa! Mama is making us go to London
because of Pownoll! The Doctor says he is very, very sick - Papa, he could
die! We will all stay in London until it is all right to go back home. Mrs.
Broome is coming with us and she was crying this morning, too. All of us
were. Mama is trying to be brave, I can tell, but Papa, I think she is
scared. And seeing her so scared makes me scared as well. Emma and Fleetwood
are sitting here, quiet as mice. I think they are as frightened as I am.
I told them I was writing to you and that I will ask Mr. Broome to post
as soon as we get to London. Please, can you come home, Papa? We will all
and be as brave as we can, and make you proud of us, but I am so worried
Pownoll. I miss you and send you lots of kisses,
From your daughter,
END OF PART 1