A Teignmouth Christmas
by Mebbie10

Edward pulled on his riding boots and asked Simon to ready his mare. He had shunned his uniform, wearing his good dark green coat, buff breeches and then his black greatcoat over everything. The only thing that reminded him of his working wear was the plain black bicorn hat that Amanda held ready for him. Mandy had not failed to make sure that he had at least two sets of dress clothing that was stylish and current.

Three years, three ships and two children and one much to early knighthood. He had come home to her broken, sick and shot, paying the price of his profession and she had nursed him, never complaining.

He shook his head. When her father had said, 'she wants a husband' he was not joking. He had wanted to take her with him, carrying her in his cabin around the world, until they found, on the first voyage, that she was carrying Eddy. That had ended their plans for travel. Now, locked at home, two children and an estate to care for, she could not go, would not go.

Her duty, she had told him during that long night when Lillie was born. Her duty to care for his family while he cared for his ships, his people and his duty fulfilled to his King.

She called to him, his horse was ready. As she gave him his hat and gloves her eyes spoke volumes. Why won't you ride with me when I ask? Where are you going? When will you be back? What are you going to do? Why can't I come? But she said nothing.

He knew that she was expecting this. She was not ignorant of the fashionable trends of the day. The wife, dutifully bearing to her husband, at least two children, then fading into the background, keeping the household and appearing only when socially needed. And she had no rank, except to take his. As a colonist, she was a social nobody.

He knew better, and people who counted, as far as she was concerned, honored her, the tenants, the poor she supported and looked after. The young women at the school who were dependent on her for their everyday needs. Their own children. He was so proud of her. It made him love her all the more.

His side was still tender, pulling himself into the saddle caused him some difficulty, but he had an appointment to keep.

 

A clergyman opened the door of the Rectory of St. James Church in answer to his knock. Another gentleman, seated at a table rose to greet him on his entrance. "Reverend Mr. Somes, Charles Ravenswood." He nodded at the two gentlemen, extending his hand.

"Thank you for meeting with me. I need your assistance."

The clergyman led him into the library, pouring each of them a cup of tea. "What is it I, or rather we, can do for you?"

"In the three years we've been married, I have never been able to give my wife a real gift. The first Christmas we were in passage to England and running for our lives, I was at sea the next. This is our first Christmas together at home. I would like to give her a gift, a gift only I can give. One I cannot give by myself. I need her to know something, something that would be difficult for me to tell her any other way. Let me explain"

***

Well, Mr. Ravenswood, are you able to do it?"

"Oh yes. No problem with that. We should need to get the score, I'd say we need about fifty copies, one for each of the choristers, and the trumpet and organ. Are you able to do that part, Captain. That's a considerable amount of coin." Edward nodded, he could well afford to supply this need.

"The other thing is, Captain, can you do it? It's not written for a tenor you know, it's written for a soprano. We should have to transpose and rearrange the notes a bit, but we can keep the melody." Ravenswood looked over the score Edward had handed him. "I can't be a part of a sham. Can we try it?" The three men stood, and the chorister led them into the church, taking them upward into the organ loft.

The great instrument was silent, not having the youngsters it normally took to power the bellows. The chorister let them through the next door into a room with a pianoforte. The piano was loaded with sheet music, strewn over the top of the cabinet, over the book shelves, hanging out of the score dividers. In order to sit on the bench, Ravenswood had to sweep several quartos off. "Sorry for the mess, Captain, but this is my warren. My retreat."

He pushed the other music off the lyre, looking after a few sheets that drifted to the floor and leaving them there, and opened the volume Edward had brought. "Part 3 number 45 correct? Is that what you remember."

Edward nodded, moving around so he could see over Ravenswood's shoulder. "Um, five sharps, well I'm not the organist, let me see" He moved his finger further across the music; "Let's start here." The man gave Edward the first note. Pellew sang.

Ravenswood played the last 12 bars alone. "That never fails to take my breath, Captain. I think we will do. But I have a request of you."

"Anything, Mr. Ravenswood, anything. You are doing me a service, I would regret not returning the favor."

"You must sing the rest of it with us too. Some of the other airs are for tenor, and I can think of none better, sir."

 

"Amanda," Edward said as he stepped down into the office of what she liked to call Teignmouth Castle, "May I have some money?"

"Well, of course Edward, why are you asking me? You know where our household funds are kept."

"I need a great deal of money. Two hundred pounds at least."

The papers in her hand fell to the desk. "Two hundred pounds! Teddy! What can you want" She stopped, looking at her hands and reaching for the ledger, bank draft blanks tucked in the back. Her tongue stuck out from between her teeth, showing the tip between her lips. She started to present the book to him.

"No, not the family money, my prize funds." She reached behind her for a second ledger, smaller and bound up with a navy blue ribbon. She handed him the book, leaving the ribbon around it. He reached for it, feeling her drop it into his hands, almost as if she were casting it away.

She looked at him strangely, in all their married life, they had not spent more than six months together, she still had problems reading his looks. 'She thinks I have a mistress.' He thought, 'Well I do, and she's right in front of me.' His hand covered his mouth to hide the upturn of his lips, his eyes crinkled at the corners. He turned away, escaping back into the kitchen before he laughed at her.

"Oh," He called back to her carelessly. "I'll be going up to London this week. Can you arrange a chaise?"

Her reply was flat. "Yes. Teddy, I'll hire one for you. When are you going?"

"Tomarrow, or the next day. No later."

"Admiralty business?"

"No." He escaped into the main part of the house.


He had put Lillie back in her cradle by their bed after Mandy had given her the early morning feeding, he drew Amanda to him, she came into his arms willingly, but turned her head away. At that moment, he didn't know if HE could handle four weeks of keeping her on edge. He kissed the top of her head and held her closer.


"Captain, we have a choir of over fifty people!" Ravenswood was almost dancing in the choir loft of the old church. The organist had taken his place and the air flowed through the pipes, waiting to be used. "We won't have the trumpeters here until the week before. This is going to be wonderful!"

Edward took his place among the other tenors, some as rough as the trades they worked in, others well turned out gentlemen. He will still in his civilian clothes, most of these people did not know him and were unaware of his profession.

Ravenswood started on the simplest chorus, they worked for three hours, with a call for another practice later in the week. He felt almost guilty as he walked out of his house, twice a week for some long hours. The closer the Sunday before Christmas got the better the group sounded.

The group only had one major problem, the last movement, and while it was not insurmountable, it called for a reliable hand with the directing to make sense of the movement. All four voices moving in different directions, with echoing each other's melodies but moving together in utter confusion. Every practice they had bogged down and had made many, many false starts. Ravenswood was called away on the next to last practice, handing the baton over to Edward who stood holding it like he had been handed a viper. "What? What?"

"Lead them through the last movement, Edward. You can do it. You have the knowledge."

"Hm, hmm" He turned to the last movement, He swallowed, he was not about to confess to Ravenswood that he couldn't keep up with the parts in this chorus himself. The organist nodded at him, the little upside down Y on between his eyes made its appearance. He would be more comfortable with an American man o war turning to fire a broadside into his ship. They made it through three pages before Edward had a sense that the music had just gotten away from him.

"Stop, ladies, gentlemen, stop!"

The organist was not paying any attention to him, and the basses, who should have known where they were because they started the whole thing, missed their "blessing". He tried to cut them off, waving the baton maniacally side to side. His servant who sang with the basses, stopped dead and brought those around him to a stop, this caused a hole for the section and they began to peter out. The ladies, hearing themselves for the first time, decided to sing a little louder.

Pellew stood still, fire coming into his eyes. He had lost control of them. "Oh, belay, BELAY!" he roared, "SILENCE, SILENCE FORE AND AFT!" The assembly finally stopped. He ran a hand through his hair. The startled faces of the choir looking at him and at each other with disbelief. Hysterical sounds of laughter were beginning to roll from the back rows where the less able singers congregated.

One of the tenors, a young man just barely out of the change of voice and who normally stood directly in front of him looked askance, "Mr. Pellew ­ what's a "belay"."

 

On the last Sunday before Christmas, Edward sat in the family parlor Mandy's Teignmouth Castle with his dressing gown on and his feet up before the fire. He idly stroked Lillie's hair as she slept on his chest. Mandy and the wet nurse worked to get Richard and Eddy ready to go to services. His eyes closed and he listened to the noises of his household around him.

The complaining of small boys who are having their hair combed and faces washed. Mandy's voice seeming to sing in his ears as she spoke to the lads, the wet nurse soothing Eddy as he cried over something. Richard's cackling laugh as he was tickled. The sweet sigh of his little girl as she changes position in his arms.

He could smell the Christmas pudding boiling in the cooker in the kitchen and he saw in his minds eye the long table where all of his household, servants included, would eat their dinner after this service.

"TeddyCaptain." Her voice woke him gently, her face close to his, He touched her cheek. She moved to kiss his forehead, then pulled back. He reached for her, but she moved out of his reach, taking Lillie off his chest. He sat up in the chair. "Mandy.."

"Are you going with us? The coach will be ready in a few minutes."

"No, I'll be along later." He stood up, making sure the dressing gown was closed over his uniform vest and breeches. He touched her arm as she moved toward the portecochere, he kissed her cheek and nuzzled her ear. She pushed him away, covering Lillie's head with the blanket.

As soon as the door closed, he called for Simons. There was not a moment to lose.

 

Ravenswood held his robe and one of the other choir members helped Simon. Ravenswood touched Edward on his shoulder. "Are you ready?"

Edward opened his mouth, closed it again, the said. "As I will ever be." He was as nervous as he had been on his wedding day, maybe more.

He could see Mandy in their pew, looking anxiously toward the church doors, waiting for him to arrive. She had not seen him in the throng of tenors who had just filed into their places.

During the distraction that the congregation caused seating themselves after the Hallelujah Chorus, he had shed his robe. A ripple of whispers had run through the assembled choir. Ravenswood motioned to him and he stood, in his gilt encrusted number one uniform and closed the score that he held. He would sing this for her from memory.

She looked up, the surprise making her stiffen in her seat, her arms tightening around Lillie.

"I know that my Redeemer liveth,
and that He shall stand, at the latter day,
upon the earth."

Her eyes were wide, her right hand covered her mouth, as she listened to him, he could see her eyes close and let her self be lifted up with the words and the music.

"For now is Christ risen, for now is Christ risen from the dead,
The first fruits of them, of them that sleep."

He finished the aria, and was glad when it was over, but he could see in her face, the only face he could see, for the rest had blurred out through his tears, that he had given her the best gift she would ever receive from him, excepting their children. And he had affirmed to her, that he had received the gift that was given freely, and can never be bought.

 

Merry Christmas!
God Bless Us Every One!