Synopsis: A what happened next story for Elizabeth, My Love.
Word Count: 1,070
The fire crackled in the stone hearth, casting an orange glow around the room. The old rocker moved back and forth rhythmically, lulling the passenger into a peaceful rest, though he was not quite yet asleep
Hauling cargo, tending to the books, Ben Cartwright had had a full day. He pushed the few unruly strands of dark hair off his forehead.
“Not for long,” he thought sarcastically to himself. “The way my days are going I’ll be gray in a month.” With a sigh, Ben leaned his head against the back of the rocking chair, letting the sounds of the fire calm him.
“Benjamin?” A voice called from upstairs. Ben jumped, the sound waking him from his near nap.
“Ben? Is that you?” Steps descended from the stairs.
“Yes, sir.” Ben rubbed his eyes.
“Nope, nope, don’t you get up.” Ben stopped, setting himself back in his chair. “I have a visitor for you.” Captain Abel Stoddard stood before him, a bundle in his arms. Ben gave a small smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes. “Hello, Adam,” he said softly. “I checked in on you earlier and you were asleep!”
Abel handed his grandson to his father. “I’ll see to supper. You see to your little rapscallion. I swear… I’ve only had to tend to that boy no more than three times his entire life. That’s a special one you have there, Ben.” Abel walked off, leaving father and son alone.
“Did you hear that, son? He called you a rapscallion!” Ben looked down at the child in his arms. Dark eyes met his own. “My son,” Ben thought. “My Adam, only a few months short of his first birthday.” So much had already happened to his boy. How he wished to shield this boy from anymore pain.
“So what will I be today?” Ben asked, smoothing the dark curls with his hand. “Nursery rhymes? ‘Hickory dickory dock. The Mouse ran up the clock…”
Adam scrunched up his nose, almost in disgust.
Ben gave a soft laugh. “Too old for that, are we? Alright, how about a serenade, hmm?” Ben thought for a short moment before the song that had been stuck in his head all day came out. “Bring me little water, Sylvie. Bring me little water now.” Ben’s quiet voice filled the room, the rocking chair keeping the beat.
Adam’s eyes narrowed slightly under thick lashes. “Yes, yes.” Adam seemed to say. “Very good, but not today.”
“Well, now. Aren’t we fussy!” Ben laughed. “Have something special in mind, do you?”
Ben could almost see the crafty smile that would have given on the face of their son. Ben’s own face fell, loosing himself for a moment in his memories.
Adam reached up and placed his hand on his father’s scratchy cheek, sensing his distress. Ben cupped the little hand with his own. “Adam, my love. You do take after your mother. Elizabeth always know what to do t make me feel better.”
Ben sighed. Releasing Adam’s hand, he ran a finger down the boy’s cheek. “I know what you want. A bit of poetry before supper, hmm?” Ben tickled his son’s chin, producing a squeal of delight from Adam.
“Shall thy choice be Shakespeare?” Ben asked, his tone reflecting the greatness of the Author. “Or perhaps some Emily Dickinson?” He feigned a womanly British accent.
“Och, I know now, Laddie.” Ben said, his voice mimicking a thick Scottish tone. “It be Robert Burns you wish to hear!”
Rocking for a few moments to set the mood, Ben settled himself, recalling a poem by Burns he had learned years ago.
“Oh my luve’s like a red, rose,
That’s newly sprung in June.
Oh my luve’s like the melodie,
that’s sweetly played in tune.”
“Oh my Adam. The music you’ve brought to me thought it never seems so.” Adam stared at his father, urging him to continue the words. Ben smiled as he complied.
“As fair art thou, my bonie lad,
So deep in luve am I:
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry.”
“Hmm, the sea.” Ben looked ahead, dreaming about his adventures on the open ocean. “You would enjoy it, I bet. The salty wind in your hair, the spray of the sea kissing your face. Oh, how I miss the simplicity of the vast ocean.” Ben rocked again, regaining the rhythm of his poem before he went on.
“Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi’ the sun.
And I will luve thee still, my dear
While the sands of life shall run.”
Adam kept his eyes fixed on his father. The child was mesmerized by the melody coming from Ben’s mouth. He gurgled happily as if begging Ben to continue.
“And fare-thee weel, my only luve!
And fare-thee weel a while!
And I will come again, my luve
Tho’ ‘twere ten thousand mile!”
Ben rocked a few more paces in silence, letting the poem echo in their ears. Looking down at his son, he continued to run his finger down the soft cheek. A faint look of fear betrayed Adam’s hazel eyes, almost as if he had understood and took Ben’s poem seriously.
“Och, never you fear, Laddie.” Ben kept the Scottish accent for a moment longer before returning to his normal deep tones. “I would never leave you for anything. You are my world now, Adam. I love you more than life itself and would do anything to protect you. Rapscallion or not!”
Adam gave a giggle and a broad grin. Ben joined the laughter, continuing his steady rocking motion.
Abel Stoddard peaked in from the kitchen. The former sea captain couldn’t help but watch father and son contently sitting by the fire. As he watched, he saw Ben’s mouth curve into a smile, the first genuine smile he had seen in months. “About time, boy.” Abel muttered under his breath. He shook his elderly head. “Complete wonder, that boy is.” Able thought to himself. “Truly is special.” Able took one last glance at his son and grandson before leaving them to their fire.
Ben watched Adam’s eyes close sleepily, the boy nuzzling up against his chest. Father brushed one last curl out of sons face.
“Goodnight, my red, red rose.”