Author's Note: Happy New Year's! Thank you for all your patience! Shameless self plug here, but if you didn't know I have a Deviantart account at LarkHearted, where I post sketches of Bess and Howard, so feel free to check it out! Thank you again, feel free to leave a review, and I hope you enjoy this chapter!
Chapter Twenty One-Little One
"It's a boy," the midwife whispered to Bess as she cleaned the afterbirth away from the woman's thighs. Bess felt terribly sore, but she was alright. She wasn't going to die. She was going to have her baby in her arms. She was going to get to see her husband again. She was going to feel his warm touch and hear his strong voice yet again. Bess managed a gentle smile as she heard the midwife calm the crying baby. "You're the bravest young lady I've met in a long time...here." The midwife came up to the exhausted Bess and carefully handed her the little sobbing bundle,
He was red-completely red and his little eyes remained closed as he continued to sob in his mother's arms. Bess could no longer contain her excitement and she allowed tears of pure joy to roll down her cheeks. She was a mother now-she had a child of her own and it was her sole duty in life to protect the sweet little baby that sobbed in her arms. Yes, he was hers to adore and protect.
"Howard James Reginald II," she whispered, kissing his forehead. "You are mine. You are my darling little boy, sweetheart. And I am your mother. And-oh, when your father sees you, he will be the proudest man alive." She studied the baby for a moment, realizing that she could not tell which parent the little boy resembled more-but judging by the little tuft of black hair that grew on his head, Bess had a feeling that the baby would look far more like her. "Now darling, do stop your crying. Your father wouldn't like it one bit. He wants you to be brave." She laughed to herself and kissed the child's forehead once again.
"Shall I go fetch your husband?" the midwife asked, managing a gentle smile at Bess.
"Oh, yes! It seems like I haven't seen him in ages!" Bess cried out, her smile becoming even larger than before.
"Well, you just sit tight and I'll go fetch him." The midwife slipped out of the bedroom, leaving the mother completely alone with her child for the first time. The little boy's cries slowly died down and Bess carefully undid her nightgown, bringing the babe to her swollen breast. She began to carefully rock him as he latched on. She had been right. It had all been worth it. All the cries, the fights, and the nearly unbearable pain had been worth it. She now had a perfect little boy. And she silently swore to protect him from all the world's evils for as long as she could.
"Bess." Howard's voice brought Bess out of her thoughts and she brought her eyes to face him. He was dressed in a dirty shirt and his ginger locks were worn loose and knotted. Tears rolled down his cheeks as his gaze traveled down to the nursing newborn. He ran to her and pressed his lips against her pale, clammy forehead. "Bess, I'm so proud...what's her name?"
"Howard James Reginald II," Bess replied, managing a cheeky grin. Her husband's eyes widened and he pressed his hand against the baby's forehead. "What's the time?"
"Uh. Four in the afternoon. May 27th, 1770," Howard replied, his entire body shaking. He was a father now. The father of a child who claimed his name. Who would carry his legacy. The Lord had blessed him with a handsome little boy. And the woman whom he adored unconditionally had given birth to his son. He was blessed. Yes, the Lord had blessed him. "How are you feeling, Bess?"
"Sore, but happy. Come, give me a kiss." Howard placed his lips against her own for a moment and managed a soft smile. "Have you told my father-oh, God, does my father even know I went into labor?"
"Yes dear, he's been a damned mess because of it as well. Joey's been with him all day."
"I want to see him-Joey can come inside, as well..." Her smile slowly bean to fade away. "What about the rest of your family?"
"...They know, too."
"I can already imagine your mother praying the rosary; wishing me dead." Howard averted his gaze. "Darling, I only jest."
"...There was an accident during supper last night." Bess' eyes widened and she raised a brow in confusion. "It was rather unpleasant to say the least. I can only tell you that I am ready to leave this place."
"When shall we pack?!"
"After you've finished your bedrest period, dear." Bess frowned at this, hoping that it could be sooner rather than later. "Do not look so sour, Bessie. It will be over before you know it."
"Does that mean I must have be present for your mother's ball?" The captain averted his gaze. "Howard-oh!"
"What is it?" He turned to see his wife rubbing her nipple and managed a little laugh. "Goodness, Bess. You terrified me for a moment...we'll have to go and get the little one baptized in a few days, as well."
"And I can't come, can I? You know, my mother was up on her feet the day after I was born." Bess managed a little smile and the captain pressed his lips against hers. She had missed this. The tender, delicate, private moments between the two of them. And now, they had a son. A little boy who would bring them joy and grief and pride. "Would you like to hold your son, Captain Reginald?"
"Of course, my dear." Bess carefully passed the baby to her husband. Instinctively, the new father placed a large hand on his baby's head. The child's crying had ceased and he slowly opened his eyes. "Bessie, he has my eyes...as blue as a clear day's skies...my little Jamie."
"So that's what we're going to call him? Little Jamie...I like that." Bess managed a little laugh and closed her eyes. "Howard, sweetheart...I'm going to take a long nap. You take care of little Jamie, alright?"
Marcus Shepherd was a grandfather now. His daughter had given birth that afternoon and now was fast asleep, resting from a job well done. The captain was sitting beside her, stroking her damp hair and pressing gentle kisses against her exposed neck. And Marcus sat in the rocking chair, cradling his newborn grandson.
"You must be a proud man, musn't you?" Marcus began, addressing the captain. "Well, that makes two of us. Our Bessie did so well...I just wish she hadn't gone through all that pain."
"I heard her cries," Howard began, his voice a low whisper. "I wanted to run inside and hold her-promise her that it would all be alright-and she's alright now. I'm having a cook prepare a large feast for us. She'll wake up with quite the appetite." Howard let out a small laugh. "I remember Mother was always so famished after her births. She'd have a breakfast, dinner, and supper brought up to her at the same time."
"Speaking of your mother, is she going to come up here and see the baby? She is the little one's grandmother, after all."
"Don't tell her that; she still believes she's twenty. And I did tell one of the servants to bring her up here, so she should arrive in a moment or two." The two remained silent for a moment, reflecting upon the day's events, happy that the birth was finally over and Bess was safe. Their pleasant silence, however, was soon broken by the door creaking. Amelia Reginald made her was into her son's room, dressed in a far too lavish gown and a string of pearls wrapped around her neck. Her gaze traveled from her son and his sleeping wife to Marcus and the baby.
"He's so small!" Amelia cried out, running to Marcus and the baby. She bit her lip, forcing herself to hold back tears. She remembered Howard's birth-how exhausted her body had felt, how small he had felt in her arms, and her husband's stoic expression-so unlike Howard, who was fawning over his wife. "What's his name?" Tears began to roll down her cheeks. Anthony had forbade her to name the little boy after him. And so she had named him after her father. "Howard. What's his name?"
"Howard James Reginald II," the captain replied, slowly making his way over to his mother and the baby. "That's what Bess and I agreed on." Amelia remained silent, staring at the little baby. He reminded her so much of Howard when he had been a baby.
"I'm callin' him Jamie," Marcus mumbled.
"Jamie," Amelia repeated, managing a gentle smile. "Jamie...what a darling boy. I...may I hold him?"
"If you'd like," Howard replied, carefully taking the sleeping Jamie and handing him to his mother. "He's beautiful, isn't he?" Amelia bit her lip and managed a small smile.
"He really is so small...as small as you were when you were born...how's Bess doing? I know it's not the easiest thing to go through."
"Mother...what's changed in you? I thought you were going to ask who the father was?" Amelia's face grew pale and she shook her head. "Oh, Mother-you surprise me, that's all...Bess is well. The doctor said she's expected to make a full recovery-she's stopped bleeding."
"I'm glad to hear...shall I tell the servants to make her a meal?"
"That would be nice, Mother." Amelia handed her son the baby and made her way out of his room. Oh, his words had hurt terribly-she hadn't meant to evoke him to say such vicious things. Oh, it was true, she was not fond of her daughter in law, but this was meant to be a joyous occasion. She had just held her first (legitimate) grandchild. This was not meant to be the occasion were Howard brought up such unpleasant topics. She stormed into the kitchen, half wishing she could just throw all of the food off of the trays. But, of course, a lady was not meant to do such things.
"Are you alright, madam?" one of the cooks inquired, managing a nervous smile. "The cake's already been ordered for your ball."
"Yes, thank you," was Amelia's cold reply. "Will you bring a meal up to Elizabeth's chambers in an hour? The baby was just born."
"As you wish, madam." Amelia gave the cook a cold nod before making her way back towards Howard's room. Oh, she was going to box his ears in. That would teach the boy not to di-
"Mother!" Anthony cried out, running towards her. "Mother, what's the news?"
"It's a boy," Amelia muttered, averting her gaze. "It's a boy, just like your brother. An insolent boy who speaks of the wrong things at the wrong time. I'm going to have a chat with him right now."
"Can I go and see the baby?"
"Oh, be honest! All you want to really do is see Bess again. Bess in her nightgown, that's what you want to see." Anthony remained silent. "Well?"
"I also want to see the baby."
"Then come with me." Anthony followed his mother to Howard's bedroom and allowed her to open the door. Bess still remained sleeping, her nightgown unlaced and her breasts exposed. Marcus had also fallen asleep in his chair and Howard was rocking the newborn, singing softly to him. Anthony could only smirk-what a sickeningly touching scene this was. His brother had gone from a hardened captain to a soft, spineless creature. "Howard, your brother is here to see you."
"Wonderful," Howard managed, looking up at Anthony with a hateful gaze. "I'd advise the two of you to be quiet-perhaps, come back later. They're all asleep."
"Shame," Anthony muttered, not budging at all. "I wanted to ask Bess how she felt. A birth-especially one like Bess'-can certainly not be easy."
"Oh, Anthony. You would have made such a fine actor. Perhaps you can fool another, but we have grown up together-do remember that. And remember that she is my wife, not yours."
"Enough," Amelia warned. "I will not have what happened at last night's supper to happen again. Is that understood?" The two men nodded silently. "Excellent. I'm going to go and check on something. Behave." Amelia quietly left the room, careful not to wake anyone.
"Eleanor wants to see the baby," Anthony muttered. Howard managed a dry chuckle. "Shall I let her in?"
"No," Howard replied. "In fact, tell Miss Langford that I do not want to see her anymore. A whore such as herself is not worthy of visiting my son-much less my wife."
"You should cover her breasts."
"Why? Does it tempt you? Remember what the Bible tells us; Thou shalt not covet his neighbor's wife."
"Then I praise the Lord every day that you are not my neighbor!" Bess slowly opened her eyes and allowed herself a small whimper, not moving an inch. The whimper caused Howard to turn his attention to her.
"Darling?" he whispered softly. "Darling, are you alright?"
"Oh, yes," she muttered. "Just terribly sore...I heard arguing. Who are you arguing with, darling?"
"Me," Anthony replied. Bess' eyes grew wide open and she felt herself tense up. Why was he here? She wanted nothing to do with him-all he was was a rotten, spoiled man with a lustful mind.
"Oh...why are you here? Howard, you know I don't want any visitors-oh..." She closed her eyes once more and sighed. "Just let me sleep."
"You heard her," Howard began, smirking at his brother. "You can see the baby at the baptism." Anthony gave him a disgusted gaze, but said nothing as he walked out of the room, finally leaving the family alone. "And stay out."
Mr. Hawthorne was the one to take dinner up to Bess. Mr. Hawthorne would be able to see his grandchild. They had not informed him of whether the child was a girl or a boy, but it did not matter. He was a grandfather now. And all he wished he could do was congratulate his son like a proper father now. But he could not. He could only greet him as the captain and not his child.
He slowly entered the room, studying the scene. Bess' father was asleep, the child was in the cradle, and Howard had fallen asleep, as well. But Bess was awake, a novel in her hands. She looked up from her book and managed a small smile at the servant.
"How are you feeling?" he asked, setting her tray on the nightstand.
"Hungry," was her quiet reply. "...Thank you for helping me last night, Mr. Hawthorne. I was so scared..."
"Tis nothing to be grateful over. I have merely done my duty."
"It's a boy, you know. His name is Howard James Reginald II...but we call him Jamie." Bess seemed overjoyed and she bit her lip to keep tears from rolling down her cheeks. "Would you like to see him?"
"Are you positive, madam?" Oh, Hawthorne wanted nothing more than to see his grandchild. Another woman would have told him to leave, but Mrs. Reginald was different. She was a simple girl who showed him something no one else could-kindness. It was quite obvious that she was not one of them. Much like himself, Bess simply didn't belong.
"Oh, indeed! Just be quiet-he's been sleeping for quite some time and I don't want to disturb his sleep."
"Of course." Mr. Hawthorne managed a gentle smile and went over to the crib, looking down at the baby. He was a sweet little creature-red with a jet black tuft of hair growing on his head. He was proud. Howard was a father now. And he would have the luxury of raising his son. He would never have to miss his son's birthdays, not hide his affections for him. "He's beautiful-your husband must be proud."
"He is-he's very proud. He couldn't put little Jamie down and I had to convince him quite a bit to get some sleep...do you have any children, Mr. Hawthorne?"
"...I did...I mean...yes, I did. I had a boy...he never even knew I was his father." Bess bit her lip at the answer. "Oh, but don't feel blue. Today is a joyous occasion! Have you written his name in the family Bible yet?"
"There's a family Bible?"
"Has Mrs. Reginald not told you?"
"No, sir. She has not."
"Of course she hasn't...Mrs. Reginald is a very difficult woman to say the least. Her parents wanted her to go to a convent since it seemed that she was never going to marry...may I tell you a secret, madam? A secret you cannot tell anyone?"
"I've worked for the Reginald family ever since I was your age and I remember how Mrs. Reginald came to this place. She did not come as Mr. Reginald's wife, but rather as his mistress...she never loved him. Mr. Reginald was engaged to another girl-she was small, very blonde...Natalie. Oh, how Natalie loved him...but she found him with Mrs. Reginald."
"What happened then?" Bess was intrigued. The pious Amelia Reginald was not as saintly as she wanted to be seen.
"Natalie ran off-she broke the engagement. Only God knows where she might be now. Amelia married Reginald...but she continued her escapades. The only men she has truly ever loved are her sons...don't take anything she does to you too personally. She is only jealous because she wants what you have. A happy relationship."
"Of course." Bess sighed. She could not help but feel a tad of sadness for Amelia. She had never been happy-and yet she wished that Amelia would show even a touch of kindness to her. "Should I ask her about the Bible?"
"It would be wiser to ask your husband, I think."
"Congratulations on the baby...love him. Please."
"Of course I will!"
"You deserve to be a parent...some don't. Mr. Reginald certainly didn't.
Howard awoke in a cold sweat, breathing heavily. Bess slept soundly beside him, clutching onto a blanket. His eyes darted to the crib-the babe also slept soundly. It had just been a dream. There was no fire-no screams. It had been but a dream. Howard rested his head against the pillow once more and ran his fingers through her hair. It was safe. She was safe. His darling boy was safe. There was nothing to fear. Howard slowly sat up, trying to calm himself down.
"Howard," Bess groaned, opening her eyes. "Go back to bed, dear."
"I can't," he replied, pressing his lips against her thick, raven mane.
"Did you have a bad dream? It was only that. A bad dream. I'm here, sweetheart." She closed her eyes and let out a tiny groan. "Good night, my love."
"Goodnight." He rested his head on the pillow once more and closed his eyes. But he could not bring himself to sleep. What if someone did try to kill his wife? His child? His family was a jealous breed-his mother, especially. Now that the baby had been born, it would be the talk of the town and not Amelia Reginald's ball. And he knew that would make his mother livid to say the least. Howard sat up and got himself out of bed-perhaps a walk would clear his mind.
He silently stepped out of the room, careful not to wake his wife or his baby. He stepped into the dark halls of the home and took a breath. Soon, he would leave this place. They would be at their new home, enjoying the solitude. Perhaps he would have a garden-Bess would certainly protest, but he would still do it. Bess was a lady now. He would continue to buy her fine gowns and perhaps he could convince her to try a powdered wig. Or perhaps he could hire her a hairdresser. He would treat his wife like a queen. So unlike the way his family treated her.
It was a shrill, disgusting cry that woke him from his reverie. At first, he believed it to be Bess, but he quickly realized that there was a woman who stood before him.
"Howard!" she cried out again. "Oh, Howard!" She wrapped her arms around him. "Oh, congratulations!"
"Thank you, Eleanor," was Howard's cold reply as he carefully pushed her away. It's awfully late. Shouldn't you be asleep?"
"I wanted to talk to you!"
"At this hour?"
"I knew you weren't sleeping. You never could. Why, I remember that after we made love, you could never sleep and you'd talk up a storm. You were so young back then-freckles all over your face and a bad sunburn. Goodness, you've grown so handsome."
"Eleanor...it's best not to live in the past." Eleanor raised a brow and averted her gaze. His words only made her want him even more. She was going to have him tonight. "I'm quite a happy man, Eleanor."
"Are you really? Your wife hasn't been able to please you lately, has she?" Howard answered her question with a vicious glare. "You know, Bess would never even have to know. That poor girl must be half asleep-she must be in so much pain. It would benefit the both of you, don't you think? Bess would get to spend time sleeping and you'd be able to relieve yourself."
"What are you trying to get at?"
"Oh, Howard. Are you really truly that silly?" Eleanor allowed herself a laugh and began to unbutton her tight bodice. "I know that you want me. You've never gotten over me, have you?"
"What a silly notion, Miss Langford. I am a married man. Last I heard, you still carry your maiden name...though that's the last thing you are."
"You took it from me, remember that."
"You truly are a comedienne, Eleanor." Howard began to laugh, averting his gaze as Eleanor continued to unbutton her bodice. "Have you no shame?"
"Oh, Howard. You act as if you don't want to believe our little tryst ever happened...God, you were so young back then."
"Eleanor. Get dressed and leave me be."
"You miss me."
"I love my wife."
"I didn't say anything about not loving her. You've made it rather clear that you love your wife. But even the most loyal of husbands have their mistresses. Let me be your mistress."
"I said no, Eleanor." Eleanor discarded her bodice, revealing pale cleavage. "Leave me be or I shall give you a beating that you have never known before." Eleanor smirked and began to unlace her corset.
"I'm slimmer than your wife, you know. That poor thing will soon start looking like a barrel." Howard had half a mind to slap her. But he would much rather not be lectured by his mother about striking guests in the morning.
"Have a nice night, Eleanor." Howard turned away, wanting nothing more than to go back to his wife. But Eleanor would not allow it. She grabbed the captain by the arm, turning him to face her. Before he could even utter a word of protest, she pressed her lips against his. Howard Reginald belonged to her. Not to his wife. He belonged to her.
Author's Note: Thank you for your patience! And I hope you enjoyed this chapter! I apologize for the long wait time-I've been super busy at school! Please review this chapter-they really do keep me going! And be sure to check out my new stories! Thanks guys!