Charley’s Tale Part 5

Ellen’s disappointment in her child grew apace with Charlotte.  Charlotte was a big baby, bigger even than her brothers had been.  Ellen had expected a dainty, quiet child, not this bawling, thrashing baby Charlotte became.    She screamed with colic from six in the evening till after three every morning, spitting up till she ruined all her mother’s gowns and wraps.  Neither Ellen nor Charles could console her.  During the worst of her colicky spells, her belly became rigid and thrashed her arms and legs wildly.  By morning, Ellen was exhausted and gladly handed her off to Cora and headed black to bed.  She insisted Cora put the baby on the bottle, saying the crying had spoiled her milk.  Typically, as colicky babies often do, she slept deeply and well, off and on all day.  Finally, in desperation, Charles started giving her a drop or two of paregoric, an opium derivative, to ease her agony.  She developed a tolerance for it and Ellen increased the doses with the unavoidable side-effect of constipation.  Despite intractable colic, she grew like a weed and looked like a short, fat bald man at three months, a fact that did not endear her to her mother. Over time, it reached the point that Charlotte required a daily enema.  Charles told Ellen to  limit paregoric use, but Ellen said she couldn’t bear to see the child in agony, so the dosing continued for months until Cora appealed to Dr Evans on the child’s behalf.  “Dr. Evans, if we don’t get this youngun off that stuff her bowels ain’t ever gonna work.  I don’t believe no nine month old baby still has colic.”

Dr. Evans obviously had left matters regarding the children to his wife.  “I didn’t realize she was still getting it.  I’ll talk to her mother.”  He also told the pharmacist to discontinue its sale to his wife.

Without the paregoric Charlotte, spent a miserable week or two, hardly sleeping and crying continuously.  Ellen pleaded with him, insisting the child needed medicating.  When he refused, she accused her husband of being heartless and fled to spend a few days with a friend in Hot Springs, swearing she couldn’t bear the child’s misery .

Cora moved in to care for the children and run the household for the duration.  Charlotte recovered and woke to the world around her.  She discovered her brothers, doing her best to toddle behind them.  They were delighted with her in turn, dubbing her, “Charley.”