Charley’s Tale Part 11

Charley was miserable with her measles, but worse than measles was the separation from Cora.  The child asked after her constantly.  Because she was unsure if she’d ever had measles, Dr Evans asked her not to visit Charley.  Ellen demanded Cora’s attention constantly, anyway.  Charles was afraid for Ellen to be alone with the baby, so Cora kept it at her side as she worked.  Ellen was still abed, but called for the baby, despite Cora’s assurances she’d bring the baby to the minute she stirred.  Ellen insisted on calling her Charlotte, though Charles had said that wouldn’t do.  She flew into a rage when he opposed her, so he avoided the subject.  Ellen had a wild look in her eyes, and Charles began sedating her when he had to be out, fearing Cora might not be able to handle her.

Back at Geneva’s house, Charley was settling in with Josie to read to her and play games.  The child had never held anyone’s complete attention before, so she revelled in it.  Her father and brothers came to visit daily.  Birdie made her special treats.  Her grandmother loved having her in residence.  Once the initial misery of her illness was past, she was quite content, never thinking to ask after her mother which was fortunate, since her mother continued to ignore her existence.

Charles had mentioned Charley and her measles to Ellen a time or two, but Ellen acted as though she didn’t hear. When the baby was three days old, Charles decided to take on the problem of agreeing on a name before Reverend Parker came by to discuss the christening.  Ellen had begun calling her Charlotte, over Charles’s objection.

“Ellen, please listen to me.  You’re still confused since this new baby surprised us.  That happens after a baby once in a while, but you’ll be clearing up soon.  Our other little girl is Charlotte.  She’s been with your mother because she has the measles, but she will be home with us soon. I’d like to name this baby after my mother and yours.  What do you think of Geneva Catherine?  We can call her Genny.”

Ellen flew into a rage at his words.  “Why are you tormenting me?  You’re trying to convince me I am crazy carrying on about that other Charlotte.  You’re not getting rid of me that easy! I know all about that trashy little nurse of yours!  Get out of here!  Cora! Cora!  Get my mama over here!  Cora!”  She hurled the knife off her breakfast tray at him.collapsing into a paroxysm of frantic weeping as Cora came in to help him settle her down.  Cora finally got her to take something to relax her, since she wouldn’t have anything from his hand.

As things settled down, Charles realized Ellen needed more help than he could give her.  He made a phone call to a colleague.



Charley’s Tale Part 10

The new baby thrived despite its presumed prematurity.  Charles decided perhaps it was just a tiny, full-term infant, after all.  Ellen couldn’t have been happier.  Her mother reminded her that she had weighed a bit less than five pounds at birth and had done fine.  A dainty little girl was what Ellen had always wanted, anyway.  “My boys are fourteen and twelve now.  I’ve been lonesome at home all by myself.  Cora, you have to get my Christening Gown from Mother.  Ask Reverend Parker to stop by so we can schedule the Christening.  I’d love to have it in six weeks, but we may not get everything done by then.  This is the prettiest baby of all, don’t you agree, Charles?”  Ellen’s eyes glittered.  It seemed she couldn’t talk fast enough.  She slapped at Cora, who was brushing her hair.  “Damn it, Cora!  You are pulling!” Cora put the brush on the dressing table, out of Ellen’s reach.  Ellen had never treated her warmly, but this behavior was bizarre.  Geneva looked shocked at her daughter’s behavior.

“She’s a beauty, but I think she looks a lot like  Charley.  She’s just not as big.”  Ellen turned on him in a fury.  “Who is this Charley you keep talking about?  I told you I don’t want to hear any more about him.”  With this, she broke down into ragged weeping.  “Why can’t you leave me alone?  I told you I wanted to name this one Charlotte, after you, but you just keep at me.”  She screamed at Charles in her fury.

“Now, Ellen!  Don’t go working yourself up!  You are jostling the baby.”  Charles efforts to calm her had the opposite effect.  Ellen hurled her hand mirror at his head, barely missing him.  “Get out of here, you filthy, lying bastard.”  Charles moved to the bedside and restrained his wife, gesturing for Cora to take the baby to safety. 

“Ellen, let me get you something.  You are getting too worked up!” Charles got her tonic as Ellen sobbed hysterically, though she did rally for her medication.  Ellen had always been demanding and imperious,  but this was something entirely different.  He’d never heard her curse.

“Why can’t you just let me enjoy my baby?” she demanded.  “Mother, make Cora bring my baby back.”  Geneva stepped out when Charles gestured he’d stay with her alone.

“Ellen, I don’t mean to upset you.  Let’s don’t talk anymore.  I’ll just sit with you till you drift off.  Cora can take care of the baby