6. Happy Families

[Not part of the original Heyes and Curry Stories – A DVD Extra.]

APRIL 1863

“Has you – has you…?”

Samuel Heyes frowned at his cards. He wriggled in his chair. Blue eyes strayed to the tempting pot. This next question really, really mattered. “Has you – has you…?”

“Any time today, Samuel,” prompted Hannibal.

The pucker on the youthful forehead deepened. “Has you…?” A deep breath. Decision. “Has you got Master Bones the Bud-cher’s Son?”

Silence.

“Mama!” Louisa looked up from the cuff she was setting into a shirt sleeve into the accusing face of her first born. “Play prop’ly!”

“Sorry, just a minute…” A vital pin was placed. And another.

“Hurry YUP!”

“Talk about pots and kettles,” said Hannibal. He gave the youngster an elder brother frown. “And, I’m not sure little squirts who shout at their mothers deserve to have ‘em play…”

“Sorry,” said Samuel. He knew the rule about no raised voices at the table but… Four year old buttocks bounced in impatience. “But – hurry yup. P’eas.”

The sewing was set aside. “What am I looking for?”

“Master Bones, ma’am,” said Jed Curry, who was staying over. He took a reviving swallow of cocoa to strengthen him for the seemingly interminable game Samuel had received for his fourth birthday.

“Let’s see, David…” Louisa leaned to peer at the cards in David’s pudgy hands. The three year old raised them helpfully. “Have you got Master Bones? No, I don’t think that’s him, liebchen. That man’s got a hammer, hasn’t he? I don’t think Master Bones has a hammer. What do butchers have?”

Hannibal rolled his eyes at this well-meant educational diversion.

Samuel, with less self-restraint, repeated, “Hurry yup!”

“David – tell Samuel you’re sorry, but you haven’t got Master Bones.”

David, a three year old dead spit of Hannibal, looked over at Samuel and shook his head solemnly.

Louisa’s attention, not to mention her hands, wandered back to her sewing.

“It’s David’s go, ma’am,” Jed reminded her.

David nodded. It was his go.

“Sorry. What shall we ask for, David?”

A small finger pointed. “The man with the hammer? Mister Chip? Shall we ask for his wife? Who shall we ask?”

Samuel shrank down in his seat and lowered his eyes. He had Mrs. Chip. Maybe if he kept looking away… Maybe if he hid his face behind his cards… Maybe then, David wouldn’t pick him. He shuffled lower – and lower.

“You’re gonna hafta work on your poker face there, Samuel,” grinned Hannibal. “Call yourself a Heyes.”

Samuel need not have worried. David picked who he always picked – because he was the bestest big brother in the whole world. “Han’bul!”

“Hannibal,” repeated Louisa, “have you got…?”

She was interrupted by footsteps out on the porch. Heads lifted.

“Papa!” chirruped Samuel. He put his cards face down, preparatory to scampering over.

David, too, face lit by a broad smile, lowered himself down from his chair, to join in the usual greeting rituals.

Hesitation on Samuel’s part, he turned back. “No lookin’ at cards!” he warned Hannibal.

“You’re mixing me up with someone who cares,” said Hannibal, sotto voce for Jed’s amusement. He glanced at the clock. Too early. Out loud, “I don’t reckon that is Pa.”

There was a soft knocking at the door.

“Told ya.”

Hannibal strode over and looked through the window. Surprise – then a silent warning was thrown at Louisa. He opened the door.

—oooOOOooo—

LATER

This time when Samuel and David’s sharp ears heard boots stomp on the porch their preparatory journeys to the door – one at a scamper, one at a deliberate though purposeful pad – were rewarded with the arrival of a chilly and rain-dampened father.

“Up!” ordered Samuel, arms raised for the obligatory swing. “Papa! Up!”

“Let me get out of this wet co…”

Alex stopped. He took in the scene. Beside the apprehensive face of his wife, another face – startling similar though thinner, lined with worry, and wide eyed with fear – stared back at him. Two babies, not one, lay sleeping – top to tail – in the crib. An extra tug at his leg. Two sets of blue eyes topped by two sets of blond curls. Two sets of lifted arms requested lifting. Make that three sets of arms, David, slow but steady, had reached his goal.

“Charlotte’s here, Alex…” Louisa glanced, anxiously from her sister to her silent husband. “I mean, you can see she is…”

“Uh huh. For a moment there, I thought I was seeing double.”

“Up, Papa. Now.” Tug.

“Unca Alex?” A much more tentative tug. A much less imperious voice. But Uncle Alex was nice, he always gave swings. “Up?”

Not today apparently. Not yet anyhow. Gently removing small, clutching fingers from his pants, Alex chose his words carefully. “Are you on your own, Charlotte?”

“No! Silly Papa.” Samuel pointed. Surely Papa could see. “Fred’rick wiv her! An’ ‘Ratio.”

“HE’s not here,” chipped in Hannibal, correctly divining it was the presence or absence of his brother-in-law, not his nephews, Alex wished to confirm.

“She’s run off,” contributed Jed. “Ow!” He met his friend’s glare and rubbed his ankle. What was that for? He was only saying.

“I shouldn’ta come…” began Charlotte.

“You see, Alex, Mama says, no way will she house a daughter who…” overlapped Louisa.

“I just had to…”

“Says it’s a disgrace…”

“I don’t wanna cause trouble, Alex. I’ll go. I should never have…”

“She can’t go back tonight. It’s too far with the baby and it’ll be dark any minute…”

“I know it’s wrong, but…” Charlotte’s lip wobbled hard. “I – I…” A burst of tears was clearly imminent.

Watching his mother, Frederick’s face fell – a small lip began to wobble in sympathy.

“Samuel, David…” Alex cut across the torrent of mangled explanation. “Take Frederick up to your room to play. Hannibal, Jed, go with them.”

“But – but…” Samuel gathered his arguments.

“Don’t make me tell you twice, son. Otherwise…” Alex frowned the frown so fierce Samuel knew it was only pretending. It was the frown the giant frowned when he was going to grind your bones. “Otherwise I shall have to throw you upstairs!” Samuel squealed in delight as he was lifted bodily in the air and carried towards the stairs, while being swung back and forth as if in preparation for a mighty throw. “One…” said Alex. Squeal! “Two…” Squeals and giggles. “Three!” He was placed on the third step and his bottom tapped to encourage upward movement. “Now for Frederick! He needs to be thrown upstairs…”

Resignedly Hannibal gathered the cards from the table as first Frederick, then David were ‘thrown’ upstairs.

“Han’bul, no lookin’ at cards!” he was reminded from the top step.

“And…” His father’s voice, though low, was serious. “No listening in.”

Hannibal gave an offended blink. Then he understood. Obviously his father was warning him not to let the boys listen. Fair enough.

“Keep them up there till I call you down to supper.”

—oooOOOooo—

“Which lady d’ya think looks crossest, Fred’rick?” asked Jed.

Since Hannibal was otherwise engaged, the number of players either able to read, or having committed every single card to memory, was insufficient to allow the game to continue. Instead Hannibal had proposed a series of voting rounds on the papery family members, so well characterized by Tenniel’s drawings.

“Er – dis one.”

“That one, huh? Mrs Dyer. Yeah, she sure looks proddy.”

“’Cos – ‘cos…” Samuel knew Jed would welcome helpful explanatory notes. “Her hands is all wet – an’ dirdy.”

Hannibal frowned and leaned his ear closer to the tiny gap obtained by not quite closing the door.

The small boys began a game of pattern construction, the rules of which – entirely dictated by Samuel – appeared not to require supervision. Jed shuffled over to join his friend.

Sotto voce, “She has run off, huh?”

“Dunno. You know what she’s like. She’s sayin’ she hasta go back, then she’s sayin’ she can’t, then she’s sayin’ she must.” He rolled his eyes. “Women, huh?”

Every so often Charlotte’s voice would rise making the words easier to catch. His father’s voice remained mostly no more than a low murmur.

“No. Honest, Alex. Not since that time last summer when you…”

“I reckon Pa’s asking if he hit her again…”

“Hit her?”

That came out too loud. Inquisitive small heads turned. After scowling at Jed, Hannibal improvised, “I reckon Mrs. Chip hit her thumb with the hammer – that’s why she’s so cross. Can you find her picture, Samuel?”

He waited until interest had returned to the pictures being shuffled upon the quilt.

“That black eye last summer – that was never a door!”

“Sheesh.” Jed mulled. His brow furrowed. “I thought once you’d gotten married you hadta stay that way ‘til you died. My Pa calls it a life sentence. Just joshin’ – but he says it. Can she just – run off?”

“’Course not. Mister Tanner can have her dragged back an’ locked up for stealing.”

“Stealin’?”

“Stealing the clothes she’s stood up in. I heard. She says he said it. And Pa says…” A deep breath before repeating the word. “Tech’nickally, he’s in the right. Frederick and the baby too. She’s stole ‘em. They belong to him not her.”

“No, you b’longs to your Ma and Pa both.”

“Not according to the law. Remember all that stuff Miss Field told us. Not that it matters, ‘cos Pa says Tanner’ud hafta get past him first.”

“Han’bul? Who’s gotta get past Papa?”

Despite Hannibal’s precautions three fascinated faces were watching. He sighed. “Samuel, didn’t anyone ever tell you, it’s rude to eavesdrop?”

“Pots an’ kettles,” grinned Jed.

With a rueful smile, Hannibal acknowledged a hit. He closed the door properly and moved to the bed. “Okay, I think we need a fresh deal here…”

—oooOOOooo—

SUPPER

“So – Fred’rick’s sharin’ wiv me an’ David tonight?” clarified Samuel.

“Uh huh. Poor Frederick,” smiled Alex. “Do you want to borrow some ear muffs?”

“An’ – an’ Aunt S’arlotte’s sleepin’ wiv Mama?”

“Just for tonight,” said Charlotte.

“For as long as she wants,” corrected Alex.

“No, Alex. I’ve made up my mind to go ho…”

“For as long as you want. And, we agreed, no more discussion tonight. Everything always looks better in the morning.”

“But – but…” Samuel bounced in his seat. “Papa, you sleeps with Mama…”

“Guilty as charged.”

“Where’s you gon’ sleep?”

A sudden inspiration struck Hannibal. “Me an’ Jed could sleep out in the barn. To make room. Virtuous generosity emanated from the munificent one. “We’d be fine. You can have my bed.”

Jed made haste to swallow his last mouthful of pie. “Yeah, we’d be fine, Mister Heyes. Honest.”

Two eager youthful faces pleaded with Alex.

“It’s too cold, son.”

“We could make a camp fire. We’d be real careful.”

“Honest, Mister Heyes.”

“Honest, Pa.”

“In your dreams, Hannibal.” Two small sets of shoulders slumped. “I’ll be fine sleeping in my chair.”

“I feel real bad, Alex…”

The budding of renewed self-flagation was cut short. “Not a problem.” To Louisa, “You always say I can fall asleep on a clothesline, don’t you, Gorgeous. Now, if everyone’s done – bedtime for anyone under five.”

“No!” No way was Samuel letting this gross injustice pass. “Bed time’s half hour after supper! Not now! Half hour!”

David nodded. Hard. That was right! Bed time was half an hour after supper. Definitely.

“Supper was over half an hour late, liebchen,” explained Louisa, as she, helped by her sister, began to clear the plates. “So it is bedti…”

“No!”

“No!” Hey, it must be serious, David was agreeing out loud.

“Why?”

“Why?”

“Nod fair! Tell her, Papa.”

“P’eas…” Frederick chimed in. “P’eas, Unca Alex.”

“WHY?! Nod FAIR!”

“Stop!” It was the no arguing voice. A blond head hung, however, a small lip continued to protrude mulishly. “IF – and only IF – there is an immediate cessation of whining, I may restore the post supper half hour. Measured by my watch, and with my word being final. Understood?”

Silent nodding. Samuel went so far as to clamp his hand over his mouth just to be on the safe side. He wriggled. He raised his other arm.

“Yes, Samuel – what is it?”

“Happy Fam’lies. P’eas.”

“This is the new game your grandmother gave you?”

A nod.

“Alright. ONE game – then bed.”

“That’s gonna take longer’n half an hour,” warned Hannibal. “You haven’t played it yet. The last game lasted…” He searched. Ah. “Eons!”

Alex’s mouth twitched at the word. “One game OR half an hour – whichever is the shorter.”

“No, Papa… An ‘ole game!”

“What did I tell you about whining?”

The hand went back over the mouth.

“Good boy. Fetch the cards then.”

—oooOOOooo—

“Which one, Frederick? Ah, good choice. David, Frederick wants to know if you’ve got…”

Frederick smiled happily up at his card partner. He was warm and cozy and all full from supper. He had pride of place on Uncle Alex’s lap where he could examine the wonderful pocket watch whenever he chose. Mama was nursing Horatio, over by the stove and the glow from the coals made her look all pretty.
And – and…
And no one was shouting or slamming doors or crying or – anything.

“Let’s see, David…” David was on Hannibal’s lap, so Hannibal could help him play. “Have we got Master Grits?”

“David ha’n’t got Master Grits,” Samuel – proudly on no one’s lap because he was in no need of help – forestalled his brothers. “Master Grits is the one wiv cocoa on the back. Jed’s goddim.”

“Never mind, Frederick,” said Alex. “David’s turn.”

“Hurry yup,” prompted Samuel.

“Samuel,” deadpanned David’s mouthpiece, “Have you got Master Too-Big-For-His-Britches the Farmer’s bossy son?”

“Han’bul! Play prop’ly!”

“Sorry, my mistake. You ARE Master Too-Big-For-His…”

“Papa – tell yim!”

“I don’t think I’d risk potential justifications for bedtime extension, if I were you, Hannibal,” advised Alex.

Hannibal grinned at the worldly wisdom inherent in the warning. “What shall we ask for, David? What about…?” Brown eyes scanned the fanned cards in his Father’s hand. “Have you got Mrs. Potts the Painter’s wife?” Helpfully, “It’s the one with a corner sucked off, Pa. Amy got hold of it.”
Mrs. Potts was extracted and handed over.

“And now, David wants Miss Potts – that’s the creased one.”

“Did you know we were playing against card sharps, Frederick?” Alex raised his eyebrows at his sons as Miss Potts joined her mother. “It’s a good thing I’m too comfortable to call you three out for playing with a marked deck!”

“Read ‘em and weep!” The completed Potts family was laid out by David’s smug helper. David himself leaned in to claim a button from the pot.

“Han’bul’s got a Nappy Fam’ly!” said Frederick.

“Dunno about that.” Samuel’s hair was ruffled. “This one can be kinda annoying.”

“Am not!” protested Samuel.

“Mama. Mama!”

Lost in her own circling thoughts as she rocked her baby, Charlotte started at her elder son’s voice.

“Look, mama,”

Confused, she did look.

“It’s a Nappy Fam’ly.”

As the words registered, Hannibal saw a sudden, stricken expression cloud her face. He met his father’s eyes, saw his father’s arm tighten, protectively, around the small figure on his lap.”

“I reckon you’re right, Frederick,” Hannibal said, quietly. “It is.”

—oooOOOooo—

NOTES
Happy Families is a simple English Card game which gained popularity after being displayed at the Great Exhibition of 1851. Since it could easily fit in either an envelope or a coat pocket I’m sure a few packs crossed the pond.

The piccies were drawn by the original illustrator of Alice in Wonderland. And if you look here:
http://www.wopc.co.uk/games/jaques-happy-families.html
…Mrs Chip has dang big hammer
…Mrs Dip does indeed look dang proddy

Happy Families is played exactly the same as ‘Go Fish’ – so it’s not too exciting if you are eleven and could be playing poker!

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