on, sweet girl, take a sip of water.” Rebecca Reed held the
teaspoon against Felicity’s lips. Although the baby burned with
fever, she turned her head away, refusing the water.
than two months ago, they’d celebrated Felicity’s first birthday.
Now, Rebecca feared her precious girl had contracted a serious case
of influenza. For two days, she’d lain limp and despondent, her
temperature reduced only with cold compresses and body wraps.
died from influenza. Lots of people. Rebecca shuddered. She’d grown
up untouched by fatal illnesses or the fear of contagious disease.
Life in 1777 was so very different from everything she’d lived
before she’d unknowingly entered the time portal in her
now-husband’s ship, Shenandoah.
In this time that was now her present, the colonists were battling
Britain for their freedom. Disease and poverty ran rampant and
soldiers died every day, victims of starvation, sickness, and
freezing temperatures. Rebecca had known all this was going to
happen, but she never thought her family might be, or would be, one
of the casualties.
off the thought, Rebecca plunged the damp cloth into the pail of
frigid stream water with melting chunks of ice Ben had brought
upstairs a half hour ago. She wrung out the excess, then pressed the
cloth to Felicity’s neck for a minute. Her temperature had to be
close to 103, possibly higher. The cloth warmed almost instantly.
turned over the beige fabric and placed the cooler side on her
daughter’s forehead. Felicity barely moaned, her body wilted from
hours of infection.
Rebecca wouldn’t give for a bottle of children’s ibuprofen, a
digital thermometer, and a prescription for Tamiflu. But that was a
lifetime ago. Medicine, at least the kind she’d grown up with,
wasn’t an option. Herbal treatments, ice baths from the nearly
frozen-over stream, and vigilant care were her only options.
attempted to give Felicity another sip of feverfew tea she’d boiled
and let come to room temperature. The liquid merely dribbled down the
side of her sweet little face. Swallowing back sobs, Rebecca rocked
Felicity against her chest. “Lord, we need Your healing touch.
Please deliver Felicity. Please don’t take my little girl.”
was close to the sick and brokenhearted. How many times had Rebecca
read those verses? Today, she needed to feel Him in the room, next to
her, with Felicity. The swag of pine branches and red bow adorning
the window reminded her that Christmas was coming. Felicity was too
young to understand the holiday’s importance, but Rebecca couldn’t
bear to think about Christmas arriving with Felicity still sick . . .
kissed her baby on the cheek, then rose and carried her back to the
crib. Last week, when General George Washington sent orders that Ben
was to sail south before the weekend, Rebecca had moved the crib into
the cozy spare room. Ben couldn’t afford to get sick. A fire burned
in the hearth of the room that would one day be Felicity’s, and any
sisters she might have. Rebecca positioned her in the crib nearer the
gingerly lowered Felicity to the bed, which Ben had lined with
sailcloth to protect the mattress during the cooling sessions. If
only her baby girl would stir, resisting the separation from her
mama. She didn’t. Her fourteen-month-old body didn’t react. Not
so much as one finger reached out.
sob built in Rebecca’s throat. She fought against the sadness and
fear. She would cry later, after Felicity was better, after this
nightmare was over.
to beat whatever ailed her daughter, Rebecca dunked a sheet into the
cold water, and then covered Felicity. The goal was to bring her
fever down and keep it down. She had halved two large onions and put
them on rags around the crib. Whether it was an old wives’ tale or
not, many women swore by sliced onions for guarding against germs.
Rebecca would do all she could. She couldn’t fail Felicity. Nothing
glanced out the window. The diminishing light of the setting sun
signified the dark days of winter and gave Rebecca an uncomfortable
twist in her stomach. She moved across the small room and lit the oil
lamp. She needed light—and hope.
in the rocking chair next to Felicity’s crib, Rebecca began singing
the nursery rhymes of her childhood. The songs filled her with sweet
memories of her mother and grandmother. She willed Felicity to hear
her. How she longed to see her daughter rock from side to side,
smiling as her mama sang to her.
Ben burst through the door. “I need to see Felicity.”
Rebecca jumped to her feet. “What’s wrong?”
me examine Felicity first, then I shall explain.”
husband, Captain Benjamin Reed, was a kind and loving man, and also a
man of detail. He ran a tight ship, missed little, and had earned the
respect of his crew and fellow patriots. Feeling their daughter’s
forehead, opening her mouth and examining her lips, Ben shook his
new grip of fear crushed Rebecca’s heart. “What is it?”
love, I believe our daughter has smallpox.”
Rebecca wobbled, her body folding in on itself as the news delivered
a brutal blow to her mind and body. Smallpox . . .
dreaded disease that claimed thousands of victims over the last year,
the scourge that Rebecca had taken such care to protect her daughter
from—how could it have happened? It wasn’t possible for her to be
sick. It just couldn’t be!
do you know? How can you be so sure?”
drew a cloth from the bucket of ice water near the crib and laid it
on Felicity’s head. “I sent notice to the crew that we were to
sail to Delaware Bay to bring supplies to our troops who would winter
at Valley Forge. A messenger arrived at the docks an hour ago with a
note from William’s father. Upon discovering I was not present, the
stable lad gave the note to Jonah, who arrived moments hence with the
missive. William is covered in pox, severely ill, and in isolation.”
gasped. Ben’s first mate, William Barton, was such a strong, rugged
young man, she couldn’t imagine him sick. Felicity had looked so
small in his arms the last time he visited—
was here two weeks ago. He played with Felicity. He—” Rebecca
couldn’t finish her sentence, couldn’t say aloud what her mind
did not want to hear.
my love. It seems that the day after he returned from our meeting,
William broke out in the rash. I remember how tired he looked, but I
made no inquiry as to his health. William has never been one to
complain. He made no mention of a fever or feeling ill.”
shuddered. William was the Barton’s only son, the oldest of five
children. “Is Jonah downstairs? I want to write Mrs. Barton a
shook his head. “I sent my brother on his way immediately, telling
him that our darling Felicity had been ill and that I now feared she
could have smallpox.”
a finger along Felicity’s forehead, Rebecca felt for any sign of
the telltale bumps. Nothing. Maybe it was simply the flu. The flu was
bad enough, but nothing compared to smallpox. There was hope. “Is
anyone else sick?”
Ben kissed Rebecca’s cheek, and then gently pried open Felicity’s
lips to check her gums more thoroughly. No spots. Easing a finger
between her gums, Ben opened Felicity’s mouth. No spots.
Rebecca said, the relief
cupped her chin and looked into Rebecca’s eyes. “I do not wish to
give you false hope, Becca. We must be prepared for the worst. In the
coming days, the course of the disease will reveal itself. Or it will
if Ben was right? What if William died? What if that dreaded disease
had its grip on her daughter?
wrapped his strong arms around them, and began to pray. Rebecca
buried her face in the crux of Felicity’s neck and listened to her
husband call upon the Lord.
the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who
forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; Who
redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with
lovingkindness and tender mercies . . .”
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Lisa runs as an ambassador for TEAM 413
(www.team413.org), and has completed a marathon (26.2 miles) in all
Lisa’s stories are set on the
Vineyard amidst the magnificence of the ocean, the beauty of sandy
beaches, rolling hills, and ancient cliffs, as well as the people and
events that make the Island so very unique.
When she’s not at her desk, Lisa is
living in paradise, volunteering at her daughter’s school, serving
in her church community, planting and weeding her numerous gardens,
training to run the Walt Disney World Dopey Challenge in January
2016, walking the beach looking for sea glass, or enjoying a great
meal while she pens the cuisine column for Vineyard Style Magazine.