FICTION

A Straw Mattress in Madison

A baby to hold and love

Anthony (Tony/Pcunix) Lawrence
5 min readMar 3, 2022

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Photo Ad Meskens of painting by Newbold Hough Trotter (1827–1898)/Public domain)

Chapter two of the life of Anna Raymond Beardsley.

The bed was not fine, the room quite small, and it was not a hotel. The birthing was attended to by the widow who rented her rooms to Westward travelers, and the birth struggles were already fading from Charlotte’s mind. All considered, when compared to the thought of it happening in the wagon, this room was a palace and the bed could be that of a princess.

The last few miles to Madison had been easy, the weather fair, and Charlotte was in good spirits. Mr. Beardsley, however, seemed more anxious by the hour, and less interested in talking with his wife. His words, what few he spoke, were short and gruff, his eyes seemed to avoid hers. That he was desirous of being in California was well known to Charlotte, but they had a child now, a child he had barely acknowledged. Did that not matter to him?

Charlotte had named the child Anna Raymond, Raymond after her father, Henry Raymond, and Anna after her brother’s wife. Mr. Beardsley had shrugged his shoulders when Charlotte told him; the child was not a boy, he had no care for its name. He seemed even more distracted, almost distant, she thought. Surely he had so much on his mind, his business, the inevitable delay caused by the baby. But he must have woven all that into his plans; given her state when they embarked, there was no possibility of getting beyond Madison without this birth. And, she reminded herself, he had said that he hoped to reach Madison so she could birth in more comfort. So why did he avoid her gaze now, why did he pace the corridor outside her room?

Tiny Anna snuffled at Charlotte’s breast as she patted the babe’s back gently. Such a beautiful child, her eyes so trusting. When Charlotte looked into those eyes, she felt a connection unlike any she had encountered with any other person. She stroked Anna’s soft cheek. “I love you so”, she whispered softly, “I love you, Anna.”

Her namesake would be so excited to hear the news. Charlotte admired her sister-in-law Anna greatly: she was a brilliant woman who helped her brother with his notes and correspondence, often writing letters for him. She and Theodore were presently in Washington, preparing to deliver to…

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Anthony (Tony/Pcunix) Lawrence

Retired Unix Consultant. I write tech and humor mostly but sometimes other things. see my Lists if your interests are specific.