Family Matters

B y

Carol Foss


They lay in a jumbled pile on the wooden floor. The old papers and artifacts had been discovered in an old box, hidden or misplaced, from an old walled up fireplace. Edith Nelson had only been trying to make some rennovations in the old mansion. It was full of the various nooks and crannys that each suceeding generation had built or torn down or blocked up, like the fireplace.....








Evangeline O’Hara Nelson


My dear child,

       Your life with Sheamus can’t be all that bad. I know I see him through a mother’s eyes, but filing for divorce is out of the quesiton. Have you no shame even thinking such a thing?

       I would think a descendant of a Revolutionary hero would have set herself higher standards, even if your forebear simply ran out to join the battle of Bunker’s Hill.

       You must remember that you owe your current station in life to your marriage. To our social status and to his wealth. Money, most of it, that he, God bless him, earned from his own initiative, sweat and tears in the treacherous China Sea. Think of the children, if nothing else.

       I know a mother’s love is blind, and it’s difficlut for me not to see the youngster Sheamus in my heart. The one with touseled hair, frecles, and a mischievious grin, sneaking into the pantry to swipe freshly baked cookies or to slide down the bannister or terrorize the servants.

       I know the adult has a reputation with the ladies, but dear, please, it’s a phase many husbands go through, even my own. Yes, he dallied too, but he always returned to me, and in time, forgot all about his mistresses.

       You call me a prude. I think you can see now that I am nothing of the kind. I’ve endured humiliation same as you. I’m simply asking you not to rush into anything so drastic. It would ruin you. And all sorts of things would be brought to light best left in the dark. You did almost run away with that scaleywag, what was his name, Lt. Crayne? Or was there more to the relationship? A divorce suit will make everyone wonder about your own indiescretions. Either way, you wouldn’t be recieved by anyone of note. And the children, poor babes, completely innocent, would be shunned and their futures destroyed. And we ourselves would be unable to recieve them as well. One must keep up appearances, even if it would break my heart.

       I implore you, I beg you. Make no demands on Sheamus for a divorce. The family can set you up someplace of your own if you can’t bear to live in the same house with him for the few months of the year when he’s not at sea.

       I am sending you an firescreen I stitched long long ago. Before Sheamus was even a year old. It was made with hopes of happiness and a long life for him.

       I hope as you look at it, you’ll remember the good things about him, when you still loved him like a knight in shining armour. That’s what you always said he was, remember my dear? I can’t believe you’ve come to hate him this much, unless there’s something you’re not telling me.


       I am, as always, your devoted mother in law,





Capt. Zebulon Lee Crayne

My dear,

I have to agree with your mother in law. You must to think of yourself and your children. It wouldn’t be right to deny them the opportunites they have only through the Nelsons. And I’d hate to think of you in dire circumstances.

I only wish I’d been more of a man and convinced you to elope with me in the first place. Just like we’d wanted to. But I was young and stupid and scared of loosing my commision, placing my own wants and needs ahead of yours, something I’ve spent my whole life bitterly regretting, letting you get pressured into marrying Nelson.

I will always be there for you, no matter what you decide.

Yours forever,



Dearest Zeb,


There will be no divorce. I’ll grit my teeth and bear being the wife of that bastard.


I know I can trust you to keep his dread secret, and I know I’ll take it to my grave. But it’s so hard. Everyone calling him a pillar of the community, all of that, when he knows what’s he’s doing is most foul.   If I had but known before I married him, the vows would never have taken place.


You’re the only other person who knows. If his mother found out frankly I doubt it would phase her, but my children would be horrified to learn their father is a slave trader.So many souls, so many ruined lives, all due to him.


I can only hope you may find consolation in that while I am married to Shaemus, I love only you.







“You knew?” Edith scolded her brother on the phone.

“I knew he was in the slave trade but...”

“And you never told me?”

“I only found out by accident, a while back. I thought it best not to bother you with it.”

“Harry, he was a..a...”

“I know, believe me, I know,”Nelson said with an  unseen grin of his own.

“When the DAR finds out about this...”

“I’m sure  a lot of other so called historical families have skeletons in the closet too, hon.”

“Well, maybe...”

“Look, Seaview will be in refit for the next few weeks. Why don’t I come down for a visit in the flying sub and give you a hand in the rebuilding. I’ll even bring Lee along, it would be a good excuse to get him away from the boat and he can visit his mother, she’s not too far away as the crow flies.”

“Speaking of Lee, ask him if he knows anything about a Zebulon Crayne.”

“Zebulon? And I thought ‘Harriman’ was bad.”

“I’ve never heard you complain about it. Anyway, they had weird names back then.”

“Who’s Zebulon Crane?”

“I’m not sure but I think he might have been Shaemus’s wife’s lover.”

Nelson snorted in derision, “Hon, she was so pure Nun’s looked up to her.”

“Well, I’m not so sure. Not now.”

“This should be a very interesting investigation. Okay, we’ll get there as soon as we finish some things here.”

“Okay, thanks Harry.”