Chapter 27: Hugh MacAdam

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The MacAdam children turned out to be the best pupils Charlotte could have hoped for. They were full of curiosity about the human cargo of the ship; where they were going;  and what they might expect in the new colony.  In all their questions, Charlotte found hooks upon which to hinge lessons about history, science, human biology and the environment, geography and of course law and politics. Strange to Charlotte that she should find herself in the very occupation that as a child, she had always hoped and dreamed of for herself.  She could never have expected to land such a position had she remained in England. Indeed, she had tried with everything she had when her sister, Phoebe, had taken sick. Hoping that her father's excellent reputation as a respected and noted teacher might give her an advantage despite her sex and youth, she had been laughed at at each of the noble houses she had visited for employ. Even at Lamerton, Mrs Brand had predicted that there were only three possible outcomes for a girl like Charlotte – the workhouse, the whorehouse or domestic service – and she had no use of another maid! That was before Father Simmons had taken Charlotte under his wing and near enough, bullied Mrs Brand into giving her a position.

At 15 years of age, Hugh was the eldest of her charges. To be honest, he was all but a young man, still sweet and docile like a boy, but very aware that there were cabin boys serving the fleet his own age. He was a bonnie lad – tall, with fair flowing hair that his mother kept long in the fashion of the British gentry of the day. Those eyes of his however – larger eyes she had never seen on a man before, blue as the Artic ocean and lashes so long, they put his younger sisters to shame.

Anne and Elizabeth were as unalike as two siblings could possibly be. Anne was strong willed and vivacious like her mother; but Elizabeth was shy, quiet, but all seeing and knowing. Charlotte would find her under a chair reading or just, watching, long after the other children had left the room and Charlotte had thought herself quite alone. But there she would turn up. Lizzie, as the young girl was called was quite enamoured of her governess. She seemed to find Charlotte's lowly convict status no barrier at all to giving her all her affection.

Alex and Dickie were incorrigible pranksters. At 5 years however, Charlotte was only too aware how confining the whole experience of being at sea on a small ship must be to them. She tried to find as many learning experiences as possible in the outdoors for them as a balance against the finer skills of properly holding pen and writing their names.

Charlotte marvelled at the fact that each of the MacAdam children had been so endowed by the Creator with good looks, remarkable intelligence and pleasing dispositions. It was as if this family had been specially plucked by God to be blessed and possessed with all possible gifts. Of all of them however, Hugh was the favourite – certainly with his parents, but more disturbingly from Charlotte's perspective, with Pamela, the maid. Pamela would mollycoddle the poor boy – fluttering around him like a bird sensitive to his every wish; even annoyingly so. She would stroke his hair while the children ate their morning tea together in the salon when the heat was too high on deck.

Charlotte did not believe that such cloying attention could be good for the child. She found herself attempting to redress the scales somewhat by responding to one of the younger children's questions before his for example, or lavishing more praise on one of the younger children's work than she might otherwise. It troubled Charlotte that she did this – as a teacher, it did not sit right with her. She realised she was attempting to treat the symptoms rather than the cause of the situation. And so she resolved to speak to Pamela about the situation when the proper time presented itself.

Pamela was not as old as her bossy demeanour might have otherwise implied. Try as Pamela might to laud seniority over her, Charlotte learned that Pamela was in fact, only two years older than herself. At 19 years of age, Pamela had spent her whole life in service to the MacAdam family, as Pamela's mother had before her. She was the only one of the servants that the MacAdam family had chosen to take with them on their new life to Terra Australis; for really, to whom else could Pamela go? Her mother had died young and the identity of her father was unknown. Secretly, Charlotte pitied Pamela; she reminded her so much of herself. Both of them had their fates determined by the decisions of others, with no thought to their welfare, but only how their lives could be useful to the prosperity of those in whose service they had been pressed by birth and circumstances.

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