Then it was February and Midway Island, Sir Edmund Roberts, the inveterate adventurer and Sea Maiden questor, spying at last his gooney birds; the world’s most accomplished fliers. They were, however, less adapt at rejoining terra firma. Again and again naturalist and crew laughed heartily when the big birds drifted to land, lowered their webbed feet and then tumbled topsail over copper.
And later there was a Sea Maiden, she with her child and it at her breast. Captain Constance Daphne Fitzwillie, Gnarly Dan and Sir Edmund were in Halley’s patented diving apparatus at the time, they enjoying a quiet afternoon and discussing repairs to the good old Baci. Gnarly Dan was the first to spy the Sea Maiden. “Warn’t that the most sweetest thing,” he whispered as he pointed out the pair to the others. The creatures drifted by, the mother cradling her baby and looking off, the most serene look on her face. The baby suckled, the picture of contentment, finally nestling closer and apparently falling asleep. Constance Daphne became wistful, a tiny smile and a teary look accompanying her as she brought her arms to her chest and rocked slowly from side to side as if holding a child of her own.
Gnarly Dan was also moved. “There ain’t no denyin’ the beauty of a cannon or a well-found ship, but yer sea mum an’ child…that’d be about the best they is.” Captain Constance Daphne turned away momentarily, dabbed at her eyes and then looked long and hard at Sir Edmund. He was watching the mother and child intently and when he finally looked back to Constance Daphne it was as if he were imagining a different scene. He thought a moment and then said, “While I’m an older gentleman, as you are well aware, we shall eventually return to England. There are only about thirty extra rooms in our ancestral home; I dare say at least one could be made into a proper nursery.”
Later they sat quietly on the beach until the sun set, Captain Constance Daphne leaning heavily onto Sir Edmund; Gnarly Dan a little in front of the two muttering without end about Sea Babies, babies proper, nursing mothers, sugar treats and assorted other bits of conventional wisdom. So perfect was the evening that at one point the naturalist entertained the thought of inviting the old salt to visit them once ashore for good. He actually even toyed with offering employment. Years in the future he would look back on that day and evening as one of the finest in his life.
His journal reads:
Most content of afternoons. Whilst in the company of my recent bride, the beautiful Constance Daphne, we spied a Sea Maiden mother with child. Endearing spectacle. Pleased to have viewed it in the presence of the captain.
Maidenus leche “Jane” Healthy mother. Long hair, still without color. Medium build.
Infantus contentus, Healthy child. A bit pudgy. Sighted off midway island
February 15, 1835