Pt. I: Jack Webley
April 17th, 1800, in the backends of the quiet English countryside, Jack Webley was born. A remarkably small child, though one very much larger than life. The young fledgling aimlessly roamed the backends of woods, meadows and hills, quenching his endless curiosity. By day he disturbed birds, badgers and beavers. By night, his parents, Popsy and Harold.
He endlessly babbled on about his exploits, which commonly fell on deaf ears, however, if the story managed to grab their attention it would usually be met with stern words or a slap on the wrist. Depending on the severity of the juvenile's crime, Harold would mutter 'stupid boy', or a phrase of a similar nature. Jack never put his finger on which of the responses were most to his taste.
On this occasion he'd come across some seemingly sumptuous red berries in the woods which looked too good to not try, alas, his expectation failed to meet reality as they tasted foul.
His anecdote was met with silence, until from behind his book his father snidely remarked ‘probably the Fox’.
His parents were hard workers, making ends meet on their quaint farm was difficult, though locals tended to refer to the abode as a dim, dingy shed.
On the odd occasion Popsy’s brother, Uncle James would visit, returning from his voyages overseas as a merchant trader.
‘My dear, I’ve no clue why you endlessly chunter on about the state of your farm, life is pure and simple here’.
Suspiciously, James always made a remarkably swift exit when the cows and sheep needed tending to around dusk. Jack was both blissfully unaware and unconcerned with such struggles, consistently occupied with figments of his imagination which were after all, far more important to indulge than the monotonies of life, in young Jack’s mind at least.
By 15 he had grown into tall stick of a boy. Mousey brown hair and dark eyes, he'd come to possess the demeanour accustomed from a childhood of dejection.
Far easier was it to crush young Jack’s spirit, one which had no place in a small village after all. He had come to not care for people much, malevolent intent had got the best of the young boy a number of times. His solitude an excuse to indulge his own imagination, still, the dreamer ardently burned within him.
The world had more to offer him than his own vivid imagination could ever construct.
Pt. II The Countess
The rare trip down to Uncle James’s at Birling Gap always filled him with anticipation, a world of unexplored opportunity lay waiting to be seized.
‘New tastes, new smells, new things to see’ he boasted to his parents, who for the life of them couldn’t work out why the boy was so keen to spend time with his Uncle.
‘Listen here boy, there's to be no nonsense today, no wandering. Sit down, be quiet and behave.'
Jack had picked up the habit of not listening from his parents and cried out ‘That boat! I’ve never seen anything like it!’.
The Countess was marvellously etched into the back of the clipper. She skimmed the water, effortlessly glazing over the ocean, waves bowing, enamoured by her presence.
‘I wonder who’s it is?’ Jack asked inquisitively.
‘Not our business, and what did I just say, no more of this daydreaming nonsense’ declared Harold.
As they drew up to James’ house the Countess bowed out of sight to Jack’s great sadness.
Jack was seldom exposed to topics of conversation outside of farm life.
His uncle bought him the escape his mind craved, regaling tales of his explorations, the Napoleonic War’s from which James had recently returned following conscription.
‘You’ve no doubt heard about Bonaparte, Harold. Awful man. Fell short of world domination for a second time’ James said, revelling in his wit.
‘I’ve no interest in these affairs, James.'
Falling short was a penchant Harold and Napoleon had a mutual knack for.
Outside, a carriage came to a screeching halt.
‘I wasn’t expecting company this evening', James muttered with confusion as he stood.
‘Forgive us dear fellow, I don’t mean to intrude’ the gentleman said softly as James opened the door.
‘Laurus!’ James crowed with an incredulous smile.
He was a seasoned man between 40 and 45. Tall, well built, charming with an enigmatic air about him. English but not English. Noble yet humble.
‘It’s been to long dear fellow’ said Laurus, greeting James fondly.
‘How were your travels on the Countess’ probed James.
‘Magnificent James, at times I missed England, but you of all people know the wonders the orient has to offer’ said Laurus.
At the mention of the Countess, Jack snapped to attention. This was the owner of that vessel he'd taken such a keen interest in. His eyes were fixed on Laurus, the man's presence was magnetic.
‘I have something for you dear friend, spices from our travels, the French were on our tail for weeks! The only thing I’ve been able to smell is Gunpowder’ Laurus exclaimed, brandishing a beautifully enamelled golden box.
Neither Gunpowder nor spices were smells Jack had any comprehension of, his curiosity was growing as each second passed.