The Tales of Jack Webley Pt. III - Gunpowder and Spices

Pt III: Gunpowder and Spices

 Gunpowder Spices -Laurus's golden spice chest

“Thank you, my friend, please do come in… Ah how could I have been so absorbed! Please forgive me Mirabelle!” said James as he beaconed Laurus in, he greeted the woman with a warm embrace.

Floating in Mirabelle instantly lit up the room. A true beauty, her midnight black hair lightly caressed her shoulders, framing a delicate pale, kind face. Harold was usually remarkably good at taking no interest in his surroundings, he took exception to Mirabelle.

Webley was caught in a tempest of senses, his heart pounded like persistent wash of waves battering a cliff, sweat slowly seeped down his back, chest and forehead, his temperature rising to a swift boil.

“Jack I’d like you to meet Mirabelle’ said James, abruptly.

“Lovely to meet you” he jittered.

“The pleasure is mine, are you certain it’s mutual, you seem terrified!” She sympathetically jested, evidently being all too familiar with the feeling.

Her tranquil voice and mannerisms bought him momentary calm, passing him through the eye of the storm.

Regaining his sense, Webley’s inquisitive side compensated for his lack of charm.

“How do you know Uncle James?”

“James? Laurus, my husband over there and James go years back, ever since I’ve known Laurus, James has been around, rather like a barnacle to a boat aren’t you James!”

“It seems neither you nor your husband’s brilliant sense of wit got lost at sea, dear Mirabelle” James jived.

“I’m terribly insulted you’d suspect such a thing to ever happen, God forbid it” she retorted.

“God forbit it” he agreed, and so concluded the joust of wits.

“Laurus and I used to work together you see, we used to sail together as Merchant’s trading” said James.

“Where abouts were you trading” enquired Webley,

“All over, at times we’d be on the North Coast of Morocco, other’s around India, incredibly beautiful lands Jack” he reminisced.

Laurus had swanned over to join James and Jack, Mirabelle had slipped off to entertain Harold and Popsy.

“Banging on about old times are we squire; you’ll have to pardon him” he said.

India and Morocco seldom came up in conversation in the Webley family, cows and sheep being far more interesting to Harold and Popsy.

“What are they like?” asked Webley.

“They are all so different, that’s what makes them so beautiful” replied James.

“The smells, colours and people that fill the Moroccan Souks and Turkish Bazaars are truly a marvel, overwhelming, chaotic and confusing at the same time, nonetheless this only adds to their beauty.” Laurus reminisced with a grin on his face.

“A sailor and now a poet I see” James laughed.

“Incredible what the sea and a woman can do to a man James”

“The sea and a woman, or that leaf you smoke in the Turkish bazaars?” James enquired.

“All three!” Laurus cackled

“Which reminds me, I bought you some spices back, they’re in that chest we bought”

Webley's beautiful spices (red chilli's)

Jack couldn’t recall the last time he’d been so interested in a conversation, what were bazaars and what on earth were spices? These were questions that needed answering, his curiosity now reaching a boiling point.

“What are spices”?

“I’ll show you, gentlemen if you’d be so kind and follow me” Laurus beckoned Webley and his Uncle.

Laurus picked up the golden chest and laid it gently on the table before clicking it open. The room brightened as Laurus lifted the lid, smells filled the air it was quite unlike anything Jack had smelt before. James took a deep breath of the air and slowly exhaled, a smile gently spreading over his face.

The room had awoken.

Harold, Popsy, James, Mirabelle, Laurus and Jack were stood around the table as one, like bees to honey.

“What say we give your folks a taste of the orient James, Mirabelle and I are in a need of something warming, and I know one of your god-awful stews aren’t up to the job”. Laurus chuckled.

“I have a chicken hanging I was planning to use this evening, any bright ideas?”

Webley hadn’t been listening to a word anyone was saying, his gaze fixed on the contents of the box. How could seeds like this produce such strong smells and how were these powders so colourful?

“Beautiful, aren’t they? My reaction was much the same the first time I saw them” said Mirabelle.

Jack turned to Mirabelle “what are they?”

“Well, they are spices, but there are hundreds of different kinds, this is what Laurus and James have spent most of their lives trading. The flavours are unlike anything you will have tried in your life Jack. Take these cumin seeds for example” Mirabelle gestured towards a stack of earthy brown seeds.

“Amazing things, they are quite extraordinary, warm and very comforting”.

She pinched a few seeds and passed them into Jack’s palm.

“Have a taste! You won’t taste much just holding them!” she laughed.

His stomach was churning with excitement, he’d returned to his childhood. The young boy whose imagination ran freely. The only difference now being he was in the company of others. James, Laurus and Mirabelle, who seemed to share his lust for life, and his parents. Jack had never shared a moment like this with his parents, let alone anybody else. The seed flew into his mouth. What came next was joy. Warmth. Comfort. Earth. Flavours and feelings were dancing over his tongue. This is what the world had to offer way from the farm, outside of England, over the seas.

“That was beautiful, I’ve never tasted anything so full of life, you have to try it!” Jack exclaimed to Harold and Popsy.

“I don’t have to do anything boy” growled Harold.

“Please just try them” he pleaded.

Mirabelle had a small handful and gave a pinch to everyone. Harold who had so easily refused Jack, found it impossible to refuse this time around.

Jack examined the other contents of the box. Scarlet red, mustard yellow, earthy brown. It was a feast for the eyes. A scarlet shrivelled fruit of some sort grabbed his attention. He picked one up and casually popped it in his mouth.

BANG. Flavours exploded in Jack’s mouth. This was a different beast from the cumin seeds. Sweat started pouring down his forehead. His cheeks flushed with fire and his mouth filled with embers. Laurus had caught sight of Jack reaching for the box and watched with amusement.

“That would be a chilli, Master Webley! Pack a rather strong punch don’t they, I remember the first time I had one feeling like my mouth had been filled with gunpowder and someone had just set a fuse off in my mouth. I would have stopped you, however I see you are a curious fellow, and I couldn’t deprive one of such an experience” he chortled.

“Time for a spot of food, wouldn’t you agree Laurus? What say we russle up one of our curries?” said James.

“A fine idea old boy it’s been far too long!” Laurus replied.

Pt IV. Arrives 10/01/21

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