As the sun began to wane and the evening set in, Laurus and Jack began stacking logs for the fire.
‘Tell me about yourself Jack, I have to say you seem like a curious young fellow. Something we share, excluding the youthfulness of course.’
‘Well, there’s not much to tell I suppose, I’ve never left this island, I had no idea what a spice was before today and I certainly haven’t been on a boat as beautiful as yours, nor do I ever expect to!’
Laurus chucked ‘Well for all these things you lack you clearly don’t lack a sense of wit or humour which already makes you more interesting than a great number of people I’ve met, in both work and pleasure. Never lose that Jack.’
For Jack, today had been a complete anomaly - a stranger complementing him. Not just a stranger, but perhaps one of the most interesting men he he’d come across in his life.
‘Well, that’s very kind of you but I’m not sure I could agree with you, I have no friends, my family’s the laughingstock of the village – a village which I’ll probably be stuck in for the rest of my life.’ Jack rambled with frustration.
‘And why is that? If you feel stuck somewhere, change that, what is it you want?’
‘Easier said than done, I have to help my parents on the farm, they are getting old. I can’t just leave.’
‘Well, that may be true for the meantime, but for now, myself and Mirabelle have returned why don’t you come and learn how to crew on the Countess? Say every few weekends? She’s moored not far from here.’
Jack’s heart and head raced at the prospect. 16 years of yearning for a glimpse of the wider world was over.
Not three seconds later Harold, who, as usual had been in earshot of the conversation, waiting for the opportune moment to strike Webley’s budding sense of optimism.
‘And how exactly do you expect to get yourself down here’ he enquired.
‘I’m afraid your father’s right Jack, we have neither the money, nor the means to do that, you know that.’ Popsy concurred.
As quickly as Webley’s hopes had risen, they’d fallen. The hope of escape that he’d so fiercely clung to seeming impossible.
‘If I may be so bold Mr and Mrs Webley, we could send our coachmen to pick him up? It’s really no problem for us and would only be beneficial for Jack.’
‘I have to warn you he’s a useless worker, caused us nothing but trouble over the years’ Harold retorted.
‘Then it’s incredibly fortunate this would be for learning, and hopefully enjoyment rather than work’ Laurus replied, shooting a wink at Jack.
‘Laurus darling, how long does it take you two to set a fire, we could have damn well been across the channel by now’ said Mirabelle.
‘Yes, best get a move on you two or we’ll be here all night’ Popsy concurred.
‘Well, I’d best get a move on then’ said Laurus.
Laurus began striking the flint and steel before eventually the sparks caught and flames slowly began enveloping the logs.
‘Now then, to business!’ exclaimed Laurus with a smile rubbing his hands together.
‘I have to tell you all, this is something special. Forget your boiled salted beef and your pea soups’ James jested to the Webley’s.
‘I really mean it though, these are spices that few in this country will have ever tried, they may never get to try them, so please… try and enjoy it’.
James may have seemingly directed this to the whole family; however, it was almost certainly aimed at Harold.
‘We’re going to have to cook something alongside the chicken, I don’t think it’s going to be enough for us all’ said James.
‘I agree, have you any potatoes to hand?’ said Laurus.
‘I have a whole stack in the pantry I’ll go and get 4 or 5?’
Ten minutes later James and Laurus had the potato’s peeled and cut into cubes and the chicken chopped into bite size pieces, with a various assortment of other vegetables from James’s vegetable patch. The water had begun to roll and steam. In went chicken.
‘Now this is where the magic happens’ smiled Laurus.
He bought the golden chest to the crackling hearth.
‘Let me take you through what we have here one by one. Cumin, you’ve all already tried, these round seeds are Coriander seeds, both these are going in with the potatoes. The two balance each other out particularly well you see, whilst the cumin seeds have a very strong flavouring the Coriander seeds will temper this flavour, so our food doesn’t just taste of Cumin! We’ve also got what people in India like to call Curry Powder here, if you really want a flavour of what’s out there, this is as close as you’ll get without seeing it’ he said pointing to a deep yellow powder.
‘What is it that makes it such a beautiful colour?’ Webley enquired.
‘It is rather wonderful, very proudly yellow isn’t it. That would be from what’s called Turmeric. They use it so liberally in India’.
Pure anticipation was racing through Webley’s mind. Not only had he been given the opportunity to learn how to crew the Countess and was now moments away from quenching his curiosity. Jack Webley had never felt more liberated from the small village of constraint he’d spent the last 16 years of his life in.
An hour later and incredible aromas had filled the house, the stage was set. Conversation was non-existent, everyone’s minds were fixed upon the bubbling pot of gold, the fixation only broken now the food was ready. The food was served, the table was circled by a shiver of sharks.
‘If everyone would like to sit down, the food won’t eat itself you know’ Laurus joked.
They sat. The food seemed so alien, yet the feeling of curiosity was so familiar, and more emboldened than ever. He drew the food to his mouth. Immediate warmth flooded his mouth. This meal was vastly different from what the somewhat questionable broth’s Popsy cooked.
There was absolute quiet around the table. A quiet that Jack wasn’t used to. Everyone around the table was happy and content, even his parents.