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.'
'Well, there’s not much to tell, I’ve never left England and had no idea what a spice was before today. I spend nearly all of my time farming and working at home.'
'But what about yourself? These are not the mark of who you are and what you stand for, this is what you were born into.'
Jack pondered the question for a moment. He'd never asked himself, or been asked such a question. Whilst working, he'd entertain fantasies about a life that in reality he knew he would never have.
'I don't know' he concluded.
'It's a difficult question, and one that many never ask themselves. I can't give you any clues to the answer unfortunately, you have to discover that for yourself. Now myself and Mirabelle have returned for a while, why don’t you come and learn how to crew on the Countess, our ship? Say every few weekends? She’s moored not far from here.'
Not three seconds later Harold, who had been in earshot of the conversation enquired exactly how the young lad was going to get down to the coast without their help.
'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 his hopes had risen, they'd been dashed.
'We could send our coachmen to pick him up?'
'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 hopefully be for 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' interrupted Mirabelle.
'Well, we'd best get a move on. But how about it Jack?'
He was slightly lost for words - never in his life had he been given an opportunity so readily. He hastily agreed, as did his parents after making sure he understood he'd have to work more in the weekdays to makeup for his time away.
Laurus began striking the flint and steel before eventually the sparks caught and flames multiplied, licking any wood that hadn't; caught until all the logs were enveloped in flame.
'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 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, and may never get to try, so enjoy them.'
James directed this to the whole family; however, it was almost certainly aimed at Harold, who aired on the side of apprehension on anything he hadn't tried before.
'We’re going to have to cook something alongside the chicken, I don’t think it’s going to be enough all of us.'
'I agree, have you any potatoes to hand?' said Laurus.
'I have a whole stack in the pantry.'
Ten minutes later James and Laurus had the potato’s peeled and cut into cubes and the chicken dismembered and chopped with a various assortment of other vegetables from James’s vegetable patch. The water had begun to roll. In went chicken.
'Now this is where the magic happens' smiled Laurus.
He bought the 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 once we've ground them to a powder. 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. We’ve also got this fantastic blend our friend makes.'
'What is it gives it such a beautiful colour?' Jack enquired.
'It is rather wonderful, very proudly yellow isn’t it. That would be from Turmeric. They use it liberally in India.'
Anticipation had been racing through Jack's mind for a good while. Not only had he been given the opportunity to crew the Countess but was now moments away from flavours that would give him a glimpse into what the wider world had to offer.
An hour later and the stage was set. Conversation was non-existent, everyone’s minds were fixed upon the bubbling pot of gold, it were as if Laurus and James had performed some sort of alchemical miracle.
They sat. The food looked and smelt so alien, which only enhanced Jack's curiosity. He drew the food to his mouth. Immediate warmth flooded his mouth. This meal was vastly different to the questionable broth’s of his mothers.
There was absolute quiet around the table. A quiet that Jack wasn’t used to. Everyone around the table was happy and content, even Harold who always had something negative to say.