Today's Reading

(The copy in this email is used by permission, from an uncorrected advanced proof. In quoting from this book for reviews or any other purpose, it is essential that the final printed book be referred to, since the author may make changes on these proofs before the book goes to press. This book will be available in bookstores April 2019.)


Report from Africa

The 'HMS Albert', steam-sloop, Captain Griffith Davies, captured a valuable slaver, based in Brazil, off the coast of Monrovia on February 17 of this year. The slaver attempted to evade its captors through nefarious deception, but the brave and courageous sailors aboard the man-of-war noticed the ship's suspicious activity and boarded after exchanging a volley of shots. None of the British crew was wounded, although two of the slaver's sailors were slightly wounded. Captain Davies and his crew liberated the men on board and brought the ship's captain and crew to the Brazilian authorities in Monrovia for judgment. It remains to be seen if the British authorities will reprimand Captain Davies as he did not follow proper procedure.

April 4, 1851
London, The Mermaid's Arms, a not-so-respectable pub on the dock serving mediocre porter.

"I think we should get some more ale," Griffith said to his first mate, Clark, as he downed the rest of his drink. "That's proper procedure," he snorted ruefully.

Proper procedure in this pub meant that he would get more beer. But proper procedure, at least according to Her Majesty's government, meant that innocent people would likely die, caught in the conflict between nations. Proper procedure meant that women and children would live in a ship's hold for months, with meager provisions and unsanitary living circumstances.

So he'd acted improperly, according to the naval authorities. It smarted, being told he'd done wrong. But he had acted entirely properly when it came to Griffith's own law, which demanded that people be free to live as they wish, not kept in captivity.

It was one of the many reasons, and the most altruistic, that he'd run off to sea when he was sixteen—he'd seen the inequity of his family's situation, that they were blessed with wealth and land and power, and the families that worked for them were entirely dependent on their largesse. He would not stand by and benefit merely because of the lucky circumstance of his birth. Especially if he could do something about other people's unlucky circumstances. That he would eventually have to claim his duties because of his lineage was a truth he refused to acknowledge.

Also there was the fact that he and his parents had not agreed on anything.

They wanted him to follow in the footsteps of all the Davies sons before him, which meant getting the best education and then forgetting entirely about it since it wasn't seemly to appear too intelligent.

Not that Griffith believed himself to be too intelligent—school had been difficult for him. He wanted to be outside all the time, moving his body rather than sitting in a wooden chair for hours.

Although after several months at sea, this chair in the pub felt quite comfortable.

"Clark?" he said again. "Another drink?"

Clark did not answer. Likely because Clark had already had enough and was currently sleeping on the table.

"More!" Griffith called as he downed the rest of his drink. One of the barmaids nodded.

"Excellent service, don't you think?" Griffith asked Clark. "Very proper procedure," he couldn't help but add in a low aside.

Clark snored softly in reply. Not even appreciating Griffith's wit.

Griffith shrugged, adjusting Clark's head so he was lying more comfortably. That was one of the secrets behind being a well-respected captain: making certain your crew was taken care of.

He'd taken such good care of Clark that his mate was getting some well-deserved rest. Albeit in a pub, his nose pressed against a wooden table.

He didn't see the point of being sober either if he was on land, but unfortunately it took a lot for him to get drunk, since he was so large—he towered over everyone on his crew and couldn't get comfortable below deck. His jackets always felt a bit snug too, since it seemed tailors did not actually believe that a person's shoulders could be as wide as Griffith's.

The curse of the Davies family.

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