1DINNER GUESTSIn which I am kidnapped by pirates Wednesday, August 18, 1819
This body is not brave. Bespeckled with blood, surrounded by enemies, and bound on a dark course whose ultimate destination I cannot fathom—I am not brave.
The nub of a candle casts quaking light on my damp chamber. I have been afforded a quill and a logbook only after insisting that measurement and notation are crucial to the task before me.
I have no intention of cooperating for long; indeed, I hope to have a plan of escape soon. Meanwhile, I am taking refuge in these blank pages, to make note of my captors’ physiognomy and to list their atrocities that they might be brought properly to justice, but most of all to clear my head, for it is by God’s mercy alone that I have not been driven mad by what I have seen and endured.
Sleep is impossible; the swells churn my stomach, and my heart scrambles to free itself from my throat. My anxiety provokes a terrible need to relieve myself, but my chamber pot threatens to spill with every lurch of this damned craft. I use a soiled towel for my ablutions, the very towel that was on my person when I was cruelly kidnapped just days ago.
To see my employer, as true and honest a gentleman as England ever sired, so brutally murdered, without the opportunity to defend himself, by the very criminals he had striven so ardently to rid the world of, was a shock I can hardly bear. Even now my hand, which can lift a cauldron with ease, trembles at the memory.
But I must record while my recollections are fresh, for I cannot be sure that any of the other witnesses were spared. My own survival is due not to mercy but to the twisted whimsy of the beast they call Captain Mabbot.
It transpired thus.
I had accompanied Lord Ramsey, God rest his soul, to Eastbourne, the quaint seaside summer home of his friend and colleague Mr. Percy. There we rendezvoused with Lord Maraday, Mr. Kindell, and their wives. It was not a trivial trip, as the four men represented the most influential interests in the Pendleton Trading Company.
I had been in his lordship’s employ for eight years, and it was his habit to bring me along on journeys, saying, as he did, “Why should I suffer the indignities of baser victuals in my autumn years when I have you?” Indeed, it had been my honor to meet and cook for gentlemen and ladies of the highest stature, and to have seen the finest estates of the countryside. My reputation grew in his service, and I have been toasted by generals and duchesses throughout England. Happily for me, his lordship rarely went overseas, and even on those occasions he left me in London, respecting my considerable aversion to the rolling of ships.
This particular trip had me at my most vigilant, not only due to the prominence of the guests but because the Percy seat was reportedly rustic, of unknown appointment, and sporting a historic oven without proper bellows or ventilation. Try as I did, I could not acquire reliable information as to the status of the pantry prior to arrival. For this reason I provisioned myself with a menagerie of ducks, quail, and a small but vociferous lamb, as well as boxed herbs and spices, columns of cheeses, and my best whisks and knives. Lord Ramsey teased that I had packed the entire kitchen. But I could see in his face satisfaction at my diligence. His faith in me was a poultice for my nerves. As usual, I had worried myself sleepless over the event. The modest size of the house prevented me from bringing my able assistants—a stroke of luck for them,
“You’ll savor every bite.”—Petra Mayer, NPR
“A great beach read that doesn’t sacrifice beautiful writing...Oh, Hannah! What a character she is—sexy, hilarious, tough, and with such heart.”—Julie Powell, author of Julie and Julia
“Original and exquisite...Salty, smart, and sensuous. Eli Brown unfurls a pirate story that’s also an eloquent disquisition on human appetite and the mysteries of taste.”—Carolyn Cooke, author of Daughters of the Revolution
“A swashbuckler of a cookbook, and a romance, too.”—BonAppétit.com
Praise for The Great Days:
“Accomplished and enormously powerful.”—The Philadelphia Inquirer
“With lyrical, confident prose, Brown makes August’s dark journey a harrowing, convincing look into the heart of cult life that should linger with readers.”—Publishers Weekly