‘For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.’ (Jeremiah 29:11)
Kings Town, St. Vincent, 1756
Llewellyn Ap Davies leaned back against a coconut palm, kicked off his boots, stuffed, and lit his clay pipe. He rubbed his back against the trunk and smiled into the sunlight. He ran his hand through the remnants of his copper hair. He couldn’t get a draw on the bit, bit down harder on the lip and bit his lip. ‘Fuck it.’ He spat bloody phlegm and knocked out the remnants against his left boot. He had taken them off. ‘Fuck it.’ He stuffed the bowl again, taking more care to tamp down the rough shag deep into the bowl. Llewellyn struck a match and relit it, this time drawing smoothly and deeply into the back of his throat and, inhaling again, fully down into his lungs. He blinked in the light, shading his eyes against the waxing sun. He exhaled. Llewellyn squinted through the pregnant, blooming trees, towards the white, square Palladian villa his father and uncles had built thirty years earlier. They were gone, recently, but the Davies’s of Pensarn, Carmarthenshire had a long way to go. Llewellyn would see to that. He sat further back against the tree; a sharp, welcomed breeze cut across his face and the lit tobacco sparked and spat as he double drew and exhaled. He had work to do. He put his boots back on, rose stiffly, and knocked out his pipe against his left boot – they would need mending soon. They would probably last the quarter. Amused, he walked back towards Tŷ Gwyn Mawr.
‘Good arfernoon, Mesta Loo,’ a man, naked but for a white cloth wrapped about his middle, eyes averted, stopped, and bowed before him. He stared at the ground around his feet, no toenails on either; calloused from front to back. He stooped always, but now, his back – striated and welted – neared the horizontal.
‘Stand up straight, Ben. I have told you before, stand up straight. And, it is Mister Llew. LLEW. Or Sir, Sir would do,’ Llewellyn said, standing taller and straighter, until he was a head above his temporary companion. ‘Say it again. Say it properly.’
‘Yes sir. Yes, Mesta Loo, sir. I try better. Thank you Mesta Loo, sir,’ Ben tried to straighten again and gave his owner a lukewarm salute and a much colder smile.
‘What are you doing here? Do you not have something about which you should be getting on with? I do not employ you to amble about the place like some dandified gentleman of leisure. There is always work to be done. Have you not got sufficient work? If you have not, I can find you some. What are you doing here? Why are you not in the north field?’ Llewellyn thrust forward his chest, placing left hand on hip, looking only into Ben’s bare, square chest. No hair and only one nipple. Llewellyn stared at the space where the missing nipple should have been. He had often wondered why God had given men nipples. He knew why God had sent him there. He knew he loved God and that God loved him. God loved his family. He had sent them there. There was land. There was money in the land. This was the land of sugar and money. God’s bounty was everywhere. ‘Ond y mae mor boeth, Ben.’
‘Pardon Mesta Loo. I no. I no no. I here to get the…I here to see you ask you,’ Ben said, wan smile, still not looking at his Master.
‘How many times have I told you Ben? I have told you! I have told you all! Speak properly!’ Llewellyn waved Ben away and strode on towards the great white house.
‘But, Mesta Loo…’ Mesta Loo had gone.
Ben watched him go and waited until he was beyond sight and mind. ‘Fuck you!’ he said. Ben did not walk back to the north field, but continued further and deeper, despite the manacles, into the thicket.