‘Appropriate a culture, pilfer from its dialect, profit wildly from it, and regard its people as subhuman.’ (Big E Langston – Twitter 24/07/15)
The Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke – Richard Dadd (1855-64)
A man in off-white breeches, bleached cotton shirt, and blue and gold neckerchief sauntered towards Llewellyn, carrying a cluster of large printed bills, a hammer, and nails between his teeth. He stopped at trees and posts along his route towards Llewellyn and hammered more nails into ancient trees. He stood within six feet of Llewellyn, and would have continued past with only a silent nod, had Llewellyn not called out his name.
‘I am so very sorry, sir, I was just making sure everything was in order for the sale,’ William ‘Will’ Williams said as he made a short bow and then looked up, then down into Llewellyn Ap Davies’s grey, green eyes. His freckled face showed fresh signs of sunburn. Will Williams’s darker features protected him more acutely against Caribbean rays. Complexion made little difference to the sand flies and mosquitoes. Like shipwrecked topers, they drank zealously and willingly of the fresh supplies.
‘You had better make sure everything is in order, Williams and that, in case you had any doubt, is an order,’ Llewellyn, wiped his brow again with a greying silk handkerchief, embroidered with his initials above the Davies family crest. ‘This is enormously important to us all. You know that. I do not want you to mess this up. You have been showing an increasing tendency towards laxity of manner, bordering on moral turpitude. Do you understand?’
A mosquito, darted just beyond the reach of Will Williams slap; a slap followed by the involuntary scratching of an unscratchable itch. He mopped his forehead with a dirty rag, pulled from his waistband.
‘Williams, did you hear me? Must I repeat myself again?’ Llewellyn said.
‘…and do not interrupt me. It should be quite clear, even to someone of your low birth that I had not finished. Not close to it. Did you ever discover your father’s identity?’ Llewellyn stood taller and arched his left eyebrow.
Will maintained his gaze, but stayed silent. He stood and waited.
‘What was I saying? You have made me lose my thoughts. If it is not this accursed heat or these infernal creatures, it is bastards like you making me forget everything. Now, tell me, what was I saying? Eich bod mor dwp iawn?’ Llewellyn re-raised his eyebrow, but looked away from the keenness of Will’s gaze.
‘Ie syr. Diolch i chi syr…’ Will meant to continue.
‘Do not, yes sir, me, you ignorant peasant. Know your place. Gwybod eich lle…’
‘Yes Sir,’ Will Williams smiled at him. ‘I believe you were saying that I had an important job to do for a very important man and I had better watch myself while doing it and to make sure that it were done well.’
‘Was! Was done well! You impudent scoundrel. Just you make sure you do whatever it is properly and I suggest you mind this tendency of yours towards insolence. I could thrash you as soon look past you and you had better remember that,’ Llewellyn maintained his gaze at Will’s cracked and torn leather boots.
‘Oh, yes sir. I will sir.’ Will had not moved his gaze from hooded eyes, turning from green to grey and back again, during their conversation.
‘So, Williams, is everything ready? Is everything in order for Monday? It is Sunday tomorrow, the men and women must be ready, and we must make our prayers to God count, in the morning. They do not have a God, you know. We have to show them, the way, the truth, and the light as our saviour told us. You missed church last Sunday, Williams. Why was that? We have to show them the way Williams. I run a tight ship here and I need everything in order. Do you understand my point, Williams,’ Llewellyn looked up into Will’s face.
‘If I can be honest with you, sir, no not really, sir. I think I followed you, but you appear to have wandered off the point somewhat. If I may speak boldly, sir…’ Will Williams was enjoying himself, as he did every time Llewellyn deigned to speak at him. Llewellyn was nought but a broken bag of piss and wind, promoted some distance above his ability and intellect. Will knew that deference would only get him so far.
‘God’s wounds! You know very well the point I am making, Williams, and please do not forget this. So do I! Make sure the men and women are clean. Work them hard today. Feed them well tomorrow. Make sure there are at least twelve bottles, each of rum and claret, and make sure that cook woman has made plenty of whatever it is they eat. We have important guests coming. I want everything to be just right. Just so. Now, do you understand that? But, sort out Minos first, will you.’ Llewellyn briefly looked Will in the eye, but as quickly returned his gaze to the ground. ‘A ydych yn deall hynny, Williams?’
‘Yes sir. I quite understand. The posters have come from printing and I need to post them around about.’ Will made to leave.
‘Where do you think you are going? I do not recall having given you your leave. Well, just you make sure that you do. Have you put them about the church? Now, be on your way. I have not the time for any more of your idle talk. Be on your way and be about your business. Efallai y byddwch yn mynd yn awr. Gadewch!’ Llewellyn walked by the, still, still-smiling Will, waving his hand in the direction of the main town. ‘And, make sure you have The Register ready for the buyers. They need to know what they are getting. And, be sharp about it, too.’
Llewellyn walked away with purpose, looking over his shoulder he stopped to beat down the sudden hardening in his breeches.
Will sat down against a tree – the same Llewellyn had vacated – tamped down his tobacco, struck a match against his boot, and inhaled. He loved the taste of the acrid smoke as it swirled around his mouth like brandy; but it was the bite on his lungs that made every smoke a step closer to Llewellyn’s God. God would have to wait. He needed to get the posters up and distribute the handbills, but he wanted a smoke more. He had noticed spelling mistakes in the posters, but what could it possibly matter, when men and women did not matter to pricks like Llewellyn Ap Davies. Short, fat, prick without half the intelligence of his tiny prick, Will always said.