The Arawak have herbal remedies for it I’ve been told. The Maroons, in their coarse fashion, call them front-end lifters. I bought some of these herbs and potions in the Port Royal market not telling the Maroons it was for Henry.
He showed no interest in cow-cod soup with duppy gun nor in medina but he agreed to take some extract of yohimbe with his rum after supper. There was no immediate reaction. Henry loves to talk about the days when he made a living with the pike.
‘We always formed up in ranks. The lads in front, butts in the ground, kept the horses off while our rear rank would unseat the men. Of course they tried to break our line so we always had a few stout fellows in reserve to hold the gaps. It was thirsty work and needed a steady hand.
‘Tactics were constantly evolving you see. Rupert thought he had the measure of us at Naseby. I was fifteen at the time. Though that damned Exquemelin will tell you otherwise. Our artillery pieces had fired high. Seizing the opportunity Prince Rupert stopped his charge about 20 feet from our pike-heads and gave us a few volleys with the blunderbuss. But we stood firm. Our own horse had come up behind them. We had them trapped and we needed only to advance a few paces to finish them. I pitied them in a way but there was no time for sentiment. Of course musketry changed everything. Soon they’ll be fixing sharp points on the things. Mark my words.’
He is rambling now and making little sense. Does he think to interest me in military matters? I am here to ease his dropsie a little.
‘Lower girl, ah, that’s it.’
The swelling in his legs is a sight to behold. No less so the swelling in his breeches that begs for attention. He is clearly delighted with it.
‘Nothing like a stiff pike eh lass? Twenty feet of good English ash with no sag in it. There was a time when I....never mind. Yohimbe bark you say? Is anybody transporting the stuff to England? I see a ready market. Yes, the pike served me well. So did Captain Edward Mansvelt and his letters of marque. Look at me now. Governor of Jamaica. At least until Lynch has his way. Me who once helped destroy the cream of British chivalry. That was what Parliament wanted and that was what they got. Let’s not talk of Cromwell the younger. He was no soldier like his father. Lord Protector my arse. All that work only to restore the Stuarts. Not that I ever had much against them. It was regicide plain and simple. But what of the Fifth Monarchy Men? The Stuarts had their revenge. They kept the hangman busy at Tyburn. It’s a rum world eh Bess? And on the subject of rum.’
I say nothing. It is not my place to remind him that my mother was brought here against her will. That she had been an Ashanti princess chained and carried across the water. I like living in the big house. It is built on a hill to catch the breezes. I’ve cut enough cane.