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May 14, 1677

Panic

I awoke this morning in a panic. Our ship is set to leave for the Indies in two weeks' time, and we have hardly begun to prepare! Though it was not yet light, I hastened to awaken Patrick and Sean (neither of whom appeared particularly pleased with my solicitude on their behalf), piled them into my carriage and headed forthwith for the docks where our ship is being loaded for the journey. Despite Sean's constant stream of complaints (which I dare not repeat here for fear of scandalizing any lady readers of this blog), my apprehension turned out to have been entirely justified, as we arrived at the scene to find the dockworkers we had hired in the process of removing all of our provisions from the ship. Since Sean had fallen back into a deep sleep from which it was impossible to rouse him and Patrick's deep phobia of commoners prevented him from exiting the carriage, it fell to my part to approach the dockworker who appeared to be in charge and attempt to discover what was going on. The conversation proceeded something like this:

ME: Gad, man, what in Heaven's name are you doing?
DOCKWORKER: We're getting the provisions out from this here ship.
ME: Yes, I can see that, but why? You're supposed to be loading them onto the ship.
DOCKWORKER: T'ain't what it says in the contract. 
ME: What do you mean it's not in the contract? I drew up that contract myself, and it stipulates quite clearly that "The provisions shall be moved betwixt the port and the ship at the rate of 8 pence per day per worker."
DOCKWORKER: Exactly. It says "betwixt port and ship," but I didn't read nowhere that it says which direction the goods should be movin'. Or when they should stop, for that matter. My men have been workin' very hard indeed to move your provisions onto the ship, and now they're workin' again to move them back to the port. "Betwixt port and ship" just as Your Grace has taken the trouble to stipulate.



Very few times in my life has anything made me so angry as the way that man said "stipulate," but, as the brute was nearly twice my size, there was very little I could do but ask what we might do to add a clause to the contract which would provide that the men leave the goods on the ship once they had brought them there. "Oh," he told me with a smirk, "I wish you'd said that earlier—it would have saved us a good deal of trouble. That will cost you tuppence extra per worker on the daily rate. It requires a good deal more effort just to leave the provisions on the ship, as we'll have to worry about what's the best place to stow them in that case." I had little choice but to raise their rates, and I returned to the carriage in a foul mood which was not improved by Patrick's frightened stuttering or Sean's oblivious snores. It will require a superhuman effort for us to be ready to embark in two weeks, especially given that two of the three men involved in this venture are God's prize idiots.

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