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July 7, 1677

A Fortune in Firewood

I should probably not be posting this, but I am very well pleased indeed with the execution of a plan that has more than recouped the losses I incurred in the tea fiasco of last month, viz. 1 trading ship, 6 months' provisions, 400 pounds worth of goods for bartering, and my business partner, Patrick Thrasher. At the same time as this financial shortfall, I received ill news from another quarter — that two of the ships I had been using to transport rum were lately returned from Jamaica with an unsolicited cargo of termites, which beasts were feasting on the innards of my boats with such relish as to suggest that English wood was a delicacy that they would never taste again. I made certain that this would be the case.

I told Sean some nonsense about needing to inspect the ships in Chatham, and encouraged him to come along with me to see how the business was done. I also fed the poor fellow with horror stories about the propensity of the Dutch to launch unprovoked attacks on the harbour, that he might be prepared for the fireworks display I had arranged — which proved, in the event, to be significantly more robust than I had intended. As we approached the ships, I gave a signal to my man at the docks, who gave a signal to his man in the water, and with a great noise that quite startled me, though I was one of a very few who could have been expecting it, both ships (and innumerable families of termites, obliviously enjoying their repast at my expense) burst into flames. As if I had written the script for him myself, Sean ran — arms waving — into the square, shouting as he went, "The Dutch! The Dutch! The Dutch are here!" I have never in my life seen a man flee from a scene with such an odd combination of clumsiness and surprising acceleration, but it was merely a matter of minutes before Sean had disappeared off the horizon. For my part, I sat and lit a pipe to wait, watch, and take notes for the benefit of the poor gentlemen with whom I insured my boats last year for a considerable sum, in the event of a fire.

I must admit that an unintended result of my plan was that the witnesses to the event, who were uninclined to believe that the Netherlands would really strike at us in such a fashion, concluded instead that the conflagration could only have been caused by a lawless brigand — or worse, a Catholic — and it is not inconceivable that they fixed their suspicions on the Irish newcomer who reacted so quickly by blaming the explosion on the Dutch. I have not seen Sean since.

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