John of Gaunt Describes England

A young boy, probably about eight years old, sat on a high stool in a black and cavernous chamber lit by only two wax candles – one in his left hand and the other nearby his father, who was watching him from a sprawled position on the ground.  In the boys other hand was a thick book.

The father checked his watch and looked up at his son, “… and begin.”

The boy proceeded to read aloud from the book:

“This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle…”

And the boy continued to read from Shakespeare’s Richard II, glancing up at his father every few words.

“You’re slurring, Jack, try to maintain yourself” the father interrupted.

The boy nodded and continued:

“Againsht zhe envy of lesh shappier landsz, this bleshed plot … thish…”

And his voice trailed off.  The book fell from his hand and then the candle as he slumped in half and slid down the stool until he was like a puddle on the floor.  In less than a minute, though, the boy began to blink his eyes.

The father carefully looked into the boy’s bloodshot eyes and began snapping his fingers.

“Are you here?”

“I think so… how far did I get?” the boy asked.

The father laughed and rubbed his son’s head.

“My boy, you didn’t even finish John of Gaunt’s speech!  The next time you have a question about firedamp, we’ll bring one of your Guina Pigs instead, eh?”

The self-experimental work on toxic gases in mines by John Haldane and his son John Haldane led not only to the invention of the gas mask in time for WWI, but to the placing of two canaries in every British coal-mine for seventy-five years until they were officially  replaced by reliable gas detectors on December 30, 1986.



...and thanks to kimberl'y, the newest "follower" here!


The Most Popular Name in the World

Silhouetted by the setting sun, a small caravan could be seen watering its camels and erecting tents beneath a cluster of sad-looking palm trees nearby a Nestorian monastery.   Idols of Latha and Uzza, their clan’s gods, were stood up carefully in the middle of the encampment.

It was the first of aylūl (September) in 582, and it had been a devastatingly hot day: the stones paving the Incense Road that led through the Syrian town of Busra burned any flesh that pressed upon it.  A lone monk by the name of Bahira watched from just outside a doorway with supernatural interest, his bare feet sizzling beneath him.

A second monk passed behind him, “Another caravan… shall I invite them in?”

“Yes, for a feast!  I feel it is not just another caravan, Abouna,” he said and disappeared into the cell.

A few minutes later, he was looking deeply into the eyes of each traveler as he blessed them.  After the last man had entered, Bahira asked, “I’ve invited you all, is there no one else?”

The leader of the party answered, “I’m Abu Talib.  Only my son is absent, he’s out gathering kindling.”

“Son?” Bahira asked with noticeable disappointment, “I’m afraid the one I’m expecting has no father…”

“Well, truthfully, he is my nephew… his father died before his birth.”

Bahira insisted that the boy be called in for the feast.  He met him at the door and before saying a word, placed his hand on the boy’s back between his shoulder-blades.  His eyes widened as he felt an oval ridge beneath his fingers and he spun the boy around to face him.

“What is your name, boy?”


“Welcome Muhammad,” the priest said, and turning, whispered to the uncle, “protect your nephew, he wears the seal of a prophet…”


And Roma Makes Three!

Welcome and thanks for "following" to Roma's Rambling.  Three new followers in 12 hours, now I have to get another post up soon!

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...and welcome to the REAL Jéssica Barreto!  I hope to have another tale up tomorrow or Friday!


A Star is Born

Rowland was frustrated that initial reports had provided so very little detail, for he pained for the families of the missing men.

When word came at last, the news was very discouraging: “Biggest disaster in the history of American whaling!”  Forty ships had passed into the Chuchki Sea in the newly purchased Alaska Territory, when a freak weather event reversed the winds and pushed the ice pack back towards the east and crushed them in.

Louisa came in with a cup of tea and noticed the worried lines around her husband’s eyes.  “Millions of dollars in oil lost… thirty three ships trapped… only seven ships escaped…” he read out loud.  He continued running his finger down the column reading out the names of the lost.

“Oh, no…”

Louisa spoke up at his sudden silence, “What is it dear?”

Rowland noticed his wife sitting across from him for the first time.

Emily Morgan,” he announced sadly.

Louisa took her husband’s hand.  “Your old ship...  I’m sorry my dear, but you made the right choice to quit that business.  You’ll always have your little reminder though, won’t you?”

He looked down at the back of his hand and gave a slight smile.

“Providentially though, not a single man was lost.”

Rowland arose, kissed his wife tenderly on the cheek and said goodbye for the day.  He arrived a few minutes later at the front door of the dry goods store he’d opened in New York City exactly thirteen years earlier on October 28, 1858.  As the door closed behind him, he turned over the sign in the window on which was printed, “R H Macy’s: OPEN for Business.”

Below it was a big red star, matching the faded tattoo on the back of his hand he'd gotten as a New Bedford whale-man.