Nicholas Ellsworth, the Botanist

Good morning, friends, and Happy Valentine’s Day!  The true story of St. Valentine, and how he became the patron saint of love, is not the hearts-and-roses story that many people assume, and if this were my old blog, that’s what this post would be about, but it isn’t.  This is my author site.  It exists to support my own writing, and to a lesser degree, that of my friends, so you’ll have to look up ol’ St. Val yourselves.  Trust me, though, it’s a good story!

The interesting person I’m looking at today, though, is the first character introduced in my first book, Beyond the Rails.  He is a Cambridge (England) trained botanist fresh from the classroom who crosses paths with the crew of the little cobbled-together airship Kestrel, and joins them on number of adventures.  He enters the story at 23 or a very young 24, I didn’t specify, and is very much a babe in the woods.  I toyed with the idea of finding a period photo of an anonymous young gentleman to post here, but I don’t want to tell any prospective readers what to imagine, so I’ll just say that some men at 23 already look like they’re nobody you need to be messing with.  Well, Nicholas Ellsworth is quite the opposite, his slight build and boyish face marking him as the kid who gets his lunch money stolen every day.  We first encounter him disembarking from the steamer that has brought him from England to Mombasa:

Nicholas Ellsworth winced inwardly as the grumbling sailors more or less threw his field laboratory, which they took to be an outsized steamer trunk, onto the stern of the launch, then stood around as if waiting for a tip. Ellsworth wasn’t having it. His admonitions to handle the irreplaceable equipment with care had been met with curses, and, he was willing to swear, a conscious effort to be even rougher in its treatment. He stood back against the ship until the men passed him with threatening looks, and climbed back to the deck of the side wheeler, then hopped lightly across onto the launch, last of the twenty-odd passengers disembarking here.

His purpose for being in Africa is to catalogue plants for their pharmaceutical properties, a noble “saving the world” type of mission that was all the rage with the Victorian gentry.  What he finds on the ground (literally, in some cases) demonstrates to his idealistic self that this isn’t going to be the straightforward job he envisioned when he was getting on the ship at the London docks.

Still, he has a notion of what needs to be done, and to his great good fortune, he finds his way into the domain of Faraji, the philosophical African who manages the open-air bar and grill at the corner of the Queen’s Royal Hotel.  He starts drinking, getting to a state somewhere between moderate and roaring, while telling Faraji that he’s seeking transport up-country to where the plants are.  Faraji very wisely steers him toward the Kestrel, pointing Patience Hobbs, the airship’s crackerjack pilot, in his direction, and she proceeds to lead him into the adventure of his lifetime.  First, though, they have to get through their first meeting:

“You know, it may not seem like it, but Faraji really can be pushed too far,” a husky yet feminine voice announced from just behind him. He turned to see a young white woman, nearly his height, with blonde hair in loose curls, big blue eyes, and a small, aristocratic nose slide onto the stool next to him. She wore khaki trousers, a soft white shirt, and a foot-long knife at her belt. It irritated him to see that she was barely sweating at all.

“I was told to take a firm hand with these wogs, or they’ll run all over you. Say, who the devil are you, anyway?”

“Oh, you sent for me. And, this is Faraji’s country. You’re the wog here. Faraji says you’re looking for a ride up-country.”

“Indeed! You’re the provider? How soon can we leave? I’ve wasted enough time in this hell-hole already!”

“Patience,” she said, extending her hand for a shake.

“I assure you, my good woman, the need for haste is overriding!”

“Patience Hobbs. Most folks around here call me Patty. I’m the pilot of the Kestrel.”

“Oh, I say!” he said, finally accepting her handshake. “You must think me a complete fool.”

“Not yet. Things are sort of leaning that way, though.”

They manage it, somehow, she gets him to the cobbled-together collection of parts that is the Kestrel, and he awakens next morning to find himself hung over and high in the air over Kenya.  Once he gets it together, they step into a mystery that needs the talents of a botanist, he demonstrates his value, and goes on to join them for many more adventures.

There is a reason for beginning the story with this character who is completely innocent of any concept of what’s going on in the story, and you see it in a lot of sci-fi and fantasy works:  This character is to benefit you, the reader, who know nothing about the world you’ve just stepped into, and as he learns, you learn.  This “show me everything” character is not always present, and not even always a good fit, but I felt in this case, since I asking you to suspend enough disbelief to accept an alternate history that you can’t look up on wikipedia, it would be a good idea to provide a guide to ease you into it.  So, how did I do?

*          *          *

In other news, I’d first like to welcome my newest follower, Lilli, who makes her home on  Lilli is very versatile, writing both prose and poetry in the romance, mystery, and supernatural genres, and the items she chooses to share can be perused at the link provided.

Also, the Railbaron, William Jackson, has reblogged an interview with our friend Ichabod Temperance and his imaginary (my opinion) sidekick Persephone Plumtartt.  Icky’s style is a bit outside the typical constraints of the steampunk genre, and is really worth a look.

Finally, the Steampunk Cavaliers are soliciting articles from authors of the genre, so if you are one, here’s a chance for some exposure.  Hey, that gives me the most scathingly brilliant idea!

I have added to the tabs above all of my works that I’m going to share for now.  My next project will be to create a library of books written by my friends and acquaintances along with links to purchase, and trust me, I know some of the gooder writers in this genre!

And that will do me for today!  Get out there and enjoy the Day of Love.  This happens to be that ten-year old’s 11th birthday, and the party is at my house right after school, so I have a slate of work to do to get ready.  Have fun, be safe, and I’ll see you around the stacks!

3 thoughts on “Nicholas Ellsworth, the Botanist

    1. Welcome, Icky! Good to hear from you again. It’s always an honor to support my friends! I’ll be looking at the whole crew in time, and you just helped me make a decision about who might be next. Looking forward to seeing the pix of Miss Plumtartt at the Queen’s Ball!

      Take care of yourself, amigo!
      ~ Jack

      Liked by 1 person

  1. You are most kind, sir.
    If you should want to read an Icky adventure, the beginning may not be the best place to start. I like to think that I get better as a writer over the course of the series. As each book is a themed adventure, i would suggest looking over the series to decide which thematic adventure, if any, appeals to you. 😉
    Happy Sailing, buddy!
    ~Icky. 🙂


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