Not quite frogs, snails and puppy-dog tails.
God, king and country: these are relics of a time long since past; a foundation which turned to dust centuries before his birth. Times change, Reeds do not, and he grows up with thousands of years of history packaged with neat efficiency into those words. There is no passion in belief; no belief for all his solemn recitals. He needs no passion, he need not believe, for Reeds have always sustained themselves on tradition, duty, discipline.
The broad outlines of his life are set before he is but a yearning in his mother's heart. The ocean is in your blood, they murmur, generation upon generation of proud Reed men. He will grow into a fine man, they agree, a fine officer, a fine husband, as will his children after him, and his grandchildren, and their voices are like breaking waves inside his mind.
Malcolm does not think to argue with tradition. It is a futile gesture, wearying, and he finds comfort in this vast design. The ocean whispers to him as he sleeps; it promises him adventure and honour and an underlaying permanence that settles deep and strong into his bones. He believes in tradition, in history, in blood; he believes until he can not, until he learns that the ocean's whispers are lies and that blood is no answer.
Wanting to please, wanting that rare smile turned towards him and he is so very excited as he clambers onto Father's boat. Father's face is open, joyous and this is the first time, the last time, that Malcolm will see it so. Rolling waves waits and they slide into a stretch of water and sky. It isn't what Malcolm dreamed of, this shifting, churning emptiness and the ocean water in his veins is like ice. His stomach twists, his heart thuds and air goes rough in his tight throat. Clings to tradition, to towering Reed pride, and doesn't let himself cry.
Nighttime, and Father's murmuring discontent bleeds into the sound of water on water on rock. Malcolm shakes beneath his covers, presses his hands to his ears until he hears only the rush of lying blood. Coward, he thinks, _coward_, and knows the power of that word as only one raised on tradition, duty, discipline can. His fine future crumbles and Malcolm is more frightened of the vast openness of his life than he was by the rocking waves and stiff breeze against his face.
Malcolm is not so young that he can't understand. He knows that he will face the water again tomorrow, and again, and again as Father tries to awaken the ocean in his history-rich Reed blood. And he is not so foolish as to think that anything but his hand strong and steady on the tiller will find favour with his father. This, Malcolm thinks, this is what is left of his shining, unquestioned future.
Malcolm Reed is but a child when he realizes that he is a coward. It is not a lesson that he will ever forget.