1636 The Atlantic Encounter – Snippet 27
“I thought it was all empty.”
“Is that what your up-timer book told you?”
“It didn’t tell me near enough,” Gordon said. “All I know is that there should be a good-sized town at Boston, and the governor is some guy named Vane.”
“I believe that is in error,” James said. “Winthrop is still governor — or was in the spring, when we last had intelligence of the place up in Newfoundland.”
* * *
As they crossed the bay toward Boston they could see the smoke from chimneys, and through a spyglass Gordon picked out a few more substantial buildings, including what looked to be some sort of factory.
“That’s an ironworks,” Maartens said, reclaiming his instrument and squinting through it. “And hard at work, too.”
“Where’d they get iron?” Gordon asked. “I didn’t know there was any in this area.”
“It’s bog iron,” Maartens answered. “They pull bog ore out of yon swamps and smelt it. I didn’t know they’d started doing it.”
“It’s got to be poor quality.”
“If that’s all they’ve got, for now,” the Dutchman said, “but they’ll make do. It’s probably too much work to bring it from inland — and there aren’t real mountains to speak of until you’re practically in New France. But I imagine they’ve got enough to give them something to make plowshares out of.”
“And are they planning on beating them into swords?” Gordon said.
“That depends a lot on what happens in the coming year, I’d guess,” Maartens said.
* * *
Pete couldn’t resist trying again. As Challenger drew close to Boston, he found Gordon on deck inspecting the stowed dirigible, and poked him in the ribs.
“Don’t you have something better to do?”
“That’s a pretty damn stupid question. You know I don’t have anything to do until we make landfall. I’ve been thinking about the dirigible again.”
“What about it?”
“I still think we should go aloft.”
Gordon stood up straight. He and Pete were about the same height, but he was stocky where Pete was wiry — the virtues of army life for his younger brother made the difference.
“I think we’ve already had this conversation.”
“No, you let Ingrid tell you what to do.”
“She has a pretty sensible approach, and she’s right — they are zealots, and there’s really no sense in scaring the crap out of people we’re trying to befriend.” Gordon leaned against the bundled dirigible, which was taller than he was. “I don’t want to see the French wipe these guys out. Neither the Puritans nor the Pilgrims can go home because England doesn’t want any of them back. And King Charles won’t lift a finger to save them.”
“So we’re going to protect them against the French?”
“I don’t know. Maybe. But I think we’ve got some time, because Virginia’s probably at the top of their list. They’ll get to New England eventually, though.” Gordon sighed and cracked his knuckles; one, two, three.
* * *
Pete lost the argument again — or, rather, he didn’t put a dent in Gordon’s approach. Rather than anchor out at the tip of Cape Cod and deploy the dirigible — which they’d dubbed John Wayne — Challenger sailed through the beautiful sun-dappled afternoon and made for Boston’s island-studded outer harbor.
Boston was the biggest settlement they had seen in the New World. Neither Gordon nor Pete had ever been to up-time Boston, and in any case the town was even a completely different shape than it had become by the year 2000, at least according to the maps that Gordon had in hand. There were two prominent hills to either side of the town and an imposing, taller hill behind; the town itself was perched on a peninsula, what James had referred to by the native name “Shawmut.” The modern map made Boston out to be fairly flat, so there’d been some serious landscaping in the intervening few centuries.
They had a copy of the Bonner map from 1722 that showed the town’s general layout; but even that was misleading, as it looked as if the Mill Dam hadn’t been built yet — though there was a sort of causeway where it would be. The hill to port was crowned by a fort and the one to starboard by a windmill, steadily creaking in the breeze. The hill behind, which was composed of three peaks, had a tall pole on the top.
The arrival of an unknown ship in Boston Harbor clearly attracted attention. Through his spyglass, Gordon could see that from the tower on top of the hill with the flag someone was watching them approach.
By the time Challenger had laid alongside the wharf that jutted furthest out into the harbor, a small crowd of people had assembled. They were modestly dressed — no “Pilgrim hats,” as Gordon had said, but their clothes seemed muted, their faces expectant and somewhat solemn.
“Some welcoming committee,” Pete said, looking over the taffrail as Challenger tied up.
“They don’t look happy to see us,” James said. “Dudley should be among them — he’s the military leader — but I don’t see him.”
“The deputy governor.” James frowned. “There’s someone else giving orders, though…”
Gordon looked into the crowd and noticed a small group making its way toward the front. They were armed with pikes or muskets, great long things a few years out of date, four feet long and more, and they wore metal corselets and helmets, which reflected the early-summer sunlight.
“Pete,” he said quietly, “make sure you’re primed and your powder is dry.”
“Don’t know. But it doesn’t hurt to take precautions.”
Gordon walked down the gangplank to a murmur of voices. With his up-time-styled clothing and neatly trimmed hair and beard, he must’ve looked a sight to these Puritans. Gordon resisted the urge to chuckle as he thought of the great scene from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, one of his favorite movies growing up.
All trace of humor disappeared when two of the armed men reached the front of the crowd. They held their muskets in their hands and each had a slow match in a holster at his side.
Another man, obviously a captain of some sort, stepped out to stand between them.
“Who are you, stranger?” he said. “Your flag is not one I know.”
He didn’t look interested in chitchat.
“My name is Gordon Chehab,” Gordon said. “I am leading a trade mission from the State of Thuringia-Franconia, a part of the United States of Europe. Is this how you greet all your visitors?”
“Questions are mine to ask,” the man snapped back. “These are dangerous times. ‘United States of Europe’…then you are a Swede.”
“Not exactly. I’m an American.”
“I’m from Grantville. You know, Ring of Fire. Just arrived a few years ago.”
The mention of the words “Ring of Fire” caused murmurs throughout the crowd, until the captain turned and cast an unfriendly glare, bringing the people to silence once more.
“‘Tis said,” the captain said, “that you come from the time to come. We find this strains our belief. God is mighty and His works are wonders, but we wonder if this Ring of Fire is not a work of the Devil.”
“I am not the Devil’s servant,” Gordon said. “No horns, no tail.” He smiled, but there were no smiles in return.
Gordon’s mouth suddenly tasted of shoe leather. If it was possible for him to kick himself, he would have done so.
“The Devil’s servants sometimes wear fair guises,” the captain said. “But it is not up to me to decide. What is your business here in Boston?”
“I had hoped to speak with your governor about what is happening and what is to come. But I come in peace.”
The man seemed to size him up in great detail, as if determining if his ball cap concealed horns and his trousers hid a tail.
“I will bring you to Governor Winthrop,” he said. “A guard will be posted at your ship until your fate is decided. You will come with me.” He turned, as if expecting to be instantly obeyed.
“Do you mind if I ask your name?”
“No,” the man said, turning back. “I am John Endecott.”
That was a name that Gordon knew very well. In a few months, if the up-time history was still any guide, John Endecott was going to start a bloody war with the Pequots.