1636 The Atlantic Encounter – Snippet 30

Chapter 20

On the morning tide, a small ship, perhaps half the size of Challenger, arrived at the dock. Gordon came out on deck, where Pete was watching the proceedings.

The most important passenger, whose effects and luggage were being unloaded, was a tall, distinguished-looking man past middle age with the hint of a moustache and a bare chin; his manner was imperious, as if he was accustomed to having his orders followed. From time to time he looked up at Challenger; the two brothers looked back. No greetings were exchanged.

“Who is that, do you suppose?” Pete asked.

Gordon gestured toward the other ship’s mainmast, which flew a white banner with a pair of pine trees and an Indian, with some indecipherable words coming out of his mouth. There was no Cross of Saint George to be seen.

“Massachusetts banner,” Gordon said. “This is someone important. My money’s on Thomas Dudley.”

Though they were likely too far away for his words to carry to the deck of the smaller ship, the man chose just that moment to glance in their direction. Pete gave the man a friendly wave and a big-toothed grin.

“Howdy,” Pete said.

* * *

On Gordon’s second journey into Puritan Boston he was not alone, but was at the head of a delegation: Pete and Thomas James, Ingrid Skoglund and her maid, and two members of the crew. They were escorted by Massachusetts soldiers, but it seemed less like a police cordon or a press gang than when he had been taken to see Winthrop the previous day. James had made sure to equip Pete and Gordon with proper hats similar to the one he wore: brushed felt, clashing only slightly with their up-time clothing.

The street was crowded, since a number of others were walking toward the head of the street that led from the dock. Some of them wore clothing with gold threads — the better sort of folks. Their destination was clearly the same: the meeting house, which had its doors thrown wide.

Pete elbowed Gordon as they passed the church he’d seen the previous day. The stocks were vacant this time, though they had not been cleaned; the blasphemer sign lay in the dust, unattended.

“Yeah,” Gordon said. “It won’t be empty for long.”

As they approached the meeting house, the locals’ attention became focused squarely on the group from Challenger. There were two men in corselets and helmets, muskets in hand, at the doors; a young, stout man in fine clothing stepped between them and into their path.

“This is a meeting only for the men of the colony,” he said pointedly, staring at Ingrid Skoglund.

She gave him back a cold stare. That caused murmurs among the crowd — which, Gordon noted, had a number of women in it. He supposed that Ingrid was supposed to cast her eyes downward, but she was having none of it.

“You can keep out any women you like — from the colony,” Gordon said. “Doctor Skoglund is not a woman of Massachusetts Bay.”

“That much seems obvious.”

Before Ingrid could reply, Pete said, “Do you have a name we can call you, big man, or should we just make one up?”

“My name is Simon Bradstreet,” the man said. “Magistrate and Assistant to the governor. You would be wise to hold your tongue, up-timer, and show respect.”

“Let me write that one down,” Pete answered. “Look, pal, we –“

“I do not answer to ‘pal,’ or to ‘big man,'” Bradstreet answered, hands on hips. “What is more, I –“

“– think we should leave this to Governor Winthrop to decide,” Gordon interrupted. “Master Bradstreet, my brother does not mean to give offense.” Well, he does, but let’s not get into that, he thought. “But Doctor Skoglund is a member of our expedition, and shall be treated as such. You may keep your own customs and traditions, but do not presume to dictate ours. I do not think that this decision should be made peremptorily, or in the street. If the decision lies with another, I beg your indulgence to consult with him. And if it is yours to make, and you turn her away, you turn us all away.”

The audience had become quiet; even Pete had decided not to insert some comment. Bradstreet stood for several moments, his hands on his hips, his brow furrowed.

“I will inquire the wisdom of others,” he said at last. “Remain here.”

He turned and went into the meeting house. Murmuring began again; Gordon got the impression that this Bradstreet fellow was not someone who was accustomed to backing down.

“This is not auspicious,” Ingrid said quietly. Sofia whispered something to her in Swedish that Gordon didn’t make out. “Yes, I know,” she answered in English. “But we must persevere.”

“We all go in,” Gordon said. “Or we all go back to Challenger.”

“Surely your mission has greater weight than defending my position or honor.”

“This isn’t about your position, much less your honor. It’s about whether we’re going to be treated properly — all of us. You know, we respect your ways, you respect our ways. That sort of thing.”

“They are armed,” Ingrid said, “and we are not.”

“Don’t bet on that,” Pete said, smiling.

She looked at him. “Are you expecting trouble? Isn’t that…a trifle provocative?”

“You don’t bring a knife to a gun fight,” Pete said. “And you don’t bring a slow match musket to a pistol fight.” He stretched his shoulders out under the fancy long coat he was wearing — which, Gordon noted, was a little out of keeping with the warm late-spring day.

“You were expecting –“

“Happiness and smiles. Rainbows and unicorns. Sweetness and light,” Pete said. “No, ma’am. Not expecting nuthin’…but my big bro told me to keep my powder dry. So let’s not make any assumptions, or get the zealots’ knickers in a twist.”

Ingrid frowned, as if she was trying to untangle the knot of slang Pete had just thrown at her. Gordon wanted very much to slap his brother in the head, but he also couldn’t help but admire his turns of phrase.

Bradstreet emerged from within the meeting house.

“You are to be admitted,” he said, looking unhappy about the matter. “All of you. But,” he added, before standing aside, “you will not speak until you are addressed. Is that understood?”

“Of course,” Gordon said, looking at the others in his group. “After you, Magistrate.”

* * *

The inside of the building was plain and unadorned, as they expected, and it was filled with people. Other than Ingrid and Sofia, the gathering was exclusively male. From the rear of the hall, where they entered, to the front, every seat in every pew was taken — and there was an upper story with a balcony, also filled with onlookers. At the far end, instead of a lectern, there was a little platform with benches on which a group of people sat facing the audience — stern men, a dozen or more, with Governor John Winthrop in the center. A pair of benches had been provided a little in front of the foremost pew; Bradstreet gestured to them, and then returned to a place on the platform.

“You indicated that you wished to speak,” Winthrop said. “Unless there be further objection” — he paused and looked about — “we will hear what you have to say.”

Gordon stood again and walked in front of the platform. He’d thought about what he was going to say, but wasn’t sure how it would come out.

“King Charles has sold all of his lands in the New World to France. So far, the French have made no effort to enforce their authority here in New England. So far, all they have done is clash with the Danes in the north. But we do not think that situation can last much longer. Unless you are willing to submit to French rule –“

A little hubbub swept the room. The most frequently muttered imprecation seemed to be papists. Not damned papists, though; these people took the prohibition of blasphemy very seriously.