1636 The Atlantic Encounter – Snippet 36
“Oh, I know, I know. He would not want our enemies to know.”
“The French,” the man said, nodding and smiling.
Pete didn’t say anything. This was a little out of his department. The French were certainly an enemy, even if hostilities had ceased, but having some random Dutchman throwing Don Francisco’s name around was no way to begin a conversation.
“You know,” the man said. “The French. The wolf at the door. The cardinal,” he hissed.
“I know who you’re talking about,” Pete said. “Maybe you should start at the beginning. Tell me your name and what you’re about, and then I can decide what I’m going to do with you.”
“Do with me?”
When Pete had been on active duty in Suhl and elsewhere, it was sometimes necessary to show a civilian that you meant business. There was a Vietnam vet in his company who had perfected the deadpan look, the one that said, maybe I’ll let you live, and maybe not.
Pete delivered his best impression of that look to the Dutchman, who looked very uncomfortable.
“My name is Van der Glinde,” he said quietly. “Jan van der Glinde. Almost two years ago I was granted an interview by Francisco Nasi, whom I believe to be your patron.”
Pete decided this wasn’t the time for a long-winded explanation concerning the political changes that had taken place over the past two years, which had resulted in Gordon and him working for Ed Piazza and Estuban Miro instead of Mike Stearns and Francisco Nasi. So he settled for making a slight hand gesture that indicated Van der Glinde should continue.
“I had the honor of speaking with him and presenting our case for assistance here in New Amsterdam.”
“Did he promise you anything?”
“He said that he would give the matter his consideration.”
Pete shook his head. “That doesn’t answer my question. Did he promise you anything?”
Van der Glinde hesitated. He appeared to want to say yes, but apparently Pete’s expression — unchanged and unfriendly — convinced him that he should tell the truth.
“No,” he said at last. “But now that you are here…”
Pete waited for the sentence to end. It never quite did.
“I mean to say,” Van der Glinde said after a moment, “that I assumed, that I thought…”
“What did you assume?”
“I assumed that you were here to help eliminate the French threat.”
“And just how do you suppose we would do that?”
“Well,” the Dutchman said. “Well…you are up-timers, after all…”
“I don’t have a magic wand to solve all your problems. None of us do,” Pete said. “So suppose you stop interrupting my ale and tell me just what it is you expect me — or us — to do.”
Van der Glinde looked crestfallen.
“Are you the captain of your up-timer expedition?”
“No. That’s my big brother. Me, I’m the pissed-off younger brother. I can take you to him, but I’d be surprised if he tells you anything different from what I’m telling you.”
As it turned out, Pete was surprised.
Gordon was in Challenger’s pilot’s cabin looking at sea charts with Maartens when Pete and his Dutchman guest came aboard. The captain made quick work of putting the charts away when they entered.
“Hey,” Pete said.
“Someone I should meet?”
“I don’t know, big bro. You tell me. I can either leave you two alone or I can toss him into the bay. He, uh, mentioned the name of our patron.”
“May I ask your name?” Gordon asked Van der Glinde.
“Jan van der Glinde, Mynheer,” he answered, doffing his cap. “I have had the pleasure of an interview with your esteemed patron.”
“I know,” Gordon said.
“You do?” Pete asked.
“How about you hang with us, little bro,” Gordon said. “Mr. Van der Glinde — Mynheer Van der Glinde, isn’t that the honorific?” The New Amsterdammer nodded approvingly. “He may be able to provide us with valuable information.”
“Huh,” Pete said, leaning back against one wall. “And if he can’t?”
“You can always throw him into the bay.” Gordon smiled. “But that probably won’t be necessary.”
He gestured to a bench, and the two men sat down, while Pete and Maartens remained standing. “Tell us, Mynheer, if you would, what you know of the French designs on New Netherland.”
* * *
For the next hour Van der Glinde related what he knew about the situation in the back country. As yet there had been no major Indian movement against New Amsterdam, or any indication of trouble up river at Fort Orange; there was still a brisk trade in beaver pelts.
“There’s a standing order against trading guns and powder to the Indians,” the Dutchman said. “But that’s not even honored in the breach. They know that they can ignore the governor without fear of reprisal.”
“Why is that?” Pete asked.
“Have you met our esteemed governor?” Van der Glinde asked, looking from Gordon to Pete. “No, I suppose not. The Honorable Wouter van Twiller is a nephew of our great patroon Kiliaen van Rensselaer, and that is the only thing that qualifies him for the position. If there is wine to be had, he will drink more than his share. If there is a decision to be made, he will find someone else to make it.”
“Does he think that New Amsterdam is in danger?”
“It’s probably crossed his mind, yes, but it’s not him — or his council, such as it is — that is alarming the citizens, or building the wall at the Kill. It was not the Honorable Wouter van Twiller that sent me to Magdeburg two years ago to make appeal to Don F — to your esteemed patron,” he said, noting the frown from Gordon.
“So who sent you?” Pete asked. “If it wasn’t the governor, who did you represent?”
Van der Glinde looked from Pete to Gordon once more. “I…was sent particularly by the Honorable Kiliaen van Rensselaer.”
“The governor’s uncle, the one you mentioned?”
“Yes,” Van der Glinde said. “He sees what is coming, and he has the most to lose. If the French take the colony of the New Netherlands, he will receive nothing in the way of compensation. He is not inclined to let that happen — and is willing to pay well to gain help.”
“What sort of help does he want? What does he expect?”
“Up-timer help,” the Dutchman said.
“What does that mean?”
Van der Glinde shrugged.
“Five years ago,” he said at last, “the world was turned upside down by the coming of you Americans. There had been France, and Spain, England and the Empire, Sweden and Denmark…and then suddenly there you were. I have read something of the history that you brought back with you: how the Swedish king was killed in a battle in 1632 and General Wallenstein was murdered a few years later — and how the war dragged on another sixteen years, ravaging all of the Germanies. Spain ended prostrate and only France could be considered to be triumphant.
“You have rewritten history in only a few years. You have changed everything. Four years ago — even three years ago — anyone reading the up-time histories might be able to see the way things were going, and make intelligent choices based on that knowledge. Certainly the English king based all of his future strategy on what he read. But now…so many things have changed, so many winds have blown in new directions, that the up-time histories might as well be stories of another world.
“We see the French wolf has finally begun to turn his attention to the New World, Mynheer Chehab. My patron, Mynheer Van Rensselaer, believes that you up-timers have a chance to change the world again.”
Gordon leaned forward, elbows on knees, and leaned his chin on his fists.
“That’s a very pretty speech, Mynheer Van der Glinde. I hear what you are saying — and it’s true: with every year — with every month — that distances us from the Ring of Fire, the world that we live in diverges further from the world that might have been had we not come back to change it.
“But everyone else knows that too. We made no effort to keep the future that we knew secret. The cardinal, King Charles, King Philip of Spain — hell, the Sultan of the Ottomans are all aware what history has — had — in store. We have so many enemies, so many greedy nations that want what we have — that want what we used to have.
“Didn’t our patron tell you, sir, that we have plenty of enemies and plenty of problems of our own? This is far away from the United States of Europe, Mynheer. Thousands of miles, weeks and weeks.”
“Then I must ask you a question,” Van der Glinde said.
“If this is so far away, Mynheer,” the Dutchman asked, “then why are you here? What can you do? Is this like a bear-baiting, where you place yourselves in front of us and then deny your help, merely to disappoint or enrage us? If so” — he stood up and turned to Pete, spreading his hands wide — “you’d best toss me into the bay and get it over with. I wanted to believe that you were the answer to our pleas.”
“We’re not here to taunt you,” Gordon said. “But our situation has changed in the two years since you spoke to Francisco Nasi. There was another election and Mike Stearns was replaced as prime minister of the USE by Wilhelm Wettin. Nasi is no longer part of the USE government. Before he left, he passed on your request to Ed Piazza, the president of the State of Thuringia-Franconia — that’s the most populous province of the USE, if you didn’t know already. Ed decided to go ahead with the expedition, but I’m now representing the SoTF as what amounts to a combination trade mission and unofficial diplomatic mission. The truth is, the USE as such is not only not sponsoring this expedition, they probably don’t even know about it.”
He paused to see if Van der Glinde had absorbed all that. The Dutchman seemed to have followed him pretty well, so Gordon went on.