1636 The China Venture – Snippet 21
“I agree,” said Eric Garlow.
“Surely it would be premature to assume a nobleman’s guilt on the basis of the unwitnessed word of this woman,” protested Salvius’ servant, Anders Hansson.
“She has reported unwelcome advances from him before,” said Martina. “And Eva and I can testify to what we’ve witnessed him say and do.”
“For that matter, I think she should be confined under guard. How do we know that she didn’t push him overboard?” Anders added.
“She says he fell. And if she had pushed him, it would have been self-defense,” Martina protested hotly.
‘Enough!” said Captain Lyell. “We are on the deck of a ship, my ship, not in a court of law. I’ll find out what happened tomorrow. Right now, I have to search for Ambassador Salvius, without losing anyone else. If you want to be helpful, go to the sides and look for Salvius in the water. Point and yell if you see him.”
The search continued that night, and the following day, but neither Salvius nor his body was found.
Captain Lyell cleared his throat. “I have read the statements of Judith Leyster, Martina Goss, Eva Huber, Zacharias Wagaener, Anders Hansson, the upper steersman, and the crew members whom Judith notified of the accident, and questioned them directly on certain points. I am going to record the death of Ambassador Salvius as being the result of misadventure at sea. That is, to say, falling overboard at night. And that’s all I intend to say officially about the matter.”
“What about the attempted rape?”
“The emperor would not welcome us placing a stain on the record of his appointed ambassador. The less said about that, the better.”
“What of the stain on Judith’s honor?” asked Martina?
“It could just as easily have been Martina or me that the beast attacked,” Eva added.
The captain made a placating gesture. “She was shaken by the incident, but the only physical harm was to her dress, and the sailmaker can help her mend it, should she need help. I am not going to offend an emperor over a failed attempt.
“As for her reputation, all that the crew knows for sure is that she was on the deck at night, and that her blouse was torn. But until today, she has been, as far as I know, the epitome of virtue, not visibly flirting with anyone. That said, it perhaps would have been wise for her not to go up on deck alone at night,” said the captain.
Martina’s face turned red. “So it’s her fault?”
“No, I’ll not go that far. I can understand her need for fresh air after being cooped up thanks to the last storm. But there are only three women on board, and hundreds of men, men desperate or hard enough to chance a life at sea, and there is such a thing as tempting fate. The crew will be talking about this incident until something new captures their attention, and I can’t stop them from wondering whether it was an assignation that got out of hand.”
As it turned out, the captain was unduly pessimistic about the crew’s reaction. Anders Hansson, playing cards on the forecastle with some sailors, made some nasty comments about Judith, and “accidentally” fell and broke his nose.
Apparently, over the long voyage, many of the sailors had sneaked a peek at Judith’s sketches, and liked what they saw.
Hansson, on the other hand, had acquired a reputation of being servile toward his superiors and abrasive toward his inferiors. The latter category had included, until now, the sailors.
“Doctor Garlow, Doctor Saluzzo, a moment of your time.” The speaker was Peter Minuit, the former governor of the New Netherlands and the chief representative of the mission’s financial supporter, the SEAC.
“I appreciate that in the diplomatic credentials provided by Emperor Gustav, Doctor Garlow is named as the successor to Johann Salvius as ambassador in the event of Salvius’ death, resignation, or inability to serve. The latter clause triggering since he is lost at sea, even though it is too soon for him to legally be presumed dead. However, I ask you to consider why Johann Salvius was named as ambassador even though Doctor Garlow has been with the ‘China Project’ since its inception.”
“You know, I am actually not a doctor, in fact, I was one semester short of receiving a bachelor’s degree,” Eric Garlow protested.
Minuit waved this off. “Given what you must learn to receive an up-time bachelor’s degree, you would be considered the equal if not the superior of a doctor of philosophy at any university in Europe. Jena, Padua, or Leiden would all be glad to have you. And I am sure that as a Professor of Chinese Language and Literature, the first in Europe, you would thrive in such an academic environment.”
Eric suddenly realized that this was not a compliment. “But not, say, as an ambassador at an imperial court?”
“Salvius, for all his faults, was the son of a civil servant, trained in law, and experienced in politics and diplomacy. He traveled all over the Germanies on King Gustav’s behalf.”
Jim Saluzzo snorted. “I don’t doubt his qualifications for negotiating with fellow Europeans, but he hardly has the understanding of the Chinese that Eric has.”
“If the understanding of Chinese were critical, then the emperor would have appointed Mike Song as ambassador. And do you know why the emperor did not name Eric, or you, or Mike as the ambassador?”
“Because Salvius paid him a bribe to get the position?” Eric’s time with Don Francisco had increased his skepticism concerning political affairs.
Minuit laughed. “Well, maybe. Even probably. But that was surely only a minor consideration, a reason for preferring Salvius to someone else, Henrik Klasson Fleming perhaps.
“No, it was because the people who run a government of a great country tend to be old not young, and they do not take seriously the opinions of young men, especially men they do not know. How old was the former Jesuit Provincial, Matteo Ricci, when he had his first audience with the Chinese Emperor?”
“Actually, he never met the Wanli Emperor,” said Eric. “But he was invited to the Forbidden City in 1601, when he was forty-nine years old.”
“And how old are you, Eric?”
“I am twenty-six. But Jim here is twenty-five, so the two of us together would make an excellent ambassador.”
“An excellent jest, but this is a most serious matter.”
“Yes it is,” said Jim. “I take it that you are working your way around to proposing an alternative ambassador. One with lots of grey hairs.”
Jim smiled. “The oldest member of our party is Rafael Carvalhal, our Jewish physician. Perhaps he’d do?”
Eric covered his mouth to conceal a snicker. “Or if Johann Salvius represents the ideal age for an ambassador, then perhaps we should consider our Asia expert, Maarten Gerritzoon Vries, who’s just one year older.”
Minuit ground his teeth. “Most amusing. Yes, I am putting myself forward as the new ambassador. I am nine years older than Salvius, I have negotiated with the Indians–“
“The American Indians, you mean, not the Mughals,” Eric interjected. “They don’t have much in common with the Chinese, do they?”
“– The A-mer-i-can Indians, and the British colonists in America, and I am intimate with the key investors whose participation was critical to the funding of this mission.”
“Very true,” said Eric. “And I think that explains why you were given the honor of being the chief merchant for SEAC in Asia, but not named as a successor Ambassador. The emperor recognizes that the interests of the SEAC and USE are similar, but not identical. He needs an Ambassador that will put the USE first.”
“I agree,” said Jim. “And I’m the second alternate.”
And that ended the discussion.