1636 The China Venture – Snippet 24
Batavia (modern Jakarta, Island of Java, Indonesia)
The Rode Draak and the Groen Feniks entered the Sunda Strait, between Sumatra and Java, which was one of the main connections between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific. They passed a few miles to the east of Krakatau. The island was covered with trees, and there was not even a hint of steam emerging from the caldera. Jim Saluzzo openly marveled over how peaceful and idyllic it seemed, giving no hint that it would erupt cataclysmically in 1883, launching tsunamis killing tens of thousands of people, and influencing weather across the world for several years to come.
Several days later, they rounded Bantam Point, entering the Java Sea. The town of Bantam, on Bantam Bay, was ruled by a sultan, but there were English and Dutch trading houses there. The USE ships stopped in Bantam Bay to take on water; not at the city proper but from one of the nearby mountain streams that came down to meet the sea. A small group of natives from a nearby village came by to offer coconuts, fruit, chickens and other goods for sale or barter.
Having completed this resupply, the Rode Draak and the Groen Feniks set course for Batavia Roads. They worked their way through the archipelago that the Dutch called “the Thousand Islands,” with a cutter leading the way for the Groen Feniks, and that ship for the deeper-drafted Rode Draak. To the south, beyond the glittering sea, lay the coast of northern Java.
Eventually they cleared the Thousand Islands, and, flags flying, eased their way into the bay of Batavia. They exchanged salutes with an outlying fort, and then entered the harbor proper.
That harbor was filled with a forest of masts. Batavia was the nerve center of the Dutch East India Company, and the harbor was so well sheltered by islands that no Dutch ship had ever been lost to storm there. On one of those islands, Onrust, stood the naval arsenal and the dockyard. Had the Rode Draak or the Groen Feniks been sufficiently battered by storms on the passage from Europe, the dockyard would have been the first stop.
The ships in the harbor were not all Dutch, of course. The Malay, the Chinese, the Vietnamese, and even the Indians and Japanese came here to trade.
The city of Batavia rose from the marshy shores of the bay. Behind the city were undulating green hills, with groves of coconut and banana trees at their feet, and fields of rice climbing the sides. The Jacatra River, after descending from the Blue Mountains further south, threaded its way between those hills, emptying into the bay.
Captain Lyell was on the quarterdeck of the Rode Draak, giving orders; and conscious of how many eyes were watching his ship. Maarten Gerritzoon Vries stood beside Eric Garlow, giving him a running commentary.
“We call Batavia the ‘Queen of the East.’ See the river?” Eric nodded. “The colonists divided it into two branches, which form an artificial moat for the city. They unite below it. Just inside the moat is the city wall, twenty feet high.”
“What’s it made out of?” asked Eric.
“Mostly coral, from the islands,” Maarten replied. “There’s no quarryable stone for many miles. Well, except for lava from the mountains.”
Eric studied the city through a spyglass. It was a simple telescope of up-time manufacture, a child’s toy by twentieth century standards, but its lenses were superior in clarity and form to those ground before the Ring of Fire. The telescope, after all, had only been invented a few decades earlier.
“The houses inside the city seem to be Dutch in style….” he murmured.
“Yes, and if they weren’t enough to make you think of Amsterdam, the streets are laid out in a grid, and each major street has a tree-lined canal running down the center.”
Eric was still studying the prospect. “Is that a Chinese temple I see?”
“Yes,” said Maarten, “and there are several mosques too, this part of Java being Mohammedan. Now, in front of the city proper, and outside the city walls, you can see the citadel. It is quadrangular, with walls thirty feet high, and four bastions–Diamond, Pearl, Sapphire and Ruby.”
Eric made a face. “Considering the history of the city, it would have been apter to call them Nutmeg, Mace, Cloves, and Pepper.”
“Hah. You’ll find the residence of the governor-general inside the citadel, of course.”
“What’s he like?”
“Hendrik Brouwer? I know him only by reputation. He is supposed to be a formidable individual.”
Governor-General Hendrik Brouwer was a man in late middle age, somewhere around fifty-five years old. Since he was sitting behind a desk, Eric couldn’t accurately gauge his height, but he suspected he was fairly tall for a down-timer. Brouwer had a long face with a big nose. His hair was a rather striking snow-white color, both on his scalp and beard.
“Well, you certainly are a young man with connections,” the governor-general commented, after he finished reading the letters that Eric Garlow had handed to him. “Letters from the Prince of Orange and from the Board of Directors of the VOC, both advising us that the United States of Europe is a Dutch ally and forced the Spanish under Cardinal-Infante Ferdinand to agree to a cease-fire, thus relieving the pressure on Amsterdam.
“I am directed to provide you with any necessary provisions and repairs, and permit you to buy trade goods marketable in China … all at a reasonable price, of course. And to give you adequate directions to the coast of China, and to permit you to trade at our colony on the island of Taiwan should you so desire. Again, within reason.”
Brouwer raised his eyebrows. “You understand that I cannot permit you to engross the Chinese trade and thereby deprive us of our rightful profits.”
Eric smiled. “There’s plenty of silk and porcelain in China. It would take a hundred ships, not our two, to have a serious impact on the market. Besides, it would be to your advantage if the Portuguese monopoly on direct official trade were broken by a Dutch ally, and we are guardedly hopeful that the opportunity to meet people from the future will give us an early entree to the imperial court.”
Brouwer stroked his chin. “Yes, I was fairly sure you were a man from Grantville. Your teeth, your complexion, your height, and of course your horrible Latin. ‘Up-timer,’ is that the term? You are the first such to come to this part of the world, at least openly. I first heard rumors of Grantville when I went to London as part of a trade delegation, in 1632, but I was appointed Governor-General in April of that year and therefore never had the opportunity to visit Grantville. One day, perhaps.”
“We sent our own delegation to London in 1633. King Charles imprisoned them in the Tower.”
“More for King Charles than for them. We sent a timberclad paddle wheeler up the Thames in May 1634, and blew up the damned tower.” Eric was aware that it was actually Harry Lefferts’ crew that did all the bang-making, but felt it better to impress Brouwer with the might of the USE Navy.
“How droll, then.”
“That was, of course, after our ironclads compelled the surrender of Copenhagen, and immediately before the same timberclad forced the Spanish to stop shooting at Amsterdam.”
“Thank you for that. By the way, I couldn’t help but notice that the credentials you provided named Johan Adler Salvius as the ambassador, and you merely as his successor. Was there a change of plans?”
“Not of plans, merely of circumstance. Salvius died at sea.”
“May God rest his soul then,” declared Brouwer piously. “I hope his death was not a painful or lingering one.”
“He fell overboard.”
“Ah. With age comes wisdom, but not surefootedness.”
Eric nodded, keeping his expression as neutral as possible.
“Well, I wish to invite you, your fellow up-timers, the captains of your two ships, and those of your staff who are not mere servants, to dine with me tonight.”
The official Dutch reception for the USE mission and the ships’ officers had been going on for several hours. Food and drink had been served; in the center of the hall, some of the Dutch singing a drinking song. The quieter souls, including Judith Leyster, had migrated to the corners. However, there were relatively few European women in Batavia and she did not go unnoticed.
“I am so pleased to find a countrywoman among the members of the USE mission,” Brouwer remarked. “And I understand that you are a master painter. It is truly an honor to meet you.” He bowed.
Judith Leyster curtseyed in return. “Well, formally that’s true; I was admitted to the Guild of Saint Luke’s in Haarlem. But I still have a lot to learn, I know.”
“Would that some of my master merchants shared your attitude. Was your masterwork of a nautical nature?”
Judith laughed. “Oh no, it was a self-portrait. Indeed, I wore for it the very attire I am wearing now.” At that moment, Judith was sporting a white head scarf, a sober gown with a black bodice, long purple silk sleeves and skirt, and a wide, well-starched white lace ruff.
“We have little art here in Batavia. Perhaps I can interest you in undertaking a commission?”
“I would love to, if it is of a nature that I could complete it before the Rode Draak leaves for China.”
“Are you not worried about how the Chinese will treat you? I have heard that the Chinese bind the feet of their women, so they can barely walk, and confine them in seraglios, like the Mohammedans. I cannot help but fear for the safety of a good Christian woman in such a benighted land.”
“I thank you for your concern, but of course I will be with the mission, and under its protection.”
“Yes, of course,” said Brouwer. “The Rode Draak appears to be a stout ship, and I am sure you will be safe on board. But do think about that commission I mentioned, and the advantages of living among Dutchmen. There are even some respectable women here … and more than three at that…. But please excuse me….”
After he left and she was sure he was out of sight, Judith made a face and shook her head. The last thing she wanted to do was part company with the USE mission. She had come to trust the up-timers, and had her own recent experience with just how badly even a prominent man could behave. If she left the mission, she would be on her own, without people she already knew, and it was unclear how far Brouwer’s patronage would run. She would also lose the opportunity for profit by private trading in China.
The next day, Eric Garlow questioned the rest of the USE mission as to what they learned from their conversations with the Dutch, and discovered that not only Judith Leyster, but also Peter Minuit, Maarten Gerritzoon Vries, Zacharia Wagaener, Colonel von Siegroth, and Aratun the Armenian had received offers of employment, or at least hints that such might be available, from Brouwer.
“It appears that our good friend the governor-general has attempted to instigate a brain drain,” he told the other up-timers. “At least of the down-timers associated with the mission or the trading company.”
“So much for the sincerity of his promise to honor the instructions from the Prince of Orange and the Directors of his own company,” Jim grumbled. “What about the ship’s officers and crew?”
“Well, save for the captain, they weren’t at the reception. But I imagine that they will be approached by Brouwer’s underlings.”
“What do we do?” asked Mike Song.
“Peter Minuit suggested that we start approaching Brouwer’s people about joining us.”
Jim laughed. “Oh, I like that. Turn about is fair play.”
“What if Brouwer takes advantage of it, uses it to place a spy or even a saboteur into our midst?” asked Mike.
“Minuit mentioned that possibility, too. He said that we don’t have to actually take Brouwer’s people, that it’s just a shot across the bow.”