1636 The China Venture – Snippet 28

Chapter 19

On board the Rode Draak, in the South China Sea

May 1635

Martina cleared her throat. “Doctor Carvalhal, may I have a word with you?”

Rafael Carvalhal was a short man; if Martina wore heels, she’d be taller than him. He had salt-and-pepper hair, and the same olive skin that some of her Saluzzo in-laws did. He had come to Grantville in the fall of 1631, after the Battle of Breitenfeld, and enrolled his son Carlos in the high school. He was a graduate of Padua, one of the few European medical schools that would accept Jews; most learned the art as apprentices of other Jews.

Despite these credentials, he had taken a job at the Leahy Medical Center Emergency Department as what initially amounted to a nurse-translator. That is, he helped the up-timers understand the complaints of their non-English-speaking patients, and helped the down-timers understand the diagnosis and proposed course of treatment. And as a nurse, he did whatever he needed to do. At night, he studied the up-time books of medicine, sometimes grabbing a book as soon as Balthazar Abrabanel returned it to Doctor Adams.

By early 1634, when he was recruited for the USE mission to China, he had advanced to being one of the regular doctors in the rotation.

Carvalhal of course had visited Morris and Judith Roth, Grantville’s first Jewish family, many times. They had a good collection of books on Jewish history and from this he had seen confirmation of a claim that the Jesuits had made: that Jews lived in China. He had not taken particular note of this at the time, but he had mentioned it to his son, who was intrigued enough to write a paper about the Jews of Kaifeng for his history class. And Rafael had honored his son’s scholarship by reading the paper.

The Jesuits were interested in those Jews for several reasons. First, they hoped to prove that the Torahs in use in Europe had been deceitfully edited by rabbis to remove prophecies of the coming of Jesus. The Jesuits assumed that the Jews had come to China before then and had unedited Torahs.

Secondly, the Jesuits had a bitter dispute with the other missionary orders as to which Chinese terms were properly used to refer to God and Heaven, and whether the rites honoring Confucius and ancestors were compatible with the Christian faith. Since Judaism was also monotheistic, Jewish acceptance of a term or custom was some evidence that it was free of the taint of idolatry.

In the old time line, in 1650, Manassah ben Israel had cited those (in fact unedited) Chinese Torahs in his plea to Oliver Cromwell to permit the Jews to return to England, but otherwise the European Jewish community had been relatively uninterested in Chinese Jewry until the nineteenth century.

In the here-and-now, Balthazar Abrabanel had urged Rafael Carvalhal to accept the position of mission physician, both to provide assistance to Chinese Jewry, and to bring back to Europe as much in the way of Chinese herbal medicine as possible.

“How may I be of service, Tàitai?’

Martina noted with approval his choice of language. The decision had been made that the USE mission staff should speak in Chinese, or if not in Chinese, then in Portuguese or Dutch, whenever possible.

“Since we left Batavia, I have been quite nauseous.”

“I see. And have you missed your period?”

“I have, but that happened when we left Gothenburg, too. And from time to time in the course of our voyage. ”

“Yes, you can miss a period when you are under stress, and given the rigors of the voyage, and the expectations we are under, that is not surprising. And the nausea could be just sea sickness. We were on land long enough for you to, I think the expression is, ‘lose your sea legs.’

“Forgive me for asking, but how often and how recently have you and your husband, er….” His voice faded off.

“Had sex? Hardly at all during the voyage; privacy was an issue. I guess we made up for lost time when we stopped at Batavia. Still, we were careful. I kept track of my basal body temperature, menstrual bleeding, and cervical mucus, and we had intercourse only when I was supposed to be infertile.”

Doctor Carvalho nodded. “Those methods are good but not perfect for avoiding pregnancy, especially if you have an irregular period. And of course, each time you have intercourse, you are rolling the dice, even if the odds are in your favor.

“Breasts swollen? Increased urination? Spotting? Cramping? Mood Swings? Bouts of Dizziness? Constipation? Food cravings or aversions? Fatigue?”

“None of those yet, Doctor.”

“You brought an up-time basal thermometer with you. By any chance did you bring a home pregnancy test?”

“No, Doctor, or I’d have used it instead of coming to you. I didn’t think to try to buy one until this summer, and by then the pharmacy had sold out.”

“Well, we’ll just have to wait and see, then. Let me know if you experience any of the other symptoms. And, in any event, if you are pregnant, as a first time mother you’ll probably start to show at twelve to sixteen weeks. If that happens then we will know that you are pregnant, as the lawyers in Grantville say, beyond any reasonable doubt.”

Year of the Pig, Third Month, Day 10

Near Guangzhou (Canton) China

The Rode Draak and the Groen Feniks anchored in a small but deep cove on the island of Tai-fu. This island lay a bit upriver from the mouth of the Pearl River, the Boca Tigris, and its forts, but well downstream of the city of Guangzhou.

Captain Lyell paid off “No Leg,” thanked him for his service, wished him the best, and gave him messages–written of course by Mike Song–to convey to the local authorities. “No Leg” hailed a passing sampan, and took it upriver toward Guangzhou.


“No Leg” Huang’s first stop was not any official building, but rather the local office of the Zheng family trading company. The office was in something of an uproar, as it was also the liaison between the local authorities and Admiral Zheng Zhilong’s operations against the pirate fleet of Liu Xiang, which was active in the waters of Guangdong Province.

Still, after some doing, he located the Zheng in charge.

“Cousin Swallow!” he cried. Zheng Zhiyan, Yan the Swallow, was a kinsman by marriage; Zheng Zhilong had married a Huang.

“Important news! Two ships have arrived from Europe. One bears three men and a woman from Grantville.”

From then on, the office was in even more of an uproar.

Third Month, Day 12

Tiger Island

The two ships had been allowed to buy provisions and fresh water, but not to trade, let alone proceed up the Pearl to Guangzhou and beyond.

Peter Minuit urged that they proceed up-river without permission and, if the natives dared to fire upon them, fire back. Maarten Vries warned that the Pearl River was notoriously dangerous to venture upon, at least in a ship of the Rode Draak‘s draft, without a native pilot as a guide. Peter Minuit said, no problem, grab a ship captain off his junk and insist that he guide them across the shoals.

“Somehow, I don’t think that such behavior will persuade the Chinese that we are friendly traders,” said Eric drily.

“Oh, these Asiatics will look down their noses at you until you show them you mean business, then they’ll prostrate themselves before you.”

“Enough,” said Eric. “We’ll send another messenger with gifts, wait a week, and if we don’t get anywhere, we’ll sail for the Pescadores and Taiwan and talk to the Chinese there.”

Third Month, Day 18

Finally, the USE mission did get a Chinese visitor, but he was not a mandarin.

“My name is Zheng Zhiyan, that is, Yan the Swallow,” he said. This Yan the Swallow, Eric observed, was a young man of athletic build that looked to me about Eric’s own age.

“I have heard that some of you are from a town called Grantville, is that correct?”

“That’s right,” said Eric. “Four of us are.”

“Excellent. My elder brother, Zheng Zhilong, is most interested in meeting people from Grantville, and seeing the wondrous contrivances of that remarkable place. Unfortunately, he cannot come here now. He is an admiral in command of the naval forces of Fujian province, and he has pursued the pirate fleet of Liu Xiang into these waters. I was left here as the liaison between him and the governor of Guangdong Province, whose capital is Guangzhou.”