This book should be available now so this is the last snippet.
1635: A Parcel of Rogues – Snippet 38
“Which he can have, for as much as I can bargain the bribe up to. What you said was you were going to Newcastle and then Hamburg on the next collier from there, since there wasn’t a ship direct to anywhere in Germany today. And you stopped along of me because I offered Mistress Mason here when she was asking yesterday, why are them folks wanted outlaws? Well, I never, they looked so respectable an’ all. I can keep that up all day and half the night at need, everyone expects the big fellow to be a friendly idiot. Worked for me since I was big enough to get a tun up over my head on a dare, that has.”
“Well, you’re fool enough to lift a tun on your own, what do you expect people to think?” That was one of Rob’s younger brothers, whose name Darryl hadn’t got in his head, and he wasn’t much smaller than his big brother. If it came to tipping ships up and giving them a good shake, he’d probably need the help of the littlest billygoat Rob, whose name Darryl had caught as Paul. While he wasn’t much bigger than a normal human being, the size of breakfast he put down showed he was serious about catching up. If civil war did come to England, Darryl could see the MOS for these guys right way. Give ’em a cannon apiece, none of them would have any trouble firing a galloper gun off the shoulder, armor ’em up and there you go. Instant tanks.
“Whatever. You going to go looking after any false constables by the wharf? Seems to me we need a clear coast for these good people and it’s time you two got to it. Just the downriver end, mind, nobody’ll be blabbing on purpose but you know how people gossip and don’t care who’s listening. Then, when everyone’s safe aboard, we’ll go sell the story to the false constables.”
A little grumbling and the two got up and headed out to look over the neighbourhood.
Mackay insisted on being the one to write the bill of sale for the horses, since he wasn’t to have the fun of haggling a good price for them himself, and took time to give Rob a long list of instructions for the dickering he would be doing. When the tide of words ebbed, Rob blinked, was silent a moment, and then said: “When I said I wanted education, I didn’t mean right now!”
“Welcome to my life, locked in the tower for a year with Miz Mailey,” Darryl said. “I swear, that woman figured any minute she didn’t spend pounding facts into my poor brain was a minute wasted.”
“She didn’t think the time she got while you were at school was enough, did she?” Gayle asked, mischievous.
“Yeah, well, I’m gonna have me some words on that subject, next I see her. She tried to teach me a bunch of history and now I’m here livin’ it, some of it turns out not quite the way she said it, now does it? You got Puritans who’re revolutionaries in secret, Oliver Cromwell only got a year of college and spent most of that playing sports, and half of those are as likely to kill you as not, and don’t think I didn’t see what you done to that guy back in the fen, Oliver, would’ve been kinder to shoot him.”
“His own fault. I was college champion at singlestick. Nobody forced him to take up that cudgel. Wouldn’t mind another go-round with an Irishman, mind, it’s an interesting style.”
“My point exactly. Sport where you can put a dent the size of a damned fist in a steel helmet, played without helmets, and let’s see if I got this right, you win by drawing an inch of blood out of the other guy’s head? And you thought playing it at night, in a swamp, with guys who had guns, was interesting? This is why I got a problem with history. It all got made by crazy guys. Like this one.”
“Who’s after being a new Hereward, eh?” Rob grinned.
“I had more of a mind for Robin Hood,” Cromwell said. “How can I Wake if I’ve been hit on the head so much?”
“Ah, true,” Rob said, “You can go here-ward and there-ward in Lincoln green instead.”
“And now puns,” Darryl groaned. “My day is complete.”
Apart from the puns, and a little light chat about what life was like on King’s Lynn these days — tough — and conditions for dock-workers — tough, but improving with a little pressure from below — they got to where Rob’s brothers came back with the news that the Irishmen had arrived in town and were asking along completely the wrong end of the river wharf. They were starting to spread out, though.
“Aye, well, let’s be about it,” Cromwell said, rising. “I could ask, though, how is it that the justices don’t have you before them for restraint of trade? Enticement of servants?”
Rob laughed as he showed them out the door. “That’s the best part. The wharves used to insist on day-labor. Can’t entice day-labor, nor restrain trade if every man decides to refuse to work of his own accord, and who’s to say what passed between him and friends over ale the day before? They can prove nothing. And then when one wharf finds he may only have workers by engaging men for regular wages on agreed terms — and always before witnesses — then suddenly another wharf finds no day-labor will apply to him. They know what goes on, mind, but can prove nothing unlawful on oath. Perhaps a couple of fellows thought to have a shilling for informing falsely, but there’s more still will inform on the informers. And I can be a most persuading sort of fellow, when I’ve a mind.”
“Persuading?” Cromwell said, an eyebrow raised. Darryl privately thought it was a bit rich him wondering about whether or not this sort of thing was legal when he was dead set on turning rebel against the king. But he let it go.
“Thou shalt not bear false witness,” Rob said, suddenly a lot less cheerful-sounding. “A text I can preach on at very, very great length.”
“Rightly so,” Cromwell said, after a pause.
Half an hour later, they were aboard the Magpie, a tidy little ship made to carry a hundred and eighty tons of coal at a time. She was, of course, completely filthy with coal dust, despite the efforts of her crew of fifteen. Darryl couldn’t really follow the nautical stuff that was getting yelled as she got under way, not least because the accent was so damned off. The dialect almost sounded like some of the north-west German guys he knew, but the accent had him wishing for subtitles.
None of the other English guys understood much of what the collier’s crew were saying either, apart from Leebrick, who’d run into Tynesiders before. Mackay averred that he’d had a couple in his company, because although Newcastle was a bit outside the traditional Borders area, it was close enough that a few of them had been around when they’d been recruiting. And he’d never been able to understand a bloody word they said either, which was something coming from a man, who, when he decided to really come the Scotsman, was flat-out incomprehensible to one Darryl McCarthy, esquire.
So they all gathered at the stern rail, inhaling the pungent stink of coal — that took Darryl back to simpler times — and watched for Finnegan and his boys to get the message that their quarry was now at sea and beyond hope of capture. And, yes! Rob’s timing had been perfect. Four of them, suddenly, in the gap at the wharf where the Magpie had been, just as she edged, under nothing more than a single sail, into the current of the Great Ouse and began to drift gently down to the Wash and on her way.
“Would you say that was about fifty yards?” Cromwell asked, of nobody in particular.
Mackay gave the matter a considering look. “A little over, Mister Cromwell.”
“And, of course, we may not open fire, for fear of harming the innocent.”
“A commendable caution on your part, Mister Cromwell,” Mackay said, gravely.
“And, do we provoke them, we are too distant for them to do injury to this fine vessel, I think.”
“That would be my conclusion also.”
“Excellent,” Cromwell said.
And, to Darryl’s frank amazement, the man cupped his hands for an impromptu trumpet, and without once uttering blasphemy or obscenity, nor even violating the Profane Swearing Act all that much, let Finnegan know precisely what he thought of the man.
And he was right. None of the answering pistol fire so much as scratched the ship.
“That’s a collier, right?” Finnegan blew the smoke away from his face. Cromwell was still yelling, but getting fainter all the time.
“That’s what the man said,” Tully answered, “and look at the dirt of her. She carries coal, all right.”
“And high in the water, too. Ask around, but I think you’ll find she’s heading home, back to Newcastle.”
“That where we’re bound next?” Tully asked.
“No, there’s nothing in Newcastle for them. But that was for certain sure Mackay there stood by Cromwell. And that means Edinburgh. The earl’s packet on that one says he took his daughter to Edinburgh, where she fell ill. And lived, but he’ll not have brought the mite with him here to do a prison-break.”
“Aye. Even if the others take another ship from Newcastle, he and that bitch of a wife of his, her and the rifle, will go on to Edinburgh to pick up the brat. Do we lay hold of them, we’ll know where Cromwell went, which will be something, and where Leebrick and his men went, which is another thing. And, pardon my pessimism, I for one want to report failure to the earl with something to offer him to soften it.”
“And from a long way away?”
“Aye, from a long way away.”
“Well, we got away.” Darryl looked around at the others. “And don’t you ever tell me about harsh language again, Mister Oliver so-called-Puritan Cromwell.”
Cromwell grinned back. “Harsh language, where it is deserved, is no impropriety. It’s filth and blasphemy I object to.”
Darryl harrumphed. “I know Alex and Julie have to go on to Edinburgh, and I don’t reckon it’d be right for me not to go along in case Finnegan and his mob recognised ’em, but what about you and the kids? Can we get you away to safety?”
“For me, no. Robert?” Cromwell called his son over from where he was watching the sailors getting a full spread of sail on.
“Father?” the younger Cromwell said, presenting himself as smartly as any soldier.
“It will fall to you to look after Oliver and the little ones while I attend to my duty.”
“Aye, father. In Newcastle, perhaps? It’s our next port. The captain says we needn’t worry about pirates on this journey, with the ship empty.”
“We might be able to arrange better, actually,” Gayle put in. “We’ve got all tonight to get messages back home, and these fine tall masts for an aerial. I’m pretty sure we can find somewhere for the kids in Grantville. My brother Arnold would take them in, I think. He makes a good living in mining administration. He’s got three kids of his own but that’s a big house he’s got.”
She hesitated a moment. “I’m sure my sister Susan would take them in, too, but she’s Catholic since she married into” — here a nod toward Darryl — “that big McCarthy clan he belongs to. I don’t know if that’d be a problem for you, Oliver.”
He pursed his lips thoughtfully. “Might not be, if they don’t insist on pushing their creed onto my children. What is your brother’s faith?”
“He’s Disciples of Christ, like me.” Again, she hesitated. “That’s… ah, well, we’re Protestants and congregationalists. I’m not sure if you’d consider us ‘godly’ the way you use the term, but…”
He nodded. “Much closer than Catholics, certainly. Well, see if he’s willing. If not, I’ve no great objection to your sister.” He gave his son a rather sly smile. “I dare say Robert can withstand the blandishments of papistry.”
His son looked quite stern, in response.
Gayle chuckled. “All right, then. I’ll make the call tonight. If they can wait in Newcastle for a ship going the right way. You up to that, Robert?”
Robert nodded, now looking more solemn than stern.
Leebrick cleared his throat. “While I should like to come to Edinburgh, and I won’t speak for the other two, I’m keen to get me over to Germany. I’ve Libby to support, and I’m not doing it here. The poor girl left all her livelihood behind when she left London, and the money she had of me won’t last forever. I could go with Robert, here, help him with the guarding of the littl’uns in Grantville?”
After that, it was settling of details.