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cannon. He claims English cast-iron culverin are the best in the

"God damn the Barbary Turks. And the Englishmen who've started helping
them." Spencer bristled. "Next thing and they'll be out past Gibraltar,
pillaging our shipping right up the Thames. But I understand you
revised his plans."

"The Turks don't have any more cannon now than they had two years ago.
When I refused to help them, they put me in prison, under guard. But
one night I managed to knife two of the guards and slip down to the
yard. I worked till dawn and had the guns spiked before anybody
realized I was gone."

"And I hear you next stole a single-masted shallop and sail'd the
length of the Barbary coast alone, right up to Gibraltar, where you
hailed an English merchantman?"

"Didn't seem much point in staying on after that."

"You're the man all right. Now, 'tis said you learn'd the language of
the Turks while you were in Tunis. Well, sirrah, answer me now, can you
speak it or no?"

"For two years I scarcely heard a word of English. But what's that to
do with trade in India? From what I know, you'll need a few merchants
who speak Portuguese. And plenty of English . . ."

"Hear me out, sir. If all I wanted was to anchor a cargo of English
goods and pull off some trade for a season, I'd not be

needin' a man like you. But let me tell you a thing or so about India.
The rulers there now are named Moghuls. They used to be called Mongols,
Turkish-Afghans from Turkistan, before they took over India about a
hundred years back, and their king, the one they call the Great Moghul,
still speaks some Turki, the language of the Central Asian steppes. Now
I'm told this Turki bears fair resemblance to the language of the
damned Turks in the Mediterranean." Spencer assumed a conspiratorial
smile. "I've a plan in mind, but it needs a man who speaks this Great
Moghul's language."

Hawksworth suddenly realized Maggie must have somehow convinced Spencer
he was the only seaman in England who knew Turkish. It could scarcely
be true.

"Now I ask you, Hawksworth, what's the purpose of the East India
Company? Well, 'tis to trade wool for pepper and spice, simple as that.
To find a market for English commodity, mainly wool. And to ship home
with cheap pepper. Now we can buy all the pepper we like down in Java
and Sumatra, but they'll not take wool in trade. And if we keep on
buying there with gold, there'll never be a farthing's profit in our
voyages to the Indies. By the same token, we're sure these Moghuls in
North India will take wool. They already buy it from the damned
Portugals. But they don't grow pepper." Spencer leaned forward and his
look darkened slightly. "The hard fact is the East India Company's not
done nearly as well as our subscribers hoped. But now the idea's come
along - I hate to admit 'twas George Elkington first thought of it - that
we try swappin' wool for the cotton goods they produce in North India,
then ship these south and trade for pepper and spice. Indian traders
have sold their cotton calicoes in the Spice Islands for years. Do you
follow the strategy?"

Spencer had scrutinized Hawksworth for a moment, puzzling at his flash
of anger when Elkington's name was mentioned, then pressed forward.

"Overall not a bad idea, considerin' it came from Elkington." Then
Spencer dropped his voice to just above a whisper. "But what he doesn't
understand is if we're goin' to start tradin' in India, we'll need a
real treaty, like the Hollanders have down in some of the islands.
Because once you've got a treaty, you can settle a permanent trading
station, what we call a 'factory,' and bargain year round. Buy when
prices are best."

Hawksworth sensed the interview would not be short, and he settled
uneasily into the chair. Maggie still stood erect and formal, affecting
a dignity more studied than natural. As Spencer warmed to his subject
he seemed to have forgotten her.

"Now, sir, once we have a factory we can start sending in a few cannon -
to 'protect our merchants,' like the Hollanders do in the islands - and
soon enough we've got the locals edgy. Handle it right and pretty soon
they'll sign over exclusive trade. No more competition." Spencer smiled
again in private satisfaction. "Are you startin' to follow my

"What you've described is the very arrangement the Portugals have in
India now." Hawksworth tried to appear attentive, but he couldn't keep
his eyes off Maggie, who stood behind Spencer wearing a triumphant
smile. "And they've got plenty of cannon and sail to make sure their
trade's exclusive."

"We know all about the Portugals' fleet of warships, and their
shipyards in Goa, and all the rest. But these things always take time.
Took the Portugals many a year to get their hooks into India's ports.
But their days are numbered there, Hawksworth. The whole Eastern empire
of the Portugals is rotten. I can almost smell it. But if we dally
about, the damned Hollanders are sure to move in." Spencer had become
increasingly excited, and Hawksworth watched as he began pacing about
the room.

"Well, if you're saying you want a treaty, why not just send an
ambassador to the Great Moghul's court?"

"Damn me, Hawksworth, it's not that easy. We send some dandified gentry
who doesn't know the language, and he'll end up havin' to do all his
talkin' through court interpreters. And who might they be? Well let me
just show you, sirrah." Spencer began to shuffle impatiently through
the papers on his desk. "They're Jesuits. Damned Jesuits. Papists
straight out o' Lisbon. We know for a fact they do all the translatin'
for the court in Agra." He paused as he rummaged the stacks in front of
him. "We've just got hold of some Jesuit letters. Sent out from the
Moghul capital at Agra, through Goa, intended for Lison. They'll tell
you plain enough what the Company's up against." His search became
increasingly frenetic. "Damn me, they were here." He rose and shuffled
toward the door, waving his cane in nervous agitation. "Hold a minute."

Hawksworth had watched him disappear through the doorway, then looked
back to see Maggie laughing. She retrieved a leather-bound packet from
the mantel and tossed it carelessly onto the desk. He found himself
watching her in admiration, realizing some things never change.

"What the hell's this about?"

She smiled and her voice was like always. "Methinks 'tis plain enough."

"You want me gone from London this badly?"

"He takes care o' me. At least he loves me. Something you were ne'er
capable of."

"And what were you capable of? All you wanted was . . ."

"I . . ." She looked away. "I know he'll give me what you ne'er would.
At least he has feelin' for me. More than you e'er did. Or could." Then
she turned back and looked at him for a long moment. "Say you'll go.
Knowin' you're still. . ."

"Damn it all!" Spencer burst back through the doorway. Then he spied
the leather packet. "That's it." He seized the bundle and thrust it
toward Hawksworth. "Read these through, sirrah, and you'll see clear
enough what we're up against. There's absolutely no point whatever in
postin' a real ambassador now." He hesitated for a moment, as though
unsure how to phrase his next point. "The most amazing thing is what
they say about the Great Moghul himself, the one they call Arangbar.
The Jesuits claim the man's scarcely ever sober. Seems he lives on some
kind of poppy sap they call opium, and on wine. He's a Moor sure
enough, but he drinks like a Christian, downs a full gallon of wine a
day. E'en holds audiences with a flagon in his hand. From the letters I
can sense the Jesuits all marvel how the damned heathen does it, but
they swear 'tis true. No, sirrah, we can't send some fancy-titled
ambassador now. That's later. We want a man of quality, it goes without
sayin', but he's got to be able to drink with that damned Moor and
parlay with him in his cups. No Jesuit interpreters."

Hawksworth steadied his hand on the carved arm of the chair, still
amazed by Maggie. "What will your subscribers think about sending the
captain of a merchantman to the court of Moghul India?"

"Never you mind the subscribers. Just tell me if you'd consider it.
T'will be a hard voyage, and a perilous trip inland once you make
landfall. But you sail'd the Mediterranean half a decade, and you know
enough about the Turks." Spencer tapped his fingers impatiently on his
ink-stained blotter. "And lest you're worried, have no doubt the
Company knows how to reward success."

Hawksworth looked again at Maggie. Her blue eyes were mute as stone.

"To tell the truth, I'm not sure I'm interested in a voyage to India.
George Elkington might be able to tell you the reason why. Have you
told me all of it?"

"Damn Elkington. What's he to do with this?" Spencer stopped in front
of the desk and fixed Hawksworth's gaze. "Aye, there's more. But what
I'm about to tell you now absolutely has to remain between us. So have
I your word?"

Hawksworth found himself nodding.

"Very well, sir. Then I'll give you the rest. His Majesty, King James,
is sending a personal letter to be delivered to this Great Moghul. And
gifts. All the usual diplomatic falderal these potentates expect. You'd
deliver the whole affair. Now the letter'll offer full and free trade
between England and India, nothing more. Won't mention the Portugals.
That'll come later. This is just the beginning. For now all we want is
a treaty to trade alongside the damned Papists. Break their monopoly."

"But why all the secrecy?"

"'Tis plain as a pikestaff, sirrah. The fewer know what we're plannin',
the less chance of word gettin' out to the Portugals, or the
Hollanders. Let the Papists and the Butterboxes look to their affairs
after we have a treaty. Remember the Portugals are swarmin' about the
Moghul's court, audiences every day. Not to mention a fleet of warships
holdin' the entire coast. And if they spy your colors, they're not apt
to welcome you aland for roast capon and grog."

"Who else knows about this?"

"Nobody. Least of all that windbag Elkington, who'd have it talk'd the
length of Cheapside in a fortnight. He'll be on the voyage, I regret to
say, but just as Chief Merchant. Which is all he's fit for, though I'd
warrant he presumes otherwise."

"I'd like a few days to think about it." Hawksworth looked again at
Maggie, still disbelieving. "First I'd like to see the _Discovery_. And
I'd also like to see your navigation charts for the Indian Ocean. I've
seen plenty of logs down to the Cape, and east, but nothing north from

"And with good reason. We've got no rutters north of the Cape. No
English sea dog's ever sail'd it. But I've made some inquiries, and I
think I've located a salt here who shipp'd it once, a long time past. A
Dutchman named Huyghen. The truth is he was born and rais'd right here
in London. He started out a Papist and when things got a bit hot in
England back around time of the Armada he left for Holland. E'en took a
Dutch name. Next he mov'd on down to Portugal thinkin' to be a Jesuit,
then shipp'd out to Goa and round the Indies. But he got a bellyfull of
popery soon enough, and came back to Amsterdam. Some years later he
help'd out their merchants by tellin' them exactly how the Portugals
navigate the passage round the Cape and out. The Hollanders say hadn't
been for the maps he drew up, they'd never have been able to double the
Cape in the first place. But he's back in London now, and we've track'd
him down. I understand he may've gone a bit daft, but perhaps 'twould
do no harm if you spoke to him."

"And what about the _Discovery_? I want to see her too."

"That you will, sir. She's in our shipyard down at Deptford. Might be
well if I just had Huyghen see you there. By all means look her over."
He beamed. "And a lovelier sight you're ne'er like to meet." Then,
remembering himself, he quickly turned aside. "Unless, of course,
'twould be my Margaret here." . . .

As agreed, Hawksworth was taken to Deptford the next day, the Company's
carriage inching through London's teeming streets for what seemed a
lifetime. His first sight of the shipyard was a confused tangle of
planking, ropes, and workmen, but he knew at a glance the _Discovery_
was destined to be handsome. The keel had been laid weeks before, and
he could already tell her fo'c'sle would be low and rakish. She was a
hundred and thirty feet from the red lion of her beakhead to the
taffrail at her stern - where gilding already was being applied to the
ornate quarter galleries. She was five hundred tons burden, each ton
some six hundred cubic feet of cargo space, and she would carry a
hundred and twenty men when fully crewed. Over her swarmed an army of
carpenters, painters, coopers, riggers, and joiners, while skilled
artisans were busy attaching newly gilded sculptures to her bow and

That day they were completing the installation of the hull chain-plates
that would secure deadeyes for the shrouds, and he moved closer to
watch. Stories had circulated the docks that less than a month into the
Company's last voyage the mainmast yard of a vessel had split, and the
shipbuilder, William Benten, and his foreman, Edward Chandler, had
narrowly escaped charges of lining their pockets by substituting cheap,
uncured wood.

He noticed that barrels of beer had been stationed around the yard for
the workmen, to blunt the lure of nearby alehouses, and as he stood
watching he saw Chandler seize a grizzled old bystander who had helped
himself to a tot of beer and begin forcibly evicting him from the yard.
As they passed, he heard the old man - clad in a worn leather jerkin, his
face ravaged by decades of salt wind and hard drink - reviling the

"What does the rottin' East India Company know o' the Indies. You'll
ne'er double the Cape in that pissin' shallop. 'Twould scarce serve to
ferry the Thames." The old man struggled weakly to loosen Chandler's
grasp on his jerkin. "But I can tell you th' Portugals've got carracks
that'll do it full easy, thousand-ton bottoms that'd hold this skiff in
the orlop deck and leave air for a hundred barrel o' biscuit. An' I've
shipped 'em. By all the saints, where's the man standin' that knows the
Indies better?"

Hawksworth realized he must be Huyghen. He intercepted him at the edge
of the yard and invited him to a tavern, but the old Englishman-turned-
Dutchman bitterly declined.

"I'll ha' none o' your fancy taverns, lad, aswarm wi' pox-faced gentry
fingerin' their meat pies. They'll ne'er take in the likes o' me." Then
he examined Hawksworth and flashed a toothless grin. "But there's an
alehouse right down the way where a man wi' salt in his veins can still
taste a drop in peace."

They went and Hawksworth had ordered the first round. When the tankards
arrived, Huyghen attacked his thirstily, maintaining a cynical silence
as Hawksworth began describing the Company's planned voyage, then asked
him what he knew of the passage east and north of the Cape. As soon as
his first tankard was dry, the old man spoke.

"Aye, I made the passage once, wi' Portugals. Back in'83. To Goa. An'
I've been to the Indies many a time since, wi' Dutchmen. But ne'er
again to that pissin' sinkhole."

"But what about the passage north, through the Indian Ocean?"

"I'll tell you this, lad, 'tis a sight different from shootin' down to
Java, like the Company's done before. 'Tis the roughest passage you're
e'er like to ship. Portugals post bottoms twice the burden o' the
Company's damn'd little frigates and still lose a hundred men e'ery
voyage out. When scurvy don't take 'em all. E'en the Dutchmen are
scared o' it."

Then Huyghen returned to his stories of Goa. Something in the
experience seemed to preoccupy his mind. Hawksworth found the
digression irritating, and he impatiently pressed forward.

"But what about the passage? How do they steer north

from the Cape? The Company has no charts, no rutters by pilots who've
made the passage."

"An' how could they?" Huyghen evaluated Hawksworth's purse lying on the
wooden table and discreetly signaled another round. "The Portugals know
the trick, lad, but you'll ne'er find one o' the whoremasters who'll
give it out."

"But is there a trade wind you can ride? Like the westerly to the

"Nothin' o' the sort, lad. But there's a wind sure enough. Only she
shifts about month by month. Give me that chart an' I'll show you."
Huyghen stretched for the parchment Hawksworth had brought, the new Map
of the World published by John Davis in 1600. He spread it over the
table, oblivious to the grease and encrusted ale, and stared at it for
a moment in groggy disbelief. Then he turned on Hawksworth. "Who drew
up this map?"

"It was assembled by an English navigator, from charts he made on his

"He's the lyin' son of a Spaniard's whore. I made this chart o' the
Indies wi' my own hand, years ago, for the Dutchmen. But what's the
difference? He copied it right." Huyghen spat on the floor and then
stabbed the east coast of Africa with a stubby finger. "Now you come
out o' the Mozambique Channel and into the Indian Ocean too early in
the summer, and you'll be the only bottom fool enough to be out o'
port. The monsoon'll batter you to plankin'. Get there too late, say
past the middle o' September, and you're fightin' a head wind all the
way. She's already turn'd on you. But come north round by Sokatra near
the end o' August and you'll ride a steady gale right into North India.
That's the tail o' the monsoon, lad, just before the winds switch
about. Two weeks, three at most, that's all you'll get. But steer it
true an' you'll make landfall just as India's ports reopen for the
autumn tradin' season."

Huyghen's voice trailed off as he morosely inspected the bottom of his
tankard. Hawksworth motioned for a third round, and as the old man drew
on the ale his eyes mellowed.

"Aye, you might make it. There's a look about you tells me you can work
a ship. But why would you want to be goin'?

T'will swallow you up, lad. I've only been to Goa, mind you, down on
India's west coastline, but that was near enough. I ne'er saw a man
come back once he went in India proper. Somethin' about it keeps 'em
there. Portugals says she always changes a man. He loses touch wi' what
he was. Nothin' we know about counts for anything there, lad."

"What do you mean? How different could it be? I saw plenty of Moors in

Huyghen laughed bitterly. "If you're thinkin' 'tis the same as Tunis,
then you're e'en a bigger fool than I took you for. Nay, lad, the Moor
part's the very least o' it." He drew on his tankard slowly,
deliberately. "I've thought on't a considerable time, an' I think I've
decipher'd what 'tis. But 'tis not a thing easy to spell out."

Huyghen was beginning to drift now, his eyes glazed in warm
forgetfulness from the ale. But still he continued. "You know, lad, I
actually saw some Englishmen go into India once before. Back in '83.
Year I was in Goa. An' they were ne'er heard from since."

Hawksworth stared at the old man a moment, and suddenly the name
clicked, and the date - 1583. Huyghen must have been the Dutch Catholic,
the one said to speak fluent English, who'd intervened for the English
scouting party imprisoned in Goa that year by the Portuguese. He tried
to still his pulse.

"Do you remember the Englishmen's names?"

"Seem to recall they were led by a man nam'd Symmes. But 'twas a long
time past, lad. Aye, Goa was quite the place then. Lucky I escap'd when
I did. E'en there, you stay awhile an' somethin' starts to hold you.
Too much o' India about the place. After a while all this" - Huyghen
gestured fondly about the alehouse, where sweat-soaked laborers and
seamen were drinking, quarreling, swearing as they bargained with a
scattering of weary prostitutes in dirty, tattered shifts - "all this
seems . . ." He took a deep draft of ale, attempting vainly to
formulate his thoughts. "I've ne'er been one wi' words. But don't do
it, lad. You go in, go all the way in to India, an' I'll wager you'll
ne'er be heard from more. I've seen it happen."

Hawksworth listened as Huyghen continued, his stories of the Indies a
mixture of ale and dreams. After a time he signaled another round for
them both. It was many empty tankards later when they parted.

But Huyghen's words stayed. And that night Brian Hawksworth walked
alone on the quay beside the Thames, bundled against the wet autumn
wind, and watched the ferry lanterns ply through the fog and heard the
muffled harangues of streetwalkers and cabmen from the muddy street
above. He thought about Huyghen, and about the man named Roger Symmes,
and about the voyage to India.

And he thought too about Maggie, who wanted him out of London before
her rich widower discovered the truth. Or before she admitted the truth
to herself. But either way it no longer seemed to matter.

That night he decided to accept the commission. . . .

The _Discovery _rolled heavily and Hawksworth glanced instinctively
toward the pulley lines that secured the two bronze cannon. Then he
remembered why he had left the quarterdeck, and he unlocked the top
drawer of the desk and removed the ship's log. He leafed one more time
through its pages, admiring his own script - strong but with an
occasional flourish.

Someday this could be the most valuable book in England, he told
himself. If we return. This will be the first log in England to
describe what the voyage to India is really like. The Company will have
a full account of the weather and sea, recorded by estimated longitude,
the distance traveled east.

He congratulated himself again on the care with which he had taken
their daily speed and used it to estimate longitude every morning since
the Cape, the last location where it was known exactly. And as he
studied the pages of the log, he realized how exact Huyghen's
prediction had been. The old man had been eerily correct about the
winds and the sea. They had caught the "tail o' the monsoon" precisely.

"August 27. Course N.E. ft E.; The wind at W.S., with gusts and rain.
Made 36 leagues today. Estimated longitude from the Cape 42° 50' E.

"August 28. Course N.E.; The wind at west, a fresh gale, with gusts and
rain this 24 hours. Leagues 35. Estimated longitude from the Cape, 44°
10' E."

The late August westerly Huyghen had foretold was carrying them a good
hundred land miles a day. They rode the monsoon's tail, and it was
still angry, but there was no longer a question that English frigates
could weather the passage.

As August drew to a close, however, scurvy had finally grown epidemic
on his sister ship, the _Resolve_. The men's teeth loosened, their gums
bled, and they began to complain of aching and burning in their limbs.
It was all the more tragic for the fact that this timeless scourge of
ocean travelers might at long last be preventable. Lancaster, on the
very first voyage of the East India Company, had stumbled onto an
historic _Discovery_. As a test, he'd shipped bottles of the juice of
lemons on his flagship and ordered every seaman to take three spoonfuls
a day. And his had been the only vessel of the three to withstand

Hawksworth had argued with Captain Kerridge of the _Resolve_, insisting
they both stow lemon juice as a preventative. But Kerridge had always
resented Lancaster, particularly the fact he'd been knighted on return
from a voyage that showed almost no profit. He refused to credit
Lancaster's findings.

"No connection. By my thinkin' Lancaster just had a run o' sea-dog
luck. Then he goes about claimin' salt meat brings on the scurvy. A
pack o' damn'd foolishness. I say salt meat's fine for the lads. Boil
it up with a mess o' dried peas and I'll have it myself. The _Resolve'
_ll be provision'd like always. Sea biscuit, salt pork, Hollander
cheese. Any fool knows scurvy comes from men sleepin' in the night dews
off the sea. Secure your gunports by night and you'll ne'er see the
damn'd scurvy."

Hawksworth had suspected Kerridge's real reason was the cost: lemon
juice was imported and expensive. When the Company rejected his own
request for an allowance, he had provisioned the _Discovery _out of his
own advance. Kerridge

had called him a fool. And when they sailed in late February, the
_Resolve_ was unprovided.

Just as Hawksworth had feared, the _Resolve's _crew had been plagued by
scurvy throughout the voyage, even though both vessels had put in for
fresh provisions at Zanzibar in late June. Six weeks ago, he had had no
choice but to order half his own remaining store of lemon juice
transferred to the sister ship, even though this meant reducing the

Online LibraryThomas HooverThe Moghul → online text (page 2 of 52)