This time when Lucas leaned forward the map wasn't snatched away. He saw one firm line that appeared to divide the town from the countryside, doubtless the wall the clerk had spoken of, and just beyond it what appeared to be a small settlement of sorts. "Our land" -- Lucas pointed to the settlement beyond the wall -- "is it in that part there?"
"No, that's the Voorstadt, the out-city, a warehouse and the farms that serve the town." The clerk seemed amused by the newcomer's curiosity. He placed a stubby finger on an irregular circle a fair distance beyond the Voorstadt. "And that's the Collect Pond as gives us fresh water to brew beer with. Anything else you'd care to know, Englishman? Shall I arrange a tour?"
"I was promised land in the town," Lucas said. "But I'll take a place in this Voorstadt. I'm a barber. I can't earn my keep if -- "
"Your land's where I said it was. You're a farmer now. That's what's needed here."
"Wait." The voice, a woman's, was imperious. "I wish to speak with this man." A slight figure stepped away from the knot of people standing a little distance from the clerk. Despite the heat she was entirely covered by a hooded cloak of the tightly woven gray stuff the Dutch called duffel. She freed a slender arm long enough to point to Lucas. "Send him to me."
"Ja, mevrouw, of course." The clerk jerked his head in the woman's direction. "Do as she says," he muttered quietly in the Englishman's direction. "Whatever she says."
Lucas took a step toward the woman. He removed his black, broad-brimmed hat and held it in front of him, bobbed his head, and waited.
Her hair was dark, shot with gray and drawn back in a strict bun. Her features were sharp, and when she spoke her lips barely moved, as if afraid they might forget themselves and smile. "I heard you tell the clerk you could read. And that you're a barber."
"Both are true, mevrouw."
"Were you then the surgeon on that excuse for a ship?" She nodded toward the Princess riding at anchor in the harbor. "God help all who cross in her."
"No, mevrouw, I was not."
"A point in your favor. We are cursed with so-called ship's surgeons in this colony. Ignorant butchers, all of them. You're English, but you speak Dutch. And that miserable craft sailed from Rotterdam, not London. So are you a member of the English Barbers' Company?"
"I am, mevrouw. But I've lived two years in Rotterdam, and I was told I'd be allowed to practice here exactly as..."
"I have no reason to think otherwise. And if you know your trade -- " She broke off, chewing on her thin lower lip, studying him. Lucas waited. A number of silent seconds went by; then the woman pointed toward Sally. "I take it that's your wife."
"No, mevrouw, I am unmarried. That is my sister, Sally Turner." Lucas motioned Sally forward. She didn't come, but she dropped a quick curtsy.
The woman's eyes betrayed a flicker of amusement. "The juffrouw does not seem particularly obedient, Lucas Turner. Is your sister devoted to you?"
"I believe she is, mevrouw."
"Good. I, too, have a brother to whom I am utterly devoted. I am Anna Stuyvesant. My brother is Peter Stuyvesant. He is governor of Nieuw Netherlands. And right now..."
Sweet Jesus Christ. Bloody Stuyvesant and his bloody sister. When the only thing Lucas wanted, the thing that had made him come to this godforsaken colony at the end of the world, was to be where the authorities would leave him in peace.
Either his reaction didn't show, or she chose not to notice it. "Right now my brother is in need of a man of great skill. And I am trying to decide, Lucas Turner, if you might be he."
He had no choice but to seize the moment. "That depends on the nature of the skill your brother requires, mevrouw. I know my trade, if that's what you're asking."
Copyright © 2001 by MichaelA, Ltd.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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