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Eleven weeks in a ship thirty-seven feet long by eleven wide, carrying a crew of nine as well as twenty passengers. Lurching and lunging and tossing on the Atlantic swells, the sails creaking night and day, spread above them like some evil bird of prey. Hovering, waiting for death.
The dung buckets on the open deck were screened only by a scanty calico curtain that blew aside more often than it stayed in place. For Sally Turner the dung buckets were the worst.
She was twenty-three years old -- small, with dark hair, bright brown eyes, and a narrow, pinched face -- from a Rotterdam slum by way of a rodent-infested corner of a Kentish barn. The crossing had turned her insides to water. She went seven or eight times a day to the dung buckets. The flimsy cloth almost always blew aside and she saw the grizzled, hungry-eyed crewmen watching, waiting for her to lift her skirts. As if all the battles between Kent and now had been for nothing.
Her brother suffered more from the seasickness. Lucas Turner was a big man, like his sister only in his dark coloring, and in the intelligence that showed behind his eyes. Until now most would have called him handsome; the journey had reduced him to a shell. From the start Lucas hung day and night over the side of the wooden ship, vomiting his guts into the sea.
The voyage was beyond imagination, beyond bearing. Except that there was no choice but to bear it. One small consolation: the April day when the Princess left Rotterdam was exceptionally warm. A premature summer rushed toward them as they sailed west. Most of the food spoiled before the end of the first three weeks. Constant illness prevented hunger.
A crossing longer and more miserable and more dangerous than anything they had talked about or prepared for, and when they got there -- what? By all reports bitter cold in winter and fierce heat in summer. "And savages," Sally Turner said the first morning of June, when they were nine weeks into the voyage, and she and her brother were hanging on to the rail in the ship's bow. The swells were stronger in that position, but Lucas was convinced he could be no worse. And there was a bit of privacy. "There are red men in America, Lucas. With painted faces and feathers and hatchets. In God's name, what have we done?"
Lucas didn't answer. They had decided the risk was worth the taking while they were still in Holland. Besides, he had to lean over the rail and puke yet again. There was nothing in his stomach to come up, even the bile was gone, but the dry heaves would not leave him.
For as long as Sally could remember, it was Lucas who made such security as there was in her world. She felt every shudder of his agony-racked frame as if it were her own. She slid down, using the wooden ship's planked bulkhead to keep her steady, and pawed through her basket. Eventually she drew herself up and pulled the tiny cork of a small pewter vial. "Chamomile powder, Lucas. Let me shake some onto your tongue."
"No, that's all you've left. I won't take it."
"I've more. With our things down below."
"You're lying, Sal. I can always -- " He had to stop to heave again.
His sister leaned toward him with the remedy that promised relief. Lucas eyed the small tube with longing. "You're sure you've more?"
"In our box in the hold. I swear it."
Lucas opened his mouth. Sally emptied the last few grains of the chamomile powder onto his tongue. It gave him some fifteen minutes of freedom from nausea.
Below decks, in the sturdy box that held all their belongings carefully wrapped in oilskin, she did indeed have more chamomile, but only in the form of seed. Waiting, like Lucas and Sally Turner, to be planted in Nieuw Amsterdam and thrive in the virgin earth of the island of Manhattan.
There was a wooden wharf of sorts, but two ships were already moored alongside it. The Princess dropped anchor some fifty yards away, and a raft carried them to shore. It wasn't big enough to take everyone in one trip. Lucas and Sally were dispatched on the third.
They clung together to keep from being pitched overboard, and listened in disbelief to one of the crewmen talk about the calm of the deep, still harbor. "Not too many places on this coast you can raft folks to land like this. But here the bay's flat as a lake when the tide's with you." Meanwhile it seemed to Lucas and Sally that they were sliding and rolling with each wave, unable to lift their heads and see what they'd come to after their eleven weeks in hell.
At last, land beneath their feet and they could barely stand on it. They'd experienced the same misery three years before, after the far shorter crossing between England and the Netherlands. "Give it a little time, Sal," her brother said. "We'll be fine."
Sally looked at what she could see of the place. A piece of crumbling earthworks that was a corner of Fort Amsterdam. A windmill that wasn't turning because there was no breath of air. A gibbet from which was suspended a corpse, covered in pitch and buzzing with flies. And the sun beating down on them. Relentless. "Lucas," she whispered. "Dear God, Lucas." Her brother put a hand on her arm.
"You there," a voice shouted. "Mijnheer Turner. When you get your legs under you, come over here."
"There's some shade over by that tree," Lucas murmured. "Wait there. I'll deal with this."
A couple of rough planks had been spread across two trestles made from saplings. The man seated behind this makeshift table was checking off names on a list. Lucas staggered toward him. The clerk didn't look up. "Turner?"
"Aye. Lucas Turner. And Sally Turner."
His accent always gave him away. "Yes, but we're come under the auspices of..."
"Patroon Van Renselaar. I know. You're assigned to plot number twenty-nine. It's due north of here. Follow the Brede Wegh behind the fort to Wall Street. Take you some ten minutes to walk the length of the town, then you leave by the second gate in the wall. The path begins straightaway on the other side. You'll know your place when you get to it. There are three pine trees one right behind the other, all marked with whiting."
Lucas bent forward, trying to see the papers in front of the Dutchman. "Is that a map of our land?"
"It's a map of all the Van Renselaar land. Your piece is included."
Lucas stretched out his hand. The clerk snatched the papers away. At last, mildly surprised, he looked up. "Can you read, Englishman?"
"Yes. And I'd like to see your map. Only for a moment."
The man looked doubtful. "Why? What will it tell you?"
Lucas was conscious of his clothes hanging loose from his wasted frame, and his face almost covered by weeks of unkempt beard. "For one thing, a look at your map might give me some idea of the distance we must go before we reach those three pine trees."
"No need for that. I'll tell you. Half a day's walk once you're recovered from the journey." The clerk glanced toward Sally. "Could take a bit longer for a woman. Some of the hills are fairly steep."
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."
"It is part of the question. The other part is the precise nature of your trade. Is it true that, though they belong to the same Company, London barbers and surgeons do not practice the same art?"
Lucas heard Sally's sharply indrawn breath. "Officially yes, mevrouw. But the two apprenticeships occur side by side, in the same hall. A man interested in both skills cannot help but learn both. I am skilled in surgery as well as barbering. What is it the governor requires?"
The woman's eyes flicked toward Sally for a moment, as if she, too, had noted the gasp. A second only; then she dismissed the younger woman as of no importance. "I believe my brother to be in desperate need of a stone cutter, barber."
Finally, for the first time in weeks, he felt no doubt. "Pray God you are correct, mevrouw. If it's an expert stone cutter your brother needs, he is a fortunate man. He has found one." Lucas turned to Sally. She was white-faced. He pretended not to notice. "Come, Sal. Bring my instruments. I've a patient waiting for relief."
Word was that Peter Stuyvesant ruled with absolute authority and that any who questioned him paid a heavy price. Right then, ashen, sweating with pain, the man lying in the bed looked small and insignificant.
Lucas put his hand on Stuyvesant's forehead. The flesh was cold and clammy. "Where does it hurt, mijnheer?"
"In my belly, man. Low down. Fierce pain. And I cannot piss for the burning. My sister is convinced it's a stone."
Anna Stuyvesant was in the room with them, huddling in the gloom beside the door. Some mention had been made of a wife, and when they arrived Lucas had heard the voices of children, but none had appeared. He'd seen only a black serving woman -- from what he'd heard of this place she was probably a slave -- and the man in the bed. And, in control of all, the sister. Obviously married, or had been, since the clerk at the dock had called her mevrouw, but one who, following the Dutch fashion, hadn't taken her husband's name. Looked like the type who wouldn't take willingly to his cock, either. Lucas was conscious of her fierce glance drilling a hole in his back.
He leaned closer to the patient, observing the clouded eyes, the pallor, the sour breath that came hard through a half-open mouth. "Judging from the look of you, mijnheer, Mevrouw Stuyvesant may be right. And if she is, if it's a stone, I can help you. But..." He hesitated. Afterward, some men thought of the relief, and were grateful. Others remembered only the agony of the surgery, and those hated you forever. God help him and Sally both if the governor of Nieuw Netherland hated him forever.
"But what?" Stuyvesant demanded.
"But it will hurt while I do it," Lucas said, choosing not to dip the truth in honey. "Worse than the pain you're feeling right now. After the operation is over, however, you will be cured."
"If I live, you mean."
"The chances are excellent that you will, mijnheer."
"But not certain."
"In this world, Mijnheer Governor, nothing is certain. As I'm sure you know. But I've done this surgery dozens of times."
"And all your patients lived?" Wincing with pain while he spoke. Having to force the words between clenched teeth.
"Perhaps six or seven did not, mijnheer. But they were men of weak constitution before the stone began plaguing them."
Stuyvesant studied the Englishman, even managed a small smile. "I am not a man of weak constitution. And you, you're a strange one, barber. Despite your mangled Dutch, you speak like a man with his wits in place. But the way you look, not to mention how you smell...Ach, but then my sister tells me you only just got off the Princess, so per -- "
The pain must have been savage. The Dutchman gritted his teeth so hard Lucas thought he might break his jaw. The sweat poured off him.
Lucas leaned forward and wiped the governor's face with a corner of the bedding. Half a minute, maybe less. The wave of agony abated. Stuyvesant drew a few deep breaths. "This operation..." He whispered the words, his strength sapped by the pain. "How long will it take?"
"Forty-five seconds," Lucas said. "Start to finish. You can time me."
The governor stared into Lucas's eyes. "I will. Forty-five seconds? You're certain of that?"
Stuyvesant flung back the covers. "Took them forty-five minutes to do this." His right leg had been cut off at the knee.
Lucas looked down at the stump, then at the face of the man in the bed. Pain had hollowed his cheeks, but when their eyes met Stuyvesant did not look away. Finally Lucas nodded. He turned to the woman beside the door. "Bring some rum, mevrouw. He must drink as much as we can get down him."
Anna Stuyvesant stepped out of the shadows. "There is no rum in this house."
"Then send someone to get some. Your brother cannot -- "
"Yes, I can." Stuyvesant's voice, sounding firmer than it had, trembling less with agony. "I must. I take no drink stronger than ordinary ale."
"But under the circumstances..." Lucas looked again at the stump of leg.
"Not then, either," Stuyvesant said quietly. "I fear the Lord more than I fear pain, barber."
"As you wish. But perhaps I can satisfy both masters. If you will excuse me for a moment..."
Lucas stepped into the narrow hall. Sally was there, sitting at the top of the stairs, clutching her basket and the small leather box that contained his instruments. She jumped up, pressing her bundles to her, her narrow face shriveled with anxiety. "How is he? Can you help him without cutting?"
"No." Lucas was sweating. He wiped his forehead with the sleeve of his black jacket. The accumulated filth of the journey left a dark mark. "God help me, I must remove the stone."
"But -- "
"There is no 'but.' If it doesn't come out, like as not he'll drown in his own piss."
"What if he dies of the pain of surgery? What if he bleeds to death?" Her voice was an urgent whisper.
"This man can bear suffering." Lucas looked anxiously toward the bedroom door. "He's had one leg cut off at the knee, and he doesn't take more than an ale to quench his thirst. No strong spirits, not even to dull the onslaught of the knife and the saw. As for bleeding to death, I must see that he does not. Say your prayers, girl, and give me my instruments."
"Lucas, if anything happens, what -- "
"Nothing is going to happen. Except that mijnheer the governor will think I'm the greatest surgeon since Galen."
"But you're a barber, Lucas. In heaven's name, your surgeon's instruments are what got us hounded out of London in the first place."
"I know. But we're in Nieuw Amsterdam, not London. We must take our chance when it presents itself. See if you've any stanching powder in your basket."
"Do it, Sal. Otherwise I'll go ahead without it."
A few seconds more. Finally she began pawing through her things. "Yes, here it is." She held up a small pottery crock. "Stanching powder. A fair supply."
"Excellent. Now some laudanum."
Sally shook her head. "I have none. I swear it, Lucas. I only brought a little aboard, and we used -- "
"Damnation! Look well, Sal. If any's left, I can use it to advantage."
After a few moments groping, she produced a tiny pewter vial of the kind she'd used to store the last of the chamomile powder. "This held laudanum. But it's empty."
Lucas snatched the container, uncorked it, sniffed, squinted to peer inside. "A drop, perhaps. It will be better than nothing. Aye, I can see a drop or two at the bottom." He recorked the vial and slipped it into the side pocket of his breeches, then turned back to the bedroom. "Wish me luck, Sal. And stop up your ears. But don't worry, the shouts won't go on for long."
Sally went again to sit on the top step, clutching her basket in her lap, as if her simples were the only thing she had to remind her of who she was and how she came to be in this place.
The house at the corner of the fort built for the governor of Nieuw Netherland was nothing like as grand as places she'd seen from afar in London and Rotterdam, but it was the grandest she'd ever been inside. Two stories, and both of them for the living of this one man and his family and his servants. Brick outside and polished wood within. Even the wooden steps were buffed to such a gloss that when she leaned forward she could see her reflection, her face peeking over the toes of her scuffed boots.
Lucas had bought her the boots before they left Holland; he said clogs wouldn't do for such a long and perilous journey. The boots had pointed toes and laced to well above her ankles. She'd thought them incredibly grand at first, but less so now. And the sturdy Dutch folk in gilt frames looking down at her from the walls seemed unimpressed. God knew, they were not the first.
Back in Kent, in the barn behind their father's Dover taproom, the eleven Turner brats had slept tumbled together in the straw because all the beds were rented for a penny a night to travelers. There Lucas had protected her from the despicable things that befell their sisters and brothers (often with their father's connivance). There Sally believed in Lucas's quest to be better than he'd been born to be. When he taught first himself to read, then taught her, she believed. When he wrangled a barbering apprenticeship to the Company of Barbers and Surgeons by showing a member of the gentry the sketch Sally had made of the men, bare arse in the air, rutting with a boy of six beside the stable (and never mind that the child was a Turner), Sally believed. When Lucas sent for her to come to London to join him, and two years later the wrath of the Surgeons drove them both into the street, his sister believed in the rightness of her brother's aspirations. Now, when they had come so far to this strange place, and he was yet again rushing headlong into conflict with authority; now, she was less sure.
Lucas returned to Stuyvesant's bedroom. His patient lay silent in his bed, rigid with pain. The governor's sister was leaning over him, bathing his face with a cloth dipped in scented water. Lucas leaned toward her. "Send word to the barracks that we'll need three strong men," he said softly. "Make sure they're young, with -- "
"No." Stuyvesant's word was a command. "I'll not be held down."
"I didn't intend for you to overhear me, mijnheer. But I don't mean you to be held down, only held in position. It is through no lack of courage that a man twitches under the knife."
"I will not twitch, barber."
"Mijnheer -- "
"Get on with it, man. Else I'll have you hanged as a charlatan who offers hope when there is none."
Lucas hesitated, looked at Anna Stuyvesant. She shook her head. Lucas took the pewter vial from his pocket. "Very well. Please open your mouth."
"I told you, I don't take strong drink."
"This isn't drink. It's a medicinal draught made by my sister." Stuyvesant still looked wary. "Consider the size of it, mijnheer." Lucas held the tiny pewter tube in front of the other man's eyes. "Could this hold enough rum or geneva to satisfy even an infant's thirst?"
The governor hesitated a second longer, then opened his mouth. Lucas shook the single remaining drop of laudanum onto his tongue. The argument had been pointless; there wasn't enough of Sally's decoction to do any good. On the other hand, sometimes what a patient believed to be true was as good as the reality.
"That will make things very much easier," Lucas said. He even managed to sound as if he meant it. "Now, mijnheer, in a moment we must get you out of your bed and over to that chest by the window where the light's best. I'll want you to lean on the chest, support yourself on your elbows. But first" -- he turned to Anna Stuyvesant -- "bring me a bucket, mevrouw. And some cloths. And a kettle of boiling water."
She left. Lucas checked the contents of his surgeon's case. A dozen ties made of sheep's intestines. Three scalpels of different sizes, a couple of saws, a needle threaded with catgut, and, for stone cutting, a fluted probe and a pair of pincers with a jointed handle that could be opened to the width of four spread fingers.
The sound of flies buzzing in the sun beyond the window was the only noise. The man in the bed gritted his teeth against the agony and said nothing, just kept looking at Lucas. Lucas looked back. Finally Anna Stuyvesant returned. "Hot water, you said, and clean cloths and a bucket. It's all here."
"Thank you." Lucas stood up and removed his jacket. He began rolling up the sleeves of his shirt. "Now, mijnheer, may I assist you from the bed?"
"Yes, but first...Anna, go. Leave us alone."
"I do not like to go, Peter. If you should -- "
"This is nothing for a woman to see. Go." And after she had gone, "Very well, barber, let's get this over with. If you hand me my stick I can -- " Stuyvesant broke off, gritted his teeth against another wave of the pain. "Do it," he whispered finally. "I don't care how much it hurts or for how long. For the love of God, man, do it now."
"Forty-five seconds," Lucas promised again. "From the first cut. I swear it."
He helped Stuyvesant hobble to the chest beside the window. The governor leaned forward, taking his weight on his elbows as Lucas directed. In fact Lucas would have preferred that his patient stand on the chest and squat, but a man with one leg couldn't be asked to assume such a position. Bent over like this was the next best thing. Lucas pushed up the governor's nightshirt, exposed the Dutchman's plump buttocks, then, a moment before he began, "There is one thing, Mijnheer Governor."
"What one thing, barber?"
"Are you mad? I'll have you horsewhipped. Of course your fee will be paid. What do you take me for?"
"A strict man but a fair one. I'm told your word is absolutely to be relied on."
"It is. I take it you mean to ask for something other than money." The words came hard, with wheezing breath, limned by pain. "Ask then. Quickly."
"A homestead closer to the town than the one my sister and I have been assigned. And a place inside the town to practice my trade."
Stuyvesant turned his head, looked at Lucas over his shoulder. "There is no place inside the town. In Nieuw Amsterdam the one thing even I can't control is the roofs over people's heads. Fifteen hundred souls between the wharf and the wall, and all of them building where they...For the love of the Almighty, barber, this is an odd sort of conversation to be having with a man when your arse is in his face."
"I do not need much space to practice my craft, mijnheer, a small room will do." Lucas still hadn't touched his instruments.
"But I tell you...Very well. We'll find a corner for you. Now -- "
"And a different piece of land for my sister and myself. As I said, it need not be inside the town, only close to it. In the Voorstadt, perhaps."
Stuyvesant looked into Lucas's eyes for a second more. "Get on with it," he said finally. "You'll have what you ask. A barber shop this side of the wall and a homestead in the Voorstadt. But only if I live to issue the orders."
"I expected you'd see that part of it, mijnheer." Lucas pushed his rolled sleeves further up his arm. "This is only the examining part of the surgery. The forty-five seconds doesn't start until I'm done."
He inserted his finger deep into Stuyvesant's rectum. The governor grunted, but he didn't move. The soft wall of the intestine yielded to probing. Lucas could feel the bladder, and when he pressed a little harder, the stone. "Ah, a pebble of some size, Governor. No wonder it's causing such trouble." Stuyvesant's only answer was his labored breathing. "Now, mijnheer, the forty-five seconds begins. You may start counting."
Lucas yanked the bucket into position below his patient's dangling genitals. He withdrew his finger from the governor's body and took up his scalpel. One quick cut between testes and rectum. Two inches long. Deft and swift, with his arm wrapped around the man's waist to hold him in position. Stuyvesant's body jerked once, but in a second he was again rigid, and he made no sound except for a soft groan.
Blood was obliterating the cut. Lucas grabbed the pincers and inserted them into the wound. One quick snap and the handle opened wide, spreading the flesh apart. He could see the wall of the bladder. He chose another scalpel, smaller than the first, made another quick cut. Less than half an inch, but the sharp reek of urine told him he'd opened the right place. And through it all, Peter Stuyvesant neither moaned nor twitched.
Piss gushed into the leather bucket. And a second later, clearly, a sound that could not be mistaken in the silence broken only by his patient's wheezing breath, the ping made by the stone as it fell. Thanks be to God, he wouldn't have to probe for it.
Lucas had three ligatures ready, thin strands of sheep's intestine. He tied off the blood vessels and mopped the wound with the cloths Anna Stuyvesant had given him. A slow but steady flow of blood was oozing from some vessel he'd cut but couldn't see. There was nothing for it but to lengthen the original opening and tie off the vessel. A lesson he'd learned from bitter experience. Fail to do that and no matter how tightly and neatly you sewed together the flesh, the patient died.
Thirty-five seconds were gone. If he was to live up to his boast he must begin to stitch, but he dared not.
He reached for the smaller scalpel, made the wound half an inch longer at each end. There, the source of the blood was near the top of the cut, close to the kidneys. Lucas grabbed the vessel with his probe, pulled it forward, and tied it off. Forty-two seconds. And not a sound or a movement from the man who was bent over the chest. If anything, the silence was deeper than it had been.
Sweet Jesus Christ, maybe Stuyvesant had stopped breathing. "Mijnheer Governor," Lucas whispered, "can you hear me?"
"Ja." The voice was weak.
Lucas felt a moment of triumph. He and Sally -- finally, fate was smiling on them. "Just checking on you, mijnheer, almost finished." He sponged the wound with hot water, sprinkled on some of Sally's stanching powder. Finally he released the spring on the handles of the pincers, removed the instrument and tossed it aside, then grabbed the needle threaded with a thin strip of sheep's intestines and began to stitch.
"Done," he said a few seconds later. "It's over, Governor. The stone is out. Such pain as you'll have for the next few days is from the wound, and when it heals you'll be cured. Meanwhile you must have a bran and salt enema every day. There is to be no straining at stool."
Lucas helped his patient back to bed while he spoke, supporting the other man with an arm around his waist. "I'll call your sister, shall I," he said when the governor was back in bed and the covers were drawn up over him. "Perhaps you'll sip some ale to restore your -- "
"Fifty-two seconds," Stuyvesant said. "I counted." There was a thin line of blood along the margin of his lower lip. And tooth marks. He'd bitten through his own flesh rather than cry out. "It took you fifty-two seconds, barber, not forty-five."
Lucas nodded. "You had a high bleeder. I had to make a second cut to find it. If I had not, Governor, though I sewed you well up, you would bleed inside your body and be dead before morning."
For a moment he thought Stuyvesant might denounce him as not the stone expert he claimed to be. Instead, "Go down to the waterside. Tell Heini the clerk I said to let you sleep inside the fort tonight, in the storehouse. And that he should come see me in the morning. Tell him I mean to change your land appropriation."
It turned out the pitch-blackened corpse hanging near the dock was a kind of scarecrow, a warning to potential wrongdoers, but there were plenty of tall trees in the colony and no lack of real hangings. Inside the fort there was a stockade open to all weather that served as the town jail, and two whipping posts.
Nieuw Amsterdam was not, however, as desolate and forbidding as Lucas and Sally imagined at first sight. Apart from the crumbling earthworks of the fort -- forever in need of repair -- and the macabre display at the waterfront, there was much to please the eye.
Thirty-five years had passed since Peter Minuit bargained with the local tribes for the island. Now the compact settlement occupied about a third of the narrow southern tip of Manhattan, running a scant half-mile from the fort to the wall and sheltered by the hilly, thickly wooded landscape of the rest. To be sure, Nieuw Amsterdam's streets were crooked and narrow, created by simply widening the footpaths of the red men, and it was not long since the settlers were living in pits roofed with reeds, but by 1661 proper houses had been erected. Stuyvesant and his council, the burgomasters and schepens, had outlawed thatched roofs because of the fire hazard they presented, and had begun importing enough glazed yellow bricks to allow the wealthier residents to duplicate the sturdy, cheerful dwellings of Holland.
To Lucas's eye, even the simpler wooden houses built of local materials were unmistakably Dutch. Most were small two-story structures with steeply pitched roofs and dormered windows, nestled side by side and built gable end to the road so there might be more of them in a row. The Netherlanders had long considered it a sign of affluence to live in a populous city.
Doubtless thoughts of home also inspired the tidal canal that had been dug from the beginning of the curve of the eastern shore northwest for some eight hundred of a tall man's strides. When it froze the locals used it for skating. Those who had neglected to bring their blades to the New World strapped beef shinbones to their shoes instead.
The rest of the year the canal made it possible for cargo ships to offload directly into the warehouses of the richest merchants. They were the ones who built their substantial yellow brick residences along the canal's banks, and found space for a garden in front of each house. There were gardens as well in front of the brick homes on the street called Pearl that ran beside the waterfront (almost the first thing the Dutch did when they arrived was to pave the river road with shells from the nearby oyster beds) and still more gardens adjoining the prosperous dwellings lining both sides of the Brede Wegh.
If Lucas put his back to the sea and stood on a high point such as the middle of the three bridges crossing the canal, his strongest impression was of a neat little town hugging the tip of the island, protected by the mountainous and wooded terrain to the north. It was "a brave and a pretty place," as the pamphlet encouraging immigration had put it. What the view from the bridge concealed was the rowdy and raucous life that made this town unlike any other in the New World.
Boston and Providence and the rest had all been founded in pursuit of some high ideal of philosophy or religion, and were occupied by English folk of like mind. Nieuw Amsterdam was created by rich Dutchmen who wanted to become richer. Any who could further that aim were welcome. On a given day you might hear eighteen different languages at the intersection of the Brede Wegh and Wall Street.
Lucas did not find here the huddled poor who were such a fixture in Dover and London and Rotterdam. There appeared to be money to be made in every lane and at every crossing. All you needed was an eye for a trade. And courage. And, of course, luck and a strong stomach.
In New England a shared theology created order. In the seething mix of nationalities, beliefs, and nonbeliefs that the Dutch West India Company had created in Nieuw Amsterdam, not even an iron fist like Stuyvesant's could alter the fact that the making of a quick fortune was a disorderly and a boisterous affair. Once they had money, men -- particularly the trappers and traders and sailors who crowded the town's narrow streets -- craved pleasure. A good number of the upstanding Dutch burghers liked something on the side as well.
Whores were tolerated as long as they kept themselves to Princes Street and did not mingle with the good Netherlander huisvrouwen. There were twenty-one taverns, taprooms, and alehouses in the little town. The mix pleased Lucas: fucking and boozing led to arguments and mayhem. A man of his skills was bound to be kept occupied.
Stuyvesant had assigned him a tiny shop built against the easternmost end of the wooden palisade that gave Wall Street its name. Lucas's place was really a lean-to, no more than five long strides in each direction. There was no window, only a fireplace against the back wall, and across from it a door split horizontally in the Dutch fashion. "The wily bastard just barely managed to keep his promise," Lucas told Sally. "It's almost inside the town." Nonetheless, a steady stream of customers found him from the first day he banged the striped red-and-white pole into the summer-parched earth outside the door.
A good many came to be bled, often for the aftermath of drink. Lucas was not entirely sure that opening a blood vessel in the temple of the sufferer, or even setting the leeches to him, really would relieve the nausea and the pounding headache, but it could do no harm.
Large quantities of rum and geneva could also be counted on to result in broken bones that needed to be set. Lucas built a sturdy wooden frame to assist him in carefully aligning fractured arms and legs before forcing them back into position. The ship's surgeons who were his only competition in the colony -- mostly men who stayed a short time, then got restless and went again to sea -- set bones by brute force, using as many vicious yanks as the patient could endure. The pain was equally intense using Lucas's frame, but the results were far more satisfactory. He put the apparatus to use three or four times a week.
Also thanks to drunkenness, he was twice asked to trepan a man's skull. Desperate huisvrouwen hoped that boring a couple of holes in a husband's head might rid him of his craving for alcohol. Lucas knew that was unlikely, but he had recently made himself a new drill and was interested in refining his trepanning techniques. Those two operations were among the most interesting he performed during his first few months in Nieuw Amsterdam. They occupied a page each in his journal.
From the day he set up shop, Lucas made copious notes about every procedure, even ordinary barbering -- delousing and shaving and bleeding and lancing boils -- but he took special pains to write in detail about the more intricate surgeries, cutting away fistulas and tumors and removing stones. He did a great deal of the latter. Since the operation on Stuyvesant he'd become famous for it. Sufferers made the journey to his little room beside the wall from remote farms on the long island and Staten Island. Some arrived from as far north as Nieuw Haarlem. One came from a large holding, a bouwerie, in Yonkers.
At first it was Lucas's speed that mattered. He knew it didn't hurt his reputation when he had whoever accompanied the patient stand on one side of the room and count the seconds between the initial cut and the last stitch. But in the autumn, after Sally's first crop of poppies bloomed, Lucas was best known for the fact that he could, with a few spoonfuls of one of his sister's decoctions, make the patient so groggy and fill his head with such soporific dreams that he felt considerably less pain.
As in the case of the barber shop, Stuyvesant had almost kept his word about their land assignment. The Turner homestead was small, what the Dutch called a plantage rather than a bouwerie, and it was beyond the Voorstadt, nearly a mile from the town, not far from the Collect Pond. But it took them twenty minutes to walk to Wall Street, not half a day. And, after a lifetime of being misfits and almost three years of wandering, here in the wilderness of Manhattan Lucas and Sally had a place of their own.
They planted before they built, and all that first summer they slept rough with a musket between them, though so far the natives they'd seen weren't hostile. "A little sullen and withdrawn," Sally said. "As if they needed a good purging, but harmless enough."
Lucas wasn't so sure. Even when their cabin was finished -- hewn timber walls and a thick roof thatched with reeds and grasses, as was permitted north of the wall -- he went every night to his bed with the musket loaded and at hand. People in the town told endless stories of women who'd been raped, children murdered, men tortured before they were killed, and years of work gone up in flames when a homestead was burned to the ground.
One good thing: the Dutch had never been greedy enough or stupid enough to sell guns to the tribes living closest to them. In the vicinity of Nieuw Amsterdam, superior weapons gave the Europeans an advantage, though they were outnumbered. In the far north, near Dutch Fort Orange, there was constant fighting with the marauding Catskill and Wawarsink tribes who had been armed by the French and the English, desperate to have the Indians take sides in their wars over colonial territory. It seemed an idiotic policy to Lucas. If you had to choose between trusting a savage or trusting your gun, the weapon won every time.
Sometimes, long after dark, when he heard the sounds of strange night birds calling to one another in the surrounding woods, he remembered the stories he'd heard about ritual fires where death came after hours of screaming agony, and about mutilation that began with the toes and moved slowly upward. Lying awake in the night, Lucas put his hand to his head and wondered whether a man was always dead before some savage peeled off his scalp. And whether Sally had heard as many stories of rape and torture as he had.
They were too busy to speak of such things. The earth around their cabin was black and rich. The first season, despite how late she was getting things in the ground, nearly all the seeds Sally brought with her sprouted and thrived. She planted local vegetables as well, the pumpkins and Indian corn the settlers had adopted as basic foods, and at Lucas's urging she gave over a large field at the edge of their cleared land to poppies. "I need enough laudanum, Sal, so I can perform any surgery I want and the patient will not run screaming from the knife."
"For the patient's sake, of course," Sally said.
"You're a liar, Lucas Turner. You want the people you're cutting to be all but senseless because that way, once you cut into them, you can take your time and study how they're made."
"Aye, there's some truth in that." Lucas spoke without looking up. It was October, five months after their arrival, and he was sitting by the fire in their cabin, using the light to write by. "Truth, but no harm."
"You're a barber, Lucas, not a surgeon. Only surgeons are permitted to perform an anatomy."
"You're contradicting yourself, Sal. It's not an anatomy if the patient is alive. Only if you cut open a corpse."
"Don't lecture me, Lucas. According to Company rules, you are not a surgeon. If they were to discover what you're doing, we -- "
"Are you entirely mad, girl? We're in Nieuw Netherland, not New England. And the Company is on the other side of the ocean. Do you think any English magistrate is going to live through eleven weeks on one of those hell ships just to come and see whether Lucas Turner is being a good boy?"
"I suppose not." She finished wiping clean the pewter bowls they'd used for their stew of rabbit and corn, and placed them neatly on the shelf above the hearth.
The pewter bowls had come from a gentlewoman in England. Lucas had moved away the veil that made her blind in her right eye. The literature on the subject went back to the great practitioners of the mystic East, but it was an operation so delicate -- only the very tip of the lancet could be used, and the amount of pressure applied was critical -- that three English surgeons had refused to attempt it. After he said he would, and did so successfully, Lucas was expelled from the Company on the grounds that he, a barber, possessed surgical instruments. If the woman had died, perhaps he would have been dealt with more leniently. Since she lived and thrived, the jealous surgeons hounded Lucas and Sally from London.
He watched Sally put away the pewter bowls. A penny to a pound the surgeons who made such grief for him still ate their suppers off wood.
Sally caught his smile and saw her chance. "Lucas, things are going well for us here, are they not? Your business is doing well?"
"They are and it is. And if you'd stop worrying about me so I could stop worrying about you, everything would be perfect."
"I'll try, Lucas. Meanwhile" -- she turned away, so she wouldn't have to look at him -- "I've been meaning to ask you..."
"What? Go ahead, Sal, ask."
"Since we're here and you have so much custom...Is there enough money to put some by for a dowry?"
It was something they'd talked about before they left Rotterdam. With a dowry, Sally might find a husband who was worthy of her. It was the only chance at marriage she'd have, since she wouldn't accept a man of the class they'd come from, and Lucas had sworn he wouldn't force one on her. "I've thought of it, Sal. But often as not I'm paid in wampum rather than guilders, and -- "
"Everyone uses wampum here. It's as good as money. I'm sure wampum would do for at least part of a dowry."
"Perhaps you're right. I'll do some asking, Sal. And keep my eyes open for someone who wouldn't mind -- " He broke off.
"Wouldn't mind what, Lucas?"
"That you're nearly twenty-four. And..."
"And not comely."
"I didn't say that."
"You may as well have."
"No. What I was going to say was 'Nearly twenty-four, and more clever than any man I'm likely to find in need of a wife here in Nieuw Amsterdam.'"
Three years earlier, during the typhoid epidemic of 1659, Stuyvesant had established a hospital for those who had not long to live. The worst of the town's whores and drunkards, most of them. Decent folk died in their homes. The hospital had five beds in which, at no cost and purely for the love of Almighty God, the undeserving indigent were allowed to die.
The good women of the town saw it as their duty to care for the dying, however unworthy. Anna Stuyvesant was frequently seen at the hospital. Occasionally the governor's wife also came. Judith Bayard (though a French Huguenot, she followed the Dutch custom of retaining her own name after marriage) was beautiful, but also a woman of strict rectitude. Even the dying were less likely to scream and curse when she was present. So, too, when the wife of the rector of the Dutch Reformed Church did some of the nursing. Sally Turner, on the other hand, inspired no awe. She got the full brunt of the patients' misery and discontent. Nonetheless, she appeared the most consistently of all the nursing women.
Nearly every day the juffrouw Turner and her basket could be seen walking along the narrow woodland path between her brother's plantage and the town, entering through the west gate in the sturdy wooden wall, hurrying along the wide Brede Wegh, skirting the small offshoot of the main canal known as Bever's Gracht, then crossing by the narrow bridge that led to Jews Lane.
That was the only part of the walk Sally disliked. The Jews were fairly recent arrivals, a remnant from a settlement in Brazil. Stuyvesant was known to loathe them, but he'd been forced to let them in because there were Dutch Jews among the directors of the West India Company.
Just walking past the Jews' yellow brick houses below the mill made the back of Sally's neck prickle. All those stories of strange rituals involving the blood of Christian children...She could never get through the lane fast enough. Sally was glad to gather up her skirts for the passage through Coenties Alley, always slick with mud, toward the three-story stone building that stood at the water's edge.
Until the year before, the structure had been merely Nieuw Amsterdam's largest tavern and its only inn. When Stuyvesant needed somewhere big enough for all the townspeople to meet, he made it the Stadt Huys, the city hall, as well. Coenties Slip, leading to the town wharf, was in front of the Stadt Huys. Nearby were the town storehouses. Above them, in five workshops that had formerly been leased to the shipwrights, was the hospital.
There were two windows in the hospital. The dying stank, so the windows were kept open except in the worst of weather. While she went about her duties Sally could look out and see the short street called Hall Place, and the door to the butcher's house Lucas visited so frequently.
To buy the pig bladders and sheep intestines he needed in his craft, Sally told herself. That's why her brother was so often at the butcher's on Hall Place. And never mind that it was a ten-minute walk from Lucas's shop. After all, he came to the hospital a few times a week to see if anyone needed bleeding or surgery, so naturally --
"Juffrouw...Please, juffrouw..." A woman's voice. A few hours earlier, weeks before her time and squatting in the alley behind the Blue Dove alehouse on Pearl Street, she'd given birth to twins -- dead, and that was a blessing. One had no legs, the other a huge hole in the top of its head. The woman, a notorious whore, had been bleeding since the birth. Sally figured she'd be dead within the next hour or two.
"Please, juffrouw, can you give me something as stops the burning in my chest? Him over there" -- the woman nodded toward the man in the next bed, a drunk who the previous day had had the lower half of his body crushed by a falling barrel but refused to allow Lucas to saw off his legs -- "he says you can."
Sally reached into her basket for a salve of saxifrage and egg yolk, and made herself stop thinking about her brother's too-frequent visits to the butcher's on Hall Place.
"Good day to you, mevrouw." There was no one else in the shop. Lucas didn't have to keep the twinkle from his eye or the laughter from his voice.
"And to you, barber. I've something put by just for you. The intestines of a large cow. Come in the back and see."
Marit Graumann, wife of Ankel Jannssen, stepped from behind the wooden block. Her husband was one of the town's twelve "sworn butchers," permitted to slaughter cattle inside the wall. He paid the tax for a stall in the Broadway Shambles, the market across from the fort, and was required to be there every morning except Sunday. In the afternoon he was permitted to do business from his home. All well and good, except that after Marit gave him his dinner Ankel always stumbled off to bed in a drunken stupor. She herself had to hack apart the meats and poultry sold from the house on Hall Place.
A curtain of burlap separated the front from the rear of the shop. Marit pushed it aside and waited for Lucas. As soon as he brushed past her he felt himself get hard. She had a special smell. A woman smell. He'd had countless whores in London and Rotterdam, even a few here, but none had ever smelled like Marit. Neither did the women who came to him for treatment. They reeked of illness, often of filth. Mevrouw Marit Graumann smelled of flowers. And her lust had a dark and seductive fragrance of its own. Lucas had never before been with a woman who actually desired him. The experience was intoxicating.
It was foolhardy to visit the Hall Place house as often as he did, he knew, but he didn't stop. The butcher's wife was as blond as he was dark, and almost as tall. Her body was lush and full. When he held her, Marit's flesh yielded to him, seemed to melt against his. What he could see of it in the dimness behind the butcher shop where all their meetings had taken place was pink and white, and always, when he was near, flushed with longing.
She led him past the hanging carcasses to the corner of the room they used and that she kept clear for the purpose. The floor of the storeroom, like that of the shop, was covered in sawdust, and she dared not make her husband suspicious by sweeping it clean. They had to couple standing, but that didn't inhibit them. When Marit turned to him she'd already loosed the ties of her bodice.
Lucas put both hands on her full breasts. He stroked them gently. He'd never known such softness; only the nipples were hard. "Suck them," she whispered. "Lucas, please, suck them. I cannot wait another moment."
He buried his face in her breasts, sucking both nipples, one after another. Dear God, the smell. And the velvet skin that burned wherever he touched it. She was trembling in his arms.
"Lucas, ah Lucas...I dream about you every moment. Waking and sleeping. I live only to feel what I feel when I give myself to you."
He began fumbling himself out of his breeches. She started to lift her skirts. Suddenly there was a clattering above their heads. They froze. Another sound, louder than the first. Then silence.
"It's all right," Marit whispered after a few seconds. "The bedroom is just above. He must have knocked something over. He drank three mugs of geneva and two of rum with his dinner. He will not wake for hours."
Lucas stared up at the splintered wooden planks and the rough timbers that formed both the ceiling above his head and the floor of the Jannssen's bedroom. Ankel Jannssen was a hulking brute of a man, a drunken animal. He had no right to a woman like Marit, but he had her nonetheless. God help them. If the butcher found out he could go to law, have Marit whipped and turned into the streets with only the clothes on her back. And everything Lucas owned would be forfeit to him.
Sweet Jesus, this was insane. Why did he continue to do it? Because even now, after that moment of stomach-churning fear, he was again hard as a rock and raging for her.
Marit was breathing through her mouth, the tip of her tongue tracing the outline of her lips. "Lucas," she whispered, and lifted her skirt and her petticoats, held them above her waist, and leaned aginst the wall and spread her legs. "Take me, Lucas. Do whatever you want to me. Only kiss me while you do it. Let me feel your tongue in my mouth."
He put his lips on hers and sucked her breath into his body. His hands were on her buttocks, squeezing the hot flesh, pulling her toward him. His cock knew where to go. It had learned the way these past three months. She began to moan. He thrust deeper into her, squeezed harder. She trembled more. Her moans came faster. The sounds she made grew louder.
The bell on the shop door rang. "Mevrouw Graumann, are you serving?"
They had long since decided that locking the door would arouse more suspicion than Marit's absence from the front of the shop. Lucas took his mouth from Marit's. She turned her face to the flimsy curtain that separated them from the waiting customer. "I'll be with you immediately, mijnheer -- a moment only."
"Ja, fine. I'll wait."
Marit leaned her head back. Lucas could see her face in the dim light. Her cheeks were flushed, her skin dewy with the sweat of her passion. He could smell her. She looked into his eyes. He began thrusting again. Slowly at first, then faster. She closed her eyes and bit her lips to stifle the sounds of her delight. Watching her, feeling her shiver and tremble in his arms, was the most exciting thing he had ever experienced. He finished in a burst of such indescribable pleasure it left him hungry for more, knowing full well he could never have enough.
A moment later she'd laced her bodice and adjusted her skirts. Marit patted her hair into place and went out into the front room. Lucas heard her discussing the relative merits of pork and venison and soon after, the sound of her cleaver hacking apart the meat the customer had chosen.
From his corner of the storeroom Lucas could see a side of beef hanging from a hook in the wall, still dripping blood onto the sawdust. A pig's head hung from a second hook, a large and formless drape of cow's intestines from a third. Lucas had mentioned that he'd like to try making ligatures from that rather than the intestines of a sheep. There were a couple of pig bladders as well. They were probably also for him. Lucas could never have too many pig bladders.
"Lucas, come out front now. He's gone."
Marit was standing in the storeroom of the doorway, beckoning to him. Lucas went to her, but he drew her to his side of the curtain. "Marit, we must stop this. It is insane. What if you were to find yourself with child? Or -- "
"In seven years of marriage, Lucas, I have not conceived. But if I were with child, people would assume it was my husband's."
He felt the rush of blood to his head, knew his face was dark with anger. "I cannot bear the thought of that pig touching -- "
"Ssh, calm yourself. He almost never does. Ankel prefers drink to me."
He took her face between his hands, began kissing her cheeks and her nose and her forehead. "Ah, Marit, Marit...We are mad. This is incredibly dangerous. The consequences are -- "
"I want to go to the woods with you." It was as if she hadn't heard him. "I have been thinking of it for days and days. I want to take off all my clothes and all your clothes, and lie down on the clean earth and have you lie atop me."
"Marit, we can't. What if -- "
She lifted his hands to her lips and began kissing them, sucking his fingers. Drawing each deep between her pursed lips, keeping her gaze locked on his all the while. "You would not believe the things I want to do to you, Lucas, to have you do to me. I do not believe them. They come into my head and I do not know from where. Think of a way, my darling. It will have to be a Sunday when the shop is closed. Ankel sleeps all Sunday afternoon. You live far from the town. Find a place we can meet and tell me how to get there."
Sally also had secrets. Hers, too, involved women. Indian women.
The contact began the first autumn, when they had been only a few months in Nieuw Amsterdam. Sally came across a little Indian girl gathering rose hips in the woods near the cabin. The child ran as soon as she saw the white woman standing nearby, but apparently the bushes near the Turner homestead were specially prized, because she kept returning. There was another accidental meeting, and soon a third. Each time the girl and the woman came a little nearer to trust.
Finally the moment came when the youngster stood still long enough for Sally to point to the rose hips she was collecting and to simulate a loud sneeze.
The child giggled. Then she also pretended to sneeze. Next she, too, pointed to the contents of her basket and made an exaggerated wiping motion across her face.
"Yes, exactly," Sally said, "rose hips ease the winter sickness. And do you, I wonder, make them into a tisane as I would?" She made the motions of pouring water from a jug to a pot and placing it over a fire. The little girl nodded furiously in agreement, an enormous smile on her face. "Ah, so you do! How I wish you could tell me what else you gather from these woods and how you use it."
The child looked puzzled and shook her head.
"No, of course you don't understand a word I'm saying. But perhaps...Sally." Sally pointed to herself. "I am Sal-lee."
The child smiled. "Tamaka," she said. "Ta-ma-ka." Then she grabbed her basket and ran.
A few days later the child appeared again, this time at the edge of the clearing surrounding the cabin. She was carrying two ears of Indian corn. Sally went out to meet her with a mug of homemade root beer.
Sally and Tamaka communicated mostly by signs at first; then each learned a few words of the other's language. Finally they developed a shared language of their own -- part signs, part English, part the tongue of the child's people -- in which they communicated with ease.
Tamaka told Sally about how once, long ago before the white people came to this island, the place the Turners' cabin stood had been special. It was where women went to give birth; that was why the healing plants here were filled with so much power. Another day the child led her new friend to a thicket where the blackberries grew larger than any Sally had ever seen. And yet another time she showed Sally a shy yellow iris that grew in hidden places beside streams, and explained that the root of the plant could be made into a paste that was good for burns.
In return Sally showed Tamaka the sweet-smelling pink gillyflowers whose seed she had brought with her from Holland. They could be steeped in honey and the syrup used to treat sore throats, as well as made into a poultice to ease bruises of the ankles and wrists. She gave Tamaka some seed to take back to her village. A few days later Tamaka brought her mother and her aunt to see the gillyflowers growing in Sally Turner's garden.
That first winter Sally saw Tamaka many times, but she didn't see the older women again until the following summer. Not until Tamaka brought her to the outskirts of the Indian village, and the women who had visited Sally came to meet them. On that occasion, looking grave and purposeful, they led Tamaka's friend to see the gillyflowers growing in their fields among the pumpkins and the squash and the corn.
Sally never mentioned any of this to her brother. It was the first real secret she'd ever kept from him, but she knew what would happen if she told. Lucas would rail at her about savages. He'd make her swear she wouldn't again go to the Indian village. This little corner of her life, Sally decided, she would keep from her brother. In the interest of peace.
She kept that promise to herself for two years, until a summer's day in 1663 when she staggered screaming into the barber shop, carrying Tamaka's limp body. "Lucas! Are you here? Lucas!"
"Sally, what's wrong? What -- In Christ's name, girl, who are you bringing me?"
"Tamaka. She...in the woods...Oh, God..." Sally had carried the child all the way from the cabin to the town, and she was so exhausted she was barely coherent. "Tamaka." She put the girl on Lucas's surgical table and, relieved of her burden, leaned against the wall, panting. "Tamaka."
Lucas stared at his sister. He made no move toward the child.
"Her hand. Look." It was all she could manage. Sally slid down the wall and huddled in a heap on the floor, hanging her head between her splayed knees, sucking air into her lungs, waiting for the fiery pain in her chest to subside and her legs and arms to stop quivering.
Lucas glanced at the girl Sally wanted him to examine. The front of her deerskin skirt was soaked in blood. She lay perfectly still. Only the faint rise and fall of her bare chest told him she was alive. Lucas went to his sister, bent over her, put his hand on her shoulder. "Here, girl, you're half dead with fatigue. Hang on a minute. I'll run across the road and get you a draught of ale."
"Not me. Tamaka." The words came a little easier now. "Look at her hand, Lucas."
He turned his head and glanced at the girl on the table. "Sally, she's a squaw brat. An Indian. One less of them means a few less of us to be murdered in our beds."
Lucas had adopted the colonial summer fashion of wearing a tightly belted leather jerkin in place of a coat. Sally reached up and grabbed its hem. "It's not like that. Don't turn away, Lucas. Look at me. For the love of Jesus Christ, she is a child! And she's my friend."
"My friend. I've known her almost as long as we've been here. We were gathering orris roots in the swamp. She was using a tomahawk. It slipped and she cut her fingers off. I brought them to you. I brought you Tamaka's fingers, Lucas, so you can sew them back on. The ancient Egyptians did it. You told me so. You can do it, too. Please, Lucas. Please."
Despite himself, Sally's words thrilled him. He'd read of such operations. Back in London he'd even heard of a case in Prussia where a foot was sewn back on, though later it turned black with gangrene and the patient died. But a child's fingers...Small, malleable, an excellent place to practice such surgery. And this was a squaw brat, so it didn't matter if she lived or died.
Sally was still clinging to his jerkin. Lucas detached her hands and turned to the treatment table.
Above the blood-soaked skirt he could see the child's budding breasts. She did not move. Lucas thought she was still unconscious; then he looked into her face. She was wide awake and staring at him. Her large dark eyes gave away nothing of what she might be feeling, not even her pain.
She was holding her left hand with her right, both clasped over her belly. Lucas touched her hands. She did not relax her grip and her eyes never left his face. "She won't let me touch her."
Sally struggled to her feet and came to the table. She stood beside Tamaka, stroked her forehead and her cheeks. "It's all right, my dear. Brother, mine." She linked her thumbs in one of their private signs. "He can help you." She turned to Lucas. "You can examine her now."
Lucas peered at the damage to the left hand. Sally had bandaged the wound with sumac leaves and wrapped her shawl around it, but the blood had soaked through everything. He took the shawl and the leaves away. Three small fingers fell to the floor.
Lucas knelt down and reclaimed them. They were cut clean, but on an awkward slant. "A challenge," he murmured.
Sally remained beside Tamaka, stroking her face.
Lucas studied his sister. "Your friend," he said again. "A squaw brat."
"She's a child, Lucas."
"It's a fascinating surgery." Lucas had made up his mind. "Come, Sal, assist me."
She had helped him before and knew exactly what he'd want. She rushed to pour wine into a pot hanging over the fireplace. Lucas always kept a fire going, though in these hot days of August it was well banked. Sally poked at the logs, making them flare, then rushed back to the other side of the room for his instrument case and opened it. Finally she went to the store of simples for the jug of laudanum.
"No." Lucas was cleaning the wound, swabbing the bloody stumps.
"For the pain," Sally whispered. "She will suffer so much less."
"And appreciate less what we're doing for her. No laudanum, Sal. I can't spare it." The child's hand had largely stopped bleeding. "How did you know to pack the wound with sumac leaves? It seems they're excellent for the purpose."
"Tamaka showed me. The Indians use sumac for hemorrhage."
"Kept her wits about her, did she? After her mischance with the tomahawk."
"No, she fainted. I mean she'd told me about the sumac before."
"Ah, yes, I forgot. You've known her since we arrived. Though you never thought to mention it before now."
"Lucas, I -- "
"It doesn't matter. I forgive you, Sally. We need not discuss it again." He was examining the severed fingers while he spoke. "Won't be a great deal left of these after I even them up. But worth trying all the same."
"You must succeed, Lucas. If she's missing fingers, she'll be rejected for marriage. The Indians believe -- "
"Good God, you're an expert on what they believe as well?"
"Of course I'm not. I simply -- Can you do it, Lucas? Sew her fingers back on?"
"I don't know. But it's interesting to try."
Lucas began working on the detached fingers. Sally took up her post beside Tamaka, stroking her head, murmuring soothing words. Lucas paid no attention to his sister and the child. He was intent on sawing the splintered bone from the severed fingers, leaving a clean cut, then using a razor to clip the mangled flesh. Finally he dropped the fingers in the wine that was simmering over the fire.
It was one of Lucas's distinctions as a practitioner that he used wine the way the ancients had, to wash wounds and to soak bandages before applying them. He wasn't entirely sure why, but he was convinced that wine often helped the healing. And it really would be more interesting if this girl lived with her fingers sewn back on than if she took his handiwork to an early grave. "Now let's see about the hand, shall we?"
Lucas put a piece of board beneath Tamaka's hand. He strapped it to her arm. "Hold her down," he told Sally. "If she moves she's liable to have no hand as well as no fingers."
"She won't move," Sally said.
Lucas looked up. "Hold her," he said. He chose his smallest saw, the one with the finest teeth, and bent over his patient.
Lucas could make no attempt to reunite the bones or the sinew. All he could do was stitch the fingers back in place and hope nature would somehow nourish them. The books spoke of the body leaking blood into the once-severed part, enough to keep it from turning gangrenous and sending poison through the entire system. The best he could do was create a clean place for the join. He must trim away the damaged flesh and bone on the hand exactly as he had on the fingers.
He began to saw. Slow, careful strokes, as if he were paring toenails. The girl didn't move. Lucas lifted his head, glanced at his patient and his sister. Sally's face was screwed up in a grimace, as if she suffered the child's pain. Tamaka had not changed her expression.
A few more minutes, then the sawing was finished. Lucas took his most delicate scalpel and began trimming the shredded flesh. Each time he raised his head and looked at Tamaka she was looking at him. She made no sound.
"Tough," Lucas said when he was done preparing for the surgery. "Very tough, your friend. No wonder she and her kind are so hard to get rid of."
Sally swallowed her rage. Lucas was simply repeating what he'd heard. "Indian women don't utter a single cry when they give birth, Lucas. It's a matter of honor with them. Do you know any white woman who can do the same?"
"Couldn't say." He didn't look at her. "Birthing's not my line of country. Get me the stanching powder."
She got it and Lucas applied it liberally to the wounded hand. Then he took up the index finger and began to sew. Small, dainty stitches, close together, making an overlap of the skin from the stub of the hand so that there would be strength enough to hold in place the finger that was not attached by bone. It took him nearly four minutes to sew on the first finger. Then he moved on to the second.
"They're at least a third shorter than they were," he said when he was finished. "But that's her doing, not mine. And she won't be able to move them, of course."
Sally dismissed this with a shake of her head. "That doesn't matter. It's missing parts that would make her unacceptable. To the braves."
"How nice to know that if she lives, your little friend can make more Indians to come and burn us out."
"Tamaka would never do such a thing. Neither would her people. Lucas -- she will live, won't she?"
"Truthfully?" Sally nodded. "I can't say. But I've done my work carefully and she's young and strong. I suspect she will."
"You've done a great thing, Lucas. You and I, we'll have nothing to fear from the Indians after this."
A week after the surgery, two of Tamaka's restored fingers had turned black. "Too bad," Lucas said. "Still, it was interesting to try."
"Lucas, what about Tamaka? If she -- "
"If the black fingers don't come off, she'll die. I've seen it many times. First the blackened flesh signaling the gangrene. Next the fever. Then death."
"And if I can get her to agree, will you take off the black fingers for her?"
Lucas hesitated only a moment. "Why not? But it will have to be here in the cabin, not at my shop in town. We were lucky last time. I don't want to chance it again."
"Being seen operating on a squaw brat."
As it turned out, Lucas needn't have worried. Sally went to the village. Tamaka's aunt appeared. "Tamaka," Sally said, "please, I must see her. My brother has agreed to help her. It's very important that she -- " The Indian woman lifted her finger and put it over Sally's lips. Then she turned and walked away.
Another week went by and Tamaka didn't appear. Finally, Sally screwed up her courage and returned to the Indian village. At first no one came to meet her. She stood at the edge of the cluster of bark-covered huts and waited the way she always did. A couple of the women glanced toward her on their way to work in their fields, but no one approached. Sally could think of nothing to do except stay where she was and wait. Eventually an old woman walked over to her. "Tamaka," Sally said, pointing to her own hand. "How is she?"
Apparently the woman had been chosen as emissary because she had a few words of English. "Tamaka dead," she said.
"Good afternoon, barber. I am Jacob Van der Vries."
Lucas looked up and saw a thickset man, not tall, but with an air of importance. He had startlingly red hair, a small red beard, and an exceptionally full red mustache. And though he'd spoken in English, his accent was plainly of the Low Countries. "Good afternoon, mijnheer. I presume it's shaving you were wanting?"
"No, not shaving."
"Delousing, then?" Lucas rose from the stool beside the fire -- it was a dark day in early December and he'd been using the light to write by -- and carried his journal to the surgical table.
"Not delousing either," the Dutchman said. "What do you have there?"
"Some notes on various ailments. Nothing for you to worry about, I imagine. You do not look ill."
On the contrary, Van der Vries looked particularly healthy. Rich, as well. The cuffs of his shirt were ruffled lace. His belt was buckled with polished silver and strained to keep his coat together over his well-fed paunch. "I haven't seen you in the town before," Lucas said. "Does that mean you've just arrived?"
"A few days past. And you are right, I am not ill. But your notes do interest me, barber." Van der Vries held out his hand. "May I see?"
"No. They are simply notes, so someday I can make a fuller account of what I've observed in two and a half years in Nieuw Amsterdam." Lucas locked his journal away. "Now, if you don't want shaving or delousing, and you don't need bleeding, what brings you to me, Mijnheer Van der Vries?"
"Actually, I am Jacob Van der Vries, Practitioner of Physic."
"Ah, I see." Lucas pocketed the key to the drawer in the surgical table. "A physician."
"Indeed. I was apprenticed to the most fashionable practitioner in The Hague. And for a time I served the sick in your fine city of Cambridge. Now I am in the employ of the Dutch West India Company. So we shall be seeing quite a bit of each other, barber. I shall call on you when my patients require bleeding. And now that there is someone to oversee your activities here, you will perhaps no longer feel it necessary to make notes of -- "
The door swung open so hard both halves thwacked against the wall. "Business for you, barber! Bring 'em here, lads!" Four soldiers trotted behind the sergeant, carrying two stretchers. "Savages -- attacked the Bronck bouwerie and the little plantage of old man Heerik. Burned them to the ground. Left seven dead. Fortunately one of our patrols happened to be passing. Ran the bloodthirsty animals off Heerik's land before they finished the job. Two of the wounded seemed worth bringing to you."
One of the stretchers carried a young woman, unconscious, an arrow still in her gut. Her pale blond hair dragged on the ground, because her scalp was half off. The second victim was an old man. He had three arrows in him, but he was awake and his hair was still tight on his head. "Forget me," he whispered as the soldiers put his stretcher down. "See to my daughter."
"Ja, ja, be calm. I will see to you both." It was Van der Vries who answered, and Van der Vries who was bending over the young woman, examining the remarkable head wound.
Lucas was more interested in the soldier. "My sister, Sergeant! She is alone. Our plantage isn't far from -- "
"It's all right. We've already sent patrols to bring the families from the nearby farms into the fort until we catch the war party."
"Soldier!" Van der Vries again. "Send someone to my quarters immediately. Tell him to bring my bag. My servant will give it to him. Hurry!"
"Ja, mijnheer. Right away."
Van der Vries removed his jacket and held it out to Lucas. "Here, barber. Put this somewhere it will stay clean. Then put another log on that fire. I will have to get the cauterizing iron good and hot to deal with this wound."
Lucas took the other man's coat and slung it over his shoulder. "I don't have a cauterizing iron, Mijnheer Physician. In fact, I don't believe in cauterizing. Though logs we have aplenty, and I'm happy to put as many on the fire as you wish."
Van der Vries leaned forward and squinted. He seemed to be studying Lucas. "You don't believe -- What can you possibly know about medical treatment?"
"I am a surgeon as well as a barber."
"Ach, so that's it. A surgeon. I gave you the benefit of the doubt, since everyone calls you barber. Instead I find you are one of those butchers who practice their foul trade on human flesh. Well, I am here now, surgeon or barber or whichever you are, and -- "
"And the patient is weakening while we argue." Lucas took a step closer to the woman on the stretcher. "The skull is not injured, and there hasn't been overmuch bleeding. If we are quick and use some of my sister's stanching powder, and bathe the wound with wine and sew the scalp back on, then get that arrow out of her gut, she might even survive."
"Stanching powder. Now, that is something interesting. Where does your sister get this stanching powder?"
"She -- "
"I make it from the root of the plant the herbalists call Achillea, mijnheer. You probably know it as yarrow." Sally was removing her shawl as she came into the surgery. "The soldiers brought me, Lucas. They told me what happened. And about the good physician being here." She was already at the dispensing bench, shaking the dried and powdered yarrow root onto a sheet of birch bark. "Good day to you, mijnheer."
Van der Vries looked in her direction. The squint remained in place. "Interesting," he murmured. "The cutter has his own resident apothecary. Tell me, what part of England are you from?"
"Dover in Kent," Lucas said, "originally."
"Ah, the provinces. I thought so from your accents." The Dutchman turned to the patient, bent over her, and began squinting at her wound. "But of course you'll have studied your trade in London, no?"
"Yes," Lucas said. "In London."
Sally caught her breath. She covered by quickly handing her brother the piece of bark containing the stanching powder. "Here, Lucas, it's ready."
Lucas moved toward the young woman lying on the stretcher. Her breathing was very shallow. There wasn't a great deal of time. "Sally, have you some stimulating tonic?"
"I think so. If not here, then in my bas -- Yes, here it is." She was unstopping a small flask as she spoke, reaching for her dosing spoon.
"So now," Van der Vries said softly, "you must tell me about your stimulating tonic, Juffrouw."
"A decoction of Digitalis purpuria. Foxglove to you, mijnheer. Gerard and Culpepper are both -- "
"Foxglove. Please, you must refresh my memory. The flowers are shaped like the heart? Or is it perhaps the lungs?"
Sally stared at him. Lucas made a sound somewhere between a snort and a laugh and got ready to dust the patient's head wound with stanching powder. Van der Vries darted forward. He moved with astonishing speed for a man of his bulk. Before Lucas could begin sprinkling the yarrow on the wound, the Dutchman had pushed his hand away. The precious powder was scattered on the floor.
"Good God, man! Do you see what you've done? How can -- "
"I am a physician in the Company's employ. That means I am responsible for these poor people, barber. And apparently both you and your sister are ignorant of the doctrine of signatures. The juffrouw Sally tells us she makes her stimulating tonic from a plant the flowers of which look neither like a heart or a lung, and her stanching powder from, of all things, yarrow. Yellow flowers, not red. Yarrow cannot, therefore, be effective in anything to do with bloody wounds."
"You're not serious, man?" Then, after a few seconds, "Sweet Jesus, you are. I don't believe -- C'mon, Sal, simpling's your line of country. Tell him. The doctrine of signatures was disproved...what? Thirty years past?"
Sally was still holding the decoction of foxglove and the dosing spoon. "Lucas, the woman, she's barely breath -- "
"Tell him, Sally. Gerard, wasn't it? Gerard disproved the doctrine of signatures."
"Yes, he did. Over forty years ago. It took time for his ideas to be accepted, but now every apothecary agrees."
"Thank you. Here, Sal, give me that." Lucas took the tonic from her, and the spoon. The woman was unconscious, but he managed to get a few drops between her lips. "Let's see how she responds to that before we give her more. And we have to deal with the head wound, or it won't matter."
Van der Vries looked at Sally; indeed, he seemed to be studying her, but he spoke to Lucas. "Since there has not before been a practicing, I might say a practical, physician to take charge of your activities, I will ignore your dosing of my patient without my permission. And since you have no cauterizing iron, I assure you there is nothing to be done for her head wound until the soldier returns with my bag."
Lucas began threading a needle with catgut.
"I swear, barber, you will not sew up this woman's head before I have cauterized her skull."
"Fried her brain, more like."
"Wounds burn the body. Fire is needed to treat fire. A first principle of medicine. Though of course you know nothing about that, either. I will not -- Ah."
A young corporal came in. He handed a fair-sized leather satchel to Van der Vries. The physician snapped it open and pulled out a long iron rod with an ivory handle. He went to the fire and shoved the metal part of the device deep into the red-hot embers. "It needs to be as hot as we can make it. Nothing else will do. We must wait."
Lucas looked at Sally. She shrugged. He looked at the young woman, whose breathing was if anything even shallower. He thought of giving her more of the stimulating tonic, but by the time he finished Van der Vries would be ready to burn her alive. Lucas turned to the old man still lying on the stretcher on the floor. "You said she was your daughter. What do you want done? Do you want this Van der Vries here to burn her skull, or me to sew her scalp back on?"
There was no answer.
Sally crouched beside the old man. She put her hand beneath his shirt and over his heart and waited a few seconds. "He's dead, Lucas."
The soldier meanwhile had been staring at the half-scalped woman, fascinated with her extraordinary wound. "So's this one. Leastwise, she don't seem like she's breathin'."
Lucas went to the table and put his hand on the woman's chest, then leaned down and pressed his ear to her heart. Nothing. Sally appeared beside him, holding a shard of silvered glass. Lucas took it and held it to the woman's lips, then leaned toward the light of the fire to study the result. There was no haze of moisture. "She's dead. Damn your eyes, Van der Vries, we've lost her. The old man as well."
Van der Vries took the cauterizing iron from the fire and laid it carefully on the hearth to cool. He became for a moment entirely preoccupied with his lace cuffs, examining first one then the other. When he spoke, his voice was very soft. "So much for your stimulating tonic, Mistress Sally." Then, to Lucas, "From now on my instructions will be followed without question. Do you understand?"
"I understand that you're a -- "
"A practicing physician. And in England, as in my country, physicians oversee surgeons and barbers, not the other way around. Is that not so? Come, Mijnheer Turner, the barber who also practices surgery: this soldier and I are waiting for your answer."
"Good. An honest man, however ignorant. I hoped that would be the case." Van der Vries continued to adjust his lace cuffs. "Corporal, you must tell your superiors that in the future any injured are to be brought directly to me. If I need the barber's services, I will send for him."
The worms were black, many-segmented, each about three inches long. Van der Vries had nearly a pint of them. They made a throbbing black aggregation inside his large glass jug stoppered with thick cork. From the shadows where he stood Lucas saw the squirming mass as a single entity, but he knew what he was looking at. Hirudo medicinalis. Leeches.
Customarily Lucas checked the hospital once every day or two. In the week since the Indians attacked, since Van der Vries arrived in the colony, he'd been too busy. Treating arrow wounds, mostly. The Canarsie and the Shinnecock and the Raritan -- all local tribes -- were on the warpath.
Only once had Indians breached Nieuw Amsterdam's defenses. In 1655 a Wappinger war party managed to land their canoes a short distance from the fort and rampage through the streets. On that occasion Stuyvesant had been far north, at Fort Orange. This time he was at home. The southern shore was bristling with men-at-arms, and there were sentries every ten feet along the wall. Naturally enough, every colonist living in the Voorstadt and beyond had sought protection in the town. The settlement was heaving with people. In response the savages had mounted a siege.
And in the midst of all this, Lucas had Jacob Van der Vries to deal with. A man who believed in the doctrine of signatures three decades after every sensible physician had discarded the theory, and who had apparently provided himself with a supply of the black worms that did a barber's job without the necessity of a scalpel.
Lucas left the protection of the doorway. "Good afternoon, Mijnheer Van der Vries. I take it your patient needs bleeding."
"Ah, barber. Yes, I believe bleeding would profit this poor creature. But I won't be needing you. I have my little friends." Van der Vries held up the glass jar. The leeches that had been trying to climb the slick sides had given up. The black mass was still. In the parlance of the trade, the leeches were relaxed: meaning they were in the optimum state to attach themselves to human flesh and suck blood.
Lucas nodded toward the jar. "Found them here, did you? They're too big to be from Holland."
"Indeed they're not. Came from a pond not five minutes' walk from my house. Remarkably large, don't you agree?"
"I do. That's the difficulty with them. Leeches suck until they're full before they drop off. Those we grow here in Nieuw Netherland take a lot of filling."
"All to the good." Van der Vies was busy opening his bag. "Going to do something, you might as well do it right, I always say. Never saw any point in half measures."
Lucas leaned toward the patient. The woman was unconscious, perhaps forty and gaunt to the point of emaciation. There was a protrusion almost the size of his fist on her neck. Lucas palpated the tumor. It was cold and hard as rock. He used both hands to finger the throat on either side of the growth. The flesh was of a normal temperature and yielded to his touch. Finally he looked again at the woman's face. This time, despite the disfigurement of illness, he recognized her. "The Widow Kulik. Lives near the fort. Not the sort usually to be found in this place. How long has she been here?"
"Couldn't say." Van der Vries had ignored Lucas's uninvited examination of the patient. He was preoccupied with pawing through the contents of his satchel. "Don't know what I did with my cupping tool. I'm sure it was in here..."
"Your cupping tool," Lucas said quietly. "You mean to blister her, then?"
Van der Vries was still pawing through his bag. "The thought had occurred to me, yes."
Lucas looked around. Sally was usually at the hospital, but not today. Since the siege began they'd been living in the one-room barber shop. His sister hated it. Sally spent all her time trying to get the place as clean as she kept the cabin. It was a battle she'd never win, but she refused to give in.
The siege had not, however, made Anna Stuyvesant desert her nursing duties. The governor's sister was standing at the opposite end of the little ward watching them. If it had been Sally, Lucas would have summoned her. As it was, he walked the few steps. "I see the Widow Kulik has been brought to your care, mevrouw. May I ask why? And how long she has been here?"
"Since yesterday. Neighbors brought her. There was no one at home to attend her dying. Her last surviving son was killed two days past."
"Of course. What greater plague do we know in this place?"
Lucas nodded. "I seem to recall there were children."
"Three. Babies still. The Widow Kulik was caring for them since their mother died last year in childbirth. The good folk who lived nearby have taken the children. They could not be expected to take the dying grandmother as well."
"So now she's Van der Vries's patient," Lucas said quietly. "And he means to bleed and blister her. Is that his usual way, mevrouw?"
"How could I know? He's been here less than a fortnight."
"Long enough for one with your astuteness to make a judgment." Anna Stuyvesant didn't meet his eyes.
"He's a practicing physician, barber. He learned his art with men who served the most fashionable society. It is fitting that he be put in charge of the hospital."
And earn the twenty-guilder-a-year stipend that went with the appointment. "You've seen the lump on Widow Kulik's neck?"
"It would be difficult not to see it."
"Indeed." Lucas's voice was soft but insistent. "The entire medical world recognizes such goiters, mevrouw. They must be surgically removed. Raising a blister with the cup is sure to do nothing but add to the patient's misery. As for bleeding, in these cases it is of no value whatever."
"And if the Widow Kulik had come to you, you'd have cut away this goiter?"
"Yes. I could not guarantee -- Sweet bloody Jesus!" Lucas turned and dashed back to the woman in the bed. Jacob Van der Vries had given up on finding his cupping tool. Instead he had removed the cork stopper from the wide-mouthed glass jar and upended it above the woman's head. "Are you insane! You can't apply leeches in that fashion. For the love of God, you'll kill her!"
"That's a strange philosophy for a barber, isn't it? Thought bleeding was your answer to everything." Van der Vries watched the leeches tumble from the jar. A number fell on the bedding, but many more landed on the woman's face. And at least six attached themselves to her neck. "Good," the Dutchman whispered. "Excellent. Do your work, little friends. Suck the poison out of the swelling."
Lucas was nearly sputtering with rage. When he spoke his voice trembled. "The swelling, as you call it, is a tumor. Not a boil that will profit from bleeding or lancing."
Van der Vries chuckled. "Jealous, are you, Englishman? These creatures, after all, ask no fee for their services. Only to fill themselves with the evil blood that is causing this poor woman such distress."
Lucas swallowed a protest. It was too late. Nearly every leech was now well attached. The woman's face and neck had become a black mass, a writhing thing that grew ever larger as the jointed, hairy bodies of the worms became engorged with her blood. "You are a fool," Lucas whispered. "Worse, you're a criminal and a murderer. Four leeches at a time. Perhaps five. And applied to the inside of the arm, not -- "
"I seem to have forgotten my cupping tool. Careless of me, I admit." Van der Vries was studying the fingernails of his left hand. "But hardly cause for consternation, given how far advanced this woman's illness is. And it would do little good to take blood from her arm when any fool, even a barber who believes himself to be a surgeon, can see that the evil humors have lodged themselves in the poor creature's throat."
Lucas drew a long breath. The enormity of the error was stupefying. He all but choked on it.
Anna Stuyvesant had stayed out of their argument. Now she took a few steps toward them. Lucas took a step to his right so she could get a good look at the black and writhing thing on the bed. She gasped. "So many, Mijnheer Van der Vries." None of her famous bossiness. She sounded as if she were pleading. "I have never...Perhaps, barber, you and the physician can possibly remove a few of the -- "
"No. We cannot." Lucas watched one last sluggish worm make its way across the bedclothes and crawl over the bodies of its relatives until it found a bit of exposed skin behind the woman's ear. He could have prevented that one from attaching itself, but there was no point. "Leeches have to be allowed to fill themselves until they drop off, mevrouw. Otherwise they leave their sucking tool inside the patient and the wound becomes poisonous." He looked at Van der Vries. "Is that not correct, mijnheer?"
"Yes, of course." Van der Vries was leaning over his patient, staring at the worms. "But see, at least six are fixed on the goiter. It will be drained of the evil blood that -- "
"Tell me, Van der Vries, when you were healing the sick with the fashionable practitioner of physic in fashionable Cambridge, England, did you not hear of the English king's extremely fashionable personal physician, William Harvey?"
Van der Vries didn't look up. "Harvey," he murmured. "Yes, I seem to recall the name."
"I'm pleased to hear it. Because over thirty years ago Harvey proved that the blood circulates in the human body. The Widow Kulik's goiter is a growth, a struma made of tissue and fed by blood from the whole body. It is not depend -- "
"At last we have reached the nub of the argument." The Dutchman looked directly at Lucas. "You wished to cut, did you not, barber?"
"I could have removed the goiter, yes. There is no guarantee of success, but -- "
"But definitely a guarantee of excruciating pain. Look at the size of this swelling. As big as two pullet eggs. Do you not agree it must have been growing on the woman's neck long before my arrival in the colony?"
"Indeed. And despite the fact that you were here and I was not, this poor creature never consulted you."
"Some are afraid of the knife. You know it as well as -- "
Anna Stuyvesant put herself between the two men. "Look, the leeches...They are starting to fall off."
"Ah, yes." Van der Vries bent over the bed and began scooping the fat black worms into his jar. "Thank you for recalling me to my duty, mevrouw. These beauties will serve some other patient as well. Be ready for a new meal soon, won't you, my little friends?"
The face of the Widow Kulik began to emerge from the curtain of leeches. Her skin was ghostly white, her eyes open and staring, her mouth relaxed. Lucas put his hand on the woman's chest. "She's dead."
"Ja, ja. I thought so already." Van der Vries was intent on gathering up the leeches. It was not difficult; they weren't only stiff with blood, they were stupefied with it. They tumbled happily into the glass jar and made no effort to attach themselves to the Dutchman's pudgy hands. "Her case, as you just admitted, was well advanced. Nonetheless, it is the duty of the true physician to try all possible remedies until the very end."
Having known her naked in the woods, Lucas found it difficult to once again have Marit only in the storeroom of the butcher shop.
Still, any way was better than no way. Over a year now, and their lust hadn't cooled. Marit still moaned and gasped in delight when he entered her, and trembled like a leaf in a tempest when finally she was overcome by ecstasy. Seeing her that way had always made Lucas feel like a god. It still did. But it was not the same.
Sometimes when he thought about the things they had done to each other in the cave -- a mere twenty minutes' walk from Wall Street -- he blushed. Both of them naked as Adam and Eve, surrounded by nothing but the forest, bathing naked in the cool fresh water of the Collect Pond.
Lucas desperately missed the freedom of those precious hours. So did Marit. While he was deep inside her in the storeroom, she would whisper her memories in his ear. "Ah, yes, do that, Lucas. Put your fingers inside me there and rock them back and forth. When we went to the cave you used to put your cock inside that place. Do you remember, my darling Lucas, putting your cock in my arse? Do you remember?"
When she said those things he went wild. Who would imagine a woman would speak such words? Not a whore -- a respectable woman who had a husband and went to church on Sundays, and sometimes caught his eye when she came out of the service, and just from the way she looked at him made him know what she was thinking. What she would say aloud as soon as they were together in their secret cave. I want to suck your cock, Lucas. I want to take it in my mouth and suck it dry.
No more. They dared not risk it. Aside from the threat posed by Ankel Jannssen asleep upstairs, there were the customers, more of them than ever before.
Normally Nieuw Netherland was a place of incredible plenty, much of it free for the taking. Now, with overland access to the farms and the surrounding countryside cut off, all the town's provisions had to arrive by ship. Stuyvesant inaugurated a rationing system. It should have meant less business in Jannssen's shop.
But the atmosphere of danger bred rumors faster than maggots on a dung heap. A story made the rounds that Ankel and Marit had a secret supply of meat hidden in the cellar beneath their house. That it would have long since become putrid didn't stop people from coming and asking to buy some of the hoard. They seemed to think if they could just catch the mistress butcher on her own and offer her a bit of extra money, she'd find them something over their ration.
Marit turned them all away. "Even if I had extra meat, which I do not, I wouldn't dare sell you more than your share. The fine for cheating on the rationing is a fortune, three guilders."
The first time Lucas heard her say it he was hiding in the storeroom, his still-unsatisfied cock stiff as a broom handle inside his breeches. When he thought about the penalty for what they were doing -- far worse than a three-guilder fine -- he marveled at their foolhardiness. But he didn't leave. And he didn't stop visiting the butcher shop at every possible opportunity. Neither did the customers who continued to believe the rumor because they wanted it to be true.
It was rare that Lucas and Marit could be together the way they were that January Thursday, over a month into the siege. For once they hadn't been interrupted, and when he was done Lucas could chance staying inside her for a few seconds. He smoothed Marit's golden hair back from her forehead. He kissed her cheeks and her lips and her eyes.
"I miss the woods," she whispered between his kisses. "I long to be naked with you."
"Me, too. But I don't long to lose my scalp, or see you lose yours."
He eased out of her. Marit sighed. "Each time you part from me it's like a little death."
"I know. I feel the same."
"Do you, Lucas?"
"Dear God, Marit, of course I do. How can you ask?"
"Because if you are as unhappy apart from me as I am from you, then we must do something about it."
Lucas adjusted himself and buttoned his breeches. He leaned forward and kissed her forehead. "Dearest Marit, there is nothing to be done."
"We could go away, Lucas."
He pulled back, stared at her. "What are you saying?"
"We could go to New England. To Boston."
Lucas chuckled. "Wouldn't we have a fine time with the Puritans in Boston! A nonbelieving barber and a runaway wife. They'd hang us ten minutes after we arrived."
"Then we could take a ship back to Europe. To England."
"I can't return to England. Anyway, I can't leave here. I have my sister to look after."
"Ah yes." Marit began lacing her bodice, easing her heavy breasts back into their restraint. "The saintly Juffrouw Sally who goes so frequently to the hospital to care for the stinking vagabonds brought there to die. Your sister is how old, Lucas?"
"Twenty-five," he admitted. "Nearly twenty-six."
"Yes. And she's a dried-up old prune. It is long past time you found her a husband."
"We can't afford a dowry. And I promised Sally I wouldn't -- "
The footsteps of the butcher were heavy on the stairs. "Marit! Damn you, woman, where are you? Marit!"
Heart pounding, Lucas ran from the storeroom to the front of the shop and positioned himself in front of the wooden counter.
Marit was right behind him, adjusting her skirt and smoothing her hair as she took her place on the other side of the chopping block. "Ja, I am here, Ankel. I am talking to a customer." Her red mouth sent Lucas a silent kiss.
Ankel Jannssen shoved aside the burlap curtain and peered into the shop. He was a big man, as tall as Lucas and twice as broad. A lifetime of meat-eating had packed flesh onto his frame. He filled the doorway. "Listen, woman, I want -- Who's this?"
"The barber, Ankel. Lucas Turner."
"Ja, Turner. The English. So what are you doing here, barber?"
Lucas thought his mouth too dry for speech, but the words came. "Your good wife provides me with sheep's intestines and pig bladders for my trade, butcher. I was hoping she had some put by for me today."
"Not today. We have nothing like that now. Everything but the smell, they eat. Pretty soon even the sawdust from the floor."
Jannssen stepped up to the chopping block, leaned on it, and looked hard at Lucas. The stench of stale drink came off the man in waves. It almost overcame the reek of his unwashed body. He had small close-set eyes, pig eyes. "Ja, Turner the English." He sounded as if he'd been thinking a lot about it. "Don't come any more here, barber. Go somewhere else for your guts and bladders. There are butchers closer to your place. Plague them. Even though their wives don't have tits quite so big."
Marit flushed dark red and turned away from her husband. Lucas looked directly at him. "It will be exactly as you say, Mijnheer Jannssen. Good day to you. And to you, mevrouw."
Lucas turned and walked out of the shop. He heard the unmistakable soft thwack of a fist striking flesh before he'd closed the door. And Marit's voice. "No, Ankel. No. I told you...you are imagining -- " A second blow cut off her words.
Lucas froze in the doorway. There were at least a dozen other people on the short street. More than enough to rush to the butcher's aid if they heard him being beaten to pulp by the much younger and stronger barber, Lucas Turner. Plenty of respectable witnesses to testify that Ankel Jannssen had been exercising his legal right to discipline his wife when the Englishman, for no good reason, turned on him.
God alone knew what suspicions Ankel Jannssen would testify to in a court of law, but Lucas didn't need any messages from God to tell him what would happen to Marit if she were branded an adulteress and divorced.
He turned and walked the length of Hall Place, past the tidy wooden houses with their calico curtains and their small pots of flowers standing either side of every front door. Until he cleared the large open space in front of the fort he was sure he could hear the sound of Jannssen's fists pounding Marit's soft, yielding flesh.
Lucas didn't go to the butcher shop on Friday or Saturday. On Sunday he considered attending church, but decided against it. Unlike New England, Nieuw Netherland imposed no penalty for nonobservance. The wrath of Stuyvesant and the burgomasters was reserved for those who attempted any form of public worship other than that prescribed by the Dutch Reformed Church. Even the Jews were known to conduct their rites in a room above the mill on Beaver Street. As long as they made no public show about how they prayed or to whom -- and as long as no Christian children were reported missing -- they were left alone.
For his part, Lucas had no particular beliefs. God knows he was no Jew, but one sort of Christian or another seemed to him to make little difference. He'd felt safe from God's wrath and Stuyvesant's when -- only to get a look at Marit -- he'd gone a few times to the Sabbath liturgy at the Church of St. Nicholas. But the Sunday after Ankel surprised them, he contrived to arrive when the service was almost over.
The church was within the walls of the fort. A brutal wind whistled cold and icy across the parade ground, carrying the promise of snow. Lucas sheltered in the doorway of a storehouse a few steps from the church. He heard the last notes of the closing hymn, the drone of the minister's final blessing. A few moments later the worshipers began to leave the building. Everyone moved swiftly, anxious to get home to their fires. Marit and Ankel always occupied a pew toward the rear. They were among the first to appear.
Lucas huddled in the shadows. The butcher and his wife got closer. Ankel was talking to the man on his right. Marit was on her husband's left, the side closer to Lucas. She walked with her head down, one hand clutching the hood of her gray duffel cloak tight beneath her chin. When she drew level with Lucas, she turned her face in his direction.
Lucas gasped. Her eyes were swollen nearly shut. There was a cut on her right cheek, and her left was black and blue. And Jannssen had added shame to Marit's punishment by making her go to church so everyone would know she had done something to displease him, and he'd given her the discipline she deserved.
Lucas had to make a conscious effort to keep from lunging forward and throwing the butcher to the ground.
Marit turned her head so she could continue to see him as she and her husband walked on. Finally she turned away.
Lucas stayed where he was, trembling with rage. When he finally dared move, the church was empty, the last of the congregation had left the fort. He was alone.
The threatened snow began before he was halfway home. When he opened the door of the barber shop and smelled the dinner Sally was cooking, he gagged. For a time he stood where he was, the wind raging behind his back, blowing snow into the barber shop.
"Lucas!" Sally turned from the fireplace. "For heaven's sake, have you lost your senses? Shut the door before all the fire's warmth escapes."
He did as she asked, but he felt no difference in the temperature. His fury was an inferno. Having nothing else to feed on, it consumed Lucas himself.
Copyright © 2001 by MichaelA, Ltd.