Saturday, April 2, 2016

An ailing John Smith in London, 1610

An excerpt from JAMESTOWN: THE NOVEL:


February 1610 
     As the carriage turned into Fenchurch Street, the snow, which had been drifting down a few desultory flakes at a time, began to fall in earnest, and the driver could hardly see his way. Inside the carriage, a pale-looking man swathed in a heavy woolen cloak shivered and peered out at the swirling snowflakes. He did not relish the visit he was about to pay, but it had to be done.
  “Philpot Lane!” the driver called out, and under his hands the pair of matched chestnut geldings reluctantly slowed their pace. Beside him, a footman in green and gold livery swung down from his seat and called out to the passenger.
  “Here you are, sir! This house right here’s the one you want.  Sir Thomas Smythe’s.”
 “I know,” said the passenger, without much enthusiasm. Seizing his cane, he descended slowly and awkwardly from the carriage. His right side still pained him, and he walked upright with great difficuly. He was grateful to the Earl of Hertford for lending him his carriage. Lifting the ornate brass knocker, he let it fall sharply on the heavy oak panel of the door. Almost instantly, the door swung open and a serving man ushered him inside.
     Are you expected, sire?

    “Yes, said the visitor wearily.

     “Whom shall I say is calling?

    “Captain John Smith.”

 “Very good, sire. I shall tell Sir Thomas that you are here. He has been expecting you.”
  If Smith’s side had not been so painful, he would have paced up and down the richly figured Turkey carpet in Sir Thomas Smythe’s entrance hall. Instead, he stood still, leaning on his cane and waiting. Under his trunk hose on his right side was a bandage, and under that was a patch of oozing raw flesh the size of a man’s two hands. His gunpowder burn had begun to fester in the ten weeks he had spent at sea, and now the skin refused to grow back over the wound. Until a few days ago, he had been unable to bear anything touching it, and since his return from Virginia in December he had been a half-naked invalid at the country house of his friend, Edward Seymour, the Earl of Hertford. But after the Virginia Company had convened for its Hilary Term meeting on January 15, Smith knew that he must make an effort, pain or no, to see Sir Thomas, the Company’s treasurer, and explain to him in person what had happened in Virginia. . . .

(to be continued)

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