Morning came with the sound of Lars’ big voice ringing through the tent. “Come on you two. The lazy bug got you? We are moving today, going to the colony on the coast, but you better hurry if you want to eat before the long ride. Up!”
Ethan woke with Jill’s arm across his wrinkled white shirt and the rest of her snuggled up for warmth. There had been a chill in the wee hours that remained evident at dawn. He looked down and saw her smile. Neither was the least bit uncomfortable just as they were; but Ethan had a thought and pulled back a little.
“I need a toothbrush.”
Jill’s smile broadened as she pulled herself up. “And a hair brush,” she added as she pulled her long black hair back into a ponytail. “And a shower, and a change of clothes.” Ethan just nodded as he got up and put on his suit jacket against the cold.
They got Arabian ponies for the trip. Lars needed something bigger. Fortunately, Manomar had a spare stallion, and those two men rode most of the morning side by side, while Jill did her best to keep Ethan in his saddle.
“I’m gonna be sore and bruised worse than riding in the back of Lars’ wagon,” Ethan insisted. Jill just laughed.
It turned out Manomar’s “Englander” was far better than Ali Pasha’s, and he spent from that time on translating most of his Master’s words for the others.
“I had a son.” Lars explained to Manomar when they stopped for lunch. “Two sons, but they both died young.”
“I am sorry,” Manomar responded honestly enough.
“But I have a living daughter. I would not take all the gold in the world for her, and I am not sure if I will let her marry that Yon Veek, but I am afraid her mother has already decided.” Lars shook his head, sadly.
“How do you feel about that?” Ethan asked before Jill could shush him.
Manomar paused for a moment before answering. “My feelings do not matter.”
“Everyone’s feelings matter,” Ethan said. Jill nudged him then so he kept quiet, but he honestly felt that everyone’s feelings mattered and he could not help saying that.
They reached the colony around three that afternoon, having seen only small wild animals en-route, and no sign of people at all. Lars had imagined they were going to Hoboken, the Dutch outpost on the Jersey side of the Hudson River. “You know,” he said. “The place where the trains run.” But in fact, the colony was called New Ark, an allusion to Noah’s Ark. It looked like a fort, a strong, sturdy compound of wood which protected the port and a whole parcel of land from the surrounding countryside.
“Once we are having fighting with savages.” Ali Pasha explained. “Some are thinking Jihad on the savages would be working well, but some say cost in gold and men is too much for worth.”
Ethan noticed the guards at the gate sported rather large and sharp looking pikes. Some also had compound bows. They were ready for a fight if it ever came, but Ethan imagined that after a few bloody noses, the Native Americans rather chose to give the place a wide berth. The Moors and Arabs were always good on the battlefield. Tours was not an easy battle for Charles Martel, even in those worlds where he won.
Ali Pasha’s house was two stories and full of fireplaces. He said he was just using it for several months while the sea captain, the home’s owner, traded down in the islands. When the captain returned, Ali Pasha’s time would be up and he would pack up his wives and head for home in Malaga, Andalucía. Meanwhile, he was free to pursue his inquiries, which Ethan finally admitted were like scientific studies. As Manomar translated Ali Pasha’s theories on why New World deer differed from those of his home, or Englander deer for that matter, Ethan felt prompted to call him a Darwin in the making.
“And we will see how Darwin sits with the Koran in this world,” he cast an aside to Jill. “Bet they have a very different sort of monkey trial.”
Jill did not argue. “Islam is a very low tolerance religion compared to Christianity, especially when it comes to change.” They spoke quietly to themselves.
In all, it was a pleasant day. Ali Pasha had so many questions, but Jill and Ethan only answered his questions in the most general terms and offered no information on their own. They also convinced Lars to do the same. It seemed Jill and Ethan were well practiced at not telling everything they knew. For Ethan, it was standard practice for public relations work. It was harder for Lars, but even Lars understood that people had to learn for themselves and in their own time and way. It was not healthy to be handed things on a silver platter; and in fact, Lars understood that very well.
Ali Pasha was not dissatisfied. He had more information and new directions for study than he ever imagined gaining in a lifetime.
That afternoon, Jill put on something provocative and paraded around, playing with her veil. She dressed Ethan up as an Arabian Prince while the scullery washed their clothes. True, Ethan barely saved his dry clean only suit from the water in time, but the rest needed washing. Lars, on the other hand said he was good, and Jill and Ethan laughed together, and fell into each other’s arms, laughing. That laugh stopped suddenly, and they separated quickly, but there was something definitely there, even if neither was ready to talk about it.