Somewhere in Spain, 1635
"Pedro, how would you like to have money of your own?" Juan asked as he placed two drinks on the table and sat down uninvited. They were in a shabby cantina not far from the university. Pedro preferred to do his drinking in better quality establishments, but it was the end of the term and his father had yet to send him his remittance for the next quarter. Of course, it wouldn't matter how much he received. He was always out of money again before the next round arrived. How long before was only a matter of how high on the hog he lived early on.
Even when his father passed on he would not be at an end of the problem. The title and estates would go to his older brother.
"What scheme are you pushing this time, Juan? I don't have any money to invest right now and I won't have any later."
Juan was a scholarship fellow at the university. Beneath his polished exterior was the money-grubbing soul of a peasant. The last time Pedro fell in with one of Juan's schemes they were convinced they had a system which would break the bank at the local gaming house. Explaining to his father why he was completely broke before the term was half over got him a firm lecture on being responsible, and an even firmer warning against keeping low company.
"I don't need money. I've got all the capital investors I need. All you need to do to get a share is get me in touch with someone at the royal court."
"What is it this time?" Pedro asked, interested in spite of his better judgment.
"I've been to Germany. In the library from the future I read a history of a part of Mexico called California. Two hundred and fifty years from now they will discover so much gold it will take years for thousands of men just to pick up what is lying in the stream beds. When they actually start mining gold it will take decades to exhaust the resources.
"At Sutter's Mill?" Pedro asked.
Juan turned pale.
"Did you think you were the first person to go to Grantville and read the histories? The court knows all about the gold in California, and Texas and elsewhere. Rest assured, steps are being taken to procure it, along with the silver in Sierra Nevada and the copper in Arizona.
"Thank you for the drink, Juan." Pedro found himself thinking, I should have milked this for all it was worth. He would have wined and dined me for three days if I had handled things differently.
Juan smiled. His mind was much faster on its feet than Pedro's. "That is all well and good. But what about the gentlemen I have ready to invest in a California gold mine? Surely you know someone who, for a fee which we will split three ways, will put our request for a land grant before the appropriate officials."
"Juan, there is no way they are going to give you a land grant in Mexico's gold fields."
A smiling Juan replied, with a twinkle in his eye, "I don't need a land grant. I just need someone at court to apply for one for me."
Pedro joined Juan in smiling. "Now there is an idea worth thinking about. Come, my friend, let us find a better meal than we can get here and talk about it."
"Aayden, how good of you to come. I was afraid you wouldn't make it." Bastian greeted his guest in the small lobby of the Magdeburg Gentlemen's Club.
"I almost didn't. Sorry I'm late. The coach broke an axle. But after the prospectus you sent out? Of course, I came. Unless you're a liar, which you're not, then you think you've found the goose which is going to shit gold. If you have, then of course I want in on it. I at least owe it to an old friend to hear him out.
"Besides, I've wanted to see this gentlemen's club I've been hearing about. And since you are holding the meeting here at the club I can do both."
"Well, you will have to see it later. Everyone else is here and we need to begin."
In a small meeting room designated as the Gustav Salon, in honor of the larger-than-life portrait dominating one wall, a comfortable, upholstered, wing-back chair waited for Aayden. Bastian went straight to the easel.
"Gentlemen, I see no reason to make introductions. We all know each other, at least by reputation. And if there is someone here you do not know well, I would think the fact I saw fit to invite each of you should settle any doubts about anyone who is here. After all, if you do not trust my judgment, then why did you come, knowing full well that I was going to ask you to open your purses and put your money where my mouth is?" His friends laughed politely. "All for the greater glory of our collective future, of course."
Bastian flipped the cover sheet off the flip chart to expose the first page. "This is the Island of Antigua, in the West Indies." He pointed to a projected blow up in the corner. "Here is what was known as English Harbor in Grantville's histories. It is a natural deep harbor, the best harbor in the West Indies. "He used a pointer to trace the high hills surrounding the harbor. "It offers high ground for gun emplacements. It is easily defended. It provides excellent protection from winter storms. And, from this port, according to Grantville's histories, the English dominated the West Indies for over two hundred years. I propose we form what I am calling The German West Indies Company, to build a privately-owned warship, ultimately several of them and an armed merchant fleet, and take possession of Antigua, the harbor, and by extension the West Indies.
"The answer as to why is found in a single word. That word is sugar. Antigua had a thriving sugar industry as did the West Indies in general and will again. The profits from the sugar trade financed England's industrialization. Their superior industrial base let them dominate the seas and rule for more than two hundred years over an empire that included one third of the world. In Grantville's histories, it was an English-speaking world. There is no reason why in this time it should not be a German speaking world.
"Richelieu has bought out England's interest. He is looking to a greater French World Empire. Where once would have flown the English Jack he wants to see the fleur de lis with French the dominant language of trade. Gentlemen, if we take possession of Antiqua and develop the sugar trade to finance our industrialization, it can be a good German eagle that flies over an empire where the sun never sets. Our German sons will rule the waves. The German tongue will be the language of international trade, science, the arts and education. The rest of the world's children will learn German just to go to school, as we once learned Latin when Rome ruled our world."
Amongst the sage nods, speculative gazes, and smug thoughts of world domination, Bastian's cousin, and childhood rival, Carl sat and smirked.
"Bastian, do not play us like a stage magician, keeping us focused on the hand with the wand while with the other hand you pick our pockets.
"Don't get me wrong, I find the idea of a German world empire attractive. I find the idea of a profitable sugar trade even more attractive, and I am ready to subscribe to a company to build privately-owned warships for profit. But, the idea you have not shared with us is even more attractive than the ideas you have."
Bastian looked perplexed. "Whatever are you talking about?"
Carl snickered. "Bravo, cousin, bravo! I have always said, if ever you have to flee Germany you must head for England. There you can make a grand living on stage in the theaters of London.
"Do you think you are the only one in Germany who supports a researcher in Grantville? Of course not! But you must think your servants do not talk! My researcher in Grantville reports not only on what he finds in the books, but what is often of more interest are his reports on what other people's researchers are looking into. And, my researcher does keep his mouth shut. Yes, from Antigua we can build a sugar industry, from which we can finance a world empire. But your researcher has spent a good deal of time looking into something else. Antigua is first and foremost a very fine and, more importantly, a very securable and defendable port from which our superior warships could depart. And for your plans to work, they will indeed need to be superior, so they can attack and plunder the Spanish treasure fleet."
The open mouthed, pole-axed look on Bastian's face when he was caught in the headlights of an oncoming truth caused the other men in the salon to chuckle.
"Ah, well, that is, ah—"
A smirking Dieter, also a childhood playmate and a cousin, but more distant than Carl, came to his rescue. "The thought you are looking for, Bastian, is: Well, yes my friends, of course I have thought of plundering the Spanish treasure fleet. And I do think it would be an excellent short-term gain on our investment, in support of our long-term goals, of course."
Bastian blanched as white as bleached linen and looked ready to pass out. The other six men in the room roared with laughter.
"Flip the next page, cousin, and show us the plans of the ship you stole from Rainaldi's desk at the naval base."
"I did no such thing!" Bastian objected.
"No, of course you didn't. You hired someone else to do it for you." Carl said.
"Well, of course I did. I am a gentleman after all. A gentleman does not steal!"
There were several sincere nods of agreement.
"But how did you know it was my agent? He could have been anyone's."
"Actually the correct word is 'she.' She could have been anyone's agent. And she was. You bought the plans, but she stole all three copies. I am, by chance and good planning, now in possession of the other two. That was sloppy of you, by the way. I was lucky to interdict the second copy while it was still on its way to Paris."
A sarcastic Bastian, past being embarrassed said, "Are you sure you don't want to pitch the idea, Carl?"
"No, Bastian." Carl said. "You are handling the presentation just fine. I like the idea. But, like always, you come up short on being a lying, sneaky, underhanded and conniving son of a bitch. That makes you a nice guy. But now you're talking about piracy on the high seas and nice guys don't make good pirates. So, I'm just not sure you are the man to be heading things up.
"But let's come back to that. Why don't you flip the map and show us Rainaldi's plans."
"Well, it isn't all about the Spanish gold. In the long run sugar is worth more, and industrialization will lead to empire." Bastian asserted.
"Okay, but in the short run let's talk about your pirate ship," Carl insisted.
Bastian flipped the map.
Somewhere in France
"Monsieur LeBlanc, or should I call you Capitaine LeBlanc? Now that you have been here for a month, how do you find the accommodations?"
"The rats are large and numerous. The fleas and lice are plentiful. The food is rotten and the bedding is worse."
"Good!" The warden smiled a genuinely amused smile. "Then you will not be wishing to stay any longer than you must."
The man standing shackled in the warden's office in the St. Malo prison glared at his seated tormentor without saying a word.
"Have you noticed; just how many of your fellow inmates here are not the usual gutter sweepings who fill the prisons of France?"
LeBlanc remained silent.
"Indeed you will not find a finer collection of successful poachers, murderous gamekeepers, thieving hunters and stock thieves in one place in the entire world."
"If they are so good what are they doing here?"
"Ahh, therein rests the tale. A request was made for anyone who was a known poacher or stock thief, but was convicted of some other crime than the one for which he was best known. Or, perhaps men who were only caught or convicted by, shall we say, false witness? After all we do not need any incompetent poachers, do we? A competent one would not be in jail for poaching. Such men were sent to this prison from all over France. There are now one hundred and twelve of them here. You may have your pick of eighty-nine of them.
"You, of course, are no poacher, game keeper or stock thief. But, like the men gathered here, you are best known for something other than the crime of which you were so justly found guilty."
LeBlanc was adamant. "I was wrongfully found guilty of cheating at cards!"
"Wrongfully convicted?" The warden laughed. "I think not. You were not playing by the rules. That is cheating. Every gentleman at the table was willing, and expecting, to lose large sums of money to the duke's favorite for the privilege of associating with someone who had the duke's ear. When you won, the duke's favorite was sure you must have cheated. This was affirmed by every gentleman at the table. They all understood that, according to the rules, the favorite is the winner. But you, it seems, did not know this. But, then, you are no gentleman are you, Capitaine LeBlanc?
"Tisk tisk," the warden continued rather gleefully. "You should not have been passing as a gentleman. If you had been gaming in a house suitable to your station, this never would have happened to you."
"You said I could have my pick of eighty-nine of the inmates? To what purpose?"
"Ahh, Yes! I was told you were a man who got things done, a man men will follow. Tell me, Capitaine, would a royal pardon be of interest to you?"
"At what price?"
"On top of a full pardon, when you have succeeded, the crown will recognize your bogus coat of arms with a patent of nobility?"
"At what price?"
"And there will be the opportunity to gain a sizable fortune to support the award of arms."
"If I live and return? What impossible task does the king want accomplished?"
"Actually it is far from impossible. A ship is being outfitted. A party of ninety men, motivated to succeed, men experienced with arms and in woodcraft, led by a noted mercenary officer—" The warden nodded toward the captain. "—provided with accurate, dependable maps, well supplied and well armed, will leave for the New World. You will land at an established colony which used to be Jamestown and is now St. Louis in the new Louisiana territory. From there you will travel inland, and locate gold bearing streams.
"This is not blind prospecting. You will have maps for a rich deposit that would have been discovered in 1799 in a place called Carolina. Return to the colony after having found the placer deposits and a full pardon will be waiting for all of you. In addition, your illegal coat of arms will be recognized and you will be able to pay your way home with the gold you bring back. Lead a second expedition to establish a permanent mining base, and receive one percent of the first year's revenue. Settle in the New World and be named royal governor of the mining colony with a suitable rank and land grant."
In a salon in Venice
"Simone, it is good to see you here," Rabbi Leon da Modena said. His words carried an underlying message. He thought Rabbi Simone Luzzato should come more often to what could unquestionably be described as one of the foremost salons—arguably the foremost salon—in The Serene Republic of Venice. "Tonight, there will be no one here except our people," Simone said, meaning Jews. He did not have to tell Leon he did not appreciate some of the gentiles Sara Coppio habitually invited to participate in her intellectual gatherings. At least, he did not need to do so again.
He simply did not trust them. You never knew when they would turn on you and turn you in for something you said, or even something you didn't say. It did not even need to be something you agreed with. They could just make it up. Danger is the spice of life, but Rabbi Luzzato found the flavor of life hot enough without intentionally adding unpredictable random irritants to the mix.
"True," Leon replied. "Considering tonight's topic, it would be counter-productive."
Simone asked, "You know the topic?" All Simone knew was that it would be a salon for Jews only.
Leon gestured to the easel set up with a large map of the world according to the future as told in the libraries and books of Grantville. Everyone there had seen it before in the very room in which they stood, if not elsewhere. But before he could answer, Sara gathered the attentions of the luminaries of the Jewish community of Venice.
A smile to melt the snow in the Alps, graced her beautiful, blond-framed face. "Thank you for coming tonight without any foreknowledge of the topic to be discussed other than the fact that I was limiting tonight's participants to members of our own community. For the majority of those of you who do not know him, let me introduce Chaim Lefkowitz. He has arrived here from studying in Grantville, at my invitation, to share a proposal which I am sure you will find interesting. It is an idea which I am sure you will also find it attractive. Whether it is feasible is altogether another matter. But I am not in the leastwise uncertain as to whether or not you will find it worthy of discussion."
Chaim stepped up next to the map board. "I have been assured you all will be familiar with this map of the world."
There were several nods around the room.
"I have further been assured that I do not need to acquaint you with the facts from the history of the world from which Grantville came concerning the rise of Zionism which led to a Jewish State in Jerusalem in 1948."
Again, there were nods around the room.
"Nor do I need to speak to the tragic pogrom which took place in the Germanies in the 1930s and the 1940s called the Holocaust."
While the mood of the room darkened, no one disagreed.
"Being forewarned, the holocaust should be avoidable, over and above the probability of it simply being butterflied out of existence. Do I need to define the phrase 'being butterflied'?"
There was a slight shake of the head from Sara, and others.
"But there are other pogroms which will arise. There are always pogroms. We suffered a sack of the ghetto right here in Venice by imperial troops just five years ago when the Gonzaga court fell. The 'others' do not need a good excuse to pillage our people. A bad one will do.
"The threat of expulsion is something we live with. Like wars and plagues, they populate our history. I need not list them for you. Venice bought one off in the 1570s or we would not have our ghetto here."
There were nods of agreement.
"We do what we can. Often this is no more than to kvetch amongst ourselves. It is the nature of galut. But exile without complaining is tourism, not exile."
Chaim got the chuckle he was looking for to ease some of the darkness his words were bringing into the room.
"We are prospering for now in Venice and Venice prospers from our being here. But, we prospered in Spain until there arose a Pharaoh who knew not Joseph. For now, as Grantville prospers, we prosper. Yet the USE is beset on every side with enemies. And Gustav is not immortal."
Chaim paused to build tension. "Until there is a Jewish state somewhere in the world when next we are expelled, we have no guarantee as to who will take us in. Will the French welcome us in the New World, where we went in that other time line that is now nothing but a memory in the books in Grantville? If so, for how long?
"Zionism did not bring the return to Jerusalem until 1948." From the map of the world, and his comments, where he was heading was clear.
" 'Next year in Jerusalem,' is not going to happen in our lifetime. The Ottoman Turks will hold power over Jerusalem for another three hundred years.
"We need a state of our own while we wait for the messiah to call us home to Jerusalem!"
Chaim tapped Australia, with a pointer. "This is just too big to secure. Without a navy large enough to rule the seas, it will be sub-divided and fought over." He tapped New Zealand. "This is a much more defensible island. And if we deem it to large, then this—" He tapped Tasmania. "—is our second choice."
"There are Jews living in the shtetles in the east who will go for the promise of security and their own land, but they will be unable to pay for passage. Others who are comfortable where they are will have to pay the way of the first to go just as we did in the time of Ezra and the first return from Babylon.
"I am told you have an understanding of steam engines?"
"Barak Myer demonstrated a small one in this very room." Sara replied.
"Then you should know what I mean by a pressure relief valve. What is the value of having a Jewish nation somewhere in the world, a nation with no king but God? What is the value of a place—" He repeated himself, not from being a poor speaker, but to reinforce his point. "—to where anyone of us can flee with the certainty of finding a place of refuge when faced with pogroms and expulsions?"
His pointer returned to New Zealand. "This island has deposits of gold."
He flipped the map of the world to show a second map. The large map of the islands of choice were proudly and predominately labeled New Judea. The site of Christchurch was shown as Tel Aviv.
"We know the approximate locations of the gold fields." He tapped them with the pointer. "And with some diligence, surely we can find them. That alone should be reason enough to make the journey. The gold can be used to, as Grantvillers say, bankroll the economic development of our new country."
A very solemn young man made hard eye contact with his hostess before pontificating, "My fellow Israelites, the sons of Abraham need a homeland. We need a place of our own while waiting for the messiah to come and call us back to Jerusalem. The Ring of Fire has shown us how to make that happen."
There was silence in the room.
In a Bar Somewhere in Grantville
"Tell me something, Vincent. Why are we working our asses off when we know where gold and diamonds are laying around in open fields just waiting to be picked up?"
"Because, Sergio, the diamond fields are in South Africa and we are in the middle of Germany, in the middle of a war. Because it takes a ton of supplies per man per year—and that is each and every year—to field a prospector. If you don't make a strike the first year, how will you pay for the next year's supplies? Or how will you pay your way home? If you saved up everything you made for a year, you might be able to just about pay your way there. If you can come up with that kind of money, then go for it. But you can't. If you could, you'd be turning out window glass, or steam engines, or porcelain bathroom fixtures and you wouldn't be talking foolishness about chartering a boat to South Africa."
"So instead of sending prospectors, we send farmers the first year. Now, listen to me, Sergio, I've got this all figured out and it will work.
"I was talking to Sumner. He's married into the Mennonites that came here from Holland. You remember that Kraut who was putting together a German South African company?"
"The one who turned out to be crazy as a loon?"
"Yeah, but he had a lot of people interested. He was lining up a good chunk of money. The problem was, he was spending it as fast as it came in. Still, Sumner's father-in-law had Sumner convinced to sell out and move to the proposed Cape Town Colony. Sumner says he can put together a boat load of farmers who want to own their own land.
"Some of them can pay their own way, some can't. So we do what the crazy Kraut was claiming to do, but wasn't. We sell shares in a company to establish a colony at Cape Town. Then a year or two later, after they have a crop in, we can send prospectors and they can buy the food there instead of buying it here and paying to ship it. That way we can stay right here and run the company while someone else deals with the Zulus and the Mau Maus, and the other wild animals."
"Sergio, you're crazy if you think anybody is going to let the likes of you and me have the kind of money it would take to make that work."
"Vince, I'm living paycheck to paycheck. And every month I've got less spending money in my pocket because the only thing that isn't going up is my rate of pay."
"You got a raise."
"You call that a raise? It's a joke, an insult! Now I can sit here and go broke a little at a time, or I can sell the cars and the four wheelers now that there is about to be some gas available. And I can sell some other stuff—I don't know what all else—and send one of Sumner's people to South Africa the first year. Then next year I can sell the house and leave the wife and kids with the in-laws on the farm and go strike it rich. If I don't come back, the kids end up farmers. Shit, if my father-in-law didn't hate my guts I'd quit my job and go work the farm with him as it is."
"Sergio, you're crazy. There's a war on. There's no way you're going to be able to pull this off."
"Maybe. But I'm sick and tired of watching everybody get rich but me. This will work, I tell you."
"It might if you actually did something about it. But, then, this is, what, the fifth or the sixth scheme you've come up with this year that you are sure would work? You ain't done a thing about any of them and you ain't about to."
Somewhere in Spain
"Pedro, why are you wasting my time? The court knows all about the gold in California. I know you know this. They are not going to give it away just because someone asks for it."
"Uncle, I don't expect the grant request to be honored. Juan has promised a number of backers that he would seek a land grant in an area with reported gold deposits. I told him the court knew about the California gold. He does not wish to go back to his investors until he has at least tried to get the land grant. He assured them he knew someone who could get the request before the right people. I am who he knew. You are who I know. When Juan goes back with the answer that no grant is forthcoming, he will need an official rejection letter to justify no longer having the money he is willing to split with you."
"Less a commission for you, of course. Hmm? Juan, you say? Is this the gambling companion your father warned you to avoid?" He noted the sheepish look on his nephew's face.
"Never mind. Just how much is Juan prepared to pay for me to look like a fool before the court?"
Somewhere in France, in the St. Malo Prison
Henri LeBlanc stood up in the common area of the prison when it had been depopulated of all but the chosen few. "If any of you are not interested in a full pardon and a chance to be a rich man—" Henri paused. "—leave now!"
Henri could have recited the alphabet and gained their attention. Some people have the gift. It is a rare person who has truly kissed the Blarney Stone. Rarer still is the person whom the stone kissed back. And rarest of all are the people the stone kissed first. Henri LeBlanc was that rare. Some people have the gift. He was one of them.
But this time he did not bother projecting blarney. This time, he knew, the words alone would catch and hold the attention of his pigeons. "The king has a copy of a map of the New World. It is copied out of a book in a library in Grantville in the Germanies; a book from the future. The map shows a place less than a few hundred miles from a port in the new French lands across the sea, where the streams are laden with gold. A man can scoop out enough gold to fill his purse in a matter of a few days. Or even just a few hours, if you are lucky."
The stillness in the common yard became profound.
"The king wants that gold. But he is too cheap to pay men to go get it for him." This garnered a snicker from his audience.
"I will be given that map if I can find a few good men to go with me, men who are honest, humble, hardworking, and, above all, trustworthy." The room itself seemed to snicker. "The king is looking for men who are upright, devout, loyal, and sensible. I need a few selfless men who are willing to risk their lives for the love of their king." LeBlanc paused. He let the pause linger just to a hair shy of the breaking point. "So, naturally, I came to you."
The tension in the courtyard boiled full and over with roaring laughter. Such laughter as had never been heard in that grim place before and the likes of it would never be heard there again. When it was at its peak, just before it could start to run down LeBlanc raised his hands and called for attention. "If you go, when we return to port we will receive a full pardon, and what we have with us is ours. If you want to pay your way back to France, then you had better have found the king's gold.
"Yes, we will face untamed wilderness, savage men and more savage beasts. But I have seen the streets of Paris by night." This raised a chuckle. "We will have muskets and swords, if you want one. We will have mules and supplies, and in the end, we will have wealth and freedom.
"Any amongst you who are afraid of wild beasts and wild men may return to the peace and safety of the cells at this time to sit here and rot until you die or grow old and hope you are alive when your time is served. I will be interviewing and signing just eighty-nine of you. If you can recognize the chance of a lifetime . . . if you have the courage to pursue a dream . . . if you have the stamina to see it through to the end . . . if you fancy a journey across the sea and a trek of two hundred miles and back . . . if you are such a man of vision, then step forward and join Henri LeBlanc. Kiss the book, join the company and come back to France a rich man."
Somewhere in Spain
"Brother of mine, what brings you to your childhood home after all these years?" Adan sounded flippant. He didn't intend to. It was an unconscious defensive strategy. The twins had gone to court. Adan left, swearing never to return, and Alano swore to never leave. He hadn't come home until now.
"I have to talk to you about Pedro and you will not come to court, so I must come to you."
"What did Pedro do now?" Adan sounded hopeful. He was genuinely concerned about what would become of the boy. He was not doing well at the university. Worse than that—much worse than that—the boy did not get along with his older brother at all. It was the older brother who would inherit the title. And, even if he set up an annuity for the boy, he was not at all sure his older son would honor it. If the boy was trying to find a place at court, there might be an answer to his worries. After all, Alano had never once drawn on family resources.
"He came to me with a scheme for a New World gold hunt."
Adan nodded. "Cortez and Pizarro did quite well by it."
"Oh, he's not interested in going. He just wants a patent as a prop for raising money."
"Pedro?" The boy's father shook his head. "Blowing money? Yes. Raising money? Not likely. He wouldn't know how!"
"No, but his friend, Juan, sure can. He has already raised a considerable sum just to procure a New World land grant. With that in hand, he will raise a lot more to sponsor a company."
"Maybe I misjudged Juan."
"Oh, I don't think so. I doubt he has any plans of going anywhere. He's just going to skim money off the top and let someone else dream of going to the New World. I am sure he fully expects the company to fall apart before anyone sets sail, because he really does not expect to get a land grant. What I have in mind, if you concur, is to actually get the boy and his friend a new world land grant."
The twins made eye contact and broke out laughing.
Somewhere in the Grantville offices of the Abrabanels
The man behind the desk asked, "Mister Sanabria, how can we help you today?"
"How do I go about chartering a boat to take a load of colonists to the Cape of Good Hope on the southern tip of Africa?"
"Well, that is quite ambitious. You are interested in prospecting?"
"Eventually, yes. But, not initially. We want to establish an agricultural community. There are a number of families who are interested in owning their own land." Dick limited the reasons for going to that one point. He saw no need to add that some of them wanted as far away from the war in Germany as they could get. Others wanted a place in the world where they would be free to practice their faith without having their children exposed to the temptations of a competing and dynamic culture. "When that is in place and producing a surplus, when we do not need to ship food to Africa to supply the miners, we can discuss prospecting."
"Well, that is certainly taking a long view of the situation. The Cape of Good Hope is rather high on a list of places the family is interested in pursuing as soon as we can free up the capital. And find the people to go, of course. But right now there are higher priorities that must be attended to first."
"Oh, we're not looking for investors. We think we have the funds to pay for chartering a ship. We just need to know how to do this and we want to confirm a firm estimate of what it would cost."
"I see. Have you considered that you might need to set up a military stronghold before you set about putting in farms?"
Somewhere in Spain
"Pedro, I still do not understand why your uncle insists on seeing the two of us in person just to tell us that we cannot have a California land grant," Juan said as he looked over the selection of books in the extensive personal library maintained by his friend's uncle.
"Juan, try and listen this time. I've told you before I have no idea why he wants to see us. I received a message summoning the two of us. It did not say why. It did make it clear that we were both to be here in person. Put that back. Someone is coming."
Pedro's uncle and a second man entered the library. It was the other man who spoke. "So these are the intrepid explorers who are seeking a land grant in the rich New World's known gold country. Your uncle tells me you have arranged all the backing you need to outfit your expedition. I am sorry to tell you the California lands have all been promised. But your ability to raise the capital to mount such an expedition, all from minor sources, without troubling anyone at court, has been recognized and deemed worthy of reward. We have a land grant for you. The grant is, of course, contingent on your success. I envy you the adventure of finding the gold that is known to be there from Grantville accounts.
"Well, gentleman," he said, with a slight bow to Pedro, "good-fellow," with a lesser nod to Juan, "I look forward to seeing you in a few years when you get back from the Florida Everglades." With those words he handed a sealed document to Pedro and left.
"Uncle, was that who I think it was?"
The old man smiled. "That depends on just who you thought it was."
Juan spoke up, "Where did he get the idea that we were planning on going to the New World?"
"Oh!" The old man's smile disappeared and his eyebrows bumped up against each other over his nose. Acting is a major part of diplomacy, after all. "He got that idea from me. You weren't planning on going yourself? I am so sorry about that."
Juan was impressed that Pedro's uncle actually managed to sound sincere.
"Well, I guess you will just have to change your plans. After all, you have an appointment to keep in a few years when you get back with the Everglades' gold."