Northwest Passage, Part Two

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The last patron had left the inn and Anna was in the kitchen, washing the last of the pots. Luke and Mette sat in front of the fireplace in the dining area staring at the flames. Luke's shirt was open and Mette was playfully tickling his gray hairs.

"Mette, how can I concentrate if you keep distracting me?"

"You need some distractions. Your problem with Bundgaard is wearing you down. You need to relax. If you don't, you might not make it to the wedding." Mette joked about it, but her concern was evident. "You've been so worried with the food problem, we still haven't figured out how to tell the children we're getting married. If we don't tell them soon, we may have the first surprise wedding in history."

"I know!" Luke looked chagrined. "I just want to make sure that we do it the right way. Your late husband was a good father to them and I don't want that memory to be an obstacle. I've never had children and, quite frankly, it scares me more than a nor'easter. I'm afraid I'll disappoint them."

"Nonsense. You're wonderful with them and they love you! I'm sure if you just relax it will come to you." Mette kissed him and then went to check on Anna.

With the expedition's departure date rapidly approaching, Luke was overwhelmed with critical issues and just didn't seem to find a moment to solve the announcement problem. During the following week, small shipments of supplies continued to arrive, but no foodstuffs were included in the loads. Mette worked with Luke to review the supply lists. She discovered that he had overlooked many of the small, domestic items that the housewives would need. She pointed out that not only were these items needed, but they might also be good trading items with the natives. She asked Luke to come along with her went she went to buy them. It would give him a needed break and they could discuss the upcoming wedding without interruptions.


After the eighth stop, Luke wasn't sure how good an idea going shopping had been. He was in a daze and his feet hurt. As Mette dickered with a clerk for needles and pins, he started to daydream. Eventually his thoughts led to the one question still outstanding about the wedding, how to tell the children. As he stood there and pondered, the answer came. "Mette! I know how to tell the children!" Mette and the clerk looked at him as though he had lost his mind.

"Just what do the children have to do with pins?" As soon as she said it, Mette realized what Luke was talking about. "Men! Can't you ever concentrate on what's at hand?" Mette finished the dickering and paid for the sewing supplies. When she got Luke outside, she asked, "All right, what's the plan?" Luke explained as they continued walking home. By the time he had finished, Mette nodded agreement. "I just hope it works."

Luke reached over and took Mette in his arms, "I couldn't have done this without you. I can run a ship, but trying to handle children is something I have no skill with."

"You'll do fine, Luke. You just need a little more experience."

A child's shout caught their attention. “And speaking of experience, here's a chance for you to get some.” The children came running up to greet them.

“Did you get us anything?” cried the smaller McDermott children.

“Not today, little ones. Now be good and go with the captain into the family room and maybe he will tell you a story. I'll have supper there soon.”

Little Ilsa hugged Luke's leg. “Can you tell us the story of the bear? I missed it when you told it last time.”

“All right, but first everyone get ready for dinner. If you do it quickly, I should have time. After supper, your mother may have another story to tell you.

The children scattered to get the table ready for dinner. When they were finished, they gathered in a circle around Luke and he recited the story of his ship's encounter with the polar bear. The children were entranced until the final scene, when, on cue, Svend let out a bear roar. All the children squealed and laughed. Shortly afterward, Anna came in with the dinner meal, followed by Mette with flagons for herself and Luke.


Ilsa and Sean clapped when Mette sat down in the "story" chair after dinner. The two little ones climbed in with her. The others settled down around Luke.

"And now, my story. It's very short and I'm not sure how it will end, but you can help finish it. There once was a widow with five children.”

“Just like us, Momma?”

“Yes Ilsa, just like us.” Mette continued, “She loved her children, but had been lonely for a long time. One day, a foreign prince stopped, seeking shelter. He was there on a quest to visit the king, but it took a long time to get in to see His Majesty. He was a good prince and treated the whole family well. Eventually, his great quest would lead him to seek an assistant to help with the journey.” Svend looked from his mother to Luke, as he realized where the story was leading. He smiled, but Luke motioned for him to hold his thoughts. "The prince was lonely and he came to love the family. One day, he asked the widow to marry him. The lady sat her family down after supper that night and told them a story to see how they felt about having a new father. The end.”

Luke rose and stepped over behind Mette. He took her hand in his and continued, “Children, your mother is the lady in the story. I've asked to pay court to her, but before we decided, we wanted to see how you felt first.”

Luke was suddenly buried in a mob of happily crying children, hugging him. A smothered, “I think they approve,” sounded from the bottom of the pile.


Luke and Mette planned for a small wedding but their friends decided otherwise. Time became a precious commodity. Two days before the wedding, Luke and Mette agreed that Mette would remain in Copenhagen until the resupply fleet sailed the following spring. That would give her time to sell the inn and for Luke to get a solid house built. They left unsaid the other reason for delay, the chance for famine the first winter. Luke was worried that the land near the planned site for the fort might not be productive enough. If none of the farmers chose to accompany the miners south or the crops failed, the first winter would be tough.

The day of the wedding arrived, bright and clear. Crews from the three ships, the stockholders, the settlers, and all of Mette's friends filled the nave of For Frue Kirk, the Lutheran cathedral, to overflowing. After a brief ceremony, everyone returned to the inn to celebrate; even the local watch stopped by to join the celebration. However, when John Barrow showed up later in the evening, Luke knew something was amiss. "John, I know you love a good party, but you told me you would be tied up all night loading the latest shipment of gunpowder. What's happened?" Luke had never seen John look so angry.

"We better go someplace quiet, sir. You're not going to like the news I just got." Luke motioned for John to follow him out the back door.

When they got outside, Luke said. "We should be able to talk here without being interrupted. Spit it out! What's happened?"

"That bastard Bundgaard has sold all our food! With the hoarding that's started from all the war rumors; on top of all the refugees already in town, Bundgaard says he won't be able to supply us with food until June. No extra cost, but we have to wait!"

Luke slammed his fist against the doorpost. "Damn! Mette said we shouldn't trust that scoundrel. I'll need to meet with our backers in the morning to decide what we can do. In the meantime, I want you to sniff around and see what really happened to our food. This could seriously jeopardize the entire expedition."

Trying to maintain calm expressions, they returned to the party. Luke walked over to Mette to join the circle of her friends. He did notice John leave the party with the sergeant of the watch.


John stepped up nose to nose with the heavier of the two toughs at Bundgaard's office. "My captain is here to see Fister Bundgaard."

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