8 July 1714
The Reverend Dr. Cotton Mather smiled at his guest. "How do you take your tea, General Hill?"
"One lump, no milk." Jack Hill replied.
"Thank you, my dear," said Mather as his wife Elizabeth poured the general his tea and added two lumps of sugar.
"You're too kind," said Hill. "Any idea how dear sugar has become in London?"
"We get our sugar directly from the islands," Mather explained.
"Dashed rummy business, if you ask me," Hill grumbled. "Trading with the French."
"Independence has done wonders for our commerce," said Mather serenely. "Now we trade with the French, the Dutch, even the Spanish. And no Navigation Acts to obey."
"Not that you colonials ever obeyed 'em anyway."
"My merchant colleague Andrew Belcher has invented the most astonishing rationale for circumventing commercial regulations. He has even written a pamphlet on the subject which he calls Free Minds & Free Trade."
General Hill glared at his host. "Free trade! You may pretty it up with sweet-sounding words, but the truth is you're nothing more than a mob of Puritan Guy Fawkeses. Rich, white Guy Fawkeses!"
"Wasn't Fawkes himself white?" asked Mather, curious.
"Gads, no, the feller was Spanish! Don't they teach you colonials anything in those colleges of yours?"
Irked, Mather responded with, "There is a growing body of opinion here in Boston that Fawkes might have had the right idea. And we didn't bother to celebrate Gunpowder Treason Day last year."
"Doesn't surprise me a bit," said Hill. "Too busy committing treason yourselves. Well you lot go ahead and enjoy yourselves while you can. It won't be too long before England reaches out and swats you like flies."
Mather had enough good grace to forebear mentioning the fate of the expedition Hill himself had lately commanded for that very purpose. Or the fact that Hill was currently on parole while waiting to be exchanged for a captured French general. Instead, he said, "Have you had any news recently from your sister at court?"
"Abigail, you mean? God bless her! Her and Queen Anne are thick as thieves. Wasn't for her, I wouldn't have been given this command, you know."
"Then we must all give thanks to God for your sister's place in court," said Mather.
"Here, here!" Hill exclaimed, raising his cup in salute. "I say, that's dashed decent of you, Dr. Mather. I'll have to write to Abby and tell her you said so."
"Not at all, General," said Mather. "Simply doing what any good Christian would do."
Hill, his good humor restored, said, "Matter of fact, I got a letter from her last week. Says the Queen's gout has been acting up again lately. Poor woman has been confined to bed for a month. Abby says they've all been praying for her health."
"You may inform your sister that we in Boston also wish the Queen a long and healthy life, and hope that she will continue to let herself be guided by your sister's good counsel."
"Well, put, Dr. Mather, well put! Be a dashed shame to see you hanged after all this is done. Maybe Abby can put in a good word for you. Get your sentence commuted to life imprisonment or transportation or something. Don't know where they'd transport you to, though. After all, you're already in America!"
"Perhaps they can find a new continent for the purpose," suggested Mather.
(Proceed to part 17 - Adrift)