“Hold the candle still, d--n you” snarled Sir Basil, petulantly. “You just dripped wax on my doublet. Have you mistaken me for a letter?”
“I beg your forgiveness,” said Lord Peperium in a hushed voice, “but I also beg haste. We hath not a moment to lose.”
“We what?” asked Basil, his wrath overcome with curiosity.
“We hath not a moment to lose.”
“Do you talk like that all the time, or just on special occasions? How about when you’re at the helm of the old four-poster with her Ladyship as first mate?”
“Never mind about the old four-poster and her Ladyship.” Lord Peperium snarled in turn. “We’ve got to look slippy.”
“That’s better,” said Sir Basil with a fatherly approval. “You were beginning to sound like you were in a play.” Then, recollecting himself to the task at hand, “Of course. Yes. A hurry. I daresay.”
It became apparent to Lord P that Sir B was in an advanced state of intoxication. Perhaps it had escaped his lordship’s notice earlier because he, too, in order to steel himself for the present enterprise, had taken perhaps a noggin’s worth too much of the Old Familiar Juice. And now they were standing in the captain’s cabin, up to a bit of No Good. Hot wax dripped on the index finger of his unsteady right hand, inducing a sort of temporary false-sobriety that helped him hold the candle more surely. As he did so Sir Basil rummaged through assorted papers in its uncertain light.
“New Hibernia…New Spain…New Foundland…New Gaul…New Portugal…New Caledonia…”
“These maps appear to not be in quite alphabetical order,” observed his lordship somewhat elliptically. “Let me try.”
And with that odd serendipity that often attends maiden efforts, especially when under the influence of something squeezed and put up in barrels, Lord P’s hand alighted on the very document they were searching for.
“There you are, Sir B” he said, as if he had meant to do what he had just done. “New World.”
“Fine” said Sir Basil, spreading the paper out on the captain’s table. “Now, where in Satan’s low-slung trousers is Virginia?”
Upon receipt of the news that the lovely Miss de Vannier had taken a private vow before Father M to join a nunnery posthaste, Sir Basil and Lord Peperium had wracked their brains trying to concoct a scheme that would foil the captain’s set intentions of depositing his passengers at Jamestown in the colony of Virginia. Besides the obvious difficulty that there were no convents in Virginia, they had also foreseen a somewhat frosty reception for their rosaries, chalices, crucifixes, Roman collars and other pious impedimenta. The obvious choice was French, Catholic Canada.
Trying to talk the captain round with tales of the balmy north country they rejected almost at once. Every day the wind in the rigging sang a little more sharply, the spray that arced over the gunnels stung a little more coldly. No, the captain may have been a heretical,
sacrament-denying dog fit for one of the less swanky addresses in hell, but he could still tell a dumb suggestion when he heard one. They would have to be more devious.
“Here it is” said Sir B with mild triumph. “Virginia. Now,” he went on, holding the map flat with both hands. “What was that idea of yours?”
“Simple” said Lord P. “You will notice that this map gives one only the vaguest idea of what Virginia is like.”
“Yes” agreed the unsteady knight. “If I am to take this map at its word, Virginia would seem to be all coast and no interior. Kind of like what Euclid said about a straight line.”
Lord P, having been not much of a scholar when it came to things geometrical, nodded quickly and went on. “That vast expanse of blank interior is going to get us to Canada!”
Seeing Sir B struggling to make sense of his last remark, Lord P said, “Give me a pen and I’ll show you.”
Sir B dipped the pen in its pot and handed the instrument over. He then bent over Lord P’s shoulder as the other, holding his breath and concentrating, started drawing something a few miles inland from Virginia’s undulant coast.
“There” he finally said with satisfaction.
“What is it?”
“What is it?” asked Lord P, hurt. “Why, it’s a hippogriff, of course.”
“Hippogriff. Mythical beast. Head of an eagle. Body of a lion. Tongue of an estate agent.”
“I admit,” said Sir B, who had never really listened to fairy stories in the nursery unless they involved fair princesses or damsels in distress, “that you’ve done a tolerable job of rendering the eyesore. But to what end?”
“You admit no one really knows what’s in Virginia, right?”
“And you also admit that these wack-job religious literalists we’ve been cooped up with for weeks on end only believe something if they see it on paper, right?”
“Right” said Sir B more slowly, wondering where this conversation was headed.
“So, if they see hippogriffs on the map of Virginia…”
There was a long pause as the sheer brilliant simplicity of idea dawned on Sir Basil.
Lord P took Sir B by the sleeve. “Make sure tomorrow to start planting the good seed. Go about on deck saying things like, ‘My, I hope there aren’t too many hippogriffs when we land’ and ‘Does anybody know how to make hippogriff chowder?’”
“I see,” said Sir B. “But we musn’t leave anything to chance.” He dipped the pen once again, bent over the map then straightened himself.
“There” he said, a smug smile wreathing his face.
Lord P bent close to see what had been added to the desolate white plains of Virginia. There he found six more hippogriffs, all sporting miters and wielding crosiers. The seven monsters were perched upon seven hills surrounding what looked to be a very naughty city.
“Oh, Canada” sighed Lord P, “here we come. Now Sir B. about that lute...”
And so, deare reader, thou hast hereby learned the True and remarkable historie of the Catholiques Pilgrims and howe they came to Canada. It remains but to add that, upon the way they did diposit theyr dour companions upon a Rocke, luring said companions upon it by means of obvious references to and learned explications of the Holy Scriptures and then very quickly taking in the gangplank againe. Miss de Vennier did become prioress of her convent. The goode Father M went weste saving soules along the way and may for all we know be still so employed. Lord and Lady Peperium had 12 children, each named after a tribe of Israel. And Sir Basil, upon encountering Canadians set about trying to make whiskey of them.