Journal Entry: July First

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Sigh. How nice to lay here, just on the edge of sleep, resisting the need to open my eyes for just a few more minutes. How lumpy this bed feels this morning. And how did my room get so drafty?
What is that noise--a squeak of wood, the snap of cloth? Must be the floor creaking outside my room, and some sheets hung to dry outside. I can smell the sea particularly well today--a strong wind from the north.
Oh, it’s useless to pretend that I can dwell in bed any longer. I’ll get up.

Holy Mary, Mother of God--where am I? How did I get here? What day is it? What is that flag--a white star against blue? Have I been kidnapped? Should I scream for help?

Oh...yes. Now I remember.

I hate mornings such as these--where the brain seems to have lost itself during the night and one awakens with amnesia. I was so overcome with the sea-sickness last night, and it was so stuffy in my corner below, that I dragged pallet and blanket up on the deck for some fresh air. When Captain Lot sang praises of a sailor’s life, he left out the joys of sea-sickness. I’m praying with all my might that it goes away today; I’ve been no company at all for my ship fellows and new friends, for which I am rather embarrassed. They don’t seem to feel it at all, and have said that it will pass once I get used to being at sea.
It’s been two days since we set sail--more than a week since my fateful meeting with Lot and Quintin. If I had known how soon one’s life and circumstances could change--well, it certainly made my head spin.
Upon my assurances that his captain would be all right, Quintin went back to the ship to get things in order there. Lot woke up not long after, complaining of a terrible headache and a terrible thirst. Considering how his head was nearly broken, an ache was the least of his worries, and not difficult to ease. He’s a very friendly fellow, even when laid up in the sickbed, and we soon got to talking like old friends. He praised my skills at doctoring, and mentioned how his ship and the household for which it sails could use a good physician. He spoke of the gold and green shores of their port city, Cadiz, and the wonders to behold in Spain and Italy, the ruins of ancient civilizations trod upon by the feet of modern philosophers, the marvels and mysteries of Jerusalem and Persia, the paintings and music and literature to experience. He spoke of the excitement at sea, how each day dawns with adventure and freedom, battling fierce sea-creatures, pirates, and seeing precious cargo back to port.
His eloquent tongue was working--I was ready to stand upon a tarred deck, bound for an unknown sun-drenched shore. But could I leave my family, my home, and my homeland? And what of this silver-tongued captain? Was he truly an honorable man, or a rogue bent on stealing goodly ladies away from home, for a fate worse than death? Something was at the back of my mind during his narration. Di Cellini--where had I heard that name before?
Finally it came to me: Uncle’s new trade partners. While Italy may have good artisans now, no one can match the tapestry weaving of Antwerp. Just this past spring we’d heard of the Familia di Cellini, and their station and influence. Through one of the Italian merchants who calls Antwerp his home, Uncle began an exchange with the di Cellinis.
“You come from the Familia di Cellini, correct? And may I ask which merchant you were sent here to meet in Antwerp?” I asked my patient.
“Our business is with a man named van den Velde. Do you know him?”
“Indeed. I am him, or rather, his niece. I think now that providence landed you at our gate, and none other.”
With this news in hand, I later excused myself to go into the house, and laid the whole story before Uncle. Incredulous, he followed me to my workroom to inquire for himself, and was duly presented with a letter of introduction kept safe in the captain’s belt-pouch.
“I’m a direct man,” Lot said to my Uncle. “And I don’t hold with beating around the bush. Our household would be honored by the presence of your niece Magdalene, as a guest in our villa in Cadiz. I’ve heard that her father is a scholarly man, and would have no less from his children, and there would be no end to her education were she to travel with me. Don’t fear for her virtue,” he added, as a look of dismay came over my uncle’s face. “I’m as good as married myself, and would give her all the respect due a sister.”
“And what are your thoughts on this, Mina?” My uncle turned to me.
“Well, I certainly wouldn’t go if you thought it amiss. And I should have father’s permission and blessing on the matter. But I would like to go--I think it would be a wonderful experience for me. And it’s not as though I would never come back home--I’m sure the ship’s trade routes would drop by every now and then. You know how practical I am--how my head is hardly to be turned by flowery words with nothing behind them. I could be of good purpose to the ship and household--more so than here, in town, with nothing official to do but have Aunt parade me in front of noblemen.”
My uncle nodded, knowingly. “I shall consider the matter. In the meantime, good captain, once my niece has deemed you fit to be moved, I insist that you take up a more worthy room, inside my house.”
And so it was that this ship’s captain took up the finest guest-room in the house, and regaled me with tales of daring-do whenever I was tending to him, which was, I admit, often. His first mate and right-hand man, Quintin, came by several times, to see to it that all was well both at home and at the ship. And it came to pass that all was decided swiftly--Uncle, and through him Father, made up his mind that I was to go, and quickly, that I not delay my new benefactor from his set travel route. My modest things were packed and toted on board the White Star--my new home away from home.