Roanoke: Chapter Two
It was a bright Thursday morning in Spring when Edwyn Le Fay set out for the Americas. And it was still plural: there was the United States of America, and the Republic of Texas, and the Confederate States of America. There had been a long and bloody Civil War between the North and the South which had only ended in 1879, without a victory for either nation, but leaving both of them exhausted. The war had forced them into the ground. But that terrible conflict had ended over twenty years ago; and some of the reasons for the conflict were no longer an issue, after the eventual emancipation of the slaves by the South.
There were talks going on, at the time, between President Keane of the Confederacy and President Roosevelt of the Union, with the aim being the admission of the southern states to the union once more. Political commentators of the time thought that if the talks went well, then it would not be long before Texas joined the Union. It was clear that America was stronger as one nation, rather than many. if the three nations joined together to become one that would only leave the White Bison Nation, an area of land in the north, covering a lot of Montana, North and South Dakota, and Wyoming. But the United States refused to recognise the existence of that White Bison Nation as a state, although it no longer made military efforts to recover the land.
Edwyn Le Fay would not be going anywhere near there, though. He was headed for Roanoke, which lay in North Carolina, in the Confederacy. Le Fay had no real idea what Roanoke was like – not now, anyway. He had read everything that he could find on the colony which had disappeared. But he had not read up on what the island was like now. There was a place called Roanoke, but that was in Virginia, not North Colorado, on the Roanoke River. It had nothing to do with the former colony.
He didn’t really care what it looked like at the moment, anyway. He was sure that once he got to Roanoke that with his skills, and the equipment which he had purchased, that he would be able to find his way through to whatever shadowy dimension the colonists from Roanoke had ended up in. He still thought that there was a colony – just that it wasn’t in his world.
The one thing which did not seem to fit was the word Croatan. He did not know why that had been carved into the bark of a tree. But maybe he would discover the answer to that when he finally got to Roanoke Island.
Le Fay had sold nearly everything which he possessed, with the exception being his books on Magick, and the few items which he owned for use with his spells. He had taken those with him, on his journey to the Confederacy. He had two big suitcases filled with all of his personal possessions, and what money he had left. He had also purchased two new items of Magickal equipment, which he hoped might help him discover what had happened to the Lost Colony, and allow him to cross into what other dimension the colonists had ended up in.
He took a train down to Southampton from the boarding house in London where he had been staying while he had prepared for this journey. He had already researched his journey. He could catch a ship from Southampton to New York. He had decided to stay in New York for a couple of days, to have a look around. Then he would catch another boat down the coast to North Carolina. He was not sure just how he would get to where the Lost Colony used to be. But he would figure that out once he got down to North Carolina.
At Southampton he paid for his ticket to New York: nine pounds travelling second class on the American Line. It was still called the American Line, despite the fact that, within the past twelve months, it had become part of the International Mercantile Marine Company. But the name continued as a marque.
He had thought about travelling first class. But that was seventeen pounds. He was not going to pay an extra eight pounds just to have a slightly better cabin. Eight pounds was a lot of money – and it was only five days to cross the Atlantic. He would rather save his money for when he was in the Americas.
He boarded the boat, dragging his cases up the gangplank. The ship was the SS City of New York. Despite its name it had been built in Britain. It was considered to be one of the most elegant steamers on the North Atlantic route. She had just, in fact, completed a refit, her former three funnels replaced by two taller ones. Such aesthetic considerations were lost on le Fay, though. She was just a steamship to her.
He went down and found his cabin. It was small, and a little cramped. But it wasn’t really worse than the place he had been staying at in London, he supposed. He only had to put up with it for five days, anyway. It was not like he had been sentenced to years in some pokey little prison cell.
He put his cases on the floor and settled down onto his bunk. He took a small volume on myths and legends out of his trunk, and turned to the chapter on strange disappearance, intending to spend his time aboard the ship going over such matters one last time. He thought that he would be fine – and he was, until the ship began moving out of port, and along the English Channel.
It took only an hour at sea for Edwyn le Fay to realise that he didn’t like ships. He had thought that he would be alright because the ship was so big. But the way that it moved made him feel nauseated. He only just managed to keep his breakfast down. But he did not think that he would be eating a great deal on this journey across the Atlantic.
He tried lying down on the bunk in his second class cabin. But that only seemed to make it worse. If he had stayed like that he would have begun to vomit. So he got up and went up on deck, where he could see the sea. Maybe that would help. At least if he didn’t he could be ill over the side of the ship.
That actually made him feel a little bit better. It helped to be able to see the sea. It explained why the ship was moving under him. Le Fay did not realise that he was suffering from something called the vestibulo-ocular reflex.
He looked at some of the other passengers as they wandered along the deck of the American Line steamship. None of them looked like they had the least interest in Magick to him. There were a couple of women, in long dresses with lamb’s legs sleeves, and with wide hats which they held onto their heads, lest some sea breeze snatch them away. There was some old guy, in an out of date suit, staring out to the west, as though he could already see America. The old man had one of the longest white beards which le Fay had ever seen. There were a few children running around and shouting at each other, playing some sort of childish game which le Fay did not understand. But, then again, he had never really enjoyed his childhood. He had not had that many friends when he had been growing up.
There were tall people and short people, old people and young people, wealthy people and people who had only just scraped together enough money for a ticket. They were all going to America. Le Fay could not help wondering what they were going to New York for. Were some of them visiting relatives in America? Had some simply decided to cruise on a steamer across the Atlantic? Perhaps some people had decided to seek a new life in the Americas. hadn’t somebody – le Fay didn’t know who – said, in reference to immigration, give me your huddled masses, or words to that effect. He did not know the full quotation. But he knew that a lot of people travelled to America to seek a new life there. Wasn’t that, in effect, just what he was doing?
He bet, though, that none of these people were going to America to solve a mystery which had lasted for more than three hundred years.
To get to America, though, he had to get across the Atlantic Ocean, and he was not looking forwards to what he would feel like of the sea got a bit choppy. Not when he got nauseated just in an almost calm English Channel. He could foresee a lot of illness ahead of him.
Le Fay wondered if there was any spell which might stop him from feeling so seasick. He knew that Magick could not heal – you wouldn’t need hospitals if it could – but this wasn’t really about healing, was it? Perhaps there was some mind-affecting spell which could be used just to stop him noticing the nausea. But, if there was, le Fay didn’t know it. It wasn’t mentioned in any of his books on Magick, either.
He stayed up on deck for a couple of hours, before deciding to see if he could tolerate being below decks. He went back down and into his cabin – to discover that somebody else had been in there. His suitcases had been opened and the contents were all over the floor of the room. He had been burgled!