Decades of Darkness

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by Jared, Nov 29, 2004.

  1. G.Bone lurks

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2004
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    Hon., HI
    Well- that does it for him. I suppose Jerusalem has a history of foreign backing as a Kingdom-

    Will there be an updated map soon?
     
  2. Jared Voldemort Jnr

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2004
    Location:
    Kingdom of Australia
    Yes, although on a side note I've pushed the date of his death back a year - it seemed implausible for republican France to be able to project so much power so recently after defeat. Nap IV didn't really have many options left. His son has a few more if he plays his cards right, although he does have some... attitude problems.

    True, although its likely to be formed as a kingdom under the British Empire, eventually going the same path as Canada, Ireland, Australia, South Africa etc. Although this doesn't mean it stays attached to the Restored Empire, given its proximity to other more powerful nations.

    Well, at the moment the timeline is vaguely in the 'late 1880s to mid-1890s' timeframe, and there haven't been many major political changes which affect outlines of maps. The 1886 map is still mostly correct for practical purposes - some minor changes in colonial Africa, but not much - and one somewhat more substantive modification in Italy, but for most uses the 1886 map is still current.

    Cheers,
    Kaiser Wilhelm III
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2005
  3. Jared Voldemort Jnr

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2004
    Location:
    Kingdom of Australia
    Decades of Darkness #96: By Their Fruits Ye Shall Know Them

    “Is this a banana I see before me,
    The stem toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee
    I have thee not, and yet I want thee still.”
    -- From an unpublished parody of Macbeth, by Thomas J. Swanson while he was still in high school c. 1942

    * * *

    21 January 1868
    Sand Ford Plantation,
    Near Savannah, Georgia, USA

    “Nicaragua? Why do you want to visit a territory full of greasers and mosquitos?”

    “Because I think there is, and I want to see it,” Julia Gordon said. “It’s safe, and has been for years.” She didn’t give a full reason, of course. She knew when some things should not be said directly.

    “Another excuse to put off finding a decent husband?” Richard Gordon, Julia’s father asked. “You’re already twenty-one; you nearly too old to get married.”

    “I’ll only be gone a few months, pa.” She still thought of herself as young, no matter what her father believed.

    Richard glared at her for a moment, then shrugged. “All right. I’ll have to get one of your brothers to accompany you.”

    “Why bother? Harry Walker can do that. He knows his way around the Caribbean better than anyone else around here.”

    “That... man is hardly a fit travelling companion,” Richard said. “People will talk.”

    Julia said, “People always talk. But I know he won’t try to take liberties, and what better man than an ex-soldier to keep a woman safe in case there is any trouble?” Seeing her father’s expression start to darken, she quickly added, “Everyone says Nicaragua has been safe for years, anyway.”

    “He’s no proper gentleman,” Richard persisted. “Rough-hewn corporals are good in an army, yes, but you deserve better than that.”

    “Pa... You know me better than that. I want him as a guide to Nicaragua, not a husband.” She reached over and squeezed her father’s cheek, and gave him an impish smile. “Trust me.”

    Richard relented. “Fine. Take him. But make sure you stay safe.”

    “I will,” Julia said. She also planned to stay down there, if she could manage it.

    * * *

    February 1868
    Caribbean Sea & Nicaragua

    Nearly-clear waves lapped against the bow of the Velocity, and the smell of salt wafted toward Julia on the hot breeze. Three porpoises rode the ship’s bow-wave. Some sort of black-backed seabird floated on the breeze above the ship [1].

    But despite the heat of the breeze, Julia felt comfortably cool. It had taken her only a couple of days into the Caribbean to decide that corsets were far too hot to wear, dictates of fashion or not. Without them, everything felt much cooler. Especially with Abby holding a parasol to shield Julia’s delicate complexion from the sun.

    Abby – Abigail according to Julia’s father, who still technically owned the maid – had been Julia’s personal maid for the last six years or so, and Julia never let her go far from her sight. She had other maids – three of them on this trip – but none of them were quite as efficient as Abby was. The others were here more to help Abby and because no true gentlewoman would travel with only one maid.

    “I thought you said you were travelling light,” Harry Walker murmured.

    “I am,” Julia said, momentarily puzzled. She reminded herself that Harry’s family were nobodies from West Florida. He had left his hometown because he wanted to move up in the world, but evidently had not moved far enough yet. “Back at Sand Ford, I’d have enough clothes to outfit every woman on this ship, and all the men too, if they didn’t mind wearing the latest styles from London, Paris and Amsterdam.”

    Harry winced slightly when she mentioned men, and Julia mentally berated herself. He had survived more than two years in the Jaguars with no-one in authority discovering his preferences, which was a remarkable feat in itself, and he had been twice-promoted too. He was almost an army by himself, skilled both with all manner of weapons and without. Having him around would be valuable in case Nicaragua proved more lawless than she had heard, and she was perfectly safe from his attentions too.

    A smudge of green on the horizon offered her a fortunate chance to change the subject. “Is that Nicaragua already?”

    “Probably Honduras, I’d think,” Harry said. “Not much difference between the two of them here, though.”

    “How so?”

    “This is the Mosquito Coast. Both Honduras and Nicaragua claimed it, but the British who had the most influence here until a few years ago. They’d have colonised it if it hadn’t meant war with us... and if the whole coast hadn’t been worthless jungle.”

    “Not a place I want to visit, then,” Julia said.

    Harry coughed. “Most of the Indians there are not pleasant people. You’d probably be safe – they don’t want us to send an army in after them – but best not to take the chance. Most of the worthwhile parts of Nicaragua are around the lakes or on the Pacific Coast.”

    “And how long before we find a way to sail straight through to the Pacific here?” Julia said.

    Harry gave her a long look, one she recognised from having seen it on many men over her lifetime. Surprise that she had shown she had a mind. “A canal here’s always being talked about. No-one’s found the money yet, and it’d be damned- excuse me, very hard to build anyway. Not enough skilled locals, and most engineers drop dead from the local diseases.”

    “Until recently, you mean,” Julia said. “Yellow fever vaccine works. So does quinine.” Come to that, anyone raised in Georgia knew the importance of keeping mosquitos away, and what was needed to do so. Draining swamps and mosquito netting were about equally important, to her way of thinking. “Maybe something will be done about that now.”

    “Only if the Patriots win the next election,” Harry said. “Which will make your father howl.”

    “Let him,” Julia said. “Staying here, I’ll be too far away to hear him.”

    Harry raised an eyebrow. “You think you can live in Nicaragua?”

    She nodded. “If I can find suitable land, I will. I’ve heard that planting a rock in the soil of Nicaragua will make it grow.”

    “But why such a bold move?”

    Julia said, “Because in Georgia, that am I a woman counts for more than I am white. In Nicaragua, I hope that being white counts for more than being a woman.”

    “It may, at that,” Harry said.

    The Velocity sailed on to Greytown [OTL San Juan del Norte, Nicaragua], where it took Julia only moments to decide that this was not the part of Nicaragua she wanted to be in. Disease and poverty filled the place. There had to be more useful land elsewhere. Disease could be taken care of, but there were limits to how much effort she wanted to put into improving any new land.

    So she was glad when they changed to a riverboat, the Acheron, for the voyage up the San Juan River. The boat’s name made Julia smile; whoever named the ship possessed a wry sense of humour. Julia had never attended any public education – public schools were far too inferior, and she would never be permitted to attend a college in any meaningful capacity – but her tutors had taught her and her sisters much, including an education in the classics [2].

    The trip up the San Juan River was more awkward than Julia had expected. They had to disembark twice and walk while the Acheron made its way over dangerous rapids. She wondered how readily commerce could be carried out along such a treacherous river [3], and suddenly became even more hopeful that a canal was built through Nicaragua, or at least that the river could be improved enough to allow more decent shipping [4].

    Soon, although not as soon as Julia would have wished, the relative narrowness of the San Juan River opened into an immense vista of deep blue water, sparkling in the sunlight. The Acheron sailed nearly the length of the great lake, passing two jungle-cloaked volcanos rising from the centre of the lake and towering into the sky, as the boat brought them to the Nicaraguan city of Granada.

    * * *

    26 February 1868
    Granada, Nicaragua Territory
    United States of America

    Granada. The capital of Nicaragua Territory. Fifty thousand inhabitants, or so Harry claimed. Quite the metropolis by Nicaraguan standards. Julia walked the streets quite unworriedly, with only Abby keeping pace with her parasol. Harry Walker sometimes accompanied her, but most times she didn’t bother. Granada was quite safe during the day, and patrols of the National Guard kept order even at night. She hadn’t needed to be here long to find out that before the arrival of Mark Lansdowne and his filibusters, only fools with deathwishes ventured the streets after nightfall.

    The people of Granada were a mixture. Most common were those of mixed white and Indian blood, mestizos as they called them here, or even some pureblood Indians. A few of the local white men, the blancos, were around as well, easily distinguishable by their features and their finer dress. Quite a surprising number of slaves accompanied them; Julia had been astonished at how many other white men had moved here to take advantage of the relatively cheap land. Cotton and some tobacco and rum were flowing out of Nicaragua these days, and mostly worked by slaves. The languages she heard were equally mixed; most commonly the Spanish which she had insisted that her tutors teach her after the acquisition of Cuba made knowledge of that tongue an advantage; a fair amount of English; and fleeting snatches of other languages which she presumed to be Indian languages.

    “Missy Julia, that’s a strange fruit,” Abby said, gesturing to a fruit stall.

    Julia followed the gesture and saw bunches of a long yellow fruit encased in some strange skin. Abby was right – they were strange-looking. “What are these fruit?” Abby asked the fruit seller. He looked blankly at her, so she repeated the question in Spanish. He must have only recently come to Granada; most of those who had been here long understood at least a little English. “Guineo,” he said. He thought a moment longer and added, “Banana, in English.”

    “Banana,” Julia repeated. She bought two off the seller, then looked at oddly, trying to work out how to break the fruit out of the skin. The seller held one of the bananas for a moment, bending back the stem until the peel broke. Julia took the banana back and pulled down the rest of the skin before taking a bit of the fruit. “Sweet,” she murmured, and passed the other one to Abby, who deftly peeled it one-handed and took a bite.

    “Very nice,” Abby said, and hurriedly finished hers.

    Julia momentarily wished she had brought along one of the other maids to carry some more of the fruit back to her lodgings, then shrugged. Easy enough to send them out later. This fruit was delectable. “Why don’t they have this back in the States?” she murmured.

    Abby heard that; she had had years to learn to pick out Julia’s words and tone and respond appropriately. “Don’t know, Missy, but people’d like them. I think they’d like them lots.”

    Julia froze, her body motionless while her mind raced over an idea so big that she had to take time to focus her thoughts. A fruit which was evidently available cheaply, and presumably easy to grow anywhere in Nicaragua – or why else would it be sold so casually by a poor fruit seller whose features proclaimed his mestizo heritage? A fruit which could become very popular back in the States. A fruit which, so far, no-one was selling anywhere there that she had heard of. That left only two important questions.

    “Do these ... bananas keep well?” Julia demanded of the fruit seller. “Are they easy to transport?”

    “Si, si. Pick them green, and they ripen on the way.”

    “Do they indeed?” Julia murmured. She mumbled a quick thanks to the fruit seller, then started back to her lodgings. One question answered. The other question was, could she persuade her father to lend her the money to set up a plantation to grow these bananas somewhere in Nicaragua? She had been planning to ask for help financing a plantation for cotton or tobacco. For all his frustration over some of her actions, her father doted on her and she was sure she could have talked him into it. But this new fruit would probably be even better. If she couldn’t find enough local debt-slaves to buy their services for half the price of slaves, she would be astonished. And enough of them would know how to grow these bananas, something slaves would not [5].

    Maybe she couldn’t send them through to the Caribbean and the East Coast at first, depending on the state of shipping down the San Juan. But she could start elsewhere. North California had a lot of people, and she knew there were good railroads to the Pacific ports, especially Masachapa. That would be one good place to start, if she could find nothing else. “And if I can, why then, where will it stop?”

    * * *

    14 April 1869
    Sharkview Plantation
    Nicaragua Territory, USA

    Back home in Georgia, a woman owning or running a plantation was nearly unheard of. Down in Nicaragua, while quite a few of the men were less than happy about it, they hid their distaste better. As she had expected, she was able to obtain much greater acceptance here.

    Nothing argued for that acceptance like success, of course. With the support from her father, Julia now owned one thousand acres of land next to the railway that connected Granada to Juigalpa, with a conveniently placed spur connecting to nearer docks on the lake. The land had required clearing, but at a bargain price, with no nearby swamps. And the soil was fine indeed for bananas, if not quite rich enough for the cotton and tobacco most of the planters here preferred to grow.

    Harry Walker had gladly undertaken the role of agent marketing bananas in Mobile, sending the first shipments which Julia had bought from local growers, who only did things on a small scale. He had reported an enthusiastic response. And now, with Julia’s much larger first plantation-grown crop shipped off for sale, she hoped to see some considerable profits. The land had been cheap; buying the debt-slaves had not been, although far more affordable than slaves would have been. But with a decent house built and many acres under cultivation, she should see returns soon enough. And then she could repay her father, and have some capital of her own.

    “Life is good,” Julia murmured.

    “That it is, Missy,” Yolanda Fuentes said, pausing to look up from the records she was updating. Yolanda was the daughter of one of the more influential local blancos, who had been living and working at Sharkview since soon after Julia bought the land. Yolanda had a good education, spoke and wrote English, and was entertaining company.

    Julia gave Yolanda a warm smile, but before she could say anything else, Abby knocked and walked in. Julia took the proffered letter from Abby’s hand, then nodded for her to go. “From Harry,” she said, for Yolanda’s benefit, then opened the letter and started reading Harry’s awkward but legible handwriting. “Dear Julia and Yolanda. I hope you are both well. Received the shipments of bananas on schedule. Sold entire crop to fruit merchants at $2.00 per bunch.”

    Yolanda gasped. “That’s a lot.”

    Julia grinned. “Yes, it is.” Not enough to pay off all of her father’s loan, but most of it. All in one year. How much would she be able to earn the next year, with more acres under cultivation? Debt-slaves worked hard, and harder still if she gave them occasional cash bonuses which they would almost always spend rather than save toward their debt. Not as hard as slaves could be worked, but still enough to turn a sound profit. They preferred to be called peons rather than debt-slaves, which Julia did, no matter what their legal status was [6]. So, whatever they were called, they were helping her make handsome profits, and that was all that mattered.

    * * *

    14 April 1873
    New White House,
    Columbia City, Federal District
    United States of America

    When she had arrived in Nicaragua, Julia had promised herself that she would not leave again until that leaving would not be proof of failure. She had manifestly not failed, and an invitation from President Griffin to attend the New White House was hardly one she had ever expected.

    “Now that you’ve seen Columbia, why do you think he wanted me here?” Julia asked.

    Yolanda shrugged. “He has an eye for pretty women, it’s said.”

    Julia met her gaze, and they both burst out laughing. The thought that the President would send all the way to Nicaragua to bring one resolutely unmarried woman to visit him was so absurd. “It has to be about the Nicaragua Canal.”

    “I suppose so, mi cielo. He wants you here because it will help him to meet you, or to be able to say he has met you. Past that, you know more of norteamericano politics than I do.”

    Those politics were Yolanda’s too, these days, with Nicaragua newly admitted as a state, but she had a point. Yolanda’s mental horizons rarely extended beyond Nicaragua. Julia thought more broadly, and always had. That the President had even known who she was could only have something to do with her success growing bananas. What else could she be known for in Columbia? But that still explained very little.

    Her thoughts were interrupted when the secretary ushered her in to see President Griffin. He rose to greet her, a tall dark-haired man with a broad smile who looked far too pleased with himself. But then he had reason to be; he had recently been re-elected to the presidency. He bent over to kiss her hand, and Julia felt herself smiling back at him. She would certainly never respond to his unspoken invitation, but he oozed charm much as any newcomer to Nicaragua oozed sweat, and in about the same proportions.

    “I hope you had a pleasant trip from Sharkview,” Griffin said.

    “Very nice, yes. And thank you for ensuring that work on the Canal started; the San Juan River is much easier to travel these days.”

    “The Canal is for America’s benefit,” Griffin said. “But I’m glad that you’ve already recognised its benefits, better than most. That is why I wanted you to come to Columbia.”

    “To tell you of its advantages?”

    “To tell America.” Griffin paused. “A few Senators grumble about the cost of the Canal, not realising the long-term benefits for the government’s own finances, quite apart from everything else. Not all that serious grumbling yet, but letting the newspapers tell your story would help ease their troubled minds.”

    “My story? Why would anyone in Columbia care?”

    “Because we know about you. Madame Banana, some call you. A woman who has almost single-handedly created a new delight. One which is, admittedly, not well-known in most of the United States, but which soon will be.”

    “Once word spreads, it will be, but that could take many years,” Julia said.

    “Perhaps I can help there.” Griffin turned his thousand-degree smile at her again. “I have an idea which would benefit both of us. You and I meet some reporters. You tell them how the Canal has already helped your business immensely, and how being able to ship through to the Pacific will do even more to bring the banana to the world. And then, I can bring a knife and fork and eat one [7], and let the reporters see. Benefits for both of us. What do you think?”

    “I think I can see why you became President,” Julia said, and Griffin laughed. “The answer is yes, of course, Mr President. I would be honoured.”

    “Then this was a very fruitful meeting. I’ll send for the reporters,” Griffin said.

    * * *

    [1] Probably a black-capped petrel, but Julia is not exactly an expert ornithologist.

    [2] In Greek mythology, the Acheron was the river across which the souls of the dead were ferried into Hades.

    [3] A lot of it wasn’t, being shipped out via railroad to Nicaragua’s Pacific Coast ports.

    [4] There has actually been a little of this, but the major improvements to the San Juan River happened in 1871-1874 when U.S. engineers modified its flow as the first stage in building the Nicaragua Canal.

    [5] Debt-slaves aren’t used in cotton or tobacco because they are reluctant to work in gang labour or for the punishing long hours of the slaves, and unlike slaves have some (albeit limited) choices about when and where they work.

    [6] In U.S. legal parlance, peons are bound to particular land (usually a local hacienda) and owe a portion of their produce, but can sell any surplus. (The landlord, however, can set the surplus). The preference for the term peon over debt-slave is a Nicaraguan reaction, due to dislike of being called slaves. They are also sometimes referred to as indentured labourers or subcontractors.

    [7] As in OTL, bananas were originally considered an exotic delicacy and eaten on a plate with a knife and fork.

    * * *

    Thoughts?

    Kaiser Wilhelm III
    https://www.alternatehistory.com/decadesofdarkness/
    http://decadesofdarkness.blogspot.com/
     
  4. Straha Banned

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2004
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    Cthaco Bell
    eating bananas with a knife and fork? WTF?
     
  5. Tetsu says he wants a revolution.

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2004
    Location:
    Federal Republic of Texas
    Excellent story.
     
  6. Jared Voldemort Jnr

    Joined:
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    Kingdom of Australia
    Weird, I know, but they were considered exotic delicacies at first and were eaten that way. People changed their minds soon enough.

    Cheers,
    Kaiser Wilhelm III
     
  7. Michael Canaris What does this field do?

    Joined:
    Feb 29, 2004
    Location:
    Sydney, NSW
    Mind you, though, barbeque'd bananas are still eaten that way.
     
  8. Jared Voldemort Jnr

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2004
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    Kingdom of Australia
    Oh, of course, and banana splits sometimes too. I just find the idea of eating a raw banana with a knife and fork and plate intriguing. Kind of like eating pizza with a knife and fork, only even less common these days.

    Cheers,
    Kaiser Wilhelm III
     
  9. davekohlhoff Proud Populist

    Joined:
    May 8, 2004
    Location:
    Missouri and Maryland
    Doesn't everyone eat pizza that way??
     
  10. Jared Voldemort Jnr

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2004
    Location:
    Kingdom of Australia
    With fingers? I can't speak for the whole world, but in Australia the only people I've seen use knife and fork for pizza are those who are either in very expensive restaurants, or a few of my friends who were raised in the UK and seem to use knife and fork for everything.
     
  11. davekohlhoff Proud Populist

    Joined:
    May 8, 2004
    Location:
    Missouri and Maryland
    Pizza is awfully messy. Perhaps some thin dry varieties can be easily eaten with fingers(but who would want to eat those kinds of pizza?).
     
  12. LordKalvan Member

    Joined:
    Jun 26, 2004
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    Otherwhen
    Well, I'm not UK-raised, live in Australia and always eat pizza with knife and fork :eek:
     
  13. Tetsu says he wants a revolution.

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2004
    Location:
    Federal Republic of Texas
    That's crazy. In the USA, pizza is eaten, ninety-nice percent of the time, with no untensils.
     
  14. Jared Voldemort Jnr

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2004
    Location:
    Kingdom of Australia
    Hmm, looks like there's still a lot more people who prefer knife and fork for pizza than I'd met, although I will use them myself if it's in a rather upmarket restaurant (not that I frequent those very often, or at least now when I'm ordering pizza). Interesting. But it's possible to eat even thick pizzas with your fingers tidily, provided its cut into reasonable slices - in fact, I find it easier than using a knife and fork.

    Now, to bring things vaguely back on topic, I just need to figure how to get pizza to take off in New England and the DoD USA...

    Cheers,
    Kaiser Wilhelm III
     
  15. Jared Voldemort Jnr

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2004
    Location:
    Kingdom of Australia
    Decades of Darkness #97: For Whom The Belle Tolls

    Decades of Darkness #97: For Whom The Belle Tolls

    “Agriculture, manufactures, commerce and navigation, the four pillars of our prosperity, are the most thriving when left most free to individual enterprise.”
    -- Thomas Jefferson, 3rd President of the United States

    “Where wealth and freedom reign contentment fails,
    And honour sinks where commerce long prevails.”
    -- Oliver Goldsmith (1730-1774), Irish writer

    “Money, not morality, is the principle of commerce and commercial nations."
    -- Thomas Jefferson, 3rd President of the United States

    * * *

    14 April 1873
    New White House,
    Columbia City, Federal District
    United States of America

    Julia Gordon had lived for several years in an isolated plantation in Nicaragua, which politically meant that she lived in a distant island in what was already the most cut-off American territory, no matter that it had recently been granted statehood. Since she was denied the chance to vote anyway – a very few American women had started to call for female suffrage, which would be wonderful if it were granted, but Julia expected it to happen the week after Judgement Day – she had taken only passing notice of federal politics. That meant that until now she had little appreciation of how persuasive President Hugh Griffin could be. Hand the man a bucket of potatoes and a one-way ticket to Ireland, and she was sure that he could sell them for enough money to buy a return fare, and Dublin besides.

    Griffin had ushered four reporters into his office for one of what he called his “deskside chats”. In a quietly whispered aside before they came in, he told Julia, “Jesse Grant, who’ll be the youngest one, is a man to watch. His father [1] started from nothing and ended up founding the Columbia Messenger. His son will go even further, I think.”

    Griffin greeted each of the reporters in turn. Jesse Grant proved to be a man with a young-looking face and a scraggly blond beard. Julia thought he would look better clean-shaven, but then she thought that of most men.

    Griffin said, “Miss Gordon, I’m pleased to introduce to you these four worthy gentlemen of the Fourth Estate. Mr Gerald Ewing, of the Register, Mr Jesse Grant, of the Messenger, Mr Henry Sherman, of the Courier and syndicated correspondent for newspapers from San Francisco to Philadelphia, and Mr Nathaniel Mifflin, of the Charleston Republic. Gentlemen, this is Miss Julia Gordon, owner of Sharkview Plantation, in one of our newest and finest states, Nicaragua.”

    “Pleased to meet you, gentlemen,” Julia said, extending her hand for each of them to kiss in turn. None of these men had any meaningful social status in themselves, and thus did not truly deserve that gesture, but as reporters they had influence above any questions of wealth or breeding. She noticed that both Ewing and Sherman flicked their gaze to her left hand, where she wore no ring, although they should already know that from Griffin’s introduction.

    Griffin said, “My friends, I understood that you wanted to meet the woman who has won the notice of the capital with her marvellous new fruit. Gentlemen, I give you... Madame Banana.”

    Ewing said, “Ma’am, how did you discover these strange fruit?”

    Julia said, “After a tiring journey up the San Juan River – you gentlemen would be astonished how difficult that voyage was before the recent improvements to the river – and reached that sparkling jewel of Central America, Lake Nicaragua. Then I found Granada, and there I found that there are many delectable tropical fruits which are unknown here in the old states, including the banana which I have the privilege of tasting a few days after I arrived.”

    “With so many fruit, why did you choose the banana?” Grant said.

    “Because of its superior taste and ease of shipping, coming in bunches and wrapped in its own preserving skin,” Julia said. “Why, I could have them shipped to the colder reaches of Canada, and they would still be fresh.” As she said that, she made a mental note. Why not sell bananas to Canada? Or probably New England would be best to start with.

    The reporters asked her a few questions about the cultivation and properties of the banana, which she answered at length, and kept repeating how easily it was preserved and would keep a long time for Americans to eat.

    Sherman said, “I understand that you use debt-slaves to grow these bananas. Why not use slaves instead, who are more reliable, less prone to flee, and can be made to work harder?”

    Julia said, “I have found that, with suitable incentives, my subcontractors will work commendably quickly. And they do not try to flee much anymore; the border to Costa Rica is too well-guarded, and Guatemala too far away.” In fact, a couple had fled to the Mosquito Coast, which was a nuisance, but most of them stayed if well-treated, and identification papers took care of the rest.

    Eventually Grant asked the question she had been waiting for one of the reporters to deliver. “How much difficulty did you have shipping them from Nicaragua, along that narrow river you mentioned, the... San Juan River?”

    Julia said, “It was a little troublesome for the first couple of years, but I managed. It has become easier now. The San Juan River has been transformed by American engineers [2] as the first part of completing the Canal. I can bring far more bananas to the United States more reliably and cheaply since that. I hope they complete the Canal soon; when they have finished the improvements to the river, seagoing ships will sail straight into the lake, and when they finish the western passage, I can ship things to the West Coast as well.”

    Griffin said, “This is why I wanted to build the Canal. I hope to bring the country closer together. Men may more freely move as they wish. We now stretch from sea to shining sea. Is it not only fair and reasonable that we should be able to sail from sea to shining sea as well? By this our commerce may increase. The harvests of America’s verdant soils, our God-endowed mineral riches, and the products of our tireless manufactures may more easily be brought to those who wish to buy them.”

    Julia stared at the President for a long moment. When Griffin spoke, he sounded as if he believed it with all his heart. He made everyone who heard him want to believe it, too. Julia had already wanted the Canal, but now she felt as if it had to happen right now.

    Mifflin said, “And it sounds like here we have someone who’s happy to earn her wealth from it.”

    Griffin said, “The strength of the United States has always been that any man may earn his path to capital. If a man is astute, if a man is industrious, he may by dint of good management and hard work improve his station in life.”

    Grant said, “Mr President, if Miss Gordon has her way in selling so many fruit to the American people, will not America become a Banana Republic?”

    Griffin smiled. “It could be. And now, my friends, I think it is time for me to take advantage of Miss Gordon’s generous offer. She has agreed to let me try one of her famous bananas... and you gentleman as well, if you wish.”

    The reporters all agreed to do so, and five bananas were brought in, already peeled and served one to a plate with knife and fork provided. Julia tried to hide a smile; she was used to simply peeling and eating them. But if it gave the fruit more appeal, she was happy to go along with it.

    “Delicious,” Griffin declared, after finishing his. The reporters made similar comments. Griffin added, “I hope that you can ship plenty more of these throughout the country.”

    “I will certainly try,” Julia said. With the President’s endorsement about to be carried across the nation, and Harry Walker’s other efforts to promote the banana, she hoped it would be so.

    * * *

    19 April 1873
    Sand Ford Plantation
    Near Savannah, Georgia, USA

    Sand Ford Plantation. While Julia had lived the majority of her life there, coming back here did not feel like coming home. She was used to Nicaragua now, and this place of rice did not suit her tastes at all. More and more of the swamps had been cleared, even more than when she had last lived here, but it would still be an unpleasant disease-hole. Her father had been unlike most of the rice planters in choosing to live here rather than leaving matters to overseers, trusting that his family’s long history of immunity to most of the familiar diseases would keep them safe. He had been right, but Julia still did not want to visit here. Still, her father’s invitation had been just short of a demand.

    So Julia had come, but she had taken precautions. Yolanda and Harry waited for her in Savannah; keeping them there would reduce awkward questions from her father and also give her the excuse to leave soon and claim the press of business. But for now, she was here, and after the initial round of greetings and insincere exclamations that it had been too long since they last set eyes on each other, Richard Gordon said, “I’d never imagined you would build so much up from nothing. I’m impressed.”

    “The opportunity was there, so I took it,” Julia said. “The United States is about those who work hard improving their lot, isn’t it?” Something about President Griffin had rubbed off on her, sure enough.

    “Of course. But it’ll be good that someone in our family will keep up the planting tradition.”

    Julia stared. “What do you mean?”

    “Sand Ford is no longer profitable for me to run, sadly. Rice doesn’t command the prices it used to even five years ago, let alone ten or twenty years past. And even with the improvements to the land around here, disease amongst the slaves erodes too much of my capital.”

    “You’re going to sell Sand Ford?”

    Richard nodded. “I’ve been talking to Michael Grimes, from over west near Blakely. He wants to buy some land hereabouts, and grow rice until he can turn it into a tea plantation.”

    Julia said, “You own the land now. Why don’t you start planting tea?”

    Richard said, “Because I’m too old and set in my ways to learn about that accursedly difficult crop. Let Grimes manage it, if he wants. With the sale of Sand Ford, I can buy a decent house in Savannah and rent out the slaves.”

    “How have the boys taken the news?” Julia said.

    “Dennis doesn’t know yet. I sent him a letter, but it won’t have reached Jefferson yet, and he’s probably still too busy swearing about boll weevils to notice. That farm of his won’t turn into a plantation now. Joseph only cares about the army and hoping that President Griffin starts a war somewhere. But Edward and Albert, well...” Richard gave her a long look. “To be frank, they’re hoping to inherit a share of your Nicaragua plantation. They’re convinced that you won’t have any heirs to leave it to. Will you ever marry?”

    “I...” Julia could find no way to go on. Some things she couldn’t say openly, not to her father.

    Her father nodded again, sadly, then raised his voice. “Lucy, show Julia to her room.” More normally: “Your homecoming party tonight. People coming from miles around. Maybe you’ll find someone who catches your eye.”

    If I do, it’ll be someone who you wouldn’t approve of anyway. The slave Lucy appeared, and Julia followed her. As they walked away, Lucy said, “Mass Richard, he going to sell the place?”

    The slaves would hear any news, of course. Julia had known that for years. She also heard the alarm in Lucy’s tone, and knew what it meant. “He’s selling the plantation, not the slaves. You’ll be going with him to Savannah.” She hoped they would be, anyway. And even if her father did sell off a few slaves while moving, he would keep the house slaves like Lucy.

    * * *

    25 April 1873
    Savannah, Georgia
    United States of America

    When he was young, Captain Anderson Mitchell’s father and grandfather had been at pains to remind him that New England and the United States had once been one country. His grandfather had fought with New Hampshire’s Freedom Brigade during the Second American Revolution, trying and failing to hold New England under the rule of Washington, D.C. He had discreetly fled New Hampshire after the war, fearing the noose [3], but even then he had gone to Boston. One of the few signs of wisdom that his grandfather had ever shown, as far as Mitchell was concerned, since he still stayed within New England. After the Revolution, his grandfather had married and raised his father with the belief that New England should be looking to Washington, not to London.

    Both had tried to teach him the same thing, but Mitchell would have no part of it. Washington, D.C. had been abandoned as a city around the time he was born, and who wanted to look toward a city named for a slaveholding American anyway? Jefferson, Madison, Franklin – all the American founding fathers had been slaveowners at some time in their lives, even if Franklin had repented after the Revolution. Only with the Second American Revolution had the new founding fathers – men like Pickering, Lowell, Quincy, Griswold and Cabot – abolished slavery.

    Good riddance to the Americans, as far as Mitchell was concerned. He would do business with them, but he was glad he no longer needed to share a country with them. He was quite happy to sail his schooner into American or other ports of the Caribbean in search of goods to transport, but he would never want to live here.

    “Who can understand the gringos?” Mitchell murmured to himself, as he walked through the streets of Savannah toward the Pulaski Hotel, the city’s finest, and his appointment.

    He saw not a single horstcar; the new contraptions had started to fill the streets of New York, but the Americans seemed resolutely fixed on horses and buggies instead [4]. But he did see several blacks, walking around the city freely. They weren’t free in law, but the slavemasters here in Savannah let many of them live in their own houses, selling goods or other commerce, and simply paying a weekly fee to their owners. Yet these same Americans insisted that slaves could never be freed. They watched him closely, and if he uttered an abolitionist word to a slave a lynching would follow. The Jackals had a very few home-grown abolitionists, who would get laughed at if they tried something. But let a foreign visitor to a town even appear to be abolitionist, and the locals reached for the nearest rope.

    When Mitchell stepped into the lobby of the Pulaski Hotel, a tall man dressed all in white walked up to him. “Captain Mitchell?”

    “The same,” Mitchell said, extending his hand.

    “Harry Walker, agent for the Gordon family and their fellow producers.”

    As they shook hands, Walker’s eyes gave him a quick once-over. He was ex-military; Mitchell was convinced of that. Not because he carried a pistol – most white men in Savannah did – but from the way he sized up everyone and everything.

    Mitchell said, “If you don’t mind me asking, why did you ask to see me? Especially here, instead of at my ship.”

    “It wasn’t me who asked to see you. My principal did, and she waits for you in the dining room. If you’ll follow me...”

    She? Mitchell wondered. As well expect a woman to have principles as be the principal here. Except for a few widows who maintained plantations from their husbands, and a very occasional daughter who was an only child, American women weren’t involved in commerce, any more than New England women were. And he knew that the Gordon family still had men to conduct its commerce; he had had dealings with Edward Gordon the last time he was in Savannah.

    Still, a woman waited at one of the tables in the Pulaski’s grand dining hall. She rose as Walker performed the introductions. “Ma’am, this is Captain Anderson Mitchell, of the Yankee schooner Lady Grey. Captain, this is Miss Julia Gordon, owner of Sharkview Plantation, Nicaragua, whom I am privileged to represent in the mainland states.”

    Owner in her own right? Mitchell offered her a bow, and she returned a dignified curtsey. Sure enough, she dressed and acted like an American aristocrat. Long black hair hanging loose, which would have been frowned on as risqué in New York or Boston. She wore white, just like Walker – American fashion seemed to be colourless, these days – but in an elaborately worked lace-edged silk dress which would probably cost him a year’s profits. He would have guessed her age at twenty-five, but she was clearly unmarried. Quite odd, given her wealth and beauty.

    “Join me for lunch, captain?” Julia asked.

    “I’d be honoured, ma’am,” he said, and sat down. “Will Mr Walker be-” He looked around, and could see no sign of the agent. “Where did he go?”

    “Mr Walker has a pressing prior engagement, I’m afraid,” she said, sounding amused, but she did not bother to explain.

    “How’d he get away so quietly?” Mitchell asked.

    “He spent some years in the Jaguars,” she said. He must have looked blank, because she added, “A specialist unit of soldiers who fight in jungles and such. Harry moves silently without even thinking about it, most of the time.”

    “That might cause a few surprises now and then.” He signalled for a waiter.

    “Oh, you have no idea how much,” she said, with the same half-amused smile.

    Although Mitchell had called for the waiter, when the man arrived he stood in front of Julia. Well, that was the advantage of being an aristocrat, he supposed.

    “You like seafood, Captain?” she said. She barely waited for his nod before ordering some toasted angels and crab.

    He wanted to ask why she had asked to meet him, but knew better than to bring it up. Besides, how often did he get to have lunch with a genuine American belle? He knew better than to think she might be attracted to him, but that did not stop him daydreaming. In any case, she was pleasant company, coaxing him into telling sea tales throughout the lunch, and laughing at all the appropriate moments. But she spoke very little about herself, and gave no hint about her intentions throughout the toasted angels – grilled oysters wrapped in bacon, spiced with peppers and doused in lime juice – and crab and two glasses of white wine of a vintage which he could only imagine tasting normally.

    She only revealed her intentions when he was feeling contentedly full and relaxed. “Care for some desert?” she said. Again, she did not wait for his nod, but signalled for the waiter. From the way the waiter hurried to bring out two strange yellow fruit on a tray, he knew she had been planning this moment for some time.

    “These are bananas. Grown in Nicaragua, in my own plantation. Try one. They peel easily, and while some Americans like to eat them with knife and fork, they were designed for fingers.”

    He tried one, and smiled. “Very good.” He paused, and noticed how she was watching him. “How many of these do you grow on your plantation?”

    “Enough,” she said. “Do you think people in New York, say, or Boston would enjoy these?”

    “I suppose so, but-”

    “Then you can surely find buyers. Here, we have been selling them for two dollars a bunch. I expect that if I gave you a hundred and fifty or so bunches, you would make $300 easily, perhaps more. Does half of whatever you earn from their sale seem a fair bargain, Captain?”

    “Quite fair,” he said, struggling to keep up. “But why bother selling them in New England when you surely have buyers for them here?”

    “This is just the beginning,” she said. “Sell them carefully. Find merchants who will want to buy more later. If you can do that, then we can expand things fast enough.”

    “We?”

    “I hope to sell bananas everywhere in North America, Captain Mitchell. In a few months I will be seeking investment to create a distribution company. I’m sure that will keep your shipping very busy.”

    She seemed so full of enthusiasm when talking about the company and the fruit. More than when she had been talking to him, which he found vaguely insulting in a way which was hard to pin down, since she had been friendly enough during the meal. But no wonder she did not bother with a husband. Her bananas were obviously good enough for her.

    * * *

    18 November 1873
    Sharkview Plantation
    Nicaragua Territory, USA

    Yolanda knew the news would be bad from the moment Julia walked into her room. They had maintained separate bedrooms for years, to minimise the rumours amongst the field staff (the house staff knew better, but could be trusted not to talk) and to save the inconvenience of moving in and out whenever one of the frequent would-be suitors or other guests came to Sharkview. But Julia had never been quite the same since she visited her father’s plantation half a year before. Quieter, brooding sometimes, and more distant, although she evaded Yolanda’s delicate questioning why.

    “Querida,” Yolanda said, forcing a smile.

    They kissed, but it was rather perfunctory, and when Julia sat down on the bed, she kept space between them. “There’s something I must tell you,” she said.

    “Yes?”

    “I’ve decided... I’ve decided to marry Harry Walker.”

    Despite expecting something bad, the words felt like a blow to the stomach. Not sure if she wanted to laugh or cry or both, Yolanda managed, “You’re abandoning me for that maricón?”

    “Abandon you? Never!” Now Julia did reach over to squeeze her hand. “You are and always will be my only true love. But this I must do for reasons of need.”

    “You need to marry a man who has no more interest in you than you claimed you had in any man?”

    Julia said, “It stops people asking questions about him as much as they do about me. Marrying him won’t stop his own pursuits, anymore than it will interfere with you and I. But it must be him. Any other man would think that, on marrying me, he would own all this.” She spread her hands as if to encompass all of the plantation and the new company she had so recently formed. “Harry knows better.”

    “A marriage in name only, then?” Yolanda asked, her thumping heart subsiding a little. “You won’t...?”

    “I have to, until I have a child,” Julia said, and Yolanda felt the tears well up in her eyes again. “Neither he nor I will find any pleasure in it, but I need a child. Without that, no-one will believe it a true marriage, and everything I have built here will vanish when I die. I cannot will it to you. But then Harry goes back to living his own life, and we will continue as we always have been, mi amor.”

    “No, we won’t. It wouldn’t be the same.” Yolanda looked across at Julia, and saw that face which was normally so full of love and life had gone blank. She wondered if she had every truly known what went on behind those eyes. “What will your father think of you marrying such a man?” she asked, trying what she thought was her strongest card.

    “By now, my father will be grateful that I’m married at all,” Julia said.

    “Enjoy his gratitude then, since you care nothing for what I feel!” Yolanda said. Julia tried to lean closer and put a hand on her shoulder, but she shook it off. “Leave me alone.”

    Wordlessly, Julia rose, nodded and walked, leaving Yolanda staring at the closed door for a long, long time, trying to decide what to do.

    * * *

    From The Granada Mural
    23 April 1875

    Announcements:

    Mr. Harry Walker and Mrs. Julia Gordon Walker, of Sharkview Plantation, Chontales County, are pleased to report the arrival of their first child, William James, born on 16 April. The boy and his mother are both reported to be in fine health and good spirits.

    * * *

    [1] Grant’s father is Ulysses H. Grant, an ATL brother of General Ulysses Grant. See posts #40 and #47. Jesse Grant himself was born in 1851, and has already made something of a name for himself as a reporter.

    [2] Actually, a lot of the engineers on the Nicaragua Canal are British and French.

    [3] After the War of 1811, the New England federal government and the various state governments actually tried to reconcile their Unionist inhabitants, pardoning all but the most notorious individuals if they were willing to swear allegiance to New England. But there was a considerable amount of private retribution.

    [4] More to do with the roads being mostly poor quality and a general American unwillingness to spend money on upgrading them for the sake of a few horstcars.

    * * *

    Thoughts?

    Kaiser Wilhelm III
    https://www.alternatehistory.com/decadesofdarkness/
    http://decadesofdarkness.blogspot.com/
     
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  16. G.Bone lurks

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2004
    Location:
    Hon., HI
    Interesting....something forbidden that would happen otherwise. Truly a telling thing....

    Shame about Grant being lumped into the U.S. Is there any commander from OTL's ACW that is in active service here in TTL?
     
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  17. Nicole Parallel Universe Imajin

    Joined:
    Jul 12, 2004
    Location:
    Boston, MA
    Interesting, and well-written.. I liked the Banana Republic comment.

    By the way, I've been looking at the maps on your site, and I've been wondering- what is that logo in the center of the Canada Kingdom flag? It's too lburry to see..
     
  18. davekohlhoff Proud Populist

    Joined:
    May 8, 2004
    Location:
    Missouri and Maryland
    I have a copy of the flag full-sized. If someone can explain to me how to attach images I'll show the full-sized flag.
     
  19. Nicole Parallel Universe Imajin

    Joined:
    Jul 12, 2004
    Location:
    Boston, MA
    Click on the Manage Attachments button at the bottom of the screen, and find the file in Browse.. You might need to save it as a different file type in Paint (PNGs tend to work well) if it says the file is too large.
     
  20. davekohlhoff Proud Populist

    Joined:
    May 8, 2004
    Location:
    Missouri and Maryland
    The flag of Canada has the halves of the British royal seal flanking the earliest recorded seal of Canada's royal military forces.
     

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