Lord John and Manoke
John leaned over the railing as the ship pulled into Boston harbour. Shouts from the sailors, the creaking of ropes and sails, the smells of food, sewage and woodsmoke, the rattling of chains and shouts from the quayside all assaulted his senses after weeks of the rhythmic swish of the salty sea. He missed William already. But he trusted Hal and Minnie to take good care of him while he was in London. William was joining his cousin Benjamin at school for a term. It was also a time for William to get to know London as well as building a stronger friendship with his cousins and give the boy a sense of family. But he still missed William and couldn’t wait to write letters to him.
John had a diversion to make before he headed back to the plantation at Mount Josiah in Virginia. Hopefully Tom Byrd had everything under control at the plantation. With his master away, Tom would have plenty of time to keep courting Hannah, the seamstress who lived in Lynchburg. John chuckled to himself. Hannah was a cheerful lass who was clearly very fond of Tom, so he would not be surprised if things had moved on by the time he got back. He could sense wedding bells in the air.
In Boston John found an inn where he could refresh himself, adjust to being on land and prepare for his journey north.
He had plenty of time to think on the sea voyage, and considered it was time he returned to Quebec to check on the welfare of the child he left at the mission there. He was paying the mission five pounds a year to care for John Cinnamon, whose Native American mother had died of smallpox and whose father was Malcolm Stubbs. The mission was supposed to write to him each year with a lock of the boy’s hair, and generally they had complied.
John took a stage coach for the journey north to the little town of Gareon on the St Lawrence river on the opposite bank to Quebec city. When he arrived travel weary and feeling grubby, he stepped out of the coach and breathed in the fresh air, with a sense of déjà vu, but the town had changed markedly since he was last here. That was at the time of the battle of Quebec, and was full of soldiers. Now the soldiers were all gone and the town had a quiet gentle bustle. He found an inn with a comfortable bed, a cheerful landlady and the smell of good food wafting up from the kitchen.
The next day he went to find the French mission and see if Father Le Carre was still there. He was, and was delighted to see John again. Father Le Carre took him over to the mission school, where the children were playing in the small yard with wooden swords. He pointed to the boy with thick auburn hair, who was laughing and jostling with another boy as their swords got tangled up. “The boy is happy here,” said Father Le Carre. “Would you like to speak with him?”
“Yes, if you please.” John turned to the priest. “He is not my child you know. I am afraid the boy’s father has neglected his obligations to the child.” The priest nodded, all too familiar with errant fathers.
John sat down with the boy who looked at him curiously. “Are you my father?”
John smiled, ”No.” The boy frowned a little. “But I know your father. His name is Malcolm Stubbs. He was injured badly in the war here. He has a wife and family in England. I have been paying for your care here. I was wondering if you would like to write to me, to my home in Virginia. I can tell you more about him in letters.” The boy nodded. So John gave him a small piece of paper with the address on it, and bade him farewell.
Having set his mind at ease, John wandered down to the rivers edge. There were a number of canoes bobbing up and down at the landing, and his eyes were drawn to a huddled figure sitting in one of the canoes. The man looked thin, with a blanket wrapped around him to keep out the chill coming off the river. John walked onto the landing to get a closer look. “Manoke?”
The man looked up and saw John smiling at him. He returned the smile and joy flooded over his face. “Englishman!!” he said getting up and reaching out his hand to John, who helped haul him out of the canoe and kept his hand closed around the Indian’s thin hand.
“I am so glad to see you again!” said John, but then his brow furrowed. “But you don’t look well my dear friend?”
“No. But I am better for seeing a friendly face,” said Manoke smiling at him. John kept hold of his hand.
“Come with me back to the inn. I will feed you up. You look like you need it.” said John.
John led him back to the inn and they walked into the taproom together, where the landlady looked at the two of them with surprise. “Lord John,” she said nodding at him and glancing at Manoke.
“Two of your best pies and two beers for myself and my guest here, if you please,” said John pleasantly.
The landlady bustled off to get the food.
John and Manoke sat down at a secluded table, and the two beers were slapped down between them.
“Tell me your troubles,” said John, looking directly into Manoke’s eyes.
“I am not a scout any more for the English. They don’t need me any more,” he said.
“So have you gone back to your own people?”
“No. My people don’t want me back.”
“I don’t understand. Why don’t they want you?” asked John.
“I am a Two Spirit.”
“Two Spirit? What is that?” asked John.
“We are….. The Iroquois have more flexibility in how we see a man or a woman. Some of us become Two Spirit people who have a special connection to the spirit world. It’s hard to explain. But the missionaries want to kill the Two Spirit people. So my people have asked me to leave so as not to cause trouble with the missionaries.”
John sat there blinking. He was trying to comprehend what Manoke had said. He looked into Manoke’s face and saw the pained lines around his jaw. “Well, I have told you what the church think about people like us.” John thought to himself about the laws as well. He knew the Indians didn’t treat sodomy as a crime. On impulse he said,” Will you come with me? To my house in Virginia? It’s a long way, but you don’t seem safe here any more.”
Manoke looked at John. He kept silent for quite a long time. He looked uncomfortably around the taproom as a few more people came in.
“Let’s walk together,” he said, already getting up from his chair.
They walked outside and went down towards the river. “I love this place,” Manoke said. “It speaks to me, but so much has been taken from us. Perhaps it is time I journeyed to new places. You have woods there? In Virginia?”
“Yes. Forests. Mountains. The rivers aren’t so big as this, ” said John.
“I grow food. I can look after children. I make carvings. Can I do all those things at your house? “ asked Manoke.
John nodded. “Yes. I have a garden. My foster son is in England but he will be back soon. Can you cook? My valet, Tom is not a very good cook.”
“I cook, yes. Do you want to lie with me again Englishman?”
“Yes, I do,” said John, smiling. “Please, call me John.”
The next morning John met Manoke by the landing again and asked “Do you remember the child you helped me purchase from the family by the river?”
“Yes. John Cinnamon. I go and visit him from time to time. Talk to him about his mother, show him some of our ways.”
John looked at him. ”Good. I will be writing to him, so we can keep in touch with the boy.”
John hired two sturdy horses and they set off together, intending to camp rough and take their time. The late summer weather was kind. They gave the appearance of a wealthy man and his Indian manservant, so attracted little attention on the road. They found a campsite each night, usually by a stream and lit a fire on the banks of the stream as they ate a humble meal of bread and small fish Manoke had caught in the river. Each night they covered themselves in blankets and cuddled together for warmth.
That first night they lay under a starry night with a gentle breeze sighing through the trees. They wrapped their arms around each other and John kissed Manoke, smelling the familiar smell of him from all those years ago. Wild meat, mint, grease and a coppery smell. John’s hands pulled at Manoke’s simple breeches and started stroking his firm skin, muscular and taut. Manoke pulled off John’s small clothes and their naked bodies pressed together, blankets falling away as their bodies warmed. John loved the greasy feel of Manoke’s skin, sliding his hands all over his body. They spoke very little, just sighed and moaned as their heat increased and their hands reached for each other’s cocks, stroking and rubbing each other harder, as their mouths kissed hungrily, wet tongues making a deep connection. John hadn’t lain with a man for a long time, and his body was starving for the touch of this strange yet familiar man. To feel the man’s hands sliding smoothly over his body gave John a feeling of a blissful warmth. He could feel the gentle care of the Indian’s touch on his skin, the tenderness embracing him like a warm blanket. Manoke whispered to him in his own language.
“What does that mean?” asked John.
“just speaking to the spirit of the trees. You hear them rustling in the wind?”
John was aware of the sound, but hadn’t really listened. Manoke had spoken to him all those years ago how spirits lived in all the forms of nature. Manoke was obviously very aware of all the sounds and movements around him, whereas John just wanted to get on with the matter at hand.
John had forgotten Manoke’s tongue. It roamed everywhere, pointed, flat, sucking, gentle then strong. It made his skin tingle into goosebumps as it cooled in the night breeze. John had oil, and started to work open Manoke’s arse, lost in the feel of the man, the hot breath, the smooth skin, mouths kissing, throbbing leaking cocks and Manoke moaning as John moved his fingers. John entered Manoke sliding in easily, and they wormed together, moving faster and more urgently, moaning and panting til John felt himself release with a shudder. They stilled for a moment, breath slowing, before John pulled out, then John could feel Manoke’s hand come around to his arse, gently massaging him and Manoke pulled John onto his side and felt Manoke behind him slowly slide in, smooth and easy to start, pressing further, angling himself to get John groaning with pleasure, John’s backside flush up against Manoke’s lap. Manoke’s pace quickened, smooth and slick, pulling John in, pressing John’s hips closer and harder, hot breath on his back, til he spurted his own release into John.
John turned to pull Manoke into his arms. “Oh Christ, that was so good. You are the most beautiful, intriguing man,” as he kissed him softly. They lay there with slowing breath, and John became aware of the sounds of the night. The water running over rocks and the moan of the wind in the trees. The creak of the branches as they bent back with the wind. The occasional rustle and snapping twig from the creatures that preferred the night.
Manoke chanted softly in his ear, as sleep drifted over them.