The Second Poyais Scheme

…some work in progress from the Cazique of Poyais story…

The private coach rattled along the road to Calais carrying the twins and Emma, the French countryside passing along as if it were walking in the opposite direction, leaves on trees and blades of grass waving goodbye to them.  Swiftly on the heels of their success with Lehuby, Sir MacGregor had despatched them on the second part of their Poyais mission while he sat in Paris playing with his ‘constitution’.  Lehuby’s words rang true in their ears – that they were doing all the work – but for them at least there was a clear upside.  They just hadn’t decided exactly how they would extract it.

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…some work in progress from the Cazique of Poyais story…

“I am—”

“Let me introduce myself,” MacGregor said with a flourishing, curt bow, “Sir Gregor MacGregor, Cazique of Poyais and purveyor of land beyond imagining.”

“Yes, very good,” said the opposing man with a short bow, “I am the Managing Director of Compagnie de la Nouvelle Neustrie, a prominent trading firm and humble servant to the people.  I go by the name Lehuby.”

Emma and Noemi had temporarily been banished to the sitting room as this display went on in Jose’s presence in the reception.  No one had volunteered Jose’s name or purpose, nor did they ask it.  He was as much out of the room as Emma and Noemi.  More perfect than they had planned.

With a bit more ceremony and a lot more blistering, MacGregor and Lehuby were able to slowly move into the sitting room whereupon MacGregor offered tea and patisseries to his guest.  Again, there was no acknowledgement of the others in the room.  Ego begets ego it appeared, so there was no room for anyone else in the room.

“This proposition, Sir MacGregor, please explain to me.  I have heard good things about you and so I’m interested how we can work together.”

“It is quite fortunate you have heard good things.  There are some quite nasty people in London spewing some quite vile bile regarding my person and business interests.  Very unbecoming of a supposedly free press.”

“Indeed, I have heard those things as well.  I am quite adept at separating the, how do you say, wheat from the chaff.”

MacGregor gave a wry little smile and a quick glance to his erstwhile employees.  They all understood this was a scam, but no one needed to say that.  They all understood.  However, the full picture was more obscured to some than others.

“Excellent, Monsieur Lehuby.  To business.  I have lands, but no tenants or buyers and no way of transporting them to such lands.  You have ships and contacts, but no lands and limited banking connections to raise investment.  Together we have a settlement scheme.”

“That’s not much of a pitch MacGregor,” Lehuby quickly responded, forcing a grimace on Sir MacGregor’s face, “I know plenty of people with goods to transport and no ship, but that doesn’t convince me to work with them.”

Sir MacGregor surveyed his conversational opponent and assessed how best to get the upper hand and win this particular conversation.  Lehuby was a tall, dark, handsome Frenchman in a classic mould.  Well dressed, but not ostentatious.  There was nothing in his outward appearance that would lend itself as a weakness to exploit.  This man was all ego.  Inside though MacGregor senses he had the air of someone who has a point to prove.  Why else come so quickly for a meeting with MacGregor.  Lehuby knee there was a quick fortune to be made.  All MacGregor had to do was manoeuvre him that way without giving anything away.

“The pitch is that you get a reasonable chunk of land from me — 2,000 square kilometres — which you will easily be able to pass on to settlers at a profit, with travel fare on your ship to bout.  My assistants here will do everything else in the background to promote the grand nation of Poyais.  They will also handle the details of the exact commercials.  I deal only in the big picture you see.”

Lehuby looked over at Emma, Noemi and Jose, having previously not given them a second thought.  He thought to himself that he had gained the upper hand and smiled.

“Thank you for your time Sir MacGregor.  It will be a pleasure to do business with you and I’m sure I can reach a sensible agreement with your assistants.  I presume they have authority to act for you?”

“Full authority,” said Sir MacGregor, “so now, I bid you good day.”

Sir MacGregor wandered out of the apartments and into the breezy Paris day as the four remaining studies each other carefully.  They all thought they had the upper hand.  Lehuby thought it was comical that they needed three to his one, showing a weakness before they started.  The three knew they had the upper hand because they had orchestrated the meeting and didn’t care how much MacGregor got for the land.  It was a fun dynamic.

“Three assistants is quite a lot for such a venture.  Why so heavy handed?”

They had planned for a question like this and also how to make the most of the likely presumed lesser intelligence of the women.  So, Jose would speak only if asked a direct question.

“It’s not heavy handed.  We’re all just bring something different and learning at the same time,” said Emma.

“I see, well, what is the opening proposition?”

Noemi took the lead, “2,000 square kilometres at £300 a square kilometre.  You pay us as you sell the land.  We will issue a bond on the London stock exchange relating to Poyais for £300,000 and when it is fully subscribed you will receive a commission of 10% for promoting it to settlers.  You should be able to sell the land for at least £350 per square kilometre, so it is adequate to make a handsome profit.”

The look on his face was of pure disgust, “Highway robbery, pure and simple.  How can you even suggest that as an opening gambit!” And then mumbling audibly to himself, “Amateurs.”

Quite perfect really.  It didn’t matter that Lehuby was acting up to push them down on price.  It set the tone for finalising the deal.  One that would always be great for Sir MacGregor and better for the twins and Emma.  

“I assure you that we aren’t amateurs, Sir, but we are prepared to compromise.”

“Go on.”

“We can drop to £275 a square kilometre, but we’ll have to drop the commission to 5%.  Is that acceptable?”

Lehuby paused for effect and let a silence linger in the room.  There wasn’t any tension other than him.  Noemi was gambling with someone else’s money really, so she couldn’t care less.  Still, there had to be a show so as not to raise suspicion.

“No, it isn’t.  You can’t take from one and give in another and call that a compromise.  You’re moving the pieces arounds so I get the same amount.”

“That is incorrect.  You’re actually making an additional £35,000.  That’s assuming you can sell the land on at £350.  You can probably do better.”

“That isn’t nearly enough more.  Don’t tell me that’s as far as you can go.”

“It’s close.”

“Let me guess, you won’t be able to agree anything without the say so of your boss.”

“We have full authority, I can assure you,” Noemi said, looking back at Jose and Emma to try and put on a show of frustration for Lehuby.  

It appeared to work as he lifted an eyebrow curiously above his right eye and asked, “Really?”

“£250 and 5%.  That is very generous.  That’s another £50,000 for you.”

“I feel that we’re going to hit an impasse soon,” Lehuby stood for effect, “I want more and you must be reaching the limit of your authority.  I need to go beyond that.”

“That hardly seems fair,” chimed in Emma.  A pre-agreed comment that was designed to Lehuby feel completely comfortable in his position.

Lehuby smiled, “What isn’t fair is that I’ll be doing all the work and taking the risk with settlers.  Your work will substantially be done when we finish this conversation.  So, taking that all in, why are you making almost four times as much as me on this scheme?”

Noemi considered this and actually thought it was fair, but decided it was important to be upset about it.  “Not doing any work?  Do you think that the bond will just construct itself?  How about all of the supporting material to promote your settlement scheme?  WE are working very hard, I’ll have you know, and we’ll continue to do so.”

“Don’t get upset, my dear, this is just business.  How about this – £200, 8%?”


“There must be something that we can do at that price, no?”

Noemi let the question linger.  It was time for Jose to step in a deliver the final point.  He stood up and said calmly, “We can do it at that level, but we’ll need to have full payment up front.  If you can agree to that, then we’ll go to Sir MacGregor and get this finalised.”

This all made Lehuby very happy.  The twins and Emma were ecstatic as well.  The target MacGregor had given them was £150, with a reserve of £100.  

They showed Lehuby out and then sunk back into their chairs, looking at each other.  Phase one was complete.


…some work in progress from the Cazique of Poyais story…

It was not a giant leap to find the man who they had met on the voyage from London once they knew the name of his company. They took to calling it the Neustrie so it wasn’t so much of a mouthful. Jacques helped them yet again, if in an incredibly irritating fashion, to locate the list of companies addresses and names of their partners in another obscure book. Once they had secured the valuable information and expended most of their remaining funds on wine for Jacques, they slipped away without a trace using some less than clever distractions and relying heavily on the fact that Jacques was considerably drunk.

Off they went to rest with the name they had been searching for, Lehuby, and a Paris address to bout. The next steps were slightly hazy to them all, but each had a piece of an idea and kept their grand plan juggling overhead. They almost didn’t care if it failed as they would be no worse off than when they disembarked the Ocean in London.

It didn’t take long after returning to their bedsit that each had retired to their small section of the room on their makeshift bed and passed out. It was another tiring day in a string of tiring days that felt like they would never end. Each day was just a continuation of the exhaustion. Each day they had to power through on dreams of what could be and the almost indomitable human will to survive to the next day. To continue and to create. That was it. The entire process drained.

Emma woke first in the morning, just after day break. The curtains in the room were ineffectual and her nerves were high. Sleep had come and gone in seemingly the blink of an eye. She did not feel rested, but there was no further ability to sleep. Lying in her bed she looked over at Jose and then Noemi.

The twins had each other. Always. She had herself and maybe she had them. There was a lingering uncertainty in her mind over it all. Did she love Jose or was she trying to love him so that she belonged? It was not a question she could answer. All she knew was that she yearned to belong and she felt that Noemi was now like her sister. They had been through so much.

Noemi stirred while Jose still slumbered, unperturbed by the sun beaming through the windows.

“Good morning,” Emma said softly.

“Good morning, sister,” Noemi said without thinking as she roused herself.

“Yes, I feel like we’re sisters too. I’m glad you, or at least the half awake you, feels that way too.”

Noemi opened her eyes more fully to wake herself up and smiled, “I didn’t realise what I was saying. It is true though. I feel it. It must be so then.”

Emma returned the smile, but didn’t say anything. They both lie staring at the ceiling and then back at each other for a few moments as they readied themselves mentally for the day ahead.

They all knew that MacGregor was greedy enough to fall for this whole secondary scheme idea, they just weren’t sure if Lehuby was. There was enough evidence to suggest he was seeing as he took the meeting at a moments notice at slight hint of the idea there was money involved. Still, they were trying to convince two separate groups of seemingly well to do and relatively intelligent men of a fiction. At the very least, they needed to mentally prepare themselves.

Jose continued to sleep, in a deep and likely dream filled slumber, while both Emma and Noemi got up and started moving about the room, both to seem busy to one another and to push the day along.

“What do we have for breakfast?” Emma asked.

“There is still some bread left wrapped in that cloth.”

“How many days old is it?” she asked as she tapped the outside of the cloth.

“Anyone’s guess really. We were out all day yesterday at the coffee house, so it’s at least two days old. Surely it’s still ok. I can fry it up if in some oil if it’s a bit too stale.”

Emma took the initiative and went to the fire place herself and put on the pan, dolloping a small piece of lard in, following by the baguette sliced as well as she could into little rounds. Noemi looked disapprovingly over Emma’s shoulder, but didn’t say anything. It wasn’t the way that she would have done it. When Emma finished, Noemi went about making her own food, not satisfied with Emma’s efforts.

“I’m just trying you know,” Emma said with a hint of anger and frustration, staring down at her bread.

Noemi sulked. She hasn’t meant to upset Emma. It’s just that food was such a delicate and precious thing. It literally gives a person energy, but it can also nourish the soul when treated with enough care. Good ingredients always made this easier. Though you could make something delicious with goods to hand if one put in the right effort and leveraged the right skills.

“Come over here, let me show you.”

Nibbling at her bread, Emma approached the fire to see what Noemi had to show.

Using the same pan, Noemi chucked in some lard and then waited for it to melt into a translucent liquid, slowly bubbling away. Only then did she put in some pieces of bread in the pan. Not too many as to crowd out the pan and reduce the effectiveness of the frying. She then tossed in some salt, pepper and a herb that Emma didn’t recognise but which had small leaves on a long stem. After a few moments, Noemi flipped the pieces of bread and then waited another few moments. Then she put them on the small plate they had a showed it to Emma.

“Use what you have, be calm, watch it carefully and take your time. That’s it really.”

“Sounds like lessons for life rather than cooking.”

“Perhaps. It certainly wouldn’t hurt to follow those principles in the meeting with MacGregor and Lehuby today. We want them to think they’ve negotiated between themselves. We’re just pushing them in the right direction.”

“I feel like they’re both so greedy that it won’t take much to work, but I also don’t want to be unprepared. Maybe we should wake Jose.”

They both munched on Noemi’s bread with Emma’s discarded. There was only one piece left which they agreed to use to wake Jose. Like he was a slumbering dog, they put they put the final piece of fried bread under Jose’s nose and left it there while he continued to breathe deeply. It took a few deep breathes, but it wasn’t long before the savoury smell filled his nostrils and his mouth began to salivate. The combination woke him up in a dreary state. Sitting up he looked around and, completely ignoring Emma and Noemi, found the piece of bread that woke and began munching away.

When he finished the piece he looked up and asked, “is there more?”

“More?” They said in unison, “not for those that sleep in!”

Emma then added, “it’s time to work.”

Neustrie Found

…some work in progress from the Cazique of Poyais story…

It took them the best part of two days To navigate a foreign language and unwilling assistants to find a place where traders talked gossip and shop.  The most popular place was a coffee shop on the banks of the Seine.  This was not to be confused with the cafes dotted around Paris in such numbers, but rather a talking shop much like Lloyd’s coffee shop in London.  

It was all business and shipping gossip at the coffee shop, nothing personal.  As such, it was quite odd to see a pair of women walk in with a man.  It caused a momentary glance from all patrons of the shop.  Though they were all so consumed by their business affairs that no one paid them much attention.

“Where do we start?” Asked Jose as the three of them huddled in a corner of the shop as away from the crowd as they could be.

“Do you see anywhere that looks like a registry?” Suggested Emma.

“How about the man, do any of these look like him?” Noemi asked of Emma to no avail other than peaking Jose’s jealously once more.

There were no easy answers.  All they knew was that the owner was a man, which didn’t help, and that he aspired to prominence in South America, which somewhat narrowed the search, but not by much.  They spent the afternoon asking around to the few who would listen.  None recognised the person they were looking for.  No one so much as pointed them in a direction which might help.

As the busy period of the day winded down, they were left in the corner of a room with only a few inhabitants.  They had held out hope that they would find the man that day as MacGregor was already becoming impatient.  It didn’t appear they would have such luck though given that it was highly unlikely that any of the men remaining was the one they sought.

In the middle of the room a patron made a particularly garish laughing noise to another man who seemed wholly unimpressed.  The other man made his excuses and promptly left the coffee house, leaving the garish laugher to find a new target.  A waiter wandered by picking up empty coffee cups and glasses, but did so in such an expert fashion as to avoid any possible interaction with the garish laugher.  Clearly the waiter had been caught in his vice before and didn’t feel the need to become trapped once again.  

As he scanned around the room he saw many faces that he recognised as being quite unkind or otherwise not very interesting to him, but then he laid his eyes on Noemi, Emma and Jose standing in a corner, looking somewhat clandestine.  It wasn’t often that younger people such as themselves found their way into the coffee shop and even when they did, usually they were some hanger on apprentice or other upstart trying their parent’s fortunes at trading.  Being the forward type, he approached the three of them without a hint of embarrassment at interrupting a conversation mid flow.

“Good afternoon my friends, I am Jacques LeBold.  What, can I ask, are three young people such as yourselves doing in a place like this?”

Jose was about to answer when Jacques butted in, “Wait, no.  Let me guess!”

The three of them gave each other puzzled looks and a few eye rolls, though Jacques was so excited by his own invented game that he gave no notice to these uncomfortable looks.

“There doesn’t appear to be anything romantic going on here, so likely siblings.  Though the one girl doesn’t look anything like the others.  Foster siblings?”

It wasn’t a line of guessing that made Jose very comfortable.  He was already battling his own jealously and inaction regarding his romantic intentions with Emma.  He didn’t need strangers weighing in on the topic and making it even harder for him, so he was about to correct Jacques when his monologue switched course.

“That’s all rather besides the point though, isn’t it?  Even if you were foster siblings, what on Earth are you doing here?  Looking for employment?  No, no one hands out jobs here, which you would have found out quite quickly, so I don’t think that’s what it is.  Could you be starting up your own trading company?  Preposterous.  I simply won’t allow such a view to prevail.  No, you must be here by accident, that’s it.”

Jacques stopped talking, but none of them responded.  They were waiting for him to continue with his monologue and couldn’t be bothered to start talking knowing they would likely be interrupted.  He looked eagerly at them in the most unsavoury way as they contemplated whether it was safe to speak without interruption.

Finally, Emma spoke, “first, Sir, we are not step siblings.  This is my husband”

Jose’s heart leapt at the words and then quickly crashed back down as he realised it was a ploy to keep this unsavoury character from making any advances.  Either way, he liked the ring it had to it.

“Second,” Emma continued, “we are not here by accident.  We are looking for a specific trading company, but we can’t remember the name of the company or the trader we met.  We know what he looks like, so we thought if we hung around here long enough, we’d find him.”

“I see,” said Jacques with a hint of excitement, “what an excellent puzzle.  I think I am just the man to help you as I know everyone in this business.  Is there anything else you know?”

“Its a new company,” said Jose, “aspiring to prominence in South America.  There is definitely more than just the man we are looking for as he mentioned partners.  We believe also that they are based out of Le Havre.  Emma remembers what he looks like.”

She shot him a glance that asked why he said the last sentence in such a way before responding, “yes, he was slightly shorter than Jose here, must have been late 30s, early 40s, a slender build with dark hair.  Unfortunately nothing that I can point out that much distinguishes him from a typical Frenchman.”

“That could indeed describe many a trader that walks through these doors looking for insurance on their enterprises.  If you buy me a drink it will likely jog my memory.”

Jose rolled his eyes but obliged, buying a coffee and bringing it back to the area they were in.

“No, boy, not coffee!  I need stronger stuff.  Get me a glass of red wine!”

With another roll of the eyes, Jose obliged.  The funds they received from Gustavus were starting to run low, but he could still spring for some decent wine.

“Much better!” Jacques began, “now my memory will surely be jogged.”

No one really knew what to expect.  How could this Jacques pluck a name of thin air?

“We start with a problem.  There are several firms aspiring to prominence in South America.  It is, after all, very lucrative in terms of trading if you can get it right.  Likewise, your description of this man is not illuminating.”

“Exactly, we’re looking for a faceless needle in a stack of needles who all want to do the same thing,” an exasperated Jose pitches in.

“Yes indeed my boy.  However, you said one thing which may have got my memory working.  You said they were part of a new firm, yes?  And you have met this man?  Where did you meet?”

“It was on the journey over from London that we met.  This was a few weeks ago now.”

“Ah, now there is an interesting fact that is very useful!  Let me think, who has been to London recently?”

Jacques stood sipping at his wine as he counted animatedly on his fingers and muttered various names to himself.  Part way through his deliberations he finished his wine and motioned to Jose to get him another, to which he obliged.  It was endlessly frustrating to Emma and Noemi in particular as they were completely spectators in what could turn out to be absolutely nothing.  More than a wasted couple of hours at least, as they didn’t have any concept of how long Jacques could drag this out.

After a few moments of him racking his mind, Jacques put his hand up into the air and sank the most recent glass of red wine that Jose had brought over.  He was certainly not sober at this point, though he seemed a man who was, if nothing else, adept at drinking.  They all held out hope that his thoughts would lead them somewhere interesting.

They wandered by the bar, where Jacques instructed Jose to buy him another glass of red wine.  His fourth on their watch, but who knows how many he had before meeting them.  They may have been in a coffee shop, though you wouldn’t have known it from watching Jacques.  He lead them towards a book that was tucked away in another corner of the coffee shop.  It was not guarded in any way that they could see, though Jacques was making it out to be a very important book, or rather, ledger.

“This is a record of every ship that has been confirmed to be sunk, who owned the ship, what goods were onboard and who had insured it.”

“Ah,” said Jose, “That’s incredible.  Are these all ships travelling from France?”

“Indeed they are.  This coffee shop is a much smaller version of something back in London called Lloyd’s coffee shop.  Most of the trade through London is insured there.”

“So why have you brought us here?” Emma interjected into the frustratingly convivial conversation.

“Well, my dear, that is an excellent question,” Jacques laughed to himself as his words lolled off his tongue, “Everything you said made me think of a man who had recently be in London as he was searching for new vessels and trading partners, as well as financial backers.”

“Which has nothing to do with sunken ships,” Emma snapped.

“Patientence!  Just for that moment, I’ll need another glass of wine before we proceed.”

Jose begrudgingly marched back to the bar where the barmen had a glass waiting for him.  Clearly this was not the first time something of this nature had happened.  Vowing that it would be the last glass he bought as it was now starting to put a more serious dent in their funds, he took the glass, paid the barman and made his way back to the book, where Jacques stood stoically, though somewhat shakily, awaiting his drink in silence.  As soon as Jose gave him the glass, he was off again, though speaking directly to his drink patron.

“If my memory serves, which is normally does, I believe that the man you are after was in London, as I began, looking for investors and the like, though I can’t remember his name.”

Anger flushed into Noemi and Emma’s faces and they were ready to pounce when Jose said, “But?”

“But, I do recall that his firm had recently lost a ship.  It was the reason the one man was in London.  I couldn’t recall exactly the name of the company, but knew the name would be in here, as of course I recalled the name of the ship – The Lafitte.  So, if we just look down the list back a few months and then across…”

They all watched his fingers slowly work across the page until they reached the name of the firm of traders who had leased The Lafitte.  There is was in plain and simple lettering.  The name of the company that would most certainly set them on their way to complete their plan and ride off into the sunset – Compagnie de la Nouvelle Neustrie.