In researching the life and times of Ethan Kaille, thieftaker and conjurer, whose many adventures in Colonial Boston are the subject matter for the upcoming Thieftaker books (beginning with Thieftaker, book I of the Thieftaker Chronicles) I have in the last day or two come across Ethan’s day journal. I believe this may be a treasure trove. I am hopeful that by reading his various entries, I will learn more of his inquiries into thefts and murders in the streets of Boston, and perhaps will even glean something of the strange magical powers he is purported to have wielded. As this year progresses, I will share with you excerpts from the journal. For today, though, I present his entry for January 1, 1765. It is remarkable not for its mention of magic or crime, but rather for his dire and prophetic treatment of the day itself, which is so at odds with our own celebrations of the New Year.
Tuesday, 1 January 1765
The New Year begins as the old one ended, with squalls of snow blown across the city by a bitter wind. I wake throughout the night to feed the meagre fire burning in the stove in Kannice’s chamber, but the gale rattling the doors and windows of the Dowsing Rod seems to suck all the heat from her room. We take what warmth we can from each other, huddled beneath her blankets, but soon we are driven downstairs to the tavern’s great room where soon enough the fire in her hearth burns bright and warm, and the aromas of baked bread and steaming chowder offer a respite from winter’s ire.
The new Christian calendar, adopted by the Empire some years ago, while I labored in the cane fields, still feels strange to me at this time of year. Some in the colonies still view 25 March as the start of the Civil Year, and I confess that I will always count myself among them. But for many, the adoption of January 1 as the start of the New Year provides a welcome excuse to carouse and avoid a day’s work. Even now, while Kannice and I and a few of her most devoted patrons gather before the hearth, coaxing heat and comfort from the blaze, revelers sing bawdy songs in the streets, too foolish, or perhaps too far gone with drink to feel the chill.
Regardless of when the year begins, it seems impossible to me that it can be 1765 already. When I was a lad in Bristol, 1766 — the year I will reach the age of forty — seemed impossibly far away. Now it looms on my immediate horizon. And yet I sense that the intervening year, this 1765, will bring developments both great and terrible to Boston and to my life here. Already, there is unrest growing in the corridors of power in the province of Massachusetts Bay, irrational responses to Parliament’s legitimate exercise of its colonial authority. I understand little of what I hear, and I agree with far less. But I cannot help but think that the rabble now sowing discontent among the masses will find a way to intrude upon my peace and my livelihood.
Kannice bids me be of good cheer, and for her sake, I try. But I am filled with foreboding. Time will tell if I am merely imagining trouble where none exists, or if I shall prove prescient in the end.