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Pastor Kastenmayer's Revenge

By Virginia DeMarce


April, 1635

Ludwig Kastenmayer would never forget the day. April 11, 1634, by the reckoning of these up-timers, who had adopted the pope's calendar. The day that one of them had stolen his daughter. It was the worst thing that had happened to him since Count Ludwig Guenther assigned him to the new parish of St. Martin's in the Fields after the Rudolstadt Colloquy.

The man should not even have been in Grantville. He was an officer in the military of the New United States and should have been in Erfurt, where he was assigned.

Jonas—Jonas Justinus Muselius, the youngest teacher at the Lutheran elementary school attached to the church and a friend of several of the up-timers—had said that he was on "R and R." Even after Jonas had explained it to him, Pastor Kastenmayer found it peculiar. There was far more to do in Erfurt than in Grantville. Theological lectures by guest professors. Organ concerts. Choral performances. Sermons by visiting pastors. The man should have stayed in Erfurt for his holiday. Erfurt was a magnificent city. Kastenmayer had greatly enjoyed all four of his visits there.

That man should not have come to Grantville and, within less than two weeks, seen Andrea on the street, walked up to her, introduced himself, persuaded her to accompany him to a public restaurant for a meal, and—married her! Six weeks before the end of the school term at Countess Katharina the Heroic School next to St. Martin's, leaving her younger sister Maria Blandina to manage all of the youngest children by herself. Still, there were only eighty-three of them, after all. There had been little reason for Maria Blandina to complain so bitterly.

Barbaric, this idea that couples could marry in three days' time and without the consent of the parents. Especially when anyone who thought about it should have realized that the parents would not consent. The man was—well, ultimately, to put it plainly—


At least he hadn't insisted that Andrea convert to his church. That would have been the final embarrassment. Nonetheless, it had been difficult to explain to the consistory in Rudolstadt. Extremely difficult, to say the least. Better yet, they had not married in the Grantville Catholic church. Pastor Kastenmayer had derived some minimal satisfaction from discovering that St. Mary's forbade such an absurdity as manifestly disastrous mixed-confessional matrimony on three days' notice, even if the civil laws did not. They had married before the mayor at the Rathaus, the man saying casually (Pastor Kastenmayer had heard second hand; he had not been there in person) that they "could get the religious stuff sorted out when they had time."

Additionally, Salome, his second wife, suggested that it was his own fault for not having arranged marriages for the daughters of his first marriage in a more timely manner. Indeed, she had commented that it would not be entirely surprising if Maria Blandina chose an equally unsuitable spouse. She hadn't quite said that the girls were both self-centered young snips with pretty faces... not... quite.

Pastor Kastenmayer had duly sounded out Jonas about Maria Blandina. It would have been quite suitable; the father of young Muselius had been his second wife's half-brother. But he had received a courteous refusal. Too bad. God had blessed Pastor Kastenmayer greatly—five children from his first wife, all surviving (and the two oldest earning salaries, one as a city clerk and one as a junior pastor, which was also a great blessing). Eight children from his second wife, seven surviving. And, ah, of all those, currently, three sets of board, room, and tuition at the university in Jena; two sets of board, room, and tuition at the Latin school in Rudolstadt, and two boys still not old enough for Countess Katharina the Heroic. All on the salary of a parish pastor, with a bit of tutoring here and there. Salome had recently informed him that they were to be blessed again. I am supposed to find a dowry for Maria Blandina just where? he asked himself. He sighed most gloomily and considered lengthening his morning prayers.

But Jonas, although refusing the offer of a wife, had suggested an alternative. What he called a "payback."

Jonas felt very responsible for the remainder of the village he had led into Grantville. A few old people, a couple of young mothers, and quite a few children. Well, some of the children had been adolescents in 1631, and most of the adolescents had been girls. The older boys had stayed behind with their fathers to fight the delaying action against the mercenaries from Badenburg. The boys lay dead with their fathers, in a mass grave next to the burned-out church. Now, in 1634, the older girls were becoming—at least at the ages the up-timers considered suitable—marriageable. Also without dowries. The arable lands of Quittelsdorf had been removed to West Virginia, Herr Gary Lambert had told Jonas. At least, that was the up-timers' best guess as to where God had chosen to put their fields. God moved in most mysterious ways. If they had not fled from the mercenaries, they too, presumably, would have been removed to West Virginia. It had been a good day to work in the fields.

"So," Jonas had said, "if the Habsburgs can do it"—he quoted the proverb about "happy Austria" waging matrimony rather than war, in Latin, of course—"then so can we. We must ask 'die Krausin.'" Margaretha Krause, widowed with three children, had gone into service as housekeeper and cook for a middle-aged American whose wife had been left up-time and shortly thereafter had married him.

Before the construction of St. Martin's in the Fields, be it known. Pastor Kastenmayer had had nothing to do with it. The man was not Lutheran. On the other hand, he was a skilled artisan with a regular position, owned a house, and did not interfere with her church attendance. He had allowed her to have their daughter baptized Lutheran at St. Martin's. Things could be worse.

"But," Pastor Kastenmayer had protested, "I do observe the truth that the different churches and their pastors of this Grantville appear to survive in this parity arrangement without excessive conflict. But still—if we try to pluck away their members. That will certainly cause offense. Which Count Ludwig Guenther does not wish to cause. They are his allies. He is part of their confederation."

Jonas cocked his head to the side a little. "More than a third of these up-timers belong to no church at all."

"You mean that they do not enforce attendance?"

"No. People who do not belong to any of the churches in the town. They are not only not Lutherans. They are not even heretics." The honest sense of scandal that had enveloped Jonas when he first discovered this was still plain to be heard in his voice. "But, anyway. We steal their men, but we don't steal them from any of their churches. How can the other pastors complain if we convert the heathen?"

From the perspective of his sixty-five years, the first forty-five of them spent among the feuding theologians of Saxony, Pastor Kastenmayer predicted grimly, "They'll find a way."

But it had been irresistible. He called upon "die Krausin," now known to the Grantville public as Mrs. Burton Vandiver. He did not overreach. The weapon that God had forged to his hand consisted of, after all, a dozen quite ordinary village girls, even though they had been given two or three years more schooling in Grantville. His requirements were basic. He needed a list of up-time marriage candidates: just, "no constant drunkards, no brawlers, no lazy louts who will expect their wives to support them."

One more year. Palm Sunday, 1635. Harvest time coming in the spring. He smiled upon his congregation from the pulpit. "Today we welcome into fellowship through the rite of adult confirmation... Herr Ryan Baker, Herr Derek Blount, Herr James Anthony Fritz, Herr Mitch Hobbs, Herr Michael Lewis Jenkins, Herr Errol Mercer, Herr Roland Worley..."

The men stood in front of him, closely shaved, their hair cut very short with the exception of Herr Mercer, who had grown his to a respectable length for an adult man since leaving the army, wearing "neckties" and, most of them, the semi-stunned expression of guys who have not fully analyzed the process by which they got themselves into their current situation.

According to Herr Lambert, the "neckties" were a good omen, indicating that the men were taking their oaths seriously.

The girls of vanished Quittelsdorf had done well in the service of their Lord. Indeed, one was also betrothed to the stepson of "die Krausin," but that young man, like his father, was a church member elsewhere; another was betrothed to a colleague of Ryan Baker, but that man also belonged to an up-time church. Still, he had seven. "Seven at one blow," he thought, as the story of the brave little tailor flitted through his mind. Four of the Quittelsdorf girls, prompted by Jonas, had even made their chosen husbands go back to school and get the magic "GED" before they agreed to marry. Jonas was, after all, not merely a school teacher, but their own former teacher, from their lost village; they listened to him. Pastor Kastenmayer proceeded through the liturgy in a dignified manner, but part of his mind was on other things.



Things Could be Worse:
Ryan Baker and Magdalena Heunisch 


May, 1634

Ryan Baker had gotten out of the army—stupid amount of paperwork involved with that, it turned out—and gone for a beer. Where he had found the girl. Magdalena. He called her Meg—Magdalena didn't come off his tongue very well. Four hours later, he asked a little doubtfully, "Don't you need to go home, or something? Won't somebody be worried if you don't turn up? What about your mom and dad?"

She wasn't any more than five feet tall, if that. Narrow little shoulders; flat little chest; tiny little waist; a bit more in the way of hips, but not a lot. Now she crossed her arms on the table, put her chin on them, looked at the mug of beer he had bought her, and said, "Dead."

"Ah? Dead?"

"Father dead. I was little girl. Had stepfather. Dead when the soldiers came. Had brother. Dead when the soldiers came. Mother bigger than me. Strong. Worked hard. Stayed to fight the soldiers. Brave. Dead." She picked up the beer mug.

It was dawning on Ryan that there might be situations in the world worse than the one in which he found himself. He had never been particularly fond of Dayna Shockley, who had already been his stepmother for ten years as of the Ring of Fire. It wasn't that she was awful—just that if Dad hadn't married her, he would never have talked to the woman. But his mother was left up-time, so there hadn't been much option except to move in with Dad and Dayna after the Ring of Fire until he finished high school.

He graduated in 1633, did his basic and one year in the full-time military, and really, really, didn't want to move back in with Dad and Dayna now that he was getting out and had a job as a trainee at the Grantville-Rudolstadt-Saalfeld Railroad and Tramway Corporation.

Meg was continuing. "Things maybe worse. Have little sister. Half-sister. Still alive. Lives with me. No—lives with Maria. I live with Maria. Maria is stepsister. All live in "refugee housing" with Maria's aunt. She is alive, too. She has two daughters still alive."

She lifted her chin. "Things maybe worse. If everybody else dead, much worse."

Ryan admired her for being so upbeat about it all.

"Maria's aunt not worry where I am. Too much work, too many girls, too busy. I am the end one to worry about."

Ryan put his arm about her shoulders, in what he intended to be a friendly and comforting manner. She cuddled her head against his neck. Her light brown hair was slick and smooth. He realized that he had a key to Mitch Hobbs' parents' empty house.

The next morning, she was quite friendly and cheerful. Which was good, all things considered. She'd been a virgin and she might have gone all tearful on him. Instead, she climbed out of bed, fixed porridge and said, "I go to work."


"Kitchen at Cora's. Peel vegetables. Peel fruits. Peel, wash, peel, scrub. Peel more." Her hands moved descriptively.

"Ah." Ryan paused. What next? "Ah, what time do you get off?"

"When done. Cora pays overtime." Meg beamed brightly.

"Ah. I'll be off first, then. If I come pick you up..."

He stopped rather awkwardly.

"We could go see Maria's aunt. Give her this address. Tell her where you're living now."

He wasn't one hundred percent sure of that, but he was pretty sure that Mitch wouldn't mind having him rent a couple of rooms. The upstairs in the Hobbs house had two bedrooms that you got to on a really narrow and steep staircase. Mitch probably wouldn't be using them after he got out. There was only one bath and it was downstairs, but at least there was a bath. Some rent would help pay Mitch's taxes. And Meg would be a really good reason not to move back in with Dad and Dayna. Once Dayna found out.

He thought he'd tell Dad first. Maybe let Dad tell Dayna. When he wasn't there.


September, 1634


Maria Krause looked at her stepsister with exasperation. "You're urping in the morning because you're pregnant, that's what."

Meg nodded quite cheerfully. "Ja, okay."

"You're pregnant and you are not married."

"I told Ryan. He says we'll go to the Rathaus and get married right away. It's all okay." Meg was not about to admit to her stepsister that she had been happily surprised by her boyfriend's reaction to the news.

Walpurga Hercher said, "No!" Very forcefully.

Maria looked at her reproachfully. "No? She is lucky that she will not be suffering for what she has done. Why not?"

"Because it won't help Teacher Muselius's project. Pastor Kastenmayer's project. Magdalena is one of us. We must make our husbands Lutheran for them. If Magdalena just marries Ryan at the city hall, it won't help."

Maria's answer would have been better placed in the barnyard.

"She can always fall back on city hall if he won't go along with it," Walpurga conceded.

* * *

Ryan was very startled to discover that although Meg was (when not morning sick) just as friendly, cheerful, and pleasant as ever, she didn't jump at the prospect of immediate marriage. Meg, truth to tell, would have preferred to jump at it, but she found Walpurga Hercher rather intimidating. So she said, "Want to marry by Pastor. See Teacher Muselius. You be Lutheran."

It was weird, really. Hugh Lowe, the big boss at work, had thought it was a good idea to see this Teacher Muselius. "You might as well find out what you're letting yourself in for, kid. Besides, they outnumber us. They're most of our customers. It can't hurt us to have an in with them, when we're looking for workers and supplies."



April, 1635


Ryan had quickly come to the conclusion that Pastor Kastenmayer moved through life at a stately pace. The confirmation instructions had been excruciatingly step-by-step. It looked like this wedding was going to be a prime example of what Hugh called just-in-time scheduling. Meg was so little, to start with. As the months went by, there had seemed to be more and more baby, with less and less Meg to go around it, like she was shrinking. He'd had the marriage license for three weeks, just in case she started popping before today. And he'd called the mayor, who had agreed to run over to the hospital and marry them off before the kid showed up, in an emergency.

He stood in the front of St. Martin's, his mind wandering as the liturgy flowed over him.

Dad and Dayna were here for the confirmation and wedding. Well, Dad came and dragged Dayna with him. They never went to church. Plus his sister Sam, who didn't ever go to church either. Plus Dayna's two kids. Plus, somehow, Dayna's ex, LeVan Jessup, and his wife, who was German and went to church here, plus her kid and their kid. Teacher Muselius had been very glad to see them. He'd led them to one of the front pews; introduced them to several officers of the congregation.

If it's a little girl, Meg says she wants to name the kid for her mom. Heroically dead in the defense of Quittelsdorf and all that. Ottilia? What do you call a kid named Ottilia? Ottie, nah. Tillie, well, maybe.

At least she wants to call a boy after her brother, not her dad. David's better than Hermann any day. David's a sort of nice name...

Things could be a lot worse.



We're All Cousins, Somehow: 
Derek Blount and Ursula Krause 


May, 1634


The circle around the Vandiver kitchen table looked at Margaretha's list. "Die Krausin" had outdone herself. Pastor Kastenmayer had expected her to select one up-time man per girl and start to arrange marriages. Two years of marriage to an up-timer had taught her that this would not work. She had a list with twice as many men as there were girls from Quittelsdorf. This had not been hard, even limiting herself to heathen men who were of a social class that might be expected to marry undowered girls such as these. Quittelsdorf had never been the largest of villages. By stretching the definition of "marriageable" from seventeen to thirty-five and including a widow, plus Rahel's stepsister who was not even from Quittelsdorf, her list of potential brides was still less than a dozen.

Ursel Krause was standing behind Margaretha, looking over her shoulder. Ursel's little sister Else, the youngest of them all, was standing on the other side of the table, looking mulish. There was a stubborn streak in Ursula and Elisabetha Krause. Of course, their mother was born Elisabetha Hercher. There was a stubborn streak in the Hercher family as a whole.

"I," Else said, "will not do it."

"You," said Margaretha, "have the best chance of all. You have had almost three years of school here. You speak English best. And," she paused to evaluate the possibilities, "you are prettiest."

In the words of the Lutheran catechism, "this was most certainly true." No voice rose to dispute this assessment. Else Krause had curly auburn hair and a set of teeth that a princess would envy. She also, thanks to the Grantville Chapter of the Red Cross, had a toothbrush and baking soda with which she cared for them.

Plus, Else, and Ursel, of course, since they were sisters, still had a mother to watch after her. "Die Hercherin" watched her own daughters a perceptible degree more carefully than she watched her husband's nieces, assorted more distant cousins, and the other girls who had fallen into her care since the day that Quittelsdorf burned to the ground and its fields disappeared. And she had let her own daughters stay in the up-time schools the longest. Too long, maybe.

"I know the one I want," said Else, "and he is not on your list, because he is not a heathen. A heretic, yes, but not a heathen. If I need to become a heretic to marry him, I will. Pastor Kastenmayer must do without me. That is final."

It turned out to be final.

Ursel, from behind Margaretha, reached down and put her finger on the list. She wasn't as pretty as Else—hair more a reddish brown than auburn, and straight; body a little less well proportioned; nose a little less perfectly suited to the face on which it found itself. "I know him," she said. "At least, I already know who he is. If I can have that one, I will do it. If not, not. I will not take a second choice from this list."

That turned out to be final, also. There was a really stubborn streak in the Herchers, and "die Hercherin" had passed it on to her daughters in full.

But, perhaps, it was not just that Hercher streak. Barbara Conrath, only three months older than Else Krause, also with a living mother, also with three years of school in Grantville since the Ring of Fire, said, "Not me, either." Then she grinned at Margaretha, making full use of her innocent round face, wrinkling her pug nose, and making dimples. "I get Benton. I know he's not on your list. 'Sorry, Pastor Kastenmayer,' and all that sort of thing. I'll make Benton go back to school and get his GED before I agree to marry him, though. Promise. Schwiegermutter." She threw her arms around die Krausin.

Margaretha was startled. Barbel would be a fine daughter-in-law, certainly. In eight or ten years. But the look in the girl's eye indicated that she was not announcing long-range plans. And her stepson was not on the list because he, like her own husband, was already a member of an up-time church.

She sighed. This was not going to be as simple as Pastor Kastenmayer expected.

* * *

Ursel Krause worked at the Freedom Arches. Not because of any commitment to the Committee's of Correspondence's ideology nor, in fact, because she had even the slightest interest in it. She had applied for jobs in several inns and taverns. She picked this one because she liked the idea of staying behind a counter where the customers can't grope the waitress' rear end. That was worth doing without "tips." Her mother had agreed.

Every morning she watched Derek Blount come in, get his breakfast, look up forlornly at the blank, black, screen in one corner where there was nothing on TV at this hour, reluctantly pick up the newspaper, and try to struggle his way through the front page. Finally, she realized that he had just as hard a time reading it as she did. But??? He was an up-timer. He spoke English, after all. Why couldn't he read it?

Since she was still taking ESOL classes in the evening—that was why she worked the shift at the Freedom Arches that began at five o'clock in the morning— after several weeks of just smiling at him (direct smiles, not just the "here's your order" smile), duly authorized by Pastor Kastenmayer and die Krausin, she asked him for help with her English...



June, 1634


By this time, of course, Magdalena Heunisch was living with Ryan Baker, so they would have met one another, anyway. As Ursel explained to Derek, "We are not all just from the same village. We are all cousins, somehow. I am not related to Meg, really. She is sort of out on the far end. But I am related to her little half-sister, Anna. On the Krause side of the family. Anna is my first cousin. So we are connected. And Mrs. Vandiver is my aunt on the Krause side, so her children are my cousins, too. And Lisbet and Walpurga are her first husband's nieces. Plus, they're my cousins on the Hercher side. Their dad was my mom's brother." She paused for breath.

Derek had followed this discourse without the slightest trouble. He thought that it was kind of nice. After all, lots of people in Grantville were one another's cousins, too. The town had been around for a long time. In addition to his brother Donnie and the two German boys his parents had adopted after the Battle of the Crapper, he had one first cousin on the Blount side who came through the Ring of Fire, and three on the Stewart side. Plus, Stew and Lesley had three kids; Cherilyn and Bob had one, plus, now, two German orphans they had adopted after the battle at Badenburg. Plus, he supposed, Pam's kids would get married one of these days. They were both working down at USE Steel toward Saalfeld and both dating a couple of Frenchies they had met there—Walloons, they called themselves.

That didn't count the Blount and Stewart cousins who had been left up-time.

Derek found it very hard to imagine a world without cousins and family picnics. It was really nice that Ursel had a bunch of cousins, too. It sort of gave folks something in common. If you ran out of other things, you could always talk about what your cousins were doing. Especially what they had done that they shouldn't. Like Meg moving in with Ryan Baker.

That was where this conversation had started. Ursel's mom didn't approve. At all. Derek somehow figured that he could just forget about lucking out the way Ryan had. At least, with Ursel. And, right now, he was dating Ursel. Which sort of meant that he could forget about... He had a suspicion that he'd been given a message.



July, 1634


Derek drew a picture on the formica table with his finger. He'd dropped by the Freedom Arches to see Ursel on her lunch break. He was out of the army now. Since yesterday. He'd been supposed to get out in May, with the other guys, but they'd asked him to stay a couple more months. He'd said okay, but that meant that he'd missed getting on the crews when the road work opened up in the spring. He'd have to go see Mickey Simmons, he guessed, he explained to Ursel. Mickey was doing the training for the Department of Transportation now. See if someone had dropped out. See if he could get on. Road work was about all he was good for, out of the army. Not having a diploma. And it paid pretty good.

"Why did you drop out? Doesn't your family go to school? When they could?"

Derek looked a little uncomfortable. "Actually, Dad does have a high school diploma. And he wasn't real happy about it when Donnie dropped out first, and then me."

"Well, why did you?" To Ursel, the question seemed reasonable enough. Her view of school was that it had been easier than work, any day. She had been glad, when they first came to Grantville, that the people had sent her back to school. And that her mother had let her go. This would not have been necessary. She had already been sixteen, old enough to leave school by Grantville's laws, and her family had needed money, certainly. And it had been not the regular classes for the up-time students her age, so she had not met many of them. But still.

"School is great." Ursel's endorsement of school was unrestrained. That was why she kept taking the classes three evenings each week. "If I could, I would go to school forever and ever and ever." She threw out her arms, as if embracing the whole Grantville school system at once.

"Ursel, first of all, you've got to understand. One thing, Dad's always had a job. He's never been unemployed, not once. But jobs are sort of scarce around here, so we moved a lot when I was growing up. Not a long ways, but from Grantville to Fairmont, to Shinnston, then back to Fairmont, then over to Clarksburg for a while, then back to Grantville. May have been a couple more in there, but I remember those. So Donnie and me—we changed schools every time. Every time, the classes were doing something that wasn't exactly what we'd been doing before."

He looked down. "I can't read, Ursel. Not really. I can make out some words, but not to sit down and read something all the way through. So I couldn't catch up when we moved. If I stayed in a class long enough, I could pick up what the teacher said and do pretty good in the class discussions. Good enough to squeak by, even if I bombed every test. Which I did. But it got harder and harder. I was flunking junior year flat. So I quit."

"Dad? Well, he couldn't really say much about it—not too much—without upsetting Mom. She's a dropout, too, see. And we were just no good in school, Donnie and me. We're no good."

He went back to drawing on the formica, not looking at her. "You ought to forget about me, Ursel. Take yourself back to school. Go all the way. Be a teacher. You could, you know. Then you could be in school "forever and ever and ever." Forget about me. I'm a loser."



July, 1634


Derek sighed. He should never have mentioned teaching to Ursel. Never.

She had not forgotten about him. She had announced, "If I have learned it, you can learn it. The same way."

She had kept every damn work sheet from the remedial-and-ESOL program at the middle school. Every damn one of them. He wondered where she had found to put them, given how crowded the refugee housing was. She said that she had tied them in a bundle with string and hung them from a wooden hook that she nailed to the ceiling.

After a day working road construction for twelve hours, a guy didn't want to go to school. But a guy did want to see Ursel. And, on the nights she didn't go to class, there she was. Waiting at the Freedom Arches. With work sheets.

And, after the first week, with other stuff. On her lunch break, she had marched over to the police department, found Mel Richards, who had been her first teacher here in Grantville, and somehow got a whole set of lesson plans.

Then after the second week, she was waiting there with Mel. Mel was the child protection officer now, but she still had that teacherly look in her eye. And a stack of stuff. "Look, Derek, I didn't get that degree in special education for nothing. It's just diagnostics. We're going to find out what's the problem. It's likely a learning disability, since Donnie has it, too, Ursel tells me. Bring him tomorrow, if he'll come."

Donnie came. Partly because he had this thing for Britney Yardley, and she had a high school diploma plus a VoTech course. She was assistant to the lab technician at the methanol plant. He didn't think that a loser was in her plans. But mainly because they were meeting at the Freedom Arches. He had promised himself, the day he dropped out, that he was never going to go inside a school building again. He could handle talking to a teacher, but no way was he going back to school.

Mel Richards could live with that. There were a lot of people around who had had a bad experience with school. She had a little talk with Andy Yost and the Grantville Committee of Correspondence.



October, 1634


It wasn't a school. No way. It was just an extra room, added onto the Freedom Arches. No school desks, no teacher's desk, no looming shelves full of threatening books. You could bring in your food; bring in your drinks. No schedules. Just the regular tables and benches. Everybody did his own thing, when he had the time. Mel came in the evenings, after work, and wandered around, apparently sort of aimlessly. She'd sit down a few minutes, first at this table, then at that one.

Ursel practically lived at the Freedom Arches, now, except for the three afternoons and nights she went to school. From five in the morning till two in the afternoon, she dished up food. From three in the afternoon until the place closed at midnight, she dished up work sheets. And happiness. Since the day that Quittelsdorf died, her brothers Hans and Conrad along with it, she had never been so happy.

Until Walpurga Hercher reminded her sternly that she was supposed to be turning Derek Blount into a Lutheran, not teaching him to read his own language.

That night, she cried herself to sleep. When Derek came in for breakfast the next morning, her eyes were still bright red. She was so miserable. He could see it. "Hey, Ursel, what's wrong?" He'd never seen her like this.

Ursel looked at the morning manager, said, "Deal with it," came out into the restaurant part, threw herself into Derek's arms, and in the middle of many more tears, told him. Pastor Kastenmayer and die Krausin's list and Teacher Muselius and catching husbands to make them Lutheran and all of it. It was a full confession. Ursel was spilling a really big bag of beans. Derek was glad that he had on his flannel shirt. It was a lot more absorbent than just a cotton tee would have been. A tee would have been drenched and once this was over he had to go back out into the chilly October wind and build a road.

Ursel cried herself out.

Derek said, "Aw, kid. Tell you what. Bring me this Shorter Catechism thingie. If I can read it now, I'll go talk to your teacher guy."

* * *

He could read it. Sort of. Not without Ursel's help, but he could read it.

The best thing, though, after he talked to the teacher guy, was that he found out that he wasn't really expected to read it. To memorize it, but not necessarily to read it. It would be fine if Ursel read it out loud to him and he memorized it that way.

Ursel reading out loud was almost as good as TV.



April, 1635


So here he was, about to be confirmed and married. With all his family watching. Not just Mom and Dad, but Donnie and Britney, too. Britney wasn't a church member anywhere, either. Plus all the cousins. Pastor Kastenmayer and the teacher had been real interested in talking about cousins—that Cherilyn didn't go to church, and Bob had been brought up Catholic, but he had lapsed. Lapsed Catholics sort of appealed to Pastor Kastenmayer, it seemed. He thought that lapsing was a good thing for a Catholic to do. The pastor seemed willing to live with the fact that Mom's sisters were Presbyterian, and it was just Mom who had dropped out of the Presbyterian church because Dad wouldn't go with her.

Teacher Muselius was standing there, a little to the side, watching the whole pew full of people. He looked more like a cat about to pounce than anything else Derek could think of.

Derek didn't think that reading was ever going to be his thing, but Mickey had promised him a promotion once he finished his GED. That meant that Ursel could go back to school full time after they were married.

Ursel would make a great teacher, some day.

They could have lots of picnics and family reunions, with all the cousins there. Their kids would have lots of cousins. On both sides of the family.



A Really Gloomy Tune: 
Errol Mercer and Elisabetha Hercher 


Late June 1634


Walpurga had an almost irresistible impulse to clean something. The several months of neglect that the poor house had suffered between the deaths of Mitch Hobbs' mother and father had not been helped by a couple more months with Ryan and Magdalena (how Walpurga hated that "Meg" nickname Ryan had given her) living there, and certainly not by the addition of two other young ex-soldiers.

She had heard that the army of the New United States required that soldiers keep their things very neat. Why did this custom not extend to soldiers who returned to civilian life? Was it her problem to figure out the mystery? Probably not. She sipped at her mug of beer.

In one corner, her sister Lisbet was demonstrating something to the young man with the brass musical instrument.

"To dance to." Lisbet stamped her feet. "Dance like this. Can you play it?"

She grabbed three of the other girls and they linked arms. First to the right; stomp. Then to the left; stomp. Move in; stomp. Move out; stomp. Village dances had very little in common with the elaborate patterns of the court dances. The Hobbs house was far from new; the living room quivered under the impact of the girls' sturdy shoes. Walpurga winced. The floor, the poor floor. 

Errol Mercer was grinning. "Yes, lady, I can play it. If you want me in your band, I'm in." He put the clarinet to his lips.

"Yes, sir, that's my baby;
No sir, I don't mean maybe; 
Yes, sir, that's my baby now."  


Stomp, stomp, turn and stomp, stomp; stomp, stomp, turn and stomp, stomp; move in, turn and stomp, stomp, stomp. Ursel Krause grabbed Derek Blount and pulled him into the pattern. Lisbet clapped with utter glee.

Every Lutheran wedding in Grantville. She promised it to herself. Well, maybe not every one. Probably not if the pastor's other daughter got married, and maybe not the up-time Lutherans. But most of them, definitely most of them. This up-timer would be able to play every dance tune she knew, dragging the rest of her little band along with him.



Early August, 1634


The dance band was getting bookings. Errol, on the theory that the lady was the boss, had firmly resisted all impulses to lay hand on Lisbet. Hitting on the boss would bring a guy nothing but trouble. His day jobs had never been anything to write home about—bagging groceries back home in Fairmont before he got caught up in the Ring of Fire; then two years as a soldier; now back in Grantville, basically as a stock clerk at Garrett's Supermarket. At least it worked with the band. Play in the evening; go to work after the dance; stay as long as it took to get the stuff out on the shelves for the next day, sleep, rehearse or play in the evening; repeat. So he wasn't setting the world on fire—it beat blowing himself up with explosives, which had been his other post-army job offer.



Late August, 1634


School was about to start. The group—it had become a regular Stammtisch—kept meeting at the Hobbs house; Lisbet's new band kept rehearsing there. The mothers and stepmothers who had survived the evacuation of Quittelsdorf didn't really like these gatherings, but then they wouldn't really have liked the barn dances and Spinnstuben the girls would have been attending with the Quittelsdorf boys back home, either. That's what mothers and stepmothers were for: to put on gloomy faces and look disapproving. Walpurga sighed. How did they expect the girls to get these men as husbands for Pastor Kastenmayer's project if they didn't spend time with them? 

At Tuesday's rehearsal, Lisbet looked at Errol and announced, "I need a new tune. A really gloomy tune."


"Yes. Like this one, but new." Lisbet launched into a series of musical notes that Errol, if he had happened to be Presbyterian, would have recognized as "Old 124th" from the 1551 Genevan Psalter. Since he was totally innocent of all connection with any established religious body, he just nodded his agreement that it was indeed a really gloomy tune. He picked up his clarinet and played along a bit.

"Mitch, this isn't a clarinet piece. Didn't I see a sax back there in the rec room one day?"

"Yeah, but I can't play it. That was my brother Arvie's. Ain't been played since he got out of band."

"You don't need to play it, man. I need to play something gloomy on it. I'm no sax player, but I can finger it."

Sax? Did that have anything to do with the Saxons? Meg Heunisch found that living with Ryan Baker perpetually confronted her with new and perplexing questions. The "sax" appeared in Walpurga's hands, bright and gleaming (she had polished it just the week before), and turned out to be another brass musical instrument.

Errol started fingering it, leaning against the right arm of the sofa and propping his boots up on the coffee table. Walpurga cleared her throat in a meaningful manner.

Errol didn't exactly ignore her—he didn't even notice her. He hitched the lanyard over his neck to help him hold the weight, placed the sax next to his knees (its bell extended to his right in front of the sofa, almost to the floor), put it to his lips and started to produce a really gloomy tune.

He pulled it out of his mouth and started to make a rude comment about, "how long has it been since anybody took care of this mouthpiece?" when he was severely jolted. The lanyard, thank heavens, kept him from dropping the sax. He found that he had a lap full of Lisbet, who was enthusiastically hugging and kissing him. It wasn't a particularly erotic hug and kiss, but provided him with full opportunity to determine that every one of her rounded curves was quite solid and not in the least flabby. She was deluging him with German, of which he got only, "wunderbar."

Then, without further verbal communication, he was being dragged by the hand out of the house and down the road toward St. Martin's in the Fields Lutheran Church. Which was okay, given how long it stayed light at night around here in summer, even without Daylight Savings Time. They went around the church, up to one of the teacher's cottages, and Lisbet banged on the door.

* * *

Jonas Justinus Muselius could hardly believe it. The tune was perfect for the new hymn he had written, which the children of the school would perform. It was not too complex for them. It was not pitched too high, which had a tendency to cause untrained voices to squeak. It was ideal. Herr Mercer should play it with them, of course. But a musician was expected to be a member of the church. Perhaps Pastor Kastenmayer would make an exception in this case, however. A potential catechumen. A potential fiance. A potential convert. He laid out his argumentation in the classic debate form as he hummed.



September, 1634


The treble voices of the first through fourth graders lifted at the early morning service.

"We're sorry; 
Sorry for our sins; 
Sorry we have done so wrong."  


Errol Mercer on the saxophone carried them along, as the strains of "Moon River" rose to the bare rafters of St. Martin's in the Fields.

* * *

During the weeks after the children performed the hymn, Errol experienced a blinding revelation. Down-time Lutherans hired church musicians. They actually paid them.

He also discovered that singing a hymn to "Begin the Beguine" was no challenge at all to a congregation that could produce "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" in its original irregular meter, a capella, if need be. St. Martin's didn't have an organ yet. It was delighted to have a clarinet and sax.

He stopped by the school every morning, after he got off at Garrett's. "Jesus liebt mich, dass weiss ich." He was no church lady, but everybody knew how to play "Jesus loves me." It went over real good, too. "Du bist mein Jesus, mein liebster Jesus." Muselius wrote that one new for the kids, after Errol played, "You are my sunshine" for him.

Lisbet said, though, that full-time church musicians must be qualified. First, that they must be Lutheran.

That, Errol figured, was doable. Muselius, the teacher, said that it was very doable. He furnished Errol with a copy of the Shorter Catechism in English (he had forethoughtfully had a hundred of them printed in Jena, from a copy borrowed from Gary Lambert).

Church musicians must also, Lisbet said, be learned. He should return to school and get his GED. All boards of church elders were very impressed by pieces of paper showing academic qualifications.

He was less enthusiastic about that prospect.

But she kissed him.

Going back to school would be a lot more work than stocking shelves.

She kissed him again. "Going back to school will just be one year. Stocking shelves can go on forever. Do you want to do that?"

She kissed him a third time. "Or do you want to get paid for your music? More than our little band pays?"

By this time, Errol had a fiancée. He also had a sax, having traded his late grandmother's engagement ring with its tiny diamond to Mitch for it (at the time of the Ring of Fire, he had been wearing it in his left ear; the army made him take it out and the hole had closed up). Lisbet agreed fully that it was more important to have a sax than to have an engagement ring. Errol was therefore quite certain that Lisbet would be a perfect wife.

Lisbet would have been less sanguine about the trade if the result hadn't been that the ring went to Mitch. However, she assumed that if all went as one could reasonably expect, pretty soon Walpurga would get the ring, and Walpurga was, after all, her sister. But she didn't see any need to mention that.



March, 1635


Errol set Jonas' new Good Friday hymn to "Mood Indigo." It caused a sensation. Well, at least it caused a sensation in the Lutheran churches of Grantville, Badenburg, Rudolstadt, and Saalfeld, plus assorted villages in between. It wasn't performed in Jena, Weimar, Stadtilm, Ilmenau, Arnstadt, Eisenach, Erfurt and Suhl until the following penitential season. By 1636, it had reached Strassburg, Nürnberg, Leipzig, Koenigsberg, Copenhagen and Stockholm. (See Muselius, Jonas Justinus, New Directions in Lutheran Church Music, Jena: 1637.)


April, 1635


Errol obediently recited memorized passages from the Shorter Catechism in reply to Pastor Kastenmayer's questioning. In between, looking at the line-up while the other guys said their parts, he started to wish that he had never played in that "golden oldies" band in Fairmont before the Ring of Fire, because he was having trouble keeping his face straight. He just couldn't help suspecting that any minute now, Howard Keel's voice would start rolling in with the music from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. 

He wondered how a performance of that would go over with the down-timers. He thought he remembered all the tunes. And they had seven brides.



What Next?
Mitch Hobbs and Walpurga Hercher 


June—October, 1633


Walpurga Hercher worked at the MaidenFresh Laundries. That was her regular job and she liked it, even if the boss did yell at her for wanting to stop and remove every little spot and tiny stain. "Not commercially feasible," Frau Rawls said. "Look, girl. Get it in, get it washed, get it out. If they wanted that kind of finicky care, they would hire their personal laundress."

Walpurga found it distressing. She would like for every piece of clothing to come out of the tubs just the way it should be. But Frau Rawls was the boss. Some day, she would have her own house. With her own washing machine. And her laundry would be perfect.

Once upon a time, she had not been a "refugee." She had not been a plain village girl, either. When she was fourteen years old, she had gone into service in the town of Rudolstadt, as a maid in the household of the second Buergermeister, no less. She had learned about tile floors and chairs with legs that had been turned on lathes. She had stayed until just before Lent in 1631, when her father brought her home and betrothed her to Wilhelm Conrath. His father had died the year before the Ring of Fire; Wilhelm was the only child and needed a wife for the farm. It would have been a good match; they would have married in the summer. Now Wilhelm was dead and she was a "refugee" in Grantville, along with her sister, her aunt, and various cousins.

They always needed money, of course. There was rent. With so many of them, they needed a lot of food. Living in a city, if you needed more food, you could not go out to the garden and pull some more. You had to pay for it right away. Walpurga had decided that Garrett's Supermarket was best, so she shopped there.

She always took extra jobs, when she found them. The Hobbs job was on the "bulletin board." A woman was sick. Her husband wanted a cleaning lady, once a week. Walpurga gathered all of her recommendations and applied. They were all glowing. She had learned a lot during her years in Rudolstadt. When Walpurga Hercher set out to clean something, she cleaned it. Herr Hobbs, "Call me Joe," hired her.

Frau Hobbs, "Call me Gloria," looked really sick. But she was not too sick to stop worrying about a dirty house. Not in the summer.

It was an old house, the way the up-timers saw things. Not big, really. Not too big for a single servant to clean. Downstairs, a "living room," a "dining room," the kitchen, the bath, a funny room on the side, an "old porch" Frau Hobbs called it, that they had surrounded with walls and windows, that they called the "rec room." Two bedrooms. Upstairs, on a steep little staircase that started in the pantry, just two more rooms under the roof. But the carved woodwork. The hardwood parquet floors. The beautiful ceilings with designs on the squares.

Frau Hobbs just wanted her to run the vacuum over the surface and clean up the kitchen and bathroom. But the treasure trove in the kitchen cabinet and the pantry. The waxes, the polishes, the "spray bottles" with their magical contents. While Frau Hobbs was resting, Walpurga had managed to get some of the house really clean. The two rooms upstairs; the staircase; the extra bedroom downstairs. The ones that the gentleman and lady didn't look into any more. They were almost perfect by the time she was done.

In September, Frau Hobbs was too sick to care. In October she died. Joe Hobbs didn't care about the house, any more. He thought that he was just letting the cleaning lady go.

He did not know that he was breaking a heart and ending a passionate affair. Walpurga mourned her lost love deeply.



April, 1634


Pastor Kastenmayer was thinking about payback.

Walpurga was reading the obituaries in the Grantville Times. Herr Hobbs, "call me Joe," was dead. The house? Walpurga's heart leaped. Would someone live in the house now who wanted a cleaner? "Survived by his parents, Ken and Ada Hobbs. Survived by one son, Mitch, serving in the army of the New United States, and two sons, Arvie and Burt, who were left up-time."

She read carefully. She compared it to other obituaries. She had Else and Ursel and Barbel, who read English much better than she did, compare it to other obituaries. There was no mention that this Mitch had a wife. There was no mention that Herr and Frau Hobbs had grandchildren.

If God were gracious, this Mitch would want his house cleaned.

However, it seemed that this Mitch was still somewhere else with the army. He had just told his grandparents to lock the place up until he got out in a couple of months. Walpurga found that out. She knew who Ada Hobbs was. She talked to Ada Hobbs sometimes when she bought food at Garrett's Supermarket. She mentioned to Ada Hobbs that she had cleaned the house, last summer, for "Call me Gloria."

Ada, who had not been looking forward to dealing with the mess that Joe had left behind during his last six morose months, hired her to clean it again.

It was a wonderful reunion. She had the house all to herself for three whole days. But the kitchen was a mess and the bathroom was worse. She had to scrape gooey stuff off the beautiful "linoleum" with a "putty knife," before she could even mop it. She hadn't had time to even start making the living room and dining room and the bedroom that Herr and Frau Hobbs had used perfect. She had hardly touched the "rec room."



May, 1634.


The name was on die Krausin's list. Walpurga saw it. Neatly printed, right there on the Vandivers' kitchen table. Mitch Hobbs.

Walpurga promised herself that she would never be impatient during a church service again. She would never complain that Pastor Kastenmayer prayed too long, or preached too long, or reviewed the catechism too long. She would never complain that they sang too many verses of too many hymns. She would never try to skip church on Sunday. Maybe, she would even go on Wednesday. Perhaps, she would even attend Teacher Muselius's catechism review classes for adults on Saturdays.

Maybe all of them should go to church more diligently and take communion more frequently.

It was clear to Walpurga that Pastor Kastenmayer had, as the up-timers said, a "direct line" to God.

* * *

Walpurga was not at all sure that having Magdalena Heunisch live with this Ryan Baker in the upper two rooms of the Hobbs house counted as Divine Providence. After all, they were not married. And Magdalena was not a neat cook. Still, it ensured that she would meet this Mitch, even if he did not want a cleaning lady.



June, 1634


Mitch thought it was really weird to be sleeping in his parents' bedroom. But that was how it had worked out. He had Ryan and his Meg upstairs, where he'd been living himself before the Ring of Fire. He was renting the other downstairs bedroom to Errol Mercer, right now. Once Derek Blount got out, he and Errol would go shares on that room. The bunk beds had been in there, and it didn't seem worth while to do all the heaving and hauling to switch the beds around. So here he was in a double bed in his folks' room. All by himself. Once he found a job, the money end ought to be okay. But he didn't know what he wanted to do. Not go back to hauling human manure for O'Keefe's, that was sure. He hadn't been sorry to quit that job when the army had called for every able-bodied guy who could be spared three years ago. He hadn't wanted to re-up, either—couldn't figure out why Lew Jenkins and Jim Fritz did. It was the reserves for good old Mitch, from here on.

But he didn't know what he was going to do next. There weren't a lot of choices, even in a boom town, when you were a dropout. But he was not going back to O'Keefe's. That much, he knew for sure.

* * *

Walpurga watched Lisbet and the Mercer man in the corner of the living room, fooling with the musical instruments. It was strange, being in the house with so many people. She felt like she ought to be cleaning something. Her fingers practically twitched.

Between the times when she watched them, she watched Mitch Hobbs.

Who said that he was looking for a job.

She had heard her boss say it so often, to people who came through the laundry. To people from whom she was trying to get "investment capital." Frau Rawls wanted to go away from Grantville, build more and more MaidenFresh Laundries in other cities. The boss wanted to move to Magdeburg. Her mouth opened. "MaidenFresh Laundries is a growth industry. Anyone who gets in on the ground floor will make his fortune."

The rest of them just stared at her. She ran through the rest of the spiel. She didn't even know that she knew it all. It even sounded like Frau Rawls, the way she said it. Then she blushed, and said in her normal tone of voice. "My boss wants to go to Magdeburg. She will need a manager for the laundry here in Grantville. Ask her. Frau Vesta Rawls."

What was that girl's name, anyway? Mitch asked himself. What he said was, "They don't hire dropouts to manage businesses."

"You have been in the army. Your grandmother works at a business, at the supermarket. I know her. Your grandfather is in the UMWA and that means that he knows the important people. You can go back to school. And clean laundry is important. Very important."

It turned out that the Walpurga had memorized another spiel from listening to it so often. This was Frau Rawls' "sanitation prevents widespread epidemics and will save many lives" talk. She delivered the whole thing.

A sister less exuberantly extroverted than Lisbet would probably have been deeply humiliated. Even Lisbet was looking a little surprised. What would Walpurga say next?

Walpurga was saying, "Come tomorrow. I will introduce you."

* * *

Vesta Rawls was a little doubtful. But Mitch was a vet; they owed the vets. And Ken Hobbs' grandson. Not to mention that anybody vouched for by that spot and stain fanatic Walpurga was bound to be the right sort to take an interest in laundry, she guessed. Though he had never shown any sign of it before the Ring of Fire. Maybe the army had matured him.

"I'll try you as my assistant manager. Three month probation. If you're catching on, then I'll try you as temporary manager when I go up to Arnstadt for a month. If that works, then for six months temporary while I go up to Magdeburg. But get yourself out to the VoTech Center this afternoon. You're going to have to learn bookkeeping, at a minimum."



September, 1634


The minimum of bookkeeping had turned into a whole GED. Mitch wasn't sure how, but first he had talked to the business teacher and the business teacher had talked to the adult education coordinator and the adult education coordinator had talked to someone in the superintendent's office. All the rest of them had all agreed that he could finish in a year, in his spare time. It was a done deal before he could even open his mouth. Listening to them, he had an awful feeling that the concept of "spare time" had just gone flying out the window. Where was the idea of spending his evenings nursing a beer in the Thuringen Gardens, eyeing the girls? He had dreamed of that, while he was still in the army.

Instead... He was increasingly aware that he was still sleeping single in that double bed. He also was developing this strange suspicion that Walpurga Hercher intended that he should keep right on sleeping single in that double bed. Meg lived in the house, of course and her sister Lisbet spent a lot of a time there, rehearsing with her band. So Walpurga had plenty of excuses to be there. Talk about having your very own personal chaperone. Any other girl he brought in, somehow, only came once. And never got anywhere near the bedroom.



February, 1635


It was ten o'clock at night. There was something wrong with the books, which Mitch discovered at six o'clock in the evening. He had stayed late at MaidenFresh and then later. He had pulled out his textbook from the VoTech Center. Finally tracked it down. Then started to fix it. Finished fixing it. Management wasn't all it was cracked up to be.

The house was pretty near empty. Ryan and Meg were upstairs, he guessed—the lights were on. Derek was probably over at the Freedom Arches with Ursel. He'd passed Errol on his way in, walking Lisbet home. He'd just not bother to eat. Not bother with a shower. Just drop into bed. He walked into the bedroom and... Walpurga was what?

In his bed. Well, standing on it. Fully clothed.

"What on earth are you doing?"

She blushed. "Putting furniture polish on the headboard of your bed." She caressed the wooden curlicues. "It is so beautiful. I want it to be perfect."

He had never though of Walpurga as sensuous before. All of a sudden, other things that people might want to have be perfect flashed through his mind. In connection with Walpurga.

Well, maybe it was not perfect. But it had been very, very, nice.

During the months while Walpurga had been watching Mitch to make sure that he did not make an unfortunate choice of a wife ("unfortunate" being defined in her mind as "anybody else"), she had also been watching Mitch. She had concluded that marrying this man would be no hardship at all on his wife. Her reaction to his new initiative had been quite cooperative. Now she rolled over and started to play with the hair on his chest, twisting it around her finger into neat little ringlets. "On Sunday," she said, "I will tell Pastor Kastenmayer that we are betrothed and arrange for you to start confirmation class."

We are? Luckily, he hadn't said that out loud.

He thought a minute. He had a really strong feeling that if they weren't betrothed, this wasn't going to happen again. Not with Walpurga. His body was hinting that it really should happen again. Preferably fairly soon. Walpurga finished the first row of little ringlets and started on the second. He had a vague recollection that down-time girls were perfectly happy to sleep with their fiancés. His body filed a memo to the effect that whatever might be going on up at headquarters, at least one regional office voted in favor of getting betrothed to Walpurga Hercher.

"Where's your dad working?" he asked. Her mom had died three or four years before the Ring of Fire, but he knew that her father was around somewhere, one of the few men who had survived the massacre at Quittelsdorf. Because he'd gone to Rudolstadt, that day, to sell a donkey. Come back to find the bodies. Dug the mass grave by the burned-out church. Looked for the survivors for six weeks, before he found them.

But he hadn't stayed in Grantville, even though old Matthias Dornheimer had wanted him to. Walpurga's dad would never start over, not now. He had hired out as a hand on a farm, somewhere. Not too far away. "We probably ought to look him up and tell him, too."

"He is in Lichstedt. He is working for old Johann Pflaum. I will ask Arnold to tell him."

* * *

Pastor Kastenmayer didn't see how he could possibly get this young man ready for confirmation by April. He was starting much later than the rest of the class. They were many lessons ahead of him.

"His grandfather," Jonas Justinus Muselius said, fighting not to clench his teeth, "is in the UMWA. Trust me. I'll get him there."



April, 1635


Mitch didn't have this stuff down anywhere near as pat as the rest of them. He was glad that they were reciting a bunch of it in unison. He mumbled. In a pinch, he looked at Walpurga, who was sitting in a pew angled sideways to most of the rest, mouthing the words.

"I believe that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son..."

I do? Do I believe that? Must have gone over it pretty fast in class. God of Walpurga, if you're out there somewhere, watching this, remind me again. What's the Holy Spirit and why do I care who he proceeds from? She? It? No offense meant. 

Walpurga had assured him that it would be fine. Once he got the management of Grantville MaidenFresh Laundries down pat, they could go to Teacher Muselius's catechism review classes on Saturday afternoons and he could go through it all again, more slowly.

He could? Ye gods! What next?  



And Some on Stony Ground: 
Michael Lewis Jenkins and Sabina Ottmar 


April, 1632


Sabina Ottmar picked up the ten-gallon milk can easily, swinging it onto the bed of the truck. And the next, and the next. Her heavy skirts matched the rhythm of her muscular arms. The last one in, she fastened the back of the "pickup" in place with a stick rammed through the broken latch and called, "okay," to the driver. He took off for town. She went into the milk shed to clean up. If she worked fast, it would be done before lunch.

Sabina loved her new job at the dairy goat farm of Mr. and Mrs. Manning Booth. She had to remember that. Mrs. Booth. Up-time women had the name of their husbands. There was so much to remember. She pulled the kerchief off her hair, retied it, and started to wash and sterilize the jugs that the truck had brought back from town. The kettles of water boiling on the wood-burning stove were heavy, but she could handle them. She knew that many people laughed at her looks, but if you were Sabina Ottmar, it was good to be tall and strong. You had work to do and no one else would do it for you.

It was good that this work was so fine. The Booths treated her as a fully qualified dairy maid, and paid her accordingly. She had a room of her own. She ate at their table. It was more than she had ever hoped for.

* * *

Sabina had never heard of a totem pole and probably never would. But if there had been one in the village of Keilhau, her family would have been at the bottom of it. By the time Sabina was old enough to remember, her father had been a landless day-laborer. He had once had his share of the lease, true enough, but had lived as such a wastrel that he had been forced to sell it back to his brother. Then he had died, when she was only five. He had been drunk, of course. He choked on his food.

Her oldest brother, Heinrich, was twenty, then. He had been a hard enough worker—still was, for that matter. But he was in service to another farmer. He scarcely earned his own keep. Not enough to support a mother, a quite young brother who was simple, and a sister much too small to be sent to work. Her second oldest brother—carefully, she walked to the outside of the milk shed and spat, where it would not mess the "sterilization" of the jugs.

Good riddance that he had gone for a soldier. Too bad that he had taken his miserable wife and children with him. Lucky he left before their mother remarried—otherwise he would have stayed, trying to get money from her.

They had eaten, after her father died, on the charity of others. When she was twelve, she had gone into service herself. For very little wages, so young, and the daughter of Martin Ottmar the drunkard. The worst of the work; the worst of the beds; the worst of the food.

The worst of the hired men.

God was merciful, however. He proved it. She was barren.

Seven years after that, her mother had made a very fortunate marriage into Quittelsdorf. Old Matthias Dornheimer, twice widowed already, just wanted a housekeeper. But he was a very respectable man who would have no breath of scandal. He picked a woman past childbearing and married her with all the banns called. He had taken in his simple stepson (who also was his godson, and to whom, thus, he owed a duty). But he had seen no reason to take in a stepdaughter who could work.

By then, though, Sabina had reached her full growth. Scarecrow thin, but tall. Arms and shoulders formed by the hardest of work in the barns and with the cattle.

Strong enough to take care of herself.

And treated kindly by her stepsister, the well-placed daughter of a prosperous farmer. Not loved, exactly, but not scorned. That had been, perhaps, God's kindest grace of all, that Rahel did not treat her as a slut. Though she must have known the things that had happened, at least by report. In a village, everybody did, of course. Keilhau was not far from Quittelsdorf.

Sabina's meditations continued. It was good to be working for the Booths. The cleaning crew in Grantville had not been bad, but she was very glad that the girl on the other farm, Staci Ann Beckworth she was called, had told her about this job. She would be quite happy to remain in service on this farm for the rest of her life.



April, 1634


Lew Jenkins had never been married; never wanted to be. He had been living with Staci Ann Beckworth, though, back when. Not that her parents were happy about it, but she'd been going through some kind of spasm about being adopted.

Then the Ring of Fire.

It seemed that people thought that he was just a perfect example of the kind of able-bodied man who could be spared to enlist in the army full-time. They broke up. Well, after he went into the army, she couldn't afford to keep up the rent on the trailer, not with what she was earning as a waitress at Cora's, and moved back in with her parents. Then she got notions, finished her GED, learned German, married a German farmer. Lew was pretty sure the guy had ambitions. Arnold Pflaum, his name was. Old Plummy. President of the Grange, he was now. Hadn't hurt him a bit to marry an up-time girl.

Of course, he was also wearing his feet off right up to the knees, running those farms. Farming sure wasn't a life that Lew had ever wanted. The army suited him fine.

Some of the guys in the army complained about latrine duty. Hell, before the Ring of Fire, Lew had worked for O'Keefe's. Every damn day was latrine duty when your job was pumping septic tanks and catchment basins. In the army, at least, you had some days that weren't.

Today, for example. He went back to work. Whole barrels of uniforms had arrived, with no sizes on them. And, once they had opened a few, no consistent sizing within each barrel. He was holding each piece up against cardboard cutouts of three different sizes of soldiers; then folding them into three different piles. He got to decide which of the three guys they would most likely fit best.

Responsibility Jenkins, that's me. He grinned. He even refrained from deliberately mixing up the piles with one another.

His sister Bernita would have been proud of him.



May, 1634


Walpurga Hercher looked at the list of possible husbands that "die Krausin" had drawn up for the Quittelsdorf girls. She put her finger on Lew Jenkins's name and asked, quite simply, "Why?"

Margaretha Vandiver, once upon a time "die Krausin," looked a little defensive and said, "His sister."

"His sister?"

"Yes." The older woman reached across the table and tapped the name on the slate. "Mrs. Walsh, the clerk at the post office, is his sister."

Walpurga reflected once more on the utter absurdity of this custom of a woman's giving up her own perfectly good name for that of her husband (and possibly, should she be widowed, for that of another husband, and yet another—how ridiculous). It made it practically impossible to tell how people were related. Had not God himself in the Bible said that Mary was the wife of Joseph? Not that she was Mrs. Joseph? Walpurga had no intention at all of changing her name when she married.

Margaretha was continuing. "They are good jobs, in the post office. Jobs that Germans can do. Just to read the addresses. It is easier for us to read the up-time handwriting than for the up-timers to read ours. To sort the mail, take the mail to where it goes. These can be done by people who do not have the strength for the mines or making the roads. We need to always know when there is a vacancy. Before they put up the hiring notice. To make sure that the best people are ready to apply. These are extremely fine jobs." She paused. "And he meets what Pastor Kastenmayer asked for. He is not a constant drunkard, not a brawler, not a lazy lout who will expect his wife to support him."

"He does not have a house. He does not even have a 'trailer.' He lives in the barracks for the army. He does not earn enough to support children." Walpurga wasn't even nearly finished with her litany of Lew Jenkins's defects as a potential husband.

Rahel Dornheimer looked up, motioned with her hand, and asked, "Is he handsome? Is he kind of man who attracts women? Who has seen him?"

"He is not handsome. Not hideous; not misshapen or a monster. But odd looking. His lower face is scarred—the skin." That was Maria Krause. The whole table chimed in.

"Is he young? How old?"

"Thirty years, maybe. It is hard to tell."

Rahel asked, "Would he be kind?"

"Who can tell, with a man?"



September, 1634


"They want me to make this marriage." Sabina Ottmar looked at the other woman, who was nursing a baby daughter. "I don't want to make you unhappy, my lady. I don't want to make Herr Pflaum angry that I ask you. But I think that you, perhaps, would know."

Grantville was very like Keilhau in one way. People gossiped.

Staci Ann Beckworth, now very respectable and, by marriage, Lutheran, wife and mother, church member in good standing, looked down at her baby, then up.

"I was a fool when I was living with Lew, okay? I was wearing black leather mini-skirts and spiking my purple-dyed hair with mousse."

Sabina looked bewildered. Staci Ann detached the baby—she was pretty well done anyway —and handed her over to the other woman with a burp rag. "Just a minute."

She went into the back of the house and returned with a little book. "It's my old album. I don't know why Mom kept this." She opened so Sabina could look. "Mini-skirts; that's purple dye; that's flourescent green dye in this one. And overweight. Ye gods, I was at my low point. I'd mostly gotten rid of this by the first time I met you." She took the pictures and left the room again. To put it back, Sabina guessed.

"That was me, then." Staci Ann looked up. "I guess, to you, I looked like a little whore. But I wasn't. Lew was the only one, before Arnold." She chewed nervously on a fingernail. "Lew had me at my worst, see. And, yeah, he was kind. Not just that he didn't hit me. He didn't even yell at me, no matter what stupid thing I tried. He'd make a joke of it. Or just go outdoors. There's no mean streak in him."

She sighed. "Don't get me wrong. Me being me, I'm better off with Arnold. For Mom and Dad and the farm and all that. Mom despised Lew. But if it hadn't been for the Ring of Fire—for the kind of kid I was then, I could have done a lot worse, and that's the truth."

"I am barren," Sabina said nervously. "I can't have children."

"Well," Staci Ann answered, "neither can Lew. His mom didn't believe in vaccinations, the stupid cow. Mumps. Junior year of high school. And a gossip in the doctor's office told someone, so it got out. She got fired, but it didn't do Lew any good, by then. Not the way guys that age are. 'Little Lewie lost his balls.' That's why he dropped out, I think, the things they said to him. He's smart enough that he could have finished, God knows."



April, 1635


Sabina looked at the line of confirmands. In an hour, she would be a married woman. With a cottage on the Booths' farm, newly built, where she would live. Where they would live when he was on leave. She had no dreams. She was marrying this man because it had been arranged for her. He was not being confirmed because she had charmed him into it. He was being confirmed because Staci Ann Beckworth had asked Arnold Pflaum to talk to him, and his sister, about being Lutheran.

Herr Pflaum had also acted as the broker for her, in making a marriage contract, along with the Booths. It was kind of them. Of course, that was the sort of thing that a village's mayor did. Herr Pflaum had never been to Keilhau, of course; he was from Lichstedt. President of the Grange in Grantville was not quite the same, but Herr Pflaum was also a church elder at St. Martin's. Herr Pflaum was very young for such responsibility. But he did it well. For many more than just the people from his own village, just outside the Ring of Fire.

Sabina was not fully happy about being married to a soldier. She was aware as anyone that soldiers run the risk of being killed. Now that she finally would have a husband, which she never expected, she would rather keep him alive. But Lew had gotten used to the army during the last three years. He didn't want to change.

So be it. She would live in the much-too-big cottage by herself.

* * *

Lew's sister, Bernita Walsh, watched from the unfamiliar pew. She was so glad that Lew was getting married now—that he'd have someone. She knew that she had sort of pushed him into it, after the idea came up. And after she had met Sabina. She'd been worried sick about what would become of him, ever since Doc Adams had told her about the cancer. She only had a few more months, maybe a year at most, maybe a lot less. Sabina would take care of him, now. And David and Ashley. She wouldn't mind going so much, with Sheldon already gone for nearly two years, if it weren't for the kids.

Staci Ann knew. And Arnold Pflaum. And Manning and Myrna Booth. Those were the only ones she had told. But the new cottage that the Booths had built for Sabina and Lew had two extra rooms.

Sabina would make a place for the kids.



Briar Rose: 
Roland Worley and Rahel Rosina Dornheimer 


October, 1634


"Prickly pear," Roland Worley said.

"That is?" Jonas Justinus Muselius asked.

"It's a, umm, a cactus."

"And a cactus is?" Jonas' English was probably better than that of any other down-timer in Grantville, but this topic had never come up in his many conversations with Gary Lambert.

The conversation at St. Martin's rectory was interrupted by a hike to the high school, which had the nearest library, a visit to the World Book under the topic of Cactus, and a picture of a prickly pear.

Muselius grinned. "Oh, yes. We would agree. Her name is not just Dornheimer, you know. She is our own little Dornroeschen."

"Dornroeschen?" Roland asked.

"Thorny little rose." He started to tell a story.

Roland picked his teeth. He thought, he said, that he had heard this one somewhere.

They headed for the librarian's desk. Between Colleen Carson and Elias Kurtz, the answer was finally, "I don't think we have a copy, here in the high school library. You ought to be able to find one at the public library. Or at the grade school. It's a fairy tale. The English title is 'Briar Rose'—that's also called a wild rose, or sometimes a bramble. They're very thorny."

Roland obediently remodeled his perception. Rahel Rosina Dornheimer was a briar rose, not a prickly pear. Which didn't mean that any guy who tried to get close to her wasn't likely to get poked with something sharp.



July, 1631—September, 1632


At the time of the Ring of Fire, Roland was divorced. His ex-wife had taken the kids and moved to Beckley in 1996. Leaving him, a guy from Denver, Colorado, in Grantville. With a job, true enough—he was a machinist, and a good one if he did say so himself. Nat Davis paid him pretty well. And a house that he could afford the payments on, given that Nat Davis paid him pretty well. And, since he'd been in, between '83 and '85, a pretty decent slot in the West Virginia USAR. All of which meant that moving would have been a real hassle, so he stayed. A perfectly healthy guy with a bank account in a town where not one of the available females really appealed to him.

Then the Ring of Fire.

Jackson hadn't activated him. He was more valuable where he was, in the machine shop. He stayed in the reserves. In a couple of months, Nat hired a regular clean-up crew. What with the apprentices to train and all the new orders coming in, it was a plain waste of his men's time to do that.

That was where Rahel had appeared, sweeping around his machine. Prickly little thing. Pointy nose like a cute Halloween witch—not the big hooked kind, but the little one like his kids had drawn, two sides of a triangle. Hostile. Not picking-a-fight hostile, but just keeping to herself. The only person she ever seemed to talk to was one of the other cleaning women, older than she was, and not much friendlier. Sabina, that one was called. Sabina the Scarecrow, one of the men called her; she was all gangly and awkward.

Then Sabina disappeared. That was the first time he'd actually talked to Rahel—he asked her where Sabina was.

"She got another job. Goat dairy. She is good dairy maid. Better job than this." Rahel returned to her sweeping. Rahel was protective of Sabina. When her father married Sabina's mother, any number of people had taken it upon themselves to tell the sixteen-year-old Rahel just what had happened to her new stepsister after she was first placed into service at age twelve. Some plain; some with embroidery. From that day onward, Rahel had never let a man touch her.

A month or two later, Rahel disappeared off the cleaning crew. By that time, Roland realized that he wanted her. The only thing that he couldn't figure out was why. He wasn't given to introspection. It never occurred to him that the fact that his ex-wife had been sugar-sweet the whole time they were dating and turned indifferent the day after she had the wedding ring on her finger had anything to do with it.

But he went looking. The new job Rahel had found was working for Irma Lawler and Edna Berry, the two elderly "plant ladies" who were no longer up to long, uninterrupted days of labor on bedding plants and seed gathering. He'd leaned on the fence. He knew better than to trespass on her turf in that garden.

It took several months of fence-leaning on his day off before he learned much about her. Her two brothers had been killed protecting the villagers fleeing from Quittelsdorf, so now she had her father, who was seventy-five, and her stepmother, who was seventy-two, to take care of. It turned out that Sabina was her stepsister. She also worried about her widowed sister-in-law, who originally came from a different village and was in Grantville with three sons to bring up and no marriage prospects.

Roland asked her out. Rahel told him plainly that if he wanted a wife who would keep house for him, he would be doing a charitable act if he married her sister-in-law Dorothea instead. She introduced him to Dorothea and encouraged them to go out. After three tries, Roland concluded that Dorothea was a weeping drip, and not someone it would be any fun at all to have for a wife. But he did find her a job as a live-in housekeeper to old Edgar McAndrew and his sick wife, which gained him a few points with Rahel.

He thought. It would take the most finely calibrated device in the shop to measure progress with Rahel.



May, 1634


Rahel didn't like the whole idea of having the Quittelsdorf girls go out and marry up-timers as a project. She also didn't like living in a big town, any more than Sabina had. But she needed the better money that she could earn in the city.

And if—if, mind you—she did agree to do this, she could ignore die Krausin's list. There was an up-timer she could marry. A much better-off one than any of those. She'd gotten to know Roland Worley pretty well. But— as she had repeated to him many times, "I'm a farm girl. I want to marry a farmer." She even said once, as she extracted herself from a more compromising position than was customary before committing herself to something irrevocable, "This is silly. It would make much more sense for me to marry Guenther Conrath, if we had the capital to buy a lease. Or Hans Guenther Hercher." Well, maybe Hans Guenther Hercher, if anybody knew where Walpurga and Lisbet's brother was, considering that he quarreled with his father when he was almost twenty and left home in a temper. He hadn't been seen by anyone in Quittelsdorf for the last fifteen years. But, surely, Roland would not be interested in such petty details as the shortage of suitable and available grooms.

By that time, he had pretty well figured out what portions of her anatomy he could approach without getting pricked too hard. Advancing upon an ear, he asked, "Would they do this?"

Rahel was increasingly furious with herself. She suspected that it was very unlikely that either Guenther or Hans Guenther would ever do that. Lease or no lease. Present or absent. She was beginning to enjoy this.



July, 1634


Rahel started piling on the objections. "You would not want to be a Lutheran." She stated it as a foregone conclusion.

"I might be willing to consider it. Depending on what it involves." Roland thought that he was seeing signs of a snowmelt, but he didn't want to ruin everything by moving too fast. Not even though, the way he was feeling at the moment, he was inclined to say, "Lady, if you would just go to bed with me, I would be happy to put on a clown suit and do somersaults in front of City Hall if that's what it takes."

"Maybe Pastor Kastenmayer won't think your wife is dead."

Roland had made up his mind to marry his prickly pear Rahel even if this might involve a future as a Lutheran married to a female farmer, so he went over on his next day off and did an end run by talking to the minister out at her church and the teacher who did the translations. They both agreed that it didn't matter whether his up-time wife was dead or not, since they happily ascertained that he had been legally divorced from her before the Ring of Fire—and for a reason that down-time Lutherans thought was okay. It appeared that taking the kids and moving to Beckley was "desertion" and someone named Saint Paul had said it was a good reason for divorce. They seemed to put a lot of stock in Saint Paul.

Pastor Kastenmayer was very surprised to learn that Roland had never heard of Saint Paul, except for the city in Minnesota. The discussion had required a visit to the library in the high school. Pastor Kastenmayer hadn't truly taken to heart Jonas' discovery that many of the up-timers in Grantville were heathen.

Muselius borrowed a book of children's Bible stories from Gary Lambert and gave it to Roland to read. He figured that instruction had to start someplace. That seemed as good as any other.

Roland had heard of Adam and Abraham, though not in any detail. And Jesus in the manger. The rest of the stories were news to him.



October, 1634—March, 1635


"Of course you must learn it all if you are going to be a Lutheran." That was Rahel's reaction to his protest that the Shorter Catechism was really a bit much to expect a guy to memorize.


"Because when you are a Hausvater, you will need to teach it to the children."

If Rahel had children on her mind, that had to be a good thing. After all, there were certain prerequisites for producing children. Roland snaked his arm around her waist. His hand angled somewhat upward and to the left. She didn't move away. He kissed the pointy nose. She moved a little closer, which meant that the hand could start to investigate the region where her bodice met her shift.

* * *

Roland got to spend a lot of time discussing the Lutheran canon law of both divorce (established) and time displacement (unprecedented) with Pastor Kastenmayer and Jonas Justinus Muselius, whereas the other guys in the confirmation class just had to make the run through the Shorter Catechism. He wasn't sure entirely why. The question of time displacement and whether his wife would be considered dead if they hadn't been divorced seemed to fascinate Jonas and the minister. Pastor. He had to remember to call him a pastor. Lutherans didn't call them ministers or reverends or any other word he'd ever heard for it.

They even took him to Jena to meet some really big guns in the church. He didn't see quite why, since they'd already agreed that he was properly divorced. But they kept talking about Gary Lambert. And that it would be much better to get the principle established in a case that didn't involve Lambert.

Finally he figured out that Lambert's wife had been left up-time. No divorce. And that the daughter of one of the big guns wanted to marry the guy. Which the big gun thought was a great idea, if it was legal.

What the hell? If he could be useful to them, it was no skin off his nose.



April, 1635


Pastor Kastenmayer was taking his confirmands through the Christian virtues of faith, hope, and love.

Roland shifted from one foot to the other and wondered where patience fit into it all.



Promises to Keep: 
James Anthony Fritz and Maria Krause 


April, 1634


Anna Krause leaped off the school bus and dashed into the refugee housing complex. "Maria, Maria. Maria, is Magdalena home? Tante Elisabetha? Is anybody here?"

"I'm here, Anna." Her half-sister, Maria, who worked the night crew at the bakery for the Leahy Medical Center, dragged herself up out of sleep.

Anna at fifteen. All legs and arms. Only starting to fill out in between them. Dressed in up-time clothing. Maria couldn't remember if she had ever been so young. Or what she had been like, if she was. How could seven years make so much difference?

"I don't know where Magdalena is, Schatz." Maria shook out her shift. "At work, I guess. If Cora's is busy, she'll stay as long as she can get overtime."

"Franz says it would be cheaper for Cora just to hire another girl. Two at regular rates equals the cost of Magdalena, and she's only working one and one half times the regular hours." Anna plopped herself down on a hassock.

"We are getting the money for one and one half times the regular hours. We need every penny we can earn. Don't let Franz give Frau Ennis any ideas." Maria yawned. "Tante Elisabetha went to supervise the cleaning crew. Die alte Heiderin is sick. They took her to the doctor's office this morning."

"Godmother is sick?" Anna's face clouded up.

Maria cursed herself. She should have been gentler. Anna had lost all the bounciness that had propelled her into the apartment. "She'll be all right, Pueppchen. I'm sure of it." No. I hope it, she added to herself. Maybe she could bring the bounce back. "What were you so excited about when you ran in?"

Anna's face suddenly glowed. She pulled out a piece of paper. "Look, Maria, I won. From all the sophomores in the school, my science project was the best. They will show it in the lobby at the hospital. With my name on it. For two weeks. Will you come see? I know that Tante Elisabetha and Magdalena won't have time. But it's not far from the bakery and the lobby is open all day and all night. Please, Maria. Please come see it. Just for a few minutes."

* * *

Six o'clock in the morning. Time to get off work. Maria was so tired that she thought she might die, but she forced herself to make the walk to the lobby. Anna's project was there, just as she had said. With her name on it. She stood, looking.

Softly, behind her, a voice asked, "Do you understand what she did, Maria?"

She looked back. It was the nurse from the Low Countries, coming up on those silent white rubber sneakers they still wore inside the hospital, when they had them. She shook her head. "No, Nurse DeVries. I can read the words and sound them out. But I do not know what they mean. The other marks, the bars lined up, the circles divided in pieces. Those I do not understand at all."

"It's a study about children's diseases in the villages around Grantville. Which diseases come most often to which village. With this, with what she has done, walking from one village to another, taking records, using her knowledge of the local dialects to ask questions and gather information that up-timers cannot, our public health nurses can try to find out why. Why does a disease spare one village, but regularly return to another that isn't more than ten miles away? Franz helped her, but she did almost all of it herself. The study design, the information gathering, the analysis. She's done a wonderful job. A lot of students five or six years older couldn't equal it."

Maria turned back to the display case. She stood a few minutes more. "I can read the blue ribbon, Nurse DeVries. It says my little sister Anna is the best of all the students. Not just the best of the down-time students. Not just the best in the special program. The best student of all, in her class, for doing this. So she will not work in a bakery. She will not be on the cleaning crew. Not in the kitchen at Cora's. I will do whatever I need. So she can be a nurse like you or Frau McDonald. Whatever I need to do. I keep my promises."



May, 1634


In the Vandivers' kitchen, Walpurga Hercher put her finger down on the next name on the list. "Take him off."

Margaretha Vandiver shook her head.

"He is a soldier. He has no house. He has a bastard child. No way is he fit to be a husband."

"The child, yes. That would be a problem. A big cost to him, on a soldier's pay. But the mother has married, now. To Friedrich Pflaum, Arnold's brother, that is. You know him. And Friedrich has adopted the child. A small price to pay, old Johann Pflaum figured, for the farm that Owenna Lamb will inherit. Especially since it is a girl."

They all just stood there a moment, thinking about the Pflaums. More than half of the arable land of the Lichstedt, the village where they lived, had gone to wherever Grantville came from, they supposed. The Ring of Fire had done that. But an up-time farm had landed where those fields had been. Owned as an allod by a man with only two children. So Friedrich Pflaum had married well. Old Johann, truth be told, had too much of a good thing, even before the Ring of Fire. Mayor of Lichstedt. Five sons, every one of them as healthy as a horse and ambitious. The other four not quite as ambitious as Arnold, granted, but still ambitious. True, he had held two leases, his own and his wife's half-share. But it would have been hard for him to place all five boys as full-farmers somewhere. Now... First Arnold married an up-time heiress, then Friedrich. Heinrich was soon to be betrothed to Deann Whitney. It was very strange that most of the up-time men had no wish to be farmers. But lucky for Johann Pflaum. With the three oldest sons farming up-time allodial land, he would have a few years before he had to think about placing Lorenz and Georg. Time, the way things were going, for him to buy up the rest of the leases for what was left of the fields of Lichstedt. There wasn't enough land to support a whole village, now. The other families were drifting off, looking for work in the new industries. Some of the Lichstedter were here in Grantville. It looked like only the Schellenbargers, Johann's in-laws and nephew, would also stay there and farm. There was enough of Lichstedt left for two, or maybe three, full leases. With access to up-time equipment through Friedrich, Arnold, and Heinrich, three men would be able to do the work. It wouldn't take a whole village.

"All right," Walpurga said at last. "Forget the bastard child. Keep, 'he's a soldier' and 'he has no house.' How can a man with no house head a household?"

"Who are we talking about?" Else Krause tried to crane her neck around Walpurga's shoulder.

"What are you still doing in here, Else? You've already said you won't be part of it. Go away and play. Take Barbel with you." Margaretha was annoyed.

Instead of going, Barbara Conrath poked her head over Walpurga's shoulder from the other side.

"Ach, we can kibbitz. James Anthony Fritz. Never heard of him."

"What does 'seasonal employment' mean?"

"Just part of the year, I think."

"'Unemployed' is pretty plain." Walpurga was not about to let go of her view that this man was an unsuitable husband, even for a dowry-less farm girl.

"Where did you get this stuff?"

Margaretha looked very prim. "I gossip."

"How old?"

"Thirty-two. Maybe thirty-three. I don't have a baptismal record."

"Who are his family?"

"He's an only child."

"Still, he has to have parents. Are they inside the Ring of Fire?"

"Yes, here." Margaretha picked up another slate. "Mother and father divorced."

"For how long?"

"Nearly thirty years. Neither one remarried. Father, Duane Fritz. Presbyterian. He is a Certified Nursing Assistant at the "assisted living" home. Mother, Garnet Szymanski. Catholic."

Maria Krause said, "Stop."

* * *

Jim Fritz had not written home, the whole time he had been in the army. His mother was not surprised.

Garnet had faced it a long time ago. There was something odd about Jim. Like Duane.

She shouldn't have married Duane. But she had never been a pretty girl. Thirty or forty years ago, she had, aside from the gray in her hair, looked pretty much like she did now. Which wasn't bad, for a woman in her fifties. It was sort of—expectable. The thick waist and sturdy legs hadn't been attractive on a girl in her teens or a woman in her twenties.

Admit it, Garnet. You panicked. Twenty-five years old. No husband, no children. Certainly no religious vocation.   

Duane hadn't been a passionate suitor, but he had been there. Two years younger than she was. Not—objecting, really. She had done all the things right, for marrying a Protestant. Gotten him to sign the promises, been married in the rectory by the priest. Jim had been born sixteen months later. By then, she knew it was a mistake. When they went to things at her own family's, she had tried to tell herself at first, Duane was just intimidated a little by all the noisy Szymanskis and O'Malleys. That was why he went off into a corner and watched TV the whole time. But then they went to the Fritz picnic, up at the fairgrounds. His own people. He took a folding lawn chair and sat at the very edge the whole time. Drumming his fingers on the aluminum tubing until they could leave.

Duane wasn't crazy. Not the way most people around Grantville meant it. He did a good job working at the assisted living center. He followed orders and memorized routines. He had an apartment. No one had ever called the police to complain about either noise or trash. He didn't wander around shouting in the streets. He didn't see visions or go through emotional cycles from high to low. He wasn't even depressed, in any clinical sense. But he wasn't normal. Not interacting-with-other-people normal.

Neither was Jim.

If she hadn't faced up to the truth and divorced Duane before there were any more children, she would have condemned herself as the world's worst mother when Jim grew up to be the way he was. Stand-offish. Touch-me-not. The older he got, the worse it got—he dropped out of school because having so many people, loud and rambunctious, in halls and classrooms, abraded him more than he could stand. He had gone to First Communion. He hadn't been confirmed. Maybe she should have tried harder, but right then, working full time and everything, just getting him through school had been all that she could deal with. Not CCD on top of it. He hadn't been to mass in, well, years. More years than she wanted to think about. Fifteen, at least.

She had sort of wondered how he ever got close enough to Owenna Lamb to get her pregnant. At least, little Andie seemed to have been spared it. She was a cute kid. The down-timers seemed to be realistic about these things. Friedrich Pflaum had invited her to the adoption ceremony at City Hall. And to dinner afterwards. She hadn't been forced to give up Andie altogether. Probably the only grandchild she would ever have.

Pflaum had invited Duane, too, but he didn't come. Jim just sent back the consent form, signed, witnessed, and notarized. No letter wishing them well. That wouldn't have been Jim, to send a letter or a note. Or even a card. It wasn't the sort of thing that occurred to him. He did what needed to be done. The little flourishes and trimmings that put the grease in the works of human relations were completely beyond him.

Thirty-one years now, as a divorced Catholic, toeing the line. With no letters from your son. It gave you a lot of time to concentrate on your career.  

Garnet picked up another pile of papers to grade. Classes in health care at the VoTech Center were crammed to capacity. Life went on. She really wondered how Jim managed to endure army life.

* * *

Jim Fritz liked the army. Things were reliable. You knew from one day to the next what would be going on. Basic training had been unpleasant, a hassle—too many people around, almost like school. But the sergeants told you exactly what to do and if you did it, you were okay.

Then, after basic, they put him here, at the supply base in Erfurt. It was a really good job. If it hadn't been for the PT part of it, it would have been great. For that, and for shooting, he had to get out with the other guys. Mostly, though, he spent almost every day in this little side room off the main warehouse by himself, putting things on shelves, taking things off shelves, sorting things into bins and making lists of how many of them there were. They all had numbers, so he didn't have to worry about what they were, just as long as they were alike. Then he packed them up to send out. He had lists of how many to put in each keg or crate. Old Man Stull told him where to send them.

Dennis Stull, the civilian procurement head in Erfurt for the army of what had been the New United States, considered Jim Fritz one of the best finds of his life. The man had absolutely no curiosity. He didn't care what he sorted or what the parts might be for, where they came from, or where they went. Plus, he never went out with the guys and got drunk, or consorted with prostitutes who might pump him. Or, if he did consort with them, he wasn't likely to be chatty about it.

For R&D projects, Jim Fritz was the fulfillment of a security officer's dreams. Jim Fritz had a lifetime career in this man's army, if he wanted it, as far as Dennis Stull was concerned.



July, 1634


First, she had to find him. Finally, Maria went to the army headquarters and asked. The young man, boy really, at the desk gave her the address. He smirked. She guessed what he was thinking—the man already had one bastard and was about to have another.

Let him think.

She asked for two days off from the Leahy Medical Center bakery. She was surprised to discover that she had been accumulating something called "leave time" for three years. Her English hadn't been very good, back when she was hired. Since then, she had never had reason to ask for more than her Sundays, so she never had.

She walked to the base where he was, all the way to Erfurt. She had gotten Ursel to use the telegraph ahead ahead of time. He knew she was coming.

He didn't know why. Some things, she thought, were better explained face-to-face.

At least, she thought so until she was speaking with him.

He sat there. Perhaps he listened to her. But there was no face-to-face.

Until she said, "Look at me."

After that, he looked at her.

* * *

Garnet was surprised to hear that Jim would be marrying a German girl. Well, perhaps not all that surprised. A marriage without a lot of verbal communication required might suit him.



April, 1635


Jonas Justinus Muselius had found an English-speaking chaplain at one of the many Lutheran churches in Erfurt who was willing to undertake the man's instruction.

Jim had seen no reason to come to Grantville for the confirmation and wedding. Maria had spoken to Herr Stull, who ordered him to. Orders were orders.

Garnet had been surprised to receive the nicely written invitation (Margaretha had finally found a use for Else and Barbel in this project). She had been even more surprised to discover that Jim was joining a church. Any church. Jim was not a joiner.

She came by herself. She was the only one of Jim's relatives who did. She was a bit uneasy about it—the rules for Catholics taking part in the services of Protestant churches had eased a lot since she was a girl, but she still had a nervous feeling that watching your son join one was stretching the limits. She got there early, in spite of being nervous. Or, perhaps, because of it.

The teacher introduced her to her future daughter-in-law, Maria Krause. Who had a teenaged girl firmly by the arm. And spoke English—fairly good, actually. "Frau Szymanski. This is my half-sister Anna. She won the prize for the best science project last year. Maybe you saw it. It was at the hospital lobby then. She has won the prize again this year. It is in the lobby now. You can go see it."

From Grantville, then—not some girl Jim had picked up at the base.

"She is to be a nurse. I need for her to live in your house, not in the refugee housing. In refugee housing, there are too many chances for Anna to do what she should not." Maria turned and pointed. "Her other half-sister. Other side of the family."

The girl appeared to be nine months and two days pregnant. She was sitting with Perry and Dayna Baker.

Maria said firmly. "I marry your son. You are our family now. Anna can live with you. It will be much better. Don't worry, I earn the money. Pay you. Rent, food, all. I work hard."

"Ah." It was clear that Maria had no doubts. Did Garnet want a teenaged house mate? Even one who won two science fair prizes? It appeared that she had been relieved of the decision. "We can talk about it. When? Next week?"

"Tomorrow." Maria was firm. "He goes back to Erfurt. In the morning. I go back to work at the bakery. In the evening. In between, I bring Anna to you. Not waste time."

Garnet had a relieved feeling. This, she thought, was a girl who could cope with being married to Jim. Having a Lutheran son was a small price to pay for that.

* * *

Maria watched, as the confirmation liturgy ran its course. Somewhere in her mind, carefully covered over so that she didn't have to look at it directly, was the thought that in wars, soldiers on active duty get shot at and sometimes they get killed. Then their wives are widows.

But as long as he was alive, she fully intended to do her marital duty honestly. Each month, she would take her "leave time" and visit him in Erfurt.

Maria kept her promises. The rest was in God's hands.



April, 1635


Confirmations completed, the congregation adjourned to the porch for the weddings. And to the school courtyard for an event that would probably rank as the party of the year in Grantville.

But, as Pastor Kastenmayer watched the beer flow, it wasn't enough. I want, he thought, my daughter Andrea's husband. 




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