1624: THE BAVARIAN CRISIS — snippet 48

 

1634: THE BAVARIAN CRISIS – snippet 48:

 

 

            The other men who assisted the Jesuits in caring for the sick had only one thing in common. Chosen by Duke Ernst and the up-timers, they had all had the disease before and survived it. And, of course, a second thing: they were willing to come. Duke Ernst had not forced them, other than some of his own direct subordinates and some of the city employees. A few Catholics—there were not many Catholics in Amberg any more. Several Lutherans, several Calvinists. A Jew, just a peddler passing through the city. Two Swiss men who listed no religion when they arrived, which probably meant that they deserved burning for heresy. Jakob Balde, now in charge of the hospital, had chosen not to ask them for details.

 

            Duke Ernst had not closed off the city; which was the reason the Jew and the two Swiss were here. One could not quarantine a city for every little disease that came along. For plague, yes, but not for diphtheria. Life had to go on.

 

            Three deaths; five deaths; nine deaths. The count went up every day.

 

            Father Hell among them. Also Oswald Kaiser, one of the lay brothers, a cabinetmaker who had been working on finishing the interiors of some of the rooms.

 

            Balde, in the company of the regent, continued his tour of the sickbeds. And pulled the sheet over the face of another child.

 

****

 

            None of the rest of them would have believed that Keith Pilcher could stand up to Veronica Dreeson until he did it. Over his dead body, he announced, was Veronica going to be involved in the care of the sick. 

 

            “Because,” he said, “you never had diphtheria and if you die on us here, everybody back home will blame it on Maxine’s not liking you. They’ll say that because the two of you don’t agree about whether four-year-olds ought to learn conversational Latin, I didn’t take care of the old woman. And I’m not going to put Max through that. You’ve got Henry waiting, you’ve got Annalise to send to school, you’ve got a dozen of Gretchen’s kids who depend on you. So you’re not going to go out and die of something on my watch. Like it or lump it.”

 

            He might not have made it stick by himself, but Mary Simpson agreed with him. As did Bill Hudson, Duke Ernst, and just about everybody else. Hand volunteered to keep an eye on her.

 

            They couldn’t precisely lock her up. She continued to investigate the situation with the Grafenwöhr properties. Elias couldn’t help her; he was one of those at the hospital, caring for the sick. She continued to meet occasionally with Rastetter, her lawyer. Until his family became ill and he closed his office temporarily.

 

****

 

            “Hey, Toby,” one of the down-time radio techs asked. “Why aren’t you eating.”

 

            “I don’t really feel like it, Franz. I’m getting a sore throat.”

 

****

 

            “Where’s Lambert Felser?” Marc Cavriani asked. “I don’t think that I’ve seen him the last couple of days. Is he taking time off because Keith is busy at the hospital?”

 

            “I’m not sure,” Eric Haakansson Hand answered. “I don’t think that I’ve seen him around, either.”

 

            “I’d better,” Marc said, “check his room.”

 

            Felser wasn’t there. The chambermaid at the inn said that, the morning before, she had come to clean and found him sick. So, according to the instructions that had been given to all the innkeepers, she told Hans from the stables to take him to the quarantine hospital. Had she told anybody? Well, no. She hadn’t known whom to tell. Herr Pilcher, his master, was, like the others who cared for the sick, sleeping at the hospital.

 

****

 

            Balde made his rounds. More than seven hundred people were lying ill in the collegium, today. They were calling for more volunteers to care for them. For more people who had already survived the disease.

 

            Three more of the Jesuits were among the ill.

 

            There had been only about seventy deaths, though, so far. Most of them children.

 

            A recurrence of the plague would have been far worse.

 

****

 

            By the end of the week, the tide seemed to be turning. The patient count was under five hundred. Not, of course, all the same people who had been there the week before. The acute period of the disease did not last long; many of those still in the hospital were clearly recovering. Those who had family to care for them had already returned to their homes for convalescence.

 

            Balde completed the day’s entries in his ledger. The death toll stood at ninety-three, including one of the sick Jesuits. However, no more of the brothers had sickened. So far.

 

            During the plague epidemic the previous year, there had been nearly five hundred deaths in Amberg. God had been very merciful this time.

 

****

 

            Franz looked at his friend Toby. Then, had one of the stablemen load him into a cart and take him to the hospital.

 

            Toby was likely to recover, though, Franz thought. He was a strong young man.

 

            Franz, like the chambermaid at the inn, wasn’t sure whom he should tell. Toby had been more or less the boss of the other radio techs. Franz wasn’t really sure who Toby’s boss was.

 

            It wasn’t as if he could just drop into the regent’s office, even though he was living in the Schloss. Nor could he leave the radio room for a long time to go running around town looking for someone to tell. Finally, he just left a note on Böcler’s desk and returned to the top floor. Someone had to watch the radio, now that Toby was no longer there to do it.

 

            He looked at the familiar, comforting, scene with its blue Leyden jars. Tiptoeing across the room so as not to jar them, he lay down on his cot.

 

****

 

            Keith Pilcher was the first of the up-timers to learn that Toby was in the hospital, when he came to bathe him. Of the radio techs who had come with them from Grantville, this left how many on duty? Keith racked his brain. One of the down-timers, the first one who had become ill, was dead. Three more had been here and recovered enough to be sent over to the convalescent ward, because there wasn’t anyone to take care of them at the Schloss. Now Toby. That left one more. What was his name? Oh, yes. Franz. He ought to remind somebody that they were down to one functional radio tech.

 

****

 

            Bill Hudson climbed up to the top floor of the Schloss and started to cuss a blue streak. It was one thing to say that the geeks were married to their work, but that didn’t mean that all six of them had needed to have their cots crowded into one little room next to the array of Leyden jars. Not eight inches between them; they must have walked sideways to get into bed. Plus they worked together and ate together. No wonder they had infected one another.

 

            He asked Franz whether he had diphtheria before. Franz went on the “no” list.

 

****

 

            Two days later, Bill ordered Franz to the hospital. Until one of the recovering techs was well enough to come back to work, Amberg would be on a radio blackout. No one else had the vaguest idea how to work the thing.

 

            He notified Jake Ebeling. And Duke Ernst.

 

About Eric Flint

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