1634: THE BAVARIAN CRISIS — snippet 64


1634: THE BAVARIAN CRISIS – snippet 64:



Chapter 34


Rumores Plurimi





            It took so damned much time to get news out, down-time, when a person needed to. There was nobody in the whole goddamned city of Amberg who could work the radio this week. Three of the techs were getting better; there was some comfort in that. But they sure weren’t well enough to come back to work yet, Bill Hudson said, unless people deliberately wanted to put them in danger of complications and relapses. Plus a lot more words.


            As soon as Böcler had finished briefing them, right up to the point when the ore barge disappeared across the Danube, Jake Ebeling got on a horse and headed for Nürnberg. Somebody who spoke English had to let Grantville and Magdeburg know what had happened—that Mrs. Simpson and Mrs. Dreeson had been kidnapped. The nearest down-time radio array that might be functional was in Nürnberg. If it wasn’t working for some reason, he’d try Suhl. And if that wasn’t working, he would have to ride all the way to Grantville.


            He told Duke Ernst that he would send a messenger back and let him know which way things turned out.


            The Nürnberg radio was working. Occasionally, things turned out just a little right. Getting permission to use it, since it had been paid for and was controlled by the city council, was another matter. Nürnberg was feeling touchy about its sovereignty. Unlike Ansbach and Bayreuth, the other major Protestant principalities in Franconia, it was still technically an ally of the USE, not a state within it. The city fathers were far from sure how long they could make this last.


            He could probably have ridden to Suhl faster. Of course, he had no way of knowing that when he first presented Duke Ernst’s letter at the Rathaus.



Amberg, the Upper Palatinate


            Under other circumstances, Keith Pilcher would have been tearing out what remained of his thinning hair. He absolutely did not believe the way that things had turned out. He had been trying to keep Dreeson’s wife safe. He might as well have let her die of diphtheria. Now half the old cats in Grantville would blame Max because she had been kidnapped by the damned Bavarians. And Mary Simpson with her. He could just imagine the cackle, cackle, cackle when the news got there. But he didn’t have time to worry about it right now.




            The patient count in the main ward was under a hundred, now, Jakob Balde noted. No new cases had been admitted in the past week.


            Unfortunately, most of those remaining were very ill. They had developed what the up-time medic called “complications.” These patients included Herr Snell and Herr Felser.


            Herr Pilcher was very concerned. He had temporarily broken off negotiations with the iron masters and was staying with the patients, nearly night and day. The young “medic,”  as they called him, was visiting the remaining patients regularly. It was hard to determine why he did not consider himself to be a physician. Although he insisted that he was not really fully trained, even as an apothecary, he was giving some of the patients an up-time medication. He said, honestly enough, that he did not know whether or not it would be effective. He had chosen a group of patients to receive it and another, the same number, not. A “control group.” Both were small. He did not have much of the medicine.


            Balde thought that the real “control group” was much larger—all of those who were not receiving the medication. As he watched the ward, he picked up his spiritual reading. Drexel’s School of Patience.



            The condition of mankind is miserable, from the moment he is born, howling and crying. O, the foolishness of those who believe that they were born for splendor. Do they not remember that when they were born, they were less capable than a four footed animal. That they had to learn to eat? Learn to walk? Learn to talk? How long did a nurse have to change the diapers of the man of highest rank on earth? Just as long as the meanest serf needed his diapers changed. Is the man of high rank not just as subject to illness and injury as the lowest? Doesn’t he have to take medicine as often? He had to crawl as long, and is no more able to fly.



            Balde paused and looked at the beds in which the patients lay. And yet, these up-timers were able to fly. Not of their own powers, to be sure, as a bird flew. But with the assistance of their mechanical marvels. What effect did this have on their humility before God? He directed his attention back to the book.



            What then is a man? He is a ball with which God bowls, a mirror of the temporary, an image of unsteadiness. Both Seneca and Scripture agree that he is in his own nature a thing of weakness, in need of the help of strangers, the prey of wild animals. Food for worms, a ship passing by, a guest for one day.


            Nonetheless, we miserable men compete for high titles and gladly listen when others call us “Gracious, Illustrious, Mighty, Unconquerable, Fortunate, Lucky, Eminent, Highest of the High.” Splendid misery! What a terrible thing it is when a man forgets his true nature. Vanitas, vanitas. Without God, the mightiest man on earth is only a slave of death.



            There were no mighty here, in the lazarette of the collegium. Only the ordinary people of the town of Amberg. Balde put the book down and stood up to make his rounds again.



Grantville, State of Thuringia-Franconia


            What was worst, Henry Dreeson said to Ed Piazza, was that, according to Jake Ebeling, nobody knew where Mary and Veronica were. Other than “in Bavaria.” Somewhere in Bavaria. Or who did it. Other than probably agents for Duke Maximilian. Or why. Especially not why. It was a very up in the air kind of situation, not helped by the unreliable nature of the radio transmission from Nürnberg.


            Nürnberg? It appeared that the radio array in Amberg had gone out. Jake Ebeling hadn’t said how or why.


            Annalise was sobbing, saying that they should never have let Oma go.


            Henry, more practically, said that there hadn’t really been any way to stop Ronnie, once her mind was made up.




            Maxine Pilcher had been on edge ever since Keith had written about the start of the epidemic. Nearly a month ago. Now she was furious. She was worried sick about Keith, so she was furious. Everyone else took it pretty much in stride. That was how Maxine reacted to things.


            Today, she was on a tear. “Ebeling, damn him, didn’t say a word about anyone else. There he was, gone all the way to Nürnberg and not one word. Not how Keith is; not how Toby is. Not a thing except about that damned Veronica Dreeson. Well, and about Mary Simpson, of course. They’re all that the people in the government are thinking about. And it takes more than a week for letters to go back and forth.”


            Dionne Huffman brought her a cup of coffee. Not much coffee; lots of hot milk.


            Finally, Maxine spit out what she was thinking. “With Rita and Melissa in the Tower of London and Julie’s baby getting sick in Edinburgh and Rebecca and Gretchen besieged in Amsterdam—and now Mary Simpson and Veronica Dreeson kidnapped into Bavaria—the whole thing is getting absolutely ridiculous. Pretty soon, nobody is ever going to let any Grantville woman set foot out of the town again. It seems like every time one does, she goes through the Perils of Pauline! And it doesn’t make any difference whether she’s an up-timer or a down-timer.”


            The others in the teachers’ lounge just laughed. But Maxine didn’t think it was funny. None of her colleagues blamed the ongoing feud between Maxine and Veronica for the latest debacle. None of them thought that it was Keith’s fault. Neither, of course, did Henry Dreeson.


            Which didn’t mean that other people didn’t see it that way. There were a fair number of old hens like Veda Mae Haggerty going cackle, cackle, cackle, just as Keith had predicted.


            Well, until Henry took Maxine out for Sunday brunch at Cora’s. Then they got to twitter about something else. Most of them, at least.



Amberg, the Upper Palatinate


            Keith still didn’t have time to agitate himself about how all of this would affect Maxine and the folks back home. He was busy arranging decent funerals for Toby and Lambert.


            Lambert’s was easy enough, since he was Lutheran. The pastor at the Frauenkirche would do it, for a reasonable fee, and the church had a cemetery.


            Toby was going to be harder, because he wasn’t a church member. Keith didn’t have the vaguest idea what to do, with no funeral home available.


            And then he had to write to Toby’s mother and Lambert’s wife. There wasn’t anybody else to do it. In one way, he wished that the radio wasn’t out. He’d be able to get the news to Mary Lou and Lena sooner. In another way, he was sure that they didn’t want to know. Mary Lou’s other two kids were grown; Bruce, Jr., got married last year. Lena’s little girl was just a baby. And she was pregnant again. She had written Lambert about it, just before the epidemic started. He’d been real proud and pleased.


            Finally, he talked to young Böcler, who agreed to say a few appropriate words at a service right here in the Schloss. The words turned out to be more than a few, but they were suitable and didn’t say anything about eternal damnation. Just that Toby had been a nice guy. Böcler compared him to a whole bunch of ancient Romans who had been virtuous pagans. All things considered, Keith thought, Böcler probably did about as good a job as anyone could have.


            Duke Ernst took the opportunity to endow a civil cemetery for the city of Amberg, just outside the city walls, that would henceforth offer a respectable resting place for people who were not members of any of the churches. It seemed a reasonable solution to the problem—better than just interring them in a potter’s field. He also provided for the traditional potter’s field at the rear. There were always vagabonds, transients, unidentified vagrants. The poor you have always with you.



Grantville, State of Thuringia-Franconia


            “Why am I crying by myself?” Mary Lou Snell looked at her daughter-in-law. “Because nobody cares. I can’t even have a funeral for him. They buried him down there. I don’t have the kind of money it takes in this day and age to have him embalmed and brought home. And nobody cares, except you and Bruce and Anita. Everybody is talking about Mary and Ronnie. And about the war up north. Everybody hangs on the radio to see what Gustav Adolf is doing. And the Danes. And the French. And what’s happening in the Netherlands. When a soldier from here is killed, it’s all in the paper.


            “Toby was a soldier too. But he just—died. Died of a stupid kid’s disease. No blood or guts or glory. No monuments or memorials to a hero. He’s just gone.”


            She put her head down and sobbed.




            Lena wondered what would happen now. Lambert had been a good man. Now he was a dead man. Dead tinsmiths earned no pay. How was she going to take care of her little girl? Who would hire a pregnant woman with a small child?


            The answer to that question turned out to be Annalise Richter, who appeared like an angel. She managed all the legal business with Huddy Colburn about terminating Lambert’s rental agreement, hired Lena as a live-in janitress/caretaker, and installed her in an apartment above the second St. Veronica’s Academy. The one in the new building, by the refugee housing, that had been built with an apartment on the second floor. According to the provisions of Henry and Veronica’s marriage contract, the apartment would have been for Hans and his wife when he married some day.


            It had been, perhaps, the only really nice empty apartment in Grantville.




            All that Annalise said to Henry was, “It needed doing.”


            Henry recognized the phrase. Annalise had picked it up from him. He said it quite often.




            The happiest man in Grantville—or, more precisely, some miles outside of Grantville, since he had chosen to built his local residence near his slate quarries—was Count August von Sommersburg. Not, of course, that he was indifferent to the fate of Mesdames Simpson and Dreeson. He had written appropriate notes to both the admiral and the mayor, in his own hand, expressing his concern and sympathy.


            Nonetheless, that was all he could do in that regard, whereas the final report that he had received from Leopold Cavriani was a work of art, not to mention being of much more immediate concern to him.


            It contained very little about mining and metalworking per se. It was comprehensive in regard to the who, what, when, where, how, and why of earth moving and rock removal in the Upper Palatinate. Names and addresses of contacts. Advice that this would be a most advantageous moment to offer a partnership to the owner of Clarence’s Pump Corporation. Discussions on capitalization, particularly in regard to the rebuilding of locks and dams. Advice on what to reply if people kept harping on the 1609 survey.


            In the report, Cavriani mentioned that he had greatly appreciated the bit of wisdom that Jack Whitney dropped one day in the Grantville Exchange—that in playing the market, the best principle was, “don’t invest in computer companies. Hardware and software will come and go. Presuming that you’ve decided that computers are a coming thing and likely to stay around, invest in the companies that make the wires that any computer manufacturer will need to use.”


            He had, Cavriani said, found it comforting that the up-time world had not lost sight of this eternal verity.


            Cavriani’s fee had been steep.


            Count August’s eventual profits were likely to be much steeper.



About Eric Flint

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