"Travel is dangerous for babies," came his wife Becky’s firm response. "Baruch is barely two and I am still nursing. It is a miracle that they didn’t catch something deadly on the trip from
"Gustav ordered a plane to bring us to
"Damn, I hate these perks of office," Mike said. "They’re bound to come back and bite us on the campaign trail. No matter what Gustavus Adolphus says about down-time standards being different, I’m not a down-timer, so Wettin’s propagandists will be all over me for using government resources for personal trips. And not just Wettin’s people. Some of our own, like Joe Stull, when he hears about it. There’s just no ‘give’ to that man."
"The next time," Woody said to Emil. "The next time, you fly them. Okay, I know the calculations. Two babies weigh a lot less than one adult, so we can transport four people plus the pilot when it’s the prime ministerial family. But it’s not just two babies. It’s two babies and all that gear. And ear problems, so there I am, flying the whole way with one of them whining and the other one squalling. Next time . . ."
Opa had explained all about it. Sepharad’s daddy was bringing her mommy this time. With a brother for her to play with, and a new baby.
Sephie marched out onto the front steps and said it plainly.
"There’s an acronym for the way Sephie’s behaving today," Mike said to Balthasar. "Or, at least, there was up-time. But I don’t think that Becky needs to know what it was."
Grantville, Dreeson Household
Veronica stood at the train station. Henry had decided to wait at home, since it would be nearly supper time when the train got in. The early dark of winter was closing down already. The wind was chilly and his hip was aching.
All the children came down, cold evening or no cold evening. Martha was seventeen now, the same age as Annalise. The oldest, the most damaged by the war. A good girl. She was holding Joey, wrapped up as warmly as they could wrap him, in her arms.
Hans Balthasar – the up-time children called him "Baldy," partly from his name and partly from the scar on his scalp, she supposed. He didn’t seem to mind the nickname. He left school this year and took an apprenticeship at the Kudzu Werke. Henry and Nicol talked to the owners; they would see to it that he learned enough to make him into a good craftsman.
Karl and Otto, who’d been ten and nine years old at the
The train was late. Of course, the train would be late. The first time they had seen Gretchen and Jeff in nearly two years and the wonderful, splendid, industrial, rapid, so-great-a-modern-improvement train was late.
They jumped off together. Of course Gretchen would not wait for someone to hand her down. Annalise let go of Will’s hand and ran forward. Veronica waited; then greeted them with, "It’s a miracle you are not both dead like Hans, the things you have done. This is your cousin Dorothea’s husband, from back home."
Nicol came forward, leading Will. He was four, now. Nicol and Thea had spent a lot of time explaining to him that his Mutti and Vati were coming to visit him. Tall for his age, blond, blue-eyed, serious. Before Gretchen could kneel down to hug him, he reached up and solemnly shook her hand. And said, "I am very pleased to meet you."
After dinner, warm and fed, Joey was happy enough to play with the visitors. Until bedtime. When Jeff started to pick him up, he yelled for Martha. She took him and started upstairs. Gretchen got up to come along. Then he yelled for Thea. Until he got Thea.
"He’s just a baby," Will said. "You can’t expect him to be polite, yet."
Jeff looked up, startled. "Didn’t Gretchen tell you? We can’t stay that long. We’ve been on the train all day. I only have a four day pass and we’ll need another whole day to get back to
"There is no way we can move everyone to
"Well, don’t say that in front of him," Veronica said tartly. "He knows it, but he doesn’t have to know that other people notice. And of course I am not intending to throw Annalise out. She’s going to college."
"We can probably hang on here a while longer," Henry said to Jeff. "Just letting things ride. But not forever. That’s the simple truth of it. I know it and Ronnie knows it. I’m watching a lot of my contemporaries, couple by couple or one by one, get to the point where they have to give up their houses and go into assisted living. Extended care, if something really goes wrong. The longer Gretchen procrastinates, the crankier Ronnie is going to get about it. She’s younger than I am by quite a few years, but this is one thing where you have to make your decisions on the basis of the ‘weaker vessel,’ No matter what the Bible says, this time it’s not the woman."
Jeff shifted in his chair. "If Gretchen’s grandma thinks that she’s short on cash, she ought to look at our budget. Being a political organizer has its rewards, I guess, but they don’t come in the form of money. What do they call them? ‘Psychic compensation?’ Something like that. In
"- college tuition. And that’s just for Annalise. Martha’s only a year behind her in school; Henry’s already paying for Hans Balthasar. You should leave him here, at least, and not take him away from his master. They’ll let him board. Then four more who are between fourteen and twelve now, three of them boys. To be apprenticed or kept in school." Nicol shook his head. "Honestly, Jeff. What was Gretchen thinking?"
"When she adopted them? That, with any luck, she could keep them alive. In a way, this argument’s showing me, better than anything else could, how far we’ve come in how short a time. The day I met Gretchen, even the day I married her, she wasn’t thinking about schools and apprenticeships for these kids. She just hoped she could find food for them, one day at a time. Talk about a ‘revolution of rising expectations.’ The problem is that our income isn’t keeping pace. Especially since they’re so bunched up in age, except for Will and Joey. If it was just Will and Joey, we’d have a break, another twelve or fifteen years for me to get promotions and raises before we had to worry about paying college tuition."
"Quedlinburg isn’t the only choice, Oma," Annalise said. "I know you like the abbess, but there’s the new university in
"It’s a lot longer way to travel." Veronica looked stern. "Who knows what Wallenstein will get up to next? And they don’t have dormitories. Quedlinburg does. Supervised dormitories. Plus, Mrs. Nelson is teaching there. You know her. She used to be at the middle school here."
"I know Mrs. Roth, too, and she’s in
"Well, it’s in the SoTF. And it’s Catholic. Quedlinburg is Lutheran."
Gretchen was prepared to ignore the dormitory issue, though it was obviously near and dear to her grandmother’s heart. "Do you mean to say you would choose a school because . . . because . . . because of a confessional allegiance?"
"Well, not just that. No, don’t go all hostile and CoC on me. I’m not a bigot. Idelette Cavriani is my best friend, and she’s a Calvinist. But I’m Catholic, Gretchen. You can believe whatever you like. Or not believe anything, as you choose. But I am a Catholic. It makes a difference to me."
"Yep. Evenin’, Martha."
She did that sometimes. Just came and sat there, like she needed a little company.
"I owe Gretchen so much. I ought to be willing to go, whenever she wants me to, and help her with the younger ones. But I want to finish high school here. I want to learn to be a librarian, like Missy Jenkins and Pam Hardesty. Mrs. Bolender says I can, if I do well in school this year and next. I help Ms. Fielder at the public library, already. I don’t want to go off wandering to every place in
"It seems so selfish of me."
She sat there quietly for a few more minutes.
"Naw. Leave it till Jeff and Gretchen actually make some move to take the kids. To be perfectly honest, I’ll be awfully surprised if they turn up the week after the election and say they’re all set to go with the rest of them."