1636 The Viennese Waltz – Snippet 44
Chapter 15: Karl’s Ring
Grantville, United States of Europe
“I have a letter from Hayley,” Judy the Younger Wendell told the girls of the Barbie Consortium. “She wants stuff and she wants money, but mostly she wants me to get Sarah to tell her what’s wrong with the Austro-Hungarian economy.”
“So, what is wrong with the Austro-Hungarian economy?”
“Hey, I’m the pretty sister. Remember?”
“Not according to the Ken Doll,” said Millicent Anne Barnes. “He starts drooling every time he gets near Sarah.”
They were just back from a weekend trip to Magdeburg. A long weekend. It took a day each way. So they had taken the sleeper Thursday night and spent Friday and Saturday in Magdeburg with the Wendell’s, and come back Sunday night. Karl had taken the excuse to go with them and escorted Sarah to the opera. Sort of opera. It was called A Knight of Somerville, a new play written in the style of a 1930s Busby Berkeley musical. They couldn’t do the full Berkley experience, but it had lots of dancing and was probably loosely based on the events of the ennoblement of the count of Narnia. In this case, the juvenile princess actually knighted the knight of Somerville herself, rather than have her father do it later.
“So,” Vicky Emerson said, “when do you think he’s going to ask her?”
“Just because you’re engaged doesn’t mean everyone has to be,” Susan Logsden said.
“I think he’s scared,” said Heather Mason.
“Of what?” asked Gabrielle Ugolini. “He’s rich, he’s a prince, and he’s not bad looking.”
“Of my sister,” Judy proclaimed. “As any sane person would be.”
“Of the crap that’s going to get dumped on them when they actually get engaged,” Millicent said. “You know how Catholics can be.” She looked pointedly at Vicky
“I resemble that remark,” Vicky said. “Or I would if Bill were Catholic. But he’s Lutheran and Cardinal Mazzare says it’s okay. I’ll just have to endow a church or something.”
“Yeah, but will the pope be so understanding? Or the cardinal of . . . ” Judy stopped. “Which cardinal is it who would cover the Holy Roman Empire?”
“It didn’t have one,” Vicky said. “It was Scipione Borghese till he died in 1633, but the post wasn’t filled after that. The Holy Roman Empire didn’t have a cardinal, and now there isn’t a Holy Roman Empire. There are the Habsburg lands, Austria and Hungary, and they have a cardinal, Franz Seraph von Dietrichstein.”
“So how is Dietrichstein going to react?”
“I don’t know. But if Cardinal Mazzare gives them permission, there isn’t a lot he can do.” Vicky said it smugly. She was proud of her parish priest being a cardinal.
Sarah Wendell looked at the plane on the airfield outside Magdeburg. It was a Dauntless, one of the line of aircraft made by Kelly Aviation. The original Dauntless had gained famed or notoriety — take your pick — very recently, when it crashed after accidentally bombing Noelle Stull and Eddie Junkers. This was a replica, the first one Kelly had made. Bob Kelly’s wife Kay was here in Magdeburg lobbying the government to buy some for the Air Force.
At the moment, though, she was still lobbying — and the aircraft was still available. Kay was renting it out on a daily basis for anyone who could afford the steep price.
“Are you sure about this?” Karl asked dubiously. “I’ve never seen one up close before. It’s much smaller than they seem up in the sky.”
Sarah shook her head. “I’m not worried about the plane. Bob Kelly may be the world’s worst businessman, but he knows how to build airplanes. The real issue is the pilot.”
Karl now studied the fellow in question, who was standing next to the plane and chatting with someone Karl took to be the mechanic.
“What’s wrong with him? He doesn’t know how to operate the plane?”
“No, Lannie Yost is actually a good pilot. The problem is that he’s also a drunk.” She headed toward the plane. “Luckily, I have a good nose.”
As it turned out, there was alcohol on Yost’s breath. But the smell was faint — Sarah gauged it as one beer. Certainly not more than two. Given Lannie’s capacity, he should be fine.
Not to her surprise, Karl didn’t say anything about the smell. Sarah had already learned that people born and raised in the 17th century were more lackadaisical about drinking than up-timers were. Given that water was unreliable when it came to carrying diseases, that was probably understandable even if she didn’t really approve.
She looked over at Karl. “What do you think?”
“I still prefer comfort.” He smiled at her. “But if you’ll hold my hand, I’ll go up in it.”
Holding hands proved to be easier said than done, because of the cockpit’s design. There were seats up front for the pilot and someone else — a co-pilot, theoretically — but only room for one person in the small seat in the back.
At Sarah’s insistence, Karl took the front seat. She’d flown before; he hadn’t. Her hope was that he’d enjoy the flight, once he got over his apprehension. That was the reason she’d made the suggestion in the first place. Since it seemed clear they would be seeing each other for quite some time and he had lands scattered all over central Europe, Sarah figured that aviation would be a handy thing to encourage.
When they got up in the air, Karl turned around to look back at her. “You promised to hold my hand!” he said, shouting to be heard over the noise of the engine.
Sarah rolled her eyes, but gave him her left hand. It was a sunny day and unseasonably warm, so she didn’t object when he took her glove off. Then she felt the cold metal of the ring as he slipped it onto her finger. She turned to look, and he shouted: “Will you marry me?”
Lannie looked at them and grinned. Sarah didn’t let go of Karl’s hand but she didn’t answer right away. She wanted to think about it — and the noise of the engine gave her an excuse to wait until they landed. Besides, she figured after pulling a stunt like this, he should just damn well wait anyway.
The decision took less time than she would have though. Once the plane was on the ground, she didn’t wait for the engine to be turned off.
“Yes!” she shouted.
“What about the religious issues?” Fletcher Wendell asked.
“Karl is talking with Cardinal Mazzare,” Sarah said. “There’s not going to be that much of an issue, anyway. He’s Prince Karl von Liechtenstein and I’m plain old Sarah Wendell, so it’s going to be a morganatic marriage. Which is okay. I have enough money so that it’s not going to be a problem for our kids. And, as far as I’m concerned his cousin Hartmann can have it. Or Hartmann’s kids can. I figure we’ll likely outlive Hartmann, unless medical care in Austria-Hungary gets a lot better.” While much of the USE had taken to up-time medical practice with a will, that response was hardly universal throughout Europe. “Anyway, we’ve agreed that we will let the kids choose their religion for themselves once they grow up. Karl has his own confessor, of course, but Father George has a pretty reasonable attitude. He’s been on the wrong end of religious persecution in England, so after a few talks with Cardinal Mazzare, he has developed a great deal of respect for freedom of conscience.”