1636: The Ottoman Onslaught – Snippet 09
Bonnie nodded. “So they are. Just shy of fifty pounds. I’d prefer lighter bombs myself. But the problem is that we’ve run out of the smaller jugs that we originally used. And this isn’t the time and place I came from where you could just pick up the phone and order a new batch of jugs from some factory off in Philadelphia or Kansas City or wherever and have them delivered by UPS in a few days. Until we get some more of those smaller jugs, we’ve got no choice but to use the pots at hand. And if those pots make for incendiary bombs that are too big and heavy for a Size 4 girl like Mary to handle easily, so be it. We can train someone else to be the Pelican‘s co-pilot.”
She paused for a moment and contemplated Ursula. The German woman was somewhere in her late twenties, looked to be in pretty good health — and, unlike Mary Tanner Barancek, didn’t have the usual American female obsession with her weight. She was attractive but on the heavy side, as was Bonnie herself.
(Well, on the heavy side, anyway. Bonnie didn’t think she was as good-looking as Ursula, but she didn’t care much because one Johann Heinrich Böcler didn’t seem to.)
“How about you?” she asked. “You could be a bombardier, if you wanted to.”
For a moment, Ursula got a look on her face that was almost longing. For whatever reason — perhaps because she’d been rescued by an airship — Ursula adored flying. She went up in one of the airships any chance she got and whenever an airplane passed overhead she wouldn’t stop looking at it until it was out of sight.
She shook her head. “No, it wouldn’t be right. If I were up in the air all the time I couldn’t conduct my missionary work properly.”
Bonnie tightened her lips in order to keep herself from saying something impolitic. Like, oh… Who the hell ever heard of an Episcopalian missionary?
But, sure enough, Ursula Gerisch was one — and surprisingly effective at it. In the short time since she’d returned from Grantville she’d already made seven or eight converts.
What was it about down-time Germans that made them so receptive to new up-time creeds? Bonnie had heard that the Mormons were growing by leaps and bounds over in Franconia, especially in and around Bamberg. Apparently, up-time Episcopalians were different enough from down-time Anglicans that nobody — at least, no Germans — thought of them as an English church.
Bonnie herself was a Baptist, formally speaking. But although she considered herself a Christian she was not deeply committed to any particular denomination or creed. If things continued to unfold well between her and Johann — familiarly known as “Heinz” — she’d probably eventually become a Lutheran. Just to keep peace in the family, so to speak. His father was a Lutheran pastor, and while Heinz himself shared Bonnie’s indifference to theology, he had a strong attachment to respectability. Bonnie sometimes found that trait annoying, but most of the time she didn’t. There had been aspects of West Virginia hillbilly culture that she’d never cared for at all, starting with the carousing and not-infrequent brawls at the bar located on US Route 250, not all that far from the house where she’d grown up.
She giggled, for a moment.
“What’s so funny?” asked Ursula.
“Oh… I just had a flash image of Heinz in the middle of a tavern brawl.”
Ursula’s laugh was an outright caw. “Not likely!” Smiling, she shook her head. “He is a nice man, Heinz is. Even if he won’t listen to me about the true church.”
At that very moment, elsewhere in Regensburg, the nice man in question was feeling quite exasperated — and several times over.
First, he was exasperated because the wainwright he was negotiating with to supply the Third Division with wagons was being pointlessly stubborn. Böcler was operating within the tight budget constraints given to him by the Third Division’s quartermaster, Major David Bartley. The offer he was making to Herr Fuhrmann was a take-it-or-leave-it proposition and the man knew it perfectly well.
Second, he was exasperated because once again he’d had to fend off Ursula Gerisch’s continuing effort to convert him to her newly-adopted Episcopal church. There was no chance at all that Heinz would abandon the Lutheran faith he’d been brought up in. Not because he was so devoted to that creed as a matter of theological conviction, but simply because it would cause undue and unneeded stress upon his relations with his family.
Which — point of exasperation Number Three — were already under some stress because somehow his father had discovered that he had formed an attachment of sorts with Bonnie Weaver and said father, being a conscientious pastor, was making a blasted nuisance of himself by peppering his son with letters inquiring as to the young woman’s character, faith, demeanor, parentage, education, financial prospects — you name the issue and Pastor Böcler was sure to include it in his queries.
As if he wasn’t busy enough already!
Which — fourth — brought him to the major, never-ending and ongoing source of his exasperation, which was the simplest of them all.
He didn’t make enough money. Not to support a wife and family, at any rate. He knew from various remarks she’d made that Bonnie herself wasn’t particularly concerned about the matter. She had the common — quite startling — American attitude on the issue, which Heinz thought was a perfect illustration of Aesop’s fable about the ant and the grasshopper.
The up-timers didn’t even have the excuse of not being familiar with the fable. They knew Aesop’s fables quite well, as a matter of fact. Yet they would approvingly refer to the fable in one breath and in the very next make it clear that they considered the grasshopper to be the model for their own conduct.
The one time he’d tried to address the issue directly with Bonnie, her insouciant answer had been “the Lord will provide.”
Baptists, they called themselves. Amazingly, it was quite a prominent creed among the Americans.
How had they managed to survive?
“Never mind,” he finally told Herr Fuhrmann, having come to the end of his patience. “The wheelwright, Herr Becker, is willing to accept the terms I offered. I’m sure he won’t object to the extra business of having to do a lot of wagon repair because you won’t provide me with sufficient new ones.”
And off he went, ignoring the protests coming from behind him.
Watching the scene through the window in a tavern across the street, David Bartley came to his decision. He’d been pondering it for days, much longer than he would have weighed a decision involving the stock market.
In the end, that disparity was the decisive factor for him. David simply couldn’t transfer the dispassionate, even cold-blooded way he worked the stock market over to his commercial dealings with people in the flesh. He didn’t think Johann Heinrich Böcler was particularly cold-blooded either, but what the young man exemplified was the best sort of German junior official. He was hard-working and conscientious almost to a fault. Best of all — David had never had any use for so-called “hard sell” artists — while Böcler would take “no” for an answer he’d keep looking until he found someone who’d say “yes.” People didn’t discourage him the way they could so often discourage Bartley himself.