Legions Of Pestilence – Snippet 17
Kamala shuddered. It was all just so–nineteenth century. She had seen photos from the 1800s, taken during epidemics of cholera, with the yellow tape strung across the doors and windows of infected houses.
“How do you handle the bodies?” she asked. “And the houses.”
“For the bodies, they are collected by the death carts. They are collected naked. There must be no clothing, not even a shroud, to tempt the impoverished and greedy to rob the corpse. That only leads to further spread.”
“To man the carts, one must have persons who have already had the plague and survived it. It is not a popular occupation. Often, one must draft people for the duty over their very loud objections. There can be no individual burials. Outside of the town or village, one digs plague pits. The best are twenty feet deep. The width can be expanded to accommodate the number of corpses. The diggers should also be persons who have already sickened with the plague in the past and survived. The carts bring the bodies there and throw them in. Each day’s dead are then covered with ashes and lye.”
“The living, also, come out of the plague house nude. The city will provide fresh clothing.”
“And the house itself?”
“Ideally, every plague house would be burned to the ground, and everything in it. That is not practical. There is always too much danger that the fire might spread.”
“We hire crews of people to disinfect the houses and burn the contents. We hire more guards to make sure that they do burn the contents. Again, many are unwilling and drafted into the duty. Sometimes, on occasion, these people move from city to city, where they hear rumors of plague, offering their services.”
“It’s as hard as hell to keep them from stealing.”
“They are to burn all fabric–clothing, bedding, towels, rugs, curtains and tapestries. We have seen too many cases where plague was brought into a town by a rag-picker’s cart. You have to keep a close eye on paper makers. They are so greedy for old linen, they will be tempted to buy and store even that from plague houses.”
“‘The love of money is the root of all evil,'” Gatterer interjected.
“Then, once the house has been stripped, they clean it, from top to bottom.”
“Vinegar, primarily. It is believed to kill the infection.” Guarinonius paused. “I am not sure whether it does or not. At the very least, it does no harm.”
“It doesn’t, I’m sure,” Kamala said. “I recommend stocking up on DDT and chlorine bleach.”
“Good Lord,” she said to Carey Calagna that evening after getting their respective children bedded down. “Give me a glass of wine. I could use a whole bottle.”
“Bad day at Black Rock?”
“‘To recapitulate…’ Who was it that used to say that? At least the down-timers are used to having plague doctors wear protective costumes. Masks, and waxed clothing to fend off fleas. So when we require our personnel to use face masks and gloves, it just makes ordinary people think first that we know what we’re doing, and secondly that we’re giving them the kind of treatment that ordinarily only the wealthiest could possibly afford.”
She repeated that thought when they got back to work the next morning.
“The wealthiest or, in Italy, those already confined to a pest house,” Dr. Weinhart answered. “The city councils employ doctors to treat them.”
“The up-time treatment protocols require everyone known to have been exposed to a plague victim to receive a seven-day preventive course of antibiotics.”
Everyone in the room just looked at one another, realizing the impossibility of this. The level of chloramphenicol production, in the face of an epidemic the size of the one that was coming…
The up-time protocols weren’t irrelevant, exactly. They were just impossible.
“By the grace of God,” Guarinonius said. “By His grace, we will accomplish this, trusting that He will provide us with sufficient and appropriate resources.”
Weinhart looked at the protocol written on the easel. “It’s not as if we haven’t done it before.”
“We have done it for a single walled town, such as Kronach. We have done it for a particular Italian city state, such as Pisa. Sometimes, we have tried to do it for a small principality, such as Tuscany. Never before have we done it on a frontier that will run from the coast of the Low Countries to Venice, from the Atlantic to the Adriatic, in a curving line across central Europe. Without the up-timers, we would never have dreamed of attempting such a thing.
“It is a good protocol,” Claudia de Medici said. “We agree with Dr. Guarinonius that We need for it to be uniform.” She gestured at Dr. Bienner. “Let it occur.”
Bienner, having a considerable amount of experience in understanding the regent, scheduled a “plague summit.” Innsbruck, not Bolzen. Matthias Burglechner, the Innsbruck chancellor, had a fascination with both local history and statistics. He wasn’t young any more, but would certainly want to have one or more of his sons involved in the project. Or, perhaps, he could use it to bait a hook to catch young Motzel. His mind wandered off into only vaguely related topics of personnel and administration.
Diane Jackson showed up from Basel with both of the relevant Baden-Durlach margraves in tow, Georg Friedrich protesting mightily that there were things going on in Swabia that were more important than attending meetings about plague, of all things. Plague, in his opinion, was just a fact of life. She also brought Tony Adducci.
General Horn sent an up-time military medic, Bob Barnes, as his representative–he also sent a letter that too busy dealing with the four Irish colonels to come right now or to send any of his senior staff. He apologized that Barnes was so young, barely twenty, but pointed out that the young man’s father, Warner Barnes, had recently transferred from the USE Department of State to the staff of Herr Piazza, the president of the State of Thuringia-Franconia. He expressed a sincere hope that this connection might be perceived as giving the boy sufficient rank that his presence at the table would not offend the well-born and highly esteemed regent of Tyrol, or any other territorial rulers and mayors who might be present in person.
Bernhard sent Raudegen on from Württemberg, adding a couple of the Englishmen on his staff. Phillip Skippon, from Norfolk, had been on the continent for nearly twenty years and been married to a German wife for a dozen of them. Lawrence Crawford, not much older than Barnes, was Kamala Dunn’s regular translator. They picked up Barnes on the way and spent most of the trip worrying about spread of the plague by the various military units moving around, USE units as well as others. They mapped out a sanitation campaign.
Barnes and Adducci, having been in high school together, expressed their delight at the reunion by first banging each other hard on the shoulders and then starting to wrestle.
Marcie Abruzzo made them stop.
“I’m sorry, Your Grace,” she said that evening. “It’s some kind of a guy thing.”
“A ritual.” The regent nodded. “Rituals are an important part of civilization.”