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1635 The Dreeson Incident: Chapter Four

       Last updated: Monday, July 14, 2008 20:48 EDT



State of Thuringia-Franconia

    Henry Dreeson stood on the sidewalk outside City Hall leaning heavily on his cane, watching the garbage collection wagon rumble by on its iron-rimmed wheels. Yesterday's parade had generated even more trash than usual. People had been in a pretty exuberant mood because of the final peace settlement reached with the Spanish in the Netherlands. Especially coming on top of the thorough trashing that the USE had given the League of Ostend still earlier in the year.

    The marching band had stepped out to "Hey, Look Me Over." Henry liked that song. Peppy. There'd been a couple of down-time tunes then, that Marcus Wendell had worked over to make them marchable, so to speak. Finished up with "High Hopes." He liked that one, too. They'd stopped still and stepped in place to play the SoTF anthem. Marching along to "Jerusalem, Du Hochgebaute Stadt" would take a miracle as big as the Ring itself. Not that the "Star Spangled Banner" had been any better, when it came to rhythm. Not if they sang it right and didn't mangle it.

    The Jerusalem song fit in well enough with American history, though, Mary Kat Riddle said. Something about a city on a hill. Henry looked around. "Down in the Valley" would make more sense for Grantville.

    Not Riddle now. Well, probably still Riddle. Mary Kat had gotten married last winter, to Lisa Dailey's brother, but girls were mostly keeping their maiden names these days, just like the down-time women did. What was Mary Kat's husband's name? Utt. Derek Utt. He was over at Fulda.

    There had been a float made to look like one of the ironclads. One with Benny Pierce fiddling and Minnie Hugelmair singing. They'd labeled another one "Narnia," with costumed characters from the books and a girl representing Princess Kristina. The folks at St. Mary's were so dizzy with joy over Larry Mazzare's being made a cardinal that they'd managed to build a float that looked like a big red hat. It had been the biggest parade since the Ring of Fire.

    He wondered if the folks at St. Mary's - the up-timers, at least - would still be feeling so joyful once they realized that Larry's new honor meant that he likely wouldn't be coming back from Italy to be their parish priest again. He'd be going to Magdeburg. Ed Piazza had pointed that out to Henry. It would be one more upset to smooth over. Sometimes it seemed like every success they had brought along its own set of new problems and the changes never stopped.

    Henry glanced back, up at the door he had just come through. Sometimes it seemed like every time he had to go up and down these steps, it took a little more out of him than it had the time before. He prayed that his wife Ronnie, wherever she was, was safe. He wished really hard that Ronnie would come home pretty soon. Sometimes, he admitted to himself, he wished even harder that she had never gone off on this trip with Mary Simpson. They'd have been able to get by without her first husband's money, whatever was left of it.

    If, of course, there had not been the problem of college tuition for Annalise. He'd said to Enoch Wiley more than once that Ronnie had piled too much on Annalise's shoulders this summer, between trying to manage Gretchen's orphan collection, some of them nearly as old as she was herself, and running the St. Veronica's Academy schools. She was barely seventeen. Idelette Cavriani, the Genevan girl staying with the Wileys, was the same age and had agreed to help her, but Henry was not certain that two heads were better than one when each of the heads was seventeen years old. The theory seemed to be that adding a Calvinist to be Annalise's assistant, even with the bookkeeping part, would prevent people from seeing the academies as Catholic parochial schools.

    A thought that made Enoch rather grumpy. Enoch did not approve of the ecumenical movement. He was quite as sure that the pope was the anti-Christ as any seventeenth-century Scots Presbyterian in Grantville. But Henry had married a Catholic - sort of a Catholic, so to speak. Ronnie and Inez had become friends, which had led to Annalise and Idelette becoming friends. So Enoch made the best of it.

    Gretchen made Henry feel a bit grumpy himself. She ought to come back, too. Generously adopting a crew of orphans during the stress of war was one thing. Life-affirming, he guessed his daughter Margie would have said back before the Ring of Fire. What had Melissa Mailey Stearns called her? A chooser of the living.

    Well, Gretchen had chosen those kids. Much as he hated to say it, choosing to stay home and bring them up appeared to be something else again. First, she got involved with those Committees of Correspondence. Then, off she went to Paris and Amsterdam. Sure, the kids were better off at his house than they would have been in a mercenary army. They were clean, dry, and well fed. They were going to school.

    But he had to work, Annalise had to go to school herself and work, Gretchen and Jeff had been gone for over a year, and now Ronnie was away. He didn't see that they were getting much parenting staying home with a housekeeper and the cook. He'd said so to Enoch.

    "Parenting" had been one of Margie's words, too. Some days he missed Margie and her kids more than others. This was one of them.

    Stress, Enoch called it. He'd learned that word from Henny de Vries, the Dutch nurse. Back before the Ring of Fire, she'd specialized in nut cases. It was one of her words.



    When Denise's father, Buster Beasley, caught Minnie and Denise starting to teach Missy Jenkins and Pam Hardesty to ride the hogs - not that catching them was hard, since they made no attempt to hide the project and started the experiment by having their pupils ride around the storage units on the lot on the little dirt bikes - he announced that anything worth doing was worth doing well, intervened, and took over the instruction. But he made sure to tell the girls that they had been doing a good job considering their own level of experience, and they should assist him so that eventually they would be fully capable of teaching others.

    Considering that Missy and Pam didn't have cycles of their own and only had time to come out to the lot two or three times a week, he told Denise, they were making pretty good progress. Though neither of them would ever be the kind of pip she was.

    Father and daughter smiled at one another in close harmony.



    Pam Hardesty looked up from her perch on a high three-legged school. Since she had taken this job, the sign over her head had been changed from "National Library of the New United States" to "State Library of Thuringia-Franconia."

    It was the same library, of course, in the same part of the high school building. But when their little "nation" confederated with the CPE had become one more province in the United States of Europe last winter, the congress had prudently demoted the library's title, just in case the word "national" might give the USE's ruler, who was something of a cultural imperialist, the idea of removing it to Magdeburg. Or even Stockholm.

    Gustavus Adolphus had removed quite a few books to Stockholm during the years he had been campaigning in Germany. And a couple of whole libraries, like the one in Würzburg. As the boss, Elaine Bolender, had said in her recommendation to the SoTF congress, it paid to be careful when you were dealing with that man. Not quite in those words, of course.

    Pam had started at the library as a page, in the spring of 1633. Before that, she'd been an ESOL aide at the middle school. She had kept on ESOL-aideing in her spare time, of course. They always needed people and when a girl was entirely on her own it was sometimes hard to make ends meet.

    This fall, she was starting training to manage the circulation desk some day. She'd already "interned" here at the state library, at the public library, and at the high school. With a week or so each at the elementary school and the middle school, to give her a "taste" of librarianship at that level, Elaine Bolender had said. Then Elaine had given her a choice between specializing in circulation and training for reference. Well, and staying a page, of course, which was what she'd been doing before. She'd picked the desk. She liked meeting all the new people who came in and seeing who was interested in what better than she did wandering through the closed stacks looking things up.

    She grinned at Missy Jenkins.

    Missy, now, she was the reverse. She liked looking things up, even though she was a few years younger, eighteen to Pam's twenty-one. Pam had been the same class as her older brother Chip, not with Missy.

    When Missy graduated from high school on the accelerated schedule they'd set up after the Ring of Fire for the kids who could hack it, of course her mom had stuck her right into teacher training and ESOL-aideing at the middle school. With no universities or colleges that took girls and Missy definitely not wanting to be a nurse, Debbie Jenkins had regarded teaching school as the only game in town.

    This year, a couple of new games were starting to be developed out of town, if you looked at it that way. A women's college in Quedlinburg that would open this fall; the Roths' co-ed university way over in Prague that was getting organized.

    That was this year. Missy had graduated in August a year ago. Pam suspected that with Chip in Jena, her folks wouldn't have been thrilled to have her go off to school somewhere else anyway. Her dad kept trying to get her interested in his businesses, and she did quite a bit of office work for him, but she seemed to shy away from getting really involved with it. She'd never said why, at least not to Pam.

    Then, the middle of Missy's first year in the teacher training program, her mom took over running it. Missy had groaned dramatically.

    Pam thought, a little wistfully, that it might be nice to have a mom who ran a teacher training program. Instead of…Velma.

    Maybe it looked different from Missy's perspective. The end of the year, last spring, Missy had transferred out of teacher training and ESOL-aideing, over here to the state library.

    She was training to be an information librarian. What they used to call a reference librarian, Pam suspected.

    Anyway, Missy had turned out to be a good friend.

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