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1635 The Dreeson Incident: Chapter Twenty Two

       Last updated: Wednesday, October 8, 2008 01:10 EDT




    “When I sent them to Grantville last spring, I had no intention that they would batten on you forever, Henry.”

    Veronica Dreeson was steaming with wrath. Truly with wrath, because during the months she had been gone, Henry’s health had worsened noticeably. The trip back, even in the ATV, with its seats so much softer than a wagon, had been hard on him.

    Why had he been so inconsiderate of himself as to make that trip to Fulda and Frankfurt? Why had he been so inconsiderate of her? Didn’t he realize that she had already been a widow once? Once was enough. He should not have gone.

    She should not have gone to Amberg. She should have remained in Grantville to care for him. She had accomplished nothing at all during that trip to the Upper Palatinate in any case. Except to provide him with one more burden.

    Officially, therefore, she was wrathful this morning because after her late husband Johann Stephan’s niece Dorothea and her lover Nicolas Moser had arrived here, Henry had not only performed a civil marriage ceremony for them, but had also found a job for Nicolas as a clerk with the SoTF court system. And, since the job was very junior and did not pay enough that they could rent their own apartment, had permitted them to live in one of the rooms of his house ever since.

    “Now, Ronnie,” he said mildly. “Dorothea has taken some of the burden off Annalise. It is her senior year in high school, after all. Dorothea is here when the other children leave, when they come home. She was a big help when Ed Piazza asked me to go over to Buchenland. I think I’d have said no if she and Nicholas hadn’t been available to Annalise for backup.”

    That was the wrong thing to say. So it was really Nicol and Thea’s fault that Henry had risked his health on that strenuous trip. “What does she do here?” Veronica asked suspiciously.

    “Reads novels, mostly,” Henry admitted. “When she isn’t playing with Will and Joey. But don’t blame Annalise. Thea already knew about Harlequin Romances when she arrived.”

    “I know.” Veronica’s sigh was disgusted.



    “It makes the housekeeper feel better to have an adult member of the family present, whether she does anything at all.” That, Henry thought, was perfectly true.



    Possibly the best thing was that she had arrived home to find that the rest of the household appeared to be well and happy. It was the worst thing, too. They had gotten along fine without her. She was just a useless old woman.



    “What is that book?” Veronica asked suspiciously.

    Thea looked up, apprehensively. She knew perfectly well that her aunt, aunt-by-marriage, widow-of-her-father’s-half-brother, was not pleased to have her in the house.

    “It’s called Where’s Waldo. I found it in that chest under the bay window. Henry said that one of Margie’s kids left it behind. Joey is really too young, but Will loves it.” She clambered up from the floor to the sofa. “Sit next to me, Tante. See, in each of the pictures, there is a little monkey hidden.”



    Veronica didn’t want to take the book away from Will and Joey. It took some time to locate another copy and quite a few USE dollars to buy it from Chandra Prickett, who said, “I guess, since you want to send it out of town, to Becky, for the baby, I’ll sell it. I can always check it out of the library for my kids, since it doesn’t look like we’re going anywhere.”

    She did send the book to Becky.

    In the same packet as a letter to Gretchen, who now claimed that her political obligations to the CoC and Mike Stearns required that she had to go campaigning for Fourth of July Party candidates between now and the February elections, instead of coming home to collect her many and varied offspring, natural and adopted.

    A rather tart letter, headed with the words:

    Where’s Gretchen?

    She slipped her hand into the pocket tied under her skirt. It held the disintegrating remains of a makeshift rosary, constructed of a piece of Bavarian grapevine and with snips of hollowed-out twigs for the beads. Perhaps the summer had not been entirely wasted, after all. She had learned a lot about this “guilt tripping” from Mary Ward and Archduchess Maria Anna. She couldn’t do it quite as deftly as they did, yet, and the technique was hard to combine with her Abbess of Quedlinburg face, but perhaps she could alternate.



    “Good to see you back, Ronnie.”

    “Good morning, Enoch. Is Idelette here? I have a package for her that Leopold sent from Rheinfelden, and a letter from Marc. Probably telling her how crazy he is about that little seamstress, Susanna.”

    “Actually, she’s over at St. Veronica’s with your girl. Catching up the bookkeeping. Come in and sit down for a spell. Inez is just making coffee.”

    “The bookkeeping’s in good shape. I was surprised. I suppose I owe her something for the work…”

    “No, no. Consider it part of her apprenticeship. Leopold sent her to Grantville to learn how to run a business. Helping Annalise is part of that. Aura Lee Hudson and Carol Koch—she’s gone back to using Carol Unruh as her professional name, I guess you’d call it—are mentoring them, I guess you’d say. It’s working out pretty well.”

    “Hummph.” Ronnie snorted. “Everyone knows that children will pay more attention to outsiders than to their own families. That’s one of the reasons we apprentice them in the first place.”

    Inez nodded. “It’s not just what they’re learning. It’s the willingness. That’s what my mother used to say. ‘You’ll always get a lot more help around the house from a hired girl than you will from your own daughter. And the woman who hires your daughter will get a lot more help from her than from any of her own.’”

    “But there’s still a lot that Annalise has to learn. The trip to Amberg was a complete waste. At least, from all I can figure out so far. Well, we’re getting the books that Annalise negotiated for. That’s something, I suppose.”

    “You can’t bring yourself to say it, but you’re as pleased by the way Annalise managed the schools while you were gone as you’ve ever been by anything in your life.”

    “I suppose.”

    Inez poured a little milk into her coffee. “You ought to tell her so. She worked really hard.”

    “Ronnie doesn’t want to give her the big head.”

    “Enoch! Don’t encourage Ronnie to hold it all in. Annalise deserves a pat on the back. She’s earned it.”

    “What she deserves is to go to college,” said Ronnie firmly. “But I don’t see how. The Jesuits are paying a little rent for the site in Amberg where the print shop used to be, and the normal school a little more, but it has to be split five ways, since Johann Stephan’s girls in Nürnberg have a right to their shares. A fifth of it isn’t going to pay Annalise’s tuition at Quedlinburg, or even come close to it. Brechbuhl hasn’t managed to break the Grafenwöhr property out of probate yet. By the time he does, it will be too late for Annalise. I can predict that right now.”



    After Inez saw her out, she came back laughing. “That was a really classic Veronica grump.”

    Enoch nodded. “She’s got a point, though.”



    “As far as Grantville is concerned,” Henry Dreeson said, “Jarvis Beasley’s wife is not a bigamist. Judge Tito will explain.”

    Maurice Tito, not speaking from the bench but rather acting as a consultant, explained in painstaking detail that the law of West Virginia, as brought from up-time and still fully applicable within Grantville itself and West Virginia County as a whole, did not consider a betrothal to be a binding contract that prohibited the fiancé or fiancée from entering into marriage with a different person. He had a lot of citations to precedents.

    The delegate who represented Saxony in the former House of Lords of the New United States and current Senate of the State of Thuringia-Franconia (in right of Saxony’s status as co-administrator of the territories of the extinct county of Henneberg south of the Thüringerwald), pointed out in equal detail that under the law which prevailed there, a betrothal was indeed a binding contract. He seemed almost regretful. Nonetheless, in a case in which a young woman had entered into a betrothal, and her fiancé subsequently went to be a soldier and disappeared, she could not remarry until such time as the marriage court declared a presumption of death or dissolved the betrothal. He stated that it was rare for a presumption of death to be granted less than seven years after the person’s disappearance, and then only if the surviving partner to the contract could document a good faith effort to locate the other. Occasionally, indeed, such decrees had been issued after as little as three years, if there appeared to be good reason to assume death. On the other hand, there was no requirement that it be issued at all. It could take ten years, a dozen, or never be issued, particularly if there was some evidence that the partner who left was living elsewhere.

    In that event, of course, the abandoned partner could re-petition to have the betrothal dissolved upon the ground of desertion.

    The fact remained, however, that Hedwig Altschulerin, the daughter of a man who prior to his death had been a subject of Duke John George of Saxony, had not even sought a dissolution of her prior betrothal. She merely, upon meeting this soldier named Jarvis Beasley while she was working in Meiningen, had left that city. She had accompanied him to Grantville, had married him there, and currently was residing with him there. Wherefore she was, in the eyes of the laws of Saxony, a bigamist.

    Saxony, he pointed out, administered the Henneberg village of her birth under a valid inheritance agreement, which was why it had a seat in the House of Lords. Consequently she was properly subject to Saxon law. He respectfully requested her extradition to appear before the Saxon Ehegericht in the Henneberg territories to answer for her transgression.

    Mayor Dreeson equally respectfully refused.

    The session adjourned. The Saxon delegate left a lot of paperwork for someone to file.

    Maurice Tito strongly, if privately and informally, advised Hedwig Altschulerin, aka Hedy, now wife of Jarvis Beasley, that if she knew what was good for her, she would stay inside West Virginia County for the foreseeable future. Which meant no shopping trips in Rudolstadt. No fairs in Badenburg, although, at least, Grantville had a wonderful fair of its own.

    Hedy nodded. Jarvis had taken her to it last fall.

    Tito kept going. And, unfortunately, no going to church at either St. Martin’s in the Fields or St. Thomas the Apostle, since both, while in the State of Thuringia-Franconia, were part of the County of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt. While he certainly didn’t think that Count Ludwig Guenther and his consistory would be likely to approve her extradition to Saxony, neither could he guarantee that they would refuse.

    Hedy nodded unhappily. She was causing Jarvis a lot of trouble. Maybe more than she was worth.

    And she wanted to go to church. Hedy liked to go to church. Where she grew up, church was the most interesting thing that happened all week.

    “I think,” Maurice Tito said after she and Jarvis left, “that we really ought to do something. At a minimum, the law should be the same all the way across the State of Thuringia-Franconia. But congress hasn’t gotten around to passing matrimonial legislation, so for the time being, we’re stuck with what we have. Saxony will appeal to the Supreme Court, of course, so it’ll land in Chuck Riddle’s lap, eventually.

    “There’s no point in waiting for congress to get off its ass. It has too much else on its plate. Much less the USE Parliament, considering everything that’s going on in Magdeburg. See if you can get the Bureau of Consular Affairs to look into this. Let’s start some kind of an initiative. We can’t have people stuck here in Grantville, after all, unable to put their noses across the border, because of things like this. There ought to be some kind of reciprocal agreement.”

    “Full faith and credit.” Tito nodded. “But we’ll have to be careful. “It might be a trap we could fall into, if we had to give full faith and credit to Saxony’s laws about betrothals when our own citizens apply for marriage licenses. In any case, it’s a statewide or nationwide problem, not just a Grantville problem.”

    Henry Dreeson nodded. “I’ll ask Ed Piazza about it, anyway. I’ll check with Chad Jenkins, too. Now that his brother Wes has come back and taken over consular affairs, it seems to me that he’d be the person to head up the project, but I don’t want to do anything that might step on Chad’s toes—not with the campaign coming up.”



    Mary Ellen Jones decided that she’d better go over and talk to Simon. She had her office in the rectory; he had his in the church.

    Wes Jenkins, on the theory that his marriage to Clara had been, at best, a civil ceremony, had requested a church wedding. If he just wanted a church blessing, that would be one thing. But he wanted the whole thing. Having, perhaps, a few private doubts of his own about the do-it-yourself version.

    Now that she had slept on it… Private. An utterly private ceremony to salve Wes’ conscience would be best. Considering Clara’s possible–probable–pregnancy, which Simon really didn’t need to know about yet either, the Methodist church certainly shouldn’t do anything that would throw any doubt on legal validity of what the two of them had done while they were in Freiherr von Schlitz’s lockup.

    She and Simon wouldn’t have to involve anybody but the principals and the witnesses. Simon could perform the ceremony. She’d be the first witness, since she already knew about it. Jenny Maddox could issue the license, be the second witness, and file the certificate herself. Keep it out of the list published in the papers.

    There would be no cause for gossip. None. As far as the rest of Grantville would ever know or need to know, Wes and Clara were properly married in Fulda last August.

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