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Chapter 13

In the hours that followed, the Roths' home became a whirlwind of activity. Michael and Alexander Mackay, along with Andrew Lennox and Frank Jackson, spent the entire afternoon at the large table in the kitchen, planning out their coming campaign. American coal miners and Scots soldiers trooped in and out as the hours went by. Bearing commands on their way out, and bringing questions on their way in. The Scots soldiers would come and go quickly, but many of the American miners would stay for awhile, chiming in with their own suggestions and opinions.

Julie Sims even showed up, bouncing into the kitchen to greet her uncle Frank and take advantage of that family connection to sate her eager curiosity. Mackay immediately lost his concentration on military affairs. Entirely. Julie had replaced her cheerleader's outfit with a blouse and blue jeans, true. But with her figure, and the energy which filled it, the change of clothing was irrelevant.

Then, seeing the smirk lurking in Lennox's eyes, Mackay flushed and tried to keep his eyes off the girl. But he still did not manage to bring his mind back into focus until several minutes after Frank shooed Julie away.

Mackay thought the extreme looseness of the American command structure—if such it could even be called—was extremely odd. But—

Everything about these Americans was extremely odd, when you came down to it. Yet there was no question that Michael and Frank had the final authority on any decisions. So, after a time, the two Scottish professional soldiers simply relaxed and—to use one of those peculiar American expressions—"went with the flow."

Others came also, to gather in the living room around Balthazar and Rebecca. The two doctors had remained, along with Morris Roth. Judith, now and again, would sit in on their discussion, but she was generally too busy providing food and drink for the soldiers. Rebecca offered to help in that chore, but Judith wouldn't permit it.

"Melissa will be coming over, any moment," she explained. Smiling: "I'll catch enough hell from her as it is, catering to the men the way I am. If she sees you doing it too—you're the National Security Adviser, remember?—I'll never hear the end of it. Knowing Melissa, she'd probably start picketing my house."

Rebecca's look of incomprehension caused Judith to laugh. "You never heard of women's lib, I take it?"

Julie Sims was standing nearby, listening to the exchange. Judith smiled at her and said: "Explain it, why don't you?"

"Sure! Piece of cake!"

Judith went off to the kitchen. Grinning, Julie gave Rebecca a précis on the subject of women's liberation. And if the eighteen-year-old girl's version of it would have caused the more doctrinaire advocates of women's lib to blanch, they certainly couldn't have complained about the enthusiasm of the presentation. By the time Julie finished, the look of incomprehension was gone from Rebecca's face. Her expression was now one of pure and simple shock.

"You must be joking."

" 'Course not!" was Julie's reply. A moment later, her eye drawn by someone on the street outside the window, Julie charged out of the house. Haltingly, Rebecca took a seat on the couch and began to listen to the conversation among the doctors.

At first, her mind was elsewhere. Women's liberation? Absurd! But then, as she caught the drift of the discussion, all other thoughts were driven aside immediately.

And, again, Rebecca's face must have shown her shock and disbelief.

Her father smiled at her. "Yes, daughter. This is what I was about to tell you when you first arrived. So—what do you think of the proposal?"

She was at a loss for words. Are they serious? But a glance at the two American doctors made clear that they were.

It is unheard of! A medical partnership—between gentiles and Jews?

The older doctor, the one Rebecca had first thought to be a Moor, cleared his throat. "You understand, Dr. Balthazar, that while you will be entitled to your full share of the proceeds—one third of what the doctors take in, after the salaries of the nurses and other employees are paid—that you will still, in practice, be—uh—" Nichols hesitated. He was obviously trying to be diplomatic. "For a time, that is, not forever—uh—"

Balthazar held up his hand. "Please, Dr. Nichols!" Rebecca's father leaned over and picked up a book lying on the table beside the couch. "Dr. Adams was so good as to lend this to me yesterday. One of his many volumes on medicine—a textbook, he tells me, from his days as a student."

Balthazar cradled the heavy tome on his lap, almost caressing it with his fingers. "I have not been able to read much of it yet, I'm afraid. There are so many new words—not to mention new concepts—that each page must be studied carefully."

Rebecca stared at the cover of the book. The title was not what drew her attention, however. Something to do with introductory principles of medicine. Instead, her eyes were drawn to the names of the authors.

George White, M.D. Harold O'Brien, M.D. Abraham Cohen, M.D.

Cohen? Her eyes went to Morris Roth. The American Jew seemed to understand the question in her stare. So, at least, she interpreted his little smile and the nod which went with it. Yes.

Her father was still speaking. "—so I understand fully that I will have to learn everything anew."

Dr. Adams shook his head. "That's not true, Balthazar. Not even with regard to theory. Your notions about miasmas being the cause of disease are not that far removed from the truth. And your practical knowledge, in many ways, exceeds our own." He shrugged. "The truth is, I think you'll have much to teach us about the medications available in this time and place."

Nichols chuckled. "I certainly hope so! Just to give one example, our supply of antibiotics will be gone soon, and we can hardly call up the pharmaceutical companies for more." He made a sour face. "Then what? Eye of newt? Bat's wings ground up with coriander?"

Balthazar laughed. "Please! I have always found that Avicenna's great Canon of Medicine has remedies for almost every malady. Many of them even seem to work."

Nichols and Adams were peering at him skeptically. Dr. Abrabanel spread his hands. "Of course, you should examine the text yourself, before we prescribe anything." Hesitantly: "You do read Arabic?" Seeing the expressions on the faces of the two American doctors, Balthazar shrugged. "Well, no matter. I believe I have most of the Canon available in a Greek translation."

Nichols and Adams looked at each other. Adams coughed. Nichols looked like he was choking.

"Dr. Abrabanel," asked Adams, "just exactly how many languages can you read?"

"Fluently?" Rebecca's father wiggled his fingers. "Not more than eight, I'm afraid. Nine, possibly, depending on how you reckon 'fluency.' Hebrew, Arabic and Greek, of course, those being the principal languages of medicine. Spanish and Portuguese are native to my family. And English now, naturally. I spent most of my life on the island. German, French." Again, he wiggled his fingers. "My Dutch is becoming quite good, I think. But it would be boasting to say it was fluent as yet."

He paused, thinking, running fingers through his well-groomed gray beard. "Beyond that? I can manage Russian and Polish, with nontechnical matters. Italian and Latin, the same. I was concentrating on the Latin, actually, but I was forced to interrupt my studies due to the political state of affairs so that I could learn Swedish." He frowned. "It's a charming language, in its own way, but I almost hate to spend the time on it. There is nothing written in Swedish which is not already available in other tongues. Still—" He sighed. "I felt it would be wise, given the role I was asked to play—"

He cut off abruptly and leaned forward, his face filled with concern. "Dr. Nichols? Are you ill?"

"No, no," gasped Nichols, waving his hand weakly. "I am just—" Cough, cough.

"Jesus Christ," whispered Adams. "Almighty."

Rebecca leaned back in the couch. She managed—successfully, she thought—to keep the pride and satisfaction from showing on her face. Much as she had come to like and admire these Americans, she could not deny the pleasure it gave her to see them—for once!—absent their usual smug complacence.

Perhaps she was not as successful as she thought. Melissa Mailey marched in at that point, took one look at her, and demanded: "What are you looking so pleased about?"

Rebecca smiled. Demurely, she thought. Intended, at least. "Oh, it just seems that my father is a more accomplished linguist than these other doctors. Whatever else he may lack."

"Well, of course!" Melissa snorted. "Americans are ignorant louts when it comes to language." The schoolteacher planted her arms akimbo and gave Nichols and Adams the same glare which had cowed thousands of students over the years. "What?" she demanded. "Did you think you were actually smarter than these people?"

Then, spotting Judith scurrying from the kitchen with a plate of food in her hands, Melissa transferred the glare. "And what's this? Two hundred years of progress gone down the drain?"

The glare settled on Rebecca. "You and I are going to have a talk, young lady. Soon."

The response was inevitable, inescapable. "Yes, ma'am."


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