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Chapter 41

"Americans ae a daft breed," stated Lennox. Firmly, he drained his mug; and, just as firmly, set it down on the table. "No daft enough, howe'er, t'keep brewin' they sorry excuse f'r beer. So I will make allowances."

The man sitting across from him at the large table, Moses Abrabanel, ignored the remarks. He was gazing about the main room of the recently opened and jampacked Thuringen Gardens. He seemed in a bit of a daze. So did the man sitting next to him, his distant cousin Samuel. For all their relative youth—both men were still short of thirty—they were experienced negotiators and men of affairs, accustomed to navigating the corridors of power in Vienna and Italy. At the moment, however, they seemed like country rubes.

Smiling, Lennox glanced to his left. Balthazar returned the smile with one of his own. Clearly enough, the two "old America hands" were enjoying the discomfiture of the newcomers. Moses and Samuel had arrived only a few days earlier, and were still in a state of semi-shock.


Some of that was caused by their own folk. The small number of Jews who had settled in Grantville over the past months had acclimatized with a vengeance. To a degree, that was expected. The Jews were all Sephardim who, unlike the Ashkenazim of eastern Europe, had a long tradition of cosmopolitanism. The saw "When in Rome . . ." might have been invented by them.


It was hard to know what startled Samuel and Moses the most. Perhaps the open manner in which Grantville's practicing Jews were overseeing the construction of their new synagogue. The temple was being built in the rehabilitated shell of an abandoned building right in the middle of town. Perhaps. But—

The night before, Michael Stearns had spent hours in Balthazar's living room, engaged in a frank and freewheeling discussion with the two Abrabanel representatives as well as Balthazar himself. This, of course, was as it should be. But Rebecca had spent the hours with them—and participated just as fully as anyone else.

So much was bad enough. Then! When the discussion was finally ended, Rebecca's father retired for the night—with his two young male relatives firmly in tow. Rebecca, on the other hand, had remained behind.

Unchaperoned? Shocking! Her father permits this? And a gentile! Shocking!

Remembering the expressions on his relatives' faces, Balthazar hastily drained his own mug—more to quench his outright laughter than his thirst. Moses and Samuel would have been considerably more shocked, he knew, if they had wandered into the living room a few minutes later. They would have found Rebecca planted in Michael's lap, engaging in a most unseemly form of American behavior. For all his own cosmopolitanism, Balthazar himself had been shocked, the first time he accidentally stumbled across his daughter engaged in that particular practice. He had not intervened, although he did speak to Rebecca the next day. But she had defended herself vigorously and, under the circumstances, Balthazar had let the matter pass. He allowed that the American term for it had a certain rough charm. "Necking," they called it.


But most of Moses and Samuel's discomfiture was caused by the Americans themselves.

First and foremost, of course, was the manner of American female dress. Much of which was prominently displayed at this very moment in the Thuringen Gardens.

Samuel was trying not to ogle a young woman standing at the bar nearby. The woman was exchanging words with Rebecca, a discussion which seemed to amuse both of them. Given the shapeliness of her figure, brazenly displayed in tight-fitting blouse and pants, the task was clearly straining the young man's will.

Lennox came to the rescue, in a manner of speaking. "Nae that one, laddie," he said, shaking his head in solemn reproof.

Flushing, Samuel looked away. "She is married? Engaged?"

"Nayther, at t'moment." There was an interruption, as one of the barmaids arrived and plunked a pitcher of beer on the table. "On the house," she said in thickly accented English. "Compliments of the campaign." Then she was off, plowing through the mob. The woman was stout and well past her youth. Like most of the barmaids at the Thuringen Gardens, she had been hired for her tenacity and determination as well as her experience. She was a former tavern-keeper herself, accustomed to maneuvering through rowdy throngs—and glad to do it again, now that she was earning more money than she'd ever dreamed of.

"At t'moment," repeated Lennox. He gave the young woman in question a brief inspection. "Th'lass 'as risen soom in status lately, as it 'appens, an' her former young man took it puirly. So 'e was unceremoniously given t'boot."

He saw Rebecca give the woman a little nudge with her elbow, after glancing at the door. Smiling thinly, Lennox turned away and refilled all the mugs. "Bu' I daresay there'll be another along soon." His eye caught motion, heading toward him. "An' speak o' t'devil."

Mackay pulled up a chair next to Samuel and dropped into it. He seemed exhausted.

"Beer?" asked Lennox, pushing a mug toward him.

"Yes." The word was almost hissed. "Please!" Alex was having a bit of difficulty talking. His mouth seemed stiff. But not so stiff that he wasn't able to drain the mug at one quaff. Wordlessly, he extended it for a refill. Lennox obliged, and the refill went the way of its mate.

Mackay lowered the mug. A slight shudder rippled his shoulders. "There's a man who'll never lack for work," he commented grimly. "Worse comes to worst, the Inquisition would treasure his talents."

Lennox grunted. "Bad again, eh?" Mackay shrugged. Lennox shook his head. "Madness, what men will put theyselves through. D'ye think 'tis worth it, lad?"

"Do find another chair, would you?" murmured Balthazar to Samuel. "I think the young lady is coming for a visit."

Lennox turned his head. Sure enough. Julie Sims was bouncing over with her inimitable stride. He was amused to spot Rebecca moving away through the crowd. Like a snake in the grass, having made her strike. Treacherous Eve!

"Hi, Alex!" Julie called out. Samuel hastily arose and offered her his chair. Smiling, she accepted, while Samuel went in search of another.

The smile, transferred to Mackay, became very wide. "Daddy tells me you've been coming to see him," she said, without preamble. "So lemme have a look."

After a moment's hesitation, Mackay open his mouth. Slightly. Julie shook her head firmly. "Come on, Alex. Show me."

Wider. The head shaking continued. Wider. Continued. Alex sighed. Gaped.

Julie half rose and inspected his teeth from close range. Nothing casual about that examination, either, as you might expect from a dentist's daughter.

She sat back down. "Looking good," she announced. The smile thinned, and the amusement in her eyes was replaced by something very warm. "That must hurt an awful lot," she said softly. The statement was not one of commiseration, however. It was more in the way of an assessment. The look which accompanied the words seemed to belong to someone much older than eighteen.

"It's crowded in here," she announced abruptly. "Would you like to take a walk?"

"Yes," replied Alex. "I would."

After they were gone, Moses said tentatively: "She seems a bit on the bold side."

Lennox snorted. "She's got more counselors an' advisers th'n fuckin' Emperor Ferd'nand hisself. No tha' she needs 'em." He cocked an eye at Moses; there seemed to be a twinkle there. "Ye'd be bold too, lad, if ye c'ld drop a man at four hundred paces wit' ae single shot." He sipped on his beer contemplatively. "Which, as it 'appens, I saw 'er do not so long ago. 'Bout a doozen times."


And there, of course, was another source of amazement. Neither Moses nor Samuel was personally familiar with firearms. Few Jews were, in that day and age. By law, most realms which tolerated Jews also forbade them the practice of carrying arms. But they were quite familiar with gun-handling men. Moses and Samuel had each been chosen for this mission because of their experience with mercenary armies, as well as their command of English. It had not taken them more than a few days, after arriving in Grantville, to drastically revise the far-flung Abrabanel family's initial estimation of American military capability.

Revised—up. Way up. Moses and Samuel soon realized that the striking power of the Americans, dependent as it was on their dazzling motor vehicles, was somewhat limited in range. But anywhere within reach of the rapidly expanding network of roads surrounding Grantville, they had little doubt that the Americans could shatter any but Europe's largest armies.

True, thought Samuel and Moses, the Americans remained vulnerable to cavalry raids. Neither the imperial Croats nor the king of Sweden's Finns would collide head-on with American firepower. But raids are not conquest. Should the Abrabanel family make the decision to—here, another peculiar American term, invest—in Grantville, their fortune would be secure enough.


"Deadly faeries," murmured Lennox. He started to add something, but was interrupted by a shout coming from the platform at the other end of the huge room. The platform was designed for musicians, but today it had been taken over by the political campaign which was hosting the festivities.

The Fourth of July Party was about to start its first rally. Mike Stearns was climbing onto the platform and advancing toward the microphone.

And that, of course, was the principal source of the newly arrived cousins' amazement. Again, Lennox and Balthazar exchanged the knowing glance. Old America hands.

Lennox refilled all the mugs. "Brace yeselves, lads. Ye've never seen ae folk so enchanted wit' speeches."

He settled back in his chair. "Ae daft breed."



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