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Chapter 43

November was a whirlwind.

The first storm of winter, when it hit, seemed but a minor distraction. No one in Grantville or the surrounding area was worried about surviving the winter. Not any longer. Even with the influx of new prisoners-turned-immigrants from the battle at Jena, there was more than enough food and shelter.

"Shelter," of course, was often crude. The area surrounding the power plant had become a small town in its own right. The power plant's steam provided a ready source of heat, which was piped through a crazy quilt of hastily erected log cabins so closely packed together that they constituted a seventeenth-century version of a housing project. But, for all its primitive nature, the housing would keep people alive during the winter. And the crowded conditions provided another incentive—not that Germans of the time needed one—to quickly seek work which could provide the wherewithal to move into better quarters.

The problem, actually, was more a shortage of good housing than the wages to pay for it. Grantville had become a classic boom town. The coal mine was running full blast by now, using hordes of pick-and-shovel miners in place of the absent modern equipment. So were all the established industries, especially the machine shops. Even the school's technical training center had become a production facility—and the students, most of whom were now German youngsters, learned their trades all the quicker for it.

New businesses and industries were springing up like mushrooms. Most of them were of a traditional nature. Construction, of course, occupied pride of place. But the Thuringen Gardens soon had competitors, and lots of them, even if it was still the largest tavern in town.

Food, in the end, turned out to be much less of a problem than Mike and his people had feared. In addition to the grain stocked up during the fall, two new sources of provender had turned up.

The first was trade. In the mysterious way that these things happen, coursing through the consciousness of a nation's masses far below the notice of its political and military overlords, word had spread throughout Germany. There was a place . . . 

A market for food, textiles, metal, minerals. Almost anything, it seemed. Paid for with hard currency—gold and silver—if you so desired. Or, if you were smarter, with wondrous new products. Fine metalwork; strange, silky garments; most of all, ingenious toys and dolls and devices made of some substance called "plastic." Luxury goods! Grantville's pharmacies and knicknack stores, oddly enough, proved to be the town's biggest trade asset. In weeks, they unloaded half-useless toys and gadgets which had cluttered the shelves for months.

Some of the German traders—the smartest ones—moved their base of operations to Grantville. And found, soon enough, that investing in manufacture was even more profitable than trade. The way was led by Georg Kleinschmidt, the merchant who brought in the first shipment of nails and spikes. Seeing the massive amount of wood construction going up, he cheerfully abandoned trade and sank his new small fortune into building a nail factory. His partner was Keith Trumble, an American car dealer. The American, realizing that his former business was a lost cause, provided his offices and small showroom as the facilities. While his fellow car dealers moaned and groaned, and flocked—small flock—to Simpson's campaign rallies, Trumble greeted the new reality with good cheer. Making nails was harder work, true; and dirtier. But at least he didn't have to tell lies anymore, or dicker with his customers. There was a line at the door every morning.


The other source of food brought pure joy to West Virginians. Fall was deer hunting season. But in seventeenth-century Thuringia—

A license? What is that?

Limits? None. Except, of course, that it is strictly forbidden to hunt on land owned by the aristocracy, which comprises most of the forests and all—

Fuck the aristocracy. They don't like it, let 'em try to arrest us.

The game in the Thuringenwald was plentiful. And the deer were quite unaccustomed to rifles which could hit a target at several hundred yards.

Julie Sims alone brought in enough venison to feed hundreds. But that feat—in her eyes, at least—was eclipsed by her new boyfriend's. The day after Alex returned from Würzburg, Julie took him hunting. She carried her beloved Remington .308, but Alex satisfied himself with a double-barreled shotgun loaded with slugs.

Julie scoffed at his choice of weapons. But Mackay was not fazed. He had no chance of equaling her marksmanship, anyway. And, truth to tell, he was not concerned with deer. Mackay, unlike Julie, was familiar with the forests of his time. He brought the shotgun along in case—

When the boar charged out of a thicket, Julie stood her ground. But she fumbled, trying to bring the long-range rifle to bear. No matter. Mackay dropped it at five yards—bang bang—cool as could be. Julie didn't stop talking about it for weeks.


Her bragging precipitated the first duel in Grantville's modern history. Her former boyfriend, Chip, still sulking and nursing his romantic wounds—well, injured pride; he had the amorous instincts of a bullfrog—took umbrage.

Fueled by too much beer on one particular evening, Chip saw fit to challenge Mackay on the floor of the Thuringen Gardens. The Scotsman, a gentleman even if he was not legitimately born, naturally accepted. He probably would have done so even if he hadn't consumed more than his share of the Gardens' excellent home brew.

The confusion began immediately. Chip, a football player raised on a twentieth-century American diet, was much larger than the little Scotsman. So, boldly, he advanced and felled Mackay with a fist.

Not even bothering to inquire as to the challenged party's choice of weapons!

Mackay, outraged by the American's uncivilized conduct, immediately made his choice of weapons. He sprang up from the floor (a punch in the face?—to a man who has faced a dentist?), drew his saber and began chasing Chip through the premises.

Progress was slow, both for pursuer and pursued. Chip, needless to say, scampered through the crowd as if he were scrambling for the goal line. Which took a lot of scrambling, since the crowd grew rapidly as word spread into the streets. Fight! Fight!

Mackay, fortunately, did not use his saber to clear a path. Still polite, for all his inebriation and murderous purpose, he asked the avid onlookers to step aside. Finally—this took perhaps two minutes—he cornered Chip in the area of the Gardens given over to the pool tables.

Chip, of course, was now armed. He took a mighty swing at Mackay with a pool cue. Alas, he quickly discovered that a pool cue is a truly pitiful weapon to use against an experienced cavalryman—even on foot—armed with a saber. The pool cue was transformed into toothpicks in a matter of seconds.

The end seemed near.

Fortunately, one of Dan Frost's deputies intervened. Unfortunately, the deputy was Fred Jordan who, it transpired, had imbibed perhaps too much of his Scottish friends' attitudes (along with German beer, inasmuch as he had been off duty). So he took it upon himself to rule Mackay's choice of weapons legal and legitimate and ordered the duel to continue—with the proviso, of course, that Chip be provided with a saber.

More confusion emerged. Chip did not possess a saber. A dozen Scots cavalrymen immediately offered the use of their own. Confusion was now rampant, propelled by Chip's cries of outrage and indignation. The bold young man, it developed, also lacked the knowledge of a saber's use.

Mackay—ever the gentleman—immediately switched his choice to pistols. Adding insult to injury, he offered to match his wheel lock against any modern sidearm of Chip's selection. At any range the American chose.

By now, sobriety was beginning to arrive. By now, Alex was in a cold fury. By now, Chip was not. Young Chip, belatedly, was realizing that the braggadocio of a former high-school football team captain was no match for the serious intent of a professional soldier.

Wheel lock against a modern pistol? At any range? Given those two men, the outcome was a foregone conclusion.

"He's trying to kill me!" wailed Chip.

Unkind words were muttered in response, here and there in the huge crowd which was now packing the Gardens. Many of them—again, insult piled onto injury—by the Americans in the crowd. Good riddance was a particular favorite. So were: Pride goeth before a fall and Look before you leap.

By the time Dan Frost arrived, the betting was running in favor of the Scotsman. But Dan put a stop to the whole thing immediately. City ordinances, he explained, expressly forbade dueling.

Mackay, ever the law-abiding man, immediately proposed transferring the locale of the duel to the woods, beyond the city limits. The odds began running heavily in his favor.

But Mike arrived then, and made a general ruling. No dueling, period. Anywhere in American territory.

"As you say, my lord," was Mackay's response. Bowing stiffly, he stalked off, never casting a glance at his erstwhile opponent.

The opponent, for his part, spent the next several days in an attempt to extract honor (if not glory) from his own part in the affair. To no avail. Not even his closest friends on the former football team sided with him.

"Cut the bullshit," said Kenny Washaw, the high school's former tight end. "And grow up, while you're at it. Or you'll wind up flipping hamburgers the rest of your life."

"What there is of it," added the former left tackle. Steve Early, that was. Unkindly: "Which won't be much, you keep picking fights with guys who carry sabers and spend hours in a dentist's chair without anesthetic. I don't care how little they are."


Simpson, of course, tried to make an issue out of the "duel." Another example of the lawlessness brought on by the Stearns regime!

But it fell flat. No one had actually gotten hurt, after all, saving Mackay's black eye. And, once again, Simpson misjudged his audience. Hill people have their own sense of justice—humorous, but grim for all that—which runs heavily toward bragging about the shrimp in the family tree who showed the local bully who was who and what was what.


Then, the memory of that little fracas was swept aside by the arrival of the Abrabanel representative from exotic and far-off Istanbul. Half the town turned out to greet him. Well, the American residents.

Some of them, of course, were there in an official capacity. But most of the crowd was, for the moment, utterly uninterested in general matters of high finance and foreign policy. One question—and one question only—was uppermost in their minds.

Grantville's supermarkets had run out of coffee weeks ago. To the shock and horror of its American residents, it was discovered that in that day and age coffee was almost unknown. Could only be obtained, in fact, from one source.


So, a somewhat bewildered Don Francisco Nasi found that his first item of business, upon his arrival, was negotiating the establishment of a coffee trade.


But he was not that bewildered. Francisco was younger than either of the other representatives of the Abrabanel family who had recently arrived. He had just turned twenty-six. Yet it soon became clear that he possessed in full measure the talents of his grandfather and the illustrious matriarch, Doña Gracia Mendes, who had created the fortune of their branch of the Abrabanels.

In the week following his arrival, in the course of almost nonstop negotiations with Mike and the committee, Francisco led the Abrabanel representatives with a firm hand. Perhaps because of his upbringing in Moslem Turkey, Francisco was much less taken aback than either Moses or Samuel at the undoubtedly outlandish character of the Americans and their new society.

"Who cares?" he demanded. The slim and handsome young man scanned the faces of the other Jews gathered in the Roths' living room. The Roths themselves were absent. Politely, they had felt it best to let the Abrabanels discuss family matters in private.

Francisco gazed at Rebecca, for a moment. There was, perhaps, a faint shadow in his eyes. Even in far off Istanbul, they had heard of the beauty and intelligence of Dr. Balthazar's daughter. Francisco had been enjoined by his family to seek a bride also, in this journey.

But, if there was a shadow, it was gone quickly enough. Francisco was a seasoned diplomat—a budding statesman, in truth, for all his tender years—not a lovesick shepherd. He had never found it difficult to look truth in the face. And the cold-blooded Machiavellian in him saw the other side of the matter. The Americans would soon be bound by ties of blood, as well as trade and statecraft. Francisco believed in ties of blood, as much as he believed in the sunrise. They had kept his family going for centuries.

"Face reality," he commanded. "Where else, since the Almoravid dynasty ruled Sepharad, have we had such an offer?" He reached for his cup, and sipped the precious coffee he had brought with him.

Then: "Nowhere. Not the Ottomans, even. We have done well in the empire, of course. Very well. But we still exist only on the sultan's sufferance." He snapped his fingers. "A new sultan—"

He left the words unspoken. There was no need. "There is a time for boldness, too," he stated. "This is such a time."

He turned to Moses, who had proven to be the most hesitant of the representatives. That was not surprising, of course. His branch of the family lived in the heart of the Habsburg beast.

"You may stay in the shadows," Francisco stated. "The Americans are not seeking material goods from the Catholic domains anyway. Just a loan—which you can easily supply in secret."

"They insist on absurdly low interest," grumbled Moses.

Rebecca began to speak, but her father stilled her with a quick hand on her arm and a cautioning glance. Let Francisco handle it. Your interests are compromised.

Francisco finished his coffee, and shrugged. "So? Take advantage of their offer, then. Invest. I intend to do so myself. We have been moneylenders long enough."

Moses and Samuel exchanged a hesitant glance. "It is—not customary," complained Samuel.

"No, it isn't," replied Francisco. Harshly: "What is customary is for Jews to lend money to princes, or serve the Christian aristocracy as their rent collectors. Then, when the princes are done with their wars—or the peasants rise up in rebellion—it is the Jews who burn."

He placed the cup down so forcefully that it almost broke the saucer. "Enough, I say! I have the full backing of Turkey's Abrabanels." He was polite enough not to add: who are the largest and richest branch of the family. "Whatever your decision, I have made ours. We will take all necessary precautions, of course. No reason to publicly tweak the noses of the Christian rulers. But we will provide the Americans with the support they ask. Hard currency, loans, trade, investment."

Francisco paused, and made his own final decision. "More. We will begin to immigrate here. I will stay myself."

That announcement froze everyone. Francisco was the rising star in the Abrabanel firmament. Guaranteed, if he stayed in Istanbul, a life of power and luxury and splendor.

Perhaps he read their minds. He smiled. "Until the next sultan . . ."

The smile vanished, replaced by a look so stern it seemed quite out of place on his young face. His eyes moved back to Rebecca.

"There is a condition," he stated stiffly.

Rebecca inhaled so sharply it was almost a hiss. She knew full well Francisco's other purpose in coming to Thuringia. It would have taken no genius to deduce it, even if her father had not been notified in advance.

She found herself struggling fiercely to keep anger out of her own stiff face. She was almost shocked, then, to realize how much she had internalized the American way of looking at things. If this man thinks he can demand—

Francisco, as if realizing her thoughts, shook his head. "When is your marriage to Michael Stearns to take place?" he asked.

The question caught Rebecca off guard. "I—we—" she fumbled. Then, quietly: "We have not set a date."

"Set it, then," commanded Francisco. "That is my condition."

Rebecca stared at him. For one of the few times in her life, she was quite at a loss for words.

Francisco's stern expression softened. "Please, Rebecca. Do it now. For all of us." He spread his hands, as if to explain the obvious. "I believe in ties of blood."


Moses and Samuel, true to their cautious instincts and training, made no final pronouncements that night. But it was obvious to all that Francisco had settled the matter.

The meeting broke up soon thereafter. Rebecca had to leave. Her roundtable discussion show was on the air again that night. Francisco walked her to the door, and offered to accompany her to the school.

Rebecca hesitated. She had no desire—none at all—to offend Francisco. Or to bruise his sentiments further. So, for a moment, she fumbled with the explanation that Michael always walked her—

Again, Francisco was a mind reader. "He seems a magnificent man," he said gently. "We Turkish Sephardim, you know, are quite accustomed to marrying outside the faith."

Rebecca's smile lost its shy hesitance. "Thank you, Francisco. For whatever it may be worth, had the circumstances been otherwise, I would have been quite happy to become your wife. I think you are quite magnificent yourself."

He nodded, with all the aplomb of a courtier raised in the formalities of the Ottoman court. "I thank you for that, Rebecca Abrabanel."

Rebecca cast hesitation aside. "But I have a cousin in Amsterdam. She is very pretty—very intelligent, too—her name is—"

Francisco held up his hand. "Please! Allow me a day or two to wallow in my heartbreak." A chuckle took all the sting out of the words. Then a thoughtful expression came to his face.

"Besides," he mused, "it would be best to leave that aside, for the moment. I am here now, to stay. Perhaps I should give some thought to following your own example. Ties of blood."

Hesitation—to the winds!

"Even better!" exclaimed Rebecca. "There is a young schoolteacher—Gina Mastroianni—very good family, as Americans count such things—a good friend of mine, she has become—she is even prettier than my cousin—smarter, too, in all honesty—and—"

Francisco was laughing aloud, now. "Be off!" he commanded. "Later!"

Obediently, Rebecca skipped down the steps. But, by the time she reached the bottom, a new enthusiasm had come. She turned around.

"Be sure to watch the show tonight, Francisco! There will be a great opportunity to invest! Watch!"


"How does she get away with it?" grumbled Piazza. As usual, he was attending the roundtable discussion as part of the live audience in the recording studio.

Sitting next to him, Mike grinned. "What's the matter?" he whispered. "Think the TV executives we left behind—not to mention the sponsors—would have choked on this show? Not suitable for a popular audience?"

Piazza grunted sarcastically. He started to reply, but fell silent. The show was starting.

"Welcome to tonight's roundtable discussion," began Rebecca. She was practically bouncing in her chair from enthusiasm. "Tonight's show, I think, will be grand!"

She introduced the participants with a quick pointing finger. "Most of you, of course, already know Greg Ferrara from his many appearances on the show. Next to him is Ollie Reardon, the owner of one of Grantville's machine shops. And next to him is Jerry Trainer. Jerry is Quentin Underwood's son-in-law and was studying for a degree in chemical engineering before the Ring of Fire—ah—interrupted his education."

A little laugh went up from the audience. "But he finished enough, I'm quite sure!" said Rebecca firmly. She broke off for a moment, translating the introductions into German. When she resumed in English, her enthusiasm seemed to rise.

"Tonight we're going to discuss their proposal for building a chemical factory, and they will explain the importance of it for our future." Bouncing like a puppy, now: "Especially sulfuric acid! Isn't that grand?"

"How does she get away with it?" demanded Piazza. "The worst of it is—don't take this bet!—she'll keep the whole damned audience."


And, indeed, she did. The German audience, anyway. Some of the Americans turned away from their TV sets. But not one German.

A half hour into the show, watching Greg Ferrara at his blackboard explaining the critical importance of sulfuric acid to practically all industrial chemical processes, a German farmer turned his head to the man sitting next to him in the Thuringen Gardens. His neighbor at the table, a German coal miner, had his eyes glued to one of the elevated TV sets scattered throughout the huge tavern.

"Sounds dangerous," commented the farmer.

The miner snorted. "More dangerous than a coal mine? And with the wages they're talking about?" He emptied the pitcher into his mug and looked around for a barmaid. "Besides—"

He spotted the woman he was looking for. "Gesine—bitte!" He waved the empty pitcher. "Und a telephone!"

A minute or so later, Gesine appeared with a fresh pitcher and a cordless telephone. The coal miner accepted the second as easily as the first. He was an "old America hand" himself, now. Telephones were easy.

When the call-in section of the show started, the coal miner was the first one to be sent through. In the studio, Rebecca listened carefully to the man's question, carried over the loudspeakers. Since most of the question had been asked in German, she translated.

"He wants to know if you'll be offering employees the option to purchase stock."

"Oh, sure," came Ollie Reardon's immediate response. "Got to do that, these days, or you can't hire anybody." The machine-shop owner spotted Mike in the audience and grinned. "And we're not even going to try to stop the UMWA from organizing the place. Don't need any extra wars."

The audience laughed.

"And she's getting away with it again," muttered Piazza. But he was laughing himself.


Later that night, Mike wasn't amused in the least.

"You don't have to let anyone tell you what to do, Rebecca," he growled. Sitting on the armchair across from her, he began to clench his fists. "Especially not about this."

On the couch, Rebecca shook her head. "I am not concerned about that, Michael. Only about you. How do you feel—yourself?"

He looked away. For a moment, his eyes roamed the interior of the living room of his family's house. After the show, they had come here—at Rebecca's request—rather than the Roths' house. Mike's mother, sister and brother-in-law had already gone to bed. So had the German family which occupied what had once been Mike's bedroom. Not needing the space, Mike had set himself up in the small room which had once served his mother for her sewing.

He brought his eyes back to her. "It was your desire to wait, sweetheart. You wanted time."

"Yourself," she commanded.

The half-clenched fists opened. "Oh, hell," he whispered. "I wouldn't have waited a day."

She smiled. "Good. It is settled, then. We will get married as soon as possible." Half-eagerly; half-timidly: "Tomorrow?"

He was still frowning. Rebecca made a little fluttering motion with her hand. "Enough time!" She almost giggled. "Even for me!" Then, seriously: "And Francisco is right, Michael. I also have a responsibility to my family. They will be risking much. I know it is hard, sometimes, for you to understand this. But we have survived, in part, because we can also be cold-blooded when necessary."

The term "cold-blooded" went very poorly with the warmth—the heat—in her voice. "Tomorrow," she whispered.

Mike heaved a deep breath, almost clenching his fists again. He did press them very firmly into the armrests.

"No," he said forcefully. "Not until after the election. The convention is about to take its final vote, and we're going to win—hands down. I'll call for immediate elections. Give it—say, a month for campaigning. No, six weeks would be better. Then we can get married."

"Why?" Rebecca demanded. She slid forward to the edge of the couch, her whole posture pleading. "Why so long?"

Mike's expression, for all the love so obvious in it, was set like stone. "Because, sweetheart, I will see you—finally—elected to office in your own name. Before you take mine."

Rebecca groped for the logic. When she found it, she burst into tears.

Mike rose and came to the couch, enfolding her in his arms. "Not so long," he whispered. "Six weeks. Maybe two months."

But Rebecca was already wiping away the tears. She turned her face into his neck and pressed open lips against him. "I love you," she whispered. "And we will not wait two months. Not for everything."

She rose and extended her hand to him.

"I have never seen your bedroom. Show me."



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