1635: THE CANNON LAW – snippet 75:



            The embassy fronted straight onto the street, so there was no easy way to defend the building and still have the door open. The Marines on guard had come inside and barred the big double-leaf main door, and one of them was looking out of the spy-hatch at the street outside. There were four of them, all with their carbines at the ready, and Sharon could hear booted feet jogging into other rooms. The windows were shuttered, but to a determined man with a prybar they were unlikely to be much defense.


            "Let me see," said Sharon, already hearing the sounds of a commotion outside. The marine at the hatch stood aside and let her peer through the little iron grille. With a four-inch square to look through, she couldn't see much other than a confusion of ragged clothes and flying fists. There were hoarse shouts, the sounds of blows landing and yells of pain, fear and anger. And, lying in the street, mostly clutching at parts of themselves but in one case ominously still, people who had been hurt.


            "The scunners hae been at each other like that f'r a wee while, Mistress," the marine who'd been at the hatch said. "Two mobs ae 'em come at once, and fell tae blows. We came within doors, Mistress, rather than be involved wi'oot the rest o' the lads, Mistress."


            Sharon had the feeling that that was out of an unselfish desire to ensure the fun was shared. "Did you hear them say anything about why they're fighting?"


            "Some ae' em're agin all foreign folk as they see it, Mistress," he said, plainly doubtful that a Scotsman could be called a foreigner by anyone, least of all someone who was a foreigner himself, "and t'others are riled aboot yon Spaniard papist."


            The Marines seemed to have a fair bit of Italian between them, Sharon had found. Every single one of them could order drink, and probably less savory pleasures, within hours of arriving in Rome, and most of them had a working vocabulary. Several of them had spent years, before the Ring of Fire, in the notoriously polyglot armies that fought the wars in Germany, and would have gone back and forth between the loosely-defined sides as the tides of battle ebbed and flowed. Colonel MacKay, who had brought most of these cavalrymen to Grantville originally, had a distant cousin whose mercenary regiment, raised originally to fight for the Protestant powers, had been on each side at least twice. "Can you tell which gang is winning?"


            "Them as is angry at all foreigners, I think, Mistress," he said. "A' wouldnae go oot, Mistress, 'tis awfy rough." Again, a slightly wistful tone that he was missing the fun.


            Sharon had no intention of opening the door. There was at least one pair of fighters not three yards away, and between the knife one had and the cudgel the other one was swinging wildly, anyone who got near them was in as much danger as their mutual opponents. "Dad?" she said, "Can you have your emergency kit ready? Only I think we're going to have casualties. One of you Marines get word to Captain Taggart—"


            "Here, Mistress," the captain said, behind her.


            "Oh. Well, we'll want an aid station setting up. I think the ballroom will be best. It's at the back and there's plenty of space," she said.


            "As many lanterns as you can find," Dr. Nicols added, "and at least two tables big enough for a man to lie on."


            "Aye," Captain Taggart said, "We've a field manual for the such as that these days, and I've lads here who assisted the lady doctor in Venice when she mended the guts of the Senor."


            "Good," Sharon said. "Hopefully this will—”


            Stars flashed before her eyes and she flung herself back from the grille. She felt, rather than heard, the resounding clang of a rock hitting it, and chips of stone stung her face and eyelids where they spattered.


            Shouts of alarm, steadying hands, and she got her eyes open. "I'm okay, okay, really, I'm okay," she said, "more surprise than anything. Someone threw a rock at the door."


            There was a volley of thuds and crashes as more and more rocks hit the front of the embassy.


            "Permission to return fire, Mistress?" Captain Taggart asked.


            "No," Sharon said, hearing her dad, Melissa and Rita say it at the same time. "Not unless it looks like they might get in, please. I don't want any more casualties than we've already got. I don't think it's safe to bring in any of those wounded quite yet, but let's have that aid station anyway."


            Another series of crashes. "Aye, Mistress," the Captain said, sounding dubious, and left to give the orders.


            "Last thing we want's a massacre," Dr. Nichols growled. "Surest way to make this last longer than it has to. Eventually they'll get tired and go home to sleep it off."


            "This is most likely," Ruy said.


            It was the dawn of a sleepless night before the last of the hooligans began to drift away, not notably pursued by any militia presence. Sharon hoped that that was because they had been busy with worse trouble elsewhere. No-one else on the same street had been much troubled, from the looks, and certainly the armed retainers in those houses would likely have a lot less compunction about firing into a crowd. The casualties were few in number, in the end, and if there had been fatalities, someone had removed the bodies under cover of darkness. Those that were left were being helped away by others by the time Ruy and Captain Taggart would let her or her dad open the door and go out, so in the end there was nothing to do. Sharon wondered if any of them would have refused treatment after a night spent hurling stones at her residence, and supposed she would never know.


            Then she then realized that the rioting had probably gone all through Frank's neighborhood, and she had no way of knowing even whether he was alive.