1635: THE DREESON INCIDENT – Snippet 08

Chapter 6


          "Thanks for letting us use your living room, Chad." Henry Dreeson sank gratefully into Charles Jenkins' comfortably upholstered leather recliner. "My place is too much of a madhouse to do any serious talking, with all those kids around, and it's getting so that in the middle of the noise level at the Gardens, I can't hear myself think."

          "Just can't hear, is more like it," Enoch Wiley said. "It's getting to be the same way for me. None of us are getting any younger."

          "Or spryer." Henry leaned his cane against the chair arm. "I hate seeing Tom Riddle in a wheel chair, even if he does look like he's having a good time being pushed all over the place by his students. Seems like he sort of enjoys law professing."

          "Gets him out of the house and away from Veleda. That woman is downright strenuous."

          The rest of them nodded while they were sorting themselves out onto the couch and other chairs. Veleda Riddle was a good woman and no one could say a word against her, but she did tend to take the bit between her teeth when she got one of her enthusiasms. Like founding the League of Women Voters. Or, now, reopening and restoring the old Episcopalian church and getting hold of a minister for it.

          Missy Jenkins came in through the archway in hostess mode. "Hi, Dad. Hi, everybody. Mom's at a meeting over at the middle school – teacher training stuff." She kissed her father on the cheek and smiled at the rest of them.

          "Coffee, tea, hot chocolate, beer, or wine from Winzerla up by Jena," she said, giving her best impression of a waitress. In a more normal voice, she added, "The coffee's fresh-roasted from Sternbock's and I just ground it. The cocoa beans are from Sesma's. I'll strain the hot chocolate through cheesecloth if anyone wants it, to get out those little granules that get stuck in the back of your throat."

          After a bit she disappeared through the dining room and swinging doors to the kitchen to produce two coffees, one hot chocolate, and three beers.

          "Where were we?" Joe Stull rocked back on the hind legs of the straight chair he had chosen.

          Ed Piazza stretched. "Trying to think of some tactful way to tell Mike Stearns that the Fourth of July Party here in West Virginia County can't really afford to have Becky as our senator in the SoTF House of Lords any more. Nothing against her. We all like the girl. But, face it, she's been gone for a year and a half on this embassy to Paris and Amsterdam. No end to it in sight right away, and now she's going to have another baby in a couple of months. We can't afford not to have a real, effective, voice speaking for us. Either she's got to come home – come back here, make Grantville her real residence, and attend the sessions of the congress – or she's got to resign, so we can run another candidate. The election's not that far off."

          Tony Adducci shook his head. "Personally, I don't think she's going to come home. Come back. Her home's wherever Mike is, and Mike's going to be staying in Magdeburg, I expect, even if he loses to Wettin. He'll still be in Parliament and he'll be the head of the opposition to the Crown Royalists. I don't think she'll be willing to move away from him again, once they get this peace in place. If you want my opinion, she'll come down here long enough to collect Sephie and Balthazar and then settle down in Magdeburg. They might even take Mike's mom with them."

          Enoch Wiley shook his head. "Don't think Jean'll be willing to go. She's one of those women who positively enjoy ill health."

          Joe reached up, taking a beer from the tray that Missy brought in. "It's an awfully big house for one woman and a home health aide to be rattling around in, but I can't see Jean taking in boarders. Just can't. Becky'll take Sephie's nanny pair along to Magdeburg, probably. She's almost bound to. She has that little boy she adopted in Amsterdam and now a new baby coming."

          Tony shook his head. "She might not need a nanny. She's not had the kind of problems having babies that Aura Lee did, Joe. Becky bounced right back, after Sephie."

          Henry cleared his throat. "Bounced back and hared off to Paris, not six months later. When she does get home, that little baby will be over two years old. Sephie won't have the slightest idea who she is. Not any more than Will and Joey will remember Gretchen. Ah, Will maybe can remember her, a little. But Joey not at all. He was only three months old when she left."

          Arnold Bellamy reached up for one of the coffees. "Natalie would not be pleased to hear us making disparaging remarks about women who are trying to combine motherhood with a career."

          Chad shook his head. "They're not criticizing, Arnold. They're just telling the truth. No matter how grateful we are to those two girls for what they've done for Grantville, and for the USE, and for anything in between, the fact remains that neither of them has exactly been a homebody. And, in Becky's case, since she's a government official, we've got to deal with this and have some kind of a plan in place before the next election." He took the last beer and looked at the tray. "Who's the second hot chocolate for?"

          "Me," Missy answered cheerfully, plopping the tray down on the coffee table. "'Train up a child in the way he should go.' 'She,' if you want to be picky. Maybe even, 'the laborer is worthy of his hire.' Or 'her hire.'"

          She sat down on the second straight chair she had brought in from the dining room. "Think of me as a politician in training. Hey, guys. Dad served a term as county commissioner back before the Ring of Fire. Why can't I, someday?"

          "You're a librarian-in-training, Miss Missy," Ed Piazza said.

          She nodded agreeably. "That, too. It's always a good thing to have a fallback position. Local politics doesn't exactly pay well. Have you guys heard anything about setting a date? That's an odd thing about this parliamentary system, for most Americans – that elections don't come on a regular schedule, but whenever Mike decides to call them."

          Piazza leaned back and started to talk. Finally, he wound up. "So, to Mike's surprise as much as Wettin's, coming out of the military and naval victories this spring, it started to look like Mike actually could, and would, win the election. Which wasn't what he'd expected, and it damn sure wasn't what Wettin expected. So as soon as the Congress of Copenhagen was over, Wettin and the Crown Royalists started maneuvering to get the election postponed to as late in the year as possible. Don't forget that while we've got a cease-fire in place in the Netherlands, the war isn't over yet. Look what Nils Brahe managed across the Rhine once Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar pulled his cavalry back from around Mainz. It worked, but it could have gone wrong. Wettin and his people figure that the more time between the battles of Ahrensbök and Luebeck and the election, the more time for the war gloss to rub off Mike. The more time for him and his people to administer a thousand little cuts about every minor thing that does go wrong."

          "What does that amount to as far as setting a date goes?"

          "I don't think it's going to happen before the end of this year. It's the first national election the USE will be running, after all. Think of what it was like doing the SoTF election last spring – setting up polling places, training poll workers, getting the ballots printed and distributed. And now, with the war, Gustav has annexed a whole lot of entirely new territory that hadn't even started to get ready because it wasn't in the country. He sure doesn't want to tick off Frederik of Denmark by not letting his new Province of Westphalia vote. Or Nils Brahe, by offending the people in Upper Rhine now, after Brahe managed to do a Florida on it. So there's a bunch of stuff to be done. Offhand, I'd say early next year. February or March, probably. But I don't know anything for sure."

          Joe rocked his chair forward. "Let's figure that it'll be February, then, for this year's election. Next year's election, if you want to be picky. February worked out pretty well in the SoTF when we used it this year. It's easy for people living in villages to get to the polling place, even in winter. And in the slack season, for farmers, they have time to read the newspapers and statements and such. If it turns out to be a little earlier, we can cope. If it's a little later, we'll have that much more time to cope." The chair went back again.

          Tony Adducci changed the subject. "Chad, have you heard anything from Wes about the way he sees things going around Fulda?"

          "I've heard from him, and passed his letter on to Ed. He's had a chance to talk to Constantine Ableidinger's people over there. And I know Ed's talked to Ableidinger himself. Franconia's pretty much in agreement with Thuringia as far as what has to go on the state ballot is concerned. It's mainly restructuring the SoTF constitution to handle the results of the Ram Rebellion. An amendment to bring the margraves of Bayreuth and Ansbach into the House of Lords. And the biggie."

          The conversation dwindled into silence for the next couple of minutes.

          The biggie. The elephant in Chad Jenkins' living room. The invisible elephant on the coffee table, occupying a lot of space right next to the tray of sliced cheese and pretzels that Missy had brought in. The real reason why six up-timers were having this meeting without bringing any down-timers into it this evening.

          The choice of a permanent state capital for the State of Thuringia-Franconia.

          Nobody ever voted for Grantville to be the capital. It happened by default, right after the Ring of Fire, when the SoTF was still the New United States, and the NUS was a half-dozen little towns and principalities in south central Thuringia. A long time before it had turned into a province of the USE with nearly a million people.

          The congress of the SoTF, in its collective wisdom, had passed a bill to put the issue on the ballot in the next election.