1635: THE DREESON INCIDENT – Snippet 42

Chapter 21


"When I sent them to Grantville last spring, I had no intention that they would batten on you forever, Henry."

Veronica Dreeson was steaming with wrath. Truly with wrath, because during the months she had been gone, Henry's health had worsened noticeably. The trip back, even in the ATV, with its seats so much softer than a wagon, had been hard on him.

Why had he been so inconsiderate of himself as to make that trip to Fulda and Frankfurt? Why had he been so inconsiderate of her? Didn't he realize that she had already been a widow once? Once was enough. He should not have gone.

She should not have gone to Amberg. She should have remained in Grantville to care for him. She had accomplished nothing at all during that trip to the Upper Palatinate in any case. Except to provide him with one more burden.

Officially, therefore, she was wrathful this morning because after her late husband Johann Stephan's niece Dorothea and her lover Nicolas Moser had arrived here, Henry had not only performed a civil marriage ceremony for them, but had also found a job for Nicolas as a clerk with the SoTF court system. And, since the job was very junior and did not pay enough that they could rent their own apartment, had permitted them to live in one of the rooms of his house ever since.

"Now, Ronnie," he said mildly. "Dorothea has taken some of the burden off Annalise. It is her senior year in high school, after all. Dorothea is here when the other children leave, when they come home. She was a big help when Ed Piazza asked me to go over to Buchenland. I think I'd have said no if she and Nicholas hadn't been available to Annalise for backup."

That was the wrong thing to say. So it was really Nicol and Thea's fault that Henry had risked his health on that strenuous trip. "What does she do here?" Veronica asked suspiciously.

"Reads novels, mostly," Henry admitted. "When she isn't playing with Will and Joey. But don't blame Annalise. Thea already knew about Harlequin Romances when she arrived."

"I know." Veronica's sigh was disgusted.

"It makes the housekeeper feel better to have an adult member of the family present, whether she does anything at all." That, Henry thought, was perfectly true.

Possibly the best thing was that she had arrived home to find that the rest of the household appeared to be well and happy. It was the worst thing, too. They had gotten along fine without her. She was just a useless old woman.

"What is that book?" Veronica asked suspiciously.

Thea looked up, apprehensively. She knew perfectly well that her aunt, aunt-by-marriage, widow-of-her-father's-half-brother, was not pleased to have her in the house.

"It's called Where's Waldo. I found it in that chest under the bay window. Henry said that one of Margie's kids left it behind. Joey is really too young, but Will loves it." She clambered up from the floor to the sofa. "Sit next to me, Tante. See, in each of the pictures, there is a little monkey hidden."

Veronica didn't want to take the book away from Will and Joey. It took some time to locate another copy and quite a few USE dollars to buy it from Chandra Prickett, who said, "I guess, since you want to send it out of town, to Becky, for the baby, I'll sell it. I can always check it out of the library for my kids, since it doesn't look like we're going anywhere."

She did send the book to Becky.

In the same packet as a letter to Gretchen, who now claimed that her political obligations to the CoC and Mike Stearns required that she had to go campaigning for Fourth of July Party candidates between now and the February elections, instead of coming home to collect her many and varied offspring, natural and adopted.

A rather tart letter, headed with the words:

Where's Gretchen?

She slipped her hand into the pocket tied under her skirt. It held the disintegrating remains of a makeshift rosary, constructed of a piece of Bavarian grapevine and with snips of hollowed-out twigs for the beads. Perhaps the summer had not been entirely wasted, after all. She had learned a lot about this "guilt tripping" from Mary Ward and Archduchess Maria Anna. She couldn't do it quite as deftly as they did, yet, and the technique was hard to combine with her Abbess of Quedlinburg face, but perhaps she could alternate.


"Good to see you back, Ronnie."

"Good morning, Enoch. Is Idelette here? I have a package for her that Leopold sent from Rheinfelden, and a letter from Marc. Probably telling her how crazy he is about that little seamstress, Susanna."

"Actually, she's over at St. Veronica's with your girl. Catching up the bookkeeping. Come in and sit down for a spell. Inez is just making coffee."

"The bookkeeping's in good shape. I was surprised. I suppose I owe her something for the work . . ."

"No, no. Consider it part of her apprenticeship. Leopold sent her to Grantville to learn how to run a business. Helping Annalise is part of that. Aura Lee Hudson and Carol Koch-she's gone back to using Carol Unruh as her professional name, I guess you'd call it-are mentoring them, I guess you'd say. It's working out pretty well."

"Hummph." Ronnie snorted. "Everyone knows that children will pay more attention to outsiders than to their own families. That's one of the reasons we apprentice them in the first place."

Inez nodded. "It's not just what they're learning. It's the willingness. That's what my mother used to say. 'You'll always get a lot more help around the house from a hired girl than you will from your own daughter. And the woman who hires your daughter will get a lot more help from her than from any of her own.'"

"But there's still a lot that Annalise has to learn. The trip to Amberg was a complete waste. At least, from all I can figure out so far. Well, we're getting the books that Annalise negotiated for. That's something, I suppose."

"You can't bring yourself to say it, but you're as pleased by the way Annalise managed the schools while you were gone as you've ever been by anything in your life."

"I suppose."

Inez poured a little milk into her coffee. "You ought to tell her so. She worked really hard."

"Ronnie doesn't want to give her the big head."

"Enoch! Don't encourage Ronnie to hold it all in. Annalise deserves a pat on the back. She's earned it."

"What she deserves is to go to college," said Ronnie firmly. "But I don't see how. The Jesuits are paying a little rent for the site in Amberg where the print shop used to be, and the normal school a little more, but it has to be split five ways, since Johann Stephan's girls in Nürnberg have a right to their shares. A fifth of it isn't going to pay Annalise's tuition at Quedlinburg, or even come close to it. Brechbuhl hasn't managed to break the Grafenwöhr property out of probate yet. By the time he does, it will be too late for Annalise. I can predict that right now."

After Inez saw her out, she came back laughing. "That was a really classic Veronica grump."

Enoch nodded. "She's got a point, though."