1635: THE DREESON INCIDENT – Snippet 63:



            Henry Dreeson sighed. Thea hadn’t made it to the hospital. She’d produced her baby in the back downstairs bedroom of his house, which she and her husband Nicolas were still occupying, not having been able to find an apartment they could afford.


            She’d probably dragged her feet deliberately, waiting till it was too late to leave the house even when the hospital was just a few blocks away, not telling anybody. Down-time women didn’t like to go to Leahy Medical Center to have their babies. They wanted to have them at home, with midwives. That was probably just as well in a way. Given the size of Grantville these days, if all the women wanted to have their babies in the hospital with up-time physicians officiating, the deliveries would spill over into the parking lot and the town’s three doctors would be working nonstop.


            It caused a bit of tension, sometimes, between the doctors and the German midwives. Sometimes even between the doctors and the nurse-midwives whom Beulah McDonald was training. Maybe he ought to talk to Kortney Pence, and Beulah the next time she came up from Jena


            He brought his mind back to the tension right here. Nicolas was hovering next to Dorothea.


            On one side of the bed, the Reverend Enoch Wiley for the Calvinists. On the other side of the bed, Father Athanasius Kircher for the Catholics. In this corner, wearing a black suit; in the opposite corner, wearing a clerical collar…


            He’d married Nicolas Moser and Dorothea Richter himself, at city hall, to avoid the question of which kind of church ceremony they might have to pick between, so to speak.


            He didn’t think that even Grantville had a provision for anything you might call civil baptism.


            The way things were starting to sound, it might be a useful idea, though. He could suggest it to the county board. Maybe Jenny Maddox could do them at the funeral home. The chapel there was pretty nondenominational.


            A sort of generic baptism for those who wanted it, not committing the baby to anything specific in the long run. It could be filed with the birth certificate instead of in a church. That would be convenient, since the Bureau of Vital Statistics was still in the funeral home.


            Enoch advanced, defending the ecclesiastical allegiance of the father; Kircher countered, championing the faith of the mother.


            The proud parents were doing their best to bury their heads in the sand. Dorothea, literally, her head in the pillow. They didn’t deal with problems like this very well.


            Maybe it wasn’t the sort of thing that he really needed to run by the county board. He left the room, picked up the phone, and called Jenny.


            Mike Stearns and the "total separation of church and state" radicals in the CoC might want to haul him in front of a firing squad for this. At a minimum, there would be a lively controversy in the newspapers after it was announced. But Mike was in Magdeburg these days, and the CoC didn’t have the responsibility for keeping life in Grantville on an even keel.


            "Thea’s worn out," he said firmly. "I don’t want to be inhospitable, but everybody except Nicol ought to get out of the room. There’s coffee and cookies in the living room. Then, the rest of you, go home. She doesn’t need this right now."




            "He didn’t," Chad Jenkins said.


            "He did," Ed Piazza answered. "Right after supper, once he’d gotten rid of the rest of them, Henry had Ronnie bring a basin of water in from the kitchen and he baptized the baby himself."


            "Oh, Lord."


            "It’s a valid baptism. I’ve checked with everyone. Kircher, Kastenmayer, Jones, Wiley. All the ministers agree. Well, not Green, or old Joe Jenkins, of course, but that’s only because they don’t believe in infant baptism at all and insist on total immersion of adults. She wasn’t even a day old and Henry just dribbled some water on her forehead. The rest of them, though, except the Baptists, figure that the kid is now a properly saved Christian until such time as she reaches the age of reason. That gives Nicol and Thea another, oh, seven to ten years to decide which direction she’s going, ecclesiastically speaking. He named her, too, while he was at it, since Nicol and Thea couldn’t agree on a name, either.


            "What did he pick?"


            "Anna Elisabetha. For Annalise. He said that Annalise deserved a tribute, the way she bore up under everything last summer."


            Chad picked up his notebook. "Well, let’s start laying out how we’re going to play it as far as the campaign is concerned. Annalise was a good idea for a name, because we can bring in Hans… At least Henry doesn’t have any significant opposition. The Crown Loyalists, the few we have locally, thought they ought to run someone. Their caucus picked a down-timer, a guy named Hartmuth Frisch. He’s a friend of Tino Nobili and already on the county board, but he’s mostly known in town as Count August von Sommersburg’s factor. Henry should win in a walk, even if he has introduced ‘civil baptism’ sort of off the top of his head."




            Henry Dreeson pursed his lips and wished for the nine hundred ninety-ninth time in the past five hours – which was how long this county board meeting had been dragging on – that sixteen fewer people had voted for Tino Nobili. Or seventeen more people had come to the polls and voted for Orval McIntire. Or some combination of the above that would have kept Tino out of office.


            Henry was still the mayor, but it wasn’t a city council, any more. It was a county board, now. When the SoTF went to the county system, they’d decided that the make-do of a slightly expanded Grantville city council being the governing body of the whole RoF circle plus everything it had annexed since 1631 had to be scrapped. So they’d scrapped it and turned the whole area into an urban county. He was still the mayor. Partly because he’d been the mayor to start with. Partly because the down-timers had a good grasp on what a mayor did and hanging on to the familiar, when you could, wasn’t a bad idea. So instead of mayor/council or chairman/board, they had a mayor/board system now.


            For which Tino ran. And won. And just at this moment sat in a chair at the other end of the table. Bringing as many complications with him as the vain little Maizie bird in Dr. Seuss had stuck artificial feathers in her tail to make herself prettier. Till she had so many that they overbalanced her.


            The time when Tino’s pretensions overbalanced him and he fell flat on his face couldn’t come too soon. Right now… Well, it got complicated. What happened to having a world in which you could tell your players if you did have a scorecard. It was getting to the point that a man needed a cat’s cradle with diagrams on it to figure out the way things worked.


            Some ways, Tino was a good guy. A family man. Hospitable. The daughter of that Italian artist woman who’d come into town with Simon Jones and the Stone boys had been staying with them for quite a while, and the girl was going to marry Pete McDougal’s son.


            Pete was Fourth of July Party, of course. Good friend of Mike Stearns. Which you’d think might tilt things one way.


            But politically, on the board, Tino had hooked up with Hartmuth Frisch, who was running for mayor.


            Now Frisch, you’d think, wouldn’t be running on the other ticket. Not in a logical world. He came from the Palatinate – the one over by the Rhine, not the one over by Bohemia. A pretty reasonable man. He’d come into town at the end of a long, long, trip that had taken him all over the northern half of Germany, following the trail of his dead brother and trying to track his kids. Found them here, adopted by Orval and Karin McIntire a couple years before he caught up with them. Hadn’t made a fuss – Orv and Karin were Presbyterian, Calvinists like Frisch was, and the kids were happy. A lot happier than they would have been spending those years in an orphanage, somewhere. Frisch was a widower; he was happy just to be an uncle. He’d taken a job as a factor for Count August von Sommersburg’s slate quarries. Good businessman. Ed’s friend Cavriani had brought his daughter Idelette to town; she was living with Enoch and Inez Wiley and working for the guy.


            Sommersburg was Mike’s ally; Orv was Mike’s ally; Cavriani… well, he was friends with Ed Piazza and Ronnie liked him fine.


            So you’d think maybe that Frisch would join the Fourth of July Party.




            Frisch didn’t usually say much, himself. He didn’t need to. He had Tino, who was willing to say it all. Tino was a really conservative sort of Catholic. He thought that what Henry had done when he baptized Thea’s baby was an awful thing. Frisch was a really conservative sort of Calvinist. He thought that what Henry had done when he baptized Nicol’s baby was an awful thing.


            It was the same baby, of course. They seemed to forget that, from time to time.


            The only thing that ever shut Tino up was an emergency at the pharmacy. Then he forgot all about strutting in his artificial peacock plumage and dashed off to do what he did best.


            That was probably why Henry hadn’t ever strangled him.