1636: The Chronicles of Dr. Gribbleflotz – Snippet 60

A hand grabbed her shoulder and spun her round until she faced Tracy. “I mean it, Richelle. After lunch you can pad up and run through the same drills, but this time Jonathan will be allowed to use any counter he knows. It’ll be a whole new ballgame.”

“Bring it on!” Richelle said, using an Americanism Papa Ted often used.

That afternoon

Richelle was grabbed from behind. Immediately she grabbed for Jonathan’s right hand. Her right hand clamped his against her body while she ran her knuckles across the tendons on the back of the hand. When it released its grip she grabbed a couple of fingers and pushed them back. Her hand clamping Jonathan’s hand against her body formed a fulcrum against which she could apply pressure on Jonathan’s fingers. She smiled at him, confident that she had control of him.

Then something hit her in the midriff and she folded up. A moment later Jonathan wasn’t just free, he had her in an unfamiliar hold. One arm was levering her bent right arm so that she wanted to bend forward, while his other hand was pushing back at her shoulder. He wasn’t even really holding her, and he was still able to make her stand on tip-toes.

“Okay, you can let her go now, Jonathan,” Tracy said.

“Only if you grab hold of her so she doesn’t try and hurt me,” Jonathan said.

Richelle glared at Jonathan. He’d guessed that she was just waiting for him to let her go before retaliating.

Tracy grabbed her hand and Jonathan released his hold and jumped back a safe distance. Richelle made a move to attack him, but Mama Tracy had a firm grip on her.

“I told you not to be so cocky,” Tracy said.

“He hit me,” Richelle protested as she took in the interested expressions on the women who’d gathered around to watch the demonstration. “That wasn’t in the drill.”

“What did you expect him to do when you just stood there like that?” Tracy asked. She turned to Jonathan. “Would you like to demonstrate how Richelle should have reacted?

“Richelle, I want you to play the aggressor and grab Jonathan like he’s been grabbing you,” Tracy said.

Richelle ran her eyes up and down Jonathan’s nearly six foot frame, stopping when she met his eyes. He was smiling, and she just knew he was going to make her look foolish. “Do I have to?” she asked.

“The best way to learn is by experiencing the hold being applied to you,” Jonathan said before turning his back on Richelle and just standing there, waiting for her to start.

Richelle glanced around the gymnasium. Everyone but Jonathan was watching her. She swallowed and stepped up behind Jonathan and swung her arms around him. The next thing she knew she was yelping in pain because of the tension on her fingers.

“Okay, you can let her go now,” Tracy said.

Richelle settled her sore fingers safely under her arms and stared hard at Jonathan. He can’t have seen the daggers she was shooting at him, because he just smiled at her.

“You were too tentative,” Tracy said. “Now try again, but with a little more aggression.”

“Do I have to?” Richelle asked.

“Could I have a go?” Melanie Matowski asked.

Melanie was Miz Bitty’s youngest daughter, and she attended the same dance classes as Richelle. She was also one of a number of girls in the dance class that considered Jonathan Fortney cute. Richelle didn’t agree. Kittens and puppies were cute, not men like Jonathan.

“Okay,” Tracy said. “Are you ready, Jonathan?”


“Okay, Melanie, in your own time.”

Richelle watched as she swung her arms around Jonathan and hugged him. The thought that she seemed to be enjoying the contact flashed through her mind and she missed how Jonathan broke Melanie’s hold and skipped to one side while maintaining the finger lock. Melanie tried to lash out at him, but Jonathan was able to manipulate his hold so Melanie was unable to strike him no matter how much she tried.

“Okay, you can stop now!” Tracy said.

“How are we supposed to do that?” Richelle said. She waved at Jonathan. “He’s probably had years of training.”

He has a name,” Tracy said pointedly, “And yes, Jonathan has had years of training.” She turned to Jonathan. “Do you have your black belt yet?”

Jonathan shook his head. “Sensei has invited me to grade this year.”

Tracy nodded before turning to the class. “Obviously none of you have the training to control someone like Jonathan was controlling Melanie, but then, I don’t expect you to.” She smiled. “No, if you are ever attacked and you get a finger lock like Jonathan just demonstrated, what you should do is immediately apply maximum force to dislocate the fingers.”

Richelle winced. Her fingers were sore enough as it was, she didn’t want to even imagine what they would feel like if Jonathan had dislocated them. She saw Mama Tracy was still talking and tuned back into what she was saying.

“Your demonstrated ability to hurt your assailant may cause him to cut and run, but if he does stick around, not only will the dislocated fingers make it difficult for him to grab you, the damaged hand will be extremely sensitive to being struck. If you are ever in that situation, don’t hesitate to attack that hand.” Tracy glanced around the class. “Okay, girls, pair off and take turns trying the counter you’ve just seen. Tommy, Jonathan, and I will roam around helping.

Late June, Jena

Philip was frowning at the letter he’d just received when he noticed Jonathan Fortney at the door of his study. Hastily he dropped the letter on the little occasional table beside his armchair. “Come on in and sit. Pull up a chair. How have you been?”

“Bad news?” Jonathan asked, gesturing to the letter Phillip had been reading as he limped over to one of the spare armchairs and collapsed into it.

Phillip glanced down at the letter he’d been reading and shook his head. “Just an inquiry from and old student of mine.”

“Anyone I might have heard of?”

“Johann Rudolf Glauber.”

Jonathan’s brows shot up. “The Johann Rudolf Glauber? The man who discovered Glauber’s salts?”

Phillip nodded reluctantly.

“And discovered how to make hydrochloric acid by adding common salt to sulphuric acid, and nitric acid by adding saltpetre to sulphuric acid?”

Phillip shot to his feet. “Johann Glauber did not discover how to make acidum salis by the action of Oil of Vitriol on common salt, nor did he discover how to make aqua fortis from Oil of Vitriol and saltpetre.”

“The encyclopedia I read seemed pretty sure, Dr. Gribbleflotz.”

Phillip started pacing. “I discovered those methods for myself more than ten years ago.” He stopped pacing to turn and glare at Jonathan. “Johann was my laborant for a year back then, and I taught him how to make acidum salis and aqua fortis using Oil of Vitriol.”


Phillip nodded. “Yes, oh! Like everyone else with access to Grantville’s encyclopedias I too searched them for my name . . .”

“And didn’t find it,” Jonathan chipped in.

Phillip nodded. “And didn’t find it. But I did find my former student’s name, and that he was laying claim to my discoveries.”

“But not until 1648,” Jonathan said. “Why would he wait so long before claiming the methods as his own?”

Phillip shrugged. “Who knows? For that matter, who cares? In your history I was forgotten while Johann was remembered. Why? Because he was a self-promoter while I wasn’t. But this time I will beat him. I’ve learned from my mistakes. This time I’ve grasped the idea of self-promotion. This time I shall be remembered as the man who discovered how to make acidum salis and aqua fortis using Oil of Vitriol. Not some self-taught technician.”

“Didn’t you say he was your student for a year?”

Phillip glared at Jonathan for picking up on that little detail. He might have held his gaze long enough to force Jonathan to drop his eyes, or maybe that should have been eye, if he hadn’t suddenly noticed that Jonathan had a rather impressive black eye. “What happened to you?” he asked, gesturing towards the eye.

Jonathan brushed a finger lightly over the swelling that was trying to close his right eye. “I helped out at Frau Kubiak’s latest Ladies Self-defense course, and one of the girls accidently hit me in the eye.”

Phillip studied the eye and winced in sympathy. “I have an ointment that might help. Let me get you some.”

Jonathan held up a hand. “There’s no need, Dr. Gribbleflotz. I’ll be okay. I’m more interested in knowing why you wanted me to stop by?”

Phillip held up a single finger. “One moment,” he said before hurrying over to his desk and extracting three files from a drawer. “Have a look at these while I get the ointment.”

“What are they?” Jonathan asked as he accepted the folders.

“The laborants kept asking about the science behind the experiments in those sample alchemy sets you brought over, so Hans, Michael, and Kurt got together to prepare a booklet for each set that explains the science behind the experiments. We have them in three languages. I’m confident that the German and Latin versions are correct, but the manuscripts you have are the English translations, and while I can read and understand language very well, things go wrong when I try to speak or write in English.”

Jonathan flipped through the pages of one of the booklets, pausing to skim over what was written a couple of times. He looked up at Phillip. “But why do you want an English version? Hardly any of your laborants know more than a few words of English.”

Phillip nodded. “That’s true, but English is still a language of instruction in some technical subjects.”

“Only because the teachers aren’t sufficiently fluent in German or Latin yet.”

“Of course, but it means people are learning English, and that means that there is a market for an English translation, and best of all, with the three versions in the same booklet, the booklets can double as a language learning aid.” Phillip gestured to the file. “You have a look at them. I won’t be a moment.” He left Jonathan reading one of the manuscripts and hurried off to the store room and grabbed a jar of his special cure-all ointment with the added extracts of maggot. Jonathan was well into the first manuscript when he returned.

“How does it look?” Phillip asked as he opened the jar and placed it on the work table beside Jonathan.

Jonathan smiled at Phillip. “You were right. Things go wrong when you try to write in English.” He waved the manuscript. “Someone’s going to have to go through this and mark all the corrections that need to be made.”

“That’s the task for which I asked you to come.” Phillip smiled as he tilted Jonathan’s head back so he could study the swelling around Jonathan’s eye. “Hold still a moment.” He dug a finger into the ointment and applied it liberally to the swollen area before gently massaging it in.

“Ouch!” Jonathan’s cry of pain had Phillip backing off for a moment. “You want me to check the English in those manuscripts? Why?”

“Because you’re a native English speaker,” Phillip said as he started to gently massage in the ointment again, “and you don’t need to ask who wrote the original English translation.”

“Ah.” Jonathan tried to nod, but Phillip’s hold on his head prevented him from doing so. “You still haven’t told the Kubiaks that you understand English.”

“No. And I’d like to keep it a secret a little longer.” Phillip used a rag to gently wipe the excess ointment from Jonathan’s face before stepping back to inspect his handiwork. He nodded in satisfaction as he put the lid back on the jar and handed it to Jonathan. “I want you to gently massage a liberal coating of the ointment into the swelling twice a day for a week.”

“Thanks, Dr. Gribbleflotz,” Jonathan said as he accepted the jar.

Phillip waved away Jonathan’s thanks. “So, will you check my translation? I will pay you.”

“I’ll be happy to look at them, Dr. Gribbleflotz,” Jonathan said, “and there’s no need to pay me.”

“I insist.”

Jonathan held up the jar of ointment. “Then consider this payment.”

“It’s a lot of work,” Phillip said.

Jonathan shook his head. “I’ll type it all up on the computer at home and run it through the grammar and spell checker. It’ll hardly take any time at all. Then I can print everything out and pass it on to Herr Trelli to check the science.”

“If you’re sure,” Phillip said. He’d heard about the wondrous computers, but he’d never seen one working yet.