1636 The Kremlin Games – Snippet 45
Aunt Sofia lifted her arms and patted the air. “Calm, child, calm. Stop and think a moment. Women do the same in Russia. Not all calls to holy orders are calls to God. Quite a few are calls away from the restriction of the outside world.”
“But they don’t . . .”
Aunt Sofia was holding up her hand. “I understood what you meant,” Sofia said. “My point was that there was already an acceptable way to avoid the responsibilities of family. And how do these women live? They get jobs, just as your friend Brandy.”
Natasha nodded cautiously.
“And, Natasha, what do you do in the Dacha?”
Natasha stopped dead. What she did in the Dacha was run it. She used Vladimir’s authority as head of the family, but she ran the Dacha. Her authority there was pretty much unquestioned. “I wasn’t just thinking of me. Though I would like to see Grantville. Perhaps even live there for a time. I was thinking of all the other women of Russia.”
“Of course you were.” Aunt Sofia sounded doubtful. Then she laughed at Natasha’s expression. “But all the women of Russia can’t move to Grantville! What would the men do? Nor can we make Russia into a copy of Grantville, not without losing Russia and ourselves in the process. Quietly, calmly. Think each step through. Plan. You are a knyazhna, not a peasant. Consider the church, also. Think about what the church will have to say. If that doesn’t calm you down, consider how most of the women of Russia will react.”
Sofia held up her hand. “Consider,” she insisted again. “If a woman can be a soldier then a woman can be made to be a soldier. Yes? Would you have women of the boyar class working in the fields like peasant women? Would Madame Cherkaski agree to have her status based on her position in the bureaucracy? She can’t read, you know. And she heartily disapproves of those who can. It wasn’t the men of Russia who poisoned Mikhail’s first choice for a bride. Think about that. For now, at least, leave politics aside and concentrate on the Dacha.”
That was, Natasha knew, very good advice, though the pamphlet suggested that not everyone followed it. Natasha wondered again who the writer was. She remembered for a moment the joke about Boris and Natasha and the hunt for the moose and the flying squirrel.
Russia had flying squirrels. They were hunted for their fur and were elusive and hard to catch.
Sofia shook her head as she left Natasha to her work. The degree to which her brother had sheltered his children from the realities of Russian politics sometimes appalled her. The degree to which Natasha’s mother had shielded her from the reality of sexual relations appalled her even more. The girl knew nothing about the emotions involved. So little, in fact, that she failed to recognize her obvious — to Sofia — interest in Bernie. This wasn’t the first time Sofia had tried to get her niece to notice how she was reacting.
Natasha was always aware of Bernie. She was aware of him even when he wasn’t in the room. She listened to every casual comment and even though she clearly knew better, she gave those comments and beliefs considerably more weight than they deserved.
Why, Natasha didn’t even realize that she was envious of the various servant girls who saw to Bernie’s needs!
Not that Sofia wasn’t concerned by Vladimir’s interest in the Bates girl, but at least he had been encouraged to get a certain amount of practice, as were all men of his class in Russia. Natasha was most certainly a virgin and, because of her mother’s attitudes, Natasha had had very little even theoretical knowledge until she started corresponding with Brandy Bates. She was totally unprepared for the feelings Sofia could tell she was having for Bernie, which effectively prevented Sofia from being able to offer advice on how to deal with them.
The only good news here was that Bernie was also unaware of Natasha’ interest. Sofia hoped he continued to be unaware. The political consequences of Vladimir getting involved with an up-time woman would be bad. The political consequences of Natasha getting involved with an up-timer would be worse. Partly because Natasha was a woman, and partly because Bernie was right here in Russia.
Perhaps Sofia should encourage Natasha to visit the estates in Murom. Take that new steam barge downriver. That should keep her distracted. Sofia could only hope that the distraction wasn’t fatal, considering that the first boiler they made had blown up.
“It must have come from the Dacha!” Sheremetev roared at the patriarch. For most people roaring at Patriarch Filaret was a serious, sometimes fatal, mistake. Fedor Ivanovich Sheremetev wasn’t most people. He was a cousin of the czar and one of the most powerful nobles in Russia.
“Do not shout at me, cousin,” Filaret snarled back. “It may have come from the Dacha or it may have come from the bureaus — not even necessarily the Grantville section. The same sort of thing is coming from Germany and Sweden. The up-timers’ founding fathers are often quoted.”
“Wherever it comes from, the writer, this Flying Squirrel, needs its pelt removed and publicly. We can’t allow this sort of rhetoric and you know it. After what that fool Zeppi did in Moscow last spring, anything attributed to an up-time source is given extra credence almost as though it were holy writ.”
“I know and that is the very reason we must tread carefully. Aside from offending the Gorchakovs, who have shown themselves both loyal and of considerable financial worth to the czar, a raid or attack on the Dacha would engender quite a bit of ill-feeling among the people. Further, I don’t want to give it that much credence.”
Sheremetev wasn’t satisfied but Filaret wouldn’t budge. The American had become a danger to Russia, Sheremetev thought as he left the meeting. It was time to consider removing that danger. Besides, without the Zeppi fellow, the Sheremetev clan would have a better chance of getting control of the up-timer knowledge away from the Gorchakov clan.