1636: The Ottoman Onslaught – Snippet 26
He’d have given a lot to have just one or two APCs with him. The vehicles weren’t amphibious but they’d do splendidly to drive off enemy cavalry while his engineers threw up the bridges. But in his infinite wisdom — being fair about it, the damn Polish king was being just as pigheaded about keeping the war going — Gustav Adolf insisted that all the functioning APCs had to remain with Torstensson’s forces around PoznaÅ„.
“Might as well wish for one or two M1 Abrams main battle tanks, while I’m at it,” Mike muttered.
“I didn’t catch that, sir,” said his adjutant, Christopher Long.
“Nothing. Just dreaming the impossible dream.”
USE naval base
Admiral John Chandler Simpson believed very firmly — as you’d expect from someone raised in the high church Episcopalian tradition — that a man who used profanity thereby demonstrated his inferior intellect and primitive grasp of the glorious English language. But, as he lowered the message from Veleda Riddle he’d just finished reading — the parsimonious old lady had even paid to have it sent by radio transmission, which indicated how agitated she was — he couldn’t help himself.
“Well, fuck me,” he said.
It was hearing someone else express her own deepest qualms that finally settled Veleda Riddle’s mind.
“But she’s not one of us!” exclaimed Christie Kemp.
The statement stuck in Veleda’s craw, as the saying went — all the more so because she completely agreed with it. The woman was not only “not one of us” she was so far removed from “us” that she might as well have been living on Mars.
That was to say, one of the many planets He had created.
“Christie,” she said, trying to keep her tone from being too disapproving, “we are a church, not a country club. I think we need to keep that in mind.”
“I agree with Veleda,” said Marshall Kitt.
“So do I,” added his wife Vanessa.
Christie threw up her hands. “Fine! But you need to face some facts, people. We are not — not, not, not — prepared to deal with this. We have exactly one priest — well, that we’re compatible with — and he’s not leaving Grantville. We have no bishop who could ordain more priests, leaving aside that snot Robert Herrick whom Laud saw fit to make the bishop in Magdeburg. Herrick’s a goof-off anyway and we all know it. That means we’re still completely dependent on Archbishop Laud, who is — pardon my Baptist — an asshole who won’t give us the time of day. Even if he weren’t, he’s in the Netherlands.”
She had a point, as crudely expressed as it might be.
“I will write to him again,” Veleda said.
Amsterdam, the Netherlands
“That pestiferous woman!” Laud exclaimed. He held the radio missive clutched in his fist and waved it under Thomas Wentworth’s nose. “She’s at it again!”
“I just came in the door, William,” Wentworth said mildly. “On what I intended to be a simple personal visit. What has you so agitated?”
Politely, he didn’t add this time, as he so easily could have. Exile was a wearing state of affairs for anyone, but his friend the archbishop of Canterbury handled it with particularly poor grace. Perhaps that was due to his age. Laud was now sixty-three and was likely to be feeling his mortality pressing down on him. So much still to do — and now, so little time left in which to do it.
Laud heaved a sigh and sank back into his chair. “It’s the American woman, Veleda Riddle. I’ve told you about her. She keeps pestering me to give the Americans their own bishop. I’ve already sent them some priests! Well. Two priests — and I made one of them the bishop in Magdeburg. And there are only a very small number of American so-called ‘Episcopalians’ anyway. What do they need a bishop of their own for?”
Without waiting for Thomas to reply to that — clearly rhetorical — question, Laud raised his message-clutching fist again and waved it about.
“I’ll tell you! I’ll tell you! They intend to break away from the authority of the true Anglican Church, that’s what! I’m not a fool, you know. I’ve read the history books. In their world the archbishop of Canterbury was just a so-called ‘first among equals.'”
He broke off for a moment, glaring at the inoffensive wall opposite from him. “They called it the ‘Anglican Communion.’ Each national church having its own separate identity and authority, with only token acknowledgement given to the English fountainhead of the church.”
Wentworth had heard this all before — more than once. “Oh, leave off, William!” he said impatiently. “Why do you even care, other than as a matter of personal pride?”
“You don’t understand, Thomas. They’re not part of us.”
Wentworth took a seat on the small divan under the window. “No, they’re not. I have met some Americans, you might recall. But the way I see it, that’s all the more reason to let them go their own way.”
He leaned forward, planting elbows on his knees. “William, we have more than enough problems to deal with. One of them — do I need to remind you, of all people? — being to place you back in Canterbury where you belong. Why in the world would you want to pile onto your shoulders this additional distraction?”
Without moving his arms, he spread his hands wide. “So let them have their bishop, why don’t you? Then, hopefully, they’ll go on their way and that woman who aggravates you so mightily won’t bother you any further.”
Laud said nothing for a minute or so, he just continued to glare at the wall. Then, he sighed again.
“I suppose you’re right.” He rose to his feet and moved toward his writing desk. “There’s this much of a blessing, at least. The ancient harridan made a specific recommendation once. If I can find itâ€¦”
He rummaged among the papers piled around the desk.
“Ah, here it is.” He handed the letter over to Wentworth. “This will spare me the nuisance of having to send someone to investigate the possibilities.”
Wentworth scanned the letter quickly. When he got to the name of the man whom the Riddle woman had recommended, his eyebrows rose.
“Well, he certainly has the pedigree,” he said.
“In that case, I’ll send the appointment by radio transmission.” The expression on Laud’s face was mischievous; indeed, it bordered on being malicious. “They call it a ‘collect call,’ you know.”
He reached for the bell on a side table and rang for his secretary. “I can’t actually ordain him over the radio, of course. That requires a laying on of hands. But I can appoint him bishop-elect and make the appointment widely known.”
Tom Simpson wouldn’t have paid for the radio message, except for the name of the sender. What would the archbishop of Canterbury want with him?
It took no more than a few seconds to read the message. A few more seconds to re-read it. At least a minute, though, for the meaning to finally register.
“Well, fuck me,” he said.
As he headed toward the entrance, the radio operator called him back. “There’s another message coming in for you, Major Simpson.”
Tom turned around. “From who?”
“Your father, it says.”
After Tom read that message, the situation became much clearer.
“I swear to God,” he muttered, as he emerged back onto the street, “if you planted that woman in the middle of the Gobi desert — oh, hell no, plant her in the middle of Antarctica — she’d find an apple cart to upset. Take her maybe two minutes, tops.”
His wife’s reaction when she read the message from Laud was a variation on the theme.
“Oh, fuck no! Tom, you can’t accept!”
He made a face. “I’ll have to check with Veleda or somebody else who’d know the protocol. But I’m not actually sure I can refuse. Legally speaking — well, ecclesiastically legally speaking — I think this is more like being conscripted than volunteering. You know how it is in this day and age — half of your top clergymen are political appointees.”
“I don’t give a damn! I don’t want my husband to be a fucking bishop! I’m just a trashy country girl hillbilly! I want to get laid once in a while!”
Tom laughed. “Episcopalian clergy aren’t Catholics, honey. They — we — don’t take vows of celibacy.”
“Doesn’t matter! How can I possibly screw a goddam bishop?”
His grin widened. “Come here and I’ll show you.”
An hour or so later, Rita was much calmer. Not quite mollified, but close.
“Well, I guess there’s one upside to the whole thing,” she said, her head nestled on his shoulder.
“Hmm?” Tom’s eyes were closed. He’d have been purring, if humans were equipped to do so.
“You can get Ursula out of our hair. Send her to Dresden to do her proselytizing. Let her drive Gretchen Richer nuts. It’d serve her right since this is all her fault in the first place.”
His eyes opened. “I’m not sure I have the authority to do that. Ursula is just laity, not clergy.”
“Says who?” Rita levered herself up on an elbow and looked down on him. “Your church ordains female priests. I know it does.”
“Well, yeah — up-time. But hereâ€¦”
His eyes were wide open, now.
Rita laughed and slapped his chest. Which was like slapping a side of beef. “Oh, Laud will have a shit fit! Welcome to the seventeenth century, way-too-smart-for-his-own-good husband of mine. What should we call it? Hey, I know — the Bishop Wars.”