1635: THE DREESON INCIDENT – Snippet 55
"It is ‘Thanksgiving’ today in Grantville, isn’t it?" Count Ludwig Guenther asked at breakfast. "A holiday. That’s why there are so few up-timers here, going about their business, even though it is a Thursday."
His wife nodded. "Dankfest. Erntedankfest, more precisely. Mary Kat says that it is a harvest festival. Or began as one. But religious, not a fair, not a Kirmess. Though surely Kirmess and Messe, as in the Frankfurt Buchmesse, must derive from the same origin as Messe as a worship service, don’t you think? In any case, in Magdeburg last spring, Caroline Platzer, Princess Kristina’s lady companion, told me that it was the most intensely familial of their holidays. She hated it so much, the first couple of years after the Ring of Fire. Not that she was alone, because someone always invited her to dinner. But because it reminded her so much that her own family was gone that sometimes she would rather have been alone in her room rather than with someone else’s relatives, pretending that she was all right."
Countess Emelie stood up. "Oh, how my back aches. I don’t believe that I am hungry after all, dearest. There must be some tie to the liturgy. I’ll go check in the library."
"I’d expected the girl to come with you, but I suppose that it makes sense, since they have tomorrow off from school too, that Gertrude took the chance to go to see her sister." Eleanor Jenkins got up and looked out the living room window. "And, in a way, it will be nice to have just family for Thanksgiving dinner. Here they come."
"Who?" asked her daughter-in-law Debbie. "And, uh, it’s not going to be ‘just family,’ Mom. Not even near-family, like Chip’s Katerina."
"Wes and Clara. I see them coming around the corner. And what do you mean, ‘not just family?’
"Missy asked Ron Stone and his little brother. That was when we thought the dinner would be at our place; before we decided to have it here with you. Gerry’s come down from Rudolstadt for the holiday. They’re out in your side yard, talking to Chip, right now. When they saw that Missy was heading straight for the kitchen, they sort of ducked around coming inside and having to talk to the grownups."
She frowned, mentally identifying and classifying the Stone boys, and then looked around. "What do you think about it, Chad?" she asked her son. "Really. About Wes’ getting married again."
Charles Jenkins got up and looked over her shoulder. "Big brother? We couldn’t have expected him not to, I suppose. By nature, he’s inclined to go out of his way to be a happily married man. I know that you and Dad had more than a few doubts about Lena, too, at first, when he fixated on her when he was barely seventeen. I was five years younger, but even at age twelve I was old enough to figure that much out. That one certainly lasted. Clara seems okay, I guess. At least they didn’t rush into it." He grinned. "Except right at the end."
Eleanor looked out through the curtain again. Her older son and his new wife had paused on the sidewalk. Clara looked up at Wes’ face and gave a little skip; he put his arm around her shoulder.
"I worried about Lena," she said. "More than I did about Wes, really. When he started going out with her, she used to look at him more like a startled doe caught in the headlights than a girl in love. As if she were hypnotized but barely conscious enough to realize that something odd was going on. It didn’t strike me as the best foundation . . . But Wes isn’t . . . Never mind. As you say, it certainly lasted and they were happy together. At least it’s pretty clear that Clara does love him dearly, his little foibles and all. Which is just as well."
"Wes isn’t what?"
Eleanor was still looking out the window. "Callous, I suppose. I guess that would be the best word. He never has been."
"Why ‘just as well’ for Clara?"
"I don’t want to criticize Lena now that she’s gone, but she was always very willing to let Wes make up her mind for her. All those years. This time . . . I have a feeling, Chad, that he has acquired about as much woman as he is likely to be able to handle." She chuckled. "It will be good for him, I think."
One of the cooks was also looking out the window. "Here’s Dad and Clara," Chandra said.
"I get to run and hug Grandpa." Mikey was proud of his status as oldest grandchild, which brought him privileges, such as running outdoors by himself, that the younger ones had not yet earned.
"Coat, mittens, hat. Okay." Chandra opened the kitchen door.
"You really like Clara, don’t you?" her aunt asked. "No problems that your dad married her."
Chandra grinned. Smirked, more precisely. "I sent her to Ed Piazza to apply for the job in Fulda in the first place."
Deborah Jenkins looked up, startled. "I didn’t know that. Neither did Chad."
"I didn’t exactly announce the plan with trumpets. I couldn’t be sure that it would ‘take.’ I was beginning to think that it wouldn’t, until Kortney Pence came home after last Christmas and reported that there was definitely a mutual attraction in place. Clara had qualms because she didn’t have kids during her first marriage, Kortney told us. She thought Dad deserved a second wife who could give him sons. Kortney did a gyne exam while she was over there in Fulda and told Clara there wasn’t anything obviously wrong, so if Dad ever got around to making a move, she could do what came naturally with a clear conscience. Lenore said that Dad would be utterly, totally, completely, and abysmally humiliated if he knew that we were sitting there discussing his prospective sex life with Kortney, but we both said that neither of us was ever going to tell him that we had, so that only left her as a possible tattletale."
"And now," her Aunt Debbie giggled, "us. ‘Two can keep a secret’ and all that. Talk about the blackmail possibilities when I need help from my nieces."
"Why did you pick Clara?" Missy asked.
"Well, because she’s different from Mom. At least, she’s as different from Mom as a woman could be and still get Dad interested in her."
"What do you mean by that?"
"Well, not just that they don’t look alike. Though that’s true enough, and I didn’t think it would be a good idea to try for a rerun. Mom was so ‘West Virginia’ if you know what I’m trying to say. Lanky, nearly as tall as Dad, straight sandy blonde hair, light blue eyes, oblong face. And Clara . . ."
Missy laughed. "Is seven or eight inches shorter than he is with curly dark brown hair and a round face. Generally rounded. Yep. Differences duly noted."
"I’d make it nine or ten inches shorter. My knee-length skirts are floor-length on her. But they’re also enough alike. People may go around saying that ‘bad girls have all the fun,’ but they sure aren’t going to have any of it with Dad. He may see bad girls in the sense that he perceives that they exist, but he’s just not interested. He wants ‘everything nice,’ like in the rhyme. Mom was really nice, and so is Clara. But . . ."
"On the rest of it, sugar and spice, Mom was really heavy on the sugar in the mix. Clara’s got a lot more spice, I think." Chandra winked.
"Not exactly," Gerry answered Chip. "I do expect to go to the university of Jena, yeah. That’s why I decided to attend high school in Rudolstadt rather than here in Grantville, really. I’m not interested in law or medicine. I’m interested in theology. For that, the Latin School in Rudolstadt is head and shoulders better preparation than anything the high school here has yet, even if it did hire several Latin teachers. I want to become a Lutheran minister."
For a minute, Chip stared at him. Then he remembered that Gerry’s stepmother Magda was from Jena, and things sort of clicked. He looked at Ron’s little brother with considerably more interest.
"I’m going to have to take instruction about becoming Lutheran in order to marry Katerina ‘properly,’" he said. "When you come right down to it, in order to marry Katerina at all. There are a few things that seem to be nonnegotiable. Exactly what’s involved in it?"
All of a sudden, Gerry’s expression changed. Intent. With his red hair, Chip thought, in spite of the round face, it made him look like a setter on the point.
"Before you go back to Jena, you ought to talk to Teacher Muselius. He and Pastor Kastenmayer here have more experience than anyone else in providing instruction to up-timers. Saint Martin’s is right on the road outside town leading to Rudolstadt. When are you leaving, you can stop and see them on the way. I’ll go with you."
Gerry’s description of what he would be expected to do didn’t seem too bad. A little tedious maybe, but not bad. Chip listened for a while; then started to retaliate with an equal amount of sententious advice for Gerry.
"You really ought to take at least a few law courses," he said. "Lutheran pastors have to sit on consistorial courts, sometimes. I expect that will keep on happening as long as any of the territories in the USE continue to have state churches. You might as well resign yourself to learning this sort of stuff as well as theology."
Gerry groaned dramatically.
"I mean it," Chip said. He waved his hand toward the sidewalk. "Look there. When Uncle Wes married Clara over in Fulda, I looked up some of the background, and it can get really complicated. Up-time, one day you weren’t married; then you got married; the next day you were married all the way, so to speak. Here, there are centuries of accumulated laws, some of them civil, some of them canon, some of them customary. And at least a half-dozen different stages of being married, depending on the jurisdiction. When couples start fighting, the marriage courts – and there are pastors serving on those, too – have to sort the tangles out."
"So that’s where the negotiations stand on the marriage contract right now," Chad was saying to his mother. "Dieter von Thierbach has brought up a lot of issues I never would have thought of. Sometimes I long for the ‘good old days’ when two people just went out and got married."
His wife Debbie shook her head. "They didn’t, quite. There was ‘going steady.’ Letter jackets. Class rings. ‘Engaged to be engaged.’ There was a song my father used to play. ‘Me and my girl are goin’ steady, We’re not married, but we’re gettin’ ready.’ Maybe we didn’t notice it, didn’t think of them as ‘betrothal rituals,’ because we were used to it all."
She turned, hearing a sound at the door. Katerina, the other half of Chip’s future marriage contract in person, coming down late. "Why don’t you go on into the kitchen," she suggested. "It will be more fun for you with the younger women."