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Grantville, Thuringia

September 11 1634

 

Dear Pen-Pal,

My name is Mikayla Margot Barnes I am twelve years old and in seventh grade at Grantville Middle School. Ms. Mastroianni, our teacher, asked how many of us would be pen-pals with a girl at Quedlinburg and I said yes because I want to learn more about Germany because that’s where we live now and practice my written German which isn’t so good. I hope you can read this okay.

Ms. Mastroianni says I should tell you about myself. Personally, I think that will be awfully boring, but anyway . . . My father’s name is Warner Barnes. These days he works for the USE State Department. In our old time he was an insurance agent. I’ll explain what that is if you want me to, but I’m warning you it is seriously boring. Daddy hated it but he made lots of money at it. What he really likes to do is make dioramas of Civil War battles. First he builds a landscape on a piece of board complete with hills, trees, roads, buildings, even rivers and creeks (though not with real water). Then he takes miniature soldier figures and horses, and cannons and the like and places them in the landscape the way the real soldiers were deployed back then. I help by making trees for him. I’m very good at it and my trees are much better than his. And I paint the detail on the little figures because I’ve got much smaller hands than Daddy does. It’s a lot of fun really, but I suppose it sounds kind of strange. We started a diorama of the Croat Raid on Grantville nearly two years ago and we haven’t finished it yet. Partly because of all the houses we have to make and paint, partly because Daddy just doesn’t have the time for diorama building that he used to. Working for the State Department is much more interesting than insurance he says, but he has to spend days and weeks in Madgeburg which nobody likes. We can’t all move to the city because of school so Daddy has to go back and forth. Commuting, we call it.

Bored yet?

ABF-TC-frbMy mother’s name is Margot Barnes but she was born a Furbee and is very proud of her family. Family is very important in Germany, isn’t it? Not so much back in the United States, but having an old one was something to be proud of and the Furbees are one of the oldest families in West Virginia. It was founded by a man named Caleb Furbee, a Revolutionary War veteran (which is a big thing with us) who got himself a grant of land in what was back then the open frontier and later became Marion County. Then one of his grandsons moved to Grantville, though there was no town here back then, and he’s Mom’s ancestor and mine. Mom’s really big on genealogy. She’s also active in our church. I know religion is a really touchy subject here and now. I guess you’re Lutheran since you’re going to a Lutheran Abbey school? I never knew there were such things as Protestant nuns until we came here!

Bored now?

Our church is the Disciples of Christ and we don’t exist here and now. We were founded in the nineteenth century in America. We call ourselves Disciples, or just plain Christians, because we are trying to recreate the Disciples’ church like in Acts and the Epistles of Paul. Our key belief, beyond the authority of Scripture, is liberty of conscience. We extend that to other denominations and even non-Christians. We may not agree with their doctrines and dogmas, but they are still our brother Christians, or just our brother men. I know people here and now don’t think like that. They even persecute fellow Christians and I think that is just sick. I hope I’m not offending you. I don’t mean that Lutheranism is sick or Catholicism either, I mean that killing each other in the name of Christ is sick. Mrs. Mastroianni says I shouldn’t talk about religion, but my faith in Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior, is important to me, and I’m betting it’s important to you too, so it’s really something we have in common not a difference.

Anyway back to boring you with my family. I have two brothers. Bob is the oldest, much older than me. He’s an army medic in Swabia. My other brother Davie is only nine years old and does nothing but make my life miserable. Do you have brothers and sisters? I always wanted a sister.

Now I’m bored!

Maybe you’d be interested in hearing how the Ring of Fire looked from the inside? It was a Sunday, so we’d been to church that morning. Daddy went home afterward to work on his diorama, but the rest of us stayed for the Meet and Greet. That’s a sort of open house our church holds two or three times a year when people can just come in and get acquainted with us Disciples and our beliefs. I was outside playing with some other kids when this incredible flash whited out the whole sky followed by this huge thunderclap. I thought it was just the biggest sheet lightning ever, but it was much more than that. People in Badenburg and Rudolstadt say they saw the flash too, like a huge dome of bright light, and heard the thunder, and then they saw our West Virginia hills and didn’t know what to think.

As for us, finding out we were in the past, in the middle of a huge war and in Germany of all places was pretty scary. That first winter was really intense. I was too young to realize what a bad spot we were in, but my parents sure did. We’d never have made it without Gitte Clausen, the German refugee we took in our first year here. She knew all kinds of things we needed to know like how to take care of a cow, how to make butter and cheese and what to feed chickens and the kind of vegetables that will grow here in Germany and when to plant them. She really saved our lives. Her husband was killed holding off Tilly’s mercenaries while Gitte escaped with her kids. Wasn’t that heroic of him? Jorg Clausen is a little older than I am, but we’re in the same class at school. Kurt Clausen is seven years old and baby Gretel is nearly four. She is so sweet. I babysit her all the time. Most little kids are brats, but not our Gretel.

In the spring of 1632, Gitte and the kids moved into our camper. That’s a kind of mobile house we used to take trips in. Now it’s permanently parked across the street with a roof built over it. Gitte runs a dairy and eggs business that keeps us and most of our end of town supplied, so we sold her the cow and chickens we’d bought. Now we just keep horses.

We used to have three cars we kept in a big garage which is what you call the building where you keep cars. Do you know what cars are? Most everybody does these days, but if you don’t I’ll explain in my next letter. The town government bought our cars from us for the metal and engines and stuff so we turned the garage into a stable for our horses. Friday is Mom’s gelding and Dad’s is named Lincoln. My pony is called Sheila and Davie’s is named Stanley. Having a pony is one of the good things about being thrown back in time. I’d wanted one forever but up-time only very rich people can afford to keep horses and we weren’t that rich.

I guess this is long enough a letter. Please write back soon.

Mikayla Barnes

 

Dear Mikayla,

I am honored to be ‘pen pals’ with an American. Princess Abbess chose seven of the senior scholars for this task based on the correctness of our composition and our penmanship. I hope you will be able to understand me as well as I understood your letter.

My name is Johanna and I am the eldest daughter of Prince Augustus of Anhalt-Plötzkau. All the Anhalt principalities are now ‘counties’ of the Province of Magdeburg in the United States of Europe. Unlike many princes, our family fully supports the new union. There is very little about Anhalt in your up-time histories but what there is, is a most distressing record of destruction and rapine. Papa feels that peace and stability under the United States is worth any loss of antiquated feudal privileges. My Uncle Ludwig and Cousin Christian fully agree with him. My other cousin, Johann Casimir, cares for nothing but hunting, however his council does whatever Papa says so that is all right.

Papa also approves strongly of your “separation of church and state.” You see, we Anhaltiners are Calvinists, but all the states around ours are ruled by Lutherans, which sometimes made things difficult though the major Protestant sects get along much better with each other than either do with the Roman Church. Papa is less happy about the effect your American is having our German language, but what can we do? Our German does not have words in it for your strange devices and, forgive me if I offend, your even stranger ideas. However, the editions of up-time German classics presented to Uncle Ludwig by your State Department has done much to reconcile both my uncle and Papa to the further sullying of the already far from pure well of German. I believe it was your father who signed the letter that came with the books.

My mother is by birth a countess of Solms-Laubach which is in Hesse-Kassel and she is kin to the landgrave who, as I am sure you already know, is also in favor of the new United States of Europe. This is a great relief to Mama as there is nothing harder on a woman than finding herself bound in loyalty to husband and children to regard her own family as enemies. This is something that has happened all too often to all too many highborn women over the last ten years.

I have three brothers; the eldest of them is Ernst-Gottlieb who has just turned fourteen, next comes Lebrecht who is twelve and finally Emanuel who is almost three. I quite agree with you; younger brothers are a misery worse than fleas and lice and rats and black beetles all together! I also have three sisters. The eldest Dorothea is eleven years old. My next sister Sophie is six and finally there is Elisabeth who is four. I hope you will not be too disappointed to learn that little sisters are no easier to live with than brothers. In fact, they may be worse. Brothers do not make a practice of borrowing your dolls, your dresses, and anything else of yours they fancy! And, of course, if you lose your temper with them it is you who are punished not the little thief.

Still, I sometimes find myself missing my annoying younger siblings. I have been at school here in the abbey for over four years now and I have not seen any of them in that time or my Mama, though Papa comes to visit at least once and sometimes twice a year. But I like the abbey very much. There is a huge library here and the Stiftsdamen are very learned and much more interesting teachers than Freiherrin von Nienburg, who was my Lady Mistress back home. It is also very pleasant to have the company of so many other girls.

There are even more of them now Princess Abbess has opened our school to the burgess and even peasants. The rooms around the old cloister where the scholars have always lived were almost all full, so the new scholars have had to be tucked in wherever there was a little spare space. I am afraid they must be very uncomfortable, but a whole new quadrangle is being built which will have good rooms for everybody. I was a little afraid of the new scholars at first. I’ve never known girls like them, only other nobles and servants. Then I found out they were even more frightened of us! We are gradually learning not to be afraid of each other.

The school curriculum is changing too. We used to study the traditional Quadrivium, ancient and modern languages, and of course divinity. Princess Abbess has added classes in American language, your sciences and future history. She plans to make Quedlinburg a real university, like Jena or Wittenberg, but for women. Frau Nelson, our new music mistress, is an Americaness, the only one to accept a post here as yet, though Princess Abbess and the Stiftsdamen hope others will follow her. Did you know Frau Nelson in Grantville? Everything is changing. It is a little frightening but also very exciting.

I have conceived the ambition of becoming one of the Stiftsdamen and a teacher in the new university, if only Papa and Mama will consent. I don’t believe they have any marriage in mind for me. To be truthful, there are not that many prospective noble husbands to be had after ten years of war. Of course, there are my cousins but that would be like marrying one of my brothers. I would rather be a Stiftsdame. To be a member of a great abbey like Quedlinburg is a very fine thing, almost as good as making an influential match.

Stiftsdamen are not nuns, even of the Protestant kind. They do not wear a habit or sing the hours like Catholic nuns do, nor are they sequestered in their abbey. Most importantly, they do not take holy vows. A Stiftdame promises obedience to the Princess Abbess and to remain chaste while holding her office, but she is not required to give up her dowry to the abbey and she may leave to marry at any time. As you can see the office has many advantages. Becoming a Stiftdame of Quedlinburg could enhance my marriageability, at least among those princes who value education in a wife, and I would not care to wed any prince who did not. Nor would Papa want to ally himself to such a one.

The great drawback to becoming a Stiftsdame is that I would have to turn Lutheran. There are no Calvinist Abbeys. I do not know if my Papa would consent to my conversion, nor am I sure my conscience will allow me to change my religion. You were absolutely right to say that faith in Jesus Christ is something we have in common, nor was I offended by your opinion of persecutions and wars of religion. I completely agree; killing our brethren in the name of the Prince of Peace is “sick,” and cannot be pleasing to Him. Your doctrine of freedom of conscience fascinates me. I have of course been attending Lutheran services here and there is nothing in them that is objectionable to me. If my conscience is indeed my only just guide, then it is right for me to change my faith. The trouble is there are political issues involved as well and loyalty to my family. We have struggled so hard to be true to our church! Am I betraying my father by turning to the enemy? But are Lutherans an enemy? Certainly the Stiftsdamen are not. You have given me strange thoughts, Mikayla, strange and perhaps dangerous thoughts. Yet these are thoughts that have come into our world by way of a miracle. God himself sent you here and, as Princess Abbess says, it cannot be merely to teach us better ways to kill one another!

Frau Nelson does not like us to call the Ring of Fire a miracle. It makes her very uncomfortable, though she admits she has no better explanation for what happened. Truly, what else could it be but a direct intervention by God himself? I would like to hear your thoughts on this.

Written October 5 1634, Quedlinburg

Johanna, Princess of Anhalt-Plötzkau

Grantville, Thuringia

October 23 1634

 

Dear Princess Johanna,

I was really glad to get your letter. I’ve been very worried I offended you with what I said about religion. Do you think it would be better if we avoided the subject like Ms. Mastroianni said?

About the miracle thing, personally I think you down-timers have got it right. I mean the “natural causes” explanation is just plain stupid and “aliens did it” isn’t much better. But how would you like to be the subject of a miracle? Let me tell you, it makes you feel real weird. I mean why Grantville? We’re just this little hillbilly coal town with some good people, some bad ones, and a whole lot of middling ones. Of course, the Apostles were just ordinary working men before Jesus called them too. Maybe He likes using regular people. I guess we should be honored and we sort of are, but it’s been hard. We miss the people we left behind back in our old time and things like network TV and the internet and cell phones and all sorts of stuff we can never have here and now.

Yes, it was my dad who sent Prince Ludwig those books. Daddy took German in college. That’s why he happened to have the collected works of Goethe, Schiller, etc., in the original language. We have English translations in the libraries, but Daddy thought your uncle would appreciate the German versions. I’m glad he liked them. What kind of books do you have in the Quedlinburg library? Any stories about girls? My friends and I are getting awfully tired of reading our Nancy Drews, Babysitters’ Club, etc., over and over again. We’d like to read something new for a change, something about girls in seventeenth-century Germany since that’s where we live now. Maybe you have some books about life in a boarding school like Quedlinburg? We had boarding schools in America, but nobody I know went to one. Here in Grantville, we go to our public schools during the day and live at home. Not seeing anything of your family for four whole years sounds just awful to me, but I know how hard traveling used to be here and now, and dangerous too with the war on. It’s different with the new trains. Have you ever ridden on one? And the new passenger barges are very comfortable, even better than the trains, which are kind of bumpy and rattle something awful. Back up-time my family used to take a long trip every summer. This year we were finally able to do it again.

Did you see the pictures of the royal wedding? Wasn’t that an incredible dress? I don’t know how she could walk in it but it was gorgeous. King Ferdinand is a lot better looking than I thought a Hapsburg could be. I guess they weren’t all as deformed as the ones with portraits in our history texts. Can you believe they were going to marry Maria Anna to her uncle? Is that sick or what? Please tell me Protestants don’t do that! Even if he wasn’t her uncle, Maximilian of Bavaria is obviously crazy as a loon. That girl was so smart to run away from him! I mean he killed his own sister-in-law and nephew! Royalty like that is why Americans don’t like royalty, no offense.

There’s almost nothing about your father in any of our books. Daddy says that’s because he was a good, decent ruler and good and decent doesn’t make the history books like evil and horrible does. We have a bit more about your uncle Christian I and your cousin Christian II, but not because they were evil and horrible. I guess you know you’re related to one of the men who started the war? Well, actually it was Max of Bavaria, wasn’t it? If he hadn’t started grabbing cities, your uncle wouldn’t have had to form the League of Protestant Princes. And it turns out your cousin Christian’s diary is a huge source for historians of the Thirty Years’ War. Luckily the awful things in it are not going to happen now.

There’s almost nothing in the history books we’ve got about Quedlinburg. You’d never know what a big deal the abbess is from them, which Mom says only goes to show the limits of history written by men. I guess she’s right, because there’s not much on any of the important women here and now except for Landgrafin Amalie Elisabeth who made a name for herself ruling Hesse-Kassel for her son. I met her once in Magdeburg. She seemed like a nice lady who’d rather have her husband alive than be in the history books. Maybe Landgraf William won’t die in our new timeline. A lot of things will be very different now.

Your Pen Pal,

Mikayla

 

Dear Mikayla,

The Quedlinburg library is quite famous throughout the Germanies. We have the complete works of Plato and Aristotle in the original Greek, as well as Latin translation. We also have the early church fathers in both languages, the Old and New Testaments in Latin, Greek and even in Hebrew, also in German translation, and classical works like Galen, Euclid, Pythagoras, and so forth, and modern humanistic works by German and foreign scholars. We do not have any books about girls as scholars or anything else. Who would write such books and who would want to read them? Have you read the tales of Till Eulenspiegel? They are very amusing. I have almost worn out my copy. I can also recommend Halberstadt’s Metamorphoses and the books of Georg Wickram.

ABF-TC-rbnswddngPrincess Abbess ordered dozens of copies of the wedding broadsheet so we all had a chance to read it and see the engravings, which were quite beautiful. They say Rubens made the original drawings. The dress was glorious and I am sure very uncomfortable to wear, but princesses, even minor ones like me, do not expect to be comfortable when dressed for show. We are as signboards for our father’s wealth and power. We don’t dress that way every day, naturally. In fact, our ordinary garments become quite worn and very comfortable, because we wear them till they fall apart to save money to spend on the show dresses.

Duke Maximillian is indeed a horrible person, as everybody knows, but I don’t think he was outright mad until his wife’s death. Even truly evil men often love somebody, a wife or a daughter, whose loss sends them into a frenzy. They say that Ferdinand II approved Maria Anna’s marriage on his deathbed, which must have been a great comfort to her. Offering her to her uncle was as appalling to down-time Protestants as to you up-timers. We do not make such marriages because, unlike the Catholics, we do not believe the pope can absolve us of the sin of consanguinity. Princesses are married for political reasons, you know. Ferdinand II wanted to consolidate his dynastic ties to the Wittelsbachs, who are about his only allies these days. The fact that Maximilian was Maria Anna’s uncle just didn’t matter. Besides, to be fair, he probably thought Maximilian would treat her well, as he was a relative. Very few noble fathers deliberately marry their daughters to a man they know will make her miserable. My papa loves me very much and I am sure that any marriage he makes for me will be to a man I can live comfortably with.

Nobody quite knows what to expect from Ferdinand III yet, but it is a good sign that he has revoked the Edict of Restitution, don’t you think? It would be wonderful if he would accept the United States and content himself with his Austria and Hungary, wouldn’t it? Then we could finally have peace. Of course, we would still have to put Maximilian of Bavaria down like the mad dog he is, which would grieve nobody at all, least of all his brother and heir.

They say that our emperor’s heiress, the Princess Kristina, is living in Grantville these days. Have you seen her? Everybody is saying that the emperor has given her to the prince as a hostage, but I don’t believe he’d do that as she is his only child and heir and by all accounts the apple of his eye. Princess Abbess says she has been given to you Americans to be educated, which shows very good judgment on the emperor’s part. My father wrote in his last letter that he is considering sending my brothers Ernst and Lebrecht to Grantville so they can attend your up-timer schools, and my cousin Johann too, if Papa can persuade Aunt Sophie to consent. Perhaps someday I will be able to visit Grantville myself.

Frau Nelson says she taught at your school before coming to us, but she didn’t have you as a student. She has brought us a pianoforte from Magdeburg and it is simply wonderful. Such a rich, clear sound, much better than a harpsichord. Some of your up-time music is equally wonderful, and some . . . isn’t. Your ballads are very beautiful and sad, but I can’t make up my mind about “rock-and-roll.” The rhythms can be very exciting, but also discordant and disturbing. Frau Nelson says we need to learn how to listen to it. What you call classical is more like the kind of music I am accustomed to and it is pleasant to see how many German composers distinguished themselves up-time, but it is sad to think that none of those great men will now be born. Hopefully, future generations will produce men to match them, or better still to surpass them.

I am taking Frau Nelson’s pianoforte class and as I already play the harpsichord, I am not finding it very difficult. I am thinking about learning to play the guitar as well. It is a marvelously flexible instrument. No wonder it is favored by your balladeers. I especially admire Johnny Cash, though I do not understand many of his songs. Glen Campbell has a sweeter voice, and I think Loretta Lynn is simply wonderful. You had so many female musicians up-time, and quite respectable too. That is another good idea you Americans have brought us; that women can practice a profession and even perform publicly without losing their virtue.

Written November 17 1634, Quedlinburg

Your Pen-Pal, Johanna

 

Grantville, Thuringia

December 2 1634

 

Dear Johanna,

Girls want to read books about girls! At least they did up-time and I bet they would here and now too if there were any to read. We have all kinds of series but Nancy Drew is pretty much my all-time favorite. Nancy is an eighteen-year-old girl who lives in an American town called River Heights and solves mysteries, mostly having to do with somebody trying to steal somebody else’s land or finding a missing will or a missing heir. I am enclosing the German translation of my favorite chapter from my favorite mystery, The Hidden Staircase, which I made for class. I don’t think you’ll have any trouble understanding it. Nancy and her friend Helen are staying with Helen’s aunt and her great-grandmother (Miss Flora) to find out who is playing spooky tricks on the old ladies and why. The chapter should explain everything else. I know Till Eulenspiegel! That’s one of Daddy’s German books. He used to read it aloud to Davie and me when we were littler. Now we’ve learned German, we can read it for ourselves. It is so funny. Isn’t it amazing that you and I share a favorite book?

Princesses wear comfortable old clothes around the palace? Wow, way to kill the glamour, Johanna! I guess being a real princess, especially in the seventeenth century, is no fairy tale. As for Kristina, have I ever seen her! It’s impossible to live in Grantville these days without tripping over the kid at every turn. She is everywhere! At first none of the kids here liked her at all for the good reason that she was a horrible, spoiled brat. But it wasn’t really her fault, as it turns out. She’s an only, you know, and from what she says she never had any kids to play with before she came to Grantville, so of course she didn’t know how to behave. She’s gotten a lot better, but she’ll never be what you’d call easy to live with. I looked her up in the Encyclopedia Britannica and she had a pretty miserable life in that other universe, what with her father dying and her mother running crazy, and being raised by a bunch of old men who wanted a king, not a queen. No wonder she threw it all over and ran away! Who wouldn’t? She’s much happier in this universe with her dad still alive, and I’m sure will turn out much better. Gosh, I hope so, since you and me are going to be living under her rule one of these days!

I never took Mrs. Nelson’s class because I learned way back in grade school that I not only have no musical talent, but I can’t even carry a tune. I like listening to music and I’d love to be able to play it, but I just can’t. Mom says I get it from her side of the family. None of the Furbees can carry a tune either. I really envy you being able to play all those instruments and I bet you can sing too.

I hope you like the Nancy Drew chapter.

Your Pen-Pal,

Mikayla

 

Dear Mikayla,

You terrible girl! How could you leave me hanging like that? Why did Helen scream? Will she be all right? What happens next? Yes I liked Nancy Drew and I am desperate for more and so are all the girls I’ve shared it with. Frau Nelson is no help. She says she read Nancy Drew when she was young but she can’t remember any of the stories.

Is that really how girls lived in your United States of America? Was it really possible to clean an entire house in just an hour? If so, no wonder you had no servants. But it is certainly odd, according to our German customs, for two well-born ladies to live entirely alone without servants or retainers. It scarcely seems safe. And Nancy and Helen take such risks! American girls are very brave, but more than a little reckless!

However, Nancy is clearly inexperienced in the matter of secret doors. They are often made double thickness specifically to avoid a betraying echo. But the mismatched paneling is perhaps too obvious a clue. Could it be a decoy door? We have just such a door at our castle, leading to an oubliette. The real doors to our secret passages are very well hidden indeed.

You are correct in saying that there is very little glamour in being a princess, especially of a little state, and it is nothing at all like the fairy tales, which is perhaps fortunate! On the other hand, everything is changing, including what it means to be Hochadel. To start with, I am no longer a princess of Anhalt-Plötzkau. Our new county constitution has finally been passed and there is no more Anhalt-Plötzkau, or Anhalt-Köthen, or Anhalt-Dessau or Anhalt-Zerbst, just the Imperial county of Anhalt which is now of a size to have some real clout in the Madgeburg provincial diet and even USE parliament. Papa is the official head of state, supported by a ‘cabinet’ of advisors and administrators of his choice, but approved by our new county diet. My Uncle Ludwig means to move permanently to Madgeburg in order to devote himself to the Imperial University there, and his publishing company. Cousin Christian will also be taking up residence in the capital to represent Anhalt in the provincial upper house. Even Aunt Sophie has come around. After all, this new United States offers much grander possibilities for her son than being prince of a tiny appanage like Anhalt-Zerbst! The only member of the family who is still unhappy about the new constitution is my Cousin Johann Casimir, and why he cares I cannot think. He still has his hunting lodges and parks and that was the only part of being a prince that interested him. As for me, I may now style myself “princess of Anhalt,” but nobody really seems to know what that means any more, least of all me.

Many of the scholars here are similarly confused. Everything is changing. Being a girl no longer necessarily means preparing yourself to marry a man of similar rank, chosen for you by your family. One can still do so, of course, but now there are other possibilities for us, just as there are for our brothers. Now I understand why up-timers wrote books about girls and why you and your friends read them. Being a girl was much more interesting in that other world of yours and it is becoming so here in ours as well. . . . Is it true that you Americans regard living in “interesting times” a curse?

Written December 18 1634, Quedlinburg

Your Pen-Pal, Johanna

 

Grantville, Thuringia

January 2, 1635

 

Dear Johanna,

Wow, you really liked Nancy Drew didn’t you? I’m sending you my book, which contains both The Hidden Staircase and The Secret of the Old Clock. It’s in English, of course, but you said you’re learning American, and Mrs. Nelson can help you if you need it. But the Nancy Drew books are written for girls a lot younger than you are, younger than me actually, so it shouldn’t be too hard for you.

Your castle has secret passages? Ooh, the glamour is back! Were you allowed to go into them or were they only for emergencies? My great-grandparent’s house, the old Furbee place, has a hidden staircase of its own. Originally it was the front stairs (these days we use the old back stairs by the kitchen), but it was walled in when they built on the wing and now you have to go through the back of a closet to get to it and it goes up to the half of the upstairs that was used for storage. It’s mostly cleared out now. All kinds of stuff that was just junk back in our own time turned out to be really useful here and now.

ABF-TC-mstryNancy Drew is kind of old-fashioned. Americans lived like that when my mother was a kid, about thirty years before the Ring of Fire. We didn’t dress like the pictures anymore in my time and we had lots of gadgets that Nancy didn’t. And no, you cannot clean a whole house in an hour! Not clean enough to suit my mom anyway. I kind of suspect Nancy and Helen skimped a bit to get through with it so they could go on to the interesting stuff.

I see what you mean about Aunt Rosemary and Miss Flora living all alone. It really wasn’t safe even in the Old United States but only very rich people could afford to have live-in servants, and while the old ladies must be pretty well off they aren’t that rich. Back up-time relatives like Helen’s parents would be trying to persuade them to move into an assisted living apartment like my grandparents were trying to get my great-grandparents to do. They didn’t, and they were glad they didn’t, because then they wouldn’t have come through the Ring of Fire with Grantville. It’s bad enough for us here knowing we’ll never see the family and friends we left behind again, but at least we know they are safe and well in our old universe. It must be much worse for them, because they don’t know what happened to us and never will. If only there was some way of telling them we’re all right. In fact, we’re doing pretty darn well, all things considered!

Well, enjoy Nancy Drew.

Your Pen-Pal,

Mikayla

 

Dear Mikayla,

 

Thank you so very much for the Nancy Drew book. May we please have some more? Nancy’s world is strange to us, but fascinating, if sometimes alarming. Nancy takes far too many chances and Mr. Drew should definitely employ an armed retainer or at least a manservant. Nancy and Mrs. Gruen should not have to deal with intruders all by themselves. If Aunt Rosemary and Miss Flora could have a police guard, why not Mr. Drew? Clearly he needs a bodyguard. One thing I note has not changed; people in Nancy’s world still quarrel over legacies and land as I suppose they always will.

Are you worried about the elections? I find I am becoming more and more apprehensive as the day draws closer. At first Quedlinburg supported Wilhelm Wettin, partly because he is related to most of the stiftsdamen and half the pupils, and partly because he is a down-timer like all of us. However, we began having second thoughts after we saw some of the people he’s accepted into his Crown Royalist party. There are very many Hochadel who can’t see any farther than their privileges and power, and every one of them seems to be flocking to Wilhelm, including my worthless cousin Johann Casimir.

I think I’ve mentioned Johann to you. He was prince of Anhalt-Dessau and never took the slightest interest in politics or ruling—or anything beyond hunting. Now all of a sudden, he’s talking about his rights and privileges, and is hand in glove with the likes of von Gluecksburg and von Ramsla.

All and all, I find myself wishing that the Prince had run again. We knew what to expect from the Prince. God Himself doesn’t know what folly the dregs and drudges Wilhelm has collected might commit.

Don’t forget to send more Nancy Drew!

Written January 27 1635, Quedlinburg

Your Pen-Pal, Johanna

 

Grantville, Thuringia

February 15 1635

 

Dear Johanna,

All you German royalties are related, just like us hillbillies. It’s one of the things we have in common.

I wasn’t worried about the election before, but now I am—thanks a lot, Johanna. I’m not related to Wilhelm Wettin like you, but I’ve met him. He came to dinner once. He and Daddy stayed up and talked politics till three in the morning and without shouting at each other the way Daddy and Mr. Stearns always end up doing. But now Daddy’s no happier about the people your cousin is recruiting than you are. He says there’s a difference between “conservative” and “reactionary blockhead,” and the blockheads all seem to be joining the Crown Royalists which isn’t good.

A lot of us here in Grantville kind of wish Mr. Stearns would stand for reelection too. But Daddy says it’s important that we start a tradition of peaceful, democratic changes of leadership like we had in the old United States. Back home, nobody panicked over losing an election because there was always the next one to look forward to. Anyway the Fourth of July party is sure to stay in power here in Thuringia and in Magdeburg, so Grantville and Quedlinburg will be all right whatever happens—I think.

I’ve rounded up all the duplicate copies of Nancy Drew mysteries I can find. Some of them are pretty ratty-looking. Sorry about that, but you can keep them. You can keep the double volume I sent you too. Enjoy.

Your Pen-Pal,

Mikayla