January 1633, The Bristol Channel
Anna Kettenacker tried to keep her eyes on the horizon. She'd been told that it would make her feel better. Her stomach tightened and she could taste bile surging up her throat. The sailor who had advised her to get out of the cabin and to stand amidships to minimize the action of the ship had been right. She did feel better. Still miserable, but no longer suicidal.
"Try this, Anna." Richard Tomkins, one of the Englishmen in her party, was trying to push a bottle into her hand. She grabbed it gratefully and rinsed her mouth out.
"Agh. I feel awful."
"Not long now, Anna. The captain says we should be in Bristol in another five hours if the wind holds."
"Five hours. Why did I ever let Swiger talk me into this?" Another surge from her stomach made Anna hang her head over the rail again. "Agh. How can you stand there looking so healthy?"
Richard snickered. "No idea. I don't get seasick, I guess." He took the bottle of boiled water from her hand, then said, "As for Swiger, he offered a lot of money."
"I should have asked for more."
"Probably. But look on the bright side. It could be weeks before we find what we're looking for and have to start back for Grantville."
Anna gripped the rail, trying to hold herself upright. "You're not helping, Richard. Why don't you just leave me alone so I can die in peace?"
Richard gave Anna a quick grin before leaving her to her misery.
"How's Anna holding up?" Thomas Welford, the second Englishman on the four-person team, asked.
"She'll live. Not that she'd agree with me right now," Richard said.
"It was stupid to bring her along. What do we need her for?" Valentin Weber, a very self-important German merchant and the self-styled leader of the team snorted. "I know what we're looking for as well as she does.".
"I doubt you've got her experience," Richard said. "We need someone who can recognize the cowpox when they see it. Dr. Alexander, the large animal vet, said she was the best of his students,"
"She's the best Grantville had to offer? All they did was show her some pictures in a couple of books. I saw them, too."
Richard sighed. "Herr Weber, Anna's father was a knacker . . . "
"A knacker! Nobody told me I'd be pretending to be married to a knacker's daughter."
"Nobody told you, Herr Weber, because they probably didn't think it mattered. Anna probably has a better chance of recognizing cowpox when she sees it than anybody in Grantville. And that includes Rudi Muller, who's been dealing with animals all his life."
"Better than Rudi?" Thomas shook his head. "Seriously?"
"That's what I heard Dr. Alexander tell Herr Swiger." Richard turned to Valentin. "And I'd be careful of letting your prejudices show, Herr Weber. Anna's not one to suffer slights meekly."
Bristol, England, several hours later
"No! Absolutely no way. You are not getting me back on some poky little sailing boat." Anna folded her arms and glared at her colleagues.
"Come on, Anna. It won't be so bad. It's only about sixteen miles. The Little Avon River runs into the Severn River, and we can sail right up that to Berkeley. We could be there inside three or four hours. If we go by road, we can't leave until first light tomorrow. And we risk spending a night on the road." Richard tried to get Anna to see sense.
"No. The next boat I get on is the one taking me home. Anyway, we really should travel by land. We might miss an infected animal if we don't. We don't know exactly where Dr. Jenner found the cowpox he used in his experiments. All we know it that it was from somewhere near Berkeley."
"Anna's got a point," Thomas said. "There's a pretty big bonus at stake if we can bring back an infected cow. It'd be foolish not to maximize our chances of finding one."
Anna turned to Valentin. "Herr Weber, I suggest you see about getting some horses. There's over sixteen miles of farmland between Bristol and Berkeley. The sooner we leave, the sooner we can start looking."
Valentin bristled at the order, as he'd been doing for days. It was obvious that he didn't care to take orders from anyone, much less from Anna. Richard wondered just how much trouble the self-important little squirt was going to cause.
"Anna, have you finished yet?" Valentin called.
"Nearly. Just another three to check."
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- The Grantville Gazette Staff