While tying his bag behind his saddle, Pierre Le Blanc said to his wife, “Odette, I am not at all comfortable with my leaving you and your sister alone here in Grantville for a month or two. It just does not seem like a good idea. What if something goes wrong while I’m gone? Who will take care of you?”
Odette watched her husband struggling with indecision. It was so very unlike him. She was used to Pierre being secure in the certain knowledge that God was in control. Everything was predetermined. The universe was an ordered place where he knew his obligations and his rights—what God expected of him and had provided for him. She knew he could be wrong. More annoyingly, she knew he could be wrong-headed. She was used to that. But Pierre being uncertain was unusual.
“Pierre, we’ve been over this. We agreed. This is the right thing to do. Louysa has settled into painting at the gallery and they will sell her paintings which will more than offset the expenses of our staying here. You can travel faster, and cheaper, without us.
“And you’re not leaving us here alone. You’ve arranged a short apprenticeship with Master Seeley for Louysa. She will attend some evening art classes at the high school. We will be fine.”
He reluctantly nodded. “If I get lucky in Berlin, I can cut things short and get back here in a month. If things don’t go well, I will have to make the complete circuit. A month is a long time. You should come with me.”
“Louysa Moillon is painting again. She’s getting over what happened. That’s why we brought her on the trip. By the time you get back, she’ll be back to normal. Well, at least as normal as Louysa ever is. When you get back, she’ll be ready to return to Paris.”
Odette could clearly see her husband was harboring a fleet of doubts. She repeated her points, having no new ones, in the hope that repetition would strengthen the statements and make them fact. “She’s painting. That’s what is important. She needs this time to forgive our brother and get on with her life. Grantville is safe. Here there are fewer new things for her to react to, fewer chances for her to embarrass you in front of your associates. You go ahead and buy paintings like you always do. We’ll be fine.”
“I don’t know what could happen. That is what worries me.”
“We talked about it. We agreed. This is what Louysa needs.” Odette gave her husband a polite peck on the cheek, as publicly affectionate as she dared. “We’ll be fine. Everything will be fine.”
Pierre mounted the riding horse he bought when he sold the carriage team. They could buy another team when they were ready to leave.
Anna Holt, the president of the Animation Club, found a place to stand out of sight of the airfield, waiting for lunch time. When making a tough sales call, timing was everything. What she had in mind wasn’t illegal. It was just, well, bending Lyman’s rules a bit. And, Sergeant Angus Mctavish, the person in charge of the work crew at the airfield, and the person who had the claim on the first of the new flipbooks, had a reputation of having an old-fashioned Scottish warrior’s attitude about honor. If he thought that her idea was too grey, it would totally kill any chance she had to make this work.
A stiff wind lifted the edge of Anna’s scarf as she casually walked into the hangar area and waved to attract the attention of the man in charge. “I need to talk the guys who are on the list to buy Graham’s flipbook of The Belle Ascending. We’ve got a print run ready to go if they want it.”
Angus glanced at the control tower to look at the clock. Anna had timed things perfectly. It was mere minutes before the lunch break. The Scotsman took a deep breath and bellowed, “Lunch time!” Then he added, “If you are wanting to be buying a flipbook, the little lady here is selling.”
When several fellows had gathered Anna said, “Boys, I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is that the woodcuts of The Belle Ascending are done.” She handed one copy to the man on right and another to the man on the left. Then she waited for the books to make the rounds.
Just as anticipated, one slightly distracted airman managed to drip mustard on a copy. A soft squawk was all it took to focus everyone’s attention to the clumsy airman. Now that she had their attention, she sighed and said, “My fault. I should have warned you to wash your hands first.”
“No, no, that’s okay. I’ll just make this one the copy I buy. Exactly how much was it again?” At the stated price, he blinked. “That is a lot cheaper than I expected. Are you giving me a discount because it’s dirty now?”
Anna winced. “You haven’t looked at it yet, have you? Flip the book properly and you’ll see why the price is so low.” At that comment the other men started paying much closer attention to the other copy. And she started seeing frowns.
“I know, I know. You saw the one Graham was drawing and the printing just doesn’t measure up. That is why we are selling it at the price of a beginner’s flipbook.” Now for the next step. She pulled out a hand-copied version that was made on the new light box. “This is what you were expecting.” She held it up so they could all see and flipped the pages. “Oh, and this copy is much more expensive than the woodblock prints, so wash your hands first, please!” Everyone snickered and the ones who were finished eating queued up by the sink.
Angus carefully took the flipbook and looked it over. “That is a copy? It looks like an original drawing. And why is it so much better quality than the prints?”
Anna smiled. “It looks like a drawing because it is one. If you put a strong light under a glass table even the thickest paper becomes translucent and it’s easy to trace a drawing from one page to another. So it’s much faster and more accurate than trying to eyeball it.”
Angus spoke up. “But, there’s, what? Something like fifty drawings in this flipbook! How long does it take to make a full copy that way?”
Anna responded, “Forty-six drawings to be exact. The time to copy a flipbook depends on the artist, but right now it’s about twenty minutes a page. Then we have to color it. When I can get a light box assembly line set up we can probably do it faster and drop the price. Until then we have to charge a lot more.”
The sergeant looked at her and raised an eyebrow. “Exactly how much more do you mean?”
She named a price. “But the wood block prints are ready to go.” She repeated the first, lower price again. “The hand-copied ones will take a while to make and they will be more expensive. That is why we had to use the waiting list.” There were quite a number of sour faces. The second book was much better and what they wanted. But the price put it out of reach on what an airfield worker made.
“Because it was Sergeant Mctavish’s idea to make the list in the first place, everyone here is nearly at the front of the line. You can get your copies within weeks. Mr. Seeley is insisting we be perfectly fair about this and go strictly in order.”
The sergeant in question said, “I’m sorry Anna, but at that price nearly everyone here could only afford it they saved up for months first.”
“I figured as much. I was planning to just cross your names off the list when I thought of a way to profit out of this.” Many ears perked up and leaned closer. “I have some very impatient merchants and other buyers on my list. In fact some of the ones near the bottom are starting to offer a lot of money to bribe their way to the head of the line.”
Angus frowned at this. “I hope you are not accepting bribes, young lady.”
Anna rolled her eyes. “I’m not that greedy. Or stupid. Auctioning off integrity sets a bad precedent and ruins any reputation the Animation Club has. All the flipbooks will be handed out strictly in order as they finish.
“It was your idea to make a signup sheet for prints so everyone here is close to the beginning of the line. If you can wait a little longer for your copies, I can tell you how to turn a profit and then you can use that to lower the cost if you aren’t willing to settle for a wood block printing.” She doubted that they would be. The only reason anyone would was if they had never seen an original. If they passed because they couldn’t afford a copy, Lyman would sell the copies to the other buyers at the set price. So if she could get them to claim their copies and then sell them at a profit, she stood a chance of increasing her sales when they bought copies later.
“But . . . it wouldn’t be a bribe if they paid you guys directly! That way they wouldn’t be paying to jump the line, they would be buying from you. Now we’re going to have several of them in to the gallery tomorrow around noon, to try and sell them a stack of the wood block printings. We’ll have seven copies ready for pickup. First seven guys on the list could resell their copies at a profit and then put their name back on the bottom of the list. Or, you know, just keep the money.
“If one of you was there tomorrow, you could sell them your copies at a profit and then put in an order at the original price for later. They’ll be happy and you’ll end up getting a better price and a better book. It will just take longer is all.”
Grantville, Twentieth Century Art Studio
Angus walked into the gallery a quarter of an hour ahead of the time. He was the first on the list and the next six in line had opted to let him handle the bargaining. Anna wanted him there early, just in case. While he was waiting he looked over the paintings on the walls. But his eyes kept going back to the young foreign woman at an easel, whom he vaguely remembered seeing at church but hadn’t really noticed. Here, suddenly, she was a paint-smudged Venus, who persistently drew his attention. There was just something about her. She was intently focused on her work painting the pomme d’amour, love apples in French, tomatoes in Grantville, ‘maters, in Lyman’s vocabulary, and paid him not the least bit of attention, even when he left off looking at the pictures on the walls and wondered over to look over her shoulder at the canvas she was mesmerized by.
Standing there, just behind her, soaking up pheromones that he had never heard of, Angus fell in love.
“Here he comes,” Melle said.
The last amen was said. People were stirring out of their pews and the Brownian motion was beginning to spill the first of the congregation past the speaker and out the door.
“Who?” Louysa asked, glancing around and wondering whom Melle meant.
“Angus.” Melle’s voice smiled.
“It’s taken him long enough,” Odette replied.
“Angus who?” Louysa asked.
“That tall red-headed hunk,” Melle answered. The last word was in English rather than French. The word wasn’t surprising, considering the topic and the fact that this was Grantville.
Teenage girls’ West Virginian slang and the attitudes and ideas that came with it were making more inroads in the polyglot culture of enlarged Grantville than anything else except for technical jargon and cuss words. Cursing was still done in their native languages, but the ability to express your displeasure with such mild words as “fuck” or “bitch” was novel. In no other language would the phrase “that was fucking awesome” make sense. And up-time English really did have some truly catchy words and phrases. While the young women’s vocabulary was often invoked, the young women’s attitudes that went with it were driving traditional-minded parents to extreme frustration.
“Sergeant Angus Mctavish,” Melle specified whom she meant.
“What does he want?” Louysa asked in complete innocence.
“You,” Odette said.
Louysa responded with a phrase she’d picked up from the girls in the Animation Club, a phrase with which she had become quite enamored. “Yeah, right.” The couplet was properly dripping hyper-sarcasm.
“Louysa,” Odette said, “he hasn’t taken his eyes off you since you walked in. Surely even you had to have felt him staring. I did and I wasn’t even the one he was staring at.”
Louysa snorted in a very unladylike manner.
“Louysa, he came back to the gallery yesterday and he wasn’t there to buy a painting. If you had looked up from your painting and made eye contact, he would have been all over you. But you didn’t, so he didn’t interrupt. But he doesn’t have that problem here. He wanted to ask you out that day Anna pulled that deal selling the flipbooks and it looks like he’s coming to do it,” Melle said.
Louysa looked at Melle in disbelief. What she was suggesting just was not done.
“Girl, I’m telling you,” Melle insisted, “the way he’s been eating you alive with his eyes, your soul has teeth marks all over it . . . if there’s anything left of it at all.”
Louysa stopped moving. “You’re serious?”
“Completely,” Melle said.
“Well, he’s got a long walk if he’s going to talk to Papa,” Louysa observed.
An offended Louysa sharply demanded, “What’s so funny?”
“You are,” Melle said. “This is Grantville. It doesn’t work that way here. If he’s interested, which he is, then he’ll come to you, which he’s doing. He’ll talk to you for a bit. Then when he’s screwed up his courage, which in this case is not going to take any time at all, he’ll ask you out on a date. If you say yes, and if that goes well, in a week or a year, he’ll ask you to marry him and you’ll be the one to say yes or no. Your papa in Paris might as well be on the moon for as much as he has to say about it.”
“But—” Louysa said, and stopped still again, her mind raced at the speed of light. She looked at Angus, actually taking note of the man for the first time. He was tall. His hair was Viking red. His shoulders were broad as an ox. He moved with the grace of an accomplished swordsman. He was clean-shaven. His complexion was clear, as long as you overlooked the freckles. Other than that, his face was completely average, which meant he was pleasant to look at. In short, Melle was right. He was a hunk.
Louysa’s face blossomed into the broadest smile it could hold as she made eye contact.
Melle elbowed her in the ribs. “Don’t give away the farm.”
“What?” Louysa asked.
“Yes, you are! Girl, you and I are going to have to have a long talk in front of a mirror. You just told him he can have anything he wants.”
“Yes, and you told him he doesn’t even have to take you out to dinner to get it,” Melle said. “Odette, you’d better run interference.” The last two words were English.
Odette didn’t catch Melle’s meaning. “Do what?”
“Get in the way,” Melle said. “Let him know he’s got to work for it. Tell him he can call on her at the gallery, tomorrow or the next day. That will give him some time to cool down. Right now that smile she just gave him has him as randy as a stallion looking at a mare in heat.”
Fortunately, Angus’ French was quite good because Odette’s English was a long way from conversational.
The group of girls had spent last Wednesday evening in Marcantonio’s just down the street from the art gallery. This Wednesday they were at Castalanni’s, who purportedly had the best pizza in town. They were there without Louysa’s sister Odette in spite of Odette’s doubts, fears, and trepidations about Louysa being out without her. But she had to admit that Grantville was safe. And five girls were an adequate chaperone.
Even though Odette was younger than Louysa, she was married. The girls thought of her as an adult, but accepted Louysa as an equal. A bit odd perhaps, but still an equal. The girls were all younger than Louysa, yet most of them, in so many ways, were much more mature and definitely more experienced than their host. Louysa was the host because Louysa was buying.
“What are we getting?” Anna asked.
“The same thing as last week. Remember? We agreed to decide who has the best pizza,” Elke Schmidt, the vice president of the Animation Club, said.
“That’s silly,” Anna said. “Pizza is pizza.”
Tanja translated for Louysa who was still far from fluent in the German-English mixture that passed as the common language of Grantville’s high school students.
Elke smiled. It was fun to be one up on Anna. “You haven’t had a lot of pizzas from different places have you?”
“No. I usually eat at home. Eating out is expensive,” Anna replied.
“Well, you and Louysa are in for an education. The cheese varies. The sauce varies. The crust varies. The baking varies. The service varies and that affects the mood you’re in, and your mood affects how you like the pizza. Trust me. You are going to see a big difference.”
“Yeah, right,” Anna said.
“Hey, the unfair part of it is that how hungry you are changes how much you like the pizza,” Mouse—Caroline Abodeely—announced.
She was the youngest of the lot, and for now at least the only up-time girl pursuing animation. This conferred preferential treatment and landed her a spot on the reviewing committee, which she wouldn’t have gotten for several more years if she had been a down-timer or, oddly enough, if she’d been a boy. Even an up-time boy. While Fred was the treasurer, the truth was Anna ran the club and Elke ruled it. Like a prime minister and a queen, between the two of them it was clear. Girls ruled and boys drooled. The girls were in charge. Being on the committee put Mouse in the upper tier and gave her a place at the table.
“So,” Anna asked completely out of the clear blue, after Elke took note of her taking note of a near-by table full of boys. “What kind of kisser is Angus?”
Mouse squeaked the squeak which gave her her name.
Elke kicked her co-officer under the table.
Tanja blushed, but translated the question. Hanna blushing, said, “Anna, that’s rude.”
“What?” Louysa asked at the same time.
“What kind of kisser is Angus?” Anna asked again. And Elke kicked her again, harder. This time Anna kicked her back.
Mouse squeaked again and said, “Hey, I’m in the middle.” As the youngest she got stuck on the corner of the table. “The two of you stop it.”
“What kind of question is that?” a truly puzzled Louysa demanded.
Anna shrugged. “A simple one. I want to know how good a kisser your boyfriend is.” Elke read Anna’s covert glances and was sure Anna was pleased to see the boys were eavesdropping.
“How would I know that? And if I did, I surely wouldn’t talk about it.”
“You mean he hasn’t kissed you yet?” Anna demanded.
“No. Of course not. We’re not betrothed. I’ve heard of your quaint German custom of fenstering, but let me assure you that a well brought up Huguenot girl’s family is not about to wink at a man coming in through the window to spend the night.”
“He hasn’t even kissed you good night?”
“No, of course not,” Louysa said.
“That’s strange,” Mouse said. “Everyone gets a good night kiss at the end of a date.”
“It is not a French custom. Or at least it is not a Huguenot custom. Who knows what kind of foolishness Catholics get up too? Besides, what would Odette be doing while Angus is kissing me? Standing there and watching?”
“You mean you haven’t been out with Angus without Odette being along?”
“Certainly not. Do you have any idea how long I had to argue just to come out tonight without a chaperone?”
Anna spoke over Louysa. “Louysa, you’re eighteen. You can do what you want.”
“I only managed to be here without her tonight because she thought the five of you would be enough of a chaperone for decency’s sake. She certainly is not about to let me go off alone with some Scotsman.”
“Strange,” Mouse said.
“No, it isn’t,” Elke replied. “Actually it’s the common way of things. It’s your up-time ways here in Grantville that are strange.”
“Really?” Mouse asked.
“Really,” Elke replied.
“But if you don’t date how do you know if you like the person or not?” Mouse asked.
“Mouse, it is entirely possible for a bride to see her husband for the first time the night they get married,” Hanna said. Hanna was the quiet one of the bunch. “My sister just got married a year ago. The boy came from back home. Well, his family used to live back home anyway. They haven’t gone back either. But someone knew where our rabbi went. And he knew where my sister’s husband’s family went. And when Papa wrote that we had not just one synagogue but several, and about the opportunities here and the family’s booming business, they agreed it made more sense for him to come here than for her to go there.
“You might as well say she had never seen him before he got here. She hadn’t seen him in years. They certainly didn’t spend any time alone together before they got married. She got lucky. He grew up into a handsome fellow. I think he was a bit disappointed. My sister is on the plain side and way too skinny. But, she’s a good cook and he seems happy. She’s happy. They just had their first child and they got lucky. It’s a boy and he’s a redhead. So they got lucky twice.”
“A redhead? But you’re Jewish.” Mouse objected.
“Jews don’t have red hair,” Mouse pointed out.
“King David did. Joshua did. It’s considered a blessing.”
“Really? I didn’t know that.” Mouse’s voice sounded halfway apologetic. Then she came back with a bigger more pointed question. “You mean your sister didn’t have anything to say about it? It was really an arranged marriage?”
“Yes. Why should she have anything to say about it? Our parents knew his parents. They’re good people. They’re observant and he was raised to be devout. He did well in yeshiva and the rabbi thought well of him. They were sure they’d make a good match and that they’d be happy.”
“Yes, but . . . well, what if she didn’t like him?” Mouse asked.
“She’d have a lifetime to learn to like him,” Hanna said.
Mouse squeaked. “Oh, yuck. What if he was mean to her? What if he beat her? I mean, I’ve heard about this. I just never knew anyone who’d done it.”
“Oh, it might happen once, I guess. But if he ever did, I’m sure my father and my brothers would persuade him to never do it again.”
A couple of the girls snickered.
“Well,” Louysa said, “One day Papa, my stepfather really, will arrange a marriage.” Melle had told her things were different in Grantville. But Louysa hadn’t really given any thought to how that applied to herself. Yes, Angus had taken them out to dinner but that really was as far as it went in her mind. She was from Paris, after all, and would be going back. So what happened in Grantville would stay in Grantville. “I won’t see whoever Papa picks until he comes to dinner to look me over. If he does. It’s possible I won’t see him until my wedding day. I’ll have to quit painting, I guess. I won’t have time to take care of a house and raise children and paint too.”
“That’s just plain wrong, Louysa. You’re a good painter. You shouldn’t have to quit,” Mouse protested.
Louysa shrugged. “At least Papa is not in a hurry. Odette is younger than I am and she’s already married. She’s happy. He’s a good man. She’s expecting.”
“But what if he wasn’t nice?” Mouse asked.
“Mouse?” Anna asked. “Plenty of up-timers make bad choices and end up splitting up, don’t they?”
“Don’t some of them stay together even though they’re unhappy?”
“Yes, I guess so.”
“Well, for us, our family is supposed to look things over and make a good match. You are supposed to find someone you fall in love with. Just because you fall in love doesn’t mean he’s a good match.”
“But,” Mouse said, “Louysa says she’ll have to quit painting when she marries.”
“Didn’t some up-time women give up careers to marry and have kids? Isn’t that the same thing?”
“Sort of, I guess. But it’s not like they were painters making art. It would be a shame for a great artist to have to quit when she could hire help to cook and keep the house and babysit the kids.”
“If Louysa stays in Grantville, she can do that, and she can marry whoever she falls in love with. Or not get married at all, if she doesn’t want too. I guess if she wants that, she’ll just have to decide if it’s worth not going home,” Elke said.
“Who would look after me?” Louysa asked.
“You’re a bright woman. Why can’t you look after yourself?” Anna asked.
“Here’s the pizza,” Hanna said.
“Odette, I’m hungry. Let’s go get a pizza,” Louysa demanded.
Odette sighed. Pizza was fine every now and then, but ever since her sister discovered pizza she wanted nothing else. When Louysa found out Lyman kept an ice box in the back room along with the electric hot plate, she put her leftover pizza away for breakfast. She swore she’d rather have cold pizza for breakfast than anything else.
While they were sitting in Marcantonio’s, sipping wine, waiting for the pizza to come out of the oven, Louysa said, “The wine is better in Paris, but I don’t think I am going to want to give up pizza.”
Odette found herself wondering what was going on in her sister’s head. “Well, get the recipe. You can make it at home.” If she did, it would be a change. Louysa never went into the kitchen anymore; not since she was nine and sold her first painting. Even before that, she was more trouble than she was worth in the kitchen. Once she became an economic asset, her mother told her to get out and go paint.
“That won’t work,” Louysa explained. “The kids were telling me about it. Even though we order a plain cheese pizza every time, each one is different. Part of a pizza is the oven. You need the right kind. They said it needs to be hotter than an oven for baking bread.”
“You are never going to get an up-time oven in Paris.” She’d seen the one with the electric range top in the house where they rented a bedroom. They chose not to buy kitchen privileges, settling for just the shared bathroom. She did, however, do some cooking at the gallery once Melle showed her how to use the hot plate.
“The oven here is made of brick and it is wood-fired,” Louysa said. “Someone could do that in Paris and then they could sell pizzas.”
“If the baker’s guild would let them.”
“There is that,” Louysa agreed. “But I’m not going to want to give up pizza.”
“Well, get used to it. We’re only here until Pierre comes back.”
Louysa got a faraway look, almost as if she was painting. Odette got worried in response. She knew how stubborn and irrational Louysa could get. Would they have to build a special oven just to feed her when they got home? Or worse? Surely the silly girl couldn’t be thinking of staying. Yes, she was more alive than she had been in years. Yes, she had friends and admirers. Yes, she was making more money than ever before. But surely she couldn’t be thinking of not going back to Paris? You could leave Paris for a while, but how could you even think of living anywhere else? Besides, Pierre would not even hear of it. No. It was unthinkable.
But, unthinkable or not, Odette found herself thinking it, while fearing that Louysa was thinking it too.
“Sister, Angus is taking me to see a tomato plant this afternoon.”
Odette looked up from the light box desk Lyman had installed for Samuel Franklin, an artist and animator. Any time Samuel wasn’t using it to work on flipbooks, she was.
“I wish you would ask first, Louysa. Samuel is painting today and I really want this book finished before Pierre gets back.”
“True, you need to work on that. If Pierre objects, you might never finish it.”
Odette found herself wanting to object. She wanted to say, “‘He will understand.” She wanted to say, “He has the soul and the eye of artist, but he just can’t paint. He is going to fall in love with making flipbooks then it will be all right if his wife assists him.” She wanted to scream, “It just isn’t fair! Who gave him that much power?” Before Grantville, Odette had always known God gave Adam power over Eve, and through Adam, men were given power over women. She still knew that but . . .
But nothing! There were more important issues at stake here. Like a certain “date” her sister had just announced. “He just dropped off two baskets of tomatoes yesterday and there are still lots left for you to study. Won’t that keep you busy for today?”
“He wants me to go see a garden with him. I said yes.”
Odette knew the signs. Louysa was going. She sighed. Her hopes of spending the whole day working while Samuel painted were dashed. “When is he coming for us?”
“He’s not. You’re not going.”
“Angus is taking me on a date to see a garden. Just the two of us.” Oddly enough, the English word slipped seamlessly into the French sentence. The up-time idea represented by that simple four-letter English word, however, did not slip seamlessly into the French life and thinking of Louysa’s sister.
“No! No, he is not! You are not going anywhere without a chaperone. Especially not with a suitor! It was wrong of him to ask!”
“Oh, he didn’t. It was my idea. The girls were shocked that I hadn’t been out with him alone. This is Grantville.”
“Louysa, Papa sent you away from Paris in Pierre’s keeping. Pierre left you in Grantville in my keeping. You know full well, if we were home Papa would never let you go on a date. If Pierre were here, he would not allow you to go on a date. You wouldn’t even ask. I can’t let you do this.”
“Odette, this is Grantville. I’m over eighteen. Here that is a legal adult. I can make my own decisions. You can’t stop me. Stay here and work on your flipbook so it will be done when Pierre gets back.”
“Louysa, please. Be reasonable. We are from Paris. Decent and honorable people do not go on dates without chaperones. If people find out, how will Papa find you a decent husband?”
“This is Grantville. What happens in Grantville stays in Grantville.”
“Yes, Louysa, I’ve heard them using that phrase. It’s wishful thinking. Right is right and wrong is wrong, and going on a date without a chaperone is wrong!”
Louysa smiled. “Then I will be wrong. When Angus marries me, he won’t mind.”
“And what if he doesn’t ask? You know if he asked Papa the answer would be no. Even if he is a Calvinist, he isn’t French and he is a mercenary.”
Louysa got that look in her eye. And Odette closed hers and prayed.
When Pierre got back to Grantville and saw the outrageous price the gallery was asking for one of his sister-in-law’s paintings he blew up and roundly cursed Lyman Seeley as a conniving swindler who had no real intention of selling her paintings. Pierre was sure he was just using it to get people to come into the shop so he could sell them something else. Odette took him for a walk so he could calm down and she could explain the facts of the matter to him.
When they came back, Pierre said to Lyman, “I need to apologize for being rude earlier. I didn’t realize you’d already sold two paintings at that kind of a price. I really still can’t quite believe you are getting over four times what I could get in Paris.”
“Don’t worry about that,” Lyman relied. “I don’t speak a word of French, so it’s not like I knew what you were saying. Shoot, I’m barely getting my mind around German. At my age, it ain’t easy picking up a new language. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Welcome back, by the way. How did the trip go?”
Pierre winced visibly. “Not well. My usual sources have all raised their prices. The days of the Germanies being the home of low-priced paintings are dead. It’s your fault, you know.”
“How do you figure that?”
“Anyone with the time and the money to travel in Germany these days has been to Grantville recently. They’ve been in your shop and they’ve gone to the artist’s market in the park. It got them thinking of buying art and paying your prices for it.” Pierre shuddered.
“Then your Mary Simpson in Magdeburg let all of her friends know she wanted donations or at least she wanted to borrow paintings for a public showing. People with no previous interest in art suddenly needed something to donate or at least lend, so they all went shopping. Increased demand without an increase in production means higher prices. I can’t pay what they’re getting now and still sell it a profit in Paris like I could before. I don’t know what I’m going to do. Half or more of what I sold was German artists.”
“Well, cheer up.” Lyman said. “Your people back home are doing a booming business in flipbooks. We just sent them another hundred copies of The Dragon’s Treasure. You need to look at Samuel’s new series about dragon fights or Graham’s The Belle Ascending and place an order. I wish your wife would sell me her Sprout to Fruiting flipbook. But I can understand. She’d rather take it home and get it printed up there.”
Pierre’s body couldn’t make up its mind if it wanted to blush or go pale and it tried to do both at the same time, with mixed results. Pierre was having a real problem with his wife—his newly pregnant wife—producing art, especially marketable art. Making a living was his job. He couldn’t do it by making art and the idea that she could was sticking in his throat.
“Have you shown it to him, Odette?” Lyman asked.
“What?” Odette responded to her name. She was picking up German in her stay in Grantville, but she’d missed what Lyman and her husband were talking about. It was business, so she was politely not listening.
Pierre asked, “He wanted to know if you had shown me the flipbook you are drawing.”
She went to the roll-topped desk with the light-box. She handed Pierre the stack of cards that made up the unfinished book. He flipped it and was surprised, pleased, jealous, and disappointed. He struggled to keep from being outraged and enraged. “It’s not finished,” he said, in a marvelously calm and neutral voice.
“The sketches are done. The single line drawings are nearly finished. With the light-box it’s easy. Let me show you.”
She sat down and turned on the light. One of her frames was under the clamps on the glass with a half-finished clean line drawing over the sketched picture. “With the light you can see through both sheets so all you have to do is trace the picture for the finished line drawing. You’ve got a good hand.” She stood up. “You, try it.”
Just when Odette’s scheme of getting her husband involved in drawing flipbooks so she might have a chance of being allowed to keep drawing was about to get started, the door chimed at Louysa and Melle’s entry into the gallery. Like Pavlov’s dog, Pierre glanced at the door and then stared in shock at Louysa’s transformation. Her clothes were no less loose than before, but the top draped in flattering contours and the slim skirt swirled fetchingly at her sides. The deep sapphire and warm honey colors brightened up her complexion and drew welcome attention to her sparkling eyes.
“You look marvelous!” Pierre exclaimed. “And to think I was worried you might show up in pants.”
“But these are pants,” Louysa said, pulling the fabric aside to show him the cloth was sewed in separate tubes for each leg. “So practical too. No possibility of getting my skirt flipped by wind or a fall.”
“Ah, but it still looks like a skirt,” Pierre noted. “This style will be all the rage in Paris once we get back.”
“Once you go back,” Louysa corrected him. “I’m not going to Paris just to turn around and come back. I’ll be here waiting for you.”
“What do you mean you’re not going?” Pierre asked. “And why would I come back next year when there was nothing to buy this year!”
“Everyone will come after they outlaw Huguenots in France,” Louysa replied. “And it doesn’t matter if you have no paintings to buy, we can just sell mine.”
“That’s fifty years away and it might not happen at all,” Pierre observed.
“Things are different now,” Louysa insisted. “It will happen, perhaps. It could happen tomorrow. Or it could not happen at all. Still, we’re not safe in France. We are safe in Grantville. I’m staying.”
“You can’t,” Pierre said. “Your family is in Paris. There is no one here to look after you. We can’t just leave you here.”
“Yes, you can. I’m Mister Seeley’s apprentice. Besides, I’m over eighteen. Anna told me I can do what I want. And my paintings sell here for much more than they do in Paris.”
Pierre couldn’t argue with the last statement and it bugged the absolute life out of him. So he demanded of his wife, “Who is Anna?”
Before Odette could answer him Louysa said, “Besides Angus hasn’t asked me to marry him yet.”
Pierre demanded an answer very loudly. “Who is Angus, and why isn’t he talking to your father if he wants to marry Louysa?”
Melle spoke up. “Angus is a sergeant at the airfield. If he wants to marry Louysa, which he does, he’ll ask her, not her papa. That is the way it is done here.”
Pierre looked at his wife and was not at all pleased with the hint of defiance he was sure he was seeing in her posture.
Pierre looked at Lyman who was trying rather hard to be invisible and mostly succeeding. “Is that true?” Pierre asked in German.
“Is what true?” Lyman asked.
“That here a man does not ask a father if he can marry his daughter, but instead asks the daughter and the father has nothing to say about it?”
“Pretty much so,” Lyman replied.
No longer invisible, Lyman said, “It looks like you folks have a lot to talk about. I’m gonna flip the closed sign and go get me a doughnut. You can have the place to yourselves for as long as you need. Melle, you comin’ or stayin’?”
“I’d better stay,” Melle said.
“No need,” Pierre announced in German. “We aren’t staying. We’re going to go see the pastor and let him talk some sense into my sister-in-law.”
“Lots of luck with that,” Melle said in German also.
Pierre could clearly hear the smirk in her voice.
Samuel, having been warned by Melle, was waiting in the street outside the Presbyterian Church when a pale Pierre, a red and subdued Odette, and an unruffled—even serene—Louysa exited the church office. “Pierre,” Samuel called out and approached the visibly shaken man, “let’s go get drunk! You need it and I deserve it.”
An angry Frenchman walked into Tip’s bar. It was a very nice bar, with electric lights and an impossibly perfect mirror showcasing a kaleidoscope of exotic bottles. The gorgeous array of colored glass spoke to his artist’s soul. And, for a moment at least, the Parisian art dealer forgot his anger. Slightly calmer now, Pierre looked over the available options and chose a good French wine, something familiar and comforting to soothe his frazzled nerves. “Champagne. Bring the bottle!” Pierre declared.
“Beer,” Samuel told the barmaid.
“I can’t believe it!” Pierre said to Samuel. “The pastor supported her in her rebellion. How can he claim to be a Christian, much less a Calvinist? A good Calvinist pastor could never have said what he said. A proper Calvinist church could not stay open in a town that allows what this town allows. But that man pronounced those heretical teachings without any shame. None at all! He even seemed proud of his heresy!”
Samuel nodded understandingly and asked, “What exactly did he say?”
“He said Louysa is over eighteen and therefore is a legal adult and can do as she likes. Angus is a fine young man and a candidate for deacon when he marries! With the Good Lord as my witness, how could they possibly consider making someone a deacon of the church when he’s getting married without permission from the girl’s father? It’s obscene! Those people do not deserve to call themselves Calvinist!”
Samuel sat quietly nodding and listening, understanding fully just how overwhelming Grantville could be.
“Times change,” he said. “Women aren’t property anymore.”
“When were they ever property? You can’t buy and sell them! It takes a dowry to get rid of them!” Pierre objected. “And I can’t believe the amount of involvement he said the ladies have in the running of the congregation. He said they sat on the church council! One of them even chairs the church council! That should be left to the men. No wonder the pastor supported Louysa’s obstinacy. What passes for a church here in Grantville is corrupted and disordered beyond all recognition. You might expect it of Catholics. One knows the Catholics to be corrupted and in need of reformation. But the man claims to be a Calvinist!
“Grantville is just plain scary. You allow Anabaptists to openly worship. Grantville is overrun with them. There are at least three congregations, and, I’m told, each of them has beliefs contrary to the others. Not that anything the Anabaptists get up to is surprising. They aren’t interested in reforming the church. They strike at the very root of what it meant to be Christian. They want to tear the church down and rebuild it to their own contrary vision, even if they can’t agree on what that vision is.
“But one expects more sense of a group claiming to be Calvinists. And, worst of all, they sing hymns in worship! They gave over the proper chanting of scriptures, even the ones arranged by Calvin himself. They’ve taken to singing popular songs, even if they call them hymns! They just are not appropriate for solemn worship!”
Pierre backed off of his rant when the barmaid set a beer in front of Samuel and a wine glass in front of him, into which she poured the first round.
“What is this?”
“What you ordered, sir. Champagne.”
“But there is something wrong. I ordered wine, not beer. This has bubbles in it.”
“It’s a sparkling white wine. That’s what makes it champagne.”
“No! Being from Champagne in France makes it a Champagne wine. This is spoiled or unfinished.” He glanced at the bottle and took note that it was labeled in German. “This is not wine from Champagne!”
“No, it most certainly is not. It’s not just wine, it’s champagne. It is something new and special. It would have been from Champagne in another hundred years, but a man here in Grantville didn’t feel like waiting and he had a winery here in Germany make it for him. It’s new and it’s quite popular. When you ordered champagne, I assumed you knew about it. You ordered it. We opened it. You are at least going to try it. If you don’t like it I’ll take it back. But it is what you ordered and even if I do take it back, I will still be charging you for the glass I poured.”
“That is rather impertinent.”
The waitress shrugged.
He picked it up and felt the chill. “It’s cold!”
“That is the way champagne is served.”
Pierre grimaced and took a sip. He was not expecting a pleasant surprise. “Not bad. But it is not what I thought I was ordering. If I ask for cognac, will it be from Cognac?”
“Is that a place too? A cognac is a type of brandy and our cognac is from here in Germany.”
Pierre turned to Samuel. “It is not enough that they steal Calvinism and twist it beyond all recognition. Now they are stealing France, one name at a time!” He threw his head back and turned the bottom of the wine glass to the ceiling. “Leave it!” He told the barmaid. “It will do to get drunk on and if I’m paying for it anyway, I’ll drink it!”
She shrugged. “If you don’t like it, I’ll take it back. You only have to pay for the one glass.”
“I said leave it. You don’t have a French wine on the list, so this will have to do.” His raised voice drew attention.
Pierre groaned. “How can the future be so disappointing? Even your art doesn’t measure up. The paintings from the future in the art gallery, they are rough, unfinished. You can still see the brush strokes! The ones for sale in the park are just the same. Some have great passion and vitality! Some would be fantastic if the artists would only take the time to finish them first! Arrgh!”
Pierre tossed back another glass and slumped back into his chair. “Well, that is only true of some of the paintings, the ones similar to today’s art. But most of the artists are experimenting with future styles of art. Like Impressionism or Pointillism. Have you seen Impressionism? It’s just blurry smudges of color representing a real painting. At least that is better than that abstract nonsense. Or gah . . . Cubism! The only thing good you can say about Cubism is that at least it came from Paris! And even two or three hundred years from now, surely the artists starved to death. There is nothing in Grantville I can buy. It either costs too much or it’s unfinished or it’s just plain crap!” He paused his rant in order to refill his glass.
“The only thing here my father-in-law would consent to hang is me.”
The barmaid overheard Pierre. How could she not? The whole bar heard everything the man had to say. She blinked at this non-sequitur and called out, “Your father-in-law will hang you for a painting? Do you think you are that pretty?” Her French was good even if it wasn’t proper Parisian.
There was a snicker or two from the few who understood her comment.
“No!” Pierre growled. “But yes! He is going to kill me and make his daughter a widow.”
“Just because you couldn’t find any paintings to buy?” she asked. “That seems a bit harsh.”
Pierre finished another glass and laughed bitterly. “Who cares about the paintings? I’m dead because I’ve misplaced his daughter. I came here with my wife Odette and her older sister, Louysa. Now that it is time to leave, only my wife is coming back. Or maybe not. The way she keeps talking about all the marvels of Grantville, I may be making the trip to Paris on my own!
“So? Listen to your wife and don’t go back,” the barmaid suggested. There was a murmur of agreement.
Pierre scowled and took another hit of the champagne to avoid having to respond. He turned back to Samuel and quieted down quite a bit. “This champagne is like so many things in Grantville. It is just not what was expected. It is not bad. You might even say it is good. But it just does not measure up.” Another long swallow of the strange wine undermined his words a bit, but he continued on.
“Nothing here is what it should be. For all of its mechanical marvels, Grantville is full of disappointments. Why, in Paris I’ve turned down better paintings than some of what I see for sale here. Yes, the painters here have an odd and interesting vitality,” Pierre admitted while carefully upending the remainder of the bottle into his glass. “But they do not measure up! Impressionism? Disturbing? As if it were life seen by a drunk? Perhaps unsettling is a better word. At least the idea is from Paris even if it is a future Paris that now, thankfully, will never be. But the world isn’t ready for it yet. You can say the same thing about Pointillism. Again the paintings are interesting. You have to step back to see the shapes in the picture. Up close it is just a mess of dots of color. But I can’t hang them in the gallery in Paris. They are just too strange, too outrageous.
“Grantville shames mankind. They can build flying machines and automobiles, light without heat and heat without fire, but they cannot create a society of decency and order. And now they have seduced my sister-in-law to lawlessness.
“What am I going to tell Louysa’s stepfather when I get back to Paris? ‘I’m sorry, sir, but I seem to have misplaced your stepdaughter in Grantville?’ ”
A quick gesture to the attentive barmaid to refill his drink left the second bottle of sparkling white wine by his elbow like the first.
“I’m never going to make him understand what has happened. The man is going to have to come up here and fetch the girl home himself. He’s never going to be able to trust me again. Not only am I not coming back with the paintings we need to keep our walls full, I’ve lost Louysa and, for the life of me, I have no idea what I am going to tell him. How can I explain something I don’t understand myself?”
The increasingly maudlin Frenchman watched as Samuel finished his beer and waved for a refill. “Pierre, if you cannot buy what you expected, then buy what you can. That same father-in-law you are afraid of has already ordered a third shipment of flipbooks because they are selling at a handsome profit. If your Paris gallery really does have paintings that can’t sell in Paris but are as good as what is selling here, why not just ship them to Grantville instead? Especially with the higher prices on paintings here! If you can’t import, export.”
Pierre looked at the Welshman over the top of his horizontal wine glass and forgot to keep swallowing. The sparkling wine ran down his chin. He set the glass down and closed his eyes. When he opened them he picked up the bottle to top off his glass then poured a generous amount into Samuel’s empty beer mug, emptying the bottle.
“If I don’t go home, I don’t have to tell him I lost his stepdaughter. You are right. There are dozens of aspiring artists in Paris we can buy paintings from on the cheap. They will sell at a much higher price here. And if I send him a crate of this stuff, he can take a few bottles to different wine sellers who might like a new novelty. It is really quite good, once you get used to the idea. Parisians will love it. Perhaps all is not lost.
“Perhaps if we wait a bit Louysa will be willing to return home. Surely she will miss Paris before too much longer.”
When the barmaid brought the next beer for Samuel, Pierre said, “Bring me another bottle. And where can I buy a crate?”