Mountain Top Baptist Bible Institute
West Virginia County
Early summer, 1636
John Stewart rolled over again. The moonlight on the wall was in a different place from where it had been the last time he looked. He growled to himself, keeping it under his breath. Plain decency forbade waking Colm Donnelly, on the other side of the room.
There was no obvious reason why he couldn’t get back to sleep. The up-time innerspring mattress was the most comfortable thing he’d lain on in his life. Nothing was weighing on his mind, though something certainly would be come daylight, if he wasn’t rested for the morning’s farm work.
There was a faint sound of some kind from downstairs, a scrape as if something was being moved, and a quiet footstep. That wasn’t normal, at such an hour. Is somebody sick? Well, if he was the one awake, he should be the one to go see if someone needed help. He took his bathrobe from the bedpost and put it on. Handy thing, a bathrobe.
As always, the top step creaked when he put his weight on it. Instantly, there was a clatter from downstairs of things being dropped, a curse and a rush of footsteps, and the bang of the kitchen’s screen door slamming shut. “Thief! Thief in the house!” He grabbed the handrails and went down in a leap. By the time he got to the back door and looked out, a dark figure was just disappearing around the near barn, heading toward the woods. John wasn’t dressed for pursuit, nor did he have weapons or a flashlight to hand.
The lights came on. Claudette Green was there with her hand on the wall switch. John turned and looked around, and saw the open drawers, and a few pieces of stainless steel tableware dropped on the floor. Most of it was gone.
A few seconds later the rector appeared. “What is it, Brother Stewart?”
John pointed. “The scoundrel’s awa’ wi’ the knives an’ forks, Brother Green. I wasna quick enough to lay a hand on him.”
Colm had gotten halfway down the stairs; now he turned back, probably going to fetch his clothes. Green reached for the kitchen telephone and punched three keys.
With the morning sun streaming in, Officer Gleiß finished photographing the disorder on the floor of Albert Green’s study. Many of the books were irregularly pulled forward or even overhanging their shelves, a couple of middle bookshelves had been emptied, carelessly stacked on the floor, and then fallen over, and everything on the work table looked like an eggbeater had gone through it. Otherwise, things were mostly where they’d been. Al looked over the detective’s shoulder as he moved in to take a close-up of a 1780 French Bible’s broken binding. It really hadn’t been all that rare up-time, just old. Gleiß clicked off the shot and set the camera aside. “All right, Doctor Green, you can shelve the books and tell me if any are missing. These covers will not give us any fingerprints.”
“But you got one from a dinner knife?”
“A partial, yes. It’s good that you put them away so clean.” He smiled briefly. “It’s unfortunate that there was nothing here for the dog to take a scent from. Our mobile units watched in a few places along the road below soon after you called us, but the Ring is a big place. Well.” He bent down and started handing books to Al.
Five minutes later everything was back in place, and there were no gaps. Even the books that had lain on their sides on top of the standing books were back where they belonged.
“So nothing is missing here? Not even something that was behind the books, or tucked into them?”
“There wasn’t anything behind them. There were a few scraps of paper in some of them for bookmarks. Nothing valuable there, just the books themselves. Just a minute while I look around some more.” He opened his desk drawers one at a time, and poked around a little. “There’s a gold-plated letter opener missing, that I got on my seventeenth birthday.”
“Not really, but I suppose a collector would pay something for it. I’ll make a sketch for you.” He sat down and reached for a notepad.
“You have valuable books? Valuable because they’re from up-time and of interest to rich collectors, or intrinsically valuable because of what is in them?”
“The college would be crippled without them.”
The policeman nodded slowly and pursed his lips. “So. You may want to consider making this house harder to get into quickly, and perhaps get a watchdog. But I believe I’ve heard something about protecting books. I could ask around for you.”
“Oh, thanks. Sure.” While he drew, he couldn’t help thinking about how many of the books lining two whole walls of the room existed nowhere else in the world. Losing his world had been bad enough, but losing those—his stomach roiled at the thought. And then there was that cardboard carton of photocopies on the top shelf in the corner, right up against the ceiling, that he and Pete Clark had made one long, busy night in his sophomore year. None of it was missing. This time.
This wasn’t the first crisis he and Claudette had faced together.
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Al closed the textbook with a solid thump and slammed it down on the table like he was killing the world’s biggest spider. He was shaking. He was going through some of the supplementary reading for his first-period class. The book and the teacher seemed to take perverse delight in showing the parallels between Christ the Son of God and the annually resurrected sun gods of a whole category of ancient religions. He stared at the wall for what must have been half a minute or more, wrestling with the clear implications of it all. But there was no resolving the contradiction, and no putting it aside. “Claudette, I can’t stay. I don’t belong here.”
Her housecoat rustled as she turned from filling the percolator. “Do you want to explain that?”
“How can I preach now, having just been forced to the conclusion that there is no god that man did not create in his own image?”
Claudette stopped and turned to look at her husband of six years. It was one of the most intense looks he’d ever seen on her face.
He took a breath, and it all came rolling out. “First they taught us that the King James was a lousy translation from poor manuscripts. They said it can’t be trusted, because it was skewed by politics and bad theology, and so the theology that grew out of it is bad too—even if people could still understand it, which they can’t. Where I grew up, to say ‘The Bible’ meant the ‘King James,’ the absolute unquestioned truth, guaranteed to be right. To say something was Gospel was to say it was beyond challenge.
“So okay, if the King James was shaky, there were the Greek and Hebrew sources it came from, but then I learned that the world is full of different manuscripts that don’t agree with each other. Between higher criticism and lower criticism, we find out that half of what the Bible says Christ said, He didn’t. The New Testament and the Old Testament both have to be weighed, and then you must pick and choose, and you can’t ever be a hundred per cent sure. And then we find out Christ wasn’t the only sun god to die and be raised from the dead at the end of December. Angels are Djinn, Egypt had a one-god faith, and so did others. The deeper you dig, the more you find out it’s all a lot of guesswork made out of nothing more than what people wanted to believe, filtered through a cultural legacy of kings and court politics. What isn’t made up is plagiarized from a dozen different pagan religions. Scribes added their own notions and didn’t bother copying what they didn’t like. That business in Mark about handling snakes just came out of nowhere.
“And then that Scientific American article I read last year really rubbed my nose in it. I went and looked at a couple of books on astronomy and cosmology. It’s the sheer size of the universe! Out of all the stars and all the galaxies, and the billions of light years between them, and space itself expanding at the edges faster than light, there’s just too much of it for me to believe that there could be someone in charge of it all, watching us on this one little planet and guiding our affairs, who is even aware I exist, much less cares.
“Did I tell you that Tom saw Doctor Smith coming out of a liquor store? He went in and asked the cashier what he bought. The cashier said he ‘bought the same brand of bourbon he always buys.’ I couldn’t believe it! When I was growing up, Christians didn’t drink. That was a sin, and sinners were going to hell. And Doctor Smith is the best teacher I have this term. If that’s what Christianity is here, it’s not what I came for.” He shook his head again at the contradictions. “I have to find something else to do. I can’t do this!” He’d spoken quietly, but he was drained, out of words, out of anything more to say.
She took her time answering, meanwhile getting the coffee going and loading up the toaster. “Albert, I said, ‘for better or worse, ’til death do us part.’ But that was a promise before God, and if there isn’t any God, then there isn’t any promise. I’ll start packing if I have to. I can take the kids and go back home and teach full-time again, and you can go wherever you want. But neither of us is going anywhere until you take it to the chapel and talk to God. Calm down and think it through. Settle in your own mind whether He exists or not. Right now you’re not thinking clearly. You know, normally I’d love to win an argument about the Bible with a divinity student, but normally I wouldn’t need to remind you that the passage in Mark about handling snakes doesn’t come completely out of nowhere. Yes, we both know it isn’t in the better manuscripts. Still, Paul got bitten by a viper on Malta in Acts 28 and came to no harm, when he should have died. And in Isaiah it says there will be a time when snakes shall not hurt a child, and then Psalms 91 talks about walking on lions and adders. So go to the chapel, go pray, before we think about going our separate ways. I’m telling you, I still believe. I am not going to give it up, and I am not going to live a life unequally yoked. So you go now, and let me know what you decide.”
When he came back to their tiny student apartment close to midnight, he had two books in his hand. He was surprised and touched to see a pot of chili keeping warm on the stove. He wouldn’t have blamed her for making herself and the boys a sandwich, washing up, and going to bed, but she was sitting up on the sofa bed in the front room waiting for him. He was hungry as a lost coyote. She didn’t say anything, she just let him gather his thoughts and his words, and waited for him to speak.
As he ate she picked up the books and raised an eyebrow. She really didn’t need to say anything. The first one was the Klingon-English Dictionary and the other was The Good News for the Warrior Race. He knew as well as she did how tight their budget was; this was just plain impulsive—especially today. He was going to have to explain that, on top of everything else.
When he finished the first bowl and put down the spoon, she gave him her best poker face and looked him straight in the eye. “Well?”
“I found the answer. The answer is faith, Claudette. I thought about everything back to when I was a little kid, and that’s what I went back to. It was in Luke, ‘Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.’ What does it mean to become as a little child? A little child accepts God on absolute pure faith without reason or understanding, to trust in the sufficiency of the parental love of God without question. It doesn’t matter what they teach. I know in Whom I have believed, and He is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto Him against that day.”
Albert repeated himself. “When I was a child I trusted. I accepted, without question. That’s what I went back to, and there I found peace. All the questions don’t matter. There is a God, whatever is His nature, and whether or not we can ever understand Him. He loves me. I know it. I accept it. That is the answer. That is all there is, and it’s enough.”
“So you’re sure? You know what you want to do? You’re staying?”
She held up the Klingon Bible. Al laughed. “When I was walking past the bookstore the light was still on. It happened the manager was working late. So I pounded on the door until he opened it, and since I knew exactly what I wanted and he knew exactly where it was, he let me take it with me. I’ll pay for it tomorrow.”
“If I have to pick and choose between the different ways different manuscripts say the same thing, then I want as many choices as I can get.”
She came to her feet with a laugh and put her arms around him.
A storefront Flacian church
“You sent a fool, Rausch. A bungling fool! He failed, and now they will be on guard.” Pankratz Holz was flailing his arms with rage.
Martin Rausch gripped the back of a chair with one hand and leaned forward with his nose practically in Holz’ face. “A fool? It was a fool’s errand. There are no scrolls in that library, Dead Sea or any other kind. Not anywhere on the shelves or in the drawers. And in case they aren’t scrolls any more, and were turned into a book, he looked at the titles on the spines of all the books, just as you said. Nothing like that, in Latin or English. He says he even looked behind the books, in case the scrolls were there, and he damn near broke an ankle when a pile of them fell over. Then somebody woke up and he had to run.”
Holz snorted. “You mean the bumbler made a noise, and woke somebody up. But I tell you, Green has them. It’s reliably reported that he showed some to the Bibelgesellschaft. That heretic is already throwing all kinds of doubt and confusion on scripture. I tell you, if he only wanted to introduce his students to the original Greek New Testament, he could have just bought a few copies of the accepted Erasmus text, but no, he had to have a special printing made of this Nestle-Aland monstrosity with all kinds of variant texts and commentaries, setting them to arguing every verse. And the way Green argues, he could talk your ear off and then explain away the severed part. What chaos will he let loose now, with this new trove of scrolls that nobody but him has seen? It must stop!”
“Then they must be somewhere else in that house, if they’re in the house, or if they exist at all. Not in the library.”
Holz pointed his finger at the pile of eating utensils spilled out on the floor. “And what was the idiot doing stealing the silverware? Something for himself, instead of what I paid you for? And what I paid to rent that battery-powered flashlight for him to use, so he wouldn’t make noise winding a spring? That wasn’t cheap, I’ll tell you.”
“It’s not silver, it’s stainless steel, and it’s worth plenty. But he took it on the way out after the search came up dry, to make it look like a common grab for loot. Just in case.”
“Oh, a brilliant inspiration that was! It still put them on their guard!” Holz’ finger shook. “And that common loot had better not show up anywhere around here.”
Once again, Al needed Claudette’s steady wisdom.
As he entered the old barn, she looked up from milking—the Mountain Top Baptists weren’t the first farmers to discover that cows could get used to being milked at a decent hour. She just looked at him and waited.
He had to stop and search for words. That was supposed to be easy for any preacher, let alone one with a doctorate. After half a minute or so, he started with the core of what was worrying him. “I’m starting to wonder if we’re really going to bring this off. I wonder if our mission is even what we think it is.”
“Huh? That two-bit burglar didn’t throw you that badly, did he? The things he grabbed from the kitchen won’t be that hard to replace, just so we don’t buy pewter—we need lead poisoning like a hole in the head. Is there something else eating at you?”
“It’s not what we lost, honeybunch, it’s that we can get hit any time. I didn’t see that, or maybe I had my head in the sand. When Joe gave us the farm to start a college with, I figured it put us far off the beaten track up here, that we weren’t likely to be bothered. But now? All it takes is one ignorant crank who thinks he has the Only Truth. Suppose that had been an arsonist, or some psycho Anabaptist-hating ex-mercenary with a big sword? Or suppose it had been a gang of robbers after the books? There aren’t enough of us here to keep up a watch around the clock, and even if there were, we’ve got a farm to run just to feed ourselves.”
“Speaking of that, let me finish milking Edna here while I think about it, before she gets upset with me, and then I’ve got to leave for work.” She went back to the job at hand.
“Sure, go ahead. And the farming and outside work really cut into what we’re supposed to be doing, teaching and studying, trying to bring along a few more who can preach. With the few of us here, I really wonder if we can train enough to make a difference in the world, or draw new members. This is the seventeenth century, and a lot of people don’t like us. You know what happened up-time. In England and the Continent we were here all the time, right back to the beginning, never mind what the mainline historians claim, but we barely hung on, below the radar. It was only in America that we really grew. I don’t know. We’re such a small ember here.”
“We are, but . . .” She worked in silence for a while. Finally she got up and moved the pail and stool aside, and patted Edna’s side. “Someplace there’s a key to this. I’ll think on it when I’ve got a minute to myself, but we can manage without you for a few hours. What you should do is go into the chapel by yourself and pray over it. It’s worked before. I’ll tell everybody to leave you alone until you come out. Then we’ll talk again.”
By the time Al finally came in, both dining room tables were nearly cleared, and the residents were setting up for the evening group study period under the light of the room’s hanging chandelier. Katerina Friedeberger had been cooking that day; she brought back the soup and the last of the grilled cheese sandwiches from the kitchen, and Claudette set a place for him.
John Stewart rested his crossed forearms on the table, and asked in the patiently practiced up-time English that he spoke when nothing distracted him from it, “Is it all clear in your mind, Brother Green? Do you know what we should do?”
“Not all of it. I know there are some things we can do to protect ourselves better. We need to put our heads together about that, and I particularly want to hear from you. If we can’t fix the worn-out lock on the back door, we can at least put a bar on it, and one thing we should probably do is find a couple of good dogs and train them to keep watch for strangers. The detective said as much.”
John nodded. “I wondered that the farm had no dogs already.”
Al massaged his forehead for a moment. “It’s partly because of what Old Joe said, I suppose. He didn’t get a new dog when the last one died. He said it’s hard enough when you outlive them, and worse when you worry about what will happen to them if they outlive you. But I suppose we don’t need to worry about that now, there will always be people living here, as long as we’re an institution.
“Anyway, here’s the main point. No matter what else we might lose, the one thing that would hurt us the worst is the books. There’d be no replacing most of them, and that would cripple the college. It’s just not good to have the only copy of some of those works. As far as I can see, the only sure way to protect them is to get them published, as fast as we can. After last night, I believe that’s part of our mission in this world.”
“Funny that you should say that.” He passed across an unfolded sheet of paper with a broken seal. “Here’s another letter from the Button family, those English Anabaptists stopping in Hamburg. They want to come to Grantville and study with us, and guess what their trade is? They’re printers. It seems to me Divine Providence has taken a hand.”
Al thought about that as he picked up a sandwich, and nodded. “Maybe so. Well, then, we should respect that, eh? The sooner we see them, the better.” He threw John a quick smile. “Why don’t you send them a telegram and tell them we eagerly await their arrival?”
Some days later
John’s remark the week before was going around in Colm Donnelly’s head, as he started across the dooryard to the shed to fetch a hoe. The Lord certainly had some mysterious ways of providing, at times. He was just about to go inside, when William Button came trudging up the hill with his three sons and the older daughter in tow. They looked exhausted, as well they might after praying all night at the hospital. Not that they’d been the only ones praying, not by a long shot. But Claudette Green’s phone call an hour ago had said William’s wife Melisa was out of danger, and her premature infant Providence seemed to have turned the corner during the night.
Colm turned in his tracks. “Come in, come in. We’ll find you a place to sleep and show you where to wash up. Brother Green will talk with you about your work and studies when you’ve had some rest.”
William raised his eyes from the ground in front of his feet. “I thank you. It’s beyond me to express my gratitude, to all of you in this place. Whatever we can do, we shall do.”
Colm smiled. “Well, I hold a hope that this fair day will bring less excitement than the one just past. Never before did we rush anyone down to the hospital in the moment of arrival, with hardly more than a word of welcome and a handshake. But I hear you were in time.” As he led them in through the rambling farm house’s door, he called toward the kitchen, “Sister Friedeberger, they’re back. What have you got back there, besides a stale crust of bread?”
The following morning
Al Green laid down his fork. “You feeling a little more like yourself today, Brother Button? Seriously, I’m happy you’ve enrolled with us, though I didn’t really expect any of you to do anything yesterday but catch up on your sleep. You surprised me. You and the boys were a big help getting the chicken coop closed in before the rain hit. I know working with rough-sawed lumber is no fun.”
“How could we not? Your letter told us of the seminary’s Rule—that all share in the work and all share in the bounty. We are beyond grateful at being received so.”
“Well, we’re no monastery, so we can afford to make a few allowances, especially for something like what happened. By the way, Claudette called a few minutes ago. They think they can let Melisa come home day after tomorrow to finish recuperating here. It’s going to be a lot longer before little Providence can leave the incubator, though.”
“Home. What a comfort to hear you speak that word!”
“Well, that’s what it is while you’re studying here. And that’s one of the things we need to talk about. I want to sit down with each of you today to talk about some study plans, and Melisa when she’s up to it. But there’s something else I want to go over with you right now.
“You got my attention when you first wrote and mentioned that you’re all printers. The rest of us sure aren’t, and we’ve got a problem that won’t wait. I want to show you and John some things. After that I’d like the two of you to visit every shop around here that does any kind of publishing, and find out what they can and can’t do. I wouldn’t know what I was looking at, and I wouldn’t know what questions to ask.” He stood up and passed his plate through to the kitchen.
Two days later
“It will not do, Brother Green! Look at it!” William Button stopped himself just in time from slamming the flat of his hand down on the work table in Green’s study. Albert Green was not some overbearing noble patron, full of obstinacy and ignorance of the craft. He was, in fact, the greatest of benefactors to William and all his family, for without the intervention of the Greens, his wife and their new daughter would not be alive. But this was a matter bearing on William’s honest craftsmanship, and for that matter on the reputation of the seminary itself. Yet the up-timer unaccountably failed to see it.
William tapped his forefinger on the sample of mimeographed work lying before them, a study syllabus for the minor prophets as it happened, and one of the more carefully executed examples of the method. “Forgive my speaking to you in such a sharp manner, but the mimeograph? Never mind that it would give us copies more quickly than any other method. It would. But see how the letters spread into the paper, and grow irregular at the edges. Look at the rough texture of the paper the mimeograph requires.” He took a breath. “You called on me for the opinion of a master printer, and I have given it. The mimeograph will not serve your ends. Not in this.”
Green’s lips compressed in a frown. “Huh? You already told me the guys who reprint library books can’t do anything with this.” His hand flicked at the carton full of photocopied pages that he had taken down from a top shelf—all of them blurred, gray, blotchy copies of copies of copies from a lost world, and all of them made in the dead of night in defiance of academic rule and custom. Even with the full sunshine coming in through the room’s two big windows and falling full on the top sheet, the best that could be said was that it was legible.
“No, they certainly cannot.”
“So what are we supposed to do then, if photo plates won’t work, and our mimeograph won’t work either? And why won’t it work? I don’t get it.”
William cast his eyes down for a moment. “It’s not that it wouldn’t work, Brother Green. It would. But this is not a problem of the craft, this is a matter of how people will perceive it. I know the clients of printers and their moods.” His voice softened. “Consider what these pages are! Here before us lie images of what remains of the Dead Sea Scrolls, forsooth, a collection of works penned with ink on parchment sixteen hundred years ago or more, when Christ walked the streets of Jerusalem. For all we know, Christ might have seen those same scrolls, or held some of them in his hands and read from them.
“You tell me of your hope that by publishing them and sending copies to those who could best use them, you would ensure that these ancient writings will not be lost forever if the worst should happen here—and in the doing, spread the name of the Institute far and wide, and foster our reputation. But the mimeograph? No, Brother Green, they deserve respect beyond the power of the mimeograph to give. The scholars and great patrons will not take these seriously, and they will not give us the respect you seek, if we fail to treat these ancient words as they deserve. On the contrary, they must be printed as well as we are able to print them. Grantville is already famed for what its printers can do, and it is by that standard we will be judged. To mimeograph this—” he shook his head “—it would be received as if we mounted a fine diamond in a bent and battered ring of tarnished brass, and set it in the nose of a pig.”
Green’s eyes flared for a moment. “Brother Button, I’ve gotta say, you have an amazing way with words.” He took a couple of steps back and forth, put one hand on his swivel chair, and pushed it aside so he could lean back against the edge of his desk with his arms folded. “Are you about to tell me what I think you’re going to tell me?”
William nodded slowly up and down. “With regret, I must. Believe me when I tell you I have looked for other ways. John and I visited every printing shop within the Ring as you asked, and those in Schwarza as well. They willingly showed us all that they can do. Things we never imagined, enough to make our heads spin. Lithography. Photogravure. Printing in multiple colors with near-perfect registration. Photolithography. Half-tone etchings. Page composition by paste-up. Camera-ready computer printouts of celestial navigation tables, untouched by anyone’s hand. Wonder after wonder, and talk of more to come.
“And Grantville University Press—there they print nearly perfect copies of enormous up-time books, and do it quickly, if the books themselves are well-printed and in good condition. And even so, they complain of ‘bottlenecks’ to be remedied.” He paused. “They would like to know what books you have in the more popular languages, that might sell well.” He looked around at the overflowing bookcases ranked the length and height of two walls, and shook his head. “But let us talk of that later. These papers—” he tapped one of the blurred photocopies “—are not well-printed.”
“No, they sure aren’t. So what’s the answer, Will? Type them up clean, so they can use them to make photo plates?”
Again William shook his head. “Not with the Greek and Hebrew typewriters you showed me, and not with the best ribbons that can be made now, of inked cloth. I’ve been assured that nothing better will be possible for many years. As it is, they cannot meet the standard such a treasure demands.” He sighed. “It comes down to printing in the ordinary way, and from new type at that. The best Grantville type, well composed. And since you forbid these papers to leave this room—” he raised one corner of his mouth in the ghost of a smile “—for reasons I would hardly dare to dispute—”
Green winced. “You want to bring a press here. And all the other stuff that goes with it.”
William turned up his palm in agreement. “A small print shop in the new barn. I see no other way to fulfill your desires, for if we are to set type in this room, we could not hope to carry it into town without it all coming loose. And then we shall print copies you will not blush to send into the world, copies that will show forth the glory and grandeur of the legacy which Our Lord has caused to come into your hands.”
“Product packaging, of all things. A print shop of our own. Something else to cost us money. I don’t know how the few donors we have would go for that right now, after they just helped us put up the new barn.” Green snorted and looked out the window.
William paused and looked at the colorful repeating floral decoration on the wall behind the rector. Even the wall was covered with printed paper from the middle of the twentieth century. “Well, then, would you like John and me to go talk with the town’s printers once more, and ask if they can think of another way?”
Green closed his eyes for a moment. “Yes, please do that. Just don’t talk about exactly what we have here, just say poor copies of old documents. Maybe somebody will have an inspiration, not that I really think so. And that being the case, put together a plan to do it your way, will you? Find out what it’ll cost, and let’s see if we can afford it. You do realize, we’ve had expenses lately.”
William was acutely aware of that. Because of those expenses, his wife and daughter lived.
Verlag Jacob Hanauer
The owner came out from the composition bench wiping his hands on a rag. “It’s good to see you again, Master Button. How can I help you? Do you have more questions?”
“I’m not sure where to start, Rabbi Jacob. Is that the proper way to address you?
The man made a dismissive gesture. “Rabbi Jacob or Yakov, or Herr Hanauer, it makes no difference. So what is on your mind?”
William gave him a quick half-bow. “Well, then, Rabbi Yakov, if that might be the most respectful address, our rector Brother Green has asked me how best to print some old documents in poor condition, that he wishes other scholars to see. Many of them are in Hebrew, and the work in that language you showed me on my first visit was beautifully printed. Indeed, I have never seen such perfect Hebrew type.”
Yakov grinned. “Give credit for the type to my fellow townsman, he is known here as Joseph Hanauer. We both came from Hanau, you see. Though, perhaps by up-time standards we’ve been here long enough to say we are from Deborah. But yes, his work is beautiful. You should see some of the tools he makes for dentists. But I wander, I wander. You are thinking of bringing these papers here to be published? We can certainly do that.”
William hesitated. “Well, there is a difficulty. The papers are more than rare, and so the rector isn’t willing to risk letting them be moved from where they are. The typesetting would have to be done at the seminary. What I would like to ask—” he hesitated for a moment “—would you be willing to rent out the type for a time? If you would like to send your apprentice with it, to see that the type is properly cared for, the seminary could provide room and board during the printing.”
Yakov shot him a sharp look. “Hebrew documents, so precious that he will not allow them out from under his own roof? What are these, exactly? What should I know about this?”
William’s fingers tapped on the table for a moment. He glanced toward the rear of the shop, where two young men were aligning several pages of type on a full-sheet framework, delicately tapping wedges into place. “He’s trying to be quiet about them, at least until copies reach the scholars he intends them for. He has asked me not to say. I can only suggest that you speak with him yourself.”
Yakov scratched his cheek for a few heartbeats. “Hmm. Then I think I will. Doctor Green is not ordinarily one to keep secrets. I will hear what he has to say, and perhaps he will show me these things.”
“My thanks. I shall tell him to expect your visit. And until you hear him out, I ask you on his behalf not to speak of this matter.”
“So? I think perhaps we should have this conversation without delay.” He turned and raised his voice. “Ari! Hans! You have your work for the day! See that it is done and the shop is clean when I return. I’m going to call on a client.”
“I see you’ve brought us a guest, William.” Albert Green got up from his swivel chair and reached out his hand to shake. “Shalom, Yakov.”
Yakov couldn’t help smiling back. “Shalom, and blessings upon you, Albert.” Some gentiles were touchy about titles and styles of address. Some Christian clergy wanted to be called “Father,” others took offense if you did. Not Doctor Green. “So, what is this work you have in Hebrew that must not leave this house? May I see it?”
The expression on Green’s face was unreadable. Amusement, maybe, but something else too. Without a word, he took down a paperboard carton from a top shelf in the corner, set it on the table, and carefully lifted out a stack of paper, the small up-time sheets they called letter size. There must have been three or four reams. Yakov examined the top sheet, then turned it aside, and scanned a few more before looking up. “These are Hebrew, as you say, but the letters are strangely formed. Where did they come from?”
“They came from scribes, seventeen hundred years ago, or maybe a little earlier. What you see is how they wrote, then.”
“Indeed?” Yakov bent down again, working out the meaning of a phrase in his mind. He looked up at Albert in surprise. “This is a Torah portion. Tell me of it. How did you come to have copies of such an old Torah portion?”
“In the days when Rome burned the temple—” Yakov stared straight into Albert’s face in astonishment “—a library was hidden in caves near the Dead Sea. No one lived to retrieve it. It was found by Bedouin shepherds about the time Israel became a state.”
“Of this State of Israel I have heard. 1948?” For a moment, he recalled the discussions that had generated in the yeshiva, when the story had reached them. The messiah would gather the people home when he comes. Did someone form a state early, without the messiah? Did it matter? Could they do so in this century? The Ottomans would never allow it. Would elsewhere for a homeland until the messiah came be allowable? He brought his mind back to the business at hand. “Of a hidden library, I have not heard.”
“It’s probably mentioned in the newer encyclopedias. People started calling the whole thing the Dead Sea Scrolls, though as you can imagine a lot of the scrolls weren’t intact by the time they were found. Some of the jars were full of fragments. These copies here—sorry they aren’t any better than this—are from the part of what was found that ended up in Jerusalem, under proper care. Other parts were scattered to the winds.”
“And you came by this how?”
Albert looked sheepish. “There was some trouble with some of the translators being reluctant to share the portion that fell into their keeping, and on top of that they were being slow about bringing out a translation. Someone made a pirated copy of most of it. I had a professor who was lent a copy of a copy. He asked two of us students to make him a copy of the borrowed copy, before he returned it. We made three copies, and each kept one. The copy machine wasn’t working right, and that’s mostly why this looks so bad. Shortly after that, in part because the pirated copy was circulating, the whole work was published, but I was a student, and the books were too expensive for me. This is all I ever got. And now I fear for its safety. A burglar got in here a few nights back. We’re real lucky he didn’t grab this, or any of the books nobody else has.”
“Doctor Green, may I borrow a chair and a table with good light and read through these— is photocopies the right word?”
“Yes. Sure. We’ll take them to the dining room. Plenty of room to spread out there. Need some note paper?” He reached into a desk drawer and pulled out a large hand magnifier. “You’ll probably want this, too.”
The afternoon was well along and Al was deep into drafting Sunday’s sermon when Katerina Friedeberger stuck her head in. “That visitor you have studying in the dining room, Brother Green?”
“Will he be staying for supper?”
Al mentally slapped himself for being a proverbial absent-minded professor. The only place they could get kosher food on short notice was the Kornzweig deli, down in Deborah. “He will, but he keeps kosher. I’ll call Claudette and ask her to pick up something for him on the way home.” He reached for the phone.
Al was close to done with his notes for the Sunday sermon, when the Greens’ adopted daughter Emilia came in. “Dad? Johann and Harry and I need to set both the dining room tables for supper now. Everybody will be coming soon.”
Al rubbed his eyes. “Oh, thanks, Millie. We’ll get it cleared off.”
He came out with the empty carton, to see Yakov a couple of hundred sheets down in the pile, looking back and forth between a couple of the pages like a cat trying to figure out which way a moth was going to turn next. He smiled. Any scholar would understand Yakov’s fascination at seeing something like this. “So, Rabbi Yakov, what do you think?”
Yakov sat up with a start. “It’s astonishing. What a treasure! I truly understand your caution with these pages.”
“So you understand what this is. Well, they need us to clear the table and put this away, but I’d like you to sit down now with William and John and me, and decide what we’re going to do. We’ll be out from under foot in the front parlor.” He set down the box next to the main stack.
Doctor Green was radiating energy to the point of impatience. Before Yakov and the two English printers had even seated themselves, he looked around at the little gathering. “I don’t mind telling you all again, every day we have the only copy of this material is a day we could lose the whole works. Does everybody agree that the only real way to protect it is to publish as fast as we can, and send off a bunch of copies to places where they’ll be appreciated?”
Yakov settled himself into the corner armchair and folded his hands behind his head. “Indeed. I would wish this even if you didn’t.”
“Great. So what do we have to do to make it happen? William?”
“I understand that you will not allow the papers to be moved out of doors at all, not even so far as the barn?”
“Would you risk having some of them blow into wet dirt, or get dropped? No.”
“Then we must set the type here in the house. It must be cleaned after each use, because you forbid ink or any other liquid to be in the same room as the papers. Nor would I want to see inky fingers in this fine house anyway.” He smiled. “Your study would be uncomfortably narrow for the work, but it might be done here in this room.”
Yakov sat silently, listening.
William continued, “Then we can carry the set type to the barn, do the printing there, and then clean and distribute the type for the next use. I’m told that we might find a disused press at a good price, now that some of the shops in town are taking up other ways of printing.”
Yakov fluttered his hand side-to-side. “Oh, no, no, there is no need to bring a press here. I would much rather make papier-maché stereotype flongs from the set pages, and take those down to the shop. My men could cast plates there for the press. Much less wear on the type, you see. Type is expensive.”
John sat bolt upright on the sofa under the window and slapped his forehead. “Of course, stereotypes! I must have been blind! We’ll lose no time washing the type, because it will never be inked.”
A startled look appeared on William’s face. “No press? But . . .”
Yakov suddenly understood. “You want a press here for other reasons? Of course. You wish to establish yourself as a master printer here to earn your living. I remember that you were happy there is no guild in this county to forbid you. But be careful about investing in what other printers are selling cheap, yes?”
William froze, obviously thinking through the implications.
Yakov went on, “You have seen all the shops, and the new methods. All that is only the beginning. I tell you, much more is coming. Why do you think I don’t keep a press of my own, and go to my neighbor Bleiler with my set type? Take my advice and learn all the new ways, before you tie up your money. At the technical college they have a course of instruction in most of it. It will save you much time and trial.”
William looked at John, and then at Yakov. “Learn the printing arts all over again, Rabbi Yakov? What can it mean, then, to be a master printer in Grantville?”
“You want my opinion? For our lifetimes, a master of any trade will be the one who is always thinking, always learning, always inventing, who always profits from change and is not run over by it.”
Albert nodded, with a little smile on his face. “That’s pretty much how it was up-time, and we ought to talk about it some more later, but right now we need to decide what we’re going to do. The four of us. Tonight, tomorrow, the day after, and next week.”
Yakov put his finger beneath his lip, and drew out his next words. “Ah, yes, what we are going to do. There are many things to consider, Albert. Much of the material in your copies is in Hebrew, or at least in Hebrew letters of an ancient sort. As William told you, I have good Hebrew type. Modern Hebrew type, of course, not like the script in your copies. The parts that are not Torah, we have no other source for. Though they are incomplete fragments, we can do nothing but publish them as they are. The pages in Greek and Roman letters are much the same, I think.
“Some of the Hebrew pages are Torah portions, though. It would be much more respectful of the text, and of much greater use, to fill in the missing words where the lines are broken into fragments. We would put the interpolations in brackets, of course. The sensible way would be to write out the merged text here and take it to the shop—merging and checking text while typesetting would drive us all insane. After our Sabbath and yours, I can bring one or two scholars here who are properly qualified for this, Jewish scribes who know what is required when they work with the words of the Torah. They must read aloud as they write, for just one example.”
Albert stiffened, then sighed. “Which means nothing would get done until Monday. I hate just letting two days slip out of our hands.”
“Is not ‘Haste makes waste’ an expression up-timers brought to us? But I share your concern. Tonight we can plan, until I must leave to be home for the Sabbath. And I think we could find steps you could take tomorrow to prepare for the work to follow.”
Claudette Green stuck her head in from the dining room, holding a paper bag in her hand. “Dinner, guys! You can keep talking at the table. And look who’s with me!”
Melisa Button came through the doorway, taking slow, cautious steps. William shot off the sofa and went straight to her, reaching out to gently take her hands. In a few more seconds she had an entire circle welcoming her home.
Albert returned to Yakov. “All right, if planning is what we can do now, let’s see how far we can get with it over dinner. I’ll drive you down to Deborah before the sun sets, and we can keep talking on the way.”
Claudette surveyed the parlor and shook her head. It was fair to say the place had been transformed. All the furniture and Old Joe’s good rug were tucked away for safety up in the new barn. A workbench that a couple of the men had hammered together out of green lumber dominated the middle of the room, along with a pair of card tables and a bunch of mismatched folding chairs. Instead of a single stack, Al’s photocopies now rested in a neat row of file folders, sorted by alphabet and topic. They had Kat Meisner and one of her friends from the Bibelgesellschaft to thank for a big part of that job— Saturday had been a long day. There was half a ream of cheap newsprint for note-taking and a mug full of pencils. Al was looking as anxious as a racehorse waiting for the bell. She threw him a sideways glance. “The things we do for the faith. How long is it going to be like this?”
He returned a crooked smile. He understood, all right. “No longer than it has to, honeybunch. Once we’re done with this batch, there won’t be any more typesetting. We can get just about all the books done by photo reproduction. William and Yakov say they’re in good enough shape for a job shop to do them.”
“And aren’t you glad you never wrote in the margins or underlined sentences, like some of those college nerds? Well, kiss me, and I’ve got to get going. John’s taking the station wagon to bring up the paraphernalia and your new buddies, so I’ll ride down with him. Crack the whip on those obsessive-compulsive fuddy-duddies and get this wrapped up and out of here, will you?”
He laughed, and took her in his arms.
For all that the cookshop was named with a German word from another era, it was no idle boast. Delicate eating, indeed. But— “We could have brought our lunches from home, Leon. In your circumstances, thrift would not be an unwise practice.” Yakov could have phrased the admonition a good deal more strongly, but he exercised restraint in the interest of a harmonious relationship. The eminent rabbi from Venice wasn’t in Venice at the moment, and his spectacular absence of thrift had a great deal to do with his sojourn among the Deborah community. Yakov looked on in amusement as Leon turned his head, scanning all around the front room. Table linens to the left of the door edged in blue for dairy meals, those on the right edged in red, for meat. Two separate kitchens behind the counter. They sat waiting for their take-out order at a bare table in the middle, where only wrapped goods would ever be set down.
“We can afford it this once, to go visit your goyim who take no offense at food brought from outside. Very respectful, I should think. But will we really be there the whole day? Documents inscribed when the temple still stood, in the hands of this Protestant? Really? How would he have come by such unlikely things?”
That was not amusing. “Take care with Doctor Green. He is polite, and a man of peace, and he will always look for a position everyone can live with. But do not mistake it for softness. If someone should back him into a corner on a principle he considers essential, he will not yield. I have seen it. And never underestimate his knowledge. If he chose to convert, he could join our congregation with no further study. And one other thing. He says the Baptists are not Protestants, they pre-date the Catholics.”
Leon’s body language and expression spoke volumes. Well, he’d spoken enough earlier of the glories of scholarship into the Law and the Word as practiced in Venice, and his disdain for the necessity of taking refuge from his gambling debts in remote, outlandish Grantville—never mind that the Sephardim in town had grown numerous enough to support a famous rabbi—and never mind that he wasn’t the Venetian rabbi they’d really rather have attracted. Nevertheless, when he spoke aloud, it was, “All right, Yakov, I will keep my eyes open and my mouth closed. We Jews know how to do that. And we shall see.” He was clearly looking forward to that. So was Yakov.
The counter man caught Yakov’s eye, only a second or two after he saw John Stewart waving from the seminary’s station wagon. He rose. “Will you collect our lunches, Leon? I must return to the shop and direct the loading.”
Albert came out to the front porch to meet them. As soon as Yakov reached the top of the steps, he went into the formal introduction. “Doctor Albert Green, this is Rabbi Yehudah Aryeh Mi-modena from Venice, also called Leon of Modena by those outside our community.” Meanwhile, John Stewart took the station wagon around the far side of the barn so he and William Button could unload the stereotype apparatus and all the bits and pieces that went with it.
Albert extended his hand. “Welcome, Rabbi Yehudah. I’ve been looking forward to meeting you. Which should I call you?” After a barely noticeable hesitation, Leon shook it and answered, “Leon will do.” Grantvillers could be surprising, and Albert was in a class by himself. He was already opening the screen door. “Let me show you what we’ve got. Yakov explained it, right?”
“Yes, he did.” The noncommittal tone of voice was certainly to his credit.
The changes to the room struck Yakov as he came in. Though there were still pictures on the walls and a coat rack in the corner, it was now a place of work and no longer a place of comfort. He noticed the electric wires running across the floor to two lamps on the tables. “Leon, look out for those!”
Albert pointed. “All right, the Greek material is in the folders at this end of the table, and most of the rest is Hebrew. There’s some Latin. I’m afraid I can’t allow any food or drink in the room with these papers, or any kind of liquids, but the dining room is right on the other side of those sliding doors. Just ask Sister Friedeberger for some refreshments when you want them.”
William’s son John came in carrying a stack of type fonts wrapped for transportation, and set down the heavy load on the bench with care to keep them from any danger of scrambling.
Albert went on, “Anything you want to go over, before I go out to take care of some morning chores?”
John turned back from the door in surprise. “You will not remain with these guests, Brother Green?”
“No, Brother Button. I’ll come back in a while, but if Rabbi Leon is going to give the book his endorsement when it’s published, he needs time to make his examination and reach his own conclusions without me hanging over his shoulder. Besides, you know our rules. Priesthood of all believers. If I didn’t do my share of the farm work, the rest of you would turn me into the high priest, and that’s a headache I don’t want.”
“But you’ve studied so much longer and know so much more. Might you not be needed here?”
Albert’s smile was of the sort bestowed on a clever student. “The Bible is not a shovel. Remember? It’s not a tool to be used for making a living. Let’s remember to talk about that again. Anyway, if something comes up that needs my immediate attention, you can always find me. I’ll be looking in at the sawmill first.” His gaze changed direction. “You all set, Yakov?”
Leon looked at Yakov. His eyes said, “Is he serious?”
Yakov nodded and pulled out a chair. “Let’s sit down.” He put his hand on a folder tagged as Torah text, and a bland expression on his face. “You might like to start with this.”
Around noon Albert came back in. Leon hardly stirred when Yakov looked up from the Essene Rule of Order he was re-reading, a thing whose existence nobody had even imagined. A Jewish monastery? He motioned with his head toward the doors. Over a glass of cold water back in the kitchen, he lowered his voice. “I didn’t want to disturb the Great Venetian Scholar. I’ve been enjoying watching him. He talked nonstop at the delicatessen and on the ride up here, about what a fool’s errand this probably was. Then he took one good long look when he got your reading glass in his hand, and shut up. You should have seen his face! He hasn’t said a word yet.” He snickered. “Do you have any idea how hard it is to impress an ever-so-sophisticated Sephardic full-time professional Rabbi? Do you have any idea how much he is going to hate admitting that a German rabbi who works for a living knows what he’s talking about? I’m so glad I don’t have to get in a dither over the sin of pride and so forth, the way the Catholics do.”
Albert raised an eyebrow. “Surely there isn’t that much rivalry!”
Yakov snorted. “You Christians don’t get along among yourselves, often enough. Why would you think we Jews do, even if we don’t turn it into a Thirty Years’ War?” He looked Albert in the eye and shook his head, “If he had anything to say, any way at all to tell me I was wrong, mistaken, confused or did not know what I was talking about, he would be telling me about it in pious detail. He would be perfectly polite about it, and perfectly thorough. He isn’t doing that, because he can’t. And right now he is lost among the pages making his mind see the common script when his eyes see the fuzzy odd block and then triangular script on the slick and shiny paper. Rabbi Yehudah Aryeh Mi-modena from Venice is staring at photocopies of Torah portions written when the temple still stood in Jerusalem. He understands what you have here, if anybody does. And I intend to keep my mouth shut and not tell him ‘I told you so.’ You and I agreed on what we want to accomplish, and it’s not one-upmanship—charming word. We need Leon’s endorsement to get this taken seriously when it’s published. Not to mention his help editing. Have you heard from your Catholic and Protestant friends yet?”
“Larry Mazzare answered my telegram. He’s on board with it, he came over and saw some of this stuff when I first came to town. Dean Gerhard hasn’t said anything yet.”
Leon came in and glanced up at the lunch baskets they’d put out of the way on top of the corner cabinet, then at Albert. “I just heard your congregation coming into the dining room and setting out lunch. I hadn’t noticed the time. Where should Yakov and I eat?”
“You can join us in the dining room, if you like. We can leave a place empty on each side if that makes you more comfortable. Or you could use the picnic table under the maple tree out back.”
Leon’s face lit up. “That sounds wonderful, if you wouldn’t mind. It’s such a fine day out, and I miss my walks along the canals in the sun.”
“Sure. I’ll catch up with you afterward. I think it’s time for us to talk.”
Leon said nothing at first, though it wasn’t the food that held his attention so closely. He was looking off into the trees, and probably not seeing them rustling in the warm breeze either, or hearing the blue jay overhead. Finally he let the hand holding what was left of his sandwich settle onto the wrapper, and came back to the present. “Rabbi Yakov, we must have those scrolls.”
Yakov chuckled. “Green will not give them up. You might as well seek in the Wish Book for the Ark of the Covenant.”
“Oh, I have not made myself clear. Not those atrocious copies, no, he should not give those up, and I do not mean us personally.” He picked up the sandwich again, and paused with it half-raised. “I mean the whole community of the children of Abraham, we must have the actual scrolls, the hidden library. They must be found, and taken where they can be safe, before they fall into the hands of plunderers and strangers, the worst kind of goyim, not the ones like your friend. He is everything you said.” The hand holding the sandwich wavered aimlessly in the air. “Yakov, I will speak to whom I must. There are letters to be written, money to be raised. Jerusalem shall be informed. Green told you there are books which hint at where to start looking? We must read them first, and act before others do.” He paused for a few heartbeats, with his eyes looking somewhere off into the distance, probably seeing something that wasn’t in front of them at all. “But until then, what he has is all we have. As he says, we must publish it all, and make sure it is done correctly, with proper respect for what it is.” He sighed. “I could only wish they were complete.”
Yakov sat back on the bench and cocked his head. “And when the scrolls are found, how are they to be cared for? For we are told, by now they are very fragile, and much may already have crumbled away beyond the ability of even the best antiquarians to salvage. Not that any such experts ever lived in Grantville.”
The hand holding the sandwich twitched through a small gesture, half dismissive and half an acknowledgment. “Hmmph. We must study that question, and ask who has dealt with such things. I admit, I myself have never handled anything so old.”
An admission of anything, from this man, was a marvel. Yakov kept his expression bland, in what Green called a “poker face.”
Al and William stepped out the back door and glanced over to the picnic table. “Looks like they’ve finished eating. Shall we get this show on the road?”
William looked at him inquiringly, nodded as he seemed to get the gist of the idiom, and strode across the yard beside him.
Al climbed over the bench seat, settled down, crossed his forearms on the table top, and favored the two rabbis with a direct look. “What do you think?”
Leon put his fingertips together and a look on his face that was probably meant to project judicious wisdom. He sat that way for a couple of seconds, and then intoned, “I believe my colleague was right. It is wondrous. You do indeed seem to have here pictures of works that were written before Rome burned the temple. I understand you offer us the right to copy them? We will pay the expenses and provide you with your thirty free copies. Fortunately, we have the Greek and Latin portions to work on while the new type is made to match the script.”
It was Al’s turn to stare silently at him for a couple of seconds. “New type? What on earth are you talking about? What for? Yakov has some of the best Hebrew type there is.”
“The manuscripts are not written in our modern style of letters. They are in an older script, used before there was printing. The Tetragrammaton, the Name of Our Lord, is in a script older yet.” Yakov got a startled look on his face. Leon went on, “To publish them properly, and show how they looked, we will need to have the correct type made up. We can use the modern type for the words inserted from our own Torah, so that the complete text can be read, but that would not be suitable for the words from the manuscripts.”
“Rabbi Leon, I think you’re misunderstanding the whole purpose of this project. It’s not to copy the appearance of the documents. It’s to get the text out there verbatim in enough places to make sure it survives, before something bad happens and we lose it all. It’d take at least a month to make a whole new font.” He shifted his gaze to Yakov. “Wouldn’t it?”
Yakov scratched his nose. “Could be. I’d have to ask Joseph. And he might be busy with something else.”
“Yeah. Leon, there’s no way I’m going to agree to waste a month, just to make it look like a style of letters nobody today can even read without a struggle. Every day until the copies are printed and shipped out is one more day when we could lose the whole thing. I want typesetting to start today. William, can you do that?”
“Yes, Brother Green, within the hour. John and I have nearly finished setting in order the Greek font cases and the other tools of the trade. Rabbi Yakov has chosen certain pages as the first of the Greek portions that should be set in type, and as we do Melisa will proofread on the type itself, before we impress the stereotypes.”
“Good. She’s been wanting to do something useful, and that’s a safe enough job for her while she’s still recovering from surgery. And very much against my own preferences, I agreed Friday night that you could set scribes to editing the Torah material so the missing parts are filled in before the typesetting. Yakov, you and William assured me that typesetting on the edited notes could begin at your shop the morning after the editing begins up here. Two days have passed with no editing done, for reasons that I understand. Well, we did our planning. Now we execute. I want to see that editing get under way this afternoon, and set in type tomorrow.”
Leon’s hands had become occupied in folding the empty sandwich wrapper into precise squares. He put on a look that might have been intended to communicate patience. “But the script is the best way of saying how old it is.”
“The preface is a perfectly adequate way to say it, and we can write that in ten minutes. You want to show a sample of what it looks like? Fine, somebody can make a copper plate engraving of a fragment, as long as it’s done by the time the last pages come off the press.”
William interjected, “Brother Green, even that would not be needed. I saw a light table at Schmucker & Schwentzel. It’s used to trace illustration sketches onto thin paper, so they can be inked and then put under the plate-making camera. We could reproduce one of your photocopies by that method.”
“Fine, William, that’s even better.”
Leon was looking back and forth between them. “Doctor Green, it is not that hard if you know Hebrew well! And this will not cause much of a delay, if the other Hebrew material goes to typesetting first. The Jewish community will appreciate the provenance of the documents better in the old script!”
Al felt his neck going stiff. Something about the Venetian’s attitude was already wearing out his carefully cultivated mild manner. It felt as if the man was playing the part of an adult explaining to a small child just why what they wanted was ridiculous and that they should leave the important decisions up to their elders. He sat up straighter and changed his tone of voice. “First of all, we are not printing a book for pleasure reading, and it’s not just for the Jewish community! And even if we were, few people read Hebrew well enough to do it without struggling with this unfamiliar script! Even Yakov, who is very proficient, has problems reading it. I know I do, and it’s a rare Christian who can read Hebrew better than I can! In the end, it needs to be understood, or we won’t have accomplished anything. And one avoidable day of delay is a day too many. No. It’s got to be in the Hebrew type Yakov already has. No more messing around.”
Leon’s eyes flashed. “If we are paying for it, it should be done in the form we desire!”
Al leaned forward and gripped the edge of the table with both hands. “Paying for it? How in the world do you propose to pay for it? From what I heard, the only reason you’re in town in the first place was because you couldn’t pay your bills back home in Venice! If you’re thinking of a fund-raising campaign just so you can goldplate the job, there’s no way in the world to guess how long that would hold up production. Forget it! If you want to do something else with a second edition, fine, and you can take as long as you want. Maybe you’ll even find a couple of people who want it.”
Yakov was holding one hand palm-down a few inches above the table, rocking it gently from side to side. His lips were pursed a little. What? Before Al could figure out whether that was some kind of a message, or Leon could phrase a rejoinder, William exclaimed, “Gold plate? No-one spoke of illuminating the pages with gold leaf.”
That stopped Al for a moment, and let off some of the steam. “What? Oh. Sorry. No, I don’t mean gold leaf. It’s a piece of up-time slang. It comes from defense contracting. Goldplating means wasting a lot of extra time and money on fancy frills that don’t do anything useful. You remember, I wanted to just mimeograph it all and get it out of here, but you convinced me nobody would value what they got if we didn’t put in the time and labor for a good printing job. Okay, you won your point and we made the decision to move ahead. But enough is enough.” Leon wasn’t talking for the moment, but he was looking sharply at William, clearly awaiting an answer to this sudden swerve in the discussion.
“The mimeograph . . . Brother Green, I have a thought. If the great matter is that there should be a copy without delay, to be taken elsewhere so that it cannot be lost or destroyed if ill should befall here, why not bring the Hebrew typewriter from the barn and make mimeograph copies quickly, for the immediate use of the scribes in their work? Then they might work where they will, perhaps where there would be room for more of them to divide up the task of editing.”
Al turned that over in his mind. The editing bottleneck. . . “Hmm. Maybe, but not the mimeograph. That’s for making thirty copies. If we only need one or two, carbon paper is a whole lot cheaper, and easier to do corrections on.”
Yakov was looking puzzled too. “Yes, what is carbon paper?”
Al got up. “Better to show you than tell you. Let’s take a walk over to the new barn. If we’re even thinking of changing the plan, we’ll never have more time to do it than we have this minute.”
As they hustled across the yard, Leon started talking again. “These thirty copies you speak of, Yakov said something about it. I think perhaps you don’t know our people. Many more than that could be sold.”
“I’ll take your word for it. The reason I’d have been satisfied with thirty is that the Christian world isn’t ready to face the idea of a less than absolute unquestioned authoritative scriptural text. If I send thirty copies to thirty carefully chosen schools, it will be enough to guarantee that the text will survive. In time it will start a discussion among qualified scholars, and it will establish our school as a place of special learning. If you and Yakov publish it among your own people, that will only make it harder for every copy to be lost or destroyed. So it’s a good thing.”
He opened a door on the uphill side, and led the three men to one of the smaller work rooms on the second floor. “Okay, carbon paper.” He poked around in a small storage cabinet for a moment, pulled out three sheets of typing paper and two carbons, stacked them, and rolled them into the Hebrew typewriter. “Here we go.” Al had been typing academic papers since his first year of high school. He rattled off “Bereshiyth bara Elohim et hashamayim ve’et ha’aretz” in a burst. William had seen his speed before on the English typewriter, but Yakov’s eyes grew large. Al spun the platen knob and rolled the paper up a couple of inches, so he could fan out the sheets and let them see the carbon copies.
Leon needed two or three seconds to take it all in. The first words out of his mouth were, “I need those sheets of paper, please. You have written a name of the Lord and I have read it. It must be preserved and properly disposed of. And I must have one of these machines.”
Al turned his head and looked him straight in the eye. “Okay. Fine. Sure. Now, if I spend the next hour typing up some pages of the manuscripts with empty space where parts of lines are missing, would you be able to use that to do the editing and fill in from the Torah?”
“Er, yes, I would be able to do that. I will have to read aloud what you have written, of course.”
“Right. Then if that’s the plan, let’s do it, people. Editing this afternoon, typesetting tomorrow.”
Leon raised a finger, as if he were correcting a student in the yeshiva. “Typesetting Greek and Latin texts tomorrow, you mean. We can start editing the Hebrew tomorrow and print when we have the new type.”
Before Al could blow up again, Yakov smoothly cut in, “Doctor Green, there will be plenty of printing to keep us busy. I will see to it that the press is not idle. The Hebrew that is not Torah can be printed all in modern type.”
“But—” Leon fell silent at the glare radiating from Yakov and Albert, his words halting like an egg striking a wall. His expression was one of heel-dragging acceptance, not consent.
Al nodded curtly. “Good. Yakov, can you find somebody to come up in the morning and take over the typing?” He stood up and put the typewriter under one arm. William caught his sideways glance, and brought along the pack of carbons.
A few weeks later
The brief rain shower ended. Pankratz Holz wiped the droplets off his spectacles and peered toward the synagogue, across the street and nearly a block away.
“Those two boys who just went in are among those I saw getting off the tram near the path to the Baptist farm.”
His voice dripped sarcasm. “Wonderful. I recognize one of them. He has been seen often lately at those mongrel Bibelgesellschaft meetings, where they pretend they’re scholars. It’s anyone’s guess whether he’s there from curiosity or because the Jews sent him. And did you find out anything about what it is they and the Baptists are doing together? What little I’ve been hearing is third-hand.”
“Not really, Pastor, maybe writing a book or a newspaper or something. One of my men thinks he heard one of them say something about editing.”
“Editing! I knew it! I knew it! That heretic Green is trying to change the Bible! I must write to Tilesius. But what would those Jews have to do with it? I must find out what’s going on up there.”
“They killed Christ, maybe they’re trying to kill the Bible.”
“Don’t be stupid, read your Bible. Those conniving Jew priests were behind it, all right, but it was the Romans who killed Him. The Romans always thought they could solve any problem by killing somebody. Still, you might have a point. This time the Jews are getting the Baptists to do their evil bidding. Now, how are we going to get in there for a look? That sneak thief you hired was useless. I must go see for myself.”
The bierstube was noisy enough with betting and drunken ramblings to keep anyone from overhearing a low-voiced conversation in a corner.
“I want you two to watch for anybody coming, and give a whistle if they do. Maybe carry some stuff. You in?”
The man across from him looked over the edge of his mug. “Depends what it pays, and who I gotta fight. But I wouldn’t mind seeing what we could grab off those Anabaptist heretics up on the hill. Far as I can tell they got no friends to worry about, they’re not even Christians.”
Rausch didn’t bother correcting that. It didn’t matter, and he wasn’t all that sure what they were himself.
A line from an up-time folk song went through Claudette’s mind as she looked in at the scene in the front room. Some babies go to sleep to a lullaby, and mine was the sound of . . . two Hebrew typewriters? Melisa’s foot gently rocked Providence in a cradle her stepson Andrew had built, while she checked Greek type. Meanwhile, David and Moshe rattled along in irregular bursts, occasionally stopping to swap pages and proofread each other’s work. With any luck at all, that part of the job would be wrapped up pretty soon. That still left all the non-Torah Hebrew pages.
Hjalmar Schaub stood at the far side of the kitchen garden, taking in the back of the house and the approaches. Attractive, in a nineteenth-century American sort of way. Clapboard siding, white with dark green trim, overhanging eaves, large windows with that clear, smooth glass that was only now beginning to be duplicated. But the clear line of sight on that side ran only to the old barn. John Stewart was standing a few feet away, not saying anything, waiting for Hjalmar to speak. Hjalmar sighed. “Mr. Stewart, it comes down to what is at stake, what is the threat, and what are the costs. You’ve been a mercenary. I think what I have to say will only confirm what you’ve already concluded. With a good deal of work and expense, you could keep out nuisances and casual thieves. Maybe even amateurish vandalism. Iron shutters over the windows, outside lighting, a night patrol, maybe an ugly sprinkler system hung from the ceilings. Your dogs are a worthwhile measure, they will certainly make the cattle safer. But against a serious attack? No. Nothing like a battering ram or blasting powder would be needed to tear through those flimsy walls. Axes would be enough. Bullets would penetrate easily. And a fire could be started anywhere.”
Stewart nodded slowly a couple of times. “Are you saying it’s hopeless, then?”
“Not exactly. The buildings are basically indefensible, like most of Grantville, and so are the grounds. At best, you could gain enough time to take up arms. Actually fortifying this place would take months, even if you had a force to guard it at all times. But you said that it’s not the buildings and possessions that matter the most, it’s the books and papers. You have priceless written knowledge from up-time, and that’s the only thing that’s irreplaceable? If there really is an imminent threat, and of course that’s the greatest unknown, it could arrive long before you could publish that enormous collection you showed me. But we at NESS have assisted with such things before. I think you need to become acquainted with the Academy of Conservators. Quickly.”
Stewart looked blank. “What’s that? Another college of some kind?”
“No, it’s a small foundation with a state charter, a sort of secular order, I suppose you could think of it. But I hear your colleagues gathering for evening study. Why don’t we go in and make our report, and I’ll explain?”
Martin Rausch lingered with one of the men he’d hired, after the few worshipers at the weekday service went on their way. Holz put away the vestments and strode over to where they waited. “Well?”
“Gerd’s watched them from the woods enough to have a good idea of their habits.”
Holz snorted. “It’s taken long enough. And so?”
“Sometimes there are lights on or some of them talking until almost midnight, but then they settle down. It’s pretty much quiet and dark until after dawn.”
“Mmph. All right. Is there anything else?”
“Not much. Well, the Jewish kids left early yesterday.”
He flung out his hands. “What? Why didn’t you say so in the first place? They must be almost done with whatever heretical business they’re up to. We need to go find out what they’re doing. Tonight, or we’ll miss our chance. Then maybe I can get some support from Tilesius for whatever has to be done.”
Gerd looked at Martin, and shrugged. It was plain enough what he thought of the whole affair. Whatever Holz was all excited about, he was the one paying them, and if somebody woke up, it wasn’t far to the woods.
The guard at the castle gate spoke courteously enough, but there was nothing casual about the way he moved, the camouflage-painted polearm grounded within easy reach, or the very modern holstered pistol at his hip. “Good morning, Director Bolender, Herr Döpfner.” He looked over the State Library’s truck. “You are visiting the arsenal building today?”
Josef Döpfner leaned out the driver’s side window. “Yes, Corporal Kreider. And good morning to you.”
“And this other gentleman? We have not been introduced.”
“This is Mr. John Stewart, from the Baptist seminary. We’re showing him the facility and giving an orientation.”
“Very good, Mr. Stewart. You are to stay with your escorts.” He took a visitors’ register from the guard shelter and handed it through the window to be signed.
A minute and a half later the truck pulled up in front of the building. Elaine Bolender got out first, with one of the keys, and a few seconds later Döpfner came with the other one. John raised his eyes. She explained, “The building is a no-lone zone. Nobody is allowed in here alone.”
John looked over the exterior while they unlocked. The walls were stone, but where there had once been windows, the openings were now bricked up. The roof overhang didn’t look like seventeenth century construction at all. It certainly wasn’t wooden. Neither was the green-painted door. Things clanked when she turned the handle and threw her weight on it.
Inside, the only light was what came in through the door. There was electricity in the castle, but not in here.
It was one big room, paved with stone. When John’s eyes adjusted after a few seconds, he saw rows of shelving filling close to half the space, holding numbered boxes. Aside from that, there were several spring-wound flashlights standing ready on a table beside the door, and little else. There was nothing that could make a flame at all.
She started up a light and led him over to one of the aisles. “This is what we’ve got, Mr. Stewart. It’s pretty much bare-bones. Most of what you see here is the State Library’s overflow, a lot of material we couldn’t stuff into the main building and still be able to move around. Piles of donations land on us every time somebody clears out an attic or a barn for whatever reason. We get everything from esoteric reference books to rent receipts, all mixed together. Whenever we can get some help from volunteers, we bring a few boxes down to the staff rooms to get sorted and catalogued, and then put them back here. And we find out what kind of Easter eggs are buried in all the junk.”
Döpfner was carrying in boxes from the truck and consulting a chart before shelving them.
John watched that for a moment, then turned back to the library director. “Easter eggs?”
She gave a sort of amused snort. “Yeah. You could call them buried treasures. The things we come across once in a long while, that make it worthwhile to go through it all. Of course, there’s no telling whether something that looks absolutely useless will be just the clue somebody needs ten years from now.
“But anyway, it was a whopper of an Easter egg that got us this building. Up until last year, the stuff used to be in a rented cubicle down at the Higgins storage yard outside of town. While Josef had the door open one morning, a thief ran in and grabbed a box. Right in front of the Earl of Arundel—he was in town then. The box turned out to be a set of Debian software CDs, filled with open source code that would cost some incredible amount of money to rewrite from scratch. And it was complete, everything released up to 1999.”
That was an unfamiliar term. “Open source code?”
“Computer programs, in a form that people can work on. To fix mistakes and make improvements. Explaining exactly what that all means would probably take longer than you’d want to listen to right now, but the point is that when we can start building computers big enough to run it, it’ll move us ahead half a century in one jump. We’ll have the Internet again, the real one, not that crippled skeleton we have in town. You and I will probably live to see it.”
“That sounds . . . far-reaching. I’ve heard folk speak of missing it greatly.”
She made a sharp gesture with one hand. “Yeah, no kidding! You can imagine the fuss it raised, when it hit the newspapers. Well, the earl had a bee in his bonnet already, ever since he heard about the Croat raid. He wants England to get a big boost from our technical knowledge, you see, so until there’s time to publish what we have, it has to be protected. From everything.
“So he and Lady Alethea decided to organize the Conservators to do it. They put in a little of their own money, which made them Patrons once the charter went through, but mostly what they did was put their contacts and influence behind it. That drew in Count Ludwig Guenther, and he decided he wanted bragging rights as a Patron himself. What he gave us is a lot more valuable than money. He’s letting us borrow this old building he wasn’t using, for as long as we need it. The way his garrison guards this castle, I don’t think we need to worry about any thieves or vandals getting in.”
John chuckled. “That would present a few difficulties.”
She waved her light around at the bare walls and the empty space under the roof. “Of course, this place doesn’t have anything for humidity control, lighting, alarms, or sprinklers. That’s on the way, though, now that the Patrons and the state have managed to scare up enough funding for a start on the repository annex. The first part of it, anyway. We just broke ground.”
“A new building? Is that what I saw when I came up the driveway to the library?”
“Where the steam shovel is, up on the slope? Uh-huh, that’s it. Going to be it. Anyway, now you’ve seen the place. How much are you folks thinking of placing with us?”
“Herr Schaub thinks we should store almost all of Brother Green’s library with you, until it can be published or at least copied. There have been hints of possible trouble, and after the riots last year, we have to take it seriously. And we had a break-in not long ago.”
She leaned back against the end of a row and ran the fingers of one hand through her hair. “His whole collection, huh? Jackie Pascal told me how much she saw in his study. Eight or ten full-height bookcases?”
“Yes, and boxes of books and journals in the attic that haven’t been unpacked since the move.”
“Which would all have to be catalogued. And if the Academy hosts all that, can we borrow the bookcases too?”
“I’ll ask him. And by the way, why is your group called the Academy of Conservators?”
She gave him an amused smile. “Well, a couple of our Fellows do teach book and document conservation, among other things, but mostly because it was the most boring name Lady Alethea could think of. Sometimes it’s good to be ignored, don’t you think?”
Döpfner was starting to carry out some boxes from a different bay of shelving.
When John Stewart got back to the seminary, Melisa Button was proofing what looked to be the last of the Greek, while nursing Providence at her breast. Even with her back to him, just the way she was sitting spoke of quiet happiness.
With the last of the copy typing on the Hebrew pages done and sent down to Hanauer’s shop, the place was starting to return to normal. Maybe they could bring back the furniture tomorrow and make the missus a lot happier.
Brother Green must have recognized the sound of John’s footsteps; he came out and buttonholed him. “You look like you have some answers. Is it a go?”
“It is. They’ll accept the books into safekeeping as soon as we can get them there. The NESS people told me earlier we should move them at night, when there’s not much traffic on the streets and hardly any bystanders for troublemakers to hide among.”
“Probably right, Brother Stewart. I just wish we didn’t have to do it. Everything here is going to be slowed way down, until we get at least some of the books copied.”
William Button had a thoughtful look on his face. “Perhaps, if we can find a few more typewriters, we could copy out the most essential ones fairly quickly and resume our studies. Or even mimeograph them.”
John paused. “Ah, Brother Button? Director Bolender was telling me they have a much faster and cheaper way to make one or two copies of a printed book, if you don’t mind viewing it through a magnifier. They call it microfilming.”
William just looked at him.
Green gave William a rueful half-smile in acknowledgment of yet one more upset to the publishing trades, and came back to the subject. “Well, if they can take them as soon as we can get them there, it’s a question of how soon we can do it.” He nibbled his lip for a few moments. “If we skip study time this afternoon, you think we could get them all packed and on the truck tonight?”
That caught John by surprise. “Maybe. Probably, if we all help. It’s a lot of books you’ve got, but the old truck’s pretty big. But are you that worried?”
“Well, you said Woof was acting strange a few times, staring at the tree line. Like maybe something was there. Or somebody. And you said NESS and the police haven’t picked up anything definite, but there was a rumor some low-lifes have been talking about us in a dive. Nothing that anybody could say for sure is a threat. Just somebody talking about us. It made me think of Pearl Harbor.”
“What’s Pearl Harbor?”
“A defeat the USA suffered up-time. A bad one. There were hints, people were worried, but they didn’t do anything about it, and time ran out.”
“You think time might be running out?”
“We can’t tell, can we? You think NESS could put together a mounted escort for a run tonight? Let’s say, three o’clock in the morning? The drunks should be out of the bars and off the streets by then.”
“Brother Green, I’ll find out. And if we’re not done loading by then?”
“I don’t think that’ll be a problem, if we don’t spend a lot of time trying to figure out what somebody else has, or what isn’t important to protect. Let’s just run it all up there where nobody can get at it, and then take our time deciding what we can take a chance with.”
Miss Schäubin from NESS called back. Yes, they could send four riders, for three in the morning. The usual rates, for a regular customer. She would take care of alerting the police to the move.
William Oughtred from the Conservators called. Yes, it was arranged. He and a Minor Fellow would be at the castle at half past three to identify them to the guards and unlock the arsenal building.
The afternoon and evening went by in a whirl. It wasn’t like you could run to the supermarket these days, and ask for a pile of discarded cartons, though Claudette had flattened and put away a good many from the last move. It was something pastors’ families learned to do. They used harvesting baskets, clothes hampers, burlap sacks, tool carriers, whatever they could find. Some of the books ended up in bundles tied together with string for carrying. With the dining room furniture stacked and pushed to one side to clear a passage, supper was sandwiches, mostly eaten standing up. By midnight, the front parlor looked like moving day. The last weather report before WVOA went off the air for the night predicted clear skies.
Al Green looked over the chaos. “I guess we’re ready to start loading.”
John Stewart thought about that. “I suppose so. It might be safer to keep everything inside until we’re ready to go, but on the other hand, if anything happens, it’ll be ready to drive away. All right.” He picked up the keys and went to bring the truck around to the front door.
“We’ve been sitting out here in the dirt for an hour. There’s nothing happening but a couple of cows moving in the barn.”
Rausch touched Holz’ arm in the dark beside him, and whispered in his ear. “Patience, Pastor. And keep your voice down. We’re listening to make sure they’re sleeping, not trying to wake them up.”
“Yes. All right, how soon?”
“I told you, when moonrise starts to glow in the east and we can see where we’re going, so we don’t stumble over things and make noise. Soon, now.”
“What’s wrong with using the lantern, then?”
This amateur was getting irritating. Rausch touched the shielded lantern, to make sure it was still lit. They hadn’t been able to get hold of a silent flashlight on short notice. It was just bad luck. “That’s for when we’re inside the library with the door closed. If anybody’s watching and we uncover it out here, it would be a beacon.”
Another ten minutes passed, and a faint light started to appear above the Ringwall. Rausch nodded to himself.
“Gerd, you watch from that side. Pick a spot where you can see the house and the yard behind it, and lie down in the weeds. Lajos, over there, and watch the far side where the man’s library is. We’ll open the window as soon as we’re inside, in case we need to leave fast.”
The two men slipped away, crouching low and as near to silent as would make no difference twenty feet away. Each one had a toy cricket to signal with. Rausch waited another minute for the lookouts to get in position, then touched Pastor Holz on the shoulder and rose off the ground.
The truck hadn’t been visible from where they’d watched from behind the underbrush. When they came over the slight rise in the ground, it was right in front of them. Holz pointed. “Look. They’re sending something out. That might be the key to what they’re doing.” He changed direction toward it.
Rausch grunted under his breath and followed. In a few footsteps they were at the tailgate. For a beginner at this, the pastor hadn’t made much noise. Piled sacks stretched across that end of the truck. Holz felt around one of them for a few seconds, then hissed, “I need to see what’s in here.” He started trying to untie the cord by touch.
It was ridiculous to waste time that way. Rausch took out his belt knife and cut the cord. He raised the lantern, ready to open the shutter and shine the light on whatever was in the sack.
All the lights were out, to maintain Colm Donnelly’s night vision. He was taking a turn watching and listening from cover, near the head of the trace coming up the hill from the road.
There was a change in the night’s sounds. It was hard to make out the direction, the way sound reflected off the barn walls. He came up to one knee and scanned his eyes around, very slowly. There! Movement, black against black, just behind the loaded truck. He had a pistol, but firing that in the dark would be a last resort. He grabbed the pick handle lying on the ground beside him and stood up. “Hey!” He started toward the intruders. That woke up Woof and Warp, and they both started barking their heads off. About five seconds later the porch light came on and the front door opened. Brother Green came running out, with Stewart right behind him carrying a shotgun.
Scheiße! They were supposed to scouting the place and maybe stealing something, not getting into a fight. Rausch turned around to run, with the knife still in his hand. Before he could take a step, someone ran into him, and the impact knocked the lantern out of his hand. He didn’t see where it went, but the man who’d collided with him let out a loud shriek. Rausch pushed him away, jumped sideways to get around the corner of the tailgate, and ran for the tree line.
Halfway up the seminary’s pathway, Hjalmar heard the shouting. Something wasn’t going according to plan. There was light enough to move faster, though not enough to gallop safely. He kneed his horse. The rest of the team spread out slightly behind him, then matched his pace.
The second man by the tailgate wasn’t as quick. He was just starting to run when John Stewart got there and kicked his feet out from under him. Brother Green was on the ground holding his thigh and groaning. The man who’d run was about fifteen feet away; John raised the shotgun and started to aim, when Colm ran in from the side and swung the pick handle at the man’s legs. He went down with a scream. Somebody he couldn’t see went crashing away through the underbrush.
There were lights coming on and running feet everywhere. Amid the voices there was one he couldn’t immediately identify, shouting, “Fire! Fire!”
Fire? Fire at who? Then he saw it, from the corner of his eye. A puddle of flame was spreading on the front porch.
The man he’d knocked down was rolling over, starting to get up. Help was coming, but he needed to buy a little more time. He kicked the man again and pointed the shotgun. “Stay where you are.” The cold fury in his voice probably did as much as the weapon, to hold him until Emil Gertsch and John Button got there from the new barn. John still didn’t know what had happened to Brother Green, but there was the fire. Before he had to decide which to deal with first, Claudette Green climbed out of a window and shouted, “I got it.” She ran around the corner of the house in pajamas and bare feet, and came back in seconds with a garden hose. She started pushing the burning lamp oil off the porch with a stream of water.
That left John free to turn to the rector and give him his full attention. What he saw was a spurting wound in Green’s right thigh. John dropped to his knees and started applying direct pressure. The bleeding slowed, but this wasn’t going to be enough. He started to think through what he should do next.
The horses arrived.
Hjalmar took in the scene. It looked like the aftermath of a small skirmish. There were tongues of flame from a patch of dirt in front of the house, men down, and people running around. Some of it even looked purposeful. “Whoever is in charge, what happened?”
John Stewart looked up from where he was kneeling and gave a commendably clear and concise report. Well, the man had been a mercenary.
“All right. Phillip, handcuff the prisoners. Karl and Jakob, perimeter watch.” He dismounted to look at Albert Green’s wound. One fast look was enough. “This man needs a tourniquet. And that means he needs to reach the hospital immediately.” He went to his saddlebag for the first aid kit.
Mrs. Green was right there. “Tourniquet?” She looked. “Load him in the station wagon. I’ll get the keys.” She started running toward the kitchen door.
“Not the ambulance?”
She shouted over her shoulder, “It’s three miles away. I can have him in the ER before the ambulance is halfway here. Katerina! Get everybody out of the house in case the fire lights up again. Put somebody on the hose.”
Hjalmar nodded. It was as sensible a plan as any. “Mr. Stewart, there may still be danger. We must escort the station wagon. Since we must also escort the truck as planned, we must all leave here together. Your men can hold the prisoners until the police come. The ambulance for the one with the broken leg, yes?”
Mrs. Green was already coming back with shoes on her feet and keys jingling in her hand.
Claudette looked around as she ran across the yard. Who can I put with Al? Just about everybody she could rely on had something urgent to do. She spotted their foster daughter, looking under the porch. All right, she was only nine, but she’d already had some basic first aid training in Girl Scouts. “Millie! With me! Ride in back and watch Dad!”
It couldn’t have been half a minute before they were lined up behind the two lead riders and moving out, with John Stewart in the truck falling in behind her and the other two horsemen covering the rear.
Her next thought was to get some help on the way—maybe somebody had called on the phone, maybe nobody had had time yet, and maybe the wires had been cut. She switched on the CB rig and spun the knob around to channel 9. John was already talking to Grantville Dispatch.
The only thing left to do was drive. She felt like she was made of ice. Your husband needs you. Don’t screw it up. Have your jitters later.
It was as long a ten minutes as she’d ever spent. She didn’t even take notice of who the two orderlies and the triage nurse were, when they popped the rear door and whisked Al away on a gurney to the waiting surgery team. By the time she parked and came inside, there were no call bells ringing or people hurrying through the halls.
There was no point in bothering anybody for answers, and anyway, she’d already seen the wound, and she knew her staff. It was nothing a competent surgeon couldn’t fix. She came to a stop, took a long, deep breath, looked down at Millie, and squeezed her hand. “You did fine. Our job’s done. Let’s go get a cup of hot chocolate, okay?”
Millie looked back at her with tears in her eyes. “Okay, Mom.”
Engine 2 was the first unit to arrive. As the truck pulled to a stop, Heinrich Dürfelder jumped out and began evaluating the situation. Typical nineteenth-century American stud-and-clapboard construction. Two of his men started stretching a hose without waiting for orders. Standard protocol.
The man with the broken leg wasn’t his problem. The ambulance was no more than two minutes behind him.
The other prisoner wasn’t his problem. The police would be along, as soon as they got done chasing a suspect who had emerged from the woods down along Carberry Road.
The few flames flickering fitfully on what looked like bare ground, a short distance from the stairs, were his problem. Underground gas leak? There was gas all over the Ring, even this close to the wall.
A middle-aged woman bustled up to him and pointed to the front porch. “A kerosene lantern fell there and broke. Sister Green drove the burning kerosene away with a garden hose. Everyone is out of the house.”
“Danke sehr.” That made things much clearer. He moved in for a closer look. Some of the deck boards were badly charred, and there was a large patch of scorched and blistered paint on the front of the house. There was lumber piled underneath. He called over his shoulder, “Get that wood out from under the porch. Then we’ll overhaul and inspect.”
The firefighters laid down the hose, since it wasn’t immediately needed, and began pulling out boards. Some of the men and boys standing nearby came to help. Heinrich told them, “Don’t stack the boards. Lay them flat, at least thirty feet from any building.” He wasn’t sure what foot these people used, and added, “Ten meters.”
He went up on the porch and started feeling the house wall. It wasn’t hot anywhere, other than some warmth where the paint was damaged. Probably no fire in the hidden spaces, then. He went inside, and was gratified to find the room almost empty. He started feeling the inside walls for heat.
When he came out, the ambulance and the police were there. His crew was ripping off the damaged deck boards. Mario reported from under the porch, “I don’t feel anything hot along the sill, lieutenant.”
“Good.” Heinrich started throwing the debris away from the building. After a few more minutes, the understructure was exposed. It looked all right, except for two joists so heavily burned in mid-span that they crumbled at his touch. The woman who’d reported to him earlier was watching from a few feet away. He turned to her and pointed. “Those two framing members are unsafe. To spare the house any more damage from tearing them out, I’m going to cut away only the burned part now. That will get rid of any sparks that might be in them. But they must be taken out altogether and replaced when you make repairs.” She nodded, and he went to the truck for the small chain saw.
On the day Claudette brought Al home, the new boards on the front porch were still bare wood, and the two younger Button kids were scraping scorched paint off the siding. He got out of the station wagon gingerly, to keep from putting any strain on the stitches, and reached back for the cane they’d issued him. He stopped and looked around. “For a guy who wasn’t planning to hurt anybody, Holz and his goons sure made a mess.”
Claudette sighed. “I guess it tells us we’ve got religious freedom in the laws, but it’s not in the culture yet.”
“Yeah. That’ll probably take a couple of generations. If we’re lucky.”
“Oh, but speaking of the law, I forgot to tell you. The noon news said they decided on the charges for the three guys they caught. Burglary and reckless conduct.”
“Not arson and assault?”
“Nope, the prosecutor said the fire was an accident, it wasn’t set. And Rausch didn’t stab you, you just ran into him while he had a knife in his hand.” She fixed him with a mock-stern look. “You’d better not do anything like that again, Al Green. You’re a lover, not a fighter, I oughta know.”
John Stewart came across the yard to them. “Welcome back, Brother Green. We all prayed for you. How do you feel?”
Al couldn’t help coming out with a quick laugh. “Like I got a knife in the leg. But thank you all. It looks like you got along fine without me.”
“Hah, that could be debated. But the place is still standing, and the fields are tended. Dinner will be along in a bit, and you might like to put your feet up until then. But afterward, the whole college is to gather in the chapel. There are things we must decide.”
Al made a face. “Oh goody, just what I wanted to come home to, a staff meeting.”
John laid a hand on the station wagon’s top and grinned. “Oh, aye, but no doot we could have a wee prayer meetin’ afore it, eh? A prayer o’ thanksgivin’ or two, I should think.” He switched back to up-time English. “But we’ve got to figure out what learning we can carry on for now with what we still have here, then which of the books we sent away we’re most in need of, to be microfilmed right away. And then, what will be our first choices to reprint.”
“Well, that’ll be a busy enough agenda.”
“Oh, we’ll surely think of issues aplenty as we go along.”
“Great. But I hear what you’re saying. We’re not gonna let the lunatic fringe slow us down for long.”
Claudette looked up from unloading a few wound care supplies. “For pity’s sake, was there ever any doubt?”
Excerpt from “Wild, Wild Heart” by Bill Staines used by the gracious permission of the author.