The Mountain Top Baptist Bible Institute
West Virginia County
Early summer, 1636
Martha Button woke up alone in a strange bed.
A strange bed, in itself, was no novelty by now. There had been one strange bed after another since the family’s desperate flight from Cambridge, and some nights no bed at all. But being alone at any time was altogether out of the ordinary.
As the mists of a troubled dream dissipated, she came to herself, opened her eyes, and looked around at the unfamiliar room. The very cozy, welcoming room, with its varnished pine walls, braided rug, and gently blowing curtains. And remembered.
With a start, she realized that the sun was already pouring full into the room. There were sounds of people moving about their tasks on the floor below. And yet, she had slept on into the morning and done nothing this day of whatever her yet-to-be-explained obligations might be. She swung to her feet, pulled up the coverlet, dressed in haste, and hurried from the “new barn” where she and her family had been quartered on the second floor, across to the kitchen in the house, expecting a scolding.
“Sister Friedeberger, I . . .”
Katerina Friedeberger turned from the cupboard where she was just putting away a stack of plates, and smiled at her. “Good morning, Sister Button. Are you feeling more like yourself today? You looked like you were about to drop where you stood, by the time you let us lead you off to bed yesterday afternoon.”
“But I did so little! I didn’t mean to shirk, but . . .”
“After traveling all the last day coming here, then praying all night at the hospital for your stepmother and your new sister, and giving blood besides? Really, we didn’t expect any of you to do anything but sleep around the clock recovering from it all. I tell you, you all surprised us.
“But you haven’t eaten yet, yes?” She reached for a bowl, ladled in something from a pot on the back of the stove, and handed it to Martha. She fluttered one hand toward the dining room table. “You can sit there. You like sausages? There are a couple left in the pan, I’ll just warm them up again.” She did something to the front of the stove, and there was a soft whump.
Martha found herself floundering. She took the bowl, and a spoon the older woman handed her, and stood uncertainly in the doorway to the dining room. “But shouldn’t I be doing something?”
“Well. After you eat, girl. We’ll talk then. I’ll show you where things are and how they work.” She hefted a pot with a spout, and set it down again. “The chamomile tea is all gone, I’m sorry to say. I’ll pour you a glass of cold water. The water here is safe, did anybody tell you?”
Tears threatened to come as Martha sank onto a wooden chair and set down the bowl in front of her. “Sister Friedeberger, I’m overwhelmed by your kindness. Yours, and everyone’s. Father said we would be among friends when we finally reached this place. It seems it is so.”
The first thing Katerina put in front of Martha was a book. This was yet another new thing; she had heard of books of cookery, but never seen a book in a kitchen. But this was not a printed book, nor was it bound. The handwritten pages were encased in some soft material as clear as glass, yet as thin as paper, and they were held by metal rings passing through holes in the pages and fixed to the covers.
It was lying open to a page headed “Potato Chowder.” As she looked at it, Katerina was explaining, “The recipe calls for peeling them, but we don’t do it that way here. I just cut them up small so they cook down in the soup. Like this.” She took up a knife lying on the work table and cut off a slice, then cut it crosswise to make some pieces about the width of her little finger. “Sister Green told us there are important things in the skins that we need in our diet, and she should know. I could name some oh-so-proper people who will happily tell you that’s no way to make a soup, but we have better things to do with our time than unnecessary work, don’t we?” She grinned. “You’re well enough rested to use a knife today, yes?”
Martha barely had time to nod “Yes.”
“Good, good. I’ll get the water started heating while you’re getting the potatoes ready to go in, so we can have it done in time for lunch. Once the soup’s going, we can finish off the breakfast pots.”
Katerina took down a large pot from a hook and carried it to a sort of basin fixed to the wall. She turned a handle on a metal fitting projecting above it, and water poured out of a spout.
Pipe-borne water here in the kitchen as well? Oh, yes, I should have foreseen it.
“Oh, and after lunch Brother Green wants to meet with you. There are your studies to plan.”
Clearing away after lunch was yet another surprise. Instead of leaving the dishes where they were for a couple of the women to take away and attend to, the whole company around the two dining tables rose and formed a line to the work table in the kitchen, and started passing plates and serving bowls from hand to hand. In a remarkably short time, it was done, and one of the men set to wiping up the spills.
Before Martha could figure out her place in what was clearly a well-practiced routine, Brother Albert Green looked her way and smiled. “Ready to sit down and talk?”
“Oh! Oh, yes! Where shall we . . . ?”
“In my study.” He turned and led her through the parlor and around the corner, into a large, sunny side chamber.
Her jaw dropped. Two whole walls were lined with bookshelves from floor to ceiling, and stuffed so full of books and manuscripts that there wasn’t room to stand them all upright. Some were lying on their sides atop the filled rows.
As a printer’s daughter, Martha had dealt with books often enough, usually proofs or uncut sheets, now and then a whole book. On a few occasions she had accompanied Father on business to the university library and seen the great collection there. But that was the accumulation of centuries, in a rich university with many endowments and land holdings. There were not so many books as that here, but this college of their small and scattered faith was said to be only a year old and not at all wealthy. How was such a thing possible?
But surely this library was for the learning of those destined to preach the faith, the men. The lot of women in this world— Suddenly she felt as if she were starving, in the midst of a bakery. Before she could carry the thought further, her host waved her toward one of the chairs in the room, and sat down himself. His eyes crinkled for a moment. “I’m sorry we had to rush all of you around the other night, without time to explain much of anything.”
Sorry? For serving all her family with his own hands the moment they arrived at the end of the long journey, and then without an instant’s hesitation carrying Stepmother to the only doctors in the world capable of saving both her and the baby? Before she could open her mouth to express her gratitude, he went on.
“Your father and your brother John have enrolled as divinity students. Right now the rest of you are here as family members, but that’s not the only choice you have. What you should do now, and what you should study, depend on what you want in life. So let’s start with that. What are your thoughts?”
Nobody had ever asked her that. Indeed, she had never thought of asking herself that. “Do? Well, I’m a printer’s daughter. It was thought that I would marry a printer and be a printer’s wife, knowing the trade well enough to put my hand to it, and perhaps to the apprentices at need. I can set type and correct proof in English, French, and Latin, and Stepmother has been instructing me in keeping accounts. There was a suitor in England, but he wasn’t really of our own faith, and I’m not sure he was even sincerely of the Church of England. And he wanted the press and fonts Stepmother inherited from her first husband as a portion of my dowry, which Father would not agree to. Father had thought to bring us all to Massachusetts and find me a husband there so we could all be together, and have the press with us to carry on our trade, but it was not to be. And we had to flee without the press. So, now? How is the printing trade here? Would I have prospects?”
He sat silently for a few moments, turning from side to side in his chair, before he spoke. “Probably. There’s a whole lot of printing being done around here. We’ll know better when your father and brother get back from the errand I sent them on—they’re visiting all the print shops, finding out what we’d have to do to get some of these reprinted.” His hand swung vaguely around at the books surrounding them. “But this is West Virginia County. It’s not like the guild towns, where all the trades are tied up with rules and practically nobody can get in. Even the traditional trades are pretty free around here, and the new trades and professions are pretty much wide-open to anybody who can learn them. Want to be a doctor or a machinist? You could if you’re smart enough, and I think you are. For that matter, there’s nobody to say you couldn’t set up in the printing business yourself. Not in this town.” He stopped again for a few heartbeats, and put one hand to his chin. Then he turned and took a thick pamphlet from a stack of papers on the desk behind him, and handed it to her. “I think maybe a good way to start is to make this your first piece of study material and talk again tomorrow, after you’ve had a chance to absorb it and think about it.”
She saw at first glance that it was cheaply printed, on a thin, somewhat grayish paper, in an Italian type face. Then she took in the cover page.
Getting Acquainted with Grantville
Laws, Customs, Society, and the Working World
by Sarah Cochran Reardon and William Oughtred
She stared for a short moment. It was not unheard of that a woman would be one of the authors of a published work, but the first one handed to her in Grantville?
The Bible Institute was no monastery, but it had at least one Rule. Father had said it: All share in the bounty, and all share in the work. It could hardly be otherwise. The seminary was a place of learning, but it was also a home to the students and those accompanying them, and a farm that fed them all. Schools, homes, and farms all mean work.
That afternoon Martha wielded a hoe in the grain field. A student named John Stewart, perhaps a few years older than her nineteen by the look of him, showed her the manner of it. He was dressed for work the way the up-timers did, and spoke much like them, yet there was a flavor of Scotland in his speech. A long, straight scar on one forearm where his sleeve was rolled up spoke of battle sometime in his past. Well, this was the Germanies, and there had been battle enough everywhere. He pointed with the handle of his tool.
“It’s easy enough telling crops from weeds. You see these rows? The seeds weren’t broadcast, they were driven into the ground with a seed drill. It’s a mechanical thing on wheels, a great help. So everything that belongs here is in a row. Anything that isn’t, is a weed. If you see something in a row you’re not sure about, leave it, because there are three different grains all mixed together. Something’s bound to thrive.”
They fell into conversation as the sun crossed the heavens, working along with a few rows between them for elbow room. Some of it was mundane enough, what the weather was like hereabouts, what crafts were practiced on the farm, what plants grew in odd patches that could be steeped for a tea. After a time they spoke of what they had done in life, and what they hoped to do. Martha supposed they were more-or-less chaperoned, being within clear sight from the house. Anyway, he was polite, and good enough to look upon. And so the afternoon drew on.
When the college sat again at table, it was left to Sister Claudette Green to bring the glad news that Stepmother was gaining in her recovery, and that tiny Providence still lived, though she required constant care in that incubator, and likely would for weeks to come. “I got to spend a few minutes with Melisa just before I left for the day. She’s doing all right. The doctor thinks she might be able to leave the hospital in a few more days, and finish recovering up here. They’re already cutting down on her pain medication. She’s awake some of the time and reading a Bible to pass the time.”
Father and John heard that news from Sister Green, the same as everyone else. Though they’d ranged from one end of Grantville to the other in the course of the day, their commission on behalf of the college left them no more chance to visit the hospital than Martha and her younger brothers had. After a brief prayer of thanksgiving, their contribution to the dinner conversation was a meticulous recounting of what they’d seen and heard in the print shops they’d visited so far. The printing arts here, it seemed, differed even more from what they’d known in England than Master Triebel’s shop in Hamburg had. That was something to think upon.
Martha could have gone to their quarters across the yard to begin reading the pamphlet, but at that moment she wanted to be with company, even if some of the other women were carrying on a spirited study time in the dining room. Her younger brothers Andrew and Harry were seated at one end of the smaller table, puzzling out answers to questions on a “placement test.” They were to be sent to school in town; that was already decided.
She settled into a soft chair in the parlor. This time of year, there was still daylight enough to read by. Soft music was coming from a cloth-fronted box atop a cabinet in a corner; the heavy paper sleeve leaning against the contrivance proclaimed it to be the work of an English composer of the eighteenth century, performed by a Swiss chamber ensemble of the twentieth.
She began to read. There were a few short words of welcome from some of the notables, and then the chapter on laws began. It would be most important to know the country’s laws and not fall foul of them. Much was familiar. Murder, theft, robbery, rape, arson, fraud, contracts, leases, lawsuits. There were entirely novel strictures against polluting air, water, or public places. But not a word about sedition? But, then, “Treason shall consist only of levying war against the nation, or adhering to the enemies thereof.” Nothing concerning opposing the authorities, or speaking out against their acts? And then, “Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of speech, or of the press, or concerning an establishment of religion, nor prohibit the free practice thereof.” She stopped. That, in one sentence, was why they were where they were, able to do what they were doing.
She started turning pages and running her eyes down the topics, faster and faster. She would have to go back again and read through with deliberation, but she wanted to grasp the shape of it all first.
Citizenship! After three months she would be eligible to take the oath of citizenship, and it mattered not that she was a woman. So was the Mayor of Grantville!
Martha’s thoughts were still spinning in a dozen directions when she took her seat to meet with Brother Green again—in truth, Doctor Green, a title seldom spoken aloud outside of an occasional visit to a university. John Stewart had explained it to her. As Baptists, they took the priesthood of all believers seriously, no one more so than Albert Green himself, and so there was no precedence among them before the Lord.
She was still marveling. “Do I understand from what I have been told that I am not only permitted to study here, but while I stay I am almost obligated to do so? That this learning all around us is for all and not reserved to the men destined to preach?”
A broad grin lit up his face. “Well, that might be overstating it a little, but this is a college, and learning is what we’re here for.”
She let out a long breath. “So. I was prepared to plead, and beg, to be allowed to delve deeply into these works, and know and embrace the word of the Lord—with little thought that my desire might be granted. And now you tell me that here it is hardly less than a duty laid on us all? What delicious irony!”
He was still smiling, but it was a more thoughtful smile. “Well, our faith can’t be all that you study. Or it shouldn’t be. Remember, the Bible isn’t a shovel. By that, I mean that as long as we truly practice the priesthood of all believers, we can’t make our living from religion alone. We each need a way to support ourselves, a trade or a profession. And if you’re planning to make your home in this state and become a citizen, there’s a lot to learn about civic affairs, so you can take part and make sure your interests are respected. It might look like an awful lot at first, and I suppose it is, but let’s talk about what you want to do. Then we can set some priorities.”
“Oh. Yes. Well, then, the first pamphlet, the one you gave me yesterday, speaks of an ‘equal opportunity law.'” She raised her eyebrows. Green nodded, an encouraging nod. “And you said that I would be free to practice the trade I already know, I would be looked upon as a printer, and not as merely the daughter of one?”
“I’m pretty sure you would be. Your father says you know the trade as well as most journeymen.”
“But Father said at dinner that printing here is different and still changing, so I would need to learn some of it again, and then again.” She paused for a breath, then went on. “But perhaps I could be taken on as a journeywoman, for all that. But what of civic affairs, then?”
“The classes at the high school are probably the best place for that. And it’s important. We can’t just leave it to the government to run everything.”
What an extraordinary thing to say!
Brother Green was taking out another pamphlet. The cover identified it as an “Adult Education Course Catalog.”
A couple of weeks later
As Al Green was pulling up his pajamas, he became aware of his wife giving him a funny look. Claudette was sitting up in bed, with her face turned down toward the paperback book in her hands, but her eyes were turned up beneath her brows looking diagonally across the room at him. She had a quirky half-smile on her face. He stopped buttoning and looked back at her, trying to figure out what that was all about. Finally after about five seconds or so, he gave up and shrugged his shoulders. “What?”
“What, sweetie? I think you’ve lit a great big firecracker. I hope it’s got a long fuse.”
“Now, what’s that supposed to mean, honeybunch?”
She sniffed. “A little bird says you told Martha Button she could enroll here as a full student. The whole divinity program.”
“Well, not in so many words, but I did say everything we have is open to her. She’s college material, for sure. You saw her placement exams from the high school, didn’t you? She needs to learn Greek before she can get past the translated Bibles to the original words, and she can get that down there while she’s taking civics and filling in the rest of the gaps in her education, and of course she needs to get up to speed in German to function in this country. So sure, why not?”
She tucked an expired grocery coupon into the book and put it down on the bedside table. “Why not? Because you’ll get a revolt from the rest of the women here if she gets treated the way the men are, and gets a full student’s hours for study and lectures. But right now she’s in the same position as the younger kids, going to school in town, so it won’t come to a head for at least a year. And maybe in that time she’ll find something else she wants to do. There are opportunities enough. But if she doesn’t, you’re going to have to figure out how to play Solomon and keep everybody happy. Or at least not terminally upset.”
She sighed. “Why, is because we’re trying to run this place on the cheap without a staff, so we can admit anyone who’s qualified. And that means we, and the students, and the families, have to do everything. Look, the hours the men spend on the heavy work and whatever other chores they do is nowhere near what it takes to keep this place going. Half a day of work, and then the rest of the time on lectures and study. The wives and daughters put in close to twice that on chores, and they believe in our faith just as much as the men do. They want their share of learning. But they put up with it, because the men are where the preachers are going to come from. It’s called ‘putting hubby through.’ Ever heard of it?”
That threw him for a moment. “Well, why can’t a woman study for the pulpit?”
She sat up straight and gave him a half-cross look. “Albert Green, you’re a true idealist, and I love you for it. But where is a woman going to find a pulpit in seventeenth-century Germany? Even right here in Grantville, the only one we have is Mary Ellen Jones, and she’s a Methodist in an up-time congregation. None of those old reactionaries in the Baptist church in town are ready for one, let alone the down-timer churches all around us. They still think Paul had the last word on what a woman can and can’t do.”
He tapped his fingers on the bedpost a couple of times. “I Timothy 2:12? ‘Do not let women teach men or have authority over them?’ That the one you’re thinking of?”
“Yeah. Can you imagine Albert Underwood and his crowd seeing it the way you do, as Paul’s personal opinion conditioned by the times he was brought up in? No, to them it’s the literal word of the Lord. And the down-time cultures, outside of the Dutch—
“Look, there isn’t a woman here who wouldn’t rather study an extra four hours a day. But they know they can’t, because the work has got to get done and that takes time. If you let Martha knock off at lunch to spend the afternoon studying, you are going to get a rebellion. Right now, the ladies are happy. They’re eating well, and sleeping warm, the clothing is good, and they get to study some, there is hot water on tap for the showers, and the washing machine is a treat. As long as nothing breaks that Stewart can’t make a replacement for on that old milling machine in the barn. Doing laundry is a preferred job, even before cooking—and cooking in that kitchen is a treat for them, playing with the gadgets and only using the wood stove for big meals when they can’t fit it all on the gas range. Plus, it’s communal work so they get to chat while they’re working, more often than not. And what they get to chat about is last night’s lecture or the discussion or their own study course work. In short, the work here is easier, and gets done quicker than it ever did before in their lives.
“But if you give one woman the afternoon off to study, the others will rightly ask, ‘Why not me?’ They’ll look at what has to get done, and they’ll do it because it has to get done, but they won’t like it. And your collection of happy slaves will suddenly start asking questions like ‘Why do the men only have to work a half day?’ And you really don’t want to explain that to them, because this is Grantville, and they just might say no. The best you can hope for is that a female full-time divinity student might be accepted if she’s rich and can pay for her room, board, and tuition in money, or maybe bring along a husband, but I wouldn’t bet on it even then. We’ve got a social philosophy going here. As William put it, ‘All share the work, all share the bounty.’ Best not start rocking the boat.”
Al finished buttoning his pajamas, and paced back and forth between the door and the clothes closet a couple of times. “That stinks.”
“Yeah, it does, and thank you for admitting it. And we’re changing things. But we’ve got four hundred years’ worth of changing things to slog through. So think harder about what you promise Martha.”
Martha wondered if she should perhaps feel a little guilty at indulging in this course of study, for which she could hardly defend the necessity if it came to a challenge. Clearly, it was impossible for her to be anywhere but at the high school during this hour, if she were to attend lectures in Social Studies with Mr. Dwight Thomas in the period before (the celebrated Mrs. Sarah Reardon being at home with a new baby), and Introductory Greek with Mr. Augustine Ashmead immediately afterward, and Print Shop to follow at the technical college across the way for a rapid introduction to the new methods. But the course catalog offered nothing at this hour that directly applied to preparing for the responsibilities of SoTF citizenship, nor to the study of scripture in its original, uncorrupted languages, nor to the new skills of her chosen trade. And so her counselor, Mrs. Tito, had suggested, “How about Algebra 1?”
It was that, or let the hour go to waste. To her surprise, on the first day when the lecturer had risen to address the class, he had done so in her own familiar Cambridge turn of speech. John Rant, M.A., 1635.
Today he was going on, “And why is it useful to know how to solve a second-order polynomial for x, my friends? Let us examine a problem in accelerated motion, shall we?” He raised a wooden pointer to an equation high up on the chalkboard. “Here is Newton’s second law of motion . . .”
Martha found Master Rant altogether pleasing to look upon with his elusive hint of a smile and his grace of movement, and of most impressive intellect. Had his gaze lingered a moment too long when he called on her to explain the next step in a chain of reasoning? Perhaps it was her imagination.
“Follow me, please. Mrs. Elias’s office is this way.” The young man led Martha and her younger brother Andrew to a small chamber upstairs in the Grantville University Press building. It had a door with a window of that very clear, smooth Grantville glass in it. The bespectacled woman who rose from behind a cluttered desk to greet them was perhaps in her fifties, though it could be hard to tell with some of these folk.
“Hi, I’m Ellen Elias. What can I help you with?”
By now, Martha knew that according to Grantville’s customs, it would be proper for her to shake the proffered hand. “Thank you for receiving us, Mrs. Elias. I am Martha Button, and this is my brother Andrew. Our family was formerly in the printing trade in Cambridge. My father was master of printers at the university.” She paused, and took a breath. “We are new to Grantville. I would like to inquire whether you might have work.”
“Possibly. For both of you?”
“For me, while I carry on my studies at the high school, so that I can help pay our debt to the hospital for saving my stepmother and new sister. Andrew is fully occupied with his schooling, but I hesitate to go about the town unaccompanied.”
Mrs. Elias nodded. “Oh, I see. But is your experience all with letterpress? Setting type by hand and running it on a flatbed press?”
“Yes, but Father has told me of the changes hereabouts. One of my courses of instruction is Print Shop at the technical college, to learn the new ways.”
“Uh-huh, that’s the smart thing for any printer to do. With so much of our work going to photo reprints these days, we do a lot less letterpress work. On some jobs we bang out the columns of copy on typewriters now, paste up the page layouts, and shoot foil plates. You’d probably cringe at the quality, but it’s cheap and fast for short-run jobs. We do use new ribbons. Anyway, let me take you around the shop and show you what we’re doing.” She added over her shoulder, “But you might try van Loon’s shop, down the street. They do a lot of advertising and translated book work, and that’s still mostly letterpress. Oh, and be sure to take typing at school. On a German keyboard.”
She led them down the hall to a large open room, where someone was smoothing down a two-page spread from an unbound book onto a white board, beneath a pair of intense lights.
The man glancing up as Martha and Andrew came though the street door was of an age to be the proprietor—Adrianus van Loon, according to the gilded sign. His eyes crinkled as he came toward the front counter and acknowledged their presence with a small wave of his hand. It seemed a kindly face, rather broad, with a dark goatee. “A good day to you. Shall we speak English? Oder Deutsch?”
She gave a quick, shallow curtsey. “English, if you please, sir. My German is still poor.” She’d already glanced around the room. It was filled with the familiar thump and clatter of a busy print shop. Andrew was staring at some freshly printed sheets lying on a nearby bench, waiting to be folded. Probably presuming to judge the work, though he had the sense to hold his tongue. The master printer was resting one hand lightly on the counter, evidently waiting for her to say on. Well, hesitation would accomplish nothing; she’d learned that much.
“Herr van Loon, I am Martha Button, and this is my brother Andrew. We are of the family of William Button, formerly master of printers at the University of Cambridge. We have all helped in the work, and Father says I have skills like unto a journeyman. Mrs. Elias at the Grantville University Press has suggested that you may have work.”
Van Loon pursed his lips for a moment, and nodded a couple of times. “Perhaps, perhaps. So you are the daughter Master Button spoke of some time ago. Yes, he and another of your brothers were here, and we talked at length. Hmm . . .” He turned to face back into the shop, and called to a young man working one of the presses, “John! Lay that aside for now, and come here.”
“A moment, Papa. Nearly done.”
“That’s all right, you can let it wait an hour. There is someone here you should meet.”
“All right, then.” He laid down the sheet he was about to load, and wiped his hands on a rag.
The fellow had some of the appearance of his father, and at first sight, some of his temperament too. He seemed little older than herself, and while his father’s English had only a small tinge of a Dutch accent, his had even less. Not the English speech of Cambridge, though, nor of the Americans.
The elder van Loon performed a quick introduction, then pulled a ten-dollar bill from a cash drawer and handed it to his son. “John, it’s nearly noon, and it’s noisy in here. Why don’t you take our guests to the cook shop next door, and discover what they have to say?”
In a remarkably short time they found themselves seated around one of a warren of small tables, with savory-smelling bowls of stew in front of them. Generous bowls, at that. Evidently meant to satisfy the appetites of apprentices and journeymen, who rarely had the chance to satisfy their appetites, in Martha’s experience. Not that Grantville truly had apprentices and journeymen, if the pamphlet was to be believed.
“So, your father has given you the task of questioning me? To see if I’m fitted for the position of a printer?”
The younger van Loon gave her a small smile. A rather friendly smile. “I think he means for each of us to take the other’s measure. I do believe the position he has in mind is daughter-in-law. He has been speaking to me of beginning to seek someone suitable for a courtship.”
Martha was taken aback for a moment. Laughter danced in Andrew’s eyes. For lack of any other thought of how to answer that, she blurted, “I wondered, your name is really John? Not Jan?”
The sudden retreat from the delicate subject seemed to relieve him as much as it did her. “Oh. Yes. We have family connections on both sides of the Channel. I’m named for my grandfather. My mother was from Salisbury.”
“Yes. She took a chill during the flight from Amsterdam nigh on three years ago, and fell into a decline. There was nothing to be done.”
“Oh, I’m terribly sorry. Would you rather talk of printing? Do you use stereotypes, as the printer we worked for in Hamburg did?”
It wasn’t often that Al Green got a chance to meet his wife for lunch on a weekday. But there’d been a meeting of most of the Protestant clergy in town—just ordinary pastoral matters. Father Kircher had been invited too, and would have come, but he had a conflict. So here he was in the middle of the day, headed back to the farm. It was easy enough to swing by Leahy Medical Center and its coffee shop.
Hot dogs and beans were on special. Well, the mild sausages weren’t really hot dogs, but they were close enough, and the bakery had no trouble turning out the right shape buns. A darn sight better buns than any supermarket would have had up-time, to tell the truth. Mustard and ground pickle relish were no trick at all. A taste of home, it was.
Claudette patted his hand across the table. “How’d it go?”
“About the way you’d expect. Kastenmayer gets uptight pretty easily, but he agreed with the rest of us that if someone needs to go out of town or gets sick, we’ll cover for each other with any parishioner who needs comfort or counsel. And we won’t preach sectarian doctrines outside our own congregations. We’ve been doing it all along as personal favors, but now there are some ground rules and we can count on each other. It was a good meeting.”
She took a sip of her coffee. “That’s a relief. And I bet I know who wasn’t there, or there wouldn’t have been any agreement on anything.”
“Heh. You’d be right about that. May I be forgiven for un-Christian thoughts.” He paused while he took a bite of hot dog, and chewed. “But I had the oddest conversation with John Stewart when I crossed paths with him. He asked me whether it would be all right to approach William Button for permission to court Martha. And he had a logically airtight line of reasoning on why they ought to marry each other, if you accept his premises. It came down to he’s available and she’s available.”
“Oh, he did, did he? I wondered when that would happen. Did he say whether Katerina put him up to it, or he came up with the idea all on his own?”
“No, why, does it matter?”
She looked up at the misshapen, overly orangish light bulb in one branch of the chandelier overhead. It was kind of hard not to notice the thing. More and more these days, they were running on new-build light bulbs. Fortunately, they were starting to last longer. She brought her gaze back down. “It probably does. I think her sense of what’s proper at the seminary is that an unattached full student throws an extra share of work on everybody else. He’s been making moony eyes Martha’s way, though. You probably haven’t noticed. And what did you say?”
“That I only lead the college, in what it does as a college. I’ve got no right to tell anyone what to do with their lives, for pity’s sake. And that Martha would be smart to listen to her father and stepmother, who love her, and consider what they say, but in the end it’s her life to live and her choice to make. This isn’t medieval England.”
“Mmm-hmm. I’ve been keeping my ears open. I think she’s starting to really understand that. And I think she’s taking notice of him, some. And what will you say if she comes to you for advice?”
“Same as with anyone. I’ll try to help her understand what her desires really are.”
She squeezed again, and raised a hot dog in salute with her free hand.
Mechanical drafting at Marcantonio’s was a decent enough job, but Henri Faveau had seen what the mechanical designers were paid. He would need geometry and algebra to even begin to advance toward that position, and so—
Class ended, and he was almost laughing as he stepped into the corridor. His daughter Clothilde looked at him sidewise. “What has so amused you, Papa?”
“Heh. Our instructor, the handsome Monsieur Rant. A great dancer, I am sure. Have you seen those so-brief glances he throws toward the always-proper Miss Button, who affects not to see them? I think a fire burns in him. In class he speaks only of mathematics, but I wonder what he says to her when there is nobody else to hear, eh?”
Martha stopped just inside the door, and looked back at the chalkboard. She began to talk, slowly. “Master Rant, I’ve been looking at that shape you drew. It’s all complicated curves and irregular angles. Calculating the area of such a figure is no simple matter of dividing it into a few rectangles and bisected rectangles we could easily calculate, and then adding them up. But what if we were to divide it into as many small squares of a size as would fit within? Then the sum of their areas would be close to the area of the whole. And if we made those squares smaller and more numerous, the area not accounted for would become smaller. And thus we could come as close as we wish to the true area, and though we would never have it exactly, it would be good enough for any purpose of commerce.”
He turned to face her, and rolled the pointer between his fingers for a heartbeat or two. “That is most brilliant, Miss Button. That thought, if pursued to its logical conclusions, leads on to a most useful mathematical theory which can produce exact answers in a great many cases.”
“Indeed. But there is no need to perform that great labor, for a countryman of ours in a world we shall never see, Sir Isaac Newton, has done it for us. Do you know that Newton once said in a rare moment of humility, ‘If I have climbed higher and seen further than other men, it is only because I have stood on the shoulders of giants?’ If you were to stand on the shoulders of that giant, Martha Button, I wonder how high you might climb and how far you might see.”
Martha wondered what to make of that, as she made her way to her next class. Newton, she knew by now, was a name to conjure with.
John Rant found William Oughtred in the teachers’ lounge. “I’ve been meaning to speak to you. I have a student in Algebra 1 who I think would make better use of her time in your accelerated class. Let me tell you what she said yesterday . . .”
John Stewart hesitated once again to speak his mind. He looked briefly across the parlor. Martha was so pretty, so neat in her person as she sat in evening study time—and a good Christian, true enough. Far from waiting to master Greek to begin serious study of the faith, she was using her few hours at home to dive deep into what copies of Latin works they felt safe in keeping at the farm after so much had been put in the care of the Academy of Conservators. For that matter, she was one of the few women even willing to spend time on Greek.
What if he should say the wrong thing, to her or to her father? But there was time enough. They both had a great deal to learn and to do, both for matters of the Word and matters of the world, before it would be time to leave the college and move on to a new life.
Thuringia-Franconia State Technical College
The print shop
This paste-up method of composition was truly intriguing, even with nothing better than cloth-ribbon typewriters to set the columns of text. First, Herr Hennel had demonstrated how to use the drafting board to lay out the space where columns and headings would go, ruling pale blue lines that would be invisible to the camera, onto a heavy sheet of coated stock—this was to be the foundation for the work to follow. Then Martha and her classmates had practiced the technique. Next he had given them already-typewritten columns and shown how to wax the backs and secure them in place on the base sheet. Within an hour they were all assembling accurately composed pages. No apprenticeship Martha had ever heard of had advanced at such a pace. But Herr Hennel had said on the first day, “This is no guild shop, though we do real printing here. That’s how you learn. We are here to turn out printers, so let’s get on with it.”
It went at a dizzying pace. The rub-down transfer type used up-time to create headings and titles was mostly used up by now, so they learned to slice single letters and common words from pre-printed, pre-waxed font samples with little knives, and paste them in. They learned to cut in single-word text corrections and not have them show on the photo plate. Pen-and-ink drawings replaced woodcuts. They learned to use the strong lights and the large-format camera, sensitize the metal foil plates and process them through the chemical baths, and then run them successfully on the temperamental new-made rotary press.
Today Herr Hennel drew a complicated-looking mathematical expression on the chalkboard, and turned to face the class. “Suppose you were asked to set this into a column of type? How would you proceed?” He looked around for a moment. “Artur?”
“Not possible on a typewriter. I suppose we could do it the way we do headlines. Or we might set it in type, then print it on a slip of paper to be pasted in.”
Hennel nodded. “We could, if we had a symbol font with all the parts we’d need. There would be a lot of fiddly wedging, to hold all the subscripts and superscripts and ratio terms in place. What if speed were more important than elegance? Any other choices?”
Martha raised her hand.
“We could calligraph it by hand on the drafting board, with pen and ink. We would rule the paper with blue layout lines first, of course.”
He smiled in approval.
When Martha arrived for the next class session, Hennel told her, “I think you’re ready to do a complete project. A small one, but a paid job. Would you like to try?”
“If you think so, Herr Hennel. What is it?”
“You will see. I have someone for you to meet.” He beckoned to a striking blonde woman standing near the door, well-dressed in one of the styles Martha had come to recognize as a woman’s business suit. There was only one piece of jewelry visible on her, but it was a watch chain in some silvery metal. She crossed the room with a brisk, confident stride. “Frau Anneke Decker, meet Miss Martha Button. Please show her your treatise.”
“Sure. Call me Annie.” She favored Martha with a friendly grin and stuck out her hand to be shaken, then took a folder from under her other arm. “I’m an engineer at American Electric Works. The company is licensing my designs for induction motors to a new shop in Eisenach, and I need to send them the complete theory and technical data so I don’t have to get involved with every different model they want to make. This—” flicking the folder “— is the design manual. It will free me to put some serious work into several types of synchronous motors that we need. The boss wants it published so we can train some more help, since I had to write it anyway. Here’s a carbon copy of the English manuscript for you to look at while they finish typing up the text in columns. I’m told that should be finished by tomorrow. I expect to have the German manuscript written by next week.”
Martha paused with the folder in her hand for a few moments, taking in the newcomer. She looked to be in her middle twenties. By her stance, her manner, and the style of English she spoke, she might almost have been an up-timer, if it weren’t for the German rhythm of her speech. She was a presence. Martha opened the folder and leafed through a few pages to see how the document was organized, then looked up again and delivered a wry smile. “This being Grantville, you may as well call me Martha. Hereabouts, I hear it said, ‘When in Rome, shoot Roman candles.’ Yes, the methods we have been learning are well-suited to this. What page size and format would you have?”
Anneke cocked her head. “Well, your teacher tells me you were an experienced printer before you ever came here. What would you recommend? It’s for working designers to refer to as they make calculations and develop their ideas.”
“To be surrounded by other papers on a desktop, then?”
“Octavo might be best.” She went to a bookcase at the side of the room and selected a small handbook. “About like this.”
Anneke smiled. “Looks good to me.” She pointed to some numbers written on the inside of the folder. “That’s my office phone, if you need to go over anything with me.”
A few days later
Martha stared at the half-column of text she was about to paste into place, and hesitated. Something was inconsistent. She went to Herr Hennel’s desk, picked up the shop telephone, and dialed.
“Hello, Anneke Decker.”
“Annie, this is Martha Button. I hope this isn’t a foolish question, but under your fifth equation, where you give a list of the variables and their units, it says B-prime is given in webers per square meter. Should B-prime not be expressed in webers per square meter per second?”
There was silence on the line for two or three heartbeats. Martha began to wonder if she had transgressed some rule or custom.
When Anneke spoke again, her voice was subdued. “You’re absolutely right. It is per second. And how did you reach that conclusion?”
“Well, you said elsewhere in the text that the force turning the rotor is proportional to the current flowing in it, which is in turn proportional to the voltage induced in it, but you also said the voltage is proportional to the rate of the magnetic field’s increase, not the instantaneous magnetic field. Why that should be so eludes me, but . . .”
“And you took the trouble to read all that, and understood it right away? How far have you gone in math? Did you study calculus when you were in Cambridge?”
“Well, no, I’ve only just been transferred to Master Oughtred’s algebra class. It was suggested I would make swifter progress there.”
Silence again. “Apparently so. Somebody believes in you. Well, I’ll get that line corrected. Would you believe two of us took our time proofreading, and that mistake still slipped past us? Tell me if anything else raises your suspicions, all right?”
“Thank you, I will.” Martha paused for just a moment, with the phone still held up to her ear. “I wonder, if I might be permitted to see one of these machines, the motors, that you write about here?”
“Well, sure. Any time, just call an hour ahead, to make sure I’m here. Take the tram out to the power plant, we’re right next door. Look for the sign on our building. I’ll give you the whole shop tour. And I think my boss would like to meet you.”
“Oh, yeah. You have more talents than just printing other people’s words, Martha. It would be good to find out how much more, don’t you think?”
Nobody could say Martha shirked, in what few waking hours she was not at school or at Bleiler’s print shop in Deborah, earning the wages to repay the college’s generosity in the hour of her family’s arrival. Father had learned that the hospital care that had saved Stepmother and baby Providence was an outlay the college could not easily afford. But perhaps, with her earnings added to what Father and John’s diligent reprinting of the college’s books might bring in, the family’s obligation of honor would soon be met, and she could in good conscience begin to save for her own future. It was a relief that Rudolf Bleiler, having hired her on the strength of her work on the Dead Sea Scrolls, had no thought of Martha as anything but a part-time printer.
This morning, she gathered the eggs, promptly fried a platter full for the college’s breakfast, and had barely time to wolf down her portion before it was time to hurry down to the tram stop by the foot of the hill.
She skimmed ahead in the social studies book as she rode toward the high school. It seemed to put great importance on the federal principle of national government. Why was that, and what did it imply for this time and place? Perhaps Mr. Thomas could shed some light on that. She made a mental note to ask.
American Electric Works occupied a long brick building, two stories high. It had a good many windows, but they were of the ordinary kind, not the large, near-perfect panes of the buildings at the town center. A railroad siding extended into a large closed door at a rear corner.
When Martha arrived with an unbound copy under her arm, Anneke came out to meet her wearing work clothes of good quality, with the sleeves rolled halfway up her forearms. Her face lit up with a smile. “Hi, good to see you! You found some time to come over?”
“Yes, I’ve finished your printing. We have two days before the other students finish their projects and Herr Hennel takes us on to intaglio and photo-gravure. Do you know what bookbinder you want the copies sent to? Here, I’ve brought you one set to approve.”
“Oh, thanks. I’d better leave it in your hands until I wash up. There’s a batch of motors going through production right now. Want to go watch somebody put one together?”
“Oh, yes, please.”
“The factory floor’s this way.” Anneke opened a door at the back of the lobby and held it for Martha to pass through. When they emerged from the far end of the offices, the production hall was cavernous and noisy, a hive of activity. Anneke led Martha down an aisle to a work table flanked by racks of shelving and boxes of small parts.
“Wie geht’s, Johann? How’s it going?”
Johann flashed a corner-of-the-mouth smile. “Gut, gut. Und who’s your pretty friend?”
Anneke responded with a firm voice and a twinkle in her eye, “Behave, Johann, this is business. Our visitor needs to see how a motor goes together.”
He waved a hand in acknowledgment. “Okay, okay, at least when you talk in English, you don’t call me John like some up-timer.” He reached to a shelf, and took a dish-shaped metal part from a pile and set it flat in a wooden cradle.
Martha searched her memory of the manual she’d just printed, and recognized it as an end bell. He took four threaded rods from a bin at the back of the bench and screwed them in upright. Next he picked up a cylindrical stack of thin metal plates with cloth-wrapped wire coils set into slots running the length of the interior. So that was what a stator assembly looked like in real life. He slid it down over the rods. From another shelf he took a cylinder of smaller plates girdled by a spiraling cage of copper bars, with a shaft running through the middle. That was the rotor, then. He oiled the shaft ends, and slid that inside the stator. He slid down a second end bell on top, with the stator wires sticking out through an opening, added four nuts, and tightened them with a crank-handled wrench. Anneke swung one hand toward it, palm-up in a theatrical gesture. “Et voilà! A four-hundred-watt three-phase induction motor. The simplest of all possible motors.” As Johann lifted the motor off the work cradle and laid it on a four-wheeled cart half-full of completed motors, Anneke turned to Martha. “And if you look up there—” pointing toward the roof “—that’s one of them, running a ventilation fan.”
Martha put her fingers to the shaft of the just-finished motor, musing. It turned with the lightest of touches. “And everything fits together perfectly, just like that? I’ve watched smiths at work. How is that possible?”
Anneke glanced at a clock on the far wall. “Let’s go visit the machine shop. There’s time for that, before Lan gets out of the budget meeting. ”
The president’s office was on the second floor, close to a stairway but out of the way of the comings and goings just below. The man who turned from an open filing cabinet when Anneke led Martha in wasn’t the venerable figure she had imagined would oversee such a large enterprise. He looked to be no more than thirty, and was dressed more for comfort than to project authority. “Hi! You must be Martha Button.”
“Yes. And you are Mr. Landon Reardon?” She wasn’t altogether sure what the custom might be, and dipped a slight curtsey.
“That’s me, all right. Like to have a seat?” He came around to one end of the small conference table in the middle of the room.
The furniture was plain wood, but looked well-crafted, and when she settled into one of the solid-looking chairs, she found it surprisingly comfortable. Anneke took the next chair.
He went on, “It’s good to meet you. Annie has been telling me about you.”
That was a little puzzling. He hadn’t seen the finished work yet. She laid it on the table and opened the folder so he could look. “She has? Do you have other manuscripts to be printed?”
“Well, we will from time to time, but that’s not what got Annie and me so interested. I’ll get straight to it. The reason I asked to see you is so you and I could find out together whether we could offer you a job, and whether you’d like to work here.”
“I— I know nothing of what you do here. Everything is strange to me. What would be my tasks? Would I do your publishing? I understand that all the books you have from up-time are in English. Would I translate them into Latin? Or French? I know no other languages, not really.”
A smile danced in his eyes. “There’s nobody we could hire who knows anything about what we do here, Miss Button, and we’re short of people in every job. So what we look for is people who can learn fast. And that seems to be you. I hear you got recommended for Will Oughtred’s accelerated algebra class. Are you keeping up all right?”
“Yes, though sometimes I must ask to have something explained again.”
“I can imagine. He’s good that way, though, a teacher I admire. Keep doing that, and he’ll make sure you don’t get left behind. And Annie says you didn’t just check her design manual for spelling and grammar, you caught a math mistake. A simple one, but you caught it. So you must have read the booklet as you went along preparing it for printing. Why don’t you tell me what you learned about induction motors?”
The next half-hour passed in a whirlwind of revelations, filled with drawings on the chalkboard beside the door, and meanderings along chains of reasoning. At the end . . . one simple sketch, and a few short equations . . . “That’s the key to it all? The transformer and alternating current, and with those you can send power great distances?”
“You’ve got it. Plain algebra isn’t the best way to explain it, but the rest can wait.”
She stood, turning it over in her mind. “What would I have to learn?”
“Once you finish algebra, and take plane geometry too, you’d have enough math to understand manuals like the one you just worked on. Mechanical drawing would be good too. They’re basically great big cheat sheets, to let someone carry out the detail work of a product design and help transfer it to production, without needing to understand all the deeper complexities. That’s what an electrical designer does at AEW. Most students need about a year of high school study to get that far. I don’t think it would take you that long. And if you take the job, you’d be taking some of the load off my half-educated engineers Annie and Gottfried, and maybe they’d have a little more time to finish their bachelor’s degrees. And then they could take a little more load off me.”
Anneke chuckled. “Three-quarters educated, Lan.”
Landon laughed. “Okay, I won’t argue with you.”
Martha looked at them both. “And this is a respectable job?”
“Respected, and decently paid, too. And plenty important.” The hourly rate he named was three times what she could expect as a printer. “And by the way, the company helps with tuition if you decide to go on to engineering courses at State Tech. I’ve got no doubt at all you’d make good use of them.”
Some days later
William Button was at a desk downstairs in the new barn, preparing to copy the text of one of Brother Green’s books onto mimeograph stencils, when Adrianus van Loon came calling. He laid aside the work—not one with any great potential to sell outside the seminary, but it would be one step closer to restoring the college’s working library from the up-time originals kept safe at Schwarza Castle.
“Good morrow, Master van Loon. What brings you to us today? Are you offering your shop’s services to the college?”
“No, Master Button. This is not business. Not exactly.
“You may know that some time past your daughter Martha visited my shop, seeking work. My son John and I formed a favorable impression of her, and I hope she did the same of us. You may remember him. He is to inherit the business when the time comes, and he is already of an age to marry. Yesterday, one of my hired men mentioned seeing her at a meeting of the United Printers, Compositors, and Editors. He said that she is well-regarded among the union members. It reminded me. I would like to inquire whether you and your family might find a courtship acceptable. Yes, I know that by the laws here, the decision is hers, but it seems only respectful to speak with you and her mother first.”
William was silent for a few moments. “It’s most encouraging that you and your son should find her so. I’m sure you will understand that I would like to know more of your son and your business prospects before I say yea or nay, but I shall be diligent in making some inquiries. By the by, my present wife Melisa is not her mother, but loves her as if she were. She is away at the moment, but perhaps we may all call on each other and become better acquainted?”
“That would be fine, Master Button. I shall not take up your time further today, then.”
John Stewart came in to get a buck saw, just in time to hear most of it. It was suddenly clear that the time for hesitating to speak to William Button about any matters more personal than the studies of the day had just come to an abrupt end. Words said in another place to another man sprang to mind. You must speak for yourself, John. As the visitor left the barn he gathered the resolve to approach Brother Button and speak his mind and his heart.
“. . . so, we’d have a good life together. Will you allow me to ask Martha what she thinks about marriage?”
Button’s expression was unreadable. Mixed feelings? He spoke. “John—” He paused, and sighed. “You are a decent man, and a true servant of the Lord. I have the greatest regard for you. We all do. But you speak of returning to Scotland, and taking up the trade of building steam engines for the mines, and bringing the other blessings of the industrial age there. And I have seen enough here to understand what you hope to do. It could make life better for many poor souls. But going there would bring Martha once again within the reach of the king’s men and a ravening swarm of lawyers.
“I have not told you all the circumstances of our departure from Cambridge. It’s best that you know now, so that you can understand why none of us can return. And then I must ask, are you willing to change your plans and do your work in a place where Martha can remain safe?”
It was late when Martha came home, well past the supper hour and into evening study time. That was unavoidable, between school and the hours she worked at Bleiler’s print shop. Tonight there had been a rush to complete an order, and she’d finished her typesetting at the overtime rate. Still, it had been a good day. The proofreader had passed her work without a correction, and she had the week’s paycheck in her purse. One step closer to making good the family’s obligation. Father and John were doing their part toward that goal; the latest of the photo-reprints they had done for Brother Green was selling well and bringing income to the college.
There was leftover stew in the refrigerator. Stepmother came into the kitchen with Providence in her arms as Martha finished warming a bowlful. “Martha, will you join your father and me in Brother Green’s study? We need to speak privately.”
When they came in, Father was already seated. He motioned Stepmother to Brother Green’s comfortable chair. She settled in and arranged the coverlet over the baby and her bared breast. The chair awaiting Martha was conveniently by the work table. He even made a quick gesture toward the bowl as she set it down. Eat it while it’s hot. The expression on his face—she was unsure what it meant.
“Martha, where have you been? You’re late. We’ve been waiting for you.”
“I’m sorry. The work at Bleiler’s ran over. I was offered overtime, and I took it. We need the money.” She reached into her purse and pulled out the check.
“Yes. We do. I praise your diligence in this, though your brothers had to cover your evening chores. But you should have let us know. There are telephones in Deborah.”
She noticed through her tiredness that Father was using more of the turns of phrase of the up-timers. Well, they all were. “Again, I’m sorry. But all’s well.”
He looked from one to the other of the three women of his family, with that same solemn expression. “Is it? Daughter, I have had some misgivings of your attending these union meetings with questionable chaperonage, and these ‘study dates’ at school without teachers present, but I have kept silent. Other countries, other customs, and they seemed perhaps necessary. But of that, later.”
He paused and took a breath. “The most remarkable thing has happened today, Martha. John van Loon’s father came to see me, to ask if a formal courtship might be welcome. And immediately afterward John Stewart asked the same thing. We know Stewart well. He is a fine man. I made him understand that you cannot go to Scotland or anyplace else where the king’s writ runs. Van Loon we would need to find out more about, but I’m willing to make the inquiries. On the face of it, either would make you a good husband and secure you a place in life. And I must tell at least one of them ‘No.’ Your stepmother is quite right that we must consult with you now. We would like to ask, what is in your mind and heart?”
Stepmother leaned forward a little, and looked down at the tiny head nestled against her breast. “I am overjoyed at the thought that such choices as you have now, in this wonderful place, will surely come to your little sister in good time.”
Martha swallowed the spoonful she had just taken, and laid the spoon back in the bowl, taking a few seconds to gather her thoughts.
“Father, as you say, the choice is mine. But it’s much more than which man to accept as my suitor. The choice is what sort of a life to have. Before we came here, I had no thought that I could be anything but a printer’s wife and a mother, and do the same thing every day. But now? My eyes are opened. Things here are different. Much different.
“I look at the achievements of Helene Gundelfinger. Gretchen Richter. My friend Annie Decker at American Electric Works—twenty-three years old, and already doing work vital to all our futures, honored in her own right, and well-enough paid to employ a servant so that she can have the time to study further and advance in her profession. And I was told by those in a position to know that I am capable of the same.
“If I were to marry now, how could I do anything but keep a household? I do want to be a wife and a mother someday, but not now. Not until I finish what I need to learn, and establish myself securely in a respected profession. I’ve found my shovel. I wish to become an electrical engineer. There are far too few of those for the good of this world. And unless I’m much mistaken, it’s one of the many parts of God’s work, and one of many reasons why we and Grantville are here. Perhaps, now and again, I might find time for a date in the style of Grantville’s customs, with no promises asked or given, but I shall not seek a betrothal or even a courtship.
“So please tell Herr van Loon that I shall not even think of getting married until I have finished my education and am well established in my career. But of John Stewart, we have been much together. It could not be otherwise, here at the seminary. Surely, he deserves the courtesy of hearing it from my own lips.”
Father slapped his palms flat on the chair arms, and bent forward, looking like a bulldog. “What? As your father, young woman, I have something to say about that!”
Stepmother raised a hand from her lap, palm slightly raised, a cautionary gesture she used now and again. “Yes, husband, that is precisely correct. You do indeed have something to say about it. And I am sure that when you have taken the time to think, and spoken with the Lord, and consulted with our pastor, or better, Sister Green, that then, when you are ready to tell your daughter what it is that you have to say, you will say the right thing.”
It did no good. He flew into a red-faced rage. “No! You—” facing Martha “—defy me and you—” facing Stepmother “—resort to bare-faced manipulation. That I must tell two worthy, good men ‘No’ for no reason that I can give save that it is the will of a slip of a girl, is more than an embarrassment, it throws doubt on the good judgment of our whole family. The shame that I did not raise an obedient daughter will follow me for the rest of my days. I shall go down to my grave disgraced. And you speak of seeing men socially alone, without a chaperone? That ’tis done in Grantville is not nearly reason enough, many a foolish girl will surely rue it. No! It is most unseemly. Were we Catholic, I would send you now to a nunnery to forestall sin. That you will not join with John Stewart and his steam engines, nor with John van Loon and the print shop one day to be his— No. I will not have it. Not while you abide under my roof!”
“Father, father.” She shook her head in dismay. “It is not your roof.”
He rose from his seat and struck the table with the flat of his hand so hard the bowl jumped. “You have your place here as the dependent of an enrolled student. If you are dependent on me you will be obedient to me!”
“Has it come to that? Must it? If it is truly so, than I shall gather my belongings and be gone tomorrow.”
“What? Would you wander the streets, then?”
“No. I could share a room with one of the women on the production line. I saw notices on the bulletin board at the factory, seeking roommates to share the rent.”
“The rent? How would you pay rent?”
“You need ask?” She pointed to the paycheck lying on the table. “As the Lord decreed shall be the lot of Adam and all his line, I shall ‘eat my bread by the sweat of my brow.’ And within a year, when I pass the school examinations in algebra and geometry, I can leave the print shop to be the assistant to an engineer, and earn much more.”
Stepmother broke in again, “Martha? When did this come about? How long has it been in your mind, and when did you intend to tell us?”
“It began a few weeks ago, when my school project in the new printing methods was a small manual Annie wrote. My work so pleased them that they told me of a fine position I could take there, if I would take the courses of instruction at the high school necessary to do the work. I have seen what they do there, and how they are treated. I forbore to speak of it until I should be ready to pass the examinations and there could no longer be any doubt the position is mine. But this forces my hand.”
Father loomed over her. “But you do not have it in your grasp, do you? No, ’tis moonshine, and you discard two good suitors to pursue it! The Lord’s will is that women marry, and obey their husbands. And young women obey their fathers.”
“Not here, Father, not here. Not when they are grown and able to take responsibility for themselves. If I devote myself to learning until I am an engineer, then I shall earn enough to hire a cook and a nanny when I finally marry and have children. Why should I not then do something that makes use of my mind, and not just my hips and breasts?”
Father strode to the door and flung it open with a bang. “Brother Stewart!”
John Stewart was sitting at the far side of the parlor, looking wide-eyed straight at the door.
Father’s voice fell to half a gale. “Brother Stewart, I ask your services, and the services of the station’s wagon.” He still got the name of the thing wrong, but then he was in a roaring passion. “I need to see what goes on at this American Electric Works, this den of . . . I know not what!”
He turned back to the room behind him. “Wife, would you please see to it that my daughter is still here when I return?” It was in no way a question.
Stepmother said, “Finish your dinner.” Then she sat silently for a minute or more, rocking softly and burping the baby. And finally, “What will he find there, at this time of night?”
“He will find the factory running full speed, filling orders for Eisenach. He might find Annie burning the midnight oil, or Gottfried Bley, the mechanical engineer. Either one could show him everything.”
Stepmother’s eyebrows rose. “Midnight oil?”
Martha fluttered a hand. “A turn of phrase Annie uses. They seem to burn a lot of it there.”
“Heh-heh. Would that anyone ever had for us, when we proofread by candlelight. But if ever anyone would, I think it might be them.”
“A pretty thought. And would they show me everything, too?”
“Yes, they certainly would. I think you’d like them.”
“Hmm.” She fell into silence again for a time.
“He really does want what’s best for you, you know.”
“Yes. The difficulty is understanding what that is. The world is changing. I don’t want to be left behind, I want to be part of the change. No, I want to set my hand to making this a better world.”
“Then be patient. He will look, and listen, and consider. He will surely master his passions before he reaches the far side of the Ring. He will treat with these people courteously. And do not force his hand with intemperate speech. But when you are ready to marry, late like these Germans? Stewart, then? I think he might wait for you.”
“Perhaps, Stepmother, perhaps. And perhaps not. But that is for another day.”
Stepmother smiled softly, and rocked Providence to sleep.