Saturday Morning, December 31, 1633, Grantville
"Swan Lake! How does she expect us to do Swan Lake? And in Magdeburg. The woman is raving."
Harvey Matowski glanced back up the road. Nearly half a mile away, just outside the high school, he could see the headlights of a bus as it started its next run carrying patrons home from the ballet. He was surprised that it had taken this long for his wife to explode. "Yes, dear."
"There aren't even any suitable buildings. You realize she expects us to put on a performance on an open air stage."
"The whole thing is impossible. And did you hear Her Ladyship? I should move my ballet school to Magdeburg. It's all right for her, but my people have to stay near their jobs. If I move the school to Magdeburg, I'll lose half my senior dancers, and as for the youngsters . . . they have to stay with their parents. If I move the school to Magdeburg I'll lose Cathy McNally." Bitty wailed.
"I'm sure Mrs. Simpson doesn't mean you should move the school immediately, Bitty. Just start thinking about moving. I'm sure some of the dancers are going to want to move to Magdeburg anyway. For a start, there's Carl. I know he's still at the party networking for work for Kelly Construction in Magdeburg."
"Bloody Carl. Bloody Army. If it wasn't for the Army I'd still have Joel to lead and I wouldn't need Carl."
"I'm cold, Harvey." Bitty sniveled, rubbing her hands over her bare arms and shoulders.
Harvey draped the coat he had been carrying over her shoulders. The cocktail dress Bitty was wearing might have been comfortable in the cafeteria where the first night "Meet the Cast" dinner and cocktail party was being held. However, it had never been designed to keep a woman warm outside in the early hours of a mid-winter morning. He was surprised that it had taken his wife this long to cool down enough that she could register the ambient temperature. Mary Simpson must have really upset her.
"My feet hurt."
It was a plaintive cry, but totally understandable. Not only had Bitty been on her feet since the early hours of the previous day, but high heels were not suitable for stalking in high dudgeon half a mile down a road.
Bitty looked at the sorry remains of what had been a favorite pair of high-heeled shoes. They were badly cut up from last night's extended walk on the road. Maybe Uncle Mark or his partner Hans Bauer could repair them. It was no use crying to Harvey. He'd only point to the small mountain of shoes littering her wardrobe and ask what was wrong with the other few dozen pairs. Men just didn't understand a woman's relationship with her shoes.
The exertions of the last thirty-six hours were coming firmly home to roost. Her feet still hurt, but she was used to that. Years of en pointe dancing had almost immunized her to foot pain. It was the total lack of energy that was so distressing. While she dressed Bitty wondered where Harvey was. When she opened the bedroom door, the smell informed her that he was busy in the kitchen. Hurrying as best she could, she followed the tantalizing smells to their source.
After inhaling the last of the pile of blueberry pancakes and syrup, Bitty finally noticed the empty kitchen. "Where is everybody?"
"They were up and had breakfast earlier. I insisted they leave you to wake up naturally."
"Did they have pancakes, too?"
"No, love. I made them especially for you. After last night you needed a pick-me-up, so I made your favorites."
"Thanks. I really needed them. But it's a pity the girls and Joseph are gone. I wanted to talk to them about Mrs. Simpson's commitment for us to do Swan Lake to celebrate Independence Day."
Harvey shook his head. "I'd wait until the end of the Nutcracker season. They have enough to worry about just getting through this weekend. No need to give them new worries just yet. There'll be plenty of time next week.
Saturday, January 7, 1634
Bitty stood back and watched while Amber Higham passed out the paychecks for the previous weekend's short season of Nutcracker. There was an air of noisy celebration among the younger dancers as they compared checks. For most of the boys and girls it was more money than they ever had at one time before.
Glenna Sue Haggerty called out. "Miz B, when's the next season of ballet, and which one are we doing?"
The room went silent. Everybody waited on Bitty's response. She wasn't really ready for this, but she couldn't keep putting it off. "Mrs. Simpson is arranging a season of performances of the arts in Magdeburg around the fourth of July. She has asked that I put on a short season of ballet."
"Where in Magdeburg, Mom?" Bitty's elder daughter Staci turned to Carl Schockley. "Carl. You've been there. Is there anywhere suitable for a performance?"
Carl shook his head. "Not that I'm aware of. There are a few guildhalls and the like. They might be suitable for taking class or putting on small musical recitals, but until the opera house is built, there isn't going to be anywhere to perform for an audience."
"Carl's right," Bitty interrupted. "However, Mrs. Simpson wants an open air performance in Hans Richter Square."
Staci looked shocked. "Where did she get a dumb idea like that, Mom?"
"Kirov's Gala performance in Red Square was on television before Christmas. She seemed to take the view that if the Russians could put on a performance of ballet on an open air stage, then we should be able to."
"Oh. So, Mrs. Simpson wants us to put on a collection of scenes from selected ballets?"
"If only. No. She wants Swan Lake."
"What! But Mom. That's impossible. There's no way we can find enough dancers."
Bitty smiled wryly. "You and I know that. However, I don't think Mrs. Simpson is really aware of the problem. Which leaves us with a second problem. She's already told her society friends that we'll be doing it. If we let her down, well, we can kiss Mary Simpson . . . and her patronage, goodbye.
There seemed to be some brightening of faces at the prospect of Mary Simpson dropping her involvement with the company. Bitty acted quickly to correct their misconceptions. "And no, that would not be a good thing. Mrs. Simpson made a valid case for a move to Magdeburg. And she's right. We'll never make the company pay here in Grantville, and when we move, I'd much rather have her on my side than against me."
"Move the company? Is Mrs. Simpson going to provide enough money to support the company? I mean, most of us have jobs. We can't just move to Magdeburg because she wants you to move the company."
"Magdeburg's out for me," Babette Goss said. "If I go anywhere it'll be to Erfurt to be with my husband."
Lynette Fortney held up her hand. "If you're short of people, I might be able to get a transfer to the law courts in Magdeburg,"
Bitty looked at her remaining senior dancers. Glenna Sue Haggerty and Natasha Fortney were supposed to start teacher training after they graduated from high school. Richelle Kubiak was also graduating this year, but she already had a job lined up with her foster mother and would probably be staying close to Grantville. Marcie Haggerty had a year to go in her teacher training. Bitty's younger daughter Melanie had only been training as an electrician for a year and wasn't sufficiently qualified to find work in Magdeburg yet. That left her daughter in-law Alice, her elder daughter Staci, and Casey Stevenson. "Alice, do you think you could get a transfer to Magdeburg?"
"I don't know, Mom. I don't think the Air Force has anything going in Magdeburg."
Carl Schockley spoke up. "If the Air Force won't hire you, Alice, Kelly Construction will. We need trained drafts people. Heck, if you're interested I can probably sign you on now and start you on your way to Magdeburg on the next train. Believe me; we need people with your training."
Bitty sighed. "I guess that means you'll be spending a lot of time in Magdeburg this year, Carl?"
"Yes, it's my turn to be based in Magdeburg."
Bitty turned her attention to Staci and Casey Stevenson.
"I'd like to help you Bitty, but what can a physical education teacher do in Magdeburg?" Casey looked over at Staci. "Staci's a bit better off having done the ESOL course, but what can a couple of teachers do in Magdeburg?"
All eyes turned to the source of the comment. "What do you mean, Elisabeth Sofie?" Casey asked.
Stepping forward, a little embarrassed at suddenly being the center of attention, Elisabeth Sofie tried to explain. "Fraulein Casey, you are a teacher. An up-time teacher. What you should do is start a school in Magdeburg. A secondary school for girls. Something that will take girls from schools like St. Veronica's Preparatory Academy and prepare them for the new women's college, or just to teach the advanced skills that the wife of a successful merchant or land owner needs. My Tante Dorothea Sophie has a secondary school at Quedlinburg. If you wish, I can ask her if she thinks it is possible."
"Thank you, Elisabeth Sofie. If your Tante Dorothea Sophie thinks a secondary school for girls in Magdeburg is a good idea, Staci and I will look into it."
Bitty, who had stepped back from the discussion, stared at Elisabeth Sofie, names tumbling through her mind. Somewhere she had heard the name Dorothea Sophie before. With a shake of her head she turned her attention back to her students. "Back to our original problem. What are we going to do about Mrs. Simpson and her open air performance of Swan Lake?"
"Offer some alternative." Joseph Matowski called put.
"What do you mean, Joseph?" Bitty asked her younger son a little tersely.
"Its obvious to everyone we can't do Swan Lake, and you said you didn't want to get on the wrong side of Mrs. Simpson. The only way to stay on her good side is to offer an alternative when you tell her we can't do Swan Lake."
"And does the font of all wisdom have any idea what we could put on?" Staci asked sarcastically.
Joseph smiled. "Yes."
"Well? Speak, little brother. What is this great idea you have?"
"The life and death of Hans Richter." With barely a pause for his audience to absorb what he had said, Joseph started speaking again. "Just think of it. A ballet in three acts telling the story of Hans Richter, from lowly mercenary to hero of Wismar."
Some of the girls laughed, but Bitty nodded. "That might actually work." The idea had merit. However, creating a totally new ballet presented a few problems. The only advantage was that here and now, they could create their own rules as to what a ballet should contain. "Casey, Alice, you both studied some choreography at college didn't you?"
"Yes, Miz B. We both did some papers. Are you really thinking about Joseph's suggestion?" Casey answered.
"It's the best idea I've heard since Mrs. Simpson dropped her little bombshell. If you and Alice could come to my place, we can start working on it."
Ever since Elisabeth Sofie mentioned her Tante Dorothea Sophie, Bitty had been worrying the thought that the name was familiar. Seeing Elisabeth Sofie being collected by her cousin Countess Emelie had jogged her memory. Laughing, she looked at her startled companions. "I've just remembered where I heard the name Dorothea Sophie."
"Well, Mom, don't hold us in suspense. What's so special about Elisabeth Sofie's Tante Dorothea Sophie?"
"I think you've all forgotten who Elisabeth Sofie is. Do you remember the ladies that turned up at rehearsals with Mrs. Simpson?" At their nods Bitty continued. "One of them was an Abbess Dorothea Sophie of Saxe-Altenburg. She rules the Damenstift of Quedlinburg."
"Oh! When Elisabeth Sofie talked about her Tante Dorothea Sophie having a secondary school, she really meant her secondary school. Not one that just happens to be close to where she lives, but one she runs," Staci said.
Tuesday January 10, 1634. Grantville
"Fräulein Casey, Fräulein Anastasia, I have talked to Tante Dorothea Sophie and Papa. They think the idea has merit. Also, Papa suggests that such a school would benefit from having a suitable patron." Elisabeth Sofie ducked her head for a moment before looking back at Staci and Casey, then in a rush, she said, "Papa suggested that the school could be called 'The Duchess Elisabeth Sofie Secondary School for Girls.'"
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- The Grantville Gazette Staff