PART II

ASK AN AUGUST SKY

If that my lines, being placed before thy book,

Could make it sell, or alter but a look

Of some sour censurer, who’s apt to say,

No one in these times can produce a play

Worthy his reading . . .

Which to this tragedy must give my test,

Thou has made many good, but this thy best.

Joseph Taylor (To his long-known and loved friend, Mr. Philip Massinger, upon his “Roman Actor”)

Magdeburg, May 1634

‘Tis the song, the sigh of the weary,
Hard times, hard times, come again no more.
Many days you have lingered around my cabin door.
Oh! Hard times, come again no more.

The guitar provided a driving rhythm behind the young woman’s voice as she repeated the refrain for the fourth time. There were many better voices in the world, but perhaps none better suited to this song.

Let us pause in life’s pleasures and count its many tears,
While we all sup sorrow with the poor.
There’s a song that will linger forever in our ears,
Oh! Hard times, come again no more.

In response to Philip Massinger’s wave, the waitress plunked another stein of beer down on the table in front of him. Why hadn’t he heard this song in Grantville? It was obviously an up-time song. It was the music, the rhythm, that made it new. The music with the words. The singer smiled at the audience. “I learned that off a Bob Dylan album.”

Not that its ideas were new. He had already written, years before,

Some undone widow sits upon mine arm,
And takes away the use of it; and my sword,
Glued to my scabbard with wronged orphans’ tears,
Will not be drawn.

He had intended to move to Magdeburg for the urbanity, the opportunities, of a large city. He had come to see it, leaving the boys in Grantville with his wife to finish the school semester. He had come to see the capital of this new . . . nation, yes, nation . . . growing and developing. He was no stranger to the idea of nation. Or country, at least . . . And patriotism, if not yet called by that name.

What though my father
Writ man before he was so, and confirm’d it,
By numbering that day no part of his life
In which he did not service to his country;
Was he to be free therefore from the laws
And ceremonious form in your decrees?
Or else because he did as much as man
In those three memorable overthrows,
At Granson, Morat, Nancy, where his master,
The warlike Charalois, with whose misfortunes
I bear his name, lost treasure, men, and life,
To be excused from payment of those sums
Which (his own patrimony spent) his zeal
To serve his country forced him to take up!

Zeal to serve his country. How did it differ from this “patriotism?” As Tom and Dick’s grandfather had written, A rose by any other name . . . Fanciful. Having passed a half century on this earth, he was becoming as fanciful as a man in his dotage. In any case. The song needed to go into the play that the boys were writing. Rewriting. What would the authors care if he added to their work? Or the composer care if he added his song to the opera of other men? They were dead. Or not yet alive. So he would go back to Grantville. Magdeburg could wait for him. For six years, after leaving Oxford, he had toured these Germanies in a troupe of actors. He could tour them once more before finding a safe haven in the capital of this new country . . . this new nation.

Grantville

Joe and Aura Lee Stull hosted the cast party for the high school production of Oklahoma! because . . . Amber Higham counted the ways. Their son Billy was stage manager . . . they had room . . . Aura Lee was willing to do it. Unlike pre-Ring of Fire cast parties, it included parents, foster parents, guardians, and anyone who had been willing to loan a costume or a prop, which made it a fairly large undertaking. Amber looked around and concluded that except for her nagging worry as to exactly where some members of the chorus—specifically Anthony Green and Carly Baumgardner—were and what they might be doing there, it was going very smoothly. She moved to the kitchen door in hopes of spotting the truants in the back yard. Warm weather was a blessing. Warm weather was not always a blessing.

A good-sized group of the men had retreated to the back porch. Joe Stull wandered into the kitchen and slid past Amber, with an expression on his face that made her suspect he was vaguely hoping that Aura Lee was too busy to notice his flight from hospitality duty. Not all truants were teenagers.

****

“I am a playwright, yes.” Philip Massinger waved his hand at someone, a German, whom Joe hadn’t met yet. “But an artisan of words, in no way really different from a wheelwright or a millwright. I take materials. Words, perchance immaterial but yet materials. A man can scarce write a play without them. I have my tools. Pen and paper rather than hammer and anvil, but tools.”

The other man grunted.

“A wordsmith,” Massinger continued. “Just as you may have a blacksmith or a goldsmith, and there is no more mystery to the craft. It is something that can be learned. True, some write better plays than others, but then everyone knows that some masters in any craft produce better work than others. Some, perhaps, one should just call ‘fully competent.’ Others have a spark of genius. But that applies as well to the making of saddles as the making of poems.” He paused. “I even work frequently with others, meshing my work with theirs. An immature poet imitates; a mature poet steals. Yet I consider myself to be changing the products of others to meet specifications. Improving upon them, I would hope. You have a word for this. I found it when I looked myself up in the encyclopedia. I was known for many collaborations. Most, alas, had been lost by the time of the Ring of Fire, so I presume that I will have to go to the labor of writing them again, those I produced between now and my death, with no idea beyond the titles of what they may have contained the first time I wrote them. However . . . “

Massinger’s voice trailed off; then resumed in a different tone.

“Joe, good to see you. Have you met Wilhelm Schaupp from Weimar? He’s the uncle and guardian of Zacharias, who’s living with George and Lorrie Mundell while he goes to high school. Zach’s the boy who translated a lot of Tom and Dick’s version of Oklahoma! into German for us. I’m trying to talk him into letting Zach go on tour with us this summer.”

“Yeah, I know Zach. Billy’s had him over several times. Pleased to meet you.” Joe stuck out his hand.

Massinger smiled as he continued his introduction. “Herr Stull is the Secretary of Transportation for the State of Thuringia-Franconia.”

Schaupp looked at his new acquaintance with considerably more interest and took the hand that was waving in front of him.

“Herr Stull’s son Billy will be touring with our troupe this summer, I hope.” Massinger’s emphasis was subtle, but unmistakable. After all, what minor bureaucrat in Weimar would object to having his nephew become a close friend of the son of a higher state official? Well, there might be one. Somewhere.

“In your dreams,” as Billy would say.

Herr Schaupp would be a summer friend, whose flattering leaves, that shadowed a man in his prosperity, would with the least gust drop off in the autumn of adversity. Not that one should disdain the shade while it existed. Perhaps some patronage might be attainable through Schaupp. Massinger smiled, his pale blond, almost invisible, eyelashes blinking in the flickering light of the gas lanterns that the Stulls had installed at the rear of their house.

****

“All the girl who plays Laurey has to do is look pretty and be a soprano with enough volume that her voice fills the theater. She doesn’t have to be able to act. She doesn’t even have to be a spectacularly good singer, because the sung portion of the role has a lot of duets and ensembles. Amber has assured me of this. The person who plays Ado Annie has to be able to act, but not Laurey. Pretty is enough. Stand, look pretty, and sing a little.”

Antonia Massinger frowned at her husband.

“Tom will play Ado Annie, in any case. I have found no girl in Grantville with the proper feel and timing for comedy.”

She would play the part of Aunt Eller herself, of course. There had never been any doubt of that, not from the first glimmer of Philip’s new idea. One of the many things she hated about the English was that their benighted censors had never allowed her, in nearly twenty years, to appear upon the public stage. Private theatricals, yes, but not public ones. If she hadn’t loved Philip so much—if she hadn’t impulsively plunged into marriage with him, a foreigner, when she was barely twenty and had a great career before her in Stuttgart—she would have shaken the dust of the place from her sandals and returned to civilized lands. What had Dick’s girlfriend told her the word was? “Retro.” Yes. England was certainly “retro.”

Now that she was back home, she intended to be a full partner in their enterprises, and that included casting the female parts for this . . . cabaret . . . that the boys wrote and which, greatly expanded by Philip, they would include as a novelty in their tour this summer. And going back on stage. Playing any roles that a woman nearing her fiftieth year could play. One had to admit that the English at least wrote meaty roles for a woman of a certain age. Gertrude. Lady MacBeth. Perhaps it was because the playwrights knew that men, not infrequently themselves or their next friends, would be acting them and thus granted themselves starring parts. But one should take a boon where one found it without excessive questioning of the bounty.

“This means?” Massinger steepled his fingers together.

“Barbara Ostertag has the range to sing Laurey’s songs. Lorrie Mitchell, the up-timer she lives with, is willing to let her go with us. Even if that were not so, Barbara is twenty, of age as the up-timers see it. She can make up her own mind.”

“You. Barbara. Tom. Who else?”

“We can hire local singers for the chorus every place we go. That will increase interest in the piece. Not to mention saving a lot of transportation expense. The music will all be new to them, but it is not that difficult.”

“Not as we have transcribed it for the cabaret. My ears are much more at peace with the songs from Oklahoma! when they are performed without the orchestra. With just the melody line and a lute, a couple of violins, perhaps a recorder for the themes. Or violin, viol, shawm and sackbut. Pipes, perhaps? No dissonant overture. No clashing intervals or harmonies. No . . . “

“Old-fashioned, Philip. Grievously old-fashioned. The young people . . . “

” . . . rarely have enough money to pay for tickets. It is their parents who pay for tickets. If we offer a play that pains the ears of those who attend the first night, there will be no audience for the second or the third.” He shook his head. “Who will understudy Barbara?”

“Anna Maria Reisdorfer. The girl from the ‘beauty shop.’ In a pinch, she can also understudy Tom. We only need to hope that both Barbara and Tom are not indisposed for the same performance.”

“Find someone else who can understudy Tom. I have trust in divine providence, to be sure. But not that much trust. Surely one of the boys from the troupe we gathered together on our way to Grantville can do it.”

“We have been here for months. Their voices have all changed. The male roles are no problem. There are three of us who could understudy Dick for the role of Jud. Any of them can also understudy Ned Bass for Will Parker. Two who can understudy Ludovic for Curly. All of them, with enough makeup, can understudy you if the need arises. Don’t worry. I will find someone else who can act Ado Annie. As Amber says, that role must be acted.”

“I want an up-timer, even if she may be lacking in the timing and feel for comedy. Another novelty. Something we can put on placards to attract the audiences. We’re not in this business as a matter of charity. When she isn’t needed as Ado Annie, she can sing Gertie. When she is . . . always make sure that one of the chorus members knows Gertie’s lines.”

“Yes, dear.” Antonia’s voice dripped honey.

“Ask Amber. She must know someone.”

“Yes, dear.” A pause. “Do you really think I was born yesterday?”

The motion of her buttocks, as she departed, had to be classified as a flounce. Ah . . .

The sum of all that makes a just man happy
Consists in the well choosing of his wife:
And there, well to discharge it, does require
Equality of years, of birth, of fortune.

In this matter, Massinger counted himself fortunate indeed.

****

“Mariah Collins for Ado Annie,” Amber said. “She sang a couple of character roles. And Miss Adelaide in Guys and Dolls her senior year. Her perpetual case of the sniffles brought the house down, though Grantville always has a pretty generous audience for the high school plays. She graduated in 1632. Not a pretty girl, I’m sorry to say, but she has aptitude. She took the geology summer camp training right after she finished high school. She’s been out in the field working, but just finished up her contract and came back to see about her sister Megan. Their parents were left up-time and she’s not too happy that Megan’s gotten engaged to Ronnie Baumgardner.

“Actually, Ronnie’s okay as far as I know, but his father . . . I can see her point. Zane Baumgardner isn’t anyone that I would want on my grandchildren’s family tree. If I had ever had children, that is. Way too late, now that I finally have a decent man in my sights. He’s still not someone I’d want on my prospective step-grandchildren’s family tree. Thank goodness, none of my nieces ever got involved with the guy.

“Anyway, since Mariah got back, she’s been paying her expenses by checking out sites for the silo corporation, but she’s restless. I expect she’d enjoy a summer tour with a theater group.”

Würzburg

A manuscript version of Franconia! arrived in Würzburg less than a week after Philip Massinger finished his modification to the Quiney brothers’ version of Grantville’s spring play. His portions, too, Zacharias Schaupp translated. Georg Rudolf Weckherlin received it with the incoming mail, opened it, and was lost to useful work for the rest of the morning. When Steve Salatto and Anita Masaniello got back from an important, and protracted, meeting with the cathedral chapter, they stopped for a minute in the anteroom, frowning.

“What is that?” Steve asked. “He’s whistling?”

They stood for a couple of minutes more.

“‘Everything’s up to date in Kansas City,’ I think.” Anita wrinkled her brow. ” Where did Weckherlin ever hear or see Oklahoma!?”

“Nowhere.” Steve barged on into the outer office over which Georg Rudolf Weckherlin presided. “What’s that?”

Weckherlin looked up and grinned. “Ah. A splendid new satire. Franconia!, it’s called. Marvelous. These songwriters have you Grantvillers pegged. Skewered, even.”

Jetzt ist alles ganz modern in Grantville.

“It laughs about your Frau Higgins and her enormous modern hotel. Grantville had no such building before the Ring of Fire. Nothing even approaching it. No, this great modern up-time town had to come back to the seventeenth century in order to build itself a ‘skyscraper several stories high.'”

“That was ‘seven stories high,'” Anita commented absently. “And it was Kansas City, not Grantville, where everything was up to date. What on earth do you have there?”

That shot the afternoon for all three of them.

“Damndest thing I ever came across,” Steve proclaimed. “Look, ‘Hard Times’ wasn’t in Oklahoma! It wasn’t by Bob Dylan, either. Maybe he recorded it, but it’s Stephen Foster. You know, the ‘Old Kentucky Home’ guy—that song they sing—sang—will sing—before the Kentucky Derby. Like ‘Maryland, My Maryland,’ before the Preakness.”

This required some explanation.

“It’s not ‘Maryland, My Maryland,’ really,” Anita pointed out. “It’s, ‘O, Christmas Tree’ and that’s ‘O Tannenbaum,’ and that was German to start with.”

“We’re way off the point.”

“Which is?” Weckherlin’s smile was more than a little sardonic.

What have these guys—the Quineys and Massinger—done? I’ve seen that movie. There wasn’t a single place in it where the cast was standing around waiting for William Jennings Bryan to come into town and make a speech. Singing ‘Hard Times Come Again No More.’ Stephen Foster lived way back when. Back before the Civil War, I think. That has to be a hundred fifty years before Dylan recorded it. This is just a . . . a . . . a mish-mash.”

“In many ways the plot is wondrously rational for a comedy. No identical twins separated at birth. Not a single pretty maid disguised as her mistress. No cases of mistaken identity leading to quite incoherent consequences. Not to mention,” Weckherlin added rather dryly, “that it incorporates quite a large number of bits and pieces out of propaganda pamphlets associated with the Ram Rebellion into Bryan’s speech once he makes his triumphant arrival upon the new railroad. I’ve seen other plays by Massinger in London. Can we assume that he wanted to play a considerably more prominent part in this . . . project . . . than was available for a man of middling years in the original version.”

“Probably.” Anita frowned. “There was an older man in the movie who had some dialogue with Aunt Eller, but he sure wasn’t a starring role. Do you remember who it was, Steve?”

“Naw. Skinny guy, I do remember that. Which probably means that he didn’t make much of an impression on me. It was the two of them, the scrawny guy and Aunt Eller, that sang about how the cowboys and farmers ought to be friends, wasn’t it?”

“Is that in here?”

“Yes.” Weckherlin flipped through several pages. “Here. With a nice scene in which Laurey’s aunt shoots a gun to stop the fight. And she’s ‘Aunt Gretchen,’ not ‘Aunt Eller.””

Lass’ die Ritter und die Bauern Freunde sein.

“Not a bad idea.” Steve grinned. “Let the knights and the peasants be friends. I’ll support that sentiment all the way.”

Weckherlin caroled the end of the refrain:

Es gibt kein’ Grund dass sie nicht Freunden seien.

“Um. I think there was probably some reason why they couldn’t be friends.” Anita raised her eyebrows at her husband. “They sang that just before the big fight at the square dance, didn’t they?”

“Fakest fight I ever saw on screen.”

“Be reasonable, Steve. It was a musical comedy, not method acting.”

“Still the fakest fight I ever saw. I could have lived with the silly ballet, but that stupid fight . . . “

“What ballet? There is no ballet in this.” Weckherlin’s voice conveyed certainty.

“They probably don’t have a cast who can dance ballet. I’m sure they don’t have a cast who can dance ballet, in fact. Only Bitty Matowski does. They must have just left it out.”

Anita and Steve started to dissect the manuscript on the basis of what had been omitted and what had been inserted.

“Another thing I’m absolutely sure of,” Anita Masaniello said firmly. “No way did Rogers and Hammerstein write ‘Is Your Harp Upon the Willow?’ That’s bluegrass, and it definitely didn’t lead into the finale of Oklahoma!” She sang a few lines.

“Franconia isn’t exactly Oklahoma,” Weckherlin answered. “Nor is it ever likely to be.”

“How do they sing ‘Franconia’ to ‘Oklahoma’ anyway? The rhythm’s different.”

“The Latin form is only for the title. See. In the song, they sing, ‘Franken, Franken,’ doubling up the name of the territory. Which is not Oklahoma, clearly. Just to start, it has no plains for the wind to sweep down.”

“Which could explain why they left that part out of the translation. Where’s the wind sweeping from in this . . . tour de force?”

“The Thüringerwald, of course. From Thuringia, into our ‘brand new state.'”

Würzburg, June 1634

“Where did the railroad car come from?” Tania Haun asked over the sounds made by five children under ten, two teenaged boys, and one adult male eating as fast as they could.

Mike Mundell put his spoon down and swallowed. His mom was just death on talking with your mouth full. “Well, Massinger put in the presidential candidate giving the speech. Then it came to me. Something back in eighth grade civics. We saw a documentary with a lot of old newsreel in it, about someone running for president on a train. ‘Whistle Stop Campaign?’ I think that was it.”

“I wonder how long the middle school has had that documentary. We saw it in eighth grade, too, and I’ve got to be twenty years older than you are. Truman, was it? Or wasn’t it?”

“What did you think of the rehearsal yesterday?” Zacharias Schaupp asked a little anxiously.

“It was okay,” Johnnie F. said around the last bite of his breakfast. Mike and Zach were staying with him and Tania while the traveling actors were in Würzburg. Frau Massinger had been more than happy when the “American colony” offered to board most of the Grantville kids, up-time and down-time alike. First, it meant that she did not have to supervise them. Second, it saved a lot of money.

Mike disposed of another mouthful of rye bread. “Why just ‘okay’? Tom and Dick worked hard on this thing. So did Zach. And Mr. Massinger.”

“Well, there’s something missing. I was on stage crew for Oklahoma! back when I was in high school myself and I’m darn sure that Laurey wasn’t a shepherdess.”

“Well, Mr. Massinger says that here, down-time, people who come to see the play need to know right away that the girl the hero is in love with is all right. You know, pretty and virtuous. And shepherdesses are automatically pretty and virtuous. In poems and plays. Not in real life, but that doesn’t count. Besides, he wanted to use that stupid ‘Lady of the Lambs’ poem he found in the library and have it set to music. So Ludovic, being Curly, stands there and sings at her:

She walks—the lady of my delight—
A shepherdess of sheep.
Her flocks are thoughts. She keeps them white;
She guards them from the steep.
She feeds them on the fragrant height,
And folds them in for sleep.

“Barbara can’t act for sour shit. She just stands there in the middle of the stage looking cute, so he needed something to make it clear to the audience right off that she was one of the good guys. Of course, Mrs. Massinger—she spent a lot of time volunteering at the high school last semester—went, ‘Gag me.'”

“So did Anita after the rehearsal last night. Maybe it’ll catch on with the Ram Rebellion people. But Laurey and her aunt were farmers. I remember that much. Maybe Massinger could write the aunt as being the Ewe instead of Gretchen. Or the Ewe in addition to Gretchen . . . “

Johnnie F. worried the idea around in the back of his mind all day and started in on it again at supper. “I guess a shepherdess is okay. Bo-Peep and all that. Mary’s little lamb. But still, farmers are more important. Back when I was in college, we learned this song . . . ” Johnnie F. started to whistle.

“That’s sorta catchy.”

“Yeah. But it’s the words that were really good. Lemme think . . . It went all the way back to the Grange movement, maybe. I’m not so sure that I remember all the words.”

“Can you give me just a general sort of idea? It’s not as if Mr. Massinger’s exactly short on words, and he’ll have to put them into German anyway.”

“Sort of. Lemme think . . . ” Johnnie F. rapped the words out with a fair rhythm but not much in the way of a tune.

The farmer is the man, the farmer is the man,
Lives on credit ’til the fall.
Then they take him by the hand, and they lead him off the land,
And the middle man’s the man who gets it all.

“Oh, gosh, Johnnie F. We’ve got to do that one. It’ll be easy. Der Bauer ist der Mann, der Bauer ist der Mann . . . ‘Hand’ rhymes with ‘land’ in German, too.”

“Sounds to me like they’re exactly the same words. That’s the refrain. The first verse is something like this,”

The farmer comes to town with his wagon broken down,
But the farmer is the man who feeds them all.
If you’ll only look and see, I think you will agree
That the farmer is the man who feeds them all.
His pants are wearing thin. His condition is a sin.
They’ve forgot that he’s the man who feeds them all.

“There’s all sorts of ‘thems’ who’ve done the forgetting in the rest of the verses. Bankers and preachers and merchants and butchers and cooks. There’s a whole bunch of verses.”

Mike jumped up. “Hey, Tania. Can I take Johnnie F. downtown to the inn where the Massingers are staying? Right now? Mr. Massinger’s got to hear this. Right away.”

“It’s almost dark.”

“But if Mr. Massinger starts tonight, we can have the song in the play tomorrow. That’s the way these actors work. None of that nonsense about having a printed script in front of you and memorizing the lines just exactly. They carry a lot of it in their heads. Improvise. Though a lot of the time,” Mike admitted honestly enough, “that’s because I’ve messed up something with the props. I was just assistant stage manager for Oklahoma! Billy Stull was the stage manager. He wanted to come, but his dad thought he’d be better off staying in Grantville and taking trig in summer school. Mom and Dad didn’t mind if I came, especially since Zach was coming anyway. Plus, Billy’s grandma wasn’t very pleased with the idea that he might go off with a touring company of actors, even for the summer. You know Mrs. Hudson, don’t you?”

“Oh, sure,” Johnnie F. said. “I know Vera and Willie Ray. Willie Ray’s an okay guy.”

****

The Massingers were staying with the Weckherlins, having a prior acquaintance with Steve Salatto’s “office dragon” and his English wife, who was the daughter of the Dover city clerk.

“Just a few more changes to the script, Philip” Weckherlin suggested during breakfast. “By the way, I’m sorry it’s porridge again.”

“Cheerful looks make every dish a feast, and it is that which crowns a welcome. Truly, without good company all dainties lose their true relish, and like painted grapes, are only seen, not tasted. You were saying?”

“Much of the pastiche is a bit sophomoric. Especially the jokes.”

“This is understandable—and forgivable—given that those who produced it, with the exception of my own additions, were almost all high school sophomores.”

“Will is an obvious, traditionally comedic, character. I see no problems with your using him as the boys wrote him. Jud fits much less easily into a comedy. Though this is scarce a comedy, nor yet a tragedy. Jud fits very uneasily into a satire intended to show peasants as the heroes. Nonetheless, if we leave him out of this one, there is even less for Laurey to say and do. And for a full stage production, to display Curly as a protector of the innocent heroine, we need a villain . . . Almost, he needs a play of his own, a true tragedy, if one could conceive of a crude hireling as a tragic figure. The mere challenge of writing a tragedy whose central figure is not of high station at the beginning is daunting. Could one, and still have the outcome be tragic?”

Weckherlin closed his mouth and whipped his wandering thoughts back into order. “In any case. Almost anyone who reads for pleasure understands ‘westerns’ by now. They are very popular. Let the Reichsritter represent the arrogant cattlemen. If you use this song for a meeting between conservative members of the Bamberg city council and several deposed imperial knights who do hold the opinion that the Ram movement is a scandal—an outrage . . . Es ist furchtbar! Es ist scheusslich!

“Truly, with a bit of ‘massaging,’ it could reach a more elite audience. Become a staple of your repertoire rather than just an interesting novelty. Perhaps we could contact Melchior Franck in Coburg. Surely he has a few students who could harmonize the original music into an opera score that is more in accord to contemporary taste. I am myself particularly charmed by ‘Ado Annie.’ I have indeed already, since observing the rehearsal last evening, composed some suggested modifications to her most important song, making the German translations of the verses a bit more sophisticated than your Zacharias Schaupp managed, adding some internal rhymes . . . If you would be interested . . . ” He sang, a little raspily, “‘Ich bin ein’ Magd, die nie “nein” sagt.’ Meyfarth in Bamberg, once your players get there, can also probably improve somewhat on young Schaupp’s German verses . . . “

“I understand Ado Annie’s appeal for you, Georg. A girl who ‘cain’t say no’ must unquestionably attract the author of ‘Seduction in the Garden, or Love Among the Cabbages.'”

“More seriously, though. Franconia has already voted to merge with Thuringia and become a state within the USE. Once Gustavus Adolphus finishes the summer’s campaigning, though, he will be faced with how to handle his conquests. Now, these lines . . . ” Weckherlin picked up the manuscript. “Where the singer admonishes the people that when the territory joins the union and becomes a state, those of all ranks and callings must ‘behave themselves and act like brothers.’ Perhaps . . . “

“Yes, of course you are right. Those verses lend themselves beautifully to an expansion of William Jennings Bryan’s speech. Ah . . . of course, at present Antonia is singing them. She wouldn’t be particularly pleased if I took them. Particularly not since my singing voice leaves much to be desired.”

“You could speak them. Right after Bryan’s attack on corruption. ‘Petitions, not sweetened with gold, are but unsavory and oft refused; or, if received, are pocketed, not read.’ Then she, as the lead among the women in the audience, could repeat them and break into the chorus . . . I must find some better German than young Schaupp came up with for rhyming ‘pals’ with ‘gals.’ How do you intend to handle the sometimes rather harsh criticism of the emperor?”

Massinger cocked his head. “‘Detraction’s a bold monster, and fears not to wound the fame of princes, if it find but any blemish in their lives to work on.’ I’m sure that I can find some suitable approach.” He turned to his older apprentice. “Dick, a suitable line, if you will.”

Dick Quiney stood up and declaimed.

Great men,
Till they have gained their ends, are giants in
Their promises, but, those obtained, weak pigmies
In their performance. And it is a maxim
Allowed among them, so they may deceive,
They may swear anything.

Weckherlin nodded his agreement. “True. ‘Put not your trust in princes.’ God said so himself. The proverb runs that, ‘ambition, in a private man a vice, is in a prince a virtue.’ We admonish that ‘he that would govern others, first should be the master of himself,’ yet we also say that ‘the desire of fame is the last weakness wise men put off.’ Or even, often enough, men less wise. So. What do you—we—say of those Nicodemites who privately agree that there is a need for change, but are too cautious to give those changes their public support?”

Massinger turned his head in the other direction. “Tom?”

Tom hopped up next to his brother.

Factions among yourselves; preferring such
To offices and honors, as ne’er read
The elements of saving policy;
But deeply skilled in all the principles
That usher to destruction.

“Apropos. Very apropos.” From Master Massinger, that was an accolade. Dick and Tom accepted it as such.

****

“We did, in fact, perform it in Grantville before we left. Once, in the auditorium at the Middle School since the high school auditorium is booked well in advance all the time. So the advertisements are perfectly true.” Antonia Massinger laughed.

“It was an inspiration to take ‘Many a New Day’ away from Laurey and give it to Ado Annie. Mariah does a much better job with it. Gives it some bite.” Anita Masaniello was perched backstage on an upturned salted herring keg.

“Amber Higham assured me, before we hired her, that she had aptitude for comedy.”

A crash came from behind the draperies, accompanied by a shout of, “Hands off, you creep.”

Anita raised her eyebrows.

“Mariah acts the part so deftly that it has caused Ludovic some difficulty in believing that in private life, she is perfectly capable of saying, ‘no.’ He stomps around in the mode of, ‘I will now court her in the conqueror’s style; Come, see, and overcome.’ To which Mariah does not respond well.”

“That’s Mariah. Aptitude, yes. Attitude, too.”

“As to Ludovic, what pity ’tis, one that can speak so well, should in his actions be so ill! If he would only transfer his attentions to Barbara, where they might be more welcome. Perhaps she would find them flattering. She would welcome some flattery these days. She was not happy when Philip told her that Mariah would be singing ‘Many a New Day’ henceforth. Particularly since Philip had already changed the song about the lovers’ taking a carriage ride into a satire about the cost of the Forchheim bypass and given it to Curly and the chorus instead of keeping it as addressed to her. We have all the would-be lovers in Franconia complaining that since that one stretch has soaked up the whole road improvement budget, you couldn’t drive a surrey anywhere else in the region if you tried. Philip told her that it was fine, since Curly was singing the shepherdess and sheep song to her, but she found no consolation in that. I have allotted her three more costumes to wear in the scenes where she appears, one of them genuine up-time. That has helped.”

Overall, the opening night—or, more precisely, the opening afternoon—of Franconia! in Würzburg, “with the genuine Grantville cast,” had to be delayed for four days while the actors scrambled to learn all the rewritten bits and pieces.

Bamberg

“Oh, good glory. Well hit, well hit!”

“Otto, what are you screeching about?” Else Kronacher stuck her head through the curtain that divided the sales room from the print shop, glaring at her younger son.

“This line in the new play:”

Pray enter.
You are learned Europeans and we worse
Than ignorant Americans.

“And precisely who are ‘we’ in this case?”

“A Persian salesman, slick and oily, bent upon the seduction of the heroine’s friend. Presumably representative of all the reprehensible subjects of the Porte who daily threaten the peaceful tranquility of the Germanies.”

“Ach, the trash that you read. When in your life have the Germanies been tranquil or peaceful?”

“Why Mutti, you, yourself, told me to set this Franconia! in type.” Otto’s gaze was the epitome of innocent hurt feelings.

Frau Else knew better.

“For the other, since I was born in 1618, the first year of this war, not a single year.”

“I knew you would be a source of trouble the first time I laid eyes on you.”

Mutti, you can fairly and justly hold me accountable for some things. Quite a few things. But my birth was not a causative factor for these wars. Ask Herr Eddie. He will explain it to you.”

“Where’s Melchior?”

“Out posting the placards. May I see the play when it comes to Bamberg? Please?”

“Why should I let you spend our hard-earned money to see a play when you have already set the whole thing in type?”

“It has music, they say. Music, too. Printing music is not the same as hearing it. I’ll do the woodcuts showing the melodic line for each song and its verses on separate sheets after I have finished the dialogue. It will be tricky to put together. On some of the pages, I’ll have to end the type in the middle, because the song comes next. They don’t always come out even.”

“If it looks as if that is going to happen, then use smaller type for a couple of pages until you can back the extra lines to the end of the last full page. There’s no point in wasting paper. It doesn’t grow on trees, you know. I’m going to the market.” Frau Else pulled her head back through the curtain.

Otto smirked at the curtain and whispered, “How sweetly sounds the voice of a good woman! It is so seldom heard that, when it speaks, it ravishes all senses.” Aloud he called, “Bye, Mutti.”

****

Quiet night, that brings
Rest to the labourer, is the outlaw’s day,
In which he rises early to do wrong,
And when his work is ended dares not sleep.

Tom Quiney eyed the insert he had just added to the margin of a locally printed copy of Franconia! “That works, doesn’t it? I nabbed it out of The Guardian. Act II, Scene 4. We just have to change it to the ‘Ritter‘s day.’ Who cares that it’s not new? We’re not doing The Guardian on this tour and it’s not as if most of the people coming to the plays are literary critics.”

“It’s fine.” Otto Kronacher found Tom and Dick Quiney to be kindred spirits. “When does Herr Massinger need the revision? Give me back that copy.” He jerked it out of Tom’s hands. “I can’t read your writing. Just tell me what needs to be done and I’ll write it in.”

“He is scheduled to meet with the Committee of Correspondence on Tuesday. They have made quite a few . . . suggestions, shall we say. Modifications in point of view that a prudent man would make before the play is performed in Bamberg. They want to review the changes at the meeting. Patience, the beggar’s virtue, shall find no harbor here.”

Otto waved his pencil. “There isn’t any harbor in Bamberg. Not unless you count the piers on the river.”

“Quit your nonsense.” Melchior pulled his brother’s nose and then turned to Dick. “That’s censorship. They’re supposed to be defending freedom of speech. And all the other freedoms of stuff.”

“Ah. It’s tricky. As Master Massinger has written, ‘What a sea of melting ice I walk on!’ They are not censoring us. Perforce not. They have in no way forbidden the production of the play. They have merely indicated that if certain unhappy members of the audience should happen to take exception to it as it stands, the forces of law and order might not be able to restrain them from venting their indignation at the first performance. Just a friendly warning.”

“But we have friends in the CoC.” Melchior’s voice was getting louder. “We know them. They aren’t supposed to behave like that.”

Tom frowned. “Master Massinger says that the changes they want aren’t ‘substantive.’ Well, he wasn’t happy with their demands. But he has been censored before, in England, far more extensively. Once they required him to take a whole play and rewrite the setting from modern Spain to ancient Rome because it’s comments on politics were too . . . forthright. Even then, the office did not grant him a performance license. So let us do what we must. ‘To doubt is worse than to have lost; and to despair is but to antedate those miseries that must fall on us.’ Mostly, they want to have their own people shown to be heroic.”

Otto grinned. “Then, like Pastor Meyfarth says, ‘let us put the best construction on everything.’ Don’t think of it as censorship, Mel. Think of it as local patriotism. Maybe we ought to stick Pastor Meyfarth into the play, too. Just for a few lines.”

Tom cocked his head. “What’s he like?”

“Who?”

“This pastor of yours.”

Otto provided a short synopsis of the Twelve Points of the Peasants, accompanied by the news that his sister had her eye on the pastor.

Tom and Dick looked at each other. Tom leaped up. “Verily, I say unto you, and with only a few changes in the pronouns,”

He, that would be known
The father of his people, in his study
And vigilance for their safety must not change
Their ploughshares into swords, and force them from
The secure shade of their own vines, to be
Scorched with the flames of war.

“That’s got it. That’s exactly the kind of thing Pastor Meyfarth says all the time.”

“Fine. In he goes. What else?”

“The Thornton. We could put in the Thornton.”

“Let’s put in Pastor Schaeffer, too. The one spouting propaganda for Freiherr von Bimbach. Someone can tell him, ‘You may boldly say, you did not plough or trust the barren and ungrateful sands with the fruitful grain of your religious counsels.'”

Dick leaned back. “Guys, you’re getting off the point. We don’t need the Thornton and the Schaeffer guy. I have the notes that I took for Master Massinger at the meeting, so let us proceed onward and see what can be done to suit the CoC. Pay attention, Otto. Jud Fry has to go. Or, at least, he can’t be a hired hand, even if you want to keep the name. The villain has to be either a nobleman or the son of a reactionary city council member.”

“Check. Just a minute. A nobleman named ‘Jud Fry’ isn’t very likely, is it? Even in England. I don’t think they had noblemen in America, did they?”

“So make him the loutish son of a city council member. We don’t have time to agonize. Tuesday, remember. Tuesday. Fix your eyes and thoughts on Tuesday. Here, in the long speech, William Jennings Bryan says,”

Equal nature fashion’d us
All in one mould.
All’s but the outward gloss
And politic form that does distinguish us.

“That’s when Aunt Gretchen sings,”

I’d like to teach you all a little sayin’, and learn these words by heart the way you should.
I don’t say I’m better than anybody else, but I’ll be damned if I ain’t just as good.
. . . sei ich verdammt, wenn ich nicht ganz so gut bin.

“They don’t want Master Massinger to take that song out, but they want Old Käthe to sing it instead of Aunt Gretchen. Because they don’t want the audience to get confused with Gretchen Richter. Not that it isn’t something she’d say, probably.”

Otto marked up his copy.

“Then they want Brillo to come up and say, ‘Whaddaya mean I’m no better than anybody else? I’m way better than that Merino ram.” Dick sighed.

Otto marked up the other margin.

Tom frowned. “We’ll have to make sure that Aunt Gretchen and Old Käthe and the Ewe are never on stage at the same time, because Antonia’s playing all of them. Tell Mike Mundell that two of them will have to wear capes. Different capes. She won’t have time for real costume changes. Which one of the three needs to be most important? That one won’t wear a cape.”

“The CoC people didn’t say. They ought to be happy if it’s either Old Käthe or the Ewe. Those are from around here.”

Otto smiled, a wicked, wicked smile. “Does Mistress Antonia absolutely have to play all three of them?”

“Well. She’s the only actress in the company who’s the right age.”

“Does the singer have to be really, really, good?”

“Not for all the scenes. In a lot of them, the chorus is singing, too.”

“Then we can solve Master Massinger’s ‘Ewe problem.’ And get to see the play, too. Several times, probably.”

Melchior opened and closed his mouth. Also several times. He looked like a gasping fish. He didn’t manage to utter any moderating words before Otto stuck his head through the shop curtain and called, “Mutti.”

****

“I don’t want to hear what they told Master Massinger after it’s over and done. Not even if he is willing to live with the censorship. He’s been . . . Otto, what is that word Herr Eddie uses?”

“Conditioned, Mel. Conditioned. You’ve got to focus on memorizing those vocabulary lists.”

“Yeah. Master Massinger has been conditioned to accept censorship. I haven’t. You and Dick and Tom shouldn’t be either. It’s just . . . wrong, I guess . . . what they’re making him do to his play. Plus, maybe he’s only telling us what he thinks we ought to hear. Doing like Pastor Meyfarth and putting the best construction on everything. Maybe they’ve been treating him worse than he has admitted.”

“It’s not likely that they’re making him do things we don’t know about.” Otto pointed to the type bins. “After all, we’re the ones who are printing the script with the changes in it. We have to know what all of them are.”

“They could be making worse threats than he’s told us about. So I still want to hear what they tell him while the meeting’s going on. What’s to keep them from looking at this version and telling him to make more before it suits them. And still more. It’s creeping . . . creeping something. I forget the word. I want to be there and listen. Wasn’t one of those proverbs that Herr Eddie had us memorize that ‘power corrupts?'”

“‘Power tends to corrupt.’ Herr Eddie wants us to memorize them exactly the way they are written.” Otto shook his finger. “Remember how Pastor Meyfarth says there’s really a big difference between, ‘Money is the root of all evil’ and ‘The love of money is the root of all evil.’ Herr Eddie thinks the same way.”

Dick got up and stretched. “Master Massinger puts it this way. ‘Conscience and wealth are not always neighbors.'”

“What was it that he said? Exactly?” Tom asked.

“Herr Eddie? ‘The devil is in the details.’ That’s why we have to memorize all the proverbs exactly how they are written. He calls it mental exercise.” Otto flipped through the pages of the script, looking at the marginal notes he had made. “Anyway, there’s a sort of problem with going to listen to the Committee of Correspondence meeting, Mel. Nobody invited us.”

“And that is a problem because . . . ?” Tom raised his eyebrows.

With Tom in charge, it turned out not to be a problem. More in the nature of a project. Monday evening, they moved Frau Else’s ladder, the one they usually used to wash the shit (literal) thrown at the Kronacher print shop by various dissenting apprentices off the stucco, to a different wall of a different building.

Nobody noticed it, particularly. It was a dirty ladder. Bamberg had a lot of dirty ladders.

The new location happened to be the tavern where the CoC met. However, the ladder was located three rooms behind the CoC meeting room, on the opposite side of the building, and reached to a window one story higher.

The trick was getting out of adult sight on Tuesday morning. Early enough on Tuesday morning.

Tom and Dick told Mistress Antonia, the evening before, that they were going to the print shop again, the first thing, to check any last-minute changes, and would take their breakfast there.

Otto and Melchior didn’t tell Frau Else anything at all. They left a message with the elderly maid. Hanna, increasingly hard of hearing, got the impression that someone had borrowed the ladder the previous day and they were going to a neighbor’s house to carry it back.

Otto had counted on this. He had, perhaps, worded his message in such a way as to cultivate precisely that impression. Hanna did not question the amount of food that Otto and Melchior took with them on what should be such a brief errand. The need to satisfy their appetites frequently caused their mother to emit despairing cries when she sat down to balance the household budget.

They found the window to which the ladder pointed. Open. Dick had kissed Christina, one of the chambermaids at the inn behind the tavern—kissed her several times—to ensure this fortuitous circumstance, assuring Tom that his efforts proved he was willing to undertake immense hardships for a higher cause. Which Tom doubted: Christina had a gamine face. She looked like a pixie with straight black hair. The hair around her face did not grow long, but rather fell in wisps down over her forehead. Tom would have been willing to kiss her himself if he had the chance. In any case, it was just as well she hadn’t wanted money. Gold—the picklock that never fails—was one thing that none of the boys had.

Dick had met Christina through Otto, who had met her at Pastor Meyfarth’s church while he was chaperoning his sister Martha during her weekly devout attention to the pastor’s sermons—or to the pastor who was delivering the sermons, more likely. He had taken her backstage to a rehearsal, telling her to wear her brightest clothes and then hiding her among the local hires for the chorus. Where she had performed just as well as anyone else, to his surprise. She had a good alto, even though no more training in its use than any child got in a village school.

Christina would have been happy to open the window without the bribe of Dick’s kisses. A couple of years older than any of the boys, she had been a chambermaid at the inn since she was thirteen. She was tired of it. Bored with it to the point of being willing to assume some risk if that risk brought along a chance to do something else. Like join a troupe of traveling players, perhaps.

She was waiting for them in the early dawn, giggling a little. Her brown eyes were dancing. She led them down a set of back stairs, but not into the tavern kitchen, which was already bustling with activities that involved boiling, frying, and fricasseeing. Instead, because the tavern consisted of two originally separate buildings that had been combined in a remodeling, they went through a storage pantry, up a similar set of back stairs on the other side, and down a hall. The door looked like any other door. It didn’t open into a bedchamber, though.

“See.”

A well-run inn clearly required a very large supply of bed linens. A room full of them, stacked neatly on shelves. None of the boys had ever seen so many all in one place.

“I can’t stay. I have to put the key back before the mistress realizes that I snitched it. She always leaves the key ring on the door handle for a while in the morning so the housekeeper can get things without disturbing her while she is casting the accounts. Don’t stay in here. The housekeeper will be locking it and unlocking it all morning. Look.”

Clearly, the linen closet had once been the bedchamber of some wealthy Bamberg burgher. A couple of centuries before. A burgher wealthy enough to provide himself with a privy. A privy with a nice hole in the floor. A hole that, as a result of some remodeling, was now blocked off by the ceiling of the room below.

A ceiling in which Christina, at Dick’s behest, had drilled a much smaller hole.

The hand-held drill was courtesy of Mike Mundell. Putting up and pulling down stage sets required a troupe of actors to have a pretty comprehensive set of tools. Since his dad was working in Nürnberg, he’d brought along everything in the basement except what his mom said she absolutely had to keep if the house wasn’t going to fall down around their heads.

The first requirement that they had to meet for successful spying was that all four of them must be absolutely quiet for three or four hours. This was harder than they had expected, since after they were in place, it occurred to them that they had not decided in advance which one would get to drape his body across the old privy and put his ear to the hole in the ceiling. Melchior naturally thought that he should, since it was his primary concern and he had suggested the idea in the first place. Dick was of the opinion that for services rendered, he should have the honor. This led to some scuffling until Otto reminded them that they were supposed to hold still and be quiet. While this was going on, Tom slid down through the privy opening and spread-eagled himself upon the ceiling beams below in such a way that they could not pull him back up. Not, at least, without causing a lot of noise and destroying the entire enterprise.

The others had to recognize Tom as the winner by default. Not without thinking of various forms of reprisal to be administered at some future date.

The CoC members arrived, as did Master Massinger. The meeting, duly eavesdropped upon, took place. The four boys above remained still. So still that the mice who resided in the ceiling and were quite used to voices and movements from the room below ventured out upon their ordinary business. One, young and not yet wise in the ways of the world, ran up the back of Tom’s neck and across his face. He twitched, jerked, and part of his lower body slipped off the beam onto the wattle-and-daub that filled the spaces between the beams. A shower of shattered plaster and dried-out twigs, accompanied by a few half-grown mice, landed in the middle of the CoC meeting.

Tom managed to hold onto the beam. Only one of his legs protruded through the ceiling.

This proved to be enough to grasp the attention of the people seated in the room below.

Before any member of the Bamberg CoC decided to do anything rash, Philip Massinger, a tone of deepest resignation permeating his voice, admonished, “Come on down.”

Tom slid over, grabbed the beam with his hands, swung his legs off it, and lightly dropped the remaining two feet onto the table beneath him.

“I can’t let Tom go down there by himself. The whole thing, the whole idea, was my fault.” Melchior slid down into the ceiling space and swung himself after Tom. Prudently looking to be sure that Tom was out of the way first.

“If these two were up there,” Massinger said to the leader of the CoC group, “then there are two more.” He looked up. “Dick. Otto. Now.”

The other two entered the meeting by the same method, which meant that they all arrived covered with plaster dust and mouse droppings. Massinger looked at them disapprovingly. “As the index tells us the contents of stories and directs to the particular chapter, even so does the outward habit and superficial order of garments (in man or woman) give us a taste of the spirit, and demonstratively point (as it were a manual note from the margin) all the internal quality of the soul; and there cannot be a more evident, palpable, gross manifestation of poor, degenerate, dunghilly blood and breeding than a rude, unpolished, disordered, and slovenly outside.”

“Yes, sir,” Tom replied.

“We’re sorry, sir,” Dick added.

“Moreover, perhaps you should have taken to heart the maxim that the over curious are not over wise.”

“Don’t blame Tom and Dick. The whole thing, the whole idea, was my fault.” Melchior stepped forward, prepared to shoulder the blame. “But I’m not going to apologize until I know what happened. Tom, what did you hear while you were listening.”

Tom looked from Melchior to Master Massinger to the CoC members. Then, finally, back to Melchior. “You were right. At least, they’re still trying to make him change the play to suit them better. None of them threatened him this time, but they have a whole list of stuff that they want him to put in to make them look better. Such as having the men in the chorus be CoC members instead of Jaeger.”

Massinger opened his mouth.

One of the other men raised his bushy eyebrows before Massinger could get any words out. “Don’t I know you? From somewhere?”

“I’m Melchior Kronacher. Frau Else’s son.”

That information landed on the chairman of the Bamberg Committee of Correspondence, also since the previous autumn the chairman of the Bamberg city council, like a large blob of unbaked bread dough.

“Ah, yes. We all know Frau Else. Could you provide me with further information in regard to ‘threatening’ and ‘this time’?”

The boys could. And did.

“We—we actors—know that we are foreigners, of course,” Dick summed it up. “We are here at your sufferance and pleasure. You—the government of Bamberg, which is now the Committee of Correspondence for all practical purposes—can forbid us to play. You can tell us what to play. By looking away, you can permit the destruction of all our sets and costumes by the city mob. By saying a few words, you can encourage the mob.”

“But you’re not supposed to.” Melchior’s voice rang with disillusionment. “You’re supposed to be making things better. Better than the old city council and the way it treated Willard Thornton and Johnnie F. last fall.”

The bushy eyebrows came down. Then went up again. “Herr Massinger, if I might speak with you privately for a moment. If privacy is to be found in this tavern, that is . . . ” A few moments later, in the innkeeper’s own cubbyhole, he asked, “What do you make of it?”

“Ah, young Melchior. The soul is strong that trusts in goodness. Yes. There was an earlier meeting—at which threats were uttered.”

“Thank you. Although you have spoken no names, I observed the direction in which your eyes moved, almost against your will. Like a rough orator, that brings more truth than rhetoric, to make good his accusation.”

“In my profession, I would hope to have the rhetoric as well.”

****

For the entire length of their walk back to the print shop, Melchior continued to make it plain how unhappy he was that Herr Massinger had not made any grandiose statements of principle in opposition to the imposition of censorship.

“Young man . . . ” Massinger began. “Ah, well. You are no apprentice of mine. I cannot ream you out. I shall leave that to your master.”

“Don’t have one.”

“Then to your father.”

“He’s dead.”

“Then, I suppose, to the redoubtable Frau Else. But a few words of wisdom I will give you. We have the word of the good chairman that there will be no more threats. That we may play Franconia! as it is written now, with no further changes required, and with no . . . excessive supervision . . . of any changes that may be necessary to render the cabaret . . . current, shall we say? topical? . . . as time passes. There is no need for me to posture; no need to require that the CoC officers publicly abase themselves with apologies. For a flying foe, discreet and provident conquerors build up a bridge of gold.”

****

“Since we are the ones who are putting the scripts into type,” Otto suggested, “Maybe in a few places we could have the chorus consist of the Ewe’s fine, strapping, sons. They might not notice until it was too late.”

Melchior looked at him.

“Just teasing.”

****

“We never planned on staying in Bamberg so long.” It was a month later and Mistress Antonia was fretting over the bookkeeping. More precisely, over the bottom line. There were only so many people in the city, and of those, only so many attended plays.

“This is no prudent time to leave. The rebellion makes the roads between here and Bayreuth very chancy.”

“Then you will simply have to write a new play, Philip. This week. If we are not all to be reduced to beggary.”

“Unlikely, since once more the members of the ‘American colony’ have been kind enough to house and feed us.”

“But we need to leave appropriate gifts when we finally can go. We can’t leave without acknowledging such generous hospitality.”

“We can. It would merely be discourteous.”

****

“Who is this famous Herr Eddie you keep quoting, anyway?” Tom asked. “And where is he?”

“Eddie Junker. From Grantville. He’s a down-timer from somewhere in Thuringia, I guess, but everybody thinks of him as coming from Grantville. He’s been teaching us English since . . . oh, about February, I guess.” Melchior looked at Otto. “February or March?”

“March, at least. He’s a friend of Noelle Murphy’s.”

“Why hasn’t he been around?”

“He’s up somewhere around Bayreuth, I think. So’s Noelle. Has been since March or April.”

“Darn.” That was Mike Mundell. “I like Noelle. It would have been great to see her again.”

“Where did you meet her?” Otto asked.

“She used to baby-sit for us sometimes. And her mom used to be the office manager for the doctor’s office in Fairmont where my mom took us to the pediatrician. The factory where Mom worked had its group health plan there.”

All four of the down-time boys just looked at him. It was Otto who finally got over his pride enough to ask what those words meant.

****

“Then Mariah yelled that Ludovic was a veritable octopus; a many-handed monster. She’s starting to speak in blank verse. The wordplay on the hydra, the ‘many-headed monster,’ was splendid, and quite spontaneous.”

Otto looked at Dick critically and concluded that the praise was genuine and honestly meant.

“It is good that Master Massinger was there.”

“Why? After all, if he hasn’t managed to make Ludovic stop it so far, he isn’t likely to now.”

“He is writing a new play, for Antonia. It will be called The Americaness. He has used a lot of what he learned from observing Mistress Higham and Mistress Piazza. Originally, there was not to be any up-time role for a younger woman, but more and more I suspect that there will be a place for a character based upon Mariah. The taming of a shrew is always a popular theme.”

“Black detraction will find faults where they are not. Mariah’s not a shrew,” Tom objected. “Not most of the time. Not a ‘diva,’ like the girls in Mistress Higham’s class last spring would call someone. Not if Ludovic would just leave her alone.”

****

“Your voice is changing.”

“If you were a Papist, Mistress Antonia, I would expect you to summon the Inquisition and set it upon me any moment now. For my sins, my sins, my most grievous sins.”

“You are also miserably impudent, Tom Quiney.”

“For this, you can scarce blame me. ‘Tis the work of Mother Nature.”

“Who is to understudy Mariah for Ado Annie now? At least you are still a tenor, so you can understudy Ludovic for Curly and not be a total waste and a burden upon all the rest of us. But the new timbre simply will not handle some of Ado Annie’s songs. If Philip had not assigned ‘Many a New Day’ to her, perhaps you could last the length of the summer tour. But he did.”

“I am not a total waste. That I can say with great righteousness. I am singing six different roles that Master Massinger has added to the play since Würzburg.”

“Six very small roles,” Mistress Antonia countered. “And the hope is that the audience will not notice that the same actor is playing them all. Please note. On the new programs that we now distribute, you are listed by six different names.”

“Another valuable contribution, giving the patrons the impression that we are a far larger and more prosperous company than the truth would warrant. Not to mention more cosmopolitan. Tomas Quiroga singing the Spanish spy. Hah!, I say, Mistress Antonia. Hah!” Tom took a breath. “You’re going to need somebody else to understudy Mariah, anyway. Master Massinger wanted an up-timer for the advertisements, but we all know that she only signed on for the summer. She’ll be going back to Grantville, I suppose. You need a new Ado Annie. Or you will.”

****

“You are in the chorus, for now,” Mistress Antonia said to Christina. “But I will teach you. By next summer, if you prove to be adept, you will sing Ado Annie. And you will prove to be adept, given what I will have to pay the innkeeper to let you out of the rest of this year’s employment contract.”

There was a crash behind the draperies, followed by a shriek of, “Hände weg, Du Schwein.”

Mistress Antonia sighed. “Ludovic seems simply incapable of becoming interested in any girl who might welcome his affections.”

“You don’t have to pay the innkeeper, Mistress. You can trade someone to him.”

“What?”

“Barbara Ostertag hates being a player. She thought it would be fun, back in Grantville, when she agreed to come, but it’s a lot more work than she expected. Now she truly hates it. It’s not just the lines she has to memorize. It’s Ludovic. She told me that at first she thought that it would be nice to have Ludovic’s attentions. But he showered them on every other young woman first, Mariah, Anna Maria, every temporary chorus member hired in every town, so she knows that he is only pursuing her now as his very last choice. She hates being his last choice. She calls him ‘Sir Ludovic of the Many Hands.’ He claims that since she sings the song about people saying that they are in love so sweetly, she must perceive him as a man to adore. She knows he is lying. He does not adore her. She does not adore him. She would rather be a chambermaid than spend one more day on a stage with ‘you pig.’ Let her go to the inn and I will come to you.”

“Then who is going to sing Laurey?”

Christina shrugged. “Anna Maria? She’s the understudy. Presumably the costumes fit her. Any other little idiot of a soprano you can find in Bamberg? All she has to do is stand there and look pretty.”

Mistress Antonia looked at Christina thoughtfully.

A soul mate.

Possibly, once Philip decided on an heir, a successor.

Another crash. “Ich habe dir gesagt, Händeweg!” Followed by a seriously sincere scream. “What part of ‘hands off’ don’t you understand, you creep?”

Which was followed by a high-pitched shriek. And a thud.

Mistress Antonia ran, Christina following her. Master Massinger arrived next, with Tom. Frau Else preceded Dick, who had been running her through her lines as the Ewe. Mike Mundell and the stage crew, who were working on improvements to William Jennings Bryan’s railroad car, followed.

Barbara stood in the middle of the stage. Mariah was at the edge of the platform, looking down.

“He ripped my bodice,” Barbara howled. “He broke the drawstring in the neckline of my shift.” Her voice raised to a high-pitched squall. “He yanked on my laces so hard that he tore out one of the eyelets in my bodice and it is practically new.” She walked to the front of the platform, looked at the ground.

Ludovic was there, sprawled ungracefully.

She cleared her throat mightily and spat. “Du Schwein.” She didn’t miss.

“Good going, sister.” Mariah gave her a high five.

Master Massinger announced, “Nor custom, nor example, nor cast numbers of such as do offend, make less the sin.”

Barbara looked at him. “For all your fine words, I will not remain here one more day. One more hour. One more minute.”

Mistress Antonia looked at all of them. “Tom, you are no longer the understudy for Curly. You sing Curly. Beginning this afternoon.”

Tom nodded.

“Ludovic. You are demoted to understudy. And . . . and . . . “

“And you are going shopping,” Christina suggested helpfully.

“Yes,” Antonia agreed. “That is quite right. You are going to visit a seamstress. You are going to pay for the repairs to Barbara’s shift and bodice from your own funds.”

“You are going shopping with us,” Frau Else added. “With Antonia and myself. With the boys also, so you do not change your mind and flee.”

“The bodice is practically new,” Christina added. “Barbara has said so herself. In addition to buying a new drawstring and paying to have the eyelet repaired, you must also buy her a new bodice as compensation for your misdeeds. Of the very finest wool. The new merino. With some embroidery on it.”

Antonia was feeling more optimistic by the moment. Soul mate. Successor. Dick was kissing the girl in any case. Christina would make him a splendid wife. Likely, he would think it was his own idea when the time came. The girlfriend in Grantville was surely only a passing fancy.

****

“For evil news rides post, while good news waits. Ill news, madam, is swallow-winged, but what’s good walks on crutches.”

“The news these past few days has been about as bad as it gets,” Janie Kacere said. “Here it is, August already. I’m sure I don’t know where the time goes, and I’m so worried about Emma Thornton and Pastor Meyfarth.”

“It is very gracious of you to dine with us, under the circumstances. We would not have been offended had you seen a need to cancel.” Since the players were still trapped in Bamberg by Massinger’s reluctance to risk traveling during an ongoing peasant revolt, Antonia had invited Janie Kacere, whose husband was “somewhere” because of the exigencies of handling the rebellion, and Anita Masaniello, whose husband was in Würzburg, equally absent from the marital bed even if she knew his location, to dinner.

She had invited them quite expressly so she could study the mannerisms and “body language” of two more mature American women before she undertook the role of “The Americaness” on stage.

Neither of them had been offended by her frankness.

“Do you ever wonder if, over the summer, someone could have seen something, done something, that would have prevented this?” she asked.

Anita Masaniello shook her head. “It’s August. That’s my favorite song in Oklahoma! ‘Many a New Day.’ There’s no point in asking this month’s sky where the month before went. Or what one might have done differently during that month. None. Not a single bit. ‘Never have I wept into my tea, over the deal someone doled me.’ Yeah. ‘Many a red sun will set, many a blue moon will shine before I do!’ The only thing that counts now is what I can do to get our people back from that idiotic Freiherr von Bimbach, slimy poseur that he is. He really has to be out of his mind to think that taking a few hostages will bring a halt to something of the dimensions of the Ram Rebellion.”

Antonia and the two up-time women continued their conversation.

Massinger sipped his wine, mentally writing another major speech for The Americaness.

****

Philip Massinger was writing at the same time he dictated to Tom and Dick. Antonia, with a list of characters in her hand and Mariah and Anna Maria in tow, was creating chaos in the costume department.

There had to be a new play commemorating the events that took place in early September. Immediately. The end of the Ram Rebellion had been so spectacular. The taking of the Freiherr von Bimbach’s castle under the leadership of Noelle Murphy as the youthful heroine, and Judith Neideckerin, as a formerly complaisant mistress who, because of the villain’s cruelty to her mother, turned upon him and became a heroine as well. That might not be exactly what the newspapers had reported, but it made good drama and was close enough. Plus Eddie Junker as the youthful hero, since every play needed one.

Tom was writing Judith’s dialogue. Dick was writing Noelle’s dialogue. And Eddie’s, since almost all of Eddie’s scenes involved Noelle. Every now and then, Massinger would poke a finger at one of them and tell him to have the character say “something along these lines to whomever.”

Tom was also writing dialogue for Constantin Ableidinger as the Ram. Dick was also writing dialogue for Else Kronacher as the Ewe (Massinger had decided that the new play would sublimely ignore the fact that she had not been present at the culminating events—for the sake of dramatic symmetry, she had to be).

Massinger was writing the dialogue for Anita Masaniello.

Antonia insisted that no matter what had happened in the field outside the Freiherr‘s castle when Frau Masaniello faced down von Bimbach and his evil adviser Lenz, she did not wish to be depicted as giving birth, even offstage.

Massinger wondered, reasonably enough, why not. After all, on their troupe’s tour from Calais to Grantville, she had, in the course of various plot elements in his earlier plays, been the object of attempted father-daughter incest and the victim of two rapes, had endured an abduction for nefarious purposes, and had experienced numerous other catastrophes (all of which took place offstage, of course—she merely reappeared in the next scene looking wretched and disheveled while someone described the agonies she had suffered). Not to mention her portrayal of the Emperor Domitian’s lustful wife in The Roman Actor, which had been superb. Antonia was capable of crying out, “Libidinous beast!” on a level with the most accomplished actresses of the day. Why quail at depicting the pangs of parturition?

Antonia still declined to give birth, even off stage. Firmly. So. In the play, Anita Masaniello would not be a nine-months-pregnant negotiator. She would be a presentable negotiator as accorded with Antonia’s preferences and baby Diana would not come into the matter at all.

“Faster, faster, Mike,” Massinger called. “I need the stage design for the scene in the field outside Bimbach’s castle at once. We must play Bimbach the Buffoon at least once before we leave Bamberg. Preferably more than once, so that by the time we get to Bayreuth, it will go smoothly.”

“Rehearsals. What are rehearsals?” Mike muttered to himself. “We don’t need no steenking rehearsals when it’s a Massinger production in full steam.” He paused between strokes in his sketch. “Ms. Higham would be having cat fits.”

Bayreuth, late September 1634

“At least we finally got out of Bamberg,” Philip Massinger smiled at his wife. “Are you happier now that we have fresh audiences.?”

“Margrave Christian has responded very generously to your dedication of Bimbach the Buffoon to him. Even though, I fear, each performance demonstrates that you cobbled it together rather hastily from a half-dozen other plays in between the newly authored lines.”

“The margrave is a true patron of the arts. Not to mention that I portrayed him as playing a most noble role in the events of earlier this month. I can improve upon it during the winter and add some more original lines.”

Antonia always complimented her husband when it was his due. That was one of her unbreakable rules for happy, successful, pleasurable matrimony. “Yes. Even as it is now, the introductory scene is most impressive where Margrave Christian tells Meyfarth and Weckherlin that he has not made up his mind to join the USE to seek advantage, but as a matter of sincere conviction. ‘True dignity is never gained by place, and never lost when honors are withdrawn.'”

Tom interrupted. “According to Melchior and Otto, who got it from their sister Martha, who got it from Pastor Meyfarth, who was there, that’s not exactly how the conversation went.”

Antonia frowned quellingly. “Very generously. Very generously. Very generously. To quote Mistress Higham during one of the rehearsals of Oklahoma! last spring, ‘Can you get that through your thick head, Tom Quiney?’ We can hire a wagon to take the railroad car for William Jennings Bryan’s scenes back to Grantville, and then on to Magdeburg.”

Dick propped his chin on the heel of his hand. “It was ingenious of Mike Mundell to design that center swivel on a jack, so that when we don’t need it as a railroad car, we can just rotate it and the other end can serve as a small stage when we stop in villages.”

“Or as the floor of a balcony.” Massinger jumped up. “Or a podium in the Roman Senate, if we should decide to play The Roman Actor next season. The throne room pedestal in The Great Duke of Florence. The executioner’s platform in The Old Law. Or . . . What did Mike call it, Mariah?”

“Multi-purpose. A multi-purpose facility.”

“Plus we got to put the Thorntons in it,” Dick said. “In the Buffoon, I mean. And Pastor Schaeffer. Practically every pompous sentence he’s ever uttered. Well, at least the sentences that Otto and Melchoir knew about—Schaeffer has probably said a lot of other stupid things in his life. They were a little pissed off when we didn’t put those characters into Franconia!, so they should be contented now. I sent them a copy to print.”

“Ah,” Tom thumbed his nose at his brother. “What is contentment? Should we consider its true meaning? Is Dick Quiney truly content when he kisses Christina Pittlin? Or has he not yet attained true contentment? Will he catch her or she catch him? Watch out, brother dear. But married once, a man is stak’d or pown’d, and cannot graze beyond his own hedge.”

Dick pulled at one leg of the stool on which Tom was sitting. It tipped and he landed on Mistress Antonia’s ledger, wrinkling up the open pages. Christina, moving fast, tried to rescue the inkwell. But failed. Most of the ink spilled to the floor. The rest of it, she dumped in Tom’s hair. From his position on his back on the floor, he chanted, “Dickie dotes on Stina. Dickie dotes on Stina.”

Massinger shook his head.

To all married men, be this a caution,
Which they should duly tender as their life,
Neither to dote too much, nor doubt a wife.

He kissed Antonia’s cheek. She patted his and ordered Tom, as the instigator, to get up, call a maid to clean the spilled ink, and then to go scrape the carbon block and make her some more.

Mariah leaned against the window frame, ignoring them. “Just how come is Ludovic back in your good graces? I see that he will be singing Curly this evening.”

Antonia frowned. “In all truth, Mariah, he sings better than Tom.”

Christina turned around. “Plus, we have had our revenge. We made him carry the bodice in his own hands, explain to the seamstress precisely how it came to be ripped, and forced him to pay whatever charge she deemed appropriate under the circumstances. Nor do I think that either you or I will have difficulty with his hands again.”

Massinger stood up. “What is more, he quoted my own words at me. ‘I must be bold to tell you, sir . . . ’tis tyranny to overcharge an honest man.’ I have to admire such impudence. As for Anna Maria . . . ” He looked at his wife, but it was Christina who answered.

“We owe our thanks to Mike again. He has explained to Ludovic that in Grantville, Anna Maria is the foster daughter of a woman of the Masaniello family. The foster daughter of Anita Masaniello’s first cousin Shawna, to be exact. Mike explained to him about Italians, and the ‘mafia,’ and things like that. He even managed to refer to Harry Lefferts—although he admitted to me privately that as far as he knows, although Lefferts’ mother’s father was Italian, he was not related to the Masaniello family. Still. Since Ludovic has also memorized his lines for Bimbach the Buffoon and knows very well that Frau Masaniello is of high status and higher determination when she confronts a villain . . . “

Antonia nodded. “We have a good lead tenor again. We simply have to be practical, Mariah. Tenors do not grow on every tree. Tom will be a very good actor in his prime, probably better than Ludovic, but for now he is only sixteen years old and the same is true of his voice. If he over-strains it now, trying to fill a theater, it will be useless by the time he is twenty. We have to plan ahead.”

Remembering Tom, she looked down. He was still sprawled on the floor.

“Get up, you worthless lazybones, and do as I have told you.”

****

“I like that part of the play,” Eddie Junker said, standing in the common room of the inn where he and Noelle were staying. “After Bimbach’s execution, where they have the mercenary look at Otto Schaeffer and say, ‘If you like not hanging, drown yourself; take some course for your reputation’ and Schaeffer answers,

Death hath a thousand doors to let life out.
I shall find one.
‘Tis the only discipline we are born for;
All studies else are but as circular lines,
And death the center where they all must meet.

Mariah Collins nodded. She wished that Eddie had noticed her part, even though it wasn’t—very large. Antonia had played Anita, of course. Anna Maria had appeared as Noelle. She had been fobbed off with Judith, who appeared in only two scenes, and then only as a foil for Noelle. It was pretty hard to be noticed on a stage when you just stood there like a clod while another actress told you to dry up the tears you were shedding for the fate of your aged mother.

Eddie kept right on with his literary criticism. “Those are nice lines for Margrave Christian, too, when he rebukes Schaeffer:”

He that kills himself to avoid misery, fears it,
And, at the best, shows but a bastard valour.
This life’s a fort committed to our trust,
Which we must not yield up, till it be forced.
He is not valiant that dares die, but he that boldly bears calamity.

“Everyone in the audience will understand that this brave and valiant layman, allied with the noble Emperor Gustavus Adolphus, understands the Bible better than the . . . well, he’s a pompous ass of a preacher who claims to be a better Christian than others just because he graduated from theology school.”

“I can’t say that my family was ever much for going to church.” Mariah started to say something more. She stopped, trying to figure out how to complete the statement she had started without offending Eddie. She had no idea what his religion was, but one real difference between the twentieth century and the seventeenth century was that no matter how they behaved, all the down-timers seemed to belong to some church and you never knew when they might get touchy about it. She’d found that out while she was working for the geology survey.

Plus, Eddie Junker behaved very well, so maybe he was really attached to his religion, whatever it was. And . . .

“Ever much” was an understatement. On her mom’s side, the Baxters, her aunts and uncle had gotten converted at some point, at a big revival meeting at the Church of Christ that Aunt Della’s husband went to. After that, they hassled her mom to get converted, too, so she hadn’t seen much of them. Mom hadn’t taken well to being hassled. On her dad’s side, except for her aunt Samantha, who was more like a cousin because she was only five years older—one of Master Massinger’s renegados, clearly—and who had married Steve Jennings a couple of years before the Ring of Fire and agreed to join his church, no one in her family ever went to church at all. Well, except for other people’s weddings and funerals. Left to themselves, the Grantville Collinses got married at the courthouse and buried from the funeral home. Her cousin Gayleen had even talked Ron Sanderlin into dropping out of his church when they got married, on the grounds that the women there just weren’t her style. Which was perfectly true.

She didn’t want to offend Eddie. What she’d seen of him so far, she really liked. But she didn’t want to tell him lies, either. At one of their rehearsals, one of the guys had recited a really good line for this kind of situation.

I am driven
Into a desperate strait and cannot steer
A middle course.

“Uh, well,” she finished. “I guess that’s a good thing. I’m glad you liked the play.”

“Uh.” Eddie was stymied, too. Noelle was his good friend but Mariah was . . . a little different. As in, maybe available. “I, uh, have to go back to Bamberg for a while, just as soon as things are sorted out here. But I won’t be there forever. I just have to close out some stuff with the CoC and find someone else to teach English to the apprentices. That is. When I get back to Grantville, could we have a date? Or will you be off on tour somewhere?”

“I’m not really an actress. I only signed on as Ado Annie for the summer. It seemed like it would be more interesting than certifying ground conditions for silo sites. Most good work for the geology survey isn’t right around Grantville, any more. The area’s been pretty well covered. So when I find another decent-paying job, it’ll probably be somewhere else. Wietze, most likely, considering the problems they’ve had this summer. Or up around Stassfurt. But . . . yeah, if I’m in town. Sure.”

They stood there, looking at each other? Now what?

It was something of a relief when Noelle walked in.

“I’m here, finally. At least I think I am. I thought that meeting would run forever. Am I late? Not? Oh, good. But almost. I just have to run to the privy and wash my hands. I can skip lunch. Nice to see you again, Mariah—it’s been ages. I saw Bimbach the Buffoon yesterday afternoon, with Eddie, but it will be a lot more fun seeing The Americaness from backstage. Thanks so much for inviting us. At least the girl who was playing me is a dishwater blond, too. You aren’t much over half Judith’s real size. It was just so funny to watch it all. Or more weird than funny, maybe.” She vanished through the back door and, presumably, up the stairs.

Mariah looked after her. “We didn’t really know one another that well. Noelle grew up in Fairmont, mostly. I think she was a junior in high school when her mom moved back to Grantville. Maybe a senior. Anyway, she was a couple of years ahead of me. Quiet. Sort of, ‘I dare you to say a word about it.’ She’s going back home next, isn’t she? When?”

“She’s leaving Bayreuth in a week or so, but she has some work to do on the way.”

“Even so, she has to be as nervous as a cat. I’ll make you a bet, though. By the time she gets there, she’ll be so calm and controlled that no one will ever dream she went through a spell of yakking like that before she sucked in her gut and faced them all.”

“All who?”

“Grief. She hasn’t even told you, has she. And you’re her friend, from what I hear. At least as much as she’s ever had a friend. Her parents got back together.”

“This is bad? This isn’t good?”

“She’s . . . never met her dad. Her mom was married to someone else.”

“I will be kinder to her for the next week.”

“She probably won’t appreciate it.”

“That’s okay.”

****

“I’m going home,” Noelle said, “but you’ll probably get there first. You’re going the long way, but the roads are better. I’ll be riding by way of Kronach and Saalfeld, stopping to look at some things that Matt Trelli and Johnnie F. want me to take a peek at. So here’s the address of Joe Stull. He’s my uncle. It’s sort of complicated, but anyway, I’ve heard from Steve and Anita that everything came out in the wash at my grandma’s funeral last July.”

Massinger took the slip of paper and thanked her.

“You can tell him I sent you. Joe’s mother, my grandma, Juliann Stull her name was, had a stash of old 33 rpm records and the turntable. I expect they’re still at her house.”

Massinger nodded, waiting patiently for the point of this.

“Your play this afternoon. The Americaness. Since Franconia! has made you quite a bit of money as a musical, I thought you might be interested in putting some up-time music into The Americaness, too.” Noelle looked a little uncomfortable. “Uh. Dick and Tom told Eddie and me your motto about ‘immature poets imitate; mature poets steal.’ You don’t mind?”

“Not at all.” Massinger bowed. “The line is my own.”

“Grandma had an old original cast recording somewhere in that pile of 33s. Well, she had several, but only one that’s important for what I’m trying to tell you. The songs were pretty cute, there was a good role for an actress about Mistress Antonia’s age, and one for a pretty soprano to stand around and look cute.”

“What is the name of this . . . album . . . that I am looking for?”

“Oh, gosh. Didn’t I write it down? It was about a lady ambassador. Like Sharon Nichols in Venice, now. Or Anita in Bimbach. So I thought that maybe you could make something of it. The name was Call Me Madam!” There isn’t any copy of the play there, but the back of the album case gave a sort of general summary of what happened in each act. Ask Joe to let you into Grandma’s house to listen to it.”

Massinger now understood. “Before we left Grantville last spring, there was a cast party at the home of a man named Joseph Stull and his wife Aura Lee. Their son Billy was the stage manager for the production of Oklahoma! in which Dick and Tom sang roles. He is the Secretary of Transportation for the State of Thuringia-Franconia. Is there some connection between the honorable secretary and your uncle?”

“Huh? Oh, yeah.” Noelle was a little taken aback. “They’re the same person—Grantville really wasn’t a very big town before the Ring of Fire.”

PART III

DRAMA II

Grantville, late September 1634

“Of course, they’ve missed the first few weeks of school.”

For Lisa Dailey, who spent her days doing those things that assistant principals do, prominent among which was monitoring attendance, missing the first few weeks of school was a grave misdemeanor.

“They’ll miss the last few weeks of the semester, too. Philip—Master Massinger—plans to go to Magdeburg for the Christmas season. He’s already booked a guild hall in advance.”

Lisa practically growled.

“But they’re here now,” Amber Higham said placatingly.

“In class?”

“Well, not this very minute. The troupe only got back from Franconia yesterday. Philip came by to enroll Dick and Tom again. You know that, which is why we’re having this meeting. Then he went over to book the auditorium at the middle school for several performances of the revised Franconia! and a couple of new plays he wrote over the summer and he took Dick with him. The Massingers don’t have any children, so he’s sort of decided that Dick will be his heir and expects him to learn the business angles. After that, they’re going to see Lorrie Mitchell and tell her that Barbara Ostertag decided to stay in Bamberg and work as a chambermaid at an inn. He says it is very respectable and that she will be well treated. They’re taking along a girl who used to work at the inn and joined the troupe in Barbara’s place as evidence. Tom already told Juliana and brought her a letter from her sister.”

She paused a little. “Mike Mundell is in class. Well, not in class, but in the building. At least, he’s on the campus. He says that he’s going to Magdeburg with the troupe when Massinger finishes up here. He plans to become a stage designer. It’s okay with his mother and George is still in Nürnberg, so he really doesn’t have much to say about it. Mike said that his dad just wrote back that he ought to take all the math and technical courses he could this fall, and he brought the letter to prove it. George thought that if Mike even might decide to try to get into the engineering school even part-time while he’s working in Magdeburg, he should get the prerequisites now. So he’s actually over at the Tech Center, I think, dual enrolling there as well as here at the high school.”

“So?”

“So Tom is actually in class. I think.” Amber smiled. “And Zach Schaupp. He’s going to stay with Massinger too, though, instead of finishing school here.”

Lisa frowned.

Amber turned to Victor Saluzzo. “But I do have good news. While Philip was here, I broke the news that I’m engaged to Heinrich Schütz and told him that I’m moving to Magdeburg, too, in December. He was delighted. He’s going to see if his people can participate in the drama curriculum at Duchess, even if they aren’t enrolled in any of the other classes. But, also, he says that he’ll find a replacement for me here in Grantville. I know you were worried that you might have to call on the Jesuits again and some people in town have been complaining that there are too many Jesuits on the staff already. Philip says that he knows a qualified young man. M.A. from Oxford and has actually had a couple of plays produced in London. With the commotion going on in England these days, if his friend hasn’t died in some epidemic already, he’s pretty sure he’ll be willing to come.”

The principal didn’t emit any negative body language, so Amber forged ahead. “If you can stand the thought of hiring sight unseen, just on somebody else’s recommendation, Philip will see you when he finishes his business this morning and send a letter off this afternoon. If the mails aren’t delayed and the weather isn’t so bad that it really delays travel in the middle of winter, he could get here before I leave.”

Saluzzo nodded. The seventeenth-century definition of “cultural diversity” differed from the twentieth-century version, but it was still something that he had to take into consideration when he recruited his faculty. Racial balance had dropped out of the picture, but religious balance had taken its place. The down-time citizens of Grantville, who far outnumbered the up-timers, were a fairly self-selected population. Now that central Germany wasn’t an active war zone any more, those who didn’t like the way Grantville did things tended to leave again and settle someplace else where life was more comfortable and familiar, since the laws and constitution of the State of Thuringia-Franconia now made settling in any of its towns a lot easier than it used to be. Those who stayed had, by and large, adapted to the concept of non-religious public schools. But they still watched the faculty closely for what they considered a “reasonable balance” of Lutherans, Calvinists, and Catholics among the new down-time hires. There were so few down-time Jews willing to teach in a secular school that they hardly counted. Particularly, since he was a Catholic himself, the Protestants kept an eye on how many Catholics he hired. “Just in case,” one of them had told him. “Just in case you start turning it into a Catholic school behind our backs and those Jesuits convert our children.”

Which, he had to admit, the Jesuits on his staff were highly tempted to do. Converting people was their reason for being. Victor had to keep an eye on them himself. “Not on school time” had become his mantra, with a strongly worded letter from Lawrence, Cardinal Mazzare, to back him up. Even with that, he’d had to have a couple of chats with Athanasius Kircher about keeping a tighter rein on his team.

Which meant that a Protestant English drama teacher might not be a bad idea. M.A. from Oxford. Two plays produced in London. “Tell him to go ahead,” he said to Amber. “It’s not as if it’s a lifetime commitment. I’ll write a letter for him to enclose, spelling out the salary and offering an eighteen-month contract. That’s time enough to find out whether or not he’ll fit in. What’s the guy’s name?”

“I honestly didn’t think to ask.”

“That’s okay.” He turned to Lisa. “Just do a generic position description, to start with. We can do the specific letter later.”

****

Master Massinger and Dick weren’t back by noon.

“Lorrie Mitchell probably invited them for lunch,” Lorie Lee Carstairs said. “It’s the sort of thing she would do. She’s a pretty nice lady.” She looked at Tom Quiney across the cafeteria table. “Just who did you say this Christina Somebody was who went with them?”

“Christina Pittlin. Or Pittl, I guess you would say. She’s the replacement for Barbara Ostertag. Barbara decided she didn’t like acting.”

Lorie Lee, who had inherited a lot of her mother’s temperament, went straight for the jugular. “Is she his new girlfriend?”

“More or less. I guess you could say.” Tom was pretty sure that Lorie Lee wasn’t going to suffer for long from Dick’s diversion in another direction. Mainly, she’d be annoyed that he hadn’t written and broken things off himself instead of leaving it to his brother. “Master and Mistress Massinger like her and she has good sense.”

“Is that what they call ‘the handwriting on the wall’?”

“Dick doesn’t know it yet.” Tom laughed. “But, yeah. Probably. If things work out over the next few years. She’s a bit older than Dick. Nobody’s going to make them get married, like in a play plot. But it will be easier for them to marry each other than for either of them to marry anybody else. And Christina’s pretty enough. A girl almost has to be if she’s going to be a heroine on a stage.”

“And he deliberately left it to you to tell me?”

Tom nodded. “Yeah. He didn’t say so, but I think that’s how he managed to work things out.”

Lorie Lee munched on her hard roll. It took her about three bites to relegate Dick Quiney to his proper place in the universe, which was “long gone.”

Tom leaned across the table toward her. “Tell me something.”

“What?”

“I went down to Sternbock’s last night.”

“The coffee house.”

He nodded. “Actually, tell me two things.”

“If I can.”

“Why does ‘Bohemian’ mean ‘unconventional and artistic’? I mean, with all due respect to Wallenstein, “left wing” isn’t the way anybody would be likely to describe him. And not that I’ve ever been to Prague—though Master Massinger would like to do a tour there, one of these days, if things work out right—but even though Emperor Rudolf II employed a lot of artists in his day, it’s not like it’s Italy.”

“Umm, I don’t know. We can probably find out if we go to the library.”

“Let’s then, after school, unless you have something else to do.”

“Band. I have band rehearsal. We can do it after that. I’ll call Mom.”

“Then, something else. For people who want to be ‘Bohemian’ that way, why do up-timers consider tights to be so avant garde? That’s what one woman called them. They’re hopelessly old-fashioned, really.” Tom sighed. “My grandfather wore them.”

****

“We need more play books,” Philip Massinger was looking around the middle school auditorium. “We’ll start with the new version of Franconia! We can do The Americaness and Bimbach the Buffoon. Several of my older plays should suit Grantville’s tastes. The Renegado. The Bondman. We should work up A New Way to Pay Old Debts again before Magdeburg. The audiences there will expect a different play for each evening of the twelve nights of Christmas, with something special on Twelfth Night. The CoC people should support Old Debts by buying tickets. But we need something else. Some exciting attraction. If Master Saluzzo agrees to hiring my friend, he can bring his own plays. The two that have already been produced—Holland’s Leaguer and A Fine Companion—and any new ones he’s written since we left England. That will give us a couple more.”

“Since you’ll be writing to England anyway,” Dick said, “I’ll send a letter to Aunt Susannah. She has a batch of Grandpa’s old papers and she hates storing stuff. I’ll ask her to send them along with the new drama teacher. There could be his own copies of some of his play books in with the rest of the papers, even though the ones annotated for performance stayed with the King’s Men.”

Massinger nodded with approval. “Do that.”

“I never got to go to London to see the plays there. Is Holland’s Leaguer patriotic? Or historical? It sounds like it from the title.”

Massinger cleared his throat. “The full title of the printed version, as I recall it, was Holland’s Leaguer, or a Historical discourse of the life and actions of Dona Britanica Hollandia, the Arch-Mistris of the wicked women of Eutopia, wherein is detected the notorious sinne of Pandarisme, and the execrable life of the luxurious Impudent, with the rare frontispiece of the celebrated brothel. . . . ‘Leaguer’ is the name of the brothel.”

Dick interrupted. “Have you mentioned to Principal Clinter that you intend to put this on the stage of his middle school?”

“Why should I? It was performed before the court of King Charles to great approval. His other play was also acted before the king and queen at Whitehall, several times and to great applause.”

“Because . . . “

“The Leaguer has a moral. Even though Lord Philautus is conceited and a pleasure-seeker, encouraged in his folly by his steward and parasite Ardelio, he is brought to his senses in the end by Faustina, who turns out to be his sister.” Massinger, something of an expert on the next topic, added judiciously, “Marmion handled his borrowings from Juvenal and Petronius Arbiter very well.”

“Master Massinger,” Dick said. “I don’t think that’s going to help.” He stuttered a bit, looking for the right words. “Up-timers are different. They’re really, really, prudish, a lot of them. Especially when it comes to kids. Uh. Maybe we’d better save that one for Magdeburg. And don’t mention it to Master Saluzzo this afternoon. Not if you want your friend to get a job teaching high school in Grantville.”

****

“All right then,” Victor Saluzzo said. “All we have to do is put a name on the letter. I had my secretary type it and just leave room for the address. What’s his name?”

“Shackerley Marmion.”

Victor looked up. Massinger had a perfectly straight face. For him, obviously, the name had no significant difference from “Henry Jones” or “John Smith.”

“Do you have any idea what a classroom of hillbillies is going to make of a moniker like that?”

“What would the problem be?” Massinger asked. “Here, in town, I have been introduced to a man named Haymond Shackleton. People call him ‘Stacks.’ From ‘hay,’ I presume.”

“Yeah, but . . . ” Victor paused. “I guess it’s all in what you’re used to. He’s going to be facing a class of teenagers for whom his name will be something new.”

“I will warn him.”

Early October 1634

“Hey, Mariah. Who’s that you’re with? I thought you had a date with Eddie Junker for the play.” Suzi Barclay smiled maliciously.

“He asked me, but then Tony Adducci sent him and Noelle up to Erfurt to hunt up more evidence on the Bolender thing. He’d already bought the tickets, so he gave them to me and I asked Hans-Fritz.”

“Isn’t he your relative?”

Mariah stopped a minute to think. “He’s . . . my sister’s . . .

“fiancé’s . . .

“mother’s . . .

“third husband’s . . .

“stepson,” she finished triumphantly. “Can it, Suzi, that hardly counts as incest.”

****

“I saw it at the Middle School again. Franconia!, I mean. It’s really delightful,” Amber Higham said. “Ten times funnier now than the first version the boys did in class last spring. It should do well in Magdeburg.”

Annabelle Piazza shook her head. “We saw it, too. Somebody seems to have left out ‘Do not’ at the beginning of ‘fold, bend, staple, or mutilate.’ It sort of reminds me of what happens when barbed wire snaps at the post and rolls itself up. What a tangle.”

“The original version of Oklahoma! wouldn’t make much sense to most of the people who come to see this play. Philip didn’t like the music. Heinrich says that he doesn’t care for a lot of it himself, and he is actually taking the trouble to understand how it developed between now and then. He says that Franck’s students from Coburg did a really good job adapting it, musically.”

“I suppose.” Annabelle looked a little doubtful. “What are they doing next?”

“Three or four down-time plays. Then . . . ” Amber grinned. “Master Massinger wrote a new play. The Americaness. Then he came back from Bayreuth with a letter letting him listen to the original cast recording of Call Me Madam!

“Oh yikes! There’s going to be another one?”

“Yep. Another musical. The boys are working on it right now.”

****

“We have the first version ready,” Dick said. “I can’t believe that it took us a whole six weeks.”

“The recording only had the songs, and a little synopsis of the plot on the back. We couldn’t find out any more about it,” Tom consoled him.

“We even put an ad in the newspapers to see if anyone had a video of the movie.” That was Dick.

Tom again. “But it seems like nobody does. So in addition to translating the songs, we’ve written all new dialogue. That’s what took us so long.”

Amber Higham kept turning her head. The verbal ping-pong between the Quineys went on as usual.

“So we moved it from the Grand Duchy of Lichtenburg to Rome.”

“For one thing, we couldn’t even find out where the Grand Duchy of Lichtenburg was.”

“Some emperor probably created it between now and then.”

Amber tried to say that she thought it was meant as a fictional amalgamation of Luxemburg and Liechtenstein, but Dick and Tom just kept going.

“So we moved it to a court in Italy.”

“That was the obvious solution. In a pinch, set any play in Italy.”

“We kept Princess Maria and Kenneth. They were sure crowd-pleasers.”

“But we’ve made him a Scots cavalryman instead of an American public relations flack.”

“Just to keep Jabe McDougal from getting a big head, you know.”

“And called the princess ‘Giulia’ instead of Maria. That name’s just too common.”

“And everybody has heard how some old fogies were offended by Mike Stearns’ informality at the Congress of Copenhagen.”

“Well, not everybody.”

“Everybody who’s alive and awake?”

“That’ll do.”

“When we have the grand duke coming in for the first time, he’s preceded by his herald.”

“The herald introduces him with a list of titles that go on for a page and a half.”

“Some of them are pretty cute, if we do say so ourselves.”

“Then, right after this proclamation, Sally Adams says, ‘Call me Madam.'”

“The chief of her bodyguards steps up.”

“He says, ‘And she will call you Sir.'”

Amber was starting to get dizzy from turning her head back and forth, but there was no stopping the Quineys in mid-spate.

Tom picked up the dialogue again. “Master Massinger likes Irving Berlin’s music a lot better than he did Rodgers and Hammerstein.”

“Mistress Antonia really, really likes Sally Adams. She’s going to play the role.”

“We’ve made her an ambassadress from Albion. The Scots cavalryman is the head of her bodyguard.”

Amber stopped turning her head and just listened.

“The grand duke is facing a peasant revolt.”

“Don’t tell me,” she said.

“The leader of the peasant revolt is the hero. He’s named Constantino.”

“We thought that it was quite providential that the man that Sally fell in love with was named Cosmo Constantine. Surely it must have been foreordained that we write this play.”

“As if it was fate for us to meet Noelle Murphy and for her to tell Master Massinger about her grandma’s recording.” Tom stopped, looking a little concerned. “Has anybody found out yet exactly what happened to Noelle?”

Amber shook her head. “Not that I’ve heard.”

****

“Lost your boyfriend again?”

Mariah Collins turned around with exasperation. “Eddie Junker isn’t my boyfriend. I wouldn’t have minded, not a bit, but it just didn’t work out. Every time he asked me for a date, something came up with his work. Now nobody even knows where he is, since he went chasing out of town with Noelle after Suzi and her father and the other creeps who defected to Austria.”

“So who are you with?”

“Hans-Fritz Zuehlke.”

“You’re dating some bureaucrat from the state personnel office?”

“Look, Micaela. Just because we did the geology survey together, that doesn’t give you a right to diss my friends. He’s . . . okay. All right? Somebody has to do that sort of stuff.”

“All right. No offense meant.”

“None taken.”

****

“I suppose we should have expected that Franconia! wouldn’t be a one-time thing.” Annabelle Piazza sipped her coffee. “Ed says that the rest of the USE—the rest of Europe for that matter—isn’t just going to adopt twentieth-century American culture intact. The down-timers are going to take pieces of it, modify it, put it through a wringer, and mangle it. What comes out the other end of the sausage grinder won’t be a duplicate of the up-time world, but it also won’t be what happened in Germany after 1648 up-time, either. That, I guess, is what Mike Stearns is aiming for. Something different, even if we can’t predict exactly what it will be.”

“Something better.” Amber sipped her coffee. “Although with Dick and Tom Quiney in the forefront of anybody’s mad charge toward a brave new world . . . “

****

“Actually, if you do a few rewrites, I think we can put A Fine Companion on the stage here before Christmas.” Massinger looked at Marmion. “But not Holland’s Leaguer.”

“But you’ll have to change the name of the friend of Aurelio and Careless,” Dick said firmly.

“Why?”

“Because up-timers think that ‘Fido’ is a dog. It’ll be a distraction. They won’t mind ‘Lackwit’ and ‘Crotchet.’ Just . . . umm . . . tone down some of the language, like Master Massinger said. They’ll like the plot well enough.”

“It’s not as if I haven’t heard all this before,” Shackerley Marmion said. “There are critics of the stage aplenty. Indeed, I wrote lines for one of them in the prologue:

By my consent I’ll have you
Banisht the stage, proscrib’d, and interdicted
Castalian water, and poetical fire.
‘Tis this licentious generation
Of poets trouble the peace of the whole town; . . .

“But I had heard that there was no censorship in Grantville.”

“There isn’t,” Dick said. “Nothing like the Lord Chamberlain’s Office. No licensing of plays before performance. But there is . . . public opinion, I guess you’d call it.”

“Even so,” Philip Massinger added. “Dick has the right of it. While you are in Grantville, endeavor to moderate your muse. Think of yourself as a guest, deferring to your hosts.”

“You might even sit down and read some of the up-time plays we studied in class,” Dick said. “The tedium of them—even the comedies—is sometimes beyond belief, but they are what is considered acceptable in the classroom. And they’ll applaud Aemilia’s lines. I like them, myself.”

Come sister, though our liberty be straightened,
Our minds stand free without compulsion,
There’s none can make a rape upon our will.
Well if they understood a woman truly,
They would not seek to curb so, whose nature
Rejoices like a torrent, to make way
Spite of the impediments. Now, if their wisdom
Should let us alone, we might perhaps ourselves
Find out the inconvenience and prevent it,
Which they like a false perspective would seek
To multiply upon us.

He looked at Massinger. “Christina would rather play Aemilia than Valeria, if that’s agreeable.”

“Of course. Antonia will take the part of Mistress Fondling, of course, and I will play Littlegood. We need someone for Dotario.”

Marmion shook his head. “It’s hard to get used to having women on the public stage.”

“You’ll get used to it. You’ll have to,” Dick said. “More than half of the students in your drama classes at the school will be girls, too.”

“Well, I’m used enough to that. And to the fact, as I have Aemilia saying, that females are inclined to stretch their brains.”

Dick twirled his pencil. “They stretch them a lot, here in Grantville. Now look at the passage right before that, when you have her commenting about her mother. This one:”

Although her husband be penurious,
Hard as the metal that he dotes upon,
Yet she can make him malleable, and work him,
And turn, and hammer him, and wire-draw him,
And rule him with as much correction
As one would wish to govern.

“Can you bring in something topical there? The machine shops in Grantville with their tools? The agreement with the Upper Palatinate regarding iron? Negotiations with Jacob Durre and the other metal merchants in Nürnberg, since Mike’s father is there? Something to pull the audience into the action?”

The conversation got down to the practical, serious business of putting on money-making plays. Unsubsidized plays. Plays that would make enough money, year in and year out, to support a couple dozen people.

****

Amber Higham made a preemptive strike and informed the students of their new teacher’s name well in advance of his arrival. It helped. Some.

The first three days he taught, she stayed in the classroom to observe.

The fourth day, she told them that Master Marmion was a playwright himself. Then they took the class to a matinee performance of A Fine Companion.

The fifth day, she threw him to the mercies of Drama II (advanced level, open to juniors and seniors only).

“Aurelio was stupid,” Michelle Matowski said. Then she added. “Pardon me, Mr. Marmion, but he was.”

“Personally,” Lorie Lee Carstairs said, “In my opinion, Othello was stupid, too. I just don’t have any patience with these guys who get a stolen handkerchief or ring or something and immediately conclude that their girlfriends are cheating on them. It’s really dumb to be that jealous. Really, really, dumb. If they’d just use a little common sense, they’d ask a few more questions and pretty soon they’d know better.”

“But what would that do to the plot?” Tom asked.

“I don’t want to live my life in somebody’s plot.”

“Is there no romance at all in your soul?”

“Probably not,” Lorie Lee admitted.

Shackerley Marmion drew a deep breath. “Positing that both of the men were stupid, or at least not responding in a fully logical manner, what makes Othello a tragedy and A Fine Companion a comedy?”

Wolfgang Fischer looked thoughtful. “Desdemona died and Valeria stayed alive?”

Marmion remembered that Mistress Higham had assured him that Wolfgang had a fine bass voice. She had said nothing about his intellectual powers.

Michelle shook her head. “If you ask me, the tragedy in A Fine Companion, is that Valeria forgave that stupid Aurelio and took him back. No one in her right mind would want a husband like that. Does she want to end up in a shelter for abused women in a few years?”

Dick interpreted the term “shelter for abused women” to Master Marmion.

“We never had one in Grantville,” Lorie Lee said. “We’ve all got more common sense than to be abused in the first place.”

“That’s not really true,” Robin Kerns interrupted. “My mom says that at the hospital . . . “

Lorie Lee gave the new teacher a reproachful look. “You made Valeria go mad, too, just because someone tried to ruin her reputation. Women are tougher than that. You should have made it plainer that she was just pretending, to trick her father.”

“But she didn’t drown herself, like the girl in that other play,” Robin pointed out. “Aurelio disguised himself as a doctor and cured her.”

“What makes Hamlet a tragedy and A Fine Companion a comedy?” Marmion tried once more to direct the discussion.

Wolfgang Fischer thought again. “Ophelia stayed insane and died, but Valeria got better and stayed alive?”

“The essence of tragedy . . . ” Marmion said rather feebly. He started to recollect, possibly too late, all the essays that had been written, from antiquity to the present, on the unhappy lot of the schoolmaster.

Drama II went on.

****

“At least, they got Noelle and Eddie back. I heard he got a broken arm out of it.”

“He did. I haven’t seen him, though, except just to say ‘hi’ in Sternbock’s. He was with Gerry Stone and a couple of other kids—Denise Beasley and Minnie Hugelmair—getting his cast autographed. Hans-Fritz and I went over long enough to put our names on it.”

Micaela Garrett wrinkled her forehead. “Giving up.”

Mariah nodded agreement. “He’s cute, but he’s a lost cause. Who wants a boyfriend who’s never around? Hans-Fritz is taking me to the new play tomorrow night.”

****

“Come to the play with me, Lisa. It’s the last performance before Massinger’s company leaves for Magdeburg. How long is it since you’ve gotten out of the house for anything except school functions.”

“Since they sent Allan to Magdeburg last spring.”

“That’s about what I thought. When are you going to join him? Or are you?”

“Next spring. At the end of the school year. A year apart is long enough. I’ve told Victor, but it isn’t public yet, so please don’t say anything, Amber.”

“Good. It’ll be great to have you there. Not so good for the high school, but good to have you there. Still, do you plan on not ever getting out for another six months? Come to the play.”

“But . . . .”

“No muttering about a sitter. Bring the kids. They’re old enough to sit through a play and behave themselves.”

“What’s on?”

“Something down-time. Love’s Labours Won, according to the ad in the paper.”

“There’s something familiar about the name of that play,” Lisa commented.

“It just reminds you of Love’s Labours Lost. At least, that’s what I thought of first.”

“You were an actress. I was an English Lit. major. Okay, I’ll go with you tomorrow night, Amber. But first, I want to go home and look a couple of things up in one of my old textbooks.”

****

“I’m not trying to rip you off, Philip. Really I’m not. Neither is Lisa. Could we just please, please, pretty please, take a look at that satchel of papers that Shackerley brought Dick from his aunt? Please.”

Massinger made no move to get out of his chair.

Amber looked at Dick and Tom Quiney. “They’re really yours, aren’t they?

Dick grinned. “I’d be tempted to bargain this for a better grade, Mistress Higham. Except that I have the highest grade in your class already. Aside from being tied with Tom, that is. I don’t suppose there’s any way to use it to improve our grade in civics?”

“None. Absolutely none at all.”

“You are asking us to let you look at this purely out of the goodness of our hearts? Purely as a matter of Christian charity?”

“Yes. That’s what I’m asking.”

“There ought to be something in this for us.”

“If I didn’t know you were teasing . . . “

“Let them look,” Tom said.

Massinger nodded. “In that case, scamp, you climb the stairs and fetch the satchel.”

A half hour later, Amber and Lisa thanked them and left.

“Let’s go to Tip’s. I need a drink,” Lisa said when they reached the street. “Something stronger than coffee. They have Cardenio in there, too. An autographed copy, I think.”

Amber nodded. “Me too. A drink, I mean. If we were still up-time and found the stuff in that satchel, we’d be the two most famous scholars in the world. You could be a professor of English literature at Harvard. I could go back to Minneapolis and become artistic director of the Guthrie Theater. And every scrap in that satchel ought to be in the bank vault with Grantville’s very few prohibited books.”

“That’s if we were up-time,” Lisa said with a sigh. “Here—they’re just a bunch of play books that Massinger wanted to use to expand his company’s repertoire. And it’s not as if they were major plays. If so, they’d already have been printed like the rest of them. But we really ought to encourage the boys to get them copied and published before they head off to Magdeburg next week. Can’t you just imagine what could happen to those papers while that bunch is traipsing around Germany. A cartwheel breaks and they fall into the mud. Someone drops them getting out of a barge and they fall into a river. Or . . . .”

“I don’t even want to think about it. Tip’s, here we come.”

****

Note for readers:

In OTL, the original time line of human history, both Thomas and Richard Quiney died in January 1639, probably of the plague.

Scholars who become upset about the “lost years” of William Shakespeare have certainly not done much comparative research on other Englishmen of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Almost everyone then alive has “lost years” as far as the historical record is concerned. These might better be described as years during which a person either didn’t generate any documents or generated only documents which have either disappeared over the course of time or which still rest undiscovered in some repository that no researcher has utilized.

No scholar has thus far documented where Philip Massinger was or what he was doing from the time he left the University of Oxford shortly after his father’s death, some time between 1603 and 1606, until he appeared in London as a playwright (in jail for debt) in 1613. The hypothesis that he was with a group of touring English actors in Germany is only one of those that has been offered. I have chosen to adopt it for Franconia!

Even more surprisingly for a man whose father was a high-level employee of the noble and literary Herbert family (the earls of Pembroke) and whose parents and siblings are in the historical records, nothing is known of Massinger’s wife. That he was married is documented only by the fact that one patron paid out a small stipend to his widow after his death. I have taken advantage of this lacuna by presenting the plausible explanation that she was a German actress whom he married in his early twenties and brought back to England with him. This would explain why she was never mentioned as the sister, daughter, cousin, etc. of some other man in London’s literary circles.