“Making Ideas into Reality Since 1975” —An Old Soldier

Hambühren, 5 miles west of Celle

Hans stopped just outside the door. The sun had barely cleared the horizon, and the sky was a great golden canvas with wispy streaks of pink clouds strewn across it like bits of cotton candy. It was a cool, crisp morning with the promise of a sweltering summer afternoon in store. The horses were standing in the courtyard of the small inn, indifferent to the hour.

This could not be said of their riders. With bleary eyes, and pillow creases still marking their faces, his two assistants, barely awake, moved to load the survey equipment onto the packhorses, while the inn’s stable master finished preparing the saddles on the visitor’s geldings.

The horses seemed to be watching a small dog scamper back and forth barking first at the kitchen window, then at the kitchen door. Its frantic efforts to be noticed were finally rewarded when the door opened and a well-used ham bone was tossed in its direction. The dog demonstrated remarkable agility by catching the bone and proudly bore its trophy into a corner of the stable to enjoy the largess.

This was all lost on the assistants, as they strapped down the last saddle bag. The precious transit was not trusted to the pack horses, but was mounted in a special harness behind the saddle on the master’s gelding. Finished, they plopped down on the hard bench alongside the stable.

Hans watched and listened. He had always been fascinated by their interplay, and wondered how it could have possibly developed between the two demonstrably opposite personalities.

“So, Chaim.” Andrew asked. “What, perchance, is going to happen today to ruin this beautiful morning. I’m sure you have spent all night determining the different ways we shall meet our end.” Andrew re-started the years old game between the two friends.

Chaim cracked his eyes open against the morning glare and glanced over at Andrew. “Just for you, you little gutter-snipe, I will apply my boundless wit to the endless cosmos to produce for you . . . a prophecy.” Andrew’s eyes rolled as he prepared to receive his friend’s sarcastic response.

“First, my friend, we will never smell the homey stench of our favorite London slums ever again. We shall lose our jobs within a fortnight. Our trust in this upstart German student will end in disaster after he is discovered hanging from the trellis outside some woman’s window. Second, the duchess our little Hans has been cultivating will decide we are all guilty of malfeasance, and order our unjust imprisonment. Third, a giant horse will step on my foot crushing it completely flat, and the owner of said horse will blame me for the horse losing a shoe, at which point my nose will fall off and my hair will turn bright blue.” His deadpan voice rose to a crescendo as he finished with the description of his hair. “And finally, after all is said and done, a pretty girl will come looking for you, just for the opportunity to wipe that silly grin off your face!” He raised his arms in the air as he declaimed, “We’re doomed!

The horses skittered away from the loud outburst, losing any interest they may have had in a small four-legged animal. The two-legged variety were proving more dangerous. Hans overheard the stable master as he glanced at the two foreigners and shook his head, muttering to himself; “Dummkopfs, there is no need to frighten the horses.”

Andrew eyed his friend, “You have had entirely too much time on your hands lately, my friend. Which movie was that one from?”

“Mine!” Chaim’s face crinkled with myriad laugh lines as he grinned back at his companion. “The one I will someday write about our adventures together.”

Hans turned away at the sound of the loud guffaws coming from his assistants. “Well, at least someone’s having fun this morning,” he muttered.

At this point, his presence was discovered by the laughing japesters. “And there is the star of my future comedy!” Chaim said.

Hans could hardly disagree. The hair on the back and one side of his head had been shaved partially away giving him a mop of ridiculous looking, misshapen mange, poorly covered by the hat sitting gingerly to the other side. A new bandage had been applied to the place where he had been bashed and bloodied.

He was sure his assistant thought he looked rather like Bozo the clown on one of the Grantville TV screens that Chaim found so fascinating.

“At least I managed to shave this morning, and my clothes and boots are clean. I’ve saved that much of my dignity even if I do look like a Grantville TV buffoon.” He rolled his eyes at his own sorrowful attempt at levity.

He had a massive headache left over from being thumped on the head. When he paid the innkeeper, he discovered he was liable for the bar tab his former bodyguards had run up. This news, while not surprising, was decidedly galling, and hadn’t helped his mood. The mercenary escort hired to protect him had instead gotten drunk and turned the local tavern into a shooting gallery. While it earned the idiots a quick trip to the gaol, Hans was not entirely satisfied with the outcome. On the other hand, astonishingly, an agent for Duchess Anna Eleanor had already arranged for the damages to be covered, and while it certainly made a difference in the dent the entire episode made in his purse, he wondered at the motivation. Why would a duchess worry about a surveyor’s expenses?

“Good morning, sir!” “How’s the head?” His assistants asked as they moved to greet their erstwhile employer. “Are we ready to go, sir?” “Where we going, Boss?”

“One at a time! And quieter, please!” Hans grimaced a bit at the mild pain their volume had produced. “We’re going nowhere until our guards arrive, and then we will still have to wait for the representative from the manor.” The new guards, having replaced the mercenaries at the order of the duchess after the mercenaries in question had been arrested, were in the direct service of the duke. One of them had family living in the village, which prompted them to choose to stay there instead of at the inn.

At that moment, a pair of horses rounded the corner. Thinking that it was the arrival of new guards, Hans turned to berate them on their tardiness. “Wh—”

Oops . . .

Dorotee and her father’s retainer, Hermann, appeared from behind the adjacent building, with a third horse and rider following behind. Dorotee wore the same riding jacket he had seen before, but today she wore a divided riding skirt and billowing underskirts. She had a blue and gold ribbon wound artfully through and around her braids, keeping most of her hair up and away from her neck. Secured with another ribbon, a light blue sunhat hung from her neck, swinging along her back as her mount swayed to a stop. Wisps of hair floated like a halo around her head, sparkling in the morning light.

He was stunned . . . This time, even though taken by surprise by her sudden appearance, he took the time to truly study her. Her flaxen hair was a perfect match to the blue and gold that made up her dress and ribbons. The colors flowed across the glossy black coat of the mare, their silken sheen giving the illusion of liquid metal. Her eyes were a dusky hazel which seemed to change with every fleeting thought. And her skin was lightly tanned from time spent on her beloved horse. To say he thought her beautiful was an understatement.

His paralyzed mind retreated to his concept of the divine for a suitable reference. He whispered, “Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum. Benedicta tu . . .

His assistants glanced back at Hans. “Oh, yeah,” Andrew said, “the boy is definitely smitten. Send for a priest, he needs the extreme unction! The man is taken away with love and shall surely die ere the sun comes up tomorrow.”

“That or Lust has taken him already.” Chaim whispered.

Ooof!” Andrew landed a solid elbow in his friend’s ribs and he gasped for air. Chaim nearly collapsed from the ensuing laughter.

****

As she pulled on the reins, halting her mount at the entrance, Dorotee stared at the laughing assistant. Recognizing him as the one who had retreated at her father’s approach on the day of “the incident,” she dismissed him as irrelevant and refocused her attention upon the master surveyor. His face seemed frozen in the same manner as in their first encounter, although this time it gave her a flutter of something she had never felt before. Sadly, it also reminded her that she was here as a representative of the family and that there was business to conduct. Hermann and Marie, her mother’s designated chaperones for today’s activities, were an additional reminder of her duties as they pulled even with her.

Her mother had designated Hermann as the primary representative, but admonished her daughter that even knowing the devout loyalty of their retainer, care should be taken to ensure that all the terms of the duchess’ negotiation be carried out. While Dorotee had no concerns about Hermann’s abilities on that score, she understood her mother’s intended message. If you fail to watch out for your own interests, don’t be surprised when your interests are compromised by those around you. Even Hermann could make mistakes, in other words. She intended to monitor the proceedings carefully.

Marie’s presence, on the other hand, was a bit more of a mystery to Dorotee. While she suspected that most of the reasons for her mother’s insistence upon Marie’s going along was simply that of a trusted female companion for propriety’s sake, she couldn’t help the nagging feeling that there was more than one agenda being advanced by her being there.

The master surveyor finally seemed to break out of his trance, noticing the laughter coming from his assistant. Uttering a quick admonishment that managed to stifle the laughter to mere chuckles, he approached her horse, sweeping off his hat and doing a surprisingly good approximation of a courtly bow.

“Good morning, gnaedige Frau! We are nearly finished with our preparations, and await your command!” His performance was marred, however, for when he made his sweeping gesture, the unholy mess that was his hair became fully visible to everyone.

Chaim again went into paroxysms of laughter and even Dorotee could not hold back a giggle at the ridiculous state of Hans’ hair. He straightened abruptly and jammed his hat back on his head, wincing as his bandage shifted. His face blazed bright red in embarrassment.

Dorotee took pity on him. Fixing his assistants with a piercing glare, she dismounted and moved toward him, striding with a purpose born of experience. Hermann, realizing what was coming, quickly followed suit, grabbing the reins of Dorotee’s abandoned horse and handing both sets to the stable master, who moved quickly to take them.

“Turn around, please.” For a moment Hans froze in place. “Come, come, I’m not going to hurt you. Now turn around so I can look at it.” He turned reluctantly, glancing at his assistants in trepidation. She pulled off his hat, handing it off to Hermann, and proceeded to remove his bandages, being careful to minimize his discomfort. She cringed in sympathy but was undeterred at the sight of the ugly gash along the back of his head. The disgusted look she gave her retainer bounced off him with no effect.

Dorotee closely examined the wound for infection, sighing with relief at finding none. She motioned to Marie, waving her forward with one hand while she reached toward Hermann, retrieving the hat.

“Well, this is a right mess you have here. I’m certain that is no bandage I put there.” She turned to Marie, who had dismounted, and rattled off her instructions. “Go inside and have water boiled, and have the innkeeper find some clean cloth, you know the type we need, and scissors.”

Hermann interrupted. “Lady Dorotee, I’m sure that Master Blum is well able to take care of himself.”

“Considering you are the one who put that crease in his head, I believe you have absolutely no room to talk at this point!”

Hans kept silent, for which Dorotee was grateful, as she didn’t need to have any distractions when dealing with Hermann’s obstinacy. While her father commanded his instant obedience, with her, he was quite a bit harder to order around.

“He is going to get a new bandage put on, and that is that.” She shoved a bemused looking Hans toward the entrance of the inn, forcing Hermann to follow if he wanted to continue arguing. The surveyor’s assistants moved to follow, but were held by a glare from the retainer. Dorotee maneuvered her new patient into the common room of the inn, and plunked him down on one of the benches.

“I do not want to watch our surveyor keel over just because no one thought to properly care for his wounds.”

To this, Hermann voiced no reply. He simply applied his baleful stare at the object of the conversation, triggering yet another round of chuckles from the assistants, who by now had moved to observe the action from one of the open windows.

While waiting on bandages to be prepared, she decided it would be an ideal time to brief the surveyor on his new tasks.

“You are aware of your obligations, I am told?” She stood above him busying her hands by brushing his remaining hair away from the wound.

“Ah . . . Yes.” Hans began to recite the tasks that had been conveyed to him via the duke’s sealed message. “I am to survey and prepare the plans for a resupply way station, with the location for such to be chosen by your family, with the additional caveat that it is to be in a stable area, easily built upon, with immediate access to both Hambühren and the new road.

“Speaking of which, have you considered yet where your first choice might be?”

By now, Marie had arrived with the bandages that had been requested. With a sideways glance toward Hermann, she began to lay out the materials for Dorotee. Hans tried glancing at the array only to have his head jerked back around by a quick flip of Dorotee’s hand.

“Hold still, or this will hurt.” Dorotee reached down with the precut lengths of cloth, dipping it briefly into the near boiling water. After letting it cool for a few moments, she quickly applied it to the gash on Hans’ head, drawing a flinch. “Hold still!”

She heard him hiss as she finished placing the sterilized pieces of cloth onto his scalp. As they began to dry from the heat, she wrapped the wound in the rest of the cloth, making sure to cover the open sides of the dressing with the tails as she had been taught by the up-time trained nurse who had helped during the aftermath of the French raid on the oil fields. She tied off the ends with a loose square knot and tucked the remnants into the sides.

Examining her handiwork, she looked to Hermann, motioning for him to inspect her work, as he had done in times past. Though still glaring at her patient, he acquiesced, passing judgment upon her first aid skills, producing a satisfied grunt.

Hermann turned back to her, this time with considerably more insistence. “Are we quite finished? It is past time that we should be on the road.”

“Of course, I’m finished,” she replied with a hint of a self- satisfied smile.

Hans rose from his seat, and began placing his hat back upon his head, only to have it snatched away from him by Dorotee.

“I’ll not have you destroying my work in mere minutes! You will have to do without this for at least today!”

“I thank you for your care.” He began to stare at her again, only to give a slight shake of his head, like a horse shaking off a fly, and returned his attention to Hermann. “I agree, sir, it is definitely time we should be going.”

As they exited the inn, Hans’ two assistants could be heard arguing over something, but with Hans’ quick command they mounted their horses, leaving off whatever they had been discussing. Hermann and Marie soon followed suit.

Dorotee sent a grateful look toward Marie before mounting her own steed and they headed south out of the village.

Just south of Hambühren, 5 miles west of Celle

Chaim rode close beside his partner’s horse, leaning over to whisper “What’s your bet, now?”

Andrew glanced back at Hans with a calculating look. “Three months. It’ll take that long just for him to gather the courage to ask her father. And that presupposes that he can get past Stone Face back there.”

Chaim gave his own appraisal. “I say no more than two months. In less time than that he’ll be hanging from her trellis.” His eyes traveled from Hans to the girl. “Or she’ll be hanging from his! Did you see the looks she gave him at the inn? I thought he was going to burn up on the spot, with the heat from her eyes. That was no act of a spurned woman! Like as not, soon she’ll be stringing the bait. I wonder if he realizes she fancies him. He’s dense enough sometimes to put a brick wall to shame.”

“Aye, he is that!” Andrew chuckled. “If only he were as smart with women as he is with mathematics. It’s too bad she’s not an equation. He’d be able to make her sit upside down and dance in circles!”

Chaim gave his friend a knowing look. He had observed their master’s lack of experience with women several times over the last few months.

Andrew returned the look. They both burst into laughter recalling the last disastrous encounter Hans had endured, involving a serving wench in Celle who had unaccountably taken a liking to the shy surveyor. To say that he was unsuccessful in maintaining her interest was an understatement. His comparison of her to the Pythagorean Theorem simply put the icing on the cake, as the up-timers put it.

****

As the survey stakes hove into view, the party began to loosen into its constituent parts. The assistants rode toward the road survey stakes and dismounted, beginning to unload their equipment. Hans oversaw this activity while giving the surrounding area a quick once over. Hermann had indicated a long but narrow area adjacent to the road, but had not given any particular preference to exactly where to start.

Hans watched him confer with Dorotee as she established herself under a nearby oak set in a small clearing in the center of the proposed way station. With her hair gently blowing in the wind, she seemed a picture of tranquility. Hans was drawn to the fact that she had pulled out a book to pass the time. It was too far for him to determine what kind of book, but in his mind, any book was better than no book. Books were the window to the world.

He began his survey work, quickly deciding that the first thing to be surveyed was a central stable and livestock area, offset from the main road along a bypass, which he imagined would have attached blacksmith and farrier’s shop, with a pair of inns at either end of the way station. His mind began to build the station in his imagination. It was a satisfying but time consuming task, taking up most of the day. Several times, he conferred with Hermann, ensuring that the plans he was making were within the bounds of the agreement. Hans was surprised to learn that Hermann was a former Jägermeister, and that he heartily approved of Hans’ decision to work around the trees in the area as much as possible. Nearing the completion of his task, he prepared to give his presentation to Hermann. Hans returned to the meadow where Dorotee had arranged herself, then he paused, gazing about, taking in the myriad details surrounding him in an all-encompassing gestalt.

He turned in place, allowing his eyes to match up his inner vision with the untouched reality. The picture before him stopped him in his tracks. A sudden spark of inspiration snapped across his synapses.

The image of Dorotee, sitting under the oak tree and reading a book jumped from the back of his eyes to the front of his thoughts. He sat down right where he was and drew a sketch of her leaning against the tree. In his mind he added a circular bench around the trunk, with flowers and a gravel path leading up to and surrounding the tree. It was one of his better sketches. In the drawing, escaped wisps of her braided hair were shown blowing gently in the breeze. Her dress was playfully twitched to and fro by the wind’s gentle fingers and the branches seemed to embrace her in a loving, tender fashion, playing along the edges of her shoulders like a lover’s arms.

Then a clearly frustrated Dorotee slammed her book closed and dumped it back into the saddlebag. Wondering what the book might contain that would cause such rancor; Hans began walking toward her, signaling to his assistants to begin packing their equipment.

Her eyes seemed to lock onto him as he approached, although with her current mood he wondered at his courage in approaching her. Her hazel eyes had shaded to gray, seeming to match her dire expression. Coming within comfortable speaking distance, he slowed, suddenly unsure of himself as her mood seemed to sour from bad to worse.

“Yes?” she queried sharply. “What is it?”

“A thousand pardons, gnaedige Frau. I simply wondered what might be troubling you. I noticed that you were reading earlier, but seemed upset at what you had seen.”

“It’s my mother. She wants me to learn this idiotic new math that is being taught to children in Grantville. I don’t understand it! How can you solve something that already has been solved, and why would you mix letters and numbers in math? I don’t see how to solve for x when it has no numerical value?”

Hans brightened up considerably at the mention of his favorite subject. “Ah . . . if I may explain . . . x is not a letter when it is used in math, it is simply a placeholder in an equation, used to represent a number. When you are solving for x, you are simply determining what x should be for the equation to work.”

Dorotee raised her eyebrows at this revelation, but quickly deflated again. “How do you make the equation ‘work’? It has an answer on the other side of the equal sign already! I don’t understand!”

Hans smiled at her, pulling his drafting notes out of his knapsack, flipping to a blank section. He quickly scribbled on the sheet and showed her the page.

456 – 342 =

“This is the kind of question you are used to seeing, correct?” Dorotee nodded. “Okay, now look again.” He made an additional notation and held it out again.

456 – 342 = x

“This is called an equation because the idea is the values are equal on both sides of the sign. When you are doing normal arithmetic, you are really doing this.”

Dorotee’s eyebrows furrowed in thought. Hans pointed at the x on the paper. “For this one, in order to solve for x we simply subtract three hundred forty two from four hundred fifty six.”

“Well, that’s simply one hundred and fourteen.” Dorotee focused on this new perspective with a sharpened gaze. “What about when there’s numbers and letters on both sides?” Hans scribbled franticly on the paper, excited to be showing someone algebra for the first time. He showed her the new set of notation.

4x – 10 = x + 5

“Now to solve for x, we must think about this ‘equation’ in terms of equality. We want to isolate the x on one side so we must eliminate the numbers accompanying it. But! Whatever we do on one side, we must also do on the other.”

Hans finally sat, relaxing from his uncomfortable perch. He plumped down onto a convenient tree root next to her. He continued to write, but this time showing her as he drew in the next step.

“Easiest thing to do would be to remove the five, so we will then ‘add’ a minus five to both sides of the equal sign.”

Dorotee interrupted with a start. “But why not simply subtract it?” Hans shook his head.

“It doesn’t matter now, but in higher math, there is no such thing as subtraction, only adding together positive and negative numbers . . . “

Hans continued his instructions for several minutes, walking her though the basic process of the solution, answering questions, and pointing out common errors. Proceeding from basic algebra and the Pythagorean Theorem to polynomials and quadratics, he continued in his ad-hoc instruction. She leaned closer, her eyes wide with wonder. Dorotee seemed fascinated by the information, as if a whole new existence was opening before her eyes.

Hans was so engrossed in his teaching; he failed to notice the time. The sun began to set over the horizon and reading the book became harder and harder.

Suddenly, he was interrupted in mid sentence by a long shadow crossing in front of the faded light. He glanced up in startlement to find Dorotee’s mother, Margarete, standing there watching them. He sprang from his seat next to Dorotee, almost knocking her over in his haste to create some distance between them.

“My apologies! I did not mean to presume.” Surprise tinged with fear in his voice as he hurriedly gave greeting to Margarete. Finally noticing the time, he began to apologize once more, only to be interrupted by Dorotee.

“Mother, you would not believe the things this book holds on its pages!” She cried. “It’s like it’s from another world, but it all makes sense!”

Seeing the significance of her mother’s raised eyebrow, she quickly came to Hans’ defense. “He was helping me to understand the ‘equations,’ that’s all,” she stated primly. Butter would, apparently, not melt in her mouth.

Her mother gave her a look that said “We’ll talk later” and turned back to address Hans. “I trust you have some progress to show us at dinner tonight?”

Hans was dumbstruck. He had expected to be fired instantly. Instead, by implication, he was being invited to sup at their table! What strange world had he fallen into? Were the angels of heaven going to blow their trumpets?

Again, Dorotee came to his rescue. “He has been working diligently, Mother. I requested his assistance after it became apparent that he would be able to explain this new math to me. He has been a great help! I could not imagine understanding these new ‘equations’ without his patient instruction.”

“Very well. I had expected to see you at sunset, Master Surveyor, but it seems that we all will be a tad late to dinner tonight. I’m sure you have a few things to tidy up first. We shall expect you in about two hours. Is this acceptable?”

The direct question finally broke him from his trance, which seemed to be becoming a regular state of mind for him since meeting this family.

“Oh, of course!” He jittered around in place for a moment before realizing that his sketchbook was in Dorotee’s hands. Hesitantly, he moved toward her, hoping that she could read his mind so he could speak as little as possible. Talking to women had gotten him in more trouble in recent months than anything else, so he almost feared to say anything. Fortunately she figured out what he needed and he was spared having to speak again.

At the Harenberg Manorhouse

The meal was proceeding smoothly enough, considering the circumstances. Herr Harenberg was silent for most of the meal, only responding in grunts to the questions and comments of his wife. Hans, he completely ignored. On the other hand, Margarete had plenty to say, both about his drawings of the plans and the new math he had spent the afternoon teaching Dorotee.

Dorotee as well had many things to say. Her ideas and commentary about the possible uses of algebra were astounding to him, considering she had only learned of their existence earlier that day. He watched in amazement as she reached a conclusion about one of the applications of the Pythagorean Theorem, discovering completely on her own that it could be used to determine distance. She didn’t quite know how it would be done, but knowing that A²+B²=C² gave her the clue that led to a quick discussion of geometry and trigonometry. Before he realized, he was hired on the spot as a temporary tutor, earning him a steady glare from her father.

However, after a sharp glance from his wife, Otto turned back to his meal, again ignoring the dinner guest. Clearly there had been some words said, and Hans was certain that he had been the subject of the discussion. Needing more than ever to be on his best behavior, he managed to hold his tongue better than usual, speaking for the most part only when spoken to.

His meekness seemed to satisfy Herr Harenberg that he was harmless enough. His wife, on the other hand, appeared to want something different.

After dinner, they retired to the sitting room where the servants had laid out a bottle of port wine, hot tea and some small deserts. Dorotee and her mother sat together in a low couch and began to lay out his drawings onto the table in front of them. They commented back and forth about the different facilities, occasionally asking Hans for clarification. Otto remained silent and foreboding, as if daring Hans to step out of line.

“Why is it that you have two separate inns? I would think that one would be satisfactory for here, and putting just one in the center seems like a better use of space than having one on either end.”

“Yes, ma’am. However, there is one thing I have learned about inns from my travels. If one enters the town to find the inn, by the time you get to there, you are already halfway through the town. Moreover, Celle is only a few miles further down the road. Better then to tempt one to stay at the inn as soon as they reach the way station, when they are tired from the journey and just looking for a place to stay as opposed to being halfway through town and realizing how short the rest of their journey truly is. Also, giving the illusion of longer travels beyond helps nudge them in our direction. There is of course an ulterior motive to all of this, which was my true reason for locating them there. The stables and livestock yard are located off the center of the way station, and they are going to smell. I prefer to smell flowers and a healthy breeze in the morning instead of manure. The rest of the reasons I figured out later, justifying my choice to myself.” Hans gave a self-depreciating laugh.

The discussion between mother and daughter grew heated for a time, but there seemed to be no true consensus yet. Suddenly both of them stopped, staring at the sketchbook. Hans looked over, trying to see what they were both looking at, hoping that he hadn’t left any of his scribbled notes from the road survey in his sketchbook.

“My word! How beautiful!” Margarete exclaimed.

Dorotee looked up from the sheet of paper they were examining, eyes wide, staring at him as if seeing him for the first time. Silently she passed him the sketchbook, still open to the page in question.

It showed the sketch he had drawn of Dorotee while she was sitting under the oak tree. It’s flowing curves and gentle shading contrasted jarringly against the stark straight lines of the surveyor’s notes. Seen now in the gentle light of the lanterns and fireplace, it seemed to come alive, the flickering flames giving the illusion of movement to the delicate design of pencil on paper. One could almost see the wind playing gently with Dorotee’s hair. The look of absorption on her face gave her a peaceful demeanor. Fluttering around her, oak leaves were painstakingly and exquisitely depicted.

Her eyes brimming with moisture, Dorotee turned to her mother. “Mutti . . . ” She shook her head in disbelief. “That can’t be me!” She fled the room; her footsteps echoed hurriedly up the stairs, and a final thump marked the end of her retreat as the door to her chambers swung closed.

Hans was mortified. Somehow his drawing had upset her horribly. Everything was going wrong again! That damned demon Murphy had struck again, and he silently cursed the day he decided to become a surveyor.

“I . . . I . . . I’m so, so sorry! I will go now . . . ” he stammered, scrabbling for his notes. He was stopped by a large hand placed on top of his own. He froze, looking up in terror as the glowering bulk of Otto von Harenberg loomed over him.

“Hold, boy . . . ” His voice was deep and gravelly, forceful, but not aggressive. “Let me see that.” He reached out and plucked the sketchbook from Hans’ unresisting fingers. He turned the pages, slowly and deliberately examining each diagram and picture, reading the notes given with them, until he reached the sketch. Holding it to the light, he stared into the picture as if memorizing every line. Hans quailed in fear as, for a seemingly endless moment, a frown came upon his face. It was replaced finally by something Hans had never before seen on Otto von Harenberg . . .

A smile. Not a very big one, and in truth, it could very well have been his imagination. Almost certainly was a figment of his hyperactive hindbrain, which the people in Grantville stated was the home of terror, the fight or flight reflex. It was only a small raising of the edges of his lips. Hardly anything at all.

Hans could only look on anxiously as Herr Harenberg turned to his wife. “He does good work. And I find no fault with his ethics.” He handed her the sketchbook, nodding to her as he gathered up his wineglass and made for the door. “You were right, Margarete. You were right . . . ” With this final cryptic statement, he opened the door and stepped down the hallway and up the stairs, moving slowly. His tread was heavy, as if a great weight had settled onto his shoulders during the few strides to the stairway.

Hans stared after the departing noble for nearly a minute before a polite cough reminded him that he was still not alone. No longer terrified, but immensely confused, he turned back to Margarete, several questions burning in his mind.

“I truly am sorry I made her cry. I’m not sure what I did, though.”

A gentle smile washed away some of his apprehension. “It’s not every day one is handed a masterpiece where one’s self is the subject matter.” Margarete rose from her chair, motioning him toward the foyer.

“But it was just a sketch! Not a work of art! Seeing her there is what gave me the idea of a park instead of a town square! ” He got up quickly, gathering the rest of his notes, and stuffed them into his portfolio.

“In that case, dear boy, you are truly underestimating your own worth.” She opened the front door and he stepped through, glancing back at the stairs as she spoke. She followed his eyes as they tracked upwards.

“Good night, Master Surveyor. We shall meet again in the morning.”

With that she closed the door. Hans wandered back to Hambühren’s inn, his feet hardly touching the ground. He was halfway back to the inn when he stopped in his tracks . . .

They still have my sketchbook!

****

A few weeks later, Dorotee stared out the window, drinking in the night sky with its flickering stars and gentle gusts of wind. Behind her, framed in expensive glass, the sketch hung in splendor amid paintings and childhood fancies leftover from her youth. The candle, flickering in the breeze from the open window, gave off a sepulchral light, barely illuminating the room beyond its immediate environs. The starlit sky shone upon the low brush and meadows outside like a blanket of shimmering dust, not quite visible to the eyes. The moon was a mere sliver of its normal self, hazing over occasionally as ghostly wisps of clouds occluded its meager glow.

In some ways, the sky matched her mood. Hans had been to dinner again, as he had every week since the first, this time with construction plans and suggestions on how to attract renters and merchants. His time was being increasingly monopolized by her father. While this came to her as something of a relief, considering the rocky beginnings of their relationship, it also meant that he had less time to spend teaching her and talking with her. He also brought with him a letter from the Duchess Anna Eleanor, which according to her mother, included a promise of investment and patronage. This seemed to Dorotee a giant boost for the potential success of her father’s way station, which, in turn, would cause her father to spend even more of Hans’ time on the project.

Though she realized that the idea had originated with her mother, her father had certainly opened his mind to the concept, especially now that he had the free services of a highly trained surveyor at his disposal. She had overheard him stating that it was almost like having the Royal Architect doing all the design work for them. Hans, of course, stinted at nothing in providing the absolute best work he could, going far beyond the limits of the original negotiation.

In all honesty, it was not the way station that held her attention when Hans came to visit. He was always unfailingly polite and courteous, sometime to extremes, but there was another side to him that she was beginning to catch glimpses of.

When he was tutoring her in mathematics, he seemed to be an entirely different person, no longer shy and unassuming, but confident. Always gentle in his corrections, nonetheless he drilled her relentlessly, ensuring that a certain method was solidly ingrained in her memory before moving on to the next. That confidence showed through in his work as well, demonstrating to her that there was much more to Hans than a simple servant or merchant. Here was genius, floating just beneath the surface, supporting the passion and joy he held for his chosen fields. It was contagious, infecting her with the same passion, the same drive, and the same desires. Oh, if only she had the same opportunities!

Her world had undergone a paradigm shift. No longer were her thoughts solely concerned with her next outing, her next lesson, or her next meal. Suddenly her mind was filled with an image so profound it overwhelmed her. She imagined herself, sitting, reading a book as she had done countless times with her mother. This time, however, her mother was not her companion, and the location was not her mother’s solar.

The memory surged upward from the depths of her mind, flooding away nearly every other thought. She saw herself, sitting at the base of an oak tree. Beside her, writing in his sketchbook, was Hans, a look of concentration and determination locked on his face as he produced wonders on paper. Never before had such images occurred to her. Their power was almost overwhelming, nearly turning her normally analytical mind to something resembling porridge.

A knock sounded on the door to her room, and after composing herself for a moment, she was surprised to find her father on the other side of the doorway. His eyes were solemn, seeming to carry a great weight. He strode ponderously inside, taking a seat on the room’s only chair, leaving Dorotee to sit on the edge of her bed.

“Your mother showed the young man to the door. I trust that your reaction the first time we had him here was not because you hated him . . . ” His eyebrow quirked upward in a query as he spoke, to which she quickly responded with a shake of her head. “I thought not.”

A long pause followed as he seemed to gather his thoughts. Dorotee waited patiently for him to begin, realizing that whatever he had to say meant a great deal to him. His eyes wandered the room, as if taking into memory everything he was seeing.

“Your mother has taken a liking to this young man.” He glanced up at her for a moment before continuing. “As have you, I suspect.”

Dorotee was astounded to hear her father discussing Hans so openly. Normally, whenever any young man was mentioned, he glowered and growled, saying nothing but meaning everything.

He took a deep breath and focused back on her, his eyes drilling into her, as if he could see into her soul.

“Your mother has discussed it with me, and apparently also discussed it with the duchess. They are in agreement, and while I am a little reluctant to place so much trust in this young man’s abilities, his work ethic is good, and he has good deportment. He has much better sense and tact than your half-brother in fact, which is, admittedly, not hard to do these days. His employment with the duchess will see him in good stead in the future, and I am ashamed to admit, I was wrong about him. He is not nearly the uncultured ruffian I first took him to be.”

Dorotee’s head swam with much confusion and a hint of exultation. She had to be sure! “Discussed what, father?”

“Eh?”

“What did my mother and the duchess discuss?” Dorotee was near bursting with anticipation.

“Your marriage, of course! What did you think we were discussing?”

Dorotee leaped from her seat and ran to her father, enveloping him in a fearless embrace. Hesitantly, his arms wrapped around her as well.

“If he asks for your hand, I will not tell him no, though it pains me to think that my youngest daughter might one day marry and leave this place, her home and mine.”

“Thank you, Vatti! I love you.”

Otto’s eyes widened at that bare statement of affection. So rarely do parents receive such unbidden messages from their teen-aged daughters that for a moment he was paralyzed with indecision. As the paralysis faded, his arms tightened on his daughter’s shoulders, returning her affection a thousand fold.

“I love you too, dear. I love you very, very much. And I have always wanted the best for you, in all things.” He drew back from her embrace, regaining some of his composure. “Though if he is as hesitant in other things as he is in conversation, I dare say the deed will never be done!”

Dorotee chuckled. “Leave that to me, Vatti! He’ll never know what hit him!”

Otto’s laughter chased her through the hall as she raced for the stairs to talk to her mother.

The Ducal Palace, Celle

Hans fidgeted with his waistcoat as Chaim opened the door, then waggled his eyebrows. Andrew was helping arrange the last of his formal evening-wear.

“There’s a huge crowd out there! The duchess is holding court right now, but I’m sure that will not last for long. Are you ready, Hans?”

Hans gave his assistant/new business partner as withering a look as he could manage, although it looked more like a grimace with the green color that was beginning to appear around his eyes. A whimper was all the response he could muster to his erstwhile employee’s gentle teasing.

Showing a bit of mercy, Chaim relented. “Don’t worry, Hans! You’ll do fine. Just remember your lines, don’t lock your knees, and try not to faint like you did that one time in the foyer!”

Finally, at Andrew’s signal, Hans gathered himself and stepped bravely into the next room. As he left, he overheard Chaim accosting Andrew.

“I told you he’d make it! Two months, nearly to the day, now pay up!”

****

The monsignor watched as the duchess finally joined her husband at the front of the groom’s procession in front of the Gasthaus. While he normally disapproved of the kind of matchmaking the duchess was becoming famous for, he considered this time to be one of the rare exceptions to his rule that love should find its own way. The couple whose wedding he was witnessing seemed to him a near perfect match, both in mind and in manner. The boy’s intellect was at times astounding, but erratic and needed a steadying hand, while the entirely too pragmatic girl on the other side of the coin was finally beginning to discover the wonder and joy that little bouts of impracticality can bring.

In all honesty, he had been astounded at the request for him to witness this marriage, coming as it had from the Cardinal-Protector of the USE. It had been nearly fifty years since a Catholic clergyman had been truly welcomed in this staunchly Lutheran area. After having met Cardinal Mazzare in Rome, he had developed a deep respect for the man’s intellect and compassion. He had even come so far as to consider the cardinal one of his friends. The monsignor had spent many a night acting as attendant to discussions held in His Holiness, Pope Urban’s sitting room, listening to the constant challenging and debating of the merits and demerits of Cardinal Mazzare’s books among those who comprised His Holiness’s inner circle.

Although the monsignor could not truly be considered a member of that most rarefied of groups, he had been welcome to observe and, occasionally, be brought into the conversation by the ever-engaging priest from the future, who was invariably at the center of those lofty discussions. It ultimately proved both educational and daunting. The core foundations of his belief, already eroded by the constant political upheaval inherent in Vatican life, took what seemed a terminal blow from the revelations of the future that Cardinal Mazzare brought into the mix.

Considering the war’s effect on this area of Germany, he was frankly astounded that the Catholic church could have made such inroads in the face of steadfast Lutheran resistance, even under the inspired leadership of Cardinal Mazzare. He had initially balked upon receiving the Cardinal’s missive. On the other hand, when one receives a request from a cardinal, one is obliged to accommodate said request if at all possible. And amazingly, it had been no onerous task. The townspeople, while guarded and less than entirely welcoming, were far from hostile. It had not hurt the situation that the young Catholic man who needed his counsel was a likeable sort and well connected to the local nobility.

In fact, the boy showed much promise. The streets on either side of the church door were crowded it seemed, with nearly everyone the young man had met in the last few years. Besides the duke and duchess, several of his fellow students and even a smattering of his teachers from the Imperial College were present. This also included the dean of Grantville’s technical college, the head of the school where he had studied modern surveying, and with whose recommendation he had obtained employment from the duke and duchess of Kalenberg. His brother and sister-in-law held pride of place near the front. According to the tales overheard from their corner of the gathering, his older brother had always teased him, saying that he wouldn’t dare miss this day, as it would be the vindication of all the times that his brother had saved him from bullies, proving that he was destined for greatness. The monsignor chuckled to himself as he considered the happy rivalry he had with his own brother, remembering similar phrases being touted about after his investiture ceremony as a monsignor within the Sistine Chapel.

The bride’s procession represented a substantial crowd as well. With several dozen of her family members in town for her sister’s long-awaited wedding only two weeks prior, it seemed to most that the sensible course was to simply stay for the second one as well. Considering how long the dowry negotiations had taken for the first, few could believe how quickly the bride’s father had capitulated for the second.

But most agreed; it was a love match. There would be no stopping the tide, no matter what his desires on the matter, especially knowing the girl in question. Better to surrender with dignity than go down with bitterness.

Coming from the right side of the church, Hans moved toward the center of the stairs leading to the church entrance, Chaim and Andrew following behind, both of them in matching finery on loan from some friends they had made in town. As they passed the monsignor, Hans paused, again thanking the Catholic clergyman for his attendance in what normally would be a very hostile environment for one of his faith. The monsignor looked back bemusedly, his prayer book, a precious up-time printed volume given him by Cardinal Mazzare himself, held lovingly in his hands, a smile on his face. He gave greetings to the obviously nervous young groom, reassuring him that things would work out just fine.

The bride’s arrival was heralded by a small girl-child carefully placing flower petals onto the path with all the exquisite care her three years could manage. The monsignor heard a murmur of awe arise from the congregation as the vision of an angel came into view.

The bride wore a simple but immaculately designed, fashionable new dress, beautifully hand embroidered with pearls and a wealth of lace. A wreath of roses, along with various grains and other symbolic items, adorned her hair. Carried gently in her hands was a prayer book.

The father of the bride stepped slowly at his daughter’s side. With quiet dignity, and a bit of reluctance common to all fathers, he escorted his offspring to her future partner. Onlookers stared unabashedly at the blushing bride as she passed.

The bride and groom met in front of the church, turning together toward the church, gingerly alighting upon the steps.

As they approached their destination, the monsignor suddenly recognized the roses as belonging to the same vines that had been presented as a gift to the duchess several months ago by Lady Margarete. He had known that the duchess had received the prized roses, but had not realized that they had grown so much.

No doubt, he mused, as people began to comprehend how much the duchess had involved herself in this young woman’s wedding, speculation would rise as to the reason. Assuredly, the bride’s future social calendar would be full to bursting within weeks, but hopefully, not before the honeymoon was over.

The monsignor watched the groom gaze at his intended with a dumbstruck expression. A whisper of sound escaped Hans’ lips, traveling softly to the clergyman’s ears.

Unglaublich, einfach unglaublich!”

Simply unbelievable, indeed! He smiled at the thought. The duchess had outdone herself this time. He would have to congratulate her on a masterful endeavor.

Finally, the bride arrived before her family’s minister, a man, it was said, of impeccable morality and tact, and transferred to the arm of her prospective mate. Her father kissed her forehead and turned to shake Hans’ hand. It seemed that a certain mutual respect had grown between them, which was all to the good.

What a joy to be seeing this! His hands moved of their own accord in following the Lutheran minister’s benediction in the ancient blessing of the ages.

“In nomine Patris et fillii et Spiritus Sancti . . . ” he whispered, as he listened to the Lutheran minister’s exhortation to the couple about their duties to each other and to the community. He glanced down at his prayer book one last time before focusing his attention upon the wedding before him. Looking down, he saw the dedication hand written on the blank folio of the book.

Go with God, my friend —Fr. Larry Mazzare

So be it . . . If His Holiness was of a mind to follow in the footsteps of a future church as represented by such a man, it might be that such evils as once threatened this world’s future might never come to pass. The monsignor’s eyes misted in joy as he reached an epiphany, at long last understanding the absolute faith and hope represented by a future guided to peace by one man’s conviction that all faiths were valid. In so doing, one validated one’s own faith as being true to the Word of God.

The monsignor crossed himself, offering a silent prayer of thanks to a God he now knew was real, despite years of living in the intensely politically charged world of High Church politics. Decades of self-doubt and recrimination washed away in a surging wave of peace.

“We are gathered here to witness the wedding vows of Hans and Dorotee . . . ”

****