No. Pastor Ludwig Kastenmayer put it out of his mind. His eyes must have deluded him. The cleaning woman at Countess Katharina the Heroic Lutheran Elementary School, here on the outskirts of Grantville, could not have been wearing . . . that.
He put it out of his mind until, while walking along the road to Rudolstadt, he observed some others of his female parishioners among a street-sweeping crew, among a gutter-cleaning service, and a window-washing crew. In each case, some of them seemed to be wearing what? He tried his best to pretend that he had seen no such thing.
Until the day that he entered his own home and observed the nether garment that Salome—Salome? his wife Salome?—was wearing as she bent over to clean the hearth.
He sat in his study and checked the appropriate references contained in Martin Luther's Table Talk—comments on whether or not it was worth a pastor's while to preach in regard to female modesty. They brought him no joy. Luther's thesis had been that it was not usually worthwhile to preach on such topics because, as a result of the German climate, one's female parishioners were ordinarily wearing multiple layers of skirts and petticoats that covered them from head to toe, a head scarf or hat, and not uncommonly a cloak, wool socks, lined boots, and mittens, with a hot brick under their feet.
This, the venerable Luther had pointed out, relieved German pastors of worrying about the topic of modesty, which had preoccupied so many of the early church fathers. They, living in a Mediterranean climate, had naturally been more concerned with the impact upon morals and mores of skimpy coverage, flimsy fabric, and revealing that which was better concealed. If a pastor had an affluent parish, an occasional sermon on the topic of luxury in dress might not be amiss, but that applied at least as much to men as it did to women. Usually more. For the average rural village church, even that was scarcely a problem, though.
The German climate had not changed significantly. Most of the time, at least in winter, the up-time women went around dressed in items such as "sweat shirts" which provided full coverage and did very little to emphasize those female attributes which many men found tempting. The garments were, in fact, Pastor Kastenmayer thought, quite literally as ugly as sin. The up-time men wore "sweat shirts" also, but surely only the devil himself, Kastenmayer thought with some humor, could persuade a female to put one on.
In the summer, however . . . Pastor Kastenmayer sighed. Although the up-timers were not his direct concern, their impact upon Grantville's Lutheran women was. It looked like it was going to be "back to patristics" for the themes of some of his sermons this year.
Plus, there was a more serious theological concern.
Only a few of the younger down-time women and almost none of the respectable married women in St. Martin's in the Fields parish had been tempted to try "jeans." Pastor Kastenmayer suspected that more and more of the girls attending the up-time high school wore them on weekdays, when they did not expect to be under his eye. Little Anna Krausin, Maria's sister, came immediately to mind. He occasionally had a depressing feeling that he really should try to do something about that. Although what he could do other than preach a sermon was something of a quandary.
Even Anna Krausin came to church wearing skirts of a respectable length. If not, precisely, of a respectable width, and almost certainly lacking petticoats beneath them. He referred this concern back to the topic of modesty, which appeared earlier in his notes.
If "jeans" were a peripheral matter because they had not made great inroads in his congregation—he added a mental "yet" to this analysis—those . . . things . . . that Salome had been wearing were not.
Upon inquiry, he found that the offending garments were sometimes referred to as "divided skirts" or "culottes" but the most common variant was called "skorts." Apparently these disguised trousers had become widely accepted among his parishioners.
He had refrained from reproaching her directly because . . . Salome, although an excellent wife in most ways, did not always accept reproaches as meekly as theory indicated that she should.
His first wife hadn't, either.
Hardly any wives did.
This was unquestionably one of the more lasting effects of original sin.
Except, of course, that if one read the narratives quite literally, which one certainly should do, Eve had not been inclined to obey either Adam or God Himself even before the Fall of Man. Which was most perplexing, no matter how various theologians attempted to explain it, since supposedly things had been perfect in the Garden of Eden. Did this imply that God regarded a woman with an independent mind as a proper component of paradise? Surely not. But, then . . .
Nevertheless. He pulled his thoughts together and focused them.
It was his clear duty to do something. In the Bible, more precisely in the Old Testament, more precisely at Old Testament, Deuteronomy 22:5, there was to be found the statement, in Luther's German translation: "Ein weib sol nicht mans gerete tragen/vnd ein man sol nicht weiber kleider an thun/Denn wer solchs thut/der ist dem Herrn deinem Gott ein grewel."
The English language Bible that Gary Lambert had loaned him agreed. "The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God." King James Version.
Anxiously, he checked it in the Greek translation of the Septuagint. He followed this by reference to the original Hebrew. Why waste all those years of education in the biblical languages that had been forced down his throat, after all?
His obligation was clear. He must enter the confines of Grantville proper to discover the exact cultural status of skorts and such related items as divided skirts. Did they, or did they not, pertain to a man?
Feeling vaguely morose, he wandered into an otherwise empty classroom at Countess Katharina the Heroic Lutheran Elementary School, next door to the church. Where he observed his daughter, Maria Blandina, teetering on the top of a too-short step stool, trying to tack up a new set of alphabet letters. Experiencing a panicked concern that she was going to fall off, carefully avoiding startling her, he suggested that she come down. She did manage to make her way down safely, surrounded by his anxious admonitions to "find someone taller to do that." In the process, alas, he observed that she was wearing what? Yes. That. Under her full skirt, but wearing it.
Of course, he had to admit, worn as an undergarment that did contribute a great deal to the preservation of appropriate feminine modesty. Far more than petticoats did. Hmmmn.
"I do feel obliged to do it," the pastor said to Jonas Justinus Muselius and Gary Lambert a few days later. "To determine the status of these 'culottes' and 'skorts.'"
After a few moments of further contemplation he said, "Jeans, on the other hand. They are obviously male clothing."
"Actually," Gary said, "they're sort of both. They come in two kinds. Sometimes girls do wear guys' jeans, but not usually. Not if the girl has a shape. If she does, guys' jeans are, ah, mostly the wrong shape, if you get me." He gestured with his hands. "Since Sheila was left up-time, I gave her clothes to the Ecumenical Emergency Refugee Relief Committee early on, so I can't show you. Unless we could borrow a pair from someone else."
Kastenmayer looked a little daunted by the prospect of a demonstration.
"Maybe Ronella Koch would lend us a pair, if we asked her," Gary continued.
"There you go," Ronella said. She had almost finished mounting Maria Blandina's new alphabet cards. She was only four inches taller than her friend, which didn't make a lot of difference, but had arrived from the trolley carrying the Kochs' eight-rung aluminum stepladder, which did.
She would start her adult career, teaching at Grantville high school, in a couple of days. Mathematics department. Advanced algebra and trigonometry. Her mother's determined tutoring had paid off. Combined, of course, with the incredible turnover that the high school faculty had experienced in the past three years, as experienced teachers were yanked out for other work in government or industry, replaced at first by retirees and teachers called up from the lower levels. Then the retirees, getting no younger themselves, were often unable to maintain the pace of full-time teaching and grading indefinitely.
Up-time, these plum courses would have gone to a teacher with more seniority. Here and now, down-time, Victor Saluzzo, himself the third principal in four years following Ed Piazza's move into government and Len Trout's death, counted himself lucky to get her. Even without anything resembling a teaching certification.
Her mother, Carol Koch, most widely known among down-timers for her role as an up-time delegate to the Rudolstadt Colloquy more than a year before, had steadfastly refused to sell the stepladder for its aluminum content, no matter how many anxious buyers appeared at her doorstep. In fact, after receiving several urgent appeals, she had removed the stepladder from the tool shed in the yard and now kept it under her bed in the house. As she said with perfect logic to a would-be purchaser who was pressing her very strongly, "It doesn't matter how much more money I would have in the bank. If I sell you that, we won't have a tall stepladder that's light enough for Ronella and me to carry around when we need it. And we probably never would again. So there."
"Stick your head in next door, will you, and ask Jonas if he needs anything put up, taken down, or changed around while I have the ladder here?" Ronella started to tack the last few letters to the molding.
"Will do." Maria Blandina ducked out the door.
In the next classroom, Jonas Justinus Muselius was looking glumly at his friend Gary Lambert. "I don't see why not?" he said. "It would be very suitable."
"I don't want to marry Ronella," Gary answered. "Any more than you wanted to marry Maria Blandina when the pastor asked you. Even aside from the fact that she's ELCA rather than LCMS, I don't want to marry her. I like her, but I just don't see her as wife material. At least not wife material for me. I haven't met anyone I've seen as wife material since Sheila was left up-time." He paused. "There's nothing wrong with Ronella. I'm sure she'd make a perfectly nice wife for someone else," he added charitably.
Jonas looked glum. "She's old enough that she's bound to be getting married pretty soon. We can't expect her to stay unmarried much longer. Somebody needs to make sure that she has a husband who appreciates her and will be kind to her. We ought to find her the right kind of husband. Someone with a sense of humor. Otherwise, since I'm sure that her parents will want it to be someone with a university degree, she'll end up stuck with someone like Johann Georg Hardegg, who never laughs at all. Just because he's a lawyer and suitable."
Gary would never have described himself as an intuitive type. Nevertheless, he looked at Jonas, suspicion dawning.
Jonas was thirty-two. Five years older than Gary. Jonas would never consider himself suitable for Ronella Koch, daughter of a prosperous up-time mining engineer. Not for Ronella, just turned twenty-three and already with a faculty appointment at the prestigious Grantville high school. Not with only one good arm. Not on the salary of a down-time elementary school teacher. Not.
So he was trying for what he considered the next best solution. A suitable husband. One who would make Ronella happy in the long run, even if it left him utterly miserable himself.
Jonas was that kind of person.
Gary was still thinking about this when Maria Blandina stuck her head in the door asking about any possible stepladder needs.
Jonas hated not being able to do things that required two hands. He was also realistic about not being able to do things that required two hands. He had a list of a half dozen little classroom chores that could benefit from the attention of Ronella and a stepladder.
Maria Blandina went back to her own domain. Ronella appeared with the stepladder.
Ronella didn't make concessions to Pastor Kastenmayer's flinch reactions. She was definitely wearing jeans. And a tee shirt. She scurried busily up and down, Gary moving the ladder from place to place for her.
Jonas sat there, watching the passing scenery a little wistfully. He saw no objection to jeans at all. Especially not on Ronella. There was nothing at all about jeans on Ronella that would delude anyone in the world into thinking that they pertained to a man. As an attempt at cross-dressing went, they were a total dud. When she wore them, it was perfectly clear that she was female.
Of course, that was always perfectly clear to Jonas. Meaningfully clear. Crystal clear. Increasingly clear. More transparently clear with every day that passed.
"Do you suppose," Ronella asked Maria Blandina rather wistfully, "that Jonas is ever going to make a move?"
Maria Blandina's life thus far had left her with few illusions. She had managed to hold onto a few dreams. Illusions, no. Approximately eighty children, first and second graders, day in and day out, did that to a young woman. Although she, like Ronella, was twenty-three, she had been teaching full time for five years already. Part time since she was sixteen.
"Probably not," she answered.
Early in the spring, Ronella had decided, "That one!" after she heard Jonas leading the prayer before the upper grade girls' softball game between Countess Kate, as the Lutheran elementary school was known almost universally among the up-timers, and the middle school in Grantville. He chose the first verse of Psalm 26. In the King James Version, since Countess Kate was playing an English-speaking school.
"Judge me, O LORD; for I have walked in mine integrity: I have trusted also in the LORD; therefore I shall not slide."
"That one!" she had said to herself. "The one with a wicked sense of humor. The one with a bilingual wicked sense of humor."
Now she asked, "Is there anything I can do about it?"
"Would your father be willing to propose to him for you?"
"Well, you know," Maria Blandina said in a reasonable tone of voice, "Papa asked him if he would be willing to marry me and he just said no. So we know that he'll say no if he isn't interested. How much worse off would you be if your father asked him and he said no?"
"None, I guess," Ronella admitted. "But at least the way things are I can sort of hope. It would really sort of put the kibosh on everything if he refused."
"But it would be a lot less embarrassing than if you just flat kissed him and he ran away," Maria Blandina pointed out. "Which I sort of suspect you're on the verge of doing any day now. Kissing him, I mean. It gives you a lot more room to save face to have your father do it."
"Maybe," Salome Piscatora suggested tentatively, "you could make your inquiries to the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance in Grantville. The association that quite a few of the different pastors belong to. They might have an answer."
Pastor Kastenmayer regarded his wife with scandalized horror.
"They use the same Bible," she pointed out. "Even if it's translated into a different language."
He delivered an abbreviated version of his standard sermon on the hideous consequences of consorting with heretics.
Salome had heard it all before. Her father had been a pastor, too, and both of her grandfathers had been school teachers.
After long enough exposure, a sensible person got sort of inured to sermons and lectures.
Not that she wasn't fond of Ludwig, of course.
But she had no intention of giving up her divided skirts, culottes they were called, now that she had obtained them. They were such a convenience. She had the tailor cut them full enough and long enough that Ludwig would never even have noticed if he hadn't come in unexpectedly and seen her bending over.
Which just went to show. If they had pertained to a woman well enough before he noticed, it made no sense at all to argue that they didn't after he had noticed.
She would have to talk to Carol Koch about it. Carol was pragmatic and sensible, even for a woman. Much less a man.
Ludwig went off to his study to prepare his next sermon. Salome sat down heavily on the bench under the window in the main room of the parsonage.
Salome knew that she herself was pragmatic and sensible, even for a seventeenth-century German Lutheran pastor's wife, which was saying something.
We're really sorry, but this is only available to up-to-date paid subscribers.
If you're not already a subscriber you need to know that our columns and editorials are free, along with a few other items, but almost all stories and all downloads are paid only.
- The Grantville Gazette Staff