Chapter One

October 1632 was an eventful month for Josh and Colette Modi. Their first wedding anniversary prompted Colette to make an appointment with Doctor Adams for her first ever gynecological exam, but it was early Ocotober of 1632 before the doctor could fit her into his schedule.

"So," Doc Adams said after the exam, "everything seems to be in working order. Any questions?"

Colette nodded. "If everything is in working order, why have I not become pregnant?"

"Have you ever been pregnant before?" Adams asked.

"Yes," said Colette, "about seven years ago. My son Jacques. He died when he was six months old." Colette's face took on a momentary sadness.

Doc Adams patted her arm. "I'm sorry, Colette. I know that happened frequently down-time. Were there any complications with the birth? Any fevers or infections?"

Colette nodded. "Yes, I had an infection as well as a fever that lasted several days. But it was gone in less than a week. Why?"

"You may not be able to have children, Colette," replied Doc Adams gently. "Before we learned about the relationship between bacteria and infections, most doctors didn't understand the importance of washing their hands when dealing with their patients. This is especially important when dealing with the birth of children. Many women died because of infections they got from the dirty hands of the doctors or mid-wives assisting with the birth."

Seeing the look of devastation on her face he put his hand on her shoulder. "Colette, it's just one possibility. It may be that Josh has a low sperm count. Sometimes it's just a biological incompatibility between partners. There is no way to tell without diagnostic equipment we don't have right now. All I can tell you is to keep trying."

Colette gave him a wan smile. "Thank you, doctor."

That night she cried as she told Josh.

He hugged her to him. "It's okay, Colette. I didn't marry you because of the children I thought you could bear me."

Colette sniffled and hugged him closer. "Then why did you marry me?" She knew the answer, but she needed to hear him say it.

"I married you because I love you, sweetheart. Not for children, not for money, not even for sex. For you. Till the stars grow cold and we grow old, I will love you. Forever."

Colette rubbed her eyes with the sleeve of her nightshirt and smiled at him. "I had no idea you were such a poet."

"You bring out the best in me, darling," Josh said. He looked down at himself. "Speaking of which . . . "

Colette laughed and pulled the nightshirt over her head. "We must do something about that!"

Later, when Josh was asleep, Colette got out of bed to pray.

Dear God, she thought. If this is a punishment for my sins, then I accept it as your will. If it is not, please give me the strength and the courage to persevere. Amen.

For several minutes she remained on her knees, repeating the prayer several times. When she crawled back into bed Josh mumbled, "cold feet, cold feet."

She laughed quietly and found herself at peace. Thank you, God.

****

It had taken some time for the Crucibellus Manuscripts to filter their way back to Grantville from France and England, but when they did reporters began inquiring at the Inn of the Maddened Queen, the address given in the Manuscripts. At first Colette was amused, but it quickly turned annoying and to get rid of the reporters she finally gave Joe Buckley an exclusive interview. Joe Buckley sensationalized the story, even including the dream that Colette had unwisely told him about, but eventually the furor died down and the press moved on to other issues. It was toward the end of October when her authorship of the Manuscripts brought her into contact with Henning and Regina Kniphoff.

As Colette passed through the common room of the inn, a man and a young girl rose from a table.

"Madame Modi? My name is Henning Kniphoff." The man standing in front of her was tall and well-dressed. "And this is my daughter Regina." Henning waved his hand in the young girl's direction.

Regina Kniphoff was dressed in a dark brown ankle-length skirt. Her eyes were alive with energy and intelligence and she seemed in awe of Colette when she shook her hand.

"Are you really the author of the Crucibellus Manuscripts?" whispered Regina.

Colette nodded. "Have you read them?"

"Oh, yes," Regina said, "but only the first two so far. My stepmother keeps throwing out the new ones I purchase," she said matter-of-factly. "She doesn't believe women should concern themselves with mathematics."

Henning Kniphoff winced. "Could we talk to you in private, Madame Modi? I would like to discuss my daughter with you."

Colette escorted Henning and Regina to her office.

"I believe my husband has met you? You are the chairman of the city council in Erfurt are you not?"

Henning Kniphoff nodded. "Yes. How are those four young men that your husband hired doing? I believe I heard that they are still working for him."

"Yes. They are journeymen now and doing quite well. I believe two of them even have fiancées." Colette smoothed her skirt. "How can I help you?"

Henning Kniphoff cleared his throat. "Well, I was wondering . . . "

Regina Kniphoff suddenly broke in. "Oh, Daddy. Just ask her." She turned to Colette. "I would like to come live with you in Grantville and be your kammerjungfer. My father wants me out of the house because my stepmother and I do not get along."

Regina rubbed her nose vigorously. "Excuse me. Itchy. We do not get along at all, and she is pregnant. Again." Regina rolled her eyes.

Despite herself Colette laughed. "And exactly why should I let you come live with me?"

"Because I'm smart," Regina said. "And in a world like this one I will not be educated unless I do it myself or find a good mentor. Like you."

"Bold, too, I see," murmured Colette.

Henning shrugged helplessly. He was clearly embarrassed by his daughter. "I apologize for my daughter, Madame Modi. But ever since she discovered you were the author of the Crucibellus Manuscripts, she has talked of nothing else but meeting you. I thought perhaps by coming to Grantville we could talk to you and dispense with this dream of hers. I thank you for your time." Kniphoff began to rise but stopped when Colette waved him back to his chair.

"Let's talk about this," she said. She turned to Regina. "Tell me about yourself."

As Regina chattered, Colette began to identify with the young girl. Like Colette, Regina thought differently. She was highly intelligent and seemed to have a gift for mathematics, if not quite as strongly as Colette. She also spoke several languages fluently. Regina's intelligence was clearly causing difficulties within the home of Henning Kniphoff. For the daughters of wealthy and powerful men like Henning Kniphoff, it was customary for young women Regina's age to be placed in the homes of noblemen or powerful merchant families so they could receive an education and perform duties similar to that of a page. The difference here was that Regina wanted more control over who she was placed with.

She looked at Regina as the young girl finally fell silent. A strand of Regina's blonde hair had escaped from under her cap and she played with it absent-mindedly. For a second a flash of loneliness sped across Regina's face.

Colette recognized that look. She'd seen it enough times in the mirror when she was Regina's age. The look of a young girl with no friends because she was different. Colette made up her mind. "Let's discuss the terms of your service." When she saw the sunburst smile on Regina's face she knew she'd made the right decision.

****

As October turned into November, the last two events of a hectic month dropped into place. It was a Thursday evening and Josh decided to attend the weekly meeting of the Grantville Chess Club. It was his first chance to go in over a month and he was pleased to see that Greg Ferrara had made it as well. When he caught Greg's eye and motioned to a corner table, Greg nodded and came over.

"You been busy too, Greg? Seems like I haven't seen you in months."

Greg laughed as he helped set up the chessmen. "Yeah, busy as hell. What about you? How's the crucible steel plant coming?"

"We're at full production now, two tons a week. I'm glad we did some advertising and free samples in the summer time, though. It's hard to break into a market with a new product. Everyone wants the other guy to try it first in case it's no good. But we've got some contracts now with several cutlery makers and inquiries from Solingen. Since the machine shops are starting to buy quite a bit we broke ground on the second plant last week. It's been a busy month."

After playing several games Josh asked Greg about the chemical plant.

"We're doing okay, but the big holdup is the lack of stainless steel. It's pretty critical if we want to produce large amounts of nitric acid. Not to mention antibiotics, DDT and sulfa drugs. Right now we are barely at the bucket stage."

Josh shook his head. "Well, if you can get me some chromite I could probably come up with some chemically resistant steel. Wouldn't be as good or last as long as stainless, but it might be good enough to break through your production bottlenecks for awhile."

Greg nodded. "We're going to ask Gustavus Adolphus to send an expedition to Finland to look for chromite at Kemi. But Kemi is going to require a lot of work even when we do find it."

"What about Maryland?" Josh asked. "From the information Vince had it looked like it would be pretty easy to spot and not difficult at all to mine."

Greg smiled. "But like you said at that first meeting, three thousand miles of ocean. Might be kind of a tough sell."

Still, thought Josh, both the Dutch and the English are in that general area.

Maybe Louis De Geer could be convinced to mount an expedition. It wouldn't take more than one or two hundred tons of chromite to get things rolling. He resolved to write De Geer the next day with a proposal.

Two days later Josh came home from work to find his wife sitting at the kitchen table with a letter in her lap and a stunned expression on her face. Regina was running about the room like a madwoman. She dashed up to Josh and gave him a hug. "Josh, wait till you hear the news! It's so fantastic!"

"What?" Josh asked. "What is it, sweetheart?"

Colette waved the letter at him. "I've been invited to give a lecture in Paris at the Petit Luxembourg on the Crucibellus Manuscripts. Apparently Marie de Gournay told her patroness I was the author."

"That's great! When are we going?" Josh said.

Colette laughed. "Josh, we have commitments, obligations! We promised my uncle we would help with the iron and steel plants in Essen next spring. The earliest we could get to Paris would be August."

Josh nodded. "August is fine with me. I'd love to go to Paris. Besides, don't you want to meet Marin Mersenne? And Pascal? And Roberval? You've talked about them often enough. I bet they'd love to meet the author of the Crucibellus Manuscripts. Write this patroness back, whoever she is, and tell her you can't be there until August of next year. She'll understand."

Colette laughed, but her laugh seemed a bit hysterical. "Will she? We are talking about the marquise de Combalet, Josh!"

"So?" Josh looked puzzled.

Colette sighed. Men. "She's the niece of Richelieu."

"Oh," said Josh. "THE Richelieu? As in the-de-facto-ruler-of-France Richelieu?"

Colette nodded.

"Oh, my," said Josh.

The next day Colette sent her apologies and explained that the earliest she could arrive in Paris would be August. The reply came back several weeks later. The marquise de Combalet would be delighted to offer her and her family rooms to stay at the Petit Luxembourg in August.

Chapter Two

Louis De Geer received Josh Modi's proposal for an expedition to Maryland early in 1633. After reading over the proposal he smiled.

Already on it, nephew-in-law, he thought, already on it. He chuckled to himself. Some of these American phrases were addicting.

****

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