The tangled web virginia DeMarce

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Ups and Downs

Schlitz, June 1633

Bonifacius Bodamer was standing outside his grist mill, waiting for the mail.

It was Martin Wackernagel's opinion that Bodamer was usually standing outside his mill waiting for something, while his men did the heavy work inside. Maybe he had worked harder at an earlier stage of his life, when he was a mill hand rather than a mill owner. In any case, he also served as steward of the Ritter, Karl von Schlitz, along this part of the route. To get from Eisenach to Fulda, a person went through Schlitz. That was just how the road ran.

This morning, Bodamer had other men with him.

Wackernagel perceived signs of rank. Just as a precaution, rather than simply handing the packet over to Bodamer, he pulled up his horse, dismounted, and bowed with what he hoped was the appropriate amount of respect for whomever they might be.

The two older men ignored him. The two younger men gave him a look which said that they were willing to ignore him now that he had made a reasonably appropriate obeisance, but would not have ignored him if he had failed to do so.

There were a lot of people like that around.

The two older, unidentified, men were chuckling to one another. Bodamer chuckled with them, obsequiously. He forgot to take the packet of mail that Wackernagel was still offering to him.

Liesel, Bodamer's daughter, came out of the mill and took the packet.

"May I water your horse?" she asked.

Wackernagel was still dismounted. "I would be grateful, ordinarily, but this monster is a bit frisky. I'm afraid that the millrace coming out of the pond is likely to spook him, so he will have to wait for a while."

"We have a barrel and leather bucket, right in the back of the building."

"Angel of mercy." He bowed to the girl with a flourish. "Show me where your barrel is, if you would be so kind, and I will lead him around."

"Who is with your father?" he asked once they were safely out of sight.

"Herr von Schlitz, our ruler, with his two sons."

That explained the arrogance.

"The other man, the one in green, is Lorenz Mangold. He is a city councilman in Fulda. He has been here several times, lately, talking to my father."

The chuckling that had been going on in front of the mill expanded into uproarious laughter.

"Something's funny."

"It's a pamphlet," Liesel said. "A satire. They are enjoying it a lot."

By the time they were done with the horse, the knight and his two sons were gone. Mangold was still standing there, waving some pieces of paper at Bodamer.

There was no reason for Wackernagel to go back and talk to them. The only words he heard were, "I wrote this one myself and I am very proud of it. I'll be happy to cover the costs, given how reasonable they are turning out to be."

Barracktown bei Fulda

At supper time, Martin turned in to the Hartke cottage. Dagmar the Dane always picked up anything he had for Barracktown when he came by. She always fed him, too.

A certain scurrilous pamphlet was the topic of the day.

"I tell you," Dagmar was saying. "According to my husband, Mr. Wesley Jenkins, the civilian administrator, was truly furious. He ordered all the placards torn down and sent soldiers to Neuenburg to bring the members of the Special Commission back to Fulda."

"Why so angry?"

"It showed one of his staff in a scandalous position with the abbot of Fulda. And named her."

"Ah," Wackernagel said. "Yes, I can see that. Was a military escort really warranted, though?"

"Maybe not. Even probably not. Most of the time, the roads here are fairly safe now. Although, just yesterday, Helmuth's daughter Gertrud went into Fulda itself and was accosted by the older son of Ritter von Schlitz."

Wackernagel frowned. He had seen that man just this morning, up at Bodamer's. "Were his father and brother with him?"

"In Fulda? I do not know. Not, certainly, at the time when he called Gertrud a slut and soldier's whore and pointed to the placards saying that the same fate waited for her. Other people in Fulda started pointing at her and calling her the 'up-timer's whore' too."


"Then Captain Wiegand came along with some of the Fulda militia and took her into the Ratshaus," Jeffie Garand said. He had his arm around Gertrud's shoulders. "She stayed there until the day was over and came back home with her father. According to Wiegand, von Schlitz was angry—tried to draw his sword on the captain. But the militia had other more urgent assignments, so they couldn't stop to deal with him the way he really deserved."

"Exactly what," Wackernagel asked, "was this placard about?"

Dagmar produced one. She had several. The soldiers had obeyed the orders to tear them down, which did not mean that they had destroyed such entertaining reading matter. And, in any case, they could be used to paper the walls of the cottages. The more layers of paper a woman pasted up on the wall, the fewer drafts would come through in the winter.

She had several copies of the pamphlet, too. She gave Martin a couple. He tucked them into his saddlebags.


They were about to start eating. Whether Sergeant Hartke was home yet or not, a meal could be kept warm only so long. A minor riot appeared to break out by the entrance to the compound. Jeffie jumped up and ran out; then came back with Hartke.

"I finally threw that sutler out," the older man was saying. "He's been trying for weeks to overcharge really drastically on the thread and notions for making the rest of the new uniforms and I've already warned him three times. Tell everyone tomorrow, Dagmar. He's not to be allowed back. Have some of the women take everything out of his cottage and throw it on the ground just outside the entrance. If he wants it, he can come and haul it away. If he doesn't bother, then it's free pickings."

The conversation meandered back to the scandalous pamphlet and stayed there all through the rest of the meal.

Wackernagel headed back down the road. There would still be a couple of hours of daylight and he didn't want to waste it.


Gertrud Hartke and Jeffie Garand wandered out of the compound, up in the direction of Menig's paper mill. They had discovered a rather nice stand of bushes there a couple of weeks before.

"Jeffie," Gertrud asked. "Can men really do all the things that those woodcuts in the pamphlet showed?"

"Not, um, precisely. No."

She didn't say anything.

"If you would really like to know what we can do, I'd be glad to demonstrate the whole procedure, so to speak. Think of it as a lesson in up-time scientific method. The hands-on experimental approach to finding out."

Gertrud thought about it. Up till now, she had really sort of been teasing Jeffie. He had made it so plain what he wanted from her, but at the same time he had been so unbelievably well-mannered about it, that she couldn't resist teasing a little. But . . . If all those people in Fulda already thought that she was a soldier's whore, why shouldn't she be one? Especially his?

"Okay," she said.


"Gertrud," Jeffie said. "You know what?"

She shook her head no. It was too dark to see, but he felt her hair move against his chin.

"Last winter, Derek—Major Utt, that is—said something. He said that if I got you pregnant, I was a married man."


"I'm not as forgetful as people sometimes think I am."

Gertrud snuggled in. She wouldn't have minded being a soldier's whore. Not really a lot, at least if Jeffie was the soldier. There were plenty of them in Barracktown. But a soldier's wife would be better. She wondered how long it would take for her to become a married woman.


Martin Wackernagel found it odd to pull into the post station in Gelnhausen and not see David Kronberg waiting. He finished his business and prepared to start out.

There was a young woman standing outside.

"You are Wackernagel?"

"Yes, that's me."

"Have you seen David Kronberg?"

"I passed him at Neuhof. He was heading for Fulda, just as he planned."

She smiled. "Do you know where he will be staying, in case my father might wish to find him?"

"I told him to stop at Barracktown. Sergeant Hartke just threw out one of the sutlers, so there's a cottage standing empty. I expect he can stay there a few days until he finds a job. If David's already gone when your father gets there, tell him to ask for Dagmar. That's the sergeant's wife. She'll know where he is."

Riffa went home and talked to her mother. A sutler thrown out. A cottage. Zivka went to bed thinking. Could she afford to wait for her husband to come home? A sutlery. A permanent business for an honest man. A home, perhaps.


"Ask him in person," Meier zum Schwan had requested. "I've written a letter for you to take, explaining the details. But please deliver it in person and tell him how urgent it is for me."

So here he was, talking to a rabbi. Martin Wackernagel smiled to himself. At least he knew the history. Jews had settled in the county of Hanau long ago. About four hundred years ago, probably. They had been expelled not long ago, in 1592. Then Count Philipp Ludwig II came into power in 1603 and he changed it again. He invited Jews back to his capital city—only wealthy Jews, to be sure, but Jews. He let them build a synagogue; he issued a charter defining their legal status and protecting them. The community had grown steadily. From ten persons in 1603 to almost fifty families now.

Including the rabbi. Der dicke Meier wanted him to come to Gelnhausen to arbitrate the dispute within the Kronberg family.

"Isn't it a bit late?" Martin had asked.

"No. That's why David left when he did. Before it became too late; before someone said something that could not be retracted. Though Jachant Wohl came perilously close with her words about vagrants."


"Yes," Menahem ben Elnathan said. "Yes, I will go to Gelnhausen."

Wackernagel looked at the man. He wasn't young. He did not look particularly strong, either. "If it can wait for a week," he offered, "I will stop here on my next trip outbound and go with you to Gelnhausen. David Kronberg isn't there in any case. He has gone to Fulda."

"I would not refuse your offer," the rabbi answered. "It will still be necessary to deal with all the others involved in the debacle."

"I brought your newspaper, too," Wackernagel said.

The rabbi picked it up and shook his head. "Useful, but so predictable. It's been the same pattern for years. Almost everything concerning the Ottoman Empire comes through Venice. Vienna sends news about Hungary, the Balkans, and the Turkish wars. Nearly all the articles with information about the Spanish possessions in southern Italy, Spain itself, Africa, Latin America, and the Philippines come through the imperial post office in Rome. If it pertains to England or France, it probably came through Antwerp although, possibly, now that the Swedes have a post office there, through Hamburg. Cologne gathers the news from the northern Netherlands and from the Germanies themselves, although that is now somewhat counterbalanced by the efforts of the postmaster in Frankfurt itself. A person has to read every story with an eye to who provided the information and how it is slanted."

He looked up hopefully. "Do you have unofficial gossip?"

Wackernagel offered a summary of the scurrilous pamphlet that had recently been circulated in Fulda.

"That is an unusually specific attack. Much of the material that has been sent to me recently is more generic in nature." Menahem ben Elnathan showed Wackernagel some examples of the anti-Semitic pamphlets that had been circulating in the CPE.

"Look," Wackernagel said. "Most of the pamphlets that you have bear no resemblance to the one in Fulda. But these two have a similar typeface and illustration style. I don't think that I have ever seen this typeface before."

"They are similar in another way," ben Elnathan observed. "Most of the pamphlets are general attacks. But you say that the two women mentioned in the Fulda exemplar are real." He picked up one of the other pamphlets. "As Rebecca Abrabanel, the wife of Michael Stearns, is quite real."

"I've never seen her," Wackernagel said, "Rebecca Abrabanel, that is. Or either of the Fulda women, but the up-timers in Fulda say that the face on the image of Clara Bachmeierin was a quite good likeness."

"Nor have I seen Rebecca Abrabanel. But something concerns me. The typology of Rebecca as the deceiver, deceiving Isaac into extending the blessing to Jacob rather than Esau, would not, I think, be the first thing that would spring into a Gentile's mind."

"If I could borrow that," Martin said, "I could show it to my brother-in-law. He's a printer; he might see something in it that we don't."

"You can borrow several. I'm not likely to run out."

Once More, with Feeling

Frankfurt am Main, June 1633

"What do you think of them, Crispin?" Martin asked.

His brother-in-law looked down at the pamphlets.

"You want to know if I think they're nasty? Loathsome? Fetid?"

"I want to know if you recognize anything about them. There's no printer's logo of any kind; not even an imaginary location and forged name of a printing house. No date of publication. I can tell that much for myself, but I'm not a specialist. You are."

"Let me look at them in the morning. In the daylight."


"I don't think they were printed."

"Crispin, they're lying on the table right in front of you. Of course they were printed."

"Umm, um. Look at this. It's printed. I printed it right here."

It was a neat pamphlet, full of illustrations, advising an expectant father how to build nursery furniture in his spare time. Self-improvement was the bread and butter of the small printer.

"Now, this one. Escher put it out last week. How to Make Beer at Home."

Martin picked it up.

"And this one. It's from Freytag. Sample Letters to Government Officials. Both of these have the place and printer identified. They're trying to make money, after all. But just compare the pages."

Martin did not have much luck. Crispin patiently showed him the difference, point by point.

"I think these pamphlets you brought, both the Abrabanel one, which you say that according to ben Elnathan came from Magdeburg, and the one that showed up in Fulda, were produced on these new 'duplicating machines.' "

"That means?"

"I tell you, Martin, these new stencil systems will be running small printers out of business. If I don't manage to get hold of one of these 'duplicating machines' pretty soon, my own business is going to fold. It's not as if I make my money printing large editions of thick academic books. And Escher so far hasn't even let slip the name of the man he bought it from."

"Put an ad in the paper," Martin suggested.

"For what?" Merga asked. "Crispin isn't trying to sell something."

"Say you want to buy one. Escher and Freytag may not want to tell the rest of you where they bought them, but I'd say it's pretty likely that the maker would like to sell more."

The expression of Merga's face became quite predatory. "I'm going down to the post office right now." Which she did.

"While she's gone . . ." Crispin said.

Martin looked up. It wasn't like Crispin to sound so hesitant.

"This pamphlet that the Gelnhausen rabbi loaned to you . . . the one naming Rebecca Abrabanel . . ."


"I don't even like to suggest it. Jews get enough trouble in this world without my adding to it. But the way that it is written. I can't help but wonder about the possibility of an apostate—a convert—writing it. First generation—one born and educated in Judaism. That pamphlet, and some of the others the rabbi had collected. They rely quite a lot upon Talmudic tropes. If not an apostate, then perhaps a university-educated Hebraist."

"Either possibility is less desirable than the other."

"You might just mention them to the rabbi, though. Rabbis are trained to think their way through unpleasant possibilities. That's part of what they do."


He couldn't leave without going upstairs and saying goodbye to his mother. Or he could, but he would regret it later.

"About settling down," she was saying.

"Look, Mutti," he said patiently. At least he made the effort to sound as if he were saying it patiently.

"It isn't just that I like being on the road, though I do like being on the road. I like it a lot. But working as a private messenger is a lot less subject to political vicissitudes than working for the imperial postal system used to be. Or, for that matter, than working for the Swedish postal system is now."

She looked skeptical.

"I wasn't dependent upon Johann van den Birghden's favor to get my job, which is just as well. I sort of doubt that van den Birghden would have hired the son of a man who worked for his main rival."

That was true enough—something that his mother couldn't argue with. Van den Birghden was not only the postmaster but also the newspaper publisher. It was the Frankfurter Post-Avisen. The only one, now. Martin's late father had worked as an itinerant salesman for Egenolph Emmel, a bookseller and van den Birghden's rival newspaperman. He had started the Frankfurter Journal in 1615.

Then van den Birghden had come to Frankfurt to run its newly established central post office for the Thurn und Taxis in Brussels. In 1617 he had founded the other paper. Emmel sued. In the course of the litigation, Birghden asserted that postmasters had a legal right to a monopoly on publishing newspapers.

"I've stayed out of the postmaster's way," Martin continued. "Van den Birghden is a busy man. Reminding him that my father ever worked for Emmel would not be a clever move. Even as a private courier, I have to work with the post offices, but it's not hard for me to avoid him. An ordinary person hardly ever has any reason to encounter the head of the postal system, especially not now that he is so busy establishing new routes. He's speeding up the field post system for the Swedish army. He's setting up alliances with the other postmasters working for the Swedes such as Wecheln in Leipzig and Stenglin in Augsburg. He's trying to speed up the links from Mainz to Hamburg and from there to Stockholm."

"Every one of those," his mother answered, "offers an opportunity for a man who is ready to settle down."

She looked at him.

"But," she said, "if you will not, perhaps you will not. Nonetheless, you could get married even if you continued to ride the Imperial Road. It is not likely, now, that Crispin and Merga will ever have children. I want to be a grandmother before I die."

He fled down the stairs. Mutti's new thought could be dangerous. Never, never before, had she separated the ideas of "getting married" and "settling down." Always before, one had gone with the other.

The Wheels of the Gods

Gelnhausen, July 1633

It wasn't pleasant, Zorline Neumark thought. The community had not just split since David Kronberg left. It had shattered into a dozen pieces. It wasn't clear that it could ever be put back together. The only people who didn't seem to be involved, one way or another, were Zivka zur Sichel and her daughter, who had kept completely out of it.

Though they would probably be drawn in once Zivka's husband Simon came back from his current trip. Whenever he was in Gelnhausen, he made up part of the minyan.

Now, though, the Wohls were not speaking to her husband. Salman and Daertze were trying to keep the peace between Meier and Abelin. Some of the Zons' in-laws weren't speaking to any of them. The parents of Feyel Wohl's betrothed were said to be having second thoughts after Jachant's very unsuitable statements. Feyel and her betrothed, who really did want to marry one another, now blamed Jachant. Hindle was shrewish.

Zorline was very glad to see the arrival of Menahem ben Elnathan. In a way, she was glad to see him riding with the Gentile courier. It sent a signal that Samuel Wohl, parnas or not, would not have things all his way. The president of a Jewish community was not a dictator.


"He's back," Riffa reported to her mother. "The courier. He brought the Hanauer rabbi, then went to the post office again."

"Get your basket, then. I have hired the teamster to come for the rest of it the day after we have left. He has the key to the lock. The current rent we have paid for the cottage with the sickle expires the day after that. We will follow the rider to Fulda."

Barracktown bei Fulda

"Can you believe it?" David Kronberg asked earnestly. "It was a competition, but still . . . Only forty-two hours from Berlin to Hamburg. They say that the Brandenburg messengers are regularly covering Königsberg-Berlin in four days, now; Berlin-Cleves in six days when there aren't any armies in the way."

Three or four other post riders were gathered at the table, talking shop.

Not that David was a post rider, exactly, although he did have a job. He had happened to arrive in Fulda in the middle of a dispute between the NUS administration, the Swedes, and the city fathers over whether the city gates would be opened to allow passage of post riders in the night, since the main road led right through the city and the post office and change station with the remounts were inside the walls.

Since the city fathers would not budge from their stance that any proper set of gates remained closed from sunset to sunrise, the Swedes and the NUS moved the post office to Barracktown and surfaced a riding path around the city walls. David had ended up as a postal clerk, accepting, sorting, bagging, and routing the mail.

Since the up-timers had made this suggestion right after his first attempt to ride a horse a diligence for the whole length of a fifteen-mile posta, he seemed to be settling in happily enough. He still got to hang around a post office. That had been his real ambition.

Martin Wackernagel listened to the riders unhappily. None of the men sitting around the table seemed to have any doubts about the glories of riding short-distance posta lengths. None of them seemed to have any doubts about the wisdom of enforcing a government monopoly on mail handling.

Except Veit Huss. He was a teamster, not a post rider. Visions of stagecoaches danced in his head. Post chaises. Based on a novel, of all things, telling about life in England two hundred years in the future. A world in which the roads were so good that the mails were transported by coaches that also carried passengers.

"It will be decades before the roads permit anything like that," one of the riders said. "Especially in the Rhön region. Can you imagine trying to take one of those 'post chaises' at any speed from Hünfeld to Kassel by way of Hersfeld? Or from Fulda to Würzburg? Just along that old heights-road that follows the Doellbach upwards to Motten . . ." He started drawing a map with his finger in the moisture that the beer steins had dripped onto the table. "I've talked to some of the Frammersbach teamsters and they say . . ."

"Except, maybe, right around that Grantville place." Another man picked up his stein. "I've actually seen the roads they brought back in time. Even the down-time roads they are improving would carry coaches easily most of the year."

"My cousin Hans—" Huss began.

"Is a road contractor," the rider retorted. "He has visions that the New United States will pay him money to make the roads around Fulda look like the roads around Grantville. Fat chance."

"It wouldn't have to be all the roads. They could just start by improving the main mail routes to that standard . . . Some are already fairly good. Think about that comfortable stretch from the monastery of Thulba as far as Hammelburg on the Franconian Saale out at the edge of the Abbey's lands."

Martin's thoughts wandered.

Maybe, now that the king of Sweden and his new up-timer allies wanted more than just a field post system for the army, van den Birghden would become a consultant to many of the king of Sweden's allies. Maybe, the post office would need many more civilian carriers who would do for the CPE what the Thurn and Taxis did for the Holy Roman Empire.

Unless politics got in the way. There were advantages to being an independent courier. Sometimes, it was better not to work for the government. Martin had kept right on riding the Imperial Road in 1627 when the fortunes of war and pressures of politics had forced van den Birghden out as postmaster in Frankfurt.

Van den Birghden was a Protestant. Before the war started, it had been acceptable for a Protestant to hold an important job in the imperial system. Van den Birghden had enemies. The charge was that he had been spying for the Protestants—telling them what was in confidential letters that important imperial officials and commanders sent through the postal system. He had fought being fired, of course. It had taken them several months and several hearings to get rid of him. Ferdinand II replaced him with a Catholic, even though a lot of influential people from the archbishop-elector of Mainz to General Tilly himself had advised the emperor to keep him on.

Martin had kept on riding the Imperial Road when the king of Sweden's forces swept through in the fall of 1631 and reinstated van den Birghden.

While it was all going on, while the politicians fought over control of the postal system, Martin had kept riding. He might not be as fast, but his customers knew him and trusted him. Riding this route was a lot more than a living. Riding this route was his life.

"Across the top of that pass before you get to Speicherz . . ."

"Over another mountain in order to reach the Schondra . . ."

"Additional teams needed at Brückenau . . ."

"New bridge across the Sinn . . ."

The voices ran over and into one another.

"David," he said. "I hate to interrupt this thrilling conversation, but there's something you may want to know."

"My father has changed his mind?"

"Not exactly. Zivka zur Sichel and her daughter Riffa are at the Hartkes."

David Kronberg practically flew out of his seat.


Martin had deliberately built enough time into this run that he could stop and talk to Veit Huss and his cousin. Mail coaches would not be practical for a long time, Veit admitted, so what alternative was there to a mail monopoly? A regular freight wagon, such as Veit himself drove, was not suitable for the mails. It was simply too slow. The roads would not be ready for post chaises for a long time.

He kept thinking. The imperial cities had tried to hang onto their own messenger systems. It hadn't worked, because of the pressure that the grant of an imperial monopoly to Thurn and Taxis had placed on them.

Some of the territorial rulers still ran their own messenger services. Brandenburg, on the eastern edge of the CPE with interests far to the east in Prussia, outside the Holy Roman Empire, had its own good-sized office with over two dozen riders. Even inside the CPE, the electors of Brandenburg felt safer sending important correspondence between the branches of the Hohenzollerns in Berlin and those in Franconia by way of people whom they paid themselves. Not everyone was entirely sure that van den Birghden had been innocent of those charges of spying, after all.

But working for Brandenburg would take him off his beloved Imperial Road. If necessary, maybe things could be managed, but he would rather not.

Or maybe he could hire on with a freight line. The official postal system carried letters, sometimes whole sealed bags full of letters, but it didn't carry packages. If he located a long-haul line that carried from Frankfurt to Erfurt, he would move back and forth along the road more slowly, but at least he would move.

What would customers pay for the transport of light packages? Light enough that a man on horseback could carry several? Packages that did not really need a wagon and team, but were too bulky for a mail bag? Urgent packages?

Martin laughed, imagining a woodcut that depicted him on a horse with ten or a dozen lightweight packages tied to his back and his saddle, sticking out in all different directions. One hanging from his ear, perhaps. For a lot of horses, that would take some getting used to. A man would need the right kind of horse, steady and reliable.

What kind of customer would want a small or light package, too big for the mail bags but not heavy or bulky enough to require a freight wagon, taken somewhere fast? Who would want it enough to pay a tenth or twelfth of the cost of running the route and still leave the rider a decent profit?

Maybe there wouldn't be a new post office monopoly. The king of Sweden might not object to establishing one, but the Grantvillers were very enthusiastic about what they called "free enterprise."

Something to think about. Some way to keep riding the Imperial Road.

End of the Road?

Gelnhausen, August 1633

Simon zur Sichel came into Gelnhausen from a resupply stop in Frankfurt as he made his rounds. He found that Zivka and Riffa were gone and nobody in the community knew where.

When, they could guess, Zorline Neumark told him.

She and Meier zum Schwan were going back to Frankfurt. That was the general gossip. Meier had a business to run and there did not seem to be any sign that the feud in the Kronberg family would abate any time soon.

Samuel Wohl and Hindle Kalman had sent their daughter Jachant to cousins in Worms. The parents of Feyel's fiancé had made that a condition of continuing the betrothal.

When he found out that a teamster had emptied the cottage under the sign of the sickle out neatly and driven away with the goods, Simon started to feel much better.

No one in the community knew who the teamster had been.

He asked at the post office. "Veit Huss," the postmaster said. "He drives from Fulda to Frankfurt. He was on his way to Fulda when he drove out that day."

Simon zur Sichel decided to head for Fulda. If Zivka had gone there, she would have had a good reason.

"If you are going," the Hanauer rabbi said, "may I accompany you? I would like to observe the changes that the up-timers have made in Fulda for myself."

Barracktown bei Fulda, September 1633

The Barracktown Council agreed to accept Simon zur Sichel as one of the approved resident sutlers. He requested permission to throw out the front of the cottage by about ten feet to make the front room into a "general store." After some discussion of the concept, the council, chaired by Dagmar, agreed to the proposition.

Menahem ben Elnathan and Simon zur Sichel discussed the heavy responsibilities of matrimony with David Kronberg, who said that he would be quite ecstatic to assume them, thank you. At least, he qualified, if they involved Riffa zur Sichel.

Then he asked Simon what name he intended to carry now that his family was no longer living in the sickle cottage in Gelnhausen. This proved to be such a successful distraction that it spared him from further embarrassment for all the rest of the evening.

Zivka did the same for Riffa, who indicated a high degree of reciprocal enthusiasm.

David said that he did not think that his parents would agree. The rabbi said that if they were patient, he would see to it, so they all relaxed.

Martin Wackernagel and the rabbi continued their discussion of stencils and duplicating machines. Both of them talked to Sergeant Hartke and his wife Dagmar about pamphlets. Dagmar recalled the Menig-Bodamer connection. Wackernagel recalled the Bodamer-Schlitz-Mangold chuckling convention. Gertrud Hartke and Jeffie Garand recalled the odd-looking contraption that was on the stand at Menig's paper mill the evening they had walked up to check if Emrich and Liesel were okay. They hadn't thought about the room being full of stacks of paper at the time, Jeffie admitted, since a person really expected to see stacks of paper in a paper mill. Then someone remembered seeing Mangold at Menig's.

Jeffie said that he thought he had better tell Derek—Major Utt, that was.

Major Utt got them an appointment with the NUS administrator, Wesley Jenkins. Not "one of these days," but first thing on his calendar the very next morning, even though the whole day was scheduled for a big celebration of the up-timers' first down-time "airplane."

Fulda, September 1633

The NUS authorities arrested a lot of people, of course. First Jodocus Menig, who identified Karl von Schlitz as the person who paid for the import of the duplicating machine and stencils. They could not arrest him, of course, or his sons, since Schlitz, although in the CPE, was not in the NUS.

Captain Wiegand felt considerable relief that the miscreant had not been someone from Fulda. That lasted until Emrich Menig said that, by the way, they had just been getting ready to run off another set of stencils. He and Liesel Bodamer had made them, he reported proudly. They had followed the instructions in the manual and been entirely successful. These stencils had been brought to them by Lorenz Mangold.

Wiegand's apprehension lasted until someone read the manuscript, which proved to contain not anti-Semitic tracts but rather some of the worst heroic poetry ever written. Andrea Hill made some rather biting comments on the probable impact of "duplicating machines" on vanity publishing in the seventeenth century.

Wiegand's relief lasted until a search of Mangold's house, authorized before anybody got around to reading the manuscript found at Menig's, turned up several crates of pamphlets that were virulently anti-Semitic. And some more which advocated the resumption of witchcraft trials. Plus quite a few which were just weird. Nothing indecent, though. Mangold appeared to be downright prudish.

To the great disappointment of almost everybody else, Wes Jenkins refused to authorize the use of torture, even under these circumstances. Even though they pointed out that it was perfectly legal under the Constitutio Criminalis Carolina, which remained the law of the CPE because nobody had ever gotten around to repealing it. Wes said it wasn't legal under American law and that was that. And, moreover, it wasn't a capital offense anyway, as far as he knew, just to own the things.

All of which was terribly unsatisfactory.

Magdeburg, September 1633

"It's because we were thinking presses," Mike Stearns said. "Thinking inside the box. That's why we haven't been able to identify the bastards who are producing this filth. Even the Committees of Correspondence were thinking presses. Small presses; those are what they are distributing to their local organizations. That is what the Venice Committee of Correspondence is going to get. Improved small presses, but still presses using movable type. Because for copiers, we were thinking high-tech. We knew that the down-timers did have presses and that they did not have copiers."

He slapped his hand on the table, turning to Don Francisco Nasi. "How many of these duplicating machines are there now, Francisco? Inside the USE, spewing out this poison. Is there any way to make an estimate?"

Francisco Nasi shook his head. "I have people trying to find out how many Vignelli has shipped from Bozen. Some of the pamphlets are printed on presses, of course. We may still be able to trace those. But the duplicating machines are so simple that there is no way Vignelli can possibly maintain a monopoly on them. Any decent craftsman who sees one can copy it. Successfully, I must add."

"So these things, these libels, whether they are specifically anti-Semitic or not, will just continue to proliferate. Anywhere, essentially undetectable. Unless we open every large envelope in the postal system—which, I emphasize, we most certainly will not do—the stencils will travel for no more than the normal porto, anywhere west of a line running from Sweden's Baltic provinces to Hungary."

This time, Don Francisco nodded. "They do not even need to send the stencils. That is clear from the statements made by the young boy and girl in the Fulda case. They only need to send one copy of a pamphlet, or a manuscript. Anyone who has a duplicating machine can prepare a stencil. Some will be better than others, but then some printing presses turn out much better quality copy than others. It depends on the skill of the operator, the quality of the paper, the quality of the ink. For longer books, I expect, printing will continue to be the preferred method."

"Yeah, that was true up-time, too."

"So unless you wish to duplicate the Porte, examining everyone's mail for possibly dissenting literature . . ."

Mike shook his head. "No. No, of course not. We are not going to stop the mail and inspect every item. That would be against every principle of intellectual freedom, freedom of the press, that we are trying to introduce. It's just so . . ."

"Loathsome," Don Francisco suggested.

" 'Loathsome' is a very inadequate word."

Hanau, November 1633

"It's a personal thank-you letter," Martin Wackernagel said. "From Prime Minister Stearns."

Menahem ben Elnathan took it. "I am honored."

"And one from Don Francisco Nasi."

"Perhaps I should be apprehensive."

"From all that I hear, they are sincerely grateful for your contributions. Not to a solution of the problem of these scurrilous pamphlets, since perhaps there is none, but for assisting in defining it."

"No one among us did anything remarkable," the rabbi said. "But, then, most large events are the result of many small ones coming together."

"Exactly what do you intend to do to solve David and Riffa's problems? Perhaps I shouldn't ask, but I'm curious."

"It is well under way. There was no prospect that Abelin Kronberg and Bessle Zons would consent to young David's new job and proposed marriage. They have too much pride invested in preventing him from joining the post office and in arranging the Wohl marriage. I suggested that they should release their parental rights in regard to this son who has caused them so much trouble and heartache, so that he may be adopted as heir by his uncle Meier and Zorline Neumark. Once that is completed, then the new parents can—and will—consent to the marriage. I have correspondence for you to carry to Frankfurt today. If all goes well, you should be able to bring me the completed legal papers on your return trip."

Martin looked at the rabbi for a few minutes. Then, in the up-time manner, he saluted him.

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