Eric Flint: Grantville Gazette. Volume XX

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    Grantville Gazette. Volume XX
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Grantville Gazette. Volume XX: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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As he and Annabet walked home, he finally spoke. "They paid more than I did."

"So when you go for more patterns, buy more Brillo's Best."


***

The next evening, Annabet watched Johann and Paul circle each other like strange dogs, ruffs raised and ready to snarl.

"This shop is not a bone," she said. "One of you can't print and the other can't draw. My lace patterns need both. So does the Committee."

When they didn't leave off the posturing she stepped between them and shoved Johann toward the door to the printing room. "Show Paul your letters from the Committee. Tell him about Grantville, too, while you're at it. I want you out of my hair until the women come. Three or four of them said they will be bringing their sweethearts."

They turned to her in unison. "How do you know?" Johann asked.

"Women talk in the market place as much as men gossip in the tavern." When they just stood there, she assigned sweeping and dusting.

Both men balked and headed for the press room. All three kept busy getting ready for that evening's Committee meeting. Sixteen women and girls, not counting Bertha, showed up. Half of them brought their sweethearts. Some brought hampers in addition to work bags. Others brought flasks and before long it was share and share alike.

People were reduced to sitting on the floor, and Karl eyed the walls and muttered about benches. Bertha told him to save his carpentry work for a shop in a better part of town.

Annabet stood by the door, brow wrinkled as she listened to Karl describe his experiences with the Americans to the newest Committee members. Crochet hooks flew while women grilled Johann about Grantville ladies. She glanced over when Paul joined her.

"Bertha is right. We should move the shop. We would get more business."

Annabet shook her head. "We don't have enough money saved to rent a better place. Plus, looking too prosperous will get us more attention from the city's councilmen than is safe right now. If Groenenbach comes by with his bully boys, we can say this is a gathering of friends and get away with it.

Paul thought about it then grunted an assent. He called the meeting to order.


***

A week and a half later, Paul hauled Johann into the family parlor and laid him on the floor in front of the hearth.

"Where did you find him?" Annabet asked. She reached for the medicines and cloths she had arranged and rearranged while she waited. Her mother came in and helped Annabet tend Johann, stitching him up where necessary.

"In an alley," Paul said. "On the way back from the shop. Groenenbach and his henchmen had just finished the beating and were getting ready to use knives. I bribed some drunks to go down the alley so Groenenbach wouldn't linger. Karl and your father went to the taverns Johann visits. I paid an urchin to find them with the news."

Annabet and her mother worked while Paul kept checking doors and windows.

"He can't stay here," Annabet said. "They'll kill him." She looked at Paul. "They'll kill you, too."

Paul crouched next to her. "So send him to Grantville for more lace patterns. He's a journeyman. Let him journey. I'll just pretend to court you."

Annabet glared at him.

"My master has no daughters and his wife is dead. His sons are apprenticed to other trades. I've been looking for my own wife. I don't see why it can't be you as well as another." He met her frown with a calm look. "It makes a good story and keeps you safe as well. Or do you think Gottfried Groenenbach won't beat women? Or worse."

"Listen to the man, Annabet," her mother said.


***

Two weeks later Karl and Bertha slipped into the shop. For once, Bertha carried everything, leaving Karl unhindered. He peered into the dark before closing the door. Annabet sent them a questioning look from across the crowded room.

"Gottfried Groenenbach has been asking questions about me and Paul," Karl said. "Someone saw Paul help Johann and reported it to the city council."

Paul swore. "Did they follow you?"

"I think so," Karl said.

"A strange man has been lurking in the neighborhood, too," Bertha added. "I thought I saw him on our way here."

Annabet grabbed spindles off the wall and bundles of unspun fibers from bins. She pulled the Committee of Correspondence's pamphlets from the hands of the women and filled them with supplies.

"Spin," she ordered. "Don't gape. Work."

Next, Annabet pointed at the new members and the males with nothing in their hands. "You, you and you, go to the press room. Karl, stay put. We know they saw you walk in. You will spend the evening telling war stories to Paul and the other men who are making something. We women will talk of spinning and lace."

Everyone stared at her. She grabbed the ear of a young apprentice and hauled him to his feet.

"Move!"

Everyone obeyed. The room rearranged and formed a scene like a cross between a family's gathering room and a well-lit tavern. The conversation was stilted. People kept looking at the windows. When the door didn't slam open right away, the Committee relaxed and conversation became more general. The apprentice cracked open the hidden door and begged a couple more lamps for the back room so they could read easier.

Paul grabbed Annabet as she paced among the benches and made her sit beside him. He shoved her work basket in her hands. Annabet muttered under her breath, but took out her latest project-a curtain, like the one her brother told her about.

The door slammed open. People jumped. Gottfried Groenenbach and his wrecking crew armed with cudgels swaggered in. Everyone drew back.

"Plotting revolution?" he asked.

Annabet held the lace panel up to the light to judge her progress. "Making frillies." She switched her gaze to the enforcer. "Gossiping. Female things."

"And you, Herr Klaussen?"

Paul met Groenenbach's look, then took a pull from his flask. "I am the only non-betrothed rooster in a room full of hens. Who needs revolution when there are women running loose?"

Groenenbach looked around again. "Why these women?"

Paul smiled and tugged on Annabet's lace-edged cap. "I like my pullets to have fine feathers." He grunted when Annabet's elbow connected with his ribs. "And be full of spice. I will be a master some day so I might as well start looking for a wife sooner rather than later."

Groenenbach sneered at that. He and his men tromped through the women, kicking over baskets and upending work bags, searching. They loomed over the men, Karl in particular.

Karl ignored them and kept sanding his latest crochet hook.

Not finding anything but patterns and simple tools, Groenenbach menaced the group for a bit then left.


***

Johann stepped inside the door of the Nutsch family parlor almost three weeks later. He growled and dropped his pack.

Annabet frowned at him. "What is wrong with you?"

Johann pointed at Paul. "What is he doing here?"

"Talking about the Committees of Correspondence."

Paul merely drank from his mug. "I'm also courting your sister."

Annabet swatted him. She had learned Paul liked to tease people. He especially liked to tease her. "He is keeping up the charade we agreed on."

"No one only visits their sweetheart at their shop," Paul added.

Johann just looked at him with suspicion.

Paul smiled. "How many patterns did you bring back? More and more women want American lace. Annabet can't make her own patterns fast enough."

"Lots. The lady let me copy a whole book this time." Johann opened his pack and took a thick sheaf of paper out before tossing several rollags of mauve wool to Annabet.

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