Eric Flint: Grantville Gazette.Volume XIII

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

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She gave him a cool smile. "You do know some rabbis, right? I'd recommend starting with Mordecai Levi and Isaac Gans. And Jason, for that matter, and his fellow students."

She went back to finger-counting. "Third, get the Brethren involved. Fourth-whatever else you do-make sure Red Sybolt's involved."

The thumb got wiggled now. "Fifth-maybe this should actually be first-establish contact with some Polish radicals."

She gave Melissa a querying glance. "I assume there are some in the here and now, yes?"

Melissa made a face. "Hell, my knowledge of Polish history is only general, it doesn't run to details like that. But… I'd say there pretty much have to be. Poland produced almost as many radicals and revolutionaries over the centuries as it did grain and layabout noblemen. For that matter, the nobility itself produced a fair number of them. Remember Count Casimir Pulaski, in the American revolution?"

James looked startled. "Is that who Pulaski Boulevard in Chicago is named after?"

"Doctors," scoffed Melissa. "Talk about a self-absorbed class of people. Yes, dear, that is who one of your home town's main streets is named after. But don't get a swelled head about it. There must be a thousand Pulaski streets or avenues or boulevards in the United States, in just about as many towns."

She looked back at Judith. "So, at a guess, I'd say you're right. Keep going, girl, you're doing fine."

Judith switched hands and started counting the fingers of the right. "Sixth-"

"How the hell am I supposed to find Polish revolutionaries?" demanded Morris. "I'm a damn jeweler. Fine, my family came from Krakow. That's ancient history."

"Stop whining, husband. We're in ancient history." As deftly as you could ask for, Judith switch her hands back and wiggled the ring finger of the left. "Red Sybolt, remember? He's been a labor agitator for years. By now, if he hasn't run across some wild-eyed Polish rebels, I'll be surprised. Plant Red in a desert island in the middle of the Pacific, and he'd somehow manage to rouse a rabble."

Morris chuckled. "Well, that's true. Of course, first I'd have to track him down. He hasn't been in Prague for months."

"That's a manageable problem. Somebody will know where he is. Moving right along"-she switched hands again and wiggled a forefinger-"you need to get Uriel Abrabanel-remember him? he works for you already-to start investigating the chances of cutting a deal with the Austrians. Now that that bigoted bastard Ferdinand II died, we're dealing with a new emperor in Vienna. And his son's a lot more capable than his father, by all accounts."

"Certainly is," said Melissa. "He's not narrow-minded, the way his father was-and his sister Maria Anna just turned half of Europe upside down thinking for herself." She gave James a smile that bordered on being lascivious. "I was in such a hurry to get back to my squeeze after we got out of England that I didn't stick around in Holland long enough for the wedding between Maria Anna and Don Fernando. But I got plenty of details from Rebecca, while I was there. The sister is smart as a whip-and she thinks very highly of her brother the new Austrian emperor. So does her sidekick who pretends to be a feeble old lady, Dona Mencia, and let me tell you that no moss ever grew on that woman's brain."

Morris scratched his jaw. "'More capable' could be bad as well as good, y'know. Still, it's worth looking into. In fact, if I know Uriel, he's already started." He eyed his wife skeptically. "And how many more rabbits are you going to pull out of your fingers for me?"

She took a deep breath. "One. See if you can make an accommodation with the Cossacks. You'd have to find a suitable emissary, of course."

Morris' eyes widened. " Cossacks? For God's sake, Judith! They're the same murderous bastards who led the Chmielnicki Pogrom-which is named after their leader-in the first place! Not to mention such minor accomplishments as the pogroms at Kiev and Kishinev." His face grew hard. "Or the massacres carried out in the Ukraine during the Russian civil war by the counter-revolutionary armies, half of which were made up of Cossacks or their hangers-on. The stinking swine murdered something like a hundred thousand Jews before the Red Army put a stop to it. Fuck the Cossacks. Every one of them can rot in hell, as far as I'm concerned."

"I'm with Morris," said Nichols stoutly.

"Stick to doctoring," sniffed Melissa. "See if you can come up with a cure for excess testosterone, while you're at it." To Morris she said: "You're being childish, to be blunt. How is dealing with Cossacks in the here and now any different from what Mike Stearns has been doing dealing with Germans? Compared to what they did to Jews in the Holocaust, the Cossacks are nothing."

"Well, yeah, but…"

"But what? Since when did you start believing in racial destiny, Morris? Nazi Germany was the product of centuries of history. Change the history, like Mike is doing, and you eliminate them before they even appear. So why can't you do the same with the Cossacks?"

"Because they're nothing but a bunch of-"

"Mounted hooligans? Thugs? For Pete's sake, Morris, in this day and age-early seventeenth century, remember?-the 'Cossacks' are barely even 'Cossacks' yet. They're just getting started. A lot of them are former serfs, in fact, who ran away from their masters. We're at least a century away from the time they started serving the Russian tsars as their mailed fist. This is the best time I can think of to stop that in its tracks, too."

Morris looked mulish. Melissa looked exasperated. "Dammit, you asked. At my age, I'd hardly have come racing to Prague on horseback of my own volition."

"You rode all the way?" asked Judith.

James grinned. "She rode on a horse for exactly one day. After that, she put her foot down and insisted we hire a carriage. One of those litter-type carriages, of course, not a wheeled one. Going over the mountains on a wheeled vehicle is best left to mad dogs and Englishmen."

It was Melissa's turn to look defensive. "I spent my youth waving a placard at demonstrations. I did not attend the kind of ladies' finishing school where Mary Simpson learned to ride."

"How's she doing, by the way?" asked Morris.

"Given her recent hair-raising adventures, quite well. It helped a lot, of course, that when she got back to Magdeburg her son was waiting for her along with her husband. It was quite a family reunion, after their long estrangement. I know, because I was there."

Judith peered at her. " You were there? I thought you detested the Simpsons. Well, except Tom."

"I did, sure, when John Simpson ran that godawful campaign against Mike three years ago." Melissa waved her hand airily. "But three years is ancient history, as fast as things have been changing since the Ring of Fire. I think quite well of them, these days."

She pointed an accusatory finger at Morris. "And there's a lesson for you. If I can make friends with Mary Simpson, why can't you do it with Cossacks?"

He threw up his hands. "They're barbarians, for the love of God!"

"Again, so what? Yes, they're not far removed from barbarism. What do you expect, from a society being forged out of runaway serfs and bandits on the borderlands? Nobody is simply one thing or another, Morris. It's always more complicated. To go back to Mary Simpson, she's still haughty as all hell-can be, anyway-and I don't think she'll ever really be able to see the world except through her own very upper crust perspective. But that's not all there is to the woman, not by a long shot. The trick is finding a way-which is exactly what Mike did-to match her and her husband properly to the right circumstances. Bring out their best, instead of their worst. So do the same with the Cossacks."

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