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The Three R's

Jody Dorsett

Bishop Comenius put down the page of the book he was working on. Swedish was not his best language, and he had to be very precise in what he was doing. He hoped that writing textbooks for the Swedes would pay his way, and the Church desperately needed more money to help the Brethren scattered across Poland and the rest of Northern Europe. Since the publication of his work Janua linguarum reserata several years before he had received many requests for his time. Now that he had recently been elected bishop of the Unitas Fratum he hoped those contacts would help him save the Church.

That effort consumed much of his time; more still was taken up earning a living. He had barely enough time for his personal work, the Didactica magna, a revolutionary concept of universal education. He had no way of knowing when, or if, he would get it published. His fear of the Brethren fading away occupied his every spare thought. These works were the beginning of what he was slowly coming to accept was a long-term vision. The planting of seeds.

His ruminations were disturbed by a knock at the door of his study.

"Bishop?" The young minister quietly asked, interrupting as gently as he could. "There is a man here to see you . . . Jan Billek?"

"Deacon Billek? Here? By all means, send him in Timothy, send him in!"

Jan entered the garret room, his body filling the doorway. He looked much the same as he had the last time they had seen each other, only much grayer. Comenius rushed forward and grabbed the hand of the man. "Praise be, that I get to see you again, Jan Billek!"

"Yes, Bishop, it has been quite awhile."

They both stopped and looked at each other. Remembering the horror after White Mountain and Bloody Prague, the time following Tilly's victory and the capture of the barons. The time when Liechtenstein had declared the Brethren apostate, banished them from Bohemia, and turned the Brethren into penniless, desperate refugees. Burned their Bibles, hymnals, and catechisms, and placed them in the position they were in now—the head of the church an exile in the Netherlands, and the congregations reduced to running or hiding.

"What brings you, Deacon Billek, from far away Poland to here? It was surely an arduous journey."

"I came to speak to you about the future of the Church, my Bishop."

"I've read your reports from Lissel. I hope you have received my observations?"

"Yes, Bishop. I have read your letters, and they give us strength. It has given us hope these last many years, that now you will one day get us the help we need to bring the Church back to its home."

Comenius sat back down in his chair. Not long ago he had taught and fought vigorously for not only the evangelical expansion of the Church, but the need to ally with others. He had felt that there was, or at least should be, a common bond between the Protestant nations and people. It was one of the reasons the synod had selected him. Now, away from the halls of academia that he had trod for so long, he realized that theory and practice were quite different. That realization had made his publishing efforts even more important to him. He had committed himself to finding a savior for his people, and would seek it where he could, but his heart was committed to an effort that would take years.

"I know you hope that, and I petition for aid from all I can, but help is not forthcoming. And you must know from my letters, that I have begun to plant what I hope are the seeds of rebirth for the Church. That when the time is right, it will grow again. You and your fellows' acts of distributing the printed Word to the people, even if they hide them away, is a great help." Comenius paused, then forged ahead. "But anything else might bring about the destruction of the Church. We must wait."

"Sir, perhaps not." Jan went to the window, and looked out of it. "You've heard that Wallenstein's army was routed at the Alte Veste? Wallenstein himself badly wounded—some rumors say mortally."

"Yes, I have heard."

Billek turned from the window and looked at the last bishop of the Church of The Brethren. "Wallenstein's army is smashed, true, but so long as the Habsburgs rule Bohemia, we will find no succor at home. But that victory over the Habsburgs has made me think of these new folk. The 'Americans,' as they seem to be called, whom the rumors say were instrumental in his defeat. Perhaps they might help us. I don't know how much you know about them, or even if you have considered contacting them."

"All we hear are wild rumors, Deacon Billek. That they are 'witches' and other such nonsense. Nothing is really known of them, and I hesitate to contact an unknown."

"I have tried to glean a little about them. One of the first things I found was that the Jesuits are also collecting information. That must be a good sign."

Billek and Comenius exchanged a hard smile at the thought of the Jesuits having consternation over the appearance of the new folk.

"Hmmp . . . Another foe for them, you think?"

"I don't know. But what I have found out is very interesting. Although they are allied with the Swedish Lutherans, they apparently believe in complete religious tolerance. They are highly educated, and have great command of the physical sciences. And they have interesting ideas of freedom for every person. I am reminded of Zizka, and the early Church. None could stand before them."

"I see." Comenius was intrigued. Education and tolerance were some of the seeds he wanted to plant. Perhaps there was something here after all.

"What is that you want me to do, Deacon Billek? I can hardly show up at their court with no prior knowledge, and ask them for aid."

"That's why I'm here, my Bishop. I want to go there. Give me a letter of introduction as your emissary. I will find out enough about them for you to determine if you wish to pursue further talks with them yourself."

Comenius didn't respond at once. He was torn between the sudden flare of hope, and the experience of rejection. He also didn't want to lose Billek. He was one of his rocks in Poland, and he kept the Church alive, even if hidden. But Comenius also knew that everyday Billek spent outside of the Protestant countries he was at risk.

"All right, Deacon Billek, you'll have your letter. But I ask one favor in return."

"What might that be, my Bishop?"

"That you consider receiving your ordination and taking a congregation."

For the first time since he entered the room, Jan smiled.

* * *

The first part of Jan's journey was not as hard as he feared. Comenius' contacts with the Swedish court helped get him first to Sweden, and then to Germany. He was able to accompany a Swedish supply column until he was close enough to the area of Thuringia that he believed held the Americans. The last leg was a different story.

When Jan entered the region that lay close to the country of the Americans, he was appalled at the devastation. It was worse than anything he had seen in Bohemia or Poland. Whole areas in central Germany were almost devoid of people. Struggling groups of refugees abounded, and towns were not pleased to see strangers. The constant reports of bands of brigands forced him to move at night. He had learned to travel at night during his travels back into Bohemia, but he didn't like it. It took longer to travel.

Then, suddenly, everything changed. While the country he was in still showed the ravages of war, the roads began to show cart traffic, and clots of people traveling in apparent relaxation. Jan walked along the road and listened to the people. Some were refugees on the edge of collapse, following the rumors of a safe haven. However, there were many others who were in better shape. These were apparently traveling to the town called Grantville not out of necessity but because they were on some business or other. This was the type of group he wanted.

The group he approached allowed him to join without too much of a glance, since he only carried a small bag and a walking staff. Despite his size, his lack of weapons seemed to gain him acceptance in a group all too familiar with what even the smallest band of armed men could do.

Shortly after noon on the next day, the small band he had attached himself to came to a halt. In front of them was a small tollbooth, and men in strangely colored garb surrounded it. Some held familiar muskets, but others held what were surely weapons but unlike any that Jan had ever seen before. The group was formed into a queue. Jan could see that each was asked a question, and then directed off to another area.

When he reached the front of the queue, he was confronted by a man with blazing red hair, a full beard and mustache. He wore the oddly colored clothing that many of the others wore, but his boots were those of a cavalryman and he carried a brace of pistols on his belt. Jan took him to be one of the officers. He then asked, in the most atrocious German Jan had ever heard "Lord, yer a big 'un. Be yer here fer business, or be yer fleeing?"

"I come from my bishop. But . . . perhaps there is another language that we may speak in, that you may be more comfortable in?"

The answer was clearly longer, and different, than the man had expected, and it took him a moment to parse it out. Then he grinned and replied, in some of the worst English Jan had ever heard: "If yer speak English it would be a vurra good thing. We don't get many past here that speak naught else but German. You say you come from yer bishop. Are ye a Catholic then?"

Jan couldn't help but chuckle a bit. "Hardly, sir, I come from Bishop Comenius, of the Unity of Brethren. I wish to present my papers to your court."

The red-haired man blinked. "Yer wanting to present papers to our court? Hold on a minute, laddy . . . you'll be needin' to speak to someone other than myself."

The red-haired man went to one of the tents that were behind the tollbooth. He opened the flap and went inside. Shortly he emerged with another, a very young man who wore spectacles such as Jan had never seen before, and who carried a sheaf of papers in his hand.

As they walked back towards Jan the young man flipped through the pages and then apparently found what he was looking for. The two came to a stop and the young man spoke, with an accent Jan had never heard before.

"Lieutenant McAuliffe here says you are a representative of Bishop Comenius. The Unity of Brethren. If the information I have is correct, that's what we'd call the Moravian church. Back where we come from. Uh, I guess I should say 'when' we come from."

It was Jan's turn to blink. "Moravian" church? What sort of name is that? 

But, whatever it was, it seemed to satisfy the young man. Indeed, he gave Jan a smile that was downright friendly. "Moravians were well spoke of, in our time and place. So, welcome. We usually don't receive such august personages mixed in with a group of refugees. What's your name?"

"I am Deacon Billek, and these are my papers." Jan handed over the letter he had pulled from a pocket in his cloak.

"I'm Marty Thornton," the young man introduced himself. He opened the letter and began to read it. "What exactly is your business here?"

"I wish to present my papers to the court, as I told the first gentleman."

Thornton made a sound somewhere between a snort and a chuckle. "Well, that would be the first problem. We don't have a court. We aren't ruled by an aristocracy here."

So Jan had heard, from some of the refugees, but he'd discounted it as wild rumor. "I . . . I didn't know," he almost stammered. "I am here to make arrangements for my bishop to meet your rulers."

Thornton stared at him. Jan could practically hear his thoughts. Billek clearly wasn't a peasant, yet neither did he dress or act in the manner of the nobility and merchants. "If you are a diplomatic representative, where is your entourage?"

"I don't need one. I am but a deacon of the Church of the Brethren, the Unitas Fratum. Such would be a waste, and it would also be dangerous. There are not many outside of England, Sweden or the United Provinces who are friendly to us."

"Well, we certainly know how that feels," said Thornton with a wry grin. He look back down at the letter. "Well, why not? This certainly seems authentic. Come with me to the tent, and I'll call for someone from Ms. Abrabanel's office to come down and meet you."

* * *

Jan was picked up by several men in a sort of carriage that he had never seen before. Seeing new mechanical marvels was something that he figured he would have to get used to. The knowledge also made hope swell in his heart. These strange folk might be the answer that the Church needed to survive.

The ride into town further encouraged him. The streets were a bustle of activity, and he heard several different languages spoken or shouted as they drove. The road itself amazed him. It was smooth and continuous, and there were no wheel ruts or loose stones. They passed several churches, only one of which seemed to be Catholic, and that interested him even more than the road. He was tempted to ask if what he'd heard about their religious tolerance was true, but the men he was with had not introduced themselves, nor spoken more than a few words.

The carriage came to a halt in front of a brick and glass building. The glass in the front was the smoothest and clearest Jan had ever seen. Through it he could see desks with people sitting at them, some speaking into odd-looking horns. The men escorted him across the floor, past several small offices with glass fronts and then down a corridor to a large office with a very large desk. Behind it sat a beautiful woman with lustrous black hair. Though she was quite young, she seemed to radiate a kind of quiet confidence. Jan knew he was about to speak to one who held the reins of power in this strange place.

"I am Rebecca Abrabanel," she introduced herself, after reading the letter. She smiled a bit wryly and added: "I hold the somewhat peculiar title—office, I should say—of 'National Security Adviser.' I am not actually certain if I am the one who should really be speaking to you, but since no one else knows either, I suppose it will be me. That is generally how my title seems to operate." She glanced back down at the letter. "This says you are Deacon Billek, the personal representative of Bishop Comenius, leader of the Unity of Brethren. It is written in Latin. Do you speak Latin?"

"I speak it and write it, yes. I am also knowledgeable in several other languages."

"I see," replied the Abrabanel woman in excellent Latin. "Would you like something to drink? Something to eat?"

"A little water will suffice."

"Besides opening communications between the bishop and us, what else does your bishop ask?"

"I come to offer my bishop's congratulations on your recent victory over Wallenstein. I also will ask for time to appear at . . . whatever you call a court . . . for him to speak."

"What sort of things might Comenius wish to say?"

"I cannot speak thus for my bishop. But we wish to see if the Brethren can find a friend in your people."

"Deacon Billek, it is my understanding that Comenius acts alone in his representation of the Church. How long have you been a diplomat for him?"

Jan paused. He was no diplomat, and began to fear he would make a hash of this conversation. The Church needed friends, and being too obtuse might put this woman at odds. That was not the way he wished the Church to begin with these folk.

"Lady Abrabanel, this is the first I have done so for my bishop. I have known Bishop Comenius for a long time. He and I understand each other. He is seeking, as we speak, support from the Swedish court for our people. I urged him to speak to you, but he wants more information before he would make such a journey. It is not safe for him, except in a few places. I felt that we could not wait. Liechtenstein has scattered us to the winds, taken our property, and destroyed our Bibles. We need a friend who can help us."

"Deacon, we are a friend to all who are a friend to us, but whether we can help you . . ." She paused, then continued. "We are having a meeting tomorrow morning of the cabinet. We will take up several issues. I can't speak for our government in this, other than to tell you that I would not hold hopes for much assistance beyond that which we offer any who flees depredation. Our own resources are limited and already tightly stretched. Still, you may wait and speak to our cabinet—or you may leave your letter and return and tell Bishop Comenius that we would love for him to visit us."

The room seemed to narrow in on Jan, and his vision became like a tunnel. His hopes fell. He closed his eyes, and took a few breaths. There was still that faint chance that the others on the cabinet might be more receptive, and as long as there was hope, he would continue. "I will stay and address your council, if that may be arranged."

* * *

Jan walked through the crowd of people on the streets of Grantville in almost a stupor, the wonders that surrounded him no longer registering. He knew, in his heart, that these people represented the only hope that his people and his Church had for survival. He prayed for strength and guidance. In his wandering, he found himself in front of a tavern. One of the people from the ministry had told him he could get food there and directions to a place he might sleep.

He entered the tavern. It was quite busy by the front bar, the large room full of smoke and laughter in English and German. He spied a small table in the corner and sat, looking around him. He didn't see the withdrawn manner he had come to know through most of his travels in central Germany. Soon a young woman appeared before him. She didn't have the look of the typical serving wench he was accustomed to in such a place.

"Yes, may I help you?" Jan asked.

The girl giggled. "That's what I'm supposed to ask you. What can I get you?"

"Ah. Some food and mild beer would be fine."

"Our daily special is hamburger steak with beets and turnip greens and a liter of small beer. How about that?"

"Yes, that's fine." Jan wasn't sure exactly what he had ordered. But being surprised was no longer a new thing for him. When she returned with his drink, she dropped a slip of paper off. He picked it up and read it, mildly surprised that it was a tally of his food and drink, and obviously written by the girl. Even the servants could read in this land, it seemed. The thought brought both pleasure and disappointment. Like all of his church, Jan believed that reading and writing were the keys to salvation.

And so he ruminated on the mystery of being so close to salvation, but having it held out of his reach. He sat in front of his food for hours, barely picking at it, and sipping his beer. After he had waved the serving girl off several times, she told him to simply call her if he needed anything.

A brown-haired man in a leather jacket finally interrupted him. It was one of the men who had driven him to meet Rebecca Abrabanel.

"Hey, pal, you look like someone killed your puppy."

"I'm sorry, what do you say?"

"My partner and I have been watching you," the man said, with a nod toward someone sitting at a nearby table. Jan saw that it was the other fellow who had been on the carriage with them. "We figured that anyone who looked that sad, for that long, couldn't be a spy."

"A spy? You make a joke. Why would you think I'm a spy?"

"Well, you weren't exactly the typical refugee or diplomat."

"I see. I suppose I am a little bit of both. And really, not much of a diplomat," Billek replied with some sadness.

"Why don't you let us join you?"

"Certainly. Perhaps I could use some company, and I can learn more about you people."

The man in the leather jacket pulled up a chair and motioned for the other to join him. The man who walked up also had the small spectacles that Jan had seen some wear. He had a face that was lined with smile lines, eyes that were lively and intelligent, and was carrying a glass of beer in his hand.

The man who was sitting grimaced a little as he shifted in his chair and introduced them. "I'm Skip and this is Red."

"Pleased to meet you," said Red. "I gather your meeting didn't go as you would hope?"

"Yes. Lady Abrabanel held out little hope for me. But I still will press on with your cabinet. Maybe God will put the words in my mouth that I need to get your help."

"Red, the deacon here describes himself as sort of a refugee. He don't look like one to me. Especially as big as he is."

"Oh, I don't know, Skip. The Brethren got hammered pretty bad by the Habsburgs. Victims of a hostile aristocracy. Shit, it's bad enough having an aristocracy, let alone one that targets you. That's why most of them wound up in America, back—" He waved the beer glass about. "Then. There. Whatever. 'Moravians,' they were called then. I used to have some Moravian neighbors, in my hometown."

"Ah, hell, here we go . . . Red on the soapbox again." Despite the grimace, Skip seemed more amused than anything else. "Ah, not to change the subject, Deacon Billek, but why don't you tell us about yourself there. I haven't met any of the Brethren before—and neither has Red, neighbors or no."

Jan began with his early studies at the Brethren school. He found it a good way, when he was out in the villages, to slide in a little theology when talking to people. But soon he found himself going into deeper detail than he thought. Red and Skip asked questions that brought him out. He spoke to them of the hope they had had after Emperor Maximillian II had approved the National Protestant Bohemian Confession, which opened all of Bohemia for them to preach and set up congregations. His joy in bringing the teachings, both of Christ and of worldly education to the people. He spoke of the horrors of Bloody Prague and the Brethren's expulsion from Bohemia. Finally, he spoke of his efforts to keep the faith alive. The secret meetings and the hidden printing presses. The raids by the bullyboys of the local nobility or bishop.

Suddenly, he realized that the men he was speaking to weren't smiling anymore, nor had they asked any questions. "What is the matter, have I offended you?"

"Nope, I guess I'm a little embarrassed by the actions of the Church. I'm a Catholic, myself, but I can't stand how they operate in this day and age. It's not part of our customs and traditions." Skip then stood up. "Look, I gotta go, the wife's waiting. You guys stay, if you like. I'll see you in the morning."

After he left, Jan turned to Red.

"Are you a Catholic too? I did not mean to offend."

"No, Jan, I am not a Catholic; I'm not really religious at all. Your stories reminded me of what I did before I came to Grantville. I was a union organizer. I guess I went around and preached a different sort of gospel, and got into the same sorts of trouble you did."

"And what do you do now, here in Grantville?"

"Oh, I was working in the mine. But there are plenty of stronger backs than me now. I work full time for the government; most of the union officers do." Then he started laughing; a deep, heartfelt laugh.

"What is so funny?"

"Oh, me—working for the government!" replied Red. "Look, you got a place yet? I live by myself, and have a spare couch you can sleep on. I'll tell you all about it, if you'd like."

"Thank you, the Brethren often rely on the kindnesses of those we meet. Just as we gladly give it."

* * *

As they walked to the edge of town and up the hill towards Red's home, Jan took the opportunity to ask Red more about how things worked in Grantville. He was fascinated by their conception of "democracy," especially the notion of a written constitution that guaranteed each person's freedom. As they neared the house that Red pointed out was his, they heard a series of shots. Jan hunched and looked around. Shots, to him, meant an army; and that was always bad.

Red laughed again. "Don't worry, Jan, that's my neighbor Bobby Hollering. He's one of our gunsmiths, and he always has something cooking. Would you like to see it?"

Jan nodded, and Red led him down a narrow lane to a house with a small barn close by. It was to the barn that they went. Standing at the door was a heavyset fellow with a musket in his hand. But out of the side of the musket a bar of iron protruded. The man was preparing to fire at a bail of hay at the back of the yard when Red called to him.

"Hey, Bobby. What the hell is that thing, anyway?"

The man named "Bobby" turned toward the pair and put down his weapon. "It's my new improvement that I'm going to present at the meeting tomorrow. They're finally going to let me argue my case. Actually, I stole the design, but it's really cool. Wanna see?"

The man's enthusiasm was palpable. He picked the weapon up, pulled back the hammer and fired. As soon as the shot went off, he brought the weapon down, pulled a lever, slid the iron bar, cocked the hammer, and fired again. He did this seven times.

"See, Red! Seven shots in about a minute," Bobby said through a pall of smoke. "Using an old musket! They gotta take this one. We'll really be able to fight with these . . ."

How long he might have gone on with this enthusiasm, the two would never know. For at that moment, the door to the house opened and a woman stepped out, scowling a bit. "Bobby, put that thing down and come hold your son while I finish supper."

With the same enthusiasm he had just displayed for his weapon, Bobby put down the gun and called back to the house. "Yes, honey! I'll be right there. Are you coming tomorrow, Red?"

"Yeah, Bobby. Me and the deacon here will be there. He's going to speak too."

Bobby looked at Jan as if seeing him for the first time. "Okay, great. I'll see you then."

As the man jogged to the house, Jan asked Red: "Isn't he a little old to be a father?"

Red laughed. "As you'll see tomorrow, he's unstoppable. Let's get to the house."

* * *

The meeting of the cabinet began at midmorning. There were quite a few petitioners there, all of whom wanted the cabinet's permission to do something. Most were small matters: permits to build houses, new enterprises to start, that sort of thing. All were questioned, and if they could justify the need and benefit, and demonstrate that it would not divert too many resources, they were generally approved by a voice vote.

The last two were Bobby Hollering and Jan. Jan was to be last.

The central figure in the cabinet was a man named Mike Stearns. He looked down at Bobby and said: "Okay, Bobby, let's hear it."

"The slide rifle was first invented by Browning. It is easy to make . . ." Bobby went on for quite awhile, impervious to the glazed looks that soon began to cross the faces of some of the members. Finally, when he seemed to pause for breath, Mike interrupted him and informed him that it was soon time for a lunch break.

"We'll get back to you after recess; we'll discuss your proposal over lunch. I'm sure you have a write-up on this thing, so pass it up. Meanwhile, we need to hear from Deacon Billek, a representative of Bishop Comenius of the Church of the Brethren."

Jan had thought all night long what to say. He decided to use an abbreviated version of the tale he had told Red and Skip the day before. It had moved them; maybe it would have the same effect on the cabinet. He was used to speaking in front of people. As he spoke, he could tell he moved a few of the people who would decide the future of his people. When he concluded, he saw Mike whisper to a few. Then he stood.

"Thank you, Deacon Billek, that was a powerful speech you made. Again, like Bobby, you'll have to wait for our decision after we return this afternoon. We'll see any interested party back here at half past one."

With that, Stearns banged his gavel and he and the others rose and filed from the room.

Red walked up to Jan. "So, Jan, if the cabinet decides not to go any further with your request . . . what'll you do?"

"I will go back and tell my bishop what has happened. Then I shall return to Poland and continue my work. Planting the seeds of the future of the Church is a job for the bishop. I only want to see the Church and its people survive as best they can."

"Okay, I certainly understand that. I gotta go talk to that young lady over there." He nodded toward a young blond woman standing toward the rear of the room. "Gretchen just got back from one of her trips, and I need to speak to her. I'll see you when the cabinet session begins again."

Jan couldn't eat. He went back to his seat, and prayed that the coming hours would show him God's will for the salvation of the people. He sat by himself, and the intensity he gave off kept the others away. With a passing of time that surprised him, soon the cabinet returned. He looked around, and found that there were only a few people there. Bobby and some of his friends and associates, and Red, Skip and Gretchen in the back.

Mike Stearns began brusquely. "Bobby, your gun is an ingenious weapon. Yes, we agree that we could convert enough to supply the home guard. But that's it—and at what cost? We have extremely limited resources. Our greatest resource is the skill and knowledge that folks like you possess. We need you to continue your work in training our friends—that means the Swedes, first and foremost—to make the modest improvements that we can afford to do for a lot of soldiers. We have to have a plan that gives us the greatest impact over the whole thing. We appreciate you and your boffins. We would be lost without you.

"Furthermore, what if we lose some of those things? As you say, they are easy to make once you know how. And we don't have the capacity to compete with some of our potential enemies. We aren't ready for an arms race of that kind, yet. One day, we will be able to build that and all the other inventions you and your team have uncovered. But not now. I'm sorry, Bobby . . . I know you are disappointed."

Now, it was Jan's turn.

"Deacon Billek, as you just heard me say to Bobby, we have limited resources. We all feel for the plight of your people. We will welcome any of your people that you send. They will find a good home in our area. And freedom. But we can't offer you any more than comfort when they get here. We have nothing to spare to help them anywhere else. We certainly can't make any sort of offer to free your land."

Jan's head dipped in despair, though he had known the probable outcome. It seemed that God favored the bishop's plan after all. Jan also knew his own purpose, still.

"Thank you for your time, sir. I will tell Bishop Comenius of our speech here. Perhaps some of the Brethren may make it to your land, where you will find us to be a valuable addition to your community."

Jan picked up his cloak, his bag, and his staff, and moved towards the door. As he approached it, Skip, Red, and the woman with them moved towards him. Red held out his hand, and Jan took it.

"Jan, are you really going to go back to Poland?"

"Yes. I will tell the bishop, and the people, of your offer. We have prospered in sanctuary before; perhaps we will do so again. I will go to help those who cannot come, and to keep spreading the ministry as best I can. The only way evil can be stopped is to witness against it. Thank you for your help."

"Ah, Deacon," interjected Skip, "have you ever heard the expression 'the Lord helps those that help themselves'?"

"What do you mean?"

"What he means, Jan," Red interjected, "is that we have a little proposition for you. Why don't we go outside and talk about it?"

* * *

Mike Stearns and Rebecca Abrabanel stood in the window of his office watching the ox cart being loaded on the street below. Red and Jan were piling in sacks and boxes, while Bobby and one of his friends lifted an anvil into the back of the cart.

"Isn't it a little risky, sending them out like this?" Rebecca asked.

"I guess, but it isn't the first time we've sent people into hostile terrain—either us, or the UMWA back where I came from—and it won't be the last. Besides, Billek would have gone anyway."

"What about Red?" Rebecca asked.

"Red didn't come to Grantville expecting to stay this long. He came to get back in touch with his roots, and work with the local. He was taking a break from what he does best. He has no kin here, and certainly didn't expect the Ring of Fire to keep him."

"And what does Red do best, Mike?"

"He makes trouble."

* * *

"Well, that's the last of it," Bobby said, wiping the sweat from his brow. "I hope that you can make use of it, and I'm sure Mike is happier I lose my home shop—it'll keep me focused."

With that, and a flurry of farewells, Red and Jan headed the ox cart out of town. Skip and Bobby watched them until they couldn't see the cart anymore.

"Skip, what are the deacon and Red going to do out there in Bohemia?"

"Oh, they're going to be teaching the three R's, Bobby," Skip said with a rueful chuckle. "Call it 'reading, righting and revolution.' "


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