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A Matter of Consultation

S.L. Viehl

"Now I know how Hansel and Gretel felt." The spring breeze had Sharon Nichols buttoning her jacket as she eyed the forest. Her paramedic training hadn't covered hikes through the woods. "How did they find their way out? With a trail of bread crumbs?"

"They torched the witch and ran." Anne Jefferson also scanned the tree line. A registered nurse, she'd grown up in the backwoods of West Virginia, and unlike her friend felt almost at home. "Not an option today."

Ragged stumps lined either side of the forest path, but the woodcutters had barely made a dent in the dense groves of oak and birch. According to rumor, none of the locals went into Thuringenwald unless they desperately needed firewood, venison, or the witch.

Their patients didn't need chopped wood or deer meat.

"One thing." Sharon glanced sideways at the nurse. "Becky said if she lives in a gingerbread house, she's got dibs on the chocolate. All the chocolate."

Anne grinned. Some of their needs were serious, while others—like Rebecca Stearns's pregnancy cravings—were just plain painful. "Fair enough, but if she's got anything that even remotely resembles coffee, it's mine."

The forest canopy made the air lacy with sunlight and shadow, as disparate as the well-endowed, dark-skinned Sharon and the pale, redheaded Anne. Oddly, the sight of a black woman and a white woman together didn't seem to shock the natives as much as what they wore. Their clothes, like both women and a huge chunk of the town of Grantville, West Virginia, had traveled back in time to land in the middle of seventeenth-century Germany.

Time would eventually catch up. In three hundred and seventy years.

The carpet of twigs, dead leaves and moss grew thicker, and made crunching sounds beneath Sharon's sneakers. "You really sure this witch can help us?"

"Mathilde said Tibelda was the only decent healer the prostitutes in Jena had, before the burghers drove her out." Anne didn't think much of those upstanding citizens, not after hearing what they'd done to many of the refugee women from Palatinate. "Her knowledge of the area alone could save us a lot of time and foraging."

"I hope so." Sharon ducked to avoid a low-hanging branch. "Why does she live all the way out here by herself?"

"Remember how twitchy these people are." Anne paused to adjust the straps on her backpack. "A cow drops dead, the local healer gets blamed, then someone starts piling up wood and asking who wants extra crispy or original recipe."

"Better keep that in mind, nurse." Sharon tilted her head and squinted. "I think I see something up there."

The cottage that appeared around the next bend wasn't made of candy, but the mud-brick walls and thatched roof looked solid enough. A large patch of ground on one side had been cleared to make way for a thriving garden. As they drew closer, Anne smelled freshly cut rosemary, and spotted some familiar white and pink flowers in the garden's front row.

"See those?" She pointed out the blooms. "That's yarrow. It's an excellent astringent and coagulant, and even works as bug repellent. This is definitely the place."

"Why do we need her?" Sharon asked as she went to knock on the front door. "You know more about plants than anybody."

Anne thought of her grandmother, who wouldn't be born for three centuries. "We need her. This is her turf, not mine."

The door opened an inch, and a suspicious eye peered out. "Was willst du?"

"Guten morgen, Frau Tibelda." Being more fluent in German, Anne handled the introductions. "Mein name ist Anne Jefferson, könnten sie mir bitte helfen?"

The door opened to reveal a gaunt, elderly woman wearing a plain peasant's dress. A faded cloth covered her hair with the ends knotted under her prominent chin. She gave both women the once-over, uttered something scathing, then shut the door.

Sharon frowned. "What was that?"

"She said she doesn't perform abortions." Now Anne hammered on the door. "Bitte, Frau Tibelda, ich bin Englisch Krankenpflegerin!"

"You dress like harlots," Tibelda said through the door, in heavily accented but understandable English.

"We're not. Please, open the door."

The gap and the eye appeared again. "What do you want?"

"Some help." Anne brought out their bribe—dried parsley, one of the last bottles in stock at the Grantville A & P. "This is for you."

Tibelda emerged and took the bottle. "It should be dried on the stem, not crumbled." She opened it and sniffed. "Too old." She thrust it back in the nurse's hand. "Go away."

"Wait!" Sharon caught the door before it slammed shut. "Mathilde said you took good care of the women in Jena. There are other people who need your help, and they can't take no for an answer."

Either Mathilde's name or the compliment appeared to mollify the old woman, for the door swung inward.

Sharon and Anne walked in. Crude furnishings within the cottage provided Spartan comfort, while bunches of flowers and herbs hung suspended from the network of boughs supporting the roof thatch. Another door at the back of the cottage stood open, revealing a well-stocked pantry. The air smelled fragrant and delicious, thanks to something bubbling in a pot hung over the hearth. A thin pallet occupied one corner, while a simple cross nailed to one wall provided the only decoration.

"Just like Granny's." Anne's eyes grew misty. "Right down to the simmering stew pot."

Sharon gave her friend's arm a squeeze. When Grantville had been wrenched from the year 2000 and thrown back through the Ring of Fire to 1632, Anne had been shopping in town. She'd lost her entire family, including her beloved grandmother, who'd lived only twenty miles away.

Tibelda went to stir the pot. "Where are the people who need me?"

The two women exchanged a look before Anne began with, "You may have heard about Grantville—"

"The place of endless wonders, and witchcraft." She snorted. "I've heard."

Anne wondered if the old woman resented the competition. "People who have lost their homes and families to the war have taken sanctuary with us. Most of our refugees arrive wounded."

"War destroys everything." Tibelda didn't sound impressed.

"We've used our own supplies up 'til now to help these people, but we're running low now," Sharon said. "Especially on medicine."

Tibelda sampled what was in the pot. "So you need my herbs."

"We need your knowledge," Anne corrected her. "I know a lot about herbal medicines, but nothing about what grows here or can be had from traders. You do. We'd like you to come back to Grantville and teach us."

Tibelda removed a handful of leaves from a pocket in her girdle, and tossed them in the pot. "You could be witch-hunters, sent to test me."

"Show time," Sharon murmured.

"Frau Tibelda, watch this." Anne removed a syringe and a small vial from her pack. While she prepared the injection, the paramedic rolled up her sleeve and tied off her upper arm.

The sight of the needle seemed to mesmerize the old woman. "What are you doing?"

"Proving we aren't witch-hunters." Anne slid the slanted needle tip into Sharon's vein and depressed the plunger. "Would they do something like this?"

The old woman came closer, so engrossed she spoke in rapid German. "So small—like a bee sting. Why does she not drink from the bottle instead? Why put it in her arm? How do you distill it to make it so clear?"

"She wants to talk shop, right?" At Anne's nod, Sharon grinned. "We've got her."

"Alte Hexe!" Someone pounded on the front door. "Aufmachen! Du wirst mir helfen!"

Sharon rose, still holding her arm. "What's that mean?"

"Someone else wants help, and they're not asking nicely." Anne swept everything off the table and into her pack. "Do you have a back door?"

"No, hide, in here. Quickly!" Tibelda shoved Sharon in the pantry. Before she could do the same with Anne, the door flew open and three men strode in. From their rough, sweat-stained clothes, bleached hair, and ruddy skin, the nurse guessed they were farmers.

Very upset farmers.

The largest began gesturing wildly while speaking in German too rapid for Anne to follow. When Tibelda shook her head, he shouted "Ist Drud!" and came after her.

"Hey." The nurse shoved him back, and he stared at her with almost comical disbelief. "Hau ab, you jerk."

"Do not do this. They need our help."

"What for? They look healthy enough."

"A man in their village is dying." The old woman didn't blink as the other two men brandished crude but very lethal looking scythes. "And they won't take no for an answer."

* * *

The jolting ride to the village in the back of the farmers' cart didn't seem to bother Tibelda, who sat in calm silence. Anne alternated between glaring at her bound wrists and wondering how long it would take her friend to get help.

Thank God Sharon had the good sense to stay out of sight. "Why didn't they tie you up?" she asked the old woman.

"I did not punch any of them in the face."

"True." She sighed and rubbed her bruised knuckles. She'd never hit anyone before in her life, but she'd never been shanghaied by men with razor-sharp weed wackers, either. "Do they usually kidnap you when someone gets sick?"

"Drud's wife sent them. She knew I would not come to the village willingly."

"Really." Anne eyed the scythes propped on the shoulders of the men guarding them. "I take it she doesn't like you much."

"No." Tibelda's mouth twisted. "She doesn't."

By the time they arrived at the village, Anne's hands and backside were numb. "Finally. Can someone untie me now?" Everyone seemed to be ignoring her, and she turned around.

Two well-dressed men emerged from one of the farmhouses. The older of the two men sported a snow-white goatee, expensive black robes and a skullcap on his balding head. The younger man's traveling clothes were not as fine, but he had an appealing smile and shrewd dark eyes.

"Who are those guys?"

"They brought Drud here," Tibelda said. "One of them is a physick."

"A doctor? Then what the heck do they need us for?"

Her companion sniffed. "They say he does nothing for Drud."

"Terrific." She tried to rub the back of her neck and nearly dislocated her shoulder. "So he's either a lousy doctor, or a lazy one."

Tibelda shrugged. "Most of them don't bathe or cure people."

"I see the prodigal farmers have returned, and with such interesting companions." The elder man spoke German with a distinct accent—or sneer, Anne couldn't decide which. Whatever it was, it sounded British.

"I speak English," she told him. "Who are you?"

He showed some mild surprise, then inclined his head a degree or two. "William Harvey, physician in ordinary to His Majesty, King Charles of England."

Anne barely noticed the farmer untying her wrists. He can't be that William Harvey. Can he? "Are you the Dr. Harvey who was—who wrote that blood circulates through the body?"

"Yes." He frowned. "You have read my books?"

"Not exactly." Anne skipped the explanations as she grabbed her backpack and climbed off the cart. "I'm Anne Jefferson."

"Lady Jefferson." The younger man stepped forward and offered a more courtly bow. "I am Adam Olearius, scholar and ambassador for the Duke of Holstein."

"Anne is fine." Probably another loser from Jena, Anne thought, and addressed Harvey again. "Doctor, what are you doing in the middle of Germany?"

"Until recently I accompanied the king's cousin, His Grace James Stewart, the Duke of Lennox, on his tour of the Continent." Harvey invested each word with weighty significance. "His Grace sent me from Belgium to Holstein, to meet with the duke and Ambassador Olearius before he begins his tour of Persia. Why is that woman glowering at me?"

"This is Frau Tibelda. She's, uh—"

"I can speak for myself." The herbalist marched past Harvey. "But not to him." She entered the house, the three farmers trailing her.

"She's a little cranky." Anne shrugged. "Being abducted at scythe-point does that to people."

"My condolences." He plucked a bit of straw from his sleeve. "I understand she is a healer of some sort."

"Yes." She'd dealt with enough snotty doctors in her own time to recognize professional contempt. "She's the local expert on herbal remedies."

The skin around his nose drew up. "You brought an herbalist to treat this man?"

"It wasn't my idea." She gestured toward the farmhouse. "Go talk to the three stooges."

Olearius cleared his throat. "We have heard rumors of extraordinary folk come to the south of here." He eyed Anne's backpack with barely concealed curiosity. "Would you be citizens of this new United States of America?"

"Tibelda isn't—yet—but I am." She gave Harvey a deliberate smile. "I'm also a registered nurse."

The older man's white brows rose. "Nurses of this region are required to be registered? Like Jews? How novel."

A distraught wail from inside the home made Anne move. "Excuse me. I should go check on the reason I was kidnapped."

The two dignitaries escorted her into the farmhouse, which like Tibelda's cottage consisted of one room. Unlike the old woman's home, it was much larger, with stone walls and a packed-dirt floor strewn with clean straw.

Someone had been making cider, and the smell of apples was strong. Larry, Curly and Mo sat at one large center table, muttering as they passed around a jug of something that probably wasn't cider. Baskets filled with grain and root vegetables sat stacked against the walls, while cooking pots and utensils crowded shelves near a large hearth. The blazing fire added heat to the warm glow of candles and oil lamps.

Anne's mouth hitched. Farming sure pays better than witchcraft. 

Tibelda crouched by the hearth, sorting through bunches of herbs from her satchel. On the other side of the room, a peasant woman knelt and prayed at the foot of a wood frame bed.

Anne went to the bed and pulled the heavy coverlet back. "This the patient?" Without waiting for an answer, she put her backpack beside the enormous man sprawled on the straw-filled mattress and took out her stethoscope.

Harvey joined her. "Are you a giddy midwife, to administer to him with such unseemly haste?"

"Not now, doctor." Anne glanced at the peasant woman. "Wie heißen Sie?"

"Uli." The woman sniffled. "I speak English."

Harvey blocked her view with his bulk. "I've already personally examined this man."

"Good for you." Anne leaned over to look around him. "Uli, how long has he been like this?"

"Since this morning, when those men brought him home." She bowed her head over her clasped hands. "Drud is never sick. Never."

From her place by the hearth, Tibelda made a scoffing sound. "He is probably drunk."

The peasant woman stiffened. "He never drinks!"

"Ladies, please, no bickering." Anne depressed Drud's tongue to check his throat. Airway's clear, no obstructions or inflammation. 

She didn't realize she'd spoke out loud until Harvey asked, "What has his throat to do with anything?" When she didn't reply, he tapped her shoulder. "I asked you a question."

Oh, sure, explain standard traumatological procedure to a man who thinks leeches are a cure-all.

"Let's chat later, shall we?" She rolled a black cuff around Drud's upper arm. "BP's two-ten over one-twenty. Pulse's irregular, two-fifteen." She moved the diaphragm of her stethoscope from his arm to his chest. "Tachy, fluid in his lungs." She reached automatically for drugs she didn't have, then exhaled her frustration. "I need some digoxin or lidocaine, he's going to stroke out on me."

Adam Olearius came to stand beside her. "Can they be obtained locally? I can ride back to Jena."

"No, not from Jena." She slung her 'scope around her neck and straightened. "I can't risk moving him. We need to get a doctor out here."

The farmer Anne had dubbed as Curly stalked over, looked down at Drud, then shouted at Tibelda in German. Her response was equally blunt.

Adam's dark brows drew together. "Perhaps I should ask Drud's neighbors to accompany me."

"Ambassador, don't encourage this nonsense." Harvey turned to Anne. "As for you, young woman, I am a doctor."

Now he'll want to bleed him or something. "Right." She took out a styrette and jabbed Drud's finger, then squeezed a drop of blood onto a chemstrip.

"Pricking the finger is not enough," Harvey told her, his expression smug. "Shall I demonstrate the proper method of opening a vein for you?"

See? "Thanks, but we'll skip that for now." After the strip showed normal, she put a hand on Drud's brow. "Blood sugar's okay, but he's burning up."

The great anatomist stalked off in a huff, but Adam bent closer to study the chemstrip. "That scrap of paper indicates he has the fever?"

"No, this does." She pressed a digital thermometer to Drud's ear canal, then read the display. "Temp's a hundred and three. Could be viral pneumonia, with cardiac comp." Anne jerked the linens off the bed, startling Curly. "Uli, open all the windows and bank that fire. You"—she dropped the linens in Curly's beefy arms and gave him a push toward the table—"move. Adam, I need the cleanest water you can find, and Tibelda, start boiling some more."

Uli took care of the windows, while Curly went back to drinking with Larry and Mo. Adam returned with a bucket drawn from the village well, and Tibelda brought it with some well-worn, folded linen to Anne. In a low voice, she said, "I have tincture of meadwort, to drive the fever out."

Anne knew meadwort contained salicylic acid, but Drud needed a cardiac glycoside, not an aspirin. Still, if she could get his temperature down, it would take some stress off his laboring heart. "That would help."

"You are wasting your time, young woman," the English physician said from his chair by the hearth. "Your theatrics are certainly entertaining, but useless."

"You being an authority on that, I suppose?" As Anne began bathing Drud's fever-flushed body, she looked for signs of injury or disease, but found none. She hadn't packed more than the basic medkit before leaving town, so there was little more she could do. She eyed the man beside her. "Ambassador—"

"Adam, please."

"Adam, I need someone who can speak English to go to Grantville and get me a doctor and some supplies. Right now. And guess what?" She patted his lean cheek. "You're elected."

"The man will be dead before sunset." Harvey sounded like a judge pronouncing sentence.

Drud's wife dropped the pot she carried. Water went everywhere. "No!"

"Calm down, Uli, we're going to get a second opinion." The nurse took out a notepad and scribbled down a brief explanation along with a list. Then she gave Olearius directions, ending with, "When you get there, ask for Dr. James Nichols and give him this note. Tell him to throw all of it into the fastest truck Mike's got and hightail it back here, okay?"

"You have a lovely hand, but what is . . . a de-fibrill-ator, an IV rig, sa-line, EKG,"—Adam struggled over the words—"portable battery pack?"

"I don't have time to explain, but it's what I need. Oh, wait." She took the list back and added another item. "Ask James to scrounge in the ER, see if there's any digoxin left."

Harvey snorted. "For God's sake, man, you can't be seriously considering this—she's just a woman. She may have some amusing toys, but she knows nothing about proper methods of treatment." He said as much in German to the farmers.

Larry, Curly, and Mo eyed the nurse with identical expressions of angry doubt.

Anne decided the level of testosterone in the room needed immediate reduction. "Doctor, I have an M.S.N. degree from Johns Hopkins, and seven years experience working in a two-thousand bed hospital. Before I landed in the middle of this godforsaken place and time, I was studying for my P.A. in critical care obstetrics. I come from a long line of women healers, too—my mother is a midwife and my grandmother, like Tibelda, is an herbalist. My great-grandmother took care of Rebel soldiers during the Civil War." From Harvey's bewildered expression, she realized he didn't comprehend half of what she'd said. "Look. If he's dying, it doesn't really matter what I do, right?"

Adam murmured something indistinct to Harvey, who waved a languid hand. "Oh, very well, Adam, if you wish to be sent on a fool's errand, go."

Before the ambassador left, Tibelda blocked his path. "Is something amiss, madam?"

The old woman glanced over her shoulder at Anne and Harvey. "If you can find a priest there, bring him back, too."

* * *

After Olearius left, Anne had Tibelda administer the meadwort as she continued bathing Drud, and gradually his temperature dropped. Uli had resumed her fervent prayers, while William Harvey observed from the hearth, silent but bristling with indignation.

Larry, Curly and Mo disappeared briefly, only to return and take up their vigil at the table, passing around two more jugs and an enormous joint of some kind of meat.

At last Anne felt safe enough to leave her patient under Tibelda's watchful eye. She took the notebook she was using as a chart and went to Harvey. "Doctor, Uli said you brought Drud home. Where did you find him? Was he conscious? Did he complain of any chest pain or nausea?"

"Oh, you wish to consult me now?" His upper lip curled. "I, who never attended Jonathan Hopkins's school?"

"I apologize, I didn't mean to insult you." She'd have to play Stupid Helpless Female for awhile, to appease him and get the information she needed. "Please, help me out here."

He steepled his fingers and considered that for a moment. "We came upon his cart, which had gone off the road," he told her. "The man was sitting beside it, short of breath, but in no other apparent discomfort. He remained lucid enough to direct us here, but his subsequent utterings were quite unintelligible."

"The fever must have made him delirious." Anne bit her lip. Drud's wife continued to insist he'd been in perfect health until today. "This doesn't make sense."

"I have no wish to disparage your efforts, young woman—misguided though they are—but I examined him quite thoroughly." Harvey nodded toward the bed. "The man will be dead before nightfall."

"No!" Uli reached out and seized the herbalist's hand with both of hers. "Tibelda, you can save my husband! A stimulating tonic—you can make that for him, that will work!"

Anne knew many aggressive drugs that came directly from plants—like the heart stimulant atropine, derived from belladonna, AKA deadly nightshade. "What's in this tonic?"

"Come here, Miss Jefferson." Harvey led the nurse to Drud, and placed her hand over the man's heart. "Do you feel how rapidly it beats?"

Anne gathered what was left of her patience. "I know his heart rate is too fast."

"I am an expert on the function of this organ. Not only is it beating too quickly, but the rhythm itself is irregular." He tapped Drud's sternum. "This indicates that the heart is either diseased or damaged, and doomed to fail."

His diagnosis was surprisingly accurate, she thought as she removed her hand. "So you're convinced the patient is in a terminal decline."

"I am certain of it, my dear. I have treated many patients with these exact symptoms, and all of them died." His tone went from pitying to adamant. "This woman's ridiculous potions cannot repair a damaged heart."

Uli wailed again, and Curly staggered over to pull her from the floor and guide her to the table.

"I'm not so sure about that, Doctor." Despite the great man's intuition, and lack of supplies, Anne couldn't give up on Drud. You're a nurse. Treat the symptoms, and let James Nichols worry about the disease. "Tibelda, tell me what ingredients you use to make your tonic."

"Sage, dandelion roots, and humility flower." As she named them, the old woman produced each from her satchel.

Anne took the flower and studied the dried stalk. "Was this white and bell-shaped, and did it grow in a shady place?" Tibelda nodded. "Thought so. Granny called it Dead People's Blossom."

"That is lily of the valley!" Harvey sputtered the words. "It's deadly!"

"Dr. Harvey, this plant has been used medicinally to treat cardiac disorders for centuries, even before now." Anne crushed the end of one stem, and held it to her nose. The fragrance assured her it had been dried properly. "A correct dosage will increase the efficiency of Drud's heart muscles without increasing his need for oxygen." Which was a reasonable substitute for her longed-for digoxin.

"An incorrect dosage will kill him!"

Anne remembered to count to ten. "Tibelda, has anyone ever died after taking your stimulating tonic?"


"Then would you be so kind as to make some up for us?" Before Harvey could protest, she lifted her hand. "Please, unless you have a better idea, let's give this a shot."

"That woman's presence is an insult to me and my profession. I will not be a party to this farce a moment longer." Harvey swept out of the house.

With him gone, Tibelda's shoulders rounded, and she seemed to shrink. "The English physick grows angry. Angry men are dangerous." She glanced at the three villagers gathered around Uli at the table. "Very dangerous."

"Don't worry, the cavalry is on the way." She handed the dried stalk back to the herbalist. "Show me how you steep it."

The simple process took less than a half hour, and Anne watched as Tibelda administered her brew to Drud. By then Larry, Curly, and Mo had silently left the house, while Uli paced back and forth by the bed, until it became apparent there was to be no miraculous change in her husband's condition.

"His breathing does not ease." Uli clasped her husband's limp hand between hers. "You must make a stronger tonic."

"It takes time, Uli," Anne said. "Give it a chance."

"You can see it was not enough." Drud's wife turned on the herbalist, and grabbed her hands. "You can't let him die. You know what they will do if you fail."

"Yes." Tibelda eased out of Uli's desperate grip. "I will try again."

Anne had faith in the herbalist, but caught the flicker of fear on her face. "What happens if we fail?"

Tibelda wouldn't meet her gaze. "Something bad."

Anne checked her watch. Sharon was on foot, and Adam might get lost on the way to Grantville. Neither of them might return for several hours. If Drud's condition deteriorated any further, he might not last thirty minutes. She didn't have time to worry about the something bad. "I'll give him another bed bath while you make it up."

The old woman left the house for a moment, then returned with some flowers and leaves and went to the pot of water boiling over the fire.

The nurse glanced over her shoulder. "What's that?"

"Fairy's glove, to ease his chest." Tibelda crushed some leaves before immersing them in hot water. "How is the fever?"

Anne took Drud's temperature. "Climbing again."

Tibelda cooled the second tonic by pouring it from one pot to another, then brought it to Anne. They had to dribble it between Drud's parched lips, a little at a time, but had gotten two-thirds of it in him when the door flung open.

"I have returned," Harvey announced.

"I'll notify the press." As Drud coughed, Anne took the cup away. She didn't see the English physician go to the table and examine Uli's ingredients.

"What have you done?" He stalked over and grabbed Anne's arm, giving her a hard shake. "This moronic hag means to kill him! Give me that!"

With difficulty, Anne held the tonic out of his reach. "Hands off. Let us do . . ." she trailed off as the three stooges and a sizable number of villagers entered the farmhouse. "What's going on?"

Tibelda seemed frozen.

Harvey turned to the people and pointed an accusatory finger at the two women. "They have poisoned this man!" He strode back to the table, grabbed a handful of leaves, and shook them. "Here is what they have used to hasten his end!"

Uli pushed her way through to the front, then stared in horror, first at Tibelda, then Harvey.

The crowd made a collective, ugly sound, then several voices cried out "Witches!" and "Murder!"

Drud's wife flung herself on top of her husband, while Tibelda backed up until her thin shoulders hit the wall.

Anne stepped between the mob and the herbalist. "We are not witches and we are not poisoning this man. Tell them that, Dr. Harvey."

"I have proof of the poison right here." The physician put on his judge face. "You may not be witches, but women like you kill more patients in a month than I can save in a year."

"Yeah? And how many do you bleed to death, doc?" Anne held the cup out toward the villagers. In German, she repeated, "I'm a trained nurse. This is not poison."

Curly lifted a ham-sized fist and shook it at her. "Save your assurances for God, witch!"

"You need proof?" There was only one way to handle their disbelief—the same way she had Tibelda's. "Fine. Cheers." Anne lifted the cup to her lips and drank the rest of the tonic.

* * *

"Maybe you should drive, Sharon," Father Mazzare said as he held onto the pickup truck's roll bar with a white-knuckled hand.

The paramedic patted Hans Richter's strong arm. "Slow down, Hans, you're scaring the priest."

"Jeff says I am good driver," Hans said proudly. Jeff Higgins, the American boy who had saved Hans, his sisters, and his nephew during "the Battle o' the Crapper," had since become both brother-in-law and personal hero to the young printer. He glanced at Sharon. "You wanted to get back fast, you said, ja?"

"Fast, ja. With concussions, nein."

Hans chuckled and eased his foot off the accelerator. For the beautiful dark angel who'd awakened him to his new life, he'd do just about anything. "Okay, I slow down."

Father Mazzare muttered a short, fervent prayer of thanks.

"Almost there?" Gretchen yelled through the window from the back of the truck.

Sharon checked through the window, saw the lights of the village and gave her a thumbs up. She watched as the German girl adjusted the belt around her curvy hips. "Did your sister have to bring a gun?"

Hans's grin faded. "The Committees of Correspondence recommend it, but Gretchen would carry her pistol no matter what is said. Anne and the old woman were kidnapped. She is also concerned about this English doctor Adam brought out of Jena."

Sharon knew a concerned Gretchen was no one to mess with. "Just see to it she doesn't create more patients for Balthazar." She glanced back to see how the Balthazar Abrabanel was faring, but Rebecca's father seemed to be enjoying himself immensely. With her father tied up in surgery, he'd not only insisted on returning with her but riding in the back of the truck as well, probably to keep Adam Olearius company.

The ambassador, on the other hand, had not recovered from his brief whirlwind tour of Grantville, and hung on with his expression still dazed.

A little payback for how we felt, being dropped here. Say hi to the twenty-first century, pal. 

When they stopped just outside the village, Sharon saw a crowd of people clustered outside the farmhouse Adam indicated as Uli and Drud's. She helped Abrabanel down from the truck bed, then went to retrieve the medical cases.

Gretchen led the group in. No one paid any attention to them, which puzzled her until she saw Anne being dragged out of the house between two farmers. Her light brown eyes narrowed as she saw the terrified old woman already bound to one of the two crude wooden stakes erected in the center of a heaping pile of firewood. "Was machst du da für scheiße?"

No one wanted to look at her, and several women muttered to each other in low voices.

"We burn the witches," one of the men called out at last.

Sharon, busy carrying medical supplies from the truck, also came to an abrupt halt. "Jesus." She put down her bags and headed for Tibelda. "I abandon you for a couple of hours, Jefferson, and look what happens—you have a barbecue without me."

"Next time," Anne said, sounding breathless but relieved, "I'm hiding in the closet."

One grim-faced farmer moved to stop Sharon, but Hans got between them and unconsciously imitated his beloved brother-in-law. "Don't even think about it."

"We have no quarrel with you." The man flung a hand toward the farmhouse. "They tried to poison Drud, and for that they will burn. It is justice." He went after Sharon again.

Hans pushed the farmer back, and used another of Jeff's favorite phrases. "Over my fucking dead body."

Gretchen turned her lethal gaze on the man. "You kidnapped these women and forced them to help you. Now you intend to burn them for trying. This is your idea of justice?"

"They have been of little help, I assure you," a snide voice said.

The Teutonic goddess swiveled and watched the older man approach. "You would be the English doctor."

"I am William Harvey," he said. "As I've told these good people, I don't believe these women are witches. Mentally deprived, perhaps, and criminally negligent, surely, but—"

"But you would have watched them burn." Gretchen studied him for a moment. "What does that make you?"

Twin red spots appeared on the great man's cheekbones. "You do not know whom you are addressing, madam."

"I know exactly what you are," she said flatly. "Do you know who I am?"

Apparently the villagers did, for her expression made everyone shuffle back. One of the peasants bumped into Harvey, who tripped over the hem of his robes. As he tried to regain his footing, the physician doubled over and howled.

"Oh, for crying out loud." Sharon finished untying Tibelda before she ran over to Harvey, whose face was contorted with pain. "What did you do? Stub your toe?"

"My gout." He pulled back the tattered hem and displayed a badly swollen foot. "I must soak it in cold water at once, or I will be lame for weeks."

Hans helped Sharon support Harvey as he called two of the sturdiest village men to take him. Still cowed by Gretchen's presence, the crowd dispersed as the men led Harvey to a neighboring home.

"I think we can go in now," Hans's sister said. "Hans, stand guard."

Inside, Sharon saw Anne sit down by the fire, while Father Mazzare joined Uli at Drud's bedside and Gretchen spoke to a much calmer Tibelda.

Adam went to the hearth to speak to Anne. As soon as he touched her hand, his head snapped up. "Lady Sharon, come here, quickly."

Sharon caught the urgency in his voice and hurried over. Anne sat very still, and was dead white. "Honey, what is it?"

"We had a bit of a crowd control problem." She spoke slowly, as if getting out each word took tremendous effort. "I had to take some of Tibelda's tonic, to prove it was harmless." She swallowed. "Surprise, it's not."

Sharon checked her pulse, which was practically nonexistent. "Overdose?"

"Not sure." Anne's voice dropped to a whisper. "My heart rate's dropped, and I've got one hell of a migraine. I've been so dizzy and nauseated that I can't stand up straight. Where's your Dad?"

"He was operating, so we drafted Dr. Abrabanel." Sharon waved Balthazar over. "Got another patient for you."

Anne related the circumstances while the elder Abrabanel performed a brief exam. He left her to pick up the leaves Harvey had thrown on the floor, and examined them for a moment before he returned.

"I fear this was not caused by lily of the valley, Anne." He displayed a dark green leaf tinged with purple. "This, I believe, is the source of your illness."

At the sight of the plant, she stirred. "Is that what I think it is?"

"Digitalis purpurae." Balthazar gave her a sympathetic smile. "A very dangerous substance for a healthy woman to digest."

"Foxglove—Jesus Christ, no wonder I can't move. She called it fairy's glove, and I thought it was a diuretic." Anne closed her eyes. "Maybe Harvey is right."

"Tibelda." Sharon's voice snapped across the room. "Come here. Now."

The old woman reluctantly left the priest and came to the hearth. "She was not supposed to drink the tonic herself."

"Will it kill her?" Sharon demanded.

"I don't know." Tibelda lifted her chin. "I do not give it to people who are well."

"What concentration did you use, and how many leaves?" Balthazar listened as the old woman gave him her measurements, then nodded. "That would be sufficient for someone of Drud's size. Anne, as long as you do not take another dose, the effects will wear off. However, you must rest and someone should stay with you. Sharon, I will need you here with me."

"Allow me the honor, sir." To Anne, Adam said, "The villagers have made rooms available for Dr. Harvey and me, and I insist you take mine for as long as you need it."

"Insist all you want." She swayed as he helped her from the chair. "Just hold on to me or I'm going to fall flat on my face."

Hans stood by Sharon to watch them go. "They look good together, ja?"

"Sure they do," she said. "Not everyone falls in love at first sight, like Jeff and your sister, though."

He gave her an odd look. "Are you so certain of that?"

* * *

"This is silly, Ambassador. Put me down, I can walk."

He shouldered the door to his room open. "I thought we agreed you would call me Adam."

"Put me down, Adam."

"Dr. Abrabanel insists you rest, Lady Anne." Olearius carried her the last few yards to his bed. "You do not wish to make more work for him, do you?"

"No wonder you're a diplomat." As he eased her down, she struggled to sit up. "No, let me. I'll lose consciousness if I'm prone."

"Prone to what?" He sat down on the edge of the mattress. "Independence? Stubbornness? Determination?"

"All of the above." Anne edged backward until her shoulders rested against mound of pillows he piled behind her. "I meant if I lie down, I'll fall asleep."

"Sleep then, my lady." He smoothed some rumpled hair away from her cheek. "I will watch over you until you awake."

"I don't need a baby-sitter either." She caught his hand, and focused on the fine scars crisscrossing his palms and fingers. "Where did these come from?"

"Sharpening quills, scraping vellum, grinding inks." He made a seesaw gesture. "A scholar's work is oftimes hazardous."

"Tell me about it. I nearly poisoned myself in the name of nursing today." She licked her lips. "Lord, I'd kill for a cup of coffee right now."

"No need to plot a murder." Adam disappeared for a moment, then brought back a steaming cup.

The rich, familiar smell made Anne blink. "I'm hallucinating." She took the cup, inhaled, then took a cautious sip. "I'm not hallucinating. Oh, my God. This is real coffee." She sipped again, and moaned. "Adam, I'm in love with you."

Amusement made his eyes gleam. "On so short an acquaintance?"

"Forget that. This is honest-to-God coffee here." She took a third sip, then forced herself to hand the cup back to him. "I can't believe I'm saying this, but I can't drink it, not on top of Tibelda's tonic. I'll throw up."

"Perhaps later, when you are feeling better." He set the coffee aside. "You have a fondness for the brew, then?"

"I was a confirmed addict, until we ran out about a month ago. Where in the world did you get it?"

"Dr. Harvey introduced me to the drink in Holstein." Adam reached behind her to adjust a pillow. "Apparently he carries a prodigious supply of the beans, wherever he goes."

She wondered what Harvey would take in trade for his prodigious supply. Maybe Mike Stearns wouldn't miss one or two of the town's pickup trucks. "What did you think of Grantville?"

"I saw so many wondrous things, my head fair spins." He tapped his temple. "It is a marvelous place, but you are all so very far from home."

"This is our home now." Anne looked out through the small window at Uli's farmhouse. Tibelda reminded her so much of Granny, and over the past months Sharon had been like a sister to her. Even the lofty Dr. Harvey had brought something back to her life—pride in her work and her heritage.

The coffee didn't hurt, either.

"I am glad you feel that way." Adam watched her eyelids droop. "Does your husband share the same sentiments?"

"No husband." Anne yawned, then lifted her left hand and languidly wiggled her ringless fingers. "No time . . . for . . . one. . . ."

As she fell asleep, Adam caught her hand and gently lowered it to rest at her side. "Ah, but Lady Anne, you are in a different time now."

* * *

Despite his aggravated gout, Harvey refused to be kept from the patient, and limped in several hours later. Since Drud's heart rate had improved, and his fever remained low-grade, Balthazar called everyone to the table. Father Mazzare tactfully invited Uli for a walk and guided the peasant woman out of the house.

"Sharon has stabilized the patient, and will monitor him so that we may concentrate on diagnosing his condition," The physician scanned the faces around him. "Dr. Harvey, you have far superior knowledge of anatomy, while Frau Tibelda understands the nature of botanical medicines. I myself have studied a wide variety of healing practices used in many different lands and have learned much from my new colleagues in Grantville. If we consult together—"

"With her?" Harvey rose to his feet, gasped, then dropped back in his chair. "It is our duty to drive women practitioners out of our profession, man, not collaborate with them!"

"If it wasn't for Frau Tibelda, Drud would be dead," Anne said from the doorway. She still looked shaky, but the color had returned to her face, and her voice was much stronger. "I didn't keep him alive until you got here. The medicine she made did."

When Harvey glanced at Balthazar, he nodded.

"Very well." The English physician regarded the herbalist with thinly veiled dislike. "We will consult on the matter . . . together."

Anne thought of morning ward rounds as they went together to examine Drud. Balthazar listened as she described the patient's progression, and showed him the makeshift chart she'd kept on his vitals. Sharon had performed an EKG earlier, and explained the results to Tibelda and Harvey.

"An incredible device." Harvey examined the paper strip. "It also supports my diagnosis. As you can see"—he pointed to several clusters—"the lines that are shorter, here, here, and here. This can only be attributed to dysfunction."

"The lines are the same, at the same spaces," Tibelda said. "Would they not grow more shallow as his lungs seize?"

Balthazar examined the tape, then consulted the vitals on Drud's chart. "You are both right. The lines do indicate a dysfunction, but one that is regular. This condition may have originated much earlier in his life, and been of some duration."

"Wait." Anne recalled something the English physician had said. "Dr. Harvey, you told me you'd seen a lot of people with this condition die. How old were they?"

"Most of them were children or adolescents." Harvey's shrewd eyes moved to the patient. "Now that I think of it, I've never actually treated a middle-aged person with this type of dysfunction."

Anne took a quick breath. "A congenital heart defect, like abnormal walls, or valves, or vessels. That's it. He's had this from birth, Dr. Abrabanel."

"Corrective surgery or implanted devices sustain patients in your time, Anne, but as for the present"—Balthazar shook his head—"such a defect means retarded growth and development, and an early grave. Even if Drud somehow survived childhood despite this, as an adult his health would have rapidly deteriorated."

"Perhaps not." Tibelda looked thoughtful. "Anne, what manner of defect would make Drud this way?"

"It could be aortic valve stenosis—having two flaps in a valve in his heart, instead of three. Over the years, the flaps tend to become calcified, and that causes regurgitation of blood into the ventricle. In other words, his heart doesn't pump enough blood out." She rubbed the back of her neck. "But Balthazar is right, it doesn't fit. An untreated defect would become very serious in adulthood. Drud's symptoms appeared out of nowhere."

The old woman turned to Drud's wife, who had silently returned with Father Mazzare. "Tell them, Uli."

"I don't know what do you mean, old woman."

"No one cares about that"—Tibelda shook her head—"but I took the fairy's glove from your own garden."

Suddenly Uli became very interested in examining the floor. "I grow it because it is pretty."

"Tell them!"

The command made Uli explode. "I grew the plant and made your tonic and gave it to Drud! I put it in his cider! Every day!" The farmer's wife clenched her fists, then she seemed to crumple. "He forgot to take the cask I put it in when he went to Jena two days ago. When they brought him back, they wouldn't leave. I didn't know what to do. I couldn't tell them."

"Well, why the hell not?" Sharon demanded. "Do you have any idea how much time it would have saved us?"

"Do you think I wish to be branded a witch? Like her?" Uli gestured wildly at Tibelda. "Live, like her? Hiding in the forest? I have Drud, and friends here! I would be despised, driven from my village!"

Anne felt the dregs of her migraine flaring up again. "But you had no problem with using her to clean up your mess."

"What else was I to do, when he came?" Uli pointed toward Harvey. "He would not go, he would not leave Drud alone. He would have had them burn me."

"This man might have died . . . simply because of my presence?" Harvey looked stricken.

Sharon touched his hand. "You didn't know."

With visible reluctance he turned to Tibelda. "I owe you an apology, madam."

"Do not strangle yourself on the words, physick." The old woman waved her hand. "I have no need of them."

Father Mazzare went to Uli, and took her hands in his. "I believe she needs more from you, my child."

The peasant woman cringed. "She hates me."

"No," Tibelda said, in an unfamiliar, gentle voice. "I have never hated you. I have always protected you, child."

Uli slowly walked over to kneel before the herbalist. "I've pretended for too long, but I was so afraid. You know that, don't you?" She buried her face in Tibelda's skirt and sobbed. "Forgive me, Mother."

As the Grantvillians stared, the old woman rested one hand on her daughter's head, and carefully stroked her hair.

* * *

Two days later, Drud had recovered enough to be moved, and the entire group relocated themselves and their patient to Grantville for further treatment at the hospital. By then Tibelda and Uli had reconciled, and were in agreement with James Nichols' decision not to perform heart surgery.

"Your daughter's herbal treatments have been successful for the past twenty years," Nichols told Tibelda. "I see no reason to discontinue the medical regime, unless you do?"

Pleased at being treated as an equal, the herbalist shook her head. "It is as you say, physick. Now, what is this about working in a lavatory?"

"Jeff Adams is setting up a laboratory where he can work with you on developing new medicines," Nichols said, and smiled as he took the old woman's arm. "Let me show you around."

Anne Jefferson was already working on Uli, and nearly had her convinced to move to Grantville, and begin interning as a nurse in Anne's fledgling training program. "You already know a lot about cardiac care," she pointed out. "And Drud is interested in joining our construction crew."

"I would like to stay close to my mother," Uli admitted. "And if we live here, we need not worry about being burned as witches if anything goes wrong."

She laughed. "No, you'll probably be drafted to help fix it."

Anne left work that evening to find the ambassador waiting patiently outside the hospital's main entrance. "Adam, what are you doing out here?"

"I wanted to bid you farewell before I leave." He sketched an elegant bow. "Would you allow me to escort you home?"

"Okay." She took his proffered arm and tried not to feel depressed. The man was an ambassador, after all, and travel went with the job. "So, are you excited about the trip?"

"The duke has requested I forego the second half of my journey after I complete my mission in Persia. He is quite interested in pursuing new trade with you Americans." He guided her around a puddle on the street. "I should be returning to Germany in a few months."

"I see." She felt better, for some reason. "Will you be stopping by Grantville on your way back?"

"Perhaps." Adam sounded amused. "Is there a specific reason that I should?"

"Maybe." She felt her face grow hot as she recalled what she'd said to him over Harvey's coffee. She'd only been joking at the time, but now . . . "I think it would be a good idea. Seeing as your duke is interested in trading with us and all."

Adam, ever the diplomat, only smiled.

* * *

Before he left Grantville, William Harvey took a brief tour with Anne Jefferson that concluded at the high school principal's office with an introduction to Ed Piazza.

"I'm sorry I have to run, but my shift at the hospital starts in twenty minutes." She hesitated, then held out her hand. "After everything that's happened, you probably won't believe this, but . . . it was an genuine honor to meet you, sir."

"You are a very uncompromising woman, Miss Jefferson. You've insulted me, overruled me, and completely undermined my position against women practicing medicine." Harvey brushed a dry kiss over her knuckles. "The honor, I believe, is mine."

As the bemused nurse left, the principal exchanged a glance with Harvey. "Hell of a woman, isn't she?"

"Utterly terrifying. I shall not feel safe or competent again until there are at least two hundred miles between us. Now, for the last of my tasks." He placed four books on Ed's desk. "Dr. Abrabanel said I could inquire as to whether copies of these medical texts could be made for me here."

The principal, who had become Grantville's unofficial director of information and resources, put aside a schedule of projects for the school's machine shop and examined the books on modern diagnostic and surgical methods. "Sure, we can do that."

"Thank you." Harvey also produced a scrap of paper. "I must hasten my return to England, so when your monks have completed making the copies, would you send them by courier to this address in London?"

"Um, we don't use monks anymore, sir." Ed managed to keep a straight face as he picked up the books. "Come with me and I'll show you."

After escorting Harvey to the head librarian's office, Ed demonstrated how the school's copy machine worked. "We have to conserve its use these days, but doing the books are no problem. Especially after your generous gift of coffee, and telling us where to find the Turkish traders to buy more."

"I have never seen grown men weep like that." The English physician shook his head. "Over a beverage, no less. It was most disconcerting."

Ed thought of the precious half-pound of beans locked in his office safe, and grinned. "We get very sentimental sometimes." To the librarian, he said, "Would you copy whatever Dr. Harvey needs?"

The principal excused himself to return to his office, and the librarian got started on the books. Disturbed by the unfamiliar sounds from the incredible but eerie machine, Harvey left the room to examine the shelves outside. The sheer number of books collected by these Americans still stunned Harvey. And the quality—every volume was meticulously bound, worthy of a monarch's library—yet left out in plain sight, where anyone could take them.

"God in Heaven. They should hire monks, if only to stand watch over this place," he muttered as he removed one book and caressed the smooth binding. He opened it carefully, flipped through the pages, then a passage caught his eye. Harvey groped blindly for a chair, sat down, and began to read.

Ten minutes later, he approached the woman at the copier. "Dear lady, would it be a terrible inconvenience for you to copy a few pages from this book as well?"

The librarian checked the spine. "Trevelyan's History?"

"I think the king would be charmed to see what future scholars have written about him, don't you?" Harvey pointed to the corners he had folded over. "Just these pages I've marked, if you would."

"No problem." She added the book to the stack and went back to work.

* * *

A new influx of refugees fleeing Tilly's battle lines kept the town's physicians on double shifts, so Rebecca Stearns volunteered to retrieve her father's medical books from the high school library.

"I need to walk, Anne says. James, too," she told her father when Balthazar Abrabanel protested. She caressed the protruding curve of her lower belly. "It is good for the baby."

It was also good for her, she thought on the way, as the queasiness from her first months of pregnancy still returned on occasion. A daily cup of Tibelda's chamomile and mint tea helped, but not as much as the fresh air and exercise. Besides, as she constantly reminded her big, tough husband Mike, she was pregnant, not made of porcelain.

Thinking of Michael made her dark eyes grow dreamy as Rebecca walked into the high school library. Just that morning the former union leader, now Grantville's main domestic crisis manager, had spread his large hand over her stomach. He'd given her a slow smile as he'd felt their child kick. You'd better not be made of porcelain, sweetheart, or this kid is going to make some cracks. 

"Morning, Mrs. Stearns," the librarian greeted her as she walked in the office. "What can I do for you?"

"I'm here to pick up my father's medical books." She spotted them on a shelf beside the copier, but didn't recognize the history book on top. "I don't think this one is his."

"Oh, that belongs to the library. That English doctor who was here last week had me copy a couple of pages for him." The librarian took it and placed it on the to-be-shelved cart. "I heard he nearly killed someone, but he seemed like a nice old man."

"Dr. Harvey is a very nice man. He merely gave the wrong advice." Rebecca retrieved the book and flipped it open to a dog-eared section. "You copied these pages, here?" At her nod, Rebecca skimmed the text, then closed her eyes for a moment. "Do you know why he wanted them?"

The woman thought for a moment. "I can't remember, exactly. He said something about a king. Why?"

"That nice old man is not only the most celebrated anatomist in England, he also happens to be personal physician to King Charles." Rebecca showed the first marked page to the librarian. "The same King Charles who will lose his head in 1649, as it says here."

"Oh, geez." The librarian clapped a hand over her mouth. "He'll tell him, won't he?"

"As loyal as Dr. Harvey is to the crown, yes, I am sure he will." Rebecca closed the book. "And I fear this time, the advice he gives will have far more lethal consequences."


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