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Friday, October 14, 1633

Franz knocked on the door, and waited impatiently for someone to answer. Marla made a slight grunt, and her hold on his arm became a fierce clutch. He leaned over to her bowed head, and said, “But a moment more, and you will be out of the rain and able to sit.” She nodded her head slightly, and he straightened.

At that moment, the door opened and a young woman looked out at them. “Yes?” she said in accented English.

“Fraulein Marla Linder, come at Frau Simpson’s invitation,” Franz replied.

The young woman opened the door wide. “Please, come in. Wilkommen.”

Franz led Marla into the house. The comparative warmth of the sitting room was a very welcome change from the liquid ice of the October rain, and he heard her sigh. Another woman swept into the room from a side door as the maid shut the front door behind them.

“Miss Linder, I am so glad to finally meet you face to face,” the newcomer exclaimed.

Franz was in no doubt as to who this was, although he had never seen her before in his life. Even in Grantville they had begun to hear of Mary Simpson, the Dame of Magdeburg, whose grace and courtesy had charmed even the young myrmidons of the Committees of Correspondence.

Marla’s fingers clenched on his arm again. “Your pardon, Frau Simpson,” Franz hastily interjected, “but it would be a kindness if Marla could sit down.”

Mrs. Simpson’s beaming smile shifted to an expression of concern, and her eyes widened as she took Marla’s hands. “Dear, your hands are like ice! You poor thing.” Mary released Marla’s hand and began unfastening buttons. “At the end of a long journey, and you’re soaking wet and cold. Hilde, help take her coat.” With the maid’s help, the drenched coat was removed and hung up. “Come with us, and we’ll get you warm and dry.”

The serving woman led Marla out of the sitting room as Mary turned to Franz. “Please, make yourself at home, while we take care of Miss Linder. Tell me, Mr. . . .” she looked at him in inquiry.

“Franz Sylwester, Frau Simpson,” he responded with a slight bow.

Mary smiled. “Oh, good, I was hoping to meet you. We’ll talk later, but for right now, do you know if Marla gets like this often? How long has she been hurting?”

“Never have I seen her like this,” Franz said, his worry coming to the fore. “She has been suffering for over two days now, since after the rain started.”

Mary nodded. “As I thought. If we get her dry and warm, it should ease up. Please, Franz, be seated, and we’ll be back with you before long.” She turned and hurried out of the room.

Franz took his violin in its bag and Marla’s flute in its case from the plastic bags that had protected them from the rain. He set the instruments on a nearby table, then hung the precious bags to dry on a peg next to Marla’s coat near the door. He stopped for a moment to look at the bags, and marvel at the stuff they were made from. How plastic was made still seemed like magic to him, but there was no denying how useful the stuff was. Take these bags—they weighed next to nothing, could be folded and stuck into a pocket, yet at a moment’s notice they could be taken out and used to shield anything they would contain from moisture. Truly, the future must be a marvelous place if it could produce Marla, the music he was coming to love so strongly, and plastic.

With a smile he started on his own buttons, and moments later his own very wet coat was hung on the next peg in the wall. Finally shed of his various burdens, he took a seat in one of the most comfortable chairs it had ever been his pleasure to sit in. The warmth radiating from the stove soaked into him and the chill left his own extremities. He felt his body relaxing for the first time since the trip from Grantville had begun.

Traveling in Thuringia in the late fall and early winter was unpleasant at best, and arduous at worst. Rain or early snow could turn what roads there were into muddy bogs. Shepherding a grand piano from Grantville to Magdeburg in early October had been . . . interesting, Franz mused.