“But you can’t turn us out. It is almost dark.” Jill got angry. They had been to six places, and there was no room anywhere. They had avoided the religious orders thus far, but it was beginning to look like they might have no choice. Ethan had thought the Dominicans might be able to place them in a family home. Many homes had been opened to refugees from the countryside, but Jill felt reluctant to take a Lutheran and a couple of Moslems into the heart of Catholic Central.
“At least it is not likely that we will be tortured,” Ethan pointed out, with a glance at Ali Pasha.
“Don’t be so parochial,” Jill scolded him. “Many worlds have had their share of Spanish Inquisitions.”
Ethan understood, and he went quietly back to trying to figure a way out of their dilemma while Jill turned back to the innkeeper.
“But you must have something!” She was about to throw a fit when Ethan had a thought.
“My wife,” he interrupted. “She is pregnant, you see, and with all that we suffered getting here, I am afraid we may lose the baby.” That at least got the clerk to look up. “Tell me there is no room at the inn. Don’t you have a stable, maybe a manger?”
The clerk chuckled. “Now I have heard it all,” he said, and went back to his papers and to ignoring them.
All this time, Ali Pasha had blindly followed along. He examined everything he could see and touch and paid no attention to what was going on. This city, as he called it, was nearly Fifteen thousand people strong, and double that with all the influx from the countryside. More importantly, it was full of wonders, from the cobblestone streets to the buildings and inhabitants that dwelt there. Ali Pasha was particularly taken with a corner of the city they wandered through about an hour earlier. It had been given over to Swiss-Bavarian architecture. The people spoke a kind of German there, though most of the rest of the city spoke British. Thus it was Elizabethtown rather than something German. It was not named after the first Elizabeth, though, who was forced to suffer a marriage to Phillip II of Spain, but after the current beloved Queen who knew her place well beneath the Holy Roman Emperor. Yet, as with all times of wonder, a person must come up sometime for air, and when Ali Pasha breathed, he asked what was wrong.
“Here,” he said in Arabic after they explained to him what was happening. He handed Ethan a bag of coins, all gold. “It was all the money I had plus what I begged from my neighbors. I planned to come and buy you at the slave market, but I suppose it may not have value in this place.”
“Not the coins, maybe,” Ethan agreed. “But gold is gold.” He pulled one out and shoved it under the clerk’s nose. The clerk drooled.
“What? You work for Appalachian oil or something?” He took the coin and examined it on both sides. “Mister, I wish I had room. Hell, we haven’t even got a closet.” He handed the coin back.
“We could eat.” Lars shoved his nose into the conversation. The clerk snatched the gold back.
“For another one of these, I’ll let all of you have anything you want off the menu.” Ethan did not begrudge him another one. When he handed the bag back to Ali Pasha, he added a word of caution
“Guard this with your life,” he said. Ali Pasha understood and immediately handed the bag to Manomar.
Ali Pasha tried several dishes that evening, but he was a picky eater. Lars and Ethan did not care what it was or what it tasted like. They were hungry, and Jill was inclined to agree with them. Manomar ate enough for two people, though there was a bit of a problem at first since he refused to sit at the same table with his Master. Ali Pasha finally had to order him to do it, but it was clear that the big slave was not comfortable.
Supper consisted of boiled everything: beef, potatoes and vegetables. There really was little choice. No one around them talked about rationing. Food could always be brought in through the port, but selection was going to be limited for some time. At least the wine was good, and Ethan was thrilled to find coffee on the menu. True, it was not the plain American coffee he was used to, but he was in heaven, regardless. They were just about to try the sweets, a whole cartload of pastries, when Jill bumped Ethan’s leg and pointed with her head.
“We have company,” she said. There was a man in a fancy army uniform at the front desk, and the clerk pointed straight at them. As the man walked directly toward them, Ethan felt the need to pull Jill’s robe tight to be sure she was well covered. Jill said nothing.