Amberg, Upper Palatinate
Breakfast at the inn was usually when the men talked over what they had read
in the newspapers-the war in the north, what Wallenstein was doing in
Bohemia, anything that had been heard from Venice or Rome. Supper at the inn
was when they compared notes on the day's work. What each of them learned
separately was of far more use after it had been combined with the
information that the others had collected. The reluctance of the mine owners
to invest, for example, which they had made very clear, made a lot more
sense in the light of what the Cavrianis had learned about cost/profit
ratios and what Keith had found out about Bavaria's nationalization of the
mines and the resulting uncertain legal status.
"But," Keith summed up, "I think it can be done. Not as fast or as easily as
we were hoping. Duke Ernst is going to have to cut some knots. And hit some
kind of a balance between total control and letting the entrepreneurs run
wild with no supervision at all. It's not as if our-the SoTF's, I mean-laws
are in effect here, covering labor relations and pollution and such. He's
going to have to think about that, and some of it may have to go all the way
up to the king, ah, emperor, for approval. I just hope that won't drag out
too long. Otherwise, new technology will help a lot-stationary steam pumps
for the big operations. Capital will help a lot, too-low cost loans for the
smaller operations to buy the traditional pumps."
Marc started to open his mouth; then closed it again.
Keith waved at him. "Go ahead, kid. If you've got something to say, then say
Marc looked at his father. "I'm, ah, here to watch. To observe. To learn.
Not to say things."
"Say it, and I'll decide whether it was worth saying." Keith wasn't entirely
"Well, sir, I don't think you're going to get younger men for the rebuilding
of the metals trades once you have the ore. Not skilled workers, I mean. Oh,
you can get plenty of unskilled workers. Ex-soldiers. Servants, even, from
farms and towns, if they're strong enough for the work. Especially if they
want to get married. The mines and mills and smelters never tried to limit
their men's marriages, the way towns and farmers do. Oh, they had barracks
for the unmarried guys. But there's no need for miners to "live in" the way
servants do. And it's out in the country, not short on space the way walled
towns always are. So the men can marry, build cottages; their wives can
garden, keep chickens, cook for the unmarried men, do laundry. It works fine
for them, as a system. They'll find that kind of worker. But skilled? I
don't think so."
"Why not?" Keith was listening a little harder now.
"The whole Montanbereich has not really been working for fifteen years.
That's . . . well, it's almost as long as I've been alive. The conditions
described in the 1609 survey-that's several years longer than I've been
alive. That's too long for a man to wait for a new job. They've left, if
they could. I bet, if you look, you'll find them in mines and forges all
over Germany, all the way to Silesia and Lusatia. In Austria and Bohemia. In
northern Italy. Which means that they haven't been training apprentices here
in the Upper Palatinate for that long, almost. So you're not going to find
many younger masters and hardly any trained journeymen. Not even apprentices
about to become journeymen-not except for just a few places, like the one
Papa and I found out in the country. Plus, Duke Maximilian forced out a
bunch more of the skilled workers who were Protestant, mostly grown men who
naturally took their sons with them. Some have come back, but not many to
stay. They've just come to get what they can and cut their losses. Then, of
the ones who stayed in the 1620s, others have died of the plague and other
epidemics since then. No, Herr Pilcher. I think, I really think-for the
processing and finishing, it will be old men and untrained boys, at least to
start with. That will slow things down. People may start to come back when
things get going, but not…not right away."
Keith pursed his lips. "I'll file that away to think about. And mention it
Leopold Cavriani smiled to himself. His son had noticed this, thought about
it, presented it clearly. Ahhhh! He would have to compliment Jacob Durre.
The waiter appeared with food. Quite a lot of it. They dropped business for
eating. Especially Marc. His capacity for food astonished the rest of them.
Toby Snell was with them, for a change. Like Mary and Veronica, he was
living in the Schloss. Not, by any means, in such luxurious quarters. He was
sleeping in a cot in a small room on the top floor, next to the array of
large blue bottles and annexed wires and stuff that constituted a down-time
He started talking about his girlfriend, back home. Dawn. Not, he pointed
out, his fiancee. Half-seriously, he lamented that even if she did agree to
marry him, he was never going to be able to live up to the images on the
romance novels that she read by the jillion.
"You'd think," he finished, "that fate would have done us guys a favor. That
eventually, after the Ring of Fire, the things would have worn out. But no.
What do the down-timers do? Reprint them! Complete with woodcuts of all the
hunks on the covers."
"If you get her to say 'yes'," Keith answered, "the rest of it is easy. If,
that is, she's romantic enough."
Toby was inclined to listen. Keith's wife was a member of the same book club
that Dawn had joined a while back.
"The hard part is having a wife who sees you the way you are. Hey, having
one of those and keeping her in love with you is something of a challenge.
If she notices that your hair is sort of thin on top" -he pointed to his own
head- "and you're sort of sloppy about pruning the weigela bushes and
sometimes you don't get around to taking out the garbage when she asks you
to, how do you explain it? If she compares the waist size on your last set
of briefs with the waist size on your new set of briefs, how are you
supposed to persuade her that things aren't settling, so to speak? A
realistic wife-that would be a problem."
Marc was listening with fascination.
"But a member of the Romance Readers book club. Hey, Toby, it's a cinch, if
you do the husband business at a sort of minimum level. Basically, I mean,
don't get hauled home sodden drunk very often. Usually get there for supper
on time and call when you can't. Remember her birthday and anniversary with
flowers. Which isn't that hard, in spite of all the jokes. I keep Max's
birthday and our anniversary written on a note card on my machine. So, you
see, just do that much. Your wife's imagination will take care of all the
rest. You see, she really wants to have a romantic, hunky, husband. So
she'll festoon you with all sorts of desired heroic qualities that
you…ummn…may not actually have, like tinsel on a Christmas tree, and
cheerfully ignore the fact that middle age is not just creeping up on you
but has already arrived and taken up squatters' rights on your midsection."
Marc would have been happy to listen all evening, this being completely
beyond anything he had thus far encountered in his rather sheltered
"You mean?" Toby was asking.
"Yup. Just don't deliberately disillusion the little thing, and she'll do
all the rest of the work that needs to be done so she can have a Great
Romance. Happily ever after. Guaranteed recipe, the old 'Pilcher special.'"
Toby pulled a little spray bottle and soft cloth out of his breast pocket
and started to polish his glasses.
"Where did you get the cleaning fluid," Keith asked.
"Just vinegar. Like everything else. Some vinegar manufacturer in Badenburg
must be making a fortune out of Grantville, the amount of the stuff that we
use. That's where the crocks full of it come from. McNally says it won't
hurt the lenses and these little spray bottles last and last." Toby cocked
his head. "Speaking of lasting, how long have you and Max been together,
Keith thought about it. "Well, Mom brought Lyman and me back from Detroit
the summer after she and Dad divorced. That would have been, um, '83. I
started high school in Grantville as a sophomore. And I took Max to the
Halloween dance that year. That was our first date. We got married the
summer of '89. So it sort of depends on how you figure it, I guess."
"You really never dated anyone else?"
Keith shook his head. "We pretty much figured out that we'd be getting
married some day on the second date. But Max was a year behind me in school
and we didn't want to frazzle her folks. Old man Maddox was an okay guy, but
Max's mom could be a real PITA sometimes. Plus, I knew that when I turned
eighteen, Dad would stop the child support, just as soon as he legally
could. So I graduated and moved over to Fairmont, got a factory job and
started on my A.A. in night classes. Kept right on, summers and all, so it
only took me three years. Max graduated the next year and commuted to State;
we got married between her sophomore and junior years."
Keith grinned. "Want some advice from a wise old man, Toby? Ninety percent
of marriages that go on the rocks land there because of that 'first you say
you do and then you don't' business like the song says. Pretty soon it's
'gloom, despair, and agony on me.' He's down at Tip's having one too many
and she's at the county seat talking to a divorce lawyer. If you want to be
married to Dawn, just make up your mind that you're married to her, and then
stick to it. And if you don't really want to be married to her for good,
don't marry her in the first place."
Toby thought that this sounded altogether too simple. Leopold Cavriani,
though, was nodding in approval; Marc was watching his father.
The conversation meandered on. Eventually, Lambert Felser asked if anyone
else had heard mention that there was a lot of sickness going around.
"Not a lot," Keith answered. "But Tanzflecker didn't show for the meeting
today. Nadelmann said that one of his children died last night."
"One of the radio techs is sick," Toby contributed. "He didn't feel well
enough to get up this morning. I mentioned it to Mrs. Simpson and she came
upstairs. Then she went and talked to Jake Ebeling and hauled Bill Hudson
upstairs to look at him."
Jake was the military liaison from the up-time contingent in the USE
military to Duke Ernst. Here to teach and to learn. Spent most of his time
with Hand, the Swede. Bill was Willie Ray Hudson's grandson, trained since
the Ring of Fire as an emergency medical technician. He was teaching and
learning, too. Those two, with Dane Kitt and Mark Ellis, made up the whole
body of up-time military assigned to Duke Ernst. The trade delegation had
scarcely seen them since they'd been here. Kitt and Ellis weren't even in
town. They had gone to Ingolstadt with Banér. Plus three "civilian
advisors," one of whom, Bozarth, the UMWA man, was down in Regensburg
schmoozing the city council, while the other two, Glazer and Fisher, were
someplace out of sight doing something that no one had bothered to tell the
trade delegation about. Probably something that no one was going to tell a
trade delegation about.
"Plague?" Leopold Cavriani asked. It was the first thing that always came to
mind. There had been plague in the entire Upper Palatinate since February
1632, when a passing army unit left a couple hundred infected soldiers
behind; Amberg had been particularly hard-hit the previous winter.
Keith shook his head. "The local doctors say that it isn't. And, honestly,
they ought to know. They can't cure plague, but they sure see enough of it
to recognize it when it comes along."
* * *