1636: The Cardinal Virtues – Snippet 07
She set the last sheet aside, making a neat stack, and lay the quill next to it. The window was still there, and she could throw it all away and start again. Or not.
After some dithering she sealed the letter, with no further corrections, and passed it to a courier. Dad would have it in a few weeks, and maybe it would make him feel better. In any case writing back to Grantville had lightened her mood.
Even before the radio team arrived, the Castello del Valentino had been regularly under construction since 1630. It had been the private home of the duchess of Savoy — Christina Maria, the sister of King Louis of France — and she kept carpenters, stonemasons and other craftsmen continually occupied with renovations. The Castello was an impressive building: square and roughly horseshoe-shaped, with four towers along the central edge and two each on each of the legs; an interior courtyard ended in a rounded arch with a gate-tower in the center, taller than all the rest. Tree-lined avenues framed gardens beyond, leading off into the countryside, while the long side of the building faced the Po River. A river-gate in the middle of a palisaded wall led down a few steps to a dock.
Despite the noise, Her Grace seemed very comfortable there. Whenever she was with child — which, as far as Terrye Jo could tell, was just about always — she had left Turin and come out into the country. A Grantville-trained doctor — really a down-timer with a few months’ education in up-time nursing techniques — had been hired out by the duke to attend her, and he had a permanent apartment in the north wing. His expertise was the first up-time knowledge that Duke Victor Amadeus had imported into his lands, and it was better than a chirurgeon who knew nothing other than bleeding and purging.
Late in 1634, the duke had decided that Savoy needed a radio transmission facility, and had paid handsomely to have it built. Along with the spiderwork of antenna wires that now draped it, stretching between the many parapets and towers of the Castello. Naturally, that meant more renovation and construction. It also meant that the duke himself spent more time in residence.
The duchess might have resented it, except that she considered Terrye Jo herself a project. Her Grace had one daughter, Luisa Cristina, six years old but already court-wise and self-assured, but hardly someone who could be dressed and groomed quite yet. Terrye Jo was twenty-one, and gave no indication of interest in marrying or child-rearing. It was a challenge for both noblewoman and country girl, but it was a nice interruption from the workshop.
This morning, with her letter sent off, Terrye Jo made her way from her apartment in an upper floor of the south wing to the workshop, located in one of the towers that overlooked the Po. It was a big, airy place, originally designed for something else — a ballroom, maybe — but had been cleared out for work. The framework of the radio tower had been built above, and the hardware installed in the room. Long tables of planed timber had been placed there to hold equipment and parts and tools.
“Ah, Donna Teresa.” Artemisio Logiani, a local Torino who had graduated from castle handyman to junior radio tech, looked up from his work and offered her a bow she didn’t deserve. “You brighten up the morning.”
It would have been all too serious but for the wink and the grin.
“I doubt it.”
“Forgive me, Donna,” he answered. “I cannot help myself.” He smiled, showing not enough teeth. “I can scarcely focus my eyes in your presence.”
She ignored the compliment. It was a little dance she did with the down-timer every morning. She knew what he had in mind — there was really no question — but of the crew of radio operators she’d trained, he was the best. He could send almost as fast as she could. “How are you doing with the long-range antenna adjustment?”
“It goes slowly,” he said. “The materials are poor, especially now that there is war.” He gestured to a stretch of wire on the table behind him, painstakingly hand-twisted and mounted on an antenna strut. “I try to follow the book, but it is difficult.” He tapped the open book, a manuscript copy of a radio operator’s manual from the 1930s that the team had brought with them.
“I’m sure we’ll get it. We can reach Lyon now, but the duke said that he needed to get a further reach — someplace like . . .”
They both looked across at the voice. Terrye Jo sighed. Artemisio made a face, but not so the newcomer could see it. The young assistant was no fan of Dottore Umberto Baldaccio — and to be honest neither was she.
“Might be,” Terrye Jo said. She put her hands on her hips. “Do you know something we don’t, Umberto?”
He scowled: he preferred his title to his Christian name, which was why Terrye Jo didn’t use it.
“I know nothing that you do not,” he said, walking across to his part of the workshop. He occupied roughly a quarter of the usable area with books and crates and jars full of who know what, and glassware and powders and strips of metal and all kinds of unidentifiable crap.
When they’d installed and tested the equipment for the radio facility, most of the team had declined Duke Victor Amadeus’ offer to remain in Turin on retainer. There wasn’t anything wrong with Turin — it just wasn’t Rome or Paris or London or Magdeburg. Only Terrye Jo had stayed behind, as much an expert radio operator as down-time Turin had ever seen. The duke had assigned her this workshop but Baldaccio had already moved in, taking up from a third to a half of the available space. She’d gone to the duke herself and complained. He was a fraud, he was an alchemist, for Christ’s sake — but it turned out he was a well-established and well-connected fraud with the full confidence of the duke, who brushed off her protests. She’d gone away dissatisfied.
Then she’d gone to the duchess.
Christina Maria had been in Savoy for twenty years as the wife of the prince of Piedmont, who had come into his inheritance as Duke of Savoy in 1630. She was still thought of a foreigner even so. After her first son had died stillborn and her second had died young, during her third pregnancy (when she was lying-in here at Castello del Valentino) the duke had sent Umberto Baldaccio to her. He was a loyal retainer who had saved the duke’s life in some fashion that was never discussed, and he used all of the standard practices available to a seventeenth-century physician: purging and bleeding and hocus pocus and astrology. The baby turned out to be a girl (apparently Baldaccio’s prediction that it was a boy was conveniently forgotten) and the experience was enough for her to want to keep him as far away as possible. Thus, she warmed to the task of helping the young up-timer against the old charlatan.
One morning, Baldaccio ambled into the workshop to find that Terrye Jo and a group of retainers had gotten there far earlier and had moved his equipment and tools and dusty books full of Latin gibberish into neat stacks in the draftiest corner of the big room, close enough to a window that he could point his telescope but far enough to keep from being underfoot. He had been furious — but when Terrye Jo had smiled sweetly and invoked the name of the duchess, he had gone quiet and set to work disorganizing his work area to his own satisfaction. A large metal crate part way down on the two closest work benches served as an effective barrier, preventing him from taking over any more territory.