1636 The Viennese Waltz – Snippet 02

Chapter 2: Send Money

June, 1634

Liechtenstein House, outside the Ring of Fire

“It’s a letter from your Uncle Gundaker.” Josef Gandelmo, Karl’s tutor, financial manager, and companion, handed him the letter across the desk.

Karl opened it and read. “The family wants me to increase their allowance.”

“That’s hardly fair, Your Serene Highness.” Josef’s voice held quite a bit of censure, but at least a touch of humor as well. He moved over to the sideboard and gestured to the drink bottles.

Karl shook his head. He still wasn’t happy with the down-time version of Sprite and had never been all that pleased with beer or wine. “I know. But it does seem a bit strange how the world works. Gundaker wants five hundred thousand guilders in silver. Which is insane. Granted, silver is worth more in Vienna. It might even be profitable to ship silver to Vienna and dollars back here. If they had any dollars worth mentioning in Vienna. But they don’t.”

“I suspect His Imperial Majesty is putting considerable pressure on your family and if your family’s access to its wealth is problematical, His Imperial Majesty’s lost two-thirds of his tax base. The wealthier two-thirds,” Josef said.

Karl nodded. “Somehow, I don’t think my neighbors in Grantville are going to be all that thrilled with me if I start sending silver to fund Ferdinand’s armies. For that matter, Wallenstein — who is King Albrecht now — won’t be thrilled and he can cut off access to the better part of my assets. Frankly, it would be better politically if I didn’t have the money . . . at least not in cash.”

Josef snorted. “You should do more business with the Barbie Consortium. I’m sure they would be happy to relieve you of your cash . . . Ken Doll.”

Karl looked at Josef, then leaned back in his swivel chair and grinned. “You know, that’s not a bad idea.”

“I was joking, Your Serene Highness.”

“I know, but I’m not.” Karl gave Josef a serious look. “Josef, that letter was delayed. I didn’t receive it for at least a week from now. A month would be better. Meanwhile, get in touch with both Judy Wendell’s, the younger and the elder.”

Seeing his look, he added: “No, Josef, I don’t intend to defy my family and my emperor. But I’m walking a tightrope here, with Ferdinand II on one side and Wallenstein on the other. I can’t send cash. It would raise too many red flags. If I don’t send anything, it will raise red flags on the other side. I will send an authorization for the family to borrow against family assets in Bohemia and Silesia. Those assets will have considerably more value if they are the planned recipients of up-timer sweet corn, new plows, stamp presses, sewing machines, and anything else I can think of or learn from Mrs. Wendell. For the rest, I can’t send it if I don’t have it, and the Barbies might be just the group to invest those funds in ways that will make them temporarily unavailable. Go, Josef. Make your phone calls.”

Wendell Home, Grantville

Judy the Younger, irrepressible as always, said, “I don’t know how you do it. Somehow that outfit works on you.”

Karl smiled, gave her a little bow, and followed her into the living room where her mother and sister waited. She waved him to the couch. Karl was wearing dark-red calfskin riding boots with a bronze down-time made zipper replacing the laces. Zippers had become all the rage since the Ring of Fire; at least, for those who could afford them. Tucked into the boots were dark brown pants with embroidery in red and gold. A white linen shirt was covered by a gold lamé waistcoat and a dark green morning coat with the same red and gold embroidery. Both the vest and the morning coat had zippers as well. This was all topped with a beaver cowboy hat, which Karl took off and set on the end table once he was seated.

“So, what’s so important, Prince Karl?” asked Sarah Wendell. She was wearing the down-time version of a women’s business suit, a divided calf-length skirt and a matching jacket, with a high-collared blouse, all done in various shades of blue.

“I find myself in an unusual position,” Karl admitted. “For complicated reasons, I find it would be much better if I temporarily had a great deal less cash on hand.”

“I have to ask.” Judy the Younger grinned. “What complicated reasons?”

“My uncle wants me to send him five hundred thousand guilder in silver.”

Judy tut-tutted. “You people don’t know anything about money.”

“Be nice, Judy, or I’ll send you to your room,” Judy the Elder told her daughter.

“I note, however,” Karl said, “that you didn’t disagree with her.”

“Well . . .”

“It’s perfectly all right. I have come to believe that, to a great extent, our knowledge of money is on a par with our knowledge of medicine.” Karl sighed. “The truth is that three years ago my family knew more, or at least as much, about money and finance as anyone in Europe. And Kipper and Wipper were, I believe, less the result of avarice than of ignorance.”

Judy the Elder was giving Karl what he could only describe as a doubtful look.

“It’s true, ma’am,” Karl said. “I’m not saying that avarice played no role, but my family minted money using less silver and after only a short while, no one trusted it. You people mint money out of no silver and everyone trusts it.”

Sarah cleared her throat. “Ah . . . why does your family want you to send them eighteen to twenty million dollars in silver? I mean, well, extravagant lifestyle or not, that’s a lot of money.”

“It’s not lifestyle,” Karl said. “It’s politics. Most of my family’s lands are in Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia. When Albrecht von Wallenstein declared himself the king of Bohemia, he effectively conquered my family’s lands. We hold those lands in fief from the king of Bohemia.