1636 The Viennese Waltz – Snippet 12

Wendell Household, Magdeburg

On Tuesday, Karl’s river boat was delayed so he didn’t reach Magdeburg until late. Rather than make Sarah wait for him, he presented himself at the Wendell house, which was a nice townhouse in the richer part of Old Stadt. Magdeburg was no longer the burned out wreck that it had been even before the sack. It was a boom town and a town of heavy industry.

He was met by a maid and shown into a sitting room, where Fletcher Wendell was waiting for him. “Have a seat, Karl. Sarah will be down in a few minutes. We heard that the boat was late again, and assumed that you would be delayed.”

“I came directly from the docks, Mr. Secretary,” Karl said, taking the seat Fletcher indicated.

There was an awkward pause. Then Herr Wendell said, “I understand you are courting my daughter. Do you really think that’s a good idea?”

“Honestly? No, probably not. Certainly, my uncles would be unlikely to approve. A point that Josef has made several times. However, the world has changed due to the Ring of Fire. There is a song by Cole Porter . . . ‘wrong’s right today, black’s white today, up’s down today . . .'”

“‘Anything goes.’ But so far as my daughter is concerned, be aware, Prince Liechtenstein, that anything most definitely does not go.”

“That’s not what I meant, sir.”

It was, of course, just then that Sarah walked in. “Dad, I’m eighteen.”

Karl stood up and turned to Sarah.

“Eighteen or eighty, you’re still my daughter,” said Fletcher Wendell. “Know this, Karl, prince or not, if you hurt her, you’re going to regret it.”

Karl turned back to Fletcher. “That wasn’t what I meant, Herr Wendell,” he said a little stiffly. “It wasn’t the ‘anything goes’ part. It was the ‘wrong’s right’ part that stuck with me. Religious toleration, for instance. Very much wrong according to the Edict of Restitution and the Counter Reformation. But very much right according to the Constitution of the up-time US, the New US, the State of Thuringia-Franconia, and even the USE. We are having to unlearn a lot, all of us down-timers. My grandfather was a Lutheran, did you know that? My father and uncles converted to the Catholic faith. My father told me that his conversion was political, his ticket into the upper nobility. But Uncle Gundaker wrote an article about his reasons for converting to Catholicism and those reasons weren’t political.”

“So your father was Lutheran in his heart?” Sarah asked.

“No. He was a doubter,” Karl told her. “He believed in something that had created the universe, but he said to me ‘I don’t believe any of them, priest, pastor or rabbi when they claim to speak for him.’ And I suspect that Uncle Maximillian is more like my father was than like Uncle Gundaker. But Uncle Gundaker has the zeal of a convert.”

“You think that your uncle will object?”

“Yes. In fact, I am virtually certain of it. Which wouldn’t matter at all, except that the treaty of 1606 requires that the head of House Liechtenstein be Catholic, and Uncle Gundaker might be able to make something of that. Yet now we have the Ring of Fire. The pope has named Father Mazzare a cardinal. A Protestant saved the pope from an assassination attempt. And the world of faith is turning backwards somersaults in attempts to make it fit into our various doctrines. I don’t know how it’s all going to work out. I don’t think anyone does. But I will follow my heart, and my heart leads to Sarah.”

“Why do I suddenly feel like Spencer Tracy in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” Fletcher complained.

“I don’t know,” said Judy the Elder, who had walked in during Karl’s speech, “because you’re acting more like Sidney Poitier’s father. Or at least the situation is a lot more along the lines of Sarah being in the Sidney Poitier role.” She turned to look at Sarah. “Not that your dad is totally off the mark, dear. If you and Karl should marry, there are going to be a whole lot of people that are deeply offended, no matter how successful and competent you are. Either because you’re not Catholic or because you’re not a noble.”

“First of all, you’re all way ahead of yourselves. We’re barely dating yet. Second . . .” Sarah planted her feet and crossed her arms. “. . . screw them if they don’t like it. I am not prepared to kiss any royal backsides. No one is better than me because of who their parents were.”

Karl smiled and walked over to Sarah. “I quite agree,” he said, “Especially to the part about no one being better than you.

“You know the town better than I do these days, Sarah. So where are we going tonight?”

Schmidt Steamworks, Magdeburg

The next day’s meeting with Karl Schmidt didn’t go well. Schmidt was apologetic, but firm. He simply didn’t have any more capacity to pull out of his factory, not for any price, and all his present capacity was committed.

“What about adding capacity?” Prince Karl asked.

“New machines from Grantville? I’ve already ordered them. I’m on Dave Marcantonio’s waiting list, and even the fact that he owns something like five percent of Schmidt Steam isn’t moving us up on the list.”

“I’m starting to think that between them, Dave Marcantonio and Ollie Reardon own five percent of the whole world,” Prince Karl complained.

“No. Only the USE.” Karl Schmidt laughed.

Prince Karl joined in the laughter, then said, “Well, at least it gives me an excuse to come back to Magdeburg to try and persuade you.”

“Why would you want to come back to Magdeburg?”

There was a very unladylike snort from the other end if the room. Both Karl’s looked over and Heidi Partow said, “He’s got a thing for Sarah Wendell.”

Karl Schmidt glanced back at Prince Karl, who was turning a not overly becoming shade of red and said, “I sympathise, Your Serene Highness.” Then, looking right at Heidi, added, “Up-timer girls can drive you crazy.”