1636 The Viennese Waltz – Snippet 15
Chapter 6: Your Presence Is Required
“You have another letter, Prince Karl,” Josef Gandelmo told him when he got back from his latest trip to Magdeburg.
“Is it from Gundaker again?” There had been several letters from Gundaker, each ordering Karl to stop seeing Sarah Wendell and reminding him of his obligations under the 1606 treaty between his father and uncles.
“No, it’s from King Albrecht.”
Karl paused at Josef’s tone. “Seriously?”
“He wishes to see you and will not approve the railroad until he does.”
“Oh.” Karl had known this was coming, but had hoped it would wait a while. “I knew him, you know, when I was a boy. He and my father were friends then.”
“Kipper and Wipper?” Josef asked.
“Yes. The emperor needed money for the war. My father and the others tried to create it by mixing more copper into the silver coins. It didn’t work, and a lot of people got stuck. After that, Wallenstein and my father had a falling out. I honestly don’t think they disagreed about Kipper and Wipper, but about Wallenstein’s ambition. The breach was more between Uncle Gundaker and Wallenstein, because an adherent of Wallenstein’s pushed Uncle Gundaker out of an important post in the Empire. But it brought in the whole family, and Father was one of the ones pushing for the execution of Wallenstein for treason a few years back.”
“Well, you have to admit, Your Serene Highness, your father called that one pretty accurately.”
“Maybe. Even probably. But there was more than a little self-fulfilling prophecy in it. Would Wallenstein have gone for the crown if Ferdinand II hadn’t tried to have him killed?”
“We’ll never know, Your Serene Highness. And it’s rather beside the point. The question is, what are you going to do?”
“There isn’t any choice. I am going to go see King Albrecht of Bohemia and bend my knee to him. Then try to convince him that a railroad will benefit him and not be a knifepoint at his kidneys, held by the Holy Roman Emperor. But can we put it off?” Karl asked.
“Yes, Your Serene Highness, but not forever. And it’s a safe bet that approval for the railroad will not be forthcoming until you visit Prague.”
“That’s not all that urgent, Josef. I don’t think Sanderlin-Fortney party has even reached the Danube yet.”
Hayley Fortney looked at the Danube much as the Israelites must have looked at the River Jordan. Well, she guessed. She really wasn’t all that up on what the River Jordan represented in Judaism. Or Christianity, for that matter. She didn’t really pay that much attention, except for a couple of weeks right after the Ring of Fire. But the trip from Grantville to the town of Regensburg on the Danube had been long, hard, irritating and maddening. Floating on a river had to be better than that.
But there it was. At last. The Danube, and just across it, Regensburg. They could pick up some barges here.
“What do you think, Dad? Will you be able to set up a steam engine on one of the barges?”
“I don’t know, hon. Let’s see what they have. It’s going to be hard enough to carry the cars.”
“Maybe not, Dad. They ship a lot, but I am not sure how big the barges on the river are.”
As it happened, that wasn’t the trouble. The Ulm boxes — flat-bottomed boats capable of carrying large loads — were plying the river. Sonny Fortney had a steam engine. It was a small one that he had mostly built up-time. After the Ring of Fire, he had finished it and then not known what to do with it but couldn’t being himself to sell it. So they had packed it and his boilers along. After a bit of negotiation, they worked out how to hook his engine up to a propeller and use that barge to pull the others. They wouldn’t go fast, but they would go fast enough to have control. Not that the bargemen needed their help.
It took a week and more to get everything loaded on the Ulm boxes. Then they stopped and waited.
“We will be staying here for a while,” Istvan Janoszi said quietly to Ron Sanderlin, as they sat in the inn yard looking out at the Danube.
“For word of the emperor. He is in failing health and the prince doesn’t want his father taxed in these, his last days.”
Sonny Fortney held his peace.
Liechtenstein House, outside the Ring of Fire
“I’ll need to go to Magdeburg,” Karl said, reading through the latest letter from King Albrecht von Wallenstein. It was still polite, but he was definitely pushing.
Josef winced. He knew that the reason Karl wanted to go to Magdeburg was to talk to Sarah Wendell. And he had received letters from Gundaker, and even one from Maximillian, all insisting that he keep Karl away from the up-time gold-digger. Not that they had used that expression. “A telegram perhaps?” he offered.
“No. This is not the sort of news that a telegraph will handle. There will be questions and Sarah will, I do not doubt, have insights.” Then he grinned at Josef. “It won’t be so bad. I won’t be gone long.”
“Yes, Your Serene Highness,” Josef said dutifully. And truthfully he wasn’t concerned about the difficulties of the trip. Travel between here and Magdeburg was getting easier and cheaper all the time. What concerned Josef was the why, not the what.
Josef had nothing against Sarah Wendell. He liked her and her parents, even her younger sister. But up-timer or not, she wasn’t Catholic and she wasn’t of the upper nobility. Josef didn’t think she would accept the role of concubine, no matter how well loved, and she was utterly unsuitable as wife.
He was tempted to say so again, but he had already had that conversation with the prince and it wasn’t an experience he wanted to repeat. Instead he simply nodded and went off to get ready for the trip. There would be briefings and discussions of ongoing projects for both the prince’s business interests here in the USE and the family’s properties in Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia, Austria, and Hungary.