1636 The Viennese Waltz – Snippet 21

Chapter 9: Rollin’ on the River

September, 1634


“Emperor Ferdinand II has died and Vienna mourns, but it is time for us to move,” Istvan Janoszi said.

“It’s weird,” Hayley whispered to her father as Janoszi turned away. “He was . . . I don’t know . . . the bad guy. Ferdinand II signed the Edict of Restitution that has been the justification for so much war and out and out banditry that it had, halfway trashed central Germany before the Ring of Fire.”

“I know what you mean, Hayley, but go light on the bad guy part of that thought once we get to Vienna. For that matter, go light on it here. Because he was their emperor and whatever their politics, there will be a hole in the heart of most of Austria for a while.”

Hayley nodded. After that, everything went smoothly for the rest of the trip to Vienna. Sonny’s little steam engine barely produced enough way for steering. On the other hand, they were going downriver, so the current was with them.

On the Danube

“Honestly, Hayley, I don’t understand how you girls managed to get rich,” Mrs. Sanderlin said as they were steaming down the Danube the first evening out of Regensburg. Hayley looked at the shore going by, muddy banks and green grass with a small herd of cattle coming down to the river’s edge to drink. The chug-chug of the steam engine made a background to the conversation. The question had come up before and there were standard answers that Hayley and the rest of the Barbies had put together.

“We didn’t have anything else to do,” was the one that Hayley used this time, but Mrs. Sanderlin’s look suggested that she wasn’t going to let it go at that.

“Well, it’s true,” Hayley insisted. “Right after the Ring of Fire, everyone was busy and no one had much money. Then Judy found out about Mrs. Higgins’ doll collection selling for so much. We didn’t have anything like that many dolls, but we had some. And . . . well, everyone — and I do mean everyone — in Grantville was really busy. There was a lot of ‘just take care of yourself, kids’ right around then. As long as we weren’t getting in trouble, our parents had other stuff on their minds. Some of the kids in Grantville got in trouble just for the attention, but most were trying to pitch in in some way. Our way was to take our doll money and invest it. We didn’t know all that much about investing, but we got some good advice from Mrs. Gundelfinger and from Judy’s parents and sister.”

“So you had the advice of Helene Gundelfinger, the Secretary of the Treasury for the USE and a renowned scholar of economics who works for the USE Federal Reserve Bank? No wonder you got rich.”

“Not to mention Karl Schmidt, David Bartley, Franz Kuntz, and half a dozen other members of what has become the financial elite of the State of Thuringia-Franconia and the USE,” Hayley admitted with a grin. “The real question is: with all that good advice why aren’t we richer?”

Mrs. Sanderlin looked at Hayley for a minute, then shook her head. “No, it’s not, Hayley. The real question is: how did a small West Virginia coal-mining town have Mike Stearns and Ed Piazza. How did it have Fletcher Wendell and Tony Adducci, not to mention David Bartley, the Stone family, Doctor Nichols and all the rest? One or two, sure. But dozens, even hundreds?”

“I’ve asked myself that question every day for the last year and a half or more,” Sonny Fortney interrupted their conversation.

“Any answers, Dad?” Hayley asked.

“The best I can come up with is ‘people rise to the occasion.’ Or, put another way, ‘talent is a lot more common and opportunity to express it a lot less common than we tend to think.'”

“I’m not sure it’s just opportunity,” Hayley said. “I think it’s need too.”

“Maybe, darlin’, but you and your young friends argue for it just being opportunity. You didn’t need to become investors. You could have just sold your dolls and bought dresses. A lot of kids did. Which, I guess, argues against my point.”

“It doesn’t matter, Sonny.” Mrs. Sanderlin bit her lip in concentration. “Even if only ten percent took advantage of the opportunity when it happened, that’s still a lot more talent than we expect. Or at least than we expected, up-time. How many inventors, statesmen, businessmen and entrepreneurs were washing dishes and sweeping floors up-time? Because there wasn’t an opportunity for them to shine.”

“Down-time was no different. Even worse, probably,” Hayley said. “Look at Karl Schmidt. Without the Ring of Fire he would never have been anything but the owner of a minor foundry in a small town. Anna Baum would still be spinning thread at starvation wages if she hadn’t actually starved by now. Or Mrs. Gundelfinger. Well, she might have owned her shop, but never much more than that, I think.”

“So how did the Ring of Fire change things?” Mrs. Sanderlin asked. When Hayley and Sonny Fortney looked at her in confusion, she tried to explain. “Look, up-time America and Europe had all this stuff and Africa and South America didn’t. So it can’t be just the know-how, otherwise Peru would be building super jets and Zambia or wherever would be building rocket ships and computers. I mean, they could even order the parts that they couldn’t make themselves.”

“I think that may be the key,” Sonny said after a little thought. Looking out over the Danube as the sun slowly set. “They could buy it. They didn’t need to build it.”