1636 The Viennese Waltz – Snippet 33

People had started calling the area around the race track Race Track City a month or so ago, but just after he said it Ron realized that he didn’t know if the emperor had heard the term. It also occurred to him that he didn’t know what legalities were involved in being a city. He knew only vaguely that there were imperial cities that had imperial charters, and that Race Track City didn’t have much of anything along those lines.

Fortunately, the emperor didn’t seem to notice his gaffe. He just nodded and excused himself for a moment. When he came back, he had Reichsgraf Maximillian von Trautmannsdorf with him. After that, the emperor of Austria-Hungary sat back and watched as his chief negotiator skinned Ron Sanderlin and tanned his pelt for hanging on the wall.

“I sympathize with your intentions, Herr Sanderlin, but the royal purse isn’t bottomless,” Reichsgraf Maximillian von Trautmannsdorf said

“Yes, Your Grace.” Ron Sanderlin wished he had gotten a bit more advice from the Fortney girl about how to set up a partnership with the emperor. Except she had never done that either. “Well, we were thinking maybe a partnership of some sort, if we can come up with the money or rather part of the money to build the canal . . . ?” He let the question trail off, not wanting to ask, “What do we get out of it?”

“How much of the funding would you be putting up?” Trautmannsdorf asked.

“That depends, sir.” Well, there was no getting around it. Ron plunged in. “What are we going to get out of it? I mean if we put up, say, half the money to dig the canal, what do we get?”

“What do you want?”

“Clear title to some of the land around the race track and a farm for the seeds and stuff we brought.”

“How much land?”

Ron pulled out a map. The area had been surveyed by Sonny Fortney and he had clearly delineated the area between the race track and the Danube. Up to now that area had belonged to the emperor. The Sanderlins and Fortneys had simply had the use of it as part of their employment agreement. They had stretched that pretty far in setting up businesses, but they had gotten permission for each business. Now Ron showed Ferdinand III and Reichsgraf Trautmannsdorf a map of a good-sized town, almost half a mile across in either direction, but that included the race track and canal, centered just northeast of the race track. It was small compared to Vienna and tiny compared to an up-time city, but it was clearly a town. It included the race track and room for up to fifty separate businesses. There was already an agreement between Brandon and the chief gardener at the emperor’s hunting lodge to have Brandon and some of the gardeners plant the up-time plants come spring. But the plan expanded that into a village between the hunting lodge and Race Track City.

Again, it was stuff that they had sort of started on already, but on a semi-official basis.

Ron pointed at the map. “The parts that are crosshatched would be ours and the rest would be the crown’s to do with as you like, but you might want to put some businesses in from here to here. That will be prime real estate as the town grows up.” At least that was what Hayley had said, and it made sense.

Trautmannsdorf was not one to take the first offer though. “For that you ought to pay for the whole canal.” But he was smiling when he said it.

They spent half an hour bargaining back and forth, and by the end of it Ron Sanderlin knew he had been skinned good and proper. A fact Hayley Fortney confirmed with loud lamentation as soon as she heard the results.

Fortney House, Race Track City

“We’re going to be overrun with Hofbefreiten and we get to pay most of the cost of building the canal for the privilege,” Hayley pointed out.

“What are holfbitten?” Dana wanted to know.

“People. People who have a special status. Hofbefreiten means court-freed or court-exempted. The way it works is that they pay the court for the privilege of providing stuff to the court. Anything from socks to carriages to coffeecake, and they get to sell stuff to the general public without paying the local taxes, the onera. Which can be quite onerous.”

Gayleen groaned and Dana made to whack her daughter.

Hayley ducked and continued. “He must have figured it out before you even finished talking about the effect of the canal.”

“Figured what out?” Bob Sanderlin asked, moved to rare speech by his confusion.

“That the steam ferry and the canal make Race Track City effectively part of Vienna, but not legally part of Vienna. Which gives all of Race Track City effective Hofbefreiten status without him having to officially do it, so the burghers who do have to pay onera won’t start screaming till it’s too late. Remember, they pay for the privilege of being Hofbefreiten and that’s money in Ferdinand’s pocket. I figured he’d insist on us paying for more of the canal and give us more of the property to dispose of, but he saw the potential. He can move Hofbefreiten out here to Race Track City and it will seem like a big concession to the burghers. And he can sell Hofbefreiten status to new craftsmen too. Make his tenants out here official Hofbefreiten. He’ll recover his whole share of the cost of the canal in the first year’s rents.”

“Well then, you should have done it yourself,” Ron groused. “I never claimed to be David Bartley.”