Letters From Gronow, Episode Five

Magdeburg

 

From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

 

22 May 1635

 

Tuesday

Breakfast–

1 winter apple 1 pfennig

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig

Supper–

1 bowl fish stew 3 pfennigs

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig

 

Dreamt last night. Was mostly about the plague, everyone around me was getting sick. Woke up just as I found it on me. Was glad to do that. Think it was Herr Poe’s story Masque of the Red Death that caused it this time. Although Herr Lovecraft may write more evilness in his characters, Herr Poe writes the scarier stories, I think.

Herr Schiller looked at me when I came in this morning and raised his eyebrows. I knew he was asking about my story, so I shook my head. He frowned and said I’d have to do better. I knew what he meant, but both Thomas and Martin were confused. Quiet day at work, otherwise.

Pinned the fourth letter up on the wall next to the others. Reread them all. I will sell a story to Herr Gronow.

Spent the rest of the evening rereading Portia in Tauris. Think I see what Herr Gronow talked about. Have to tell a good story. Have to make sense. Can’t just throw pretty things together. Have to build it right. Have to think about how to do that.

Meanwhile, will reread all four issues of Der Schwarze Kater. Need to learn from the masters.

Recited evening prayers, and so to bed.

****

 

From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

 

25 May 1635

 

Friday

Breakfast–

1 cup morning broth 1 pfennig

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig

Supper–

1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig

 

Dreamt about Portia again last night. Is weird when character in my story starts showing up in my dreams. She yells at me, too. Or at least, I think she yelled at me last night. Don’t remember very well, because Max showed up, too, and started telling me jokes even dumber than Pastor Gruber’s jokes. Got me laughing so much that Portia stomped her foot and left. Woke up after that. Wish I could remember some of the jokes. Pastor Gruber might like them. Stupid dreams.

Thomas was gone most of the day. His relative needed him again. Made for easy day. Spent a lot of it working with Martin showing him more about how to check the entries. Started showing him how to work with the contract files, and how to keep them organized. Catching on pretty good. I think I could trust him to work with them. Better him than Thomas.

Stopped at Syborg’s Books tonight. Herr Matthias was there, and greeted me. Asked me what I was doing, told him I was writing stories to submit to Der Schwarze Kater. He whistled at that and said good for me. He asked me how I was doing with it. Told him I hadn’t sold one to Herr Gronow yet, but with every try I learn something. Told him I needed some of the cheap paper to write the first copy of the next version on. He said to hang on, went in the back, and came back with a couple of what almost looked like soft-bound books like the magazine, only the binding was across the top rather than the side. He flipped the top cover up, and showed me all the pages inside were blank. Not white paper. Cheap stuff. Kind of grayish, actually. He gave them to me, told me they were a couple of samples that one of the papermaking firms had given them. Told me I could have them. Thanked him a lot. Saves me some money, which I need to do because the white paper for the final copy I give to Herr Gronow is so costly. Cash is low, so no wheat bread for a while. Barley instead.

After spending three evenings thinking about it and rereading the magazine issues, think I know what to do now with the story. Fourth rewrite. Think I can keep parts of what I wrote before, but need to join them together better. Tell a story, not just word paint pictures. Think I see how to do that.

Will start tomorrow.

Recited evening prayers. Now to bed.

****

 

From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

 

27 May 1635

 

Sunday

Breakfast–

Fasted

Lunch–

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig

Supper–

1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig

 

Dreamt last night, I’m sure. Don’t remember any, and don’t remember waking up, but was very tired when I got up this morning, so must have. Almost didn’t go to church, but Lord’s Day, Lord’s work, so went. Bright sunny day, so more people there than has been usual. Enough there I couldn’t stand by my favorite pillar and lean against it. Music was good—loud, anyway, as everyone seemed to be glad to be there. Sang with a will. Reader was good with the reading. Homily wasn’t great, but at least no one went to sleep, and it was short. If it’s not going to be good, at least let it be short.

Spent the afternoon reading. Over half-way through The City of God. Admiration for St. Augustine as a writer continues to grow as my Latin improves. Then spent some time in Kings. Story of King Ahab and Naboth. King acted like spoiled child. Needed to be spanked. Wife murdered a man just so the king could have what he wanted. He was bad, she was worse. Is a piece of ground, any piece of ground, worth a man’s life? Is anything tangible worth a man’s life?

Spent the evening writing. Don’t have a title for the new version. Very slow going, as I’m having to think about not only what needs to happen in the story, but if and where the story I wrote before can be made or altered to fit in the new story. Almost at the point of having to think about every single word. If I’d known writing would be this much work, might not have chosen to go into it. (Bit of a joke, there . . . but only a bit.)

Got a page and a half done before the next to last of my candle stubs guttered out. Will have to get some more from Herr Schiller tomorrow.

Tired, but good tired.

Recited evening prayers, and now to bed.

****

 

From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

 

28 May 1635

 

Monday

Breakfast–

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig

Supper–

1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig

 

Dreamt of The Pit and the Pendulum again. Funny how although Herr Lovecraft’s stories tend to ooze more evil, it is Herr Poe’s stories that seem to most haunt my dreams. Woke up at least twice, but when went back to sleep was back in the dream. Have to wonder what I could write that would affect a reader like that? Can’t use the pendulum . . . that’s already been done. But what could I use? Water? Think about it.

Cloudy today, cold west wind blowing. No rain, thank God, but still nasty weather.

Had big argument with Thomas today at work. Martin found more errors in his work from last week. He brought to me, I took to Herr Schiller. When Herr Schiller called him over to talk about it, it was like T was a gunpowder firework that exploded. He started shouting and cursing and accusing us—me more than Martin—of trying to falsify his work and get him in trouble when he’s doing things right, and we’re the ones who are getting it all wrong. He was standing there, hands clenched, face red, shouting at Herr S’s face. Suddenly realized that T has grown some, just like I have, and he is not a boy any more.

I tried to tell him that we didn’t, but he just turned on me and shouted a lot of the same things in my face. He ended by pushing a stack of contract files that I was reviewing off my desk and kicking them across the office, then picked up the ledger book Martin was working in off Martin’s desk and threw it on the floor hard.

Then he got scary. He stopped, pulled his jacket back into place, smoothed his hair, and said in a hard quiet tone that we’d be sorry we treated him so bad. Then he left.

Herr S looked weary, almost scared. Martin was definitely frightened. Me, not sure what I looked like, but my stomach hurt, and I felt like I was about to puke.

Herr S got down off his stool and told us to pick things up. He even helped us. Martin’s ledger book was scuffed and bent but not broken, which was good. The contract files had been scattered around, though, and it took all three of us quite a while to get all the pages back in the right files and in the right order. When we got done, Herr S got out his bottle of wine and gave each of us a small drink of it. Not sure if it was a reward or medicine, but it did help me calm down a little.

At the end of the day, after Martin left, Herr S put most of our candle stubs in a paper and wrapped them up, then handed them to me. Then he handed me my full day’s pay. When I told him he hadn’t taken out the money for the candle stubs, he told me to consider it a small bonus after the events of the day.

When I asked him what was going to happen next, Herr S just shook his head and said he didn’t know. Master Gröning had already told him he couldn’t discharge T again, and without that resort, and with the leverage that T’s relative seems to have, Herr S doesn’t think anything can be done. He said he’d try to protect Martin and me. Then he pushed me toward the door.

Really scared. T was really scary today.

Don’t want to leave. Might have to. But can I find another job if I do? One that pays as good as what Master G is paying?

Mind has been spinning in circles all night. No words, no writing, not able to think about the story for more than a fraction of a minute.

Recited evening prayers. Over and over again. Lost count of how many times. Need to go to bed, but mind is spinning so hard don’t think I can sleep.

Help.

****

 

From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

 

1 June 1635

 

Friday

Breakfast–

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 cup morning broth 1 pfennig

Supper–

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig

 

Dreamt last night. Was like The Cask of Amontillado. Thomas was in the place of Fortunato, and I was Montresor, laying the stones to seal him away. Scary how much I was enjoying listening to him scream in the dream. Just as scary that I enjoy the thought just as much when I’m awake.

Today was quiet at work. Thomas was there, but didn’t say or do much. In the middle of the morning, saw Martin just stop working for a long time. Just sat there, hands on his desk, pen in his fingers above the worksheet but not moving. Finally got down from my stool and walked over. He was looking at one of T’s work pages from earlier in the week. I nudged him. He looked up at me, then pointed to a number on the page with one of his left hand fingers.  I looked at the numbers leading up to it. It was wrong. Very wrong. So wrong I couldn’t figure out how T had got to it. Martin’s hand was shaking. Didn’t say anything, just took the page back to my desk, fixed it, then took it to Herr Schiller and pointed to what I did. He looked at it, looked at me, then looked back at the page. After a moment he nodded slowly, then gave the page back to me. Took it back to Martin, then went back to my desk. Don’t know if T saw. Don’t care.

Sure the up-timers have words that describe what I’ve been feeling this week. They have words for everything. I think pressure is best word. Feel like what happens when something blocks one of the river channels and the water builds and builds behind it, before it finally gives way.

Have discovered you can get used to anything, even pressure. After a while, guess you start feeling numb. Not scared, much, anyway. Actually was able to write some tonight. Only half a page, but more than I’ve done since Sunday.

Recited evening prayers. Three times. Now to bed.

****

 

From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

 

3 June 1635

 

Sunday

Breakfast–

Fasted

Lunch–

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig

Supper–

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig

 

Dreamt last night. Mostly quiet dreams, Woke up once, but wasn’t related to the dream. Foot got out from under the blanket and got cold. Silly foot. Kind of nice to have a quiet night.

Tired this morning. Didn’t want to go to church. Hard to make myself go, but that’s usually when I most need to go. Dry weather, sun was shining, kind of warm this morning, so lots of people there. Had to stand in the back. Music was kind of middle between good and awful. Still sang. Reading was good. Pastor Gruber gave the homily. Talked about turning the water into wine. That was a miracle. But what is so often overlooked was that Jesus not only turned it into wine, he turned it into good wine. Then he said that sometimes, when life hands us trouble, we need to remember that not only can Jesus help solve the trouble, he can turn it into good. That spoke to me. Needed to hear that. Day got a bit lighter after that.

Pastor Gruber asked me to lunch again today. Asked me what was going on. Told him about Thomas, asked him if I had to turn the other cheek. He thought about it, told me that most of Jesus’ teachings about that dealt with situations where we are being abused because of our beliefs. He said that here, because there was no faith at issue, only truth, I was free to defend myself, and that I had a duty to defend the weak, meaning Martin.

Walked away with a bit more peace in my spirit. On the way back to my room, saw something by the side of the road, half-covered by the gravel and the road dust. Picked it up . . . was a broken bolt. Big one, big around as one of my fingers, but broken off short. Less than the width of my palm. Put it in my pocket. Finished walking back to my room.

Spent most of the evening writing. Made good progress, I think. Still need a new title for the new story.

Still tired, but good tired.

Recited evening prayers, and now to bed.

****

 

From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

 

4 June 1635

 

Monday

Breakfast–

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig

Supper–

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig

 

Dreamt about Herr Poe again. Was writing away with one of the fancy metal nib pens like the really big and important offices have now. Very sloppy handwriting. He would never get past Herr Gronow like that.

Quiet day at work. Martin found three errors made by Thomas last Friday. Brought them to me, I fixed them and showed them to Herr Schiller, he looked at them and nodded, and I passed them back to Martin. T didn’t even look up. Hate the extra work it’s causing us, but I’ll put up with it just to have the peace.

Still no title for the new version of the story, even though it’s starting to take some kind of shape. Still kind of slow going, but I think the pieces are starting to knit together. I think the beginning is there now. Trying to fit the middle now. Story is getting a little darker along the way.

Looked back at the Poe and Lovecraft stories in the four issues. Can see what Herr Gronow means in Herr Poe’s stories. Can sort of see it in Herr Lovecraft’s stories. Herr Poe made better stories, I think now. Herr Lovecraft can paint a picture with his words that can make the hair bristle on your neck and give you goose flesh all over, but his stories just aren’t as good as stories as Herr Poe’s. Herr Poe shows better craftsmanship, if that word applies to writing. So, I need to reread his stories and study them harder.

Ended up copying another page tonight. Getting there.

Eating less. Saving money. May need it.

Recited evening prayers. Now to bed.

****

 

From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

 

6 June 1635

 

Wednesday

Breakfast–

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig

Supper–

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig

 

Dreams last night. Portia again. Don’t remember much other than she was looking into a big mirror hanging on the wall. Woke up, think that’s the title for the new story version: Portia’s Mirror. I think it will work.

Another quiet day at work. Martin didn’t find any errors in the pages he checked, which is good. Looked them over myself, quickly, didn’t see anything. When Herr Schiller looked at me and raised his eyebrows, I just nodded with a smile. He nodded back and went back to his own work. Martin’s getting pretty good at the regular tasks, and he’s learned the routine for maintaining the contracts pretty well. Not too sure the office needs three clerks. Except it’s more like two and a half clerks, actually. Thomas still isn’t producing more than about a half-day’s work, even when he doesn’t make errors.

Applied the new title to the work tonight. Decided to step back and adjust a couple of earlier passages to fit with the idea better. Took most of the evening to figure out what to do, but got it done. Think it will help pull other pieces together, too. More I think about it, more I like it.

Tired, but good tired.

Recited evening prayers. So now to bed.

****

 

From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

 

8 June 1635

 

Friday

Breakfast–

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig

Supper–

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig

 

Not sure I dreamt last night. Don’t remember any, woke up feeling pretty good. Not even a hint of Max.

It happened today. Thomas came in late, obviously hung over. Spent most of the morning wandering around the office. He’d sit at his desk for a little while, then get up and walk around for a while, then sit back down. Just before noon he walked by my desk while I was correcting some errors that Martin had found. He frowned and asked what I thought I was doing. Told him I was fixing his mistakes. He got red in the face and shouted that he did good work. I said only if you consider four mistakes in a single day’s work to be good work. He cursed at me and grabbed at the page I was correcting. It tore in two, and he threw his piece down on the floor and stomped on it. Then he picked up the ink well out of the holder in my desk and threw the ink all over the papers on the desk, which ended up splashing on me as well.

He started screaming at me, grabbed my shirt front and pulled me off my stool and hit me in the face. Still had my jacket on because I had gone out to sweep the front steps off and had gotten a bit chilled. North wind blowing today. My hands had gone to my jacket pockets when he started yelling for some reason. Right hand wrapped around the piece of broken bolt I’d found and made a fist. Brought my hands out, knocked his hand off my shirt. Was off-balance, but still hit him back. Right fist hit him in the nose, felt something crunch. He yelled more, and hit me in the ear. Brought right fist back, punched forward and caught him on the point of the chin. He went down, stayed down, moaning.

By then Herr Schiller was there and got between us. Told me to go sit at my desk. Climbed back on my stool and sat there. Was surprised that I was shaking. Wasn’t afraid. Mad. Herr S got T up off the floor, and handed him a scrap of rag to staunch the blood coming out of his nose. May have broken it. At that moment, was glad.

You’ll be sorry, T muttered. He was really woozy. I’ll make you all sorry. You’ll see. He stumbled out the door. Herr S looked at me and Martin, had sad look on face. Just told me to clean up and do what I could to fix things. Ended up having to totally recopy two pages, the one T tore and the one that most of the ink landed on. Took most of afternoon to fix. Martin copied the torn page, fixing the mistakes. I did the other page. Was able to wipe off enough of the fresh ink that I could see the original words and numbers underneath it. Glad I was able to clear it up then, though. If it had dried, wouldn’t have been able to do anything.

Late in the afternoon, after fixing the problems, just about the time I began to realize I was probably in trouble, Master Gröning came in, with another very well-dressed man and Thomas. T was smiling in a nasty way, so I knew it wasn’t going to be good. Master G said he couldn’t have clerks assaulting other clerks, and that I was discharged as of the end of the day. I was not to return. I tried to explain that I was defending myself from assault, but he just told me to be quiet or I’d have to leave right then and lose the day’s pay.

Just closed my mouth and watched as Master G took the other man’s arm, called him Master Schmidt, and said something about going to Walcha’s Coffee House. They left, with T trailing along behind them.

Surprised that I felt relieved. Knot in my stomach went away. Knew that I needed to find another job immediately, but just not having to face T every day almost made it worth it.

Did feel sad. Had worked for Herr S for a long time, didn’t want to leave. Especially like this.

Herr S and Martin looked much worse than I felt. Almost laughed. Herr S told me to finish anything on my desk and put things in order. That didn’t take long. Just sat there for a little while, until Herr S said it was time. Gave Martin a shoulder hug, told him to be careful. He sniffled, said he would, and left. Looked at Herr S and raised my eyebrows. He said he knew another office that needed a good clerk, and he was going to send Martin to them. Told me that he wasn’t happy about what was happening, but he was going to stick it out a little while longer, then go back to his home village with the money he had saved and buy into a tavern there. This was just making it easier for him to decide when to leave.

He gathered up all the candle stubs plus a couple of whole candles and several of the good right wing quill feathers, made a package of them, and told me to take them. Gave me my final day’s wages, and added ten dollars to it. When I tried to tell him it was too much, he said to let him worry about it. He held his hand out—first time he’s ever offered to shake hands with me—told me I was a good worker, and he was proud to have worked with me. He wished me good fortune, and then I walked out the door for the last time.

Know that this puts me in a hard place. But I still feel good about not having to go back. Weird, I guess.

Didn’t write any tonight. Just sat and thought, and read a little in Psalms and Proverbs.

Recited evening prayers, and now to bed.

****

 

From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

 

9 June 1635

 

Saturday

Breakfast–

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig

Supper–

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig

 

Don’t recall any dreams from last night. Didn’t have any trouble going to sleep, either. Felt rested in the morning.

Went out and walked around western part of Greater Magdeburg this morning. Took a while. Bigger than I realized. Made note of places to approach for work. Will start Monday. Have enough money to live over a week without losing my room. Maybe two weeks, if I’m very frugal about food. Should find work before then.

Should be worried, I know. Should be scared. Should be afraid I’m going to die. Am not. Not sure why, just not. Oh, part of it is faith, for certain, that God will preserve. But part of it is confidence, I think. Might be foolish, but I believe I will find work soon.

So after walking all over this part of the city, stopped in at Syborg’s Books to rest my feet and see if they had anything new. Herr Matthias was there. He smiled, asked me how I was doing in reading St. Augustine, and laughed when I told him I was actually beginning to like it. Then he frowned and asked me what I was doing there at that hour of the day. Told him I had been discharged, and if he needed a bookkeeper or clerk, I was his man. If he didn’t, if he knew of anyone who did. I would appreciate hearing about them.

Herr Matthias shook his head, but said he would ask around.

Right then someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned, and it was Herr Wulff, the attorney! I stepped back in surprise, and almost fell over the table I was against. He grabbed my arm and kept me on my feet until I could stand by myself. I apologized for being clumsy. He waved his hand and asked if he overheard right, that I was out of work. I must have looked funny, because he chuckled and said that was an up-time phrase. He meant, did I lose my job? I said yes. He asked me if I was the contracts clerk for Master Gröning. I said I used to be. He asked what happened, then waved his hand again and said to forget that. He pulled a card out of a pocket and handed it to me. Told me to come see him first thing Monday morning. Then he said, no wait, he was in court Monday, make it Tuesday morning. Could I make it that long? I said yes, he said good, he really wanted to see me then. He paid for the book he had in his hand, then left. I followed, kind of in a daze.

Not sure why he wants to see me. But it could be good.

Spent most of the afternoon and evening working on Portia’s Mirror. New story is going to be longer than the originals. Has to be. Putting beginning, middle, and end structure in place takes up room. Needs more words to build structure. Words are like bricks and blocks of stone. Need them. Think it’s over halfway to finish. Won’t know for sure until closer to end. Hard to tell right now. Feel good about it. Can’t trust that, though. Felt good about all the other versions, too, until Herr Gronow read them. So will keep pushing to make it as good as it can be before I take it to him again.

Church tomorrow. Looking forward to that.

Recited evening prayers. Now to bed.

****

 

From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

 

10 June 1635

 

Sunday

Breakfast–

Fasted

Lunch–

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig

Supper–

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig

Dreamt last night. Know I had more than one, but only thing I remember is one with Max. He didn’t say anything. Just smiled, hefted his big black rifle, and waved a hand in a motion like he was telling me to go forward. Didn’t wake up in night. Nothing disturbed me. Felt good when I finally woke up.

Lord’s Day, Lord’s work.

Attended church. Another sunny day. Lots of people at St. Jacob’s Church this morning. Had to stand at the back. Music was good, lots of people singing, sang loudly myself. Enjoyed it. Reading was enjoyable—deacon had a strong voice. Pastor Gruber gave the homily. Was glad of that. Spoke on Joseph in Egypt, how he wasn’t treated justly, but that his faith and devotion to doing what was right brought him to a high place and high renown. Obvious that it fits with what happened with my job. Kind of think it fits with my writing, too. Good to hear, though. Kind of comforting, in a way.

Spent early afternoon reading St. Augustine. Getting close to the end. Not sure what I’ll do then.

Then read through Proverbs. Lots of good advice there.

Finally spent most of evening working on Portia’s Mirror. About done with middle of story. Will start end of story tomorrow or Tuesday.

Must start looking for work tomorrow.

Recited evening prayers. So now to bed.

****

 

From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

 

11 June 1635

 

Monday

Breakfast–

1 rye roll 1 quartered pfennig

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig

Supper–

1 rye roll 1 quartered pfennig

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig

 

Dreams last night for some reason involved a giant wolf. First it was chasing me, then I was riding it. Woke up twice in the night. Both times went back to same dream. Odd. Doesn’t usually work that way.

Went to Mama Schultz’s for breakfast. She said she hadn’t seen me buy rye before. Told her I don’t like it. Tastes bitter to me. But need to save my coins until I can find another job, so cheapest bread is all I can take. She frowned at me, told me to take two. Told her no, wasn’t going to take what I didn’t pay for. She kept frowning at me as she hefted her meat fork, but guess she saw I meant it. Told me to come in every day so she could see I was all right.

Put on my best and cleanest clothes. Walked around to some of the places I saw Saturday, asking if they needed a bookkeeper or clerk. Same answer everywhere. No, or maybe next week. Six or seven places, I think. Disappointing. Will continue tomorrow.

Took my shirt that Thomas got ink on to a laundress, asked her if it could be cleaned. She looked at it, scratched the stain, sniffed it, touched her tongue to it, said no, probably not. Lots of inks are just as good as dyes these days, she said. Offered me a pfennig for it, for the rag content, she said. Told her no. Not much of a shirt now, but I can wear it when I’m not working or at church and save my only other two shirts from the wear and mess.

Started working on the ending of Portia’s Mirror tonight. Feeling good about how it’s going. Have to keep reminding myself that that doesn’t mean anything. Only Herr Gronow’s judgment counts.

Set out Herr Wulff’s card on the table to remind me that I’m supposed to go see him in the morning. Wonder what he wants? Doesn’t matter. Someone like that calls, you go. Tried to brush off my clothes, make them look better.

Recited evening prayers. Now for bed.

****

 

From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

 

12 June 1635

 

Tuesday

Breakfast–

1 rye roll 1 quartered pfennig

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig

Supper–

1 bowl fish stew 3 pfennigs

1 cup sauerkraut 1 pfennig

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

1 mug beer 2 pfennigs

 

Dreamt of the wolf again last night. Wonder if it’s because I’m seeing Herr Wulff this morning. Funny, if so. Despite his name, he doesn’t look at all wolfish. Haven’t seen him act like one, either. But I haven’t seen much of him, so really don’t know what he’s like.

Mama Schultz tried to give me two rye rolls again this morning. Told her no. She frowned, but didn’t say more.

Knew that Herr Wulff said to see him first thing this morning, but doubted he meant to be there at daybreak. Waited until about an hour after dawn, then went and found the address on the card. Turns out his office is in the same building as Walcha’s Coffee House, on the floor above it. Found the door to the stairs, went up. Nice wide stairs. At least three people wide—maybe four, if they’re skinny like me.

Door to the office was locked, so nobody there yet. Started back down the stairs, only to see Herr Wulff just a couple of steps down, coming up. Stepped back, to let him and a younger man pass me to the short hallway. Herr Wulff took me by the arm and drew me to the office door as the other man stepped around us and unlocked the door. Herr Wulff had a large mug of steaming liquid in his other hand, which I guessed was coffee from the shop below.

Once we were inside the office, Herr Wulff released my arm and introduced me to the other man. He was named Christoph Heinichen, and Herr Wulff described him as aide, assistant, and lawyer-to-be, at which Christoph grinned. Then Herr Wulff took me into his inner office, telling Christoph that he wasn’t to be interrupted for at least an hour.

Herr Wulff closed the door, sat down behind his desk, and told me to sit in the chair in front of it. I hesitated. It was a fine chair, with embroidered cloth upholstery. Even though I had brushed my clothes, I was certain they still contained dirt, and I really didn’t want to mar such a fine work as that chair. Herr Wulff insisted that I sit, so I sat.

You lost your job, he said to me. Pretty blunt. But, he’s an attorney, so maybe that’s how they are. Tell me how that happened, he said. So I told him all about it. He sat quietly while I talked, elbows on his desk and hands laced together with his chin resting on top of them. His eyes were half-closed, like he was about to go to sleep, but I could see his nostrils flare every so often, as if he was smelling something really strong. When I mentioned Master Schmidt toward the end, his eyes opened wide and his mouth twisted, but he didn’t say anything until I was finished.

When I was done, Herr Wulff said he thought Master Gröning had more sense than that. I said what? He said, first, that he is wooing Georg Schmidt. I said I don’t think I’d heard his first name. Mayor Gericke’s half-brother, he said. Then he said Master Gröning had commissioned him to review some contracts that Schmidt had proposed, and they were filled with traps that would have hurt Master G, so he didn’t see why he was seeking to tie himself to Schmidt. Plus, he continued, Master G was an absolute idiot to let go of me for any reason, much less for the reasons he did. Then he asked how much I was earning. I told him twelve dollars a day, paid daily, with occasional extra payments if I did something really good. His eyes got wide, and his mouth almost dropped open, I swear. Then his jaw firmed, and he almost bellowed for Christoph.

When Christoph opened the door from the outer office, Herr W almost demanded to know if Master G’s payment for the last commission they had done had arrived. Christoph said that the draft had arrived last week, and the money had been paid yesterday, so all fees due had been paid. Herr W then gave a really thin-lipped smile—very hard, it was—and I think I saw what he would be like as an attorney. He told Christoph that he now had reason to doubt that Master G was going to be able to remain in business for very long, and that he would no longer accept commissions from the man. He then said something like but you don’t need to tell him why. Not sure why he said that. Christoph got a serious look on his face, nodded his head, and closed the door.

Herr W now turned back to me and laid his hands on the desk before him. He said he was going to offer me a job with him right then doing bookkeeping and contract file management just like I’d done for Master G, and he wasn’t going to insult me. He would start me at fifteen dollars a day, and in three months, after I had learned everything about his routines and his files, I would receive a raise in pay. A significant raise in pay, he said. Then he muttered something about chiseling cheapskates. Must be up-time words. Never heard them before.

I said I wanted to ask a question. He said go ahead. I asked if I took the job, would that be all I ever did? I knew I was going to take the job, but I wanted to see if there was something better that might come from it. He got a serious expression on his face, and said that actually, if I wanted to pursue it, he saw no reason why I might not learn enough law while working there to speed my way through school if I ever thought I wanted to be an attorney someday. I already had shown him that I knew more contract law than a lot of men with fancy brass plates on their doors.

My own eyes opened wide at that. Me . . . an attorney? Boy, would Mama be surprised at that! I took a deep breath, and told him I accepted his offer. He smiled a real smile, then bellowed for Christoph again. When the door opened, Herr W said meet our new bookkeeper and file clerk, Christoph. Prepare standard employment contract number 3 between Philip Fröhlich and Grubb, Wurmb and Wulff. Christoph grinned and ducked back into the outer office. He left the door open, and in a moment I heard a series of clacking noises, then a ratcheting sound. Christoph appeared in the door and carried a document over to Herr W, who read it carefully. He grunted at the end, then flipped open the cap to his inkwell, dipped one of those fancy metal nib pens into it, made a couple of notes on the page and signed it at the bottom. He spun the document around on the desk and offered me the pen. I read through the contract, which just said that I agreed to work for Grubb, Wurmb, and Wulff, a partnership, to do any work for which I was capable, and to keep all matters I learned about in the course of my employment there confidential. And it stated that my starting pay was fifteen dollars a day. I kind of shook my head at my good fortune, but I took the pen, dipped it, and carefully signed my name where his finger was pointing.

When I laid the pen back down on its rest, Herr W walked around the desk, reached out to take my hand and shake it. He shook my hand. Master G never shook my hand. Wow. He passed the contract to Christoph, who took it back into the outer office. Then he reached into his pants pocket and pulled out something that when he undid a clip and unfolded it turned out to be a lot of money. He peeled off four five-dollar bills and handed them to me. He told me that was my signing bonus—more up-time words, I guess—that I should go have a good meal, and be here tomorrow morning at 9 A.M.

With that, he ushered me to the front door. Moments later I was down on the street with my head spinning. Wandered around for a while, then ended up in Syborg’s Books, where Herr Matthias greeted me and told me he had been asking around about jobs but hadn’t found anything. Told him he didn’t need to bother as I start work tomorrow for Herr Wulff. He smiled and seemed really pleased by that. Spent most of the afternoon browsing through all the books in the store, talking to Herr Matthias about some of them. I may try some of them.

Had an early supper. Was hungry. Ate better than I have in a while, secure in knowledge that I can afford it again.

Spent the rest of the evening working on Portia’s Mirror. Everything flowed. Three pages of story told tonight. Getting close to end. Got the job just in time to start thinking about getting the good paper for the copy to give Herr Gronow.

Not really tired now, but need to try and sleep. Tomorrow will be busy day.

Recited evening prayers, twice, and now to bed.

****

 

From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

 

15 June 1635

 

Friday

Breakfast–

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

1 cup morning broth 1 pfennig

1 mug beer 2 pfennigs

Supper–

1 bowl fish stew 3 pfennigs

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

1 mug beer 2 pfennigs

 

Dreams were mostly quiet last night. Max floated in and out, waved at me once. Don’t think I woke up. If I did, went right back to sleep and don’t remember it.

Mama Schultz smiled at me this morning when she saw what I was getting for breakfast. Almost dropped my roll. Wasn’t sure her face could bend that direction without cracking or breaking. Surprised me when it did. She put her meat fork down and reached over and patted me on the cheek, told me I was a good boy.

Third day at new job. Didn’t feel as lost as I did the first two days. Kind of know where things are, starting to understand how things are organized. Was actually able to do a few things without looking to Christoph first.

Like Christoph. Very good-natured, good at explaining, very patient. Likes to laugh. I think I’ll enjoy working with him.

According to C, Herr Wulff is good to work for. Gives good clear directions. Tolerates honest mistakes. On the other hand, has no tolerance for willful stupidity and is sudden death on dishonesty. Thought to myself that Thomas would never make it here, then.

C says Herr W demands a lot, but of himself most of all. Says he’s scary smart, and picks things up very fast, which is why it’s stupid to try and lie to him or mislead him. He never forgets anything and puts things together in ways no one expects. If I don’t know something for sure, just say so. He wants truth above all. I think I’ll like that in my master.

C did say that as long as Herr W is being loud and bouncing around like a child’s toy, things are okay. But if he gets still, and quiet, and his voice goes to a smooth even tone, those are storm warnings, we need to find cover, and God help me if I’m the cause. Still think I’ll like it here.

Really like the paper they use in the office. Really smooth, really white, and about the right size. Finally asked today if I could buy some. Christoph shrugged, said probably, went to ask Herr W, who came out of the back office and said I could, but wanted to know why. Told him I’m a writer and need some to finish a story I’m working on. His eyebrows raised, and he smiled, then told C to sell it to me for what he paid for it. So I brought home twelve pages of it. All I could afford today. Looking forward to writing the clean copy of Portia’s Mirror on it.

Which will begin really soon, because after tonight’s writing, I think I only have about one more night’s work, and the new story will be done.

Recited evening prayers. Now to bed.

****

 

From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

 

17 June 1635

 

Sunday

Breakfast–

Fasted

Lunch–

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

1 chunk cheese 2 pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig

Supper–

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig

 

Dreamt last night. Max showed up early, talked for a long time. Don’t remember a lot of it, except I think he was talking about how much fun it is to be a guardian angel. Well, maybe not fun, but how much he enjoys it. Said something about doing what you love and loving what you do. Took me a moment to understand what he was saying. Not sure everyone would agree with it, but makes some sense to me. He told me some more old bad jokes and bad old jokes, too. Wish I could remember some of them.

Lord’s Day, Lord’s Work.

Church was pleasant. Not as many people as the last couple of Sundays, but still full enough that the singing of the music was good. Sang with a will. Reading was okay. Homily was a bit dull. Not by Pastor Gruber, unfortunately. Preacher got St. John the Baptist confused with St. John the Evangelist. Not the first time I’ve heard that. Happens with Saints Jacob, Jacob, and Jacob as well. I can understand how lay people can do that, but preachers and pastors are supposed to know. I mean, really.

After lunch, spent part of the afternoon reading The City of God. Almost done. Don’t know if I’ll start over again when I’m done, or if I’ll read another book by St. Augustine. Actually want to do both. Torn between seeing if I can make more sense of it the second time or if I want to read something new. We’ll see. Probably a few weeks from that decision.

Finished Portia’s Mirror tonight. Good. Ready to start the clean copy tomorrow. Have enough paper to get started, have quills and candles, have a fresh supply of ink. Ready to go.

Feeling good about that.

Recited evening prayers. So now to bed.

****

 

From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

 

21 June 1635

 

Thursday

Breakfast–

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 mug beer 2 pfennigs

Supper–

1 wurst 2 pfennigs

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

1 mug beer 2 pfennigs

 

Dreamt of water last night. River, I think. Seemed to be a current, anyway. No idea which river, though. Pretty big . . . bigger than the Elbe, anyway. Of course, I’ve never seen another river than the Elbe, so I couldn’t tell by looking at it what it was. And Max wasn’t there to ask. Just me. No Max, no Portia, nobody. Strange dream, I guess.

Work has been smooth. Routine, guess you could say. Herr Wulff sees a lot of people every day. Some of them he decides he can’t do anything for, so he turns them away. But the ones he decides to try and help, they get at least two folders set up—one for his work notes on whatever the situation is, and one for any agreement he sets up with them. A couple of people there was a third folder set up, but not sure why. Christoph set those up. Anyway, I set up the folders, file the papers, and put the folders where they need to go. Kind of like what I was doing for Master Gröning toward the end, only using the system C showed me, which is way better than what I had worked out for Master G.

Funny . . . Herr W isn’t very tall, and is not fat—trying to say he’s not a big man—but after you’re around him for a little bit you forget that. He seems as big or bigger than anyone else in the room.

He looked over my shoulder today as I was copying a statement, and said that my hand was good. First time anyone’s complimented my penmanship. Guess all the copies I’ve done for Herr Gronow have helped there, too.

Copying about a page per night, maybe a bit more. Not rushing it. Wanting it to be as clean as possible. Plus, this new paper is a little different than what I’ve used before, so making sure I know how it takes pen work and ink before I start trying to hurry with it. Anyway, several pages done, quarter done, maybe. Should have it done by the first of next month, or maybe a day or so later.

Reread parts of Der Schwarze Kater Issue 3 tonight. Not sure which issue I like best. They’re all good.

Recited evening prayers, and now for bed.

****

 

From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

 

27 June 1635

 

Wednesday

Breakfast–

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

1 cup sauerkraut 1 pfennig

1 mug beer 2 pfennigs

Supper–

1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

1 mug beer 2 pfennigs

 

Dreamt Herren Poe and Lovecraft were walking down Kristinstrasse in Magdeburg. Everyone they met knew who they were, even the pastor they passed, and everyone smiled and said hello. Then they turned into the Magdeburg Polizei headquarters and went in the front door. I kept walking, and after a while woke up. Have to wonder what that was about. Really curious about who they were going to see and what they were going to talk about. Stupid dreams.

Since the last couple of days were really busy, was nice that today was quiet. I mean, not so good because no new clients means not as much money, but it was nice to get caught up on the other papers and get them filed. Christoph is still showing me some new things almost every day. Lot more to think about here than at Master Gröning’s.

Speaking of Master G, ran into Martin after leaving work in the evening. He was on the other side of the street going the other way. Called out to him and crossed over. Almost got stepped on by a mule team. Drover had some not nice things to say about how stupid I was. Couldn’t argue with him. Was stupid to try to cross right in front of the mule team. Anyway, made it to other side, embarrassed, talked to Martin for a little bit. He said that Herr Schiller had gotten him another position at another office near where we were. He’s getting the same money, but having to work a little harder, but he said that was okay because the people were nice and fair and he’d have done anything to get away from Thomas. He said he almost wept when he left, because Herr Schiller looked so weary and alone. Told him what Herr S had told me about going back home and buying a share in a tavern. That perked him up a little. We agreed to try and meet like this every Wednesday just to keep in touch.

Making good progress on the final copy of Portia’s Mirror. Over halfway done. Two-thirds done, maybe. Won’t be long. Moving a little faster now that I’m more used to the paper. Did have to buy some more paper, though, but I knew I was going to have to do that.

Recited evening prayers. Now to bed.

****

 

From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

 

1 July 1635

 

Monday

Breakfast–

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

1 cup morning broth 1 pfennig

1 mug beer 2 pfennigs

Supper–

1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

1 mug beer 2 pfennigs

 

Dreamt that Herr Wulff turned into a wolf in the office. Funny thing was, he could still talk, so we kept on doing business. Just that he was sitting in the chair like a dog would, instead of like a person. Remember thinking in the dream that Christoph was sure taking it calmly. Woke up with a giggle after that.

Mama Schultz tried to get me to eat something different for breakfast. Told her I was tired of the winter apples and sauerkraut, and the new apples were just now starting to show up. She pointed her meat fork at me and told me to eat turnips and cabbage. I stuck my tongue out at her. She smiled a little bit. Second time I’ve made her smile. Need to figure out how to do that more often.

Frau Grubb, Herr W’s wife, came by the office right before lunch to go to lunch with Herr W at Walcha’s Coffee House. Herr W introduced us. Her name is Portia! I was so astounded by that. I must have looked stupid or something, because she laughed and asked me if I knew another Portia. Before I could think, I blurted out only in the story I was writing. Her eyebrows went up, and she got a surprised expression on her face. That’s when Herr W said yes, he’s a writer, didn’t I tell you that? She slapped him on his arm and said no. Then she looked back at me and asked me if I had anything published yet. I said no, but I’m submitting to a magazine, and with each submission I get closer. She said which magazine? I said Der Schwarze Kater. She got that surprised look on her face again, then grinned and said, Really? It was her favorite magazine.

Herr W broke out laughing, and said that we would obviously become close acquaintances, and no, she couldn’t spend all my afternoon talking about stories and writing. She slapped him on the arm again, then said to me, another time she wants to talk to me about stories, and did I know the writing of Stephen King? I said no. She smiled and said I would.

Then she tucked her arm in Herr W’s arm, and they went to lunch. I asked C if Frau G was always like that. He said yes, and sometimes even more so. She was a good match for Herr W because of that.

So, head was still spinning when I left work today. Herr W and wife are interesting people, but I think keeping up with them all the time could wear a person out.

Finished the final copy of Portia’s Mirror tonight. Looked everything over carefully, made sure I had the address for Herr W’s office down for my contact rather than Herr Gröning’s office. Wouldn’t want the response to go to the wrong place.

Will take it by tomorrow after work.

Recited evening prayers, so now for bed.

****

 

From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

 

2 July 1635

 

Tuesday

Breakfast–

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

1 cup morning broth 1 pfennig

1 mug beer 2 pfennigs

Supper–

1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

1 mug beer 2 pfennigs

 

Dreams were dark last night. Woke up twice. But don’t remember any of them.

Nervous all day. Good thing nothing new or unusual happened at work today. Not sure I would have been any good. Looked forward all day to getting Portia’s Mirror to Herr Gronow’s office.

End of day arrived, headed straight for his office. Door was closed as usual. Dropped the story through the slot like usual, with usual flash of panic, followed by usual prayer.

Stopped by Syborg’s Books on the way home, browsed a little bit. Georg was minding the store, talked to him a little bit.

Went home. Tried to read the issues of Der Schwarze Kater. Couldn’t connect. Tried to read St. Augustine. Couldn’t focus. Tried to read the Bible. Even that couldn’t focus me.

So said evening prayers . . .over and over again until I calmed down. Think maybe I can sleep now, so now to bed.

I hope.

****

 

From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

 

5 July 1635

 

Friday

Breakfast–

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

1 cup sauerkraut 1 pfennig

1 mug beer 2 pfennigs

Supper–

1 bowl fish stew 3 pfennigs

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

1 mug beer 2 pfennigs

 

Don’t remember any dreams at all, but woke up three times, so must have been something.

Was really hoping the messenger didn’t try to deliver yesterday. Didn’t realize we were going to be closed for the up-timer holiday of July 4th when I put the story in the slot, or I would have put a note with it. Need to remember that in the future.

Didn’t need to worry. He showed up late afternoon. Usual guy, guess Herr Gronow uses him for all that work. He stepped in the door, looked around, saw me, brought me the message, touched a finger to the brim of his cap, and left.

Herr Wulff had come to the door of the inner office. He looked at me with one raised eyebrow. I held up the message, told him I had submitted a story early in the week, and this was word from the publisher. I went to put it in my shirt, and Herr W told me to go ahead and open it. He wanted to know, too, so he could tell Portia. He was smiling as he said that. Felt weird, but I opened the message.

****

 

5 July 1635

Herr Philip Frölich

I see that your contact address has changed. I hope that represents an improvement in your situation and not a downturn.

Once again you have delivered a clean manuscript. Well-crafted, well-written as to your hand, nice paper. Congratulations. I believe this is the nicest manuscript I have ever seen, including my very own. I could almost be jealous.

You prove yourself to be an apt pupil, Herr Frölich. With each successive cycle of give and take, of offering and rebuttal, your work improves. I wish I could say that it has improved enough for me to buy this story, I really do.

Portia’s Mirror is far and away your best effort so far. The story has structure, and things happen, and the characters do things. These are all good. There is a beginning, a middle, and an end. But it needs still more. You need to continue to improve your skills at describing things. It’s not enough to say that someone is horrified and show us their actions. You must describe the thing that is causing the fear. You must make the reader just as horrified of the thing as the character is. You made strides in this direction with Portia’s Mirror, but not enough. When you can make the hair on my neck stand up, you will have achieved it, and the readers will love to hate you for it.

Second, it’s not enough to have structure. If there is more than one character, there needs to be dialogue. In short, they need to talk to each other. And frankly, your dialogue in the story sounded as if it was written by a drunken Roman, trying to be serious and pompous. It wasn’t natural. When you write your stories, read them out loud, especially the dialogue. Your ear will tell you when something isn’t right.

Portia’s Mirror is a good title. I could probably publish that title. But see if you can find a better one. Your first story, when it’s finally published, needs to be memorable in every respect.

Yes, I begin to think that you will achieve your goal, and have a story published in Der Schwarze Kater. It is now with anticipation that I say when you correct the issues noted above, please resubmit your story.

Good day to you.

 

Johann Gronow

Editor and Publisher

Der Schwarze Kater

 

Share

About David Carrico

David 2013-03-03 small

David Carrico made his first professional SF sale to The Grantville Gazette e-magazine in 2004. His stories have also appeared in the Grantville Gazette and Ring of Fire anthologies from Baen Books and in Jim Baen’s Universe e-magazine. Baen Books has published a story collection by David entitled 1635: Music and Murder, and two novels written in collaboration with Eric Flint: 1636: The Devil’s Opera, and The Span of Empire, which was nominated for the 2017 Dragon Award for Best Military SF or Fantasy novel. David is currently working on a solo project.

4 thoughts on “Letters From Gronow, Episode Five

  1. Marcus Hagen

    Herr Gronow’s mentoring of Johann reminds me of the way that John W. Campbell developed some of the best-known SF writers. This serial has my wife & me waiting eagerly for each installment. Glad to see Johann & Martin both in new positions, wondering if Thomas will get what he richly deserves, or will appear to be getting away with his behavior.
    Please keep ’em coming!
    Marcus

    1. David Carrico

      Thank you. That’s quite a compliment.

      To the extent that he is channeling every good editor, Gronow certainly resembles Campbell. And certainly it’s hard to consider good editors without Campbell coming to mind.

      Stay tuned for the next episode!

      David

Leave a Reply