Late 1634, Pomerania, USE
The Lord High Chancellor will call on Field Marshal Hermanni Wrangell, Baron of Skokloster, on Wednesday next.
Signed for and by the order of The Lord High Chancellor, Axel Ochsenstern, Count of Södermöre.
The usual note for a social visit or a routine call in the line of duty would read something like: “Hermanni, set up the chess board. I’ll be there Wednesday, Axel.” This was a formal note, though, which meant official business.
Something out of the ordinary, something important, something most probably unpleasant, was about to land in Hermanni’s lap, or on his plate. It might be his head. As the Lord High Chancellor, Axel did not do pleasantries. This was not like other notes from him.
Hermanni reviewed the accounts. He could find no discrepancies. There were no notable disciplinary problems, nor civil unrest. Why, then, a visit from the high chancellor? Why now? The newly-minted Baron of Skokloster was worried, with good reason. Whose neck was on the chopping block and why?
“Sir, the chancellor’s party is in the courtyard.”
Hermanni glanced at the chessmen on the table where glasses waited, along with a new bottle of Axel’s favorite liquor. “Bring him in immediately Berendt.”
“Yes, sir,” Berendt replied.
A few minutes later Axel stepped into the room and stopped just inside the door. Hermanni took the hint. “Close the door, Berendt, and see to it we are not disturbed.”
“Hermanni, my old friend, we have a problem.” Axel said.
“Ah.” The tension flowed out of Hermanni’s neck and shoulders. His old friend had a problem. A problem could be addressed and survived.
“Gustav has gone all Vasa,” Axel said. The founder of the Vasa dynasty a century ago had built a power base by supporting the commoners against the aristocracy. For the most part Gustav supported the rights of the old noble families, but with his exposure to Grantville the occasional fits of “going Vasa” had increased.
“What do you need me to do?”
“Write to your brother Hannes.”
“Hannes? What foolishness has he gotten into this time?”
“The sawmill and crown lands he purchased in Laajakoski on the Kymmene älv back in ’29? He needs to sell them immediately.”
“Axel, you know why he bought the property.” Colonel Hannes Wrangell’s salary from the crown, as a high officer in the Swedish army, had gone unpaid for several years. As part of the agreement, the pay arrearages were applied to the price of the purchase. “And I know for a fact he’s sunk a wheel-barrow full of money into it on top of the purchase price.”
Axel replied, “What he did was build a grand manor house. He didn’t spend more than a handful of copper coins on the sawmill. No upgrades, no improvements, nothing beyond immediate repair. The mill has broken down again and is slow getting back into production. The shipyard the mill feeds is behind schedule and they are blaming it on the lack of lumber. We both know if it wasn’t this they would have some other excuse, but they don’t need another. This one works just fine. Hermanni, there is a war going on. That mill is supposed to be producing strategic material needed for the war effort. Gustav is not a happy monarch.”
“I’ll speak to my brother. He will send more money.” Privately, Hermanni wondered where they would find it. It would have to be found. This made the whole family look bad. Letting the mill sit idle, normally, wouldn’t matter. The shortages to the shipyard, however, had already been noticed and Gustav was in a rage. Yes, Gustav sold the property, in part, to cover a debt he owed Hannes, but he still expected the sawmill to meet the objective for which it was built.
”Don’t bother. Tell him to sell it,” Axel said.
”Is that necessary? We can get things caught up as quickly as anyone.”
“Hermanni, I told you, Gustav has gone Vasa over this. Sell it or see it confiscated!
“You know Countess Anna Marketta Bielke, your late wife’s cousin?”
Hermanni wondered why Axel was introducing a complete change of topic. “Her husband, the count, is governor-general of Mainz and Frankfurt. She is one of the empress’s ladies-in-waiting.” The mention of the queen’s court caused Hermanni’s thoughts to wander. First there were his own efforts to find a third wife from amongst the ladies and widows of the imperial court. Then there was the tension between Gustav and his wife.
It might be going a little far to say the king and queen were feuding, but their daughter was in Magdeburg and the king did not get home to Stockholm, or wherever the queen was holding court, very often. There were people who thought the queen should aid their aspirations, and she was unhappy because he wouldn’t be generous to her favorites. The queen, now empress, Maria Eleonora, was whining a great deal and wanting Gustav to come be with her, and to be considerate of her. She was even willing to come to him, preferably someplace reasonable. Unfashionable, raw Magdeburg was more than she really wanted to endure, but she would even go to that war-ravaged town if that was what he wanted. Gustav would not let her. He found her nagging and whining easier to endure at a distance.
Axel pulled Hermanni’s thoughts back to the topic at hand. “The countess has some dower money and they desire to buy a property somewhere. The count wants a manor with a strong, steady cash flow, and he is also enamored with the new technologies.
“An officer on the count’s staff, Captain Johannes Matinpoika, grew up in the Kymmene district. He is familiar with the mill. He assured the count it can be consistently profitable if it is well managed. Also, he is of the opinion that there is timber in the area which is perfect for making Grantville-style plywood.”
Hermanni nodded, relieved. His family would not be left holding the bag. Axel already had a well-connected and approved buyer.
Axel continued, “The countess is currently visiting her husband. I became the godfather of their son. The count is in Gustav’s good graces and no longer wants his wife involved in the intrigues of the empress’ court.” Axel smiled. “I remember when he was quite proud of having his wife as one of ladies-in-waiting to the queen. Now, going to her newly-purchased estate, would be a perfect excuse for her to not return to court.”
If the governor-general thought it was a good idea to exile his wife to a country estate, Hermanni quite understood. Wives are best kept occupied. Taking care of an estate while rearing children would be a good occupation, plus there was some political liability that could be avoided.
“The count, my cousin,” Axel continued, “has decided his wife is interested in American plywood. The forests upriver are reportedly ideal. The new manor house Hannes built instead of upgrading the sawmill will make the purchase more tolerable to the countess. This way, your brother can recoup his investment. He might even manage a small profit. And Gustav will climb down off of his high horse.”
Midwinter 1635, Mainz
After the countess purchased the forest, manor house, sawmill and the lands of several villages on the Kymi River, her husband, Count Niels, told her, “You should retain the services of Johannes Matinpoika’s young wife, Kristiina von Houwaldt. Johannes’ family estate is on the Kymi. I have campaigned with him for years and have met her socially on several occasions. She is from Germany and her family claims some minor nobility. She is a practical young woman with an impressive intellect and a solid grasp of commerce and trade. Her brothers are pursuing military careers. I doubt if she brought Johannes much if any dowry, but you can figure out why he married her at first glance.
“I am more taken by her drive, analytical abilities, and skill with languages than I am with her beauty. Johannes wants to take her home to meet his family, so I can assign him the task of escorting you to our new estate this spring. I want you to go there to start the industrialization as soon as the weather permits the voyage.”
“Niels, if you feel she would be helpful then by all means I will put her on staff,” the countess said agreeably.
When he brought the topic up, Johannes Matinpoika’s found his young wife, Kristiina von Houwaldt, to be much less amenable.
“Kristiina, you really should do this.”
“But, then I will be away from you.”
“If I get called to the front we will be separated in any case. Raising children in the camps is not good. Besides, a boy should be raised on the land which will be his some day.”
“But if I am managing this lumber project, when will I raise the children.” She patted her belly.
Johannes smiled with certain pleasant memories but he came back to the practical subject at hand. “I am sure your compensation will cover a nanny, and a wet nurse if you need one.”
“What is this really about, Johannes?”
“You can see right through me, can’t you?”
She smiled. Johannes felt his heart melt. But, he pulled his mind back to the conversation in hand instead of pursuing a pleasure in the bush. “I still need to introduce you to my family. The general is going to have me escort his wife, the countess, to their new estate this spring. If you are in her service, they will take care of your travel, too. From the look of things, little Johannes will be my brother’s heir as well as mine. While I am there I can formally take possession of the farms I am getting in lieu of my back wages and someone will need to oversee them. That someone should be you. If you are in the employ of the countess, you can live in the manor instead of with my brother Iivari. His house is small, and the estate is little more than a large farm with some hired help, so that would be much more comfortable.
“But, really, for me this whole project is about Finland. As it is now, the grand duchy of Finland is too much under the control of people in Stockholm who do not even understand our language. Emperor Gustav is the grand duke of Finland in a long, and often forgotten, list of other things. He doesn’t give Finland a passing thought as long as there’s peace. It is a poor country, full of trees and not much else except for fish and furs. North country summers are short and the winters are cold and snowy. There isn’t enough farm land to ever produce much of a surplus. There is no significant reserve for hard times. If we industrialize early, we can get ahead of the pack. Plywood will make a difference in the world. Finnish plywood will make a difference to Finland. As it stands, if the crops fail people starve because there is no other means of livelihood. If we have industry, then there is another source of income in hard times.
“I’ve seen people hungry in the spring, and there was nothing we could do because our own barns were bare and there was not enough money to buy for our own and for others too.
“I know you are competent and compassionate. You know how to deal with people. You understand how to make a profit. Remember, I watched you help your uncle in his businesses before I proposed. So tell the count ‘yes.’ Go raise my son in his own land. I will seek an appointment to Viipuri province when I can. It should be no more than a few years, if this war ever eases.”
February 1635, Grantville
Kristiina von Houwaldt,her chambermaid Annika, little Johannes and his nanny, and Jussi Kallenpoika, one of Countess Anna Marketta Bielke’s retainers, disembarked from the train at the Grantville station. Markus Heikinpoika and the hotel concierge waited with a horseless carriage to take the party to their hotel.
Kristiina was complying with the count’s instructions: “Go to Grantville. Research the area of the estate in the library. Choose a shop and commission them to build the machines needed to make plywood. Then explore what other ways and means we might employ to make the estate more productive.”
Kristiina stopped and looked at the elegant and truly impressive horseless carriage. She sounded out, and pronounced, the words written in the brightest of silver over the front wheel. “Ford Econoline.” The words sounded tentative. She could read English but not speak it, unless you counted what the Scots spoke as English. She had learned to read Italian and Latin as a child, along with her native German. She learned to speak Scots while her husband served with Colonel Alexander Gordon’s company. Then she taught herself to read English. There were so many works waiting to be translated, and many that had already been translated read so poorly that it was annoying.
The concierge from the hotel heard her hesitancy and took it for a question. “Yes, milady. It’s a Ford Econoline fifteen-passenger van. Grantville’s newest and grandest luxury hotel, our very own Holiday Lodge where every stay is a vacation, bought it for a courtesy limousine now that gas is available, even if it is still outrageously expensive. We offer the limo service since we’re out of town a ways, but don’t worry. The trolley line to Grantville stops right outside our lobby. The limo rides a little rough with the wooden wheels. The rubber tires wouldn’t hold air anymore.
“This way please, and watch your step.”
During the trip the guide kept up a constant chatter about things of interest, starting with the train station. “The station is from up-time and quite old as they counted such things,” and ending with, “That cut in the cliff was blasted out to give the near-by village direct access to Grantville without going miles around. When Grantville annexed the village they widened the cut and extended the trolley line.”
The newly-built Holiday Lodge stood in a wooded setting surrounded by what would be an impressive formal garden in a decade or so when it had established itself. The most visually striking thing about the three story building was the enormous quantity of diamond-shaped panes of glass. Individually they could not hold a candle to the plate glass in the old buildings downtown, but collectively they were quite impressive. “Holiday Lodge has sixty suites and guestrooms.” the guide said. “Though half of the rooms are as yet neither finished or furnished. There are over two hundred windows using thousands of panes of glass.” The van stopped under the canopy built over the trolley stop in front of the main entrance.
The next morning Kristiina and Markus took the trolley into town to interview research assistants. She settled on a bright young woman, Barbara Falke.
“I need to find out as much as I can about the area around the Kymi River,” Kristiina said.
“Let’s start by looking at a map,” Barbara said. “Just where is the Kymi?”
“It’s in the part of Sweden called Finland.”
“Okay. Here is Finland. It’s in a different color here on the map, so up-time it was no longer part of Sweden . . . and here is the Kymi River.”
“My husband is from right about this area,” Kristiina said, pointing to the mouth of the river. “But this town or city, Kotka? He has never mentioned it.”
“Let’s check the encyclopedia. I’ll be right back.” She was barely gone before she returned. “It’s no wonder you never heard of Kotka. It doesn’t exist yet. Its main exports were lumber, plywood and paper. Now what else do you want to know?”
“We have a lumber mill, and we are interested in building a plywood mill.”
“Sure, I can look plywood up for you. Carlo Rainaldi researched plywood while he was studying here in Grantville. Did you know he’s listed in the encyclopedia as a cathedral builder? His wife Angelina ran away from her rich uncle in Italy to marry him. It was all quite romantic. They both work for the navy in Magdeburg these days. If you want to talk to him, you can get to Magdeburg in only a day since they’ve opened the rail line.”
Kristiina was a bit unsure as to why what she had just been told was important. “I will need to have the machinery built to make plywood.”
“Then you definitely need to talk to Carlo. He designs things, mostly for the navy.”
“You said the encyclopedia mentioned lumber, plywood and paper. Why ship rags to a shop in the middle of a forest and then ship paper back?” asked Kristiina. “The transport cost would eat up the profit.”
“I think up-time paper was made from wood pulp, not rags,” responded Barbara.
“Wood pulp? How?”
“Let’s see what we can find out.”
At the end of the day, Kristiina summarized: “So, ideally everything cut should be used: the large trunks for plywood and lumber, the smaller for paper pulp, the best of the rest for fire wood, and everything else for charcoal. The only thing left should be the stump and it holds the soil in place while new trees grow. And there is a use for each different type of tree.
“Charcoal burners can be hired, if there is any market for the charcoal. But I can’t see the count doing paper. There is not enough detailed information available. It would take forever and a small fortune, if we were lucky, to figure out what they did.”
“If you wish,” Barbara said, “I can check everything in the library while you’re in Magdeburg, but I don’t know of anyone in town with any real experience with making paper out of wood pulp. All the paper makers are down-timers.”
The next day Kristiina caught the train to Magdeburg.
Somewhere past Jena, Jussi, her security escort, asked Annika softly, so as not to be overheard, “Is she all right?”
The lady was sitting very still staring out the window of the coach but she did not seem to be really seeing anything. He thought she looked uncomfortable, or even ill. If she were, he should know. If it were serious, he should tell the countess.
“Don’t trouble yourself over it, Jussi. She gets lost to the world like this when she reads, too. There are things on her mind, that’s all.”
“Does the train ride not agree with her then? She looks a little green, or even like she’s in pain?”
“You’ve got a good eye for a man.”
“I notice things. I’m supposed to watch for trouble before it happens. You didn’t answer the question.”
Annika smiled. “Well, Jussi, I am her ladyship’s personal servant. I don’t discuss my lady’s personal life.”
“Annika, I am just as much her personal servant as you are. If it affects her, it affects me. You are, rightly, mindful of her privacy, but I am part of her privacy now, and will be for years to come, from the looks of things. So tell me about it.”
Annika looked defiant. Jussi just stared at her. In the end Annika giggled. “It is nothing really,” she said. “She’s worried about the task and she’s unhappy about being separated from her husband. On top of which, the morning sickness was bad this morning.”
“Oh.” Jussi said. “I didn’t know she was carrying.”
“Yes. She is. And while she and the nanny have been weaning little Johannes, she’s not dry yet so she is uncomfortable, on top of everything else, but mostly the project is weighing heavy on her mind.”
“And what weighs heavy on your mind, Annika?”
“Don’t even think about getting frisky with me, Jussi,” Annika said. But she smiled when she said it.
Count Niels Brahe, governor-general of the newly-established Mainz province, had a very busy schedule while in Magdeburg. Most of his mornings and early afternoons were full of meetings with the new ministry of the interior and with various military offices. His wife managed to fill his evenings. With Kristiina’s arrival, the count hastily arranged for a meeting with the navy’s rising star in design and development.
Getting the appointment proved to be easier than freeing up time from his agenda. When he announced he wanted to talk about plywood, with an eye toward opening a mill in Finland, it became a question of: “When can you come?” Marine grade plywood was something the admiral was very interested in. Unfortunately, the only time the count could free up was a late morning, when his wife would be attending a tea given by the admiral’s wife for the senior military wives who were in town.
“Your Excellency, I’m Ensign Baltzer von Karsten with public relations. I am very happy to meet you, sir. And you must be Lady von Houwaldt. Please come in. Lieutenant Rainaldi will be here shortly. I’ve sent someone to fetch him.” The ensign said it with a smile. Carlo’s habit of getting absorbed in his work on a drawing board and losing all track of time was a standing joke in the shipyard. “Don’t get rainy-day on me,” meant, “Pay attention to the world around you.”
Carlo Rainaldi walked in with a dozen large rolls of paper tucked under one arm and an inch-thick stack of paper in his other hand. Without introduction or preamble of any sort he spread the first roll of two-by-three-foot drawings out on the table and started talking. Ensign von Karsten shook his head, but Rainaldi had the count’s attention, so the ensign did not interrupt to apologize.
“This assumes you have enough of a water drop to run a large overshot water wheel or enough water flow for a massive undershot wheel,” Carlo said. At a nod from the count he continued. “You could have an all metal water turbine with a metal gear train made up, but that would take a lot of time unless you could get a priority slot since the shops are all back-ordered, and it would cost a lot of money. Or you can build it almost all out of wood. I was told you would be building the plant in the middle of nowhere. Would you prefer something you can repair without sending away for parts?”
The count nodded. “Yes.”
Carlo rolled up the top three drawings on the stack. He then pointed to the one left. “This design is for a plywood plant that has metal parts only where it is impractical to use wood. It can be made almost completely on site.”
Carlo walked the count through the whole process of making plywood, going from one drawing to another, with frequent thumps on the pile of papers, and the oft repeated words, “The details are spelled out in here.
“You should take the time to tour the local plywood shop sometime when it’s running. They’ve got a new peeler and press but they have trouble getting the right trees in the right sizes. And wood is expensive, so they don’t have any plans on expanding. That’s why you should build a plant somewhere with plenty of cheap trees.”
He ended with a discussion of the different glues needed for different purposes, and where to get them. “Greg Ferrara’s people came up with an additive for the fish head glues. It stinks to high heaven but, so far at least, it is keeping it from going moldy. You will probably have to set up a subsidiary business to meet your needs. Fortunately, fish heads are plentiful. There is a small outfit in Wietze that can make a good waterproof glue. If you want large quantities give them plenty of lead time.”
The presentation lasted two hours. When Rainaldi finished the count simply shook his head. “You did all of this in the day and a half since I asked for a meeting?”
“No, sir. The drawings have been ready for months. As I said, the admiral expressed an earlier interest, but government funding was not available. Besides, I need a plywood plant if I am ever going to get pre-formed single-piece small boat shells and aircraft bodies.
“Let me show you the plans for a preformed boat mold and . . . ”
“Carlo,” the ensign interrupted, “we need to break for lunch.” He turned to his senior guest, “Is Your Excellency free this afternoon?”
“Actually,” the count responded, “much to my regret, I have another appointment.”
Kristiina spoke for the first time since arriving in the conference room. “But I am free. And we are very interested in making small boats and aircraft bodies, are we not, sir?” she asked, turning to the count.
“Yes, of course. We have trees and start up capital. We need the industry. Exporting farm products is not going to provide any significant cash flow in Finland. We might even have to import grain in bad years, so farming is not a good focus for the new estate.”
After lunch the ensign sat in the conference room while Lieutenant Rainaldi walked Kristiina through making molds for shaped plywood. “When you go back to Grantville you can see what molded plywood looks like. There is bent plywood furniture in the waiting room of the optometrist’s office and his wife has a large formed plywood bowl and half a dozen small ones, what she calls her salad set, at home. They will be happy to show you if you ask.”
When Carlo finished the ensign asked—rather facetiously considering Carlo’s extensive presentation—“Is there anything else we can help you with?”
“Not that I know of,” Kristiina answered. “What we have are trees and a sawmill. Now we have plans for a plywood mill. Thank you. It’s a shame we can’t build a wood pulp paper mill. No one seems to really know how to do it.”
Carlo rolled up the copies of the drawing they were not giving away and said, “That’s not so. There is a very knowledgeable person in Grantville. When I was researching building techniques and was trying to find someone in Grantville with hands-on experience in making plywood, I was told it was too bad I wasn’t interested in making paper. Joe said he knew someone who worked in a paper mill in some place called Michugina.” Carlo gathered his materials and started to leave.
“Carlo, you’re forgetting something,” the ensign said.
Rainaldi looked around. He counted the rolls under his arm, and the number of drawings still on the table. “No, I don’t think so,” he said.
“The name, Carlo, the papermaker’s name?”
“Oh, yes, you’re right of course. Go see Old Joe Jenkins. He lives in Grantville on the top of the mountain. He can tell you the man’s name.”
Late Winter 1635, Grantville
“Welcome to Grantville, Your Grace.” Kristiina and the concierge were waiting at the station. There was a fancy carriage for any other guests of the lodge. A wagon, for the luggage, was also on hand. Today the limo was reserved for the countess and her party. This time it would not wait for a trailer to be loaded. Fortunately there was a compromise route to pick up and deliver passengers to the train station which avoided the daylight restrictions on downtown traffic.
“There is a lot to see in the next three days, before we go back to Magdeburg and start for the new estate,” Kristiina concluded.
At the end of the three days Countess Anna Marketta postponed their departure. Johannes, by now a major, was waiting in Magdeburg. When the departure was postponed he went to Grantville to be with his wife and Anna Marketta’s party, which was turning into quite a party indeed. Three weeks later a rather stern letter arrived from General Count Brahe. Anna Marketta and her party boarded the train to the river and started the long trip to Finland.
June 1635, Frankfurt am Main, the Governor’s office
General Count Brahe read the communication from his wife and shook his head. He had sent her to Grantville for three days to see the sights. She stayed three weeks! That was three months ago. It looked like he would be putting up with her Grantville mania for the next three years, if not the next thirty. When she wasn’t talking about going back, she was talking about making the new estate as much like Grantville as possible.
The first things she wanted when she got to the new estate was central heating. Fortunately she was willing to listen to Kristiina who was proving to be a level-headed jewel of a young woman.
“ . . . Kirsti says the heat runs have to be installed when the house is built. It cannot be ”˜retrofitted,’ an American word for ‘put in afterwards.’ Tommo agrees. Tuomas Manunpoika is the manager of the lumber mill. He is a master carpenter and was a builder before coming to Kymi to run the mill. He oversaw the building of the manor house and other projects in addition to running the mill. Kirsti has enlarged his duties to include construction and operation of the new plywood mill. His assistant foreman is running the existing . . . “
Things had changed after his wife went to Grantville. One thing was her relationship with her servants. The count asked Kristiina what happened. She wrote back, ”˜Her Grace, the countess, viewed several movies in which the up-time lords and ladies addressed their staff on a first name basis, just as the admiral’s wife did in Magdeburg and, in at least one movie, the lord had insisted the staff do the same. I am afraid your lady wife has decided she likes having friends to talk to even when there are no other nobles in residence.” Brahe fervently hoped his wife would keep things in order when she encountered other high nobles again. Swedes had never been as aloof as the stupid Germans, but still, they were not overly familiar with their help. What his wife’s servants did in private was fine as long as they remembered to be polite and deferential to her—and to everyone else, of course—when they encountered other aristocracy again.
” . . . and Kirsti says a new manor house will have to wait until the new mills are up and running. Tommo and the construction crew will be too busy and she says some of the parts for a central heating system will have to be shipped in. Tommo is quite excited about the plywood mill. He can’t wait for spring to try it out. The right logs are already being cut up-river. We’ll float them down . . .
“I realize television is completely out of the question, but you still have not responded to my request for a radio technician to bring an antenna for a radio tower. Tommo says building a wooden tower will not be a problem . . . ”
Brahe sighed. His wife wanted the impossible. She wanted to receive the Grantville area radio programs in Finland. She thought all she needed was a bigger antenna. He’d asked the people who knew these things, just to be sure, and they’d said it couldn’t be done for any amount of money. A broadcasting station in Finland in a few years might be possible, given enough money. For now, she would have to be content with the phonograph and records. What they could get, and would within six months, was a marine radiotelegraph station near the mouth of the Kymi. Then they’d at least be able to exchange Morse code messages with the outside world. Thank the Good Lord his wife would listen to Kristiina and that young woman had a firm grasp of the bottom line. Her reports were concise and neither optimistic nor pessimistic. The work went apace. The sawmill was meeting the needs of the shipyard, so at least one thing was bringing in a return.
” . . . We have started to plan some festivities to celebrate the 300th anniversary of our new residence’s municipality. It’s next year. Husband, would you be in position to visit? Please inform us about likely dates of your arrival and departure. Can we attract some luminary, even one of the imperials, to visit?”
Brahe sighed again. Did she ever stop to think what things cost?
Autumn 1635, Frankfurt am Main
A packet of letters arrived on Brahe’s desk, including two from Kymenkartano.
In the middle of a long rambling letter from his wife with news of the children, second-hand gossip from court, a long list of things she wanted, she wrote, ” . . . Husband, do we have the money for all these investments?”
His jaw fell open.
“We purchased grain and other supplies which were not on hand in adequate quantity for the people working on the construction projects. We really must hold off on the electric power turbines, as much as I would like to have electricity in the house.”
It had to be Kristiina’s influence.
“The building for the paper mill is underway. Tommo says he will be free when it is time to build the paper machine at the new mill. But can we afford the equipment?”
Brahe shook his head and muttered about miracles.
“It would seem to me the purchase is well beyond our means . . . “
The letter from Kristiina was, as always, well written and to the point.
I strongly recommend we continue with the paper project, if the capital can by any means be found. The machine builders in Grantville already have our designs for those parts which need up-time tools to make and we have received a priority placement on the order. If the capital can not be found, these orders should be cancelled immediately. The blacksmiths and the carpenters are busy making everything else. The special felt has arrived.
All up-time sources agree, this location is perfect for a large paper industry. We are already harvesting the trees for plywood and lumber so there are a lot of smaller parts which will go to waste without an additional end use. In the other universe paper helped make the region rich and provided work for tens of thousands of people. It is a model for predictable success. Perhaps you can raise the money with a public offering, if need be. Steam engines and turbines can wait for better timing and lower prices.
The plywood plant should be on line in time to cover some of the costs of the paper mill start up.
The local blacksmiths, along with the two you sent from Germany, are good but they are not up to doing everything we need done. I wish to send some younger mechanics to Grantville for additional training as soon as feasible.
Your obedient servant
Christine von Hohenwaldt
Count Brahe addressed a return letter to the two ladies jointly.
Anna Marketta, Kristiina,
. . . will proceed with the paper mill project. I am arranging financing. We will form a “Compagnie” and accept outside . . .
Autumn 1635, Alongside the Dock at Kymi, Province of Viipuri, Finland
Skipper Siffred Ollinpoika stood on deck looking at the small town springing up along the riverfront. Upon his return from the USE he realized it was starting to resemble a real port, small for now, to be sure, but just as thriving as many of the merchant townships in the rich south.
It was not very far from the hamlet of farm and fisher cottages his ancestors had inhabited since time immemorial. His village had once had a small harbor, but its river access had been poor. Now, instead of trading and warehouses, there was only farming and fishing there.
His forefathers traded all over the Baltic. The family still maintained boats, mostly for fishing but they did some shipping even if they no longer had a township with necessary privileges.
This trip he had sailed to and from the Saxon coast under a letter from the new countess to haul a cargo of complicated small metal parts bolted together into odd shapes.
The new port—it didn’t even have a name yet—had good river access and was growing rapidly. If the rumors were true about the mills and other things, it was only a matter of time before the new port had a charter to trade abroad. He considered what this could mean to his family.
Skipper Siffred thought it might be time to request burgher rights for himself and some of his kinsmen. It was also time to ask if they could send some of the boys to the manor to learn how to read and write properly.
Early 1636, Frankfurt am Main Residence of General Niels Brahe, Governor and Administrator of the Province of Main
Axel Oxenstierna advanced a bishop and said, “Checkmate! Niels, your game is way off.” Brahe usually defeated his cousin four games out of five and the fifth game was usually a close call. “What is on your mind? You can’t even concentrate on a simple chess game.”
“Axel, I was reading a letter from the Kymi estate when you arrived. My mind will clear overnight, I am sure.”
“Is there a problem? Do you need to go to your wife? Is my godson well? How about the new baby?”
“Marke had an easy labor and my youngest son Eric is healthy—as are the two older children.
“No, it’s the damned plywood mill. Von Houwaldt, our director there, says everything works except for one thing. She has written to the designer, Carlo Rainaldi, asking what they are doing wrong. They cannot get a consistent, clean cut of the right thickness from the shear. If they could, we would be in production. The rest of the system works. We have produced enough to know that the press over the charcoal oven works. The glues work. The feeding system to the shear and from the shear to the press table over the kiln works. The system of moving the logs from the reservoir pile to the feed line for the shear works so well that they are reproducing it to use at the sawmill, which will free up six men there for other work.
“Right now ninety plus percent of what the plywood mill makes is scrap. They will have a vast supply of material ready to go into the digester at the paper mill as soon as it’s ready to run.
“I find myself wishing I had never approved the project. But the drawings for the plywood mill made it look so simple. The plan called for a minimum of special tooling and equipment. Most of the system could be made on-site.”
Oxenstierna said, “I told the family the paper mill was a good idea. But you know that. We’ve invested a lot of money in the project. If you can’t get the plywood mill to work, I’m worried about the paper mill.”
“I am, too,“ Brahe said. “The only good news is the sawmill. It’s ahead of schedule.”
Oxenstierna nodded. The Kymi shipyard already had a different excuse.
Brahe continued, “We are even looking for somewhere to market the surplus.
“Would it help if we could get Simpson to send Rainaldi to look at the problem?” asked Oxenstierna.
“That would work if anything would. But why would the admiral do such a thing?”
Oxenstierna smiled an odd smile. “Leave that up to me,” was all he said.
Summer 1636, Kymenkartano, Finland
“Kaarlo.” It amused Angelina to pronounce her husband’s name as the locals did. She had waited until his pen was off the paper on the drawing board and on its way back to the ink pot before she spoke her husband’s name and called him back into the smaller world of reality where things had to be built and paid for, instead of just imagined. When he had made the transition she asked, “Is this the new manor house for the countess?”
“No. That plan is done. This is a smaller one for Kristiina. Central heating, flush toilets, hot and cold running water, modern kitchen, everything the countess has, except not as many rooms, no ball room, no billiards room, no music room, no indoor swimming pool, only one sitting room. A Grantville-type home with servant’s quarters up under the eaves and over the garage.”
“It is time to come to dinner,” Angelina said. She took his left hand. He preferred for her to walk on his sighted side. “I have been thinking,” She said. “I don’t think we should return to Germany before next spring.”
“Why not? I need to get back to work.”
“You have plenty to do right here. They are going to need help getting the paper plant running.”
“True, but I’ve got the mechanical problems all worked out.”
“Yes. But there is a lot more to it than that. Besides I don’t want to give birth who knows where on the road.” Angelina was late in her term. “And I sure can’t handle our daughter being seasick like she was on the way here. Her nanny was useless. The poor woman was sicker than the child was. And it will be even worse in the rougher weather. We can justify the decision by pointing out the need to work with the pulp paper plant. You got the plywood mill running, for now, but you should stay awhile to make sure nothing goes wrong.”
“That was easy. I only needed to change the gear ratios so the mill’s peeler turned faster and cut at a higher speed, using momentum rather than brute force. If you want to wait until spring I don’t see why we can’t, though when it comes to making paper I’m in over my head.”
“Why don’t you get the old man who told you how to design the plant to come help?”
“He won’t want to leave Grantville.”
“Well, maybe it’s time to do some arm twisting.”
August 1636, Grantville, Thuringia-Franconia
Vernon McCabe looked at the letter from Magdeburg. It had arrived yesterday and he slept on it overnight after he discussed it with his late wife. Okay, maybe talking to her was not normal or even sane. After bickering and fussing and fighting like cats and dogs for fifty years, she was gone. The peace and quiet was deafening, so he had started talking to Mel. After all, he knew what she would say anyhow. The only bad part of it was that the family had caught him at it.
Not long after the funeral someone said, “Vernon, with Mel gone you need to start thinking about moving into the old folks home. You’re going to need someone to look after you.”
“Shoot, if I go down to the old folks home it’ll be to look for a widow who still has her teeth and her mind and who has a family that don’t want her. I’m sure she wouldn’t want to be there any more than I would. On the other hand, maybe I should just find me a younger gal and start another family.”
“Vern? At your age? You’ve got no business talking about getting married again.”
“Who said anything about getting married?”
“Vernon, you need to sell the house and bank the money to live on.”
“Either that or get a job.”
“Vern, grow up! You’re seventy-six. Who is going to hire you at your age?”
At breakfast Vernon started to read the letter aloud again.
. . . office is in receipt of a request for your services. They are asking that you come to Finland to share your expertise in paper making.
Please find enclosed herewith a train ticket to Magdeburg. We look forward to discussing the request with you. We consider this to be of the highest importance and we strongly encourage you . . .
“What they really mean,” Melvina’s voice said in his head, “is ‘Get your ass in here so we can tell you where you’re going.’ A man your age has no business traipsin’ off that far from home. No tellin’ what’ll happen to you while you’re gone.”
“Well, they can’t send someone else. I’m the only one in Grantville who has ever worked in a paper mill. True, that was back in the fifties and the machine was built in the eighteen eighties and still running because old man Brown was too cheap to replace it. But right now that’s a plus.”
“Tell me something I don’t know, Vern. I was there, too. I had to listen to you gripe about how old it was, and how the owner was too tight to update it. And when you weren’t griping about that you were griping about the weather and missing home. Or are you so old you’ve forgotten? You didn’t like the winter in Michigan. You sure won’t like it in Finland, for crying out loud.”
“Well now. Seems to me you were the one who thought I oughta’ go to Magdeburg and help that navy fella’ to draw up the plans for the paper machine,” Vernon said. “Looks like that sweet little girl went home to Finland and built a plant, and now she can’t get it to work.”
“Well, you weren’t doing nothin’ else and the pay was good.”
“Well, I ain’t doing anything now, either.”
“But you’ll probably be gone all winter.”
“So? What else do I have to do this winter? Besides, like you said, it will pay a whole lot better than anything I can get here in town and I’m already involved.”
“They got no business asking a man near eighty years old to go to Finland.”
“I ain’t eighty yet!” Vernon said, getting his back up.
“You’re closer to eighty than you are to seventy!”
“Well, I can at least go to Magdeburg and talk about it.”
Late Fall 1636, Kymi Paper Mill
Tuomo, Carlo, Kristiina and Vernon stood at the end of the line, watching, while a large roll of rough brown paper was lifted off the end of the machine with a yoke rigged to a block and tackle. A new roll was already filling with paper.
“Mahtavaa,” Tuomo said.
“And that means?” Vernon asked.
“Umm, translate it as ‘great!’ in this case. Are you sure we can sell this?” Kristiina asked.
“Ship it to Grantville if you can’t sell it closer. They’ll buy it. Or make paper bags here and sell them. We’ve got the machine working, now, but I know we can make better than this.”
“But Master Verni, if we can already sell this, is it worth the extra work to make it work better?” Tuomo’s German was getting better almost by the day.
“Yep. Yes, it is. When they said paper, I don’t think this is what they had in mind. While we can sell this, we can sell typing paper for a lot more.
“Back when I was your age, I used to talk all night long with an operator almost as old as I am now. We worked swing shifts, so every third week we worked nights. He’d been around from the beginning, or next to it. He’d seen it all, and remembered it all, and told me all about it. Amongst other things, he told me what-all they did during the war when they couldn’t always get what they needed, and had to scrounge and make do.”
Vernon turned to Kristiina and said in English, “But, I told you all of that when we talked in Grantville and Magdeburg.
“That master dyer and the university-trained alchemist you hired out of Gribbleflotz’s labs seem to know what they’re doing. What they’ve done about making peroxides and chlorines with that one little generator is amazing. That thing ain’t hardly more than a toy.
“I ain’t gettin’ back on that boat till spring gets here and the water calms down, anyhow, so we’ve got all winter to work it out. Don’t go fretting about it, young lady. Between the dyer and the alchemist, and with what-all I’ve got tucked away up here—” He tapped the side of his head. “—Well, we may not get your paper to snow white. But we can get close enough. I am absolutely sure we can get to typing grade in something light enough that you won’t have to worry about selling it.
“Even if they can only make enough bleach for every tenth batch or so, we’ll have it worked out. You can get a bigger generator later.”
“What did he say?” Tuomo asked.
Kristiina smiled. “He said we can make it work”
Spring 1637, Magdeburg, Warehouse Office of David Solomon, Merchant
“What are you saying?” a shocked Adalbert Schmitt demanded. “You told me you would take all the paper I could get you.”
David Solomon replied, “I did. And I will. But the market price has dropped. I can’t pay what I did before because I can’t get what I did before.”
Adalbert asked, “Why? Is demand down?”
David answered, “No. With the lower price my volume is actually up.”
“Yes. Up! With the lower price I’m selling more paper. Printers are planning more books because they will be able to sell them for less.”
“What can you give me?” Adalbert asked and sighed.
David named a price.
Adalbert blew up, “What? David, we’ve been doing business for years! Don’t do this to me! Quit wasting my time and yours trying to bargain me down. Tell me what you will give me or I’ll turn around and leave. Someone will buy what I’ve got. I’ll carry it from printer to printer, if I have to.”
David stood firm in the face of an empty threat. “That’s the price, Adalbert. You will do a bit better in retail, until you factor in your time. But that is the best wholesale price you are going to get in this town. Yes, we used to pay the best price around, which is why you brought it here. Now we’re not. Are there places you can do better? Yes. Not for much longer, mind you, but for right now, yes.”
Adalbert caved in and asked, “What’s going on? That’s less than we were getting five years ago before the boom. The way you’ve been going through paper, the rag pickers are living like kings. There’s a rag shortage now. I heard of a footpad who was ripping the clothes off of peoples backs because he could get more for rags than he could for their purses.”
“Surely you jest!”
“Of course. It was a joke. But papermakers are paying twice what they did for rags and still can’t get enough to meet demand. David, if I hadn’t known you for years I’d call you a liar. There is no way anyone can get enough rags cheaply enough to sell paper at that price.”
“They aren’t using rags.”
“Then, it’s not the best quality paper. I’ve got top of the line white linen rag paper. Don’t go trying to tell me it isn’t worth more than what you’re getting elsewhere?”
Adalbert continued, “What is it, anyway? All hemp? It would have to be at that price. You can’t get a good all-hemp paper. You know anything over fifty/fifty just won’t work for books. Broadsides? Maybe, but this is book quality paper you’re turning your back on.”
David brought an opened sheaf out from under the counter. Adalbert looked at it and paled. David kept a straight face. It would not be just a metaphor to say that Adalbert’s face was paler than the paper. The stack on the counter was a soft tan or pale yellow. It was not as white as new snow in the sunshine. It was not as white as the white linen rag Adalbert was selling. It was not even quite as white as common cream. But, it was white enough to be called white.
Adalbert picked up a sheet. He held it up to the sunlight. There were no tears in it. There were no inclusions, no specks. There were no fibers to be seen. There was no watermark either. It was a rare papermaker’s screen without a watermark. Adalbert could tell by looking it wouldn’t pull apart. Sure it would tear, any paper would, but just pulling on the two ends of the sheet would not cause it to separate. Adalbert’s heart crawled up from his chest and lodged in his throat. The quality was good enough, too. Was it the best he had ever seen? No. If David Solomon was telling the truth, which Adalbert knew he was, even if he didn’t want to believe it, it was selling for less than what he had to get to turn a profit.
“How?” a cowed Adalbert asked.
“You know the navy here in town has been one of my biggest customers.” David said.
“Well, a week ago their buyer canceled their standing order.”
“Ohhh?” The sound carried pure sympathy.
“It’s worse, and it’s better. He says to me, ”˜Look, Herr Solomon, we’ve always done well by each other, I need to unload some surplus, can we help each other out?’ And it turns out this isn’t a one-time situation. He wants me to buy his surplus on an ongoing basis. He can let me have it at a price I can’t pass up, and you’ve seen the quality.”
“What is going on?”
“Someone in Sweden is using up-time techniques and turning wood pulp into paper.”
“David? How did it happen without you hearing about it? It’s not like you to let something like this slip by unnoticed.”
“Oh I heard about it, but I didn’t believe it. The people who knew about it all said not to worry; it would be years before they could be anything more than a novelty. I was told there would be months of poor quality paper, barely suitable for broadsides, or butcher paper like the grocery stores in Grantville want, while they worked out the bugs, before there was any book-quality paper. But they sent a mechanical genius from the navy yard to the back side of nowhere in Sweden last year to work on something called plywood for building ships and things. Well, he got iced in and didn’t come back till spring. When he did he brought a ship load of that.” David pointed at the stack on the counter. “And a contract for a regular supply. I got a cancellation, and a contract to buy their surplus.” He shrugged.
“You said wood pulp? How?”
Solomon shrugged again.
“This could put the papermakers out of business,” Adalbert said.
“Yes, if they don’t want to learn, and won’t invest in the new equipment. The buyer told me you can’t make this in a shop. It takes a mill. Building a mill costs a fortune. A shop can turn out nine rieses a day. A mill can do that in an hour.
“Look, Adalbert, I know you brought the paper here because I said I’d buy it. I can’t give you the old price, but some customers are still buying rag paper, so I can still sell it. Now here’s the best deal I can give you.” He named a price. “But only if you take it out in the new paper.”
Adalbert started to object. Why would he sell paper to buy paper? Before the words were out of his mouth his mind kicked in and did the math. It was a simple equation, after all. Probable price upon sale at points A, B, and C, minus purchase price and transport costs, equals . . . “Deal!” he said with a smile.