Master Carpenter Herman Glauber walked from the open door to the forge in the blacksmith shop Martin Schmidt ran for him. Putting down his bulging briefcase he stood warming his hands above the coals. Glauber nodded pleasantly at Martin and, looking around the shop, beamed.
"Rolf, Jakob, finish these up and then take your lunch. Forging the rest of the blanks can wait." Martin dismissed the two youngsters and walked over to greet his boss. His stomach turned over as he wondered what new scheme Herr Glauber was going to present.
Normally the only thing Glauber's schemes had in common was that they made money—often a lot of money—and required a great deal of labor for everyone involved. Few had any connection to carpentry. The master carpenter was involved in many little ventures and each one appeared to lead to others.
The Americans had a phrase for it: a finger in every pie. Martin would admit Herr Glauber did his share of the labor. "Hard work and new ideas make for wealth" was Glauber's favorite saying. In truth, judging from results, the man was right. Still, Martin often wondered if he would ever get used to Herr Glauber or, more rightly, Herr Glauber's enthusiasms.
"Good day to you, Herr Glauber."
"Good day, Herr Schmidt," Herman Glauber said pleasantly. "Might we talk in your office? Today is cold, and while your forge is warm I'd like to talk somewhere out of the draft."
"Certainly, sir. Will we be long? If so, I'll send Rudy to fetch sandwiches and beer." Martin eyed his staff—all visibly interested in what Herr Glauber might say.
"Excellent idea! Yes, I think this might take some time." Herr Glauber smiled and rocked back and forth on the balls of his feet, giving the impression of barely suppressed energy.
Turning back to his crew Martin called out orders. "Rolf, spend the time between lunch and class working on your math. I expect a better grade this semester. Jakob, take those steel rings down to the harness shop and see what else they need. Your math also needs some work. See that you spend the rest of the day on it. I want to see your homework tomorrow morning, before you go to class. Rudy, here, take this and get a plate of sandwiches and a keg. Get a sandwich for yourself while you are there. You will have to hurry or you will be late for your classes. Max I'd like you to go out to the steel plant and find out what is holding up our order. Carl-Maria, the laundry people have some problem, would you please find out what they want? I think you will find Adolf Glauber there." Martin glanced at Herr Glauber and seeing his nod continued. "He should know about their problem."
Herr Glauber watched silently as the staff of Kudzu Werke scattered. When the two men were alone he turned to Martin and asked, "Masterfully done! How long will we be alone?"
"It will take Rudy about three quarters of an hour to get to the Gardens and back if he hurries. After he's gone we'll have about two hours before the cleaning crew comes in. I can send them off if you need more time."
"No, son, we shouldn't need that long," Glauber said, as the two walked toward the shop office. "I do hope I've not put you off schedule with my visit?"
"No, sir. Actually this break is good for the men. Things have gone very well and we are ahead of schedule on everything. If Max can kick a few lazy dogs into delivering our steel we will be further ahead. That is why I've not started a second shift yet."
"Ah, yes. That is good news. No need to add bodies and cost until you need to. What about the MaidenFresh problems?"
"I'm sure Adolf has told you about those. Most of it is extra hooks and tongs but from what Adolf said I think they have a problem that will need pulleys. Carl-Maria is good at designing lifting systems. Here, sir, please take this chair." Martin pulled out an up-time high-backed office chair for Herr Glauber. Glauber paused, staring down at the chair thoughtfully. A sly grin flashed across his face as he sat.
Closing the office door, Martin sat behind his desk and began clearing the litter of drawings and paperwork. He knew that the contents of Herr Glauber's overstuffed briefcase would soon be scattered across every inch of it. Martin considered the briefcase as Herr Glauber's declaration he was no longer just a master carpenter but now a man of business.
A Grantville man of business, for Martin could not remember ever seeing anything like that briefcase before. The briefcase itself had started life as an up-time Boy Scout project, earning a leatherworking badge. The Boy Scout's father had used it to carry his lunch to the mine and proudly endured his friends' ribbing over his "executive lunchbox." By the time of the RoF the father was dead and the grown-up Boy Scout had moved away from Grantville. Herr Glauber had found it while cleaning out an attic during another of his projects. The house's owner had explained its history and its intended purpose. As his son Adolf told the tale, Herr Glauber had been enchanted.