February 1633, Saalfeld
Veronika Vorkeuffer stuffed the envelope containing her latest assignment into the post box and smiled as she heard it hit the bottom with a satisfying thud.
“Still wasting your time trying to ‘improve yourself,’ I see,” an unpleasant voice said from over her shoulder. “It’s not going to help you catch an up-timer. They aren’t interested in girls like you.”
Veronika turned to face the man whose marriage proposal she’d recently turned down. “I’m not interested in marrying an up-timer,” she said truthfully.
Nikolaus Rörer snorted his disbelief and walked off. Veronika waited for him to enter the Saalfeld council office building before she headed for the reception and typing pool in the same building.
She was greeted by her co-worker, who’d obviously seen the encounter. “What did the creep say that upset you?” Catrin Schmoller asked.
“He accused me of wanting to marry an up-timer.”
“Which you of course immediately denied. After all, why would any self-respecting woman want to marry an up-timer? I mean, what do they have to offer a girl, other than a lifestyle to die for?”
Veronika had to grin at her friend’s mock outrage. “I don’t think all up-timers are rich. Haven’t you noticed how many of their wives seem to hold down jobs? I don’t want to go out to work; I want to be a stay-at-home wife and mother.”
“If you married Nikolaus you’d be a stay-at-home wife and mother.”
“Nikolaus doesn’t want a stay-at-home wife. He wants a stay-at-home slave. I should never have mentioned I ever worked as a housemaid.” Veronika shuddered at the memory of her years of drudgery. “There is no way I’m going to return to that kind of life.”
“You’ll be lucky to find someone able to afford for you not to go out to work, and can afford someone to help around the house.”
Veronika dropped her head and sighed in resignation. “I know, but I can dream, can’t I? Meanwhile, I’ll concentrate on gaining my GED and a better job.”
Gottfried Spengler stopped at the turnoff to Merkel’s mill, looked at the distant mill, and sighed heavily.
The man he’d been chatting with all the way from their rooms at the single men’s accommodations looked at him with concern. “Why the big sigh?” Friedrich Stisser asked.
“Working for Heinrich isn’t turning out as well as I’d hoped.”
“What’s your problem? I thought you were in charge of everything?”
“I am, but I don’t have the authority a master in his own mill would have, and Heinrich insists on being consulted about any changes.”
“Well, consult with him and then do what you want. He needs you more than you need him.”
“Unfortunately, that’s no longer the case. There are too many journeyman papermakers out there just waiting for the opportunity to run a mill, so I have to waste time explaining the benefits of anything I want to try to someone who doesn’t know anything about making paper.”
“That’s what you get when you allow just anyone to own a craft shop. At least Heinrich Roentgen is a master brick-maker.”
“It’s the fault of the up-timers and their lack of understanding about guilds. They see them as completely bad.”
“Whereas they are really only slightly bad?”
“Okay, I admit it, I have criticized the guild. But at least under the guild system, the people running the business actually have to have worked in the industry. Now we’re starting to be run by the accountants, and you know what the up-timers say about that.”
“Nothing good,” Friedrich said. “What is it you want to do that Merkel objects to?”
“I want to try making paper using wood, but Merkel thinks it’s too risky.”
“Can you make paper out of wood?”
“The up-timers did, and they made a lot of it.”
“What do you call a lot?” Friedrich asked.
“One factory up-time could make more paper in a single minute than I currently make in a week. In a single day, one up-time factory could make more paper than all of England imports in a year.”
“It’s much the same story in brick-making. Some of the up-time kilns could make up to a hundred and fifty thousand bricks a day.”
The two men stared at each other. “We have a long way to go to catch up,” Gottfried said. If Merkel isn’t interested in letting you make paper from wood, what about going out on your own? Can you afford a mill of your own?”
“My savings are enough for a regular mill, but I’ll need to borrow if I want to take advantage of the advances in papermaking technology. However, the big problem is finding a source of wood. Everything local already has someone’s name on it, and while I could move to somewhere where there is spare wood, I need access to people with the technical knowledge to help me with the chemistry.”
“You are a bit stuck. If I hear of someone local with some spare wood, I’ll let you know. How much do you need?”
“If I could get a couple of dozen trees a week, I could match what I’m making at Merkel’s.”
“Fifteen reams a day?”
“Of good quality writing paper,” Gottfried said.
“What’s so special about good quality writing paper?”
“It sells for a hundred dollars a ream. Paper for newspapers sells for only fifty dollars a ream, but you do get twice as much newsprint per ton.”
“Hang on, half the price for twice as much paper? Surely that makes for the same income?” Friedrich asked.
“Same income, but the costs are higher. You are, after all, making twice as much paper.”
“Well, I wish you luck.”
Gottfried snorted. “I’ll need it.”
Gottfried arrived at the usual tavern after work and fell into a chair. “Merkel’s gone too far this time.”
“What’s he done?” Friedrich asked.
“He brought in an up-timer consultant to Taylorize the operation.”
“What is Taylorize?” the man on the other side of Friedrich asked.
“Oh, sorry. Gottfried, this is Caspar. He started work at the brick works today,” Friedrich said.
Gottfried reached out and shook the man’s hand. “Pleased to meet you. It’s an up-time term, Herr O'Keefe says the idea is to take a complex task, such as making paper, and break it down into a series of simpler tasks. It means that you can make paper with people who haven’t served an apprenticeship.”
“So Merkel won’t need to employ you any longer?” Friedrich asked.
“No, he’ll still have to employ me, or someone like me, to set everything up and make sure everything runs smoothly. The real saving is he can replace the skilled workforce with a cheaper, unskilled workforce and still keep production levels up.”
“How much do the unskilled workers earn?” Caspar asked.
“About twenty dollars a day,” Gottfried said.
“That’s more than I earned as a charcoal burner.”
“Is that why you left charcoal burning to work for the brick works?” Gottfried asked.
Caspar shook his head. “I’ve been forced out of the woods my family has worked for over a hundred years by the new coke. We used to supply the forges of Kamsdorf, but no more. Everyone uses coke now.”
Gottfried stared at the man. He’d never thought of charcoal making as being a desirable job, but here was someone who sounded like he missed it. “Surely you’re earning better money at the brick works?”
“Better money,” Caspar admitted, “but I miss the hills.”
“Can’t you sell the wood for something else?”
Caspar shook his head. “We only had the right to use coppice wood for charcoal. As soon as we stop making charcoal the rights revert back to the owners.”
“Who are the owners of the rights?” Gottfried asked.
“The city of Saalfeld owns the land my family works.”
Veronika checked the latest tax invoice she’d just finished typing. It seemed correct, so she inserted another invoice and typed a second copy. Every form had to be typed out three times—one copy for the customer, one copy for the office, and one copy just because someone seemed to think they needed a third copy. It made for a very boring existence, only relieved by the occasional call to the reception desk. She let her mind drift for a moment, dreaming of how much better things would be when she gained her GED.
She looked up to see a man waiting at the desk. “One moment,” she called as she hastily finished the invoice she was working on before hurrying over to serve him.
“How can I help you?”
“I would like to talk to someone about taking up the coppice rights to some woods that I believe have become available,” Gottfried Spengler said.
Veronika studied the man. His broad shoulders stretched the woolen fabric of his doublet, while his legs were covered by heavy full-length woolen trousers in the new up-time pattern. He also looked sufficiently affluent that it probably wouldn’t be a waste of Stephan’s time to speak to the man. “You’ll want to talk to our land lease specialist. If you’d like to take a seat, I’ll see if he can see you.”
She left Catrin to watch the desk while she left reception to talk to Stephan. She found him in his office with his nose buried in a massive legal tome. “Stephan, there’s a man in reception who would like to talk to someone about taking up coppice rights.”
“Coppice rights? I wonder what he wants to do with them.” He took off his spectacles and polished them. When they were cleaned to his satisfaction, he put them on. “And you think it might be worth my time to talk to him?”
“Well, go and get him then.”
An hour later Veronika watched Stephan escort his visitor out of the building. It must have been a most productive meeting to have taken so long. “What did you talk so long about?” she asked Stephan when he returned from showing his visitor out.
“Coppice rights,” Stephan said most un-helpfully.
“But what would you find to talk about for an hour?” Veronika asked.
Stephan stood tall and puffed out his chest. “I’ll have you know coppice rights can be very complex.”
“You can’t have been talking about available coppice rights all that time,” Veronika insisted.
Stephan smiled. “We could have, but we got to talking about why Herr Spengler was interested in purchasing coppice rights.”
Veronika sighed, and glared at Stephan. “Why does a man who looks like he’s a journeyman want coppice wood?”
“He wants to use wood pulp in place of rag pulp to make paper.”
“Can he do that?”
“He believes so. Certainly the up-timers seem to have done so.”
“How much money does he have?” Catrin asked.
“Catrin!” Veronika cried. “You shouldn’t ask questions like that?”
“Well, what else is there worth knowing about a man?”
“Whether or not he is available for marriage,” Stephan said. “And I believe Herr Spengler is uncommitted.”
“There you are, Veronika, the perfect man for you. Not only does he have money, but he’s also cute.”
“I am not thinking about marrying a man I’ve only met once,” Veronika protested.
“His name’s Gottfried Spengler, from Naumburg, and he’s been a journeyman papermaker for over a decade,” Stephan told Catrin.
“Veronika needs to visit the library to find out everything she can about papermaking so she can impress him with her knowledge,” Catrin said.
“I am standing right here, you know,” Veronika said. “And what’s the good of going to the library? Everything will be in English.”
“Stop being so negative, Veronika. You’ll never catch a man that way. There are dictionaries. Besides, I’ll be there to help you.”
That didn’t reassure Veronika as much as Catrin probably hoped. It was one thing to be embarrassed in front of Stephan. The older man had been a friend and confidant ever since she first started work at the council. She just hated to think about what level of embarrassment Catrin could induce in a public place like the library.
The Grantville Public Library was as busy as usual that evening. It wasn’t totally due to the knowledge in the books. The fact that the building was heated also had something to do with it. Veronika and Catrin considered themselves lucky to get almost immediate assistance from the front desk.
“My friend is interested in finding out something about how up-timers made paper,” Catrin told the library aide.
“The main library at the high school is better equipped to handle that kind of request,” Yvette Tyler said.
“Veronika doesn’t need to know everything about it, just enough to hold a conversation.” Catrin leaned closer to the up-timer and whispered loudly across the counter. “There’s this guy she’s interested in, who’s a papermaker.”
“Catrin!” Veronika grabbed her friend and pulled her away from the counter.
Yvette’s lips twitched. “That level we can probably help you with. How good is your English?” she asked Veronika
“Not very good.”
“Then you probably don’t want to use any of the encyclopedias.” Yvette pulled out a draw and started flipping through cards.
“We’d like use an encyclopedia. We just don’t think we’d understand what they said,” Catrin said.
“Well, it seems you might be in luck. Someone’s written a monograph on paper and papermaking in German, and we have a copy. Are you a member?”
Veronika passed over the library card she’d first been issued when she started training at the Vo Tech.
“Right, that seems to be in order. I’ll be right back.”
Yvette returned with a hard-covered monograph of about thirty pages. She flicked through all the pages to prove they were there and in good condition before passing Veronika a borrower’s form to fill out. When that was done she exchanged the form for the monograph. “Remember, no drink or food near the book. Any note taking to be done with a pencil, and no writing in the book.”
A few days later
Gottfried stood, breathing heavily from the hard climb, on the highest peak of the land he’d acquired the coppice rights to, and gazed around him. To the west, about a mile distant, were the cliffs of the Ring Wall around Grantville. A quarter mile to the south was the Saale and the Grantville-Kamsdorf railroad. The land was steep, but that was all the better for moving wood down to the river flats where he planned to locate his mill.
There was one thing wrong with this land, and that was the lack of water. There was a creek in the valley, but its flow didn’t amount to much. That meant he’d need to negotiate for a waterwheel on the Saale, or invest in one of the new steam engines.
He took one last satisfying look over his new domain before setting off in search of some of the charcoal burners still working the land. Friedrich’s new friend had suggested that they might be happy to work for him if it meant they could stay in the hills they called home.
Gottfried left the hill a happy man. He’d found himself a workforce who actually wanted to live and work on his hills. Now all he had to do was put together a design for the sulfite-process mill of his dreams and acquire the necessary consents.
April 1633, Saalfeld
“What do you mean, no?” Gottfried glared at the petty bureaucrat who was denying him his dream. “Why has my application been declined?”
“The quality of the water you wish to discharge into the Saale is not of sufficient standard,” Nikolaus Rörer said. “His Grace has enacted regulations that demand a higher minimum water quality of all discharges into the waterways under his control.”
“That doesn’t seem to apply to USE Steel,” Gottfried muttered, thinking of the company in which Duke Johann Philipp was known to have a major shareholding.
“USE Steel has been given until June to have their discharge water up to standard, or they will have their right to discharge water cancelled. USE Steel is subject to the same regulations as any other enterprise with existing water rights. His Grace is not playing favorites, and it ill becomes you to suggest otherwise.”
Gottfried cursed his tongue. Even if he wasn’t going to get the chemical discharge consent he needed, it was counterproductive to offend the person with the power to stall any subsequent consent applications he might file. “But cleaning the discharge to the standard you’re demanding will make the whole project uneconomic.” He had employed the Grantville wastewater treatment plant’s Otto Kubala to design and cost various options. The one he’d presented to the council had been the cheapest he thought they might accept, but even that was so expensive his new paper would be barely competitive.
“Unfortunately, too many people depend on the river for us to allow any further deterioration in the water quality. However, the council is willing to grant you consent to build your mill on the Saale, just as long as you don’t introduce any new chemicals into the water.”
“But making paper uses all sorts of chemicals.”
“The conventional sizing agents are not considered to be a problem.”
Gottfried wanted to protest, but he knew it was best to retreat whilst he was ahead. “Thank you,” he said, before walking out of Rörer’s office.
He stopped at the reception counter and called to the young women hammering away at their typewriters. “Excuse me,” he called to gain their attention, “I understand I can request a copy of the decision on my consent application?”
“That’s right. Was your application successful?” the older of the two said as she approached the counter.
“No, and that’s why I want to have my own copy. I want to see if there is any chance of having the decision reversed.”
The older woman handed a form to Gottfried. “You need to fill out this form and pay the appropriate fee. What did your application fail on?”
“The quality of the waste water I wished to discharge.”
“Oh, dear. Then I don’t think you have much chance of getting the decision reversed. The council is very strict about water quality. They even insisted that USE Steel improve the quality of their waste water discharge or have their right to it revoked. Does this mean you won’t be building your paper mill?”
“How did you know I want to build a paper mill?” Gottfried demanded.
The woman blushed and lowered her eyes briefly. “I was curious why anybody would want coppice wood, and asked Herr Wachter.”
That blush had Gottfried paying more attention to the young woman. She was quietly attractive, and had a pretty smile. “Wood is the way of the future.”
“So, are you still going to build a paper mill? I understand you can make paper out of ground-wood pulp as well as chemically pulped wood.”
Gottfried’s brows shot up in surprise. “You know about making paper?”
“Only what I read in the library.”
“Now why would a young lady be reading about papermaking in the library?” Gottfried asked, wondering how she’d answer.
She blushed, but stayed mute, confirming Gottfried’s suspicion that she had read up on papermaking because of him. He looked her up and down, adding further to her rising color, and he definitely liked what he was seeing. “I’ve already sunk too much into the project to just give up, so I guess I will still build a mill, even if I have to make paper that’s good for nothing better than the newspapers.”
“Why would the paper you make only be good for newspapers?”
Veronika—he’d finally realized her name was printed on the card pinned to her jacket—sounded indignant on his behalf, and that made him even more interested. “Straight ground-wood pulp contains something called lignin, which causes the paper to turn yellow after a few weeks.”
“And nobody’s going to care if their weeks old newspaper goes yellow?”
“That’s right. Besides, I can make nearly twice as much paper from ground-wood pulp as I can from chemically pulped wood.”
That evoked a wrinkled brow from Veronika. “If you can make twice as much paper from ground wood, why would you ever want to use chemically pulped paper?”
“Because with chemically pulped wood I can make high quality white paper that doesn’t yellow as it ages,” Gottfried said
“But can’t you already do that using rag?”
“Yes, but I want to use wood pulp.” Gottfried was most emphatic about that. Wood really was the material of the future. Rag suffered from shortages of supply forcing up the price of paper. “It would have been a fine challenge to make fine white paper from wood pulp.”
“Ah, so it’s an ego thing.”
“There are sound economic reasons for wanting to make white paper. It commands a much higher price and . . . ” Gottfried suddenly stopped talking and stared straight into Veronika’s eyes. What he saw there had him pointing an accusing finger at her. “You are laughing at me.”
“No, I’m not.”
“A likely story.” Veronika wasn’t even trying to be convincing. “Just you wait. Before summer I’ll be producing paper in my mill.”
“But it’ll be ground-wood pulp suitable for nothing but newspapers.”
“Don’t be so mean to the nice man, Veronika.” The other woman, Catrin, if her name card was to be believed, smiled at Gottfried. “Veronika’s really interested in how paper’s made.”
That was too good an opening to miss. “Maybe you’d both like to be shown around the mill where I work?”
“Yes, when would be convenient? Saturday afternoon?” Catrin asked.
“I’ll be expecting you. Do you know where Merkel’s mill is?”
“Until Saturday afternoon.” Gottfried sent one last lingering gaze over Veronika and Catrin before he walked out of the office.
“How could you?” Veronika demanded the moment Gottfried was out of earshot.
“It was easy. You should be thanking me, you know. You’ve now got the perfect opportunity to further your acquaintance with your journeyman.”
“He’s not my journeyman,” Veronika said.
Catrin smiled. “But it’s obvious he could be.”
With the heat building up in her face, Veronika knew there was nothing to do but return to work, and dream about Saturday afternoon.
Gottfried sat down outside the main entrance to Merkel’s mill to await his guests. Beside him, already sitting his chair back on its legs, was Friedrich, who’d lost no time in inviting himself along when Gottfried had mentioned his guests.
“Are you sure they know where to come?” Friedrich asked.
“If they didn’t know where Merkel’s mill is, I’m sure the one called Catrin will find out.”
“What’s she like?”
“Catrin? She’s a pleasant enough youngster, but a bit forward.”
“No, not her, the other one. The one you’re interested in. What’d you say her name was?”
“Veronika. She’s smart, with a sense of humor. Did I tell you how she poked fun at me wanting to make white paper?”
“Just a couple of hundred times. So, is it serious?”
“Who knows? She might not even be interested in marrying me.”
Friedrich snorted. “Of course she’s interested. You’re a journeyman planning to build a mill. I’m surprised all the young women aren’t sniffing around.”
“Not many know I’m planning on building a mill. So you really think Veronika might be interested in me?”
“Not you, the mill.”
Gottfried almost responded by tugging Friedrich’s chair further back, but a couple of shapes walking up the path stopped him. “They’re here.”
Friedrich let his chair fall back on all four legs and shot to his feet. “Well, come on, let’s go and meet the fine ladies.”
“I hope Catrin takes a shine to you,” Gottfried muttered as he got to his feet.
Gottfried stood right behind Veronika feeling the warmth of her body as he pointed out the features of the Hollander beater. “The Hollander beater was invented by the Dutch, hence it’s name. That heavy roller rotates, dragging the rag between it and the bedplate, shredding the rag into a pulp. It also generates a current so the contents of the beater are properly mixed.”
“Is it much of an advantage over the old techniques?”
Gottfried smiled into her upturned face. “You wouldn’t believe how much better the Hollander is. Previously we had to hammer the rags into pulp, move the pulp to a mixing vat, and then mix in the sizing agents. The Hollander does it all in one operation.”
“And when the beater has done its work you drain the pulp into the headbox?” Veronika asked.
“It’s just like the description in the monograph in the library. But where is your Fourdrinier table?”
“That’s one up-time innovation we can’t get to work. I don’t know what the up-timers used, but everyone who has tried to make a proper Fourdrinier table has hit the same problem—the constant flexing of the wire mesh belt around the rollers causes the wires to break. What we’ve done here is to replace a single mesh belt with a belt made up of regular paper molds.”
“What sort of advantage is that over the old way?”
“By mechanically filling the molds we can get consistent paper using unskilled labor, and we’re making paper at twice the rate a skilled journeyman could make it the old way.”
“But if there’s no skill element in papermaking, doesn’t that mean you’re not needed?”
That was Veronika poking fun at him again. He almost dropped a kiss onto her nose. “I am needed, but mostly just to set everything up, and to keep an eye on the workers.”
“You mean you’re just a supervisor? I can’t think of anything more boring than that.”
“That’s why I want my own mill.”
“But you’ll want to use the same machines in your own mill, won’t you?”
“I have my own ideas for a better system.”
“So you’re looking for job satisfaction in producing the system, not the paper?” Veronika asked.
Gottfried stared at her. He hadn’t thought of it that way. “Well, yes, I guess so.”
“And will you be able to get enough satisfaction out of developing a production system to make up for making newsprint rather than white paper?”
“I hope so. Do you want to see my plans for my mill?”
“That went rather well,” Gottfried said as the young women disappeared down the path.
“She still got you interested?” Friedrich asked.
“Yes, and she seems to be very interested in papermaking.”
“Of course she’s interested in what you do. How else will she know if it’s worth dragging a proposal of marriage out of you or not?”
“Veronika’s not like that,” Gottfried protested.
“She’s a woman. All women are like that.'”
“Well, she’s gone a bit further than just being interested in what I do. Veronika seems to have a firm grasp of the concepts. She even had some good ideas on the possible layout of the mill.”
“What would a woman know about the layout of a mill?” Friedrich asked.
“She’s working towards her GED, and has done some business papers at the Vo Tech in Grantville.”
“Book learning,” Friedrich muttered.
“Yes, book learning. But her book learning with my practical knowledge . . . “
“So it’s got that far?”
Gottfried shook his head. “No, but I’m definitely thinking about it.”
When the bells in Saalfeld tolled the quarter hour, Gottfried stopped work to search the road. There, as regular as clockwork, was Veronika, walking up the path with her basket slung over her shoulder. He wasn’t the only man on the construction crew watching her approach, although he hoped the main interest of the rest of them was for the contents of her basket rather than the person carrying it.
He grabbed the boiled-leather hard hat that had been painted pink especially for Veronika after it became obvious she would be a regular visitor and traded it for the basket she was carrying. While she put on her hat he removed the cloth wrapped bundle with his name on it and left the basket for the men to empty in their own time. “It’s a pity you only have ten minutes to look around.”
“Why? What is it you want to show me?”
He reached out a hand and tugged her along. “We’re ready to do our first full test.”
Veronika let herself be dragged along. “You’re ready to start making paper?”
“It’s just a test run to sort out any problems. We won’t be starting production until next week.”
“Have you got many orders yet?”
Gottfried froze, causing Veronika to bump into him. “Orders?”
“Yes, orders. You know, contracts from people wanting to buy your paper.”
Gottfried knew very well what orders were, but he’d been so involved with building his mill he hadn’t had time to think of anything so mundane as building up an order book. “That shouldn’t be a problem,” he said airily. “Everybody knows I’m going to make newsprint. The printers will be clamoring for it as soon as I start production.” He added a smile to suggest he was sure that such would be the case.
“Aren’t you being just a shade overly hopeful?” Veronika asked.
So she wasn’t buying it. Well, when a man had his back to the wall, he had to come out fighting. “How would you go about getting orders?” Gottfried was happy to see that silenced her. “It’s different when you have to come up with a plan, isn’t it?” He got a glare for that sally, and he could almost see the wheels turning as she thought about the problem he’d set.
“An open day! That’s what we need. We invite the potential customers to the mill to inspect everything. You can show them some paper being made and answer all their questions, and when they leave, we give them a free sample that they can take home and test.”
“Free sample?” Gottfried had been in full agreement with her idea right up to the point where she used that foul four-letter word. “Do you have any idea how much paper costs to make?”
“Stop thinking about how much it’ll cost, and start thinking about how much business it’ll create. If you tried to sell them samples, maybe a few would buy them, but if you give everyone a quire of paper, not only will they all have a sample, but they’ll probably all try it out. And they’ll talk about it amongst themselves . . . “
Gottfried reached out and silenced her in the age-old method. He firmly expected to be met by outrage, or at least have his shins kicked, but Veronika surprised him.
It was the bells of Saalfeld tolling the quarter hour that broke up the kiss. Gottfried’s delightful armful was suddenly pushing him away.
“I have to go,” Veronika called as she ran off.
Gottfried was a bit peeved that she could so easily break off such a mind-blowing kiss, but not so peeved as to miss that she remembered to recover her basket and the money for tomorrow’s lunch orders. At the very least, that meant she expected to be back tomorrow.
Veronika was breathing heavily as she entered the town square leading to the office. A quick glance up at the clock tower showed she was going to cut it very fine, and in fact, she only just made it to the door as the clock chimed the half-hour. She scampered through the door into the office, to find Nikolaus Rörer standing at the counter, just as the last chime sounded.
“I really must talk to your supervisor about your time keeping, Fraulein Vorkeuffer. You’ve been getting later and later returning from your lunch break every day for the last month.”
“But Veronika has never been late,” Catrin protested.
Nikolaus gestured towards Veronika. “She hardly looks ready to start work on time. And for what? A few minutes with a man who isn’t going to marry her.”
“Gottfried is too going to marry Veronika,” Catrin said.
“Why would a mill owner marry a girl like her, when he can have his pick of the daughters and granddaughters of the members of the Chamber of Commerce? You should have seen them at the dinner Tuesday night. They were all over your Gottfried.” Nikolaus stopped as if an idea had suddenly come to him. “But of course you couldn’t have seen that, because you weren’t there. Your man didn’t invite you, did he?” He threw Veronika a triumphant look.
She knew Nikolaus was trying to hurt her, and he was succeeding, but there was no way she was going to let him see that. Besides, she had the memory of that kiss, and the dazed look in Gottfried’s eyes to hang her hopes onto. “Is there something we can help you with, Herr Rörer, or don’t you have anything better to do than prop up the counter?”
“I can see you’re putting a brave face on, but he won’t marry you. We all know that.” Nikolaus gave Veronika a last sneer before pushing off from the counter and disappearing down the corridor to his office.
“Somebody should do something nasty to that man, like maybe sit a bucket of water over his door, or . . . “
“No, Catrin. He isn’t worth it.”
“But imagine what he’d look like,” Catrin said.
The image of a wet and bedraggled Nikolaus brought a smile to Veronika’s face. “He’d raise such a fuss.”
“Sure, but just thinking about it brought back the smile you had before the monster wiped it away. How did your time with Gottfried go today?”
Veronika knew Catrin was just curious about the progress at the mill, but she couldn’t help remembering that kiss, and she blushed accordingly.
“Oh! Has something happened I need to hear about?”
“No,” Veronika said, trying to brazen it out.
It didn’t work. Catrin was studying her closely. Too closely. “Gottfried kissed you,” she said. “What was it like?”
“Gottfried and I kissed each other, and it was . . . nice.”
“Nice? Is that the best you could do?”
“That’s all I’m saying,” Veronika insisted. “And it’s about time we got some work done around here.”
“That means it was better than ‘nice.’ That’s good. You don’t want to marry someone whose kisses are only ‘nice.'”
Veronika accepted the invitation vouchers from the male half of the last couple and checked the name. Privately, deep inside, where Lyle Kindred couldn’t see it, she was jumping up and down like an idiot. Herr Kindred was the publisher of the Grantville Times—the largest newspaper in the area. She picked up the last of the name tags she’d prepared and handed them to his wife. “It is good of you both to come, Herr Kindred, Frau Kindred.”
Lyle was looking around, waving to people he recognized while his wife pinned the name card onto his jacket. “I couldn’t afford to stay away. Mary Jo wouldn’t let me.”
“I wouldn’t let you? Since when have you ever listened to what I’ve said?” She turned to Veronika. “Lyle insisted on coming just so he could get his hands on the free sample you promised in your invitation.”
Veronika pointed to the stack of one-quire bundles of paper on the table. “The free sample packages will be handed to you when you leave, Herr Kindred. And I’m sure you’ll appreciate the quality of the paper. Now, is there anything you would like to see?”
“Lyle wants to see the paper being made. Is that possible?” Mary Jo asked.
“Yes. We expected that request and have arranged for the machine to be running during the open house. If you’d like to follow me?”
“Come along, Lyle, don’t keep the young woman waiting.”
“The Spengler mill makes paper by an almost continuous process,” Veronika explained as they walked towards the mill hall.
“How do you get continuous?” Lyle asked. “I’ve seen a few mills, and they all use paper molds on an endless loop. There seems to be a problem with the wire mesh breaking.”
“Gottfried solved the problem of the mesh breaking by not allowing the mesh to flex. In place of an endless loop going around rollers, he has a single large roller with the mesh fixed to it.”
“This I’ve go to see,” Lyle said.
“And see it you shall,” Veronika said as she guided the couple into the hall. “There it is.”
The large mesh covered cylinder was about six feet in diameter and two feet wide. It rotated slowly as a constant stream of pulp poured out of the headbox.
“The paper’s pretty fragile on the cylinder, so we have this felt roller here to remove the still wet paper,” Veronika said as she pointed out the feature. “The paper then passes through a couple of squeegee rollers before being rolled up at the end.”
“You’re making paper in rolls? Can we buy it that way rather than ready cut?”
Veronika reluctantly shook her head. “You can buy the rolls, but all you’ll be getting will be expensive artificial logs. There’s still too much water in the paper, and we can’t press it out once it’s rolled up. So we have to take the rolls and move them to a cutting bench where the paper is unrolled and cut to size. We can then squeeze the rest of the water out of the paper the old-fashioned way.”
“Pity,” Lyle muttered. “It’d be good to have rolled paper for when we can get a continuous press.”
“Oh, that’s not to say Gottfried isn’t working on solving the problem. It’s really just a matter of getting the right materials to squeeze the water out of the paper before it is rolled up.”
“So how long do you think it’ll be before we can get paper by the roll?”
Veronika shrugged. “Nothing we’ve tried so far has worked, and we fear we might need rubber.”
Lyle nodded in understanding. “Everything is waiting on rubber. We need it for some of the up-time printing innovations I want to introduce as well. So until you get some rubber you’ll be making sheet paper? How much can you make?”
“How much would you like to buy?”
“How about thirty reams of Crown a week?”
Veronika whistled silently. Thirty reams was enough paper for fifteen thousand four-page newspapers. It was hard to imagine the people of Grantville were buying that many newspapers every week, let alone buying that number of copies of just the Grantville Times. “We can do that. The mill has a nominal capacity of thirty reams a day.”
“If the Times were to become a daily, we’d be looking at something like a hundred reams a week. Would that present any problems?”
Veronika clamped down hard on her immediate desire to agree to anything to secure the order. Instead she stopped to think. “That’d be over half our capacity. I’m not sure how Gottfried would feel about being so committed to a single client. Could I get back to you on that later?”
“Sure,” Lyle agreed. “I just thought I’d ask. We won’t be going daily for a while yet anyway.”
The Kindred’s were the last to leave, and Gottfried stood beside Veronika as she handed Herr Kindred his free sample. “I’m sure you’ll be impressed with the quality of that paper, Herr Kindred.”
“I’m sure I will, and I’m very impressed with your young lady,” Lyle said.
“Yes, why ever didn’t you bring Veronika along to the Chamber of Commerce dinner?” Mary Jo asked.
“I thought it was a business affair,” Gottfried muttered.
Mary Jo giggled. “Oh dear, you poor thing.” She turned to include Veronika in the conversation. “Your man here was absolutely swamped by the young daughters and granddaughters of members of the Chamber of Commerce, all intent on sinking their hooks into the owner of a paper mill.”
Gottfried stood taller and prouder when Veronika failed to say he wasn’t her young man. However, he knew he had to say something to assure her that he wanted to be her young man. “I thought I’d never get out of there in one piece.”
“So next time, take this delightful young woman,” Mary Jo said. “I’m sure she’s capable of protecting you.”
“Next time, I will.” He smiled at Veronika. “If you’d like to, that is.”
“I’d like that,” she said.
Gottfried stood at one end of the paper hall looking back at his mill. He still wasn’t making roll paper, but his mill was the most efficient paper mill in the Confederated Principalities of Europe. No, make that the world.
“It’s safe to leave it in my hands, you know,” Friedrich Stisser said from beside him.
“That’s very easy to say, but she’s my baby, and I worry.”
“Yes, but you also want to experiment with new techniques.”
“Yes, I do.” Gottfried sighed. He just had to learn to let his baby go; otherwise he’d never have time to experiment with techniques to make chemical pulp. “I’m having trouble with the scale model wood-chipper.”
“There you are then. You go off and play with your wood-chipper and leave the mill in my capable hands.”
Gottfried had wanted someone he trusted to help in his mill and Friedrich had leapt at the opportunity to get away from making bricks. However, he wasn’t a trained papermaker, and Gottfried worried.
Friedrich grabbed him by the arm and marched him to the back door before pushing him toward the separate shed where he was building his chemical pulp mill in miniature. “Go on. You’ll never make any progress if you can’t trust me.”
Gottfried was torn. The mill was making thirty reams a day, and everything was going well. There wasn’t anything that should go wrong, but there was a world of difference between should and could. “If you have any trouble . . . “
“Call you. Now stop worrying and go.”
Veronika and Catrin were working their way through yet another pile of tax invoices when Andreas Rottenberger burst in. “The Spanish have invaded the United Provinces.”
“What? Invaded? Where did you hear that?” Veronika asked.
“The radio net,” Andreas said.
Veronika glanced at the cheap radio by the counter that was tuned into the Voice of America broadcasts. “There’s been nothing on the radio.”
“Not that radio, the radio net. There’s a bunch of us amateurs with our own transceivers, and the net’s full of news about the invasion. Apparently the Spanish destroyed the Dutch navy.”
“You should take your story to the papers. I’m sure they’d be interested,” Catrin said.
Veronika shot Catrin a glance. She was looking at Andreas with her dreamy “isn’t he cute” look. Then what Catrin had suggested hit home. Newspapers. And newspapers needed paper. Gottfried had to be told about this. She shot to her feet and ran for the coat hangars. “Catrin, you look after the office.”
“What? Where are you going?”
“To see Gottfried. The newspapers are going to be printing special editions, and he needs all the forewarning he can get to ramp up production for the extra demand.”
“But what about your job here? Nikolaus is sure to complain.”
Veronika barely paused as she put on her jacket and grabbed her hat and gloves. “Let him do his worst. This could be important for Gottfried.”
Gottfried was happily watching the two-foot length of one-inch diameter wood disappear down the chute into his hand-operated chipper as he wound the handle when he thought he heard someone bellowing his name. He stopped winding, and there it was again. A familiar feminine voice was calling out for him. He hurried over to the shed door and opened it, to see Veronika running towards him. “Veronika, shouldn’t you be at work?”
“This is more important. Andreas says the Spanish have invaded the United Provinces. The papers are going to want to print special editions as soon as possible, and we have to make sure they have enough paper.”
Gottfried was struggling to understand what had Veronika so excited. “Who is Andreas?”
Gottfried shook his head to indicate he was still none the wiser.
“Andreas has a transceiver, and he’s in contact with other amateur transceiver operators. He says the net is full of the story. We have to act fast.”
“Net?” Gottfried was still lost. “And why do we have to react fast? Actually, who is ‘we’?”
“The mill has to act fast. The papers are going to want extra paper on top of their regular order to print the extra editions.”
“How do you know the papers are going to print extra editions?”
“Do you want to be able to read the full story about the disaster in the United Provinces?”
“Right, and so will everyone else. Show me the store room. I want an idea of what we have in stock.”
Gottfried was swept along to the storeroom where he stood and watched while Veronika checked out the piles of paper all ready for collection.
“Schmucker and Schwentzel? Since when have they been buying our newsprint?”
“That’s their first order. They’re planning a line of cheap fiction.”
“Right, well, they can probably afford to wait a couple of days for their order. So that’s another twenty reams we have uncommitted.”
“Uncommitted!” Gottfried protested. “They have a contract for that paper, to be collected tomorrow.”
“Yes, but what time tomorrow?”
“Noon.” Suddenly it dawned on Gottfried what Veronika was proposing. “We can’t sell Schmucker and Schwentzel’s order to someone else and make it up tomorrow. There is not enough slack in the system to produce an extra twenty reams by noon tomorrow.”
“You’re wrong, there’s a whole fourteen hours a day of unused capacity.”
She had a point. The mill was only working a standard ten hour day, but Gottfried could see plenty of problems. “The workers will never stand for it.”
“So pay them extra. Just make sure we have enough paper to meet the demand, otherwise they might move to another supplier.”
Gottfried had been the first papermaker in the area to use coppice wood, but others had followed his lead, and his was no longer the only mill making paper from wood pulp. It was just the best located one. “We won’t have enough wood ready to be ground.”
“Stop thinking of obstacles and just get to work. If you need more wood, go and get it. Meanwhile I’ve got some letters to write. Do you have someone who can run the letters to the printers in Rudolstadt and Grantville?”
“Caspar’s son can run your letters, but why do you want to send any out?”
“To let people know we’re ramping up production to meet the expected need, and to tell Schmucker and Schwentzel what we’re doing, why, and reassure them that their order will be available on schedule.”
Gottfried was impressed, he was also aware that time was passing. He dropped a kiss onto Veronika’s lips and hurried off to get things organized.
Later that morning
Gottfried was busy checking the quality of the latest batch of pulp when Friedrich slithered up beside him.
“You’ll never guess who I found sitting at your desk in the office.”
Gottfried turned. “Nobody’s supposed to be in the office but me. Go and tell them to get out and back to work.” He expected Friedrich to immediately do as he was told, but instead he got a gentle shaking of his head in reply. Then the significance of what Friedrich had said started to penetrate. “But she should have gone back to work hours ago.”
“Maybe she should have, but she didn’t. Not that she hasn’t been busy. You can actually see your desk now.”
Horrified, Gottfried dropped the paper mold he was holding, not even noticing as it sank into the Hollander tank. “I’ll never be able to find anything now.”
“But I’m sure your Veronika could. She seemed real happy working away at your desk.”
“Happy? Doing paper work?” Gottfried shook his head in disbelief. “Impossible.”
Friedrich shrugged. “It takes all sorts to make a world. Some of them have to like paperwork. It’s just your good luck Veronika is one of them.”
“Yeah, maybe I should offer her a job.”
Friedrich let out a sigh heavy with frustration. “I never should have told you that Catrin told me Veronika had turned down some guy in the office’s offer of marriage.”
“But you did tell me.”
“And now you’re scared that she’ll say no if you ever get the nerve up to ask her.”
Gottfried buried his hands in his work jacket pockets, where Friedrich couldn’t see the tight fists he was making with them, and stared belligerently at his friend. “Wouldn’t you be scared?”
“So what are you going to do?”
“I’m going to take my time and do it right. First I’m going to ask Veronika if she’d like a permanent job at the mill, then, when the time’s right, I’ll ask her to marry me.”
“I wash my hands of you,” Friedrich said before stalking off.
Gottfried stared after Friedrich long after he’d disappeared into the far reaches of the mill. He couldn’t help it that he was scared that Veronika wouldn’t want to marry him. She had been trained at the Grantville Vo Tech, and was doing a Grantville GED part-time. The GED was almost the same as having a degree from a university like Jena or Erfurt. What did he have to offer a woman with her prospects? Just a mill, and not a very big one at that. With those thoughts running through his head, he headed for the office.
Veronika was a sight to behold, sitting comfortably in his chair, at his desk, calmly making entries in his accounts book. He waited until she put the pen she was using down—ink blots would have made a mess of all her good work, and Gottfried wasn’t suicidal. Eventually she put down the pen, and looked up.
“How would you like to do that permanently?”
“Would you like to come and work for me? Doing what you’ve been doing, but full time, on a salary.”
For a bare moment the light went out of her eyes, to return almost as quickly as it disappeared. “Why are you offering me a job now?”
“You ran out on your job with the council to warn me that the newspapers might need more paper, and it’s crossed my mind that you might find yourself in need of employment.” He gestured towards the cleared desk. “You seem to enjoy office work, whereas I . . . “
“You don’t,” Veronika said. “Yes, I would like to work here full time.”
“Good, good. Then let’s walk down to the council and see if you still have a job to resign from, and collect your things.”
“I might have to serve out a notice period,” Veronika said as she rose to her feet.
“If you have to, you have to. Don’t worry, the paperwork will still be there waiting.”
“How can a girl turn down an offer like that?”
The walk to Saalfeld was pleasant, but not as pleasant as walking behind Veronika as she preceded Gottfried into the council building. Veronika didn’t seem to have noticed that he’d dropped behind, so Gottfried dawdled a little, maximizing the time he could watch her swaying hips. All this meant he missed the reaction in the office when Veronika appeared. But he did manage to hear some of it.
” . . . he won’t marry you, you know,” a voice Gottfried vaguely recognized said.
“Gottfried will too marry Veronika.” That was Catrin, defending her friend to the end.
Gottfried waited a few seconds, just in case Veronika wanted to protest otherwise, before he pushed open the door. Catrin was facing down a man he recognized as the man who’d refused him his water discharge consent. Off to one side the man who had talked to him about coppice leases had a comforting arm around Veronika. That didn’t bother him, because the man was obviously old enough to be her father.
He took in the scene before him in an instant, and said the first thing that came to mind. “Come on, Veronika. If we hurry, we can get the banns posted before the pastor at Saint Johan’s leaves for lunch.”
Catrin squealed and threw her arms around Veronika. Stephan Wachter slipped free of Veronika and walked up to Gottfried and offered him his hand. “Congratulations. You couldn’t have picked a better woman to marry.”
Gottfried shook the man’s hand, but he was watching Nikolaus, who had an enormous sneer on his face. Their eyes met for a moment, and Nikolaus stalked off. He glanced over to Veronika, who seemed to be coming out of her shock. He had to act fast, before she started to think. Gottfried peeled her free of Catrin. “Come on, girl, let’s get a move on.” He dragged her out of the office and towards Saint Johan’s.
Outside the council building Veronika stopped. “You don’t have to marry me.”
Gottfried put on his best wounded puppy impression. “You don’t want to marry me?”
Veronika dropped her head. “I didn’t say that.”
That was close enough for Gottfried. He reached out and pulled her close, so that her face was buried into his chest. He held her like that for a while, savoring the warmth of her body snuggled up against him. Eventually he tipped up her chin. “So it’s agreed, we go to Saint Johan’s and post the banns?”
“That’s not a very romantic proposal.” She giggled. “What’s Catrin going to say when I describe how you asked me to marry you?”
“She’ll be most disillusioned, won’t she?” Gottfried gazed into Veronika’s eyes. “Of course, she’s also going to ask if we kissed, isn’t she?”
“Then we shouldn’t disappoint her.” Veronika obviously agreed, because she threaded her arms around his neck. He lowered his lips to her’s and . . .