Ronneburg Saxe-Altenburg, 1636
Margarethe Klein looked at the half-carved wooden figure on her workbench and tried not to break out in tears. Even though she had been carving dolls since she was a little girl at her parents’ knees, she could not seem to create anything that resembled the up-timers’ famous Barbie dolls. In fact, her latest effort resembled something like a monster instead of a graceful lady of fashion.
The image she had acquired after months of searching and most of her savings was of little help. The head had been the easiest part, not dissimilar from the heads Margarethe was used to creating for her regular dolls, the poupeé des modes she made to order, but the body was beyond her. Because the doll in the picture wore a full length gown, Margarethe had no way of knowing the doll’s true proportions, how the joints moved, or her true size.
Gazing at the shiny paper she had taken from the magazine Julius Wolf had sold her, Margarethe fervently wished she had access to the market the merchant had told her of, the one called EBay. It sounded like the miracle from the Lord she needed right now. It was almost, almost enough to make one turn Catholic.
If only she could see, touch, hold a real Barbie or one of those others she had heard called Dollar Store Knock Offs. Once Margarethe had a model, she could do so much! Perhaps she could even create Barbie replicas designed to look like famous people as the magazine had advertised!
Just the thought of presenting someone like Gretchen Richter or Rebecca Abrabanel with a miniature doll that looked like one of them, with Margarethe’s mark on the back, made her heart ache with frustration. And her hands itched to see what techniques doll-makers in the future had come up with.
Margarethe thought of the Princess Kristina doll that sat on a stool just behind her. The size of an up-timer doll called an AG (which was even more expensive than a Barbie according to the magazine), it was probably the most ambitious doll Margarethe had created, a slightly idealized version of Princess Kristina. It had cost Margarethe much of her savings to get a color portrait of Princess Kristina and even more time to make the molds and get beeswax to create the princess’ face, lower arms, and legs. The expensive angora wool for the hair, not to mention the fabrics a true princess required was beyond her means at the moment and for some time to come.
“If only . . . If only!”
“So did you get them or not?” Agathe Wolf put her hands on her hips and regarded her husband impatiently. Julius was a good man, and a successful merchant, but sometimes (more often since the Ring of Fire) Agathe felt like taking over the business and leaving the housework to her husband.
Julius smiled at her calmly. “Of course I got them! I said I would, even if I had to search to the ends of the earth, did I not? And I was lucky, I happened to meet the famous Frau Higgins herself at the market and her husband gave me an excellent price on them. Discounted on account of Emma’s wedding. And they refused to let me buy them a drink in the tavern. Insisted they do all the business in back and wouldn’t go in.”
Agathe sniffed, not believing a word her husband said. Always, always soft. Julius could charm an Inquisitor of the Holy Office into buying a copy of Martin Luther’s Small Catechism and a Lutheran into buying saint’s relics, but when it came to collecting money he would accept a blessing from the Lutheran and a prayer from the Catholic and never see he’d been cheated.
“How much Julius? Don’t forget there’s still the matter of the wedding feast and Emma’s clothes and dowry. We cannot let the Brummes think us stingy or poor.”
“Don’t worry my love, everything will work out, just as it always does.”
Everything works out Julius my love, she thought, because you married me. “How much? And if you got these dolls where are they?”
“Be easy Agathe, my love, be easy,” Julius said, putting a box on the table. “Here they are.”
With a heavy sigh, Agathe tore open the wrapping. “Julius! What in the name of all . . . How could you have possibly!”
There were definitely two dolls in the box, one a female with breasts so large her tiny waist couldn’t possibly have supported them if she had been a human being. The other was a male, thankfully not anatomically complete.
But the woman’s leg and one of her hands had been chewed. Her hair had been cut, or styled, to the point where it was a mere stubble. The male doll was in slightly better condition, but had been marked on with several different colors . . .
“Julius . . . What . . .”
“This was all there was, Agathe. I tried, I really did. It took me ages, and all the money I had to buy these. I know they have no garments, but I thought . . . I mean you’re so good with a needle . . .”
“For mending and embroidery, but fitting clothes? For a figure so misshapen? Honestly I cannot imagine a corset even with the up-timer’s materials that would create such a silhouette! I have never seen an up-timer woman, Julius. Do they look like that? They must have to break their ribs! And how could they work like that?”
“I don’t know, Agathe. None of the up-timer women I saw had figures like that, nor did I see any of the men who . . . well . . . they did seem to be normal in every way if you know what I mean. I did hear of men and women whose job it was to display the latest fashions to merchants. Perhaps this is how they looked.”
“I cannot imagine why anyone would do such a thing. It must have been incredibly painful to have your ribs destroyed like that.”
“Yes indeed. I must say, my dear, that you are the loveliest woman in the village, especially since all your ribs are intact. I am sure that you will be able to solve this problem and get these dolls suitably garbed for the wedding.”
Patting her cheek fondly, Julius took himself off to his business.
Agathe sighed. She knew of course, and so did Julius, that Margarethe Klein, the town dressmaker was the only person suited, but that wasn’t the problem. How were they to pay to dress the dolls?
“These are very fine, Master Wolf,” said Margarethe as she leafed through the sheets. “You’re a gifted artist.”
Christoph blushed. “Thank you. Papa and Master Brumme think I should stick with learning business but I’ve always hoped to be an artist. At least with the new roller printers I can combine the two.”
Margarethe smiled. “And you’ve found something no one else is doing. Every printer in the Germanies is busy printing how-tos and political tracts, but who thinks of fashion? Papa and I had to scrimp and pinch to save for a Higgins sewing machine in order to stay in demand with our noble customers, but how are people to know what they want to wear? And who can afford to go to Magdeburg or Paris for clothes? These days I do more business in dolls to display the clothes than the clothes themselves. Any seamstress worth her salt can rescale a pattern, but it’s exchanging patterns in the first place! Your papa has been very kind in helping with the shipping, but . . . There is so much more I could do! I wish I could create a Barbie doll of my own, a ‘doll for the masses’ as it were.”
She waved her hands in the air in exasperation and longing.
Christoph grinned. “Speaking of Barbies, Mama sent you these.” He placed the box on the table in front of them. “Papa bought these in Bamberg from Frau Higgins, but they came unclothed. Mama wants to know . . . well we are spending a great deal on Emma’s wedding and the dowry . . .”
Margarethe opened the box and stared, blushing a little at the unclothed forms. “You say your papa bought these in Bamberg? From Frau Higgins? Of the Higgins Sewing Machine Company?”
“That’s what he said. Well not, from Frau Delia Higgins herself, but from her husband.”
“Oh, Christoph, Christoph! Don’t you know that Frau Delia of the dolls lives in Grantville, not Bamberg ? And according to my information she is a widow and not married at all! Her daughter is the one who’s married!”
Christoph shook his head in disbelief. “I cannot . . . I didn’t . . . What if they’re stolen? Mama would have a fit! Then these are not the right kind of dolls?”
“Of a sort.” Taking the woman doll out of the box, Margarethe pulled one of the legs out showing him the plastic ball joint. “You see? From my research the true Barbie dolls are made of better plastic and don’t come apart as easily. Then there’s the ‘Made in China‘ label on the back of the neck. Barbies were made by a company called Mattel. I cannot imagine a manufacturer or artist not labeling their work. I always mark my dolls with an MK even if I’m not selling them. I would say that these are the cheaper kind of doll. Whoever sold your father these at least gave him the ‘bang for his buck’ as the up-timers say, even if they weren’t who they said they were.”
“But you could make clothes for them? And perhaps other accessories? And . . . well . . . as I said . . . umm . . . cheaply.“
“I tell you what, Christoph, let’s make a deal. If I could borrow these to make patterns to create other dolls like these, then I will make clothes for these, a whole trousseau if Emma would like.”
“Is that even possible? I mean . . . I know you said you wanted to make figures like a Barbie, but we don’t know how to make plastic.”
Margarethe laughed. “Plastic? Who needs plastic to make dolls? Artisans have been making dolls and other figurines for centuries!”
“Out of what? Clay?”
“Clay, certainly. Clay isn’t as fragile as you would think but it’s hard to keep painted. Artists use wax mostly, for big projects with a rich patron like a king’s burial effigy or a saint for a cathedral. Wood is also good for making dolls, a lot of my poupeé des modes are carved wood, jointed if I’ve got the patronage. Cloth is very good for dolls as well. I do a fair business in cotton or muslin dolls, especially muslin. You cannot imagine the amount of muslin and linen scraps I collect as a dressmaker to use in my dolls. . . . Sometimes I wish I could focus on making dolls instead of sewing clothes for people. Dolls at least don’t complain if you poke them with pins.”
Christoph smiled. Margarethe’s eyes had lit up and it seemed as if her whole face had taken on a glow as well. She was more attractive than he’d realized before, with her straight medium brown hair and blue-grey eyes. It must be hard on her, being all alone in her parents’ shop, and he knew she’d been lucky that the area needed a seamstress so she hadn’t had to move after her parents had died two years ago.
“Then there’s a market for such things?”
“If I didn’t have a market I wouldn’t sell any. Not every noble can afford to have a toile, or mock-up of a dress sent from Paris like the books say Elizabeth of England did. A doll is easier to ship, easier to make samples for, and easier for the client to see how they would look in the dress. Come let me show you.”
Taking him to the back of her shop, she showed him the dolls she had lined up in various stages of completion. She held the Princess Kristina doll out for him to inspect.
“You see? Wax head, arms, and legs, sawdust-stuffed body. Wax or tallow is easier to tint like skin. You can paint clay once it’s dry or bake it in before you fire it, but either way you have to seal it.”
“You’re like a painter.”
“Very much so, and like a masterpiece my art is hard to play with sometimes. But if I was able to create a small fashion doll that is easily jointed and has a similar shape to a Barbie doll, then the possibilities are endless.” She waved her hands in the air again.
Christoph frowned, turning the Princess Kristina doll in his hands. “I’ve watched Mama and Emma making candles and soaps, and I see your molds. Wax, as you say is more fragile than wood, and wood is cheaper. . . . You could reproduce your molds and mass-produce your wax parts, but wood is hard to mass-produce with a lot of carving. I know, my sister’s betrothed is a printer and a printer’s son, and I helped with the new printing device. Bert and Master Brumme spent hours, sometimes days, carving type. Now, with the wringer printer, it takes as long as Bert, Gunther, and I can draw them. What you need, is something that can shape wood quickly. And for that we need a smith.”
“We? Since when did this become a twosome?”
Christoph grinned wider. “Since my father used my sister’s entire dowry to purchase abused knock-offs from a pair of frauds. Besides, you’ll need someone to help with the marketing once you start producing, and then there are clothes patterns that need to be reproduced for sale . . .”
Margarethe laughed and took Princess Kristina from his hands. “Then I had better get started designing dolls and leave the rest to . . . what do they call it? Marketing and production?”
“More like marketing and distribution, if I have the up-time words right.”
“Mass-produce wood parts? Perhaps if they were larger . . . like that . . .” Johan nodded to the Princess Kristina doll that Christoph and Margarethe had brought, carefully wrapped in fabric, next to the plastic dolls.
Margarethe shook her head. “I need wood pieces the size of the smaller dolls, not damaged, like this,” she unfolded her picture. “The heads don’t need to be so detailed, at least at first. But if we’re going to make a Barbie-like doll that a lot of people can afford it needs to be out of a sturdy material like wood and we need to mass-produce it.”
Johan tugged his smock and picked up the small woman with a wink. “Not much in the way of clothes, eh?”
“Yes, yes we know. I’m working on it,” Margarethe said testily. “But you need to see how she looks.”
Johan flexed a leg gently. “Don’t bend, like yours Margarethe. The little lady you made for my girl has better joints.”
“Those are ball joints, like buttons. I carve those too.”
“Need to mass-produce those, too. Could make buttons cheap.” Johan nodded. “You can’t make feet like that with a lathe like I have, have to be carving. Carving for the details like the face and hands too.”
“But you can mass-produce the pieces to be carved?”
“Not now. I’ve got too much other work to do, and you’d have to wait for after the harvest to get much from the farmers.”
“So we are stalled until after the harvest and then during planting. Time, we are wasting. Money, we are losing.”
Margarethe patted Agathe’s hand. “People have to eat, Agathe. We may be able to survive without more than a kitchen garden but some people don’t have a kitchen garden. My prototypes, as the up-timers call them, are finished, both the boy and girl. Now I can work on some patterns for clothes to sell.”
Agathe Brumme shook her head. “Even if the farmers are available to work, they don’t work for free. We need something to pay them for their work even if these dolls don’t sell. What about your big dolls?”
“My grande pandores? The heads are wax or tallow depending on what I can get. I have tubes I fit into the molds so they can go on the bodies easily. I don’t make a lot of them, because making the bodies is expensive and so is the wax, which is why I mostly use tallow. I inherited a few from my father and they don’t travel well. Too big, unless we ship them in pieces.”
“Could we make the heads to sell?”
“We could, but I doubt it would work. Most seamstresses and tailors like to use pandores that resemble the local nobility.”
“You have the mold you made for the Princess Kristina doll, couldn’t you reproduce it for a . . . what did you call it?”
“A pandore? I would have to change the scale on the head, which would mean I’d have to carve a new model. The same if we wanted to make any new heads I don’t have. Molds have problems though, after so many uses the mold deforms and you have to make new ones.”
“So what do we do?”
Agathe cleared her throat and raised her hand. “I think we start with Christophe’s fashion books while we send someone to Grantville. After Emma’s wedding.”
“Emma’s wedding was amazing, wasn’t it, Mama?”
“Hmmph. The Wolfs and Brummes spent a lot of money on the wedding feast. All those individual cakes . . .”
“Emma said the up-timers call them cupcakes.”
“Whatever. Then there were those place cards. Who does Agathe think her daughter’s marrying, a nobleman? I can’t imagine how they stayed up.”
“They were birch. I saw the workers peeling and steaming them,” said another woman. “What I wonder is how they got those dolls.”
There was a collective sigh of envy.
“The Wolfs must have spent Emma’s entire dowry on those. I heard Julius bought them damaged, but I couldn’t tell. I bet Julius bought them stolen and had Gunther paint the eyes to hide them from the true owners.”
“I thought it was a good touch that Margarethe made them costumes to match Emma and Bert’s wedding clothes.”
“What I find outrageous, Mama,” said one of the young ladies. “Is that Christoph spent the entire feast dancing with no one but Margarethe and Mistress Wolf allowed it. How many other girls like me had to sit out or dance with another girl because of him! It was incredibly rude. And what if he marries her? She’s just a seamstress, and an orphan. Margarethe should have sold her father’s business and gone to live with relatives like any respectable girl would.”
“Well I wonder what exactly young Christoph is doing at Margarethe’s at all hours of the day,” Master Lukas Gench said. “I believe he visits her very frequently, and without a chaperone. Just like several other of her ‘clients.’”
Several of the listeners looked thoughtful.
Her mother patted her daughter’s arm reassuringly. “You needn’t worry about Christoph marrying that girl, Lottie my dear. Your father intends to make an offer for you soon enough, and with your dowry, the Wolfs won’t be able to resist.”
“You know what I heard? Emma and Albert left for Grantville the day after the wedding. It must be costing a fortune!”
“Those Wolfs and Brummes are getting above themselves,” Master Gench said. “The Americans are giving young people too many unsuitable ideas. What are the Germanies coming to?”
“You want to do what?“
“Make limbs, bodies, like for people.”
The up-time researcher blinked and nudged the boy next to her. After whispering in his ear, he shook his head.
“I . . . Uh . . . That’s . . . I don’t think you can do that. Maybe like Dolly . . . You know the sheep-clone? Except in scifi . . .”
Emma stared in confusion and shook her head. “Dolly? Is she related to Brillo?”
“No, no, never mind. Look, maybe we’re working at cross purposes, not understanding each other. Why don’t you start at the beginning?”
Emma nodded and sat down across from the up-timer. “My parents, they got me and my husband those plastic model dolls, like Barbie, very expensive . . .”
The girl snorted. “Tell me about it. The girls from the Consortium cleaned up, um, made a lot of money from even the cheap ones. I wish I’d been able to join, but my mom gave all my dolls to my cousin before the Ring.”
“My friend, Margarethe, is a seamstress and she makes dolls to help her business. She wishes to make dolls like Barbie, only of wood, but it takes time. What we need is a fashion doll like Barbie that we can produce quickly.”
The researcher nodded. “Well . . . I see. I tell you what, let’s look in the craft section.”
The craft section of the library was not very large.
“Susanna Oroyan’s Designing the Doll has a lot of neat ideas. Your friend might be familiar with a lot of them if she does a lot of doll-making, but it might be worth it to copy the text.”
Emma nodded enthusiastically as she flipped through the pages. “Margarethe does do a lot of doll-making in her spare time, especially since her father died. I wish there was some way to copy the pictures . . .”
“Here, Dawn Hertocher’s Two Hundred Years of Dolls might provide you with some ideas about what was done up-time, and so might Douet’s Identifying Dolls. But you know, if you wanted to do something really quick, you could do paper dolls or maybe coloring books. I hear the grade schools are crying for them.”
“Paper dolls? Why would anyone buy paper dolls? Those are easy to make. Mothers make them with their children for games during the winter. Or you can buy them from a printshop.”
“You can buy paper dolls?”
“Oh yes. My father-in-law says they were the second thing Master Gutenberg printed after he finished the Bible. They’re expensive though. You have to color them after printing or buy water colors or something to color them with after you buy them.”
“Like a coloring book?”
Bert, who had joined Emma, scratched his head. “What’s a coloring book?”
The researcher led them to the kid’s section and pulled out a thin book. “See? It’s a basic outline drawing that kids color in. My teachers used it to teach us to draw inside the lines.”
“But how do they color them?”
“Crayons . . . Oh, right. I forgot we don’t have them yet down-time. Let me at least see what I can find out about how to make them.”
“The fashion books are doing well,” Christoph reported at a business meeting. “But not the coloring books.”
“We need something to make them stand out,” Julius grumbled. “The printers I sell them to place them on their shelves with the American’s how-to guides and the Brillo pamphlets so they get lost. Who wants to buy something they could make at home just as easily?”
“I told you they should have the coloring sticks with them,” said Emma.
Julius shook his head. “It would take time and another investment to make them work.”
Bert grunted. “Researcher said tallow would work. A bit greasy but with the cheap paper we’re using it would be fine.”
Margarethe smiled and bounced slightly, noticing Christoph’s jealous look at his brother-in-law. “I love this!” she said, just to make Christoph jealous.
Why did Bert have to choose this of all times to make a speech? grumbled Christoph silently.
“Ah, thank you my dear. That was just what I needed after a long trip.”
Margarethe smiled. “It is good to see you, Master Gench. You were so kind after Papa died.”
“Hardly a trial, Margarethe, child. Your papa was a good man and an upstanding member of the guild. My wife and I shall be proud to take over Calvin’s business and welcome you into the family.”
She stared. “Take over Papa’s business? Welcome me into the family? I . . . I don’t understand.”
“Of course you do, child. Surely you’ve heard your neighbors’ complaints? You are a young unmarried woman living alone. Even in this new world the Americans brought, it is unacceptable. Completely unacceptable!”
“I don’t . . .”
Master Gench waved her to silence. “Here is what we shall do. My boy is almost past his apprenticeship. We will post the banns now and you can marry once Rolf has finished his apprenticeship. You will, of course, live with us until the wedding.”
“No. I will not marry your son. My papa left his business to me and I will keep it and I will not hand it over to you or your son! Not ever.”
“Margarethe, child, I just have your best interest at heart. If you were a seamstress to a noble family, few would question your unmarried state. But the guild cannot allow an unmarried orphan female of your age to continue to operate on her own in a town, and it will not. Either you will marry my son or you will end in a charity institution. Those are your only options.”
Agathe cradled Margarethe as she cried.
“And he can do it! He can take everything! Everything my mama and papa, everything my grandparents built . . .”
“How?” Emma asked. “The guild doesn’t have control over who people buy their clothing from? We’ve always bought clothes and fabric from your family and so have the Brummes.”
“They can find other ways. Convince my suppliers to stop selling to me or increase their prices. Vandalize the shop. Convince the city authorities to arrest me on some crime or make me leave town. Undercut my prices until all my customers leave, then bring their prices back up once I’m in the poorhouse.”
“Isn’t there any relation you could stay with while you work?” Agathe asked. Gesturing to Emma to bring Margarethe a cup of tea while she mopped Margarethe’s face with her handkerchief as though she were a child.
Margarethe shook her head. “Papa was an only child. Mama had some family in Altenburg, but it’s been years since I heard from any of them.”
Emma came back carrying a mug. “Well I don’t see why a woman can’t run a business on her own if she’s good enough at it. Or why a woman has to marry. I’m happy to have Bert, don’t get me wrong, but I’ll always wonder what I could have done on my own. Papa, what about that woman in Bamberg ? The Ram printer? She defied the guild.”
“She had a powerful political movement behind her by the time it came to that. Unfortunately, Margarethe doesn’t. What do you think, Gus?”
Gus rubbed his head. “As I see it there are three choices. First Margarethe marries Rolf Gench as soon as his apprenticeship is over.”
Christoph stiffened. “I know Rolf. He’s a fool and a bully. There’s a reason why his parents haven’t been able to arrange a marriage for him yet.”
Gus waved Christoph’s comments away. “Second, Margarethe continues to run her seamstress business until the guild shuts her down. Hopefully by then the doll business will have taken off and it won’t matter. The third option, if you want to find a better husband than Rolf Gench, and that wouldn’t be hard . . .”
Christoph sat up in his chair, smoothed his hose and pulled his doublet down. Emma and Agathe noticed and exchanged smiles.
“. . . is to stop sewing clothes and concentrate on the dolls. The tailor’s guild doesn’t have jurisdiction over them, in fact as far as I know no guild regulates doll-making.”
“But what happens if the dolls don’t take off? And how do I live in the meantime? If I refuse Rolf Gench, his father may go to the town council and find a way to make me leave town. And I can’t accept him and then call off if the doll business does well . . .”
Tears formed again in Margarethe’s eyes and Agathe motioned for a clean handkerchief.
“I have an idea.”
Everyone looked at Bert, surprised since he rarely spoke.
“Emma and I could rent Margarethe’s house and she could live with us or with my parents. It will buy us time to find a good lawyer.”
Gus put his hands on his hips. “And just where do you plan to get the money to rent a house? And what happens to the three of you if this business doesn’t succeed?”
Bert set his mouth in a tight line. “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it, Papa. But I’m not going to abandon a friend.”
Lukas Gench didn’t expect the hearing to take long. He was the head of the Tailor’s Guild and member of the Town Council, a man of influence in the duchy. And if that wasn’t enough, he’d made sure to send an exquisite bolt of his finest cloth and a silver cup to the magistrate. Once he had Margarethe’s inheritance and her share in the fledgling doll business it would be easy to repay the Jew money lenders, not only for the money to bribe the magistrate, but for his other debts.
“Master Gench, please present your case.”
Lukas bowed and swaggered forward. “Mein Herr, Margarethe Klein is an unmarried orphan, currently residing in this town and holding herself out as a member of the Tailor’s Guild. It is my duty as a friend of her late honored father and the head of the guild to see this situation righted. I insist that Mistress Klein be placed under my guardianship so that a proper marriage may be made for her so that she is no longer styling herself as a tailor.”
The magistrate nodded and Lukas permitted himself a triumphant smile at Margarethe who sat with Masters Wolf and Brumme and their families on the opposite side of the aisle.
Then the town’s Swiss-born lawyer, Walter Boose stood. “Mein Herr, if I may?”
The magistrate nodded again and Boose approached him with a sheaf of documents.
“As you can see, in the Year of Our Lord, Sixteen Hundred and Thirty-Four, Calvin Klein, Master of the Tailor’s Guild, applied for and was granted, legal emancipation for his only daughter, Margarethe. As you know, Mein Herr, this law grants a woman the legal rights of a man . . .”
“Yes, I know. Hmmm. These documents do seem to be in order . . . Master Gench, do you have any proof that these documents are false?”
“I do not, Mein Herr. I had no idea such documents existed!” It was a lie of course, but since Lukas figured he was on the side of the angels putting that girl in her proper place, it wouldn’t matter. Why didn’t the magistrate just rule in his favor as he was supposed to?
The magistrate sighed and continued flipping through the documents. Finally he looked up.
“Well . . . these could be forgeries . . .”
Lukas glanced at his opponents, not quite able to suppress a smile of triumph. Victory, vindication! Perhaps he ought to have that engraved on a plaque for the wedding . . .
“Mein Herr! As you can see, the seals of the notary . . .”
The magistrate nodded. “Still it is highly improper for a young woman to live alone . . .”
“Mistress Klein is not residing alone.” With a flourish, the lawyer presented the magistrate with another wad of paper. “As you can see, Mistress Klein is currently renting a portion of her home to Master Albert Brumme and his wife, an upstanding young couple. Also, there is an affidavit from Mistress Klein’s pastor stating that she is a regular attendee at church and . . .”
Lukas felt his elation disappear. Why hadn’t he thought of bribing the pastor as well? It would have meant more money he’d had to borrow against the girl’s inheritance . . .
“Hmmm . . . well . . .” The magistrate looked over the pile of evidence that had accumulated on the table. “I need time to review all this evidence in detail. Yes. Great detail. And consult a few people. Master Gench deserves time to review the evidence himself, and perhaps see counsel. Yes, yes. Time. One month.”
Lukas smirked at Margarethe, assessing her as Emma Wolfe guided her out of the room. So she’d thought to win easily had she? Well, well. A stalemate is better than a failure, at least for me. He’d been right that this hearing wouldn’t take long . . .
“Monstrous! Simply monstrous! That man ought to be ashamed of himself!”
“He smells profit, Agathe, profit he and his family can collect without effort on their part. Those pandores have made us a modest profit and we’ve started getting orders from the catalogs we sold with them. The little ones Emma calls ‘farthing’ dolls are beginning to pick up too. And once the farmers start producing a wood Barbie replica, we stand to make a fortune if all goes well. And let’s not forget Calvin’s house and equipment. She may not be a catch for a noble family, but for us she’s quite an heiress.”
“Then why have you prevented Christoph from making an offer? I told you when Master Gench started this whole thing what we should have done. If Bert and Emma hadn’t moved in with her, those Genchs would have swallowed the poor girl and her fortune up by now.”
“And I told you, Agathe, I want to be sure this doll-making venture didn’t ruin us. It still could. And then what would we do with an extra mouth to feed?”
Agathe put her hands on her hips, anger making her face red. “We would have a hard-working daughter-in-law with enough skills to help keep us afloat. I want you to announce that you have taken care of the matter by arranging her marriage to Christoph. And if you don’t, Julius Wolf, I swear I will!”
Margarethe was crying as Christoph led her into the workroom. Silently, he sat beside her and offered his handkerchief, which she took with a sniff.
“They haven’t made a judgment yet, and even if they rule for Master Gench, Papa and Master Brumme can appeal to the duke.”
Margarethe mopped her eyes and shook her head. “The duke will never listen. I suppose I could sign everything over to your papa and run away, but Master Gench would find me and force me to marry his son.”
Christoph reached out and brushed a strand of hair away from her face. “Margarethe, I have a present for you.”
“Oh? For me?”
“Two presents actually, one from Papa and the other from me.”
Gently, he opened a cloth bag and pulled out a large hank of angora wool, dyed a soft blonde. “I know you ordered this from the crayon profits, but Mama told Papa she’d never forgive him if he charged . . . well . . . family. The salesman called the color ‘Kristina Blond’ so he was sure it was the right color.”
Margarethe stroked the soft wool in amazement, her tears slowing. “Ohhh! Christoph! It’s perfect! Softer than I could ever imagine! But you said you had a present for me?”
Smiling he handed her a box. Opening it, Margarethe stared. Laying in the box were two wooden dolls, one boy and one girl.
“I . . . I made them special. With the knob joints in the arms and legs like Emma’s . . . I painted them too . . . I know the hair is only paint . . .”
“Oh . . . Christoph! They’re exquisite! I don’t know what to say!”
“Say you’ll marry me, and not just to avoid Rolf Gench. Though it would be a massive blow to me if you preferred him. I want a room full of dolls and little girls of our very own to play with them.”
Margarethe smiled. “And what if we have boys?”
“We could always expand the business into toy soldiers. But first we have to do a little promotion.”
Magdeburg Palace security, plagued by crack-pot religious fanatics, spies, and an ever widening circle of foreign and native enemies, were pleasantly surprised to find that the package contained not a bomb, but a eighteen-inch doll of Princess Kristina holding a miniature Brillo doll and a note:
TO HER ROYAL HIGHNESS
FROM M. KLEIN & COMPANY, FASHION DOLLS
“Hurry up! Get that wagon loaded and going!”
“Lukas, calm down!” Hilda Gench placed her arm on her husband’s, trying to calm him, but he shook it off.
“Hilda, be silent and get that useless son of yours out here! We need to get out of town as soon as possible!”
“But there’s no reason . . .”
“Of course there’s reason, fool woman! Were you deaf when you heard the pastor read the banns for the Wolf boy and the Klein girl? Well, if you did, then you also remember the loans I took to try and get that girl for our boy! Money to bribe the other guild masters, money for the magistrate, not to mention our other debts! If we don’t get out of town right now, we’re done for!”
Hilda whimpered as Lukas raised a meaty hand toward her. “But Lukas . . .”
“Men coming,” Rolf called from where he slouched in the doorway.
Toward the end of the street, Lukas saw men dressed in the uniforms of the town guard riding toward the house. Ignoring his wife and son, he clambered onto the wagon and grabbed the reins. “I’ll write from Prague!”