Previously . . .

In 1628 Matthias Ehrenhardt was orphaned at the age of 14, when his family home in the small village of Vehra burned to the ground.  To have any sort of future, he was forced to leave his Heimat, the place where he grew up and truly belonged, and go live with his aunt Grete Ehrenhardt and her husband Berthold Felbers, a businessman and political leader in Eisenach.

By 1634 Matthias has completed Latin secondary school and his first year at university, with the intention of studying law.  During a visit to his old friends and relatives around Vehra, he informs his childhood sweetheart, Dora, and her father, Thomas Hammel, that he has changed his career plans with Uncle Berthold's agreement, and he is now on his way to Magdeburg to pursue chemical engineering at the new Imperial College of Science, Engineering, and Technology.

It becomes clear during the conversation that Matthias and Dora hope to eventually marry, when they can both afford to.  Thomas has no confidence that this new profession he doesn't understand will bring Matthias financial success, though he wishes him well.  Thomas forbids betrothal until Matthias proves himself in the world.

In Magdeburg he shares a cramped lodging in a rooming house in the industrial district west of the wall with Germund, a mechanical engineering student from a shipbuilding family in southern Norway.  They share an interest in music.

Meanwhile, the Hammel family's situation has improved.  Thomas is appointed Adelmeister smith at the new flax mill in Sömmerda, where Count August von Sommersburg is a major investor.  The water-driven mill is being equipped with 18th and 19th century textile machinery, as rapidly as it can be recreated.  He obtains a position for Dora in the mill office, a much better opportunity to build her dowry than domestic service.

Classes begin at Imperial Tech.  The new college is stuffed into odd crannies of the Latin school building in the old city, a monastery in previous centuries.  The down-timers among the student body need to catch up to the up-timer high school graduates in mathematics; the up-timers need to learn Latin.  Matthias' first day brings the start of an algebra course, taught in German by Lennon Washaw.  Matthias and Germund help each other keep up.

At the mill, Thomas is suddenly confronted with a modern engine lathe, owned by Hannes Dirck Bosboom, the civil engineer in charge of building the mill and bringing it into operation.  Bosboom's mechanic, Gregorius Hochuli, was supposed to install the lathe and use it to make and modify mechanical parts as needed to get the mill up and running, but he staggered into the mill race blind-drunk and drowned.  Thomas does the best he can with no manuals and no experience with precision machine tools.  He gets it to work, but not well.

While all this is going on, Georg and Friedrich Fritsche, owners of a blacksmith shop a few miles from Erfurt in Bischleben, are getting inquiries from the nearby army supply depot and new businesses for metal parts they can't make by traditional methods at any reasonable cost or production rate.  Friedrich goes to Grantville to investigate whether it's true that the shops there could do the work, if they weren't overloaded with orders.  He returns with Karl Reichert, one of the new machinists trained at Nat Davis' shop.  Karl advises them that their water power could run a small machine shop.  They decide to make the investment, and they hire Karl to run it and teach them the new methods.

Karl stands in the shop looking at a cylinder head casting from Swartz Motors that was designed with no thought of how it was to be held on the milling machine.  The realization comes over him that for the first time in his career, he has nobody to go to for advice.  He shakes off the attack of nervousness and forces his mind onto the problem.

****MagdeburgLate 1634

 

The student to Matthias' right raised her hand. "Ummm, I'm happy we can use our books during the examination, Herr Washaw, I'm just surprised. I never heard of that before."

"No, probably not, Lise. Well, look, when you get out in the real world nobody's going to care whether you have every bit of algebra memorized and you can run off every solution without looking anything up. You just need to understand what you're doing and get the right answer without taking too long at it. If you have to refresh your memory on something, fine.

"What I want to find out tomorrow is whether you've all got a grip on algebra and are ready to move on to calculus. Because we've got to keep moving, folks, there's a whole lot to cover. Anybody have anything they'd like to review? Now's the time to ask."

****

"Well, fellas, it's not much, but it's what we've got, and it's blind luck we've got it." Allen Dailey, the chemistry professor, stood in the middle of the room, with a look on his face that wouldn't have been out of place on an insurance adjuster. "You'd think it'd be kinda hard to go broke running a laundry in Magdeburg, the way the place is growing."

Technically, it wasn't in the city proper. It was a small, run-down building a few minutes' walk outside the wall. Matthias looked around curiously. He'd never been in a college chemistry lab before, or an alchemist's workroom either, not that it was either one yet. There was dirt and clutter everywhere, but it had drains, and it had a hand pump bolted to one of the benches, with a pipe stretching down through the floor. A well.

"Artur, you want to start by scrubbing out that big soaking vat so we can sell it? That's the last thing we need underfoot."

True enough; in a teaching lab they'd be working with test tube quantities, and small ones at that. "And me, Herr Dailey?"

"Let's start collecting the outright trash, Matthias, and get it out the door. Then we can sort out what would be worth something to a junk dealer. The sooner we're down to bare floor and walls, the sooner we can let the carpenters and plumbers in."

****

Dear Matthias,

It seems I have gained the trust of Herr Pöhls. He has asked me to take charge of a newly hired clerk and teach him how we do the billing. The factor has given me a small wage increase because of it.

Papa has been doing all he can to prepare for when Herr Bosboom, the engineer, finishes his work here. So far, they have not been able to find anyone like the man who drowned in the millrace.

I hope that when you journey home again, you can come this way by the river and visit us.

Scriptum Sömmerda

Dora

 

Early 1635

 

What a transformation! Two rows of lab benches with a drain trough between them, some stock cabinets at one end, a desk and chalkboard, and a few oil lamps hanging overhead, not that there was any need to light them at this time of day.

There was no style or finish to any of it; it was all built fast and cheap, but there was reason enough for that. Rumor had it Imperial Tech wasn't going to be in makeshift quarters very much longer. Everybody knew Herr Gericke had plans. All over Magdeburg, Herr Gericke's plans were turning into masonry and trusswork.

And now they could begin.

Matthias turned his attention to the outline for the experiment. Determination of the concentration of a dilute acid.

He read through it first to get a grasp of the principles, then began. The first part was to standardize the supposedly 0.1 molar sodium hydroxide solution.

Weigh the flask, handling it with clean tongs so as not to add fingerprints to its weight. From the supply beaker gently tip in about one hundred milligrams of heat-dried salicylic acid, judging as closely as possible by eye.

It wouldn't have been done this way up-time, but they didn't have the KHP standardization reagent. There were many things they didn't have.

Then weigh the flask again, and calculate the actual weight of the reagent. Dissolve it in a hundred milliliters of distilled water and weigh it again.

In with the little strip of litmus paper. Red. Okay so far.

Now the tricky part. This would have been easy with a stopcock burette, but that still hadn't come in from Geissler's in Jena. What he had was a graduated pipette, with a tiny bellows on it with a spring inside so he could draw in a sample. That was the invention of a local apothecary, and a touchy thing to control. But Herr Dailey had absolutely forbidden mouth pipetting.

Draw in enough of the sodium hydroxide solution to bring it up near the line. With a magnifying glass read the starting level and record it in the notebook. Position it on the stand, and let fall a drop into the flask. Agitate.

No color change. He added another drop.

With absolutely no warning a volcanic sneeze seized him, and his whole right hand clenched involuntarily. Most of the load shot out of the pipette and into the flask; the litmus turned blue before he could even get his eyes open again.

He growled something incoherent under his breath, more in the way of the idealized concept of a curse than the concrete realization of one. Well, now he had some idea of how strong the base solution was, but it certainly wasn't any kind of result he could use to titrate the sulfuric acid sample he had yet to touch.

Wash out the flask and pipette, and start over. He blew his nose a couple of extra times for good measure, planted his feet firmly on the floor, rested his hip against the edge of the bench, and clamped the pipette into place on the ring stand. This time his thumb wasn't going to squeeze until he was good and ready.

 

Sömmerda

 

Karl stood in the street yawning, waiting for Fritz Wedemann to come out. Fritz had done well for himself since the appearance of Grantville had thrown them together and given them both a chance to get back on their feet. Now, with this latest promotion . . .

The front door creaked open and Fritz appeared, buttoning a fine-looking blue coat and yawning himself. "There you are, Karl! I wasn't sure you'd be able to come. But I'm glad you managed, even if that was some wild Polterabend you and the boys threw last night."

"Heh heh, you do look properly frazzled. But there's a little bit of a lull at the shop, so they let me get away for a few days. I wouldn't want to miss my old friend's wedding. Congratulations, Herr Assistant Postmaster. You've come up in the world since Thurn und Taxis decided to stick you here." He looked up at the bright blue sky, and clapped Fritz on the shoulder. "It looks like it's turning into a fine, warm day for it. And here they all come."

In the space of half a minute, the groom's procession seemed to condense out of thin air. The old street filled from side to side with a chattering throng. A church bell rang the quarter-hour, and it was time. As Fritz led off, somebody in the crowd started singing.

Oh, farewell fickle maidens, who come and quickly straySuch pleasure in the meeting, though parting rules the dayAnd left with sweet remembrances, as fine as such can beIt would be so much finer, if one would stay with me

By now, the fiddler in the procession had the tune.

Hand in hand I do-si-do'd with Janie at the danceBut she told me she was leaving, to mend her husband's pantsSnuggling on the front porch swing with Annie was such funBut she only talked of potted plants, I guess she's not the oneOh, farewell, Carolena, she left me with a smileAnd good bye, lovely Annabelle, she only stayed a whileClementine's all married up, and likewise RosalieNow the Yellow Rose of Texas is the only girl for meI fell for sweet Cornelia, I met her on a trainBut she got off in Galveston to catch a boat to SpainBut rolling on to San Antone, as sunset turned to nightIn the moonlight by the Alamo I found my heart's delightThen strolling by the river, true love has took its courseShe can charm a bashful catbird, or shoe a skittish horseShe can lasso bulls and stallions, that's what she did, you seeAnd the Yellow Rose of Texas is the only girl for meOh, farewell, Carolena, she left me with a . . .

"What happened, Wendel? I thought you were going to take that song and work in the names of all the old loves of Fritz and Antonia!"

"It's not finished. I'm having trouble getting it to scan in German. But don't worry, I'll manage it before the celebration is finished."

"I hope so, I want to see the looks on their faces when you mention the ones they think nobody remembers."

"All right, all right, I'm working on the tricky parts. Now you sing something."

Bist du des Goldschmieds TöchterleinBin ich des Bauren Sohn, ja SohnSo zeug dein beste Kleider anUnd sprich, du wilt zum Tanze gahnUnd zeuch mit mir davon.Über ein´ breite WiesenÜber ein schmalen Steg, ja StegUnd hast du mich von Herzen liebDein treues Herz mir Glauben gibtUnd zieh auch mit mir weg.Darum du zartes JungfräuleinZieh du mit mir davon, davon."Ich will zuvor mein Mutter frag´nRat sie mir das, so will ich's wagUnd ziehn mit dir davon."

Fritz let that go on to the end, before he finally broke in. "A hopeful song of love, but time we should start singing something we don't mind the bride's procession hearing! If you'll all indulge me,"

O Heiland, reiß die Himmel auf!Herab, herab vom Himmel lauf!Reiß ab vom Himmel Tör und Tür;Reiß ab, wo Schloß und Riegel für.O Gott, ein Tau vom Himmel gieß,Im Tau herab, o Heiland, fließ!Ihr Wolken, brecht und regnet ausDen König über Jakobs Haus! . . .

Just about in time. They turned the corner, and there was the bride's procession coming, not far away. Antonia Maria Hassloch looked altogether stunning, with an affair of silver wire and glittering crystals atop her dark hair, and her daughter Walpurgia from her first marriage dancing along beside her. The wedding crown was most likely the "something borrowed." She must have friends worth knowing”•there was a tiny chip at the front flashing amber and violet as her head turned in the sunlight; could that be the notorious Ring's Fire?

The song changed again, this time both processions singing together, with the flute in the bride's procession weaving counterpoint around the fiddle.

Ein' feste Burg ist unser Gott,Ein gute Wehr und Waffen;Er hilft uns frei aus aller Not,Die uns jetzt hat betroffen.

Out of all Martin Luther's hymns, Karl's favorite. And so they arrived at the St. Bonifatius Kirche, where the pastor stood waiting in front of the door.

****

Karl looked around. Der Goldene Adler was living up to its name in the afternoon sunlight; Fritz and Antonia must both be doing well to hold their celebration here, even if friends and relations and co-workers had brought most of the food. Or maybe they'd wangled the room through the bride's connections in the town. As one of the grandmothers ladled some salted cod in cream sauce next to the roasted vegetables on his plate, a warm voice spoke behind him.

"So, Karl Reichert, it's good to meet you at last. Fritz has often spoken of your times together in Grantville, in the early days."

He turned, holding the plate close to keep from bumping anyone. "Good things, I hope, Frau Hassloch."

"Oh, yes. I hope we can talk some more, after I greet the other guests. Meanwhile, my sister Agnes here would like to dance. Will you partner with her?" Agnes almost bounced on her feet, and threw him a quick smile.

"With pleasure." He smiled back and bowed slightly. She was closer to his own age, slender, and rather pretty. "You might have to teach me, I'm not sure what dances you do here."

"Nothing you haven't seen before, I hope." Her hand darted out and speared a piece of sausage on the end of her fork, while she eyed a drummer and a man with a Sackpfeife settling into their seats beside the fiddler and the flute player. The lines were starting to form.

****

Karl had to retreat into a corner to take a breather. That last one had been . . . energetic. Agnes waved gaily and pulled a baker's apprentice onto the floor.

A conversation off to one side suddenly caught his attention. An older man was holding forth to a pair of sober-looking burghers, ". . . could be some decent profit in having a lathe like that in the mill, after Bosboom leaves and takes his away. I'm getting some good work out of it, now that I've got the hang of cranking the tool out as I go along, so I can get a straight shaft."

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- The Grantville Gazette Staff