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.
His childhood sweetheart Dora Hammelin, daughter of the blacksmith in the neighboring village of Henschleben, made him a fine knife and sheath as a parting gift.
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 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.
Matthias travels downriver to Magdeburg by barge, studying along the way, and catches his first sight of the partially completed railroad. He knew the world was changing around him; now he sees some of it.
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 had never been able to acquire a position as a master smith with a shop in a guild town; now he 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. His first day brings the start of an algebra course, taught in German by Lennon Washaw. He is able to begin class work in chemistry simultaneously, since that doesn't rely on advanced math. Instruction in academic English also occupies considerable class time the first year, because only a few of the principal science and engineering textbooks have been translated into German or Latin by this time.
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.
In part 2 . . .
Imperial Tech's chemistry department under the leadership of Allen Dailey acquires a bankrupt laundry outside the city wall and remodels it into a temporary teaching lab. The apparatus is sparse and somewhat temperamental at first, but the students begin getting vital hands-on experience.
Dora gains respect and additional responsibilities at the flax mill, along with a wage increase. Her dowry grows faster.
Karl Reichert attends the wedding in Sömmerda of his friend Fritz Wedemann from his early days in Grantville. During a break in the dancing at the reception, he overhears Thomas Hammel describing his difficulties using Hannes Bosboom's lathe. He offers his help, and teaches Thomas and Dora the correct way to install and set up the machine. His kindness impresses the Hammel family, coming as they do from a village where kindness and compassion were a central part of the local culture. Dora's lively intelligence appeals to him.
By the end of the term, the chemistry students are ready to try analyzing samples. Raimund Treck, from a mining family in the Harz mountains, proposes to analyze a metal sample from his second cousin's mine, instead of a standard teaching sample from lab stock. Professor Dailey allows it, but asks Matthias if he would like to work on the same sample, so that there will be an independent analysis for comparison. Matthias agrees. It's nominally a copper ore, but they find sulfur, some silver, traces of gold, and several other elements.
Raimund proposes to Matthias that they start a venture during summer vacation to extract the silver and gold from the smelted copper using electrochemistry. It seems simple. Matthias is torn between independent study at home in Eisenach to shorten the time to earn his degree, versus trying for early profits from separating the precious metals. He's becoming concerned that he might not be able to demonstrate to Thomas Hammel that he can earn a decent living as a chemical engineer, by the time Dora accumulates her dowry. He dithers, then decides to take the risk. Raimund persuades Jupp Fimbel, an Imperial Tech student in electrical trades, to join them.
Through the summer the three partners encounter and overcome one difficulty after another, sinking more and more time and money into the business. By August they have a shop in the village of Gräfenstuhl, and a steady source of electricity from the generator at a mill run by Gerd Hartmann and his wife Marta Seidelin. And the process is working. They get their first revenue from the sale in the Mansfeld markets of a cartload of high-purity copper. Then more problems show up. The electrolyte degrades, and they discover that zinc in the raw copper is the cause. They can deal with it, but it complicates their work, and they can't make any money off the zinc they have to extract from the electrolyte to keep the line running. They do get excess sulfuric acid as another by-product of electrolyte recovery, and that brings in some money.
In Sömmerda the flax mill is running into machine repair problems they can't handle with just a lathe and a drill press, and then Bosboom moves on to his next project and takes his machine tools with him. The mill begins sending work to the relatively nearby Fritsche Brothers shop. Thomas and Dora go there to handle the arrangements and consult with Karl on the technical issues.
September comes, and Matthias has to make a decision. Return to college at the start of the fall term and push on for his degree, or put his efforts into ramping up production at the electrolytic refining shop. There are hints that the nearby mines might be about to outbid them for the Hartmann electricity, but then Hartmann informs him that the owners of the water rights along the stream have just joined together to form an electric power company, and much more power will be available very soon. Matthias agonizes, then stays. The partners keep working as hard as they can, and spend as little on their needs as they can, pushing on to the next step.
Dora is getting concerned that Matthias' few letters are all about the business and the technical progress, with nothing personal in them, and he hasn't visited in close to a year. Thomas understands that the problems and the hard work are weighing on his mind, and just hopes Matthias hasn't made a mistake.
By now enough anode residue has accumulated from copper purification to begin working on silver separation. They run into a new series of technical problems, practical difficulties, theft losses, and minor injuries. One by one, they find answers at the cost of time and money.
Personal notes are starting to find their way into the correspondence between the Fritsche Brothers machine shop and the Sömmerda mill. Some of Karl's stories set the Hammel family laughing.
Early in December Matthias and Jupp are anxiously hovering over a benchtop silver separation setup, watching the cathode to see if anything plates out. Something shows up, and Matthias begins methodically varying test conditions and taking notes on the results. Things are looking hopeful.
But a freight wagon is expected to pass in a short while, and Jupp goes outside to stack their stock of purified copper for shipment to market. He slips on a muddy patch, and falls on a sharp piece of metal sticking out of the ground—a piece of a broken farm tool, perhaps. He gets a puncture wound in the left calf. Matthias cleans and bandages the injury and advises Jupp to take it easy until it heals. But by dawn Jupp is in pain, and the area around the injury is tender, red, swollen, and hot to the touch. Jupp's moaning wakes Matthias, who immediately recognizes that the wound has gone septic and Jupp is in mortal danger. His best chance is to get to the new hospital in Magdeburg as fast as possible. Matthias sends Raimund to wake up village carter Oswald Weckesser to rush Jupp to the railroad station at Kloster Mansfeld.
Jupp's condition deteriorates visibly during the short ride to town. Matthias runs ahead to buy the tickets, jumping the line at the window and appealing to the station agent to do anything possible to make sure he and Jupp get on the next train, due in a few minutes. While Matthias goes back to assist Jupp and Weckesser, the through train arrives. The agent runs up to conductor Karl Alpendorf on the platform and explains what's happening. Alpendorf recognizes that this is a dire emergency, and makes the decision on his own authority to hold the train, even though it means disrupting rail traffic up the line. When Jupp arrives a few minutes later on Weckesser's horse, Alpendorf rushes him and Matthias aboard, and hands the station agent a telegraph message form as the train begins to roll.
TO DIVN DISPATCH
FROM CONDR TRAIN SEVEN
LEFT MFLD LATE TO BOARD URGENT MEDICAL CASE FOR MAGD HOSPITAL X DO NOT DELAY US FOR ANYTHING X
When he dropped the step onto the platform at Hettstedt, the station agent was right there waiting for him, with new orders in his hand.
TO CONDR TRAIN SEVEN
CONDR TRAIN TWENTY SIX
STN AGT STASSFURT
FROM DIVN DISPATCH
PASS AT STASSFURT
Karl whistled. That dispatcher was serious about granting his request; whoever Greiner was, he was holding back the freight instead. He'd probably end up juggling trains and sidings for the rest of the morning and maybe into the afternoon. Karl signed for the orders and asked the agent to run forward and hand the slip to the engineer. But the second message—
TO CONDR TRAIN SEVEN
FROM ADMITTING DESK MAGD MEM HOSP
SEND PATIENT NAME AND SYMPTOMS
S D HUNSAKER
It seemed Greiner was making things happen, and not just on the railroad. Karl leapt up the stairs, snatched a blank from his cupboard, and strode to the injured man's companion. "Things are being done for you. You can write, yes?"
"Yes. German, Latin, or English?"
"Your choice. Write an answer to this, please, and make it concise and precise. You have two and a quarter minutes before I have to hand it to the telegraph operator and roll out of here."
Another thought came to him. Stassfurt. The scheduled stop there was fifteen minutes, so the passengers could buy breakfast from the food vendors at the station. He went back to his cupboard and snatched another message blank.
STASSFURT STOP WILL BE NINE MINUTES
The inconvenience would be acceptable, in the circumstances.
There were no more orders at Aschersleben, but there was another telegram from S. D. Hunsaker.
RECLINE X SUPPORT AFFECTED LIMB HIGHER THAN HEART X GIVE FLUIDS X
Karl looked around the car. There was no way anyone bigger than a child could stretch out flat on a seat, even in the two seats together on one side of the aisle. That left the floor. He'd need folded coats or whatever they could find for padding, lying on the hard wooden floor, so it would be best to place him beside the coal stove at one end of the car for the comfort that could offer. That meant he would only have the other end to discharge and board passengers. Well, everyone understood the situation by now. He went to talk with the companion, Matthias Ehrenhardt. The sick one, Jupp Fimbel, was looking feverish now. If getting out and pushing would have helped, Karl would have done it too. An overnight passenger from down south lent the pillow she'd brought from home; she said she wasn't sleepy now.
Ehrenhardt was looking like he was worried sick, and Fimbel just looked sick. His whole lower leg was flaming red now, and he moaned once in a while. There was some water on the train to give him; at least the railroad supplied safe drinking water.
Karl had the door open on the right side as they came in sight of Stassfurt station. He leaned his head out to see, and found himself looking at the front of a locomotive sitting on the main line. What? But the other train wasn't moving, and there was someone standing by the south switch, signaling "Slow." Then he saw that the switch was set to the siding that ran along the opposite side of the passenger platform. Well, there wasn't anything he could do to straighten this out, until he came close enough to call out to the station agent. His train started rolling onto the siding, and then he got a look out the left side at the situation and understood. The freight was too long to fit on the siding, but his passenger train wasn't. Sure enough, as soon as the last car cleared the switch, the freight's fireman threw it to the main line, signaled "Ahead," and jumped aboard as the cab ladder reached him. It would be clear of the north switch long before he finished his station stop. And there was the station agent, standing alongside the north switch. All he had to do was open the door on the left side and close up again on the right. He did that and ran to the rear car to let the brakeman know what was happening.
The rest of the run went well enough as far as the train was concerned, but Fimbel's leg slowly turned an ugly bronze color, and something started seeping into the bandage. It wasn't pus; it wasn't anything Karl had ever seen, or Ehrenhardt either.
Karl didn't dare play games with the track speed limit, but they were close enough to schedule now to avoid any more dancing with other trains. The agent at Salbke even manned a door and saved a whole two minutes. And handed him one more train order.
As soon as they were moving again, Karl stood up beside the rear stove and called out, "Buckau next! Buckau in five minutes! Passengers for Buckau, please bring your baggage to this end of the car and be ready to step down when I open the door."
That was probably unnecessary. Everybody knew the situation by now, and cooperation had been excellent all along. He went up to the front of the car again. Fimbel looked bad. His face was looking like he hurt everywhere. Ehrenhardt looked up and asked, "Herr Conductor, can you tell me the best way to get Jupp from Magdeburg station to the hospital? Are there carriages or something I can hire? It would be impossible for him to walk."
"You won't have to. I've just received orders to make a special stop at the Diesdorferstrasse grade crossing. The hospital has made arrangements to receive you there."
The next problem was going to be helping Jupp off the train. It was only a few feet, but they'd have to get around the corner into the vestibule and down the stairs, and every movement was making Jupp groan. Matthias turned over the problem in his head. Then the train creaked to a stop across the roadway, and there was an enclosed wagon outside, painted white with a big red cross on the side, backing up to the car's door. The conductor came back inside with two big men in spotlessly clean work clothes, one of them carrying an affair of canvas and wooden poles. The one in front carefully stepped around Jupp. "You are the patient, Herr Josef Fimbel?"
"Yes, that's how I sign legal papers. And this is my partner, Matthias Ehrenhardt."
"Good, now we know who's who. I'm Medical Technician Boch, and this is Technician Lewicki. We saw the messages about your infection. Is there anything else wrong, that would cause special danger in moving you? Broken bones? Dislocated joints? Anything like that?"
"No, it's just that everything hurts. God, it hurts."
"I understand. We'll be as careful as we can. But we have to move fast and get you to the hospital, where they can help you. There's nothing that can be done for you here. Conductor, and Herr Ehrenhardt, please kneel beside me on this side of the patient. We will reach underneath and lift slowly and gently on my command, and Janusz will slide the stretcher underneath."
Jupp screamed at the first touch.
The inside main door swung open, and a puff of cold air blew in. Susie Hunsaker looked up from the anesthesiology textbook she had open. Sure enough, Ernst and Janusz were carrying in a blanket-covered figure, with a stranger holding the door for them. "Herr Josef Fimbel and Herr Matthias Ehrenhardt!"
The thought flicked through her head as she got up from her chair and grabbed the clipboard with the admission form that if there was anything funny about this, it was these two being announced like royalty. But what the hell, in this hospital, anybody who needs the royal treatment gets it.
They set down the stretcher on a wheeled dolly standing ready just inside the door, and she couldn't help noticing that they were being awfully gentle about it. "Front exam room, guys." She led off.
As they followed her in, she turned and asked, "Herr Fimbel, can you stand on this scale for just a moment? I'll need to get your weight so the doctor can calculate dosages."
Ernst answered, "I don't see how, Nurse Hunsaker. He could hardly even endure having us pick him up to put him on the stretcher."
The other guy, Ehrenhardt, cut in, "What if you weigh each of your men holding one end of the stretcher, and then weigh them and the stretcher separately?"
"Huh? I guess that'd work. Take a little arithmetic."
"Yes, I can do that while you do something else."