January 1632

"Master Ritterhof, Master Eisenbach, may I present my staff?" Martin asked, conscious of the scuffling sounds behind him. He heard Max hiss something at Jakob followed by a 'thwack.'

"Certainly, Master Schmidt. Certainly." Master Blacksmith Bruno Ritterhof smiled in return, politely ignoring the apprentices' bustle. "Master Eisenbach and I have been looking forward to this day for some time."

Bowing, Martin turned and scowled at his staff. It gave him time to control his emotions. Even after a month he was still not used to hearing his old masters calling him "master." Taking a deep breath, he looked at his staff. Max Ohl, the senior journeyman, had them lined up by rank and age. For once they were all reasonably presentable; even Rudy was wearing his best shirt. Thanks be to God and Frau Kunze!

"Masters, may I present Journeyman Max Ohl." Max bowed to the masters and Martin continued. "Max is working on the thread rolling machine Master Glauber and I discussed with you last night." It had not been Martin's idea to discuss Kudzu Werke's latest machine with the two out-of-town masters. He well remembered Master Eisenbach's admonitions on guarding your smithy's secrets lest another, rival smithy steal them. Still, Herr Glauber was the boss and, Martin remembered, Herr Ritterhof's brother-in-law. A small thought nibbled; no doubt Herr Glauber had some deal up his sleeve or else not even a brother-in-law would hear of the thread rolling machine. His attention snapped back to the matters at hand as Masters Ritterhof and Eisenbach nodded in acknowledgement of Max's bow.

"Delighted, Journeyman Ohl. Perhaps you would be so kind as to show us your machine later?" Master Ritterhof smiled kindly at the journeyman.

"Indeed, I confess I am very anxious to see such a machine. Master Ritterhof and I had a lively time debating it over breakfast." Master Eisenbach chimed in.

Martin caught the startled look in Max's eyes and nodded slightly. There had been no time this morning to warn the journeymen about last night's discussions. A stern look at the others quelled any reactions from them. What was Herr Glauber up to this time? No time to think about that now. Frowning fiercely Martin watched Max's reply carefully.

Max bowed again to the masters, his face serious as befitted a journeyman greeting masters of his guild. "I will be happy to do so, Masters." The young man sent a quick glance Martin's way and Martin gave him a tight smile and a nod of approval. That appeared to satisfy Ohl who turned his attention back to the visiting masters and the rest of the staff.

Martin stepped down the line to face the next young man. "And this is Journeyman Carl-Maria Tausch. He is working with me on the reclining chair mechanism. Journeyman Tausch is very good with mechanisms." At least Carl-Maria had expected to show off their progress to the masters. As he bowed enthusiastically, the young man beamed. Keeping his face straight, Martin considered speaking to Carl-Maria about the proper respect to be shown visiting masters. His own pride in their work on the reclining chair made it difficult not to smile along with the journeyman.

"Ah! Another wonder we await being shown. Praise from Master Schmidt on the subject of mechanisms is praise indeed. We were sorry when he left our shop for Madgeburg. Master Ritterhof, I told you we would find our Master Schmidt elbow deep in mechanisms."

"Indeed, Master Eisenbach, and this Grantville is full of such interesting mechanisms," Master Ritterhof intoned solemnly. Martin's glance did catch a twinkle in the older man's eyes. Hearing his own skills praised, Martin felt a flush of pleasure. He clamped the feeling down. He was a master now, and so he must act like one. Martin moved to introduce the next in line.

"Sirs, this is Apprentice Rolf Ackermann. A most promising young man, especially at hot and cold forging." Martin watched closely as Rolf made a credible bow. Turning to the shorter apprentice beside Rolf he continued. "And this is Apprentice Jakob Betche. Apprentice Betche has learned a great deal in the last months and shows considerable promise as a tool maker." Betche for once stood straight and made his bow without clowning around. From the color creeping up under the boy's collar Martin suspected the praise had surprised the boy. He made a mental note to praise young Betche's work more often for the boy really did show promise. "Lastly, Sirs, this is Journeyman Rudy Neder, the young man who made the fittings for the presentation chests." The chests had been a hit. Made from quarter-sawn oak and outfitted with deceptively simple pulls and hinges, the chests were among the first results of Herr Glauber's latest venture. To the discerning eye they displayed a high level of craftsmanship in their simple and pleasing lines. Both masters had been impressed.

"Ah, so this is the young man! Have you more such work to show us, young Neder? If it is up to the level we saw last night I will press Master Schmidt to see you quickly promoted. The drawer pulls have a delightful grace and yet are substantial without being overly heavy. And I must say I admire the hinges. I thought they were Master Schmidt's work until he informed me that you began making them as an apprentice. You thought so, too, did you, Master Ritterhof?"

"Definitely, Master Eisenbach, definitely. Master Schmidt, I applaud you on your ability to find such talented journeymen and apprentices. "

Rudy turned bright scarlet at the praise of his work. He, too, managed a well-mannered bow and stuttered. " Th . . . th . . . thank you, Masters."

"Now, Master Schmidt, may we see this thread rolling machine? I confess to being very much interested in such a device." Bruno Ritterhof clapped Martin on the shoulder and looked around the shop.

"And the reclining chair, please? A machine that threads bolts is certainly a wonderful device, but a chair that lets one recline . . . Ah!" Master Eisenbach added. "However, before we see these miraculous devices, I have a question. The day is cloudy but you have these wonderful 'electric' lights. Your forge is cold yet the workspace is warm. Can you explain these marvels? We attempted to ask our hostess but, marvelous woman that she is, she speaks only English."

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