To Christoph Bach
Brother, word has come to me that Mama has died. Since Papa died of the plague eight years ago, that leaves me the head of the family. I have moved from Suhl to Magdeburg to pursue greater opportunities here. You must come to me immediately. Bring young Heinrich with you. I have a commission here to build an organ, and I need your help. With good fortune this will lead to other positions for all of us.
Christoph stopped reading and looked at his younger brother Heinrich. “Johann is starting to sound pretty high and mighty now that Mama is gone.”
Heinrich sniffed. “Are you surprised? He is the eldest brother. He’s always been the eldest brother. He has never let us forget it, and probably never will.” The youngest of the three Bach children gave an evil grin. “Of course, Papa usually gave him the first lick whenever anything happened.”
“Aye, and usually you had something to do with that ‘anything’ happening, didn’t you?” Christoph grinned back. He agreed that their brother Johann, who was nine years older than Christoph, had a tendency to think that his chamber pot contents didn’t stink, and he had more than once played second violin to his younger brother’s lead when opportunities arose to puncture Johann’s pomposity. Nonetheless, he had genuinely missed his big brother since he left for Suhl.
“Hmm,” Christoph re-read the first paragraph to himself. “Something big must have happened.”
“What do you mean?”
“You know how Mama would go on and on about how Johann was so lucky to have his position in Suhl, how he would be able to become a Joshua to Stadtpfeifer Hoffmann’s Moses, and how it was understood that he would marry the Stadtpfeifer’s daughter.”
Heinrich made as if to spit. “Ja, Mama was so looking forward to having that Barbara as her daughter-in-law. Nasty Scheinheilige, she is.”
“Yes, well . . .” Christoph found himself in grudging agreement with his brother, although he might not have worded his opinion so strongly. “. . . hypocrite though she may be, it would appear from this . . .” he waved the letter “. . . that our Johann has come to his senses.”
“Ja.” Heinrich’s eyes grew dreamy, and he smiled the smile he wore when he watched girls walk down the street. “Magdeburg. The Emperor’s new capital . . . where fortunes and reputations can be made.” His gaze sharpened and focused on Christoph’s face. “When do we leave?”
Christoph scanned through the rest of the letter. “He says to give Papa’s clavier to Uncle Andreas, store as much of the furniture as we can in his barn, and sell the rest. So, maybe a week, maybe two.”
“Good! Let’s get started.”
“Not so fast,” Christoph said. “Listen to the rest of what he has to say.”
“He would,” Heinrich muttered. “More eldest brother talk . . .” His voice trailed off.
When you come, wend your way through Grantville. You know by now the town really exists, and the location of it. You will be surprised at much of the town, and some of it will make you wonder why there has been such a clamor about the place. The people seem odd at first, but by their lights they are a decent folk.
“Idiot,” Heinrich said. “Of course we know about Grantville.”
“Shh. You said it yourself; he’s just being the eldest brother.”
When you get there, have someone direct you to the High School. There seek out Masters Marcus Wendell and Atwood Cochran, lecturers and musicians. They will play for you music from the future such as you have never heard. And some of it is by a man named Bach. Go; hear it, then come to me in Magdeburg. The three of us will have much to talk about.
Christoph lowered the paper. The two brothers Bach stared at each other, eyebrows raised and eyes wide, all complaints and gripes and slurs forgotten. Music from the future—by a Bach.
Franz entered the bedroom and closed the door to keep the warmth from the small stove in the room. He looked to where Marla sat on the stool before her dressing table, combing her long black hair in the candlelight. She looked up at him and smiled, which sent a flood of warmth through him. Even after almost a year of marriage, he still marveled that she, who doubtless could have had her pick of the available up-time men, had seen something inside a crippled and bitter down-timer; something that drew her to him. Or perhaps, something that drew him to her, as a moth circled a flame . . . the attraction to her was that strong, that natural, that intense. Almost it was enough to make him a Calvinist, for to his mind it would have required the sovereign hand of God to bring her to love him. Of a certainty, he found nothing in himself that deserved her.
“What are you thinking, love?”
Marla’s voice drew him from his reverie. “How much I love you,” he responded, then warmed again as her smile flashed wider. He walked over to her, bent to kiss her upraised lips, then reached to pick up the hairbrush from the dressing table. She sat up straight as he began to draw the brush through her thick mane with long slow strokes.
This had become one of their little rituals, something that they did for themselves. Marla’s hair was long enough and thick enough that it was hard for her to tend to all of it, and Franz had early on taken over the brushing of it. He loved the silken feel of her hair, and from the expression on Marla’s face in the mirror on the wall that she had brought from Grantville, she was undoubtedly enjoying it as well.
They didn’t talk for some time, just enjoying the intimacy of the moment. Franz paused for a moment, lifting a tress of the liquid ebony before him. Half-crippled his left hand might be, but the nerves still worked, and the feeling of the hair sliding across his fingers and palm left them tingling. He bent to deeply inhale the fragrance of it.
When he straightened, Marla had opened her eyes and was watching him from the mirror with an expression that reminded him of the portrait the up-timers called the Mona Lisa. He smiled back and resumed brushing.
“So why were you late getting home tonight?” Marla asked.
Franz chuckled. “Johann Bach asked if he could talk to me after the orchestra rehearsal. We went to the Green Horse.”
“I thought I smelled beer on you when you came in.” Her smile turned impish.
Franz raised his right hand. “Oath to Heaven’s throne, I only had one, and I did not finish it.”
“So what did he want?”
“It took him forever to spit it out. He kept hemming and hawing and dancing a gavotte around the outside of it, but when he finally asked his question of me I nearly bit my cheeks bloody to keep from laughing.”
“So what did he say? Out with it, and no dancing around from you!” In the mirror Franz could see Marla’s eyes were dancing themselves.
“He wanted to know how to court an up-time woman.” Franz kept his expression as straight as he could, and watched in the mirror as Marla’s jaw dropped. The surprise lasted only a moment, then she began to laugh. Peal after peal of silvery laughter sounded in the room, and Franz felt his own face relax as he began to chuckle.
“Oh . . .” Marla finally said, gasping, “oh, that’s too funny. After the way he’s been circling around Staci for the last few months, it’s about time, but still . . .” She started chuckling herself. “Wait ’til Staci hears about this.”
Franz started the brush moving again. “Now, I would ask that you not tell her.” Marla’s eyebrows went up in the mirror, and he replied, “Let them find their own way, my dear. It would be best.”
Marla’s mouth quirked, then smoothed out. “Okay, I suppose you’re right,” she said. “But think of the fun I could have had with that.” Franz grinned at her. “So what did you tell him?”
“Well, I thought of quoting that song from Camelot to him . . .”
“How to Handle a Woman,” Marla interjected.
“Yes, that one. And what it says about love is true enough; but I thought he probably needed a little more than that to serve as his ground for the music he would write with her. So, I told him that from my limited experience up-time women are less concerned about the property and the furnishings and the spices and more concerned with equality and equitability and trust. I told him to treat her with the same respect and care that he would give Master Schütz, and to listen to her when she talked to him about the things that are important to her.”
Marla sat for a while as Franz continued brushing. At length she said, “That’s probably the best advice you could give him. I hope he listens to it. I’d be pretty unhappy if he or anyone else hurts Staci.”
Franz shrugged. “We shall see. He’s a fine musician, and appears to be a good man, but . . .”
“Yeah, but . . .”
Franz had been counting the brush strokes while they talked. “One hundred.” He set the brush on the table and stepped back to admire his handiwork. Marla’s hair gleamed like an ebon waterfall and it flowed to her waist. She stood and began to remove her robe. He moved the stool over and stood behind her, resting his chin on her nightgown-clad shoulder and crossing his arms beneath her breasts. She raised a hand to cup his cheek, and they stood thus for long moments, staring at each other in the mirror.
“I would wish them to love each other as much as I love you,” he whispered after a time. “They cannot possibly love each other more.”
Marla turned in his grasp and gave him a warm and lingering kiss. “Come to bed, love.”
Franz watched her move to the bed, then bent and blew out the candle.
Johann Bach’s head snapped up. There were only two men on the face of Earth who would call him that, and he knew those voices. “Christoph? Heinrich?”
And there they were, hurrying down the street toward him. In a moment they were exchanging hearty embraces and slapping shoulders. After the welcome, Johann stepped back, a hand on each brother’s shoulder.
“Look at you. It has been what, over a year since I last saw you? Christoph, you are broader across the shoulders than I am now. And Heinrich, I am glad to see that you can finally muster a proper beard. My last glimpse of you, your face looked more like a moth-eaten scabrous fox pelt.”
He dropped his hands and clapped them together. “So! What did you think of Grantville?”
“Amazing!” Christoph’s voice was a light tenor, which climbed into his highest register whenever he was excited. It was as high now as Johann had ever heard it. “I mean, it was no eternal Jerusalem with golden streets, but it was so different from everything.”
“The up-timers were . . . different.” Heinrich’s baritone had a diffident tone. He wasn’t used to being part of adult discussions yet, Johann thought to himself. “They are different, and they are not different,” he replied. “The things they know, their attitudes, those may be different. But their wants and desires and passions—those not so much. Their musicians love the music, for example.”
Johann took his brothers by the arm, turned them, and headed down the street. “So, did you hear the music I told you to find?”
Both young men nodded vigorously. “Indeed,” Christoph responded. “And it was as you said—music such as we have never heard. Instruments that do not exist, harmonies that are rare, tonalities that our masters say should not be used, and above all, the many new forms.”
Johann looked at Heinrich. The youngest Bach brother shrugged and pointed at Christoph. “He said it all. Except that the music of this Johann Sebastian Bach was among the best.”
Johann stopped for a moment. “Yes, I agree. Old Bach, as the up-timer musicians sometimes call him, was more than gifted, more than a genius. He was a phenomenon, and they owe more to him than they realize.” He started walking again. “With that name, he had to have been some kind of relation to us, but I was not able to determine it while I was there. I commissioned a research to provide as much information about Johann Sebastian and his family as can be found in the great library there, but they were unable to complete the work before I had to leave. I really hoped to have the results by now, but it has not arrived yet. Soon, perhaps.”
Christoph laughed, echoed by Heinrich. He pulled a packet of folded papers from inside his jacket and slapped it across Johann’s chest. “Soon is today, brother. We were in the library ourselves, reading a book called Harvard Dictionary of Music, learning more about the up-time music, when we met Brother Johann. When he understood who we were, he immediately took us to the bank because he had delivered the research results to them only the day before. The . . . what did they call her, Heinrich?”
“The escrow officer.”
“Yes, the escrow officer accepted that we were your brothers after reading the letter you had sent to us. We told her we were coming to Magdeburg to join you, so she gave us the information.”
Johann looked down at where his hands were holding the papers that Christoph had thrust on him. “You . . .” Words failed him at that moment. The realization that he might be holding the answers to his questions suddenly burst in his mind. He jerked upright. “Come!” He took off down the street at a pace not much below a run, with the sound of his brothers’ steps behind him and people scattering to each side ahead of him.
“Well, that is clear enough.” Johann took one more glance at the page he held angled to the light of the candle before he set it on top of the stack of other pages brought from Grantville. He took a pull at his mug, swallowing disappointment along with the beer.
The Green Horse was relatively quiet. It was full, but there was no music, so only the conversations were filling the air. Johann wished for a moment that Marla and Franz and the others were here. He could have listened to the music and put off the strange hurt he was feeling.
“What is clear enough?” Heinrich lowered his own mug.
“Well, according to what Brother Johann was able to determined, he,” Johann leveled a finger at Christoph, “was the grandfather of Johann Sebastian Bach. You and I will have to make do with being known as the men who would have been the great-uncles of Old Bach.”
Christoph looked very pleased with himself as Johann took another mouthful of beer.
“Do not get above yourself, brother,” Heinrich murmured with a wicked grin. “The man will never exist. There is no fame from being the grandfather of one who is less than a ghost.” Johann laughed outright at that as Christoph’s brow wrinkled.
“It seems,” Johann picked up the thread of his thought, “that in the up-time the Bach family was even more widespread in Old Bach’s time than it is now. The three of us were the beginning of what was known as the Erfurt Bachs.”
“Why?” Christoph questioned, looking down into an empty mug with a puzzled expression on his face.
“Well, in truth,” Johann replied, “the Erfurt council has sent me a letter asking if I would be willing to be considered as director of music. If Grantville had not appeared, I probably would have left Schweinfurt and taken the Erfurt position.”
“And married Barbara Hoffmann, no doubt.”
Johann lowered his eyebrows in a glare at Heinrich, but did not respond to his dig directly. “I do not now intend to go to Erfurt, and I doubt that you will return to Wechmar. According to the up-timers, the river of time has been wrenched from its erstwhile banks by Grantville being sent back to us. It will not return to its previous bed, but instead is carving new channels. The Erfurt Bachs will instead become the Magdeburg Bachs.” He stared at the wall between his brothers, eyes unfocused, seeing with an inner vision. “And while we may not have genius equal to that of our now-never-to-be-realized grandson and great-nephew, we will collect all his work, we will preserve it, we will perform it, and it will become a cornerstone in the edifice of music from this time forward.”
The younger Bach brothers were silent for a moment. “You have thought on this, obviously,” Christoph at last ventured.
“Oh, aye.” Johann’s eyes focused back on his brothers’ faces. “It has been near the forefront of my thoughts since I first learnt of Old Bach’s music. God will not allow that brilliance to fade into obscurity. He preserved it in the up-time; He will preserve it in our time. We will be the tools by which He will accomplish it.”
Johann knew his voice had become intense. From the expressions on his brothers’ faces, he suspected that his own expression was in line with his voice. They had best get used to it, he thought, gazing again into the mists of the future. This was at one and the same time a legacy to be tended and a challenge to be faced.
God may be drawing an Escher work with Grantville at the center—He would not find the Bachs lacking. They were Bachs—that was enough.
“Well, what shall we do today?” Christoph asked as they left the rooming house the next morning. Johann stifled a yawn as old Pieter the porter shut the door behind Heinrich, who trooped down the steps to stand with his brothers.
“Bread first,” Johann muttered. He led the way to Das Haus Des Brotes, cracking a huge yawn every few steps. When they arrived, Frau Kreszentia Traugottin verh. Ostermannin, the proprietress, was sweeping the steps with a broom. Her husband, Anselm, was the baker; she handled the sales of the bread.
“A good day to you, Frau Traugottin,” Johann called out as they neared the bakery, which occupied a corner on one of the busiest intersections in the exurb of Greater Magdeburg.
Frau Kreszentia looked up and smiled. “Ah, Herr Bach. You are out and about early this morning.”
Johann shrugged. “There is work to be done, and it won’t get done if I’m sleeping while the sun is up.”
“So true,” she replied. “So true. And who might these young men be?”
“My brothers,” Johann responded, “Christoph and Heinrich.” The two bowed slightly as their names were given.
Frau Kreszentia looked at them for a moment. “A definite family resemblance. But with three of you, one must be a bit of a rascal, a trickster.”
Johann and Christoph both pointed at Heinrich and said in unison, “Him.” Heinrich didn’t deny it, but did his best to appear innocent.
“Let me guess—the youngest?”
At that, Heinrich grinned and nodded.
“Aha,” she said with a bit of a smile of her own. “I can see I need to be sending word to all the taverns to warn the girls who serve that there is a new rascal in town.”
All of them got a good chuckle out of that.
Frau Kreszentia opened the door and led the way into the shop, to step behind the counter. “Three of the regular?” she asked Johann.
He nodded, and she turned and pulled three of the small loaves and handed them out to the three brothers. “Thank you, Frau Traugottin,” they chorused, as Johann pulled ten pfennigs from his pocket and offered them to the proprietress.
“Call me Zenzi,” she said. “Everyone does. I’m the sister and cousin and friend to so many folk, I just let everyone use the name. So much so that when someone says Frau Kreszentia or Frau Traugottin, I look around to see who they’re talking to.”
Johann’s brothers laughed as they followed him out of the bakery. The three of them walked down the street side by side, eating their bread, Johann in the middle.
Johann nodded, mouth full of bread.
“Isn’t that a bit ambitious for you? I mean, you’ve not done that before, have you?”
Johann swallowed. “Not designed one, no, but when I left Suhl for Schweinfurt, I was involved in a repair and partial rebuild of the Schweinfurt church organ. And I did get to spend some time with two of the Compenius family and talk organs one night in Erfurt, and I made careful notes afterward. I think I can do this.”
“You’d best do it,” Christoph said around the bite he was chewing. “You will taint the name of Bach if you don’t.”
“We will do this,” Johann said. “You have as much interest in seeing it happen as I do. As the up-timers say, a rising tide lifts all boats.”
“I’m not a boat,” Heinrich announced. “I’m a ship. See my sails?” He extended his arms to their full length to the side, and smacked Johann in the chest with one of them, which made Johann choke on the bite of bread he had just taken.
“Id . . . idiot,” Johann gasped between coughs.
Both brothers pounded on Johann’s back. When he finally got his breath back, he snapped, “Enough!” He caught a grin on Heinrich’s face before the youngest brother could erase it. “Just wait until I find you coughing, Heinz. Two can play that game,” he said with an evil grin of his own, lifting a hand.
Heinrich edged around to the other side of Christoph, who immediately stepped out from between them. “Don’t try to hide behind me,” was all he said with a smirk.
The youngest brother lifted both hands, palms out, shoulder high. “I’ll be good,” he said with a solemn face and a motion of the cross.
“Right,” Johann snorted. “And if anyone believes that, I have a castle on the Rhine I’d like to sell them.” Christoph laughed at that, and even Heinrich reluctantly cracked a smile. “Now come on,” Johann continued. He turned, and headed down the graveled road that was Kristinstrasse, one of the major east/west avenues in Greater Magdeburg outside of the walls of the old city.
His brothers fell in beside him again. “So what are you doing today?” Christoph asked.
“Today we go check on the wind chest for the organ.”
“Ah, they’ve gotten that far with it, then?” Heinrich asked with interest.
“Yah,” Johann answered. “The building of it is basically complete, and they should be sealing the inside of it. That’s what I want to check on. If they make a mistake, it will be much easier to correct if we address it before the glue sets and cures.”
“Right,” Christoph said with a nod, echoed by Heinrich. Although neither of them were instrument makers in their own right, they both had observed craftsmen at work on violins and claviers, so they had some idea of how that kind of work was done.
“So,” Johann said, turning north on the ring road around the old city of Magdeburg, paralleling Der Grosse Graben, the moat around the Altstadt, the oldest part of the old city, and the walls around the Neustadt, the rest of the old city, “we shall see how well they are doing.”
It wasn’t long before Johann had led his brothers through the southwest gate of the Neustadt and into the west side of the construction site, where they found themselves watching the carpenters glue paper to the inside of the main wind chest. The wind chest had indeed been solidly built, but the cracks between the boards would allow for air to escape and weaken the pressure needed to make the pipes sound. So the carpenters had to seal the inside of the chest, and the manner in which they had chosen to do so was interesting to him. His brothers stood beside him, just as fascinated.
The little brazier under the carpenters’ glue pot kept the chamber rather warm. Johann had taken his jacket off not long after they had arrived and laid it atop the carpenters’ tool chest. His shirt-clad arms were crossed as he watched them.
It was a matter of some humor that both of the carpenters working on the organ were named Georg. It wasn’t the most common of names in Thuringia, after all. But Big Georg and Old Georg, as he thought of them, didn’t seem to have any trouble keeping straight who was talking to each of them, and they were good at their craft, so Johann just smiled from time to time when the thought crossed his mind.
At the moment, Big Georg was brushing glue from the pot onto the back of a large thick piece of paper. His strokes were smooth and steady, almost like it was a task he’d done a myriad of times, yet Johann knew that this was the first organ the man had worked on.
Big Georg put the brush back in the gluepot and placed the pot back on the brazier, careful not to spill a drop. He then lifted the piece of paper with care by two corners and passed it to his partner.
Old Georg applied it to the inside of the wind chest with equal care, overlapping with the piece he had just applied a few moments ago. He took up a brush and smoothed out the new application, then picked up a tool that was nothing more than a piece of thick leather folded over a brass blade and began smoothing the air bubbles out, pushing them toward the outside edge.
Johann’s gaze was very intent, following every practiced move. It startled him when Big Georg chuckled.
“You know, Master Bach, you really do not have to stand around and watch us like my old schoolmaster. We will do the job right.”
Johann looked over to see a wide grin on the big man’s face.
“Nah, not like a schoolmaster,” Old Georg’s voice echoed from inside the wind chest. “More like a first time father when his wife is in labor.” Johann could hear the humor in the older man’s voice, and he did not doubt a smile was also present.
“How do you mean?” Big Georg asked.
“Well, he knows he’s responsible for what is going on, and he wants to do something to make sure everything goes right, but he does not know what to do and is totally dependent on someone else who does not want or need his help to get it done.”
The two Georgs broke out into raucous laughter, and Johann could feel his lips curling up, however reluctantly. “Not being married, I cannot say from my own experience if you have the right of it, Georg,” he replied.
“Not married, are you?” Big Georg asked.
“Not yet. There was a girl in Erfurt, but . . .” Johann shrugged.
“You came to Magdeburg, and suddenly Erfurt does not look so grand, eh?”
Johann shrugged again, hearing muffled snorts from Christoph and Heinrich.
“Got your eye on a woman here?”
A vision of Staci’s face crossed his mind. “Perhaps.”
“I knew it.” Old Georg crawled out of the wind chest. “Side walls are done. Cap the brazier and set the pot to cool, Georg. We’ll pick up from there in the morning.” He straightened his slight frame and twisted his back, generating several loud pops. “Oog, I am getting too old to be crouched like that all day.” The older man took his hands, grasped his head and jerked it to each side, generating more pops.
“You knew what?” his partner demanded.
“He is looking for a city girl, a bürgemeister’s daughter, or maybe a younger daughter of one of the Niederadel. Or, even better—” Old Georg leered at Johann. “—he wants one of those uppity up-timer women. Am I right?”
Johann said nothing, just smiled.
“Hah! I thought so.” Old Georg slapped his knee. “You just be careful, Master Bach. Them up-timers can be a tricksy lot at times. Everyone knows that. You think things through with care before you tie yourself down with one of them.”
Johann picked his jacket up as the two Georgs lifted their tool chest to take it to the locked storage area. “I will take your advice to heart, Georg.”
“You do that,” the older man called over his shoulder as they maneuvered out the door.
Johann looked around. Solid progress being made at last. It had taken longer than he had hoped for the wind chamber to be built, but now that it was up and roofed the carpenters were making good speed. He bent over and peered into the wind chest. Another day, maybe, to finish lining the chest with paper, unless they decided there needed to be two layers. Two or three days past that to make sure the glue was cured, then the varnish would be applied. Once that dried, he could rest assured that there would be no air leaks from the inside of the chest.
He slung his jacket over his shoulder and walked through the shell of the building, his brothers following, feet following the safe paths with unconscious thought as he mused. An uppity up-timer woman, huh? Is that what he wanted? Hazel eyes above an impish grin floated before him, sparking a smile of his own. Yes, if he was going to be honest, that was what he wanted.
“An up-time woman?” Heinrich asked. “When do we get to meet her?”
Johann heard the glee in his brother’s voice, and groaned inside. He had really hoped to keep Staci a secret for a bit longer, but it looked like he’d let his own secret slip.
“Today is . . .” Johann began, then paused.
“Wednesday,” Christoph said with a grin. “What of it?”
“I may be able to introduce you tonight, then,” Johann said.
“What’s her name?” Heinrich insisted.
Half an hour later, the three Bachs were standing against the back wall of Master Philip Luder’s forge space, watching the master and his assistant work. The two men transferred a crucible full of molten tin from the forge to the pouring table with great care. There was no doubt in his mind that the crucible and its carrying rods were weighty, and that the molten ore contained within the crucible added to the load. But there was also no doubt in his mind that the reason for their slow steps and gentle handling had nothing to do with the weight. No, he could see the heat waves above the mouth of the crucible, making wavy lines through which he could not see with clarity. The thought of what that molten metal could do if it spilled or splashed on a man’s flesh caused his groin to shrivel and his stomach to attempt to climb up his throat. Despite the fact that he was well away from them, he still slid down the wall another step or two, pushing Christoph and Heinrich along as he did so.
The whitesmith and his journeyman came to the pouring table and positioned themselves with care at the head of it. They lifted the crucible so that the lip of it rested on the edge of the trough mounted on top of the table rim.
“Gently, gently,” Master Luder breathed. “On the count of three . . . One, two, three, pour.”
They tilted the crucible until the molten silvery-gray tin slowly poured out in a steady wave into the trough. Higher and higher the crucible tilted, until the pour slowed and the last few drops of it fell into the trough, making ripples in the molten metal.
“Quickly now,” the master snapped. They set the crucible down on the stone floor with alacrity, then took positions on each side of the trough. “Ready?”
“Jah.” The journeyman was focused on the trough, having grasped a handle on his side of it with both his gloved hands.
“Again on three. One, two, three, pull.”
Johann saw Master Luder trip a latch as he said “Pull,” and the molten tin sluiced out the bottom of the trough as they pulled it on the raised rim down the length of the table. The last drops spilled out as they reached the end of the table.
The two smiths straightened and took off their heavy leather gloves. Master Luder walked the length of the table, peering at the shining sheet of tin. At the head of the table, he turned to Johann.
“It is a good pour,” he declared, reaching up to take off his scarred leather apron. “That is the first of the English tin. I had to try it myself to see how it would melt and pour. Very few impurities in it, and I was able to skim most of them right off the top. So, somewhat cleaner than the locally produced tin, but also somewhat more expensive. I will do a pour of the local tin and compare them, then you and I will talk. The English tin is more costly, of course, and if there is little benefit to the cost increase, you may need to rethink your requirement. Either way, I will likely contract with other whitesmiths to make the sheet tin like this, and I will concentrate on making the pipes for you.”
“Very good,” Johann said. He stepped closer to the table and gazed at the shimmering metal through the heat waves. “I trust that we will start seeing pipes soon.”
Master Luder shrugged. “As soon as this cools and I can start working it. First pipes in a week, first tunable pipes the week after that.”
Johann calculated in his mind. “That will do for a start. But you may have to work with other smiths to make the pipes as well. Three thousand pipes is a lot for you and your workers to make by yourselves.”
Master Luder shrugged again. “We will cross that ford when we come to it.”
Johann said nothing, but observed to himself that the crossing of that ford would not be far off—not if he had anything to say about it—and he did. Still, this was a good beginning. “My thanks, Master Philip. Shall we go to The Green Horse and celebrate this auspicious beginning?”
“Nah,” the whitesmith replied with a smile. “I have much to do yet before this day’s light is done.” He held up a hand with a raised index finger. “However, the day that you pass the first completed pipe, then we will all go to The Green Horse!” He waved his hand broadly to include both his journeyman and the two younger Bach brothers. The journeyman nodded his head with a vigor that matched Heinrich’s echoing nod.
“As you will,” Johann replied with an answering smile. “Until then.”
Johann was still smiling when he stepped out into the evening light. He had carried his jacket from the construction site, and had left it off in the warmth of the forge. Now, for all that it had been a sunny spring day earlier, clouds were covering the sun now and the air outside was cool, so he shook the jacket out to put it on, shrugging his shoulders to get it to settle.
“Herr Bach!” someone called out. “Johann!”
Johann looked around to see Marla Linder waving at him from where she stood with her husband, Franz Sylwester. He started to cross the street to where she was, only to have Christoph grab his collar and yank him back just as a large pair of horses moved into the space he’d been about to step into, pulling a rather large and laden wagon behind them.
The wagon driver looked down at him. “You . . .” The rest of the driver’s monologue established a masterful command of profanity, scatology, and blasphemy as he assessed Johann’s intelligence, likelihood of siring children, legitimacy, general maleness, and prospects of making any significant contributions to the German people or to the human race in general, all in a few short pithy sentences that trailed away as the wagon trundled on.
“You might want to watch where you’re about to step,” Christoph said, voice slightly strained. Johann wasn’t sure if that was from concern at almost seeing his elder brother stepped on or run over, or from suppressed laughter at the same cause.
Johann looked to his younger brother, where he observed widened eyes and lips moving soundlessly as he stared after the wagon. He was undoubtedly trying to memorize parts of what he’d heard. Johann shook his head.
“Come on.” After a moment, Johann started forward again, this time carefully looking both ways. He suspected he would hear about this again.
Marla grinned at Johann as he and his brothers joined her and Franz on their side of the street. “Got to watch where you’re going, man.”
“Indeed,” Johann admitted with a bit of a sour grin of his own. Christoph nudged him. “Ah, these are my brothers, Christoph and Heinrich.” They each nodded as their names were called. “These are Franz Sylwester, dirigent of the Magdeburg Symphony Orchestra, and Marla Linder, leading treble singer of Magdeburg, superb musician and master of the piano, and one of the leading lights of Magdeburg’s music establishment.”
The two young men bowed, receiving nods in reply from Marla and Franz.
“Nice to meet you, boys,” Marla said. She looked at Johann with another grin. “You going to put them to work?”
“They’re going to help with the organ project, yes.”
“Good. I suspect you’re going to need the help.”
“We’re going to be at the Green Horse tonight,” Marla continued. “You planning on being there? Staci said she was going to come.” Marla’s grin reappeared, this time with an edge of humor to it.
“Ah, yes,” Johann said, not missing the glances his brothers gave each other.
“Good. We’ll see you then.” Marla slipped her hand around Franz’s arm. “Meanwhile, we’ve got to run to Zopff and Sons printers and get some more staff paper. See you tonight. And nice to meet you, Christoph, Heinrich.”
And with that, the two of them turned and moved off.
“Is she the one?” Heinrich asked.
“No,” Johann said in a quelling tone.
“She is that good a musician?” Christoph asked, watching them leave.
“Frau Marla, as she insists everyone call her, may be the best musician in the city,” Johann responded. “And Herr Franz is not far behind her.”
“Up-timer, I assume from her accent,” Heinrich said. Johann just nodded in response. “He said nothing. Is he up-timer as well? Does he hide behind her?”
That jarred a laugh out of Johann. “By no means. Franz is one of us. He is no weakling. He is as strong-willed as she—he had to be, to win her—but he is somewhat quieter, so that he sometimes seems to be the shadow to her sunshine. Let him stand at the head of the orchestra, though, and you will see him in all his strength.”
“We will talk about that later,” Johann said.
“Staci,” Heinrich murmured with an evil grin.
Johann sighed. “Fräulein Anastasia Matowski,” he said reluctantly.
“I thought you said she was an up-timer. Is she Polish?” Christoph wrinkled his forehead. “Russian?”
“Up-timer,” Johann said, gritting his teeth. “And the up-timers use Fräulein as a common form of address for any unmarried woman, so do not be thinking she’s a child of rank or anything.”
“So is she a musician, too?” Heinrich asked, his grin broadening.
“No, not like Frau Marla. She’s a teacher. And that’s all I’m going to say for now. Now come on, we need to go talk to Herr Jere Haygood.”