Letters From Gronow, Episode 1

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Magdeburg

From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

16 October 1634

Monday

Breakfast/lunch–

2 barley rolls 1 pfennig

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig

Supper–

1 wurst 1 pfennig

2 mugs beer 1 pfennig

Did the cash entries in Master Gröning’s accounts today, then reviewed Saturday’s entries. Found two errors in Thomas’s work and took them to Herr Schiller. He boxed Thomas’s ears, then made him recopy the entire page, watching over his shoulder the entire time. Later Thomas tried to stab me with his pen, but the quill nib barely scratched me before the quill broke. Herr Schiller gave him his hand for that as well, and would not give him a good right wing quill to replace it but forced him to take one of the left wing quills. Serves him right.

After work and before supper I slipped into Syborg’s Book Store to dream. There on the table with the oldest hardest-used books was one I hadn’t seen before, larger than the others, but thinner, wrapped in heavy paper rather than boards or leather. My hands were cleaner than usual, so I picked it up.

LfG1cskThe cover was a block print of a great black cat, and I almost dropped it, but the title was Der Schwarze Kater – Eine Zeitschrift. I opened the cover to discover that this book contained several poems and prose stories. I turned the page, and began reading a work called The Cask of Amontillado.

Nine pages later, I closed the book, wide-eyed. This story had gripped me as nothing had before. I must have this book.

Evening prayers recited, so now to bed.

****

From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

17 October 1634

Tuesday

Breakfast–

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

Supper–

1 barley roll (old) 1 quartered pfennig

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig

Dreams last night were strange.

Checked incoming bills of lading against contracts all day, found one error. Gave to Herr Schiller. He double-checked, and gave me a pfennig as a reward along with today’s pay.

Thomas looked hungover. Tried to stay out of his way.

After work, ran to Syborg’s Book Store. Der Schwarze Kater was still there. I pulled it out and laid it flat atop the other books on the table and looked around. The Herren Syborg Elder and Younger were not present, but Georg their clerk was, and he came to the table when he saw my lifted hand. When I asked him how much for the book, he picked it up and looked around. “Herr Matthias took this on as a trial, and they sold very quickly. People want more, except for the old woman who brought this one back claiming it was filled with demonic filth and we should be ashamed of selling it in the same shop with Augustine and Melanchthon and Calvin. Herr Johann told me to get whatever I can for it since the old lady tore some of the pages. So, what can you do?”

I took two pfennigs out of my pocket and held them out to him. He shook his head. I added another pfennig. He shook his head. I added the last coin in my pocket, a quartered pfennig. He shook his head, but this time with a smile and held his hand out. I poured the coins into his hand, picked up the book and hurried back to my room.

Began the next story, The Dunwich Horror. Sadly, have not finished but cannot keep eyes open. Besides, candle is guttering.

Stumbled through prayers. Bed.

****

From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

18 October 1634

Wednesday

Supper–

1 barley roll (very old) 1 quartered pfennig

1 winter apple 1 pfennig

Dreams last night were very strange.

Spent most of the day drawing columns on pages for Herr Schiller. Hate that. Wish Master Gröning would buy the new-fangled preprinted forms the up-timers made so useful. Old miser.

Thomas hungover again today. Wasn’t in a mood to deal with him today, so when he snarled at me I told him to leave me alone or I’d kick him in the stomach. He wrapped his arms around his middle and groaned. Never seen anybody turn green before. Almost laughed.

Took today’s pay in candle stubs. Herr Schiller looked surprised, but said nothing.

Finished The Dunwich Horror tonight. Think I finally understand what the up-time word wow means.

Evening prayers recited—twice. Now to bed.

****

From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

21 October 1634

Saturday

Breakfast/lunch–

2 barley rolls 1 pfennig

Supper–

1 wurst 1 pfennig

Woke up several times last night from dreams.

Finished Der Schwarze Kater tonight. Started over at beginning.

On last page of book, Herr Johann Gronow, the editor—whatever that is—says that Der Schwarze Kater is looking for people to write stories.

I know what I want to do now.

What’s an editor? Must find out.

Recited evening prayers—three times. Now to bed.

****

From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

22 October 1634

Sunday

Breakfast–

fasted

Lunch–

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig

Supper–

1 wurst 1 pfennig

1 cup sauerkraut 1 pfennig

2 mugs beer 1 pfennig

Lord’s Day, Lord’s work.

No dreams last night.

Church this morning. St. Jacob’s had more people in the nave than the last few weeks. More people made it a little warmer, which was good.

Music was as bad as usual. Sang anyway. I like the old songs.

Sermon was better than usual. No one fell asleep, although old man Schicklegruber was breathing so loud he might have been snoring while standing.

Broke my fast after church. Spent the afternoon reading The City of God. St. Augustine is hard to understand, and my Latin is not as good as it should be, but I’ll keep trying.

Was supposed to meet Cousin Johann at The Green Horse tonight, but he didn’t come, so spent the evening meditating on St. Augustine.

A productive holy day.

Recited evening prayers, so now to bed.

****

From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

23 October 1634

Monday

Breakfast/lunch–

2 barley rolls 1 pfennig

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig

Supper–

1 wurst 1 pfennig

1 mug beer 2 quartered pfennigs

No dreams last night—that I remember, anyway.

Did Master Gröning’s cash entries. Not very many this time. Hope that doesn’t mean Master G will be running out of money.

Reviewed Saturday’s entries. Found three errors in Thomas’ work. Herr Schiller was not happy. Unfortunately, found an error in my work as well. Herr Schiller even unhappier. Should have shown him mine first, I think. Had to recopy my whole page. Thomas had to recopy two pages, but he still laughed at me. Miserable son of a spavined donkey and an ugly sow.

LfG1pAfter work, went to Syborg’s Books. Herr Syborg the Younger—Herr Johann, that is—talked to me about Der Schwarze Kater. He says this is supposed to be modeled after an up-time thing called a magazine. Another case where the up-timers appear to take a perfectly good word and make it mean something very different from its usual meaning. An up-timer magazine is not a storehouse, but is something like a book that is published periodically, and they sometimes have a common theme or element. Herr Johann says Der Schwarze Kater will print stories by two up-timer writers, Herr Poe and Herr Lovecraft, and maybe others who would write the same kind of stories.

I asked Herr Johann what an editor was. He says that is the person who puts together the different stories to make the magazine. Which explains why the book says to send new stories to Herr Gronow, the editor.

Came home. Finished rereading The Dunwich Horror.

Recited evening prayers. Told God I want to be a writer. Asked Him to make that happen. And now to bed.

****

From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

26 October 1634

Thursday

Breakfast/lunch–

2 barley rolls 1 pfennig

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig

Supper–

1 cup cabbage soup, 1 wheat roll 4 pfennigs

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig

Don’t remember dreams from last night, but awoke tired.

Thomas was discharged today. Herr Schiller caught him taking a swig from the wine bottle we’re not supposed to know that Herr Schiller keeps hidden in his desk drawer. When Herr Schiller shouted at him, Thomas dropped the bottle and it broke. Herr Schiller chased him around the office four times swinging Master Gröning’s old walking stick at him. I ducked under my table. Thomas yelped every time the stick hit him, and he finally tried for the door. He couldn’t get the door handle to turn, and Herr Schiller caught him by the collar just as the door began to open. After giving Thomas several licks with the stick on his back and butt, all the while yelling that he was a thief, Herr Schiller threw wide the door and kicked him down the steps, shouting that Thomas should never show his face here again just before he slammed the door. By that point I had mopped up what little wine was left and was sweeping the glass up. Herr Schiller said nothing, just closed the drawer on his desk and climbed back up on his stool. Put the pieces of glass in a box, got back up on my own stool, and drew forms the rest of the day.

Herr Schiller gave me an extra pfennig with today’s pay. Not sure why, but he still looked angry, so I didn’t ask questions.

Stopped at Syborg’s Book Store. Herr Matthias himself made time to speak with me—but only because we were the only ones in the store. He asked me what I was reading. I told him The City of God. He looked a little surprised and asked me how I was doing with that. Told him it was hard, that I wasn’t at all sure I was understanding it. He smiled, leaned closer, and whispered that he hadn’t finished reading it either, and I should just keep slogging away at it.

Made so bold as to tell Herr Matthias that I really like Der Schwarze Kater, and asked if there was anything else like it. He said, no, not exactly like it, although there were a couple of people trying to produce what the up-timers call “science fiction”. Then he told me something that drove all other thoughts out of my head.

There will be a new volume of Der Schwarze Kater available next week! With newly translated stories by Herren Poe and Lovecraft!

Don’t recall much after that. Hope I was polite when I left. I really don’t remember. Don’t remember walking back to my room.. I just remember sort of waking up, sitting on my bed, holding a newsletter talking about Der Schwarze Kater. It’s all wonderful until I see the price—two dollars.

I may be skipping some more meals.

Took three tries to recite evening prayers. Now to bed, and sleep—I hope.

****

From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

30 October 1634

Monday

Breakfast–

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig

Supper–

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig

Herr Schiller brought a new boy into the office this morning. His name is Martin Niemoller. He’s younger than I am, smaller, and very skinny. He doesn’t talk much, either.

First thing I showed him how to do is draw forms. His first few lines weren’t very straight, but he finally got the knack of it.

Reviewed the entries from late last week, found two errors in Thomas’ last work. Showed them to Herr Schiller. He took a deep breath, and muttered “Good riddance!” Then he took his own pen knife and scraped off the ink of those entries and rewrote them himself. We’re not allowed to do that, but I guess Master Gröning lets Herr Schiller.

Stopped at Syborg’s Book Store after work. No, Der Schwarze Kater’s new volume is not available yet.

Very unhappy and angry. After I got back to my room, decided that the anger was wrong. Made myself read an extra page from The City of God as penance.

Re-read The Cask of Amontillado to provide a sop for my hunger for the new volume.

Recited evening prayers. Then recited again to calm myself further. And now to bed.

****

From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

1 November 1634

Wednesday

Breakfast–

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

Supper–

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig

No dreams last night.

Hungry, but saving pfennigs.

Martin asked me today if I read any. Told him yes. When he asked what I read, I told him The City of God. He said that was good. Then I told him about Der Schwarze Kater. He frowned and said that sounded demonic, or pagan at best. He spent the rest of the day drawing forms while humming hymns loudly—and badly.

Stopped at Syborg’s Book Store after work. No, Der Schwarze Kater’s new volume is not available yet.

Made myself read Leviticus Chapter 23 to draw down my frustration.

Recited evening prayers. And so to bed.

****

From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

2 November 1634

Thursday

Breakfast–

1 barley roll (old) 1 quartered pfennig

Supper–

1 barley roll (very old) 1 quartered pfennig

Dreamt I was being bricked into a room that I had been tricked into entering because I was told the new volume of Der Schwarze Kater was there. Had it in my hand when I awoke and discovered that it was a dream. Said several words I shouldn’t have.

Herr Schiller had me doing cash entries all day. Guess they were late in arriving or something.  More than usual, too, which I guess is good. If Master Gröning has cash, he’ll be able to keep paying me.

Tired after work. Wanted to just come back to my room, but made myself go by Syborg’s Book Store. All of them were there when I walked in—Herr Matthias, Herr Johann, and Georg. Georg waved me over as soon as I came in. He had a big grin on his face, and he pulled something out from underneath the counter and put in my hands a copy of the new volume of Der Schwarze Kater. I started shaking.

“That’s our last copy,” he said. “Hope you’ve got the two dollars.”

Very excited, told him I’d be right back with the money. He kind of frowned, said something about he didn’t know, there were other people who wanted it. Herr Matthias heard him and came over, told him to quit tormenting me, told me to go get my money and it would be here when I got back.

Ran back to the room as fast as I could. Dodged around walkers, under wagons, over crates and barrels, leapt over a donkey, tripped over a cane, rolled, and came up running. Heard some yelling behind me, kept going. Made it to my rooming house with no further mishaps and tore up the stairs to my room. Pried up the loose floorboard and pulled out my coin sack, ran back downstairs and back to Syborg’s, if not quite as fast. Was panting heavily when I got there.

LfG1hsshrCounted out two dollars’ worth of pfennigs on the counter. Herr Matthias himself handed me my new volume of Der Schwarze Kater. Hurried home, not quite as recklessly as before. Didn’t want to drop it. Lit a candle stub, began reading The Fall of the House of Usher.

Candle is dying, can’t keep eyes open, want to finish story, but can’t. So frustrated almost weeping.

Stumbled through evening prayers. Bed.

****

From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

3 November 1634

Friday

Breakfast/lunch–

2 barley rolls 1 pfennig

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig

Supper–

1 cup cabbage soup 2 pfennigs

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig

Exhausted this morning. Don’t remember dreams, but must have had some, because I was so tired. Felt hungover, but wasn’t drunk.

Head hurt all day. Wish I had some of Dr. Gribbleflotz’s little blue pills.

Martin was humming hymns again today. Badly. Finally told him that if he couldn’t do a tune better than that in public, he should be silent, as hymns were supposed to be a praise to God, and what he was doing was an insult. He looked at me shocked and almost on verge of tears, I think, but he shut up. Herr Schiller frowned at me, but said nothing. It was worth it, because it was quiet the rest of the day.

Didn’t visit the bookstore after work. Just ate supper and went home. Felt better after the soup.

LfG1lFinished The Fall of the House of Usher by Herr Poe. Herr Lovecraft’s story is The Doom That Came to Sarnath. Forced myself to not read it tonight so I can make the magazine last longer.

Recited evening prayers. Decided I was rude to Martin. Will apologize. Recited evening prayers again.

Now to bed.

****

From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

5 November 1634

Sunday

Breakfast–

fasted

Lunch–

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig

Supper–

1 wurst 1 pfennig

2 mugs beer 1 pfennig

Lord’s Day, Lord’s work.

Muddled dreams last night. Woke up twice.

Church this morning. St. Jacob’s had fewer people in the nave. Gossip is that some people have been sick, rumors of plague were whispered about, even though it’s winter.

Music was even worse than usual. Sang anyway.

Sermon was no better than usual. No one fell asleep, but suspect that may be because with fewer people, the nave was colder than usual. Old man Schicklegruber wasn’t there, so it was a bit quieter.

Broke my fast after church. Spent the afternoon reading more of The City of God and thinking about it. St. Augustine is still hard to understand.

Did meet Cousin Johann at The Green Horse tonight, and he explained one of my problems with St. Augustine, but told me he would have to think about the other one.

Even so, a productive holy day.

Recited evening prayers, and now to bed.

****

From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

6 November 1634

Monday

Breakfast–

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

Supper–

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 winter apple 1 pfennig

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig

I apologized to Martin Niemoller for being rude to him last week. Then I told him he still needed to learn his hymns better, as it’s disrespectful to God to sing them badly. He tried to tell me that he’s doing the best he can. I told him he needs to learn better, but not here. It’s distracting.

Herr Schiller commended me for apologizing, then told Martin I was right, and set him to work drawing more forms. He is getting the lines straighter than he was.

Reviewed the entries from late last week, found no errors. Pleasant surprise after following behind Thomas for so long. Showed the pages to Herr Schiller. He looked somewhat glad. He said Master Gröning would be pleased.

Have an idea for a story! It came to me while I was looking at the entries, and almost distracted me from the work.

Was so involved in thinking about the story idea this evening, didn’t even read any of the new Der Schwarze Kater. Was surprised when I noticed that.

Eventually recited evening prayers. Then recited again to calm myself more. Now to bed.

****

From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

11 November 1634

Saturday

Breakfast–

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig

Supper–

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig

Master Gröning only hires us for a half day on Saturdays. Old miser. But he still expects near a full day’s ledger entries from us.

Today I was glad to leave after noon, as it gave me a chance to run to my room and work on my story. And I finished it.

That felt good. That felt really good. I was almost dancing in the room when I got done.

After a little while, I picked it up and read it. I like it.

So, I will fold it up and put the address on it and take it to Herr Gronow’s offices and submit it.

~~~

Back. Found Herr Gronow’s office in the building where the magazine said it would be. The door was closed and locked, which did not surprise me, but there is a slot cut in the door with a sign above it that says “Submissions”, so after a moment I dropped the story through the slot. And as soon as I let go of it I wanted to take it back, but my hand wouldn’t reach through the slot far enough to pick it up where it fell. So I leaned against the door and prayed about it.

Ate supper on the way home.

When I returned to my room I treated myself to The Doom That Came to Sarnath. Very fine.

Still I worry about my story.

Recited evening prayers. Now to bed.

****

From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

15 November 1634

Wednesday

Breakfast–

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig

Supper–

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

No dreams last night.

Today a messenger stepped inside the office. Herr Schiller held out his hand, but the messenger stood and said, “This here message is for nobody but Herr Philip Fröhlich.”

Herr Schiller frowned, but pointed at me, and the messenger stepped over to hand me an envelope before he ducked his head in a bow—to me!—and turned and left.

“If that is not part of the business of Master Gröning, you will leave it alone until your day is done,” Herr Schiller said. His face looked like he was tasting something sour. I stuffed it inside my shirt, and didn’t open it until I got back to my room.

****

14 November 1634

Herr Philip Fröhlich

I have received what appears to be a story submission to Der Schwarze Kater magazine with your name and contact address on the outside. Unfortunately, at this time I cannot publish your story, mostly because I cannot read the blasted thing.

First, I do understand if you are not able to afford one of the new Goldfarb und Meier typewriting machines. You will notice that, as much as I personally lust after one, this response is written with pen and ink. You will also notice that my letter is perfectly legible, with well-formed characters inked on the page. Sadly, your story was not. Pencil written on cheap tan paper does not make for a readable page, and the smudges and attempted erasures simply make it illegible.

Second, your handwriting, from what I could detect of it, is execrable. Your school teacher would be chastised if I knew who he was.

Third, it is simply not permitted to spell the same word three different ways on one page. I suggest you pay attention to the Bible as translated by Martin Luther. However he spelled a word is how it should be spelled in writing.

I hesitate to say this, but if you can find a way to improve the presentation of your story, whose title I cannot decipher, you may resubmit it.

Good day to you.

Johann Gronow

Editor and Publisher

Der Schwarze Kater

 

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About David Carrico

David 2013-03-03 smallDavid Carrico made his first professional SF sale to The Grantville Gazette e-magazine in 2004. His stories have also appeared in the Grantville Gazette and Ring of Fire anthologies from Baen Books and in Jim Baen’s Universe e-magazine. Baen Books have published a story collection by David entitled 1635: Music and Murder, and two novels written in collaboration with Eric Flint: 1636: The Devil’s Opera and The Span of Empire. David is currently working on a solo project.

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