A Season of Change

Grantville, July 1633

 

Stephan Greiner was but a poorly paid and barely acknowledged cog in the machine that was the Schmucker and Schwentzel print shop. He wasn't a printer. He was a sales rep, and his job was to sell printing services and books. He was paid a basic retainer plus a commission on anything he sold. Unfortunately, printing was a very competitive business, especially in Grantville, where the guilds didn't hold sway, which explained why he was poorly paid. He wasn't married, but given his financial position that wasn't unusual. However, he did have a young woman with whom he had hopes, however faint, of marrying. Anna Margaretha Gall was five years his junior, and she was an employee at Grantville Canvas and Outdoor—one of Stephan's best customers.

He walked out of yet another store in Grantville with only a few orders for books. Where would he be without the Grantville Genealogy Club's Who's Who of Grantville Up-timers? It was the print shop's most successful publication, already into its second print run, with a third being planned. The commission on his latest orders would more than double his week's income. He screwed up his nose at the thought. The shops were placing orders for the new releases, and it would be a month before the next set of new releases. What was needed was something to catch the imagination of the buying public. Something that would have them going to the book shops in droves to buy books in numbers that would pay him enough to marry. Of course, part of the problem was the price of books. The Who's Who sold for five hundred and seventy-five dollars, unbound, and the cheapest books they were printing, reprints of up-time novels, retailed for twenty dollars. The stumbling block was the price of paper, and it wasn't getting any cheaper.

Stephan wandered over to the outdoor tables of the café and slumped into a chair. A quick perusal of the menu confirmed that prices had gone up again. Not that he'd ever really been able to afford to drink coffee, even without sugar.

"Can I help you, sir?"

"Herbal tea and a roll please," he told the waitress.

With his order placed, Stephan started to bring his order book up to date. It didn't take long, nor did it make for particularly good reading.

"The new paper isn't as good as rag, but at the price they're asking, the boss doesn't care."

Stephan had been contemplating the low probability of a life with Anna when he overheard that comment. He hadn't meant to listen, but he'd been aware of the group since they ordered coffee with their rolls. Now he was all ears as he struggled to hear the conversation going on behind his back. Then he caught the price the man's boss was paying, and he couldn't control his curiosity any longer. He turned around to look at the people sitting behind him. He didn't recognize either of them, but they looked like down-timers. 

"Excuse me, but I couldn't help overhearing you. Are you really are able to buy paper suitable for printing that cheaply?"

The man who'd had his back to Stephan turned to face him. "Who wants to know?" Daniel Krausold asked.

With a practiced flick of his hand Stephan presented the man with his business card. "Stephan Greiner, Schmucker and Schwentzel Print Shop."

Daniel looked up from the business card. "I'm Daniel Krausold, the Grantville Times, my friend is Christoph Heinz."

"The Spirits of Hartshorn Facility," Christoph said, naming the Gribbleflotz Laboratories ammonia production facility in WVCo.

Even before he knew what he was doing Stephan sniffed the air, raising a wry grin from Christoph. "I'm with packing and dispatch."

Stephan smiled an apology, even if he was sure he was catching a whiff of Spirit of Hartshorn, before turning his attention back to Daniel. "Where are you getting paper that cheaply? Or is that a trade secret?"

Daniel shook his head. "No. A couple of days ago Gottfried Spengler had an open day for all the newspapers where he demonstrated his new mill and handed out samples. The boss went and was really impressed. He was even more impressed when he found it took print at least as well as rag newsprint."

This was all very interesting, but Stephan hadn't got to the ripe age of thirty without being aware that there was always a catch. He asked for the catch to the cheap paper.

"It'll age badly, but as the boss said, who cares if their newspaper changes color after six weeks?"

"Do people keep newspapers that long?" Stephan asked.

"Of course not. That's why the boss has already placed orders for the new paper."

Stephan thanked his new friends for the information, and turned back to finish his tea and roll. What a difference a few minutes could make. He suddenly felt a lot better and fully intended stopping in to see Anna, just as soon as he had spoken to someone at the Grantville Times.

****

A few days later Stephan walked into the lioness' den with some trepidation. He could have gone to see Johann Schmucker or Friedrich Schwentzel, the two journeymen printers who'd started the print shop that bore their names, but at some stage he would still have had to present his idea to Frau Fröbel, the real driving force behind the success of the business. This way he only had to persuade one person of his idea and not three.

"Frau Fröbel, I have an idea I'd like to discuss with you," he said from the doorway.

"Well, don't just stand there, come in and tell about me this idea you have," Ursula Fröbel said.

Stephan entered and sat on the chair she pointed him to.

"Well?" Ursula prompted.

Stephan emptied the contents of his briefcase onto her desk before sliding a copy of the Grantville Times across to her.

Ursula picked it up, glanced at it, and then turned her eyes onto Stephan. "What am I supposed to be looking at?"

"That copy of The Grantville Times was printed on new paper that is much cheaper than the cost of the old newsprint." Stephan stopped there because he could see he'd plainly lost his audience. Not that he was worried. He had confidence in Ursula Fröbel's intelligence, and given the way she was gently fingering the paper the newspaper was printed on, he was sure she was seeing what he'd seen.

"Why haven't I heard about this new paper?" Ursula demanded.

Stephan shrugged. "I don't know, I'm in sales, not purchasing. But, it might be because Herr Spengler didn't think we'd be interested in his new newsprint."

"Spengler? Do you mean Gottfried Spengler, the man who used to run Heinrich Merkel's mill?"

"That's the name I was given, but I was also given to believe he was running his own mill."

Ursula nodded. "That's right. He's got that new mill on the road to Saalfeld. So, he's producing cheap newsprint? I wouldn't have expected that of him. He was always proud of the quality of the paper he made. So, if it's that much cheaper, what's the catch?"

"The paper is made from wood fibers and it turns a dirty yellow-brown color after six weeks or so."

Again Ursula nodded. "I think I understand why Gottfried might not have thought of us. Nobody is interested in news that is six weeks old. Of course, we do print broadsheets, and they could benefit from the cheaper paper. I shall have to have words with that young man."

Stephan had completely forgotten about broadsheets, and even about advertising flyers. Neither of which would provide him with much in the way of commission. No, what he'd been thinking of was books. His commission on them was much bigger. "I was thinking that maybe we could offer a line of very cheap books."

"Pulp fiction?" Ursula suggested. "Yes. I'm sure we could try some of our less popular titles in that format."

Pulp fiction was an up-time term used for a certain kind of cheap novel. They were easy reading, cheap, and had sold in enormous numbers up-time. "I was thinking we might also offer such publications as the Who's Who in the cheaper format."

They both paused for a few seconds to silently honor the Grantville Genealogy Club's Who's Who of Grantville Up-timers before Ursula voiced an objection. "We'd be cannibalizing our own market," Ursula said.

Stephan shook his head. "I don't think so. The fine edition printed on high quality rag paper is a prestige item that will always have a market, but its high price limits the size of the market. If we were to offer a cheaper edition, like the up-timers did with their hard-cover and paperback editions, we'd be covering both markets." He looked at Ursula expectantly.

She had gone from shaking her head to chewing her lip. That was always a good sign. It meant that she might progress to nodding her head. "We might lose some sales of the quality edition, but it is possible that a lot of people who wouldn't otherwise be able to afford the Who's Who might buy it."

Stephan decided to hit her with his greatest fear. "And, Frau Fröbel, if we don't make an edition available in a cheaper format, someone else might."

Stephan pretended he didn't hear the expletives Ursula muttered. Book piracy was a problem the up-timers still hadn't managed to stop. There were some copyright laws, but they always stopped at the border, and you couldn't stop someone across the border selling his pirated copies of your book to your customers via one of the multitude of mail-order catalogs that were springing up.

"Do you have any more good news?" she asked.

"This." He offered her a small sample of cardboard that had been sent round just that morning.

Ursula prodded and bent the cardboard before dropping it onto her desk. "And why is the person who is in sales, not purchasing, showing me a piece of corrugated cardboard?"

"I called in to see Herr Blume about a new design for his invoices and he showed me the new cardboard he was planning on making. He asked if I thought Schmucker and Schwentzel might be interested."

"And what did you tell him?"

"I promised to show it to you if he sent some samples." Stephan didn't have to say that if Schmucker and Schwentzel decided to buy the new cardboard that he would receive a present from Herr Blume. Such an arrangement was expected.

"And why should we buy it?"

"We are currently using cardboard products made from recycled rag paper. That," he pointed to the sample, "is made from the new newsprint. Herr Blume plans to start commercial production using recycled newsprint when it becomes available in sufficient volumes." The smile that blossomed on Frau Fröbel's face was encouraging. "Naturally, it will be a lot cheaper than the rag-based cardboard."

"As much of a difference as the pulp paper?" Ursula asked.

"I'm sorry, but not quite that cheap."

"Wolfgang is not going to be pleased if we stop buying from his supplier."

Stephan returned Frau Fröbel's smile. Wolfgang Diller was the print shop's purchasing officer, and no doubt he was receiving a present for every purchase from the current cardboard supplier. "But Herr Blume's cardboard will be significantly cheaper," he replied innocently.

"You're a bad boy, Stephan. Get back to work while I think about this new paper and cardboard."

 

September

 

When Stephan first started working for Schmucker and Schwentzel two years ago, Grantville Canvas and Outdoor had operated out of the basement of Tracy Kubiak's house on Mahan Run. Recently, much to the benefit of his poor legs, they had set up a new manufacturing facility in the industrial zone just outside the Ring Wall. He wasn't sure why they moved, but he certainly approved, as the new facility was on the regular tram route and he no longer had to make the three-mile hike along the road, or the shorter, but more strenuous route over the hills to get to the workshop.

He walked in to find Frau Kubiak's adopted down-time daughter bashing a pair of shoes against her desk. He stood watching silently as he tried to work out what she was doing.

An extra dozen or so blows later Richelle Kubiak finally realized Stephan was watching. "Pointe shoes. I'm conditioning them," she explained as she tried flexing the dainty little shoes.

Stephan actually knew what she was talking about. Schmucker and Schwentzel printed the programs for the Grantville Ballet Company's regular public performances in the Middle School's theater and as a token of appreciation for the low price the shop charged for the work, they were provided with free tickets to performances, which, as Anna liked to see the ballet, Stephan didn't pass on to anybody else. "Is Frau Kubiak about?"

"Mom's in the workshop. The heavy-duty overlocker has been acting up."

Stephan had fond memories of the heavy-duty overlocker. It was the machine Anna had been operating when they first met. "I'm sure Frau Kubiak will soon beat it into submission."

Richelle giggled at his joke. "You know the way. Just remember to grab a coat and ear protectors."

"Thank you." The coat was a simple blue hemp jacket that covered his clothes. He wasn't sure if he had to wear it to protect his clothes from the fluff and threads floating around the workshop, or to protect the fabrics being worked on from contamination from the outside world. The ear protectors were, he knew, almost essential, as some of the newer machines in the workroom were quite loud.

He could have found Frau Kubiak sooner, but he stopped to say hello to Anna first and make arrangements to meet later. When he arrived at the industrial standard overlocker, Frau Kubiak was in the final stages of reassembling it. She was smiling, which suggested the problem had been fixed. That was always good, because a client in a good mood was always easier to deal with.

"Hi, Stephan. Do you want to follow me into the office?" she said as she wiped her hands clean on some paper off-cuts. She gave instructions to the operator of the overlocker before leading Stephan to her office.

Tracy placed several pages on her desk and pushed them across to Stephan. "Those are what we want to show in the next catalog."

Stephan looked at the line pictures. "Do you want them produced exactly like that, or can Fabian put them on bodies?"

"How much more is that likely to cost?"

"The new technique he's been working on is actually cheaper than the old method, Frau Kubiak. And it encourages free drawing."

"Cheaper? Then it must be one of the few things getting cheaper in Grantville. Okay, you can let Fabian loose."

Fabian Schlitte was Schmucker and Schwentzel's seventeen-year-old engraver. The biggest thing about him was his ego, but even Frau Fröbel was willing to forgive him that because he was, if anything, even better than he thought he was. Not that anybody at Schmucker and Schwentzel would publicly admit that. Frau Kubiak had met Fabian when he was sketching dancers for a ballet program, and admired some of his work.

"I won't put it to him quite like that, Frau Kubiak. Now, this is what I think we should do for your new invoices . . ." the conversation turned to Tracy's printing requirements, and Stephan was able to join Anna for lunch with another order to his credit.

****

Stephan and Anna had been exchanging sweet nothings and silently staring into each other's eyes for most of the lunch hour when Richelle Kubiak walked past hand in hand with her and Tracy Kubiak's daughters. Anna waved to Leyna and Terrie, and both girls waved back. "Aren't they adorable?" she asked Stephan.

The two girls were about two years old, and as Anna had suggested, quite adorable. He thought about the chances of having children with Anna and sighed. "Yes."

"Richelle showed us the most beautiful photograph of her with Leyna the other day."

Stephan knew what was expected of him, and nodded. "I'll be sure to ask her to show it to me next . . ." Suddenly what Anna had said penetrated. For Richelle to suddenly have a photograph of her and her daughter, it had to have been taken recently. Stephan leapt to his feet. "Where is this photograph?" he demanded as he dragged Anna by the hand after Richelle and the children.

"I don't know," Anna said as she was dragged along. When they reached the entrance to Grantville Canvas and Outdoor she grabbed Stephan's hand and hauled back on it. "Stephan! What's got into you?"

He turned to look down into Anna's eyes. He ducked down his head and kissed her. "Photography. Someone is still taking photographs."

"And?"

Stephan hugged her. "I'll explain after I've spoken to Richelle."

****

The moment Stephan stepped out of Richelle's office Anna grabbed him and dragged him outside. "Well?"

Stephan sat down on the bench seat set up with a view of the river and pulled Anna down beside him. There was still too much space between them, so he put his arm around her and dragged her closer. "The photograph was taken by a family friend, a Frau Lettie Sebastian. Not only does she still have some up-time photographic supplies, she is also working on reintroducing photography."

"And?" Anna asked.

The confused expression on Anna's face was so appealing that Stephan leaned closer and kissed her. "Fabian claims that he knows how to make printing plates from photographic negatives."

"Oh!"

Stephan nodded. "If he can really make it work, it means we can make printing plates from up-time books without having to set the type, and we can reproduce images without Fabian having to spend hours delicately engraving the plates."

 

A few days later

 

Any protest Fabian Schlitte might have made about being dragged away from his work had been easily silenced with one word—photography. He'd begged for more information, which Stephan had refused to give, other than to say that he'd made an appointment to talk to a woman who might be able to help them.

The bus had dropped them off half a mile from the house they wanted, and they completed the walk in companionable silence. They were met at the door by an elderly up-timer.

"You'll be the boys from Schmucker and Schwentzel? I'm Lettie Sebastian."

"Frau Sebastian . . ." Fabian started to say.

"Please, just call me Lettie. Frau Sebastian makes me feel old."

"Lettie," Fabian said. "You can take photographs?"

Stephan was all ready to reprimand Fabian for his lack of manners, but Frau Sebastian didn't seem to mind. In fact, she'd already launched into a conversation with Fabian that went right over Stephan's head. He decided to let things take their natural path and settled down to listen and wait for any questions Frau Sebastian might have that Fabian couldn't answer. It was a long wait.

****

Fabian was bright and cheerful as they walked back down Gray's Run toward the nearest bus stop on Route 250.

"She and her husband were really into photography up-time," Fabian said. "Not only did they collect cameras and other photographic paraphernalia, they also had their own dark room. That's why she has the stuff I need for my research."

Stephan thought about correcting him and saying "we," but decided that would be petty. "So you will be able to make printing plates from photographs?"

"It's a simple step from the process I've been using to create illustrations for customers. Of course I'll need some new chemicals, and a carbon arc light."

"And then you'll be able to make printing plates of some of the up-time books?"

Fabian shook his head.

"No? But you said all you needed was access to photography," Stephan protested.

"And a supply of film. Lettie's supply of up-time film is limited, but she is working on making new film. Fortunately, her late husband was a re-enactor."

Stephan stared at him blankly. He knew what a re-enactor was. The military training he'd been forced to undergo as a member of the militia had been run in part by up-timers who'd been re-enactors, but what did soldiers have to do with photography?

Fabian explained. "Herr Sebastian used to reenact as a Civil War photographer. He had all the equipment to do wet-plate photography."

"What's wet-plate?" Stephan asked before he could put a brake on his tongue. Naturally Fabian filled him in, in excruciating detail.

Eventually Fabian ran out of words. "And you can use this technique to make color plates?" Stephan asked, not without some trepidation, lest Fabian cut loose with yet another outpouring of information Stephan didn't really need.

"Only as long as I have access to Lettie's up-time supplies," Fabian said before entering into a particularly detailed explanation of the science of color sensitivity of emulsions. The gist of it was that any new photographic emulsions would need special dyes, which Lettie's friend, Celeste Frost, an up-time trained chemist, was currently working on, to make any new film anything like equally sensitive to most of the colors of the spectrum.

"Of course I'll be limited to still life, because you can't keep people absolutely still while you change the filters."

"Filters?" Stephan knew he was going to regret the question even as he uttered it. He was right. Fabian entered into a long and detailed description of how important filters were.

****

"How difficult is it going to be?" Johann asked when a couple of days later Fabian and Stephan presented their report of the meeting with Lettie Sebastian to Johann Schmucker and Ursula Fröbel.

"Well," Fabian started. "I'm going to need a carbon arc light source, a vacuum cleaner, some sheets of glass as flat as possible onto which I will have to draw half-tone grates, and a selection of chemicals."

"Nothing too expensive then," Johann muttered sarcastically.

"You're going to need electricity, and that means you'll have to set up in Grantville somewhere," Ursula said.

"Which adds more expense," Johann muttered.

Fabian nodded. "Stephan suggested we should try and work a deal with Herr Kindred of the Grantville Times."

"And why would Stephan make such a suggestion?" Ursula asked Stephan.

"Because if we can make printing plates from photographs, then the Grantville Times will want to use them too," Stephan said. "I'm sure Herr Kindred would be happy to share the research and development costs in order to be able to print photographs in his newspaper."

"I'll talk to him," Ursula said.

 

October

 

The photographic research laboratory of Schmucker and Schwentzel was set up in Lyle Kindred's garage, which had the necessary power for the carbon arc light.

Stephan, by virtue of being pushy and insisting that the technique offered new opportunities he could sell to clients, had a front row seat as Fabian presented his first printing plate made with the new technique. He was joined by Lyle Kindred and his senior pressman, Dice Clifford. They crowded around when Fabian placed the finished copper plate on the work table.

"It's a bit rough," Dice noted, "but for a first effort, it looks pretty good.'

"Can we see how it prints?" Lyle asked.

Fabian carried his copper sheet to the small proofing press they had installed in the laboratory, and while Dice inked it, he prepared a sheet of paper. A short time later the pair of them gently peeled off the completed print and laid it on the work table.

"It's not bad for a first attempt," Lyle said.

Stephan reached out a hand and patted Fabian on the shoulder in sympathy. They'd had such high hopes.

"There's not enough white," Dice said. "You need to leave it in the acid bath a little longer."

"You think that's all that's wrong?" Fabian asked.

Dice grinned. "It's a start. As soon as you get that right we'll find something else that's wrong."

"So we try it again." Fabian sighed and set up another treated plate to be exposed to the carbon arc light.

 

A few days later

 

Stephan stood at the door to the compositing room at Schmucker and Schwentzel and watched as the operators pounded away at their Treiber TypeSetters. The machines were a long way from being up-time lino-type machines, but they allowed the crew of a young female copy typist and three boys to set as much type in an hour as it would take eight experienced printers. Naturally, they were paid based on their skill levels, which were generally low, and not according to their productivity. The new machines were making it possible to produce more books and monographs at lower prices. Unfortunately, Schmucker and Schwentzel weren't the only print shop to have the new machines.

Stephan turned away from the door and headed for his tiny cubicle. There he sat down and checked the new offerings. They had secured the rights to Lettie Sebastian's catalog, and had a number of negatives they could use to produce covers for their paperback books. It gave the Schmucker and Schwentzel paperback imprint a point of difference, even if the image selected didn't always bear any relationship to what the book was about. The new covers were boosting sales and Stephan was laughing all the way to the bank. His hopes of being able to afford to marry Anna were rising every day. All they needed was a supply of the special chemicals needed to actually produce photographs so they could do color and they'd be off.

He slowly worked his way through his in-basket until he came across the message asking him to contact Lady Beth Haygood at the I.C. White Technical School about the Grantville Ballet Company 's scheduled performance of Nutcracker. Stephan didn't know the Americans used titles like that, and just like any down-timer wanting information about an up-timer, he decided to look her up in the library's copy of the Who's Who.

Of course that wasn't the Rudolstadt library, which did have its own copy, but rather Schmucker and Schwentzel's own library, which in addition to a selection of other books had at least one copy of everything they'd printed. He looked up Lady Beth Haygood and smiled when he saw that it was a name, not a title. How like the Americans to say how they didn't want a nobility, and then adopt their titles as names. He shut the Who's Who and returned it to its place. It was all very well knowing who Frau Haygood was, but why was she writing to him on behalf of the Grantville Ballet Company, Frau Matowski's baby? He shrugged. There was one sure way to find out. He headed for the post office to phone Frau Haygood and make an appointment to see her.

****

It was a walk of only a few miles from the print shop at the Rudolstadt end of the industrial zone to the high school just inside the Ring of Fire. It was commonly called the Grantville High School, but Stephan, who'd managed to sell them stationery, knew the official name, as stated on all of the stationery, was Calvert High School, just like the I.C. White Technical School where Frau Haygood worked, was typically referred to as either the Vo-Tech or Tech School.

"Hi, Herr Greiner. Lady Beth is expecting you," the young girl manning the reception desk said when he entered. She jumped to her feet. "Follow me."

Stephan was sure he knew the girl from somewhere, but it wasn't until he had observed the graceful way she glided down the hallway that he realized she was one of Frau Matowski's dancers. She'd obviously recognized him from when he'd attended performances, and by the time they reached Frau Haygood's office he'd managed to put a name to the shapely pair of jean-clad legs. "Thank you, Frau Haggerty," he said with a gentle bow.

"Herr Greiner to see you, Miz Haygood," Glenna Sue Haggerty announced before guiding Steven into the office.

"Thank you, Glenna Sue. Herr Greiner, please take a seat."

The door shut behind Glenna Sue, leaving Stephan in the room alone with Lady Beth. He broke the silence by turning immediately to business. "You asked to see me about printing a program for the Grantville Ballet Company?" he asked.

"That's right. For the New Year's Weekend season of Nutcracker."

"Season?" Stephan asked. "I thought it was just going to be a single performance."

"That was before Mary Simpson got involved," Lady Beth answered. "It is now going to be a season of three evenings and a Sunday matinee over New Year's weekend. And she's bringing a number of her friends to the premiere."

Stephan's whistle was spontaneous and unconscious. "People from Magdeburg are coming to Grantville to watch Frau Matowski's Nutcracker?" His mind was already rushing beyond printing a program and progressed to thinking about how many books could be sold to the visitors.

"That's what I said," Lady Beth confirmed. "And we'd like to present them with the best possible program, so that they go off with a very good opinion of ballet." She pulled a number of glossy booklets out of a drawer. "Bitty said you could borrow these."

It took a few seconds for Stephan to see beyond the quality of the paper and the printing and identify the booklets as up-time ballet programs. He flicked through them, admiring the quality of the printing and how well the photographs of the actors and scenes from the ballet had been reproduced. He carefully placed them back on Lady Beth's desk and reached for the satchel of samples he'd brought with him. "We can't do anything that good, but here is what we can do," he said as he laid down some of the best images Fabian had produced.

****

Stephan dawdled on the way back to the print shop. He'd been told to mockup a program as best he could based on the programs he'd been lent. He knew they could do the head and shoulder portraits of the cast, and Lady Beth had told him that they had commissioned Prudentia Gentileschi to paint a scene from the ballet, which he knew Fabian could reproduce using his new camera and fancy filters. The problem was doing scenes from the ballet.

Stephan had a light-bulb moment and quickly dug out the programs he'd been lent. They were all for performances of Nutcracker. If Fabian could reproduce a painting, surely he could reproduce some of those photographs. Then an even better idea struck him. Why stop at using them in the program? Surely the up-timers had to have some ballet-themed books that could be prepared for publication in time for the season of Nutcracker. They would have to push their translators hard, but if Fabian was already making printing plates of ballet scenes, surely they could use those same plates to print the cover illustrations?

Stephan continued the walk back to the print shop in a bit of a daze as he considered what he was proposing. Frau Fröbel was surely going to jump at the opportunity.

 

Friday December 30, 1633

 

The tickets to the premiere of Nutcracker were horrendously expensive, and Stephan had failed in his attempts to get hold of a couple of free tickets. He'd had to settle for tickets to the matinee, but that didn't mean he couldn't turn up to see the rich and powerful file into the auditorium, with their copies of the full-color program grasped in their hands.

They were nothing like as good as the up-time programs, but they were the best they could do with the materials they had. They were also new and unusual, and Schmucker and Schwentzel was the only print shop currently able to do such work. After tonight Stephan expected to be flooded with inquiries.

 

January 1634

 

Stephan started his post-ballet-season tour of the bookstores with a degree of trepidation. There had been massive orders for books, especially the new titles with the ballet-themed cover art in the lead-in to the season of Nutcracker. Now he was going to find out how good the sell-through had been. He was paid his commission on orders, and a good sell-through would mean more orders, whereas poor sales would result in returns, and even worse for Stephan, a reduction in new orders.

His first stop was the DiOn Book Shoppe. It was a small store run almost as a hobby by two up-time women, Cassie Difabri and Mary Rose Onofrio. He started there because Frau Onofrio was actually a Kubiak by birth, and thus related to Richelle Kubiak, which had made them a prime target for the new ballet titles.

He stepped into the little shop and was immediately confronted by the shop's ballet-themed display. Several copies of the posters that had been produced to advertise the season of Nutcracker surrounded a sadly-depleted book display. In pride of place in the middle of the display was a full-color reproduction of the painting by Prudentia Gentileschi that had been on the cover of the program. That had been the best of the posters, and had earned Stephan a nice commission. He quickly checked his order book to see how many books they'd ordered, and whistled. If their shelves were that bare . . .

"Hello, Mr. Greiner. Didn't they do well?"

Stephan reached out for Frau Difabri's hand and lowered his head to drop a kiss on it. If it had been Frau Onofrio saying that, she might have meant Richelle and the other dancers, but coming from Frau Difabri he knew she meant the titles. "You appear to be almost sold out."

Cassie smiled. "Yes. Of course, without the ballet to bring attention to the ballet-themed books, we won't be placing such a big order for them this time, but we'd like a few more of them. Oh, and can we get a bundle of the posters of Carl and Staci as Cavalier and Sugar Plum Fairy? We had a few people wanting to buy our display copies."

Stephan stared at the poster Frau Difabri was pointing to. It was the full-color reproduction of the Prudentia Gentileschi painting, and Stephan immediately realized they'd missed a trick. Of course they would have to negotiate a fee with Frau Gentileschi, but it looked like they might have a new line. "I will see what I can do. Would you like copies with or without the advertising?" he asked.

Cassie stared at the poster for a while. "Without I think. How much will they cost?"

****

Stephan still had a smile on his face when he presented his sales report to Frau Fröbel later that day.

"You're looking bright and cheerful today. Was the sell-through good?" Ursula asked.

"Sell-through for the ballet titles was over ninety percent," he announced. This was almost unheard-of for a book not sold by subscription, especially in such a short time frame, and Stephan was justifiably proud of his initiative.

Ursula smiled. "That's very good."

"And a number of outlets would like to order copies of the Prudentia Gentileschi poster, without the advertising."

Ursula's brows shot up. "Posters of the painting?" She paused for a few seconds. "I'll have to talk to her agent."

Stephan nodded. "That's what I told everyone, but there seems to be a lot of interest." He paused to collect himself. "What other paintings could Fabian turn into posters?"

"I shall look into it," Ursula said. "I'm sure there must be something that will appeal to the market."

Ursula made some notes and then looked up and stared Stephan in the eye. "Schmucker and Schwentzel has done extremely well this financial year. Sales and profits are up, and we have a good list. We have decided that you need an assistant. As of today you will no longer be on retainer, but on salary as befits your new position as sales manager." She passed a letter across to him.

"Salary?" He looked at the letter. It was a formal offer of employment, laying down his new and quite livable salary, with profit sharing. It was a dream come true. With his new salary he could afford to marry Anna.

"You've earned it. Now why don't you take some time off to tell your young lady your good news?"

Stephan stumbled out of Frau Fröbel's office and out onto the street. The day seemed especially bright right now. He checked he still had the letter from Schmucker and Schwentzel, and confirmed that he had read the salary and conditions correctly. With a smile that put the sun to shame, he set course for the Grantville Canvas and Outdoor facility down the road.

****

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