'Tis time...


After dinner, I ran the extractor for its 'maiden run'. I noted two things:

Firstly, it confined the odors astonishingly well. I did not get the dry heaves.

Secondly, it speeded the process up markedly. One merely needed to put the various coarsely-ground dry ingredients in the middle container, put the liquid ones in the bottom, seal it up and clamp it, put water in the cold finger, and then set the thing over a turned-down heating lamp for an hour, then let it cool before removing the clamps and pouring the liquid through a filter into a jug.

“Now you have done it,” said Hans as he removed the top portion from the middle. “This thing makes that cough medicine easy.”

“I hope it makes it possible for you to run the stuff,” I said. “I would try it for fever bark and things like it, as it might save time there as well.”

“I hope so too,” said Hans, “as I can tell we will be wanting to make cough medicine regular. This is the time of year for coughs.”

The next day at work, the others showed at their regular times, and within an hour after their showing – and the day becoming light enough to see – customers began showing wanting individual pieces of stovepipe. I could tell Georg was selling the stuff at a substantial rate, for when the time of the morning guzzle came around, I noted our 'stockpile' was easily down by twenty pieces.

“I think you'd best plan on riveting stovepipe as a regular thing,” said Georg, “and I hope our stock holds until the weather gets better. Getting more up here anytime soon isn't going to happen.”

That night at home, however, I was astonished to see both Anna and Hans uncommonly tired, and at dinner – beer, cider, Kuchen, and cherry jam – Anna said, “that town is worse than I thought it was.”

“Where Maarten lives?” I asked.

“I drove the sled we borrowed over there,” said Anna, “and Hans drove the buggy, and we left here shortly after you did, and got home just before it became truly dark. That was not an easy trip, and that town was awful.”

“In what way?” I asked.

“It was still closed up tight,” said Anna, “and the whole place smelled like strong drink and rotten meat. Then, there was the coal itself, and that was worse.”

“I showed Katje how to crush it, and then only add a little bit so as to extend their wood,” I said.

“Not in their house,” said Anna. “It might smell a little bit inside, but it wasn't bad.”

“What was it, then?” I asked.

“It was the rest of the town,” said Anna. “Every house had black smoke coming from it, and the worst one was at the other end of the town where those witches lived.”

Anna paused to drink, then continued, saying, “and the smoke was merely the warning. Katje said they'd tried to drag off their meat.”

“Did they get it?” I asked.

“She found two of them under a piece of it three mornings ago, and she thumped them with a pole,” said Anna. “The other pieces showed signs of people trying to get them, but they only managed to get that one piece loose.”

“It landed on them?” I asked.

“It did that, and mashed them good,” said Hans. “Had someone tried that most places, they would have been shot and then burned. They could not do that in that town, as those witches run the place. We know that now.”

“Did they do anything else to the meat?” I asked. “As in put poison in it?”

Hans looked at me, then said, “I checked for that, as I have heard of those witches doing such things. The only people who came wore common shoes and boots, so I doubt it.”

“The witches would... No, they wouldn't,” I said. “When they lose their toes, they can no longer wear common shoes without pain unless they put special inserts in them, and 'ceremonial' soft-leather hunting boots are a dead giveaway. Those with intact toes would not be sent to do that work, as poisoning isn't a beginning subject among witches. Among non-witches, only chemists would know much.”

“And have the stuff to do it,” said Hans.

The extractor ran its first time without me the next day, for Hans came over to the shop just prior to lunch. I was glad I had just finished a pipe-rivet and was about to insert another when he touched me, as I would have ruined the rivet I was driving otherwise.

“That extractor thing came good for the cough medicine,” he said.

“It did?” I asked, as I looked for singed hair or traces of soot and found none.

“Yes, and no fires, either,” said Hans. “I am glad for it, as Anna has been dosing people a lot with that stuff, and she has been sending out those medicine bottles as fast as I can fill the things.”

“Oh, no,” I moaned. “Are these the big bottles?”

Hans nodded, then said, “and two guilders for each of them that goes. I will need to speak to the carpenters about that sled now, as we will have the money for it quick, and also the need for it.”

“What was this about a sled?” asked Georg. “I've been wondering if I could borrow one for the rest-day, as I need to do some things then.”

“We do not have one of those yet,” said Hans. “You might try the greengrocer's, as they have a good one there.”

After Hans left, I said, “it seems Anna needs a smaller one for her rounds in this weather, and Hans is going to have the wood pieces done for it. He spoke of a 'two and three' size, whatever that means.”

“I would have trouble fitting myself in one of those,” said Georg, “and that does not include the other things I would need to take with me.”

At home that evening, I 'finished' my bag, at least for its outer portions, and as I began to work on its strap at the table, Anna joined me. When she laid out the belt she was working on, I wondered as to her progress, and asked about it.

“Poor enough that I'm beginning to think you might wish to finish it,” she replied. “It needs stitching around every hole, along its whole length, and several runs down the length also.”

I looked at the belt in question and was stunned. Not merely was it not ornate, but it made up for its lack of ornamentation by the number of stitches that needed to go in it still – along every edge, around every hole, and half-a-dozen runs going the whole length of the thing.

“Is this the usual for these?” I asked, as I continued looking at the prick-marks for those stitches that remained. There were enough to make for a lengthy job.

“I'm not certain if it is or not,” said Anna. “I am certain I do not wish that belt to tear, as yours would hold up more than your trousers, and it would be more than an embarrassment if it loosened or tore. I did learn that much during Festival Week.”

“How would it be more than an embarrassment?” I asked.

“Most people in town know enough about you to not think wrong of such things,” said Anna, “but I did learn enough recently to be worried. I knew those black-dressed witches traveled, but I had no idea they had their own version of the post, and door-to-door at that.”

“They do?” I asked. I then recalled the 'church-spies' and their need for 'travel-based camouflage'. Anna's statement now made a good deal of sense, as did my thinking regarding the 'likely' cover-occupation of 'messenger'. It wasn't merely a cover.

Anna nodded, then said, “and it seems there are at least a few people friendly toward them in most towns. Between those two things, word regarding you has traveled some.”

“That one second kingdom thug and his helpers?” I asked.

“It seems you are known of down there, and as more than a rumor,” said Anna. “I wasn't surprised much by that part. What I was surprised by how many towns around here now know of you.”

“And hence some thug may well try for me anywhere I happen to go, and that just because some wretch has told him I need killing and burning. Or is that true?”

“I am not sure it's like that,” said Anna. “You might well have trouble, and I would not be at all surprised if some shops refuse to sell to you.”

“Or even let him in the door to look at what they have,” said Hans as he came up the stairs. “How is that belt?”

Anna showed it to him, then said, “that one looks to be a good one, once it is finished. The best ones are stitched all over like that, as they do not tear then.”

“The buckle?” I asked.

“That you will want to make, or have made by a jeweler,” said Hans. “I've heard they are best cast of either bronze or silver, and you should have a silver one, as that speaks of what you do.”

“No, Hans,” said Anna nervously. “Remember what Toonis said? How there are people watching for him, and noting every little thing so as to cause trouble when and where they can? That would get their attention to have something like that, and they would speak ill of it.”

I shook my head, then said, “perhaps if you buy a common one, or even a used one, and then I can duplicate it with some, uh, less-obtrusive improvements.”

“I can fetch that one belt,” said Hans. “I have yet to take it apart, so you can see what the usual buckles look like.”

While Hans went upstairs, Anna said, “sometimes, I wonder about him – he may know his way around chemistry, but he could take lessons from you about staying out of trouble.”

“I don't stay out of trouble,” I said.

“I meant what you do to try avoiding it,” said Anna. “You do not look for it. Instead, it looks for you, and it works at it mightily.”

The belt that Hans brought down was not merely 'torn', but it had ripped lengthwise, and as I looked at both it and the one Anna was working on, I began seeing differences beyond 'thinner leather'. I held it up to my nose, then gagged.

“Yes, what is it?” asked Hans.

Where did you have this tanned?” I asked.

“That was not done in town,” said Anna. “He was buried for work, so I took it elsewhere. Why?”

“Smell this rotten stuff and tell me,” I asked. “It's not merely thin.”

When Anna smelled it, her eyes changed so abruptly that I knew an eruption was going to happen, and when she began muttering, I wondered as to its nature.

“That witch didn't tan this thing,” she spat, “he rubbed manure on it!”

“Is that done?” I asked.

“I have heard of that trick,” said Hans, “and while the leather looks good enough, it is much weaker.”

“Hence double-stitching, two pieces, a great deal of extra work... Who came up with the idea?”

I was beginning to get a distinct impression, especially given the need to sew around every hole and edge. It smacked heartily of witchcraft, as its strength enhancement wasn't near what Hans had made it out to be, while I could easily see the 'appearance' issue. It had taken a while to see it clearly.

“That is the common way in the fourth kingdom,” said Hans, “and after that thing tearing like that, I want nothing less to be done for a belt.”

“Thin, rotten leather...” I muttered, then reached for the thing. I held it in one hand, with the buckle in the other, and tore the buckle out as if the leather were soggy newsprint. I then reached toward the bag, and tried to tear it. It felt strong and sturdy, and it refused to tear.

“I saw that,” said Anna, “and I'm glad I did what I could for this belt.”

“Dear, that belt was of thin and rotten leather,” I said. “This stuff here is neither thin nor rotten. Now does all of that stitching have a decorative part to it, or is it for some other reason?”

“While most things in the fourth kingdom are decent at the least,” said Anna, “and their work is as good as can be had, I wish I could say that about much of their leather. It tends to be thin like that stuff, and but little stronger.”

“Why don't you try tearing it?” I asked.

Anna picked up the remains of the belt, then to her surprise – her eyes became huge – it tore readily.

“Hans,” she spat, “this stuff is so weak it's worthless! It makes bad fourth kingdom leather seem iron for strength.”

“Did it seem that way when you were working on it originally?” I asked. “Or did you think it passable at the time?”

“It seemed acceptable then,” said Anna. “It was on the thin side, I was in a hurry, Hans needed a belt as his old one had gone bad...”

“And you were short of leather, so it was use what you had,” I said. “With that stuff, you would have needed not just two pieces, but they would need to be folded... Oh, I think I know why fourth kingdom leather is so bad.”

“Why is that?” asked Hans.

“First, it isn't harvested in the fourth kingdom itself,” I said, “but is initially prepared elsewhere. Then, it isn't deer or elk.”

“What is it?” asked Hans.

“It's goat-leather,” I said, “and those skinning the goats tend to not care for the leather terribly well. They pack the bloody hides in dirt and dung so as to remove the hair, then dry them and sell them – and it isn't uncommon for such hides to sit for months in a warehouse before they are tanned, so they're partly rotten as well as really thin.”

I paused, then said, “hence fourth kingdom belts need not merely careful stitching, but also two pieces of carefully folded leather back-to-back to be usable. Now are there special patterns for the stitches?”

“I am not sure if there are or not,” said Hans. “I know they do them like this, though. Why would they have special patterns?”

“Decoration, mostly,” I said. “Since they have to stitch the things so much, I thought they might well stitch them in patterns as if they were doing embroidery.”

“Those are not common,” said Anna, “and while most fourth kingdom leather is as you said, I suspect they get some from kingdoms to the north.”

“Do they have cattle there?” I asked.

“Yes, if they bring them in alive and on the hoof,” said Hans. “That is how they most likely get what good leather they have.”

The next day, and the day after, the work began to come into the shop as if it had been pent up for a long time. Two more muskets arrived with rusted-solid actions, a plow, what looked like some buggy or wagon parts, and an order of such an indecipherable nature that Georg came back to where I was. The others were forge-welding scrap metal into billets that could be carburized, and the noise of their hammers was appallingly loud.

“I could not understand anything he was saying,” said Georg, “but he said you'd made one, and he did not want an idol. Now have you made those things?”

“No, I haven't made any idols, at least not that I know of,” I said. “What else did he say?”

“He was babbling about making aquavit so strong it would start fires without needing to be lit,” said Georg, “that and some strange Geneva that cured coughs and loosened pent-up wind. I told him he was crazy.”

“I'm not sure if he was,” I asked. “There were a fair number of people that saw that distillery I made, so he might want one of those. I know of someone else who does want one, so I can start on another as soon as things settle a bit. We haven't seen the truly big rush yet.”

“That's likely,” said Georg. “It usually takes close on a week for people to get over Festival Week and dig out their money pouches.”

I was back to working in the evenings and weekends, and burning my candles late into the night while bashing copperware and cooking pieces of pattern-welded steel. I needed to inspect carefully those billets forged by the others, as even with the new flux the quality of welds was often amiss, and 'rework' was a daily given.

While we did not need to go wooding Saturday, we had our share of work to do; I had my usual 'homework', Hans had his chemicals, and Anna more food to 'put up'. The deer I'd shot still had some meat on it, or so I thought until I saw Anna come in with a pot of meat and what might have been a scowl on her face.

“Festival Week almost finished that deer,” she said, “and I just tossed the bones on the manure pile. I wonder how hard it would be to get more meat today?”

“Uh, how much more?” I asked. “Would a deer suffice?”

Not twenty minutes later Hans and I were out in the snow heading toward a woodlot he'd had good luck with in the past. The slip-sliding action of the buggy made for commenting on the sled Hans had commissioned, and when he spoke of its progress, I wondered when I would be able to work on it.

“That thing should finish this coming week,” he said, “at least for its wooden parts. I've seen it so far, and it's really light.”

“How much do they need to do more?” I asked.

“They do not have much right now, beyond patterns let by the shop and that sled, so they are all working on it most of the time,” said Hans. “They were steaming the runners yesterday, and bending their strips to the form before gluing them.”

“Uh, would we be able to haul anything with it of weight?” I asked.

“A deer would be a lot for it,” said Hans. “Now last year, this woodlot had lots of those, along with some of the last year's crop of elk. I think if you get one of those, that should do us until it starts to thaw.”

“When is that?” I asked.

“With this stuff, who knows,” said Hans. “The snow is still coming down, and only a buggy like this can manage in it. I'm having trouble just the same, as this snow is twice its usual depth, if not more yet.”

“And Maarten?” I asked.

“He is glad for that sled,” said Hans. “I've drawn him maps of good woodlots and some likely towns where he can get food without being cheated, and then we took over some more stuff when we took the sled over.”

“More coal?” I asked.

“I bought a bag of the stuff on the way over,” said Hans, “so they have plenty, as well as more wood. Katje has been hiding the wood in a lot of places, including where one might not expect to find it.”

“Where would that be?” I asked.

“One does not expect to find firewood in the privy,” said Hans, “but she has put some of it in there. Then, she has hid it in their big-closet, as well as in an old keepsake chest, and a lot of other places. She splits the stuff up good, too. I let them use one of those axes you made, and she hides it in their mattress when they are not using it.”

“Perhaps if we make a distillery for them,” I suggested. “They could hide it when not in use.”

“They would need to hide it good, as those thugs are still coming in there at night,” said Hans. “If that could be stopped, then I think he might do that, as really strong aquavit sells readily and gets a good price.”

“That one Mercantile?” I asked. “Perhaps that second hand store?”

“We would need to run that thing all day and every day to keep both of those places in aquavit,” said Hans. “Besides, we do not have enough room for more than perhaps one more mash tub, and that thing could empty three of those things a day were it run enough.”

Once at the woodlot, the two of us went into the trees roughly thirty feet apart. The dense snow, as well as its powdery nature, meant for near-silence if one walked carefully. I could faintly hear movement ahead, and it sounded like whatever was moving was grubbing for food.

“I hope it isn't a pig,” I thought, even as I continued advancing toward the noise.

I turned toward my right, and stopped. Hans had moved further away, and as he walked slowly, I watched his moving. He was not using cover – not that there was much to use – nor did he seem especially careful, and when the grubbing noise resumed after a moment's silence, he aimed ahead and then fired.

The shriek that resulted spoke of a pig, and to my surprise, not merely didn't he run, but the pig was not coming toward him.

It was coming my way, and it wasn't the only thing coming; something else was coming with it. I leaped to the side and knelt behind and to the side of a larger-than-common tree. It wasn't the best cover – it wasn't big enough to hide behind – but I suspected it was better than nothing.

Here came the animals, and as the crashing noises came closer, I sensed this example of pig wasn't a twelve-foot-plus two-and-a-half ton monster. It was a good deal smaller, so much so that I thought I might shoot the pig with the revolver and reserve my rifle for 'game'. I laid the latter down, drew the pistol, and waited.

I did not need to wait long, as the frantic onrush of the pig seemed to be slowing, and the other animal was about to overtake it. I was torn between using the rifle or the pistol, and as I laid the pistol on the snow and took up the rifle, Hans fired again.

The second creature was now frantic, and it leaped the pig to land but twenty feet away from me in a wobbling bound. It was a stub-horned elk, and I fired my rifle at where its body joined the neck. The elk seemed to ignore being shot for a fraction of a second, then abruptly pitched forward and cartwheeled until it slammed into a tree, and as I made to stand with the pistol in my left hand, frantic squealing came steadily closer. With abrupt suddenness, a black-blotched tan pig suddenly showed, and I fired at its head. The pig shrieked, turned tail, and then suddenly ran into a tree and collapsed.

“Now what?” I thought. “We have a dead or dying pig, and...”

Hans came running toward me clumsily, then when he came to the pig, he shot the thing in the head with the muzzle of his musket nearly touching the animal. The pig didn't move, which spoke of a wasted bullet.

“How did you get off three shots like that?” I asked.

“That bullet lubricant keeps the soot a lot softer,” said Hans, as he laid down his musket next to the elk, “so you can put a patched one in easy if you cut the patch right and have it smeared good.”

“Three times at a pig?” I asked, as I pocketed the revolver.

“I've only seen those like this three times before this one,” said Hans, “and I put powder and lead in each of them. Even pigs like this one are hard to kill.”

Examination of the pig showed it to be what I thought of as a 'bacon-sized' example. Its 'lean' aspect, foul aroma – it was almost as bad that way as the first example of pig I'd seen here – slightly curved tail, and long tapir-like snout made for wonderment, and as I looked at the thing, I asked, “what? No tushes?”

“This type has none,” said Hans, “and witches like them, so there might be a witch-hole around here.”

“I think we'd best concentrate on that elk and forget about El Porko here,” I said. “If the witches wish to become ill by eating that thing, they can have it, its smell, and its parasites. I just hope its stink doesn't migrate to that elk.”

“Now that is a strange thing,” said Hans. “I have heard people speak as you did, only they were not speaking of swine.”

“Who?” I asked dumbly.

“They speak like that in the Valley,” said Hans. “Now what did you call that thing?”

“El Porko?” I asked. I felt embarrassed.

“Yes, that name,” said Hans. “I did not know it was possible to name these things.”

“What do you call a pig,” I asked, “especially when they stink like this one does?”

Hans ceased with his questions forthwith, and we began working on the elk.

The elk proved to be an especially full load for the buggy, and only by both of us walking and frequently resting – ourselves and the horses – were we able to get it home about 'nightfall'. Anna was especially pleased, even if Hans and I were too tired to do much beyond clean guns and then collapse, and after a brief nap in bed, I was shaken awake by Anna.

“We have stew downstairs,” she said. “You and Hans can skin that thing tonight if you want to try.”

Skinning needed the student lantern and all three of us to fully remove the hide and then hang the meat. With four sizable quarters hanging, Anna seemed overjoyed, saying, “that is more than enough until thaw, and I'd best be drying as much meat as I can between now and then.”

“How much is that?” I asked.

“One of those quarters, or perhaps two, will do us until then for fresh meat,” said Anna. “I'll want to dry the other two, and not waste time doing it.”

Monday came with a sense of deep chill, so much so that the door of the house needed force to open, and work needed a fire in the furnace and two blazing forges for the place to be endurable. Even the hard labor of forging was actually comfortable, and as I made ready some small molds for clamps, I could hear the wind seeming to howl faintly far away. A glance out front framed by a slit of door spoke of why.

“F-f-fourteen-foot-drifts,” I spluttered with chattering teeth.

“What is it you said?” asked Johannes. “Nothing with wheels is moving, and no one wishes to be outside in Norden-weather.”

“Norden-weather?” I asked.

“That place to the north with the bad swine,” said Johannes. “Talk has it you shot one.”

“With what?” asked Georg.

“That musket he has,” said Johannes. “It was in a town to the west and south some distance, and it had full plate and its full size.”

“How?” asked Georg. “Those things tend to ignore round-shot, much less common bullets.”

“I hit it in the eye somehow,” I said. “I put enough powder in that I needed days of rubbing with Geneva to get rid of the bruise.”

“That sounds like you were shooting a roer,” said Georg. “How bad was this bruise?”

I indicated the area, and spoke of the purplish-red color, and Georg sat down. He seemed faint.

“That was not a roer,” he said. “I fired one once on a dare, and I was sore, and bruised, but not like that.”

“How much did you put in?” I asked.

“Two measures of powder, the ball, and then a piece of an old rag with tallow rubbed in,” said Georg. “It knocked me down on the ground. Were you?”

“I was already on the ground,” I said, “so I couldn't fall down. The way that gun is, though – if you're down like that, it hurts more, and if you load it that heavy...”

“You have a different type of powder measure,” said Georg, “so it does not use the usual things. I've had people asking about them, so much so I hope you can make spares. How do they work?”

“Those you can dial how much powder you want,” I said, “and they set accurately. I put in eight more turns than usual, and after, I turned it back nine, so the usual load is less than it was at first. It still put down that elk right away.”

Around the time of the morning guzzle, the shop was actually passable for warmth, and as a respite, I used a slate to draw out a small lathe. I used the one I had where I came from as an example; while it was a 'small' lathe – ten by twenty-four – I knew from experience that size of lathe worked well for a great deal of work. I thought to take home the slate and commit the thing to paper after working hours, and when I'd finished my portion of the 'guzzle', I resumed my work.

The chill, however, was not deterring customers for stovepipe, however; it seemed to draw them out of the 'woodwork', and when Georg came back from the Public House with a pair of jugs, he said, “someone must be burning coal in town, as I can see soot in the air and smell the stink.”

“Is coal common?” I asked.

“Few want the stuff,” said Georg, “as it's smoky, smelly, dirty, and bad for the health – or so people say. I can speak of the first three things, as I've been around where it's dug, and some places use it for fuel.”

“Those are mostly down in the fifth kingdom,” said Gelbhaar.

“True, most of them are,” said Georg. “There are some few coal-pits up here, and about one in three Mercantiles carries the stuff. It's cheap, too.”

“It can be burned in a stove,” I said, “provided you crush it fine and only put in a small amount at a time when you've got a wood fire going already.”

“Doesn't it smell though?”

“It does have an odor,” I said, “but Hans says if you do it that way, the smell and smoke is much less than normally. Some friends had their wood stolen, and I showed how to help their wood go further using some coal that they were, uh, cheated with.”

“I've heard of that place,” said Gelbhaar. “This was Maarten, wasn't it?”

I nodded, then said, “and he's got his hands full with those people where he lives. There's a house that looks like it belongs in Waldhuis, and nearly everyone in that town is following after the people that live in that big stinky place.”

I paused, then said, “and it seems that house has a still set up as per the impressions I have had, also.”

“What are those?” asked Georg.

“Maarten saw the place, and saw three of those black-dressed people chanting at both still and mash,” I said. “There was a dedicated still-house of brick, with specially cut and seasoned firewood, a brick firebox with oval stoke-hole and teeth painted on it to show the hunger of the flames, one of the usual type of distilleries, and perhaps some other things he didn't speak of.”

I paused, then said, “given the common type of distillery is treated as an idol, is supposed to be housed in a specially-constructed above-ground witch-hole, and is to be attended by witches serious enough to yell rune-curses at it while using it, I want nothing to do with that type of still – and that's on top of the troubles those things have.”

“That one is supposed to be easy to run, too,” said Gelbhaar.

“I've watched it myself a few times,” I said. “It works fine on the stove, it's easy to clean – that's really important, unlike what is commonly believed about distilleries – it hasn't plugged yet...”

“Say no more,” said Georg. “I've done my own asking, and that is a big trouble with the usual type. Most people don't worry about the other things you've spoken of, but no amount of singing or speaking from the book prevents them from clogging.”

“That can be done,” I said, “but it's really slow with those. You run perhaps a gallon of well-strained mash at a time, and then use a heating lamp turned down low. With a wood fire, you're almost guaranteed to plug the thing up sooner or later, and the same for a cooker that has more than half of what is commonly used.”

I ran the furnace shortly after, and by lunchtime, I'd dug out more pieces for knives, as well as the clamp parts.

“Now I wonder about making a steam engine,” I thought. “I'll want patterns for it, most likely.”

The drawings I had worked on in the last two weeks were things that I wondered about, and once home with various pieces of wood and my carving tools, I made good progress. The chips were being saved for the stove, or so I thought – until I saw Anna with a small copper bowl full of brownish-black dust and a small measuring cup. I wondered as to the point, given our woodpile being sizable.

“Is that coal?” I asked.

“It is,” said Anna. “I've hidden my share around here for times like this, and after Hans spoke of what you did, I was willing to try it.”

“Is that why people have been buying so much stovepipe?” I asked. “I've been riveting between four and eight pieces every day, and it's going out the door faster than I can rivet it.”

“How can that be?” asked Anna. “Don't you have to make the stuff before it can be sold?”

“I do, but I was teaching the others to do their parts earlier in the year, and we did well over a hundred pieces while they were learning. We had that stuff ready to go, and over half of it's gone.”

“It's not late in the year now,” asked Anna. “It's the new year. Now how many cups of this stuff do I need?”

“I'd start with one,” I said, “and sprinkle it over the coals. Here, let me show you.”

Anna opened the oven door to show a bed of glowing coals, and I used tongs on the cup to sprinkle the powdered coal over the bed. Small gouts of yellowish smoke billowed up here and there as I shook out the coal dust, but when I'd finished, the coals now had a hungry yellow aspect. I closed the door, and then saw the stovepipe.

“When was that replaced?” I asked.

“Early last week,” said Anna. “It wasn't easy, and getting Georg to turn loose enough to replace the whole thing took some doing. He wanted the old stuff, for some reason.”

“I hope he didn't sell it as 'new',” I said.

“That would be quite difficult,” said Anna, “as it was rusty inside. The new stuff has no rust.”

“Then what would he want it for?” I asked. “Scrap metal?”

“Most smith's shops want that,” said Anna. “Talk has it they are finally getting into the scrap barrels that place has, and about time. Georg has hoarded that stuff long enough.”

“Yes, and that pig's plate is to come here as soon as it can,” said Hans. “Maarten and Katje have been stripping the stuff off and putting it near their house.”

“Why are they doing that?” asked Anna. “Is this like farmers do when those people die nearby with plate on them?”

“I think they might be doing that, but it is more, though,” said Hans. “Dennis needs some books for that sextant, and those people ordering them might cause trouble without that pig's plate to show them. Then, I have spoken about getting a good look at that thing, so they are doing that also.”

“Uh, why?” I asked.

“I might understand your drawings fine,” said Hans, “but your writing is impossible. Besides, Maarten thought it was a good idea to look at that thing, and that without me speaking of it.”

“Has anyone found a camp nearby?” I asked, “or...”

I paused abruptly, then suddenly recalled Hans postulating that those black-dressed people might well want the pigs and those with them to cause trouble – and hence, provided them a certain amount of assistance in one form or another.

“Is it possible those black-dressed wretches have been sheltering those people?” I thought. “I wonder how I can ask?”

I hesitated, however, for I wondered as to the difficulty of learning the information. It was also possible those people 'camped' as they followed the pig.

“And with no pig, where will they go?” I thought.

“Have small groups of those people been seen in this area?” I asked.

“That is usually after a big raid,” said Hans. “Still, I have heard of them showing up this way. Are you still thinking about those people with the pig?”

I nodded, then said, “I wonder if those black-dressed people know about them being there?”

“Do you think they are hiding them?” asked Hans.

“Or feeding them, or telling them how to head back toward home without getting caught, or any one of a number of things.”

The added heat of the coal was especially welcome, as it seemed to permeate both the parlor and the upstairs regions of the house. I suspected that with the 'chill' setting in, that the shop would only stay open to the degree it needed to be, and when I came the next day at my usual time to get the place 'lit up', I was shivering until I had been there an hour and gotten the fires lit.

If anything, it seemed colder than the day before, and when Georg arrived, he had a sizable and uncommonly filthy-looking bag. He handed it to me, then said, “see what you can do with this. Everyone is now hiding next to their stoves unless they have coal for them.”

“And their choice is to endure a frightful stink or shiver endlessly,” I said. “Let me powder this stuff, and I'll load the oven up with it. We don't want it in the forges, at least with it the way it is.”

After doing so, however, I had an idea, and I began loading up a spare crucible with pieces of 'scrap' and cast-iron chips. I added powdered charcoal, flux, and crushed building stone, and after putting the lid on with a bit of clay to seal the gaps, I put the crucible in the furnace, along with charcoal and a bit more powdered coal. I had no idea as to what I was doing, beyond perhaps cleaning up the stuff in question, at least at first.

However, within half an hour, the heat from the furnace was such that the rear of the shop was quite warm, and the rest of the building was comfortable. I then recalled some of the parts I wanted to make for a steam engine.

I began forming the molds with my fingers and blocks of wood, with a lapping fixture forming primitive green-sand cores, then my half-carved blank for the crankcase portion. I would need to forge the crankshaft and connecting rods, which I realized as I laid down a short piece of dowel for a piston blank.

About lunchtime, I had the intimation that the crucible was 'ready', and when I arranged the molds, I hoped and prayed that what I was going to pour would be ready. Opening the door showed a white-hot crucible, and removing the lid showed sparkling liquified contents. I grabbed the tongs, and quickly poured the molds. I had just barely enough metal to do them, and the slag that had accumulated went on the floor before I poured.

After putting the crucible in a forge to slowly cool down, I refueled the oven with the last of the powdered coal and closed its door. It was too infernally hot to 'cook' iron in the thing, and as a test, I thought to see what kind of temperatures were present within. I put a small iron bar in a small 'test hole', and within moments, withdrew but a portion of it. It looked to have melted.

“What did we do?” I gasped. “Georg, that thing gets hot enough to melt iron without a blast!”

I brought over the melted rod, which was slowly cooling from a white-hot status, and when Georg looked at it with tongs, he said, “I'm glad Hans spoke of the matter, as he said they did them that way in the fourth kingdom. How many pieces of pipe did it get?”

“Fifteen – no, sixteen,” I said. “It needed enough to get up there, then he said eighteen gave the best results for a common stove. I don't know about this type of oven.”

After the others left at their usual time, I stayed but little longer while I forged out the pieces for the crankshaft and connecting rods. I knew there would be more castings needing to be made in the future to build the engine, but first, I had to work on the ones that I currently had. I went home with a large 'bag of tricks'.

I riveted two more cooking stands, fitted up two more medium knives and three larger ones, worked on a new example of wood-carving knife and two more new woodcarving chisels, and finished up two of the steam engine patterns. I also began turning the parts of the crankshaft.

The next day at work I shook out the castings, and upon filing them, I wondered just what I'd made, for the feeling was not that of steel. The fracture was somewhat grainy-looking when I cut off the sprues with a chisel. I brought the castings to Georg when he came in, and upon looking at them, he said, “I think you made something like cast iron here, only it's much less dirty. How does it work?”

“Fairly soft,” I said. “It looks like cast iron where I came from.”

I thought to 'cook' the castings in a small wood fire in a forge, which I lit and let go out about noon or so. Meanwhile, I reamed, honed, and rifled both musket barrels, then let one of the other men clean up the stocks and buff the parts I had finished. I would be able to cook the parts to one of the guns tomorrow, and the other, the day after.

The chill was still strong and cold Friday, and as I finished the second gun's barrel, I had an intimation that the carpenters had finished the sled. I then recalled the pattern for the pressure pot, and more, some of the other machines that needed construction – especially the drilling machine. I had turned in its pattern-drawings some time ago, and had not heard anything about the matter. I wondered if I could go over to find out, but thought to ask Georg.

“Those they finished some time ago,” he said, “and I took them over to the place where I took the sextant castings. You were too busy to notice much then.”

Here, Georg paused, then said, “give how those iron castings came good, you could always do those here if the thing doesn't turn out where I sent them. What did you do with those?”

“I'm stress-relieving them in a forge,” I said. “I'll try to machine them in the next few days as a break between gun parts and other things.”

I still felt inclined to visit the carpenters, however, and when it came time for lunch, I went over to their location. To my surprise, they not only had the 'sled' ready to go, but also had a number of familiar-looking patterns sitting in a corner gathering 'dust'.

“I thought he took those over,” I said.

“They weren't ready then,” said one of the carpenters. “I've wanted to ask you about some of the details on these things, as they're as curious a puzzle as any pattern I've ever seen, and this one here looks to need a core-box.”

“Wonderful,” I thought. “I'll need to spend some time here.”

After spending most of my lunch period 'clarifying' the mess, and scrawling on both sides of two further slates the needed corrections – they had 'pinned' the patterns together with dowels; they weren't close to finished – and making notes as to certain parts I would need to make, I returned back to the shop with the carpenters, who were carrying the sled. The thing was promptly upended near my area, where I took one look at it and shuddered.

“How does the horse – or horses – attach to this thing?” I thought.

As if to answer, the remaining pieces came in but minutes later. I felt as if I'd been left holding the proverbial 'bag', and as I resumed work on my 'usual' things, I had the impression the sled was to be done on the weekend for the most part.

I was soon disabused of the matter, as Hans came over just as the others were removing their aprons and spoke briefly with Georg as he went out the door. He then came over to where I was. I was full of questions.

“Now how is this thing done?” I asked. “Does it have perches, or things like them, or what?”

“First, those runners there need covering with copper,” said Hans as he pointed to them, “and then there are some little pieces for the top, and then that piece there goes on the front on a swivel so it can be hooked up”

Hans paused, then said, “and I would hurry on this, as Anna wants to try it out bad.”

“Uh, I'm not sure I want to hurry and do a bad job,” I said, “especially when it could get someone hurt.”

Hans looked at me, and his unreadable face was enough to cause a spate of fear to come over me, at least until Anna herself came in. She took one look at the sled, then at me, then at Hans, then at me again.

“Now what did he tell you?” she asked. Her question was directed toward me.

“I needed to, uh, hurry,” I said, “and the way it sounded, I was supposed to have it done by tomorrow morning, done right, and done smiling, so you could go off...”

“Can you do that?” asked Anna. “I know you're a lot quicker than most, but there are things beyond your ability, and that sounds like one of them.”

Anna paused, then said, “I think you need to come home, get a bath, and then get ready for a good meal. You've been tossing the candle into the stove again, and hearing... Hans? Hans! Wake up!”

Hans shook slightly, then said, “I think I fell asleep again. I told him how you've wanted one of these for the longest time, and...”

“And I didn't read your mind?” I asked. “I'm a very poor mind-reader. If I know things like that, it's not 'me', it's something I'm told, and it's usually for reasons I don't understand terribly well.”

I began untying my apron, then put it over the sled. As I did so, I noticed a slight reduction in the 'chill' aspect of the air, and as I went home with the two of them, I noted not merely less snow falling, but also less of a coal-stink in the air.

“Has it warmed up slightly?” I asked.

“It has,” said Anna. “I also found that the snow is deep enough now that even our buggy has trouble, and that with but one person in it. It will barely move with two.”

“Hence that sled is needed,” I said.

“I made arrangements to use one in town,” said Anna, “at least, until you finish that one. Hans might not have known about that.”

“I did not know,” said Hans.

“I'll need to ask questions tonight at dinner,” I said. “What do you have planned? Pie?”

Anna nodded, then said, “you might wish to ask both of us about it. I know you aren't familiar with sleds and how they work, especially that type.”

While the pie was tasty, I had my mind on first the steam engine, then the sled, and once home, I began cutting screws for the latter. I'd made two pages of notes, and as I cut the screw-blanks with the lathe, I wondered just how long it would take for me to make them, and more, how many such screws I would need to make.

The answer came to me on the morrow: I would need nearly a hundred, and as screw-cutting was boring, I thought to begin boring the holes for the cylinders as a break. I had the intimation that boring such holes would be less boring than making screws.

'Stress-relieving' the castings had seemed to change them but little, and their easy working was such that I marveled. I bored both cylinders with the largest reamer I had, then inserted a wooden plug and rough-ground the outside of each piece such that it was close to where I wanted it. I would need to make the valve-bodies, valves, pistons, and piston-pins, and then begin fitting the engine up.

I made three trips to the shop that rest-day, and bent many of the numerous small brackets for the sled out of sheet metal. With each such piece, I test-fitted it, and at the end of the day, I put the screws and brackets in a cooking can and loaded up the furnace with a fresh load of charcoal.

After church, I resumed working on sled parts, and that evening, I set up another load of parts. I removed them Monday morning and set them aside, such that I could work on the usual things that needed to happen – including the drilling machine. I thought to forge out the rack piece, and here, I used well-homogenized iron with a moderate amount of carbon impregnation. After hours, I looked though my files – until I found one that I had never looked closely at before.

The file in question was nearly three inches across, and of a coarser cut than any other file I had ever seen, with a length including its handle of over two feet. The handle, thankfully, was not like one of those that had come with Georg's order of tools, but one similar to those I had replaced them with. This file had a label spelling out what it was, who had made it, and where it had originally come from. It was certainly large enough to warrant the label of 'Great Bastard File'.

“I have heard of mill bastard files,” I thought, “and this monstrous thing is easily twice the size of the biggest one I ever saw where I came from, so perhaps the idea behind the two is related.” I then turned the file over to look at the other portion of the tang just above the handle.

Written thereon was the single word “Fritz.”

Recollections of that name – “he pounds like Fritz” – “perhaps Fritz had as much wind” – and then, the obvious came to me. Perhaps the manufacturer himself was of that name.

“Did Fritz make this file?” I thought, as I hefted it. “Had it an edge, it could be used as a sword.”

There were more loose-fitting 'bed-clothes' at home that evening, and after trying them on one at a time, I pronounced them 'fitting'. Their baggy nature made for wondering, so much so that when I brought them back into the kitchen, Anna said, “I never could understand how a person could sleep with a blanket, even a knit one, against bare skin like you used to do.”

“Is clothing like this common for warmer weather?” I asked. It seemed likely, for some reason.

“It is, though the cut is less full,” said Anna. “I'm glad warmer weather is rare up here.”

“Yes, and we do not work in a smithy,” said Hans, as he came from upstairs into the kitchen. “Only founders and potters have more heat in their work, and that place is catching up in a hurry.”

“Uh, we do pour bronze every so often,” I said, “as well as some 'cast iron' recently. Granted, not much at a time, but we can pour that stuff.”

“Now why is it you would want to do that?” asked Hans. “That stuff is dirty, weak, and worthless for using.”

“The fifth kingdom stuff approaches that state,” I said. “If you start with cast iron chips, add plenty of charcoal, flux, crushed building stone, and some carefully selected scrap, the result is nowhere near as bad. Here, I have some pieces of it over here that I'm working on.”

I brought the part-finished pieces over to the table, where I handed them around. Hans looked at the stuff with an attitude of distaste until he'd felt one of the pieces, then said, “this is not that fifth kingdom rubbish. Is it dirty?”

“It is to a modest degree,” I said, “but that's normal for cast iron.”

“What is this odd piece here?” asked Anna, as she held up a crankcase half. The proportions suggested something akin to a toy.

“That's part of the crankcase,” I said. “I need to finish the patterns for the bronze pieces, and make a fair number of parts still.”

“What will it do?” asked Anna.

“That one is to drive the buffing wheel,” I said, “and I need to take that pressure-pot pattern over tomorrow so I can run it.”

I kept my word about the matter, and poured the molds that day for pot and lid. The stovepipe orders were finally tapering off, at least for 'patchwork', and our stock was being replenished. I looked at our remaining metal sheets, and shuddered. We had used up nearly all of what we had, and both rollers were in use on the remaining stock. We would be 'out' within days at the most, at least of the 'common-sized' stuff. The large stuff I coveted, as it was proving uncommonly useful.

“Uh, more sheet metal?” I asked during the guzzle. “We don't have much left of the common size.”

“I sent out the order when the post came the last time it showed,” said Georg, “and that for both sizes. I've seen how much you use that larger stuff for things around here. Now what is a cooking stand? Someone wanted one of those and a heating lamp.”

“Those use that sheet metal,” I said, “at least for the most part. Is there some like it that is a bit thicker, perhaps twice as thick?”

“There is, and I ordered some of that,” said Georg. “The odd sizes are not available in the fifth kingdom, so that stock needs to come from the fourth.”

Shaking out the pressure-pot parts happened just after lunch, and the thick gouts of steam that came from quenching them and the other smaller parts seemed to fog the shop largely for several minutes. The sprues came off and went in the 'ready-to-melt' pile, save for one that I retained for bushings. Bushing stock was another thing I 'coveted'.

I began fitting the brackets to the sled after the usual quitting time, and when I came home, the talk was of the huge gouts of steam that had showed.

“I hope Maarten doesn't visit that shop,” said Anna, “as he might confuse Georg with Brimstone.”

“Why?” I asked. “I needed to quench some bronze castings after shaking them out, and they were hot enough to make a great deal of steam.”

“Which castings were these?” asked Hans.

“The two castings for the first pressure-pot,” I said, “and then the usual small bronze castings I commonly do for knives. I should have the first copies of those chemistry clamps done shortly.”

“Did you make a pattern for those?” asked Hans.

“I made one at first,” I said, “and then had it duplicated twice over and finished those up at home. I usually run two flasks of those castings when I pour bronze, so I've got about twenty clamp castings ready to finish.”

“Why so many?” asked Hans. “Those my grandfather had were not cheap.”

“They work well for a lot of things, not just chemistry,” I said. “There were some where I came from that were similar in function, if not construction. These I'm doing will be a bit more versatile than those were – the swivel pads are removable and can be changed.”

I paused, then said, “I have no idea how much steam that engine will make when it runs.”

“Will it be noisy?” said Anna.

“I doubt it will make much noise,” I said, “at least, the way I have it planned. There are other versions that might well run on aquavit, but those will need parts we don't have at this time, and those might well be noisy. Why?”

Anna worked her face into a grimace of some kind, then mumbled, “they have things down in the fifth kingdom that make enough noise to make the dead jump out of the ground, and they run on distillate. I know of a potter who has one, and half that town is insane from its noise.”

“And the other half?” I asked.

“They are deaf from it,” said Hans. “I do not know where that potter gets the money to run that thing, but he does a lot of jugs, and good ones, too.”

“What does he use it for?” I asked.

“He has a big kiln, and it makes the wind to burn his pots,” said Hans. “He has never heard particularly well, and seems strange enough, but potters play with fire, so it and its flames do not bother him.”

Hans paused, then said, “and some call that thing a trap, others a gin, and some few a tool of Brimstone.”

I finished the sled the next day, and after bathing, I led the other two in the gathering gloom amid mounded snow – the stuff had not stopped falling, and 'halfway to the knee' was the usual depth, with 'knee-high' being common enough in the fields – and when they saw it, they marveled. I'd been wiping it all over with drying oil every chance I had since it had come to the shop, and it now gleamed all over as if varnished.

“Now this here is as good a sled as I have seen,” said Hans. “How much weight did it gain?”

“Very little,” I said. “I just hope it works.”

Towing Anna home in the thing was easy work for Hans and I, and once it was in the buggy-way, I had an idea. Anna needed to be presented with that one tin of rose-soap. Perfume and women belonged together.

Once inside, I fetched the tin with the soap, and came down with it hidden behind my back. Anna was in the kitchen 'packing' something; I presumed it was for the sled's first run tomorrow. I came up behind her, then asked her to turn around, close her eyes, and hold out her hands.

Again, she giggled, surprisingly, and as I placed the tin in her hands, she asked, “why does this smell so?”

“Open your eyes and look,” I asked.

Anna did so, looked at the tin, opened it – it had several delightful pink bars with a heady aroma of roses – and looked at me in the strangest fashion. I doubted she would erupt, but the questions would come. The first one did a second later.

“Why do you have this?” she asked.

“It was brought by Albrecht,” I said, “and that one second-hand store said I'd paid for it beforehand. How, I'm not certain.”

I paused, then said in a soothing voice, “please, smell it. Doesn't it smell too good for words?”

Anna did so, then said, “it does smell good. Why does it affect you so?”

“I have not found any flowers yet,” I said, “but had I found them, I would have picked a bunch of them, and given them to you. I like them greatly.”

“You and Esther,” muttered Anna. “I've wondered about your nose, especially as to how sensitive it is, and how you seem to smell things like some dogs I've heard of. This is not cheap soap, and that other stuff wasn't cheap either.”

“I knew that, and did not worry about the money,” I said. “The smell drove me out of my mind to smell it, and more, the smell of flowers reminds me of a garden that I have seen several times. This place may be nice and green, but that place makes it seem dry and dead.”

Anna looked at me with an expression I could not place beyond I'd not seen it before, then she said quietly, “money seems to mean nothing to you, even if you know others want and need it. I've never seen anyone like that before, and have only heard of such people in the old tales...”

I wondered as to the meaning of Anna's speech. It seemed important, so I listened.

“...Especially of those people that saved the place from dying. We call those people saints, and one has your name. He was a plague on evil, and lost his head on account of it, and cared not for money and greatly for flowers.”

Anna paused, then said, “And Paul has to handle the money for their house, as Esther doesn't much care for it.”

“Money?” I said. It felt as if I'd uttered a curse.

“Paul says she doesn't even like talking about it much,” said Anna. “I know she likes flowers, and she's fond of gardens, even if she has trouble growing vegetables.”

“G-garden?” I gasped. Παραδεισος?” The Greek word was mouthed, not said aloud, and I began weeping, then moaned, “I want to see that place, as it is so special to me, and...”

“Maarten spoke of Heaven being as a garden,” said Anna, “and one of its titles indicated it was that.”

“I've seen that garden,” I moaned, “m-more than once, I've seen it, and my life, especially before coming here, was full of death, destruction, hatred, and murder, almost as if I were...”

In the background, I could almost hear something, words mingled with the thunder of inner-city traffic, and as the noises faded, I heard faint words as if chanted: “motel, money, murder, madness.”

What?” I gasped.

“That sounds about right for a place where nearly everyone is a witch,” said Anna. “Now what is a motel?”

“A place where people stay, like an inn or something,” I said.

“That place sounds like Norden,” said Anna. “Those northern people and their pigs come from that place, and the witch that leads them is the worst of them all.”

Anna paused, then said, “that dark haired one would devour her at a gulp. Was that witch a relative?”

“Uh, no,” I said. “She...”

I paused, for I now saw two dark-haired women. One I recognized instantly as that accursed dark-haired witch, while the second seemed to be entrapped in a mirror she was standing next to. The dark-haired witch turned, saw the mirror's image, and as I watched, she walked into the mirror – and then came back out. One woman was the soul and image of the other, and as I watched the woman in the mirror, the image changed slowly until it formed another person – and again, I recognized this woman.

The dark-haired witch and my mother were as twins – twins for ambition, twins for evil, twins in all areas save for the quantity and quality of inhabitation, or so I thought until my eyes again focused on Anna. I had seen nothing but the strange behavior of two dark-haired women.

“Now that was strange,” she said. “I saw two dark-haired witches, and they were as if twins. One of them looked a bit more like you than the other. Now who was that witch hiding in the mirror?”

“My m-mother,” I said. “I recognized th-that dress, and it was all of o-one piece.”

“Did she birth your younger brother?” asked Anna.

I nodded, then said, “by a different father. That man was evil in no uncertain terms, and he acted as though the world was his property to do with as he pleased.”

“And your father?”

“He looked and acted quite different from them,” I said. “His temperament reminded me of Hans'.”

I paused, then said, “my mother was ambitious. I knew that much, and I knew she wanted me to be someone I could not be – and because I could not be as she wished, she was angry at me.”

“I thought so,” said Anna. “Was she as drunk as a stinker?”

“I'm not sure if she was that drunk,” I said. “There were times that she drank more than was good for her, and her disposition became very unpleasant then.”

“I wonder about her still,” said Anna. “That person with your name was said to have been birthed by a witch.”

After Anna put up the soap – I was hoping she would either bathe with it, or some short dark-haired woman would show and she would bathe with the stuff – I went to the bench. I had some more bronze patterns to work on for the engine, as well as some ideas to sketch for a blower and more 'medical instruments' to work on. I'd used the last of my bar of that strange iron to forge another two 'scalpels' and three more pairs of tweezers, and I was hoping I'd be able to get more of it soon.

I left early the next morning, and as I walked along the snow-dusted path, I noted the snow to each side looked to have been shoveled off the stones. I wondered about shovels, so much so that as I built up the fires in the light of my lantern, I sat down and began drawing one on a slate, and as I looked at it, I thought, “can I cast spoons and forks? Tinned brass might be light enough, but I'm not so sure I want to count on my tinning.”

Yet even as I drew some further patterns, I thought about the matter, and had an idea involving silver. I had roughly an ounce of scrap silver remaining at home, and three large silver pieces. I did not wish to use those, for some reason.

I went home during the morning guzzle and fetched out my bagged silver scrap. To my surprise, I had more than I thought, and when I began loading up a crucible with selected well-cleaned sprues, added more tin, and then the silver, I needed to answer some questions, chiefly relating to what I had in mind.

“I wanted to try this alloy for tableware,” I said. “Can one of you fetch me a spoon for a pattern?”

By the time the metal had melted, I had four flasks ready to go, and poured all of them with metal to spare. That went in an 'ingot mold', and as I watched over the flasks, I noted the steadily cooling metal. This stuff had a definite silvery tint that remained as the bronze cooled, and during lunch, I shook out the castings, then cut off the sprues. Those went in a bag, with the finished castings in another save for one which received immediate attention from my files.

The shine of the metal, as well as its pronounced silvery cast, was such that I marveled, and after a brief run on the buffing wheel, I showed the result to Georg.

“Since when are you doing silver tableware?” he asked.

“That spoon is mostly bronze,” I said. “I added a bit of silver, more tin, charcoal, and a little flux,” I said. “I was curious as to how well it would work out, actually.”

“If they are not too hard to make, then you may wish to make more as you have time,” said Georg. “I suspect I can sell every one of them you make.”

“Forks?” I asked.

“If you make those, then I know I can sell them readily,” said Georg. “Spoons are fairly common.”

“What are they made of?” I asked.

“Up here, I suspect tinned brass sheet,” said Georg. “Elsewhere, they might be made of tin, tinned bronze, or occasionally silver.”

The end of standard-sized stovepipe sheet was now at hand, and as I peened the rivets of the last few pieces, I paused to look at the stock we had ready to sell. Again, there were tall stacks of stovepipe standing near Georg's desk. The muskets had both finished up the day before, and were waiting on the return of their owners; the wagon parts had been forged up with the drop-hammer, and I was filing on them.

Unlike prior instances, however, these parts were not of dead-soft metal, but scrap that had been forged out thin, cooked, folded, and then forged up into the needed pieces. This showed as a mingled 'hard-soft' metal, with the individual layers behaving different under the file. It made me long for a means of making crucible steel – which meant an engine, a boiler, its ancilliaries, and a blower.

“I wonder if a pressure-pot would work for a boiler?” I thought. “I can cast those readily enough.”

The various pieces for the first engine seemed complex enough to be a true challenge, so much so that I wondered if I could actually do the work involved. Had I a lathe – a decent-sized one, one like I had begun drawing in the ledger – and a milling machine in addition to what I currently had, building the thing would be 'easy'. I did not have those tools, and hence, an engine – even a model-sized engine – was worrisome. I wondered if I had made the right choice in going with a two-cylinder example – until I realized the limits of my tools put a cap on the cylinder bore and stroke, and the likely boiler pressure I could safely muster indicated a decent steam displacement. Hence, multiple cylinders, and the easiest type, given what I had for tools, was a V-twin.

I stayed after the others left to begin lapping the bores of the cylinders, and testing them with some of the 'musket' plug-gages showed them to be about nine-tenths of an inch once I had cleaned them up. The planned stroke was 'as long as the crankcase will accommodate', which at the current time seemed a bit more than an inch and a half.

I was glad for the relative dearth of copperware, as Georg had confirmed that one man did want a distillery, and my intimation regarding Paul's wanting one was based on income. I suspected he might well want a loan of some kind.

“And given those make alcohol as strong as they do, he'll have no trouble selling all he can make,” I thought.

Accordingly, when I rolled out the pieces prior to leaving, I made enough parts to make three stills. Batch-mode helped with those also, I suspected, and when I came home tired, dirty, hungry, and cold, I wondered what would happen tomorrow. I knew something was going to happen, and I wasn't certain what.