The end of the beginning, part D


Throughout that day, I labored steadily upon buggy parts, and by noon, I had both of the arbor shanks and the cutter ready to harden. As I ran the bellows, I wondered for a moment if I would use the pieces again; and when I saw a shadow in the doorway, I nearly fell down.

“D-don't do that!” I squeaked.

“I'm sorry,” said Sarah. “I came to tell you about that buggy.”

“That s-stolen one?” I asked, as I let the parts 'soak' in the glowing coals.

“We haven't found anyone in town who's missing a buggy yet,” said Sarah. “He did not steal it anywhere near here.”

“The horses?” I asked.

“No one's missing them either,” said Sarah. “I'm not much surprised, especially with those.”

“Uh, why?” I asked. “Not enough food?”

“That and too much work,” said Sarah. “We're due to fetch some grain soon, and I think you might want the sweetened type.”

“Y-yes, please,” I said. “At least two bags, and three if you can.”

“That type doesn't keep as well as one might want,” said Sarah. “It may work better than the common, but it needs eating within a week or so of mixing.”

“Uh, the trip?” I asked.

“I'd take regular grain and a jug of the sap,” said Sarah, “or, if you can get it, the dried sap. That weighs less and takes up less room.”

“Then bags of regular grain and the other?” I asked.

“Hans planned on three bags, but I'll tell him you want more,” said Sarah. “I've been adding more to their pans when and where I can.”

“Uh, that buggy?” I asked. “What if no one claims it?”

Sarah looked at me in what might have been horror, then said quietly, “I can drive, but...”

“It's in as bad of a shape as the horses?” I asked. “Is it even a good idea to have something like that?”

Sarah left shortly thereafter, and after quenching the arbors and cutter, I began lapping and stoning them to size and shape. I had barely started on the second arbor when I had another visitor: Hans.

“Now what is this I hear about that buggy?” he asked.

“N-no one has claimed it?” I asked.

“Not yet,” said Hans. “I have looked at that thing, and it needs a fair amount of work.”

“F-fair amount?” I asked. “What kind?”

“It has the common for wheels,” said Hans, “and it has bad irons, and then it has bad wood, too.”

“Meaning slow, noisy, and clumsy,” I said, as I continued lapping the arbor.

“Especially with that team,” said Hans. He paused for a moment, then said, “now how many bags of grain do you want?”

“Uh, how many should I get?” I asked.

“For here, or for that trip?” asked Hans.

“Uh, both?”

“That barrel holds close on two bags,” said Hans. “If I can find another, then I can get more grain.”

“Perhaps store the grain indoors until you can find one?” I asked.

“Anna would not like that,” said Hans, “as horse-grain draws rats, and you have seen how she gets when they show.”

“Doesn't mash?” I asked.

“Yes, especially if it is not covered good,” said Hans. “I've got covers on order for our tubs.”

Hans left shortly thereafter, and I resumed work.

Between quenching, 'drawing', grinding, filing, and lapping, I was making a moderate amount of smoke and steam, and by midafternoon, I was beginning to fit up the parts to the first buggy's perches. My 'grease-brush' was in steady use as I wiped, reamed, filed, and deburred each part.

“Oh!” I thought. “I need to do the cones and cups!”

“Fit up the axles first, and then do that,” said the soft voice. “Cone-fitting either needs a special fixture or someone to help you hold the axle steady – and it's usually the very last thing done anyway.”

I came home after sundown with a full bag of tricks, and after dinner, I needed to make a trip back to the shop. I put the rest of the screws in the furnace, stoked it again, and left for home, where I resumed fitting the four wrench forgings I had made earlier in the week. I stopped for a break, stood, and nearly tripped over a small 'wall' of plump-looking bags.

“What are these?” I gasped.

“Those would be horse-grain,” said Sarah. “I found some of that dried sap, as well as some other things that might help.”

“Other things?” I asked.

“Some thin skewers,” said Sarah. “Hans found another lead-pot, which is a good thing, given how much lead he's using.”

“Uh, how much?”

“Enough that he could use an armory mould,” said Sarah. “I told him about those, and he wants to stay with what he has.”

“How much lead does he run?” I asked.

“Enough that he's been asking for it everywhere,” said Anna, “and he wishes he has two extra hands and another mould.”

“An armory mould?” I asked. “I could easily do a two-cavity one, if he wants slugs.”

“He's had few takers for those, save at the house,” said Anna. She paused, then said, “and they've been asking for all of them he can do steadily.”

“Uh, those four muskets?” I asked.

“Have people fighting over them,” said Anna. “Talk has it more of them will be coming for rework after the trip.”

“Are we to take one on the trip?” I asked.

“You might,” said Anna archly. “Roadside game isn't all that rare to the south.”

I cleaned up the wrench-forgings before bedtime, and after church the next day, I returned to the shop. Again, I was making a fair amount of noise, smoke, and steam while fitting the second buggy's parts prior to 'installation'. I hoped to 'fit' the cones and cups the next day, and thought to stay later if needed.

I did stay later, but as I trudged home weary and aching in the darkness with the feebly glowing student's lantern in front of me, I felt heartened by the amount of progress. I hoped that a brief lapping stint would be sufficient for fitting the cups to the cones, given their relative lack of wear.

“I'll bet they moved some due to being cooked,” I thought, though still, I had a measure of hope. Only one of the four perches had moved 'significantly', it being the first one. The others had stayed more or less 'straight'.

“I'll need to speak about those temper-colors,” I thought, as I reached for the front door of the house. “They aren't that dark metal-treatment.” I tapped, then let myself in.

Sarah had gone somewhere, as she was not sitting on the couch, and before I went into the kitchen, I listened carefully at the stairs. I could not hear anyone there, either. I went into the kitchen proper, and walked carefully to the privy. I was about to reach for the knob when the door jerked open to show Anna.

I nearly collapsed in fright.

“Where is everyone?” I asked.

“Sarah headed back towards the king's house to fetch more supplies,” said Anna, “and Hans went down to the Public House to ask about some things. He should be back shortly.”

“Why did she go at night?” I asked.

“I think she wants to be there early,” said Anna.

“Early?” I asked.

“When the shops first open,” said Anna. “She said she'd sleep in the house proper once she got there, and then get a ride back tomorrow.” Anna paused, then asked, “when is your next posting?”

“I-I'm not certain,” I said. “I wasn't told, in fact.”

The front door opened, and in came Hans. As if he'd been listening, he said, “this was about your next post, wasn't it?”

I was speechless, and looked for a chair. Meanwhile, Hans seemed oblivious to what I was feeling.

“I found out some more down at the Public House,” said Hans, as he held up a sizable bag, “and they should have two of these things filled with drowned Kuchen in a few days.”

“What did you find?” asked Anna.

“They go as soon as those buggies are done,” said Hans, “or maybe a day later.”

“How are the parts to get back to the house?” I asked.

“That is easy,” said Hans. “When you finish those things, you go home, take your bath and get ready to ride, and then go down to the Public House. They should be able to fetch those freighters directly.”

“Directly?” I asked.

“Their buggy is by the Public House, same as their team, and they are staying in town,” said Hans. “If you finish at night, it might take them longer than during the day.”

“Will they bother?” asked Anna.

“I think so,” said Hans. “August showed me the copy of their orders, and they are to leave right away, no matter when he finishes that stuff.” Hans paused, then said to me, “and you will need to go with them, so that they keep their horses moving and do not stop.”

“Is that in those orders?” I asked.

“I did not see it, and neither did the publican,” said Hans. “He was keeping the paper for them, as well as the rest of the money, and he showed it to me.”

“My next post?” I asked.

“I think that is when you finish those things,” said Hans. “Now, are you going to be able to spin those wheels with those people in the shop?”

“Sp-spin the wheels?” I asked.

“Yes, like they usually do,” said Hans. “That is when you put some sand in the grease and spin them with a loose nut, and then fit them closer.”

“Th-that's all I have left,” I spluttered. “That, and putting the parts of the second buggy on the axles for their last adjustment.”

“I will go with you tomorrow, then,” said Hans. “I doubt those people at the shop there will want anything to do with that job.”

While I had misgivings about Hans' speech, I suspected he was at least partly correct, and I spent the time prior to dinner forming and cutting spoons and forks from sheet brass. As I worked, however, I gave thought to the use of a die of some kind, and for some reason, I felt led to look in one of my 'junkboxes'. I found a small pouch labeled 'dies', and upon opening it, I was shocked.

“Th-this is a spoon-die!” I gasped.

“Look in the bag,” said the soft voice. “There's more.”

The next paired pieces were for the forming of a three-tined fork, and when I assembled them and used the arbor press, the result was astounding.

I had a clean-sheared business end of a fork bent to the correct angles.

“Now all I need do is...”

“Trim the portion to be held to size, and then debur them prior to tinning,” said the soft voice. “I would keep such dies in mind for other matters in the future.”

The dies made for neater and quicker work, so much so that when I took the spoons and forks down into the basement for tinning a short time after dinner, Hans was amazed – and he nearly fainted when I began tinning them using a lead-pot and heating lamp. It took me a very short time to have over a dozen of each utensil ready to use.

“Now those you can sell easy,” said Hans. “I had no idea they could be made that quickly.”

“It seems I had dies to form the most-difficult portions,” I said. “I still have to cut them out the usual way, then debur them carefully, and finally tin them. Only casting them would be quicker.”

“How would that be?” asked Hans.

“I would need more patterns of spoons and forks,” I said, “and finding time to carve those isn't easy, especially right now.”

“You only have to do that part once, though,” said Hans. “I cannot see how it would be quicker.”

“If there are enough patterns,” I said, “I can ram up an entire casting flask, and cast them nearly to size and shape. Once they're shaken out, then I can cut them from the sprues and finish them with files and buffing – and the way that sand works, I would not need to do much of either.”

“Yes, if you do it,” retorted Hans. “I'm glad for the extra clamps now, as I need a lot of those things.”

“I could always make more of them,” I said.

“I think you might do that when you have time,” said Hans after he stifled a yawn.

His yawning reminded me of my need for sleep, and after bagging up the forks and spoons in separate bags, I went up to bed. The next morning, I left early, and as I sat pondering how to lap the cups to the cones, Hans came in. He looked around amid the blazing fires of the forges, then came closer.

“Where are those boys?” he asked.

“I usually get here half an hour before they come,” I said. “I lay my own fires, as they don't seem inclined to learn much.”

“Have you shown them?” asked Hans.

Many times,” I said. “Look at that forge over there...” I pointed with my hand. “Yes, that one. I leave that forge unburnt as an example for them to look at.”

Hans walked over, then shook his head. He found a stool, pulled it up, then said, “that is like no forge fire I have seen, not ever.”

“Is it a mess?” I asked.

“No, it isn't,” said Hans. “It almost looks like a fancy meal, it is so neat, and the wood is piled just so, with the charcoal put to the sides nice, and the hearth not having all of the ash and rubbish they usually do.”

“Hans, they said they were told to just pile in as much as the forge would hold without getting themselves lit on fire!” I squeaked, then paused for a second. “Now how, exactly, do I get those wheels on those cones without the axles trying to fall off the stands?”

Hans went and sat on one of them, then said, “now you can put the wheels on.”

I gingerly smeared a small dollop of fine-grit in the cup, then rolled the wheel over. I lifted it into position, slid it on, and then gently pressed while turning the wheel back and fourth through a short arc. I removed the wheel, and then wiped the cone.

“That is good bearing there,” said Hans. “I would clean that one up and call it good.”

I put the student's lantern close by the cone, and began looking closer. Within seconds, I found a small high spot, which I stoned down with one of the coarser stones. There were two more, both of them on the bottom. I then tried the wheel again.

The high spots had vanished amid the faint gray 'haze' left by the grinding compound, and after several full turns, I removed the wheel again. I wiped the cup carefully, and with a small scraper, scraped the places inside it that showed fresh wear marks. I then put a small amount of fine abrasive in the cone, and 'spun' it back and forth several times.

There were more – and smaller – high spots on both cup and cone, and upon treating them, I used rouge for the last instance.

The effort required to spin the wheel had grown steadily less with each such treatment, and the smoothness of the last instance was such that I nearly collapsed when the first of the apprentices showed behind Hans as he sat on the axle. They did not stop for much of anything until they brought in a bag of charcoal each for the two active forges. The clinking I heard afterward spoke of hammers and chisels in use at the rear of the property.

“What is it they are working on?” asked Hans, as I cleaned the cup and cone of the first wheel with a clean rag.

“Mostly metal from Norden,” I said. “There's a big pile of cut-up pieces that comes near to my waist, and I hope they stay on that job while I'm gone on that trip.”

“Why is that?” asked Hans, as I began fitting the left wheel to its cone.

“I hope to get that big furnace done when I get back,” I said. “It will do a lot more metal than what we have to melt now.”

After 'mating' the left wheel, I had to remove the pieces from the axle. Hans was somewhat helpful here, and as he used the two buggy-wrenches – I had to watch him, as he wanted to use the larger wrench-end for everything – I noted their tight fitting. He seemed to notice something as well.

“These are the best wrenches I have ever used,” said Hans. “Now why is it they are gray like this?”

“It seems that finish helps somewhat with rust,” I said, “and I know of at least one customer here that wants his wrenches 'grayed'.” I paused, then said, “if I had that one recipe, I'd use that.”

“Buggy-wrenches are to be bright-metal,” said Hans. “Every one of those things I have seen has been that way.”

“Those aren't,” I said. “I think Johannes said something about the shops commonly making them only turning them out in polished form.”

Hans looked at me for a second, then asked, “why is that?”

Though I heard genuine curiosity, I had no answer, and told him so. I could feel the others coming, and when they showed minutes later, I smelled just-eaten food.

“Did you eat breakfast at the Public House?” I asked.

“A quick one,” said Georg. “I'm glad you're close to finishing those, as they've been waiting for them since the day before the rest-day.”

“And no help from any of you,” said Hans.

“We tried cleaning the parts,” said Georg, “and though I was careful in checking them, they weren't any good. He had to redo them.”

“Did you look close?” asked Hans.

“I thought I did,” said Georg, “but I either am blind to such things, or I am not used to it. Either way, I have no answer, and that seems the case for nearly everything done here nowadays.”

“What of those forges, and their fires?” asked Hans. I was about to speak about his not removing the screws and bolts when he abruptly resumed working.

“I cannot seem to understand it,” said Georg. “I've watched him carefully, and looked at that one example, and tried doing it that way, but when I do, I'm wasting my time. Mine look completely different, and should I try lighting them, they do not light without half a cup of distillate.”

“Johannes?” I asked. “Gelbhaar? The apprentices?”

“They are glad you light the fires,” said Johannes. “I have tried loading a forge like you do, and I have trouble getting it to burn at all.”

“And if you pile them like I've seen?” I asked.

“Those light readily,” said Georg. “Yours might burn hotter, and use less fuel, and work especially well, but it seems only you can build and light them.”

“And the oven?” I asked.

“No one here wants to touch it,” said Georg. “Not after that one time.”

“W-what happened?” I asked. I had nearly finished mounting the hardware on the right side of the front axle, and was about to go to the rear with its wheel, and as I finished, I wondered how Hans was much better than those of the shop. I kept silent just the same, as I suspected they would not wish to try assisting me whatsoever.

“You had it loaded with those containers you cook things in,” said Georg, “and it was burning low. I suspected you might want the pieces taken out, and I got the tongs you use and opened the door.”

“Yes, and what happened?” asked Hans.

“I got the door opened a crack, and the furnace made a growling noise,” said Georg, “and before I could close and latch its door, it spewed flames.”

“Flames?” I asked.

“Like a hard-blown forge,” said Georg. “Had I not closed the door in a hurry, I would have been burned to a cinder. It was close as it was.”

“Growling noise?” I asked.

“Like one of those black dogs,” said Georg. “I've heard those before, and I thought one of them had gotten inside that furnace.”

“Did that kind of thing happen with Hieronymus?” I asked.

“N-no, it didn't,” said Georg, “and somehow, this wasn't close to being the same as with him.” Georg paused, then said, “I think this was worse.”

“Worse?” I squeaked. “How?”

“I think it was warning me off,” said Georg. “Had Hieronymus opened that furnace, I doubt it would have done so.”

“But that's just a furnace,” I spluttered. “What would it have done?”

“I think it would have devoured him,” said Georg. “Or, at the least, it would have lit him on fire. I'm not certain which, even if I am certain I don't want to get close to that furnace unless you are around. It doesn't mind me then.”

“Can you bring that rear wheel there to the other side of the rear axle?” I asked.

“I cannot do that, as I have yet to finish this one here,” said Hans. “You need to be more patient.”

“I think he meant one of us,” said Gelbhaar. “I'll try.”

I continued working on my 'cone', and as I heard the wheel roll across the floor of the shop, I said, “no, not that one. That's a front wheel, and it goes to the part Hans is working on right now. Put it close to where he is, and bring the one next to it – the wheel next to it that lies to the north.”

The wheel resumed rolling, then slowly scraped to the ground as another wheel came rumbling my way. This time, I looked up and jumped out of the way at the last second as Johannes nearly ran me over with the other front wheel.

“Now where does this one go?” he asked.

“Next to the front on the other side,” I said. I wanted to scream, as nothing I said was being heard, and the sense of 'harassment' and 'deliberate trouble' was both intense and growing. I stood up, walked over to where Johannes was, took the wheel from him, put it back where he had gotten it, then rolled the wheel in question to where it belonged.

“You all might as well leave me alone,” I said. “I should finish in a few hours.”

I was not surprised in the slightest when silence descended like a shroud, and when Hans finished with his portion, he looked at me through slitted eyes. I shook my head, then said, “why did I have the impression they were trying to cause trouble?”

“I think that is because I am here helping you,” said Hans, “and I doubt they would be careful enough to do this.”

Again, I kept silence, for I saw aspects of carelessness in Hans' work. I suspected the chief issue was one of degree, or so I thought, and when Hans moved to the rear axle, I checked the front portion.

I had to spend several minutes going over the thing carefully.

“No, he doesn't need them talking,” I thought, as I finished up. “That first time was a lot better.”

Doing the second set of front wheels took less time than the first set, and the first set of rear wheels the least of all. As we removed the first set of rear wheels to put them in with the 'first set', I watched Hans work intermittently. He seemed a good deal more careful than when the people of the shop had been present to provide distraction, and when I checked his work this time, I did not need to touch it.

“I think they were causing me trouble,” said Hans, as he rolled the right rear wheel up to the axle. “I cannot talk and do much else, is what I think.”

“I'm no better, and that's for things like this,” I said. “Swords are the worst that way.”

“How is that?”

“I have to be especially careful with those,” I said. “One mistake, one moment's carelessness, and the blade is scrap.” I paused, then said, “and I hope I have enough time to...”

I looked around and wondered where, if anywhere, those blades needing rework lay. I could not see them, and as I resumed working on the wheels, I suspected the matter to be one of distraction.

“That, and they're waiting until their posts are those just ahead of yours,” said the soft voice. “Your dealing with Karl's and Sepp's swords is thought to be the pattern for how you rework those.”

“Uh, deal with me personally?” I thought. “No intermediaries?”

“No, not quite,” said the soft voice. “They don't want to be without them longer than necessary.”

Hans was able to head home about an hour later, and as I 'banked' the fires in the forges and loaded the furnace up with the rest of the lit charcoal for cooking billets and tools, I heard faintly the movement of a team to the south. I began removing my apron roughly a minute later, and as I finished, I heard someone coming to the door. I looked up to see an obvious 'freighter'.

“They're all in order,” I said as I pointed to the parts, “so please, don't mix them up.”

“We'll wait for you to return, then,” he said.

“No, you can load them,” I said.

“I was speaking of not leaving until you came back,” he said. “They'll be wanting you at the house so as to describe how they fit.”

“F-fit?” I asked.

“There isn't much old wood left in those things, if talk be true,” he said. “I saw the old wood, and the new stuff is about two and three for the thickness compared to the old.”

I hastened to the house, where I bathed quickly, and returned fully 'ready' but ten to twelve minutes later. The 'buggy' – it was the largest example I'd seen yet – was fully loaded, and a brief glance spoke of exaggerated care in loading it, with baskets numbered and labeled with stamped tin tags. I looked at the person driving, and did a double-take. The man who had came inside the shop was seated next to him, and was holding a pair of muskets.

It was that one man who had came to speak of my fitting, and he seemed uncommonly happy.

“Those are the best sets of irons I've ever seen,” he said. “Now how is it you got them that color?”

“I don't have the recipe for this one surface treatment,” I said, “and there wasn't time to, uh, 'polish off' the temper colors. I left them the way they were after heat-treating.”

“Good that you did, then,” he said. “We'd best be moving, as they'll need time to get those irons on those two, then test and adjust them before we go.”

While the 'buggy' had but two for its team, they were not the common for horses, and we made fairly good time up to the point where the party left the main southbound road to head south and east. I recognized the location – I usually left the road there, so as to stay clear of Waldhuis – and when we came to the first of the two towns along 'Hans' route', I dismounted so as to check Jaak's feet for rocks. I finished with that task, and was astonished to see that one man 'dosing' the wheels with a small 'oilcan'.

“Where did you get that?” I asked.

“From my years freighting,” he said. “These may only be slatted, but doing this helps a fair amount just the same.”

“I hope you can bring it,” I said. “I'll try to make up a batch of that oil...”

“I bought a small jug of it from Hans,” he said. “I had no idea you came up with that stuff.”

I was tongue-tied, and spluttered, “but...”

“Anna told me about how you are,” he said. “I'm glad you have that horse, as he's a match for anything I've seen.”

“What will I need to do once we're there?” I asked, as I fluffed out the blanket for Jaak's back.

“Mostly help with putting the irons on and arranging them,” said the ex-freighter. “Your post most likely can wait an hour or two if needed.”

“Are these people going to, uh, act strange?” I asked.

“Like those others glutting themselves?” he asked.

I nodded.

“Those that do wood are less inclined to such doings,” he said, “and of them, few come close to those working at the house.”

“For, uh...” I wasn't about to mention thinking like a witch.

“I suspect some of them are like the house jeweler that way,” he said, “and the bulk of them but little less. I would keep them in mind should you have trouble with wooden things, in fact.”

“Thank God,” I murmured, as I leaped up to land on Jaak's back.

The remainder of the trip went as fast as its beginning, and once inside the rear of the house proper's yard, the buggy and its team went close to the side of the long whitish building to stop next to a smaller doubled door. The ex-freighter leaped down, as did his partner, and while the first man tapped at one of the doors, the second began to bring out one of the sets of parts. I removed the blanket from Jaak's back, fluffed it out, and spread it on one of the bushes next to the door.

The door opened, and as the odors of wood, resin, distillate and drying oil slowly fumed out, the two men began bringing in the baskets. I grabbed one – labeled 'number two left rear' – and walked inside.

The aspect of labor was astonishing, more so than anywhere I had been prior while here, and the 'boxes' I saw on the trestles fairly gleamed with what resembled drying oil. I was disinclined to touch them, in fact, and when I came to another set of trestles, I was directed to set down the basket next to an obvious axle. I then straightened up and looked at the axle itself.

“What?” I squawked.

“That's done like for a medical buggy, save not as thin in the beam,” said one of the 'carpenters'. “I've figured we saved nearly a hundred pounds on the wooden portion of each buggy by reworking them.”

“Won't they be too flimsy?” I asked.

“Not with these metal brackets,” said another man. “These look especially good.”

“Uh, those were cooked and heat-treated,” I said.

“Is this like when you gray things?” he asked.

“Y-yes,” I said, “only I drew those back on the edge of a forge, so they are darker.”

“And these screws?” asked yet another man.

“Those needed to be gone over,” I said.

“Good that you did, as they were not easy to remove without damaging them,” said a fourth individual. “I think we can fit these to the beams here.”

After all of my worry and labor, I was expecting trouble, and when the four of them set to work, I inwardly cringed in anticipation – until I saw just what they were doing, that being marking the wood with awls after trying the various pieces, and then drilling the holes needed. The steady hum of the pair of drills spoke of careful 'cleanup', and when I was handed a third drill, I asked what I was to do.

“You might drill some holes once they're marked out,” said the fourth individual. “I know you have that type of drill.”

I looked again at the drill, then turned its handle. Its free and near-silent movement spoke volumes, and when I drilled out three holes in less than a minute, I heard a whistle come from my left, which startled me.

“Now that is quick,” said the whistler. “Talk has it your drills are better than these. Are they?”

“I'm not sure if there is that much of a difference,” I said, as I slowly turned the crank. “I had to go through them some, just like with most of my tools.”

“He did these up decent,” said the whistler, as he held up a screw. “Now there's another two holes over there at that end.”

I moved among the men with my drill, and as I drilled hole after hole, I heard the faint clinking sounds of the wrenches I'd made being used. I then looked at one of the men's hands, and was frightened by what he was using: a full-polish wrench with a faint bluish-brown patina.

“Th-that wrench...” I gasped.

“Was gone over locally,” he said. “That's the case for near a third of our tools.”

“And if he had more slack-time, he'd soon have our business that way too,” said one of the others. He paused, then said, “now this is strange here.”

“What, that perch?” asked the fourth man.

“I've never seen one done this way, nor work this freely, nor have no shake to it,” he said, “and it looks like he used bronze instead of brass for the washers.”

“N-no washers,” I said. “Those use bushings.”

“Like for shafts?” asked one of the men.

I nodded, then began drilling another trio of holes.

As I drilled hole after hole, I became aware of talk regarding dulled drill-bits, and when I straightened up to rest, I was astonished to learn all four front perches were fully mounted on their respective axles – and someone had turned the 'boxes' on their sides and was mounting the springs.

“Do you have trouble with dull drill-bits?” I asked.

“Who doesn't?” said the fourth man. “Do you?”

“Uh, not those I've made,” I asked. “They tend to be intolerant of careless handling, as they're quite brittle.”

“Then we might be able to use some,” he said. “Five and eight line bits get the most use around here, so if you can make a few of each size, I'd be glad of it.”

“I d-don't know when I'd be able to get to them, though,” I asked.

“No matter,” he said. “We'll be here, and still sharpening these others every day.”

“When we don't sharpen them more often,” said one of the others. “How is yours?”

I removed the bit and was handed a fresh one, and wordlessly resumed drilling holes.

But ten minutes later, I straightened again with the lack of holes needing drilling, and here, I was stunned: the number of carpenters had increased by three, and the brackets were going on the inside of the boxes at an astonishing rate. I laid down my drill on an open area of an otherwise crowded workbench, and walked around the area. The perches, both front and rear, were mounted on the axles, and as I watched, the 'range' of adjustment was tried carefully while the cups of the wheels were carefully wiped. I saw the small brass containers on each end of the axles, the inner brass tube that led to the upper seam of the cone, the small adjustment screw...

“Why don't those at home have that screw?” I thought.

“That one's a medical buggy, isn't it?” asked one of the men. I wondered how he knew my thinking, for I had not spoken. “Those don't use a drip-screw.”

“Why not?” I asked.

“Those running them want to go as fast as they can, and stint neither grain nor oil,” said the fourth carpenter, “and so they don't worry much about those things. Were I hurt, I would expect nothing less, in fact.”

Again, I did not speak, and resumed watching as the axle assemblies went on the springs one after another. The 'first' buggy finished quicker than the other, and I moved just in time to see the entire thing set on a quartet of lower trestles prior to putting on the wheels.

“How will you get it off of those?” I asked.

“We have a farmer's lifter here,” said one of the men. “Once we spin these with rouge...”

“We might not need to spin them much,” said another of the men working, “as these look to have been done especially well.”

“I used rouge to finish them,” I said.

“Then all we would need to do is test them,” he said. “We might do that today or tomorrow.”

I helped with the wheels but minutes later. As each wheel went in place with a dose of thinned fourth kingdom grease, one or more of the men turned them, and the appreciative whistles became a chorus. As I put the next-to-the-last wheel in place, I heard shuffling noises, then an abrupt clack followed by more shuffling and then a metallic clank.

“What was that?”

“They dropped the front on that first one,” said the man next to me. “It might take a minute to bring it out into the yard there, and then they can drop this one.”

“His post,” said one of the leaders. “This buggy's done, so he's done, and I hope they don't come after him much.”

“They?” I asked. Somehow, I had pictures of black-dressed thugs.

“Some people think you have as much work as they do,” said one of the leaders, “and hence can take on a lot more. I know better, same as most in this part of the house.”

As if to convince me, the other buggy had vanished, and I stepped back with the last wheel on the axle while someone tightened the nut and inserted the pin.

“I hope you have spare pins,” I murmured.

“Two per buggy in the tool bag,” said someone, “and then those wrenches, a small hammer, and a punch or two, along with a turnscrew for the screws themselves. That's as much as it usually takes to do the common for repairs. More than that wants a shop of some kind.”

“Will we want to pull the wheels daily?” I asked.

“If you go hard enough, I would,” said the man next to me as I gathered my things. “Put your hand on the hubs every stop and see if you need to adjust the oil flow up or down. Hot hubs want more oil.”

“These are likely to run cool,” said one of the men, “so two turns out from tight and adjust them as needed for the load you're running.”

I noted the sun speaking of early afternoon when I came into the shade of the house-building itself, and I went straight to the post. I was surprised to see Karl sitting on the bench by himself.

“Where is everyone?” I asked.

“Sepp went for some food and to fetch those people who write,” said Karl. “Someone came in here from that shop speaking of those buggies being done just now, and he left with that man.”

“Has it been quiet otherwise?” I asked.

“It has,” said Gabriel's voice from my right. I looked up to see him coming.

“That satchel you requested is close enough to being done that I expect it to be brought down shortly,” he said, “and after testing those buggies, it should be possible to begin loading them.”

“What is involved with testing?” I asked.

“I suspect that will involve fetching the remaining supplies,” said Gabriel. “I'd think they'd not confine their purchases to town...”

“I wouldn't,” said Karl. “Not if they're after food. That's a good deal cheaper if you go five or so miles.”

“You might tell me what is to be had and where,” said Gabriel. “I've not had much time to look elsewhere, and without a buggy, I'm limited to walking.”

“You don't know how to ride?” squeaked Karl.

“Not really,” said Gabriel. “I can manage a buggy somewhat.”

“I can't manage one at all, Karl,” I said, “and I'd be lost using the usual for horses.”

“So that's why you use that blanket like you do,” said Sepp, as he came with what looked like a small tinned pail.

“That, and Jaak doesn't care for the usual things,” I said. “Is more food coming?”

“It is,” said Sepp, “and I found this pot, also. You might look it over.”

I was handed the pot, and within seconds, I found an obvious leak.

“What did they have in this pot?” I asked.

“It was put well out of the way,” said Sepp. “Why, does it need repair?”

“I've found one leak already,” I said, “and if I go by the looks of what I'm seeing, it looks like the repair-person just soldered the holes... My, this thing will leak badly the first time they cook anything in it!”

“That sounds like the common for tinker's work,” said Gabriel. “I've heard of such people, but never dealt with them.”

“Once our stove loosed its smoke,” said Karl, “and it was cold and hungry then, and one of those people showed in town.”

“And?” I asked.

“I am not sure about that man, as he was as drunk as one of those black-dressed people,” said Karl. “He took half the day to do something to the stove, and though the door stayed on after, it still loosed a lot of smoke. Mother's cleaning day was every day after that, and mornings showed dark ceilings.”

“S-smoke-room?” I asked.

“It was not that bad,” said Karl. “It took perhaps five buckets of water and an hour's scrubbing, and I was big enough to help then, so it was not too hard for her.”

“That sounds like a tinker,” said Gabriel. “Did he assay polite robbery?”

“I am not sure, as I did not see money change hands,” said Karl. “I know we ate a lot of turnips for the rest of that year.”

“Then it is likely he did so,” said Gabriel.

“Polite robbery?” I asked.

“That is the usual for tinkers,” said Gabriel. “They take half a day, waste most of that time, then charge as if they'd done hard labor as an instrument-maker.” A brief pause, then “some trades permit such behavior more readily than others.”

“As in a monopoly?” I asked.

Gabriel moved over to the wall, then his legs slowly gave way as he slid down toward the floor. Steps came from both right and left, and when I turned to the right, I saw an obvious 'brought' lunch. I was about to turn left when I heard Gijs speak.

“Why are you sitting on the floor there?” he asked. Gabriel had no answer for him.

My stomach had my answer, and speech was difficult until I'd eaten something. That was less the case for the others, however, and while I worked on the pepper-impregnated dried meat, bread, and cider, I heard Gabriel speaking of word-books.

“I am not certain that word is in the Gustaaf,” said Rolf. “You still did not speak of why you were sitting on the floor.”

“I've only heard that word twice,” said Gabriel, “and the second time was just before you showed.”

“When was the first?” I asked.

“Years ago, in the second kingdom house,” said Gabriel, “and it was spoken by a witch.”

“It was?” I asked. My stomach reminded me of what was most important by growling again.

Gabriel nodded, then asked, “what did you mean by it?”

“That's when a person has a job that no one else can do,” I said, between bites, “so if you want it done, they need to... What?”

I had just realized what Gabriel had said. I was glad I didn't spray him with cider. It was a close matter just the same.

“I think that witch meant something different in his speaking,” said Gabriel. “The tapestries speak of the idea you spoke of, and the same for the Grim Collection, especially regarding one person.”

“Was this Charles?” asked Gijs. I then saw his open ledger and poised writing hand.

Gabriel nodded, then said, “and for some reason, that witch was speaking of Charles also. I have no idea as to why, especially given how many witches Charles was said to have killed.”

While the post itself was quiet enough, I could not say that for written matters. I needed to correct a great deal of writing, and here, I was uncommonly busy – as 'Medieval Writing' was not merely the province of Gijs and Rolf. Gabriel tended to write that way also when left to his own judgment.

“You had to learn write this way, didn't you?” I asked, as I reworked a lengthy paragraph into three short sentences. The increase in clarity – and decrease in space needed upon the paper – was astonishing.

“It wasn't easy,” said Gabriel, “and I think doing so formed a habit of some kind. At least I can... No, I'll need to keep my copy and rework it for the second kingdom house. They won't take anything else.”

“I would not be too certain of that,” said a voice from my right and rear. I turned to see Hendrik. “This is far too important a topic to waste time with writing that permits such liberties with interpretation as is common at certain of the higher schools.”

“As in if it comes from you they might..?” I asked.

“I wrote that this was a matter of our survival,” he said, “and I've gotten enough headaches trying to figure out what some have written in recent days to find your writing refreshing.” He paused, then said, “even if I must have a word-book handy, I still find it refreshing.”

“Will they object?” I asked. I could still hear Freek's grating voice in my mind.

“I suspect not,” he said, and softly closed the door.

“So what do we do now?” I asked softly.

“I think we need to have our writing looked over by you more often,” said Rolf. “Besides, he didn't speak of how long it often takes to decipher documents.”

“Such as those infernal instrument-maker's handbooks?” I spluttered. “Those are prime inducers of headaches, and that's for their easier portions.”

“You may wish to bring those along on the trip, then,” said Gabriel. “Learning what Freek spoke of as 'the correct fashion' might well be important in some places, as some will not hear anything else.”

“Regardless of the situation?” I asked.

“I suspect so,” said Gabriel.

“Do these people wear black-cloth?” I asked.

The response of Gabriel was such that I marveled, for he put both hands in front of his face and softly moaned. He began shaking, then as he brought his hands down, he shuddered again.

“I never saw that before,” he said. “The only people that seem to routinely demand such speech and writing outside of the higher schools either have that clothing, or desire it greatly.”

“Perhaps there are some exceptions,” I said, “but I can generalize, based on what you just said. If a person demands such language, then it is likely they are not interested in what we have to say, and that irrespective of its couching. Those otherwise will value clarity and accuracy over 'the correct fashion'. Correct?”

What?” shrieked Gabriel.

Demands for 'the correct fashion' tend to be thinly disguised indications that the person has preconceived notions of the truth,” I said, “and those that demand thusly only wish to see a pure reflection of what they themselves believe. Anything else is not merely unwanted, but an attack upon their persons that needs swift and dire retribution.”

Gabriel was now speechless, and his hands covered his face again. It was several long minutes before he showed his face, and I did not speak to him before that.

“Perhaps it may be wise just the same,” I said. “There is valuable information in those three books, and getting it without acquiring an intense headache would be helpful.”

However, as I spoke, I sensed the following:

Firstly, what I had spoken of as 'valuable information' and what I needed to learn from them were two utterly different things.

Secondly, reading from those infernal books would induce headaches, and that no matter what I did. If the language did not induce headaches, then the subject matter would.

Finally, my estimation of 'value' was distinctly low. Those books held many answers to the current nature of life.

“How old are those books?” I asked softly. The lunch cart was leaving.

“I'm not certain,” said Rolf. “They're printed in Boermaas, and in small lots.”

“Does their subject matter change much?” I asked.

“With those, I'm not certain,” he said. “Only a few portions are covered in the higher schools, and but one section at length.”

“Which section?” I asked. “The one that speaks of secret markings?”

Rolf nodded, then said, “those books are held up as prime examples of writing, in fact.”

“So I was told,” I muttered.

The 'satchel' arrived roughly an hour later. I stood and tried the thing on, and to my surprise, it fit astonishingly well. After removing it, I reached in my pocket for my money pouch, and dug out three gold monster coins for the 'pack'.

“What is this for?” asked the man who had brought it.

“More tools,” I said. “Besides, I can tell you all need some extra money right now.”

After the man left, I resumed correcting writing, and only when our relief showed did I straighten up to stretch. I had clarified a great deal.

“How many more times?” I asked.

“I think once before we leave, if that,” said Gabriel. “It will take at least a day or so to go over this and include that extra information you provided.”

“That sounds about right,” said one man of our relief. “I'll be glad when I can get my sword redone.”

“Uh, now?” I asked.

“You have buggies to do yet, don't you?” he said.

“Those are finished,” said Gabriel, “but I would not let him have that sword yet. There is a sizable amount of added work that needs doing before the trip.”

“And them what works where he does?” asked the man. “Can't they do such work?”

“Andries!” spat the other man. “Did you not hear what Gilbertus spoke of them? How they would ruin such things?”

“No, I didn't,” he said innocently. Somehow, however, I heard otherwise, and what he next said confirmed my sensing. “What is so special about him?” I wanted to scream, and could not.

“What did Gilbertus say?” asked Karl.

“They would put markings on anything like that they did,” he said, “and those markings cause cracks. You do not want a cracked sword if you must use it much.”

“But there are ways to put those markings on a sword and not have it crack,” said Andries. “At least, that was what I was told.”

“You want those marks?” I squeaked.

“I'm not certain,” he said. “I know you won't put them on what you do, and that for your own reasons...”

The soundless scream that had been gathering within overwhelmed my mind, and I pitched forward into darkness. I came to myself face-down upon the floor – or so I thought until I turned over and found myself laying in a bed.

“Where am I?” I croaked.

“In that room reserved for you,” said a woman's voice to my right. “Some people are quite ignorant of what you do, but at least I know something of my ignorance.”

“Ignorance?” I asked.

“It wasn't a sword for me,” she said. “I was using a knife on a side of elk and the blade broke, and when I showed it to Master Rip, he spoke of why I wanted clean tools with no markings.”

“What?” I gasped.

“It took years to save up for good ones as an apprentice,” she said. “I had them made in the fourth kingdom, and had Rip write up the paper for them. I do not regret their cost.”

“You-you're a butcher?” I asked.

“Yes, I am,” she said. “We're due for some black-bulls from the south within a month, and I'll dodge my share of their horns when it is time.”

“Did you speak to that man?” I asked.

“I did, and he now knows why you do not mark blades,” she said. “He spoke of markings that did not cause blades to fail, and I told him what I knew. He didn't listen to what I said until one of the cooks called for me.”

“He didn't believe you were a butcher?”

“Women butchers are not common in this area,” she said. “I know of but two others.”

She paused, then said, “if you are awake, you might come with me for some food. That trip isn't thought to be a short one, even if you ride.”

I then recognized the room itself, and in the flickering gloom, I slowly sat up. I wondered if my head would brush the ceiling as I stood, and when it did not, I brushed my head. I was glad for the cap, and once in the refectory, I was gladder yet for the food.

I stopped at the shop on the way home, and the chilled dust-shrouded darkness spoke volumes to me. None of the others had bothered to return after my 'dismissing' them, and as I walked home the rest of the way with Jaak following, I wondered what next needed my attention.

“Sarah's bills,” I thought, “and measure the bolts on the buggy at home, and scissors for her, and a few pots – oh, a medium-sized one for the trip, and...” A brief pause, then “and I need to look at those books.”

As I touched the door to tap, however, I abruptly wondered which books I needed to look at more.

Sarah proved to be still missing, and at dinner – there was an extra plate handy, for she was expected – I asked about supplying her with money.

“How much did you think?” asked Anna.

“Two or three of those larger silver pieces a week,” I said, “that, and some other things. I can tell she could either use them now, or will need them shortly.”

“How is it you know?” asked Hans.

“She does have needs,” I said.

Anna looked at me knowingly, then said, “you're right, she does. I've been bagging up the smaller silver pieces for her.”

“And a knife like I have, and...” I then recalled the arrowheads, and perhaps arrows.

“That would be a very good idea,” said Anna. “I've let her use mine for trimming cloth.”

“Is she sewing here for the most part?” I asked. “I know I've provided a decent amount of work that way, or have I?”

“It isn't just you,” said Anna. “There's help with the basement, and other matters of cloth as well.”

“Perhaps deciphering those books, then?” I asked.

“I am not sure you will have time for them before that trip,” said Hans. “Two more people came by asking about having swords done, and I had to ask them a lot of questions.”

“Uh, why?” I asked.

“One of them was wondering about those markings,” said Hans, “and the other wanted those things. I told them you did not mark up blades, and I told them why, and they left.”

“Wanted?” I asked. “What else did he want?” I wanted to ask, “did he want the tip to drag?”

“He did not say,” said Hans.

“What questions did you ask?”

“I did not know either of them, so I asked who they were and why they were here at first,” said Hans, “and then, if they knew those Generals. They said they didn't, but I wondered some about them, so I asked what kind of things they wanted.”

Hans paused to sip from his mug, then continued.

“That first man said he wanted his sword gone over,” said Hans, “and when I asked to see it, he said he did not have it with him.”

“You asked to see it?” I asked.

“I know about those things better now,” said Hans. “You cannot fix those things if they are marked, and I told him that.”

“Did he say if it was marked?”

“He said it wasn't, but it was not here for me to see it,” said Hans. “There was something about both of them that I cannot place.”

“Did you wonder if they were lying?” I asked.

Hans thought for a moment, then said, “that sounds as likely as anything, now that I think of it.”

“As in you were not inclined to take their word for granted?” I asked.

Anna looked at me, then said, “that is exactly how I felt. I wanted more than just their word.”

“Uh, did they smell funny?” I asked. “Like they'd rubbed themselves good with aquavit?”

Anna nodded, then asked, “why would they smell that way?”

“Sarah spoke of well-disguised misers in the fourth kingdom's market,” I said, “and how they used aquavit...” I paused abruptly, then spat, “that coven of thirteen rubbed themselves down with that stuff to get rid of the stink of datramonium!”

“Is that it?” asked Anna. “Were they witches?”

“I had one slate show at the shop that wanted a marked sword,” I said, “and it went up in smoke when I said I would not make an idol.”

As if to buttress the matter, the front door opened. I turned to see Sarah burdened down with cloth bags with an open door behind her, and when she dropped the bags and turned in her tracks, I stood from my chair to help her. She was obviously bringing in more of them.

“Did you get what you were after?” I asked.

“All save a handful of things that Anna can get for me,” she said. “I should be able to finish what you need within two days.”

“All of this?” I asked, as I pointed to the bags.

“I have work afterward,” she said, “and that will be difficult.”

“Y-your time?” I blurted.

Sarah sobbed, then nodded as I helped her pick up the bags. Amid their billowing cloth, she asked, “how did you know?”

“I just knew, dear,” I said, “and now I know why I need to make those things.”

“Things?” she asked, as she arranged the bags. Her 'sewing bag' was still on the floor in front of the couch.

“A number of things you need, including scissors,” I said. “I knew you needed help some time ago, and I had some idea of what kind before I spoke of scissors and arrowheads.”

I wished to carry her to the table, but I obeyed the fear-of-censure I felt and contented myself with bringing her utensils and pulling out her chair for her. Her hunger made me think of 'bread-bags' and a water-bottle, and I mentally added those to the list, thinking, “if there is time, I'll do one of those bottles.”

The next day, and the day after, I spent working upon the backlog that had accumulated at the shop. The others were becoming different in some strange fashion, almost as if they expected a lengthy period of idleness to come soon, and while I was able to have some work done, it tended to be done in a manner calculated to cause frustration. Between that, and the questions that I heard, I wondered what was happening.

“Now what are those things?” asked Georg, during the second day's morning guzzle. I was working on the scissors amid a batch of the smaller knives.

“Scissors,” I said. “I've heard how bad they are...”

“Bad is no word for them,” said Georg, “and only pit-saw blades are more difficult.” A brief pause, then “I saw you bringing in some coal. Are you planning on doing some iron today?”

“Y-yes, as soon as those new patterns come in,” I said.

“You mean these?” asked Georg, as he brandished a sizable cloth bag. “Some came in last week while you were finishing those buggies.”

I was astonished when Georg 'un-bagged' the patterns, for now we had sufficient patterns to do full flasks of hilts and pommels for the common size of knife.

“Were there others?” I asked.

“You might check,” said Georg. “They were working on some when I last went over there.”

I left for their shop that instant, and when I came inside, I was astonished to find the larger steam-engine patterns 'ready'. I paid out two gold monster coins, then asked, “is that enough?”

The stares of the carpenters was enough to make for wondering, so much so that I put a third such coin on the bench with the other two. The oldest man picked up one of the patterns, then said, “At least I have some idea as to why you need these.”

“For a larger engine to drive a blower, so we can make saw-blades,” I said. “Is that it?”

“That and that large furnace,” he said. “I'm glad for both the business and the blessings you bring.”

“As in that pit?” I asked.

“It's slow enough right now that we've been doing some of its digging,” he said. “It will not be slow much longer.”

“And pit-sawing?” I asked. “Is it to save money?”

“That especially,” he said. “I've got a nephew that wants to apprentice this fall, and that means enough work to keep four busy.”

“And pit-sawing is that,” said one of the other carpenters. “Even if we do our own wood, and that alone, it will be enough for longer days than the common.”

“How do you get your sawn wood?” I asked.

“It gets taken to Houtlaan in the house,” said the third man, “and that after it sits for a few months at the least.”

“A d-drying room?” I asked.

“Now what is this?” asked the first carpenter.

“A room where you put your wood to dry it,” I said. “You might want to heat it during the cooler periods so your wood dries faster.”

“You don't want to dry wood too fast,” he said, “as then, it checks and splits a lot. The best is to let it set under cover in stacks with the bark off, and let it air-dry.”

“Perhaps the winter, then,” I said. “Just enough to take the chill off.”

“Is this like some do in the house with their fire-pots?” asked the second carpenter.

“Fire-pots?” I asked.

“These big clay pots with fires in them,” he said. “It keeps the wood from freezing when there is snow on the ground.”

“Uh, that might be fairly close to what I had in mind,” I said. “Why, is it common?”

“That needs a much bigger wood-yard than we have,” said the first carpenter, “and a big need for wood year-round. We don't have that, as a rule.”

“Nor the spare sawdust for fuel,” said the third man.

“Perhaps in the barn next to the buggy-horses?” I asked. “I've heard how...”

I had three stunned carpenters looking at me, and I began backing up with the patterns in my hand. The second carpenter slowly slapped his knee, then said, “now that is a new one. I think we might try it.”

“Try it?” I asked.

“String the wood pieces up along the roof and along the walls,” he said. “Horses might not burn wood, but they can pass for stoves for heat sometimes.”

“They don't get near as hot,” said the first of the carpenters. “That might just work.”

I came home after a lengthy period of fire-watch with a full bag of tricks, and after bathing, I began working at the workbench. Here, I had knives to assemble and a pair of revolvers to finish reworking, and during a break, I thought to present Sarah with what I had done for her. The whole made for a strangely lumpy cloth bag, and when I set it down next to her, she seemed to ignore it for a second or so before reaching over to touch the thing.

“What happened to that underwear?” she squeaked.

“Uh, I put that bag on top of it,” I said. “Why?”

Sarah looked at the bag, then picked it up. I was surprised she did not 'grunt', as the bag was not light, and when she began untying my feeble knot, she mumbled about 'some people' and 'ropes'.

“I know I have trouble with knots,” I said.

“You are not the only one,” she said. “I've had my share of such trouble in the past.”

“And now?” I asked.

“I still have people speaking of my having trouble,” she said. “There. Now what is in here?”

“Look and see,” I said. “I have no idea how to, uh, make arrow-shafts, or attach the heads...”

“Did you make some arrowheads?” she asked.

I nodded, then said, “as well as a good deal else.”

Sarah first removed a small pot with wire bail, and she followed it with a bathing dipper. She was going to reach for the other contents when I asked, “look in that pot, please.”

She retrieved the pot, and noted its filling of piled cloth bags. The first example was long and thin, and when it was opened, she gasped.

“These are...”

“Try them, please,” I said. “I never did scissors before.”

Sarah did so, and their crisp sounds seemed to conjure running steps to my left and rear. I was more than a little surprised to see Anna show as Sarah looked at the scissors. I stood up.

“Did you make those?” whispered Anna.

I nodded, then said, “as well as a good deal else. Now, can you fetch some really close-woven cloth..?”

I was interrupted by another gasp. Sarah had found the water-bottle, and tied to its 'loop' was a sizable leather pouch with a tin tag.

“What is this?” she squeaked.

“If that pouch has what I think it has,” said Anna, “you will want to open it carefully.”

“What does it have?” asked Sarah, as she untied it. The jingling seemed an ample clue, at least to me.

Anna was silent, and when Sarah opened the pouch, she removed first a pair of tinned forks, a pair of spoons, large and small measuring cups, a medicine vial labeled 'salt', a pair of 'dinner knives', and finally, a small grater.

“Didn't you make a fryer?” whispered Anna.

“It isn't done yet,” I said, “as I'm working on two of them.”

“Two?” whispered Anna.

“One for her, and another for the trip,” I said. “The trip-fryer is about the size of some of the plates I've seen here, and hers is about as big as those with the mess-kits.”

“You might want to make two of those larger fryers,” said Anna. “I'd like one like that.”

“I'll try when I get back,” I said. “I just hope I can get enough done tomorrow so as to finish up.”

“Your posting?” asked Anna. “Do you have one tomorrow?”

“I wasn't told,” I said. “I might want to go there tomorrow just to be safe, but I'd best not spend more time there than needed.”

I was interrupted by Sarah's screech, for she had not merely found her knife, but also the arrowheads, and as she looked at them, she seemed to be thinking.

“Mind, those are sharp,” I said. “Can you have shafts made?”

“With what you gave me, I think so,” said Sarah. “I have made them before, and that with less for tools.”

“Feathers?” I asked. “String? Glue?”

“All of those things,” said Sarah. “Hans has glue.”

“And the carpenters should be able to help you with the sticks,” said Anna.

I dug out the cast iron pieces early the next morning, and as I worked, I again had questions from those in the shop. I thought to go after the morning guzzle to the house, and as I tinned both fryers, I could tell I was getting strange looks for the others. Georg came, hefted the pair, then asked, “when are you supposed to go?”

“Tomorrow, unless something has happened to prevent it,” I said. “I'll need to go to the house shortly, in fact as soon as I get these here done.” I paused, then asked, “will things here stay as they are?”

My voice seemed lost, and more, unheard. I had a strong impression that something would happen here...

And what it would be, would indeed be a mystery.