1636 The Kremlin Games – Snippet 19
“Bernie, as yet, has little Russian.” Natasha waved at him. “But we have pamphlets from Grantville that he has helped us translate. Disease travels from human waste to water to its next victims. Not all diseases, but enough to explain the sickness that comes to Moscow every spring. In general, this process is well-documented, though not in regard to Moscow.” Natasha smiled to take a little of the sting out of her words. “Bernie’s great concern over the indoor plumbing has, I fear, less to do with protection from disease than it does for comfort.”
Filip Pavlovich sighed again, more real this time. “Toilets and showers are his constant obsession. When I first saw the design I thought it would take months. Now it seems we will see it begin to work in a few more days.”
“So we are presented with a useful device that is to be used for expensive doodads?” Yuri sneered.
“Not entirely.” Filip Pavlovich’s admission was a bit grudging. “In spite of Bernie’s obsession with what he calls decadent civilization . . .” He threw a glance at Bernie, who grinned. “The princess is right. Sanitation is an essential part of preventing the spread of disease. It is a complicated field and I have not studied it deeply yet.”
Natasha was trying not to grin, both because she was intrigued by the idea of decadent civilization and what you might be able to do in what Bernie called a hot tub, and because she was finding the notion of doing those things with Bernie increasingly interesting, even attractive. Bernie was as different from the men she’d known in Russia as she imagined a bathroom was from an outhouse.
That was Filip. Natasha had let her attention wander from the business at hand. Again.
“Sorry, Filip. What did you say?”
“We were speaking of sanitation.”
Natasha jerked her mind back to the subject of the scrapers. Filip Pavlovich’s admission meant that there was another use for scrapers which in turn meant that the scrapers were still more valuable. “Oh. Yes. Sanitation and the involvement of the scraper in removing waste. A very useful application.”
Yuri didn’t manage to hide his scowl, and looked at his cousin rather than at Natasha. “What else have you got?”
Filip Pavlovich shrugged. “There is a report on something called ‘macadam style road construction.’ We haven’t finished translating it yet. It seems to make for good roads that handle the winter freezing well.”
New roads and canals would make trade easier and safer. And with the introduction of a monetary system, there would be better opportunities for trade within Russia.
Natasha smiled as Filip explained. “We used the road out front to practice road work, and then we used this to test its use in digging canals.”
“Canals?” Natasha heard the apprehension in Yuri’s voice though Filip Pavlovich apparently missed it.
“The scraper works by scraping a thin layer of soil then putting it somewhere else. By going over the same stretch again and again you can go a little deeper with every pass.” Filip Pavlovich waved at the trench. “Roads, leach fields, canals, even cellars. Anything where large amounts of earth need to be moved.”
The underchief of roads gave his cousin a sharp look, which Filip Pavlovich appeared totally unaware of. The bureaus of canals and river transport were constantly in competition with roads for resources of all sorts. The families that controlled the bureaus disliked each other intensely. The bidding war has begun, Natasha thought.
And so it had. Not, of course, without interference from Filaret. While Natasha’s family owned the patents on the scraper so, by agreement, did the government. That meant, as Filaret interpreted it, that if the bureau of roads wanted to manufacture their own scrapers, they had a perfect right to. Natasha didn’t disagree with that interpretation. Of course, the bureau of roads wasn’t really set up to manufacture scrapers. Unfortunately, neither was the Dacha. The Dacha was a research facility, not a manufactory. Worse, they were entering the farming season. For the next six months, the large majority of people in Russia would be working to get grain into the ground, then taking care of the plants and harvesting. The time for making came in winter. What blacksmithing was done in summer was emergency fixes.
“But these are emergency fixes,” Yuri insisted. “Every one of these frees up ten men for farm work while still allowing the road work to be done. And we are going to need the roads in good order come harvest time.”
Natasha completely agreed with Yuri’s assessment. “But there is the matter of payment. The blacksmiths and carpenters involved in making the scrapers must be paid. The time taken away from their normal work will also delay the repair of tools used in planting and harvesting. If our family estates are to be used in producing scrapers for the rest of Russia, the family must be compensated for the loss of skilled labor.
“If, on the other hand, you wish to send out plans to the villages and estates all over Russia telling them that they must put aside useful work in order to make a strange new gadget that the bureau of roads wishes them to employ . . .” Natasha shrugged. “I wish you the best of luck, but don’t hold us responsible for the results. Say rather, lack of results, you are likely to achieve.”
“Yes, I know, Princess. But how are we supposed to pay for it? We are provided labor for repairing the roads, not money.”
So it went. Roads and canals, as well as private organizations, monasteries and land owners all arguing over how to get scrapers without either paying for them or having to pull their already overworked smiths off the necessary jobs they were doing. It wasn’t that people were trying to cheat Natasha’s family. Not entirely. Mostly it was simply that the equipment was needed and the money to pay for it wasn’t there. The Boyar Duma and the Assembly of the Land were still arguing over the fine points of the new Czar’s Bank and the new money it would issue. The money was not yet issued. And how were people to pay for scrapers without money?
Still, it worked out over that first summer in the same ragged way that such things often work out. Some scrapers were made on the Gorchakov lands by Gorchakov smiths who worked in what was in effect a factory, making the parts and assembling them. These were produced with less time and less effort than the ones where a smith in a village had to work out everything from the instruction sets, and work on the scraper in between his other work. Those who had the cash bought the Gorchakov scrapers, which, aside from everything else, were generally better made because the people making them quickly gained practice.
But not nearly as many scrapers were made as were needed. The scrapers made a difference, but over all that summer the difference was minor. In the spots where there were plenty of scrapers, however, the difference was phenomenal. For instance, the road work that the Gorchakov were required to supply and which generally took several hundred men working for over a month, in 1632 took fifty men working for two weeks. The rest of that labor draft was available for other Gorchakov projects and the Dacha provided them several. All of that took time to happen.