1636 The Viennese Waltz – Snippet 07
Chapter 3: Plans and Proposals
Fortney Home, Grantville
“Howdy, Prince Karl.” Sonny Fortney held out his hand like the prince was just anyone. It was easy because, to Sonny, the prince was just anyone. He knew that a lot of down-timers and more than a few up-timers didn’t feel that way, but he did. He felt that way before the Ring of Fire, when titles like doctor and professor were bandied about, and he felt it even more now. “I hope you’ll excuse the mess. We’ve sold the house and there’s a lot of packing being done right now.”
“Guten Tag, Herr Fortney.” Prince Karl held out his own hand, which was a good sign. “Think nothing of it. I trust you got a good price?” After they shook hands, Prince Karl continued, “I would like to watch you test Prince Ferdinand that way.”
“Really? How’d you think he’d do?”
“Fairly well. He’d be surprised, but I think after he got over the shock, he’d be amused rather than offended. However, if my uncles were in the room, they would probably call for the headsman. So while I’d love to watch, I can’t really recommend that you do it.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” Sonny said. He would keep both the opinion of Ferdinand and the opinion of the boy’s uncles in mind.
“Well, Uncle Gundaker would call the headsman,” Karl clarified. “I’m not sure about Uncle Maximilian. Still, most of the court would act more like Uncle Gundaker, so if you do try it, don’t do it in public. I would hate to have you beheaded before you managed to survey my railroad for me. Besides, Hayley is a nice girl and doesn’t deserve to lose her father.”
“Who is important at court, Your Serene Highness?” Sonny Fortney asked more seriously. “Who is likely to be a problem about the railroad?”
“That’s hard to say. I have been out of touch. His closest adviser and perhaps his closest friend is the Hungarian nobleman Janos Drugeth. But Drugeth’s expertise lies primarily in military and diplomatic affairs. He might not get involved in these issues at all. Reichsgraf Maximillian von Trautmannsdorf is another of Ferdinand II’s close counselors. I’m honestly not sure whether he would support the railroad or not. Pal Nadasdy is fairly conservative as well. Peter von Eisenberg isn’t on the privy council, but is a bright guy. You might be able to get him on your side, though he is a bit rank conscious. His grandparents weren’t noble. Not even as noble as mine.”
“I’ll keep that in mind too,” Sonny told Karl in a more somber tone. “So, tell me about this railroad?”
“Possible railroad,” Karl corrected. “I have written letters suggesting it to my Aunt Beth and to the family back in Vienna. I hope to get their approval, because it would connect the Danube at Vienna to the Oder at Opole. The Oder is mostly navigable up to Opole, with some breaks, so a railroad between the Danube and the Oder would link a route from the Baltic to the Black Sea by two rivers and a railroad. Which, according to Mrs. Wendell, would produce a lot of trade and a lot of wealth.”
“Sounds reasonable to me,” Sonny agreed. “You understand I am going to be working for Prince Ferdinand, so if you want me to try surveying the route for your railroad, you’d better write him a letter too.”
“I shall. Never doubt it,” Prince Karl said. “Meanwhile, I took the liberty of having some maps copied from some of the up-time maps in the national library.” He opened up the map and pointed. “Here is what I was thinking would make a good route.”
Sonny looked over the route that the prince had in mind and made some suggestions that looked like they might make it easier. Karl agreed to some and disagreed with others for political reasons. Some of the landholders along the route were more likely to be reasonable about a railroad through their lands than others. Some liked his family, some disliked them, after harking back to actions taken by Prince Karl’s father, who Sonny already knew had been something of a hard case.
“I’ll do what I can, assuming that it doesn’t conflict with anything Prince Ferdinand wants. But two things . . . one is I will have to look at the ground itself before any of this can be anything but tentative. Second thing is, this is going to be a lot of work. And I don’t work for free.”
Prince Karl smiled at Sonny and Sonny felt himself smiling back. “Do you want cash or shares?” the prince asked.
“I’m not sure,” Sonny said. “I probably need to ask my fourteen-year-old daughter.”
“Why not?” Prince Karl said. “That’s who I consult . . . well, the Barbies in general, more than Hayley in particular.”
Sonny did ask Hayley, and Hayley asked the Barbies and Mrs. Wendell. The answer that came back was, “It depends on how much stock and how much cash, but the odds are that Sonny could get a better deal for stock.”
“Get a lot of stock, Dad,” Hayley told him, “or get the prince to pay you in cash. Railroads are great for the territory they go through, but not so much for the companies that build them.”
“So why not just insist on cash?” Sonny asked his daughter.
“Because you could end up with a lot of stock,” Hayley said. “A whole bunch.”
Duchess’ Palace, Cieszyn
Duchess Elisabeth Lukretia von Teschen laughed as she read the letter from little Karl. Not so little anymore, and always more reasonable than his uncles. He had apparently been impressed, and improved, by the Ring of Fire. “Pawel, bring writing instruments.” A railroad was probably a good idea, but she would write to King Albrecht about it first.
Liechtenstein House, Vienna
Gundaker von Liechtenstein didn’t laugh. Instead he threw the letter across the room, then picked it up and went to complain to his brother, Maximillian.
Maximillian was in the office section of the house, dealing with Johannes Koell, the family’s chief bookkeeper. The fussy little man took a few minutes to make his points, then Gundaker could get Maximillian into a private room to show him the crumpled letter.