1636 The Viennese Waltz – Snippet 42
Carla was back in Race Track City with her girlfriends. They were in the little shop that sold casein buttons and other knickknacks. It was a pretty place, with lots of glass windows in little diamonds along one wall so that there was plenty of sunlight. Carla’s paisley shirt had lost a button, and they were white plastic buttons. Utterly irreplaceable. But if she took off all the buttons that were left and replaced them with the casein buttons . . . that would work. Besides, the casein buttons were actually prettier. There was a set that had little 240Z embossed on the buttons and another set that had little crosses. She picked a set of cream-colored buttons with pale blue crosses to go with her shirt. They weren’t expensive, but she was broke.
Her girlfriends weren’t exactly flush either, so there was quite a bit more wanting than buying going on. Then a dumpy middle-aged woman came in and picked up three casein canisters with lids. She went up to the counter and said, “Guten Tag, Maria.”
“Guten Tag, Katharina. Do you have cash today?” the woman at the counter asked.
“No, not till I fill these and sell them. Things have been tight.”
“All right then.” The woman behind the counter pulled a sheet out of a drawer and wrote something on it, then the woman buying the canisters signed it, took her canisters and left.
Sofia Anna, seeing this, grabbed a set of casein thimbles she had been eyeing and marched up to the counter.
“That will be eight pfennig,” said Maria.
“I will charge them,” Sofia Anna proclaimed. “I am Sofia Anna von Wimmer.”
Maria looked at Sofia, then at the other girls. Then she carefully said, “I am most sorry, ma’am, but I must have your parents’ approval before I can even start the process of setting up a credit account.”
The others sighed and Carla had an idea. She recognized Hayley Fortney in this. She didn’t know how Hayley was involved, but she was pretty sure that the Barbie Consortium’s mechanical genius was involved somewhere. “Well, I guess I’ll just have to get my parents to agree,” she said to the other girls. “They’ll probably have to come out here to set up the account too. So the buttons will have to wait till that’s done.”
Maria looked cautiously grateful as she nodded to Carla.
While the girls were eating apple strudels, Carla excused herself and went to see Hayley. She wasn’t at all sure what she was going to say. Hayley, can you get me a line of credit at the casein shop? Didn’t seem quite the right thing to say.
“Hayley,” she said when she found Hayley — as usual — in the steam shop. “Can you explain how credit works out here?”
“I’ll try, Carla,” Hayley said, looking around the shop.
Carla looked around the shop and saw the people looking at her and Hayley. “Well, I would have gone to your mom, but I figured she’d be busy.” Then she switched to English. “Sorry, Hayley. I didn’t mean to out you.”
“It’s okay. But I am trying to stay in the closet on this.”
Carla grinned. Who down-time was going to get what “staying in the closet” meant, even if they spoke English?
“Come on,” Hayley said, still in English. “I’ll take you to Mom and she can help you out.”
Once Hayley had bundled up and they were out of the shop, Carla continued. “Thanks, Hayley. I haven’t had time to make much money. The English ladies have me teaching math and science. Meanwhile, I lost a button off my favorite shirt.
“Also, you need to know that the girls at the school are probably going to be trying to get their parents to set them up with lines of credit. I don’t know how you’re going to deal with that. Some of them are people you don’t want to say no to.”
“Well, the English Ladies ought to be paying you for teaching.”
“I know that, and you know that, but I don’t think you’re going to convince them or my parents of that. Come on, Hayley. We’re kids and putting kids to work for the grownups’ benefit is standard practice. More here than up-time.”
“Sure. But if they sent you off to be a maid, you’d get paid. Maybe not much, but something. And if you were apprenticed, you would be learning a trade.”
“Right. But money is supposed to be beneath our notice.”
“It’s not beneath Prince Liechtenstein’s notice,” Hayley said.
“Sure, it is,” Carla shot back. “That’s what he’s got the Barbies for.”
“Naw. That’s just because he’s not real good at it,” Hayley said. “Anyway . . . look, I’ll get you some credit. But you need to get your folks to come out and talk to Ron Sanderlin and my dad.”
“Why? About the credit account?”
“No. Because about five months ago the Bessemer steel mill at Linz blew up. They were going from cheat sheets, and we hadn’t arrived yet. They started rebuilding it and a couple of weeks before you guys got here Dad and Ron Sanderlin took a trip up the Danube to see it.
“They saw some stuff and made some suggestions, but Dad’s not an engineer and Ron is a mechanic, and those guys need your dad’s expertise.”
“Things are tight right now, Hayley,” Carla said. “My parents got promised a bunch of stuff. None of those promises has been broken, but they have been reinterpreted quite a bit since we had to run from Grantville. The government isn’t going to be paying my dad. Instead, he’s been made Hofbefreiten. He has a fancy new title, Royal Adviser on Up-timer Engineering, but no one knows what to do with him.”
“We heard,” Hayley said. “But this should be a paying gig. Count von Dietrichstein got the patent for the Bessemer by promising to provide the crown with lots of good steel, as well as the silver he paid for it. The guy has to get that thing running now. I’m not saying your dad can write his own ticket, but the job should pay well.”
“I’ll tell him,” Carla promised.
Sonny and Ron spent a couple of hours going over the state of affairs in the Bessemer mill at Linz with Peter Barclay. It was in the process of being rebuilt. And they put him in touch with Count von Dietrichstein.
After he had left, Ron muttered, “Maybe we’ll get lucky and the count will have him executed.” Peter Barclay had been both condescending and critical. And, Ron admitted to himself, at least half right. Even from only the discussion they had, Barclay had spotted things that Ron and Sonny hadn’t. Which shouldn’t have been surprising. Peter Barclay was an engineer and had consulted on the first Bessemer plant located just outside of Saalfeld.
Meanwhile, Hayley set up a line of credit for Carla and bought some stuff from her to get a little cash in the girl’s hands. Hayley had also set up a policy for the parents of the girls at the English Ladies School. If they wanted credit, their parents had to agree to put up the money. In exchange, the parents would get a copy of the bills and would know what the girls bought. So the “them of Vienna” were effectively required to pay in advance, but didn’t have to look like they were.