1636 The Viennese Waltz – Snippet 46
“Well, the LIC sent the money,” Moses Abrabanel said, smiling.
“I figured they would,” said Dana Fortney. “But we still aren’t going to be able to start the rail line. Not enough iron, and it will be four months before the steel mill in Linz will be running.”
“I was given to understand it was going to use wooden rails.”
“It is. In fact, we’re going to use dowels instead of nails and spikes whenever we can. But we still can’t avoid using steel for some things. And we need good steel, because to get the same strength from iron would take twice as much.
“No. . . . What we’re going to have at first is simply a good road. That, we can do with just Fresno scrapers and lots of labor. That by itself will allow multi-trailered steam wagons. Not great, but a heck of a lot better than a mule train. Then, using the road, Sonny figures that a single wooden rail to take most of the weight of the train will let us at least double the cargo capacity. But we won’t even start that till next year at the earliest. Meanwhile, it’s just a works project. Lots of people earning salaries. Not great salaries, but salaries.”
“Well, that will help the unemployment and the level of debt your businesses have been accumulating.”
“It should,” Dana agreed, though she wasn’t at all sure that it would help enough.
Karl Eusebius paced around the room as he dictated the letter to Herr Hofer, who sat at his typewriter. These weren’t the easiest letters he had ever tried to write. First, one to the family, telling them he was engaged. Once the inimitable Herr Hofer had the letter in shorthand, he would type them out and give Karl a copy for his signature. Finally, he had the first one written and started the second. This one to Ferdinand III, the emperor of Austria-Hungary, explaining that he would like to come to Vienna for the wedding, but couldn’t do it unless he had assurances that he would be allowed to leave again.
It helped a bit that Ferdinand III was a friend, and his younger brother Leopold was a close friend.
Karl debated. Perhaps if he wrote Leopold . . .
No. It had to be faced. His friend, the emperor, was probably somewhat angry that Karl had had to deal with King Albrecht of Bohemia. Hm. That might be a solution, Karl thought. Perhaps he could act as ambassador to Austria-Hungary from Bohemia. Perhaps King Albrecht might support him . . . that would give him diplomatic status.
Of course, diplomats did get taken hostage . . . sometimes . . .
Karl stopped dictating letters and went to the telegraph office. This once, he was glad that the telegraph didn’t go to Austria. Yet.
As it happened, King Albrecht of Bohemia was quite pleased with the plan. He had good reason to want a settlement with Austria-Hungary, because he wanted a fairly small chunk of Hungary without a war. Also, he wanted to avoid having the whole issue between the USE, Saxony and Brandenburg sucking in Austria-Hungary, because they would probably be sucked right through his territory. The shortest route from Austria-Hungary to Saxony was right through Bohemia.
So he was quick enough to agree with Karl’s request, but it still took a little while to make everything official.
Magdeburg, United States of Europe
“So what do you think the chances are for hostilities to resume between Austria and Bohemia?” Mike Stearns asked his Secretary of State.
Landgrave Hermann of Hessen-Rotenburg pursed his lips thoughtfully. Now that he’d served the prime minister in this capacity for a year, Hermann was a lot more relaxed than he’d been at the beginning. Among other things, he’d learned than Stearns had no objection if one of his ministers took a bit of time to think upon a matter before expounding his opinion. He appreciated the fact, given that it suited his judicious temperament.
The truth was, Hermann hadn’t wanted to become the Secretary of State in the first place — and still wasn’t very happy with the situation. But he’d had little choice in the matter. His older half-brother Landgrave Wilhelm of Hesse-Kassel was one of Gustav Adolf’s primary allies in Germany. He’d been keen to get Hermann a prominent position in the cabinet and refusing him would have been problematic.
Thankfully, Stearns had accepted the situation with good grace. He’d never been anything other than cordial in his dealings with Hermann and, as time passed, the young Landgrave of Hessen-Rotenburg had developed a great deal of respect for the prime minister.
There were many noblemen in the Germanies who considered the up-timers a pack of puffed-up peasants who owed their meteoric rise in status to nothing more than their mechanical skills. (Regrettable skills, to many — but hard experience had by now proven to even the most cast-iron aristocratic minds that the Americans made a huge difference when it came to war.). Hermann might have even been one of them, initially. He could no longer remember clearly what his attitude had been two or three years earlier.
Working as Stearns’ Secretary of State, however, had disabused him of whatever notions he’d had then. He’d found that the USE’s prime minister was as shrewd as any political leader in Europe, shrewder than most — and probably more far-thinking than any other. He had no intention of telling anyone — certainly not his own family — but he’d already decided that when the time came to vote for a new prime minister, he’d quietly vote for Stearns rather than Wilhelm Wettin. He disapproved of some of the up-timer’s policies and had doubts about many others, but of one issue he was now certain — the position of the USE in its dealings with other powers was safer in Stearns’ hands than it would be in any other’s.
“Smaller all the time,” he said. “There are three critical factors, and they all work in the direction of peace — even, I think, toward a final settlement.”
“And they are…?”
“First, the threat from the Ottomans. Which seems to be growing again. Second, the advice he’s getting from Janos Drugeth.”
“Which we know about because…”
Hermann grinned. “Drugeth keeps warning him, but the new emperor still has the habit of speaking in front of servants. Some of whom — two, I believe, although Fernando is evasive on the subject — are on our payroll.”
Stearns chuckled humorlessly. “It’d probably be better to say, on anybody’s payroll. But those two factors have been there for some time. What’s the third one?”
“This one is new. It seems — I say this partly from the reports Francisco Nasi gets from Vienna, but also from word that comes to me through my own contacts –”
That meant other noblemen to whom Hermann was related in some way. Which, given the realities of aristocratic intermarriage, included a good chunk of Europe’s entire upper crust. Mike Stearns had realized long since that European noblemen were every bit as sloppy about blabbing stuff to each other as they were about blabbing it in front of menials.
“– that the influence of the up-timers who moved — and are moving — to Vienna is growing faster than I’d ever have expected. I’m not sure why, but the fact of it seems certain.”
He had a bemused, almost mystified expression on his face. Mike managed not to laugh, or even smile.