Eric Flint: Grantville Gazette. Volume XX

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    Grantville Gazette. Volume XX
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    Альтернативная история / на английском языке
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"Lots. The lady let me copy a whole book this time." Johann opened his pack and took a thick sheaf of paper out before tossing several rollags of mauve wool to Annabet.

"They had no spun wool," Johann told her. "I did manage to convince the owner of Lothlorien Faberwerks that all women know how to spin. All they wanted were the new colors." He pulled out more bundles of unspun wool. These were smaller and in a variety of vivid, nearly eye-searing colors Annabet had never seen before. "He got excited and talked into some device. Then he sold me all the samples my bag would hold and asked that I tell him what the women liked best." Next he pulled out more paper.

"Are those the patterns?" Paul asked.

Johann grinned. "Oh, no. We have much work to do. While I was in Grantville, there were many stories being told about Brillo the Ram." He nodded when Annabet raised her eyebrows in a question and pointed at the wool piled in her lap. "That Brillo, yes. If Brillo were a man and not a ram, he would be leading the Committees of Correspondence.

"I collected all the stories I could since I think they will be very popular here. I also started sketching illustrations for them. I think I could make them into books for children. Listen." He read Schade, Brillo! Schade! aloud to them. "It's never too early to start teaching people about freedom."

Annabet and Paul exchanged looks. Annabet blushed and fingered the wool in her lap. "The earlier the better," she said. She straightened her shoulders. "It is our duty to instruct children how to be good adults. If we should ever have them."

Paul smiled at her and raised his mug in a toast.

Annabet blushed and went back to her hand work.

Paul stopped teasing her, for the time being, and looked at Johann. "Show me your sketches then read us the next story."


***

An Electrifying Experience


Jack Carroll

Somewhere in the eastern Harz mountains, 1635

Something's burning! Stefan Leichtfuss stopped in his tracks to sniff, and began slowly scanning his eyes all around. There! A wisp of smoke was rising out of that new wooden cabinet mounted on the post! Before he could move, there was a loud humming, and then a rising screech from the machine on the floor. He was halfway across the mill before the two sacks he'd been carrying hit the floor and spilled. He paid no attention to that-in one fluid motion, he snatched up the grain shovel leaning against the wall and swung it at the leather belt. It popped clear of the pulley and hung down. He shouted out the door, "Herr Hartmann! Stop the wheel!"


***

The first thing Gerd Hartmann heard was a howl like an outraged cat. He was already moving when Stefan yelled. In three fast strides he reached the headrace gate, seized the lever in both hands, and slammed it shut. The flow over the spillway rose, while the wheel rumbled to a halt. As Gerd ran through the door, Stefan stuttered, "I-I'm sorry, Herr Hartmann, I know it's not my place to give orders."

"Never mind, I stopped it because I trust you. I would have anyway, I heard it too. Now… what happened?"

Stefan pointed to the box. "I saw smoke starting to come out of there, and then the belt started slipping on the pulley. I knew something was wrong."

"The generator pulley?"

"Yes."

Gerd unhooked the latches on the side of the cabinet and swung the front cover open. He didn't know what the insides were supposed to look like, but it surely wasn't this. The pivoted copper bars with the wooden handle were tarnished, almost black in places, and the metal was still hot-he could smell it. There was some kind of covering over some of the wires, looking frayed and charred. Something black had dripped down to the bottom of the case, and there were tiny flames dancing on the liquid pool, licking against the wood at the back.

"Quick! A bucket of water!" He pushed the cover shut to contain the flames.

The only bucket handy was full of freshly ground flour. Stefan dumped it back in the bin at the foot of the grindstones, and ran outside to the brook. He was back in seconds. Gerd opened the box again and started tossing the water in, a little at a time, until the black stuff hardened and the charred wood was damp.


***

When Theodor Dranitz heard the call from down the shaft to try it again, he'd gone outside the mine entrance, and waved to Hartmann down by the mill. Hartmann waved back and started the wheel.

Theodor went back in with his lantern and climbed down the upper shaft. He'd gone twenty feet along the tunnel, when there was a strange snapping and hissing sound, and an orange glow appeared between the boards of the wooden covering over the wires. Then he smelled smoke, and flame blossomed at one spot.

He took a short-handled pick and started to knock loose the burning board, before the fire could spread. Flaming fragments and splinters rained down on his left hand. He shook them off and kept swinging. Suddenly the dull orange glow from two of the newly exposed wires faded to black, and the noises stopped after a few seconds. He stamped out the burning wood, and looked to make sure no other pieces were on fire.

He went back up as fast as he could with his burned hand, and ran outside-Hartmann wasn't in sight. He hurried down the hillside to tell him not to start again, until they could figure out what had gone wrong.


***

All the way up at the house, Marta Seidelin heard the shouting. This scheme of Winkler's had her a little nervous to begin with. She rushed down to the mill to find her husband Gerd and his apprentice Stefan looking into a ruined-looking complicated thing on the post, along with Theodor Dranitz from the mine. There was a big puddle of water on the floor. Then she saw the condition of Dranitz's hand. There were raw, red patches, blisters forming, and dirt all over it.

"Theodor! That looks terrible! It must hurt!"

"Oh, it's not so bad."

"Well, it will be if it gets infected. The newspaper had an article about burns. Come up to the house with me and I'll take care of it."

Stepping back outside, she looked up to the house, and saw her daughter at the door. "Ilsabe! Ilsabe! Take two cups of boiling water from the pot and set them to cool!" Ilsabe waved and went inside.


***

Stefan was unlacing the belt when old Winkler arrived from down in the mine. "What's your apprentice doing over there, Hartmann?"

Can't even call Stefan by his name. Gerd snorted. "What does it look like, Horst? He's taking down the belt from that generator of yours."

"Hah? What about the test run? I'm certainly not going to pay you if you don't turn it."

"I'd like to get paid, all right, but I haven't the least desire to have my mill burned down. Take a look at this. Take a good look. This thing was on fire when we stopped it."

"The switchboard? On fire? What did you do?"

"We started the wheel when your foreman Theodor signaled. Then we stopped it when the pulley started screeching and this thing caught fire, and we put out the flames. Enough, Winkler! I'm through letting you and your men just try things in my mill with this new machinery when you obviously don't know what you're doing. Get somebody up here who understands this." His voice rose to a roar. "And by God, no more 'quick tests' without a proper belt release lever!"

The shouting match went on for ten minutes while Stefan finished taking down the belt and stowed it behind the generator.


***

" Well? What's wrong here?"

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