Reva Pridmore sat down in the kitchen of The Mermaid and Tiger, the dock-side café owned by her partner, Inge Styggesen, and herself. She wiped her face with a rag because today’s lunch rush had been busier than ever. The room was bright with light from two east windows and a skylight. There was a cooking fire, a ceramic arrangement for an oven and a dish-washing station set up to Reva’s exacting standards for food safety.
In the room she could see Inge kneading dough for sandwich rolls. The four employees that Reva and Inge had gathered, Anna, Eric, Claus and Else were all doing chores. At the moment, twelve year old Anna and ten year old Eric, Inge’s niece and nephew, were sweeping and cleaning tables. Anna was a waitress and Eric ran errands and washed dishes with Claus Asmussen. And Else Jensen, the other waitress, was carrying a tray out to the last lunch customer.
Everything as just as it should be, but somehow, Reva just couldn’t get her head in the game. She never thought that it would take so much work to take raw cocoa beans and turn them into food. Every time she understood a process, another problem raised its shaggy head.
Reva sighed, remembering how she’d convinced Matt Lawler to build her a roasting machine, based off of drawings from her copy of The True History of Chocolate by Sophie D. Coe. He had finally agreed to work on his days off if she would feed him at the café for free. Probably for the rest of his life.
The drawings were reproductions of woodcuts from the past, which made for interesting design choices. Matt made some pieces for convenience, or because, as he put it, “That’s just the way machinery works, Reva.” Other choices were based on Reva’s experience as a baker and chocolate enthusiast.
In the beginning, before they opened the café, Reva experimented with different methods for breaking down the beans. She had a Food Processor at the townhouse, but her experiment with it proved almost disastrous because the ground beans almost burned out her motor and new Food Processors were not available. So she moved on to a mortar and pestle.
The cocoa nibs were like volcanic pebbles in the small mortar, and she knew she would never be able to produce enough for the café. She searched the markets of Copenhagen for a larger mortar and finally found one seven or eight inches in diameter with a good deep bowl. It was ceramic and very sturdy.
Still no success until she remembered the need for heat while processing chocolate. She dug out a Sterno can (one of the two she had left) from one of the crates from home and put the mortar on a little stand. She needed a stool to stand on and grind the beans, but this was the method that worked the best so far.
From the ground cocoa beans, known as chocolate liquor, Reva was able to achieve what was known as Dutch chocolate. This process was pretty basic. She put the dark paste into an open-weave bag, like cheesecloth. This she hung in the warehouse with a tub beneath it and a weight on the top of the bag. Between gravity and the extra weight, the cocoa butter was squeezed out of the mass, leaving a the cocoa in almost a powder form. It may not have been as efficient as some modern methods, but it got her something she could use to make fudge and brownies.
Reva still didn’t see how she could achieve what she thought of as real chocolate. She wanted it solid, low melting temperature so it would liquefy in her mouth. She could remember just the mouth feel and the flavor of a good milk chocolate and that’s what she wanted.
Reva noticed little Anna as the girl came around the work table and sat down. After a moment, the girl reached over and patted Reva’s hand.
Reva said, “Thank you, Anna, but what was that for?”
Anna shrugged. “I could tell you’re worrying about something. But I don’t think you should worry. After all, the magistrate said we could reopen the shop. The murderer was caught and Herr Fatmir the Ottoman has increased the popularity of our shop by ten times. We have more business than we ever had before. Why are you sad?”
Reva smiled and sat up straight. “I am not really sad, Anna. I am thinking. There should be a way to improve the quality of our chocolate. I mean the drink is good, but it’s not as good as they have in Paris or Madrid. And I think it should be.”
There was a voice near the back door of the kitchen. “I agree with you, Señora. That is why I have come.”
Reva stood up and saw a man with dark hair and dark eyes a beard and moustache. He was dressed in a stylish red doublet and held his hat with ostrich feathers in one hand. It was true that the red brocade was not the best quality and the velvet was worn down to shiny on elbows and around the collar. But the man carried himself with a kind of haughtiness only seen in men of high rank.
Beside him stood Captain Gonzalez, one of the duelists from the murder investigation. Reva noticed the similarity of both men, dark hair and eyes.
Eric skidded to a stop in front of the gentlemen. “I am sorry, Frau Pridmore, these men came to the door and asked to speak to the person responsible for this café. I was about to tell you, when they walked in and started talking.”
Reva smiled. “That’s all right, Eric. Get back to your chores and I will speak with them.”
Eric grinned and ran off to the dining room and Anna jumped up and followed him. Reva turned to the men. “Sir, we have not been introduced. I am Frau Pridmore, co-owner of this establishment. I have met Captain Gonzalez before. What can I do for you?”
The man in red bowed with a flourish of his feathered hat. “I am Santiago Juan Batista Garcia Suñega, your servant. I come seeking employment.”
Reva frowned and looked at Gonzalez, still dressed in the impeccable black doublet. Gonzalez swept off his hat and in a swirl of pheasant feathers, bowed as well. “Señora Pridmore, my humble thanks for receiving us. This arrogant man beside me is my cousin, Diego, and considered a burden on the entire family. The truth is, he was picked up by the city watch in a street brawl last night and spent the night in jail. This morning, I got a message he was there and he hasn’t a skelling to pay the fine. I spoke for him and the magistrate told me that either he finds work, or he’ll be sold off to pay for damages in the tavern and to pay his fine.”
Reva gestured to the work table. “Won’t you sit down?” She followed her own advice and sat. Suñega and Gonzalez sat, opposite her. Reva said, “Why don’t we discuss this? Captain Gonzalez, what does your cousin have that would make him a valuable employee? This is still a very new café and I don’t have a lot of money to spend.”
Gonzalez said, “Señora Pridmore, I can say your beautiful café serves the best chocolate north of Amsterdam. You have seen me here often because of that. But my uncle, José, is a chocolatero and at one time worked in the royal court in Cadiz. And, although I don’t want to offend you, Señora Pridmore, yours is not the best chocolate. When he was younger, my cousin here helped his father with the chocolate.”
Reva thought for a moment. “Captain Gonzalez, thank you for your tact. I know that my chocolate is not the best. In the place where I was born, I could buy hot chocolate many places, so I never learned the secrets of the guild masters. But here, there is not a chocolate guild in the whole of Denmark. I must do what I can. What does your cousin say for himself?”
The young man in red stood and bowed again, with another flourish of his ostrich feathers. “I am called Diego, Señora. I must tell you, I am youngest son of José Angel Martinez Suñega. I come from the Palacio Real de Cadiz and I am a chocolatero.”
Gonzalez tugged on his cousin’s arm until the young man sat down. “You are not a chocolatero, Diego. You ran away from your apprenticeship before you could be tested as a journeyman. It brought disgrace to your father and broke you mother’s heart. She is dead because of you. And now, your arrogance will lose you this opportunity and you will disappear again.”
Diego hung his head and sat down. Then he looked up at Reva. “I am sorry, Señora Pridmore. My cousin speaks the truth. I am not a chocolatero, but I know some of the family secrets for chocolate. I would be willing to show them to you.”
Captain Gonzalez left and Reva took her new employee into the chocolate room. It was a workroom next to the kitchen, with windows down the west side of the room. There were barrels stacked in one corner, tools and machinery in other places, and the floor was flagstone.
She did all her chocolate work in this room. Diego left his coat, hat, and sword on a shelf, then rolled up his sleeves and put on the apron Reva handed him. “Señora, show me your process. Some of this is familiar to me and some is not.”
Reva walked over to barrels stacked to one side. “Here is my store of cacao beans. We use this bucket to take a batch to the roasters, over there.” As she spoke, she picked up the small bucket, scooped it full of the beans and walked over to another station.
“This is my roaster. Be careful, because it is very hot. I have experimented with different times and temperatures for roasting and I think there is still room for improvement on this step.” She emptied the bucket into the hopper, then moved a lever that fed the beans into the roaster.
Next, she walked a couple of steps to another station where there were beans that had been roasted and cooled. “These are the roasted beans and this is the winnowing station.” She picked up a fan and waved it as she gathered beans with the other hand. As they fell, the shell of the beans loosened from the nibs and were blown to the back of the machine.
Reva gathered the nibs into another bucket and stepped to the next station. There was a flat stone on four legs, with a pot of oil and a wick underneath. “Here is our grinder. I couldn’t find the volcanic rock for a proper metate, but this granite one has worked fine. I have the fire underneath to keep it warm as the beans are ground.”
Through all of this, Diego watched and nodded. Now he said, “Perhaps there are a few things I could show you. But essentially, you are doing well. How do you know such things?”
Reva frowned and cleaned her hands on her own apron. “As you may or may not know, I come from the future and when we were suddenly transported, we were lucky enough to bring along our books. This book I had owned for about a year before the event. I had read it, but not too thoroughly. When I came into possession of cacao beans, the first available in Denmark, I found my book and read it more carefully. I will show it to you later, if you’d like.”
Diego bowed and smiled. “It is English?”
Reva nodded. “Of course. All my books are in English.”
Diego said, “I can read English if I go slowly. It would be interesting to see a book from the future and decide if it is true. I have had my doubts about the stories I have heard of Grantville. Perhaps it is a hoax. But I will try to have an open mind.”
Reva shook her head but said nothing about the arrogance. She stepped back to the metate. “I think that for now, I will have you work on grinding. I am not very good at it and it is still one of the high labor steps. If all you do is increase my production, you are already worth your hire.”
Diego lifted the mano, or grinding stone, from the metate. “Do you have a standard fineness you want me to get?”
Reva looked at him. “Do your best and we’ll talk later.”
Diego nodded and scooped winnowed beans from the bucket onto the grinding stone.
Near sunset, after the last customer had left, Diego watched Reva set a pot of chili and some cornbread on the work table for staff dinner. Claus had told him that they ate together every day after the closing. Reva felt that it increased morale and introduced her staff to some of the dishes she would serve in the café. Reva sat down next to Claus and started dishing up chili and handing out bowls. “Sit down here, next to Eric, Diego.”
As he moved to comply, the back door opened. A man entered and Señora Pridmore said, “About time you got here. I expected you twenty minutes ago, Marlon.”
“Am I late?” The man seemed to be about the same age as Señora Pridmore, who Diego guessed was about thirty-five. He would have been shocked to know that the Pridmores were almost twenty years older. Marlon was dressed in coveralls like all the workmen wore at the airship field. His hair was wild and his hands were dirty.
Reva laughed. “Swordfish, never in the twenty-eight years we’ve been married have you ever been late to dinner. Especially not when I make cornbread. Now wash up before you come to the table – you’re filthy.”
Marlon’s eyes flashed in delight. “I didn’t know there was cornbread.” He hurried over to the dish-washing station and vigorously washed his hands and face.
Reva turned and glared at little Eric. “I happen to know that you have a spy in my kitchen who runs down to your workshop as soon as I decide what I’m making for dinner. Sit down, before it gets cold.”
Marlon settled into his chair across from Reva. Claus leaned and whispered to Diego. “This is a ritual that we’ve witnessed every night since the Royal Anne returned from India. Do not think that they don’t care for each other. This is a mock fight.”
Señor Pridmore sat rubbed his hands together. “Smells as good as ever, Sweetpea.”
Reva smiled and handed a bowl to Diego. “Marlon, we have a new member of the staff. This is Diego, my chocolatero. Diego, this is my husband, Marlon Pridmore.”
Diego stood and, although he was wearing an apron and had no hat, he waved his hand as if his hat was in it and sketched an elaborate bow. “Señor Pridmore, I am honored to meet you.”
Marlon watched this performance with a smile. “Nice to meet you too. How long have you been in Copenhagen?”
Diego was suddenly embarrassed. It was hard to make a good impression if the first thing you have to tell someone is that you were here to stay out of prison. “About ten days, sir. I arrived from Spain and was thrown off the ship.” He was examining his bowl of chili with a square yellow chunk of something on top. He watched the others eat and saw them pick up the yellow square with their fingers, so he did the same and sniffed it.
Reva watched him smell his cornbread. “Try it, Diego. It is a bread, made from corn meal, like masa. I think you’ll like it.”
Diego frowned, but bit off a small corner. It tasted different, not as dry as he expected. And the corn taste was interesting. “This is very good.”
Reva said, “Now try some chili. Marlon likes to break off pieces of cornbread to eat with the chili.”
Marlon grinned and gobbled up another spoonful. Diego noticed that half of Marlon’s bowl was gone. The young man took a spoonful and raised it up to his nose to smell. “I have never seen food of this sort. Is it peasant food from your Grantville?”
Inge laughed. “I would be careful who you call peasants, especially around the Americans from Grantville. Most of them are very rich, while you have almost nothing. Instead of your Spanish arrogance, I think you should try a little humility.”
Diego kept his head down and said nothing. He tasted the chili and took another bite of cornbread. When he looked up, he saw that everyone at the table had stopped eating and were all watching him. Reva said, “What do you think?”
Diego’s mouth was full so he said nothing, but he took another bite and then fell to eating in earnest. Eric clapped his hands. “I think he likes it.”
They all laughed and Marlon handed his bowl back to Reva. “Do you think there is a little more for me? I worked hard today, on another engine.”
Reva handed the refilled bowl back to her husband. “Really? Who was this one for?”
Marlon swallowed a huge bite, then wiped his beard with his napkin. “It was Captain Eric Lange. He has decided to build another boat.”
Claus laughed. “Please, Herr Pridmore, tell the Eric story again. It’s my favorite one.”
Marlon grinned. “Sure thing, Claus. This one is called The Three Erics.
The Three Erics
The old longboat was what their forefathers had called a ship of twenty-six rooms for the twenty-six oars, lucky thirteen on each side. And twenty-six men on those oars. They all faced aft, where the Captain stood on the board at the stern and shouted orders. They were towing a ship into harbor and it followed smoothly behind them.
Captain Olsen’s voice came loud and clear. “All together! Pull!” Eric Lange braced himself and put his back into the work of pulling his oar.
The Captain kept his eye on the water, gauging distance. “Ready? Oars up! Smartly now.” All the oarsmen in the boat pushed the oars down and raised the blades to vertical.
That is, except for Thorvald. Lange shook his head. Thorvald was always late. There was a sickening crunch as Thorvald’s oar banged on the end of the dock and a startled Thorvald was thrown into the water while his oar shattered.
The rowboat was really big and solid. It worked as a tug in the harbor of Copenhagen. Eric Lange turned to his companions and said, “There’s got to be a better way, that’s the fifth time this month that Thorvald has gotten himself thrown from the boat.”
In this boat, there was a surfeit of Erics and since they were friends, they worked on adjacent benches. There were three, so each had a unique nickname to avoid confusion. Lange was called that because he was tallest. Sharing his bench was Halbard. And that was because one evening, full of beer, he had fallen asleep at the tavern. The young ladies, as a joke, shaved off half of his beard. Not the bottom half, like you would normally expect, but from the left half of his face. The right side was still bushy beard.
When he woke in the morning, Eric Halbard liked it that way, so for the last month, he’d shaved just the left side. It had become an important part of his identity.
On the other bench, next to Thorvald’s empty seat, was the third Eric. He was called Krake meaning scaling ladder. Eric Krake was not the tallest, but he was definitely the thinnest. When he wasn’t working on the tug, he served as a harpooner on the fishing vessels that worked outside of Copenhagen.
Eric Krake said, “I have an idea, perhaps we could . . .”
Eric Lange glanced at the Captain, then held up his hand to stop the garrulous Krake. “Wait, let’s talk about this later. We need to get our job done now.” They all turned and glanced at Captain Olsen, who was glowering at them. So talk ceased and the tugboat ground ashore. Then everybody leapt overboard, waist deep in the water, grabbed hold of the rails of the boat and dragged it on to the gravel.
Captain Olsen rubbed his face. “Somebody throw Thorvald a line. Eric, get our towline on the winch and pull us into its berth.” The Captain never cared which Eric responded.
At the end of a long day, it was always harder to move the ships into their berth on the dock. Thorvald and Krake joined the others, grunting and heaving. The ship they had pushed into the berth, a three-masted merchant ship, was finally secured against the dock. Even before Halbard could get it tied off, a large gang of stevedores swarmed aboard to unload cargo.
Back at the tugboat, the crew began to drag their craft back into the water for the next tow job. It was all a typical day’s work.
“At least“, Eric Lange said to the others, “today the weather is good and the water is smooth.” That was about as good as it ever got.
After work, the four faithful companions met together in a little tavern on the harbor. The place was called the Northern Lights and it was a very popular place that served food and drink. It was also where Halbard lost his facial hair.
The owner, an old ships cook, was said to have sailed the whole world. He served exotic drinks and made strange dishes. For all of the unusual food and drink, the prices were low and the quality was high. The place had been open for years and was a favorite place on the waterfront.
The beer arrived and the men were quiet while they drank the first round. Then Eric Lange pointed at Eric Krake as he swallowed. “Okay, Krake. You have an idea, something that’ll make the job easier?”
Eric Krake grinned. “It’s like this. I’ve been working in the harbor with you two for more than a year now. We were all there when the Swedes brought their warships into the harbor. We all saw how they worked, especially the ones called paddle wheels. I think we could build a paddle wheel too. How complicated could it be? If we did that, it would be much easier to move around in the congested harbor. We wouldn’t have Thorvald getting him self knocked overboard every other day because he can’t get his oar out of the way fast enough.”
Eric Halbard just chuckled. “Yes but that would eliminate half the fun of the job. It is always amusing to hear what Thorvald says when he is being pulled out of the bay. I think he has the largest cursing vocabulary in the city.”
Thorvald finished his beer. “Well, I have to keep up my reputation.”
All laughed because it was true. Then Eric Lange continued. “You know there might be something to this. We could start, not building a whole new boat but by using two long slim rowboats for supporting a framework, then put two of the paddle wheels between the rowboats. That would allow us to keep all the moving parts in the middle, away from anything in the harbor that could foul the wheel.”
Eric Halbard said, “Yes and perhaps if we can run the paddle wheels hard enough we could push on a ship, rather than pull it, that way we wouldn’t have the problem of getting out of the way when the ship is being put up next to the dock. The more ships we can move the more fees we can take, putting more money in our pockets.”
Eric Krake pulled a much-folded piece of paper out of his shirt and laid it on the table. “I’ve been drawing and this is what I think we could do.”
They gathered and examined the drawing for a moment. Eric Lange said, “That’s all very interesting, but what makes the wheels go around?”
Krake said, “I was thinking that perhaps we could use something like a capstan, mounted on each side of the paddle wheel. I mean we have one paddle wheel next to the rowboat hull on the left side and one on the right. We could put the capstan inside the rowboat hulls and have men pulling on the handles to make the wheels work.”
Eric Lange looked askance at Krake. “Excuse me, but it doesn’t make much sense. At least not the way you’re telling it.”
Eric Krake pulled out his pencil and started to draw. Both his companions looked skyward for the blessings of patience from the angels. When Krake got like this, he was insufferable.
But Krake didn’t notice them. “No wait, this is easy to see.” The discussion went on for several hours, through six mugs of exotic spiced rum and three plates of exotic food.
Finally, because he thought of himself as the leader, Eric Lange stood up. “We’ve got to get home and I have to think about this. If we can build a model or something like it, perhaps we can promote the idea to somebody with enough money to make it work.”
Eric Lange sigh. There had been so many meetings. Many people were interested in the idea, but only a few were interested enough to spend money. Those interested had formed an organization led by Josef Magnussen, who was deeply interested in transportation, shipping, and most of all getting more work done for less cost.
At this meeting, Herr Magnussen looked over the drawings and gleefully said, “This is the way to make money. And making money is what we are all about.” The deal was drawn up and the Erics signed, committing their lives and fortunes.
Then the three Erics, armed with their patron’s money and boundless enthusiasm, had purchased two long slender hulls and moved them to a space owned by Herr Magnussen. They threw themselves into the construction of their vessel.
Halbard had an uncle who ran a water-powered sawmill. The uncle was a great source of information for the water wheels. Krake had a friend who sold them the timbers required for the construction of the new vessel. Eric Lange oversaw the project. The most important thing about the vessel was that it be strong enough to do useful work, but light enough so that it was not an impossible task to drive it through the water.
Weeks went by in the construction and the three Erics became more and more enthusiastic. Nevertheless the commentary from the rest of the harbor was ribald and extreme. Mostly the three young men were accused of wanting to set up a wheat grinding operation in the middle of the harbor. So they were dubbed bread masters of the inner harbor. The onlookers made imaginative commentary on their work. However day by day, week by week, the work progressed and finally Lange could see that the craft was finished.
Harbormaster Arne came to the work-site for the launching of the new craft. His white beard and moustache contrasted nicely with his deep black doublet. He looked over the unlikely contrivance and asked, “So you think this is going to work?”
Eric Halbard smiled. “Yes, I think so. We tried it sitting on blocks. Four men on each side pulling the capstan handles make the wheels spin quite easily. The wheels are even independent of each other and can be turned in opposite directions. We think that we will be able to have it pivot within the length of the boat. That will make us very maneuverable and it should give us the ability to work in very tight quarters.”
The harbormaster asked, “Do you have a name for this thing yet? I know that most tugboats are not named, them being just rowboats. But this is something unique. I’ve never seen anything like this except for maybe those Swedish warships.”
Eric Lange said, “We are still thinking about that. I’m sure we’ll come up with something soon.”
Arne shook his head, then checked his paperwork. “Well, it’s your neck, I guess. The last thing I need to know is who is in charge here?”
They laughed and pointed at each other. “Eric is in charge!” Everyone in earshot dissolved into laughter.
Grunting and heaving, the whole crew wrestled the new craft into the water. Then everybody watched as the three Erics and Thorvald climbed into the craft and took their places, two at each capstan. They begin to pull on the handles of the capstans.
Eric Lange noticed it first. There was a lot more resistance in the water. “This is hard! I don’t how long I can keep this up.”
Eric Halbard said, “Well don’t quit now not while they’re watching. Let’s at least go around in a circle and then back to shore before we stop.”
Very soon the four men were sweating like they’d been drinking all week. Gasping and grunting, they finally drove the craft onto the beach.
Josef Magnussen rushed up to the four men and asked, “What do you think? Will it work? How soon can we get into business?”
Eric Lange said, “To tell the truth there are a few small problems. Mostly it seems a lot harder than I thought it should be. We may have to put more men on the capstan to make it practical. But as you saw we can turn the boat within its own length by turning the two paddle wheels in opposite directions. That by itself will make this much more useful than a rowboat with long sweep oars.”
They wrestled with the problem for the rest of the week. The crew gradually increased to eight men and even so it was not quite as effective as a rowboat with oars.
At the end of the week, Eric Lange gathered his partners and said, “It looks like we’ll have to have as many men as a regular rowboat, just to make it work. If we do that it will cost us more to pay those men and do the maintenance then it would just to have a simple rowboat. We need to think of something more efficient. Let’s tie up our craft and go back to the drawing. Perhaps by Monday, we can come up with an idea that will improve our machine.”
The other three, Eric, Eric, and Thorvald nodded in agreement. Thorvald said, “It is still better than getting thrown into the water all the time.” All four laughed and made their way to the Northern Lights.
By the end of the evening, everybody was well into their cups and nobody had any ideas, except for Eric Krake. He was still scribbling and had only imbibed about half the amount of ale of his partners. He picked up his mug and drained it and then he said, “I saw a bicycle this weekend; it was a new and improved model. It had a link chain and sprocket gears to drive the wheel. The gear on the wheel was small and not quite a hand span across, but the pedals were mounted upon a gear that was almost an arms length in diameter. The result is that was that the smaller gear went around many times for one rotation of the gear on the pedals. Perhaps if we did something similar, we could get more rotations of the paddles for less work.”
A great deal of discussion ensued. Finally, Eric Lange said, “I think I understand how this would work. I think we could try it. What do we lose for the effort?”
Krake nodded. “One of the benefits is that if we move the paddle wheels slightly forward, and the capstan slightly aft the tugboat will track straight through the water.”
In spite of headaches, the four men set to work the next morning. By the end of the week the modifications had been achieved. This time there were not nearly as many people standing around to watch as they launched their new model tugboat.
On the water, Eric Lange was thrilled to note that it was not nearly as hard to pull the levers around. The only problem was that they had to pull them very rapidly to move the tugboat at all.
Then it happened. Thorvald let his attention drift somewhat and a lever from the capstan snagged his jacket and lofted him into the water.
Everyone, Thorvald included, burst into laughter. Eric Krake said, “This modification helps a lot, but I still think that we cannot compete successfully with normal tugboats.”
They pulled Thorvald back into the boat and looked around. Halbard said, “It’s dark, where are we? I think it’s time to quit for the day. Are we close enough to The Mermaid and Tiger? I want to go try that new chocolate recipe I heard about.”
They maneuvered over to a dock and Eric Lange was last out of the boat. He watched his weary companions as they staggered along the waterfront towards the American eatery. Eric said, “I’m glad we are here. I hope it is not too crowded tonight.”
Eric Halbard opened the door and looked inside where there were a lot of people. He said, “If you think this is not too crowded, I wonder what crowded really is?”
Thorvald said, “I think there is a table over there; let us go capture it before someone else does. I can tell you what I want and you can go place the order.”
The three Erics looked at each other and Eric Halbard asked, “Which one of us are you talking to?”
Thorvald grinned. “Why, Eric of course.” Thorvald then beat a hasty retreat towards the open table.
Eric Lange surveyed the room. It had been converted from a warehouse by putting a wall and a counter across the back. A lady was tending the counter and there was something different about her dress. She had pockets, so she must be one of the Americans.
The items available for the day were written on a large chalkboard on the wall behind the counter. Eric Lange said, “Let’s go to the counter. I want a better look at what’s on the list. At least we have a little silver left to buy our meal.”
Eric the Halbard nodded. “I have heard several different things they make here that are said to be quite extraordinary. One of them is the sandwich, they take a roll of bread, place meat and cheese between the two halves and serve it to you on a plate. You can eat it with your hands.”
Eric Krake said, “I want to taste the new chocolate. That chocolate drink is something everybody is talking about. Some men that I sailed with tried it in Spain and said it is better than wine. I don’t know about that. They say it warms the blood, but has a bitterness. Every place has a different recipe with spices added to it to make it taste even more exotic.”
As Eric Lange and his two companions approached the counter the woman said, “Hello, I am Reva Pridmore. This is my place. I don’t think I’ve seen you in here before so what can I do for you?”
When Eric Lange saw that both of his friends were looking at him, he found his tongue and said, “Frau Pridmore, it is a pleasure to meet you. We have heard extraordinary things about the food here, even including that exotic drink from the New World called chocolate. I have long thought that the person who prepares the food knows it best, so I ask what do you recommend for supper?”
The woman paused a moment to think. “We should keep it simple. Why don’t you each choose a sandwich and what we call a Copenhagen cup. The Copenhagen cup is chocolate with just a few extras, mostly a little bit of sea salt to give it a distinctive flavor. On the board behind me we have a list of the breads, the meats, and the cheeses. Pick what you want and I will tell you what it would cost.”
Eric Lange felt a little bit overwhelmed. Still his companions had imposed leadership upon him, he would not fail them. Resolutely he said, “That sounds good. We need four cups of chocolate as you described and four sandwiches. I think we will take a rye bread, a white bread, whatever sourdough is, and last a French roll. We all want pork and good Danish cheese. How much you think that would be?”
The woman across the counter scratched a few notes on a piece of paper looked up showed him the paper and said, “You can see it’s not too much. We wanted to make this a place where people could come for meals frequently so we try and keep the cost low as possible. If you ever want to try something more exotic, you should try the dinner menu.” The woman pointed to the other half of the board behind her. There were listed exotic menu items that Eric Lange had never heard of. He wondered, for instance, about biscuits and gravy. What in the world could a chicken fried steak be? Would it be chicken, or beef, or something else entirely?
Eric Lange laughed. “I think we will stick with the Sand Witches for now. I don’t think I’m ready for chickens that can fry anything. They must be well-trained, in truth.”
The woman laughed as well. “Yes indeed, it’s hard to get them trained up enough before we eat them.”
Eric Lange frowned and handed her some coins. Then the woman smiled and turned away. Lange felt a trifle confused. Then he heard the woman say, “Go ahead and sit down at that table with your friend over there. We will bring the order out to you.”
Thorvald had secured a table with four chairs, close to a window in the corner. As they approached, Thorvald said, “Over here in this corner is where that man was murdered a couple of weeks ago. Right here in this very shop during a sword fight. The fight didn’t kill him, but when the excitement was over, they looked in the corner and he was just dead. It all sounded very exciting.”
Eric Lange remembered hearing something about it, but he said, “Never mind about that now. Let’s just sit down. They say they’re going to bring the food out to us in a moment. We got you something called a sand witch and a drink called a Copenhagen cup. I hope you like it, they cost almost our whole day’s wages.”
Halbard said, “Are you sure you heard her right? Sand Witch? That can’t be good for us.” Nobody paid much attention to him, there were curious things going on.
As Eric Lange sat down Thorvald nudged him and said, “Look over there at the table next to us. They all work for the Danish airship company. You can tell by those odd doublets. Ole told me that they call them jumpsuits or something like that. I don’t know what it is but they’re doing something at the table.”
Eric Lange stood up, expecting to see a game of cards or an argument. But his attention was riveted by the things the men were putting on the table. It was machinery of some kind. One piece went into the window, another was clamped down on the edge of the table and they were fastening a piece of wood to a shaft that came out of the side of the mechanism.
Another man was standing next to Lange and he tapped the man on the shoulder. “Do you have any idea what they are doing?”
The man laughed. “Not really, they come in two or three times a week. But they’ve never done this. I think these are some models of what they are building out there for the airship company.”
The Erics sat down and watched the show. Everybody nearby was talking and laughing. Eric Lange watched intently as devices were connected to each other, adjustments were made and instructions delivered with great precision and rapidity.
Then a man, an American by his accent, shouted across the room to Frau Pridmore. He said something like, “Hold my drink, Reva, and watch this!” Then he adjusted the valve and spun the wooden piece on the front.
The little machine coughed, then the wooden bar began to move on its own, slowly at first, then faster. It made a noise like chain-shot hurtling through the air.
Eric had never seen anything like this. With the spinning paddle on the front, it really looked like one of the engines on the airship that launched last week. It was fascinating. Someone nearby commented that the long wooden piece was called a propeller and as it spun the air began to move, blowing the hot humid air from inside the shop out the open window.
The girl came with a tray and put a plate in front of each of the Erics and Thorvald. The food was different, with things stacked between slices of bread. Then she gave each a cup, steaming and fragrant. So before they sampled the sand witches, they each tried the chocolate.
They tasted, then closed their eyes and tasted again. It was sweet and yet bitter, smooth and yet spicy, calming and yet exciting. Never had Eric Lange tasted anything like it.
And the sandwiches were interesting as well. They didn’t look like much, but there was a new experience with each bite. Krake grinned at Eric Halbard. “Are you afraid to taste your Sand Witch?”
Eric Halbard glared at Krake and took a huge bite. Then his eyes got wide and he took another. Eric Lange laughed. “Maybe they are witches, they’ve cast a spell on our food critic.”
Their attention was torn away from their repast when the machinery next to their table started hissing. That hiss caused thee airship men to scramble quickly around machine, until it was completely obscured from sight. Then the American turned back to the counter in front and shouted, “Nothing to worry about, we were just going a little too fast and the safety went off. No problem.”
All the Erics and Thorvald were on their feet, and they crowded around the American, looking at the machine as if it were a live demon. There was something in forming in Eric’s mind, something that really important, something about the propeller going in a circle. Everyone had gone back to the table, but Eric Lange was still standing in the middle of the floor, chasing the elusive thought. Then Eric had it. The propeller rotated like the paddle wheels and it could push, maybe even harder, because the American would not let anybody close to the propeller, saying that might break their hands.
So before he sat back down to his excellent food, he touched the American on the sleeve. “I have a question, can this be made bigger?”
The American machinist said, “Well yes. These are a quarter size of the airship ones. But we are building the six cylinder as the standard size. This one only has six cylinders but the shop standard engine has twelve and is as strong as a thousand horses pulling together.”
Eric put his hand out to the American. “I’m Eric, they call me Eric Lange I would like to know more about your machine.”
Around him in the tavern, other men rushed forward to speak. It seemed that everybody found the engine to be the solution for their problem. Deals were being made, bargains struck. Money was in play. It was a good evening all around.
The next morning, all the Erics and Thorvald trooped over to the airship shop and listened as the airship engineers explained. Apparently the engine could be made larger or smaller depending on how it was put together.
After careful consideration Eric Lange said, “So that is how they make the wheels on the Swedish warships turn. This smaller engine, how much would it cost?”
All of the partners leaned closer to hear. They discussed money and the possible cost of hiring an engineer to maintain the engine, or train their crew.
Finally Eric Lange stood up. “Gentlemen, thank you for your time. We need to check with our sponsor. But I think the purchase of an engine of the size you mentioned might possibly solve our problem. It certainly would be easier than pulling handles on a capstan.”
By the end of the day, Eric Lange was back in the engine workshop. He had spoken to Herr Magnussen, discussed payment, and set up a delivery time for the engine. Because this engine was assembled from stocks, a new one would only take two days to produce.
Thorvald was more excited than anyone at the news. “From now on, I stay in the boat!
It had been a week since the momentous night at The Mermaid and Tiger. The engine had been delivered and was now mounted on a platform between the two paddle wheels. A chain drive left over from the hand cranked bicycle experiment had been attached to each paddle wheel along with something that the American machinist called a reversible clutch for each wheel.
The controls were explained. There was a lever on a large valve called the throttle, which could move forward or backwards to increase or decrease the amount of steam from the steam generator. Each reversible clutch was a lever that had a central, forward and reverse position which controlled its corresponding paddle wheel. Finally there was a long cord with the ‘T’ handle that was used to give the initial impulse to start the engine. All three of the levers had been routed back to the steering position. Conceivably one person could work the whole tug boat. However, it was much more rational to have a crewman in charge of the machinery a crewman in charge of the paddle wheels and throttle and somebody to steer with the tiller.
Everybody was ready. Eric Lange asked, “Is the fire hot? Is there enough steam?”
Thorvald had been given the responsibility of keeping the fire fed. He said, “If I understand this correctly, the gauges are telling me that we are prepared. You may open the valve when you will.”
Eric Lange was in command, Eric Halbard was on the tiller, and Eric Krake by the mooring ropes. Lange stood up. “All right, get everything ready. We are about to back out. Thorvald turn the engine over.”
Thorvald waved acknowledgment. Then he opened the throttle a crack, grabbed the ‘T’ handle, and gave it a sharp tug. Everybody was intensely interested as the machinery began to work.
Eric Lange saw Thorvald turn back to feed the fire, so he blew his steam whistle, opened his throttle control a little wider, and pulled the throttle open. Then he grabbed both paddle wheel control levers to move them into reverse. Majestically the wheels began to turn and the tug boat backed away from the shore.
Eric Krake was scrambling to make sure all the ropes that tied the tug boat to the dock were released. Lange closed the throttle and placed the paddle wheel controls in neutral. The tug boat continued to glide away from the shore.
Lange said, “Halbard, move the tiller so that we start turning the bow towards the open harbor. I want to see what this thing can do.”
Eric Halbard waved acknowledgment and pushed the tiller over and the back of the towboat began an arc toward shore. Eric Lange waited a moment then opened the throttle a bit more, engaging both paddle wheels in the forward direction. With a thrashing of foam, the wheels spun as the boat worked to change direction. Gradually the tug boat began to move forward and out across the harbor. Eric Lange was entranced, every bit of his being was focused on making the tugboat go where he wanted.
Then he heard Halbard. “Lange, I can’t hold it, it’s trying to veer off to starboard. Can you do anything to make it straighten out?”
Eric Lange considered for a moment and then adjusted one of the wheel control levers just a bit. The tug boat began to move straight across the harbor. From that point on, the men experimented with their new craft. They found they could spin it in place, not using the tiller at all. They could make it back up, or go forward, even curve across the harbor in long shallow glides.
Finally Thorvald said, “Lange, We are running out of fuel. I think it’s time to go back before we have to row.”
From the bow, Eric Krake laughed. “Very true, Lange, if we have to row, Thorvald will end up in the bay again and we don’t want that. Nobody likes a wet Thorvald.”
Halbard leaned on the tiller, Lange sent the craft about, then they set off towards their mooring place. The wind was in their hair and Herr Magnussen stood on the shore clapping his hands and hooting encouragements. Lange felt as if his chest would burst in pride at their accomplishment.
Just before they reached the dock, Lange clapped Krake on the shoulder. “I know what we will name this vessel.
Halbard jumped onto the dock to secure the mooring ropes. He laughed. “Is it ‘Krake’s Folly?”
Krake glared at Halbard. But Lange continued. “No. We’ll call it ‘Thorvald’s Blessing.”
They all laughed and headed for The Mermaid and Tiger.