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"The same as yours, Father. Down the Dunajec and up the Vistula. Always ready to take on paying passengers, that's my motto, sirs." He ignored the poet.

"Well, you must understand our means are limited." Father Ignacy sat on a sack of grain. "Sir Conrad, I believe we were talking about Saint Augustine. Now, in The City of God-"

"But Father," Tadaos said, "you understand that we are having this difficulty-"

"And you feel that we should work for you, to help you out of it. This is acceptable to us, and there is only a slight matter of agreement on our wages."

"Ah, Father, I am a benevolent man, and if you will both assist me on our way to Cracow, I will feed you as well as I feed myself and depend only on your generosity for my remuneration."

"But surely it is written that a workman deserves his wages, and we are hardworking men, but poor. Yet we can get to Cracow on foot without the burden of hauling your grain. Shall we say food and six silver pennies per day per man?"

Tadaos gagged. "Please understand, Father, that I too am a poor man and that I have a wife and five poor children to feed. Surely you would not want to take food from their mouths with winter coming on. But perhaps one penny."

The bargaining went on for better than twenty minutes, with the boat hung up on the rocks and all of us sitting down. I could see that it would be difficult to get the rational principles of socialism across to these people and, further, that if I wanted to survive, I had a lot to learn. In the meantime, I set my mind to the technical problem of freeing the boat.

Eventually they settled on the wages of food and three pennies a day. Much later, I discovered that this was an excellent wage for an experienced boatman, which I wasn't but which Father Ignacy was. He turned to me and said, "Now then, Sir Conrad, have you solved our problem?"

"No, but I know what to try. Do you have a block and tackle? No? Then the first thing to try is brute force. We all get into the water and try to pull it off the rocks."

This is what Tadaos had in mind, so there were no objections except from the poet. It was mutually agreed that his opinions didn't count, so we all went over the side. The poet-with assistance-went head first. I mean, Father Ignacy was already in the water when the kid, who was standing between the boatman and me, began to make some rhymed objection. The boatman looked at me, and I nodded. We picked up the poet and threw him in.

It was freezing. We tried lifting from the front, but the boat wouldn't budge. We tried pulling from the back, but no go. We rocked. We jerked, but it was no good. Stuck.

Shivering, we climbed back aboard.

"Well, that didn't work," I said to Tadaos. "How much rope do you have aboard? And do you have any grease?"

"I have some cooking lard and maybe a gross of yards of good rope."

"Okay. Give me the lard and tie this rope to the back of the boat."

"The stern."

Yachtsmen are the same everywhere. They've got to have their own idiot language. "The stem. I'll be back soon." I had picked out a rounded vertical rock perhaps fifty meters upstream of the boat. I went over the side and waded toward it. Damn, but the water was cold! Small bits of ice were floating in it! The rock was just what I wanted-rounded on the upstream side and slightly concave. I greased the surface liberally and pulled the rope around it. Then I greased about ten meters of the rope, from the rock toward the boat, keeping the rope taut.

The boatman jumped into the water and shouted, "Okay, here we go, you men!"

"What are you doing?" I yelled. "Get back into the boat!"

"What do you mean? We have to pull ourselves off!"

"Yes, but the place to pull from is inside the boat."

"That's stupid, sir knight! We'll add our weight to the boat and make it harder to pull!"

"True, but our weight is small compared to the weight of the boat and the grain. And if we're inside the boat, we double our leverage. Be reasonable. Do it my way."

"Okay! We try it your way, just to show how dumb you are!"

I handed the rope up to Father Ignacy, and we struggled aboard.

"What do you think we'll do when this doesn't work?" the boatman asked.

"If this fails, we unload the boat one sack at a time and carry it to the shore. Then we try this again, and if it works, we load the boat back up again."

"That would take days! We'd lose half of the grain by dropping it in the water!"

"I know. So we try this first. Line up, you men. Pull!"

The boat moved, a centimeter at first, then two, then ten. Once off the rocks, it moved easily. After ten meters, the boatman belayed the line around the sternpost and ran up to the bow. "She's not taking in any water!" Soon, the line cast off and hauled in, we were on our way.

I soon noticed that along with the normal oarlocks on the sides, the boat had additional locks on the bow and stem. Their function was explained when Tadaos set an oar in each. He took the stem oar and put Father Ignacy on the bow. They used these to paddle the boat sideways in order to avoid obstructions in the river. Once he was sure that all was well, the boatman motioned me over to him.

"The good father knows his job well, and as for you, sir knight, that was as fine a piece of boatmanship as I have ever seen. I hope you'll accept my apologies for the rudeness I showed to your knightship."

"No problem. We were all under stress. Your apologies are accepted, sir boatman."

"Well, hardly that, Sir Conrad, but I have had my share. Why, there was this girl from Sandomierz, a blonde she was, that… but that's not what I want to talk about. I want to find out why you think that we pulled twice as hard standing in the boat as we did standing on the bottom."

"I wish I had a pencil and paper."


"Some way to draw pictures for you. It wasn't that we pulled twice as hard; we didn't. Look at it from the point.of view of the boat. We were pulling the rope, right? So at the same time we were pushing on the boat with our feet. Right?"


"Also, the rope went around the rock and came back and pulled on the boat, right?"

"So, we pushed it and pulled it at the same time. We got twice as much for nothing!"

"No, we didn't. When we pulled that rope for one of your yards, the rope pulled the boat only one half a yard. We got more force but less distance."

"So we broke even."

"Less than that. We lost some power rubbing the rope against the rock. It would have been better if we could have had a wheel on the rock."

"Like a pulley, you mean?"

Now, how in hell can an apparently intelligent man know about rope and pulleys and not about mechanical advantage? "Yes, like a pulley. Would you mind if I got out of these clothes? I'm freezing."

"Do what you will, Sir Conrad." Water was running off his clothes onto the floorboards and freezing there.

I couldn't do anything to help his wet clothes, but it would have been stupid for me to be uncomfortable with no gain for the others. I went to my pack and dug out my tennis shoes, light trousers, spare socks, and underwear. I changed quickly and stretched my wet things out on the grain bags. Actually, most of my things were wet.

I took stock of my gear. A pair of lightweight 7 X 25 mm binoculars. A Swiss army knife. A small hatchet. A good Buck single-bladed jackknife in a leather belt pouch. A canteen. A dented cooking kit. A compass. A few days' food. A sleeping bag. A ripped knapsack. A sewing kit. A first-aid kit. A stub of a candle. A few coins that might be worth something. Some paper money that probably wasn't. A smashed flashlight that I pitched over the side. With these few things, my total worldly possessions, I was to face the brutal thirteenth century.

I laid all of it out to dry.

At the bottom of the pack, I found the idiot seeds. That incredible redhead! It seemed like years ago rather than only forty-eight hours.