The duke came down and looked at me. "There is more to gain than to lose. I'll be watching you, boy, but you can have it."
I came close to fainting.
Privately and somewhat curtly, the count informed five adolescent girls that they were leaving with me, the ones he thought were acting above their station in life. That night Krystyana was happy and excited about the coming adventure. She didn't realize that she was being thrown out.
I didn't regret my actions. I intended to raise a million bright kids "above their stations," and damn these Dark Age rules!
Yet personally, I was somewhat sad. I had been happy at Okoitz, but my job there was done. Good things must end, and perhaps the future would not be so bad.
For a penniless immigrant who had arrived only six months before, I had done fairly well. We now had the start of a decent school system, the beginnings of a textile industry, and the glimmerings of an industrial base.
If the seeds I'd brought worked out, we had the makings of an agricultural revolution.
We had steel, a fairly efficient brass works, and a profitable if embarrassing inn.
And now I had a hundred square kilometers of land to work with, land that would someday be the industrial heart of Poland.
It was a magnificent challenge, but still, leaving is a sad thing.
Tom pressed the HOLD button.
"Enough for today. They're waiting the banquet on us, but I'd hate to make them hold the ballet."
"Okay," I said. "But first tell me what went wrong."
"Wrong with what?"
"With Conrad's plans. He seems to be an intelligent, competent engineer. He had the backing of the authorities. He had raw materials and a good work force. Where did he fail?"
"What makes you think he failed?"
"Well, he had to fail! He's trying to start the industrial revolution five centuries too early, which obviously didn't happen."
"Ah, the catch is in that word 'obviously.' Son, I've been showing you this record for a reason. You know that subjectively I'm over eight hundred years old. There are limits to what even our medics can accomplish. You are ninety now, and I think you're mature enough to get involved with the firm's decision-making processes."
"But decisions shouldn't be made without complete information, and for us there's never a reason for anything to be rushed. Time, after all, is our stock in trade. Let's go eat."
"But nothing! You want to keep the dancers waiting?"
As we left for the banquet hall, Tom put his hand on my shoulder and said, "What tickles me is the way Conrad keeps on talking about building socialism while at the same time taking all of the actions a nineteenth-century capitalist would approve of. Buying businesses, making them profitable, reinvesting the money…"