After he got over his initial wow and exclamations of magic, we settled in to work. I had thought up the chalk on the ride from my cabin to the town, but that was where I kind of got stumped. Chalk wouldn’t produce a good contrast. While it worked on something dark, it was useless against lighter materials. I also had no idea how to lift prints off a surface since tape hadn’t been invented, yet.
One step at a time, Sam.
In short order, Ernst, as I had learned his name after we began our experiments, and I had tried coal dust, soot, powdered ink, and even graphite—I made a mental note to save some of that to create my own pencil. I was sick of ink stains on my fingers.
All of them had various degrees of success, but also drawbacks. The color contrast was right, but the powder clumped and didn’t produce a good print. This one was too light, that one too heavy, that one just was too sticky on everything.
“This is getting ridiculous,” I said. “Maybe we can’t do it. Like I said, I don’t know exactly what the apothecaries in my homeland used.”
“Don’t fret, Shamus. The work is not lost, yet. Seldom are my medicines of a single ingredient. Rather, they are recipes of ingredients working in harmony with one another.”
“Recipes?” I perked up.
“Yes, though I would not recommend them for the eating like the pastries Marion’s daughter makes.”
“So we can try mixing some of these together to get the right consistency. That should—”
I stopped as my brain caught up to what he said. Marion’s daughter. Marion was the baker in town, her daughter was Caitlyn.
Is that what the gossip is about? Me and Caitlyn?