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1634: The Wars for the Rhine: Chapter Six
Last updated: Saturday, October 15, 2016 06:16 EDT
Some weeks after midsummer Father Johannes was enjoying the clear summer morning on his way back from Beauville’s store. The river was sparkling beneath the green curtains of the weeping willows, and the white and yellow larkspurs dotted the grey stone walls and piers. The war seemed so far away and such a long time ago.
Father Johannes sat down on a stone plinth and threw a pebble into the still water of the shallows to watch the rings spread. His work here in Cologne was nearly finished. The entire town area belonging to the Hatzfeldts had been cleared of unwanted structures, and the new stables and outbuildings were planned. Building those didn’t need Father Johannes’ skills, and all that remained to do in the main house was installing the new furniture and textiles Trinket had ordered from France. It had been a disappointment that there had been nothing in the Würzburg papers about Paul — the ladies had moved on to the Fulda archives a week ago — but at least the fact that no one seemed know where Paul was, also made it unlikely that he was still in the hands of the Inquisition.
He would miss the ladies and Melchior. Melchior had never gone into details about the personal part of his reasons for leaving Vienna, but he had gathered what information he needed to make his report to the Emperor about the military situation, and had left Cologne a few weeks ago.
Before leaving, Melchior had a major quarrel with Franz, when Melchior once again flat-out refused to bring his regiments to Cologne, and use them on behalf of his brother — and Archbishop Ferdinand — to regain first Bishop’s Alley and later as much of Franconia and other USE areas as possible. Afterwards Franz had managed to quarrel with nearly everybody, and by the time he went with the archbishop back to Bonn, he really wasn’t on speaking term with anybody in the family.
On the positive side there wasn’t much chance that the archbishop’s plans still involved Father Johannes in any way. That Maxie had grown up as the oldest of sixteen siblings — and was definitely in the habit of making decisions — apparently more than compensated for her being ten years younger and nominally the archbishop’s subordinate. Darling Maxie. Father Johannes threw in another pebble.
Maxie had used all her powers of persuasion to get Archbishop Ferdinand to back down from whatever it was he had planned, but had been unable to make her cousin listen. Instead she had written letters to their family in Bavaria, and as Melchior was going to Vienna by way of Munich, he had offered to personally deliver the one to Duke Maximilian. Hopefully the duke would see the folly of stirring up trouble in an area already so unsettled, and call the archbishop to order.
Instead they’d had a letter from Melchior yesterday, delivered to Lucie directly from the hands of one of the two the lieutenants, who had accompanied Melchior to Cologne. Apparently Bavaria was in complete chaos following the flight of Duke Maximilian’s Habsburger fiancée, and no one with enough authority was willing or able to come to Cologne. Melchior had met Duke Maximilian in Landhut, and more that indicated in his letter that the Bavarian elector was even more unbalanced than the archbishop. Melchior’s letter had also confirmed the rumors that the third brother, Albrecht, was now fleeing from his brother with a price on his head. And that Duke Maximilian had almost certainly been involved in the death of Albrecht’s wife and one or more of their children.
Melchior also wrote that he had changed his mind, and now hoped to be able to bring some of his men to Cologne. The main part of his army could remain in Linz under command of his cousin and second in command Colonel Wolf von Wildenburg-Hatzfeldt, but in Vienna Melchior now intended to ask for permission to bring his dragoons westwards. He did not intend to place them at Archbishop Ferdinand’s disposal, but wanted to take control of the Cologne area himself before it went completely up in flame, and could be had by anybody coming along to pick it up. The ties between Bavaria and the archdiocese of Cologne had always been strong, and with chaos in Bavaria, Cologne was fast becoming totally isolated. Duke Wolfgang of Jülich-Berg had not been regarded as a particularly safe neighbor lately, but the death of both him and his heir, followed by the disappearance of his pregnant wife, had left Jülich and Berg without much in the way of leadership, and Essen, Hessen, and the Low Countries were all showing interest in the situation. In Melchior’s opinion the main reason conquering armies were not already pouring in from all side, was simply that they didn’t want to risk ending up fighting each other. What a mess! And Melchior’s brother was caught right in the middle unless Franz could be persuaded to break with the archbishop.
Father Johannes had passed on a report of the latest news this morning, and it should reach Don Francisco within a week. Perhaps that clever young man could figure out the archbishop’s plan. Of course doing something about it in time would be another problem. Father Johannes suspected that some kind of radio was available to Moses Abrabanel, but people still had to travel from place to place, and news had spread about a peasant rebellion around Würzburg, which might slow down travel on the Rhine if it spread.
Still, all Father Johannes could really do today was to try convince Trinket that Hermann, her rather ascetic new husband, would not be pleasantly surprised by her cleverness if he came back from buying a steam engine in Essen, and found that her newly furnished pink and gold parlor, had been completely — and even more opulently — re-fitted in the new fashionable pale lilac. The combination of gold, pale lilac and Trinket really was enough to make a strong man cry.
Some ducks were swimming closer to see if the disturbance of their waters were something eatable, and Father Johannes rose to continue back to Hatzfeldt House.
When Father Johannes entered the hall one of Lucie’s children sat waiting for him on the stairs. According to Maxie, Lucie’s husband had been a cheerful man with very dark in skin and hair due to some Moorish blood on his mother’s side, while his long time mistress had been a very temperamental red-haired Scot with absolutely no interest in her children. This had resulted in a series of copper-curled, cheerful and independent children as alike as peas in a pod. Lucie could tell them apart, but everybody else had taken to follow Father Johannes’ lead and simply address them all — boys and girls — as Peter. Lucie had been a bit doubtful about this — and Father Johannes’ explanation: that they were obviously all Wild Boys at heart — had not been accepted until Father Johannes had started telling American stories about Peter Pan and the Wild Boys in the muniment room. As those stories spread via the children on page-duty, even Lucie had given in to the pressure and started calling them Peter.
“Father Johannes,” said the fairly-big-but-probably-not-oldest Peter, “Lady Lucie requests your company in the muniment room.” The formal words and bow were somewhat spoiled by a big grin and an attempt to pull Father Johannes along by his hand.
In the muniment room Lucie sat looking like a cat in a cream pot. “Come take a look at this, Father Johannes,” she said while pushing a ledger across the table towards him. “Entry four and five plus the upper half on the next page.”
Father Johannes sat down and looked. “The Church of Saint Severi. A stone grinder, oil and minerals.”
“Isn’t that exactly the kind of grinder you mentioned using to grind your paints, Father Johannes? And I’m sure these are minerals that you have mentioned buying from Beauville.”
“Oh yes, these are for paints, probably for Al Fresco murals. Where is Saint Severi and what’s said about wages for the painter?”
“That’s just it, Father Johannes,” Lucie’s smile got even brighter, “there are no wages. About four years ago Saint Severi started buying paint for decorating, but no payment for using what was bought, and no mention of by whom. I haven’t yet found the yearly reports from the church to the Abbey, just the accounts. It could be an old monk or somebody just doing it for free, but it had continued for two years when the monks fled from the Protestant army, so the painter must have been good. And look at the date of the first entry; it’s six weeks after your friend disappeared near Aschaffenburg. And Saint Severi is in Fulda; some seventy miles north from Aschaffenburg.”
“Fulda! Again! That town has come back like a bad coin all spring.”
“Perhaps somebody was trying to tell you something, Father Johannes.” Lucie was now laughing out loud. “Do go there and see what you can find.” Lucie turned somber. “Peter, go tell Maxie and Cook that I want lunch in the blue room today, on a trestle table in the sun.”
“Yes, Lady, but Sobby is going to protest sitting in sunshine.”
“Lady Sophia to you young man! And she can eat in the Grand Salon as usual if she want to, but find her and ask.”
When the door closed behind the child, Lucie reached across the table to caress Father Johannes’ cheek. “I’ll miss you, Father Johannes. More than I had planned to. Will you be coming back?”
Father Johannes turned his head to kiss her hand and sat holding it, absently rubbing an ink spot. “I had planned to settle in Magdeburg once I’d found out what had happened to Paul. You know I’m a major shareholder in the porcelain factory being build there. It’s well under way, and I want to work with the production too. There’s no reason I should not come to sell our products in Cologne from time to time; unless of course the situation here gets really bad. And in that case you and the Peters should certainly come to me instead. Have you thought about moving to the USE? Your family has plenty of land on both sides of the border, and you’ll probably be safer there. I know your brothers, Heinrich and Hermann, talked with your Fleckenbuehl cousins about the Crottorf branch’s estates in the occupied areas. It would be easier for you to keep them if more of you lived in the USE. Heinrich does his best, but he is needed by his church in Mainz, and could use your help.”
“I’ve thought, yes, and discussed it with Maxie. And Heinrich, Melchior and Hermann. Melchior is in favor of coming to an agreement with the USE, both for the family and for what remains of Catholic western Germany. This is largely due to you, but also because Bavaria is the last full-strength Catholic area in Germany, and Bavaria has been paralyzed since the Duchess died. France, Spain or even the Habsburgs might someday overcome the USE, but we cannot wait for that to happen. Everybody here needs some stability to get on with their lives.” She sighed. “Hermann too is in favor of negotiating with the USE. He’s the most pragmatic of my brothers, and he has been studying those laws, etc. you got for him, as well as talking to Heinrich. The way the Americans do things is not what Hermann would prefer, but he claim he can work with them. And land behind an enemy border is no use at all. Heinrich don’t think we have any realistic alternative. But Franz … Franz is the problem. I think it would kill him if the rest of the family just disregarded his loss and accepted the USE’s authority.”
“He is an adult, Lucie. If he chooses to throw in his lot with the archbishop…” Father Johannes shrugged. “Hope for their failure or hope for their success, but in any case be there for him when it’s over. Family is important no matter what happens.” Father Johannes smiled and kissed her hand again. “But how about Maxie?”
Lucie removed her hand, leaned back and smiled, “Maxie need things to do, challenges, battles to fight, people to manage. She is so bitter about her failures in Münich and the lack of support from her family; she doesn’t want to go back. And considering the temper she is in combined with what we hear about Duke Maximilian, I seriously think she’ll get killed if she does. The American way of doing things would suit Maxie just perfect. She would so love to battle this bureaucracy you have told us about. Maria know just as much about law as Hermann, and while she isn’t as good at splitting hairs and debating sub-clauses, she is very, very good at kicking arse until she get things her way. Magdeburg or Cologne? She’ll be the same anywhere.” Lucie tipped her head a little and grinned. “With a little address you could probably talk her into going with you.”
“Lucie …” Father Johannes stopped. “Lady Lucie, I am most grateful for your information about Paul’s possible whereabouts. If you’ll excuse me.” Father Johannes exit was followed by a gentle chuckle behind him.
The installation of a stained glass window in Trinket’s private parlor, “to complete the illusion of a Rose Garden,” had been Father Johannes’ last work on the Hatzfeldt House. It had nearly also been That Last Straw Which Broke the Donkey’s Back. Perhaps he should try talking with Martin about a series of articles about taste for the Simplicissimus Magazine. Still, everything was now in order: all work done, accounts settled, bags packed, and the miniature paintings he had made for Maxie and Lucie were finished. Lucie had cried when he gave her the chain with five medallions each with a portrait of a Peter, and Father Johannes had ended up promising — on his faith — to write at least every fortnight, and come back to her as soon as possible.
Maxie had gone to the Archbishop’s Palace to bully one of her many contacts — a secretary — for news about the trouble around Fulda. The trouble appeared to concern either land for railroads or the structuring of the new province proposed, but just who was protesting what — and why — wasn’t clear, so Father Johannes sat waiting for her in what had been his work room for more than six months. It had been a good time: Trinket aside, the work had been artistically satisfying, and economically sound, and the cut he’d get from the porcelain-shares and wares he had sold, would ensure that he’d never lack money again. And while he didn’t think his rapports to Don Francisco had changed the world, he was finally doing what he felt was right. But the best of all had been the ladies and Melchior. Lucie’s suggestion that Maxie might be more interested in Father Johannes than was strictly proper had taken him by surprise. Since his late teens sexual urges had just been something that was there; they popped up when he met an attractive woman; that was acceptable, and just ignored. That he found Maxie — and Lucie — very attractive had just added a bit of spice to how very much he liked them, but that either — or possibly even both — might be attracted to him!
Marriage was impossible for Father Johannes unless he was either excommunicated or secularized by papal edict, and an illicit affair with either lady just felt too odd. Sure, lots of priests had more or less formal arrangements with women, some — for all practical purpose — a marriage and a family. But while Father Johannes had always felt such to be his fellow priest’s private affairs — and not really that much of a sin — it simply was not an arrangement he could imagine. Not with Lucie, and certainly not with Maxie.
The other way around where a man became the cicisbeo — or lapdog — to a powerful woman as it was the fashion in Italy? He had seen a few such affairs during his work as a painter, and had no problem imagining that for Maxie, but…
When Maxie came into the room Father Johannes jumped to his feet and felt blushes color him from neck to hair.
“There were no news about a rebellion, Father Johannes, and Frau Vollsig’s son, she’s my brother’s friend’s landlady’s neighbor, came from Fulda less than a week ago. Travelling is probably as safe now as it ever is.”
“Thank you, Maxie, you have been most kind to me” Father Johannes bowed and held out a small, oval, framed picture, no bigger than the palm of his hand. “If you would show me the honor of accepting this with all my gratitude.”
“A Heavenly Madonna!”
“Yes. You did whatever you could for Paul, and I really think you should hang his picture on your wall again, but if you do not want to, then perhaps this may please you in its place.”
“It is beautiful, Father Johannes, and I’ll gladly hang it by my bed when I’m not wearing it.” Maxie smiled and placed the picture carefully on a table, before putting her arms around Father Johannes’ neck and rising to her toes to kiss him.
Father Johannes co-operated to the best of his abilities and it was a while before she broke off the kiss and rested her head on his shoulders. “I finally find a man I want, and he is not just the wrong rank, which I had expected, but a priest as well. This must be the final proof that God is a man.”
“Yes, yes, I know. It still stinks.”
“Perhaps we could convince ourselves this is a platonic love.”
Maxie kissed him throat and gave him a squeeze. “I don’t think so. Don’t you want me, my dear Johannes?” She looked up at him and smiled.
“Of course I do. Darling Maxie. There’s nothing I want more than having you manage me for the rest of my life — except that is for having Lucie and the Peters around too. But Maxie,” Father Johannes placed his hands around Maxie’s face and gave her a quick kiss, “We cannot marry. And reducing you to a priest’s concubine is something I refuse to even suggest.”
Maxie grinned, “My dear, I’m perfectly capable of making any suggestions I want on my own, and what wows I keep or break is a matter between me and God. At my age a child is unlikely, and I have no estates to tie me to a liege lord. What fortune I can lay my hands on is my own, and while my family would not approve of us living together, they also haven’t approved of a lot of other things I’ve done over the years. Duke Maximilian would once have tried to interfere, but at the moment he has so many problems of his own that he doesn’t even keep Ferdinand in line. And Albrecht — even before Mechthilde’s death — would not have done anything. Especially if we are living in Magdeburg.”
“Do you want that?”
“I think so. It sounds like a place where something is happening. But first thing first: you go to Fulda and see if you can find your friend, while Lucie, Melchior and I see what we can do about Ferdinand and Franz. And don’t forget to kiss me properly before you go.”
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