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1634: The Bavarian Crisis: Chapter Seventeen

       Last updated: Thursday, April 7, 2005 00:10 EDT



Amberg, the Upper Palatinate

    Veronica was sitting in her room in the Schloss, tapping her fingers on the table. She had just finished breakfast. Reading the newspapers by herself-old news, of course, by the time it reached Amberg. A week old, at least; more often two weeks old. Not that it would benefit her a great deal to have more recent news. She wouldn’t be able to do anything about it. Useless, useless. Of no use to anyone. Everybody else was busy. Useless old woman, shunted to the sidelines. Useless old woman, bossed around by the husband of that idiotic woman Maxine. Useless old woman, told what she could and could not do by the father of those two ungovernable children. He had it right, that old man in the Bible. Vanitas, vanitas. Everything was useless. She was useless.

    She not only couldn’t help others; she couldn’t even help herself. Elias was busy; Rastetter’s office closed. Useless, useless.

    Until she got the wonderful, awful, idea.

    What did they need next, in order to file suit for the rest of Johann Stephan’s property? They needed affidavits from several people in Grafenwöhr. Since none had arrived at Herr Rastetter’s office, even though she knew that he had requested them using all the proper forms, and since everybody else in the city of Amberg was too focused on the diphtheria epidemic-useless, Veronica, how useless you are to everyone right now-to pursue the matter, that was something she could do. She could to to Grafenwöhr and get the affidavits herself, or at least find out why they hadn’t arrived. Kilian being the kind of man he was, she wouldn’t put it past him to be either intimidating or suborning the witnesses, or both, or worse.

    Things looked different, once she had made up her mind. She packed a few essentials into the trusty and capacious canvas tote bag that had served her so well since her arrival in Grantville three years before, put on her sturdiest boots, and marched down the stairs. On her way to the gate, she stopped at a shop and bought a walking stick; at another and bought some bread and sausage. It wasn’t as if it were far to Grafenwöhr; less than twenty-five miles. It was a summer day; she was starting early; she could easily reach it before dark.

    And it was her home town. She had relatives there-relatives besides her detestable brother-in-law Kilian Richter. Her own family. Schusters and Kleins; Herders and Rothwilds. None of her brothers or sisters were there; she had written long ago to find out. Two nieces, Jakobaea’s daughters, Magdalena and Margaretha. No one knew what had become of Hans Florian and his wife; they had left already in 1623. Casimir had died in Bayreuth in 1629; the family believed that his widow had still been alive a year later, and some of the children. Hanna Schreiner, Matthias’ sister, had remarried last year to Wilhelm Bastl.

    The Rothwilds were almost all fine people; oddly, the only one who had gone to the bad, just about as far to the bad as a man could go, was Johann Stephan’s own nephew, Johann, his sister Sara’s son. He had gone all the way to the bad long before the war started. He wouldn’t be around though. The Grafenwöhr authorities had exiled him for good and sufficient reasons. She was surprised that the had not hanged him.

    Sara’s daughter, Magdalena, had been Wilhelm Bastl’s first wife. Cousins. The comfort of kin. She wouldn’t run into any trouble on a visit to her own home town.

    She did leave a note. She put it under Mary’s hair brush.



    Afra the chambermaid noticed that Frau Dreeson was carrying the bulging tote bag. It bulged much more than it usually did when Frau Dreeson left the Schloss to talk to her lawyer. She quickly checked the room to see what the old lady had taken. More than just papers. She slipped out the side entrance and followed the old woman, saw her buy the walking stick, saw which gate she left by, and ran to Augustin Arndt. More accurately, she had intended to run, but she wasn’t feeling very well this morning. She had a bad sore throat, and it was getting worse. So she walked, but she did get to Arndt’s office. For one thing, she believed in earning her money honestly. For another, her family had worked for the landgraves of Leuchtenberg for a long, long, time. Since the days of her father’s grandfather, at least. The landgrave was her lord.



    Arndt was feeling just a little uneasy. Really uneasy. He wasn’t sure, any more, just what Kilian Richter’s limits were, and Richter had threatened him about revealing that-mess. He wasn’t, thank goodness, dependant upon Richter, but he thought that he had better keep an eye on the old woman. He didn’t want any fatalities-any more fatalities, at least. He could justify a billing to Richter for having Veronica Dreeson watched, especially if he didn’t explain that in his own mind the observation was for the purpose of trying to tell whether his employer might be planning something that was not at all prudent.

    Maybe he could kill two birds with one stone. Even three birds. It was always nice to have three different clients paying for the same investigation. It improved his profit margin quite a bit.

    He sent a note to a couple of men working in Amberg, Leuchtenberg loyalists like the chambermaid Afra Forst. Valentin Forst was the woman’s cousin and Emmeram Becker was also from Pfreimd. He sent them instructions and money for expenses. “Follow the Dreeson woman to Grafenwöhr. Keep an eye on what she does and who she contacts. Keep me informed. Also, while you re there, see old Karl Hanf the cooper about ore barrels-he is trying to overcharge; see the barge builder Wilhelm Bastl about an order that he hasn’t completed (specifics from Herr Troeschler enclosed with this note). I’ll pay you at the usual rate.”

    No need to tell them that neither of those tasks was a job commissioned by the landgrave. That would have been a lie. If the two men got the impression, however, that the landgrave took an interest in Frau Dreeson and that Herr Troeschler’s delayed deliveries were interfering with the landgrave’s interests, well, that would not be a problem. Those two were zealous Catholics; they always worked hardest when they thought they were serving Landgrave Wilhelm Georg.

    After all, Arndt assured himself, he had been sending reports on Frau Dreeson to the landgrave and no one had told him to stop. Not that the landgrave had directly asked for them, but a man had to do something to keep earning his retainer. Arndt had no way of knowing, any more than Forst and Becker did, that nothing was of interest to the landgrave any longer and that the steward’s remittances were just a standing order.



    By early evening, Afra really was not feeling well at all. The head housekeeper at the Schloss noticed and sent her to the hospital.



    Hand assumed that Frau Dreeson was having supper in her room. This did not surprise him. Those who had never had diphtheria were eating separately from those involved with the sick, on Duke Ernst’s orders. He found Boecler rather tedious as a conversational companion himself. The young man would probably footnote a funeral sermon and attach notarized copies of the original documents on which he based his statements about the dates upon which the deceased had been baptized and confirmed.

    Hand resigned himself to listening to a discourse on neo-Latin poetry. A quite extended one. It appeared that several of Boecler’s friends practiced the art. Harsdoerffer in Nürnberg. Ther was also Balde, right here in Amberg.

    Hand perked up. “The Jesuit? The one running the hospital?”

    “Yes, that one. Did you know that he was asked to write a new prelude for the play that will be performed for Duke Maximilian’s wedding?”

    It took only the most minimal display of interest to encourage Boecler; his latest information dump was off and running.



Grafenwöhr, the Upper Palatinate

    It was good to be home. Very good to be home.

    Veronica’s arrival in Grafenwöhr caused a lot of excitement. For a change, not because she was Hans Richter’s grandmother. But because she was one of the many who had been lost and was now found. Grafenwöhr had lost a third of its people in the past decade; it did not expect to find many of them. Each one was a small miracle.

    Especially one who brought news from the larger world outside. She was staying with her nieces, Magdalena and Margaretha Herder. Who, in turn, kept house for their stepfather, Karl Hanf, and Jakobaea’s two boys, their half-brothers. Barbara had died as a baby, of course. Jakobaea and the two youngest children had died during the horrible Schreckensjahr of 1621, when Mansfeld’s armies came through the Upper Palatinate. In private, the girls told her that they had no expectation that Hanf, the old skinflint, would ever dower them. Magdalena was nearly thirty; Margaretha a year and a half younger. They made the best of it. Anything they might have had coming from their own father had vanished in the confusion of the war and occupation.

    “Damned Bavarians,” Veronica snorted. She settled in to talk about Grantville. Gretchen and Jeff. Annalise.

    Hans, of course. They wanted to hear about Hans. And airplanes. Magdeburg. The little Princess Kristina. Veronica had actually seen her? With her own eyes? What did she look like?

    Nürnberg? She had come through Nürnberg? She had actually seen Margaretha, Hanna, and Clara to talk to? Tell us about their children. Is Matthias well? You mean that Elias is actually with you, in Amberg? Is he planning to come up?

    The entire town of Grafenwöhr was buzzing with excitement.



    With a couple of exceptions. Forst and Becker, Augustin Arndt’s two agents, found it very, very dull in Grafenwöhr. They didn’t ask Hanf and Bastl the questions themselves, of course-just delivered Arndt’s message about Troeschler to a local lawyer and let him ask the questions. They needed to be inconspicuous, themselves, if they were to find out what lay behind the answers. Hanf protested that his charges were accurate. Bastl had a thousand excuses why Troeschler’s barges were not finished. Business as usual.

    Neither of them could understand why the landgrave would be interested in any of this, but since Arndt had deliberately omitted to explain to them that Herr Troeschler’s problems were distinct from those of Landgrave Wilhelm Georg, they had, just as Arndt hoped, gained the impression that there was a connection. And they were loyal Leuchtenberger. If their lord wanted to know, they would do their best to find out.

    They also had to manufacture reasons to keep hanging around to watch Frau Dreeson for the landgrave, they thought, so they started to take an even deeper look into the manufacture of barges and barrels than they ordinarily would have done. After a couple of days, they took jobs as casual laborers at Bastl’s barge-yard, which allowed them to spend a fair amount of time talking to some of the local boatmen.



    It was a lovely visit of course. But it wasn’t getting her any farther in seeing about the affidavits. On the third day, Veronica went to the city clerk’s office. Young Nicolas Moser was very cooperative, just as Rastetter had assured her that he would be. Very informative, as well.

    On the fifth day, she called on her brother-in-law Kilian, wearing her very best Abbess of Quedlinburg face. He did not seem excessively pleased by her presence. His wife hardly spoke; part of the time, she appeared to doze off; she didn’t even ask about her relatives in Nürnberg. Her late brother Lorenz had been Margaretha Richter’s husband and the third of Veronica’s stepsons-in-law. She must have known that Veronica had seen them. In spite of her dereliction of interest, Veronica brought her up to date conscientiously.

    Their daughter Dorothea sat, her hands folded in her lap. She didn’t say a word. The boy, Hermann, was seventeen; a big young oaf. Oaf was the proper word. The youngest of the three children who survived, another boy, was a boarding student at the Jesuit collegium in Amberg and was being kept isolated with the other boarders because of the epidemic.

    Veronica was very satisfied with how well she had controlled her tongue. Err, she did mention a couple of her thoughts about intimidation and suborning of witnesses, along with the legal penalties for such activities. Just in passing, of course. Also that she was finding her research at city hall very rewarding, indicating that since her lawyer, Herr Rastetter, and Elias Brechbuhl had laid the foundation with their work in Amberg, she had a clear idea of what to look for and was not wasting her time. She let him know that she would be resuming it the next morning. In another two or three days, she should have found everything that the lawyer needed. It had been a pleasure to combine work with a family visit.

    It was nice to see Kilian squirm. Veronica was not even a little bit ashamed of herself. He sold Johann Stephan’s print shop, didn’t he? Not to mention some of the things that she had found here. Elias would be very interested.

Amberg, the Upper Palatinate

    The day after Veronica’s visit, Kilian went down to Amberg first thing in the morning, taking Hermann with him. He did not find Arndt particularly helpful. The man appeared to be seriously distracted.

    He did manage to find his nephew Johann Rothwild, Sara’s son. That was no problem, really. Rothwild worked as a bouncer at a really rough tavern in an old mining settlement a couple of miles outside the city walls and had for years. Johann could be a really helpful man in a pinch, Kilian new. He had demonstrated that several years before. Johann and Hermann between them could probably take care of the worst of Kilian’s current problems.

    One of which, increasingly, appeared to be Augustin Arndt. He could just be afraid of what Kilian held over his head, but he could be starting to have a case of bad conscience, which was always dangerous. Kilian had checked his old records the night before. He had enough on Arndt to ruin him professionally, with rumors, if nothing else. Not, probably, enough to control him. He had no clear documentation that Arndt had anything to do with the group of “mercenaries” that night in 1628, much less that he had organized it and that Rothwild had dragged Anton’s wife back to his office. The lawyer was wily. He had covered his tracks well.

Grafenwöhr, the Upper Palatinate

    Dorothea watched her father and brother leave. Her mother was starting on her daily drinking, of course. She started at breakfast and finished when she went to bed, if she could get enough beer. Or if she could make it all the way to the bed. She had been like this for seven or eight years, now. Dorothea usually tried to limit what Mama could get. This morning, feeling guilty, she poured her a large stein of the strongest that Clara Schreiner brewed.

    Last week, she thought that she had no hope. Yesterday, with Papa’s strange sister-in-law’s visit, she had started to hope again. She washed herself carefully, even her hair. First soft soap in the basin; then a rinse with rose water. A clean shift under her dress; a clean apron over it. She picked up a market basket; then put it down again. It was not market day. What reason did she have to be seen anywhere near the Rathaus, much less in it? Young women, unmarried women, rarely had business at the city hall. She opened the chest where Papa kept his business records and pulled out a handful of the ones right on top at random. They weren’t in neat piles; she could certainly put them back before he and Hermann got home. He would never notice.

    Mama was well on her way to being mentally out for the day. Dorothea refilled her stein with the strong beer.



    Veronica was well on her way to tracking the handling of Johann Stephan’s share of old Abraham Richter’s land; Kilian’s share was his own business. But Kilian been mucking around with Sara’s portion also. How did he manage that? Sara had left children. Magdalena was dead, to be sure, and her only baby had been born dead. But Karl Hanf had told her that Johann Rothwild was still alive, she thought. Frowning, she moved to another ledger and lifted it to take it to the standing pedestal where she was working. When she heard voices in the outer office, she started to eavesdrop quite unashamedly.

    Nicholas Moser was one of them-well, he should be here. He was the city clerk, after all. The other? Who? Dorothea? Kilian’s daughter?

    “What on earth are you doing here, Thea? Your father.....”

    “He’s gone to Amberg with Hermann, Nicol. Mama isn’t going to notice anything today.”

    “You can’t come here. Not here. Not while I’m at work.”

    “I need to talk to her, Nicol. Papa’s sister-in-law. Please. She told Papa yesterday that she was going to be here today. I brought papers, see. So anyone who saw me come in might think that I was bringing something for Papa. I have to talk to her. If anyone asks, you can say that I was here to see her. There’s no reason that anyone should think that I am here to see you.”


    Veronica sauntered out. “If she wants to see me, Herr Moser, please do let her come in. She is, after all, my niece by marriage.”

    Eyeing the physical tension between the two of them, she asked herself, “And what is she to you?”

    Moser stepped aside from where he had been blocking the door to the back room where the records were stored.

    Veronica looked at him. “You now. If you’re worried because she’s here, just open that front door to your office and do something where anybody who happens to glance in can see that you are busy doing what you are supposed to do. If anyone saw Dorothea come in, the gossip will be about the fascinating dissension among the Richter heirs and not” -her glance swept across both of them- “whatever the two of you have been up to that leads to desperate whispering when you should know perfectly well that someone else is close enough to hear even whispers.” She pulled Dorothea into the back room.

    Question one. She had been away from Grafenwöhr for a long time, and she had a lot of relatives. “How old are you?”

    Dorothea looked a little startled. “Twenty-one, Tante Veronica. In May.”

    “Oh, yes. You’re the one who was born the same year as Hans, then. Not a child, any more than he was a child.”

    At the word “child,” Dorothea winced.

    Veronica looked again. The crystal clarity of the complexion; the little brown rings under the eyes. She saw no reason to mince words.

    “How far along are you?”

    Dorothea’s eyes opened wide.

    If Veronica, from the back room, had been able to hear a whispered front-room conversation between two young people who called one another Nicol and Thea, then Nicholas Moser was, even though he was supposed to be concentrating on his work in the front room, was perfectly capable of hearing a back-room conversation conducted in a normal tone of voice. He came plunging through the door, abandoning all pretense of indifference to Richter family business.


    “Nicol, please. Go back. Do your work. Please. I need to talk to my aunt.”

    “But if . . .”

    Veronica tilted her head. It was, at any rate, perfectly clear that neither of them had the slightest doubt who the father was. That was always a real advantage when it came to managing these things.

    She did have to ask herself how they had managed it, though. Especially in a town this small. It couldn’t have been really easy for a newly hired town clerk, son of an inflexible and well-known Calvinist exile, university graduate, possibly at the moment the most eligible bachelor inside the walls of Grafenwöhr, to avoid the eyes of Protestant parents of eligible daughters long enough to impregnate the Catholic daughter of an equally well-known Bavarian collaborator. It must mean that they had more ingenuity than either of them had demonstrated so far today. Of course, it was only two hours past breakfast. Perhaps they “just weren’t morning people,” as Mary Simpson said of some of her acquaintances.

    She looked at Herr Moser gimlet eyed. “And just how old are you?” she asked.

    Why did she want to know? “Twenty four.”

    “Old enough, in other words, to know better. The pair of you.”

    “We didn’t,” Moser protested defensively, “know that it was going to happen right then. It’s not as if....” His voice trailed off.

    Veronica made up her mind on the spot. The instant she got back to Grantville, she would see to it that Annalise adopted up-time underwear, even though she did normally prefer to wear down-time clothing. Certainly by the time that Heinrich Schmidt got back from Amsterdam. If nothing else, it did require an amorous couple to pause in their pursuits long enough to deliberately remove the drawers. Which might, just possibly might, give them time to think that they were about to proceed to a new stage in the expression of their mutual affection. And stop, if they were reasonably prudent people.

    To Moser she said, “Close the front door.” He did.

    Back to the original question. “How far along are you?”

    Simultaneously, they answered, “March fourth.” From the expressions on their faces as they looked at one another, this must have been an epic day in their lives, roughly equivalent to the collapse of the walls of Jericho or the recent eruption of the volcano in Italy.

    Oh, blast it. If they were that certain of the date of conception, it probably meant-just once. Recent ex-virgins, both of them. Just what every woman who is peacefully trying to collect affidavits for a property title lawsuit needs to have on her hands. A Pair of Star-Crossed Lovers, one of whom is a little bit pregnant. And, of course, likely to become more so in the immediate future.

    Definitely likely to become more so in the immediate future. It was past the usual time when a woman might miscarry her fruit.

    “You,” Veronica said firmly, “are both utter and total fools.”

    Moser stepped farther into the room and put his arm protectively around Dorothea’s shoulders. Got a little distracted by the scent of rose water in her hair. He remembered that scent . . . Reorganizing his mind, he looked at her terrifying aunt. Aunt-by-marriage. Terrifying wouldn’t be a familial trait. That was, ah, a good thing, he thought. Women were supposed to be gentle and compliant. Everybody knew that.

    The frightening old lady was holding her canvas tote bag out at them. It had a picture of a harlequin on it. And words. “Mardi Gras.” That he knew; a Catholic superstition. Orleans he had heard of; it was in France. Where might New Orleans be?

    “This does not,” the formidable old lady was saying, “mean that I have much sympathy-any sympathy-with those stupid ‘Harlequin Romance novels’ that have become such a fad.”

    “I have one of the books,” Dorothea said. “It is quite lovely to read. This girl is traveling alone on a road in Spain....”

    “Fools,” Veronica bellowed. “I would not have believed that one of those pernicious books had traveled as far as Grafenwöhr. Stupid, stupid books. Infecting even my Annalise with ideas about romance. Sit down.”

    They sat.

    “Can you boil water here?”

    Moser blinked. “Yes, I have a small brazier.”

    “Do you have cups?”

    “I have four cups.”

    Veronica reached into the tote bag. She should not be too hard on Annalise. All of them had learned vices in Grantville. “Very well. What all of us need right now is a good cup of coffee. Which, with your brazier and cups, I can prepare.”

    She made it black and she made it strong. It was clear that neither of the others cared for it much, which made no difference to her whatsoever. She wanted them awake and paying attention.

    First things first. “Do you want to get married? I am quite prepared to list all the problems that will bring for both of you, if you haven’t bothered to think about them. And don’t think that you have to say that you do, either of you. If you don’t, either one of you, I can see to it that Dorothea and her child are taken care of. Family is family, after all, and she’s not the first girl to find herself in this fix and won’t be the last.”

    They wanted to get married. Problems and all. So they said.

    “What you need, then,” she said, “is money. How much do you have?”

    Dorothea didn’t have any. Moser still had most of his most recent month’s pay.

    “You’ll need more. And a map of how to get to Grantville from Amberg. You do know how to get to Amberg, I presume? Grantville doesn’t have any laws against Calvinists and Catholics marrying one another. Henry, my husband, is a Calvinist. I am, owing to the damned Bavarians, Catholic. And likely to remain one; changing again at my age would be more trouble than it’s worth.”

    “And one final thing. You’re not leaving Grafenwöhr until after I do. Do you understand me? Not! I’m willing to help Dorothea, but being left behind to deal with Kilian when he finds out that you have eloped is way above and beyond any duty I may have to her.” Veronica glared at them fiercely. “Do you understand that?”

    They understood.

    “Go home, now.” That was to Dorothea. “Go back to work.”

    Moser shuddered slightly. There had to be words that were more, well, descriptive, than just “terrifying.”

    Veronica walked back to the pedestal where she had left the ledger she was using. On top of the ledger lay the packet of papers that Dorothea had been holding when she came in. Without the slightest sense of shame, she started thumbing through them. Paused. Read more slowly. Decided that she had better consult Herr Rastetter again, as soon as possible. Hopefully, by the time she returned to Amberg, his family would have recovered. She tucked the papers into her tote bag, inside one of her greatest treasures-a semitransparent blue plastic expanding pocket folder, somewhat larger than the average sheet of paper, with a flap that fastened with a snap. She really loved that envelope; she had no idea how she would manage St. Veronica’s Academies without it. Rain or snow, she could go anywhere and the ink on her papers never smeared or ran.

    She should, perhaps, have left it in Grantville for Annalise to use.

    But she hadn’t. It was too useful.

    She turned back to the ledger.

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