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1634: The Bavarian Crisis: Chapter Twenty Three

       Last updated: Thursday, May 12, 2005 22:14 EDT



Audacter Calumniare


    Marc Cavriani was seriously disillusioned by his first introduction to serious intelligence gathering. It seemed a bit deflating that instead of indulging in elaborate skulduggery, intrigue, and derring-do, they could have found out where Frau Simpson and Frau Dreeson were just by staying right here and reading this week’s newspaper when it was delivered from Nürnberg.

    His father pointed out that by being in Neuburg, they had, at least, gotten the news two days before the paper came out, since the observer sent to Freising by Herr Egli had gone to the expense of a special messenger. This had allowed him to send another courier across the Danube to Duke Ernst. It had also allowed them two additional days of time to use for planning the best way to utilize the resources of Cavriani Freres de Geneve in arranging a rescue.

    Beyond that, Leopold said - well, life was frequently like that and the firm’s other lines of work only rarely involved more gallantry and romance than did counting spools of drawn wire for Jacob Durre in Nürnberg or estimating the cost of pumps for hammer mill operations in the Upper Palatinate. Marc should not in any way expect occasions for gallantry and romance to arise in the course of his duties.

Amberg, the Upper Palatinate

    Julius Wilhelm Zincgref contemplated his latest assignment with some disbelief. Not that he hadn’t expected Duke Ernst to order some propaganda about villains who kidnap intrepid ladies. He was, after all, the regent’s paid publicity agent and public relations “spin doctor.” He loved that up-time description. He just hadn’t quite expected the items that he would need to include to be so complex.

    There was, for example, the question of just whom to use for the villain. There were quite a few possibilities, none of them really good. Von Wenzin, the bailiff in Grafenwöhr, had continued tracking down the evidence of Kilian Richter’s various activities over the past fourteen years with the tenacity of a little bulldog. Once that man got his teeth into something, he just didn’t let go. A report arrived at Duke Ernst’s office every morning. Boecler duly copied them and sent them on to Zincgref. Elias Brechbuhl, who figured that even with Veronica out of the picture, his children and sisters-in-law still had valid claims, kept working on Richter’s various endeavors in the field of property misappropriation and sending the reports to Hieronymus Rastetter, who also provided them to the regent. Eric Haakonsson Hand had people examining Richter’s ties to Arndt and the crooked trail of Arndt’s legal practice.

    Brechbuhl also reported that according to his sister-in-law Clara’s husband, Nicholas Moser and Dorothea Richter had appeared in Nürnberg. The two idiots (that was Matthias Schreiner’s description, not Brechbuhl’s) were eloping and had appealed to Dorothea’s relatives there for a loan of money to travel the rest of the way to Grantville. Young lovers fleeing from a dastardly father; always an appealing motif. Fleeing the possibility that the girl might be Immured in a Convent by her villainous father; even better as Protestant propaganda.

    But-Zincgref sighed. It did not make Kilian Richter into a usable political villain.

    Oh, he could have made him into a wonderful villain if he had been writing about the Richter family. He might yet, some day; he wasn’t sure. A neo-Latin epic? A tragic play on the model of the ancients, with the protagonist finally destroyed by his own hubris? Possible, very possible. Except, of course, that Boecler said that his friend Harsdoerffer in Munich was already beginning a neo-Latin epic on the subject of the abduction. That left a play. Oh, well. Not as prestigious in the literary world, but probably more profitable in the long run. Perhaps a Latin original text with translations made available for popular productions.

    Unfortunately, if one were not writing a play, the truth appeared to be that Richter was just a greedy man. He had not collaborated with the Bavarians, as far as anyone could find out, for any motive more complicated than his desire to collect all of his father’s properties in his own hands and then accumulate more wealth. He certainly had not collaborated with the Bavarians because he was politically opposed to the United States of Europe or to the up-timers, because neither had existed when he began his evil deeds.

    And, above all, there was no motive, anywhere in all of it, for Richter to have included Mary Simpson in his devious machinations. For a good, rousing, denunciation, it was really not feasible to end with the sentence, “And by the way, the villains accidentally attacked Admiral Simpson’s wife as well.”

    Not to mention that Duke Ernst and Hand said that the real lurking political villain whom Zincgref was to denounce was John George of Saxony, who was a Protestant and had no known connections to Kilian Richter at all.

    Arrrgh. He had a very short draft.

    Three days later, his mood brightened minimally. The regent and Hand had changed their minds as to the proper villain; he was to go through the draft of his pamphlet and change the name of John George, wherever it appeared, to Duke Maximilian. That made a little more sense. Richter as the tool of the venomous Bavarian. Zincgref started to write a longer pamphlet.

    Eric Haakonsson Hand kept gathering every morsel of information he could find on the attorney Arndt. There was quite a bit in it concerning his activities on behalf of the landgrave of Leuchtenberg.

    In Grafenwöhr, von Wenzin followed up Wilhelm Bastl’s passing comment and tied the two bargemen to families in Pfreimd. They were Leuchtenberger, both of them. The bailiff in Pfreimd sent information about the family of the one named Forst. It was large, he said. Moreover, one of the men who were of interest to the regent had a cousin who was working in Amberg, right in the Schloss. They might well wish to question her.

    Except that, upon investigation, she had died in the epidemic. Hand closed the file.

    Boecler, to provide raw material for his friend Harsdoerffer’s projected epic, sat down and read through everything in order. He saw the name of the cousin. Riffled through the accounts. Identified her with the chambermaid who had been assigned to clean the rooms of Mrs. Simpson and Mrs. Dreeson. Oh.

    He dashed down the corridor, just in time to prevent Zincgref’s eloquent but mistaken blast against Duke Maximilian from being taken to the printer. The day after that, the radio and newspaper reports in regard to the bargemen, the Landgravine Mechthilde, and the dumping of Mrs. Simpson and Mrs. Dreeson into her presence in Freising started to arrive.

    Zincgref was rather relieved by these reports, since he had already spent several hours going through his manuscript substituting Leuchtenberg for Maximilian in all the appropriate places, and pointing out wherever possible, because he didn’t want to waste the excellent diatribes against the duke of Bavaria that he had already written, that the landgrave was a client of Maximilian living in exile in Bavaria.

    Eric Haakonsson Hand, in a few spare minutes, read through the draft, grabbed a few intelligence reports, and pointed out that the landgrave had not been mentally or physically capable of villainy for quite some time. With a sigh, Zincgref, noting that the landgrave’s sister was married to the villainous Maximilian’s brother, went through the manuscript once more, substituting Mechthilde’s name for that of her brother.

    In that form, the propaganda pamphlet finally went out, a full week past the deadline that Duke Ernst had originally set him. Zincgref’s final hypothesis that Mechthilde and Albrecht were, as the employers of the two bargemen, the immediate villains in the kidnapping and that they had been acting upon the instigation of Duke Maximilian, the malignant general of the Catholic League, would remain unkillable ever more because it was now in print. Certainly, this version of the events suited Gustavus Adolphus and Oxenstierna splendidly.

    As Oxenstierna remarked to Mike Stearns, only a tie to Ferdinand II or Richelieu would have been better, but a person couldn’t have everything.

    They saw to the pamphlet’s wide circulation; the king, ah, emperor, sent Zincgref a generous bonus. Very generous.

    None of the Bavarian controversialists who flocked to their duke’s defense in the next few weeks were able to prove otherwise. Arndt was dead; the chambermaid was dead; Kilian Richter honestly did not know. Forst and Becker both did not know the truth in the first place and had subsequently so deluded themselves that their multiple depositions, given in perfectly good faith, were utterly misleading.

    Future historians discovered that Mechthilde and Albrecht’s surviving papers contemporary with the events contained no indication of such activity. Depending upon the viewpoint of the author, this only meant, as the debate went on, that they were innocent (a position mainly taken only by irredentist Leuchtenberger loyalists, who defended the former ruling family to the end); that Albrecht and Mechthilde destroyed the papers, or that Duke Maximilian’s intelligence agents destroyed the papers to hide evidence of some even more diabolical machinations that they contained.

    Some decades later, a radical young revisionist suggested the possibility that the whole kidnapping was an accident, a comedy of errors. Because he was so rash as to publish this conclusion without sufficient primary sources to support it, he failed to obtain tenure and was laughed out of academia.




    Marc’s mood brightened perceptibly when his father told him that he could come along to Munich. They left Neuburg on horseback, quite openly. They were still merchants. Not, however, from Geneva. Bavarian border authorities were quite picky about allowing Protestants into Bavaria’s sacred precincts-almost as bad as they were about prohibiting the import of Protestant books and pamphlets. The Cavrianis, father and son, were now Italian cloth merchants who had been visiting a branch of the family firm in one of Switzerland’s Catholic cantons and were returning home by way of Bozen, Bolzano to Italians, in Tirol, in order to consult with the firm’s factor there.

    Marc wished that they could have been disguised. Unfortunately, Italian Catholic merchants looked remarkably like Genevan Calvinist merchants, with the addition of a religious amulet here and there and a neat little case containing a rosary fastened at one’s waistline.

    Every paper that they carried was impeccable. They were even as rubbed and shopworn as anyone would normally expect them to be after two months of being put into and pulled out of their wallets. Marc had spent one whole day, while listening to his father and his Neuburg factor, Herr Veit Engli, make plans, putting those papers into a leather case and pulling them out again; unfolding them, re-folding them, holding them close to a candle, dog-earing an occasional corner, rubbing a bit of dirt on the margin of one, flicking a couple of drops of water to give the impression that at some check point they had been presented on a rainy day, putting them into the leather case, pulling them out again. By far the best way to make a document look well-used was to give it the appropriate amount of use.

    Marc didn’t have to worry about aging the seals. They were both authentic and authentically worn, having been carefully removed from other papers issued to other Cavrianis at other times and other places. Cavriani Freres de Geneve had quite a collection of these, both at headquarters and in the various branch offices; one never knew when they might come in handy.

    Herr Engli pointed out to Marc the importance of leaving such seals attached to their original documents until one actually needed them. In the event of such an undesirable phenomenon as a large number of some angry ruler’s minions inspecting one’s business premises, a drawer full of detached seals would excite suspicion. An unlocked, battered chest full of old business travel papers and expense vouchers would not.

    “Once you take the seal off an old passport, burn the paper. Inspectors may also regard the spot with the removed seal as questionable. Keep the expense vouchers, though. You never know when you may need them.”

    Marc nodded solemnly.



    For travel reading, Marc picked up several of the latest Bavarian propaganda pamphlets in regard to the situation in the Upper Palatinate. He found their illustrations of Duke Ernst rather amusing, especially the woodcuts that depicted him with cloven hoofs, horns, and a forked tail.

    The woodcuts had been recycled, of course. A discriminating reader could tell that Duke Ernst’s head had been remodeled, and rather amateurishly at that. It seemed likely that the originals had, at some time, included a papal tiara. Marc found the manifestations of political and theological controversy that were aimed at the general public to be endlessly entertaining.

Bavaria, south of Neuburg

    Maximilian Adam, oldest son of the landgrave of Leuchtenberg, knew that he was not at his best this morning. The hangover probably had something to do with it. The officers of his regiment were noted for their hard drinking though, even as professional soldiers went, though so he was used to hangovers. They were a quite regular part of his daily routine, so that could not be the problem. He was dressed to ride. Presumably he had dressed without thinking about it. Why had he been drinking, last night?

    Oh, yes. He was not going to be assigned to the Ingolstadt garrison. He had made strenuous representations to Duke Maximilian’s Kriegsrat to the effect that he wished to be transferred to a different regiment, if at all possible. He had asked to be assigned to the fortress, where he could earn glory in the process of beating back General Banér’s siege. He had not phrased his letters quite that way, of course. He had emphasized the increased opportunity for service to the cause of Catholicism, supported by the importance of having officers who were willing to share the deprivations that were inevitably suffered by the common soldiers in a closed city.

    Or, more accurately, his father’s chaplain had emphasized those things. The chaplain had, after all written the letters. Composition had never been Landgrave Maximilian Adam’s strongest subject. He could not remember that his tutors had ever described any topic of study as his strongest subject. More frequently, they had complained that his brother, although two years younger, made more progress than he did.

    Not that he had ever studied more than they could make him. He had received quite a few thrashings in his time from irritated pedagogues.

    He had signed the letter, though, he thought with some satisfaction. His handwriting wasn’t bad at all, at least not for someone whose tutors had pronounced it completely hopeless and never likely to be legible when he was eight years old.

    The letters had not helped, though. The war council had refused the transfer, so he was still stuck out here at the Bavarian camp in the countryside south of Ingolstadt, supervising things like forage resupply.

    Or, at least, getting on his horse and following for several hours every day a sergeant who understood things like forage resupply. And who kept trying to explain it to him. It actually would not be so bad if the sergeant didn’t have this peculiar idea that he ought to learn about it himself. Surely, that was what the sergeant was for.



    Leopold Cavriani drew up his horse. There was clearly a problem involving a damaged bridge floor and a carriage wheel that had plunged through it, plus, it would appear, three women with seven small children in the carriage. The coachman had managed to cut the horses free and lead them to the other side of the stream. He was standing there, looking at the carriage. The bridge was far too narrow for the occupants to get out on either side. The wheel kept sliding a little farther; then a little farther.

    “We can lift you out the back,” Leopold called as he dismounted. “Start by handing us the children, one at a time.”

    “The back is too high,” one of the women squealed nervously. “And the bridge is narrow. There are no railings. If the children get out before we do, one of them might fall off the edge. Or stray away. Or be trampled by one of your horses. There is no way we can tell if they are well-trained.”

    “I want,” one of the other women said, “to get out from the front. First. On the same side as our coachman, whom I trust. Then, when I am there, my sisters may hand over the children, one by one.”

    Leopold sighed and started to marshal his powers of persuasion.

    Marc tossed the bridle of his horse to his father, swung himself hand-over-hand along the side of the bridge, bounced up in front of the carriage, and handed the first woman out. Followed by the rest of the passengers, although he looked mildly startled when the last of the women, before coming, passed him a picnic chest to carry to the bank. Then she climbed out; the women proceeded to unpack their lunch.

    Marc looked at the coachman. The coachman shrugged.

    “We can lift it, I think, up through the broken board, if all three of us work,” Marc suggested. You lift from the front. My father can lift from the back of the coach. I’ll climb under the bridge and push up on the wheel.”

    “Too high,” the coachman diagnosed. “No way you can reach the wheel from the creek bed.”

    “I can stand on one of the girders and push up.”

    “They don’t look all that strong to me,” the coachman said.

    Marc pulled off his boots and stockings; then hopped down into the creek and shook them. “They’ll last long enough for me to heave the carriage up so we can haul it off the bridge.”

    Which the one that he chose to stand on did. Just barely. The carriage was on a good part of the flooring before the girder dumped him into the water. Undiscouraged, if dripping, he climbed back up onto the bridge and pushed the broken wheel as far back onto the axle as it would go, anchoring it with a piece of the broken slat. Cautiously, the coachman and Leopold jockeyed the carriage to the far bank. Marc stood there, staring at the bridge thoughtfully.



    Maximilian Adam of Leuchtenberg was not really watching where he was going.

    “Keep your damned horse off the bridge flooring,” was not something he was expecting to hear. Even though it possibly prevented him from putting the animal’s leg through the hole and breaking it.”

    “Speak to your betters with a little more respect, lout,” he replied.

    “Ah, Your Grace,” the sergeant said, clearing his throat. “Perhaps we had better wait.”

    “It’s not just the board. The girder went, too,” came the disembodied voice from under the bridge. “I’m trying to shore it up, but if you put a couple of thousand pounds of horse on it right now, the whole thing will go. I can prop up the bridge, probably, but I can’t build you a new one from scratch.”

    The picnic party was watching with interest. Leopold and the coachman were watching with concern.

    Mark scrambled out from under the bridge.

    “Why aren’t you in the army?” the officer asked.

    “Ah, I’m not Bavarian, sir,” Marc answered quietly enough. “I’m Italian. We are merchants. My father, across the stream, is carrying our papers.”

    “Ah, Your Grace,” the sergeant said again.

    The officer looked across the stream to where Leopold, who had also stripped to his shirt and slops, was pushing mightily while the coachman tried to fit the broken spokes back into the wheel rim. “If he is, he shows remarkably little respect for his station in life. And you even less.”

    Marc looked down at his feet. Mentally, he was biting his tongue; physically, he was biting his upper lip. The misbehaving curl slipped into the middle of his forehead as he looked back up.

    “Sergeant, we shall dismount and cross on foot. Tether the horses here. When the lout finishes his work, he can lead them across for us.” The landgrave dismounted and looked at-rather, looked up at-the lout. “Bring them a couple of buckets of water, while you are at it.”

    Marc nodded.

    The carriage repaired, at least enough to get to the next village, the coachman handed his passengers into it and proceeded down the road.

    Two hours later, Marc estimated that the bridge was strong enough that he could lead the two army horses across it. Which he did.

    The sergeant thanked him. The officer demanded to see his papers.

    Leopold, who had put his stockings, boots, doublet, and hat back on as soon as the carriage drove away, brought the papers out of their case.

    The officer eyed them. “You do not look much like father and son,” he said.

    “My wife assures me that we are,” Cavriani replied with impeccable politeness.

    The sergeant snorted.

    The officer looked slightly bewildered. “I will remember you if I see you again,” he said to Marc.

    Marc let him get out of hearing before commenting.

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