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1634: The Bavarian Crisis: Chapter Twenty Nine

       Last updated: Wednesday, June 15, 2005 19:44 EDT



Munich, Bavaria

    Through her chief attendant, Dona Mencia de Mendoza, Archduchess Maria Anna expressed a wish to spend some time viewing the duke’s formal gardens. This was not surprising; her stepmother, Empress Eleonora, was known to be an enthusiastic gardener. The Hofmeister arranged it promptly. He had been ordered to extend every reasonable courtesy to the future duchess; the duke had not rescinded those orders in spite of the reprimand he had sent her in regard to the visit by the English Ladies.

    Maria Anna announced, to the great joy of the gardeners, that she had been highly pleased with the excursion. She would, if possible, walk in the gardens for a half hour after mass each morning, granted that the weather permitted.

    The Hofmeister saw no reason why this would not be possible. The gardens were well-secured and he had been notified by his counterpart in Vienna that the archduchess was fond of outdoor exercise. He arranged this also. It was not the sort of task for which he needed to consult the duke or the privy council, after all.



    After their conversation in the Hofgarten, Dona Mencia set out to mastermind the escape plot. In very short order, the archduchess’ household was effectively divided into two categories: people whom Maria Anna trusted and those whom she did not trust at all. With a few in the middle concerning whom, despite her shrewdness, her opinion wavered. However, by consulting Dona Mencia and, for the lower servants, Susanna Allegretti, she drew a line. Her advisers were firm; those about whom she wavered must, necessarily, be included among those whom she did not trust. Maria Anna made that decision.

    Her personal escort was large. After all, marrying into Bavaria was just like moving next door. Her father had not expected to have to pay the expenses of a long journey to bring her household home again when they were replaced by Bavarians of Duke Maximilian’s choosing, so he had been generous.

    The Freiherrin Lukretia was within her circle; the Countess Polyxena was not. Frau Stecher most definitely was not. It largely fell to Dona Mencia to think up ways and means to occupy those outside the circle somewhere else. Errands; lots of errands.

    Within the circle, protocol fell by the wayside. It was hard enough to plot without trying to insist that everyone strictly abide by court etiquette at the same time.



    “In all the plays,” Susanna said, “the princess disguises herself as her maid. Then the maid takes her place.” She made this contribution to the discussion with considerable self-satisfaction for having thought of it.

    Maria Anna looked at Dona Mencia and then at Susanna. She raised her eyebrows.

    “Oh,” Susanna said.

    Neither of them qualified as a double for the archduchess: Dona Mencia was more than thirty years older; Susanna was about eight inches shorter.

    Neither, Maria Anna pointed out, for that matter, did any of the noble ladies in waiting whom she trusted qualify as a double. Freiherrin Lukretia, for example, was several months pregnant. Freiherrin Helena was blonde. It wasn’t as if modern court ladies went around with their heads and faces swathed in yards of cloth, like a nun back in the period the humanists called the media aeva that had happened between the glories of the ancients and the modern revival of learning. She had been on public display every day since her arrival in Bavaria. Surrounded by her ladies in waiting. That was what ladies in waiting were for at public events. They stood in a bevy around their mistress, looking decorative, so the people of the court or city, town or village, could admire their clothes. By now, a large number of Bavarians had seen the faces of all of them. Some from a distance, such as the people who lined the procession route; others, however, up close, such as the chambermaids in the palaces at which the entourage had stopped overnight. Duke Maximilian’s guards had seen their faces many times. As had his prominent officials, courtiers, their wives, and the waiters who served their meals.

    “There is something to be said,” Dona Mencia said, “in favor of disguise in plain sight. Like playing ‘hide the thimble.’”



    “The Hofmeister has spoken to me,” Maria Anna said to her ladies-in-waiting. “These are, after all guest quarters-not where we will be living after the wedding. He wishes to consult with us about our preferences. For this duty, I have detailed Dona Mencia; the constant standing during official functions is, in any case, a hardship on her.” She smiled affectionately.

    “Thus, for the purposes of such functions, I need to appoint one of you as her deputy.”

    She looked around the circle. Officially, this would be a great honor for one of them. Practically, it would keep one of them from snooping.

    “Countess Polyxena, you will please assume this duty for the time being.”

    “The countess nodded. “Of course, Your Highness. Thank you.” It was the kind of request that she couldn’t refuse. Not even if she had wanted to. She didn’t want to. It was only temporary, of course, but possibly a stepping-stone to greater things, to a permanent position as chief attendant if Dona Mencia chose to request permission to retire.

    “Freiherrin Lukretia, in view of your condition,” Maria Anna smiled, “please be so kind as to assist Dona Mencia with the housing arrangements. The constant standing cannot be easy for you, either.”

    Countess Polyxena smothered a smile. The other obvious candidate to succeed Dona Mencia was also being pushed to the side.



    “Miss Ward,” Duchess Mechthilde said. “I believe that you may place confidence in Archduchess Maria Anna. And in Dona Mencia de Mendoza. If they bring to your attention a method by which Frau Simpson and Frau Dreeson might be privately removed from your custody and returned to the United States of Europe, there is no reason for you to be afraid that this is a trap.

    Mechthilde sighed. “All things considered, I will also be glad to be rid of the Grantville women. The allegation that my brother supposedly had them kidnapped is not making my position easier. If it were true, which I am sure that it is not, it would have been very imprudent of him.”

    “How,” Mary Ward asked, “can the archduchess and Dona Mencia arrange to have them taken them out of this house without our being held culpable?”

    “That,” Mechthilde answered, “is their problem. Not mine.”

    She thought for a moment, finally realizing what the other woman had meant.

    “Of course, if they do not think of a way to do it that absolves you and your sisters from complicity, then it will certainly still be yours. The inquisition would be all too happy to have one more reason to doubt your orthodoxy and obedience.”

    Mary Ward sat quietly for a moment. Then, “Your Grace?”

    Mechthilde inclined her head.

    “I am speaking to you in the greatest confidence.”

    “As long as you are not speaking outright treason, I will keep your words private.”

    “The pope has directed us to leave Bavaria. We were planning our removal before Mrs. Simpson and Mrs. Dreeson were placed in our custody. I have been comforted by your efforts to obtain the archduchess’ patronage and benevolence for our school, and truly grateful. I have also been, privately, a little upset that you were, without knowing it, further risking your credit with the duke on our behalf; he will not be happy when we leave. Your kindness and charity to us will be one more source of trouble for you.”

    “Thank you for the warning.” Mechthilde paused. “I must, I think, mention your plans to leave to Dona Mencia de Mendoza. If she and the archduchess have already made a plan to smuggle these women out of Bavaria, then it needs to be coordinated with your departure. If the Grantville women leave first and it is discovered, then you will be trapped in Munich indefinitely. Probably not in the comfort of your own house, but as guests of the inquisition.”



    Dona Mencia felt a little confused. Just for a moment. She had been making plans, true. But not plans to smuggle Frau Simpson and Frau Dreeson out of the house of the English Ladies.

    To the Duchess Mechthilde, she said only, “Thank you for letting me know the Ladies’ plans.”



    “Just take them with you.” Dona Mencia looked at Mary Ward.

    “Take them with us?”

    “Yes. Don’t announce a pilgrimage to Ettal; don’t announce anything. It wouldn’t be reasonable while these women are your ‘guests.’ Just let everyone assume that you have no plans at all to do anything unusual. You have no other guests to complicate things; those whom Father Rader had planned to lodge in this house during the wedding have been put somewhere else.

    “Just, on the day of the production of Belisarius, leave. The whole city will be in chaos; the gates will be opening early in the morning; people will be going in and out, around and about, in costume; the town will be full of tourists and other strangers. Just walk out of the gate and onto the Nürnberger Strasse dressed as ordinary working women. Not dressed, as you usually do, befitting your rank, as if you were the wives and sisters of prosperous merchants or lower nobility, with high hats and capes. Dress as the wives of butchers and rope-makers, the wives of carpenters and shoemakers. Dress as women who might well be employed to go out to camp of baggage wagons to bring in things needed at the last minute. Just add your involuntary guests to your group.”

    “Where would we get this clothing?” Mary Ward asked.

    “This, I think, Duchess Mechthilde can provide. She has a large household with many servants. A Munich household, with servants from Munich, who dress in the local style.”

    Mary Ward smiled. “The more I think about it, the more I like the idea. Father Rader and Father Drexel can still help. And, if Duchess Mechthilde can’t obtain clothing without arousing suspicion, they can help with our ‘costuming’ as well. You are quite right; there is not going to be any day that gives a better chance for quite a few people who are, ah, not quite themselves, to be moving around the city unobserved. Not that we are a huge group, but there will still be a dozen or so.”



    Marc Cavriani was repairing a wrought iron fence. The fence surrounded a small garden; the small garden, not more than four feet wide, was in front of a town house on Paradise Street. The owners of the town house had rented it to several parties of travelers for the wedding festivities; they, themselves, had gone to the country for two weeks. There was nobody to raise questions about who had hired someone to repair the fence, or whose journeyman was doing it. In any case, the whole city was being repaired and prepared for the festivities; the owners were lucky to have found someone to do the work this week.

    What was more, the fence needed to be fixed and, thanks to Jacob Durre, Marc was perfectly capable of fixing it. Barefoot, wearing a loose-necked unbleached shirt that had seen better days and tan leather knee britches in the same condition, he occasionally glanced up from his work to observe the people who entered by and left through the front door of the English Ladies house.

    If he ran out of fence-he glanced up-the wrought iron grilles on the windows could benefit from some attention also. That, of course, would require a ladder.

    He had not seen Frau Simpson and Frau Dreeson; that was scarcely to be expected. They were interned. They wouldn’t be coming in and out.

    If he had a ladder, however, he might be able to glance into the windows on the upper floors. He took another look at the ornamental bars on the windows. Then walked down the alley and looked at the grilles on the side windows. The owners of this house had really let it run down. He clucked disapprovingly.



    Leopold Cavriani toyed with his quill pen. He could make very little sense out of Marc’s reports. That the archduchess had made one call, in the company of Duchess Mechthilde, made sense. That her attendant, Dona Mencia, had called repeatedly made some sense, if there were still negotiations regarding the custody of Mary Simpson and Veronica Dreeson going on.

    He had delivered the letters he was carrying. He had been admitted only to the vestibule; there had clearly been no way that he could contact Mary and Veronica if they were in some other part of the house. They did not come to the school rooms, of course.

    Marc could not abandon his post and follow when the English Ladies themselves left the house. He, himself, could only follow one pair at a time. To play rehearsals; to the Jesuit collegium; to market; to play rehearsals; to the apartments of Duchess Mechthilde.

    The whole pattern made very little sense. Or, more precisely, and worse, he could not determine the pattern. Nor had he found a way to contact Mary and Veronica.

    He was sure of very little. He was quite sure that both the produce man and the fishmonger were spies. The produce man, almost certainly, for the Holy Office; he had traced him to Dekan Golla’s office more than once. The fishmonger was more careful. After leaving the house on Paradise Street, he merely continued his deliveries for the remainder of the day.

    Leopold thought. Possibly, he was not taking information out. Possibly, he was bringing it in. But, if so, from whom, and why?

    He rearranged the order of the names in front of him.



    Susanna Allegretti went back and forth from the Residenz to the house on Paradise Street several times. Once, to measure the ladies, including their feet. Then, after she had taken the list of sizes to Duchess Mechthilde, with a box of clothing from the store of servants’ discards that the duchess had gathered for donation to charity. Again, after she had been to the play costumer with a note from Father Rader, with more clothing, including several plain doublets with pointed fronts in the style that market women wore.

    Then again.

    Marc Cavriani watched her come and go.

    She watched the ironsmith who was repairing the house next door to that of the Ladies, also. She shouldn’t; she knew that. It wasn’t at all proper. But she peeked.

    After the fourth trip, Mary Ward gave her a key to the back door of the house on Paradise Street. The girl had her own duties in the archduchess’ household; the hours when she was not required by her mistress were erratic. With a key, she could come and go with the various boxes and satchels even when the cook had returned to her own home for the night and the Ladies were performing their offices.



    The produce man reported to the inquisition only what he learned from the cook-that a girl was frequently coming back and forth, bringing costumes for the school’s pupils who would be taking part in the play.

    That was true, as far as it went. The costumer saw no reason to waste an additional volunteer who had been sent by Father Rader.

    The day before the play, the English Ladies sent each student’s play costume home with her.



    “You will leave in the morning on the day of the play,” Dona Mencia said to the twenty-three people gathered around her, “those of you who will not be expected to attend it. Draw your straws from the blue cup.

    “The rest of you, in the evening. After the play. Draw your straws from the brown cup.

    “You will not let anyone else know which group you are in. Beyond what we all know, that all of you will leave Munich that day, each group of you will determine how, when, and what direction you will go, from which gate, and under what guise.

    “Do you understand me? You will not, absolutely not, tell anyone else here who will be going with you or the route that you plan to take after you leave the city.”

    She held out the cups. Some of the parties would be all women; the archduchess naturally had more females in her household than males; some would be mixed; the number of people in each varied from three to five. The chances were very high that most would try to go directly to the Austrian border. Some, perhaps, would have more imagination.

    Maria Anna was not going to know that, either. She had made the decision that it was safer for them if she did not know. She was practicing making decisions.



    Naturally, somebody told somebody. One of Freiherrin Lukretia’s laundresses, a thirtyish woman named Edigna, had been courted rather assiduously since her arrival in Munich by a prosperous fishmonger named Korbinian. She could not bear to part from him without saying goodbye and giving him her father’s address. Hope sprang eternal.

    She did, at least, only tell him that she would be leaving. She personally. She didn’t even say that her mistress would be leaving, much less that a larger exodus was planned.

    Korbinian, naturally enough, informed the Duchess Mechthilde. This was, after all, the kind of information for which she paid him so well. He kept the address; he found Edigna to be a very attractive woman. Not the daughter of a fishmonger, of course, but almost worth marrying out of the guild. Maybe worth marrying out of the guild. Almost certainly worth marrying out of the guild, given her court connections.

    Mechthilde reflected for some time. Why would one of the archduchess’ servants be leaving the city? Mary Ward had not informed her of this. Why not?

    Of course, Korbinian never told her that the English ladies were planning to leave the city, either. He didn’t know. It was easy enough to miss a detail or two when you were a wagon driver getting your information from a cook. Miss Ward had been sufficiently prudent to continue her advance orders, essentially unchanged, for the next couple of weeks, just as usual.

    Possibly, therefore, Mary Ward did not know that the archduchess’ servant was leaving. If one was leaving, was it possible that others would also be leaving? Mechthilde thought that she should mention this to Miss Ward; this might well be a complication to the English Ladies’ plans.



    “I am not fully in their confidence,” Duchess Mechthilde admitted.

    Mary Ward did not panic. It was against her principles. If she had permitted herself to do so, she would have panicked right now. She stared at Duchess Mechthilde.

    “What is going on? Do you know?”

    “All I definitely know, at the moment, is that when I hinted to Dona Mencia that I had heard about their own departure plans-not, as I had suspected, plans to remove the two Grantville women-they called in the laundress, who admitted to the Freiherrin Lukretia what she had done. The Freiherrin herself has now publicly announced plans to leave. She states that she believes that she has estimated the due date for her child wrongly and that she should return to Austria now. That isn’t bad, actually. It will cover the laundress’ statement very well, if she said anything to anyone else, other than the fishmonger. Which I do not believe that she did.”

    Mary Ward thought a moment. “The Freiherrin? Short-sighted, with spectacles?”

    “Yes, that’s the one. She came with the archduchess although she was pregnant. She thought that, at six months, she would have plenty of time to see her mistress through the wedding and then return home.”

    Mary Ward snorted. “Estimated wrongly? I have seen her. Celibate that I am, I estimate that she is at least six weeks farther than that. What odds that the Freiherr urged his wife to nudge the calculations a little, so that she might have the honor of attending the archduchess to her wedding? But, perhaps, I am being unfair. Perhaps she is carrying twins.”

    Mechthilde, all too well aware of the constant jostling for position among her own attendants, smiled sourly. “The question is-are others among the archduchess’ attendants leaving? If so, why? I think that I need to have another chat with Dona Mencia.”



    “Why are the archduchess’ other attendants planning to leave?” Mechthilde had concluded that this form of the question would be more effective than, “Are any other of the archduchess’ attendants planning to leave?

    Dona Mencia did not believe in panic, either. She almost wished that she did. Fish or cut bait.

    “We have some concerns,” she said slowly. “The other afternoon, a representative of Dekan Golla called upon the archduchess while she was at prayer, in connection with her meetings with the English ladies. He demanded-courteously enough, but demanded-to confirm with his own eyes that she was at prayer. The archduchess is concerned about the safety of her household. She has decided that those who can be spared should return to Austria now, to the protection of her father.”

    Dona Mencia watched to see how this would be received. Not with full acceptance.

    “And why the secrecy?” Duchess Mechthilde raised her eyebrows.

    Dona Mencia swallowed. In for a penny, in for a pound, she thought. Then-in a crisis, why does a person’s mind always fill up with proverbs? Because the same idea has come to so many other people-because proverbs embody useful, generally applicable, principles. Mental shorthand. “I have concerns for the safety of the archduchess herself.”

    That should be ambiguous enough. Let the other woman draw her own conclusions.

    Mechthilde thought. From Albrecht, she knew what had been going on in the privy council. Duke Maximilian’s dissatisfaction after the formal hearing... die Habsburgerin... That the archduchess might actually be considering fleeing from Munich and returning home to Vienna was almost beyond belief. But, if she was... My sons, my sons. This was not something that she could tell Albrecht. Not now. Not ever. Albrecht was a very loyal brother.

    “If... If you have reason to believe that these concerns are serious, Dona Mencia, I... By no means do I wish any harm to come to the archduchess. Perhaps you are being overly cautious. Nonetheless... Possibly, because of my greater familiarity with the situation here... If you believe that she is in need of assistance....” Mechthilde realized that she sounded half-incoherent; her mind was moving much faster than her mouth.

    Dona Mencia nodded gravely. Swallowed, hook, line, and sinker. Now if she could only maintain Mechthilde’s assumption that the archduchess would be returning to Vienna....



    “No, I haven’t seen either Frau Simpson or Frau Dreeson yet. But, certainly, they have not been removed from the English Ladies’ house by daylight. I don’t think that they have been taken out at night either. I’m not sure what is going on, Papa,” Marc said. “There is much more activity than usual. But no special anxiety, if that is what one would want to call it. It is possible, of course, that the play may explain it. The girls from the school come to have their costumes fitted; the sisters go with them to the Schrannenplatz, but I have a funny feeling.”

    Leopold looked at his son. This was a fine thing. Funny feelings-informed funny feelings-were among the firm’s most valuable assets.

    “Is there any way that you can arrange to sleep inside the gates? Not just anywhere at random. Somewhere you will not be noticed, but from which you can observe the house on Paradise Street?”

    “Well, I can’t very well settle myself on the street itself and pretend to be a beggar. Too many people in the neighborhood have seen me for too many days.” Marc thought a moment. “There is a lean-to against the back of the house across the alley. I don’t know what use it is meant for, but I’ve never seen anyone go into it. It’s locked, but the hinges are just leather.” He grinned. “Which leads me to suspect that the contents are of little value to their owner. The day always comes when an old leather hinge finally splits and lets a gate or door sag.”

    He thought again. “It’s not expensive for the owner to repair, either. Not as if I broke the lock.”



    “Even knowing that it will happen the day of the production of Belisarius is too much. I don’t,” Duchess Mechthilde said, “want to know any more about it. At all.”

    Dona Mencia felt that this was an admirable decision. She smiled.

    “However,” Mechthilde continued. “If someone should be intending to stay behind to give, for as long as possible, the impression that the archduchess is still in her apartments?”

    Dona Mencia nodded.

    “If the person chose to stay behind partly because of a sense of responsibility to her mistress, but also, partly, because her knees will not permit her to walk the roads of Bavaria with any briskness and she fears that her presence with them would endanger the others?”

    Dona Mencia nodded again.

    “It might be possible, when discovery is imminent, for that person to seek sanctuary in Duke Albrecht’s household. Coming through the back way, through the servants’ corridors. Until such time as we next go to one of the rural palaces for hunting, perhaps? There are always numerous attendants with us. From someplace like Schleissheim, it is far easier for people to come and go unobserved than from here at the Residenz.”

    “That is very generous of you, Your Grace.”

    Dona Mencia had become quite resigned to the likelihood that her loyalty to Maria Anna-well, of course, her loyalty to her brother, Cardinal Bedmar, as well-would cost her her head, in the foreseeable future.

    That she might keep it interesting possibility.

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