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1634: The Bavarian Crisis: Chapter Thirty One

       Last updated: Monday, June 27, 2005 18:21 EDT



Munich, Bavaria

    Susanna joined the rest of her group early on the morning of the play. The random draw of the straws had, oddly, made three of the four men-two husky stablemen and one footman. There was an extra person, unexpected; Dona Mencia’s elderly personal maid, Guiomar, who spoke neither Italian nor German and who had not been in the group that drew straws at all.

    Nep Baier, one of the stablemen, had appointed himself a leader. He was holding the group’s purse. As soon as Susanna came downstairs, he shouldered his rucksack and said, “Let’s go.”

    “No,” Susanna said. “We can’t go yet.”

    “And just why not, Miss High and Mighty Seamstress?” That was the other stableman, Honorato, Susanna thought his name was. She was actually rather glad to see him-he spoke Spanish as well as German, which meant that they could, in a roundabout way, explain things to Guiomar.

    “Because the archduchess said not.”

    “Just why,” Nep asked, “would the archduchess be talking to you?”

    “She does, you know. Talk to Susanna, I mean.” That was Jindrich Horschiczy, the footman. “I have seen her do it. Especially when they performed the masque before Lent back home. But here, also. Think about that. The archduchess talks to her.”

    Susanna looked from one man to the other. There had to be problems here that she knew nothing about-problems that had existed long before today. But she didn’t have time to worry about them.

    “Truly, we cannot leave yet,” she insisted. “The archduchess told me that the group I joined was not to leave. Not until we saw Dona Mencia safe.”

    Honorato turned and said something quickly to old Guiomar, who looked somewhat happier than she had previously.

    Nep continued his protest.

    “She gave this to me, just in case you would not believe.” Susanna pulled out the note that the archduchess had scribbled.

    Nep clearly did not want to believe it. But he had to. She had showed it to Jindrich first.

    Susanna took the note back. The piece of paper was very small. The note had served its purpose. Maybe she was being too dramatic. But she tossed it into her mouth, chewed, and swallowed.

    “Go back to the stables.” That was to Nep and Honorato. “Be seen. I know that most of the horses had to be left behind. Tend them. Do what you would do on any ordinary day.”

    She gained the ascendency. Reluctantly, they left. Susanna watched them go. Lazy bums, she thought. Probably, they had looked at all of this as a way to get out of an honest day’s work.

    “Now,” she said. “Come back to the archduchess’ rooms with me.”

    Guiomar looked at her blankly.

    Susanna took her hand. Jindrich followed



    Dona Mencia was not happy to see them come back.

    Susanna, fortified by the knowledge that she had the archduchess’ own written authorization, even if she had eaten it a little prematurely, simply said that they had orders from the archduchess to stay throughout the day and they were staying.

    Duke Maximilian’s physician had not appeared. A boy came with an apologetic note. Father Contzen had taken a serious turn for the worse; Duke Maximilian had directly ordered him to stay by his confessor’s bedside, night and day if need be.

    As the day went on, Dona Mencia became more reconciled to having the other three there. Jindrich went up and down to the kitchen, bringing hot bricks and other comforts to the supposedly incommoded archduchess-although why, Susanna wondered, even a supposed invalid would want hot bricks on a day as miserable as this one was a mystery.

    Susanna moved around, here and there, inside the apartments. Occasionally, someone from the staff of the Residenz opened the outer doors of the apartment and looked in. There was always someone in view; sometimes a lady-in-waiting, reading a book by the window, or a lady’s maid just crossing the open door to the bedchamber, a chambermaid cleaning the grate, a different lady-in-waiting standing at the foot of the archduchess’ bed. Susanna got to change clothes quite a few times; if it hadn’t been for Guiomar, she couldn’t have done it. The fastenings of even the simplest clothing worn by court ladies were far too complicated. She also helped Guiomar change twice. Given that most of the ladies-in-waiting and their personal attendants were known to be attending the production of Belisarius, it must have seemed to the people looking in that the archduchess’ quarters were quite normally populated. At least, Susanna hoped so.

    Dona Mencia, of course, remained in her own clothes, in her own role, in case anyone asked to speak with her. Which several people did.



    Just before dusk, Susanna heard a quick rapping on the back entrance to the rooms, off the servant’s corridor. She opened it. Nep and Honorato were both standing there.

    “The physician’s coach just pulled into the stable yard. You are all going to have to get out of here. Now.”

    Dona Mencia nodded. This was as far as the deception could go. “Go with them, quickly,” she said to Susanna.

    “No,” Susanna protested. “We are here to see you safe. That is why the archduchess sent us back. You have to come with us.”

    “I made my own plans; I am expected.”

    Susanna turned to the men. “Get in here and close that door! I am going with Dona Mencia. The city gates won’t be closed yet; they’re staying open late tonight to accommodate the playgoers. Take Guiomar with you and get out.” She put her hand in the middle of the elderly maid’s back and pushed her toward the two stablemen. Honorato took her arm and began to talk.

    Susanna turned. “You, too, Jindrich. With them. Out. Out the front door. Go down the main corridor and out. Out the side way. Not the back through the stables. Wait for me just outside the Wuertzer gate. I will come as quickly as I can.”

    The four left.

    “We,” Dona Mencia said. “We go the back way. As I was told to do by Duchess Mechthilde. Child, you are a fool to stay here and be brave.”

    Susanna shook her head. “The archduchess told me.” She started to pull Dona Mencia out the back door of the apartments into the servants’ corridor.

    Dona Mencia protested, “Wait.” She smiled a small, malicious, smile and tucked a note, as if carelessly used as a bookmark, into the book on the side table that the “lady-in-waiting” had been reading that afternoon. Then she allowed herself to be pulled.



    There was nothing in the corridor with which to block the door. Success would depend on keeping out of sight. Susanna, by herself, would have run. With Dona Mencia, she had to walk. Slowly.

    At various times, three other people saw them. Two women walking slowly, one elderly, raised no alarm. Dona Mencia occasionally spoke a quiet sentence. “The second turn, here. At the fifth branch, there is a staircase to the first floor. Soon, we will come to an alcove; turn to the right at the first corridor beyond it. The correct door will be marked with a pungent herb.”

    Susanna just didn’t know how long they had. How long would it take for the physician to reach the archduchess’ empty bed? How long would it take him to summon the guards? How long to notify anybody he had to notify? How long for her to get Dona Mencia to her refuge?

    How long before all the city gates would be closed?

    Their progress was painfully, agonizingly, miserably, slow. Especially on the stairs. Narrow steps, steep risers, without railings. Dona Mencia could never have descended them or climbed them without help.



    Going out the front corridor of the wing, Nep and the others realized how very little time it was going to take to set the hunt in place. As the physician came in, they, as servants, politely turned their faces to the wall, in order that they need not be noticed by their betters. When the medical party was past, they started to move in a hurry.

    The uproar began on the second floor corridor that they had just left.

    Nep had an option that was not open to Susanna. As he heard the first party of guards coming, he hefted Guiomar over his shoulder and started to run. He was a big man. Honorato and Jindrich, even unimpeded by a burden, could barely keep up with him. He plunged down a side corridor on the first floor, into the stable yard, and threw Guiomar onto a beautifully harnessed mule that was tethered next to the entrance.

    They were out of the yard and heading toward the Isar gate when the first of the guards came around the corner of the Residenz and saw them. Saw a small woman dressed in black, riding on an elaborately caparisoned mule, attended by three men. He stopped, hesitating as to whether he should pursue or notify the captain. Notifying the captain won. He turned back, waving urgently.

    “Dona Mencia,” he called. “I saw her fleeing, with three men accompanying her.” The rest of the troop speeded up. Behind them, someone yelled, “Halt.”

    Obediently, they halted.

    “Where,” the huffing footman who was following them cried, “is Cardinal Carafa’s mule? What have you done with the cardinal’s mule?”

    The guard captain looked at him with astonishment. One could not smite the papal nuncio’s footman. No matter how sincerely one might wish to smite him. One could think it, though. Smite, smote, smitten. So there. Arrrgh. He turned. “After them.” With a flurry of uniform livery and flourishing swords, the guards returned to the pursuit.

    Only to find that another messenger from the Residenz had gotten to the Isar gate first. It was firmly, solidly, closed. The lieutenant in charge absolutely refused to reopen it without authorization from the duke. When pressured, he drew his own sword. He pointed out that the colonel from whom the messenger had come considerably outranked the captain.

    The captain looked at him grimly. “Have you seen . . . ?” he asked.

    “Yes,” the lieutenant said agreeably. “They came through just before the duke ordered the gates closed.. They were heading for the Isar bridge. We had no instructions to halt anyone leaving the city this evening.”

    The captain left half of his troop at the gate, just in case someone might see fit to open it and let them through. Then he turned, hoping that the march back to the Residenz would be long enough for him to get control of his tongue before he spoke to the colonel.



    “We have to leave the damned mule,” Jindrich said insistently.

    “But the old lady can’t keep up with us,” Honorato protested.

    “It’s white,” Jindrich replied under his breath. It will stand out like a beacon at night. What’s more, it’s stolen. Use just a little bit of common sense.”

    Seppi the market gardener was very surprised the next morning. In the place of his common donkey stood the most beautiful mule he had ever seen. His first thought was of a divine miracle, a gift from Our Lady. His second thought was more prosaic. He called the watchman.



    After that, Honorato and Jindrich let Nep give the directions and set the pace. Guiomar sat on the donkey’s back, clutching its collar and moaning to herself. Shortly before dawn, Jindrich asked, “What about the seamstress?”

    Nep just looked at him. “The bossy little snip can take care of herself. No way was I going to spend last night trying to sneak along the walls of Munich from the Isar gate down to the Wuertzer gate and camp outside it in hopes she would come out this morning. Good way to get us all hanged. Forget her. We’re half way to Altötting and we’re pilgrims. Don’t forget that. We get this one back to Austria and we collect our reward for a job well done.”

    “And we will not,” Honorato said, “be in trouble for what we were planning to do to the seamstress when we found that the straws had given her to us.” He looked at old Guiomar. “Perhaps it was the hand of God.”



    The guards were searching the archduchess’ apartments.

    At first, it seemed as though nothing at all was missing. There was even a neat, small, stack of bricks and towels on the hearth in the bedchamber.

    Frau Stecher, quickly summoned, stated that none of the archduchess’ wardrobe appeared to be gone. The dress she had worn to mass that morning was lying carelessly on a chair near the window-the shoes, stockings, shift, petticoats, cuffs, collar. Everything pertaining to the outfit was there. Her robe was on the bed.

    One of the guards picked the shoes up. Soft, composted leaves and a little fine gravel were stuck to one of the heels by a bit of mud.

    “Oh, that,” Frau Stecher said. “A nuisance; she was really careless of her clothes. Didn’t really appreciate them. She insisted on walking in the garden every morning, even on a day like today, when the ground was soft from last night’s rain.” Frau Stecher took the shoe. “Look,” she said accusingly. “Look how the mud is staining that heel. She didn’t even bother to send it for cleaning right after she came in. It will be ruined. Is ruined.”

    The guard captain asked, slowly, “Did she come in? Did you see the archduchess come in?”

    Frau Stecher shook her head. “No, I haven’t seen her all day.”



    There was a slight disturbance at the door. Dekan Golla had arrived, accompanied by a small man in a gray habit. A Capuchin friar. The captain bowed.

    “What have you found?”

    “They tell me that nothing appears to be missing.”

    The man in the gray habit walked past the guards, through the bedchamber, into the oratory. He looked around.

    “Who tells you that nothing is missing?”

    The captain gestured. “Frau Stecher. The seamstress who came from Vienna with the archduchess.”

    “Ah,” the little man said. “Yes. It would appear that Frau Stecher failed to mention that a few things are missing from the oratory.”

    “I have never,” Frau Stecher said rather defensively, “been admitted to the oratory. There was never any reason for me to be there.”

    “More to the point,” Dekan Golla intervened, “What is missing?”

    “The archduchess’ prayer book. Her rosary, quite a beautiful one.” The little man looked around; walked forward, first placing his hand on the pedestal of the prie-dieu, then on the table next to it. “And the golden rose; the papal rose. Those I can see, at the very least.”

    He left the oratory. “Secure the room. Leave a guard at the door. I will wish to look at it again in the morning, in daylight.”

    He came into the bedchamber; paced around it twice, finding nothing of interest. He moved to the antechamber, repeated the pacing, and paused by a small table with a book lying on it. Almost reflexively, he riffled through the pages of the book, drawing out the bookmark.

    Father Drexel’s Schola Patientiae. Not a book he cared for. Irenic; gently ironic. Too much focused on the penitent, too little on the impenitent. It was, he had been told, popular as spiritual reading even among the Protestants. The king of Denmark supposedly owned a copy and read it. That, by itself, should be sufficient evidence that it was doctrinally unsound.

    He looked at the note. Nodded his head slowly. In this life, unfortunately, double agents were not uncommon. Greedy people, who collected money for informing each side about the other.

    He looked at the seamstress. “Frau Stecher,” he asked, “would you be interested in explaining this to me? Here? Or would you prefer to wait for judicial questioning?”

    Frau Stecher backed up a few steps. “Explain what?”

    “Why,” the little man said. “This note to you from Countess Polyxena. I find it quite fascinating. She thanks you very graciously for providing the archduchess with the clothing that she wore this morning when she left Munich.”

    “She does, does she?” Frau Stecher knew that there were some things which could never, in the eyes of the inquisition, be adequately explained. “Well, the damned little bitch!”



    Finally. Susanna had reached the proper door with Dona Mencia. Carefully, she removed the small sprig of pungent sage that someone had bound to the latch, to guide the archduchess’ attendant in case the corridor was completely dark. Carefully, she pushed it open and looked around. It was just a small room.

    “Where are we?” she asked rather anxiously.

    “In the old nurseries for Duchess Mechthilde’s sons,” Dona Mencia replied. “This is the room in which their wet nurse slept. No one comes here, any more. The young dukes moved to larger rooms a long time ago. They have their own household already, tutors, governesses. They are much too old for nursemaids and toys.”

    Susanna looked around. There was a carafe of fresh water on the table; a plate of fruit. She lifted the cover of the bowl. Cheese. A basin and pitcher; a towel; a commode. A clean shift on the small bed; fresh sheets. A small prayer book on the stand next to it. Dona Mencia was expected.

    “Your Ladyship,” she said. “I hate to leave you. But you are safe here. As safe as we can make you.”

    Dona Mencia reached out. “Stay with me, child.”

    Susanna shook her head. “Duchess Mechthilde offered her protection to you; not to me. It will be hard enough for her to hide one person; two double the risk. Also, the others will be waiting for me, and every minute that they wait is dangerous for them, too.” She led Dona Mencia to a chair, placed a hassock under her feet, and backed out into the servants’ corridor.



    Susanna had no intention of retracing her steps. She was already in a different wing of the Residenz, on a different floor from where the archduchess’ household had been staying. She walked along briskly. Into a third wing, then up a set of stairs; up another, into the lofts. Through the servants’ quarters, into another loft. Down again. Into the kitchens, where dozens of temporary helpers were sleeping in every available corner. Into the herb garden; into the pleasure garden. It was still the late, late twilight of summer; a few couples were walking along the paths, unaware that anything unusual was happening in the palace. It was a large, very large building, with multiple courtyards and wings.

    Out into the street. Turn north. That should lead to the Isar gate; from there she could go outside the walls to where Nep and the others were supposed to wait for her. People coming back from the gate; guards; people being turned back. She stopped, turned with the flow of traffic, listened to what they were saying. The gates were closed for the night. She couldn’t get to the others until morning.

    She kept walking. A man and wife with several children were just in front of her. She walked as if she were with them, trying to think. She was on her own. Really on her own; that had never happened before. In a strange city. Well, most of it was strange, certainly. Since coming to Munich, she had never, except for coming in with the wedding procession, been anywhere except the Residenz, to the Schrannenplatz, and to the house of the English Ladies. She didn’t have any money; Nep had the purse.

    Where could she go? Not back to the Residenz, certainly. Not to the Schrannenplatz on a festival night. Even in a city as well policed as Munich, it was bound to be full of drunk, boisterous, men. She felt in her pocket. The key-the key to the house in Paradise Street. It would be empty. She could take refuge for the night there and think again in the morning.

    Early in the morning. Before the cook arrived to find the Ladies gone and turn in an alarm.

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