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1634: The Bavarian Crisis: Chapter Fifty Three

       Last updated: Friday, December 2, 2005 21:33 EST




    “Day after tomorrow?” Mary Simpson asked.

    “How?” That was Maria Anna.

    Diane handed her a piece of paper. “Tony says. This is what Don Fernando sent to you. It is the first that came this evening. There is more coming, that Mike sent to me. Tony will write it all out as soon as the ‘radio window’ closes.”

    “How?” Maria Anna persisted.

    Diane shrugged. “We wait and see. What else?”

    “There is no way he can come that fast from Amsterdam,” Veronica proclaimed. “Not unless he flies. Young fool. He must be as reckless as Hans.”

    “Flies? How would he get hold of a plane and a pilot? The treaty was just signed last week,” Mary said.

    “How long did it take him to capture back most of the Dutch?” Diane asked. “Fast worker, that boy.”



General Horn’s Headquarters, outside Rheinfelden

    Gustav Horn was scarcely pleased to be preparing a full military welcome for the Cardinal Infante. For the prince once known as the Cardinal Infante. For the “king in the Low Countries.” Whatever he was calling himself these days, Don Fernando was still the brother of Philip IV of Spain.

    He did it, though. On the orders of Gustavus Adolphus. As well as he could, given the harum-scarum nature of his headquarters at Rheinfelden. The airplane taxied in and halted. Horn’s scraped-together ground crew, consisting of anybody in his army who had ever been at any other USE air field and had at least once before seen a plane land, ran forward with chocks and a ladder. Two men climbed out, taking stations at either side of the foot of the ladder; then the guest of honor.

    The Spaniard came to the door, paused, came out. As soon as he had his balance, he turned and looked at the people waiting for him. Spaniard? By his looks, he might as well be Swedish or German. Or Dutch. Waving his hand at the two men below, he called out-in German first, then in a half-dozen other languages, including English.

    “These are the troops I have brought with me, gentlemen. Who else would like to write his name on the pages of history by being part of the rescue of Archduchess Maria Anna?”

    Horn did not groan. He restrained himself from groaning. He only thought, Oh, no. “Not another one,” he muttered under his breath. “Not another Essence of Captain Gars. The European stage has no need of a second flamboyant, exuberant, overwhelmingly self-confident monarch.”

    Standing behind him, the up-timer, Whitney, mumbled, just loudly enough that only Horn and his immediate aides could hear, “We call it charismatic. And, believe me, I don’t like it one bit better than you do. Particularly since this kid is fifteen years younger than Gustavus Adolphus. Has to be. Where’s a nice plague epidemic when you need it?”



    Every one of the up-timers assigned to him had bounced to the front at once and volunteered. Every up-timer in sight, Horn noted sourly, including Whitney, no matter what his personal opinion of Don Fernando might be.

    Somehow, Horn was not surprised. They appeared to have a strong tendency to volunteer for quixotic undertakings. Idly, he wondered if Cervantes’ novel had been part of the ordinary up-time school curriculum. He would have to ask someone, when he had the time.

    With the exception of the pilot, of course, who had gotten out of the plane at last and was now gathering up the impromptu ground crew for what looked likely to be intensive training. Perhaps getting the plane off the ground was more difficult than landing it appeared to be. That seemed only reasonable.

    Plus, there were a lot of other volunteers. Practically every cavalry officer. A good half of the infantry officers. A scattering of others.



    “Do you have any contacts at all inside the city?” Don Fernando’s aide asked.

    “Not since they closed the bridge,” Horn answered. “Naturally, there are businessmen in Basel who have been selling to the army, but that does not mean that they wish to be involved in this. Nor can we reach them at the moment, even if they did.”

    “Does this mean that we are going in blind?”

    “Well, there are people available who know the city,” Burt Threlkeld answered. “The militia on this side, in Riehen, the place is called, have been watching Bernhard’s people. They sent messages over to the general and said they will be glad to help. Their Landvogt got caught in the city; he’s a member of the city council, too. I have no idea how they plan to get in touch with him, though. The bridge has been closed off for several days.”

    The aide was looking very dubious.

    “Now,” Don Fernando said. “Give orders to saddle up. I promised her ‘day after tomorrow.’ This is ‘day after tomorrow.’”





    “I see them,” Cavriani said. “This is a pretty good telescope.” They were standing on the roof of the building that the University of Basel used for an astronomical observatory.

    “Augsburg manufacture,” Johann Buxtorf answered. “The very best we could get outside of the Netherlands. It cost the university a pretty penny, too, so don’t drop it if you get excited, Leopold. Or you pay for the replacement.”

    “And you were right, Wettstein. Your Riehen militia are with them.”

    “Not all of the Riehen militia, I hope. I hope very sincerely. Most of the Riehen militia should still be watching the boundary stones, ready to signal if Duke Bernhard’s troops start to move. I do love those up-time police whistles. Such a simple technology, once one has thought of it. Such a delightfully piercing sound, much louder than most fifes. But the dot-dot-dash light signals that we used last night are nice, too. It would have been much more difficult for me to keep my men informed and instructed five years ago, without them. Words are so much more flexible than just a set of codes.”

    He turned around and looked at Buxtorf. “Are the students in place?”

    “Yes, on either side of the bridge.” Buxtorf smiled. “I must say, they appear to be happily astonished by their discovery that I am a subversive. Or at least, they are happily astonished by their mistaken belief that I am a subversive. I would certainly not consider myself one.”

    Cavriani raised one eyebrow.

    “I am sure that I am a conservative,” Buxtorf said firmly. “I am quite positive that I am a conservative. I believe that the proposed action of the city council in holding the archduchess hostage would be profoundly unsettling to the status quo. There must be far less disruptive ways to go about achieving the goal of Swiss independence. So. Truly, Leopold, the Lord himself taught us to pray, ‘Lead us not into temptation.’ I am merely preventing the city council from succumbing to the temptation to do something outrageous, by assisting in the removal of the source of temptation from the city.”

    “Undoubtedly, the members of the city council will be very impressed with that bit of sophistry,” Cavriani commented.

    “I cleared it with the pastors,” Buxtorf answered.

    “Not the same batch of people at all.” Cavriani raised the telescope again. “Here they come.”

    “Don Fernando and his party?”

    “The students. Behind the city guard at the bridge, causing a disturbance to pull them back and away. Don Fernando’s party is still some distance. Wettstein, take a look. You are more familiar with the landmarks and terrain over there than I am.”

    “About a quarter-mile; no more than that. And riding fast.”

    “Any sign of Duke Bernhard’s people?”


    They stood, sharing the telescope amicably, until Wettstein said, “They’re through.”

    “Put the telescope back in the case and return it to the room where it belongs, then,” Buxtorf said. “We have to get downstairs. The Basel militia seems to be getting rather irritated with the students. Luckily, I thought to ask for any students who had close relatives among the city militia officers to volunteer to stand in the front ranks. That may keep them from ordering to shoot before we get there, but I would not count on it. And there is still the ‘honor guard’ around the embassy to be dealt with.”

    “I’ll go that way,” Wettstein said. “I am a member of the city council. If you see either of the mayors, Buxtorf, tell them they are needed at the USE embassy. You two handle the problems around the bridge.”



    “What is going on?” Diane Jackson asked. She was sitting in a chair in the reception room. In the middle of the reception room, far from any windows, somewhat to her chagrin.

    “A lot of yelling,” the down-time corporal who was looking out answered. “A pretty well-disciplined good-sized company of cavalry.”

    Jim Gordon left Diane’s side and went for a look. “Some guy wearing a mortarboard hat, looking like he’s about to graduate or something, arguing with some other guy who is wearing a great big ceremonial chain around his neck. I wish Cavriani was here. He might have a better idea of who’s who.”

    “The Basel city guards who have been standing around this building are moving away. The guy with the ceremonial chain waved them off. The cavalry is moving towards the front.”

    “Whose cavalry,” Lee Swiger asked pragmatically. “The ones we’re expecting, or Bernhard’s?”

    “Mostly down-timers. I don’t recognize the banners, but then I wouldn’t,” Gordon answered. “Corporal, do you recognize the banners?”

    “Not the fancy one in front. Never seen it before. But the next one after that is General Horn’s personal ensign. The general is not with them, though. I have seen him before; I would recognize him.”

    “If Duke Bernhard had managed to take Horn’s banner, we would have heard about it. Even cooped up here.”

    “One of them has a foghorn. He’s trying to say something to us. Damned walls are so thick, I can’t hear a word.”

    “Open up the window,” Diane ordered.

    The corporal, paying no attention to the weapons trained upon it from front and back, opened the window.

    “Swiger, open up the fucking door,” the man holding the foghorn shouted.

    “That’s Burt Threlkeld. These are our guys.”

    “Open up the door,” Diane said. She got out of her chair, holstering her gun.



    Don Fernando was right at the head of the incoming company. Impulsive again, his advisers would have moaned to themselves, if they had been there to observe. Once inside, however, he stood back.

    “Prepared for battle, were you,” Burt asked as he looked around. The reception room was bristling with various implements of mayhem.

    “More or less,” Lee Swiger admitted. “Just in case we had any trouble. I doubt we could have stood Bernhard off for very long, if he broke through the walls, but we thought that we could probably discourage the Basel city militia.”

    “Where are the damsels in distress?”

    “Various spots. We made the archduchess stay upstairs with Mary Simpson. They both have guns, but Tony has orders to keep them away from the windows, like we did with Diane here. Ronnie is back in the kitchen. Except that there were two of us and one of Diane, but there’s one of Tony and two of them, so at least one of them was probably looking out. Mrs. Simpson, if you want my guess; the other girl is used to having heavy security around her.”

    Diane turned. “Corporal, take someone back to get Mrs. Dreeson; then go up and tell the other ladies they can come down.”

    Jack Whitney followed the corporal, who motioned at a door and then started up a set of back stairs. He looked into the embassy kitchen. Ronnie Dreeson was sitting on a three-legged stool next to a double-barreled shotgun the size of a small cannon, which was pointed at a ground-level window. The window was covered with iron bars, but they looked a little rusty and shaky. She looked quite prepared to shoot anyone who tried to pull them loose and come in through it.

    He stopped a minute. He had helped Dan Frost with quite a lot of the firearms training in Grantville. He was a veteran of Ronnie’s epic refusal to carry a gun. She was no better a markswoman than Rebecca Stearns, so they had given her a shotgun. She had taken it home, cleaned it just as she had been taught, oiled it, and locked it away unloaded, first in Jeff’s gun cabinet in the trailer and then, presumably, after she got married, in Henry’s gun cabinet, where it probably still was unless someone else in the Dreeson household was using it at present.

    Why was she willing to use a gun now? So he asked.

    “I am not carrying it,” she answered logically. “The barrel is resting on a sawhorse. The stock is resting on the table where the cook chops vegetables. Those heavy candlesticks hold it in place very well. I do not have to carry it at all-just take off the safety and pull the trigger if someone comes. I do not mind shooting people with a gun if I need to. But carry one all the time? No I will not. It weighs many pounds. It does not fit in my tote bag. If I try to carry it on my back, with a strap, it keeps knocking down the bun.” She motioned at her hair.

    Jack Whitney suddenly realized that communication between English-speakers and German-speakers in Grantville during the early days after the Ring of Fire had been far from perfect. She had literally been trying to tell them that she did not want to carry such a heavy, awkward, weapon day and day out.

    “Oh.” Maybe, he thought, they ought to consider revising the manual for basic firearms training. Possibly even implement some standard other than pure marksmanship as the basis for deciding what type of gun to issue to whom.



    Maria Anna led the way into the reception room.

    Mary Simpson paused to watch from the door. The two of them were such a contrast. Don Fernando, like so many of the Spanish Habsburgs-it still came as a surprise to her-was a blue-eyed strawberry blond, rather fine boned and with delicate features. Maria Anna was as tall as he was, possibly even a little taller, with the brunette looks of her Wittelsbach mother - black hair, dark brown eyes, as tall as he, and rather full-bodied.



    With a flourish of his feathered hat, he bowed at the same time that she curtseyed.

    The bow made a most favorable impression on Maria Anna. Such a contrast to the stiffness of Duke Maximilian. His other main attraction-being twenty-four years old instead of sixty-two years old-was, of course, something that she had known about in advance.

    Maria Anna, in turn, made a most favorable impression on her fiance-healthy, he thought, but I knew that. And with all her component parts in the right slots. Here I am, already thinking to myself in terms of that horridly tedious treatise on interchangeable parts that I have commanded myself to master before I command my subordinates to master it. And that that is-um-a really magnificent bosom. Nearly of Gretchen-like proportions.

    He took her hand as she rose. “Most honored cousin,” he said. “I very much regret to tell you that just before we left Amsterdam, we received news of the death of the Holy Roman Emperor.”

    “I was afraid,” she said. “The newspapers said that Papa was very ill.” Automatically, her other hand felt for her rosary.

    He reached out and embraced her.



    “I will not go.” The expression on Diane Jackson’s face was a triumph of stubbornness. “I will not abandon this embassy. My job is not over. Margrave Friedrich has just started to talk to me. I need to finish.”

    Jack Whitney and Burt Threlkeld just looked at her.

    “Duke Hermann, the one with the complicated name, from Hesse. He has not told me to go. Ed Piazza has not told me to go. Tell Frank they are my boss.”

    Neither Jack nor Burt really wanted to be the man who told Frank Jackson that. Frank had made it very plain that he wanted them to yank Diane out of Basel.

    “I’m staying with her, then,” Tony Adducci said. “She’ll need the radio. Besides...”

    “Besides, what?” Whitney asked.

    “He is my mouthpiece,” Diane said.


    “Like the lawyer, in gangster movies. He talks for me. He speaks English. He speaks French, which is even better. He can take notes when I speak French with the margrave. He says that he took two years of French because he did not want to take Spanish. Then he took two more years because he was sorry for Mrs. Hawkins. He thought she might lose her job if not enough students took French. Then, after the Ring of Fire, he learned German. Also, he learned Latin from Father von Spee. And from his grandparents, he remembers a little Italian. So he is my mouthpiece.”

    “‘Spokesman’ might be better,” Whitney said.

    “Mouthpiece, spokesman, all the same. I am the ambassadress. I need him. He stays.”

    “I really sort of think,” Tony said, “that we ought to try to do some fence-mending with the Basel city council after the way you all came barreling over the bridge and through the gates. Figure out some way to help them save face. The margrave will probably help, and Freinsheim. Plus anything we can do to keep them from firing Wettstein would be all to the good.”

    “Maybe ‘aide-de-camp’ would be a better description,” Whitney said, looking at Tony. The Grantville kids, the ones who had been in high school or younger when the Ring of Fire happened, were adapting to this world with a speed that sometimes made their parents and grandparents dizzy. Even him, who was more “older brother” age. Especially in regard to the traditional American reluctance to learn foreign languages, which they simply seemed to have weighted down and dropped into a pond somewhere.

    “Anyway,” Tony said, “I’m not going unless Diane does.” Swiger, Gordon, and the rest of the embassy staff turned out to be of the same opinion.

    “Also,” Diane said. “This Duke Bernhard is still out there. Tony will send radio to Ed Piazza. They will tell me what to do about him.”

    “Ah, Diane,” Burt Threlkeld said. “I don’t think that Mike and them really expected you to try to handle anything that high-level when they sent you down here.”

    “No,” Diane admitted. “It was just that the rude margrave wanted to look at an up-timer. But I am here and they are not. So I handle. You want him to go away, don’t you?”

    Burt Threlkeld emitted a slightly gurgling sound from the back of his throat. “I am sure,” he said, “that General Horn would be delighted to have him go away.”

    “Fine,” Diane said. “I stay. You go now. He goes later.”



    There did not seem to be much more to say. There was certainly no point in spending more time in Basel than they had to. They went now.

    Their march through the streets of Basel was rather tense, with everybody thinking that something was going to go wrong at the last minute, but they made it across the bridge and into Riehen district, followed by Cavriani, Wettstein, Professor Buxtorf, and a sizable contingent of university students, all of whom were having prudent thoughts to the effect that the Basel city fathers were going to be really, really, annoyed about this, might possibly try to vent their feelings on anybody handy, and should be allowed to simmer down for a while before life went on.

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