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1634: The Galileo Affair: Chapter Nine

       Last updated: Friday, December 19, 2003 22:57 EST



PART II: February, 1634

Sir, ‘twas all one! My favour at her breast,
The dropping of daylight in the West,
The bough of cherries some officious fool
Broke in the orchard for her, the white mule
She rode with round the terrace—all and each
Would draw from her alike the approving speech,
Or blush, at least.

    “Well, here we are, then. Venice.” Father Mazzare flopped down on a chaise-lounge of some sort, producing a small cloud of dust.

    “Venice?” The Reverend Jones waved a hand in front of his face. “So that’s what that smell is.”

    It was late afternoon of the day the USE delegation had finally arrived in Venice, after a long and arduous trip from Germany which had taken them up the Rhine by Constance, cross country through the Graubunden to the Valtelline, and from there down toward Lake Como while being careful to skirt Milanese territory.

    Most of the day had then been spent in pageantry, being parading about and bombarded with pointless speeches entirely free of content. The experience seemed to have caused the Methodist minister to dig deep into reserves of sarcasm that even Mazzare had not suspected he possessed. For some hours now, Jones had taken to calling himself and Heinzerling “cultural attachés.”

    The Grantville party—Mazzare still had to keep reminding himself that he was now an ambassador representing the newly formed United States of Europe—had been asked to stop for the night at a villa outside La Serenissima while the appropriate reception had been mounted for the embassy. Other states, other nations and cities had all but dispensed with the displays of outright potlatch that greeted a formal ambassador’s arrival. But Italy, and especially Venice, was still beggaring itself with Renaissance standards of behavior.

    “Renaissance” was being charitable. The standard of organization shown so far by the Venetians had been downright medieval. The overnight stop while the procession had been organized had turned into a three day jamboree. Three days, it had to be said, of good food, fine wine and general Italian hospitality, but Mazzare couldn’t help feeling it was probably symbolic of something to come.

    The time had not been entirely wasted, of course. The Ambassador would not be so rude as to arrive before his hosts were good and ready to receive him in style, to be sure. But the Ambassador’s curate and general factotum, the good Father Augustus Heinzerling SJ, was under no such restriction. Heinzerling had ridden ahead to apply his stout German boot—ad maiorum Dei gloriam, of course—to the collective backside of the staff at the lodgings that had been booked for the embassy pending the acquisition of a permanent base. Heinzerling had returned grumbling, with all his prejudices about Venetian housekeeping fully confirmed, but had pronounced himself satisfied. Just.

    Francisco Nasi’s briefing on the Most Serene Republic of Venice had warned Mazzare of what he was likely to find. Venice positively reeked of a town keeping up appearances. The days when her fleet was the terror of Mediterranean pirates were long gone, her great houses of merchants were losing their ongoing trade war with just about everyone, and cash was tight. The plague which had devastated the city just two years earlier had piled ruin onto decay.

    In the streets: gilded barges and processions of livery; fine dress and sumptuary for public display. Within doors: maintenance budgets had gone by the board, housekeeping was a poor second to ostentation and the fare a sharp contrast with the good living of the countryside.

    And so a procession of boldly-dressed cavaliers, gilded barges and an escort of stamping, bright-cuirassed soldiers had conveyed them to what Jones had christened the “Roach Hilton” for its mix of gilt and tawdriness. Mazzare couldn’t help feeling, with Jones, a certain annoyance at the thoroughly impractical approach these people took to their particular mix of shabbiness and gentility. All the more so since he himself was probably distantly related to them. Nice people, but perhaps not well focused on what was important. They—but he caught himself.

    “Better keep a lid on the comments, Simon,” said Mazzare.

    “The very model of tact, Larry. Tact is my middle name.” Jones lasted perhaps two seconds before snorting. “Death in Venice! Ha! How could anyone tell?”

    The door opened and Heinzerling strolled in, the very picture of florid, big-boned good health. “Mein Herren,” he nodded to the other two clerics.

    That clued Mazzare. Heinzerling got more and more German as his thoughts wandered away from the immediate mental effort of thinking about what language he ought to be speaking, especially in English, which was his sixth or seventh language. “Go ahead, Gus,” he said.

    “Monsignor Mazarini is arrived as nuncio extraordinary.” He said it baldly, paused, and then took out his pipe.

    “Giulio?” Mazzare was startled. That was unexpected.

    “Ja. He came here these few days past. Il Doge has not received him yet. Indeed, he refuses to do so.”

    Jones turned, frowning, from the window he had been staring out of. He had been looking off to the east, where the first dark of night was hazed by angry purple bruises of cloud. “Mazarini’s supposed to be in Paris. He had a job to do there, last we heard.”

    “Genau das. I have this from an old friend at the Society’s house here. His Holiness recalled the Monsignor from Paris in the middle of summer, apparently.”

    “Just after war broke out?” Mazzare raised an eyebrow.

    “Yes, but wait a minute.” Jones held up a hand. “The recall would have been sent before then, no?”

    Mazzare nodded. “That figures. You think—?”

    “It’s what I’d have done, Larry.”

    “This I thought also,” said Heinzerling. “The Monsignor was known in the future history as a cardinal of France, no? So the Vatican seeks to prevent this?”

    Jones sucked at his lip, began to pace. “Maybe. But would they? By now, you can be sure the Vatican has gotten its hands on all the histories available, just like Richelieu did. Remember that Mazarini—Mazarin, as he would be by then—sponsored the Peace of Westphalia. And sheltered the Barberini when it all hit the fan after Urban VIII’s death. Surely they’d leave him in post to take root?”

    Mazzare sat up. “On the other hand, is this place getting to us so soon? Blasted intrigue and double-dealing! Perhaps the Vatican just wanted their best troubleshooter here—especially since he’s more familiar with Americans than anyone else they have. Someone good enough to do the job, junior enough to shunt aside if he stalls. Whatever. We’re here to do a deal with the Venetians. If Giulio wants to talk, he’ll talk. Gus, who else is in town?”

    “Moment, bitte.” Heinzerling crossed to where a pitcher of wine had been left out, took a goblet and drank. He made a face, perfectly reflected in the polished silver of the cup from where Mazzare sat. “Ach, nasty cheap wine. Essig. So, the ambassadors. The Spanish one, the Count de Rocca, is a pompous ass. He’s the regular ambassador sent directly from Madrid. But Cardinal Bedmar is also here for Spain—indirectly, at least; officially, he’s ‘special ambassador from the Spanish Netherlands’—and that is causing trouble, of course. D’Avaux for France, and he is Richelieu’s creature and bag-man. The representative for the Empire is another nonentity—I’ve already forgotten the name—since the Empire and Venice are usually so far”—he held up thumb and forefinger—”from war that any ambassador is wasting his time here. There is not a Dutchman to be found for love nor money and the English ambassador does little and says less.”

    “Dutch are out of it. The English ambassador, though. Why’s he so quiet?”

    “He is too busy making money, from what I am hearing.”

    “Hmm.” Mazzare scratched a chin that, twentieth-century razors having become largely a memory, was developing a fine beard. Local fashion was for a properly-trimmed goatee for a reason: it kept the blade away from all the hard bits to shave. “No surprise that the Dutch aren’t about. Why is Bedmar trouble?”

    Jones groaned. “Come on, Larry! Didn’t you pay attention in Causes of the Thirty Years War, 101? Bedmar! The Venetian Conspiracy! Osuna’s Fleet!”

    “Assume I didn’t, Simon,” Mazzare said patiently. “And wasn’t the Defenestration of Prague the cause of the Thirty Years War?”

    “Sort of. In the same sense that Archduke Ferdinand’s assassination was the cause of the First World War. It was just a trigger, that’s all—one of many possible ones. In fact, the other major candidate for the trigger event happened right here, just a few days before.”

    “It would be better to say it did not happen, ja?” Heinzerling was now leaning against the buffet table where the wine-jug was, using his goblet to gesture. “Bedmar had paid a fifth column to open the city to Osuna’s fleet, it was said, and the state inquisitors hanged the principal conspirators shortly before the fleet sailed—after breaking their legs, in time-honored Venetian custom. The conspiracy ended, and Venice remains independent. There was trouble; I recall it even from the seminary. But a week later, there was the worse trouble in Prague and war began in Bohemia instead of in Italy.”

    “And Bedmar’s back? I see the concern that might raise.” Mazzare was pointedly not looking at Heinzerling. A drink or two was fine, but he had promised Hannelore that he would not let his curate hit the sauce too hard.

    “Ja, he is back.” Mazzare heard Heinzerling put the goblet down. “And I hear that he is bribing anything with hands to hold scudi. I hear only rumors, you understand.”



    Mazzare sighed, and looked up at the ceiling a moment, noting the cracks in the plaster. “It all sounded so simple when Mike and Francisco set it out for me. A trade deal, they said. Stand there and look solemn and sign things, so the Venetians can pretend they’re not dealing with Jews, they said. D’Avaux is your only problem, they said. Bah!” He swept a hand across an imaginary chess-board, scattering the pieces of a game grown tiresome.

    “Come on, Larry.” Jones’ grin looked as forced as his tone. “If it wasn’t hard, they wouldn’t need us.”

    “Well, the women are going to be upset,” said Mazzare.

    Heinzerling nodded. “Ja. If Hanni saw the filth in here, she would be ganz verruckt.”

    That set Mazzare to chuckling. The formidable Frau Heinzerling governed domestic arrangements at the rectory with an iron will. Preconceptions about early-modern attitudes to cleanliness were crushed under her regular blitzkriegs with duster and beeswax. The place gleamed; not a surface in it couldn’t have been used for surgery.

    “Speaking of domestic arrangements,” he said, “how are the troops and the various technical missions settling in?”

    “Ganz gut,” said Heinzerling. “Captain Lennox and his troops are comfortable and probably looking for a drink.”

    Heinzerling made a face as he mentioned the Scotsman. He and Lennox, in many ways, were two of a kind. One of the more famous brawls in the Thuringen Gardens had transpired when the two of them had debated their competing doctrines of justification one night. The Jesuit had won the debate and—narrowly, he insisted!—lost the ensuing fistfight. Lennox had paid the price in a broken tooth, two broken ribs and the finger he had dislocated on Heinzerling’s jaw. Carried back to the rectory, Heinzerling had had a black eye added to his injuries by a furious Hannelore keen to enforce her ambition of getting her man to settle down to parochial respectability. Gus had behaved himself, more or less, ever since.

    “And the technical folks?” Mazzare dragged himself back from memories of happier, if harder-working, times.

    “Also settled. The Stone boys are suggesting a few drinks with the local Committee, and I mean to go with them.”

    Mazzare nodded, then frowned. “Is that wise? Should we be seen to have links of any kind with the Committee?”

    “He has a point, Gus,” said Jones. “If we’re talking to the grandees, surely they’ll take fright if we’re also hobnobbing with revolutionaries and the like?”

    Mazzare sat up straighter. “For the moment, let’s not take risks. Gus, have the Committee here been in touch yet?”

    “Not so far as I know. Frank is a member of the CoC in Grantville, as I’m sure you are aware—all three of the rascals, probably—and he will be looking to make contact.” Heinzerling stroked his chin a moment. “In fact, I think it cannot be that the local Committee has been in touch, since it is all staff of the palazzo or the embassy in here so far. They will of course place someone with the servants.”

    “Right.” Mazzare nodded. “What teenage boys do is one thing. You, Gus... another. So keep them out of trouble, if you can. And ask Sharon to help.”

    Jones grinned. “For a man with no children you’ve got a surprising grasp of teenage psychology, Larry.”

    Mazzare grinned back. “I have memories of being a teenaged male myself, Simon, before I turned my thoughts to Heaven.”

    Heinzerling was looking puzzled, so Mazzare took pity on him. “Sharon’ll be the key to keeping the Stone boys under control, Gus. Even more than their father and mother. She’s the most glamorous woman they know—well, leaving aside Becky Stearns—and close enough to their own age to leave room for fantasies.”

    Now Heinzerling was frowning. “She is grieving for her dead betrothed, Hans Richter.”

    Jones smiled. “Yup. Like Larry says: glamorous. For Pete’s sake, Gus, weren’t you ever a youngster?”

    Heinzerling shook his head. “Americans are all insane. What has ‘glamour’ to do with anything? Much less fantastical delusions? Fraulein Nichols is a respectable young woman grieving for her betrothed, and those boys are much too young to be entertaining notions of marriage anyway.

    “However,” he said, shrugging heavily, “I will do as you ask.”



    After Heinzerling left, Jones cocked an eye at Mazzare. “It might be good for Sharon, too, having to concentrate on keeping those juvenile delinquents out of trouble. Give her something to think about other than...” He groped in the air, a bit feebly.

    “That’s what I was thinking.” Mazzare sighed heavily. He was worried about Sharon.

    Sharon Nichols had been added to the diplomatic delegation at the very end, just two days before it left Grantville. That at been at her father’s urging.

    “Anything to get her mind off Hans,” he’d told Mazzare. Seeing the question lurking in the priest’s mind, James Nichols had chuckled harshly. “Oh, I’m not worried about that, Father. My daughter is about as suicidally inclined as a brick. But...”

    He’d groped in the air too, then, and just as feebly as Jones was doing now. Mazzare understood both gestures. Sharon’s romance with Hans Richter had been a story book one, ended when her fiancé died in true story book fashion at the Battle of Wismar less than six months earlier. The woman was in her early twenties, to make things worse—that treacherous age when deep grief could insidiously slide into a quasi-romantic melancholy that lasted for years and years. A lifetime, in some cases. The priest had seen it happen, from time to time.

    And what a waste that would be! Not just the waste of a life, but the waste of a person whose intelligence and skills—not to mention sheer energy, when Sharon was her normal self—would be an asset to many other people. Including—Mazzare admitted to some selfish motives here—the delegation from the USE to Venice. Sharon’s hands-on medical skills would be a valuable addition to Tom Stone’s more theoretical knowledge.

    He rose from his chair and went over to a window, looking out over the city. “God knows Venice could use her,” he murmured.

    Loud enough, apparently, for Jones to hear him. The Protestant reverend snorted sarcastically. “And that’s another thing the guide books didn’t mention! The glamorous pestilence.”

    Jones wasn’t really being fair to Venice, Mazzare thought. Or Italy as a whole, for that matter. Yes, Venice had lost about a third of its population in the recent plague. But that wasn’t an unusual percentage, in this day and age, for a city struck by bubonic plague. Many cities suffered worse. The truth was that medicine and public sanitation were more advanced in Italy in the seventeenth century than probably anywhere else in Europe.

    Which... wasn’t saying much.

    Mazzare was a conservatively-inclined man, by temperament, and found the constant changes in his life more than a little taxing. In three short years he’d gone from a small town in up-time America where disease didn’t include bubonic plague and typhus, through a jury-rigged little “United States” restricted to the southern half of Thuringia, through an equally jury-rigged “Confederated Principalities of Europe,” to yet a fourth nation—the only-months-old “United States of Europe” which Mike Stearns was busily jury-rigging right now.

    And—it needed only this!—one Father Larry Mazzare was the ambassador from that country to Venice. It was almost funny, in a way. He’d been appointed as ambassador from one country—the CPE—but by the time he’d finally been able to take up his post, his country had changed underneath his feet.

    Oh, well. He tried to brace his spirit with lines of poetry, which he murmured aloud.

    “How dull it is to pause, to make an end,

    To rust unburnished, not to shine in use!”

    Again, he’d spoke louder than he thought. Rev. Jones frowned. “Sounds like something from the King, although I don’t recognize it. Since when did you become an Elvis Presley fan, Larry?”

    Mazzare sighed again.

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