1634: THE BAVARIAN CRISIS – snippet 17:



            “There is no reason why I should not go now. There are many reasons that I should go now.” Veronica Dreeson looked at her husband. Not mulishly. She did not want to look stubborn. She wished to look calmly determined. She wanted an expression of serene dignity. Her prematurely wizened face strained with the effort of assuming one.


            All her life, at need, Veronica Schusterin, verw. Richter, verh. Dreeson, had been willing to argue with others when it was needed. Last fall, in Magdeburg, the Abbess of Quedlinburg’s approach to life had struck her as a blinding revelation—the elegance of it. The Abbess almost never argued with anyone, because she simply assumed that no one would contradict her wishes and acted upon that assumption. Even amid the sorrow of her grandson Hans’ death, Veronica had filed away in her mind the general usefulness of this approach to getting one’s own way. If one could manage it.


            Another tactic. “I have a letter of recommendation from the king of Sweden himself. Or,” she added conscientiously, “at least one with his signature on it, though that may have been added by one of his secretaries. It introduces me to his regent in the Upper Palatinate. It requests him to assist me in obtaining a resolution of our just claims to Johann Stephan’s property. So, clearly, I should go while the regent whom he named is still holding the office.”


            Then, to clinch the deal. “We need the money.” She sat quietly. Henry could not argue with that.


            Henry was doing what he called “cogitating.” Ronnie let him cogitate. He knew the truth as well as she did. His salary as mayor was not large; before the Ring of Fire, when it had been only what they called a “part time” job, his salary had not existed at all. He once had a pension, a Social Security; it was gone. Fortunately he had saved money for his retirement; like any city councilman down-time, his civic service had been premised on having sufficient income to “get away from the office” and serve the public good.


            The savings had come through the Ring of Fire, but they were gone. Oh, if there had been only the two of them, with his salary, her business, and the little coming in here and there from the real estate, there would have been plenty.


            There were far more than two of them. Gretchen, amazingly enough, was famous now. But fame, especially fame gained by giving speeches urging other people to revolt against their superiors, did not pay many bills. At the beginning, Jeff and his friends had helped. But Jeff, Gretchen, and, presumably, Jeff’s pay from the army, were now in Amsterdam, far away in the Netherlands. If Jeff’s pay was not arriving in Amsterdam via letter of credit, Veronica did not have the slightest idea how the two of them were paying for their food, and rooms, and replacing shoes that wore out, and all the other necessities that came with prolonged travel, but it wasn’t something that she could do anything about.


            Jimmy was in Amsterdam too, presumably with his pay also arriving there. Eddie was a captive in Denmark; she didn’t know where his pay was. Not in the Dreesons’ bank account, certainly. She hoped that the navy bookkeepers in Magdeburg were saving it for him. Larry and Hans—she blinked quickly—had died bravely. But they weren’t being paid any more. Neither of them had had legal dependents.


            The other children, from Annalise on down, were still in school. She felt her face tightening into a slightly grimmer expression, in spite of her efforts to remain tranquil. What was more, Annalise would stay in school. Annalise, no matter how much she protested the matter, was going to college. She would be a member of the first class of the new women’s college at Quedlinburg. And her grandmother would, somewhere, find the money to pay for it. Veronica had learned a lot, these last months, about the cost of tuition at such a school for the daughters of the elite and wealthy, the patricians, the great merchants, and the nobles. It was only reasonable that her dead husband Johann Stephan’s property, if anything were left of it, should pay for his granddaughter’s education.


            The question of who would pay for the education of the other children as they grew older, and how, could rest for the moment. If Gretchen and Jeff returned from Amsterdam—that was an if; she would not delude herself that it was no more than a when—then she could give that problem back to them. If they did not return…


            She looked across the room at Henry. He shifted in his chair. His hip was bothering him again, she could tell. If Gretchen and Jeff did not return, she hoped that the schools would be doing very, very well in another ten years. She would need every Pfennig of the income from her business.


            Veronica leaned over the side of her arm chair, reaching into her widely recognized tote bag. Come to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, it proclaimed, with a large picture of a harlequin in costume. “I have an answer from the lawyer to whom I wrote earlier. It is going to be complicated. I want to retrieve anything that I can. I want to ensure that whatever is sold is sold for the maximum price. At least, for the most I can get. The economy is recovering very slowly south of the Thueringerwald. After all, Henry, it is peaceful there now. It is likely to remain peaceful there throughout the summer. Everyone says that this year’s action will be to the north. In the Baltic. Where the king of Sweden is.”