1634: THE BAVARIAN CRISIS – snippet 27:
The three women been debating the matter for several months. Their late brother, unlike themselves and their husbands, had remained in Amberg during the Bavarian occupation. He had converted, at least nominally, to Catholicism, as had his wife and children. As had their stepmother. After the plundering of Amberg, when they never heard from any of their brother’s family again, they had assumed that they were dead. And mourned.
Until the Battle of Wismar. When the newspapers reported the family and relationships of the dead hero, Hans Richter. Then they had mourned Hans again. And argued with one another, what to do.
Now, she was in the same city. Their stepmother, whom they had long thought to be dead.
“Do you think,” Hanna asked, “that she will think that we come to see her now only because we, too, can claim a share of Papa’s property if she gets it?
“Why are we going, if not for that?” Margaretha asked. She was the oldest.
“Because our nephew and niece are suddenly famous, so we know who she is?” Clara suggested.
“Or,” Hanna interjected, “because sister Elisabetha’s widower, Elias Brechbuhl, is an accountant. Here in Nürnberg, he has barely eked out a living, that is true. But he knows where a lot of the Upper Palatinate’s bodies are buried. Financially speaking, that is. I still think that it would be a good idea if Elias went with her. We can try to persuade her of that. Lorenz is willing that we should take Elisabetha’s children, if Elias goes.”
Her sisters looked at her. Once upon a time, before the war, Hanna’s husband Lorenz Mossberger had served as chief clerk to an Amtmann. As an exile, he barely made enough to feed his children as a private notary, serving mainly the Calvinist community. His offer to take in three more children was very generous.
Margaretha looked down uncomfortably. Her second husband, a prosperous shopkeeper and Nürnberg native, would have been much better placed to make such an offer. But he hadn’t made it. Nor had she suggested it to him.
As the wagons headed back towards Nürnberg, their debate continued.
Eventually, they reached consensus. This very evening, before she left the city, they would attempt to contact the woman who had once been married to their father, Johann Stephan Richter, and who was now married to the mayor of the notorious Grantville. She should at least be given the opportunity to meet her namesakes, the three little Veronicas. Only three, not four. There had been four little Veronicas once, but half of Elisabetha’s children had died.
At worst, Hanna pointed out, she could only refuse to see them.
By supper time, Veronica felt considerably restored. Naps were excellent things. She joined the rest of the Grantvillers for supper in the public room of the inn. Keith Pilcher was making a good story of the day’s adventures. Especially of his thoughts about plastic flamingoes.
Veronica still thought that Maxine Pilcher’s philosophy of education was the height of foolishness. She was rather getting to like the woman’s husband, though.
The host approached the table. “Gracious lady,” he said, addressing himself to the grandmother of the famous Hans Richter. He paused, waiting for her permission to continue. He had already expressed, several times, how profoundly he was honored by having the heroic pilot’s grandmother lodge at his establishment. Was he going to do it again? Veronica was on the verge of becoming annoyed.
“There are three women here who ask to speak to you. They say that they are your stepdaughters. That they live as exiles in Nürnberg.”
Veronica grasped the edge of the table with both hands. She needed the support. It was never safe to hope.
“Please,” she said. “Please.” She was not sure whether she was addressing the petition to the innkeeper or to God. “Please ask them to come in.”
“What can it mean, that they are undertaking this mission?” Lamormaini was not the only political advisor in Europe asking himself that question.
The news that the wife of Grantville’s mayor and the wife of Gustav Adolf’s up-time admiral were on their way to the Upper Palatinate had caused great consternation in many European capitals, not only Vienna. There wasn’t a city in Europe in which the policymakers believed that Veronica Richter was primarily preoccupied with the needs of her own household, family, and business. It was appallingly naive of those up-timers to assert that Admiral Simpson would permit his wife Mary to undertake such a journey for the purpose of getting money to open an institution for the training of teachers for village schools.
What a manifest absurdity! It would have been utterly simpleminded of any responsible man to accept such transparently ridiculous reasons at face value. Which left, of course, the problem of deducing the real significance of the trip.
The only capitals where the trip received minimal attention were those of the north and west. The ladies were, after all, traveling in the opposite direction. In the dispatches from London and Copenhagen, Stockholm and Paris, it rated scarcely more than a passing mention. In those from Spain and Italy, it was barely noted.
Lamormaini himself believed that the visit by the wife of Grantville’s mayor might portend a renewed attack on Bavaria, given the instability that Duke Maximilian’s misguided attempt to abdicate had introduced into the political situation there. Although, in that case, it was not clear why the admiral’s wife was included in the mission. Bavaria, after all, like Thuringia and the Upper Palatinate, was land-locked.
He started to cast around for alternative explanations.
“Isn’t it frustrating?” Archduchess Cecelia Renata asked her older sister. “Two of the women from the up-time are going to be so close to us, really. It isn’t that far from Vienna to Amberg. And yet, we won’t get to see them for ourselves.”
“They are scarcely zoo exhibits, imported from Asia or Africa for you to view,” Doña Mencia de Mendoza said dryly.
“Your Highness,” said Frau Stecher. “If you would be so kind as to raise your left arm to shoulder height.”
“Well, yes.” Cecelia pretended to pout as she lifted her arm. “But really, aren’t you even curious?”
“It is hard not to be. Yet, really, they are not our proper concern,” Doña Mencia answered.
“Thank you, Your Highness. That will be sufficient,” Frau Stecher said. “Now, Archduchess Maria Anna, if you would be so kind.”
“If the up-timers keep changing the world,” Maria Anna commented as Susanna Allegretti helped her slip into an inside-out-bodice that was bristling with pins, “they may be. Our proper concern, that is. Because we, Papa and Ferdinand, of course, Uncle Max, and whoever it may be that you marry, are the ones who must keep control of the changes, if they are not to destroy everything. So Ferdinand says. Bavaria is even closer to the Upper Palatinate. Maybe, some day….”
Turning to Doña Mencia, Maria Anna continued, “Cecelia is not alone, you know. I also wish, sometimes, that I could see them for myself.”
“Remember your proverbs, Your Highness. Remember your proverbs. Beware of what you wish for. You may get your wish.”
“Both of the archduchesses,” Frau Stecher reported. “Both of them, I found, displayed a most unseemly interest in the up-timers.”
Her contact thanked her gravely.
Father Lamormaini, upon reading the report, sighed. Whoever it may be that you marry. Thank goodness, Maria Anna was to be married soon, and to Germany’s most reliable supporter of the Catholic cause. That was a relief. He could stop worrying about her. She would be someone else’s responsibility. Now to think about Cecelia Renata’s marriage. To the right man.