1634: THE BAVARIAN CRISIS – snippet 52:



            Mary Simpson had been right. The epidemic was almost over, at least the part of it on which she had been working. There had been no new infections yesterday or today. There were still people sick in the hospital, of course, and numerous convalescents.


            So, she said, she was going up to Grafenwöhr herself to see what was going on. At the very least, she could keep Veronica company and then make sure that she didn’t walk back to Amberg alone. This was, Duke Ernst thought, basically a good idea. Naturally, she should not go alone.


            “I wouldn’t,” Mary assured him, “even dream of it.”


            “Take Böcler. I will give him a letter of authorization, under my own signature, to investigate whatever is going on. A personal representative of the regent. Otherwise, talk to Hand. He’ll find you someone else.”


            He turned and told Böcler to draft the letter.


            Mary thanked him and went looking for Hand. Who, in turn, was talking to the Cavrianis.


            Marc Cavriani knew perfectly well that he should stay in Amberg. Herr Pilcher had returned to the inn; the epidemic was tapering off; the negotiations were resuming. But at the thought of getting to go on a trip to Grafenwöhr with Mrs. Simpson and Böcler, he started to look wistful. Marc did “wistful” very well. He had, ever since he was three or four years old. Which his father knew perfectly well, but still found it hard to resist. So Marc didn’t have to progress to “wheedle.” Leopold actually suggested that his son be included. Marc went off to talk to Böcler about it.


            Unlike a lot of people, Marc did not find Böcler boring. They were on first-name terms by now. Or second-name terms, or nickname terms, to be precise, since Böcler was named Johann Heinrich. Marc called him Heinz. Or, if he deliberately wanted to be annoying, when Böcler was being just a tad too meticulous, Heinzerl. It really annoyed a Franconian to have someone stick a Bavarian diminutive on the end of his name.


            Who else? Well, Rastetter, of course. And his clerk. And Elias Brechbuhl. Anyone else? No, that was enough.


            Hand didn’t see any reason why they shouldn’t go ahead and leave tomorrow morning. He thought that he would come himself, as soon as he worked through some of the things on his desk. Let him know if they actually found anything behind this—send a messenger and get a company of Grenzjaeger in return. It would be that simple.




            It was a little awkward that Veronica was staying with family. She apologized that the Hanf house really was not large enough to receive six more guests. Nor could she, really, extend hospitality in someone else’s home, even if it was.


            Mary said that was fine. They would take rooms at the inn. Could Veronica recommend the best one in town?


            The best was not by any means first class. Except, perhaps, from the perspective of the fleas.


            Veronica joined them for supper. The inn’s food was not gourmet. That was why she brought a basket with her in a laudable effort to ward off the danger that her friends might come down with food poisoning. The residents of the town were well-acquainted with the facilities available at their local inns. She recommended that they buy food at the market and live on sandwiches and fruit. Bread for breakfast at the inn should be all right; however, the butter was often found to be rancid.


            All in all, the five down-time men concluded, Grafenwöhr offered fairly typical small-town lodgings for travelers—nothing comparable to the well-appointed establishments in cities such as Amberg and Nürnberg.


            Two men watched them from a corner table at the back of the little dining room. One of them stayed.


            The other went out after he had eaten, to see Kilian Richter, who was not happy to have Johann Rothwild show up at his house. If someone saw the two of them together, it might trigger memories about just who Rothwild was and why he wasn’t supposed to be in Grafenwöhr. That would completely ruin his usefulness from his Uncle Kilian’s point of view. Since he was already here, however… He called Hermann in to his Stube as well and began to explain his views on the best way to eliminate the nuisance that his sister-in-law Veronica had made of herself by coming to town.


            By the time Kilian had finished talking to them, it was well after dark, which meant that the city gates were closed. Rothwild had to spend the night in town. Since he had told his companion to wait for him at the inn, that man had to stay the night in town, also. He begrudged the money for a straw mattress on the floor of the inn’s common sleeping room, even if it would be covered by the expense money Rothwild had gotten from someone. “Blame it on the old lady,” Rothwild said. “The guy holding the purse says that she’s been making a nuisance of herself for quite a while.”




            In the morning, Rastetter and his clerk, Brechbuhl, and Böcler headed for city hall to talk to the town officials. And, just in passing, while they were there anyway, to the town clerk. Marc went to talk to a shipping company about the sources of the iron ore they sent out.


            The basket that Veronica had taken to the inn the night before had given her an idea during supper. She had decided to show Mary some of the places where she and her brothers and sisters had played when they were children. She wouldn’t bother with a basket, though; a basket would be stiff and awkward to carry around all day. She stuffed their lunch into her trustworthy tote bag and they headed out into the country.


            Veronica had her walking stick. Mary declined her offer to stop by the Hanf house on their way out of town and borrow another one. She was mildly embarrassed by her own refusal but, well, she had always prided herself on staying in shape. At her age, canes would become a fact of life soon enough; no sense in hurrying the inevitable.




            Johannes Rothwild, his associate, and Hermann Richter followed the two women out the gate. Rothwild was rather looking forward to the day. He liked being paid to follow his natural inclinations.




            Forst and Becker were long out of the gate. Arndt might be dead, but they still hadn’t used up all the expense money he had advanced them. Even without Arndt, they could get the information to Landgrave Wilhelm Georg. When they got back to Amberg, they would just drop it in the mail.


            It wasn’t a problem that Bavaria was “enemy territory.” The mail went out from the Upper Palatinate to Bavaria just as easily as the Jesuits in Amberg received communications from those in Munich. A person rather had to admire the House of Thurn und Taxis. Wars might come and wars might go, but the imperial postal system kept right on going. “Public, Regular, Reliable, and Rapid,”as its advertising broadsheets read. Now that the USE had its own postal system, the bags just changed hands at the borders. The USE was, after all, using the same routes and methods, not to mention a lot of the same personnel. The Thurn und Taxis postmaster in Frankfurt am Main, feeling that he had been ill-treated by the Habsburgs because he was a Protestant, had defected to Gustav Adolf and was still running the postal system.


            But there had also been Arndt’s job for Troeschler. Which had led them to some rather interesting information about graft, corruption, and kickbacks in the timber business. Arndt might be dead, but Troeschler would pay. They had both been boatmen in their younger days, which wasn’t unusual. They had hired on with Bastl’s barge-yard, representing themselves as casual laborers on their return from a seasonal job, happy to work for a few days and then punt a barge down the river in order to make some money on their way back home.