1634: THE BAVARIAN CRISIS – snippet 66:



Chapter 36


Audacter Calumniare





            Marc Cavriani was seriously disillusioned by his first introduction to serious intelligence gathering. It seemed a bit deflating that instead of indulging in elaborate skullduggery, intrigue, and derring-do, they could have found out where Frau Simpson and Frau Dreeson were just by staying right here and reading this week’s newspaper when it was delivered from Nürnberg.


            His father just smiled. “I will point out that by being in Neuburg, we had at least gotten the news two days before the paper came out, since the observer sent to Freising by Egli had gone to the expense of a special messenger. This allowed me to send another courier across the Danube to Duke Ernst. It also allows us two additional days of time to use for planning the best way to utilize the resources of Cavriani Frères de Genève in arranging a rescue.”


            The word “rescue” perked Marc right up. Leopold’s smile broadened, almost became a grin. He could still remember the vigorous approach of youth to these things; even if, at his current age, he was firmly determined that the operative verb would not be “to rescue” but “to arrange.”


            Beyond that, Leopold said—life was frequently like that and the firm’s other lines of work only rarely involved more gallantry and romance than did counting spools of drawn wire for Jacob Durre in Nürnberg or estimating the cost of pumps for hammer mill operations in the Upper Palatinate. Marc should not in any way expect occasions for gallantry and romance to arise in the course of his duties.



Amberg, the Upper Palatinate


            Julius Wilhelm Zincgref contemplated his latest assignment with some disbelief. Not that he hadn’t expected Duke Ernst to order some propaganda about villains who kidnap intrepid ladies. He was, after all, the regent’s paid publicity agent and public relations “spin doctor.” He loved that up-time description. He just hadn’t quite expected the items that he would need to include to be so complex.


            There was, for example, the question of just whom to use for the villain. There were quite a few possibilities, none of them really good. Von Wenzin, the bailiff in Grafenwöhr, had continued tracking down the evidence of Kilian Richter’s various activities over the past fourteen years with the tenacity of a little bulldog. Once that man got his teeth into something, he just didn’t let go. A report arrived at Duke Ernst’s office every morning. Böcler duly copied them and sent them on to Zincgref. Elias Brechbuhl, who figured that even with Veronica out of the picture, his children and sisters-in-law still had valid claims, kept working on Richter’s various endeavors in the field of property misappropriation and sending the reports to Hieronymus Rastetter, who also provided them to the regent. Eric Haakansson Hand had people examining Richter’s ties to Arndt and the crooked trail of Arndt’s legal practice.


            Brechbuhl also reported that according to his sister-in-law Clara’s husband, Nicholas Moser and Dorothea Richter had appeared in Nürnberg. The two idiots (that was Matthias Schreiner’s description, not Brechbuhl’s) were eloping and had appealed to Dorothea’s relatives there for a loan of money to travel the rest of the way to Grantville.  Young lovers fleeing from a dastardly father; always an appealing motif. Fleeing the possibility that the girl might be Immured in a Convent by her villainous father; even better as Protestant propaganda.


            Zincgref sighed. All of this still did not make Kilian Richter into a usable political villain.


            Oh, he could have made him into a wonderful villain if he had been writing about the Richter family. He might yet, some day; he wasn’t sure. A neo-Latin epic? A tragic play on the model of the ancients, with the protagonist finally destroyed by his own hubris? Possible, very possible. Except, of course, that Böcler said that his friend Harsdörffer in Munich was already beginning a neo-Latin epic on the subject of the abduction. That left a play. Oh, well. Not as prestigious in the literary world, but probably more profitable in the long run. Perhaps a Latin original text with translations made available for popular productions.


            Unfortunately, if one were not writing a play, the truth appeared to be that Richter was just a greedy man. He had not collaborated with the Bavarians, as far as anyone could find out, for any motive more complicated than his desire to collect all of his father’s properties in his own hands and then accumulate more wealth. He certainly had not collaborated with the Bavarians because he was politically opposed to the United States of Europe or to the up-timers, because neither had existed when he began his evil deeds.


            And, above all, there was no motive, anywhere in all of it, for Richter to have included Mary Simpson in his devious machinations. For a good, rousing, denunciation, it was really not feasible to end with the sentence, “And by the way, the villains accidentally attacked Admiral Simpson’s wife as well.”


            Not to mention that Duke Ernst and Hand said that the real lurking political villain whom Zincgref was to denounce was John George of Saxony, who was a Protestant and had no known connections to Kilian Richter at all.


            Arrrgh. He had a very short draft.


            Three days later, his mood brightened minimally. The regent and Hand had changed their minds as to the proper villain. He was to go through the draft of his pamphlet and change the name of John George, wherever it appeared, to Duke Maximilian. That made a little more sense. Kilian Richter as the tool of the venomous Bavarian. Zincgref started to write a longer pamphlet.


            Eric Haakansson Hand kept gathering every morsel of information he could find on the attorney Arndt. There was quite a bit in it concerning his activities on behalf of the landgrave of Leuchtenberg.


            In Grafenwöhr, von Wenzin followed up Wilhelm Bastl’s passing comment and tied the two bargemen to families in Pfreimd. They were Leuchtenberger, both of them. The bailiff in Pfreimd sent information about the family of the one named Forst. It was large, he said. Moreover, one of the men who were of interest to the regent had a cousin who was working in Amberg, right in the Schloss. They might well wish to question her.


            Except that, upon investigation, she had died in the epidemic. Hand closed the file.


            Böcler, to provide raw material for his friend Harsdörffer’s projected epic, sat down and read through everything in order. He saw the name of the cousin. Riffled through the accounts. Identified her with the chambermaid who had been assigned to clean the rooms of Mrs. Simpson and Mrs. Dreeson. Ha!


            He dashed down the corridor, just in time to prevent Zincgref’s eloquent but mistaken blast against Duke Maximilian from being taken to the printer. The day after that, the radio and newspaper reports in regard to the bargemen, the Landgravine Mechthilde, and the dumping of Mrs. Simpson and Mrs. Dreeson into her presence in Freising started to arrive.


            Zincgref was rather relieved by these reports, since he had already spent several hours going through his manuscript substituting Leuchtenberg for Maximilian in all the appropriate places, and pointing out wherever possible, because he didn’t want to waste the excellent diatribes against the duke of Bavaria that he had already written, that the landgrave was a client of Maximilian living in exile in Bavaria.


            Eric Haakansson Hand, in a few spare minutes, read through the draft, grabbed a few intelligence reports, and pointed out that the landgrave had not been mentally or physically capable of villainy for quite some time. With a sigh, Zincgref, noting that the landgrave’s sister was married to the villainous Maximilian’s brother, went through the manuscript once more, substituting Mechthilde’s name for that of her brother.


            In that form, the propaganda pamphlet finally went out, a full week past the deadline that Duke Ernst had originally set him. Zincgref’s final hypothesis that Mechthilde and Albrecht were, as the employers of the two bargemen, the immediate villains in the kidnapping and that they had been acting upon the instigation of Duke Maximilian, the malignant general of the Catholic League, would remain unkillable ever more because it was now in print. Certainly, this version of the events suited Gustav Adolf and Oxenstierna splendidly.


            As Oxenstierna would later remark to Mike Stearns, only a tie to Ferdinand II or Richelieu would have been better, but a person couldn’t have everything.


            They saw to the pamphlet’s wide circulation; the emperor sent Zincgref a generous bonus. Very generous.


            None of the Bavarian controversialists who flocked to their duke’s defense in the next few weeks were able to prove otherwise. Arndt was dead; the chambermaid was dead; Kilian Richter honestly did not know. Forst and Becker both did not know the truth in the first place and had subsequently so deluded themselves that their multiple depositions, given in perfectly good faith, were utterly misleading.




            Future historians would discover that Mechthilde and Albrecht’s surviving papers contemporary with the events contained no indication of such activity. Depending upon the viewpoint of the author, this only meant, as the debate went on, that they were innocent (a position mainly taken only by irredentist Leuchtenberger loyalists, who defended the former ruling family to the end); that Albrecht and Mechthilde destroyed the papers, or that Duke Maximilian’s intelligence agents destroyed the papers to hide evidence of some even more diabolical machinations that they contained.


            Some decades later, a radical young revisionist suggested the possibility that the whole kidnapping was an accident, a comedy of errors. Because he was so rash as to publish this conclusion without sufficient primary sources to support it, he failed to obtain tenure and was laughed out of academia.