This novel should be starting to appear in the bookstores, so this will be the last snippet. Eric



1634: THE BAVARIAN CRISIS – snippet 70:



            The hearing occurred. Maria Anna, on the principle of “begin as you mean to go on,” participated fully in the discussions. Since formal hearings were open to the public, reporters were present. They took notes. And, the instant the hearing closed, headed for the post office, scribbling as they went. As did clerks from the various embassies.


            The women were who they said they were.


            More than enough members of the various foreign missions in Munich had seen Mrs. Simpson in Magdeburg to verify that; some had even been introduced to her at receptions and other official functions. Far fewer had previously seen Mrs. Dreeson.


            Duke Maximilian, however, deemed the number of witnesses to her identity to be sufficient, particularly since one of those witnesses, who did not, however, appear on the stand, was his most important spy in Amberg. His spy had provided him with an extensive written narrative of what Duke Ernst’s council appeared to know about the two women’s disappearance, which was disappointingly little. None of the data that the regent had obtained in the Upper Palatinate itself appeared to clearly, much less conclusively, link their disappearance to Leuchtenberg. Indeed, the primary speculation there was that the kidnapping had been arranged by Duke Maximilian himself to obtain the women as hostages.


            Maximilian pursed his lips. Dimwits.


            The Amberg council, the spy said, appeared to be more confused than anything else by the accounts involving Leuchtenberg that had appeared in the newspapers. Maximilian found that disappointing. Since his own people were confused, he had hoped for clarification from the other party’s intelligence.


            There was insufficient evidence to bring an indictment for witchcraft.


            In fact, Duke Maximilian noted, there was no evidence whatsoever to bring an indictment for witchcraft other than the completely unsubstantiated accusations made by the two bargemen, Forst and Becker. Upon repeated close questioning in Freising, it appeared from their subsequent statements that they had no evidence either; they had simply made an unsubstantiated assumption. No one could list any supposed maleficia committed by either of the women.


            Moreover, Frau Simpson, when asked if she had ever worshiped the devil, had replied, “You’ve got to be kidding.”




            There was also no reasonable explanation for their arrival in Bavaria.


            Therefore, they would remain in detention pending further investigation. Dekan Golla suggested interning them in the convent of the Poor Clares. Archduchess Maria Anna of Austria suggested interning them with the English Ladies as an alternative. Golla glared at her.


            Duke Maximilian took the alternatives under advisement. Pending a decision, the foreign women would remain in the official custody of the archduchess, thus satisfying the jurisdictional concerns of the prince-bishop of Freising, but would reside with the English Ladies. According to the formal minutes of the hearing, the duke determined that this was the most convenient solution in the short term, given that the Ladies had dismissed their pupils in honor of the wedding festivities and their house, therefore, would provide a peaceful retreat for Bavaria’s unexpected guests, offering them a period of recollection and recovery.


            Dr. Donnersberger was rather proud of that last sentence. He had drafted it himself.





            Father Lamormaini read the despatches from Munich. He read the newspapers.


            Marry her off to the right man, and soon.


            He had tried. “Man proposes; God disposes.” Duke Maximilian had his full sympathy.



Brussels, the Spanish Netherlands


            “Fascinating,” commented Don Fernando, as he laid down the report. “Don’t you think so, Pieter?”


            Rubens was not sure how to respond. Ruefully, he was reflecting that having a direct radio connection in Amsterdam—the Prince of Orange and Rebecca Abrabanel were being most accommodating, in that regard—was not always a blessing. In times past, it might easily have taken weeks for this news to get from Bavaria to the Netherlands.


            “What I mean is, Maximilian is by all accounts a formidable man,” the prince continued. “He’s sixty-one years old, to boot. And the archduchess defied him? On more or less the eve of their wedding?”


            Rubens cleared his throat. “Well… I’m not sure ‘defied’ isn’t too strong a term, Your Highness.”


            Don Fernando gave him a smile that bordered on a jeer. “Oh, stop trying to maneuver me. You know what I mean! I imagine you think of it as protecting me from youthful enthusiasms, yes?”


            That was, in point of fact, exactly how Rubens perceived the matter.


            The prince looked around the audience chamber. “Where did you hide the portraits, by the way? You know what I mean! Did you really think I wouldn’t notice?”


            Rubens sighed. “I’ll have them brought out, if you insist. But I will point out again that there is simply no purpose—”


            “Yes, yes, I know. Still, I’d like to look at it again.”


            “It,” not “them.” Worse and worse.




            Fifteen minutes later, the portraits of the two Austrian archduchesses were back in the audience chamber, propped up on armchairs.


            Don Fernando did not so much as glance at the portrait of Cecelia Renata. But he spent some considerable studying the portrait of the older of the two sisters.


            To be fair, Rubens allowed, the artist who had portrayed Maria Anna had done a superb job. It was quite difficult—he knew from his own experience—to do one of these formal portraits without rendering the subject so solemn and stiff that all personality was leached away.


            The portrait of Cecelia Renata was of that sort. Just a painting, of a pretty young woman in very expensive costume, looking… like a pretty young woman.


            Maria Anna’s portrait, on the other hand, had genuine intensity. The dark eyes looking out possessed obvious intelligence; and there was something subtle about the mouth that suggested a wry wit lurking beneath the slight smile.


            “She’s interesting,” Don Fernando finally pronounced. “I mean, she is. Not her station.”


            Rubens ordered the servants to wrap up the portraits and return them to his chambers.


            “Yes, I suspect you’re right, Your Highness. What I am certain of, however, is that her father is Ferdinand II, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, and her soon-to-be husband is Duke Maximilian of Bavaria. An avalanche can also be described as ‘interesting’—which doesn’t make it any less impossible to stop once it starts moving.”


            “Oh, stop fussing at me, Pieter. Reminds me of my blasted tutors from the years in Madrid. Sour old men. I was just making an observation, that’s all.”



Munich, Bavaria


            Mary Ward would have much preferred to have the two women from Grantville placed with the Poor Clares—or in any other convent in Munich that was not the house of the English Ladies on Paradise Street. Their presence put her in a considerable dilemma in the matter of following the papal instructions to leave Munich.


            They could not use the first idea that Father Rader suggested, that they leave Munich without arousing any suspicion for several days by announcing that they were going on a short pilgrimage to Ettal while the school was closed for the wedding festivities. Ettal as a goal had the advantage of being in Upper Bavaria, about 35 miles south of Munich, not at all in the direction of any border that Bavaria had with the USE.


            But they could not plausibly go on a pilgrimage and leave their unexpected “guests” unattended. Nor, for that matter, could they take them along.


            They could still, of course, leave Munich “surreptitiously” and take their guests along when they left. It didn’t seem likely that Frau Simpson and Frau Dreeson would have any objection to leaving Munich and going to Grantville.


            The problem was that if they left the city without having announced a reasonable pretext, pursuit could be expected to follow much more quickly than under the original plan. Mary Ward was under no delusions. She lived under the shadow of the inquisition. All of her movements were observed.


            Additionally, several important wedding guests who had been scheduled to lodge in the English Ladies’ house during the wedding festivities were now looking for other quarters. Assisted, naturally, by Father Rader.


            At the moment, however, she was informed by the cook that Benno, who delivered produce, was engaged in a bitter dispute with Korbinian, who delivered fish, and who now asserted that the week before, Benno had collected the larger payment that had been owed to the fishmonger and now refused to make restitution of the portion that was not rightfully his. In this vale of sorrows, questions of great policy were frequently punctuated by extremely mundane interruptions. She proceeded to the kitchen, settled the matter, and then stood with her hand on the door jamb, looking out the back door into the alley at the shabby lean-to shed that had been built onto the back of the house on the other side.