1635: THE CANNON LAW – snippet 83:








            "Your Excellency," Ruy said, coming in to Sharon's office and dragging up a chair, in to which he flopped dramatically.


            "It sounds weird when you call me that, Ruy," Sharon said. "I became an ambassador by accident, and it still feels a little unreal."


            "It is a task you undertake well, and I find that remembering the correct title when we are working helps me to be clear as to the task in hand."


            "And the news is?"


            "There are some small changes." Ruy ran a hand through his hair. He'd been out nearly all day and Sharon could guess that getting around Rome on a warm spring day would have been more than a little wearying. "Quevedo has not been seen, or at least the men he had hired to gather his mobs have not been seen, since the night before last. There is much tension. I have heard no less than four rumors that the Pope has summoned his papal regiments in order to suppress dissent in the bloodiest manner imaginable, and two other men I spoke with said they had heard, at fourth or fifth hand, that the papal troops are in a state of mutiny and refusing to muster."


            "Did we get anything that sounds like it might be true?" Sharon asked. Similar rumors had gone around various parts of Germany while she'd been there; they always turned out to be so much wind.


            "I spoke briefly with a constable on customs duty at the Ripetta. His view was that if there was to be a mobilization he would have heard of it, and that he had heard nothing. And that it would take weeks to organize the papal regiments to any kind of action, most of them last having seen action nearly ten years ago in the Valtelline. I think he had the right of it. Also, I learned that this morning's sermons were, by papal command, of the day of prayer and fasting which His Holiness has decreed in the cause of civic peace, to be observed this Friday."


            "Is that going to help?" Sharon had to wonder. The people most likely to riot were pretty poor folks, and asking people who were already a little hungry to go a little hungrier seemed like not much effort.


            "I can do no harm, certainly," Ruy said. "And in truth, the other part of His Holiness' pastoral message was that there were proper means of airing grievances and that petitions would be received and considered on their merits. If the troubles are as entirely manufactured as I think we all suspect, this will be of some assistance. Since the alternative for His Holiness is the use of soldiers to quell disturbances, we may consider it a fairly enlightened approach."


            Sharon nodded. Put that way, it did seem a little more sensible. "I guess getting people to concentrate on their religion and deal with the political stuff in a sensible way might well be the way to go about it." She thought for a moment. "I guess we might be able to do something to help. I'll get Adolf to put a notice up outside saying that the embassy will close that day out of respect for the occasion. As you say, it can't hurt."


            "Just so. I also called upon young Senor Stone, although he was out taking the air when I was there. His most charming wife and her brother were there to tell me that matters seem more restful in that neighborhood, although there has been an ugly mood at some of the funerals. I also had the rumor about the papal regiments coming to slaughter everyone from there, and I am pleased to see that Frank is discounting it and counseling calm in all directions."


            "That's good to hear," Sharon said, deflating a little in relief. Seeing Frank a couple of nights ago starting his career as a rabble-rouser had, once she'd had time to think about it, made her more than a little nervous. "In fact—"


            There was a knock at the door. It was Adolf Kohl, sticking his head around the door in his usual apologetic fashion. "Your Excellency? I beg pardon for disturbing you with Herr Sanchez, but there is a visitor who makes much of his business being most urgent."


            "Who?" Sharon was intrigued. If whoever it was had managed to get past Adolf's protective instincts regarding her schedule, he was pretty persuasive or had some genuinely impressive news to impart.


            "A Jewish saddler, Your Excellency. A somewhat rough fellow, but he has presumed on the name of Don Francisco." There was a tone of distaste a mile wide in Adolf's voice. Not, Sharon suspected, because the man was Jewish, but because he was an artisan.


            "Send him on up," she said, "If he's one of Don Francisco's relations he's probably got something relevant to say."