1635: The Wars For The Rhine – Snippet 05

“The record for Gruyard’s expenses included a very large fee to van Beekx, and your cousin signed personally for full payment. Paul later managed to escape somehow and disappear.” Father Johannes looked up on the picture too. “I didn’t do or say anything at the time. Closed my eyes and told myself I could do nothing. None is so blind as him who will not see.” He looked back at Sister Maximiliane. “My stay with the Americans taught me that there is so much — even in the mortal world — that I’ll never understand. That all a man can do is to put his faith in God, and try to do what is right. I want to find my friend and help him if I can. Bishop Franz might be planning to double-cross your cousin. Or they may be up to something together. I don’t particularly care. The Madonna on your wall is painted by Paul, the greenish blue of the sky is a shade Paul was developing when I last met him, and the motive is Catholic. It is recent, but it is not something a Calvinist like Paul would ever willingly have painted.”

“It was a gift from my cousin.” Sister Maximiliane sighed. “Ferdinand was very ill last winter. With stomach pain and vomiting blood. Gruyard tried to convince him it was poison. My life in Münich had soured on me, so I came to nurse my cousin, and a diet of very bland food solved the problem. I had admired the picture and he gave it to me as thanks, but …” Sister Maximiliane stopped and frowned at Father Johannes. “The picture was hanging in my cousin’s bedroom in Bonn — so that he could see it from the bed. At night when the pain was especially bad, he told me to take it down and remove it from the room. Shouted at me when I wanted to wait for the morning. I took it down myself, and when he was well, he told me to keep it. I fear your story is true, Father Johannes.” She looked up at the painting again. “You need not fear I’ll tell anyone of this, but please let me think now. We’ll talk tomorrow.”

* * *

The next morning Sister Maximiliane came into Father Johannes’ major workroom with the painting of the Heavenly Madonna in her hands. The room would eventually become the biggest parlor in the house, but on this bright spring morning it was filled with craftsmen and work-tables loaded with paint and fabrics.

“Good Morning, Father Johannes. Could you find the time to examine this picture for me? I wonder if the wood is beginning to crack. Just store it until you can find the time.”

“Good Morning, Sister Maximiliane, I promise mine shall be the only hands to touch it.” Father Johannes bowed and took the picture.

“Thank you. Just take your time. I think I’ll find something else for my bedroom, as I find I no longer like it as much.” Sister Maximiliane nodded her thanks; she looked tired, but no emotions showed in her stern face. “Bishop Franz is expected to arrive from Bonn any day now. I would like to examine his rooms.”

“Certainly, Sister Maximiliane, the bishop’s bedroom and study were finished as the very first rooms. Only the new carpets have not yet arrived.”

In the study Sister Maximiliane sat down behind the carved oak table and looked at Father Johannes. “When Franz arrives I’ll find out if he knows anything about what happened to Paul Moreau. I’ll also write to Cousin Ferdinand in Bonn for any information he has about the painting and the painter. I’ll pretend I worry about the wood it’s painted on being faulty. There’s no reason for him not to help me. But just what did the interrogation protocol tell about your friend? Any indication he was hurt enough to die?”

“No, and I found some private correspondence as well. I didn’t realize it at the time, but Gruyard must have kept — probably stolen — letters. Letters with potential for blackmail.” Father Johannes moved restlessly around the room. “Paul survived for at least four months after the interrogation. Archbishop Ferdinand had ordered him moved to Bavaria. Paul was to travel up the Rhine and then over land with a troop of mercenaries going to Würzburg. From there Bishop Franz would arrange the rest of the transportation. But the troop of mercenaries was scattered by a Protestant attack near Aschaffenburg, and when they reached Würzburg their leader, Captain Eltz, claimed that Paul was nowhere to be found after the attack. Paul might have managed to escape, but Eltz is a distant cousin of the Hatzfeldts, and used to serve in the army under Bishop Franz’s brother, General Melchior von Hatzfeldt. Eltz had been hired by Bishop Franz to strengthen the defenses at Würzburg against the approaching Swedes. I don’t think your cousin — or Gruyard — know where Paul is, but I think Bishop Franz might know something.”

“Franz´s archives are here in Cologne. Both his personal files and what he managed to save from Würzburg. They are stored in the muniment room together with the archives from Fulda.”

“Huh! I’ve seen the sealed crates, but why are Fulda’s archives here?”

“The Fulda monks, who brought the archives — and the abbey’s treasure — with them when they fled here from the Swedes, find that they cannot agree on what to do with them. Prince-Abbot Schweinsberg of Fulda has made a deal with the Americans, and while my cousin might not have the power to excommunicate Schweinsberg, he is not obliged to help him either. Cousin Ferdinand has always disliked Schweinsberg, it’s an old quarrel, so …” Sister Maximiliane shrugged and smiled wryly at Father Johannes. “The monks have kept the treasure among themselves, but most of them are noble-born and probably think archives are for clerks. Franz’s sister, Lucie, has just become a widow and is coming here to stay. Like me, she is very good at administration, and I think I’ll suggest that she and I sort all those Würzburg and Fulda crates this summer. We are very good friends and while she would not betray her brother’s trust, she’d certainly be willing to help me by noting anything in connection with your friend Paul.”

“Lady, I’ll be forever in your debt.”

“I want my Madonna back on my wall, Father Johannes, but I find I cannot enjoy it now. Perhaps I’ll be able to do so again, when your friend has been found.”

“If not, I swear I’ll paint you another, Sister Maximiliane, to the very best of my abilities.”

“Thank you. I might want to accept that. And please call me Maxie. ”

* * *

A very talented painter, as well as a Jesuit priest, Father Johannes Grunwald had come to Grantville while fleeing from the inquisition after the atrocities at Magdeburg had made him rebel against his superior’s “Holy War” campaign. He had settled down among the Americans as a teacher and painter, while waiting to see what his church would do about one of their most important propaganda painters thus running off — and while making some adjustments in his own faith and beliefs.

His faith and trust in his God had been the first to heal, and the quiet stability of Father Mazzare had shown him that it was perfectly possible for a Catholic priest to be both a human with mundane interests and joys, and yet still be deeply religious and virtuous. However, in one area Father Johannes had not been able to take Father Mazzare for a role-model: Father Johannes’ abilities as a painter made him an important tool — and weapon — for the princes striving for power — both inside and outside the church. Of course, as a Jesuit priest, obedience to his superior should have been of primary importance to him, and he should just be doing what they told him to, but Magdeburg had taught him never, ever to place his talent under the control of anybody else.