1635: The Wars For The Rhine – Snippet 14

Chapter 6


July, 1634

Some weeks after midsummer Father Johannes was enjoying the clear summer morning on his way back from Beauville’s store. The river was sparkling beneath the green curtains of the weeping willows, and the white and yellow larkspurs dotted the grey stone walls and piers. The war seemed so far away and such a long time ago.

Father Johannes sat down on a stone plinth and threw a pebble into the still water of the shallows to watch the rings spread. His work here in Cologne was nearly finished. The entire town area belonging to the Hatzfeldts had been cleared of unwanted structures, and the new stables and outbuildings were planned. Building those didn’t need Father Johannes’ skills, and all that remained to do in the main house was installing the new furniture and textiles Trinket had ordered from France. It had been a disappointment that there had been nothing in the Würzburg papers about Paul — the ladies had moved on to the Fulda archives a week ago — but at least the fact that no one seemed know where Paul was, also made it unlikely that he was still in the hands of the Inquisition.

He would miss the ladies and Melchior. Melchior had never gone into details about the personal part of his reasons for leaving Vienna, but he had gathered what information he needed to make his report to the Emperor about the military situation, and had left Cologne a few weeks ago.

Before leaving, Melchior had a major quarrel with Franz, when Melchior once again flat-out refused to bring his regiments to Cologne, and use them on behalf of his brother — and Archbishop Ferdinand — to regain first Bishop’s Alley and later as much of Franconia and other USE areas as possible. Afterwards Franz had managed to quarrel with nearly everybody, and by the time he went with the archbishop back to Bonn, he really wasn’t on speaking term with anybody in the family.

On the positive side there wasn’t much chance that the archbishop’s plans still involved Father Johannes in any way. That Maxie had grown up as the oldest of sixteen siblings — and was definitely in the habit of making decisions — apparently more than compensated for her being ten years younger and nominally the archbishop’s subordinate. Darling Maxie. Father Johannes threw in another pebble.

Maxie had used all her powers of persuasion to get Archbishop Ferdinand to back down from whatever it was he had planned, but had been unable to make her cousin listen. Instead she had written letters to their family in Bavaria, and as Melchior was going to Vienna by way of Munich, he had offered to personally deliver the one to Duke Maximilian. Hopefully the duke would see the folly of stirring up trouble in an area already so unsettled, and call the archbishop to order.

Instead they’d had a letter from Melchior yesterday, delivered to Lucie directly from the hands of one of the two the lieutenants, who had accompanied Melchior to Cologne. Apparently Bavaria was in complete chaos following the flight of Duke Maximilian’s Habsburger fiancée, and no one with enough authority was willing or able to come to Cologne. Melchior had met Duke Maximilian in Landhut, and more that indicated in his letter that the Bavarian elector was even more unbalanced than the archbishop. Melchior’s letter had also confirmed the rumors that the third brother, Albrecht, was now fleeing from his brother with a price on his head. And that Duke Maximilian had almost certainly been involved in the death of Albrecht’s wife and one or more of their children.

Melchior also wrote that he had changed his mind, and now hoped to be able to bring some of his men to Cologne. The main part of his army could remain in Linz under command of his cousin and second in command Colonel Wolf von Wildenburg-Hatzfeldt, but in Vienna Melchior now intended to ask for permission to bring his dragoons westwards. He did not intend to place them at Archbishop Ferdinand’s disposal, but wanted to take control of the Cologne area himself before it went completely up in flame, and could be had by anybody coming along to pick it up. The ties between Bavaria and the archdiocese of Cologne had always been strong, and with chaos in Bavaria, Cologne was fast becoming totally isolated. Duke Wolfgang of Jülich-Berg had not been regarded as a particularly safe neighbor lately, but the death of both him and his heir, followed by the disappearance of his pregnant wife, had left Jülich and Berg without much in the way of leadership, and Essen, Hessen, and the Low Countries were all showing interest in the situation. In Melchior’s opinion the main reason conquering armies were not already pouring in from all side, was simply that they didn’t want to risk ending up fighting each other. What a mess! And Melchior’s brother was caught right in the middle unless Franz could be persuaded to break with the archbishop.

Father Johannes had passed on a report of the latest news this morning, and it should reach Don Francisco within a week. Perhaps that clever young man could figure out the archbishop’s plan. Of course doing something about it in time would be another problem. Father Johannes suspected that some kind of radio was available to Moses Abrabanel, but people still had to travel from place to place, and news had spread about a peasant rebellion around Würzburg, which might slow down travel on the Rhine if it spread.

Still, all Father Johannes could really do today was to try convince Trinket that Hermann, her rather ascetic new husband, would not be pleasantly surprised by her cleverness if he came back from buying a steam engine in Essen, and found that her newly furnished pink and gold parlor, had been completely — and even more opulently — re-fitted in the new fashionable pale lilac. The combination of gold, pale lilac and Trinket really was enough to make a strong man cry.

Some ducks were swimming closer to see if the disturbance of their waters were something eatable, and Father Johannes rose to continue back to Hatzfeldt House.

* * *

When Father Johannes entered the hall one of Lucie’s children sat waiting for him on the stairs. According to Maxie, Lucie’s husband had been a cheerful man with very dark in skin and hair due to some Moorish blood on his mother’s side, while his long time mistress had been a very temperamental red-haired Scot with absolutely no interest in her children. This had resulted in a series of copper-curled, cheerful and independent children as alike as peas in a pod. Lucie could tell them apart, but everybody else had taken to follow Father Johannes’ lead and simply address them all — boys and girls — as Peter. Lucie had been a bit doubtful about this — and Father Johannes’ explanation: that they were obviously all Wild Boys at heart — had not been accepted until Father Johannes had started telling American stories about Peter Pan and the Wild Boys in the muniment room. As those stories spread via the children on page-duty, even Lucie had given in to the pressure and started calling them Peter.

“Father Johannes,” said the fairly-big-but-probably-not-oldest Peter, “Lady Lucie requests your company in the muniment room.” The formal words and bow were somewhat spoiled by a big grin and an attempt to pull Father Johannes along by his hand.

In the muniment room Lucie sat looking like a cat in a cream pot. “Come take a look at this, Father Johannes,” she said while pushing a ledger across the table towards him. “Entry four and five plus the upper half on the next page.”

Father Johannes sat down and looked. “The Church of Saint Severi. A stone grinder, oil and minerals.”

“Isn’t that exactly the kind of grinder you mentioned using to grind your paints, Father Johannes? And I’m sure these are minerals that you have mentioned buying from Beauville.”

“Oh yes, these are for paints, probably for Al Fresco murals. Where is Saint Severi and what’s said about wages for the painter?”

“That’s just it, Father Johannes,” Lucie’s smile got even brighter, “there are no wages. About four years ago Saint Severi started buying paint for decorating, but no payment for using what was bought, and no mention of by whom. I haven’t yet found the yearly reports from the church to the Abbey, just the accounts. It could be an old monk or somebody just doing it for free, but it had continued for two years when the monks fled from the Protestant army, so the painter must have been good. And look at the date of the first entry; it’s six weeks after your friend disappeared near Aschaffenburg. And Saint Severi is in Fulda; some seventy miles north from Aschaffenburg.”

“Fulda! Again! That town has come back like a bad coin all spring.”

“Perhaps somebody was trying to tell you something, Father Johannes.” Lucie was now laughing out loud. “Do go there and see what you can find.” Lucie turned somber. “Peter, go tell Maxie and Cook that I want lunch in the blue room today, on a trestle table in the sun.”

“Yes, Lady, but Sobby is going to protest sitting in sunshine.”

“Lady Sophia to you young man! And she can eat in the Grand Salon as usual if she want to, but find her and ask.”

When the door closed behind the child, Lucie reached across the table to caress Father Johannes’ cheek. “I’ll miss you, Father Johannes. More than I had planned to. Will you be coming back?”