1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 59
“At least a week, would be my estimate. He’ll want to assemble a large fleet of barges before he comes down the river toward Regensburg.” Heinrich smiled, in that thin and humorless way he had. “No easy task, squeezing barges out of Danube rivermen. They’ll hide them in places you’d never think of — burn them, sometimes, rather than give them up.”
“That should give you –”
“I’ll have the division in Regensburg long before then. We’ll hold the city, Mr. President, never fear. How long it will take to recover Ingolstadt, on the other handâ€¦” He shrugged again. “I would say that mainly depends on how the political situation here in the USE resolves itself.”
“Yes, you’re right. If all goes well –”
“The emperor recovers, Oxenstierna hangs, Wettin hangs — ask me if I care the swine got himself arrested — every other stinking traitor in Berlin hangs, we catch the traitors who sold out Ingolstadt — disembowel those bastards, hanging’s too good for them — proper order is restored, the Prince of Germany is back in power where he belongs, and Maximilian is food for stray mongrels in the streets of Munich.”
Ed stared at him. Heinrich could beâ€¦harsh.
“That seems perhaps a bit –”
“Yes, you’re right. Munich’s street curs are innocent parties to the business. Unfair to poison them with such foul meat. We’ll feed the duke to his pigs instead.”
After the general left, Ed dilly-dallied for a few minutes before finally accepting the need to take care of the business he most desperately did not want to take care of.
He’d have to write messages to be radioed to John Chandler Simpson in Luebeck and Mike Stearns in Bohemia. Telling the admiral that his son had vanished into the chaos of war and telling the general that his sister had done the same. Rita Simpson, nÃ©e Stearns, had been living in Ingolstadt with her husband Tom. God only knew what had happened to her when the Bavarians came pouring in.
Worst of all, he’d have to tell Mary Simpson, Tom’s mother. And this would be no brief, antiseptic radio message. As luck would have it, she was in Bamberg at the moment, raising money for one of her many charities or cultural projects.
The Dame of Magdeburg, they called her. But before the day’s end, she’d just be one of many anguished mothers.
There was something to be said for Heinrich Schmidt’s simple remedies, all things considered. A Swedish chancellor throttled, a Bavarian duke munched on by hogs.
Ed could live with that. It’d still be nice to complete more than every fourth sentence, though.
Princess Kristina was reading the newspaper in Ulrik’s hands by leaning over his shoulder. Most likely, because she found it comforting to rest her hands on his shoulders. It certainly wasn’t because they could only afford one copy of the Hamburg Morgenpost. The money sent by King Christian had arrived the day before. Here as elsewhere, Ulrik’s father had been profligate. If he wanted to — and he was tempted sometimes — the prince could now afford to launch his own newspaper.
The temptation wasn’t as great at the moment, though, as it would have been at most times. Luebeck’s own newspaper was wretched, but the city got quite regular delivery of Hamburg’s largest newspaper. Allowing for its Fourth of July Party bias, the Morgenpost was quite good; one of the three or four best in central Europe, in Ulrik’s opinion. It came out regularly and reliably twice a week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and in time of rapid developments of great public interest — such as right now — they strove to come out daily.
“Should we go right now, Ulrik?” the princess asked anxiously. “They’ve even arrested the prime minister!”
Yes, and what madness possessed Oxenstierna to do that? Ulrik had pondered that question from every angle, and from none of them did the deed look any more intelligent. He’d finally concluded that Baldur’s initial assessment had been correct.
“Wettin found out something — something really damaging — and Oxenstierna had to shut him up.”
At the time, Ulrik had dismissed the notion as being tooâ€¦Baldurian. Norddahlish? The Norwegian adventurer was fond of imagining dark and fiendish conspiracies in every corner.
In Ulrik’s experience, that gave far too much credit to human ingenuity. Conspiracies existed, to be sure; many of them, and many were dark indeed. But fiendish? Fiendishness required brains. Nine times out of ten, conspirators behaved like buffoons and wound up exposing themselves out of sheer, bumbling incompetence.
He shook his head. “Not yet, Kristina. The more important thing isn’t the news coming out of Berlin, it’s the news coming out of Magdeburg.”
She frowned. “But there isn’t much news coming out of Magdeburg.”
“Yes, precisely. That means someone is keeping things quiet and orderly in that city — much against my expectations, I can tell you that. By now, I’d expected accounts of rioting mobs. Well, mobs, anyway.”
Baldur was sitting at a table in the corner of the salon. “At least a hanging or two!” he exclaimed, looking quite aggrieved. “Surely some nobleman was too stupid or too drunk to get out of the city before Oxenstierna blew everything up. Butâ€¦nothing. The place seems as boring as a chur — ahâ€¦ahâ€¦”
Ulrik tried not to laugh, as the Norwegian groped for something — anything — that he found as boring as a church. And could come up with nothing. From the little smile on her face, Kristina was equally amused. Baldur Norddahl was to pastors what oil was to water, except that oil was not sarcastic.
Kristina’s expression became very intent. “Oh! I see what you mean. It’s like the detective says in one of those stories you lent me. The clever up-time English ones.”
Ulrik made the connection almost immediately. “Yes, you’re right. The curious incident of the dog in the night who did nothing — and that was what was curious.”
He set down the paper. “No, I think our initial plan is still the right one. Wait for a while, and let things develop further.” Another up-time expression came to him. “Give Oxenstierna some more rope with which to hang himself.”