This book should be available now, so this is the last snippet.
1637 No Peace Beyond The Line – Snippet 46
Leonora forced herself to become calm. “Sophie, you did not act to deprive Laurids of his life. And whatever you may have felt about your marriage, I do not believe you wished him dead, did you?”
Sophie shook her head mutely.
“And you only learned of the three other children afterward, so they could not even have been a part of your initial reaction to his death.”
Sophie looked up. “What point are you driving toward, Leonora?”
The young woman considered. “You have read much of the up-timer literature?”
“As much as I can, but it was mostly histories, since that is what fascinated Laurids. Ironically, the copies he commissioned arrived two years after he died.”
“How much of the up-time ‘psychology’ have you read?”
“I know the word, and the basic principles, but nothing specific.”
“I see. Well then, when you have the opportunity, you must come to peruse the complete copies that my father has in his library. And once there, you must look up the term ‘survivor guilt.'”
And Sophie asked, as Leonora had hoped: “What is survivor guilt?”
“It means that when, in a group of people, only a few survive, those survivors may feel guilty not to have lost their lives, too. It was often observed when the up-timers’ ships sank or their flying machines crashed. It happens with them much, much more than with us, because so many people of our time are convinced that God chooses, with great purpose, who shall live and who shall die.” And there is a statement that damns me, Sophie: “many people of our time are convinced that God chooses . . .” — but not me. Not anymore. “There is much more to it than that, of course. And, since I am a wall-flower at these dances and parties, I shall have ample time to explain more of it this evening, if you so wish.”
Sophie smiled. “I do so wish. And thank you for not insisting on returning to the matter of my surname.”
Leonora blinked. “To be truthful, I had quite forgotten about it. I take it you were referring, then, to why you are not using the name Ulfeldt?”
“Yes, that is part of it. Although it wasn’t even my own doing.”
“I do not understand.”
“That is because you are not the daughter of my mother. It was she who compelled me to keep my name Rantzau, so that the estates in my father’s name would not be so easily subsumed into the growing treasury of the Ulfeldt family. And also to ensure that my name did not strike the ear of your father with an immediate spark of pain and annoyance.”
Hearing those words, Leonora felt her very own spark of pain. “Well, that is truly said.”
Sophie’s hands flew to her mouth. “Oh, Leonora, I am so sorry. I was too deeply involved in my own regrets. I forgot that you, too –“
“There is nothing to be sorry for. The dissolution of my betrothal to Corfitz Ulfeldt is past and done. Do not trouble yourself with any thoughts of it. I don’t,” Leonora lied.
Sophie’s eyes remained upon her, gentle but steady. “You are a strong young woman, Leonora, and driven by a quiet but firm will that many might miss. I can even imagine it extends to embrace the idea that one finds in so many of the up-time attitudes, and in their later writings: that a woman need not be defined by any man, not even her spouse or father. A fearsome thing for many of this world. Conversely, it is a refreshing, even life-saving, freedom to a few of us. But I wonder –“
Leonora heard that last fragment of a sentence for what it was: a baited hook, which, if inquired after, would catch her on a question she might regret. But as ever, her curiosity was greater than her fear: “What is it that you wonder?”
“Whether any girl, at the age of eleven, has ever been completely indifferent to having a betrothal struck aside by her royal father? And to a powerful man who, I am told, showed as much affection toward you as he ever has toward anyone else.”
Yes, as much as that was. And would have been more properly avuncular, since he is more than twice my age. “It was a disappointment, yes, but even then, I realized that although father’s first thought was to protect himself and the throne, his nullification of our betrothal was a blessing to my future happiness.” She leaned back, vaguely remembered that if she did not triumph over her annoying, mousy brown hair, she could not countenance going to tonight’s party at all. “I remember quite clearly when my father’s first agents returned from Grantville, just before summer, 1633. Corfitz, who had been his favorite courtier, had not only been a traitor to him in the other world, but the documents revealed that he had already commenced pursuing the earliest of those same treacheries in this one. There was no explaining the future events as a sad set of unfortunate circumstances in which some combination of flawed perception and momentary lapses of integrity had led him down a path that history contrived to paint in unflattering hues. No, his flaws of character were revealed to be many and monstrous. Indeed, in retrospect, much of the wit and charm with which he had captivated my father upon his arrival in court had barely masked a scheming mind overwhelmingly shaped by two principles: ruthlessness and ambition.”
“I have heard,” Sophie ventured, “that although he has committed no overt crime against the throne, your father’s rejection of him has made him so vituperative and disruptive in the Rigsrad that it might be best if he were to be banned from it. Given that the new trade and cooperative industries with the up-timers is bringing Denmark far more silver than Corfitz’s own fiscal proposals, there are very likely enough sympathetic nobles to make such a dismissal possible.”
“Yes. I have heard the same things whispered,” Leonora said with a nod. “But I suspect that my father has reservations about doing so.”
“Your father is, of course, quite politically prudent.”
Yes, Sophie, he is. But prudence is not why he has foresworn what would amount to a public crucifixion of Corfitz Ulfeldt. The question is, should I share the actual reasons with you? Are they too hurtful? And will the subjectivity of memory — my memory — do them justice?
As if magically summoned by that final concern, her memory seemed to wipe away her sight, expanding and unfolding until, quite suddenly, she was in that past moment, almost a year ago this very day . . .