1634: THE BAVARIAN CRISIS – snippet 24:
That evening, Leopold Cavriani sat back to assess his son.
Marc was right at the end of the bumptious stage of development, when young men have amounts of energy that are seemingly inexhaustible and utterly exhausting to everyone around them—amounts of energy they manifest by making noise, jumping up and down, digging their elbows into one another's ribs, and overturning the furniture. That would, however, be cured with time. He had been in Nürnberg, in training with Durre, a metals broker who also had considerable skills as a metallurgist, ever since he finished secondary school when he was sixteen. He was a commercial trainee, not a craft apprentice. His time had been focused on mining and metals—with specific attention to the items in those areas that could be most profitably sold to people who were tinkering with up-time technology. Instrument-makers in Augsburg, for example. Or Venetians. Or, of course, to the up-timers themselves.
“Well, Jacob,” he asked over their wine. “What do you think of him?”
Durre pursed his lips. “He will take after your cousin Giuseppe, I believe, in his willingness to try almost anything that might be legal somewhere, under some interpretation of the statutes, if it appears that there might be a profit in it. He is not averse to risk.”
Leopold considered this silently. He was not really surprised. Marc had the ability to charm the gold out of a miser's safe when he put his mind to it. If that could be channeled constructively, it should prove invaluable to Cavriani Frères in the future. If. Marc had been an irresistibly cute child—not to mention the oldest child and the only boy in a family of four sisters. But he didn’t try to slide through life on that basis. Almost all of the reports from his tutors had commended him for effort. Somewhere underneath his veneer of adulthood, Leopold suspected, Marc still had the casual—not vain, but just "never needed to think about it"—assumption that, for all practical purposes, to see him was to love him. For all of Marc’s life, anyone he really cared about had loved him dearly, cherished him carefully, valued him highly, instructed him conscientiously, and maybe even indulged him just a bit. But not excessively. Cavriani prided himself on that. It had been hard to resist the temptation to spoil Marc.
Durre waved his hand. “Do not worry that he will use his charm to defraud a widow out of her mite. As far as two years of observation can reasonably inform me, I am prepared to say that Marc is equipped with a conscience.”
Leopold’s lips quirked. “You know me all too well, Jacob.”
“I’ve been very pleased with his conduct. Also his acquaintances. The best friend that he has made is some years his elder. The man is a Lutheran, named Georg Philipp Harsdörffer. He has ambitions to write epic poetry, but aside from that, the contact is a very good one. The family is patrician; very old and solid. He is an academic; he studied first at Altdorf; then at the University of Strassburg under Professor Matthaeus Bernegger.”
Leopold considered this. It was not the custom of their family, usually, to attend a university. Only if someone didn’t seem really suited for the work and the elders felt that he should be found a somewhat more sheltered vocation. Therefore Marc did not have the kind of education that would make him a natural associate for a classicist. He had fairly decent Latin from his secondary school training, but very little Greek—scarcely more than the alphabet and a memorized proverb, here and there. A would-be epic poet seemed an improbable choice of friend.
Modern languages were a different story. He had grown up speaking French and Italian, of course. These two years in Nürnberg, he had become reasonably proficient in the local Franconian dialect of High German. His Swietzerdietsch was fine, but in Spanish, he could barely get by. No Dutch at all, yet. Leopold had originally planned to send him to the Netherlands next, but then decided to postpone that posting until matters settled down somewhat. Marc had no English, either. England did not seem to be a good idea right now, so it would probably be Grantville. Leopold wasn’t certain, though, now that Idelette was there. Commercially, the town was an exciting opportunity, to be sure. But scarcely exciting enough for him to place two children there at once.
“Harsdörffer is valuable how?” he asked.
Durre smiled. “You are looking for contacts for working with Duke Ernst?”
“Yes, of course.”
“Of course. Nürnberg is also interested in seeing the mines in the Upper Palatinate return to production. The shortage of raw materials is handicapping a lot of the city’s industry: many of the mills along the Regnitz and Pegnitz rivers are running at far under capacity, not because they do not have orders, but because they do not have the raw material to fill the orders. As I have said, Harsdörffer studied with Bernegger at Strassburg. As did Duke Ernst’s private secretary Böcler. As did Duke Ernst’s publicist Zincgref. Marc has personal letters of introduction to both of them in his hands already.”
Leopold smiled cherubically; Durre smiled back.
It was a Lenten breakfast, of course. The map of Europe might be littered with churches that had their “butter towers,” built from the money that the wealthy and self-indulgent paid for dispensations to eat dairy products during Lent, but the imperial court observed the fast meticulously.
Maria Anna slowly finished her first slice of dry bread. Next to her, Cecelia Renata was eying a bowl of porridge without milk. No eggs. No bacon. No cheese. For six weeks, the courtiers of Vienna would eat no better than ordinary farmers. More amply, undoubtedly, than farmers would eat in times of war and high taxes, but no more luxuriously.
She glanced toward the center of the table. Papa had been to mass before breakfast. He always went to mass before breakfast, so he could take communion. He had taken only one slice of bread. In his own person, he observed Lent not only meticulously but rigorously. Until the feast of Easter arrived, he would not eat more amply than an ordinary farmer, even.
There wasn’t any conversation. Mama had warned them. Papa needed peace and quiet while he read diplomatic despatches. A courier had arrived very early this morning and his secretary had brought the most urgent ones to the breakfast room immediately.
Maria Anna took the first bite of her second slice of dry bread, chewing slowly. Hearing a sputter, she looked up. Mama was on her feet, pushing against Papa’s back. His glass of water—there was never wine in his water during Lent—was tipped over on the table.
The secretary dashed forward from his position behind Papa’s chair and snatched the despatches out of the path of the spilled water. Maria Anna and Cecelia Renata both jumped up to help Mama, each taking hold of one of Papa’s upper arms and supporting him as he leaned forward. The butler who served breakfast was running out of the room, screaming for help, screaming for the emperor’s personal physician.
Mama kept pushing against Papa’s back. He coughed and spat a chunk of unchewed bread onto his plate; then collapsed into his chair.
By the time the physician arrived, the Holy Roman Emperor had recovered, although he was still red-faced. Ferdinand II had not choked to death at breakfast. Not today.
“What happened, Mama?” Cecelia Renata asked anxiously, as soon as the footman closed the door to the empress’ private apartments.
Eleonora Gonzaga sighed and dropped into the chair that Doña Mencia pushed forward for her. “Your father was so startled at some of the news in the despatches that he strangled on his food.”
“What news?” Maria Anna was standing with her arm around her sister-in-law Mariana’s shoulder. “What was there that upset him so badly? Has something major gone wrong? Has the League of Ostend lost a battle?”
The empress shook her head. “In some ways, it may be worse than that.”
“How could it be?”
“In the Spanish Netherlands—”
Both of the archduchesses perked up with interest.
“—we are informed that the Cardinal-Infante has not only been negotiating with Fredrik Hendrick—”
“Everybody knows that,” Maria Anna pointed out. “At least, everybody who cares.”
“—but has also held a personal meeting with Gretchen Richter,” the empress finished, ignoring the interruption.
“There had been rumors of that, already, so it shouldn’t have upset Papa so much to hear it again.”
“This time there is more. There is a reliable report that the regent herself, Isabella Clara Eugenia, has asked that a meeting be arranged between her and this… young woman.”
“Young agitator,” Mariana said. “Young revolutionary.”
“She is that,” the empress agreed. “But your Tante Isabella has expressed a wish to meet her, nevertheless. According to the despatch, she is coming to Brussels, with her husband.”
“The man who torpedoed a Spanish warship and sank it?” Mariana frowned.
“Mariana was very displeased.” Maria Anna crossed her arms in front of her chest and leaned against the mantel.
Cecelia Renata plopped down into the pillows on her bed.
“You can scarcely blame her,” Doña Mencia replied.
“Do you have to be so reasonable?”
“It’s part of my job. I note that you have just pointed out that your sister-in-law was displeased. With whom, do you think? With the young man Higgins, for destroying the ship. Or with her brother and aunt, for meeting with the destroyer’s wife? Or with the wife for upsetting the political order of things, first in the Germanies and now in Amsterdam? Now that you are to be the duchess of Bavaria, you must accustom yourself to being precise in your analysis of political events.”
“Mariana was probably somewhat displeased with all of those things. And very displeased by the combination of them.”
Cecelia Renata stretched. “Oh, please do sit down, Doña Mencia. Your knees must be killing you. I think it would be fascinating to meet die Richterin.”
“Papa would be unlikely to agree with you, Sissy. You’re old enough to remember how much trouble the Fadinger revolt caused him, just a couple of years ago.”
“Probably not. But it sounds like Tante Isabella agrees with me.”
That brought the conversation to a temporary halt.
“She must be very different from Papa,” Maria Anna said a few moments later. “It would be interesting to meet her.” Then, shaking her head, she threw up her arms in a dramatic gesture. “What? What? Did I just agree with my sister about something?” She brought the back of one hand to her forehead. “What have I done?”
Doña Mencia smiled.
“But…” Maria Anna paused. “But it was the Cardinal-Infante, Don Fernando, who met with her first.” She looked at Doña Mencia. “Did you ever meet him? What is he like?”
“I saw him quite frequently when I was at the court in Madrid. He is a clever young man. Although I have not seen him for nearly four years, I have not been… surprised… by his successes in the Netherlands.”
Maria Anna hopped up onto the bed next to her sister. “Tell us more.”