1634: THE BAVARIAN CRISIS — snippet 50

 

1634: THE BAVARIAN CRISIS – snippet 50:

 

 

Amberg, the Upper Palatinate

 

            The day after Veronica’s visit, Kilian went down to Amberg first thing in the morning, taking Hermann with him. He did not find Arndt particularly helpful. The man appeared to be seriously distracted.

 

            He did manage to find his nephew Johann Rothwild, Sara’s son. That was no problem, really. Rothwild worked as a bouncer at a really rough tavern in an old mining settlement a couple of miles outside the city walls and had for years. Johann could be a really helpful man in a pinch, Kilian knew. He had demonstrated that several years before. Johann and Hermann between them could probably take care of the worst of Kilian’s current problems.

 

            One of which, increasingly, appeared to be Augustin Arndt. He could just be afraid of what Kilian held over his head, but he could be starting to have a case of bad conscience, which was always dangerous. Kilian had checked his old records the night before. He had enough on Arndt to ruin him professionally, with rumors, if nothing else—but not, probably, enough to control him. He had no clear documentation that Arndt had anything to do with the group of “mercenaries” that night in 1628, much less that he had organized it and that Rothwild had dragged Anton’s wife back to his office. The lawyer was wily. He had covered his tracks well.

 

 

Grafenwöhr, the Upper Palatinate

 

            Dorothea watched her father and brother leave. Her mother was starting on her daily drinking, of course. She started at breakfast and finished when she went to bed, if she could get enough beer. Or if she could make it all the way to the bed. She had been like this for seven or eight years, now. Dorothea usually tried to limit what Mama could get. This morning, feeling guilty, she poured her a large stein of the strongest that Clara Schreiner brewed.

 

            Last week, she thought that she had no hope. Yesterday, with Papa’s strange sister-in-law’s visit, she had started to hope again. She washed herself carefully, even her hair. First soft soap in the basin; then a rinse with rose water. A clean shift under her dress; a clean apron over it. She picked up a market basket; then put it down again. It was not market day. What reason did she have to be seen anywhere near the Rathaus, much less in it? Young women, unmarried women, rarely had business at the city hall. She opened the chest where Papa kept his business records and pulled out a handful of the ones right on top at random. They weren’t in neat piles; she could certainly put them back before he and Hermann got home. He would never notice.

 

            Mama was well on her way to being mentally out for the day. Dorothea refilled her stein with the strong beer.

 

****

 

            Veronica was well on her way to tracking the handling of Johann Stephan’s share of old Abraham Richter’s land; Kilian’s share was his own business. But Kilian been mucking around with Sara’s portion also. How did he manage that? Sara had left children. Magdalena was dead, to be sure, and her only baby had been born dead. But Karl Hanf had told her that Johann Rothwild was still alive, she thought. Frowning, she moved to another ledger and lifted it to take it to the standing pedestal where she was working. When she heard voices in the outer office, she started to eavesdrop quite unashamedly.

 

            Nicholas Moser was one of them. Well, he should be here. He was the city clerk, after all. The other? Who? Dorothea? Kilian’s daughter?

 

            “What on earth are you doing here, Thea? Your father…..”

 

            “He’s gone to Amberg with Hermann, Nicol. Mama isn’t going to notice anything today.”

 

            “You can’t come here. Not here. Not while I’m at work.”

 

            “I need to talk to her, Nicol. Papa’s sister-in-law. Please. She told Papa yesterday that she was going to be here today. I brought papers, see. So anyone who saw me come in might think that I was bringing something for Papa. I have to talk to her. If anyone asks, you can say that I was here to see her. There’s no reason that anyone should think that I am here to see you.”

 

            “Thea.”

 

            Veronica sauntered out. “If she wants to see me, Herr Moser, please do let her come in. She is, after all, my niece by marriage.”

 

            Eyeing the physical tension between the two of them, she asked herself, “And what is she to you?”

 

            Moser stepped aside from where he had been blocking the door to the back room where the records were stored.

 

            Veronica looked at him. “You now. If you’re worried because she’s here, just open that front door to your office and do something where anybody who happens to glance in can see that you are busy doing what you are supposed to do. If anyone saw Dorothea come in, the gossip will be about the fascinating dissension among the Richter heirs and not” —her glance swept across both of them—“whatever the two of you have been up to that leads to desperate whispering when you should know perfectly well that someone else is close enough to hear even whispers.” She pulled Dorothea into the back room.

 

            Question one. She had been away from Grafenwöhr for a long time, and she had a lot of relatives. “How old are you?”

 

            Dorothea looked a little startled. “Twenty-one, Tante Veronica. In May.”

 

            “Oh, yes. You’re the one who was born the same year as Hans, then. Not a child, any more than he was a child.”

 

            At the word “child,” Dorothea winced.

 

            Veronica looked again. The crystal clarity of the complexion; the little brown rings under the eyes. She saw no reason to mince words.

 

            “How far along are you?”

 

            Dorothea’s eyes opened wide.

 

            Veronica, from the back room, had been able to hear a whispered front-room conversation between two young people who called one another Nicol and Thea. Nicholas Moser was therefore perfectly capable of hearing a back-room conversation conducted in a normal tone of voice, even though he was supposed to be concentrating on his work in the front room,. He came plunging through the door, abandoning all pretense of indifference to Richter family business.

 

            “Thea?”

 

            “Nicol, please. Go back. Do your work. Please. I need to talk to my aunt.”

 

            “But if…”

 

            Veronica tilted her head. It was, at any rate, perfectly clear that neither of them had the slightest doubt who the father was. That was always a real advantage when it came to managing these things.

 

            She did have to ask herself how they had managed it, though. Especially in a town this small. It couldn’t have been easy for a newly hired town clerk, son of an inflexible and well-known Calvinist exile, a university graduate and possibly at the moment the most eligible bachelor inside the walls of Grafenwöhr, to avoid the eyes of Protestant parents of eligible daughters long enough to impregnate the Catholic daughter of an equally well-known Bavarian collaborator. It must mean that they had more ingenuity than either of them had demonstrated so far today.

 

            Of course, it was only two hours past breakfast. Perhaps they “just weren’t morning people,” as Mary Simpson said of some of her acquaintances.

 

            She looked at Moser gimlet eyed. “And just how old are you?” she asked.

 

            “Twenty four.”

 

            “Old enough, in other words, to know better. The pair of you.”

 

            “We didn’t,” Moser protested defensively, “know that it was going to happen right then. It’s not as if….” His voice trailed off.

 

            Veronica made up her mind on the spot. The instant she got back to Grantville, she would see to it that Annalise adopted up-time underwear, even though she did normally prefer to wear down-time clothing. Certainly by the time that Heinrich Schmidt got back from Amsterdam. If nothing else, it did require an amorous couple to pause in their pursuits long enough to deliberately remove the drawers. Which might, just possibly, give them time to think that they were about to proceed to a new stage in the expression of their mutual affection. And stop, if they were reasonably prudent people.

 

            To Moser she said, “Close the front door.” He did.

 

            Back to the original question. “How far along are you?”

 

            Simultaneously, they answered, “March fourth.” From the expressions on their faces as they looked at one another, this must have been an epic day in their lives, roughly equivalent to the collapse of the walls of Jericho or the recent eruption of the volcano in Italy.

 

            Oh, blast it. If they were that certain of the date of conception, it probably meant—just once. Recent ex-virgins, both of them. Just what every woman who is peacefully trying to collect affidavits for a property title lawsuit needs to have on her hands. A Pair of Star-Crossed Lovers, one of whom is a little bit pregnant. And, of course, likely to become more so in the immediate future.

 

            Definitely likely to become more so in the immediate future. It was past the usual time when a woman might miscarry her fruit.

 

            “You,” Veronica said firmly, “are both utter and total fools.”

 

****

 

            Moser stepped farther into the room and put his arm protectively around Dorothea’s shoulders. Then, got a little distracted by the scent of rose water in her hair. He remembered that scent…

 

            Reorganizing his mind, he looked at her terrifying aunt. Aunt-by-marriage. Terrifying wouldn’t be a familial trait. That was a good thing, he thought. Women were supposed to be gentle and compliant. Everybody knew that.

 

            The frightening old lady was holding her canvas tote bag out at them. It had a picture of a harlequin on it. And words. “Mardi Gras.” That he knew; a Catholic superstition. Orleans he had heard of; it was in France. Where might New Orleans be?

 

            “This does not,” the formidable old lady was saying, “mean that I have much sympathy—any sympathy—with those stupid ‘Harlequin Romance novels’ that have become such a fad.”

 

            “I have one of the books,” Dorothea said. “It is quite lovely to read. This girl is traveling alone on a road in Spain….”

 

            Fools,” Veronica snapped. “I would not have believed that one of those pernicious books had traveled as far as Grafenwöhr. Stupid, stupid books. Infecting even my Annalise with ideas about romance. Sit down.”

 

            They sat.

 

            “Can you boil water here?”

 

            Moser blinked. “Yes, I have a small brazier.”

 

            “Do you have cups?”

 

            “I have four cups.”

 

            Veronica reached into the tote bag. She should not be too hard on Annalise about her romances. All of them had learned vices in Grantville. “Very well. What all of us need right now is a good cup of coffee. Which, with your brazier and cups, I can prepare.”

 

            She made it black and she made it strong. It was clear that neither of the others cared for it much, which made no difference to her whatsoever. She wanted them awake and paying attention.

 

            First things first. “Do you want to get married? I am quite prepared to list all the problems that it will bring for both of you, if you haven’t bothered to think about them. And don’t think that you have to say that you do, either of you. If you don’t, either one of you, I can see to it that Dorothea and her child are taken care of. Family is family, after all, and she’s not the first girl to find herself in this fix and won’t be the last.”

 

            They wanted to get married. Problems and all. So they said.

 

            “What you need, then,” she said, “is money. How much do you have?”

 

            Dorothea didn’t have any. Moser still had most of his most recent month’s pay.

 

            “You’ll need more. And a map of how to get to Grantville from Amberg. You do know how to get to Amberg, I presume? Grantville doesn’t have any laws against Calvinists and Catholics marrying one another. Henry, my husband, is a Calvinist. I am, owing to the damned Bavarians, Catholic. And likely to remain one; changing again at my age would be more trouble than it’s worth.”

 

            “And one final thing. You’re not leaving Grafenwöhr until after I do. Do you understand me? Not! I’m willing to help Dorothea, but being left behind to deal with Kilian when he finds out that you have eloped is way above and beyond any duty I may have to her.” Veronica glared at them fiercely. “Do you understand that?”

 

            They understood.

 

            “Go home, now.” That was to Dorothea. “Go back to work.”

 

            Moser shuddered slightly. There had to be words that were more, well, descriptive, than just “terrifying.”

 

            Veronica walked back to the pedestal where she had left the ledger she was using. On top of the ledger lay the packet of papers that Dorothea had been holding when she came in. Without the slightest sense of shame, she started thumbing through them. Paused. Read more slowly. Decided that she had better consult Rastetter again, as soon as possible. Hopefully, by the time she returned to Amberg, his family would have recovered. She tucked the papers into her tote bag, inside one of her greatest treasures—a semitransparent blue plastic expanding pocket folder, somewhat larger than the average sheet of paper, with a flap that fastened with a snap. She really loved that envelope; she had no idea how she would manage St. Veronica’s Academies without it. Rain or snow, she could go anywhere and the ink on her papers never smeared or ran.

 

            She should, perhaps, have left it in Grantville for Annalise to use.

 

            But she hadn’t. It was too useful.

 

            She turned back to the ledger.

 

 

About Eric Flint

Author and Editor
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Comments

One Response to 1634: THE BAVARIAN CRISIS — snippet 50

  1. Carl Bolling says:

    “But Kilian been mucking around with…”

    Should be “But Kilian had been mucking around with….”

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