1635: THE DREESON INCIDENT – snippet 28:
On the Main River
Ancelin and Deneau sat quietly in the back of the barge.
Locquifier’s assumptions had been wrong. The old woman had no maid or steward or driver. None of the ordinary attendants of a traveling gentlewoman.
She did have a bodyguard, which was unexpected. When she left the Rhine packet at Mainz, the commander of a detachment of guards wearing Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar’s livery—guards who were accompanying a young girl—detached four of them to go with “Mrs. Dreeson.”
That was presumably because she was the grandmother of Hans Richter. She had no real distinction of her own, but even Frankfurt by now had renamed a square in honor of the “hero of Wismar.”
The girl had hugged her. Hard.
Why, they could not imagine.
Nils Brahe, Gustav Adolf’s commander in Mainz, had met her in person. She had immediately addressed several complaints to him. She had no information she had not gotten from newspapers. Nobody had sent her any information about her schools. Was Annalise all right? What about the other children? If one of them had died during the summer, she was sure no one had thought to tell her. She had not had a word from Amberg. Had those young idiots Thea and Nicol starved to death when they went off without a bank draft? Where was Elias Brechbuhl? Had Hieronymus Rastetter been in touch? She had no expectations that those Jesuits were any more cooperative now than they had been last spring. Had Cavriani arrived in Geneva safely with his son? Well, of course not—they had probably been set upon by bandits along the way. What about Mary Ward and the English Ladies? Had they all been raped by mercenaries between Neuburg and Grantville? Why was everybody else in the world too busy to tell her anything?
She had continued to make similar comments ever since they got on the barge. Directed, now, not to Brahe, but rather to a young German officer, the head of her bodyguard. She spoke quite clearly. Of course, her false teeth were famous, now. Almost as famous as Wallenstein’s jaw. Several newspaper reports covering her escape from Bavaria in company with the “wheelbarrow queen” and the admiral’s wife had mentioned the effective way she used them.
Ancelin almost felt sorry for the Archduchess Maria Anna, if she had to put up with this for what must have seemed like two very long months.
The conversation of Veronica Schusterin, verw. Richter, verh. Dreeson, was an apparently unending paean to the concept “cranky.” That was all they had learned from their observations.
“I wonder what Guillaume expected us to learn?” Deneau whispered. “Or did he just want to get us out of the way? Do you suppose the others have planning something while we’ve been gone? Are they going to exclude us from some new project?”
Ancelin shook his head. “It was exactly what he said, probably. A concession to our desire to actually do something. Not just sit in de Ron’s back room and talk. Now be quiet. I’m trying to listen.”
“Why? Nothing important is going to happen on this stupid boat. I don’t think I’ve ever come across such a pessimistic old lady.”
In addition to the two of them, the bodyguards, and old woman, there were several other passengers. One man, dressed in black riding clothes, sitting by himself at the far front, had been escorted to the pier by a couple of Nils Brahe’s Swedes.
A courier, probably, Ancelin thought.
Frankfurt am Main
As soon as the barge tied up, the man in black got off. He walked up to the lanky, freckled redhead who was commanding a group of sickly-shade-of-salmon-pinkish-orange-uniformed soldiers. That had to be Utt, the commander of the Fulda Barracks Regiment. Ancelin could figure out that much from the newspaper reports he had read in Mainz. And doesn’t that color clash with the man’s hair? he thought. Terrible. No sense of style at all. If he had chosen a rich brown, or even a deep shade of rust...
Before he became a conspirator, Gui Ancelin had been a tailor.
But that had been another world. Before Richelieu’s siege of La Rochelle, he had also been a man with a wife and three children. A father and two sisters. Before the starvation and the plague brought by the siege. Louis XIII’s siege. Richelieu’s siege.
The newcomer was waving a sheaf of papers. Utt turned and told off a half-dozen mounted soldiers. They moved away, one of them calling for a water boy to bring up one of the remounts.
A courier, then. Nothing to get excited about. Couriers came and went all the time.
Then the bodyguards debarked. Followed by Frau Dreeson in full spate.
An elderly man limped down the quay to meet her.
“Henry, what were they thinking of, sending you on such a strenuous trip? What if you had fallen? Remember what Doctor Nichols told you. Hip replacements are a thing of the past. Or of the far future, depending upon how a person looks at it. Or the ATV had an accident and you were thrown out? You could have been killed. What good would a hip replacement have done you then, even if you could have one?
“What were you thinking, for that matter, going off and leaving Annalise alone with the children.
“No, it does not matter that Thea and Nicol are there. It is just as well they didn’t die, I suppose, but being alive is no remedy for being fools. They were alive when I met them in Grafenwöhr and fools there, already. Just one more expense for you, I suppose. It would be too much to hope that they are paying their own way.”
By this time, she was halfway up the pier, the bodyguards closed in behind her. Ancelin and Deneau stayed at the rear of the other debarking passengers, but they could still hear her voice, ranting away.
Then she reached the head of the pier, where the formal reception party was waiting. Stopped. Lifted her head and smoothed her face.
“I am honored to make the acquaintance of the Bürgermeister and councilmen of Frankfurt and their gracious wives.”
The Bürgermeister turned to another man. “Permit me to present you to Monsieur le duc de Soubise, a guest in our city.”
The wrinkled old harridan curtsied quite properly.
Ancelin couldn’t quite believe it.
Of course, he had never encountered the Abbess of Quedlinburg.
The Bürgermeister had turned to his prominent guest again. “Monsieur le duc, may I present Mayor Henry Dreeson of Grantville. Herr Wesley Jenkins, the State of Thuringia-Franconia’s administrator in Fulda. His wife. Major Derek Utt.” He proceeded through the litany, having carefully memorized the list that his secretary had given him the evening before.
Soubise inclined his head. “It is my pleasure. My brother, the duke of Rohan, has already met one of your fellow-countrymen, Monsieur Thomas Stone. In Padua, where he presented him with an autographed copy of his translation of the life of Duchess Renee of Ferrara. He was very favorably impressed with Monsieur Stone’s lectures and delighted to extend hospitality to his son Elrond at his current headquarters in Switzerland. He finds him to be a very promising young man.”
The Grantville contingent blinked but, all things considered, bore up well under this rather startling information.
Occasionally, the newspapers did miss something.