1636 The Devil’s Opera – Snippet 17
“Well, that was interesting,” Marla said as she walked down the steps from the Simpson house, hands busy buttoning her coat to shut out the night-time chill.
Franz looked over as he stepped down beside her. “How so?”
“Oh, not that she’s coordinating anything and everything she can to support the emperor. That’s a given. For all that she says she’s not political, Mary has been associated with power and influence for so long that if she’s not breathing the atmosphere of politics she starts getting dizzy from the thinness of the air around her.”
All their friends chuckled from where they had gathered around her and Franz. He held his elbow out to her, felt her take it, and they began walking back to their own house, friends trailing in their wake.
“And most of the ideas that she and Lady Beth put on the table are good, and reasonable. Parades — you’ll like that,” she twisted her head to look at Thomas Schwartzberg.
Thomas had finally made his way from Grantville to Magdeburg, having spent the last two years training some of the local musicians to copy up-time music from the many recordings that had come back through the Ring of Fire. Franz was delighted that his good friend had rejoined their little company.
“Parades, mmm,” Thomas rumbled. “Sounds like opportunities for marches.” He gave a huge grin as the rest of the company chuckled. The amanuensis of up-time composers had developed a definite taste for up-time style symphonic band music. The others in the group, who were all involved with the Magdeburg Symphony Orchestra, poked fun at him, which he took in good nature. “I have one in mind.”
“So what was interesting?” Franz prodded his wife.
“Oh, the plans for an opera, of course. Master Heinrich can do it . . .” Here Marla referred to Heinrich Schütz, the emperor’s Kappellmeister for the court in Magdeburg, and the foremost German composer of the day. “. . . but can he do it quickly enough to be a help?”
Laughter sounded from all the group. “Master Heinrich is not one of your neurotic up-timer musicians,” Rudolf Tuchman advised from behind them. “The man is one of the best of our day. He had to write a new cantata every week for weeks on end when the Elector of Saxony was holding court. He will have Arthur Rex ready for rehearsal before you can believe it.”
“I hope so.” Marla was quiet for a few steps. “Funny, but for all that the Arthur legends are truly iconic in our literary history, even by my time there were few musical treatments of them, and none that were of the first rank. Well, except for Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, Parsifal and Lohengrin.” Franz saw the expression of distaste cross Marla’s face. It was apparent that Wagner was not her favorite composer. “But those only dealt with peripheral stories, not with the main legends. I hope Arthur Rex proves to be the exception to that rule.”
They had arrived at their house, and Franz dug in his pocket for the door key. After a moment of fumbling at the lock, he swung the door open and they all trooped in, led by Marla. There was a busy minute or so of doffing coats and finding places to store them. Their friends all found places to sit or perch around their parlor.
Franz looked up as Marla stepped over to him. “If you don’t mind, I’m going to let you guys talk about the orchestra programs without me. I’m . . . tired,” she murmured. And to his eyes, she did appear to be wilting.
“As you wish. I will try to keep the discussion quiet in here.” He squelched all the other things that rushed into his mind to say. It had been an eventful day; if she desired time alone, he would give it to her.
Marla kissed his cheek, then crossed through their friends, smiling and speaking to them as she did. They all watched her leave the room, then turned as one to look at Franz, uniform sober expressions on nine faces: Rudolf and his brother Josef, Thomas, Hermann Katzberg, Isaac Fremdling, Paul Georg Seiler, and Matthaüs, Marcus and Johann Amsel. Friends old and new, all close, all part of the nucleus of musicians committed to the future of music envisioned by Marla and Franz. All now looking at him with the same unspoken question on their faces.
“Yes, Marla is doing better,” Franz responded. “No, she is obviously not back to her normal from before the miscarriage. Frau Mary and Frau Lady Beth both tell me that she’s doing well, but that it might be some time before she is fully recovered.” He withheld from them Mary’s final statement on the matter to him: “And Marla may never fully regain her joy, Franz. To lose her firstborn like that, with no warning, is devastating. It can’t help but change her. We’ll just have to hope that it doesn’t change her for the worse.” Which was now his daily prayer.
Outside The Chain there was a bite of cold in the air. Simon pulled his jacket close around him with his left hand, checking to see that his bread was still tucked away.
The moon was shining full, and in the light Simon could see Hans look over at him. “So, your other arm is crippled?”
“Doesn’t work at all,” Simon said in a monotone.
“Did you hurt it as a younker, or something?”
“Born with it, I guess.” Simon swallowed hard. “Been that way as long as I can remember.”
They walked a few steps in silence, then Hans spat to one side. “Tough.”
They walked a few more steps.
“Tough.” Hans shook his head.
“Yah.” The taste of ashes was back in Simon’s mouth.
“Got a place?”
“Found a nook behind a chimney over in the new town. Stays warm there.”
Hans shook his head again. “Not tonight. You’re my luck; you’ll come home with me. Meet my sister.”
Simon still wasn’t sure what kind of man this Hans Metzger was. He shook his head in return. “You don’t have to do that.”
A large hand landed on the boy’s shoulder again. “I owe you, boy. You’re my luck.” The hand moved on to muss his hair. “Least I can do is give you a warm dry place to sleep tonight and food in the morning.”
Simon felt the lump of bread in his jacket. Food in the morning would mean the bread could feed him later. And he could probably run away if he had to. He knew the ins and outs of the alleys and streets and ruins better than anyone. “All right.”
“Good. Down this way.”
Hans turned down a cross street. Before long they exited the old city, crossed the Big Ditch and were in a slightly more reputable neighborhood than the depths where The Chain was sited. Simon was tired. His feet were beginning to drag. It had been a long day for him, so he was very glad when Hans turned into an alley between two buildings.
“Come on, boy.” Simon followed Hans’ broad back up a flight of narrow wooden stairs. They arrived at the top, and he waited while Hans fumbled with a key in a lock. After a few moments, Simon heard his friend sigh in satisfaction and push the door open.