1636 The Viennese Waltz – Snippet 19
Chapter 8: Family Reunion
“Ferdinand II is dead,” King Albrecht said. “In this universe, at least, the fanatic didn’t manage to outlive me.” There was considerable satisfaction in his tone.
And, in spite of himself, Karl realized that it was more than a little justified. Wallenstein was opposed to the Edict of Restitution and a large part of the motive for the revolution that he may or may not have planned would have been to repeal it. Five years ago, Karl would have agreed with Ferdinand II, but then the Ring of Fire happened and they had all been able to see how the world had unfolded in that other timeline. Now he found himself agreeing with Wallenstein.
“Will Ferdinand III try for the crown of the Holy Roman empire?” Karl asked.
“It doesn’t seem like it. He is styling himself ‘Emperor of Austria-Hungary.’ And he managed to do what I never could, and get his father to repeal the Edict of Restitution on his death bed. If Ferdinand II had done that two years ago, I would never have taken Bohemia,” King Albrecht said, sounding sincere. Then he added, “Well, assuming that he didn’t try to have me assassinated.”
Karl wasn’t sure he believed Albrecht von Wallenstein about that. The man was ambitious and ambition can always find an excuse. On the other hand, Karl wasn’t entirely sure that he didn’t believe it, either.
“Might there be peace between your realm and Ferdinand III’s?”
“I’m willing if he is,” King Albrecht said. “But I don’t think he is. He’s still making noises like I’m a traitor and he’s the king of Bohemia.”
“Might you come to some sort of accommodation?” Karl asked cautiously. “Might Bohemia rejoin the HRE?”
“No. Two assassination attempts in two universes are all they get. I’ll not bend a knee to the Habsburg family again.”
After that, the discussion turned to the rest of the news. A bit later, King Albrecht said, “You’re still going to have to publicly swear fealty to me in regard to all your family’s lands in Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia. But, in exchange, I am willing to endorse the railroad and even add a line to Cieszyn out of the crown purse. And I’ll support your LIC as well. There are several projects that Morris wants to do that can be done in cooperation between us.”
Karl nodded. He hadn’t been expecting any other result, after all.
“I’ll see you when you get back,” Sarah said. Her strawberry blond hair was in a bun and escaping the confines of her scrunchy. She had a charcoal smudge on her nose and was utterly focused on a book of ledgers that had been gathered from a market here in Prague. She looked adorable. Unfortunately, she had no attention at all to pay to Karl. She hadn’t even looked up.
“Hello, Aunt Beth.” Karl looked around the palace hall. It had a more worn look than he remembered. Aunt Beth was maintaining her palace, but apparently not spending any more on it than absolutely necessary.
Elisabeth Lukretia von Teschen looked Karl up and down and he felt himself straightening under her gaze. “Good afternoon, Karl Eusebius! How was the trip from Prague?”
“Uneventful, always a blessing when it comes to travel. I have more letters from King Albrecht and Morris Roth. Also, Judith Roth is going to be the head of the National Bank of Bohemia.”
“Do you think I should print my own money? It would certainly solve my financial problems.”
“Please don’t, aunt. You will be much better off getting improvement loans from the National Bank — or from me, for that matter. Through the Liechtenstein Improvement Corporation.”
So it went. They spent two days talking about what he had set up in Grantville and what King Albrecht had thought about it. About the Fortneys, who were at this very moment somewhere on the road to Vienna. About the Barbie Consortium and — very much in spite of himself — talking about Sarah Wendell, how smart she was, how beautiful, how clever and kind.
“So tell me about this Sarah of yours,” Aunt Beth said. “Are the Wendell’s of a noble house?”
“She’s not mine,” Karl said. “At least not yet. And the up-timers are different. If anything, my title probably hurts my suit.”
Aunt Beth gave Karl a look that conveyed her displeasure at his obfuscations.
Karl continued. “By the up-timer standards, yes. The Wendell family are near the upper echelons of those who came back in the Ring of Fire. Her father, Fletcher Wendell, is the USE Treasury Secretary, who knows and is known by Gustav and Fernando, as well as Mike Stearns and Ed Piazza. And her mother, Judy Wendell the elder is, if less well known, even more astute in financial matters. Sarah takes after her mother in that. Right now she is working out the design of the Bohemian National Bank with Judith Roth and Uriel Abrabanel.”
“Aside from smart, what’s she like?”
“Well . . .” Karl paused. “She’s taller than I am by a couple of inches and she’s still growing. She has light blond hair with just a touch of red, what the up-timers call a strawberry blond. She is thin and I must admit she’s no horsewoman, but she loves flying and books and plays and solving problems.”
“Is she pretty?”
Karl laughed. “I think so, but she doesn’t. That’s probably because her younger sister is perhaps the greatest beauty in Grantville. Up-timers tend to be comely people by our standards, so even what we would consider pretty or handsome doesn’t stand out among them.” He smiled and Elizabeth noticed that his teeth were both straighter and whiter than she remembered. Not that they had been particularly bad before, but the evenness of his teeth now was remarkable. “Sarah considers herself gawky . . .”