1635: The Wars For The Rhine – Snippet 11

1635: The Wars For The Rhine – Snippet 11

Chapter 4

Düsseldorf, The Castle

June 24, 1634

“My Lady? Pardon me for disturbing your vigil.”

Charlotte turned her head at the voice of General Merode, and rose stiffly from the pad where she had been kneeling. She had gone along with her sister’s suggestion that they would keep the old custom of holding a vigil, praying in the chapel on Saint John’s Night, hoping that the quiet of the night would enable her to put her options in order and make some plans for the future.

“My Lady?” Merode reached out to touch her sleeve. “Are you unwell?”

Charlotte shrugged and tried to smile. She felt dizzy and lightheaded. Holding a vigil while short of sleep and more than seven months pregnant had probably not been very wise. “You bring news, General Merode?” The man looked as worn-out as she felt, but she couldn’t read the emotions in his weathered face.

“Yes, My Lady. And I’m afraid it’s very bad news.” The general bowed. “Your husband and his son were both killed yesterday afternoon, and the troops suffered heavy casualties. The army of Essen may be expected to reach Düsseldorf either today or tomorrow, and I think you had better flee. The battles have been unusually bloody, and unless the Essen command is able to re-establish discipline very quickly, things could get badly out of hand. I’ve got only a few hundred men, but I believe our best option is to head for Jülich.”

“Thank you, general.” Charlotte pulled herself together and ignored the agitated babbling of her sister and the other people around her. “But I would like for you to try organizing some kind of defensive lines stopping Essen from taking more of Berg than the area here around Düsseldorf. The sack of the town should buy you some time, and heaven knows the mountains form their own defenses. I shall travel up the Rhine to Cologne. Archbishop Ferdinand is an old friend of my mother. Stop wailing, Elisabeth, and go pack.”

Cologne, Hatzfeldt house

On the evening of Hermann’s wedding Father Johannes sat sketching lamps for the new library on a piece of scrap-paper when Maxie and Lucie came into the muniment room. He had received an invitation to join the celebrating in the palace, but though the invitation had come from Melchior, and had no other motive than their fast growing friendship, Father Johannes had not wanted to catch the attention of the Archbishop — nor of Felix Gruyard.

“Back so early, ladies?” Father Johannes rose with a slight bow and helped Lucie to her chair.

“We used Lucie’s leg as an excuse, and borrowed Peter von Hardenrat’s carriage,” said Maxie with a frown. “Neither of us liked it there. No one talked about anything but that mess with Essen and Wolfgang of Jülich-Berg except Cousin Ferdinand, who would not talk to me about anything except the food — which he didn’t touch. And everyone who came with him from Bonn drank too much and their smiles never reached their eyes. I wish my brother had come with the archbishop, but Franz Wilhelm remained in Bonn. And immediately after the banquet Ferdinand and some of his friends pulled Melchior aside and withdrew from the hall; such rudeness towards the mayors and the city councilors worries me. Ferdinand is the son of a Duke, he cannot just sit waiting for his land and power to be eroded; it’s totally against his nature and upbringing. But if Melchior is more important than the support of the Council of Cologne…. Damned.” Maxie’s striding up and down the floor came to an abrupt end when her thin embroidered slipper connected hard with a crate.

“Do sit down Maxie,” Lucie tilted her head a bit and looked at her friend. “Melchior will tell us something when he comes back. Like you, I favor negotiations, but I cannot blame Archbishop Ferdinand and Franz for wanting to negotiate from a position of power. We’ve all heard how Schweinsberg’s doing in Fulda after simply going back to his diocese. Franz would hate to be so powerless. He might do it if he thought the people of Würzburg were being badly mistreated, but Father Johannes has made it clear that this is unlikely.”

“Actually, your brother has shown far more interest in the conditions in Fulda than in Würzburg,” said Father Johannes.

“Fulda? Why Fulda? I think my toe is broken.” Maxie winced as she eased off her shoe and moved her foot. “Help me get my stocking off, Father Johannes. I want to take a look.” Maxie leaned back on the big table and pulled up her skirts to show her pink embroidered stocking tied with a matching garter above her knee.


“Oh, bother Lucie. I cannot bend down in this boned stomacher, and you are in pain already. Besides, if Father Johannes hasn’t untied a lady’s garter before, then it’s high time he did.”

Knowing his face would be beet-red, Father Johannes knelt down in front of Maxie, and was trying to figure out which ribbon to pull when the door to the room opened.

* * *

Melchior walked slowly from the archbishop’s palace back to Hatzfeldt House. There was something seriously wrong. Archbishop Ferdinand was up to something that he wasn’t willing to talk openly about — and he was involving Franz in the intrigue. That would not necessarily have been a problem if Melchior had any confidence in the archbishop’s ability to succeed, but every bit of military experience Melchior had gathered during almost twenty years as a mercenary officer told him not to rely on Archbishop Ferdinand as a leader.

Melchior nodded to the servant by the entrance, and went down the steps to the muniment room where the candles still burned along that passage. He opened the door and stopped in surprise at the sight of Maxie with her skirt drawn up to show her legs leaning against the table with Father Johannes beetroot red in the face kneeling before her — and with Lucie broadly grinning in her chair.

“Oh my God!” After a surprised stop Melchior collapsed in a chair and bend over with laughter.

Father Johannes totally by chance pulled the right end and eased off the stocking by touching only the heel and toes. Then he returned to his chair scowling at the still laughing Melchior — and carefully avoiding the eyes of either lady.

“Will you stop laughing, Melchior. It’s not that funny. And that toe will certainly be blue and black in the morning.” Maxie frowned at her toes before dropping her skirts and sitting down. “I said stop it!”

Melchior dried his eyes, but kept smiling. “I really needed that dear Maxie. It was such an antidote to the poison I’ve inhaled tonight.”

“Glad to be of service,” Father Johannes half snarled, “but could you possibly explain what going on with the archbishop; because the rest of us haven’t got a clue.”

Melchior leaned back in his chair and looked far more somberly at Father Johannes. “No offence intended Father Johannes, but though you are a Catholic priest — a Jesuit of all things — I need to ask if your primary loyalty is to the Catholic Church or to the Americans.”

“The Americans are Catholics,” Father Johannes shrugged, “at least some of them. They have sent a delegation to the Pope to clarify their status within the Church, and I refuse to consider it a problem until and unless it becomes one. Also, I’ve never given any kind of oath to the Americans; they never asked for one or even mentioned the idea. What I give to them I give freely, without pressure or obligation, based only on my own judgement. As for the Church?” Father Johannes sighed. “I broke my vow of obedience towards my superiors at Magdeburg, and I’m totally certain I never did anything more right. Your brother arranged a pardon for this from Archbishop Ferdinand, but no one has asked me to renew my broken oath. And I’d much prefer no one did. I serve God to the best of my abilities, but there are things I’d never again do for the Church: making propaganda for a “holy” war is one, attempting to stop the American ideas from spreading is another. I really do believe they’ll do more good than harm.”

Melchior nodded. “My own oath of loyalty is, of course, to the Emperor I serve, and the most important part of “Holy Roman Empire” is first, last and always: Empire. I was sent here partly to evaluate the military situation in the West, partly for an irrelevant personal reason, and I’m far from certain that the archbishop’s plans are in the Emperor’s best interest. Maxie, are you quite certain your cousin is of a sound mind?”

“Ambitions are encouraged in the ducal family, especially for the boys.” Maxie looked down on her hands, fingers twisting her shining rings. “The only subject where I have known Ferdinand to be lost to reason concerns his older brother Philipp. There was only a year between them, and they were as close as twins, played together, studied together in Ingolstadt, and went to Rome together when Philipp became a bishop at the age of sixteen. Philipp was a Cardinal when he was killed by a fall from a horse only six years later. That was more than thirty years ago, but Ferdinand still wants to become a Cardinal like Philipp. He really has neither Philipp’s brilliant flair for theology nor his genuine interest in spiritual matters and charity. So for thirty years Ferdinand has slowly been building a power base.” She looked up at Melchior and Father Johannes. “You should understand, that for Ferdinand it is not the land, the people, the wealth or the fame, it is influence in clerical circles that has his main interest. This is illogical as he doesn’t really want to be a Cardinal for any purpose; it’s just a goal. But watching that power base erode, seeing that dream fade, feeling he failed his dead brother … Despite his long experience and political acumen, he could be making decisions based on other than logic.”

“Sorry, Maxie, but I do not think logic or reason has any part in his decisions anymore.” Melchior started twining his goatee between his fingers, a sure sign he was thinking hard. “Father Johannes, how would you estimate the chances of winning against the USE here in the West — providing the Americans remain in alliance with the Swedes?”

Father Johannes sat up, suddenly very alert. Was there a danger to that alliance? “Winning by military means? None, unless the Catholic countries suddenly started working together and didn’t count the cost. The present engagement could barely stop the Swedes and their German allies, and the addition of the Americans has made the Protestant army much more efficient. The Americans are very good at fighting, but their real value is their handling of resources, which they call the Sinews of War. Oh, winning a few battles against them would be entirely possible, perhaps even regaining a major part of Bishop’s Alley while they were occupied elsewhere. But sooner or later, they’d turn this way to push back. And then they’d just keep pushing until they reached the sea. Something like the entire French and Spanish armies might get them to accept a border not drawn by American conquests, but I wouldn’t count on it. The concept of accepting defeat gracefully appears to be incomprehensibly to them.”


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15 Responses to 1635: The Wars For The Rhine – Snippet 11

  1. Bret Hooper says:

    “appears to be incomprehensibly to them.” ?

    Incomprehensible, maybe; incomprehensibly, no!

  2. Greg Noel says:

    “Charlotte turned her head at the voice of General Merode, and rose stiffly from the pad where she had been kneeling.”
    ‘Charlotte’ is the subject for both ‘turned’ and ‘rose’. That makes the conjunction (‘and’) a link between two verbs, not between two sentences, so there’s NO COMMA.

    “… no other motive than their fast growing friendship …”
    ‘growing’ is an adjective modifying ‘friendship’, but ‘fast’ is an adverb modifying ‘growing’, not an adjective modifying ‘friendship’. That means that the two words should be hyphenated (‘fast-growing’). This happens everywhere since nobody under fifty even knows that this rule exists, but I thought I’d mention it at least once.

    “… immediately after the banquet Ferdinand and some of his friends …”
    The clause [immediately after the banquet] is not necessary to understand what [Ferdinand and some of his friends] did, so it is separated from the sentence with commas.

    ‘Verdampt’ as a curse is translated into English as ‘Damn’.

    “Do sit down Maxie”
    Now, you could spill a drink ‘down Maxie’, or you could stuff a doll with feathers to get a ‘down Maxie’, but trying to sit ‘down Maxie’ will probably cause her to object vociferously. Instead, separate the interjection from the rest of the sentence with commas.

    “Oh, bother Lucie.”
    Why tell someone to harass Lucie? The frustrating thing is a lot of these are punctuated correctly; I guess if the comma is inserted randomly, it’s right least part of the time. It should be [Oh, bother, Lucie]. Yes, two commas for three words.

    “Father Johannes knelt down …, and was trying to figure out …”
    Two verbs, common subject, NO COMMA.

    “Oh my God!”
    Separate the interjection from the rest of the sentence with commas.

    “After a surprised stop Melchior collapsed in a chair and bend over with laughter.”
    It’s not necessary to know [After a surprised stop] to understand about his bursting into laughter, so the dependent clause should be separated from the rest of the sentence with commas. After that, the verbs should both be in the past tense, so ‘bend’ should be ‘bent’.

    “Father Johannes totally by chance pulled the right end …”
    It isn’t necessary to know [totally by chance] to understand about his loosening the stocking, so the clause should be separated from the rest of the sentence by commas.

    “… the still laughing Melchior …”
    ‘still’ is an adjective modifying ‘laughing’, not an adjective modifying ‘Melchior’, so it’s hyphenated.

    “… he returned to his chair scowling at the still-laughing Melchior …”
    The participle phrase [scowling at the …] modifies ‘he’, not ‘chair’, so it’s separated from the rest of the sentence with commas.

    “Will you stop laughing, Melchior.”
    ACK! The [Will you] forces this sentence to be a question. If it’s left that way, the sentence must end in a question mark. However, it would be better (and stronger) to remove those two words and leave just the command [stop laughing].

    “blue and black”
    The English idiom is [black and blue].

    “I really needed that dear Maxie”
    Why does he need [that dear Maxie]? Once again, the interjection must be separated from the rest of the sentence with commas.

    “… explain what going on with the archbishop; because the rest of us haven’t got a clue.”
    Sentence no verb. It should be “explain what IS going on …”
    The semicolon separates complete sentences. Either change the semicolon to a comma, or delete the [because].

    “No offense intended Father Johannes”
    Again, separate the interjection from the rest of the sentence with commas.

    Composing this took much longer than I expected; I’ve got to break off here and go catch an airplane to a family funeral. I not sure that I’ll have access to the Internet while I’m gone, or even that I’ll have time to post. Don’t be surprised if you don’t hear from me for a week or more.

    • Bret Hooper says:

      ” “Will you stop laughing, Melchior.”
      ACK! The [Will you] forces this sentence to be a question.”

      No, it doesn’t force “this sentence to be a question.” It could be, and I think is, a request bordering on being a demand. Perhaps the ‘Will’ could have been bolded.

      • Doug Lampert says:

        An exclamation point would emphasize that this is an imperative rather than interrogative.

        But I don’t think the change is needed, it’s dialogue not authorial voice, the punctuation should match the intonation and tone of voice, not the literal meaning of the words.

        • Greg Noel says:

          (I have a few minutes while changing planes, so this will be short.)

          No and no. Don’t confuse syntax and semantics.

          @Bret: The grammar (syntax) is that of a question (having a verb before the subject is a hallmark of a question), while the surrounding context (semantics) wants the sentence to be a demand. That’s why I said [ACK], and that’s why I suggested that it should be turned into a pure command.

          @Doug: Unless the author is doing dialect, it does not relieve him from using correct grammar. And Maxie is definitely a well-educated and grammatically correct grande dame. A skill an author needs to learn is to be correct while still sounding colloquial (it’s hard to do—I can’t do it, for one).

          The authorial voice can sometimes be used to mitigate a deliberate error (but is usually awkward, as with these examples):
          She snapped, “Will you stop laughing, Melchior.”
          “Will you stop laughing, Melchior,” she said angrily.

          But the best way is simply to avoid the conundrum in the first place:
          “Do stop laughing, Melchior.”
          “Oh, stop laughing, Melchior.”
          “Oh, do stop laughing, Melchior.”

          • Doug Lampert says:

            It is perfectly legitimate to put the verb first in an imperative. It’s one of the common markers for such things.

            Clarifying the subject after the main clause does not change this. The sentence is fine as is.

  3. Gary D says:

    More like inconceivable .

  4. dave o says:

    Do you all suppose that Baen books is dissatisfied with their proofreader, or they don’t have one? It seems to me that harping on rather old-fashioned grammatical rules is a waste of time. Especially rules about comma placement, which everyone ignores.

    • Drak Bibliophile says:

      Everybody is complaining about an eARC (electronic Advanced Reviewer/Reader Copy) that has not had the final proofing (before official release).

      Also, the author is Danish and English isn’t her first language.

      • Greg Noel says:

        @dave: “Everyone” ignores them because he doesn’t know what the rules are. Nobody taught “Everyone” the rules; they expected him to pick up the rules by osmosis. As a result, his model of English is overly complex and not complete, so it’s no wonder he ignores them. (And the rules are not “old fashioned” unless you have a new set to replace them.)

        @Drak: I’ve not been impressed with the quality of Baen’s editing, to the point that I wonder if they do any. It will be interesting to see how many of the errors we’ve discussed here are fixed in the official release.

        • dave o says:

          When was the last time you spelled anything with a thorn?
          Grammarians do not own the language, the people who use it do. Language including English is continually changing, and correctness is defined by current usage.

          • Randomiser says:

            I did wonder if the ‘hyphenate fast-growing’ rule could really still be a rule if no-one under 50 even knows it.

            Also well-educated (Note the hyphen!) native English speakers do say ‘Will you be quiet Rasputin!’ as an imperative. An author is not allowed to write realistic dialogue because it doesn’t match perfect grammar?

          • Bret Hooper says:

            “Grammarians do not own the language, the people who use it do.”
            Exactly right, dave o. And not everyone who fancies himself or herself a grammarian is competent as one. Cases in point: “It is bad English to split an infinitive.” Origin of this false ‘rule’: in Latin (which many early ‘grammarians’ considered the most perfect of all possible languages) it is impossible to split an infinitive, because it is a single word, formed by adding a suffix to the verb root, like -ing in English. We can’t properly say “I am go to the store ing.”
            But we can say “I am calling to cordially invite you . . . .” and that is perfectly good English.
            Second case in point “It is wrong to end a sentence with a preposition.” Origin: Some early ‘grammarian’ wanted a name for what are more properly called ‘particles,’ such as in, out, up. Noticing their appearance as case markers before nouns, but failing to notice their use after verbs to modify the action of the verbs (e.g.ate up, done in, leave off, he named them prepositions, i.e. ‘put before.’ Thereafter someone decided that it must be improper to end a sentence with a ‘put before’ because that left nothing in the sentence for it to be before.

            So don’t take everyone who calls him/herself a grammarian too seriously!

      • Bjorn Hasseler says:

        And these snippets probably aren’t even the e-ARC but from a version prior to that.

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