1635: The Wars For The Rhine – Snippet 15
Father Johannes turned his head to kiss her hand and sat holding it, absently rubbing an ink spot. “I had planned to settle in Magdeburg once I’d found out what had happened to Paul. You know I’m a major shareholder in the porcelain factory being build there. It’s well under way, and I want to work with the production too. There’s no reason I should not come to sell our products in Cologne from time to time; unless of course the situation here gets really bad. And in that case you and the Peters should certainly come to me instead. Have you thought about moving to the USE? Your family has plenty of land on both sides of the border, and you’ll probably be safer there. I know your brothers, Heinrich and Hermann, talked with your Fleckenbuehl cousins about the Crottorf branch’s estates in the occupied areas. It would be easier for you to keep them if more of you lived in the USE. Heinrich does his best, but he is needed by his church in Mainz, and could use your help.”
“I’ve thought, yes, and discussed it with Maxie. And Heinrich, Melchior and Hermann. Melchior is in favor of coming to an agreement with the USE, both for the family and for what remains of Catholic western Germany. This is largely due to you, but also because Bavaria is the last full-strength Catholic area in Germany, and Bavaria has been paralyzed since the Duchess died. France, Spain or even the Habsburgs might someday overcome the USE, but we cannot wait for that to happen. Everybody here needs some stability to get on with their lives.” She sighed. “Hermann too is in favor of negotiating with the USE. He’s the most pragmatic of my brothers, and he has been studying those laws, etc. you got for him, as well as talking to Heinrich. The way the Americans do things is not what Hermann would prefer, but he claim he can work with them. And land behind an enemy border is no use at all. Heinrich don’t think we have any realistic alternative. But Franz … Franz is the problem. I think it would kill him if the rest of the family just disregarded his loss and accepted the USE’s authority.”
“He is an adult, Lucie. If he chooses to throw in his lot with the archbishop…” Father Johannes shrugged. “Hope for their failure or hope for their success, but in any case be there for him when it’s over. Family is important no matter what happens.” Father Johannes smiled and kissed her hand again. “But how about Maxie?”
Lucie removed her hand, leaned back and smiled, “Maxie need things to do, challenges, battles to fight, people to manage. She is so bitter about her failures in Münich and the lack of support from her family; she doesn’t want to go back. And considering the temper she is in combined with what we hear about Duke Maximilian, I seriously think she’ll get killed if she does. The American way of doing things would suit Maxie just perfect. She would so love to battle this bureaucracy you have told us about. Maria know just as much about law as Hermann, and while she isn’t as good at splitting hairs and debating sub-clauses, she is very, very good at kicking arse until she get things her way. Magdeburg or Cologne? She’ll be the same anywhere.” Lucie tipped her head a little and grinned. “With a little address you could probably talk her into going with you.”
“Lucie …” Father Johannes stopped. “Lady Lucie, I am most grateful for your information about Paul’s possible whereabouts. If you’ll excuse me.” Father Johannes exit was followed by a gentle chuckle behind him.
* * *
The installation of a stained glass window in Trinket’s private parlor, “to complete the illusion of a Rose Garden,” had been Father Johannes’ last work on the Hatzfeldt House. It had nearly also been That Last Straw Which Broke the Donkey’s Back. Perhaps he should try talking with Martin about a series of articles about taste for the Simplicissimus Magazine. Still, everything was now in order: all work done, accounts settled, bags packed, and the miniature paintings he had made for Maxie and Lucie were finished. Lucie had cried when he gave her the chain with five medallions each with a portrait of a Peter, and Father Johannes had ended up promising — on his faith — to write at least every fortnight, and come back to her as soon as possible.
Maxie had gone to the Archbishop’s Palace to bully one of her many contacts — a secretary — for news about the trouble around Fulda. The trouble appeared to concern either land for railroads or the structuring of the new province proposed, but just who was protesting what — and why — wasn’t clear, so Father Johannes sat waiting for her in what had been his work room for more than six months. It had been a good time: Trinket aside, the work had been artistically satisfying, and economically sound, and the cut he’d get from the porcelain-shares and wares he had sold, would ensure that he’d never lack money again. And while he didn’t think his rapports to Don Francisco had changed the world, he was finally doing what he felt was right. But the best of all had been the ladies and Melchior. Lucie’s suggestion that Maxie might be more interested in Father Johannes than was strictly proper had taken him by surprise. Since his late teens sexual urges had just been something that was there; they popped up when he met an attractive woman; that was acceptable, and just ignored. That he found Maxie — and Lucie — very attractive had just added a bit of spice to how very much he liked them, but that either — or possibly even both — might be attracted to him!
Marriage was impossible for Father Johannes unless he was either excommunicated or secularized by papal edict, and an illicit affair with either lady just felt too odd. Sure, lots of priests had more or less formal arrangements with women, some — for all practical purpose — a marriage and a family. But while Father Johannes had always felt such to be his fellow priest’s private affairs — and not really that much of a sin — it simply was not an arrangement he could imagine. Not with Lucie, and certainly not with Maxie.
The other way around where a man became the cicisbeo — or lapdog — to a powerful woman as it was the fashion in Italy? He had seen a few such affairs during his work as a painter, and had no problem imagining that for Maxie, but…
When Maxie came into the room Father Johannes jumped to his feet and felt blushes color him from neck to hair.
“There were no news about a rebellion, Father Johannes, and Frau Vollsig’s son, she’s my brother’s friend’s landlady’s neighbor, came from Fulda less than a week ago. Travelling is probably as safe now as it ever is.”
“Thank you, Maxie, you have been most kind to me” Father Johannes bowed and held out a small, oval, framed picture, no bigger than the palm of his hand. “If you would show me the honor of accepting this with all my gratitude.”
“A Heavenly Madonna!”
“Yes. You did whatever you could for Paul, and I really think you should hang his picture on your wall again, but if you do not want to, then perhaps this may please you in its place.”
“It is beautiful, Father Johannes, and I’ll gladly hang it by my bed when I’m not wearing it.” Maxie smiled and placed the picture carefully on a table, before putting her arms around Father Johannes’ neck and rising to her toes to kiss him.
Father Johannes co-operated to the best of his abilities and it was a while before she broke off the kiss and rested her head on his shoulders. “I finally find a man I want, and he is not just the wrong rank, which I had expected, but a priest as well. This must be the final proof that God is a man.”
“Yes, yes, I know. It still stinks.”
“Perhaps we could convince ourselves this is a platonic love.”
Maxie kissed him throat and gave him a squeeze. “I don’t think so. Don’t you want me, my dear Johannes?” She looked up at him and smiled.
“Of course I do. Darling Maxie. There’s nothing I want more than having you manage me for the rest of my life — except that is for having Lucie and the Peters around too. But Maxie,” Father Johannes placed his hands around Maxie’s face and gave her a quick kiss, “We cannot marry. And reducing you to a priest’s concubine is something I refuse to even suggest.”
Maxie grinned, “My dear, I’m perfectly capable of making any suggestions I want on my own, and what wows I keep or break is a matter between me and God. At my age a child is unlikely, and I have no estates to tie me to a liege lord. What fortune I can lay my hands on is my own, and while my family would not approve of us living together, they also haven’t approved of a lot of other things I’ve done over the years. Duke Maximilian would once have tried to interfere, but at the moment he has so many problems of his own that he doesn’t even keep Ferdinand in line. And Albrecht — even before Mechthilde’s death — would not have done anything. Especially if we are living in Magdeburg.”
“Do you want that?”
“I think so. It sounds like a place where something is happening. But first thing first: you go to Fulda and see if you can find your friend, while Lucie, Melchior and I see what we can do about Ferdinand and Franz. And don’t forget to kiss me properly before you go.”