1635: The Wars For The Rhine – Snippet 32
Bonn, Eigenhaus House
October 1, 1634
“It looks as if he has gotten used to the smell of gun-oil.”
Charlotte looked up from her nursing son and smiled at Frau Benedicte sitting at her table. “Yes, he just wrinkled his nose for a few days if I didn’t wash between taking off my kyras and feeding him, but now he doesn’t seem to notice. I suppose you can get used to just about anything.”
“And how about you, my dear? This is a life quite different from the one you were brought up to live.”
“Yes,” Charlotte looked down at her nursing son, “but not necessarily one that’s worse. I was very young when I married, and not just in years. I had been taught to cope with running a household, and warned against getting too attached to a baby before it had survived those first dangerous years. That I could not keep my distance to my first little baby, and don’t think I’ll ever be able to just leave a child to my servants, is another matter, but Wolfgang’s deterioration …” Charlotte sighed and leaned back against the hard back of the chair. “I still don’t understand what happened. Wolfgang was a good man once.”
“You call it deterioration. Could it be nothing more than old age? He was more than three times your age.”
“It didn’t seem like old age to me. One of my mother’s old friends became more and more odd and forgetful as she grew old, but Wolfgang …” Charlotte sat up and looked at the older woman. “When Maxie — that’s Archbishop Ferdinand’s cousin — visited me in Düsseldorf, she told me about some American theories about too many changes and the kind of pressure they could put on people’s minds. I suppose that could be what happened to Wolfgang. In a way I suppose that was what Felix Gruyard did to me: putting so much pressure on my mind that I went irrational and could not think straight. It was in a different way from Wolfgang, but perhaps it really was the same.”
“Could be, my dear. Women trying to take care of too many children — and especially if one is a baby cutting a tooth and preventing her from sleeping — can certainly do things they would never have done in their right mind.”
“Do you think it’s wrong for me to like guns? Or perhaps a sign of mental disorder?” Charlotte leaned back again and thought about her conversation with General von Hatzfeldt.
“No, I think being able to defend yourself and your baby is very necessary for you if you are to regain your peace of mind. Seeking safety from a protector either in the shape of your brother or a new husband might be the more ordinary solution for a young girl, but you are turning out to be an unusually strong and capable young woman. One might always need the support of God, but there is nothing whatsoever wrong with wanting to be able to do for yourself rather than rely on other people.”
“I suppose not. And I’m not totally opposed to a new marriage, I just …” Charlotte suddenly sat up in anger, causing her baby to let go of her breast and protest. “And I also suppose that was why the archbishop set Gruyard on me — to make me feel so helpless that I would be willing to seek his protection. I want to kill Gruyard — and the archbishop too — and Turning the Other Cheek Be Damned.” Charlotte kept her voice soft and gently rocked the baby.
“Lotti, my dear, I think you’ve gotten into bad company in my militias.”
Charlotte looked at the smiling older woman over the baby dropping off to sleep, and felt her face split into a broad grin. “Yes, and isn’t it nice?”
Bonn, The Guard House
“You have mail,” said Commander Wickradt entering the Guard House.
“Another diatribe from the archbishop?” Melchior looked up from the papers he was reading.
“No, it’s actually a letter from your sister.”
“Yes, young Jakob Eigenhaus, Frau Benedicte’s youngest son, brought it to me a few moments ago, along with the information he has gathered from their contacts along the river.” Wickradt removed his helmet and sat down. “The cannons you have been expecting from Frankfurt landed at Godesberg this morning. They are on their way here, and even with the soggy ground they should arrive at the Hessian bastions the day after tomorrow. The Hessian cavalry have moved their main camp from Vesseling to Bruhl, and the road to Cologne is now completely closed. The archbishop’s cavalry tried to gather for an attack while the Hessians were moving, but barely got started before they were scattered. There are now small mounted skirmishes all over the areas between Bonn and Cologne. The main Hessian army has come upriver from Düsseldorf — also as you expected. They have set up a camp at Leverkusen, and have encircled Cologne. It sounds as if they have brought along some artillery too, so the cannons from Frankfurt might have been extras borrowed from the Swedes. The new cannons can hit a lot harder and reach a lot further than the walls were built to cope with, so the Council of Cologne expects the casualties to get really bad once the cannons starts. They are trying to negotiate, but the first attempts didn’t turn out well.”
“Hesse is almost certainly seriously annoyed about the attempt to join the USE by treaty, instead of letting him make a conquest.”
“Most royally pissed according to the scuttlebutts.” Wickradt leaned back and tried to stretch his back despite his armor. “One bit of good news is that the Hessians are finding it extremely difficult to blockade a river as wide as the Rhine against those willing to sail at night; so Jakob and his friends expect to be able to get information in and out for quite a while yet. Oh, and both Duke Wilhelm and General von Uslar are around.”
“Please give Jakob Eigenhaus my thanks, and offer rewards for information.” Melchior cut off the seal from the thick letter, and started reading. “Karl Mittlefeld should have been here at least a week ago, so I’ll give ten thalers to those helping the CoC contacts back inside the walls. Hmm! Lucie writes that the Council of Cologne managed to get two delegations for the USE out of Cologne before the Hessians closed them in; the official one going north directly for Magdeburg by way of Hannover with Count Palatine Friedrich von Zweibrücken in nominal charge, the other trying for Mainz with my brother, Hermann, as leader. It is a bit early to expect anything to have come back from Magdeburg, but Hermann might have joined up with Karl.”
“Your brother is a good choice for a negotiator, but Zweibrücken? A Kleve? Should I know him?” Wickradt poured himself a glass of beer, and stretched his legs. The looting had stopped after the first two hangings, and the town was as calm as anyone could expect. Still, the old man obviously worried too much to rest, and had been patrolling the walls and streets almost round the clock. Melchior guessed Wickradt would calm down once the attack actually started, but for now he kept searching for more preparations to make.
“Personally, no. Friedrich is a very young man, only eighteen, and according to Lucie eager to become a hero by saving the rich town of Cologne and bringing it into the United States. What is actually important about him is that his mother is a Simmern, and that his father’s brother is the husband of Princess Katharina of Sweden. This makes him a relative of both Hesse’s wife, Amalie, and of Gustavus Adolphus, not to mention Saxony, Bavaria and just about everybody else of importance.”
“I see. And he’ll be traveling through land he might claim through his grandmother. Especially if he can make a name for himself, and with Bavaria and Brandenburg out of the picture. What was he doing in Cologne?”
“Looking for his sister, Charlotte, who is the missing widow of Jülich-Berg. He started by contacting Maxie, that’s Sister Maximiliane von Wartenberg, who is staying at Hatzfeldt House. I expect she and Hermann put the notion of representing Cologne into his head.” Melchior kept reading. “And Maxie has gone along to Magdeburg too. And listen, this is very interesting: ‘Our dear brother, Franz, along with Maxie’s brother, Bishop Franz Wilhelm of Minden, and Archbishop Anselm von Wambold of Mainz, are all said to have left Archbishop Ferdinand, and returned to their dioceses. I’m not sure how or why, but Archbishop Ferdinand is supposed to have killed Abbot Schweinsberg of Fulda. And Melchior, whatever is behind those rumors of the archbishop having Franz impersonating you? I’ve practically had to sit on Maxie to keep her from hunting down her archbishopal cousin and demand an explanation.’ The rest is just family news.”
“Sounds like the rats are deserting the sinking ship — no offense to your brother — but I think we can just about ignore the archbishop from now on.” Wickradt rubbed his eyes and looked up at the map on the wall. “Mainz may be reached in a week even without a horse, but Magdeburg cannot be reached in less than two weeks no matter how fast you ride. I’m not sure we can hold off Hesse for that long.”
“No, but Father Johannes told me the Americans in Mainz have ways of sending news around very, very fast, and even if Bonn surrender, it’ll take Hesse two more days getting his cannons past Bonn to Cologne. So, let us think about stalling.”