Legions Of Pestilence – Snippet 20
“The intended marriage is going to be something of a shock to the USE officials. Especially the provisions in regard to the Breisgau and the Sundgau. If you are serious about the proposed modus vivendi,” de Melon suggested, “what about a sweetener?”
Bernhard raised a bushy eyebrow.
“Throw in the agreement of both parties, yourself and Claudia de’ Medici, that if the two of you leave no surviving children, aside from what reverts to Tyrol and will thus be an integral part of a USE state anyway, the County of Burgundy as a single entity will become a USE province.”
Bernhard raised that eyebrow even higher.
De Melon spread his hands wide. “Hey, it was just a suggestion.”
“It’s a damned good one,” Kanoffski said. “Carrots with your sticks, Bernhard. We’ll all be dead by the time it might happen. Offer Gustavus some carrots.”
Bernhard turned his mouth into something more the shape of a prune than a carrot. “Secret articles.”
De Melon smiled. Hooked. Now to reel him in. It was such fun to design secret articles and put them into treaties.
Besançon and Innsbruck
The intent of marriage between the grand duke of the County of Burgundy and the regent of Tyrol, by birth a grand duchess of Tuscany, was announced simultaneously in both capitals.
It was followed by swarms of newspaper reporters and widespread diplomatic shock, a flurry of radio traffic, and a medley of indignation, fascination, and–at the French court, at least–horror.
“You have to admire her,” Cecelia Renata said in Vienna. “At least I do. Claudia is…enterprising.”
“I can’t say I expected it,” Maria Anna commented in Brussels. “Maybe I should have, when we didn’t get additional information after she went to meet with him last month. It does make sense. A lot of sense. For both of them.”
Then someone leaked the proposed modus vivendi.
International suspicion focused on a deliberate leak by way of Bernhard’s publicist.
Wilhelm Wettin exploded. “I thought these were two separate sets of negotiations, Philipp: one having to deal with Tyrol’s proposal and the other with the one coming from Burgundy. The only common thread was that you had to go south to deal with each of them.”
“The real ‘common thread’ in my negotiations with both Claudia and Bernhard was real estate in Swabia–his, hers, theirs, and what each of them would really like to add to their existing holdings.” Sattler assumed a meditative expression. “Acquisitive pair, I must say.”
“At least,” Mike Stearns said, “we got Tyrol’s entry through both houses of parliament and signed by the emperor before they dropped this bombshell.”
Wettin frowned. “It will just make it harder to get the emperor to accept the modus vivendi.”
“Ah,” Hermann of Hesse-Rotenburg said. “Have you seen Bernhard’s latest addition to the proposal? No?” He handed Wettin a memorandum. “Your brother is quite clever. The emperor is quite pleased at even the most remote prospect that at some undefined date in the future, if unlikely contingencies come to pass, Burgundy might possibly become an integral part of the USE.”
Wettin raised a bushy eyebrow. “Pleased enough to issue the apology that Bernhard wants?”
It occurred to Sattler in passing that the two brothers resembled one another to an extraordinary degree, at least physically.
The odors of sausage and fried apples wafted out of the Hortleder family dining room.
“Look, Papa.” Anna Catharina dropped the newspapers next to her father’s place at the breakfast table. He was running late, this morning, so instead of his usual slice of cold bread at dawn, the family was eating a cross between breakfast and lunch at mid-morning. “Your clerk was so excited when he saw the news that he ran right over here with them, rather than taking them to the office as usual.”
She looked at her fingers with distaste and picked up a hot, wet, napkin to wipe the ink off them.
Hortleder perused the stories; then handed each paper in turn to Gary Lambert, who did the same.
The napkin followed to each reader, finally coming to rest next to Frau Hortleder’s plate.
“What do you make of it?”
“Bernhard is maturing. I have been following his career with interest, of course. One does that with former pupils.”
“Papa,” Anna Catharina said. “What?”
Hortleder smiled indulgently at his only daughter. “He is no longer the young general of two years ago who felt that he had proved himself at Breitenfeld and who therefore felt his honor was impugned by Gustavus’ slighting comments–who felt that Gustavus didn’t believe that he was good enough to accomplish the things he set out to do. Neither, though, is he yet the icy man whose calculations, in another world, took the fortress at Breisach in a quite different way than he occupied it in this one.”
Hortleder laid his fork down. “And, perhaps, by the grace of God, he will never, quite, become that man in this world.”
Haraucourt and Thysac, suffering from seriously injured pride, offered to pursue Monsieur Gaston and his associates.
“Don’t catch him,” Bernhard said. “Gaston is more trouble than he’s worth. Just keep chasing him, and delaying him, until I notify you to let him cross the border into the Spanish Netherlands. I’ll send runners ahead. Fernando can have someone there to arrest him. Ultimately, he’s Fernando’s problem, not mine. It wasn’t Burgundy that granted him political asylum in the first place.”
Marcie entered the regent’s office in response to the little bell (“just like an old-fashioned school bell, handle and all” she told Matt) that was always on the table by Claudia’s side, along with her clock. No one could say the lady wasn’t punctual.
“Finally,” Claudia de Medici said. “A letter from the grand duke. It seems like it’s been forever.” She pried off the wax seal. “He must have realized that I would say ‘finally.’ The first thing he does is excuse himself for not being more diligent in writing to me, using the excuse that he’s been busy lately.”
Marcie had felt a little doubtful about being drafted to help the regent decipher letters from her fiancé. Probably better her than Dr. Bienner or some other bureaucrat, though–much better than one of the court’s gossipy Italian ladies-in-waiting. Once she realized that Grand Duke Bernhard was not inclined to put intimate statements into writing, her mind had become easier. “With everything that’s going on in Swabia, he probably has been dreadfully busy.”
“He writes just the way he speaks,” Claudia said as she peered at his latest missive. “Absolutely practical and straightforward. There are no literary flourishes in his German. As I am teaching myself to deal with his handwriting, I have noticed certain cues. He consistently uses ‘gk’ where many place just a ‘g’ at the end and ‘p’ rather than ‘b.’ Here, for example, he places Margrave Georg Friedrich of Baden in ‘Augspurgk.’ He writes Donau as ‘Tona;’ Donauwörth as ‘Tonawerd;’ Dresden as ‘Tresten’–what’s going on in Dresden? Dinckelsbühl is ‘Dinckelspill.’ Sometimes it’s easier to start with the proper names and then work around them.”
Marcie nodded “I did notice, when we were at Schwarzach, that even his casual conversation has a rather rat-a-tat-tat quality. His use of so many explosive consonants in his writing just reflects his pronunciation, I suppose.”
Claudia worked her way through the letter. “He is concerned about recruitment problems and the cost of recruitment bonuses. He’s allotting four hundred Thaler for a company of horse; two hundred Thaler for a company of foot. That’s enough per man to make it worthwhile for boys to join. He feels a need for more systematic funding for the army, given that receipts from France are so irregular, not to mention inadequate. He plans to issue directions for holding regular annual appropriations sessions of the Estates in Burgundy and set up one common body of Estates for the county as a whole. He’ll let the traditional local Estates, chosen however has been customary, continue to meet, but only to deal with local matters.”
“Just tell ’em so, will he?” Marcie grinned. “Elect a parliament, or else, guys. Representative government by fiat.”
“Grand Duke Bernhard has very little tolerance for ineffectiveness.” The regent waved her hand at the neat piles of paperwork on the table. “Well, neither do I. Though I have to ask myself. Why am I developing a fondness for this impatient, irascible, utterly single-minded man? Why does he, sometimes, even amuse me?”
Marcie looked at her. “I don’t know if you’ve found this out for yourself yet, Your Grace, but life’s a lot easier if you at least like the guy you marry. Maybe amusement will do for a start.”