Legions Of Pestilence – Snippet 26
Worth More than Rubies
Now, though, there was someone with whom he not only could, but should, share such concerns. God himself said that the purpose of a wife was to serve as her husband’s sturdy prop. Didn’t he? He pulled his Bible off the shelf behind him and checked, just to be sure. Yes. “She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks” (Proverbs 31:17). Buying fields, planting vineyards. You had to give God credit: sometimes He had really excellent ideas. Bernhard flipped back a few chapters. “He who finds a wife, finds a good thing” (Proverbs 18:22). People ought to pay more attention to Solomon, considering how wise he was supposed to have been. Hey, “and obtains favor from the Lord.” That was even better. He could use some divine favor right now. If he recalled correctly, there was a bunch of stuff in here about wisdom. He flipped through the pages again and read for a while.
Then he crossed off “Memo to self” in the header and substituted, “Memorandum to My Lady Wife the grand duchess.”
Primo, my lady, there is no point in fighting a battle of your troops are not up to defeating the enemy. Do it only if you are inexorably trapped into it. Otherwise, it is better to wait for reinforcements or even, in dire circumstances, to set up a new army altogether. This basic principle leads me to the realization that there is a battle for which I need reinforcements. To be precise, I need a competent paymaster, preferably yesterday. Find one.
Secundo, my lady, it is absolutely necessary to establish a reserve army for the County of Burgundy. This is no new idea. Christian of Denmark attempted it in the past, but did not follow through. This has been an ongoing mark of the man’s career throughout. I delegate this to you. Choose a commander in whom you have confidence and proceed with the project.
Tercio, the regiments were not in as good shape as I could have wished when we had to move out in March. Too many of the men were still in bad condition from the winter. We need to set up permanent winter quarters, not just for the troops who will be garrisoned at the citadel–those are already under construction–but also at every point in the County of Burgundy where we may reasonably expect to assign regiments during the winter months. Have someone project the costs. This may require a meeting of the Estates. Arrange to have one summoned in the autumn as soon as the plague danger abates. Rohan should hire a second publicist, to be based permanently in the capital rather than traveling with me. Have this occur in an expeditious manner.
Quarto, there is a pressing need for more powder. My negotiations with the various city councils in Lorraine have been unsuccessful. Arrange to expend in Hamburg the remainder of the funds allotted for this from the last subsidy payment received from Richelieu and arrange for shipping.
Quinto, I am impatient with the delay of some other commanders in mustering their forces. It interferes with everyone else’s dispositions. Have clever men in the capital speak with the up-timers I hired. If they know about telephones, then they must know about radio. Tell them I want a radio system by which I can, at every time, communicate directly with every regimental colonel in my forces. There will no longer be laments about letters lost in the mail and instructions gone astray. I will know that I have spoken to them and, moreover, they will know that I know it.
In the latest encyclopedia signature you received from the publisher and placed on my desk, there was an article about something called facsimile. As I understand it, one could put a document into a telephone at one end and it would come out of a machine attached to a telephone at the other end. Select clever young men and send them to Grantville’s libraries to study this.
“Sexto, my lady, as always, Gott mit uns.”
He folded the missive neatly, placed it inside his doublet, stood up, and walked down the hall where his wife of a month’s standing was working at her own desk.
Claudia glanced over it. “If nothing else, My Lord Husband, I think that have grasped one essential point about our marriage. I need never fear that you regard me as a mere decorative ornament in your life, to be relegated to my own chambers where I and my ladies-in-waiting will do embroidery and gossip.”
Bernhard looked at her, bewildered. “Why would I? I thought I made it very clear to everyone that I didn’t want that kind of wife.”
He clasped his hands behind his back and raised a bushy eyebrow. “Now may I suggest a temporary recess while we do something about Proverbs 5:15-19, potentially incorporating selected passages from Ecclesiastes and the entire Song of Solomon?”
Claudia wiped her pen to hide a smile. The grand duke’s efforts at husbandly flirtation were, to put it mildly, a bit awkward.
But at least he tried.
Der Kloster drank in a tavern in the town rather than in the monastery.
The grand duke disapproved of carousing in cloisters.
The grand duke disapproved of carousing altogether, if the truth be told, but the rest of them weren’t so stiff-necked.
“If God is really with us,” Ohm said, beckoning for more beer, “He will never, ever, permit the construction of one of these new ‘railroads’ in an east-west direction across Lorraine. Generals do not need an easier way to get their troops from France into the USE, or the other way around. If it were my choice, I would fortify each one of these north-south rivers, doing my best to prevent road-building and beheading every railroad surveyor I saw.”
Michael John wandered in.
Moscherosch laughed. “Off duty at last.”
“Anybody want to lay me a bet on what the grand ducal pair are doing this very minute?”
I Never, Ever, Watched Soap Operas
Rebecca Abrabanel pried two clutching and screaming children loose from her skirts while she talked. “Sepharad, Baruch, stop that this instant! So, you see, Michael, the first requirement for a successful royal mistress, or ducal mistress, for that matter, is that she have a complaisant, or complacent, husband who will be proud and happy to bestow his name on any possible consequences of the relationship.”
The USE prime minister hunched his shoulders, their youngest offspring, baby Kathleen, having just emitted a belch of amazing dimensions accompanied by part of her last meal. “This, I take it, was the missing element that led to the unfortunate death of the late duke of Lorraine.”
Rebecca looked as solemn as anyone could have been expected to look, given the absurdity of the tale she was narrating.
“For some months, the gentleman was not much in evidence. Possibly Charles could be forgiven for making the assumption of complacency. Or complaisance. Whichever would be appropriate. Then, suddenly, he appeared at this rural château where they were disporting themselves, catching the pair in flagrante delicto. Morally outraged, sword in hand, he retrieved his marital honor by running both of them through with a sword, in the most time-honored manner.”
“Convenient.” Balthasar Abrabanel’s eyes twinkled. “We’re sure it happened that way?”
“By chance,” Francisco Nasi rolled his eyes, “by chance, he was accompanied by a half-dozen impeccable eye-witnesses. Their veracity is attested to by none other than Doña Mencia herself. You remember her, don’t you–Cardinal Bedmar’s sister who is Maria Anna’s lady-in-waiting. She is well-acquainted with them. The rumor that a couple of them held the duke and the pretty Beatrice down to simplify and expedite the running-through process is, probably, sheer embroidery.”
Just for the record, I would like to file he information that up-time I never, ever, watched soap operas and never, ever, wanted to.”
“That protest now being on record, what happened next?” The USE prime minister handed Kathleen off to an entering nursery-maid, swabbed at his shoulder, and tried to get his mind focused on politics again.
“Well, it seems that the outraged husband escaped. The general assumption is that he is now on his way back to his ancestral estates in the Franche Comté, where he will become the problem of Bernhard and Claudia. Wherever he is headed, though, he is carrying a personal safe-conduct signed by Isabella Clara Eugenia.”
“There are rumors,” Francisco Nasi added, “that he is also carrying a personally signed letter to the effect that if Bernhard wants continued complacency, or complaisance, from the indomitable Isabella in regard to his annexation into the County of Burgundy of those portions of her appanage once comprised by the Franche Comté, he will see fit to leave the gentleman to while away his time in rural tranquility on said estates.”
“It is really a rather elegant solution,” Becky pointed out.
“From the tone of your voice, I am guessing that there is more.”
“Well the duke is dead now,” she answered at her most innocent.
“Thoroughly so, I gather.”
“Which means that Duchess Nicole is a widow.”
“Surely she is not prostrate with grief.”
“By no means. But she is available. Unless she enters a convent, slams the door behind her, and takes perpetual vows, there remains the question of her next marriage.”
“Within a week of the abrupt termination of her last marriage?”
“Of course. Now in regard to Henriette…” She turned around. “Sepharad, Baruch. Stop that this very instant.”
“It took some fancy footwork,” Mike said, “but I have managed to postpone the signing of any modus vivendi treaty with Bernhard in regard to Burgundy on the grounds of the still-unsettled conditions in Lorraine. Of course, it’s not that hard to persuade Gustavus into dragging things out as long as possible until he absolutely has to issue that apology that Bernhard wants.”
Frank Jackson snorted. “The truth is, you don’t want to be ‘present at the creation’ of this one. It’s close enough to the changeover that you intend to duck out and let Wettin shoulder the responsibility for this particular kettle full of very smelly fish.”
Mike didn’t answer.
“Not that I blame you,” Frank added.