Fulda, March 1635
The sergeant knocked on the door of the Benedictine priory.
Not the door of the big Abbey of Fulda. The door of the little convent of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. A door upon which, he thought, he had knocked altogether too many times recently.
The lay sister who served as the gatekeeper flicked open the peephole.
“Sorry to bother you, Sister,” the sergeant said, “but I’ve got some more people for the prioress. One of our patrols picked them up on the road coming down from Vacha. Refugees, again.”
“Thank you for bringing them to us.”
“No problem, ma’am. And I’ll tell Colonel Utt that you’ve got another batch.”
“Of course, you are welcome,” the prioress said to the four bedraggled women. “From Hersfeld, you say? If you do not mind rather cramped quarters, I will ask you to share rooms with the six nuns and three novices who came from the Eichsfeld a couple of weeks ago. Whatever we have, we will gladly share.”
“At least,” the apparent leader of the group said, “you have a place for us to rest our heads and something to share.”
Salome von Pflaumern nodded. “Life here has become . . . strange, in some ways. Unaccustomed ways. I never expected, for example, during my twenty calm years in the convent in Kühbach bei Aichach, in the diocese of Augsburg, that I would ever become notorious as one of the subjects of a satirical pamphlet.
“But for the past two and a half years, almost—ever since the up-timers came—we have not been disturbed. Not, at least, plundered. We have a garden, which we can shortly plant, so fresh foods will be coming in. Until then, our rations will be sparse.”
“The up-timers have deprived you of your income?”
The prioress shook her head. “We have some money assigned to us by the abbot, which we usually just don’t receive. The abbey’s provosts neglect to send it, in spite of the fact that a papal decree obliges them to because back before the Reformation, there were Benedictine convents within their regions that have ceased to exist.”
“How can they refuse?”
“They can procrastinate.” She smiled. “The up-time woman, Frau Hill, once mentioned to me that the problem also existed up-time, where it was known as ‘reprogramming of appropriated revenues.’ The former abbot assigned the income to the priory before I arrived. He, Johann Bernhard Schenk von Schweinsberg, founded our priory. He laid the cornerstone here in 1626. The papal nuncio agreed to the assignment of our incomes in 1627. Our theoretical incomes, since the convent has no estates of its own with farmers cultivating them on our behalf and the profits coming to us. That was before I was in charge—the founding nuns returned to Zella in 1630, which is when I and three of my fellow-sisters came to replace them.
“I have—repeatedly—written to the nuncio in Cologne that I would have far more authority in negotiating with them if I were an abbess rather than just a prioress—so far to no avail. We do earn some money through needlework to replace church vestments that have been destroyed during the war and the rebinding of liturgical books. The apothecaries in Fulda also pay us to prepare medicines from the herbs in our garden. So we do have money. Not much, but some. Which at least arrives regularly, with no . . . deductions by local officials along the way.”
Her guests nodded. Then one of them asked, “Have you heard anything from the nuns in Zella? It is in the Eichsfeld, too, after all.”
“Damn it, Harlan. I just don’t know what to do.”
Melvin Springer said that a lot, much to the frustration of his subordinates, who had gotten used to working with Wes Jenkins.
“Why in hell are they all ending up here?” He tapped his forefinger on the conference table.
Harlan Stull leaned forward. “It’s gotten worse since Wettin won the election. A lot worse. Especially with Gustavus Adolphus focused on the fallout from March fourth and the upcoming campaign against Brandenburg and Saxony. It’s like every little fuss and feud that Mike had been sitting on since he became prime minister is breaking out again. Even before the official transfer of power. I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like, come June, when Wettin’s actually in office.”
“So? Answer my question, will you. Why here?”
“Mostly, I think, because Fulda’s the closest sort of . . . protected . . . Catholic place to where they’re coming from. To the different places that they’re coming from. Most of Thuringia’s pretty solidly Lutheran. It’s either head this way or try to make it all the distance to some of the old Mainz Catholic exclaves around Erfurt. Bamberg and Würzburg are even farther away. If they went west, they’d have the problem of trying to get across the Rhine, since Hesse’s in control all the way to the river.”
“So we’re just a handy pit stop. Damn it, Andrea. That’s not what I wanted to hear.”
“Send Andrea over to talk to the prioress again, I guess,” Derek Utt said. “That might be the best thing to do, Melvin. This time last year, there were fifteen nuns in that building. Now, with the refugees, she must have twice as many crammed into it. She’s going to need help feeding them. Cloistered nuns just don’t have very many ways to make money. Send somebody over to talk to Hoheneck, too, I guess. He’s the abbot now. See if he can squeeze a little more blood out of the turnips who are his provosts. Maybe . . . “
“Send Urban von Boyneburg up to Hersfeld to talk to von Wildenstein. He’s been working with us long enough now that he should have a decent idea about what we mean when we say the words ‘freedom of religion.’ I’d be willing to go with him. Because I’m not absolutely sure . . . “
“Of what?” Harlan Stull asked.
“That the landgrave of Hesse-Kassel and Wettin himself are fully up to speed about some of the things that their local administrators are doing in their name in places like Hersfeld and the Eichsfeld. Because it’s not universal. That is, it’s not happening across the board. A lot of these religious-based expulsions are pretty spotty. Localized. But I hate to tell you . . . ” Derek Utt ran a hand through his rusty red hair, leaving the curls standing on end.
“Just before I came in, Hartke told me that a patrol out under Jeffie Garand and Joel Matowski yesterday collected another batch of nuns on the road. They found them rooms in Vacha so they could get some rest overnight and are going to bring them in today. From a convent at Zella, in the Eichsfeld. Nearly twenty, this time. Hell if I know where Ms. von Pflaumern, the prioress, that is, is going to put them.”
“In that building?” Andrea Hill said. “She’s not going to put them anywhere unless she stacks them up like cordwood. You’ll have to talk to von Hoheneck and see about leasing the convent some extra space. And I think—with your approval, of course, Melvin—that I’ll write to the landgravine. Amalie Elisabeth has more sense than this. For one thing, they can’t believe that it has the emperor’s backing. Back before we came to Fulda, in the winter of 1631, when the queen of Sweden was in Germany with her husband, she stopped here in Fulda, met with Salome von Pflaumern, and gave the convent thirty ducats.”
Andrea stood up, sticking a pencil into her hair. “Maybe I could write to Wettin’s wife, too, and remind her of that. After all, he’s just invited the English Ladies to set up their girls’ school in Weimar rather than Grantville. Why would he be inviting nuns into one city—what amounts to his own old home town—and throwing them out of another region that’s under his administration? It just doesn’t make sense.”
Springer nodded. “It can’t hurt, I suppose.”
The liturgy completed and the others dispersed to their daily tasks, Salome von Pflaumern rose, mentally girding herself, like Paul, putting on the armor of God to do battle one more time. With the fishmonger, who was making noises about making no more deliveries until he got paid.
Easter would not be until April eighth. They were on Lenten rations. The garden was producing almost nothing, this early—only what they had planted in the hothouse against the brick wall that got the afternoon sun.
Thus . . . today, the battle of the fish. Not as impressive as a military battle with banners flying, perhaps, but just as necessary.
Hersfeld, April 1635
“Six groups,” Boyneburg said. “Within the last three months, six different groups of Catholic refugees have come into Fulda from Hersfeld. Herr Springer, the administrator, is very upset.”
Georg Wulf von Wildenstein was not prepared to compromise. “An eye for an eye,” he said. “I am not enforcing more than that. The Catholics in Hersfeld are only now reaping what they previously sowed.”
Boyneburg looked at Wilhelm of Hesse-Kassel’s administrator in Hersfeld. He would be more inclined to believe the man if he didn’t know his previous history so well. Before the landgrave gave him this appointment, he’d been field commander of Muffel’s Brandenburg-Kulmbach regiment on Gustavus Adolphus’ behalf when it went through Franconia as part of Horn’s troops. When Horn took Bamberg in February 1632, he’d named Wildenstein to command the garrison holding the city. Whereupon, almost at once, Wildenstein had ordered the stripping of “idols” from the Jesuit church in order to hold Calvinist worship services there.
Very much, Boyneburg thought, as the Calvinist chaplains of the Winter King had stripped the Catholic churches in Prague in 1618 for the same purpose. A less than popular move in Bohemia. Which led one to suspect that some people never learned.
Wildenstein had pushed the issue in Bamberg hard enough that even Horn’s Lutheran chaplains had filed a protest. It took some doing to achieve that result.
Very much as, the refugees said, he had now, once again, ordered the “stripping of papist idols” from the city church in Hersfeld.
“It started with Tilly,” the mayor said. “Tilly took Hersfeld in 1623. May, it was. The first Hessian city that the Catholics took. He had his headquarters here during the summer in 1625, but even before that, he ordered that Catholic masses were to be held every day in the old abbey church.
“Ferdinand II decided to reestablish the Imperial abbey. Now remember, this was well before he issued that so-called Edict of Restitution. He just decided on his own authority that during the Reformation, it had come into the possession of the landgraves of Hesse illegally.” The man snorted. “Catholic Reformation, hah. Call it by its right name—Counter Reformation. Everything was to go back the way it had been. A commission from Mainz came in 1628 to take possession of the abbey in the name of the archbishop as administrator. The archbishop appointed a regent.
“Until 1629, at least, the Mainz commission recognized the protectorate of the landgrave over the rest of the city and let the Calvinists continue to worship in the city church. Then that year, after the Edict of Restitution, the archbishop named . . . ” He paused. “Wambold von Umstadt appointed the up-timers’ late friend and colleague, the former Fulda prince-abbot Johann Bernhard Schenk zu Schweinsberg, as vice-administrator. He set out to restore papistry in the whole city. Quite a big deal. Even though it was February, not the best time for public processions, he came into the city with all of his cavalry and a batch of monks. Jesuits. Benedictines—not his own, but borrowed from St. Gall. A batch of Franciscan friars. They arrived with pomp—eight coaches and three large travel wagons. There were Croats stationed here, to keep the city quiet. They received Schweinsberg outside the city and escorted him in. The Catholics rang all the bells in the abbey church. Armed citizens stood at attention in the streets.
“Schweinsburg ordered the mayor—that was me, by the way—all the members of the city council, the Calvinist minister, and the chaplain to come to the city church. He relieved us of our offices, in the polite term for firing us. He expelled the Calvinist congregation from the city church.
“And, then and there, one of the other Fulda officials he’d brought along, the provost of the Petersberg, the up-timers’ current friend and colleague, the new abbot of Fulda—back then he was Schweinsberg’s subordinate—Johann Adolf von Hoheneck, held a high mass in the city church and thereby took it again into possession as, quote-unquote, ‘a Catholic house of God.’ Through his chaplain, a guy they called Father Bartholomäus, he installed a Jesuit, a man named Jakob Liebst, as municipal priest.”
“So, as you see,” Wildenstein said, “we have done nothing to the Catholics that they had not done unto us. It’s scarcely appropriate for you, as a Calvinist yourself, to complain.”
Boyneburg cleared his throat. “I believe that a more accurate rendition of the words of Christ is not ‘as others have already done unto you’ but rather, ‘as you would have others do unto you.'”
“Franconian?” Melvin Springer asked.
“The family lineage was geographically Franconian in origin,” Boyneburg answered. “But Georg Wulf von Wildenstein is a subject of the Palatinate. There’s a history to it.”
“Isn’t there always?” Derek Utt grinned rather ruefully. “How many centuries this time?”
Boyneburg reflected a couple of minutes. “Not quite three, I would say. At least, that would cover the issues of most immediate concern.”
“Then tell me,” Springer said. “The short version, please.”
“This branch of the von Wildenstein family has lands in several areas. One of the earliest was the Rothenburg, a castle not too far from Schnaittach. That’s near Nürnberg, in the Pegnitz valley. One of them sold it to Emperor Charles IV in 1353; it came to the Palatinate some time after that, and in 1478, a coalition of imperial knights, fifty or so, bought it. Much to Nürnberg’s annoyance, I have to say. When the Palatinate fell into Bavarian hands in 1623, in this war, the city council was even unhappier. Then in 1629, Duke Maximilian started the re-Catholicizing process and was well on his way to creating a little Bavarian Catholic exclave completely surrounded by Lutheran lands when Gustavus came through in 1631 and reversed the process. But Wildenstein still carries a grievance. Plus, there used to be more family holdings, Wildenfels and Strahlenfels, near Hilpoltstein, in the Lauf region—they sold those to Charles IV, also, so the Franconian connection’s a long time ago. That’s along the Pegnitz, too. Then his family also had lands over at Neumarkt in the Upper Palatinate and Maximilian started in on those after 1626.”
Melvin sighed. “To think I used to get disgusted because some families still held grudges that went back to the Civil War. I’ve got to say that West Virginians, even the Hatfields and the McCoys, were pikers in the grudge-and-feud department compared to the folks around here.”
Andrea Hill bit her lip. It would scarcely be appropriate for her to say, “If you don’t like it here, then why don’t you go back home?”
Not that she hadn’t thought it at least a dozen times. Along with the rest of the staff, she was sure.
“A request for you to meet with a delegation of the imperial knights of Buchenland County, Mr. Springer,” Etienne Baril said. “Shall I go ahead and set up the appointment?”
“What do they want to talk about?”
“Reversing the calendar change?”
“What calendar change?”
“The change to the calendar you up-timers use. The Gregorian calendar. As opposed to the Julian calendar, which many of the Protestant territories still use. Not, I would point out, all of them. Even Hesse-Kassel adopted the reform, even if a pope did proclaim it. But England, of course, still uses the old calendar—what could one expect of the English? And the imperial knights of Buchenland resisted very strongly when Fulda introduced the modernization in 1588.”
“That’s, uh . . . how long ago, did you say?”
“Almost fifty years.”
“That’s what I thought. And now these guys want?”
“To go back to the old calendar.” Baril smiled blandly.
Springer looked up suspiciously. “These are the same creeps who had Wes and the others kidnapped?”
“Some of them, yes.”
“Why do they think I’d agree to go back to some calendar that the rest of the SoTF—hell, the rest of the USE—isn’t using?”
“I don’t know if they think you will agree. That doesn’t prevent them from being persistent in their attempts. They have a lot of ties of kinship and friendship down into the Rhön area and through there to the Franconian imperial knights, who never wanted to accept the reform, either.”
“Can’t you just remind them that the Franconian imperial knights, most of them, anyway, got their asses thoroughly fried by a batch of farmers last summer and are pretty much out of play?”
“For years, they have double-dated their official correspondence with the administration in Fulda, while continuing to use the old dating in their private correspondence.”
“What do you think?”
“In 1631, before the emperor assigned Fulda and the whole Buchen area to the administration of what was then the New United States, it was briefly governed by the landgrave of Hesse-Kassel. At that time, the knights voted to abolish the new calendar in their territories. The landgrave, who fully understands that the new calendar is more accurate, even if formulated by the antichrist on earth himself, did not approve the revocation.”
“Revoked it anyway. Until the up-timers arrived.”
“Well . . . ” Springer thought a minute. “Check with Harlan Stull about this, would you? It might be a good idea to get the UMWA point of view.”
Harlan didn't hesitate for an instant. “Tell them that the up-timers are still here, new county government or no new county government, and Buchenland County is damned well sticking with the national calendar.”
“It’s scarcely the most tactful way to phrase it,” Baril answered anxiously. “Particularly since Colonel Utt and the Fulda Barracks Regiment are . . . away, pursuing the latest military information we received.
“You are so damned right that it ain’t even funny, Etienne,” Harlan answered. “Set them up an appointment with me, if you will. I’ll still tell them there’s no chance before hell freezes over, but not until after a nice long UMWA-style negotiation has worn them out. Anything else?”
Baril sighed. “I am a Huguenot myself—a Calvinist, but still . . . Another group of refugee nuns has arrived. Seven women, these from all the way north in the former imperial abbey of Corvey. Which is also, if I may say so, now under Hesse-Kassel.” He turned his head. “May I ask, Madame Hill, if you have received any response from the landgravine yet?”
“We’re sick and tired of it,” von Ebersberg said. “We’re loyal Protestants, every one of us. We suffered too, under Tilly. And under Schweinsberg. Let me tell you that, dead or not, no matter who killed him, most of us don’t see him as any kind of a martyr. We were here before you up-timers came, Stull. We had to live through it. In 1623 and 1624, he exiled the Protestant pastors in several territories of the imperial knights and put Catholic priests in their place. Just ask over at Hettenhausen and Neukirchen if you want to get a picture of how he behaved. He put pressure on most of us to convert back to popism. In 1627, he made us promise to make ‘voluntary contributions’ for the support of the Catholic armies. That was really why we got into contact with the knights in the Franconian Circle, back then.”
“Nobody is trying to make you support Ferdinand II or Maximilian of Bavaria now,” Harlan said.
“No.” Ebersberg eyed him doubtfully. “But how can we be sure that will continue, as long as we are subordinate to this ‘Buchenland County’ that ordinary commoners were allowed to vote to establish. If you ask me, von Schlitz had a point. How can we be sure of maintaining our rights and freedoms if we are not independent? How is it better for us to be subjects of Buchenland than of the abbot of Fulda?”
He drew a deep breath. “Like this papist calendar you insist that we must use, just as the abbots did.”
The psalms were an important part of the liturgy. Salome von Pflaumern thought that on this day, it was at least very . . . appropriate . . . that they should be chanting Psalm 121.
The Lord is thy keeper:
the Lord is the shade upon thy right hand;
The sun shall not smite thee by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil:
he shall preserve thy soul.
The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in
from this time forth, and even for evermore.
If not . . . ironic . . . that they should be chanting Psalm 121. At least these had come safely to Fulda. She added a private prayer for those of her sisters who might still be, somewhere, on the road, seeking sanctuary, that the Lord might preserve them from harm.
Now that they were past the fast season of Lent, she should be able to provide her sisters with a decent diet. On a normal day, outside of fast times, they could eat moderate amounts of meat, cheese, butter, and eggs. Vegetables from their own garden, properly cooked and well seasoned. Salad, also from the garden. Bread and oatmeal, peas and beans. Fruit—apples, pears, cherries, damsons. Nuts and almonds, even. Milk and wine.
All quite acceptable within the Rule of Saint Benedict.
If, of course, one could pay for them.
Melvin Springer felt a little uneasy about being in a convent. Even in the business office of a convent. He was, after all, a Baptist. Southern Baptist.
Since, however, the prioress insisted that the rules of the cloister forbade her from coming over to the Buchenland County administration building . . .
Andrea Hill had told him in no uncertain terms that he was not, absolutely not to say anything along the lines of, “You know, they can’t make you stay here if you want out,” on the grounds that this lady was really dedicated to her job, very pious, and didn’t want to escape in the least. Which struck him as really odd. But Andrea had met her before, and he hadn’t.
“If the abbot can’t make the provosts pay what is due to the convent,” the prioress said firmly, “since according to your doctrine of ‘separation of church and state’ he is no longer the lord of the lands that used to be Fulda, but merely the spiritual head of the abbey itself, then it is clearly your duty as the lord of the land to make them pay. It is clear that any appeals he may have made to their better nature, their moral obligations, and their consciences have failed altogether. All three of the provosts are now taking the position that since there is no Holy Roman Emperor any more, then any financial obligations they had as his subjects are null and void.”
“I’ll see what I can do,” Melvin Springer answered. “But I’m not the ‘lord of the land’ either, you know. Buchenland County has self-government, now. An elected county board with a chairman. I’m really just here, any more, as a sort of adviser. Not an administrator with authority.”
“Well, the least you can do is look at some of the replies I’ve been getting.” She slapped a batch of letters down on the table between them. “This man, for example, claims that he has already paid what he owes to the convent and I am trying to collect twice. It absolutely is not so. God forbid that I should ever do such a thing!” She reached behind her and pulled down a ledger. “I keep excellent books. With double-entry bookkeeping. Additionally, the lay sister at the gate logs in every delivery and letter separately.” She pulled down a different ledger.
Melvin prepared himself for a long meeting. Luckily, he had brought Etienne Baril, who was a lawyer himself.
“You understand, don’t you, Mr. Springer, that I am not doing this for my own advantage. I am doing it for the good of the community, of which I am both the elected head and the servant. The community to which I belong and for which I am responsible. If I cannot get satisfaction here, I will be forced to file grievances. With the papal nuncio, of course. With the dowager empress, Eleonora Gonzaga, in Vienna. I am not asking for any special privileges. Only that which we hold as of right.”
She rose from her chair.
“I’ll see what I can do,” Melvin said.
“Perhaps,” Salome von Pflaumern said, “I will write to the famous Gretchen Richter. I have heard that she is a Catholic. And I understand that the Committees of Correspondence handle problems like these very effectively.”
“The prioress is certainly very . . . tenacious,” Melvin said. “Stubborn as an old mule, to put it plainly.”
Baril smiled. “Her father was a lawyer. With a doctorate. And a bureaucrat for the counts of Hohenzollern at Sigmaringen. Later on, he worked for the Fuggers. Her brother, one of her brothers, is the mayor of Ueberlingen. It’s not as if she’s a babe in the woods when it comes to making her way through official tangles of various kinds.”
Harlan Stull snorted. “It’s a pity we can’t just send a unit of the Mounted Constabulary up into Hersfeld.”
Andrea cleared her throat. “I’m afraid that would be sort of like . . . letting the governor of Kansas use the National Guard to invade Nebraska.”
Harlan grunted. “Hell, I know it. But it would simplify my life. A lot. I’m coming to think that it’s harder to deal with our so-called friends than with our outright enemies.”
“We have to be more patient with them, at least.”
He grunted again. “The prioress lady’s actually sort of impressive.”
“A person could almost call her feisty, to use a West Virginia description,” Melvin said.
“Fighty?” Baril asked a little doubtfully. “‘Fight” I know, but . . . “
“‘Feisty.’ It sort of means, uh, spunky. Ready to step up to the plate.”
Andrea gave Baril the kind of look that communicated, “Don’t bother asking Melvin again. I’ll explain it to you later.”
“Look, Hoheneck,” Harlan Stull said.
The abbot of Fulda slapped his hand against the door frame. “It doesn’t make any difference whether she’s taken in forty refugee nuns or four hundred, Stull,” Johann Adolf von Hoheneck said tightly. “I still don’t have any money to give her.”
“How can you possibly not?”
“Everything the abbots held as rulers is now the public property of Buchenland County. The specifically church goods that the abbey still has are either unprofitable—like the priory of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary—or else not mine to control. Neither the State of Thuringia-Franconia nor the United States of Europe has, and for that I do thank God, seen fit to replace canon law with secular law. That means, however, that the abbey’s few remaining income-producing properties are either subject to the provosts, rather than directly to me, or tied to the support of the specific canonries in the Stift. Unless the pope should see fit to change that, it will stay that way.
“The Abbey of Fulda doesn’t have any ‘treasure.’ It barely has something that might be described as a ‘treasury’ if the speaker were feeling generous. In 1631, the Hessians stripped the churches of anything that might have monetary value. Literally, anything that was not nailed down. In the abbey church, they took a lot of things that were fastened to the walls. They took the library and haven’t returned it—nor are they likely to. You brought my predecessor back to an abbey with empty coffers and nothing has happened to fill them.
He slapped his hand against the door frame again. “To quote Colonel Utt’s favorite phrase, ‘Get real.'”
“That’s not what I was hoping to hear,” Melvin Springer said when Harlan got back. “Dear old Buchenland County, SoTF. Why did I ever take this job? Talk about the labors of Sisyphus. A lot of the time, I feel like we’re not accomplishing a thing.
“It’s a letter from the landgravine, finally,” Baril said, laying it on Andrea Hill’s desk.
She pulled her letter opener out from behind her ear.
“With a bank draft. Not a fabulous amount, but it should see the ladies at Assumption through for a couple of months. And a promise that she will ‘look into it,’ for whatever that may be worth.”
Salome von Pflaumen sent the business manager to cash the bank draft and pay the suppliers.
Then she took out her prayer book. Carefully, on the front flap, she wrote,
After we have endured great sorrow in our hearts, God always sends great joy again. During times of misfortune, have the courage of a lion. Always trust in God, because eventually things will get better.