The ship came to a stop at the docks, and everyone began disembarking. Darcy and Richard took care of the luggage they and the ladies had brought, and followed Bauer from the ship, while Lady Matlock escorted Elizabeth. The young lady was still in a state of shock, barely responding to anything said or done around her. Lady Matlock hoped that she would soon be able to recover.
Bauer led the group to the Abbey, taking them to a small building behind the relic of the Abbey. The small building turned out to be a place for the grounds keeper to reside. Inside, they found an older man, who was named Mr Hoffman. He was a cousin to Bauer.
“What are you doing here?” Hoffman asked. “Who are these people?”
“Vienna is under attack. These people fled on the ship to escape. I have offered to assist them to return to England.”
Hoffman looked at his cousin. “So you plan to leave your homeland? You intend to journey to this foreign lands?”
“They are my wife’s home. It will be safer for her and our children to be away from here. What would happen if Napoleon’s army finds her here? She will be killed, most likely my children as well. I will not remain here, putting them in the path of danger. We must make the journey now.”
Mr Hoffman nodded his head. “Your Emily is a good woman. I would not like to see her harmed. If the French have taken the Danube, it will not be long before they are here. What can I do to assist you?”
“Can they remain here, while I go to my house, to speak with Emily? When I return, I will stay here, with them, while you make purchases for us. Their clothes will show that they are wealthy. I wish to keep them protected, so we will need to purchase clothing suitable for those of a lower class, perhaps of those in trade. We will need to have supplies, food and blankets. They have the funds to purchase all we require.”
Mr Hoffman nodded his head again. “Go swiftly, and bring your wife and children here. Then I will make the necessary purchases. While you are gone, we will make a list of what will be needed. Will your wagon be able to make such a journey?”
“It should be fine. We will make our way, by land, to Cologne. From there, we will find a ship heading north on the Rhine.” Bauer stated. “So we should have no problems reaching there with my wagon.”
“Then off with you. I will keep the English here.”
Bauer introduced Lady Matlock and the three younger people to Hoffman. The older man bowed. “Though I wish it had been under better circumstances, I welcome you to Michaelsberg Abbey. It is no longer an abbey, as it is now a refuge for the elderly and the ill.”
“Mr Hoffman, we cannot thank you enough for your kindness.” Lady Matlock curtsied to the man. “I will see that you are properly compensated for all that you do for us.”
“That is not necessary, Madame. I trust that God has shown you to be here, and it is my duty to God to be of service to you. Now, would you care for some refreshments? I have some tea, some cold meat and bread.”
As if in response, Darcy’s stomach growled loudly, causing the group to laugh. Mr Hoffman smiled. “I will accept that as a response in favor. Come, we will go to the kitchens.”
Mr Hoffman led them through the buildings, until they reached the kitchen. The cook was preparing the evening meal for those who lived at the Abbey, and was willing to share with the newcomers, especially when Darcy placed some coins on the table. As they ate, Mr Hoffman spoke.
“Have you ever visited Bamberg? You are from England, if I am correct.”
Lady Matlock nodded her head. “My family is from Vienna, but my husband and his family are from England. We have been visiting my sister, in Vienna, when we received word of the French invading.”
“Napoleon will never stop invading, not until he rules the world.” Mr Hoffman said, his expression was as if he had tasted something extremely foul. “Have you heard of our Abbey before today?”
“I have heard of the Abbey, though I have never seen it before today.” Lady Matlock answered. “My children have never been to the continent before this journey.”
“Not the way to take a holiday. I would prefer to remain here, safe from the world. The Abbey has been here for hundreds of years, and withstood much. The original building was built around 1015. Since then, it has been plundered by townspeople in the 1400’s, and again in the 1500’s. There have been earthquakes and fires. But the Abbey is still here. It was originally a Benedictine monastery. If you wish, while we wait for Bauer to return, I would be willing to show you around the buildings and gardens.”
“You are kind, Mr Hoffman. It would be pleasant to see the Abbey.” Lady Matlock declared.
The group ate the bread and cheese they had been given, along with some soup. Once they had finished, they began the tour. As they walked through the buildings and the gardens, their guide informed them of their surroundings. Mr Hoffman was a devoted grounds keeper, and he knew much of the history of the Abbey and Bamberg.
“I have lived here all of my life. My father was grounds keeper before me, as was his father before him. The Hoffman family has seen to the gardens here for generations. Each bloom of a flower and every blade of grass has been tended by a member of my family.”
“The Holy Roman Emperor Henry II established the bishopric here in Bamberg. If you noticed, when you arrived in Bamberg, each of the seven hills has a church at the top. This hill was known as Michaelsberg, or Mount St. Michaels. Emperor Henry and his wife, Cunigunde, are buried in our cemetery.”
“The author, Prior Frutolf of Michelsberg lived here until his death, in 1103. The Abbey then came under the rule of Bishop Otto, who was later buried here. He was later canonized, which gave the Abbey papal protection. The Abbey owned much of the lands in this area. In 1435, there was a conflict with the townspeople, resulting in their plundering the grounds for whatever they could steal. The Peasant war of 1525 resulted in more suffering, as the Abbey was occupied by forces. In the 1600’s, Bamberg saw a dark time, when it is believed around one thousand people lost their lives during the witch trials. From 1626 to 1631, under the rule of Prince-Bishop Johann Georg II Fuchs von Dornheim. The infamous witch prison, Drudenhaus, was built in 1627 in Bamberg.”
“In 1647, the Academia Bambergensis was founded, bringing education to the area. In 1759, there were changes in the diocese, and Bamberg lost lands and independence by 1803, with the secularization of the church lands, making Bamberg part of Bavaria. The Abbey buildings and possessions transferred the city, and the monks were forced to leave the monastery. That is when the Abbey was transferred into the almshouses.”
As they entered the nave, Mr Hoffman continued. “Due to a fire in 1610, the nave and the westwork, including two west towers, were rebuilt from scratch. If you look at the ceiling, the paintings are referred to as the Garden of Heaven, with five hundred and seventy-eight different flowers and herbs displayed there. The Garden of Heaven was finished in 1617.”
The ceiling was elegantly done, impressing the visitors. Lady Matlock was grateful for the information the elder man had provided. “Mr Hoffman, it is a sign of your devotion to the Abbey, you being able to share the history of this grand place. I am grateful for you giving us the tour. In this time of trouble, to see such history is a blessing. Would you mind if we were to say a prayer for a safe journey to come?”
“By all means, please take your time. Would you prefer me to step outside, allowing you some privacy?”
Lady Matlock shook her head. “No, there is no need for you to leave. You have family who will be with us, so the prayer includes them.”
“You will see to their protection?” The man was hesitant. It was unusual for the wealthy to care for those who were beneath them.
Darcy stepped forward. “You have my promise to protect them as we protect our own family. It is a shared journey we are making, not a sightseeing excursion. Without Mr Bauer and his wife, we would be in more danger. And we will see them protected when we arrive in England.”
“You are far different than the wealthy I have known.” Mr Hoffman stated. “And I am grateful that my family has found you. They deserve a good future. Their children deserve a future.”
“And they will have the best we can give them.”
“While you are here, I will make my way to the mercantile. I will purchase clothes and supplies. Is there anything else you will require?” Hoffman inquired.
“Whatever we will need for the journey. Clothing for each of us, so we will blend in with the everyone, food supplies, and we will require water.” Lady Matlock stated, motioning to her nephew to give the man the funds he would require.
“Please remain inside while I am away. I wish for your presence to be kept from as many people as possible.”
~~ ** ~~
The family kept to the church, discussing the journey before them. Elizabeth still remained quiet, though she had been able to feed herself when prompted by Lady Matlock. Mr Hoffman was gone for close to an hour when he returned. “We can use the rooms down the hall, so you can change into these clothes. Forgive me, I know they are quite plain, but it will be safer for all of you.”
Lady Matlock and Elizabeth entered the first room that Hoffman led them to, while Richard and Darcy took the second one, across the hall from the first. Lady Matlock was able to assist Elizabeth into the plain muslin gown. Once both of the ladies were dressed, Lady Matlock fashioned their hair in a plain and simple fashion.
“There, my dear girl. I believe we will blend in with the residents here. We will have to be careful, not letting on that we are wealthy. And we will have to take on tasks that most in our society would never dare. Are you up to the challenge?”
When Elizabeth did not look up or respond, Lady Matlock stood in front of her. Taking her hand, she carefully lifted Elizabeth’s chin until the young lady looked in her eyes.
“Elizabeth, I know you are mourning your loss. Believe me, I understand your pain. But your brother would not approve of your behavior. I am certain that he would wish for you to do all that you can to survive, to return to England, and to the rest of your family. We need you to do your part, to protect us all from what this journey will hold for us. It will be dangerous, and we will need to use all of our courage and intelligence to ensure our survival. If we are captured by the French forces, we could be killed, or we can be violated in the worst way a woman could. Please tell me you understand. Please, speak with me, so I can be certain of your understanding.”
A spark of life began to glow in the pair of fine eyes that had, a moment before, been empty and lifeless. Elizabeth was able to respond. “Y…yes, Lady Matlock.”
“No, for all of our protection, you cannot call me by my title. Please remember. We will all be in danger if someone learns I am a Countess. We are traveling as a family, and you must remember that I am Mamma. Richard and William are your brothers, for this journey. Please, you must remember.”
“I will…M…Mamma.” Elizabeth stated, her voice was shaky.
Lady Matlock pulled the young lady into her embrace. “When I was a young lady, near your age, my brother was killed in a carriage accident. He was my twin brother, and we had been very close. It was devastating, so I understand how you must be feeling. My brother was a sweet boy, always watching over me. I was not very ladylike in my younger days. And my mother was constantly complaining for me to behave properly. Matthew was my protector.”
“Adam did the same for me.” Elizabeth said, tears flowing down her cheeks. “He was the best brother.”
“And he would wish for you to survive, would he not?”
Elizabeth nodded her head. “He would. Our parents, they will be devastated. He is…was the heir. Adam’s birth broke the entail on our father’s estate. Our father was planning to turn the running of the estate, after Adam and I returned from this trip.”
“And you were visiting family?”
“Our uncle. My mother’s brother. He has lived in Vienna for many years. Uncle refused to leave Vienna, as he lives in the house he shared with his beloved wife. She died years ago, though he feels close to her in their home.”
“A love match…those should be treasured. My own marriage was one of convenience, a business deal to bring financial support to my husband. He is the Earl of Matlock. His father was a gambler, and he wasted most of the income from the estate. My dowry was used to stabilize the estate, assist in making the repairs that were desperately needed to keep the estate from having to be sold.”
“Do you…do you care for your husband?”
Lady Matlock smiled. “We are friends, nothing more. But that is far better than many a marriage of our circle of society can claim.”
“I cannot thank you, for all you are doing for me. My brother…he had our funds in his coat pocket. When we arrive in England, I will speak with my father…”
“There is no need to worry, dear girl. We have enough to see all of us to safety. Before we left my sister’s home, she saw that we had all of the funds she had at her house, and with the funds we had brought with us, we will be fine. We will not be traveling in the lap of luxury, but we will make the journey. That is what is most important.”
“I can do a little cooking, if need be. Nothing fancy, but I can make sure that we do not starve.” Elizabeth’s expression was pleading, as she looked up at Lady Matlock.
“We will all do our share of the work that is before us.” Lady Matlock placed a kiss on Elizabeth’s forehead. “We will all do our share.”
~~ ** ~~
Mr Bauer arrived as the sun was beginning to set. In his wagon were his wife and children. He quickly made his way inside the building. “We must leave, immediately.”
“What is wrong?” Richard asked.
“French army have arrived in Bamberg. They are at the edge of the city, and the battle is beginning. We need to leave as soon as possible.”
Everyone looked at each other, fear taking hold of them. Finally, Richard spoke. “Mother, we must go. If we remain here, we could be taken prisoners, or killed.”
“Yes, of course. Elizabeth, you and William go on to the wagon. Richard, take the two bags we packed to take with us.” Lady Matlock commanded the younger members of her group. She then turned her attention to Mr Hoffman. “Sir, you will be in danger if you remain here. Are you sure you do not wish to join us?”
“It is my home. Though I appreciate your offer, I must protect the Abbey and its occupants to the best of my abilities. But you must make haste. My cousin is a good man; he will do all he can to protect your family.”
“If you ever find yourself in England, please contact us. We will always welcome you, for all the kindness you have shared with us.”
“My thanks, madam. Now, off with you.”
Lady Matlock made her way to the waiting wagon. It was a large wagon, mostly used for hauling freight for the mercantile. Mr Bauer had purchased it before going to his home. One the wagon was a young lady, near the same age as her son. She was holding an infant in her arms, with another child, who appeared to be around three years old, sitting beside her. Mr Bauer introduced his wife, Emily, to Lady Matlock.
“Please, call me Klarissa. As we are making this journey together, we had best be as informal as possible. You have met my son, Richard. William is my nephew, though for the journey, he will refer to me as his mother. Miss Elizabeth is a gentlewoman from England, who has been separated from her loved ones after a tragedy. She will be referring to me as her mother as well. Perhaps it will be best to pose as related, so you may refer to me as Aunt Klarissa.”
“But it is not proper, your ladyship.” Emily Bauer stated.
“With French approaching and our lives in jeopardy, there is no need for proper etiquette. If anyone were to discover who we are, we could be taken hostage, to be ransomed, or killed outright for what funds we have with us. It would also endanger your family. So please, my name is Aunt Klarissa. And Richard, William, and Elizabeth are my children.”
Emily looked at her husband. “V…very well. And I am Emily. Our children are Brigit, who is turning three next months, and Gretchen, who is two months old. And my husband is Dietrich. Or Trich, as I refer to him.”
Lady Matlock smiled. “Well, I suggest we make haste. We do not wish to meet with the invaders.”
~~~~~~~ ** ~~~~~~~
The wagon was hampered by many people attempting to escape the oncoming threat of battle. Many people were in the streets, as they made their way out of the city. Most of the people were on foot, though there were a few wagons and carriages attempting to flee. Those on foot begged and pleaded with those with carriages and wagons, holding out small children to be taken to safety or asking for an elderly loved one be conveyed.
Explosions could be heard in the distance, making everyone nervous. The horses were skittish, not being able to run and the crowds of people flocking the streets. Trich had to concentrate on the team, while Richard kept watch over the people who attempted to climb on board their wagon. Darcy was near the back of the wagon, attempting to protect the women from being pulled out to make room for those unfortunate to be on foot. Screams and wails were heard, as people were being trampled by the crowd.
As the battle sounds intensified, those on foot became frantic. They were desperate to escape the army approaching, and desperation can lead the best of men to behave badly.
The wagon approached the bridge which they would cross over the Regnitz River. Hordes of people were pushing their way to gain access to the bridge, with some of the people falling in the river. One man grabbed hold of Darcy’s arm, pulling him in an attempt to dislodge him from his place on the wagon.
“Let me on, I need your wagon for my family.”
“Release me. You will not take our wagon.” Darcy replied, beating on the man with his free hand, desperate to remain in the wagon. Seeing what was happening, Elizabeth reached over in hopes to free Darcy from the man’s grasp. When she was unsuccessful, she sat in a position which allowed her free use of her legs. She began kicking the man in the face, stunning him to a point that he let go of Darcy. The man stumbled about, blood flowing from his obviously broken nose. The last sight they had of the man was as he was pushed out of the way of rest of the pedestrians. After witnessing the failed attempt to take the wagon by force, and the fact that Darcy pulled out his pistol, no one else was prepared to challenge the group.
Lady Matlock had reached into her satchel and removed two knives. She handed one to Elizabeth, keeping the other for herself. “Elizabeth, keep this ready. If anyone else makes even the slightest move towards taking our wagon, use the knife.”
Her words were loud and clear. The grand woman knew how to make her point in a manner that brooked no argument. She looked at Richard, who had turned when he heard his mother’s voice. His pride in the woman who had birthed him was tremendous. Unlike many ladies of the upper circles of society, Klarissa Fitzwilliam was no wilting flower. She was a sturdy oak tree, standing tall and proud, and taking on whatever challenges life threw her way.
Giving her son an arched eyebrow look, he held out his hand to show her that he was armed with a large bladed knife, one he usually carried strapped to his leg. She knew he aspired to join the army in England, and he had studied methods to defend himself while at the university. Klarissa looked at Emily and the children.
“Brigit, dear one, come to Auntie Klarissa. Let me hold you, little one.”
The little girl looked cautiously to her mother, and seeing her mother’s approval, Brigit moved to Klarissa’s embrace. With the affection of a mother, Klarissa wiped the tears from the child’s cheeks, then began to hum to her. With the world around them in chaos, Klarissa was able to shelter the child from the violence and fear.
Finally, the wagon was on the bridge, though moving slowly. Suddenly, a young lady thrust a wrapped bundle into the bed of the wagon, then disappeared into the crowd. Darcy was shocked, though he continued scanning the crowd for the young lady. Elizabeth picked up the bundle and began to unwrap, shocked when the bundle was a small child.
“Where did she go?” Elizabeth looked up. “Where is the mother? Why would she throw her infant into our wagon and disappear?”
Klarissa looked at the baby, and was surprised to find the child was still asleep, considering all that was happening around them. “I do not know, Elizabeth, though she may have felt it was safer for the babe to be with us. William, did you get a good look at the mother?”
Darcy shook his head. “There were too many people surrounding the wagon. It was difficult to see who thrust the child into the wagon. Was it injured?”
“I do not see any marks or wounds.” Klarissa replied. “Hopefully the child is well.”
“What are we to do with someone’s infant?” Darcy asked, the look on his face was of surprise. Other than his younger sister, he had rarely been around babies, and was uncomfortable with them.
“We will have to take the child with us, until we discover who are its parents. The parents must be terrified, to thrust their infant into the arms of complete strangers.”
Elizabeth was holding the child to her chest. “What will happen if we never find the mother? What will become of the little one?”
“We will cross that bridge when we get there.” Klarissa said. “For the moment, let us concentrate on safely leaving Bamberg.”
The chaos continued to run freely through the mob of people fleeing the city and the incoming forces. The closer the sounds of battle came, the greater fear ruled the citizens of Bamberg. Darcy continued watching the crowd, ensuring that no one was able to overtake their wagon. The day seemed endless, and time appeared to be frozen for those who were attempting to escape the threat of the French Invasion.
After what seemed to be hours, the wagon and its occupants were reaching the north boundaries of Bamberg. People were still rushing, but as they reached open area, with no buildings or confined bridges, the people were able to scatter easier.
“We can finally push the team to speed up their step.” Richard said.
Elizabeth began to panic. “But the child. What will happen with the child?”
Emily looked at her new friend. “Most likely the babe would have been killed by the invaders. If I had no other option to protect my children, I would likely have done the same.”
“We are taking the child with us?”
“If we leave the child here, we are possibly leaving it to be murdered by the coming army. Would you leave a child behind, knowing that might end with the child’s death?”
Looking to the sweet face of the cherub in her arms, Elizabeth shook her head. “I could never do anything that would cause the death of anyone, especially not a child.”
Darcy looked at the child. “Is it a boy or girl?”
Elizabeth pulled back the cloth that was wrapped around the child’s bottom. “It is a boy.”
“I would say he is near six months of age. Since he will be with us for the unforeseen future, we should choose a name for which to call him.” Klarissa determined.
Several names were offered by Richard, Emily, and Klarissa, but it was Darcy who finally declared a name that Elizabeth agreed with. “He looks like a Thomas.” Darcy had said.
A smile graced Elizabeth’s lips. “That is my father’s name, and my brother’s middle name. I believe the name Thomas Alexander fits this young man. Thomas Alexander.”
The group all agreed with the choice. Emily was surprised that Thomas had yet to wake. “Are you certain he is breathing properly?” The young mother was concerned.
Klarissa held her finger to the boy’s lips, and there was a slight movement, as the natural tendency of an infant who nursed. “He is alive. I am not certain, but I wonder if the mother gave him something to aid the babe to sleep. Perhaps to make it simpler for her as they fled from the invasion.”
“If the mother had needed to hide, a slumbering infant would be easier with which to hide.” Richard stated.
Trich pointed towards an area to the west of them. “I suggest we stop up ahead, at the farm of a friend of mine. Joseph is a good man, he will give us some food for the horses and some water. We need to reserve the supplies we have, as we are not sure what will be available, the further we journey from Bamberg.”
Richard nodded his head. “Indeed, that is a sound suggestion. And most of the people are scurrying towards the east, so we should be safer.”
Another hour went by before the wagon came to a halt outside a small farm house.
A man’s voice came from inside the house. “Who are you? What are you doing here?”
“Joseph, it is me, Trich. We need some water and feed for the horses.”
“What are you doing here? Why are you out, on a night like this? It is too dangerous. You should be in your home.”
“We are leaving. I have my family with me.”
The man came out of his front door, holding a rifle. “You are wise. If only I could join you.”
Richard looked at the man. “You are welcome to join us. We would need another wagon, but you are welcome.”
Joseph frowned slightly. “You are English?”
Trich nodded his head. “Cousins of Emily’s. They were visiting, when the French attacked Bamberg. I need to take them to Cologne, to the ships north.”
“If you need to tend your horses, do so quickly. Then you need to be off. I cannot afford to be caught with English at my home.” Joseph was concerned.
“If we can rest here for an hour, we would be grateful.” Emily said. “My little ones need to be fed, and my aunt needs to rest from the road. It was terrible in the city, very dangerous. We had to fight to keep the wagon and horses.”
“Then feed your children and tend your horses. As I said, I do not wish to be caught with English at my home.”
Emily and the children were escorted into the house, towards the fireplace, where a blaze was glowing. An elderly woman was sitting in a rocking chair near the hearth.
“Emily…why are you here this time of night?”
“French have attacked the city. We needed to escape.” The young lady replied. “This is my cousin, Elizabeth, and my aunt, Klarissa. They were visiting us, from England, with my other cousins.”
“It is dangerous to be here, especially for English. They will be murdered. And you, you are English girl. You must not stay here.”
Emily shook her head. “We are leaving the area. It was a difficult time getting this far, from the city, so we stopped to give the horses a rest and allow me to see to the children.”
“The little ones, oh, the dear little ones. You need to keep them safe.”
“We will, Helga. Have no fear. We have inherited an extra child.”
Helga frowned. She was in her sixties, and had lived at the farm all of her life. She had grown up with her father farming the land, then her husband came to aid her aging father. When her father had died, and Helga had given birth to her son, Joseph, he grew up caring for the family farm. Unfortunately, Joseph and Helga were the only ones left of their family. She loved children, and was considered the grandmother for all the children of the neighborhood. Emily motioned for Elizabeth to carry Thomas to the elder woman, hoping that Helga might know of the child’s family.
“I have never seen this child. Where did you find him?”
“When we were at the bridge, attempting to flee the city, people were surrounding us. We had a difficult time keeping them from knocking us from the wagon, as many wished the wagon and horses to escape. Someone threw this child on to the wagon, but we could not find the person. We believe the person was the mother.”
Tears welled in the elder lady’s eyes. “I am not surprised, though it tears my heart. A desperate mother would do anything to protect her child.”
“So you have not seen him before?” Klarissa asked.
“No, not this child. Will you take him with you?”
Emily looked at the child, still nestled in Elizabeth’s arms. “If we cannot find anyone to take him, we must bring him with us. Do you know of anyone?”
Helga shook her head. “No…no…but you will need clothes and such for him. I have some, I have been making for the children of the neighborhood.” She stepped to a door leading to a bedchamber. The ladies heard sounds of things being moved about in the room, and then Helga returned, a broad smile on her lips. She held out a pile of clothes. “Take these…take them. The little one will need them. And this cover…keep him warm.”
Emily was shown to the bedchambers, with her infant and little Thomas. The other ladies stayed in the main room, as the young mother nursed Gretchen and Thomas. Elizabeth saw to Brigit having a bit of bread and cheese, while Klarissa and Helga chatted.
“If you and your son wish to come with us, you are welcome. We would be a tight fit, but we can make room for you on the wagon.” Klarissa stated.
The elderly woman shook her head. “My dear girl, I have never lived anywhere but here. I could not leave this farm, it is my family, my roots. No, if it is my time to join my dear Wilbur, I will do so with no regrets. But you are English, you need to leave the area. It will not be safe, not now.”
Once the children were fed, the horses watered and rested, the wagon was loaded once again, and the ragtag group was off again. Before they left, Trich gave his friend the key to his home. “If there is anything you want; you are welcome to take. We will not be coming back.”
Joseph nodded his head. “We will keep you in our prayers. Be safe.”
~~~~~~~ ** ~~~~~~~
Inviato da Libero Mail per iOS
That does show the desperation many face in war – to give up a child. Oh how my heart aches for her. I don’t suppose that there is any chance of reuniting that family. Thank you for these chapters.