They were, Schmitt ruefully admitted, all very fat, very corrupt and devoted to the making of money. Their only saving grace, and it was certainly a large one, was that they were also uniformly stupid. Of course this combination of greed and stupidity had been primarily responsible for the turn to Protestantism and its survival in the face of the Abbey's wrath for over 100 years, as it had provided a Heaven-sent (Schmitt permitted himself a small blasphemy) opportunity to break the Abbey's monopoly on brewing. Looking at the dozen faces around the council table, at least half owed their position and fortune to the production and sale of beer, and the rest owned interests in industries dependent on the income the trade brought to the city.
The table was a hubbub of voices and argument, wigs shook and bloated faces reddened as conversations became heated. After all, the Abbot and his followers may be the enemy, but this lot were usually in competition with each other. Such ruses as small insurance fires, rotted barrel staves and bad hops characterised their relationships.
'Gentlemen, gentlemen', Schmitt gently banged his gavel, 'this is no time to indulge ourselves in petty squabbles'
|Hans Schmitt, Burgomeister of Kempten|
This had its intended effect in most cases, except for the Rohrschach brothers who were busy arguing over whether an ink blot one had made on his notepaper was a simple inkblot or looked like a butterfly. Schmitt brought the potentially groundbreaking discussion to an abrupt halt with a glower.
|The Burgers of Kempten on a fact-finding mission|
'Now, my friends. We all now are aware that the new Abbot has taken up his throne. We shall, of course, be sending him a message of goodwill and God's blessing in his new appointment'. This was accompanied by nodding of heads and mumblings of 'rhubarb, rhubarb'.
'Further to this...' Schmitt soldiered on oblivious, 'the Abbot has invited me to discuss the current poor relations between the Abbey and our fair city. I have agreed that a small delegation, composed of myself, will meet with the Abbot and open discussions'
This began a gale of argument, as Burghers around the table agreed, disagreed, changed their minds or continued arguing about what they had been arguing about before. Schmitt banged his gavel and closed the meeting, leaving the tumult to subside on its own. He slipped out of the Rathhaus and along a few side alleys until he came to an unobtrusive door. Knocking in a rhythmic way the door opened and he flitted inside. Discarding his cape he looked around a room sumptuously, one might even say over, dressed. He passed cape and hat to a gargantuan Tartar who everyone called Otto, and cast himself down on a rather over stuffed red velvet chair.
In moments in swept a woman. Not a lady, Schmitt mentally noted, but a woman trying to ape one and outwardly suceeding. The whitened face, elegant dress and resplendent wig indicated a woman fighting a determined rearguard action against the onset of late middle age.
'Madam Palme' Schmitt jumped to his feet and bowed, turning on his not inconsiderable reserves of charm.
'Herr Burgomeister' She responded, fluttering a fan in a move that would have been coquettish in a younger woman but in Madam Palme's case looked vaguely grotesque.
'And which of your five lovely daughters should I entertain this evening?' Schmitt enquired, the charm had an edge to it this time. One advantage of being Burgomeister was the ability to turn a blind eye to Madam Palme's establishment in return for favours. In the same way he was able to borrow money from the Jew Goldblum at remarkably reasonable rates and the local Masonic Lodge never seemed troubled by the normal suspicion of such places, a relief to Grand Master Schmitt.
Yes, Schmitt permitted himself an inward smile of complacent contentment, everything was just fine, not a cloud in the sky.
Unfortunately, well, for Schmitt at any rate, his ability to predict the future was not as compliant as he would have liked.