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Authors: Jody Hedlund

Luther and Katharina (26 page)

BOOK: Luther and Katharina
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Katharina couldn't breathe. She couldn't move, not even to smooth the delicate curls off Ursula's overly warm forehead. Katharina was suddenly as listless as the youngest Cranach girl she'd been cradling in her arms.

From across the study, the hard gleam in Jonas's eyes declared his morbid news again. She could understand why he'd been appointed to bring her the tidings. He'd had no trouble delivering it.

The iciness of the room crept off the wooden floor and slithered under her skirt. Jonas's news certainly wasn't unexpected, but the finality of it hurt nonetheless.

Sitting at the counting table next to her, Barbara Cranach laid down her quill pen and pushed aside the household ledgers she'd been studying while Katharina held the sleeping child and looked on. Barbara was an efficient manager of the estate. She worked ceaselessly, often far into the night. Although she was big boned and full of figure, she always moved rapidly and with purpose. Early gray threaded through her earthen-brown hair, and her face was aged with dark circles and lines, all attesting to her tireless labor to manage the enormous bustling household.

“Justus, you must be mistaken.” Barbara gently squeezed Katharina's arm. “Jerome is betrothed to Katharina.”

“I've spoken with Herr Dichtel von Tutzing,” Jonas said without blinking. “He's promised Jerome a large dowry for his daughter.”

“But Jerome is practically married to Katharina—”

“Did you consummate your union?” Through the soft flickering of the candlelight on the dark winter day, Jonas probed Katharina and demanded honesty.

Katharina quickly dropped her attention to the little girl in her arms, relieved to see that the child was still asleep and wouldn't be subject to a topic not meant for young sensibilities.

“You're out of line, Justus.” Barbara patted Katharina's arm again. “You don't need to answer him, Liebchen.”

Katharina shook her head. “Thank you, Barbara. I wasn't planning to respond except to ask the same question in return.” She lifted her chin and glared at Jonas. “Do you think I consummated my relationship?”

Jonas stared at her intently. Then finally he shook his head. “No, I don't think you did. But it doesn't matter anymore. Even if you had consummated it, Baumgartner wouldn't have married you. He just liked the challenge of getting a vestal virgin into his bed.”

No!
She wanted to scream at Jonas, to deny everything he was saying. She wanted to lash out at him for his calmness, but she forced herself to answer with the measure of control appropriate to a noblewoman. “I believe he had only the best intention of marrying me but that something unforeseen has prevented him from his obligation.”

“He wants money and prestige. Sibylle Dichtel von Tutzing will give him both.”

Her name was Sibylle?

“She's fourteen.”

Jonas's words twisted the knife deeper into her chest. She wanted to double over with the pain, but she held herself rigid in the chair. Suddenly the room with its thick carpet and the heavy tapestries against the walls couldn't hold out the winter chill.

“She has time to give Baumgartner all the children he could ever want. But you…”

“No.” Katharina shook her head and fought the urge to cover her ears. Instead she smoothed her fingers across Ursula's silky curls and told herself that one day she'd do the same to her own offspring.

“Arrangements will now move forward for you to marry Dr. Glatz—”

“I have no wish for such arrangements.”

Jonas sat silently for a long moment. “Your problem is your pride, Katharina,” he finally said. “You need a dose of reality.”

Barbara stood, nearly tipping her chair in her haste. “I think it best if you refrain from saying anything else.”

Jonas stared at Katharina as though he hadn't heard Barbara. “Jerome didn't want you and there's no guarantee that Dr. Glatz will have you either.”

“Justus,” Barbara chided, “you're being unkind.”

Katharina met Jonas's gaze calmly even though her body trembled with the urge to run from the room. She then stood and was grateful when Barbara took Ursula from her, as though sensing the turmoil warring within her.

Jonas's eyes finally softened. “Maybe it's time for you to stop putting so much stock in outward qualifications and consider other marriage arrangements beneath your class—”

“You'd have me marry a butcher or a tanner or some other common laborer?”

“If he loves you, what would it matter?” Jonas regarded her with a raised brow.

She shook her head. It was too much to ask of her, too radical. She stepped around the desk and clasped her hands together to keep them from trembling. “I shall continue to trust that God will provide the right husband for me at the right time. Now if you'll excuse me.”

She couldn't listen to another word. She needed to get away. The urge rose with such swiftness she would embarrass herself with an outburst if she didn't leave immediately.

“Take all the time you need, Liebchen,” Barbara called after her as she settled her sleeping child against her bosom.

Katharina walked with measured steps, the carpet muting the heaviness. She passed Jonas without another word or glance in his direction. And when she reached the thickly carved door and entered the dark hallway, she wanted nothing more than to lift her skirts and run. But she had nowhere to go other than the small dormer room she shared with another woman now that Margaret was gone. The herb beds were dead and the day too cold to lose herself in the garden.

Even though she'd already resigned herself to the probability that Jerome wasn't coming back for her, the news that he was marrying a fourteen-year-old girl with a sizable dowry made the ache in her chest burn as if someone had tied her to the stake and set her on fire.

She had no dowry. That had been her problem long ago, and apparently it still haunted her. Now that she was out of the cloister, nothing had changed. She still didn't have anything to offer. And as Jonas had said, what nobleman would want her?

The burning in her chest rose to her throat.

She would end up old and alone…without the one thing she wanted most.

A family.

K
atharina stood behind the cluttered counter next to a gangly apprentice with only a few facial hairs to claim and watched him crush the dried herbs with a pestle and mortar. She'd been organizing the many dusty, overcrowded shelves that lined the wall, but her fingers twitched to snatch the tools away from the boy and grind the herbs properly. Instead she took a deep breath to steady herself, inhaling the scents of the Cranach apothecary shop, which reminded her of the cloister garden at Marienthron. The sweetness of lavender, marigold, and rosemary made her heart constrict with a sudden pain.

What would her life have been like if she'd never read Doctor Luther's pamphlets? Before her exposure to the seditious material, she'd lived a contented life at the abbey. She hadn't felt the dullness of the routines, the constriction of the silence, or the severity of the rules because she'd had nothing to which she could compare that life. She'd valued the protection of a cloistered life. At times she'd even agreed with the others that at least there she didn't have to worry about an arranged marriage to a temperamental man twice her age or about the real possibility that she would die during childbirth. She'd lived in quiet and gentility with uninterrupted time to devote to prayers.

But even as Katharina longed for the oblivion of cloistered life, another part of her rebelled. She knew deep in her heart that the peace and protection were really a mirage, that they masked the deeper flaws that existed in abbeys and monasteries all across the Roman Empire. In fact, shouldn't she work, as Doctor Luther had, to rescue other victims of such a system? How could she turn a blind eye to women who were possibly suffering the same fate as Aunt Lena and Greta?

“I shall finish for you.” She reached for the pestle.

The young apprentice relinquished it without a word.

She pounded the pestle against the mortar and crushed the marigold with a swiftness that made the boy stand back, bumping the shelves and rattling the lids on the clay pots. She'd told Barbara she'd make a healing broth for Ursula's lingering chills, and although the apprentice had insisted on making the concoction for her, Katharina missed the luxury of doing so herself.

The front door of the shop opened, and a gust of cold air whirled into the small room, shaking the bunches of dried herbs hanging from the ceiling. Two men entered. Their heavy, loose-fitting Schaubes were trimmed in wide collars of fur and ornamental chains.

When they glanced to the counter, they grew silent.

The shorter man cocked his head toward Katharina. “The very girl of whom we were speaking.”

The man's companion surveyed her. “She's comely enough. A bit thin perhaps but still young enough to bear children.”

Katharina bristled. “I beg your pardon.”

The shorter man took off his beret, revealing his stark white hair that now rose in a fuzzy disarray of static. “We've met before. I'm Dr. Glatz, rector of the parish of Orlamünde.”

As soon as he mentioned his name, she remembered him, though she hadn't seen him since autumn. In the dim light of the shop, she could distinguish the sharpness of his gaze. It pierced through her and made her stiffen.

“May I help you?” she asked, surveying his square face and the fleshy chin. The first time she'd met him, she hadn't wanted to consider the possibility of a union. Her initial impressions hadn't been favorable, largely because she'd still been clinging to the slight chance of having Jerome. But now with that hope gone, ought she to consider the possibility of marrying Dr. Glatz? Aside from being older, he met all the other standards she held—wealth, title, and power.

As she mentally posed the option, Jonas's rebuke earlier in the week came back to her. He'd told her not to put so much stock in outward qualifications. She wasn't that shallow, was she? To care more about a person's wealth and nobility than his character?

In fact, she had despised the way the noblemen were doing that very thing to her—considering her outward qualifications rather than the strength of her character. Was she guilty of the same?

Dr. Glatz ambled toward the counter. When he stood across from her, he coughed, and the movement shook his bulky body. “I need something for my cough,” he told the apprentice.

“You'll want betony mixed with pure honey.” She turned to the boy. “Mix a tonic for Dr. Glatz.”

The apprentice hopped up on a stool and squinted at the labels on the jars that lined one of the high shelves.

“Where's your master?” Dr. Glatz asked the boy. “What does a nun know about directing the business of an apothecary shop?”

“She knows more than me.” The apprentice shoved aside several jars.

“Go get your master. If I'm to pay for the medicine, I want to make sure it's what I really need.”

Katharina resumed crushing the marigold. “He'll tell you the same thing I have.”

“Then you think you're always right?” His tone had a bite.

She didn't look up from her work. His question didn't deserve an answer.

“I suppose you thought you were right about Jerome Baumgartner?”

Her heartbeat seemed to stutter to a stop, and her hands ceased their work. Over the past few days since Jonas had delivered the news, she'd surmised she'd been one of the last to learn of his engagement to Sibylle Dichtel von Tutzing. The entire town and surrounding community had apparently heard of the slight before she had.

“I guess he won't be coming back to Wittenberg for you after all.” Dr. Glatz pulled a crusty linen from his pocket and blew his nose into it with the reverberation of a lumbering cart. “What a shame he ignored the great Doctor Luther's letter.”

“I don't see that the matter is any of your concern.”

Dr. Glatz loosened the strap of his cloak and then leaned against the counter, clearly getting himself comfortable. “In young Baumgartner's university days, the students were much wilder than they are now. They were known for their drinking and dancing with the daughters of Wittenberg.”

“Dr. Glatz, I don't wish to listen to any gossip.”

“Baumgartner had earned quite a reputation by the time he finished, hadn't he?” The rector tossed a smile at his companion, who stood behind him, waiting patiently. “Quite a number of the local girls ended up wearing Baumgartner's hat and he their chaplets. In fact, he wore many a girl's
chaplet,
if you catch my meaning.” Dr. Glatz and his friend both chuckled.

But Katharina could only stare in mortification at the man's audacity to speak of such matters around a lady. No matter his title, wealth, and position, how could she marry him?

Maybe Jerome hadn't made her swoon, but at least she'd known she could enjoy amiable companionship with him. But with Dr. Glatz…She could hardly carry on a simple conversation without it turning her stomach. How could she spend the rest of her earthly life with such a man?

She turned to the apprentice. “Are you almost ready with Dr. Glatz's concoction?” She would get it ready herself if it would speed the man's departure.

The apprentice nodded and finished measuring the betony.

Dr. Glatz leaned more heavily on the counter. “Of course our great Doctor Luther put an end to the drunken parties once he returned from Wartburg Castle—”

“I don't care to hear any more,” she interrupted.

“Word around the town is that Baumgartner got your chaplet too.”

“How dare you—”

“Of course I'd prefer a virgin.” He leaned close enough that she could catch the leftover sourness of a cabbage dinner on his breath. His eyes had a look that made her want to hug her arms across her bosom. “But I've hardly ever met a nun who is.”

Mortification was swirling through her stomach as fast as the Elbe River at spring thaw. “You've completely overstepped your bounds.”

He lowered his voice conspiratorially. “Sometimes I like a woman with a little experience too.”

The conversation had gone from bad to worse. Burning with embarrassment, she grabbed the pestle and mortar and turned away from him. “You're entirely inappropriate, Dr. Glatz,” she said over her shoulder. “I shall not subject myself to any more of your lewdness.” She rapidly retreated into the closet-like back room of the apothecary, closed the door, and shuddered.

She hoped the Blessed Virgin would help her should she ever have to be in the same room with that man again.

BOOK: Luther and Katharina
4.56Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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