Wednesday, August 29, 2007

In the Bellows-Room

HUNSRUCK, Aug. 16--Entering into the bellows-room, Sophie-Vittoria paused a moment to survey the equipment which dominated the room. Six large lead-weighted leather bellows in column covered most of the floor of the long room, each bellows discharging into an airtight wooden ductwork running underneath the front of the bellows to a juncture at the midpoint of the room from which the windtrunk ran to the reservoir and windchest in the cabinet separated by another small door in the wall to the right. A narrow passageway for the calcants ran the length of the room on the right, permitting access to the door to the windchest, and to the small window on the far wall which illuminated the room during the day. Maria-Aurora, working the bellows-pump nearest the exit experimentally, asked, "So what is it exactly that we're looking for? I don't see anything at all mysterious."

"Perhaps it's in the windchest cabinet," Sophie-Vittoria replied, sidling along the passageway to avoid dragging her panniered gown over the bellows. Reaching the door she unlocked it and stepped inside. A long, narrow room with ladders on either end going up to hatches about six feet off the floor confronted her along with the continued windtrunk feeding into the overhead windchest, but without any evidence of anything untoward.

"Anything?" queried Maria-Vittoria.

"Nothing that looks odd."

"Well that's a silly prank to play. I'm going back downstairs."

"Don't go; there was something about the Count's warning which seemed so pressing. Let me take another look about before we go."

"It is your party, but I'm getting out of this dreadful little room."

"Let's think about this. If there is something here that Herr Volker wanted hidden, it can't be someplace that anyone would be able to go without his foreknowledge."

"Certainly, but there's nothing in the bellows rooms."

"But it isn't just Herr Volker who goes in the bellows room--the calcants are there almost every day."

"True, but the calcants aren't there if he's not--they wouldn't be able to poke about if he did leave something about."

Relocking the doors behind her, Sophie-Vittoria and Maria-Aurora retreated to the organloft proper. Sophie-Vittoria surveyed the massive organ console and the pipes towering over it. The three 45-key manuals and 36 stop pulls loomed over the wide bench and polished pedals below. Sophie-Vittoria felt under the bench--nothing but canvas the jute strapping and canvas-lined horsehair padding could be felt. Maria-Aurora perched herself on the bench and began to silently finger out the minuet she had mastered on the harpsichord for her own debut some months ago.

"Everything seems to be in order with the keyboards," Maria-Aurora observed as she reiterated her perfomance mutely on each manual in turn.

"But the stops..." mused Sophie-Vittoria. "Pull them all out."

Working from left to right, Maria-Aurora complied. She pulled each stop out with a smooth sliding of the wooden sliders and levers actuated by the stops, until she reached the reed stops, and drew the pullknob labeled "Vox Angelica." The knob slid without resistance a full two inches from the console with Maria-Aurora's initial pull, and when she, after a moment's hesitation, continued, the entire knob with a two foot dowling was drawn entirely free of the console.

"I think that is out of the ordinary," declared Sophie-Vittoria triumphantly. Racing back to the organloft door back to the second floor corridor, she paused a moment to relock the door, returned the organ console and tipped her candle a bit to let a bit of wax run onto the console and set the candle down on it.

"Help me out of these panniers," she ordered Maria-Aurora, "I'm going up onto the windchest."

"You're what?" hissed Maria-Aurora. "What if someone comes in?"

"I'm sure your family is troubled by all sorts of devotions in the chapel during a ball, just as ours is," replied Sophie-Vittoria archly, "but I'm willing to take that chance."

With Maria-Aurora's assistance, Sophie Vittoria was able to extricate herself from the framework maintaining her skirts' silhouette, and, gathering up the fabric now pooled about her in one hand and her candle in the other, she proceeded back to the bellows-room. Fumbling a bit with the key, she called out, "Aurora, come hold the light for me."

"I do this all under the strongest protest," intoned Maria-Aurora solemnly.

"I don't believe you for a minute. The first irrefutable evidence that something is amiss and you want us just to go back and make pleasantries with the dowager Duchess of Birkenstock? Please."

Taking Maria-Aurora's lack of response as confirmation, Sophie Vittoria reopened the door to the bellows-room and proceeded to the windchest cabinet. Opening that as well she paused to permit Maria-Aurora to catch up to her with both candles, and proceeded inside to the ladder on the right side wall of the room and proceeded cautiously up the ladder to the trapdoor overhead. Opening it she reached down to Maria-Aurora.

"Give me the candle--I think I know where to look."

"Look--for what?"

"Whatever it was that Herr Volker went to the trouble to hide in the organ-pipes."

With a pained expression, Maria-Aurora passed her a candle and watched her disappear through the hatch onto the windchest above.

Once on the windchest, Sophie-Vittoria could see that she was squarely in the heart of the organ. 60 ranks of wooden and tin pipes, formed in battalions 10 ranks deep, marched out before her, nearly the entire width of the chapel. Momentarily confronted by the thousands of pipes before her, she paused a moment.

"What do you see up there?" Maria-Aurora called up.

"The pipes are set into the windchest in rows, hundreds of them, but one rank at least has been put out of use by Herr Volker. That set of pipes is where he hid the secret he didn't want anyone to find."

"It would take hours to go through them all, and I don't think you could move the biggest ones without a team of men."

"Well, we can eliminate those right off. Herr Volker would only use a pipe he could unseat and reseat himself. And we know its a rank of reed pipes so we can rule out all of the straight ones."

"So how many does that leave?"

"Well, not more than three or four hundred, I think."


"Let me think!"

"If we were three people, one of us could work the bellows, while one pulled the stops one at a time, and I eliminated the ranks until we were left with the ones which didn't work any longer."

"Should I go get a boy from the kitchen, then?"

"I guess so--no, wait; I think he might have labeled the ranks. Go read off the stop labels to me."

"Hold on a moment, then."

After a pause, Sophie-Vittoria could hear Maria-Aurora call out, "Prinzipal, Koppelflöte, Gedackt..."

"Wait, let me see which way this runs," Sophie-Vittoria called out. "Yes, he did; he put an abbreviated label by most of the ranks. Skip down to the ones around the Vox Angelica."

"Um; let's see. All right--Mixtur, Dulcian, Schalmei, Vox Humana, Vox Angelica, Tremulant--"

"Found it!" Sophie-Vittoria cried out exultantly.

Ninety pipes stretched out in front of her behind a small mark "VxA" pencilled onto the top of the windchest on which the pipes rested, in the third rank of the second section from the front. The pipes were nestled in a wooden rack two feet high, securing the entire length of their conical resonators. On a hunch, Sophie-Vittoria proceeded about a third of the way down the narrow passageway between the rank sections and proceeded to peer down the resonators of that third rank. A little more than halfway down the rank she found what she had expected--a scroll of paper rolled tightly and wedged down the resonator of the pipe.

Pulling the paper out, she called out to Maria-Aurora, "I found something!"

"What is it?"

"Papers; the first one is a note: 'I, the undersigned Conrad, Prinz von Sickingen, do acknowledge value received from the Prinz Friedrich von Waldreck in the sum of fifteen thousand pfalzthalers this first day of June in the year of Our Lord 1757'...and then there's a note on the back in another hand, 'Owes Weißenheimer 8,500' and another: 'I, the undersigned Otto, Freiherr von Thurgau, promise to pay Prinz Friedrich von Waldreck or his agents, the sum of 23,000 pfalzthalers on demand this Michaelmas or any time thereafter'...and then on the back, again 'Owes Weißenheimer 15,000.' And another half dozen like them, at least."

"But what does it mean? Who are these people?"

"Von Thurgau commands the Kürassieren, some of the others are officers, too, but the others...I don't know, but they all are deeply in debt to Friedrich von Waldreck and owe lesser amounts to Weißenheimer--I presume that's our Hoffaktor Abraham Weißenheimer."

"Odd; he's my father's Hoffaktor as well, and I understood that both our fathers were to consult with him tomorrow on the financing of the war. I thought my father was introducing him to your father because your father was in a tight spot. That and the staff consultations were the reasons my father told me he was attending your debut in person."


Bluebear Jeff said...

Interesting. I'm glad that you've returned to this thread.

-- Jeff

tradgardmastare said...

Herzog we have not heard from you for ages - are you ok?

abdul666 said...

However glad I am to see you posting again, and how this adventurous expedition (?) of Sophie-Vittoria (adequatlty ending on a cliffhanger) may be, I remember with fond nostaligia when the Hunsrucker Allgemeine Zeitung was publishing the uniforms of Pfalz-Kognat-Obersayn, and color pictures of their exercices...

No Mounted Arm in Pfalz-Kognat-Obersayn?

And what about the uniforms of the (quasi-vile?) Waldreckers?


abdul666 said...

Indeed we enjoyed to discover the uniforms of the 3 regiments of Foot and that of the Artillery regiment: but what about the Leib- Kurassiers,
Von Schirnhausen and Von Kostenwand Dragoner?