1635: THE DREESON INCIDENT — snippet 32

 

1635: THE DREESON INCIDENT – snippet 32:

 

 

            “Laurent Mauger must know nothing of what we plan. We must use him as a courier only. I emphasize this as strongly as I can.” Locquifier tapped on the table.

            “Are you sure we can rely on him? That he won’t open our instructions?” Ouvrard was a congenital pessimist.

            “The only sure things are death and taxes. So far, though, there haven’t been any leaks from the letters we have sent to Michel through his firm.” Deneau looked at Robert. “Just have de Ron flatter him a little. Congratulate him on his prudence and forethought in having someone in place.”

            “Do we know who his local informant is? If we’re planning to use the man to organize a demonstration, not just as a source of information, maybe we should find out more about him. After all, he isn’t one of ours.”

            “No, I don’t think so, Robert. We can’t control every single detail. As long as we strictly limit what information we send via Mauger, it should be safe enough.” Locquifier paused in his finger tapping. “All he needs to know is that he is to find a pretext and, on the specified date, carry out a demonstration against the Leahy Medical Center.”

            “True. Not one word to him about the synagogue. That, we will manage ourselves.”

            “There should be some pamphlets,” Locquifier said. “Something disseminating a sense of growing discontent. So the demonstration at the hospital will not come as a complete surprise, totally disconnected from the ‘will of the people’ of which the up-timers claim to be so fond.”

****

            Laurent Mauger had begun to wonder whether or not keeping an informant in place in Grantville, full time on the ground, was worth the expense, since the real center of political action in the USE had moved to Magdeburg. Now, however, he was reassured. De Ron said that his employer was pleased. That Mauger was to make sure he had an agent in place there, and to prepare that person to conduct an important propaganda blitz.

            He was not only reassured. He could (and did) congratulate himself on his wisdom in not having transferred Jacques-Pierre Dumais somewhere else. In spite of the extra cost he had absorbed by hiring someone else in that someplace else.

            The thought of hauling crates of pamphlets from Frankfurt to Grantville did not please him. He rarely rode. Because of his bulk, it was too hard on all but the largest and strongest of horses. But he preferred a lightweight wagon, a cart, really. He only hauled enough wine for his personal use, and let teamsters move the commercial loads. That’s what freight companies were for. Pamphlets would be too heavy. He would just get Dumais his own duplicating machine.

            At least he now had a good reason to visit Grantville again. The Higgins Hotel. The hot tub. Aahhh.

 

 

Grantville

 

            “It is part of the ‘destabilization’ campaign against Richelieu.”

            “What is the connection?”

            Mauger frowned. The truth was that he could not perceive much connection between demonstrating against the hospital in Grantville and undermining Richelieu’s position in the French government.

            Dumais laughed. “Ah, well. They have a poem, these up-timers, from a war in the Crimea that, now, will probably never happen. ‘Ours not to reason why, ours but to do or die.” If they want a demonstration, they shall have one. I assure you. But why, specifically, on the fourth of March?”

            “They simply had to pick a date, I presume. It is far enough away that you will have plenty of time to make arrangements. Now, as for money….”

****

            Jacques-Pierre poured another glass of wine.

            Yes. There were possibilities associated with his dinner companions.

            Laurent Mauger was a lonely man. He had talked quite a lot during the course of their association. While he was grieving after the death of his wife, his sons and nephews had extracted a pledge from him that he would not remarry and beget a second family. They didn’t want to see their inheritances dispersed. Not just a promise. A legally binding contract.

            As far as he knew, Mauger’s pledge had not contained any proviso about remarriage to a woman beyond childbearing age. Any widow required some provision for her support, of course, but was a temporary thing that reverted to her husband’s family after her death. Not the same thing as shares allotted to additional children.

            Madame Velma Hardesty, in addition to being Michael Stearns’ cousin, was not a bad-looking woman—for a sleazy floozy. Silently, Jacques-Pierre rolled the English words on his tongue; he appreciated their euphony. She must sans doute be beyond childbearing age. He could scarcely confirm it, of course, since it would not be tactful for him to ask and would be most out of character for him to investigate that at the Bureau of Vital Statistics. Doing things that were out of character drew attention to oneself: something to be scrupulously avoided. But the oldest daughter, he had ascertained, was past twenty. And there had been a first marriage, which had produced the hopefully-to-become-a-valuable-contact son in the army. With the up-timer women it was hard to judge from their appearance, but presuming that she had married at the normal age, even a little young… She had to be fifty, at least.

            Mauger was taking a good look. Madame Hardesty was talking about money again. Money, Jacques-Pierre knew, was something that Laurent Mauger had plenty of.

            Jacques-Pierre poured more wine. Mauger had brought plenty of that, too.

            Madame Hardesty said that It Was Meant to Be.

            Jacques-Pierre had missed something while he was thinking about Mauger. He nodded his head solemnly. When Madame Hardesty said that something was Meant to Be, it was usually followed by a quotation from her most recent horoscope. Nodding seemed safe enough.

            Madame Hardesty was certainly Meant to leave Grantville. Preferably before her conversation drove him insane.

            Mauger leaned far enough forward that he could look down Madame Hardesty’s yellow-eyelet-ruffle outlined cleavage.

****

            Velma went to bed feeling pretty good about things.

****

            Mauger went to bed thinking about Madame Hardesty’s beauty. Particularly her lack of a corset.

****

            Jacques-Pierre went home to unpack his new Vignelli duplicating machine. At least the Dutchman had brought quite a few useful things this time. Plus instructions.

            Nothing about Ducos or Locquifier. Mauger never mentioned their names, but that was not surprising. Mauger’s awareness didn’t go beyond Isaac de Ron. Behind de Ron, in the background, there was some wealthy Huguenot patriot whom he represented, as far as Mauger was concerned.

            Jacques-Pierre’s own belief was that after the debacle associated with the failed attempt to assassinate the pope in Rome the previous summer, Ducos and his closest associates had somehow managed to find a hiding place in England, so it made sense that his directives would be coming through the Netherlands and Frankfurt now.

            Interesting instructions. And the wonderful provision of a genuine duplicating machine. Jacques Pierre drummed his fingers on the table. Propaganda and planning. The coming winter would not be dull.

            If only he could get rid of Velma Hardesty before he succumbed permanently to la migraine.

About Eric Flint

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