1636: The Cardinal Virtues – Snippet 44
The Marquis de Montausier seemed almost obsessed with his own gallantry. After a night at Maintenon, he went out of his way to assist in guiding the queen and her entourage toward Evreux, arranging discreet lodging and assuring that the widow and child be left alone. Mazarin was reasonably sure that Montausier was keeping her identity secret; Achille was not quite as sure, making some effort to keep close to the Marquis, scarcely letting him leave his sight.
“We cannot avoid trusting some that we meet,” Mazarin told him.
“We shall endeavour to keep the number to a minimum,” was Achille’s reply; and then he launched into an extended tale of his service aboard Mediterranean corsairs against the Turks.
It took three days to reach Evreux, just prior to which they parted company from Montausier, who swore a personal vow of silence to Queen Anne. She received it with dignified courtesy, but insisted that she accepted it on behalf of her infant son — the king of France.
They reached the ancient town, located in a bend of the River Eure, in the late afternoon. As they came upon it, Mazarin halted their procession and drew Achille aside.
“You have some specific destination, I presume.”
“Yes, Monseigneur. Arrangements will have been made.”
“Arrangements? By whom?”
“Ah,” Mazarin said. “We are enlarging the circle of those we trust. Who is this friend?”
“I . . . am not at liberty to say.”
“I find that less than reassuring. Does our queen have some loyal servant in Evreux? Perhaps I should inquire, as she has made no representation to me.”
“You do not trust me.”
“I didn’t say that. I . . . Monsieur Achille.” Mazarin sighed, taking his time to reply. “I assure you that I am just as careful, just as suspicious, and just as tentative as you are about any step we take on behalf of the queen and the child.”
“Yes. Our king, the child of two weeks that we are trying to protect. I want the same outcome you do. Yet when I ask for your trust, you are suspicious — but when you ask my trust, you expect me to accept it on its face and ask no questions. That may be well and good in the Order of Malta; but those rules do not apply here.
Mazarin frowned. “Are you prepared to include me in your deliberations? We all want the same outcome, Achille. All of us.”
“Are you accusing me of –”
“I am accusing you of nothing.”
Mazarin looked aside, holding the reins of his horse tightly; if he was not wearing riding gloves, certainly Achille would have noticed his white knuckles. He silently recited a Pater Noster, calming himself.
“It is necessary that you take me into your confidence, Monsieur. At once, if you please.”
“It is better that you do not know.”
“No, it is not. Achille, I accept that I may be placing you in an uncomfortable position; but even so, for the sake of all we hope to accomplish, we must work together and keep as few secrets as possible. Either apprise me of our situation, Monsieur, or prepare to part company from the king and Queen Mother. I shall not jeopardize their lives by the want of this information.”
There was a short, tense silence, during which Mazarin tried to determine just what the Knight of Malta might be thinking. The man was prideful and impulsive to a fault. Might he draw a weapon? Might he ride away — back to his brother, off to Gaston, or somewhere else? Or might he actually back down and tell Mazarin what was happening?
“How well do you know Cardinal de Tremblay, Monseigneur?”
“Cardinal . . . you mean, Père Joseph? The Capuchin, Richelieu’s eminence grise?”
“The same. How well do you know him?”
“He is a rather private man,” Mazarin answered. “He kept his master’s secrets, and I assume he has kept some of his own. I also assume that becoming a cardinal in pectore has changed none of that.”
“It was Cardinal de Tremblay’s direction that I accompany my brother Léonore to Beville-le-Comte when he came to witness the birth of our new king. He further indicated that I should take it as my personal responsibility to protect Her Majesty and the child.”
“From . . .”
“Anything and anyone. My personal responsibility, Monseigneur. He made it most clear to me.”
“This was before the murder of the king.”
“It was three months ago, Monseigneur Mazarin.”
Mazarin considered himself a fairly good judge of character. In addition to his religious vocation, the last year or two had taught him a great deal about human nature. But here was Achille, looking at him squarely and telling him this.
“Does this mean that Cardinal de Tremblay anticipated that event? Did he expect His Majesty and Cardinal Richelieu to be killed?”
“He planned for whatever contingency might present itself. He planned for the worst — and how to avoid it. That we are here, and not dead, means that the worst has not happened.”
“Hosanna in the highest,” Mazarin said.
“You mock me once again, Monseigneur. Do you doubt the truth of my account? Are you suggesting –”
“I suggest nothing. Pray continue.”
Achille settled himself in his seat; his horse pawed the ground and shook its head.
“Cardinal de Tremblay was devoted — devoted — to the king and to the crown. You are well aware of the scope and depth of the precautions taken to protect Queen Anne and the child. Since that child is the heir, those precautions seem exceptionally well-founded. I am continuing to act in accordance with my last instructions.”
“By guiding us here?”
“And other safe places, depending on our ultimate destination. The Queen has more friends than she realizes.”
“And the . . . how shall I put it? Quid pro quo for these favours?”
Achille’s eyes flashed angrily, and once again Mazarin wondered whether he would attack or depart in a huff.
“The help is freely offered. It is true that some who would assist Her Majesty do so more out of enmity to Gaston than love for the queen.”
“Or the king.”
“Or the king,” Achille agreed. “In the case of Evreux, it is a close associate of Cardinal de Tremblay. He will have been thoroughly briefed on recent events, and is ready to help protect and assist our party.”
“Who briefed him?”
“I don’t know. You may ask him yourself. That is, if you are sufficiently informed that you are willing to accompany me.”
Mazarin intentionally hesitated long enough to make Achille frown in consternation. He had already made his decision, but wanted to keep the other man waiting. It was a sin of pride, for which he would say appropriate prayers. . . later.
“Please lead on,” he said at last.
Joe Tillman hadn’t spent much time in government buildings up-time, and didn’t make a habit of it down-time. If it hadn’t been by invitation, he wouldn’t be doing it now. The capital city’s Government House was a busy place: lots of people going back and forth on errands lots more important than anything Clarence had for him to do.
He’d told his boss that he had to go up to Magdeburg for a few days to meet with Rebecca Stearns. Clarence had been working on a weld, and had lifted up his hood and given him a look that he might have used if Joe had told him he’d won the lottery and was quitting this crappy job: a nice mix of annoyance and disbelief — annoyance that he would want to take time off work, and disbelief that Rebecca Stearns would want to see Joe Tillman. Then he growled something, nodded, and dropped the welding hood back down and went back to work.
Magdeburg was a pretty amazing place, at least by down-time standards. It wasn’t even Wheeling: not that Wheeling had been a great world-class city, but it was the big time compared to Grantville. When the Ring of Fire had brought his town back to this century, though, Wheeling — and everything else outside of Grantville — was gone.