The Trouble With Huguenots – Snippet 12
“Ron Stone has notified me,” Henri de Rohan said to Grand Duke Bernhard, “that your wife will be accompanied by a member of his family to serve in your vaccination campaign.”
“Just as well,” Bernhard grumbled. “They told me that Lambert, a decent second option since he’s the administrator of the Leahy Medical Center, and he’s also been in Burgundy before, has other commitments.”
The Monster touched down with a flurry of air from its skirts. Grand Duchess Claudia emerged, followed by a nursemaid who was carrying her infant son, followed by Gerry Stone.
Bismarck whispered to Ruvigny, “The mountains were in labor and they brought forth a mouse.”
“Morning, Your Grace,” Gerry said to Rohan as the grand duke turned and bore his spouse and heir away. “Since you’re here to meet me, I guess Ron radioed that because the Prague trip with Dad and Magda already ruined this semester anyway, he thinks I might as well be useful and come be the ‘public face” for universal, or at least as universal as the grand duke can get it, smallpox vaccination in the County of Burgundy. Being as I’m a member of the Lothlorien Pharmaceuticals family and all that.”
“We’re delighted to have you.”
“Honestly?” Gerry asked. “Do you mean it? This face? I’m sure some maire is going to be thrilled off his gourd when a kid with bright red hair and a pointy nose wanders into his village and announces, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.'”
“There’s been a glitch,” Kamala Dunn said that evening, “and nobody notified Ron. Not that I can blame the grand duke’s staff for being overwhelmed, with all the high muckety-mucks in the Catholic Church who are going to be arriving like a deluge. Nobody is ready to start.”
“Oh, double-disgust. What a pain.”
“Come on. I’ll take you to dinner, at least. You can talk to some of the rest of the up-timers here and introduce you to a couple of local guys I know.”
The food wasn’t bad, and neither were the guys, even though they were a lot older, probably over 20. Not as old as Ms. Dunn, but older than Gerry.
“So,” he said to August von Bismarck. “What next? There’s not even a university here and I’m pretty sure my French isn’t good enough to take lecture notes, even if there was one. What am I going to do now?”
“Everybody knows that the best way to learn a language…,” Bismarck began.
* * * *
The news of Louis XIII’s death and Gaston’s assumption of the throne reached Besançon close to immediately–rumors first and confirmation following close on their heels.
“What Rohan seemed to be saying,” Gerry remarked to Bismarck, “is that his wife and daughter need to get the hell out of Dodge, and this time he’s not taking ‘no’ for an answer. Amid all the rabid frothing at the mouth that he did.”
“What’s ‘Dodge’?” Bismarck asked.
“Who’s Ruvigny?” Gerry countered. “Dodge was a town in Kansas where a lot of Wild West movies were set. A lot of the plots involved that it wasn’t safe for someone to stay in Dodge, usually because a US Marshal was after him.”
“Ruvigny’s the guy I went to Paris with last fall. He was standing next to me when you got off the Monster. He didn’t come to the dinner that Madame Dunn held.”
Ruvigny came hurrying into the room. “I’m the guy you’re going to Paris with again, August. The order this time is to remove the ladies, by persuasion if possible and by skullduggery if necessary. And leave yesterday, if not the day before.”
“Can I go?” Gerry asked.
“No, ye gods! Why?”
Gerry pointed his thumb at Bismarck. “He says that spending time in France is the best way for me to improve my French. There’s nothing else for me to do here until Ms. Dunn and the cordon sanitaire folks get their act together. It’s always easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. Why not?”
“We’re leaving now. Right now.”
“I haven’t even unpacked my duffel bag.”
On the Road Again
Camped beside a poorly maintained track in eastern France, Ruvigny tapped his finger on his kneecap. “I should have given him time to unpack that cursed duffel bag, no matter how much of a hurry we were in.”
“It wouldn’t have done any good,” Bismarck pointed out. “The infernal instrument is small and portable. He could have slipped it into his pocket.”
It turned out that Gerry played the harmonica, but not well. “It’s an old up-time tradition,” he assured them. “People sit around a fire and some guy plays a harmonica.”
Oh bury me not, on the lone prairieeeee….
“I would say….” Soubise hoisted himself to his feet with more ease than rheumatic knee joints would normally allow a man, walked over to the sideboard, and decanted his own brandy. Among the lessons that had been dinned into him by Raudegen, by young Cavriani, even by the formidable Madame Cavriani in Brussels, over the past weeks was the infallible truth that servants had ears. He and Anne were alone. He turned and lifted his glass.
“I would say that although I haven’t heard from Henri since before we left London, I doubt that he will embrace the idea of Gaston as king of France. His fits and starts caused Bernhard too much trouble in Lorraine last year.”
“Is it certain that Anne of Austria is in the Low Countries with her son and that man?”
Soubise wrinkled his forehead at his sister’s implication that Anne of Austria’s son might not also be the son of the late Louis XIII. “That man” would be Cardinal Mazarin.
“Yes, the dowager queen is in Brussels. Fernando and Maria Anna, and perhaps more importantly the old infanta, have taken the infant king under their protection.”
“Infant king!” Mademoiselle Anne, who was hostile to Anne of Austria at the best of times, stamped her foot.
“He isn’t the same child,” Soubise said. “Not the one who grew up to revoke the Edict of Nantes in that other world.”
“Oh, I know he isn’t the same child,” Anne said, slapping the table. “For one thing, he’s two years older than that one was. But this baby will be brought up by the same people, a Spanish woman and an Italian. He will be under the same influences, so I prophesy that he will do the same thing, or something very like it, if he mounts the throne and has an opportunity.”
* * * *
Marguerite pelted into the breakfast room. “Henri is back again! With M. von Bismarck and an up-timer. A genuine up-timer. I’ve never met one before. I saw Madame Mailey when she came to negotiate the treaty after the League of Ostend débâcle, but I never got to meet her because Maman,” she waved at her mother, “could not decide if it was acceptable etiquette for us to be presented to her, or that she must insist that the USE’s ambassador plenipotentiary, being a commoner, must be presented to us. And I saw the famous physician, too, but at a distance. He is impressive, for a barber-surgeon.”
“Why,” the older duchess asked, her voice like ice, “is he here?” Her well-planned morning seemed likely to descend into chaos.
“With all due respect, Your Grace,” Ruvigny said as he came through the door, “you must know.”
“The duke wants us to leave Paris? Still wants it? Wants it again?”
Ruvigny handed over a packet of letters.
“I would not say that he merely wants it, Your Grace. I would say that this time he requires it.”
As soon as Raudegen and Marc dropped into the stables at the Hôtel de Sully, they encountered the emissaries from Grand Duke Bernhard. Or, to be precise, the emissaries from Henri de Rohan who happened to be employees of Grand Duke Bernhard. Complicated by the presence of Gerry Stone, the up-timer. Layers upon layers. Emissaries from Rohan who had strict orders to remove the duke’s wife and daughter from the troubled situation in France whether the ladies wanted to be removed or not.
They reported back to Soubise that their group might be moving on.
“I just got here,” Soubise moaned. “My muscles ache. My joints ache. I’m never moving again.”
“You’ve been in Paris for nearly two weeks,” Raudegen pointed out.