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All For One- Chapter Nine
9. Sabiné du Luçon and Condé
Although the Estates-General ended without a single item resolved, Condé held a ball anyway. He felt he had to maintain a strong front, rather than run from Paris with his tail between his legs. The elite of the Second Estate convened at the Hôtel de Condé, the Parisian house of the Condé family situated not far from the Left Bank in the shadow of the great Notre-Dame Cathedral near the Rue St. Jacques on a cold day in February to dance their problems away. Condé’s parties were always elaborate and invitations were highly sought after.
Securing an invitation was not a problem for Bishop Richelieu. A single sentence said in passing to the Infanta Anne was all it took for a single invitation to be issued to a young widow named Sabiné du Luçon. Milady was unwilling to use her rightful title by marriage in the open, preferring to remain an unknown quantity. She arrived and mingled with the Parisian elite, until she found herself face to face with Condé himself. Henri was a young handsome man of twenty-seven.
She bowed low. “Your majesty,” she said.
His brow furrowed. “Are you mocking me?”
“Not at all,” she responded. “Just addressing in the manner that I wish I could.”
He nodded. “Walk with me,” he said.
He took Milady on his arm, and led her onto the veranda.
“I don’t believe I have had the pleasure of meeting you,” he said.
“I am Sabiné du Luçon, but you, and only you, may call me the Comtesse de la Fère.”
“Ah,” he said. “I was interested in meeting you.”
“Yes,” he responded, “when the future Queen of France asked me to send an invitation to someone I have never even heard of, I was curious as to whom I was inviting into my home.”
“Ah yes, the future Hapsburg Queen,” she said.
“You disapprove?” he asked.
“I feel that France should be ruled by the French,” she said simply.
“Yet you are friends with her?” he asked.
“I’ve never met her,” she said. “But my benefactor is very close to her.”
“De la Fère,” he said slowly. “I had heard something of that name.”
“I’m sure you have,” she responded casually.
“I heard that the Comte killed his wife and disappeared.”
Milady sighed. “That old rumor again.”
“It’s not true?”
“My husband was drowned crossing the channel five years ago,” she explained. “I was devastated, as I was ill and could not join him on the boat that day. I spent a number of years traveling, to relieve my mind of the grief I felt. Have you ever visited the Americas, your Grace?”
“I have not had the pleasure,” he said. “My condolences on your loss.”
“I left the country soon after he died. I imagine my abrupt disappearance caused quite a stir on the estate, and you know how servants talk.” The lie came easy to her now, after months of practice. She almost even believed it herself. Changing the subject, she turned at looked at the house. “Such a marvelous house.”
‘Thank you,” he said.
She shivered. “Such a cold night. I would hate to have to travel home tonight.”
He offered his arm. “We should go inside,” he said. She took his arm and they returned to the ball. He signaled to a servant. “Have the staff prepare a guest room on the fourth floor for the Madame du Luçon. Send a man to her residence to acquire anything that she may need.”
For the rest of the evening, Milady mingled with the rest of Condé’s guests. She used her time wisely, meeting new people and gathering information. She knew that any bit of knowledge, no matter how trivial it might seem at the time, may be essential to Richelieu’s plan. Her job was not to analyze, but to accumulate.
At the end of the evening, she retired to her guest suite. As expected, Condé visited her that night via secret passageways throughout his house. Condé was married to Charlotte du Montmorency, and although they did not as of yet have any children, they recently celebrated their six-year anniversary. Condé was an attractive man in excellent physical condition, and coupling with him was not a chore. As a widow, she couldn’t do her reputation any real damage if her indiscretions were discovered. Milady had long kept the concepts of love and sex in separate compartments in her mind.
“Such enjoyable company,” she purred, lying next to him.
“The feeling is mutual,” he replied.
“How is it that you’re not running the country?”
He chuckled. “That’s what I wonder sometimes.”
“I do not relish the prospect of learning Spanish,” she said. She was of course fluent in Spanish.
“I don’t think it would come to that,” he said.
“She becomes Queen and hands the country over to her brother to the south. Sounds like a long-term Hapsburg plot. I wouldn’t be surprised if the assassination wasn’t planned long in advance.”
“Some would say such talk is treasonous,” he said.
“To the Hapsburgs or to France?” she asked.
“You speak as if I haven’t done anything to rid our country of Hapsburg influence,” he said. “People are talking.”
“And the Regent effectively neutralized you. Of all the deputies that came to Paris, how many were on your side?”
“What’s your point?” he snapped.
“Henri built a strong monarchy, and France was the better for it. Don’t let those Italians and the Spanish eat away at everything he accomplished.”
“There is more to you than meets the eye, Sabiné.”
“Earlier, I mentioned my benefactor,” she said.
“And who are they?” he asked.
“Let me keep that secret for a while, but allow me to assure you that he is close, very close to the royal family,” she said. “There would be support. And then there would be me.”
“What of you?” he asked.
“I can be an agent of chaos. Let me do the dirty work and you can keep your hands clean. Nobody knows who I am except you. We can put you on the throne, but we can’t wait forever.”
“What are you thinking?” he asked.
“First thing we have to do is stop this marriage from happening. Louis’s line must end with him. And then…” she trailed off.
“And then Louis must end,” Condé said.
“The people of France would look to a strong leader to unite them in their time of tragedy. You could be that man.”
“And of course your mysterious benefactor would want a high position in my new government.”
“Of course,” she said.
“You’re suggesting killing the Infanta,” Condé said.
“I’m just saying she has to disappear.”
He leaned back. “I would be King.”
She smiled. “Yes, your majesty.”
- All For One- Chapter Eight
The Next Chapter in the Three Musketeers prequel
- All For One- Chapter Ten
The Next Chapter in the Three Musketeers prequel