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All For One- Chapter Thirteen
13. Marie and the Infanta
The first day that Marie spent in the Louvre was quite normal, even after her brush with death that morning. The introductions were standard. She met the Queen Regent, the Concinis and the Bishop of Luçon. She did everything that she was trained to do. She curtseyed and smiled, and deferred to her elders. She spoke only when spoken to, smiled profusely, and laughed at all the right jokes. On the exterior, she was the perfect daughter. On the inside, she was bored to tears.
She was left alone with the Infanta Anne of Austria. She was amazed at the stupidity of her elders. They assumed since they were both fifteen-year-old girls that they would have a lot in common. Physically, they resembled each other. They were both attractive young women with brunette hair and slim bodies, but that is where the similarities ended. While Marie was a French girl from Brittany who enjoyed athletic pursuits such as tennis, Anne was a Spanish Princess who enjoyed… well Marie wasn’t quite sure exactly Anne enjoyed doing other than complaining.
The language barrier was soon overcome. While Marie’s native language was French she spoke a little bit of Spanish. Anne naturally spoke Spanish, but she had reluctantly started to learn French in anticipation of her eventual move to Paris. Between the two of them, they discovered a common love of horses. Men and women see horses in different ways. Men see horses as a tool, a way to move about. Although they give the animals names, they don’t love the creatures the way that women do. Unknown is the secret bond between girl and horse. Perhaps the act of riding is freedom, or the power denied in man’s world. In any case, both girls enjoyed their impromptu afternoon ride.
That evening, Marie slept in her room in the residence. She missed her own house terribly, but she loved the room she was assigned. Her bed was huge and the furniture exquisite. When she examined the room, she noticed a crack in the wall. She followed the crack to the floor and then up high enough to reach the top of her extended fingers. She felt the crack as it cut sideways across the wall and then back down to the ground. Marie grew excited, for she guessed that this was a secret door in the wall. The subterfuge extended to the molding in the wall. She slipped the balls of her fingers underneath the molding and pressed upward until she had a firm grip. She pulled the molding towards her and the wall moved silently on well-oiled hinges.
Cold air blew through the doorway, chilling her through her long silk dressing gown. She peered in, but it was too dark to see. She extended her hand to feel around, meeting nothing but air. She stepped inside and her fingers felt the hard wall against the back of this compartment. She slid her hand along the wall, sidestepping to the right, searching for the corner. She went five steps before realizing that the door did not lead to a secret room, but rather a passage running inside the walls of the palace. Thrilled, she dashed back into her room and grabbed the candelabra from the dresser. She struck a match and lit the four wicks.
When she returned to the passage she could see that the bare stone skeleton of the Louvre was laid bare. The floor was clear of any debris, with the exception of the occasional pieces of broken plaster and a thick layer of dust. Slowly, she crept down the passage until she came to a joint in the wall. She couldn’t continue forwards, but she could go left or right. She realized that she had traveled the length of the wall and this new passage paralleled the hallway. She stole to the left and she came to a ladder.
Keeping the candelabra in her left hand, she hauled her self up the ladder. It wasn’t very tall, only about ten feet. She came to a platform and climbed on top of it. The platform was small and only about six feet long. On the other side of the platform was another ladder. She realized that the ladder and platform enabled anyone in the passage to travel through the walls and climb over the doorways. Carefully she climbed down the ladder, and continued down the passage. She saw a splinter of light. When she reached it, she discovered that it was created by another doorway. She cracked the door open an inch and peered inside.
She saw Anne reading in her bed. She knew that her room was next to the Infanta’s room. It was the Concini woman’s idea. For a moment she considered busting into the room and telling her knew friend about the secret passageway, but after thinking about it for a moment, the thought that maybe Anne wouldn’t want her privacy violated. She decided to tell her the next day.
That night, Marie explored the passageway. She looked into The Queen’s chamber, and the chambers of the Concinis. She found the King’s room, but dared not make a sound. She discovered ladders within the walls that led her down to the first floor. She found entrances to different sitting rooms, and even the kitchen, which she relished. What an opportunity to steal a dessert in the middle of the night. However when she reached the Southeast corner, she found that the passages abruptly stopped. Before long she grew weary and retraced her steps back. She got lost a few times and almost considered entering the hallway and simply walking back to her room, but that would reveal the existence of the passageway to the guards, neutralizing the effectiveness of the passageway. Finally she found her way back to the open door that led back to her room. She crawled into bed, excited, but tired.
On her second day, she strove to find out as much about the Louvre as possible. She found a willing source of information when she met the King’s close friend Charles d’Albert.
After breakfast, she was looking for the Infanta Anne when she came upon him in a sitting room.
He looked her over. “You must be Mlle de Montbazon,” he said, standing.
She curtsied. “I am.”
He bowed to her. “Charles d’Albert, commander of the Louvre.”
“Well I must say, I am in awe of the residence,” she gushed.
“I would hope so,” he said, “considering all the work that has been placed into it.”
Marie realized that maybe this man might have information she might be able to use. “Is the Palace very old?”
“In a way,” he said. “About four hundred years ago there was a fortress on this site, and it was constantly renovated, but it wasn’t a residence until about a two-hundred and fifty years ago when they built a wall around the fortress, but all of that was eventually torn down. About seventy years ago, François I had the architect Pierre Lescot redesign everything.”
Marie nodded. She wondered if this Lescot was the one who designed the secret passages she spent the night running around in.
“Of course you realize that you’re not actually in the Louvre right now. We call this building the Palais des Tuileries and it was designed by Philibert de l’Orme. You’ll notice the Italian style, of course. And the late king had both Palaces linked by the Grand Gallery just before he died.”
Marie was amazed and revised her earlier thought. Lescot did not design the passage, but maybe l’Orme did. Marie had wondered why the tunnels abruptly stopped at the Southeast corner, and now she knew why: the buildings were built at different times.
Charles’ eyes flicked to the door. “Your majesty,” he said bowing.
Marie turned to see King Louis XIII standing in the doorway. She immediately curtsied. Louis was a slim young man of fourteen with dark hair and eyes. He was not yet handsome, but he no longer had the childlike quality that one would call “cute.” His face was in a transitional stage between boy and man.
“May I present Marie de Rohan, Mlle de Montbazon,” Charles said.
“Your majesty,” she said.
Louis nodded and then turned back to Charles. “Are you ready?”
“At your service, sire,” he said. He turned to Marie. “It has been a pleasure,” he said.
“The pleasure was mine,” she said. She turned to the King and curtsied again. “Your majesty.”
Louis gave the slightest of nods and the two gentlemen strode off. Marie was not impressed with the King. No wonder Anne was complaining. When she finally found her new friend, she wanted desperately to tell her about the secret passage she discovered, but they were in constant company for the entire day. Anne was accompanied by her Spanish lady-in-waiting Dona Estefania. At Anne’s insistence, they spent the morning riding. After lunch Marie introduced the Spanish princess to the sport of tennis. She didn’t bother to explain how to score the game, but Anne seemed to have fun hitting the ball back and forth with Marie over the net.
That night after they retired, Marie was visited in her room by the Infanta. The young Queen-to-be was dressed in a simple dressing robe and looked unlike a monarch but more like the young girl that she was. She flopped casually on Marie’s bed.
“I hate to be perfect at all times,” Anne said in heavily accented French.
“Yo comprendo,” Marie replied in heavily accented Spanish.
“No,” Anne responded, “please to talk in French so I may learn.”
“I understand what you mean,” Marie said. “I hate being proper at all times.”
“Yes, you know,” Anne said. “I do not like this place.”
“France or the Palace?”
“All of it,” Anne replied.
“Are you lonely for home?” Marie asked.
“Yes, I am lonely for my home” Anne answered. “Are you lonely for your home?”
“A little bit, but I’m beginning to like it here,” Marie said. “I found something interesting.”
Impishly she leapt off the bed and led Anne to the wall. Like the night before, she slid her fingers under the molding and opened the door in the wall. Anne’s eyes widened like saucers. Marie grinned and grabbed the candelabra. She lit the candles and walked through the door. Anne followed.
“Where does this go?” the Infanta asked, astonished.
“As far as I can tell, throughout the whole Palais des Tuileries,” Marie said.
Anne smiled and the two of them started to explore the passageway, with Marie whispering how she found the passage the night before. They did not talk louder than a whisper for fear of being heard. Marie showed her all the rooms that she found. They came to one door, and Anne wondered where it went.
“That’s the King’s chamber,” Marie said, for she had discovered it earlier.
“Let me see,” Anne said.
“Oh no, you shouldn’t,” Marie said.
“I want to look at the man that I will marry,” Anne whispered. Marie couldn’t argue with that and stood by and watched as Anne squatted down and placed her eye to the crack. The door did not creak as she pushed it ever so lightly with her fingers.
“Well?” Marie asked.
“He’s reading something,” Anne said.
“What do you think?” Marie asked.
Anne shrugged, and Marie agreed with the reaction. Anne stood up and pulled the door shut.
“Where else this does go?” Anne asked.
The pair scampered around the Louvre for hours, eventually coming to a door made of thick hardwood. This door had a handle, and the girls yanked it open to feel the cold air of the night embracing them. They peered out and saw Le Manego, the square to the Northwest of the Palais.
“We are not dressed for the outside,” Marie said.
“Not now,” Anne said. “But definitely later.”
“The two girls made their way back to their rooms. Marie remembered the route much better than she had the night before. As they parted, Anne hinted to Marie that she had something interesting planned for the next day.
On Marie’s third day in the Louvre, she left the Louvre. Anne’s surprise was two sets of clothes. They weren’t fancy, but rather common.
“These clothes I brought with me,” Anne said.
“I’m surprised,” Marie said. “They’re not very fashionable.”
“These are the clothes of the servants in Madrid,” Anne said.
“Why did you bring those?” Marie asked.
“You and I to dress in these clothes. We go to the outside through the secret door. We spend the whole day without being watched.”
Marie smiled. “That’s a great idea!”
The two girls dressed in the simple dresses and shoes. They took their hair out of their elaborate coiffures and removed their jewelry. They looked indistinguishable from any common Parisian girl. They slipped through the secret door and through the passages, trying to keep quiet. They made it to the thick wooden door. Marie opened it and craned her head through the opening to see if any bystanders were about. Satisfied they would not be spotted, they slid through the door, and half-walked, half-ran away from the royal residence.
They entered the city through the Porte de Saint Honoré. They spent the day in the city, enjoying themselves. They crossed the Pont Neuf, and their eyes were wide, for there was so much to see. Every possible vice was on display and they were even propositioned by an older man. Anne was furious and embarrassed at first, but later found the incident rather amusing. Once on the Île de la Cité, they visited the great Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris. They spent the day in the Montparnasse area on the Left Bank, famous for its shops, music halls and cafés. If anyone thought it odd that two young women were not working and moving about the city without any chaperone, their gold easily silenced any questions. After a terrific day, they headed north back to the Louvre. They found the wooden door, and Marie reached for the handle. But there was no handle and the door was locked tight. Marie turned wide-eyed to Anne.
“We can’t get in!”
“What are we going to do?” Anne asked.
“I guess we have to go in through the main entrance,” Marie said.
“They will not think us who we are!” Anne exclaimed.
Marie thought. The guards would let them in if they realize their true identity, but they would be in a lot of trouble. Unless…
Marie grabbed Anne’s hand. “Come with me,” she said, and led her to the front of the Palais des Tuileries. They waited until they saw a guard. Marie decided that she was less recognizable than the Infanta. She stepped forward.
“Excuse me,” she called out to the surprised guard.
The guard, confused, approached the young girl. “Are you lost?”
“No,” she said. “I need to speak to a guard.”
“Go ahead,” he said.
“A specific guard,” she corrected. “Is Athos on duty?”
The guard thought for a moment. “As a matter of fact I just saw him report for duty.”
“I have to speak to him,” she said.
“If you have a message for him, I can deliver it,” he offered.
“No, I need to speak to him directly,” she said. She leaned in and said in a low voice. “It’s of a rather personal nature.”
“Oh!” the guard said, clearly embarrassed. “One moment.” He dashed off. After a few moments, the tall, familiar figure of Athos approached. He was clearly confused as he approached the two girls.
“You requested me?” he said.
“Athos, it’s me,” she said.
He squinted his eyes, which shortly bulged in shock. “Mlle de Montbazon?”
“Yes,” she said relieved.
“What are you doing outside?” he asked.
“We decided to spend the day among normal Parisians,” she said.
“Who is your friend?” he asked, looking over at Anne.
“Can you be discrete?” she asked.
She gestured to Anne, who came over. When Athos saw who it was, he immediately started to bow. Marie stopped him.
“Don’t bow to her,” she said.
He straightened his back and looked around. “What can I do for you?”
“Can you get us into one of the sitting rooms, unobserved?” she asked.
He thought a minute. “Wait here,” he said, and dashed off. After what seemed like an eternity, he returned with two long black cloaks. “Put these on, please.”
After they donned the cloaks, they followed him into the Louvre. Another guard approached them.
“Athos, what’s this?” he asked.
Athos did not hesitate. “M. d’Artagnan, these girls are here at the request of M de Concini,” he explained. “Tell no one.”
“Of course,” Bertrand said, and immediately went on his way.
They followed Athos into a sitting room off of the Grand Gallery. After Athos closed the door, they dropped their cloaks and handed them back to him.
“Much thanks we give to you,” Anne said.
He bowed low. “It is an honor to serve, your majesty. But how will you get to your chambers?”
Marie smiled. “There are secret passages,” she explained. “Which we will use once you have taken your leave.”
Athos nodded. “Then I shall do so. A pleasure to serve you once again.” He bowed again and left the room. Once he was gone, they found the secret door in that room and hurried to Marie’s room.
“He can keep our secret?” Anne asked.
Marie nodded. “Two days ago, he saved me from certain death. I trust him.”
Anne smiled. “He is handsome, is he not?”
Marie blushed. “I noticed.”
“Too bad he is guard,” Anne said.
Marie smiled. “For now.”
- All For One- Chapter Twelve
The Next Chapter in the Three Musketeers prequel
- All For One- Chapter Fourteen
The Next Chapter in the Three Musketeers prequel