All For One- Chapter Thirty-Five
35. Following Calderón
Later that day, Athos, still trying to recover from the night before, sought out André. After all this time, Athos was still closest to his former teacher. He found him in another inn, eating a warm chicken stew, also nursing a pounding headache.
“I should be very angry with you, Athos,” he murmured.
Athos laughed a little. “You have no one to blame but yourself.”
“No, I can always blame the man who bought the wine. I have no idea how I managed to get home last night,” he said.
“At least you didn’t wake up with a stranger in your house,” Athos said.
André laughed. “I wish I did. Who was she?”
“Oh it wasn’t a pleasant experience,” Athos said. “I wish it was, but when I woke up this morning I found a Spanish Duke waiting for me at my table.”
“You had a more interesting night than I thought,” André said.
“It had nothing to do with the night before,” Athos clarified. “The story I am about to tell you now can not leave your lips.”
“I understand,” André said.
“You can not even breathe a word of this to Bertrand or Tréville,” Athos ordered. “I wouldn’t even tell you this, but I don’t think I can handle this problem on my own.”
“You have my word,” André assured him.
“Back in June, we didn’t just travel in France. We crossed the Pyrenees into Spain. The purpose for the entire mission was to deliver a message from the Queen to her father.”
André looked concerned. “What kind of message?”
Athos paused. He wanted to choose his words carefully. “The queen is unhappy in her marriage, and she wanted to see if there was any way her father could find a way to nullify her nuptial to the King.” It was close enough to the truth to diffuse the traitorousness of the message.
“What did the Spanish King say?” asked André.
“Well he refused of course,” Athos said. “He knew that she was young and homesick. He sent us back to Paris with a message for her that there will be no such arrangement.”
“I can’t imagine the hell that would be unleashed if that news were made public,” André said.
“And that is why I must count on your discretion,” Athos said. “Too many people know already.”
“And this Spaniard,” Andre continued. “He knows?”
“Yes, he was there when the message was delivered.”
“Who is he?”
“Calderón, the Duke of Oliva.”
André nodded. “I’ve heard of him and not good things either.”
“What have you heard?” Athos asked.
“He is not well liked by the people of Spain. He’s the confidant of the Duke of Lerma, who is also not very well liked.”
“I met the Duke of Lerma as well,” Athos mentioned.
“I know he married well, which is of course not a crime, but that he’s very rich. Some say that he murdered someone. I’ve also heard that he practices witchcraft,” André said.
“Does he?” Athos asked.
“You don’t seriously believe in witchcraft, do you?” André scoffed.
“No, I don’t, of course,” Athos said quickly. “But a lot of people do.”
“Well it doesn’t matter what a lot of people believe,” André said. “No one is a witch. That’s just a rumor spread by his enemies.”
“Whatever he does, he asked me if I felt the same way as the Queen,” Athos said.
“Which would be what?”
“I’m not sure, “Athos said. “I think he seems to believe that the Queen wishes war to be declared against France and Louis eliminated from power.”
“So he wants to topple the monarchy?” André said.
André sat back. “That doesn’t make sense. Spain doesn’t care about the French monarchy. Spain is involved in the New World. The only thing they want is gold from the Americas. As long as France does not interfere with that, why would they care? We don’t even have much of a stake in the New World, just some land in the Northern parts. Spain has territories throughout the south. If anything they have concerns with England.”
“Calderón may not be working with the authority of the Spanish Crown,” Athos said.
“Yes, that seems most likely,” André agreed. “I don’t know much about Felipe, but I can say that he has dedicated his reign to making peace with former enemies like England.”
“Yes, and us,” André agreed. “To suddenly wish war with France seems out of character for him.”
“We need to find out what his intentions are,” Athos said.
André grinned. “I think I understand why you came to me now.”
Athos nodded. “He doesn’t know who you are, and wouldn’t recognize your face.”
"You want me to follow him, and see what he does."
André leaned back in his chair and thought. “How again do we find ourselves in the position to save France from herself?”
While André and Athos thought of their own plan, the Bishop Richelieu was beginning to execute one of his own. He had a scheduled meeting with Concini.
Richelieu had mixed feelings about Concini. He didn’t like the man, but he’d never let him know that. A lot of what he had now, he owed to the conniving Italian. After his well-received speech at the Estates-General, he was approached by Concini to become the Almoner to the new Queen, and it was Concini’s recommendation that Richelieu had become Secretary of State. Richelieu was now in the position to knock his own benefactor out of the way, and he felt no guilt about it. That was the way of things. Sons always replace their fathers, and when people give their favors to the younger generation, they are in fact grooming them to eventually replace them, whether they know it or not.
In their meetings, they discussed many things. Richelieu had great dreams for France. He saw that France had too many bickering nobles, and that the true power in France had to lay with the monarchy. To that end, Richelieu wanted to destroy castles and fortifications throughout France, with the exception of those structures needed to defend France. He knew that without those fortifications, the nobles could not effectively revolt against the King.
Richelieu was also concerned about the identity of the French people. Who were we? He hated the idea of multiple languages spoken in France like those in Breton and Gascony. He had the idea of a group of scholars whose duty it would be to purify the French language. He loved the arts. He had heard of the English Shakespeare and his contemporaries who created theatrical masterpieces for England. He was fascinated by the theatre, even though it was not considered a decent art form, and wanted to elevate French theatre like England. He wanted to the world to know of French writers and French artists. He wanted to world to taste the food and wine of France. He wanted to France to not only be the political leader of Europe, but also the cultural leader as well.
He also advocated the colony of Samuel de Champlain. It was a small fledgling colony on the St. Lawrence River in the North of the New World. He knew, like Felipe did, that there was great money to be made in the Americas if only someone with vision could embrace it.
He also knew that the religious conflicts in the country could only divide France. He sought to end them. Although he never revealed these ideas to Concini, he longed to destroy the Protestants at La Rochelle, the same Calvinists who ruined his Cathedral in Luçon. They would pay dearly for that. A united Catholic France would be a powerful counrty.
Concini frustrated him. No matter what he suggested, the wretched Italian had no vision. He could not see beyond the walls of the Louvre. He was not interested in the New World and saw nothing wrong with the current French society. He was a vain man.
Their meeting dragged on. Richelieu tried to convince Concini that the position of Constable of France was unnecessary and needed to be eliminated, but as usual, Concini could not see reason. As their meeting came to a close, Richelieu decided to implement his plan.
“I see that you have increased your entourage,” he said casually.
“Oh yes,” Concini said, absent-mindedly.
“Do you think it’s enough?” Richelieu asked.
Concini looked confused. “What do you mean?”
“I have to admit I was shocked by the recent assassination attempt on the Earl of Buckingham,” Richelieu said.
“It was disturbing,” admitted Concini.
“I am concerned for your safety,” Richelieu said.
“A similar attempt could happen to you.”
“I don’t think so,” Concini said. “Buckingham was an Englishman, and the people have long memories.”
“They hated him?”
“Of course they hate him,” Concini said. “A Protestant Englishman in the company of the Queen? He might as well have painted a target on his cloak.”
“But what of you?”
“What do you mean?” Concini asked.
“What do the people think of you?” Richelieu asked.
Concini paused. “I don’t think they care one way or another.”
“Are you sure of that?”
Concini grew concerned. “What do you know?”
“I have developed, as I suggested to you, a great network of informants,” Richelieu said. “They report to me a great many things. With them, I try to ascertain any threat to the crown, or any bit of information that might endanger the country.”
“What does that have to do with me?” Concini asked.
Richelieu sighed. “I don’t know how to say this to you,” he said. “They hate you.”
“Who hates me?”
“The people hate you,” Richelieu said.
Concini looked shocked. Richelieu was amazed. Did he really not know how fully unpopular he and his wife were?
“This always happens,” Richelieu said dismissively. “They can’t hate the monarch. To do so would be treasonous, seditious. So they focus their hate on a convenient target. You’re a very public person with close ties to the Queen Regent. It makes sense.”
“So you think I’m a target for assassination?”
“Absolutely. My informants have alerted me to a half a dozen threats to you personally. We managed to eliminate many different conspirators but you never know.”
Concini’s eyes widen. “What do I do?”
“Show strength,” Richelieu said. “You have men around you? Increase them. Recruit from the guards. No one will try anything when you’re surrounded by hundreds of men.”
“Yes, that’s true,” Concini said.
Richelieu left, sure that the little sliver of doubt was burrowing his way into Concini’s mind. A few days later, the sliver blossomed as Richelieu witnessed two hundred men marching in formation in the Louvre yard. He saw them. The Queen saw them. De Luynes saw them.
In his room, high above, Louis looked out at the display. He saw them too.
- All For One- Chapter Thirty-Four
The next chapter in the Three Musketeers prequel
- All For One - Chapter Thirty-six
The next chapter in the Three Musketeers prequel