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All For One - Chapter Thirty-Nine
39. The Crying Maid
It didn’t take long for André to make it to the Louvre. He found de Luynes and told him everything that happened with Milady.
“You say you know this woman intimately?” de Luynes said.
“Yes,” Andre said.
“I think it’s time for you to explain to me everything that happened,” de Luynes said.
Andre sighed. He told de Luynes how he was recruited by Marie de Rohan to rescue Anne of Austria who was kidnapped. He divulged how he infiltrated the house where they believed she was being kept. He recounted his night with Sabiné du Luçon. He described their rescue and how they fought their way to confront their kidnappers. He did not break his vow, for he kept the names of Condé and César off of his lips.
“How did you escape?” de Luynes asked.
“We were able to walk away because a letter was on its way to the King. As long as we promised never to reveal who the kidnappers were, we were able to leave safely to destroy the letter.” André explained.
“That explains why you and your friends have been so adamant about not revealing what happened,” de Luynes said.
“Exactly,” André said. “If those men are ever arrested or accused of treason, they will find us and kill us.
De Luynes nodded. “Did you believe her?”
“She didn’t know she was being overheard,” André said.
De Luynes stood and walked to the door. He opened it and called outside, “Vitry.”
The Captain of the guard arrived. De Luynes informed him to take a dozen men to Number six, Place Royale and to arrest anyone they found there. An hour later they returned.
“We found nobody there,” he reported. “The place was abandoned. It looked like whoever was there left in hurry.”
De Luynes was disappointed. He wanted to interrogate this woman.
“As much as I believe what you heard,” de Luynes said. “I simply can not arrest Concini on the basis of an overheard conversation.”
“You said that you asked everyone you know who Gabrielle was,” André said.
“That’s right,” de Luynes.
“You said that no one had heard of her except one person,” André continued.
De Luynes sat up straight as an arrow. “Bishop Richelieu.”
De Luynes marched through the Louvre with André close at his heels. They approached Richelieu’s office and strode in.
Richelieu looked surprised to see them. “My dear de Luynes, you look positively upset.”
De Luynes fought to regain his composure. “You may recall I asked you last week about one Gabrielle de Montpellier.”
“Yes, I remember,” Richelieu said.
“You said that you knew her.”
“Of course,” Richelieu said.
André was confused over Richelieu’s nonchalance.
“And how is it that you know her?” de Luynes asked.
Richelieu shrugged. “I’m buying her house.”
“Her house?” de Luynes repeated.
“Yes,” Richelieu said. “She approached me a few weeks ago with a desire to sell her house to the Church.”
“Where is this house located,” André asked.
If the impertinence of a guard asking him a question bothered the Bishop, he didn’t show it. “It’s in the Place Royale.”
“Number six?” André asked.
“Yes,” Richelieu answered. “How did you know?”
“So other than your real estate dealings, you have no idea who she is?” de Luynes asked.
“I’d never seen her before that day,” Richelieu said. “Why? What is this all about?” he asked.
De Luynes sighed. “We’re looking for her. We think she’s involved in an assassination attempt.”
“The one against Buckingham?” Richelieu asked. “I thought that he acted alone.”
“We have new information,” de Luynes lied. “Sorry to bother you.”
Richelieu watched them go. He waited a moment, and then turned. Milady strode out from behind a screen. She was dressed as a maid.
“Do you think he believed you?” she asked.
“I hope so,” he said, “for both our sakes.”
“De Luynes doubts what that man heard,” she said.
“André du Toulon,” Richelieu said. “That is his name.”
She nodded, relishing the knowledge. “He is convinced that Concini is the mastermind.”
“Why are you dressed as a maid?”
“I had an idea,” she said. “Who else does de Luynes trust?”
“The only person I can think of is Mlle de Montbazon,” he said.
Milady nodded. “Who has never seen my face close at hand.”
Richelieu nodded. “And your plan?”
“Mlle de Montbazon has a caring heart,” she said with almost a sneer. “A few tears may have her sympathy.”
Richelieu smiled. “Interesting. You’ll use the very relationship that we fear to sew fear of your own making.”
“There is also Calderón,” Milady reminded him. “All is not lost.” She held documents out to him.
“The deed to Place Royale?” Richelieu asked.
“One day I would like to get it back,” she said.
“I shall keep it for you,” Richelieu assured her. “For now, I think your presence in France would endanger both of us.”
She nodded. “Understood.”
“Do what you must do with Marie de Rohan, and then leave the Tuilieres through the passages,” he instructed. “Go to England and use one of the aliases I have created for you there. Once you are established, contact me.”
“Then this is goodbye for now,” she said.
“Yes,” Richelieu said.
She paused. “Your grace, I wish to think you for all that you have done for me…”
“Anne,” he said, interrupting her with the name that only dares call her by. “Sentimentality is not in your palate. This is not goodbye. I will see you soon.”
She nodded and passed through the door to his office. She made her way, head down like a good maid would, through the Louvre and the grand gallery to the Palais des Tuileries.
A few hours later, Marie de Montbazon retired to her room. She had spent the afternoon riding with the Queen. The Queen had been in a much better mood lately and the two of them were enjoying themselves tremendously. They were riding in the Bois de Boulogne that afternoon, several miles west of the Louvre. Naturally, they were not alone, but rather accompanied by several guards for their protection, including Bertrand, who had earned the young Queen’s favor for his brave actions during the assassination attempt, not to mention the comfort she received from their discussion on the Seine. They were gossiping about the fête they attended the previous week for the young Comte de Chalais. Anne was quick to remark how impressed she was by the young man, and how well he was dressed for the occasion. Marie could do nothing but agree with her, and that remark that Chalais had fine taste.
“I have a suggestion,” Marie said as they rode north. “We both agree that Chalais has exquisite taste in mens’ fashion, is that not so?”
“Indeed,” replied the Queen. “Every time I have seen him his attire is impeccable, but never foppish.”
“Wouldn’t it be pleasing if his majesty dressed in such a manner?” Marie said.
The Queen smiled. “I would enjoy that very much.”
“Then you know what you have to do,” Marie replied.
“I do not, but I have a suspicion that you are going to tell me.”
“You should advocate to your husband to have the Comte de Chalias appointed the master of the King’s Wardrobe,” Marie suggested.
“Very interesting,” the Queen replied.
“So you concur with me?” Marie asked.
“Very interesting, indeed,” the Queen repeated with a smile. “Weren’t you just the other day remarking on how handsome Chalias was?”
Marie smiled. “I do not recall.”
“I can recall for the both of us,” the Queen teased. “I believe the words you used were ‘delectable,’ ‘adorable,’ and ‘heavenly’.”
“You forgot ‘breathtaking,’ ‘exquisite,’ and ‘magnificent’.” Marie countered and the two girls laughed.
“Oh my dear Marie,” the Queen said. “You are too fickle.”
“How am I fickle?”
“First, you were fascinated by that guard. M. Athos, I believe,” the Queen began.
“I would not say I was fascinated by him,” Marie replied.
“I never had any improper feelings for M. Athos,” defended Marie. “Although I do believe he had feelings for me, or so he claimed, I did not return those affections. I merely regarded his friendship worthwhile, and was grateful for the many brave actions he undertook on my behalf.”
“After M. Athos,” the Queen continued. “You attracted the attention of the duc de Luynes.”
“And how is that proof of fickleness?” Marie countered. “He requested my hand in marriage from my father. It was all very appropriate indeed.”
“Of course,” the Queen replied. “Now you seem to be besotted with Chalais. Tell me Mlle de Montbazon, after you marry de Luynes, will you take Chalais as your lover?”
Marie giggled, and held her hand to her mouth. “Your majesty, the things you say.”
“That is not an answer,” the Queen teased. “I command you now to answer me. After you allow de Luynes to take your maidenhead, will you then invite Chalias to your bed?”
“And what would be wrong with that?” Marie said. “I understand that happily married men and women undertake such affairs all the time. It is not proper for a young unmarried woman to carry on so, but married women may do as they please.”
“You may,” the Queen said, “but not me. Have I ever told you the story of the Tower of Nesle?”
“I don’t know it.”
“The next time you are in the Grand Gallery, or on the Pont Neuf, look across the river. You will see an old tower, directly across from the Louvre. This is the Tower of Nesle.”
“Ah, yes,” Marie said. “I know which one you are talking about.”
“This is the story I was told,” the Queen began. “Three hundred years ago this tower was the sight of horrible bloodshed. Night after night there were reports of bodies washed up on the shores of the Seine. All of them were young handsome men and without any family in Paris. The people suspected that the bodies were being thrown from the Tower of Nesle into the raging river below.”
“Is this a ghost story?” Marie asked.
“Quiet, don’t interrupt,” the Queen said. “It turns out the men were the lovers of the Queen. Queen Margaret and her sisters Jeanne and Blanche would wait in the tower at night. They employed an innkeeper who would find them handsome young men who were new to Paris. After a night of sensuous delights, the women would stab the men and hurl their bodies from the tower. Eventually they were caught with two attractive brothers. The women were imprisoned, but not before their heads were shaved clean and they were paraded through the streets as whores. You don’t want to hear what happened to the men.”
“That is quite a cautionary tale, your majesty,” Marie said.
“I tell it not to discourage you,” the Queen said. “I tell you so that you may understand that, while you may engage in such torrid rendezvous, I can never do so. If I did, it would not only be adultery, but treason. So please, have your affairs, but make sure you tell me every detail that I may experience them vicariously through you.”
Marie thought about her friend’s predicament as she walked slowly through the Palais des Tuileries, her riding boots echoing on the parquet floors. She was looking foreword to a relaxing evening when she heard sobbing coming from her room.
She entered the room and saw a maid folding her clothes. Such was sight was not uncommon, but the maid was sobbing almost uncontrollably.
“Is everything alright?” she asked.
The maid looked up in surprise and quickly wiped her eyes. “I am so sorry, my lady, forgive me.” She straightened herself and headed to the door.
“No wait,” Marie said, approaching her. “You’ve been crying.”
“It is nothing,” the maid said.
“Are you sure?” Marie asked, looking the maid in her ice-blue eyes. She got a good look at her, she was older than she was, maybe twenty years old, and she was a beautiful young girl.
The maid’s chin wavered and she broke into tears again. Marie placed her arm around her, comforting her.
The maid took a deep breath. “Have you ever had a secret, a terrible secret?” she said.
Marie shook her head. “What are you talking about?”
“I overheard something terrible. Something I wasn’t supposed to hear,” the maid said.
“Can you tell me?” Marie implored.
The maid nodded. “First, I must show you something.” She stood up and walked to the wall. She slid her hands under the molding and slid the door open. Marie of course was not surprised, but she kept her composure.
“There are passages that run through the entire building,” she said. Marie nodded, not admitting that she already knew this information. “I was in the passages one day,” the maid continued. “I often use them to move quickly through the Tuileries. I was in the passages when I overheard a conversation. A man and a woman talking in Italian.”
“Italian?” Marie asked.
“Yes, I am not fluent in Italian, but I have worked with her majesty the Regent for ten years and I have learned enough of the language to understand quite a bit. They were discussing the Queen, I mean at the time she was the Princess. They…” she started to sob again.
“It’s okay. You’re safe,” Marie said.
“The said they were going to kidnap her and… and kill her,” the maid sobbed.
“Who? Who said it?” Marie asked.
The maid shook her head. She was clearly terrified.
“Was it the Concinis?” Marie asked in a low voice.
The maid looked her in the eye and after a moment closed them again and nodded.
Finally! Marie thought, we know who was behind the kidnapping.
“Will come with me and tell a friend of mine?” she asked.
“No!” she cried. “I couldn’t! I shouldn’t even have told you,” and with that she dashed from the room.
Marie rose and followed her into the hallway, but the maid was too fast for her. Marie’s riding boots were very fashionable, but difficult to run in. The maid turned a corner, and by the time Marie reached it, the maid had disappeared.
Concerned, she immediately marched through the Gallery to the Louvre. She found her fiancé, who was still planning his strategy with André. Breathlessly, she told de Luynes of her encounter with the maid.
“Which maid was it?” André asked.
Marie shook her head. “I do not know. She never said her name.”
De Luynes shook his head and looked to André. “If only we could corroborate her story.”
“So what are you going to do?” Marie asked. “Are you going to arrest them?”
De Luynes shook his head again. “Hearsay. Just because some maid said she overheard something doesn’t mean it is the truth.”
“You have to admit it’s quite a coincidence,” André said.
Marie was confused. “What is?” She looked at André hands. They were covered in scrapes and bruises. “What happened to your hands?”
“I got these scrapes breaking into someone’s house,” he said.
She looked at her finance. “What have the two of you been up to?”
“You remember the dress that we asked you to remember?” de Luynes asked.
Marie nodded. “Of course.”
“Your drawing was very helpful in tracking down the owner of that dress,” André said. “I went to her house and saw her. She was the same woman involved in the Queen’s kidnapping. I remember her distinctly due to circumstances I will not describe at this time, but she was present during our escape. I overheard her talking to a Spanish Duke, who, by the way, contacted our mutual friend Athos regarding a message you delivered to the King of Spain. In their conversation they discussed an assassination attempt on the Duke here,” he said, indicating de Luynes. “During this conversation, she informed the Spaniard that the man behind this conspiracy was Concino Concini.”
“Then what are you waiting for?” Marie asked. “Arrest him!”
“He is the first minister of France. I can not arrest him without much more severe evidence.”
“When he has you killed, will that be the appropriate time?” Marie shot back.
“Hopefully it won’t come to that.”
“What about her?” she said. “Why can’t we arrest this woman?”
“We tried,” de Luynes said. “She fled before we could get enough men to her house. She could be halfway to England by now. It’s a shame, she could have told us quite a bit.”
“Perhaps I can help,” André said. “My friends and I can stick by you day and night. We can be your personal bodyguards.”
De Luynes nodded. He turned to Marie, “Would that put your mind at ease, my dear?”
Marie sighed and nodded. “I trust M. de Toulon and his friends. They are loyal to the crown and not Concini.”
André headed to the door. “I will send for Athos, Bertrand and Tréville. Together, we can protect you.”
- All For One- Chapter Thirty-Eight
The next chapter in the Three Musketeers prequel
- All For One- Chapter Forty
The next chapter in the Three Musketeers prequel