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All For One- Chapter Thirty-Three
33. The Return to Paris
Athos was glad of the new arrangements. The carriage rode ahead carrying Marie, her father, Doña Consuela and de Luynes. Athos rode on Tonnette behind them with his three other horses. He promised to give Violette to Marie, for she had grown very fond of the horse. He was able to watch the road and see if there were any threats. He also had the assurance of five of the duke’s men to assist him in any emergency. Most of all he was glad that he was not riding in the carriage with Marie. At least he didn’t have to sit and watch the happy couple. He rather enjoyed his dinner from the previous night and did not wish to become nauseous. At least his shoulder was perfectly healed. The salve given to him by Bertrand’s wife worked better than he could have hoped for.
From Tours, they followed the mighty Loire to Orléans, and then they traveled that familiar road to Paris, the same route that Marie and Anne rode with Tréville that fateful night last year. They entered through the Porte St. Victor and turned on to the Rue St. Jacques. They crossed the Seine over the Pont Notre Dame and headed to the Louvre, arriving by the Rue St. Honoré. When they arrived at the Louvre, Athos stabled his horses and changed into his uniform.
When he was ready he entered the Louvre and went to seek the Queen. He found Bertrand.
“Athos, you’ve returned,” his friend said.
“Just this minute,” Athos replied. He noticed his friend’s hand. “Did you hurt yourself?”
“It is quite a tale,” Bertrand said.
“I would love to hear it,” Athos said.
“I would love to tell it,” Bertrand said, “but you have been sent for.”
“By the Queen.”
Athos nodded. As he walked away he turned back to Bertrand. “Your wife sends her love.”
Bertrand laughed, and then wondered if his friend was joking.
Athos approached the Queen’s quarters, and was announced to the Queen.
Anne of Austria waited with Marie, who had entered her chambers immediately upon her return. The Queen’s eyes were red, and Athos could surmise that Marie had relayed her father’s message. For the first time Athos saw Anne not as a Queen, but as a young sixteen year-old girl who was miserable, and although he was still angry at being deceived, he could understand the emotion behind the crime.
She sniffed and composed herself. “M. Athos,” she began. “I wish to thank you for your service. I have a few questions for you.”
“Did you hear the message and its reply?” she asked.
“I was in the room when the message was delivered, and although I did not understand the message, the reply was translated into French. I was able to figure out the content of the message from the reply to it.”
“I see,” she said. “I suppose you are angry.”
“Please understand, your majesty,” he said. “Had I known the content of the message I would not have agreed to your mission.”
She nodded. “I know, and I beg you forgiveness.”
Athos was stunned. A Queen, begging his forgiveness?
"It is not my place to ask forgivenes of a Queen, your majesty," he said. "All I request is that you never ask me to betray my country. I take my duties very seriously.”
“Of course,” she replied. “As I am sure I can rely on your discretion in this matter.”
“Of course,” he replied. “Will there be anything else?”
“Just this,” she said, and rose to a small box. She pulled out a small velvet bag and handed it to Athos. “A small token of my gratitude.”
He felt the money through the bag and palmed it in his hand. He bowed and left the royal presence. He went out to seek his friends and found them at a nearby inn. He had quite a bit of money on him from both the King of Spain and the Queen of France, so he decided to buy many bottles of wine while they told him about the assassination attempt, Bertrand’s impersonation of the Earl of Buckingham, and André’s journey to Calais.
They were naturally curious to hear of Athos’ mission. Athos decided to abbreviate the story a bit. He never mentioned Spain, but only that he accompanied Mlle de Montbazon through the Loire Valley and that they made a stop in Artagnan to visit Bertrand’s wife.
“Please keep in mind that I have been ordered not to speak about specifics,” he said. “Certainly we can all understand the need for discretion.”
“On that subject, the other day I had an interesting meeting with the Duc de Luynes,” Tréville said. “He wanted to know everything about our little adventure last month.”
"What did you say?"
“Nothing, of course,” Tréville said. “I even had to assert my status.” The other men nodded, for they knew that Tréville always wished to be treated like any other guard, regardless of his noble status. For him to assert his title, meant that it was the only way to make de Luynes ease his questions.
“He talked to me as well,” Athos said. “I told him nothing. In fact I even suggested a duel if he asked too many questions.”
“Very bold, Athos,” Bertrand said. “Now what did you mean about my wife gives her love?”
They laughed, and the incident was forgotten. Athos enjoyed the company of his friends, and he found he was enjoying the wine served that night. The more he drank, the more he forgot about Marie, Anne de Breuil, Spain, the wound he received and the threats from the Duc de Luynes.
Another winter came and went. On November 30th 1616, Bishop Richelieu, under the sponsorship of Concini, was named Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Wars. Athos discovered the warmth of the fire and brandy kept him from falling into despair, André was his frequent drinking partner. Athos tried to forget Marie by once again consorting with the young women who frequented the taverns, but like before, he was not satisfied. Unlike before instead of seeing Anne’s face on every girl, he saw Marie’s.
“My dear Gautier,” André said one quiet night. “I have to despair over the sheer lack of female presence here tonight.”
Athos chuckled and shook his head. “Who are you talking to?”
“You, you damn fool,” André slurred.
“Me?” Athos laughed. “You’re the fool. You called me Gautier.”
The smile disappeared from André’s face only to reappear a moment later.
“Well,” André said. “Then maybe I should head to bed.”
“Who’s Gautier?” Athos asked.
“Nobody,” said André dismissively.
“It has to be someone,” Athos said.
André looked sad for a moment. “Gautier was my brother.”
“Was? What happened to him,” Athos asked.
André sighed. “I killed him.”
A heavy silence fell between the men. Athos couldn’t believe his ears.
“What?” he asked. “You killed him?”
“I might as well have,” André said. “It was a long time ago, before we met. My brother was the elder of the two of us, and therefore was set to inherit my father’s land and title.” He noticed Athos’ look. “Yes, I come from nobility.”
Athos said nothing, for he too came from nobility.
“Knowing that I would one day have to make my own way in the world, I learned the manly art of fighting. I traveled to Italy to study with the fencing masters. I am certain there may be men in France who are better fighters than I am, but I have never met anyone. I found myself in Paris with a rough crowd of thieves. They taught me all sorts of things, like how to fight with your fists and to pick locks. Have you ever heard of the English legend of Robin Hood?”
Athos shook his head. “No.”
“Well it’s about an aristocrat who decides to become a highwayman,” André explained. “Instead of keeping the money for himself, he gave the money he stole from rich aristocrats and gave it to the poor. I took that as my inspiration, breaking into people’s houses and stealing their money and jewels. The next day some family in the Rue St, Antoine could eat for a month. I thought it was fun.
“Later, my brother came to visit me in Paris. He had never been to our fair city and I took it upon myself to show him my favorite places. We were drinking one night, in a tavern much like this, when two men insulted us. Well, you know how I am. I don’t accept an insult from any man. I challenged the two men to a duel. I know how confident I am. I fought with my opponent. He was far inferior, and I merely toyed with him until I could easily disarm him and give him a scratch on his shoulder. I am not a killer. I considered honor to be satisfied. Gautier’s opponent had no such scruples. I turned just in time to see a sword pierce his lung.
“Enraged I attacked and killed this man, but it was too late. I held my brother as blood seeped from his chest and he choked on his own blood. It was my fault. My brother was no fighter and I roped him into a duel which he did not survive. I could not bear to inform my father. To this day we have not spoken. I’m just glad that our mother was not alive to see my disgrace.
“Afterwards I decided to enlist my services. I felt that until my father dies and I inherit his title, that I needed to do some good, and not just give the proceedings of my petty thievery to the poor, but to truly serve and use my talents for the right reasons.”
He sighed. “I don’t expect you to understand.”
Athos was tempted to tell him that he did understand, that he too was ashamed of his past and chose a path of redemption, but to do so would require him to tell his story. No matter how guilty André felt about his brother, he would still be horrified to find out he had been sharing drinks with a man who had killed his wife.
“I guess I called you Gautier because you remind me of him,” André said.
They drank a little longer in silence until André declared that it was time to go. They rose from their bench and stumbled out the door.
- All For One- Chapter Thirty-Two
The Next Chapter in the Three Musketeers prequel
- All For One- Chapter Thirty-Four
The next chapter in the Three Musketeers prequel