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All For One - Chapter Thirty-six
36. The Fête for the Comte de Chalais and the Effects of that Fête
April is a lovely month in Paris, and almost the entire Parisian society of nobility was attending a fête in honor of Henri de Tallyrand, the young Comte de Chalais on the occasion of his eighteenth birthday. The King did not bother to attend, but the Queen attended and with her she brought her favorite subject, Marie de Rohan. Parisian society was getting one of their first views of the lovely Marie, the fiancée of the Duc de Luynes. Both women were graces of beauty, Marie was slightly older than Anne, and it was plain to anyone in the room that they were rivals in beauty. Marie had changed from an interesting looking girl to a beautiful woman, perhaps the most beautiful woman in Paris.
Luynes watched her as she spoke with Chalais. She was smiling and laughing. He found himself surging with jealousy. De Luynes was thirty-nine, over half her age. Chalais was only a year older than Marie, and not by much. He was a very good looking young man, with blond hair and clear blue eyes. He was tall and moved like an athlete. He was still plain-faced, with no beard to speak of, but he had a certain beauty that was delicate yet not feminine. Both the Queen and Marie were talking intently to him.
“He certainly is a handsome one isn’t he?” a female voice said next to him. He turned to look at the speaker, who continued. “If you like young, foolish, moronic children.”
She was a fashionable brunette, about twenty-five, with stunning piercing pale blue eyes. She wore a blue satin gown trimmed with black lace. The gown covered a curvaceous body that begged to be uncovered. He woman laughed and held out her hand.
“I’m sure it’s against some rule somewhere to introduce myself,” she said, “but I have never been one to follow rules. Gabrielle de Montpellier.”
He took her hand and bowed. “The Duc de Luynes.”
She smiled, her eyes bright. “I know, of course. I suppose I should congratulate you.”
His eyes drifted to where Marie was still gamely talking to Chalais.
“She is so young,” the woman who called herself Gabrielle said. “I remember when I was that young and foolish. A stranger to love. But I’m sure you are no stranger to such things.”
He looked at her; she had placed her hand on his arm. She tossed her hair, and her neck was bared to him.
“Will you walk with me?” she asked and extended her elbow. He took it and walked outside.
“You have found yourself in quite a position,” she said.
“Best friend to the King. About to marry the Queen’s closest confidant. A very powerful combination.”
“All this is true,” he said.
“Power is fascinating. It gives a man confidence, and confidence is intoxicating,” she said.
“Intoxicating for who?” he asked.
She leaned in to him. “To me.”
He stepped back. “What are you doing?”
She smiled. “I think you’re old enough to know what me having to explain it to you.”
He smiled back. “Would you consider me a smart individual?”
“I would,” she said.
“So, then Mlle…” he paused trying to remember her name.
“Madame Gabrielle de Montpellier. I am no Mademoiselle,” she corrected.
“Of course,” he replied. “So if I were an intelligent man, would I accept such an illicit offer with so many people here? In front of my fiancée? In front of the Queen?”
She was shocked. No man had ever resisted her charms before.
“Why would I buy an old nag, when in a few young months I’ll have a nice young filly?” he said as a parting shot as he walked away.
Gabrielle de Montpellier turned red, not from embarrassment, but from rage.
De Luynes rejoined the fête. He found his wife, still talking with Chalais. He would have to watch that one very closely.
The next day he summoned a guard into his office, but not just any guard. He sat behind his desk as André du Toulon entered. He could tell that the guard was wary.
“You wished to see me, your grace?” he asked.
“Have you ever heard the name Gabrielle de Montpellier?”
André shook his head. “No, never.”
“Neither has anyone else,” de Luynes said. “I’ve asked around. No one knows who that is. The only person who seemed to know the name was the Bishop. But he only knew the name, not anything about her.”
“Well I’m afraid I can’t help you,” André said.
“Oh, I think you can,” de Luynes said. “I know that last May you and your friends helped the Queen in some way. Try as I may I can’t get any of you to tell me what it is. You have some promise or vow that forbids you from telling me what happened last year. I suppose I must respect that. As you may have heard I have recently become engaged to Mlle de Montbazon. On the night that Parisian society all converged together, I was approached by Gabrielle de Montpellier.”
“I see,” André said.
“No, not yet,” de Luynes said. “If I wanted to I could have had my way with her. She was willing.”
“You’re a lucky man,” André said.
“You don’t understand,” de Luynes said. “She was too willing.”
“You suspect something?” André said.
“Wouldn’t you?” de Luynes said. “Most assignations I’ve ever had happen behind closed doors, where no one would see. I assume it’s the same with you?”
“I am not the kind of man who describes his conquests,” said André with a smile, “but yes, most of my rendezvous took place with the utmost privacy and discretion.”
“Exactly.” De Luynes said. “I believe that I was meant to be caught in a compromising situation.”
André thought about this. “And this woman, this Gabrielle, is a woman who apparently has no past or no identity.”
“Obviously, Gabrielle de Montpellier is an alias.”
“So why ask my opinion?” André asked.
De Luynes smiled and leaned back in his chair. “You obviously have experience handling things that are out of the realm of normality. Do you think you could find out who this woman is and why she planned to scandalize me?”
André smiled. This was the second time this week he had been asked to find and follow someone. So far he had no luck finding Calderón.
“I’ll do my best,” André said. “But Paris is a large place and France even bigger.”
“I realize that,” de Luynes. “I am prepared to be patient.”
“If I find her,” André said, “and I’m not saying that I can, how do you propose I get the information from here?”
“I don’t know,” de Luynes said. “Be creative.”
- All For One- Chapter Thirty-Five
The next chapter in the Three Musketeers prequel
- All For One- Chapter Thirty-Seven
The next chapter in the Three Musketeers prequel