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All For One- Chapter Twenty-Four
24. The Bishop and Doña Consuela Estefana
Not long after the clandestine meeting with Athos and the Queen took place, a fire crackled and popped behind Bishop Richelieu in his small office in the Louvre, as he pondered the information just revealed to him. He was joined by François Leclerc du Tremblay, a forty-year old Capuchin Friar. Dressed in gray robes, he was a recent acquaintance of the Bishop and nicked named “Pére Joseph.” He was a member of the nobility, and at one time went by the name Baron de Mafflier. Seventeen years prior, he renounced the world and entered the religious life. He was a zealous opponent of the Huguenot cause and found an ally in Richelieu. Sitting across from Richelieu sat Doña Consuela Estefana. To her credit, her resolve lasted for an entire hour before she found the Bishop, telling him that she had important news. She was breathing heavily, but felt better that she unburdened her conscience to the Bishop. They were waiting for a fourth person before Doña Consuela had to tell her story again for the “Grey Eminence,” as Tremblay was sometimes called.
A porter entered and announced the arrival of Mme. Gabrielle de Montpellier and Richelieu requested that she be admitted. A minute later, Milady entered the room. Since the failure of the plot to kidnap Anne of Austria the year before, she had to abandon her alias of Sabiné du Luçon. Her normally blonde hair was dyed brown, for her face was known to Anne of Austria, and it was dangerous for her to appear in the Louvre. They ventured that the Queen may not be able to recognize her so many months later with her hair a different color. There was one other person who could identify her, as he knew her entire body. She swore if she ever saw the man she called the Chevalier de Valence again, she would kill him. She didn’t know who he really was, but she always had an eye on every man she walked past. She will find him and make him pay for her humiliation. The identity of Gabrielle de Montpellier was one of many that Richelieu had established long ago. She had hoped she wouldn’t have to assume it, but they never knew if Anne of Austria would reveal the incident to the public.
Milady walked to Richelieu’s side. Doña Consuela looked her over, unsure.
“This is my most trusted associate, Gabrielle de Montpellier,” Richelieu said. “Anything you can reveal to me, you can reveal to her and know that your conversation will be held in the strictest confidence. My lady, this is Doña Consuela Estefana, the Queen’s lady-in-waiting.”
Milady nodded. To her, Doña Consuela was just another informant, but it was important to keep informants thinking they were important and at ease.
“Mademoiselle, would you please recount to Pére Joseph and Madame de Montpellier of what you informed me earlier,” Richelieu asked sweetly.
“Yes, your grace,” she said. “Earlier today, Mlle Marie de Rohan-Montbazon requested my attendance in the Queen’s chamber. When I arrived, she asked me to travel with Mlle de Montbazon to Madrid to deliver a message to her father the King of Spain.”
“What is the message?” Milady asked.
“I do not know,” Doña Consuela said. “The Queen recited it to Mlle de Montbazon, and instructed her to commit it to memory. She said it was a personal message.”
“Please continue,” Richelieu said.
“She then recruited the services of one of the palace guards,” Doña Consuela said.
“Who?” Milady said.
“Someone called Athos,” she replied.
Milady didn’t know the man and wondered if this was the Chevalier de Valence.
“Doña Estefana,” the Bishop said, “you have performed a worthy service for your country. It is vital that you do exactly whatever the Queen tells you to do. Go to Madrid with Mlle de Montbazon. Discover what the message is, and report back to me.”
Doña Consuela nodded and rose. “Thank you, your grace.” She nodded to Milady and Pére Joseph before she left.
“Let me go after them,” Milady requested.
“Milady,” he chided. “You must never allow your craving for revenge blind you.”
“Revenge,” Milady said, feigning innocence.
Richelieu smiled. “I know you too well, Milady. You think this man to be the cad who insulted you last year.”
Milady bit back a growl. “I will find him.”
“All in good time,” Richelieu said.
Pére Joseph did not know what they were referring to, so he simply attempted to guide the conversation back to the subject at hand. “Your grace,” he said. “If this message is treasonous, as you suggest, then why allow this journey to happen at all? Why not go to the King?”
“With what?” Richelieu asked. “We have no tangible evidence, and without more substantial intelligence, you can not simply charge the Queen of France with treason.”
“What do you suggest?” Pére Joseph asked.
“Ensnare them during their undertaking,” Richelieu said. “Seize Marie de Rohan during her expedition to Madrid and coerce her to reiterate the message.”
“Why not simply wait?” Milady asked. “When Estefana returns she will divulge everything to us.”
“We want to avert an international confrontation,” Richelieu said. “The message should not arrive at Madrid.”
“What about the guard?” Milady asked.
“Eliminate him, of course,” Richelieu said. “But I do not think you are quite the instrument for the task. Find Rochefort.”
- All For One- Chapter Twenty-Three
The next chapter in the Three Musketeers prequel
- All For One- Chapter Twenty-Five
The next chapter in the Three Musketeers prequel