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All For One- Chapter Twenty-Three
23. A Mission for Marie
Six months passed and Queen Anne grew increasingly moody. Nothing seemed to make her happy anymore. Even the things she usually enjoyed such as riding and playing tennis with Marie had lost all feeling of joy. Anne had not yet spoken to Marie regarding her evening with the King, and Marie was unwilling to ask. Marie was hesitant to discuss it not only because such intimate details should only be discussed between the couple, but also because the mental picture of the King and Queen fornicating was not a pleasant one. She decided that any discussion of that night should start with Anne.
In the last week of May, Anne decided that she could bear her silence no longer, and longed to divulge her problems to Marie. One evening at dinner, she told Marie to come see her that evening. Marie arrived later through the passageway, even though she disliked using them now. It was the first time that the young maiden had entered the passage since Anne’s kidnapping. She arrived to find the young Queen sitting on her bed, distressed.
Slipping into the room, Marie moved quietly and spoke softly. “You called for me, your highness?” she asked.
The young Queen’s eyes met her friend and she shook her head. “Never feel the need to be formal with me, Marie,” she said. “In the entire world, I consider you my truest friend.”
Marie smiled warmly. “I am honored, Anne,” she said. “You must know that I feel the same.” Trying to comfort her, Marie placed her hand on the back of Anne’s. Such familiar contact would be disgraceful by anyone else, but Marie knew she need a friend rather than a subject. “You seem upset.”
“Oh I am, Marie,” she said, the weight of her distress falling off her shoulders. “It has been six months since the King made me his wife, and I have been miserable ever since.”
“But surely being a queen…” Marie started.
“Am I a Queen?” Anne growled, her dark eyes flashing. “That fat loathsome toad still calls herself the Queen of France. If she is Queen than who am I?”
Marie nodded. Anne’s new mother-in-law, the Queen Regent Marie d’Médicis still referred to herself as the Queen of France despite Anne’s marriage to King Louis, and she knew that Anne considered it a deep insult.
“Being a queen is nothing if I have to share my bed with that repugnant cockroach,” Anne spat.
Marie recalled that night. She was still very curious about it. She expected gossip, but received silence. She didn’t know exactly how she should approach her about it. “I know from Charles that he visited you.”
“Charles?” Anne said. “The Duc de Luynes?”
“Yes,” Marie confirmed. “He was attending the King that night,” she explained. “He told me what was happening, but I was much too embarrassed to talk to you about it. Had I known how awful it was, I would have comforted you. I would have broken down the door if I had the foreknowledge.”
Anne squeezed Marie’s hand. “This de Luynes…” she began.
“Are you trying changing the subject, Anne?” Marie teased.
“Perhaps I am,” she teased. “And you are so familiar with him,” Anne said. “Calling him Charles…
Marie blushed. “We have been spending some time together, but nothing inappropriate. I would do nothing to embarrass you.”
“And are you in love with this man?” Anne asked in a quality that Marie thought sounded dreamily and far away.
Marie giggled. “Oh I don’t know if I love him,” Marie said. “Love is such an unusual thing.”
Sadness crossed the Queen’s face. “I do not love Louis,” the queen said. “I doubt I will ever find love.”
“Oh don’t say that,” Marie implored. “You could learn to love him.
The queen laughed, but it was a thin bitter laugh. “He came to me that night, and left with my virginity, but not my love.”
“And what was that like?” Marie asked eagerly, almost reverently.
The queen shuddered. “I can still feel his cold clammy skin on top of me. All I could do was to lie there like a dead body and wait for it to be over, which thankfully did not take long. It was the first time I had seen a man without any clothes on. It was not like the paintings at all.”
It wasn’t exactly the reaction Marie was hoping for. “I have never seen one,” Marie said. “What did it look like?”
Anne raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean? What are we talking about?”
Marie giggled. “I think you know what I mean.”
The queen thought about it. “When my brother Felipe was born I saw him soon after,” she said. “The King is similar.”
Marie laughed. She soon stopped, however, when she saw that Anne was not laughing.
“I hate this place,” she said quietly. Marie knew that she sometimes said that, but this time was different. Before she had complained and rolled her eyes, but usually forgot her woe and continued on to whatever activity they had planned, leading one to believe that her complaints were trivial. This time, she sat quietly with a distant look in her eyes. “Aside from your friendship, my dear Marie, I have hated everything about France.”
“You need to give your situation more time,” Marie said in an attempt to reassure her.
“I want to go home,” she queen said sadly.
Marie nodded. Anne had been homesick from the first day she arrived. “Well, perhaps later this year we can visit Madrid,” Marie suggested. She thought this could be a great opportunity for a fun trip.
“No, I want to go home forever,” Anne said.
Marie sighed. Anne’s feelings were deeper than she thought. “Well I don’t see how that can happen,” Marie said.
Anne thought for a minute. “I think I know how,” she said. She turned to Marie. “Where does your loyalty lie?” she asked.
Marie was confused. “What do you mean?”
“Are you loyal to me or are you loyal to France?” Anne asked.
Surprised, Marie said, “I don’t see a difference.”
“Could entrust you with a message?” Anne asked.
“Of course,” Marie said.
“Could I trust you even if that message may be considered treason?” Anne asked in a low voice.
“Treason?” Marie said shocked.
“You will not get in trouble. I will protect you,” Anne reassured her.
“How will you protect me? What would happen if I am caught with a treasonous letter?” she asked concerned.
“It will not be a letter,” Anne said. “I would not risk your life in such a matter. Do you remember that guard that helped us last year? The one that you like?” she added in a teasing tone.
“Athos?” Marie asked, feigning nonchalance. She was a little defensive at the idea that she may actually like Athos.
“Yes,” Anne said. “I owe him my freedom. I would like to speak with him. Can you bring him to me?”
“Of course,” Marie said, and rose from her sitting position on the bed.
“And call Doña Estefana, to me as well,” the Queen added.
“What for?” Marie asked.
“You’ll need a chaperone,” the Queen explained. “But before you go anywhere, how well can you memorize?”
An hour later, Marie led Athos through the secret passageway. He was in a tavern, alone, and fortunately for all involved had only finished his first drink when Marie’s messenger arrived with an urgent message to come to the Palais des Tuileries and to not tell anyone where he was going. Marie said nothing to him as she waited at the main entrance, but led him silently to a quiet sitting room on the main floor. They opened the secret passageway and she led him to the Queen’s chamber. The whole time, she said not a word to Athos, and he was surprised to see not only the Queen in her chamber, but also one of her Spanish ladies-in-waiting, Doña Consuela Estefana.
“Your majesty,” he said, bowing.
“Do I have your solemn word, Athos,” Anne began, “that you have not divulged to a single soul where you were going tonight?”
“I swear by the King,” he said.
Marie noticed that Anne flinched at the mention of the King. “And do you also swear that even if you refuse my request, which of course you are free to do, whatever is uttered in this room will never be repeated.”
“As a gentleman, I will never breathe a word of this meeting,” Athos said. “I know how to keep a confidence.”
“Very well,” she said. “I owe you my very existence, Athos, and there are few men I trust more in Paris than you. I have a mission for you that I hope you will have the courage to accept.”
He did not respond, but listened.
“I have presented a message to Mlle de Montbazon to deliver to my father, the King of Spain,” Anne began. “She is the lone individual who knows the message, and she must be delivered unharmed to Madrid and then back to Paris. Most importantly, no one can be aware of her destination. You will travel under assumed names, and no one will know who the three of you are.”
“The three of us, your majesty?” Athos asked.
“It would be inappropriate for Mlle de Montbazon to journey by herself with only a man that she is unmarried to for company. Therefore Doña Estefana will travel with you as well as a chaperone.”
He looked over at the lady-in-waiting. Doña Consuela Estefana was a young woman of twenty. She had dark, black hair, brown eyes and an olive complexion. She was not unattractive, but the expression on her face told Athos that she was by no means happy about this assignment.
“I must emphasize that this communication is for my father’s ears, not yours, and not Doña Estefana’s. Do not ask Mlle de Montbazon the substance of the message,” she warned.
He found the whole idea suspicious. Why not simply send a letter? “With respect, I will not consent to this assignment if the message is of a treasonous nature, your majesty,” Athos said.
“The message is a personal one between a daughter and a father,” said the queen. “The reason you must remain silent is to avoid such suspicion. They would assume, like you have, that the disposition of the message is seditious.”
“My apologizes, your majesty,” he said. “I did not mean to insinuate anything improper.”
“Of course,” she said. “Your devotion to my husband is commendable. That is why I have faith in your ability to protect Mlle de Montbazon.”
“When would we leave?” he asked.
“As soon as it can be arranged,” she said.
“Return to your quarters,” Marie said. “I will speak with des Essarts to give you leave. Make preparations for the journey to Spain.”
“Do you consent to this mission, Athos?” Anne asked.
Athos didn’t think about it for long. He felt that, even in the presence of a chaperone, he would have a chance to spend quite a bit of time with Marie.
“It is my duty to serve, my queen,” he said, bowing. “And serve I shall. I shall leave in secret and prepare provisions for our journey.”
The queen rose. “You are a decent man, Athos.”
He smiled. “I am hardly a decent man, my queen,” he said. “But I am trying to become one.”
- All For One- Chapter Twenty-Two
The next chapter in the Three Musketeers prequel
- All For One- Chapter Twenty-Four
The next chapter in the Three Musketeers prequel