1634: THE DREESON INCIDENT – snippet 24:



Chapter 14





            The news of an official peace treaty between Gustavus Adolphus and the king in the Netherlands had not improved Antoine Delerue’s mood. The arrangements between the Swede and Denmark the previous summer had been bad enough, but this was appalling.

            The simultaneous arrival of two letters from Guillaume Locquifier had ruined the day altogether. Their arrival was simultaneous because the first one had been delayed in transit, waiting in a bin in the office of that fool Mauger in Haarlem until he had a wine shipment ready to go out to Glasgow.

            “Locquifier is an idiot. Can’t he make up his own mind about anything?”

             Michel Ducos shook his head. “I did, very specifically, instruct him not to take any action without my consent.”

            Delerue frowned. The problem here was that Michel’s personality was so forceful and intimidating that people tended to overdo his instructions. But it was an old problem, and not one for which he’d ever found a good solution. Michel was simply too valuable to the cause for Delerue to be willing to risk a sharp clash with him.

            He looked around the room. André Tourneau was arguing with Levasseur and the other two Lyonnais silk weavers. Mademann, the Alsatian, was, as usual, off by himself.

            “The time is not yet ripe for us to act,” Ducos said firmly. “And in Frankfurt, of all ridiculous places. What kind of symbolism would Frankfurt bring to our great undertaking?”

            Delerue decided he was probably right. The situation in France still needed to mature. Gaston needed to consolidate his base of support. Although Delerue wasn’t sure how much success the king’s brother would have, given the naturalization of that very capable Italian Mazarini. The one who, after the debacle in Rome, had moved to France and was now throwing his diplomatic talents behind Richelieu. And his talents were not inconsiderable.

            Delerue picked up what he had been saying earlier. “The proposed treaty terms…”

            Tourneau, who had once been a steward for the de Beauharnais family, broke off from his argument with Levasseur and waved a hand. “Are very unsatisfactory! Why hasn’t Henri de Rohan at least issued a public condemnation of any idea that France might accept them?”

            Delerue shook his head. “As for Rohan, pah! He is a weakling and Richelieu’s lackey. I have written a new pamphlet explaining it all. I will be sending the manuscript to Mauger by the next packet so he can arrange to have it printed.”

            Abraham Levasseur focused his eyes on Tourneau. “There is no possible treaty between the Swede and France that we could describe as satisfactory. Not so much because the Swede is the Great Satan—that is what the dévots, Père Joseph’s Catholic fanatics in France, are calling him. So we must not. But—”

            Delerue intervened again. “But because peace in France, any peace on any terms, means that Richelieu will get a second chance to entrench his rule. Even if Stearns prevails on Gustav Adolf to offer France more lenient terms, we will be opposed.”


            “What we need,” Ducos announced a few hours later, “is a coordinated operation. Europe-wide. One that will backlash on Richelieu, since everyone will blame him for it.”

            “That’s going to take money.”

            “In that matter, at least, Guillaume has shown himself to be effective. Our treasury is refilling rapidly.”

            “Other than persuading wealthy men to contribute, by whatever means, what can he do though? In Frankfurt, that is?”

            “I will tell him what to do.”

            Enough time had passed since Ducos first read Locquifier’s letters that he had managed to interpret them to his own satisfaction. “Guillaume has demonstrated his unswerving loyalty by adhering faithfully to the orders I gave him before we left. He should be rewarded for this, not condemned. I shall appoint him as my coordinator for all actions within the United States of Europe.”

            “Guillaume?” Tourneau emitted a disbelieving hiss, half under his breath.

            Ducos heard it. “Unquestioning obedience, especially when it goes contrary to a man’s own instincts, is a rare quality. It should be rewarded.”

            Tourneau glanced at Delerue, but saw that Antoine was not inclined to dispute the point with Michel.

            So, he nodded. What else could he do?


            “Yes, Michel?”

            “You must write to Guillaume. You must explain to him that while his decision concerning the Dreeson woman and the Stone boys was correct, we must conduct another assassination. Several assassinations, probably.”

            Delerue scratched notes on the back of Locquifier’s second letter.

            Ducos kept talking. “But they must be major actions, of true political significance, designed in such a way that Richelieu will be blamed for them. Assassinations that will destroy any prospect for peace. A wave of assassinations, flooding across the map of Europe. No. Wait. Stop. Scratch that out. One massive assassination.

            “Assure him that he and the other men in Frankfurt will play a major role in regard to the portion of our great plan that will unfold in the United States of Europe. They will have the honor of planning and carrying out the deaths of Michael Stearns and Rebecca Abrabanel.”

            He paused a moment. “And of Gustavus Adolphus and Princess Kristina.” He paused again. “And of Wilhelm Wettin. All on the same day, for maximum effect. In Magdeburg, the so-called ‘imperial capital.’ In front of one of the spectacular, if as yet unfinished, new buildings. There is no reason for us to carry out picayune little actions against people who are, in the great picture, insignificant. As for the Stones… Yes, in Rome, they did us a great disservice. But their time will come. After we have achieved our greater goals.”

            Tourneau cleared his throat. “That’s very… ambitious, Michel.”

            Fortunately, Ducos interpreted the comment as a compliment. And, unfortunately, Antoine was still not inclined to dispute the matter. Not for the first time in the history of their organization, Michel Ducos’ force of personality would drive a decision that was perhaps not wise on its own merits.


            Delerue sent his letter containing Ducos’ instructions out on the next packet boat to the Netherlands. It would take some time, even with the most favorable weather. To Laurent Mauger in Haarlem, then to Isaac de Ron at the inn Zum Weissen Schwan the next time Mauger had cause to travel to Frankfurt, for they had given de Ron the strictest orders not to trust the postal system. De Ron would turn them over to Locquifier.

            De Ron was a reliable man. Laurent Mauger was also reliable, he supposed. But, at the very least, not over-curious. That in itself was a virtue.