1636: The Cardinal Virtues – Snippet 42
Terrye Jo’s initial accommodations were in a townhouse on the Rue Saint-Antoine, several hundred yards from the Louvre, near a big church that was under construction. When the traveling party from Turin was first settled, she was worried that construction noise was going to be a problem — there was a lot of hammering and sawing going on; but the workers seemed to knock off for lunch and dinner early, and didn’t get to the job site until late in the morning and were gone well before vespers. They’d evidently been working on this church for a long time and didn’t seem terribly interested in finishing the job.
The day after Gaston’s grand entrance into the city, she received a visitor. She hadn’t realized that anyone knew she was there — as far as she was concerned she was lost in the crowd that had followed the royal carriage into the capital. She asked the manservant who had been assigned to them if, in fact, the visitor was meant for her: yes, she was told: he asked for you personally, Mademoiselle.
The apartment had a sleeping chamber and a receiving room — evidently it was meant for someone more important; but it was there and she was there. She didn’t have the time (or the inclination) to dress up in any way for the interview: the duchess would have been scandalized. What the hell, she thought, and settled for jeans and flannel.
The servant admitted the man. He was not an impressive fellow — he was dressed like a minor functionary, like a clerk or a scribe — but he seemed very nervous. He bowed and swept off his hat.
“That’s me,” she said. “And you are –”
“You do not know me by name, Mademoiselle. But I am . . . GJBF.”
The penny dropped at last. This was the man she’d communicated with by telegraph over the last several months while she was in Turin. This was Gaston’s telegrapher in residence.
“Forgive me for not recognizing you.”
He smiled. “I cannot see how you could have,” he said. “I confess that I look nothing like my ‘fist’.”
Somehow the comment — which, for all Terrye Jo knew, could have been meant completely in earnest — broke the ice, and they both burst into laughter.
“I’m Terrye Jo Tillman,” she said, extending her hand. He returned the handshake. She gestured to the window bench, where there was room for them to sit.
“My name is Cordonnier,” he said. “Georges Cordonnier. My father — and grandfather — are shoemakers,” he added, smiling. “Only when I came to Paris was the surname truly necessary.”
“Where are you from?”
“Soissons,” he answered.
“What brought you to Paris?”
“I suspect, Mademoiselle –”
“Terrye Jo,” she said. “Or Teresa: that’s what the Italian speakers call me.”
“Teresa,” Georges said. He smiled as he said her name. “I suspect that I am in Paris for the same reason you were in Turin. To be a telegrapher. I was . . . dexterous, and a test was conducted. I was one of several who were chosen to be trained.”
“I was wondering. There aren’t very many up-timers in Paris, and overall there aren’t too many of us who have telegraphy skill. I assumed you weren’t from Grantville.”
“No, Madâ€“ . . . Teresa,” he said. “I am not. But I hope to visit the city of wonders someday.”
“It’s not all that wonderful.”
“To you,” he answered. “It is hard for you to imagine, Teresa, what those of us ‘down-timers’ think of your home. What might have been commonplace for you in your future is often wondrous to us.”
“No, I get that. But it’s been, what, four and a half years. I assumed that nothing surprised anyone anymore. You’re a telegrapher, Georges, and a good one.” Well, she thought, a fairly good one.
“I fear that you must speak in the past tense now, Teresa.”
“With your arrival, my services will no longer be needed. I have come merely because I wanted to meet SPAR, before I am sent back to Soissons and my father’s workshop.”
“Wait. You’re going to resign?”
“I do not think I am resigning. Merely being reassigned.”
“No.” Terrye Jo stood up and walked away from the window; Georges stood up as well. “No. You’re not being ‘reassigned’, and you’re not resigning. I didn’t sign up to take your job.”
“Then why are you here, Mademoiselle? Teresa?”
“I — ” She thought for a moment. “The prince — the king — wanted me to be in his service, as an expert.” She turned to face Georges. “I can’t fault his logic — no offense, Georges, but I’m a little bit more skilled, and I bet you don’t know how to fix the equipment if it goes wrong.”
“Fix it? You mean — open up the apparatus? On pain of my life I would not dare.”
She smiled. “Yeah, I thought so. But you should understand this, and the king should get the message too. I’ll tell him what I told Duke Amadeus; this isn’t a job for one person on duty all the time. He needs a team — people to staff the radio at different times, or around the clock if he needs it. I’m happy to be the resident expert, as I said. But he’d be a fool to get rid of the best person he has on site.”
He seemed even more nervous when she said the word ‘fool’, and she realized that this was enough of a protocol violation to scare him.
“I would not go against the Count’s wishes, Teresa. Or the king’s.”
“Did he actually say that you were fired?”
“No, he didn’t. He didn’t actually say anything. But your arrival . . . I assumed . . .” His face brightened. Clearly he had resigned himself to something that he really didn’t want to do — to go back to Soissons and make shoes.
“I’d assume otherwise,” Terrye Jo said. “Georges,” she added, extending her hand. “Welcome to the team.”
Well before Monsieur Gaston was to receive the members of the Court, the Conseil du Roi began to gather in the great Receiving Room. CÃ©sar de VendÃ´me arrived early; no one else had chosen to rise at Lauds for the meeting, and he was just as happy to review the battleground alone. The comparison was not a bad one, actually — the advisors to the soon-to-be-King were a mixed lot: councilors who had served his brother; returnees like himself; and others chosen from among the many capable men whom Richelieu had dismissed, marginalized or ignored. The Conseil would not be peaceful, he thought — better to understand the terrain before the battle was joined.
The room was broad and long, but dim: great damask curtains had been pulled to cover the large windows that overlooked the inner gardens. The place was clean and free of dust: VendÃ´me knew that Louis had been meticulous about such things. It was also musty and airless, for it had been used far less often than in former years. Richelieu was meticulous about that.
The cardinal-Duke de Richelieu had much to answer for — wherever the hell he was, VendÃ´me added to himself.
He had been in the room for only a few minutes when another man came through the wide doors — someone VendÃ´me had not seen in a long time, longer than the time of his exile from France. The other looked pale and somewhat thin, as if he had been out of the sun for quite a while.
“My lord de Bassompierre,” he said, offering a gracious nod of his head, enough courtesy for the newcomer.
“Your Grace.” FranÃ§ois de Bassompierre, fifteen years elder than VendÃ´me, looked very well, actually, considering where he had been for a half-dozen years: the Bastille, for his minor role in the so-called ‘Day of the Dupes’, when King Louis had chosen his minister in preference to his mother. Bassompierre was no common criminal, of course: but prison was prison, just as exile was exile — hard to forget, and harder to forgive.
“You look well, Bassompierre.”
“I look terrible, my lord of VendÃ´me,” he said. “But no matter. I received my parole and my invitation to wait upon the prince yesterday, and it cost no small sum of livres tournois to my tailor, my wigmaker and a half-dozen other parasites to become presentable for the king’s lever. But I would not miss it for any weight in coin.”
“I don’t think any of us would.”
Bassompierre shrugged. He walked to a side-table, where crystal flagons of wine and exquisite glasses were placed. He poured himself a glass and took a long drink.
“You don’t want to wait for the prince.”
“I shall drink His Highness’ health when he arrives,” Bassompierre said, setting the glass down. “Whenever that is.”
“So you are to be a member of the Conseil.”
“You find that surprising.”
“I do. But our new King has surprised us in many ways.”
“As in his decision to invite you to return to France, Your Grace. A . . . pleasant surprise, to be sure, but a surprise nonetheless. There is much talk of it.”
“I had not heard.”
Bassompierre shrugged, as if he could care less whether VendÃ´me had heard of it or not.
As a lÃ©gitimÃ© and Prince of the Blood, CÃ©sar de VendÃ´me — exiled or not — outranked Bassompierre, a mere gentilhomme, a courtier and second-rate diplomat who had whiled away the last five years of his life in prison. But VendÃ´me’s illegitimate birth allowed liberties that would never have been permitted otherwise. His indifference was a sign of that, and it irked VendÃ´me — but he refused to show his irritation.
“Perhaps this is merely a consultation, Bassompierre, and the new King will place you in the field once more.”
“I rather think he could use my military advice, Your Grace. It would be good to have someone at hand with actual experience leading troops.”
VendÃ´me’s polite expression never left his face, but inside he seethed: all things being equal he wanted to walk over and strangle the older man — but of course all things were not equal. Before he could either respond (politely or otherwise), others began to arrive.
Claude de Bullion, the aged, portly Minister of Finance, came in alone. He looked around the room as if he were determining the cost of the drapes, the furniture, and the inhabitants. VendÃ´me despised him — but then everyone despised him: He had a courtier since VendÃ´me was a child as a MaÃ®tre des RequÃªtes — one of the royal officials who determined which petitions received the king’s attention, and had been Minister of Finance for the last few years, keeping the exchequer afloat while Louis fought wars in Mantua, Lorraine and elsewhere. Both offices had made him absurdly wealthy and even more disliked.
Noyers and Ã‰pernon arrived together. FranÃ§ois Sublet de Noyers, one of Richelieu’s former crÃ©atures, was in charge of royal constructions — the BÃ¢tements du Roi — and the duke of Ã‰pernon, a now aged soldier, had been decorated extensively by both VendÃ´me’s father Henry IV and his predecessor. Ã‰pernon had been dismissed and exiled for some affair of honor a few years ago; VendÃ´me was a little surprised to see him back. Bassompierre saw the two men enter and immediately busied himself in conversation with the prince of CondÃ©, who had come into the chamber unnoticed.