The Trouble With Huguenots – Snippet 07
“It’s far more than I want to deal with,” Rohan wrote. “I was no sooner finished speaking with Bernhard (who is far from fully recovered from his acute illness of last summer) about the impact of Wilhelm of Hesse-Kassel’s death on Amalie Elisabethâ€“whom the grand duke has always liked a lotâ€“than we were battered by the news of the assassination of Empress Maria Eleonora in Sweden and then Gustavus’ own severe injury at Lake Bledno. If the rumors of the involvement of Ducos’ fanatics in the death of the empress are true….”
He finished his instructions to Soubise and pulled a new sheet of paper from the desk. Perhaps it was not all bad that his wife had refused to leave Paris. He would be needing a pair of sharp eyes there. Whatever else anyone had ever said of Sully’s daughter, no one had ever asserted that she was not shrewd.
He laid the pen down. He needed to talk to Leopold Cavriani.
From: Susanna Allegretti, Brussels
To: M. Leopold Cavriani, Geneva
Most honored patron and friend,
Not having received word from you, I conclude that your other obligations have taken you to places that the postal service does not reach. Because of the difficulties I mentioned in November, I am taking prudent measures to avert what otherwise might become a series of unfortunate events.
I will remain here in Brussels for the time being, awaiting your further advice.
Your devoted friend and servant,
The old cobbler looked up from his workbench. “Are you sure that you want these shoes altered the way you described? They will be unstable to walk in, and the points are likely to damage the floors.”
“Yes, Joseph. Exactly as I described.” She hopped down from the wide window sill on which she had been perching and took one of them in her hands again. “The wooden heels themselvesâ€“whittle them down from about here….” She pointed. “Start a quarter-inch below where they attach to the sole and keep whittling until they are very narrow when they meet the floor. They’re about an inch and a half high altogetherâ€“that’s what fashionable noâ€“so the wood shouldn’t break when I put weight on them. Then stiffen the matching fabric, mold it to look like it is covering a normal shoe heel, and glue it to the unwhittled quarter-inch of the wooden heel at the top.” She pointed again. “Right here. The false fabric heel should be a little off the floorâ€“an eighth of an inch, maybe. Not enough that a casual observer will notice but enough that it won’t snag.”
“Every pair? This will ruin them and shoes do not grow on trees, petite Suzette. You have to pay for them.”
“Yes, Joseph. All five pair. I have my reasons.”
From: Susanna in Brussels
To: Marc, wherever you are (c/o M. Leopold Cavriani, Geneva)
My dearest heart,
Should you hear stories that a certain overly-persistent Lorrainer colonel of my lamented acquaintance has a broken instep, do not be concerned for me. I will be fine, I promise.
Wishing you were here.
With all my love,
Leopold Cavriani came into town with his son Marc late in the month, dusted the snow off his nose and kicked the slush off his boots, did not curse the slippery cobblestones, inquired where the duc de Rohan might be found, and expressed cheerful relief when informed that his quarry was not at the top of the citadel.
“It’s just a little garrison up there right now, Sir,” the hostler said. “I’m plenty sorry for them, too, because their teeth must be frozen, not to mention their balls, the way the wind whips across that hilltop. At least the cold kills off most of the plague during the winter season. There’s some smallpox in town, but the Grand Duke’s people assure us that come next summer, using measures from these up-timers in the Germanies, the smallpox will be prevented from coming back. I’m of two minds about that, myself, interfering with the will of God the way it does.”
Cavriani sent Marc off to look for their mail, conferred with Rohan, and then with the assent of Grand Duke Bernhard annexed Colonel Raudegen temporarily. The contents of the mail packet proved to be unsatisfactoryâ€“either a great deal of correspondence had gone astray or some malefactor had been purloining bags from the postal system. He borrowed the use of Bernhard’s radio to check with Potentiana in Geneva, by way of multiple short resendings, only to get the dismaying news that none of the missing mail had arrived there, either.
So on the basis of the most recent information they had, which was far from recent enough, Rohan sent Bernhard’s man Raudegen, with Marc as assistant, off to stage a couple of interventions in England and the Netherlands.
“England first,” Leopold counseled, when it became clear that whatever Marc’s mind might be advising him, his heart was of the opinion that Susanna Allegretti had priority over anyone or anything else. “When Rohan sent Soubise back to England last summer to deal with the disgrace that Ducos and his fanatics are bringing on right-thinking Huguenots, he had no idea that the true idiots to whom Charles has now entrusted control of his policies would detain him. It was supposed to be a fast trip, digging them out of wherever they had fled in those remote islands and bringing them back where saner Calvinists could control them. But the imbeciles put Soubise under house arrest, so now we have to get him out, whether he managed to do the job he was assigned or not. Just bring him back.
“Bring him back first, before you go in pursuit of the idol of your eyes. You should find Susanna at The Hague, or wherever Fredrik Hendrik’s court is right now. Keep an eye on the newspapers to see where he is and if his wife is with him or spending the winter more comfortably in a town house in Amsterdam. I sent the request for Susanna’s transfer to the head dressmaker in Brussels back in November, but the last letter I received, she was still in Brussels. Something is wrong with our communications.”