Intercedere pro me Peccatore...
The silence in the room was absolute. Jeanne looked at her hands. The question was, had she over played her hand, or was he still on the hook. The next hour would tell. Her arm grew stiff and she shifted slightly. Françoise looked up, disturbed from her own thoughts - had she given Jeanne enough ammunition to ensnare this worldly priest? Cagliostro alone was relaxed. He watched his companions, and noted the anxious exchange of looks between the women. His thoughts, ran to the money, how much further could he press his backers? It was a high stakes game, but how high? When could he tell them the fish was in play, and soon they would strike? The fire crackled and a log toppled from the flames. Françoise leaped forward to usher it back, and they all wondered if that was a good sign or ill? The Italian cleared his throat.
“It’s a good sign.” And he grinned, eyeing the other two, and Jeanne laughed, Françoise smiled.
“How did you know, that was what I was thinking?” Jeanne asked.
“We were all thinking?” echoed Françoise.
“It was inevitable. This is the point it can go badly wrong, the first time. If it does, we will be angry and upset and frustrated. But, it isn’t particularly dangerous, with regard to the authorities. Our investors, on the other hand, might cut up nasty, but I don’t think so, yet.”
“You think it becomes more dangerous later?” Françoise suggested.
“Certainly. If it goes wrong past this point, we may all be caught, and as the game proceeds the penalty becomes greater. We are sitting here, hoping we get the chance to play, perhaps we should be hoping, we don’t.”
“For my part, I am fixed on my course, any other, will be short and messy and less satisfactory. But if others,” she turned to Françoise, “wish to withdraw, I will not point fingers or hold any grudge.”
“Me? I haven’t had so much fun, ever. I know it might go… wrong. But I reckon, every now and again, fortune smiles… and you never know.”
Jeanne sighed and relaxed, evidently Françoise staying in, mattered more to her than she’d said. A noise and they looked at the door. It swung back and la Motte stood there, in a new uniform. His smile suggested, he was a little worse for wear. He raised his hand and bowed.
“Ladies and gentleman, I stand before you a, consecrated mind you, officer, in the the service of the Comte d’Artois, and five livres poorer than I went out. But, fifty livres per year, richer.”
The ladies stood and applauded. The news they had been waiting for. It meant the Cardinal had taken the risk, and passed the word on to his friend, Artois. For better or worse, they were now on the inside.
“Excellent. We must now get this letter off to his Eminence.”
Cagliostro looked it over. “Jeanne, it says - you thank him profusely for his help, unlooked for, and you ask to see him to make an act of confession.”
Jeanne smiled, “Appropriate. I haven’t been since some time before Marie-Ann, met his Eminence.”
“Oh, you go to confession?” Françoise asked.
“Of course. I am a sinner. No?”
“But do you tell them… “ and she waved her hand in the air. Jeanne smiled sweetly.
“What, you want me to break the seal of the confessional? For shame, Françoise.”
“There will be no need to run you through your paces, as to the formalities of the sacrement, then?” Cagliostro asked.
“The nuns leave their mark monsieur. Some things are never forgotten.”
“Such as sins, madame?” La Motte asked.
“Other’s sins, certainly not. My own? That, is what confession is for.”
Cagliostro frowned, still worried about the tension between his two main players. He tapped the letter on the table.
“First thing in the morning, I’ll get this round to his Eminence’s apartments, we will know how keen he is by the speed of reply.”
As it turned out, the Cardinal seemed to take the mater, of the forgiveness of sins very seriously indeed, and suggested that very afternoon. Cagliostro was impressed.
“What did you say to him, my dear?”
“Say? Nothing. I did smile at him though.”
La Motte made a vulgar guffaw which produced a punch on the shoulder from Françoise. Jeanne looked him up and down, before turning back to Cagliostro.
“I think a man’s imagination, is probably more powerful than anything I could have said or done.”
“So long as that imagined tryst, in the Cardinal’s mind isn’t better than the actual event, when it happens, eh madame?” La Motte observed.
“We can only try, and success will be a function of the quality of my teachers. Is that not so sir?”
“Bless me Father, for I have sinned, it has been a month since my last confession.”
“Yes, my child, and what minor transgressions might you have committed in that time?”
“Father, I have taken the Lord’s name in vain, and I had unkind thoughts about my maid, when she dropped a cup the other day…”
The Cardinal waited. He waited a little longer, and supposing this confessor had reached the end…
“For these and all my sins…”
“No Eminence, I have more… I have, in the last few days committed a much more grave sin.”
He shifted in his seat.
“Child, I hardly think that you…”
“But Eminence, I have.”
“What is it then?” He said it in as kindly a voice as he could muster, his hand resting on the top of the kneeler, at which Jeanne attended this sacrement in his rooms.
“Eminence, I have had lustful thoughts. I don’t know what or how, I’ve never had this sort of thing….”
“Child, I hear many such confessions, it is of no matter to me. Go on.”
“I fear to be the occasion of sin for another.”
“Adultery. That would be more serious, but not something uncommon in this wicked world.” He controlled his urge, simply to grab her.
“It is worse than just that, this person is, he is a man of the cloth Eminence.”
A silence followed. Jeanne risked a nervous look, and found the Cardinal had several beads of perspiration on his forehead. She kept looking at him and he eventually turned away. She nodded, fearfully. He seemed to melt. He thought he was playing the game very well, soon he would have her...
“Oh child. It could not be, in your circumstances… I think, we might… yes, instruction… to save... Let me grant you absolution, and we might talk this over a little more comfortably.”
He raised his hand in blessing, “Misereatur tui ominipotens Deus, et dimissis peccatis tuis…”