The saving of a Marriage.
A bed. Pillows piled high. Two very relaxed people. She, is in a white shirt, voluminous in size but short in length. Well, it would be, if it were on the man it had been measured for. On Jeanne, it came to below her knee. The cardinal was naked. Bedclothes lay in a ruck all around them and on the floor. A large silver tray sat between them, filled with cheese, fruit, biscuits, wine. Each held a glass. In spite of the bacchanalian scene, silence reigned. Jeanne pensive, sipping her glass, still water. de Rohan meanwhile slurped wine, and pulled on a grape. The Cardinal seemed very happy, Jeanne did not seem, unhappy.
He sensed the lack of conversation, and while he refilled his glass, he looked up at her.
“Well madame, are you feeling calm, happy?”
“I am considering my new status, Eminence.”
“Ah, yes, that is an unfortunate consequence of this form of assistance. I think, the greater good, will be the retention of your marriage to the Comte, and the example that gives to the common herd.”
“But my own immortal soul, Eminence, what of that?”
“Luckily madame, I know of one with the power to loose such encumbrances.” And he smiled broadly, popping another grape into his mouth. He levered himself forward, and lifted his mouth to hers, giving her a slobbery kiss. She ran her hand over his head, affectionately.
“But, Eminence, can I feel equally loosed of the burden of sin?”
“Madame, you have gained the certainty of knowledge. If your husband is in any way unhappy with you in bed, I can tell you confidently, the fault is his. Believe me, when I say I have never been so transported by a mere physical act. You are a blessing to any man. You must have courage. You can have, if you wish it, a great career, the salons, the gentlemen who await. Glittering.”
This time, it is she who leaned across and kissed his forehead. She ran her hand over his back and slid it down toward him reaching beneath.
“Again, madame? I’m afraid I couldn’t, but, fear not, there will be other occasions.” And pulling her to him he kissed her passionately. When they separated, she smiled down at him.
“I have much to thank you for Eminence.”
The next morning. The couple asleep . From their positions, it appeared the Cardinal had chased Jeanne across the wide bed, and she was on its very edge, one leg in the wide open air. She awakened and stirred, moving back a little and awakening the prelate. He was a bit confused at first, but raised his head and looked round the room. He saw her, and memory flooded back and he smiled. Sitting up, he yawned and stretched. His man, who it seemed was standing by the door, walked, as usual, to the window and began to draw the curtains. His Eminence frowned at him, seeming surprised,
“What are you doing?”
“I… drawing the curtain, Eminence. I have your…”
“Out!, Who do you think you are? Out, I say.”
The man scuttled away, his face a picture of shock and confusion. Jeanne, knowing nothing of the usual form, relaxed her grip on the bedclothes and smiled at the Cardinal. He looked suitably outraged.
“The nerve of the man. Servants, you allow them a little room to make their own decisions, and they try to take over your life. Don’t you find them a trial, madame.”
“Eminence, I have, perhaps, less experience in these matters, as well as others.”
He reached forward and kissed her, before climbing off the bed.
“Nature calls madame. But perhaps we might share breakfast, before I go to say mass? Will you attend?”
“I think I might Eminence.”
“And take communion?”
“I think so madame, I do think so.”
He turned away and waddled off to the privy. She lay back and watched. Had he seen it, the look on her face, was less happy and entranced, than he might have hoped. By contrast, the look on his, was little short of beatific, his portly, wobbling figure, walking as tall as he could.
Breakfast and mass, passed the way they do. Jeanne, was grateful, and solicitous of the Cardinal’s views. The Cardinal, was more than happy to share them. He said mass with as many liturgical flourishes, as a short service, at a side altar, for a single congregant, would allow. Communion, was though, almost blasphemously intimate. Given her exemplars at the convent, and in spite of her life of crime, since leaving it, Jeanne was scandalised.
She said as much to Françoise, when they spoke a little after midday. They were back in the apartments and alone.
“But what was he like?”
“I have, as you know, little experience in these things but I would say… obvious. Don’t misunderstand me, he’s not without skill, and he can preform, but… he relies too much on the fact he is a Cardinal. I had to stop myself when he unveiled his member, as though it were the consecrated host itself.”
“I couldn’t make up my mind, either to applaud or laugh. He seemed to expect me to faint, with how impressed I should have been.”
“So you faked it, like I showed you?”
“I did. I confess, I was surprised how ready he was to believe the quality of his own endowments and performance.”
“Yes, you do get men like that. I’m not sure what they think the rest of the world is like, but they seem to have stood in front of a mirror, and developed a very superior impression of themselves. You have to be careful not to puncture their inflated sense of perfection.”
“I doubt I could do it.”
“It is surprisingly easy. You have to be on guard, all of the time, the slightest thing.”
“Alright, forewarned, as they say…”
“And, do you now appreciate your husband?”
Jeanne smiled broadly and nodded, “I do.”
“Then I guess the Cardinal’s kind offices work.” And she and Jeanne burst out laughing.
She looked out of the window, smiling. “Oh look, the Italian is about to visit us I… oh, no, I’m wrong.”
Françoise, looked now too, “He is due about now. To find out how it went. You’re right, he’s walking past… Why would that be? I don’t know what he has to…” she shrugged. “I expect we’ll find out soon enough. How long before you and de Rohan meet again?”
“I, await his pleasure, but he seemed to think a couple of days.”
Françoise was right about hearing from the Italian. About ten minutes later there was a knock on the outer door, and when Françoise came back, it was with a basket full of flowers. Jeanne stood smiling.
“From an admirer, perhaps?”
“Yes, and no. They are from Senior Cagliostro. A tiny girl brought them, honestly, the basket was the same size she was. In her pocket was this.” She handed over a scrap of paper, Jeanne unfolded it and read.
“Being watched. Will try to find out who. Sit tight, will call later.” Looking up, they almost ran to the window and peered out.
“Was he being watched, or are we being watched, do you suppose?” asked Françoise.
“Your guess, but I’d have thought… hmm, could be either of us.” Jeanne said, and Françoise agreed while searching the street.
“There.” Françoise pointed.
“In the door of that house, five or six down from us, in the doorway. He’s in some sort of uniform. I know it from somewhere, I’m sure I’ve seen it before.”
“There are a lot of uniforms around Paris, some of them even belong to soldiers.”
“Ha, yes, but, I know, I think I know, it was on the men who broke in on la Motte and me the night he stole the necklace.”
“So whose men were they?”
“Some aristo or other… Um, la Roche… Rochelle maybe? He wasn’t one of those who come by the tavern much, seemed a bit of a killjoy.”
“Might have been, I wasn’t really thinking about him, I was, as they say, ‘occupied’, if you know what I mean.”
Jeanne looked at her, at the look Françoise was returning, and then the meaning dawned and she began to laugh. They turned back to the window.
“Yes, he’s definitely on watch. Who’s he after? Me, the comte de la Motte, or our Italian friend and what will it cost us?”