Three faces looked at her in shock. Françoise was the first to gather herself enough to blurt out,
“A friend. Someone I know at court.”
“And you can trust her?” Cagliostro pressed.
“I believe I can.”
“Believe? If we’re trusting her this much, I hope it’s more than, ‘believe’.” La Motte said.
“Alright, but who can you trust these days, look at us?” Jeanne pointed out.
“We’re very trustworthy.” La Motte said.
“The Cardinal thinks I am, at least.”
Françoise, saw the uncertainty behind the words, “He’s different, he showed himself to be unworthy of honesty, before we started.”
“Haven’t I?” Jeanne asked.
La Motte coloured, “No, you haven’t. Jeanne, you’re the straightest person I know. Sorry,” to the others.
“As long as you don’t leave your jewellery lying around.” She shrugged.
“There is a difference between making an honest, dishonest living, and not being trusted by your friends. In the end, everyone, has to trust someone and we can only hope to make the right choice.” Cagliostro observed.
“I am sure we have.” La Motte said, Françoise agreeing vigourously.
“Anyway, I think we can trust her, I’ve known her for quite a while, and after last night, I had to do something. His Eminence is getting restless. If he’s going to do as we wish, he needs to see red meat.”
“But, will he believe it?” Françoise asked.
“If we set it up right, he should have no reason not to.”
“Doesn’t he know her well, the Queen?” Asked la Motte.
Jeanne thought and sighed, “He does, but he hasn’t seen her, except at a distance, for some time.”
Cagliostro was still unconvinced, “But he’s served her communion.”
“Ah, but he hasn’t, she insisted, she would not receive the host from his hand, it’s performed by a concelebrant or a deacon. That has stung, I can tell you.”
“You’re gong to him tonight?” Cagliostro continued.
“And advancing this idea?”
“That was my thought. I cannot contain him, with letters alone, any longer.” Jeanne took a long drink, and looked around. “Is there any food?”
Françoise jumped, “Sorry, yes, let me get some. Your news was…”
“Shocking.” And she left.
“We didn’t know what had happened.” La Motte put in.
“I’m sorry about that, I didn’t know what to do, I thought he might go on out to Versailles and demand to see her today at first, but I talked him down. So I… I was on my way back, and I thought of my friend…”
“You are so impulsive.” La Motte said smiling at her saying this, and she knew he was thinking of Troyes. She was affected in a way that surprised her, she was grateful. Then, the guilt came crashing down on her. She stood.
“I should go.”
“It’s far too early.” Cagliostro frowned, “Eat when Françoise comes back, and we can talk over what you’re going to say to him.”
So it was that, a little more than four hours later, Jeanne had broken the news to a stunned Cardinal.
“She will? When?”
“The King will be away, he is inspecting something or other, a ditch, or a dam, or something, in about two weeks. That allows some freedom.”
“She won’t be going with him? No, of course not, silly me.”
“She will have to be discreet Eminence.”
“Of course… discreet? She is thinking of this, as more than… but then, the letters… Oh madame, you are a miracle worker.”
“No Eminence, I just cleared the path a little.”
He frowned, “Why did she send word through you, why not vouchsafe the news in a letter, to me?”
“You’ve just said so Eminence, ‘safe’. She would hardly commit such news to paper, would she? That would be an extraordinary risk, in such times.”
He thought about that, and nodding, smiled. “Of course. Women do this sort of thing, so much better than men, but I expect it is a gift, or perhaps a curse, of nature. In this instance, I’m grateful for it.” And he smiled, and took Jeanne’s hand and kissed it. Suddenly, he was filled with a passion Jeanne had not seen, for months. He threw her back onto the bed, ripping her sleeve in the process, and fell on her.
A little over fifteen minutes later, he lay back sated. Jeanne, much more dishevelled than she had become accustomed to, was partially clothed, and utterly shocked. The out of breath, prelate, looked across at her, and could see the distress.
“I’m sorry madame, but your news… I was overcome. I don’t know what it is, between men and women, but there are times… but then, as a married woman, this must happen from time to time, eh?” He slapped her thigh as though she was horse flesh.
It was just as well he could not read minds, or hear them. The thoughts that ran through Jeanne’s mind, at that moment, would have changed his opinion, not merely of her, but of all woman kind. She forced a smile and turned toward him.
“You look quite lovely like that.”
Her resolve, shaky at the start of the evening, and through the afternoon before it, steeled itself, and was now without any shadow of doubt.
“Thank you Eminence, I’m sure I look a mess.”
“You look as a passionate woman should, at least in private.” And she forced a broader smile.
“Now, how shall we go about this business?” he asked.
“The Queen, Jeanne, have you forgot the subject of the evening?”
“I have not Eminence.” But she left unsaid the ‘I thought you had…’
“Where? Her apartments I suppose?”
“Oh no Eminence, far too many eyes and whispers.”
“Servants. Yes, she’s right.”
“The ladies of the court, Eminence.”
“Ah yes, that venomous nest. So where?”
“The gardens, I think. There are many places that are very quiet in the early evening, and we will be getting on for late May.”
“A wonderful time of year Jeanne, summer is an intoxicating time. The scents, the birds, the warm evenings.”
“And soon, Eminence, you will be speaking with her in person.”
He grinned and rubbed his belly, as though in prospect of a meal.