The Cardinal's Sin - chapter 36 - Bait

Bait


“Will your man be there? I, of course trust them, but, you can never be too careful.”

“I have been informed, he will be here.”

“And, he knows his business?”

“He does, Eminence.”

“Good, good.”

He was nervous, and try as she might, Jeanne had struggled to calm him down. The trouble was, she wasn’t sure of the source of the nerves. They had arranged to meet, with Boehmer and Bassenge, at the Cardinal’s apartment, so he could look over the necklace once more, and so that an expert could confirm, the jewels were in fact, what they appeared to be. The expert, had been recommended by a lady known to Jeanne at the court, and so, of course, he was trust-worthy. Jeanne, was not nervous. She was sure the necklace would be as impressive as it had been, that first night she had seen it. That night, it had lived up to the description she had heard, from one of the friends, of the friends, of Madame du Barry, for whom it had been made. It was whispered now to be a cursed thing. A whisper, Jeanne hoped would be true, a curse, on this cleric.

The Cardinal paced the room, and Jeanne sipped at her coffee. He stopped, and searched the room with his eyes, until they landed on Jeanne, and he relaxed a tiny bit.

“You are so calm, madame.”

“I am in no peril, Eminence. Why would I be otherwise?”

“That, is of course true, and I am likewise in no danger, yet I fret.”

“Why so?”

“What if it is not as I remember? What if, it could not please so high a lady?”

“But you have an excellent memory, Eminence. These jewellers are used to catering to the whims of high ladies. It was you who said to me, they know their craft, and so it is, monsieur, they do, all of Paris attests to it.”

He thought and nodded slowly, “Well, you are right. I am pointlessly nervous. Anyway, if I should decide it is not enough, then I shall go on looking. I shall find the perfect emblem of my feelings for her majesty. I shall.” This last, almost to himself.

Jeanne wanted to jump up and shout at him, pour scorn on his affections for a woman he scarcely knew, and who he could never touch in any case. A woman, who despised him and everything he stood for. She wanted to beat him to a pulp, for his arrogance, for his depravity, for his lack of the very things, he was supposed to uphold, for her cold and dead young sister. Instead, she smiled and sipped her coffee.

“We will know soon enough, Eminence.” She said.

A knock on the door and his man was standing, just inside.

“Eminence, Signor Cagliostro.”

“Send him in, send him in. Jeanne, he is here.”

The Cardinal’s man appeared again, and held out his hand, presenting the Italian.

“Monsieur, so pleased to make your acquaintance.” Said the Cardinal.

Cagliostro bowed, walked over to the Cardinal, and kissed his ring.

“I am honoured, your Eminence.”

“Yes, yes. You come highly recommended, are you as good as they say?”

“Eminence, that depends on what they say. If it is needlework, I can assure you I am no good at all. If, they are talking about knowledge of precious stones, I am the very best there is.”

The Cardinal frowned at first, and then realised the first part was a joke, he breathed out in a way that might be supposed was a laugh, but then went on,

“You know your craft. Good, I need someone I can trust absolutely.”

“I understand the items are being supplied by the house of Boehmer?”

“Yes, they are, what have you heard? I know nothing of these things.”

“Eminence, they are the most reputable house in Paris. You do not, really, need my services at all. If they show you a ruby and say it is true, and weighs so many carats, then it is so.”

“Carats?”

“A description of the weight of a precious stone, Eminence.”

The Cardinal smiled, reassured, “Jeanne, has told me they could be trusted, and my man also, but I need reassurance.”

“That, I can certainly provide, Eminence.”

“I believe you can, good. They should be here presently.”

And, as though awaiting these words, the Cardinal’s man was at the door again. He opened his mouth to speak, but the Cardinal was quicker.

“Just show them in…”


The usual bustle of tradesmen arriving to show a new product was amplified, by the value of the goods and the status of the inspector. This was no cook or footman. Though they had met him before, the two master craftsmen, made a great deal of the greeting. It was a well worn routine.

“Eminence.”

First one, and then the other, bowing and ring kissing. The man behind them, whom they had brought only to carry cases, made no such fuss, and received no recognition. He put the cases on the table and withdrew with ne’er a sound. The revolution was a few years away, his time would come.

Boehmer made a performance of arranging the cases, though of course they had been asked to show only one. He set them out and opened each one, as though it were the prized item. Finally, the last and largest case’s spring-loaded locks were sprung, and the cover removed. Bassenge, standing at one end of the table grinned, and Boehmer stepped back, allowing the light to catch the carefully arranged necklace. It had the desired affect, and the Cardinal audibly drew his breath. It was certainly more spectacular, than the last time he had been shown it.

The cleric approached, and walked round the display. The intent had been to create a small exhibition, a part of the atelier, here in the Cardinal’s apartment, and it worked. He bent over the necklace shaking his head. He stood, and beamed at the men, but then, he immediately turned to Cagliostro and pointed at the piece.

The two jewellers looked surprised. Cagliostro bowed to them.

“Messieurs, I have been asked to do, what of course we all know to be, unnecessary, and look over the stones. I have no expectation of disappointment. With your permission?”

He waited, and the two men looked at each other, in silent consultation, but then gave their consent. Cagliostro took out his loup and placed it in his eye, and then, fixing his hands behind his back, he bent over the necklace. He drifted from stone to stone, taking his time before going back to the largest stones. He sighed and then stood, dropping the loup into his hand. He faced the Cardinal.

“Eminence, I took so long, only because it is rare to set eyes on so fine an example of workmanship, and such wonderful specimens of gem. It is perfect. Thank you Gentlemen.”

He bowed to the men. The Cardinal’s smile could not be wider.

“It is alright you say?”

“It is better than alright, Eminence.”

“You haven’t seen the like?”

“Never in my life, in any country, and I am widely travelled.”

The Cardinal stared, everyone waited, and then he turned to Boehmer.

“Excellent. I had no doubts, of course, but you were so persuasive that night, when you described the fake you gave to the thief, I had to make sure. You understand.”

The two smiled.

“But of course Eminence, having an expert look over our work, is only ever a pleasure.”

“You know Monsieur Cagliostro?” Doubt suddenly clouded the Cardinal’s face.

“Only by reputation, Eminence, we would not normally have occasion to meet.”

“I see.” Then he turned to Jeanne, “Well madame, you have a question to ask the lady. I am certain, this is the gift I wish to bestow.”

She curtsied, to all of the gentlemen, and made her way out. The Cardinal turned to the men.

“You will perhaps join me for a light meal?”

The all accepted as Jeanne left. Boehmer and Bassenge, began to cover their wares.

Already in the carriage awaiting her arrival, were Françoise and la Motte. Jeanne climbed in and made herself comfortable, waiting until they were moving before speaking. She smiled.

“And?” La Motte asked.

“And, if the Queen accepts the gift, he will try to make sure she gets it.”

“Do you know I think she just might accept.” He said.

Françoise grinned, “You are so insightful monsieur, when it comes to the hearts of women.”

“I am. Do you not agree madame?”

“It has been my experience so far monsieur.” Jeanne agreed.

“Do you have to go all the way to Versailles?” He asked.

“If I do not, and those watching communicate this to de Rohan, we are done.”

“Alright, we will descend before we leave the city. Be careful. You have excuse enough to visit?”

“I do.”

He nodded, Françoise looked anxious, he, concerned. “Last chance.”

“You know my reply.”

He looked out of the window as they turned into one of the smaller streets, before knocking on the wall behind him, the carriage stopped, and he and Françoise left. The carriage started up again and Jeanne began to consider the ordeal ahead.