Cardinal de Rohan
Light piercing the darkness is always a shock. Daylight, flooding a room darkened by heavy drapes, and thick with the scents of night-time debauch, does not disinfect, it merely reveals. It does, however, hammer at the heads which, only a few hours earlier, had been floating on a sea of alcohol. One head, believing it made him more charming and handsome, the other hoping it would dull the pain of what she was about to do. It didn’t.
The Cardinal de Rohan rose naked, and stretched, yawned, kept his eyes firmly shut. His body had lost such athletic proportions it might once have had, and it suffered in the mornings. His man, who had drawn back the curtains, walked to the tray he had placed on a small side table and collected a small bowl, of soup, onion soup. Bringing it to the Cardinal perched on the edge of the bed, he held it in front of the prelate and waited a moment as the Cardinal drew in the aroma, testing whether food was likely to stay down once consumed. He nodded and a small spoonful was fed to him, followed by another. A short pause, again awaiting the result, then another nod. A few more spoons before the bowl was pushed aside, and the Cardinal stood. Turning his back to the window, he finally opened his eyes and muttered a short prayer. He yawned again, and rubbed his stomach, smiling he wandered away to the smallest room in the apartments.
His man took a few seconds for himself, looking at the naked figure of the young woman in the bed. He was conflicted. He found her very attractive, but she was the kind of woman who would sleep with a man of the cloth. She was both beneath him, and he knew, so far above him as to be, normally, beyond his greatest fantasies. In any event she was at this moment naked, and in front of him. He thought of waking her with a slap on the backside, and then thought again. Reaching for her shoulder he shook her gently. Her eyes blinked opened and then shut tight against the light.
“Madam, you have to get up now.” He said to her, not too roughly.
She was concentrated on breathing and stopping the room from turning he knew, but she had to be gone by the time the Cardinal returned. They would have a few minutes as he had left several letters in the privy, for his grace to read. He watched as the woman pulled herself together, taking in where she was, and what she had done. He noticed the blood on the sheets, and wondered if it meant what he thought it might, but the Cardinal was not a gentle man, so it might not. The servant always takes his cue from the master, and he gave in, even savoured, the moment. Reaching forward he slapped her bottom leaving a red mark, she stiffened.
She pulled herself round, away from the man, and gathered the bedclothes round her.
“You have to be gone madam, his Eminence doesn’t like it if the young women are still here, when he has breakfast.” He explained.
“But will the Cardinal keep his word?”
“What word is that?”
“He promised, that if... he promised he would say a novena for my mother.”
“A novena? That is quite a lot of praying for one... mother. You could certainly count on him saying a mass for her.”
“She’s ill, he promised a novena, I’m afraid she may die.”
“That’s between her and God, madam. You could buy a novena from the Poor Clares in Longchamps, I hear you can get a very nice service there, incense and all.”
“Sir, I have no money, that was why...”
She began to look around for her clothes, now seeing them strewn about the floor. She looked at the man, and at the fact she would have to gather them up in her current state.
“Can you give me some time to gather myself and dress, sir?”
“No madam, we have lost a few sets of candle sticks that way, and his Eminence has important papers in the room.”
“Could you then hand me my clothes, please”
“And have you accuse me of stealing? No madam?”
She was now on the verge of tears, but pulled herself up and stood. She glared at the man, and dropped the bedclothes seemingly determined, if she could not be modest she would be brazen. The man ensured he was between her and each item she needed. He watched, breathed her in. Having gathered her things, she put everything on the bed and began to dress. As she finished drawing on her stockings, and about to step into her shoes, the servant coughed.
“If you need some money, I could let you have, not enough for a novena, but a couple of masses.”
She turned puzzled. He ran his tongue over his dry lips and then reached for the front of his breeches. She followed his hand and suddenly his meaning became clear. In a rush, the morning headache, the disappointment, the anger at her humiliation came out, and, throwing her shoe at the man’s head, she screamed.