Sharing the wealth
After receiving a sack of coins and a ring from a mysterious stranger, the adventurers, the King’s Musketeer Riordan O’Neill and the theology student and apothecary Charles Petit, divvy up the haul, setting aside shares for two of their comrades, Charles Duran, a greffier at the Palais de Justice and another Musketeer, Ferusac, as well as the promised bribe for the German ensign, Kalmbach, who passed them into the Louvre with the duchesse de Chevreuse and her wounded companion, the Handsome Man.
Leaving Duran’s coins in his room at the inn, the two adventurers set off in seach of Ferusac. On arriving at the hôtel de Tréville, they learn that Ferusac isn’t present, but the Musketeers are buzzing with the news that three of their rank are dead, including Athos, and that his two companions, Aramis and Porthos, were captured by the Cardinal’s Guard. Tréville is reportedly outraged that six of the Cardinal’s Guard could so thoroughly defeat six of his own soldiers that he’s talking about resigning his commission as captain-lieutenant of the Musketeers. O’Neill is warned to be careful.
Locating Ferusac in his lodgings, the adventurers deliver their benefactor’s gold and inform him of their escapades with Le Pendu‘s harlot, Isabel and the visit to the commandery of Saint Joseph des Carmes; Ferusac is frustrated that Le Pendu escaped, pointing out that the other bravo, the one released by Charles Petit, can connect them to the third bravo they killed and dumped in the Seine. O’Neill urges him not to worry; the Irishman is sure that Le Pendu left Paris, and there’s no evidence linking the men to the death of the bravo. Ferusac doesn’t seem convinced, but he’s glad of to receive the Handsome Man’s coin nonetheless.
O’Neill and Petit set off in search of the German, Kalmbach. An officer at the Louvre says that Kalmbach frequents a tavern known as Le Diable, near Les Halles, the great Parisian market square. After hunting about a bit, the two adventurers discover the tavern, where they come upon a strange tableau. A small crowd is gathered in the street outside Le Diable as a man in an apron stands in the entrance, alternately shouting imprecations through the open door at someone in the tavern and at a woman who is pushing him back from the portal and begging him not to enter. From inside the tavern comes the sound of breaking glass and crockery, and with each new crash the man in the apron grows more agitated. O’Neill and Petit approach and learn that Kalmbach is indeed inside, that he chased the tavernkeeper, his wife, and the guests out when the tavernkeeper confronted Kalmbach with the allegation that the German was sleeping with his wife. The tavernkeeper threatens to summon the archers if Kalmbach isn’t removed from the premises immediately and restitution made for the damage. O’Neill promises to do what he can.
Entering the tavern, the adventurers discover a scene of destruction. Broken bottles, plates, and cups litter the floor. Tables and chairs are upended. A man – unconscious, with a great red welt on one side of his face and head, lies on the floor not far from the door. Seated at the head of a standing table is the German mercenary, his buffcoat stained with wine, a cup in each hand; on the table in front of him lies a huge Dopplehänder buried in the remains of a chicken on a pewter platter. Kalmbach gazes at the adventurers unsteadily for a moment, muttering in German, before recognizing the King’s Musketeer. Inviting the adventurers to sit down, Kalmbach asks what brings them to the tavern and O’Neill presents him with a small bag of coins. Rattling the bag, the German smiles. “Zis evening yust got better,” he intones with a half-leer, pouring the contents of one cup into another and handing the empty one to O’Neill. When the Musketeer asks what happened, Kalmbach says the tavern owner was rude to him, and that if he’s not going to “sap that bastion!” then he can’t complain when someone else takes the position.
O’Neill agress that the tavernkeeper is a lout, and suggests that the party move elsewhere, but Kalmbach refuses until the tavernkeeper apologizes and asks him to stay. O’Neill explains that the archers may be summoned, and that if he doesn’t leave soon, they may take him before the provost-martial. Rising slowly, the German pulls the giant sword from the chicken, cleans away the grease and gristle, and announces the archers will have to take him out of Le Diable, “One way or another.”
Excusing themselves, the two adventurers return to the angry tavernkeeper. Charles explains that Kalmbach will leave if the tavernkeeper asks him to stay, reiterates that they are willing to pay for the damage, and adds that Kalmbach expects the tavernkeeper to apologize. At this the man explodes anew, hurling invectives as two gentlemen approach. Nonplussed by the disturbance, one of the gentlemen sends a bystander after the archers.
Realizing that the arrival of the archers is imminent, and that a fight is sure to result, O’Neill ups the bribe to the tavernkeeper to twenty pistoles, far more than the cost of the damage; the Musketeer offers that Kalmbach is a “German barbarian,” and therefore incapable of rational thought, and suggests that a fight in the tavern may cause even more damage. With this appeal, the tavernkeeper reluctantly agrees to ask Kalmbach to stay. The German eyes him, retrieves his hat from the floor, and tipping over a final bottle of wine leaves Le Diable, with O’Neill and Petit in tow.
The trio settles into another drinking hole not far away, and Kalmbach waves the full purse at them, saying, “Drinks are on me.” The German grows quiet and thoughtful as the mugs of wine arrive, and after a time the two adventurers excuse themselves. As they prepare to take their leave, Kalmbach looks O’Neill in the eye, his gaze steady and clear. “Remember, sergeant,” he says with a slight smile, “I’m only ever as drunk as I choose to be.”
If there comes a little thaw/Still the air is chill and raw
March turns into April, and winter passes into a cold, damp spring. The snow flurries and freezing rain lashing Paris and the northern provinces are replaced by drenching showers and chill winds while in the south warmth begins to return to the lower elevations, particularly along the littoral of Provence and Languedoc, even as higher elevations remain covered under a blanket of snow.
The passing of winter heralds another passing as King James I and VI of England and Scotland dies on the day before Easter after a lengthy illness. He is succeeded by his son, Charles I, to whom it is announced Louis XIII’s youngest sister, Henriette Marie, princesse de France, will marry once the final papal dispensation arrives. Lord Holland, one of the English negotiators and widely known at court as the lover of the duchesse de Chevreuse, takes ill suddenly and is incapcitated for several days.
Before the dispensation allowing the Catholic princess to marry the Protestant king reaches Paris, however, another papal envoy, Cardinal Barberini, arrives. Dispatched by his uncle, Pope Urban VIII, Cardinal Barberini comes to negotiate a peace between Spain and France as the war in Liguria escalates. The French and Savoyard army lays siege to Genoa, but despite a number of successes, including the seizure of three Spanish treasure ships loaded with silver, the small French galley squadron of the Levant is unable to blockade the port-city, permitting supplies to arrive largely unhindered. Moreover, Spanish troops in Milan now threaten Savoy from the east, potentially cutting off the French and Savoyard supply lines to Genoa.
A planned naval expedition against Genoa involving French, English, and Dutch ships is stalled in the northern ports as the king, at the Cardinal ’s bidding, plans to use the ships in a campaign against the fractious Huguenots of La Rochelle instead. The Protestant English and Dutch recoil at the thought of fighting their co-religionists; the English squadron under Sit John Penington is delayed when its vice-commander, Sir Ferdinando Gorges, refuses to depart without assurances from the French. This is embarassing to both the English and the Dutch, as the use of their ships is part of the English wedding agreement with France and aid to the Dutch in their fight against Spain in Flanders.
Riordan O’Neill is disappointed to learn that the duc de Montmorency, not the king, will command the royal forces on campaign against the Huguenots, leaving the King’s Musketeers to remain in Paris.
At court, and among the literati of Paris, an anonymous pamphlet, titled Mysteria politica ( Mysteries of Politics ) is making the rounds. Published originally in Naples and translated into French, written in the style of confidential communications between ambassadors and ministers of state, the pamphlet argues that French intervention on behalf of Protestants in the Holy Roman Empire justifies a rebellion by French Catholic nobles against the crown. The author, as Charles Petit notes, is suspected of being a Jesuit priest, perhaps a confessor at court judging from the extensive knowledge contained in the pamphlet.
In the house of the viscontessa
Petit receives a letter from his patron , Père Pierre, suggesting that the vicomtesse de Praz-de-Lys, recently arrived with her family in Paris from Savoy, is seeking to fill a number of positions in her household, including a tutor for her children, a fencing instructor for her eldest son, a financier, and a lawyer; the letter indicates that Petit was recommended to the vicomtesse as a tutor. Petit informs O’Neill of this as well, and the two set off to introduce themselves to the vicomtesse.
On arriving at the family’s townhome on the Place Royale, the two adventurers are met at the entrance by two large Swiss guards with halberds; one is sent inside and shortly another returns, older, grizzled, with a longsword belted around his waist and a wicked-looking double-barreled wheellock pistol in a sash. Petit explains why they are there, and the guard says something incomprehensible in German before leading them into the foyer. In due time the vicomtesse arrives, a beautiful but stern woman, accompanied by her maid. Introductions are made, and the vicomtesse, speaking with a pronounced Italian accent, explains that the tutor will instruct her two sons in Latin and history; her husband, who is presently leading a troop of cavalry in Piedmont, left directions that the boys are to read the works of Tacitus, Julius Caesar, and other Roman military treatises. Her daughter is also to study Latin with Petit; the vicomtesse explains that the girl was in convent school in Turin but is presently a maid-in-waiting to the princesse de Carignan. The children will address Petit as abbé unless he wishes some other title to be used.
O’Neill is given charage of teaching the eldest son, Francesco , the use of the rapier in the French style, says the vicomtesse. The boys will address him as maître during their instruction.
During the interview the group is joined by a younger woman, whom the vicomtesse introduces as signorina della Gazzada, her lady-in-waiting. O’Neill makes a show of his bow and gives the young woman, a chesnut-haired beauty, a lingering glance which he is pleased to note is returned by the young noblewoman. The vicomtesse’s maid brings the two boys to meet their teachers as well; Francesco, a tall boy of twelve, stands apart from his mother in a calculated show of independence, his expression haughty and inquiring at once, while the younger son, introduced by the mother as Pietro, stays close to his mother and glares at the instructors.
The two adventurers are shown to a room in the hôtel which will serve as both study hall and salle d’armes during their visits. The room is mostly empty, save for some large boxes containing taxidermy animal heads – chamois, boar, and bear are among the specimens – packed in straw. The men’s fees are settled upon quickly – the vicomtesse is offering well above the going rate, so there is no need to haggle.
Finally Petit and O’Neill are introduced to the captain of the family guard, the grizzed Swiss veteran with the double-barreled pistol, named Lautens; the pair notices that the vicomtesse speaks Italian to Lautens, and that he replies in German; in fact, it appears that no matter what language is used to address the Swiss guard, he replies in German.
The vicometesse settles one more point before Petit and O’Neill are dismissed; she wants to know if they are gentlemen, and assured that they are, she announces they may of course use the front entrance to the family’s residence on their visits.
There is timing in the whole life of the warrior
As they return to their lodgings, they pass through the bustling market in the Place Maubert, not far from their lodgings. Three swaggering fops survey the crowd in the market and light upon O’Neill; one of the trio approaches and demands, “Where’s Berault?” Words are exchanged – apparently the fops are waiting for a duelist and mistake O’Neill as his second. The fop rudely dismisses O’Neill, warning him to get lost if he knows what’s good for him. The King’s Musketeer, his curiosity piqued and his ire aroused at the same time, chooses to wait with Petit, watching the fops watching the crowd.
Nearly an hour passes before a handsome, somewhat dissipated man arrives; he doesn’t hesitate but rather strides right up to the three, and after trading imprecations over the former’s tardiness, which he claims was due to, “an interview with The Cardinal,” the three fops, accompanied by two lackeys, and the duelist retire to a nearby alley. O’Neill decides to follow; Petit glances down the alley, and noting a separate entrance, elects to go around the block and approach from the other direction.
O’Neill finds the fop who approached him and the duelist preparing to cross blades. The fop again orders O’Neill away “if he knows what’s good for him,” and the duelist agrees, adding, “This isn’t your fight.” O’Neill replies that the fops gave offense, which the duelist doesn’t find surprising. Another fop is pressed into service as a second, and he and O’Neill agree to terms, which basically amount to no quarter for anyone. Satisfied with the conditions, the four men come on guard.
As the duelist and the fop clash, O’Neill probes his opponent; the second attacks, O’Neill parries, and with a violent flick of his wrist, the Musketeer’s swordbreaker snaps his opponent’s rapier. The second steps back and nervously calls for a sword from the third member of the trio. Rather than press an unfair advantage, O’Neill waits while his opponent re-arms himself.
Again the second attacks, and again O’Neill catches the rapier blade in the tines of his swordbreaker and shatters it with a hard twist. The second, his face pale, drops his broken sword and main-gauche to his sides, gazing imploringly at O’Neill for a quarter he moments earlier declared would not be given. the Musketeer whips his sword across the man’s jerkin, leaving the trace of the letter N in the leather. As he does so, he doesn’t notice a lackey pass the third fop a pistol, which the man levels at O’Neill.
Spying the threat, O’Neill moves to position himself behind the second and the pistol, but the second quickly presses himself against the wall and the pistoleer steps forward and shoots. The ball lodges in a fold of the Musketeer’s buff coat without injuring him.
As the pistoleer races to reload, O’Neill lunges, badly wounding the man’s arm; the pistol drops to the ground. The second, like a cur, then attempts to stab the Musketeer in the back with the blade of his broken rapier, a blow which O’Neill barely parries. O’Neill again attacks the second, still armed with the broken rapier and main-gauche , while the pistoleer recovers the pistol with his good hand and struggles to reload it.
Petit, sneaking down the alley, arrives at last as the fops’ two lackeys race away from the scene of the duel. He whips out a dagger and attempts to place it at the throat of the pistoleer, but the latter shrugs off the slightly-built student, but losing the pistol again as he does so. As the pistol falls with a clatter to the cobblestones, O’Neill whips around and drives a handspan of steel into the pistoleer, who grunts and falls to the ground.
The duelist drops his man in the same moment, and the third fop, his eyes wide, leaps backward toward the alley where they entered the tiny courtyard, but before he can make good his escape, the duelist lunges. Two handspans of steel enter the man’s chest, and with a grimace of pain etched on his face, he sinks to the ground. dead as a martyr. O’Neill administers a coup de grâce to the pistoleer as well.
The duelist offers a firm hand to the Musketeer and the student in turn. Introductions are made, the duelist giving his name as Gil de Berault. “If I can be of assistance to you in the future, please don’t hesistate to call on me. You can find me at Zaton’s or leave a message for me there.” With a deep bow and a flourish of his hat, he strides quickly away. O’Neill and Petit quickly scavenge the bodies of the dead men, recovering a handful of coins from each and the pistol, before stealing away from the courtyard themselves.
Arriving at their quarters, the landlady, Maîtresse Débordé, gives O’Neill a note, a summons to the hôtel de Tréville. On arriving the sergeant is ushered in to see the captain-lieutenant. Tréville bids him sit; first he informs O’Neill that the report received earlier about the death of Athos and the capture of Porthos and Aramis was in error – Athos was dealt a greivous wound by Cahusac and was left for dead but survived, and both Porthos and Aramis managed to escape their captors. The Cardinal’s Guards ambushed the Musketeers, Aramis reported, taking them unaware, or they would never have done such harm.
Second, Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, along with a young Gascon, the son of a former guardsman, the sieur d’Artagnan, who Tréville met as a cadet, defeated five of the Cardinal’s Guards earlier in the day; Athos repaid Cahusac for the blow dealt earlier, and the Gascon even managed to fell Jussac, one of the Cardinal’s sergeants. One of the scarlet-cloaked guardsmen was killed, and only Biscarrat escaped without wounds, refusing to surrender until ordered to do so by Jussac and then breaking his sword rather than handing it over to the Musketeers. Tréville warns O’Neill to be cautious; the Cardinal’s Guards will be seeking revenge.
Last, Tréville announces that he learned more about the duel which O’Neill witnessed in February. The dying man whom the Musketeer carried to the chuch of Saint Mederic, the sieur de Gercourt, was the eldest son of the comte de Gercourt, a Lorrainois nobleman. The comte, Tréville explains, has arrived in Paris to take the body of his son home to the family crypt, and asked to meet O’Neill at the church of Saint Mederic that evening after Mass.
The two duelists who killed the younger Gercourt and his companion, Tréville continues, were the baron de Gras and the chevalier de Didonne. The baron is a gentleman of the Queen-Mother‘s bedchamber while Didonne is a Knight of St John and a confident of the chevalier de Vendôme, the King’s half-brother and grand prior of the knights of the French langue . Tréville says that the baron’s agents are reportedly on the lookout for the tall Musketeer, but so far as the captain-lieutenant can tell, they have not learned O’Neill’s identity.
Realizing that travelling the streets of Paris this night represents a particular hazard, Petit is sent to summon Charles Duran from their lodgings and to round up O’Neill’s wayward lackey, Jean-Luc. O’Neill, meanwhile, recruits one of his corporals, Courtivron, a hollow-eyed scarecrow of a man but one of the better swordsmen among the Musketeers – Courtivron doesn’t hesitate an instant, slipping his baldric over his shoulder and awaiting his sergeant’s pleasure.
Once the party is assembled at the hôtel de Tréville, they depart for Saint Mederic. Crossing Pont-Neuf, they encounter a beggar, a gray-bearded fellow under a broad-brimmed hat, wrapped in a tattered blanket. O’Neill gives him a few coins, and the beggar, eyeing the martial bearing of the men in the party and their abundant weapons, salutes and begins to march behind them as they continue on their way. O’Neill asks who he is, and the beggar replies he was a captain in the Picardy Regiment under King Henri IV; the Musketeer provides him with more coins and convinces him to find a good meal, presumably in anticipation of later action, and with another salute the tattered beggar wanders away.
Arriving at the church a priest ushers them in to where the comte de Gercourt waits near the screen. He is seated, with a cane clutched in one hand, and he apologizes for not rising to greet them; a young woman with a strong family resemblance stands beside him, and nearby O’Neill recognizes the lackey who sought to protect the dying man from the duelists that fateful night. The comte asks the Musketeer to relate the events of that night, and listens carefully as O’Neill retells the story. Afterward the comte, speaking slowly and with obvious emotion, explains that his son was a gambler and a wastrel and that he came to a bad end of his own making; nonetheless, the comte is grateful that, through the offices of the Musketeer, the young man received extreme unction before dying. He also reiterates the captain-lieutenant’s warning about the baron de Gras. Rising heavily on his cane, with assitance from his daughter and the Musketeer, the comte says that if he can be of any assistance in the future to please call upon him. Together they help the comte to his carriage outside, after which the party makes its way home again in the darkness.
He who has a thousand friends has not a friend to spare,
And he who has one enemy will meet him everywhere.
- Ali ibn-Abi-Talib