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1635 The Dreeson Incident: Chapter Fifteen

       Last updated: Wednesday, August 27, 2008 21:57 EDT




    The news of an official peace treaty between Gustavus Adolphus and the king in the Netherlands had not improved Antoine Delerue’s mood. The arrangements between the Swede and Denmark the previous summer had been bad enough, but this was appalling.

    The simultaneous arrival of two letters from Guillaume Locquifier had ruined the day altogether. Their arrival was simultaneous because the first one had been delayed in transit, waiting in a bin in the office of that fool Mauger in Haarlem until he had a wine shipment ready to go out to Glasgow.

    “Locquifier is an idiot. Can’t he make up his own mind about anything?”

    Michel Ducos shook his head. “I did, very specifically, instruct him not to take any action without my consent.”

    Delerue frowned. The problem here was that Michel’s personality was so forceful and intimidating that people tended to overdo his instructions. But it was an old problem, and not one for which he’d ever found a good solution. Michel was simply too valuable to the cause for Delerue to be willing to risk a sharp clash with him.

    He looked around the room. André Tourneau was arguing with Levasseur and the other two Lyonnais silk weavers. Mademann, the Alsatian, was, as usual, off by himself.

    “The time is not yet ripe for us to act,” Ducos said firmly. “And in Frankfurt, of all ridiculous places. What kind of symbolism would Frankfurt bring to our great undertaking?”

    Delerue decided he was probably right. The situation in France still needed to mature. Gaston needed to consolidate his base of support. Although Delerue wasn’t sure how much success the king’s brother would have, given the naturalization of that very capable Italian Mazarini. The one who, after the debacle in Rome, had moved to France and was now throwing his diplomatic talents behind Richelieu. And his talents were not inconsiderable.

    Delerue picked up what he had been saying earlier. “The proposed treaty terms…”

    Tourneau, who had once been a steward for the de Beauharnais family, broke off from his argument with Levasseur and waved a hand. “Are very unsatisfactory! Why hasn’t Henri de Rohan at least issued a public condemnation of any idea that France might accept them?”

    Delerue shook his head. “As for Rohan, pah! He is a weakling and Richelieu’s lackey. I have written a new pamphlet explaining it all. I will be sending the manuscript to Mauger by the next packet so he can arrange to have it printed.”

    Abraham Levasseur focused his eyes on Tourneau. “There is no possible treaty between the Swede and France that we could describe as satisfactory. Not so much because the Swede is the Great Satan—that is what the dévots, Père Joseph’s Catholic fanatics in France, are calling him. So we must not. But—”

    Delerue intervened again. “But because peace in France, any peace on any terms, means that Richelieu will get a second chance to entrench his rule. Even if Stearns prevails on Gustav Adolf to offer France more lenient terms, we will be opposed.”



    “What we need,” Ducos announced a few hours later, “is a coordinated operation. Europe-wide. One that will backlash on Richelieu, since everyone will blame him for it.”

    “That’s going to take money.”

    “In that matter, at least, Guillaume has shown himself to be effective. Our treasury is refilling rapidly.”

    “Other than persuading wealthy men to contribute, by whatever means, what can he do though? In Frankfurt, that is?”

    “I will tell him what to do.”

    Enough time had passed since Ducos first read Locquifier’s letters that he had managed to interpret them to his own satisfaction. “Guillaume has demonstrated his unswerving loyalty by adhering faithfully to the orders I gave him before we left. He should be rewarded for this, not condemned. I shall appoint him as my coordinator for all actions within the United States of Europe.”

    “Guillaume?” Tourneau emitted a disbelieving hiss, half under his breath.

    Ducos heard it. “Unquestioning obedience, especially when it goes contrary to a man’s own instincts, is a rare quality. It should be rewarded.”

    Tourneau glanced at Delerue, but saw that Antoine was not inclined to dispute the point with Michel.

    So, he nodded. What else could he do?


    “Yes, Michel?”

    “You must write to Guillaume. You must explain to him that while his decision concerning the Dreeson woman and the Stone boys was correct, we must conduct another assassination. Several assassinations, probably.”

    Delerue scratched notes on the back of Locquifier’s second letter.

    Ducos kept talking. “But they must be major actions, of true political significance, designed in such a way that Richelieu will be blamed for them. Assassinations that will destroy any prospect for peace. A wave of assassinations, flooding across the map of Europe. No. Wait. Stop. Scratch that out. One massive assassination.

    “Assure him that he and the other men in Frankfurt will play a major role in regard to the portion of our great plan that will unfold in the United States of Europe. They will have the honor of planning and carrying out the deaths of Michael Stearns and Rebecca Abrabanel.”

    He paused a moment. “And of Gustavus Adolphus and Princess Kristina.” He paused again. “And of Wilhelm Wettin. All on the same day, for maximum effect. In Magdeburg, the so-called ‘imperial capital.’ In front of one of the spectacular, if as yet unfinished, new buildings. There is no reason for us to carry out picayune little actions against people who are, in the great picture, insignificant. As for the Stones… Yes, in Rome, they did us a great disservice. But their time will come. After we have achieved our greater goals.”

    Tourneau cleared his throat. “That’s very… ambitious, Michel.”

    Fortunately, Ducos interpreted the comment as a compliment. And, unfortunately, Antoine was still not inclined to dispute the matter. Not for the first time in the history of their organization, Michel Ducos’ force of personality would drive a decision that was perhaps not wise on its own merits.



    Delerue sent his letter containing Ducos’ instructions out on the next packet boat to the Netherlands. It would take some time, even with the most favorable weather. To Laurent Mauger in Haarlem, then to Isaac de Ron at the inn Zum Weissen Schwan the next time Mauger had cause to travel to Frankfurt, for they had given de Ron the strictest orders not to trust the postal system. De Ron would turn them over to Locquifier.

    De Ron was a reliable man. Laurent Mauger was also reliable, he supposed. But, at the very least, not over-curious. That in itself was a virtue.




Haarlem, Netherlands

    Laurent Mauger surveyed his warehouse with pride.

    Excusable pride, he thought. He had built a business that supported his entire family. Supported it well. Not to mention, employed most of it.

    His sons were learning the business. Barendt and Jan Willem, the only survivors of the nine children born to his late wife. Barendt was twenty-two already. Time flew. He’d need to start looking for a wife pretty soon. Jan Willem at eighteen could afford to wait a few more years before worrying about such weighty matters.

    Neither was home. Barendt was observing wine-making in the Moselle Valley. Jan Willem had accompanied his cousin Pierre Guillaume de Grasse to Italy on a buying trip.

    Which brought Laurent to those who had finished learning the business and now helped him run it. Pierre Guillaume was his chief buyer. He was the younger son of his widowed half-sister, Marie, who ran his household here in town. Her older son, Laurent, called Lolo by the family, was his chief accountant. Her daughters, both unmarried, lived at home.

    A slight shadow passed over his face. The girls should be married by now, but their brothers were reluctant to let the dowry money bequeathed by Marie’s late husband out of their own hands.

    Then there were the sons of his deceased half-sister Louise. Jan Dircksen Pieterz was, unfortunately, as improvident as his late father had been. Mauger kept looking for some avenue by which Jan might display his talents. Thus far, none had appeared, and the boy was… um… thirty-six years old now, it must be. Still, he was family, so he must be fed—and luckily, he hadn’t married. For the time being, he was in charge of arranging shipping contracts. Somebody else always double-checked the arrangements he made, of course. Usually his younger brother, who was cautious and careful, if not particularly resourceful.

    They couldn’t have dowered their sisters if they wanted to. Dirck had died bankrupt. So both Alida and Madeleine were, to put it plainly, upper servants. Ladies-in-waiting to the wives of wealthy merchants. Not chambermaids, but not far above that status, either. They fetched, carried, read out loud, made lace.

    He had offered to dower them, but they were both too proud. Or ashamed that he had needed to make the offer. Alida had been in her teens when Dirck went bankrupt and killed himself. Madeleine was old enough to remember that time.

    All six of those boys, his own sons and the sons of his half-sisters, had a remarkable sense of entitlement where the business was concerned. They thought of it as already theirs, although he was far from dead yet.

    Nowhere close to dead. How surprised they would be if they knew that his sedate business trips also involved secret work for the Huguenot cause!

    His greatest affection was reserved for his younger sister Aeltje. She wasn’t here. Widowed like Marie, she had chosen not to depend on him when Louis died. Rather, she had remained in Leiden, where she had turned her large house into a residence for a dozen or so students. Both of her sons were attending the university. Mauger liked the boys, too. Jean-Louis was studying science and engineering. He said that the chemistry, at least, would be of use in the wine business if he some day joined the firm. The younger boy had started classes this semester. Aeltje was no longer young, but now she had the help of her daughter Marte, who had a quite respectable dowry.

    With any luck, Marte would soon find a husband in the form of one of her brothers’ friends. University towns were useful, that way. They provided a pool of promising young men, pre-selected for a certain minimum level of intelligence and ambition.

    Aeltje was not stupid. That might be why she was his favorite sister.



    Mauger spent three days reviewing the business developments that had occurred while he was gone. Then he couldn’t put it off any longer. He would be made to regret it if he postponed it any farther.

    It was time to face the villa.

    He had bought the villa after Adriaantje had died. His late wife. A saint. Not in the idolatrous Catholic sense of the word, of course. Rather, a saint as in “a woman of noble character.”

    The “girls” had lived with them throughout their marriage. Not one of them had been willing to assume responsibility for the household after Adriaantje died. They said that, never having married, they had no experience in the matter.

    So he had asked Marie. Who came and, a scant three months later, proclaimed: “Either they go or I go.”

    He needed Marie in his Haarlem townhouse. So he bought the villa. Hired a steward and a housekeeper. It was a truly lovely country home.

    The door opened. They emerged like a flock of crows. His oldest half-sister, Catherine. She was seventy-two now. Followed by his three older sisters.

    Not an Arminian among them. Surely that consistency of theological opinion in his family was something of which a man could be proud.

    But he would prefer to be away on a business trip.




    “Perhaps he is interested in you.” Veda Mae pursed her lips. “Personally, I mean.”

    Velma Hardesty shook her head. She might not be a brain, but one thing was always perfectly clear to her. “Look, Veda Mae. I can tell when a man’s interested in me.”

    “You’ve certainly had enough chances to practice that skill.”

    “Thanks for the compliment. But, what I mean is—Jacques-Pierre isn’t. Interested in me, I mean. Except for teaching me to Meditate. Which must have been Meant. By the Stars, you know. It’s sort of too bad. He’s in great condition.”

    Veda Mae cocked her head to the side. “Spending every day trotting alongside a wagon and heaving the contents of garbage cans into it will do that for the old biceps and triceps and abs, I suppose. Several of the orderlies at the assisted living center—why don’t they tell the plain truth and call it an old folks home or a nursing home, the way people used to?—are in really good shape, too.”

    Velma raised her eyebrows. “Window shopping?”

    “I’m a widow,” Veda Mae said righteously. “It’s perfectly proper, as long as all I do is look.”

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