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"Frankly, Excellency, this season has been a disaster. I would not be surprised if a courier arrives any day from Versailles with an order for your recall." The well dressed gentleman tugged at his lace cuffs as he regarded the Marquis de Ruvigny.


There was a pregnant pause.


"I am but three days ahead of a courier from Versailles. I came first out of my love for you Henri. You have maybe three days to do something to the Spanish. Your career and reputation is at risk Henri. You want to be known as the French lord and officer bested by a fat and incompetent Spaniard?"


"What would you do?" Ruvigny replied at last.


"Your games at ambush did not go so well it seems. You can either take responsibility or reveal the incompetence of Monsieur Philippe. One of you must fall, unless you strike quickly and successfully."


"You did not answer my question Andre," muttered Henri behind a glass of brandy.


"There is a ship with plans to sail for Spain. The Ambassador's daughter will be on board. Arrangements have been made already. Pirates have been known to act in waters between here and there, you know. All you need do is order it."


There was another long pause.


"No Andre. I would rather lose my position and return to France than do anything like that. It is only that I know you bear me love that I will not hold this offer against you," the Marquis replied.


"I respect your honor Henri. This is not a battle on a field of honor. You are in a different kind of battle now, with different rules. France will need someone not afraid to dirty his hands. I agree that the the Ambassador of France should be seen as above such; but, someone needs to put in place a network of agents to do battle in the same way that Spain does."


"Philippe has done that."


"Philippe has failed you and France."


"You have an idea for a replacement?"


"It just so happens that I do. I pray that he can arrive and set matters to right before His Majesty does more than recall you."


A knock at the door silenced the seriousness of the conversation. Instead, Andre laughed as if just telling the end of a humorous story. "And, the Spaniard said to the Milanese man, that was no goose, that was my wife." He erupted into a deeper laughter before the Ambassador bade the visitor to enter.

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