Continuing Tales

In Pursuit of Ever After

A Ever After Story
by Funkypurplerhino

Part 32 of 35

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In Pursuit of Ever After

The next morning, they met with the King to discuss the events concerning Marguerite from the previous evening. The King was outraged that one of his Royal Wards had been attacked by one of his nobles.

To Marguerite he said, "My dear, I am sorry that one of my nobles could so far forget himself as to offer you such offense and injury. He will not get off with a mere apology for attacking you. Henry and Danielle tell me that you and Gustave wish to marry, stay here in Périgord and build your orphanage. Is that true?"

"Yes, Your Majesty," Marguerite answered.

The King took her arm, walking about the room with her as they talked. "You truly wish to marry Gustave when you have a dozen titled noblemen paying you court?"

"Yes, Your Majesty. I love him and he loves me. I wouldn't trade that for any title in the land," she answered with a luminous smile.

"You don't think that being married to a titled nobleman would give you more power and influence to fundraise for your orphanage?" he continued.

She was surprised at this argument from the King and not sure how to respond. "Perhaps it would, Your Majesty, but I can make it work without a title. Danielle has generously endowed the orphanage with enough money to get it started. Once it is underway, I hope to find more supporters."

The King continued, "Ah yes, my daughter-in-law is very generous. She settled some money and her father's château on Gustave, I understand."

"She gave him the Manor de Barbarac, Your Majesty."

The King looked over at Gustave, and then at Danielle. "You didn't tell her about the money?" They shook their heads. Marguerite was puzzled. "Danielle also gave Gustave a fortune to go with the château, my dear."

"Oh, I didn't know," she said, puzzled over where this conversation was going.

"I have always thought it should be called the Château de Barbarac, what do you think, Marguerite?"

"It is a nice house, but not so grand as most châteaux, I think, Your Majesty."

"When Danielle told me of your plans for the orphanage, I was very impressed Marguerite. You are certainly nothing like your mother," he complimented her.

"Thank you, Your Majesty," Marguerite was very surprised that the King had noticed the change in her. "My mother represents everything in life I wish to avoid. Her pursuit of money, titles and power was all consuming, and led to so much pain, for so many. I realize I do not desire those things."

"Yes, nevertheless, sometimes the people who least desire power are the best equipped to handle it, for the greater good."

"I don't understand, Your Majesty."

"Those who desire and pursue power, like your mother, rarely use it for the good of the people if they attain it. With great power comes great responsibility. It must be entrusted only to those who will not abuse it. Danielle, for instance, will make a perfect Queen. She is selfless, always thinking of others and how they will be affected by her actions. She gave up Henry for the good of the whole country, at great personal sacrifice. She encouraged him to be strong and do the noble thing. She is- in a word- noble. A noble." Danielle was embarrassed by this open praise and confused over the King's point in bringing it up.

Marguerite was troubled. She didn't understand where the King was going with this. Gustave realized the King was going to insist she marry someone of more exalted rank than he.

"I understand what you mean about Danielle, but I don't understand how it applies to me, Your Majesty," she looked up at him, confused.

"I decided months ago that you would marry a wealthy, titled nobleman. You will found your orphanage and your husband's rank will ensure that you wield sufficient influence to make it a huge success. You may be able to found others around the country. It will change the lives of thousands of orphans. Without that influence you will struggle to succeed."

The mood in the room became very tense as the King explained. Marguerite was staring aghast at the King. Danielle had taken Gustave's hand in support.

"Will you obey me in this, Marguerite?" the King asked.

Marguerite looked helplessly at Gustave, her eyes awash in tears. Looking back at the King she said, "It will break my heart, Your Majesty. Please do not require this of me."

"Will you obey me?" he repeated.

"Yes… I will obey you," she whispered, burying her face in her hands.

The King patted her on the shoulder. "All will turn out well, Marguerite." To all of the ladies, he said "You ladies may withdraw now. We will leave for Hautefort in an hour."

The Queen was furious with Francis, but she would never question his decisions or authority in front of others. She kept her silence, taking Danielle and Marguerite with her as she left.

Henry wondered why his father was so set on Marguerite marrying a title, but he knew the King well enough to know when he was set on a course.

Marguerite went out to walk alone in the garden until it was time to leave. Tears were streaming down her face, but she didn't care. How ironic, that even with her mother dead, she would still be forced to marry for a title and power instead of love?

The Queen and Danielle stood in a different part of the garden discussing what had just transpired. "Mother, why does she need to marry a man with a title to succeed? With our support behind her, she could not have more influence."

"Danielle, not everything can or should be forced upon the nobles by the royals. A passionately motivated noble can wield a different kind of influence, and appeal to different segments of society. The King appears to have made his decision, unfortunately. He will not heed us in this matter," the Queen explained.

Meanwhile, the King was speaking with Gustave and Henry. "Well Gustave, what do you think of Marguerite's decision?"

Henry wondered anew what the King was up to. It wasn't like him to torment needlessly.

"Her decision, Your Majesty? Forgive me, but she didn't really have a decision to make," Gustave answered.

"Whatever do you mean?"

"You put her in an impossible position, Your Majesty. You took two things she cares about and pitted one against the other. Then you told her you had decided already and that she should obey. She would not disobey a direct instruction from you," Gustave was nervous speaking his mind so frankly to the King and he was fidgeting.

"My first choice for a husband for a woman like Marguerite, is a strong man at least five years her senior. Someone she would feel the need to obey; someone who would accept no less in a wife. She is a strong, opinionated, persuasive woman. It is why she will be successful with her project. The children of France will benefit from her strengths. A woman that strong can be very difficult to be married to.

"The worst sort of marriage for one such as she would be one where she is completely in charge. These usually start off as love matches, sometimes based on infatuation, sometimes on real love. If the woman does not respect her husband, it will turn out miserably for them both. When you are young and in love, you feel she can do no wrong, she is perfect. In ten years what was tolerable can become intolerable. A weak or passive man would be destroyed by her." The King paused and looked at Gustave speculatively.

"Surely, Sire, there are more than those two extremes? I have known Marguerite for eleven years. I am not blind to her faults, nor am I blinded by her beauty. We have grown to love and respect each other. She is passionate about her cause, and I am very, passionately proud of her. We agree on the importance of her seeing it through. I have no conflicting ambitions, as another man might. I support her cause completely. I do not need her to be merely my hostess and mother to my heir, as some men would expect. My lack of a title should not adversely affect her success. She is still the same woman, no matter who she is married to. We will likely need to add a wing onto the manor to house the dozen children we will surely end up adopting," Gustave argued with conviction.

Henry was amused by the picture of Marguerite as the mother of twelve.

"You do not see that she would wield more power and influence with a title? Do you not think that raising money and support would be easier for a comtesse than a simple madame?" the King continued.

"Yes, I suppose I must admit that it would be easier for a comtesse, even though Marguerite will never be a 'simple' anything," Gustave agreed.

Henry and the King both smiled at that truth.

Gustave continued, "That does not mean that she must be a comtesse for it to work, Sire. I think having a husband who loves her and supports her work would be more valuable than someone who merely wants to possess and control her; someone who may not even appreciate the importance of her mission. Someone who wants her merely as an ornament," Gustave was arguing passionately, and he no longer felt as nervous as he had earlier.

Henry finally interrupted, "Father, why don't you just make Gustave a comte if you feel so strongly about her marrying a title? Gustave has proven himself a resourceful, faithful friend over and over. I think they are a good match."

Gustave laughed heartily at the idea of him being a comte. He was remembering the day Danielle had first dressed up as the Comtesse in order to save Maurice. He had warned her of the dangers and she had teased him that he would do the same for her, 'Me? Prancing around like some nobleman?' he had scoffed at her.

"That is precisely what I am thinking, Henry," the King said thoughtfully.

Gustave looked from the King to the Prince and back. They could not be serious. "Me? A comte? No one would believe it. You are not serious?"

"Would you prefer to be a baron? I think comtesse suits her better, personally. Too many bad associations with 'baroness'" the King said.

"I think the Comte de Barbarac has a nice ring to it," Henry added, helpfully.

"I like it. When he adds on that wing to the manor we shall officially rename it the Château de Barbarac," the King added. "What do you say Gustave? Will you be a comte in order to marry Marguerite and help her fulfill her destiny? It is the only way I will sanction the marriage."

"Did you orchestrate this whole scene to come to this point?" Gustave was in shock. "Be a comte or lose Marguerite? Obviously I choose whatever I need to in order to marry her. I only hope I do not disappoint or embarrass you, Sire." Gustave walked around the room, running his hands through his hair. "Why? I am just a simple painter, Your Majesty." Gustave was obviously overwhelmed by what the King had just put him through. He remembered Danielle telling him once that he would dress up as a nobleman, if needed, in order to help her and even as he had scoffed, he had known it was true. Now he would become a titled nobleman for Marguerite, it would seem.

"Gustave, I like you," the King said. "I had already planned to give you the title. As far as marrying Marguerite goes, I needed to assure myself that you could stand up for yourself and not back down in the face of a strong-willed opponent. You stood up to me, respectfully, and argued your points with conviction. You never lost your temper or sight of your goal. Many noblemen more seasoned than you do not fare half so well in confrontations with me. Danielle would never have forgiven me if I approved the marriage and she made you miserable."

"Thank you, Your Majesty. I am honoured by your faith in me," Gustave said humbly.

"Here are the papers conferring your title upon you," the King indicated some papers on the desk. Gustave walked over and looked down at them. They were in Latin. He laughed.

"What is so funny?" Henry asked, looking at the papers curiously.

"I was just thinking how nice it is that your wife taught me Latin, Your Highness."

"She did? I didn't know that," Henry said, thinking how she never ceased to amaze him.

"Yes, she used to teach me everything she learned in her lessons. She said explaining it to me helped her to learn it better. She would read to me for hours. I used to wonder how often she got into trouble for neglecting her chores to do so. She would never tell me what got her into trouble; she didn't want me to worry about her." Looking at the papers again, he noticed they were already signed. He had been a comte before the King had told Marguerite she had to marry a titled nobleman. "Does Danielle know?" he wondered aloud.

"No, we once talked of the possibility because I wanted her input, but she does not know," the King answered. "You are going to have to spruce up your wardrobe, Comte. I'm sure your betrothed will be happy to help you. We are leaving for Paris in two days. You will join us in Paris for your wedding in a month. Since Jacqueline is already there, it makes perfect sense. Marguerite will need to finish founding the charity with the solicitors in Paris. That will keep her busy before the wedding."

"Thank you, Your Majesty. May I go find Marguerite now?"

"Yes, go along," the King handed him a copy of the papers as he left.

Gustave found Marguerite wandering around the gardens, aimlessly. "Marguerite?"

She turned around. "I'm so sorry Gustave. I didn't know what else I could do." She threw herself into his arms.

"Shh. It is all right. He put you in an impossible situation."

"Do you think Danielle is responsible for this?" she ventured.

"No, definitely not. If she had objected, she would have told us so, not hid behind the King."

"Did he decide who I am marrying?" she asked harshly, pulling away, not expecting him to answer.

"Yes, he did. The wedding is in one month in Paris, in fact."

She spun around to face him, "What?" her voice rising. "So soon? Oh, no! No time for us at all," she lamented.

"Yes, Marguerite, I am. He said-" she cut him off, grabbing his doublet.

"No- don't tell me yet," she pulled his head down and kissed him desperately. After a minute she started to cry.

"Marguerite, 'tis all right. Please don't cry," he pleaded.

"Tell me his name," she said, disengaging herself from his embrace once again. "No, tell me his title, since the King picked a title, not a man."

"The Comte de Barbarac," he said, thinking she would understand what he meant. The name felt awkward on his tongue.

"The Comte de Barbarac! Another long lost cousin of Danielle's? Oh my mother must be turning over in her grave," she began to laugh hysterically.

"No, Marguerite, you don't understand. Look at this," he handed her the paper he had nearly forgotten he possessed.

She took it, expecting to see a betrothal contract and was momentarily confused. Her Latin had never been very good and she was out of practice. She looked at him, a bit stunned, "My Latin is terrible. Please tell me what it says," she whispered, forlornly.

"This paper names me the Comte de Barbarac, Marguerite. The King signed it weeks ago, but he only just told me."

"Why did he say 'no', then? I don't understand," her head was spinning.

"He wanted to test us, before he would agree to the marriage. He said he had to make sure you were willing to be obedient. He maneuvered me into arguing with him about allowing us to marry. He said he needed to make sure I could stand up for myself –for us," he grinned. "I guess I can come across a wee bit easy going. He was afraid you would control me."

"You are a comte? And, we are getting married in Paris next month?" she asked skeptically.

"Yes, to both questions. I guess you will just have to get used to the idea of being a comtesse."

"Oh, I think I can manage that," she laughed and he kissed her again.

In Pursuit of Ever After

A Ever After Story
by Funkypurplerhino

Part 32 of 35

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