Emmanuel has known Samuel his entire life. Samuel was his father’s best friend. The two men attended the Military Academy of La Fleche and fought together throughout the Seven Years War. Shortly after the war ended, Louis XV appointed Jean d’ LeVasque as his new military advisor and made Samuel the Captain of the French Royal Army. But, in June of 1783, Jean died in a tragic accident on his way home from Versailles. Emmanuel, the oldest son of four children, was not quite fourteen at the time of his father’s death. Everyone loved Jean dearly, so his death was a tragedy, a tragedy that took years to heal from.
Once news of Jean’s sudden death reached Versailles, the King hastily appointed Samuel as his new military advisor. But, this did not compel Samuel to end his relationship with the d’ LeVasque family. He loved them and was determined to keep them as close friends. On several occasions after Jean’s passing, he frequented the d’ LeVasque estate for visits, with a faint hope that Julienne would make him hers. But, he was married and Julienne knew that, and she had no desire to remarry.
Over the years, Emmanuel and his younger siblings came to accept Samuel as a surrogate father. But, no matter how much Emmanuel loved Samuel, he was only a friend and he could never ever replace his real father. It took years for Emmanuel to recover from the loss of his father, but some days he longs for his father’s companionship, especially now that France is in social upheaval.
“Is your wife—I mean—Madame La Font going to dine with us?” Emmanuel says in attempt to initiate a conversation.
“No, I assume she already had her dinner. And no, I did not see Monsieur La Metz. While I was at the market, my coachman approached me with a letter in his hand,” Samuel says, abruptly changing the topic. “He told me that my sister, Irenea, was at the port and she desperately needed to see me.”
A puzzled frown appears on Emmanuel’s face. “How could it be your sister is here in Marseilles when she lives in Corsica?”
“Emmanuel, the Mediterranean Sea is not nearly as vast as the Atlantic Ocean. It does not take one long to travel from one end to the other.” Samuel digs his silver fork into the Ratatouille.
“Oh, then where is Irenea now? Have you not invited her to stay here for the night?”
Samuel firmly places his fork and knife down on his plate. “Emmanuel, you ask far too many questions. I would greatly appreciate it if you would let me explain the details. Once I have finished talking, you can ask as many questions as you like.”
Emmanuel lowers his gaze to the table cloth. “I’m sorry Samuel. Continue.”
“I asked Irenea if she would stay here for the night and return to Corsica early in the morning, but she declined. She came to tell me that they—my entire family—have decided to give me their full support. They are willing to fight the revolutionaries and have already recruited several skilled soldiers.”
Emmanuel beams all over when he hears the good news. “That is excellent!”
“But,” Samuel continues, “My family had to persuade my cousin, Maximus and his two sons, to fight with them. And it was not easy.”
His response wipes the smile off of Emmanuel’s face. “I do not understand you Samuel. I thought you said your entire family is willing to take up arms with us.”
Samuel’s heavy sigh is followed by a long pause. To Emmanuel, the silence is sickening. He pushes his plate of food away from him and fixes his eyes on Samuel. The indignant look on the older man’s face does not put him at ease.
“Maximus and I have never been on good terms,” he says.
“But Samuel, how could that be? You hardly know him. I mean—how many times have you actually seen your family since you moved here to France?”
The resentful look on Samuel’s face darkens. “I’ve been to visit my family in Corsica more times than you know, Emmanuel. I know him well enough to realize that he hates me for absolutely no reason. He is only doing this for his family—not for me.”
Emmanuel gives him a bewildered look. He is so taken aback by Samuel’s sudden outburst that he cannot find the right words to ease his friend’s pain. Emmanuel rubs his temples in effort to stimulate a reasonable response. “I sure hope he does not withdraw his support,” is the only remark he can come up with.
“He will not. All Maximus knows is the art of warfare. Nearly every day of his life was spent fighting the Genoese. I am certain that he, like the rest of us, does not want to let that tyrant Robespierre destroy our country. Of course, he would never admit that to me.”
The urgency in Samuel’s voice suggests to Emmanuel that he is trying desperately to overcome his doubt by convincing himself of Maximus’s loyalty to his cause.
“Who was the letter from?” Emmanuel says, straying away from the original conversation.
Stay tuned for part three.