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Merchants of Virtue (eBook)

Book One of The Huguenot Chronicles, A Historical Fiction Series

"A fascinating tale that marries historical accuracy with gripping storytelling."

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Amidst the opulence of Louis XIV's France, a story of defiance and faith unfolds.

In a time where faith and freedom clash, Jeanne Delpech de Castanet and her husband Jacob, stand as pillars of courage amidst the turmoil of Louis XIV's reign of intolerance.

Their life of privilege is under siege as the king's soldiers ruthlessly target the Huguenot "heretics." With their home ransacked and their children's safety hanging by a thread, the couple's resolve is pushed to its limits. Will their unwavering belief in their principles and liberty of conscience be enough to shield their family from the harrowing consequences of their defiance?

Witness the struggle for faith, the fight for freedom, and the undying spirit of a couple who refuse to surrender their convictions.

Merchants of Virtue is more than a novel—it's a journey through the rich tapestry of history, inspired by true events. It's the first gripping installment in the Huguenot Chronicles that promises adventure, historical depth, and an inspirational tale of resilience.

Embrace the adventure, feel the courage, and discover the power of conviction. 


eBook Details:

  • Number of pages: 247
  • Series: The Huguenot Chronicles, Book 1
  • Formats: ePub, Mobi
  • Devices: Kindle, Apple and Android Devices, Nook and Kobo eReaders, Computers, Browsers (e.g. Google Chrome)
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Chapter 6 of Merchants of Virtue

25 August 1685

Monsieur Boudoin, a red-faced, portly man in his late forties, was one Montalbanais who had welcomed the dragonnade.

Every day since it began, he had given thanks in prayer for God’s mysterious ways that had brought him out of the clutches of debt and ruin. He had lost much of his wife’s inheritance investing in slaves for the New World, whose ship had sunk off the coast of Barbados. He had spent many a night bent over, worrying how he could avoid the shame of selling his house, and having to take rented accommodation at the age of forty-eight.

Was the dragonnade a godsend?

At any rate, he would certainly not miss such windows of opportunity so close to home. He knew he had to get in quick, though; hesitation would only lead to picking up the leftovers. He had been diligently busying himself across town by purchasing Huguenot furniture from soldiers so they could buy victuals. In this way, Monsieur Boudoin also had the moral satisfaction of defusing a potentially explosive situation which could put the Huguenots in mortal danger, for there was nothing more hazardous than lodging angry men of war.

He had nonetheless been shy if not embarrassed about helping his wealthy heretic neighbour—a neighbour who also happened to be one of his creditors. However, with the recent abjurations en masse, those windows of opportunity throughout the town were now closing with surprising rapidity. Nobody would have guessed in a thousand years that catholicisation could be achieved so quickly in the Protestant stronghold. It just went to show what little mettle this generation of Protestant bourgeois was made of. Soldiers were relinquishing their quarters at a horrendous rate, and with a dwindling number of Huguenots, Monsieur Boudoin had no choice but to endeavour to put his scruples to one side with regard to his neighbour, Monsieur Jacob Delpech.

Jacob’s pantry had been emptied of food three times by the fifth afternoon of the soldiers’ arrival. To pay for present and future upkeep, Lieutenant Ducamp resolved to sell the dining- room suite, four walnut armchairs with a matching low table in the latest fashion, an escritoire handed down from Jacob’s grandfather, a fine Venetian cabinet, and a beautiful leather- topped ministerial desk. The lieutenant had no idea where to sell the bourgeois junk, and only had a rough idea of what it was worth. Thankfully, Monsieur Boudoin from across the road was at hand with ready cash, which would save Ducamp’s men from having to lug furniture across town to the auction room.


When they saw the thick-armed soldiers envisaging how to carry the furniture outside, Monsieur and Madame Delpech voiced their outrage.

‘Sir, you are breaking the law,’ said Jacob to Lieutenant Ducamp, who was pulling up his brown-leather thigh boot. He had been giving his feet a breather. Jacob continued, ‘If you insist in your endeavours, then I shall have no other choice than to inform the authorities!’

‘Not my onions, pal,’ said Ducamp, stamping his heel to the bottom of his boot. He turned and barked another order at his men, who were passing the large table through the dining-room door that led to the entrance hall. ‘Easy, boys,’ he said, ‘that’s good stuff; we don’t wanna scratch it.’

Didier Ducamp proceeded to carry out his plan as if the owners were of no consequence, a delicious tactic he had picked up in Bearn as part of the strategy to pressure the Huguenots into submission and abjuration. It usually worked wonders, far better than any string of insults, although insults did generally have to come first as a preamble since they set the tone.

Madame Delpech, who had staggered to a seat among her children, was promptly lifted up by her underarms so that the soldier could carry the embroidered armchair outside. Jacob protested, and took his wife’s shaking hand.

Ducamp turned to them, and in his deep baritone voice, he said calmly: ‘Abjure. And we will put everything back, and leave you in peace.’

‘Intimidation will not get you what you want,’ said Jacob, staring back with determination in his eyes.

Jeanne, with new courage, said, ‘What God gives, no man can take away.’

Ducamp wondered for a moment if they feigned a lack of common sense. Or were they just being plain arrogant because of his station as a lowly lieutenant? He decided to raise the stakes and told a soldier to fetch the carved oak crib from the master bedchamber. Ducamp knew it was customary to lay infants in the ancestral cot passed down through the ages, and by the looks of it, the one upstairs was no exception.

Jeanne had laid all her children in that crib, and had prepared it for her new baby.

Ducamp looked straight into her eyes; he knew he had every chance of winning an abjuration if he could break the woman.

But she stood her ground with bourgeois dignity. She said, ‘Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away.’

Ducamp was again struck in his pride. His game of one-upmanship had done nothing more than lock the Huguenots further into their stubborn defiance.

An hour later, most of the furniture was stacked in the street. Before accepting Boudoin’s ludicrous offer, Ducamp decided he would give Delpech and his duchess one last chance.

‘For God’s sake, man,’ he said to Jacob. There was a slight resonance now in the bare dining room where they stood. ‘Why don’t you just lie? Then you can have everything back. You are not signing away your life, you know.’

‘But you see, Sir,’ said Jacob, ‘we would be doing precisely that. We would be signing away our values, our faith in God, and His promise of eternal life.’

Ducamp knew now for sure that the man would not be subjugated. It was a waste of time trying; he had seen the obstinate type before in Pau.

Jacob continued, ‘If you go ahead with this travesty of justice, which amounts to nothing less than pillaging, then I shall have to report it to your commander . . .’

Ducamp shrugged; he had heard it all before. He let the Huguenot rattle off his foolish protest while he strode outside, where a crowd of onlookers wes already admiring the fine furniture. Then he went ahead with the sale.


Jacob did not wish to leave Jeanne and their children at the mercy of ruthless hands, so he accompanied them most of the way to Jeanne’s sister’s on foot. Their coach had been rendered unusable, and their servants had fled. Given the ardent appetites of the men who would not have thought twice about taking even old Monique, neither Jacob nor Jeanne could blame the servants for leaving the house. It was, on the contrary, one less worry.

Once past Place des Monges, which led on to Rue Porte du Moustier where his sister-in-law lived, Jeanne let him head back towards the town hall, where he hoped to gain an audience with the Marquis de Boufflers.

The balmy streets were throbbing with bells chiming, drums thumping, processional singing, and most of all, the clopping and clatter of horses and soldiers departing. They were vacating their lodgements and joining their regiment across the river Tarn at their base camp in Villebourbon.

Jeanne had barely walked ten paces when she came upon a notice freshly pasted to a tree. It announced a fine of 500 livres to anyone found guilty of harbouring persons of the so-called Reformed religion.

From the corner of the street lined with elms, she saw soldiers on the steps of her sister’s house. Her heart sank; she did not want to bring further distress upon her sister’s household. Despite the discomfort of her load, she turned around, and with her children holding her skirts, she headed back towards her house, where she hoped Jacob would have returned by the time she arrived.

It was not, however, the distance that pained her most. She could take her time, and besides, she felt that the longer she could keep herself and her children from those dreadful soldiers, the better. No, it was not her breathlessness nor her aching back that gave her the most discomfort: it was the number of remarks directed at her from houses she passed along the way. Folk of the ‘true’ religion, now in the majority and with the tacit connivance of local authorities, openly vented their disapproval of nonconformists.

Jeanne, her three children now strung along behind her, entered Rue Larrazet, a quiet, narrow lane lined with tall houses that bypassed the pomp and procession now in Rue Soubirou on the north side of Place des Monges. It was a route she used to take in the hottest months of summer when she was younger.


In an upstairs room halfway up the narrow street, despite the late hour of the day, two young chambermaids were still doing the bedrooms.

‘I heard the baron say we are living in an historic moment,’ said the new girl from Toulouse while tucking in the bed linen. She had only been with the house since the beginning of summer. She had agreed to go there because of the extra pay for Catholic servants, and perhaps because the baron had a penchant for fair hair.

‘That may be, Elise, but we’ve still got to change the linen, sweep the floors, and empty the pots,’ said the other chambermaid, whose name was Yvette. She was not yet twenty, slightly younger than Elise, though more serious-minded under her mop of sauerkraut hair.

‘I thought we’d never get through all that washing-up. And the mess . . .’

‘After-procession festivities,’ said Yvette, flopping the bolster pillow like a black pudding across the bed. ‘Went on late into the night, you can be sure.’

‘The baron was ever so tipsy,’ Elise said coquettishly as she picked up the chamber pot. Moving to the window, she said, ‘I heard him say good times are here to stay.’

She placed the pot on top of an oak chest of drawers and leaned out of the half-shuttered window. ‘Quick!’ she said, turning back to Yvette. ‘Here comes that Delpech woman. Looks like ’er old man’s gone and dumped her. Poor thing, she’s red as a cardinal. Lovely dress, though.’

Yvette joined her at the window and said, ‘I don’t pity her at all, nor her sect. They all stick together like shit to a sheet. Huh, think they’re more saintly than the pope, they do.’

Elise said, ‘Not anymore they don’t, though, do they, ha!’

‘Glad they’ve banned it at last,’ said Yvette.

‘Took ’em long enough, didn’t it?’

‘But she still won’t convert back, you know,’ said Yvette.
‘Thinks she’s a cut above the rest. Huh, we’ll soon see where her airs and graces get her now.’

‘And what of her children? Has she a heart?’

‘Her sort only thinks of themselves!’

‘Huguenot nobs are no different from our lot, then,’ said Elise with her characteristic little laugh.

‘And they’re the devil incarnate when it comes to affairs. You know Monsieur Boudoin, the odds and sods merchant, who fell on hard times?’


‘Well, he says her husband offered to lend him money, at an exorbitant rate too. So much so that he ended up having to borrow more and more just to pay back the interest.’

‘That’s not very Christian-like, is it?’ said Elise. ‘Glad there ain’t no Huguenots in Toulouse: we kicked ’em all out. If you can’t fit in, then ship out. That’s what my gran says!’

‘No,’ said Yvette, ‘you can’t fit a square peg into a round hole, can ya?’

‘The baron says the bishop has been so patient, and so forgiving.’

‘He’s a saintly man,’ said Yvette, ‘a bon vivant but saintly. Yet the likes of her will show him no gratitude. They ought to send her to the nunnery.’

Elise pushed open the shutter another few inches with one hand and took up the chamber pot with the other. ‘Take that, heretic bitch!’ she yelled out and threw the pot’s contents out of the window. She pulled the shutter flap back with a playful but guilty little giggle.

‘Elise, you didn’t!’ said Yvette, stepping away from the window.

‘I did, right on her bonce too.’

‘That’s rotten.’

‘No, it i’n’t, it’s patriotic. And don’t look so glum, it’s only a bit of fun. Won’t be able to do it when she turns Catholic, will we!’

‘Good shot, though,’ conceded Yvette, who suddenly realised that the new girl was capable of anything, and wondered if she had already obliged the baron.


Jeanne walked on without showing her disgust, thankful that the chamber pot water had splashed her coif, not her children.

She made it back to her house as the church bell struck four o’clock. But Jacob was not there, and neither were the soldiers. So she now stood outside her own home with no key. She thanked God she had thought to take some pain d'épices, which she broke and shared among her children.

Her condition and her situation touched the heart of a neighbour, Madame Simon, a pious Catholic woman of fifty-six. It may have been forbidden to offer shelter to a Huguenot, but she was not about to watch a pregnant woman suffer from the arrogant stupidity of men. She brought her a chair and some fresh lemon juice, which Jeanne accepted with overflowing gratitude. Had she been obliged to stand anymore, her legs and back would have given way under the strain.


Jacob’s venture to file a complaint had not met with greater success than Jeanne’s attempt at finding refuge. De Boufflers, sensing that the wind of change was favourable, had lost no time in giving the order to a unit of troops to embark on another missionary tour of the neighbouring townships and villages. Lieutenant Ducamp and his dragoons were among these men. Now that the capital of the generality had fallen, the marquis was determined to convert the rest of Lower Quercy. And he could not wait to see the king’s face, not to mention that of Madame de Maintenon.

In the absence of the marquis, Jacob had insisted on seeing the intendant. But de la Berchère refused him an audience. Instead, he sent Delpech an order to return to his house, to greet another dispatch of the king’s soldiers.

On arriving back home, Delpech was astonished to discover his wife desperately fanning herself on a chair, and his children, Lizzie and Paul playing, Lulu sleeping, on the stone threshold of his front door. He deduced the soldiers must have left and taken the key.

He was contemplating how to break into his own premises when a magistrate appeared with the key and a note from Lieutenant Ducamp.

As they entered the spacious townhouse, even the magistrate was unable to hide his dismay at the disorder. They were met with the scattering of vermin and bottles rolling on floorboards, splashes of wine on every textile, broken glass and scraps of food trodden into the beautifully woven carpet, grease wiped on the curtains, and not a stick of furniture in the large dining room other than a two-seater sofa and a solitary crib.

‘If you will, Sir,’ said Jacob, determined to muffle his emotions, ‘I would ask you to record the state in which you find my property.’

‘I am sorry, Sir,’ replied the magistrate, recovering his mask of stoicism. ‘That is not within my remit.’

After the civil servant took his leave, Jacob opened the note from the lieutenant and read.

‘I fear my men were lambs compared to your next guests. You will have been warned. If you love your children, ABJURE!’


The interval would no doubt be short, thought Jeanne. So she quickly assembled her children in her bedchamber, laid out fresh clothes for them, and did likewise for herself.

While changing her youngest daughter, she could not help asking herself why on earth she did not leave the country when she had been offered the chance. But she knew she must not give in to remorse, and besides, at least she was with her husband.

The sound of the door latch brought her out of her ponderings.

‘Paul, where are you going?’ she said to her seven-year-old boy, who was about to disappear into the corridor.

‘To the privy, Mama,’ he said, and she waved him on, telling him not to dawdle.

She refocused her attention on dressing Louise—barely three and already as chatty as a magpie—and tried not to think about the conditions under which she might have to go into labour. Instead, she forced herself to remain confident that God would light their lantern. Be it through feminine intuition or God’s grace, she then turned her mind to preparing a small leather travel bag with the bare necessities.


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What are the content warnings for The Huguenot Chronicles?

The series includes intense themes such as persecution, hardship, war, forced isolation, and significant grief due to loss. It also contains mild swearing in the dialogue, with words typically used to express frustration or surprise.

What is the intimacy rating of the series?

The Huguenot Chronicles includes moderate sexual content, with some explicit references.

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Hi, I'm Paul C.R. Monk.
Thanks for diving into my books.
As a linguist, teacher, and a game writer turned novelist, I've always been fascinated by history and storytelling.
My series, the Huguenot Chronicles, takes you on a dramatic journey through 17th century Europe, the Caribbean, and beyond.
My experiences living across various cultures fuel my writing, bringing diverse historical settings to life. I'm thrilled to share these stories, rooted in historical events, and I hope they ignite your imagination as much as they did mine.

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Merchants of Virtue (eBook)

Merchants of Virtue (eBook)