after dinner, jeanette and her new friend lillian retired to the drawing room.
the three popes did not immediately appear.
lillian seemed content to wait with her hands in her lap but jeanette felt restless.
jeanette noticed a book on top of the piano.
she went over and picked it up.
though not large, it was surprisingly heavy.
the cover was a solid red, embossed with a single golden lily.
jeanette opened it.
the title page read - "an account of the twenty-second crusade, and the disasters and betrayals attendant upon it, written by the page agrippinus le roi, later comte de burgunde."
jeanette flipped through the heavy pages. they seemed to be filled mostly with pictures
detailed and highly colored pictures of battles
mostly taking place under cloudy and rainy skies
but with a few in blinding blue sunshine
with triumphant banners raised to the heavens
it was the sort of book jeanette preferred
as she did not care for books with lots of words in them about silly girls or scheming women chasing gentlemen of fortune.
she picked the book up and was about to take it over to the sofa to peruse it
when the three popes appeared
accompanied by the countess
the countess remained standing as the popes seated themselves.
"i will leave you now to your conversation, " she addressed pope sixtus.
"please, countess, stay if you wish," pope sixtus replied. "the matters we discuss may well affect you, so you might want to be informed as to their details. in case - distasteful as the thought may be - you are contacted in the future by those in positions of authority who might take an interest."
"no," replied the countess with the trace of a smile, " i think secrets are best kept if they are, in fact, unknown." she looked around. "is there anything i can have brought to you - coffee, wine…."
pope sixtus shook his head. "i think not." no one disagreed.
"very good," said the countess. "i will have jerome look in on you in about half an hour, in case any of you might like something then."
"that will do very well," pope sixtus agreed.
the countess departed, leaving jeanne with the three popes and with lillian.