as a member of the highest aristocracy, the marquise annette de normand had been trained from birth in the twin arts of diplomacy and duplicity.
so it was with no visible trepidation that she accompanied her captors to the carriage they had brought for her arrest. the younger, and apparently better bred of the two men in gray, opened the door of the carriage for her, waited until she was seated, and then, to her mild but unexpressed surprise, followed her in and seated himself across from her. one of the two blue-uniformed guards put his pistol in his belt and jumped up beside the coachman.
the other guard joined the coachman on top of the second carriage. the door of the second carriage opened from within and the older man in gray entered it unassisted.
the guard on top of the first carriage glanced back and signaled to the second coachman. he tapped the coachman beside him on the arm and in seconds they were off down the hill.
annette could not forbear looking out the window at the castle. but the carriage gained speed so quickly that she had no opportunity to see if anyone was at the front window, or to wave to them even if she had.
she leaned back. the carriage was surprisingly comfortable. she looked around the interior. it was also surprisingly clean. suddenly she lurched forward, as the carriage raced around a bend in the road, but she quickly recovered without falling all the way forward into the young man's arms.
leaning back again, she favored her companion with her most dazzling smile. "are we in a hurry?"
"i am afraid so, mademoiselle. the revolution is in a great hurry." he smiled at her. "i, myself, not so much. but i am only a servant of the revolution."
"yes, you mentioned that before. if it is not too impolite, might i inquire your name?"
"manfred. citizen manfred."
"manfred! rather a romantic name, for a humble servant of the revolution."
"yes, it is. you are quite perspicacious. as a matter of fact, i have petitioned to have it changed to something more suitable - like citizen jacques."
"ah. so your name is not - suitable. how interesting, that the brethren of the revolution should concern themselves with such niceties."
the young man flushed slightly. "not so much as all that. but you, mademoiselle, no doubt you are more concerned with your own situation than with my humble one."
"no doubt. and are you, in your capacity as a humble servant, privy to the disposition of my fate, and are you then empowered to advise me of it?"
"not exactly, no. i can only repeat what i intimated before - the general policy of the central committee toward women of your class."
"which is - "
"to use them as bargaining chips in our dealings with the barbarian nations who threaten us."
"oh, yes. these barbarians - so different from your civilized selves, of course, put what value on such as myself? a small province, perhaps? a few hundred acres of farmland? surely not so much as a lootable castle or cathedral?"
the young man laughed. "oh, nothing so specific as that. you are simply part - of -of - a general softening of manners that they aspire to."
"ah. no doubt to be delivered along with a few jars of lotion to soften their sunburned and battle-scarred skins."
"i am happy to see that mademoiselle is able to find humor in her situation."
annette leaned back in her seat and looked out the window. the carriage had reached the bottom of the hill and was now passing flat farmland.
"tell me about yourself, sir. i can feel that you are bursting to do so."
he blushed slightly again. "what is there to tell? the revolution is rushing forward, obliterating the histories of us all. what can we do, but allow ourselves to be hurled onward, and not be lost in the foam."
"ah. somehow that statement seems a bit lacking in true revolutionary zeal."
"do you think so?" he stared at her, with eyes she now noticed were very dark, and with a more confident smile than before.
"tell me, then - what is this about changing your name? i thought that - and given my present situation, now have every reason to be convinced - that all the zeal is directed against us unfortunate women. are the menfellows not then all brothers - or will that happy day only arrive when we have been properly disposed of?"
"i suspect that mademoiselle's experience of the world has heretofore been confined to members of her own class, to the politest tradesmen, and to the most well-trained servants."
"and to a few poets and philosophers."
"but what do they amount to? alas, the rest of the human race is one unhappily buzzing hive of resentment, recrimination and jockeying and jostling for even the meanest position. it may be a while before even the brightest revolutionary sun sheds its beneficial rays into its dark hollows and recesses."
"and you, sir, find yourself the target of these resentments from your previously less favored brethren? how sad. how very sad."
"not so sad. a shadow, perhaps. a shadow quickly walked through, into the sunlight."
"and what were the cause of these resentments? that you dressed in silk? that you had latin and greek drilled into you at school?"
"well, mademoiselle, i will tell you. strange as it may seem, one of the chief complaints was the supposed treatment of the women and girls of the lower classes by the menfolk of the higher."
"ah. the same women they now seek to rid themselves of?"
"how very odd." annette looked out the window again. she pondered her companion's words. the " supposed treatment of the women and girls of the lower classes by the menfolk of the higher," was not a subject she had ever considered before, or been invited to consider.
they were now passing through a forest of sorts, actually the very well kept up hunting preserve of the duc de montardon.
they both fell silent.
after a while, annette asked, "are you to accompany me all the way to - my destination?"
"not at all. in fact, i will leave you when we arrive in the village." the village was now only a mile away.
"and will i have a new companion?"
"only the coachman, and the guards accompanying us now."