true to his word, the young man calling himself "citizen manfred" left annette when the two carriages reached the village of r-----------.
he departed the carriage with the barest of nods, and no trace of even the mild warmth he had seemed to show in their brief conversation.
annette glanced out the window of the carriage. they seemed to be in an inn-yard. she heard voices, a few barks of loud male laughter.
she reached over and tried the handle of the door on her left - opposite the one citizen jacques exited from. as she suspected, it was somehow locked.
suddenly the skies, which had been cloudy all morning, opened up and rain beat loudly on the roof of the carriage.
more shouting, laughter, and running around in the inn-yard.
the door on annette's right opened and a blue-coated member of the revolutionary guard entered and took the seat vacated by jacques. this new man was older and stouter and surlier looking than the two guards who had been present at her arrest, but like them, had a large, ferocious looking pistol in his belt.
annette favored him with a wisp of a smile. "good morning."
"silence, foul creature!" was his response.
annette's smile vanished.
"it is enough that i must endure your pestilent presence for an hour or more, without having to listen to your filth, you stinking whore!"
"an hour. thank you. that is -"
"silence!" the guard put his hand on his gun.
annette had known the rough tongues of nuns, the sly insinuations of schoolmates, the silken barbs of her fellow habitues of the beau monde, had even chanced to overhear the bitter sarcasms of servants and peasants and roughnecks, but had never been spoken to in quite such a way before. had such language been described to her, she might have been inclined to laugh.
but she was not inclined to laugh. an hour or so. very well. she would know soon enough where she was going.
she turned and looked out the left side window at the rain.
at least she did not have to wait long for the coach to start up again. suddenly they were off and out of the inn-yard, and moving at a must faster clip than before, perhaps because they were on flat ground, perhaps because the coachman wanted to get through the rain.
annette leaned back, with her face averted and her gaze out the window to avoid the savage stare of the guard.
suddenly she was very tired. even with the clattering of the carriage and the crack of the coachman's whip, the pattering of the rain was lulling her into a doze.
but did she want to fall asleep, in the company of this brute? she stole a glance at him, from under her eyelashes.
he seemed asleep himself.
asleep! with the pistol in his belt.
did she dare? she had never so much as held a firearm of any description in her hand. how heavy it looked! she had no clear idea how to use one. was it complicated? how often she had heard men talking about hunting and shooting and they made it sound very complicated indeed.
but maybe there was not really that much to it?
what had she to lose?
had she not always secretly thought she could anything a man could do, if only given the opportunity?
she was aware of the rain beating on the roof of the carriage.
beating like the passage of time.
an hour - perhaps now less than an hour!
an hour until she would be delivered up to - what?
she turned from the window and leaned toward the guard. he did not stir.
suddenly she thought - perhaps he is faking.
but what would be the point? and what did she have to lose?
she was in his power anyway.
she reached her hand out.
she seized the pistol. it did not come away cleanly in her grasp.
the brute stirred.
annette got a whiff of something vaguely like wine - wine gone bad, no doubt the sort of wine drunk by the lower orders.
the creature was drunk!
with both hands she ripped the pistol from his belt. he sputtered but barely stirred.
the pistol was in her two hands. she did not know if she was holding it correctly.
it now occurred to her - was the pistol "loaded"? she assumed it must be.
now she had to get the attention of the coachman.
she heard the crack of his whip. they were speeding along faster than ever.
she banged on the roof of the carriage.
no response. could the coachman even hear or feel it?
the door on her left - the side away from the sleeping guard - was locked. she shifted over in the seat, directly across from the guard, and tried the other door.
it opened, but a gust of wind and rain immediately slammed it shut, wetting both her and the brute, who mumbled and shifted in his seat.
annette had an inspiration. she would shoot this fellow - just shoot him. surely the noise would cause the coachman to stop. then when he opened the door to investigate, she would shoot him too, and make her escape!
but - could she in fact shoot them both? (assuming she could even get the pistol to shoot the first one). was there more than one "load" in the pistol?
she would shoot the guard, and then when the coachman opened the door to investigate, in his confusion and surprise, she would push past him and escape.
to where? where indeed?
the coach sped on, with the rain beating on its roof and sides.
how complicated it all was.
how annette wished she were back in her bedchamber, lying back against her pillows, with her maid bringing her a cup of chocolate.
matilda put her pen down and blotted the creamy notepaper she was composing her romance on.
she wondered how her fellow romancers, lady anne and branleigh o'bannon, were getting along with their productions.
matilda sighed. despite herself, she wished to acquit herself at least tolerably in the eyes of sir percival. how humiliating it would be, to be outshone by the likes of silly lady anne and the ridiculous "professor" o'bannon.
she took up some other, better notepaper, and began a letter to her dear friend diana, marchioness of d--------.
ameline took the sheet of paper from the typewriter. it was very late.
she was alone in her room, but with a guard right outside her door. unlike most of the other princesses, she had not formed any friendships or attachments with her guards, although she was always polite and made no demands on them.
soon it would time for breakfast. although ameline spoke little at the meals, she never missed them.
she got up and looked out the window. it was very dark. and quiet.