The journey began, and it was like no other journey I had ever experienced. Even when my family had been alive we were poor, and had never had horses. When we needed to make a trip we walked, and if it was far we took a long time to get there. That was all there was too it. But now here I was, riding. It was hard at first, and I felt that I was embarrassing myself, but nobody laughed.
"Clara?" Marie tried to talk to me a few times. At first I was reluctant and did not want to speak. It was not because I was unfriendly -- I valued friendship as much as anybody else in the band. But I was afraid that with the war and turmoil all around us we would lose each other quickly, and I did not want to make bonds with people I was going to lose, because it would just be too hard to bear.
"Are you all right, Clara? You're very quiet. You're not scared, are you?" The assumption that my silence was caused by fear made me angry, and of course that brought me out of my shell. Minutes later, my anger forgotten, I was talking and laughing (a very little, and sedately, but it was laughter nonetheless) with the rest of them. Perhaps it was worth making friends.
I explained all this to Marie and she nodded understandingly. "But don't you see that this makes the moments we have together just that little bit more precious?" she said earnestly. "We may be going to die, but at least we will be among friends as we go, not just acquaintances."
"I think I understand what you are saying," I allowed. "That seems to make sense. It's just hard ... it's been so long since I could call anyone a friend."
"I know," said Marie. "Don't we all? This revolution has taken the love out of the French people, and the food away from the poor. And what are the French without love and food?" She laughed. "There is always something you can be glad of and always someone to be a friend to you. Never close yourself off."
Those were words of wisdom, and I remembered them. For a while I rode in silence, looking down at my skirt with the ugly, clumsy mend in the centre, and occasionally looking up to see how far we had to go. I had never been out of Paris before and really had no sense of distance.
"When will we get there?" I wondered quietly. Nobody heard me and so there was no answer. I set myself to carry on for as long as was necessary and never to complain. But I did wonder when we would stop to eat, for I was becoming quite saddlesore.
Marie brought her horse close to mine again. "Annette is quite the storyteller, is she not? Her stories of England are most drôle, do you not think?"
"Yes," I replied honestly. "If it is how she describes, I would very much like to see it. And it sounds so peaceful. Do they know of how things are in France, with the prisoners and the executions? Have they seen how people are living in this day and age?" For of course, I had been listening to people talk around me on the streets and although I was unimportant I knew just about everything that had happened in the country.
"I do not know," Marie replied. "But I hope so. Maybe they will be able to stop it."
"Maybe we will be able to stop it," I replied, trying to sound strong and loyal to the Blanche when inside I was filled with terror.