We walked towards the market place, and I was shocked to see that Annette was flushed and seemed somewhat angry, despite her normally mild temper. The men had upset her with their arrogance and prejudice. Although I too was offended, I had calmed down enough since the previous night to understand that we would have to prove our worth to them else they would never notice it.
"Mon Dieu!" I exclaimed as we got closer. "What are they all doing here? C'est vraiment bizarre..." It is truly strange. And it was. There were scores of them, market women, farmer's wives, women in men's clothes--and that was the strangest of all, for I had rarely seen such a large group. True, there were only five of them, but until now I had barely seen one, and she had usually been shunned.
Then I recognised one. "Annette!" I hissed. She did not hear me over the noise of the crowd, the neighing of horses and the shouting of the women that marched to the market square. "Annette!" I said again, more loudly. This time she caught my words and turned to look at me.
"What is it, Clara? What have you seen?" She was still searching through the crowd, trying to discover their purpose, the meaning of this spectacle. Distracted from me even in the split second between her answer and my intended statement, she asked somebody nearby, "What is happening here?"
But before that they could answer I had grabbed her arm. "Annette, that's Marie."
Marie, there in the centre, dressed like a man and looking like she was enjoying herself; I had never seen her look so liberated and so happy in all the time that we had known each other, and never had I seen such an expression of passion and determination on her calm face. "That's Marie." I repeated my words quietly in disbelief, as though saying them aloud would make them no longer true.
"Where? I can't see her. Point her out!" Annette was craning her head, looking in completely the wrong direction. With a shaking finger I gestured towards our friend in her boldness and strange clothes.
"There. Right in the middle, with the men's clothes." Now Annette saw and she gasped, going pale from shock as I knew I had done just minutes before. "She looks different, doesn't she? She looks ... je ne sais pas, c'est impossible pour descrire, mais..." I was entirely lost for words and so gave up.
"I don't believe it," said Annette, echoing my thoughts. "Is that really Marie?"
"I know what this is," I told her, ignoring the question, because it was obvious that yes, it was Marie. "It's a demonstration. These women: they are trying to prove their worth." With an odd flash of prophecy and a feeling of great certainty, I said, "This day will be remembered. This is the day of the market women."