Citizen Lambert and his wife had always lived quiet lives. They were lower-class bourgeois citizens - above craftsmen but below landowners. Having said this, they were relatively well off, with a few cottages they rented out, and a small farm that brought in a decent income. Out here in Brittany, far from the rebels of the Vendée and Lyons, the Revolution of the past few years had barely touched them, and although Citizen Lambert was too old to go to war with the Austrians and Prussians, he was still a strong supporter of the reforms in Paris.
If he had been to Paris himself, seen the bloodshed there, maybe he would have been a less willing supporter. But tonight, on the 2 March 1793, the Lamberts would experience the Committee of Public Safety first hand.
As Citizen Lambert sat at his kitchen table, the remains of a slice of pork pie in front of him (he knew little of the food shortages that plagued Parisians), the stub of a candle lighting his wife’s tired face across the table, he had no idea that outside his cosy window, out there in the blackness of the night, three desperadoes fled for their lives.
‘Alix!’ shouted the tallest of the three to his companion. ‘Alix, we’ll never outrun them. My horse is old, yours is lame, and Monsieur Ariont is so heavy he slows the only decent horse down.’
‘I beg your pardon, Monsieur!’ spluttered Monsieur Ariont, a middle-aged man who indeed had pockets bursting with all the gold he could carry. ‘It is not my fault if your incompetence alerted the gendarmes to our presence.’
The girl named Alix smiled grimly. ‘We’ll make it, Monsieur, don’t worry. Henri, there’s a little farmhouse ahead - we can lose them there.’
Henri shook his head, spurring his horse forward. ‘You have a death wish, Alix, to be sure. If only Monsieur Grenouille had given us better horses! I’ll give him a piece of my mind when we reach Le Canard Chanceux - if we live that long.’
Alix laughed at his pessemism. ‘Don’t worry, Henri. We’ve got out of worse before.’
‘Not with a lame horse, we haven’t,’ Henri muttered to himself, but Alix ignored him. A moment later, the three horses lurched left as Alix guided them into the stables of Citizen Lambert.
‘Thank goodness it’s so dark,’ murmured Alix, bending over her horse’s neck to pat it gently. The poor creature had gone lame two miles ago - twisted its ankle in a pothole. It had done well to get this far.
Moments later, the gendarmes arrived.