Vanquished, p.29

Vanquished, page 29



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  The "happily ever after" for British women's suffrage was considerably longer in coming, but come it did. In 1918, catalyzed by the proactive role women had taken in filling the workforce gap left by men during the First World War, Parliament granted the vote to women over age thirty on the condition they were householders or married to householders. But it was not until 1928 that Parliament granted adult women (aged twenty-one and older) the right to vote, putting their franchise on the same basis as that of men's.

  Sometimes progress takes time. Until next time . . .

  Wishing you fairytale dreams-come-true,

  Hope Tarr

  If you enjoyed reading Vanquished,

  you may also enjoy this special presentation of By Honor Bound available from Medallion Press:


  "In my opinion, BY HONOR BOUND is a must-read for any romance fiction fan, and assuredly deserves the distinction of a Perfect 10. It's just that good!" --Romance Reviews Today


  October 16, 1793

  The final few steps were difficult. Though the injury to her leg had been a long time healing, and the pain had lessened greatly, it was still not gone completely. The last stairs to the ground floor had to be taken carefully, and Honneure leaned heavily on her cane. Finally at the bottom, she rested against the wall for a moment to catch her breath and wipe the moisture from her brow. As she did so, the hood of her cape fell back and she immediately stiffened with fear.

  A quick glance up and down the narrow street assured Honneure that no one had noticed her. She pulled her hood back up, tucking in stray wisps of pale, wavy hair. The sidewalks usually teemed this time of day. No doubt the crowds had all gone to the square to witness the execution.

  A wave of nausea coursed through Honneure's frail form, so strongly it rocked her. She fought to keep down the meager breakfast of bread and tea Dr. Droulet had pressed upon her.

  She could not be sick now. She could not. She had to be at the square also. She had to be there, at the end. She could not allow her friend to die alone. No matter how great her own personal danger, the bonds of love could not, would not, be denied.

  Honneure squeezed her eyes tightly shut. It was ironic, she thought. So ironic. All of her adult life she had lived for and served her queen. Again and again she had sacrificed her own wants and needs for her sovereign's. She had believed it to be her duty and had been bound by honor to fulfill it. Honor bound. All her life, honor bound. And now?

  Honneure shook her head, a humorless smile on the curve of her mouth.

  Once again she risked all for her queen. Once again she was about to take the chance that she would never again see her beloved Philippe. This time, however, it was not from a sense of duty, but out of love. It was a lesson she should have learned long ago. If she had she might, even now, be in the arms of . . .

  No. She mustn't think that way. There was no going back, only forward. The choices she had made in the past had led her to this moment in the present. She had to take what she had learned and keep moving. For as long, at least, as she was able.

  Another swift glance up the street assured Honneure she was virtually alone. Leaning on her cane, she started on her journey. She only prayed she would arrive in time.

  The closer she came to the square, the more crowded the streets became. A few people glanced at her curiously. But perhaps it was only because of her limp. Or, because of the dark cloak and hood she held close at her throat on such a warm, fall day. She recognized no one, and no one recognized her. No one had the slightest clue that she was a fugitive from the revolution. No one could possibly guess that she, too, had been slated to be fodder for the hungry blade of the guillotine.

  Nausea churned again in Honneure's stomach. She could almost feel the blood drain from her face. But she did not hesitate. With one leg in rhythm with her sturdy cane, she hobbled onward.

  Urgency quickened her lopsided gait, however, when she heard a cry from just ahead.

  "She comes! The Widow Capet comes!"

  "The Austrian whore!" came another shout. "The whore meets Lady Guillotine!"

  Urgency turned to rising panic. Honneure stumbled as someone jostled her shoulder. "Sorry," she mumbled under her breath, although it was not her fault. "Sorry."

  An overweight man with grizzled hair scowled at her. "Watch where yer goin'," he growled. Several others around him turned in her direction, all with thunderous frowns riding their brows.

  Honneure lowered her gaze and tried to push her way through the mob in the opposite direction. She was going to have to be very, very careful. The mood of the crowd was murderous, indeed.

  "There!" a woman's voice screamed. "There she is!"

  Honneure felt her bladder weaken. But the woman was not talking about her. Taking a deep breath, she dared to glance up from the littered ground.

  All heads were turned to the left. Fathers hoisted little children up on their shoulders so they could see better. Women stood on tiptoes.

  Honneure could see nothing. She was only able to hear the creak and groan of the tumbril's wooden wheels as it rolled through the crowded, cobbled square. Emboldened by her growing horror, Honneure elbowed her way through the massed and stinking bodies.

  Irritated grunts and rude curses filled her ears. She ignored them. She had but one thought, one purpose. She had to get there in time. Her friend must know she did not die alone.

  There was so much pushing and shoving by all that hardly anyone paid any attention to Honneure. Ducking, squeezing sideways, and pushing by turn, she managed to make her way to the front of the crowd. Only a few heads bobbed in front of her. She was able, at last, to see her Queen. Tears immediately rushed to Honneure's eyes.

  She sat facing backwards, hands tied behind her back. Her posture was rigid, chin held high. The cart rumbled to a halt.

  The former Queen had to be helped from the tumbrel. Honneure noticed her pretty plum shoes as she slowly climbed the ladder to the scaffold. Her white pique dress and bonnet were immaculate.

  How like her. How very like her. A sob caught in Honneure's throat.

  Though she remained erect, Antoinette began to tremble at last. The executioner seized her roughly and forced her to her knees. He tied her to the plank. The guillotine towered above her, blade glimmering in the sun.

  "You're not alone," Honneure whispered. "Antoinette, dearest friend, you're not alone," she said a little louder. Heads turned in her direction, but she paid them no heed. Pressing closer still to the scaffold, she slipped the hood from her head.

  For one brief moment, Antoinette raised her eyes.

  "My Queen!" The tortured cry rasped from Honneure's throat. She stretched out her hand, cane clattering to the ground.

  The blade fell.

  Pandemonium erupted. A thunderous roar, as if from a single, giant throat, burst from the crowd. General cheering followed. A few screams punctuated the tumult as the mob surged forward, crushing a few of its own under its terrible weight. Honneure feared she would be carried along with them, but the few who surrounded her were not moving. They had noticed her when she cried out. Now they stared at her.

  Though choking on her tears, Honneure quickly pulled her hood up. It was too late.

  "It's the woman, from Tuileries!" a pock-marked crone cried out. "It's her, the one who escaped!"

  "Who? Who is it? Someone asked. A small crowd within the crowd had formed.

  Honneure tried to back away, but a hand grasped her skirt."The bastard whore!" the scarred woman exclaimed. Honneure screamed as another pair of hands tore at her, ripping her bodice.


  "Get her! Don't let her get away!"

  Searing pain shot through Honneure's head as someone pulled her hair. She saw a great handful of it come away.

  "Leave me alone!"

  Hands dragged at her, pulling her down. She was losing footing. A fist connected with her nose and blood splashed.


  Honneure screamed in denial.

  But she could not save herself.

  She was going to die . . .



  Hope Tarr, Vanquished



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