“i think, before we commence, “ the empress began, “we should agree that the final manifesto we issue should consist of no more than one hundred and forty-four words, as it has been amply demonstrated that this is the maximum number that a human brain can comprehend.”
“does anyone not agree?” the duchess of g——— asked pointedly. no one responded.
“i believe it is settled then,” said the count of a————. “please proceed.”
what a lot of rot, thought terence. but of course he said nothing. how he wished the whole fiasco were over with, so that he could keep his assignation with h————.
“here is my rough draft,” said the empress. she proceeded to recite, without notes:
the peoples of the earth have demanded justice for centuries. justice from gods, justice from kings, and justice from theories. so far they have not been satisfied. the time has now come -“
just then there was a terrible crash and the window opposite the empress was shattered.
all the conspirators knew at once what had happened.
“save yourselves!” cried the elderly, gouty general b————.
but they were already saving themselves.
the rebels seized the baron de d——— (their chief target, at least according to the communique they issued after their bold and largely successful excursion), the count of a————, and fra paolo.
roger, the unfortunate cipher clerk from the embassy of p———, was killed in the melee, but he was not regarded as significant enough to me mentioned either in the rebel’s communique, or in the official statement issued jointly by the involved embassies.
the others all saved themselves. from the rebels, not from the endless recriminations that followed.
later, seated in the club car with terence and the empress, sylvie vowed never to be involved in politics again.
“nonsense,” interposed annette, as she passed their table on her way from the powder room to the bar, “what else can one do for excitement in this dreary age?”
“you might ask the colonel over there, “ terence responded sulkily. the colonel’s face was flat on the bar, the gallant gentleman himself dead drunk.
“where is the barman?” asked the empress, looking around. the question did not seem to require an answer. the colonel and the others had simply helped themselves to the stock behind the bar.
“we should be in c———————— in two hours,” sylvie observed absently.
“yes,” sylvie added as she seated herself with the drink she had poured herself. “at least this train has an engineer. we can be thankful for that.”
“if he has not jumped off at some point,” terence replied sourly. he was still miffed at having missed his assignation with h—————.
sylvie suddenly remembered the faceless man who had been seated in the corner. what had become of him, she wondered?
sources: clarissa, by samuel richardsion;
sir charles grandson, by samuel richardson;
war and peace, by leo tolstoy;
anthony adverse, by hervey allen;
the man without qualities, by robert musil;
the recognitions, by william gaddis;
lord of the rings, by j r r tolkien;
the demons, by hermito von doderer;
gravity’s rainbow, by thomas pynchon;
dhalgren, by samuel delany;
infinite jest, by david foster wallace