So, I have fallen behind, but that was to be expected this weekend. I’m less than a full day behind, at least. I should be able to make that up — even with all the work and rehearsals I’ve got going on once I get back to Staunton.
“I do find it curious, Monsieur le Marquis,” Marguerite said, a teasing light in her eyes, “that you take up so strongly with we of overtly republican sentiment. Is it not a conflict of interests for you?”
Adrien thought for a long moment. It did not escape his attention that Marguerite had potentially vested interest in his answer, however lightly she posed the question. The presence of a Marquis at her salons could be a boon in some ways, a detriment in others. If he were a mere dilettante — or worse, a saboteur — there would be many of her circles who would not wish to attend, or, if they came anyway, they would keep their conversation consciously away from political matters. Marguerite, a woman of intelligence and acumen, would never suffer her assemblies to be watered-down, and he would never wish to cause her to suffer the insult of snubbed invitations. Therefore he was grateful that this was a matter on which he could speak honestly. “The old ways are dying, ma’amselle,” he said. He gestured at the surrounding buildings with the back of his hand. “Paris is changing, and so is all of France, a great deal faster than many would like. Too many aristos, like my father and his friends, are determined to dig in their pretty silk heels and cling desperately to the world that they know. I do not wish to be left behind. I value the future I might have by embracing the changes that are sure to come much more than I value a birthright which is rapidly losing its efficacy in the modern world.”
Marguerite was silent a moment, absorbing this. It said much about Adrien de Chauvelin, she thought, that he neither loved nor despised his inherited title, but appeared to consider it an obsolete tool. “It is funny, is it not,” she said at last, “how quickly things become ‘what we have always known.’” When Adrien tilted his head at her, she shrugged, her shoulders moving prettily beneath the sheer fichu. “France has not always been as it is now. It has not always had this shape. Aquitaine was once owned by England. The Normans and Burgundians once called themselves princes. We have had French popes, and the blood of Huguenots has run through these very streets. We have had our own Pope, and a papal seat at Avignon. When Louis Quatorze reigned, we called him the Sun King, thanked him for weakening the power of the aristocracy, and defended his prerogatives as divine rights, handed down by God Himself. Now his great-grandson sits the same throne, lives in the same rooms at Versailles, and we resent his power and wonder how any just and righteous god could allow such disparity of fortune.”
“Your point, ma’amselle?” The question was not piqued or impatient; rather, Adrien de Chauvelin was curious to see the route that Marguerite’s mind traced through the brambly forest of history.
“My point is — those men, those aristos such as your father, who want things to be as they always have been — the only shape of the world they know is what their fathers and grandfathers have told them. None of us knows much more of the world than that, and most much less.” She was no longer looking at him, but out towards the fading sun. It cast a golden glow on her cheeks, brightening the green of her eyes to radiant emerald. “Therefore, from a dispassionate and logical standpoint, there is little to cling to. The world is mutable, even in France. Change is the natural state of things, and therefore, it is irrational to value the status quo so greatly.”
“And are you so dispassionate and logical, Mlle St Just, as to view things in that manner? After all,” Adrien said, in the slightly arch tone he used purely for intellectual debate, “following that line of reasoning along, it hardly matters what anyone does, since everything is transitory, and the nature of the world so mercurial.”
She blinked, then laughed, shaking her head. “No, I am afraid I cannot go so far. While I do believe it wrong to adhere to tradition merely for its own sake, I also think it matters a great deal what sort of changes we make to the shape of our world. I simply wonder what our grandchildren will make of it, and of this time we live in now. I wonder what stories they will tell — and what matters they will dig their intractable heels in on, and claim they do so because that is how it has always been done.”