'You say such wicked things, but I don't think you mean half of them. Your father's letter says many fine officers will be competing for your attention when you arrive. Would you really spoil your chance at the right one for a night with a rake? You could end up one of those fallen women in stories.'
'From what your mama says, a lot of "fallen" women are in high places, so the fall must not be to any great depth.' She sniffed contempt: 'It's easy to see why boys don't want a girl to have a standard of comparison, and even grown men must sometimes wonder whose a babe really is. You can see why they have a need for us to be naïve. Fair enough for them, but no reason for us to agree. I do want the right man, love, but how shall I know him? I keep thinking it's a poor horse whose sale depends on the buyer never having ridden.'
The fair one looked offended. 'Men are not horses, cousin.'
The other tossed her dark hair: 'Well, we won't know until we've been astride one, now will we?'
She laughed at her cousin's expression and lightened her tone: 'Those stories don't provide all that clear a guide anyway. One speaks of dragons living off the regular meal of a maiden chained to a rock. Seems an odd way to eat to my mind, but perhaps dragons are like chickens: they need a bit of gravel in their craw. In any case, the chaste maid becomes the relish on the rock. Some encouragement: to stay qualified for that role.
'The next minstrel into the garden will sing of unicorns, so sweet and pure, lying about in charmed repose -- but who'll have nothing to say to us... after, that is. We're supposed to cherish the chance at polishing a great long horn, and pass up a lesser lesson. For a hypothetical thing withal. Not the most plausible motive.
She sighed. 'All I ask is a little perspective, and some experience to prepare for a full life.'
Her cousin murmured: 'Haven't seen any dragons or unicorns here. Too many girls making the same choice? Maybe you'll see some in India.'
'Huh. Not unless the women are fools. A sensible girl will go far to avoid chains and a great fire-breathing beast. I know I would. If it comes down to a choice between the rock and a nice hard place, I say, "Help me get those pants off."
Diana hugged Sophie and boarded the ship.
© 2003 Gary W. Sims