The conversation in the room was lively and despite a scarcity situation in much of Urbetania, the wine and the food were coming at an equally lively pace. Gatherings like this happened rarely, and when they did, they so very often had to happen in secret. To be out in the open, blithely chatting away in Bergier’s grand dining room while servants moved in and out around them – that was far more luxurious than the fermented grape juice they were sipping.
It wasn’t a victory. They all knew that, and they all took pains to avoid that word and any related synonyms. Victory came with far fewer conditions and far more freedom. But the Premier had taken the first, hard-won steps, and for that, they would drink happily.
In a room and a group such as this, there were many things not said: they did not speak of victory, of course. They did not speak the name of their group, or any of its myriad nicknames. They didn’t whisper any fault of the Premier, except the widely-accepted jokes about Mme. Premier’s choice in scarves, which was atrocious, and her taste in shoes, which was impeccable. The well-paid servants could still be spies. The newly-installed chandeliers could still contain listening crystals. The walls could still contain listening tubes: in short, anything they said, anywhere, could still be used against them, and that would turn their non-victory into a solid defeat.
It was said sometimes that there was an elephant in the room that one avoided speaking about. In Urbetania, when one was a member of the Group with No Name (because even that was forbidden), one might better say that there was a mouse one could talk about.
So it was that, the evening after the first concession granted their unnamed group in a century, Mme. Bergier was chatting cheerfully with M. Boulange and Mlle. Carnier about the weather expected for the upcoming week and the effects said weather might have on the crops.
A very astute listener might guess that they were speaking in code. After all, even ever several glasses of what was really quite nice wine, not even those in the Unnamed People could be all that interested in the weather, could they? And Mme. Bergier was going on in quite a bit of detail. She seemed to know down to the minute when the rain would come, and in Urbetania, whatever they said about their Premier, not even the trains were that punctual.
A very very astute listener might notice that Mme. Bergier eyes seemed quite clear and her words not at all slurred, although the waiters and waitresses – and of course some of them were spies – were pouring the wine quite generously. But it would take someone who had been watching far too many of these meetings – and there were not that many to watch – or who had spent a great deal of time watching those people who were nameless and invisible to notice that Mme. Bergier’s hands appeared to move not just animatedly, but with purpose. And if you watched Mlle. Carnier’s hands, they, too, were moving.
There was no observer quite so astute to see that, while no-one spoke of the forbidden elephants, the entire room was sketching them in the air.
Edited to change last line <.<
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