Les Amis de l'ABC

Chapter 1

Courfeyrac was walking alone in the Luxembourg in late September, 1830. He had tired of his last mistress, little more than a prostitute, and was not in the best of moods, for she had raided his flat and carried off a good deal of his things. She did not even leave him a fireplace poker, much less a bed. He was broke, and it would take at least two weeks to explain the situation to his father and get the money to refurnish his flat. M. de Courfeyrac was free with his money where everyone but his son was concerned. So poor Courfeyrac was wandering through the gardens, composing a mental letter to his father, looking for an excuse, a reason why he needed money. He was so preoccupied that he tripped and fell flat on his face. He had fallen over the outstretched legs of an equally preoccupied young woman sitting under a tree. She immediately jerked her head up out of her book and, catching sight of Courfeyrac sprawled on the grass, started to laugh. She tried to be indignant, but it was impossible through the laughter.

“Monsieur, you should really watch where you’re going.”

“Mademoiselle, you should really sit on a bench, out of the way of passersby.”

“If you had stayed on the path, I wouldn’t be in your way. You could stand up, you know. The least I can do is brush you off.”

Courfeyrac took the hint and got up. The young woman did as well, and began laughing again. Courfeyrac was not tall, making her a good two inches taller than he. Added to his scant height, his rumpled clothes, grass stained coat, and mussed up hair made him quite an odd picture.

“What are you laughing at, mademoiselle?”

“It’s hard to find grown men shorter than me. Come on, turn around. You’ve got something on your back.” She brushed him down quickly, pulling a few bits of grass form his hair. “That’s better. Shall I grab your hat for you?”

“I can get it.” He picked up his hat, and her book as well. “‘A Treatise on the revolution in America thirty years into the republic’. You could be arrested for reading this book. They’re cracking down on revolutionaries.”

“You ratting on me?” she asked.

“Of course not. I’m a revolutionary myself.”

“Oh really,” she said sceptically. “And what do you hope to achieve by revolution?”

“The same as yourself. A new French Republic.”

“How can you be sure I want a republic?”

“Your book, obviously. By the way, my name is Courfeyrac.”

“Well, M. Courfeyrac . . . it is M. Courfeyrac, not Courfeyrac something-or-other, isn’t it?”

“Of course. Who would name their child Courfeyrac?”

“I had to ask. You get some weird names on the streets. Anyway, M Courfeyrac, why are you a revolutionary? You sound quite well educated, your clothes, well, used to be quite good: you have at least been rich at one time, if not now. Why would you be looking down on us and helping us up? You know that that is what a revolution would do.”

“I’m trying for equality. Equality under the law, religion, economy, and equal rights for men and women.”

“You’re just trying to impress me, aren’t you? You’re probably some goddamned socialist who thinks riches are bad, since you have them. Let me tell you, in my world, the real world, money means everything.”

“I know that. I’m quite fond of money myself, and I assure you that I am no socialist. I really should stay off the subject, though, because I suspect Enjolras of closet socialism.”

“And who is Enjolras?”

“The leader of the revolution. He runs this group, les Amis de l’ABC, you know, like the alphabet, but it means les abaissés, the poor. We’re a group of students who wish to change the world.”

“Oh, yeah, right. You want to have a good time, and you’ll outgrow revolution and all take up painting or something.”

“Not with Enjolras at the head of this operation. We are going to have a revolution.”

“When? You just had one in July. I was there. I didn’t get paid for three days, and I was a runner between barricades.”

“I mean a counter-revolution. We just got together after the last one. A year or two, maybe, to get a platform and support.”

“Support is easy with the right platform.”

“And the platform is most difficult. Say, I just had an idea. Would you like to attend one of our meetings, Mademoiselle -- I just realized that I don’t know your name.”

“Feuilly, and yes, I’d love to come.”

“Well, Mlle Feuilly, we are next meeting on Thursday, at half past two, in the dining room of the Corinth bistro. Do you know where it is? Good, I shall meet you outside at two o’clock then?”

“Oui, monsieur. Thursday, two o’clock, Corinth. Got it. A bientôt.” She took her book from him and they parted.


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