Les Amis de l'ABC

Chapter 15

Courfeyrac left Grantaire nursing his bottle. He had to see Combeferre right when he got home from class because Courfeyrac knew the effects of a night with Grantaire. Luckily, he got to Combeferre’s flat just as Combeferre got there himself.

“Combeferre!” Courfeyrac shouted down the corridor, running to catch up with him.

“My head. Courfeyrac, please do not shout so loudly.”

“Sorry,” Courfeyrac whispered. “I came to tell you about Thursday’s meeting.”

“Oh, yes, the meeting on Thursday. Please, come inside. I would prefer that we not speak in the corridor.” Combeferre unlocked his door and let Courfeyrac into the dark room. Combeferre had a very nice flat, bespeaking his position both in the group and in society. It was a suite, the parlour furnishing heavy and dark, the bedroom much the same. The most prominent feature of the room, however, was the bookcase. Its glass doors covered an entire wall, and many of them stood open, the shelves overflowing with volumes. Every table was covered with books and papers, and most chairs were full of books as well. “Let me move some of these volumes that you may sit down.” Combeferre picked up a neat stack of books from an armchair and laid them on top of an equally tidy stack on the sideboard across the room from the bookcase. “Well, do sit down and tell me. How is Joly?”

“Joly’s fine. I just stopped by to tell you our new meeting place.”

“So Grantaire came through.”

“Of course. You’re sounding like Enjolras right now.”

“I am sorry. I have known him for too long, I suspect. Three days on a barricade can make you very like the person to whom you are closest. I apologise for this morning. A night with Grantaire leaves one in the worst, most petty mood the next morning.”

“Say no more. I fully empathise. Hell, I’ll be feeling the same way tomorrow. I’m spending the evening with Grantaire to check our our meeting place.”

“Which is?”

“The Café Musain.”

“Musain. I like the sound of it. How well do you know this place?”

“Not very. I’ve been there once before, if it’s the place I’m thinking of. Mostly workingmen, a few students. Illegal gambling in a back room. It’s very private, there’s a separate door from the back room to the street, and there’s only a couple of days a week we need to give the room to the dice players.”

“Hmm. I do not know that Enjolras will approve.”

“Combeferre, you’re the leader now. You and me, not Enjolras and you. You’ve a serious problem, mon ami. Let me tell you what it is. You tell too much of the truth. In order to sell this revolution, you can’t dwell on what you saw on the barricades in July. You can’t talk about death. You don’t tell Enjolras about female members you’ve never seen, much less actually met. Tell Enjolras only that it is private, a workingmen’s hang out, and a good place for a meeting. Say nothing about dice, understand?”

“I do not know. I cannot lie to him.”

“I don’t expect you to lie. I’m just asking you not to volunteer this one insignificant piece of information. It’s for the revolution.”

“For the revolution,” Combeferre repeated thoughtfully. “Alright. For the revolution.”

“I have a feeling you’d like to go to bed soon, to try to sleep off last night. I’ll leave you alone now. Remember, Enjolras and Prouvaire.”

“Until Wednesday, then?”

“Wednesday.” Courfeyrac left Combeferre alone in the dark flat.

He went back to Joly’s flat, hoping that its owner would be home soon with the keys. Unfortunately, he was about a half hour early. Joly was still in class and Courfeyrac was still keyless. “Well, this is just great,” he said sarcastically to himself. “I suppose I’ll go look for Lesgle.” So he turned his steps to Lesgle’s new flat. Fortunately, Lesgle was home.

“Courfeyrac! Come in old boy! So good to see you. Sit down. This flat came with chairs, you know. To what do I owe the honour of this visit?”

“Oh, can it, Lesgle! She’s not here.”

“Damn.” He opened the door all the way. “Why are you here?”

“I will never get used to your habits, Bossuet. You ask me to sit down before you even let me in. You do that every time, for the past year that I’ve known you.”

“Excuse me for trying to be polite. You didn’t come just to pick on my manners, I’m sure. So come in and talk.” Lesgle left the door way to allow Courfeyrac entry.

“It’s about Thursday’s meeting,” Courfeyrac explained as he shut the door behind him. “We’re going to meet at the Café Musain.”

“I’ve never heard of it.”

“I think I know where it is, but Grantaire knows better. Meet him at his place, oh, around six, and he can show you the way.”

“Why not go with you?”

“I’m trying not to make Feuilly have to walk over there with a huge crowd.”

“Oh, so now she’s simply Feuilly?”

“She won’t let me use her Christian name, and I can’t keep calling her mademoiselle. It’d be like saying Monsieur Joly. I just can’t do it.”

“So the relationship has progressed?”

“What do you mean by relationship?”

“You know what I mean,” Lesgle told Courfeyrac.

“No! our relationship is not and will never be like that! She’s not a mistress, she’s a revolutionary! I’m not going after her in that way!”

“But why not, old boy? She’s intelligent, has spirit, and she’s damned beautiful. Not to mention that you, my friend, are quite promiscuous and beyond that are a fine catch for any little factory girl.”

“Bossuet, I’m not interested in sex or marriage with Feuilly. All I want is to help her and for her to trust me. You’re inventing ways for me to betray her trust.”

“Oh, god, am I?” Lesgle asked, genuinely sorry. “I just meant a little fun. No wonder I can’t keep women.”

“Lesgle, Lesgle, Lesgle, don’t keep doing this. Quit beating yourself up over Nicolette, Jeanne, Mireille, Élise, and/or whoever else has left you. This has nothing to do with women,” Courfeyrac told him.

“Then what is Feuilly?”

“A comrade. Listen, citoyen, we are champions of equality.”

“You sound like Enjolras,” Lesgle broke in.

“I’m mocking, not emulating. To continue. We all need to see her as just another one of us. She is not a lady. She drinks, she swears, I think she has fought, and she’s a damned sight stronger than most of us. She’s a woman, but not a lady. We’ve go to treat women as equals and put ladies under glass.”

“Do you know how radical you sound?”

“At least I’m not a bloody socialist.” Courfeyrac looked at his watch. Joly should be home by now, he said to himself. I’ve got to get rid of Lesgle for the evening. “Lesgle, I must go. I promised Combeferre that I’d go help him tonight. His night with Capital R really took a toll on him. Joly is going to work on his hangover while I help organise for the meeting.”

“Well, I could come and help,” Lesgle offered.

“Two people is really enough for Combeferre in his condition. I really don’t think he could tolerate anyone else.”

“Fine, go on if the revolution needs you,” Lesgle sulked.

“Thanks. Look, I’ll see you tomorrow or something.” Courfeyrac was rapidly moving toward the door.

“I better see you tomorrow. You’re supposed to attend that seminar on the Napoleonic code.”

“Bonaparte can go to hell. Goodbye.” Courfeyrac closed the door behind him with a sigh of relief. He ran down the stairs and walked quickly to Joly’s flat.

“You’re here. Why was the door locked?”

“Thieves. They know where I live.”

“They know the building, Joly, not the flat. I couldn’t get in this afternoon.”

“This is a nice greeting. What ever happned to ‘How was your day?’ or even a simple ‘Bon soir’?”

“Well, salut, mon ami. Now, what are you doing this evening?”

“Why do I have a feeling you’re going to tell me?”

“Grantaire has invited us to check out the Café Musain.”

“Us? Grantaire invited us?”

“Yes, to the dice game this evening. We need to meet him there at seven.”

“Dice? Isn’t that a rather low form of illegal gambling?” Joly the paranoid asked.

“Well, sort of. Other students do participate to raise the stakes, but for the most part it is still played by workingmen.” Shit! Why did I tell him that? Courfeyrac asked himself. Now he won’t go. And I just lectured Combeferre about this same damned thing.

“Grantaire never said anything about workingmen. I could catch something and die just from going in there!”

“Jesus Christ, Joly, you went into a much worse neighbourhood with Feuilly and you’re not dead yet!”

“But I’m dying because of it.”

“You just came up with that now that I mentioned it. This afternoon it was your liver; last night you weren’t even pretending to be sick. For chrissake, live a little!”

“Well, Grantaire did say the wine was good.”

“It’ll be fun.”

“Oh, what the hell.”

“Shit! I just remembered something. I have to write a paper tonight. What time is it?”

“The clock’s right there.”

Courfeyrac gave him a dirty look. “Five thirty? I’ve got an hour. I just need to have something.”

“Go in the bedroom so you don’t talk to me instead of writing your paper.”

“Good idea.” Courfeyrac rushed into the bedroom, grabbing an inkwell and a stack of papers on the way. He came out a second later, “Forgot the pen,” then disappeared again. He emerged after an hour. “It’s crap, but I don’t care. Let’s go.”


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