Les Amis de l'ABC

Chapter 19

As soon as she was dismissed from the workshop, Feuilly ran to the building where Courfeyrac was supposed to meet her. She found the street deserted since most of its inhabitants were university students who had either left in search of entertainment or holed up to study. Courfeyrac and Joly, for once, were of the latter group. Joly had discovered a new text on tropical diseases, and Courfeyrac was rejected several drafts of a letter to his father.

“‘I regret to inform you, sir, that your son has been made a fool,’” he read aloud to Joly. “‘A young woman, under false pretenses, forced her way into my flat, and the next day, I discovered that it had been laid bare.’”

“Don’t mention the girl,” Joly advised.

“My father’s not a bloody Puritan! He can handle my liasons and amours. Will it get me sympathy and cash?”

“Call it a break-in, and move to a different building. The rue de la Verrerie has some excellent lodgings to let. It’s too close to the river for my arthritis, but you may find it satisfactory.”

“Arthritis, now?” The clock struck. “Shit! Feuilly!” Courfeyrac ran to the window, leaned out, and saw her pacing in the street. He called down to her.

“Eh, ouay?” she called back up. “M. Courfeyrac?”

“Come on up. First floor, second door to the right. We’ll be ready in a few minutes.” Feuilly looked unsure. “Come on. The concierge will let you up.” She still felt very out of place while slowly climbing the stairs. Joly lived in a rather plain, no-nonsense building, but it was a great deal nicer than anything Feuilly had yet come across. The even stairs with a banister, the whitewashed walls, the dark wooden doors unmarked by graffiti all spoke to her of untold wealth. It was one thing to talk to Courfeyrac and Joly in the Luxembourg or her own part of town, or even Lesgle rundown flat, but it was completely different to be in this building which was so obviously above her station. Never had she felt so ashamed as when she, capless, clad in a grey wool dress and broken slippers, lightly rapped Joly’s door.

“Rue de la Verrerie, did you say?” Feuilly overheard Courfeyrac ask as Joly opened the door.

“Ouay, Verrerie,” Joly answered back. “Marie,” he addressed Feuilly, smiling and nodding in place of a bow.

“Thomas,” she replied. Already she was on more equal ground. As long as she could bring Joly down the slightest notch by using his given name, she felt that they became more equal. But she did not need him calling her Marie. No one but her family was allowed to do that. “Please, don’t use my given name. It - it doesn’t suit a revolutionary, being called after the greatest woman in the Church.”

“Fine. Courfeyrac, Mlle Feuilly is here,” Joly called to his friend.

“Bon soir, Feuilly. Sit down. We’ll be ready as soon as I finish this letter.” He turned to Joly. “You really think it best not to mention the girl?”


“Girl?” Feuilly asked Joly.

“Courfeyrac slept with some prostitute who proceeded to empty his flat the next morning,” Joly whispered.

“Ouch!” Feuilly whispered back.

“Exactly. He’s writing to his father to get enough money to refurnish his flat and get new clothes,” Joly explained.

“One more minute while I run this under the blotter. Robbery only, no girl, and I’m moving to the rue de la Verrerie.” Courfeyrac signed the letter with a flourish, pressed it under the blotter, and left it on the table. “Let’s go.”

“You’re really moving because of this?” Joly asked, standing up.

“Why not? The concierge hates me as it is. Come on, we’re going to be late.” Courfeyrac extended his hand to help Feuilly up. Rather confused by the whole situation, Feuilly just looked at him. “It’s called galantry,” Courfeyrac told her, his hand still extended. “A gentleman helps a lady up. Have you never been to the theatre?” he smiled.

Feuilly took his hand and pulled herself up, rather than allow him to pull her. “Merci, monsieur. But I’m not a lady.”

“And Courfeyrac is hardly a gentleman,” Joly laughed.

Courfeyrac glared at him. Joly stopped. “Let’s just go.”

“That does look like the best idea. Where are we going?” Feuilly asked.

“The Café Musain,” Courfeyrac replied. “Do you know it?”

“Non, monsieur, I don’t.”

“Dammit, quit calling me ‘monsieur’! Before you know it, she’ll be adding the damned ‘de’!” he added to Joly.

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t apologise, Feuilly. You didn’t really do anything wrong.”

“He’s in a mood because he had to write to his father,” Joly explained.

“The great and munificent M. de Courfeyrac. Let’s go. I need something to drink.” Courfeyrac walked out the door, leaving Joly and Feuilly in the flat.

“It’s going to be a long night.”

“We had better follow pretty close.”

“Wait one moment while I lock up.” Joly grabbed his key, locked the door, and turned to Feuilly. “Ready?” He held out his arm to escort her.

Feuilly accepted it reluctantly. “Do you see this going somewhere, Thomas?”

“What do you mean?”

She turned to face him. “Are you attempting to court me?”

Joly stopped and dropped his arm. “Do you honestly read that as my intention?”

“Why are you treating me like this, then?”

“Because I’d like to get to know you, and I don’t know any other way to treat a nice girl I’d like to get to know.”

“Nothing about sex?”

“No! Absolutely not! Have you been so ill used as that?”

“Factory foremen, men on the street, a couple of students. No one I cared about, which is a blessing, I guess.“

“Mademoiselle, I - ”

She cut him off. “No, not ‘mademoiselle’. Just Feuilly is good enough for me.”

“Feuilly, I’m sorry. You’ve been used terribly.”

“Come, Joly,” she pulled on his arm, using his last name for once. “There’s wine at this place, right? I need a drink.”

Confused, Joly followed her down the stairs. “What happened to ‘Thomas’?”

“I don’t have to worry about being seen with ‘joli garçon’ now. And if you and me and Courfeyrac are supposed to be friends and equal and all that, I don’t want to stand out. I’m Feuilly, and you’re Joly, and he’s Courfeyrac, right? All even and above board.”

“Ok. Follow me. I know where we’re going.”

Feuilly was a bit apprehensive, but she followed. The revolution was the only thing she could still cling to for the future.


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