Les Amis de l'ABC

Chapter 20

Courfeyrac was waiting in the main room of the cafe, directing everyone to go to the back room. “Hey, Bahorel!”

“Courfeyrac! Where’s the mystery girl?”

“She’s coming with Joly. They seem to be hitting it off real well,” Courfeyrac told him.

Bahorel picked up the disappointment in Courfeyrac’s voice. “I’m sorry, mon ami. These things just never work out like they’re supposed to. Trust the voice of experience.”

“Ouay, I’ve got my own experience. Rejected by two girls in one week. Félicie stole my possessions, but Feuilly has stolen my heart.”

“You can’t really mean that. You barely know the girl.”

“I know. I don’t really know what I mean. I just know that losing Feuilly to Joly really hurts.”

Jean Prouvaire came up. “If you love her, tell her.”

Courfeyrac turned to him. “I just don’t know, Jehan. I don’t know if I love her. I’ve never felt this way about a woman before. I don’t want to marry her, but I want to protect her.”

“Then be her friend. And don’t be jealous that Joly has her. If you’re friends, she’ll always come back to you,” Prouvaire added.

Courfeyrac shook his head. “She talks to Joly, not me.”

“Then be happy for Joly. With all his illnesses, he can’t hold on to a girl for very long,” Prouvaire smiled.

“So, we’re meeting here?” Bahorel asked, trying to turn the subject away from “touchy-feely stuff”.

“Back room. Grantaire’s back there already with a large quantity of wine,” Courfeyrac answered.

Bahorel and Prouvaire went in the back. Combeferre, Lesgle, and Grantaire were already there. In a couple minutes, Courfeyrac joined them.

Combeferre gave him a questioning look. Courfeyrac just shook his head and sat in a corner. No one said anything, the anticipation was so great. They had all left or been thrown out by Enjolras over this woman, and no one was quite sure how to break the tension they all felt. Courfeyrac slumped in one corner, Combeferre paced, Bahorel and Prouvaire neglected to apply themselves to the wine, and even Lesgle and Grantaire remained silent in Courfeyrac’s presence. Five minutes slowly ticked by; they felt as five hours.

Then, suddenly, a knock at the door. Courfeyrac jumped out of his chair. “Thank god,” he whispered. “Joly, Feuilly,” he acknowledged the pair as they entered. Everyone, even Grantaire, stood up to welcome the girl.

“They’re all staring at me,” Feuilly whispered apprehensively to Joly.

He squeezed her hand. “Don’t worry. It’ll be alright,” Joly whispered back. He led her forward.

Courfeyrac introduced the group one by one. “Feuilly, you know Bossuet.” She smiled at the familiar face. “Jean Prouvaire.”

“Please, call me Jehan,” Prouvaire told her as he kissed her hand. Feuilly blushed. The added colour in her cheeks made her even more beautiful.


“Enchanté, mademoiselle.” He took her hand as Prouvaire had, but did not kiss it, to Feuilly’s relief.


“Well, now I know why we’re all here. Join me in a drink, cherie?” Bahorel elbowed him. “Ow! I can’t ask a damned good looking woman to share my sorrows anymore?”

“Quit being yourself!” Bahorel hissed at him.

“Fine!” Grantaire slumped in his chair and applied himself to a new pitcher of wine.

“And our leader, Combeferre.”

“Mademoiselle, welcome to our group.” Combeferre analysed her face. “Have we met before?”

“I was about to ask you the same question. I know I’ve seen you down in my neighbourhood, not too long ago, either.”

“Were you perhaps involved in the revolution?”

“Of course! You were on the barricade in St Martin! You and your blond friend.”

“You were the runner who brought us the news of the triumph in St Antoine.”

“And then the National Guard attacked again, and you kept me out of danger and actually talked to me while your friend was directing the action.”

“That was the second day. You came back the third day to celebrate our victory.”

“I went back to find you. Of all the young men on all the barricade, you were the nicest. No one else ever really said anything to me, and they all let me dodge bullets. You actually would have been shot trying to protect me if you thought it necessary. No one has done that before or since. That was the greatest night of my life. I’m sorry I never found out your name.”

“It never really mattered, you know?” For once, Combeferre was smiling like Prouvaire.

“Combeferre, did you, and her, you know?” Bahorel asked. “No,” Combeferre said sharply. “Surely you remember what the celebrations when Charles abdicated. The city officials neglected to lock the gates of the Luxembourg, so we spent the entire night walking in the far part of the garden, where M. Leblanc and his daughter come. We just walked and talked in the moonlight.”

“She’s the girl?” Prouvaire broke in excitedly. Combeferre nodded.

“Mademoiselle, we’ve met before. We met that night, in fact.”

“Were you with someone?” Feuilly asked, trying to remember him.

“No, I was alone.”

She wrinkled her brow a bit in remembering. “Ah, of course, you were walking alone, scribbling every so often in a book in the moonlight, which couldn’t have been bright enough to read by. All the girls in that garden, and you were writing in a book.”

Prouvaire nodded. “Combeferre told me a little about you afterwards, and I wrote a poem about you. You were liberty to me,” he added shyly.

“Does everyone here already know her?” Courfeyrac asked the group.

“Courfeyrac, were you in Paris during the revolution?” Combeferre asked him, trying to calm his growing anger.

“No. I didn’t get back until the beginning of August. Just missed it.”

“Then you cannot understand what it was like. For one night, we were all brothers and sisters, citizens of the great republic. There were couples all over the Luxembourg, people who only met on the barricades. Friends, lovers, men, women, all were one, and the sheer number of incidental meetings was astonishing. The next day, social and political divisions took hold of us again, but for one night . . . There was nothing like it. She never asked for my name, and only volunteered hers because she could not bear to be called ‘mademoiselle’. We never really knew each other’s names, but it did not matter. We never lay together as if we were husband and wife. We simply bared our souls to strangers. Never had I believed so much in the future as I did that night,” Combeferre explained.

“Then came the betrayal by Lafayette, and we were all expected to go back to our respective social classes, and we did. I still cannot believe that a man so dedicated to ridding American of a monarchy could sell out his own people. The marquis be damned,” Prouvaire added.

The room was silent. Jean Prouvaire had actually damned something, a big something.

Not realising that anything out of the ordinary had happened, Feuilly told him, “Well put, monsieur. Lafayette’s betrayal is why we’re all here, I think?”

Courfeyrac recovered his voice enough to croak out a “oui”. Prouvaire tried to blend in with the wall, which was difficult considering the crimson shade of his face.

Feuilly looked around. Everyone was starting at Prouvaire. “What?”

Grantaire broke the silence. “Well, Jehan, you’re actually a man. With all your poetry and flowers, I was beginning to wonder.”

“Grantaire!” Courfeyrac hissed in warning.

“What? It’s a goddamned compliment! I just can’t do anything right, can I?”

Prouvaire was turning even brighter red.

Bahorel extended himself to protect him. “Look, just drop it, alright? It’s one thing to tease the boy; it’s something completely different to insult his manhood.”

“Grantaire, settle down. She won’t do anything with any of us anyway, so don’t even try to push anyone farther down than the two of us,” Lesgle whispered.

“I-I’m sorry,” Prouvaire stammered. “I-I don’t know wh-what came over m-me. I-it won’t happen again, C-combeferre.”

Combeferre lowered and shook his head. “Don’t worry about it, Jehan.”

“Is this because of me?” Feuilly whispered frantically to Joly. He shrugged his shoulders. “Maybe I should go.”

“No, no, it’s alright. You’re fine here.” He took her hand again.

“I’m still here.”

“Thank you, Joly,” she whispered back. “OK, look,” she announced to the group, “I know it must be difficult for you for me to be here. It’s not easy for me either, you know. But I don’t want to cause trouble. I just want Louis Philippe gone and a new French Republic in his place. Is that too much to ask? I’m here to give you a connection to the working class, not to try to divide you. Why are you all still standing? Sit, sit.” Feuilly herself remained standing; the others sat at her insistence. “Republic is the only option, you boys must agree with me on that. I’m not looking for a position in the new republic or in this group. I’m not meant to be a leader. I just want to be a part of the fight. Can’t you please just pretend that I’m another student? I’ve studied, honest. I know what a republic means. I’m not as smart as you, but I read what I can. I know I can never be intellectually equal to you, but dammit, can’t you at least pretend? Forget my sex while we’re in this room. I’m not below you; I can’t be below you if the revolution succeeds. Just take me now when you have no reason to but your own consciences. Please, just let me in,” she pleaded.

“Mademoiselle --” Combeferre began.

“No, not ‘mademoiselle’. Just Feuilly,” she interrupted, making wide gestures of impatience.

“Feuilly. Feuilly, we have every intention of allowing you to be a full partner in our organisation. You have not been told, I am sure, that you have brought us here. Courfeyrac politely introduced me as the leader of the revolution. I am not the leader. Our true leader is Enjolras, the ‘blond friend’ you remember from the barricade. He is not here because he disapproves of a woman’s involvement in the revolution. Because of you, mademoiselle, we have left our true leader in order to fight for something greater. We are here tonight with every intention of making you an equal partner in the revolution. Why should half our society be free and the other half enslaved? I welcome you to this group, mademoiselle, along with any female compatriots you wish to bring.”

Feuilly was too astonished to complain about “mademoiselle”. “You gave up him for me?” She looked from Courfeyrac to Joly to Combeferre. “Why did no one tell me?” She looked directly into Courfeyrac’s eyes. “Why?”

Courfeyrac bowed his head. “I didn’t want to worry you. I knew it must be hard to agree to this in the first place, coming to a strange cafe with strange men and all. I didn’t want you to come here thinking, ‘they all got kicked out because of me’.”

“You were kicked out? Monsieur!” she turned to Combeferre, desperate for an answer and in agony over her imagined crime. Feuilly had seen Enjolras at the head of a barricade, and like everyone else who had ever seen him in authority, would gladly have laid her life at his feet. She would have followed him into hell itself without a second thought.

“Most of us left of our own accord,” Combeferre calmly explained, the only sign of his agitation the tapping of his fingers on the base of his wineglass. “Enjolras is, well, rather puritanical. I personally left in the hope that he would temper that some of his fanaticism. He, I am sorry, mademoiselle, turned the issue of your entry into a diatribe against Courfeyrac’s history of sexual relations with a variety of women. To protect your honour, Courfeyrac left, and we followed him because we thought it necessary. Courfeyrac was in danger of expulsion, and Grantaire, the only one who wished to stay, was expelled for, shall we say, moral reasons.”

“None of you knew me, but you all stuck up for me? Messieurs, you - you gave up a republic for a factory girl!”

“No,” Combeferre said seriously. “We gave up tyranny for freedom. Courfeyrac said it the moment we left: how can we fight against oppression if we feel ourselves oppressed by our chosen leader? We cannot fight tyranny if we allow it into the revolution at the beginning.”

“Enough of all this. Where’s the food?” Lesgle broke in.

“Wine doesn’t quite fill all our stomachs,” Bahorel added, with a jab at Grantaire.

“Alright. If someone would find a waitress, I suppose we could dine soon,” Combeferre replied.

“I’ll go,” Bahorel offered. Combeferre nodded his assent and Bahorel disappeared. Joly led Feuilly to a seat at the table, and Courfeyrac approached Combeferre.

“Why did you do that?” he asked in a whisper.

“Do what?” Combeferre replied in the same tone.

“Cover for me. It is because I was right or because of her?”

“It was because of her. She has been used terribly, often by men too much like Enjolras, and I wanted to reassure her that we were working in her best interests.”

“Enjolras would mistreat a woman?” Courfeyrac asked incredulously.

“Enjolras would not, but there are too many parallels between him and men who would commit unspeakable acts. His great love is of power, and Mademoiselle Feuilly has been ill-used by many men in their quests for power. I love Enjolras, but I am not blind to his faults. He truly wants revolution to help the people, but he wishes to lead, not follow. He hopes to become the leader of a great nation, which he could well be someday, thus any victory that is does not come with him at its head will be a hollow victory for Enjolras. He does not realise that at the present, he is only a university student. Do you know anything of Mlle Feuilly’s life? Students are a horror to her; for her to be here tonight is remarkable. It appears that she trusts Joly very much: look at them chatting. We must do what we can for her so that when we rejoin Enjolras she will not become frightened and leave. She is like the horse we train to race. We do not want her to shy away from us and continually run in the wrong direction.” It was an apt simile. Her lithe body did resemble the thin curves of a racehorse, and she had a look in her eyes that suggested a desperate need to run.

Bahorel returned, followed by a waitress with a tray full of dishes, to spoil the effect.

“Food’s here,” he announced.

“May we continue discussion of this matter at another time?” Combeferre asked.

Courfeyrac nodded, and they took their seats at the table. Courfeyrac purposely sat across from Feuilly and Joly to keep an eye on them. The situation was rather awkward for everyone: a meeting without Enjolras, and a beautiful woman watching their every move. Grantaire was still sulking, having been rejected by everyone. Bahorel, seated to Feuilly’s left, broke the tension. “So, you seem to prefer our little hypochondriac,” he teased.


“Hypochondriac.” Bahorel suddenly remembered she was a factory worker, little more.

“Joly always thinks he has some sort of ailment when he’s really in perfect health.”

“Oh, hypochondriac. I didn’t catch what you said the first time,” Feuilly said, trying to cover up the need for a definition. She turned to Joly. “Is that true?”

“No. I truly am in poor health. Does anyone have a mirror?” he asked the room.

“I am afraid that my tongue may be discoloured, a sure sign of encephalitis.”

“Do you even know what encephalitis is?” Courfeyrac asked. Joly turned bright red.

“Your tongue is fine, Joly. Yes, it’s quite true that he is a hypochondriac, but he’s quite cheerful about it for the most part.”

“Cherie, do indulge in a glass of wine with me!” Grantaire cried from the opposite end of the table.

Combeferre, seated next to Courfeyrac at the head of the table, placed a glass of deep red wine in front of Feuilly. “Voila, mademoiselle. And please ignore him, I do beg you.”

“Please, no ’mademoiselle’. It’s just Feuilly.”

“Then you must forgive my manners on occasion. Surely your realise the strangeness of our situation.&rldquo;

“Perfectly.” She took a sip of the wine. “This is some good sh-”

“Mademoiselle.” Courfeyrac cut her off.

“What? This is good shit, ain’t it?” Grantaire asked.

“M. Courfeyrac does not like that I curse, monsieur. He is afraid that I may offend the ears of fine young gentlemen like yourselves.”

“Quit calling me ‘monsieur’! Jesus, Feuilly!” Courfeyrac shouted.

“Hell, what’s your problem, Courfeyrac? We’re all incapable of offense by street vulgarities. We’re all extremely vulgar in here. With the exception of Combeferre and Jehan, of course,” Bahorel added.

“Am I vulgar? I don’t think I’m vulgar. Am I?” Joly asked, quite worried.

“You spend far too much time in self-examination, Joly. And I don’t mean soul-searching,” Bahorel told him.

“So I care about my health. I notice none of you do.”

“We just don’t make a production out of it.”

“Joly, Bahorel, please! We have a guest!” Combeferre reprimanded them.

“Feuilly is not a guest; she’s a member. Question: are you a guest?”

“Joly of quatre ailes, please! Why do you act in this manner? You are not by nature argumentative, especially towards Combeferre,” Prouvaire broke in.

“Really, I ought to leave. I shouldn’t be here, destroying the revolution.”

“No!” Courfeyrac stood up. “Feuilly, sit down. Joly, Bahorel, everyone, speak nicely to each other. We can get through this!” he shouted.

“Courfeyrac is taking charge!” Grantaire laughed.

“Can it, Grantaire, or you’ll be out in the street where you belong,” Courfeyrac snapped at him. The room fell silent. “Now, we are here to discuss the revolution,” he said somewhat calmly. “Does anyone have any ideas they’d like to share? Feuilly?”

“Well, if we’re going to have a revolution, we need support. That means a platform, rallies, and barricade spots. This won’t be won with guns, as I think we proved in July. For the rallies, we’re going to need speeches, colours, and music. Must have music and revolutionary colours. Louis Philippe uses the revolutionary blue, white and red, so we’ve got to find something different, but with recognition, if we can. And music. The people need something better than the Carmagnole. Something less bloodthirsty.”

“Agreed. These are important matters we had not yet discussed. I believe the proper colour for a revolution is red, to symbolise the dawn,” Combeferre suggested.

“But Louis Philippe already has red. It’s in the flag. Go with black, complete contrast, mourning the state of la patrie,” Bahorel advised.

“Wait! I’ve an epiphany!” Prouvaire exclaimed. He scribbled in a book for a bit, then read aloud, “‘Red, the blood of angry men; black, the dark of ages past. Red, a world about to dawn; black, the night that ends at last.’” He scanned the group, looking for approval.

“Not exactly flowers and amours, is it? You’ve actually got talent, Jehan,” Bahorel told him.

“Nice job, old boy. Great one to parody. Red, the bricks that fall on my head; black, the bruises they leave behind.”

“Shut up, Bossuet,” the room chorused.

“Hey, I liked it,” Grantaire told him.

“Jehan, it’s really a very good little lyric. Wait, that came out wrong. I don’t mean little as insignificant; I don’t mean to sound condescending. It’s only four lines, so it’s short, therefore little, but it has power,” Courfeyrac told him.

Prouvaire was pleased but embarrassed. He was beginning to turn rather pink.

Combeferre walked over and put a hand on Prouvaire’s shoulder. “Enjolras would approve, I believe.”

“Monsieur - oh, euh, Jehan, would you mind writing us a song? Just pick a popular tune and write new words for us?” Feuilly asked him.

Prouvaire turned bright red. “Anything for you, la liberté.”

“Well, we have the trappings of a revolution. Now for the meat. Why are we all here? I’m new here; I don’t know any of you very well, messieurs, so could you tell me why each of you are here? Then we can figure out what we all want from revolution.”

“I’ll start!” exclaimed Grantaire. “I want women and wine from this revolution. And you can help me, ma cherie.”

“Grantaire!” Bahorel chastised.

“Down, boy,” Lesgle advised him.

“I think I’m beginning to understand what M. Enjolras meant by ‘moral reasons’,” Feuilly said to Combeferre.

“Let me take over,” Bahorel requested. “I’m a medical student, but I used to study law. There is such a discrepancy in our courts that I could not bear it. I switched to medicine because I thought I would be better able to help the people.”

“Bullshit. You hated the professors at the law school, at least that’s what you told me, you lying salaud!” Courfeyrac accused him.

“Monsieur, watch your tongue! There is a lady present!” Feuilly chastised him mockingly.

“Very well, Feuilly, speak however you damn well please. I can’t keep up this bloody charade.” Courfeyrac slumped back in his chair.

“Monsieur Bahorel, is it true what Courfeyrac says?”

“It is true that I hate the law and wish to help the people. Anything beyond that is of no concern to the revolution.”

“Are you a socialist?”

“Feuilly, you can’t just ask that!”

“Why not, Courfeyrac?”

“It just isn’t done!”

“Well, why not?”

“I can’t explain - it’s just wrong!”

“Silence!” shouted Combeferre. “Please, let us not engage in petty squabbles. Made - Feuilly, in polite society, we do not propose such frank, blunt questions. It is simply not done.”

“Well, then we won’t be a part of polite society,” Feuilly replied.

“So,” she asked, turning to Bahorel, “are you a socialist?”

“I give up!” Courfeyrac shouted, throwing his hands in the air.

“I suppose I am,” Bahorel answered.

“OK, one socialist. How many others? Come on, hands up!” Feuilly ordered.

Prouvaire reluctantly lifted his hand, Lesgle followed, and Combeferre tapped nervously on the base of his wineglass before finally raising his hand.

“Monsieur, are you ashamed to be a socialist?”

“As the interim leader, I feel that I ought to conform to the wishes of a group that does not predominantly believe in the socialist cause.”

“Hey, what is socialism?” Grantaire asked, half seriously for once.

“It starts with government workshops for the unemployed and ends with state control of all industry. It starts with raising the wages of the workers, and ends with an entire population living as I do now. Socialism sounds wonderful, but it does not help the poet or the artist. These individuals cannot be seen as fulfilling the common good, so creativity is shut out in favour of productivity. It kills what makes France la France,” Feuilly answered passionately.

“And an experiment in America is foundering as we speak. The Americans know that the future lies in democracy, something our people have never had, not a change in the economic system.”

“Thanks, Courfeyrac,” Feuilly smiled. “A democracy serves the people. While socialism kills the bourgeoisie, democracy allows the rise of the lower and middle classes. Government regulation of wages and real enforcement with the consent of the people is the first step. At the same time we must prohibit child labour and reform the state schools to give the same education to all who come. Equal education, a living wage, and a strong voice in government will be our salvation.”

“Bravo, mademoiselle. Perhaps you will consider me a convert to your cause. We only disagreed on the order and name to give these proposals, I believe. You do admit that government workshops would be beneficial?” Combeferre asked.

“Government workshops will only work for a short period of time. If they go on too long, people will start leaving real jobs for government jobs, putting industry under complete government control. I will not allow that to happen. I will not allow my creativity to be stifled by forever living under the thumb of the government. We may as well go back to feudalism if we institute practical government workshops.” Combeferre looked surprised, Courfeyrac beamed proudly, Bahorel was completely in shock, and even Grantaire acknowledged the solemnity of the event with his silence. No one had dared to argue so much with Combeferre. He was the undisputed intellectual of the group, and whatever he said was law. To argue with him over something so important seemed impossible. Courfeyrac was proud that Feuilly had done that which none of them had had the courage to do.

Combeferre finally clapped solemnly. “You have won our little debate and earned the right to refuse title. My congratulations, Feuilly.” He held out his hand as he would to any other friend. When Feuilly accepted the handshake, he welcomed her to the revolution. “How brave are you, mon amie?”

“You didn’t see me crying on the barricade, did you?”

“No. But this must apply to everyone. The only way we can win is if we accept Enjolras as our leader. He is having a meeting on Sunday afternoon. He has invited me to come, and I hope that all of you will join me.”

“To incur the wrath of Enjolras? I don’t want to.”

“Courfeyrac, how can you not risk everything for him? This man holds the future of France in his hands,” Feuilly pleaded. “M. Combeferre, I will risk this man’s wrath, if I may.”

“I think that if we stand together before him, he may yet change his opinion of Feuilly and allow us all to return. Does anyone else wish to join us? Feuilly and I will see him even if the rest of you will not,” Combeferre challenged.

“I will go with you, la liberté.”

“I’ll protect you if I need to,” Joly whispered. “Count me in.”

“I was against leaving from the start. Of course I’m coming. Maybe we’ll get some fire out of the iceman yet.”

“That leaves Courfeyrac and Lesgle.”

Lesgle gave Courfeyrac a questioning look.

“Fine, I give in. I’ll go back, but only because Feuilly is willing to brave the wrath of Enjolras.”

“Then I’m going, too,” Lesgle announced, relieved that he did not have to make a decision.

“Very good. Then the business of this meeting has concluded.”

“This is all you do?” Feuilly asked. “Drink, talk, plan nothing?”

“In the absence of our leader, to whom we will return on Sunday, yes,” replied Combeferre. “It is unfortunate, but we completely depend upon Enjolras.”

“Come on, have fun. Eat, get drunk, let your hair down.” Grantaire came up behind her and swiftly yanked out the comb that was already failing to hold up her hair.

“Damn you!” Feuilly spun around, the motion shaking out her hair and spreading it across her shoulders. “I hardly know you, monsieur! What gives you the right to do this?”

“Shh, Feuilly, it’s ok,” Joly whispered in her ear. “Grantaire thinks he’s god’s gift to women. He doesn’t mean any harm; in fact, he thinks it’s charming.”

“You’re really much prettier with your hair down,” Bahorel said, trying to make her feel better and keep Grantaire from speaking.

Feuilly turned red and turned to Bahorel. “Perhaps I ought to find a low cut dress, too, to amuse you!” she spat out. She held out her hand. “My comb, monsieur.”

Grantaire slipped it into Bahorel’s pocket. “I don’t have it.”

Bahorel pulled it out and handed it to Feuilly. “We don’t intend to make a fool of you, mademoiselle. We just want you to feel comfortable with us, friendly-like.”

“Nice way of showing it.” She quickly twisted up her hair and jammed the comb in angrily. It didn’t stay very well because of its short length, and a stray piece cascaded charmingly over her cheek.

“Grantaire, this behaviour is inappropriate, and as the interim leader, I shall be forced to act as Enjolras would in such a circumstance and ask you to leave.”

“Combeferre,” Grantaire whined.

“Apologise now or go. Those are your choices.”

“Ma cherie, my deepest apologies,” Grantaire said with a low bow.

“I know you don’t mean it, but I’ll accept your attempt if you promise not to do anything more to me,” Feuilly told him seriously.

“I promise,” Grantaire replied in mock solemnity.

“Feuilly, forgive us. They are not accustomed to behaving themselves around a woman,” Courfeyrac apologised.

“Mademoiselle, I deeply regret their behaviour. Please accept my sincere apologies.”

“I accept, M. Combeferre.” Feuilly turned to Courfeyrac. “I had better go.”

“Are you sure?”

“Ouay. I will see you all on Sunday, at Corinth. Don’t worry, I know the way. I’ll meet you all there. I can show myself out.” She squeezed Joly’s hand and disappeared out the door.

“Well,” Bahorel said. He was the only one to speak as they all stared at the door after she was gone.

“What did I do wrong?” Grantaire asked.

“Feuilly is rather - how do I put this? She wears a façade of ease, but she has been treated rather badly by several amorous men. Your flippant attitude made her extremely uncomfortable when she came here expecting a serious political meeting. She was put into a difficult situation, and if she does not appear on Sunday, I will understand why.”

“Combeferre, is there anything we could have done?” Bahorel asked.

“I do not believe so. It is entirely Grantaire’s fault that she has been scared off, if indeed she will not return. I believe she will come in spite of Grantaire. She cares too much for the revolution to stay away, I judge from her appearance here tonight.”

“I’m sorry for causing so many problems,” Courfeyrac apologised.

“There is no need to apologise, Courfeyrac. The problems have been caused by Grantaire, not by bringing Feuilly to our meeting.” Combeferre glared at Grantaire. “It would be best if you were to stay away from us next Sunday.”

“You’re sounding like Enjolras.”

“Perhaps someone ought to speak in his stead.”

“This is enough to drive me to drink!”

“Anything and everything is enough to drive you to drink.” Lesgle stabbed Grantaire with his elbow.

“Tais-toi, Bossuet.”

“Oh, I’ll get you for that!”

“Cease this horseplay at once!” Combeferre shouted. “Feuilly has some ideas about which we must all think seriously. I suggest that we disband for the night to think on why we are here, what we want from a republic, and how fiercely we are willing to fight for it.” He pulled a few coins from his pocket and left them on the table. “I shall leave you to your games. Do not worry, I am not trying to act as Enjolras; I simply have an exam tomorrow. Good night.” Combeferre walked out.

“Well, there’s still an excuse to stay and get drunk,” Lesgle announced.

“And I say you’ve got a great idea,” Grantaire replied.

Courfeyrac and Joly felt too miserable to stay in the jovial company. Bahorel walked them to the door.

“You’re doing the right thing, bringing the girl here. She’s serious and smart, and far too much like Enjolras. Sunday could get interesting. Her fire and his ice. Glad you’re coming back.”

“Feuilly has a way of making one listen to reason, doesn’t she?” Joly asked.

“She certainly got Combeferre.”

“Tu as raison, Jolllly of quatre ailes. I’ll see you in class tomorrow. Courfeyrac, see you Sunday?”

“Ouay, à dimanche. Bon soir.”


Chapter 19 ~ Fiction ~ Chapter 21 ~ Home