Les Amis de l'ABC

Chapter 22

“Courfeyrac!” Feuilly shouted as she tossed a few bits of gravel at his window. Or at least the one she hoped was his.

Joly popped his head out and smiled. “Next window, but I wouldn’t throw rocks at him. He’s got it open. Wait one moment and I’ll get him for you.” He disappeared back inside, and momentarily Courfeyrac was out the window.

“Feuilly, come up. I don’t like hanging out the window to have a conversation.”

“OK. If that’s what you want!” She ran up the steps to Joly’s flat.

Courfeyrac was standing in the open doorway. “Why don’t you just come up? You’re perfectly welcome here, and one of us is always home when you’d be coming by.”

“All right.”

“Come on in, sit down. We’ve got some time, if you want to talk.”

She sat down but quickly stood up again and began to pace as she spoke. “I had an interesting little conversation with your fearless leader a few minutes ago. What is his problem? I caught him looking me over, but he only got colder. I usually have the opposite effect on men. And I wasn’t trying to do anything but present my case. He can’t even listen to reason. Talk about having a flea up his ass! What am I doing wrong? I don’t want to seduce him, I thought I was dressed decently, I thought reason would have worked!”

Courfeyrac sank into the sofa. “You went there alone?”

“Of course. I thought I could press my case and surprise all of you with how easily I got in. Didn’t work, obviously.”

“You should have waited for me.”

“Don’t give me that shit! Why do you” - here using the formal “vous” - “always talk about protecting me? I don’t need your protection!”

“What? When have I -”

“Not just you - all you students somehow think you need to protect me. Well, I don’t need it, so bugger off.” She was pacing faster and faster.

“Feuilly, please sit down.” Joly directed her to a chair. She sat obediently for Joly.

“What the hell happened?” Courfeyrac asked incredulously.

“I asked him why I wasn’t allowed in the revolution, he called me impertinent, so I practically spit in his face and left. The bastard!” She hit the arm of her chair with her fist.

“Impertinent, indeed! I wasn’t begging my lord for mercy!”

“Feuilly, please calm down. Such anger and excitement is not good for the heart.”

“Don’t start diagnosing me, Joly.”

“Calm down, Feuilly. Don’t start screaming at poor Joly. We’ll get something worked out. I’ll try to talk to him, see if that does anything. It can’t hurt. We’ll do it now.”

She took a deep breath. “Fine. Whatever.”

“All right. And fix your hair,” he added with a grin. “Half of it has fallen out. If you could just pace a little more calmly . . .” he teased. “There’s a mirror in my bedroom over there.”

“Shit.” She went in and attempted to twist her hair back up, but the results were not much better than when she started. “Dammit, I wish my hair was longer. Then it would actually stay!” Fed up with a stray piece that kept falling in her eyes, she jammed it behind her ear.

“Let’s go.”

Courfeyrac was astonished to discover that somehow he was walking in step with Feuilly. Desperate to break it, he tripped over a cobblestone, inadvertently ending up back in step with her. Feuilly laughed; Joly was oblivious to the entire incident.

“How much a scene am I allowed to make?” Feuilly suddenly asked.


“Well, if reason didn’t work, and flirting won’t work, how else can I get to him? I admit, I’m not as experienced as M. Grantaire, but I can certainly create problems for him.”

“It won’t win you any battles. Reason is the only thing that will work with Enjolras. And you’ve got Combeferre on your side. Don’t forget that. He’s Enjolras’ only friend, so that’ll get you a long way. But you won’t get anywhere alone.”

“I don’t need your help!” she snapped.

“No, you don’t want my help,” Courfeyrac corrected. “Look, Feuilly, you can let people do stuff for you. It’s called using them,” he grinned. “Joly here would do anything to help you.”

“Of course.” Joly was finally paying attention.

“You’ve got friends. And friends help each other. I know that if Combeferre speaks for you, you’ll be allowed to stay. But you must at least pretend to be a lady.”

“In other words, keep my big mouth shut.”

“It’s the only way,” Courfeyrac apologised.

“I’ll try,” she said grudgingly with a sigh of finality.

The trio met Combeferre and Prouvaire entering the alley that leads to Corinth. “Courfeyrac says that if you speak for me, I can get in.”

“I will certainly do my best.”

“I’d better confess something now, then. I spoke to him about half an hour ago, your ‘fearless leader’ I mean, and, well, I offended his upper-class sensibilities,&lrquo; she finished quickly. “He wouldn’t listen to reason, so I derided his revolution and ran off.”

“Feuilly,” Courfeyrac chastised.

“Don’t you take that tone with me, young man,” she mockingly chastised him back. “He deserved more than I was able to give him.”

“Feuilly, your problem is that you’re treating him like a man.”


“Come here, all of you.” Courfeyrac pulled the four others into a doorway. “What do you think of Enjolras?” he asked Feuilly.

“Right now, I think he’s a horse’s ass, like a lot of other people I’ve had the misfortune to know.”

“What did you think of him on the barricades, then?”

She closed her eyes to remember. “A god. A Greek god, or avenging angel,” she finally breathed out. She had to lean against the doorjamb to recover from the thought.

“Wonderful. She’s swooning over Enjolras,” Courfeyrac told everyone.

Feuilly’s eyes flew open. “I am not! I know him now. It’s a memory, nothing more!”

“Well, the only way to treat him is to treat a god who does not want to be known as a god. Got it?”

“Not sure.”

“I do not like where you are going with this nonsense, Courfeyrac,” Combeferre put in.

“After all, Enjolras is just a man.”

“Who is going to become the leader of the free world if we can win this thing,”

Courfeyrac finished for him. “You must treat him with quiet respect.”

“He may be just a man, but he is also our leader,” Combeferre agreed.

“But I don’t respect him anymore!” Feuilly protested.

“Diplomacy, my dear. Diplomacy.”

“Don’t call me that, Courfeyrac! And I’m not about to be diplomatic towards that man! M. Combeferre, why can you not lead this revolution?”

“Because I am not Enjolras. I write his words, create his ideas, but he has the power to make my words and ideas into a revolution. You saw him on the barricades, and you still think him larger than life in that context. You saw me on the barricades, and you think nothing of me. He has the charisma to lead; I just follow him wherever he chooses to go. Please, Feuilly, do try to be diplomatic. Mr Jefferson was always diplomatic, and there was no greater man in America, no greater friend to liberty.”

The comparison to Jefferson, or a desire to please Combeferre, seemed to pacify Feuilly. “I suppose I could try. What do I do? Apologise? Hide in a corner?”

“Apologise for anything you may have said in anger, then let me speak with him. He may have enough goodwill left towards me that I can convince him to allow you to stay.”

“He’s already up there. Who’s going in first?” she asked, worried that she might have to.

“Give Prouvaire and me five minutes, then the three of you may follow,” Combeferre instructed. “I will do everything I can for you, Feuilly.”

“Five minutes. Got it,” Courfeyrac replied.

“Enjolras?” Combeferre knocked on the open door to the upstairs room of Corinth.

Enjolras turned from his notes and looked at him with a pained expression in his eyes, but said nothing.

“Enjolras, I have come to apologise. I was wrong to walk out. No revolution can succeed if we are not together. I hope you will forgive me and allow Prouvaire and me to return. Prouvaire has written a song for the rallies,” he finished hopefully.

“You walk out, you refuse to return, but now you come begging. What has caused this sudden change of heart? Your own ineptness? I know you attempted to hold a meeting without me. Have you come back to me because you cannot lead men yourself?” Enjolras asked coldly and almost mockingly.

“I missed my best friend. I realised that anything worth doing is worth doing with you. We cannot do it alone, and I hoped our friendship was important enough that you might forgive me.”

“You are thinking of the past, Combeferre,” he said pointedly. “It is all in the past.”

“By my doing, yes. I have failed you, and I am sorry. You were right all along. July cleared my head. But I do not want our friendship to remain only in the past. Please, Enjolras, find it in yourself to forgive me.”

Enjolras suddenly felt ashamed. He had pushed away everyone else, but Combeferre kept returning. Not only did he apologise for everything Enjolras did against him, but he did everything he could to keep their old friendship alive as well, in spite of all the pushing Enjolras had done. A childhood together had to count for something, and no man can spend his life completely alone. Combeferre was his only friend, plus he was a bridge to his followers, at home in both worlds. And Combeferre was the only person who knew there was a soul behind those cold, hard eyes. With a sigh and a wave of his hand, Enjolras asked them both to sit. “What is this about a song?”

“It was brought up that a rallying song might be a good idea. Prouvaire has written one for us.”

“It’s not much - just a couple verses and a chorus.” Prouvaire was never one to take credit for his work.

“Let me see.” Prouvaire handed his open notebook to Enjolras, who silently read the lines. “I do not know this song - the one from which the tune should come.”

Prouvaire turned bright red. “You shouldn’t. It’s - uhm - it’s a drinking song. But I fixed all the words, see? ‘Do you hear the people sing, singing the song of angry men? It is the music of a people who will not be slaves again. When the beating of your heart echoes the beating of the drums, there is a life about to start when tomorrow comes,’” he sang tentatively.

“Prouvaire, you must put emotion into it. You write extremely well - there is power in this song, but not in your voice. ‘Will you join in our crusade? Who will be strong and stand with me? Somewhere beyond the barricade is there a world you long to see? Then join in the fight that will give you the right to be free!’” Combeferre corrected, his baritone and simple vocal quality giving much more shading and power to the verse than Prouvaire’s shy tenor could do for the chorus.

“It might serve a purpose at some time in the future,” Enjolras said, handing the notebook back to Prouvaire. It was a victory. He did not dismiss it outright.

Courfeyrac knocked on the open door. “Enjolras, we’ve come to apologise.” He and Joly stood in front of Feuilly, completely blocking Enjolras’ view of her.

“I am glad to see that you have come to your senses, Courfeyrac.”

“My outburst was uncalled for.”

“It was.”

“And I’m sorry about it. We want to come back.”

“Very well.”

“And we want to apologise for something else.”

“Go on.”

Feuilly stepped out. “I’m sorry about what happened earlier, monsieur. I should never have gone off on you. Please forgive me.”

Ignoring her, “What is she doing here?” Enjolras asked Courfeyrac.

“She’s part of the group,” Courfeyrac answered, trying to sound matter-of-fact but succeeding in seeming scared to death of Enjolras.

“No she is not,” Enjolras said firmly.

“Enjolras, might I have a word with you?” Combeferre took him by the arm and led him to a corner. “Please, let her stay just this once. She has ideas, good ideas, for rallies and barricade locations. She told Prouvaire to write that song. She got Bahorel and Lesgle to think about revolution. We had a meeting, yes, and she ran the whole thing because I said we should all wait until we came back. The others will arrive shortly. We are all truly sorry for leaving. But I will admit they paid attention when she asked them about revolution, about why they all fight. They listen to her as well as they listen to you.”

“Of course they paid attention to her, if she was dressed like that! But I do not believe they heard a word she said,” Enjolras spat out.

“I think they did. Prouvaire calls her liberté. Please, just give her a chance. As a favour to me. When have I hurt you? No, do not answer that. It was never on purpose, I promise you. I give everything I have to this cause, and I beseech you: take her in. I give you my word that in the end you will not regret it. I hope my word is still good.”

“I will not do it. She invites distraction and chaos. A woman’s position is in the home, not on a barricade. I will not lower myself to supervise a group of drunken, oversexed schoolboys in the presence of this woman.”

“Please. As a personal favour.”

“No. Why do you continue this charade? Friendship is a weakness I cannot afford: you know very well why your word should not be good. A common past is meaningless. All connection is false, anyway, so speak no more of friendship. It is all in your head now,” Enjolras finished coldly.

“Please, let her stay this once. She is already here. Seat her in a corner and ignore her as you would like to ignore me. But let her stay.”

“Very well,” Enjolras sighed, defeated more by his innate interest in her than in any of Combeferre’s pleas. He did, however, take Combeferre’s word very seriously. Regardless of what had happened in the past, Combeferre’s word had always been good. “She may stay this once. But she is not to make trouble. She will have to sit there and listen.” He sank into a chair, not believing he had just consented to her presence.

Combeferre went over to Feuilly. “You are in for now. My word is still worth something to him. Do not make too much noise. Your position is tenuous at best.”



“Oh, yes, OK. I understand perfectly. Thank you, Combeferre,” she smiled at him.

“My pleasure. Always my pleasure to help someone who could be a leader of men.”


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