After that whole long attempt to waste time, Courfeyrac was still a half hour early. Fortunately, Joly and Lesgle were already there. Enjolras and the others had not yet arrived, but it was quite possible that Grantaire could be found downstairs at the bar. Courfeyrac could no longer tolerate his bare flat, so he decided to at least ask Joly for a room, if not a loan. Even though Joly was a medical student and Courfeyrac studied law, they had known each other for quite some time. Courfeyrac used to have a flat in Joly’s building, and it was he who invited Joly to join les Amis de l’ABC.
“Joly, I was wondering, would it be possible for me to room with you for a few days, maybe a week? My flat is really getting on my nerves.”
Joly already generally knew about the robbery, as did Lesgle. “What all did she take? She must have really emptied the place.”
“I don’t even have a bed, and my back hurts from three straight nights on the floor. She took most of my clothes, too, the spiteful bitch.”
“That would explain his lovely ensemble,” Joly whispered to Lesgle. “I’m sorry. I’d like to help you, and I’ll give you a loan, but Bossuet has my extra bed at the moment,” he replied to Courfeyrac.
“Actually,” Lesgle put in, “I’m leaving tomorrow, or today, if you simply cannot bear another night. My income came in, so I’ve taken a flat of my own. I had planned on moving my things tomorrow, but with your help I could be out of Joly’s place tonight, if he doesn’t mind a transition so quickly.”
“No problem. When Lesgle gets his stuff out, it will help alleviate the overcrowding in my flat that attracts more dust and I swear causes my asthma.”
“Joly, you don’t have asthma,” responded Courfeyrac.
“I experience shortness of breath after physical activity, which means I suffer from asthma, and because of said asthma, I cannot help Bossuet move.”
“Everyone else on the planet experiences shortness of breath after physical activity, and they don’t have asthma. You don’t have asthma, and you’re helping me move Lesgle’s goddamned wardrobe. I know that’s what you’re trying to get out of. He rarely has a flat, or money, yet he won’t sell the damned thing. It will take the three of us an hour to get it down one flight of stairs, and Joly lives on the first floor. Watch, he took a flat on the top floor.”
“I did not. It’s on the third floor. There’s another one above it.”
“Oh, yeah, that’s a lot better. Three flights of stairs. This is the price I pay for sleeping with that bitch.”
“Okay, fine, I’ll help move it,” Joly assented. “At least it will be out of my flat.”
“Good. So when do we do this? Right after the meeting?” asked Courfeyrac.
“Make it after dinner. I need my strength,” said Lesgle.
Combeferre appeared at the top of the stairs with Jean Prouvaire behind him. “Bahorel will be up in a moment. He stopped in the bar to rouse Grantaire.”
Bahorel came up, supporting a very drunk Grantaire. “He’s here, but he’s worthless.”
“Since when is that new?” remarked Combeferre.
“Okay, since everyone’s here except Enjolras, and I don’t have much time before he shows up, I’ve got something I ought to ask you,” began Courfeyrac. “I made the acquaintance of a factory worker, a fellow revolutionary, today, and invited her to join us. How do you feel about it?”
“Bring him. We could always use new members, especially of the working class. He’ll be good for gaining support,” said Bahorel.
“Did you say ‘him’ or ‘her’? I swear you said ‘her’,” asked Combeferre.
“I did say ‘her’. It’s a woman.”
“Enjolras will freak if you bring her here,” warned Lesgle.
“Bring who here?” Enjolras had just come in.
“I met a fellow revolutionary, a worker, whom I would like to bring to Thursday’s meeting,” Courfeyrac replied.
“Good. We could always use more men.”
“There’s a problem, Enjolras. This worker is a woman,” Combeferre told him.
“What?! You would dare to bring a woman in here of all places? Your life is your own, I cannot force you to celibacy, but do not bring your hussies here to flaunt in my face.”
“She’s not one of my ‘hussies’! Mlle Feuilly is a damn sight better than any of those bitches, and I have not and do not plan to sleep with her. She’s a revolutionary, a comrade, not a mistress. I’m sick of this! I’ve only known you for about a month, Enjolras, but I will no longer accept your control of my life. You get on me because I drink, because I allow women into my bed. You, who never laughs, probably had a grand time when you heard that Félicie stole my furniture. I will not sleep with Feuilly because, goddammit, I would not sleep with you, or Joly, or Bahorel. I see her only as a revolutionary, not as a sex object. You, the great champion of equality, can only see Feuilly as a woman, can’t you? You hypocritical bastard!”
“Don’t you dare call me a hypocrite. I’m looking out for the revolution, not myself. A woman would only distract you from your aims. You must concentrate.” Enjolras was remarkably calm: he had a cold anger.
“Maybe she would distract you from your aims. Maybe a woman in close proximity threatens your proclaimed celibacy!”
“Get out! If you are not with me, then you are not with the revolution.” Enjolras turned to the others. “Whoever agrees with Courfeyrac will leave immediately, and will do me the kindness of not returning until you are prepared to give everything to the revolution.”
“I can’t do this. I’m sorry, Enjolras,” Combeferre said and walked out. Prouvaire followed with his head bowed.
“You may as well give up. No one will support you with what we can say against you,” Courfeyrac told Enjolras.
Courfeyrac left with Joly and Lesgle.
“If it wasn’t for your coldness, if you’d shown some fire, some life, I would have stayed,” Bahorel said on the way out the door.
Only Grantaire remained. “I’ll stay with you, Enjolras.”
“You’re a drunkard. I don’t need or want your help.” Grantaire stayed seated. “Go!” ordered Enjolras. Grantaire left with the others. Enjolras was alone.
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