Les Amis de l'ABC

Chapter 7

Out in the street, the sun was slowly setting. The drunk was gone, and Albert was nowhere in sight. Feuilly sat on the stoop with her head in her hands, waiting. Joly stood by her, not knowing what to do or even think. She looked up at him and asked, “You’re a doctor, right?”

“Not exactly.” Joly knew where this was going.

“But you’re studying to be one?”


“How long?”

“What do you mean, how long?” Joly knew, but he wanted to put off the inevitable.

“How long will Pierre live?”

That caught Joly off guard. “Pierre? But he’s not even sick!”

“I’ve known him for a long time. When Sabine and the baby die, he will die, too.”

“I can’t say about Pierre, but the child will not last more than a week. His wife, maybe two, but it’s doubtful. The death of the child may kill her before her illness, or she could be so sick that she won’t even know. I don’t really know. I’m not a doctor, and I haven’t examined her.” Joly did not like having to give this news to Feuilly, but he couldn’t lie to her. He put it the best he could. He hated having to say it, so he never used the word ‘die’. It was obvious, though.

“Thank you. Thank you for being blunt. We saved up for a month one time, before the baby was born, to hire a doctor, not a very good one, but a doctor all the same. He took our money and told us to do all sorts of stuff we couldn’t afford to do, and he said if we didn’t do what he said she’d never get better, but he never told us she’d actually die so soon. That was about three months ago, and Pierre held on to the doctor’s words until last week. He knows she will die soon, and he’s dying, too. And you know why they’re all dying? Because nobody, anywhere, gives a damn about us down here. It’s too late for anything, isn’t it?”

“For them, yes. But not for you and Pierre.”

“That’s bullshit, and you know it. It’s too late for everyone who’s down here right now.”

Joly didn’t know how to respond, because he believe her to be right, so he stayed silent. Thankfully, Albert arrived with a couple of men and a broken down cart.

“Hey there. Let’s get moving. It took me too goddamned long to get this from the rag lady.”

“I was hoping you’d blend in more, Glorieux,” said Feuilly, standing up. “With the mug on Barrecarrosse, and the sheer size of Guelemer, the three of you are going to stand out. I’m sure the cops is on to Guelemer, and I know there was a ’tec watching Barrecarrosse last week.”

“He’s gone. I checked,” Barrecarrosse, a thin, wiry little man, told her.

“Would you relax, Marie? I’m not gonna get nipped,” Albert, alias Glorieux, ordered her.

“Well, let’s go then. Just follow me. I came from there.”

Feuilly and Joly led the way back to Joly’s flat. Courfeyrac and Lesgle were sitting on the ground, talking. They got up when they saw the men coming with the cart.

“What took you so long? It’s getting dark pretty fast,” Courfeyrac asked accusingly.

“It took a minute to find Glorieux, and it took him a while to get guys and convince the rag lady to give up her cart,” explained Feuilly.

“OK, here’s what we’re going to do. I needed this cart special because two sides are loose. We take off two sides, put the wardrobe inside, and push it down the street. Me and Barrecarrosse and Guelemer can take care of it. Someone show us the house, we’ll get it up to the flat. You can follow with any other little stuff, messieurs. Marie Madeleine, you come with us,” ordered Albert.

“Of course. Whose is this? M. Lesgle? Come, Monsieur, show us the house,” Feuilly said. Lesgle walked off with her and the men.

“Did you see that?” Courfeyrac asked Joly.


“That man is huge! He’s like a statue of Heracles, only you wouldn’t put him on a pedestal. He’s the Heracles of the underworld!”

“Well, don’t tell him that. He won’t understand and he might rip your head off.”

“I’m not stupid, Joly.”

“Well, I’m afraid of all of Marie’s friends. Her brother, Albert, the one she keeps calling Glorieux, is an escaped convict, I think.”

“Who’s Marie?”

“Mlle Feuilly. That’s her Christian name, I think. The poor girl, her family is the living dead. Well, her family is dead, and her adoptive family is dying. Her father is losing his mind, her brother works in the chemical factories, and let me tell you, he is black as the devil, serious, his wife is really sick and will die soon, their son will die before the week is out, and Marie tells me that when they die, he will die, too. I saw them. I’ve never seen such misery. The only family she will have left soon is Albert, the one who’s moving Lesgle’ stuff, and he’s wanted by the police. I’m more ready for revolution than ever, Courfeyrac. I’ve seen what we’ve done to the people, and we must do something soon.” Joly was so involved that he completely forgot that he was a hypochondriac and would die soon from some horrible disease contracted in Pierre’s flat.

Courfeyrac was not about to call attention to the omission. “Let’s get the stuff we left in your flat. Before revolution, we’ve got to get Lesgle moved.” They went upstairs, to retrieve Lesgle’ drawer and clothing.

“Tell me, Courfeyrac, what is going on between you and Marie?“ asked Joly.

“Are you on a first name basis with her now? What happened tonight?” Courfeyrac was getting angry.

“She called me Thomas the whole time, she took me into her world, she asked for my help, even though we both knew I had none to give. This has been the greatest night of my life, both in terms of happiness and sorrow. I think you’re jealous that she let me into her life, not you, and dammit, Courfeyrac, I’m going to stay. Marie needs someone right now, and she chose me. You don’t own her; you’ve spent the afternoon denying any strong connection with her, why can’t I be her friend?”

“Because I’m afraid she’ll get hurt!” Courfeyrac burst out.

“You don’t trust me?” Joly shouted. “I thought we were friends! Do you think I would sleep with her or something? I can’t believe you! You’re jealous of a nonexistent affair! You’re not even sleeping with her yourself! You’re acting like a jealous lover, Courfeyrac. Would you be this pissed if I spent a few minutes alone with Grantaire? No! You keep telling us that Marie is just another one of us, but you don’t treat her the same! I heard you talking to her like you had perfect diction, like you were nobility stooping to her level. No matter what we were taught, you and the rest of us speak like the bourgeoisie because that’s what we are. I think you were trying to impress her, and it wasn’t working. You are the problem here, and if you can’t get Marie, it’s your own damned fault for acting the way you did.” Joly was out of breath, and Courfeyrac was speechless. Everything Joly had said was true, and Courfeyrac could not come up with some witticism to counter Joly’s arguments.

Finally Courfeyrac spoke. “Did you say that we were the bourgeoisie?” he asked slowly, carefully prodding without making Joly more angry.

“Yes, we are the bourgeoisie. We’re certainly not of the upper class, no matter what our parents think. So what if our families have money or prestige? My father is just a merchant who happens to make more money than most former nobility. Your family is fallen nobility who got into business after the Revolution. We are not our families, even. I notice you refuse that paltry ‘de’ your father prizes so highly. My father would rather I learn to be a gentleman than a doctor so he can feel better about himself. Look at us! We’re going to work for a living, we’re fighting for equality and democracy, do we sound like the upper class?”

“We’re the bourgeoisie,” finished Courfeyrac.

“So quit acting like a stuffed shirt!“ Joly was smiling. Conflict never lasted long between them. “Come on, we’ve got to get this stuff over to Lesgle’ place.”

They were only around the corner when they met Feuilly running toward them.

“There you guys are! I thought we’d lost you. What’s going on?” she asked.

Courfeyrac and Joly looked at each other. “Nothing,” Courfeyrac answered.

Feuilly knew it was more than nothing, but she wasn’t going to press the issue. “Come on. I’ll show you the building. Gimme something to carry.” She grabbed the better part of Lesgle’s clothes from Courfeyrac and set off. Courfeyrac and Joly jumped to follow.

Joly whispered to Courfeyrac, “Apologize as soon as possible.”

“I remember,” Courfeyrac whispered back.

They succeeded in installing Lesgle in his new flat. Albert, Guelemer, and Barrecarrosse received a warning from Feuilly that the buildings they saw were not to be touched, to which Albert readily agreed. The men left with the rag lady’s cart.

“Take care of yourself, Marie Madeleine!” Albert called up from the street.

“You watch your own back, Glorieux,” Feuilly answered. “Stay away from Patron Minette for a couple weeks, and keep an eye on Pierre for me.”

“You’re the boss!” Albert rounded a corner and was gone.

“Who were those men?” asked Courfeyrac.

Still looking out the window, Feuilly answered, “Albert, aka Glorieux; Guelemer; and Barrecarrosse, aka M. Dupont. Albert is sort of my brother, and the other two are his ’partners’. They’re members of Patron Minette, just a gang of thieves and murderers. Guelemer scared the shit out of you, didn’t he? I wish I could tell you he’s harmless, but he’s killed several men in robberies. Barrecarrosse is a petty thief, nothing more. Albert is a recovered patient. He got sick after he made the mistake of robbing the prefect. Sweet guy, not much of a brain. The sad thing is he’s the smartest of the three. Guelemer and Barrecarrosse look up to him, amazingly enough.”

“You say he got sick? Should he be doing so much work?” asked Courfeyrac.

“Oops. ’Sick’ means nipped, nabbed, arrested. He was released from prison last week, so he’s ’recovered’.”

“And you directed him here?” Courfeyrac was shocked, and a bit angry.

“Albert will do anything I say. He’s completely trustworthy, and he won’t do anything in this neighbourhood.”

Joly elbowed Courfeyrac. “I’d prefer to do it in private,” Courfeyrac whispered back in reference to his apology to Feuilly.

Feuilly had been speaking to the window, afraid that she would show how much she cared for Albert. When she heard Courfeyrac speak, she turned around. “I better not take more of your time, messieurs. I’ll be going now. I’ll meet you outside the first house on Thursday. Au revoir.” She made it to the door before Courfeyrac stopped her.

“Wait. Will you walk with me for a bit?”

“I guess.”

“I’ll meet you two back at Joly’s flat in half an hour,” Courfeyrac told Joly and Lesgle. He left with Feuilly.

“So, what happened between you two?” Lesgle asked Joly. “You were gone quite some time.”

“I’m not sure. I think . . . I think I’m in love.”

“There’s going to be some competition for her.”

“I know. But I’m not going to try. Courfeyrac found her, he’s afraid of her getting hurt, and I’m beginning to think that Enjolras may be right. I need to concentrate on the revolution, and getting more involved with Marie would hurt me, her, and the revolution.”

“Smart boy.”

“Oh, shut up, Lesgle!” Joly said, smiling.


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