“He’ll take us up there and wait if one of us stays with him,” Lucas informed Gouttenoire as he helped Angèle into the fiacre.
“That will be fine,” Gouttenoire called up to the driver.
Gouttenoire became lost in thought, so Angèle tried to strike up a conversation with Lucas. “So, lieutenant, why do you never speak? It appears difficult for you to say nothing. Tell me, why do you not speak to me?”
Lucas smiled. “Because of him.” He pointed to his friend. ”Gouttenoire always makes me seem inappropriate and ignorant because I love life and love, and I know nothing of either. Can I ask you something?”
“Why don’t you come across as a peasant like your mother? I mean, you could almost be Parisian, certainly not provincial.”
Angèle smiled sadly. “Julien. I didn’t want to be a peasant, so he taught me how to speak properly and how to walk and all that. Marie tried to teach me how to dress and wear my hair, but it was rather futile because she mostly dressed as a boy herself. I wasn’t sure how well any of their teaching had worked, though.”
“It’s worked quite well, I assure you. When you speak, I begin to forget that you are only sixteen.”
“Julien says - said,” Angèle corrected her first slip, “that I am really much older than they give me credit for.”
&lquo;He was correct, mademoiselle,” Gouttenoire broke in out of his revery. “You are certainly older in spirit than in body.”
“Thank you, lieutenant.”
“Are you sure that there is no way for you to remain in Paris?”
“You really are leaving?” Lucas asked, somewhat surprised.
“I have no recourse. I must leave if Maman wishes it. Please, let us discuss it no more. I cannot bear the thought of leaving.”
“You must forgive us, mademoiselle. If it does not trouble you too much, could you please tell me why it is that you call your brother ‘Bahorel’?”
“Because the coniferous forests are very dense,” she smiled. "It is true. It started as an insult by Richard, my other brother, and it stuck as a nickname. He hated his real name, anyway. It’s really Benoit, but he’d kill anyone who called him that. I believe none of his friends knew his real name.”
“Look, we’re almost at the top,” Lucas announced.
“Lieutenant,” Angèle addressed Gouttenoire, “please accompany me to the edge of the terrace.” The terrace was a grassy patch of ground, flattened with the intention of paving, but abandoned due to revolutions and a lack of funds. Gouttenoire jumped down from the fiacre, helped Angèle to descend, and allowed her to lead him to the edge. She looked out over the city, then turned to him.
He suddenly asked, “Why? Why did they do it?”
“Don’t you see? Here is where I first understood. Can you not see the poverty and ignorance that spread over Paris, and indeed all of France, like a cancer. Look, follow my finger. There you can see the golden dome of the Invalides, and there the Panthéon. Here you can see the towers of Notre-Dame and the Ile de la Cité." She pointed out each landmark as she named it. “See, you can follow the trees of the Champs Elysées with your finger, all the way to the Place de l'Étoile, where you can see the beginnings of yet another Arc de Triomphe ordered by Napoleon. You can see the squares and trees out there, but now look at your feet. Here all is crowded, with not a tree in sight until you come up the hill. This darkness is always growing - it is greater now than when I first saw it a year ago.” She turned to Gouttenoire and, taking his hands in hers, said, “I want you to see this so that you might begin to understand. I realise that you likely never will, but I cannot help but try.”
“Thank you, mademoiselle, for your acquaintance,” Gouttenoire said seriously as he kissed her tiny hand.
“You must leave now. I thank you for your sympathy, and I advise you not to pity me. If you can find the sort of love that Julien had for me, you will understand why I need no pity.”
“Then I shall simply say ‘Au revoir’ and be gone.”
“‘Adieu’ is better, for then I shall not hope to see you again.”
“And I say ‘Au revoir’, for I hope that our paths may cross in the future.”
“Adieu, lieutenant,” Angèle told him firmly.
“Au revoir, mademoiselle,” Gouttenoire replied, just as firmly.
Angèle turned her back on the young officer, and Gouttenoire turned his back on the city. He left Angèle alone on the terrace, watching her as long as he could. She never looked back at the carriage as it drove off, concentrating instead on the city below, lost in a storm of memory and sadness, Gouttenoire thought. Little did he know that she turned to look for him one last time, just as the top of the fiacre disappeared down the steep hill of Montmartre.
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