“Thérèse?” Lucas asked in the fiacre.
“What is it, honey?” She sneezed.
“Would you mind looking at some sketches for me?”
“But monsieur, we hardly know each other!” she replied in mock horror.
Lucas picked up her mocking tone and recognised a kindred spirit. Only he could have construed an official inquiry as a come-on. “Maybe we can get to those later. These are just quick portraits of the insurgents.”
“Revolutionaries,” Thérèse corrected him. “You’re talking to a supporter, here.” She lapsed into the familiar “tu”.
“Revolutionaries. Would you mind helping us identify them?”
“Not at all. Let me see.” Lucas pulled the stack of drawings from his pocket. Thérèse recited each name, followed by a few comments. “René Courfeyrac and his sister, Marie. Courfeyrac brought her into the revolution because they were best friends. Marie is the black sheep of the family. Bahorel. He’s a character. He’s had more grisettes than the Marais, but he finally settled down about a year ago. Supposed to marry Gabrielle, a waitress at our cafe. Here’s her picture. She’s the only woman who could keep him in line. Now here’s my Bossuet. Poor guy, he never had any luck. I love him, though. His real name is Lesgle, not spelled the way any good Buonapartist would. Ah, Nikita. She was going to marry Courfeyrac. She was Russian, spent time in Siberia for her participation in a revolution there. A good soldier. Courfeyrac never cared about anything but Marie and Nikita. He loved her more than life itself. Now here’s Joly, our little hypochondriac. He probably spent all night, knowing he was going to die, worrying about his health. Enjolras.” She sighed. “He was the catch of the century that no one could reel in. Handsome, intelligent, a born leader. But so cold, so hard. Hell, if I could have fired a weapon, I would have followed him into death.” She sneezed again, a reminder of why she was still there. “Then there was Grantaire. He would have followed Enjolras into hell, even though Enjolras would have forbidden it.” Thérèse shook her head. “Such a waste. He never believed in anything, the drunk, and here he is, dead for a cause.” She flipped to the next picture, and tears, obviously unfamiliar in the way she tried desperately to keep them in her eyes, welled up. “Jehan. Our little Jehan; our little poet.” She sniffed and tried to blink the tears away. “He was the real waste. He couldn’t kill anyone. He wanted peace. Prouvaire. His name was Jean Prouvaire. His wife will have to know.” Eager to push her personal feelings aside, she went to the next picture. “Anne? She was there? She must have followed them. To be fifteen and have nothing left to live for, it must be terrible, that. To be without family, without friends. The boys never accepted her. Ah, here’s Jacques. One of Marie’s converts. A factory worker and student. I never knew his last name.” Thérèse flipped to the next picture and smiled. “Feuilly. He was an artist, as good as you, monsieur. Sweet boy. He tried to follow Combeferre in everything since he lacked a formal education. By the end, Combeferre was even acting as his patron. Life on the streets gave him art; life in the factories tried to take it away. I think he’s rather happy that he is no longer dependent upon Combeferre; independence meant so much to him. He hated giving it up.” She came to the last picture and stopped. “Who is she?”
“That’s what we’d like to find out. She tried to stop a bullet with her hand,” Lucas explained.
“Mon dieu! Well, you are missing two people.”
“What do you mean?“
“You have no pictures of Combeferre or Marius.”
“We gave away the sketch of M. Combeferre. Who is this Marius?”
“Marius Pontmercy. Curly dark hair, looks insanely young? He must not have been there. He was a Buonapartist, anyway. It’s likely that he didn’t show up. His little grisette must have kept him long enough to miss the beginning, and he’d never come fashionably late to a revolution.” Thérèse sneezed again. “Damn. I was hoping it was slowing down a bit.”
“Are you sure you wish to accompany us, mademoiselle?” Gouttenoire asked with concern.
“Quite sure. I’ve a little of the devil in me, I suppose. I desperately want to poke through Bossuet’s things. And get germs all over Joly’s,” she added mischievously. “How on earth did you know Bossuet was living with Joly?”
“A young man at the medical school approached us,” Gouttenoire volunteered.
“Did you get his name?”
“Armand! How is he taking it?”
“I cannot say. I am not intimately acquainted with the man, but he appeared disappointed to have been forbidden to go.”
“That’s because Geneviève is pregnant. She’s his wife. They met because of the revolution, you know.”
The fiacre stopped. “Allow me to help you descend,” Gouttenoire offered. Thérèse took his hand while Lucas paid the cabman once again.
“Wow, I haven’t been here in months. Joly forbid me access in March, so Bossuet and I have been meeting on neutral turf. Let me warn you, this will be the cleanest student lodgings on earth. Joly dusts every morning because he thinks he has asthma. Dusted. Thought. God, it’s hard to remember to use past tense when you’re climbing the stairs to your friends’ flat.”
The concierge, knowing Thérèse, did not stop her or her companions from entering Joly’s flat. The door was unlocked, meaning Bossuet was the last to leave, so Thérèse led the officers inside. “I thought you said it was clean!” Lucas exclaimed. Books sat everywhere, a forgotten jacket lay on the floor, a slight breeze ruffled a mass of papers only partially retained by a paperweight, and several sheets fluttered on the ground, having blown off the table under the window.
“I said clean, not neat.” Thérèse bent down to pick up the jacket. “Blame Bossuet for half of this. OK, more than half.” She examined the jacket and pointed out the worn elbows. “Bossuet’s.“ She sneezed. “Dammit! He’s been the Luxembourg. I told him to stay away from there! Flowers only make me worse.” She finally broke down into a sneezing fit and kicked the jacket into a corner by the door.
“Are you alright, mademoiselle?”
“I’m fine, I’m fine. Flowers just set me off, and he’s been around flowers within the past couple days, that’s all. Why are you here, anyway?”
“Excusez-moi. What do you mean, mademoiselle?”
“Who are you and why do you give a damn what happened to my boys?”
Gouttenoire was taken aback by the question. He did not know how to respond, seeing as how he did not really know why he was there. “I am not sure I comprehend your question, mademoiselle.”
“OK, I’ll start slow. What is your name?”
“Lieutenant Félix Gouttenoire.”
“Exactly my point. Your name is Félix Gouttenoire, but you are so much a Guardsman that you automatically preface it with your rank. So, lieutenant, why do you give a damn that my boys are dead?”
“Because the eldest could have been no older than Lucas and I. They were schoolboys, nothing more, and their deaths and treachery sadden me. What more do you wish to hear?”
“Did you know them? Any of them?”
“I never met a single one.”
“Then you don’t understand. There was no treachery. They were older than you in so many ways, even little Anne was surely older than you in experience. Did you expect to defeat them in blind faith in your moral superiority?”
“That is a difficult question.”
“It requires a simple answer. Yes or no?”
“I suppose yes.”
“They expected you to win by sheer numbers. Every one of them went to that barricade knowing full well that they were going to die. They all confessed it to me, periodically, over the past week or so. But they would never burden the group with such knowledge. The hope was that their deaths would lead to a strong government commitment to change.”
“They did not expect to win?”
“Heavens, no. At the beginning, yes, but by the time they actually put up that barricade, they knew they were just paving the way for the children. We didn’t have the numbers at Lamarque’s death, and his death was the only rallying cry we had. They didn’t quite know what they were doing, but they did know that something had to be done. They gave their lives honourably for a new republic, and I am proud to have known them.” She sneezed again. “Enough speechifying. So,” she turned to Lucas, who had been sorting through the papers on the floor, “find anything interesting?”
“So far, just some notes on tropical diseases.”
“Joly. I wonder which one he thought he had.”
“Probably malaria. It appears to be the most common.“
“Not exotic enough then. If you’re looking for addresses, I’d check the bedrooms. You take Joly’s; I’ll take Bossuet’s.”
“Sure, leave me the hypochondriac’s room!”
“What? It’s clean. Extremely clean. Do you always get picked on, monsieur,” Thérèse asked mockingly, combining the familiar “tu” with the very formal “monsieur”. She had picked up on the fact that Lucas was flirting with her.
“As a matter of fact, yes.“
“Well, you’re about to be again.” She put a hand on his shoulder and looked him directly in the eye, completely serious. “It’s too soon. Bossuet wasn’t just my lover; he was also my best friend. During the influenza epidemic, he stayed at my house, with my parents, to avoid catching it from Joly and Antoinette. That’s how close we were. Antoinette was Joly’s wife and Jehan’s little sister. She died during the epidemic. I’ve lost too many friends in the past six months to be up for a strong relationship now, and I will not engage in meaningless sex with you: I like you too much for that. Can you understand?”
“Of course. I’m sorry. I thought I had picked up on something.”
“You probably did. I don’t usually dwell on death, and I’ll be ready to move on in a couple of weeks, but not yet. It runs in the family, so I guess part of me is ready but the rest is not.”
“Oh, I understand. I’ll start searching M. Joly’s room.” He left with a nod and the expectation of further appreciation if his search proved successful.
“I shall look about out here,” Gouttenoire volunteered, feeling rather extraneous. This must be how Lucas felt when I was with Mlle Mancion, he thought.
“Thérèse, I think I found something,” Lucas called from Joly’s room.
Thérèse emerged from Bossuet’s bedroom. “Address in the south? They’re all southern.”
“I don’t know. St Cyr au Mont d’Or?”
“Lyon area. Country home outside the city, I’d assume. I’ve cousins down there,” she added in explanation.
“It’s from a M. et Mme Albert Joly.”
“Joly’s parents. If you want me to take care of it, I can write to them,” Thérèse offered.
“That’s a question for Gouttenoire.”
“M. Gouttenoire, we’ve got an address for Joly’s parents. Do you want me to write to them?” she called out to the salon.
“If you think a personal letter would suit the purpose better than an official notification, then feel free to shoulder the responsibility.”
“My god, you sound like Combeferre. Thanks. Have you found anything yet?”
“I do not know. Most of what I seem to find revolves around medical texts.”
“Check the books, maybe. Joly labelled everything with his Paris address, but Bossuet was older and might have something older than Joly did, with an old address inside. I’m going back to his room.”
Lucas followed her. “Why do you help us?” he asked, finally using the familiar “tu”. “You have every right to curse us, to scream in our faces. We killed your best friend, did we not? You ought to keep us away from here. Surely this is an open wound, in spite of everything you say to the contrary.”
“You don’t know my family. My grandmother danced the carmagnole daily during the first revolution and republic. My grandfather’s wine shop was revolutionary headquarter for years before the revolution happened. I lost my brother two years ago and an uncle back in ’22, which is how I knew Bahorel first. They fought together, and Bahorel brought us the note saying Lucien was dead. Revolution and death are in my blood. If I couldn’t fight my way through it and stand here talking to you, I wouldn’t be a Guyon.”
“You have an interesting family.”
“We just follow the history of the French people. What, does your family history follow the aristocracy?”
“Not exactly. We’ve always been monarchists, but we’ve never been aristocrats.”
“Ah, the unimaginative bourgeoisie. Let me invite you to dinner, meet some real people.”
“Lunch, whatever. You and Gouttenoire come home with me, and my mother can feed you (you must be starved by this hour) and you can meet Julie and my grandmother.”
“You’ll have to ask Gouttenoire.”
“Of course. He appears to be the one running the show. Aha!” Thérèse sneezed. “Found it, or at least close enough. A letter from his uncle, with an address, no less. Come on, dinner is surely almost ready.” She led Lucas from the bedroom. “M. Gouttenoire, would you care to dine with us? I was going to take Lucas home for dinner, but it just wouldn’t be right not to invite you. Surely you must be hungry, too.”
“Merci, mademoiselle. It would be an honour to dine with you and your family.”
“Then we’d better go. Maman is likely worried about me, since I was supposed to be home an hour ago by Joly’s mantle clock, and Julie must be sick with worry about Jehan. I live just around the corner.”
“So you’re the girl in the wine shop that M. Blacheville mentioned.”
“Was Armand trying to be secretive? How cute. I’ve got what I need out of here for now. If you would follow me, gentlemen?”
Chapter 7 ~ Fiction ~ Chapter 9 ~ Home