Hear Now the Tale of a Jet Black Sunrise
Julien stayed the night in Aix, hoping that the wind would calm down by morning. It hadn’t, but Othello was rested, so he set out late and arrived back in Marseille sometime after noon. It appeared there had been a bright spot in his absence - not only was Henri back out in the wind, but there had been a self-flagellating letter from Gérard. It was hardly the condolence, or apology, Julien had hoped he would write, though it included both those elements among the rambling insistence of fault, but it was something. There would be nothing from Lameire.
But the days were strained. Henri had not entirely forgiven him for his implications that Valland was a spy, and Julien could not entirely give up his paranoia. Lameire’s theory, which he refused to impart to Henri, kept eating at him. It was such an odd theory to invent. Why claim a man a deviant when he was in no position to defend himself?
Even worse, the next time he went into town, merely to see if there were anything of the least interest in one of the bookshops, a much older man fell into step with him and directed him to the hôtel de ville. The police had finally decided to take note of his inquiry.
“You have a reputation, M. Combeferre,” the commissaire central told him. “You have a file. This file even contains a note stating that there is further information in the ministry’s files in Paris. Do you dislike how we have conducted our investigation?”
“If I may speak freely, monsieur?” Julien asked, his tone mixing a great deal of courtesy with the insistence that he had learned from his mother.
“You and I both know that my friend runs a side show. The only people in Marseille who believed anything they said were they themselves. Regardless of how we feel about it, it is the truth. But Henri Enjolras intended to marry Emilie Duchamp, and she is dead, which of course leads me to wonder just what happened. It has been my investigation, to try to set my mind at peace, and it has no bearing on the legal issues. I was under the impression that your investigation had been completed and that I was not inserting myself into your business.”
“My business. Why did I get myself into a business where dead girls are my business?” the commissaire central muttered. “Do you know what has happened because of this mess? I didn’t have a political report to send to Paris. I had a dead girl to send to Paris. Paris doesn’t care about one dead girl. I can think of eighty people, at least, who wanted to teach her a lesson, and I don’t know that I blame them, but I certainly didn’t need a body.” Julien let him rant. The commissaire may have talked about his file, but he was certainly treating him as Richard Combeferre’s son rather than a possible suspect in any political investigation. “Look, I’ll make you a deal. Make a nuisance of yourself, and I’ll let you investigate to your heart’s content.”
“This deal strongly implies that you need me more than I need you. What if I have completed my investigation? What if one of your men already told M. Enjolras everything I care to know? My actions in Marseille - and in Aix, since I know you know I went to Aix - have been strictly legal.”
“But do you know everything?”
“One of your men told M. Enjolras that she had been raped. At least, that is how I understood the idea of ’other violence’ in a girl who had been beaten to death. I also know the general extent of her injuries from discussion with her father. She probably died of a punctured lung, when someone kicked her and broke a rib. I have seen these injuries before. I would not rule out the idea of head trauma, as she was unconscious from when she was found until her death. Based on her height and weight, she was attacked by several men in concert. And since no appeals or reports of other attacks were published in the newspaper, she was singled out. I am not a fool, monsieur, and the one thing I did not know, you have since told me. You and your men had every reason to want her alive, not as one of the people you have sworn to protect but so that you might continue to file political reports to Paris. As a gentleman, I wish you good luck, but please excuse me for preferring not to assist you in such endeavours. Am I free to go?”
Julien was free to go. But it had taken all the strength he had to maintain such a front, to spit out the known facts in a detached manner to the commissaire central himself, and he felt terribly weak and terribly close to tears. He hailed a cab to take him home, rather fearing he might collapse publicly otherwise. Indeed, once hidden from view, he fell into harsh, wracking sobs and had trouble getting his breath, though he managed to force himself to put on a semblance of equilibrium as the carriage came to a halt at the gates of the Enjolras estate. He said nothing of the afternoon’s events to either Henri or M. Enjolras. It would merely upset them further to know the police continued to take an interest.
When the mail came a few days later, and Julien had replies from Paris, it was as if spring had come.You think I always know the right thing to say? You really never heard how I met Prouvaire? I accidentally completely offended him, and I’m lucky he’s forgiven me. I swear I have my foot in my mouth more often than out.
But the bigger issue here is why would a person not want to be in Paris? It’s Paris! The centre of the world. Shouldn’t our interests be reason enough for anyone who shares our interests to want to come here? But setting that aside, since we cannot admit certain interests to our fathers, why are we here? For the simple reason that only the poor who are desperately trying to raise themselves to the level of the bourgeois are at Aix. Socially, we are too good for it. Oh, sure, my brother did his degree at Aix, but there was still the war going on and it was thought he’d be safer closer to home. No accidental conscription and unlikely there’d be a sudden desire to run off and join the army’s last-ditch effort against the English. But the war was the only reason Gilles was at Aix. My father never considered sending me there, and after some of the stunts I pulled at home, you’d think he wouldn’t have wanted me so far from sight. Jehan’s father never considered it for him. Have you ever been to Aix? It’s smaller than Avignon, even, and everyone is local. You’ll make better connections with southerners in Paris than you will in Aix.
Bahorel comes from Languedoc. He may call his parents peasants, but even they know they get better value for money supporting their son in Paris than in Toulouse. He’s been here for years and he claims he barely even suggests he’s still studying anymore - the benefit is in the friendships, the connections. If everything these days is back to whom you know rather than what you can do, and everyone of importance is in Paris, why would any man of ambition stay in the provinces? A farmer in Languedoc can figure that out. I can’t possibly understand your question because I cannot comprehend a man of wealth and intelligence who would not deprive himself of company for three years in order to advance the family name. What sort of a bourgeois is your M. Enjolras?
As for your friend, he has to be longing to get out of there. The South has only natural beauty - the people are stifling. It was actually in one of the papers the other day that only in the South are there enough priests for all the parishes. That says everything right there, doesn’t it? Anyone who enjoys what we enjoy cannot possibly want to stay. He’s been there too long already. What is that scientific phrase you would enjoy so much? Inertia has set in. (And here I thank Joly, because I know neither physics nor physic.) He can’t move forward without a push because he’s stuck in conservative mire. What does he think he can do in Marseille? If he stays only out of loyalty to his father, then you’ve got to convince the old man that he’s keeping his son back. Bahorel says to tell him that he’s acting like an Ancien Regime peasant and he needs to enter the nineteenth century. (Because that worked ever so well on his parents? His parents aren’t stupid.) You know better than to listen to him, but it isn’t wholly bad advice. I suppose everyone feels sorry for the old boy, but there is something he will love as much as his son, and you’ve got to play on that. It may be as simple as money, it may be social position, he may even be an eccentric who can be made to believe that one simply gets a better education in Paris than in that hole known as Aix. But play on whatever he loves in order to get permission, and then get you both the hell out of there.
Let me know what I can do. If I’m at all convincing, it’s in person, not by letter.
I’m holding down the fort just fine, and, I’ll have you know, I even have a new recruit. Turns out your friend Joly is friends with a chap I know from around the law school, called Lesgle. So we’ve got another pair of hands. It’s been quiet since November - aren’t you lucky you didn’t get back until after the riots? None of our set is in any trouble, if you’ve been at all worried. But then, Feuilly would have told you when you met with him if there were any real trouble. I might say I’m jealous, except for that kind of trouble, I know I’d go straight to you or Feuilly. You’ve got the head for it, and he’s got the experience (speaking of trouble, he hasn’t missed a riot possibly ever, lucky bastard - make sure he tells you about November, because I know he didn’t say a word when he saw you). I do hope to see you back here soon, and to meet your friend. Joly’s been saving some medical articles for you, he wants me to say, if you’re up to that sort of thing. He won’t be offended if you’re not. They’re more scientific than practical.
Tell me what you need, and I’ll send whatever I can or set up whatever I can. I have two sisters who like me, one in Orange, one in Avignon, and I am absolutely willing to put these good married ladies at your disposal if either may be of use. You can’t leave anyone to rot in Aix. I’d never forgive you.
Julien could not help smiling. Courfeyrac’s good humour was always contagious, even in a letter. And he was right - no one who could manage better should be permitted to rot in Aix. Aix was rotting away as it was, and to send anyone there would be to lose him. Everyone else of his class was in Paris - even men of lower class went to Paris if they thought they could scrape together the money.
He had fixated so much on Paris, but Courfeyrac was right - Paris is not necessarily about Paris but about all the worthies in France. Indeed, in Europe. M. Enjolras was a climber - one could tell from the house alone, much less from the divided nature of his economic holdings - and he would give in if pressed because he could not justify ruining his son for his own selfishness. And if he agreed, Henri would have no more reason to stay.
The other letter, folded into Courfeyrac’s even though Julien would gladly have paid the receipt, was from Feuilly:Let us come straight to the point. How to find a man, you ask? That depends upon the man. Is he a man like you, a man like me, or a man of an altogether different sort? A man like you has money, high acquaintances, the possibility of getting a passport written out very quickly with no questions asked. He will have left town, possibly even the country. A man like me, on the other hand, has no money. To disappear entirely costs money - lost wages at the job left without notice, possibly advance rent paid to avoid the landlord sending collectors on a search. He can walk out of town, certainly, but he will have no passport if he must leave quickly, and he may not have great facilities with falsehood. Marseille is a large city, is it not? It will be easier for him to move across town and take whatever employment he can for a time. Also, you are on the sea. What does it take for a man to become a sailor? That may be the way for a poor man to escape town, which will certainly hinder your search. But if he is a man of an altogether different sort, then you will never be able to find him. His entire life that you think you know, down to his identity papers, is a lie. His appearance may be false as well. He may hide in plain sight under a different name, different appearance, different voice, different class. You do not want to find such a man - leave that to his fellows and the police.
But that does not wholly answer your question. Let us suppose that your man has not left town, that he can still be found. If he is an honest man, he will not have changed his name, though he may try to rent a room under a different name. Do you go to every business in search of him? Of course not. He will get wind of what you are doing long before you ever come close to him, and it may force him out of town.
But you know as well as I do how to find a man. How would you find me? Think about it. Where would you look for me if I left my flat, left my job, avoided the cafés you know I frequent? Everyone has something they cannot leave behind, even if they are hiding. An interest, a need, something that makes that man who he is. For me, you would scour the churches of Paris. Another man might be found in the balcony of a particular theatre that he cannot quite bring himself to give up, even if he were accustomed to the pit in happier days. Yet another might exchange the Tuileries for the Luxembourg. There will prove one thing he cannot set aside, and that is how you will find him.
I wish I were not giving you such advice, that you were not in need of such advice. Things are not at all well with you, and I hope you will return soon and put this business behind you as best you can. Not because we should avoid the nasty events in life, but that they will swallow us if we pay them too much attention. You care so much for others and so little for yourself that I must insist you be selfish, just this once. Be as careful as ever you have been.
Julien was so grateful for the letters because they they came from his friends, men he knew and trusted, who sought to help a person they had never met simply because that man was also his friend.
Was it worth trying to find Valland? To see if Lameire’s idiotic theory had a kernel of truth? To at least find out what had happened, why everyone defended him halfheartedly? Would that mean seeking out the deviants in Marseille? Where did the deviants go in Marseille? In Paris, everyone knew they paraded certain walks in the Tuileries and in a certain dance hall, none of the women were actually women. What were the equivalents in conservative, pious, mercantile Marseille? And would Henri know enough of the man’s habits so that Julien would not have to be taken for a deviant himself, searching among the deviants? That would at least add interest to his police file. Was he giving too much credence to Lameire’s theory by even worrying about the deviant population of Marseille?
It was time to apologise, at the very least, and admit to Lameire’s theory, to see what Henri’s reaction might be. Henri was outside, in the wind and the sun, almost looking like the child of nature he quite patently was not. This would be easier in nice weather, Julien thought, if we could do this in the garden, under starry skies. But he could not wait for the weather. February was the worst month for the mistral, M. Enjolras had told him, and it seemed to be true. One had perhaps a day to catch one’s breath, often a day of rain that had been held back by the wind, before the battle began all over again. They had only just recovered from the last, when snow had been blown down from the mountains. Julien was beginning to discern the difference in the winds, how the stronger came more from the north and brought nothing but misery for periods of time he thought impossible, while the wind purely out of the west was only a touch more mild, but lasted only a day or three at the most. This was the wind in which Henri was prone to go walking, and it had some of the characteristics of the summer mistral, if one could forget how bloody cold it was. Julien watched him from the window for some time - he was obviously cold, clutching his coat tightly around him, but there was something delightfully natural in how he faced the wind, his golden hair streaming behind, the red in his cheeks a welcome contrast to the pale, shaken figure Julien had found two months ago. February was passing quickly. The parties for Mardi Gras were only two days away, and Julien found it strange to be so isolated at a time when he was usually in Paris, partaking of the fêtes that had more of the Pagan than of the Christian to his mind. Even as a child, he would watch the carriages arrive to take his neighbours away and try to guess what costumes they might have hidden under their cloaks based on the wig or mask or hat he could see. Here, the balls would be in the city, and he could probably wrangle an invitation to one, but perhaps it was best this year to set aside the usual festivities. He was embroiled in masks enough.
Out in the garden, the wind gusted into a roar before falling back into a howl. Henri permitted Julien to slip an arm around his shoulders and guide him back to the house. One simply could not have a conversation in that wind. “I’m sorry for my suspicions about Valland. But you must admit his behaviour has been suspicious.”
“It hasn’t been suspicious in the least. He is not a local, he does not get on with his father, there is nothing to keep him here if he seeks to avoid the police.”
“It hurts me to think your friends do not care for you as I do.”
Julien couldn’t help smiling. “Perhaps not. But while I love no one as I love you, I would find a way to express some sympathy in this sort of situation. I am glad Gérard has finally discovered his own backbone. But I would like to know if Valland knows something, if his fear is perhaps more justified than the others’. Do you know how I ought to try to find him?”
“So you can accuse him to his face of being a spy and a murderer?”
“No,” Julien said firmly. “To see if he can find his own backbone. If he is not involved in the crime, he will almost certainly know nothing about it, but if he was your friend, perhaps he may want to express his sympathies in a form that will not be intercepted by the police.”
“There is no point.”
“He will do what he will do, and he must be left to it. Perhaps he has taken ship and is long gone, in any case.”
Julien examined him curiously. “You don’t actually think that, do you?” The statement had not been terribly promising.
“It doesn’t matter.”
“A man in hiding always has something he cannot let go, something not wholly obvious, but a part of his character that he cannot cut out. What is in Valland’s character that he cannot cut out?”
“How am I to know?”
“You are his friend, are you not?”
“We have not been friends for some time. He was an associate, a useful one, a man who understood struggle and who wished to help the cause.”
Lameire was a least right that there had been a falling out, an awkward one by the way Henri would not look at him as he continued to press his case. “But you were friends once. You trusted him with your life, your freedom - even in the end, you trusted him. He is not a stranger to you. What must I do to find him?”
“How can you go from calling him a spy to calling him my friend?”
“If he was not one, he must be the other.”
“That is a fallacy I never expected to hear from you. In theory, he could be both or he could be neither.”
“No, because if he were a spy, then he was never your friend.”
“Judas was never Jesus’ friend? Then why did he hang himself?”
“Why did he betray him at all? Isn’t that the difference between a friend and an acquaintance? That a friend is someone you would go to any lengths for, even if it meant accepting the consequences yourself to keep them from him?”
“Who are your greatest friends in Paris?”
“Courfeyrac and Feuilly,” Julien answered without hesitation.
“Would you go to prison for either of them?”
“Yes. And they would do the same for me.”
“Can a man so divide his affections that he can have four where there once was one?”
“I have taken no affection away from you, brother. You took none from me when you fell in love, did you? One does not have a finite supply of love that must be split among all one’s acquaintance.”
“I care for the future more than I care for either you or her,” Henri finally said softly, fervently. “I could sell you both out and string myself up tonight if it meant that tomorrow, all the ills of the world could be washed away. I love you more than any man, but I do not love you more than mankind.”
“I do not expect anything else of you.”
“Emilie understood. She said something to Valland about it. He mistook the statement as being about something else entirely. Once he was corrected, he chose not to leave, and I forgave him his selfish impulse. He has done nothing wrong.”
“But there is a vast gulf between nothing wrong and something right. Gérard and Lameire have done nothing wrong, have endured questioning from the police and not turned traitor in their fear, but neither have they done anything right. No, I take it back. Gérard is too often too scared to do anything right, but he has in this instance, just rather late.” Julien would never admit that he had pushed Gérard into writing that letter. “But Lameire cares more for his own skin than for anything else. Valland may have done nothing wrong, but what has he not done?”
“He does not think as the rest of us, that is all. How can I tell you where to find him if I do not know how he thinks?”
“How is he different from us? Tell me,” Julien asked, as kindly as he could.
“Lameire told you something. Just say what you want rather than try to push me into saying it for you.”
“Lameire has ridiculous theories that concern no one but himself. What he admitted to, objectively, was one day seeing Valland with a cut lip and you wiping blood off your hand. He then drew unwarranted conclusions.”
“Yes, I hit him. There was a misunderstanding. All has been forgiven and forgotten.”
“Lameire thinks there is something unnatural about Valland.”
“Unnatural? You may as well tell me what ridiculous gossip you’ve been sold.”
“I am not saying I believe it, merely that I cannot get the insinuation out of my head. Lameire thinks you punched Valland because he tried to kiss you.”
Henri stared at him in what Julien feared at first was horror, that Lameire was terrifyingly correct. And then he started laughing, actually laughing. “He thought - Christ. I admit to him once, about one boy, years ago, and he thinks the world wants to fall at my feet. Valland is a bitter misogynist who made some unfortunate comments about Emilie, but he is well attuned to the nature of the semi-skilled labourer, and thus he continued of use once he apologised. We must educate ourselves, not only the people. There is no use looking for a man who is innocent and not particularly sorry. He probably ran from the police because he knew Lameire would tell them about the fight.”
Henri sounded perfectly normal for once, but Julien was not soothed in the least. “Why did you not tell me any of this before?”
“Because it doesn’t matter.”
“If he hated Emilie so much, and she continued to meet with them without your protection, is it not possible he could support the cause but want her removed?” he pressed.
“It may be possible, remotely, but it is not probable. He could not face us if he had done something so underhanded.”
“He does not face you now. How may I find him?”
“So you can chase down Lameire’s ridiculous theory?” Henri sighed. “He has broken with his father, but he still attends mass every Sunday. Try the churches.”
“Thank you.” Henri may have found the whole thing ridiculous, but Lameire was not an utter fool. He did not see deviants everywhere, and something had to have put the idea into his head. There had been no kiss, but something was still not right. A pious deviant would try to keep his temptations in check, and such an endeavour would be impossible aboard ship. It made sense that a man of that character would not have escaped town in the easiest manner. And he would stay in the South, where there were enough priests to help him. He may even hate women more than the average man because they have no utility to him. Nothing Henri had said had ruled out deviance, merely the single deviant act Lameire hypothesised. And the deviant always left himself open to discovery and blackmail, which, in a man more devoted to his own safety than that of a woman he hated, could be a direct route to betrayal. Julien felt he had no choice but to get to the bottom of the matter before it consumed all his thoughts.
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