Hear Now the Tale of a Jet Black Sunrise

Chapter 14

But as he walked back to the Enjolras estate, along the docks and the beach to make the most of the spring sunshine, what stuck with Julien was something Valland had said. “He only loved her because he could only love a girl who was not a girl.” It was patently untrue - it had to be. They had been courting for years; they were planning to try to force a marriage this summer. Emilie had been, in many ways, not much of a girl, but she was terribly bright and penetrating, an Olympe de Gouges for a new generation. Julien’s imagination ran to the pamphlets she might have produced in years to come, perhaps even a newspaper just for women. How wonderful that would have been, the three of them and a printing press. They might have been able to push a women’s publication out without direct political appeals for a few years and thus more easily slide in under the censors. That was the future he had wanted to have. The three of them, as one.

“He could only love a girl who was not a girl.” Such a statement, combined with his expressions, was very close to saying, “I was jealous because if he loved the masculine, he should have loved me.” Valland was a deviant, after all. But nothing in the boy’s manner made it remotely plausible that he had made a physical pass at Henri. He wanted acceptance. Henri could be very forgiving, if he chose, but this was a very different sort of circumstance. No one ever mentioned the name of the boy who had tried to kiss him at school. Valland had not looked stupid, and he had been with them until the end. It was impossible that he had made a pass at anyone.

Julien walked along the beach, intending to return to the house through the garden. The sun was high, the sky clear, the sea a deep, brilliant blue. And only then did he realise that he had been avoiding the sea itself all winter. The port was not the sea - it was crowded and the water was generally murky where you could see it at all through the crowded shipping. Even at Les Goudes, which was built entirely to face the sea, he had studiously kept his eyes on the land. If he did not see the Mediterranean, did that mean he was not there at all? Why such an avoidance? Because he was not supposed to have been here this long? More than a quarter of the year, gone, and with so little to show for it. No answers, and no closer to a cure. Yes, Henri had been pulled outside, he was at last eating normally and taking exercise, he had stopped entirely ignoring his father, but it was not a situation that could persist. Yet the only thing Julien could now do was to take Henri back to Paris, to try to put the collapse of the Marseille cell behind them and focus on a different future, perhaps even a future of seven or eight or even more where there had once been three or perhaps five.

But how could a man want to leave a provençal spring?

Henri was sitting outside with a book, though it was still a bit chill to merely sit and read. “Are you waiting for me?” Julien called from the bottom of the garden.


“Success!” he called back.

Henri met him down in the paths and they strolled and talked instead of going directly back to the house. “He knows nothing.”

“I’m sorry. I know I’ve been foolish. I even gave him my card and told him he can ask Savin for a job. That’s the end of it. I don’t know where else to go. There has been a great deal of betrayal, but entirely after the fact. No one is guilty.” His voice started to shake. “There is no obvious path to follow to truth. I thought I could find an answer, but I can’t. I failed.”

“Is it the autopsy all over again?”

“I don’t know. Logically, there should be no connection. I’m no more to blame than anyone else this time.” He found a bench and sat down, starting to feel a little light-headed. The walk in the intense sun had perhaps not been the best idea, considering he had not taken breakfast that morning. “But if I can’t solve it, why am I still here? Full on winter when I told that girl I couldn’t possibly take her to bed, and here it is spring, a full penitential season gone.” He realised Henri was not looking at him. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realise I was musing aloud. What a terrible thing for me to have said when we both know why I am here.”

Henri said nothing, but he did clasp Julien’s shoulder before silently walking up to the house.

When M. Enjolras returned, not long after, Julien could feel a headache coming on, but he knew he might have few chances to speak to his host alone.

“I hate to ask it, monsieur, because you have been very, very good about everything.”

“You want to take him away.” The stern tone of M. Enjolras’ statement was less welcome than its prescience.

“He is much better, and I thank you for not provoking him,” Julien began, forcing a calm and reasoned tone. “I know it must be very difficult for you, having me in the house day after day. I cannot stay forever. Neither can I leave him. All of his friends are gone or soon will be. By the end of June, he will not have a single friend left in Marseille. And he is seemingly not anxious to stay. How long has it been? And still he will not go into town. He has not even written to the few people he does still know here.”

“What am I to do?” M. Enjolras asked quietly, avoiding Julien’s eye.

The conversation was more painful than Julien had feared. How could one ask a man to cut out his own heart? “You once offered to permit him to study at the law school at Aix, and he chose not to leave you. He loves you so much that he was willing to give up his youth for your happiness. I ask for three years.” He knew it was too much the moment he said it. Three years. Three months, to see if he might enjoy Paris, perhaps. But the full three years?

“Three years? No. Absolutely not.” M. Enjolras’ tone was final.

Julien bowed politely. “Please forgive me, monsieur. It was too much to ask.”

“Yes, it was,” M. Enjolras argued. “I was not a young man when I married. I do not know how many years I have left on this earth, and you wish to deprive me of three of them?”

“I wish to save your son.”

“Three years. Why three?”

“It is the necessary amount of time for a law degree.”

“You don’t mean in Aix, do you?”

“Have you not noticed that there are no other young men in town of our class? They are not in Aix, either. Everyone goes to Paris. To keep him from Paris is to keep him from his fellows. Have you not wondered why his friends are all clerks and the sons of clerks? It is not because of a particular fondness for the petit bourgeois. There is no one else here.”

“And I suppose your friends are the sort of whom your mother approves.”

“No, actually. But she does not approve of you, either.” The attempt to inject some lightness into the conversation felt misplaced the moment he attempted it, and Julien settled back into cold facts. “Let me describe a few of them for you. Courfeyrac’s father is the mayor of Sorgue, the Vaucluse, selected by the last king himself for that post. Bahorel’s family did very well out of the public lands in the revolution. She might approve of Prouvaire; his father is a subprefect in the Gard. They are men of wealth, men of importance. Electors in their districts. All Southerners - Bahorel comes from Languedoc. All the men of money and influence send their sons to the capital.” Julien left out his other Parisian acquaintance, since many of them were indeed Parisian, and while Joly also came from the Midi, his family background was rather chaotic and sounded little better than that of Lameire or Valland. He had already elided that the Prouvaires were a Protestant family and that Bahorel had grown up speaking the Gascon patois.

“And now you are suggesting I am a bad father.”

“Not at all, monsieur.” Yes, a headache was definitely coming on. “Please forgive me if I have given that impression. I simply suggest that there are benefits in Paris, despite the opinion you justly have of the city. There are two parts to an education, as you of course know. The book learning itself, and the interaction with the other students. The book learning is precisely the same at Aix as it is in Paris. But two of Henri’s friends are leaving him for the law school at Aix, and I think it important you understand what that means to our generation. Thierry Lameire is the son of Auguste Lameire, who manages affairs for Amiot. Marc Gérard’s father owns a grocery and cannot afford to pay for his son’s legal studies. They are perfectly fine young men: Gérard is intensely driven towards a very modest increase in his position, while Lameire has the charm that might have permitted him to climb very high, indeed, were society still as liberal with newcomers as I understand it had been for your generation. Aix exists to sate young men of this sort, while those of a higher class go to Paris. Managers and shopkeepers. Doesn’t Henri deserve better?”

“That’s rich, coming from you.”

“Perhaps. But I have never denied hierarchies; nature proves them too often relevant. I hope you will consider what I have said.”

M. Enjolras waved him away. “I’ll consider it.”

A week later, nothing more had been said. Julien dared not push the subject. “Please go ahead to mass,” he told M. Enjolras when the invitation was made, rather politely considering the subject they were avoiding. “I’d rather stay here.”

“But it’s Easter,” M. Enjolras said with a seriousness of religious purpose Julien had not yet seen from him.

“And look at that sky! That shall be my cathedral. That shall be our mass.” It had rained much of the past week, but coincidences such as the blue sky and warm breeze on the holiday itself made almost convincing proof that there was a god. If one ignored how often it rained in Paris on Easter. God must not like Paris very much, Julien mused. It had been the sort of Romantic outpouring more akin to Prouvaire, and Julien was not entirely certain where it had come from, having not seen Prouvaire in nearly a year, but it did send M. Enjolras away, shaking his head indulgently rather than otherwise.

“Shall we go for a ride?” Henri offered, when his father was safely gone.

The roads were empty, since everyone else was at mass, the processions having concluded earlier that morning, and despite the mud, they could fly along as fast as they wanted. Julien pulled up abruptly in sight of town, looking out over the bell towers to where the masts of the port stood above so much of the rest of the city. Henri pulled up next to him, but soon turned away with tears in his eyes. It was still too soon. They could not leave without his papers in order, and that would necessitate a trip to the hôtel de ville. How could he possibly convince Henri to enter the city he was so obviously avoiding? There had been so much progress, his health fully restored, yet the willful blindness was still there.

Henri turned and rode away without a word. After one last look, Julien followed. They tired out the horses long before M. Enjolras could return. The staff had all left, too, permitted to attend mass. It was rather nice to be alone, to perform what labours the horses required without the kindly meant interference of of the grooms. Julien knew that there would be movement at his own house the next day, as the permanent staff began to prepare for the impending descent of the master and mistress. But today, all humanity was quiet even as all nature seemed to rejoice. December to April; Christmas to Easter. All the great holy festivals he had never seen before in Marseille. So much time had passed, and he still felt the tightness at his throat that had begun the moment he received M. Enjolras’ letter. Marseille had always been where he could breathe, but now he wanted nothing so much as to be in Paris, where he did not feel the weight of the world bearing down on his shoulders alone.

Henri was silent. Julien tried to find at least temporary solace in the sun and poetry, but the silence was oppressive. It was the wrong silence. It was not companionable. It was not quite the fearful, grief-stricken silence of the early days, either. Henri was pacing in the garden, back and forth, up and down the paths laid out the year he was born. Julien sat on the terrace, but the continual back and forth of that golden head was a constant distraction.

“What’s wrong?” he asked when the circuit brought Henri nearest to him.


“Something’s different. I can feel it. You can feel it. I can’t place it.”

“Can’t you?”

“What is it?” Julien asked, suddenly worried.

“I’m bored.”

Julien started laughing, the relief palpable. “Easter Sunday. I can’t offer you anything at the moment. We could go into town tomorrow.” But Henri shook his head. “The work must begin again. Where can we start? What can I do?” He almost said “in exile” but managed to catch himself in time.

“I’ve taken you from the centre.” It was an apology even if it lacked the usual petty phrases.

Julien sat down on the ledge of the terrace, his legs dangling like a schoolboy. “I’d gladly take you to the centre.”

“I don’t dare dream of Paris anymore.”

“How can you not dream of Paris? Paris is France. Whatever we do must be done there. If you would sell me out tomorrow for everything we’ve wanted, how can you not want Paris?”

“I’ve never stopped wanting it. But I can’t have it. Is my father ill?”


“He looks so much older than he used to.”

“Your sorrows are his sorrows.”

“How can I leave him?”

“How can you deny yourself a future?”

“I’ve never known what to do.”

“Neither have I. I tried, last week, to put a flea in his ear about Paris. He said no, but he kept listening. He asked me here so I might restore you to him, and now I propose taking you away entirely. I warned him when I arrived that it might happen, but I don’t think he believed me.”

“Don’t think I’ll somehow be happy in Paris.”

“I imagine you surrounded by people who respect you, care for you, and devote themselves to your work. The work must go on. I have always wished that it be with you at my side. It is not about something as small and brief as happiness, though I do hope that it may be possible again, someday. But we are not dilettantes and dandies. Our lives must be about utility and fulfillment of purposes beyond our own petty desires. And where but in Paris can you be most useful? But how can I explain that to your father?”

Henri smiled, briefly. “I will always want it.” He reached up to clasp hands with Julien.

“I am doing my best to see that you may have it, my brother.”


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