The Blood of the Martyrs

Chapter 12

Normal was rather hard to bear. The volume of Balzac arrived; I gave it to Hélène. We both avoided bringing up Julien at all, less I think because we had nothing to say than because I was certain she was pining for him. In less than a week, she mentioned that she was considering taking the children and spending some time with the Dutilleuls. “I doubt that you’ll miss me.”

“There’s no need to run away. I’m considering going to Paris.”

“He does not need you looking over his shoulder every moment.”

“No, but I do want to see that he is all right.”

“You can admit that you are bored. I am, too. I had not expected to grow accustomed to his presence, much less enjoy it.”

“How much time did you spend with him?”

“Why do you sound angry? More time than I could have expected. It was pleasant to converse with someone who was actually interested in what I had to say and was old enough to follow a thread of conversation. One of us should leave,” she sighed. “It would be less depressing to have fewer adults in the house if we are still not going to treat each other as adults.”

I understood what she meant, even as I was certain she was pining for Julien’s company. She spent most of October with your wife. It just seemed easier to let her go. I knew Paris was a bad idea, and I refrained from bothering him. I wanted to go abroad, really, to clear my head, and even took ship for Naples, but I spent less than a week, utterly bored and unimpressed with the boys available. I wasn’t in the mood for boys, it seemed. Hiking up Vesuvius was not advised in the bleak late autumn weather, and I returned home still dissatisfied.

Hélène had returned by then. “I’m going to Paris next week,” I told her. “I don’t know how long I’ll stay. Certainly long enough to take care of some business, but I’ll be back before the election. We should settle the inheritance issue once and for all. It is infantilising to continue to dole out an allowance to him when he should have an income settled on him. We would do as much for your mother should something happen to your sister’s husband. And it would solidify our ownership of the estate here.”

She nodded. “It is for the best.”

To Paris I went. The last time I had been there, I had put Julien’s needs before my usual endeavours. My life in Paris is very different to my life in Marseille, or at least I try to keep it so, despite your occasional presence in both spheres, and, to be perfectly frank, I was more interested in the denizens of the Tuileries gardens than I was in just about anything else, particularly after Naples had left me limp. Sébastien had fled to Lille, leaving the field completely clear of embarrassing encounters. I would not be able to bring anyone home, but I was badly in need of certain attentions.

I went directly to the Tuileries and selected the first young man to return my gaze. In the semiprivacy of the coach, he sucked me dry while the coachman made his way through heavy traffic. It was not at all what I wanted, but I could hardly bring a prostitute to a house shared with Julien, so it was the only relief at which I could easily grasp, and he was far better than the schoolboys they tried to push at me in Italy. I put the man out on a street corner and only then directed the driver to the proper address.

The maid who opened to me was a complete stranger. Julien had been in town for a month and had replaced the staff. “Is M. Combeferre at home?” I decided to ask, since she certainly was unable to recognise the master of the house.

“He is not in. May I take your card?”

Was he out or did he ask not to be disturbed? “What of Lucie?”

She looked at me strangely, suspiciously. “Mlle Godbout?”

Was that Lucie’s surname? I couldn’t remember. It must have been. “Yes.”

“May I ask who is calling?”


“Wait here, monsieur.” Julien was home if Lucie was home, but the house was being very poorly run if a visitor were left standing in the hall. It was only when I set down my bag that I realised that the situation must look very strange, an unexpected house guest who would not give his name. I had been unfair to the girl, and Julien would not be at all pleased.

When Lucie finally entered, it was a shock. She was wearing a new dress I had not yet seen, that suited her very well and yet made her appear far more the mistress of the house than a paid companion. There was nothing showy and at the same time nothing dull about it. What was Julien doing with the girl? But she curtsied to me, begged my forgiveness, and took my bag herself. “M. Combeferre! Please forgive me. We did not expect you. Did you have a pleasant journey?” She was speaking rapidly in nervousness. “I will take this up at once. Oh, if we had known, we would have aired your room properly. M. Julien is a bit under the weather today, I’m so sorry. What can I bring you?” We were in my bedroom by this time, and she had rung the bell vigorously to call in another maid.

“Hot water to wash. And what on earth is going on?”

“We lost some of the staff,” she admitted.

“Some of the staff?”

“The cook left. Just up and left. And Thérèse didn’t want to stay, so M. Julien gave her a reference. The new girls are Sylvie, she’s the blonde, and Monique, and the new cook is Mlle Frémillard.” It was all very rapid and defensive, and I was certain I was never going to get the whole story. The blonde girl - not the girl who had opened the door to me - responded to the bell and Lucie sent her away to bring me water.

“And what do you mean, Julien is not well?”

“Winter is coming very quickly. He has a bit of a cold, that’s all.”

“Is that all?”

“Yes, monsieur! He will probably be down for dinner. Dinner is at six-thirty; I’ll tell Mlle Frémillard that there will be an additional person.”

It was not at all the household I had expected. Lucie had set up as mistress, the staff was completely new, and I suspected Julien was more ill than Lucie had let on. The new girl brought my water and dropped a curtsy before she left - at least one of them was decently trained.

But Julien did come down for dinner and appeared to have been warned of my presence. He did look rather oddly at the table, sneezed, and sat down anyway. “I must have missed your letter.”

I flushed. I had not actually thought to write, which was very rude of me. I had come to Paris with the intention of signing over the house entirely to him, but I had treated no one with the courtesy required of a guest. “I’m sorry. I’m only in town in order to take care of some legal business.”

“Stay as long as you like. It is your house.”

“It bears little resemblance to the house I left. What happened?”

“It seems an empty house in an occupied city was not the preferred position for your cook or your housemaid. The cook was gone by the time we returned, and no, nothing was stolen so far as I could tell, and Thérèse begged for a reference, so I gave her one. Lucie went in person to the agency that had placed her here and found the two girls. They’ve been fine. We’re on the second cook, however.”

It was an uninspiring declaration, but the dinner proved far beyond my expectations. “How much are you paying her?”

“Lucie knows. More than you were paying the one who abandoned you.” I did not like the judgment in his voice, the implication that I had been abandoned because of paltry wages, but he had always trusted servants far more than I did. The dinner was quite good, yet I had attributed it to my presence as a guest. One must always treat a guest with additional courtesy.

“Where on earth did you find her?”

“Lucie takes care of the staff. The woman’s father was a pastry chef, I believe.”

I could believe it - it was women’s cooking, to be sure, but of a surprisingly delicacy. A pastry chef would make sense. “How have you been?”

He sneezed again. “Fine, fine. The rain has not been ideal.” We essentially made small talk with long silences through dinner. When we retreated to the salon, Lucie was already there, mending one of his shirts. She got up to go, but sat down at a gesture from Julien. It was strange to watch them. She was a different person in his presence, not at all out of place in that room, apparently capable of running the house, or at least of finding somewhat competent staff, so that it did make one wonder what servants might be like if they were not servants. One usually noted ex-servants in the bankruptcy announcements, but then, the successful and law-abiding are never in the newspapers. Julien must have come to that realisation far earlier in his life. She set aside her sewing after a while and read aloud a little when it proved we were not going to talk. Her reading had greatly improved - it seemed possible that he had had her at it all day through the summer, when he was not with Hélène. It felt very much as if I were watching an unknown family through the the window. You know how you see two people in the park, or look out your window and see into the flat across the street? Something in how the people interact tells you if they are related, if they are in love, if they merely tolerate each other’s presence. I was not watching a middle-aged man and his mistress. Nor was I watching a man and his grown daughter. The relationship was not quite clear, but it was comfortable. And I was an observer, throwing the whole pairing out of joint.

As for my own business, I had, on the train, considered the idea of seeking out Marius Pontmercy instead of using one of the family lawyers. He already knew the difficult aspect of the situation, and he did not know the extent of the family holdings, both of which were useful qualities. But I did not at all know what sort of law he practised or if he would be amenable to assisting either of us. Julien had been rather cruel to him. But it seemed worth looking into, if only to rule it out as a possibility. It would be much easier not to have to explain just why I sought to make certain transfers.

I had one of the clerks in my Paris office look him up. An address in the rue des Filles du Calvaire - Pontmercy practised out of his home. And he was not officially listed as a baron in the rolls, which was a blessing. I did not tell Julien what I intended. It seemed best I take this risk alone.

I went to the rue des Filles du Calvaire. It was one of those sleepy streets that had been important two generations ago but had faded during the Empire and never recovered. An inherited house, almost certainly, perhaps not worth enough on the market to finance a move to more impressive quarters. Decently staffed, however, by the look of the maid who answered my ring and took my card. The drawing room into which I was ushered to wait was well decorated in reasonably modern fashion, however, and scrupulously clean.

To my surprise, it was Mme Pontmercy who greeted me. “M. Combeferre? Please make yourself comfortable. My husband is expected back any moment. May I offer you something to drink?” She was a small woman, slender despite the number of children she had borne, fair, with very fine eyes. She had aged better than her husband, I was certain.

“No, thank you. I can come back another time, if it would be more convenient.”

“Oh, no, he has just gone to deliver some papers. He was very clear that if you ever came, you should not be sent away as a stranger.”

“I think that order was intended should my brother ever come.”

“You have not been sent to survey the battlefield?”

I admit, I was charmed by the honesty. “I hope it will not be a battlefield. I seek your husband’s advice on a legal matter.”

She seemed about to speak when we heard the bell. “That should be him. It was a pleasure to meet you, M. Combeferre.”

She scurried out to meet - or warn - her husband, who soon appeared at the door of the drawing room, his face creased with confusion. “I have been told you have come to discuss business.”

“If I might. Wills, property, contracts - that sort of business.”

“Surely you have a family lawyer.”

“It is in reference to my brother’s share of the inheritance.”

“I see.” He closed the door behind him and motioned for me to take a seat near the fire. “Having been declared dead, he did not receive his share of your father’s estate, and now you seek to legally consolidate your position.”


“Does he benefit?”

“Of course. I wish to make some transfers of property so that he will own the Paris house outright and have a sum set aside in shares of the company and in bank shares and government bonds that would permit a substantial yearly income.”

“And what do you gain?”

“The Marseille property outright, control over the company itself, and all proceeds from the company that are not directed to Julien. I have a wife and two children,” I explained. “Julien will never marry. If he predeceases me, as is likely, there would be no issue - anything would come directly back to me. But if by some unfortunate chance I predecease him, either he will be left dependent on my children or my children will not have the control over the estate that is due them. It is less about the money and more about the legal issues,” I tried to justify. “I come to you because you can understand the situation.”

“Yes. I see.” He stared into the fire, warming his hands. “Does his sanity permit him to sign the transfers you seek?”

“Are you asking if my brother is mad?” I asked, appalled at the suggestion.

Pontmercy rounded on me. “It isn’t easy to have survived. Nearly seventeen years, and the nightmares don’t stop just because I have slept in a feather bed for all of them. In June, I was uncertain if I were mad or if the guns really were going off again. Cosette has humoured me for so long that even her fears seemed a part of my delusion rather than a natural result of events outside,” he admitted bitterly. “To survive is to remember, constantly, that you were marked out, alone of your comrades, and also to know that you are forever unfit for whatever reason you were reserved. To see ghosts around every corner. To see your children grow and yet be certain at least one of them will be ripped from you because you still owe a sacrifice of blood to the insatiable monster that is Paris in anger. And Combeferre was right - I’ve had a far easier life than he has had! What must have become of him these years gone? I may still end my days in the madhouse. What of him?”

“He is as sane as I am,” I insisted. But then I admitted, because here was the one person who could understand, “But sometimes he goes off, as if he has left his body behind and his soul is drifting somewhere we cannot follow. Lucie - the girl who looks after him - calls it a fit of memory. He’ll seem lost in thought, but he’ll get stuck like that for hours. I think he must have learned how to completely lose himself and now he gets stuck staring at the walls of a cell that no longer exist. But he’s mentally competent. I will swear to that.”


“I don’t know. I’ve never asked. I don’t think he’d tell anyone.”

Pontmercy nodded. “Especially you, and especially me. What is his current legal status?”

“What do you mean?”

“Is he alive or dead?”

“The young man who dealt with the political prisoners made arrangements for all of them to have proper identity documents. He exists, he can travel, he can work, and he can vote. His imprisonment has been translated into Paris residency since there are no court records pertaining to his case, at least as I understand it.”

“Have your lawyer get in touch with me. I’ll draw everything up, but I will need to have a better picture of the properties being transferred, particularly any bank shares that would fall under inter vivos transfers. The last thing you would want is your children’s trustee taking him to court because you failed to properly calculate the percentage of your estate that you were transferring to him.”

I agreed to his demands without pointing out that I sought to have as much as possible of Julien’s legal portion transferred to me rather than transfers in the other direction. I did not want my lawyers involved at all, but Pontmercy would at least provide a barrier between them and Julien. And when he was not being confronted by my brother in all his mocking fury, Pontmercy did not really seem such a bad chap. His outburst, while inappropriate when addressed to a stranger, was touching, and I did rather pity him. If, as Julien had said, he had been weak and went along as a follower rather than a believer, then he had suffered in ways he did not wholly deserve. Julien had at least deserved his sufferings, even in a way embraced them as his just payment in blood. Pontmercy was taxed while Julien was a willing donor.

I wrote the necessary letter to my lawyers and let Pontmercy do what he felt appropriate. It was whilst writing that letter that afternoon that I happened to overhear another visitor at the door. What I at first overheard was a girlish giggle, and ,assuming the worst of the new maids, I went to investigate. Instead, I heard Lucie’s voice, though in a strange tone.

“I had forgot you were coming. It is Thursday, isn’t it?”

“It is.” The male voice was slightly familiar to me, and his tone was very familiar with her. “Is he in?”

“M. Julien’s been taken ill. If I’d remembered it was Thursday, I would have sent a note. Are you very busy with your new job?”

“More or less. Things have settled down since the summer, but now the battles are inside the offices. I think this week has been the calm before the storm. Preparations for the presidential election, of course.”

“I’d ask you to stay a bit, but M. Combeferre is in town.”

“Ah, I see. I had better go.”

At least she was not entertaining her beau in my presence, but it was unsettling he had used the front door and sought Julien. Julien was decidedly giving her ideas above her station. I hurried down the stairs and saw the gentleman in question just as Lucie began to open the door for him.

“M. Combeferre, a good evening to you.” He raised his hat to me. Little Radet - was he coming for Julien, now, or for Lucie? The one was above his station, the other below. I did not like it in either case, but he had restored Julien to the family, and I was grateful for that. I addressed him kindly enough, I hope, because it would not do to cause a scene in front of such an acquaintance. But when he was gone, I certainly asked her, “Do the other girls receive their beaux at the front door?”

“Don’t be absurd,” she answered coldly, suddenly sounding like Hélène and without the slightest nervousness. “None of us have beaux. He visits M. Julien.”

“You were prepared to have him stay whether or not Julien would see him.”

“I was prepared to be polite and not send a guest out into the cold without a chance to warm himself. However, you were in the only room other than the kitchen where there is a fire, and I chose not to disturb you. If you would prefer your house run on other lines, please tell me.”

“Because you run this house now?”

“Yes, I do,” she said evenly. “M. Julien has asked me to.”

I was not entirely certain I wanted to know what Julien had done to her. She had been obedient, and silent, and nervous when confronted by her superiors. Now, give her some authority, and she takes it. I rather regretted having come at all.

It seemed better to spend as little time in the house as possible. I threw myself into the usual Paris social round - theatre, a couple artist workshops, that hideous garret Fernier is working out of these days (and caught a cold myself after an evening spent there). None of it was satisfying, but it was better than being in Marseille. Sébastien seemed to hover over everything, though no one mentioned him. He had been gone too long for any of them to care. I did follow a boy home one night, and the result was brilliant. At last I could set everything aside, even if for a night, to bury my sorrows in the muscular arms of an artist’s model. But it was rather odd to wake up in the morning next to an utter stranger. I hadn’t done it in so long, particularly not with artistic boys in Paris. The last time was a prostitute in Florence. And it seemed somehow shameful to return to the house mid-morning, to wash myself and change clothes, with Julien knowing I had been out all night and probably thinking I had done what I had done. But he said nothing.

The lawyers finally wrote me asking why a M. Pontmercy was looking into my business. I told them to give him whatever he asked for, that it was a personal matter, not a business matter, and thus I had retained a private attorney to keep the business separate. Of course they could not have believed me - I used a man from that firm when drawing up the marriage contract with Hélène. But I don’t pay them for their approval.

Pontmercy wrote a few days later, asking that I visit him to further discuss the case. His pretty wife was present yet again and greeted me with a smile before leaving her husband to talk over my business.

“Are your motives honest?” he asked me directly.

“Pardon me?”

“Are your motives honest? His fair share is fully half your estate, and he may be legally entitled to it.”

“He won’t take an even split.”

“If he does not produce recognised heirs, then he can transfer up to half his holdings without penalty. I am not comfortable going so far. I will not work with you to defraud him.”

“Then let us see what can be done. Perhaps we will worry about the business later, but the real estate swaps are necessary, as is the division of all bank shares so that he may draw the interest himself.”

Pontmercy proved pleasant to work with. Once it was settled what he would not do, he diagrammed out the relevant holdings and the ways in which swaps could be made. The Marseille property was actually worth more than the Paris property, meaning that for the sake of equity, more of the bank shares had to be transferred to Julien. The real property not connected to the company does not form anything close to half our holdings, I may admit, so the afternoon’s work was only the beginning of what would have to be done. Still, Pontmercy agreed to draw up the relevant papers for what, to him, was the first piece and to me was hopefully as far as it would go.

When I returned to the house, Julien and Lucie were out. I did not ask where, and no one volunteered the information. They returned home in time for dinner. He was explaining something to her - they must have been at a lecture of some sort - and sounded nearly happy. I was glad that he was getting out of the house, going about in public, engaging in activities that interested him, but taking her along with him, still? Did he still need her as a crutch? Or was there something more, since he had been separated from my wife?

I reminded myself at dinner that I should not miss dinner at all - the woman had a marvelous way with savoury pastry as well as sweet - and that I should ask Lucie how she managed to find such a cook. I also finally told Julien what business had brought me to Paris and with whom I was conducting it.

“Pontmercy? Whatever possessed you to go to him?”

“He is a lawyer who already knows you are not dead.”

“Anyone I pass in the street knows I am not dead.”

“You know what I mean. Someone for whom the requisite division of the property would not be a shock.”

“You inherited in full and have been very generous. I will be fine.”

“But I will not. I will not have possibilities and fears hanging over my head. We will make the transfers so that you are not defrauded of your rightful inheritance. This is France, not England.”

“What is it you intend to do?”

“You will sign over your half of the Marseille property to me. I will sign over my half of the Paris property to you. The bank shares will be divided so that each of us takes a split but with extra compensation on your side as the Marseille property was assessed slightly greater than the Paris property. This will enable you to draw interest on the bank shares yourself, and I will not have to make you an allowance every month.”

“What effect will this have on Hélène and the children?” he asked solemnly.

“None at all. For the moment, we will let the business remain as it is, if you agree.”

“Do as you must. But Pontmercy?”

“You will have to sign the papers once they are drawn up, and then you never have to see him again.”

“Could you not have used a stranger?”

“And trumpet our catastrophe to the high heavens?”

He sighed, but he agreed to it.

I did manage to get Lucie alone again. “I need to know what is going on. For his sake.”

“Nothing is going on.”

“The staff?”

“When we returned, Thérèse was the only one here. Mme Bonnart was gone. Gave no notice, and if she told Thérèse where she was going, Thérèse wouldn’t tell me. His letter arrived and Mme Bonnart took off. That’s all I know Thérèse wanted to go, too, so M. Julien wrote her a reference. I can’t handle the house all on my own, so I went to the agency that placed me here, and asked for a cook and two housemaids. We couldn’t take it anymore after a week - she was only satisfactory if you drank your dinner, which she did. Complained about the amount of wine given to servants, which I haven’t changed from your father’s day. I’m trying to keep things as they have always been, and it isn’t easy. So we let her go and were lucky enough to engage Mlle Frémillard.”

“Through the agency?”

Now Lucie flushed and looked down. “M. Radet knows her family. M. Julien doesn’t know.”

Radet was certainly intending to be her beau if he weren’t already. “Will you send her in to see me?”

She obeyed. I was still her employer; it was my eight hundred francs a year that paid her salary, my money that paid for the rest of the staff until the papers were signed. But I suspected that she obeyed me only because she received her pay from me, not because she was still in the habit of obeying. She was running the house.

“You wished to see me, monsieur?” Mlle Frémillard was far too young for such an accomplished cook. We may have been paying her rather more, but it was certainly below the salary she ought to command, or perhaps would command were she older.

“What is your name?”

“Marie-Lys Frémillard, monsieur.”

“Where were you before this?”

“The Restaurant Frémillard. My father’s business. I helped in the kitchen.”

“Not a successful one, I take it.”

“It was at first. We sold up when he died, but we’ve never been in debt.”

“My brother tells me he was a pastry chef.”

“Yes, monsieur. In the Tuileries, for Charles X.”

“1830 must have been poor year for your family.”

“Not at all. He’d wanted to go on his own for a while, and it was easier to start a business under Louis Philippe.”

“Are you satisfied here?”

“Yes, monsieur. I have no assistants, but I have more control over what I do. There are only two palates to please, and I have free reign. And no one has yet said I do not belong in a kitchen, which is a pleasant change. The room is comfortable enough. I’ve had permission to buy what equipment I needed that was not already here. I’ve heard most houses would not be so accommodating, and I thank you, and M. Combeferre, and Mlle Godbout.”

“Lucie is your mistress?”

She looked at me in confusion. “She is M. Combeferre’s secretary.”

So that’s what he was calling her now, secretary. “Of course. Forgive me. She had a different title when last I saw her. You may go. Oh, and the puff pastry last night was the best I’ve ever tasted, restaurant or anywhere. One doesn’t expect such finesse from a woman’s hands.”

“Thank you, monsieur.”

“Have you any experience in Vienna pastry?”

“I’m sorry, monsieur, I do not. No one will take a woman to apprentice.”

“Never mind. You do the classics very well indeed. That is all.”

Too bad for Paris that she was a woman, and I was sorry I had never patronised that restaurant. If she cooked like that, her father’s food must have been sublime. But his death had certainly been to our gain. And possibly to Radet’s good fortune.

At the end of November, Pontmercy finally wrote to say that the documents were ready and should we prefer that he bring them here or that we visit him?

“What does it matter?” Julien asked irritably. “I have to endure his presence regardless.”

“Have you no curiosity about him?”

“I do not poke my nose into other people’s business with the relish you do.”

Except he agreed to go to Pontmercy’s. The day was grey and drizzling, but he paused to look around when we stepped out of the cab. The maid took our hats and coats and ushered us into the salon where Pontmercy waited. We greeted each other on friendly terms, though he looked at Julien warily, a sense that did not fade even after they shook hands as amicably as possible. “I would like to go over the papers with both of you, so that there is agreement before signing.”

“Of course.” Julien fumbled in his pocket and, with some embarrassment, put on a pair of spectacles. How had it taken none of us less than nine months to realise that middle age was the only thing wrong with his eyes? No wonder that pamphlet had given him a headache - blackletter was hard enough when it wasn’t blurry.

We went through all the papers, Julien asking occasional questions. Nothing required modification, however, and everything was signed. Julien now owned the Paris house and all its contents. He put away the spectacles once he no longer had to read anything.

He thanked Pontmercy, not entirely out of bare courtesy, either. “It cannot have been an easy process to untangle.”

“I have not touched the business itself, which is where the real tangles must be. Would you stay a bit?” Pontmercy dared ask. “My wife would like to meet you.”

“Very well,” Julien agreed. Pontmercy had been on his best behaviour and had not spent the afternoon staring at Julien’s face every few minutes.

Mme Pontmercy was introduced and, being better bred than her husband, took one look at the bad side of his face, changed her expression not at all, and proceeded never to let her eyes pass over it again. “It is a pleasure to finally meet you, monsieur. My husband speaks so highly of you.”

“Does he indeed?”

She smiled. “You may be modest, but he is not. Have you found Paris greatly changed?” And they proceeded to talk about the city, the entertainments, what had gone up and what had come down in the past sixteen years. Pontmercy interjected occasionally, but the conversation was really between Julien and Mme Pontmercy.

He did seem to like women better than men these days - Lucie, my wife, Mme Pontmercy, who wrinkled her nose like a child when something displeased her and yet was still utterly charming about it. I had not had the opportunity to note his true opinion of women before - the only one I saw him with in any frequency was my mother, and if we expand to those who were mentioned in my youth, we can only add Isabelle Laurier. He had been at school, at the medical school, at the law faculty; I had been young and isolated or at school. I had thought he lived in a wholly male world, and that was why his brief steps in society annoyed him, but he was too comfortable with women for that. They may bear him no malice, but that did not seem it at all, not when he had more interest in Mme Pontmercy than in her husband, his old acquaintance. Not that Pontmercy seemed to see anything wrong, and not that Julien was in any way becoming too familiar, but there was a comfort there. Perhaps it was merely helpful that Mme Pontmercy knew those things that were necessary and nothing that was not and had sought to make the acquaintance herself.

When we finally took our leave, Julien was in a far better mood than when we arrived. He praised Pontmercy for his charming wife, and Pontmercy seemed grateful for the compliment. “Cosette is so happy you were willing to see her.”

“Her father was a good man, and he raised a fine daughter.” He bid Pontmercy good day, but without the malice that had characterised their last meeting. Everything was a complete success.

“I’ll shift to a hotel tomorrow,” I told Julien in the cab on the way home.

“Don’t be absurd. Why should you not stay?”

“I entered as the master of the house, and that is no longer the case.”

“You are welcome to visit any time. But in future, some notice would be appreciated.” I think I flushed, but he smiled.


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