The Blood of the Martyrs

Chapter 4


As the days went by, things became better. The tension relaxed somewhat, though it never really left. It was as if we had reached a truce rather than ended the war. Julien forced himself to do such work as I would allow, for he soon tired of taking long walks and forcing himself to recover his health. He acknowledged the necessity, but it bored him exceedingly, for it used none of his mind and all of his body. I wrote Hélène for the first time since I arrived in Paris, to tell her that things were progressing and not to worry.

I was shocked the first time he voluntarily touched me. I was in the library, again, like a fool, staring at the portrait and thinking to it instead of talking to him. I did not hear the door open, but suddenly I felt a hand on my shoulder. When I turned and saw him, looking at me sympathetically, I breathed a sigh of relief. My first reaction was that Sébastien had been allowed in.

“I did not expect to see you here.”

“I came looking for some of my books.” He looked up at the portrait. “You should really take that down. I am surprised you even have it.”

“Adèle Feuilly brought it a few days after the barricade fell. By that point, the lawyers had found her and she didn’t know how to legally refuse the money, so she gave us most of her husband’s work. A sale of his effects, I suppose. We kept a few pieces and sold the rest. Father put this one up immediately. I couldn’t bring myself to take it down.”

“You do realise it is only a painting.”

“Of course. But for nearly sixteen years, it has been all we’ve had of you. Whenever things became too much, I’d come home and talk to Father and think about what you might say, and it helped. And the things I couldn’t tell Father, I’d tell you, or as close I could to you, anyway. None of us was ever as strong as you were, Julien. It was impossible to live without you.”

“You think far too much of me. That has always been nothing more than a painting, and not even Feuilly’s best work at that, and I am hardly the person you remember.&rldquo;

“I don’t believe that. A few years older, yes, but certainly still the same.” I cut him off as he tried to interrupt. “Don’t argue until you hear my case, Julien. M. Radet was so impressed by you. The calendar, your coherence, your ability to still move about. He saw the others. The way he spoke of you, it was as if you were the only whole man left in there. And of course that was my brother. If you were not you, I think you would be in bed, a permanent invalid. Only you would have kept hope that you would not die in that place and made it possible for you to leave there.”

“Don’t speak of what you don’t know,” he replied sharply. “Sit down.” I did as he ordered. “Forgive me if I am not as strong as you seem to think.” He started pacing, always seeming surprised when he could go more than a few steps without having to turn around. From time to time, he would run his good hand through his hair nervously.

“The first thing I remember clearly was waking up, hot, terribly thirsty, and in a great deal of pain, tied to a very hard bed. The prison infirmary. The doctor of sorts was the last decent man I saw until M. Radet came to my cell. He was not allowed to untie me, but he gave me water, and such food as I could stand, and he was kind enough to loosen my bonds as much as was allowed. Yet I was foolish enough to think I wanted out of there, and so I forced myself to appear far more recovered than I was. As soon as I could shakily stand on my own and take the few steps necessary to cross the room, they took me away and put me with the rest of the prisoners. Most were not from the insurrection. I found a few others like myself, but we were never allowed to speak, for if the guards saw us even next to each other, we suffered terrible beatings. It was hell. The others soon discovered that I was wealthy and in a weakened state. Had it only been beatings, I think I could have learned to bear it. What was impssible was the - the -” he almost could not say it. Pacing faster and faster, he finally forced out, “The other violence.

“Sometimes it would go on every day for days, and I would be flat on my stomach for a week because of the pain and bleeding.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Think! Use your head for once, Charles!” Julien snapped at me.

“Julien,” I protested.

“What I am certain you enjoyed so much with your Sébastien,” he replied bitterly.

I had never even considered it. Rape? Dear god, it could be painful enough when you were overexcited and inexperienced and doing it with consent. I had certainly been a little rough before in desperation. For it to have been forced - of course I knew what he meant by scars I would never see. I was absolutely certain they were physical as well as deep inside himself. “Julien, I’m so sorry.”

“Of course you are. What was worse was the way the guards sought to blame me for every fight - usually fights over whose turn it was with me. So I would be beaten by my tormentors, then beaten again by the guards.

“Then one day, someone had the idea I might know something. I was taken away. They let my bruises heal. And then they brought out a razor and cut me every time I answered a question in a way they did not like. After three days, they either tired of the sport or were satisfied that I knew nothing. I do not even remember the questions, just the way that razor would shine in the light. And so I was thrown back, weakened even further. Each time I was allowed in there, I willed myself to die. This went on for years. They would not let me go to the infirmary unless they thought I would die. It was only when I realised it was 1836 that I knew they could not kill me. If I could not die in those four years of hell, I was not fated to die in there. Survival, at the very least, had to begin again.

“It never got better. The beatings continued. Finally, when I was forced to spend a month in the infirmary with this broken leg and no one knows what injured inside, someone decided they were tired of dealing with me and the disruptions they attributed to me, so I found myself released to the solitary cells below ground. At least there, the - the - rape - stopped. The guards were still harsh - so many of them were no longer men, but monsters. The one who stepped on my hand laughed as he refused me permission to have it set in the infirmary. But as the years went by, the staff changed, and those who did not know what I had done did not concern themselves with me. That is how you found me only with scars and without fresh wounds.

“Man is the most adaptable of creatures, and he can grow accustomed to nearly anything. What else explains the slavery of the negro or the acceptance the Romans had for becoming slaves themselves? But I do not believe man can grow accustomed to constant pain. I know I cannot. There is no such thing as constant pain - it ebbs and flows like the sea, only hardly so predictably. One must do something. Either one goes mad or one turns inward - I hardly know the difference, as there are many forms of madness. I have gone through every book I ever read, written thousands of treatises in mymind, deciphered the length of days in the dark, anything to keep the pain at the back of my mind. Leonardo da Vinci must have been prisoner to something to be so prolific.” Out of nowhere, Julien switched into German - my brain struggled to follow. “I practised German; I practised English. I likely speak better now than when I went into that place. German was the most difficult language in which I had the vocabulary to say anything at all. What you call my strength,” he spit out, “was only to cover my weakness.”

I thought I caught a slight change in the strength of his voice. Not once had he looked at me, not even when he had shouted directly at me. Always he kept up his rapid pacing, never so I could see his face. “Julien?” I asked softly.

He stopped, facing away from me. I could see that he was shaking, hugging himself tightly, desperately trying to stop. He was wrong when he said he wasn’t strong. Even after this confession, he was still trying to protect me.

I came up behind him and put a hand on his shoulder. He jumped, it seemed, but he did not pull away. “Julien,” I told him softly, “it’s over.” I moved around in front of him, and he did not move away. He was still shaking, his eyes on the ground, afraid and full of tears. “It’s all over, I promise.” He met my eyes and nearly collapsed. I grabbed him to keep him from falling, and he held onto me, looking down again, the tears spilling down his thin cheeks. At that point, I think I forgot it was Julien. It was just as the times Mathieu would cry. Hélène had no patience and would pass him off to the nanny. I could never bear to see his tears and would do all I could myself to fix whatever was wrong. I took Julien in my arms, and he did not resist, finally letting go of his last defences and sobbing into my shoulder.

We stood there forever, and I could not help thinking how wrong it was that I should be the recipient of his tears. He should have had a wife to hold him all night and dry his tears and show him the tenderness he needed all those years. I was hardly qualified to hold him close and stroke his hair. But I was the only one.

When I could feel his sobs subsiding, I helped him to the sofa. Not once did we let go of each other. I could tell Julien was trying to get hold of himself again.

After a long time, he tried to smile. “How does it feel to be the older brother?”

I shook my head. “Never. How many times have you done more for me? Even through the anger and shame, I was the one who left, never you. Do you remember that night?” I could certainly never forget that night.

“The night you showed up at my flat and I was certain you would be caught having snuck out of the dormitory?”

“And I couldn’t say for the longest time what had brought me there.”

“You were there for an hour without saying anything with any meaning. I could not think what you could possibly have hit upon at that time of night that could not wait until the next time we saw each other.”

“I almost didn’t tell you.”

“I know. I never meant to be angry, but you were so young. I did not see how you could know such a thing about yourself with such certainty. I never understood how you did not walk out until nearly morning.”

“You were right, and I knew it, and I was so scared. And you let me beg and scream and cry. I never really hated you. I was just jealous of how you had everything figured out.” It took me ten years to realise that, but I was not ready to admit that much to him. It did not matter, anyway. All that mattered was that I did grow up after all.

“I never knew anything. Witness the number of men I lured to their deaths.”

“They went with you voluntarily. They wanted whatever it was as much as you did.”

“I tried to convince Feuilly to leave. He wouldn’t. We captured some uniforms. He could have left safely, but he refused to go, saying others were far more necessary. A four year old daughter. I wish I knew what had happened to them. She’s probably married by now.”

“As you should be.”

“What?” I had taken him completely by surprise.

“Just what I said. Just now, you didn’t need me, you needed a woman, someone sweet and soft who understood what you had done and why you had left her, who was still waiting for you all these years and could kiss the tears away to make everything all right again.”

“Hardly.” I could not tell if he was hardening up again or trying to laugh at me. “All I need is some time, and perhaps a friend.”

“Why did you never marry? I know perfectly well why you did not marry Isabelle Laurier, but why was there never someone else?”

“Because I never fell in love. It is a simple explanation, really.”

“You must be joking. You were twenty-six years old - how could you not have ever had someone?”

“You know what happened with Henri.” Of course I still remembered the murder. Henri Enjolras had been interesting, even to my seven year old mind, and that girl he was always with was killed one night. The gossip was endless, Julien came home and took him to Paris, and the excitement died down again. “It was simpler never to develop an attachment to any woman. We had too much work to do, in any case. Distractions were hardly welcome.”

“The same excuse as when I was flirting badly with Enjolras, then? The revolution as your mistress?”

“Who else?” Julien actually smiled. Not the same as he used to, tight-lipped to cover his broken teeth, but a smile nonetheless.

“We should go home. Nice is warmer, there’s more sun, and I think being out of Paris for a time will do you good.”

He immediately grew serious again. “I have intruded far more than I should have, Charles. Your wife will not like this at all.”

“Nonsense. She knows you exist. It is only right that you come home.”

“I will frighten your children. Some things cannot simply go away. I will always look like Frankenstein’s monster to them.” Strange how he had hit upon the same description of himself.

“Hardly. Mathieu is four years old, but more curious about everything than afraid of anything. As for Julie, I don’t think she’ll know to be afraid. Please come home.”

“I am still in no condition to meet your wife. No matter what you say, it will be a long time before the stench of the gaol is off me.”


“I need more time, Charles. You must let me do what I must. Go home if your wife needs you. You have a full staff here to look after me, if that is what worries you.”

“Hélène is probably relieved that I am gone.”

“Is your wife as terrible as Mlle Laurier was?”

“Hardly,” I was forced to admit.

“Your marriage is only as poor as you make it. Go home.”

“Come with me.”

“Your wife is a noble woman to have covered your collective shame with the birth of a daughter. See her. See your children. Work. Go about your life. I will come when I am ready. A gentleman presents himself, not a shadow of himself. I despise platitudes, but here I can find no other words. As Rome was not built in a day, a ruined house needs time and patience and skill to become a home again. If I need a year, will you give it me?”

I sighed, resigned. “Of course. Whatever is necessary to make you well.”

“Then we will speak no more of Nice. I will tell you when I am ready.”

Julien had been home a little more than a month when a letter arrived for him. It was strange to see that familiar handwriting on a piece of paper addressed to my brother. Even more strange was that it came through the post - Sébastien had never been one to use the post if he could find a personal messenger. It was quite obvious at that point that he had no wish to see me.

As he read the letter, which proved little more than a note, I caught a familiar furrowing of his brow. Whatever it said called for serious contemplation. After what seemed an eternity, Julien carefully folded the note and set it aside. “I will be going out on Thursday night,” he announced, as he went back to the papers he had been reviewing. The off-hand manner with which he made this announcement was a poor ending to such a display of thought.

“Going out?” I am certain I sounded quite an imbecile, for it took me completely by surprise.

“I have been invited to a political meeting.”

“By whom?” Julien did not know anyone who might invite him to a political meeting - they were all dead. And the other answer was one I had no wish to hear.

He looked up and very deliberately held my eye. “Sébastien Ture.”

Precisely the answer I had hoped to be false. “He has no business being involved with that nonsense.”

Julien immediately went back to his files and the task of familiarising himself with the family business. “It is not nonsense, and it never has been, Charles. As well, his business, and my business, are not your concern. I am going out on Thursday night, which should be enough for you.”

“I’m going with you.” Yes, I know now how stupid I was to have volunteered, threatened, whatever the proper verb for voicing that intention was, but I was not about to let my brother and my former lover become friends.

It certainly returned his attention to the topic at hand. “Do not be childish. You do not share the opinions that will be voiced, and you with either be angered in the extreme or bored half to death. If you do not want to make of yourself another Pontmercy, I suggest you stay at home or find another way to amuse yourself.”

“I’m going.” Not that I understood his reference at the time, but I was not going to admit my ignorance.

Julien sighed, as if he were dealing with an unruly and very stubborn child. “Very well. But do not make a fool of yourself, for it will reflect poorly on the entire family.” He was still obsessed with pride, and continued to claim he had nothing in common with our mother.

“Fine.” I returned to my explanation of the organisation of decision-making processes within the company. It was rather late that he take an interest, but I supposed it had more to do with the accessibility of the information than any new-found love for the enterprise that controlled our family’s fortunes. He was still reluctant to venture outside the neighbourhood, prefering to walk in the gardens in the square or up and down the mews behind the houses rather than be seen by greater numbers of people. To go in search of subjects for study would have meant exposing himself to conversations and perhaps stares at a bookshop, and to go further in search of sun would have necessitated the scattered but numerous groups flocking to the Luxembourg as the weather improved. It was now the middle of April, and traditionally, the gardens were always full. Either pride or vanity, or perhaps a new reticence kept him in the relative safety of the house, where the staff and I had grown accustomed to his scarred face, slight limp, and reluctance to speak when every “s” sound whistled through his teeth. Sébastien had done well to lure him out with a political meeting. I had been trying to force him to venture further for a couple of weeks, to no avail.

The rest of the week passed with no more discussion of the subject. Julien absolutely refused conversation on that particular point. Thus I found myself, on Thursday evening, approaching a café in the student quarter, following Julien almost as if I were fifteen again and he was reluctantly letting his annoying and tactless little brother tag along. As we reached the door, Julien reached out and stroked the wood of the doorframe, a half-smile on his face, but with a look of infinite pain in his eyes. Just as I was about to ask what was wrong, he took a deep breath and opened the door quickly. There, in the brightly lit back room, was a collection of young men, all certainly younger than I and nearly a generation away from Julien. I recognised M. Radet from the prison, though he did not speak to me. Julien was of far more interest, for obvious reasons, and I was content to watch what might happen. I looked around for Sébastien and finally found him, his face buried in a newspaper but the lamplight shining on his golden hair.

It was Radet who seemed to be in charge, or at least taking charge of Julien. I retreated to a corner, prefering not to be noticed too much and asked about my presence, for I would never have been able to plausibly express an interest I did not have or a sentiment I did not feel. I found myself behind Sébastien, who looked up from his newspaper long enough to glare at me as I went past. His hair was pulled tightly back again, as it always had been when he was working. A stray strand had fallen out, however, and he could not prevent his glare from seeming charming nonetheless.

I had tried to disrupt a few of Julien’s meetings, but I was never successful in assertaining precisely what they were about or even what his position was. The latter part quickly became obvious, as Julien seemed to grow ten feet as soon as it was proved that his audience had not assembled to witness a freak show.

I should start from the beginning, but many of the details went over my head. I did not understand a word of their political discussions, and what I did understand I did not much like, but it was a pleasure to hear Julien’s low, impassioned voice carry through the room. He had forgotten that he preferred not to speak; he had forgotten that he had become bitter. I do not think I ever understood that behind the fire in Enjolras that so attracted me, my brother had been the true leader. Julien did not have to speak loudly in order for people to listen to him - they just naturally did. But again, I get ahead of myself.

M. Radet introduced everyone, though I have forgotten the names. Julien was nervous at the introductions, though Sébastien set his newspaper aside partway through to take a place next to him, as if he were the friend to ease the transition. One of the young men was anxious to show off his own wound from the barricades, a barely healed bullet wound in the shoulder. Julien seemed amused by the attempt to empathise with someone as battered as he. There was some chatter that washed over me, and then someone asked Julien his opinion of the revolution.

His eyes darkened immediately, and furrowing his brow, he focussed on the far wall as he tried to think what to say. “You are all so young, so hopeful. I see how old I have become. You are so lucky to have won your first try. Nothing has yet happened to cloud your idealism. I have never been more proud to be French than I am tonight, sitting among the best people in the world, knowing we are brothers in thought and deed. But I am sure some of you have already seen that the most difficult struggle is ahead of us. M. Radet has already seen things he could not have known existed, even as he was fighting against them. M. Ture knows the bourgeois intimately, and he will be able to tell you what motives they have to block progress.” Sébastien coloured as Julien mentioned his name, but he looked pleased nonetheless. “I do not know how to help you. My experience has been in defeat, not in success. But I do know from my own failures how difficult your success will be. Look at how young all of you are. I suspect none of you remember what happened in ’30. You must be on your guard against a repeat of ’30. There are powerful interests that you have not destroyed. You have done away with an old-fashioned, corrupt, impossible government, and you have ever right to congratulate yourselves on this achievement. But there is more. We succeeded in doing just that in ’30 as well. We won. And then we lost on the same day. It was not that we were foolish to support Lafayette. Had we supported another, we would have ended up in the same place, under Louis-Philippe and the idea of a constitutional monarchy. Louis-Philippe had the support of powerful interests who preferred a monarch, even one somewhat chained, because a single person is easier to influence.”

And suddenly my brother the idealist began lecturing about power. About the desire of business interests to have power and maintain power. I cannot put it as well as he did, but the boys around him listened wide-eyed, as if they had not even thought that there were important people who would like to be rid of their nonsense. It was to be expected from schoolboys. Sébastien had moved away and returned to his newspaper - after all, he did know better. He was always pragmatic - it was why he had been with me as was necessary rather than any attempt at a more equal relationship or a rather higher professional goal. My brother had never struck me as being pragmatic, however. Julien was always involved in the most absurd situations, caused by his insane beliefs that the social hierarchy rarely corresponded with his idea of a natural hierarchy, and thus his causes and his friends were perfectly appropriate. It was far easier to claim that he was an inveterate optimist than to give any credence to his nonsense. Yet the way he spoke, the ideas must have occurred to him before his imprisonment. It sounded like some scholarly work that he had read at some time, and yet it could not have been because no scholars write about what is happening at the moment. Julien could have been great, if only he had known how to use the power with which he held those boys. Even then, he could have been something. No, he was something - it was just something that was impossible to identify.

“What are you doing here?” a low and angry voice interrupted my thoughts. Sébastien had moved next to me without me noticing.

I turned towards him. His expression was not quite anger, but it was greater than disapproval. “Keeping an eye on my brother.”

“You were not invited here. He is not an invalid nor an imbecile, thus he has no need of a keeper.”

“How can you be so angry with me? I’ve done nothing against you. You are the one acknowledging acquaintance with me - M. Radet is the only one I have ever seen before, except for you. It is not as if anyone here knows anything, thus it is as you wish.”

“It is known that I know you, but not quite how well. Some explanation for knowing your brother was necessary. The truth - that you and I were at school together and do not get on well, but that the same is true of you and your brother for similar reasons. I would appreciate if you do not keep coming here, even if your brother does.”

“I cannot believe you are actually involved in this nonsense. I thought you were more pragmatic than that.”

“And I cannot believe you are so judgmental. What do you see when you look at him?”

“I don’t understand what you are after.”

“Tell me. What do you think when you look at your brother right now.”

Julien had ceased to lecture and had entered a proper conversation, answering questions and responding to points made by others. “My brother is a genius, and he could have been a great man had he been rather more pragmatic from the start. Nonetheless, I am still proud of him, to be related to him. He has more sense than I initially thought.”

“And what do you think of them?”

“They are ignorant children, and you debase yourself by associating with them. How Julien can have such patience with them, I will never understand.”

“You see nothing. You wish to believe idealism comes from ignorance, not from knowledge. You refuse to believe that hope can exist. Of course, this is hardly a surprise to me. You have never believed in any future, either good or bad, so how can you judge those who do? You call them fools, because they do not agree with you. Is everyone who does not agree with you a fool, in that case? You set yourself up in a most difficult position, for I cannot even begin to count the number of inanities that have issued from your lips. Is every intelligent man then a fool, because he contradicts you?”

“Do not be childish. I did not come here to argue.”

“Then do not be hypocritical, because you had no other cause for coming to this place. You do not agree with us. You sit here in the corner and listen in perplexity and wonder what could possibly make men believe something that to you seems infinitely stupid.” I had no answer because he knew me too well. “You have no desire to understand them. Look at Radet. His father served Napoleon. The restoration was hard on the family, and by the time Gilles was born, they were of no importance and no wealth. He wanted to be a lawyer, but there was no money for university. A law clerk in Paris, however, with many years experience, can go to the provinces and practise law on his own there. Ambition is not driven out of men by changes in fortune. He is intelligent, and in spite of what you might think, eminently pragmatic. He never intended to be a leader of men, but he does it because he knows it must be done. He is hardly the only one with broken dreams, as I am certain you are well aware.” The accusation in his voice told me that he tried to link my dreams with the impossible ones of a poor man. I began to protest, but he interrupted me. “Don’t speak until you have finished listening. You do not know what to think of your brother. He is older than you are, and you always looked up to him. It is difficult for you that you never agreed on anything because you wanted his brains and his drive and his ability to say no when an act could cost him his ambition. You envy his strength. And at the same time, you refuse to understand him because you have never put yourself in another person’s position. You refuse to understand me, to understand why I left you, because you never stopped to think what I might be thinking and feeling. I don’t like to call you selfish, because I don’t think you are. It is never a deliberate thought process with you, simply a failure to realise that other people exist in the same plane that you do. Self-absorbed, but not selfish.” Sébastien was not angry, simply reasonable, which annoyed me considerably.

“You say I am a hypocrite, but what of you? Your friends, as you call them, are speaking, and you sit and read a newspaper!”

He was calm. He would not be provoked. And then he smiled at me. “Sometimes one has to keep up appearances.” He recited back to me much of what I had thought he ignored, until I stopped him. “Stay away from here, please. These are my people, not yours, even if you are unwilling to believe I should belong here. You’ll only make an ass of yourself if you keep coming.” Before I could reply, he went back to the group, having retrieved a bottle of wine from another table on the way, and began to change the tone of conversation to something rather less sombre.

I was relieved when Julien stood and took his leave of them soon after. I found myself outside even before he did, for his goodbyes of necessity were somewhat lengthy. He started off without a word, letting me catch up to him, not speaking until we were a few streets away.

“You need not follow me here again. I daresay you were rather bored tonight, though I thank you for not opening your mouth and letting imbecilities spill forth.”

“You’re going back, then.”

“I may. I shall have to think about it. It was very kind of M. Ture to have asked me.”

“It was, wasn’t it?” I knew I could not keep the sarcasm out of my voice, but somehow it did not stop me from speaking.

“Yes, it was,” Julien replied firmly. “Do not be childish, Charles.”

“He probably fancies you.”

“Then may it serve him better than your feelings towards Enjolras ever served you. Let us not discuss this nonsense further.”

It was in sullen silence that I unlocked the door to the house and went to bed. Damn them both for what they were trying to do to me.

It was only three days after the meeting, surely no more than four, when Thérèse interrupted us in the study, bringing a card on the silver tray. I was surprised that I had not heard the door, though the explanation is likely the concentration I had on the files before me. It was hardly an easy task to bring Julien into the business, and as much as I disliked the necessity, it was rightfully his and he did take an interest in the workings. The daily lessons were necessary. Thérèse delivered the card to Julien, not to me, and waited for instructions.

He groaned as soon as he saw the name. “Dear god, why is it he, of all people? It is terribly unlikely, but no one else would have these inane calling cards. What did the gentleman look like?”

“A well-dressed gentleman, monsieur. Dark hair, curly, a bit fat, not as handsome as he probably still thinks himself.” She coloured as she realised she had given an opinion that was not requested and not flattering.

“It is probably he. Why on earth should he still be alive? Where have you put him?”

“He is waiting in the library for the moment, monsieur. Are you at home?”

“I am at home, but I am rather busy. Tell him that I am concluding a meeting, but I will see him if he cares to wait.” Julien had always hated most social conventions, but the way he gave the orders was so natural that one would not have thought he had been away for a day.

“Yes, monsieur.”

When she departed, I left my chair behind the desk and came nearer to Julien’s seat on the sofa, before the fire. “Who is this caller?” I asked carefully, trying not to bare my curiosity too much. He handed me the card. It was not new, and not terribly expensive, either. Age had somewhat yellowed it, and the best cards were not quite as plain and rather heavier. The script in the centre read simply “The Baron Marius Pontmercy.” A baron? I voiced my skepticism aloud.

“Hardly, but he thought himself a baron. In truth, a Bonapartist who came to our barricade for I am not certain what reason. He was a foolish and naive boy who most of the time seemed younger than his years. Yet he did save our lives by his fortunate arrival, fashionably late, and that is the only reason I shall see him now. He was too foolish and distrusting of the monarchy to have been a spy, so his life must have been spared by whatever chance of fate spared mine. A dreamer, always mooning about some girl, and completely deaf to sense. But he is alive, and it appears he has found me.”

Thérèse reappeared at that moment. “He says he will wait, monsieur.” She curtsied and left.

I took up the thread of conversation. “So a false baron whom you knew sixteen years ago has discovered my address. I am not at all certain I like your friend.”

“He was never my friend. An associate at best, I assure you. Courfeyrac made friends with him, but I found nothing redeeming in the boy. He had one of those faces that was too innocent for his own good, and an intellect to match. What was it?” He thought for a bit. “Ah yes, Molière. It was childish of me, but I adapted Molière at him. He was never very good in a debate, and when he ran out of words to counter my arguments, a childish bit of cleverness slipped out. ‘If great Caesar offered me / Glory and war / And if it were necessary that I leave / The love of my mother / I would say to great Caesar / “Take back your scepter and your chariot. / I love my mother more, / Alas, I love my mother more.”’ I do not believe he understood me, but he certainly understood that he had no more words to continue the argument. If the glory of the leader was more important to him than his own freedom, I could never make him feel otherwise. I never liked him. But he is alive, and he is here, therefore I must see him. I daresay your questions will be answered swiftly, especially if you pose them yourself. I prefer not to be alone with him. How long shall I keep him waiting?”

“As long as you like, I suppose. You wish me present?”

“I have no desire to be alone with Marius Pontmercy. A terrible name for the boy to have been saddled with, I must confess. There is nothing of the Roman general about him at all. Yes, I wish you to be present for the interview.”

“You never wish me present for anything.”

“The circumstances are rather different this time. I hoped you would not become like him. I do not know if you have or not, or even what he has become. You had more than your loves, I should hope. You did engage in the desires of the intellect as well?”

“Moreso than the desires of the heart, I believe. They were permitted, and thus easier to feed.”

“Good. I always hoped you would prove yourself redeemable.” Julien sighed. “I suppose we should complete the interview as quickly as possible, and then he will go away.”

“I never thought you could hate anyone as much as you hated me.”

“I do not hate you, I never hated you, and I do not hate Marius. I simply dislike those who do not use their brains to think for themselves. Marius was one of the worst because he did not understand he had no thoughts of his own except for those relating to his little mademoiselle. You did not think for yourself in everything, but you did in matters of far more importance than Marius ever did. Let us finish this business.” He stopped in the hall to straighten his tie and check the condition of his shoes before we continued down the stairs to the library.

M. Pontmercy was examining the bookshelves when the noise of the opening door caused him to turn around with a guilty expression on his face, as if he had stolen something. Thérèse had given an apt description. His curly hair was still dark, his face pale, but he was not handsome. He might have been, once, before the latent bourgeois took over his appearance. His cheeks were far more round than was becoming, his stomach protruded as a testament to the large amount he paid his cook, and his fingers seemed thicker than they should have been. His age was difficult to discern, and only when I drew closer could I see the thin scar on his forehead disappearing into his hair. I did not like him, but for no reason. He seemed soft and perhaps unworthy of much praise.

“Marius,” Julien greeted him, not entirely welcoming. “Sit down. Why is it you have come?” I was surprised to hear my brother address him in the familiar.

Pontmercy had difficulty taking his eyes off my brother, and it was a moment before he found his voice. “I was very glad to hear that you had escaped the barricade. I thought it would be a pleasant surprise to see that you were not alone.”

“And how did you hear of my ‘escape’, as you call it?”

“The - the newspapers.” A proper embarrassment came over him.

“I am in the newspapers. Charles, why did you not tell me? Jealous over my sudden fame or carefully protective of my health and shielding me from throngs of admirers? I appreciate your care.”

“I have not once come across your name in the newspaper. I do not know what he thinks he is saying,” I replied.

“I am famous, you say, Marius. Which newspaper? What edition?” Julien’s voice was hard and mocking.

Le Journal de la Liberté, last evening’s edition. It was reported that you attended a political meeting,” Pontmercy was finally able to squeeze out, acutely uncomfortable.

“Sixteen years imprisonment was hardly an ‘escape’. I should have died, and the government agreed. Nevertheless, we are both here, and you deserve acknowledgement for your part in keeping me alive. You behaved honourably on the barricade, and though you should never have been there, your arrival bought us valuable time. I thank you for that, for it may have indeed saved my life. Now I must ask, what are you doing here?”

“It was a shock to see your name. I wanted to see if it were true. You don’t know how hard it can be sometimes, having been the only one to live.”

“I think I do know how hard it can be, and I have suffered far more from it than you have. So it seems from where I sit.”

“Oh, do stop staring at him!” I felt forced to interject. Pontmercy had not once taken his eyes from Julien’s scar once they found it.

“You needn’t chastise him on my behalf, Charles,” Julien gently reprimanded me. “It is difficult to look elsewhere, I am sure. It shall suffice as an example. You cannot see where I was actually wounded at the barricade. What you see came later. You were hit in the head, I remember, and I see that mark. It is faint and meaningless. You might have fallen from a tree as a child, or been thrown from a horse. You have suffered, perhaps, but only in yourself, and only by your own choice. We can choose to remember certain things, and I choose not to forget any of my struggles. The scars I bear are because I lived and because they feared me. We destroy what we fear, is that not so? But it is of no importance now. Two of us are alive, and free, and that simple fact means our struggle has not been entirely forgotten. How is it that you survived? I confess a certain curiosity.”

“Cosette’s father brought me out through the sewers.” Julien looked puzzled, as if the simple explanation was not simply at all. “He came in the uniform and gave it so another could leave. He was my beloved Cosette’s father, and he came to rescue me. Only to rescue me, not to fight our battle. That is why he would not shoot the officer on the rooftop.”

“I remember him well. A good man. So you survived to marry his daughter. It is a happy marriage?” Julien seemed completely uninterested, but he tried to remain polite.

“Very happy. We have been blessed with seven children.”

“It is quite a brood. How is it that you support them?”

“I practise a bit of law, but Cosette’s father left her quite a fortune, and my grandfather left me a bit as well, so it is not necessary to worry how I will provide for them.”

“Law, you say?” I threw in. “Is that how you discovered my address? For I am certain that information was not to be found in your newspaper.”

“My brother poses an excellent question. You knew precisely where to find me. Does that mean you have reformed your ways and taken part in the revolution we have just witnessed?”

Pontmercy coloured again. The man was really quite weak. “I read the newspapers. I occasionally gave a bit of money. In memory, you understand, nothing more. It seemed a weak revolution. I have no taste for gunpowder and blood anymore. And I have a family to support. I did what I thought best.”

“You are not involved in the government, then?”

“Not at all. It is a weak government, and it will not last.”

“But you do nothing to strengthen it. Instead, you spend your time looking for Combeferres to torment in the hopes of finding me to satsify your own idle curiosity? Is that all you learned from what we did?”

“No.” Pontmercy’s voice grew a bit stronger. “I have a family, and the government is weak. I learned from what we did that it is a simple matter to sacrifice yourself when you have no noble reason to live, when it can still seem noble to die for a cause. But causes are weak, causes are fleeting, and why should seven children lose a father in order not to gain a single freedom? I supported the revolution with what means I could. You cannot fault me for refusing to make my children fatherless.”

“When there are great things to be done, Marius, I can count on you not to understand them. You never looked past yourself. Your allegiance to Bonaparte made you a baron. I am not certain what your allegiance to us made you, but you had a reason for it. You were always the pampered bourgeois, even when you lived in poverty. The bourgeois is in his thought and his attitude, not in his money. You are complacent; you risk nothing. I am glad you do not dare to call me your friend, for you never have been. You were tolerated as Grantaire was tolerated, nothing more.” Julien stood. “We are even, Marius. You have found what you wanted to know, and I have been able to thank you properly for your one great, selfless action. I am a busy man, as is my brother, and we have given you all of our time that we can spare. This is the end. I prefer not to see you again, unless it be in political company.”

“You’re going back to that?”

“Why not? Many things remain to be done. I am neither an invalid nor an imbecile, therefore I will accept my duty to the republic. I have already paid a great price for the privilege. As did you, even if you do not understand it. Good day, Marius.”

I stood as well, but I did not know what to add to my brother’s speech. Arguing in front of strangers is always ill-advised, and Pontmercy needed to see us as if we were of one mind. He could not argue as it was, and his mumbled goodbye was more apt than anything that had preceded it. I was glad to see him go. I dislike men who are weak in spirit.

Julien watched the door for quite some time after Pontmercy left. After what felt an eternity, he turned to me. “I need some air. Would you care to join me in the garden?”

I jumped at the invitation. His mood had seemed reflective, and I felt he wished to be alone, but if he preferred to speak with me, then I could hardly refuse him. I felt honoured, in a sense, though the word does not seem quite fitting. He was only my brother, after all, and not a man of state.

The afternoon finally showed some sun, though the wind brought more chill than usual for the middle of April. The garden was starting slowly due to the cold, but a few tulips made a brave show. Julien walked slowly, making a full turn along the wall before speaking to me. “I do not like weak men. Doubtless you thought you had heard the names of all my compatriots before, but Pontmercy was new to you. With good reason. I spent every minute with you that I could in the hope you would not grow up to become another like him. He contradicts himself and firmly believes in the propriety of his contradictions. ‘My family is well taken care of by my wife’s dowry and my inheritance.’ Yet in the next breath, it is ’I cannot stand on a barricade because I must provide for my family.’ Either one or the other would suffice, but I fear he firmly believes what he says. It is egotism, nothing more. Marius does not think beyond himself. One must think of oneself in order to act - if we do not believe ourselves to be just, then we cannot believe our actions to be just, and we must contemplate ourselves if we are to have an opinion of ourselves. A certain amount of egotism is hardly a fault. But neither is ignoring the great ideas that move civilisations. One can lose the individual, especially himself, in a great idea. I watched it consume Henri Enjolras. But it is eminently possible to accept both. What purpose does liberty have if there are no individuals? What purpose does liberty have if we never think for ourselves? Pontmercy came to us believing only in the greatness of Bonaparte. His father had fought for the Empire, and Bonaparte had made him a baron. Marius thus thought himself rightfully a baron, and he thought so little of himself that to be a baron was of the greatest importance. He was nothing without a title, or without money, and when he found himself out of funds, he avoided us all because he had no pride in who he truly was, just in how he appeared to the world. A weak man, as I said. He preferred the glory of association to the true happiness that comes with personal understanding. I do not think he ever understood what a little man Bonaparte was. How much he could have done for France, and how much he actually did only for himself. He may look glorious, but he was always a coward. He restored law and order, but then, instead of giving power to the people, he kept it for himself because he was always afraid of becoming less than he thought he had become. At least, that is how I see it. Bonaparte the general always had to fight a still greater battle because when a general stops fighting, he is only a man. It is sad that an intelligent man would choose to defend someone so weak, and in his image, become that weak himself.“ He turned to me. “I believe we do not agree in our politics, Charles, but I do not believe you are a weak man. I think you know what it is you do, and what you think is right, and it has nothing to do with your personal flaws.”

I was quiet for a long time. Why did I think the revolution was such a mistake? Change. Worse still, upheaval. The world was peaceful, it was calm, it was growing more and more prosperous. And then these students came along and succeeded in deposing a king who harmed no one. He had been hemmed in with a constitution, unable to become a tyrant, and I suppose that that much had been right. Where is the image of the nation without the king? There is no nation, now that these students have destroyed authority. Even the Americans elect a king, of sorts. Good government can only function if there is one person who, when advisors are squabbling, can and will say “this is what we must do.” My position of wealth changes only if it is forcibly taken from me. I have no influence, and I desire none. “I believe this revolution will be nothing more than a difficult and ultimately even more violent way of returning to where we were three months ago,“ I told him. “That is why I think it a mistake.”

“And so, to spare everyone the pain of the coming decline and the destruction of their false hopes, you would prefer no one have tried anything at all.”

“I suppose so. Economies go up and down, and in general, they are going up, so there’s little point in quibbling with a government who keeps its nose out of business it does not understand. Any problems they now have will be entirely their fault. And I will suffer for them, too, because I cannot disregard any force of law and order, and if there is no order, then I suffer because of that. If they dream of democracy, they will soon have to re-think their position. Most people are not intelligent enough to know what is in the best interests of a nation, only what is in the interests of perhaps their family as the widest group. I would not know what the best interests of a nation as a whole are, so how can a man who can barely read be asked to choose which of two people best represents what the nation should be? It is preposterous. One well-educated person keeps it all in line, does what is best for everyone, and no one can say that they personally could do a better job because it is doubtful that they could.”

Julien smiled at me. I had completely ridiculed his entire life, and he smiled at me as if he were a proud father and I his precocious child. “I always knew you had a head on your shoulders. Whether we agree or not, you think things through. Not always your words when you are angry, but you have good reasons for acting as you do. We do not have to agree for me to think you a much better man than Marius Pontmercy, who gives bits of money to a revolution he does not understand or believe in.” He knelt in the grass and began idly digging in the flower bed with his fingers. “I do not know that we completely disagree. It would not surprise me in the least if this government were not strong enough to prevent a return to monarchy. And if that happens, I do not know that I would think you wrong to regret the false hopes given by those who must have known they were too weak to deserve the hope that rested in them. But how can we stop trying? You must agree that things as they are do not coincide with things as they should be. The gap is as wide as it has always been. The requirements seem so small. Enough money paid to workers that they can support their families, freeing their children to attend school long enough to learn to read, do more than just the simplest sums, and discover that they are a part of a great nation. How is it too much to ask?” He had unearthed a key, and he seemed pleased by it. He must have known it was there, just under the stone border that prevented the grass from straying into the flower bed. It could not have been there otherwise.

I started to ask what it was to, for it was a very small key, but I stopped myself. It was not my business, even if it was in my garden. He wiped it carefully on the grass, slipped it into his pocket, and dusted his hands. “We should return to work. There is still a great deal to learn.”

I could not agree more, though my education was proving far different to his.

It was well into May when everything began to spiral out of control. Julien still would not go to Nice with me, and I was uncomfortable leaving him alone in Paris, so there we remained. He continued to attend political meetings twice a week, but I never joined him after the first. His mornings were spent in the Luxembourg; his afternoons in study. And then, without warning, the dam burst. I will never forget the day Sébastien showed up again at my door.

Around three in the afternoon, as I was continuing Julien’s business education, Michel announced a visitor. “Monsieur Ture to see Monsieur Combeferre. The elder,” he clarified, much to my surprise.

Julien was equally surprised. “To see me.”

“Yes, monsieur. He is waiting in the library. Are you at home, monsieur?”

Still astonished, Julien replied, “Yes, yes, I am.” I stood to join him, but he stopped me. “I do not need your constant presence, Charles. Go about your work. Please.” He left before I could reply.

If that was how it was to be, fine. I felt I was forced to return to my old habit of listening at doors. Removing my shoes, I reached the door unseen just as Julien closed it behind him.

“Monsieur Ture.”

“Monsieur Combeferre.” I could hear the smile in Sébastien’s voice. “You seem to be recovering at a remarkable speed.”

“I thank you for your concern, but why have you come to see me here?” Julien’s voice was confused.

“I thought it best not to disrupt them at the café. My reputation may not be the brightest among them, but I mean them no harm, and they deserve far more of your attention than I do. I do translations for a living, and the publishing house for whom I currently work is in the process of adapting an encyclopaedia. I thought certain of the articles I had been given might interest you, and now that I am finished, I have brought the originals.” I could hear the rustling of paper. “Charles told me you were a great scholar, and there are a few lists of more recently published books at the end of many of these. I was not wrong in assuming you can read German and English, was I?”

“Of course not. You speak German, then,” Julien switched into that language. “It was very kind of you to think of me, monsieur.”

“Not at all. The way Charles speaks of you, it is impossible that you be far from my mind,” Sébastien replied in the same language. “I fear the names in natural science have changed a great deal in the last generation, and I have included a report on the war in America that I felt may interest you.”

“The war in America?”

“Yes. The Americans have just won territory from Mexico. The country now reaches from the Atlantic to the Pacific.”

Switching back into French, Julien asked, “You do translations for a living?”

“Yes, monsieur.”

“You are an educated man.”

“Yes, monsieur. I was at the Sorbonne at the same time as your brother.”

“You have enough pride that you gave up perhaps everything your heart desired in order to be your own master?”

“I suppose that is why I left, yes.”

“You fought on a barricade in a successful revolution?”

“Yes, monsieur, it is as I told you.”

“Then why do you make your living translating the encyclopaedia? An acquaintance of mine did that when he could get no other work and was in desperate straits. He had been disowned by his family and turned out of the house. Having no skills and acquainted only with university students, he studied all day and translated all night. But you are hardly in the circumstance of reading for law on a penny a day.”

“But I am my own master.”

“Are you?” There was silence. “It is Charles, isn’t it?” I heard more rustling of paper in the silence that followed. “You left for an excellent reason.”

“I know. But reasons are not always comfort. Forgive me, I did not intend to burden you, a stranger, with my own problems.”

“They concern my brother. Please, sit down. Let us talk.” Talk? Let us talk? Dear god, I was so afraid of what might be said in that conversation. I almost burst in upon them. Sense stayed my hand, however.

“I love him,” Sébastien said simply. “I know he can be selfish at times, but really, at heart he is a good man. You should see him with his children, monsieur. He loves them so much. He is a good man, a kind man, and it pains me to have left him. There is still so much of the artist in him, monsieur. Business has not killed it - if anything, the artistic temperament has become stronger in him since his marriage. But his flaws and mine are incompatible. All we ever do is argue anymore. There is apparently a difference between loving someone and living with him.”

“Does he still love you?” Julien asked kindly.

“I don’t know anymore. All he wants to do is argue. His selfishness is coming out again, very strongly. It’s not ‘How are you?’, it’s just ‘Come back.’”

“You’ve finally seen to the bottom of him,” Julien remarked dryly.

“I don’t understand.” I was certain from his tone that Sébastien was narrowing his eyes, though to defend me or to defend himself I was not sure.

“There is something you should see.” There was silence for a long time before I heard Julien’s voice again. “Ah, here is Richard,” he said, using the English pronunciation. “Yes, it is still here.” Silence again. I could not tell what they had.

After some time, I heard Sébastien’s voice. “Who is he?”

“A friend of mine who died with me. His name was Henri Enjolras.“ Oh dear god, what had I done to deserve such punishment! Why did Sébastien have to hear my brother rant about how I used him only to replace an idol who had disappeared? It was not true. It could not have been true. I did not care what I might have admitted to him before; Julien had no right to say anything to Sébastien! As my mind was racing, I missed much of what was said. It was still Julien’s voice - he must have been telling Sébastien about Enjolras.

“But we don’t look like each other - not that much. Not as you and Charles do.” Had he a drawing?

“To his mind, it was enough. Blond hair, blue eyes, delicate features - the general description is the same.”

“He was with me out of adoration for another man?” Sébastien asked slowly.

“He has admitted as much.”

“That goddamned cheap little bastard! I’m going to kill him. To lead me on for this long, when I’m nothing more than a doll to him! Some replacement for the one he can’t fuck! How blind could I have been? Of course he was angry to hear I had been on a barricade - he thought his experiment went too far! I’m going to wring his goddamned little neck!”

“Calm down, monsieur, please. You could not have known.”

“I should have known. He was always trying to fix me. ’You would look even more handsome with long hair. Grow it out for me,’ and I listened to the little prick and was so in love that I did what he wanted. If he wants to fight, I’ll give him something to fight about!” There was a resounding crash as something overturned, but soon the soft bump of it being righted again.

“Sit down,” Julien commanded. “When Charles was a child, his wish was practically law in our house. Whatever Charles wanted, Charles was given. Henri was the first thing he couldn’t have. The Beaux Arts was the second. It is entirely my fault Charles was never allowed to apply - I take full responsibility for my actions. Does he still draw?”

“All the time,” Sébastien replied through clenched teeth.

“His second-best. He would never have stayed with you if he did not care for you. Charles could not have Henri. He knows full well that you are not Henri. I have known you for ten days and would never mistake you for him. I saw the resemblance immediately, and also the difference. He started with the body, but he stayed with the soul. Even had there been a mutual attraction, it would have dissolved with greater knowledge. They could never have been compatible. Charles can be childish, and extremely tiresome, but he does love you.”

“How would you know?” Sébastien asked accusingly. “You’ve known him for two months!”

“I have known him all his life.”

“Do you really think he never grew up? I was probably selfish at fifteen, too! But a man of thirty-one is nothing like the boy of fifteen!”

“You are defending him,” Julien pointed out.

“And you! You tell me things wanting me to hate him, then tell me not to hate him!”

“It is by knowing the whole truth that we discover where our loyalties lie,” he replied calmly.

“Fuck you, and fuck your sickening little brother!” Whatever had fallen before toppled again, and I made a hasty retreat to the room across the hall, just in time to hear the library door slam as I was putting my shoes back on.

I went out to see Sébastien’s mood. His eyes were flashing fire, and his face was slightly flushed. “Hello, Sébastien.”

“Fuck you,” he replied angrily, stalking away. Suddenly he stopped and whirled around. “What the hell were you thinking? Did you really think I would just sit by and take it forever?!” He gave a sharp laugh. “You don’t even know what the hell I’m talking about! You bastard. To lead me on like that when all the time you were thinking of another man. I’m not some fucking doll, Charles! You hear that?! I’m not your goddamned plaything! I’m a man. And will not be used and discarded as second best!”

I struggled to remain calm. “I don’t know where you’ve gotten this idea, but you’re wrong. I love you.”

The pain in my jaw exploded like lightning. I never saw him strike me, but I hit my head on the wall behind me. “Don’t you dare speak to me again. You have memories of your beloved Henri - that’s more than a prick like you deserves. Rot in hell, Combeferre.” He stalked out without another word.

I was so angry I could hardly see. I threw the door open and stared Julien in the face. “How could you? How could you tell him such a thing?!”

He was perfectly calm, which only angered me further. “I only told him the truth.”

“It was not your truth to tell!” I shouted. “You know nothing! Nothing! I loved him, and now he won’t even look at me! And that is entirely your fault. He never needed to know I fancied Henri Enjolras. It doesn’t matter. I know damned well they aren’t the same person! How could you do this to me!” I was out of breath and my jaw hurt immensely.

“Are you finished?”

“Go to hell.”

“That is what M. Ture told me to do. Listen to me, Charles. Both of you are living your lives in Limbo, in that special circle of hell reserved for perpetual waiting. Neither one of you will bend, but neither will you go forward with your lives. A break is not always a death.”

“You know what? You’re wrong. Julien Combeferre is not always right! Your idea of making it better has done nothing of the sort! I hope you’re happy, killing the last bit of hope either of us had left.”

“No, the last bit of hope you had left in that relationship. The break was necessary for both of you to move on and actually live your lives. Perpetual anticipation is a myth: it disintegrates into a memory of hope, but not the actual emotion. Do you really think I could bear to let you live your life in the manner I have? Did you honestly think that there could be any other resolution to this relationship? You will see, in time, that my actions were for the best.”

I heard him, but I chose to ignore his words. “I never should have brought you back here.”

“I will leave at once if that is what you wish.”

Damn him! He was also so calm! Why wouldn’t he shout at me? I would have given anything to have him raise his voice instead of put on that superior attitude. “How the fuck can you just stand there as if nothing happened?! How can you pretend you didn’t just overturn two people’s lives, as if you were master of the fates?! You’ve no feeling at all! Don’t you ever interfere in my business again, do you here me?! I am not your problem!” I stormed out, slamming the door behind me, and took refuge in the study.

On reflection now, when tempers have cooled and there is distance between me and the incident I relate above, I know he had a point. Sébastien and I were both killing ourselves slowly, waiting for the other to bend, and doing everything possible not to live our lives as they were. Forcing him against me, using a past weakness, a childish fancy, to provoke anger so great as to produce the equivalent of a firestorm was only one possible solution. It may have been cleansing, but it was never what was warranted.

I fumed, and then I cried, and then I gave up. It was the middle of May, and past time I should have returned home, so it seemed the best option. I gave the order to pack, and then went to break the news to Julien. It was rather coldly delivered, I thought, but it was even more coldly accepted.

“Very well. I shall stay here some time more, if I might be permitted.”

“Stay as long as you like. May you be as unhappy here as you always have claimed.”

“Thank you. It was for the best, Charles. One day, I hope you may understand that.”

I restrained myself at that point, and instead of directing him to hell yet again, decided that perhaps a sullen silence was more to my benefit. I dined alone that evening, and the next morning, I started the journey home, still fuming.

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