Combeferre had barely sat down when the younger of the two miscreants from his previous visit appeared and sat down across from him. Whilst deciding if he ought to be annoyed or charmed, the boy grinned broadly in such a manner that it was impossible to be annoyed with his forwardness.
“I wanted to apologise again for Bahorel’s behaviour the other day. You wouldn’t think it to look at him, but he takes English poetry very seriously. Which doesn’t excuse standing on a table and shouting. He means well. I think,” Courfeyrac added a bit uncertainly.
“No offense was taken, I assure you. I am certain that, as his friend, you know his moods. I do not hold it against you.”
He pulled a wry face. “I don’t know him all that well. That sort of behaviour usually seems reserved for after dinner, but I really don’t know.”
“The hazards of café acquaintances.”
“Yes! Exactly.” Courfeyrac grinned again. “You meet amazing chaps all over, but only with time do you learn all the ways in which they can amaze you. Did you enjoy the lecture?”
“Very much,” Combeferre said cautiously. “I’m not certain it would have been to your taste.”
“I’m rubbish at alphabets - Greek was nightmare enough - but I think it’s amazing that some people are so good with them that they can figure out a dead foreign tongue and make their own primer. I’m rather sorry I didn’t go.”
“Are you?” Combeferre asked with honest curiosity. The invitation had been made only as a biting comment on how his friends were of a far higher calibre than the drunken man on the table.
“I couldn’t make up my mind to it at the time, but I was sorry after it was over. Do you ever have that problem? That you can’t decide what to do until it’s too late and then you miss everything you didn’t decide on?”
“No,” Combeferre answered evenly. “I always know what I want.”
“But everything in Paris is so exciting! The cafés, the theatre, the lectures, the gardens, the women! You know Paris better than I do, I’m sure, and so you can discriminate. You’re a native, aren’t you? I’ve only been here a few months.”
Combeferre had managed before now not to fully note Courfeyrac’s warm accent - it was wholly right in coming from Provence and wholly wrong in being in Paris. “Like you, I come from the Midi, but I was educated here. I suppose you are correct: I have never been both free and out of my element in Paris.”
“Where are you from?” Courfeyrac asked excitedly. “I was at school in Avignon but I grew up in a village between Avignon and Orange.”
“The heart of the Vaucluse. My family come from Marseille. We’re through Avignon constantly.”
“My mother insists on wintering in Paris; my father tries to maintain the business and the estate. Thus we summer in Marseille and winter in Paris, so I know Avignon well enough in passing.”
“But you know Paris far better.”
“Indeed, it has long been considered necessary to my education that I be as familiar with the cafés as with the lecture halls. But such knowledge does not stick so well as alphabets,” he admitted.
“Look, Bahorel’s a good chap, really, even if he can be thoroughly annoying sometimes, but can’t that be said about any of us? He’s been in Paris for ages, knows everything about everything, and he’s a good chap, really.”
“I see your point.”
“I’m trying not to make an ass of myself here.”
“I understand. Neither of us made a very good impression on the other.”
“I am sorry I missed the lecture,” Courfeyrac insisted as he left.
Thus, before the week was out, Combeferre found Bahorel in the same café, reading the newspaper much more quietly than when they had previously met. “I have been told that you are concerned that you disturbed me too much the other day. Please forgive me, monsieur, for it is not my place to reprove high spirits. Your taste in poetry should not be my concern.”
“Is this an apology?”
“I don’t know,” Combeferre admitted frankly. “I have, however, brought a peace offering, for though we may not share a taste for Byron, I believe we may have some tastes in common.”
“I doubt it.”
Combeferre set before Bahorel the book he was carrying. “Though I admire ’Tintern Abbey’, Wordsworth is much more. So is Shelley more than ’Ozymandias’. Read the marked page, if it pleases you. I shall disturb you no more tonight.” He nodded - more of a bow, really - and retreated to the farthest table.
In curiosity, Bahorel opened to the title page. Wordsworth. Wordsworth used a great many words and rather less rhyme and talked a lot more about nature than Bahorel had ever really appreciated. But the gestur