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24 May 2013 @ 10:36 pm
Chapter 35: Youth and Folly  

Chapter 35: Youth and Folly

As the 19th of January drew nearer, the campaign for the legislature was also approaching a feverish pitch. It was reaching the point where in it was becoming virtually impossible for almost anyone involved to catch more than a few moments of rest owing to the sheer number of sorties, meetings, and arguments in addition to earning one's daily bread. "I wager that you even revise your speech in your sleep," Courfeyrac told Enjolras as they were walking to the Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau past five in the afternoon of January 17.

"If it was possible, it could give me a few more minutes to work each day," Enjolras deadpanned. He held back a yawn as they rounded the street corner. 'If only to make the best of the latter half of this entire campaign,' he thought.

Courfeyrac snorted. "You should use that time to sleep, my friend. You ought to try that before Combeferre and Joly have to go as far as mixing sleeping draughts for you."

"I'll manage it; I should have some time this evening," Enjolras replied calmly as he adjusted his grip on a satchel crammed with various books and papers for his cases and the campaign. He had originally been invited to a dinner with some merchants, but he'd gotten a note earlier that day that his host had unexpectedly been laid low with the flux. "I heard that you and Citizen Blanchard paid a visit to the Marais yesterday?"

"We surprised the Pontmercys with our presence," Courfeyrac replied with a grin. "It turns out that attorney Citizen Tholomyes, is now acquainted with the grandfather of Marius?"

Enjolras raised an eyebrow. "Perhaps Pontmercy introduced them," he remarked. Privately, he could not think of any other reason besides civility for Marius to introduce his erring not-quite father-in-law to Citizen Gillenormand.

"Well they managed to drag in cobwebs of all sorts into a drawing room. Joly would agree that it is a very unhealthy form of discussion," Courfeyrac said with a shudder. "Marius keeps the peace of course, but Cosette is formidable. If she was feeling a little less poorly she certainly would have attended that assembly last night near the Halle aux Vins. Paulette told me that it was a success on the whole."

"That's good to hear."

Courfeyrac gave him an astonished look. "Didn't Eponine tell you anything about it?"

"I haven't had the chance to speak with her yet, at least at length," Enjolras said. He shook his head at Courfeyrac's exasperated groan. The truth was that he had almost no opportunity to talk with Eponine about Paquet's challenging her to organize an assembly for the women of the party. It was only to be expected: he had work and his own sorties while she was busy with the bookshop's regular work, printing the new pamphlets, and planning the assembly. Over the past few days Enjolras had heard her footsteps and her voice in the hall, and a few times they'd exchanged pleasantries, but hardly anything more. In fact he'd woken up yesterday to find she'd left a whole kettle of burned coffee in the kitchen, and he'd returned home at one in the morning only to hear that she had only stopped by to bring her brothers home. Today he had to leave before he could check if she'd returned home at all. 'At least she can keep her head about her nowadays,' he thought, remembering how she'd spoken to Paquet at the Place du Pantheon.

Almost as soon as he and Courfeyrac stepped into the tenement, they were greeted by Jacques running down the stairs. "You're home!" he chirped, tugging on Enjolras' coat.

"Just tonight," Enjolras said. "Where are your brothers?"

Jacques pointed upwards. "Combeferre is helping them with big numbers."

Courfeyrac laughed. "I hardly doubt Gavroche is enjoying that."

Jacques tugged on Enjolras' coat again. "Ponine is here."

"Ah good for you then," Courfeyrac said, clapping Enjolras on the shoulder. "What is she doing?"

Jacques rubbed his nose. "Cutting a book."

'What for?' Enjolras wondered as he quickly walked upstairs. He knocked twice on the Thenardiers' door only to have Paulette open it.

"Enjolras, this is a surprise," Paulette said amusedly, holding on to the doorjamb for balance. "Eponine! Bahorel! Look who's here!"

"Your timing is impeccable, Enjolras," Bahorel called. "We've just found something that you need to see right away."

"Is Maurice here with you?" Paulette asked Enjolras.

"He's down-," Enjolras began before he had to quickly step aside to allow Paulette to walk to the stairway and shout for Courfeyrac to come upstairs. He peered in the room and saw Eponine and Bahorel seated on the floor, next to a lamp and a book that had been stripped of its leather covering and then cut into several sections. "What is this about?"

"Figuring out something about Citizen Ravigard's orders. Well, we don't know everything, but I think there's something," Eponine said.

"You took one of his books?" Enjolras asked slowly as he sat beside her.

"Actually someone spoiled it," Eponine replied with a grimace, indicating some wrinkled and unevenly colored edges in some sections. "I simply got it in the back alley."

Enjolras shook his head at the carelessness of the entire situation. He noticed that Eponine seemed to have a split lip, but before he could ask she caught his gaze and shook her head slightly. "What have you found?" he finally said, resting a hand on her arm.

"Places," Bahorel said, handing over the book's cover. "It's a perfect place to conceal a message if one carefully marks the reverse side."

Enjolras held up the sheet to the lamp and saw several addresses clearly printed there, located in various quartiers of the city. "Why did you take the rest of the book apart?"

"Looking for other hiding places and codes," Eponine said. She pushed together two sections of the book. "There are marks in the corners; they look as if they were drawn in. Maybe it's supposed to mean something like reading them together to complete a message."

"We're going to have to take another day to thoroughly decode this, and to visit the addresses," Bahorel muttered. "So this, and then invisible ink, and then what's next?"

"The actual blow," Enjolras muttered. "It is possible that other people have received similar warnings."

"But whoever sent the note to you knows that you can handle invisible ink," Bahorel pointed out. "Someone perhaps we've worked with before."

'That is the troubling part,' Enjolras thought as he watched Eponine pick up another part of the book's binding and begin to cut the joints with a pair of shears. He also saw that she had some other tools scattered all over the floor. "How were you able to bring those here?"

"A basket. And my sleeves," Eponine replied, gesturing to the bulky sleeves of her light blue dress. "You can hide things here. I'll bring them back in the morning, don't worry about it. It's a good thing Paulette decided to give me this old dress of hers so I could manage it."

Bahorel chuckled. "Clever girl. You'd be able to manage even breaking out of prison."

"Maybe," Eponine muttered, using the shears to pull at a stubborn bit of glued paper. "Nothing here."

"Eponine, I heard about the meeting last night," Enjolras said nonchalantly, looking at her.

She put down the shears and sat up straight. "What about it?" she asked him.

"How many people went?"

"Oh about fifty, I think. Some girls I know, some friends of friends, fine ladies too."

"Then what happened?" he asked slowly.

She frowned. "It would have gone better if someone hadn't started off while we were on the way out after the meeting, and shouted that we were being 'unnatural for women'. You should have seen Musichetta's face when she heard that."

Bahorel snorted while Enjolras shook his head. "And you?" Enjolras asked.

"Well there was a grand lady who had a ring when she slapped me." She shrugged as she picked up the shears again. "At least it was just my lip that got cut."

'What am I ever going to do with you, Eponine?' Enjolras wondered silently. Then again, it was not as if he ever expected her to back down before such an affront. "At least you're safe. Though of course, maybe a bit more prudence next time would be advisable."

"Enjolras, perhaps it would be easier if I could look at someone the way you do and make them go all quiet," she quipped.

Enjolras went pale at this, a fact which was only exacerbated by Bahorel failing to hide his guffaws. Before he could say anything to this, a knock sounded on the door. "Eponine, who is in there?" Azelma shouted from outside.

"It's unlocked, you can find out," Eponine shot back tersely moments before the door creaked open, revealing Azelma, Prouvaire, and a raven-haired young man dressed in a drab brown coat that was decorated with a blue cockade. The stranger's nose appeared broken from a previous fistfight; this was the only thing that detracted from his otherwise delicate, almost pallid appearance.

Enjolras got to his feet. "Good evening Azelma, Prouvaire. It's been a long time, Rossi." Although Rossi was a candidate from the Constitutionalists party, he had worked closely with the Amis del'ABC in the weeks prior to Lamarque's funeral.

Meanwhile Eponine handed to Bahorel the various parts of the book. "What are you doing here?" she asked Azelma.

"Visiting. Is there something wrong with that?" Azelma asked. She brought out a note from her pocket. "We saw Citizen Gillenormand, that Theodule. He left this for you."

"He's already back from Dijon?" Eponine asked, taking the note.

"Aren't you happy about it?" Azelma asked. "That bald man Tholomyes is here too, but he's downstairs talking to Courfeyrac," she said, directing this to Enjolras.

"Prouvaire, I need your help here; you know more of verses than I do," Bahorel said, holding up the pages. "It's a code I may have to break."

Azelma pouted at Prouvaire. "Must you now? You said we'd go to dinner."

"We will in a while. Anyway I think you can help here too," Prouvaire said as he pulled up a chair for Azelma before he sat on the floor next to Bahorel.

Enjolras nodded to the two other people in the room. "Eponine, may I introduce Citizen Eugene Rossi. Citizen Rossi, meet Citizenness Eponine Thenardier."

"A pleasure to meet you," Rossi said warmly as he bowed. "Ouvrard, that is the head of our party, mentioned that there was a young Radicaux lady who not only wrote part of a pamphlet but actually challenged Citizen Paquet."

"Rather, it was the other way around," Eponine clarified. "How does Citizen Ouvrard know of me?"

"The parties keep an eye on each other," Rossi said. He glanced upstairs and sighed. "I came to talk to Combeferre about an upcoming lecture, but since you're both here, I ought to mention it." He looked around and frowned. "Can we talk in the hall?"

"The next room," Enjolras said. After he let them in, he made sure to close the door. As he set down his satchel, he saw that Eponine was sitting on his bed and Rossi on a chair by the desk, leaving only one other seat for him. "So to what do we owe this visit?"

"Some very grave accusations, Citizen" Rossi replied. He brought out a newsletter and smoothed it out on his lap before handing it to Enjolras. "I already expected my party to be accused of being ultra, but we are not Orleanists."

Enjolras paled as he read the lurid prose supposedly written by a 'Citizen Duchesne', claiming that agents allied with the Constitutionalists had been seen painting the fleur-de-lis, and that they were in contact with towns on the Prussian and Spanish borders, and that one had secretly gone to England to convince Talleyrand to support Louis-Philippe. The article was two days old. "I can tell you that this isn't the view of the Radicaux party as a whole," he said as he handed the article to Eponine.

"But you can't stop individual writers from publishing," Rossi said glumly.

"What I want to know is why you chose to speak to me and Citizenness Thenardier, when it might be more appropriate to direct this to Citizen Dufour and Citizen Paquet?" Enjolras asked. "The heads of the parties would be able to answer too."

"Enjolras-let me drop the formality here since we are old friends-you know that Citizen Dufour's hands are tied, and the only one animating that party is Citizen Bamatabois. Now Citizen Bamatabois is a sensible man but far too excitable and yes, caught in a hard place," Rossi said. "As for Citizen Paquet, you know how he can be with an accusation."

Eponine smirked as she folded one page of the newsletter "He's like a thorn, you know? He'll bury himself in your finger first chance he gets."

"Eponine, I mean, Citizenness Thenardier, that is a rather harsh comparison," Enjolras said.

"I saw how he dislikes you, even if you're working with him," Eponine pointed out. She looked at Rossi. "But what do you need me for?"

"You're a pamphleteer. You and Enjolras can help counter this...this piece of work that is more fitting for Marat than a proper Republic," Rossi replied. He coughed and cleared his throat for a moment. "You should know this isn't the only attack the party has received."

"Letters?" Enjolras asked.

Rossi's eyes widened. "Yes. You...know?"

"He got a threatening missive last week," Eponine chimed in.

Rossi's jaw dropped. "Did it also say to remember the 21st day of January 1793?"

Enjolras shook his head, even as he recognized the date as that of the execution of Louis Capet. 'If the letters are from the same writer, he or she has a bloody sense of history,' he thought. "It at least was the same in form," he said.

"The Democrates party then," Rossi muttered. "Only they would write letters to threaten both sides."

"Rossi, you cannot ascertain that," Enjolras said frankly. He could see that Eponine was biting her lip as she pondered the article she was still holding. "Later, we can pay a visit to Citizen Bamatabois-"he began before an outraged shriek sounded through the house.

"What on earth-"Rossi asked but Enjolras had thrown the door open, and had followed Eponine out of the room and down the stairs. In the front hall they found Courfeyrac staring at Tholomyes with an incredulous expression on his face. Paulette was in a chair, hiding her face in her hands as her shoulders shook with sobs.

Tholomyes looked at Enjolras and Eponine. "My apologies for the commotion," he said gravely.

"A very grave understatement," Enjolras deadpanned.

Eponine gave Tholomyes a vicious look as she went up to Paulette. "Never mind him, Paulette," she said to her friend. "He's just being silly."

Paulette shook her head. "She told Maurice to-"

"He suggested that I was better off leaving Paulette," Courfeyrac finished.

"I was only giving practical advice," Tholomyes argued. "Your youth is a gift that comes only once; why should you hasten its passing with these worries about fatherhood?"

Enjolras shook his head as he heard Paulette's sobs grow louder over Eponine's attempts to soothe her. After a moment Eponine was able to coax Paulette out of her seat. 'Thank you,' he thought as he caught Eponine's eye for a moment as she led Paulette to the concierge's lodge.

Enjolras waited for the door to close before giving Tholomyes a long hard look. "Citizen Tholomyes, was that necessary?"

Tholomyes let out a breath raggedly. "I was only giving my unsolicited advice. It is easy, when intoxicated with your age, to believe that the natural course of life: bachelorhood, fatherhood, then dotage, are simple matters. That is not so. You ought to follow Rousseau regarding the proper course of a man's life; the babies are the concern of women. You are young men with a dream of a Republic; I will not deny or begrudge you that. But one cannot always be a republican and a father at the same time."

"Desmoulins was," Courfeyrac retorted. "Now let me give you my unsolicited reply. Yes it is true that I entered this situation in a rather unlooked for manner. Naturally I earned the displeasure of my parents; it was inevitable, I would have had to make the situation known to them sooner or later even if they did not come to Paris specifically to disown me. The circumstances do not change the fact that there is a child. In the first place, there is no use in making a child half an orphan when he or she has two parents living; that would be an untruth. In the second place, it would be an injustice to leave a child in ignominy when it is well within my capacity to make it otherwise. As a third addition, inasmuch as Rousseau is admirable in writing, his example of paternity is perhaps less worthy of note. As a final point, I have at least enough affection for Citizenness Vigny so as to make our ménage more than simply tolerable. Giving her my name is impossible since the particle does not suit her no more than it suits me, but we can live in some sort of accord."

Tholomyes gaped at Courfeyrac. "I was in your situation too. I am aware that there were, are consequences, I should like to spare you the trouble."

"It was fortunate then that your daughter was raised by a man who is deserving of the title of a father, even if he did not sire any children of his own," Courfeyrac answered.

The older attorney sighed deeply. "I hope then that you can follow his example, if you insist." He looked grimly at Enjolras. "I had intended to make this a friendly visit, but I hear you have company and I have disrupted a pleasant evening."

"We can meet tomorrow morning at the Palais de Justice," Enjolras said.

"That would be better. Good evening to you, Citizens," Tholomyes said before donning his hat and his scarf and walking out of the house.

Enjolras clapped Courfeyrac's shoulder. "A fine defence," he said, not hiding his pride and astonishment.

Courfeyrac nodded with relief. "The only right thing to do."

"How did you know about Citizen Tholomyes' child?" Enjolras asked in an undertone. "Pontmercy would never have mentioned it."

"Citizen Tholomyes told Citizen Gillenormand. It was a mercy that Marius, Cosette, and Citizen Valjean were all in the study. I understand that it has been the cause of a rift," Courfeyrac said. He looked around as a door opened. "Paulette-"he asked, looking to the concierge's lodge, where his mistress now stood.

Paulette nodded as she ambled over to him. Her eyes were still swollen but she was smiling. "Maurice, I heard every word. I may not be able to be a mother to a de Courfeyrac, but to your child, I could," she began before she had to muffle the rest of her words in his shoulder. Courfeyrac pulled her close and murmured something in her ear that had her nodding.

In the meantime Enjolras took the opportunity to return upstairs. Before he could get into his room, he noticed that Eponine had followed him. "I thought you were going to be angry with him," she remarked.

"Courfeyrac was more than up to the confrontation," Enjolras said. He nodded to Rossi, who was just emerging from the room. "My apologies for the interruption," he said.

Rossi shrugged awkwardly. "What were you saying before you both ran downstairs?"

"I was suggesting we visit Citizen Bamatabois," Enjolras said.

"Tell me if you need me to join you," Eponine chimed in. "I'd better make sure first that my siblings aren't up to any mischief," she added before going to her room.

Rossi checked his pocket watch as he followed Enjolras back to his quarters. "I heard that the Democrates party has a sortie at Richefu's, at eight."

"We have to be there," Enjolras concurred. From far off he could hear the tolling of church bells; it was the hour now for vespers. They would have to leave in a while if they were to make the meeting.

The other candidate ran a hand through his hair as he sat down again. "They will accuse us of sending notes to them, I am sure of it."

"We have to prepare for that possibility," Enjolras said.

Rossi nodded. "I cannot speak for my party; Ouvrard prefers it that way. In your case, would you leave it to Paquet?"

"It might be late to wait for a statement from Paquet. All I can say is that I for one am willing to help them find the source of these notes, if only to clear some names. We have to do this before the mid-campaign rally in two days," Enjolras said.

"Especially since those were death threats, at least the one I received may as well be one.

"All the more we must act quickly."

Rossi gritted his teeth. "Only you could face such a thing in the eye without backing down."

"Does anyone have any other option these days?" Enjolras rummaged through his desk for the missive he'd decoded a week ago, and he pocketed it. He then went out to knock on the Thenardiers' door. "Eponine, we'll be heading to a Democrates sortie, at Richefu's," he called.

Eponine opened the door and shook her head. "I have to help Jacques with some reading and Citizenness LeClair with dinner. You will have to do without me." She reached for his wrist and pulled him close. "Prouvaire found something in the sections; he might be able to figure it out tonight."

Enjolras looked past her and at Prouvaire, who was holding up several pages. "The last verses!" the poet mouthed eagerly.

Eponine gripped Enjolras' wrist more tightly. "Tomorrow. I will tell you tomorrow," she whispered. "You stay safe."

"I will." He looked down and saw her anxious expression. "You have already found something, haven't you?" he asked.

She nodded before hurrying back into the room to quickly write down something. "Do not go to these places," she said, handing the paper to him. "Not till we know more."

Enjolras recognized the locations as some of the addresses inked onto the leather book cover. "I see. Till tomorrow, Eponine."

"I'll see you, Enjolras," she replied before quickly closing the door.

Enjolras shrugged at Rossi's incredulous expression. "I think we have just had the second warning. Your turn to have a look," he said grimly as he held out the list.