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31 October 2013 @ 10:55 pm
Chapter 69: The Initial Difficulties Of Providing Succour  

Chapter 69: The Initial Difficulties of Providing Succour

"So we have a court martial that turned into a massacre, an attack on a wedding cortege, and Louis-Philippe's suddenly turning up at an inn on the outskirts of Paris, where he'd been staying for two days. Did you happen to be present at all three of those incidents?"

Enjolras merely raised an eyebrow at Bamatabois' quip despite the stifled laughter that rippled throughout the small meeting room on the Hotel de Ville's second floor. "I can only tell you the story of the second," he said, ignoring the dull pain still lingering in his wounded shoulder. It was already past ten in the evening, more than six hours since an emergency meeting of legislators, deputies, and various executives had been called to order, and it was only now that a brief break had occurred in the proceedings, allowing the more restless participants to seek respite away from the stuffy session hall. 'So far, too little has been decided,' Enjolras thought impatiently as he crossed the room to the window overlooking the Seine. From here he could see the glimmering streetlamps along the Pont d'Arcole and on the Ile du Palais, as well as the imposing spires of Notre Dame. The night was cool and tranquil, in contrast to the harrowing events that had transpired earlier under broad daylight. In a sense, it was a much needed nepenthe for many of the citizens.

Across the room, Rossi flung a wad of paper at Bamatabois. "That goes without saying; the wedding was that of an old friend of ours. I would have been there too if not for another long-standing obligation."

"I do not make it a point to keep track of your social ties, Rossi," Bamatabois said with a scowl as he caught the scrap of paper. "This couldn't have been more ill-timed, when the legislation regarding capital punishment is up for a vote," he added, giving Enjolras a pointed look.

Enjolras gritted his teeth before turning to look at his colleague. "Now why would you say so?"

"Treason and mutiny are matters that are the very limit of, or even beyond the scope of criminal law. Surely the idea of clemency cannot be necessarily applied to those cases, especially since there is such a threat to public safety," Bamatabois said.

"If public safety is a question, Bamatabois, a State that is willing to use capital punishment may also be construed as a threat to the life and security of the average citizen," Rossi said as he crossed his arms. "I do not mean only those with dissenting opinions."

"Spoken like a true Constitutionalist coward," one visiting deputy muttered between coughs.

Rossi paled visibly at this and moved as if to say something till Enjolras grabbed him by the shoulder. "The abolishment of capital punishment is the abolishment of the grossest tyranny, that over the right to existence," Enjolras said to the deputy.

"That is well and good, but what of when a citizen or other force threatens the State's stability, as these mutineers have done?" Bamatabois challenged. "You cannot say that exile works, otherwise we would not have the Duc d'Orleans suddenly sneaking back to Paris in time to head what could have turned out to be a coup!"

"What proof do you have that it was Louis-Philippe behind this? He is not the only émigré with a vested interest in unsettling the Republic," another deputy retorted.

"The timing of events-"

"A logical fallacy!"

"It only stands to reason!"

"With regard to Louis-Philippe's presence in Paris, it should be fairly easy to ascertain his part in the matter, and that will be the role of our consulates and investigators. By returning to France he has willingly subjected himself to the new laws, and there are ways to prevent him from making another sort of escape or evading justice if he has to answer for any crime," Enjolras pointed out sternly. "We are here to decide the extent of measures that can be taken in making sure that the citizens do not dissipate into disorder and anarchy because of these military misadventures. That would also be another route to destabilization, and one that is not so easily turned away from."

Bamatabois rubbed his temples. "This is why I hated debating against you back in the Sorbonne." He nodded to a newcomer standing in the doorway. "Good evening Jeanne."

"Good evening to you. I am sorry to interrupt your debate, but I must borrow your opponent," Charles Jeanne greeted his belligerent colleague, even as he discreetly signed for Enjolras to follow him outside.

'Some news he has received most likely,' Enjolras thought as he and Jeanne went to a bend in the hallway. "What is this about?" he asked.

Jeanne took a deep breath. "Enjolras, what is your opinion of Citizen Louis Philippe?"

"I respect what benevolence he has; what I detest is the throne and the regime it inherently upholds," Enjolras answered. He paused to make sure that they would not be overheard. "I gather then that he is here in the Hotel de Ville."

Jeanne nodded quickly. "He intends to make a speech to the assembly later, avowing his innocence with regard to any counterrevolutionary efforts."

"So Lafayette has spoken with him?" Enjolras asked.

"Yes I have," a voice chimed in. Enjolras and Jeanne both turned to see a wearied looking man surrounded by four guards. He wore a bulky cloak over the usual wear of any respectable bourgeoisie. His head was bare and his hands were unbound. There was hardly anything regal about this personage, but only the gravity of a man at the close of a long and tiresome pilgrimage.

"Good evening to you, Citizen Louis Philippe," Enjolras addressed this newcomer calmly.

"To you as well, Citizen Enjolras and Citizen Jeanne," the traveller answered. "I have been wishing to speak particularly with the two of you."

"I do not believe you have anything to say to us that you cannot address openly to the entire assembly," Jeanne replied.

Louis Philippe smiled wanly. "I had hoped to speak as one citizen interested in reform to others working to achieve the same means."

"If we are to persist in this discussion, we had better move elsewhere," Enjolras suggested. While he was not particularly eager to take up a debate with this deposed monarch, he was not one to turn away the opportunity to learn something of value. 'Even if this discussion may in the end prove to be redundant,' he thought as Jeanne located a small room wherein to further conduct this conference.

Although this room was furnished with a pair of sturdy chairs, Louis Philippe was prudent enough not to take any of these seats. "Please let me make it clear that I intend no harm, or to fuel any disorder by my return to this city. In truth I deplore these counterrevolutionary efforts; I condemn them especially for the harm they have caused to the people, especially the loss of life. This stand is for myself though, but I cannot represent any of the other émigrés. I have had no communication with anyone from the military; you can verify that fact easily. I have also heard of the assassin from England, and I cannot condone such a course of action as he has chosen, or the employment of such an individual."

"Very well. Why have you returned to France, entering under the title of 'Citizen', and then proceeding to make your presence secret for a number of days?" Enjolras asked sternly.

"I was fleeing some agents, both of this government as well as the émigrés. Some had come all the way from England to seek me out in Cadiz."

"Where were you going?

"Austria."

"There are more direct ways from Spain into Austria. Why this detour into Paris?"

"I had to throw off my pursuers. I stayed in hiding in order not to excite any further comment."

"Is that your only intent?"

"To be truthful, I also intended to see if I may be of use here, as many of my former friends are now in the present government. If there is any way I may aid reform, I should wish to do my part. But if the people will not have me, then what am I to do?"

"Very little," Enjolras replied, all the while not taking his eye off this visitor. The logic behind his disavowal of the counterrevolution was compelling; it was clear that Louis Philippe was quite on his own, a less than ideal position to be organizing mutineers. The timing of events fit well with his story: he had not been in France during the tumultuous campaign period, he had not been in England, and he had only arrived in Paris after the incident at Saint-Sulpice. Nevertheless he still had reason to distrust the man; he knew that Louis Philippe would have remained in hiding indefinitely if he had not been surprised at his lodgings, and there was no telling what would occur if suddenly some old alliance of his would be renewed. 'He is in a precarious position; he cannot stay here but nor can he be kept entirely out of sight,' Enjolras decided.

Jeanne had also been regarding Louis Philippe suspiciously. "It would be advisable that you quit Paris as soon as you've made your defense. We cannot guarantee your safety indefinitely."

"Then where am I to go?"

"That is a question for Lafayette and the consulates," Enjolras said. It was likely that Louis Philippe would have to dwell abroad under constant watch of an embassy; it was perhaps the best way to ensure his safety as well as to contain whatever influence he still had.

Louis Philippe looked down as he began to pace the room. "Far too much has happened in these past few months; I wondered if I'd still recognize this city if I ever returned to it. It is at least good to know that we still stand on the same footing when it comes to some points of reform."

"Such as?" Jeanne asked.

"The matter of saving a condemned human life." The deposed monarch stopped his pacing to take a look at Enjolras. "I hear you are the youngest of the legislators here, Citizen Enjolras, and one of the most radical ones. It is...heartening to hear that it is you who have saved a venerable citizen from returning to the prisons, and is now taking the initiative in reforming the penal code. I had never thought to still find such a strong belief in mercy."

Enjolras looked Louis Philippe in the eye. "It is not mercy but justice. The time for enforcing tyranny in the name of supposed correction is long past. What must follow is the changing of the circumstances that have become the root of criminality, such that that these depths will be forever consigned to history. This is a society that will uplift and not demean the human condition."

Louis Philippe's smile was grave. "That is the thought of every generation," he said softly as a loud knock sounded on the door.

'If every generation believed otherwise, then there would be little point in the continued existence of the human race,' Enjolras thought as he looked towards Feuilly, who was just entering the room. "News from the consulate?" he asked his friend.

Feuilly adjusted his straw hat. "From the barracks. Some of the perpetrators of the murders at the court martial have admitted to collusion with our émigrés in England."He nodded curtly to Louis-Philippe. "It seems as if you will be exonerated easily, Citizen."

Louis Philippe's shoulders sagged with relief even as the guards outside announced that the session was about to be reconvened. "All his faults on display at a time like this," Jeanne pronounced as soon as Louis-Philippe was out of earshot. "It is no wonder his situation is untenable."

"So he is here without any intent to regain the throne?" Feuilly asked.

"It would appear to be so," Enjolras said. "It does not seem that he has rallied any sort of support."

"So these émigrés are acting to put someone else in power, or are they merely seizing an opportunity to further themselves?" Feuilly asked.

"I would rather that it was the former. The latter reason though may limit itself even as we speak," Jeanne remarked ruefully as they went to the assembly hall.

The speech that Louis Philippe gave was just as Jeanne had predicted, mainly a reiteration of his travels through the continent and an avowal of his innocence with regard to the recent counterrevolutionary activities. It was eventually decided on, and approved by Lafayette, that Louis Philippe would be conducted to Austria, first to meet the diplomat and Austrian foreign minister Metternich as a matter of courtesy, and then he would be conveyed to reside under the notice of the French consul there. The assembly also voted to grant Lafayette the emergency powers to order and preside over an investigation of the garrison and its unexpected guests, as well as to temporarily delegate to the National Guard the defence of the city. This would be the only irregularity in the upcoming days; the rest of the government's business such as hearings on petitions, committee work, and implementation of the new price schemes would proceed as scheduled. By the time these deliberations were sufficiently concluded, it was already half past twelve in the morning.

Within an hour, Enjolras arrived at the Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau. He let himself into the house as quietly as possible, knowing that not even the most insomniac of his neighbours could stand to be awake at this unholy hour. When he finally got to his apartment, he found Eponine fast asleep on one side of his bed, her cheek still pressed to an open page of a hefty book. It was a little startling to see her in this vulnerable way, especially considering the more formidable attitudes he'd seen her in over the past twenty-four hours. 'Was that all yesterday?' he asked himself incredulously as he deftly slid the book away from her and put it on his desk, taking care to keep it open to the same page. After undressing so that he was in his shirt and trousers, he carefully got into bed, taking care to keep a little space between him and Eponine as a concession to propriety. After all, it would have been very inconsiderate to wake her up for the mere purpose of asking her to go back to her room, but he wasn't amenable to sleeping on the floor in his condition.

It was only a matter of time though till he heard her stir and inch closer to him. He opened his eyes in time to see her nestle her head under his chin as she draped one arm over his midsection, taking care not to jostle his injured shoulder. "Eponine, go back to sleep," he whispered.

She pulled him even closer and let out what sounded like a happy sigh as she buried her nose in his chest. "How long have you been home?" she murmured drowsily.

"Only a short while," he mumbled as he grasped her hand firmly. After the harrowing events of the day, it was simply enough to be with her again, in a place where no harm could come to them. He finally felt a much more welcome exhaustion overcome him as he kissed the top of her head and felt her smile against his skin, just moments before he finally dozed off.

When Enjolras opened his eyes again, it was already dawn, judging by the pallid light on the wall nearest the bed. 'Right on time again, 'he thought, glad that his usual knack for waking up when he wanted to hadn't failed him even in his previously spent state. He could feel Eponine's light breathing as well as the slight roughness of fingers brushing against his palm; she hadn't let go of his hand the entire night. For a few more moments he contented himself with watching how the sunlight caught in Eponine's hair, bringing out its rich reddish brown color. It was not something he'd actively noticed before, at least not till yesterday when he'd seen her at Saint-Etienne.

Before he could gently shake her awake he heard her mumble his name as she stirred. The way her curves pressed against his torso was nothing short of exquisite and he heard his breath catch quite audibly. He looked down to meet her sleepy grin a split second before she kissed him. "Good morning Antoine," she whispered against his lips. "How are you feeling?"

"Good," Enjolras replied. Somehow getting a little sleep did a great deal to lessen the discomfort of his injury. "Why did you end up reading in here?" he asked, pulling away slightly to get a better look at her.

"Didn't want to disturb my brothers," Eponine explained. "I could only get to it after they'd all gotten to sleep; it was hard for Jacques last night. What happened at the Hotel de Ville?"

"As expected, Citizen Louis Philippe insisted on his innocence; his story is convincing but he still cannot remain in France. He will have to go into exile again, but be under tighter scrutiny," he said as he began running his fingers through the ends of her hair.

"I s'pose it is better than other consequences. So who was behind all that trouble?"

"Some émigrés. As to how they did it, that remains to be seen."

She nodded seriously as she took in this information. "I do not think the answer to that will be nice."

"Nor do I, but it is necessary to get the bottom of the matter, in order to properly put an end to it," he pointed out as he got out of bed, despite the very tempting idea of simply lingering there and conversing with Eponine. 'The day isn't going to wait for us,' he reminded himself as he rummaged for a clean waistcoat and a coat.

In the meantime Eponine retrieved her book, smiling when she realized what Enjolras had done there. "I'm going to visit Musichetta after the committee hearing later. If we had known that all that trouble yesterday was going to happen, we wouldn't have made such a fuss about her being nervous about her own wedding."

"What do you mean by nervous?"

"Fretting about whether it was the right thing and all. I s'pose it's all because it's such a big thing to consider, or to actually do."

Enjolras had to fight to keep a straight face as he recalled again how Eponine had looked during the wedding, or even his own train of thought during the ceremony. 'This is not the time to consider such things,' he chided himself silently as he finished putting on his shoes. "I'll see you downstairs in a while," he said before kissing her till he suddenly felt her hand tug on his shirt. "Eponine?" he asked concernedly as he pulled away.

She smiled softly as she placed a finger on his lips. "I love you."

"What?"

"You heard me," she said before quickly going to her apartment.

Enjolras stared after her in astonishment for a moment before quickly heading out to get breakfast, before the Thenardier boys or the concierge could ask any questions or take notice of the situation. He was sure that if his friends could see him at that moment, he would receive no end of teasing and joking about his suddenly very improved mood. 'Then again it's not as if I didn't already guess what she means,' he thought, yet all the same some part of him felt more uplifted on hearing her declaration.

On his way back from the bakery, he caught sight of Combeferre trudging back to the tenement, rubbing his eyes. The physician blinked wearily at Enjolras. "I see I'm in time for breakfast," he said with a yawn.

Enjolras nodded sympathetically. "You were alone on all-night duty again?"

"No. We had many patients, from the barracks, from the court-martial, and even a few bystanders from the wedding procession. Quite a few mortalities too, especially from the court-martial. That was where the attack was the most brutal; we were only involved in the overflow and as an afterthought. No one would have thought of going after Joly if his name had not been mentioned in the court martial proceedings," Combeferre replied. He winced and rubbed his temples. "What is particularly disturbing is that all this injury and death seems to have come about from discontent regarding the military's role in the government."

"There is also the element of émigré collusion," Enjolras pointed out.

"It has found a fertile ground in this present state of disgruntlement. There are apparently some officers who feel as if they have not been given their due for their role in last year's fighting and turning the tide."

"If they want more authority in political affairs, it will be impossible. They cannot overstep their present boundaries in a civilian government."

Combeferre took a deep breath as they reached the tenement. "There are some who believe that a more militarized state is necessary for the Republic's stability. I believe that it would achieve the veneer of an absence of conflict, but it would lead to tyranny as opposed to an actual lasting peace." He smiled on hearing the familiar chatter of the Thenardier siblings on the ground floor. "Claudine is very optimistic about the outcome of the third hearing today. I heard though it will only be Eponine and her friend Citizenness Legendre speaking with the committee today."

"At least they are both knowledgeable in the matter and tenacious. That should be enough to overcome some difficulties," Enjolras said. 'Assuming that the difficulties are mainly of argumentation,' he noted to himself as he and Combeferre joined their neighbours for breakfast. After this Combeferre headed to his third floor room to take a nap, while the rest of the house's occupants went to see to their respective affairs. For Enjolras this meant meeting with Marius about some precedents he wished to review as part of some research concerning other smaller resolutions being deliberated on in the legislature.

Even before Enjolras could knock on the door of 6 Rue des Filles du Calvaire, he could hear the sound of heated arguing from the second floor. 'That sounds like Citizen Gillenormand and his daughter,' he noted as he knocked several times. His apprehension was only confirmed when Basque met him at the door, shaking his head. "You have arrived at a bad time, Citizen," Basque greeted.

"Basque, let him in. We'll talk out of the way, in my study," Marius said from elsewhere in the front hall. The younger barrister had a wild, stunned appearance. "My grandfather and my aunt are arguing. My cousin is here; Aunt insists he will be better cared for in this house than at the barracks infirmary. He was involved in the attack yesterday, the one we were in," he explained.

Enjolras raised an eyebrow on hearing of this highly irregular turn of events. "The row concerns what then in particular?"

Marius let out a weary sigh. "Grandfather does not want Theodule to be here since he nearly endangered me and Cosette. Aunt of course will have none of it especially since Theodule insists that he was deceived as to yesterday's action and was merely following orders. Neither will relent even if Cosette and Father have already tried to intervene."

Before Enjolras could comment on this, he saw another familiar figure hurrying down the stairs. "Good morning Citizen Valjean."

Marius turned and gaped at his father-in-law, who was dressed as if to go out. "Father, I did not know you have an early appointment," he said.

"I wouldn't normally have one, Marius. This is an emergency," Jean Valjean said, bringing a note out of his pocket. "Toussaint handed me this to me when she came from the Rue deL'Ouest today. Montparnasse needs help again, or rather, a friend of his needs succour, more than simply medical assistance, after being wounded at the court martial yesterday."

Enjolras nodded, almost dreading the answer. "Which friend is this, if it is not imprudent to ask?"

Jean Valjean cleared his throat before giving Enjolras and Marius a grave look. "Lucien Babet."