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19 May 2013 @ 02:05 pm
Chapter 33: Missives and Warnings  

Chapter 33: Missives and Warnings

January 4, 1833

My dear Antoine,

A Happy New Year to you, my son! I am writing to answer your letter, to congratulate you and wish you well with your candidacy, as well as to have a serious word with you about these elections. I am sorry for the delay with these replies; the mail coaches have been in need of repair lately and thus all messages in the vicinity of Aix have been delayed.

Certainly you will fare well in the elections in Paris. Of course we all would have preferred that you had run in Aix instead, but I understand that you wish to help set the tone of political affairs, something which you can better accomplish in the capital. If it is true that you are now counted in the Radicaux party, then Paris is the place for you to be. It might interest you to know that the Courgourde-perhaps even your old friend Citizen Coutard-has specifically endorsed Etienne Raynaud to be this town's representative. He is being strongly opposed by our neighbour, Citizen de Bracy. Of course de Bracy is not blind as to where the Enjolras house lies.

I understand that you wish to be frugal with this campaign, and that you wish to avoid any controversial expenditure. Yet the work of campaign, and subsequently a legislator, will necessitate some drain on your resources if only to keep up with the necessary social functions, not to mention helping the party's expenses for paraphernalia. You will need someone to help you out full-time, maybe as a secretary or in a similar arrangement. Again, another expense. Please reconsider your plans of managing solely on your savings and your fees from cases. I do not wish to hear of you starving or going about Paris in a threadbare coat in the middle of winter.

Your mother sends her love and regards. She is still sorely disappointed that you have not expressed any interest to court any of the ladies of the Doulcet household. Please reassure her that your present state of bachelorhood will remain a temporary matter.

Please also accept this small gift; it will assuage my fears greatly to know that you are provided for.

Sincerely,

Your father

This missive accompanied by a note for ten thousand francs finally arrived at the Rue Jean Jacques Rousseau on the twelfth morning of January. Several other letters from friends in various cities had also made their appearance that morning. Today, Enjolras had simply chosen to bring the correspondence with him as he went about meeting a few clients about their cases, before proceeding to a forum early in the afternoon, and then a short meeting with his fellow Radicaux candidates at a house near the Place du Pantheon. At present the meeting had deteriorated into an argument between Charles Jeanne and Gustave Paquet, a university professor and de-facto head of the Radicaux party.

"We cannot take any chances with these Constitutionalists, therefore we should keep a careful eye on them," Paquet said, gripping the edge of the table. "Many of them are simply Orleanists in new clothing, and we cannot run the risk of a distinct counterrevolution even during the campaign."

"You fire wide, you will hurt someone and the Republic will be accused of turning against its own people," a livid Jeanne retorted. "I can vouch that the men of the ateliers, regardless of what party they may ally themselves to, are not for Louis-Philippe."

"Do you really know all your neighbours so well, Jeanne?'

Someone nudged Enjolras and he turned to see to look at Etienne Blanchard, a fellow attorney and the Radicaux candidate at the Marais. "Paquet is rubbing all the wrong edges," Blanchard remarked in an undertone. "First Turpin, now Jeanne. Who knows which of us is next?"

Enjolras looked to an empty seat that had been originally intended for the fifth Radicaux candidate, Marcel Turpin. It had been several days since the meeting at the Place de Tivoli, where Paquet and Turpin had argued quite openly regarding the question of abolishing capital punishment. "Neither of them has attempted reconciliation?" he asked concernedly.

"Not those two," Blanchard scoffed, nearly knocking aside a stack of papers. "Paquet is steel and Turpin is ice; they will only wreck havoc on each other. You'd best stay out of it; don't even visit Turpin to inform him of what was discussed today."

"It is necessary for Citizen Turpin to be updated about the campaign," Enjolras pointed out.

The older man shook his head. "Paquet will turn his ire on you next, mark my word. It should have been you at the head of the party, not him. This is not a party for dead wood."

"But one with necessary influence," Enjolras said. Although he, Jeanne, and some other leaders were widely respected, it was Paquet who had proved to have a wider network outside of Paris and even in the city's more affluent environs.

"That doesn't change the evidence," Blanchard replied. "You've done a lot of work such as on the condensed pamphlet for next week."

"It's Jeanne and Turpin's work too," Enjolras reminded him. It had been Jeanne's idea to compile the Radicaux agenda into a smaller volume that was easier to read. Turpin had contributed some vital bits of information and summaries of the points in the little book.

"But your prose mostly," Blanchard said. "Now, what happened to that observer Tholomyes? I have heard little of him over the past week."

"When I called on him three days ago he was indisposed, but it is also likely he has other business of his own to finish," Enjolras explained. While he knew that Tholomyes was likely to be seeing to cases, he couldn't help but wonder if Tholomyes had been physically shaken by their visit to the Rue des Filles du Calvaire. 'He is lucky that the vestiges of his youth aren't necessarily spectres,' he thought.

Blanchard brought out two cigars. "Maybe he'll be at the meeting here tonight," he mused. He held out one cigar to Enjolras. "Take one."

Enjolras shook his head. "Thank you, but I'm not in the habit." he said as he picked up the notes he'd been taking during the meeting, as well as the draft of the upcoming condensed pamphlet. "Citizens, unless there are other matters to be discussed, we should adjourn this meeting, and reconvene later," he said to Paquet and Jeanne a little impatiently.

Paquet's mustache twitched as he looked at Enjolras. "Do not forget your speech for the assembly on the nineteenth. It is the midpoint of the campaign and we must sustain the electorate's attention."

"They may need appeasement by then, especially if that fleur-de-lis returns," Blanchard muttered. Only Jeanne caught this, judging by the alarmed expression that spread on his face. Paquet merely waved dismissively and went back to some reading as Enjolras took his leave.

As soon as Enjolras was out of the house, he dug in his pocket for a piece of paper he'd made sure to keep separate from the other missives he had with him. He had found this particular message under a cup of slightly burned coffee on the kitchen table. Even without the signature he would have readily recognized the bold script anywhere.

Enjolras,

Halle aux Vins before five this afternoon.

Eponine

It was the brevity of the message that piqued Enjolras' curiosity. 'Something she was prevented from explaining this morning, no doubt,' he thought as he set off in the direction of the wine market. Normally Eponine had no reservations with waiting up for him or waking him up at uncanny hours to discuss some matters about the campaign. The previous day had been an exception though; he had hardly seen her except for a brief moment past midnight. He had simply presumed that Eponine had been meeting again with Claudine and their friends.

The wine market and its environs were as busy as could be expected in the late afternoon. Aside from the usual wine dealers, there were also a number of smaller stalls crammed with various goods, all manned by vendors loudly hawking their wares. There was music in the air; a man in a brightly colored smock was singing a haunting song as he strummed on a battered guitar. A few people threw some coins towards this gypsy but the mothers manning the shops pulled at the ears of the children who ventured too close to him. He noticed a blur in his peripheral vision, making him pause. He glanced around and caught sight of a girl in a brown pelisse. She was carrying a basket on one arm as she chatted with two rather wizened crones manning one of the stalls. 'What are you doing now, Eponine?' he wondered, watching as his friend reached into her basket for a paper and began to write down something the pair was dictating. He waited for her to finish writing before he walked up in her direction, only to have her turn around when he was a few paces away.

"Enjolras!" she called as she went to him. "I was worried you would not find my note."

He shook his head. "You left it in the right place. Why did you want to meet me here?"

"Because I could be sure of it. I didn't mean to but I finished the last of Citizenness Leclair's wine last night, and I told her I'd get more," Eponine explained calmly. "Anyway I got to talk to people, like those two old ladies there, and earlier today an old sailor and his wife. They want to know when meetings are, so I got their addresses so I could send word to them."

He nodded approvingly. "I gather you've been busy for the past day or so."

"Ravigard has me minding the shop all alone since he's seeing to those personal orders of his," Eponine said a little grimly. "He's delivering them personally. I got a look at them, it's rather odd. He seems to have gotten something poetic or theatrical; the way he prints them is rather fussy."

"What do you mean?"

"It's even nicer than the way you, Courfeyrac, and Prouvaire write."

Enjolras couldn't help but smirk at this remark. 'You wouldn't say that if you'd seen how I used to write back in Aix,' he thought. "You never saw exactly what was written?" he asked.

"Not enough to make sense of it. But that's not quite what I've been busy with." She reached into the basket and handed to him a pamphlet, only that this one seemed rather bulkier than those he had seen before. "It's one of those you asked for last week. I thought it needed a change or two."

"Such as?"

"Well I crossed some phrases and wrote down easier ones; you gentlemen write such confusing words sometimes and it would make other people's heads hurt. You also forgot to mention a bit about how high the prices of bread can be, so I had to ask a bit about that and I listed those there."

He flipped through the book and found that Eponine had slipped a note between nearly every two or three pages. "This is very thorough," he said, almost in disbelief at the girl's audacity. "This will be useful when we make a newer and shorter pamphlet. Thank you."

"I told you I could do something," she said with a grin. "Have you seen that long note towards the end?"

Enjolras opened the book to its last page and found two folded sheets there. "On Women and Their State of Employment?" he read aloud.

Eponine shrugged. "Claudine thought it would be better as leaflets, but Cosette and Musichetta said it may as well be explained in the next book."

He quietly looked through the new addition; he guessed that the unfamiliar but fine penmanship was Cosette's, but the turns of phrase were the doing of the other women. "There is a meeting at the Place du Pantheon tonight then," he said at last. "If you want this chapter included in the next volume, it has to be mentioned at the meeting."

Her eyes widened. "In front of everyone?"

"Perhaps only to the necessary persons," he replied, already wondering what could possibly result from a discussion involving his friends and his colleagues. "That is, unless the entire assembly wishes to hear more about the writing."

Eponine bit her lip nervously for a moment as she put the papers back in her basket. "Claudine will be around to explain it," she said as they began walking. "She can say it better than most of us can."

"You might be surprised at who else may be up to it," he pointed out as he reached over to help her with the basket.

She merely gave him a slight shrug by way of reply. When they arrived at the Rue Jean Jacques Rousseau, they saw that the front door of their tenement was open again.

Musichetta, Joly, and Bossuet met them in the front hall. "Enjolras, what are you doing here? Shouldn't you be at the Pantheon now?" Bossuet asked by way of greeting.

"I need to empty my pockets first," Enjolras replied, gesturing to his coat. He noticed that Musichetta was clutching what appeared to be a bottle wrapped in paper, while Joly had a small box with him. "Are you attempting one of your homeopathic doses again?" Enjolras asked Joly.

"Something for the aches in my wrists; I'm afraid it's rheumatism," Joly muttered. "We're waiting for Combeferre; he's still upstairs."

"I keep telling him to rest them but do these doctors listen?" Musichetta said with a long-suffering look.

"Lawyers are just as bad too," Eponine quipped. "Chetta, there's something I need to talk to you about, could you come with me to Citizenness Leclair's for a bit? I think my brothers are there too."

Musichetta nodded. "Don't you break this," she warned Joly as she passed the bottle to him and then followed Eponine into the concierge's lodge.

Joly put down the bottle and began wiping his spectacles. "She wants to come with us to the assembly at the Pantheon," he said. "Is that a good idea?"

"Tonight it will be necessary," Enjolras replied before proceeding to explain the matter of the pamphlets and the proposed contribution to the next volume.

Bossuet wiped his forehead. "Will the party approve of it? It's all for the sake of equality, yes, but this isn't exactly a Girondist situation."

"But we'll be accused of being no better than the Jacobins if we do not let them participate," Joly muttered. "Unless there is a way...Enjolras, you can still bring up the matter more quietly? They will not have to bring it up in the plenary."

"It might be unavoidable," Enjolras said. 'Of course speaking for them would be an option, but that would not be entirely just either,' he decided before quickly excusing himself to his room so he could leave all his unanswered missives at his desk. Much to his dismay, he found a whole new pile of letters by his door. 'I must either be absent this evening, or have an absence of sleep to answer these,' he realized as he brought in these messages. As he was changing his frock coat for a rather less worn looking tailcoat, he could hear footsteps on the stairs and voices in the hall, as if some sort of debacle was going on.

He stepped out of his room and saw Combeferre on the stairs, leaning against the banister as if he was exhausted. "Is something the matter?" Enjolras asked concernedly. The last time he'd seen Combeferre in such low spirits was when he had first lost a patient at the Necker.

The physician merely let out a sigh before looking at Enjolras. "A simple argument."

Enjolras shook his head and touched Combeferre's shoulder. "The evidence says otherwise."

Combeferre crossed his arms and took a breath through gritted teeth. "It's merely a disagreement between me and Claudine. Hopefully it will be resolved soon." He looked up at the sound of a door opening. "That's Neville; I'd better bring him downstairs," he said before hurrying up the stairs. He returned a little while later carrying the child on his back.

Neville waved at Enjolras. "I did all my sums today," the child said proudly. "I can add more than my own ten fingers."

"That's good," Enjolras replied. "How about your reading?"

Neville frowned in response, eliciting another sigh from Combeferre. "He is still more interested in looking at pictures," the doctor explained before carrying Neville downstairs.

Enjolras returned to his room to get his overcoat and hurried downstairs in time to see Combeferre and Neville in the front hall while Eponine was shutting the front door. "Where are the others?" Enjolras asked them.

"They went bring their things home and then they'll see us at the Pantheon," Eponine answered, looking over her shoulder at him. "Claudine went with them; she said she's needed at home?"

"Her father isn't always well," Combeferre said before carrying Neville to the concierge's lodge.

Eponine sat down near the door and bit her lip, as if contemplating something. "I promised Jacques I'd wake him up when we return," she murmured.

"If you feel you must stay here, you need not attend," Enjolras pointed out.

Eponine shook her head. "Musichetta won't want to be alone. I promised her already I'd be there. You said too that I might be needed." She looked up at the sound of a knock on the door. "It's unlocked!"

Courfeyrac peered in and doffed his hat. "Good evening. I thought you'd be halfway to the Pantheon by now?"

"We were just about to leave," Enjolras said. He noticed that Courfeyrac was holding an envelope with him. "Was that at the door?"

"On the step," the newcomer clarified. "A shy admirer, Enjolras?"

Enjolras raised an eyebrow as he surveyed the envelope. Its entire surface was blank save for a red, non-descript seal. Inside the envelope was a blank sheet of paper. He carefully inspected it for any identifying mark, but found nothing. He went over to where there was a candle on the table and he carefully held the paper several inches above the flame.

"What are you doing?" Eponine asked confusedly.

"You'll see," Enjolras said grimly.

Courfeyrac shook his head at this. "I thought it was only Combeferre who was experimenting with his own invisible ink."

Eponine shook her head. "Invisible ink! You must be joking!"

"The simplest means is with lemon juice," Combeferre called as he walked back into the hall. "You can use it with a quill or a brush, and it does not leave a trace until it is heated."

"You would know. I remember you and Foulon making an experiment with it," Courfeyrac said. "A very smelly experiment,"

"Courfeyrac, I am not sure it is appropriate to repeat that story here," Enjolras warned, carefully checking the paper he held.

"What happened?" Eponine asked, glancing at all of the men.

Combeferre glared at Courfeyrac. "It was only a problem with the mordant," he muttered.

"Mordant?" Eponine asked.

"A substance to make the ink stick to the paper," Combeferre explained wearily. "Otherwise it would be far too vulnerable to the elements."

"It was Foulon's idea; his aunt is a dyer and she had some suggestions," Courfeyrac explained. "In some places they used to save the contents of chamberpots for mordant."

Eponine gaped at him. "Is this a joke, Courfeyrac?"

"My dear, I wish we could say otherwise but a gentleman cannot lie," Courfeyrac replied, clearly trying to keep a straight face.

Eponine covered her mouth in a failed attempt to stifle a burst of laughter. "So he got it and he mixed everything together?"

"I had to heat it though," Combeferre admitted shamefacedly.

"It gave the game away," Courfeyrac added. "I dropped in just as Citizenness Leclair was marching upstairs to ask about the stench."

It was all that Enjolras could do not to cringe at the memory; he had been unfortunate enough on that day to arrive home in time to find his concierge screeching at the offenders, with Courfeyrac as a less than helpful audience. "She was on the brink of making us put in writing that we would not attempt such things again on the premises," he pointed out as he pulled the paper away from the candle. smoothed the missive out on a table to look at a fine brown script spelling out this single line:

Citizen Enjolras: Remember 9 Thermidor Year II

Combeferre shook his head while Courfeyrac gritted his teeth. Eponine frowned, as if deep in thought. Enjolras shook his head as he inspected the note again. signature or device followed this invocation of a terrible date for the Jacobins. "Courfeyrac are you sure there was no one outside the house just now?" he asked.

"No other soul," Courfeyrac said. "Have you noticed anyone shadowing the house?"

"No, and besides we aren't home all the time to notice these things," Eponine replied worriedly. "I don't think it's Patron-Minette this time."

"Most likely not. Anyway it won't be the first time we've had someone watching this place," Combeferre remarked. "I wonder what ink they have."

"How did they know that someone here knows how to use it?" Courfeyrac chimed in. "Enjolras, if that letter isn't a threat, I don't know what is."

"You may be right, but we cannot conclude anything," Enjolras said as he folded up the letter. Even so he felt a chill on remembering that this note was delivered to his doorstep and not to the Hotel de Ville or to the Palais de Justice. Was it possible that the sender was also interested in the other residents of the house? He went over to the window and peered outside, only to see nothing but the street lit dimly by gas lamps. He looked over his shoulder and saw Combeferre and Courfeyrac also adjusting their overcoats while Eponine buttoned up her pelisse.

"Shall we go?" Combeferre asked after a moment.

Enjolras nodded. 'It isn't a long way to the Pantheon, but we cannot take any chances,' he thought as he pulled on his overcoat and went to open the door.