For all that had changed in the past generation in the government of the city of Paris, the people of that city retained one advantage they had long held over those who would try to kill them: they knew the winding streets, so hospitable to barricades and hideaways, and the soldiers from the provinces did not.
“Ah, they are lost, bless their hearts,” Gavroche whispered from his perch on a rooftop, peering down at a bewildered-looking column of guards below.
“Good,” Bahorel, crouched at his side, replied. “Then let’s seize the advantage while we have it. Come on.”
They descended and joined their huddle of friends, paused for breath in the winding alleys behind Saint-Merry after fleeing the barricade there. It had hardly seemed possible that Bahorel and Enjolras could be persuaded to leave, if not for the state of their friends: Jean Prouvaire, now walking under his own power, but too dazed by a blow the head to run at the first, and so carried by Bahorel away from the barricade; and Feuilly, still unconscious, draped over Enjolras’s back. Courfeyrac had taken a bayonet to the leg and hobbled along with Combeferre’s support.
“This way,” Gavroche said, pointing. “And quickly, if we may, messieurs!”
“As quickly as we can,” Combeferre promised. And off they set.
We must return for a moment to the morning of June fifth, when General Lamarque’s funeral procession dissolved into a riot: when, outside his flat on Rue de la Vererrie, Courfeyrac was accosted by a very young man inquiring after Marius, whose whereabouts Courfeyrac did not know.
And so, Eponine Thénardier joined the crowd marching to the barricades. But she had not gotten far when she spied— not Marius, but someone else she knew to be connected to him. She bobbed her way through the crowd to the old man’s elbow.
“What do you do here, monsieur?” she asked, and he looked at her in a dazed manner. “Oh, you do not recognize me! Well, that is no surprise: look at these clothes of mine! But you called me angel once, monsieur, when I watered your plants. Now you see that it is not so.”
“Oh,” he said. He was entirely distracted, that was plain. Well, she’d seen it before, old folks stumbling about in a fog with no family left to help them. She supposed he must have no family left, either. Only someone with very little could think to call her an angel.
“Come, monsieur,” she said, and she took his arm. He followed, unprotesting, as she began to guide him out of the crowd. “I will take you home.”
It was raining very steadily now.
“At least the blood will get washed away,” Combeferre said wryly. “When we reach the street, we can almost pass for respectable people, at a glance.”
“Always the optimist,” Courfeyrac said. Combeferre stopped abruptly, and Courfeyrac groaned as their legs jostled together. “Why did you—”
“Shhh,” Combeferre said, and after a moment of silence, Courfeyrac heard what Combeferre and the rest ahead of them had heard: footsteps, a pattering on the pavement just a touch different from the sound of the rain.
“Turn back?” Prouvaire whispered.
“Back to where?” Bahorel replied.
“Back towards Saint-Merry will only be worse,” Enjolras agreed. “The streets will be overrun by now. Let us try—”
But it was too late: through the grey haze of rain and evening, there was the flash of a bright blue coat. Enjolras and Bahorel exchanged looks: make a break for it, those who could?
But then the figure in blue, in a strong Gascon accent, said, “Why— it’s never Jean-Gaspard!”
“My God,” Courfeyrac said. And perhaps it was exhaustion, or pain, or surprise, but the Gascon accent he had labored so long to banish did seem particularly strong just then. The rest looked at him in bewilderment, but the officer was approaching with a cheerful, friendly face.
“How the devil did you get mixed up in all this, de Courfeyrac?” he demanded jovially, coming near enough to clap a hand on his shoulder. To Combeferre, he explained, “Jean-Gaspard and I grew up together. Oh, what your mother would say to see you now! He was endlessly getting into the most absurd kinds of scrapes. This has to be the top, though!”
“Isn’t it just,” Courfeyrac said weakly.
Just then, three more soldiers rounded a corner and began jogging towards their officer, muskets leveled. But the officer held up a hand, suddenly snapping to attention.
“Leave it!” he barked. “I’m taking care of this lot. Keep searching.”
“Yes, captain!” came the chorus of assent, and just as quickly as they had arrived, the soldiers dispersed. The officer turned back to them with a smile.
“There we are. Come on, de Courfeyrac, let’s get you and your friends home, eh?”
Once again, Enjolras and Bahorel exchanged a silent glance. Bahorel looked ready to punch the officer and run. Even wounded, exhausted, trapped— principle demanded that they refuse, surely. But Feuilly’s weight was heavy on Enjolras’s back.
“Thank you,” Enjolras said. “We are in your debt.”
“It is not debt,” the officer said cheerfully. “Gascons must stick together— and Madame de Courfeyrac would never forgive me!” He started off, and gestured for them to follow. “It’s a funny old world, isn’t it? In 1830, I was— well, it doesn’t matter now.”
“Kill me,” Courfeyrac whispered as the officer began to lead them down the alley. “Just untie this bandage and let me bleed to death.”
“Why, your particle has just saved our lives,” Combeferre said.
“Send me back,” Courfeyrac said. “I’d rather be shot. This is the most humiliating, most degrading…”
“So is prison,” Combeferre said. “If you don’t care about yourself, think of Feuilly, and do shut up.”
“Yes,” Courfeyrac said, his voice dipping suddenly low and serious. “Yes, I know. …but give me leave to be embarrassed at least, won’t you?”
Combeferre laughed. “I was just growing worried that loss of blood had disrupted your customary sanguinity.”
The Gascon officer cheerfully deflected any of his colleagues’ attempts to interfere as he led them through the warren of streets, where the packs of soldiers got thinner and thinner until they had dissipated entirely, and they reached a street where life seemed to be proceeding just as if nothing at all had happened.
“I’d recommend you split up,” the officer said. “I’ll see you soon, I hope, eh, de Courfeyrac?”
“Quite,” Courfeyrac replied. And then, in a tone that was almost entirely without grudging, “—and thank you.”
The officer saluted with a grin, then turned sharply on his heel and departed.
“How shall we divide?” Combeferre said. “I wish Joly were here, I hate to send anyone off alone…”
“I’m glad Bossuet’s not,” Bahorel laughed. “With his luck, that would’ve been his mortal enemy rather than Courfeyrac’s old chum, and he’d have shot us all on the spot. At any rate, Prouvaire and I are just fine,” he added. “We’ll go one way— and take this one with us—” He gave Gavroche a pat on the back. “You four go to Courfeyrac’s place, it isn’t far from here.”
“And where will you go?” Enjolras asked. “It’s better not to stay so close, if you can think of somewhere else.”
“Ah!” Gavroche cried suddenly. “I have just thought of a place! I paid my rent there a little while ago, but I am sure the deposit is still good. It is not so far, but far enough that no one will think to look.”
“There, you see?” Bahorel grinned. “Don’t worry about us. We’ve got the best possible guide. We’ll get in touch in a few days, when things have quieted down.”
“Good luck,” Enjolras said. He needed both his arms to support Feuilly, but Bahorel seemed to sense his urge to reach out, so he put a hand on Enjolras’s shoulder.
“And be careful,” Combeferre added. He reached out a hand, and Prouvaire clasped it with a smile.
“Come,” Bahorel said, and he, Prouvaire, and Gavroche set off, and soon rounded a corner and disappeared.
We must briefly return once more to June fifth, now to the evening, a time at which Marius Pontmercy, finding a certain house in the Rue Plumet empty, had resolved to die. It would not be difficult to do, he thought: he had pistols, and failing that he had a river, or even tall buildings. But even with this bounty of methods before him, somehow all Marius Pontmercy found himself doing was returning to the Rue de la Verrerie and falling asleep. And there he remained until he was wakened by a great commotion at the door, one which signified the arrival of Enjolras, Feuilly, Combeferre, and Courfeyrac.
“Marius!” Courfeyrac cried, seeing him stumble out of the bedroom. “Still asleep? Are you ill?”
“No,” Marius said, dazed. “What has happened?”
But no one felt this was worthy of a response. Combeferre lowered Courfeyrac onto a chair, then cleared off the table so that Enjolras could set Feuilly upon it. He was moving quickly but without undue haste, finding rags, filling bowls with water. One bowl and rag he thrust into Enjolras’s hands and said, “Clean up Courfeyrac’s leg.” Then he turned his attentions to Feuilly, who had finally begun to stir.
“Hello there,” Combeferre said.
“Did Lafayette come?” Feuilly asked faintly.
“Afraid not,” Combeferre replied. “But don’t talk now, just save your strength, alright?” He was busily peeling Feuilly’s shirt away from a deep gash on his side. “Oh, this isn’t nearly as bad as it looks.”
“Leave him, then, and come to me,” Courfeyrac said with a groan. “Enjolras, you’re awful at this.”
“It would hurt either way,” Combeferre said, not looking up. Or at least, not looking up until there came a sudden pounding on the door— at which, all of their heads snapped to look.
“--I suppose it’s too much to hope that it’s your friend,” Combeferre said quietly. “Here— Enjolras, if you help me— Feuilly, you can hide in the bedroom…”
“But someone has to answer the door,” Courfeyrac said, dragging himself, with the help of the back of his chair, carefully to his feet. “Or they might just kick it in.”
And suddenly, all eyes were on Marius, who hardly seemed to notice for a moment or two. He’d simply sunk onto the sofa in a daze, hardly paying attention to the rather chaotic and rather bloody scene that was unfolding before him.
“Um,” he said, when he realized they were looking at him.
And suddenly there was Combeferre, hauling him to his feet.
“Marius,” Combeferre said. His voice was low and urgent and very, very calm. “Listen. You must make a choice now. You may go to that door and send whoever is on the other side away, or you may let them enter and arrest us all. Even if you do nothing, you are making a choice, do you see? And there is no time to think about it. You must do something. Now.”
“Um,” Marius said. Combeferre’s arm tightened on his. Marius shook his head, trying to think, trying to force his thoughts into a coherent order. Then his eyes fell on his own coat, draped over the back of Courfeyrac’s chair.
“In the coat,” he said. “There are two pistols in pockets of my coat.”
Then he gently extricated his arm from Combeferre’s grip and went to the door. As he opened it, just wide enough to poke his head out, Combeferre and Enjolras lifted Feuilly off the table and hurried back into the bedroom, while Courfeyrac retrieved the pistols.
There were two officers waiting outside the door, looking none too pleased at having been kept waiting. Though it was plain a meek, pale young man in his shirtsleeves was not entirely what they were expecting to see.
“The porteress said she saw men from the barricades brought here,” one said flatly. “Three or four of them, all covered in blood.”
“No,” Marius said, sounding quite convincingly bewildered. “That is— it may be so, but it wasn’t here.”
“Then why would she say it was?” the other asked impatiently.
“I don’t know,” Marius said. “There are two more doors on this floor— perhaps she meant one of those? I did hear a commotion, before.”
“And it wasn’t here that you heard it?”
“Have I not just said so?”
The officers fell silent, but didn’t move. They were listening, he realized. The room behind Marius was entirely silent as well.
“Are you satisfied?” he asked. “May I return to my book?”
The officers exchanged a glance. Then one of them shoved Marius roughly to the side and they made their way into the room. But Enjolras and Combeferre had closed the bedroom door behind them: all they found was Courfeyrac, who had shifted his way over to the sofa and covered up his injured leg— indeed, his whole lower half— with a blanket. He had also taken off his shirt.
“Marius!” he cried, drawing the blankets up to cover himself. Marius momentarily wondered why on earth he would do that when he could have just kept his shirt on— but then he caught up. “You said you were sending them away!”
Marius had turned bright red, and found he couldn’t quite speak. Fortunately, the officers were looking only slightly less uncomfortable.
“Fucking Romantics,” one of them muttered at last. “Come on, let’s go.”
One gave Marius another shove as he passed, for good measure, but go they did. Marius hurried to the door and watched them descend the stairs. He only shut the door once they were out of sight.
Had he been asked his opinion on the matter (he was not), Marius would have ventured that the fall of the barricades would have signaled the end of the whole affair. But to judge by the frantic pace Combeferre kept over the next week, the opposite seemed true.
Enjolras left first, and early the next morning. For several days, the remaining four of them squeezed into Courfeyrac’s flat, until Combeferre was sufficiently assured of the progress of Courfeyrac and Feuilly’s recovery and Marius’s basic competence to leave him to look after them at night. After that, Combeferre rarely seemed to rest in one place for more than ten minutes at a time: he flitted back and forth from flat to flat, café to café, bringing news of friends and allies: Enjolras and Bahorel had almost certainly been identified and so were lying low, though Combeferre still had not discovered where Bahorel and Prouvaire were hiding; Joly and Lesgle had been released from prison, and the former was ill— apparently in more than just his own mind; various friends had been captured; some had been killed.
“Also, no one has seen any trace of Grantaire,” Combeferre said. “I must remember to ask Lesgle to look for him. Or Bahorel, if I can ever find him. Which reminds me—”
“You must take a moment to rest,” Courfeyrac countered. “You look on the verge of collapse.”
“I know,” Combeferre replied, sounding irritated. “I know that very well, but there’s so much to do, and no one else to do it. Though there is one thing— I have received a message from Bahorel, but it seems to be meant for you.”
“For me?” Marius said, startled.
“He mentions you.” Combeferre drew out the paper and offered it to Marius, who sat down to allow Feuilly and Courfeyrac to read over his shoulder.
“He’s just going on about plants,” Feuilly said, bewildered. “Oh, but he mentions Jehan! And then— tell Marius the colonel’s friend sends his regards? Well, that must be a reference to someone who knows where to find him. He doesn’t mean that officer who rescued us, does he?”
“He certainly wasn’t a colonel,” Combeferre said.
“But that would be to me, not to Marius,” Courfeyrac said. “And why on earth would he want to direct us to him?”
“I know the man he means,” Marius sais. “I cannot think what he has to do with… but perhaps they have left a message with him. He would certainly be a safe pair of hands, and not remotely political. It doesn’t sound like much, I know,” he said in answer to Combeferre’s skeptical expression. “But it’s the only guess I have.”
“Then it’s worth a try,” Combeferre said. “I would like to track Bahorel down. If you tell me where—”
“Let me go,” Marius said. “Let me check on everyone today. You— you ought to get some sleep. If you don’t mind my saying so.”
“He doesn’t mind!” Courfeyrac cried before Combeferre could protest.
“He doesn’t,” Feuilly agreed. “He’s terribly grateful, he thanks you most profusely.”
“Fine,” Combeferre said. “But I am going to tell you exactly what to do.”
Per Combeferre’s instructions, Marius first left a message for Enjolras in the hands of a café owner. Marius was not sure how Combeferre could be so confident that it would be safely delivered, but he had also been told (rather sharply; Combeferre’s patience had frayed as he grew more exhausted) not to ask questions, and so didn’t.
Next, he called on Joly and Lesgle, with instructions to attempt no more than to inquire whether Joly’s health had improved.
“Don’t ask Joly,” Combeferre said. “His answer will be no. Ask Lesgle… or even better, if there’s a dark-haired young woman there, ask her.”
Both Lesgle and the dark-haired young woman were there, as it happened. Lesgle was looking a bit thin, a bit pale, but he broke into his customary smile at the sight of Marius.
“Come in, come in,” he said. “Forgive us— everything, we’re a house of invalids. We’ve all gone in for a cold to share. Well, Joly got a little more than that.”
“I’m to ask how he is— if he has improved,” Marius said, glancing towards the bedroom.
“He’s asleep,” the young woman— Musichetta— said. “But he’s much better. His fever broke yesterday and hasn’t returned.”
“Would you like to listen to his chest anyway?” Lesgle asked. “We’ve been taking it in turns, he’s been very insistent that we keep a close watch on it. I confess I don’t know what we’re looking out for, but it seems to please him just to know someone is listening.”
“Were you involved with the fighting?” Musichetta asked.
“And how is everyone?” Lesgle added.
“I was not, I— met up with them after,” Marius said. “But everyone I have seen is well enough. Feuilly and Coufeyrac were injured, but Combeferre seems confident that they are largely out of danger now. Enjolras reports that he is well, and we have heard from Bahorel and Prouvaire but very… cryptically.”
Lesgle laughed. “Then I will take that as a sign that they are entirely themselves. Has anyone heard from Grantaire?”
“No,” Marius replied. “Combeferre hoped that you might look for him.”
“Gladly,” Lesgle said. “I admit I’m surprised, you know, that he has managed to press you into service as an errand-boy. Not that you won’t do a favor for a friend, but this is not the most opportune time to be tangling yourself up in this business out of pure friendly duty.”
“I couldn’t do nothing,” Marius said.
Lesgle laughed. “Yes. I know the feeling. But they’ll be keeping a sharp eye out now. You may well have been noticed, you see?”
“Then what’s done is done,” Marius replied. (He realized for the first time that he had been too busy and anxious to dwell on Cosette for more than a moment in the past week.) “And I will do what I can.”
And finally, he headed towards Austerlitz, where he used to occasionally run into Monsieur Mabeuf. And there the old gentleman was, who approached Marius as if he had been expecting him. After so many months of distance, of being gradually pushed apart by their mutual but separate sorrow, the two men greeted one another with an embrace.
“Come,” Mabeuf said. “Your friends have been staying with me.” He frowned. “I hope you have some influence with the tall one, that Bahorel. He has spent so much money on us— food and the like. I hope you can persuade him there is no need.”
“I have no such power,” Marius replied. “I believe no man alive has the power to prevent Bahorel from doing as he pleases. I think you will be forced to suffer his generosity, monsieur.”
For his part, Bahorel was scheming further generosity.
“So this is how it’ll go,” he said to Eponine. Cleaned, clothed, properly fed for a few days, he was starting to see her resemblance to her brother more closely: a sharp, canny look about the eyes, a certain set of the mouth. “I will ask that they take you on as a favor to me, and I will help supply your wages. Then, any money they refuse to take from me directly, I’ll pass along to you to spend on household necessaries. Besides, they could use a young pair of hands around the place. Alright?”
“You trust me to do that?” she asked. “You don’t think I’ll take it and run off?”
“No,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean you should trust me.”
“Well, I have decided to,” Bahorel declared. “So you can make of that what you will.”
Further conversation was interrupted by the sound of the front door opening, and Prouvaire’s joyful cry of, “Marius!”— a name which drew both of their notice.
“We’ll speak later,” Bahorel said.
Though Marius and Monsieur Mabeuf had formed an odd friendship through the memory of Georges Pontmery, one could not imagine a pair more temperamentally suited and more outwardly contrasting than Monsieur Mabeuf and Jean Prouvaire. Marius left with the distinct impression that Jehan and Bahorel would happily install linger there for months if they could, Prouvaire to spend his days discussing clouds and flowers with the old man, and Bahorel to find ways to see the little household discreetly set on steadier footing.
And he returned to find that, in his absence, Grantaire had materialized. He, Feuilly, and Courfeyrac were peacefully playing cards— and quietly, too, for Combeferre was seated with them, but he had sunk forward onto the table and fallen asleep, his head cushioned on his arms, his spectacles pushed up into his hair, his cards scattered about his feet.
“We thought he’d like to be able to pretend he hadn’t fallen asleep,” Feuilly explained.
“Besides which,” Courfeyrac added, “We’re full up with invalids at present and haven’t got another bed to put him in.”
“Wine?” Grantaire said.
Marius felt it would be ungracious to refuse. Grantaire took this as a cue to refill everyone’s glass.
“To the revolution,” Courfeyrac said, raising his glass. “We’ve been dealt a blow, that’s for certain. But it all could have been far worse.”