Courfeyrac had gotten bored during a meeting and, at the end, when Enjolras asked if his lieutenants had anything to say, pointed out that except for Bossuet, who had gone to class with Bahorel already, anyways, they were all from the Midi. He began to speak in Occitan just to prove his point. Combeferre and Jehan managed to follow Courfeyrac's mysterious monologue, and Enjolras just smiled distantly, so no one quite knew whether he had understood or not, or even if he had been paying attention. Joly, whose father, a functionnaire, had been transferred out of the Midi when Joly had been ten, had not understood a word, made a feeble joke about peine, pain, and paing, bread, as pronounced with a Southern accent, and then returned to an embarrassed study of the reflection of his tongue.
"I believe Courfeyrac was just listing the ingredients for bouillabaisse," said Combeferre.
"I want some bouillabaisse," said Jehan, rather suddenly. "I shall make some. You are all invited. We shall have a splendid dinner party this evening. We shall savor the delights of home and friendship, both equally warming, and toast to how we may be united even without death to bind us all together."
"I am rather glad death isn't the only thing binding us together," said Joly, "as we are somehow still living."
"Helas," sighed Jehan.
Courfeyrac grinned. "Bouillabaisse! I haven't had it since Christmas. I love Paris, but no one can make it quite like in Marseilles."
"Have you ever cooked before, Jehan?" asked Joly.
"No, but I'm sure it cannot be too difficult," said Jehan, beaming at them all and expressing his delight by going into an impromptu flamenco dance, spinning around on his heels and clicking his fingers. "Combeferre, will you help me find everything? Oh, this will be splendid. We can all meet up at my apartment at four to cook and then to have a feast that would make the heroes in Valhalla bite their knuckles in envy."
"I in no way mean to dampen your enthusiasm, Jehan," said Combeferre, "but bouillabaisse takes a very long time to cook—"
"Then we shall start now," declared Jehan. "Come on!" He grabbed Combeferre and ran out of the backroom of the Musain.
Joly rubbed his nose with the knob of his cane. "I suppose I shall pick up some bread and cheese for our dinner, then?"
"That would be wise," said Enjolras, "though Combeferre will not let us starve. We will have some kind of seafood entree."
"We could have just gone to the Barrère de la Cunette for bouillabaisse," Joly pointed out.
"Yes, but then we wouldn't get to see Prouvaire trying to cook," said Courfeyrac, "which is certainly worth a dinner of bread and cheese."
Joly was dubious, but, after his afternoon anatomy lecture, picked up several baguettes and a wheel of brie and dragged Bossuet over to Jehan's apartment.
Combeferre ended up opening the door sans coat and cravat, with his shirtsleeves rolled up past the elbow.
"Jolllly tells me you are making bouillabaisse?" asked Bossuet.
"Yes, though our shellfish selection was a bit limited," said Combeferre, moving aside to let them in, "so we… improvised. Unfortunately, Jehan did not quite understand, ah… Hébert's role in our little drama."
"Hébert?" asked Courfeyrac.
"The lobster," replied Combeferre.
Sure enough, Jehan had set the lobster free to wander around the table, tied a ribbon around its neck and was now trying to teach it to fetch. At the other end of the table, closer to the stove, Enjolras was quite calmly cutting up onions and tomatoes, as if it were perfectly normal for Jehan to befriend the dinner ingredients.
"I have never heard of bouillabaisse with lobster in it before," said Joly, rubbing his nose with the knob of his walking stick.
"Put Hébert in the bouillabaisse?" demanded Jehan. "I am agog, Jolllly, that you can even suggest it."
Courfeyrac, energetically and ineffectively making the soup base on Jehan's stove, turned to shake his head at them all. "I am aghast. Lobsters in bouillabaisse? You might as well be English for your understanding of French cuisine. We are eating Hébert separately."
"We are not going to eat Hébert!" exclaimed Jehan, quite indignantly. "He is a noble, tranquil, serious creature who knows the secrets of the deep and is making great progress in fetching."
"I see why Bahorel and Grantaire are just going to the Barrère de la Cunette for dinner tonight," Bossuet murmured to Joly, eyeing the lobster with amusement. "We probably should have joined them."
"And miss Jehan's spirited defense of his new pet?" asked Joly, taking off his own coat and eyeing the other ingredients with a stir of misgiving. "Or… I have no idea what we are supposed to do with all this."
"I feel that we cannot go wrong as long as I am not near a knife," replied Bossuet, and the two of them, under Combeferre's benevolent guidance, managed to create something that looked edible, if unidentifiable as part of bouillabaisse. Courfeyrac, setting the finished soup on the table, boiled a pot of water and then tried to convince Jehan that they really ought to cook Hébert.
"All life is sacred!"
"What, have you become a moral vegetarian like Shelley?" asked Combeferre, amused. "Jehan, we bought the lobster for the express purpose of eating it."
"But you cannot cook Hébert!" wailed Jehan.
"But Hébert will be delicious!" protested Courfeyrac. "Come now, Jehan, let him shuffle out of this mortal coil and end his long passage through this briny sea of tears into the boiling pot of fresh, sweet freedom."
Jehan leapt in front of Courfeyrac and spread his arms out, to keep Courfeyrac from reaching around and picking Hébert off of the table. "The same red blood flows through our veins as his!"
"Lobsters actually have blue blood," said Combeferre, who was quite contentedly sketching Hébert's antennae on a scrap of paper.
"Stick him in the pot of liberty water and let us turn this aristo into a Jacobin," said Courfeyrac, impatiently. "Come now, Jehan, lobster is delicious. It might be even better than bouillabaisse."
"You might as well boil a kitten!" Jehan exclaimed indignantly.
Bossuet looked curiously at Hébert and then gamely tried to pet him. "If you insist they are the same Je—ow, ow, Mother of God, damn it to hell!"
Hébert had not wanted to be petted and seized Bossuet's finger in one of its claws.
Courfeyrac burst out laughing. "Oh, just shake him off, Bossuet!"
Bossuet attempted to do so, but Hébert was tenacious, clinging onto Bossuet's finger to the point where Hébert left the tabletop and dangled from Bossuet's hand. Bossuet's attempts grew more frantic. Hébert did not release his grip and began swinging from Bossuet's hand like a pendulum until Bossuet, with an extremely emphatic shake, managed to make Hébert fly off of his hand and sail over Enjolras's head (Enjolras looked up to watch Hébert's trajectory with detached interest before returning to his tomatoes) and into the stove pipe. Hébert then tumbled down the front of the stove pipe and into the pot of boiling water directly below.
Jehan let out an anguished wail. "Oh, Hébert!"
"His sacrifice will be forever treasured," said Courfeyrac, once he managed to keep his laughter under control. "We shall anoint his limbs in clarified butter, ritually eat of his flesh and allow his spirit to rise up to the stars where it so belongs."
"How can you think of eating him?" wailed Jehan.
"It will turn to ashes in our mouths," said Enjolras, not looking up from his tomatoes. Jehan sniffed.
Though Hébert proved absolutely delicious, Jehan proved himself to be absolutely inconsolable, so Joly and Bossuet had to go out and find another lobster, at eight-o-clock at night. They eventually returned with one Bossuet had liberated from a restaurant via Joly's bribes to a sous-chef, some minor exsanguination and a frantic run through the Latin Quarter.
Jehan, at least, was pleased, and spent the next quarter of an hour staring into Hébert II's beady eyes in an attempt to know the secrets of the deep.
"If one looks into the abyss long enough, the abyss looks back," said Combeferre, mopping the last bits of his soup with a piece of bread. "If one looks into the deep, perhaps the deep looks back, in a vast echo of the mysteries of the soul?"
"Or perhaps we just learn to go to the Barrère de la Cunette, instead of trying to cook ourselves and allowing Jehan to become emotionally attached to his entrée," said Joly.
"That too," said Enjolras, with a hint of a smile. "But if one looks into the light, light will be reflected back; if one looks into the eyes of a living creature and sees life, feeling and soul therein, is not one's humanity reflected?"
"Or one's lobsterity," replied Courfeyrac.
"You simply cannot understand the connection between all living things," replied Jehan, staring into the lobster's eyes. "If we subject all other living creatures to our whims, we lose some of the mystery of the universe, and kill some of the sublimity of the wild. But why should we not try to regain some of the secrets that we have lost? We may translate the language of these creatures we have placed so below ourselves into the rhetoric of a Seneca or a Saint-Just."
Joly, bemused, replied, "Would you rather descend to the depths than scale the heights, then, Jehan?"
"I will go wherever desire leads me," said Jehan.
"Then will you forgive me my desire to eat your new pet?" asked Courfeyrac, leaning his chair back on two legs.
Jehan scowled. "You would eat poor Hébert II like you heartlessly devoured his predecessor?"
"My dear, fellow, the greatest respect I can pay to the mysteries contained within all living creatures is to absorb them. If I happen to use my digestive system to absorb it—"
Jehan threw a piece of bread at Courfeyrac's head and graphically asked him, in Occitan, to do several things that were anatomically impossible.
"What did he say?" asked Bossuet.
"There are some mysteries," replied Combeferre, wincing at Jehan's continued stream of absolutely filthy phrases in Occitan, "that cannot be translated."