A/N: To encourage Marianne to study for her midterm. Also, to explain, there was a running joke in the 1830s that Louis-Phillippe looked like a pear, and there is a French phrase, "prendre quelqu'un pour une poire" which means that you take someone for an idiot, which only made the pear moniker stick.
Combeferre had gotten Enjolras to end the quick, lunchtime meeting of the lieutenants early, as they all had class that afternoon.
"Exams are coming up," Combeferre reminded all the less dedicated law students. "You are all only taking one class this semester and, moreover, you are taking it together. You ought to attend it."
"Where is Joly?" Courfeyrac whispered to Bossuet, as Combeferre continued on, unable to fully express his moral opposition to skipping class in one sentence or even one paragraph. The Amis had met in the Musain for lunch, as they had all been feeling and hearing of the rising tide of unrest in Paris and were more or less certain that if the cholera didn't kill the enthusiasm of the masses, and the masses themselves, there would be at least a riot against the government soon. "Joly's our only hope. Jehan's left to go tell Feuilly the latest before his class at the Sorbonne and Grantaire's gone off to play tennis… surely Joly can distract Combeferre by dragging him off to the dissection rooms or something and let us skip?"
"Joly believes that he has cholera and is back at the apartment trying to cure himself with various methods of magnetic homeopathy."
Courfeyrac winced. "Ack, cholera. Joly would panic over it."
"Yes, not that he actually has anything wrong with him than strained nerves and a misapplied Romantic imagination. He's been attempting to reroute the magnetic fluid circulating through his body by wallpapering the apartment with magnets—"
"To cure cholera?"
"Well, how else do you treat it? Better that than the purgatives he's been using at that clinic he and Combeferre work at; Joly was nearly strung up on a lamppost last week for spreading general discomfort, if not cholera as well. I do not blame Joly for his hysterics; he thought he knew every disease and treatment out there and along comes something no one understands, with no known cause or cure and some reason to believe Louis-Philippe, that good pear of ours, was the infected fruit that started off this bout of misery."
"Come now, you don't really believe that the government is poisoning our wells, do you?"
"The medical students and doctors sure as hell aren't inflicting cholera on the workers; Joly hasn't left the apartment since the lamppost incident. If Enjolras had not specifically told him to stay, Joly would be in Switzerland by now."
"Are you two even paying attention?" asked Combeferre.
Courfeyrac and Bossuet looked up at Combeferre, frowning at them from across the table.
"No," said Bossuet.
"Not in the least," Courfeyrac chirped. "Any talk of academics is like an immediate soporific—"
"We ought to go," said Enjolras, neatly stacking his notes together.
"No one else will be there," said Courfeyrac, extremely disappointed that he could not get in his afternoon game of billiards. "Besides, since that good old pear of ours was not plucked off of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil before he was set on gilded display by the shopkeepers of the nation—"
"I am too hung-over for this," said Bahorel.
"Courfeyrac, surprisingly, is not in favor of Louis-Philippe's constitutional monarchy," said Enjolras, putting his papers in between the pages of his textbook.
"Yes, and I am even less in favor of studying whatever sort of laws he thinks fit to inflict upon us. What is the point of practicing law if said law is nothing but the vile corruption of natural rights and the most blatant abuses of privilege—"
"Lamarque has come down with cholera," said Enjolras. "I have been in contact with other, sympathetic friends. We need to preserve appearances if we are to make our move successfully."
"I would best help that by playing my usual game of billiards," replied Courfeyrac.
"I can think of nothing more suspicious than me attending class," added Bahorel.
"If we leave now, we will get there in time for the roll," Enjolras said, and, taking Courfeyrac's hat captive, walked out.
"The devil!" exclaimed Courfeyrac, in exasperation. "He knows my parents threatened to visit if I spent any more at the haberdasher's! I shall have to follow him if I ever wish to see my hat again."
Bahorel pulled a face. "You do not really mean to go to class do you Courfeyrac? No one will be there. It is far too nice out, despite all the miasmas poisoning the air. In fact, I believe the unhealthiest air is that of the law school. Full of dust and monarchist—"
"Bahorel," said Combeferre, with another frown and a quick glance around the back room just to make sure they were still alone. "That is extremely dubious medical reasoning."
Courfeyrac, feeling rather disgruntled, had gathered his things together, managed to find the textbook he had tossed to the floor while looking for his map of Paris, and grabbed Bossuet by the arm. "Come on, I'm not going to suffer by myself."
"There's no reason to make me suffer too!"
"You owe me thirty francs."
"Alright, fine. Bahorel, don't abandon me."
"No, some perils a man must face alone."
"You owe me ten francs," Courfeyrac pointed out.
"You stole my mistress," replied Bahorel.
"You were tired of her anyways; she laughed all the time and it drove you mad. I was trying to do you a favor, Bahorel. You wanted to leave her, but couldn't think of a way to get out of the affair. I managed to bring things to a satisfactory end for everyone, and even let you take a very nice waistcoat of mine so that you didn't always look like a colorblind, homeless circus freak."
Bahorel was deeply disgusted and lunged at Courfeyrac, who jogged backwards and out the door. They arrived at the law school when Bahorel managed to tackle Courfeyrac and exact his revenge by mussing Courfeyrac's hair and turning all of Courfeyrac's Romantic curls into very unflattering frizz.
"Ha! Got you!"
"Bastard," Courfeyrac said, running to a window and trying to repair his ruined appearance. It was, at that point, that Bahorel realized that they were across from the Parthenon and on the steps of the law school.
"You made me chase you up the street to the law school!" Bahorel exclaimed, sounding rather hurt. "I didn't even have time to button my coat against infection."
"You ruined my hair," said Courfeyrac, trying desperately to smooth down his curls. "Damn it, Bahorel, just look at this!"
"Trade you," said Bossuet, rubbing his own bald head rather ruefully.
Courfeyrac smiled, though he couldn't help trying to twist his hair around his fingers to reform his curls. He managed to get his hair into some semblance of order when Enjolras appeared on the steps of the law school and pointedly held open the door.
"You might have given me back my hat," said Courfeyrac, sighing over his reflection. "Look at the ravages Bahorel has wrecked upon my hair."
"If you want it back, you will have to go into the lecture hall," said Enjolras. "Come."
The three other law students glumly followed Enjolras to the (empty) lecture hall, where, at the front, the professor was forcing the only other four students there to sit closer up front.
"I came to class today only to infect all the rest of you with cholera," the professor said, in response to one student's protest. The professor was an elderly, stoop-shouldered gentleman with a perpetually displeased expression and a very short temper. He wasn't nearly as bad as Blondeau and was, in general an indifferent teacher who picked on one or two students a semester and left the rest to follow or fail the class in accordance with their abilities, but he was in a foul mood and very willing to take it out on his students. "I believe I have all the symptoms of it, and the fact that you are still here, forcing me to teach when I should be in my bed, makes me inclined to infect you all. Still, you have come when your fellows proved that education is the first to go in a pandemic and cut class. You shall be rewarded with equal parts knowledge and epidemic disease."
"A university education is always so valuable," said Courfeyrac. "Ah, there's my hat! In the first row? Enjolras, you are trying to kill me, I swear."
The professor spotted them and waved them forward. "Let me see—ah, Monsieur Enjolras! I would recognize that hair anywhere. And…ah, Monsieur Bahorel, I did not think you were even in this class!"
"Oh, am I not?" asked Bahorel. "I apologize for the disturbance."
"Monsieur Bahorel, you have registered for this class five times over the years, you have to attend at least one lecture—"
It was too late; Bahorel had cheerily tipped his hat to the professor and walked out of the lecture hall.
Courfeyrac and Bossuet shook with ill-concealed laughter. Enjolras cast them a somewhat withering look that made them immediately go and sit down in their seats. The benches in the lecture hall were terribly uncomfortable, which was one of the many reasons why Courfeyrac did not like attending lectures. One had to squeeze behind the splintery wooden tables, onto a terribly unforgiving wooden bench, trying not to fall into the lap of another law student, and then somehow manage to get one's satchel onto the desk, then off of the desk and onto the floor—Courfeyrac was quite depressed by the time he had gotten out his textbooks and, to cheer himself up, put on his hat and decided not to take any notes and to doodle instead.
The professor returned to his lectern, took roll and thus learned all their names for the first time that semester, shuffled through his papers and began on a lecture that Courfeyrac ignored in favor of drawing a very explicit political cartoon about monarchal abuses and their expected retribution. He was very absorbed in his task and passed a half-hour engaged in the perfection of his illustration.
"—anyone? Monsieur de Courfeyrac?"
"Yes, sir?" asked Courfeyrac, looking up from his cartoon.
"You did read Louis-Philippe's newest ordinances?"
"Then you can tell us the new method of filing an appeal."
"And, and here I thought you were actually taking notes for once—" he had wandered out from behind his lectern and grabbed Courfeyrac's sheet of paper, ignoring Courfeyrac's furious, "Hé!" of protest "—but no, you were actually… what the hell were you doing, Monsieur de Courfeyrac?"
Courfeyrac stood and straightened the lapels of his coat. "I was taking notes in my own fashion, sir, and I beg you not to keep assaulting me with my participle like that, sir."
"You drew a picture of Marianne sodomizing Louis-Philippe with a saber," said the professor, holding it so that everyone could see. Bossuet, useless fellow that he was, had collapsed, laughing, onto the desk. The professor was not amused and the rest of the class, all four of them, seemed to suddenly develop tuberculosis and turned their laughter into hacking coughs. Enjolras, of course, was imperturbably looking over his notes and did not appear to notice Courfeyrac's pornographic political cartoon.
"Do you care to explain this work of considerable artistic merit and staggering genius, Monsieur de Vinci?"
"I would be pleased to do so," said Courfeyrac, taking refuge in audacity. "You see, sir, I have a mind for images, not words, and thus I have drawn a sketch in lieu of copying down your sage explanations. A picture is worth a thousand words, at any rate, and this image helps me to remember the content of your lecture much better than any imperfect phrases of my own."
"So, according to your notes, one files an appeal on the point of a saber shoved between the buttocks of our monarch?"
"That is, ah, an overly literal interpretation of a highly symbolic action," Courfeyrac said quickly. "You see, the sword represents the, ah… balance beam of justice. You see how Marianne, the republic, is on one side and Louis-Philippe is on the other, each of them representing the scales of justice, currently tipped towards the, ah, monarchy. Marianne, the originator of the constitution, ah… penetrates the very bowels of the constitutional monarchy through the pointed force of our new court system which, in application, is disagreeable but ultimately good for the health of the body politic."
"Oh indeed, Monsieur de Courfeyrac?"
"Perhaps you can then explain why Marianne has lost her gown."
"If I may, Monsieur le professor, it's to make the image stick in Courfeyrac's memory," said Bossuet. "He rarely thinks with anything above waist-level. If Courfeyrac's going to remember anything, it has to have large, uncovered breasts."
"I can see that all too well," replied the professor.
"Yes, my mind has been corrupted by my degenerate, bohemian lifestyle," agreed Courfeyrac.
"That or syphilis," the professor said witheringly. "I would not get too attached to your nose if I were in your position."
"I tend to be in a variety of positions, sir," Courfeyrac said, as faux-innocently as he could.
The professor stared at him. "I never needed to know that, Monsieur de Courfeyrac. Now where we… Monsieur Enjolras?"
"Ah, and Monsieur Enjolras has let his mind go off with all the rest of his classmates. Are you in the Midi, perhaps, or in Eldorado with Candide's red sheep?"
"In a Jacobin Republic of Virtue," replied Enjolras.
The professor seemed begrudgingly impressed. "Touché, Monsieur Enjolras. What is it with these students of mine? You oughtn't to be able to riposte quite so quickly—Monsieur Legles, what the devil are you doing?"
"I seem to have gotten my elbow stuck in the inkwell," replied Bossuet, whose fits of laughter, like everything else in his life, had backfired spectacularly. "Not to worry, sir, my coat will be properly black for the first time in months. This sheen of learning shall give me a proper appearance of respectability."
"I had always thought Blondeau too harsh, but I perfectly understand why he threw you out of class. My Trois Glorieuses, all in the center of the front row, all far too ready to talk back to the highest authority in a court of law, you are distracting me from the misdemeanors of your fellows. You three will be excellent defense lawyers some day. Monsieurs Dupin and Beauharnais, hard at work, I see, though neither of you has worked hard enough to afford more than one sheet of paper." Though he really ought to have learned with Courfeyrac that it was a stupid idea to read his students' notes, the professor took away their manuscript for a new play in the Romantic style and began reading it aloud.
"Enter Dona Almavivata. Oh, that I was born to live in such misery! I will stab myself in my soft, round yet firm breast, she tears off her kerchief, oh that this succulent, soft and—what the devil? Twelve syllables to a line, you idiots!"
"Dumas said he was going to look at it!" protested Beauharnais, as the professor began ripping the page of their play in half.
"Dumas has cholera," replied the professor. "If you even think of showing this garbage to Hugo or Gautier—"
"It wasn't good enough to show Hugo or Gautier," said Courfeyrac, in a faux-comforting tone. "Come to think of it, fellows, it probably wasn't good enough to show to Dumas."
"Like you didn't put as much effort into the breasts as we did," burst out Dupin, flinging his quill at Courfeyrac and managing to hit Bossuet instead.
"Hey, Marianne's breasts, falling out of her dress, represent the fecundity of—"
"Monsieur de Courfeyrac, let me stop you right there. You have explained your bewilderingly bawdy symbolism enough for one day. Leave something for future art historians to tear to pieces in interdepartmental academic squabbling."
Courfeyrac did not, and the professor threw his hands up in the air and exclaimed, "Enough! It seems to me that cholera only affects the intelligent. All those with the dread disease of stupidity have gained some odd immunity from cholera and come to class specifically to torment me. Class dismissed before I catch the epidemic of distracted idiocy sweeping through your ranks."
"Ha, out an hour early!" muttered one of the other students, clapping Courfeyrac on the shoulder. "I owe you a drink, Courfeyrac."
"I think we all do," said another law student, still shaking with laughter. "Billiards at the Voltaire this evening?"
Courfeyrac glanced at Enjolras, who very slightly shook his head.
"Tomorrow afternoon, I think," replied Courfeyrac. "This evening I am promised elsewhere."
"Burying your face in Marianne's breasts, eh?" asked the first student, with wink.
Or plotting violent insurrection against the government, but no matter. Courfeyrac grinned. "You have the right of it."
Courfeyac swept his papers, quill and ink into his bag, but the professor detained him, and eyed him with a world-weariness that was, to Courfeyrac's mind, rather amusing.
"Monsieur de Courfeyrac, do your parents know who—that is to say, what you do with your spare time?" the professor demanded, holding up the cartoon.
"I would be very surprised if they did," said Courfeyrac. "But, sir, really, I consider what I do to be a service to myself and my fellow countrymen."
"Why yes, sir, I am only putting philosophy into action," replied Courfeyrac, catching himself before he revealed his membership in an underground revolutionary society to a teacher. "Why, didn't the Enlightenment teach us that we have a right to pleasure?"
"I am inclined to flunk you out of this course."
"Oh sir," said Courfeyrac, with a woe-be-gone expression. "When I have proved to you that you do not have cholera, but only an excess of choler? For such medical expertise, you would have to pay at least—"
Courfeyrac received his drawing again, in the form of a wad of paper lobbed at his head, and then, laughing and bearing aloft his bare-breasted Marianne, dashed off after Bossuet and Enjolras. Perhaps there was something to upholding appearances—though, thought Courfeyrac waving his admittedly filthy drawing at Bossuet, like a flag, sometimes one just had to take appearances to extremes. There was no better refuge than audacity.