Feuilly had no idea what the hell Musetta was doing on the other side of the wall, but it was making it extremely hard to conjugate pluperfect Latin verbs. It sounded a bit like she was singing something, but had decided to accompany this with a display of amateur metallurgy. After about five minutes of this, Feuilly, sitting on his bed, with his back against the wall and the bookshelf he shared with Musichetta, had had quite enough. He began banging on the wall. Musetta apparently decided that this was Feuilly's method of expressing approval and just began doing whatever the hell she was doing even louder.
Musichetta pushed in their shared volume of Hamlet in translation. The book landed nearly on Feuilly's pillow.
Feuilly picked up the book, noticed Musichetta had stuck a scrap of paper in the pages, and pulled it out from Ophelia's mad scene. "I wish Musetta would drown herself," Feuilly muttered, scanning Musichetta's note.
'I am at the point of homicide,' Musichetta had written. 'Are you willing to help me hide the body? We only have to hide it until midnight, at which point we can dump it in the Seine.'
Feuilly would not admit to smiling if anyone asked him about it later, but he jammed on his cap and knocked on the wall three times.
Several books moved out of place and Musichetta, rubbing her temple, peered through the gap. "You knocked, citizen?"
"I'm taking you to the Louvre," said Feuilly. "It's free Sunday afternoons and it is far, far away from Musetta's attempts to goddamn mend her cooking pots to the tunes favored by tone-deaf Satanists."
"The Louvre?" asked Musichetta, a little startled.
"It's full of marble statues of naked men, many of whom are depicted together, pledging eternal friendship and—"
"I'll get my coat!"
This of course, provoked a quarrel with Musetta that Feuilly was disinclined to hear. Armed with coat, cap and satchel, he flung open the door to Musichetta's room, grabbed Musichetta by the wrist and said, "Alright, let's go."
Musetta was by the stove, ostensibly cooking, but really just providing her song with percussion by banging her spoon against the stovepipe. With a startling lack of concern for her roommate, she scowled and said, "Careful with the door, there, you nearly smashed the painting Marcello did of me."
"It's as hideous as your singing voice," said Feuilly. "You won't be able to tell. Come on, Musichetta, let's go."
Musichetta, with her coat only on over one arm and her boots untied, allowed herself to be dragged out of the room, as being manhandled by an angry nationalist was a fate far more preferable to another afternoon with Musetta.
"Where do you think you're going?" demanded Musetta, as Musichetta attempted to make good her escape.
"The Louvre," Musichetta said shortly.
"Like hell you are," snapped Musetta.
"No, I'm dragging her off to have my way with her in the staircase," Feuilly replied. "Is it any of your business? For God's sake, let your painter be your captive audience! Maybe he'll pay enough attention to get your proportions right. The perspective in that painting is atrocious."
He slammed the door on Musetta's look of outrage and dragged Musichetta down several flights of stairs.
"Feuilly, I could kiss you," said Musichetta, struggling into her coat but smiling.
Feuilly paused long enough to help her into it. "Yeah, well, don't. Just get your shoes tied so we can get there before the line to get into the Louvre winds halfway around the building. Where's your bonnet?"
Musichetta, crouching on the narrow landing to lace up her boots, gestured vaguely with her elbow. "Dropped it when I was fleeing Musetta."
"Oh, I see it." Feuilly went back up the stairs seized the bonnet and stuck it on Musichetta's head with little to no concern for her top-knot. He tied the ribbons in a rather skittish bow under her right ear. "Done? Good, come on, let's get out of here before Musetta realizes she can open the door and come after us like Austria after Italian territory."
"You know, Feuilly," Musichetta said, allowing herself to be pulled down the stairs. "I have a theory about you."
"Do tell," said Feuilly, entirely uninterested.
"You, I think, are an orphan who adopted the people. Of course, having no father figure to show you how it's done, you became a sort of elder brother who can only show his generous heart through gruff displays of affection he then has to hide behind inappropriate rants on Poland."
"All contemporary social crimes have their origin in the partition of Poland," said Feuilly.
"Uh-hunh," said Musichetta, losing interest.
"That great and bloody massacre of 1772—"
"—the failure of the Napoleonic promise—"
Feuilly eyed her with exasperated fondness. "You have to let me finish."
"Not when I can finish it for you," said Musichetta, waving at the concierge. "Goodbye, ma'am, and if Musetta dents the stovepipe, she's paying for it."
"Some lover of hers will then," said the concierge, returning serenely to her knitting.
"Good thing you didn't get the land-lady," said Feuilly.
"I wish I'd gotten the land-lady," said Musichetta. "She might have thrown Musetta out. I would feel bad, but I know she's got at least one lover she could move in with… and you know what's really depressing? She's the most irritating person I have ever had the displeasure to meet, and she still has at least two or three men treading on her feet in every dance hall."
"I'm not sure you want the sorts of lovers Musetta gets," Feuilly pointed out.
Musichetta shuddered dramatically. "No thank you. If a bohemian ever starts pawing at my hand I shall use said hand to slap him. I've had enough of them… or, at least, the sorts of bohemians Musetta likes."
They passed their walk to the Louvre and their wait in line complaining about Musetta and the company she kept, all of whom Feuilly thought were exploitative members of the bourgeoisie who reveled in a parody of poverty that was offensive to rich and poor alike. Musichetta didn't like them simply because they never thought to lock the door.
"Or think to tell me to see if I can stay with someone else for the evening," said Musichetta. "And really, why can't Musetta go back to one of their apartments? Oh, we in?"
"Yes," said Feuilly, looking around the building. Feuilly had never understood why anyone liked palaces. They were huge, unwieldy, oddly decorated wastes of resources and though he approved of the Louvre's architecture over what he had heard of Versailles, he still didn't see why things like the Louvre existed when most of the people he knew lived crammed into attics. Not that he didn't appreciate having an enormous building full of art- going to the Louvre on Sundays had taken the part of church services the Sundays of his adolescence- but the point remained. There was something inherently screwy with the distribution of resources. The wealth of a country ought to be measured in its citizens, not it bits of marble and canvas. After all, it was the citizens themselves that took those raw materials and, through their own ingenuity, transformed them into masterpieces.
With the ease of navigation born of great familiarity, Feuilly took Musichetta by the wrist again and dragged her to the sculpture gallery. "Here we are," Feuilly said grandly. "Naked Greek men, some of whom are posed together. Go wild."
Musichetta laughed. "You know just how to cheer me up, don't you?"
"Well, we did meet while trying to find out the latest about the Greek War of Independence," said Feuilly. "I swear, we were the only sane people in that entire café."
"What else were you expecting when Byron had fallen ill?" asked Musichetta. "That's half the reason anyone cared for any wars in Greece. Admittedly, my curiosity was piqued by the Sacred Band of Thebes." She looked around the room, smiling. It wasn't terribly crowded yet and, from time to time, the sun would emerge from behind the clouds and the light would filter down into the statuary. "I've only ever come here to see the Salons. It's beautiful here."
"You were missing out," said Feuilly. "See, there's… I think there's Rosamunde over there." He gestured at two familiar looking grisettes, walking arm-in-arm with their heads bowed together.
"Oh, with Elinor."
"See, everyone comes here Sunday afternoons. It's one of the truly democratic ways to appreciate the triumph of human endeavor and creativity." He guided Musichetta around the statuary, still by holding onto her wrist, in search of a good statue to sketch. He needed to work on his hands and his shading. Now which one….
"Sometimes I get the feeling that you want to save the world by making us all save ourselves through self-education," said Musichetta. "You just express it oddly."
"Any more profound insights to my character?" Feuilly inquired sarcastically.
"I have an active imagination, I can keep going. It's… hm, it's a bit like Plato's allegory of the cave. You know, the one where there are prisons shackled in a cave, and all they know of the world are shadow-puppet displays of real things. You've unshackled yourself, you filed them off yourself, and gone out to see the real world and the sunlight. Now you've come back down and are brow-beating us all to start filing away too."
Feuilly glanced at Musichetta from under his hat brim. She offered him a deceptively sweet smile.
"Go look at your Greek nudes," said Feuilly, spotting a promising statue on a landing and, what was even better, a low wall directly across from it. "I'm going to work on my shading with Nisus and Euryalus here. I'm sure you'll be able to find them again."
Musichetta pouted at him. "What, turning me loose into a museum without a chaperone?"
Feuilly snorted and took out his sketchbook. "Rosamunde and Elinor are giggling over Poseidon's proportions. Go complain about Musetta to them. You'll feel better for it."
Musichetta did so and came back once Feuilly had done several studies of the hands, a couple of sketches of the statue that he loathed, and an outline of the statue that he thought looked promising.
"Enjoy yourself?" asked Feuilly, squinting at Nisus's right hand.
"Oh, immensely," said Musichetta. She was still in the room of contemporary statues, just behind Feuilly's wall and stood behind him, to better look at his sketches. "Oh, that one's lovely. Rosamunde has a gift for putting things in perspective, and Elinor always comes to the Louvre on Sunday afternoons. She knew the best statues to look at."
"Glad to hear it," Feuilly said, now wholly absorbed in drawing Nisus's thumb.
"They had to run, but they're going to a dance hall on Friday. Want to come with us?"
"Dance hall?" said Feuilly. "Do you really think I'm the sort of person to go to dance halls?"
"Oh come on, you have to have fun sometimes," protested Musichetta, resting her hands on his shoulders. "The last time you did was when I set you up with Annette, who, by the way, is never going to forgive you for accidentally calling her 'Marie Walewska' at a certain crucial moment, so you ought to go out and meet someone new, who will get into the spirit of your role pl—"
"That's completely irrelevant!"
"It's a valid point! I'd be too embarrassed to set you up with any of my friends, and I know there ought to be some Polish émigrés that go to the dance hall Elinor wanted to go to, since a Polish "nobleman" bought her a glass of champagne there." Musichetta was probably pouting at him, but Feuilly was glaring very fixedly at the blade protruding from Eurylus's chest and it had no effect on him at all. "You'll like it, I swear!"
Feuilly was tempted by the thought of actual Polish people who could help him with his pronunciation, but remained resolute and returned to his previous occupation, i.e. glaring his sketch of Nisus and Euryalus's joined hands into submission.
"Come on, Feuilly," Musichetta said coaxingly. "You don't have to ask anyone to dance; you can corner Elinor's Polish baron and sob into your vodka together over Catherine the Great's expansionist policies."
Feuilly was extraordinarily tempted.
Musichetta, who was, by now, very good at getting her way, slid her hands off of Feuilly's shoulders to better embrace him and rest her chin on the top of his head. "You can get the perspective of someone who found their national identity once their nation had been taken away. Just think of it!"
"… fine, but if you emit any high-pitched squealing noises to alert Rosamunde and Elinor I will hole myself up in my room with a copy of Descartes."
"Do you really think I'm the sort of person to emit high-pitched squealing noises?" asked Musichetta, in a passable imitation of Feuilly's voice. "Budge up a bit? I know you've brought a book with you."
"Appropriately enough, Byron."
Musichetta sat down beside him and took the book out of his satchel. Feuilly sketched away serenely, except when he couldn't quite get the hands to look right, at which point he began thinking very dark thoughts about Jean-Baptiste Roman and his complicated poses for dying Greeks.
"Feuilly," Musichetta said suddenly. "The ancients used to paint their statues, right?"
"Right," said Feuilly, carefully outlining Nisus's curls.
"Did they ever used to put gold leaf on them?"
"Gold leaf?" asked Feuilly, not looking up from his notebook. "Probably in the temples. Why, what are you…." He glanced up, followed Musichetta's line of sight and said, "Aw hell."
Musichetta set her book down. "What do you mean?"
"It's Enjolras," said Feuilly, hunching his shoulders and trying to hide under his cap brim. "Not a statue, though, I grant you, it is an easy mistake to make. Don't say anything about being a member of the working class or show off any even vaguely liberal political opinions and maybe he won't notice us."
"Nice try, Feuilly, but my dress and your cap give us away at once." She plucked at her gray skirt. "Grisette is such an ugly-sounding word. I mean, characterize us by our dresses—"
"Keep your voice down," said Feuilly, lifting up his notebook to further hide his face. "He'll hear you going on about class distinctions and demand to know the cost-of-living gap."
"Oh, that one?" asked Musichetta. "How do you know it's him?"
"Not many people walking around Paris look like animated Greek statues with literally golden hair," pointed out Feuilly. "I mean, he dresses pretty severely to try and dim it down, but if you look like a goddamn reincarnation of Apollo and have your very own hair-halo to prove it, there isn't much you can do to hide it."
"He is gorgeous," said Musichetta, craning her neck to catch sight of him again. "Oh and he's taking his hat off now. I wish my hair looked like that."
"Where is he now?" asked Feuilly, putting his hands over his head. "He hasn't spotted us yet, has he?"
"Look, he may not precisely adhere to the dictates of propriety, but that's hardly the worst failing in the world," said Musichetta.
"And do you include Musetta in that?"
"… fair point." Musichetta thought a moment and said, "It's not so much some flaws in adhereing to propriety as a total rejection of it, because what she wants is inherently more important than what anyone else needs. I've had it up to here with that sort of egotistical Romanticism. There's nothing sublime in it at all. It's petty and just makes the entire movement look like some sort of juvenile rebellion because your parents bought you the wrong diamond necklace for Christmas. Romanticism's about so much more—oh, sorry, I should have kept my mouth shut about Romanticism, he's broken away from his friends and is coming this way."
"Oh hell, just don't say anything and maybe he'll—"
Well, hell. Feuilly rubbed his face, probably smearing charcoal across his nose, and looked up into Enjolras's very blue eyes. "Citizen Enjolras."
Enjolras bowed very gracefully and, a bit like a child reciting a lesson, said, "It is a pleasure to see you again. I hope you have been well." As Feuilly was not-so-subtly trying to disengage by turning to Musichetta, he added, "And it is a pleasure to meet you, citizeness. Enchanté."
"This is Musichetta Poquelin," grumbled Feuilly, annoyed to have his escape route cut off. "Musichetta, this is Enjolras. He's a student."
Musichetta, with a reproachful look at the still seated Feuilly, stood and curtsied. "Enchanté."
"Likewise," Enjolras said, with an admittedly charming smile. "We have missed your company, Citizen Feuilly."
"Have you," said Feuilly, returning to his sketch.
"Perhaps you can persuade him to join us for diner one evening, Citizeness Poquelin," said Enjolras, undeterred.
"I think you overstate my influence," said Musichetta, trying to kick Feuilly in the ankle to get him to stand up. This somewhat self-defeating maneuver had no effect what-so-ever, as her kick was padded by several layers of petticoat. "Feuilly blazes his own, highly idiosyncratic path."
"We all do, to some extent," said Enjolras, "it is the end goal that unites us, the inevitable motion forward, towards it, that causes us to strive together, towards a future brought on by the unstoppable march of progress."
"How about that," said Feuilly, doing a study of Euryalus's quiver of arrows.
"Feuilly," Musichetta hissed.
Feuilly ignored her.
"I believe we still share the same goal, Citizen Feuilly," said Enjolras, undeterred.
"Oh gosh golly gee how extraordinary," said Feuilly.
Musichetta managed to keep perfectly, smilingly still and to kick him very viciously in the ankle at the same time, which Feuilly would have found impressive if he hadn't suddenly drawn a huge black streak through his entire page of studies. He looked up, scowling, and put away his notebook. He then began to very indignantly and very pointedly massage his ankle.
"Feuilly," Musichetta said, far too sweetly, "I believe it is somewhat extraordinary for anyone to have the same goals you do and still be willing to admit it publicly. In fact, you told me that you and, er, Citizen…."
"Enjolras," Enjolras supplied, with the sort of smile that could make lesser grisettes walk into walls.
Musichetta, being made of sterner stuff, was momentarily silenced, but managed to latch onto something approaching language soon enough. "I… euh… yes, ah… the, ah… same goals. You both share the same goals. You told me so, Feuilly." With admirable self-restraint, Musichetta managed to tear her eyes away from Enjolras to look at Feuilly again. "In fact, I thought you said you had been talking with a group of friends. Amis, even."
"The Amis d'ABC," corrected Feuilly. "It's a pun."
"But no less true for being so," said Enjolras.
Feuilly made a non-committal sound.
Enjolras decided to take the lack of open hostility as encouragement, and favored Feuilly with, it had to be acknowledged, a terribly effective smile. The dandy-ish fellow that had kept trying to feed Feuilly pastries had a smile that was admittedly much more charming, but Feuilly still found himself wavering.
"I greatly enjoyed hearing your point of view, citizen," said Enjolras. "You brought up a very interesting point about how most modern evils arise from the partition of Poland."
"Well, yes, I mean, any atrocity that has been committed since—" And he was off. Enjolras actually managed to engage Feuilly in five whole minutes of conversation before Feuilly realized what was happening and abruptly cut himself off and sat down again.
"Feuilly!" exclaimed Musichetta.
"I appear to have tired you," said Enjolras, diplomatically. "Perhaps we can continue this discussion at a meeting of the Amis? We meet most evenings, and regularly on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. My friends would be glad to hear what you have to say. I hope you can attend."
"Oh, he'll attend," said Musichetta, with grim determination. "He will be glad to attend."
"We meet most often in the back room of the Café Musain."
"He'll be there tomorrow."
Feuilly had been staring at Musichetta with shock mixed with incredulity and managed to say, "… what- no, I have other things to do. I have work. I'm going to be busy all week—"
"He'll be there Friday evening," Musichetta amended.
"No I'm not!"
"Feuilly was going to go to a dance hall with some of our friends, then," Musichetta said sweetly, "but I think he can do both. If not, dance halls tend to be better on Saturdays anyways."
Enjolras's lips twitched. "I look forward to seeing you on Friday, Citizen Feuilly. If you find that you have the time to come see us before then, you are more than welcome."
"Thank you for your kind offer," said Musichetta, still very sweetly. "Feuilly told me that he had a very interesting debate with you last time. It's just been his natural timidity—"
"—that's been keeping him away," Musichetta finished, quite serenely.
Enjolras actually smiled at that. "I see. Until then, Citizen Feuilly." He bowed.
"Until then," Feuilly said, sulkily. Though he did not bow in return, he did wait for Enjolras to rejoin his friends before whirling on Musichetta. "Why did you have to go and promise I'd go to one of their meetings?"
"Because it's not healthy for you to sit by yourself all the time," said Musichetta, exasperated. "Shakespeare is great, but doesn't make for the liveliest company. Come on, Feuilly, these people are actually interested in the same things you are and, what's more, have the means to act on their ideas. I know you said you'd reserve judgment after you met them, then saw a few of them catcalling from the Gods when we went to the Comédie-Française with Martin and Rosamunde and Elinor and decided that your student friends were all rude idiots, but Enjolras wasn't there. I would have remembered if he was. Look, a few of them may be idiots, but if you applied the same reasoning to us, then we'd all be egocentric bitches like Musetta."
"You just want me to go so you have an excuse to ogle Enjolras."
Musichetta flushed. "No! Not… look, Feuilly, you've done me some good turns. Can't you let me do the same for you? You're frustrated you can't change things. Alright, well, befriend some people who can. They will." Since Feuilly couldn't think of a suitable retort, Musichetta said, coaxingly, "You'll like them."
"Just like I'll like dance halls."
Musichetta sighed in annoyance. "Why is it you always think you'll hate anything I suggest?"
"Not everything you suggest," said Feuilly.
"Just most everything."
"Just the things where I know I won't enjoy myself," said Feuilly. "You've seen Enjolras in action—"
"And found him perfectly charming," said Musichetta.
"Because he looks like a reincarnated Antinous."
"Not just because he's gorgeous! He had address."
"Honestly Feuilly, you're worse than he is," Musichetta complained. "You didn't even stand when he came over."
"Well, I don't really believe in acknowledging the bourgeois oppressors."
"Or in acknowledging how the young and poor make poverty more bearable with a little dancing and a little flirting, or in acknowledging that propriety isn't just a set of arbitrary rules forced on us by parents corrupted by society, but also a way of acknowledging other people as people too, or in acknowledging that politically active students aren't actually bourgeois oppressors and are, instead, the people most likely to overthrow the bourgeois oppressors—"
"Only when you shut up about Poland."
Feuilly glared at her in somewhat impotent rage. Musichetta crossed her arms. "You have to admit, I've got a point."
"A point," said Feuilly, "out of the three you mentioned."
Musichetta raised her eyebrows. "And, let me guess, the point you're going to take to heart is, 'hey, maybe Musichetta isn't wasting time better spent studying by going to dance halls and enjoying herself, and maybe I should try it too'?"
Musichetta playfully pulled his capbrim down over his eyes. "I don't know why I even bother with you."
Feuilly grinned as he adjusted his cap. "Hey, don't want to help me file off my shackles?"
Musichetta laughed. "That's why- you don't try to create ghastly percussion with them, like Musetta. Take me out to dinner and I'll even let you rant about the partition of 1772 again."