Musichetta wasn't entirely sure what to think when Joly told her he was going to a political meeting and she was welcome to come. She had political ideals, true enough, but she had never known what to do with them. She had never been taught them, they were simply things she had thought about in solitude, and hid from anyone else. After all, she had seen first-hand how dangerous it was to have a political opinion; her father had been arrested for the bad mistake of being a Bonapartist worker under a Legitimist regime and he was a man. Musichetta was not entirely sure what would happen to her. It was better to draw back a bit, feign the mute obedience expected of her, and think of very scathing things to say to her friends when they had all drunk enough to forget themselves. It was still so odd to think of politics as anything that could promote rational fellowship between anyone.
"Are you sure you want me there?" she asked, not looking up from the shirts she was painstakingly stitching together. Musichetta tended to be quick with her work, but Joly had been terribly, terribly distracting that week. Not that Musichetta really minded, of course- she quite enjoyed how sweetly affectionate he could be when she allowed him to be- but one still had to pay the rent. "What would I do there?"
"Yes, I am very sure," Joly said, wrapping his arms around her waist and kissing the side of her neck. "It's not at the Musain, it's really relaxed, there's music and people bring their mistresses all the time and once Enjolras leaves to go check on some of the other groups, we usually end up dancing. Also, I have made a study of the progression of love—"
"Just like any other disease is it?" Musichetta asked, laughing.
"If it's a disease it's one I'm happy to have, unlike rickets. I think I have rickets."
Musichetta carefully set the last stitch and tied it off before tangling a hand in Joly's hair. "Do you, now? I thought it was arthritis."
"A terrible misdiagnosis," Joly told the side of her neck, in between feather-light and slightly ticklish kisses. Musichetta had to fight against the impulse to giggle. "But, to return to the point, love develops in stages, and I am at the stage where I consider any moment not spent in your company to be as dreadful as a bout of influenza. Won't you come?"
"Why?" Musichetta protested, though she smiled.
Joly nuzzled her neck. "Because I love you, that's why."
"Joly, my political opinions are vague at best. I'm more-or-less republican, but that's more out of circumstance than conviction. It's sweet you want to share your life with me…." Musichetta realized it was true just about when she said it, cut herself of and felt herself starting to blush in a very pleasurable confusion. "I, er… fine, if you want me to- just let me drop off my shirts on the way."
"You don't have to keep at them, you know," Joly informed her.
"I like working," said Musichetta. She did. Musichetta thought it highly beneficial to escape into daydreams every once in a while- though she set limits on how much time she spent probing the corners of her own imagination, or retelling stories she'd read and internalized- and could only justify it to herself by keeping her hands busy as she did so."And besides, it gives me something to do with my days. I can't rely on you to pay all my bills."
"I would if you let me," said Joly.
"Do you want me to sulk at you again?" Musichetta said, nettled, but managing to make it sound playful. "I can and will."
"Oh, anything but that," said Joly, releasing her. He pulled a face at her, once she began folding and stacking her shirts together. "I thought I was going to die of misery instead of tapeworm when you sulked at me with such cruel persistence."
"I'm so glad that your love for me is comparable with a tapeworm," said Musichetta. "That's the basis of a very solid relationship there."
"I am glad you agree that I would waste away without acknowledging it and treating it accordingly," said Joly, smiling at her. He had such a bright smile. It had an almost magnetizing effect, drawing out an answering smile from anyone he directed it at. Musichetta always felt her own spirits rise, even in the midst of the most determined sulk.
"What, you want to get rid of it then?" asked Musichetta, forcing herself to focus on her shirts.
"There the metaphor falls flat. I would love you every day of my life if you let me."
"Careful there," Musichetta said lightly. "You may start believing yourself and then where shall we be? A little self-deception is always necessary to get through life."
Joly caught one of her hands and kissed it. "Such cynicism!"
"Oh, am I required to be gallant, then?" Joly teased her, kissing the inside of her wrist. "Such high standards you keep, Mademoiselle Poquelin! I wonder that I ever earned the right to kiss you."
Musichetta laughed, but abandoned her shirts to kiss him. It was such fun to kiss Joly. He was sweet and surprisingly gentle under all the light-hearted teasing and hypochondria. It was so easy to see only his cheerful eccentricities, and not catch onto his charm until one found oneself unwilling to ever let him go. It terrified her even as it made her giddy, and it took considerable self-will to step back instead of clinging to him.
"Keep that up and we'll never leave," said Musichetta, returning to her shirts with far more briskness than she had thought herself capable.
"So you'll come?" asked Joly, perking up at once.
"Shirts first," said Musichetta.
"You are so terribly practical sometimes, Musichetta."
"I have to be," she replied, picking up the bundle. She was still squabbling with Joly over whether or not he ought to carry the bundle of shirts even after she had dropped them off and been told to come back tomorrow for the newest batch. Musichetta was adamant he shouldn't, as one, that would just look ridiculous, two, they were her shirts anyways, and three, he had his walking stick (one had to take precautions against rickets) and a satchel of schoolbooks with him. Joly was just as adamant he should, but Musichetta sulked at him until he gave up the attempt at logical persuasion and meekly asked if she didn't think that it might rain tomorrow.
"We have to learn how to argue better," said Musichetta.
"You always win," said Joly.
"You always let me!"
"I'm being gallant. I thought that was a requirement? Besides, when you sulk at me like that I am sent into frenzies of panic, babble about nothing and only with great difficulty present any semblance of sanity."
Musichetta could not keep up her sulk and burst out laughing. "That was terribly sneaky of you."
Joly grinned at her in triumph. "I break down all barriers by flaunting my insecurities, do I?"
"How devious! You know how to argue better than I expected."
"I adapt my methods- you win so easily otherwise." He pressed a quick kiss to her temple before Musichetta could complain. "I do love you, Musichetta. I wish you would believe me. Ah, here we are."
Musichetta was unfamiliar with the café, as most of the cafés she frequented were working class and on the respectable end of poor, half filled with impoverished students, and half filled with workers who read and who could afford to be picky over whether they drank white or red wine, but not much else. It was nice to have choices, however, and it was nice to have mostly respectable company that gathered regularly in one place and read the same newspapers. Feuilly liked the émigré cafés, so Musichetta had been to one or two of them, and Musichetta had, out of curiosity, been to the Momus a few times to revel in impoverished Romanticism, but she had never nerved herself up to return on the off-chance that Musetta would be there and she and her old roommate would start a scene in the middle of the dance floor. The café Joly took her too was almost pointedly for political activists. It was in the Palais-Royale, after all, where Desmoulins had climbed up onto a café table and released such thundering oratory the Bastille collapsed from its reverberations. The café itself was small and filled with mostly young students and their mistresses and, to Musichetta's surprise, a few women holding forth on political topics as eloquently as some of the men. It did not look big enough to hold a dance floor; the café tables seemed to spill out of the building and onto the cobblestones and into the courtyard simply because there wasn't any room for them inside. At least it was still nice out- it would probably turn cold that evening, but the leaves were still on the trees and the sunlight lingered like a particularly affectionate lover.
Musichetta almost flushed at the thought and tried to get herself into- hell, what sort of spirit was she trying to invoke? Was it a café evening, or a dance hall evening? Musichetta did not entirely feel in the mood for either. She was already feeling off-kilter and just wanted to spend the night alone in her quiet, Musetta-less room with a glass of wine, the incredibly soft duvet Joly had bought her when she'd come down with a minor case of influenza, and some terribly trashy, lurid novel with a plot clever enough to be intriguing, but not so clever that Musichetta could not work it out halfway through the second volume. Still; she was here, so she attempted to rose herself out of her antisocial mood. "Is this it? It's charming."
It was, to some extent. The café was clean in a way that Musichetta was not quite used to; it wasn't clean because that was really all that could be done for it, it was clean because its owners simply couldn't be otherwise. There were even wax candles, an un-thought-of luxury, with their light spilling almost carelessly out of the café. "Bit small for dancing, though."
Joly cheerily informed her that everyone danced on the cobblestones, or just shoved the tables out of the way, as there was no designated area for it. Sometimes they all escaped into the trees of the Palais-Royale and were so Roussian and Romantic they were so pleased with their daring they forgot to dance. The cafe was run by a gentleman who was sympathetic to Saint-Simonianism and thus was immensely popular with all the socialists who gathered in his cafe and held forth on philosophy over their dinners.
A tall, dark-haired student talking to a number of his fellows in top hats and tailcoats, looked up at Joly's voice. He adjusted his glasses to see who was there and, smiling, exclaimed, "Ah! Joly! I thought you were going to be here a half-hour ago. We've been waiting to hear about the medical students."
"Oh, sorry, Combeferre," Joly said, not sounding sorry in the least. "It's quite a walk here and we had to make a detour- oh, have you meet Mademoiselle Poquelin?"
Musichetta dipped into a curtsy.
Combeferre spared her a brief smile. "It is a pleasure to meet you, Mademoiselle Poquelin. Joly talks of you quite often. I believe you may have even beat out magnetism as his preferred topic of conversation."
"A high compliment indeed," said Musichetta, with an amused look at Joly.
"Quite possibly the highest," said Combeferre, with another smile.
"A high compliment to Mademoiselle Poquelin, but hardly to me," said Joly, pulling a face. "Bahorel here yet?"
"Yes- but first, we need to talk about the general opinion of the medical school on the latest… court waltzes, as it were." He glanced at Musichetta apologetically.
Musichetta got the distinct feeling that she ought not to have come. It was fine to have a grisette up in a garret room, spinning like Gretchen, or virtuously and industriously stitching away like a latter-day Penelope, waiting for her lover to return, but once a woman climbed down and entered into the streets, and became a person instead of vague figure in a gray dress, well, what was one to do with them?
"Sorry, 'Chetta darling," said Joly, lifting their clasped hands and kissing her knuckles.
"Oh no, go on," said Musichetta, with a smile that at least didn't look forced. "I'll sit here- you can leave your satchel, if you like."
He grinned back at her and pulled out a chair for her, before handing over his schoolbooks. "Order what you like, just have it put on my tab. Sorry- well, the fellows sharing my corpse today agreed on our diagnosis, but I asked around and no one seemed to think that it was the time for, euh, the more dramatic surgery required to cut off a tumor of this size, and there are a few who think it's benign—" He and Combeferre, heads bent together, wandered off
Musichetta wished she had thought to bring a book. A quick look through Joly's produced a couple of republican pamphlets and some really disgusting anatomy books that made Musichetta feel very glad she was not a medical student. She flagged down a waitress, who was friendly and said, with a wink, that she was on to a good thing and ought to order something expensive. Musichetta didn't have the requisite audacity to ask for champagne, but the waitress very cheerily said that her hometown of Dijon had a really delicious way of improving white wine and that Musichetta would love it. The waitress brought Musichetta a glass of blanc-cassis, or white wine flavored with blackcurrant liquor. It was a bit like ratafita, which one of Musichetta's friends, who worked as a parlor maid, often snuck out of her mistress's house. She, Musichetta, and a couple other friends liked to drink it as affectedly as they possibly could, until the charade grew too ridiculous and they ended up helpless with laughter and spilling ratafita everywhere. As the parlor maid had pointed out, if that was how convent-educated women were supposed to act, so full of sensibility over sense and doing the most ridiculous things for no reason at all, well, she was glad to have educated herself.
The waitress also gave Musichetta the stern injunction to stay away from the old lawyer hanging around the bar because he had grabby hands and the information that a somewhat bedraggled string quartet usually dropped by a half-hour or so past ten to start up waltzes. "Can't play much else," the waitress said, with a shrug, "but then, all the boys here are bourgeois, and if you get one fresh from the countryside, they don't know how to dance anything well but waltzes, and maybe a quadrille if you're lucky."
"Thanks," said Musichetta, honestly grateful to talk to another woman. "Do you—"
"Monsieur T, don't you think I don't see you tryin' to grab onto Thérèse when she's got her arms full of dishes, and you are payin' for those if she drops 'em!"
The waitress ran off to threaten Monsieur T with her uplifted tray. Musichetta fiddled with her glass of blanc-cassis and looked around the café. Despite what Joly had said, there were more men than women at the bar and at the café tables. Musichetta hoped rather than thought that it was probably because it was a Friday and most grisettes were scrambling to get their orders finished for the week.
"Poor dear, you look terribly out of place," said a plump blonde in a gray dress. She would have been quite pretty if she had not attempted to be quite so fashionable and had very frizzy face-framing curls and a truly hideous top-knot padded out with hair-rats that poked out and didn't quite match her natural hair color. The dress, however, acted like a letter of introduction; Musichetta, spotting another grisette, felt all tension melt away.
"I like to say I'm adventurous enough, but I hate going anywhere without a guide, and mine is no Virgil," Musichetta said wryly. "He abandoned me at the sign post to go chat with the ancients."
The blonde clucked her tongue. "Oh, those boys. Not much for social conventions- it can be a good thing, but goodness they do startle you so when you realize how many of them they're throwing away! Oh, I'm Rosalie, by the way." She beamed at Musichetta.
"Musichetta," Musichetta replied, with an answering smile.
"I haven't seen you here before," said Rosalie, sitting down at Musichetta's table. "Courfeyrac didn't drag you here did he? He's right out of a medieval romance, but he has the attention span of a butterfly, I swear."
Rosalie beamed at her again. "Aw, really? That is terribly adorable. He's such a little sweetheart, Joly- he always manages to catch when my Bahorel's in the mood for a fight and keeps it a verbal dispute that's much more fun to see than Bahorel getting his nose broken again. Oh! You must be that Musichetta then. You know he's utterly mad for you?"
Musichetta let out a somewhat startled laugh. "Is he now?"
"It's terribly sweet," said Rosalie. "I do love the starts of romances, though. It's like the spring all over again, no matter the season! You know, I do love Paris, but the gray skies…." Rosalie shook her head, her side curls swaying from side to side. "I miss the sunlight. Still, there's always something to make you smile."
Rosalie, as Musichetta found out within five minutes of conversation, was a bouncing, smiley person who took such thorough enjoyment out of life she always found something to laugh about. She was full of energy, and so thoroughly present in a world she clearly loved that Musichetta, who was more active intellectually than physically, no matter how she tried to balance the two, wasn't entirely sure how to react to her. However, Musichetta had a weakness for applied optimism almost as strong as her weakness for Greek friendships and soon found herself discussing Mme de Stael over dinner and several glasses of champagne. It was very easy to dismiss Rosalie- she was too bubbly to really be taken seriously at first- but there was a brain underneath the hair rats.
"Sorry, I didn't catch who you came with," Musichetta said, once they had thoroughly dissected Delphine and bourgeois marriages of convenience.
"Oh, don't think I said, straight out," said Rosalie, tilting her head to the side and causing a curl to spring out of her top-knot. Musichetta was drunk enough to giggle. "Bahorel. He's the broad-shouldered one with the broken nose. Not the prettiest face, but such shoulders. I've always had a weakness for a good pair of shoulders."
"You're his mistress then?"
"Nope, we share a socialist partnership," Rosalie corrected her, quite blithely. "We have a charter drawn up and everything. We break it just about as often as Charles X breaks his, but after we each go off and seduce someone else for a few weeks we slink back to each other and set about re-drawing the borders. It works for us."
Musichetta had been smiling throughout the whole explanation, though she remembered her manners enough to try and hide said smile behind her fingers. "As long as it works."
Rosalie laughed. "That's the spirit! Pragmatic, aren't you? We need more practical people. I mean, Enjolras, you'll recognize him at once, he looks like a statue of Saint Michael reinvented during Year II to defend the Revolution instead of God, can be alarmingly practical, and Combeferre, he's the one over there in glasses that's… apparently demonstrating reflexology on your Joly there, he's all about the application of ideals. But, sweet as they are, the boys ain't never… never have, sorry, had to be practical or else starve to death."
"They don't have any workers in the group?" asked Musichetta. "My friend Feuilly—"
"Oh, they're all half in love with Feuilly!" exclaimed Rosalie, who did not like to say a thing if she could exclaim it.
Musichetta burst out laughing. "Oh God—Feuilly—in a Greek friendship! Oh God, I would pay to see that!"
"More a Romantic friendship," said Rosalie, through her giggles. "And what's wrong with that? I think they are absolutely splendid. There is nothing I like better than a good Romantic friendship. I mean, I would adore having one myself, but there's something so… touching, so sublime in seeing two people spiritually and emotionally walking in step. It's so nice to see it in men, since sometimes you have to doubt if they have feelings."
Well that sealed the deal. "How have we never met before?" Musichetta demanded, scooting her chair closer, until they sat side by side. "Have you read Byron's Lara?"
"Oooh, I simply could not put it down! But the ending…." Rosalie shook her head, her blonde curls whipping about her face. "Really, such a let-down. It was so much more interesting when I thought Kaled was a boy, not a woman in disguise. It's…" Rosalie pinked delicately. "You know."
"Oh believe me, I do," said Musichetta. "There's something about it that…."
Rosalie nodded vigorously. "Right? I don't know what it is! But stick a bit of that in a story and I'll ramble on about it to all my friends. An old lover of mine once asked for his birthday that I act Sapphic for an evening, so I suppose it's the same with men and women. A pleasure in the forbidden?"
"Perhaps?" said Musichetta, sipping at her champagne. "I don't often wonder why I take pleasure in something, I just do it."
"So you can't say what you like the Romantics? I suppose that is a Romantic reason to read 'em."
Musichetta smiled. "You know, I am terribly glad I came."
Rosalie reached down and squeezed Musichetta's hand. "I am too! And not just because there aren't any other permanent girls. Simone used to come, she had something odd going on with Combeferre, and I didn't like to ask about it because there was some odd business where Combeferre was trying to save her and Simone didn't think she needed to be saved and such a terrible lot of miscommunication and snippy remarks. Combeferre has some absolutely brutal one-liners, and what Simone lacked in wit she could make up in glares. I'm glad that brief experiment on Combeferre's part ended. I mean, not for everyone, but when things come to a boil I like to just have it out with the person I'm rowing with and then there you go. I hate silent arguments. I never know just how to continue on the conversation. If you've got a problem you should say something."
"I suppose," said Musichetta. "I just get sulky."
"Not for everyone, as I said," Rosalie replied cheerily. "Sulk if you have to, argue if you have to. Lord, you should see some of the arguments our moral equals but social betters get into- usually about paying bills." He wrinkled her nose and brushed her curls out of her face. "Astonishing really, what an actress'll do when she really wants the red domino her lover won't get her outright. Makes the workday so much more interesting."
"Where do you work?"
"At Mme Henriot's," said Rosalie. "She used to work for Rose Bertin. Poor Mme Henriot's ancien in more ways than one, so it's something of a pain to stitch for her, but we sew some really lovely old things for high sticklers who want to recapture their youths and mostly masquerade costumes. Oh, and since I work there and am something of a dab hand at making the old styles a little more suitable to contemporary standards of dress, the actresses and masqueraders refer me to their friends and I get loads of side-orders from bohemians. You have never really seen anything until one of 'em asks you to cobble together a doublet to match his beloved's eyes. You then get the impression that said bohemian doesn't spend a lot of time looking into said beloved's eyes, because they get right confused when I show 'em a length of brown velvet and ask if it'll do."
Musichetta laughed. "Oh God, bohemians. I'm all for Romanticism, but I don't understand their variation of it."
"Sweethearts, most of them," said Rosalie. "Just… bad with the practical details. You have to go to their mistresses to make 'em pay up. The threat of a hideously unflattering historical costume frightens an actress something terrible, particularly since we sew for the ones who have bohemians paying their bills and need to catch slightly more successful gentlemen. Oh, I have been meaning to say, I love your dress. So elegant! It's a nice variation off of the more sensible styles. I always thought it was a pity those huge sleeves came in fashion. Besides being the very devil to sew, it makes getting a new gown so damn expensive."
"It is lack of funds more than anything else," said Musichetta, "but sometimes, I have to admit that I'm glad I don't make enough to dress fashionably. I would rather sew myself and dress well."
"If you are interested in making a few francs off of Romanticism," said Rosalie, eyeing Musichetta's tamed-down puff sleeves with pleasure, "I can ask Mme Henriot if she's looking for another girl. If not, there's still my side business. There's some rumors about Hugo writing an historical play, so all the masquerades are going to be historical and all the bohemians will want to special order doublets from me. I do good, quick work, but it'd be grand to sew with someone. We could swap off stitching and reading aloud and get the orders done twice as quickly and charge slightly more for 'em. Would you be interested?"
"More than interested," said Musichetta, flushing a little. "I mean- to think—"
"It's our way of joining the movement," said Rosalie, with a grin. "A physical legacy to it- we're actually doing something instead of being distant inspiration. Anyways, knocking a doublet together is more interesting then sewing buttons on trousers, eh?"
"Or sleeves on shirts," said Musichetta, pressing her hands to her cheeks. "But you- we hardly know each other! You're being far too kind—"
"You sew well, you like the same books I do, and, what's more, we've been very comfortably set in the same circle. Lovey, hate to say it if you find if awkward, but I don't think your Joly's going to be letting you go anytime soon. I won't let you go either. It's so nice to have someone to talk to when Bahorel makes me come to his political things! Enjolras is really charming when he cares to be, but he gets a little bewildered if you try to talk to him. I mean, he'll listen if you speak of principles or social rights or what have you, but women are Republican Mothers and he's only glad that you've absorbed good Neo-Jacobin values to pass onto your children. It's his plan of educating the world made… what's the word, manifest, which gives him such a smile you start stammering out something that doesn't make you sound educated at all. I mean, at least you're educated, even if you find that your highest life goal is to be a mother, not to, you know, be a revolutionary like them. It's something. I think women are republican mothers to most of the boys, though Joly and Combeferre are Saint-Simonists. Bahorel is too, sort of, though his favorite part of any bit of political philosophy is the total destruction of what came before it. He likes explosions."
"What do you like about it?" asked Musichetta.
Rosalie hesitated. "Well… I mean, it's nice to think of there being actual solutions to problems instead of just going to bed hungry and thinking that God intended you to be that way and that's all there would ever be to it. I mean, not a lot, but we… well, you hang around students often enough and you pick up some of their ideas."
"You make republicanism sound like a venereal disease," protested Musichetta laughing.
Rosalie let out a peal of bright laughter. "Oh do I? It rather is, isn't it? Just as catching, just as dangerous, and it always calls your morality into question! Oh, I'm blabbing on so, but it's so good to have another girl here! I mean, one who's going to stay. I've been here for ages now, me, but it was so hard to find friends when I first came to Paris. I mean, where do you live? In a garret, at the very, very top of the building, in a cramped little room probably without a stove, running around like mad trying to find work. There's no time to make friends."
"One that's going to stay?" asked Musichetta, puzzled.
"Not many do," said Rosalie, with a sheepish smile. "That's what I was trying to say with Simone. They don't… they're good boys, they're going to change the world, but they can go really deep into theory. I mean, they save it for the backroom of the Musain, most of the time, but goodness, it's hard to follow if you don't have some kind of an education. I mean, I lived with my grandfather until he died and I had to forge my own path, and he used to be a tutor, so I was alright. Did you…?"
"I read a lot," Musichetta said, a little self-consciously. "My father was a traveling printer with Bonaparte's army- I did learn to read. Before he got arrested in the aftermath of the White Terror we were… almost bourgeois. Close to it, at least, though we all did work. It was educated work, at the very least."
Rosalie beamed at her. "Oh, fantastic! Oh, and, um, I'm not sure if I've said this, since I don't remember half the things I blab on about, but don't be alarmed if their world reborn doesn't really have a new place for us sometimes. I mean, Courfeyrac, he's the charmer, he'll always put a word in when he remembers, and the medical students are Saint-Simonists, as you… know now, I think I've said something about that. But, um, when they say 'universal', they are talking about men."
"Well why wouldn't they?" asked Musichetta, puzzled.
"You need to read some Olympe de Gouges," Rosalie said, quite suddenly. "That and Wollstonecraft. I'll bring you my copies to borrow. It's only that… well, I don't know. My thoughts always whirl about, but I've often thought that, you know, half the world is women. Aren't we part of the universe too?"
"I… suppose?" Musichetta said slowly.
"I mean, between the two of us, we've probably read more than your average shopkeeper."
"Your average shopkeeper doesn't have the vote either," Musichetta pointed out.
Rosalie pouted at her. "So you think the men should just free themselves before they free us?"
"I mean… I don't have any very certain opinions on the subject," Musichetta said, a little bewildered. She tilted her champagne glass back and forth and watched the white foam of bubbles on top cling to the sides of the glass before sliding slowly back down. "I keep my head down and do what I can to keep alive and keep happy, and I realize I wouldn't be quite so good at it if I had gotten a worse education. That's… I think that's what should be worked on for women- we ought to be able to have educations."
"Ah, and then you get into what kind. I mean, there the boys agree. Everyone ought to have some kind of education, and we're better off under a republic than a monarchy, but motherhood always carries over- I mean, the expectation that we're meant to be mothers and that's all there is to it." Rosalie scrunched her nose up. "I mean, that's all well and good, rah rah for Republican Motherhood, but I know I can't afford to be a mother. What am I then? Draining society? I'd be more of a drain if I had a baby, I'd think, because then there'd be me and the kid draining Bahorel's funds and mine and really, can you imagine Bahorel with a baby? I'd probably end up trying for a pass. Hell, I'd probably be walking the streets if I didn't get lucky and end up in a brothel."
"You speak really frankly," said Musichetta.
"Oh, I'm drunk," said Rosalie, with some surprise. "I almost never notice it happening. When I start getting all depressing just let me know to stop ordering more."
"It may be depressing, but I think it's probably important," said Musichetta. "It's not… something I ever really thought about just because it seems so far removed from me and from making sure I get the seams lined up properly on a shirt so I can pay the rent and get my bread for the week." She paused, her champagne glass still tilted slightly. The golden liquid within sparkled up at her like a witty remark. "It's not… I mean, I have certain ideals, I just hide them away so they don't get broken or tarnished. And this is... something I ever really thought about because I couldn't see how I'd apply it."
"Again, we get back to motherhood," said Rosalie, leaning back in her chair. "It's all so terribly depressing. I mean, it is a good reason to let women read- even if you don't believe Rousseau, everyone knows that what the mother sees and does when she's with child affects the child's personality. I mean, I know I'm biased because I'd take pennyroyal rather than doom any child of mine to be a gamin the rest of his life, but can't a woman read for her own sake?"
"There are dame schools for the poorest people," said Musichetta. "There's a woman transmitting her knowledge. It's honest, educated work for the most part- better than walking the streets, at any rate. Though really, anything's better than walking the streets without a pass."
"Now who's making it sound like a venereal disease?" teased Rosalie.
"I only absorbed your philosophical viewpoint!"
At that point though, a huge cheer rose up from the assembled company. Musichetta turned around to see that the string quartet had arrived and had begun to station themselves by the door. She felt a warm hand on her shoulder and, giving into impulse, pressed her cheek against it.
"Hallo, love," said Joly, sounding quite delighted. "I see you've met Rosalie. How are you?"
"Oh, splendid," Rosalie replied, beaming at him. "You found an absolute treasure, Joly. If I was a man, or a Sapphist, I would snatch Musichetta away from you at once."
"I'm glad you're not either," said someone Musichetta assumed was Bahorel, lumbering up to rest his large hands on Rosalie's plump shoulders. "That would violate our latest treaty."
"Pft, you know you'd be delighted if I turned Sapphic- even Saint-Preux went crazy over the mutual caresses of Julie and Claire."
Joly, meanwhile, had managed to tilt up Musichetta's chin to kiss her. Musichetta, feeling drunk on a terribly fascinating intellectual conversation as much as the wine, allowed him to do so, and even reached up to stroke his hair and pull him closer.
"Having a good time?" Rosalie asked.
Musichetta broke off the kiss and smiled wickedly at Rosalie. "Oh, without a doubt."
Joly blushed, but looked very pleased with himself none-the-less. "Will you dance with me, Mademoiselle Poquelin?"
"It would be my pleasure."
They danced until the champagne wore off and Musichetta, trying to convince herself she was still drunk so that she would feel no guilt about draping herself over Joly, asked to be taken home. She felt almost nervous to whisper it in his ear, his soft, loose hair (Musichetta was glad he didn't curl it) brushing against her lips. Musichetta had always kept Joly at arm's length. He was sweet, he was charming, he was fun to kiss, but he was, ultimately, a bourgeois medical student. He would pass out of her life like a particularly beautiful dream, one that would make reality seem so much less appealing, one that would make her retreat inward or into her books again, always searching for that missing brightness that illuminated and beautified the world at once. If she gave in, she would be a mistress, nothing more, one of those gray figures of the Latin Quarter that ornamented any school-day reminiscence, easily forgotten, abandoned to the double poverty of circumstance and reminiscence.
As she waited for Joly to settle the bill, she felt almost drunk again, trying confusedly to justify something she was not sure could be justified. If Musichetta was honest with herself, which she often wasn't, she was in very great danger of being very much in love. Musichetta did not quite know if she wanted to be or not, but Rosalie came over, draped an arm around Musichetta's shoulders and kissed Musichetta's temple.
"Off then, love?"
"Yes- Joly's seeing me home."
"Ooooh," Rosalie replied knowingly. "I see. Have fun, lovey."
Moved by a sudden impulse, Musichetta said, "It- it's the first time I'm letting him…."
"Ah," said Rosalie, pursing her rouged lips. She scanned the crowd, picked out Joly's bright head of hair and watched it bob through the top knots and top hats. "He adores you, you'll be fine. Careful with the concierge, though, he's probably the type to want to wake up with you next morning."
"Do you think so?" Musichetta asked, unable to keep the hope out of her voice.
Rosalie squeezed Musichetta around the shoulders. "I don't doubt it. You're on to a good thing- I mean, it's harder for us, innit? It's not so much the sex as what comes after- and I think he'll be there. It'd be a violation of his political and philosophical principles if he did, and our Jolllly is much more of a philosopher than he ever lets on."
"God, I've just met you and already I'm not sure what I'd do without you," Musichetta said, burying her flushed face against Rosalie's plump shoulder.
"Looks like we stumbled into a Romantic friendship. If you get consumption, you can cough to death in my arms."
Musichetta burst out laughing. "I would be delighted. My arms are open if you ever feel the need to die of a broken heart."
"Well, there we are! I'm right grateful to you. We ought to do dinner again tomorrow, at Rousseau's- I'll bring my books for you." She kissed Musichetta on the temple again, this time wiping off the smears of rouge with her fingertips. "Have fun."
Joly reappeared again, with his satchel slung over his shoulder and his smile so bright, Musichetta felt blinded to any arguments she could come up with against him. She took his hand, did not demur when he hailed down a hackney and ushered her in. She even curled up against him on the cracked leather seats, though she told him that it was because the weather had suddenly turned cold. He put his arm around her shoulders and Musichetta buried her face in his lapel, not entirely sure why she was blushing or why she still felt so incredibly nervous.
"Joly, what do you think on education for women?" she found herself asking.
"I'm in favor of it," said Joly. "Government-funded education for children of both sexes, regardless of class, though the amount of education offered obviously does vary based on the sex. Still, women need an education just as much as men do. I think we all agreed on that. We've been writing letters to deputies about it. Combeferre wants to try and set up some sort of school on the weekends to teach children to read, but he's also trying for an internship at Necker, so I don't know when he'll have time to do that."
"Children of both sexes?" asked Musichetta.
"And all classes," said Joly.
Musichetta had been hugging herself before and now stealthily wrapped an arm around Joly's waist. "What part do we have in your revolution?"
"You and me?" asked Joly, smiling down at her in a terribly distracting way.
"Women, I mean," Musichetta corrected, shifting so that she could press her cheek against his chest. She could faintly hear his heartbeat. "Do we have one?"
Joly rubbed his nose. "I, er… well, Musichetta darling, I don't think you'd want to be on the barricade with us."
Musichetta looked up at him in surprise. "Will it come to that, do you think?"
He smiled apologetically.
"Would you… go if there was a barricade?"
"If that's the only way to change the world, then yes," replied Joly. He said it simply, but so sincerely Musichetta slid her other arm around him and vaguely wished she could always keep him beside her, radiating warmth in her arms. "I'd prefer other methods, but sometimes you have to punctuate an argument with a little gunpowder." Almost nervously he said, "You don't… disapprove, do you?"
"No," said Musichetta, realizing it was true only as she said it. "No. It makes me love you, a little."
"Only a little?" Joly teased, tilting her chin up to kiss her.
Musichetta laughed and kissed him. "What, never heard of 'understatement'? And, if you hate to be away from me and there's a barricade, what then? Would you let me be there?"
"You don't want to risk your life for something you don't really think about, do you?" asked Joly.
He had a point there, but Musichetta hated losing an argument. She pouted at him. "Who says I don't think about it? It's not my preferred leisure activity, but I spent the evening talking to Rosalie and she's...."
"Talkative," Joly supplied diplomatically.
"Thought-provoking. You just don't realize it because she's blonde and bubbly. She has some valuable things to say. I have always thought that things ought to change, and that absolute monarchy's a bad idea on far too many levels. I have political ideals, too, I just never thought to do anything with them. If and when you all put your ideals to practice, I want to…."
"Put yours into practice too?" asked Joly, starting to smile. "I warn you, Musichetta, you might not like it. Birthing revolutions is a tricky, messy business, and barricades really aren't places for women."
"It's not like I'm asking you to give me a gun," said Musichetta. "I wouldn't know how to use it. I don't even want to think of using one. You're a medical student, you'll be tending the wounded or something, won't you? Teach me to help. I learn quickly. I don't know if I'd like it, and I might give my notice after the first barricade, but I have an adventurous spirit and I'm willing to try."
Joly blinked at her in surprise, but smiled. "You do love me a little, don't you?"
"Only a very little." She kissed the tip of his nose.
Joly pulled a face. "Oh that's immeasurably kind of you."
"I'm the soul of generosity," replied Musichetta, nuzzling the side of his neck, and getting a faceful of cravat and shirt-collar for her pains. She peppered a few, soft kisses along his jaw line before looking up and saying, "Wait, you sounded surprised when you asked if I loved you."
"It does come as something of a shock," Joly replied, with such a wonderful smile Musichetta had to bury her face against his shoulder.
"Oh, you make it so difficult."
"Make what so difficult?"
"Resisting you, to be honest." Musichetta drew a deep breath and pulled back to face him. "Look, Joly, the last time I let someone bury themselves as deep into my heart as I have let you, I got abandoned in Paris." It was not as painful to explain it as she had thought it would be. Joly had something of the philosopher in him; it was easy to speak calmly and rationally, presenting a problem that, for whatever reason, still had the odd ability to wound. The past seemed somehow silly when she had Joly's arms wrapped around her. "I had absolutely nothing and for a day or two I was really certain that my life was over. He had been everything to me- an escape from poverty, a hope for a future, the promise of a family- and I had been nothing to him." She cupped his face in her hands. "I mean, I'm over it, it was a stupid idea on my part to begin with, but he expected and I gave the sort of... stupid, slavish obedience he expected. I don't want that with you. If we are…." She colored. "You seemed determined to share your life with me, Joly. I just want to be your equal going into it."
Joly was capable of breath-taking sincerity. He looked at her the way Musichetta suspected Voltaire had once looked at Emile du Châtelet. "Musichetta, you are far my superior."
"I just want to be your equal," Musichetta said firmly.
"You are," said Joly, quite matter-of-factly.
Musichetta let out a puff of air, close to a laugh. "I should always step out with socialists."
"Madame Austen would be so terribly jealous," said Joly. "You have found a truth generally acknowledged."
"Somehow I doubt that everyone is in agreement with me about the relative attraction of nineteenth century socialists."
"We are a dashing bunch, sure to be accepted everywhere."
"Ha! I'm sure Madame Royale agrees with you there, you bunch of frock-coated Saint-Justs."
The ensuing argument provoked the argument that they were not really arguing, just flirting, which Joly cheerfully acknowledged to be all too true. Musichetta, much to her surprise, found she didn't mind at all. She quite liked their method of arguing. It wasn't like anything else she'd ever known but, then again, maybe it was time for a change.