There was a knock at Combeferre's door early the next morning. There was only one person it could have been.
"Good morning, Enjolras." Combeferre said, before the door was even fully opened. " Every thing all right?"
"Fine, my friend." Enjolras said, and seated himself at Combeferre's table. Their flats were in the same building, so Enjolras had apparently decided it was not a risk to speak to him. "Joly and Bossuet arrived shortly after I did at the Musain. They were both unharmed and reported that even though the police had arrived, no arrests were made. They took a few statements from the witnesses, all of whom—according to Bossuet—said the fight had started between two men over a woman, and simply, to quote 'got out of hand.'" Combeferre smiled.
" Well, that's almost the truth. It did, in a way, start over a woman. If Jehan hadn't been upset at you for stealing his woman, he wouldn't have taken his anger out on those men." Enjolras looked away.
"You do know I had no intention of—"
"Of course you didn't." Combeferre said, " Jehan knew as well. You are aware of your looks, and so are we. We're all more or less used to women seeing you and falling in love on the spot, but we also know that you have no interest in any of them. Really, I'd trust my mistress around you more than, say, Courfeyrac." The name caused an unintentional stab of guilt.
" Enjolras, I have a bit of a confession to make." Combeferre said, changing his tone. Enjolras raised his eyebrows, but said nothing. " Courfeyrac and I planned the whole thing, last night. Well, not all of it—not Jehan and Françoise and the others showing up. That just happened. But Courfeyrac and I thought that perhaps if we found you a sweet enough girl, you would fall in love, and wouldn't be afraid of women any more." Enjolras shook his head, but he was smiling.
"Yes, I suspected something like that. Really, though, I didn't think you were in on it, I thought it was all Courfeyrac's doing."
"You knew?" Combeferre exclaimed in shock.
"Knew? No, I wouldn't say that. I just had the slightest suspicion. Courfeyrac, after all, was acting a bit jumpy, shall we say? Besides, no one could truly believe that he just happened to run into an old mistress and her available friend."
"No I suppose not." Combeferre said, laughing in spite of himself. " Charlotte said something similar. She never expected you to fall for it. She really was fond of you, though, Enjolras."
"Charlotte was a very sweet girl." He said long-sufferingly. " But you know that I simply haven't the time."
"Is that really the reason, Enjolras?" Combeferre said, clasping his friend's hand, " You can tell me the truth." Enjolras sighed.
"Combeferre, I've dedicated my life to the pursuit of liberty for France. I know that one day, I will be called on to lay down my life for her. I would not want, when that time comes, to leave any woman behind to miss me and cry for me when I'm gone. I could not do that to any woman."
"Yes, of course." Combeferre said, feeling foolish, " the simplest explanation is usually the best. You know, that reminds me. I don't know if I'm seeing things that aren't there, but I could have sworn that Charlotte recognized you from somewhere, and you did the same. Did you two know each other?" Enjolras looked quizzical.
"No, I've never seen her before in my life." He said.
"Are you sure? Charlotte is from Cahors, as we are. Are you certain you didn't know her? Or perhaps in Paris? You came here a full six months before I did, you could have."
"No, Combeferre, I've never met her before. But how did you know where she was from?"
"She told me when I was walking her home last night." It was Combeferre's turn to look away. "I couldn't get up the nerve to ask her if she knew you—it seemed like such a strange question. But we had such an interesting conversation last night—she's really quite intelligent, once she calmed down—we agreed to see each other again. I promised to call on her within the week." Enjolras nodded soberly.
"She will be good for you. She's a sweet girl."
"But you're certain you never knew her?" Combeferre broke in quickly.
"Yes, Combeferre, and I have no interest in her now, even if I did. If I had known her from somewhere, I would have remembered her name."
"Yes—her name." Combeferre said, remembering something "You said you knew a Charlotte once. Are you sure it is not the same one?" Enjolras laughed.
"Very sure." He said, almost to himself.
"Then who was the other Charlotte? There weren't any Charlottes in Cahors, I don't think. Did you meet the other in Paris?" Enjolras suddenly became fascinated by the pattern of wood in the table.
"Well, perhaps I was speaking a bit metaphorically when I said that. I never, I admit, knew her. She died quite a while before I was born. But, sometimes, I feel like I did. It was Charlotte Corday I was thinking of when I said that."
"Charlotte Corday?" Combeferre asked, incredibly confused. " The assassin of Jean-Paul Marat? But you idolize the man! You are always talking about the power he had through his newspaper, how he could inflame the masses with words. Why would you be fond of his assassin?"
"Combeferre," Enjolras said, as if explaining himself to a child, " I am not so blinded by the light the man shed that I cannot see where he went wrong. He became blood thirsty, paranoid. He was demanding the deaths of those who did not deserve it. He dishonored the republic. If Citoyenne Corday had not killed him, perhaps more would have been massacred during the Terror. The men of the Convention were good men who wanted the best for France, but they did horrors in her name. The new republic must stand on the shoulders of '93, but we must not duplicate it.
" Citoyenne Corday was willing to give her life to save the republic from becoming a bloodthirsty dictatorship. She is a personification of the justice of the people—the sort of justice that overrides even the government. She rose up—alone—and did what had to be done to protect the people of France, which the government at the time was not doing. Though, naturally, I do not support the murder of anyone, sometimes one must make that sacrifice in the name of a greater good. I have always been fond of her." Combeferre nodded.
"Yes, I have always been fond of her as well—in a way." Thoughts were spinning in Combeferre's head, " Then why did Charlotte act like she knew you?" Enjolras looked quizzical.
" I don't think she did; I got no impression she might have known me."
"Then perhaps Courfeyrac was right, and she was just making conversation." Combeferre said, shaking his head" Once again, I must remind myself the simplest solution is often the best. She was in on our plan; she got a look at you, and as all women, felt like she was in the presence of a marble Antinous. She didn't know what else to say. I must apologize for the way I acted last night. I feel like I had taken leave of my senses."
"No harm done." Enjolras said, with a shrug.
"This will all be a bit of a disappointment for Courfeyrac, though; I don't believe he's given up on you."
"Courfeyrac will give up finding me a woman," Enjolras said, his smile growing, " The day he gives them up himself."
"Yes, probably." They were quiet.
"Enjolras," Combeferre began, "I don't want to push the issue, but…are you quite certain about Charlotte? Or any woman?" Enjolras folded his hands on the table decisively.
"I am quite, quite sure. I'm aware of what you all say about me; that I am missing out, or it's unhealthy, and I understand, to an extent, why you think that. But, as you once said, ' I love my mother more, hélas, I love my mother more.'" Combeferre smiled. He was very fond of that little song.
"Well then, come on, my friend," Combeferre said, getting up from the table, " We have work to do and not a lot of time to do it in. The pamphlets have to be sent to the printer, Feuilly told me that some of the workers have reported a theft of gunpowder, which needs to be investigated and possibly replaced, and I promised myself that I'd finish my paper for class.
"Mlle. Patria" Enjolras said, getting up after him, " Is not an easy mistress."
"Yes," Combeferre agreed, " But we wouldn't trade her for the world."