A/N-we all remember G-, don't we?
"Why, come in, Carlotta," Baptistine opened the door with a smile reserved for her very oldest and best friends, " I hope you don't mind the state of our home. My brother spends all his money on the poor, so we haven't much to ourselves."
"It's a lovely home, Baptistine," Carlotta said quite honestly, "You mustn't be ashamed of it. It's clean, it's sturdy, no pretensions or affectations. Your brother is a good man." Baptistine beamed.
"You've brought the child, I see." She said, stooping down to get a look at the seven-year-old boy her old school friend had gripped by the hand.
"Well, there was nothing else to be done with him; his father won't have him when I'm traveling, and his nurse is ill. I had to bring him along. I hope you don't mind?"
"Not at all, Carlotta, not at all." She looked at the boy. He was standing straight as a soldier on parade, though his eyes were cast down. "And what is your name?" she asked him. The boy lifted his blue eyes for the first time. The expression in them was one of acute intelligence and a dignity that bordered on harshness that was quite at odds with his years.
"Marcellin, Madame." He said.
"Well, Marcellin, why don't you go play in the garden? We have a very pretty garden here." She turned back to the boy's mother. " If it is all right with your mother."
"It's fine with me." His mother said. She turned to the boy. "Go on, Marcellin, go play." Carlotta let go of the boy's hand and leaned down to give him a kiss, which he barely reacted to before setting off for the gardens.
"He's a handsome boy, Carlotta, but is he always so sullen?" Baptistine asked as they entered the house, heading for her small sitting room on the second floor.
"Not always, but more often than not. He spends too much time alone, that's the problem. We move around a lot. My husband is always chasing one dream or another, and we have to follow him. Marcellin's never had much time to make friends. I believe he's stopped trying." Carlotta sighed, " His nurse isn't the best woman for the job, either. She's nearly as quiet and sullen as he is; it must be where he gets it from. Though, I swear, Baptistine, he can be a terror sometimes. The things he gets it in his head to do!"
"Such as what?"
"Oh, he'll start looking for something, a book, or a piece of jewelry, something he's seen once and not cared about. But if he gets it into his head that he wants it he'll tear apart the house trying to find it. And if he doesn't, there's hell to pay. Or he'll decide he has to see what's around the corner or over the hill. I'll turn my back and he'll be gone—just like that, and there's no way of finding out where he's gotten to. He'll come back, hours later, with his pants ripped and mud on his face, and no explanation." Carlotta paused, as if wondering if she should speak any more, " Of course his temper is the worst. If he's angry at something, he'll just go off—no explanation, no warning. Sometimes he won't even tell me what he's screaming about, not even when he's calmed down afterward. Really, Baptistine, the boy is so clever, and so passionate, but I don't think I understand him, at times." Baptistine nodded sagaciously.
"He'll grow out of it, I suppose, once he starts going to school."
"He isn't going to school. My husband won't hear of it." Carlotta said as she eased herself into one of the small chairs in the sitting room. "He'll have a private tutor 'like all well-brought up boys.'"
"A bit," Carlotta admitted, "I love my husband, but I'm not sure if he's right about a lot of things he says. He's just as severe and austere as Marcellin, sometimes."
"Ah, well, that's the problem with husbands," Baptistine responded with a knowing smile, "I know it's been nearly eight years, but it is so difficult to think of you as married, my dear."
"I know," Carlotta agreed, "It took me ever so long to think of myself as Madame Enjolras."
The garden was boring. Flowers, vegetables, an apple tree not good for climbing. Nothing worth looking at. The bugs crawling around had lost his interest after only a few minutes. And here he was, stuck in this horrible garden for as long as his mother felt necessary to talk to that woman, whoever she was.
"Well, I'm not staying here." Marcellin pronounced out loud, though there was no one to hear him, and he wouldn't have cared if there was.
Without a second thought he climbed over the small fence leading to the street. His mother would be inside for at least an hour. She wouldn't notice if he was gone. Why did they have to pass through the awful town, any way? It was bad enough they were going to visit those awful aunts of his in Avignon. Why did they have to stop here?
There was nothing here. There was no one on the street. There were no stores, or gardens, or boys playing. And to think he had complained about St. Raphael being boring. At least it was interesting to explore. This place was as quiet as a cemetery. Marseille had been better than St. Raphael, but St. Raphael was better than this awful place.
The urge to scream came over him, as it often did. He rarely held back the urge when it came, but for once, he decided, he would. No one knew him here. They might think he was possessed. He could scream all he wanted at home; no one noticed any more. It was just the mad Enjolras boy off again.
The town was small; it was not long before he was out of it. The roads stretched on forever. Could he follow them back to St. Raphael? Back to Marseille? Back to Toulon? Back to….what had been before Toulon?
He had no idea where he was going, and he didn't care. He was outside of stupid Digne, and it was all he cared about. Not that the boy was lost. He had done enough walking on his own to have learned how to memorize landmarks, tell directions by the sun's shadow and mark his path. He was a seasoned explorer.
He jumped over a ditch, cleared a hedge, made his way through a brush fence and to his surprise found himself in a run-down garden.
"Fascinating." The boy said to himself. It was his favorite word.
The garden looked like it had been tended once, but not in a while. There were flowers and vegetables, to be sure, but there were also weeds. A few pears hung in a tree above his head. His stomach growled. They looked sweet. The garden had to belong to someone; was it worth risking their wrath to get a pear?
The growling of his stomach answered his question. With very little effort, Marcellin pulled himself into the lower branches of the pear tree. The ones at the bottom were already rotten. He'd have to climb higher to get a sweet one.
Eyeing a particularly juicy pear at the top, Marcellin braced himself against a branch and attempted to pull himself further up the tree. If his footing had been a bit more steady, the pear would have been his, he would have climbed down the tree and continued on his way, and the boy's life might have been different. But as fate would have it, the branch Marcellin was braced against broke off, and the boy came tumbling down, hitting the ground with a resounding thud, the pear still at the top of the tree.
The boy swore in Occitan, two things he was not allowed to do coupled into one, which gave him no small pleasure. But before he could brush himself off and give the pear tree another attempt, he heard a voice call him.
"Who's there?" the voice was saying. Marcellin froze. Should he run? Probably. But if he stuck around the owner of the voice might feel bad for him, and give him something to eat. Even if he didn't get anything to eat out of it, he could at least find someone to talk to, and some entertainment for the afternoon. Anything was better than going back to stupid Digne and his mother's stupid friend.
Marcellin remained in place. He could hear footsteps behind him.
"Well, look at that! It's a little boy!" Marcellin turned around. Behind him was an old man, hair as white as snow. He leaned upon a cane made of birch wood. The man was not smiling but his eyes were shining.
"I'm not little." Marcellin said. It was his first reaction to anyone calling him a little boy. The old man smiled a little at that.
"No, you're not little." He said, "What's your name, boy, and what are you doing here? You're not from Digne if you've wound up here."
"I'm Marcellin," The boy said, " And I'm not from stupid Digne." This caused the old man to actually laugh.
"No? Then where are you from?"
"I'm from St. Raphael right now. But before that I was from Marseille. And soon I'll be from Cahors."
"Aha, your father moves around, does he?"
"He's a ne'er do well." The boy said, using a term he had often heard applied to his father, though to be honest, he did not know what it meant. He imagined it was his father's job, the way some people's fathers were doctors or soldiers. " He buys land in places, and we have to go there. Then he decides there's another place he'd rather be, that he wants to buy a vineyard, or go into shipping. We have to follow him."
"You don't like that, do you, boy?" The old man asked. Marcellin shook his head vigorously. "So what are you doing in Digne?"
"We're passing through. We're going to visit my horrible aunts, but mother decided to visit some old friend of hers first." The man nodded.
"And why did you come here? You shouldn't run off from your mother, boy."
"I came here because I was bored." The boy said with a shrug. He looked around. "How come you live here, and not in Digne? Do you hate it there?"
"No, I don't hate it there." The old man said, leaning on his cane. "Digne simply hates me."
"Why?" the boy asked, looking at the old man suspiciously.
"Because of something I did a long time ago, before you were born."
"What? Did you kill someone?" Marcellin's eyes went wide. The old man shook his head sadly.
"No. I certainly did not. Sometimes I think that is the only thing that prevents them from hanging me from a tree."
"So what did you do?" The boy asked.
"I was a member of the Convention." The boy looked blank.
"What's that?" he asked.
"You don't know what the Convention is?" The boy shook his head, "Or what happened in '93? Or '89?" The boy shook his head twice. The man's eyes went wide. "Surely you know about Maximillian Robespierre, and Danton, and Louis XVI? The sacking of the Bastille? The Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen? My boy, do you mean to tell me you know nothing of the Revolution?"
"I've…heard of it." Marcellin said. "My father mentioned it once or twice."
"And what did he say about it?" The old man asked, studying the boy intently.
"He said that…that he had to run away from Paris because if he had stayed the sans-culottes would have had his head." The man nodded.
"Do you know what a sans-culotte is, my boy?"
"Someone who goes around without any pants?" The man shook his head and laughed sadly.
"My boy, you are lacking in knowledge of the history of your own country. "
"That's not true!" The boy protested, " I know about Charlemagne, and Louis XIV and the Battle of Agincourt and—"
"So," The old man said, " You know the history of tyranny well enough, I don't doubt it. But did anyone ever teach you the history of progress? The history of the defeat of tyranny?"
"No," the boy said, "What's that?" The old man smiled at him.
"Come inside, my boy. I will tell you the story of the French Revolution."
Don't worry, more to come! I'd like to highly reccomend that anyone who isn't participating on the Abaisse read through to do so-it's incredibly awesome already, and you get ideas for stuff like this!