The Blood of Angry Women

Chapter 7

Enjolras turned to Joly to ask him for a report, but the room was too dark and she couldn't see him. She turned her head the other way, searching through the hazy crowd. "Maybe I don't feel so well after all," she admitted helplessly, reaching for Combeferre's hand helplessly. "We must all... remain strong," she whispered hoarsely. "Good night, my friends, and don't remember what I've said..." With this mixed up statement, she leaned her head against Combeferre's shoulder and fainted.

Joly sprang from his seat to assist Combeferre, who was trying to move himself into a position where he could support her, without knocking her to the floor in the process, but it was Grantaire that lifted the unconscious girl from him. "We've got to get him home. Someone go flag down a cab!" he shouted authoritatively. He could not allow the probing, concerned hands of the would-be physicians betray her secret. He would get her home, first.

Courfeyrac and Jehan nearly knocked each other over trying to get out to door to find the requested cab. Combeferre felt Enjolras' thin wrist for a pulse. It was there, strong enough to keep her alive. He peered at her face anxiously, slapped at her cheeks, pinched her wrists. None of his ministrations served to wake her.

"Grantaire, maybe you should lay him down on the floor. We can look at him better there," said Joly meekly. Grantaire silenced him with a dark glare. Just then, Courfeyrac ran back in. "The cab is waiting!"

Grantaire carried Enjolras out to the cab, and laid her on the plush seat. He removed his own jacket and covered her with it, and they set off swiftly toward her flat, a good quarter-mile away. It was decided that Combeferre and Grantaire should ride in the cab, and Grantaire would come back to the cafe later and tell the others of the outcome. They set off at a brisk pace, Grantaire muttering to the driver, "If you don't hurry those damned horses up, I'm gonna pull this thing myself!"

Combeferre tilted Enjolras head back a bit and laid his head on her chest. Grantaire held his breath nervously. He wrestled inwardly. Perhaps he should just tell Combeferre now; surely he'd find out, anyway.

"He's breathing very shallowly. I fear... perhaps he did break a rib. I don't hear the wheezing sound associated with that; still, we are in a moving cab. I can't tell," he murmured to himself. Grantaire could not catch all his words, but he could not mistake the terrified look on his face. Combeferre moved to unbutton her jacket. Grantaire watched nervously. Perhaps he'd stop at that. No, no, he was unbuttoning her waistcoat, too.

"I know what it is that's troubling her breathing, Combeferre," he interjected. "I'll correct that for you."

Combeferre had not caught the feminine pronoun, but still he looked startled. "Oh? Did something else happen that he didn't mention?"

"Yes, but it's something that happened twenty some years ago," Grantaire slid off his seat and joined Combeferre on his knees beside her. "Alas, Combeferre, our fair and noble leader is of the fairer and nobler sex." He took his pocket knife out, shifted her onto her side and pulled up her blouse, on the other side, to her armpit, careful to try to protect her privacy that he'd so clumsily violated the night before. He cut through the tight binding around her chest and pulled it free so she could breathe freely again. He tossed the shredded bandage onto Combeferre's lap. "There, my friend, is all that it takes to make an oppressed female into a fiery young lad."

Combeferre stared at this scrap of cloth for a moment. "A.. girl? That... that can't be! Why... but he's... mon Dieu! You're sure?"

"As sure as I can be, without asking for further proof!" Grantaire exclaimed. Combeferre blushed. "We had quite a talk about it last night, after I made the clumsy blunder of trying to offer my lousy medical assistance while she was knocked out, and discovered... It is not hard to imagine that a girl with a soul like this one would have a need to do such a thing."

"It would seem that this beloved country for which she fights so passionately hasn't learned anything much over the years. Society is moving backward, I think," murmured Combeferre, recalling some of the talks that they'd had over the years on the subject of women. He tried to remember who'd brought up the subject first. In hindsight, he was sure that it was Enjolras who'd opened his eyes.

"Ha! Backward from what? We were never anywhere worth being, to begin with. The only women to ever enjoy any kind of egalite were the goddesses, who inflicted punishment upon the mortal men, and the brave few like this one here, who fought and clawed their way out of their chains." Grantaire paused as if to take a drink, but then realized that he didn't have any. "Dammit. Out of brandy, too. You know, she has a rather nasty wound to her belly. Big, dark blue bruise. I wonder if there's something amiss there," he remarked, almost casually.

Combeferre lifted the edge of her blouse with trembling fingers and observed this wound. "Afraid you're going to get slapped?" Grantaire jeered. Combeferre ignored him and pressed lightly upon her abdomen. Apparently satisfied with the results, his expression became a bit more relieved.

"She needs to be bled. We'll just take her home, and then you can go to an apothecary's and fetch me some leeches, alright?" Grantaire made a face, but nodded.

"I suppose this will keep her down for a while. A good thing it is; I noticed in her room that she's got a brand-new musket. Give her enough time, and she'll have the National Guard bleeding her, and they don't tend to use leeches, my friend."

The cab pulled up at the proscribed address, and once again, the concierge stared as her young, quiet, well-behaved tenant was carried up the stairs. "That boy's going to kill himself," she muttered, bringing up the rear with a candle. She lit the candles in the room as Combeferre laid Enjolras gently upon the bed, and then she quietly withdrew. She caught up with Grantaire, who was running down the stairs to go locate some leeches.

"Shall I go get that doctor again?" she asked anxiously.

Grantaire considered. The old lady looked genuinely concerned; he decided to hold in his smart comments. "I don't think so. The fellow that carried him in is mostly a doctor. He can handle it. If you'll excuse me?" Grantaire rushed out the door, wondering where he would find an apothecary, and if he had time to just stop somewhere and pick up a bottle of something a bit stronger and less squirmy than leeches. He decided that his task was far too important to stall, so he purchased a jar of the disgusting creatures and hurried it back to Enjolras' flat.

He handed the sack to Combeferre. Enjolras was still unconcious. "Do you think... how's it looking?"

"We shall see," Combeferre replied calmly, taking out two of the creatures and placing them on her abdomen. They immediately went to their task. Grantaire turned away, more out of respect than disgust.

"I guess... I guess I'll go back to the café and just tell everyone to go home, huh? I mean, there's no sense in them waiting around all night..."

"You're right," Combeferre agreed. "Ordinarily, I'd ask you to send Joly over to help me, but considering the situation.." He sighed deeply. "It wouldn't be fair to.. to Enjolras. I must give hi-her the opportunity to explain." He spoke more to himself than to Grantaire at this point. "Yes, do tell them to go home, and come by tomorrow morning. She should be awake by then..." If at all seemed to hang in the air. Grantaire left the room before it could penetrate his thoughts too much.

--Jeni Baron

Chapter 8