When Others Rise
The table in the corner was empty.
That was where they had always sat, when they had not adjourned to the back room. Pierre could almost see their figures around the table, talking and laughing, blissful in their youth. Like shadows, he thought he saw them singing there once more.
But they were only shadows.
It had been fully a week since the rise and fall of the barricades, and the Cafe Musain was once again open for business. The custom had decreased considerably, due to the effects produced upon the cafe that June fifth, but Pierre Marchelieu came to the deserted cafe anyway. Part of him hoped it would help him remember; the other part wanted it to help him forget. And now that he was here, he felt the wounds he had suffered a week ago ripped open again.
He could all but hear Enjolras speaking of liberty. Enjolras. Pierre had been in several classes with the young man, had even struck an unlikely friendship with him. Even though they disagreed politically--at first--they found each other likeable. At first Pierre found Enjolras's arguments for revolution foolish and futile, but then he began to see his point in a different light. Every day he came to the cafe, paying special attention to the group of students in the corner, who spoke so idealistically of equality and freedom for the people. He found himself angered by the poverty on the streets that so many turned a blind eye to. But he still wasn't sure enough to join the revolutionary group, they who called themselves the Friends of the ABC, the abaisse, a sombre pun if ever there was one. He had left the city on the first of June for a week-long visit with family in Calais. And he had returned on the morning of the seventh to the most sorrowful disaster he had ever faced.
They were all dead, or at least assumed dead. The bodies of all but young Marius Pontmercy had been identified among the dead on the barricade in the Rue de la Chanvrerie. Marius had disappeared.
Now, as he sat staring at that lonely table, he once more contemplated the ideas Enjolras had spoken of so enthusiastically. And now that he was--now that all of them were--dead, would those ideals die as well? Had their fight been in vain? Had they given up their lives for nothing?
Buried in his thoughts, Pierre didn't notice that someone had come in, and was now standing behind him. The other man touched his shoulder tenatively.
Pierre turned slightly.
"Louis . . . you startled me."
Louis Repardin sat at the table opposite his friend, who was still gazing at the empty table. "Marchelieu, are you still thinking about them? Why not just let it go and get on with your life? Dwelling on it isn't going to bring them back."
Pierre turned his gaze to Louis. "Let it go, you say? What would that make their deaths mean? You know as well as I do what they were fighting for. If nobody does anything about it, if we all just say 'How sad' and bury their ideals with their bodies, we will have betrayed them. Enjolras believed in the people; they all did. They believed that the people would rise and join them in their fight. The people failed them. We are the people, Louis. I don't want to live with the guilt of knowing I failed them twice." Slowly, he leaned across the table to Louis. "Do you?"
Louis looked his friend in the eyes. "Of course not, Marchelieu. I already feel bad enough for never joining the cause." His gaze became glazed, and his eyes took on a faraway look. "I had so many chances, so many opportunities. But I kept hesitating. I should have joined them. I should have died with them." He closed his eyes, and a silent tear fell from them to the surface of the table before he opened them again to look at Pierre. "But we cannot spend the rest of our lives in passive grief for them. We have to move on; there is nothing we can do for them now."
Pierre still sat and gazed at the empty table. Louis' voice seemed to come to him from far away, but he caught the words. All at once, he could hear the words of his dead friends mingling with those of Louis and himself, and certain phrases leapt out at him, begging for his attention.
*The people will rise and fight . . . if not now, then after our deaths . . .*
*We are the people, Louis . . .*
*. . . we cannot spend the rest of our lives in passive grief . . .*
*The people will rise . . .*
*We are the people . . .*
Pierre felt it hit him like a bolt of lightning, and he nearly overturned the table he sat at in his excitement.
"No, Louis," he said with fire in his eyes, "you are wrong. There is something we can do . . ."
The group was small, but enthusiastic. It seemed appropriate that they would choose the table in the corner for their hushed meetings, somehow. Pierre spoke to them softly.
"Friends, we have to prepare," he said. "The uprising last year depleted all our supplies, and it will take months, even years to replenish them. So we have to start now. Repardin, how do we stand in support?"
"Popular support for uprisings of course is low these days," Louis said, "but there are still secret factions in some places who are with us. One in St. Martin, another in Rue de Bac. They're scattered, but still there."
"Good." Pierre's eyes seemed to shine like fire. "When the time comes, we will need the support of all we can get. Freedom comes at a high price, but it does come. We will be free!"
The others murmured their enthusiasm. At the neighboring table, a man sat quietly, lost in thought. All at once, he got up, paid for his wine, and left without a word. Once outside, in the silent night, he crossed the street and turned to look at the Musain. Memories came rushing back to him all at once, and his eyes filled with tears. Through the window he could still see the revolutionary group planning at the corner table. *There must be something about that table,* the man thought. *It is ripe for revolutionary conversation--first ours, now theirs.* He looked up at the clear sky, at the stars, seemingly searching for something he could not find.
"You were right, Enjolras," he whispered to the night. "The people do rise. They have risen to take your place, and the earth will be free." A tear fell to the ground as Marius Pontmercy turned and walked down the street, home to his Cosette and away from the memories of the Cafe Musain.