catherine's corner

angel of the barricades

chapter one

"Now look, Angelique. This has got to stop."

Angelique flung up her head, her shining blonde curls tossing beneath their modest kerchief. "And just what are you going to do about it? You may be my only brother, Christophe, but don't think you can tell me what to do with my life!"

"Oh, God." Christophe Feuilly ran a hand through his hair -- which, unlike his sister's, was a slightly dirty brown -- and sank into a chair. "Don't start that again, will you?"

"Don't start what?" Angelique's sea-green eyes flashed dangerously. You could tell it was a dangerous flash and not one of girlish merriment, because her brows were furrowed and her mouth pursed in what, had she been any less strong-minded and self-reliant a girl, would have been a pout.

"What, what, you know what. You're twenty-two years old and you're your own woman, you're not a fragile flower to be protected, you want something more than this dreary pedestrian life, is what. I had it from Seraphine and Celestine, I don't need to hear it from you."

"You can dismiss my hopes and dreams--"

"Hopes and dreams, for God's dear sake, Angelique, would you shut up about your hopes and dreams and listen to me, just once in your life?"

Angelique drew an angry breath. Remembered that she was speaking to her only, her beloved, her devoted brother, quelled her natural impetuosity, and assumed an expression of sweet patience. "I'm listening."

Feuilly [1] leaned his elbows on the rickety table. "With all respect for your hopes and dreams, sweet sister, I could use some help around here. It's nice that you brighten up the place with flowers in cracked pitchers, it's lovely that you sing like a lark while you fix your hair, it's very noble of you to tend the neighbor's sickly baby asking nothing in return, and far be it from me to protest your reading day and night--"

"Just because you'd rather read politics than poetry--"

"Poetry's fine!" Feuilly threw up his hands in surrender. "Poetry's grand. Love poetry from fifty years ago? Even better. Read poetry till you're blue in the face. But Angelique, I can't support five people on three francs a day, all right?"

Angelique stood very still, her eyes as wide and turbulent as tide pools by the fabled Caribbean.

"I can't do it, Ange. Seraphine took in sewing, till she eloped with that Englishman she saved from certain death. Celestine went out to service--"

"Demeaning," Angelique muttered.

"--and she did fine, Mam'selle Whatever-her-name-was--"

"Fauchelevent," put in Angelique, offhandedly (such feats of memory came easily to her).

"--took her in, dressed her nicely, loves her like a sister, and sent her off to start her own business back home in Marseilles." Feuilly leaned back in his seat. "Which leaves the rest of us here, you and me and three little sisters to look after. On three francs a day, Ange, besides whatever Celestine remembers to send when she has the time, and that's why you're leading this dreary pedestrian life."

Angelique's beautiful mouth began to tremble, ever so slightly. Her brother, noting this, relented slightly.

"Look, Angelique. There's all kinds of things you could do. Sew shirts. Make lace. Sell bootlaces. Sing on street corners. I don't care what, but something."

At these words, spoken with some desperation, Angelique's heart softened. For despite her independent spirit, she was truly devoted to her family. Besides, singing on street corners sounded terribly romantic. Impulsively she bent to embrace her brother.

"Darling Christophe," she whispered, "of course I'll help. I would never let you down."

Feuilly, accustomed to her quicksilver moods, patted her shoulder patiently. "Of course not."

You don't believe me, Angelique thought as she ran light-footedly out the door, but you'll see soon enough. be continued...

[1] We will call him thus hereafter, not to imply that Angelique for reason merely of her sex is less entitled to the name, but for the convenience of our readers.