Just Causes

January, 1830

This isn't normal for either of us, I know that and he knows that, but it works — for now. The wind is howling at the window and throwing more snow than it should be able to lift. There is no food, no food anywhere, and no money in my pockets to buy it should any suddenly become available. He pities me, and I resent that, but I can't find it in me to resent him. Ah, mon ami, you do mean well. It is just that everything is so very awkward.

I wish that I had what he has — his family sending him money, his sparkling, bright future a few years in university away, his endless parade of mistresses both real and fictitious. I have none of that. My family died when I was twelve, all except grandmère Feuilly, with whom I was staying when the storm came and the lightning struck down the oak tree. My mother had been so proud of that oak. I hope she never knew that it was responsible for her death. I expect that she didn't, as it fell right on her room, first of all. Grandmère hadn't any money. My father had lent her a little cottage in the village, one that would fetch next to no rent, and she lived there. She was a widow before I was born, and she could not read. It was my job, as soon as I was able, to go and amuse her several hours a day by reading to her from collections of poems or novels. I didn't like reading the novels, nor the poems. I wanted to look at the precious books she had — the ones with the engravings, the illustrated letters, the artistry of paintbrush instead of the trickery of words. She was often ill, and when she was, one of us would have to stay with her. That was my fate on the night of the storm.

This is a storm just as virulent. If I should step outside, it would sweep me off of my feet and into a snowbank in a moment. It's better to stay inside, though the company is rather dubious. He is the only one who knows that I have nowhere else to go. I would not have told him, except that he found me shivering in the street, and I could have told him, or stayed where I was. The rent was too much, I said, and the food was too dear. It was then that he started pitying me, with the superiority of the boy who has never had nowhere to go and the compassion of one who fancies he can imagine what it's like.

We didn't speak of telling anyone else, not then and not since. I trust that he won't mention my plight. It would shame me to see that look in my friends' eyes, as much as it hurts to see it in his, but multiplied across a whole room of them — I wouldn't be able to face them. Don't tell them, please, Courfeyrac.

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