Man, I am finally done with this chapter! I've never written one so long, and I hope it isn't too boring. I tried to have a little humor in here, but this is a more serious chapter. Most of it is in Marguerite's PoV, and even though it was long, I enjoyed writing it. If you haven't yet, check out my one-shot and my other finished story! Review/follow/fav!
Marguerite stepped out of the back door of the theatre, wrapping her cloak around her more tightly. She checked the alley, peering into the darkness for Armand. She ran her hand along the stone wall, keeping her balance in case of unseen pitfalls in the road.
"Armand?" She looked behind her with worry. Some sort of dread entered her heart. Something deep inside her told her there was something wrong. "Armand! I just finished up. Where are you?" No answer. She shook her head; he could have tired of waiting and left her to walk home alone in the night. She sighed and started off. She passed by a tavern where multiple men leered at her and yelled out cat-calls after her. She shivered and bowed her head even more, trying to bring herself less attention.
She turned a corner, and was almost to her apartment, when she ran into an old hag. She gasped as the woman grasped her arm with bony hands and cackled toothily. Marguerite swallowed nervously as the woman opened her other hand, palm up. She nodded to Marguerite's purse and squeezed her arm.
"Alright, Madame," Marguerite twisted her captured limb free and opened up her purse. After pulling some coins out, the hag hastily grabbed them and hobbled away on a cane. Marguerite sighed in relief and half-ran to her apartment building, finally safe from the nocturnal Paris streets. As she climbed the steps, she swore she heard someone behind her, and when she looked back, she realized it was her own imagination. Every creak made her jump. Though, finally, she made it to her apartment, unlocked the door and collapsed against it as she shut it. No, something had happened to Armand; he would never willingly leave her to walk the streets by herself.
She waited until the earliest rays of dawn to leave, she couldn't face the streets in the dark once more. She couldn't roam them aimlessly. It wouldn't do her or her brother any good. She paced the front entrance, thinking, scheming, brainstorming. She had many friends who knew her from the theater, perhaps they had connections!
Marguerite grabbed her purse and ran to the Theater once again. No one was there, and in fact, the doors were locked. She slumped against the door in hopelessness. How was she supposed to help her brother if she couldn't even find him? When a small man approached her, she didn't know if it was fate, or coincidence, for she barely believed in either two at the moment. He was perhaps in his mid-thirties with black hair, sunken dark eyes, and a long nose. His clothes, though completely black, held an air of wealth. She raised her brow quizzically at the stranger.
"The theater is not yet open, Mademoiselle," he informed, a smirk on his face.
"I know," she sighed, "I work here. I was just..." She stopped and stood straight.
"You were just...?"
Marguerite humphed and shook her head.
"If you work here, you should know when it is open. What is your name?"
She scowled and walked closer to him, taking pleasure that he had to look up at her to make eye contact. "If you are a man of wealth, what are you doing out at the crack of dawn? I am the actress Mademoiselle Marguerite St. Just. Who are you?"
He did a double take and then a quirky smile played around his mouth."Touché," he bowed and kissed her hand. "My pleasure, Mademoiselle St. Just. I am...Armand." His name reminded her of her brother, who needed her at this dire hour. She realized that this was not the time for making a new acquaintance.
"My pleasure, as well sir, but I have matters to be attended." She passed him, going nowhere in particular, just away from the distraction.
"Perhaps I can assist you?" Marguerite stopped and looked back at him. He was definitely wealthy-he probably had more connections than any of her other friends.
She peered at him for a moment before sighing, "That would be very kind, Armand."
"What is your situation?"
"My brother," she sighed, "Armand St. Just. He is in trouble, and I don't know where he is!" She felt her emotions and her volume raise as she spoke. Armand looked at her coldly, not intervening, or trying to comfort her.
"What type of trouble?"
"That's the problem. I don't know," She breathed for a moment, forcing her Latin blood to stop boiling over. The man was silent, just watching her, almost as if he could see into her soul. It unnerved her too much to be a good thing.
"I am assuming," Armand finally stated, "that he is not in trouble with the law."
"He doesn't gamble?"
"Of course not. He is a scholar. He-"
"Wait, are you and your brother relatives of Louis St. Just?"
"Yes," she sighed, not really wanting to mention her hot-headed cousin. Even though he had been a sponsor for her job at the theater, he was giving Armand a rough time at the University, mocking their situation, and she guessed, plenty of other humiliating comments that Armand had chosen not to tell her, knowing what her defensive reaction would be.
"Well, any scholar can get into debts."
"Not when it is my brother," she informed. She didn't know what she would do if Armand had gambled away the money they both had worked for.
"Then, what trouble did he get into? You can't disappear if you aren't in some type of dilemma."
Marguerite pondered for a moment, for anything recent, and caught on the memory of his anxiety of presenting his love poem to Angele St. Cyr. Her blood boiled at the thought of that pompous aristo tattling to her father of the harmless piece of paper given to her by a commoner. With horror, she realized that she was the reason Armand was missing. She had encouraged him to deliver, even despite her better judgement.
"I think I know what happened to him, or who took him," she gripped his hand with a death grip.
"The Marquis de St. Cyr," she said with simple, utter, loathing. "My brother," she started, feeling ashamed, "he admired the daughter, and sent her a note proclaiming his affections."
"And...? What does that have to do with your brother missing?"
"Do you not know members of that class? They hate people like my brother and I. Armand could dare to look upon that girl's face and now, I believe, that awful man has somehow punished my poor, innocent brother." She clutched his long fingers and looked up at the man, tears in her childlike blue eyes, and the depths of sorrow evident in them could cause any to pity her situation, even a cold man like the one in front of her. "Sir, if you have any compassion, please, help me."
A stony heart melted at her plea, and Monsieur Armand placed a surprisingly warm hand on her forearm. "Mademoiselle. I will do whatever is in my power to find your brother and assist him in any way possible, whether it requires a doctor or a lawyer."
"Oh thank you, Monsieur Armand. You are very kind."
"I think I have an idea, Mademoiselle, of where to search for your brother." He started ahead, leaving her shocked. Paris was full of limitless options. She just hoped...she could not bring herself to think that her beloved brother was dead. If he was, she would feel it, wouldn't she? Marguerite shook her head, she was clueless on where to start, and if this acquaintance she had created knew of a place to start, why not?
Marguerite's legs ached, but Monsieur Armand still nimbly strode a few paces in front of her. They had been walking for hours, inquiring at gates, doctor's homes, in the slums and in the rich neighborhoods, but with no luck. The problem with their situation was that they didn't entirely know what they were looking for. Armand could have been beaten, kidnapped, or even...no. Marguerite could not admit to that possibility. By the minute, she physically grew wearier, but mentally became more enraged. Part of it was aimed at her brother, for being foolish enough to fall for a nobleman's daughter who was just as stiff-necked as her father. The rest was aimed at St. Cyr, for it was his fault she had to go through this sorrow and fatigue of worrying about Armand.
The sun was high, and her stomach was aching from lack of food and water. The last meal she had eaten was perhaps lunch the day before, she could not quite recall anything from the day before. Today felt like a whole lifetime. She tried to ignore it, but the man next to her finally noticed a loud grumble that could not be hidden through small talk. He grinned and lead her to a tavern, where he ordered for wine to revive them and a meal of bread and cheese. They sat in silence until the wench came back with their food.
"You don't have to accompany me, Mesieur. I can inquire by myself from this point." She felt she had intruded on his business he would've attended to that day, and the humiliation of losing her brother because he had admired a young woman of title was eating her alive. She really didn't want this man's pity.
Armand put down his food reluctantly and pulled out a snuff box. She watched as he placed it on his fist and inhaled, a habit becoming more and more popular with the elite circles. "Mademoiselle," he continued, blinking rapidly. Marguerite smiled inwardly, apparently, he wasn't used to the effects yet, "It would hardly be the actions of a gentleman," he stopped, coughing and sneezing, finally recovering and recomposing his habitual serious expression, "if I let you wander around Paris with no guide or escort." His voice was dry and she could tell he was struggling.
"Perhaps," she smirked, "it would be rude to abandon the man who has helped me all day, when he is in his own dire need of keeping down his snuff."
His eyes narrowed at first, and she feared he had not understood her, but he soon cracked a smile and chuckled. "I guess it is a nasty habit, Mademoiselle. It doesn't really do me any good," he admitted. They were silent for the rest of the meal, and Marguerite soon yearned to have more fill her stomach. It seemed she had awakened a sleeping giant, for as they set off again, after Armand paid the wench, her stomach voiced its hunger for more sustenance.
He led her to the gates near Rue de Belleville, where he suddenly stopped and sharply took his breath.
"What is it Mesieur?" She urged, tugging on his arm.
"I don't know why I haven't though about it before," he muttered in an awestruck voice.
"Dieu, my friend, tell me what you have discovered!"
He finally turned to her. "Mademoiselle, we have been searching for your brother within the walls."
"Yes I know, and it hasn't got us anywhere at the moment."
"Exactly," he remarked, his dark eyes flashing, "What if he was waylaid out of the gates through the permission of some bribed soldiers? If they beat him so badly-"Marguerite involuntarily whimpered and covered it with her hand, but not before Armand looked up at her with marked sympathy.
"Do not worry. I will get your brother the help he needs."
"I know," she lowered her lashes, "I am just so distressed that I don't believe if I can handle this for one second longer. To not know is the worst anxiety."
"Mademoiselle St. Just. The Marquis would never order a man to death for this small trespass. He would know what a foolish action that would be. Your brother is alive. I can assure you that."
"You aren't saying that to help me feel better?"
"No, I'm not. I am most sure of my theory." His thin hands squeezed her shoulder, making her look down at him abruptly. Here was a man whom she could rely, a real friend, who didn't back-stab her when she wasn't looking, whose interest was her own. She pardoned his peculiarities, for his loyalty was shocking to her, giving it to someone he had just met hours before.
"Then what is your theory?"
"I suggest we search the area and villages around the gate that is closest to the theatre. That is where you saw him last?"
"Well, I saw him last in my dressing room, and I am afraid I upset him in my mood. He said he would wait for me in the alley outside. When I was finished, he wasn't here."
"Let us go back to the theatre and retrace his steps." He held onto the crook of her arm, as if he knew she was feeling faint. Her legs felt like lead as she dragged them to follow Monsieur Armand. Without knowledge of time or the space between distance, they walked through Paris, full of beggars and hungry, filthy children, as all the laborers were working at mid-day. Soon, she found herself back at the alley of the theatre, back where she started on this adventure, or more adequately, this affliction. He muttered under his breath, pacing back and forth as Marguerite leaned for support against the building.
"Come," he finally said, "Mademoiselle. They must have dragged him this way."
"My brother is not weak, he would have tried to fight them off."
"I suggest that there were multiple men attacking him. They could have gagged him, or even threatened him."
"Threatened him with what?"
"You were still in there; they could have forced him to cooperate, otherwise they would have come in and hurt you."
"Would they really have done that?"
"Maybe," he shook his head, "I don't know. It might have happened."
"It's our only option. We need to get to the nearest gate."
"The problem is, Mademoiselle, this theatre is almost in the center of Paris. They could have dragged him to half a dozen gates without being unreasonable."
"So, we need to think about another quality of my brother." Armand nodded, looking at her earnestly while she wracked her overworked brain for memories. She sputtered, frustrated as her mind was blank. "I'm sorry Mesieur. I can't think. I don't remember anything about last night, not after today."
"Mademoiselle St. Just!" His voice was sharp and cold, much like when she had first seen him. She looked at him through her heavy eyelashes, spilling with tears. "Your brother may be counting on us to find and save his life! Think back to last night, and just forget about today." She closed her eyes and sighed, trying to find the relief and sadness she felt after the play was over. Her happiness that Armand enjoyed it, and the giddiness she always got when she performed well, with the suitors and admirers that were no doubt bound to follow.
"Were there any guests that stood out to you as you performed?"
"No," she shook her head, remembering the lights shining on the stage were more bright last night than ever before, so she couldn't make out any faces. "It was too dark in the crowd. I couldn't see anything."
"What happened after the performance?"
She crinkled her eyebrows in concentration. "I changed and was wiping off my make-up. Armand knocked and I guess I made fun of him in front of my friend. He said he would wait for me, but he wasn't in the hallway when i came out. Someone told me they had seen him go out the back by the alley. Now," she opened her eyes. "you already know this."
"Yes, but I know now, of what he was thinking. He was perhaps, angry, at you-" A sob escaped Marguerite's throat, causing him to clutch her arms, "Mademoiselle?"
"I'm sorry. It's just that if he is...,"she choked on the word and found another, "mortally wounded, his last memory of me would be of me jesting him. I can't stand to think of it."
"He is not dead. You will have long years with your brother yet." His eyes were black from the shadows of the alley, and she could not help but notice the fervor in his tone, as if he really believed his words. If she could not rely on her own faith, she would on this fellow's.
"Alright, now continue on...before we lose daylight." Surprisingly, the day had flown by. The sun was lower in the sky, the late rays shining everything in gold and beauty, even in the cruel world they lived in.
"He was angry," he glanced at her hesitantly, "at you, and you say he is in love with Angele St. Cyr. Is this love unrequited, or does she feel love for him?"
"I don't think she was raised to see him anything higher than a lapdog, but I don't think she had sent a message to him yet."
"Her message to him was his abduction," he remarked, making her flinch. He could be cold when he wanted to.
"Monsieur, my brother...when he loves, he loves fervently. He is restless. He cannot stop thinking about her, day or night, working or idle. His whole thought process is consumed and altered by this ideal."
"Idealistic follies never last," he smirked. "But this has helped me. He was probably thinking about her, needed fresh air, and went out here."
A sudden thought appeared to Marguerite. "Could he have tried to see her?"
"Your brother?" He was incredulous, "I doubt it."
"This is something Armand would do. He would have gone himself to try and find out her answer. If it is one thing my brother hates, it's anxiety."
"I think he shares that with his sister," his eyes glistened in the shadows before Marguerite cleared her throat.
"He could have gotten abducted there, if he angered St. Cyr with his presence."
"Well," Armand paused dubiously and then sighed, "I don't think it's very possible, but what lead do we have other than that?"
"Believe me," Marguerite responded, "I know this is what happened as much as you know he is alive." She walked ahead of him, taking the lead, even if her stiff muscles complained with the effort.
They were at the gate closest to the St. Cyr home, a gate they had already inquired at, but it didn't seem to matter if they tried again. This time, Marguerite thought the new change of guards would be more recipient to her requests than that of her cold, male companion.
They were young, a few years in between twenty and thirty, and she felt as uncomfortable as the night before when there were derisive comments made in her direction. They eyed her up and down and smirked as they saw her escort.
"Mademoiselle," the leader made a mock bow, his lips curving to a sneer.
"Monsieur," she forced herself to sound pleasant and flighty, something she knew would appeal to them. "I am searching for the men who were overseeing the gates last night. Do you know where we can find them?"
"You're looking at them," he moved close in front of her, to where she could feel his hot breath on her face. She looked over her shoulder and nodded to her comrade. He came forward next to the couple.
"Well, my kind soldier," she said gritting her teeth, "we are trying to find a friend who was perhaps mistreated. It would be so generous of you if you could tell us whether you know about it." She forced a dazzling smile. The captain chuckled, glancing over his own shoulder at his fellow soldiers, and looked back to find a handful of coins being thrust to him by Armand.
"Look," he growled. "We already know you are brittle when it comes to bribes. We just need information." The captain was just as shocked as Marguerite to find that a man of Monsieur Armand's physique was intimidating, frightening even. "All we want to know is if a man was waylaid out of these gates by a few men." The look on the opposite's face betrayed everything.
"I'm-I don't take bribes from peasants," he stuttered.
"But you see, I am not a peasant," Armand spat, his face curling with rage, "I am the Marquis de Chauvelin, and I have more power than your imbecile brain could comprehend." Marguerite tried to keep from recoiling with bewilderment. The man was a nobleman? Armand, the little dark-haired fox? She was astonished, and a little betrayed. Perhaps it was partly due to the fact that the name struck a small arrow of fear in her heart. It was ridiculous of course, he hadn't done anything opposing his loyalty to her. He would be a good friend to her, perhaps from that day forward.
"I apologize," the soldier gulped and bowed properly.
"Now you do," the Marquis snarled. "Now tell me what I want to know."
"I don't know nothing! I swear by the Virgin Mary! We were just paid off by a couple of men last night to keep quiet."
"Keep quiet about what?" Marguerite could barely keep from tackling the man, as he turned white and swallowed, pausing for a few moments before speaking.
"They were carrying a body. A man's, I noticed. Is this the 'mistreated friend' you mentioned?"
"Yes," Marquis de Chauvelin said evenly. Marguerite could barely keep from collapsing. A body. "What did this 'body' look like?" The soldier hesitated, making Armand Chauvelin pull out more coins, "My good captain, the more you speak, the more you're paid."
"They were dragging a man with a sack over his head. He was quite lifeless." A moan escaped Marguerite's lips. Armand couldn't-he was alive...he had to be. If he was dead, she would feel something, anything but this numbness in her chest, her hopelessness. Chauvelin sighed and delivered the money, before guiding her out of the gates, her body finally giving up its willpower to find her brother, not when there was a large chance there was no brother left for her to find.
"Marguerite," he used her name. She shuddered away from him, staggering.
"You said the Marquis wouldn't kill him! And I believed you. You could have lied to me about that, just as you lied to me about your identity." She was sobbing, making petty attempts to get away from his bony grip on her arms. He let her fight it out until there was nothing left in her; she collapsed into him, and for a moment, she thought they would fall, for Chauvelin was a small man, and she was taller than most women her age, but he somehow kept them upright.
"Mademoiselle," he muttered, "I did not lie to you about my identity. I just gave you the assumption that I was of the bourgeois class. You wouldn't have allowed me to help if you knew I was a Marquis. I was born of that class you despise, but my heart is with your class. I believe in people like your cousin and his friends. They fight for a just cause." Marguerite stared in awe. How had she found a man like this just by chance? "And as for your brother, I believe he could still be alive. They could have knocked him out, and he was unconscious at the time he passed the gates. Why would they sack him if he was dead? Think rationally Marguerite St. Just. I know you are clever." His voice was cold and calculating again, as he half-dragged her along the road.
Armand St. Just woke up sometime during the day, light falling on him through a window. He saw an old man bending near his body, as if listening for something, and then he poured some burning liquid down his throat. He heard the screech of a child and immediately shut his eyes again, sleeping for a seemingly timeless space. He dreamed of nothing, but passed through darkness for miles. He could not force his eyes open, even if he wanted to awaken when he felt bursts of pain in his side or legs. He heard a familiar sound, a young woman pleading, and then a harsh voice, cutting through the air. It was that voice that made him open his eyes.
They were almost glued shut almost, and saw his sister, tears in her eyes, as she was over-joyed. He made moves to sit up, but immediately felt light-headed and dizzy. He lay his head back down on his pillow, but smiled at his beaming sister. "Armand, I love you so much."
He put a hand with split knuckles on her cheek. There was dry blood from the night he had been beaten. It all came back to him now. His body was recovering, he guessed, but he wondered how Marguerite had found him, since he realized he had left her that night to brave the streets alone. He was more ashamed about that than anything else.
"Marguerite." he tried to say, but it came out as a hoarse whisper. She soon brought a chipped cup to his lips, filled with water, which he consumed within a few gulps. "How did you find me?" He found it only in him to whisper. She looked so relieved as he spoke, and he couldn't imagine how long she had worried about him.
"I had help from a friend," she looked behind her at a small man a few years past thirty. He had dark hair and sunken black eyes, which seemed to maliciously stare at him and Marguerite. He frowned, not recognizing this suitor.
"I don't believe I've met you Monsieur."
"No, but I have heard a lot about you from your sister," he replied, looking to her with masked admiration. "I am the Marquis de Chauvelin. We searched for you all day yesterday, and only found you about midnight last night. You are staying in the cottage of a elderly man named Gerrard whose daughter and her family resides, but we mean to take you back to Paris as soon as you are ready."
"I'm ready now."
"No, Armand. You must sleep again. You could barely raise your head up from the pillow. Give your body time to mend, it was badly hurt," she insisted. He sighed and turned his body a bit.
"Tell me how you found me, and perhaps your voice will give me lease to sleep." She started from the beginning of her walk balk to their apartment, up to them inquiring in every passing village for a beaten man until midnight, when they finally found him, being informed that he had been very close to death's arms that night. He somehow, went to sleep, as she rambled on and on about careless subjects.
Marguerite knew Armand would not approve, but she felt it was someway to get back at the Marquis and his family. She looked at the note in front of her, which would hopefully shame the St. Cyr family. She sighed, crossing out anything she disapproved of. It had to be perfect, and she knew she had this one chance to jest at the Marquis and his daughter. She only wished she could see the look on his face when he read it. It would have brought her enough satisfaction to last the rest of her lifetime.
"What's this?" Chauvelin came up behind her, peering over her shoulder at the note. He cracked a grin, and picked it up, re-reading it again. "Is this what I think it is?"
"Yes, I guess you could say you inspired me to do something." He rubbed his hands together, as if he were planning his own revenge. In some ways, she loathed and deeply looked forward to viewing that malicious, cunning smile. It struck a fear in her bones, like he were capable of something she did not expect, and yet he always stayed by her side, and that nagging feeling, like he was her enemy, would be pushed away until she met him next.
"They deserve it, Marguerite. Would you like me to send someone to deliver it?"
She hesitated, knowing that she could not go back once she did, but was there going back after what the Marquis did to her brother? "Yes," she sighed.
"You must be sure Marguerite."
"I am sure, Chauvelin. Just...do it."
He left to find a messenger. Armand was with her cousin, and he would never have to know. He had surely forgiven his oppressor, but Marguerite surely hadn't.