The Knight-Errant and His Fan Painter

March 11, 1829

"Goodnight, Laurent." Courfeyrac's voice drifted after Enjolras as the door swung shut behind him, filtering out at the rear of a group comprising the majority of the young men who had spent the evening in the back room of the Café Musain that wet late winter evening. He glanced at Feuilly, smiling in his charming, elegant way as he lifted his coat off the peg near the door. "You should get going too you know Daniel, won't do for you to sit back here all by yourself."

"Oh yes, of course." Feuilly's voice was distracted and rather distant as he glanced up quickly from a sketchpad he had spent the majority of the evening keeping mostly covered with his arm.

"Well… goodnight then." Courfeyrac smiled again as he pulled on his coat and turned towards the door.

"René…" Daniel's voice stopped him with his hand about to grasp the doorknob. "Could I… would you mind terribly… if I asked you a favor?"

René's laugh jarred Daniel's ears as he took a seat at the small table littered with pieces of paper. "Daniel don't be ridiculous, of course you can. I only wish you had asked before I got my coat on, you know how I hate to expend unnecessary energy." He smiled and leaned forward, resting his elbow on the only clear patch of table nearby. "But seriously, what is it you wanted to ask me?"

"I have some sketches… I'm an artist…" He sighed and his voice trailed off, a faint pink tinge spreading up his neck and into his cheeks.

"I'm quite aware you're an artist, Daniel. In fact you're quite more of an artist than I am an attorney." René's smile was the same irritatingly charming one as before, but a hint of gentleness had snuck in, making Daniel finally begin to relax. "And it would stand to reason you have sketches. So where is it that I can do you a favor, ami?"

"Your mother is an amateur art collector, yes?" Daniel asked with a hopeful smile, pulling some papers from beneath René's arm as he stacked them back into his notebooks.

"Yes, quite so. Or at least she likes to fancy herself one. Really she and all her other little hens take their lead from one woman who actually has some sense of taste. I doubt my mother would really know good art if it bit her, the dear thing."

Daniel's eyes lit up and he grabbed René's hand across the table excitedly, scattering a few stray papers in his wake. "The woman, the one who everyone else takes their lead from, is she a Madame du Pont-Villette?"

Smiling bemusedly at his anxious companion, René patted Daniel's hand fraternally and chuckled. "Yes I do believe that sounds like her. Rather self-important old crone if memory serves. I believe maman had wanted me to go to tea during her visiting hours, though I daresay I never gave it a second thought."

René's musing was abruptly cut off when Daniel leapt to his feet and embraced him fiercely in gratitude. "Daniel, dear boy, I appreciate the gratitude," René smiled and stepped back, his smile sliding into a smirk as he saw the ever present embarrassed flush rise again to Daniel's cheeks, "… but I fail to see what my mother being friends with some doddering antique of a self-proclaimed art lover can do to that would be of any use. Certainly if your goal is simply to sell some pieces to the women of the more disgustingly well-off houses of Provence, I could just as easily send some things to my mother directly."

"She may be a doddering antique René, but she also happens to be the matriarch of a family that owns some of the most well regarded galleries and dealerships in Paris." Daniel said, almost scoldingly. "She doesn't just dictate taste for your mother's circle in Aix, she does that all over France!"

"Well and here all the time I thought her taste was entirely inexplicable." René remarked with a smirk. Daniel smiled apologetically and took a seat again, smoothing the cover of his notebook absently. When René was quite certain that a proselytizing on the value of Mme's high opinion was not to follow, he continued. "But truly Daniel, if she is as influential as you say, I'll send a note to Mme du Pont-Villette that I'd like to call on her at her convenience, on behalf of my family, and bring a friend she'd be most interested to meet, being such an art connoisseur. Bring your sketches and a healthy appetite for codgery stories and we shall kill several birds with one stone. You can be introduced to what we may hope could be a benefactress, and I get credit for doing something resembling my filial duty for once."

Daniel noted, rather crest-fallenly, that René looked immensely pleased with himself. "I can't," he said with a sigh, leaning his head in his hands, his elbows holding his stack of notebooks closed. "I couldn't possibly show her a thing I have now, they're all half finished charcoal sketches, and I have no idea what I'd say to her."

"Daniel don't be so terribly anxious about everything," René said with the decided air of someone who had rarely, if ever, been anxious in his life. "You're an artist, and in that you are very lucky, for artist's have a enviable leeway given to their temperaments. And as for your sketches, I have the utmost faith in their quality and you seem to have the utmost faith in Mme's ability to recognize quality, so where is the problem?"

"Just give me some time René, please?" Daniel was twisting a pencil nervously between two fingers, his brow furrowed and his soft brown hair falling into his eyes unnoticed. He turned with a sigh and dropped the pencil onto the table. "I have a few… some other things that I'd rather show her. I'll tell you when they're close to being ready and then you can ask to call on Mme du Pont-Villette alright?"

René smiled obligingly, resting a hand on Daniel's shoulder and leaning towards him. "Whatever you wish Daniel, think nothing of it. My filial duty has never been fulfilled before and I daresay it might give mother a great shock. I suppose I should ease her into this." He grinned and thumped Daniel's shoulder as he stood up, lifting his coat off the back of the chair he had tossed it onto a few moments earlier.

"Thank you, René." Daniel's smile was genuine and, René thought, blessedly relaxed at last.

"Don't give it another thought Daniel." His smile widened and he pulled his coat over his shoulders. "Care for some wine at my flat in celebration?"

Daniel turned slowly in his chair and smiled up at the grinning features standing there, appearing for the life of him somewhere between a petulant child and Lancelot riding merrily into Camelot. "Lets save that for when we have something to celebrate."

"Ah, and that is where you and I differ Daniel, anything is cause for a celebration in my eyes." He smiled and turned towards the door. "Goodnight then, mon ami."

"Goodnight, René. Thank you again, so much."

"Thank me when we have something to celebrate." René's voice trailed off as he finished his sentence and disappeared behind the door and was gone, leaving Daniel at his table alone. He was so close to becoming a real artist he could hardly breathe, and in a flash his notebooks were gathered and he was dashing home to paint, hopefully the paintings that would change his life.

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