5. Régine Takes Action


There's a muffled noise from downstairs. A thud, or a crash, or something of the sort. Presently the library door swings open, and shuts again after Régine, with a paper in her hand. If ladies slammed doors, it would slam.

Gautier looks up from his book, and is surprised to see her flustered at all, let alone as upset as she is. "Whatever is the matter, dear? Did one of the maids drop your favorite vase?"

Régine gives him a withering look as she extends the letter between two fingers. "My daughter, monsieur."

Gautier takes it and reads. "Ah. I thought that was where she went." He folds the letter neatly and hands it back to her. "She's probably staying with Marcelin, or some of his amoral cronies. She wouldn't go all the way to Paris without seeking him."

Régine, white-faced, receives the letter back and crushes it in her hand. "Indeed. Indeed. I should dearly like to know why Marcelin did not see fit to write, if so."

Gautier is still calm. "Perhaps he is enjoying her company. Régine, chérie, do not worry so. If the child is in Paris, it will be simple to fetch her home, and if she is with her brother, the worst thing that will happen is that she will come home with a few silly ideas."

"A week!" Régine says furiously, and flings the crumpled letter onto the desk. "A week with no word, monsieur, this is our daughter we are speaking of!"

Gautier sighs. He might roll his eyes, but no, he is too mature for that. He stands, though, picks up the letter, and reads it again. "If I ran away from home as a boy, I would not have written for longer than a week. Perhaps she wants to come home, and so she is telling us where she has gone."

Régine throws him a dark look, and turns away, hands twisting around each other. "I cannot understand why they both insist on disgracing themselves."

"Neither do I." He flattens the letter with slightly trembling hands. It is the first nervousness he has shown. Obviously, the possibility of disgrace matters more than the reality of an escaped daughter. "I am sure you will show her the error of her ways when she returns."

Régine stares at the fire, looking as though she'd like to smash something. "She could be anywhere in the city. It isn't Marcelin's handwriting."

Gautier thinks. "She wants us to think that she is not staying with him, then, but that does not mean that she is not. How much money did she take with her?"

Régine runs her hands over her hair in a nervous gesture. "I have no idea. She barely took clothes."

"Then she cannot afford to stay anywhere but with Marcelin." Since M. Enjolras, senior, would not offer a room to his dearest friend, he cannot imagine anyone offering lodgings to a stranger. "We have only to send for her."

She passes a hand over her face. "If we send, they will not answer. And she will probably run again."

Gautier frowns. "She would run equally from a servant as from a letter, but I cannot afford to go." He looks more upset, on the order of his son when confronted with an annoying drunk, when she points out that Chantal may not stay put when she comes home. "We can keep her here, if we must have her guarded to accomplish it." A Frenchman's home is his citadel.

Régine wrings her hands in silence for a minute.

Gautier begins working figures in his head. "If there is a maid with her at all times, at four sous a day..." he trails off.

Régine doesn't even turn to face him. "Spare me your accounts, monsieur. She must be brought home."

His voice is as cold as hers. "And how do you suggest that this be done, Madame?"

She swings around then in a swirl of skirts, face set. "Why, however possible. I'll go myself if I must. I do not propose to abandon my daughter to God knows what adventures."

Gautier turns pale. "If you feel you must, and that it is safe." After a moment, he adds, "I do not want to abandon her, either."

And, really, that's all Régine wanted to hear. She relents a little, glancing up at him in that deferring-to-male-judgment way she used, in their courtship, to have. "I do not know who else to send."

He smiles, because the look is familiar, and he does not realize how deliberate it is. "I am sure you will find her and bring her home without trouble."

Régine's jaw sets, then, in a determined way that certain students would find all too familiar. "Yes. I will."

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