26. Member of the Wedding


Elise carries a pile of letters into her father's study and puts them on the desk.

In the parlor across the hall, Chantal is rather sullenly sewing under her mother's watchful eye.

Gautier looks up at his daughter and nods. "Merci, Elise." She bobs a little curtsey and goes to the parlor to take a chair, closing the door behind her.

Régine glances up tiredly. "Yes, dear?"

Elise answers as primly as she can manage, "Nothing, Maman." She makes a little moue at Chantal. "I was just fetching the mail for Papa, and wanted to work on my embroidery."

Chantal ignores her sister coolly.

Régine raises an eyebrow, and nods. "Very well."

There is a muffled almost oath from the study. M. Enjolras opens the door, red-faced, and orders, "Régine. I must speak to you."

Régine glances up, both brows raised this time. After a moment she puts down her book and rises gracefully to follow him out.

Gautier draws her into the study and closes the door behind them. He shakes two pieces of paper at her. "Look at this! Not only another damned love note from that peasant, but an invitation!"

Régine maintains her cool expression, taking the papers from his hand. She studies them a moment. "M. Combeferre is not a 'peasant', darling. Who on earth are these other people?"

Gautier is still red in the face. "How should I know? Did I visit Marcelin and his little illicit friends? No, but you did." He turns away, fuming, then looks back at her. "Surely you don't think that it's all right that this student is sending declarations of affection to our daughter?"

Régine folds the letters neatly. "He's a perfectly nice young man." A little dim, but nice. Régine isn't interested in intelligent sons-in-law anyway.

"Why are you putting those away?" he asks, irritably. "I need to write a refusal on Chantal's behalf."

Régine looks up at him tranquilly. "Why, dear?"

Gautier looks as if his head is about to explode. "You don't expect me to allow her to go to Paris for the wedding of these stupid people whom she certainly does not know? I should think they are Marcelin's so-called friends, and if they are not, they are villains who sheltered her when she ran away from the loving bosom of her family."

"Hmmm," is all Régine says, as though to herself, and draws the creased papers through her fingers thoughtfully.

"Well?" If his face gets any more red, he may spontaneously combust.

Régine is not looking at him. She is silent for a moment, then remarks, "I shall have to speak to Chantal." And she turns to go and do just that.

Gautier grumbles, "I don't think she should have any say in the matter at all," but doesn't stop her from leaving.

Chantal, meanwhile, is doggedly sewing and doing her best to ignore Elise.

Elise is sewing with proper little gestures. "Chantal," she says in a very proper voice, "I believe you've got a knot on the back of your fabric."

Chantal levels a withering look on her sister, and goes on with her stitching.

Régine re-enters the parlor, letters in hand. "Chantal."

Elise purses her lips and embroiders.

Chantal looks up resignedly. "Yes, Maman?"

Elise asks snidely, "Is it another love note from a ragpicker?"

Chantal retorts equally snidely, "You don't even know what a ragpicker is."

Elise protests, "Yes, I do." And in a more wicked voice, "and I didn't have to go all the way to Paris just to find out."

"Children," Régine says sharply. "Chantal, do you know a Monsieur Courfeyrac and Mademoiselle Latour?"

Chantal blinks. Is there a right answer to that? "Yes," she says guardedly.

"Another ragpicker?" Elise asks. She's such a darling child. One wonders why Marcelin would ever want to leave this happy family.

Régine tosses the letters down on the table. "It seems they wish you to attend their wedding." And, as Chantal's face lightens, "Can you give me any good reason why you should be allowed to accept?"

Chantal pales, which always has the effect of making her look like she's in the last stages of something. She says nothing.

Elise puts in unhelpfully, "I don't think she should be allowed to go at all. She might run off again."

Régine says calmly, "You were not consulted, dear. Well, Chantal?"

Elise blushes pinkly, and looks intently at her needlework.

Chantal tucks her needle carefully into the edge of the fabric. "Not offhand," she says, oh, so coolly. Marcelin would be proud.

Régine nods slightly, studying her a moment. "Very well," she says then, and goes to retrieve her book and retake her seat. Thunderbolts may fall, but the afternoon routine continues.

Gautier is not a patient man. After a few minutes, he fairly storms into the parlor. "Well? What have you decided?" he asks with no preamble.

Chantal sighs quietly.

Régine raises her eyes. "We are still considering, dear."

Gautier harrumphs. "Is it so complex? I don't think there should be any question in the matter."

Régine says smoothly, "I think it would be an excellent experience for her, but Chantal herself admits she may not be ready to conduct herself properly."

Chantal nearly chokes, but wisely says nothing.

Gautier looks sharply at Chantal. "I think she's had altogether too many experiences."

Régine remains serene. "Just as you think best, dear."

Gautier is disarmed when Mme. Enjolras does not fight back. "I suppose it would be interesting, and perhaps prepare her for her own wedding, which won't be too far off." His voice is definitely threatening. "But she's not to go alone."

Chantal looks down at her sewing, hands trembling.

Régine blinks. "Certainly not. Of course I would accompany her."

Gautier is still rather red in the face. "Again?"

Régine quirks a brow at him.

"I am losing my family to the overly vaunted charms of Paris." This is almost sotto voce, as much as a member of this family can manage to be quiet. More loudly, he says, "If you think it is good for her, and you do not mind the trip, I leave it to you."

Chantal barely breathes, sitting tense in her chair.

Régine inclines her head. "Very well, dear."

Gautier pauses, waiting for her to finish the sentence, then, "Are you going?"

"I will have to consider."

Gautier frowns. "I shall be in my study." He leaves.

Régine goes back to her book, perfectly calm.

Elise looks at Chantal, trying to work out something interesting to say. "Do those people know your brother?"

Chantal shrugs slightly, as though to say she has no idea. "May I be excused, Maman?"

Régine glances up briefly. "Very well, dear."

Elise wrinkles her nose at Chantal. "She still has knots in her sewing."

Chantal puts aside her sewing and stands rather swiftly, catching up the letters from the table, and is gone without another word.

Elise blurts out, in case her mother was distracted, "She took the letters!"

Régine doesn't even look up this time. "They were addressed to her, dear."

"But they're from... rebels." It's the only word she can come up with at this point.

Régine says patiently, "You do not know that, Elise. Kindly attend to your embroidery."

Elise bends her head obediently. "Yes, Maman."

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