A Little Fall of Ink

The grandfather clock in the hall struck midnight. Enjolras put down the Republic and slowly rose from his chair in the parlor. He ambled over to the study where Éponine had ensconced herself to write her letter. Éponine was still hunched over the desk. Scattered around her were several sheets of crumpled paper, discarded drafts of her precious missive; even as he watched Éponine crumpled another and tossed it over her shoulder with a frustrated growl.

"You should go to bed, Mademoiselle."

Éponine started violently, jerking the pen and thus creating a large inkblot in the middle of the page.

"Merde!"

Crumple. Toss.

Éponine looked up sharply and was prepared to berate Enjolras, but he had left.

Enjolras made his way to the stairs. The pain in his leg was not as sharp as it used to be and he no longer felt as if he were taking his life in his own hands when he ascended the stairs. His glanced at his bandaged right hand as it grasped the banister. He had not attempted to write anything since the barricades fell, but Le Moniteur's contemptuous account of the fifth and sixth of June urged him to take up his pen for Le National again. He prayed his penmanship had not suffered from the injury.

. . . . . .

Ten minutes later a gentle but insistent knock came on his door. Enjolras was down to his shirtsleeves and had been in the process of untying his cravat. He opened the door a quarter of the way.

Éponine stood before him, a sleepy smile gracing her face.

"I have finished my letter!" She held out the folded parchment with pride. Ink was smeared on her nose and cheeks. If Enjolras had been a normal man, he would have laughed at the sight; but he was not, so he did not. Instead, a corner of his mouth twitched.

"Good."

"You know . . . I've never written a letter before—not a real, proper letter anyway . . ."

Enjolras' twitch widened to an actual smile at her satisfied expression. Éponine sighed happily and turned toward her room.

"Mademoiselle Éponine."

"Yes?"

"There is ink on your face." Enjolras made a vague gesture around his own nose and cheeks.

Éponine let out a short burst of laughter. "Well, it's a good thing Marius isn't here to see me. What a fright I must look!"

Enjolras fished in his sleeve for his handkerchief. But, Éponine, ignorant of his gentlemanly intent, licked her fingers and vigorously wiped her cheeks.

Enjolras grimaced.

"All clean?" She asked when she had finished.

Not by any standard.

"Yes."

It is a good thing Joly did not see that.

"Goodnight, Mademoiselle."

"Please, before you go, Monsieur, would you read over my letter; tell me if I should make any changes?"

Enjolras would rather be dragged across a bed of nails . . .

He met Éponine's hopeful gaze and opened his mouth to answer in the negative . . .

"Of course."

What?

"A thousand thanks, Monsieur!" The gamine thrust the letter in his hands and practically skipped to her room.

Before his head hit the pillow Enjolras briefly wondered why Éponine asked him, instead of Joly.

. . . . . .

After breakfast Enjolras presented Éponine with a letter littered with strike-throughs and numerous annotations, sticking out in the margins like thorns.

Enjolras almost felt guilty when her face fell. Almost.

"You asked me."

Éponine sighed. "I know."

"Never ask me again."

That afternoon the letter was sent.