Enjolras Will Speak Again
We have all received our letters. They were all the same: two sheets of parchment; two sheets of small, neat handwriting done in black ink; two sheets splattered with tearstains. They were the Boy's tears that smeared the ink, not ours. We had more dignity than to weep upon those sacred messages of pain. We were silent when we received them, and silent as we read them, and we were silent when the tears dripped down our worn faces, as we sat hidden by some table, some curtain. Combeferre sat at his piano and played a lament, quiet and wrenching, and whispered a few words that were too soft to be heard. This Prouvaire tells us, for he was the only one who was with someone else when the letters arrived.
It was kind of the Boy to send them to us. It was kind of him to tell us those things that he wrote. It was little comfort, but we realised by the tears that he was in as much pain as we. We are all very quiet now, and we know that Courfeyrac still turns away from young men on the street who flirt and laugh. We know that Prouvaire burned books of poetry when the letters came. He burnt them page by page, with Combeferre at his side.
The one of us who appears least touched is Joly. He still smiles and tousles his blonde children, and told them stories that Christmas. This, Bahorel could not bear to do. Bahorel's daughter stayed with Joly's family, for she feared his anger and grief. Bahorel... spent Christmas at a graveyard.
But it is Enjolras who is most broken. He was always a quiet man, and he always spoke with a soft, charming voice. Now he never speaks, and his long eyelashes always tilt downwards when he sees any of us, closing his eyes from all of us. He does not praise his son, as Feuilly did. He does not show any sign of pride for his Michel.
Grantaire showed us Enjolras' letter. It was three pages instead of two, and half was unreadable through smudging of the ink. It is all praise and sorrow, and the words that can be made out are long passages of regret. The Boy truly loved Enjolras' son, almost as much as the father. Enjolras himself, when he found that we had read his letter, was not angry, though we knew he had the right. He simply looked at Grantaire with a terrible reproach, and turned away from us. He no longer visits us. Speaking to us others, who have felt his same loss, cannot comfort him.
We are glad we found one another. This is Prouvaire's son's doing. Prouvaire's son had a paper in a box in his apartment, that told the address and name of each of us. The Boy found it when he collected Jean's belongings, and he sent it to Prouvaire. He hoped, he said, that all us of would perhaps be friends as our children were. Some of us already were, and Combeferre and Prouvaire have always been companions. Still, we were glad to know, and to find Feuilly and Grantaire, and poor Lesgles, and to be able to feel our pain together.
Grantaire is, like Enjolras, startlingly different from the way his son was. When we first met, that first time, when Enjolras was still with us, he sat in Courfeyrac's parlour with difficulty, looking about himself with wide and awed eyes. He sat furthest away from us, and closest to Enjolras. We know their sons hated one another - this, at least, Courfeyrac's son wrote to him - but they instantly accepted one another. They were close for a while, until Grantaire took Enjolras' letter, but during that while, Enjolras nearly spoke again, and they walked together in the early morning fogs, solemn and perfect.
Now they never see each other.
Feuilly, that first time, smiled rather, and told us how proud he was of his son. He said that he was proud to know that he had lost Damien to a good cause. He said that if Damien had died fighting, and had not been wounded in the back, then he only wished that he had a thousand sons to die so honourably. Bahorel stood angrily, and told Feuilly that his Luc had loved the play those lines came from, and he never wanted to hear them again. He demanded that Feuilly explain how he could consider losing any more children to so violent an end honourable. He said that the disgusting, worthless "cause" had torn our sons from all of us, and that it was no more honourable than it would be honourable to be hung for treason.
Enjolras flinched at this, and Combeferre cried out for him to sit and to be silent, for we all understood the pain. Grantaire, in his shy eloquence, said, "Bahorel, the cause to which we have lost our futures was noble in idea. To make France a better world was noble. Perhaps the execution of that dream - to slaughter those responsible for the conditions of the poor - was ill done. But it was an honourable idea."
We knew nothing of Grantaire's son, Etienne, save that he disliked his father almost as much as he disliked Enjolras' Michel. He wrote home when he pleased, for money to buy wine with, and his shy father sent it always. That was everything we had. That, and Etienne was a brilliant child at composing words, with all and more of his father's eloquence. Grantaire was as proud as Feuilly of his boy.
Perhaps we were all proud of them, in some kind of numb, shocked affection for what is gone forever. Meanwhile, we raise the other children we fathered, and Joly will always tell stories to his little ones at Christmas. Bahorel may someday cease going to the graveyard for his holidays. Courfeyrac may one day look with ease at the young men in the street, and Combeferre not trail his fingers across the keys of his piano in a heartbreaking melody at midnight. There will be a time, perhaps.
Perhaps... Perhaps Enjolras will speak again.
Back to the Index.