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Valjean sat close to the fire in the old armchair that had become a sort of second home. His youngest child, now nearly ten years old, sat curled at his feet with a bit of embroidery. She was growing into a pretty thing, pretty like her mother with her mother’s distinctive hair, but every inch she grew and every birthday they celebrated reminded her father how very old he was. Kathleen was now older than Cosette had been when he had taken her from her poverty. She had never known anything but happiness, he had made sure of that, yet sometimes he looked at her and dreaded her beauty, for surely someday she would leave him as Cosette had done. He did not know if he could endure it.
He kept one hand on her head; in the other, he held a letter.
The girl asked sweetly, “Is it from Sissy, Papa?”
“No, princess, from your brother,” he replied distractedly, scanning Jean’s words a second time.
Much had changed in the past six years, but Jean was not one of them; the boy never seemed to get any older, though perhaps taller; his house was just the same, though the family too had grown, and it now rather burst at the seams, but they were happy. Celeste had never endured the same kind of melancholy as after her second daughter’s birth again.
He finally called to his wife in the kitchen: “It seems that they have changed their minds about America….things appear to be uneasy there. The captain thinks there could be war. They are coming to live here, and he thought perhaps Jean could help them find a place.” He scanned the last of the letter. “Cosette will be pleased.”
As for him, he was glad to know his granddaughters and their families would be safe from the scourge of war, but he had always felt a little distant from the twins and the long years of separation had not helped matters much.