Nicolas always wonders why his children leave so fast.

Feuilly walks with him when he visits them, and sets a hand at his back to help him kneel, which is ludicrous, because he can not only kneel on his own, but he's far taller than Feuilly. It wouldn't be Feuilly they run from, for even when he isn't there they do.

Nicolas is sometimes afraid it's his height, perhaps that. Perhaps his hands. He doesn't have nice hands, as Feuilly's are. His fingers are short, and his nails fold on each other. The bones on the heels of his palms stick out, and the lines for life - and all the rest - are rather deeper than they should be. He doesn't have nice hands at all, and there are times it upsets him. But it shouldn't be his hands...

Perhaps it's just that he is so clearly a rich boy, with his velvet hair ribbons. Perhaps he should be done with that luxury. He always liked the feel of velvet mixed in with his hair, and Maman said black and gold melted together wonderfully, but, really, it's a vanity. Perhaps he ought to buy a second-hand coat, and try to be more like they are.

He never considers his eyes, because he doesn't know what they look like. He can't tell that they're white and blank, because he's never seen anyone else's eyes or his own to compare with. He doesn't know that when he looks past his children, and smiles beautifully for them because he loves them so, they stare and run.

Feuilly doesn't have the heart to tell him. Perhaps he should.

As it is, Nicolas is left to worry and wonder, is it hands, is it wealth? Why do his children fear him? He spends hours in his apartment, sitting by the window, wishing he knew so he could correct it. He knows what he wants. He wants to free them all, and he doesn't need anything in return. He wouldn't take anything from his children. All his beautiful children, who he adores. He will fight for them and not ask a scrap of affection.

But, God, it would be the most wonderful gift in the entire world if once they didn't run away so quickly. If a small voice thanked him...

Feuilly watches him sometimes, and thinks that this young boy, with his innocent, expressionless face, is far too young to be a father. Nicolas has never seen another person in all his life. He doesn't know how to smile or how to glare. He doesn't know how to hide the sort of feeling that shows on a face without ever needing to copy it off someone else's. He doesn't know that the part of his lips and the way he holds his head tell the entire world he hurts, because he doesn't know that they mean hurting. Feuilly can always tell when he's come back from the streets, trying to help the urchins he calls his children. And he always leads Nicolas away from the others, and talks with him until the loneliness has gone. Then he knows it's safe for them to go back. He protects Nicolas, but doesn't tell him so. The boy shouldn't be a father yet. But he never, never tells Nicolas so.

And Nicolas gladly talks with Feuilly, and gladly accepts the company, and wonders always why the children run from him. Over and over, he wishes he could see, for then he'd know what was wrong and he'd remedy it. He asks for nothing in return, he wants nothing in return, but it would be heaven if they loved him as he loves them.

Chapter Three.
Back to Chapter One.