Cut for 310 words.
Afterwards, he tried to find the father. His surreptitious search led them to an inn outside of Paris, and so, with the child tucked away in the first sound sleep she’d enjoyed in years, beneath soft cotton and warm quilts, Valjean went downstairs to talk to the man who had responded half-heartedly to his enquiries.
“She was beautiful,” said the man, whose name, Jean had to remind himself, was Tholomyes. “Enchanting. A delightful creature – can you blame me for loving her? Or, still less, for leaving? A fellow can’t live with that kind of charm. She would have swallowed me whole, my good man, and never even noticed the bones she spat out. She was mine, for a stint, but stay any longer and I’d’ve been hers.”
“She was an innocent, and your walking out on her and the child killed her,” Jean said coldly. He was in no mind to be courteous to this depraved and smirking man, but there was something improbably earnest and unaccountably wistful in the man’s flippant words and roving eye.
“She was an innocent,” Tholomyes nodded in agreement. “That was half the trouble.”
He leaned across the disorderly table, pushing aside the many glasses, emptied between himself and Valjean.
“She was a true innocent,” he said, green eyes wide and somber. “And yes, I destroyed that. But I will not take the child. She’s too much of her mother, too much herself an innocent.”
“I… am not.” Valjean’s words were halting, muffled, difficult to say. Tholomyes looked at him across the table for a moment, eyes reflecting back to Jean the face of a man too drunk to care that he wasn’t drunk enough.
“No,” Tholomyes replied slowly. “You’re wrong there. You’re even more innocent than she was.”
He stood up and held out a hand. “I can change that.”
Valjean took his hand.