We stood on the terrace looking over the sleeping town. Gentle snow fell on gentle roofs. The stars were brilliant. I felt I’d never seen them before, the stars and the snow. A thousand chimneys released quiet smoke from a thousand quiet houses. A wind from the north chilled my ears in the most cheerful way.

“It’s time we went inside,” said my companion.

“I could go up to any one of these houses and knock on the door and know that whoever answers the door loves me,” I said, an icy tear forming. “Any one of them.”

We went inside and turned to a curved stairwell on the right. We climbed the stairs to a hand-carved wooden door. This door led to a study. We did not have to knock.

Uncle Jack looked up from his book and took the pipe from his teeth. Before he could close the volume, put down his pipe and rise from his chair, I rushed to embrace him. I buried my head in the thick collar of his wool cardigan, breathing tea and tobacco. He laughed and I laughed and the fireplace crackled.

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