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But she doesn’t understand it very well.

“Chime tine keen veal well rill dial chime,” she replies, and her words are a piping octave, her voice a hand on uneven floorboards: what might, elsewhere, be called a marimba.

The man has stopped bleeding. “You can count, then,” he says. “Good.”

Millicent traces a lemniscate around Cosette’s ankles. Cosette picks the kitten up and watches the man’s hand, which is holding a short and brutal tailed whip.

“Don’t ever forget how to count,” he grunts.

“Marrow callow hollow minnow?”

“Count the stars if you have to. Just make sure you don’t finish.”