Poor old Jean Valjean, of course, loved Cosette only as a father; but, as we noted earlier, into this fatherly love his lonely single status in life had introduced every other kind of love; he loved Cosette as his daughter, and he loved her as his mother, and he loved her as his sister; and, as he had never had either a lover or a wife, as nature is a creditor that does not accept nonpayment, that particular feeling, too, the most indestructible of all, had thrown itself in with the rest, vague, ignorant, heavenly, angelic, divine; less a feeling than an instinct, less an instinct than an attraction, imperceptible and invisible but real; and love, truly called, lay in his enormous tenderness for Cosette the way a vein of gold lies in the mountain, dark and virginal.
We should bear in mind that state of the heart that we have already mentioned. Marriage between them was out of the question, even that of souls; and yet it is certain that their destinies had joined together as one. Except for Cosette, that is, except for a child, Jean Valjean had never, in all his long life, known anything about love. Serial passions and love affairs had not laid those successive shades of green over him, fresh green on top of dark green, that you notice on foliage that has come through winter and on men that have passed their fifties. In short, and we have insisted on this more than once, this whole inner fusion, this whole set, the result of which was lofty virtue, had wound up making Jean Valjean a father for Cosette. A strange father, forged out of the grandfather, son, brother, and husband that were all in Jean Valjean; a father in whom there was even a mother; a father who loved Cosette and worshipped her, and for whom that child was light, was home, was his homeland, was paradise.