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CHAPTER TWO - England 1995

'Hey, Jan, look at this!' Carol said. She had a letter in her hand and took it across to her husband at the breakfast table. 'It's from the Oxford Orchestra,' she said. 'They're giving concerts in the Czech Republic this Christmas. They're doing three concerts in Prague and they're asking me to go because they need a harpist. Shall we go to Prague for Christmas? I can play with the orchestra, and you can come with us.'

'When are the concerts?' asked Jan. 'I always have a lot of work in the weeks before Christmas. I must finish writing my new book then.'

Jan taught Czech at Oxford University and wrote books about languages. He was born in Czechoslovakia, but came to England with his father when he was very young. He met Carol when she was one of his students at university.

'The first concert is on December 20th,' Carol answered. 'Are you free then?'

'No, I'm sorry, Carol,' Jan said, 'but I can't come before December 24th.'

'Well, it doesn't matter. You can come for the second concert. It's on December 25th.'

'But what about my father?' said Jan. 'We can't go away and leave him at Christmas time. He loves a family Christmas with us - you know that.'

Josef Vlach was sixty-eight years old, and his eyes were bad. He couldn't see very well, so he lived with Carol and Jan.

'Josef can come with us,' Carol said. 'He often talks about Prague at Christmas. He says it's the most beautiful time of the year there because of all the snow on the old buildings.'

'I know,' said Jan. 'But he only talks about Prague. He never wants to go there. Every time we ask him to come with us, he says no. I don't know why, but I think it's because of my mother. When he thinks about Prague, he remembers her. You know, sometimes he cries when he looks at his photo of her - after all these years!'

Just then, the door opened and Jan's father came slowly into the room.

'Good morning,' he said, and sat down at the table. 'Is there any coffee?'

'It's cold now,' said Carol. 'Shall I make you some more?'

'Thank you, my dear,' he answered. 'You're very good to me.'

Carol went out for some coffee. Jan looked at his father carefully. 'I must ask him now,' he thought, 'while Carol is out of the room.'

'You're very quiet, Jan,' said the old man. 'Is something wrong?'

'No, no,' said Jan quickly. 'Nothing's wrong. It's just... I want to ask you a question, but I... I... it's difficult.'

Jan stopped. His father smiled.

'Difficult? Why is it difficult? Are you afraid of an old man?'

'Of course not,' said Jan. 'But I am afraid of your answer. You see, Carol wants to go very much. She loves playing her harp, but it's Christmas time and -'

'Stop!' said Josef. 'What are you talking about? Where does, Carol want to go at Christmas?'

'To Prague,' said Jan. 'And I would like to go with her. We want you to come too.'

'Ah!' said the old man. 'To Prague. I understand now.'

The room was suddenly very quiet. Jan drank his cold coffee and waited.

The old man took something out of his pocket. It was a photograph of his dead wife, Jan's mother. He spoke very quietly - not to Jan, but to the photograph in his hand.

'Perhaps now... before I die... just once I can go back again...'

Carol came back with some hot coffee. She looked at Josef, then at Jan.

'Shhh... He's thinking about Prague,' Jan said quietly.

Carol put the coffee on the table and sat down. The hands on the clock slowly moved through two long minutes. Then the old man put the photograph back in his pocket.

'All right,' he said. 'Let's all go to Prague for Christmas. It's beautiful there when it snows. I remember it so well... so very well.'

CHAPTER TWO - England 1995

'Hey, Jan, look at this!' Carol said. She had a letter in her hand and took it across to her husband at the breakfast table. 'It's from the Oxford Orchestra,' she said. 'They're giving concerts in the Czech Republic this Christmas. They're doing three concerts in Prague and they're asking me to go because they need a harpist. Shall we go to Prague for Christmas? I can play with the orchestra, and you can come with us.'

'When are the concerts?' asked Jan. 'I always have a lot of work in the weeks before Christmas. I must finish writing my new book then.'

Jan taught Czech at Oxford University and wrote books about languages. He was born in Czechoslovakia, but came to England with his father when he was very young. He met Carol when she was one of his students at university.

'The first concert is on December 20th,' Carol answered. 'Are you free then?'

'No, I'm sorry, Carol,' Jan said, 'but I can't come before December 24th.'

'Well, it doesn't matter. You can come for the second concert. It's on December 25th.'

'But what about my father?' said Jan. 'We can't go away and leave him at Christmas time. He loves a family Christmas with us - you know that.'

Josef Vlach was sixty-eight years old, and his eyes were bad. He couldn't see very well, so he lived with Carol and Jan.

'Josef can come with us,' Carol said. 'He often talks about Prague at Christmas. He says it's the most beautiful time of the year there because of all the snow on the old buildings.'

'I know,' said Jan. 'But he only talks about Prague. He never wants to go there. Every time we ask him to come with us, he says no. I don't know why, but I think it's because of my mother. When he thinks about Prague, he remembers her. You know, sometimes he cries when he looks at his photo of her - after all these years!'

Just then, the door opened and Jan's father came slowly into the room.

'Good morning,' he said, and sat down at the table. 'Is there any coffee?'

'It's cold now,' said Carol. 'Shall I make you some more?'

'Thank you, my dear,' he answered. 'You're very good to me.'

Carol went out for some coffee. Jan looked at his father carefully. 'I must ask him now,' he thought, 'while Carol is out of the room.'

'You're very quiet, Jan,' said the old man. 'Is something wrong?'

'No, no,' said Jan quickly. 'Nothing's wrong. It's just... I want to ask you a question, but I... I... it's difficult.'

Jan stopped. His father smiled.

'Difficult? Why is it difficult? Are you afraid of an old man?'

'Of course not,' said Jan. 'But I am afraid of your answer. You see, Carol wants to go very much. She loves playing her harp, but it's Christmas time and -'

'Stop!' said Josef. 'What are you talking about? Where does, Carol want to go at Christmas?'

'To Prague,' said Jan. 'And I would like to go with her. We want you to come too.'

'Ah!' said the old man. 'To Prague. I understand now.'

The room was suddenly very quiet. Jan drank his cold coffee and waited.

The old man took something out of his pocket. It was a photograph of his dead wife, Jan's mother. He spoke very quietly - not to Jan, but to the photograph in his hand.

'Perhaps now... before I die... just once I can go back again...'

Carol came back with some hot coffee. She looked at Josef, then at Jan.

'Shhh... He's thinking about Prague,' Jan said quietly.

Carol put the coffee on the table and sat down. The hands on the clock slowly moved through two long minutes. Then the old man put the photograph back in his pocket.

'All right,' he said. 'Let's all go to Prague for Christmas. It's beautiful there when it snows. I remember it so well... so very well.'

CHAPTER TWO - England 1995

'Hey, Jan, look at this!' Carol said. She had a letter in her hand and took it across to her husband at the breakfast table. 'It's from the Oxford Orchestra,' she said. 'They're giving concerts in the Czech Republic this Christmas. They're doing three concerts in Prague and they're asking me to go because they need a harpist. Shall we go to Prague for Christmas? I can play with the orchestra, and you can come with us.'

'When are the concerts?' asked Jan. 'I always have a lot of work in the weeks before Christmas. I must finish writing my new book then.'

Jan taught Czech at Oxford University and wrote books about languages. He was born in Czechoslovakia, but came to England with his father when he was very young. He met Carol when she was one of his students at university.

'The first concert is on December 20th,' Carol answered. 'Are you free then?'

'No, I'm sorry, Carol,' Jan said, 'but I can't come before December 24th.'

'Well, it doesn't matter. You can come for the second concert. It's on December 25th.'

'But what about my father?' said Jan. 'We can't go away and leave him at Christmas time. He loves a family Christmas with us - you know that.'

Josef Vlach was sixty-eight years old, and his eyes were bad. He couldn't see very well, so he lived with Carol and Jan.

'Josef can come with us,' Carol said. 'He often talks about Prague at Christmas. He says it's the most beautiful time of the year there because of all the snow on the old buildings.'

'I know,' said Jan. 'But he only talks about Prague. He never wants to go there. Every time we ask him to come with us, he says no. I don't know why, but I think it's because of my mother. When he thinks about Prague, he remembers her. You know, sometimes he cries when he looks at his photo of her - after all these years!'

Just then, the door opened and Jan's father came slowly into the room.

'Good morning,' he said, and sat down at the table. 'Is there any coffee?'

'It's cold now,' said Carol. 'Shall I make you some more?'

'Thank you, my dear,' he answered. 'You're very good to me.'

Carol went out for some coffee. Jan looked at his father carefully. 'I must ask him now,' he thought, 'while Carol is out of the room.'

'You're very quiet, Jan,' said the old man. 'Is something wrong?'

'No, no,' said Jan quickly. 'Nothing's wrong. It's just... I want to ask you a question, but I... I... it's difficult.'

Jan stopped. His father smiled.

'Difficult? Why is it difficult? Are you afraid of an old man?'

'Of course not,' said Jan. 'But I am afraid of your answer. You see, Carol wants to go very much. She loves playing her harp, but it's Christmas time and -'

'Stop!' said Josef. 'What are you talking about? Where does, Carol want to go at Christmas?'

'To Prague,' said Jan. 'And I would like to go with her. We want you to come too.'

'Ah!' said the old man. 'To Prague. I understand now.'

The room was suddenly very quiet. Jan drank his cold coffee and waited.

The old man took something out of his pocket. It was a photograph of his dead wife, Jan's mother. He spoke very quietly - not to Jan, but to the photograph in his hand.

'Perhaps now... before I die... just once I can go back again...'

Carol came back with some hot coffee. She looked at Josef, then at Jan.

'Shhh... He's thinking about Prague,' Jan said quietly.

Carol put the coffee on the table and sat down. The hands on the clock slowly moved through two long minutes. Then the old man put the photograph back in his pocket.

'All right,' he said. 'Let's all go to Prague for Christmas. It's beautiful there when it snows. I remember it so well... so very well.'