[Reading time: 3 minutes]
She stayed with them the whole afternoon and followed them in their very secret place, even if they looked scared and suspicious. Behind a hill, far from the city, under the earth, hidden between two trees and a fresh watery river, she found a little lair. It was the place these children lived. It was perfectly empty. Two vast containers were standing in the middle. Inside, a world of things. Shoes, too big, too small, rags, shirts, enormous quantities of straw, branches and earth, spoons, scarfs, sponges, soap, sheets, objects for the coupling of the donkeys and the horses, ropes of all sizes, candles, cups… highly probably everything was stolen. The children were all packed around these two containers, looking at Charlotte both inquisitively and terrified. This place was not liveable. She had to do something. She could not loose time carrying about the way they were examining her. She plunged her arm in one of the containers under the shocked eyes of the little population and rapidly arranged a broom assembling together a couple of branches fixing at their extremities a copious straw tuft. Equipped, she started sweeping the floor. “What are you all starring at? Come on, take the sponge, wash the rocks! You, in the corner, go out and try to ask if they can lend you some covers for a few nights! You need covers; you cannot sleep like animals in a shelter! You, go out and look for more wood, we will make a little fire to stay warm tonight.”
Everyone was working. She was dragging along her right ankle while scrubbing, arranging there cleaning somewhere, sweeping up ‘n wiping down, beating around and rubbing straight. Sounds were coming, life was being born slowly in the cavern and perfumes were replacing the powdered stuffy smell of the obscurity. Some came back with portions of rolled brownish wool. Charlotte looked at it astonished. “It needs to get washed”. And with long patience, they emptied the containers and filled them with the clear water of the river. With Charlotte’s indications, they managed to dip the wool into one of the two containers with some tough soap, they wrung out the wet wool and put it in the other container, tossing away the dirty water and proceeding that way until it became white and balmy again. In the end, they opened one by one all the wool flocks with their thin hands, living it drying at the sun, outside on the grass between the two trees. This action took several days because the weather was not gentle in that period and the air was very cold. When the wool was ready and dry, they used it to fill their sheets.
It was the sixth day she was there. She still had all the coins in her chest and her book. Until that day she had lived with the children, preparing the lair. If they were hungry, they begged. But now the lair was finished and it really looked delicious. Candles were lightening the obscurity and everyone had a place to sleep, warm covers and a straw pillow. Everyone except from her, Charlotte, who just used to place her head in her shawl and to sleep on the ground.
The day after she decided to finally spend the money she had in order to prepare her crew a real breakfast. She went out in the street very early in the morning and bought all the best products she could find: extra fresh milk, fluffy warm loafs, sugar, marmalades and all types of fruits: bananas, apples, oranges. Tropical fruits were very rare at that time, and in the extraordinary case they would touch the french ground, only the King and his wife would be pleased to appreciate them. But that morning, believe it or not, an ancient woman was selling these delicacies. Charlotte did not forget the proteins and bought twenty eggs, one per each, and a round kilo of cheese. When she came back she managed to compose with what she found a proper little breakfast with spoons and cups for everyone, fresh squeezed orange juice and a piece of bread covered with marmalade for each.