[Reading time: 5 minutes]
The breakfast was amazing. Suddenly all these gloomy little faces became full of joy and ardent happiness. They were plunging their muzzles in the cups overflowing with milk and honey, they were licking their chops seeing the softy white loafs emanating a pure smell of breakfast, they were finally speaking, and very loud, I can assure you, some were also singing to their selves, it was amazing! They appeared so small, so vulnerable, so hungry! Their eyes were shining bright and their lips were moving fast. It was a real pleasure to look at them. She was sitting very close, but none of them had spoken to her. Apart from asking a few questions related to tiding the lair, such as “Sorry Ma’am, where do we find the wool?” or “Sorry Ma’am, where do I put this?”, they were silent. She tried some times to address them, but never managed. Since she was there, she had never thought of coming back home. To see all this little population eating together at the same table, sharing, laughing, for the first time she thought about her family. She did not know if they were missing her, but surely her father was very angry with her. Her thoughts were suddenly interrupted; someone just gave her a punch. “Oh Sorry Ma’am!”. “It’s okay, don’t worry. Don’t you worry M…” The real fact was that she did not know their names. Her face made it obvious. “You have never asked for our names, but in real I dunno it Ma’am”. Charlotte felt embarrassed. “Well… how do your friends call you then?” He proudly announced: “Necktwist!” And instantaneously all the little heads turned. “I am Harehold!” screamed one. Another one stood up and declared with a hand on his heart: “Me it’s Stifflute Ma’am! I have a special pan flute that I can play every now and then!” He took it out from his frayed pocket and stuck it in his mouth playing a few notes. “I am Thelurry!” “Me it’s CutBread!” “Adeline!” They were yelling their names with the same enthusiasm as if they were saying the name of the battle they won. They were pushing one another, elbowing like fools, squashing the nourishment with their hands to raise their heads and be visible to Charlotte, throwing away, in this crazy agitation, some drops of milk that the abandoned cats of the neighbor tried to catch in the air with their longue rough tongues. “And you Ma’am? Do you have a name?” She liked this question. Her name was precious to her. “My name is Charlotte.” Waouh Shaalot! Shaalot! It sounds very soft! Shaalot!
Suddenly, a noise of hoof interrupted the laughs of this little animated society. A man on a horse approached and ordered his horse to stop. “Hey you!”. Charlotte, puzzled, suggested the children to go inside the lair. But they did not move; instead they yelled at him. “Go away, you pig!”. They have already seen this person, one of those rotten who threw at them objects when they were begging in the streets. Charlotte stood. He did not approach too much. “I have a message from the duke of Saint Simon. But not for you, you miser, for her daughter.” It bit. A bit. “I will tell her, she is not here at the moment.” “Her father wants her to go back home. You miser thing have a bad influence on her. If you want to make your job with these thieves, do it far from here or I will provide to expel you as soon as possible”. Charlotte approached him and, firmly: “You can tell the Duke that her daughter Charlotte won’t ever come back. She is very far, she left”. She looked very noble saying this sentence. He felt strange. Such a phrase within such a miserable dress; something odd just happened. But he would not loose his cool. “Anyway, she cannot go very far because of her ankle. Or maybe you little thief have hidden her, installed her underground, stolen the few goods she had and terminate her.” Charlotte was about to laugh. “Nice imagination. But no, dear sir, it is not my style. Impossible.” He raised an eyebrow. “We will see. You should watch out. For your bunch of bones also.” And scenically, he galloped away.
Cover image: Portrait of the count Stanislas Potocki by Jacques-Louis David (1780)