Louis walked the busy streets of Paris restlessly searching for a chance of employment. His mind was made up to not return home to his wife without the wonderful news of employment. He was undoubtedly in a big predicament. His savings were almost out, being unemployed for nearly sixty days. The last couple of days were the toughest, both of them feeding on nothing but bread and water. The load was getting heavier as the news of child expectancy in these situations was not so pleasing as once anticipated. But nevertheless, instead of lamenting his worsening luck, he had to find solutions.
The icy Parisian December currents howled in the alleys of the bustling streets. The merciless cold brushed against his naked hands and face. He ached form its’ bitterness. He closed his cloak more tightly and folded his arms placing his hands under his armpits to warm them. His thirty five year old body was screaming for some warmth. Nevertheless, he knew that if he kept on walking, he will keep at least a bit warm.
The much welcomed sign read “Cleaning attendant wanted for inn.” Louis’s heart leaped with joy. His young eyes widened with hope as he entered the spacious inn and asked for the supervisor. A middle aged lady with an elegant dress greeted Louis with a mean smile. She eyed his old warn out cloak and coldly said, “Sorry, the position has just been filled. Leave please.”
Louis replied pleading, “please ma’am, I need this job or my wife and I will starve to death. I barely can cover one more meal for myself.
The lady briskly moved to the door and shouted, “Leave before I call my employees and throw you out!”
Louis walked out of the inn quickly before further trouble began. He watched as the lady began to spray some sort of perfume near the door. Beautiful lady yet cold hearted is what came to his mind as he paced the path in front of him searching for another opportunity.
Thirteen shops had denied him employment by nighttime. Louis lost all hope of a nearby breakthrough for his troubles. He sat down on the ground near a café deeply pondering what to do. His body was tired and exhausted from the trek he was taking and from the severe cold. His stomach jumped with the grinding feeling of hunger as the beautiful aromas of cakes and wines spread around him from the café. He took out half a loaf of bread from inside his cloak that he was saving for dinner only to find it frozen from the cold. He threw it away and cringed as his stomach jumped again from hunger. He stood up and took a look inside. The café was swarming with female waiters and customers.
There were no attendants guarding the door. His attention focused on some bread that carelessly lay beside a warm pot of soup on a table at the entrance. Such a rich meal would be enough for the night for him and his wife. He slowly opened the door and crouched to avoid being seen. He calmly approached the table and looked around, happy to realize that his presence was still unnoticed. The majority of the busy tables were deep inside the café, concealing his presence to some extent. Content, he reached out to grab some bread only to feel a strong blow on the back of his head. He fell down on the ground. There was movement and noise about him. Many faces gathered around as his vision began to blur. Darkness and silence prevailed afterwards.
Antoinette knew that she had seen better days in her life. A gorgeous tall blond woman with green eyes and waist long hair, and regarded as one of the most attractive amongst her kin, she had many suitors before she was introduced to Louis. But what could be done when love walks up to your doorstep and knocks on the door. She knew he wasn’t well paid and life wouldn’t be easy but against the strong feelings he moved in her heart, she soon surrendered to her share in life. Her parents scolded her for what they regarded as a poor choice. But they couldn’t do anything as her mind was made up for Louis.
Her Louis was a very polite loving husband, generous towards her needs, passionate, and caring. She knew deep inside that he compensated his financial inability with good treatment and love. She never dared make him feel that he was lacking in his duties in any way. She repaid him with patience and devotion. Problems rarely surfaced in their relationship. The both enjoyed complete understanding of one another and this helped greatly in limiting any arguments that would encounter them from time to time.
Antoinette eyed the loaf of bread and cheese in front of her. She had no idea as to what would be available for food tomorrow as the rations in front of her were the last in the house. She had a certain urge to wait for her husband and share it with him but her weak body craved for food. Nevertheless she knew that if she didn’t have the will to sacrifice she wouldn’t be a good wife for her husband. “For better or worse, in sickness and health” came to her mind. She pledged this at her marriage in the church to her husband.
Her parent’s house would help with food and money. She knew that they still loved her no matter what had happened in the past. Her father most assuredly would have a heart to grant them whatever they needed. Many a times she thought about going to them for help but would stop and change her mind at the last minute. She feared their faces and eyes that would have “I warned you,” written all over them. No matter how painful the situation is she made up her mind. She stood up, put out the fire in the cooking place, grabbed her cloak and wrapped her head well with her scarf to shield out the icy cold winds. She locked the cottage and began her short trip to her father’s place.
The village seemed lifeless with nothing but the loud howling of the winds mixed with the shuffling of dried up leaves on the grounds. Although on the outskirts of Paris their town went dead in the winter at night. Audible laughter from time to time surfaced from candle lit houses and cottages dispersed along the roadsides. A few carriages moved in the distances trafficking through the barren streets, probably moving families of the wealthy to their social calls. Her mind drifted to the whereabouts of her husband Louis. “I hope he is fine and in good health. I wonder how he is right now.”
She hadn’t traveled a long distance away when nearby knocking stopped her. She looked back and saw a person at the doorstop of her cottage. She quickly ran back to find her younger sister with a message for her.
Louis looked out of his prison cell window in the local guard station as the first rays of dawn seeped through. He hadn’t slept all night and remained awakened struck by restlessness. The shocking words of the sentencing kept echoing in his ears. The death heralding frown on the judge’s face as he was condemning him for the charge of theft was deeply imprinted in his mind, “Louis Edward, you are hereby sentenced to forty lashes of the whip, which will be executed as the morning church bell of St. George’s Cathedral sounds tomorrow. You are also sentenced to one year imprisonment in the Bastille prison; this sentence given on charge of theft that this court here finds you guilty of.” He kept telling the judge over and over again that he wasn’t a criminal but stole to feed his famished self, but the judge ignored his words. It was as if he spoke a different language. The court was totally unjust to his cause and case. Had he been a character of importance he knew he wouldn’t be charged or trialed at all no matter what he did. Only the poor and helpless were stepped upon in this unfair and cold society.
He had never been imprisoned nor lashed before. He had seen public executions of this punishment on criminals and had seen them anguish and beg for mercy as the whips worked them brutally. Tear drops fell from his eyes as he begged the Lord for a miracle to happen. It was just not fair. As the sun’s rays grew in strength a choking feeling crept upon his soul. His heart began pounding in his chest. His body shook with fear and anticipation. He stood up and ran to the prison bars. He screamed and shouted, “I’m innocent by God’s law and judgment. You have no right to try a famished man for wanting to eat. Let me out!” Louis beat the bars and screamed repeatedly but only to find two bulky guards running towards him. As they approached the prison they opened the door and punched him down to the ground. Louis twisted and screamed from the pain as he surrendered to the beating. In due time they left him alone sobbing and crying his frustration and misery away.
Antoinette looked up at the high staircase of the bell tower of St. George’s Cathedral. Sixty steps lead to the heavy church bell that was about to sound and awake everybody up for morning prayers. She eyed the bell well and its’ size. It was approximately an average man’s height and took two monks to swing it into action. She was determined to do it at any cost. Nobody will take her beloved husband away. The frustration and pain caused by the injustice were tearing her apart.
She began her long trip, ascending the stairs as quickly as her legs can carry her. She had to reach the top before the monks rang the bell. She had one chance to make this plan work. There were wooden boards directly underneath the bell. They would help her.
As soon as she reached the top service area, which was directly underneath the heavy bell, the monks of the church began chanting. She knew it would be only a very short while before the bell rang. She jumped as hard as she could and grabbed the huge ball of the bell with both her hands. Two monks made haste and moved towards the bells’ long rope. Antoinette watched the bell as it moved powerfully tilting her with it. She swung hard with it and her right hand pounded on the inner side of the bell. She gave a tormenting cry as she felt her hand smash and fell down on the wooden boards underneath. Both monks on the church entrance gave each other a puzzled look at the scream that came out instead of the echo of metal. The monks hurried up to the top of the tower only to find Antoinette thrashing about and crying on the ground.
Louis marched slowly with the four guards that fetched him from his prison. Waves of terror and fear were thundering through him as he was nearing his hour of punishment. His mind and soul that were clouded with fright kept him from noticing that the church bell struck very late to its’ usual timing. He was in total prayer that the Lord would be with him during this hour of pain.
His awareness suddenly came to life as he walked into a totally bright environment. Everything radiated about him with elegance. His heart skipped a beat as the truth soared through his mind. He was in the royal court. Louis felt his knees weaken with fear. He stood iced up in his place unable to move a muscle. He felt he was in a dream. Swarms of people that surrounded the royal throne were staring at him as he stood stunned in his place. The presence of his wife worshipping in front of King Henry puzzled him more.
He heard a deep royal voice command, “Approach the royal throne Louis.”
Louis managed small feeble steps towards the king who was seated on magnificent sparkling gold. As soon as he arrived beside his wife he knelt down in respect and submission.
The King announced, “Louis your wife sacrificed her life to set you free of your punishment. She used her hands as a shield to stop the morning bells form sounding so you wouldn’t be punished for your crime. I have never encountered a greater love in my entire life as a king or human being. Your wife’s love and sacrifice pleaded for you. You shall be graciously rewarded and you are free to go with our blessings.”
Louis looked up at the king who was smiling on them. He looked back at his wife’s injured hands which were wrapped in cloth. He kissed them slowly and passionately. A feeling of comfort engulfed him as he foresaw the bright future ahead.