A cool breeze broke the stillness of the moonless spring evening. A large farmhouse stood remote, on the outskirts of Montreuil. A rather simple farm, a mill and river in the back, stables towards the front. Endless fields of grain, and orchards of apples. The Bouisson family led a very simple life there. They exported their goods weekly and had an average family life. However, there was one unique variable in their plain, farm life.
Philip Bouisson sat on the front porch of his comfortable home. He blinked his olive eyes slowly as he inhaled the rich tobacco in his pipe. The evening was dark and slow, sleep had escaped him. The past few months had been incredibly eventful. His quiet family of three had increased to a rowdy group of seven. He had opened his home to a family of Gypsy's who aided him in his harvest.
When they first came to his farm, they were only expected to stay for a short while, just enough time for the expectant gypsy woman to give birth. So he let the woman, her husband and first born daughter remain with his family in exchange for help with his farm. He had grown accustom to their help, so even after the birth of their second daughter Mannon, he allowed them to stay. Four months had since then passed and they remained on his farm.
Grey, wispy rings of smoke floated about Philip's face. The whinnying of horses echoed in the distance. The soft glow of torches began to appear. Philip rose and stood on the porch steps, pipe lit between his lips. The faint sound of gravel being crushed under wheels could be heard. Philip gaped at the sight of a very distinctive, dark carriage as it slowly loomed closer to his home. He swiftly burst through his door, dropping his pipe in his wake. He ran down to his cellar where the Gypsy family laid their heads. He shook Mickael and his wife Amilie awake franticly. The couple opened their eyes and looked at his worried expression.
"The parisian guard is on their way here, you must go. Now!" he exclaimed. They leapt up from their resting place and began getting their affects together. Amilie picked up Mannon as Mickael woke up their other child.
"Odette, wake up" he said, urgent fear ringing in his voice as he shook his daughter from her slumber. Odette opened her dark grey eyes and hazily gazed at her father. He hoisted the fifteen year old off of her bed and placed a cloak over her shoulders. "You must take your sister and flee this place."
"Father what is going on? I don't understand" Odette said taking her baby sister from her mother's hands. Mannon was still sound asleep, wrapped up in a petite quilt her mother had made. Monsieur Philip helped her parents pack up their things and supplies. How panic stricken they were.
"Odette, go now!" her mother shouted. "This place is no longer safe for us. Within moments the parisian guard will be here to apprehend us" her voice quivered as she spoke.
The warmth drained from Odette's face, as she clutched her sister to her. "Where must I go?" she asked.
"Paris" her father responded. He reached into his shirt and handed his daughter a small map. "Do not stop until you arrive there no matter what. After you arrive in the city, follow the map until you arrive in the court of miracles. Give any guards there our names, and you will be welcomed and safe."
"What about you?" Odette asked as she made her way to the small back door.
"We will join you there as soon as we can" Amilie responded. "Please my love" she begged her daughter "go now."
With a fleeting look at her family, she kicked open the rear cellar door. Mannon went undisturbed. It was unfair how she could be at such peace while chaos enveloped all around them. Odette held her sister close to her breast as she began her frantic trek to Paris.
She ran along the river bank, her bare feet slamming into the ground. Dust rose from the earth with each step she took. She heard the soft cries of her sister, muffled by the thick material of her cloak. She reached the orchard and rested for a moment, gently stroking the back of her sister's head. The orchard stretched out for miles it seemed. Odette continued to run as the wind lashed out all about her. The night provided a kind of protective darkness as she made her way to Paris. The farm wasn't all that far from the city, but on foot it would take hours. The sound of hoof-steps followed her. Odette, already breathless and sweating increased her pace. She stole away into the orchard again. She felt safer in the cover of many trees.
Eventually the orchard ended and Odette was forced to run in the open night air. Mannon began to cry once more and Odette stopped. She sat on the side of the road and cradled her baby sister in her arms. "I know" she began breathlessly. "I know how hungry you are. There is nothing I can do for you now. I cannot give you milk" she sadly explained to the weeping babe. She hugged her sister to her and continued towards Paris at a walk for she was far too exhausted to run any longer.
The night was blending into day by means of a delightful array of soft colors. Odette surveyed the glowing sky with bleary eyes. She knew Paris was close, the woods became thinner, the roads more mended. Mannon fell in and out of sleep, her hunger leaving her immature body weak.
As Paris drew nearer Odette couldn't help but think about her parents. What became of them? She imagined the would have caught up to her by now, but alas they remained alone. She wrenched the map from her blouse and followed it to the best of her ability.
It led Odette to a cemetery, more specifically to a large tomb. Odette looked at it in dismay. How was a crumbling, Catholic tomb to keep her safe. She leaned against it, as her weight made it's cover shift slightly. Concealed under the tomb's cover was a steep narrow staircase. As delicately as she could, Odette made her way through the dank catacombs which the tomb so cleverly disguised. It's walls were lit by torches and it's floors were flooded with what Odette prayed was water.
Rapid footsteps echoed throughout the halls and Odette froze. The lamps extinguished and Mannon cried out in fright. Odette felt strong hands wrap around both of her arms. "Wait please!" she exclaimed as her sister's wails grew louder.
"Oh, she speaks" said the gruff voice of a man. "And what makes you think that you can just come traipsing down into out hideaway.
"My name is Odette" she said a fearful tone in her voice. "This is my sister Mannon, we were sent her by our parents Mickael and Amilie." She felt the vice grip on her arms relinquish. She heaved a great sigh. "That was the reaction I was praying for."
"Where are your parents my dear?" a large gypsy man asked her as he lit a torch. The rest of the band followed suit.
"They should be coming soon. We fled our temporary residence because the parisian guard was coming through. No doubt to interrogate the family we were staying with" Odette explained as they continued down the passage.
The dank catacombs opened up into a well lit, grand hall. Hundreds upon hundreds of gypsies flocked about. Music played there was dancing, everything seemed to fit.
"Here child" said a zaftig woman with inky hair. She stretched her arms out for Mannon. "I just had a baby of my own, I can feed your sister."
"Thank you" Odette managed to say as she gently swayed where she stood. She was exhausted and famished. She felt a pair of strong arms wrap around her as she sunk into the warm grasp of another. Finally there was peace.
Mickael and Amilie never returned to the court of miracles. They remained suspended in the Bouisson family's orchards for eternity.