"And how did my little angel enjoy her day at the fair, eh?" Charles Daae was a large man, a Scandinavian giant. Tall, and broad of shoulder, with light blonde hair (thinning somewhat, now that he'd entered his fifties) and pale blue eyes.
"Very well, Papa!" trilled a small, high voice by his side. Except that she addressed him as such, no one would have thought Charles Daae to be papa to the little creature that walked beside him. Little Christine had inherited her mother's coloring. Brown, curling hair, and large, dark eyes – there was nothing of the Swede about her.
"What was your favorite part?" asked the papa of the little girl as they strolled along a country road. His steps were long and extremely slow, to let her little pattering feet keep up.
"I liked singing, of course!" And she trilled out a bit of Berlioz that disturbed the pheasants from the hedgerow. She laughed as they scuttled across the land, then she let go her papa's hand and chased after them, which proved to be the cause of much to-do and squawking.
Charles lauged as he caught up with her. "Do you know what my favorite part was?" he asked in a lowered voice, as if he was about to tell her a secret.
"What? What?" she cried.
He paused for suspense. Then, "Your singing!" he exclaimed.
She giggled as he swung her up onto his shoulders. "My little girl was the toast of the fair," he crowed. "Not a man there who didn't smile when he heard her sing! Not a man there who could deny it – she has the voice of an angel!"
"The angel of music!"
"That's right, the angel of music."
"And you didn't play so bad yourself," she said, patting his shining blonde head.
"That's right," he said. "I didn't play so badly myself."
They walked along in silence for a few minutes. It was a cold November day, but the bright sun just managed to keep the bite off the chill. Still, Christine was bundled to the eyeballs and Charles had a scarf wrapped around his mouth. Paris lay ahead in the distance, lit up in the golden glow of the late afternoon sun. They weren't walking all the way. They would meet the mail coach a mile or two ahead at the small villiage of Armé, and it would take them the rest of the way home.
Every so often Charles would pull a flower or a vine from the side of the road and hand it up to Christine, whose little chubby fingers were trying to make a crown, but were far more successful at scattering flower petals into her papa's hair.
"Papa," she said eventually. It was clear she had been pondering something.
"Is everyone happy when they're at the fair?"
"What do you mean?"
She furrowed her tiny brow as her fingers struggled with the flowers and her mind struggled with how to rephrase her question.
"Well… People go to the fair to be happy, don't they?"
"Yes, I suppose so."
"But what if they're not happy? What if the fair makes them sad instead?"
He hadn't the slightest ide what she was getting at – even papa's don't have all the answers all the time. But he tried to answer the question anyway.
"Well, a person can't always be made to feel happy if they're not. That is, a clown might make one man laugh, but not another. Or it might frighten him," he mused. Did that… Did that answer your question, baby?"
"Ummm…" She hummed uncertainly. "Not really."
"What do you mean then?"
She huffed and just said what she was thinking. "The man in the cage was sad," she said.
"The man in the cage was at the fair too, but he wasn't happy at all."
"Why was the man in the cage?" asked Charles.
"I don't know. Maybe he did something bad."
"When did you see it?"
"When you went with Monsieur LeFant to buy us chocolates. There was a tent. I heard something. So I went inside."
"Who was there? What did you hear?"
"The man in the cage!" she cried. "And another man. He was yelling. Hitting. I was scared, so I left right away and found you."
"Good girl," he said automatically. His adult's brain was trying to decipher her child's point-of-view.
A man. In captivity. Held against his will. Being beaten. Charles Daae stroked his beard, and kept walking.
He was silent for much of the trip home. Christine, if she noticed, didn't seem to mind his reticence. She possessed that childlike ability to amuse herself without awkwardness. She hummed and sang snatches of tunes; she fiddled with her flower crown; she cast two twigs in the characters of a princess and a magician, or a prince and his evil brother, or the angel of music and Father Christmas, and carried out entire conversations with herself, changing the pitch of her voice as her imaginary friends required. And when she and Charles caught the mail coach at Armé, she chattered away to the other passengers about her day at the fair. Of course she utterly charmed all she met, and brought a smile to the face of more than one person who perhaps had not smiled at all that day.
It was much later, when they had already reached their modest townhome on the western edge of Paris, that Charles asked his daughter whether, if they returned to the fair tomorrow, she would be able to show him the tent where the man was in the cage.
"Are we going back to the fair?" exclaimed Christine, her eyes all alight.
"I am curious about the man," said Charles. "We can go again tomorrow if you'll show him to me."
"Yes! Yes! Yes, of course!" cried the little girl, and ran off to bed. For what child doesn't delight in a country fair?
Charles was late in retiring after he had tucked-in his daughter. He sat in front of the fire, smoking his pipe and thinking.