Little Girl Locked Away
For as long as I can remember, there was a man who fed me, a woman who beat me, and a window....
Just those things....
A long time ago, there was a wealthy man who was made to marry a wealthy woman. The man did not love his wife and she had no love at all.
They lived in a big house with many servants attending their needs. One of these servants was a young woman who tended the garden. She grew the many vegetables that the couple would eat, including the husband's favorite plant, the rampion.
A salad of rampion root soon became the highlight of the husband's day, for he had little joy in the house alongside the wife that was his curse. The husband took to thanking the garden girl for her good work. He visited her time and time again, for she was pretty and kind. They chatted about this and that and soon became good friends. Before long, however, his feelings for the garden girl became much stronger than that. He soon confessed that he was in love with the girl and she, he was delighted to discover, quite dearly loved him back.
Despite their mutual love, the man was still married to his heartless wife. The idea of her discovering the affair left him very afraid. They were forced to meet each other only when they dared to, keeping their secret so that the wife remained unaware of what was going on.
After some time had passed, however, the garden girl became with child and gave birth to a girl. Childbirth had not been kind to to the girl and she just barely lived to see her daughter before she slipped away from this world.
It was at this time that the wife finally discovered what had been happening under her nose. A simple affair, she could have handled. A child born from such disgrace and whose very existence threatened her reputation, however, was not to be tolerated. The husband refused to let the infant girl go so, in compromise, it was agreed the girl would be kept in the attic and shown to no one.
Fearful that his wife would harm the girl, the husband had no choice but to go along with the demand. He fed and clothed and cared for the child as best he could, but was forbidden to treat her like an actual daughter. Either time the husband or the child erred, the girl would suffer a harsh beating at the hands of the wife.
So the girl's life was a dreadful one. She never left the attic, never saw anyone but the husband when he brought her food, or the wife when she came to inflict pain to her. Her days were spent looking through the attic window, ducking out of sight whenever anyone approached. Her clothes were dirty and her hair grew long and unkempt. The little girl knew nothing except the attic room, a slave in her own house.
One day, a terrible disease swept through the countryside where the handsome house stood. Those who were stricken died within days of infection. It killed many throughout the land and the residents of the house were no exception. First the stable workers died, then the maids and man servants, and then the life of the kind husband was extinguished. Soon, the only one left in the house was the cruel wife, who refused to go up and feed the girl in the attic. Eventually, the disease fell upon her as well and her own life was extinguished.
Unknown to all, the little girl was still there, sitting alone in the attic. She waited and waited for the kind man who fed her, but he never came. She dared not go down for food, for fear of the woman who hit her. Days went by and the girl never knew that all the others in the house were dead. The plague never reached her, for she'd had no contact with anyone who had been infected. The weather turned cold and the girl stayed in her room, wrapping her now very long hair around her to keep warm, never knowing that the only people she'd ever known were dead.
Days went by and two strangers happened upon the house, seeking shelter from the growing cold. They looked inside but all they found were the corpses of those who hadn't managed to be buried after the plague took them. As they searched for food, the happened upon the attic and the stick-thin, barely alive, ball of matted hair and bone that was the little girl.
The strangers, a young boy and his little sister, took great pity on the girl and took her out of the attic for the first time in her life. They took her to the well outside so she could drink. They took what little was still growing in the now unkempt garden and fed it to her. When she recovered they told her of the fate that had befallen those in her house. The girl managed a few tears for the kind man, while the news of the dead woman filled her with relief.
When it was clear she had her strength back, the brother and sister asked if she'd be willing to accompany them. With little hesitation, the girl accepted. Though they had no idea where they were going, the girl readily joined with the siblings and left her birthplace, her prison, far behind.