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The Story of the Toy Maker

            “I am not a murderer!” Charles screamed hysterically. Spit flung from his mouth as he flailed his arms and legs to escape the guards. “I love my children! I love both of them! My sweet girl is the sunshine of my life! I am a good father! I am a good husband!” His cries progressed into whimpers, “I read her bedtime stories . . . I made her smile — she loved me, and I loved her!” However, his pleas were ignored as the guards carried him away by his arms. His feet were dragging along the pebble road.

I watched them haul my best friend Charles away to be tortured and ultimately face the shrill scream of the guillotine . . . There was nothing I could do by that point. I was powerless and held no more authority than the vermin that scamper through the city gutters. Besides, even I had to hide in the shadows to avoid persecution. I felt guilty for not intervening before Charles reached this stage of madness.

~          ~          ~

I met Charles in the year 1664. It was a vile time. The black plague cast a dark shadow over London. People were collapsing in the streets in coughing fits as they drew their last breath. Bodies of the dead were piled one atop the other. I was one of the few that remained unaffected. Lucky, I suppose. In fact, I had a good job that provided plenty of food and many drunken nights. It was in the evening on a wet day that I would first run into the "Toy Maker." I finished my work, locked the law office, and pushed my way into a bar as the sun began to fade. The rain had just begun a maddening downpour as I took refuge in the local pub. I threw a shilling on the table and asked that the man keep the alcohol flowing. The owner was a stout individual with a balding head that still clutched a few grey hairs. He collected the money eagerly and began pouring. Many businesses had started to feel a tight squeeze around their pocketbooks as the plague decimated the workforce and stressed businesses. Those who could afford to fled the city. King Charles II and his Court were taking refuge in Oxford. In fact, most doctors, lawyers, and the wealthy had left London. I was working by correspondence with a lawyer who would make trips to the city, but he never stayed long. By nightfall, he was always in a carriage heading home to what I imagined was a roaring fireplace, servants, and a family that loved him.


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