“As you say I grew up in a small village, but my mother hadn’t always lived there. She had grown up with her sister in Paris and moved just before I was born. I don’t know why, but it seemed something bad had happened to her there. That’s not so strange I think in a big city. So I suppose she wanted me to grow up somewhere safer.
“The problem was the place wasn’t safe, but for an unexpected reason. Because of me. When I was young I found I could influence things around me. People a little, but mostly animals. Never anything inanimate, just things that thought. Everyone thought I just had a way with animals, as they would always come to me. They had no idea I was calling them.
“The problem with villages is that there is no escape from people there. Everyone knows everything about you. The other children were jealous that I was considered special, and I had few friends. Then one day, I saw him.”
Marie stopped to have some soup. Sir John was looking at her closely as his soup was all gone.
“Saw who?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” she said, “I mean I don’t know what he was. One day I was walking alone by the river making the ducks swim alongside me when I saw a man fishing. When I got close though I saw he wasn’t a normal man. He was very short with hairy legs and with horns.”
“A faun?” asked Sir John.
“Maybe,” continued Marie, “I stared at him for a while and he turned to look at me and said ‘Oh, a little witch.’ I knew the word was bad, and I was scared of the creature so I ran. I tried to tell my mother but she didn’t listen and said I was making up a silly story. I thought maybe I was myself, so I asked the children in my school if they had seen him. They all said they had and that we should all go and say hello. I was quite surprised. After school we all went together and I felt pleased to have some friends at last. When we got to the spot by the river I saw the strange man, the faun, again. I said hello to him but all the other children just laughed at me. They said – you know children can be cruel – they said I had no friends so had to make up an invisible one. I was so upset pointing to the creature asking if they could see it and they just laughed harder and harder. Eventually, I just shouted ARRETER and they did. They all froze solid.
“The creature said ‘Very good little one, that will show them,’ and then he turned and disappeared. I didn’t know what to do, surrounded by these frozen children. I ran to my mother and brought her to the children. When she saw them, she screamed. She shook me asking what happened, and I was crying saying I didn’t know. I said I wished the children would move and suddenly they all did again.
“No-one at all spoke to me after that. Within a week my aunt and uncle came. They took me to Paris. The last time I saw my mother was from the back of the carriage. I was never allowed to visit her and she never came to see me.”