"C'est Louis!"

Today is Fiction Friday! For lots more great stories go to Patterings . Be sure to leave some comments.

This is a story that I wrote for FaithWriter's Weekly Challenge (for the topic Europe) but entered a poem instead. Grande Elegance It was toss-up which one I liked better.


Not far from Notre Dame Cathedral, on Rue de L’Ursuline, a woman wrapped in a black shawl picks her way down a narrow cobbled street. Her high-button shoes show beneath her hem, as she lifts her skirt above the foul, stagnant pools. A window opens above her, and she hastens quickly out of the way, as a stream of slop splatters on the slimy stones. Rats scurry away from the swaying light of her lantern.

The sound of hooves clatter behind her, and she presses her back against the cold bricks. Two black horses trot by, pulling the dreaded shape of the “char de mort”. Marie sighs as it fades into the fog, “ Too many deaths—too much sorrow! Whose home is next?”

Closing the heavy door behind her, she holds her lace-edged kerchief to her nose against the putrid odors. Glass bottles of various liquids and rotting meat line the dusty shelves. Flies buzz about. Four or five cages of rabbits and mice huddle against a wall. A pot boils and its steam wafts through a twisting glass tube. Books balance in stacks on tables and shelves and chairs and even the floor. A cot with jumbled bedclothes cowers in the corner.

A man with a whiskered face hunches over a microscope. His high collar is unbuttoned and rumpled. He mumbles to himself and turns to scribble in a notepad nearby, his only light a flickering oil lamp. Shadows shiver in dark corners.

As she steps closer, the man turns with a start and smiles at his wife. He clears a spot for her to set a plate of food, covered with a linen napkin, and a tin cup on the table. Distracted by a hiss, he suddenly jumps up and adjusts flame beneath the boiling pot. He squints at the condensed liquid, collecting in another flask.

His wife watches and vainly vies for his attention. “Louis, won’t you eat something, s’il vous plait?”

“Oui, ma chere. I will, I will. I have almost proved it.”

“Proved what?”

“Proved that germs and bacteria do NOT spontaneously generate! There are not maggots upon the meat in the closed jar--only in the open jar. Do you not see, n’est-ce pas?”, thrusting the jar before her eyes. “Neither is there bacteria within the broth that is boiled.”

Marie politely looks at the thick bubbling brine, but the stench disgusts her, and she demurely flutters her kerchief. “Of course, mais oui.” she agrees.

She looks at her dear husband--his forehead creased with worry lines and his graying hair badly in need of a comb and a trim. With loving eyes, she sees a man driven with passion to open the eyes of the world to mysteries too small for the common eye to see, to rid the world of diseases, which kill their children and grip their old men with fear.

“Louis, there was a man today,Monsieur Meister, whose “petit garcon” was bitten by a dog. He wished to speak with you. I told him that it was late and to speak to you on the morrow.”

“Hydrophobia--the plague of Paris! It is the rats! If only we could scrub every street and alley, like a scrubber woman on wash day! So many die, but see?” He holds up a cage with a rabbit and turns it this way and that. “It is not dead. It has been been ten days and it is not dead! I will see the man on the morrow. It is time.”

“So, you will come home to bed, Louis?” pleads his wife.

“Ah, non! I cannot leave this now. I will come soon, when I am done with this experiment.” He kisses her powdered cheek and turns to slip another slide beneath the scope. With a sigh, Marie steps out into the night, knowing the plate of food would be cold before her husband remembers it.

“Ah, c'est Louis!”

* Louis Pasteur was a leader in the war against germs and bacteria. He showed the world that disease was spread through vermin and unsanitary conditions. Joseph Meister, a ten year old boy, was the first to be cured of rabies.http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article-level4.php?id=27881


Judith Schultz said...

brilliant - I love historical books and I could certainly and the descriptions certainly allowed me imagination to run wild. Judith

Sherri Ward said...

Vonnie, your descriptions are vivid! I could really see this one, very well done!

Sharlyn Guthrie said...

Excellent job on this historical fiction. You kept my attention all the way through. I guessed pretty early on who Louis was, but that only added to my interest.

Patty Wysong said...

I love the characterizations, Vonnie! So well done!

And how thankful we are to all the work Mr. Pastuer did! Wow!

Stina Rose said...

Wonderful historical piece! I loved it!!!

Anonymous said...

Glad you brought this story out! Sunny


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