"Praying is a good way to cleanse the soul."
“But why can’t I go with you?” Belle asked.

The seven साल old wriggled her shoulders inside her slightly baggy grey tunic. It was a little chilly inside the Palace of Justice. Sarah smiled and put her hands on the child’s shoulders.

“Because the Captain won’t allow someone as small as आप aboard the ship, Belle. When you’re older, maybe, but for now, आप have to stay here.”

“You’ll be a good girl for Mr Frollo, won’t you?” added Clayton.

“Yes, Papa,” Belle replied, dutifully. Judge Claude Frollo didn’t really look like the type who’d take care of children, but he was an old friend of her father’s and she knew that he was very religious and liked to do his duty द्वारा God, so he was willing to keep an eye on her for the महीना that her parents would be away at sea. Her father was a bodyguard aboard the Hispaniola and her mother was the chef there; that was how they had met and fallen in love. Belle had come along a साल after their marriage, but their duty aboard the Hispaniola meant that often she had to stay with family फ्रेंड्स whilst they were gone. Belle liked to hope that one दिन the Captain would allow her aboard the ship too when she was old enough. Now, however, she gave her parents very firm hugs goodbye.

“Thank आप very much for doing this, Mr Frollo,” कहा Sarah to the tall, thin judge, who bowed his head in response and tapped the tips of his fingers together.

“It’s my pleasure,” he replied in his cool voice.

“We प्यार you,” Clayton reminded Belle, giving her one last hug.

“I प्यार आप guys too,” Belle replied. “Please don’t stay away too long.”

Sarah laughed. “It’ll only be a महीना at most and then we’ll be घर again, sweetie.”

Belle kissed them both and as they left she felt Frollo’s hand on her shoulder. “Relax, my child,” he crooned. “God and his एंन्जल्स will watch over them; if we pray for them.”

He led her into the cathedral and Belle looked around at all the people kneeling in their pews. “Who are they praying for?” she whispered.

“Friends, relatives, anyone they love,” Frollo replied, thanking the Lord silently that he was only going to take care of this child for a month, he could put up with that. If it was any longer, he’d have to hand her over to the Archdeacon. “Praying is a good way to cleanse the soul.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means you’ll go to heaven; if आप pray and learn to be obedient and don’t go mixing with bad people, like thieves and murderers...and gypsies.”

“Gypsies?” Belle had seen gypsies in Paris before; sometimes they danced in the सड़क, स्ट्रीट and if her parents had any spare change, they’d give it to them and the gypsies were always polite in their thanks. Belle remembered once when they had stumbled across some gypsies who were starving and begging for any spare change. There had been a boy quite a few years older than her, in his late teens, who had looked half starved and who had a hand puppet that he was using to entertain some younger children. Belle remembered going right up to him and putting the सैंडविच she had just bought into his hand, even though she was hungry too. Clayton had laughed and then handed one of the older gypsies a five franc note and then Sarah had told them that if they went to the Busy Bee Bakery two streets down, they would get और for their money. The gypsies had been so grateful, and never forgotten such kindness. “You mean they’re bad?”

“Oh, the lowest form of vermin and sin आप can get in this world, Belle.” Frollo ushered her into a pew. “Now, let’s pray for your parents’ सुरक्षित return.”

Prayer, however, proved to be useless.

Belle started to grow used to living with Frollo; for whilst he was somewhat distant and not as warm as her parents towards her, he was good to her. They ate together and if she fell down he would tend to any wounds and she began to like going to prayers with him. She also grew to like the cathedral and whenever Frollo wasn’t around, she would explore every nook and cranny. She made फ्रेंड्स with the kindly Archdeacon, who seemed to be the only person in the world who would stand up to Frollo if he acted a little...out of sorts. To the others who came and went to and from the cathedral, young Belle was a delight; full of energy and polite and cheerful, putting them all in a better mood.

Then suddenly, a few weeks later, the bad news hit them. A messenger came to the doors and informed them that the Hispaniola had met with bad weather and been completely destroyed...leaving no survivors.

Belle was distraught; she couldn’t believe that her parents weren’t coming back.

Frollo was distraught as well, for now he was stuck with the child. “You’re upset?” he snapped at her. “Imagine how I feel!” Belle looked up at him through her tears and he relented. “Now, listen,” he said, not unkindly, “there’ll be no tears. We’ll pray for your parents souls and they’ll look down on आप from heaven and that way आप know they’ll always be with you, alright?”

“You will always have a घर here,” the Archdeacon reminded her later that day.

Yet Belle knew, even as she stared to settle into this new life where she seemed destined to remain forever, it could never be home. No place could ever be घर without her parents.

"Now, listen, there'll be no tears."