Margaret

A story by Simon N.

At the turn of the century, European countries were at war with each other. Many lives were lost in the bloodshed and numerous others succumbed to starvation. As a result of all the fighting, there was a severe shortage of food. Many governments enacted tough and harsh laws with regards to the stealing of food. The penalty for this crime was usually death by hanging.

Amidst all the chaos and uncertainty, there was a widow named Margaret. Her husband died while fighting valiantly for his country; he left behind five small children for her to take care. To feed her kids, Margaret would go door to door begging a job. Unfortunately, work opportunities were nonexistent. Most shop owners wouldn’t even think of hiring anyone; they already had a hard time taking care of themselves.

In desperation, Margaret had to resort to feeding her children with tiny crumbles of bread she gathered from the dusty floor of a local restaurant. Sadly, the small amount of food was not sufficient to feed even the smallest of her kids. Witnessing her children suffered from malnutrition depressed her heart and brought tears to her eyes. But somehow, she managed to keep her emotions in check — like any good mother would.

One day, Margaret could no longer control her emotion. Instead of gathering small crumbles of bread as usual, she seized a large piece of bread on one of the tables and ran out of the place as quickly as she could – without looking back.

That night, her children got to taste the best food they had eaten since the death of their father. Watching her children consumed the piece of bread with such an appetite, Margaret could not help but to express a joyous smile; this was something she had not done since her husband’s death. However, her brief moment of joy quickly turned sour. She knew full well what consequence awaited her.

The next day, the constables came and arrested Margaret; she went with them deferentially. Her five children, however, refused to let her go. They begged, cried and held tightly onto their mother. Their impassioned showing of love touched even the sternest of the constables. Unfortunately, the responsibility of a constable was to uphold justice. They had no choice but to take Margaret away, despite strong protests from the children as well as Margaret’s neighbors.

On the day of Margaret’s trial, the courthouse was swarmed by thousands of people who gathered in support of Margaret. Even though they came from all walks of life, they shared a similar bond; their lives mirrored that of Margaret at one time or another. Unfortunately, her guiltiness with regards to stealing the piece of bread was clearly established. The judge had no choice but to convict her. When the verdict was read, a morbid silence infiltrated the air. She was convicted of her crime and the punishment was death. 

There were heavy downpours on the day of Margaret's execution. Despite that, thousands still braced the rain to bid farewell to a heroine they hardly knew. The children were there too with tears streaming profusely from their eyes. The youngest child kept calling for her mother. It was a scene no onlooker would ever forget.

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