Didn't It Blow Your Mind, Claude Frollo?

part 4

"Nisha Gets Curious"

Several days passed since that amusing episode in the town square. Claude and I had witnessed Iggy McMullen and Phoebus putting on a street performance. Iggy had lifted Fern's guitar from the Chevy then decided to earn a little cash ("What could hurt? I needed bread!", he told his sister.).
Iggy didn't bank on Fern making a hasty return from Greenfield after receiving Jehan's message. He also didn't bank on Fern making an emergency trip through time just to give her nutty brother a good thumping. And she did just that!

With Claude and me watching this entire scene, Fern stormed across the square, snatched the basket that already overflowed with gold coins, then grabbed Iggy by the collar and gave him the worst tongue-lashing I've ever heard.
Poor Iggy was speechless as his sister verbally ripped him apart -- in public! Citizens cracked up -- they thought it was part of the act. And poor Phoebus -- He's such a twit -- he stood there absolutely helpless while Fern read Iggy the riot act. Of course, Fern didn't blame Phoebus. "After all, he doesn't know my brother, but he really should keep Iggy out at the d'Arcy estate until I can take him home," she said to Claude and me after the ex-soldier took Iggy back to the Chateau d'Arcy.

Claude, of course, cautioned Fern that Iggy's presence, "May be a pleasant novelty for many Parisians, but I simply can't have him run amok throughout the city. My dear Fern, Daniel (Claude never called Iggy by his nickname) must be kept out of sight until you arrange his return to the 20th Century."
I knew, and Fern knew, that Claude was referring to those "unexpected complications" surrounding Theodora's box. I had reassured Claude that Iggy couldn't possibly take something of such high value. Even if he was in need of funds to buy that equipment, "Iggy is no thief -- He may be too left-of-center but he's no thief."

Claude smiled when I told him all about Iggy and his glory days of 1960's counterculture, and of his band, Hornets Nest. Dear Claude didn't quite understand, or approve, of Iggy's politics, his dress, or his juvenile antics, but he finally told me that he jumped to conclusions for nothing. "My love, I should listen to you more often. Never did I accuse Daniel of theft -- Theodora's box has been safely locked away in the dungeons for nearly a year -- I worried myself over nothing."

Indeed, Claude had put himself through unnecessary torment over that box. It's safe and sound . . . And in a place where no one can get to it . . . Claude made sure of that.


While sitting in my private chambers in the Palais, mulling over the events of the past few days, I decided to send my parents a message via the pager. Ever since my brush with death, and my folks meeting Claude Frollo, I had Jacki and Tony make up a special edition pager/time traveler for Momma and Daddy. Although my folks didn't want to make time trips right away, we could keep in touch with each other whenever I was the 15th.

That legend surrounding Theodora's box stuck in my mind ever since Claude showed it to me. Momma was especially intrigued once I showed her a photo of that priceless artifact.

So, for this morning, I sent a message to Momma, along with a request for Daddy:

Dear Momma and Daddy:

I'm in the 15th with Fern and Claude. Please don't worry about me; you know I'll be fine(smile). Anyway, do you remember that photo of that gold box? I showed it to you this past Thanksgiving when Claude dropped by and had dinner with us.
He told you all about Theodora and the box and an ex-Roman slave. It's got me to thinking that there's more on this story than what we already know. Daddy, could you show that picture to Prof. Seldon? I know she's into ancient and early medieval history. She could fill in the holes of Etienne and Andre's story.
Didn't she say she was working on a paper on a similar topic? I remember her telling me about priceless artifacts lost during the siege of Constantinople back in the mid 7th Century A.D. That's when the Muslims invaded the Byzantine Empire.
Maybe she can find out how Theodora's gold box ended in Palestine. Then she mentioned that someone had done research on a similar project, but it was mysteriously abandoned more than twenty years ago.
I've decided to stay on in medieval Paris, so don't expect me to return anytime soon. But I'll stay in touch.
Love, Nisha

There! Maybe Prof. Seldon can find out something for me.
That innocent request would have far-reaching consequences, for me, for Claude, for Francois Patou, and, especially, for Iggy. I never realized that a simple note home could . . .

"How odd, that certain actions and decisions can affect so many lives."

Amen to that!


Later that morning, I went out to the courtyard, sat with a book of Howard Thurman essays, and began reading when Francois Patou approached me. He seemed rather upset but I chalked it up to his overloaded work and study schedule. But when he asked me . . . my curiosity about him became even more acute.

"Pardon, Mlle. Nisha, but I'd like your opinion on something."

Now I've always considered myself a good listener. Even Claude has come to me with his problems no matter how petty. But for today, I listened to Francois's latest worry: Something about doing the right thing when faced with a dilemma.

Hmm . . . Sounds almost like the sermon Del delivered nearly a year ago . . . Maybe Francois needs a little guidance down the right road . . .

I silently beckoned him to sit and tell me what was on his mind. While he gathered his thoughts, I studied, once again, this adorable young man. His rosy, chubby face glowed even in this anxious mood.

"Honey, whatever's on your mind, you can tell me."

Francois went on to tell me how some of his classmates had taunted him because of his dedication to his studies. He then told me that a few of these youths dared him to accompany them on an all-night binge of harlots and booze.
"I refused, mademoiselle. I've invested too much of myself, as well as gain Minister Frollo's favor, to ever jeopardize my future. I'm an orphan, you know, but His Grace has already told you all about me. It's just that I -- I remembered what you said, about ordering my priorities and balancing work and pleasure -- But what those boys wanted me to do . . . I just couldn't do it, Mlle. Nisha. It's not in my nature."

After I listened to all this, I put my hand on Francois's and said, "Francois, you made the right choices. Stick to your principles and never let those other guys pull you down with them. They're jealous because you have what they don't: Determination, commitment, and ambition. Don't let them take those qualities away from you."

Upon hearing that, Francois Patou patted my hand, then said before leaving, "Thank you, mademoiselle. I knew I could count on your good advice. I'll remember what you said."

He's a good kid . . . But there are forces out there that'll bring a young man down very fast . . .

I didn't notice the signs, but Claude did, and he became quite concerned with changes in Francois's behavior.
Over the past few days, Francois Patou acted strangely: Not speaking for several days and being sloppy in his work and studies.

Claude chalked it all up to the kid's tutor, León Mouton.
"My love, you know I believe that a demanding academic curriculum is vital to a young man's success, and I can tell you all honesty that Mouton is the poorest excuse for a teacher. Mouton's methods are appalling! How he ever became an educator is beyond me!" Claude glared hard when he added, "Francois is a brilliant, very capable young man, but I suspect Mouton knows not one ounce of subject content! It is no wonder the poor boy comes to me in need of assistance."

It was after Francois and I had that talk that Claude personally discharged León Mouton, and hired another, more thoroughly trained educator. Francois's skills improved nearly 200 percent, and he became even more dedicated to his studies.
Of course, this didn't set too well with his peers, who needled him nearly every day with their sordid tales of Saturday nights of drinking binges and brothels. But Francois held firm -- No way was he about to throw away his bright future.

This pleased Claude so much, and he told me that for once all was going well for him.
"Nisha, I'm pleased to inform you that all plans for the King's reception are in order. I've received word that Andre d'Arcy will return to Paris expressly for this occasion."
He leaned over to kiss me, then requested a favor of me -- Well, two favors to be precise.

"Danisha, I wonder if I can persuade you to play piano for His Majesty. Since no one from my time can play the damned thing, and since the King's so intrigued with that instrument . . . "

Now I silenced Claude's words with a kiss. "Sugarbritches, I would be honored to play for the King. But I think a little Gershwin, some Jerome Kern, maybe some Scott Joplin, should be in order. 'Cause I don't think His Majesty's quite ready for That Old Time Rock-n-Roll."

Claude Frollo laughed then expressed his gratitude in a way that always sends thrills through my body. He then asked something else of me, something that would lead to the funniest events . . .

"Quasimodo displayed the strangest behavior yesterday. While we were reviewing his lessons, he began asking me about your time, about the 1960s and 1970s to be precise. Tell me, Nisha, what have you told him about the 20th Century?"

Now I didn't think that a few Riley poems, a couple of African American folktales, and quoting a few lines of American Presidents would cause much harm. But I guess Quasi became intrigued with my time and how it was for me growing up.
"Claude, if Quasimodo's been asking all that then it's because I told him about some of my childhood days -- Happy memories, mostly stuff from my schooldays. I'm sorry if I overstepped any boundaries."

Again, I was silenced by Claude's kiss. "Dearest Nisha, you haven't overstepped . . . , " he paused to chuckle, then contimued, "You haven't done anything wrong. It's that the poor boy does get confused sometimes. Would you be a darling and visit with him? I would accompany you but I have the most horrendous schedule today . . . Could you do that for me?"

My smile was as broad and pleasant as his as I replied, "I'll be glad to answer Quasi's questions; besides, I don't mind spending time with my little buddy."

Little did I know that a certain someone had slipped back into town -- heck, he slipped through time portals -- and teemed up with his newfound ex-soldier friend. And we -- Fern, Claude, and I -- thought he was back in our time, looking for a job and an apartment . . .
This crazy man had already met the bell-ringer while taking a tour of the cathedral. Then he talked Phoebus into lending . . .

Oh God, was I glad Claude never found out about neither one of those 'groovy parties'! But he wasn't too pleased that we used Snowball as a guinea pig. Everyone was laughing -- except Claude, who expressed his amusement in private. He forgave me for allowing Iggy to put on that "throw down" in the tavern. Actually, Claude was quite taken by our impromptu performance, especially when I dedicated a line from an old Jackson Five song to him.
But it was a good thing he didn't see what Iggy did earlier, or else Claude would've nailed Iggy's hide to the nearest tree.

Then things took a dramatic turn . . . Daddy would send a message -- make that a misdirected message -- which would forever change a lot of lives.

And Claude Frollo would be in the middle of it all . . . So would be Francois . . . And so would be Iggy . . .


©Copyright FrolloFreak FSM #14, 1998.

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