All That Matters...

Part 6
"A Closer Look -- A First Meeting" 

Later that morning, two little boys rush into the Palais stables with news for their father. The Minister of Justice hears this news as well, and His Grace is quite intrigued. Read on...
Paul d'Arques and his little brother Alain rushed into the barn where their father, Guy, was presently currying Snowball. Guy was not very pleased that his middle son had neglected his duties. After all, Paul will someday take over MY job. I can't have him run off every minute. "He's just a boy," his mother says. But he's nearly grown...What's all this talk about 'la éthiopienne'

The boys excitedly and breathlessly spoke of the curious Black lady who had accompanied Madame Fern Grigsby's return to Paris. They went on about how beautiful she was, how she told them the most wonderful stories.

"She read to us, Papa. She read this story about a New World girl who lives near a swamp", said Alain who turned to his brother and said, "Alain, tell Papa all about the game Mlle. Nisha taught us."

Little Alain, his rosy cheeks glowing as he helped his father brush Snowball's rich black mane, replied, "Papa, she taught us this game that New World children play. It's a game to remember our names."

Guy d'Arques laughed as his oldest boy, Denis, came in with the newly polished saddle. "So, this New World woman has made her mark," said Guy as Denis adjusted the cinch.

It was Denis' turn to speak, "I've seen her, Papa; she's at Notre Dame nearly every day. She's a Christian, just like I thought she'd be. I remember hearing someone say that 'les bons ethiopiens' have remained Christians despite living amongst infidels."

So the discussion about Paris' most unusual visitor went on among father and sons. That discussion would soon be joined by the Minister of Justice himself who had just arrived at the stables.

"Is my horse ready, Guy?", asked Minister Frollo, clad in his casual hunter-style ensemble of black tunic, tights, boots, cloak, and hat.
Guy d'Arques replied with a smile, "All saddled and ready, Your Grace."

Claude Frollo smiled thinly, then his attention was drawn by Paul, who quickly related his report on "Madame Fern's friend. She's a wonderful lady, just like Mme. Fern." The boys went on to tell Frollo all about this young woman -- la belle éthiopienne'-- as they had termed her.

The d'Arques boys told His Grace everything: The games, the stories, the many kindness.
"She's especially kind to Jules and Renee de Chateaupers. Mlle. Nisha bought Renee a new dress."

Frollo listened intently to all the boys' assessments of this woman. He especially listened to Paul's recollection of a conversation between Mlle. Nisha and the boy. "She said she's from this 'Indiana'. That's in the New World, and she's lived there all her life. And she's a teacher!"

After Paul finished his little report, Claude Frollo turned to Guy and asked, "And what, Guy, do you make of our New World visitor?"

Guy replied, "Your Excellency, at first I was hesitant to allow my sons near this woman -- many of the parents felt the same way. But this woman's no witch; she's Christian -- 'La bonne éthiopienne', so to speak. Of course, we Parisians seldom see Black peoples, so..."

Frollo interrupted Guy and said, "Ah, so this woman has made quite the impression..."

As he mounted Snowball, Claude Frollo made his own assessments of Madame Fern's friend. "Mlle. Danisha is to be treated with the utmost respect and dignity. After all, she IS of the faith, and descended from a long line of devout Christians; who, I might add, continue to cling to the faith whilst surrounded by infidels."

Of course, Frollo's sentiments on Ethiopian Christians trapped in an increasingly Muslim world went over the heads of the younger boys. All they knew was that, "Mlle. Nisha is a wonderful lady. She promised to tell us more stories. This time she's telling us the story of a girl named Laura who went to this 'Minnesota' with her family." And with that, Paul and Alain set out for another new adventure with 'la belle éthiopienne'.

Claude Frollo's eyes followed the boys as they disappeared down the street. He smiled broadly, for Fern's efforts had paid off handsomely. I knew Fern would come through for me; her friend is finally settling in -- All that worry was for naught.

Ah, so Mlle Danisha has made a few friends...Good!
And now my dearest, I shall see for myself what wonders you've wrought within these few days...

A 20th Century shopping mall....
"Danisha, you fretted over nothing; for as you had already realized, the citizens perceived you as a rarity -- NOT as a pariah."

Claude Frollo sprayed on a bit of cologne as he finished his recollection of my first few days in medieval Paris. According to Claude, Paul and Alain d'Arques gave His Honor the complete lowdown on me, or 'la belle éthiopienne' as I was often called.

"It was after the boys' informed me of that initial conversation, and of your generosity toward Adele's youngsters that I was determined to meet you face to face. Of course, I only admired you from afar; that first encounter..."

I sniffed his wrist -- Ooh, decidedly sensual and masculine -- and proceeded to recount the final 'ice breaking' that lead to many long-lasting friendships.

"Claude, everyone was so curious about me, but I knew, deep down, that folks weren't going to flat-out beat me up, but..."

As we glided up the escalator, Claude Frollo chuckled good hunoredly and said, "My dear, I was well out of sight but I had stationed my soldiers nearby in the event an empty-headed peasant happened to harm you."

Dear Claude...playing my protector. He needn't do that, but...Sometimes being one of the Minister's ladies has its advantages!

"Claude," I said as we flipped through racks of CDs, "I appreciate the fact that you were close by to see to my safety, but I could've told someone where to get off and all."

To that, darling Claude laughed and once again recalled the time he beheld me, "In the flesh for the first time. I was on the other side of the square when I saw you reading to the children. Honestly, Nisha, I nearly fell off my horse when my eyes drank your beauty...and your vivaciousness."

Back to that fabulous summer of 1481. This is it! Claude Frollo, who has admired Danisha only from afar, has finally decided to meet her face-to-face. Read on...
The sun-kissed walls of the Palais colonnade glowed with an almost beckoning light as the Minister of Justice strode the long walkway. He stopped momentarily to watch the usual parade of citizens at work and play. Oh the monotony of it all...

Claude Frollo sighed as his eyes scanned the square; he had hoped she'd be there again. Oh please let me behold her, admire her, if only from afar...

Frollo had seen the woman, that friend of Fern Grigsby, a few times, and only from a distance. But even then he could see that 'la belle ethiopian' had clearly captured the hearts and minds of so many citizens. But there was the question of skin color. True, she was Black -- of mixed heritage at that! A strange mixture of the Nubian and the native New Worlder -- Fern called them 'Cherokees'.

What does it matter? She -- Danisha -- is here, and making quite the splash.

And she made a most profound impact upon these medieval French. Yes, she's Black, but a Christian -- 'une chrietienne ethiopienne' as they had termed her. Ah, thought Frollo, 'le bon ethiopien' -- the good Ethiop, or Black. He had read the legends of the Black Knight, of Roland, of Prester John. Yes, many of the Blacks in those ancient lands formerly known as Axum and Nubia were, indeed, among the first Christians. And these peoples have struggled to cling to their Christian ideals in the wake of the Muslims. Now, this woman -- Danisha -- Her presence in Paris was indeed a novelty.

Rarely had Frollo, or many other citizens for that matter, seen Black people. Oh, there were the stories from southern Europe of Black men and women brought out of Africa by the Portuguese. These people, taken from their homeland then brought to Europe as slave labor...It won't last...

Claude Frollo pushed that thought from his mind as his eyes focused on a happy scene in the square. There she is!

Yes, it was her, the one named 'Danisha'. She was accompanied by a several children, the youngest of which carried an odd-looking object. Looks like a ball, but the color...the material...No matter.
Claude watched this merry group many times before, and during those many times, he marveled at this woman's way with children. Fern was right again, for the children came to adore 'Mlle Nisha'. Many times Claude had watched this woman's interactions with Parisian children -- He was quite taken with her patience and warmth.
There was that time when he had witnessed several little girls jumping rope, and Danisha was sitting nearby. Suddenly a burly, bullying boy disrupted the girls' play and proceeded to take the rope. Danisha sprang into action and tore into this boy with the ferocity of a lioness, yet she held her emotions in check. Frollo, astride Snowball, watched this woman give the boy the tongue lashing of his life.

A 'take charge' woman...I like that...

Aside from her assertiveness, her beauty charmed Claude Frollo's eye most pleasantly. Even from a distance, he
admired how the light played on her dark honeyed skin. Her hair, a mass of dark glossy waves and curls, was tamed by the most unusually hued scarf.

What pattern is that? Claude smiled as he recalled Fern's reports of Danisha's first few days.

"Your Honor, when Nisha found out her summer vacation spot was 15th Century France, she was ready to go home. 'Fern,
I don't fit in!', was what she told me. You can see that she's settling in quite nicely."

Yes, Nisha did begin to settle in and make a few friends. From various citizens, reports about 'Madame Fern's friend' reached Claude Frollo's ears; and this time, today, he was determined to meet her face to face.
Claude continued to watch her initiate many games with the children -- games that were totally foreign to 15th Century youngsters. Well, she's not a Gypsy, and she's not one of the dreaded Infidels. Look at her, the proud carriage, the refinement...

He watched and listened to the little song she sang as the ball passed from one child to the next:

The game begins and the ball goes 'round
Little Alain show us how the ball goes 'round
Play boy, play boy, play boy, play
Little Alain show us how the ball goes 'round

Ah, an elimination game...for this little boy had possession when the song ended...This is refreshingly different...
Frollo watched the game in its entirety, and smiled when Renee de Chateaupers won the game. Ah, that should please her...

Another game? What is this 'Red Rover'?
Claude Frollo continued to watch this happy playtime as Mlle. Danisha led the charge:

Red Rover
Red Rover
Send Josette right over!

This is truly a remarkable woman, thought Frollo, as he watched her enjoy the children's antics with youthful fervor.

What is t 1000 his? They are ending the games early? Why?

Indeed, Danisha had ended the games early as she wanted to enjoy the remainder of the afternoon with a walk through the square. Frollo's eyes never wavered from her plump curvaceousness, nor from the rhythmic swing of her hips as she meandered through the crowded square.

A Nubian goddess...a Black Aphrodite...

Did Frollo feel a sudden blast of heat to his face? Can't be! Impossible!

But there was no denying the intense longings as he followed her route; he had to get a closer look. And he did get a closer look as she sat on a stoop and untied her hair. Frollo's eyes drank in every detail as she removed her scarf and fluffed her hair. That dress! An odd mixture of colors...Looks more like patchwork...It does fit her well...Is that a slit?

Indeed, Claude Frollo got more than a glimpse of her comely honey-brown legs. He couldn't turn his eyes away if he tried!
Ah, those legs...full, shapely...I like the curve of the calf...
Her skin is the color of dark honey. Oh, to feel the silkiness...Her hair, a shiny wavy mane. The hair is dark, but kissed by the sun...What is this? She's waving; she's smiling! Oh my dear I must meet you -- Now!

Yet Claude Frollo remembered Madame Fern's cautions: "Approach Danisha carefully as she's only months out of a bad relationship." What, Frollo wondered, was that 'bad relationship'?
He would not learn the horrid details of Danisha's ill-fated romance with Brandon Cole Bell for many years to come.
But, for now, Claude knew he had to make his move and make it now. He also reminded himself that he mustn't let on that Fern brought along this woman to medieval France solely to meet Claude Frollo. No...Danisha will surely accuse Fern of playing 'matchmaker'. I must keep up the pretense that I don't know her, or of her country, her time...

"Lieutenant!", barked Frollo. A nearby guard stood at attention as Claude Frollo issued his orders.

"You see that Ethiopian girl sitting there?", Frollo said, pointing to Danisha.
"Yes, Your Grace," the soldier replied.
"I want you to fetch her at once! Do not frighten her but inform her that I wish to meet her."
In a flash the soldier exited the Palais and caught up with Danisha just in time.

Any moment now.... 


In the shadows of the doorway, Claude Frollo watched Danisha as she toured his study. Her eyes took in everything: the tapestries, the books, the papers, the massive fireplace. She is brilliant, keenly observant, as well as beautiful.
And that beauty was more evident as Claude Frollo watched her move about the room with the grace and dignity of a queen.
I wonder if she's a descendent of Bathsheba or the Candace (Kandake) [1], for her bearing is that of royalty...Oh how her beauty shines, glows...her smile...

Claude continued to watch her as she moved from the fireplace to a small tapestry that hung nearby. She smiled as she studied the woven image of the French countryside. She seemed to marvel at the intricate workmanship and the silky texture of the fabric.
Now is the time, thought Frollo. Perhaps later on, I'll let her have that work...

He approached her from behind and addressed her. "I hope I didn't frighten you by sending that soldier, but it was the
only way I could finally meet you."

She turned to face him -- Oh, even her eyes are like pools of dark honey. Tell me, my dear, what secrets and tales do those eyes hold?  He extended his hand and introduced himself.

"And what is your name?", he asked.
She responded in the most polite manner, "My name is Danisha LeShawn Wood. My family and friends call me 'Nisha'."

Such a musical voice...Dark, deep, lush...Like rich black velvet...Like fine Bordeaux...

Her French is good enough but I can tell she is struggling...No matter, for she's trying...And she'll adjust as the summer progresses...

20th Century America...

"And the rest, as they say, is history," pronounced Claude Frollo as he escorted me to my car. We had wrapped a full morning's worth of shopping and adventure; and now, it was time to head for home. My excursion down 'memory lane' courtesy of Claude was all I needed to ease my mind. For now, I forgot about Phil and his inane attempts to hurt me with his hateful words. Never before had I allowed hatred to penetrate this tough armor with which my parents equipped me.
And, pronounced Claude, it was that armor that kept me going all through that unforgettable summer.

"My dear," he said as we sped northbound on Illinois Street, "never for a moment did I worry over how you would get along. Nisha, you have always managed NOT to let petty people 'get' to you." He leaned over to kiss me then continued, "Darling, has it ever occurred to you that in my 15th Century world, you have been one of the few bright spots of my entire existence."
I said nothing as Claude Frollo continued to pour out his heart and soul. "Danisha, whenever I'm with you, I am NOT with a 'woman of color', on the contrary! I am with one of the most dynamic, exciting, brilliant, and beautiful women in the world -- 15th OR 20th Century. Danisha, I do not see you as a mere 'colored girl' but as a lively free spirited woman."

Claude sighed then leaned back in his seat. He made me look at him while we waited out the light; I could feel his eyes burning through me like never before. I had to say something -- something that I had never said to him until now.
"Claude, I knew you loved and accepted me for who and what I am. You never let the fact that I'm Black stand in your way of pursuing our relationship, even if we do manage to turn a few heads in my time -- and yours."

Claude said nothing as he leaned over to kiss my cheek. A big bright smile lit up his face while he flipped on the radio. Hmm...seems the DJ has ESP or something...for there's the unmistakable Smokey Robinson crooning the lush lyrics of  "Being With You".

I only returned the smile and kiss, then echoed Smokey's words, "I don't care what they say, or if they try to avoid us...All I care about is being with you, sugarbritches."

"And that's all I want, Danisha dearest."


[1] The Candace was a lineage of Ethiopian queens, one of which is credited for bringing Christianity to Ethiopia. This particular Candace ('Kandake' is the Afrocentric spelling) sent her finance Minister to Jerusalem to learn more about Jesus' teachings. This man is the Eunuch who Phillip baptizes and later spreads The Word to the Ethiopians. (Acts 8:26-40).
This story draws its the historical perspective from several sociological/ethnographical/demographical studies (Ain't Social Science great!) It wasn't easy finding information on racism in medieval Christian Europe, although there was PLENTY of data on medieval Islam! Go figure. "Many thanks to my colleagues and professors for pointing me in the right direction!"
Here's one work I highly recommend -- I'll list more as soon as I sift through all this stuff! :)

Drake, St. Clair. Black folk here and there: an essay in history and anthropology. Los Angeles : Center for Afro-American Studies, University of California, 1987.  

Copyright©1998 by FrolloFreak®.

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