"Hey, Quasi", as I reached for the little hand-carved wooden figure of
what looked like General Grant. "Grant's beard's a little too bushy.
He's starting to look like Gabby Hayes."
"Gabby Who?" replied Quasimodo blankly.
"Never mind. Here, look at the picture. Are you sure you want to do this? It's a lot of work", I said as I handed Quasi a picture book of the Civil War.
I had been spending a lot of time in the belltower of Notre Dame ever since that first, botched encounter with Claude Frollo. I felt really bad about going off on him those few days ago, and I never told a soul about our meeting. I just figured that if I stayed out of his way and kept my mouth shut, things would cool off and maybe we could try to be friends.
I went to Notre Dame the day after my encounter with Frollo. It was there I met Quasimodo, the cathedral's bellringer. I was immediately struck by his sweetness and gentleness; I was not put off by his deformities. Quasi showed me his belltower home, and the miniature city and townspeople he carved himself. I complimented him on his talent and he seemed fascinated by my interests as he noted seeing me in the square with the kids.
I soon found myself lugging American literature and history books up the steps leading to the belltower. For several days, I enthralled Quasi with stories of the Civil War, American folk heroes, the Underground Railroad. He especially liked the African American folktales of John Henry and High John the Conqueror. He decided he wanted, as a gift to me, to carve a Civil War battle scene, complete with Lee, Grant, and Union and Confederate troops.I thought this was weird but I indulged Quasi.
"I don't mind doing things for people I care about", Quasi said, as he painted a newly carved figure of Abe Lincoln, "When you're stuck up here alone, you have nothing but a lot of time, so might as well do something to keep yourself occupied...and happy." He smiled as we wrapped another day's activities.
I didn't want to stay too long as Quasi expected Claude Frollo any time. My visits with Quasimodo always ended with me hastily exiting as soon as Frollo entered the cathedral. I hated doing this and so did Quasi. He told me how Frollo 'adopted' him when Quasi's momma didn't want him. "Frollo took me in when no one else would. But he's very strict about me leaving the belltower, or having visitors."
"Well, Quasi, maybe it's best that I don't hang around when he comes to see you. I surely don't want to get us into trouble." I packed up some books, hugged Quasi goodbye, and started down the tower steps. Whew! Frollo's not expected for a least another hour, and this time I didn't have to rush. My thoughts were then focused on Quasi's mini-battleground. I suppressed a giggle as I wondered what Frollo would think of all those tiny cannons and rifles, and little soldiers in blue and gray. I told Quasi to keep it hidden where Frollo wouldn't discover it.
I had to take my shoes off because all those steps and high heels were a dangerous combination. Just a few more steps and you're home-free, I thought as I juggled shoes and books. I was within three steps of the ground floor when I dropped my shoe and a couple of books. I made it to the bottom and, as I sat down to put on my shoes, a tall figure approached me. He picked up my books and looked at the titles. "Interesting. 'The Speeches of Abraham Lincoln', 'The Civil War'". He knew enough English to pronounce the words exactly. "Such intellectual pursuits for one so beautiful." I looked up and found myself staring into the eyes of Judge Claude Frollo.
Oh no, I thought, he's going to arrest me for sure, probably for visiting Quasimodo. "I like reading New World history", I hastily explained as I took back my books and placed them in my bag. I expected him to laugh and tell me that my country was too young to have any kind of history, but he didn't; instead, Claude Frollo knelt down and assisted me with my shoes. I tried to protest but he smiled at me so sweetly, his hands cradled my foot so gently, I couldn't say a word.
He spoke softly, "You should be careful wearing such shoes as these." He looked me squarely in the eyes and said, "We don't want you seriously injured. By the way, Mlle. Wood, if I offended you..."
"Offended me?", I wondered. "Oh, you mean what happened a few days ago...No, Minister Frollo, I'm the one who should apologize. I had no business going off on you like that."
Claude Frollo smiled again as he helped me to my feet. "Well, no matter. What's done is done. I still watch you at play with the children. I'm still intrigued by you. Now that I've espied some of your reading material, you arouse my curiosity even more..."
Then Frollo's voice trailed off as he drew closer to me. He still looked me straight in the eyes as if he were searching for something inside me. "You were up in the belltower, visiting Quasimodo", he said, at last with certainty, his eyes never wavering from mine.
"Quasi is my friend. He likes me to read to him. He's fascinated by New World history and literature. He likes poetry and folktales the best. I hope you don't mind me coming to see him."
I wondered if Claude Frollo would suddenly become angry that Quasi and I had become such close friends. What was to come next proved me right, for Claude Frollo continued to gaze into my eyes and coolly said, "Quasimodo is 'different'. I don't want his head filled with ideas that may give him false hopes."
How can he do this? How can he stand there, be so sweet and attentive one moment and then turn into the Ice King the next? I was beginning to believe all the rumors about Claude Frollo's cruel coldness, that he was too wrapped up in himself to even notice what people actually think of him. I shot him a long, hard look and, in my best 'sistah-with-a-tude' voice said, "I don't think Quasi is as 'different', as you make him out to be. You're selling the poor kid too short. I'm just trying to make his day a little brighter, that's all. As for 'filling his head with ideas', so what? New ideas aren't going to hurt him! If you ask me, reading a little Lincoln or Frederick Douglass is not going to turn Quasi into a raving radical overnight! I don't see why you're so fired-up mad about me spending a little time with him."
Claude Frollo immediately lashed out at me. "Have you forgotten my warnings? You shall pay dearly for your insolence. How I rear Quasimodo is no concern of yours!" He reached out as if to grab my arm but I quickly stepped back.
"Minister Frollo, is it true you can't arrest me here?", I announced in a raised voice. Some of the priests and parishioners heard me as I continued my little routine.
"Yes, that's right! I heard the Archdeacon tell someone that once they're granted sanctuary, you can't touch them. So you know what? I'm going to sit right here and there's nothing you can do about it."
Minister Frollo glared hard at me and started to say something, but I quickly continued my tirade, "And where you get off being so nice just to cut me down. I don't know what your problem is but it's just not right. I thought we could be friends but I guess I was wrong." I sat down on the stone floor and glared up at him.
Claude Frollo stared right back at me, his eyes registered a curious mixture of anger and - pain. Yes, pain. It was more than just humiliation - I think I actually hurt him with my words. I did it again! I let my mouth get the best of me, and now I just may have lost a potential friend. Momma always told me my mouth would get me in trouble, and it did.
Just before Frollo turned to ascend the belltower steps, he knelt down before me and said in a surprisingly calm voice, "I don't believe in 'second chances'. If I had my way I'd arrest you here and now. Unfortunately I have no authority here." He gently stroked my cheek. "But somehow I cannot see your glorious honey-brown skin spoiled by whip marks, or that beautiful neck snapped in a hangman's noose." His voice softened to a whisper. "Oh...Danisha, my dear, you have the most beautiful brown eyes."
I didn't know what to think of this sudden change in mood. I looked at him with surprise and confusion. "Minister Frollo...what are you saying?"
Claude Frollo gently held my hand and fingered a lock of my hair. "I am saying that I am letting you go. I can't believe I said those words, but there's something about you..." He stood up, quickly composed himself and, in a commanding voice, said, "You have been warned, my dear. Those who disregard my authority will clearly pay. Now, get out of my sight!"
I blinked as he left, but I wasn't mistaken; Claude Frollo had given me a quick wink before heading up the belltower steps. And was that a slight smile I detected? I didn't know what came over him but it got me off the hook. Of course, I still had the rest of June and all of July in Paris: was this town big enough for the both of us?
As I walked out of the cathedral, I lifted my eyes heavenward. Oh please, I prayed, let the rest of my vacation be without mishaps...and please don't let Claude Frollo be mad at me any more.
Claude Frollo stood on the parking deck and stared out across the canal.
"I was very angry with you and I had every intention of punishing you",
he said as I unlocked the car door. "But I couldn't bring myself to..."
His voice quavered as he embraced me; I could feel what I thought were tears.
"Claude," I whispered softly. "Are you OK, baby?" Claude looked into my eyes, almost the same way he looked at me that day in the cathedral. "Danisha, my dear, I fell in love with you the moment I saw you. And even though you maddened me with all your...sassiness... I like that word." Claude sweetly kissed my lips and continued.
"At any rate, we managed to forgive each other and become friends...and much more." He kissed me again.
"Claude, you forget that I almost left Paris for good because...", I started to clarify a few key things when Claude Frollo interrupted me. "Now, my love", he laughingly said, as we got in the car, "the entire 'incident' wasn't all that disastrous. You admitted your guilt and I reacted. That is all."
"You 'reacted' all right, sugar", I said while starting the engine. Then, in a quieter voice, "I didn't know what to think. I was confused, angry. All I wanted to do was get out of Paris and forget we ever met."
Claude leaned over and kissed my cheek. "I'm glad you stayed. I don't know what I would have done without you..." He kissed me again, then leaned back, smiled broadly. "Well...no matter. We're together now." He pursed his lips in an imaginary kiss and in his deepest, sultriest voice, asked, "Now, my sweet darling Nisha, where to next?"
I smiled back at him, returned the 'air kiss' and said, "Do you like spiced apple cider and gingerbread?" Claude Frollo grinned and ran his tongue over his lips saying, "So much spice in one weekend. Sounds oh-so delicious." I giggled softly and kissed his lips.
As we travelled northward towards Lilly Orchard, Claude once again reminded me of an unforgettable incident that nearly ended a special relationship.
Go to Chapter 10
Copyrightę1997 by FrolloFreak.