D'Arcy...Darcey...It all makes sense now.
Jacki introduced me to Madame d'Arcy, who had welcomed
Jacki into her home two months earlier. Madame d'Arcy
would've been alone for most of the summer, for her husband
and son were in England on family business, and her
niece and new husband were honeymooning in southern
France. She was grateful to have
'Jacqueline', as she called Jacki, keep her company for the
balance of the summer.
While Claude and Madame d'Arcy were deep in conversation, I took Jacki and Fern aside and finally asked them, "Is this why you didn't want me to come inside? Because of a sweet old lady?" Jacki then explained that the d'Arcys were her French ancestors.
"That's the first thing I did when I invented the time traveler; I wanted to research my family tree", replied Jacki, "I guess all that time spent studying quantum physics and advanced calculus paid off."
Jacki glanced lovingly at Mme. d'Arcy; then, Fern explained further, "We're keeping this to ourselves. She doesn't even know; we can't risk affecting outcomes." I mulled over that last statement, "can't risk affecting outcomes."
Fern then went on to explain that was why I was kept in the dark; that is, until Claude Frollo revealed nearly everything.
Jacki, looking at Claude, who was now conversing with Kyle, smiled and said, "We had a feeling he'd tell you sooner or later." She tried not to break out in laughter as she moved her eyes from me, then to Claude, then back to me. "Fern said you two have become quite an..ahem..item."
I returned the smile, coolly saying, "Well...let's just say that His Grace and I are...hmmm...'real' close friends."
Claude glanced over at me; I guessed he picked up on the giggles coming from our side of the room. He came over to me while Kyle was still conversing with Mme. d'Arcy. "Did they tell you everything?" I linked my arm in his and replied, "Almost, but I'm still not clear on...
"How I knew where to start digging? Who filled in the holes of my research?", said Jacki, who directed our attention to another elderly lady entering the room, "Ask Aunt Perle."
Perle Darcey? Isn't that Jacki's daddy's aunt? His 95-year-old aunt?
Sure enough, all eyes were on the petite lady entering the room. I only saw her twice in my life, once when I was a little kid, and, at Jacki's high school graduation.
Aunt Perle steadily and cautiously made her way into the room; she was leaning on a cane. At ninety-five, she was still the picture of elegance and grace. Her floor-length beige-colored linen dress, with its matching, wide-brimmed hat and low-heeled pumps, highlighted her cafe au lait complexion.
Her face, lightly dusted with powder and rouge, looked surprisingly young and vital, despite Perle's advanced years. Kyle offered to help Perle to her chair, but she politely refused. "Thank you, honey", she said in a warm, loving voice, "but I can manage. Been doing it for all these years."
Fern, Kyle, and Jacki excused themselves from the room. All Jacki could say was that she and Fern were preparing something special for Sunday dinner.
Perle settled herself in a chair next to Mme. d'Arcy,
turned to her, and said, "Marie-Louise, you have a lovely
garden; that nice gentleman staying with you showed me all
your flowers and trees.." She then turned to Claude,
looked at him for several seconds, then she smiled and
said, at last, "He looks something like you, but younger
and not as grand."
Claude Frollo looked puzzled, then glanced at Mme. d'Arcy with quesioning eyes. I managed to catch his eye and mouthed, "Who? What?" Claude quickly shook his head, his face registered utter, yet, pleasant, surprise as another figure entered the room.
I studied this tall, slender man approaching us; I could readily see the family resemblance. But whereas Claude was serious, austere, meticulous, and carried himself with a regal air, this man's entire demeanor suggested endless pleasure, an 'I-don't-care' attitude towards life.
The man walked up to Aunt Perle and handed something to her. "I believe you dropped these during our walk." She thanked him as she took her gloves. He then turned to Claude, who tried to keep his surprise in check. Claude told me everything about his brother, Jehan; I felt I already knew him, even before this meeting.
"Claude", Jehan warmly began, as he clasped the elder brother's hands, "I really wanted to come to Paris, make myself known; but, I was having a such a lovely time here. Mme. d'Arcy insisted that I stay; then I met this charming lady." He smiled at Perle Darcey as if she were an old friend.
Hmmm...Claude told me Jehan has a habit of...Oh no!...sponging off not one...but TWO sweet old ladies?...this man is too much...
Claude greeted his brother, to my surprise, in like manner.
"Jehan, you could have informed me...I'm glad you're here.
You look well."
Jehan then turned to me and said, "So...you're the one." What did he mean by that? Does Jehan know that Claude and I are lovers?
Claude Frollo, sensing the slight tension in my expression, quickly spoke, "This is Fern's friend", as he took my hand and completed introductions. "She's very pretty", Jehan smilingly said, then he leaned over and whispered in Claude's ear, "You always did have excellent taste." With that, Claude and Jehan broke down in laughter and embraced each other, just like loving brothers.
Claude told me that he raised Jehan from a baby, ever since the death of their parents; he tried to instill in his brother the same virtues that made Claude a successful man.
However, Jehan liked to gamble and have fun, drifting from one thing to another; he was almost always broke. Claude loved his brother dearly, despite Jehan's shortcomings.
"Minister Frollo", said Mme. d'Arcy, "your brother has been absolutely wonderful. Even with Jacqueline here, we two old ladies are grateful for his company." Claude just replied with a slight smile and glanced at his brother as if to say, "Oh, I know why you're here...you'll never change..."
Kyle then returned to the room to announce dinner was ready. Mme. d'Arcy then proudly announced that, "My dear Jacqueline and her friends have prepared a special dinner." She then turned to Kyle and asked, "Now, young man, what is the main course?"
Kyle replied, "What you are about to experience is a summertime Sunday dinner that is common in the New World, that is, my part of the New World."
Perle laughed as she added, "Isn't that something, to come all the way to France just to eat Fern's fried chicken." Claude's eyes widened in anticipation; he looked at me and said, "Fried chicken? You promised me such a meal...remember?"
He started laughing as I helped Perle to her feet; Jehan escorted the ladies to the dining room. I then took Claude Frollo aside and whispered in his ear, "Well...we were...er...busy", referring to that crazy, passion-filled night.
Claude was overcome with humor as he escorted me to the dining room.
A traditional Sunday dinner served in countless homes
Midwest: fried chicken, mashed potatoes, corn, hot bread,
green beans, sliced tomatoes, Fern's homemade blackberry
It was a meal that Mme. d'Arcy, Claude, nor Jehan had ever experienced.
Over the course of the summer, I served Claude a variety of native American foods, of which he liked pecans and corn best.
"Mmm...'corn'", said Jehan, helping himself to seconds (or was it thirds), "and I like the red things...'tomatoes'." The conversation was a delicious as the food. Mme. d'Arcy praised Fern's culinary talents; and Aunt Perle, who nodded at Jacki, said, "Jacki cooked the beans, just like I taught her and her Mama."
I leaned over to Perle and whispered, "When are you going to tell us the family history?" Perle whispered back, "Marie-Louise always takes a nap after dinner; you all will know all about the Darceys then."
Claude had his brother in stitches as Claude repeated that "Hoosier and Kentuckian" story. Fern laughed and whispered to me, "Well, I've seen someone's been tellin' those stories again."
Jehan then asked about other native American foods. "Fern, you talked about pumpkins. I understand they're only available in the fall." Fern nodded, then I piped up, "Jehan, why don't you and Claude come for Thanksgiving dinner. Then you can eat all the pumpkin pie you want." Jehan looked puzzled. "Thanksgiving? What is that?", he asked.
Claude knowledgably replied, "A holiday unique to their part of the New World; they set aside a day to give thanks for their country's bounty." All eyes were on Claude as he continued, "They celebrate with family gatherings and serve foods native to their country."
Kyle, his eyes wide with amazement, said, "Wow, Your Grace, you sure know a lot about Amer...ahem...our country." Then Claude Frollo glanced lovingly at me. "My boy, I had a marvelous teacher." I tried to be modest about it all; indeed, I had told Claude much about American history and culture.
Perle then said to Jehan, "Honey, if you come to my house, you better bring your appetite, because I cook everything: turkey, ham, cornbread, greens, chitlins..."
Jehan interrupted, "Beg pardon, madame, but what are 'chitlins'?" Jacki looked at me, I looked at Fern, whose face registered a certain level of disgust. She looked Jehan squarely in the eyes and said, "Jehan, my mama cooked those things every Christmas and Thanksgiving. She made sure to set that stinkin' pot right next to me,'cause she knew I hated 'em."
Everyone except Jehan started laughing; I had told Claude all about Fern's 'chitlin story' a few days ago, when he had asked the same question.
I just said to Jehan, "Sugar, don't ask what they are; you don't want to know."
That said, we continued to enjoy a pleasant Sunday afternoon dinner and lively conversation.
"The d'Arcys fell on hard times during the 18th Century.
Some of the family began emigating to the American
colonies." Perle began to explain how the French d'Arcys
became the American Darceys.
Mme. d'Arcy had gone upstairs for her after-dinner nap. Everyone else gathered around Aunt Perle as she began to recount her family's history.
"My great-great grandfather was Henri d'Arcy. He settled
near Lake Charles, Lousiana, bought some land, and started
a small sugar plantation."
Claude asked Perle, "How are you related to the d'Arcys; and, how did the the name change to 'Darcey'?"
Perle paused a few moments, then, collecting her thoughts, continued the history lesson. "Now, you all who are living in these times will have to understand; don't tell anyone else what I'm about to tell you. Or else", she paused and glanced around at the visitors from the 20th Century. "None of us would be here right now."
that's what Fern meant by not changing the outcome -- If
anyone altered the past...we wouldn't...I wouldn't be here
with Claude now...
Perle continued, "Henri had a son, Jean-Paul. He was my
great grandfather. Well, he had a wife; but, he also had a
mistress. That was Sally, one of the house slaves." Claude
and Jehan were both visibly disturbed at the word
"That's right, Claude", I said, as I held his hand, "America has a dark, ugly past..." Claude's eyes were now scanning my entire face.
"That explains your coloring, your features...the brown skin, the full lips...your hair...Danisha, your African ancestors were never willing immigrants...", Claude looked somewhat bewildered as he fingered a lock of my hair.
He then turned to Perle and said, "She's been telling me of your country's history, about slavery, the war..."
Perle looked at him with reassuring eyes. "Yes, and we managed to rise above it all." She leaned over and patted his hand, then continued.
"Jean-Paul and Sally had a baby boy. That would be my grandfather, Joseph. He was so light he could pass; of course, in those days, a drop of Negro blood meant you were Negro. And a slave, if you were living in the South."
Jehan then asked, "And what happened to your grandfather?" Perle took out a lacy handkerchief, genteelly blotted her face, then continued.
"After the War, and emancipation, my grandfather moved North, to Tennessee, near Gallatin." Perle's eyes were on me as she said, "Honey, I believe your daddy's family's from Gallatin." I nodded, then Perle continued, "Now, this was 1869. My grandfather had married and owned a little farm. My father, Russell, was born in 1870."
"But how did the name change?", asked Kyle.
"My father was still a baby when the census people came. Neither of my grandparents could read or write", explained Aunt Perle. "Now, most slaves had no real last names; they always took the name of their slaveowners. Well, since Jean-Paul d'Arcy was my grandfather's last master, that was the name he took. 'Course, when he had to give the census people his name, I think they just wrote down what it sounded like, 'Darcey'."
At once, Claude understood the name change. "It was those responsible for recording the names...that explains it", he began, then added, "Yet, obviously, your father, and then you, were able to secure a proper education. Surely the name could have been changed to its original French."
Aunt Perle and I couldn't help but smile at Claude's innocent statement. "Your Grace", replied Perle, "times were different then. Why, Joseph Darcey could've passed as white, but he didn't. Do you know what those d'Arcys would've thought if my father, or me, showed up on their doorstep and said, 'Y'all remember me? I'm Henri's great-great granddaughter!'."
Even though I knew of the gravity of Perle's explanation, I was overcome with good-humor. I turned to Claude and said, "My mom's side of the family is really mixed up! Her father could easily pass...but he didn't. People still had a tough time figuring him out."
I think it was then that Claude Frollo finally understood what I had been telling him. "My dear...I had no idea..."
He then turned to Jacki, surveyed her warm, light-brown coloring, and asked, "So this explains the travel through time, to find your French relations." He then leaned over to Aunt Perle and smilingly said, "You must be extremely proud of your grand-niece; she's very brilliant."
Aunt Perle just laughed, her face beaming with pride. "Oh, honey, we all knew Jacki had special talents", she said, looking lovingly at her nephew's daughter. "Yes, sir, the Lord's really blessed her." She then grew serious. "You know, Your Honor, I thought I'd never get this opportunity."
Claude Frollo raised an eyebrow and politely asked, "And what is that?"
Perle sighed, glanced around the room once more, and said at last, "I always prayed that before I leave this world, I would finally meet my French family. Only I didn't think I'd have to travel back in time!" With that, Aunt Perle was overcome with good humor; her high laughter infected everyone.
Fern then said to me, "You know, we oughta throw a farewell party." Kyle and I immediately jumped on this.
"Yeah", I said, "it could be a farewell-thanks-for-the-memories party." Jehan Frollo, pouring himself another cup of wine, commented, "A party? Oh...I do love a good party, even though my brother thinks they're a waste of time."
"Oh really", Claude answered his brother, "since when did I dislike a party?" He then told Fern that he enjoyed pleasant social gatherings, "As long as the festivities are not too raucous."
Fern just looked at him and said in a matter-of-fact voice, "I'm not suggesting a wild, no-holds-barred orgy; you forgot that I was at the Feast of Fools this past winter. Now that was wild."
Claude acknowledged this as Fern continued, "Our party'll be just good, clean fun. Good music, good food, good company. So, Your Grace, can I count on your presence?"
I quickly glanced at Claude with an expression that read, 'You better say yes'. Claude, sensing this, immediately told Fern that he "would be delighted to attend your little function". Then, he added, "And, so you won't have the whole of Paris swarming all over your home, I'll have my men block off the streets to traffic. That way, your guests may freely mill about the neighborhood."
Jehan then spoke up in mock-indignation, "What's this? My brother's actually using his authority just to please his new-found friends?" Perle got up and walked over to Jehan. She patted him on the shouder and chuckled, "Baby, sometimes it's nice to have important folks as friends, and your brother's one of them." She then told Fern, "I hope you plan on some nice barbeque; I always enjoy good barbequed ribs."
Once again, Jehan Frollo asked about another American custom totally foreign to him. "And what is 'barbeque'? Sounds odd but delicious", he then turned to his brother, who began to loftily explain as everyone started laughing.
"'Barbeque'", began Claude Frollo, "is taken from the American Spanish word..."
I remained outside while Claude, two guards, and a servant
went inside the cottage. He wanted me to stay outside
because, as he reasoned, I may be put off by the soldier's
It was the servant who came to Paris with the information. Apparently the ex-soldier had been gravely injured and taken to the cottage to recover.
I know I shouldn't think like this...that soldier must
be pretty banged up...but...I hope Snowball's
I paced outside, waiting for Claude.
What's taking so long?
Just then, a stableboy, a fine, black horse, and another figure approached the cottage. Immediately I could make out the face of the man.
"Jehan!", I exclaimed, running up to him. I embraced him and said, "But why are you here? How did you know Claude and I were here?"
Jehan Frollo returned the embrace (sibling-style hugs -- Jehan knows not to mess with his brother's women). "Oh, didn't the servant inform my brother? Damn! I knew this would happen..."
He then said to me, "I'm the one who found the man, and Snowball. The horse is fine, but that man...Danisha, I don't expect him to survive...he's that badly injured."
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