"Jehan", I began, as I petted Snowball's nose, "what
happened?" Jehan Frollo, obviously upset and concerned about the soldier's
condition, replied, "I was in Paris Saturday; I had planned to visit
my brother. When I learned he wasn't in town..."
I said to Jehan, "Claude was with me, in my home." Jehan smiled; it was not as dazzling as Claude's, but warm and friendly. "I had a feeling he was with one of his ladies." He continued to tell me how he had found the soldier, who was severely injured, perhaps dying. "I was on my way to the Chateau d'Arcy...you do remember...we had a wonderful Sunday afternoon...",
His voice trailed off; he paused to collect his thoughts, then continued. "Apparently, the horse kicked him several times. He fell backwards down the embankment; it's very rocky down there. His head was...I'm glad my brother made you stay outside...all bruised and bloody." Jehan sat down on the ground; the recollection of the gravely injured man had clearly disturbed him. "There's also some internal damage ...at least I think so...I could hear blood...gurgling..."
Jehan's voice began to quaver as he continued. Even I began to feel a little queasy at Jehan's descriptions of the man's injuries. "I went for help at once. The caretaker's cottage was just a few miles away. We brought him back here", he nodded towards the small cottage. I then asked, "Jehan, where's the caretaker? Claude and I didn't see anyone, except the servant and two guards." Jehan replied, "The servant told me that the caretaker left for Paris several days ago, to search for his wife."
I looked puzzled, then Jehan continued, "I knew to contact my brother
because the man kept saying, 'I want to apologize to Minister Frollo...and
to my cousin.'" Now, I was truly puzzled. I know what the man did to Claude...but....who's
the cousin? It wouldn't dawn on me until....
Jehan sighed as he got to his feet. "Well....I guess I should go inside. Claude will thank me; at least, this time, his little brother did something right for a change."
After Jehan went inside the cottage, I walked up to Snowball. I've always loved this massive, beautiful animal. I told the boy to run along; I'll watch the horse. I petted Snowball's nose and stroked his silky mane.
Good old Snowball...I'm glad you're OK....you're a nice horse...want to go for a walk?...
To keep myself occupied while Claude and company were dealing with that soldier, I recalled that day of the farewell party. It was an affair that everyone, especially Claude Frollo, would never forget.
"My darling Nisha, you and your friends have truly outdone yourselves", said Claude Frollo as he surveyed the table laden with a variety of delicious food. We really knocked ourselves out to make this party a truly memorable experience. Fern and Kyle cooked mounds of barbequed ribs, chicken, and turkey (Kyle's idea -- to introduce medieval Parisians to native American foods). Jacki and I worked overtime, preparing salads and scrumptious desserts. I proudly pointed to the pecan cake. saying to Claude, "I baked this especially for you." Claude was truly pleased. "You remembered how much I like your American pecans," he said lovingly.
It was a glorious Saturday afternoon; the early August weather was extremely pleasant,
nothing like the hot, sticky days back home. We had set up tables and chairs
in the street; our block was wide enough to accommodate all our guests.
Just as Claude had promised, he had his men block off the area to traffic; that way, we wouldn't be bothered with the entire populace of Paris swarming all over. There wouldn't be enough food anyway!
Jehan, as usual, helped himself to everything, and asked, "What
is this? What do you call that?" Upon
tasting my potato salad and
sugar cream pie, he favorably commented, "Mmm...delicious...you must
make more of this before you leave." Claude just smiled at his brother,
then he leaned over and said to me, "Typical behavior...pay him no
mind." Claude complimented Fern on the barbeque. I think it was then he developed a particular fondness for my sweet, spicy sauce. He then chuckled good-humoredly as he reached under the table and
grasped my hand. I made sure I didn't mention our eventual parting; I wanted
this to be an enjoyable experience for everyone.
Aunt Perle kept everyone entralled with stories of her childhood and her long career as a teacher. Claude said to Perle, "I hope you aren't too homesick, being without all your 20th Century conveniences." Perle just laughed and said, "Your Honor, I grew up in a two-room cabin. No running water, no electricity, no indoor plumbing. Staying at Marie-Louise's is almost like that - But a lot grander and more comfortable!"
We all broke up in laughter; then, Jehan asked, "Why didn't you marry?" Aunt Perle explained that, back where she first taught, "schoolteachers weren't allowed to marry. or at least marriage was discouraged. Oh, I could have married, but I decided to devote my life to the children." Claude praised Perle's devotion to her chosen profession. Just before he could ask Aunt Perle more about her life, Fern excused herself from the table.
She then turned to me and said, "You think you, Jacki and Shelli (Kyle's girlfriend, whom he invited to medieval Paris - this would be her SECOND trip!) can hold down the fort until I get back?" I looked at Fern with questioning eyes. Why does she have to leave? What's she up to?
"I gotta go across town and pick up my contribution to the entertainment." I pondered a bit, then realized exactly what Fern was talking about. Oh boy!...these Parisians...and Claude...are in for a treat! I said we'd come up with something.
After Fern left, the three of us huddled together, trying to come up with something to entertain our guests. Shell suggested we do "girl groups", just like she, Jacki, and her sisters used to do. "I remember now!," I said. "You all did that act for Junior Vaudeville. I think I joined you in that little routine." Jacki grinned, adding, "Since you are the oldest, we'll let you sing lead." I said yes, then asked, "OK, what'll we do for a band?" Shell said as we headed for the stage, "We'll do it the old-fashioned way -- a cappella."
The 'stage' was just a small platform that several men in the 'hood built especially for this occasion. Jacki, Shell, and I faced our audience; Claude Frollo sat in a prominent spot nearby. He was smiling pleasantly and giving me that look that said, "Well...let's get on with it." I announced to the audience that, "What you are about to hear is a sampling of music from our country; that is, OUR part of the country. First up, my friends," I introduced Jacki and Shell, "and I will sing a medley of songs known as 'Motown'". Immediately, we began clapping our hands and swaying to the rhythm, as I belted out Dancing in the Street, Heat Wave, Shotgun, and other American urban standards. I think it was during Heat Wave that I noticed Claude trying very hard to maintain his composure. His eyes were hot with passion when I sang the line,
Whenever he calls my name
sounds sweet and so plain...
I feel that burning flame...
Oooh Claude....I can feel you getting all steamed up...now, sugar, please keep yourself in check...this is definitely NOT the place nor the time!
erupted in thunderous applause as soon as we finished. "We've never
heard anything like this before! Sing more!", came the cries from
the audience. But I could see Fern coming with a group of people,
so we left the stage, but not before I introduced Fern.
Fern, her full-figure clad in a long, colorful gingham dress and white pinafore, looked more like a farmer's wife from Indiana than a stylish Parisianne. She was carrying what I knew was her autoharp. Fern stepped up onstage, faced the crowd, then proudly announced, "Ladies and gentleman, and distinguished guests", she nodded to Claude and Jehan Frollo.
"First off, I'd like to thank y'all for coming out on this beautiful day. We truly hate to leave y'all but it's been a joyous summer. Good friends, good memories..." Her voice stopped as she glanced over at Claude and me. I was sitting next to him; we were holding hands. Then Fern, all smiles, announced, "It gives me great pleasure to introduce these good folks. I've known these guys ever since I was a young'un. Matter of fact, some of them taught me to play this thing," she held up the autoharp, "when I was still a-toddlin'." She laughed heartily, then continued, "Here, I'm wasting time, when we should be tappin' our toes, clappin' our hands,and singin' along. Good people of Paris, meet the Front Porch String Band!"
The whole block was filled with the rustic sounds of the American Heartland. I was somewhat apprehensive when Fern told me she was bringing the band; Parisians may be put off by 'hillbilly' music. I was wrong - our guests loved it! Especially Claude and Jehan, who were tapping their toes to the lively beat of the music.
The band continued to play many favorite numbers. Fern got up and danced with Ray to Redbird. "You know", loudly said one band member, "for a full-figured gal, ol' Fern can step mighty lively." Fern laughed as she and Ray performed a dance dating back to a time when much of the Midwest was still largely rural. Fern then called to Kyle, "Why don't you show them some of your fancy footwork." Kyle took center stage as the fiddlers warmed up.
Claude leaned over and whispered to me, "Kyle? A dancer?" I whispered back, "He's an expert clogger. Won all kinds of competitions ever since he was five years old." That said, all eyes were on Kyle as the band began the familiar intro to Orange Blossom Special. The fiddler took great pains to make his instrument sound just like an old locomotive, although none of our 15th Century friends would ever see such things.
Kyle steppped and kicked lively to the brisk rhythms; the band even stepped up the already lively tempo as the crowd called for an encore.
When Kyle finished to a standing ovation, he called out to me with panting breath, "Would it be too much trouble to ask for some lemonade?" I complied and excused myself from my company.
Poor Kyle...out of breath...and thirsty from all that dancing...this ought to hit the spot...
I poured what I thought was a full crock of lemonade.
Now that's funny...I could've sworn I made a fresh, and full, crock before the band got here...and where're all those cookies...I just put a full plate out...
I heard a sound from under the table. I pulled back the tablecloth and, to my surprise, stared directly into the eyes of Quasimodo. He was munching on cookies and drinking lemonade.
"Quasi! What are doing here? You're going to get into trouble!"
Quasi shushed me and whispered, "I heard about your party, and I wanted to come. Please don't tell my master." I thought for a few seconds, then decided not to tell Claude; after all, Quasi's my little buddy. Even though Claude and I were lovers, and told each other nearly everything, I wasn't about to inform him of this. Let Quasi have a little fun...what can it hurt?
"Look, Quasi," I told him, "Keep out of sight, and promise me you'll go back to the cathedral. I don't want to risk falling out with Claude Frollo." Quasimodo promised me he would stay out of trouble.
"What took so long?", Kyle asked me as I returned with lemonade and cookies. I replied, "I had to make another batch of lemonade; these guys are really running through it." I'm not a good liar, but I thought everyone, especially Claude, bought it.
Our party was winding down; the band played its final numbers as daylight was quickly fading. "Play Rocky Top!", called someone from the crowd. It was Perle Darcey. Everyone laughed as Fern said from her seat on the stage, "Miss Perle, this is especially for you!" And with that, the band launched into one of my favorites.
I wish I was down in Rocky Top
Way up in the Tennessee hills
Ain't no smoky smog on Rocky Top
There ain't no telephone bills
"What's a 'telephone'?", asked Jehan. I turned to Claude, smiled, and said, "Well, Professor Frollo. Explain THAT." Claude, overcome with good humor, began to explain to his brother Bell's 'remarkable invention'. I couldn't help but laugh as Jehan's eyes widened in disbelief. "Talking in a little box? And the other person can hear you from across town? Across the country? Across the sea? Impossible!", Jehan exclaimed. Claude then leaned over to me and whispered in my ear, "You see what happens when a young man neglects his studies." I could only giggle and sing along with the band as they wrapped up the song.
Rocky Top, you'll always be
Home sweet home to me
Good Ol' Rocky Top
Rocky Top, Tennessee
Rocky Top, Tennessee...
Another thunderous, standing ovation! Fern glanced over at Claude as if to say, "Now?" Claude returned the nod; Fern then leaned over and whispered something in Ray's ear. "What are you up to Claude?", I asked, knowing that he had something up his sleeve - again!
The band began playing Indiana Waltz as Claude Frollo stood up and asked, "May I have this dance?" I was taken aback, but pleased, all at the same time.
Claude led me out away from the crowd, put his arm around my waist,and began to dance to the rustic sounds of dulcimers, fiddles, and Ray's plaintive tenor.
Claude continued to dance with me; then, he twirled me into a dimly lit alley. He immediately kissed me; I could feel tears on his cheeks. I heard him say over and over, "Oh, Danisha, darling...I can't believe that this time next week..." His voice trailed off as he kissed me again, deeply and passionately.
Now I couldn't hold back. "Claude, I'll never forget you. You've been a wonderful friend and lover. I really don't want to leave..." I broke down in tears; I guess Claude couldn't help himself either. We held and kissed each other a long time. Claude's reassuring words, "We'll see each other again; I can feel it", gave a me sense of hope. Since the time-travel device worked with Fern and me, with the band, and Aunt Perle...Hmmm...I can visit Claude any time I want...But then again...
Claude and I continued to embrace and kiss when, just then, we heard a rustling sound in the alley. "What was that? A rat?", I said somewhat alarmedly, for I HATE rats!
"Hmmm...", Claude began, "I rather think it's the two-legged variety." At that moment, a young, blond-haired man rushed past us; I recognized him at once. "Claude", I said, "isn't that..."
Claude Frollo declared, "Malus de Chateaupers...that damned boy! He must have gotten past the guards."
Without hestitation, Claude summoned two of his men to arrest
Malus for disorderly conduct, but Malus did not come to disrupt the party. Rather, he came to take his younger brother and sister home. These were Renée and Jules, aged ten and fourteen, respectively. They were part of the little group of children who took part in my playtimes; they were my particular favorites.
The children protested going home so soon. I took Malus aside and said, "Can't you let them stay a little longer? We hadn't had ice cream yet. I'll see them home...promise." I glanced over at Jacki who was bringing out Aunt Perle's homemade ice cream. Jacki kept it frozen in a chest lined in dry ice.
Malus shot me a withering look. I remember Claude telling me about this young man; he was nothing but trouble. He said nothing as he dragged his siblings away from the festivities; their protests were in vain.
"Claude, aren't you going to arrest him?"
Claude Frollo replied, "Oh, don't worry, my dearest. I put a...what is that 20th Century expression...'tail'?...on young Malus de Chateaupers. I believe he was spying on us." I looked at Claude uncomfortably and said, "Spying...snooping?..." I felt a slight twinge of fear.
Why would Malus spy on us?...All he wanted to do was come get his siblings...
Claude embraced me, warning me to, "stay away from that young man, my love." Then he sighed and said, "It's a pity he's not like his more illustrious cousin, Phoebus de Chateaupers."
Phoebus.... I heard about him from some of our neighbors.
Finally, I pushed all negative thoughts from my mind then said to Claude, "I thought we were supposed to have a good time. Besides, you don't want to miss out on ice cream."
Claude grinned. "You're right...I can deal with juvenile delinquents another day." Then his eyes widened in anticipation. "Ice cream?", he began with a broad smile. "My mouth is literally watering in expectation."
That said, we enjoyed the waning hours of an unforgettable day.
I walked Snowball around the grounds surrounding the little cottage. I think we were both bored from waiting so long.
What is going on in there? Is he.....
Just then, Jehan came out and pulled me by the hand. "What's the matter, Jehan?", I demanded. Jehan, looking somewhat alarmed and worried at the same time, said, "Danisha! You need to come in here. The man wants to say something to you."
I don't know this man...what could he possibly say to me?...and why?
"Hurry!", insisted Jehan, "I don't think there's much time left." I followed Jehan into the caretaker's cottage, but turned my eyes towards the road, in time to spot a tall figure in the distance, riding a white horse.
To Chapter 18!
Copyright©1997 by FrolloFreak