Chapter 12 
"There's Something About Evrard's Lady..."

The Time and Place:
Paris, early afternoon,  February 9, 1495. Dorothy Ducharme finally settles in Paris...and draws much attention.



"Well, M. Ouimet, I'm so looking forward to meeting your famous Vincent LaCroix! I understand his wife is of African royalty. Then there's meeting your brother. I truly hope Phillipe and I will get along..." 
Dottie Ducharme smoothed the heavy burgundy brocade coverlet which warmed her shoulders. Traveling by carriage through the streets of late medieval Paris was such a treat for our Motown girl. It was odd, she thought, as the carriage made its way through crowded streets toward the Palais de Justice, how so very little of 1495 Paris survived in the 20th Century. Hardly a thing she remembered from her travel books remotely resembled this city. Of course, Dottie had to remind herself that the present-day City of Light was a far cry from its medieval ancestor.
She sighed and peered out as the carriage neared the Palais. Evrard repeatedly told her not to worry so; she and Phillipe will warm to each other. Truth be known, Dottie was more anxious to meet Vincent LaCroix and his wife Isabelle. Perhaps it was the pairing of an elderly, extremely wealthy French merchant and a first generation French woman of African descent. All this intermarriage! Vincent and Isabelle, Clarice and Anseau, Evrard's father and Serena...My goodness! In my time, in several states, such marriages are discouraged, even illegal!
The sight of the Palais spires looming in the distance filled Dorothy with an uneasy apprehension. No, it was not from her upcoming introduction to Phillipe Ouimet, rather, it was another in a series of odd feelings she experienced ever since she and Evrard set foot in this bustling medieval metropolis. First there was that sense of deja vu the moment she arrived at Evrard's Parisian homestead. It was an exceeding elegant, well appointed home -- very grand for the period -- situated in one of Paris' better neighborhoods. Now Dottie knew she hadn't been here before but that nagging sense of familiarity remained. Nonsense! This is my first time; maybe I'm nervous. Then there was that basket of "welcome" gifts. What an odd assortment of items! Evrard and Orry were quite in the dark upon examining the basket's contents; even Clarice and Anseau were puzzled. But Dorothy knew these items and became more intrigued upon learning the generous donor was none other than Jehan Frollo. Evrard and Dottie read the accompanying letter:

Mlle. Dorothy Ducharme,
How delightful to discover that we are neighbors! Please accept these tokens as a Welocme Home gift. I trust you aren't too homesick for your country These items may alleviate those feelings. Perhaps we can accompany each other to Mass this evening. I am, my dear Mademoiselle...
Jehan Frollo
"Well," Evrard said to Dorothy, "how kind of Jehan Frollo to write such a sweet note. How kinder still that he troubled himself to send all these New World treats." What was in that basket? A variety of food items ranging from pecans to corn to coffee. "What is coffee?", asked Evrard as he lifted the bag to his nose and breathed in the heady, enticing fragrance. Dottie's face lit up when she unearthed the antique (well, to Dot, it was antique) percolator.
"Honey, just let me brew up a pot, and then you can set your senses for Coffee Heaven!"
Overcome with laughter, and wonderment, Evrard Ouimet soon inquired about every foodstuff Jehan packed, but there were other questions. "Surely, my dearest, Jehan Frollo had to travel to your country. How else could he have all these delicious things in his possession? My goodness, the man must have spent months at sea!"

Dorothy found herself deeply puzzled as well. She noticed little things: the coffeepot that was obviously early 20th Century; the neat hand crocheted collars on the apple butter jars ("Ball jars?!"); several unfinished pieces of crochet and cross stitch work. "DMC and Coats thread didn't exist in the 15th Century," Dottie surmised to herself after examining the balls of thread and little instruction booklets. Even the crochet hooks were out of date. "These didn't exist either, at least not like this...They're steel..."
As always during her sojourn to medieval Paris, Dorothy had to keep her mouth shut about the time travel. She already figured out that Johnny Elmore had to be a transtemporalist, but Jehan Frollo? No way! The man is definitely a product of his own time, so how did Jehan get hold of items that are so obviously 19th and 20th Century? And it didn't set too well with Dottie that Jehan Frollo -- and the house where he stayed -- was just a short walk across the street. Dorothy wracked her brain and wore herself ill all during her first few days in Paris.
Overwrought with worry and anxiety, Dottie's health began to suffer; she contracted a slight head cold and took to her bed. Evrard, obviously concerned about his beloved's state, promptly canceled a week's engagements and demanded that Dottie rest up and regain her strength. During that week Dorothy received no callers, except for a visit from Jehan Frollo, who dropped by later that week when Dottie was well enough to go outside. Jehan was kind enough to ask Dorothy to accompany him on a walk to Notre Dame, "Just to familiarize yourself with your new surroundings, and perhaps attend evening Mass."
Of course, on that day, with Clarice and Anseau presently visiting the LaCroixes, and Evrard in and out most of the day, Dorothy was grateful Jehan Frollo offered to show her the city. Well, she thought, Jehan has finally loosened up; I wonder what his brother Claude is like...

 They made quite a pair, Jehan and Dorothy, as they strolled through narrow streets and avenues. Dorothy, clad in splendid ruby-red brocade and black sable, allowed Jehan to dominate the conversation most of the way.
"I hope you liked the New World things. Uh...If you are wondering how I came by such things -- such as the coffeepot -- Claude's lady, the one named Danisha, brought those things with her...This is her home; she stayed here whenever she visited our ti...umm...I mean, our city..."

For a fleeting moment, Dottie thought Jehan said, "whenever she visited our time"; instead he hastily corrected himself. Shrugging it all off as the remaining side effects of an herbal remedy Clarice had given her a few days before, Dorothy paused outside the tall elegant structure. So this was where Claude Frollo's lady lived. She was from the 'New World'? And her name was 'Danisha'? I don't get it...I don't...Ooh, I feel funny...

Indeed, Dorothy became rather lightheaded as the oddest of feelings wafted over her. There it was again, that sense of deja vu. Jehan Frollo detected this and said nothing; instead he directed her attention to a street performance a few blocks away. "Listen, Dottie; that sounds like fun. Why don't we walk along this way..."
He took her by the hand and escorted her through the streets and toward the happy sounds of flute and tambourine. All along the way Dorothy felt the eyes of strangers upon her; she sensed a thousand tongues whispering about "M. Ouimet's lady."
At once Dorothy Ducharme hissed to Jehan, "Why are these people staring and whispering? I thought colored folks here didn't get this kind of treatment..."

Jehan Frollo laughed, suddenly realizing that Dorothy was so unaware that ...

"Oh no, my dear mademoiselle. The people are all intrigued with you, not indifferent. For you are the fiancée of Evrard Ouimet, and the future kinswoman of the Minister of Justice..."
Breaking into a slightly embarrassed smile, Dottie admitted to Jehan, "Perhaps, it's all these jitters I've felt ever since I came here...I'm still not used to all this -- you know, life in your world..."
Her voice trailed off as she and Jehan rounded the corner to la Place de Notre Dame. There, surrounded by several citizens, a little Gypsy girl gave a sweet little performance. As Dottie and Jehan drew closer, a few folks in the crowd began to nudge each other. One man in particular directed his attention from the girl and her little white goat to Dorothy's commanding form.
"Could I be seeing things?", thought the gentleman, all the while studying this woman in Jehan Frollo's company. Surely not, but the resemblance is so uncanny! Silently and undetected, Pierre Mannette withdrew from the crowd and quickly retraced his way back to La Belle d'Avignon. Once there, the rumors flew about like wildfire.

The tavern -- La Belle d'Avignon, with the portrait of Sarah Jouet (Victor Jouet's mother) still prominently displayed -- buzzed with the latest gossip concerning Evrard Ouimet's future bride. Elderly Victor Jouet, the tavern's owner/manager emeritus, couldn't believe his eyes when he saw the woman pass by earlier. He couldn't believe his ears when Pierre Mannette finally rushed in an shared the latest. Victor's son, Hugues, who now took over the tavern's active operation, rejoined with all the customers who swore Mlle Ducharme was a dead ringer for Danisha Wood. Rumors and speculation flowed as freely as the wine and ale.

"Yes, there is something about Evrard Ouimet's lady." 
"Too damned uncanny resemblance if you ask me."
"Wonder what Minister Ouimet thinks of his brother's intended."
"Phillipe Ouimet? Hah! What I'd give to see old Frollo's reaction once he lays eyes on this woman?!"

The little Gypsy girl, merrily tapping her tambourine, whirled and jumped about while a boy nearby played joyous melodies on a homemade flute. Rounding out this performance was a small white goat which sported a single golden earring. Nearly everyone in the crowd seemed to enjoy this impromptu exhibition, especially Dorothy.  Jehan glanced her way every so often just to gauge a reaction.

Nothing! Nothing remotely jolts the memory...

When the child finished, Dorothy handed her several gold coins and said, "That was very nice. Your goat is so well trained. What is your name?" The girl, an irresistible bundle of eight year old energy with a dusky, dimpled face, big green eyes, and a mop of black hair, graciously took the coins. She smiled at the lovely brown skinned lady then became very curious.
After putting the money in her tiny purse, the child finally spoke. "My name is Katerina. My goat's name in Djalito; he's named after my mother's goat Djali. They look just alike. And what is your name? You're so kind and pretty."

Dottie returned the smile and replied, "My name is Dorothy Ducharme..."

The girl, somewhat alarmed, interrupted, "Oh, you're the famous Mlle Ducharme, the one who's marrying Judge Ouimet's brother!"
This puzzled Dot when she told Katerina, "Yes, Evrard Ouimet and I are to be married, but why are you so worried?"
Katerina replied, "Because Judge Ouimet is to be your kinsman, and so many people are looking for you, and your friend M. Elmore..."

Noting Dot's reaction, Katerina fell silent, gathered her belongings, then ran off towards her mother who stood at the opposite end of the square. Jehan noticed this as well then persuaded Dorothy to return home. With a slight twinge of guilt, Jehan Frollo said, "My dear Dottie, I'm so sorry to have brought you here...But I was hoping..."
An increasingly distraught Dottie Ducharme grasped Jehan's hand, saying in a quivering voice, "Jehan Frollo, please take me home, and promise you will not tell Evrard...Oh Jehan, what is happening to me?"

It took much fortitude on her part not to pass out, and Dottie was very grateful that Jehan was there to see her home. He solemnly promised not to tell of their little adventure, "Especially not the encounter with the Gypsy girl. Phillipe Ouimet is more intolerant of them than Claude ever was. Just giving that child money would most likely incur your future kinsman's wrath."

And that's why Dorothy was so nervous about meeting Phillipe Ouimet. She remembered from her many social and cultural history lessons that the Gypsies were sorely persecuted throughout Europe. Ironically, a woman of Dottie's station, and of African descent, stood a better chance of acceptance. It was all a matter of money and faith. As long as Dorothy didn't screw up at Mass (No, Dot wasn't Catholic but Miss Winnie was, so all those days attending church with her guardian  paid off for Dottie), she was in the clear.
But Dottie, herself a child of misfortune, had a kind heart, which was why she gave the child money. Isn't it obvious? The Gypsies have a tough enough time and all they want is a fair shake...That child is probably dancing for her bread and board...Who's her mother, anyway? And what's the deal with Johnny? Does he know these people?
The fact that she gave Katerina a few measly coins might spoil her chances with Evrard's brother. But what really shook up Dorothy was what the child said to her. What did Katerina mean, that everyone was looking for Dottie? And what was that mention about Johnny? Was he here in medieval Paris? Why? Then there was Jehan's reaction to that scene. Why did he apologize? All he did was take her to la Place de Notre Dame, and they happened upon a street performance. And why did Jehan say, "I was hoping...", then cut himself short? As much as Dottie came to love Jehan Frollo as a friend, she still couldn't get over that insistent feeling that, to her, 15th Century Paris meant so much more. What was that nagging sense of familiarity? I've never been here, so why would I feel as if I have?

Many such questions swirled about Dorothy's mind as she entered the Palais with her fiancé. Her heart pounded upon walking through the massive doors; her eyes immediately fell upon the black and white marble floor. Her gaze traveled upwards to the double vaulted ceiling and the endless stained glass windows. There it was again, that sense of deja vu.
Squeezing Evrard's hand, Dorothy turned to him and said in a shushed, quavering voice, " sweet Evrard, please take me home. I can't do this...Phillipe will hate me; I can feel it."
Evrard Ouimet quietly chuckled, kissed Dottie squarely on the lips, then reassured her that Phillipe will come to love her. "My brother may at times come across as a dour, straightlaced bore, but I can assure you, my love, that he will not hate you."

So the two lovers, resplendid in their color-coordinated deep purple brocade and velvet finery, waited outside the Minister of Justice's study. To ease her nerves, Evrard drew Dottie's attentions to the many comings and goings in the Palais. "My brother was wise to retain most of Claude Frollo's staff, but for transition's sake only. I understand that after his formal induction, Phillipe will begin to transform the Ministry of Justice to suit his needs. Quite a change from Frollo's tenure." Dorothy, finally allowing herself to relax, asked Evrard, "Darling, your friend, this Claude Frollo, sounds so interesting. So he was the Minister of Justice nearly thirty years...That's a long time. Phillipe has heavy shoes to fill..."
Just then the study door flew open and a voice beckoned Evrard and Dottie inside. "Come in, Evrard. How long has it been? Ten years?" Just as the future Madame Ouimet crossed the threshold, the new Judge Ouimet came into focus. He was a tall slender man with a shock of brownish gray hair. Not a wholly handsome man, but peculiarly pleasant in a stern, benevolent way. His black velvet robe with the bejeweled yoke and red epaulets was exceedingly fine, but...

...It doesn't have the same impact...

Dottie was shocked! What on earth made her think that? How could I make such an observation when I haven't seen...Hey, where's the plant stand, and that tapestry?  She felt herself swoon. "Evrard," she said under her breath while endeavoring to steady herself.
The two brothers, busily catching up on a decade of news, nearly overlooked the bewildered figure standing in the doorway. Her eyes scanned this room, Judge Ouimet's private study, then fell upon the window in opposite end of the room. That window, thought Dottie, is new...well, not brand new, but...The glass is not as dated as that of the others...It was broken more than ten years ago...

...Oh my God, why am I feeling this way?

"Oh, Phillipe, we've been conversing so...I nearly forgot to introduce you to my fiancée."  At once, Evrard Ouimet beckoned to Dottie who, with robot precision, walked briskly to her future husband's side. Imagine Phillipe's utter surprise when his brother introduced Dorothy. "Phillipe, may I present Mlle Dorothy Ducharme. She is from the New World, as was Frollo's lady. In fact, she's already met Jehan Frollo, who has been a wonderful friend to Dottie."
Judge Ouimet, repressing every single ounce of shock, held out his hand to the future Madame Ouimet. His expression and response were bland. "My dear lady, Mlle Ducharme, I wish upon you and my brother all happiness and joy in your married life. New World, eh? A Mlle. Danisha Wood, my predecessor's fiancée, was a New World lady. I believe she was"
"Indiana...She was from Indiana," Dorothy quietly replied, and she wasn't sure why she said that.

Evrard, oblivious to Dorothy's internal turmoil and his brother's profound astonishment, loftily said, "Phillipe, I'm sure you and Dottie will come to love each other. Why, she once told me that you wouldn't like each other."  Then Evrard asked, "Oh yes, how is Claude Frollo these days? I've sent messages around to Chateau duPré, but received no answers..."
It was Phillipe's turn to respond, all the while keeping an eye on Dorothy who by now stood at that window overlooking the square. He wondered why she was retracing the window; perhaps it was an endeavor to jog her memory.

Drawing himself closer to Evrard, Phillipe replied, "You'll be pleased, Evrard, to learn that Claude is on his way to Paris as we speak. I've received a message to that affect, and if all goes well, Claude Frollo is less than a day's ride away."
At that moment, without warning, Dorothy Ducharme, still standing at that window, swooned to the floor; Evrard and Phillipe rushed to her side just before she hit her head on the heavy table..

"It must be the excitement, Phillipe. She hasn't been herself ever since we arrived in Paris." After Dorothy was carried upstairs to bed, Judge Ouimet began asking Evrard questions concerning Dottie Ducharme. When and how did they meet? If she is indeed from the New World, from where exactly? And has she met Isabelle LaCroix?
Evrard, not quite understanding, or appreciating, this third degree, icily responded that how and when he and Dottie met was not important. All that mattered was his happiness, and Orry's future. "After all, Phillipe, the boy deserves a mother!"
Phillipe Ouimet said nothing in response to this outburst. Rather, in light of recent events, Phillipe, later on that day, stepped up the investigation. The Court of Miracles had to be found with all deliberate speed. Clopin, the Gypsy King, along with Johnny Elmore, were still at large. Within hours, Ouimet's men were on the verge of closing in but they would be too late. For one major player in this ever worsening mystery had already "flown the coop".

All I pray, thought Phillipe, is that Claude Frollo steels himself for the inevitable. Evrard's New World lady is, I'm afraid, Claude's fiancée, Danisha. It's more than an uncanny resemblance, for she recognized everything in the Palais...She even examined that window, the very window broken more than a decade ago. Claude told me about that, the 'baseball' and the broken glass...

As Claude Frollo neared the city gates, Phillipe Ouimet busily brainstormed ways to break the news to his friend. But it pained him more to confess his suspicions to Evrard. All sibling tension aside, Phillipe still loved his brother, and feared that once the truth was finally revealed, Evrard would be heartbroken.

A daring rescue...Jehan and Phoebus learn the truth ...Joe Wood takes a rare time trip...


  Copyright©1999 by FrolloFreak®

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