Jehan Frollo downed yet another pill followed by a draught of water while Martine slept on the couch. The pain had subsided a bit and Jehan often wondered if he would need these "New World miracles" known as pain killers for the rest of his life. Hopefully not, but not only do they deaden the pain in my body, they also help to numb the pain I feel in my mind.
Danisha...How can I tell you how much I've come to love you...
However, for the time being, Jehan's problems surrounding his feelings for Danisha took a back seat. His dear friend Martine was in dire straits and Jehan vowed he would help her. Who was this Martine? Only Claude and Jehan knew of the woman's true circumstances and vowed never to reveal those secrets. Claude Frollo, remembering a solemn promise to an old friend, honored Martine's odd request of complete anonymity. But why? What awful circumstances forced a woman of means to abandon her only child for a life of poverty and misery?
A fiercely independent woman, Martine d'Anges came to Paris nearly twenty
years earlier; she fled an abusive husband to whom she'd been married slightly
more than a year. With little money and just the clothes on her back, Martine
arrived to this teeming late medieval metropolis, determined never to look
back. But why Paris? Martine had a paternal cousin named Alphonse de Chateaupers.
Doesn't that name sound familiar? Yes, that's right: Alphonse was Phoebus'
kin as well. A few years back, he married Adele Trigére, one of
Jehan Frollo's childhood friends. Martine had remembered Alphonse's letters
to her, that is, what letters she managed to hide away from her husband.
But Henri d'Anges, the husband, caught her hiding those letters then beat her soundly. His reasoning? No woman, at least to his way of thinking, should ever be allowed to read or write. "It would give them ideas, perhaps ideas to disobey their husbands or to carry on illicit affairs." Thinking this Alphonse must be a secret lover, Henri forced Martine to burn the letters. All future correspondence between the cousins ceased. Of course, that meant that she'd have no news that her cousin recently married, or that he and his wife died tragically just a few years after the birth of their youngest child.
Without the comfort of family, Martine's later days with Henri grew so unbearable that she devised the most desperate of escapes. She knew she was with child and determined not to have Henri "raise a son who will be just like him." So, without even leaving a good-bye note, Martine, late one frigid December evening, made her escape. It was during one of Henri's all night gambling parties that Martine said, "Enough is enough. No more beatings and no more cruelties...and no child to become like his father."
When she arrived in Paris the next morning, the first thing she did was look up Alphonse de Chateaupers. But alas, no sooner had Martine arrived on the doorstep, she was met at the door by Marguerite, one of her best friends. Marguerite informed her young friend that Alphonse and Adele had drowned in a horrible boating accident, and that the children -- Malus, Jules, and Renée -- had moved elsewhere. Martine had hoped that at least Phoebus...
"No, dear one," said Marguerite sadly, "Phoebus is still away at war."
Oh no, now what? Martine then told Marguerite of Henri's abuse, the
censoring of letters, and the fact that Martine was expecting a child and
never wanted Henri anywhere near the baby. "Although he is the father,
Henri will harm this child, I'm sure of it."
Fully aware that Henri would discover Martine missing, thus come looking for her ("And I know he'll come here, Marguerite, I know it!"), the women concocted an elaborate ruse to throw the battering spouse off the trail. For months, Marguerite kept Martine locked in a narrow tower room in a decidedly cramped Parisian townhouse. Naturally, as Martine began to show, Marguerite made her friend's days as comfortable as possible.
And wouldn't you know it, but Henri d'Anges immediately came to Paris in search of his wife. He even looked up the Minister of Justice and demanded that Claude Frollo find the wayward wife. Now, what Henri didn't know was that Frollo was a good friend of Adele de Chateaupers, and that he took personal interest in Adele's family. So when Henri demanded that Alphonse be soundly and swiftly punished for "leading my wife astray", the words fell on deaf ears.
Claude Frollo remembered Alphonse relating those letters from Martine. However, even the Minister of Justice could not settle all domestic disputes, but Frollo agreed with Alphonse that Martine deserved better. "It is, after all," Alphonse told Claude Frollo a few days before the accident that took his and Adele's lives, "the right thing to do: Get her out. I don't want Martine to go the same way as Adele. No person deserves to be treated worse than a common dog!"
Frollo agreed, and Martine's sudden appearance in Paris, followed by
Henri's, set the stage of a most intriguing plan. However, several events
changed many things. For one, there were Alphonse and Adele's unexpected
and tragic deaths. Then came Martine's hurried flight to Paris, and Martine
never contacted Frollo until several years later. Of course, that was after
Henri's death, and long after Martine arranged an "accident" to befall
her. She had to throw Henri off the trail, but what she did in the end
cost her dearly.
Before Martine passed her fifth month of pregnancy, that little "accident" finally happened. Actually it was to her good fortune that an actual tragedy did take place, and the timing couldn't be more perfect. She was seen in the right places and by the right people. It was a matter of time before Judge Claude Frollo informed a shocked Henri d'Anges...
"My dear man, I regret to inform you that your lady has died...My spies informed me that Martine made arrangements to leave Paris for good. You see, M. d'Anges, a woman fitting your wife's description was seen a few days ago, near la Place de Ville. Of course, I checked out every lead, but, alas, Martine had long gone. She was last seen boarding a carriage bound for Chartes..."
Well...Martine was on that carriage but got off just short of the bridge...She really planned this well...
Henri d'Anges, an adamant and grasping man, exasperated Frollo to no
end, but he soon believed everything Frollo told him..
He heard it all, yet never showed an ounce of grief or despair. Claude Frollo couldn't believe the man's bland reactions when he finally relayed the awful events leading up to Martine's death.
"And that," further explained Frollo, "is where the accident occurred. My sources told me that there was a collision on the bridge. The wagon containing your wife veered over the edge...We recovered all bodies save one, and that would be Martine. I'm afraid she's passed on to the next world, M. d'Anges. Please accept my heartfelt sympathies..."
With the sudden realization that Martine was indeed gone, Henri d'Anges returned to his modest country home. In time, he would remarry and vowed never to let this new wife out his sight.
Now it seemed all was in the clear for Martine, and she was ready to
take off to Nantes with Marguerite. But there was a minor problem: her
cousin's children were now orphans although the oldest boy seemingly took
on the responsibility of rearing his siblings. She couldn't bear to leave
Paris, but she didn't want to chance running into her husband. What could
transpire once Henri discovers his wife still lives? What about their infant
son? It didn't take long for Martine to make up her mind. She told Marguerite
that, "I shall stay here, in Paris, but out of sight and only to keep watch
over the children from a distance...Marguerite, I want you to take little
Laurent to Nantes. When he's old enough to understand, tell him I was too
ill to care for him but I never forgot him. I will write regularly, just
to make sure he's provided for and all..."
Of course, Marguerite wanted no part of this plan; she pleaded with Martine to change her mind. "My dear friend, this is so cruel! To put yourself in the middle like this? To give up your own flesh and blood...?"
"No, Marguerite! I must do this. My dear friend, keep my child for me. Rear him well so he'll grow into a fine young man. I will remain in Paris, but I will not interfere with Alphonse's children, rather I'll watch them from afar..."
And so, Martine d'Anges, a woman of quiet beauty and strength, allowed herself to "go to seed". Right after Marguerite departed with the infant Laurent, Martine took residence in a area on the Left Bank that had decidedly seen better days. It wasn't a totally blighted area, but it served its purposes for Martine: a guarantee of complete anonymity. No one knew her, and she wanted it that way. She even changed her name, so to the people in her immediate surroundings, Martine became "Tante Florie", a poor woman peddling flowers and other wares to provide her room and board. She haunted Parisian streets during the day, and stayed in her cramped, dingy lodgings at night. It pained her that she couldn't be a major part of Alphonse's children's lives. As it was risky for her to travel about Paris lest she run into her husband, Martine quietly endured the children's fates -- especially those of the two boys, Malus and Jules.
Nevertheless, she was at last free of a violent man, and she had Jehan Frollo to thank for keeping her secret. You see, many years ago, Jehan instantly recognized Martine one day while strolling through la Place de Notre-Dame. He gave Martine his solemn vow never to tell Claude or anyone else.
As the years rolled by, Henri d'Anges finally died of a massive stroke they said. The embittered, embattled man had put the second Madame d'Anges through "her paces" once too many times. As a result, Henri, during a more violent than usual rage, simply collapsed in a heap. Paralysis griped his entire body; he could not speak. But his mind was clear, which was a boon to the present Madame d'Anges who promptly put an end to years of abuse and cruelty. She simply smothered him to death then took off never to be heard from again.
However that didn't matter to Martine, who at last could travel to Nantes
to be with her boy and Marguerite. But something kept her rooted in Paris.
Martine couldn't explain it but somehow she felt that things would look
up for her. To tell the truth, there was hardly a thing to keep her in
Paris. Alphonse and Adele's children -- Jules and Renée -- had each
met their fates. Jules had been dead a number of years and Renée
was now wife to a rather prominent textile merchant.
In light of these events, Martine d'Anges simply allowed herself to slip further into her alter ego. "Tante Florie" continued to haunt the streets of Paris, especially la Place de Notre-Dame where many citizens purchased her pretty bouquets in the spring or sweetmeats in winter.
The only things that truly gave her pleasure were those letters from her friend and son. Laurent had grown into a fine, handsome young man, and his last letter informed his mother that he was betrothed to Sybille LaCroix, daughter of Isabelle and Vincent. Laurent also informed his mother that he bore no ill will but wished to meet with her once he arrived in Paris. He had met Sybille the year before and the girl's parents thought highly of Laurent, a young man destined to rival the best textile merchants between Paris and Nantes. The two were to be married that following fall, but Bernard LaCroix had been murdered and Isabelle and Sybille dropped everything to travel to Paris and console a heartbroken Vincent. So Laurent bided his time; then, by the new year, received word from Vincent that Sybille pined for her young man day and night.
"And that, dear Mother, is why I'm coming to Paris this spring: to marry Sybille and to meet you at last."
"And that, Iggy, is what has Martine so worried. Her letters to him were full of fanciful tales. She told him that she was a grand lady and lived in a fine Parisian house not far from Frollo's New World lady. This is what Laurent expects when he comes, Iggy, and Martine is far from...well, look at her."
Good thing Daniel "Iggy" McMullen took a time trip just to touch base
with Jehan Frollo. Iggy had a delivery anyway -- more prescription
medication for Jehan. "The doc says to ease up on those pills, man," explained
the aging flower child. "Percodan's nothing to fool with...So, this Martine
chick -- Is she into booze, dope, or just down on her luck?"
Martine was presently stretched out on the couch by the fireplace; she fell asleep almost immediately after telling Jehan her story. Jehan Frollo sighed and replied, "She's neither a drunkard nor a 'bag lady'. Martine's circumstances are unusual but...Why are you smiling, Iggy?"
Iggy McMullen smiled because the entire situation reminded a story he once read back in high school. "Yeah, there's this chick who's down and out, just like Martine. And she has a daughter that she gave up years ago. Only this kid is all grown up and engaged to some high class Spanish count or something. Yeah, the old chick's friends get together and...Hey, Jehan, why don't we do a big favor for Martine. Why not give her the big makeover, you know, get her all dolled up for her son..."
Upon listening to Iggy's plan, Jehan became quite intrigued, but how
would they pull it off? "My friend," said Jehan, "your plan may work as
the LaCroixes have never met Martine, but Claude..."
Iggy shook his head and reassured Jehan with, "Say, dude, your brother's spending a few days with Nisha and Nadine -- Back in my time. Knowing Claude, he ain't coming back none too soon. So...?"
Jehan pondered some more, glanced at soundly sleeping Martine, and finally said, "Iggy, we may need some help. Allow me to look up a couple of friends; they may lend me a home...At least Gilles could do that...Then we need someone to coach and polish Martine..."
As if a weight had been lifted from his shoulders, Jehan Frollo nodded and smiled with delight. For a few days Frollo put aside his problems just to help out an old friend. Yes, this will take my mind of Nisha, and my own pain...
"You know something, Iggy? I'm certain we may very well have a bit of
fun with this. Now, we must contact Gilles Vinet first; he has the funds
necessary. Then there's Simon, but he is such a rake these days...Perhaps
one of his lady friends will assist us..."
for Part TROIS
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