It seemed rather odd, thought Jehan Frollo of Iggy's plan but it was all for Martine d'Anges. Presently, Martine went about her daily routine of peddling her flowers. "Tante Florie", as citizens knew her, was once, in reality, a lady of means. What a tough break, to marry a man she never loved only to put up with his nightly batterings, then she leaves the guy and hides her son. She even fakes her death so Henri would never find her, but the old man was done in by the second Madame d'Anges. Martine is free but decides to stay on in Paris...
Now, just when Martine thought she'd never lay eyes on her kid again, Laurent writes to her and says he's Paris-bound to meet his Maman at last.. What's more, Laurent is engaged to marry Sybille LaCroix, daughter of one of the most prominent and wealthiest spice merchants in all France. If that wasn't enough, Laurent looks forward to introducing his intended and in-laws to Martine, who he thinks gave him up as a baby 'cause she was too sick to take care of him.
This gets weirder by the minute...
"Look, guys, I know it sounds crazy but if we play our cards right, it might work." Thus said Daniel "Iggy" McMullen to Jehan Frollo and a couple of Jehan's old pals. Simon LaPiere and Gilles Vinet joined Jehan and the visitor from the New World only a few minutes ago, and already they were quite intrigued with this planned metamorphosis. Both men were in their early thirties, handsome and well dressed in the body-hugging style of the late 15th Century.
Gilles was the shorter of the two with a shock of light brown hair and
green-gray eyes. His manners were gentle and winning, qualities which opened
many doors for him. Simon, on the other hand, was the more carefree and
rambunctious. Simon, blessed with an abundance of dark glossy hair and
deep blue eyes that danced with merriment, earned the reputation of notorious
ladies' man. His constant pursuit of feminine society often got the poor
man into hot water with an irate father or husband. Nevertheless, Simon
LaPiere seldom let such hazards faze him.
Jehan Frollo had to laugh upon recalling the time Simon, "Nearly incurred my brother's wrath by flirting with his New World lady."
"Ah," said Simon after taking a healthy sip of wine, "but his lady, la Belle d'Afrique -- That delicious silken honeyed skin, those fiery brown eyes, that deep lush voice...Oh my, I do get a thrill just thinking about her. Her beauty is unrivaled, with the exception of that of Madame LaCroix...Oh, Jehan, I tell you I have been thoroughly spoiled ever since my sojourn through Spain. All those stunning mulattas...No wonder the formidable Claude Frollo fell for one so quickly. They do compliment each other: your brother and Mlle. Danisha..."
The early conversation went on as thus; Jehan made the necessary introductions
then discussed old times. But Iggy, anxious to return to his family in
his own time frame, turned the topic to Martine d'Anges.
"When is Laurent expected to arrive?," asked Iggy. "According to his last letter," replied Jehan, "Laurent is to arrive within the week." That left precious little time to transform Martine d'Anges into the grand and glamorous mother Laurent expects to meet. When Jehan and Iggy nixed the original idea of using Nisha's Parisian home, Gilles suggested the home of a young woman he met at Mass nearly a month before. He and this woman quickly became friends, and, besides, reasoned Gilles, "I do believe Felise wouldn't object to playing along with our little ruse." Then to Jehan Frollo, Gilles said, "She says she always wanted to meet you, Jehan. I think she has a....ummm...'crush' on you..."
Jehan Frollo's face turned several shades of red, not from the mention of Felise LaCourbe's supposedly infatuation, but with the fact that his lovesick expression was that plain. Iggy even noticed it and began questioning, "Jehan, are you and this Felise an item or something?" The younger Frollo shook his head and replied with conviction, "Certainly not! Mlle. LaCourbe and I met some time ago, in this very tavern. But that was back during that awful episode with Danisha and Évrard, and those meetings were very rare. Come to think of, Mlle. LaCourbe and I met shortly after Évrard arrived from Marseilles. She said she's from Toulon and that she remembered Évrard's wife..."
Oh my goodness! Does my passion for Danisha show that much? But they all think I'm in love with this Felise LaCourbe. Nonsense, for I barely know the woman!
After a while of Jehan's rattling on and on, Iggy McMullen and the other
men expressed their frustrations then returned the focus of their meeting
to Martine. Iggy addressed his companions, "May I suggest than we meet
with Mlle. LaCourbe to secure her permission. Then we have to convince
Martine; I mean, I'm sure she won't mind going along with the pretense."
Gilles Vinet shushed his table mates as old Victor Jouet brought over more ale and wine. The proprietor emeritus of La Belle d'Avignon looked at the four men rather curiously, finally saying, "M. Iggy, you and your friends hope to turn a piece of rough sackcloth to fine silk. You will have success because Tante Florie is no common peasant. No! She has good blood in her veins; one can tell. There's something else about her I cannot quite figure out..."
"Did someone mention my name?," came the voice from the entrance as
soon as Victor finished his sentence. All eyes turned to behold the bedraggled
figure standing before them. She was rather short and fine-boned, what
one would call 'petite'. In youth, her beauty had no rival; even now, in
her middle thirties, her beauty was more evident despite the layers of
street grime and hard living. Her porcelain skin was still firm and smooth,
the fine oval countenance unlined. The bright blue eyes with gold flecks
seemed too large for her face but they conveyed warmth and laughter. A
soiled, tattered wrap protected abundant dark blond hair. The graciously
formed mouth spread into a wide grin, revealing -- Mon Dieu! --
teeth that a duchess would envy. She carried her old weather-beaten basket
which contained the remains of pretty spring bouquets.
Despite her outward appearance, Martine d'Anges carried herself with all the dignity and grace of nobility. Yet, there was part of her that yearned to stop the pretense and get on with her life. Well, it was that letter she got from Laurent, saying he's on his way to meet his bride and finally see his long lost mother, that made her take that first step in asking for assistance. Jehan Frollo generously offered to help her out; so Martine, eager to learn what exactly Jehan managed to pull together, immediately sought out her friend.
Her search ended at La Belle d'Avignon as Jehan invited Martine to the table. After the prerequisite introductions, Jehan Frollo and his friends laid out their plan: Transform Martine into a "lady for a day" and hope that Laurent and his in-laws will fall for the ruse. Nearly choking on her ale, Martine d'Anges listened, then made several half-baked attempts to beg off the plan.
"But what if the LaCroixes see through me? And what if your lady friend, this Mlle. LaCourbe refuses to help us in the first place, then what?"
Iggy understood this, turned to Martine and said in all honesty, "Honey, since when did a Frollo scheme turn out wrong? If Jehan is anything like his brother, then this is a surefire plan! Are you with us?"
Gilles and Simon silently urged Martine on, and both men eagerly awaited the adventure that lied ahead.
She was a lovely woman, open and friendly in a somewhat brassy fashion. Strange, thought folks in the area, that Mlle. LaCourbe came to Paris under mysterious circumstances. The woman raised a few eyebrows: It's not right that an attractive thirty-something unmarried woman repeatedly repels many a man's attention. Nevertheless, Felise was a delight to the eyes and senses. On this day, her dark hair was fashioned into thick braids which wound about her neat head. Her big brown eyes twinkled with mischief yet there was something amiss with Mlle LaCourbe.
Whatever, thought Gilles as he made the introductions. Jehan Frollo stared through Felise as if he and she had met long ago; unfortunately, Simon and Gilles mistook Jehan's reaction as something entirely different. Felise eyed the subject of this transformation up and down. There is something about Martine...
The resemblance...Those blue eyes! Yes, those eyes! It's her!, surmised Felise.
She drew closer to Martine and said, "Dear Martine, you and I know each
other...Well, I remembered your brother. He and I met briefly in Toulon,
during the wars..."
Martine's eyes grew wide with amazement. She shook her head as if to say, "But my brother was killed during the wars. That was what my husband told me..."
"...No, my dear," replied Felise softly, "your brother is very much
alive...And he resides not far from this city...Oh, Martine. your husband
must have been such a cruel man! To tell you that you have no brother,
to force you to leave him, then compel you to give up your own child! I
shall help you, my dear. Laurent shall finally have the mother he deserves."
"And," added Felise, "you deserve to regain your proper station...and your name!"
Mlle LaCourbe turned to Martine's male companions, her eyes lighting on Jehan's form for a few moments longer. How pale and thin he looks...They said he nearly died in an explosion, while protecting his brother's lady...Poor Jehan...I remember him, too. It was at that banquet in Florence many years ago...wHe promised never to tell....
Regaining her composure, Felise addressed the gentleman, "Begone with
you! This is woman's work! Now, Jehan Frollo, I leave it to you to keep
me abreast of Laurent's pending arrival. Give me three days to work my
magic. I shall guarantee that 'Tante Florie' will once again become the
beautiful Martine d'Anges, née de Chateaupers"
On to Part Quatre
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