"At last, Maman, we are together! Oh, you are so beautiful, just like you said in your letters."
Laurent d'Anges embraced and kissed his mother so many times that Martine lost count. Is she dreaming? Is this real, or too good to be true? No, thought Martine, this is real...
Her hands caressed the boy's face; her eyes devoured every inch. Martine
found herself kissing him over and over; as expected, Laurent returned
each and every tender touch. This is so precious, to embrace once again
the son she gave up nearly two decades ago. There was a time when Martine
dreaded this moment; she convinced herself that Laurent would hate her
for the rest of his life. But no, this young man, this very sweet, handsome
youth, is happy -- ecstatic even -- to be at last reunited with his beloved
parent. Everyone in that room witnessing this poignant scene soon became
teary-eyed and quite emotional.
Jehan Frollo was especially taken aback at the amazing transformation. Imagine! Just a few days ago Martine haunted the streets as "Tante Florie", a poor peddler, just as she did for all these years. Now, within the remarkable span of only three days, Martine once again became the beautiful, gracious lady everyone remembered. Oh, what wonders Felise LaCourbe wrought!
Martine d'Anges was resplendent and glamorous in her high-waisted pale pink velvet dress with the cream satin trim. The voluminous skirt swept the floor; the tight fitting bodice with daring décolletage revealed Martine's gracefully shaped and delicately scented white shoulders and neck. Her bright blond hair -- well, it brightened up after it had been washed -- gleamed under a simple pearl-trimmed organza headdress of the palest pink. The pearl drop earrings and matching necklace further enhanced Martine's delicate beauty.
Finally, Laurent, still beaming, proudly made the necessary introductions. It promised to be a day full of reclaimed love and, for Martine and a few others, surprising revelations.
"Maman, Tante Marguerite told me how sick you were after you gave birth
to me. But I never hated you for giving me up; rather, I am so grateful
that we both lived to see this moment."
Laurent sat next to his mother with his bride-to-be seated on the other side. He continuously squeezed Martine's hand as if to reassure himself that this was all real. Sybille sat there and smiled pleasantly at her future mother-in-law, still not knowing the whole story on Martine. Well, the rest of Sybille's family knew the whole story. Jehan and his friends saw to that. As servants milled about with refreshments, the company chatted on various subjects, but it was a matter of time that someone asked Martine about her past.
"Tell me, Madame d'Anges," began Vincent LaCroix, "what have you been
doing during all these years? Surely your illness is cured, no? Your fine
appearance attests to your current state of health..."
Deep down, Martine panicked! Now what? She glanced over at Jehan and Felise; the former quickly came to the rescue. "M. LaCroix," replied Jehan Frollo, "Madame's illness and lethargy lingered on for so long that my brother thought she would pass on. Of course, Laurent's father died shortly after the child was born...Er...Henri d'Anges was a minor merchant, sir. Nothing that compares to you, M. LaCroix."
Oh, I do hope the old man wouldn't pry so; it's not really fair to keep the truth from him, but... No! This marriage between Laurent and Sybille has to go on as planned because it is this pair who will produce those later descendents...Danisha's very future depends on this marriage!
Jehan Frollo, quickly composing himself and quietly devised ways to
throw Vincent's prying inquiries off track. Smiling broadly, he deftly
changed the subject by asking Felise, "My dear Mlle LaCourbe, I understand
you are from Toulon; that is from where this musician, Raimon Cauant, hails."
Jehan Frollo then turned to Laurent and said, "I also understand that,
you, Laurent, are an admirer of M. Cauant's music."
Thank goodness this tactic worked, for no sooner had Jehan uttered the name "Raimon Cauant" that an highly animated Laurent d'Anges launched into a short treatise on the history of secular French music, particularly that of the troubadours in the South and the trouveres in the North. While Laurent kept his audience enthralled with his knowledge in all things musical and artistic, Martine motioned to Isabelle and Felise. She wanted to show Isabelle LaCroix the garden, and Felise to accompany them. Martine felt the intense fear that her cover would be blown sky high, what with Vincent's constant questions about her past.
"I'm sorry to interrupt, Laurent," said Isabelle graciously, "but Madame
d'Anges offered to show us Mlle LaCourbe's garden. Sybille, why don't you
bring Laurent along so your father and Jehan Frollo can visit." Isabelle
LaCroix, sure that something was up, sent heavenward a silent "Thank You"
as her daughter and future son-in-law gladly followed out to the courtyard.
Good, thought Isabelle, now Vincent will stop this nonsensical prying.
Why, these young people are in love...Let them be!
Felise also offered several unspoken prayers, one of which pleaded that Gilles would find a certain someone and bring him around posthaste. The rakish Simon, secretly salivating over Madame LaCroix' dark exotic beauty, offered to "hang back" with Vincent and Jehan. Now what could a scamp such as Simon LaPiere have to offer by way of intelligent and stimulating conversation? He sat there next to Vincent and Jehan, patiently listening to a series of questions and answers that soon made Simon's hair seem to stand on end.
What is this? But we did it all for.... Oh Mother of God, it's true! Felise was right all along! Martine is...
"Mlle. LaCourbe," said Isabelle LaCroix at last, "I want to thank you
for allowing Madame d'Anges to stay with you. What a horrible life to face
-- leaving a cruel husband, faking her death, and giving away her only
Felise and Marguerite were stunned! How could Isabelle have known this? Marguerite never learned the entire story of Martine's later circumstances, but Felise did. However, it was the truth about Laurent's parentage that raised the friend's concerned. Isabelle LaCroix, upon espying her daughter and Laurent quickly hiding amid lilacs and sneaking a quick kiss, smiled and explained it all.
"Oh, I know all about Martine, and so does Vincent. He only began asking those questions in hopes that Martine would tell her side of the story. But Jehan Frollo jumped in and..."
Up from behind, Martine approached and quietly and calmly said to the women, "I heard just enough. Now that you know about me, I suppose your husband will not allow my son and your daughter..."
"Nonsense!", replied Isabelle, her dark glossy face beaming in the afternoon sun, "Vincent has already blessed this union, and may I say, madame, that he is convinced this is a good match. Don't ask me how he found out, but be thankful our children will be happy. Why, look at them."
Laurent and Sybille returned to the company hand-in-hand as their mothers
looked on. Apparently the full story surrounding Martine's unusual circumstances
did not phase the LaCroixes, but what about Laurent?
"Surely," Martine whispered to her lady friends, "that once he discovers what a monster his father truly was, and how I deceived so many people just to keep my boy safe...My goodness, Laurent may disown his own Maman..."
At that moment Laurent came to his mother's side, his face glowing with love. He put one arm around Martine d'Anges and the other around his future bride as he said tenderly, "Maman, what Madame LaCroix says is true, that she and M. LaCroix know of your circumstances. Also, it will please you to know that I know of the man, Henri d'Anges, who was so briefly your husband and who sired me. While I do not condone his maltreatment of you, I have to accept the fact that the man gave me life. Without him, I would not be here, nor would I have met and fallen in love with Sybille...."
Laurent paused, then reached inside his black velvet doublet. He then
pulled out a long golden chain upon which a gold medallion was attached.
He showed it to his mother, saying, "Tante Marguerite made me wear this
all the time, and I have never been without it. She told me it belonged
Martine looked at the medallion, one of two given to her and her sibling long ago. She recognized the engraved image of the oak tree and the inscription that encircled it. "La famille -- les graines -- les racines -- le branchements". She flipped it over and immediately felt her eyes fill with tears.
"Our father gave one to each of us," she haltingly said, trying not to let her emotions give way. "My brother has the other but I was told he was killed in battle..."
It was Felise's turn to speak.
"No, Martine, your brother is alive and well. That is why Gilles left so abruptly; I sent him to seek out your brother...."
Sybille LaCroix looked at her mother then her fiancé rather disconcertedly.
"I don't understand, Madame d'Anges," Sybille said to Martine. She turned
to Laurent and asked, "My darling, who is this mysterious brother? And
why would your father tell your mother that her brother is dead. The man
Poor girl, thought Isabelle as she comforted her daughter, the last LaCroix child. "Good daughter, your father and I explained it all to you last year, when you and Laurent were courting. But you are still too young to understand...Why, Claude Frollo himself confirmed your father's suspicions..."
A figure appeared at the courtyard gate; it was Simon LaPiere who appeared
rather excited and elated. He announced, "My dear ladies, and Laurent,
if you would be so kind. Darling Felise, you have more guests. My, my,
your home is becoming quite the scene."
Simon's eyes, twinkling with excitement, fell upon Martine. He proudly proclaimed that, "Madame d'Anges, one of our guests should be of particular interest to you." He motioned to Felise as the gentleman entered the courtyard. There they came: Vincent LaCroix followed by Jehan Frollo, then came Gilles Vinet accompanied by two other gentlemen. No sooner had the two men passed through that gate then came into focus that Martine let out a gasp. Her hand flew to her throat; her tears came fast and furious.
The older man of the pair addressed her first. All the while the younger
gentleman stared at Martine as if struck by lightning.
"Martine d'Anges. How long has it been?"
The elderly gentleman, clad in black and purple velvet from head to toe, walked up to Martine then clasped her hand into his. She couldn't believe this; nothing prepared her for this. She thought that Jehan and his friends were just planning a tender mother/son reunion, but certainly not...!
"Minister Frollo, sir," she stammered and wondered if this was indeed
a trap, a trap to deny her son and Sybille from marrying.
Perhaps it is
to shame me, but Minister Frollo promised Alphonse he would help me, but
Martine tried her best to regain her composure; her voice quavered so as she continued, "Oh, I'm so sorry, sir. I forget you are retired..."
Her eyes met those of the younger man while Jehan and Gilles stood close
to him; they wanted to buffer that certain emotional shock. She surveyed
this man, a man she hadn't laid eyes upon since he marched off to war.
Even during those years following her flight from Henri, with the man living
near Paris, never once did their paths cross -- Until now.
Martine d'Anges gradually released herself from Claude Frollo's embrace, then made her way toward the towering, handsome blond haired hulk still standing on the opposite end of the courtyard. "M. Frollo, sir, if it is all the same to you, I want to go to my brother." Claude Frollo nodded as he completely understood.
At last, Martine, your long flight is over.
Jehan and his friends stepped aside as Martine ran to the big blond fellow. She flew into his arms; tears streamed freely down her cheeks. He clasped her in a bear hug so powerful that he momentarily feared that Martine would break under the pressure. But what did it matter? It had been three long decades, and now was the time for a family to be reunited.
"Phoebus! My beloved brother!"
They kissed each other over and over, and held fast each other. Phoebus de Chateaupers cupped his sister's porcelain face in his hands and said in voice that nearly broke, "Martine, is it you? Thirty years! Thirty years of separation! Promise me we'll never be apart again!"
It was Jehan Frollo, who upon watching this tearful reunion, allowed
his thoughts to return to Danisha. Now that Phoebus and Martine are reunited,
and that Laurent will surely wed Sybille LaCroix...
Oh, my goodness, this changes so many things for Danisha....For she and Phoebus are actually kin, which means...
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