Évrard Ouimet, thoroughly relaxed in his dark gray medieval chic, offered his guest more wine as the conversation shifted to various topics. Rounding out this circle was Anseau Flambert, Clarice's husband. Clarice had long retired to her bed as it was quite late; thus the gentlemen stayed up later than usual and caught up on old times.
Raimon Cauant, a musician by trade and of noble birth, graciously accepted more refreshment while he explained his sudden visit. Raimon, a slender man of medium height, possessed irresistible boyish good looks and charm that belied his forty-five winters. With his gentle manner, winning smile, and quick wit, Raimon won many admirers from Toulon to Nantes. One of those admirers was a newly wed young man named Laurent d'Anges. This young man had run into Raimon Cauant a few months before both men departed Nantes. Laurent was en route to Paris to marry his Sybille, whilst Raimon wished to stop in Paris himself, if only briefly. He had hoped to continue his journey to Toulon, yet a timely letter from Laurent caused Raimon to change his mind.
is why I'm here, Évrard. Laurent tells me of a few friends who were
of assistance to his mother. This woman, this Felise LaCourbe, aided Madame
d'Anges, thus facilitating the reunion of the former Captain Phoebus and
Both Évrard Ouimet and Anseau Flambert appeared quite puzzled as neither man had ever heard of Mlle. LaCourbe, although news of Phoebus' reunion with his sister Martine did cause quite a stir.
"My dear Raimon," said Anseau, a handsome man in his late thirties, whose dark wavy hair and olive complexion echoed his mixed heritage, "Mlle. LaCourbe is an acquaintance of Clarice and myself. She only arrived in Paris just days before that horrible incident..."
Évrard's eyes suddenly blaze, Anseau shut up at once; there was
no need to dredge up painful memories. Instead, he added, "Felise LaCourbe
is still residing in town as there are several citizens who know her."
Raimon Cauant nodded, then turned to Évrard Ouimet, saying, "M. Ouimet, it was at your nuptials those many years ago that I performed. So pleased you were that you offered to return the kindness. Up until now I had every intention of returning to Toulon. However, seeing that this LaCourbe woman is indeed in Paris..."
"And why, pray tell, is this sudden interest in Felise LaCourbe?," asked Évrard.
replied, "She is a poet, a lyricist if truth be known. She writes under
the name ‘Beatriz’. At one time, long ago, we were very close. Now, after
all these years, I have found both you and Felise. I had hoped that you,
Évrard, would accompany me to Paris."
Évrard Ouimet sprang to his feet and began to pace the room. Anseau feared that his cousin may explode in fury; after all, Évrard is to depart for Marseilles within the next three days. This favor Raimon asks may snag those plans ...
Évrard, out of some sudden, insatiable curiosity, turned to face
both men, his face beaming. "Anseau," he began, "where is Frollo's little
soirée to be held?"
"Umm...Why, at Chateau duPré, Évrard."
"The evening after tomorrow. Why do you ask?"
The smile grew broader when Évrard replied, "Then I shall accompany Raimon to Paris, and take Orry with me. I shall remain long enough to meet Mlle. LaCourbe, then be on my way." He smiled at a puzzled Anseau. "Don't worry so, good cousin! Frollo will be at his chateau while I'm in Paris. If I know Claude, he will want to remain in the country rather than spend the summer in overcrowded Paris. You and Clarice attend Frollo's soirée with my blessing. Orry and I shall be fine, what with most of our belongings en route to Marseilles as I speak."
Anseau Flambert still did not understand his cousin's sudden change of heart. "Évrard, I don't know what to say, but...What about Phillipe?"
Évrard Ouimet's face was bland; the expression showed no emotion. "Paris is a large city. What are the odds that I'll run into my brother?"
Then to Raimon, he finally said, "My dear Raimon, stay the night as we'll be on our way to Paris tomorrow morning. I'm anxious to meet the famous Felise LaCourbe."
"Papa, will you be at my party tomorrow? Mommy made a cake and everything. We’re playing Musical Chairs and Duck Duck Goose. All my friends will be there."
"My darling child, nothing will keep me away from your party. I'm actually looking forward to it."
"Mommy, will Quasi be at my party? I want Quasi to come."
baby, we talked about this, remember? Quasimodo will attend the party in
Paris, but he can't come tomorrow because he has chores to do..."
"Okay, Mommy, I understand...Papa, will Orry be at home? I like Orry; he's my friend, too."
Now what? Claude and I looked at each other not knowing what to say. Not once since that dreadful episode those several months ago did we even mention the Ouimets. Oh, we received messages concerning Évrard and Orry, but never passed them along to Nadine. We assumed -- and there's a danger in mere assumptions -- that Nadine would simply forget about her brief acquaintance with Orry. But now, out of the blue, she mentions the boy's name.
Gathering his thoughts quickly, Claude Frollo cuddled our daughter close and explained as truthfully as possible. "Nadine, by this time tomorrow morning Orry Ouimet and his father will
be on their way home to Marseilles. Orry's uncle told me that this morning. I am aware, dearest, that you and Orry became fast friends, but his father wants to go home. Now do you understand?"
With loving, and tired eyes, Nadine Frollo glanced up at her father and said in a drowsy voice, "Yes, Papa...."
I glanced at Claude in turn and asked, "Don't you think someone should get some sleep?" I stroked our child's face and hair, then kissed her goodnight. "I mean, tomorrow's a big day and Nadine really should get her rest..."
No sooner had I uttered those words that Nadine soon drifted into a sound slumber. And, no sooner had Claude and I finally settled in for the night, that a tense drama was brewing somewhere in rural Mississippi circa 1932. What went down was touch and go, and nearly ruined our "Reunion in Rhythm". I could have kicked Tony and Willie for doing something so stupid.
Early morning, still dark, with the approaching daylight just edging its way over the eastern horizon. Although darkness still enveloped them, the two figures dashing through cotton fields and under fence posts knew it was a matter of time. "It's to be a clean break," Clevon said the evening before.
Willie kept that thought in his head whilst the pair made their mad dash towards the tracks. Tony would be there, Willie reasoned, ready with the specially equipped car.
O Lord, help us make it to the tracks before them shooters sic them kill-dogs on us!
They -- Willie and Clevon -- were aware that one slip-up could prove
life threatening. By now, the cage bosses discovered them missing. At morning
roll call, thought Willie, the search teams with the trusty-shooters and
sniff dogs would be hot on the trail. For no one -- the wide openness of
this place notwithstanding -- had ever successfully escaped Parchman Farm.
Willie and Clevon, two "rabbits" finally fleeing their two week ordeal, raced their way in the direction of the Yellow Dog Line. With the sun just peeping over the horizon and the Delta air still thick with humidity, the escapees scrambled under one last fence before vanishing into the woods. In the distance they could hear the braying of hounds.
Stopping to catch their breath, Willie and Clevon glanced backwards.
Surely enough, the faint glow of lantern light could be seen not too far
off. "We have to make a break for it," hissed Willie. "Are you sure this
is the way...?"
The dogs' yelping grew louder and men's voices could be heard over those of the dogs. Tugging at Willie's sleeve, Clevon led the younger man toward the sounds of the 5:15 a.m. Yellow Dog.
No time to stop, said Clevon, other than, "That train's right on time...Just hope your cousin is there on time!"
"My love, I need to leave for a few hours. I shall return in time for Nadine's party."
That was all he said to me as he hastily dressed. It was that message
from Tony, then the phone call from Jacki. Something went wrong during
that time trip. A simple mission, Willie said, but things went crazy the
moment the two men fled Parchman Farm. What worried me was that those two
were trapped in hostile territory -- 1932 Mississippi!
And I knew that so very few successfully escaped Parchman. Which was why Tony sent for Claude Frollo. They needed leverage in the event Willie and Clevon couldn't pull off the escape. Jacki also needed Claude's help out of fear that Tony may find himself in a deadly situation. Mississippi, at the height of the Depression, was hardly the place for three young idealistic Black men from the 21st Century.
"If anything," reassured Claude Frollo, "Antoine should have both men safely transported to my time period. At least in my century such men are treated more fairly -- and NOT met by a raging lynch mob!"
And with that, Claude Frollo vanished before my eyes in a sea of white light. What I didn't know that Willie and Clevon were actually part of the "surprise" Claude had planned. In time they would make favorable impressions on all of late medieval Paris.
For now, though, I had to field the many questions Nadine posed those
few hours before her birthday party, and hours before the three of us departed
through time portals. This latest emergency was the last of any serious
mishaps to an otherwise pleasant summer holiday. But once in 1495 Paris....
On To Part 3!