Claude Frollo led me through my front door of my medieval Parisian home, the same house that served as refuge during those harrowing days when I thought I was Dottie Ducharme. Now, once again, that house had been transformed into something entirely different. The love, warmth, and laughter returned. The happy sounds of music returned.
This was Claude's "surprise". He never told me exactly what he was up to, but I had a feeling he enlisted many of my 15th and 21st Century friends. I mean, how else could he explain the numerous comings and goings -- Fern and Iggy off to an antiques dealer to make a "special purchase"; Jacki and Tony taking numerous time trips to gather "special resources". Oh man, Claude even had Phoebus and Quasimodo help move the stuff into my Parisian home. What possible questions did my neighbors pose when they saw the many items?
The curiosity such things fostered. Just exactly what did my friends and the man I love do that was so special? When Claude removed his hands from my eyes, then told me to look around the room, my heart leapt for joy.
What did he do?!
The grand room still had its unique charm with its mixture of the late
French medieval and modern American chic, but something was different
this time. My eyes took in everything!
He did this?!
"Well, my love, I did have some help. I trust you are pleased."
A pregnant pause on my part, then, throwing my arms around him, I screamed. "Oh my goodness, Claude Frollo! You did all this for me?! Oh, thank you, thank you!"
The room had its medieval/postmodern charm, that's for sure; but there were touches that echoed of another era. Prominently displayed on one end of the room was a player piano. That's right! A player piano dating back to the early 20th Century. There was something else; Nadine ran right to it. "Look, Mommy, it's an old-fashioned record player!"
A gramophone? Complete with antique recordings?
Before I could voice my appreciation, and the many questions, my old friend Fern -- Claude's "New World spy" -- appeared in the room. She had just returned from another time trip; this time she toted several piano rolls. She addressed Claude, "I had to search high and low for all this stuff." Then to me, she said, "Nisha, Claude here wanted your vacation to go off without a hitch. We knew you had your hands full what with work and all....Hey, you'll wanna check out the trunk upstairs."
Trunk? What gives?
Too bad, Felise thought bitterly, I can't say the same for his father-in-law...
"Jehanne," she asked her attendant, "has your friend found any more
about what goes on in Mlle Wood's home?"
The maid shook her head. "No, madame, but she says she helped Madame Fern take a huge trunk upstairs. Clemence told me that it was part of a 'surprise'..."
Felise continued to stare out the window; her eyes still fixed upon the
house across the street, and upon the house on the corner. She then
asked Jehanne, "Does M. Ouimet know that Mlle. Wood has returned to Paris?
Does he know that Frollo is here as well?"
"No, madame. From what Clemence told me, M. Évrard Ouimet has been spending time with your brother..." Jehanne stopped herself, quickly glanced about the room, then replied, "Oh I'm so sorry, madame. I meant, the last I heard, M.Ouimet has been spending time with M. Cauant. Clemence tells me that two Black men from the New World -- friends of Mlle Wood and M. Frollo -- have been asking about your brother...."
Felise LaCourbe's face lit up, not out of fear but out of curiosity. "Black men?," she asked.
"Yes, madame, they are musicians from the New World. They've been seen
in La Belle d'Avignon most evenings since their arrival."
"And they've asked about Raimon...Why?"
"Madame, it is only that Laurent d'Anges mentioned your brother being in Paris, and that he wanted Èvrard to meet these men. Laurent is one of your brother's many admirers..."
Felise nodded, saying as Jehanne finished dressing her for the day,
"That will be all, Jehanne. Keep a sharp eye and ear...Hello! What is
An odd sound emanating from across the street wafted through Felise's open window. Only faint snatches of something that sounded like music, but it was music nonetheless. Many a passerby stopped in front of the house and wondered about the "strange New World music" coming from Mlle Wood's home.
"Listen, Jehanne!," exclaimed Felise, "It's that music again! See the people stopping to listen...Oh I MUST tell Raimon, and Évrard..."
Before hearing the news of Frollo's unusual New World lady, Évrard had made up his mind; he was returning to Marseilles at once. However, plans had been suddenly altered, and what did Évrard care about running into his brother Philippe, the Minister of Justice. Judge Ouimet was currently out of town on holiday, as ordered to do so by His Majesty himself. Seems Philippe had botched yet another case, such as finding the Court of Miracles....
"Humph!," voiced Felise, "With Philippe away, Évrard may now very well learn about the lady he nearly married. And I'm curious of the hold she has on one Claude Frollo...."
And the retired city magistrate, although completely enthralled by the
jaunty melodies, was not oblivious to the few passersby outside my door.
Clemence, a Chateau d'Arcy servant I hired as temporary household help,
had gone for the day. Somehow I suspected that she might had spread the
word of my unusual "New World" toys.
Claude, noticing the many people outside stopping to take a listen,
offered a piece of sound advice.
"My love, while all of this 20th Century gadgetry truly fascinates me, I must caution you to keep such activity to yourself. And please do not allow the general populace see these devices. Who knows what could transpire? You, my dear Nisha, may be accused of witchcraft; I would expect as much from the common crowd."
I never thought of that: The piano was one thing, but the gramophone...
We -- that's Claude and I -- had gotten away explaining the Steinway grand so prominently displayed in the Palais, then at Claude's private chateau. The player piano here in my home was another story. No one could ever see this thing up close and personal. What would people think once they witness a piano playing itself? And that gramophone, with voices and music emanating from the box? And what's with the horn?
Once I allowed all the ramifications of our little "1900-meets-1495" to
sink in, I nervously asked, "Fern, did many people see you all unload
My fat and funny friend only replied, "Hey, we made sure we didn't have too much audience if you know what I mean."
But why would Claude Frollo, a man of the 15th Century, grant his
consent to house such things in his time frame? The answer was, to my
surprise and delight, out of love for me.
You see, after my ordeal as Dottie Ducharme, I plunged myself into my work. At the time, I was currently working on a centennial celebration for one of my clients. Part of the festivities included music and fashions of that period. But given my fragile mental state at the time and the fact that I nearly gave up on the project, Claude intimated to Fern that I get away for the summer. Make it a working vacation, he told her.
"So, that explains the trunk upstairs, too. There are period clothes..."
"Yep," replied Fern, "There's dresses, hats, parasols...You name it, it's in there...."
Claude Frollo closed the window after quelling a few curious folks
outside with a silent yet very stern, "Get out of here!"
He then turned to me and reiterated his warning. "My darling Danisha, I hate to lay down the law, but it's only for your safety and comfort. Beware of who you allow into your home...And may I suggest that Clemence not come here, at least for the duration of the summer. We simply can't have her tell everyone and anyone...."
Oh Claude if it was only that simple...Clemence has a reputation for blabbing to the wrong person at the wrong time...
Clemence, a comely blonde of fourteen years, turned to meet Orry's eyes. Oh, what a beautiful child...Ah!
Without hesitation, Clemence said, "Ooh, and you are Orry Ouimet, the
Minister of Justice's nephew..."
After exchanging a few pleasantries, Orry asked flat-out about Clemence's employer. "Come on, Clemence, tell me about Mlle Wood's house! Is it really filled with the most beautiful things? Jehan Frollo wouldn't tell us, but you can."
Clemence hedged a bit, not wanting to reveal the REAL secret behind Frollo's New World friends. Why, Madame d'Arcy made all the servants solemnly vow not to tell a soul about Madame Fern or Mlle Wood. There was the demonic-looking machine kept in the old stone barn -- Only Phoebus helped maintain that machine. Even the bell ringer Quasimodo knew something about Mlle Wood but would not reveal much.
So much secrecy, thought Clemence, is not good. But, because the child asked so sweetly...
"Orry, I can tell only this: Mlle Wood's home has the most wonderful things. Why, just a few days ago, her friend Madame Fern brought in something called a 'piano'. Then there was a trunk filled with the most exquisite clothes. Oh Orry, I've never seen such enormous hats! You and your father must meet this woman. I'm sure Frollo wouldn't mind."
Orry Ouimet's eyes lit up, but before he could reply, Clemence was gone. His
father Èvrard came up from behind; he asked his son, "My dear Orry, who
"Oh, Father! That was Mlle Wood's maid. She told me the most wonderful things about her lady's home. Father...?"
Èvrard Ouimet, still stinging from last winter's ordeal -- and not wanting to ever cross paths with Claude Frollo -- replied to his son, "Orry, why don't you run along home with Clarice...Tell her that I've gone to La Belle d'Avignon to visit with Raimon Cauant."
When Èvrard left for the tavern, he had no idea just how close he came to meeting Frollo's "New World" lady. He also got a healthy dose of "New World" music courtesy of two 21st Century scholars named Willie and Clevon.
But what Orry did a few days later really set the wheels in motion. Èvrard Ouimet would learn many things about Danisha Wood, and why Frollo and friends kept the secrecy going on for so long.
Go To Chapter 6!
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