Like clockwork, the bells of Notre Dame sent forth calls to Mass as hundreds of parishioners filed through the cathedral's massive doors. Another lovely morning for these good late 15th Century people, and on the heels of a memorable evening! Those New World friends of Frollo, who brought so much of their country's vigor and excitement, were the chief topic of conversation. As usual, there was wild curiosity about these strange lands so recently discovered. That curiosity then settled on those people who so mysteriously arrived so many years ago.
The good Parisians, as much as the New World people intrigued them, still held some reservations. To be sure, these New Worlders practice the strangest customs; their language, despite their seemingly good grasp of French, is totally foreign. The "English" they speak is unlike that of the neighbors across the Channel. Oh it's English all right, but many expressions, pronunciations, and structure are not the same. And the dialect! So much twang and drawl! Many a time the oddities about these "New World" folks were the center of many conversations, especially the events of recent weeks.
"Have you been past Mlle Wood's home? What is going on in there?"
"Frollo is there almost everyday."
"That music...What manner of instrument produces sound like that?"
The questions and speculations came fast and furious just as several key players entered the cathedral. Among them, the woman who captured Claude Frollo's heart years ago, and the man whom Danisha nearly married the winter before. Oh yes, those awful memories of last winter's adventure -- when everyone thought Danisha dead -- were still fresh in the citizens' minds. More than one had placed bets on which
gentleman Danisha would choose as her marriage partner.
Odds were 10-to-1 in favor of Claude Frollo, with few holding out hope for Évrard Ouimet. Oh, several citizens gossiped amongst themselves, what a time for Frollo to miss Mass. Yet the other players were here, and Parisians jockeyed for good position. There may be fireworks about to erupt.
The "oohs" and "ahhs" didn't come soon enough as she entered the cathedral. With her child in tow, and her friends nearby,
she made her way down long corridors. Her clothes definitely attracted much attention, as these people had never seen such fashions. Oh, normally she would dress like every
other fashionable 15th Century Parisian, adding flashes of her own style. But what splendid raiment adorned
It was a lovely tailored summer suit of the finest lavender linen. The crisp white blouse with its high collar highlighted her burnt sugar complexion. Completing the outfit was a hat most enormous; the brim itself was the widest ever seen. Ostrich plumes and ribbon bedecked this gargantuan piece of millinery.
Accessories, accessories! The walking stick, the pearl drop earrings, the amethyst and pearl stickpin -- completed this ensemble.
Danisha's companions this morning included her daughter Nadine and her good friend Madame Fern; both were similarly dressed. Rounding out the group were the two Black men who entertained at
La Belle d'Avignion the night before. Clevon and Willie made their way through the throng of people as passerby stopped and looked at this merry group in amazement.
O how wonderfully they carry themselves! The two gentlemen musicians greeted several citizens on the way; even shook a few hands. A hearty "Good Morning!" in Clevon Posey's booming basso profundo could be heard above the din of voices. What a gala morning! An otherwise routine Sunday suddenly and so wonderfully graced by the presence of these New World people.
But where was Claude Frollo?
Isabelle LaCroix tugged at Évrard Ouimet's sleeve as they mingled amongst the crowd pouring out of the
sanctuary. There was the usual meet and greet; Évrard ordinarily enjoyed this but was very anxious to return home. Others, however, had other
Orry Ouimet, now wanting very much to reunite with his New World friend, begged his father, "Oh please may we speak to them? Father, you promised I could invite Nadine for..."
Somehow, Évrard wanted to go to this woman, speak to her, perhaps, as Isabelle said, bring the past winter's ordeal to a close. Yes, move on, make amends with Frollo...
Swallowing his pride, Évrard made his way through the crowd toward the woman they called Danisha.
O how beautiful she is! Even if she does in reality belong to another man, Danisha was betrothed to Évrard Ouimet ever so briefly. Yet then she was led to believe she was Dorothy Ducharme.
Now, within touching distance of this woman, Évrard felt pangs of guilt, even fear. What if she strikes or lashes out? What if she doesn't want a thing to do with me? What if she does remember that horrid ordeal last winter? What if she still harbors just a tinge of love for me?
No sooner had Évrard uttered these words in his mind did his son exclaim, "Father! It's Nadine!" To which Nadine Frollo tugged at her mother and replied with equal fervor, "Mommy! There's Orry and his papa!"
"Nisha, my dear cousin. May I introduce...?"
Those words came from Isabelle LaCroix, Danisha's African-French ancestor. Of course, Isabelle didn't know that -- Only Claude Frollo knew the secret connection between Danisha and Isabelle.
Imagine the astonished expressions on parishioners' faces when these women faced each other. The uncanny resemblance! While Danisha was not as dark-complexioned as Isabelle, the facial features and physique were similar. Imagine Danisha's utter shock when Isabelle introduced the man Nisha nearly married last winter. Évrard himself endeavored to keep himself in check as introductions and polite greetings were exchanged. Madame Fern, Clevon, and Willie held their collective breath, wondering whether Claude Frollo just might tear himself away from the "family emergency" that prevented him from attending Mass.
"What exactly was that 'family emergency'?'" whispered Fern to Quasimodo soon after the bellringer emerged from the shadows to greet his New World friends. Nisha was Quasimodo's first real friend; he treasured the special bond they shared. It pained him to see a now-confused Danisha -- Well, she does seem confused, despite her calm demeanor -- chatting amicably with Évrard and Orry Ouimet. From the expressions and hushed tones of passersby, Quasi could sense the tension. What if Frollo returns and catches Évrard and Danisha together? What if Danisha decides that she really loves Évrard and not Claude Frollo? Moments flew by as Madame Fern lightly touched the bellringer's shoulder.
"Uh, Quasi," she said in her heavy southern Indiana twang, "go find Phoebus..."
Fern paused once she espied two figures approaching Danisha. Odd, thought Frollo's New World spy, Nisha isn't freaking out like I thought she would. She's actually --happy -- glad even--to meet the man she almost got hitched to. Perhaps it was the fact that dear Claude was presently on the outskirts of town, attending to urgent business. Perhaps Nisha, out of some sense of duty and a need for closure just decided that now is the time to meet the man who nearly made her Madame Ouimet.
So Madame Fern, out of concern for her friend, joined the happy group. There was much conversation and it soon centered on Mlle Nisha's unusual New World toys. For who should join the confab than that renowned troubadour from Provence. Raimon Cauant, accompanied by Felise LaCourbe, made his way out of the cathedral and towards Nisha's party. Felise had missed Évrard and company at Mass and she very much looked forward to meeting Frollo's lady. So many questions she needed answered! What produces those lovely yet strange sounds emanating from the house across the street? And what's with the clothes? Do all New World women dress in this fashion? The hat is so enormous, and extremely well-appointed. The generous lace and pearls obviously convey the lady's great wealth.
Felise LaCourbe decided right then and there that Danisha Wood would make a splendid addition to her circle of friends.
This was Madame Fern's reaction upon learning of Danisha's invitation. A Sunday afternoon of music and refreshment spent at Nisha's Parisian homestead. All of Danisha's 15th Century friends would be there -- the new and old -- including Évrard and Orry Ouimet.
While Fern fathomed the possible outcome of her friend's sudden whim, it was Clevon who approached Fern and reasoned with her.
"It was my fault, Fern," he admitted. "I had no idea the man would accept the invite. But when Nadine mentioned to Orry about the piano..."
Willie Terrell chimed in, "..And Felise LaCourbe happened to overhear the conversation." He turned to Fern, asking, "Now what do we do? Invite a bunch of strangers over so they can check out Nisha's place? You know what the score will be once they get a load of that piano and gramophone."
Fern Grigsby agreed. Nisha could be charged with witchcraft, and Claude Frollo either would be charged along with her, or in a worse case scenario, refuse to stand by Danisha if those charges ever stuck.
Taking a deep breath and pausing for a few seconds to ponder all the possible ramifications, Madame Fern told Quasimodo, "Go find Phoebus. You guys have to keep a sharp lookout for Claude Frollo. Warn us the moment he returns to town."
Then to Willie and Clevon, "OK, let the folks come over for a little ice cream social and music. But play that piano as normal -- DON'T even think of putting in a roll. The gramophone stays out of sight. Got it?"
The two men nodded and agreed to keep the obvious under wraps. But in the back of all their minds, Fern and company entertained misgivings.
Within the hour Danisha's pied a terre would literally burst with special guests. The very walls would reverberate with lively music circa 1910 America. The ice cream and cake served by the heaps; the lemonade and laughter flowed as easily and generously as the Seine. This was one time that Fern had wished Claude Frollo would be so occupied with this urgent family business.
Come on, Claude, thought the fat New World spy, stay away good and long this time. Can't chance you walking in on what could result in a major blowup between you and Danisha.
Alain LeBeau, a wealthy merchant en route to Paris from Calais, offered explanations as to his business partner's sudden health lapse. "M. Frollo, Jehan was in fine spirits all during our journey to Calais, and all during our business there as well. His health seemed good, but he did complain of minor pain. I thought it was due to the injuries he suffered last winter."
Alain then produced a pouch from his doublet pocket and handed it to Frollo.
"Jehan took several doses of this powder, sir. It wasn't long before he became quite delirious and lethargic. I suspected a possible overdose, sir, and that Jehan might have put his health in jeopardy. It is why I sent the courier after you this morning..."
"And I thank you for that, Alain," replied Frollo. "Once Jehan is 'out of the woods' so to speak, we need to get him home as soon as possible."
Then he added as he watched his brother in the depths of drug-induced slumber, "We shall take him to Danisha's home. I'm sure the presence of my dearest, and that of all those wondrous New World toys will be all the medicine my brother needs."
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