Okay, so it's natural for children to brag to their friends about their homes and parents, but this is proving to be so awkward!
It's comforting, however, that Claude Frollo isn't here. Of all the
past indiscretions on my part, this one is probably the most unforgivable.
Too many promises broken in one day, and I have myself to blame. Maybe
it was the lovely June weather, the grandeur of Notre Dame and Mass, or
my circa 1900 ensemble which clouded my better judgment. I knew better
than to invite all these people into my home. Claude warned me that if
anyone so much as saw that player piano or gramophone in action, it could
spell dire consequences for me.
Now I have to be extremely cautious not to let on about my many possessions. Thank goodness Fern had sense enough to hide that gramophone in a far corner, behind that old heavy tapestry. No one would ever think to go there. The player piano? The rolls are presently hidden away as well; we simply play the instrument the old-fashioned way. Thanks to Clevon and Willie for providing the afternoon entertainment.
Actually the afternoon isn't as bad as I'd feared, although it is rather awkward with the Ouimets here. After all, I nearly married Évrard many months ago; I nearly became Orry's stepmom. He is a cutie -- Orry that is -- and his father is quite a thrill to the eyes as well.
Why am I feeling like this?
I barely recall my ordeal as Dorothy Ducharme; all I remember that fateful New Year's Eve is swooning away in Claude Frollo's arms. They told me I had died; but, unbeknownst to everyone I ever cared about, I was very much alive. An old "friend" fixed that, and I'm still more than miffed with that man for causing all this mess in the first place. If it wasn't for John Elmore and his insane "fatal attraction" plot, then Évrard Ouimet would have been just another of my late 15th Century acquaintances. Right now, instead of friendship, I'm experiencing feelings that are quite forbidden.
Évrard is an irresistibly handsome man, with his dark hair, gray
eyes, and smooth bisque complexion. I hear that he is of mixed ancestry;
his mother was what once referred to as "mulatto". His father, Francois
Ouimet, knew Claude from way back. I still have yet to learn all the particulars
of that sibling rivalry between Évrard and Phillipe.
But getting back to my feelings for the man. To be sure, I've been faithful to Claude Frollo ever since we laid eyes on each other. I've never so much as looked at another man since meeting Claude. However, and this is a recent development in our relationship, I will admit that since my ordeal last winter, the sparks aren't there anymore. I'm still madly in love with Claude, and he's deeply in love with me.
Yet that deep passion, the intense fire between us isn't the same. Perhaps it's the fact that we are older now; perhaps it's the fact that we are parents. Whatever the problem, it will not go away in time. Right now, I'm feeling rather guilty for those hot emotions are stirring with the same intensity. As long as Évrard Ouimet is within striking distance, those unwanted desires continue to bubble and churn within me.
Exactly how deep was "Dottie's" love for Évrard? Did she fall for him upon first glance? Did she fight those passions, that compelling desire to "jump his bones" before the wedding that never happened? I have to know and only a select few people can help me.
Thank goodness for Isabelle's presence, and that of Évrard's cousin Clarice. This entire Sunday afternoon gathering became literally unbearable when Isabelle sensed my discomfort and asked me to move the party to the courtyard. But the thread began unraveling when a few individuals decided to remain inside. That was a grave mistake on their part as it cast a cloud over the remainder of my summer vacation.
What can I say? What can Fern say?
We knew the risks of inviting too many people into this house, but our
fears melted the moment Raimon Cauant launched into question after question.
Even Felise LaCourbe, aside from being so sweet and extremely talented,
intrigues me. Although she seems so poised, so "with it", there's something
amiss. Personable as she is, and I have a strong feeling we will become
very good friends, Felise seems to be harboring secrets. When I watched
Raimon Cauant hover over Felise repeatedly, I inquired about just that.
She merely said that she and Raimon were once very close in their younger
days. But things turned out so differently for both and they simply went
their separate ways. I never pressed it much farther but did note that
I understood she and Jehan were acquaintances. She only explained that,
"I met Jehan Frollo at a banquet, in Florence. We renewed our friendship
when I arrived in Paris last winter."
She said nothing more on the subject but soon launched into a series of questions concerning the "New World" music, the piano, and "That curious box I saw Phoebus carry in." Now what do I say? That gramophone is hidden away, never to see light of day, at least as long as I remain in 15th Century Paris. Only a select few are allowed to see that!
Within moments I withstood a volley of questions, and Fern was there to buffer the blow somewhat. We offered whatever answers that would satisfy these highly curious late medieval people. But things did finally settle as Raimon Cauant, Willie Terrell, and Clevon Posey agreed to us with a little "Battle of the Troubadours" -- a lively, amusing duel showcasing musical styles from BOTH time periods. Raimon performed songs of love and chivalry; Willie and Clevon sang timeless American classics ranging from street hollers and rag to blues and swing.
Once in a while I'd glance over at Évrard Ouimet, just to gauge a reaction. Oh my goodness, he's absolutely, drop dead gorgeous!
Stop that, Nisha, you belong to one man and one many only. Even "just looking" may lead to disastrous results. Little did I know that while Évrard and I eyeballed each other, wondering whether the sparks were still there, two people became bored. They decided, without informing me, to go back inside. One of them requested something forbidden; the other foolishly complied. And that's what started that thread to unravel.
Orry Ouimet, his dark eyes wide with wonder and curiosity, couldn't
help hiding his astonishment. It's the music machine! The one Felise and Clemence
described! But Nadine, a very observant and sensible child, warned
Orry not to tell anyone. "Especially not your Uncle Philippe. Papa says
he won't understand. Not too many people know about Mommy's stuff."
"Your mother's...er...'stuff'?," inquired Orry, not quite comprehending what Nadine meant.
Nadine Frollo, now treading into uncharted territory, admitted so much. "Mommy and Miss Fern brought a bunch of stuff with them back when Mommy first met Papa. Miss Fern brought my mommy here just to meet Papa..."
She went on to tell Orry about the many gadgets and other curiosities her
mother brought from the "New World". Now Orry understood in part, because
he remembered Jehan Frollo's gift to "Dorothy Ducharme": the basket of
delicious "New World" treats.
The two children were still quite alone in the house; no one missed them -- yet. Nadine, her six year old mind still not quite grasping the gravity of the situation, insisted on showing Orry how the player piano "really" worked.
"Here, Orry," she said as she expertly installed a roll, "Clevon played it like regular, but it really plays itself." Orry gasped, "Plays itself? That's impossible."
"Oh, yes it can! See? Just let me put this music roll and I'll show you."
Nadine flipped the lever
and beckoned Orry to get closer. "There are words so we can read and sing
along," she said not knowing that Orry's grasp of English was quite limited.
Soon the room filled with the sounds of "Bill Bailey" and Orry was so filled with wonder and fear. Yes, fear, because he had never seen such a thing! This instrument, this piano, is actually playing itself! How does it work? Nadine sang along as a dumbstruck Orry stood by. What would he tell his father? Would Évrard believe him? And what would his uncle, the Minister of Justice have to say about this? Does Uncle Philippe know about Mlle Danisha and all these wonderful things?
After the song played through,
Nadine drew Orry's attention to the gramophone. Now, if Orry was flabbergasted
with the player piano, imagine his shock when Nadine showed how that other
music machine worked.
"Now this machine, Orry, is called a gramophone. All you do is put on this record and turn the crank. Here, why don't you turn the crank and I'll put the needle on the record."
Orry Ouimet complied, not knowing what to expect. So he turned the heavy crank on the side of this curious-looking contraption. Oh, he remembered Clemence's tales of "demonic devices" in Mlle Danisha's home, but he didn't want to believe them. And he remembered Felise LaCourbe's reports to Évrard regarding "Those odd items going into Frollo's lady's house".
He watched as Nadine carefully placed the heavy, strange-looking, "needle" onto the round black disk. What is this? What will I expect? Will we get into trouble because Nadine shows me these wonderful things?
No sooner did Orry gather his thoughts as weird and wonderful sounds emanated from this machine. His astonished eyes traveled to the massive ornate horn atop the gramophone. Oh my goodness, there is...MUSIC! There are people singing! I can hear the words! I can hear the instruments! But there is no band!
"Here, Orry," said Nadine, directing his attention to something else, "why don't we look at the pictures." "Pictures?," Orry said waringly as he watched Nadine go over to a nearby table.
There were pictures shattered about but they were unlike any pictures Orry had ever seen before. They were prints of sorts; the subjects were unfamilar. And there were two of the same picture on each card!
Laying near the pile was another device that had Orry's curiosity working overtime. Nadine picked it up and explained, "You put in a card then put this up to your eyes." She slid a card into the slot then handed the stereoscope to Orry.
"Hold it up to the light, Orry. You can see it!"
"The Grand Canyon, silly!"
Oh my word, what wonderful things I'm learning from my new friend. And to think that if Father married "Dorothy" then all of us might have seen all these fabulous New World things. "The Grand Canyon...Where is this place?," he asked. Nadine replied, "Mommy says it's in Arizona. She
promised to take me and Papa there in the fall."
Orry's utter amazement and awe grew more intense with every picture he viewed through this lovely New World invention called a "stereoscope". Oh how interesting this New World seems! This next picture is of a bridge..."Brooklyn Bridge"...and here's another one of their President's Palace...and more pictures of mountains, woods, lakes, grand cities, animals I've never seen before...
"Nadine?," he asked after several minutes of scrutinizing image after image, and listening to endless recordings. "May I visit you in your country? I mean, we are friends, and I don't think my father would mind if we took a trip across the ocean..."
Nadine looked at Orry rather oddly; she began to laugh as she commented, "Across the ocean?" She was now giggling with uncontrollable amusement as she said, "Orry, we just go to the d'Arcy's house...That's where Miss Fern keeps her car, and..."
"Nadine! What are you doing?!"
No sooner had Nadine spoken when a familiar, yet uncharacteristically sharp and scolding voice called out to her. Seems someone had been missed, and this person had been sent back inside to search. Orry and Nadine snapped to attention as the figure approached them. Ooh, we're in trouble for sure, thought Nadine with a shudder. She began to stammer an apology but the spy spoke first.
"Nadine, your mother sent me in here after you. You know you're not to show this stuff...Orry, you and Nadine go back outside. If your parents should ask, then just say that you wanted more lemonade..."
Nadine and Orry, with downcast eyes and guilty expressions, headed back to the courtyard. Suddenly Nadine said, "I'm sorry, Quasi, I won't tell Mommy what I did." The bellringer sighed and replied, "Okay, apology accepted, but don't do this again. Understood?"
Meanwhile, as three figures approached the city gates, Phoebus, acting as lookout, made tracks to Danisha's pied a terre. Oh my God! Frollo's coming and Nisha's throwing an "ice cream social" complete with the music and everything! At least that's what Quasimodo told me. Frollo will be livid for sure once he learns that Nisha invited all these people -- including Évrard Ouimet -- into her home!
To Chapter Nine!
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