Family Values

Chapter 22

The Time & Place:
In the early morning hours, while Paris is just awakening, an assembly in the square...
Claude Frollo arrive bright and early, only to emerge from his carriage a total wreck. His eyes were bloodshot, and it took much fortitude on his part not to pass out from sheer exhaustion. He had passed an extremely difficult and emotionally draining night. Overcome with conflicting feelings –– a gnawing lust for the gypsy beauty and hatred for feeling this way in the firs place –– Frollo came to the conclusion that Esmeralda would have to make her choice: Frollo's bed or burn at the stake.
His Honor couldn't reveal what had him so spooked the night before, so he made up half-excuses to which his Captain partially bought.

"Good morning, sir!," came the alert greeting. Phoebus could tell that his boss didn't sleep well if not at all. Perhaps it was all due to yesterday's "topsy turvy" events –– Quasimodo's humilation, Esmeralda boldly asserting herself before Frollo, the gyspy dancer's mad dash across the square, culminating in Esmeralda's "house arrest" within the stone walls of Notre Dame. "Sanctuary" was what Phoebus made Esmeralda plea lest she find herself in more dire circumstances once in Frollo's clutches.
However, Esmeralda escaped the cathedral, leaving a desperate Claude Frollo to issue the order: "Find the gypsy girl!"

How much this reminded Claude of another hunt for a particular fugitive long ago. He had nearly given his heart to her, to Ameline, only to suffer the utter humiliation of nearly falling victim to a scam. No, Esmeralda was not a con artist, then again Ameline was no Esmeralda. The scheming grifter was far from Frollo's agenda today. If Jacques finds his sister, then he can bring her to the Palais de Justice himself. Right now, Frollo's top, and seemingly only, priority was to bring in Esmeralda.


"Jacques! I didn't know who else to call. Frollo is not at the Palais, and I'm so distraught! Mathena was a good girl...I know I got on her once or twice, but she was a good girl."
Lutisse Lemer sobbed in her nephew's arms, totally grief-stricken when Abelard awakened her very early this morning with alarming news. Last night, Mathena, feeling somewhat better after her brief bout with a stomach ailment, treated herself to the rest of that spice cake Ameline had given her. That was witnessed by Abelard who reported that Mathena soon became to have difficulty breathing. She struggled and fought for air then fell convulsively to the floor.
"I didn't know what to do," said Abelard when he went to fetch Jacques, "I was sure she was poisoned, and when she told me earlier who gave her the cake, I could only suspect..."
So distraught and disgusted were the servant and his mistress that Ameline could so coldly commit such an act, Jacques made up his mind. Ameline will have to be turned over to Frollo this very morning. She was still asleep the last time Jacques checked, and the door and windows were secruely locked so there was no chance of escape. Besides, although he hated taking such extreme measures, Jacques, while Ameline slept soundly, chained the girl to her bed. No way she can escape.

"Tante Lutisse," he said to his still sobbing aunt, "Ameline is...ummm...tied up and shan't escape. Allow me to head to the Palais and fetch Frollo.."
"No, Jacques," Lutisse said through her tears, trying in vain to focus on her nephew's handsome face. No, the crystal clear images will never come again...everything is all blurry...
"Abelard went there this morning, but Frollo had already left. Ide Poulin said His Grace was out looking for that gypsy girl with whom he had words yesterday..."
Jacques was in a tough quandary. Oh drat! Just when I had Ameline where I wanted her, Frollo is too busy finding that gypsy dancer. I wonder what is the driving force behind that. Such a manhunt – should I say 'womanhunt' – may take all day, and I don't have time to lose. He agreed to stay with Lutisse but told her, "Ameline is presently sleeping. You see, I drugged her wine last night, so she's fairly out of it. I also locked her door so she shan't escape. But I really need to get back in case..."
Lutisse understood, but she was quite agitated to learn that her own niece was responsible for Mathena's death. "She's a murderer, Jacques," she said bitterly, "a coldblooded killer. For once I'd like to see her get a well deserved comeuppance. But..."

She paused, remembering those many years ago when Frollo had Jehanne imprisoned here – house arrest for life. Naturally Lutisse was rather perturbed that the Minister of Justice would saddle her with her wayward sister. But all worked out for the best as Ameline was thought dead, and Jehanne was a virtual basket case the moment she arrived in shackles.
Having witnessed her daughter's suicide, and sentenced to spend the rest of her life locked in her sister's house, Jehanne Bellot dug herself into a depression from which she never quite recovered. Even the daily admonishments and lectures from Lutisse didn't quite sink in.
Jehanne, locked in her bedchamber never to venture out for anything, continually cursed all persons responsible for the 'perfect' scam gone haywire. She damned Denis, Lysbette, Jacques, and Frollo for driving Ameline to her death. All during those first weeks and months, Jehanne sat by her window, looking out on Parisian streets she will never again venture out into. Freedom was lost, and so was her mind.
Then, almost a year later, Jehanne received a most evilly worded letter from the daughter she thought dead. In that letter Ameline cursed her mother, wishing it was she who jumped into the frigid Seine that night. "Only then," she wrote, "you wouldn't had the fortitude to swim underwater like I did. You would drown on the spot, and it would be good riddance!"
Ameline then went on to explain that she knew of Jacques' noble sacrifice to save Jehanne from the gallows. "Only I would imagine Frollo would have Jacques serve a few years...Long enough to save the family's 'good' name...My only regrets in this whole sordid mess is that I didn't succeed in killing Jacques or Claude Frollo when I had the chance. But that will change once I return to Paris...They will get what's coming to them."
Ameline ended her letter telling her mother that she hoped all was well, and that Tante Lutisse is not too hard on her. "After all, Maman, my good aunt was party to your downfall. How I wish I was there now, watching you squirm under Tante Lutisse's constant badgering..."
It was more than Jehanne could take. Couple that with the realization that her own son sat in a filthy dungeon cell for a crime he did not commit. Jehanne tried to write a long letter to Denis, halfway atoning for her waywardness, but she never sent that letter. Slowly, Jehanne Bellot slid into a deep pit of despair, but she never fully realized that it was she who sowed the seeds of family discord. She was responsible for Ameline turning out so badly, perhaps worse. She was the cause of Jacques' imprisonment. And she was responsible for all of Denis' endless suffering.

On a bleak and rainy February morning, nearly a year after she was placed on house detention, Jehanne Bellot, in her despair, took a knife and slashed her wrists. When Lutisse brought up Jehanne's breakfast, she found her sister's lifeless body sprawled on blood-soaked sheets. A suicide note lay near the body, a letter atoning for all past sins, saying that things would've been better if she was dead long ago. Lutisse surmised that Jehanne's ill-gotten pursuits finally came full circle, and that Ameline had the last laugh.


Ameline stirred herself awake, although she was still quite groggy. Whatever was in that wine Jacques gave her did its number. Within moments of ingestion, Ameline became rather drowsy and lightheaded. She assumed her own brother drugged her, so it was best to sleep off the dope then, by morning, she hoped to be fully conscious.

But that alertness never came. She planned to go to the Palais de Justice and confront Claude Frollo. Now why would she do something so risky? Ameline was perfectly aware that once she ever crossed paths with Frollo she would be as good as arrested on the spot. No, she thought, it's too simple...perhaps I should confront him with a little truth, something that would make him sit up and take notice.
And she wanted to confront her brother for doping her. The idea! Jacques – oh so goody-goody, ever so noble Jacques – resorting to the very methods he'd always abhored. He had seen his mother and sister secretly drug unsuspecting innocents then stand back and laugh as the hapless souls struggled under the influence. So, now, it did not quite make sense for her brother do what he did. But Ameline suddenly realized...Oh yes he did! He didn't want to risk my escaping before he could alert Frollo. So, I'll do Jacques a favor by going to the Palais myself. Only then I'll have my revenge on Claude, and my brother will not be there to stop me...

Ameline, forcing herself coherent, stumbled out of the bed, her legs still wobbly and mind in a fog. She was alert enough to pick the door's lock, thus freeing herself to go downstairs.
She wandered into the cramped drawing room only to find Jacques not there. She wandered the house, calling out to him. No response. Oh well, she thought, he must've gone out for food, so I'll just...
Her head spun again for the drugs had not worn completely off. She sank down on the couch by the fireplace and tried to warm herself with what heat the smouldering embers emitted. Still cursing her brother and Claude Frollo, Ameline soon drifted off to sleep. Hopefully, she pondered, the drugs will wear off in time for her to attend to "unfinished business".


Meanwhile, in an inn not far from Paris...
The Trois Filles Inn was all abuzz this fine morning. So many travelers either heading to or leaving Paris. In the spacious grand hall, the wayfarers sat around the massive round table laden with all sorts of delicious breakfast items. The inn itself, situated on a hill, was a longtime favorite of travelers and less than an hour's ride from Paris. It was owned by Gaillard and Ava Bernat, and named for their three daughters: Marie, Anna, and Sybille. So close to Paris was the inn that on a clear day, one could look out the upperstory window and see, far off in the distance, the imposing towers of Notre Dame cathedral and the Palais de Justice.

Now, on this morning, the mealtime conversation (or gossip?) centered around yesterday's Feast of Fools. So many interesting stories to tell of THIS year's FoF, and one man in particular was highly interested in what was said about those many odd events that made this year's festival so memorable.
"I tell you," said Eustache, a burly, dark-haired, mustachioed, hilarious cutup, "first this gorgeous Gypsy dancer, La Esmeralda, gets up on the tables then leaps into old Frollo's lap."
"And," said Ines, his wife, "she pretended to kiss him only to smash his chapeau right down on his head!"
Laughter all around the table, especially when the talk centered around Frollo. As much as the Minister of Justice was both admired and feared, many folks relished the fact that someone finally humilated the judge in public.

The talk continued with recounts of: Quasimodo being crowned King of Fools; the crowd soon heckling and jeering their 'king'; and Esmeralda's heated exchanged with Judge Frollo.
"No doubt Frollo had the girl arrested," commented one interested gentleman.
"On the contrary," said Eustache merrily, laughing in between his reply, "La Esmeralda soon led Frollo's men on a wild chase throughout the square. Knocked off three soldiers in one fell swoop. Then, after knocking down Frollo's tent – with Frollo still in it, mind you – she simply disappeared. I tell you, that's one plucky gal to pull one on old Frollo."

The gentleman smiled then turned his attentions to the young couple accompanied by their son. Ah, he thought, assessing the boy, the lad is quite a handsome one, but he doesn't look a thing like his parents. Both husband and wife are short, blonde, blue-eyed. But the child...tall, quite slender, dark-eyed, a mass of dark hair...That face...
Something about the boy clicked. His curiosity getting the best of him, the gentleman had to introduce himself, get to know this pleasant little family better.
"Pardon, monsieur," he said, "I couldn't help noticing how handsome your son is."
"Oh, thank you, sir," replied the wife, a petite lady who beamed with pride at her son. "He is a joy to us, and a blessing from God."
"So it seems. Madame..."
She politely introduced herself and family. "Brebéuf, monsieur. I am Huguette, this is my husband Ponce, and this," pointing to the boy, "is Galien. He passed his twelfth birthday this November. My sister Louve is traveling with us, but she has yet to come down to breakfast. And what is your name, monsieur..."
"Faure d'Aubec, Madame Brebéuf," he said, continuing, "And what is your destination?"
"We're heading to Paris this afternoon. Ponce has family there, and Louve is to meet with Minister Frollo concerning some legal matter."

Now Faure became more interested. Wasn't Louve one of cousin Aubert's servants? Yes, caretaker of his chateau...I know what transpired twelve years ago, what with Aubert meeting an unknown fate at the hands of swindlers. And that Bellot woman had a daughter...named Ameline who supposedly committed suicide the night she and her mother were cornered by Frollo. Now, the girl lives because it was she who wrote to me, claiming to be Aubert's longlost granddaughter and that she was in need of a dowry...I wonder, looking at this child, and that the lad just passed his twelfth year...No, it could not be!

Faure d'Aubec, trying to keep his surprise in check, continued small talk with the Brebéufs, complimenting the son and asking pertinent questions. "I noticed that your son..."
Ponce picked up on this, replying, "That Galien doesn't look a thing like his parents. No, M. d'Aubec, Galien is adopted, given to us by God when Huguette could not carry a child to term. Our son knows he is adopted but doesn't know about his birth parents. Louve thinks it is best that he doesn't."
He leaned over to Faure, whispering so his wife and son could not overhear, "Bad lot, his mother. The father is unknown...which is why Louve wants to meet with Claude Frollo..."

Faure, now fully understadning the situation, merely said, "You don't have to explain yourself, or the boy's circumstances. I know..."
When Louve Papon finally came downstairs, and saw Faure chatting with her sister's family, she nearly fainted. What if Faure knows...about that Bellot girl and what she did twelve years ago. Of all the cross paths with my sister and her husband so soon after...
I know what happened that night before Ponce and Huguette brought Ameline to the house – 'Thomassa', as she called herself. And she was a pain all those nine months before she...

"Louve!," called Huguette, "Come and meet M. Faure d'Aubec. He is telling us a most fascinating story about the Baron de Clellaux. Did you know the baron fell victim to a fraudulent woman?"
Louve, looking to Faure for answers, finally made up her mind to tell her sister and brother-in-law the truth about that poor creature they took in on a frigid February night twelve years ago.

Go to chapter 23

Copyright©2003 by FrolloFreak®

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