Then Frollo took his dagger, stabbed the little doll and set it afire. For an instant, Quasimodo's mind raced back twelve years, to when a similar confrontation took place in this very bell tower. That woman, Ameline, held Quasi at knifepoint, threatening the bell ringer with bodily harm if he dared mention what he saw and heard that night. And later Quasi, after getting up the courage to recount to Frollo that eyewitness evidence, vowed to his master never to withhold important information again. But this was different. Esmeralda was no Ameline; the Gypsy beauty had been exceedingly kind to him, the only person who ever showed him such and regarded him as a human being, not a monster. Well, there was Ameline's brother, Jacques, who regarded Quasi as a friend, but Quasi hadn't seen Jacques in so many years. He wondered what had happened to that nice young man who so briefly was his friend. Phoebus had already left in search of the Court of Miracles. Time was of the essence, and Frollo had made his threat of finding the Gypsies' elusive hideout. An attack at dawn, with a thousand men was what Frollo said before he left. Now Quasimodo had to make the choice: Disobey Frollo again or save his friends from certain death. Looking at the charred remains of the Esmeralda doll and studying his palm for 'no monster lines', it wasn't a hard decision.
Jacques Bellot was too keyed up to sleep. The death of his sister was on his mind, and the chance meeting with Esmeralda. It was all still too muddled for Jacques to fathom. Too much happening to fast in one day. There was still the task of informing Frollo of Mathena's death at the hands of Ameline, but Ameline is now dead. What will it matter to Frollo now? His Grace has exacted his revenge on Ameline in the most horrid ways. What good will it do to tell him Ameline poisoned Lutisse Lemer's servant? Mathena was a lowly housemaid, not worth the manpower. Well, Frollo has one less fugitive to worry about now, but what about Dreu Cardin who breezed into town on a whim? Wouldn't word get out that Cardin, a man wanted for helping Gypsies, driving His Grace to swarm the tavern with soldiers? But the man's house is burned to ashes. Ameline is dead. What more does Frollo want? It was getting late and Dreu had long gone to bed, exhausted from the journey from Orlèans to Paris, and thoroughly disgusted that Frollo had the nerve to burn his house. And there was the delicate task of telling Dreu that his ladylove "Thomassa Tailbot" was really Ameline Bellot, a fugitive wanted for fraud and murdered (well, to Jacques it was murder) by Claude Frollo. It was just too much for Dreu to stomach in one night, so he, before retiring for the night, thanked Jacques for the timely news and vowed to get even with Frollo in the morning.
Jacques stewed for some time, tossing back more brandy, before a couple of
friendly faces entered the tavern. It had been a long
arduous night for these travelers what with the usually short, leisurely journey
from Trois Filles Inn taking far longer than anticipated. It was all Frollo's
fault for this nightmare, Jacques thought. And all because His Grace desired
Esmeralda as a bedmate. What idiocy! What people were saying was true: Frollo
had gone completely mad. Jacques nearly called it a night. The numerous shots of
brandy did a number with his head, and he was ready for sleep when a tap on the
shoulder aroused him to consciousness.
"Jacques," said Émile, "I thought you'd still be up. Here, there are some people I want you to meet." Of all people to greet him, Jacques was ever so grateful to see Émile Poulin. How long had it been since he'd seen his dear friend who so graciously waited for him when he emerged from the dark, dank Palais dungeons. Now, Jacques had the painful task of informing Émile of Ameline's fate. However, for now, Jacques welcomed the company. Émile introduced the travelers just arrived this evening.
"Jacques Bellot, may I present my cousin, Ponce Brebéuf. He has just arrived from the inn
not far from here. He knows what's been going on." Jacques, remembering his
manners, extended his hand, saying in a tired voice, "Oh, how do you do, M.
Brebéuf. Sorry if I'm not in a chatty mood tonight. Long night, much
Ponce replied, "I already know. We saw the fire, my family and I, from the Trois Filles. We had no idea it was all Frollo..."
Now Jacques became even more agitated. In the many hours following his sister's death, he never had time to have a good cry. Now it came bubbling to the surface, all the anger, the frustration, the grief, came roaring out. "Ameline is dead! Frollo murdered her! He beat her then set fire to the house with her trapped inside. And he just walked away, leaving my sister to burn to death!"
Émile and Ponce were shocked, to say the least. How could this be? For Émile, he knew Jacques had so much to find his sister, perhaps reason with her before turning her over to Frollo. For Ponce, it was the realization that he and his family walked in on a virtual bloodbath. Has Frollo gone completely crazy? Indeed, it seemed Claude Frollo has lost his sanity. With Ponce and Émile seated at the table sharing what was left of the brandy, Jacques went on to recount those last few harrowing hours. He told them of Lutisse's maid, killed by consuming tainted cake courtesy of Ameline, and how he had spent nearly all day consoling his aunt. But in his absence, Ameline, all alone in the house, was soon confronted by Frollo. The judge had good reason to come to this particular house. Jacques explained about the house belonging to Dreu Cardin, a friend of the Gypsies.
"I've heard that name," said
Ponce, "the Baron de Clellaux mentioned a M. Cardin being one of his good
Jacques nearly knocked over his brandy snifter. "Did you say the baron? As in Aubert d'Urboise? He is alive?"
Ponce nodded, "Yes, the same. His Lordship came to the inn, along with...Sir," He paused, noting Jacques' surname. "By chance are you related to a Denis Bellot?"
Jacques' eyes lit up; his alcohol induced mind cleared a bit at the mention. "Denis Bellot is my father."
"Well," said Ponce, "your father, along with His Lordship, and Madame Bellot..."
Jacques' curiosity piqued. Did he say "Madame Bellot"? Did by chance...?
"My father must have remarried, but he didn't inform me...His last letter to me was almost a year ago..."
"Yes," said Ponce, "and he and his wife are at Trois Filles Inn as we speak. When my Huguette and Galien prepared to depart, I overheard the baron's attendant say that His Lordship was anxious to get on the road to Paris. But he was so weary from his journey. Probably is in bed now, poor soul, to be...Errr...Jacques, I know about your sister and mother, and what they did years ago to the baron. Your father told me. No hard feelings, then. I know you did the right thing."
The trio passed the night with quiet conversation and more libation, each wondering what Judge Frollo was up to now. At last, Jacques could only tell his companions that Frollo was in Notre Dame's bell tower, after that it was anyone's guess.
Margot gingerly parted the curtains and peered out the window as if not wanting to be seen. Well, she really didn't want any soldiers snooping around here. What a night! Too many good, upstanding citizens lost their homes and businesses in the Great Frollo Purge. What is this world coming to, she thought bitterly. And whatever possessed Minister Frollo to cause so much destruction and havoc? Margot recalled with a shudder the stories coming from near and far, of the miller's house set afire by Frollo, of many more who became Frollo's victims. It was a blessing Frollo's men never came by this house, even if His Lordship in years past welcomed Gypsies in his home. She recalled the subject of Frollo's mad search, the beautiful dancer La Esmeralda. Wasn't it Esmeralda, as a little girl, who danced so sweetly at the baron's sixty-fifth birthday celebration? How ironic that a man to whom Claude Frollo pledged loyalty and undying friendship had actually welcomed Gypsies into his home. What possibly could Frollo want with this woman? She has done nothing wrong outside getting under Frollo's skin during yesterday's festival. Secretly Margot relished the Gypsy beauty's bold tongue, how much she told Frollo a few truths.
Deep down, as
much as Margot showed Frollo nothing but respect in public, she really never
cared for the man, not with his reputation for cruel authoritarianism. Surely,
that trait had served His Grace well, and it was that tenacity and cool
methodical demeanor that finally trapped those awful Bellot women. With a sigh
of relief, Margot turned away from the window. No soldiers out on the streets
tonight. Perhaps Frollo has found Esmeralda. But no doubt His Grace will have to
answer to the citizens of Paris and offer some explanation to His Majesty for
tonight's atrocities. Margot, finally putting out the front hall lamp, prepared
And here she is, alone in this huge house. Oh, she had a couple of girls who came daily to help clean and maintain the house as though the baron still lived here. But she missed her husband Perrin. How many years since his death? Five? Yes, five years to the date, and Margot vowed that she would stay on despite the house not presently occupied. She did receive word from Minister Frollo a few weeks ago informing her that the baron's cousin Faure d'Aubec would arrive in Paris to take charge of the house. Oh good, at last someone to wait on and serve. She missed the old days when this house would teem with activity, what with presence of the Clauses, Faure, and the baron himself. How sad for His Lordship to die at the hands of that disgusting Bellot woman. But no body was ever found, not even after Claude Frollo and his soldiers searched every wood, village, and hamlet between Paris and the baron's country chateau. Then again, Jehanne Bellot, being the desperate and resourceful woman she was, could've buried the body where no one could find it. Ah, so much for long ago memories, both good and bad.
Margot nearly rounded the corner to the rear of the house wherein was her bedchamber, when a resounding banging on the front door made her nearly jump. Oh drat! Of all the things, and at this time of night. I'm not as spry as I was, and whoever this is at this hour...Oh no! What if it is Frollo and his brutal guards. But there are no Gypsies here. Esmeralda hasn't been around here for so long, not since His Lordship was alive...
Muttering oaths that would curl the Archdeacon's hair, Margot backtracked to the door, careful not to stumble over furniture. She was right; she wasn't as quick and agile as she was a decade ago. Her fine black hair had turned silvery white, and the body became more frail. Yet, her mind was as sharp as ever, always searching for dishonesty and betrayal in others. It was a talent she wished she had exercised more back in 1470, but...
She peered out the window to see four figures standing on the front steps – five men and a woman – but she couldn't make out faces in the darkness. Her hands shaking, Margot creaked open the door just a little, just enough to ask the callers what they wanted this time of night. Perhaps they are unfortunate souls who lost their home thus seeking shelter for the night. But why come here when there are so many inns and taverns in Paris? Shrugging, she held the lantern high as she asked, "Yes? What can I do for you?"
At once the woman replied, "Margot, don't you know me? Madame Claus. Well, I was until my husband passed on."
Imagine Margot's amazement as she
opened the door wider, allowing the party entry. "Oh, Madame! What brings you
around this night? Surely you did not get caught up in Frollo's rampage?"
Lysbette entered the house for the first time in nearly twelve years. Two gentlemen entered behind her, followed by two young attendants and an elderly gentleman. The latter was covered in a heavy black woolen cloak and wore an oversize chapeau, so his face wasn't readily visible. Margot welcomed the guests, saying, "Madame, I wasn't expecting callers, so the rooms are not quite ready. But they are livable. Here, allow me..."
She stopped herself as instantly she recognized the other gentleman. "Monsieur d'Aubec! I wasn't expecting you for another three days. I hadn't had the larder stocked, and..."
Now that older man finally settled, removed his cloak, and sat in that favorite chair by the fireplace. Margot nearly fainted! The elderly man wasted no time and said, "Yes, Margot. It is I, Aubert d'Urboise, back from the dead."
Denis Bellot calls on Frollo...Dreu wants revenge...Esmeralda faces death by fire.
Go to Chapter 29
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