Claude Frollo was not only pleased to have found the Court of Miracles, and it
thrilled him to no end that at last he stumbled upon Ameline Bellot residing in
a house owned by a known Gypsy advocate. How fortunate that Frollo, whilst
searching for Esmeralda, sent his men to Dreu Cardin's Parisian townhouse.
Naturally, Frollo knew that Cardin was not there, but it was often used
for the purpose of hiding Gypsies. But never did Frollo expect to find that
other fugitive, Ameline Bellot, or was it now 'Thomassa Tassin' or
whatever alias she went by these days. Actually, Frollo had put the Bellot case
on backburner status since finding Esmeralda took priority. And really, thought
Frollo, it should have been the brother Jacques to find his sister and bring her
in. After yesterday's fiasco at the festival, Frollo simply did not have the
time nor the manpower to spare.
Isn't it funny that, twelve years ago, Frollo nearly succumbed to Ameline's charms, even was on the verge of recanting his self-imposed vow of celibacy to spend the rest of his life with the lovely woman from Calais. But Ameline, as was with the female sex, was a predator and grand deceiver, a most befitting epitome of Jezebel herself. Ameline, if Frollo had placed that wedding ring on her finger, would have made good her threat and ended the Minister of Justice's life much in the manner as her mother dispatched Aubert d'Urboise. All right, so Claude Frollo had no inkling of how Aubert died, if he died at all. But there was that gnawing knowledge that Ameline was, just like her mother, capable of casually ending a life. She would think nothing of it, merely walk away from her handiwork, and never look back.
Now, years later, Claude Frollo finds himself once again falling for another dangerous woman. But Esmeralda is different. She was a witch, pure and simple. An evil, scheming seductress who, in the guise of a most scandalous dance, cast her spell over Frollo, causing him to wrestle all last night with conflicting emotions. Without doubt, Frollo found Esmeralda exceedingly beautiful, just as he admired Ameline's good looks, but...
Perhaps, with some friendly – no, forceful – persuasion, Esmeralda will come around, see the wrong she has inflicted, and give herself to me...As it should have been with Ameline. Such women deserve no kindness, no mercy, no courtly romance...
His mind raced back to Ameline Bellot, now dead no doubt, and good riddance!
Never would Frollo forget the lies tumbling from the girl's mouth. After
truthfully (and she swore it was the truth) informing Frollo that Esmeralda had
not been to Cardin's house, Ameline then blurted out something about a baby. She
claimed it was Frollo's and that she had the child the fall following her
supposed suicide. And how did he react? As usual whenever a woman with whom he'd
been dallying put forth the false (really?) claim that she was carrying his
child. He beat Ameline black and blue, kicked and stomped her mercilessly. Then
he and his men set the house on fire, leaving Ameline to burn to death. So what
if she howled in pain as the flames incinerated her flesh, the smoke choking
life's breath out of her. The wretched woman had her chance to recant but chose
to lie her way out of a sticky situation, the way she and her mother had always
done. But what were those last words Ameline uttered before Frollo turned his
back on her? Claude Frollo, in his rage, and zealous quest to find Esmeralda,
didn't quite pay attention to Ameline. She screamed and wailed so while Frollo
practically kicked the life out her. But those words... "Ask Louve
Wasn't Louve Papon the caretaker of Aubert's country chateau, the very property where His Lordship entertained the treacherous Jehanne Bellot just before his disappearance? Humph! Jehanne most likely told Ameline who Louve was, thus planting the idea in the girl's head that she 'may' be with child. The girl was lying all along, but what if there was really a child and Frollo was the father? No way! And she said the boy's name was Galien. Again, all lies. Claude Frollo, pushing Ameline to the dustbin of his memories, could now turn his attentions to more pressing matters. He decided to pay a visit to the dungeons, to Esmeralda, perhaps 'reason' with the cunning little witch that HE was the only man for her. She was his and his alone, and if she will not give in to his desires, she will suffer the same fiery demise as Ameline Bellot.
Margot, her aging body taking on a renewed vitality, gladly served her lord and master she thought long dead. And there were even more surprises. Imagine, the husband of that awful woman who so deceitfully wormed her way into the baron's heart was here as well. And he is nothing like his first wife! Denis Bellot is kind, thoughtful, generous to a fault. This man actually fathered that terrible girl, what's her name? How can that be? In her delight, she sent Faure's attendant with a message: Go posthaste to Le Clef Argente and find Émile Poulin. That young man is most likely there with M. Bellot's son, Jacques. Émile is to bring Jacques Bellot to the house at once, no matter how late it is. The young man must be reunited with his father. Margot had heard of Jacques' release from prison from Ide Poulin who heard the news via Émile, her son.
What joys! At last, after all these years of thinking His Lordship met with foul play, even murdered, he shows up on his very doorstep. And M. d'Aubec is here, as well as Madame Claus...Well, she is married to Monsieur Bellot now...so sad to lose her first husband. Anton Claus was such a good man, a naturally funny gentleman who never gave Margot or Perrin a hard time as most men of his station. And she was most pleased to see Louve Papon, the baron's loyal caretaker. With an extra set of willing hands to help her, Margot was quite grateful. And Louve could fill her in on all that had happened in the past decade or so since the two servants hadn't crossed paths since the winter of 1470.
In the grand sitting room, Margot served her employer and guests a light late night repast. As she went to the hearth, stirring the embers ablaze, she asked for details. It is, after all, not a common occurrence for a man presumed dead for twelve years to suddenly return to the living. Aubert, understandably tired from the journey from Trois Filles Inn, but eager to share with his longtime servant, began to recount the same story he earlier told his cousin and Louve. Margot's boggled at what Aubert told her. She couldn't believe this! Jehanne Bellot actually plotting the baron's murder; the plot foiled by a sharp-eyed kitchen maid; the birth of Ameline's baby. Then there was the correspondence from Dreu Cardin stating that he was 'persona non grata' as far as Claude Frollo was concerned. An elaborate scheme to make people believe Aubert did die, thus trapping the Bellot women in a lie. Margot partially understood why the baron went to such lengths to protect himself and the life of a good friend. She also understood, especially after today's "Frollo's Great Purge", why Aubert had called it quits between him and Claude Frollo. Perhaps, Margot wondered, this is a good time to mention what has happened today. Certainly the baron must be informed that his former legal advisor conducted the most heinous and destructive search for one Gypsy dancer. And just wait until I tell his lordship just WHO the dancer is; the baron will be livid.
"I really should tell, m'lord," Margot began as she served Faure and the Bellots
more refreshment, "what has happened. I'm sure you saw the fire..." Faure
d'Aubec replied, "We most certainly did see fires, nearly the entire city in
flames. But, and be truthful with me, Margot, was Judge Frollo responsible?"
Then Denis said, "Many who lost their homes had to flee Paris. They came to the inn and told wild stories of Frollo searching for a Gypsy girl, burning and devastating what he believed to be obstacles in his way. Is this true?"
`Margot couldn't hedge any longer. She had to tell them the truth. And she did just that. First there was usual roundup of Gypsies. Then, when they wouldn't cooperate, Frollo turned on Parisians. She recounted the burning of the miller's home, the shooting of Captain Phoebus after he rescued that family. And she recalled it was all for the capture of the Gypsy La Esmeralda. At the mention of Esmeralda's name, Aubert's face immediately lit up, then his eyes darkened, the deeply etched ivory complexion reddening with rage.
"Esmeralda! The same little
girl who danced for me so many years ago? Why would Frollo want to arrest this
girl? What has she done to warrant such destruction?"
"The same girl, m'lord. Only she has grown into a beautiful young woman."
Margot then explained what had
happened at the festival: Quasimodo crowned king, the crowd jeering and abusing
the bell ringer, then Esmeralda coming to his aid. "This enraged Minister Frollo
so, m'lord. There was a heated exchange of words between the two, then he tried
to have her arrested."
Of course, Margot had to explain Esmeralda's mad dash through the square, evading Frollo's men with laughable results. "But Frollo wasn't pleased. He...From what I've heard the girl escaped, obviously in hiding."
"Perhaps," said Faure to Aubert, "she sought refuge in your friend M. Cardin's home."
"No, she wasn't there," replied Margot, "for I've heard from Madame LeClerc's servant that Minister Frollo burned that house. There is nothing left, m'lord, but ashes. There was a young woman who resided in that house, alas, she was so badly injured...Madame LeClerc's maid said the woman died."
Louve Papon, listening to all this, wondered with some dread if the young
woman Margot spoke of was 'Thomassa Tailbot', the same girl who took off with
Cardin years ago. This Tailbot woman, surmised Louve long ago, had to be Ameline
Bellot. Oh Mother of God! The same Ameline who is M. Bellot's daughter! And the
father does not know.
"Margot," said Louve while eyeing Denis Bellot peculiarly, "who was the lady? The one who died in the fire?" Margot shrugged, replying, "I don't know. The servant did not inform me of such, but," her eyes were now on Aubert, "M'lord, Monsieur Cardin's house is a total loss, as are so many homes..."
Now Aubert began to rise from his chair, his face skewed in righteous rage. The more he tried to stand, the more that old arthritic knee flared up. Louve rushed to her master's side, saying, "M'lord, you mustn't exert yourself so. You've had a long journey..."
Aubert d'Urboise, normally a mild-tempered
man, nearly shouted in his tenor voice, "Damn it, Louve, don't coddle me. I
want to see Frollo – NOW!" It took much effort on Faure's part to settle Aubert
with, "Good cousin, please, get a good night's sleep. In the morning we shall
all go to the Palace of Justice and demand an audience with Frollo. I, for one,
want some pointed answers concerning Cardin's house, and the many others Frollo
destroyed as well. Get a grip, Aubert. You will see Frollo, but only when
you are properly rested."
It was of no use. When Faure reasoned like that, Aubert had no choice but to resettle. But his mind was made up: First thing in the morning, at dawn, he will go to Frollo, make the man sit up and take notice that His Grace's recent behavior was totally uncalled for. Aubert savored the anticipation of Frollo's shocked expression once His Grace lays eyes on the man presumed dead for more than a decade.
It was near midnight. Faure and Aubert had long retired, both quite exhausted from the long journey. Margot and Louve had gone to bed as well. Margot had hoped that the attendant hadn't forgotten his mission, that is fetch Jacques Bellot and bring him to the house. But the attendant returned alone, reporting (in secret as Margot wanted the father-son reunion to be a surprise) that Jacques and Émile had prepared for bed. Oh well, thought Margot, it had been a long difficult day for all involved. Might as well get a good night's sleep; perhaps the son will come tomorrow. Denis and Lysbette remained up, with the latter telling her husband much about the better times past. That was of course before Jehanne and Ameline Bellot came into the picture. Denis understood completely why Lysbette seemed particularly bitter when recalling those harrowing days when Jehanne literally took over Aubert's heart.
something when she said you were dead," said Lysbette, pouring for Denis more
"That was," replied Denis, "Jehanne's modus operandi – to lie until everything becomes so unraveled. You were witness to her deceptions, and Aubert...And to think my own son sacrificed twelve years of his life for her, and for Ameline if truth be known."
He drained his wine cup then told his wife they might as well go up to
bed. There was nothing more happening tonight; the streets took on an almost
eerie quiet. "I believe," he said, "all of Paris was in much chaos what with
Frollo conducting this rampage just to find a Gypsy girl. We've never had to
deal with such despicable behavior from our Calais magistrate."
Lysbette patted his hand, kissed him tenderly, then said, "Let us pray for a peaceful morning. After today's upheaval this city needs a little tranquility. Who knows? Perhaps Frollo has given up the search thus can turn his attentions on more important matters."
"Such as," rejoined Denis, "learning Aubert is alive, and that my daughter is still at large. But what about this child she supposedly had? Surely the boy adopted by the Brebéufs is not Ameline's, and it couldn't be Frollo's."
Lysbette just smiled and nodded. She then said that once Aubert and Faure meet with Frollo tomorrow morning perhaps everything will work out for the best. "Besides, your son is still in Paris and does not know you are here. Think of it, Denis: Joyous reunions for everyone." Denis smiled and kissed his wife then, taking a candle in his left hand and Lysbette's hand in his right, led his wife through the darkened corridor to the staircase. Yes, it had been an exhausting, unsettling day for everyone. Once refreshed with sleep, they shall finally be reunited with Jacques. But Denis still worried about his daughter. No word on her whereabouts, and Denis hadn't heard from Ameline since she took off with her mother many years ago. Oh well, he thought sadly, she will turn up. Just as the pair rounded the corner to the stairs, they heard an insistent knock on the front door followed by a familiar voice calling out, "Father! Father! Are you still awake?"
In his joy, Denis nearly dropped the candle. At once he rushed to the door,
not caring if he did knock over one of Aubert's prized porcelain vases. This was
far more important. Lysbette hung back long enough to make sure no one else in
the house was disturbed by the incessant knocking or Jacques' shouts. Oh good,
no one has yet to stir. Let them sleep on...Denis needs this time alone with his
son, a young man he hadn't seen in twelve long years.
Denis, candle in hand, undid the latch then opened the door. There he stood before him, the son who left Denis as a boy but now had grown into a fine looking gentleman. No words at first, but as soon as Jacques entered the house, he immediately embraced his father, crying out loud. "Father! Oh Father!," he sobbed over and over, "I got the message but couldn't get away in time. Frollo's men came and arrested Dreu Cardin!"
Denis, still embracing his son, sobbing with relief and joy, didn't quite catch what Jacques said through the tears. But Lysbette heard it and approached father and son. She lightly touched Jacques on the arm, causing the young man to focus on his new step-mother.
"Son," said a sniffling Denis, "may I present
Lysbette. She and I married just a few months ago. We have been..."
"I know, Father. You've told me Lysbette was a childhood sweetheart." And with that, Jacques gently and touchingly embraced Lysbette, knowing that his father had at last found happiness. Oh, thought Denis, so much to tell him, about Aubert alive, and I'm sure Jacques has much to tell me. We will have much time to catch up on so many lost years...
But joy was short-lived as Jacques had to inform his father of Ameline. He
wanted to wait until morning, but by then it would be too late. Frollo would've
executed several innocent people, including His Grace's latest capture – and
not just Esmeralda and Phoebus along with a host of Gypsies. After Jacques
received that message, Émile and Ponce had already departed and Jacques prepared
for bed. However, just as he got word of his father's arrival, three of Frollo's
most brutal guards stormed into the tavern. Apparently one of Frollo's spies
caught sight of Dreu Cardin thus informing His Grace. Naturally, Frollo, in his
delight of finding the Court of Miracles, couldn't wait for this cap to a
successful manhunt. The soldiers entered and demanded the owner to produce
Cardin. The old man had no choice but to point to the stairs, sending the
soldiers to Cardin's room. From where he stood on the ground floor, Jacques
could hear scuffling then raised voices. Within minutes they came downstairs
with Cardin in shackles, the captured man uttering curses and oaths. More
madness, more brutality. What else could happen in a night fraught with terror
Jacques overheard one of the guards say that, "There will be one more for Frollo to fry tomorrow morning, and THIS one will give His Grace much pleasure."
One more? There are others? To be executed tomorrow at dawn? That's when Jacques learned, from overhearing more of the guards' conversation, that the Court of Miracles had been found. Frollo, accompanied by dozens of soldiers, stormed the Gypsy hideout in a surprise ambush. The captives? Esmeralda, Phoebus, and Quasimodo. Quasi...the bell ringer? What has he done to warrant such outrageous punishment? And Esmeralda, an innocent pawn in a madman's pursuit... Frollo is a madman, and he murdered my sister...
"Father," he said as the trio finally settled, "I have some disturbing news. It concerns Ameline. And I...Oh Father! How I hate to break this to you..."
go to chapter 30
Copyright©2003 by prp