Among the crowd were two people who really shouldn't have attended. One was a woman who was still on Judge Frollo's most wanted list. The other was the mysterious and misshapen bell ringer of Notre Dame. The former had her reasons for attending the festival: to exact revenge for an imagined wrong; the latter simply defied his master's orders to remain in the bell tower.
What transpired within the next hour or so would begin an incredible journey for both, and each would incur Frollo's wrath but for entirely different reasons.
"Jacques, I'm so glad you agreed to attend the festival with me. I'm having the time of my life, although I can't see nearly everything that goes on."
Thus said Tante Lutisse as she and Jacques made their way through the crowd. It was quite a maddening crush just to navigate their way to the stage area. All the while Jacques kept his eyes peeled for any sign of his sister, but it was difficult at best, in this crowd. Ameline could be anywhere, disguised in costume and mask. A thought came to him.
"Here, good aunt, why don't we situate ourselves near Minister Frollo's tent. I'm sure he would love to see you again, and I owe so much to him."
Lutisse Lemer was puzzled. "While I still hold Minister Frollo in such high esteem, I don't understand, Jacques. The man imprisoned you for twelve years, and for a crime you did not commit."
"No, Tante Lutisse," Jacques replied as he guided his aunt to a table situated near Frollo's tent, "I let myself take the blame for Ameline's crimes, out of love for her. It is still out of love that I must seek her out and compel her to deliver herself to Frollo. It's only right: She must face the consequences of her actions."
Then he asked, "Do you think she would dare show her face here, today, in public?"
To this Lutisse replied, as she and Jacques settled at the table, "I wouldn't put it past her, but surely she is aware of the consequences if Frollo should ever see her here."
"Perhaps you are right, aunt," said Jacques. "However, I keep getting this deep feeling that she may be here, and may mean harm to Frollo."
The confetti wildly flew about like snowflakes in a blizzard; the wine and beer flowed non-stop. Music blared everywhere as Parisians anticipated the main entertainment that would soon be capped by crowning of the new King of Fools.
In this sea of humanity, a woman emerged. The face was obscured by a large colorful mask, her clothing brightly hued, and her own hair was concealed beneath a massive black bonnet. No one was the wiser as to this woman's identity as she deftly made her way through the crowd.
She espied the regally appointed tent with its blue, black, and gilt awning. She instantly recognized the ornate blue and gold chair.
Ah, so this is where Frollo will sit. Good! Now, to situate myself just within a few steps of Frollo. All I need is the right opportunity. Perhaps when the entertainment begins, perhaps during the crowning of the King of Fools, I can at last spring my "surprise."
She made sure she had it, that potent poison guaranteed to bring instant death to whoever consumed it. Just a few drops in Frollo's wine cup should do it.
Ameline Bellot grinned wickedly at the prospect of Claude Frollo at last get what was coming to him. Then she'd take care of her brother, then her aunt, and, if necessary, that bell ringer.
What a squeeze! People everywhere clambering for a good view of the stage. Good fortune for Jacques and Lutisse to situate themselves far from the madding crowd. From their table they had full view of the stage, and have the pleasure of sitting near Minister Frollo.
In the back of his mind, Jacques had good reason for being close to Frollo; after all, Ameline may be her in this crowd and might plan to harm either the good judge or her own brother. Jacques wouldn't put such a thing pass Ameline; she is that desperate, being a wanted woman who continues to lead a fraudulent life.
Actually Jacques wanted to enjoy the festival in the company of his good aunt. Lutisse was already enjoying herself, grateful that her nephew was with her. He told her every detail of what was going on. She laughed when he described how Clopin so briefly needled Frollo.
"And so soon after Judge Frollo arrived," laughed Lutisse. "By the way, is the new captain here? Is he as gallant and handsome as everyone says?"
"Yes he is, aunt," replied Jacques, who obliged with a complete descripton.
Then his eyes traveled from Phoebus to Frollo to the main stage. He tried to scan the crowd, perhaps catch a glimpse of his sister, if she should be here, but no such luck. Instead he resolved to relax and enjoy himself as Clopin introduced the first performance.
"See the finest girl in France. Make an entrance to enchant. Dance la Esmeralda....Dance!"
In a puff of pink smoke, she appeared, la Esmeralda.
"Tante Lutisse, she is beautiful beyond compare!," said Jacques who glanced to check Frollo's reaction. Just as he suspected, Judge Frollo's face registered marked disgust, shock, and surprise, all the same.
Lutisse had to ask, "What is she wearing, Jacques? Something colorful to fit the occasion, yes?"
The good nephew replied as he took in Esmeralda's every move, "A dress of the most brillant scarlet, well-fitting too. Much gold jewelry, and a golden tiara with rubies. She dances quite well....Oh my!"
"What is happening, Jacques?" Jacques proceeded to describe what Esmeralda did next in detail: how she leapt onto Frollo's chair, practically in the man's lap; how she wrapped her scarf around his neck, drawing his face so close to hers, planting a little kiss to his long nose. Then she pulled his hat down, left him, and continued with her performance.
"And Frollo is not too pleased, I take it?," said Lutisse with some amusement.
"By the look on his face, I don't think he relished that moment one bit. She's rather bold to do that to Frollo."
Laughter and cheers swelled in la Place de Notre-Dame as Esmeralda finished her dance. Countless gold coins flew at the gypsy's feet, including thrown by Jacques and Phoebus. Then Clopin took centerstage again.
"Now, aunt, they're about to crown the King of Fools."
At Clopin's hilarious urging, several men took their place on the stage, removed their masks, making the ugliest faces imaginable. Obviously not ugly enough, because the crowd booed at each man and la Esmeralda's goat, Djali, soundly butted each off the stage.
One man remained, but Djaii bleated frightfully when Esmeralda proceeded to remove the man's mask. Oh my! What a shock for the lovely dancer to discover that the man's "mask" was his face. The audience noticed this, too, and the commentary came fast and furious.
"That's no mask. It's his face!"
One man in the crowd finally realized, "It's the bell ringer of Notre Dame!"
Jacques, shocked to discover that Quasimodo had obviously defied Frollo's orders not to appear in public, quickly glanced Frollo's way just to check out the judge's reaction.
Sure enough, Judge Frollo was just as astonished as the crowd. Tante Lutisse became quite agitated. "Jacques, is it true? The bell ringer is here? I thought he was forbidden to show his face in public, let alone attend the festival."
"That's what I thought, good aunt," Jacques replied, adding, "and by Frollo's reaction, Quasimodo is in for the worst punishment."
Jacques Bellot remembered the bell ringer, and it somewhat disgusted him to see the poor misshapen boy maltreated at Frollo's hand. In a way, Jacques felt a twinge of empathy for Quasimodo; after all, if it wasn't for the bell ringer's sharp eyes and ears those many years ago, Ameline and her mother would've literally gotten away with murder.
Well, right after Quasimodo was crowned king, Jacques would have to thank the bell ringer, the cruel resultant reactions of a mob gone wild – and a certain gypsy dancer's bold words – for stopping Ameline again from committing another crime.
Go to Chapter 7
Copyright©2003 by prp