posted May 15, 1997 ~*~ March 19, 1998
[Author's Note: *=see Huguette's Tale, by Karen CSG #49andahalf, Chapters #5--> for more details]
"Jehan, stop that! You will break your neck that way!"
"I will not either!"
Clopin crossed his arms and looked up at the boy on the tight-rope with an amused expression. "You have to be the most foolish boy who has seen thirteen years that I have ever known!"
"That is good, coming from an old fool like yourself!"
Clopin flinched; he was really starting to resent the nickname Jehan had begun to use to call him. The event of four years past was nothing more than an unpleasant memory. Andry had disappeared without a trace, and the Court of Miracles was safe. Judge Claude Frollo had become more merciless, but even that did not dampen the gypsies' spirit.
"I need something new for my act, Clopin. It's getting boring."
"Ha! What could be less boring than the chance of breaking every bone every time you get on a tight-rope?"
Clopin and Jehan had come to the point where they were always looking out for each other. Clopin's words had been correct, as always -- the two were true to each other as gypsy brothers. Inevitably, they had several misadventures together, such as the time they had to take sanctuary in Notre Dame cathedral* along with Huguette the breadseller. And of course they managed to get on each other's nerves every once in a while. Sometimes more often.
"If you fall, don't blame me."
"I am not looking for someone to blame."
Clopin sighed and started to walk away. "He does not listen to me. Why does he not listen to me? I am right, I am always right..."
"I thought you were left--handed..?" Jehan grinned. Clopin groaned. Jehan laughed shortly. "You walked into that."
"And you are walking into a noose." Clopin grinned maliciously back.
"No, I am walking a tight-rope," Jehan hmm-hmmed gleefully.
"That is my name. You remembered! I was beginning to think you thought it was 'boy'."
"Is this bad pun day?" Clopin threw his arms down and turned away again. "No sense in talking to you. You will not listen."
"Well, you have not been known to be the most sensible fool to ever live."
"Jehan!" Clopin growled, at last losing his temper. "No one is to call me that. Is your memory failing?"
"Oh, I have quite a good memory. That was such a long time ago. What does it matter now?"
"A long time ago? And it matters much! I could have lost my life that day!"
That made Clopin pause. Then he sighed. Why did that boy always find the right thing to say?
"Clopin, please help me with my act. Every year it's the same old thing."
"Being stuck in a rut is your place," Clopin chortled. Stuck... Clopin remembered how he was stuck with some information he did not know how to relay. Something Jacques had told him shortly before he met his end...Concerning Jehan's past before he came to the Court...It troubled Clopin just thinking about it.
"What is the matter?" Jehan suddenly asked.
Clopin was touched by the concern in his voice. "I was -- um, just thinking about something I need to tell someone...but I don't want to tell them just yet..."
"You keep too many secrets, Clopin."
"Better than betrayal," Clopin snapped. This time he did walk away. I have to tell him some day, Clopin thought as he hurried to his tent. Oh, Jacques. He sighed. Why could you not have died with that secret?
What Jehan wanted to improve his act for was an upcoming minor festival -- the most notorious was the Feast of Fools; but now it was Spring -- though the usual torment-the-Minister-of-Justice was kept in mind. But then something happened to change Jehan's view on that.
Wooden stalls were draped with streaks of color. People called, bought, sold, jabbered, and bargained. Clopin and Jehan wandered casually through the market section, taking a break in their performances. Clopin smiled when he caught a glimpse of Huguette, who was carrying a tray of baker's goods, and who had come to Paris for the festival, almost not recognizing her, hidden as her face was by a dark green cloak. He stopped to talk to her. Jehan gave her a mischievous smile and a nod, and then his attention wandered elsewhere.
"Judge Frollo is going to be here today," Huguette was saying in a wary tone. "You had better be careful, Clopin."
"He does seem to be upset about something lately," Clopin chortled.
"I am sure you had something to do with it," Huguette said knowingly.
Clopin winked. "Don't I always?"
They parted with a merry laugh as Huguette went on her way. Clopin turned to Jehan. The boy did not seem to notice him, with his back to him as it was. Clopin looked in the direction that Jehan was gazing, but saw nothing more than people milling about. "What are you looking at?" Clopin finally asked, bewildered.
"That girl. She is staring at me," Jehan replied distantly.
Clopin chuckled. "Maybe because you are staring at her."
"I am not." Jehan glared at Clopin, irritated. "She started it."
Clopin laughed out loud. "How charmingly childish! Come, lad, there is work to be done, staring at pretty girls can wait until later."
Later, when Jehan was back in his rope-walking act, he began to get the feeling that someone was watching him. Of course, there was a whole crowd of people watching him, but someone was definitely watching him. He dared to look in the direction of the stare, risking losing concentration on his balance.
It was that girl again. Light brown hair, hazel eyes, wearing a dress of a dark shade of gray. She stood by the side of a shop, trying to look inconspicuous. But she was obviously watching him.
Pretty girls can wait until later, Jehan repeated to himself. Then he replied, Yes, but they are very distracting He tried to ignore her, truly he did. But he kept wondering...Who was she and why was she staring at him? She couldn't have been much older than he...
He was snapped out of his thoughts by a sharp cry nearby. Ohno! Someone had knocked into a stiltwalker and the man had lost his balance, now falling toward the tight-rope. Jehan had almost reached the window where the rope was secured. Could he get to the window in time..? No.
He flailed his arms wildly first, somehow keeping hold of the balancing staff. He fell anyway. At least there was a collapsed tent to soften his fall. The stilt-walker received more attention. His arms were wrapped around the rope for dear life, since he was not able to get a proper angle to stand straight on his stilts.
Jehan stayed lying down amongst the dull red cloth, suddenly feeling exhausted. If he fell asleep or not, he wasn't sure. The feeling of a shadow hanging over him made him open his eyes. He abruptly jerked upright as he saw that girl standing over him.
"I saw you fall," she said in a soft, melodious voice. "Are you all right?"
Jehan nodded, eyes wide. He was aware of looking like an idiot when he had tried to stop himself from falling. That girl looked oddly familiar...
She smiled, a lively gleam in her hazel eyes. "My name is Lavinia. I am glad you are all right."
There was something in the tone of her last words that struck an odd chord. Before he could say a word, she sat down beside him. "Festivals are so...gawdy, don't you think? I think they show just how foolish people can be." Jehan kept his mouth shut. She had seen that he was a performer. Why was she insulting his favorite days of the year?
"...And it gives a chance for lower beings to come out. You are not one of them, that is obvious. You don't look like them. Tell me, why are you doing a peasant's job?" She smiled brightly, then continued with a hint of a dreamy tone, "You look like a nobleman's son."
Jehan held in a spiteful laugh. "Oh, perhaps. Although, I like my job."
She muttered something like, "Hmm, those...other peasants must have corrupted you."
At least, Jehan thought that was what she said. It was certainly a strange thing to say. She was suddenly smiling at him again. "So, what family are you from? I know all of the families in Paris."
Jehan grinned even outwardly. "I would bet you don't know mine."
"Oh, then you are from outside Paris?" That perpetual bright expression seemed stuck on her face.
"You might say that..." He tried to think of Paquette's family name. Then he thought of something more clever that would end her naivete toward his identity as a performer. He grinned broadly, and was about to say Trouillefou when:
"Cousin! Come here at once!"
The girl immediately jumped up, though her smile remained cheerful. "That is my Cousin Claude. He is brilliant and so righteous." A bit of smugness slipped into her expression as she said, "He is going to rid Paris of those nasty gypsies, you will see."
Jehan clenched his jaw to keep from gaping at her. She is Judge Claude Frollo's cousin?! He realized that it was a good thing that he had been interrupted before he could give his 'family name' -- she might have called the guards on him if he admitted that he was 'related' to the gypsy that Judge Frollo hated above all others.
She gave another innocent smile, then hurried off. Jehan forced himself not to laugh in contempt. If only she knew! She had been talking to a gypsy all along.
Jehan nearly jumped a mile as Clopin suddenly popped up in front of him. "Jeez, Clopin!" Jehan exclaimed, his hand over his doubled heartbeat. "I don't think I have ever seen you walk quietly into sight."
"Why walk when you can jump?" Clopin shot back cheerfully. Then he leered at the boy. "So, you finally met that admirer, eh?"
"Admirer nothing! She is Frollo's cousin!"
"Oh, dear, you don't want to be associating with that type of scum." Clopin chuckled.
"She had no idea that I am a gypsy."
"Well, you certainly don't look it." There was a wary tone to Clopin's voice.
"She asked my family name. I was going to say yours." Jehan grinned proudly.
Clopin frowned. "Not wise," he muttered, sounding angry.
"I know. She might have called the guards on me."
"It is not true, that is why," Clopin said darkly.
Jehan shrugged. "I know. But it sounded good."
Clopin abruptly stood. "Well, I have other acts to perform. Tata!" He did a backward handspring to go merrily on his way.
Jehan vaguely wondered if he should get back to tight-rope walking. He decided he didn't want to. For the rest of the afternoon, he sat and watched the crowds go by.
Clopin was wondering the same thing, why the boy continued to lounge around. So, now he is the Blond Trouillefou, eh? Clopin thought. And will he react so calmly when I tell him who he really belongs to? Clopin resolved to tell Jacques' secret. Soon.
Coming Next: Chapter Six of The Blond Gypsy: "Two
Human Hearts Differently Made"
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(c) 1997-2004 Autumn Loweck. This work may not be copied, distributed, or reprinted without the author's permission. All characters are property of Autumn Loweck (aka Shiri), unless specified otherwise, and may not be "borrowed" or mentioned in other works without notifying the author first