posted May 31, 1997 ~*~ Rewrite March 19, 1998
[Several parts of this chapter are directly from the Disney movie. Those who have seen it will know exactly where each part is from. The title itself is a variation of a chapter title from the original novel by Victor Hugo.]
However, time slipped away before Clopin's eyes, changing some things and leaving others the same. Frollo stayed as heartless as ever. Jehan, growing into a saucy young man. Clopin, storyteller, master puppeteer, and faced with ever multiplying problems that came with the title of Gypsy King, meeting his fourteenth Topsy Turvy Day in Paris. The winter of 1482 was kind, though there were enough snow drifts and ice patches to cause hazards.
While setting up the curtains of the main stage for the Feast of Fools, Clopin was revisited by a memory from seven years past...
"I'm nervous, Clopin."
"Don't be, lad. You and I both have our firsts this year."
Now he looked to where the currently bold lad was directing the set-up of the tight-rope by himself. At least he does not whine at me now, Clopin thought, climbing down from the top of the curtain's frame. He chuckled. At sixteen years, he had better not be whining!
He carefully stepped around a patch of ice. I hope all of this melts before tomorrow, he thought worriedly. He absently picked up a stray hammer and sat down, watching everyone else for a while, and he started tapping at the ice patch. He watched the cracks spread until the ice was in tiny shards.
"Bored, Clopin?" someone asked.
Clopin glanced up to see Jehan standing there, in an oversized gray-blue tunic with sleeves that hung over his hands and gray leggings with his usual brown shoes. Clopin's own outfit was a muted mix of purple, blue, and yellow.
"Indeed, on the day before Topsy Turvy Day, one can become terribly bored," Clopin said sarcastically. He suddenly glanced around; no one else was nearby. Now might be the perfect time to tell him...Clopin swiftly leapt up and slung his arm around Jehan's neck. "Listen to me, boy, I have something important to tell you..." He led Jehan away from the stage.
"Another plan to scare Frollo half to death?" Jehan asked with a grin.
"Not exactly," Clopin said warily. He hesitated, then said, "Jehan...have you ever wondered about your family origins?"
"I am gypsy," came the mechanical reply.
"Jehan," Clopin said earnestly, "You know you are not a born gypsy. This is a serious matter."
"You chose the oddest time to be serious."
"I am tired of hiding secrets," Clopin snapped harshly.
Jehan replied quietly, "Yes, I have wondered who I was originally."
"You are not a gypsy," Clopin reiterated. "And you know Jacques rescued you from the gutter. But you do not know what happened before that..." He paused to take a breath to steady himself, then went on, "You are the son of a Parisian family...The last of their line, so Jacques heard -- he told me all of this, mind you." Jehan shifted uncomfortably. Jacques had died seven years ago; this secret had been kept from him for so long...
Clopin continued, "The only son of this family, of Gustave and Marie-Belle Foullioux. They were high-up in society, close associates of Claude Frollo, even helped him to rise to the position of Minister of Justice." His tone was wary; Jehan was scowling. "The couple attended the Festival of Fools one year, sixteen years ago, by staying in the cover of the Judge's private booth. Marie-Belle was well with child. A month later she gave birth. Not too long after that, everything would change for them.
"One night, some months later, the Foullioux family was returning from a meeting with Claude Frollo. It was dark, and rainy, and the type of night where one knows something bad will happen. The Foullioux's were...attacked by a group of men...Gustave and Marie-Belle were killed...The baby was spared." He paused.
Jehan stopped short, drawing a sharp breath. He whispered disheartenly, "Orphaned..."
"Life is harsh." Clopin dragged him forward again. "All this Jacques told me."
Jehan shrugged Clopin's arm off. "Why are you telling me this, Clopin?" he demanded, suddenly irritated.
"Too many secrets, too many secrets," Clopin murmured.
Jehan balked. "You and your blasted secrets! Actually, I don't care!"
"It is about your parents' attackers," Clopin said flatly.
"How they were caught and deliciously hanged for their crime? Good. Stop there." Jehan scowled and turned away.
"No...They got away."
"Well, they haven't come for me yet, so." Jehan snapped his fingers in Clopin's face. "I don't care!"
"Jehan," Clopin sighed. "I agree it is a secret to be angry about...but there is more."
"You don't know who exactly the attackers--"
"If you say Frollo's soldiers, I will not be surprised."
Jehan stopped short again, and stared at Clopin. A feeling of absolute dread came over him. He said quietly, "Well, then...who were the attackers?"
Clopin hesitated. "They were...gypsies." He blurted out the words, unable to stop himself, "Gypsies killed your parents -- Jacques was among them, but he took pity on a tiny babe."
Jehan went livid. "No," he said, and anger swiftly took him. "No, that is impossible -- gypsies are always innocent, it is those who persecute who are the murderers..."
"Jehan, there are those who cannot turn their outrage humble, and they--"
"No! You are mistaken! They might have been vagabonds, but not gypsies!"
"Gypsies are good and kind," the boy croaked. "They don't murder people!!"
"I cannot believe it. I will not believe it--"
"Jehan Foullioux, silence!" The cold, cutting tone made the boy stop. Jehan glared almost hatefully at Clopin, who went on, "It is the truth and you cannot deny it."
"I am gypsy, and they are not murderers!" Jehan proclaimed through clenched teeth. He whirled around and walked away from Clopin, his pace increasing until he was running.
Clopin sighed. The truth hurts. He suddenly grit his teeth and clenched his fists, his eyes closing. And I know it. He forced away a darker memory, a darker secret...
There was a shout of warning, "Beware of the ice--!!"
Then a cry of surprise. Clopin heard a sound resembling a muffled crunch, and then a shout of pain. He wheeled around and hurried in the direction of the commotion. A half-dozen festival workers were circled around a fallen figure, blocking him from view. Clopin looked for the tell-tale blond hair amongst those standing. Only a hint of worry stabbed him when he didn't see the boy.
The figure cried out again, then screamed, "Get-a-way-from-me!" The circle widened. Clopin stepped forward with dread. It was distorted, but he knew the voice.
Jehan sat on the ground, braced upright by his arms, his hands white from being pressed against the ground, his head thrown back. His legs were stretched out in front of him, his right foot at an odd angle. "Jehan!" Clopin gasped in alarm. The boy looked up at him, his face contorted in agony, yet there was a seemingly accusing look in his eyes. Clopin was seized by the realization that this was his fault.
"We have to get him out of here," someone hissed.
"But we cannot move him--"
"Nonsense!" Clopin interrupted angrily. "Talking will certainly not get us anywhere!" He motioned to the nearest gypsy. "Get one of the thick curtains. The rest of you get back to work." Even the non-gypsy workers obeyed him.
A make-shift gurney was made from the curtain and Jehan was brought to the Court of Miracles with the least amount of discomfort that could be offered -- they had to go a different way to the Court, since the vault entrance was too obvious at that time of the day.
Most were sure a bone was fatally broken. Jehan stayed unconscious for a good while, with Paquette fussing over him and wondering what to do. It was near evening when Clopin returned again. The infirmed one was drowsily awake when Clopin came to check on him. All Jehan said, in a melancholy tone, was, "I will miss the festival tomorrow."
'Tell me everything that happens,' Clopin repeated Jehan's words to himself. He is going to be furious that he missed this! He rushed into the Court, then stopped short and called out, "Hello!" He grinned as his voice echoed. Almost everyone was aboveground. They would be returning soon.
"Clopin? You are here early," came Jehan's lone voice. "What happened?"
"Something you will regret missing," Clopin replied, jogging to the boy's own orange-and-yellow tent.
Jehan was propped up in his make-shift bed. "So what did you do to Frollo this time?" he asked, blankly, though he was thinking along the lines of murder him?
"It was not me. It was Esmeralda." Clopin grinned broadly.
Jehan chuckled emotionlessly. "Her dancing is enough to capture anyone -- but Frollo? Actually, I believe it!"
What is he really thinking? Clopin wondered, finally catching the apathy. "She seemed to have fun annoying him. Ah, but you will never guess who is the King of Fools this year!"
"Frollo?" Jehan burst out laughing -- forced laughter -- with spite.
"No, but close." Clopin grinned wickedly at that. "Quasimodo."
"That hideous bellringer? What was he doing at the festival? I thought Frollo kept him locked up in the tower of Notre Dame." His tone was light; he knew that Quasimodo was actually a gypsy's son, that his parents had been killed by Frollo. So as retribution the gypsies killed friends of Frollo. Jehan grit his teeth and hoped Clopin did not notice his anger.
"Obviously he escaped today." Clopin sat down on the table nearby. "He was awfully nervous. I tried to get him to relax, but it seemed to fail..." A hint of a smirk formed on his face.
"Clopin, you didn't--" Torment a fellow gypsy?
"Oh, I wasn't trying to ridicule him..."
"But if I know you--" Jehan shook his head, partly to disspell any thoughts of leaping forward and strangling the successor of a murderer. "You always go too far, Clopin." I am sure you have murdered your share of innocents, as well.
"But he was happy to be crowned king!...Well, until that blasted soldier threw something at him. I had left to let the King of Fools have all the attention--"
"Amazing! You not being the center of attention? This really is a topsy turvy day!" Jehan let his bitterness come out in full force.
"Be quiet," Clopin snapped. He continued, in a grave tone, "That soldier started a complete riot. I knew I could not stop it, so I stayed out of the way -- you know how much any soldier would want an excuse to capture me -- then Esmeralda ended it." He chuckled. "She is a brave girl. Alas, Frollo has issued an order for her arrest. She put on quite a display of eluding capture." He related all of Esmeralda's tactics; by the time she had disappeared for good, he had headed to the Court.
"So Robin will get credit for being the clever rope-walker?" Jehan groaned. "I wish I had not missed the chance." His voice grew hard at the end. Actually, I might have let her get caught...
"You are the one who ran away," Clopin blurted. "This is not Clopin's fault."
"You did not have to tell me!" Jehan suddenly shouted in fury. "Get out of here! Now!"
Clopin leapt up, took a curt, sarcastic bow, and then darted out of the tent.
Clopin felt no remorse. Let the boy be angry with him. Clopin was more worried about Esmeralda. But by the time night fell, she came home, with a rather frightened Djali following. A crowd including Clopin quickly gathered around her.
"Where did you go?"
"How did you get back without being caught?"
Clopin stepped out of the chatter with an angry "Quiet!" He put a hand on Esmeralda's shoulder. "Let the girl speak."
"I hid in the cathedral," Esmeralda said, thinking through the details, wondering which to tell. Some things she was confused about, and so she decided to tell only the basics. "Frollo's guards did come in, but they were forced to leave."
Clopin nodded righteously. "Frollo should know better than to desecrate Notre Dame," he spoke even while Esmeralda continued, he not paying much attention to what she was saying.
"...Helped me escape. We were just barely missed by the soldiers."
"Sounds like a real adventure," someone commented. Esmeralda laughed.
"It is good to see you are home safe," Clopin said with a smile and a hug around her shoulders. Esmeralda had a musing smile on her face as she headed to her tent. Clopin sighed as he watched her walk away. Maybe things will get back to normal... he hoped.
Unfortunately, this was one of the few times that Clopin was wrong. After Esmeralda's performance and then her miraculous escape from the cathedral, Frollo's rage came down on all of the gypsies. For some strange reason he became obsessed with capturing her. Clopin gave the order that no gypsy was to leave the Court of Miracles under any condition. But, of course, there were so many people in the Court that he could not keep an eye on everyone at all times, and there were those just arriving in Paris who set up their caravans only to be arrested and have their wagons destroyed. Clopin knew that Esmeralda was coming and going, and he also knew that he could not stop her.
One of these times, Esmeralda returned looking very worried. By this time Jehan was up and hobbling about on his own. He was the first to speak to Esmeralda that evening. She nearly knocked him over as she came rushing into the Court. "Jehan?!"
"Esmeralda!" he cried as she grabbed his arm to steady him. "What are you in such a hurry for?"
"Sanctuary," she murmured distractedly.
"No time. I have something I need to do."
"Fare well, then," Jehan said with a short bow. She nodded and hurried away. Jehan shrugged. "I feel so loved," he muttered aloud. He trudged on his way, meandering aimlessly, thinking, But, of course, none of them really care. One day they will murder me, too.
Suddenly he heard Clopin's smug laughter. He and everyone else turned toward the main tunnel entrance to the Court. "What could this be about?" Jehan wondered aloud. Looks like Clopin is planning a hanging, he thought, adding, Satisfying the murderer's lust, of course. He scowled bitterly.
Clopin's voice rang out, "Gather 'round, ev'rybody! There's good 'noose' tonight!" A chuckle rippled through the gathering crowd, which Jehan was swept to the back of for his lack of ability to keep up with the shoving.
Who does he have up there for a victim this time? Jehan wondered, struggling to see what was happening. Why, that's Quasimodo! Murdering a fellow gypsy, eh, Clopin? Fair enough, but the soldier as well? Anger suddenly flared within him, then subsided for the moment. He paid little attention to Clopin's show of mockery with quick costume changes and taunts. Anger surfaced again as Clopin closed his gloved hands around the lever that would open the trap door the prisoners stood on.
"Stop!" a female voice suddenly cried. It was Esmeralda. Clopin looked in the direction of the shout. The crowd broke into multiple protests. Jehan could not hear what she was saying from where he was. Something about the prisoners being their friends...Clopin looked doubtful until the taller intruder stepped forward announcing that they had come to warn of Frollo coming to attack them. Immediately the gypsies scattered to pack their belongings and leave.
Jehan's step steadied with every movement as he hurried toward his tent, trying to stay out of the way of others running frantically about. He pondered the outcomes if the Minister of Justice did come and took away all the gypsies...
All of a sudden a deep voice rang out: "Nor would I!"
There were screams and gasps of horror. Jehan stopped short, his face set half in anger, half shock, his eyes blank. Frollo.
Maybe I can pass myself off as a captive, Jehan formulated, quickly slipping into the nearest shadows. I -- I am only dressed as one, that doesn't mean I am-- He was snapped out of his thoughts as he was yanked from his hiding place by a soldier, finding a spear tip at his throat. No chance for excuses...A second soldier bound his wrists behind his back.
Jehan turned a furious glare on Frollo, who was saying as pleasant as all else, "There will be a little bonfire in the square, and you are all invited." Jehan had caught a glimpse of Clopin struggling against his bonds, but at the words, Clopin stopped and looked toward Frollo almost in fear. Then Jehan was dragged along with every other gypsy out of the only safe haven they had ever known.
It was dark for a long time. Then there was pain, a stinging where he had sprained his ankle. He became aware of feeling sore all over. Then he opened his eyes and above him were the bars of a cage. Jehan jerked upright and saw other gypsies sitting or standing, all sharing the same look of despair. Jehan slowly stood, waiting for someone to explain. He turned to look out of the cage, still confused.
He saw that they were in the square outside Notre Dame cathedral. It appeared that the entire population of the city was there. He vaguely heard the voice of the Minister of Justice, delivering a speech of righteous justification. Of murder. Now Jehan saw; on a platform, beautiful Esmeralda was tied to a stake, kindling piled around her, and Frollo was holding a torch, and was lowering it to the dry wood.
Jehan's heart ached as it was torn in two. Gypsies are murderers...But Esmeralda was nothing but kind to me as long as I have known her. The flames touched the kindling. He cannot! He cannot! He gripped the bars of the cage, his thoughts pounded wildly through his head. He cannot! Not Esmeralda! He cannot! He wanted to scream out, No...But someone else did, as the flames began to grow and the smoke choked the gypsy dancer. The shout came from high above. Jehan raised his eyes to the cathedral. There, swinging down from the upper gallery -- it was Quasimodo! The hunchback landed on the platform, broke the ropes binding Esmeralda, hoisted her over his shoulder, then grabbed the stake and swung it at the soldiers, stopping them from stopping him. Then he deftly caught the rope as it arced over the crowd from its continued momentum, and, still holding Esmeralda, climbed back up the face of the cathedral. Once Quasimodo reached the Rose Window, he held Esmeralda above him and called out, "Sanctuary!"
Sanctuary! Jehan repeated to himself as he cheered along with the rest of the crowd. I wish I had it! The square was soon reduced to a fiery battlefield. The cage doors were broken open and the gypsies poured out into the fight. Jehan saw Clopin go charging into the fray before the cage holding him was opened.
Jehan tried to avoid getting involved, in danger of falling to a sword because of his wounded ankle, and also because he did not know who to fight. The gypsies are murderers! They killed my real parents! In rage he grabbed a broken broom from an unfortunate soul and wielded it as a staff. But...do I want to be as cold as Frollo and not have any compassion for anyone, even if they are quite obviously innocent..?
His internal struggle was ended as he had to fend off the blows from a soldier's sword. After a few twists of the staff, he knocked the sword from the soldier's grasp, and then knocked out the soldier himself with a swift blow to the neck. The battle raged on. The soldiers were losing, having suffered their greatest losses when Quasimodo had poured a vat of molten lead into the square. The people were winning over the system of injustice.
Jehan was doing his fair share of damage. He clashed with a spear-wielding soldier just as someone called out, "Look! Up there!" Jehan glanced to where the man was pointing. A figure scrambled desperately across a row of projecting gargoyles...Quasimodo was trying to keep Esmeralda away from Frollo. Jehan narrowed his eyes and returned to his part of the battle.
Right, left, whack! Another soldier fell to the staff. All those years as a tight-rope walker had gotten another use. Now the soldiers had all either fallen or run away. The fires were being put out, and what could be done to cool the molten lead around the edges of the great hot pool was in frantic motion. Most people looked to where the battle still continued. Jehan watched Frollo's every movement, his face set emotionless. I could become like that...hating everyone -- but revenge would feel sooo sweet... He did not realize that he was smacking the staff into his open palm, anticipating the outcome.
His grip on the staff tightened as Frollo stood on a gargoyle above Quasimodo, who was barely hanging on after both he and Frollo had nearly fallen. It was hard to see the three figures clearly, but Frollo's voice was heard loud and clear: "And He shall smite the wicked and plunge them into the fiery pit!" At that moment his balance wavered. The projectile that he was standing on was breaking. Jehan's hands hurt from gripping the staff so hard. He began to tremble as Frollo toppled from the gargoyle, which he fell with as it broke completely off the cathedral.
Jehan's grasp on the staff loosened. Yes, I could become like that... His gaze did not waver as he watched the inhumane man and the demonic gargoyle make impact in the molten lead. And die like that... The staff clattered to the ground. I might have been like that...friend of the family... He dropped to his knees. He might have been my teacher... He stared at the dying battle scene before him. Then he fell forward, throwing his face into his hands, weeping.
One lost little orphan in the midst of the rush to cleanse the ravaged city of the horror.
How foolish he had been; over the past several days he had tried to be furious with and loathe the gypsies. He was angry that the secret had been kept from him so long, and horrified that one of the people he had loved and looked up to so much had been in the party who had murdered his real parents. But once he began thinking about it, he could not help wondering how he would be if he had grown up as a nobleman, with a family being close friends with the Minister of Justice. He had to realize that he would not know the possible compassion for those with misfortune and the kinship with so many others. And he realized that he could not hate those who had been his friends, who had cared about him sincerely.
He was one of the gypsies. He did not look like any of them. All they had done was show him a different kind of life where he would be just as happy as he would have been ignorantly in his birth family. Jacques could have left him to die in the street, but he didn't. Orphaned by gypsies. Gypsy foundling. Jehan continued to weep, helpless. The blond gypsy... Soon afterward, his thoughts swirled off to nothingness as he blacked out.
The square was cleared as quickly as possible. The many survivors of the night gathered in front of the cathedral. A cheer went up as two figures emerged triumphantly from the darkness inside.
Jehan blinked at the sunlight streaming through a window. He had been brought into one of the shops. He heard Clopin's voice call out, "Three cheers for Quasimodo!"
"Your acceptance is appreciated by all, you old fool." Jehan muttered aloud. He pushed himself up to look out the window. The people cheered and Quasimodo was hailed as a hero.
Will the gypsies be accepted now, as well? Jehan wondered. Will we all ever understand each other equally? He shook his head sadly. There will always be hate, anger, and persecution. But we will survive. All of us, thought the blond gypsy.
This tale could be a lead-in to "The Consequences of Taking a Walk at Night" (considering Consequences came first...). Speaking age chronologically, that tale does follow this one, so you may want to read "The Consequences..."
Speaking in story order, the tale of The Gypsy Princess follows this.
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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