The Court of Miracles
The forest night resounded with sound; Bazien worked his way along the narrow trail leading deep into the woods as Pinieu pulled the wagon, seemingly without the need of Bazien’s guidance. They reached the stone lined clearing where celebrating already underway, could be heard in the center of the forest. “Good evening Bazien,” a young man said as his cart approached, “Let me help you with Pinieu?”
"Thank you Renique, I am in your debt. I must see Clopin; it is a matter of some urgency. Have you seen him?”
“Yes he was near the pit tending the goat spit, you should find him there. May I know my friend what has you so disturbed?”
“I have just come from the city, where I learned of an offence to Gypsies all the way back to our home land. It seems there is a young Gypsy child at the Orphanage of Notre Dame, They say she was abandoned, I must see Clopin. I pray it was not of our clan that would do such as this.”
“A Gypsy child, in Notre Dame? There must be some mistake.”
“I wished it was not so, but I have seen her. I believe the truth of it and so I must speak with Clopin and seek his mind on this thing.”
“Make haste my friend, I will see to Pinieu and then join you there for the counsel.”
Clopin stood next to the spit lathing spices and his special sauce on a goat as it turned over the fire, “Ah Bazien, you have returned.” He remarked as his friend approached. “Tell us news of the city, was the trip a success?”
“In many ways yes,” he shrugged, “In some no.”
“Ha!” he retorted slapping him on the back, “if you came back with your wagon empty, you would not say different.” He laughed, “come sit and take a cup of klah, we can drink and talk of your trip!”
“Yes my friend, but first I must discuss a troubling matter with you, one of most importance.”
Clopin saw the seriousness in Bazien’s face, and changed his demeanor. “I can see this in your eyes, let us sit by my wagon where we can discuss in private.” Clopin turned and shouted to his wife, “Rainelle, I need you to tend the spit, I have important things to discuss with my friend.”
“Always you expect me to do everything", Rainelle torted. "Am I not preparing the tubers for all this night, did I not kneed the bread? Perhaps you will need me to carve the Goat when it is well turned?”
“Woman!” his stare told her she had pushed it as far as she dared. She threw up her arm as though she was pushing away his glare, then turned and walked to the spit with goat; grasping the brush she dipped it into the bowl and added more of the sauce on the meat.
Bazien and Clopin walked over to a large enclosed wooden wagon, walked up the steps and entered. Inside, Rainelle had it well decorated with beads and curtains. The floor held large brightly colored pillows for sitting and the inside was well lit with two lanterns. “Sit my friend,” Clopin said offering an area on the floor.
“Many thanks,” Bazien replied and made himself comfortable.
“Now my friend,” Clopin began, “Tell me what has taken the light from your smile on such a grand night?”
“As you know I went to the city these past few days?”
“Yes yes, we all know this, continue.”
“I visited the Cathedral to pay homage to God, and give thanks for the great business provided me.”
“As well you should, my friend,” he said laughing, “but if business was so great, why has the light of joy gone from your eyes?”
“It is because of what my eyes bore witness to inside the Cathedral walls.”
“My friend,” Clopin’s face changed and he placed his hand on Bazien’s shoulder, “what is so plexing to cause such unrest?”
His face became solemn, in a heavy whisper he responded, “A child, a Gypsy child with in the walls of the orphanage!”
A look of disbelief came over Clopin’s face as he took on a deep breath and allowed it to escape slowly. “A gypsy child, are you sure?”
“I have seen her with my own eyes, her hair; black as midnight, her eyes were as your own mother’s; I can tell she is one of us!”
“But perhaps you are mistaken; no Gypsy would turn their own blood over to an orphanage!”
“My thoughts as well my friend, but I inquired.”
“One of the Nun’s there told me the truth of it.” He paused and took a drink of klah.
“Must I beat this out of you, tell me what she said, I must know!”
“The child has been there since only a small infant, dropped off from an unknown family.”
“If this is true, then I know it would not have been from our clan! No gypsy with honor would do such a thing, for what mother among us would turn away a child in need.”
“I agree, not of us, nor any other clans close by or of this we would have heard.”
“Of what age is this Child?”
“She looks to be twelve or fourteen springs.”
“Of that age,” he shook his head, “That she was left in such a place, she may know nothing of her past or what it means to be a Gypsy.”
“I believe you are right, but of this, what can we do?”
“She should be with her own people, this much I know. I will think on this and decide how best it should be handled. We can speak of this again in the morning. The meat should be ready to come off the spit. Speak of this to no one until we have again spoken.”
“I will wait until you believe it is prudent, let’s join the others.”
The night air was damp and cold, and the darkness made it difficult for Pierre, as he struggled to find his way. He felt the constant nagging emptiness of his stomach. It had been a good while since he had a crust of bread to eat. The Gringoire family came to Paris years ago, to start a tailor shop. But Pierre had no interest in that work. His love was writing. Though his poetry seldom made much money, until recently, it had served him well enough to survive. A thin man of average height, he avoided conflict and tried to maintain a passive, agreeable nature.
He continued fighting and pushing his way through the forest, questioning how he got here to begin with. The road he traveled was clear and easy to follow. But, his fears of running up on the wrong sort, made him change his route. The forest turned dense and thick; becoming more difficult to pass. Finally a narrow road cutting through opened before him. He decided to follow it and see where it leads.
Ahead Pierre saw a light, glowing in the darkness. As he drew nearer he could see an encampment. He approached with caution, afraid his earlier fears might still come to be. He decided to crouch behind some brush to observe the camp, before making his presence known.
The smell of roasting meat caused his stomach to ache, but, his inner fear held him back. He watched as a woman ladled sauce over the spit, while a young girl turned it slowly. Pierre continued to watch, hoping to learn a little about the people before he made his presence known, and perhaps place himself in jeopardy.
Rowell approached Bazien standing next to Clopin. And spoke in low tones, “My friend, please make no movement, but there is a stranger watching us from the entrance behind the stand of brush on our right. I saw him move there as I returned from putting Pinieu up for the night.”
“What do you suppose he wants?”
I am not sure, he only carries a satchel. But, I do not know what is inside. It may well be a weapon: who is to say.”
“Place your arm over my shoulder and laugh loudly,” Clopin said. “We will act as if we are walking to my wagon, then we can go around and come behind him.
“And what of me?” Bazien asked, “What should I do?”
“You can tell us to hurry back with another bottle for you, say it loud enough for him to hear,” said Clopin. “He will think we are drunk from wine.”
“But Clopin, I don’t drink!”
“He doesn’t know that,” Rowell snapped. Then he let out a burst of laughter, “I want more wine Fransua , show me where you keep the good stuff!” and he placed his arm around Clopin and pushed him off towards the wagons.
“Bring me back a bottle too!” Bazien said, “This bottle is almost gone!”
“You drink too much!” remarked Clopin, laughing hard, and the two of them stumbled away. Once they were out of sight, the quickly made their way around the camp and came behind the stranger. Clopin pulled his knife and pulling the stranger back by the hair, placed the blade against his throat. “Don’t move if you wish to live!”
Pierre froze, feeling the cold blade pressing against his skin. “I am un-armed!”
“Who are you!” Rowell demanded.
“Pierre…Pierre Gringoire…of Paris!”
“Why do you watch us, what do you want?” Clopin said sternly.
“I am lost, I saw the light…”
“Stand up!” Clopin pulled him to his feet, and pushed him towards the camp, into the large square. “My friends,” Clopin yelled out to the camp, “We have an intruder!” The members of the clan dropped what they were doing and came from every direction. Clopin placed the knife in his belt and put his finger in the man’s back, causing Pierre to believe it was the knife. Rowell grabbed his right arm and Clopin took his left. In fear of his life, Pierre went where the two men pulled him without offering any resistance.
“He has found the Court of Miracles.” Vienbrall Ponticlair, a tall burly man said as he approached. “You know what our laws say about that Clopin!”
“He knows, Vienbrall, as we all do!” rebuked Bazien. “But it is the council that will decide the man’s fate!”
“And so it shall,” replied Clopin. “So it shall…”
“Well Dinner is ready, you can kill him after we’ve eaten!” remarked Rainelle, “He might as well eat before he dies…”
“Do you hear stranger? My wife said you should eat before you die!
“But I have done nothing! What did I do to lose my life?”
Vienbrall approached him and jabbed his finger in Pierre’s chest, “You have entered the Court of Miracles, it is forbidden to outsiders!”
“Clopin interrupted Vienbrall, “This place has been a secret for many moons, and only members of our clan know it’s where-a-bouts. To keep its secret, any outsiders that learn of its existence must die to preserve its secret.”
“Kill him later! Its time to eat; it’s getting cold!” Rainelle snapped.
“Fine,” Clopin replied. “We will eat then we can decide his fate.”
“At least you will have a good meal before you die,” grinned Bazien, and slapped him on the back; causing him to stumble forward. Pierre almost lost his balance. All the men laughed as he was pushed towards the tables.
As the meal was being served Clopin and Vienbrall discussed the laws and Pierre’s fate. “The only way he can live is if he marries a Gypsy woman.” Vienbrall reminded Clopin. “All our women are married and the others are too young. So, I don’t see that we have a choice.”
Bazien leaned over and spoke softly in Clopin’s ear, “There is another…”
“Yes, my friend, you are right. But, if she is as you say, she is too young to marry.”
“In a sense, yes. But, if he were to rescue her from the orphanage, surly her gratitude would be extended towards him, and she would agree to become his wife.”
“But she is young: the ladies of the clan would never permit such as this.”
“Would she not be in the same place as him, a stranger among us?”
“This is true, and we are helping her to be free of the orphanage.”
“Then it is settled, If he wants to live he must rescue the girl from the orphanage. When she is of age they will marry and satisfy the laws of the clan.”
“But where will the child stay until such a time comes for her to marry?” asked Bazien.
“You are speaking of the child, the Gipsy child at Notre dame?” Rainelle said. “She will stay with us, and our daughters will teach her our ways!”
“How do you know what we are talking of Woman, this is between men!”
“Do you think I do not know what goes on in this village, she replied. “I am your wife, and I am well aware of the on-goings in this clan!” She reached over and tossed a slab of meat on his plate. “And Husband!” she ripped off a piece of bread and set it next to the meat, “You would not be the one to decide this girls fate. Kill this man if you will, but she will be given the choice, did you think for one moment that she might not wish to leave the orphanage?”
“What child would not want to leave an orphanage?’ Clopin said laughing, as the other joined in.
“And what if this girl does not want to marry this man, what then?” asked Vienbrall.
“We will give her the choice,” Clopin answered. “If she wants to marry this man then he lives, if not then he dies. It is settled, now let’s eat!” Rainelle shook her head in disgust and walked back to the fire. “Now we can eat in peace, said Clopin still laughing, and placing a bite of tuber in his mouth. After the meal, they placed Pierre in a wagon and locked him in. They continued to enjoy the evening with music, drink laughter and dance. Oh yes they danced, it was the thing they enjoyed most and the highlight of the evening.
The early hours of the following morning found no one asleep, as they all made preparations for the day. Sausages were cooking and the aroma mingled with the smell of fresh bread baking in the Dutch ovens, permeated the clearing. Children carried buckets to the spring for water and fed the animals while the mothers and older daughters prepared the morning meals. Clopin and Bazien allowed Pierre to come out, and after some hard rolls and warm drink, plans were made to rescue the girl from the orphanage.
“Bazien,” Clopin called from across the court, “we must speak. Will you join me?”
He turned from the harness he was fastening around Pinieu’s withers,” One moment, I need to finish this and I will be right there.” He went back to the harness, “My friend,” he spoke gently to his horse, “one day I will come for you, and you will have this on for me. How many times must I do this for you before you will learn to do it by your self?” he chuckled, “Perhaps a few more eh?” he rubbed Pinieu’s back and patted his side. “We will leave soon,” he held is hand out with some fresh barley in it for the animal, “Here my friend, and there is more in the troth before you. Eat your breakfast, I will return shortly.” Bazien patted his head once more and walked towards Clopin’s wagon.
Clopin sat on a hand made stool by the fire, drinking a hot cup of caudle, his wife prepared for him from wine stock and eggs. Taking a drink he gazed across the fire as Bazien approached, “Come my friend,” he motioned with his hand, “sit and enjoy hot cup with me. Rainelle should have the machete from the oven soon, we can talk while we wait.”
“God has richly blessed you Clopin, , to have such beauty as Rainelle to greet you every morning.” he said as he approached the fire.
“From your mouth to God’s ears, but I think he would not agree.” she smiled, “bread is ready as well the sausages, they won’t stay hot forever.”
“Yes woman,” Clopin said glancing up to the heavens, we’d best discus it over breakfast, come let us move to the table.”
Plans were made and the wagons were loaded and prepared for the day’s journey. Clopin walked Pierre to Bazien’s wagon, accompanied by Rainelle and their oldest daughter and headed forwards the city.
Bazien walked down a narrow alley near the center of the city, leading Pinieu and his wagon. Inside Clopin and Pierre went over their plans on how they would rescue the child. The sun was just clearing the horizon, and already the square was bustling with activity. Bazien stopped and turned to Pinieu; petting him on the side of his head and speaking softly, “We must stop here for a time my friend, then we can return home.”
He tied the reigns to a hitch, and walked to the back of the wagon and climbed inside. “Are we ready?”
“I think so,” Clopin said and slapped Pierre on the back. “What do you say, are you ready to prove yourself?”
Rainelle sat with her arms around Zeta, their oldest daughter and shook her head adamantly, “Husband, I still think this is a mistake. Why not let Zeta and I talk to her first; perhaps she will be persuaded to come with us freely, I she truly wants to leave the orphanage.”
“Or she may be frightened, and flee from you. We do not know what she has been told of gypsies.” Clopin shook hi head, “No this will be difficult however it comes to be. We will take her back to the court of Miracles. There we will teach her about us and our ways.”
“Yes,” Rainelle replied sarcastically, “We will show her we take children and force them to come with us!”
“Woman, the choice has been made. I brought you and Zeta so she might not be as afraid, would you rather I left her in the orphanage?”
“No, my husband, its just that I fear for the child.” She stood up and took Zeta’s hand. Then, they started out the back of the wagon.
Pierre looked at him; forced half a smile and nodded his head. “I am ready as I will ever be, but what if she doesn’t want to come. What then?”
“She will be scared, but I know in my heart, it is the best thing for her. No Gypsy could possibly want to stay among people outside their race.”
Bazien rubbed his chin, glancing off in thought. Then he turned to Clopin. But, she may know nothing if her past. She may not no what it means to be a gypsy. “
“True, but I think once she learns our ways, she will be happy we helped her find out where she comes from.” Clopin stood and pulled Pierre to his feet, “Come the time is late and we must be ready when she comes!” The three men followed Rainelle and Zeta out the wagon and into the alley. Zeta and Rainelle walked to the end towards the square, while Clopin, Bazien, and Pierre entered the market, looking for the child.