Notre-Dame de Paris The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Part 10 out of 13
~Le corbeau ne vole que le jour,
Le hibou ne vole que la nuit,
Le cygne vole la nuit et le jour~.*
* Look not at the face, young girl, look at the heart. The
heart of a handsome young man is often deformed. There are
hearts in which love does not keep. Young girl, the pine is
not beautiful; it is not beautiful like the poplar, but it keeps
its foliage in winter. Alas! What is the use of saying that?
That which is not beautiful has no right to exist; beauty loves
only beauty; April turns her back on January. Beauty is perfect,
beauty can do all things, beauty is the only thing which does not
exist by halves. The raven flies only by day, the owl flies only
by night, the swan flies by day and by night.
One morning, on awaking, she saw on her window two vases filled
with flowers. One was a very beautiful and very brilliant but
cracked vase of glass. It had allowed the water with which it
had been filled to escape, and the flowers which it contained were
withered. The other was an earthenware pot, coarse and common, but
which had preserved all its water, and its flowers remained fresh
I know not whether it was done intentionally, but La
Esmeralda took the faded nosegay and wore it all day long
upon her breast.
That day she did not hear the voice singing in the tower.
She troubled herself very little about it. She passed
her days in caressing Djali, in watching the door of the
Gondelaurier house, in talking to herself about Phoebus,
and in crumbling up her bread for the swallows.
She had entirely ceased to see or hear Quasimodo. The
poor bellringer seemed to have disappeared from the church.
One night, nevertheless, when she was not asleep, but was
thinking of her handsome captain, she heard something
breathing near her cell. She rose in alarm, and saw by the
light of the moon, a shapeless mass lying across her door on
the outside. It was Quasimodo asleep there upon the stones.
THE KEY TO THE RED DOOR.
In the meantime, public minor had informed the archdeacon
of the miraculous manner in which the gypsy had been
saved. When he learned it, he knew not what his sensations
were. He had reconciled himself to la Esmeralda's death.
In that matter he was tranquil; he had reached the bottom of
personal suffering. The human heart (Dora Claude had meditated
upon these matters) can contain only a certain quantity
of despair. When the sponge is saturated, the sea may pass
over it without causing a single drop more to enter it.
Now, with la Esmeralda dead, the sponge was soaked, all
was at an end on this earth for Dom Claude. But to feel
that she was alive, and Phoebus also, meant that tortures,
shocks, alternatives, life, were beginning again. And Claude
was weary of all this.
When he heard this news, he shut himself in his cell in the
cloister. He appeared neither at the meetings of the chapter
nor at the services. He closed his door against all, even
against the bishop. He remained thus immured for several
weeks. He was believed to be ill. And so he was, in fact.
What did he do while thus shut up? With what thoughts
was the unfortunate man contending? Was he giving final
battle to his formidable passion? Was he concocting a final
plan of death for her and of perdition for himself?
His Jehan, his cherished brother, his spoiled child, came
once to his door, knocked, swore, entreated, gave his name
half a score of times. Claude did not open.
He passed whole days with his face close to the panes of
his window. From that window, situated in the cloister, he
could see la Esmeralda's chamber. He often saw herself
with her goat, sometimes with Quasimodo. He remarked the
little attentions of the ugly deaf man, his obedience, his
delicate and submissive ways with the gypsy. He recalled,
for he had a good memory, and memory is the tormentor of the
jealous, he recalled the singular look of the bellringer,
bent on the dancer upon a certain evening. He asked himself
what motive could have impelled Quasimodo to save her.
He was the witness of a thousand little scenes between the
gypsy and the deaf man, the pantomime of which, viewed
from afar and commented on by his passion, appeared very
tender to him. He distrusted the capriciousness of women.
Then he felt a jealousy which be could never have believed
possible awakening within him, a jealousy which made him
redden with shame and indignation: "One might condone the
captain, but this one!" This thought upset him.
His nights were frightful. As soon as he learned that the
gypsy was alive, the cold ideas of spectre and tomb which
had persecuted him for a whole day vanished, and the flesh
returned to goad him. He turned and twisted on his couch
at the thought that the dark-skinned maiden was so near him.
Every night his delirious imagination represented la Esmeralda
to him in all the attitudes which had caused his blood to
boil most. He beheld her outstretched upon the poniarded
captain, her eyes closed, her beautiful bare throat covered
with Phoebus's blood, at that moment of bliss when the archdeacon
had imprinted on her pale lips that kiss whose burn the
unhappy girl, though half dead, had felt. He beheld her,
again, stripped by the savage hands of the torturers, allowing
them to bare and to enclose in the boot with its iron screw, her
tiny foot, her delicate rounded leg, her white and supple knee.
Again he beheld that ivory knee which alone remained outside
of Torterue's horrible apparatus. Lastly, he pictured the
young girl in her shift, with the rope about her neck,
shoulders bare, feet bare, almost nude, as he had seen her
on that last day. These images of voluptuousness made him
clench his fists, and a shiver run along his spine.
One night, among others, they heated so cruelly his virgin
and priestly blood, that he bit his pillow, leaped from his
bed, flung on a surplice over his shirt, and left his cell,
lamp in hand, half naked, wild, his eyes aflame.
He knew where to find the key to the red door, which connected
the cloister with the church, and he always had about
him, as the reader knows, the key of the staircase leading
to the towers.
CONTINUATION OF THE KEY TO THE RED DOOR.
That night, la Esmeralda had fallen asleep in her cell, full
of oblivion, of hope, and of sweet thoughts. She had already
been asleep for some time, dreaming as always, of Phoebus,
when it seemed to her that she heard a noise near her. She
slept lightly and uneasily, the sleep of a bird; a mere nothing
waked her. She opened her eyes. The night was very dark.
Nevertheless, she saw a figure gazing at her through the
window; a lamp lighted up this apparition. The moment that
the figure saw that la Esmeralda had perceived it, it blew out
the lamp. But the young girl had had time to catch a glimpse
of it; her eyes closed again with terror.
"Oh!" she said in a faint voice, "the priest!"
All her past unhappiness came back to her like a flash of
lightning. She fell back on her bed, chilled.
A moment later she felt a touch along her body which made
her shudder so that she straightened herself up in a sitting
posture, wide awake and furious.
The priest had just slipped in beside her. He encircled
her with both arms.
She tried to scream and could not.
"Begone, monster! begone assassin!" she said, in a voice
which was low and trembling with wrath and terror.
"Mercy! mercy!" murmured the priest, pressing his lips
to her shoulder.
She seized his bald head by its remnant of hair and tried to
thrust aside his kisses as though they had been bites.
"Mercy!" repeated the unfortunate man. "If you but knew what
my love for you is! 'Tis fire, melted lead, a thousand daggers
in my heart."
She stopped his two arms with superhuman force.
"Let me go," she said, "or I will spit in your face!"
He released her. "Vilify me, strike me, be malicious! Do
what you will! But have mercy! love me!"
Then she struck him with the fury of a child. She made
her beautiful hands stiff to bruise his face. "Begone, demon!"
"Love me! love mepity!" cried the poor priest returning
her blows with caresses.
All at once she felt him stronger than herself.
"There must be an end to this!" he said, gnashing his teeth.
She was conquered, palpitating in his arms, and in his
power. She felt a wanton hand straying over her. She made
a last effort, and began to cry: "Help! Help! A vampire!
Nothing came. Djali alone was awake and bleating with anguish.
"Hush!" said the panting priest.
All at once, as she struggled and crawled on the floor, the
gypsy's hand came in contact with something cold and metal-
lic-it was Quasimodo's whistle. She seized it with a convulsive
hope, raised it to her lips and blew with all the strength
that she had left. The whistle gave a clear, piercing sound.
"What is that?" said the priest.
Almost at the same instant he felt himself raised by a
vigorous arm. The cell was dark; he could not distinguish
clearly who it was that held him thus; but he heard teeth
chattering with rage, and there was just sufficient light
scattered among the gloom to allow him to see above his head
the blade of a large knife.
The priest fancied that he perceived the form of Quasimodo.
He assumed that it could be no one but he. He remembered
to have stumbled, as he entered, over a bundle which was
stretched across the door on the outside. But, as the
newcomer did not utter a word, he knew not what to think. He
flung himself on the arm which held the knife, crying:
"Quasimodo!" He forgot, at that moment of distress, that
Quasimodo was deaf.
In a twinkling, the priest was overthrown and a leaden
knee rested on his breast.
From the angular imprint of that knee he recognized
Quasimodo; but what was to be done? how could he make the
other recognize him? the darkness rendered the deaf man blind.
He was lost. The young girl, pitiless as an enraged tigress,
did not intervene to save him. The knife was approaching
his head; the moment was critical. All at once, his adversary
seemed stricken with hesitation.
"No blood on her!" he said in a dull voice.
It was, in fact, Quasimodo's voice.
Then the priest felt a large hand dragging him feet first out
of the cell; it was there that he was to die. Fortunately for
him, the moon had risen a few moments before.
When they had passed through the door of the cell, its pale
rays fell upon the priest's countenance. Quasimodo looked
him full in the face, a trembling seized him, and he released
the priest and shrank back.
The gypsy, who had advanced to the threshold of her cell,
beheld with surprise their roles abruptly changed. It was
now the priest who menaced, Quasimodo who was the suppliant.
The priest, who was overwhelming the deaf man with gestures
of wrath and reproach, made the latter a violent sign to retire.
The deaf man dropped his head, then he came and knelt at
the gypsy's door,--"Monseigneur," he said, in a grave and
resigned voice, "you shall do all that you please afterwards,
but kill me first."
So saying, he presented his knife to the priest. The priest,
beside himself, was about to seize it. But the young girl was
quicker than be; she wrenched the knife from Quasimodo's
hands and burst into a frantic laugh,--"Approach," she said
to the priest.
She held the blade high. The priest remained undecided.
She would certainly have struck him.
Then she added with a pitiless expression, well aware that
she was about to pierce the priest's heart with thousands of
"Ah! I know that Phoebus is not dead!
The priest overturned Quasimodo on the floor with a kick,
and, quivering with rage, darted back under the vault of the
When he was gone, Quasimodo picked up the whistle which
had just saved the gypsy.
"It was getting rusty," he said, as he handed it back to her;
then he left her alone.
The young girl, deeply agitated by this violent scene, fell
back exhausted on her bed, and began to sob and weep. Her
horizon was becoming gloomy once more.
The priest had groped his way back to his cell.
It was settled. Dom Claude was jealous of Quasimodo!
He repeated with a thoughtful air his fatal words: "No
one shall have her."
GRINGOIRE HAS MANY GOOD IDEAS IN SUCCESSION.--RUE DES BERNARDINS.
As soon as Pierre Gringoire had seen how this whole affair
was turning, and that there would decidedly be the rope,
hanging, and other disagreeable things for the principal
personages in this comedy, he had not cared to identify
himself with the matter further. The outcasts with whom he had
remained, reflecting that, after all, it was the best company
in Paris,--the outcasts had continued to interest themselves in
behalf of the gypsy. He had thought it very simple on the
part of people who had, like herself, nothing else in prospect
but Charmolue and Torterue, and who, unlike himself, did not
gallop through the regions of imagination between the wings
of Pegasus. From their remarks, he had learned that his wife
of the broken crock had taken refuge in Notre-Dame, and he
was very glad of it. But he felt no temptation to go and see
her there. He meditated occasionally on the little goat, and
that was all. Moreover, he was busy executing feats of strength
during the day for his living, and at night he was engaged
in composing a memorial against the Bishop of Paris, for he
remembered having been drenched by the wheels of his mills,
and he cherished a grudge against him for it. He also
occupied himself with annotating the fine work of Baudry-le-
Rouge, Bishop of Noyon and Tournay, _De Cupa Petrarum_,
which had given him a violent passion for architecture, an
inclination which had replaced in his heart his passion for
hermeticism, of which it was, moreover, only a natural corollary,
since there is an intimate relation between hermeticism
and masonry. Gringoire had passed from the love of an idea
to the love of the form of that idea.
One day he had halted near Saint Germain-l'Auxerrois, at
the corner of a mansion called "For-l'Evêque " (the Bishop's
Tribunal), which stood opposite another called "For-le-Roi"
(the King's Tribunal). At this For-l'Evêque, there was a
charming chapel of the fourteenth century, whose apse was on
the street. Gringoire was devoutly examining its exterior
sculptures. He was in one of those moments of egotistical,
exclusive, supreme, enjoyment when the artist beholds nothing
in the world but art, and the world in art. All at once he
feels a hand laid gravely on his shoulder. He turns round.
It was his old friend, his former master, monsieur the archdeacon.
He was stupefied. It was a long time since he had seen the
archdeacon, and Dom Claude was one of those solemn and
impassioned men, a meeting with whom always upsets the
equilibrium of a sceptical philosopher.
The archdeacon maintained silence for several minutes, during
which Gringoire had time to observe him. He found Dom
Claude greatly changed; pale as a winter's morning, with hollow
eyes, and hair almost white. The priest broke the silence at
length, by saying, in a tranquil but glacial tone,--
"How do you do, Master Pierre?"
"My health?" replied Gringoire. "Eh! eh! one can say both one
thing and another on that score. Still, it is good, on the
whole. I take not too much of anything. You know, master, that
the secret of keeping well, according to Hippocrates; ~id est:
cibi, potus, somni, venus, omnia moderata sint~."
"So you have no care, Master Pierre?" resumed the archdeacon,
gazing intently at Gringoire.
"None, i' faith!"
"And what are you doing now?"
"You see, master. I am examining the chiselling of these
stones, and the manner in which yonder bas-relief is
The priest began to smile with that bitter smile which raises
only one corner of the mouth.
"And that amuses you?"
"'Tis paradise!" exclaimed Gringoire. And leaning over
the sculptures with the fascinated air of a demonstrator of
living phenomena: "Do you not think, for instance, that yon
metamorphosis in bas-relief is executed with much adroitness,
delicacy and patience? Observe that slender column. Around
what capital have you seen foliage more tender and better
caressed by the chisel. Here are three raised bosses of Jean
Maillevin. They are not the finest works of this great master.
Nevertheless, the naivete, the sweetness of the faces, the gayety
of the attitudes and draperies, and that inexplicable charm
which is mingled with all the defects, render the little figures
very diverting and delicate, perchance, even too much so. You
think that it is not diverting?"
"Yes, certainly!" said the priest.
"And if you were to see the interior of the chapel!" resumed
the poet, with his garrulous enthusiasm. "Carvings everywhere.
'Tis as thickly clustered as the head of a cabbage! The apse is
of a very devout, and so peculiar a fashion that I have never
beheld anything like it elsewhere!"
Dom Claude interrupted him,--
"You are happy, then?"
Gringoire replied warmly;--
"On my honor, yes! First I loved women, then animals.
Now I love stones. They are quite as amusing as women and
animals, and less treacherous."
The priest laid his hand on his brow. It was his habitual
"Stay!" said Gringoire, "one has one's pleasures!" He
took the arm of the priest, who let him have his way, and
made him enter the staircase turret of For-l'Evêque. "Here
is a staircase! every time that I see it I am happy. It is of
the simplest and rarest manner of steps in Paris. All the
steps are bevelled underneath. Its beauty and simplicity
consist in the interspacing of both, being a foot or more wide,
which are interlaced, interlocked, fitted together, enchained
enchased, interlined one upon another, and bite into each
other in a manner that is truly firm and graceful."
"And you desire nothing?"
"And you regret nothing?"
"Neither regret nor desire. I have arranged my mode of life."
"What men arrange," said Claude, "things disarrange."
"I am a Pyrrhonian philosopher," replied Gringoire, "and I
hold all things in equilibrium."
"And how do you earn your living?"
"I still make epics and tragedies now and then; but that
which brings me in most is the industry with which you are
acquainted, master; carrying pyramids of chairs in my teeth."
"The trade is but a rough one for a philosopher."
"'Tis still equilibrium," said Gringoire. "When one has
an idea, one encounters it in everything."
"I know that," replied the archdeacon.
After a silence, the priest resumed,--
"You are, nevertheless, tolerably poor?"
"Poor, yes; unhappy, no."
At that moment, a trampling of horses was heard, and our
two interlocutors beheld defiling at the end of the street, a
company of the king's unattached archers, their lances borne
high, an officer at their head. The cavalcade was brilliant,
and its march resounded on the pavement.
"How you gaze at that officer!" said Gringoire, to the
"Because I think I recognize him."
"What do you call him?"
"I think," said Claude, "that his name is Phoebus de
"Phoebus! A curious name! There is also a Phoebus,
Comte de Foix. I remember having known a wench who
swore only by the name of Phoebus."
"Come away from here," said the priest. "I have something
to say to you."
From the moment of that troop's passing, some agitation
had pierced through the archdeacon's glacial envelope. He
walked on. Gringoire followed him, being accustomed to
obey him, like all who had once approached that man so full
of ascendency. They reached in silence the Rue des Bernardins,
which was nearly deserted. Here Dom Claude paused.
"What have you to say to me, master?" Gringoire asked him.
"Do you not think that the dress of those cavaliers whom
we have just seen is far handsomer than yours and mine?"
Gringoire tossed his head.
"I' faith! I love better my red and yellow jerkin, than
those scales of iron and steel. A fine pleasure to produce,
when you walk, the same noise as the Quay of Old Iron, in an
"So, Gringoire, you have never cherished envy for those
handsome fellows in their military doublets?"
"Envy for what, monsieur the archdeacon? their strength,
their armor, their discipline? Better philosophy and
independence in rags. I prefer to be the head of a fly
rather than the tail of a lion."
"That is singular," said the priest dreamily. "Yet a handsome
uniform is a beautiful thing."
Gringoire, perceiving that he was in a pensive mood, quitted
him to go and admire the porch of a neighboring house. He
came back clapping his hands.
"If you were less engrossed with the fine clothes of men of
war, monsieur the archdeacon, I would entreat you to come
and see this door. I have always said that the house of the
Sieur Aubry had the most superb entrance in the world."
"Pierre Gringoire," said the archdeacon, "What have you
done with that little gypsy dancer?"
"La Esmeralda? You change the conversation very abruptly."
"Was she not your wife?"
"Yes, by virtue of a broken crock. We were to have four
years of it. By the way," added Gringoire, looking at the
archdeacon in a half bantering way, "are you still thinking
"And you think of her no longer?"
"Very little. I have so many things. Good heavens, how
pretty that little goat was!"
"Had she not saved your life?"
"'Tis true, pardieu!"
"Well, what has become of her? What have you done with her?"
"I cannot tell you. I believe that they have hanged her."
"You believe so?"
"I am not sure. When I saw that they wanted to hang
people, I retired from the game."
"That is all you know of it?"
"Wait a bit. I was told that she had taken refuge in
Notre-Dame, and that she was safe there, and I am delighted
to hear it, and I have not been able to discover whether the
goat was saved with her, and that is all I know."
"I will tell you more," cried Dom Claude; and his voice,
hitherto low, slow, and almost indistinct, turned to thunder.
"She has in fact, taken refuge in Notre-Dame. But in three
days justice will reclaim her, and she will be hanged on the
Grève. There is a decree of parliament."
"That's annoying," said Gringoire.
The priest, in an instant, became cold and calm again.
"And who the devil," resumed the poet, "has amused himself
with soliciting a decree of reintegration? Why couldn't
they leave parliament in peace? What harm does it do if a
poor girl takes shelter under the flying buttresses of Notre-
Dame, beside the swallows' nests?"
"There are satans in this world," remarked the archdeacon.
"'Tis devilish badly done," observed Gringoire.
The archdeacon resumed after a silence,--
"So, she saved your life?"
"Among my good friends the outcasts. A little more or a
little less and I should have been hanged. They would have
been sorry for it to-day."
"Would not you like to do something for her?"
"I ask nothing better, Dom Claude; but what if I entangle
myself in some villanous affair?"
"What matters it?"
"Bah! what matters it? You are good, master, that you
are! I have two great works already begun."
The priest smote his brow. In spite of the calm which he
affected, a violent gesture betrayed his internal convulsions
from time to time.
"How is she to be saved?"
Gringoire said to him; "Master, I will reply to you; ~Il
padelt~, which means in Turkish, 'God is our hope.'"
"How is she to be saved?" repeated Claude dreamily.
Gringoire smote his brow in his turn.
"Listen, master. I have imagination; I will devise expedients
for you. What if one were to ask her pardon from the king?"
"Of Louis XI.! A pardon!"
"To take the tiger's bone from him!"
Gringoire began to seek fresh expedients.
"Well, stay! Shall I address to the midwives a request
accompanied by the declaration that the girl is with child!"
This made the priest's hollow eye flash.
"With child! knave! do you know anything of this?"
Gringoire was alarmed by his air. He hastened to say,
"Oh, no, not I! Our marriage was a real ~forismaritagium~. I
stayed outside. But one might obtain a respite, all the same."
"Madness! Infamy! Hold your tongue!"
"You do wrong to get angry," muttered Gringoire. "One
obtains a respite; that does no harm to any one, and allows
the midwives, who are poor women, to earn forty deniers
The priest was not listening to him!
"But she must leave that place, nevertheless!" he murmured,
"the decree is to be executed within three days. Moreover,
there will be no decree; that Quasimodo! Women have very
depraved tastes!" He raised his voice: "Master Pierre, I have
reflected well; there is but one means of safety for her."
"What? I see none myself."
"Listen, Master Pierre, remember that you owe your life
to her. I will tell you my idea frankly. The church is
watched night and day; only those are allowed to come out,
who have been seen to enter. Hence you can enter. You
will come. I will lead you to her. You will change clothes
with her. She will take your doublet; you will take her
"So far, it goes well," remarked the philosopher, "and then?"
"And then? she will go forth in your garments; you will
remain with hers. You will be hanged, perhaps, but she will
Gringoire scratched his ear, with a very serious air.
"Stay!" said he, "that is an idea which would never have
occurred to me unaided."
At Dom Claude's proposition, the open and benign face of
the poet had abruptly clouded over, like a smiling Italian
landscape, when an unlucky squall comes up and dashes a
cloud across the sun.
"Well! Gringoire, what say you to the means?"
"I say, master, that I shall not be hanged, perchance, but
that I shall be hanged indubitably.
"That concerns us not."
"The deuce!" said Gringoire.
"She has saved your life. 'Tis a debt that you are discharging."
"There are a great many others which I do not discharge."
"Master Pierre, it is absolutely necessary."
The archdeacon spoke imperiously."
"Listen, Dom Claude," replied the poet in utter consternation.
You cling to that idea, and you are wrong. I do not see why
I should get myself hanged in some one else's place."
"What have you, then, which attaches you so strongly to life?"
"Oh! a thousand reasons!"
"What reasons, if you please?"
"What? The air, the sky, the morning, the evening, the
moonlight, my good friends the thieves, our jeers with the
old hags of go-betweens, the fine architecture of Paris to
study, three great books to make, one of them being against
the bishops and his mills; and how can I tell all? Anaxagoras
said that he was in the world to admire the sun. And
then, from morning till night, I have the happiness of
passing all my days with a man of genius, who is myself,
which is very agreeable."
"A head fit for a mule bell!" muttered the archdeacon.
"Oh! tell me who preserved for you that life which you
render so charming to yourself? To whom do you owe it
that you breathe that air, behold that sky, and can still
amuse your lark's mind with your whimsical nonsense and
madness? Where would you be, had it not been for her?
Do you then desire that she through whom you are alive,
should die? that she should die, that beautiful, sweet,
adorable creature, who is necessary to the light of the world
and more divine than God, while you, half wise, and half fool,
a vain sketch of something, a sort of vegetable, which thinks
that it walks, and thinks that it thinks, you will continue to
live with the life which you have stolen from her, as useless
as a candle in broad daylight? Come, have a little pity,
Gringoire; be generous in your turn; it was she who set
The priest was vehement. Gringoire listened to him at first
with an undecided air, then he became touched, and wound up
with a grimace which made his pallid face resemble that of a
new-born infant with an attack of the colic.
"You are pathetic!" said he, wiping away a tear. "Well!
I will think about it. That's a queer idea of yours.--After
all," he continued after a pause, "who knows? perhaps they
will not hang me. He who becomes betrothed does not always
marry. When they find me in that little lodging so grotesquely
muffled in petticoat and coif, perchance they will burst with
laughter. And then, if they do hang me,--well! the halter
is as good a death as any. 'Tis a death worthy of a sage who
has wavered all his life; a death which is neither flesh nor
fish, like the mind of a veritable sceptic; a death all
stamped with Pyrrhonism and hesitation, which holds the
middle station betwixt heaven and earth, which leaves you
in suspense. 'Tis a philosopher's death, and I was destined
thereto, perchance. It is magnificent to die as one has lived."
The priest interrupted him: "Is it agreed."
"What is death, after all?" pursued Gringoire with exaltation.
"A disagreeable moment, a toll-gate, the passage of little
to nothingness. Some one having asked Cercidas, the
Megalopolitan, if he were willing to die: 'Why not?' he
replied; 'for after my death I shall see those great men,
Pythagoras among the philosophers, Hecataeus among historians,
Homer among poets, Olympus among musicians.'"
The archdeacon gave him his hand: "It is settled, then?
You will come to-morrow?"
This gesture recalled Gringoire to reality.
"Ah! i' faith no!" he said in the tone of a man just waking
up. "Be hanged! 'tis too absurd. I will not."
"Farewell, then!" and the archdeacon added between his
teeth: "I'll find you again!"
"I do not want that devil of a man to find me," thought
Gringoire; and he ran after Dom Claude. "Stay, monsieur
the archdeacon, no ill-feeling between old friends! You take
an interest in that girl, my wife, I mean, and 'tis well. You
have devised a scheme to get her out of Notre-Dame, but your
way is extremely disagreeable to me, Gringoire. If I had
only another one myself! I beg to say that a luminous
inspiration has just occurred to me. If I possessed an
expedient for extricating her from a dilemma, without
compromising my own neck to the extent of a single running
knot, what would you say to it? Will not that suffice you? Is
it absolutely necessary that I should be hanged, in order that
you may be content?"
The priest tore out the buttons of his cassock with
impatience: "Stream of words! What is your plan?"
"Yes," resumed Gringoire, talking to himself and touching
his nose with his forefinger in sign of meditation,--"that's
it!--The thieves are brave fellows!--The tribe of Egypt
love her!--They will rise at the first word!--Nothing
easier!--A sudden stroke.--Under cover of the disorder,
they will easily carry her off!--Beginning to-morrow evening.
They will ask nothing better.
"The plan! speak," cried the archdeacon shaking him.
Gringoire turned majestically towards him: "Leave me!
You see that I am composing." He meditated for a few
moments more, then began to clap his hands over his thought,
crying: "Admirable! success is sure!"
"The plan!" repeated Claude in wrath.
Gringoire was radiant.
"Come, that I may tell you that very softly. 'Tis a truly
gallant counter-plot, which will extricate us all from the matter.
Pardieu, it must be admitted that I am no fool."
He broke off.
"Oh, by the way! is the little goat with the wench?"
"Yes. The devil take you!"
"They would have hanged it also, would they not?"
"What is that to me?"
"Yes, they would have hanged it. They hanged a sow last
month. The headsman loveth that; he eats the beast afterwards.
Take my pretty Djali! Poor little lamb!"
"Malediction!" exclaimed Dom Claude. "You are the
executioner. What means of safety have you found, knave?
Must your idea be extracted with the forceps?"
"Very fine, master, this is it."
Gringoire bent his head to the archdeacon's head and spoke
to him in a very low voice, casting an uneasy glance the while
from one end to the other of the street, though no one was
passing. When he had finished, Dom Claude took his hand
and said coldly : "'Tis well. Farewell until to-morrow."
"Until to-morrow," repeated Gringoire. And, while the
archdeacon was disappearing in one direction, he set off in
the other, saying to himself in a low voice: "Here's a
grand affair, Monsieur Pierre Gringoire. Never mind! 'Tis
not written that because one is of small account one should
take fright at a great enterprise. Bitou carried a great bull
on his shoulders; the water-wagtails, the warblers, and the
buntings traverse the ocean."
On re-entering the cloister, the archdeacon found at the door
of his cell his brother Jehan du Moulin, who was waiting for
him, and who had beguiled the tedium of waiting by drawing
on the wall with a bit of charcoal, a profile of his elder
brother, enriched with a monstrous nose.
Dom Claude hardly looked at his brother; his thoughts
were elsewhere. That merry scamp's face whose beaming had
so often restored serenity to the priest's sombre physiognomy,
was now powerless to melt the gloom which grew more dense
every day over that corrupted, mephitic, and stagnant soul.
"Brother," said Jehan timidly, "I am come to see you."
The archdeacon did not even raise his eyes.
"Brother," resumed the hypocrite, "you are so good to me,
and you give me such wise counsels that I always return to you."
"Alas! brother, you were perfectly right when you said to
me,--"Jehan! Jehan! ~cessat doctorum doctrina, discipulorum
disciplina~. Jehan, be wise, Jehan, be learned, Jehan, pass
not the night outside of the college without lawful occasion
and due leave of the master. Cudgel not the Picards: ~noli,
Joannes, verberare Picardos~. Rot not like an unlettered ass,
~quasi asinus illitteratus~, on the straw seats of the school.
Jehan, allow yourself to be punished at the discretion of the
master. Jehan go every evening to chapel, and sing there an
anthem with verse and orison to Madame the glorious Virgin
Mary.--Alas! what excellent advice was that!"
"Brother, you behold a culprit, a criminal, a wretch, a
libertine, a man of enormities! My dear brother, Jehan hath
made of your counsels straw and dung to trample under foot.
I have been well chastised for it, and God is extraordinarily
just. As long as I had money, I feasted, I lead a mad and joyous
life. Oh! how ugly and crabbed behind is debauch which is
so charming in front! Now I have no longer a blank; I have
sold my napery, my shirt and my towels; no more merry life!
The beautiful candle is extinguished and I have henceforth,
only a wretched tallow dip which smokes in my nose. The
wenches jeer at me. I drink water.--I am overwhelmed with
remorse and with creditors.
"The rest?" said the archdeacon.
"Alas! my very dear brother, I should like to settle down
to a better life. I come to you full of contrition, I am
penitent. I make my confession. I beat my breast violently.
You are quite right in wishing that I should some day become
a licentiate and sub-monitor in the college of Torchi. At
the present moment I feel a magnificent vocation for that
profession. But I have no more ink and I must buy some; I
have no more paper, I have no more books, and I must buy some.
For this purpose, I am greatly in need of a little money, and
I come to you, brother, with my heart full of contrition."
"Is that all?"
"Yes," said the scholar. "A little money."
"I have none."
Then the scholar said, with an air which was both grave and
resolute: "Well, brother, I am sorry to be obliged to tell you
that very fine offers and propositions are being made to me in
another quarter. You will not give me any money? No. In
that case I shall become a professional vagabond."
As he uttered these monstrous words, he assumed the mien
of Ajax, expecting to see the lightnings descend upon his head.
The archdeacon said coldly to him,-
"Become a vagabond."
Jehan made him a deep bow, and descended the cloister
At the moment when he was passing through the courtyard
of the cloister, beneath his brother's window, he heard that
window open, raised his eyes and beheld the archdeacon's
severe head emerge.
"Go to the devil!" said Dom Claude; "here is the last
money which you will get from me?"
At the same time, the priest flung Jehan a purse, which
gave the scholar a big bump on the forehead, and with which
Jehan retreated, both vexed and content, like a dog who had
been stoned with marrow bones.
LONG LIVE MIRTH.
The reader has probably not forgotten that a part of the
Cour de Miracles was enclosed by the ancient wall which
surrounded the city, a goodly number of whose towers had begun,
even at that epoch, to fall to ruin. One of these towers had
been converted into a pleasure resort by the vagabonds. There
was a drain-shop in the underground story, and the rest in the
upper stories. This was the most lively, and consequently
the most hideous, point of the whole outcast den. It was a
sort of monstrous hive, which buzzed there night and day.
At night, when the remainder of the beggar horde slept, when
there was no longer a window lighted in the dingy façades of
the Place, when not a cry was any longer to be heard proceeding
from those innumerable families, those ant-hills of thieves,
of wenches, and stolen or bastard children, the merry tower
was still recognizable by the noise which it made, by the scarlet
light which, flashing simultaneously from the air-holes, the
windows, the fissures in the cracked walls, escaped, so to
speak, from its every pore.
The cellar then, was the dram-shop. The descent to it was
through a low door and by a staircase as steep as a classic
Alexandrine. Over the door, by way of a sign there hung a
marvellous daub, representing new sons and dead chickens,*
with this, pun below: ~Aux sonneurs pour les trépassés~,--The
wringers for the dead.
* ~Sols neufs: poulets tués~.
One evening when the curfew was sounding from all the
belfries in Paris, the sergeants of the watch might have
observed, had it been granted to them to enter the formidable
Court of Miracles, that more tumult than usual was in progress
in the vagabonds' tavern, that more drinking was being
done, and louder swearing. Outside in the Place, there,
were many groups conversing in low tones, as when some great
plan is being framed, and here and there a knave crouching
down engaged in sharpening a villanous iron blade on a
Meanwhile, in the tavern itself, wine and gaming offered
such a powerful diversion to the ideas which occupied the
vagabonds' lair that evening, that it would have been difficult
to divine from the remarks of the drinkers, what was the
matter in hand. They merely wore a gayer air than was their
wont, and some weapon could be seen glittering between the
legs of each of them,--a sickle, an axe, a big two-edged sword
or the hook of an old hackbut.
The room, circular in form, was very spacious; but the
tables were so thickly set and the drinkers so numerous, that
all that the tavern contained, men, women, benches, beer-jugs,
all that were drinking, all that were sleeping, all that were
playing, the well, the lame, seemed piled up pell-mell, with as
much order and harmony as a heap of oyster shells. There
were a few tallow dips lighted on the tables; but the real
luminary of this tavern, that which played the part in this
dram-shop of the chandelier of an opera house, was the fire.
This cellar was so damp that the fire was never allowed to go
out, even in midsummer; an immense chimney with a sculptured
mantel, all bristling with heavy iron andirons and cooking
utensils, with one of those huge fires of mixed wood and peat
which at night, in village streets make the reflection of forge
windows stand out so red on the opposite walls. A big dog
gravely seated in the ashes was turning a spit loaded with
meat before the coals.
Great as was the confusion, after the first glance one could
distinguish in that multitude, three principal groups which
thronged around three personages already known to the reader.
One of these personages, fantastically accoutred in many an
oriental rag, was Mathias Hungadi Spicali, Duke of Egypt
and Bohemia. The knave was seated on a table with his
legs crossed, and in a loud voice was bestowing his knowledge
of magic, both black and white, on many a gaping face which
surrounded him. Another rabble pressed close around our old
friend, the valiant King of Thunes, armed to the teeth.
Clopin Trouillefou, with a very serious air and in a low voice,
was regulating the distribution of an enormous cask of arms,
which stood wide open in front of him and from whence
poured out in profusion, axes, swords, bassinets, coats of mail,
broadswords, lance-heads, arrows, and viretons,* like apples
and grapes from a horn of plenty. Every one took something
from the cask, one a morion, another a long, straight sword,
another a dagger with a cross--shaped hilt. The very children
were arming themselves, and there were even cripples in
bowls who, in armor and cuirass, made their way between the
legs of the drinkers, like great beetles.
* An arrow with a pyramidal head of iron and copper spiral
wings, by which a rotatory motion was communicated.
Finally, a third audience, the most noisy, the most jovial,
and the most numerous, encumbered benches and tables, in the
midst of which harangued and swore a flute-like voice, which
escaped from beneath a heavy armor, complete from casque to
spurs. The individual who had thus screwed a whole outfit
upon his body, was so hidden by his warlike accoutrements
that nothing was to be seen of his person save an impertinent,
red, snub nose, a rosy mouth, and bold eyes. His belt was
full of daggers and poniards, a huge sword on his hip, a rusted
cross-bow at his left, and a vast jug of wine in front of him,
without reckoning on his right, a fat wench with her bosom
uncovered. All mouths around him were laughing, cursing,
Add twenty secondary groups, the waiters, male and female,
running with jugs on their heads, gamblers squatting over
taws, merelles,* dice, vachettes, the ardent game of tringlet,
quarrels in one corner, kisses in another, and the reader will
have some idea of this whole picture, over which flickered the
light of a great, flaming fire, which made a thousand huge and
grotesque shadows dance over the walls of the drinking shop.
* A game played on a checker-board containing three concentric
sets of squares, with small stones. The game consisted in
getting three stones in a row.
As for the noise, it was like the inside of a bell at full peal.
The dripping-pan, where crackled a rain of grease, filled
with its continual sputtering the intervals of these thousand
dialogues, which intermingled from one end of the apartment
to the other.
In the midst of this uproar, at the extremity of the tavern,
on the bench inside the chimney, sat a philosopher meditating
with his feet in the ashes and his eyes on the brands. It was
"Be quick! make haste, arm yourselves! we set out on
the march in an hour!" said Clopin Trouillefou to his thieves.
A wench was humming,--
"~Bonsoir mon père et ma mere,
Les derniers couvrent le feu~."*
* Good night, father and mother, the last cover up the fire.
Two card players were disputing,--
"Knave!" cried the reddest faced of the two, shaking his
fist at the other; "I'll mark you with the club. You can
take the place of Mistigri in the pack of cards of monseigneur
"Ugh!" roared a Norman, recognizable by his nasal accent;
"we are packed in here like the saints of Caillouville!"
"My sons," the Duke of Egypt was saying to his audience,
in a falsetto voice, "sorceresses in France go to the witches'
sabbath without broomsticks, or grease, or steed, merely by
means of some magic words. The witches of Italy always
have a buck waiting for them at their door. All are bound
to go out through the chimney."
The voice of the young scamp armed from head to foot,
dominated the uproar.
"Hurrah! hurrah!" he was shouting. "My first day in
armor! Outcast! I am an outcast. Give me something to
drink. My friends, my name is Jehan Frollo du Moulin, and
I am a gentleman. My opinion is that if God were a ~gendarme~,
he would turn robber. Brothers, we are about to set out on a
fine expedition. Lay siege to the church, burst in
the doors, drag out the beautiful girl, save her from the
judges, save her from the priests, dismantle the cloister,
burn the bishop in his palace--all this we will do in less
time than it takes for a burgomaster to eat a spoonful of
soup. Our cause is just, we will plunder Notre-Dame and that
will be the end of it. We will hang Quasimodo. Do you know
Quasimodo, ladies? Have you seen him make himself breathless
on the big bell on a grand Pentecost festival! ~Corne du
Père~! 'tis very fine! One would say he was a devil mounted
on a man. Listen to me, my friends; I am a vagabond to the
bottom of my heart, I am a member of the slang thief gang
in my soul, I was born an independent thief. I have been
rich, and I have devoured all my property. My mother wanted
to make an officer of me; my father, a sub-deacon; my aunt,
a councillor of inquests; my grandmother, prothonotary to
the king; my great aunt, a treasurer of the short robe,--and
I have made myself an outcast. I said this to my father, who
spit his curse in my face; to my mother, who set to weeping
and chattering, poor old lady, like yonder fagot on the
and-irons. Long live mirth! I am a real Bicêtre. Waitress,
my dear, more wine. I have still the wherewithal to pay. I
want no more Surène wine. It distresses my throat. I'd as
lief, ~corboeuf~! gargle my throat with a basket."
Meanwhile, the rabble applauded with shouts of laughter;
and seeing that the tumult was increasing around him, the
"Oh! what a fine noise! ~Populi debacchantis populosa
debacchatio~!" Then he began to sing, his eye swimming in
ecstasy, in the tone of a canon intoning vespers, ~Quoe
cantica! quoe organa! quoe cantilenoe! quoe meloclioe hic
sine fine decantantur! Sonant melliflua hymnorum organa,
suavissima angelorum melodia, cantica canticorum mira~!
He broke off: "Tavern-keeper of the devil, give me
There was a moment of partial silence, during which the
sharp voice of the Duke of Egypt rose, as he gave instructions
to his Bohemians.
"The weasel is called Adrune; the fox, Blue-foot, or the
Racer of the Woods; the wolf, Gray-foot, or Gold-foot; the
bear the Old Man, or Grandfather. The cap of a gnome confers
invisibility, and causes one to behold invisible things.
Every toad that is baptized must be clad in red or black
velvet, a bell on its neck, a bell on its feet. The godfather
holds its head, the godmother its hinder parts. 'Tis the
demon Sidragasum who hath the power to make wenches
dance stark naked."
"By the mass!" interrupted Jehan, "I should like to be
the demon Sidragasum."
Meanwhile, the vagabonds continued to arm themselves and
whisper at the other end of the dram-shop.
"That poor Esmeralda!" said a Bohemian. "She is our
sister. She must be taken away from there."
"Is she still at Notre-Dame?" went on a merchant with
the appearance of a Jew.
"Well! comrades!" exclaimed the merchant, "to Notre-Dame!
So much the better, since there are in the chapel of Saints
Féréol and Ferrution two statues, the one of John the
Baptist, the other of Saint-Antoine, of solid gold, weighing
together seven marks of gold and fifteen estellins; and the
pedestals are of silver-gilt, of seventeen marks, five ounces.
I know that; I am a goldsmith."
Here they served Jehan with his supper. As he threw
himself back on the bosom of the wench beside him,
"By Saint Voult-de-Lucques, whom people call Saint
Goguelu, I am perfectly happy. I have before me a fool
who gazes at me with the smooth face of an archduke. Here
is one on my left whose teeth are so long that they hide his
chin. And then, I am like the Marshal de Gié at the siege
of Pontoise, I have my right resting on a hillock. ~Ventre-
Mahom~! Comrade! you have the air of a merchant of tennis-
balls; and you come and sit yourself beside me! I am a
nobleman, my friend! Trade is incompatible with nobility.
Get out of that! Hola hé! You others, don't fight! What,
Baptiste Croque-Oison, you who have such a fine nose are
going to risk it against the big fists of that lout! Fool!
~Non cuiquam datum est habere nasum~--not every one is
favored with a nose. You are really divine, Jacqueline
Ronge-Oreille! 'tis a pity that you have no hair! Holà!
my name is Jehan Frollo, and my brother is an archdeacon.
May the devil fly off with him! All that I tell you is the
truth. In turning vagabond, I have gladly renounced the half
of a house situated in paradise, which my brother had promised
me. ~Dimidiam domum in paradiso~. I quote the text. I
have a fief in the Rue Tirechappe, and all the women are in
love with me, as true as Saint Eloy was an excellent goldsmith,
and that the five trades of the good city of Paris are
the tanners, the tawers, the makers of cross-belts, the
purse-makers, and the sweaters, and that Saint Laurent was
burnt with eggshells. I swear to you, comrades.
"~Que je ne beuvrai de piment,
Devant un an, si je cy ment~.*
* That I will drink no spiced and honeyed wine for a year,
if I am lying now.
"'Tis moonlight, my charmer; see yonder through the window
how the wind is tearing the clouds to tatters! Even thus
will I do to your gorget.--Wenches, wipe the children's noses
and snuff the candles.--Christ and Mahom! What am I eating
here, Jupiter? Ohé! innkeeper! the hair which is not
on the heads of your hussies one finds in your omelettes. Old
woman! I like bald omelettes. May the devil confound you!--A
fine hostelry of Beelzebub, where the hussies comb their heads
with the forks!
"~Et je n'ai moi,
Par la sang-Dieu!
Ni foi, ni loi,
Ni feu, ni lieu,
* And by the blood of God, I have neither faith nor law, nor
fire nor dwelling-place, nor king nor God.
In the meantime, Clopin Trouillefou had finished the
distribution of arms. He approached Gringoire, who appeared
to be plunged in a profound revery, with his feet on an andiron.
"Friend Pierre," said the King of Thunes, "what the devil
are you thinking about?"
Gringoire turned to him with a melancholy smile.
"I love the fire, my dear lord. Not for the trivial reason
that fire warms the feet or cooks our soup, but because it has
sparks. Sometimes I pass whole hours in watching the sparks.
I discover a thousand things in those stars which are sprinkled
over the black background of the hearth. Those stars are also
"Thunder, if I understand you!" said the outcast. "Do you know
what o'clock it is?"
"I do not know," replied Gringoire.
Clopin approached the Duke of Egypt.
"Comrade Mathias, the time we have chosen is not a good
one. King Louis XI. is said to be in Paris."
"Another reason for snatching our sister from his claws,"
replied the old Bohemian.
"You speak like a man, Mathias," said the King of Thunes.
"Moreover, we will act promptly. No resistance is to be
feared in the church. The canons are hares, and we are in
force. The people of the parliament will be well balked
to-morrow when they come to seek her! Guts of the pope I
don't want them to hang the pretty girl!"
Chopin quitted the dram-shop.
Meanwhile, Jehan was shouting in a hoarse voice:
"I eat, I drink, I am drunk, I am Jupiter! Eh! Pierre,
the Slaughterer, if you look at me like that again, I'll fillip
the dust off your nose for you."
Gringoire, torn from his meditations, began to watch the
wild and noisy scene which surrounded him, muttering between
his teeth: "~Luxuriosa res vinum et tumultuosa ebrietas~.
Alas! what good reason I have not to drink, and how excellently
spoke Saint-Benoit: '~Vinum apostatare facit etiam sapientes!'"
At that moment, Clopin returned and shouted in a voice of
At this word, which produced the effect of the call to boot
and saddle on a regiment at a halt, all the outcasts, men,
women, children, rushed in a mass from the tavern, with great
noise of arms and old iron implements.
The moon was obscured.
The Cour des Miracles was entirely dark. There was not a
single light. One could make out there a throng of men and
women conversing in low tones. They could be heard buzzing,
and a gleam of all sorts of weapons was visible in the
darkness. Clopin mounted a large stone.
"To your ranks, Argot!"* he cried. "Fall into line, Egypt!
Form ranks, Galilee!"
* Men of the brotherhood of slang: thieves.
A movement began in the darkness. The immense multitude
appeared to form in a column. After a few minutes, the
King of Thunes raised his voice once more,--
"Now, silence to march through Paris! The password is,
'Little sword in pocket!' The torches will not be lighted till
we reach Notre-Dame! Forward, march!"
Ten minutes later, the cavaliers of the watch fled in terror
before a long procession of black and silent men which was
descending towards the Pont an Change, through the tortuous
streets which pierce the close-built neighborhood of the markets
in every direction.
AN AWKWARD FRIEND.
That night, Quasimodo did not sleep. He had just made
his last round of the church. He had not noticed, that at the
moment when he was closing the doors, the archdeacon had
passed close to him and betrayed some displeasure on seeing
him bolting and barring with care the enormous iron locks
which gave to their large leaves the solidity of a wall. Dom
Claude's air was even more preoccupied than usual. Moreover,
since the nocturnal adventure in the cell, he had constantly
abused Quasimodo, but in vain did he ill treat, and even beat
him occasionally, nothing disturbed the submission, patience,
the devoted resignation of the faithful bellringer. He
endured everything on the part of the archdeacon, insults,
threats, blows, without murmuring a complaint. At the most,
he gazed uneasily after Dom Claude when the latter ascended
the staircase of the tower; but the archdeacon had abstained
from presenting himself again before the gypsy's eyes.
On that night, accordingly, Quasimodo, after having
cast a glance at his poor bells which he so neglected
now, Jacqueline, Marie, and Thibauld, mounted to the summit
of the Northern tower, and there setting his dark lanturn,
well closed, upon the leads, he began to gaze at Paris. The
night, as we have already said, was very dark. Paris which,
so to speak was not lighted at that epoch, presented to the eye
a confused collection of black masses, cut here and there by
the whitish curve of the Seine. Quasimodo no longer saw
any light with the exception of one window in a distant
edifice, whose vague and sombre profile was outlined well
above the roofs, in the direction of the Porte Sainte-Antoine.
There also, there was some one awake.
As the only eye of the bellringer peered into that horizon
of mist and night, he felt within him an inexpressible
uneasiness. For several days he had been upon his guard. He
had perceived men of sinister mien, who never took their eyes
from the young girl's asylum, prowling constantly about the
church. He fancied that some plot might be in process of
formation against the unhappy refugee. He imagined that
there existed a popular hatred against her, as against himself,
and that it was very possible that something might happen
soon. Hence he remained upon his tower on the watch,
"dreaming in his dream-place," as Rabelais says, with his eye
directed alternately on the cell and on Paris, keeping faithful
guard, like a good dog, with a thousand suspicions in his mind.
All at once, while he was scrutinizing the great city with
that eye which nature, by a sort of compensation, had made
so piercing that it could almost supply the other organs which
Quasimodo lacked, it seemed to him that there was something
singular about the Quay de la Vieille-Pelleterie, that there
was a movement at that point, that the line of the parapet,
standing out blackly against the whiteness of the water was
not straight and tranquil, like that of the other quays, but
that it undulated to the eye, like the waves of a river, or like
the heads of a crowd in motion.
This struck him as strange. He redoubled his attention.
The movement seemed to be advancing towards the City.
There was no light. It lasted for some time on the quay;
then it gradually ceased, as though that which was passing
were entering the interior of the island; then it stopped
altogether, and the line of the quay became straight and
At the moment when Quasimodo was lost in conjectures, it
seemed to him that the movement had re-appeared in the Rue
du Parvis, which is prolonged into the city perpendicularly
to the façade of Notre-Dame. At length, dense as was the
darkness, he beheld the head of a column debouch from that
street, and in an instant a crowd--of which nothing could be
distinguished in the gloom except that it was a crowd--spread
over the Place.
This spectacle had a terror of its own. It is probable
that this singular procession, which seemed so desirous of
concealing itself under profound darkness, maintained a silence
no less profound. Nevertheless, some noise must have escaped
it, were it only a trampling. But this noise did not even
reach our deaf man, and this great multitude, of which he
saw hardly anything, and of which he heard nothing, though
it was marching and moving so near him, produced upon
him the effect of a rabble of dead men, mute, impalpable,
lost in a smoke. It seemed to him, that he beheld advancing
towards him a fog of men, and that he saw shadows moving
in the shadow.
Then his fears returned to him, the idea of an attempt
against the gypsy presented itself once more to his mind.
He was conscious, in a confused way, that a violent crisis
was approaching. At that critical moment he took counsel
with himself, with better and prompter reasoning than one
would have expected from so badly organized a brain. Ought
he to awaken the gypsy? to make her escape? Whither? The
streets were invested, the church backed on the river. No
boat, no issue!--There was but one thing to be done; to allow
himself to be killed on the threshold of Notre-Dame, to resist
at least until succor arrived, if it should arrive, and not to
trouble la Esmeralda's sleep. This resolution once taken, he
set to examining the enemy with more tranquillity.
The throng seemed to increase every moment in the church
square. Only, he presumed that it must be making very
little noise, since the windows on the Place remained closed.
All at once, a flame flashed up, and in an instant seven or
eight lighted torches passed over the heads of the crowd,
shaking their tufts of flame in the deep shade. Quasimodo
then beheld distinctly surging in the Parvis a frightful herd
of men and women in rags, armed with scythes, pikes, billhooks
and partisans, whose thousand points glittered. Here
and there black pitchforks formed horns to the hideous faces.
He vaguely recalled this populace, and thought that he
recognized all the heads who had saluted him as Pope of the Fools
some months previously. One man who held a torch in one
hand and a club in the other, mounted a stone post and
seemed to be haranguing them. At the same time the strange
army executed several evolutions, as though it were taking
up its post around the church. Quasimodo picked up his
lantern and descended to the platform between the towers, in
order to get a nearer view, and to spy out a means of defence.
Clopin Trouillefou, on arriving in front of the lofty portal
of Notre-Dame had, in fact, ranged his troops in order of
battle. Although he expected no resistance, he wished, like
a prudent general, to preserve an order which would permit
him to face, at need, a sudden attack of the watch or the
police. He had accordingly stationed his brigade in such a
manner that, viewed from above and from a distance, one
would have pronounced it the Roman triangle of the battle of
Ecnomus, the boar's head of Alexander or the famous wedge
of Gustavus Adolphus. The base of this triangle rested on
the back of the Place in such a manner as to bar the entrance
of the Rue du Parvis; one of its sides faced Hôtel-Dieu, the
other the Rue Saint-Pierre-aux-Boeufs. Clopin Trouillefou
had placed himself at the apex with the Duke of Egypt, our
friend Jehan, and the most daring of the scavengers.
An enterprise like that which the vagabonds were now
undertaking against Notre-Dame was not a very rare thing
in the cities of the Middle Ages. What we now call the
"police" did not exist then. In populous cities, especially
in capitals, there existed no single, central, regulating
power. Feudalism had constructed these great communities
in a singular manner. A city was an assembly of a thousand
seigneuries, which divided it into compartments of all shapes
and sizes. Hence, a thousand conflicting establishments of
police; that is to say, no police at all. In Paris, for example,
independently of the hundred and forty-one lords who laid
claim to a manor, there were five and twenty who laid claim
to a manor and to administering justice, from the Bishop of
Paris, who had five hundred streets, to the Prior of Notre-
Dame des Champs, who had four. All these feudal justices
recognized the suzerain authority of the king only in name.
All possessed the right of control over the roads. All were
at home. Louis XI., that indefatigable worker, who so largely
began the demolition of the feudal edifice, continued by
Richelieu and Louis XIV. for the profit of royalty, and finished
by Mirabeau for the benefit of the people,--Louis XI. had
certainly made an effort to break this network of seignories
which covered Paris, by throwing violently across them all
two or three troops of general police. Thus, in 1465, an
order to the inhabitants to light candles in their windows at
nightfall, and to shut up their dogs under penalty of death;
in the same year, an order to close the streets in the evening
with iron chains, and a prohibition to wear daggers or weapons
of offence in the streets at night. But in a very short time,
all these efforts at communal legislation fell into abeyance.
The bourgeois permitted the wind to blow out their candles in
the windows, and their dogs to stray; the iron chains were
stretched only in a state of siege; the prohibition to wear
daggers wrought no other changes than from the name of the
Rue Coupe-Gueule to the name of the Rue-Coupe-Gorge*
which is an evident progress. The old scaffolding of feudal
jurisdictions remained standing; an immense aggregation of
bailiwicks and seignories crossing each other all over the city,
interfering with each other, entangled in one another, enmeshing
each other, trespassing on each other; a useless thicket
of watches, sub-watches and counter-watches, over which, with
armed force, passed brigandage, rapine, and sedition. Hence,
in this disorder, deeds of violence on the part of the populace
directed against a palace, a hotel, or house in the most thickly
populated quarters, were not unheard-of occurrences. In the
majority of such cases, the neighbors did not meddle with
the matter unless the pillaging extended to themselves.
They stopped up their ears to the musket shots, closed their
shutters, barricaded their doors, allowed the matter to be
concluded with or without the watch, and the next day it was
said in Paris, "Etienne Barbette was broken open last night.
The Marshal de Clermont was seized last night, etc." Hence,
not only the royal habitations, the Louvre, the Palace, the
Bastille, the Tournelles, but simply seignorial residences,
the Petit-Bourbon, the Hôtel de Sens, the Hôtel d' Angoulême,
etc., had battlements on their walls, and machicolations over
their doors. Churches were guarded by their sanctity. Some,
among the number Notre-Dame, were fortified. The Abbey
of Saint-German-des-Pres was castellated like a baronial
mansion, and more brass expended about it in bombards than in
bells. Its fortress was still to be seen in 1610. To-day,
barely its church remains.
* Cut-throat. Coupe-gueule being the vulgar word for cut-weazand.
Let us return to Notre-Dame.
When the first arrangements were completed, and we must
say, to the honor of vagabond discipline, that Clopin's
orders were executed in silence, and with admirable precision,
the worthy chief of the band, mounted on the parapet of the
church square, and raised his hoarse and surly voice, turning
towards Notre-Dame, and brandishing his torch whose light,
tossed by the wind, and veiled every moment by its own
smoke, made the reddish façade of the church appear and
disappear before the eye.
"To you, Louis de Beaumont, bishop of Paris, counsellor in
the Court of Parliament, I, Clopin Trouillefou, king of Thunes,
grand Coësre, prince of Argot, bishop of fools, I say: Our
sister, falsely condemned for magic, hath taken refuge in
your church, you owe her asylum and safety. Now the Court
of Parliament wishes to seize her once more there, and you
consent to it; so that she would be hanged to-morrow in the
Grève, if God and the outcasts were not here. If your church
is sacred, so is our sister; if our sister is not sacred, neither
is your church. That is why we call upon you to return the
girl if you wish to save your church, or we will take possession
of the girl again and pillage the church, which will be a good
thing. In token of which I here plant my banner, and may
God preserve you, bishop of Paris,"
Quasimodo could not, unfortunately, hear these words
uttered with a sort of sombre and savage majesty. A vagabond
presented his banner to Clopin, who planted it solemnly
between two paving-stones. It was a pitchfork from whose
points hung a bleeding quarter of carrion meat.
That done, the King of Thunes turned round and cast
his eyes over his army, a fierce multitude whose glances
flashed almost equally with their pikes. After a momentary
pause,--"Forward, my Sons!" he cried; "to work, locksmiths!"
Thirty bold men, square shouldered, and with pick-lock faces,
stepped from the ranks, with hammers, pincers, and bars of
iron on their shoulders. They betook themselves to the
principal door of the church, ascended the steps, and were
soon to be seen squatting under the arch, working at the door
with pincers and levers; a throng of vagabonds followed them
to help or look on. The eleven steps before the portal were
covered with them.
But the door stood firm. "The devil! 'tis hard and
obstinate!" said one. "It is old, and its gristles have become
bony," said another. "Courage, comrades!" resumed Clopin.
"I wager my head against a dipper that you will have
opened the door, rescued the girl, and despoiled the chief
altar before a single beadle is awake. Stay! I think I
hear the lock breaking up."
Clopin was interrupted by a frightful uproar which re-
sounded behind him at that moment. He wheeled round.
An enormous beam had just fallen from above; it had crushed
a dozen vagabonds on the pavement with the sound of a
cannon, breaking in addition, legs here and there in the
crowd of beggars, who sprang aside with cries of terror. In
a twinkling, the narrow precincts of the church parvis were
cleared. The locksmiths, although protected by the deep
vaults of the portal, abandoned the door and Clopin himself
retired to a respectful distance from the church.
"I had a narrow escape!" cried Jehan. "I felt the wind,
of it, ~tête-de-boeuf~! but Pierre the Slaughterer is slaughtered!"
It is impossible to describe the astonishment mingled with
fright which fell upon the ruffians in company with this beam.
They remained for several minutes with their eyes in the
air, more dismayed by that piece of wood than by the king's
twenty thousand archers.
"Satan!" muttered the Duke of Egypt, "this smacks of magic!"
"'Tis the moon which threw this log at us," said Andry the Red.
"Call the moon the friend of the Virgin, after that!" went on
"A thousand popes!" exclaimed Clopin, "you are all fools!" But
he did not know how to explain the fall of the beam.
Meanwhile, nothing could be distinguished on the façade, to
whose summit the light of the torches did not reach. The
heavy beam lay in the middle of the enclosure, and groans
were heard from the poor wretches who had received its first
shock, and who had been almost cut in twain, on the angle of
the stone steps.
The King of Thunes, his first amazement passed, finally
found an explanation which appeared plausible to his companions.
"Throat of God! are the canons defending themselves? To the sack,
then! to the sack!"
"To the sack!" repeated the rabble, with a furious hurrah.
A discharge of crossbows and hackbuts against the front of the
At this detonation, the peaceable inhabitants of the
surrounding houses woke up; many windows were seen to open,
and nightcaps and hands holding candles appeared at the casements.
"Fire at the windows," shouted Clopin. The windows
were immediately closed, and the poor bourgeois, who had
hardly had time to cast a frightened glance on this scene of
gleams and tumult, returned, perspiring with fear to their
wives, asking themselves whether the witches' sabbath was
now being held in the parvis of Notre-Dame, or whether there
was an assault of Burgundians, as in '64. Then the husbands
thought of theft; the wives, of rape; and all trembled.
"To the sack!" repeated the thieves' crew; but they dared
not approach. They stared at the beam, they stared at the
church. The beam did not stir, the edifice preserved its calm
and deserted air; but something chilled the outcasts.
"To work, locksmiths!" shouted Trouillefou. "Let the door
No one took a step.
"Beard and belly!" said Clopin, "here be men afraid of a beam."
An old locksmith addressed him--
"Captain, 'tis not the beam which bothers us, 'tis the door,
which is all covered with iron bars. Our pincers are powerless
"What more do you want to break it in?" demanded Clopin.
"Ah! we ought to have a battering ram."
The King of Thunes ran boldly to the formidable beam, and
placed his foot upon it: "Here is one!" he exclaimed; "'tis
the canons who send it to you." And, making a mocking
salute in the direction of the church, "Thanks, canons!"
This piece of bravado produced its effects,--the spell of
the beam was broken. The vagabonds recovered their courage;
soon the heavy joist, raised like a feather by two hundred
vigorous arms, was flung with fury against the great door
which they had tried to batter down. At the sight of that
long beam, in the half-light which the infrequent torches
of the brigands spread over the Place, thus borne by that
crowd of men who dashed it at a run against the church, one
would have thought that he beheld a monstrous beast with a
thousand feet attacking with lowered head the giant of stone.
At the shock of the beam, the half metallic door sounded
like an immense drum; it was not burst in, but the whole
cathedral trembled, and the deepest cavities of the edifice
were heard to echo.
At the same moment, a shower of large stones began to fall
from the top of the façade on the assailants.
"The devil!" cried Jehan, "are the towers shaking their
balustrades down on our heads?"
But the impulse had been given, the King of Thunes had
set the example. Evidently, the bishop was defending himself,
and they only battered the door with the more rage, in
spite of the stones which cracked skulls right and left.
It was remarkable that all these stones fell one by one; but
they followed each other closely. The thieves always felt two
at a time, one on their legs and one on their heads. There
were few which did not deal their blow, and a large layer of
dead and wounded lay bleeding and panting beneath the feet
of the assailants who, now grown furious, replaced each other
without intermission. The long beam continued to belabor
the door, at regular intervals, like the clapper of a bell, the
stones to rain down, the door to groan.
The reader has no doubt divined that this unexpected resistance
which had exasperated the outcasts came from Quasimodo.
Chance had, unfortunately, favored the brave deaf man.
When he had descended to the platform between the towers,
his ideas were all in confusion. He had run up and down
along the gallery for several minutes like a madman,
surveying from above, the compact mass of vagabonds ready to
hurl itself on the church, demanding the safety of the gypsy
from the devil or from God. The thought had occurred to
him of ascending to the southern belfry and sounding the
alarm, but before he could have set the bell in motion, before
Marie's voice could have uttered a single clamor, was there
not time to burst in the door of the church ten times over?
It was precisely the moment when the locksmiths were advancing
upon it with their tools. What was to be done?
All at once, he remembered that some masons had been at
work all day repairing the wall, the timber-work, and the roof
of the south tower. This was a flash of light. The wall was
of stone, the roof of lead, the timber-work of wood. (That
prodigious timber-work, so dense that it was called "the forest.")
Quasimodo hastened to that tower. The lower chambers
were, in fact, full of materials. There were piles of rough
blocks of stone, sheets of lead in rolls, bundles of laths, heavy
beams already notched with the saw, heaps of plaster.
Time was pressing, The pikes and hammers were at work
below. With a strength which the sense of danger increased
tenfold, he seized one of the beams--the longest and heaviest;
he pushed it out through a loophole, then, grasping it
again outside of the tower, he made it slide along the angle
of the balustrade which surrounds the platform, and let it
fly into the abyss. The enormous timber, during that fall
of a hundred and sixty feet, scraping the wall, breaking the
carvings, turned many times on its centre, like the arm of a
windmill flying off alone through space. At last it reached
the ground, the horrible cry arose, and the black beam, as it
rebounded from the pavement, resembled a serpent leaping.
Quasimodo beheld the outcasts scatter at the fall of the
beam, like ashes at the breath of a child. He took advantage
of their fright, and while they were fixing a superstitious
glance on the club which had fallen from heaven, and while
they were putting out the eyes of the stone saints on the
front with a discharge of arrows and buckshot, Quasimodo
was silently piling up plaster, stones, and rough blocks
of stone, even the sacks of tools belonging to the masons,
on the edge of the balustrade from which the beam had
already been hurled.
Thus, as soon as they began to batter the grand door, the
shower of rough blocks of stone began to fall, and it seemed
to them that the church itself was being demolished over
Any one who could have beheld Quasimodo at that moment
would have been frightened. Independently of the projectiles
which he had piled upon the balustrade, he had collected a
heap of stones on the platform itself. As fast as the blocks
on the exterior edge were exhausted, he drew on the heap.
Then he stooped and rose, stooped and rose again with incredible
activity. His huge gnome's head bent over the balustrade,
then an enormous stone fell, then another, then another.
From time to time, he followed a fine stone with his eye, and
when it did good execution, he said, "Hum!"
Meanwhile, the beggars did not grow discouraged. The
thick door on which they were venting their fury had already
trembled more than twenty times beneath the weight of their
oaken battering-ram, multiplied by the strength of a hundred
men. The panels cracked, the carved work flew into splinters,
the hinges, at every blow, leaped from their pins, the
planks yawned, the wood crumbled to powder, ground between
the iron sheathing. Fortunately for Quasimodo, there was
more iron than wood.
Nevertheless, he felt that the great door was yielding.
Although he did not hear it, every blow of the ram reverberated
simultaneously in the vaults of the church and within it.
From above he beheld the vagabonds, filled with triumph and
rage, shaking their fists at the gloomy façade; and both on
the gypsy's account and his own he envied the wings of the
owls which flitted away above his head in flocks.
His shower of stone blocks was not sufficient to repel
At this moment of anguish, he noticed, a little lower down
than the balustrade whence he was crushing the thieves, two
long stone gutters which discharged immediately over the
great door; the internal orifice of these gutters terminated
on the pavement of the platform. An idea occurred to him; he
ran in search of a fagot in his bellringer's den, placed on this
fagot a great many bundles of laths, and many rolls of lead,
munitions which he had not employed so far, and having
arranged this pile in front of the hole to the two gutters, he
set it on fire with his lantern.
During this time, since the stones no longer fell, the outcasts
ceased to gaze into the air. The bandits, panting like a
pack of hounds who are forcing a boar into his lair, pressed
tumultuously round the great door, all disfigured by the
battering ram, but still standing. They were waiting with a
quiver for the great blow which should split it open. They
vied with each other in pressing as close as possible, in order
to dash among the first, when it should open, into that opulent
cathedral, a vast reservoir where the wealth of three centuries
had been piled up. They reminded each other with roars of
exultation and greedy lust, of the beautiful silver crosses, the
fine copes of brocade, the beautiful tombs of silver gilt, the
great magnificences of the choir, the dazzling festivals, the
Christmasses sparkling with torches, the Easters sparkling
with sunshine,--all those splendid solemneties wherein
chandeliers, ciboriums, tabernacles, and reliquaries, studded
the altars with a crust of gold and diamonds. Certainly, at that
fine moment, thieves and pseudo sufferers, doctors in stealing,
and vagabonds, were thinking much less of delivering the
gypsy than of pillaging Notre-Dame. We could even easily
believe that for a goodly number among them la Esmeralda
was only a pretext, if thieves needed pretexts.
All at once, at the moment when they were grouping themselves
round the ram for a last effort, each one holding his
breath and stiffening his muscles in order to communicate all
his force to the decisive blow, a howl more frightful still than
that which had burst forth and expired beneath the beam, rose
among them. Those who did not cry out, those who were
still alive, looked. Two streams of melted lead were falling
from the summit of the edifice into the thickest of the rabble.
That sea of men had just sunk down beneath the boiling metal,
which had made, at the two points where it fell, two black and
smoking holes in the crowd, such as hot water would make in
snow. Dying men, half consumed and groaning with anguish,
could be seen writhing there. Around these two principal
streams there were drops of that horrible rain, which scattered
over the assailants and entered their skulls like gimlets of
fire. It was a heavy fire which overwhelmed these wretches
with a thousand hailstones.
The outcry was heartrending. They fled pell-mell, hurling
the beam upon the bodies, the boldest as well as the most
timid, and the parvis was cleared a second time.
All eyes were raised to the top of the church. They
beheld there an extraordinary sight. On the crest of the
highest gallery, higher than the central rose window, there
was a great flame rising between the two towers with whirlwinds
of sparks, a vast, disordered, and furious flame, a tongue
of which was borne into the smoke by the wind, from time
to time. Below that fire, below the gloomy balustrade with
its trefoils showing darkly against its glare, two spouts with
monster throats were vomiting forth unceasingly that burning
rain, whose silvery stream stood out against the shadows of
the lower façade. As they approached the earth, these two
jets of liquid lead spread out in sheaves, like water springing
from the thousand holes of a watering-pot. Above the flame,
the enormous towers, two sides of each of which were visible
in sharp outline, the one wholly black, the other wholly red,
seemed still more vast with all the immensity of the shadow
which they cast even to the sky.
Their innumerable sculptures of demons and dragons assumed
a lugubrious aspect. The restless light of the flame
made them move to the eye. There were griffins which had
the air of laughing, gargoyles which one fancied one heard
yelping, salamanders which puffed at the fire, tarasques*
which sneezed in the smoke. And among the monsters thus
roused from their sleep of stone by this flame, by this
noise, there was one who walked about, and who was seen,
from time to time, to pass across the glowing face of the
pile, like a bat in front of a candle.
* The representation of a monstrous animal solemnly drawn about
in Tarascon and other French towns.
Without doubt, this strange beacon light would awaken far
away, the woodcutter of the hills of Bicêtre, terrified to
behold the gigantic shadow of the towers of Notre-Dame
quivering over his heaths.
A terrified silence ensued among the outcasts, during which
nothing was heard, but the cries of alarm of the canons shut
up in their cloister, and more uneasy than horses in a burning
stable, the furtive sound of windows hastily opened and still
more hastily closed, the internal hurly-burly of the houses and
of the Hôtel-Dieu, the wind in the flame, the last death-rattle
of the dying, and the continued crackling of the rain of lead
upon the pavement.
In the meanwhile, the principal vagabonds had retired beneath
the porch of the Gondelaurier mansion, and were holding
a council of war.
The Duke of Egypt, seated on a stone post, contemplated
the phantasmagorical bonfire, glowing at a height of two
hundred feet in the air, with religious terror. Clopin
Trouillefou bit his huge fists with rage.
"Impossible to get in!" he muttered between his teeth.
"An old, enchanted church!" grumbled the aged Bohemian,
Mathias Hungadi Spicali.
"By the Pope's whiskers!" went on a sham soldier, who had
once been in service, "here are church gutters spitting melted
lead at you better than the machicolations of Lectoure."
"Do you see that demon passing and repassing in front of
the fire?" exclaimed the Duke of Egypt.
"Pardieu, 'tis that damned bellringer, 'tis Quasimodo,"
The Bohemian tossed his head. "I tell you, that 'tis the
spirit Sabnac, the grand marquis, the demon of fortifications.
He has the form of an armed soldier, the head of a lion.
Sometimes he rides a hideous horse. He changes men into
stones, of which he builds towers. He commands fifty legions
'Tis he indeed; I recognize him. Sometimes he is clad in a
handsome golden robe, figured after the Turkish fashion."
"Where is Bellevigne de l'Etoile?" demanded Clopin.
"He is dead."
Andry the Red laughed in an idiotic way: "Notre-Dame
is making work for the hospital," said he.
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