Notre-Dame de Paris The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Part 2 out of 13
think that they had been on the point of hanging the bailiff's
sergeant! What would he not have given to be still at that
hour of honey!
But the usher's brutal monologue came to an end; every
one had arrived, and Gringoire breathed freely once more;
the actors continued bravely. But Master Coppenole, the
hosier, must needs rise of a sudden, and Gringoire was forced
to listen to him deliver, amid universal attention, the
following abominable harangue.
"Messieurs the bourgeois and squires of Paris, I don't
know, cross of God! what we are doing here. I certainly do
see yonder in the corner on that stage, some people who appear
to be fighting. I don't know whether that is what you
call a "mystery," but it is not amusing; they quarrel with their
tongues and nothing more. I have been waiting for the first
blow this quarter of an hour; nothing comes; they are cowards
who only scratch each other with insults. You ought to
send for the fighters of London or Rotterdam; and, I can tell
you! you would have had blows of the fist that could be
heard in the Place; but these men excite our pity. They
ought at least, to give us a moorish dance, or some other
mummer! That is not what was told me; I was promised a feast
of fools, with the election of a pope. We have our pope of
fools at Ghent also; we're not behindhand in that, cross of
God! But this is the way we manage it; we collect a crowd
like this one here, then each person in turn passes his head
through a hole, and makes a grimace at the rest; time one who
makes the ugliest, is elected pope by general acclamation;
that's the way it is. It is very diverting. Would you like to
make your pope after the fashion of my country? At all
events, it will be less wearisome than to listen to chatterers.
If they wish to come and make their grimaces through the
hole, they can join the game. What say you, Messieurs les
bourgeois? You have here enough grotesque specimens of
both sexes, to allow of laughing in Flemish fashion, and there
are enough of us ugly in countenance to hope for a fine grinning
Gringoire would have liked to retort; stupefaction, rage,
indignation, deprived him of words. Moreover, the suggestion
of the popular hosier was received with such enthusiasm
by these bourgeois who were flattered at being called
"squires," that all resistance was useless. There was nothing
to be done but to allow one's self to drift with the torrent.
Gringoire hid his face between his two hands, not being so
fortunate as to have a mantle with which to veil his head,
like Agamemnon of Timantis.
In the twinkling of an eye, all was ready to execute Coppenole's
idea. Bourgeois, scholars and law clerks all set to
work. The little chapel situated opposite the marble table
was selected for the scene of the grinning match. A pane
broken in the pretty rose window above the door, left free a
circle of stone through which it was agreed that the competitors
should thrust their heads. In order to reach it, it was
only necessary to mount upon a couple of hogsheads, which
had been produced from I know not where, and perched one
upon the other, after a fashion. It was settled that each
candidate, man or woman (for it was possible to choose a female
pope), should, for the sake of leaving the impression of his
grimace fresh and complete, cover his face and remain concealed
in the chapel until the moment of his appearance. In less than
an instant, the chapel was crowded with competitors, upon whom
the door was then closed.
Coppenole, from his post, ordered all, directed all, arranged
all. During the uproar, the cardinal, no less abashed than
Gringoire, had retired with all his suite, under the pretext of
business and vespers, without the crowd which his arrival had
so deeply stirred being in the least moved by his departure.
Guillaume Rym was the only one who noticed his eminence's
discomfiture. The attention of the populace, like the sun,
pursued its revolution; having set out from one end of the
hall, and halted for a space in the middle, it had now reached
the other end. The marble table, the brocaded gallery had each
had their day; it was now the turn of the chapel of Louis XI.
Henceforth, the field was open to all folly. There was no one
there now, but the Flemings and the rabble.
The grimaces began. The first face which appeared at the
aperture, with eyelids turned up to the reds, a mouth open
like a maw, and a brow wrinkled like our hussar boots of the
Empire, evoked such an inextinguishable peal of laughter
that Homer would have taken all these louts for gods.
Nevertheless, the grand hall was anything but Olympus, and
Gringoire's poor Jupiter knew it better than any one else. A
second and third grimace followed, then another and another;
and the laughter and transports of delight went on increasing.
There was in this spectacle, a peculiar power of intoxication
and fascination, of which it would be difficult to convey to the
reader of our day and our salons any idea.
Let the reader picture to himself a series of visages presenting
successively all geometrical forms, from the triangle
to the trapezium, from the cone to the polyhedron; all human
expressions, from wrath to lewdness; all ages, from the
wrinkles of the new-born babe to the wrinkles of the aged
and dying; all religious phantasmagories, from Faun to Beelzebub;
all animal profiles, from the maw to the beak, from
the jowl to the muzzle. Let the reader imagine all these
grotesque figures of the Pont Neuf, those nightmares petrified
beneath the hand of Germain Pilon, assuming life and breath,
and coming in turn to stare you in the face with burning
eyes; all the masks of the Carnival of Venice passing in succession
before your glass,--in a word, a human kaleidoscope.
The orgy grew more and more Flemish. Teniers could have
given but a very imperfect idea of it. Let the reader picture
to himself in bacchanal form, Salvator Rosa's battle. There
were no longer either scholars or ambassadors or bourgeois or
men or women; there was no longer any Clopin Trouillefou,
nor Gilles Lecornu, nor Marie Quatrelivres, nor Robin Poussepain.
All was universal license. The grand hall was no
longer anything but a vast furnace of effrontry and joviality,
where every mouth was a cry, every individual a posture;
everything shouted and howled. The strange visages which
came, in turn, to gnash their teeth in the rose window, were
like so many brands cast into the brazier; and from the whole
of this effervescing crowd, there escaped, as from a furnace,
a sharp, piercing, stinging noise, hissing like the wings of a
"Ho hé! curse it!"
"Just look at that face!"
"It's not good for anything."
"Guillemette Maugerepuis, just look at that bull's muzzle;
it only lacks the horns. It can't be your husband."
"Belly of the pope! what sort of a grimace is that?"
"Hola hé! that's cheating. One must show only one's face."
"That damned Perrette Callebotte! she's capable of that!"
"There's a fellow whose ears won't go through!" Etc., etc.
But we must do justice to our friend Jehan. In the midst
of this witches' sabbath, he was still to be seen on the top of
his pillar, like the cabin-boy on the topmast. He floundered
about with incredible fury. His mouth was wide open, and
from it there escaped a cry which no one heard, not that it
was covered by the general clamor, great as that was but
because it attained, no doubt, the limit of perceptible sharp
sounds, the thousand vibrations of Sauveur, or the eight
thousand of Biot.
As for Gringoire, the first moment of depression having
passed, he had regained his composure. He had hardened
himself against adversity.---"Continue!" he had said for the
third time, to his comedians, speaking machines; then as he
was marching with great strides in front of the marble table,
a fancy seized him to go and appear in his turn at the aperture
of the chapel, were it only for the pleasure of making a
grimace at that ungrateful populace.--"But no, that would
not be worthy of us; no, vengeance! let us combat until the
end," he repeated to himself; "the power of poetry over
people is great; I will bring them back. We shall see which
will carry the day, grimaces or polite literature."
Alas! he had been left the sole spectator of his piece.
It was far worse than it had been a little while before. He
no longer beheld anything but backs.
I am mistaken. The big, patient man, whom he had already
consulted in a critical moment, had remained with his face
turned towards the stage. As for Gisquette and Liénarde,
they had deserted him long ago.
Gringoire was touched to the heart by the fidelity of his
only spectator. He approached him and addressed him, shaking
his arm slightly; for the good man was leaning on the
balustrade and dozing a little.
"Monsieur," said Gringoire, "I thank you!"
"Monsieur," replied the big man with a yawn, "for what?"
"I see what wearies you," resumed the poet; "'tis all this
noise which prevents your hearing comfortably. But be at
ease! your name shall descend to posterity! Your name,
if you please?"
"Renauld Chateau, guardian of the seals of the Châtelet of
Paris, at your service."
"Monsieur, you are the only representive of the muses
here," said Gringoire.
"You are too kind, sir," said the guardian of the seals at
"You are the only one," resumed Gringoire, "who has listened
to the piece decorously. What do you think of it?"
"He! he!" replied the fat magistrate, half aroused, "it's
tolerably jolly, that's a fact."
Gringoire was forced to content himself with this eulogy;
for a thunder of applause, mingled with a prodigious acclamation,
cut their conversation short. The Pope of the Fools had
"Noel! Noel! Noel!"* shouted the people on all sides.
That was, in fact, a marvellous grimace which was beaming
at that moment through the aperture in the rose window.
After all the pentagonal, hexagonal, and whimsical faces, which
had succeeded each other at that hole without realizing the
ideal of the grotesque which their imaginations, excited by
the orgy, had constructed, nothing less was needed to win their
suffrages than the sublime grimace which had just dazzled the
assembly. Master Coppenole himself applauded, and Clopin
Trouillefou, who had been among the competitors (and God
knows what intensity of ugliness his visage could attain),
confessed himself conquered: We will do the same. We
shall not try to give the reader an idea of that tetrahedral
nose, that horseshoe mouth; that little left eye obstructed
with a red, bushy, bristling eyebrow, while the right eye disappeared
entirely beneath an enormous wart; of those teeth
in disarray, broken here and there, like the embattled parapet
of a fortress; of that callous lip, upon which one of these
teeth encroached, like the tusk of an elephant; of that forked
chin; and above all, of the expression spread over the whole;
of that mixture of malice, amazement, and sadness. Let the
reader dream of this whole, if he can.
* The ancient French hurrah.
The acclamation was unanimous; people rushed towards
the chapel. They made the lucky Pope of the Fools come
forth in triumph. But it was then that surprise and admiration
attained their highest pitch; the grimace was his face.
Or rather, his whole person was a grimace. A huge head,
bristling with red hair; between his shoulders an enormous
hump, a counterpart perceptible in front; a system of thighs
and legs so strangely astray that they could touch each other
only at the knees, and, viewed from the front, resembled the
crescents of two scythes joined by the handles; large feet, monstrous
hands; and, with all this deformity, an indescribable
and redoubtable air of vigor, agility, and courage,--strange
exception to the eternal rule which wills that force as well as
beauty shall be the result of harmony. Such was the pope
whom the fools had just chosen for themselves.
One would have pronounced him a giant who had been
broken and badly put together again.
When this species of cyclops appeared on the threshold of
the chapel, motionless, squat, and almost as broad as he was
tall; squared on the base, as a great man says; with his doublet
half red, half violet, sown with silver bells, and, above all,
in the perfection of his ugliness, the populace recognized him
on the instant, and shouted with one voice,--
"'Tis Quasimodo, the bellringer! 'tis Quasimodo, the hunchback
of Notre-Dame! Quasimodo, the one-eyed! Quasimodo, the
bandy-legged! Noel! Noel!"
It will be seen that the poor fellow had a choice of surnames.
"Let the women with child beware!" shouted the scholars.
"Or those who wish to be," resumed Joannes.
The women did, in fact, hide their faces.
"Oh! the horrible monkey!" said one of them.
"As wicked as he is ugly," retorted another.
"He's the devil," added a third.
"I have the misfortune to live near Notre-Dame; I hear
him prowling round the eaves by night."
"With the cats."
"He's always on our roofs."
"He throws spells down our chimneys."
"The other evening, he came and made a grimace at me
through my attic window. I thought that it was a man.
Such a fright as I had!"
"I'm sure that he goes to the witches' sabbath. Once he
left a broom on my leads."
"Oh! what a displeasing hunchback's face!"
"Oh! what an ill-favored soul!"
The men, on the contrary, were delighted and applauded.
Quasimodo, the object of the tumult, still stood on the
threshold of the chapel, sombre and grave, and allowed them
to admire him.
One scholar (Robin Poussepain, I think), came and laughed
in his face, and too close. Quasimodo contented himself with
taking him by the girdle, and hurling him ten paces off amid
the crowd; all without uttering a word.
Master Coppenole, in amazement, approached him.
"Cross of God! Holy Father! you possess the handsomest
ugliness that I have ever beheld in my life. You would
deserve to be pope at Rome, as well as at Paris."
So saying, he placed his hand gayly on his shoulder. Quasimodo
did not stir. Coppenole went on,--
"You are a rogue with whom I have a fancy for carousing,
were it to cost me a new dozen of twelve livres of Tours.
How does it strike you?"
Quasimodo made no reply.
"Cross of God!" said the hosier, "are you deaf?"
He was, in truth, deaf.
Nevertheless, he began to grow impatient with Coppenole's
behavior, and suddenly turned towards him with so formidable
a gnashing of teeth, that the Flemish giant recoiled, like
a bull-dog before a cat.
Then there was created around that strange personage, a
circle of terror and respect, whose radius was at least fifteen
geometrical feet. An old woman explained to Coppenole that
Quasimodo was deaf.
"Deaf!" said the hosier, with his great Flemish laugh.
"Cross of God! He's a perfect pope!"
"He! I recognize him," exclaimed Jehan, who had, at
last, descended from his capital, in order to see Quasimodo at
closer quarters, "he's the bellringer of my brother, the archdeacon.
"What a devil of a man!" said Robin Poussepain still all
bruised with his fall. "He shows himself; he's a hunchback.
He walks; he's bandy-legged. He looks at you; he's one-eyed.
You speak to him; he's deaf. And what does this Polyphemus do
with his tongue?"
"He speaks when he chooses," said the old woman; "he became
deaf through ringing the bells. He is not dumb."
"That he lacks," remarks Jehan.
"And he has one eye too many," added Robin Poussepain.
"Not at all," said Jehan wisely. "A one-eyed man is far
less complete than a blind man. He knows what he lacks."
In the meantime, all the beggars, all the lackeys, all the cutpurses,
joined with the scholars, had gone in procession to
seek, in the cupboard of the law clerks' company, the cardboard
tiara, and the derisive robe of the Pope of the Fools. Quasimodo
allowed them to array him in them without wincing, and
with a sort of proud docility. Then they made him seat
himself on a motley litter. Twelve officers of the fraternity
of fools raised him on their shoulders; and a sort of bitter
and disdainful joy lighted up the morose face of the cyclops,
when he beheld beneath his deformed feet all those heads of
handsome, straight, well-made men. Then the ragged and
howling procession set out on its march, according to custom,
around the inner galleries of the Courts, before making the
circuit of the streets and squares.
We are delighted to be able to inform the reader, that during
the whole of this scene, Gringoire and his piece had stood
firm. His actors, spurred on by him, had not ceased to spout
his comedy, and he had not ceased to listen to it. He had
made up his mind about the tumult, and was determined to
proceed to the end, not giving up the hope of a return of
attention on the part of the public. This gleam of hope acquired
fresh life, when he saw Quasimodo, Coppenole, and the
deafening escort of the pope of the procession of fools quit
the hall amid great uproar. The throng rushed eagerly after
them. "Good," he said to himself, "there go all the mischief-
makers." Unfortunately, all the mischief-makers constituted
the entire audience. In the twinkling of an eye, the grand
hall was empty.
To tell the truth, a few spectators still remained, some scattered,
others in groups around the pillars, women, old men, or
children, who had had enough of the uproar and tumult. Some
scholars were still perched astride of the window-sills, engaged
in gazing into the Place.
"Well," thought Gringoire, "here are still as many as are
required to hear the end of my mystery. They are few in
number, but it is a choice audience, a lettered audience."
An instant later, a symphony which had been intended to
produce the greatest effect on the arrival of the Virgin, was
lacking. Gringoire perceived that his music had been carried
off by the procession of the Pope of the Fools. "Skip it," said
He approached a group of bourgeois, who seemed to him to
be discussing his piece. This is the fragment of conversation
which he caught,--
"You know, Master Cheneteau, the Hôtel de Navarre, which
belonged to Monsieur de Nemours?"
"Yes, opposite the Chapelle de Braque."
"Well, the treasury has just let it to Guillaume Alixandre,
historian, for six hivres, eight sols, parisian, a year."
"How rents are going up!"
"Come," said Gringoire to himself, with a sigh, "the others
"Comrades," suddenly shouted one of the young scamps
from the window, "La Esmeralda! La Esmeralda in the
This word produced a magical effect. Every one who was
left in the hall flew to the windows, climbing the walls in
order to see, and repeating, "La Esmeralda! La Esmeralda?"
At the same time, a great sound of applause was heard from
"What's the meaning of this, of the Esmeralda?" said
Gringoire, wringing his hands in despair. "Ah, good heavens!
it seems to be the turn of the windows now."
He returned towards the marble table, and saw that the
representation had been interrupted. It was precisely at
the instant when Jupiter should have appeared with his
thunder. But Jupiter was standing motionless at the foot of
"Michel Giborne!" cried the irritated poet, "what are you
doing there? Is that your part? Come up!"
"Alas!" said Jupiter, "a scholar has just seized the ladder."
Gringoire looked. It was but too true. All communication
between his plot and its solution was intercepted.
"The rascal," he murmured. "And why did he take that ladder?"
"In order to go and see the Esmeralda," replied Jupiter
piteously. "He said, 'Come, here's a ladder that's of no
use!' and he took it."
This was the last blow. Gringoire received it with resignation.
"May the devil fly away with you!" he said to the comedian,
"and if I get my pay, you shall receive yours."
Then he beat a retreat, with drooping head, but the last
in the field, like a general who has fought well.
And as he descended the winding stairs of the courts: "A
fine rabble of asses and dolts these Parisians!" he muttered
between his teeth; "they come to hear a mystery and don't
listen to it at all! They are engrossed by every one, by
Chopin Trouillefou, by the cardinal, by Coppenole, by Quasimodo,
by the devil! but by Madame the Virgin Mary, not at
all. If I had known, I'd have given you Virgin Mary; you
ninnies! And I! to come to see faces and behold only backs!
to be a poet, and to reap the success of an apothecary! It is
true that Homerus begged through the Greek towns, and that
Naso died in exile among the Muscovites. But may the devil
flay me if I understand what they mean with their Esmeralda!
What is that word, in the first place?--'tis Egyptian!"
FROM CHARYBDIS TO SCYLLA.
Night comes on early in January. The streets were already
dark when Gringoire issued forth from the Courts. This
gloom pleased him; he was in haste to reach some obscure
and deserted alley, in order there to meditate at his ease, and
in order that the philosopher might place the first dressing
upon the wound of the poet. Philosophy, moreover, was his
sole refuge, for he did not know where he was to lodge for the
night. After the brilliant failure of his first theatrical
venture, he dared not return to the lodging which he occupied in
the Rue Grenier-sur-l'Eau, opposite to the Port-au-Foin, having
depended upon receiving from monsieur the provost for
his epithalamium, the wherewithal to pay Master Guillaume
Doulx-Sire, farmer of the taxes on cloven-footed animals in
Paris, the rent which he owed him, that is to say, twelve sols
parisian; twelve times the value of all that he possessed in
the world, including his trunk-hose, his shirt, and his cap.
After reflecting a moment, temporarily sheltered beneath the
little wicket of the prison of the treasurer of the Sainte-
Chappelle, as to the shelter which he would select for the
night, having all the pavements of Paris to choose from, he
remembered to have noticed the week previously in the Rue
de la Savaterie, at the door of a councillor of the parliament,
a stepping stone for mounting a mule, and to have said to
himself that that stone would furnish, on occasion, a very
excellent pillow for a mendicant or a poet. He thanked
Providence for having sent this happy idea to him; but, as he
was preparing to cross the Place, in order to reach the tortuous
labyrinth of the city, where meander all those old sister
streets, the Rues de la Barillerie, de la Vielle-Draperie, de la
Savaterie, de la Juiverie, etc., still extant to-day, with their
nine-story houses, he saw the procession of the Pope of the
Fools, which was also emerging from the court house, and
rushing across the courtyard, with great cries, a great flashing
of torches, and the music which belonged to him, Gringoire.
This sight revived the pain of his self-love; he fled. In the
bitterness of his dramatic misadventure, everything which
reminded him of the festival of that day irritated his wound
and made it bleed.
He was on the point of turning to the Pont Saint-Michel;
children were running about here and there with fire lances
"Pest on firework candles!" said Gringoire; and he fell
back on the Pont au Change. To the house at the head of the
bridge there had been affixed three small banners, representing
the king, the dauphin, and Marguerite of Flanders, and
six little pennons on which were portrayed the Duke of Austria,
the Cardinal de Bourbon, M. de Beaujeu, and Madame
Jeanne de France, and Monsieur the Bastard of Bourbon, and
I know not whom else; all being illuminated with torches.
The rabble were admiring.
"Happy painter, Jehan Fourbault!" said Gringoire with a
deep sigh; and he turned his back upon the bannerets and
pennons. A street opened before him; he thought it so dark
and deserted that he hoped to there escape from all the rumors
as well as from all the gleams of the festival. At the end of
a few moments his foot came in contact with an obstacle; he
stumbled and fell. It was the May truss, which the clerks of
the clerks' law court had deposited that morning at the door
of a president of the parliament, in honor of the solemnity of
the day. Gringoire bore this new disaster heroically; he
picked himself up, and reached the water's edge. After leaving
behind him the civic Tournelle* and the criminal tower,
and skirted the great walls of the king's garden, on that
unpaved strand where the mud reached to his ankles, he
reached the western point of the city, and considered for some
time the islet of the Passeur-aux-Vaches, which has disappeared
beneath the bronze horse of the Pont Neuf. The islet
appeared to him in the shadow like a black mass, beyond the
narrow strip of whitish water which separated him from it.
One could divine by the ray of a tiny light the sort of hut in
the form of a beehive where the ferryman of cows took refuge
* A chamber of the ancient parliament of Paris.
"Happy ferryman!" thought Gringoire; "you do not
dream of glory, and you do not make marriage songs! What
matters it to you, if kings and Duchesses of Burgundy marry?
You know no other daisies (~marguerites~) than those which
your April greensward gives your cows to browse upon; while
I, a poet, am hooted, and shiver, and owe twelve sous, and
the soles of my shoes are so transparent, that they might
serve as glasses for your lantern! Thanks, ferryman, your
cabin rests my eyes, and makes me forget Paris!"
He was roused from his almost lyric ecstacy, by a big
double Saint-Jean cracker, which suddenly went off from the
happy cabin. It was the cow ferryman, who was taking his
part in the rejoicings of the day, and letting off fireworks.
This cracker made Gringoire's skin bristle up all over.
"Accursed festival!" he exclaimed, "wilt thou pursue me
everywhere? Oh! good God! even to the ferryman's!"
Then he looked at the Seine at his feet, and a horrible
temptation took possession of him:
"Oh!" said he, "I would gladly drown myself, were the
water not so cold!"
Then a desperate resolution occurred to him. It was, since
he could not escape from the Pope of the Fools, from Jehan
Fourbault's bannerets, from May trusses, from squibs and
crackers, to go to the Place de Grève.
"At least," he said to himself, "I shall there have a firebrand
of joy wherewith to warm myself, and I can sup on
some crumbs of the three great armorial bearings of royal
sugar which have been erected on the public refreshment-stall
of the city.
THE PLACE DE GREVE.
There remains to-day but a very imperceptible vestige of
the Place de Grève, such as it existed then; it consists in the
charming little turret, which occupies the angle north of the
Place, and which, already enshrouded in the ignoble plaster
which fills with paste the delicate lines of its sculpture, would
soon have disappeared, perhaps submerged by that flood of
new houses which so rapidly devours all the ancient façades
The persons who, like ourselves, never cross the Place de
Grève without casting a glance of pity and sympathy on that
poor turret strangled between two hovels of the time of Louis
XV., can easily reconstruct in their minds the aggregate of
edifices to which it belonged, and find again entire in it
the ancient Gothic place of the fifteenth century.
It was then, as it is to-day, an irregular trapezoid, bordered
on one side by the quay, and on the other three by a series of
lofty, narrow, and gloomy houses. By day, one could admire
the variety of its edifices, all sculptured in stone or wood, and
already presenting complete specimens of the different domestic
architectures of the Middle Ages, running back from
the fifteenth to the eleventh century, from the casement
which had begun to dethrone the arch, to the Roman semicircle,
which had been supplanted by the ogive, and which
still occupies, below it, the first story of that ancient house de
la Tour Roland, at the corner of the Place upon the Seine, on
the side of the street with the Tannerie. At night, one could
distinguish nothing of all that mass of buildings, except the
black indentation of the roofs, unrolling their chain of acute
angles round the place; for one of the radical differences
between the cities of that time, and the cities of the present
day, lay in the façades which looked upon the places and
streets, and which were then gables. For the last two centuries
the houses have been turned round.
In the centre of the eastern side of the Place, rose a heavy
and hybrid construction, formed of three buildings placed in
juxtaposition. It was called by three names which explain
its history, its destination, and its architecture: "The House
of the Dauphin," because Charles V., when Dauphin, had
inhabited it; "The Marchandise," because it had served as
town hall; and "The Pillared House" (~domus ad piloria~), because
of a series of large pillars which sustained the three
stories. The city found there all that is required for a city
like Paris; a chapel in which to pray to God; a ~plaidoyer~, or
pleading room, in which to hold hearings, and to repel, at
need, the King's people; and under the roof, an ~arsenac~ full
of artillery. For the bourgeois of Paris were aware that it is
not sufficient to pray in every conjuncture, and to plead for the
franchises of the city, and they had always in reserve, in the
garret of the town hall, a few good rusty arquebuses. The
Grève had then that sinister aspect which it preserves to-day
from the execrable ideas which it awakens, and from the
sombre town hall of Dominique Bocador, which has replaced
the Pillared House. It must be admitted that a permanent
gibbet and a pillory, "a justice and a ladder," as they were
called in that day, erected side by side in the centre of the
pavement, contributed not a little to cause eyes to be turned
away from that fatal place, where so many beings full of life
and health have agonized; where, fifty years later, that fever
of Saint Vallier was destined to have its birth, that terror of
the scaffold, the most monstrous of all maladies because it
comes not from God, but from man.
It is a consoling idea (let us remark in passing), to think
that the death penalty, which three hundred years ago still
encumbered with its iron wheels, its stone gibbets, and all its
paraphernalia of torture, permanent and riveted to the pavement,
the Grève, the Halles, the Place Dauphine, the Cross
du Trahoir, the Marché aux Pourceaux, that hideous Montfauçon,
the barrier des Sergents, the Place aux Chats, the
Porte Saint-Denis, Champeaux, the Porte Baudets, the Porte
Saint Jacques, without reckoning the innumerable ladders of
the provosts, the bishop of the chapters, of the abbots, of the
priors, who had the decree of life and death,--without reckoning
the judicial drownings in the river Seine; it is consoling
to-day, after having lost successively all the pieces of its
armor, its luxury of torment, its penalty of imagination and
fancy, its torture for which it reconstructed every five years
a leather bed at the Grand Châtelet, that ancient suzerain of
feudal society almost expunged from our laws and our cities,
hunted from code to code, chased from place to place, has no
longer, in our immense Paris, any more than a dishonored
corner of the Grève,--than a miserable guillotine, furtive,
uneasy, shameful, which seems always afraid of being caught
in the act, so quickly does it disappear after having dealt its
KISSES FOR BLOWS.
When Pierre Gringoire arrived on the Place de Grève, he
was paralyzed. He had directed his course across the Pont
aux Meuniers, in order to avoid the rabble on the Pont au
Change, and the pennons of Jehan Fourbault; but the wheels
of all the bishop's mills had splashed him as he passed, and
his doublet was drenched; it seemed to him besides, that the
failure of his piece had rendered him still more sensible to
cold than usual. Hence he made haste to draw near the bonfire,
which was burning magnificently in the middle of the
Place. But a considerable crowd formed a circle around it.
"Accursed Parisians!" he said to himself (for Gringoire,
like a true dramatic poet, was subject to monologues) "there
they are obstructing my fire! Nevertheless, I am greatly in
need of a chimney corner; my shoes drink in the water, and
all those cursed mills wept upon me! That devil of a Bishop
of Paris, with his mills! I'd just like to know what use a
bishop can make of a mill! Does he expect to become a
miller instead of a bishop? If only my malediction is needed
for that, I bestow it upon him! and his cathedral, and his
mills! Just see if those boobies will put themselves out!
Move aside! I'd like to know what they are doing there!
They are warming themselves, much pleasure may it give
them! They are watching a hundred fagots burn; a fine
On looking more closely, he perceived that the circle was
much larger than was required simply for the purpose of
getting warm at the king's fire, and that this concourse of
people had not been attracted solely by the beauty of the
hundred fagots which were burning.
In a vast space left free between the crowd and the fire, a
young girl was dancing.
Whether this young girl was a human being, a fairy, or an
angel, is what Gringoire, sceptical philosopher and ironical
poet that he was, could not decide at the first moment, so
fascinated was he by this dazzling vision.
She was not tall, though she seemed so, so boldly did her
slender form dart about. She was swarthy of complexion,
but one divined that, by day, her skin must possess that
beautiful golden tone of the Andalusians and the Roman
women. Her little foot, too, was Andalusian, for it was both
pinched and at ease in its graceful shoe. She danced, she
turned, she whirled rapidly about on an old Persian rug,
spread negligently under her feet; and each time that her
radiant face passed before you, as she whirled, her great black
eyes darted a flash of lightning at you.
All around her, all glances were riveted, all mouths open;
and, in fact, when she danced thus, to the humming of the
Basque tambourine, which her two pure, rounded arms raised
above her head, slender, frail and vivacious as a wasp, with
her corsage of gold without a fold, her variegated gown puffing
out, her bare shoulders, her delicate limbs, which her
petticoat revealed at times, her black hair, her eyes of flame,
she was a supernatural creature.
"In truth," said Gringoire to himself, "she is a salamander,
she is a nymph, she is a goddess, she is a bacchante of the
At that moment, one of the salamander's braids of hair
became unfastened, and a piece of yellow copper which was
attached to it, rolled to the ground.
"Hé, no!" said he, "she is a gypsy!"
All illusions had disappeared.
She began her dance once more; she took from the ground
two swords, whose points she rested against her brow, and
which she made to turn in one direction, while she turned in
the other; it was a purely gypsy effect. But, disenchanted
though Gringoire was, the whole effect of this picture was not
without its charm and its magic; the bonfire illuminated,
with a red flaring light, which trembled, all alive, over the
circle of faces in the crowd, on the brow of the young girl,
and at the background of the Place cast a pallid reflection,
on one side upon the ancient, black, and wrinkled façade of
the House of Pillars, on the other, upon the old stone
Among the thousands of visages which that light tinged
with scarlet, there was one which seemed, even more than all
the others, absorbed in contemplation of the dancer. It was
the face of a man, austere, calm, and sombre. This man,
whose costume was concealed by the crowd which surrounded
him, did not appear to be more than five and thirty years of
age; nevertheless, he was bald; he had merely a few tufts of
thin, gray hair on his temples; his broad, high forehead had
begun to be furrowed with wrinkles, but his deep-set eyes
sparkled with extraordinary youthfulness, an ardent life, a
profound passion. He kept them fixed incessantly on the
gypsy, and, while the giddy young girl of sixteen danced and
whirled, for the pleasure of all, his revery seemed to become
more and more sombre. From time to time, a smile and a
sigh met upon his lips, but the smile was more melancholy
than the sigh.
The young girl, stopped at length, breathless, and the people
applauded her lovingly.
"Djali!" said the gypsy.
Then Gringoire saw come up to her, a pretty little white
goat, alert, wide-awake, glossy, with gilded horns, gilded
hoofs, and gilded collar, which he had not hitherto perceived,
and which had remained lying curled up on one corner of the
carpet watching his mistress dance.
"Djali!" said the dancer, "it is your turn."
And, seating herself, she gracefully presented her tambourine
to the goat.
"Djali," she continued, "what month is this?"
The goat lifted its fore foot, and struck one blow upon
the tambourine. It was the first month in the year, in
"Djali," pursued the young girl, turning her tambourine
round, "what day of the month is this?"
Djali raised his little gilt hoof, and struck six blows on the
"Djali," pursued the Egyptian, with still another movement
of the tambourine, "what hour of the day is it?"
Djali struck seven blows. At that moment, the clock of
the Pillar House rang out seven.
The people were amazed.
"There's sorcery at the bottom of it," said a sinister voice
in the crowd. It was that of the bald man, who never removed
his eyes from the gypsy.
She shuddered and turned round; but applause broke forth
and drowned the morose exclamation.
It even effaced it so completely from her mind, that she
continued to question her goat.
"Djali, what does Master Guichard Grand-Remy, captain of
the pistoliers of the town do, at the procession of Candlemas?"
Djali reared himself on his hind legs, and began to bleat,
marching along with so much dainty gravity, that the entire
circle of spectators burst into a laugh at this parody of the
interested devoutness of the captain of pistoliers.
"Djali," resumed the young girl, emboldened by her growing
success, "how preaches Master Jacques Charmolue, procurator
to the king in the ecclesiastical court?"
The goat seated himself on his hind quarters, and began
to bleat, waving his fore feet in so strange a manner, that,
with the exception of the bad French, and worse Latin,
Jacques Charmolue was there complete,--gesture, accent, and
And the crowd applauded louder than ever.
"Sacrilege! profanation!" resumed the voice of the bald man.
The gypsy turned round once more.
"Ah!" said she, "'tis that villanous man!" Then, thrusting
her under lip out beyond the upper, she made a little
pout, which appeared to be familiar to her, executed a pirouette
on her heel, and set about collecting in her tambourine the
gifts of the multitude.
Big blanks, little blanks, targes* and eagle liards showered
* A blank: an old French coin; six blanks were worth two sous
and a half; targe, an ancient coin of Burgundy, a farthing.
All at once, she passed in front of Gringoire. Gringoire
put his hand so recklessly into his pocket that she halted.
"The devil!" said the poet, finding at the bottom of his
pocket the reality, that is, to say, a void. In the meantime,
the pretty girl stood there, gazing at him with her big eyes,
and holding out her tambourine to him and waiting. Gringoire
broke into a violent perspiration.
If he had all Peru in his pocket, he would certainly have
given it to the dancer; but Gringoire had not Peru, and,
moreover, America had not yet been discovered.
Happily, an unexpected incident came to his rescue.
"Will you take yourself off, you Egyptian grasshopper?"
cried a sharp voice, which proceeded from the darkest corner
of the Place.
The young girl turned round in affright. It was no longer
the voice of the bald man; it was the voice of a woman,
bigoted and malicious.
However, this cry, which alarmed the gypsy, delighted a
troop of children who were prowling about there.
"It is the recluse of the Tour-Roland," they exclaimed,
with wild laughter, "it is the sacked nun who is scolding!
Hasn't she supped? Let's carry her the remains of the city
All rushed towards the Pillar House.
In the meanwhile, Gringoire had taken advantage of the
dancer's embarrassment, to disappear. The children's shouts
had reminded him that he, also, had not supped, so he ran to
the public buffet. But the little rascals had better legs than
he; when he arrived, they had stripped the table. There
remained not so much as a miserable ~camichon~ at five sous
the pound. Nothing remained upon the wall but slender
fleurs-de-lis, mingled with rose bushes, painted in 1434 by
Mathieu Biterne. It was a meagre supper.
It is an unpleasant thing to go to bed without supper, it is
a still less pleasant thing not to sup and not to know where
one is to sleep. That was Gringoire's condition. No supper,
no shelter; he saw himself pressed on all sides by necessity,
and he found necessity very crabbed. He had long ago discovered
the truth, that Jupiter created men during a fit of
misanthropy, and that during a wise man's whole life, his
destiny holds his philosophy in a state of siege. As for
himself, he had never seen the blockade so complete; he heard
his stomach sounding a parley, and he considered it very much
out of place that evil destiny should capture his philosophy
This melancholy revery was absorbing him more and more,
when a song, quaint but full of sweetness, suddenly tore him
from it. It was the young gypsy who was singing.
Her voice was like her dancing, like her beauty. It was
indefinable and charming; something pure and sonorous,
aerial, winged, so to speak. There were continual outbursts,
melodies, unexpected cadences, then simple phrases strewn
with aerial and hissing notes; then floods of scales which
would have put a nightingale to rout, but in which harmony
was always present; then soft modulations of octaves which
rose and fell, like the bosom of the young singer. Her beautiful
face followed, with singular mobility, all the caprices of
her song, from the wildest inspiration to the chastest dignity.
One would have pronounced her now a mad creature, now a
The words which she sang were in a tongue unknown to
Gringoire, and which seemed to him to be unknown to herself,
so little relation did the expression which she imparted to her
song bear to the sense of the words. Thus, these four lines,
in her mouth, were madly gay,--
~Un cofre de gran riqueza
Hallaron dentro un pilar,
Dentro del, nuevas banderas
Con figuras de espantar~.*
* A coffer of great richness
In a pillar's heart they found,
Within it lay new banners,
With figures to astound.
And an instant afterwards, at the accents which she imparted
to this stanza,--
~Alarabes de cavallo
Sin poderse menear,
Con espadas, y los cuellos,
Ballestas de buen echar~,
Gringoire felt the tears start to his eyes. Nevertheless, her
song breathed joy, most of all, and she seemed to sing like a
bird, from serenity and heedlessness.
The gypsy's song had disturbed Gringoire's revery as the
swan disturbs the water. He listened in a sort of rapture,
and forgetfulness of everything. It was the first moment in
the course of many hours when he did not feel that he suffered.
The moment was brief.
The same woman's voice, which had interrupted the gypsy's
dance, interrupted her song.
"Will you hold your tongue, you cricket of hell?" it cried,
still from the same obscure corner of the place.
The poor "cricket" stopped short. Gringoire covered up his ears.
"Oh!" he exclaimed, "accursed saw with missing teeth, which
comes to break the lyre!"
Meanwhile, the other spectators murmured like himself;
"To the devil with the sacked nun!" said some of them.
And the old invisible kill-joy might have had occasion to
repent of her aggressions against the gypsy had their attention
not been diverted at this moment by the procession of
the Pope of the Fools, which, after having traversed many
streets and squares, debouched on the Place de Grève, with
all its torches and all its uproar.
This procession, which our readers have seen set out from
the Palais de Justice, had organized on the way, and had been
recruited by all the knaves, idle thieves, and unemployed vagabonds
in Paris; so that it presented a very respectable aspect
when it arrived at the Grève.
First came Egypt. The Duke of Egypt headed it, on horseback,
with his counts on foot holding his bridle and stirrups
for him; behind them, the male and female Egyptians,
pell-mell, with their little children crying on their shoulders;
all--duke, counts, and populace--in rags and tatters. Then
came the Kingdom of Argot; that is to say, all the thieves of
France, arranged according to the order of their dignity; the
minor people walking first. Thus defiled by fours, with the
divers insignia of their grades, in that strange faculty, most of
them lame, some cripples, others one-armed, shop clerks, pilgrim,
~hubins~, bootblacks, thimble-riggers, street arabs, beggars,
the blear-eyed beggars, thieves, the weakly, vagabonds,
merchants, sham soldiers, goldsmiths, passed masters of
pickpockets, isolated thieves. A catalogue that would weary
Homer. In the centre of the conclave of the passed masters
of pickpockets, one had some difficulty in distinguishing the
King of Argot, the grand coësre, so called, crouching in a
little cart drawn by two big dogs. After the kingdom of the
Argotiers, came the Empire of Galilee. Guillaume Rousseau,
Emperor of the Empire of Galilee, marched majestically in
his robe of purple, spotted with wine, preceded by buffoons
wrestling and executing military dances; surrounded by his
macebearers, his pickpockets and clerks of the chamber of
accounts. Last of all came the corporation of law clerks,
with its maypoles crowned with flowers, its black robes, its
music worthy of the orgy, and its large candles of yellow
wax. In the centre of this crowd, the grand officers of the
Brotherhood of Fools bore on their shoulders a litter more
loaded down with candles than the reliquary of Sainte-Geneviève
in time of pest; and on this litter shone resplendent,
with crosier, cope, and mitre, the new Pope of the Fools, the
bellringer of Notre-Dame, Quasimodo the hunchback.
Each section of this grotesque procession had its own music.
The Egyptians made their drums and African tambourines
resound. The slang men, not a very musical race, still clung
to the goat's horn trumpet and the Gothic rubebbe of the
twelfth century. The Empire of Galilee was not much more
advanced; among its music one could hardly distinguish some
miserable rebec, from the infancy of the art, still imprisoned
in the ~re-la-mi~. But it was around the Pope of the Fools that
all the musical riches of the epoch were displayed in a magnificent
discord. It was nothing but soprano rebecs, counter-tenor
rebecs, and tenor rebecs, not to reckon the flutes and
brass instruments. Alas! our readers will remember that this
was Gringoire's orchestra.
It is difficult to convey an idea of the degree of proud and
blissful expansion to which the sad and hideous visage of
Quasimodo had attained during the transit from the Palais de
Justice, to the Place de Grève. It was the first enjoyment of
self-love that he had ever experienced. Down to that day, he
had known only humiliation, disdain for his condition, disgust
for his person. Hence, deaf though he was, he enjoyed, like
a veritable pope, the acclamations of that throng, which he
hated because he felt that he was hated by it. What mattered
it that his people consisted of a pack of fools, cripples,
thieves, and beggars? it was still a people and he was its
sovereign. And he accepted seriously all this ironical
applause, all this derisive respect, with which the crowd mingled,
it must be admitted, a good deal of very real fear. For the
hunchback was robust; for the bandy-legged fellow was agile;
for the deaf man was malicious: three qualities which temper
We are far from believing, however, that the new Pope of
the Fools understood both the sentiments which he felt and
the sentiments which he inspired. The spirit which was
lodged in this failure of a body had, necessarily, something
incomplete and deaf about it. Thus, what he felt at the moment
was to him, absolutely vague, indistinct, and confused.
Only joy made itself felt, only pride dominated. Around that
sombre and unhappy face, there hung a radiance.
It was, then, not without surprise and alarm, that at the
very moment when Quasimodo was passing the Pillar House,
in that semi-intoxicated state, a man was seen to dart from
the crowd, and to tear from his hands, with a gesture of anger,
his crosier of gilded wood, the emblem of his mock popeship.
This man, this rash individual, was the man with the bald
brow, who, a moment earlier, standing with the gypsy's
group had chilled the poor girl with his words of menace and
of hatred. He was dressed in an eccleslastical costume. At
the moment when he stood forth from the crowd, Gringoire,
who had not noticed him up to that time, recognized him:
"Hold!" he said, with an exclamation of astonishment.
"Eh! 'tis my master in Hermes, Dom Claude Frollo, the
archdeacon! What the devil does he want of that old one-
eyed fellow? He'll get himself devoured!"
A cry of terror arose, in fact. The formidable Quasimodo
had hurled himself from the litter, and the women turned
aside their eyes in order not to see him tear the archdeacon
He made one bound as far as the priest, looked at him, and
fell upon his knees.
The priest tore off his tiara, broke his crozier, and rent his
Quasimodo remained on his knees, with head bent and hands
clasped. Then there was established between them a strange
dialogue of signs and gestures, for neither of them spoke.
The priest, erect on his feet, irritated, threatening, imperious;
Quasimodo, prostrate, humble, suppliant. And, nevertheless,
it is certain that Quasimodo could have crushed the priest
with his thumb.
At length the archdeacon, giving Quasimodo's powerful
shoulder a rough shake, made him a sign to rise and follow him.
Then the Brotherhood of Fools, their first stupor having
passed off, wished to defend their pope, so abruptly dethroned.
The Egyptians, the men of slang, and all the fraternity of
law clerks, gathered howling round the priest.
Quasimodo placed himself in front of the priest, set in play
the muscles of his athletic fists, and glared upon the assailants
with the snarl of an angry tiger.
The priest resumed his sombre gravity, made a sign to Quasimodo,
and retired in silence.
Quasimodo walked in front of him, scattering the crowd as
When they had traversed the populace and the Place, the
cloud of curious and idle were minded to follow them. Quasimodo
then constituted himself the rearguard, and followed
the archdeacon, walking backwards, squat, surly, monstrous,
bristling, gathering up his limbs, licking his boar's tusks,
growling like a wild beast, and imparting to the crowd immense
vibrations, with a look or a gesture.
Both were allowed to plunge into a dark and narrow street,
where no one dared to venture after them; so thoroughly did
the mere chimera of Quasimodo gnashing his teeth bar the
"Here's a marvellous thing," said Gringoire; "but where
the deuce shall I find some supper?"
THE INCONVENIENCES OF FOLLOWING A PRETTY WOMAN
THROUGH THE STREETS IN THE EVENING.
Gringoire set out to follow the gypsy at all hazards. He
had seen her, accompanied by her goat, take to the Rue de la
Coutellerie; he took the Rue de la Coutellerie.
"Why not?" he said to himself.
Gringoire, a practical philosopher of the streets of Paris,
had noticed that nothing is more propitious to revery than
following a pretty woman without knowing whither she is
going. There was in this voluntary abdication of his freewill,
in this fancy submitting itself to another fancy, which
suspects it not, a mixture of fantastic independence and blind
obedience, something indescribable, intermediate between slavery
and liberty, which pleased Gringoire,--a spirit essentially
compound, undecided, and complex, holding the extremities of
all extremes, incessantly suspended between all human propensities,
and neutralizing one by the other. He was fond of comparing
himself to Mahomet's coffin, attracted in two different
directions by two loadstones, and hesitating eternally
between the heights and the depths, between the vault and the
pavement, between fall and ascent, between zenith and nadir.
If Gringoire had lived in our day, what a fine middle course
he would hold between classicism and romanticism!
But he was not sufficiently primitive to live three hundred
years, and 'tis a pity. His absence is a void which is but too
sensibly felt to-day.
Moreover, for the purpose of thus following passers-by (and
especially female passers-by) in the streets, which Gringoire
was fond of doing, there is no better disposition than ignorance
of where one is going to sleep.
So he walked along, very thoughtfully, behind the young
girl, who hastened her pace and made her goat trot as she
saw the bourgeois returning home and the taverns--the only
shops which had been open that day--closing.
"After all," he half thought to himself, "she must lodge
somewhere; gypsies have kindly hearts. Who knows?--"
And in the points of suspense which he placed after this reticence
in his mind, there lay I know not what flattering ideas.
Meanwhile, from time to time, as he passed the last groups
of bourgeois closing their doors, he caught some scraps of
their conversation, which broke the thread of his pleasant
Now it was two old men accosting each other.
"Do you know that it is cold, Master Thibaut Fernicle?"
(Gringoire had been aware of this since the beginning of the
"Yes, indeed, Master Boniface Disome! Are we going to
have a winter such as we had three years ago, in '80, when
wood cost eight sous the measure?"
"Bah! that's nothing, Master Thibaut, compared with the
winter of 1407, when it froze from St. Martin's Day until
Candlemas! and so cold that the pen of the registrar of the
parliament froze every three words, in the Grand Chamber!
which interrupted the registration of justice."
Further on there were two female neighbors at their windows,
holding candles, which the fog caused to sputter.
"Has your husband told you about the mishap, Mademoiselle
"No. What is it, Mademoiselle Turquant?"
"The horse of M. Gilles Godin, the notary at the Châtelet,
took fright at the Flemings and their procession, and overturned
Master Philippe Avrillot, lay monk of the Célestins."
"A bourgeois horse! 'tis rather too much! If it had been
a cavalry horse, well and good!"
And the windows were closed. But Gringoire had lost the
thread of his ideas, nevertheless.
Fortunately, he speedily found it again, and he knotted it
together without difficulty, thanks to the gypsy, thanks to
Djali, who still walked in front of him; two fine, delicate, and
charming creatures, whose tiny feet, beautiful forms, and
graceful manners he was engaged in admiring, almost confusing
them in his contemplation; believing them to be both
young girls, from their intelligence and good friendship; regarding
them both as goats,--so far as the lightness, agility, and
dexterity of their walk were concerned.
But the streets were becoming blacker and more deserted
every moment. The curfew had sounded long ago, and it was
only at rare intervals now that they encountered a passer-by
in the street, or a light in the windows. Gringoire had
become involved, in his pursuit of the gypsy, in that inextricable
labyrinth of alleys, squares, and closed courts which
surround the ancient sepulchre of the Saints-Innocents, and
which resembles a ball of thread tangled by a cat. "Here
are streets which possess but little logic!" said Gringoire,
lost in the thousands of circuits which returned upon themselves
incessantly, but where the young girl pursued a road
which seemed familiar to her, without hesitation and with
a step which became ever more rapid. As for him, he
would have been utterly ignorant of his situation had he not
espied, in passing, at the turn of a street, the octagonal mass
of the pillory of the fish markets, the open-work summit of
which threw its black, fretted outlines clearly upon a window
which was still lighted in the Rue Verdelet.
The young girl's attention had been attracted to him for the
last few moments; she had repeatedly turned her head towards
him with uneasiness; she had even once come to a standstill,
and taking advantage of a ray of light which escaped from a
half-open bakery to survey him intently, from head to foot, then,
having cast this glance, Gringoire had seen her make that little
pout which he had already noticed, after which she passed on.
This little pout had furnished Gringoire with food for
thought. There was certainly both disdain and mockery in
that graceful grimace. So he dropped his head, began to
count the paving-stones, and to follow the young girl at a little
greater distance, when, at the turn of a street, which had
caused him to lose sight of her, he heard her utter a piercing cry.
He hastened his steps.
The street was full of shadows. Nevertheless, a twist of
tow soaked in oil, which burned in a cage at the feet of the
Holy Virgin at the street corner, permitted Gringoire to make
out the gypsy struggling in the arms of two men, who were
endeavoring to stifle her cries. The poor little goat, in great
alarm, lowered his horns and bleated.
"Help! gentlemen of the watch!" shouted Gringoire, and
advanced bravely. One of the men who held the young girl
turned towards him. It was the formidable visage of Quasimodo.
Gringoire did not take to flight, but neither did he advance
Quasimodo came up to him, tossed him four paces away on
the pavement with a backward turn of the hand, and plunged
rapidly into the gloom, bearing the young girl folded across
one arm like a silken scarf. His companion followed him, and
the poor goat ran after them all, bleating plaintively.
"Murder! murder!" shrieked the unhappy gypsy.
"Halt, rascals, and yield me that wench!" suddenly shouted
in a voice of thunder, a cavalier who appeared suddenly from
a neighboring square.
It was a captain of the king's archers, armed from head to
foot, with his sword in his hand.
He tore the gypsy from the arms of the dazed Quasimodo,
threw her across his saddle, and at the moment when the terrible
hunchback, recovering from his surprise, rushed upon
him to regain his prey, fifteen or sixteen archers, who followed
their captain closely, made their appearance, with their
two-edged swords in their fists. It was a squad of the king's
police, which was making the rounds, by order of Messire
Robert d'Estouteville, guard of the provostship of Paris.
Quasimodo was surrounded, seized, garroted; he roared, he
foamed at the mouth, he bit; and had it been broad daylight,
there is no doubt that his face alone, rendered more hideous by
wrath, would have put the entire squad to flight. But by night
he was deprived of his most formidable weapon, his ugliness.
His companion had disappeared during the struggle.
The gypsy gracefully raised herself upright upon the officer's
saddle, placed both hands upon the young man's shoulders,
and gazed fixedly at him for several seconds, as though
enchanted with his good looks and with the aid which he had
just rendered her. Then breaking silence first, she said to
him, making her sweet voice still sweeter than usual,--
"What is your name, monsieur le gendarme?"
"Captain Phoebus de Châteaupers, at your service, my beauty!"
replied the officer, drawing himself up.
"Thanks," said she.
And while Captain Phoebus was turning up his moustache
in Burgundian fashion, she slipped from the horse, like an
arrow falling to earth, and fled.
A flash of lightning would have vanished less quickly.
"Nombrill of the Pope!" said the captain, causing Quasimodo's
straps to be drawn tighter, "I should have preferred to keep
"What would you have, captain?" said one gendarme. "The
warbler has fled, and the bat remains."
RESULT OF THE DANGERS.
Gringoire, thoroughly stunned by his fall, remained on
the pavement in front of the Holy Virgin at the street corner.
Little by little, he regained his senses; at first, for several
minutes, he was floating in a sort of half-somnolent revery,
which was not without its charm, in which aeriel figures of
the gypsy and her goat were coupled with Quasimodo's heavy
fist. This state lasted but a short time. A decidedly vivid
sensation of cold in the part of his body which was in contact
with the pavement, suddenly aroused him and caused his spirit
to return to the surface.
"Whence comes this chill?" he said abruptly, to himself.
He then perceived that he was lying half in the middle of the
"That devil of a hunchbacked cyclops!" he muttered between
his teeth; and he tried to rise. But he was too much
dazed and bruised; he was forced to remain where he was.
Moreover, his hand was tolerably free; he stopped up his nose
and resigned himself.
"The mud of Paris," he said to himself--for decidedly he
thought that he was sure that the gutter would prove his
refuge for the night; and what can one do in a refuge, except
dream?--"the mud of Paris is particularly stinking; it must
contain a great deal of volatile and nitric salts. That,
moreover, is the opinion of Master Nicholas Flamel, and of the
The word "alchemists" suddenly suggested to his mind the
idea of Archdeacon Claude Frollo. He recalled the violent
scene which he had just witnessed in part; that the gypsy was
struggling with two men, that Quasimodo had a companion;
and the morose and haughty face of the archdeacon passed
confusedly through his memory. "That would be strange!"
he said to himself. And on that fact and that basis he began
to construct a fantastic edifice of hypothesis, that card-castle
of philosophers; then, suddenly returning once more to
reality, "Come! I'm freezing!" he ejaculated.
The place was, in fact, becoming less and less tenable.
Each molecule of the gutter bore away a molecule of heat
radiating from Gringoire's loins, and the equilibrium between
the temperature of his body and the temperature of the brook,
began to be established in rough fashion.
Quite a different annoyance suddenly assailed him. A group
of children, those little bare-footed savages who have always
roamed the pavements of Paris under the eternal name of
~gamins~, and who, when we were also children ourselves, threw
stones at all of us in the afternoon, when we came out of
school, because our trousers were not torn--a swarm of these
young scamps rushed towards the square where Gringoire lay,
with shouts and laughter which seemed to pay but little heed
to the sleep of the neighbors. They were dragging after them
some sort of hideous sack; and the noise of their wooden
shoes alone would have roused the dead. Gringoire who was
not quite dead yet, half raised himself.
"Ohé, Hennequin Dandéche! Ohè, Jehan Pincebourde!"
they shouted in deafening tones, "old Eustache Moubon, the
merchant at the corner, has just died. We've got his straw
pallet, we're going to have a bonfire out of it. It's the turn
of the Flemish to-day!"
And behold, they flung the pallet directly upon Gringoire,
beside whom they had arrived, without espying him. At the
same time, one of them took a handful of straw and set off
to light it at the wick of the good Virgin.
"S'death!" growled Gringoire, "am I going to be too warm now?"
It was a critical moment. He was caught between fire and
water; he made a superhuman effort, the effort of a counterfeiter
of money who is on the point of being boiled, and who
seeks to escape. He rose to his feet, flung aside the straw
pallet upon the street urchins, and fled.
"Holy Virgin!" shrieked the children; "'tis the merchant's ghost!"
And they fled in their turn.
The straw mattress remained master of the field. Belleforet,
Father Le Juge, and Corrozet affirm that it was picked
up on the morrow, with great pomp, by the clergy of the
quarter, and borne to the treasury of the church of Saint
Opportune, where the sacristan, even as late as 1789, earned a
tolerably handsome revenue out of the great miracle of the
Statue of the Virgin at the corner of the Rue Mauconseil,
which had, by its mere presence, on the memorable night between
the sixth and seventh of January, 1482, exorcised the
defunct Eustache Moubon, who, in order to play a trick on
the devil, had at his death maliciously concealed his soul in
his straw pallet.
THE BROKEN JUG.
After having run for some time at the top of his speed,
without knowing whither, knocking his head against many a
street corner, leaping many a gutter, traversing many an alley,
many a court, many a square, seeking flight and passage through
all the meanderings of the ancient passages of the Halles, exploring
in his panic terror what the fine Latin of the maps calls ~tota
via, cheminum et viaria~, our poet suddenly halted for lack
of breath in the first place, and in the second, because
he had been collared, after a fashion, by a dilemma which
had just occurred to his mind. "It strikes me, Master Pierre
Gringoire," he said to himself, placing his finger to his brow,
"that you are running like a madman. The little scamps are
no less afraid of you than you are of them. It strikes me,
I say, that you heard the clatter of their wooden shoes
fleeing southward, while you were fleeing northward. Now,
one of two things, either they have taken flight, and the
pallet, which they must have forgotten in their terror, is
precisely that hospitable bed in search of which you have been
running ever since morning, and which madame the Virgin
miraculously sends you, in order to recompense you for having
made a morality in her honor, accompanied by triumphs and
mummeries; or the children have not taken flight, and in
that case they have put the brand to the pallet, and that is
precisely the good fire which you need to cheer, dry, and warm
you. In either case, good fire or good bed, that straw pallet
is a gift from heaven. The blessed Virgin Marie who stands
at the corner of the Rue Mauconseil, could only have made
Eustache Moubon die for that express purpose; and it is folly
on your part to flee thus zigzag, like a Picard before a
Frenchman, leaving behind you what you seek before you;
and you are a fool!"
Then he retraced his steps, and feeling his way and searching,
with his nose to the wind and his ears on the alert, he
tried to find the blessed pallet again, but in vain. There was
nothing to be found but intersections of houses, closed courts,
and crossings of streets, in the midst of which he hesitated
and doubted incessantly, being more perplexed and entangled
in this medley of streets than he would have been even in the
labyrinth of the Hôtel des Tournelles. At length he lost
patience, and exclaimed solemnly: "Cursed be cross roads!
'tis the devil who has made them in the shape of his pitchfork!"
This exclamation afforded him a little solace, and a sort of
reddish reflection which he caught sight of at that moment, at
the extremity of a long and narrow lane, completed the elevation
of his moral tone. "God be praised!" said he, "There
it is yonder! There is my pallet burning." And comparing
himself to the pilot who suffers shipwreck by night, "~Salve~,"
he added piously, "~salve, maris stella~!"
Did he address this fragment of litany to the Holy Virgin,
or to the pallet? We are utterly unable to say.
He had taken but a few steps in the long street, which
sloped downwards, was unpaved, and more and more muddy
and steep, when he noticed a very singular thing. It was
not deserted; here and there along its extent crawled certain
vague and formless masses, all directing their course towards
the light which flickered at the end of the street, like those
heavy insects which drag along by night, from blade to blade
of grass, towards the shepherd's fire.
Nothing renders one so adventurous as not being able to
feel the place where one's pocket is situated. Gringoire
continued to advance, and had soon joined that one of the forms
which dragged along most indolently, behind the others. On
drawing near, he perceived that it was nothing else than a
wretched legless cripple in a bowl, who was hopping along on
his two hands like a wounded field-spider which has but two
legs left. At the moment when he passed close to this species
of spider with a human countenance, it raised towards
him a lamentable voice: "~La buona mancia, signor! la buona
"Deuce take you," said Gringoire, "and me with you, if I
know what you mean!"
And he passed on.
He overtook another of these itinerant masses, and examined
it. It was an impotent man, both halt and crippled,
and halt and crippled to such a degree that the complicated
system of crutches and wooden legs which sustained him, gave
him the air of a mason's scaffolding on the march. Gringoire,
who liked noble and classical comparisons, compared him in
thought to the living tripod of Vulcan.
This living tripod saluted him as he passed, but stopping
his hat on a level with Gringoire's chin, like a shaving dish,
while he shouted in the latter's ears: "~Senor cabellero, para
comprar un pedaso de pan~!"*
* Give me the means to buy a bit of bread, sir.
"It appears," said Gringoire, "that this one can also talk;
but 'tis a rude language, and he is more fortunate than I if
he understands it." Then, smiting his brow, in a sudden
transition of ideas: "By the way, what the deuce did they
mean this morning with their Esmeralda?"
He was minded to augment his pace, but for the third time
something barred his way. This something or, rather, some
one was a blind man, a little blind fellow with a bearded,
Jewish face, who, rowing away in the space about him with a
stick, and towed by a large dog, droned through his nose with
a Hungarian accent: "~Facitote caritatem~!"
"Well, now," said Gringoire, "here's one at last who speaks
a Christian tongue. I must have a very charitable aspect,
since they ask alms of me in the present lean condition of my
purse. My friend," and he turned towards the blind man,
"I sold my last shirt last week; that is to say, since you
understand only the language of Cicero: ~Vendidi hebdomade
nuper transita meam ultimam chemisan~."
That said, he turned his back upon the blind man, and pursued
his way. But the blind man began to increase his stride
at the same time; and, behold! the cripple and the legless
man, in his bowl, came up on their side in great haste, and
with great clamor of bowl and crutches, upon the pavement.
Then all three, jostling each other at poor Gringoire's heels,
began to sing their song to him,--
"~Caritatem~!" chanted the blind man.
"~La buona mancia~!" chanted the cripple in the bowl.
And the lame man took up the musical phrase by repeating:
"~Un pedaso de pan~!"
Gringoire stopped up his ears. "Oh, tower of Babel!" he
He set out to run. The blind man ran! The lame man
ran! The cripple in the bowl ran!
And then, in proportion as he plunged deeper into the
street, cripples in bowls, blind men and lame men, swarmed
about him, and men with one arm, and with one eye, and the
leprous with their sores, some emerging from little streets
adjacent, some from the air-holes of cellars, howling, bellowing,
yelping, all limping and halting, all flinging themselves
towards the light, and humped up in the mire, like snails after
Gringoire, still followed by his three persecutors, and not
knowing very well what was to become of him, marched along
in terror among them, turning out for the lame, stepping over
the cripples in bowls, with his feet imbedded in that ant-hill
of lame men, like the English captain who got caught in the
quicksand of a swarm of crabs.
The idea occurred to him of making an effort to retrace his
steps. But it was too late. This whole legion had closed in
behind him, and his three beggars held him fast. So he
proceeded, impelled both by this irresistible flood, by fear,
and by a vertigo which converted all this into a sort of
At last he reached the end of the street. It opened upon
an immense place, where a thousand scattered lights flickered
in the confused mists of night. Gringoire flew thither,
hoping to escape, by the swiftness of his legs, from the three
infirm spectres who had clutched him.
"~Onde vas, hombre~?" (Where are you going, my man?)
cried the cripple, flinging away his crutches, and running after
him with the best legs that ever traced a geometrical step upon
the pavements of Paris.
In the meantime the legless man, erect upon his feet,
crowned Gringoire with his heavy iron bowl, and the blind
man glared in his face with flaming eyes!
"Where am I?" said the terrified poet.
"In the Court of Miracles," replied a fourth spectre, who
had accosted them.
"Upon my soul," resumed Gringoire, "I certainly do behold the
blind who see, and the lame who walk, but where is the Saviour?"
They replied by a burst of sinister laughter.
The poor poet cast his eyes about him. It was, in truth,
that redoubtable Cour des Miracles, whither an honest man
had never penetrated at such an hour; the magic circle where
the officers of the Châtelet and the sergeants of the provostship,
who ventured thither, disappeared in morsels; a city of
thieves, a hideous wart on the face of Paris; a sewer, from
which escaped every morning, and whither returned every
night to crouch, that stream of vices, of mendicancy and
vagabondage which always overflows in the streets of capitals;
a monstrous hive, to which returned at nightfall, with
their booty, all the drones of the social order; a lying hospital
where the bohemian, the disfrocked monk, the ruined
scholar, the ne'er-do-wells of all nations, Spaniards, Italians,
Germans,--of all religions, Jews, Christians, Mahometans,
idolaters, covered with painted sores, beggars by day, were
transformed by night into brigands; an immense dressing-room,
in a word, where, at that epoch, the actors of that
eternal comedy, which theft, prostitution, and murder play
upon the pavements of Paris, dressed and undressed.
It was a vast place, irregular and badly paved, like all the
squares of Paris at that date. Fires, around which swarmed
strange groups, blazed here and there. Every one was going,
coming, and shouting. Shrill laughter was to be heard, the
wailing of children, the voices of women. The hands and
heads of this throng, black against the luminous background,
outlined against it a thousand eccentric gestures. At times,
upon the ground, where trembled the light of the fires,
mingled with large, indefinite shadows, one could behold a dog
passing, which resembled a man, a man who resembled a dog.
The limits of races and species seemed effaced in this city, as
in a pandemonium. Men, women, beasts, age, sex, health,
maladies, all seemed to be in common among these people;
all went together, they mingled, confounded, superposed;
each one there participated in all.
The poor and flickering flames of the fire permitted Gringoire
to distinguish, amid his trouble, all around the immense
place, a hideous frame of ancient houses, whose wormeaten,
shrivelled, stunted façades, each pierced with one or two
lighted attic windows, seemed to him, in the darkness, like
enormous heads of old women, ranged in a circle, monstrous
and crabbed, winking as they looked on at the Witches' Sabbath.
It was like a new world, unknown, unheard of, misshapen,
creeping, swarming, fantastic.
Gringoire, more and more terrified, clutched by the three
beggars as by three pairs of tongs, dazed by a throng of other
faces which frothed and yelped around him, unhappy Gringoire
endeavored to summon his presence of mind, in order
to recall whether it was a Saturday. But his efforts were
vain; the thread of his memory and of his thought was
broken; and, doubting everything, wavering between what he
saw and what he felt, he put to himself this unanswerable
"If I exist, does this exist? if this exists, do I exist?"
At that moment, a distinct cry arose in the buzzing throng
which surrounded him, "Let's take him to the king! let's
take him to the king!"
"Holy Virgin!" murmured Gringoire, "the king here must be
"To the king! to the king!" repeated all voices.
They dragged him off. Each vied with the other in laying
his claws upon him. But the three beggars did not loose their
hold and tore him from the rest, howling, "He belongs to us!"
The poet's already sickly doublet yielded its last sigh in
While traversing the horrible place, his vertigo vanished.
After taking a few steps, the sentiment of reality returned to
him. He began to become accustomed to the atmosphere of
the place. At the first moment there had arisen from his
poet's head, or, simply and prosaically, from his empty
stomach, a mist, a vapor, so to speak, which, spreading
between objects and himself, permitted him to catch a glimpse
of them only in the incoherent fog of nightmare,--in those
shadows of dreams which distort every outline, agglomerating
objects into unwieldy groups, dilating things into chimeras,
and men into phantoms. Little by little, this hallucination
was succeeded by a less bewildered and exaggerating view.
Reality made its way to the light around him, struck his eyes,
struck his feet, and demolished, bit by bit, all that frightful
poetry with which he had, at first, believed himself to be
surrounded. He was forced to perceive that he was not
walking in the Styx, but in mud, that he was elbowed not by
demons, but by thieves; that it was not his soul which was
in question, but his life (since he lacked that precious
conciliator, which places itself so effectually between the
bandit and the honest man--a purse). In short, on examining the
orgy more closely, and with more coolness, he fell from the
witches' sabbath to the dram-shop.
The Cour des Miracles was, in fact, merely a dram-shop;
but a brigand's dram-shop, reddened quite as much with blood
as with wine.
The spectacle which presented itself to his eyes, when his
ragged escort finally deposited him at the end of his trip, was
not fitted to bear him back to poetry, even to the poetry of
hell. It was more than ever the prosaic and brutal reality of
the tavern. Were we not in the fifteenth century, we would
say that Gringoire had descended from Michael Angelo to
Around a great fire which burned on a large, circular flagstone,
the flames of which had heated red-hot the legs of a
tripod, which was empty for the moment, some wormeaten
tables were placed, here and there, haphazard, no lackey of a
geometrical turn having deigned to adjust their parallelism,
or to see to it that they did not make too unusual angles.
Upon these tables gleamed several dripping pots of wine and
beer, and round these pots were grouped many bacchic visages,
purple with the fire and the wine. There was a man
with a huge belly and a jovial face, noisily kissing a woman
of the town, thickset and brawny. There was a sort of sham
soldier, a "naquois," as the slang expression runs, who was
whistling as he undid the bandages from his fictitious wound,
and removing the numbness from his sound and vigorous
knee, which had been swathed since morning in a thousand
ligatures. On the other hand, there was a wretched fellow,
preparing with celandine and beef's blood, his "leg of God,"
for the next day. Two tables further on, a palmer, with his
pilgrim's costume complete, was practising the lament of the
Holy Queen, not forgetting the drone and the nasal drawl.
Further on, a young scamp was taking a lesson in epilepsy
from an old pretender, who was instructing him in the art of
foaming at the mouth, by chewing a morsel of soap. Beside
him, a man with the dropsy was getting rid of his swelling,
and making four or five female thieves, who were disputing
at the same table, over a child who had been stolen that evening,
hold their noses. All circumstances which, two centuries
later, "seemed so ridiculous to the court," as Sauval says,
"that they served as a pastime to the king, and as an introduction
to the royal ballet of Night, divided into four parts
and danced on the theatre of the Petit-Bourbon." "Never,"
adds an eye witness of 1653, "have the sudden metamorphoses
of the Court of Miracles been more happily presented.
Benserade prepared us for it by some very gallant verses."
Loud laughter everywhere, and obscene songs. Each one
held his own course, carping and swearing, without listening
to his neighbor. Pots clinked, and quarrels sprang up at
the shock of the pots, and the broken pots made rents in
A big dog, seated on his tail, gazed at the fire. Some
children were mingled in this orgy. The stolen child wept and
cried. Another, a big boy four years of age, seated with
legs dangling, upon a bench that was too high for him, before
a table that reached to his chin, and uttering not a word. A
third, gravely spreading out upon the table with his finger,
the melted tallow which dripped from a candle. Last of all,
a little fellow crouching in the mud, almost lost in a cauldron,
which he was scraping with a tile, and from which he was
evoking a sound that would have made Stradivarius swoon.
Near the fire was a hogshead, and on the hogshead a beggar.
This was the king on his throne.
The three who had Gringoire in their clutches led him in
front of this hogshead, and the entire bacchanal rout fell
silent for a moment, with the exception of the cauldron
inhabited by the child.
Gringoire dared neither breathe nor raise his eyes.
"~Hombre, quita tu sombrero~!" said one of the three
knaves, in whose grasp he was, and, before he had
comprehended the meaning, the other had snatched his hat--a
wretched headgear, it is true, but still good on a sunny day or
when there was but little rain. Gringoire sighed.
Meanwhile the king addressed him, from the summit of his
"Who is this rogue?"
Gringoire shuddered. That voice, although accentuated by
menace, recalled to him another voice, which, that very morning,
had dealt the deathblow to his mystery, by drawling,
nasally, in the midst of the audience, "Charity, please!"
He raised his head. It was indeed Clopin Trouillefou.
Clopin Trouillefou, arrayed in his royal insignia, wore
neither one rag more nor one rag less. The sore upon his
arm had already disappeared. He held in his hand one of
those whips made of thongs of white leather, which police
sergeants then used to repress the crowd, and which were
called ~boullayes~. On his head he wore a sort of headgear,
bound round and closed at the top. But it was difficult to
make out whether it was a child's cap or a king's crown, the
two things bore so strong a resemblance to each other.
Meanwhile Gringoire, without knowing why, had regained
some hope, on recognizing in the King of the Cour des Miracles
his accursed mendicant of the Grand Hall.
"Master," stammered he; "monseigneur--sire--how
ought I to address you?" he said at length, having reached
the culminating point of his crescendo, and knowing neither
how to mount higher, nor to descend again.
"Monseigneur, his majesty, or comrade, call me what you
please. But make haste. What have you to say in your
"In your own defence?" thought Gringoire, "that displeases
me." He resumed, stuttering, "I am he, who this morning--"
"By the devil's claws!" interrupted Clopin, "your name,
knave, and nothing more. Listen. You are in the presence
of three powerful sovereigns: myself, Clopin Trouillefou,
King of Thunes, successor to the Grand Coësre, supreme
suzerain of the Realm of Argot; Mathias Hunyadi Spicali,
Duke of Egypt and of Bohemia, the old yellow fellow whom
you see yonder, with a dish clout round his head; Guillaume
Rousseau, Emperor of Galilee, that fat fellow who is not
listening to us but caressing a wench. We are your judges.
You have entered the Kingdom of Argot, without being an
~argotier~; you have violated the privileges of our city. You
must be punished unless you are a ~capon~, a ~franc-mitou~ or a
~rifodé~; that is to say, in the slang of honest folks,--a thief,
a beggar, or a vagabond. Are you anything of that sort?
Justify yourself; announce your titles."
"Alas!" said Gringoire, "I have not that honor. I am
"That is sufficient," resumed Trouillefou, without permitting
him to finish. "You are going to be hanged. 'Tis a
very simple matter, gentlemen and honest bourgeois! as you
treat our people in your abode, so we treat you in ours! The
law which you apply to vagabonds, vagabonds apply to you.
'Tis your fault if it is harsh. One really must behold the
grimace of an honest man above the hempen collar now and
then; that renders the thing honorable. Come, friend, divide
your rags gayly among these damsels. I am going to have
you hanged to amuse the vagabonds, and you are to give them
your purse to drink your health. If you have any mummery
to go through with, there's a very good God the Father in that
mortar yonder, in stone, which we stole from Saint-Pierre aux
Boeufs. You have four minutes in which to fling your soul at
The harangue was formidable.
"Well said, upon my soul! Clopin Trouillefou preaches
like the Holy Father the Pope!" exclaimed the Emperor of
Galilee, smashing his pot in order to prop up his table.
"Messeigneurs, emperors, and kings," said Gringoire coolly
(for I know not how, firmness had returned to him, and he
spoke with resolution), "don't think of such a thing; my
name is Pierre Gringoire. I am the poet whose morality was
presented this morning in the grand hall of the Courts."
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